A Rush of Wings – Adrian Phoenix

A Rush of Wings
Adrian Phoenix
Pocket Books, 2008
404 pages

I’m glad I started reviewing fiction, because it gives me an excuse to review entertaining vampire novels like this one. Fresh from Pocket Books, A Rush of Wings is Adrian Phoenix’ first novel. I dearly hope it won’t be her last.

Phoenix drops us right into New Orleans with a murder mystery–somebody is picking off local Goths, killing them in horrid ways, and leaving cryptic messages. Pretty straightforward, right? Toss in a strong-willed vampire/club owner/musician with an adoring following, a slightly confused FBI agent, and a host of original supporting characters, and the story starts to rise above the usual pulp. Have it written by a talented author who baits the reader with every page, and you have a recipe for a real page-turner.

One thing that I really admire about Phoenix’s writing is her ability to make me care about her characters. The setting is nice, the plot is fast-paced, and she adds just the right amount of erotica to make it tasty, but without turning it into the overflogged vampire smut that’s been going around. However, where Phoenix’s strength really lies is in her character development and presentation. Her characters feel real, even the supernatural ones. They have believable flaws, and their interaction flows naturally, rather than feeling like a bad movie script. What really hit me, though, was now much I cared about what happened to them–when a couple of the supporting characters died, I felt sad, and I could get a good sense of the grief of those who cared about them. Phoenix evokes emotions like few others.

Her world-building skills are strong, too. I’m picky about my supernatural content. However, I was impressed by how she handled vampires, as well as other supernatural entities, and I’m hoping she continues to write in this world, because I’m curious as to how she’ll develop it further. I think my only complaints are that she does fall into some patterns that have been done to (un)death. While she shows a totally different side to New Orleans than Anne Rice did, it’s still–New Orleans. (With all the French undertones–why are vampires always French?) There’s a vampire council that’s alluded to a couple of times, though she doesn’t put much development into it in this book. And her main vampire character isn’t just a run of the mill vampire–he’s a True Blood, a rarity (though he has enough flaws and believability to keep him from being a male Mary Sue). I realize it’s kind of tough to write about vampires without hitting some of the modern conventions, though, and overall I think she did a good job of writing a really good vampire novel.

I’m very much looking forward to more from this author; if you want a good read to get you through a commute, plane trip, head cold, or other instance where you can let yourself sink into a good read, this is a good choice. It’s got a lot of re-reading potential, too–I know I’ll be coming back to it every now and then.

Four and a half pawprints out of five.

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Goth Craft – Raven Digitalis

Goth Craft
Raven Digitalis
Llewellyn Publications, September 2007
316 pages

I was lucky enough to get to preview a galley copy of Raven Digitalis’ first book, Goth Craft, which is due out this coming September. Now, this is one of those books that had the potential to be either really good, or abysmal. Fortunately, Raven managed to stick to the former, avoiding a trainwreck of trendiness and black-dyed fluff.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Goth subculture beyond a few outward trappings, this book will give you a solid introduction to the whys, hows, and manifestations of what it is to be Goth. However, like the introductory material on witchcraft that he presents, Raven manages to avoid dogma and snarkiness. This will make Goth Craft a particularly good guide for teens and early twenty-somethings who are just getting into both the Goth subculture and witchcraft, though people who are more established in one community or the other shouldn’t turn away, either.

What I really liked about this book was the fact that it doesn’t shy away from potentially controversial material. The ritual use of drugs, sex (vanilla and otherwise) and gender issues are some of the topics that are covered in a respectful, intelligent manner. Raven also includes a good collection of rituals and spells aimed at the appreciation of the darker end of the spectrum of life, and provides some refreshing ideas to work with. He also shows the magic in “everyday” elements of Gothic culture, including conscious application of makeup and clothing, and the use of dance for reaching altered states of consciousness.

I would consider Goth Craft to be primarily 101 level material, but it’s on the higher end of 101–there are explanations of common pagan symbols and correspondences filtered through a Gothic worldview, but there’s also a good collection of further resources. And I learned quite a bit about the Gothic subculture that I hadn’t known before. So while the target audience seems to be younger folks in the Goth community who are interested in witchcraft, I suggest giving this book a chance if you’re interested in a darker approach to magic that is well beyond the ooga-booga spookiness and sensationalism that some prior texts have fallen prey to.

Five pawprints out of five.

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