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


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.


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.



If I Die Before I Wake, debut novel by Liz McMullen







If I Die Before I Wake, debut novel by Liz McMullen

Rarely does a novel captivate me, grab my attention within the first few chapters, and keep me spellbound from beginning to end.   Liz McMullen’s novel,  If I Die Before I Wake,  did just that.   For a book to have the capacity to touch this writer on such a deeply personal level seems remarkable enough; however, given that the novel possesses a paranormal nature, makes that connection quite eerie.   Perhaps Liz McMullen has a touch of witchcraft in her writing.    Needless to say, before even reviewing the plot, I admit that I absolutely love the book.   It will be on my shelf to be reread, with a few other novels that strike a personal chord.

Certainly If I Die Before I Wake contains all the elements of a good paranormal horror novel: death of a beloved grandparent, an heirloom that bridges the real world and the world in-between, ghosts, witches, darkness. These elements are well crafted into a storyline that reaches beyond the standard paranormal horror tale, not just with the addition of an extremely sexy lesbian romance, but in how McMullen links the pieces together.   McMullen develops a highly symbolic tale beginning with the title, (the main line of a prayer that many children recite in order to ward off nightmares,) to the names of the characters, which symbolically connect to that prayer, as well as to the necessity for uttering such words.   In doing so, a magical sense of continuity evolves. In this writer’s opinion, the ability to create such a sense of connectivity, not as allusion, but in such a subtle manner that one wouldn’t even notice unless struck by it, goes beyond simply being good authorship, but wonderful story-telling.

While Liz McMullen may already have a great following in her blog, The Liz McMullen Show, she should continue writing novels. Her following will continue exponentially if she does so.   She definitely had a fan in me.

liz mcmullen show