Treif Magic by John Baltisberger

John Baltisberger’s Treif Magic is at once a captivating urban fantasy/horror tale and simultaneously an introduction to Jewish culture and mythology/spirituality for those who are viewing the story from outside of that society. I’ve always argued that the best fiction still manages to teach us something while we’re immersed within it and the best lessons are framed in a narrative structure to better convey and reinforce the information to be learned. This book succeeds in proving that point quite well.
As a story, Treif Magic introduces us to the world of Ze’ev Kaplan, a man who could have been a rabbi if life had turned out differently. Instead, encounters with inhuman forces of both evil and good have marked him and led him down a path that’s molded him into something that’s equal parts private detective, magician, and exorcist.
In my opinion, it’ll be a damn shame if Ze’ev doesn’t become as iconic within the urban fantasy genre as Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden because there are definitely strong parallels between the two characters while Baltisberger manages to avoid a lot of the “Mary Sue” narrative cheats that Butcher employs in his Dresden Files, ultimately making Ze’ev the more human and relatable of the two characters. In that sense, the character is more in line with Anton Gorodetsky from Lukyanenko’s Night Watch (and its sequels), Carl Kolchak from the classic television series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, or Harry D’Amour from Clive Barker’s literary universe (and the film adaptation of The Last Illusion, Lord of Illusions).
Filled with supernatural creatures, powerful necromancers, magic, action, and mystery, there’s so much to love about this book.
Without offering up any spoilers, I suspect many readers will come away wanting more and with a burning question begging for an answer: Who is this “she” that the necromancer mentions near the end?
Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. May as well pick up a copy for a friend or family member too, since it’s always fun to have people you can discuss your books with.

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