LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52490-2
Fantasy Romance, 2002
How disappointing. Carla Cook’s The Magician attempts to blend horror and romance, but instead of a gripping romantic tale of the macabre (such a thing, by the way, is possible if you ask me – see the campy trashy fun of the movie adaptation of Clive Barker’s Lord Of Illusions), I get a mess of an incoherent melodrama.
Kathleen Marlowe’s daughter Gina is haunted by Evil. She dreams of evil tunnels drawing her in and other fun stuff, so poor Gina doesn’t dare sleep and poor Kathleen is terrified. Soon she encounters a reporter Keith whose daughter had nightmares like Gina’s and who is now in a coma. Keith learns that there is a worldwide Evil Satanic plan to Corrupt All Kiddie Girlies Everywhere, and the mastermind Thanatos wants to bring Satan back on Earth, hee hee ha ha ho ho ha ha, et cetera.
In the meantime, a magician named Lucas Connelly gets powers he doesn’t understand as well as visions. His visions lead her to Gina, and what do you know know, he and Kathleen are lovers in a past life too! Maybe it’s true: Jesus and Buddha are good buddies and they play basketball together with St Peter on his day off.
We also have apocalypses, astral projections, evil skanks, yadda yadda yadda, all coming together like a really inept B-grade horror movie. Frankly, Thanatos is ridiculous, and I doubt even Satan will have such bad taste to elect that doofus as his evil emissary on earth. Thanatos isn’t evil as much as he is pathetic at melodrama. Where’s Snidely Whiplash when I need him?
Lucas is interesting as a magician with powers beyond his comprehension, but the author prefers to take the easier way out of her story by using the reincarnated souls thing to do away with any decent relationship development. Kathleen is a decent heroine too, but like Lucas, she remains a one-note character, lost in the bog of melodrama that becomes more and more florid and bombastic as the pages turn.
The Magician will need a truly potent spell to wipe the grease of its ridiculous, overblown depiction of Cackling Evil versus Stoic Goodness off itself at the end of the day. A little moderation and some subtlety, the keys to good atmosphere building, will have gone a long way in creating a truly creepy setting.