Waking the Witch
by Kelley Armstrong
Reviewed by Nu Yang

At first glance, Waking the Witch has everything I love about a good urban fantasy novel: a strong female character, romantic tension, and an interesting supernatural crime that needs to be solved. Unfortunately, Kelley Armstrong's latest novel in her Otherworld series did not deliver an unforgettable adventure.

This is Armstrong's eleventh book in her series, using a young witch named Savannah Levine that was introduced in the second book (Stolen) as the protagonist. I'm not sure why Armstrong decided to bring Savannah upfront and give the character her own book, but I did not know much about Savannah or her backstory. Unfamiliarity may lose some readers--especially those who are new to the series. Many characters in this book are in previous installments as well.

I was eager to see what Armstrong's magic system was like, but she "told" us a lot of the magic as opposed to "showing" us the magic. For example, she would write that Savannah used a binding spell or a blur spell rather than show us how it worked or how it felt from Savannah's point of view. Even though it was told in first-person, I did not feel like we were that close inside her head. Another thing I noticed was that everything came easily for Savannah because she could use magic to save herself. I did not sense any real danger for her, even when it looked like she was a target for the killer on the loose.

Like many other female protagonists in the genre, Savannah has an attitude and members of the male species are attracted to her. You can't blame them. She's young, pretty, and rides a motorcycle. I don't know if it's Savannah's age (she's only 21 and this is her first solo case) or her gender, but two (two!) men show up to town to rescue her. Another problem was that Savannah allows herself to open up and have feelings for a human detective who is helping with the murder case, only to have author Armstrong kill him off. This was a missed opportunity because the relationship showed an interesting side of Savannah. What I wish Armstrong and other urban fantasy authors would start doing is loosen up with the angst. Don't get me wrong; I love angst, but when one tragedy comes after the other it's draining, not only for the character, but also for the reader.

Spoiler alert, reading on will reveal one of the main "secrets" of the plot.

The disappointing ending also left me desiring more in terms of the plot. The villain turns out to someone named Leah, who I suppose has been a recurring character in the series. Like I mentioned earlier, new readers to the series would have no idea who Leah is and I was underwhelmed with the revelation--especially when we spent the entire book speculating on other possible culprits. Also, after a suspenseful build-up to what promised to be an explosive showdown, Savannah and Leah end up talking during most of the battle instead of fighting. The ending left us with a cliffhanger, which I'm guessing sets us up for the next book in the series. I'm not sure of this tactic since I was always told each book in a series should stand alone.

Overall, the story could have used more showing and less talking scenes to convey stronger emotions and urgency. I also needed to know earlier what was at stake for Savannah if she couldn't solve the case and catch the killer. This book would probably work better for those who are already established fans of the Otherworld series.


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