cover image Nightwise


R.S. Belcher. Tor, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-7460-8

Laytham Ballard, occult legend and self-described hillbilly, promises his dying friend Boj that he’ll kill a Serbian wizard and war criminal whose atrocities include murdering Boj’s wife. Ballard’s vengeance quest leads him to a massive conspiracy that encompasses Washington, D.C.; the U.S. financial system; and the 9/11 attacks. The urban mage antihero—cynical, haunted, morally suspect—is a too-familiar archetype by now, but Ballard is a darkly funny narrator with fascinating allies in the world’s mystical underbelly, known as “the Life”: magical hackers, a fetish model, an Australian shaman, a Japanese gun master, and a Templar trucker. Belcher tells a tense, tightly paced story and has a knack for stomach-turning depictions of violence and gore, though he also has a fondness for heavy expository dialogue and introducing key characters very late in the novel. There are occasional missteps in the well-intentioned depictions of gender and racial diversity, and some readers may be disturbed by Belcher’s treatment of 9/11. Agent: Lucienne Diver, Knight Agency. (Aug.)