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To Sleep with Stones by W.L. Hawkin

Reviewed by Gail M. Murray

To Sleep with Stones is an edgy, urban fantasy. For the uninitiated “urban fantasy is a hybrid genre that lives at the crossroads between fantasy, horror, hard-boiled thriller and romance… Every urban fantasy involves supernatural beings and/or beings with magical abilities yet it’s rooted in reality.” (A. J.Blakemont)

A virtual smorgasbord, To Sleep with Stones, has something for everyone: an archaeological dig in Scotland, action, suspense, an intense anti-hero, and a murder to solve. Hawkin’s first chapter explodes with the promise of perilous adventure. From the discovery of a priceless Egyptian artifact to the Wiccan solstice; she had me at “Aye.”

To Sleep with Stones is True Blood meets Outlander. Not surprisingly, Hawkin has not only read Diana Gabaldon, but attended her workshops. It shows in the unbridled eroticism of the Wiccan solstice, in flame-haired Sorcha’s seduction of “sweet peach” Dylan McBride, and in the escapades of sensuous free spirit, Estrada. Be forewarned. Hawkin’s characters are real and raw. This novel should come with a warning – contains scenes with violence, language and nudity. Reader discretion advised.

Set in Argyll along the southwest coast of Scotland, it opens with a brilliant find: a jewelled broad collar once worn by the daughter of Queen Nefertiti. To celebrate, site boss and head archeologist, Sorcha O’Hallorhan, takes her crew to an Oban pub to celebrate. Upstairs on the patio, the feisty beauty seduces young archaeology student, Dylan McBride. He is later accosted by Glasgow journalist and blackmailer, Alastair Steele, who wants the collar. Steele’s caught them in the act on his cell.

Later that same night, Dylan goes out to commune with the Standing Stones on Summer Solstice. …he leaned back against the cool three-thousand-year old rock… For thousands of years, humans had worshipped, as he did now, on this sacred landscape… When Dylan McBride leaned his palm against a stone it revealed its secrets. Sometimes he heard voices; sometimes he saw visions (page 15).

Dylan can sense memories of the land and envisions Egyptian princess, Meritaten, wearing the gold broad collar. But Dylan is in the wrong place at the wrong time. The next morning, he is arrested, cuffed and dragged from the field at Ballymeanoch, and jailed for the murder of Alastair Steele.

His grandfather contacts Estrada in Vancouver. Hawkin first introduced Sandolino Estrada in To Charm a Killer. Estrada – performer, magician, and High Priest of Hollystone Coven, flies to Scotland to free his friend and coven-mate. In leathers, astride his Harley, we witness the black avenging angel. The image of the angel wings tattooed across his back serves as a brilliant metaphor.

In evocative mystical scenes, our high priest becomes the horned god Cernunnos--fertility god/adorned in antlers, the spirit of the hunt--and later summons the Celtic Oak King. In the Taynish woods on a quest for an oak branch he reconnects with Primrose, his faerie love, and we glimpse his tenderness and vulnerability.

Sorcerer. The voice was faint at first, evanescent, a lilting on the breeze, and he thought he’d imagined it. Sorcerer. He heard it again: higher, louder, clearer, the tone teasing and he whirled around, searching for her. There was only one woman who called him by that name, whose cadences were flecked with old Irish (page 96).

Though the second book in the Hollystone Mysteries series; this novel stands alone. Hawkin flawlessly integrates essential background and characters from her first novel, and introduces new ones: a female detective (Rachel Steele), a half fey Druid dwarf who deals in antiquities (Magus Dubh), and a rough Viking (Kai Roskilde). Rival for Dylan, murderer, or red herring? Though her characters are fictional, her settings are authentic: Argyll, Kilmartin Glen (rife with cairns and stone circles), and Her Majesty’s Prison, Greenock.

Hawkin’s tight and well-paced writing, knowledge of Celtic mythology and discussion of Robert Graves, The White Goddess, combines with multi-layered characters, lush language and plot twists and turns, to draw the reader in. No spoiler alert: the ending is surprising and satisfying. In fact, the hallmark of this novel is the author’s seamless interweaving of myth and reality. She appeals to our intellect and our desire for vicarious adventure.

To Sleep with Stones is published by Blue Haven Press.

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