Marie Castle Revitalizes the Lesfic Dark Urban Fantasy Landscape

Marie Castle’s First Novel, Hell’s Belle: Book 1 of the Dark Mirror series

Revitalizes the Dark Urban Fantasy landscape

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Lately, the fantasy landscape, regardless of sub-genre, has become littered with perfunctory, now cliché, devices: the detective agency run by supernatural beings, an individual whose magic is extraordinary for her generation, a council put into place to enforce the laws of magic use, and trips to hell replete with demons.   In her novel, Hell’s Belle, Marie Castle indeed employs these ideas, however, she does so not only in an exceptionally clever manner, but she breaths new life into them.   Perhaps I was drawn to her ability to blend a depth of literary knowledge and re-package it in a non-alienating manner; thereby leaving no reader out of the story.   Blending depth of research into a very accessible story takes a deft hand, and Castle does that well. Yet, Hell’s Belle goes beyond simply having an intellectually disposed author (as most authors have such dispositions in some manner.)   Castle generates interest in the expected by adding to them, creating layers of gray, in a genre where evil is generally obvious and good may be as well.   The first idea that caught my attention was the detective agency, Dark Mirror.   Of course, for this reader, who truly enjoys looking through the glass darkly, the name caught my eye; yet Castle used the allusion delightfully well. She wove the allusion into the main character, Cate Delancey, into her identity, into her core witch. Whether that technique was intentional or not doesn’t matter, for the action sets forth a complexity in Cate Delaney.   The character never transcends her place in the magic-cum- human realm. Castle could easily have left Cate as simply a Guardian of humanity, hence “good” in character, yet she never truly is completely “good” in the traditional way.   Furthermore, Castle extends the notion into the conception of Hell. While Hell has it’s Dante-esque cast, Castle manipulates it such that it can be simultaneously frightening and, contrarily, sexy. There’s more to enjoy in Marie Castle’s debut novel.   Her ability to capture Southern culture is exemplary. While many Southerners fail to capture the nuances of language, disposition, and sensibilities; Castle embraces the essence of the culture without trivializing it, particularly in the familial relationships and interactions with others – politeness, often with a bite.   I enjoyed this book a good deal more than I expected to do, as I am becoming a tad jaded by the over usage of once good ideas. I recommend Hell’s Belle and happily anticipate the rest of the series.

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Demon Hunter: The Silver Legacy Series, by Linda Kay Silva

 

Demon Hunter

The Dark Urban Realm has an excellent new series in the making with Linda Kay Silva’s new book,

Demon Hunter: The Silver Legacy Series, Book 1

Some creatures within the fantasy/paranormal realm, particularly those within the dark reaches, become stereotypes in a paradigmatic way.   A certain traditional characterization takes place, rendering these beings as trite. Demons tend to be among these stereotypes, unfortunately. Blissfully, in Demon Hunter, Linda Kay Silva immediately dismisses the trivialization wrought by the paradigm in her first paragraph.   She writes, “Demons are not what people think they are. There are seldom horns or spiked tails, no cloven hooves or red skin. They come in all shapes and sizes, and aren’t anything like Hollywood portrays them.” (pg.1).   With that opening, I became a fan of Linda Kay Silva. She dispelled the typical vernacular, appearance, and assumptions attached to the concept of demon and advanced the notion beyond the believable, but to the original intention: as cautionary tales about evil in this world.

Silva transcends the obvious portrayals of demon, evil, and of the demon hunter (with her main character, Denny Silver), and creates a psychologically compelling dark urban fantasy, with a frightening perspective on the inevitability of evil as simultaneously provocative and “real.”

Her characters are complex, innovative, and in some ways, terrifying. Silva’s use of journaling allows for the demon hunter, Denny, to have layered voices, which creates exceptional depth of character. Silva’s intuitive sense of legitimacy of the paranormal along with her ability to weave an intricate tale, made me a believer in demon hunters and a huge fan of Linda Kay Silva. She created an inroad to my Dark Urban Fantasy fiendish heart not only by writing a great book, but, by tantalizing me with another of my favorite things – a new series! Demon Hunter: the Silver Legacy Series, must exist on any Dark Urban Fantasy or Paranormal lovers “to-read” list.

 

 

Hands Down: the Best Historical Speculative Fiction Novel

wind and dreamHands down the best historical speculative fiction novel that I have read thus far. When I opened Wind and Dreams, I was immediately reminded of works akin Mary Renault and Marion Zimmer Bradley — that fantasy mythos blended with the astonishing attention to historical detail. Linda’s writing, simultaneously phenomenal, provocative, and thoughtful to culture, grabs the reader in with the first sentence and captivates her from beginning to end. If I were to categorize this novel further, I would add the possibility of Steampunk with its attributes of Victorian Age sensibilities beside the Egyptology phase in archaeology. Of course, the characters personalities, the realism that Linda creates in emotion, conversation, and the dream-real dichotomous thread all add to the beauty of this book. Linda’s writing is fantastic. I cannot say that I enjoyed Wind and Dreams more than I did her book, Deep Merge, since they are completely different genres, to my mind. Still speculative, still with incredible attention to detail and wonderful character development, but they follow paths so differently, that they are incomparable. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Reading on the Dark Side and the Realm in Between

18 months of reading only series by female authors of the darker side of fantasy

Women authors, particularly in mainstream fiction genres, tend to be ignored, under-rated, or cast into the category of “chick lit” (which implies fit for female consumption only and thereby of lesser quality.) Certainly, books intended for a female focal or exclusively female audience have unique specificity, yet any presumption that books written by a woman author is either intended for women’s eyes only or simply not worthy of a larger audience.

At certain points in my life, I admit to being somewhat of a literary snob. Certain forms of literature, particularly from the late 18th century, 19th century and early 20th Anglo-European culture, filled both my mind and bookshelves with what “ought” to be read. These works,largely, are written by males with females authors proving glorious exceptions. That was the range of my focus. Of course, ancient classic works within the Greco-Roman tradition were necessary, along with Dante, and any foray outside of Europe or the United States fell within Hindu, Chinese, or Japanese philosophical spectrum. Hence, fiction reading had a classical education taint to it. Modern works by lauded authors, mostly White, more often male rounded out (obliquely) the rest of the collection.

By the time I reached my teens and then college, a larger world of reading material opened for me: not just exposure to writers of color (a conversation that demands more space and attention), but genres previously avoided for their “lack of depth”. Case in point: science fiction and fantasy. Literature classes ignored these broad genres and I was clueless. The first time that I read modern science fiction (believe it was either Heinlein or Asimov) I thought that I had gone to heaven — or the heaven’s. Then when I read, The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, my world went completely a tilt, since my love of things Arthurian and fairy became an adult reading journey. For decades, I read the genres within the scope of Fantasy on the sly. Anne Rice, Ursula LeGuin, William Gibson, Piers Anthony, and so many others filled my nightstand with reading material but not my office bookshelves — somewhat like eating forbidden candy. This proved a continuation of the legacy of hegemonic education. While that legacy is filled with discussion worthy aspects, what is germane here is that the older I get, the more that I embrace my love of fantasy.
Not just fantasy — dark worlds fraught with allusions to past mythology, present techno-focal thinking, and the realism of a scio-political landscape built on alienation, conflict, xenophobia, and designed oppression cum oppositional forces.

[Of course, this book snobbery in no way carried over to my predilection for sci-fi and paranormal television and movies. Perhaps that too, is indicative of hegemonic snobbery — television and film are not “literary” or something. Or maybe I’m simply contrary that way. The television and film discussion seems to be another, necessary, long discussion for another time.]

Given that the definitions for Fantasy and it’s sub-genres vary, my parameters for categorization follow along these lines, loosely, and there is tremendous overlap

Fantasy Fantasy as a genre, commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting. Setting often takes place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures exist, generally gaining inspiration from mythology and folklore. Within such a structure, any location of the fantastical element is possible: it may be hidden in, or leak into the apparently real world setting, it may draw the characters into a world with such elements, or it may occur entirely in a fantasy world setting, where such elements are part of the world.[

Urban Fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. Here the fantasy cast within the real world by means of alien races, the discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence between humans and paranormal beings, conflicts between humans and paranormals.

3. Dark Urban Fantasy is a sub-genre of UF replete with themes of a darker nature.
Darkness, death, violence, sex, and blood permeate stories dealing with paranormal characters and their urban landscape. A struggle typically exists as characters cope with latent magic and it’s effect on humanity or a notion of fallen as in-between the good versus evil dynamic or the this world/other world distinction.

4. Science Fiction, overly simplified, is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Authors commonly use science fiction as a framework to explore politics, identity, desire, morality, social structure, and other literary themes. A couple of important elements, which overlap into UF, DUF, etc.

alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record.
other worlds, or on subterranean earth.
Characters that include aliens, mutants, androids, or humanoid robots and other types of characters arising from a future human evolution.
Scientific principles that are new or that contradict accepted physical laws, for example time travel, wormholes, or faster-than-light travel or communication.
New and different political or social systems, e.g. dystopian, post-scarcity, or post-apocalyptic.
Paranormal abilities such as mind control, telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation.
Other universes or dimensions and travel between them.

5. Paranormal: Paranormal fiction is a genre of fiction whose storylines revolve around the paranormal. The most prevalent themes involving vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, or time travel, paranormal romances can also include books featuring characters with psychic abilities, like telekinesis or telepathy.

6. SteamPunk. Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American West, set within in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art.

7. CyberPunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a near-future with plots centering on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations. The setting tends to be cast in a near-future Earth, rather than the far-future settings or galaxies. The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to be marked by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its creators. Very reminiscent of film noir aesthetic.

Book Review: Erzabet Bishop’s New Novel, _Sigil Fire_

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Paranormal fantasy, as a genre, often falls into a rather cheesy place, where vampires and weres exist in a real-world setting, beset with magic, yet those things merely mask a basic romance novel.   Given my wary disposition toward the genre, I was pleasantly surprised by the story crafted by Erzabeth Bishop in Sigil Fire.  In fact, Bishop’s characters, an intricate weaving of action, and overall descriptive style caught me off-guard and left me wanting to read more.  While I am familiar with her novel, Beltane Fires,which I enjoyed, I found Sigil Fire to be much more compelling a tale.

Within paranormal setting of layered worlds of magic, cast with dark shadows and intrigue, Erzabet Bishop creates a thrilling detective tale, complete with strong female characters, a largess of succubus sexiness.  If, as Bishop writes, “sigil and blood magic will be the path that sets you free, ” then Sigil Fire will mark you with the power to lose yourself in fantasy for a time, becoming swept away within the rich panorama of the dark, paranormal world — a world robust with vampires, succubbi, witches, weres, and oh my, sexy fantasy.  Bishop’s novel is a well crafted novel, intensely emblematic of the paranormal genre.  SigilFire is well worth a good reading, in moonlight, awaiting your own succubus.