Wicked Magic
by Cheyenne McCray
(St Martin's Press, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-0-312-94956-0
**
Wicked Magic is the third in Cheyenne McCray's "magic" series. The books are clearly interlinked, with events in one novel providing the backdrop for the next. She does a good job providing all the necessary information so uninitiated readers like myself have no problem plunging into the multi-raced universe she has created and its raging conflicts. Then again, for all the complex interaction between D'Anu witches and D'Danann brethern, Formori demons and the Elfish Drow, the story is pretty standard stuff for paranormal/fantasy romance. Not too much to understand, anyway.

Rhiannon Castle is part of a coven of "grey" witches  who have been protecting the earth from the Formori demons and the evil goddess Ceithlenn. When the book opens, Rhiannon realizes she has some strange mind-bridge to the goddess. This allows her to realize that the goddess's powers are growing with each human soul she devours (and she likes eating them). It also makes Rhiannon vulnerable to the goddess.

Of course, the logical thing would be for Rhiannon to tell her coven what is going on, but she has another secret which prevents her. Her body is host to Shadows, creatures which inhabit her. She used to call them out to play until her stern, spinster aunt told her that they were evil and that she was just as evil for harboring them. Although Rhiannon has kept a tight clamp on them ever since, she is haunted by this verdict. She isn't ready to share the latest piece of evidence with her coven sisters.

In the meantime, more D'Danann warriors have come to earth to fight the battle of all battles. Among them is Keir. He doesn't believe that there's a woman who can tame him until he meets Rhiannon. Then, he is almost immediately sure she is the one. He acts like a brainless caveman and is zapped in his most sensitive spot for his troubles. He doesn't give up on Rhiannon, but to his credit, he tones it down and becomes a much more likeable character.

With the battle to save earth looming large, Rhiannon and Keir are thrown together more and more. Eventually, they are given a mission to obtain more help for earth. In the process, they learn more about their parents and each other.

McCray strives to give her lead characters some credibility and depth through their backstory. Problem is, it is not only contrived, it is also quite predictable. Both Rhiannon and Keir steer away from commitment because they experienced abandonment as children. Now where have I heard that before? Their parentage, when it is revealed, is interesting, but doesn't do much more than add to the world-building.

Most of the story is told through the point of view of one of the lovers. Occasionally, however, we hear the voice of Darkwolf, a black witch in the service of Ceithlenn. I'm not sure I understand what the point of these interludes are. It's not as if they help move the story, and except for highlighting the dissensions in the enemy camp, they don't provide any further clarification.

McCray seems to want to keep her bases covered. In addition to spotlighting evil, she goes for the "cutsey" factor. Keir is very protective of Galia, a tiny fairy, modeled, no doubt, on Tinkerbell. Galia is so curious about the Otherworld that she stows away in Keir's knapsack and travels to earth. This may sound like fun, but I don't see where this particular digression leads to.

Then, there are the sizzling sex scenes, easily the best part of the novel. It's not that the rest is bad; it's just not particularly new. In fact, with the exception of McCray's handling of background information, the storytelling is rather amateurish, lackluster and far too digressive. The novel ends with a strong hint about even worse things to come, but I can't bring myself to care. I rather doubt I will be returning for a second taste.

 

--Mary Benn


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