For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’m stepping outside my fantasy/sci-fi comfort zone and reviewing something a bit unusual: a story of pagan magick in modern society!
It was a simple protection spell, what could possibly go wrong? Everything and then some!
Sandra Blackwell wants to help her friend find peace and protection after a nasty break up. Little did she know that Elaine’s home was already under protection – if you call flickering lights and depression protection. After the bulbs begin to blow and they realize something has backfired, they battle their own mental and emotional demons to fix what Sandra did. Two Egyptian Gods play with Sandra’s understanding of who she is and Elaine is floating in her own personal limbo after the blow up of her relationship and the backfire of a well intentioned spell. Can they fix things without it all blow up in their faces?
The first in a series of stories following Sandra and Elaine, Backfire introduces the characters and establishes their life together. Friends since middle school, the two are now getting established in their careers. Magick, love, and unexpected happenings follow them all over the place.
My Review: 4 Stars
I found this an utterly fascinating book! While many other novels skirt the issue of spell-casting and magick, this felt more like a how-to primer on the concepts. I walked away from the reading knowing a lot bit more about paganism, the pagan lifestyle, belief system, and practices. It had me curious and wanting to find out what else I can learn. Definitely going to keep reading the next books to delve more into pagan practices!
There’s not a whole lot in the way of action or suspense—just two women trying to find out what went wrong with the spell. There was a lot of interesting concepts presented through the pages of the novel, offering information without cramming the belief system or practices down a reader’s throat. Well-presented, thoughtfully laid out, and set in an interesting (if slow-moving) story.
100% worth the read for anyone interested in learning more about paganism!
Here’s a Taste:
Sandra opened the window a crack to let a bit of fresh air into the room. The incense smoke swirled in the breeze as it was sucked out the window. As the air cleared she blinked the smoke from her own eyes.
“Well that sucked,” she muttered under her breath. “Back to square one.” She pushed her hair away from her forehead, brushing the sweat away from her brow.
She looked about the now smoke free room and sighed. Picking up the athame she began to put her ritual and spell tools away. Sandra put each tool into its place in the box she pulled out from under the altar table. The wand, the incense burner, and the athame each had a special compartment in the ornately carved oak box. As she put the pentacle plate and the bowl into their pouches she gazed into her own reflection in the blade of the boline.
The curved blade, shaped like a crescent, was affixed to a piece of deer antler. The antler was hand carved with delicate Celtic knot work and the blade itself had been hand forged by her grandfather. Her eyes were captured in the blade’s surface, reflecting back her own frustration at the failed spell. Her hand shook a little and she broke her own personal staring match.
“Oh, stop it!” she admonished herself. “No sense in crying over spilt milk.”
She tucked the boline away into its pouch and picked up the simple silver chalice she preferred to use for her personal workings. Her gaze went to her reflection in the curved metal and she paused. What she saw in that reflection was different from the narrow bladed reflection of the boline. She could see more than just her eyes. She could see the frown of her lips and the smudge of soot on her nose where she had touched her face after snuffing out the candles with her dampened fingertips. The smudge made her grin a little and as she watched her lips twist in the curve of the chalice she couldn’t help but giggle at the image. The giggle soon turned into a laugh.
She took up a small terry towel and wiped out the chalice before placing it into the box as well. All the while laughing to herself.
“Hmm. Wonder what I did wrong this time.” She shook her head and made sure that she had placed all the tools in the box before closing it and putting it back under the altar. “Too much sandalwood in the incense? Or what is it the wrong color for the candles?” She wrinkled her brow with thought and picked up the remains of the failed spell materials. A bit of burnt twine, blackened parchment, and a small cracked quartz. She brushed it all into her hand and got up from the pillow on the floor.
As she left the small room she used for rituals, spell work, and meditation it was as if she walked from one world into another. Her bearing and attitude changed as soon as she stepped over the threshold. She hurried off to the kitchen and dumped the remains of the spell materials into the trash before washing her hands at the sink. She wiped the smudge from her nose with the dampened towel and filled a glass with water from the tap.
Her phone made a beep. Picking it up she saw that her best friend Elaine was texting her.
YES. WHAT UP?
WEIRDNESS AROUND HERE. WAT U DID?
WAT U MEAN?
THINGS WEIRD HERE. SAW U IN CORNER OF EYE & THINGS WENT WEIRD.
??? SAW ME?
YES. IN CORNER OF EYE. WEIRD!
Sandra’s phone rang in reply to her last text. “What do you mean you saw me? I’ve been here all afternoon.”
“I saw you out of the corner of my eye. I did. And then everything started to go weird.”
“What do you mean weird?”
“The light in the bathroom blew as I saw you out of the corner of my eye. It was like catching a glimpse of you in the mirror and then boom! The light bulb blew. Scared the shit of me, I tell you!”
“Wow, I imagine. You said things went weird. More than just the blown bulb?”
“Oh, yeah! A lot more. I ran out of the bathroom, scared the shit of me. Almost literally. The lights were flickering in the whole apartment. What did you do?!”
“I, uh…” she hesitated. Elaine knew she was a witch, but trying to explain magick to her was not always easy. “I just tried to cast a spell. It didn’t work.”
“Didn’t work? Elaine asked. “What on Earth were you trying to do?” Her tone of voice was enough to convince Sandra that she wasn’t going to have to explain much about magick. At least not just yet.
“I was trying to bring you peace,” she replied flatly.
“You call this peace?” her tone was almost accusatory.
“No. I said the spell failed. Nothing seemed to happen on my end.” Sandra was grasping for an explanation in her own mind. She cast a spell for peace in Elaine’s life and nothing seemed to happen.
“Girl! Something happened here on my end!” Elaine’s voice rose in pitch a notch and her volume was increasing. “What the hell were you doing!?”
“I did what I always do. I made my Circle, laid out my tools and worked the spell. Other than a lot of choking incense smoke, nothing happened. Nothing,” she was really at a loss here. She couldn’t fathom that a simple spell for something positive would cause anything to go wrong, let alone on the other side of town.
“Okay. Let’s take a breath.” She could hear her friend take a deep breath and exhale loudly over the cell’s speaker. Instinctively she did the same thing. “Now, tell me exactly what you did.”
“But you don’t believe in magick.”
About the Author
Philipp Kessler is a man of many hats. An accomplished High Priest in the Covenant of Kernunnos Tradition, Phil has been an active practitioner for 25 years and has followed his passion for knowledge by climbing the ivory tower of the written word, from some of the oldest available works to modern, in the moment writings.
This desire for knowledge has led him to change his hat to pursue another passion, which is broadcasting. He has been co-host of the longest-running pagan radio show, Murphy’s Magic Mess, for 8 and a half years and has been co-host of Pagan Musings on Blog Talk Radio for 8 years and Pagan Weekly News, also available on Blog Talk Radio, for 5 years and co-host of Lavender Hill, a weekly LGBTQIA news show on KZUM public radio for 6 years.
Phil donned his reviewers cap and became a regular contributor to Green Egg magazine and his leadership cap led him to being published in Pagan Leadership Anthology: An Exploration of Leadership and Community in Paganism and Polytheism edit by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor Ellwood.
Phil changes his hat again and is an editor and the founder of Saturn Returns Publishing.
He turns around again, changing his hat as he does, and he is an author of pagan fiction & poetry, with many stories in different genres (from horror to speculative historical fiction) in the works. His first title in the Dark of the Moon, New Beginnings series, Backfire, came out on April 1, 2017, quickly followed by volume two in that series, Waterfall, on May 1.
But most of all, he wears the hat of butler to his 3 feline rulers, tending to their every need with utmost devotion.
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