Arcana: Paul Kane
Reviewed By Brian Bogart
“Ladies and gentlemen of the press, viewers around the world. You’ll forgive the lateness of the hour, or should I say the earliness. But our country faces a serious threat today, more serious than it has ever faced before.” He paused to mop his brow, though it was more for effect than anything. “These attacks show just how low Arcana will stoop in order to cause the maximum disruption to our everyday lives. Every single arrest we have made thus far has been a legitimate one, based on evidence we have received that these individuals are dangerous and should be removed from society. The reply to this, as you have seen, has been more serious than we could ever have imagined. Arcana care not for freedom, or even for human life. They care only about their lust for power. Their own twisted existence. And they are prepared to kill to preserve it.”
The latest from award-winning author Paul Kane is a dark fantasy novel set in an alternate history universe, where the Witch trials and Inquisition never stopped. Magick-users from all walks of life are hunted, questioned and brutally tortured and killed by a subsection of the police force. Calling themselves M-forcers, they are tasked with ending and subverting any and all potential magic activity, to ensure that the future is free from people wielding that kind of power- or any power, for that matter.
The place really was gigantic, home to one of the world’s most comprehensive archives on witchcraft, magick and the many ways to put a stop to both. As Sherman ventured further inside, the books were replaced by banks of monitors, all linked to one keyboard. The database was not just on paper, but electronically organised as well. At Nero’s fingertips was a resource banned to all but him and his kind: the internet. An invention which had been denied to the public because it couldn’t be monitored or sufficiently controlled. And at the back of the room, a strange museum of weirdness, souvenirs and artefacts in glass cases, perfectly preserved: from stone runes to broomsticks; from an African witch-doctor’s rattle stick to a Native American shaman’s headdress. But pride of place in Nero’s collection was a battered leather tome with yellowed pages: the very first copy of the Malleus Maleficarum….
Enter a rebel group called Arcana. According to the media and police, they are responsible for increasingly dangerous attacks. But are they really- considering their members have sworn to the Goddess to not take a life? Well, that’s what the newest member of the M-forcers intends to find out. After witnessing the murderous interrogation techniques of the police, Callum walks the line between morality and justice, edging closer to the truth thanks to his beautiful neighbour, Ferne. Is she a witch? And if she is a member of Arcana- has all the training and the education warning against the use of magick been a lie?
Reading above, we can see the wide variety of tropes in play throughout the course of the novel. Most readers will guess where the majority of scenes lead, chapters before they emerge. If your looking for unpredictability… outside of a few pivotal moments- you may not find much in that department.
That’s not necessarily a negative, though. Some stories shine despite the familiarity. And ARCANA does, in other ways.
Kane realizes how some of this has been done before, so he focuses on a fair number of scenes to work some depth and world-building, to put his own spin on the familiar. One scene involves the reading of the Tarot cards, which sets the tone for the story and elements in play. It’s up to us as readers to follow the story and witness how it relates. (Side note: if you’ve ever been interested in the Tarot, these can almost act as a very simplified “how-to”.)
Another scene that I appreciated takes place in a classroom environment, where we, alongside the students, get a suspenseful smattering of history from a strict teacher. It shows the disdain and bigotry against all forms of magick and how this kind of fear is normalized in this society- and the hate rationalized, as well.
There is also a chapter that consists of a group of scenes, small snippets from different magick-users as the M-forcers begin to crack down on their ultimate objective. Kane, using very few pages, succeeds in making the police officers’ actions all the more horrific. I really enjoyed these brief glimpses into non-story character’s lives. A simple technique, just a small one, but highly effective.
I enjoyed reading it. The sense of fear, bigotry, control and police brutality is the main sense of terror, here. In my opinion, I think this will appeal mainly to dark fantasy lovers than horror, or a perhaps (like me) a bit of both. Some readers may balk at some of the predictable elements, but not every story has to keep you guessing. Some rides are fun, because you anticipate what’s coming around the corner.
Starts as a cop thriller, dives into dark fantasy, throws some heavy action sequences here and there- and somehow- comes out on the other side. ARCANA, in a nutshell, is hard to nail down. A good read, thanks to Kane’s love and knowledge of the tropes he’s playing around with.
Magick, as Kane suggests, is all around us. You just have to keep an open mind- and know where to look.
In an alternate world where real magic exists, its practitioners are hunted down by police officers called M-forcers. But some groups are fighting back! Callum McGuire is a new M-forcer who once worked the quiet streets of London. As an orphan, Callum has been brought up to believe that all magic is evil, but the more he sees of The M-forcers’ cruel methods (implemented by General Nero Stark, and his second-in-command Sherman Pryce), the more he begins to question whether or not they are right. And when he unwittingly encounters a member of the rebel group called Arcana, he’s introduced to their world and realises that nothing will ever be the same again. Join award-winning and bestselling author Paul Kane (the sell-out phenomenon Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, the Hooded Man series, and the bestselling Before) as he shows you a kind of magic you’ve never seen…
Brian Bogart is an American author of dark fiction and horror/fantasy. He has written stories most of his life and has been a fan of the genre since the age of seven. His approach to storytelling is a tad macabre at times but tries to capture the nuances of the humanity and sometimes, inhumanity, beneath the surface. He supports the horror community with bloodied open arms and demonic vigor.
Dream Darkly and Keep Writing.
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