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Magick by Mary Taffs is a disturbing blend of casual brutality and compelling love. In the first few chapters there is a surplus of sadistic sexual behavior. Two women on various different occasions are viciously raped. One is gang raped, though mercifully the author cut our exposure to that incident short.
The women who were raped were followers of a sadistic magical sect and therefore "evil". They were the followers of Shiva who worshipped the "Queen" and it was Shiva who called all the shots. Now you may wonder what this has to do with romance. Well….
Dee Plaas has had it pretty rough for what seems like her entire life. The last thing she expects is to be told she has some magical ability. Nor does she expect hunky Win Sayre to be her protector from the maniacal Shiva who wants her powers for himself.
Like any intelligent, non-doormat like person would, Dee has some serious doubts about Win's grip on reality when he lays the story out. Unable and unwilling to take him at his word, she initially refuses his assistance. But this is Win's first assignment and he's not willing to fail at it, so what does he do? He breaks one of his sect's most stringent rules. Never take away another persons free will. Win places a compulsion spell on her in his "Voice of Authority". He compels Dee to do as he says. I will admit right here and right now that this is one of the things Win did that I can understand. He was trying to save Dee's life. In order to do that he had to temporarily took away her free will. No biggie. Dee's actions are a bit more difficult to handle. When she has a premonition about the hotel where she and Win are staying blowing up, what does she do? She runs. Leaving Win and the other patrons in the hotel to their fate. Not exactly a heroine to believe in is she?
Needless to say, Win survives as do the other hotel guests, and Dee and Win escape Shiva once again. Without going into more details I'll say that Win and Dee have a rocky road to romance.
It's the characters in this book that stand out the most, not the plot or the concept (although, with a bit of reworking the concept behind the story is actually quite promising).
Dee is a self-flagellating ball of self-contempt. She's overweight and has the self esteem of a squished gnat. However, she won't let any one but herself look down on her. One point in her favor.
Win's inability to control his base urges was rather disheartening. From the very beginning he was written as the character with a great deal of power but he could be lead around by his penis. How terribly disappointing. You knew from the way he was written that Win could be so much more and you kept waiting for it. Of course, that time eventually came but it was a very long, rather agonizing wait.
The turning point in this book for me was when Dee was finally able to use her abilities when she was able to help Win's sister heal him after he'd been rather grievously injured. The end of that chapter signified a turning point in their relationship and the book finally began to feel like a romance.
In the final quarter of the book Win finally began showing signs of maturity. He stopped thinking with what was below his belt and started using his brain. He started on the road to becoming a true hero.
The entity known as Goddess, the one Win and his people served, added a much needed dose of humor to Magick. Labeling her a character would be like calling Buddha a person. While it's not my religion, it still seems disrespectful so I will instead say that Goddess is the one being in this story that I could understand and fully appreciate.
Magick is an interesting read. I finished it without tossing it away in disgust and I was quite pleased with the way the characters had developed. Or rather I was pleased with what they had developed into.