For the last 100 years, the disciples of warlock Rhyfel Gremory have exacted revenge for his murder by killing a descendant of the sheriff’s posse who was responsible for his death. Last month, Seth Tanner saved the latest descendant due to be killed, Evan Malone, and in the process the two fell in love. Now Evan and Seth are working together in hopes of stopping the subsequent killings before they occur.
Seth and Evan are in Pittsburgh trying to save the latest victim. However, things are challenging because while they know who the witch-disciple is targeting, they don’t know the current name the attacker is using. While officially the next killing shouldn’t be until the following Halloween, Evan and Seth worry that the attack may happen sooner, and so there is no time to wait.
The men begin investigating locations with rumored paranormal activity in hopes of learning more about the witch-disciple and his plans. Things get increasingly dangerous the more they do, and soon the men are facing threats from every angle. Now it is a race against time to figure out the killer and stop him before another man ends up dead, and their own lives are at risk as well.
Dark Rivers is the second full book in Morgan Brice’s engaging Witchbane series, following Witchbane and the novella Burn. Brice has created a really fascinating set up for her series, establishing the conflict in book one. Each year, one of the twelve witch-disciples murders a descendant of the sheriff’s posse who killed their mentor. This gives the series some interesting structure as there are new murders to prevent and new victims to protect as these guys go along from book to book. I find the world building and the lore Brice has created here really unique and compelling, particularly as Evan and Seth increase their hunter skills and learn more about the paranormal elements they are batting.
In this story, the guys head to Pittsburgh, home to the next victim. I think it is a neat twist that they know the future victim, and they know which of the witch-disciples will do the killing, but they don’t know what name the witch-disciple is currently using. This leaves them racing to research and investigate and try to figure it all out, while still protecting the intended victim. I did find the start of this one a little slow as Seth and Evan spend a lot of time going to check out various sites that could have a connection to the case. While it does all come together in the end, it took a while for things to really heat up for me here. But once the investigation really gets into full swing, there is some really nice suspense and excitement.
On the relationship end, things continue to grow between the men. They haven’t been together that long, so while they are in love and living together, they also are still feeling some uncertainty. This was explored in Burn as well, and at times it did feel like we were treading the same ground with Seth’s insecurities that Evan would want to leave him and Evan’s that he is not a strong enough partner. I’d like to see things move forward a little more, rather than covering a lot of the same ground, though I do understand that the guys have been together only a short time. But I did find it frustrating in one particular scene where Seth finds out Evan has been attacked and is in likely danger, and yet he still believes (albeit briefly) that Evan took off and left him. It seemed crazy given the situation and the conflict just felt too forced. But I do find myself really liking these guys together and enjoying the way they are growing individually and together. Evan is really coming into his own as a hunter and a researcher and I like seeing him hit even ground with Seth.
The other small issue I had is that I felt the book diverged from the series set up without enough explanation. The premise is that there are twelve witch-disciples and each year one of them kills one of the descendants, so they each have a twelve-year murder rotation. The first book takes place over Halloween with Evan targeted, and then this book is set soon after Thanksgiving. That means the next murder shouldn’t be until the next year, but instead, the guys just have a feeling the attempt will happen early (and it does), but it didn’t make sense to me as to why. The pattern has been going on for 100 years and suddenly the bad guys just decide to diverge? I get why, from an author standpoint, Brice would want to avoid having a year pass from book to book (particularly if each murder attempt gets its own story). But I needed some sort of explanation or justification that fit within the book lore for why the whole pattern would be thrown off, rather than just convenient storytelling. My guess is that this is one of those things only I care about, but I had to make note of it.
However, despite some quibbles, I really liked this book and continue to quite enjoy this series. I think the set up is so clever and unique and there is so much potential for where things can go. I really like Evan and Seth and I have already seen a lot of growth from them. I am really looking forward to continuing to follow along with this series.
P.S. While this is the second full book in the series, I actually think Brice does a great job providing the set up and the backstory. So while you will miss Evan and Seth getting together, you could probably jump into the series here. That said, the first book is great and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.