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Review: Smoke on the Water – Final Book of The Sisters of the Craft – Lori Handeland

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Four-hundred years. Infant Willow Black was sent four-hundred years, to today, this time and place, a place “without magic.” A place where she and her sisters, triplets all, can be safe. But now, Willow is an inmate of the Northern Wisconsin Mental Health Facility – i.e., the loony bin. Not so safe after all.
To save their daughters from slaughter at the hands of McHugh, an evil, vicious “witch hunter” Henry and Pru willing gave their lives in the flames of the pyre in order to send their daughters forward in time – to a time when no one believes in witches. But the thing is, now time is rolling back around again – and the evil of those who call themselves “hunters of evil” yet are truly the most evil of all, have brought McHugh back into the world, spreading slaughter and fire in their wake.
Today, magic has been overrun by technology. But Wiccans still exist – Wiccans, whose one immutable law is “Harm None”. The followers of McHugh, the Venatores Mali, are so cruel that those who harm none are considered evil by those who commit the most evil of deeds in the name of so-called ‘good’. Such twisted minds, that ritual slaughter of innocents is considered godly.
McHugh is back. Reborn into the world, his followers gathered around him. And now, the three girls, Raye, an Air Witch, Becca, an animal communicator, and now Willow, Water Witch and the third of the triplets, must work together to stop the Hunters, to send McHugh back to the darkness.
“Ignorance. Illiteracy. Hubris and insecurity, mad obsession. Once upon a time, long ago, in the bad, ignorant, evil times of King James and his Danish queen, there was a great storm. James, an ignorant, religious fool, thought to himself, “Such a storm can only have been caused by witchcraft!” And in his ignorance and fear, he called to himself Roland McHugh, witch hunter, who he placed in charge of a secret society, known as Venatores Mali – Hunters of Evil. And from those savage beginnings there began an age of slaughter, of blood and death of innocents such as hearkened to war. And Roland McHugh spread his evil across Europe, spraying blood and hatred in his path. . . Roland McHugh – who, according to his Wikipedia entry, “had burned more witches than anyone in history.” (My words, not the author’s)

This is the third, and final, book of the Sisters of the Craft series. You can read my reviews for books one and two at tinyurl (dot) com/p8yvpat . I enjoyed all three of the books. They easily fit within the Paranormal Romance category, but they can also fit well within Urban Fantasy. The storylines are interesting, the characters well designed, and the meld of history and fiction is quite good.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. If you enjoy my reviews, please click “Like” at goodreads and Amazon so that my reviews will draw more attention for the authors. Thank you!

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Review: Heat of the Moment (Sisters of the Craft Book 2) Lori Handeland

Heat of the Moment (Sisters of the Craft, #2)“People who claim that they’re evil are usually no worse than the rest of us… It’s people who claim that they’re good, or any way better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.” ― Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

“You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?” ― Mark Twain

What truly constitutes evil? Is it those who do things for the sake of evil? Or the ones who do it in the name of “good”? Whether one or the other, Roland McHugh is pure evil. Evil which would put the worst of the demons of any religions hell to shame. Roland McHugh – the personal witch hunter of King James – pouring his evil over the Scottish countryside, his rage, hatred and serial murders in the name of James and the Church focusing, finally, upon the family of Henry and Prudence Taggart and their three infant daughters. McHugh ignored his own wife’s pleas for the midwife, Prudence, until it was too late to save either her or the child. But far be it from the monstrous McHugh to take the blame upon himself.

Ignorance. Illiteracy. Hubris and insecurity, mad obsession. Once upon a time, long ago, in the bad, ignorant, evil times of King James and his Danish queen, there was a great storm. James, an ignorant, religious fool, thought to himself, “Such a storm can only have been caused by witchcraft!” And in his ignorance and fear, he called to himself Roland McHugh, witch hunter, who he placed in charge of a secret society, known as Venatores Mali – Hunters of Evil. And from those savage beginnings there began an age of slaughter, of blood and death of innocents such as hearkened to war. And Roland McHugh spread his evil across Europe, spraying blood and hatred in his path. . . Roland McHugh – who, according to his Wikipedia entry, “had burned more witches than anyone in history.” (My words, not the author’s)

To save their daughters from slaughter at the hands of McHugh Henry and Pru willing gave their lives in the flames of the pyre in order to send their daughters forward in time – to a time when no one believes in witches. But the thing is, now time is rolling back around again – and the evil of those who call themselves “hunters of evil” yet are truly the most evil of all, are working to bring McHugh back into the world, spreading slaughter and fire in their wake.

The girls were sent 400 years into the future, to today, when magic has been overrun by technology. But Wiccans still exist – Wiccans, whose one immutable law is “Harm None”. So cruel that those who harm none are considered evil by those who commit the most evil of deeds in the name of so-called ‘good’. Such twisted minds, that ritual slaughter of innocents is considered godly.

In the Air Tonightintroduced us to Raye, Air Witch, speaker with ghosts, the very In the Air Tonight (Sisters of the Craft, #1)definition of a foundling. She was found tossed on the side of a highway, no clothing, no blanket – simply a tiny infant, left beside the road, apparently to die. Adopted by the Larsen’s, a good New Bergin, Wisconsin family, Raye never knew who left her by the side of the road. Now, in “Heat of the Moment”, we meet Becca Carstairs, Veterinarian, speaker with animals, and second daughter of Henry and Pru. Lovely, sweet Becca, who has no idea that she is anything but her parent’s daughter. And no idea why someone is trying to murder her. With Henry and Pru to guide her, Raye finds her way to Becca. But will she be too late to save her sister from a madman?

I am absolutely loving this series by Lori Handeland. The narrative is tightly woven, the characters well written, and the historical background beautifully, heartrendingly designed. The Christian religious connotations are sharply and bone-chillingly drawn, showcasing the hatreds and obsessions of a barbaric time brought forward into the beliefs of modern times. The reality upon which the story is based is deeply, deeply disturbing – especially in light of the religious hatreds still extant today. This is a wonderful series I hope you will enjoy.

The next book, “Smoke on the Water” will tell Willow Black’s story. Willow’s story begins on the banks of a Northern Wisconsin creek, beneath a willow tree. Willow’s story is next on my list – and I am greatly looking forward to it.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review.

Note to the Publisher:
Guys, Really! I never would have picked up these books on my own, based upon the cover art and titles. They come off as Young Adult novels if you simply look at the cover, but these are adult-centric books. The titles have only a passing reflection of the book contents. “In the Air Tonight” sounds like a Harlequin Romance, and “Heat of the Moment” does as well.  The books are much better than that, and deserve better titles and covers. I get it, Raye is an Air Elemental, Becca Fire, but still.

Review: In The Air Tonight by Lori Handeland

In The Air Tonight by Lori HandelandReligion as a human phenomenon is as riddled through with potential for both good and evil as any other phenomenon. — Richard John Neuhaus

The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding. — Albert Camus

Ignorance. Illiteracy. Hubris and insecurity, mad obsession. Once upon a time, long ago, in the bad, ignorant, evil times of King James and his Danish queen, there was a great storm. James, an ignorant, religious fool, thought to himself, “Such a storm can only have been caused by witchcraft!” And in his ignorance and fear, he called to himself Roland McHugh, witch hunter, who he placed in charge of a secret society, known as Venatores Mali – Hunters of Evil. And from those savage beginnings there began an age of slaughter, of blood and death of innocents such as hearkened to war. And Roland McHugh spread his evil across Europe, spraying blood and hatred in his path. . . Roland McHugh – who, according to his Wikipedia entry, “had burned more witches than anyone in history.” (My words, not the author’s)

Ignorance. It was, of course, a filthy, superstitious time – a time when the Christian church was doing its best to wipe out any other religion, subsuming beliefs, co-opting holidays and celebrations, changing peaceful pagan ritual instruments into Christian tools of torture. And what better victims than those who healed the sick, assisted the elderly and weak, assisted in the birth of children, and stayed by the dying on their way to wherever souls travel? Who worshiped outside, under the stars and moon, often led by women, instead of in a cathedral, led by men – men who wanted to control everything from medicine to beliefs to (most importantly) wealth? What else to do but declare them evil, devil worshipers, monsters who should be slaughtered, burned at the stake, pulled apart by horses? Women. Men. Children.

Infants.

McHugh’s wife died in childbirth, McHugh waiting too long to summon the midwife, allowing her to bleed out before help could arrive. There was nothing Prudence Taggart could do to save either wife or child. Witchcraft. Witchcraft, of course, what else could it be? So Prudence, and her husband, Henry, were burned at the stake. But not before they were able to cast a spell – for all that they were goodness and purity, lovers of the world and humanity and nature, they actually were witches – witches of healing, witches of creation and beauty. And as they died, they set a spell in motion, sending their three infant daughters, three days old, far into the future. Far far into the future, where “no one believes in witches any longer.”

But even now, the Venatores Mali have returned, slashing a path of fire and slaughter in their wake. The slaughter of Wiccans. Wiccans – whose one main belief, one true calling and law, is Do No Harm. The murders are horrific, murders of men, women, children. All slaughtered, all burned to some degree. Horrific actions, all carried out in the name of McHugh. Of the Vanatores Mali. Of a god who I would hope would shudder and turn her head away from what is being carried out in her name. But who must, certainly, no longer care, or no longer even watch. Why else such a nightmare of a world?

Raye Larsen is the very definition of a foundling. She was found tossed on the side of a highway, no clothing, no blanket – simply a tiny infant, left beside the road to die. Adopted by the Larsen’s, a good New Bergin, Wisconsin family, Raye never knew who left her by the side of the road. She never knew why she saw ghosts. She did, however, know that her ‘father’ told her ‘mother’ one night, after Raye had once again been caught talking to someone who wasn’t visible, “Take her to a psychiatrist?” my father repeated. “I was thinking of taking her back.” Talk about feelings of inadequacy, of fear, and loneliness, of an incessant need to please. “If I wasn’t “right” I could be returned like a broken chair or a moldy loaf of bread.” What a terrible way to live, always fearful that the only family you have ever known could throw you away like trash. So, she stopped, as best she could, interacting with ghosts.

But now, someone is trying to kill Raye. Someone who has already killed one woman in New Bergin. In fact, they have tried to kill her twice. And when a New Orleans detective, Bobby Doucet, shows up in New Bergin to verify a strange brand on the neck of the first victim, to verify that the serial killer who struck New Orleans a year ago is now killing again, far to the North of NOLA, the deaths fall hard and fast. There are things Raye knows – things she can’t tell Bobby. Bobby, who thinks of anything mystical as, “The dead don’t come back… Anyone who says so is a liar. Probably a thief and a charlatan too.” And as things become more and more tense, more dangerous, Bobby Doucet’s prejudice may just be the death of both of them.

Bobby’s pure, pigheaded stubbornness was the only thing about the book that really irritated me. As you get into the book you realize what caused his disbelief, and you can’t help but hurt for him. But when you get hit over the head several times and still don’t understand that someone is standing behind you hitting you on the head with a 2”x4”, well, I still stayed irritated at him. Then, that’s just me. Honestly, I adored this book. Absolutely adored it. I did it in one sitting (yes, it flippin’ rained again today – downpour, lightning, thunder, the whole nine yards. Oregon wasn’t this wet.) and finished at 2AM. And yes, I have already preordered the next in the series. They are all three up on Amazon (three sisters, three stories – though no one knows where the youngest sister ‘landed’ as of this book.) I love it. Raye is believable in her reactions to everything, the ghosts are awesome, and the Evil just that – believably evil.

Bobby:“How could a seventeenth-century Scottish witch-hunting society kill someone in America in the twenty-first century?

Raye: “There are still Nazis.” “Any society can be revived. For that matter, any one can start a society and slap any name on it that they want. It’s America.”

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. Note to the Publisher:
Guys, Really! I never would have picked up the book on my own, based upon the cover art and title. It comes off as a very young Young Adult novel if you simply look at the cover. The title has only a passing reflection of the book contents. “In the Air Tonight” sounds like a Harlequin Romance.  the book is much better than that, and deserves a better title and cover.

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