BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: The Witchkin Murders


Title: The Witchkin Murders (Magicfall Book One)

Publisher: BelleBooks Inc

Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis

Pages: 288pp

Price: $17.95 / $7.99

Magic returned to the world, and it came back with a vengeance. Gods, fae, dryads, shapeshifters, witches, and many others -- most in hiding for millennia, others newly-created with the upswell in magic -- made war against humanity, hoping to wipe out the infestation that was destroying the world. But humanity had it's own weapons: technology, and the technomages whose own powers unexpectedly blossomed. The war crawled to a standstill, and an uneasy truce was reached .... And so it is in Portland, the landscape remade, the people traumatized, but getting on with their lives. Among the survivors are Kayla Reece and Ray Garza, once partners in the Portland police department. But when Magicfall came, Kayla was transformed into ... something. It took her years to learn to control the change. And Ray ... well ... he has secrets of his own related to Magicfall. But now someone is killing witchkin all over Portland, and the dryads and witches are demanding that Kayla put a stop to it. Additionally, Ray has been saddled with a politically tricky kidnapping. When the two cases unexpectedly dovetail, the former partners find themselves reluctantly working together, racing to save the city they both love ... and one another ....

Wowza, where to start. Okay, first, I love the world-building here. Francis does a terrific job of describing a remade Portland, from the abandoned buildings to the salvaging to the sentient forests and glass mountains to the burgeoning toilet paper manufacturing industry (really, do not under-estimate the importance of toilet paper in a post-collapse society). Humanity has done its best to maintain the previous level of civilization, including transportation, agriculture, and technology. For the most part, small pockets have succeeded in doing so, but they are isolated: there is no longer a national government or an internet, but the technomages are working on a magical version of an inter-city computer network.

In the wake of the war, there is also (understandable) prejudice on both sides. The Portland police are technically only supposed to investigate human-on-human or witchkin-on-human crime. Witchkin are not considered human (even those who were changed during Magicafall), and are barely tolerated by the human-dominated citizenry. Healing has begun, though, if only slowly. And it turns out that Kayla and Ray are the key to bringing together the people of Portland.

Well, eventually. I have the feeling that's going to take a few books.

As for Kayla and Ray: they are great characters. Kayla comes from a wealthy, but abusive, background. As a result, she grew up tough and extremely protective of others. Ray is dedicated and intelligent and hates the current state of affairs in Portland; but only with Kayla's reappearance in his life does he begin to see a way out of it. Together, they make just the sort of team who can take on the Big Bad which is coming to wreck havoc.

Happily, the polytheism in the books is quite explicit. As the witch Raven notes: 

You are aware that the gods of most of the religions of the world actually exist? [....] From Zeus to Jesus to Quetzlcoatl and everything in between. They all exist [....].

At another point, fellow witch Sarah says, "There are and have been many divine beings in this world. Some are small gods, some are powerful deities."

And that is where Kayla comes in. But to say more would spoil the surprise. Suffice to say, there is more than one pantheon at work in Portland.

(Speaking of Kayla, please ignore the cover. She does not dress or pose like that. She wears very practical scavenger clothing.)

The Witchkin Murders is a terrific addition to the growing corpus of polytheist-friendly urban fantasy/paranormal romance, and I can't wait to read the next book. There are Deities aplenty, magical species, technomages, witches and covens, and heroes fighting the good fight because someone has to save the day. Recommended to fans of Ilona Andrews, Zoe Archer, Clara Coulson, Jolene Dawe, and Helen Harper. 

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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