Touched by Magic - Paperback#1
Touched by Magic - Paperback#1
Touched by Magic - Paperback#1
Touched by Magic - Paperback#1
Touched by Magic - Paperback#1
Touched by Magic - Paperback#1
Touched by Magic - Paperback#1
Touched by Magic - Paperback#1
Touched by Magic - Paperback#1

Touched by Magic - Paperback#1

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If you're a fan of quirky characters and found families, fun yet heart-warming stories, very slow burn romance, and a sarcastic talking cat then you will love this urban fantasy series.

At its heart, it's a story about finding your place in the world when you don't fit the magical norm.

I’m Apiya. No, this isn't yet another paranormal romance, and no I’m not a badass magical assassin. I’m just a barber to the supernatural.

My magic? Let's just say it's on the... unique side. Okay, it’s downright weak and weird. It works best at keeping things clean.

I know. I can sense your awe at my power already. And I’m sure you can see why barbering suits me well. Although now that I’ve mastered the art of trimming a weretiger’s regrowth, my biggest challenge is fielding the insults of the shop’s cat.

Because yes, the cat talks. And yes, the cat is sarcastic.

For the longest time, I've been on the outskirts, literally barred from delving too deep into the city's magical underbelly because of my less-than-impressive powers.

That is, until a desperate plea from a pair of forest fae launches me into an adventure I never asked for but secretly yearned for—a chance to prove that even my weird magic can make a difference.

The forest fae need me to help protect their youngling but they won't say what's after them. If it’s big and bad enough to scare the fae, it’s most definitely powerful enough to make a mouthful of me—probably a small mouthful, at that. And now that the fae have come to me, whatever’s after them is also after me.

Faced with daunting magical politics and powerful foe, I've got my work cut out for me.

And my backup? A sarcastic cat. Yeah, I’m in trouble all right.

🔥Grab Touched by Magic now to see if I make it. Oh, and don’t get offended if the cat insults you…🐈‍⬛

Touched by Magic isn't your average urban fantasy. This series celebrates the journey of finding your own strength in a world that often overlooks the unconventional. Follow Apiya as she discovers what she's capable of and carves herself a place in the world that is uniquely hers.

What you'll find in this series:

  • Unconventional heroine with unusual magic
  • Quirky characters
  • Found family
  • Super slow burn romance over the series
  • Fun BFF
  • Snappy banter
  • Magical politics
  • Asian mythological creatures
  • and yes, a talking, sarcastic cat (is there another kind?)

"Captivating characters, fast-paced action, quick and snarky dialogue, and absolutely the best sarcasm I have enjoyed recently." - Sandra on Amazon  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

"I cried , laughed and several times my glasses came off as I cleared my eyes of tears from both. What a great roller coaster ride." - Lotsoflucklee on Amazon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 Paperback Edition 198 pages
ISBN 9782492523236
Product Dimensions 5 x 8 x 0.4 inches (12.7 x 20.3 x 1.1cm)
Language English
Publication Date 13th February 2021
Publisher Celine Jeanjean
Series Razor's Edge Chronicles #1

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Nobody ever expects a girl barber, but I handle a cutthroat razor like a dream, and I can shave the hair off a bee’s ass mid-flight.

I’m on my way to the barbershop, and the street is loud with the clatter of iron shutters as shops close up for the evening. It rained earlier, puddles of water reflecting the heavy lead-grey sky so they look silver. They resemble enormous coins, and it reminds me of the song “Pennies from Heaven,” so I hum it to myself, enjoying the leftover dampness in the air.

I should specify, at this point, that I’m humming the Billie Holiday version, not the Frank Sinatra one. A girl’s gotta have standards, after all.

I’m in a rundown part of Panong’s Old Town, where the streets are lined with dirty tenement buildings, their long-ago white walls now streaked with black grime. A lot of the buildings are derelict, broken windowpanes gaping like missing teeth. The shops occupying the ground floor either specialise in the seedier trades—pawnshops and seriously depressing brothels—or they house specialist craftsmen who take advantage of the cheap rent found here. Which is how you can find prostitutes next door to beautiful paper lantern makers or opera headdress creators.

But the best thing about Old Town is that it’s full of just the kind of nooks and crannies the Mayak—Panong’s magical folk—need to exist. People in Panong cling to their traditions like Hong Kong fashionistas cling to their Gucci purses, which is why esoteric craftspeople can survive in this age of internet and smartphones and why the magical community thrives here.

I pass a huge banyan tree growing on the side of the road. It’s revered—rightfully so—and the buildings retreat from around it, creating a kind of plaza around its trunk. When I say trunk, what I really mean is trunks. The tree looks more like a many-legged insect, having had centuries to send aerial roots to the ground then thicken them into yet more limbs. Once-vibrant saffron ribbons, now turned to grubby rags by time and rain, have been wrapped around the trunks. Offerings of food and incense crowd its roots and branches. The tree keeps splitting the concrete with its roots, so the road here is always in disrepair. But no one would dare suggest the tree be torn down.

I wave a greeting to the little Mayak living in the banyan tree and continue on. Only a few steps further I get the sense of someone watching me. I look around, but don’t see anything or anyone. I shrug. Probably nothing, but I’ll keep an eye out just to be safe.
I stop to grab some dumplings from Chanthara’s stall, but he’s not here today. Instead there’s a kid behind the counter. Mid-twenties, the crotch of his jeans reaching for his knees (whatever happened to style?), hair that took longer to put together than the dumplings I’m about to order.
I say “kid” but he’s only a few years younger than I am. Non-Touched humans always seem so young to me, like toddlers who know nothing about the world.
“Six soup dumplings, please.”

The kid frowns at me. “You’re not from around here.”
Only an impressive amount of self-restraint stops me from rolling my eyes hard enough to give myself an injury. Mundanes always feel the need to pester me about where I’m from.

In London, it doesn’t matter that my accent could rival the queen’s, that I can navigate my way around the tube blindfolded, or that I know more about ale than most “true” Brits. My features are Asian, so there’s always some idiot asking me where I’m really from—or if they’re going for the prat-of-the-week award, what I am.

Here, in Panong, I look right, but growing up in London means my accent has a bit of a twang to it. Panongian is a tonal language, like Cantonese or Thai, and I still can’t quite master the more delicate subtleties of intonations. I’m completely bilingual—I speak, read, write, think, and dream in both languages, but in Panong, if I open my mouth, I get looks and questions because I don’t sound right.

That’s one of the things I love best about the Mayak. Don’t get me wrong, they’re as prejudiced as Mundanes—probably even more so. But they couldn’t care less about things like ethnicity or nationality. All human races are considered equally inferior, and as a Touched, I have the dubious privilege of being part of the dregs of magical society, relegated to the fringes. But at least no one cares about how I look or how I sound, and no one has the slightest bit of interest in where I’m supposed to be from.
I arch an eyebrow at the kid inside the stall and ignore his question. “My dumplings?”

He blushes. “I didn’t mean anything by it, just that your accent is different.” He fishes out the dumplings and places them in a cardboard container. He smiles shyly as he hands it to me. “I like your hair.”

My hair’s bright pink, and I’m also quite the fan of it, so I smile at the kid, deciding to forgive and forget the question about where I’m from. That’s the thing about toddlers—they often stumble or say silly things. You can’t hold it against them.

Eating dumplings the moment they’re off the steamer is a bit like taking your chances with a piece of molten lava. The sensible thing to do is to wait until they’ve cooled down so you don’t burn your mouth.

I’ve never been too fussed about sensible, and patience is a virtue I lack.

Which is why, moments after leaving the stall, I find myself wincing in pain from the scalding liquid bursting out of the dumpling.

“Owwww.” I open my mouth to inhale cool air. The dumpling feels like it’s attempting to burn a hole through my tongue. I know, I know. One day I’ll learn, but for now I’m just a sucker for those explosions of savoury, porky goodness.

In spite of the dumpling distraction, I still pick up on the observer watching me. I’ve just turned onto the street of the barbershop, and I stop walking, pretending to fuss with my cardboard container. I carefully scan to see what I can pick up. I can’t sense a magical signature, so it might be a Mundane, or it might be something able to hide itself effectively from me.

Touched humans, as a rule, aren’t particularly powerful, and I’m one of the weaker ones. There are plenty of beings out there who can keep themselves hidden from my senses, so that doesn’t really narrow things much.

Still, I’m not worried. I’m close enough to the barbershop that I’m squarely in Mr. Sangong’s territory. That in itself will be enough to deter most of the Mayak from giving me trouble, and anyone strong enough to take on Mr. Sangong wouldn’t bother with little old me any more than a black belt would feel the need to challenge a cockroach to a fight.

I know, I just compared myself to a cockroach. Before you worry about my self-esteem, that’s just how a lot of the more powerful Mayak view the Touched. You get used to it, mostly because that means they leave us alone.

I reach the barbershop. Yep, I’m definitely being watched. Could be someone who wants to talk to Mr. Sangong and is feeling shy or scared. These days I take care of all the barber work while Mr. Sangong attends to other business. Mayak business that I can’t know about because I’m Touched.

The barbershop technically isn’t so much a shop as a space between two tenement buildings across which a front has been erected. I go through the rigmarole of unlocking the iron shutter and hold it open for a moment, partly to sense my observer, partly to give them a chance to come and accost me. They’re still there, but they don’t take the bait.

I wonder what this is going to be about.


I slip under the shutter and let it clatter shut behind me. The shop’s dark, and I lean my shoulder against the light switch. Yellow light fills the space. If I were a Mundane, all I would see is a narrow, abandoned space occupied by some mouldy cardboard boxes, a couple of rusted blue trolleys, and of course, a lot of cockroaches.

Instead, I’m greeted by a shop several times the size of the space it should be occupying. The floor is chequered black and white, gleaming under the warm light. Along the far wall is a row of four Paidar barber chairs—the real deal, from the 1930s, lovingly maintained by Mr. Sangong. In front of each chair is a mirror, a basin and tap, and a small shelf for the various shaving and hair-cutting implements.

The rest of the shop is decorated with memorabilia from Mr. Sangong’s centuries as a barber. Photos of prestigious clients cover one wall, with paintings for those Mr. Sangong barbered in the days before photography. The Genghis Khan one is infused with the same magic da Vinci used with the Mona Lisa, and his golden eyes glare at me as I move around the barbershop. You get used to it.

A glass case displays three cutthroat razors from Mr. Sangong’s time in Europe. The top one was used for Nikola Tesla during one of his London visits—he’s Mr. Sangong’s favourite client to date. The second razor was used for Louis XVI’s final shave before the French Revolution took his head, and the bottom one was a gift from a fellow barber—Sweeney Todd. Now, he’s one I would have liked to meet.

As I head towards the office, I check outside the shop—I can still sense my mysterious observer. I open the office door to find Timothy, a black witch’s cat, curled up on the desk.

“Wake up, time to work,” I tell him.

My dumplings are cool enough to eat without burning myself, so I quickly finish the last couple, chucking the cardboard container in the recycling bin. While the shop feels like stepping back into the 1920s, the office is your standard twenty-first-century fare. Desk, metal filing cabinets, swivel chair. Ugly and practical. There are no windows, and the dark teal wallpaper makes the room feel closed-in. I try to spend as little time in here as I can.

Tim does what cats do best and ignores me—nothing new there. I head over to the chairs. Sometimes he gets to work once I’ve gone so he can technically say he hasn’t listened to me. I start stropping my favourite razor, a ten-millimetre square-pointed razor nicknamed The Lucifer. Its handle is onyx inlaid with—what else?—a little silver devil. Mr. Sangong gave it to me when he declared me ready to work without his supervision, and it shaves like a dream.

I finish stropping The Lucifer and give the black-and-white floor tiles a quick once-over. Not that I need to. The shop is so clean you could eat off the floor, and I know this because I’m the one who cleaned it last night—as I do every night. Cleaning for me is as relaxing as watching TV for most people. I like the smell of the wood polish, the faintly astringent scent of the floor cleaner, and there’s nothing I hate more than coming in of an evening to find stray hairs on the white tiles.

Tim, meanwhile, still hasn’t budged.

“Tim!” I call. “We’ll have clients arriving soon.”

“Pull the other one, treacle. Cats don’t take orders from inferiors.”

On top of being a witch’s cat, Tim’s a cockney, for his sins. Mr. Sangong picked him up during one of his many stints in London. I have no idea what Tim’s age is, but he has the typical stubbornness of older magical creatures.

As a Touched, I may accept my position at the bottom of the Mayak food chain, but even I won’t stand for getting attitude from a cat. “Well then, said cat should learn to get to work without me having to tell him.”

No answer.

I return to the office—Tim still hasn’t moved. “Your Highness better get your ass into gear, or I’ll do it for you.”
Tim lifts his head, angling it to show me the underside of his chin. “Scratch my chin, love.”

“You should know by now that I’m a dog person.” I grab him and throw him out the office door.

Tim yowls in annoyance, landing on his feet. He looks back at me over his shoulder, green eyes glaring. “You daft cow, I ain’t gonna forget this.”

“Glad to hear it—maybe next time you can remember to get to work without me having to throw you out of the office.”

Tim gives me another look and begins to deliberately wash himself—the cat equivalent of flipping me the bird. I give a snort of laughter and leave him to his ablutions, returning to finish setting up the chairs. Tim finally finishes insulting me, and he heads over to the lounge area.

The lounge area is for clients to wait or hang out in. It’s decked out with bits and pieces from Mr. Sangong’s time in Prohibition-era Chicago. An art deco cream velvet sofa with a black-varnished frame and three black leather club chairs, all arranged around a low glass coffee table on brass legs. Against the wall is the bar, stocked with a pretty decent selection of booze—and I do say so myself, since I’m the one who stocks it. And there’s a gramophone that gives a sweeter sound than any of the crap you’d find in an Apple shop.

One of my little tricks.

“I ain’t pouring no drinks,” Tim warns as he jumps up on a black-and-gold Louis Süe armchair next to the bar.

I’m not sure why he bothers telling me that. He’s never poured a drink, and no one has ever expected him to, what with his lack of opposable thumbs. There’s no magic in the world that can make a cat pour a decent martini, but he likes to make that point anyway when he’s in a bad mood. Something about having the last word, I guess.

His job is to make sure the honesty bar is kept honest. There’s a jar for notes and coins on the bar. I return to my preparations, when I sense someone about to enter. I face the entrance. My mysterious observer?


Mr. Sangong enters the barbershop. “Good evening, Apiya.”

To the untrained, Mundane eye, Mr. Sangong looks like any ordinary sixty-year-old man in a rather cheap grey suit. His face is unremarkable, neither particularly attractive, nor memorably ugly. His hair is grey, his features leaning a little towards Chinese, hinting at Chinese ancestry, like so many in Panong. We’ve had a steady stream of Chinese immigrants over the centuries, and Panong isn’t a very big island. Almost every Panongian can point to some Chinese ancestry.

Mr. Sangong appears so ordinary, even I have to focus to be able to detect the magic around him, and unless I work hard at it, I can’t recognise him before he enters the barbershop.

That’s how you can tell a truly old Mayak from a young one—the young ones are sloppy and leak magic everywhere. And they’re generally still vain enough to choose attractive or distinctive glamours. Obviously the shape-shifters only have one human appearance, and they can’t change it.

Mr. Sangong took me in as a protégée back when I first arrived in Panong. He taught me to navigate Panong’s magical underbelly, gave me a job, and even tried to help grow my magic. But it’s so weak, that was a bit of a waste of everyone’s time. He never told me as much—Mr. Sangong is unfailingly polite. He just gradually stopped training me.

I don’t mind—I can’t help having weak magic, any more than I can help the way I look. And Mr. Sangong has never once spoken to me or treated me like an inferior.

“Bloody tart threw me out the office,” Tim complains, jumping atop a cabinet so he’s level with Mr. Sangong’s arm.

Mr. Sangong scratches his head distractedly.

“I picked up on someone watching me as I came in,” I say.

“Hmm. Nothing dangerous.” He disappears into the office and closes the door.

A man in his thirties enters the barbershop, wearing a sharp suit, patent leather shoes, and an open-collared shirt.

“Hi, Ari,” I greet him. Not my observer—I know Ari well enough to recognise his signature from a distance, and anyway, a kitsune has better things to do with his time than to spy on me.

“Hey, Apiya, how’s it going?” Ari breaks into a smile. His glamour isn’t a particularly handsome man, but what he lacks in perfection of features, he more than makes up in charm. I had quite the crush on him when I first met him—it’s the way he smiles.

I usher him to one of the chairs. “The usual?”

Ari has never let me see his fox form, and my magic is insufficient to sense beyond his glamour to the number of tails he possesses. Kitsunes grow one for every hundred years they’ve been alive. Ari’s too smooth and controlled to be young.

Now, you’re probably wondering what a Japanese magical creature is doing in Panong. The thing is, kitsunes existed long before the concept of Japan was even a gleam in any Mundane’s eye. The Mayak have always moved around, but some of them have areas they favour and spend more time in.

Kitsunes, for some reason, quite liked Japan back in the day, which meant Mundanes sometimes picked up on them, and thus the Mundane myths were born. But in truth, for the Mayak, countries and nationalities are the same as religions—hallucinations invented and shared by the Mundanes.

The only borders they recognise are defined by mountains, water, or magic. There’s a large Mayak-recognised border between the Asian and European territories, which is why the Asian Mayak remain in Asia, and the European fae stay in Europe. There is some inter-territory travel, of course, but I hear it’s a complicated affair that makes Mundane diplomacy look like child’s play.

As for religions, there’s no such thing. There is only magic, the beings made of it, and the beings touched by it. So a kitsune is no more Japanese than Kali is a Hindu goddess. Kali is Kali. Kitsunes are kitsunes, and anything else is a Mundane fairy tale.

I grab a black waxed-cotton cape, snap it smartly, and sweep it around Ari’s neck, the cape flaring out like the swing of a fifties skirt. Then I get a fresh hot towel, shake it out, and wrap it around his face. I re-strop The Lucifer while I wait for the heat to open his pores. The Lucifer is already sharp enough to work with, but I find clients like to hear the sound of steel against leather while they relax with a towel on their face.

A werecat comes in while I’m in the middle of the shave. His human form is mid-to-late thirties and is broader than most cats’ human form. He wears heavy boots, jeans, and a black T-shirt that does wonders for his muscled chest. I guess he must shift into one of the larger cats—tiger or leopard. I hope it’s a tiger.

“Take a seat. I’ll be right with you.”

The werecat goes to the lounge area and inspects the bar.

“You better cough up, sunshine,” Tim mutters from his chair.

The werecat snorts with laughter. You have to give it to Tim—it takes guts to give attitude to a creature that can swallow you in a couple mouthfuls. But that’s cats for you—tiny animals with enough arrogance to think they rule the world.

I turn my attention back to Ari’s shave, gently scraping the cutthroat razor against the underside of his jaw, enjoying the faint rasp of the blade against his skin.

“Anyone mind if I put some Ellington on?” the werecat asks, fingering one of the records beneath the gramophone.

I finish Ari’s shave to the Duke’s smooth tones, then it’s time to attack the werecat. Barbering a were—whether wolf or cat—is akin to trimming a hedge. At first there’s no room for subtlety. You’ve just got to hack through the growth. Even an Asian were—they’re a bit less hairy than their European counterparts, but that’s not saying much. With enough patience and determination, though, you can do a little delicate work at the end.

Of course it only lasts until the next shift, but I have a reputation to uphold, and I like my clients to leave the shop looking as sharp as my razors.

Ari and the werecat both decide to stay with us for a bit, drinking whiskey and listening to music. I always like it when clients hang around—the sound of conversation and ice cubes in tumblers on top of the music. It gives the shop a kind of speakeasy feel. Sometimes I like to pretend we’re back in the roaring twenties. Obviously, I’m a glaring anachronism in the picture, with my combat boots and ripped fishnets.

Okay, I’m sure you think I’m a bit of hypocrite for dissing the drop-crotch trousers of the kid at the dumpling stall, given how I dress. What can I say? I’ve got double standards, and I like men who dress sharp just as much as I like to dress grungy. Which of course ensures that the sharply dressed men don’t find me appealing. A shrink would call it self-sabotage that keeps me permanently single. I call it being complex and happily single.

It’s all about perspective.

Mr. Sangong comes out of the office, still looking preoccupied. “I’m going to need to leave for the night.”

“Anything I can help with?” I ask, probably too eagerly.

I know Mr. Sangong doesn’t like it when I pester him to take me deeper into Mayak society, but sometimes it’s frustrating. There’s a whole world just out of my reach, and it would be open to me if only Mr. Sangong would allow it. But he keeps telling me that it’s too dangerous for me, even though I handle myself just fine with our clients.

Of course that’s mostly—entirely—because the barbershop is Mr. Sangong’s turf, so his magic protects me. But still.

Mr. Sangong gives me a penetrating look. That’s as close as he ever gets to showing disapproval. “No, thank you, Apiya.”

I look away, knowing I’ve been chastised. I sigh as he walks out. I’m grateful to him and the place he’s given me in the magical world of Panong. I am. On my own, I probably would never have managed it, or at least not so well. But sometimes I wish he’d relax his rules a bit.

After the werecat, I have a pre-booked appointment with a garuda who likes to see me in his natural form. Garudas have the body of a man and the head of an eagle, which makes barbering tricky. But barbering to the supernatural means being able to deal with any form, magical or human. I pull out the magical razors and start stropping. One of them in particular gives such precision to movements, Mr. Sangong trained me until I could actually shave a bee’s ass mid-flight without killing it.

Did you think I was bragging earlier?

I’m almost done stropping the smallest of my razors, the one I use for real precision work, when I sense a new arrival. This time I recognise my observer. I watch the entrance, curious.

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Hi! I'm Celine

I write different flavours of fantasy with a twist, but always with one uniting thread: quirky, flawed characters and heart-warming found families.

My books span the sub-genres of steampunk (but set in a secondary, tropical world) urban fantasy (set in Asia and London) and gothic gaslamp fantasy.

I'm French, grew up in the UK, and for the last few years I've been living a life of nomadic adventure, exploring the world with my laptop as my constant companion. My adventures have been a great source of inspiration for my stories.

These days I'm trying to figure out where in the world I might stop and setup some bookshelves.

I love to hear from readers, so feel free to contact me at

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