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Black Magick vol 1: Awakening

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Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott


Page 45 Review by Stephen

"You going to invite me in?"
"That's vampires, Alex... Besides, the house knows you."
"You might've set wards."
"Not yet."
"That didn't sound like a joke... Ro? Are you serious?"
"I'm being targeted. Someone... someone is coming for me."

There's something about the way that Detective Rowan Black announces her presence at the hostage scene. As she settles into the headphones and mike, her eyes become hooded, staring into a distance measured not just in metres, but in years. Many, many years.

"I'm here" comes with far more weight than a mere "I can hear you."

Less than an hour ago, she wasn't anywhere near hostages in the burger bar on McKenna. Less than an hour ago Detective Rowan Black was celebrating the balance of the spirit and the flesh, the cycle of death and rebirth, "The Lady and the Lord entwined and entranced, beloved and belonging..." with her the rest of her coven, sequestered in a forest under the crisp light of a full white moon...

Then her mobile phone went off.

From the writer of LAZARUS. Had I not known, then I would never have guessed it. I don't mean to impugn the quality here; I mean to commend a writer's refreshing versatility. I can perceive little connection between the two in style or content, only in the depth of research involved.

For fans of RACHEL RISING we are once more in the realms of witches. Witches who historically have not been well received, so obvious Rowan's department hasn't the first fucking clue.

This deliberately, specifically, seeks to juxtapose the contemporary, the clinical, the procedural and the professional with the personal, the spiritual, the historical and arcane which may seem completely at odds or, if not merely at odds then worse: dangerously misaligned.

And now these worlds will collide.

Oh, you may think on first reading that Nicola Scott's painted art with its deep motorcycle tyre treads and perfect pelvises is monochromatic, but look again! For a start it's certainly not black and white, but the softest of warm, natural colours like sable, rabbit pelt and antler grey. The architecture's very plush. Nobody's short of a few bob here, not least our Rowan - wait until you witness Rowan's cubbyhole of grimoires and other esoteric objects! - who probably couldn't afford all that on a Portsmouth Police pay packet, no.

Yes, the colouring is restrained, reserved for maximum impact during moments of magic and sudden conflagration when Chiara Arena really lets rip. When that protective ward is finally cast it is breath-taking, sublime. When Rowan glamours a blank silver zippo lighter - freshly engraved with a distracting sigil to disguise it as the police evidence she's about to purloin - it glows a feint turquoise which only the reader and Rowan can see. Nichole certainly can't even though she's looking straight at it. I love implication and inference, don't you?

But when the hostage taker has secured Rowan alone at the beginning of the book and drops that damned zippo, lit, into the kerosene, the result is truly incandescent.

"There's something off with this guy."
"I think taking hostages was the first clue."

No, there's something very seriously off with that guy, and the third clue was kerosene. The second was asking for Detective Rowan Black by name.

His own was Rowan White, by the way, and none of this did he do voluntarily.

"Alex? It's me.
"It's starting again."