Monday, September 6, 2010

Review — Waking the Witch by Kelley Armstrong

Summary (via Goodreads): The orphaned daughter of a sorcerer and a half-demon, Savannah is a terrifyingly powerful young witch who has never been able to resist the chance to throw her magical weight around. But at 21 she knows she needs to grow up and prove to her guardians, Paige and Lucas, that she can be a responsible member of their supernatural detective agency. So she jumps at the chance to fly solo, investigating the mysterious deaths of three young women in a nearby factory town as a favor to one of the agency's associates. At first glance, the murders look garden-variety human, but on closer inspection signs point to otherworldly stakes.

Soon Savannah is in over her head. She's run off the road and nearly killed, haunted by a mystery stalker, and freaked out when the brother of one of the dead women is murdered when he tries to investigate the crime. To complicate things, something weird is happening to her powers. Pitted against shamans, demons, a voodoo-inflected cult and garden-variety goons, Savannah has to fight to ensure her first case isn't her last. And she also has to ask for help, perhaps the hardest lesson she's ever had to learn.

Review: As I said last week I’m a big fan of Kelley Armstrong, particularly her ability to create realistic, strong female characters. I don’t adore every single heroine she’s introduced in her Otherworld series (like I said Elena, her original protagonist of the series is still my favorite), but I know each installment will be a fun, thrilling ride.

Having first met Savannah as a pre-teen in Kelley Armstrong’s Dime Store Magic, I was surprised to see she was already 21 (and then I felt a little old because Armstrong won’t “soap opera age” her characters and it really had been that long since I’d read Dime Store Magic). I was a little hesitant because all I remembered about Savannah was that she was slightly bratty and came from quasi-evil parents.  Plus, while I enjoyed Paige's books, I always found Paige and her husband Lucas a little goody-goody and boring for me.  I never got all that attached to either of them.  I was pleasantly surprised to find grown-up Savannah a fantastic protagonist.

Having an incredibly varied cast of characters seems to allow Armstrong to tackle different genres within one series. Some deal with the underbelly of Hollywood, some with family (or werewolf pack) life, but Paige’s stories, and now Savannah’s, are hardboiled private investigator tales infused with a good dose of the supernatural.  I find myself getting bored with a lot of the books I read in mystery or suspense. I get antsy, like “get on with it already!” when the story slows and have been know to read the last page just so I know who the killer is (It's terrible, I know! Don’t judge me!). But Armstrong always keeps me engaged, caring more about the characters than the mystery so I stick with it.  Even better, Armstrong’s good at keeping the story moving. There’s never a slow moment and the twists she throws at the reader genuinely surprised me and kept me guessing until the very end.

What makes this book one of the top three in the Otherworld series though is Savannah. Smart and sassy, she’s incredibly fun and unpredictable. I liked her so much I could even deal with the motorcycle, which I found a little cliche.  I just feel like it screams "oh, look at me, I'm a badass and not a girly girl because I ride a motorcycle.  Aren't I different?," but, here, it worked.  There were a few moments that I stepped back and was like, “wait, she’s supposed to be 21?” because sometimes she seemed so much older, but there was a good balance of her vulnerability and brashness that reminded you Savannah is still young and inexperienced.  She makes mistakes a young adult would make, trying to prove that she's capable of doing it all herself.   

I was a little disappointed with her love interest(s), but I hope we’ll get more of that in Savannah’s next book. I’m not getting a whole lot of chemistry between her and Adam, who she’s supposedly in love with, but they didn’t get a whole lot of time together. This one didn’t deal much with her personal or home life, which was fine, but I wish we could see more of what happened between this book and the last time we saw Savannah.

Like most of Armstrong’s books, I’m waiting anxiously for the next installment of the series, especially since Kelley threw in a shocking twist at the very end that will definitely have some serious repercussions for Savannah.

I have to say, I may have a new favorite heroine in the Otherworld series...

Lit Snit Verdict: B+

Oh, and don't forget to vote for what book we'll be reading for the book club in October!  The poll is on the main page in the lower left-hand corner.

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