Dark Magic Hardcover – May 22 2012
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“Swain has taken Batman's tortured backstory and blended it with the genealogical paranormal heritage of Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches to create a breathtaking dark fantasy with an intriguing story that will attract both urban fantasy and supernatural thriller fans.” ―Library Journal
“Dark Magic smartly folds the spirit world and elements of the occult into sophisticated hacking and modern crime-fighting to create compulsively readable, genre-spanning suspense fiction.” ―Booklist
“Dark Magic is a thriller that really thrills. Swain has written a story filled with compelling characters and an amazing plotline. This book grabs you by the throat, and doesn't let go.” ―Michael Connelly, New York Times bestselling author of The Fifth Witness
“A darkly brilliant story of magic and witchcraft that asks the reader to believe the unbelievable. I chose to believe, and could not put the book down. Curl up in your favorite chair and prepare yourself to be fully enthralled.” ―David Copperfield on Dark Magic
“Magicians, demons and witches…oh my! James Swain's Dark Magic twists and turns in a breathless rush that keeps the reader guessing from the first magic act to the final curtain call. A definite page turner!” ―Lisa Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Born to Die
“Jim Swain's books are must-reads for me. He writes non-stop nail-biters that are impossible to put down. His characters are unique, and practically leap off the page. Try him, and you'll find out what I mean.” ―Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author of The Affair
“Dark Magic is entertainment magic, a thrilling and wildly creative ride that surprised me every step of the way.” ―Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Girl
About the Author
James Swain is the national bestselling author of fourteen mystery novels. His novels have been translated into French, Japanese, Russian, German, Bulgarian, Croatian, and chosen as Mysteries of the Year by Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. Swain has received three Barry Award nominations, a Florida Book Award for fiction, and the prestigious Prix Calibre .38 for Best American Crime Writing. An avid magician, he has written and lectured extensively on the subject.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
One of the major issues I had with this book is that there is no real challenge to our protagonist. It seems that he easily gets any information he wants, comes to conclusions without any evidence, and anytime he needs to defeat a nemesis, he just uses some power that he or another person possesses.
For instance ***SPOILER OF SORTS****... a detective, Schoch questions him about an assassination attempt on his life. This same detective was also with him after his parents were murdered. From this he jumps to the conclusion that the two events must be connected and he is right. He also has a computer hacking friend with the ability to get him(well, actually his girlfriend) information on the Order of Astrum, and some information about his parents. When he wants more information he simply ask an FBI agent, and the guy is just like, "oh, sure, what the heck." When he desperately needs a password on a computer, it just so happens to have a key logger on it. END SPOILER***** There is no real challenge to the character. I never felt as if he or anyone else was in any danger, they all seemed quite capable of defending themselves.
Another issue was the girlfriend. She was terribly annoying. Every other page she decides to leave him. He is dealing with the end of thousands of lives, and she is worried about relationship issues. The fact that he even entertains her ramblings makes him seem ridiculous. At one point it seems as if the attack that Peter sees in the seance is imminent(such as within the next hour or so), and the girlfriend calls him on the phone chastising him for not devoting more time to their relationship. And I quote ... "I need to take his call.[he was waiting for another call from a friend to help him find the bad guy] Let me call you back," he said. "Are you kidding?" Liza said in disbelief. "This is life or death," he said. "I'm sure it is. Call me when you have a spare minute to devote to our relationship." Liza hung up on him. She constantly demands that he is honest and open, and when he is, she judges him and leaves. ******SPOILER TO FOLLOW***** In the end it does not matter, b/c our protagonist Peter who never is challenge doesn't even have to deal with these issues at the end. A friend has the power (surprise, surprise)to erase memories, and thus Peter gets another chance. ****END SPOILER****
Overall, the story was terrible. The bad guys were not bad enough. The characters were flat and uninteresting. I hated how they kept changing the "bad guy". Its this one, now its that one, now its this one again. Wait, its really these guys.
This is my first book by Swain and will most likely be my last.
My other problem with this book is pacing, or lack of. You read an action scene and then you think that it might have been important in moving things along. But it's written with all the drama of reciting a diner breakfast menu. The whole thing is just....flat. There are no ups and downs.
I'm vaguely curious about his other books, since he does have others, and whether they are in the same style. But I'm truly astounded that this book was published by a major house. It seems more like a self-publish effort, in terrible need of an editor or ghost writer.
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.
(1) The writing was very thin and flat. Not sure how else to describe it. It was boring.
(2) If you were a psychic and saw a massive killing about to occur in 4 days would you (a) immediately alert the authorities even though you might risk your own freedom, (b) alert the authorities anonymously as you had been doing previously and hope they paid attention, or (c) go home to think about it, go to sleep and then go to work the next day because, you know, it is a whole 4 days until hundreds or thousands of people are killed so you have time? Guess which action Peter, the main character, chose.... Yep, (c).
(3) The dialogue was often not believable--conversations were unusually brief, and characters, when told something shocking or surprising, often just went "oh well" instead of asking the questions one normally would. Like "what happened?", "is she alright?" etc.
(4) The villain is supposed to be a bada$$ hit man who needs to stay "two steps ahead of the police". Yet he tries to kill Peter in front of an audience, sets a fire to kill others when a more silent killing was possible, and otherwise does not-so-stealthy things. He also, for unexplained reasons, seems to choose a different weapon with which to attempt to kill each of his targets. Why? That makes no sense and is never explained.
(5) Although there was a bit of a twist about 75% of the way in, suspense was distinctly lacking. Peter developed awesome super-speshul new powers early on which made it simple for him to defeat the villain and negated any threat to his safety. Peter never seemed to be in any danger.
(6) Finally, whoever copy-edited this for Tor should be fired. The rampant comma mis-use was surprising, then funny, then just pissed me off. And I'm talking about a very basic punctuation rule--which has not changed since I learned it in grade school--that was violated over and over and over again.
Overall: 1.5 stars. There are much better urban/dark fantasy books on which to spend your money.