Broken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore

broken soulsBroken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore (DAW, Aug. 5th, 2014)-Oh, man, have I missed Eric Carter. Shame on Stephen Blackmoore for not writing faster for my enjoyment! Just kidding, I’m willing to wait, because I know it’ll be worth it, and Broken Souls proves that. To catch you up a bit, Eric isn’t exactly the luckiest guy. His sister was murdered not too long ago. His best friend, Alex, is dead, and his ex-girlfriend Vivian (who was hooked up with Alex), blames him and won’t speak to him (he doesn’t blame her), and he’s married to Santa Muerte (he made a deal, long story), whose grinning skull does nothing to put a man in the mood. No, seriously, she’s claimed Eric as her own, which comes with a few magical perks, but Eric will gladly trade those perks for his freedom. Anyway, his priority, at the beginning of Broken Souls, is finding a way out of the deal he made with Santa Muerte, and calls on a mage he knows to help him out. Except, someone is squatting in the mage’s skin and wielding an obsidian blade, and he (it?) is out to skin Eric. Nothing our hero can’t handle, right?

Luckily, Eric does have a little help in the form of the Bruja, who runs a half-way house for vamps and other “others”, and he’s getting advice from something that looks and sounds like Alex, but he’s not sure it actually is Alex. He does know it’s not a ghost, but other than that, he’s at a loss. But, Eric will take what he can get. What exactly is driving this killer, and why is he after Eric? The answer may be more than Eric and his new friends bargain for, but they have no choice but to try to stop it. And what exactly does Santa Muerte want from Eric? She’s being coy, but right now, it’s really the least of his problems.

This is a fantastic series. Eric talks tough and acts like he doesn’t need anyone, but under all that bluster is a core of loneliness-keep an eye out for a scene where the Bruja calls him out on exactly this. Speaking of the Bruja…she’s awesome, and she’s my favorite new character (well, sorta new-see City of the Lost.) She’s funny too, so bonus points. She and Eric play off each other perfectly. So, yeah, there are some funny lines in this book, but things get really dark, as they usually do, and gawd…my jaw dropped in a few places. See, I’m kind of a pain in the ass reader. It’s hard to surprise me. Blackmoore surprised me. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a great thing, but damn…

Anyway, Broken Souls is chock full of great and gory fight scenes, ghosts, gods, double crosses out the wazoo, and, like I said, plenty of surprises. I love Blackmoore’s noir-tinged supernatural L.A., and the city is almost a character unto itself. I love the little historical tidbits that Eric throws out-it really adds some atmosphere to an already very atmospheric story. I’ve become really, really picky when it comes to urban fantasy lately, and there’s a group of authors that are writing consistently excellent stuff: Chuck Wendig, Chris F. Holm, ML Brennan (and a few more)…and Stephen Blackmoore. I can’t wait for the next book in this series. This one will keep you up late. Promise. I would like one of those calaveras etched rings though…

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