Deep Magic

Joy Nash
2008, Paranormal Historical (130s A.D. [First Century] England)
LoveSpell, $6.99, 372 pages, Amazon ASIN 0505527162
Part of a series

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Hot

Nash's Druids of Avalon series is neatly ticking off the trappings of the Arthurian legend. The first book - The Grail King - dealt with the Holy Grail, of course, while Deep Magic explores the creation of the sword Exchalybur and how it wound up in that lake anyway. While this new twist on the legend is interesting, the love story remains front and center. And it is a good one.

Gwendolyn is a Druid with powerful magic. She, along with the remaining Druids, has gone into hiding since the Romans all but wiped them out. They live on Avalon, an island surrounded by protective mists designed to keep it hidden. When a party of Roman soldiers arrives to explore a nearby silver mine, the colony's safety is threatened - especially when Gwen "sees" the dark magic surrounding the commander, Strabo. Romans are not supposed to have magic, but Strabo's is so strong that it is affecting everyone in the colony, plaguing them with painful memories and weakening the protective mist. Gwen is convinced that it will take more than "Light Magic" to keep them safe; she must delve into the more dangerous "Deep Magic." She has a vision of The Lady giving her a sword with which Gwen defeats the evil threatening Avalon. Now she must find a blacksmith able to create - with help from her magic - the sword.

Marcus Aquila is such a blacksmith, and a Roman, but an unusual one. He is no stranger to magic, though he deplores it. As a child, he watched it almost kill his father, now a retired Roman commander who married a Celt queen. His half-sister has strong magic and sees visions which are disturbing and physically painful, and he has recently learned that his best friend Rhys, Gwen's twin brother, is also a Druid. To top it all off, magic also cost him the woman he planned to marry. He would just as soon never hear of magic, or see its results, ever again.

It is to Marcus that Gwen goes when she needs someone to fashion the sword of her dream. They met a year earlier when Marcus helped to save her life and during the process saw her change her form from a wolf to a woman. It frightened - and excited - him so much that he has been dreaming of Gwen ever since. Gwen's thoughts have often turned to Marcus as well, but her attraction is tinged with the fear that he is repulsed by her. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marcus and Gwen fight their attraction as they work together to create Exchalybur in time to thwart the evil facing Avalon.

I've always been a fan of the Arthurian legends, and this series is a nice addition to the canon, but one whose primary focus is on the romance - perfect for the romance fan who appreciates folklore. Gwen and Marcus are both appealing characters, with some hefty emotional baggage - Gwen more so than Marcus - whose HEA seems unattainable, but also, when it occurs, inevitable. It's a HEA that I believed in.

I've never been a fan of shapeshifter stories, but I didn't mind it so much here, and it imbued some of the love scenes with an almost animalistic heat that was surprising and scorching. My only complaint is that the final battle was a bit too over the top for me, though I realize we are talking about fantasy and magic and monsters and good vs. evil - even so, it was a bit much.

There are a couple of storylines left unfinished, something that usually bothers me, but in this case, it left me intrigued and eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. If you're looking for a setting and a storyline with something different, I heartily recommend Deep Magic.

-- Cheryl Sneed

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