REVIEW: Dark Magic by James Swain

dark magic swainDark Magic by James Swain
(Peter Warlock #1)
Tor Books (May 2012)
Hardback, 352 pages

Urban Fantasy

I sometimes select books based on their titles without knowing any further details, I did this with Dark Magic thinking it would have something to do with witches. What I found was a sinister, supernatural thriller based in New York City, written from the third person point of view, following a group of psychics who use their gifts to try and help others.

Peter Warlock is the lead psychic and holds a regular séance with six other psychics every Friday night, this latest séance reveals a terror attack on Times Square in four days time.

It’s nighttime in Times Square. The theaters have let out, and the streets are jammed with people. Something awful is happening to them, and they’re grabbing their heads and screaming and dropping to the ground. Cars and buses are crashing into each other as well, their drivers dead. It’s total chaos.

Peter and his group takes it upon themselves to try to prevent the attack from happening but first they have to solve the mystery of who, why and how the attack takes place. There is no visible explosion, people are just collapsing in the street and there is an unknown man standing in the midst of the chaos that Peter thinks is responsible, while they are looking for this man, someone else is seeking the group out one by one but their motives are not so honorable.

Peter is a magician and during his next performance Wolfe, the man from his vision is in the audience, Peter invites Wolfe onto the stage to take part in his performance, when after reading him, Wolfe attacks Peter.

Peter has to try and discover the reason behind this unprovoked attack but it may not be only Peter that Wolfe is targeting. The rest of the group needs to be on their guard and it becomes a race between saving each other, preventing the Terror attack on New York from taking place and finding the motives of Wolfe.

There are many connections between Wolfe and a mysterious group from England that needs to be uncovered, which opens up many more questions of who Peter Warlock is. Peter is stronger and more powerful than he ever imagined especially when threatened but this power comes at a price.

Will Peter be able to save New York and his friends from these magical English tyrants in time?

I did like the overall plot, I found many aspects tense and exciting yet I felt let down by the depth of the characters, I never connected to them and especially found Peter’s normal human girlfriend Liza, tiresome and irritating.

Their relationship was on and off all the way through Dark Magic, I’m of the harsh opinion, if you can’t be yourself around a partner, then that partner is not right for you so move on and find someone who accepts you for who you are. Overall a mixed read, the pace was a little up and down but when the action arrived I enjoyed it.


I enjoyed Dark Magic more than I anticipated, a dark, tense, supernatural thriller that had me guessing until the end. I would like to continue with the Peter Warlock series but I won’t be rushing out to pre-order it. Sometimes I felt that the plot was a little flat and forgettable, while other parts were exciting. The exciting parts did outweigh the slower parts and I thought it ended on a positive, enticing me to read more. My biggest drawback was the characters, I thought they lacked depth and so I never fully connected to them, especially the girlfriend, who irritated me.

RATING: 3stars

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A midnight book worm who loves dystopian and young adult fantasy and paranormal romances. As long as the leading man is dead sexy, she's happy. [Becs no longer reviews for the site.]


Laura May 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Looking at the cover and title, I would have thought witches too. Good review Becs, not sure I’m going to rush out and buy this one, but it does look like an interesting premise.


Becs May 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Thank you Laura, it was interesting especially if you enjoy a tense mystery.


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