Rating: 3.75 stars
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Seth Tanner and his boyfriend, Evan Malone, are headed to Charleston in their latest attempt to stop the witch disciples from their ritual killings. They know that the next man in danger is from the city and, fortunately, Seth and Evan have friends there. Through their hunter connections, the men have befriended a group knowns as the Alliance made up of both magic users and immortals. Having so much backup gives Seth and Evan confidence they can stop the killer, but soon they find they are already too late.
Not only does the killer get the jump on the men, putting a deadly curse on them that affects their ability to touch one another, he also has already struck his victim. They learn that the victim’s brother is missing after having witnessed the attack, leaving him vulnerable to the evil warlock. In addition, people are going missing throughout the city who seem to be linked with gangs of low-level witches. In addition to the ritual murder, it seems this disciple is also wreaking havoc in the magical community. Now it’s a race against time for Seth and Evan. They must stop the disciple before he kills again, and before the curse takes their lives as well.
Unholy is the fifth book in Morgan Brice’s Witchbane series and a nice installment that provides a bit of transition for the series. Seth and Evan have always been operating under some assumptions about the disciples and their patterns and motives, but here they start to realize not all is as they believed. I think changing things up a bit with the formula is helpful, as we are now at the fifth book and the stories had taken on somewhat of a pattern as the men move from disciple to disciple in each book. We also have an added element here as the killer has already struck, and this time the men are both trying to save themselves from the curse, as well as to learn more about the other things he is up to. That said, things aren’t shaken up too much in that the pattern of arrive, track down the bad guy, investigate, and confront is still fairly intact. But I do think the changes brought some freshness to the series.
The curse on Seth and Evan means that they are unable to touch one another, as well as sending them into declining health. That means the men stay away from each other quite a lot and don’t do a lot of the investigating together. I think Seth spends more time with Teag than he actually does with Evan, and I did miss the interaction between the men here. Still, we do get a nice sense of their connection as Seth and Evan struggle with being kept apart and realize how much they have come to mean to one another over the past year. It is clear that they have a strong bond and I really enjoy these two as a couple.
As I mentioned, this book unites Seth and Evan with the Alliance, characters from Brice’s Deadly Curiosities series (under her other pen name Gail Z. Martin). Interestingly, while I think this story could stand alone from the other Witchbane books given that the backstory is well explained, I do think it is so closely tied with Deadly Curiosities that familiarity with that series is important. There are a host of side characters here who are a part of that series, including MC Cassidy Kincaide, that I think it would be really hard to jump in here with no familiarity with who all these people are. I have only read Inheritance, a book that actually connects Deadly Curiosities with some folks from Brice’s Badlands series, and that was really useful in setting the stage for this book. There are also some minor story elements in that book that connect here as well having to do with side characters. So bottom line is I would recommend you read Inheritance (which is quite good) for full understanding here. I’ll also note that while I enjoy the way Brice/Martin crosses over characters from her series and it is fun to see cameos, at times I do find it overwhelming to have so many characters from different series all running around. As I said, if I hadn’t been familiar with Deadly Curiosities, I think I would have been a little adrift with who all these folks are.
Overall, I thought this was a nice installment to the Witchbane series. I appreciate that Brice is taking steps to shake up the formula a bit and I think it helped make this one a little fresher. The different focus added some nice elements to this story and I enjoyed reconnecting with the Charleston crew. I will be looking forward to following along with Seth and Evan in their next adventure.