Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Rating: 5/5 stars Dime Store Magic

Pages: 394

Series: Women of the Otherworld, Book 3

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Witches, Romance, Adult

 

“Tell them to go piss up a rope!” (Savannah, p 214).

While the second book in the series, Stolen, is technically the introduction to the supernatural world outside of the werewolves and their Pack, Dime Store Magic does a brilliant job at further widening the world. While it’s based around the witches and their Coven, Armstrong still manages to introduce more aspects of the world. This book goes further in explaining race prejudices and both showing and breaking stereotypes that are associated with the difference races.

During this reread of the book, I began to realize that while I read select volumes of the series quite often, there are other volumes, like this one, that I don’t read often at all. That allowed for different plot points in the story surprise me the way they did the first time I read it. It also convinced me that I need to read this series more often if I want to remember all of the significant plot points.

The main thing I’ve gotten from this re-read of the series so far is that Armstrong has done an amazing job at packing her books with action but not making it feel overwhelming. She makes it possible to digest the information that’s being thrown at you by inserting scenes that could be considered “fluff” but I believe are essential to keep the reader from feeling overloaded by information. The reader might not need a scene about debating coffee or something stronger, as it’s not essential to plot development, but it does wonders for giving the reader time to process what they’ve read up to that point.

Armstrong also does an amazing job at writing romance into her books. She does what a lot of authors seem to have trouble doing (or at least the authors I’ve been reading recently) by being able to show the reader what’s happening to the characters without having to directly coming out and saying what she wants the readers to understand.

A perfect example of this is the slow introduction of Paige’s love interest and the development of their feelings for each other. Armstrong doesn’t write things such as “I couldn’t stop thinking about [blank]” or “I couldn’t help but wonder what [blank] was doing”. A lot of authors put stuff like this into their series to make it obvious if there’s a romance blooming. Armstrong instead uses subtle clues in her writing to make her romances seem more natural, less forced or for fan service.

Another thing that I enjoyed was Armstrong’s ability to pull in or reference other characters from throughout the series without making them actually show up as a part of the action. This makes it possible to show that Paige isn’t alone in her struggles and that her true friends are able to understand she’s strong enough to handle things on her own. It also shows that they trust her to call them if they do need her for anything.

While this is more of a pet peeve than a complaint about anything that Armstrong has done in this book, in one scene Paige and Savannah are at Starbucks and within the same paragraph Armstrong fluctuates between using proper Starbucks terminology and regular coffee shop terminology. I understand that this could have been Armstrong’s way of showing Savannah is a young girl who knows her coffee and that a large at Starbucks is a venti while Paige doesn’t, but I find this hard to believe. Paige grew up in Boston and even if she wasn’t a huge fan of Starbucks coffee (I’m personally more of a tea person so I get this), it’s still an inconsistently written paragraph. There’s no reason to ask for a “child-sized” beverage, bring it to a venti, then replace it with a small. If anything, I feel really bad for the fictional barista that had to deal with that!

I will never not recommend this series. Dime Store Magic has very few scenes I would say are gruesome or for strictly adult audiences but the series as a whole does. If you’re into the supernatural and are comfortable reading more mature content, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

This could quite possibly be my seventh full re-read of the series (I didn’t keep perfect count and I’m excluding the times I pull random volumes off of my shelves) and it’s held up well over the years. No matter how many times I’ve read it, I still find myself coming back for more.

*Spoilers ahead*

Right at the beginning of this re-read, I remembered the first time I read the series and being disappointed that Elena and Clay weren’t really in the book. Heck, I’m a sucker for good werewolf books and that’s exactly what the first two books in this series are. However, even during my first read through of the series Armstrong was able to make me fall in love with Paige and Lucas. Their relationship just feels so real to me and is one of the most organic relationships I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. Also, I love that Savannah uses their budding relationship as a way to get through to Paige – which she totally wasn’t able to do before Lucas came into the picture.

I found it really cute that Armstrong uses Savannah as a way to show the reader that both Paige and Lucas are beginning to have feelings for the other. When Paige is on the phone with Adam and Savannah is telling Lucas about their relationship, this is a perfect example of Armstrong showing the reader that something is building between the two. It was a conversation that Paige wasn’t a part of but she ended up hearing a little piece of. Too cute.

As well, Savannah remains one of my favourite characters in the series. I love that we get to see her full development as a witch throughout the series. While this starts in Stolen, as readers we get to experience much more of Savannah in Dime Store Magic. I love that this allows us readers to get to know Savannah as a person when she’s young and see her development into a bright young woman by the end of the series.

One thing that I love about this book is Armstrong’s use of irony. While it’s not something I was able to pick out the first time I read the story, I loved being able to pick it up this time. As early on as page 26 Paige laments that she can’t imagine “any witch screwing around with a sorcerer while there was anyone else with a dick on the planet”. Not much later in the story, Paige makes it very clear that she isn’t willing to sleep with her lawyer (p. 44-45). While things like this are slipped in throughout the rest of the story as well, I think these passages are perfectly able to highlight the irony of Paige ending up with her sorcerer lawyer.

Other pieces of irony are dropped that are unrelated to this volume of the series but do play an important role in foreshadowing what’s going to happen later on in the series. It just goes to show how well thought out Armstrong’s series are before she even writes them. She’s able to put in little kernels of information in the beginning of the series and we don’t get the payoff until the end of the series.

As far as villains go, Leah really stepped up her game from Stolen even though it’s barely been a year since everything went down. I understand that Leah wants to get back at Paige for playing a part in Isaac’s death, but she really went super villain in this book.

As a side note, were Paige and Isaac ever confirmed as lovers? I can’t recall this ever being said outright and it’s possible that I might have missed the clues because I wasn’t looking for them. Either way, I thought that Isaac and Leah were just working together in Stolen. Where was it made clear that they were more than this?

Planting the altar behind Paige’s house and calling the cops to come check things out while Paige is working diligently to clean it up was really smart. By placing the hand of glory where Paige could easily see it, Leah all but guaranteed that Paige wouldn’t be sleeping that night, making it extremely easy to frame Paige for the cat killings and “satanist” ritual.

And this isn’t the only time throughout the series that Paige is led into a trap by Leah either. Yet Paige never learns. Following Shaw into the funeral parlor? Sure you might not think that Leah is going to mess with Grantham Cary Jr again, but that doesn’t mean you should bring your thirteen year old charge with you. I mean, come on Paige.

On a completely different train of thought, Savannah is pretty right about the Coven sucking. While I understand Paige being unable to see their corruption through her rose coloured glasses, other than Abby the Coven is corrupt. Victoria proves that quite clearly by the end of the book but even at the beginning it’s clear that the Coven doesn’t have their witches’ best interests in mind. Instead, they’re a bunch of selfish, entitled old ladies that are stuck in the past and unwilling to change for the better even as the world changes around them.

Though, to be fair to the Coven witches, the other witches that we get introduced to in this book aren’t great either. They might be driven by ambition and greed, but at least they’re honest about it. The Coven witches hide behind their “holier than thou” attitude and refrain from helping anyone when it wouldn’t benefit them.

I understand that a witch’s powers are thrown out of wack during their first period, but Savannah takes PMS to a whole new level. Heck, over my 23 years on this planet I’ve experienced and witnessed a lot of PMS. But I’ve still never wanted to throw a whole crowd of people into chaos because they were annoying me.

… Okay, I take that back. Savannah’s reaction to her first case of PMS is totally understandable. In a situation such as this I, too, would want the people ruining my peace and quiet and infringing on my personal space to get lost by any means necessary. She’s totally acting like a normal thirteen year old who’s experiencing her first period and has the power to get rid of the people annoying her. And at least she shows remorse for her actions… kind of.

I feel so bad that Savannah has nothing of her mother’s anymore. Heck, Paige promised to try and find some old pictures of Eve for Savannah and before she was even able to look her whole house was set on fire. I just can’t imagine having that one piece of your loved one that you think you’re going to get be ripped away from you.

It makes sense that when Savannah thought she’d lost Paige forever, her new mother figure, she flipped out. She needed so desperately to find a little bit of comfort in the chaos that was her life that she couldn’t help but try to summon her mother from the afterlife. I find it really intriguing that Savannah’s powers were so strong that she was able to summon multiple demons while trying to find her mother.

I can’t help but wonder if the first demon that Paige came across was Savannah’s grandfather which is why he was so understanding about Savannah making a mistake and summoning him. It’s not too unlikely that Savannah was able to summon an ancestor while trying to call her mother. As well, I’m convinced that Eve was actually called to Savannah and managed to get one last message to her by talking through Paige. Such an amazing mother move, there’s no way to doubt Eve’s love and dedication to her daughter.

Finally, one thing I really enjoyed was Armstrong’s ability to explain how both sorcerer and witch magic works in this world. By having Lucas and Paige teach each other their spells, the reader is able to learn a little bit more about how sorcerer magic works and what it’s capable of. Savannah using sorcerer magic to cause mayhem is also a great tool to show the difference between witch and sorcerer magic.

The whole concept of primary, secondary, and tertiary spells for witches was well thought out. It made it easy to explain why witches relied on sorcerer spells to do the more powerful stuff and debunks the line of thinking that witches have to do it because sorcerer magic is stronger. Heck, a bunch of the secondary spells seem really tedious to learn and not very different from the primary spells that are Coven sanctioned. It makes sense that they were forgotten about.

 

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