The Forever Kiss

Jane's Warlord

Master of the Moon

Master of the Night

Master of Swords

Master of Wolves

Master of Smoke
by Angela Knight
(Berkley, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-42523-916-2
The 2011 volume of the Mageverse chronicles, Master of Smoke follows the now-predictable guidelines established by the many previous novels in Angela Knight's Arthurian-legend-meets-sci-fi series.

Of course, part of Knight's predictability is her consistently good characters. Master of Smoke's heroine, Eva, is a werewolf who is afraid of werewolves, constantly reliving the attack that changed her. She is co-owner of a comic book store and has a stiff spine and a great wit. Her hero, Smoke, is actually three guys, which, when added to the confused genre of the series, is a little befuddling. Smoke's basically a schizophrenic demigod. The Smoke personality was an elemental who had to possess bodies to have a physical presence. He joined with a shapeshifting cat called, appropriately, Cat, and the two of them later add themselves to a fae warrior.

Eva runs, literally, across Smoke fighting with a big bad werewolf – much bigger and badder than herself. She witnesses the human-looking man do something magical, and then the Big Bad ends up on his ass. The human survives -- but he doesn't remember anything. And it doesn't take Eva long to realize he's not strictly human.

I'm sure for the purposes of expedience, Eva happens to be in heat, so she and the man – whom she dubs David—fall into bed immediately. Shortly after that, they're attacked by the same Big Bad as before, who happens to be a sorcerous Dire Wolf named Warlock whose been trying to kill Arthur and his Round Table knights for several books. He came after Smoke trying to absorb his powers, but was foiled in the attempt. Smoke, however, accommodated Warlock by shoving said powers at him in a last-minute attempt at survival. Now, much to his delight, Warlock realizes he'll still have to kill Smoke to keep the demigod from funneling back the powers that Warlock assumed during their fight.

Eva is in the way of this plan. Werewolves are immune to magic, which means that Smoke's close proximity to her physically prevents tracing him magically. Fighting side by side with Smoke, Eva is introduced to his other two alter-egos, and learns to overcome her fear of her own self as well as her fear of physical confrontation. Whether they can beat Warlock in the endgame remains unclear, but in the meantime, Eva and Smoke need to get him back to full-power, keep Eva's family safe, and find a way to let Arthur in one what's going on. Arthur's knight, Tristan, is on the earthly dimension working toward a similar goal, only to discover one of Warlock's secret weapon: a daughter from whom he intends to start breeding a Dire Wolf army.

Though the sex scenes lack panache (not too creative, but with a Penthouse forum way of describing the relations) and the romance is a little kooky, what with Smoke having three personalities, as mentioned before, Master of Smoke has Knight's trademark characters, a lot of return characters, and a lot of just plain character; readers will find themselves chuckling out loud at some of Eva's witticisms.

Though not the best in the series, this novel is the first to take us inside Warlock's compounds, as well as the first to occur primarily without the Mageverse itself. Fans of the series will not want to miss it, though those unfamiliar with the Mageverse will not want to start here.

--Sarrah Knight

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