My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: Dead Things

Necromancer Eric Carter returns to L.A. to avenge his sister’s vicious murder but runs afoul of powerful gangsters—alive and dead—who plan to finish him off for good.

Dead Things – Stephen Blackmoore, 2013. Rating 4/5

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Carter is a talented mage like his deceased (i.e., murdered) parents, but Carter’s specialty is dead things. Conjuring them. Controlling them. Chatting with them. It involves a lot of blood, usually his own. Another not-perk is that Carter sees ghosts everywhere—Haunts, Echoes, you name it—and they see him. Carter uses his unenviable talents to eliminate magic power-abusing bad guys. After a friendly warning from some Haitian death loas to be careful whom he trusts, followed by a call from his old friend Alex, Carter knows something nefarious is up. He’s right: His sister Lucy is dead.

Carter’s quest for revenge is complicated by personal issues (his ex-girlfriend is now Alex’s fiancé); business issues (both the ghost of the mobster who murdered his parents and the baddie’s living successor are out to kill him); and weird supernatural issues (La Muerte, the death goddess, wants to own Carter and make him her enforcer). Plus, the food at his old favorite hangout has gone to hell. Things are stacked against him, and Carter needs to find out who is setting him up before he becomes one of the dead himself.  

This dark urban fantasy has a lot going for it. Blackmoore’s love for L.A. in all its splendor and squalor shines in his detailed snapshots of the City of Angels. Carter is a tough, bad-boy antihero with plenty of emotional baggage and a burning sense of justice. His voice is dryly humorous, self-deprecating, and…reveals a sensitive side buried somewhere in all that cynicism. Seedy motels, cheap bottles of booze, and thick-headed thugs give the whole novel a noir feel. It works. The action sequences are intense, including everything from magical combat to fisticuffs with the aforementioned thugs. A battle with a fire elemental at the Port of Los Angeles is a standout.

My biggest criticism is that there is arguably too much focus on action vs. story—I love the premise and the characters and wanted more of them, while I lost count of how many times poor Carter was knocked unconscious, threatened with a taser, or had his nose rebroken. That said, Dead Things is a fun, fresh take on a…different…branch of magic coupled with an agreeably world-weary hero. Fans of the Dresden Files, you’ll want to check this one out.


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Review: Chaos Choreography

Protector of cryptids and ballroom dancer extraordinaire, Verity Price returns in Chaos Choreography. This time a pesky snake cult threatens Verity’s dreams of dance. Tracking down ritual murderers between Argentine Tangos proves surprisingly challenging for our spunky heroine.

Chaos Choreography—Seanan McGuire, 2016. Rating 3.5/5

A member of the infamous Price family of cryptozoologists, Verity keeps her real identity hidden to avoid eradication by the infamous Covenant of St. George which believes that the only good cryptid is a dead cryptid. Now, Verity and her ex-Covenant husband, Dominic, are living (awkwardly) with Verity’s family—until Verity gets an unexpected second chance: to return to her Valerie ballroom dancer persona and appear on a top twenty reunion reality tv show, Dance or Die. Verity leaps at the chance to head to LA and follow her passion, only to discover that eliminated contestants are being… literally eliminated. Ballroom takes a backseat while Verity tracks down the evildoers.

Chaos Choreography is the fifth title in McGuire’s flat-out fun InCryptid series. Verity is feisty, good-hearted, astoundingly athletic, deadly with a knife, and possesses an infectious joie de vivre. Only Verity could hide a dagger in a sparkly ballroom dress the size of a handkerchief. In this installment, we get to go a little deeper into Verity’s character, watching her wrestle with conflicting life choices. Her love of, and talent for, dance wars with her life’s work of defending cryptids everywhere.

Dance or Die is a thinly veiled fictionalization of the FOX tv show, So You Think You Can Dance. If you’re familiar with the show, you’ll recognize individual judges and choreographers in some of McGuire’s characters, which adds to the fun. From Cha Chas to chupacabras, Swing to sharkmen, Chaos Choreography is a bizarre, but weirdly successful blend of the high-pressure world of dance and monsters. The snake cult premise is a little on the weak side, and I found myself enjoying the behind-the-scenes look at the dances and the show more than I cared about who was offing the dancers. But the humor, fast-paced action, light magic, a host of eccentric characters, and a climactic extravaganza make up for a lot. This lively, escapist read will drag you out of the doldrums.

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