May 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong
Bantam-Spectra PPBK: ISBN 0553587064 PubDate: 05/04/04
Review by Cathy Green

448 pgs. List price $ 6.99
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At the start of Dime Store Magic, Paige Winterbourne is working on designing a website design for a client for her 9-to-5 job while talking on the phone with a fellow witch from the American Coven of Witches. Paige is the newly installed head of the Coven and perhaps is not taking her duties as seriously as she should. Paige’s fellow witches are concerned about how she is parenting her ward Savannah, also a witch and the daughter of a now-deceased witch who had left the Coven to practice dark magic. Paige is also frustrated with how timid the Coven is in its use of spells.

While this of the first of Ms. Armstrong’s books I have read, readers of her two previous novels about the adventures of Elena Michaels, a female werewolf, will be familiar with some of the back-story to this book as well as some of the characters. Elena even makes a brief cameo appearance via telephone. New readers should not be afraid to start with Dime Store Magic though, since enough details are included about prior events that the readers will not be lost or confused.

Paige’s life is already complicated enough, what with the recent death of her mother, becoming guardian to Savannah and head of the Coven and trying to run her web design business. Throw a potential custody battle into the mix, and things go seriously off the rails. Kristof Nast, the son of the head of the Nast Cabal (cabals are corporations run by sorcerers) has been alerted to the fact that Savannah is his daughter and that Paige has custody of her. He decides to sue for custody, claiming Paige is a bad guardian because she’s a witch (which all the non-supernatural characters in the book assume means she’s a Wiccan). The Coven is afraid of being found out and is inclined to hand over Savannah, in part because they are afraid of her because her mother practiced black magic. Paige convinces them they need to fight it and hires a local lawyer to pursue the matter as a straightforward custody matter. Her attorney requests a blood test to establish paternity, which Paige is convinced Nast will refuse, because it would reveal his unusual genetic make-up (being a sorcerer or a true witch is a matter of genetics in the book’s universe).

At first it looks like this tactic will succeed, but then the Cabal decides to fight back using magic, and Paige finds herself accused of murder. Enter attorney Lucas Cortez, black sheep son and heir apparent of the head of the Cortez Cabal. In addition to legal maneuvering, both sides make heavy use of magic in the fight for control of Savannah, who has just reached the age where she can take full control of her powers. While Paige is initially able to hold her own magically against the Cabal with Lucas’ help, eventually she and Paige wind up in the hands of the Nast Cabal. How this happens and who betrays them is one of the major plot twists of the book. Will Savannah go over to the dark side and become the witch in residence for the Nast Cabal? Will Paige keep control of the Coven and get her life back on track? Will Paige and Lucas become romantically involved? Do they survive the magic maelstrom at the climax of the book? Read the book and find out. It’s a real page turner.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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