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Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Orbit, 2004, ISBN 1-84149-340-6, £6.99

Paige Winterbourne is a witch. She enjoys a pleasant domestic life with her young witch ward, Savannah, and even has a hunky boyfriend in the shape of Lucas, a sorcerer who just happens to also be a lawyer. Now normally witches and sorcerers don’t get along, let alone witches and lawyers, but Lucas is a bit different to the stereotypical view of either group. Unfortunately he is also the heir to a powerful cabal of sorcerers and, much to his legitimate half-brothers’ chagrin, rather wishes he wasn’t. Instead he’d prefer to be the nice lawyer, taking on cases for poor ‘umble supernaturals who can’t afford to pay him, such is his philanthropic nature. He and Paige seem to be making a fair go at playing happy families especially now Lucas has adopted the policy of ignoring his father’s constant calls about fulfilling his destiny and embracing the esoteric rituals of the cabal. However a number of young supernaturals connected with the cabals are found murdered, placing pressure on him to act. When a young witch is also killed it becomes clear that Paige too must become involved.

Industrial Magic is the fourth book in the “Women of the Otherworld” Series, another in the line of trendy F8™ (Feisty Ferocious Faux-Feminist Female Fantôme Fighting Fictions) books. This book is a direct sequel to Dime Store Magic, following Paige and developing her relationship with Lucas. Dime Store Magic had some problems but Industrial Magic seems to have overcome these. In a first person narrated novel, it’s very difficult to initiate a sub-plot, especially one unbeknownst to the narrator, and as a result the story is necessarily linear. This is OK, but other devices have to be used to maintain the reader’s interest. Dime Store Magic failed because it was too intense; pretty much focussing solely on Paige and Savannah, with some of the burgeoning relationship with Lucas included to provide some diversion. Industrial Magic doesn’t make that mistake because it brings in plenty of characters, many of whom are already familiar from the previous series (Elena the werewolf, Cassandra the vampire) and some new to this volume (Jaime the party animal showbiz necromancer, for example). Again the format involves a mystery but, being more of a character piece, doesn’t fall into the realms of the whodunnit, whether you spot the solution before it’s revealed will not indelibly alter your enjoyment of the book. The characters are likeable and, laudably, feminist in their outlook (certainly the most feminist of the 8F™ novels we’ve read so far) – there’s not too much in the way of girlie descriptions of clothing (although the Nike swoosh does get a mention – aaaarrrrrggggghhhh, Laurel K Hamilton has a LOT to answer for) and Paige doesn’t feel the urge to describe how she manages to cope with the “burden” of being a woman who “has it all”. Overall, the series has picked up to produce an easy-to-read and enjoyable adventure. Roll-on volume five!