Review: Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil #6) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Dance Only For Me coverJackie Black, sorcerer and gunslinger, has a surprise for Roman, his lover of two years.  Jackie has decided to move to the city to be closer to his boyfriend and makes a surprise trip to tell Roman the good news.  But the surprise is on Jackie when he intrudes on a romantic evening Roman has planned with another man, a much younger man.   Heartbroken and lacking a place to stay, Jackie heads out of Roman’s building and straight into trouble.  In a bar in the poorer section of the city, Jackie is befriended by a man who claims to be a supernatural detective who needs help on a case.  That case involves retrieving a magical object from someone who just might also be a killer.

Needing something to take his mind off his pain, Jackie agrees to help the detective and changes the course of his life forever.  For nothing in Jackie’s life is as he wants it to be.  His father is off somewhere in Asia, mourning the loss of his wife and Jackie’s mother, Jackie feels he is not made for love as his last three boyfriends have cheated on him, and his new found friend is dead, dying in his arms moments upon his return.  What is Jackie to do but what a Black always does.  Holster his guns and go get the person who done the crime, or crimes.  He can only hope it won’t cost him his life as well.

If asked, I would be hard pressed to say which of Megan Derr’s fantasy universes is my favorite. but certainly her Dance with the Devil series would be in the top two.  So you can imagine my delight upon hearing that her latest release was a return to that amazing universe and wondrous group of supernatural beings that inhabit it.  Jackie Black and his father Jebadiah Black have appeared briefly in other stories but now Jackie is getting a central role in his own novel, Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil #6).  And I have to say I loved it.  It had everything  I have come to expect from Megan Derr and this terrific series.

Jackie Black is an oddity in his world, an amazing thing to say given the creatures that roam the streets and bars of the City.  He is over 70 years old, a sorcerer who wears a Stetson, cowboy boots, duster and uses magical revolvers of the old West to take down miscreants, human and non human alike.    Thin as a whippet, “whipcord” thin as his mother would say, Jackie is a bit of an anachronism, just like his father.  He speaks in the dulcet well mannered tones of a Sheriff in the old West, polite even when aiming his six shooters to kill,  This is our first introduction to him and his story:

Jackie caught the goblin right square between its crazy ass eyes and sighed as the fool thing dropped like a sack of flour to the warehouse floor. He holstered his revolver in a single, smooth move and touched the brim of his hat to the cluster of goblins huddled in the corner. “Ma’am,” he said to the one at the head of the pack, who had hired him to do something about a goblin that had tipped from average goblin crazy to crazier than a pack of elves gone drunk and frisky.

He walked over to the body to make certain it was dead and wrinkled his nose at the smell wafting off it. He’d caught whiffs of it before, but now the thing was holding still it was a sight easier to catch. “Poor thing’s mind done been scrambled like eggs at Sunday brunch.” He tipped his hat back to look up at the head goblin as she approached him. “Ain’t got a clue how he was poisoned, but I were you, ma’am, I’d be checking right careful for a traitor in your midst. This sort of thing is near always personal.”

I loved the dialog that Derr has written for Jackie.  It is so easy to picture him, a spare man of honor, like Gary Cooper in High Noon (google it).  In fact, I loved everything about Jackie, from his background and family life to his current painful predicament as a discarded lover who thinks he will never find the person/being right for him.  His singular code of honor drives his actions as well as his relationships.  And people are drawn to him whether he likes it or not.  The many layers to Jackie will draw in the reader as well, we just can’t help it!

Typical of Derr, it’s not just Jackie who is beautifully characterized but all the beings/people created for the story as well.  Whether it be friend or foe, everyone you will meet between these pages feel real.  They have hidden agendas driven by greed, pain, or a need to set things right.  They  want love or friends or a family or all three.  From a demon called Ned whose pain will make you cry to a young boy, Wyatt, whose dark past has made him older than his years, each and every one will cry out for your affection and attention.  And they will deserve it.  Especially Ned, Wyatt Thorne and a vampire necromancer, Phoenix Fairchild, each so memorable in their own way.  I loved them too.

One of the charms of this series is that couples, people from previous books make appearances throughout the series. Sable Brennus and Christian are here, as is Ontoniel Desrosiers,  Johnny and Grim, and even a dragon or three.  Seeing them here just made me want to go back and start reading each of their books all over again.  Megan Derr has such a wonderful imagination and her creativity just flows through this series like a river of magic. Every type of magic or wondrous being is included here.  Angels, sorcerers, witches, goblins and alchemists, that’s just a start.  There are werewolves, vampires, ghosts and golems too.  They are all present and involved in Jackie’s life and story and we are so much the richer for it.

I came close to giving this story a 5 star rating but there was just a few too many errors here.  Spelling errors, repetition problems and sentences like this one.  “Hope your right, Sheriff.”  Instead of “Hope you’re right, Sheriff”.  An editor should have caught these common problems and didn’t.  That brought the rating down which was a shame.   Tighter editing and better proofreading would have made this story a perfect read.

Those issues aside, I absolutely recommend this story to every person who is a fantasy fan, who love mythical beings come to life and men who hunger after love even though their past has told them it only brings heartbreak.  If you are new to the series, you can read this as a stand alone.  But reading the other stories first make this a much richer and fulfilling adventure.  I really hope that Megan Derr brings back Jackie, Ned and the rest for a followup adventure.  They are all so deserving of it.

The Dance with the Devil series:

Dance with the Devil (Dance with the Devil, #1)

The Glass Coffin

Dance in the Dark (Dance with the Devil, #2)

Midnight (Dance with the Devil, #3)

Ruffskin (Dance with the Devil, #4)

Sword of the King (Dance with the Devil, #5)

Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil, #6)

Cover Art by London Burden.  Great job in branding the series by cover but I wish it was a little lighter in tone so we can see the guns.

Book Details:

ebook, 236 pages
Published July 24th 2013 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Dance Only for Me
ISBN13 9781620040850
edition language English

Review of Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison

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Rating:      4.5 stars

When Simon Osbourne starts hearing the cries of children begging for help in his head, he tries to ignore them.  It’s against the rule he is governed by to interfere as he is an apprentice mage and the children in danger are werecubs. But as the cries continue, he feels the children weakening and decides to act.  Under the darkness of night, Simon steals onto the grounds of a house in the woods, and finds five were children being drained by a demon.  Using the magic tricks he has learned as an apprentice, Simon frees the children and drives them back to the Wolf pack compound outside of town.

Grey Townsend, alpha of the High Moon Pack, has been going crazy ever since his son, Garon and four other children were stolen from the compound.  For two days, the pack has searched but all traces of the cubs are gone, along with hearing their mind speak.  When a strange mage brings the children home, Gray owes Simon his gratitude and trust, not something the weres give to the Others.  Little is known about the Others except that the groups stay away from each others societies, segregated by rules and laws arcane in nature.  Then Simon saves Garon from a demon attack for the second time, and Gray admits they need Simon to help solve the mysteries before them.  Simon loves the family life he sees in the pack and is attracted to the handsome Alpha, Gray.  With the pack and their cubs still in danger, Simon and Gray come together to help find the demon behind the attacks and begin a possible relationship.  But Simon’s actions have repercussions within the Mage Society and he could lose the one thing he has wanted all his life if he continues on this course – the chance to be a full blown mage.

Mind Magic combines so many of my favorite elements in one book.  It has shifters, vampires,  and demons with different takes on all.  In this universe magic is divided up into a triangle.  At the top point is the Head Magic of the mages, another point is Body Magic of the shifters with the final point that of Soul Magic (demons/vampires).  As the author sets the stage in her world, all magical beings have long thought the division between them to be rigid and final. But with Garon demonstrating an aptitude for mind magic as well as body magic, Simon, Gray and the others begin to understand that all is not as they have been told or seems.

Dennison’s alternative world is a wonderfully compelling place that pulls in the reader  completely from the very beginning and doesn’t relinquish its hold even after the story is finished.  I love the notion of the magical divisions and her unique take on all things fantastical extends to shifters and vampires.  Recently I was reading a note on the shifter thread at GoodReads where someone wondered about the difference in body mass between the human and  animal forms that disappears from most shifter fiction.  Dennison addresses that question as her shifters are much larger than the natural wolves, something that doesn’t appear often in shifter fiction.  Her shifters live in a pack in adhering to wolf natural history.  Her vampires and mages get the same attention and neat twists to them, especially her vampire who takes very little blood, only enough to sustain his magic.

The author also excels with her characters, both main and secondary.  Simon Osbourne is kind, gentle, appealing in every way.  Here it is the mages that lead a lonely life, isolated from their families and others which is used to a nice contrast with pack life.  Simon yearns to be a part of a family as his backstory makes plain.  Simon has a love of herbs and plants that his grandfather passed on to him which gives Dennison a chance to go into herbology with lovely results.  I fell in love with Simon quickly just as Gray and the children did.  Definitely not a case of “instant love” as Simon must earn Gray’s trust.  Gray Townsend is a great addition to shifter Alphas out there. He is steady, older, a wonderful father and pack leader.  Slowly Dennison shows us Gray’s history as the story continues with another interesting twist on an Alpha coming of age at 30 to emerge as leader of the pack,  Gray is a family man who takes his responsibilities seriously and still has an open outlook on the world around him.  Of all the characters in the story, it is the mages who remain the most hidebound, strictly adhering to the old ways and narrow outlook on the world around them.  Then there is Goran, Aunt Maggie, and Liam and Cormac, Simon’s “grandfather”. terrific characters, as fully fleshed out as the main characters.

Mind Magic combines some of the most wonderful supernatural elements, tosses it with a good dose of herbology, great characters, and an ongoing mystery to create a story that will continue past Mind Magic. My only quibble is that the end came sooner than I had expected and left me with more questions than were answered. But that makes sense as Mind Magic is the first in a new series called Triad Trilogy.  The next books are Body Magic and Soul Magic.  Poppy Dennison promises that we will be seeing all the wonderful characters we met here again as the series continues.   Great job, great story.  And I have a new author to love.

Cover:  I love the cover by Anne Cain.  That is Gray is every respect.  How I love her artwork.

200 pages in length.  Published by Dreamspinner Press.  Find out more about the author here at her website.

 

Note;  The next edition of Vocabulary Gone Bad will be posted next week instead of today as promised.  Sorry, guys but inspiration hit and I have to add it in somehow!