Debut Novel Review: Witchbane by Morgan Brice

The cover art for Witchbane at left, with "Morgan Brice" in the upper middle, and the title for "Witchbane" in the center. The blog tour dates are April 23rd through May 4th.
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ABOUT THE BOOK

Seth Tanner and his brother Jesse’s fun evening debunking local urban legends ends with Jesse’s gruesome murder. Seth vows revenge on Jesse’s killer–too bad the murderer has been dead for a hundred years. Seth uncovers a cycle of ritual killings that feed the power of a dark warlock’s immortal witch-disciples, and he’s hell bent on stopping Jackson Malone from becoming the next victim. He’s used to risking his neck. He never intended to risk his heart.

Paranormal Romance’s New Name is Morgan Brice

Urban Fantasy isn’t my usual genre of choice when it comes to consumer media. I walk in the shadows of the fabled heroes of the Time of Legends. I tread the same paths through the stars as the dark, malignant cosmic terrors who stalk lurid and unnameable through the sleeper’s dreaming mind. However, if a certain author pens a certain type of Urban Fantasy under certain auspicious conditions, I won’t be far behind. That is why I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Morgan Brice’s debut novel, Witchbane.

The unquiet voices of a section of Sci-Fi/Fantasy clamoring for a more inclusiveness. It is not an illusion, nor is it merely a figment of the populist imagination, that Sci-Fi and Fantasy are evolving genres. Readers are now active participants and allies of the LGBTQ community. That community is finding a voice of its own as more and more genre writers embrace inclusiveness and make attempts at writing for an audience of non-white, non-CIS-gendered readers. Though it is difficult for outsiders, it is possible to write sensitively to that audience in a genuine way that is also an engaging read to anyone interested in picking up the piece.

Disclaimer: if you do not favor novels that include a very nontraditional relationship, I suggest finding something else to drink your coffee with. Witchbane is not traditional Urban Fantasy. I think it only fair to warn you that if you give Morgan Brice’s novel a miss because you don’t like the idea of two guys madly in love with each other, you are missing out.

The cover art for Witchbane features two rugged looking men on a glowing blue effervescent background with "Witchbane" at the bottom.
Men in shirts is the new sexy. Say “Hello” to Seth and Evan!

The Review: Witchbane

Technology and Magic

Witchbane is not just an Urban Fantasy. Brice explores the depths of fear and paranoia faced every day by victims of domestic abuse. We live in a world where anyone can be exploited, and anything can be found online. Everyone could be a predator hiding in plain sight. Current technology and the ease with which we trust our information to the “ether” to is used to ratchet up the characters’ anxiety. Brice is careful not to bog her novel down in pseudo-scientific jargon. There is just enough commonplace technology necessary to keep the story moving and keep the anxiety at maximum overdrive.

And of course, don’t forget the magic. When it comes to magic in urban fantasy, we readers want to see magic users dealing with the constraints of their art and talent in a mundane world. Brice delivers. Her depiction of magic verges on the GrimDark. There’s enough blood to hold your attention for sure. Witchbane is certainly not a Horror novel. Brice does not force magic on the reader either. Magic, like technology, is a tool in Brice’s novel. Magic is great for performing small tasks, or riding into combat hell bent for leather. When it comes to Brice’s villains, blood magic is used to court dark forces. Hopefully we’ll get to see more glimpses of that heinous warlock in forthcoming material.

A Spark of Truth In Fiction

Brice has a knack for creating relatable characters, even to those who have no experience in a homosexual relationship. People of any gender identification could fall prey to an abusive partner. Many people will be able to relate to a veteran coping with civilian life.

In addition to Brice’s characterization, the novel is grounded in the reality that life is hard for homosexuals, even in a progressive Western society. Brice reminds her readers that finding meaningful connections is even harder for members of nontraditional sexuality. This is especially true in a world where at best no one is interested and at worst those minorities are aggressively disliked and marginalized.

Though heterosexual and married, Brice does not call attention to her outsider status. Brice’s language has a normalizing quality that does not break the fourth wall. She uses masculine words to describe body parts and sex organs, like “cock” and “asshole”, much the way any gay man may use them to describe a sex with a partner.

Brice’s novel clearly demarcates the relationship of her characters as that of two gay men. Brice carefully balances the work of crafting a good piece of fiction with maintaining authenticity and sensitivity. She is not simply a woman author writing about two men getting it on. Her characters are tender, endearing, and human. They are full of the same misgivings and disquiet that might be found in any new relationship that blossoms under untenable circumstances. Hopefully, Witchbane will find a place in the hearts of all lovers of paranormal romance regardless of gender identity.

A Hot Romance

In the midst of all these things is a steamy, adrenaline-fueled new love that any avid reader of hardcore romance will not want to miss. Brice literally takes both characters all the way. This was new territory for me in a lot of ways. I felt Brice handled the love scenes tastefully. I felt the language normalized the actions of the two characters. Brice shows attention to detail, and the scenes leave the reader as breathless as the characters themselves, swept away on rolling waves of passion and compassion. Masculinity is an equal part of both characters. Neither of them can be said to be wearing the pants of the relationship.

There is no shortage of meaningful plot either. A palpable sense of threat hangs over the pair as they make a mad dash to end a filthy evil. Spirits and ghosts, supernatural allies, and ritual sacrifice are part and parcel of Witchbane. Brice brings a love of ghost stories, supernatural encounters, urban legends, and folklore to Witchbane, filling out the novel’s pulse-racing story.

Conclusion

Those looking for a great romance that spares no hapless bystander will find lots to look forward to in Witchbane. There’s enough magic and mayhem that even the GrimDark readers will find it satisfying. Brice’s novel is a refreshing take on both the romance genre and the urban fantasy genre. Urban Fantasy and Roman are two genres in both large-scale and indie publishing that tend to be so traditional they might as well have a problem with the color of the Starbucks cups at Christmas. Brice introduces us to a world of new devilry to rival any good pop-corn-popping urban fantasy series. Witchbane is  a gorgeous love story. Her two beautiful characters that can best be described as so very real, so very human, and so very fun.

A new-found love will roar its way through scenic Richmond, Virginia. You can pick up Witchbane in the Muscular Shirtless Man section of any big-box bookstore! Don’t forget to get your Kindle edition here, or get your hands on a physical copy on Amazon.

About the Author: Morgan Brice

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.

On the rare occasions Morgan isn’t writing, she’s either reading, cooking, or spoiling two very pampered dogs.

Watch for additional new series from Morgan Brice, and more books in the Witchbane universe coming soon!

You can find Morgan Brice on Facebook in The Worlds of Morgan Brice Facebook group. Her Twitter is @MorganBriceBook. You can see what’s new on Gail and Morgan’s Pinterest page.

Blog site: https://morganbrice.com

Print Length: 244 pages

Publisher: Darkwind Press (February 19, 2018)

Publication Date: February 19, 2018

ISBN-10: 1939704685

ISBN-13: 978-1939704689

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