Dark Rivers (Witchbane #2)
Author: Morgan Brice
Publisher: Darkwind Press
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Genre/s: Urban Fantasy, M/M paranormal romance
Length: approx. 85 000 words
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One hundred years ago, a sheriff’s posse killed dark warlock Rhyfel Gremory, but his witch-disciples escaped, and their magic made them nearly immortal. To keep their power, each year one of the witch-disciples kills a descendant of one of the men in the posse, a twelve-year cycle that has cost dozens of lives, including that of Seth Tanner’s brother, Jesse.
Seth uncovers the cycle of ritual killings that feeds the power of the witch-disciples, and he's hell bent on getting vengeance for Jesse and stopping the murders. His fledgling romantic relationship with Evan Malone complicates his mission, but Seth can’t walk away. Seth and Evan are learning to navigate their partnership—as lovers and monster hunters—while they chase the next witch-disciple and avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention.
When the hunt takes Seth and Evan to Pittsburgh on the trail of the next killer, they’ll have to save the intended victim and take down the powerful witch. If the skills they possess and the bond between them isn’t enough, the evil will remain unchallenged, and more people will die...
“If the sun hasn’t set yet, and there’s no moon, where’s that blue glow coming from?”
Clouds covered the sky, blotting out the dull, late-afternoon sun, and the overhead branches dimmed the light even more. Yet beneath the trees, the snow reflected a twilight indigo, and the shadows all around beneath the trees seemed to have grown darker.
Seth wasn’t a medium, and he had no talent for seeing or hearing the dead. But his experiences hunting supernatural creatures attuned him to the presence of things that went bump in the night, and now he was certain that they weren’t alone.
“We mean you no harm,” Seth said to the blue glow and the empty forest around them. “We’re just looking for information about the witch. Can you help us?”
A sparkling haze gradually filled in between the leafless trees, and as it shifted on the wind, Seth thought he saw forms and faces. Evan was already laying down a salt circle around where they stood, reinforcing it with iron filings. Both substances interfered with ghosts’ ability to manifest and sapped their strength to cause harm.
“Seth, look.” Evan pointed toward the hanging tree. Where only moments ago, it had been nothing but bare branches, now, a shadowed form swung slowly, suspended by a rope around its neck, the head tilted at an unnatural angle.
“We’re here to end the killing,” Seth said, forcing himself to look away from the hanged man, pushing back the memories of Jesse’s body, suspended like that, soaked with blood. As if he could guess Seth’s thoughts, Evan placed a hand on Seth’s forearm, grounding him to the here and now. “We want to stop the witch that caused your pain, keep him from hurting anyone else.”
Overhead, a cold wind stirred the branches, and the trees creaked and rattled. Seth shivered as the temperature dropped. Figures now stood amid the headstones in the old cemetery, and their stance suggested that they were ready for a fight.
“Give me something I can use to stop the witch,” Seth begged the ghosts. “He went by many names—Thane. Carmody. Brunrichter. Wiegand. Whatever he called himself—we want to make him stop.”
The wind carried the whispers of spectral voices, and the blue mist roiled with internal energy. Evan yanked off his gloves, then withdrew a small slate writing board and a piece of chalk from the pocket of his parka. As Seth continued to talk to the ghosts, he saw out of the corner of his eye as Evan carefully drew one of the sigils he’d been practicing, a bit of rote magic that was likely to come in handy.
Seth feared they might need to fight their way clear since the ghosts seemed more interested in intimidation than supplying information.
Seth’s eyes widened as he saw movement. An invisible hand traced shaky block letters on a snow-covered embankment beside the road. W-A-T-C-H.
“Watch?” Seth repeated aloud. “Watch out? Watch for something?”
He could feel the press of spirits all around them, and Seth remembered that the ghosts of Blue Mist Road had a reputation for being unfriendly to intruders. Whatever their cryptic message meant, Seth had the feeling they had worn out their welcome.
The mist grew thick around them. Seth realized that the ominous figures from the cemetery had moved closer and that the hanged man was no longer suspended from his noose. He and Evan were safe for the moment within the salt circle, but they were also trapped inside their sanctuary.
“Ready?” Evan asked. He’d been practicing the small magicks that involved drawing arcane symbols and activating them with concentration; those had come more easily to him than the spoken spells Seth had learned. Seth recognized the drawing Evan made on the slate and hoped to hell the banishment sigil worked.
“Go for it,” he said, crossing his fingers.
Evan closed the last line on the sigil and placed his fingertips on the magical symbol, imbuing it with his will and life energy. The drawing flared gold and then white, so bright Seth and Evan had to avert their eyes as a blast wave of light radiated all around them.
When they opened their eyes, the blue mist and the spirits it harbored were gone, as was the writing in the snow.
“Come on,” Seth said, grabbing Evan by the arm and pulling him toward the truck. “Let’s get out of here before they decide to come back.
When this author published the first book from this series, Witchbane, I was duly impressed with how she nailed that story since it was her first foray into M/M. Now with several more in the genre under her belt, she’s turned out an even stronger story here with Dark Rivers, the second book in the Witchbane series. Already a solid writer in urban fantasy, Dark Rivers showcases that talent brilliantly while continuing to build on the lore created in Witchbane.
We join Seth and Evan (he prefers being called Evan over Jackson, hence the difference in name in this book) as they are preparing to go after another witch disciple to keep him from taking another innocent life. Their relationship, while still in its early stages, has become stronger and more solid after what they went through in book one which does keep the stakes high here as well—especially since it seems there’s more than just the obvious villain this time around.
There is a constant buzz of suspense throughout the story, and there is always something to keep you on edge as you read. To add to that, there are issues that both Seth and Evan continue to work through not just with their relationship, but from their pasts as well which helps to keep the tension high when doubts surface at inopportune moments. Alongside the excitement and action there is the ongoing attraction and their seemingly unlimited chemistry with the accompanying intimate scenes to keep things scorching hot between them.
I really liked the supporting characters that were brought into this story, and how it feels like a team is building in this supernatural fight. Everyone has their own special talents (whether paranormal or mundane), and they all contribute to the story in some shape or form. Since you’d expect the trend in a series like this would mean the baddies get stronger as the series progresses, I really am partial to the idea of Seth and Evan having their own strong backup as well.
Dark Rivers sucked me in from the start, and I read it in a single sitting. It was a 5-star read for me, and I highly recommend this book and series to M/M paranormal romance/urban fantasy fans. I strongly suggest reading Witchbane first—there is a lot of background information covered in that book, and it does set the stage for the lore that Dark Rivers builds upon…you will probably be a little lost if you read these out of order. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, especially since it looks like it will be set in a town I lived in for a while! This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content.
About the Author
Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions. Look for her other books—Witchbane, Burn (a Witchbane novella #1.5 ), and Badlands.
Blog/Website - Facebook Group: The Worlds of Morgan Brice - Twitter: @MorganBriceBook - Pinterest: Morgan Brice board
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