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Deep south witchery
on 24 February 2014
I have a special fondness for movies and books set in the old cities of the Deep South -- Savannah, New Orleans, Charleston, and so on.
And "The Line" pretty much plays into that -- Spanish moss, stately mansions, folk magic and antebellum scenic tours. And witches. Did I mention there are witches? The first novel in J.D. Horn's Witching Savannah series is a solid charmer -- a heroine with a dry wit, a beautiful setting, and a solid urban-fantasy storyline.
Mercy Taylor has no magic, but she's immersed in it -- she's a rare "dud" in a family of witches, and she knows all about the magical underbelly of Savannah. Heck, she mentions it on her paid tours of the city. But even without magic, she's subject to the rule of the Taylor family matriarch, Ginny...
... until she finds Ginny murdered. Even with their magic, the family is stymied, though Mercy deduces that the powerful hoodoo Mother Jilo is somehow involved.
Soon Mercy finds herself in the middle of all this magic weirdness -- especially when she is chosen as the new anchor of the family magic, even though her powerful twin Maisie was considered a shoo-in. But as the Taylors come under more supernatural attacks, Mercy must delve into the uglier side of her family's history, and unravel the secrets that are undermining them...
J.D. Horn comes up with a pretty intriguing fantasy premise -- the idea is that magic was shifted into the Line long ago to drive out demons, by thirteen witch families. And in so doing, most of the world's magic (and magic creatures) was lost. It's certainly a smarter approach than the typical they've-always-been-around-and-nobody-noticed setup that most urban fantasies rely on.
But despite that, there is plenty of magic wafting through the spiced Savannah air -- golems with multiple personalities, shadow-creatures, a real "imaginary friend," and other such things. Horn brings it to life with strong prose, rich and vibrant with the "liquid fire" of magic. There are a few awkward passages that you'd expect of a newbie author, but overall it's a fun experience.
It's also a pretty solid mystery, with some pretty spectacular twists. There's a prophecy about the witch families, the secret of Maisie and Mercy's parentage, and lots of old ugly skeletons in the Taylor closet.
Mercy herself is a pretty top-notch heroine -- she has a powerful personality to compensate for her lack of magic, along with a bountiful amount of love for her flawed family. Horn doesn't shy away from showing her at her more vulnerable moments, and it makes her even more endearing. The odd love square between her, Maisie, Peter and Jackson seems kind of hackneyed at first, but Mercy's determination to do the right thing is refreshing.
"The Line" is a thoroughly entertaining start to a rich, twisty urban fantasy series -- and it leaves me anticipating what other witchery is afoot in Savannah.