Monday, August 18, 2014

Broken Souls - Stephen Blackmoore

Broken Souls
Stephen Blackmoore
DAW Books

 Paranormal Noir Thriller

 Spoiler Alert:  If you haven’t read DEAD THINGS, this review contains serious and unavoidable spoilers.  Also, you really need to read DEAD THINGS.  Really.

When last we left Eric Carter, necromancer, he’d bound himself to Santa Muerte.  He had good reason, and she had the juice to help him with his current problems.  But she wants something in return.  She hasn’t told him what that something is, but when you’re dealing with an Aztec death goddess, you know it’s not going to be pretty.  To that end, Eric is trying everything to rescind his arrangement with her.  Failing that (and he is not surprised he’s failing that) he’s adding another magic-laced tattoo to help him hide from her.  As much as you can hide from a goddess.
He’s also got a meeting set with Harvey Kettleman, who is pretty much the top mage.  When mages need help, they need Kettleman.  The meeting doesn’t go so well, though, because while Eric is talking to Kettleman, he catches sight of Kettleman’s ghost.  And this ghost is not right.  It’s phasing in and out, and looks like it’s bisected somehow.  Not-Kettleman immediately tries to kill Carter with a very old obsidian knife, and it’s a close thing.  Turns out, it’s someone else wearing Kettleman’s skin.  The knife is clearly involved somehow, which leads Carter to another powerful magic user, the Bruja.  Something strange (stranger than usual) is going on, and Carter is running out of resources.  He’s also gained one: Alex Kim, his best friend, has reappeared in ghost form.  But he can’t be the ghost of Alex.  Because Carter killed him.

Stephen Blackmoore’s books are high-adrenaline while also looking at what might make the world – and the world beyond the veil – tick.  Carter is a no-nonsense kind of guy, who does what’s necessary, even when it’s ugly.  And it gets ugly quite a lot in his line of work.  This is a sort of L.A. noir spliced with urban fantasy, and the result is as gritty and action-packed as you would expect.  Every action has a consequence, and most of them are fairly dire. These books are exciting, but dark.  If you want up-lifting, look elsewhere.

This novel continues Carter’s story, and develops a personal arc for him that is both wider and deeper than in the previous novel.  There’s something happening to Carter and his magic.  He’s got a lot more power at his fingertips, but there’s a price to pay for everything.  It’s pretty clear the changes are related to past events, but the exact nature of the difference is not clear, even to Carter himself.  That journey is fascinating and will continue in future books.  Which will be must-reads for me.  I’m only sorry I’ll have to wait to see what happens next.

Rating: 9
August 2014
ISBN# 978-0-7564-0942-5 (paperback)


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