So I’ve been in a reading snag all month (as I’m sure you could tell by my lack of reviews), but I really wanted to read Justin Gustainis’ Black Magic Woman, so I hunkered down with my copy and started reading. I don’t know what was going on, reading just wasn’t at the top of my list right now, but once I started Black Magic Woman (and actually had some uninterrupted time), I couldn’t put it down. The story was engaging and the characters were phenomenal.
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 series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself – the very heart of darkness.
PI Detectives seem to be popping up in the Urban Fantasy field, but Justin Gustainis makes a definite statement with Black Magic Woman. We’re given a hero who has no supernatural ability whatsoever and he goes after the things that go bump in the night without any indecisiveness. It’s refreshing to find a hero who not only has flaws, but tends to be outpowered when up against the bad guys. Then he gives us a heroine who can hold her own and is there to help counterbalance the power levels. Quincy knows Libby is a witch and a powerful one at that, but he’s not intimidated by her and trust her judgments without any of the male ego butting in. The other thing that makes it nice about these two is that there is an obvious friendship between the two that could go further, but hasn’t. They enjoy working together and are not getting tangled up in the romantic problems that generally result from a warped relationship. I’m not saying it would be warped, but every relationship gets to that point at some time. Especially in Urban Fantasy novels.
Along with great characters, you have to have a great plot and Black Magic Woman has that. With two stories interwoven together, there’s no downtime to lose the interest of the reader. While the two plot points are connected, the reader is the only one aware of that. It’s refreshing how, instead of dragging out key scenes or unnecessary dialog, Gustainis doesn’t mess around with fluff. He’s not overly descriptive and it works. We’re given the bare facts on pretty much everything and yet, between the two stories, we’re given more information about what is going on than anyone could do by just saying it. We’re given a chance to explore and experience the actions that is going to have an impact on future story lines (although I am only guessing this since I’ve only read the blurb for Evil Ways).
Overall, I’ve been hearing a lot about Justin Gustainis’s Black Magic Woman and now I know it’s not only well-deserved, but I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. The one thing that kept popping into my head while I was reading Black Magic Woman was how similar in style it was to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, and yet still completely different. Gustainis has a lighter edge to his storytelling than Butcher, so while I wasn’t itching to go pick up Fool Moon after reading Storm Front, I can’t wait to get started on Evil Ways. In either direction, if you’re looking for a great Urban Fantasy without all the romantic elements, then you should definitely get your hands on Black Magic Woman.
Black Magic Woman