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Dime Store Magic

Kelley Armstrong

Orbit, 2004, 462 pp, £6.99, ISBN: 1-84149-323-6

Dime Store Magic is the third book in what is now labelled the “Women of the Otherworld” series. The previous two books, Bitten and Stolen, told the story of Elena Michaels, the only female werewolf in the world. Stolen broadened the remit to include other supernatural entities such as witches, half-demons and vampires and it was here that the witch Paige Winterbourne was introduced to us. Dime Store Magic whisks us straight into a continuation of Paige’s story but unfortunately it all seems a bit formulaic now (spoiler alert):

Step 1: Prologue introducing the baddies.

Step 2: First person narrator (Paige) introduces herself – a smart, sassy, self-assured, sensible supernatural, whose witch mother was killed in the previous book. She leads a normal life, apart from the fact she’s guardian to a 13 year old potential superwitch (Savannah), whose witch mother was also killed in the previous book (those witches don’t seem to have a lot of luck on the parenting front).

Step 3: Bring on the baddies and all their fiendish schemes: the half demon who killed Paige’s witch mother in the previous book (see step 2 above) and Savannah’s sorcerer father, who just happens to be the head of a powerful cabal and wants custody of his little princess. Bless.

Step 4: Introduce dodgy sorcerer lawyer bloke, who may or may not be of assistance (but probably will).

Step 5: Everything goes completely pear shaped and there’s no one to help Paige or her companions.

Step 6: Inevitable sex scene

Step 7: Rapid escalation of events until all the bad guys are vanquished and normal supernatural life resumes once more.

Maybe this is a tad unfair. The story is exciting and rips along at a cracking pace proving to be as much a page-turner as its forbearers. Armstrong was wise to move on from the werewolf saga too as there was very little mileage left there, although Elena does make a couple of cameo appearances for continuity. The main problem with the book is that it’s virtually entirely plot driven with very little character development. Bitten and Stolen allowed us to get to know Elena; Paige however, was not that major a character in Stolen and was fairly unsympathetic for much of its length. Her persona doesn’t actually seem to differ much from Elena’s – a question of differential through abilities rather than character traits. Perhaps this is a result of Armstrong having to spend time building up and explaining the workings of Paige’s particular brand of witchcraft and racing on with the plot, rather than taking time to let the reader understand her personality and sympathise with her predicament. Stolen worked well because there were a plethora of characters – some good, some bad, some unpredictable, but the focus seems too narrow here. The next book, Industrial Magic, promises more supernatural shenanigans but with a larger cast list. Hopefully that will revive the series and re-cast its previous spells over the reader.