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Grey Magic by JT Lawrence – Review

Title: Grey Magic

Author: J.T. Lawrence

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Book procurement: Received a copy from the author for an honest review. Currently available on Amazon.


No one appreciates the irony of her situation more than Raven Kane: she’s a burnt-out witch. Raven is a hip, hexing-and-texting sorceress – or at least, she used to be.

Now her ancient timber house is falling down around her, and the bank wants to repossess it. Nothing would make her cantankerous neighbour happier than seeing Raven and her messy menagerie out on the street. To add to her stress, the reckless Wicked Witches are causing mischief and it’s her job to reign them in. Worst of all is that her magic seems to be fading.

Just as everything seems to be too much to handle, there’s a knock on the (splintering) door. A not-unattractive man appears in her life: not to save her, as a fairytale would have you believe, but to arrest her for the murder of one of her clients. It wouldn’t be that bad for Raven, except that she knows she’s guilty.


First Thoughts

First and foremost, I thought this was a great book. It’s a fresh take on the whole “magic” and “witches” perspective. Grounds it in a natural and almost believable setting of earthly charms. Very apt for a South African novel considering the African cultural perspective on magic.

The entire story kept its center around the idea of “Grey Magic”, this idea that intention has nothing to do with consequence. Where something with the best of intentions can spiral towards a dark consequence.

There were a few inconsistencies or perhaps better to call them irregularities in the story, but they weren’t so major as to derail the story. They did break my sense of suspended disbelief though and it took a while to reign myself back in.


The writing flows well from beginning to end. It’s clear there was a good deal of research invested into the novel. Not only in execution of  the magic and spells, but the descriptions that captured places and events not rooted in our current age.

The clever use of technology and social media was also well written. If one can communicate with someone from across the world through Twitter, why not tweet spells and magical advice too. Perhaps we need more tech savvy-witches.

Raven, the main character, remains true to herself throughout the novel. Even as the story starts with Raven displaying sarcasm and wit, it’s all just building towards her self-discovery. The rest of the characters were also well captured. From detective Kruger, to Father Stephen Bishop, and the coven of witches with well-meaning agendas. I’d love to break each character down but then… I’d spoil the book for you. Some clever twists there.

I did feel as though their roles were to set Raven up as the main character. Thankfully their individual personalities made up for that.

Final Thoughts

Overall the novel is great. I really enjoyed the interconnected symbols appearing through the course of the novel. Ravens, fire, Fenrir and more. It was a beautiful amalgamation of fate, destiny and karma swirling about.

I was a bit disconcerted by the modern pitchfork wielding mob and the whole mob mentality, especially considering our time frame. Also the types of people who had shown up don’t seem like mob-mentality people, unless that’s just my ignorance speaking.

The criticism of the Christian ethos made me roll my eyes, as though every Christian is an ignorant fundamentalist with no concept of the bible (or God) they read. Picking and choosing context for their purposes. It’s not something I’ll get into now but it did annoy a bit.

Nonetheless it culminated perfectly, aligning all of the obstacles that had plagued Raven in the beginning to a perfect conclusion of karma, and the Grey Magic that spilled through lifetimes.

Rating: An enjoyable 3 out of 5

JT Lawrence

JT Lawrence is an author, playwright and bookdealer based in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. She is the mother of two small boys and lives in a house with a red front door.

She has written various plays for SAFM including ‘The Shelter’, ‘Unspilling the Milk’, ‘Every Breath You Take’, and serials, the most recent being the crime drama ‘Jigsaw’. Her short story collection ‘Sticky Fingers’ was broadcast in the last quarter of 2015, and will be available as a paperback and ebook in 2016.

Her first novel, ‘The Memory of Water’ (2011), is about a writer who would do anything for a story. Her 2015 offering, ‘Why You Were Taken’is a pre-dystopian sci-fi thriller starring a synaesthete, and takes place is a futuristic Jo’burg burdened by infertility and a water crisis. It was optioned by the national broadcaster, SABC, for a radio adaption.

She is currently working on her new novel, ‘Grey Magic’, slated for December 2016, about an eccentric modern-day witch, accused of murder, who must explore her past lives in order to keep her freedom — and find her way back to magic.

Website: Pulpbooks

Amazon: J.T. Lawrence

Twitter: @pulpbooks


Instagram: pulp_junkie

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Reader vs Writer: Book Reviews


I have been reading for a long time. Recently my scope of reading has expanded past horrors (and Stephen King), reading authors from across the world (India, UK, US, South Africa to mention a few) and all of them have varying writing styles. Of course they do, every writer has their own unique voice and way of story telling, which is what makes reading such a fun and engaging exercise. To “suspend disbelief” long enough for the stories and characters to be real in your mind, no longer hearing the creator but their creations. You can tell a Stephen King novel from Dean Koontz or Brandon Sanderson from Peter V. Brett by dialog alone. Which made me wonder about the other side of things.

Reader’s ears

Much as a writer has a voice, does a reader have an ear for reading? An ear that has the ability to “hear” deeper what the writer is saying below the words. We can all read Lord of the Rings and be amazed by the world building, taken by the magic, drawn in by the characters, and riveted by the story. However we all experience and draw varying conclusions at the end. We all hear a different message from the same text.

Let me clarify that a bit. When a writer writes a story, there is (a majority of the time) a theme or issue being addressed. The overarching theme. Most readers see this clearly. However, the story is made up of characters and each character has their own theme. Their own motivations. Plot arcs have their own theme. The world has its own theme. One can read a book and get the main idea and be satisfied. Another can read the same book, get the main theme and glean greater insight through the world, characters and plots, making the story fuller and richer.

As reference (I’m sorry okay!) Stephen King books are about real believable characters experiencing a fabricated horror. If you have read (or watched) The Mist you will understand what I mean: *No spoilers don’t worry*

After a mysterious mist envelops a small New England town, a group of locals trapped in a supermarket must battle a siege of otherworldly creatures . . . and the fears that threaten to tear them apart.

The Mist - Gif

On the surface, you’re freaking out because OH MY GAWD! Otherworldly creatures are terrifying and the way King writes them you don’t need to watch the movie to be freaked out. But below that, the characters are memorable not for their battle against the creatures, but their personalities taking shape in light of the creatures. Take Mrs. Carmody for instance, whom I would have smashed in the face with a shovel… and I’m not a violent person (kinda). Her character tells a story of its own, of people like that in this day and age and those who support her almost blindly. There was a point where I hated Mrs. Carmody more than I feared the monsters outside. A little story within a bigger story.

I doubt I’m the only one who felt that way, but how many understood her “persona”, understood what made her tick, reading deeper into her character and the situation to give new depth to the whole book, that surface reading would not have provided.

Reader’s Experience

A reader’s world view (the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world and life) is influenced by a variety of things: How they grew up. What they read growing up (or lack of reading). Their current stage in life. What they have experienced, taught, learned etc in life so far. Race. Culture. Religion. Plenty.

Their world view affects how they read too, to a level. Angela Meadon’s book Strong Medicine, resonated with South African’s who know that muti (traditional medicine) killings are real. This is the overarching theme that everyone who reads the book will see and even agree to. However, black South Africans read the book with a deeper resonance than white South Africans. South Africans would have a stronger reaction than say the French. Coupled with characters the story focuses on, the world where it all occurs and the minor plot points leading to the conclusion, South African readers’ ears would be more attuned to the story because of their world view.

Reader vs Writer

Reading writer-moments1

I have been a bit more focused on my writing this year than I have been before, and reading my book reviews from January compared to my recent book reviews is like a completely different person. As a writer, I feel like I’m seeing more because I understand the process behind writing. My world view has changed. My ear better attuned. I’m picking up things I completely missed or didn’t even think about before. Like characters and author intention – sometimes the author wants you to hate a character so they write them that way (Mrs. Carmody I referenced before as an example) on purpose. Sometimes a vague reference is made and my mind latches on to it, only for that vague reference to be fully realized later on and I’m already thinking, “Yep saw that coming.” I’ve noticed dialog structure, world building nuances, even the authors voice. Here are excerpts from some of my book reviews:

Especially with repeating people’s names during conversations. It was obvious the idea was to bypass the “Ryder said”, “Mashego replied” “Navi answered” etc of identifying the speaker or to whom the speaker was speaking to, but it also broke the “normal-ness” of dialogue.

~Plain Dealing by Ian Patrick

I did, however, find myself wondering if all the characters were the same as they bore the same sort of characteristics often. There was even a story where I was convinced the character was female (as most of them are) and was surprised when he wasn’t.

~ Sticky Fingers by JT Lawrence

Sukanya Venkatraghavan said about my review of her book Dark Things:

You are the first reviewer to write about the shift in perspectives.

Reading as a Writer

I was a surface reader. I read the novel without noticing anything but the unfolding tale. Now I’m seeing so much more in a novel. At times it’s great and at other times it’s frustrating. I’ve wondered if my reviews tend to be negative because of this new insight. If being a writer versus a reader, has dampened by reading experience.

There are novels (Endgame: The Calling for one) where the story is so engaging those things don’t even come to the fore. I look forward to those books.

Are you a reader? What’s your experience when reading? Are you a writer? Do you experience the same things when reading a book? Anything you want to discuss, please feel free to do so in the comments below. 🙂

Friday Fiction: Drommedaris


Image courtesy of:

Their history was wrong.

Their stories embellished.

Their paintings falsified.

We stood atop our mountain, one we had christened Dragon’s Back, for the craggy mountain that stretched into the sea. They called it the Cape of Good Hope.

“Baba.” The young boy spoke.

“Yes son.”

“Those ships are coming closer. It is as the great bronze Kudu foretold.”

“Yes.” He turned towards the boy; his greying brows furrowed. “Prepare the people.”

“Yes baba.”


The bronze Kudu stood against the cavern entrance gleaming in the morning sun. Stone gears spun gradually below the structure, pushing the great god back into its sanctuary. The boy gained the attention of the villagers with a sharp tap of his golden scepter on the cold mountain floor; the ruby gem at the tip shone against their eyes.

“As the great Kudu  foretold,” the boy began. Although young, his voice carried across the congregation, “our visitors will arrive within the setting of two suns upon this great land.” The murmurs were soft. They had all seen the large ships drifting towards them from afar.

“Great prince, are we to hide?”A voice asked. The boy cast cold eyes at the speaker.

“We are not hiding, merely keeping our technology hidden. We do not know who they are or what they want, but we have foreseen the destruction our weapons will weave across our sacred land in their hands.”

“And what destruction will they weave with their weapons?” Another asked.

“Plenty still.” the boy’s eyes softened. He placed a closed fist over his heart. The horns of the kudu were etched on the bronze plate that fell over his shoulders and draped to his chest.

“I fear for you. The bronze and gold monstrosities they will build from our primitive work will be…” he sighed. The people could see the fear blaze in the young prince’s eyes; they felt a stirring of that fear themselves.

“We cannot bestow our secrets and knowledge to them. I beg of you.” his eyes swept over his people. Barely past thirteen summers he hoped to never become the king the Shaman foresaw. He pulled his chest plate over his head and held it in his hands. He was now like the rest of his people. When they saw this, they fell to their knees and let their bronze mechanisms fall from their arms and legs. It was the end of an era.


The dark waters swept the reflected stars back and forth across its glistening surface. A distorted mirror reflecting distorted hearts. Hidden from sight under a reflective boat, traitors glided from the approaching ships towards the coast. Towards what they had already started calling the Cape of Good Hope.


On 24 December 1651, accompanied by his wife and son, Jan van Riebeeck set off from Texel in The Netherlands for the Cape of Good Hope. Van Riebeeck had signed a contract with the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to oversee the setting up of a refreshment station to supply Dutch ships on their way to the East. Sailing on the Dromedaris with two other ships, the Rejiger and De Goede Hoop, Van Riebeeck was accompanied by 82 men and 8 women.

Hope you enjoyed my little tale. Can you guess what’s going to happen next?

Jozi Flash – A Flash Fiction Anthology

Jozi Flash Cover 2

A Flash Fiction Anthology by South African Authors

There are no zombie-dalek-rainbow-unicorns in this anthology. Not for lack of trying – they just wouldn’t play nicely with the other characters.

Instead you’ll find a genie with a unique wish, a border post between worlds, a light romance, an alien recorder and a very special chair, amongst others.

This is what you get when you challenge five talented South African writers with a series of prompts and strict word limits: Jozi Flash – an anthology of 29 bite-sized stories with a huge amount of heart.  

As unique as the narrators, these tales range from the macabre to heart warming in fewer words than it took to write this blurb.

The zombie-dalek-rainbow-unicorns ate the rest.  



I am truly proud to present to you an upcoming anthology, published by a local Publishing house, of which I am a contributor. Following a successful and inspirational NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last year, a number of us local writers decided to continue encouraging each other to write. With daily writing sprints, referrals to blogs, Twitter and Wattpad accounts, and flash fiction competitions, the combined effort of both those who contributed and those who encouraged, made Jozi Flash a reality.


Chasing Dreams Publishing

A special shout out to Nicky Stephens who is the founder of Chasing Dreams Publishing (website coming up soon) and the driving force behind Jozi Flash (including its cover). Dedicated in sending out weekly writing prompts, steadfastly asking for missing writing, tirelessly editing alongside Cecilia Dathis, all culminating into the anthology that is Jozi Flash.

Jozi Flash

Jozi Flash will be officially published on the 20th March 2016, that’s only 9 days from the date of this post. Excitement levels are very high!

This anthology will be available for free download in PDF or ePub format and I will notify you all once it is available. So when that happens, please download it, review it and share it. I would greatly appreciate it, and I know my fellow writers and editors would greatly appreciate it too.

If you would like a copy, let me know and I will ensure you receive one. Should you have any books or stories you would like me to read and give a review, feel free to let me know and I will do so.


Challenge Day 5 – Skhokho

Skhokho is not your typical gangster from eKasi, you know the type – dressed in a black leather jacket, a beanie sitting precariously atop his head while he eyes you menacingly; a frayed  toothpick wiggling annoyingly from the corner of his mouth but you know better than to tell him to spit it out. Neh bra, Skhokho was up there with the elites, which suited his name just fine and by elites’s I’m talking Ocean’s Eleven, Italian Job kind of elites; high-end stuff mos. And so when I was invited to his house in Diepkloof, I expected a mansion of some sort or at least a relatively large estate to be rising among the humble dwellings of the Soweto residents. Instead I parked my City Golf on the pavement outside a small face-brick home with a high wall and a black sliding gate. The blue GTI parked haphazardly against the sliding gate made my gut clench in disgust – Parkes.

I slid open the gate and walked through the short cement pathway up to the front door, knocking on the wooden door and waiting. The door swung open and I was face to face with Parkes; he grinned a toothy grin, a piece of gold closing the gap between his two front teeth.

” ‘sbali you are on time for the first time today neh!” he cried jovially, placing his arm around my shoulder and leading me into the dim interior of the house. Alcohol and dagga encompassed him and I fought the urge to cough in disgust. He wheeled me into the living room where Skhokho sat in a large single-seater couch holding a tumbler glistening gold from the liquid within. Parkes nudged me towards the seats while he backtracked to the door to close it.

“The wheelman has arrived – welcome. Sit.” Skhokho swept his arm over the leather couches that formed a semi-circle around him though his eyes fell upon a chair beside him; I sat on the chair beside him.

“Sir” I said nodding. He nodded back. His dark eyes stared at me with amusement, a slight smile spreading on his thick lips as though he was filtering through my thoughts – and enjoying what was hidden within them. I was afraid of him, of course, why wouldn’t I be; everyone was afraid of Skhokho.

“Everything is set. You just need to be on Harrison street on the day, by the Rand Water building…you know where that is.” He said it as a statement. I nodded. He contiued

“There is a Capitec Bank there…that’s our hit. Its a quick job, in out and we are gone long before the bank clerks can even sniff the sink of fear oozing from their armpits ha ha. You know the drill.” I nodded again. I noticed that Parkes wasn’t coming back into the room…in fact I hadn’t heard the door close. Skhokho coughed to revert my attention back to him.

“I’ll find you on the day of the job – be ready. You waste my time, I waste you.” he smiled pleasantly as though he’d just offered to pay for my lunch; a shiver crawled up my spine.


I sat in the car watching various individuals walk past – each one different in how they animatedly spoke to one another. Two college students – girls – obnoxiously told a young man to go find someone who cares elsewhere before briskly walking past the car; I smiled at the one girl. She gave me a look of disgust and carried on with her friend. I laughed.

“Entertaining strangers in the hopes that you to meet an angel…’sbali?” a voice spoke from behind me. I jumped, my heart catching in my throat and galloping like a race horse. I looked at the rearview mirror and there sat Parkes grinning at me like a Cheshire cat.

“Don’t gape at me like an idiot, buddy! There’s a job that needs to be done and guess what? You have been promoted!” Parkes laughed. I saw no humour in his statement; my humour was still recovering from that shock he’d given me (how the heck did he get into the car!) and now I was being thrust into the robbery itself – could this day get any worse?

Of course it could.

It did.


I was dodging bullets like a mad-man, weaving through the filing cabinets like a mouse in a labyrinth. The air smelled of gun powder and burning paper. Screams filled the office area which made thinking difficult and that coupled with Parkes’ maniacal laughter drove an ice cold dagger through my head.

“Oh ‘sbali! Don’t you just love this!” Parkes laughed, turning to face me from behind the cover of a desk. I couldn’t laugh…I couldn’t even cry. This was a disaster. So much for an in-out  job! The gun in my hand felt heavy and useless, the weight of it like lead in my chest – I’d never shot anyone before; I couldn’t claim that fact anymore after this. Parkes on the other hand crawled further ahead, his hand peering above the desks and letting off shots in the direction of the approaching cops.

Blam. Blam. Blam.


“You’ll never catch us you fat pigs!” He laughed. It was at that moment that I realized why Parkes was Skhokho’s right-hand man; only one who found joy in such chaos could stand on almost equal ground with a man like Skhokho who was just as crazy himself – reserved yes, but crazy nonetheless.

“Hey snap out of it! Let’s go! Car is ready yes!?” I froze. Car? Yes! I nodded. He grinned, motioning for me to go. Fear gripped my legs, froze them in mid rise. I couldn’t…they’d shoot me of course. What if I died right now…what was it all worth!? A bullet ricocheted  off the wall beside me, past my face; I’d felt the wind of it graze my nose. Shocked I turned to see Parkes grinning madly at me. He mouthed an obscenity at me followed by the word “Go” as he lifted his gun towards me again. That did the trick. I took off. At the same time, Parkes rose from behind the desk, facing the cops – everything seemed to move slowly.

Parkes pulled a second gun from behind him seemingly from nowhere.

Bullets whizzed by me, clipping  the tip of my ear as I ran.

Parkes was rattling bullets off still grinning like a mad man.

It was that same grin that was plastered to his face as he turned towards me, his eyelid dropping slowly in a wink.

A bullet tore through his chest…

then another…

and another.

I ran past him then, his body covering the door enough for me to get through but that wasn’t enough as hot-white pain burst through my side and I was falling.

On my knees I landed. My side was scorching, I thought I would pass out. Searing pain and heat tore through all reason and I knew I should just quit now, lay down and die. I tried to cry but no tears formed. I looked up and there he was. Skhokho.


I hobbled into the car grinning like a maniac. The blood flowing down my side was slowing down as Skhokho briskly approached the car, opening the back door for me before he entered the vehicle from the passenger side. I threw myself into the car, wincing in pain but managing to shut the door behind me. I lay my head down on the seat, wondering when Skhokho had acquired a new driver. My heart seized up when the driver spoke, the car rolling away from where it was parked.

“Oh ‘sbali! Are you still alive back there?!” I lifted my head, unable to accept the truth of it. Parkes turned his head and grinned at me, his gold filling gleaming. “Looks like you’ve passed the first test neh!” with his maniacal laughter filling the car, a second laughter joined his. It was mine.


A visit to Joburg – The Capitec Bank where the shoot-out occurred ( let it load to street view ) Harrison Street

Skhokho – An untouchable, streetwise guy.

‘sbali        – friend

eKasi         – A shortened version of the Afrikaans word ”lokasie”. The english word is location, an older word for townships. During the apartheid era, black people were relocated to these townships. The biggest township in South Africa is Soweto.

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