Portrait of Liz Tanner

Ascending Darkness: 6 Stars for Audrey Brice

Ascending Darkness by Audrey BriceI felt like cheering when I came to the end of Ascending Darkness. I couldn’t remember when I’d been so thoroughly happy for a main character. Or, frankly, as envious of one! Without giving away any of Audrey Brice‘s plot secrets, I’ll admit that I would love to end up like Liz Tanner when and if I ever grow up—without the feminine attributes, thank you. She can leave behind her dry wit and handsome boyfriend, however. I wouldn’t mind having either of them!

Liz Tanner’s success is hard won. Book 1 of the Ordo Templi Serpentis Mysteries thrusts her into the limelight when a member of her occult order is accused of murder. Her responsibilities grow heavier with each novel in the series, as do the paranormal and criminal risks she encounters. Her boyfriend, Mike, and the world’s most cheerful Satanist, Alyssa, fight to keep her safe and sane, but Liz’s own powers continue to rise. Could it be her own darkness that hungers to ascend?

As a long time reader of Ellery Queen, Audrey Brice’s mysteries held up for me. I’d compare her writing to that of Lillian Jackson Braun and Ellis Peters in terms of gore and accuracy of research, respectively. Her dedication to factual accuracy makes sense since Brice also publishes occult literature under a different pen name. Thanks to her time as a professional magus, Brice’s satires the Pagan community’s behavior so well that I frequently have to smother laughter while reading her stories. Brava!

I only wish I could give Audrey Brice extra stars for often saying what I’m not courageous enough to blurt out.

As it is, Ascending Darkness is a five-star read. I cannot wait for Book Five: Illuminated Darkness!

Go here for a chronological listing of the Ordo Templi Serpentis Mysteries, including all novels and novellas. Keep your eyes out for Illuminating Darkness and follow all of Audrey Brice’s pen names at the Quadrant.

The portrait of Liz Tanner at the top of this review is based on an author photograph of Audrey Brice. It was drawn and digitally altered by William Briar, 2016.

 

Vampire Novel Provides Fresh Blood

I’ve considered myself an amateur vampirologist for a long time. I bought a copy of Bunson’s Vampire Encyclopedia in 1993 and nearly wept when the dog-eared paperback fell apart five years later. By then it had already become the lighthouse that helped me navigate the stormy seas of poorly written vampire film and fiction. Thanks to the trivia I absorbed from that blood red book, I was able to weed most of the clichĂ©-riddled crap from the decent material, and wolfed down every half-decent novel and film I came across.

I’m sorry it took me so long to find this story. I’d planned on reading A.J. Aalto’s Touched earlier this year, but an unforeseen change elsewhere in my schedule forced me to backburner all my reviews. What a shame!

The unique setting of this novel makes it a fantastic alternative to such modern vampire “classics” like Twilight.

This definitely isn’t the first urban fantasy I’ve read where government agencies work with psychics, but I have never encountered a world where a vampire is the source of the psychic’s powers before. I look forward to Aalto expanding this universe as the series progresses.

I look forward to watching the protagonist grow as well. Marty often seemed scatterbrained to me. If she eventually needs to be rescued by a male lead before the series closes, or loses any more personal agency, my interest in Marty will wane regardless of how intriguing the world remains. I suspect this will not happen, however, and that we are going to watch Marty come into her own. After all, she’s got the touch.

Three and a half stars. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, guys! I appreciate it.

The Second Book of Crystal Spells

Whenever I visit a metaphysical store, I leave with the impression that some people must need crystals the way the rest of us need food, water, and air. Otherwise, I just can’t understand how they justify spending so much money on pretty paperweights. Saying that might make me sound like Scrooge, yet it also sums up the bias I had towards crystals before starting this book. In other words, I was interested, but price tags had broken my heart too many times.

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Everyone says high school sucks…

…But at least we didn’t take Satan to prom.

After reading Rue Morgue‘s review of My Best Friend’s Exorcism, I had high hopes for Grady Hendrix’s latest novel. Luckily enough, this book delivered exactly what the magazine promised: well-developed and realistically-written teenage characters, a journey through the 80’s, and a refreshing take on the exorcism / possession trope. Having accomplished any one of these three would have made this a good story, but the fact Hendrix pulled off all three made it great.

In particular, his use of a lesser known demon and unusual exorcist kept the plot from falling into any familiar ruts. Moreover, the differing economic lifestyles of the two main characters allowed for Hendrix to make social commentary on how the poor our treated in our society to this day without being too heavy-handed about it. This is easily on my BEST OF 2016 list, and redefines the possession sub-genre overall. Hendrix is a writer to watch out for, and I eagerly look forward to his next release.

Five out of five stars.

I received a copy of this book for free from NetGalley for a review.