For a Few Demons More

 
Black Magic Sanction
by Kim Harrison
(Eos, $25.99, R) ISBN  978-0-06113-803-4
****
In what may very well be the zaniest and most action-packed Rachel Morgan book yet (if readers can imagine such a thing), Kim Harrison revitalizes her series in Black Magic Sanction.  Rachel, a former IS runner (basically a paranormal police detective minus some legalities) and co-owner of Vampiric Charms who pretty much constantly has a hit on her for one reason or another, was recently banned by the governing body for white witches, called The Coven.  Though Rachel understands her methods are generally not entirely "white," she also is very forceful about them not being "black" either, despite her many run-ins and occasional collaborations with demons.

One demon in particular, Algaliarept, referred to as Al for simplicity, recently backed Rachel into a corner and forced her to become his apprentice.  As time goes on, Rachel finds Al not necessarily trustworthy but less untrustworthy. She's also finding that she's picking up some pretty important things—like traveling through the ley lines on her own and the connection between witches and gargoyles.

When Vivian, a member of the Coven, attacks Rachel in a grocery store, however, it becomes bright and clear that the Coven isn't screwing around.  Rachel quickly learns that just because a curse or a spell is white does not mean it can't be deadly — just as she learns there are a number of ulterior and illegal motives behind the Coven's arrest of her.

During several escapes from the Coven, Rachel goes toe to toe with Pierce, Vampiric Charm's local ghost-turned-demon-familiar.  Al sent Pierce to babysit Rachel after a spell went awry, and the two cannot manage common terms on anything under the sun — or under the earth. Despite that and her horrible romantic history, Rachel cannot stop the attraction she feels toward Pierce.  As certain as she is that it's a bad idea, she's equally as certain that it's because she's simply drawn to dangerous men.

Take Nick, her first boyfriend in the series, who sold her info to the demons and turned out to be a first-rate thief and a third-rate loser.  Nick's back in the picture in Black Magic Sanction in a business sense: Rachel recruits him to steal from Trent Kalamack in a play to put the Coven in the their place.  Ivy and Jenks are immediately against it and Rachel knows it's a bad idea, but none of them are surprised when Nick backstabs them.  It's just Rachel's kind of luck..

There are a gazillion things going on in Black Magic Sanction, but it keeps rolling along at a more than steady pace.  The only hang-up is when the Coven sends fairies to attack Rachel's garden and they kill Jenks's wife, Matalina.  It's been obvious for several books that, since pixies have shorter lifespans than humans, Matalina wasn't going to last, but the scene was underplayed and didn't deserve to be stuck in the middle of so much action.  Rachel's romances continue to be confusing, ill-chosen, and rocky at best, but it is because of those things that her lovelife is so fascinating.  Harrison's sadistic streak shows in Rachel's heartache; not once has Rachel managed a relationship that ended in a normal way, and they've all ended abruptly.

Many, many characters from the previous seven books pop up in the eighth, and Black Magic Sanction is made a dozen times more enjoyable by sharing that history with them. Rachel Morgan's enchanting and dangerous Cincinnati is a heart-pounding escape for both paranormal and suspense fans – and a good place for a transition into reading paranormal fiction.

--Sarrah Knight


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