by James Swain
Series: Peter Warlock #1
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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Peter Warlock is a magician with a dark secret. Every night, he amazes audiences at his private theater in New York, where he performs feats that boggle the imagination. But his day job is just a cover for his otherworldly pursuits: Peter is a member of an underground group of psychics who gaze into the future to help prevent crimes. No one, not even his live-in girlfriend, knows the truth about Peter—until the séance when he foresees an unspeakable act of violence that will devastate the city. As Peter and his friends rush to prevent tragedy, Peter discovers that a shadowy cult of evil psychics, the Order of Astrum, know all about his abilities. They are hunting him and his fellow psychics down, one by one, determined to silence them forever
Dark Magic, an urban fantasy by bestselling author James Swain delves into the world of secret psychic societies, witches, demons and Satan himself. While not without flaws, Swain’s tale was captivating as his protagonist and a team of psychics race to save New York City from a deadly attack. I easily consumed this enjoyable read in a few evenings.
Protagonist Peter Warlock is a talented and successful magician with a loving girlfriend but he has secrets. Peter is able to communicate with spirits. He is a member of a secret society that performs séances to contact the spirit world. Here they receive visions of things yet to come. They secretly feed this information to the FBI and police. Recently, the CIA discovered one of their members and they are holding him at an undisclosed location in Virginia. All of the members are leery of being discovered and meeting the same fate. It’s Friday night and Peter has a vision; he sees a man in the middle of the city, people are dying all around him and the scene is horrific. Together the team pieces together clues from the vision. They soon realize the attack will occur on Tuesday. Peter wants to go to the police, but the rest of the team are fearful of being discovered. As their undeclared leader it is up to Peter to determine what to do. The tale that unfolds is filled with suspense and murder as Peter and the others work together to stop the attack. An assassin is sent by the Order of Astrum to stop them from preventing the attack. Peter will soon discover he can do more than talk to spirits.
Swain introduces us to some interesting characters. Peter is complex, can speak to ghosts and has a dark side that people fear. He struggles with events from his past and hasn’t shared his abilities with anyone including his live in lover Liza. Liza seemed very self-centered and at times I wanted to wring her neck. Peter struggles with containing his rage as new abilities emerge and he questions whether he is evil. He learns things about his parents and begins searching for more answers. Holly is a witch, who is babied by the group and resents it. She is in love with Peter and pushes back when he annoys her. Her skills come in handy as the novel progresses. Milly and Max raised Peter and harbor secrets about his past. Wolfe is the assassin hired by the Order and ruthlessly performs the task. Other characters added to the suspense. The characters were not as fleshed out as I would have liked. The focus was given to the events in this plot driven novel.
The world-building was suspenseful and I loved the idea of the psychic séances and the evil Order of Astrum. I found the history of Peter’s abilities fascinating. Swain takes great liberty when referencing witches and warlocks. In his world they believe in Satan. This surprised me, as most writers add their own twists, but usually sticks with facts; to add an air of authenticity to their work. The flawed descriptions of FBI, and police procedure made me pause, but again it was a minor blip and I was able to continue. As pure fiction it was entertaining, and reminded me of some famous conspiracy novels. The beginning of the novel drew me in, the middle filled in details and the ending was engaging as we worked to stop the tragedy.
I recommend Dark Magic to fans of paranormal suspense and conspiracies. This was an entertaining, suspenseful read and I enjoyed putting the pieces together. James Swain has published over fourteen mystery novels in countries all over the world and I look forward to reading more of his work.