Series: THE PORTAL TRILOGY
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V3; S3; H1
Publisher and Titles: Harlequin Mira
"Legacy of the Witch" (free e-novella prequel, 9/2012)
Mark of the Witch (9/2012)
Daughter of the Spellcaster (11/2012)
Blood of the Sorceress (1/2013) (FINAL)
As the story opens (on February 2), Demetrius awakens as a human man in the icy cave near Milbury, New York, that has been featured in the previous two novels. He manages to steal clothing, money, and a bus ticket to New York and winds up penniless on the streets of Manhattan hanging out with Gus, another homeless man. When Demetrius appears in his corporeal body in the cave, Lilia (Demetrius' long-lost lover who exists only in spirit form) is watching from between the worlds, just as she has kept watch over him for all these centuries. When he gets to New York, she makes him remember how to make the physical connection between his magical dagger and chalice thus bringing her back to corporeal life, but her appearance frightens him so much that he runs into the path of a car and is severely injured. As it turns out, the man who ran over Demetrius is very wealthy and very drunk and doesn't want anyone to know about his transgression, so he gifts Demetrius and Gus with a fabulous estate in Arizona and plenty of money to maintain it. (This last bit of plot is the most outlandish absurdity of the series.) By the time Lilia finds Demetrius in Arizona, there are just a few days left before Beltane, so the pressure is on.
To complicate matters (and to provide an action plot to offset the romance plot), the villainous Father Dom comes out of his coma the moment Lilia re-enters the world as a mortal. He sets out for Arizona to convince Demetrius to turn down Lilia's offer of the soul-piece, telling Demetrius that Lilia is responsible for his horrific punishment during the past centuries and that she is a wicked witch who just wants to take his powers for herself. As part of the rules of this whole mythology, Lilia can't explain the live-die-Beltane situation to Demitrius. She can only tell him that she loves him and that he will have a better, more enjoyable life as a human. Demitrius, however, likes his magical powers and his immortality and doesn't want to give them up, and besides, Father Dom has brainwashed Demitrius into believing that Lilia is lying to him.
As Beltane rapidly approaches, the plot plays out as Lilia desperately tries to convince Demetrius to take the final piece of his soul, and Father Dom (who turns out to be much more than a simple priest) tries even harder to turn Demetrius against Lilia. Eventually, the action moves back to New York where the other two sisters get involved in the final showdown.
You'll probably be able to predict the manner in which the conflict is resolved about half-way through the book—at least I could, just by thinking about the original story of the witches' death and the people involved. This has been a fairly standard paranormal romance series, but with a more interesting and complex series story arc than most. Lilia and Demetrius are certainly the most tortured and anguished of the three couples, and given their history, that's entirely understandable. Please don't read this book before you've read the other two novels and the novella. Otherwise, you'll lose the build-up of the back story.
Each book tells the angst-filled love story of one of the witches as she goes through all sorts of agonizing experiences in order to return her piece to Demetrius. After all these centuries in Hell, Demetrius has become a dark and dangerous spiritual force, so even though he's gradually getting his soul back, he is a danger to the witches and their loved ones. The series theme is succinctly summarized in the classic Beatles' song, "All You Need Is Love." Here, Lilia explains that theme further: "Love. It's all about love. Love destroyed, love denied, love betrayed, love that outlives death and defies all the rules of the Universe to fulfill itself." (Blood of the Sorceress, p. 44)
E-NOVELLA PREQUEL: Legacy of the Witch
NOVEL 1: Mark of the Witch
There are a couple of silly scenes, most notably the one in which Indie shows up wearing bunny pajamas and carrying milk and cookies when she decides to share the contents of some sacred scrolls with Tomas. Really? Bunny PJs and Oreos in the middle of a demonic crisis? In another absurd scene, Indie flashes back to the reason she petulantly turned her back on witchcraft: She tried to use her Craft to learn the identity of her soul mate and it didn't work. Based solely on that experience, she decided that there's no such thing as magic.
I had a hard time getting through this book. Although the mythology is inventive, the characters are thinly drawn, including the villain, who is a one-note, evil nut-job. Tomas' character is strange, in that he is a well-educated man, but so extremely naive that he never fact-checks anything that Dom tells him about the big demon threat that is the center of the plot—at least not until he meets Indie and his lustful thoughts overcome his priestliness. Tomas is like a cult victim, brainwashed and seemingly incapable of independent thought regarding the demon, although he is having his doubts about the priesthood. We never really get to know any of the characters because we only see them in the context of their present circumstances. We do see the execution scene, but again, it doesn't really give us any real insight into the characters. The heroine in the prequel novella is actually a much better developed character than anyone in this book. The second book is coming out shortly, so I'll give that one a try in the hopes that things will get better.
The second book of the series tells the story of the second sister, Magdalena. In her 21st-century incarnation, Magdalena is Lena Dunkirk, who has been brought up in a world of witchcraft, having done her first scrying when she was only a child. During that initial scrying experience, Lena visualized herself as one of three Arabian sisters and saw a handsome prince who was leaving her temporarily but promised to come back and marry her. Decades later, Lena met Ryan McNally, an extremely wealthy and handsome playboy who looked exactly like that prince, and the two had an affair that resulted in her pregnancy. Lena was sure that Ryan would see her as a gold-digger if she told him about the baby, so she left him behind and went with her mother to live in a small town in upstate New York. If you read book 1, you'll recognize that this is the same area in which Indira and Tomas had their adventures.
The story begins when Lena is eight months pregnant and receives news that Ryan's father, Ernst, has died. Lena loved Ernst very much, so she goes to the funeral, where she confronts Ryan with his impending fatherhood. When Ernst's will is read, Lena is shocked to learn she and her baby receive a generous bequest. Ernst's will also leaves bequests to two others: his son, Ryan, and his guru, Bahru. When Ryan was eleven, his mother died, and Ernst fell apart, spending the rest of his life grieving and searching for solace in various spiritual beliefs. Bahru became his personal guru and accompanied him all over the world during this search. Needless to say, Ryan dislikes and distrusts Bahru, the man who led his father away from him, farming him out to nannies and boarding schools. Ryan is determined never to give his heart to anyone because he never wants to experience the mind-numbing grief that ruined his father's—and his own—life.
Once again, decorative wooden boxes play an important part of the magical story line. Lena gets her box from Ernst by way of Bahru, and it contains the same bejeweled, silver chalice that she saw during her childhood scrying. Ryan gets his box from his father's attorney, and it contains a gold athame (a ceremonial dagger) that shoots fire. (The first time he handles it, he burns a hole in the curtains.)
The plot focuses on Ryan and Lena as they first try to coexist for the sake of their forthcoming child, but then find themselves falling deeply in love. In the meantime, it turns out that Bahru isn't what he seems, and neither are some of the seemingly kindly townsfolk. Lena soon finds herself and her baby in grave danger, and she's not sure that she can trust Ryan—or maybe she can. Remember that Demetrius is still out there, and he'll do anything to get back all of the pieces of his soul.
Just a word about the cover art: The woman fits Lena's description perfectly, but the man looks nothing like Ryan, who is supposed to be a blue-eyed, brown-haired man of Irish-American heritage.