Category Archives: Magical Realism

Beware the Spider – a moving read

Beware the SpiderHang on, Beware the Spider by David L. Haase, moves like a speeding train. As in the first novel, nature photographer Sebastian Arnett still searches for a way to rid himself of Empaya Iba, the Bornean spider spirit which has become his familiar. Again, Arnett goes back to Borneo, this time via Australia. An Australian aboriginal spirit and a secret Chinese agent have other plans for Arnett.

Fireworks erupt when Arnett fights off an aboriginal spirit, gets caught in a typhoon-like storm in Borneo and hitches a ride atop a moving train in the American Rockies. As in the first book, various efforts to help come from Jimmy Beam (an Australian undercover intelligence operative), Mike Owens and others in the U.S. military who attempt to keep tabs on Arnett, Pony That Sees Far, a Native American medicine man (or Joe as Arnett thinks of him), Tom Kingston (or T, to his friends), and Amanda Cox Campion (Arnett’s love interest).

Great Addition to Series

Beware the Spider is a great addition to Haase’s Black Orchid Chronicles, a supernatural/magical realism series. (See my review of The Mark of the Spider, the first book in the series.) The pacing is quick and even, an improvement over the first book in the series. Arnett and Tom Kingston (son of Campion’s ex-husband) begin to form a closer relationship throughout the book and come to rely on each other for safety. Also, we learn that Amanda Campion is always well dressed, even in the wilds of the Borneo jungle. But well-pressed pants with knife-sharp creases in the humid jungle? Hmm, maybe.

A very engaging read. I look forward to reading the next installment and learning the ongoing fate of Arnett, Campion and Kingston.

The author gave me a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Otherwise, I have no ties or interaction with the author.

Beware the Spider
© 2019 by David L. Haase
C. Lawrence Publishing

Mark of the Spider – Supernatural Thriller

The Mark of the Spider
by David L. Haase
© 2018

Mark of the Spider by David L. HaaseThe Mark of the Spider is an installment in David L. Haase’s Black Orchid Chronicles, a supernatural-thriller series. On a working trip to the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, photographer Sebastian Arnett searches for rare orchids to photograph. At the invitation of an Australian attaché on a mission to locate mineral deposits, Arnett joins his group’s forays into the interior. When an old, indigenous woman offers him a shot at the ever-elusive black orchid, Arnett and his mates take her up on it. But they get, and lose, more than they bargained for.

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El Dorado – A Golden Search

A Shadow Away
by Joan K. Lacy
© May 2018
Alazo Press

A Shadow Away - a search for El Dorado El Dorado

Searching for El Dorado in the Amazon jungle, Alex Cort and Andrew Seaton need all the help they can get in A Shadow Away by Joan K. Lacey. Cort, a private art theft investigator, and Seaton, a British archaeologist, search for the fabled city of gold based on an old map, a gem and a golden idol that’s gone missing. As Cort and Seaton slog through the jungle assisted by a local guide, they’re aided by Angel, a mysterious being from an alternate universe. Angel’s heightened senses and skills, some would say magic, keep the searchers a step ahead of Benjamin Guelf, an unscrupulous rival collector.

Although Angel uses her powers to get the group out of danger on occasion, she seems withdrawn and not really part of the group. The reader learns nothing about her antecedents or world. On more than one occasion, Angel implies that Cort and Seaton can attain some or most of her powers. When Cort asks her, she just proclaims that he’s not ready to know such things. Often, as Cort and the others traverse the jungle, Angel seems to walk along in another world, like a slippery wraith.

Literary Comparisons

A Shadow Away might be compared to the Indiana Jones universe. Lacy’s novel involves an archaeologist seeking a religious relic in an intimidating environment while evading unscrupulous competitors. In addition, similarities exist between Lacy’s Alex Cort series and Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. Again, both involve archaeologists searching for artifacts and dealing with danger. But Lacy introduces a subtle dose of magic realism in the search for El Dorado, thus expanding the trope.

Recommendation

Overall, A Shadow Away is an engaging read that kept me interested. I would have preferred to learn a good deal more about Angel even if the information was kept away from Seaton and Cort. She refers to herself as a “witch” and is evasive when Cort asks about her world. She says he’s not ready to know even after Cort begins accepting her abilities, which seems condescending. At times, she seems insubstantial, like a hologram, even when she and Cort become attracted to each other.

Cort and Seaton with their group of indigenous guides hack and slog their way through the jungle undergrowth. Yet, on a few occasions, Guelf and Raul Facón, his nasty sidekick, just step out from behind a tree to confront them looking unscathed and fresh as if Guelf and Facón could just teleport into the area. At one point, the Amazon River, which is full of life-threatening creatures, sweeps Guelf away. Yet, in the final stages of the story, he appears well and hearty.

Still, I recommend A Shadow Away for those who like stories full of adventure, mystery and magical realism. I give this first Alex Cort novel 3.75 out of 5 stars; a solid read. I look forward to the next installment in the series.