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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Adrian Phoenix: HOODOO SERIES

Series: HOODOO Series 
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher and Titles: Pocket
      Black Dust Mambo (2010)
      Black Heart Loa (2011)  

    Kallie Rivière is a Cajun hoodoo apprentice who has led a hard life. Nine years ago, her mother murdered Kallie’s father with a shotgun blast and then turned the gun on Kallie. Mom is now locked away in a mental hospital, but Kallie still lives in fear of her. 

     Callie is a tough heroine, quick to use her well-trained fists to settle an argument and willing to push her hoodoo powers to the limit to save her friends. The secret she uncovers about herself at the end of book 1 lays the groundwork for future books. In book 1, we see the present action and flashbacks of past events through the eyes of several characters—both good and bad.  

            NOVEL 1:  Black Dust Mambo            
     As the first book opens, Kallie and her friend, Belladonna Brown (also a hoodoo), are attending a festival for magic practitioners in New Orleans when someone tries to kill Kallie but instead kills and takes the soul of Gage, a man Kallie spent the night with. 

   Now Kallie, her friends, and Gage’s best friend, the sexy nomad Layne Valin, must track down the killer, following a path from New Orleans back to the home of Kallie’s aunt (or is she?) back in Bayou Cyprès Noir, where Kallie grew up. Layne is a vessel, which means his body can be taken over by the spirit of a dead person, and this becomes an important part of the plot. All of the action takes place over a period of just a few days.

            NOVEL 2:  Black Heart Loa            
     The second book opens just hours after the ending of the first, and the first chapters are overflowing (to the point of confusion) with flashbacks and replays of the events of the previous book. Phoenix should probably have considered prefacing Black Heart Loa with a prologue that summarized the highlights of book 1. Then she could have jumped right into book 2 without muddling it up with so much rehashing of the previous plot points. At any rate, the first major event in Black Heart Loa is the disappearance of Kallie's cousin, Jackson. Kallie is sure that the evil Dr. Heron is somehow involved in Jackson's kidnapping, even though she and Layne killed him in the climax of the previous book. Kallie and Belladonna decide to travel to Dr. Heron's old house to see if they can find Jackson. Meanwhile, Layne is also on his way to Dr. Heron's house, where he hopes to find and punish the ghost of Babette, Dr. Heron's evil wife, who set in motion all of the tragic events in the previous book. See what I mean?  This book is so connected with the previous one, that it's tough to understand the Black Heart Loa plot without knowing all of the ins and outs of the story told in book 1. Once the story pushes past the explanatory retrospective, it gets easier to understand and begins to pull you along, but getting through the first few chapters is slow going. 

     The point of view switches back and forth from Kallie, to Layne, to Jackson, and even once to Gabrielle, as the group tries to save Jackson, out-think Baron Samedi, discover the identity of Kallie's loa, and release Kallie from a hexall of which must be done before a category 5 hurricane bears down on Cajun country. New family secrets emerge about both Kallie and Jackson. Near the end of the book, a new character enters the scene: Devlin Daniels, the demon wolf of the bayou. Although he appears only briefly, he leaves behind him a clue that tells us that he'll be back to see Kallie in future books. A second love interest, perhaps? Once again, the story is rich in voodoo mythology and Cajun culture. The only false note is a scene near the end when a voodoo sex-magic ceremony involving Kallie and Layne is topped off with some New Age mysticism: the opening of their chakras. That was kind of weird. Be sure to read book 1 before attempting to read this one.

     Click HERE and scroll down a bit for a link to a free download of the first two chapters of Black Heart Loa 

    Like Phoenix’s MAKER'S SONG series, this book overflows with voodoo and hoodoo terminology and mythology, and the dialogue is a mix of Cajun and just plain deep Southern dialect. The setting and the mythology are fresh, and I'm calling it UF even though it takes place in the back country of Louisiana (maybe it should be called BAbayou fantasy). Kallie is very much a UF heroine: smart, magically talented, and filled with angst over her tragic childhood. The secondary characters are interesting and complex, each having dark secrets that affect their choices in life (mostly in a bad way) and their relationships with family and friends. If you're looking for something different in the UF world, you might enjoy this series.  

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