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WesternSFA
Dark Light of Day
by Jill Archer
Ace, $7.99, 375pp
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Dark Light of Day is presented as “a Noon Onyx novel” which suggests more are to follow. Good. For here is an author who brings actual expertise to the writing table (or the laptop). Writers with little experience but lots of imagination can certainly provide entertainment, but literary gravitas is rooted firmly in mastery of some practical skill set or body of knowledge, be it in chemistry (Asimov), engineering (Anderson, etc., etc.,), anthropology (LeGuin), economics (Barnes), mathematics (Flynn) … or, in the case of Jill Archer, law. Law???? Yes, law. The lady was a practicing lawyer for ten years. Check out the bio blurb; it’s not your typical fantasy writer “I love cats and have held 13 unrelated jobs” self-portrait. As a result, along with dark foreshadowings of dire events, a conflicted heroine, murderous demons, beleaguered angels who have LOST the battle for Earth to the ruling devils, and of course romance, you get Latin maxims and legal analyses in a Hogwarts-for-adults setting. And it works! Apart from the wonderful, almost tongue-in-cheek premise, this is urban fantasy infused with the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and Milton, and Law and Order.

Noon and her twin brother Nocturo both have magical talents, but instead of the healing power of waxing magic, Noon has the destructive power of waning magic – rare enough in and of itself, and traditionally a male power. Not only does waning magic mean that she can never be a healer, that she cannot eat or even go near fresh food, that she is an immediate threat to living plants and pregnant women, worst of all, it means she is expected – make that required – to become a Maegester, one of the humans who can keep unruly demons in check: the lawyers, judges, and, if need be, executioners of demonic kind. But that’s only if anyone outside the close circle of her family and neighbors finds out she has waning magic. Noon’s only friend, Peter, is searching for an artifact or spell of old magic that will reverse her power and let her become a Mederi healer. But time is running out, for failure to declare oneself the possessor of waning magic by one’s 21st birthday has serious consequences.

Noon reluctantly begins attending classes at St. Lucifer’s Law School, hoping to pass as a mere Barrister studies student among other barrister students, but Maegesters recognize each other by the signature of their power, and not even the cloaking spell Peter casts for Noon can withstand the force of attraction that arises between Noon and a Maegester classmate.

For Noon, coming of age means forming new friendships, making her mark in an academic setting, and ultimately deciding whether she will be passive or active in her own life; will she follow the advice and directives of others, or risk autonomy? Either way, her studies will not remain purely academic, for students are expected to prove their worth as junior lawyers in actual trial settings. Furthermore, a series of attacks and murders, all targeting Mederi healers, seem centered around the school, and Peter’s quest unearths ancient secrets of the Great War between the Host and the Fallen angels.

Here then, is intelligent urban fantasy for your delectation. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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