Broken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore


Stephen Blackmoore

August 2014

DAW Books, Inc.


Ask any married person and they’ll tell you that marriage takes a lot of work. Being married to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte? Well, that presents an entirely different set of challenges.

BROKEN SOULS by Stephen Blackmoore opens with necromancer Eric Carter meeting someone who might be able to get him out of his marriage of inconvenience. Carter’s wife is nothing like the nice girl next door. Hell, an entire nation of people worships this “woman” as the Grim Reaper in a wedding dress. Through a series of events in Blackmoore’s previous book, DEAD THINGS, Carter ended up in a shotgun wedding with her, and now he wants out. Carter knows he won’t live long enough to play house with the Aztec death goddess, and he needs to get out pronto.

In true Carter luck (or lack of), the mage he goes to meet tries to kill him. And skin him. And steal his form, memories, and magical powers. This is a bad thing because with the mage’s magical black blade, Carter’s skin is this close to leaving the rest of him behind. And did I mention Carter’s dead-by-his-hand best friend has started popping up a la AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON-style, and tossing him cryptic advice? Yeah, things are getting weird. Weirder. Things have always been weird. Now? Just more so.

The magic in BROKEN SOULS is nothing like the spells cast at Hogwarts. There are no conical hats and no magic wands. This is urban fantasy in the truest, grittiest sense of the name. Drenched in blood and violence just out of the range of us “normals,” the magic in BROKEN SOULS doesn’t bring butterflies and rainbows; it brings blood and fire. Blackmoore gives the reader an inventive twist on said magic: from warding off ghosts by writing palindromes on door posts, simple diversion spells with the help of a “Hello My Name Is” nametag, and killing everyone in the immediate area with a small scrap of paper. Pay close attention to the tattoos all over Carter’s body. They ward off spells and act as magical protection. The scene where Carter has to get them touched up was one of the coolest parts of the book.

The city of Los Angeles plays just as important of a role in BROKEN SOULS as the magic. Blackmoore introduces the reader to a side of LA you don’t see on the tour of the stars’ homes maps. Carter’s sometimes-ally, the bruja, runs a shelter for homeless supernatural youth on Skid Row. The deranged guy skinning people has a particular interest in a bar in Koreatown and the cage of demons that lay in its basement. And hiding under the La Brea Tar Pits? A subbasement of Mictlan, the Aztec underworld. I wouldn’t recommend spending your vacation there, on account of the piles of bones scattered about.

So there you have it. Poor, battered Eric Carter, stuck in a loveless marriage, being stalked by a mage who wants to wear his skin, and spending his days dodging massive explosions caused by tiny pieces of paper.

It’s just another bad day for our boy Eric Carter.

Kate Malmon