From the BLURB:
Columbus is a small, fading town, untouched by the twenty-first century. But when three young women are found dead - victims of what appear to be ritual murders - things start to get very dark, and very dangerous . . . Private investigator Savannah Levine can handle 'dark and dangerous'. As the daughter of a black witch, she has a lot of power running through her veins, and she's not afraid to use it. But her arrival in Columbus has not gone unnoticed. Savannah may think she's tracking down a murderer, but could she be the killer's next target?Of course she could always ask her old friend (and half-demon) Adam Vasic for back up. But Savannah has her own - very personal - reasons for keeping Adam well away from Columbus. And in any case, she can rely on her own powers. Can't she . . . ?
‘Waking the Witch’ is the eleventh book in Kelley Armstrong’s ridiculously popular paranormal series, ‘Women of the Otherworld’. It is also the first book to be narrated by long-running, fan-favourite character Savannah Levine.
Savannah’s guardians, Paige Winterbourne and Lucas Cortez, are on a much-needed Hawaiian vacation. . . and while away Savannah is in charge of their Private Investigation business. So it happens that when telekinetic-demon and fellow PI, Jesse Aanes, walks through the door with a burning-hot case and too much on his plate it’s Savannah who he hand-balls it to.
A triple homicide in a sleepy town called Columbus has the townsfolk somewhat spooked and pointing fingers at the local Loathario and a cookie-cult complete with a charismatic-pervy male ‘leader’. Savannah is on her first solo case, and befriends a little girl whose mother was one of the three female victims. Savannah also cosies up to an out-of-state detective called Michael Kennedy, who happens to be the brother of one of the murdered women.
But as Savannah digs and delves she discovers that the murders may be a case of Columbus not suffering a witch to live. . .
I am a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong’s ‘Women of the Otherworld’ series. I love the immersive paranormal universe she has created, and the cast of strong female characters that she has introduced readers to. Armstrong’s series is one of the most popular and long-running urban fantasies out there, and for good reason. Ms. Armstrong effortlessly intertwines fantasy and mystery, with healthy doses or paranormal romance.
But it’s safe to say that devout ‘Otherworld’ fans were at once sceptical and curious for Savannah’s first narrated story. Savannah first appeared in the second novel, ‘Stolen’, and has had both main and minor roles in many books since. She is the one character of the ‘Otherworld’ series who readers have read an almost full character-arc of. We were there when her mother died, when she discovered her true paternity and lashed out at the truth, when she was a bratty handful for Paige and in her calmer years when she finally accepted Paige and Lucas’s devotion.
Savannah has always been a character of extremes – capable of great compassion for those she trusts and loves, and willing to inflict bouts of rage tempered with severe magic upon her enemies. Being the product of a witch mother, sorcerer father and with a sprinkling of demon blood thrown in Savannah is perhaps the most powerful of all the supernatural ‘Otherworld’ characters;
“I know who you are.” Her lips twisted as she got to her feet. “Daughter of Eve Levine and Kristof Nast. Foster daughter of Paige Winterbourne and Lucas Cortez. The golden girl of the supernatural world. Under the protections of two Cabals and the interracial council.”Savannah’s long-standing appearance in the ‘Otherworld’ series is both a help and a hindrance to her narrating her own book. On the one hand, fans have seen Savannah at her brattiest worst – from the time she was 12 right through to her stint as an angry teenager. . . and now at the tender age of 21 and only just tapping into her powers and flexing her independence.
“Actually, one Cabal. Thomas Nast refuses to recognize me. That’ll change when my brother takes over, but in the meantime, I've got the werewolf Pack. For protection, I’ll take them over the Nasts any day.”
“I suppose you think that makes you special.”
“Uh, yeah. . .”
On the other hand, because Savannah has been a constant throughout the series it is high-time that fans read her 360-degree turn-around.
‘Waking the Witch’ has had mixed reviews, and I think I know why. . . but for me this book was a wonderful introduction to Savannah as a grown woman. She is coming into her powers, getting to know herself and Kelley Armstrong is laying groundwork for fans to read the last-stretch of Savannah’s story.
‘Waking the Witch’ is primarily a whodunit murder-mystery. And really, it’s one of Kelley Armstrong’s finest pieces of intricate writing. The book is drenched in noir and heavy with magical foreboding; complete with red herrings, curveballs and a twist ending that will leave you gasping. It is brilliant! Particularly because Armstrong combines a small-town mystery within the big supernatural universe to make for one layered and knotted plot. . . But I can understand that the heavy mystery element may put-off some fans. For one thing, the ‘mystery’ is very dependent on fans knowing (or remembering) the plots of past ‘Otherworld’ books. This may be a problem in a series in which the narrators change, and fans have been known to only read the books narrated by their favourite characters. ‘Waking the Witch’, unlike most all ‘Otherworld’ books, can’t be read as a stand-alone without the rest of the series as reference. An understandable grumbling-point for those fans who were left in the dark to those delicate past-book references. . . but for someone who has stuck with the ‘Otherworld’ series for 10 books, it all came to a head in ‘Waking the Witch’ and I savoured every intricacy.
Another possible annoyance for ‘Otherworld’ fans may be the lack of romance in ‘Waking the Witch’. . . this is a double-edged sword, me thinks. Yes, all other ‘Otherworld’ books have been written with heavy doses of paranormal romance. But you have to remember that Kelley Armstrong has planned to have Savannah narrate books 12 and 13 (bringing her to the possible end of her publishing contract) and I think she is setting up an over-arching, slow-burning romance for Savannah.
Savannah’s long-term crush is Adam Vasic. Adam is 33 to Savannah’s 21 – but he was a part of the rescue team who saved her in ‘Stolen’ and has been a staple of her romantic fantasies ever since. Savannah is convinced that Adam is her soul-mate, but he has never shown her anything but friendship. In ‘Waking the Witch’, Adam comes on board to help Savannah in her investigation and he seems to be accepting her sudden transformation from 12-year-old to kick-ass 21-year-old PI in his mind’s eye. I think Adam and Savannah are each other’s HEA. . . but it will take a while to get there, for various reasons (least of which is Adam getting used to the idea of Savannah as a woman and not a little girl).
I think the romance is there in ‘Waking the Witch’, but only as groundwork for more heated encounters in book 12 ‘Spell Bound’ and TBA book #13. Still, fans who have gotten used to heated and instantaneous couplings between Clayton Danvers and Elena Michaels, and Paige and Lucas, will no doubt feel a twinge of disappointment that Savannah’s romance is more slow-burning. But I think it will be worth it when she and Adam finally ‘ignite’.
I hear fans complaints about ‘Waking the Witch’, which has had very mixed-reviews. But I think this is one of the best ‘Otherworld’ instalments yet. The mystery is superbly noir, and Savannah Levine as our heroine is a delicious conundrum. On the one hand she is disturbingly powerful for one so young, and constantly straddling the line between white and black magic. But as she proves in ‘Waking’, Savannah is a formidable foe when you hurt those she loves. . . I, for one, am completely fascinated by her as a character – mostly because it feels like she can tip the scales either way. Savannah is at the fork in the road where she has to decide whether to be ‘good’ or ‘evil’ and fans are along for the ride. . .