Dark Magic by James Swain is one of those books that grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Take one part Batman, one part A Discovery of Witches, one part Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and one part The Prestige, mix well, and what you have is one hell of a story. I almost forgot, add in a touch of either the X-Files or Men in Black, just for flavor.
Peter Warlock is the leader of the Friday Night Psychics. Who are the Friday Night Psychics? Just what they sound like, a group of psychics who get together every Friday night. Except that these aren't charlatans, these are the real deal. Peter and his friends all have power, real power, of one kind or another.
They get together every Friday night to connect with the spirit world, to find out if there is anything bad going to happen. Well, anything big and bad. They live in New York City, after all. Something small and bad is always happening. The Friday Night Psychics are trying to prevent major catastrophes.
So when Peter foresees some kind of epic catastrophe radiating out from Times Square only four days in the future, they all start working on how to alert the police. They've always sent in anonymous tips before, but this is too big and too imminent for an anonymous phone call.
And they all know what will happen if they reveal themselves. They've already lost a friend that way. They're not afraid that no one will believe them. The government will believe them. The CIA took their friend Nemo somewhere they could pump him for predictions--indefinitely.
But before they can figure out a way to alert the police, the evil forces send an assassin after Peter. Live, on stage, in the middle of his magic act.
Peter Warlock covers his real psychic powers by making his living as a stage magician. He pretends to read minds by really reading minds. He's hidden his talents in plain sight his entire life.
The attack alerts the police and the FBI. It also blows the covers off Peter's tortured past. The FBI agent who comes to interview Peter in the wake of the attack is the same agent who interviewed him when he was a child, after his parents were thrown into a car in front of his eyes and driven to their deaths.
Peter's attacker and his parent's murderers are members of the same society of dark magic mercenaries, the Order of Astrum. And now the Order is after Peter and his friends.
The police were already hunting for Peter's would-be assassin. Every city that Jeremy Wolfe has visited has suffered from a series of murders of well-respected psychics, followed by an act of terrorism. Peter knows that his friends and his city are next. What he does not understand is how the deaths of his parents might be linked to this Order of Astrum.
The discovery of his parents' true history threatens his identity, and his life. Peter finds that his friends have been keeping terrible secrets, secrets that he must unravel in order to find the truth about himself and his destiny. But once he learns all, he then must answer the eternal questions about the nature of good and evil. Will his ends justify his means? And will he always be able to choose good when there is evil in his soul?
Escape Rating A: Dark Magic is the kind of story for which the term "dark fantasy" was invented. Peter Warlock is such an intense character. He does remind me a lot of Batman, I mean Bruce Wayne. He watched his parents die, and he grows up tortured by their deaths. He creates this image of them as being so good, only to discover that they weren't the people he thought they were.
The suspense factor was also very well done. There's the part of trying to get one step ahead of the assassin, as he targets the psychics and then there's the second part, just trying to find out what the heck the real target is. Very techno-thrillerish and very cool.
If there turn out to be more books in this universe I will be a very happy reader.
Originally published at Reading Reality.