‘Mark of the Witch’ by Maggie Shayne Combines the Supernatural with Romance for a Page-Turner!

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Hi all! I’d like to introduce the third of our new book reviewers, Jen. Here’s a little bit about her:

I’m an artist, writer, and entertainment junkie. Growing up as a child I was always fascinated with faerie tales and ghost stories.  When I was introduced to Stephen King’s Firestarter at age 11 I was hooked and I was reading and writing horror from that moment on.  It wasn’t until high school that I was introduced to fantasy with the Dragonlance series and that became my second love. To this day these are my two favorite genres with mystery bringing in a close third.

For Jen’s first review, she conquered a supernatural-filled romance book called Mark of the Witch by Maggie Shayne, which came out yesterday. Take it away Jen!

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Mark of the Witch is the first book in Maggie Shayne’s newest paranormal romance series from MIRA Books.  The Portal Series follows three Warrior Witches and the men they must tame: The Priest; The Player; and The Demon.  The first book in the trilogy, Mark of the Witch, released on September 18th.

I have to be honest; romance is not my genre and I think the last romance book I read was way back in high school over twenty years ago.  Generally I breeze right past the section in bookstores and never give them a second glance.  The genres I most readily devour are horror, mystery and fantasy.  When presented with the opportunity to review this book, I thought, why not?  It sounded as though it had a lot of supernatural elements and I could easily ignore the romance angle if needed.  And, I must add, I am happy to have given this book a shot.

To give you an idea of the set up, here is the description from the publisher:

“She was born to save what he is sworn to destroy…

A lapsed Wiccan, Indira Simon doesn’t believe in magic anymore. But when strange dreams of being sacrificed to an ancient Babylonian god have her waking up with real rope burns on her wrists, she’s forced to acknowledge that she may have been too hasty in her rejection of the unknown. Then she meets mysterious and handsome Father Tomas. Emerging from the secrecy of an obscure Gnostic sect, he arrives with stories of a demon, a trio of warrior witches-and Indira’s sacred calling.

Yet there’s something even Tomas doesn’t know, an inescapable truth that will force him to choose between saving the life of the woman he’s come to love-and saving the world”

From the beginning, this book drew me in.  It starts off with a bang as Indira dreams of being sacrificed to an ancient Babylonian God and awakens to discover the marks from injuries she sustained in the dream are still visible upon her flesh after waking.  These fade quickly and she begins to doubt her own sanity.  We learn right off the bat that she is a lapsed Wiccan who had turned her back on her faith due to a failed spell that she believed would have changed her life remarkably.  When confronted with the dream and the harsh reality of what is occurring to her, she turns to the only person she knows that can help her find out the truth of what is going on: Rayne Blackwood, or rather Lady Rayne, a Third Degree High Priestess and Indira’s best friend.

Though written primarily in first person from Indira’s point of view, there are moments when Maggie writes in third person.  These parts are used to not only introduce us to Father Tomas and Father Dominick (both priests of a Gnostic sect called the Keeper of the Pact), but they also help give the reader a different perspective and a little history that Indira does not know.

This book is very well written and is a definite page turner.  Indira’s voice was well executed and it wasn’t until the very end that it began to waver just a bit, but not enough to make a remarkable difference.  Father Tomas was a little wishy washy at times but still a strong enough character to be believable.  The abstracts of both faiths were well done and even though there were many opportunities to become what I would call ‘preachy’ on either spectrum, the writer didn’t follow this path.

For skeptics of the romance genre such as myself, take heart that this book is not laden with overwhelming romantic themes.  Yes, there is an underlying love story, but it is just that, love underneath the mysterious events that span several lifetimes.  On top of it all, we are left with a story of good versus evil, of two individuals who are each struggling with their separate faiths and the history that has bound them inexorably together.

For the die hard romantics, take heart.  The love story is powerful enough to satisfy even this critic of the genre.  I was, however, a little disappointed in the ending and this could have been for several different reasons which I can’t get into without revealing serious plot points.  I’m hoping that it is merely because it is the first book in a series.  I guess we will find out when book 2 is released in November of this year.  I know I will be curious to see how the next book plays out and if Indira will have a role in them.  This reader is hoping she does but one never knows.

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