Unlike the Wizard of Oz
, the witches in this sexy supernatural romance, including the murdered mother of 23-year-old heroine Paige Winterbourne, are not evil entities inhabiting a fairy tale land. They're an ages-old race of women so frightened by the possibility of exposure and endangerment that they've allowed their magical powers to atrophy. When Paige inherits her mom's mantle as Coven leader, however, she also inherits caretaking responsibility of Savannah Levine, an extremely gifted but rebellious 13-year-old who possesses her dead mother's penchant for dark magic—and for attracting the unwanted attention of darker magical beings (including Savannah's long-lost sorcerer father). The only person Paige can depend on is the one person she doesn't want to associate with: Lucas Cortez, an endearingly nerdy lawyer/sorcerer ("It was a sad world when a witch had to rely on a work-starved sorcerer for help"). As in Armstrong's debut novel Bitten
, this story's special strength lies in its seamless incorporation of the supernatural into the real world. A convincing small-town setting, clever contemporary dialogue, compelling characterizations and a touch of cool humor make the tale's occasional vivid violence palatable and its fantasy elements both gripping and believable. Agent, Helen Heller
. (May 4)
A suggestive cover image and clever tag line ("It's not just about vampires anymore") will reel in browsers, and advertising in
Science Fiction Chronicle should help Armstrong gain some attention. In addition, Armstrong has her own promotional tool—a role-playing Web site.