Review of SHADOW MARBAS by Audrey Brice

Back in the old days, when a witch deserted his coven, the coven sought revenge. Jacob Mallory knew the stories, but he left Shadow Marbas anyway.

The saga begins.

After a disagreement between Cult of Lucifuge and Temple Apophis leaves Jacob defenseless and he discovers Marbas’ remnants of a curse, he seeks protection from Lucifer’s Haven.

Shadow Marbas, however, won’t be denied. Either Jacob is theirs, or he dies. There is no in-between.

A Witch War is brewing. An ancient evil stirs. Are you ready to choose a side?

Up until now, I’ve felt that Thirteen Covens read like a group of standalone titles united by a common world rather than a typical chronological series, but that hasn’t bothered me one bit. I adore authors who use setting as character, with Stephen King’s Midworld and Charles de Lint’s Newford among my favorites. I simply hadn’t figured out how all the puzzle pieces from Thirteen Covens would join together to form a bigger picture yet. Shadow Marbas changed that.

The ending of Shadow Marbas reminded me of the moment in The Exorcist when Father Merrin brushes hundreds of years dirt off the demon’s statue. As a viewer, we don’t need told that Pazuzu is the Big Bad who will soon make the priest’s life a living hell. We know in the same instant as Father Merrin, when his eyes meet those of the idol. Shadow Marbas hit me the same way. My mouth literally hung open during the main ritual of the book, and the hair on my arms rose when I read its final lines.

It seems like Brice writes this series how Father Merrin must have worked his archeological dig. With each new book, she has reveals more of the setting, the characters, and the danger. I would say this is the best novella yet, with the most compelling characters and most gripping plot. I’m impatient to find out how the story will end. I’m also tempted to reread Thirteen Covens from the beginning to make sure I haven’t missed anything important along the way.

As in her Liz Tanner stories, the author’s experience within the occult community allows her to write about these sorts of people and emotional situations in a believable fashion. I worry she would be accused of publishing real life accounts of some petty witch war or another if Brice were to ever remove the supernatural elements from her books. Should you ever stop and wonder if coven members sometimes behave as poorly as those described in these books, I can assure you that all sorts of people can be complete jerks regardless of whether they love Lucifer or the Lord. It takes skill to portray a Pagan tradition in an emotionally realistic way while also writing an engaging occult thriller, but Brice managed it.

Shadow Marbas is a four and a half star read. I received a free advance copy in exchange for a free, honest review. Order today.

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.