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Haunted by Kelley Armstrong
Review by Cathy Green
Spectra Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0553587080
Date: 31 May, 2005 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

As with her previous novels, Armstrong takes traditional fantasy, horror and supernatural elements and gives them her own spin. She has created her own rules for how the afterlife works, using Eve as exposition fairy/narrator to explain them to the reader. Armstrong has a decidedly original take on angels, and the scenes in the pirate-themed part of the afterlife were amusing. In Armstrong's universe, supernatural beings go to different afterlife planes than mere mortals, which occasionally causes problems as supernatural beings who did not have much in the way of powers are sometimes surprised to find themselves in the supernatural afterlife. Nymphs, for instance, have virtually no power in life, other than a tendency to be blonde cheerleaders and thus end up as the bimbo groupies of the afterlife.

Haunted opens with the villain of the piece, the Nix, corrupting a mortal noblewoman in 1600s France. When the Nix finds herself trapped in the body of the woman as she's about to be executed, an archangel appears and is able to kill the Nix, sending her to a supernatural afterlife to be punished and imprisoned. Unfortunately, the Fates running that particular afterlife underestimate the Nix and she escapes, albeit weakened, back into our world. Throughout the novel, the main plot will be intercut with chapters detailing the Nix's exploits. Meanwhile, in the present, Eve Levine, last seen in Industrial Magic traveling through various afterlife planes, is enjoying her afterlife as best she can, watching over Savannah and seeking spells that could allow her to interact physically with the living world, in order to better protect her daughter. Eve has also renewed her acquaintance with the late Kristoff Nast, former head of the Nast cabal and father of Savannah. Kristoff seems to have made a smooth adjustment to the afterlife and has taken up the practice of law there.

The story is laid out in Armstrong's usual breezy narrative style. The action gets going fairly quickly, as the Fates hold Eve to the promise she made to them in Industrial Magic and task her with recapturing the Nix, giving her a young archangel as an assistant. The archangel is not wildly helpful to Eve due to his lack of self-esteem, but he does provide the reader with useful information, since he acts as Eve's guide, explaining the rules and hierarchy of various parts of the afterlife in a manner neatly integrated with the rest of the story. Eve is also assisted by Kristoff, who knows a significant number of spells for travel and fighting and is eager to rekindle his relationship with Eve. In fact, death has been a good thing for Kristoff's personality, making him a much nicer person than he was in Dime Store Magic. As a result, Eve finds herself interested in pursuing the relationship as well. It would not be surprising if Haunted were to receive nominations for the various Romance novel awards.

Eve tries to understand the Nix by seeking out its past victims, so she seeks the help of necromancer Jaime Vegas (first introduced in Industrial Magic) and is slightly sidetracked since she has to help Jaime get rid of a ghostly stalker before Jaime will help her. The Fates also add a complication to Eve's task. Because they are worried that Eve will not succeed, given the failure of the other supernatural beings they sent prior to Eve, the Fates give Eve the power to turn into an angel should she need it when she directly confronts the Nix. While this might sound like a great gift, Eve is not pleased at the prospect of becoming a higher being, since it would cut her off from Kristoff and eliminate any chance of her being able to exist in our world to protect Savannah.

Eve's path and that of the Nix eventually converge and there is a final showdown at the home of Paige and Lucas, where in order to save hr daughter, Eve may have to abandon her forever. Overall, Haunted is a fun, solid read and a nice addition to the series. My one complaint is not with the writing but with the increasingly lurid covers. With the most recent one I was too embarrassed by the cover to read it during my commute to and from work. However, readers should not be put off by the covers; the series is worth reading. Also, while it helps to have read Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic, it is not necessary to have read them in order to enjoy Haunted, so new readers should not be concerned about starting with the most recent book in the series.

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