Monday, June 23, 2008

"Black Magic Woman" by Justin Gustainis

Title: "Black Magic Woman"
Author: Justin Gustainis
Pages: 336
Publisher: Solaris Books

Through the courtesy of Solaris books I had the great fortune of reading one the most exciting books in the urban fantasy genre. “Black Magic Woman” explores new grounds for the genre in a field that has yet to be fully developed, mainly magic. Here is the blurb:

Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his "consultant", white witch LIbby Chastain, are hired to free a family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem witch trials. Fraught with danger, the trail finds them stalking the mysterious occult underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York, searching out the root of the curse. After surviving a seris of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself—the very heart of darkness.

For those not needing their 101 revision class in occult literature, I happened to be the latter sadly, Quincey Morris is a character from Bram Stoker’s and exerts the profession of a bounty hunter for all that goes bump in the night. With this very delicate and interesting reference to the past and this classic we follow the descendent Quincey Morris, who in his line of work as a consultant usually has to kill vampires, demons and break off curses. Such is his task in “Black Magic Woman”, when he is contracted by a family under magical attack, because of a feud going on from the Salem trials. He and white witch Elizabeth Chastain have to neutralize the witch before she finds the needed opening to eliminate her targets. Interestingly enough we have another Black Magic Woman in the scene, the African witch Cecilia called in from Africa in order to create magical fetishes. A series of violent ritualistic also called ‘muti’ killings of children begin to spread. A police officer, Garth Van Drennan, from Africa is called at the request of the FBI Behavior Unit.

As a reader I want to be entertained and left satisfied with how a story is being told and say a loud wow at the end. There exists a tight number of authors, who can narrate two stories, which collide and whirl into each other without getting entangled in their own strings. Fewer are the authors can do that while using multiple viewpoints without it getting annoying. Justin Gustainis handles this task and fulfills his obligations with flying colors. His prose is tight and sharp, always driven to the fast pace of the story and never getting too scarce or too eloquent in his descriptions.

His characters are new to the genre at least in my opinion. Quincey Morris is a Texas gentleman with vast knowledge and a very business oriented sense, wearing smart clothes and shifting between manners of speech given the situation and is cool without the whole macho testosterone overdrive, thus more believable. Libby Chastain is independent and very capable of saving herself, when needed, but she has nothing in common with most self-assured, strong and powerful women with an attitude. She is as smartly dressed as Quincey, owns a fine sense of humor without going into sarcasm and has an air of tranquility and class around her. Mind you those two features often get overlooked, when authors create their female characters for urban fantasy. Van Drennan is the brooding type and although his daughter is a victim of a muti killing, we don’t see him deep in angst and keeps his cool throughout the whole chase.

I can go on and on about how much I loved this book, but I will just talk about the occult utilized in this novel and just leave discovering the magic yourselves. There is nothing new used here, but what was taken from the dusty old pages of mythology and superstitions simple added a great flavor to the whole adrenaline rush of near death scenarios. We have charms, tricks to kill vampires and demons, warding spells, mirror spells and curses just as your great great grandmother used to hear and in the fashion of the novel, played their role with class.

As a conclusion, this is a very promising beginning of a series, which hopefully set new rules for the genre and get it going in the right direction aka more magic and occult theory.


cj said...

That sounds like a good one to check out. Thanks for the review.


daydream said...

Oh, you just wait and see. I will be giving it away these days. Mhm, that's right! And thanks!

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