Savannah Levine is in terrible danger, and for once she’s powerless to help herself. At the heartbreaking conclusion of Waking the Witch, Savannah swore that she would give up her powers if it would prevent further pain for a young orphan. Little did she know that someone would take her up on that promise.
And now, witch-hunting assassins, necromancers, half-demons, and rogue witches all seem to be after her. The threat is not just for Savannah; every member of the Otherworld might be at risk. While most of her fellow supernaturals are circling the wagons at a gathering of the council in Miami, Savannah is caught on the road, isolated from those who can protect her and unable to use her vast spell-casting talent, the thing she counts on most. In a story that will change the shape of the Otherworld forever, Armstrong gathers Elena, Clay, Paige, Lucas, Jamie, Hope, and other beloved characters, who soon learn that the greatest threat to supernaturals just may come from within.
So, it’s old home week. It’s the class reunion. It’s Where Are They Now?, a season finale clip show, and kind of like when Kelly, Brenda and Donna made guest appearances in the new Beverly Hills 90210. The gang’s all here, and stuff is going down. From Elena and Clay of Bitten (Book 1) to Paige and Lucas of Dime Store Magic (Book 3) to Hope and Karl of Personal Demon (Book 8) to even the supercilious Queen of the Vampires, Cassandra DuCharme (who has not yet warranted a book to call her own), this installment is a Who’s Who of the Otherworld—and even occasionally a What’s What.
It’s also really, really mean to poor, bereft Savannah Levine, at times.
And it is really, really awesome.
For those who have been following the Otherworld for the past eleven novels (and please, don’t start with this one; you’ll have missed too much!), plus the myriad of short stories, you’ll know that Savannah, though young, is one of the more naturally gifted spellcasters in the supernatural world. Her mother is a ghost who was once a powerful dark witch in her own right. Her father, likewise deceased—but still occasionally making a cameo—was a sorcerer of skill and renown, as well as being a big deal as head of the unassailable Nast Cabal. (Imagine a slightly kinder, gentler Soprano family, and then further imagine they’re all wizards.) Since raised by the also thaumaturgically-inclined Paige and Lucas, we met Savannah as a captive twelve year-old in 2004’s Stolen. Now, at twenty-one, she is just coming off a major setback resulting from her first starring role in last year’s Waking the Witch: because of her, a good woman is going to prison; wracked with guilt, she makes a silent plea to set this right: she’ll give up all her power if only it can be undone.
Against all the rules of demonic bargaining that anyone has ever heard of, this silent act of contrition is honored, and much of the book is then taken up with Savannah lamenting her lack of magic, enlisting others in figuring out what happened to her magic, and slowly—painfully slowly—learning how to manage without it.
On a wider scale, much is happening in the Otherworld; plots are in motion and complex machinations are underway. There is a revolution at hand, with a small but growing group of discontented supernaturals (half-demons, witches, weres, necromancers and the like—there really is something for everyone in this series) declaring themselves fed up with skulking in the shadows, hiding their gifts from the mere mortals to whom they are so inherently superior. What do they want? To rule the world! When do they want it? Now!
Oh, and also? Immortality.
But Adam, faithful Adam, seemingly couldn’t care less about all of this paradigm-shattering rhetoric. He only wants to get Savannah’s powers back, knowing how lost she is without them.
Oh, I’m sorry, have you met Adam? Please allow our heroine to introduce you:
Adam Vasic, Exustio half-demon, the guy I’d been in love with since I was twelve, now my best-friend.
Of course, he’s quite a bit older than her (having been a childhood confederate of her adoptive mother) and she believes he’s never seen her as anything other than a child, and then a buddy. They work together as investigators for the Interracial Council, checking out threats to the collective supernatural community, often sharing a bed and their most intimate secrets, but always remaining in the dreaded Friend Zone.
It is Adam to whom Savannah can reveal her anguish at the loss of her magic:
I cried until I realized I was crying. Me. Savannah Levine. Breaking down like a little girl. I pulled back from Adam, my cheeks burning, my heart thudding against my ribs, the walls of the alley closing in, Adam standing too close, watching me too carefully.
I took a step away.
“Don’t, Savannah,” he said softly. “Please don’t run.”
“What am I going to do?” I whispered. “Without my powers, I’m—”
“Exactly the same person you are with them. Just a whole lot less dangerous.”
And it is Adam who works tirelessly to restore her gifts:
I looked at the pile of books, and I couldn’t imagine how much work this had taken. Then I looked at the circles under his eyes and the faint lines by his mouth, and I could imagine it.
Adam, on why he has gone to these lengths for her:
“I want to say that I didn’t do this because I think you need your powers back. You’d be okay without them, Savannah. Just not as safe. Not as happy.” He looked at me. “I know how much they mean to you, and I want you to be happy.”
But no, he doesn’t love her. Not at all.
In many ways, this is really a setup book, the bridge between the more generally self-contained Otherworld adventures and the new overarching direction in which our plot is heading. Here, we meet the Big Bad (or several of them, perhaps), and fresh mysteries are posed, leading to some rather incomplete, as yet unsubstantiated conclusions. This is assuredly not the book with which to kickstart your Otherworld experience, but there can be no doubt that it reinvigorates the series for those of who’ve been in it for the long haul—which is really something, since Armstrong’s world-building has always been so clever, her development of its mythology so meticulous and her stories so well-crafted, that I wouldn’t have thought the series needed it.
Neither would I have thought to witness Savannah taking a vicious verbal attack from an enraged Clay (hey, dude! Cut her some slack, would ya?) without running away. But, what do you know? Looks like she, as well as the parallel paranormal reality she calls home, is growing up… and only getting better in the process.
Rachel Hyland is the Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.