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Broken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath
Review by Drew Bittner
DAW Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756409425
Date: 05 August 2014 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Eric Carter, necromancer, has some problems that won't stay dead. The biggest is his "marriage" to Santa Muerte, Aztec death goddess turned Mexican myth. He's beginning to change, in unexpected ways, and that's not a good thing. But it's far from his only problem...

Also by Stephen Blackmoore:
Eric Carter series:
* City of the Lost
* Dead Things
* Broken Souls
In Broken Souls, Stephen Blackmoore continues the story of Eric Carter, a snarky and contrarian wizard who is rapidly wearing out his welcome in his hometown of L.A. What he wants most is to get out of the snares of Santa Muerte; a meeting with a mentor named Kettleman, however, goes horribly awry and sends Carter running for his life from a new adversary.

It seems an Aztec artifact is making trouble, so that friends cannot be trusted and enemies can be nearly anyone. Carter ends up seeking help from the Bruja, an urban legend who runs a hotel for supernaturals. Turns out she isn't what he expected either, but the two of them become allies by necessity when the bad guys target them both.

Making things worse is that Eric's dead friend Alex seems to be very much... well, not alive but not bygone either. For a dead guy, he's amazingly chatty. And his involvement sends Eric searching Alex's bar for a powerful magic item, as well as trying to save Alex's bartender Tabitha from supernatural danger. Oh, and there's the little matter of Eric's former girlfriend (and Alex's fiancee) Vivian, too, and her blaming Eric for Alex's death.

Nothing is ever easy in Los Angeles.

The second novel to feature Eric Carter, and the third to star Blackmoore's fantasy-noir take on L.A., Broken Souls picks up the narrative of a breezily amoral figure with a dab of loyalty, a smidgen of integrity, and a whole lot of attitude. Carter is a skilled wizard, able to slip from the world of the living into that of the dead, with tricks up his sleeves and reserves he barely even suspects. However, as this story goes on, he comes to realize that tapping those reserves carries a price he never imagined--and that there are some very long-term plans in place that now include him.

Santa Muerte becomes a more fully realized character as well, establishing some reasonable motives for the things she has done to lure and then snare Carter. Before, she seemed like a malicious force of nature; now she has a rationale that is at least comprehensible, if not able to generate a lot of sympathy or excuse her crimes. Then again, she's a goddess, so what does she care about crimes? Eric cares, though, and this story begins to set up what promises to be an epic reckoning.

As the main bad guy, former mobster Sergei Gusarov has an interesting gambit of his own to play out and the tools to make it happen. At heart, he's just another thug, but when he gains what he needs to realize his ambitions, he becomes truly dangerous--a worthy foe for Eric.

Blackmoore weaves a dark, violent tale that is alternately drenched in sunlight and cloaked in shadows. From a showdown in a once-grand hotel to a chase through a storage facility, with a stop at the LaBrea tar pits and a visit to the tomb of an Aztec god in between, there are sights here that will never be in a tourist's guidebook. And when you think it's over...there's a last kicker that puts Eric's need for revenge into overdrive.

As one of the new generation of fantasy-noir writers, Blackmoore is taking urban fantasy in all new directions and setting fire to its cherished tropes. Readers will find a lot to like in this car-stealing and demon-fighting wizard.

Recommended.

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