Fantasy and Paranormal Romances seem to be everywhere these days, and Cheyenne McCray’s Forbidden Magic stands as one of the most entertaining I’ve read in some time. While not perfect, it is a sexy and exciting read.
Silver Ashcroft is a D’Anu witch, sworn to practice only white magic. Without her coven’s knowledge, she secretly uses gray magic in her battle against the evil forces plaguing San Francisco. Gray magic is used with the intention of helping, but risks disrupting the natural order of things or inadvertently causing harm. The line between gray and black magic is thin, and a witch who’s not careful can be corrupted by the power available and turn to outright black magic. But with so much evil in the world that must be stopped, Silver uses gray magic without regret, believing she can control it.
The latest threat comes from a coven of Balorite witches practicing blood magic, the blackest of the black since it involves human sacrifices. As the story opens, Silver moves in to save a kidnapped girl they plan to use in their ritual, but a mysterious man appears and saves the child before she even has a chance. He sees straight through her magical shields and moves faster than any being she knows. He also happens to be sexy as hell. But the news he brings her stuns her.
Hawk is a Tuatha D’Danann warrior, part of an ancient race of Fae who protect the natural order. Like the rest of the Fae, he left this plane of existence to live in Otherworld, but he returns with a dire warning for Silver. The Balorites are being used to summon the Fomorii, former sea gods transformed into demons and banished to Underworld beneath the ocean floor centuries ago. Vicious and evil, the Fomorii would not – and will not – stop until they conquer Earth. In a true battle of good and evil, Silver and Hawk must stand together and lead both their kinds against this powerful threat.
McCray weaves an inventive storyline and does an admirable job easing the reader into this complicated world in an understandable way. The story is easy to follow from the start, with just the right amounts of exposition delivered at the right times, while also moving at a brisk pace. It’s a cool premise, with this high-stakes supernatural battle being played out in the modern world. The author convincingly makes it seem as though these witches, demons and winged warriors are staging their battle in a contemporary setting in a way some paranormals don’t pull off.
Silver is an easy heroine to get behind, a strong fighter with relatable feelings and fierce determination. Her struggle to remain on the side of good while being tempted to use black magic unfolds in a compelling way over the course of the story. She and Hawk are a good match, both strong-willed beings willing to do whatever it takes to fight a perceived threat, even if it means defying the orders of their superiors. There are two main villains, both of whom are believably evil and terrifying in different ways. The story has a good flow, moving easily from the fast-paced action scenes to the character moments and stage-setting in between. At well over 400 pages, this is a bigger romance than many published these days, but they flew by.
“Burning” doesn’t even begin to describe the book’s level of sensuality. McCray is an established erotic romance author with a number of Ellora’s Cave titles under her belt, and she doesn’t tame things down one bit here. Readers with more delicate sensibilities would do well to steer clear, as the sex is frank, explicit, and no holds barred. The most hardcore scenes belong to the primary female villain, Junga, as she assumes a human form and discovers the pleasures available to her in this body by taking on multiple partners and engaging in S&M. Hawk and Silver only have sex with each other, but by no means are their encounters less hot.
As I said, it’s not perfect. Some of the development of the secondary characters and the worldbuilding could be stronger. My biggest disappointment was the big showdown the story spends the whole book building to. Unlike with the rest of the book’s action sequences, it’s occasionally confusing, with the action less clear than it could be, and ultimately underwhelming. While it does bring the current crisis to a close, the author purposely leaves several threads unresolved in a jarring way to be continued later, which was less than satisfying. As soon as the climax was over, I thought, “That’s it?” and started to suspect this was the beginning of a series. Sure enough, the back cover confirmed it. I’m all for seeing more stories in this world, but this tactic was annoying. However, the love story does have more conclusive and satisfying ending, which may be all many readers will care about.
Strong characters, great action, hot sex and a wonderful inventiveness make Forbidden Magic a paranormal romance that really delivers.