Dark Magic - Tor/Forge Blog

Mysterious Ashes

Dark Magic by James Swain

Written by James Swain

A magic trick as old as time from national best-selling author (and magician) James Swain, whose novel Dark Magic, debuts from Tor this month.

“A darkly brilliant story of magic and witchcraft that asks the reader to believe the unbelievable. I chose to believe—and could not put the book down.”

David Copperfield

The Trick: This trick was first performed by fakirs on the streets of Bombay. It looks like a miracle and will make your audiences think you’ve gone over to the dark side.

A card is freely selected from a deck of playing cards. The spectator writes the name of the card on a slip of paper, which is then set afire in an ashtray. The magician rolls back his sleeve and rubs the ashes onto his forearm. The name of the card miraculously appears on the magician’s skin!

What you need: An ordinary deck of cards, a Chap stick, a lighter, a slip of paper and a pen, and an ashtray. Remove the Ace of Clubs and Seven of Hearts from the deck, and place the AC on the bottom, and the 7H second from the bottom. Slip the deck into the box and put it into your pocket.

Roll back both of your sleeves. Using the Chap stick, write AC on your left forearm, then write 7H on your right forearm. Roll down both your sleeves and pocket the Chap stick. You’re now ready to begin.

How it’s done: Remove the deck from the box and place it in front of your spectator. Ask them to cut the deck somewhere in the center but not complete the cut.

Have your spectator pick up the bottom half of the deck, and deal it into two piles on the table, alternating the cards as she deals. Watch closely, and remember on which piles the last two cards (the Ace of Clubs and Seven of Hearts) fall. You have just forced these cards without your audience being the wiser.

Ask your spectator to point at one of the two piles. Let’s say she points at the pile with the Ace of Clubs on top. Have her turn over the selection and show it to your audience. Then have her write the name of the card on a slip of paper, put the slip in the ashtray, and set it afire with the lighter.

Roll back your left sleeve (AC is written on your left forearm). With your right fingers, remove some ashes from the ashtray, and smear them on your forearm where you’ve written with the Chap stick. The letters will take form, which you dramatically display to your audience.

If your spectator were to point at the pile with the Seven of Hearts on top, proceed as before, only be sure to roll back your right sleeve (7H is written on your right forearm) before smearing the ashes on your skin.

Be prepared to hear screams!


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Trailer: Dark Magic by James Swain


Peter Warlock is a magician with a dark secret. Every night, he amazes audiences at his private theater in New York, where he performs feats that boggle the imagination. But his day job is just a cover for his otherworldly pursuits: Peter is a member of an underground group of psychics who gaze into the future to help prevent crimes.

No one, not even his live-in girlfriend, knows the truth about Peter—until the séance when he foresees an unspeakable act of violence that will devastate the city. As Peter and his friends rush to prevent tragedy, Peter discovers that a shadowy cult of evil psychics, the Order of Astrum, know all about his abilities. They are hunting him and his fellow psychics down, one by one, determined to silence them forever.

Dark Magic is a genre-bending supernatural thriller from national bestselling novelist and real-life magician James Swain.

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