Book Review – A Grave Magic by Bilinda Sheehan

It’s fairly difficult to trace the roots of urban fantasy back to its roots, but there’s no doubt it’s been an explosive and extremely popular genre. There are those who would say it’s just fantasy for lazy authors, but as I’ve pointed out in the past, building a world that mostly looks like ours but is populated by magicians or dragons or witches is no mean feat.

A Grave Magic takes place in a world that might as well be ours. It’s got cops, criminals, good guys, bad guys, and all the trappings you expect from the mundane world. One would assume it also has hot dog vendors and baseball. But it also has vampires and witches and all manner of paranormal bugaboos. Our guide to this world is a witch named Amber Morgan who is struggling to keep her abilities a secret from a world that has no great love for anything non-human.

And that right there is the little click that makes urban fantasy such a powerful tool: It allows us to explore society without resulting to tedious mumbo-jumbo or overusing words like paradigm.

We all like to think we’d be cool with witches and vampires running around in the real world, but in reality we’d be terrified of them because they’re functionally humans and deep down we all know exactly what we’d be like if we had that kind of power. In that sense, characters like Amber Morgan, who seek to keep their powers contained and at least mostly use them for good, represent the best in our natures. Even as Amber struggles with her own capabilities and what they mean, she tries to do right by a world that would just as soon see her torched and her ashes scattered to the winds.

As I understand it, this is the first of Amber’s adventures, so when you get hooked there are more books out there to read. A Grave Magic is a paranormal romp through some very realistic crimes with characters you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.

Sheehan has done a fantastic job of building a world where magic is a thing, vampires and witches are real, and it all still feels perfectly believable. Trust me, that’s not as easy to do as you’d think.

If you like your urban fantasy sassy and bold with just the right amount of humor, this is a good place to start. Personally, I highly enjoyed it.

Darkness can’t always be beaten by the light. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Amber Morgan is a rookie in The Elite, an organisation tasked with the elimination of rogue preternatural beings in King City. But she has a secret. She’s a witch and only joined The Elite to settle a personal score.

Her first case is supposed to be the routine investigation of a rogue vampire but it soon becomes clear that dark forces are at work, darker than anything the team has dealt with in the past.

When an irritatingly sexy Hunter offers to help, Amber wants to say hell no! The last thing she needs is another distraction even if he is sin personified. But with the fate of a missing child at stake and a possible connection between the case and her past, how can she refuse?

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Book Review – Junior Inquisitor by Lincoln Farish

Not a lot of people know this, but I grew up Catholic. Anglican Catholic, to be more specific. I have since fallen from the purer faith, but, at least in my eyes, Christian religion is indelibly tied to Catholicism. I know that’s not the case for a lot of people, but it’s just how I perceive the Christian world.

Any time you talk about religion, you have to be careful – people take their beliefs very seriously and I’m not trying to knock anyone else’s faith, just pointing out the eyes I used to look at the world of Lincoln Farish’s Junior Inquisitor.

I’ll get the meat out of the way and just say this: Junior Inquisitor is a hell of a lot of fun and if you’re into action and mystery, go buy a copy now.

This isn’t a religious book, per se. In the world of Junior Inquisitor there is evil present in the world. Not abstract evil, either. This is Evil with a capital E; the kind of thing Mike Myers would pronounce “Ayveel. Like the frooits of the deveel.” In fact, that kind of evil pretty much hits the mark that Mr. Farish is going for. In this world, most people aren’t aware of the underlying evil slowly eroding the world around them, but the Catholic church is well aware of it, and has been for some time. The Inquisitors are the tools the church uses to purge this evil.

Junior Inquisitor revolves around one Inquisitor as he stumbles into a hornet’s nest of evil. Excuse me; ayveel. Most of the tale is about him as he tries to do his job, but the story ultimately includes more Inquisitors as Sebastian attempts to purge a host of witches from the face of the planet.

Now, it should probably be noted that Farish’s witches aren’t Wiccans. There’s nothing kind or gentle about the witches in Junior Inquisitor and the magic they do is based on power pulled straight from deals with various demons and devils. In other words, these aren’t nice people we’re talking about.

So, while Junior Inquisitor takes place in a world that feels like our own, it’s very much set in its own world. And that world is inhabited by some terrifying things that not only go bump in the night, they also capture you and enslave your soul.

As I pointed out in the beginning, I’ve got a Catholic background even though I no longer count myself as one of theirs. But that background – even though Farish is using Roman Catholicism instead of Anglican Catholicism – made this book all that much more tangible, right down to the bureaucratic nature of all large organizations.

Part horror, part action, Junior Inquisitor is all fun. Even if you aren’t Catholic (or religious at all, really), it’s hard to not cheer on the exploits of a character that faces down the terrible things lurking in the darkness and shoots them.

Brother Sebastian is halfway up a mountain in Vermont, hell-bent on interrogating an old woman in a shack, when he gets the order to abandon his quest for personal vengeance. He has to find a missing Inquisitor, or, more likely, his remains. He’s reluctant, to say the least. Not only will he have to stop chasing the best potential lead he’s had in years, this job—his first solo mission—will mean setting foot in the grubby black hole of Providence, Rhode Island. And, somehow, it only gets worse…

If he’d known he would end up ass deep in witches, werewolves, and ogres, and that this mission would jeopardize not only his sanity but also his immortal soul, he never would’ve answered the damn phone.

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Book Review – Walk-In by Val Tobin

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Val Tobin has a thing for the occult. She handles it well and makes the worlds of magic and UFO abduction feel real and tangible. Having tried to do this myself, I can tell you it’s no mean feat to integrate the paranormal with the mundanity of day-to-day life. This is actually the second of Val’s books that I’ve stumbled across. The first – The Experiencers – was cracking good read with aliens. Walk-In takes the reader in a different, but no less intriguing, direction.

Now, whether or not you believe in the paranormal aspects of Tobin’s work, you have to admit she’s done her homework. Magic’s an easy thing to completely screw up in a book. It can go from an interesting plot adornment to deus-ex-machina in the blink of an eye if it isn’t handled well. Tobin’s magic is still based on rules and – at least from my own research – seems to be based on real-world practices.

Into this world of magic and spirits, Tobin drops a psychic reader, a powerful (and evil) psychic, a witch, and a journalist who’s out of his element, but ready to understand. She manages to weave a mystery about a missing woman with a story of a budding romance and wrap it all up in a paranormal bow.

I can’t really comment too much on the romance aspects; that’s never been my genre, but I can say Val Tobin has crafted a believable world of unbelievable things and filled it with interesting characters. Hints of horror skulk around at the edges and there’s enough intrigue and action to satisfy almost anyone.

All in all, a highly entertaining read. Plus, it looks like there might be a sequel.

Questions plague psychic reader Viktoria Kovacs when her twin sister, missing for five years, appears at her door. Why did her sister leave? What happened to her memory? And how did she end up living with the mysterious millionaire who claims to be her protector?

When journalist Aedan McCarthy visits the occult shop where Viktoria works, he’s researching a novel, not looking for love. Unprepared for the jolt of electricity that sparks between them, Aedan wants to explore the possibilities.

But evil lurks, and not everyone is who they appear to be. Getting entangled with Viktoria might cost Aedan his soul.

A fast-paced romantic thriller with paranormal elements, Walk-In provides edge-of-the-seat entertainment.

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Book Review – Anthem For What’s To Come by Kimberly Coleman

They say war is a confusing time for everyone. Not only is the world exploding all around, but allegiances can constantly shift and it’s all too easy to point fingers at people on the same side.

Most books about war focus on the people fighting the war, but that’s really only a tiny percentage of the population that’s impacted by war’s far-reaching grasp. Regular people, the ones who just want to live out their lives and have little interest in the politics of war, wind up being the worst casualties. Look to any war-torn area of the world today – Syria pops to mind – and you’ll find the bulk of the damage is done not to the fighters of war, but to the people caught in the middle. Politicians start wars. The military winds up fighting them. Everyone else gets chewed up and spat out.

It’s rare to find a story about war that not only isn’t directly about the fighters of the war, but also has a hint of the paranormal woven through it. In April of 2016, I stumbled across Kimberly Coleman’s The Blind Girl’s Sword and found it a fascinating look at a place that could be anywhere on Earth, filled with people who mechanically went about the business of living even as things exploded around them. That was Volume 0 of the ongoing saga of war and witches. Anthem For What’s To Come is Volume 1. It’s an intimate look at a world stuck in perpetual war and what impact that has on people. In a way, it’s a treatise on how to make a monster. Take any normal person, put them in extraordinary circumstances, and watch what brews.

Coleman has a way with prose. The narrative is tight and concise. She doesn’t waste words, but still manages to build a richly-detailed world as seen through the eyes of a Blood Witch. Through those eyes, and the stories she tells to a dying girl, we get a sense of how devastation makes monsters.

Anthem For What’s To Come contains two stories: The Blind Girl’s Sword and Before the Sun Goes Down. Both take place in the same constantly-at-war world and look at the effects of that war through the eyes of normal people. Personally, I hope to see more about this war-torn world and its all-too-human monsters and witches.

“Anthem For What’s Come” combines the first two volumes in The Blind Girl’s War Series:
“Before The Sun Goes Down” tells the story of a young girl poisoned in a terrorist chemical lab…
“The Blind Girl’s Sword” focuses on that terrorist’s ill-fated relationship with a seamstress and how that led him onto his malefic path.

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