Black Magic Woman Paperback – Jan 29 2008
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"Dennis Wheatley meets Kim Newman! Voodoo and Muti and old Salem witches! Shout outs to Jack Crow and Harry D'Amour! I loved it!Justin is a first class writer; he's smart and he's fun, he moves quickly and he takes corners at speed. Every time you think you know where he's going, he makes a point of going somewhere else. His characters are sharp and vivid, his dialogue crackles with wit and tension, and when it comes to the scarier corners of the magical underworld, he knows his stuff.This is a novel that's packed with story and engaging characters and I can't wait to read the next one. "--Simon R. Green, author of the ""Nightside"" series
About the Author
Justin Gustainis is a college professor living in upstate New York. He is the author of the novel The Hades Project (2003), as well as a number of short stories. In his misspent youth, Mr. Gustainis was, at various times, a busboy, soldier, speechwriter and professional bodyguard. To balance his karma, he and his wife collect teddy bears.
Top Customer Reviews
Also story starts with flashback and i dont like "ye olde english speak"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book starts out fast, with the prologue taking place at the Salem, Massachusetts witch trials in 1692. From there we move to the present day, where our two main characters -- Quincey Morris and Elizabeth "Libby" Chastain -- are each running their own private supernatural consultant businesses. Quincey specializes in dealing with supernatural problems like demons, vampires, or angry ghosts. Libby is a white witch who focuses on magical issues and misuse or misrepresentation of mystical powers such as black magic, fake mediums and fraudulent preachers. They are good friends who have worked on cases together before, and this time it is Quincey who needs Libby's help defeating the curse placed on a family.
There were A LOT of things I liked about _Black Magic Woman_:
- Quincey and Libby are great characters. Both are interesting, have their own personalities and backstories, and their interactions are pleasant to read as well.
- Even though there are a lot of secondary characters and a lot of subplots, it doesn't get confusing or boring, and everything is tied together at the end.
- A lot of passing references to classic horror movies and novels. It's fun to see how Gustainis weaves these into the story.
- References to current-day events, such as politics at the FBI, or some of the more intractable problems in post-Apartheid South Africa.
- Gustainis did a lot of research on his subjects. In particular, lynch mobs attacking suspected sorcerers in Africa and "necklacing" them is something that really happens, and it was obvious Gustainis did a lot of background study before writing this book. At the same time, Gustainis has a light hand with his material and his writing never becomes boring or pretentious.
- In particular, _Black Magic Woman_ stands out from a lot of recent dark urban fantasy in its treatment of gore and Christianity. Some authors in this genre have a tendency to spend A LOT of text on torture and pain, and treat Christianity as being either judgmental and overly rigid or hollow and materialistic. While _Black Magic Woman_ is definitely a crime thriller and a lot of ugly things happen during the book, Gustainis does NOT make the reader wade through pages and pages of blood and horror and bad guys lovingly describing their sadism. Also, the treatment of Christians, Christianity and Christian mysticism was very even-handed.
- There are a lot of great story lines and great secondary characters which would all make interesting books in themselves. Do Quincey and Libby ever run into Barry Love in New York again? Does Fenton ever get sucked into more odd cases? Do we ever get to see Van Dreenan again?
Regarding things I didn't like about _Black Magic Woman_ -- there wasn't much. I think one escape where our protagonists FLEW was a bit far-fetched, but that's the only major complaint I have.
I am looking forward to the next book, and definitely consider this one to be a five-star read.
"Black Magic Woman" begins when a curse is laid upon a family for testimony in against them in the Salem Witch Trials. The witness realizes she's got trouble when the surviving 8 year old daughter of the woman she's sent to the gallows makes the sign of black magic curse at her as she's being taken away.
That curse continues on to the present day with a family being attacked magically. Quincey Morris and Libby Chastain are called in to help.
Next, we have a South African police officer, Van Drennan, arriving in the US. He's here at the request of the FBI Behavioral Unit. They're tracking a serial killer of children, which seems to be related to South African black magic rituals. What the FBI doesn't know is that Van Drennan's daughter died in a 'muti' killing as well.
Both these stories intertwine in an interesting fashion. Gustainis has a knack for keeping the action going. In addition, he supplies well-educated cultural details that make the narrative informative as well as riveting.
If you're a fan of dark urban fantasy sharing a close border with horror you're going to enjoy "Black Magic Woman." Gustainis is a strong entry into the fantasy field and I'm hoping to hear more from him very soon.
The main characters of Quincy and Libby never did come alive for me. Who knows, maybe it's because Quincy is from Texas and I'm a Yankee, but the main way we know he's from Texas is that he says 'podner' and stuff like that. In general, I felt the slang use was detrimental in terms of flow, but that's just a side-note. With Libby, well, we know she's a good, 'white' witch, the repetition of which sort of made me think of the Wizard of Oz or a pious amateur Wicca meet more than a sophisticated fantasy setting. One of my biggest issues was the rather over-simplified 'good vs evil' set-up in an adult novel; what's acceptable in a popular children's book isn't something I find equally acceptable in an adult urban fantasy. Thus, the very evil bad guys and the rain of frogs and the heartless child-killers... never really hit home with me.
I think mystery and blanks not filled in about the main characters is perfectly fine, but I prefer my blanks to have a sense of life to them, rather than a simple absence of information. That is to say, I never got a real (to me) dynamic off Quincy and Libby, what kind of relationship they have. They've only worked with each other a few times before, so there's that, but it felt like neither the ease of partnership nor true friendship was there, and yet Quincy was highly devoted to Libby in times of danger in true knightly style. Sometimes there's a half-hearted attempt at banter which never quite materializes, so it's just kind of awkward (for me). It's okay if they're just good acquaintances with two different lives doing a job, but Quincy's emotional involvement just seems off in that light. That said, I fully appreciated how much I like partnerships/friendships that do involve higher interaction levels in stories (ie, people who share the main character's life to some extent are highly useful in a book to help you connect with the character).
I also think it's a matter of taste, but I was somewhat uncomfortable with how the book was structured-- specifically, the focus on a number of characters besides the two intrepid investigators. I was highly aware that the type of story being written (an investigative 'episodic' type story) usually gets written in first person or third-person-limited, and there's a reason for that-- it makes you more invested in the character's survival if your knowledge is limited by theirs. I felt like the focus on others, bad guys and good guys, distanced me from the characters to the point where the most 'real' character to me was the African cop. Not coincidentally, he was the only one with an emotional arc in the story.
The connection between Quincy and the novel 'Dracula', as well as other bits of mythos in the book directly lifted from what I'd call 'traditional' sources, kind of disappointed me as well. Again, this is a matter of tastes, but I've grown so used to innovation and reinterpretation of the 'traditional' takes on vampires, ghouls and witches that to have such a by-the-book (literally) approach was... unnerving. It's not like black witches wore black pointy hats and cackled and vampires looked like Bela Lugosi, but it kind of felt like 'everything but'.
Just to let loose my last quibble, I was brought up short continuously by the awkwardness of the actual writing; I guess I'd say it reads like a typical early novel, stiff and a bit cliched and flowery in places. The awkward use of slang/regional dialect is something else that new writers do which I'm not thrilled about. Nothing that is consistently noticeable, but I kept having the urge to edit or thinking it wasn't edited thoroughly enough. Well, most readers probably wouldn't, so this is perhaps not an issue for them.
My favorite part of the book was the pacing-- the action never let up, so it was hard to stop-- and the bits on African magic and voodoo, which was actually central to the plot moreso than vampires or witches. I learned new things about African tribal magic, which I appreciate. I also did like Quincy, appearances to the contrary; he's a likable guy, even if I could've done without the surface Texan shtick and the devotion to his Dracula-related great-grandpa or whatever. Not that he stands out in my mind or I could even tell you who he is in general terms, but he's a 'good guy', and if you like good guys you'd like him. Oh, and the succubus was a definite highlight, what can I say.
The main character, Quincey Morris, is basically a consultant who is called in to help solve all types of supernatural problems. The book begins with him helping a small town to dispose of their vampire problem and goes from there to what appears initially to be a home plagued by a poltergiest.
What I like most about this main character is that he is basically a normal person with alot of knowledge, experience, and the basic good sense to call in other professionals to give him a hand when things get dicey. There are several sub-plots involving other people that initially seem to have no connection, but are woven in well by the time the end of the book is reached. There are lots of details about people's lives that are just touched upon and leave you intrigued and wanting to learn more.
Good thing there's another book coming. It's a shame we'll have to wait.
If you like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden then you'll certainly enjoy this read. (I could see Quincey calling Harry in for some back-up on his next case.)
I inhaled this book in one day and eagerly await the next.
Good job Mr. Gustainis.
This isn't a fluffy read. It's got serious violence. It's got serious villains. But if you're looking for a great urban fantasy adventure, you can't go wrong with BLACK MAGIC WOMAN.
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