Spellbent
by Lucy A. Snyder
(Del Rey, $7.99, R)  ISBN 978-0-345-51209-3
***
Jessie Shimmer's day got off to a bad start when her boyfriend's nightmare invaded her own sleep, and it just went downhill from there. As in, almost apocalyptically bad. During a basic bring-the-rain spell, Cooper, her magical mentor as well as her lover (a good thing, considering the magic they practice together uses sex as a focus), disappears into a demonic portal that had no business cropping up. This is bad for a number of reasons, the first being that Cooper doesn't practice demonic magic and the second being that an actual demon emerges from the portal. Third, and not too distantly, Jessie is locked inside the sacred forest where they were performing the spell. The attack she suffers leaves her half-blind, missing a hand, and viciously scarred.

Jessie, already angry with magic's governing body, is even more ticked when they give her two – and only two—horrible options: she can sign a contract swearing to leave Cooper (who they deem an irresponsible nuisance) wherever he may be or become anathema. Anathema requires any magical-law-abiding-citizens to not only refuse Jessie Feathers aid, but pretty much to ignore her altogether. This means no further healing for her injuries, for one thing, as well as the loss of much of her support system.

To Jessie, turning down the contract was simple.  She loves Cooper and she has a feeling he's in a pretty nasty place. Plus, they're partners, they have a system.  To a girl who was shuffled off to live with her maternal aunt when her widowed father remarried, the partnership is well worth its eccentricities.

Unfortunately, even her understanding of her life before her mother's death is thrown askew with everything that's going on.  Suddenly, nothing Jessie knew to be true actually is, and everyone she thought was a friend is barred from her. Jessie, who is understandably angry and is an angry person for the most part anyway, blames her problems on Benedict Jordan, the city's most powerful magic user.  He is misusing Jessie painfully, but Jessie's plight would resolve itself more quickly if she'd quit passing blame and actually do something.

Certainly nothing to put on your must-have list, Spellbent, and I assume what will be an ensuing series, will nonetheless please those paranormal suspense and romance readers who have run through all of their Laurell Hamilton or Charlaine Harris books and are looking for something to fill the gap until a new title.  The characters, and I thought especially Jessie, never did develop though a few of them (Mother Karen, Jessie's witch friend) had potential. Perhaps these characters will make repeat performances in the future and will blossom.

--Sarrah Knight


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