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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Time For Witches by Craig Schaefer (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Pre-order A Time For Witches over HERE
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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Craig Schaefer was born in Chicago and wanted to be a writer since a very young age. His writing was inspired by Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft. After reaching his 40th birthday he decided to give in to his passion and since then has released twelve novels in the last three years. He currently lives in North Carolina and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Once upon a time, Lionel Page didn’t believe in magic.

That was before his odyssey to New York City, and the quest for a lost manuscript that ended in mysteries, murder, and the buried secrets of his own past. He used to be a professional skeptic. Now he’s a witch in the service of Hekate, chasing myths across the heartland of a haunted America.

The reappearance of a hero from Greek legend is just one sign of the coming storm. There are Amazons on the highway, and death-spirits lurking in cheap roadside motels. And Madison, Lionel’s lover, is on a mission of her own. A mission, fueled by vengeance, to slay a man who can’t be killed: her ex-husband. If Lionel doesn’t catch up with her in time, neither of them will survive.

In Ghosts of Gotham, Lionel Page opened his eyes to the real world. Now he has to fight to protect it.

FORMAT/INFO:
A Time For Witches is divided over fifty-five chapters, and an afterword. Narration is in the third-person, via Lionel Page and Madison Hannah. This is the second volume of the Secret History/Ghosts Of Gotham series.

October 14, 2020 will mark the North American paperback and e-book publication of A Time Of Witches and it is being self-published by the author. Cover design is by James T. Egan.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: A Time For Witches is the direct sequel to Ghosts Of Gotham, and not the standalone that Craig has previously written and spoken about (you can access that via his Patreon page). The story begins just over a month after the events of New York City where Lionel Page found out about the hidden world, his own heritage and who Regina Dunkle is. He also met Madison Hannah over there and his life changed UN. Now that he's been alerted to the real nature of the world, he has (kind of) accepted Hekate's offer of becoming a witch in her service.

Lionel
finds himself on the road as he seeks to find why things ended the way they did in Montauk. However along the way, a most mysterious murder attempt soon puts him on the trail of an enigmatic entrepreneur who might not be to blame. Lionel finds a new mortifying mystery that forces him to lean back on his journalistic skills and soon find himself in another sinkhole of murder and carnage. Things become more complicated as his target seems to be just ahead of him however he has to also help out innocent folks. This second surprising chapter in the Secret History universe is a wild, action packed ride into the annals of Greek mythology and small town America while showcasing all of the charismatic characters and plot twists, that one has come to expect from Craig Schaefer's works.

This book heavily plays up its Greek mythological roots and while I loved that aspect in book 1, I was even more ecstatic with its in-depth usage towards all aspects of the plot of this sequel! I won't spoil anything about what facets the author utilizes but here's a small hint (we get a quick look into Madison's past). For folks who have read Ghosts Of Gotham, they will know exactly where things might be headed. There's also the addition of the Amazons which was a nice twist and I think many readers will enjoy the explanation (about their origins) provided by Craig Schaefer. Safe to say, it fits in with the mythological roots and the author also manages to weave it with the life and hardships of common Americans.

This book unlike the first one doesn't have a gothic atmosphere, it’s more of a mystery thriller with terrific action sequences as well as some nice glimpses of horror (seriously there's one scene is the book which rivals the best of Alien & Ring in its sheer creepiness). The story unfolds like a proper mystery wherein our protagonists are introduced to the central mystery and then alongside the readers, go forth trying to resolve it. I'm a fan of the mystery genre and this book was a solid effort considering all the topics that it encompasses. The characterization as with any Schaefer title is a highlight and here we get two protagonists who while having a bit of grey within them, are still admirable as any other heroic ones. Lionel and Madison are characters who while being heroic are very much normal people (Madison less so) but Lionel is very much a commononer who’s trying to find his footing while constantly having to expand his horizons with new information.

Lionel’s everyday man approach to things was a refreshing outlook as it fit the genre needs as well as kept the plot on an even keel. Secondly Madison is a very complex character and within this book, we are given a small glimpse into the horrific events in her past. This made me want to read more about her and I hope if the author writes more sequels, he explores that as well. Madison's reformation began in The Ghosts Of Gotham and it continues with some vital steps in this sequel. She's a scene stealer and her action sequences in a hotel are one of the highlights of this book. The dialogue is smooth and the pace of the plot is even throughout (at no point does it lag). We get a mystery and then the characters get to solving it. The process was a straightforward one and in respect to Craig's other titles, was different enough so as to make this series stand out (as compared to the Charlie McCabe series which is the closest to this one but has more of the action-oriented feel to it.

I know the author has mentioned that this series of books is not connected to his First Story saga, but I feel that with the common connection to the Lady In Red, there might be a teeny weeny one which might get revealed later. Overall this book had a lot of connections to Greek mythology and so for those who are decently versed, will get to enjoy things a bit more.

For me, the only negative about this book was that there’s a group of villains who are seemingly underutilized. I can’t reveal their names or who they are, but you’ll know when you come across them. Their leader is a big name and so I was expecting a bit more. However this observation is completely subjective and other readers might not find any such deficiencies.

CONCLUSION: A Time For Witches is a sequel that takes on what’s been established by its predecessor and then proceeds to blow everything apart by injecting action, more Greek mythology and some terrific touches of horror. I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel and can’t wait to read what Lionel, Madison do next. Whatever Craig envisions next, I’ll be there cheering them on all the way.

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