Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Review: Dime Store & Industrial Magic - Kelley Armstrong

These two books were loaned to me and recommended by a friend. I hadn't heard of of Kelly Armstrong, which surprised me, because once I looked her up, I saw she was right up my alley. Like authors such as Kim Harrison and CE Murphy, you find her titles in the SciFi/Fantasy section of the bookstore. These two are a pair of titles about witch Paige Winterbourne and her newly-acquired teenage fosterling, Savannah.

Dime Store Magic
Paige is the daughter of the former leader of the American Coven of Witches, but she's a modern, forward-thinking type who apparently has a knack for bucking authority. (I think this may have been established in previous titles in the series.) The Elders of her Coven don't want her around, and it is without their help that Paige must face Savannah's father, Kristoff Nast, a powerful and evil sorcerer (Sorcerers are the enemies of the witches in this series) who wants his daughter for his own purposes. In fact, the only one who is on Paige's side is a pro-bono lawyer willing to go up against the Nast Cabal, Lucas Cortez. Who is . . . also a sorcerer, though one who shirks his own heritage. Since she's got nobody else, Paige reluctantly accepts Lucas' help. A legal battle, romance, a kidnapping, and some seriously freaky magical stuff ensue.

I like the world these books are set in. I received another title, Bitten, from another friend, and have it in my TBR pile. The universe is well developed and Ms. Armstrong does a great job of overlapping her world with the one we live in. I actually appreciate these types of AUs more fully, because as writer I know it is more difficult. It's much easier to write urban fantasy in a world where everyone knows about and accepts the existence of preternatural beings. It cuts out a whole host of explanation.

I thought the characters were engaging too. Paige is strong and witty, and generally handles each new catastrophe with grace, and if not grace, at least an understandable and believable amount of floundering. The exchanges between her and Savannah were very true to form and usually comical. The romance was a very light subtheme here, taking a backseat to the politcal and social, and magical issues. And there were lots of them. From a funeral home of raised zombies (ew!) to a full on poltergeist-type moment at the end. And all of that was uber-cool.

The only problem I had was with the pacing. The book seemed to really drag in some places and be filled with a lot of details that just didn't seem important, other than to serve the author's purpose of showing characters interacting or dropping a few choice details that tied in later. The writing was the type that seemed to feel the need to fill in every minute, listing off the mudanities of life like laundry lists and what to make for dinner, rather than jumping right to the action.

As it was, I thought it was an entertaining, if sometimes slow read. Two Bleeding Hearts.

Industrial Magic
This book follows directly after Dime Store Magic and continues the story of Paige, Savannah, and Lucas. Paige has broken from the American Coven of Witches and the book starts out with her canvassing, pretty much door to door, to get Witches on board with her plan for a new organization. But a series of abductions of teenagers, namely those tied to Cabals, calls Paige away from her mission. She agrees to help Lucas' father, the head of the Cortez Cabal, in the search for the missing kids, and the people responsible.

I didn't have as many issues with this book. The beginning was slow, but once I got into it, I did not put it down. There was a nice mixture of mystery and drama, and more of a bird's eye view into the world. The ending was also a surprise, and the tension held through the end. I'm re-invested in the characters and will be reading at least one more title from this series. I can't strongly recommend it, but the story depth did keep me hooked. Three and a half bleeding hearts for this one.

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