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Dime Store Magic
Kelley Armstrong
Bantam, 448 pages

Art: Leah Springate
Dime Store Magic
Kelley Armstrong
Kelley Armstrong is married with three children and lives in rural Ontario, Canada. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in psychology, she moved on to study computer programming. She is now a full-time writer and parent.

Kelley Armstrong Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dime Store Magic
SF Site Interview: Kelley Armstrong
SF Site Review: Stolen
SF Site Review: Bitten

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Paige Winterbourne has been the Coven Leader of the American witches ever since her mother's death. A position that some of the elders, particularly the embittered Victoria, are not comfortable with her having. Part of this is because she fights against the hidebound attitude of her sisters. Centuries of persecution have forced witches into hiding what they are, destroying any spells of real power lest the days of horror, such as the Inquisition or the Salem Witch Trails, come again.

Another part of this is because of her young ward, Savannah, an incredibly powerful and rebellious thirteen-year-old. Savannah's mother, Eve, was a witch who practiced forbidden dark magic and hung out with Sorcerers. She was killed, and so now Savannah and Paige live together in a typical teen-mother (or maybe older sister, since Paige isn't much older) relationship, Savannah testing the boundaries constantly. This would be nothing more than an irritation for Paige if these small rebellions didn't include using the very magic Paige has spent her life fighting against. Be that as it may, when an evil half demon named Leah convinces Savannah's biological father, a very powerful Cabal Sorcerer, to sue for custody of the girl, Paige will stop at nothing to keep her ward out of the hands of the very people who might very well use her as a pet witch in their plays for power.

To understand why Savannah ending up in the hands of her father is a bad thing -- it is -- you may have to understand the set up of this unique world. Witches and Sorcerers are not human. In fact, there are many non-human races secretly living in this world, such as vampires, werewolves, demons. Witches are female magic users, they have different powers from the male magic users (sorcerers). Witches hang together in Covens for protection and to master what small arts they permit themselves, while sorcerers create Cabals, huge corporate entities meant to give them full access to the one thing they want more than magic -- power. Sorcerers and witches used to have a pretty good relationship -- their powers, after all, differ, even complement each other -- until the sorcerers turned on the witches. It also explains why Paige is less than eager to trust Lucas Cortez, a sorcerer/lawyer who genuinely seems to want to help Paige sort out her legal problems.

A plot like this depends on the characters being someone you can feel for. And you can certainly feel for Paige. Since Leah has decided to go the human route with a custody case, she's supposed to be bound by human rules. But it doesn't bother Leah, who kills whoever she likes, then tries to frame poor Paige. Paige, in the first person narrative, comes across as normal as any one of us. Trying to make her way in life, she has set goals that could really help people, yet the very people she's trying to help are actively fighting against her. Even Savannah, with her rather scary attitude about her power, fights against her, sometimes without meaning to.

One thing that Kelley Armstrong does is to make some interesting, if painful, points about the media and fanaticism. Leah sets it up so that it looks like Paige has had black masses in her back yard and has murdered someone. The different reactions that she has to suffer through, hateful messages on her answering machine and computer, night vigils, all seem to be almost satirical in their examination of the hypocrisy of the human animal, but is only painful in that it seems so realistic. I'm sure the same thing could happen to anyone.

Dime Store Magic is third book in the Women of the Other World series is a lot of fun. It has romance and adventure in equal parts, and stars an admirable, tough woman. Combining action and magic with the exploration of mundane relationships, it's not just an exciting book, but a thoughtful one. There are two previous books in the series, Bitten and Stolen.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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