Dark Victory: Impossible to put down, once the action starts

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Michele Lang Lady Lazarus 2. Dark VictoryDark Victory by Michele Lang

Magda Lazarus has killed Adolf Hitler’s pet wizard, the Staff, but not before the Staff stole a fragment of the powerful Book of Raziel and used magic to reconstitute a corrupted version that is now in the hands of the Reich. Dark Victory begins as the invasion of Poland is imminent, and Magda is trying to decide on her next course of action.

In the early chapters, it seemed that Dark Victory wouldn’t be as compelling as Lady Lazarus. Magda’s decision-making process is a large part of the problem. She has several choices: stay put and accept a dire fate, escape to safety, or use a dangerous magic to get information from the imprisoned demon Asmodel — a magic that could make everything worse instead of better. It’s understandable that Magda would have difficulty deciding what to do, but it has the side effect of making the narrative itself seem less focused and dynamic than that of Lady Lazarus. Magda is more fun when she’s charging full speed ahead at a problem — even if what she’s doing is a bad idea. The other and smaller part of the issue, I think, is that it briefly seems that vampire politics will play a large role in the story. If there’s one thing we urban fantasy readers have a surfeit of, it’s vampire politics! (I’m pleased to report that this strand of the plot turns out to be much less prominent than it initially seems.)

The book becomes impossible to put down once Magda finally starts to act! This begins when she has the chance to meet Winston Churchill, and even more so when her sister is manipulated into going to Poland and Magda sets out to rescue her. Magda, Gisele, and Raziel wind up working with an underground resistance group there, using their special abilities to save as many people as possible, and later confronting Hitler himself at a stronghold fortified by dark magic. Michele Lang touches upon the horrors of the war but focuses more on the heroism of the resisters. It’s compelling stuff, especially when Magda’s powers enable some of Hitler’s victims to strike at him from beyond. Finally, Magda faces that often-asked question: would you kill Hitler if you had the chance? Adding further tension to the book is the problem of Asmodel. It’s often difficult for Magda to tell whether she’s really doing the right thing or whether she’s being maneuvered into serving Asmodel’s own ends instead.

As for the secondary characters, Gisele is given further depth here, and Eva is largely absent but is involved in an important and hazardous mission that has profound effects on what Magda and Gisele are doing. Lang also introduces several sympathetic new characters in Dark Victory, most of them members of the resistance. The reader’s affection for these characters raises the emotional stakes. The British angel, Albion, is awesome. Raziel, unfortunately, has become flatter. He seems more like a support character for Magda, always there to carry out his part in her plans, but indistinct as a person.

After the first few chapters, Dark Victory is a good read, in which Magda grows in her magical abilities and faces hard choices and horrific situations. I continue to be interested in what happens to her and her loved ones, and to what extent the course of history will be changed by her actions. LADY LAZARUS is a trilogy and will conclude with Rebel Angels, which I look forward to reading.

Lady Lazarus — (2010-2013) Publisher: With the romance of Twilight, the suspense of THE DRESDEN FILES, and the delicious thrills of True Blood, the enthralling saga of Magdalena Lazarus unfolds. Descended from the legendary witch of Ein Dor, she alone holds the power to summon the angel Raziel and stop Hitler and his supernatural minions from unleashing total war in Europe. The Nazis have fighters more fearsome than soldiers, weapons more terrifying than missiles, and allies that even they are afraid of SS werewolves; the demon Asmodel who possesses a willing Adolf Hitler, and other supernatural creatures all are literally hell-bent on preventing Magda from possessing the Book of Raziel, a magical text with the power to turn the tide against Hitler’s vast war machine. Magda, young and rebellious, grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Budapest, unaware of her family’s heritage. When her mother dies, Magda — ready or not — is the Lazarus, who must face the evil that holds Europe in an iron grip. Unready to assume the mantle of her ancient birthright, but knowing that she must fight, she sets out across Europe searching for the Book. Magda is desperate enough to endanger her soul by summoning the avenging angelRaziel. When she sees him in the glory of his celestial presence, her heart is utterly, completely lost…

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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