Waking the Witch, by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is the one author I will insta-buy in hardback. Whenever I do it, I brace myself, thinking, “Okay, this time I’m going to regret it.” And, knock on wood, I never do! Waking the Witch, Armstrong’s 11th Women of the Otherworld book, is just as captivating as her previous works.

Followers of Armstrong’s books know that she’s an incredibly strong world builder, who has created a rich universe of supernatural races and yet manages to avoid the schlocky formula that a lot of urban fantasy subscribes to. Even the cover of Waking the Witch seems to wink at that…with our midriff-baring heroine boldly facing front, in a defensive crouch, wearing jeans. No tramp stamp and leather pants for her, no sirree! And inside the pages, 21-year-old Savannah Levine is just as bold, assertive and unique.

Otherworld junkies like myself have known her, the absurdly powerful daughter of a witch and sorcerer, since she was 12. We know exactly what horrors have shaped her. We know her family, we know that her coldness is not really coldness, it is a wall she erects to protect those she loves. She’s got a little of Paige in her, a little of Eve in her…even some Lucas and Jeremy, too. And knowing all of that only enriches the experience of reading this book.

I relished being with Savannah as she struck out on her own, trying to solve her first solo case. You know she’s not going to get it completely right. Every time she doesn’t call someone (coughAdamcough) for help, you wince. But the awesome thing about Savannah is that she’s not a Too Stupid To Live heroine. She can take care of herself, she can get things done. There’s just an added strength in being able to have your equally powerful friends around you…which is something that she’ll learn with age.

I loved this book. I loved how Savannah tackled her case. I loved the various relationships Savannah forges with the townspeople. She’s never been particularly comfortable with humans, but I like that we got to see her doing a lot of human investigative work instead of relying solely on her powers (a fact that will, no doubt, become thematically significant in the future). And, okay, I loved Adam most of all. He’s not physically present for most of the book…but, make no mistake, he’s very much a part of the story, very much a part of Savannah.

See, I feared that when Armstrong finally got around to Savannah’s books, she’d write off Adam Vasic as an old crush, a family friend, and never “go there.” What am I, a moron? This author is smarter than that! That’s not to say that she doesn’t stress that Adam and Savannah are friends. Of course she does. And that’s what makes them so damn wonderful. They are so completely in tune that when the attraction starts to flare, it’s just a natural progression. Make no mistake, nothing “happens” in this book (i.e. there’s no kissing or giant declarations of lurve or whatever) but there was a point when I set the book down and just went, “Holy crap, he loves her back.” Because he does. And Armstrong shows the reader that a thousand different ways, even if Savannah herself doesn’t quite recognize it yet.

Waking the Witch awakens a whole new chapter of Armstrong’s colorful, compelling universe, and sets up a helluva ride for the rest of Savannah’s story.

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