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Monday, March 12, 2012


Author: Joey W. Hill
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V4-5; S5+; H2-3
Publisher and Titles: Berkley Sensation
          Something About Witches (2/2012)
          In the Company of Witches (5/2012)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 6/1/12 to include a review of the second book in the series: In the Company of Witches. That review comes first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of book 1:

       BOOK 2: In the Company of Witches      
     In book 2, the Dark Guardian Mikhael Roman returns—this time as the dominant half of a romantic couple—and when I say “dominant,” I’m speaking of the aggressor in a sexual dom-sub relationship. In book 1, Mikhael was the dom to Ruby's sub as she tried to control her dark magic. Now Ruby is married to Derek, a Light Guardian, so her sexual relationship with Mikhael has definitely ended. Derek and Mikhael work at opposite ends of the good-evil spectrum. Here, Mikhael explains to Derek the difference between Light and Dark Guardians: “You even the scales for the Light, Derek. I do it for the Dark. It may be for the same goal, but it’s from different sides. I work from the shadows; you work in the light of the sun….When a civilization becomes so prosperous it gets lazy and falls into entitlement, decadence, apathy and inertia, my job is to push them into brutality and hardship to accelerate change, bring the scales back to rights. You may save a child to ward off evil; I will cause its death for the same purpose.” p. 194) Mikhael’s mother was a sorcerer and his father was a nephilim, which means that he is one quarter angel. 

     As the story opens, Isaac, a frightened young incubus, seeks sanctuary with Ruby's best friend, Raina, who is a succubus. Raina owns a brothel with a staff of succubae and incubi who live on the sexual energy they drain from their clients. Raina teaches them to control the amount of energy they drain so that they don’t kill any humans, and she runs her place like a spa with a sexy, friendly staff. Isaac is running from Mikhael, who is following him because the incubus stole an artifact from Lucifer and Mikhael is trying to retrieve it. Also in pursuit of Isaac is a female demon who took the artifact from Isaac and now needs him to drain some human souls for her dark purposes. Mikhael allows Raina to provide protection for Isaac, but insists that he will stay until the demon shows up. Raina is half witch and half succubus, so both she and Mikhael are considered half-breeds in the supernatural world. As they spend time together, they discover that they are have a lot in common, particularly their shared inner darkness.

     The first 17 chapters (273 pages) of this book are entirely dedicated to following Mikhael and Raina through the various stages of their romance—a series of lengthy dom-sub sessions with lots of sadomasochistic love play. Early in her life, Raina was kidnapped and sexually tortured by a demon, so she is terrified of being restrained in any way. Mikhael is determined to break her of that fear by becoming her Master and teaching her to trust him. At first, both view their relationship as transitory, but that soon changes. When the demon who is pursuing Isaac finally makes her appearance in chapter 18, she kidnaps Raina and injures Mikhael. That turns out to be the catalyst that forces the couple to realize that they actually love one another.

     If you enjoy reading detailed, graphic scenes of dominance and submission, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Mikhael is totally dominant in every situation (even the nonsexual ones), so if that makes you uncomfortable, this book is not for you. As one reviewer notes, this series is actually what the best-selling series SHADES OF GREY aspires to be—but GREY is a pale imitation of ARCANE SHOT because no one writes dom-sub romance fiction like Joey W. Hill.

     This is a world full of witches and demons. Each book follows one couple on their rocky road to their HEA, with many angst-filled interior monologues and many pages of hate/love dialogue along the way. Although the witches and demons exist in the mortal world, not many mortals are included in the plots. 

       BOOK 1: Something About Witches      
     Ruby Night Divine owns a gun shop in North Carolina. She is a witch who is struggling mightily with her dark side, but the dark side seems to be winning. The reason for Ruby's turn from light to dark isn't fully revealed until the end of the book. Ruby's mother was a powerful witch who realized that her daughter would eventually be a more powerful witch, so she constantly belittled Ruby, telling her that she should forget about being a witch and concentrate on learning about witchcraft so that she could be a witch's assistant. Mom was also a seerand a liar. She told her daughter that if Ruby unleashed her powers when they matured, her life would end in tragedy. Ruby believed that prophecy, and that belief led directly to her slide into the darkness. One good thing that came from Mom's tirades against Ruby is that Ruby is one of the best teachers of witchcraft in the world. She has read every book and practiced every spell.

     As the story opens, Ruby's ex-boyfriend, Derek Stormwind, shows up unexpectedly in her gun shop asking her to accompany him to Florida to teach a coven of witches how to heal a weakness in a line of power (seemingly another name for a ley line). Derek also wants to know why Ruby left him three years ago while he was off on a mission, disappearing without a trace. Derek is a sexy and powerful sorcerer and an immortal Light Guardian who is about 1,000 years old. The story follows Ruby as she trains the coven and makes new friends there. When Derek shows up, he's determined to get to the bottom of Ruby's behavior towards him. The last time Derek saw Ruby, she didn't have much power, but now she is brimming with it. So...he wants to know where that power came from, why its so dark, andby the wayWhy did you leave me? Ruby's storywhen Derek finally hears itis heartbreaking, and he can't really blame her for what she did, even though it puts her soul at risk. 

     You may be wondering about the sensuality rating of 5+. That is due to the graphically detailed scenes of sadomasochism and bondage. Ruby punishes herself with pain, including sexual pain. She has an acquaintance with benefits (the Dark Guardian, Mikhael) who indulges her needs with monthly sessions. There is also a rough scene or two with Derek, as well as many of the usual not-so-kinky sexual scenes found in every paranormal romance. In both of Ruby's sexual relationships, she is totally submissive to her partner's dominance. If you've read Hill's VAMPIRE QUEEN series, you'll be familiar with the type and level of sensuality and violence found in Hill's books. I reviewed that series in my book Fang-tastic Fiction.

     Ruby gets the bulk of the angst time in this book. She still loves Derek but believes that if he knew what she did (and we wait a long, long time to learn what that was), he would hate her. Her inner monologues seem to go on forever and should have been edited down a lot. Derek is 100% light magic, with hardly any flawsjust a bit of a temper when he is driven into a jealous rage in one scene. We don't really learn much about him or about what a Light Bringer does. The series mythology is extremely simple, so I'm guessing that the upcoming books will continue to rely on angst and magic to anchor the plots. The second book will star Ruby's cruel lover, Mikhael, as he finds his true love in Ruby's BFF, Rainey, a succubus who owns a brothel.

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