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What is Ashes of Onyx?

They stole her magic.

They killed her friends.

Nothing in the multiverse will stop her quest for revenge.

Kate Rossdale once held all the promise of becoming Baltimore’s greatest sorceress. But promise is a hard thing to hold when your coven is murdered, your magic is stripped away, and the only solace left to you comes one powdered line at a time.

When she’s offered the restoration of her power by a man she doesn’t know or trust, Kate sets in motion the retribution of her enemies.

Soon she finds herself racing across the globe, and across worlds, venturing into exotic realms of forbidden dreams, to the spires of Lost Carcosa, hunting for the magic-thief who robbed her of everything she held dear, including the most dangerous magic any sorceress can possess—hope.

Review

ASHES OF ONYX by Seth Skorkowsky is the first of a new series by an author I’ve very much enjoyed the previous works of. I’m a huge fan of the Valducan series, which is a set of novels following multiple protagonists wielding magic demon-slaying weapons. I’m also a Tales of the Black Raven fan, which is a collection of compiled short stories featuring a master thief. Finally, I love Seth Skorkowsky’s many Youtube series that were winners of an ENnies Award last year for best game reviews.

The premise is Kate Rossdale is a failed magus, having lost all of her sorcery in a horrific accident that destroyed her tower. This is an urban fantasy version of Earth where humans have Hermetic orders of sorcerers with some references to Aleister Crowley. Kate has been reduced to identifying magical artifacts for collectors in order to fund her drug habit, using dust to substitute for the feeling of sorcery at her fingertips. Kate’s life gets a chance to get back on track, however, when a mysterious benefactor offers her the chance to regain her magic in exchange for being bound to do him a favor of immense value. From there, they find themselves visiting other dimensions and challenging sorcerous overlords.

I really enjoyed this book, that reminded me a bit of Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow series with its mixture of 1970s-esque psychadelic dimensions, the use of H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, and its flawed antiheroes. Kate Rossdale is an intriguing heroine and I liked watching her struggle with her addiction and her constant attempt to rationalize why she wasn’t an addict. She recovered her powers a bit too quickly but this helped underscore that her problems with dust went beyond a mere need to feel magic again.

This is definitely influenced by the Cthulhu Mythos and probably could be considered to be part of it but it is closer to urban fantasy rather than horror. The depiction of the Dreamlands is weird and surreal but fits the kind of environment that Lovecraft dreamed up. I also like the interaction with the characters who felt believably flawed and three-dimensional.

This is a solid urban fantasy novel for the first half of the novel that switches into full-on fantasy for the latter half. There’s some truly satisfying moments here like Kate’s “wizard duel”, the romance developed midway through the book, and also the final confrontation with Kate’s chief tormentor. I think this is a great novel and if you’re looking for a good mage book then you could do a lot worse.

Available here

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