Dime Store Magic
by Kelley Armstrong
(Bantam, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-553-58706-4
Kelley Armstrong puts her werewolf heroine, Elena Michaels, on hold in favor of another supernatural heroine in this new chapter of her Women Of The Otherworld series. This time out, readers are further introduced to Paige Winterbourne, a witch who first appeared in Armstrongís last werewolf novel, Stolen.

While Paige is only 23-years-old, she has a lot on her plate. Much to the chagrin of the Elders, her motherís death meant Paige became leader of the American Coven of Witches. Also, due to circumstances played out in the book Stolen, Paige has custody of a powerful 13-year-old witch named Savannah. While Paige was rebellious in her youth, Savannahís antics and powers put her escapades to shame.

Itís because of Savannahís raw talent and impetuous nature that evildoers in the supernatural world would like to get their hands on the girl. With Paige standing in the way, it soon becomes quite clear that her days are numbered.

This very brief description doesnít do Dime Store Magic justice. While Armstrongís books tend to be lumped into a generic horror category Ė this story is much more. It contains a variety of elements that make for some riveting storytelling and are sure to garner her readers across genres Ė including fantasy, suspense, horror, and to a smaller extent, romance.

This is a spin-off book, which should set off some warning bells for newcomers. While I have a passing familiarity with the authorís werewolf books, I have no direct knowledge of the story that preceded this one. The first few chapters are a bit like jumping into the deep end of a pool. The reader needs to sink or swim to get a handle on the back-story. The author does get around to fleshing the details out, but itís hardly in the first few chapters. It requires some patience on the part of the reader.

That said, the suspense angle here keeps the pages turning and ratchets up the tension. Itís not a mystery per se, rather a cat and mouse chase to gain control over Savannah. Unfortunately Paige exhibits some too-stupid-to-live behavior towards the early portion of the book, not realizing the extent of the danger she is in. This is faint criticism though given her transformation and growth over the course of the entire story.

The suspense isnít the only element making Dime Store Magic a page-turning read Ė Armstrong has a descriptive writing style and pays close attention to detail without waxing poetic. As someone who has little patience for ďverbal diarrhea,Ē I can state firmly that Armstrongís writing is crisp and clean Ė and some of the smart-aleck dialogue had me laughing out loud. It is also to her credit that her characters are finely nuanced, and fascinating subjects on their own. Put them all in one room together and itís, quite frankly, breathtaking.

Dime Store Magic isnít a perfect book, but itís a darn entertaining one. If there is any hope of the horror genre surviving, itís going to take stories like this one to infuse some fresh blood into its ranks. This book really does have a little bit of everything Ė a secondary romance, a cracking suspense thread, and fantasy elements to give it all a different vibe. Book two in Paigeís saga arrives later in 2004 Ė somehow I doubt Iíll be the only reader impatiently waiting in line.

Side note: While there is a love scene in this book, the romance is very secondary. My R sensuality rating is more a reflection on the violence. If you have issues with reading about people meeting gruesome ends, consider this your warning.

--Wendy Crutcher

@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home