Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble. The women of the otherworld return in their third outing. Buy a potion for a quarter and get three nickels in change; it’s Dime Store Magic, by Kelley Armstrong.
Paige Winterbourne was always either too young or too rebellious to succeed her mother as leader of one of the world’s most powerful elite organizations- the American Coven of Witches. Now that she is twenty-three and her mother is dead, the Elders can no longer deny her. But even Paige’s wildest antics can’t hold a candle to those of her new charge- an orphan who is all too willing to use her budding powers for evil… and evil is all too willing to claim her. For this girl is being pursued by a dark faction of the supernatural underworld. They are a vicious group who will do anything to woo the young, malleable, and extremely powerful neophyte, including commit murder- and frame Paige for the crime. It’s an initiation into adulthood, womanhood, and the brutal side of magic that Paige will have to do everything within her power to make sure they both survive.
With Dime Store Magic, the Women of the Otherworld series shifts focus from Elena the werewolf to Paige the witch. This shift allows us to explore a whole new batch of interesting stories: Paige developing a relationship with the sorcerer Cortez, despite the disapproval of her oppressive Coven. Paige uncovering the lost secrets of why witch magic seems so much weaker than sorcerer magic. Paige battling Leah, the telekinetic half-demon who murdered her mother, along with a pack of other supernatural thugs in the employ of a rich and powerful sorcerer Cabal. And… a legal battle in the human court system over custody of Savannah. That last one is really the least interesting, so it’s a shame that’s the story the novel chooses to open with.
The other plotlines are good, mind; it’s just a slog through the first part of the book in order to reach them. In a book about supernatural beings in a supernatural world, the last thing I want to read about is them deliberately refraining from doing anything supernatural. If I was interested in non-magical law procedurals, I’d be reading a John Grisham novel instead. Even when the villains try to raise the stakes by going from suing for custody to framing Paige for murder, it’s still just a mundane problem; it doesn’t really compare to the tension of summoning a demon to try and bite your face off.
At least supernatural conflict does come into it by the time of the climax, and is interesting enough; it’s just a shame I had to wait for it instead of being able to dive in straight off the bat. On the plus side, Paige, Savannah, and Cortez are all interesting characters that I enjoy reading about – though in Cortez’s case, the book again insists on stretching out Paige’s animosity with him for a painfully long time, even though it’s patently obvious to anyone who’s ever read a book of this kind before that they’re going to end up as lovers. This book feels like the first draft came in at half the desired length and had to be padded out.
Fortunately, the subplot Paige’s investigation into witch magic managed to sustain my interest through the subpar first half of the book and get me to the good bits, including a satisfying final confrontation between Paige and Leah and a suspenseful climax where Paige has to save Savannah from herself. It’s ultimately enough that I found the book to be overall enjoyable, despite the slow start. I just hope future books in the series are a bit quicker off the starting line.
Final Rating: 3/5