Book review: Dark Magic by James Swain

Dark Magic cover

Book review: Dark Magic by James Swain, published May 2012 by Tor Books

Note: The review copy was provided by the publisher.


Peter Warlock is a magician with a dark secret. Every night, he amazes audiences at his private theater in New York, where he performs feats that boggle the imagination. But his day job is just a cover for his otherworldly pursuits: Peter is a member of an underground group of psychics who gaze into the future to help prevent crimes. No one, not even his live-in girlfriend, knows the truth about Peter—until the séance when he foresees an unspeakable act of violence that will devastate the city. As Peter and his friends rush to prevent tragedy, Peter discovers that a shadowy cult of evil psychics, the Order of Astrum, know all about his abilities. They are hunting him and his fellow psychics down, one by one, determined to silence them forever. Dark Magic is a genre-bending supernatural thriller from national bestselling novelist and real-life magician James Swain.

First off, I’m going to admit that while I love science fiction and fantasy, I no longer read a lot of urban fantasy. Why? Because, quite frankly, I’m tired of reading about vampires, werethings, and ninja heroines with attitude problems.

Second, I’m going to admit that this review has taken such a long time to write because I read the book twice. (Yeah, I really it.)

And finally, I’m going to admit that this book does not have vampires, werethings, or ninja heroines with attitude problems. It does, however, have psychics, demons, and a kick-ass (but not ninja) (female) witch who can control a massive flock of crows. Oh, and it also has a warlock. (Which, by the way, is not a male witch. A male witch is a…male witch. “Warlock” really means deceiver or traitor, so if you call a male witch a warlock they just might hex you, if they’re feeling so inclined.)

But yes, this book has a warlock. And the warlock also happens to have a demon inhabiting his body.

I KNOW. This book is all kinds of awesome.

Anyway. The book opens with Peter Warlock, up and coming New York stage magician, conducting a seance with his six psychic friends. The group conducts a seance every Friday night to make contact with the spirits so that they can see what horrible event will happen in the near future.

And then someone starts killing the group members. (Dun dun dun…)

Peter quickly discovers that the assassin (yep, an assassin of psychics; I told you this book was full of awesome) has been sent by The Order of Astrum, a group of people who practice dark magic. Seriously, this dark magic has gone way beyond the Left-Hand Path and has crossed into Just Plain Evil. Deliciously evil, in a really twisted sort of way.

I’m not going to ruin the book, so I’ll just say that Peter finds a link between his parents (who were both gifted psychics and who were killed when he was young) and the Order. There’s also a link between his parents, the Order, and the demon he finally acknowledges is inside of him. Also, there’s an FBI agent. And a psychic friend who was outed as a psychic and then taken to a secret CIA location. And a live-in, non-psychic girlfriend who just seemed extraneous to the plot, if I were to be truly honest.

As a whole, I truly enjoyed this book. It was action packed, had all sorts of paranormal elements (that did not involve a vampire or a werething in any way, shape, or form, thank all the gods). I did notice some instances of headhopping, but Peter can actually read minds so maybe it was intentional. And I’m not sure about the seance-to-see-into-the-future thing, though I’m not saying it isn’t true. (And if it does work, I need to find me a group of psychics…) I’m familiar with a lot of the elements in Holly’s witchy arsenal, including the dirt and the skull, though her waving a lock of her witch-ancestor’s hair at a pack of dogs to cast a spell made me go “huh?” and then “where can I get a lock of hair like that…?” (Yes, it’s fair to say I like to cause chaos wherever I go.)

Overall, if you like urban fantasy, dark fantasy, bits of horror, demons, ghosts, and magic (stage magic and otherwise), you just might like this book. Give it a try, and then tell me what you think.

Rating: 4.5/5


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