“Black Magic Sanction” by Kim Harrison

This was a book I found at the antique place for $1.50. Since Kim Harrison was an author I’ve been curious about since working at the bookstore it was a great deal! When I picked up the book, the first thing I do with EVERY book is check the front cover to see the order of books. This specific book was right at the top of the list, so I was excited thinking I had book one. I did not. This series wrote their list backwards, with the first being at the bottom of the list, and the newest the top. It seems every publisher has their own way to list past/previous books and I didn’t double check.

As it turned out, this book was book 8. I didn’t realize it until a few chapters in, but with all our stuff in storage for an indeterminate amount of time, I just kept reading. The only problem with that is I don’t have the history with the characters and events the way I would if I had started at book one. And while I don’t recommend jumping in half way through the series, it’s not impossible.

The series follows a white witch named Rachel. From what I gathered from this book Rachel was born with a disorder that would have killed her, but a local elf family “cured her”, but the cure made her able to use demon magic. Because of this, and I think some things in her past (previous books) she was shunned by the white witch community. They will not deal with her, sell to her, or associate with her in any way. She lives in a church with her vampire friend and horde of pixies.

The book opens with Rachel studying under a demon she calls “Al”, which threw me off a bit because there isn’t a lot of history or background given right away to explain anything, but it was interesting enough to keep me going. Because of her relationship (strictly platonic one) with Al, she is accused of demon magic, black magic, what have you, and some of her old Coven are out to kill her, thinking she is a danger to the world. The genetic trait that was “fixed” also means that any children she has will be demons. For obvious reasons, this was a threat to the coven. Several went behind the general governing body to illegally hunt Rachel and try to force her into a magical lobotomy and to remove her ovaries.

The magic system, especially dealing with the demon magic, was really interesting. I’m sure if I had more knowledge (aka read the earlier books) some more of it would make sense. But what impressed me was when Rachel or someone did a spell they had to accept the backlash. It runs off the common trope that magic is not free. You see it everywhere in popular media but I’ve never seen it done this way. The residue from dark magic is called “smut” and for Rachel to have a spell work, she had to agree to “take the smut”, and that residue stuck because she could see it on other dark magic users. It was a very different adaptation to a very common trope and I was rather impressed.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book, I’m always leery on female written/female led paranormal novels …which I have no idea why because they are my guilty pleasure. But, even though I started 8 books in, it was easy to follow and was constantly interesting. It gave enough back story that I could understand relations and events. One thing I did not expect, was how well written the characters were that even though I didn’t have the history with them, I still cried. Someone close to Rachel was killed, and everyone’s reactions to it and just the emotion Harrison was able to convey, I cried. And during a coven attack, the only way to protect themselves was to cast a black spell that would burn everything above ground level. That included their home, and Rachel’s garden. This nearly broke my heart, but I think that was because I recently went through the same thing (we were evicted because our landlady wanted to sell the house, and we have yet to find a new place to live, and I lost all my gardens and I almost lost most of my saved plants because they were frozen to the ground and we couldn’t retrieve them) so Rachel’s panic over her garden reflected so much of what I went through that I understood her in a way many people might not. “They’re just plants, you can get new ones.” but they aren’t the seedlings we coaxed to life, the small greenery we babied and watered, talked to, worried about when the weather changed, the plants that then nourished us with clean air and food. I just found it interesting that a simple topic hit me so hard.

The bits of previous stories revealed actually made me curious enough, and I enjoyed this book enough, that I will be getting the full series!

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