Witchcraft is Just Like C++
Have you ever read a book and thought, I should like this, why don’t I like this? That’s what Dime Store Magic was for me.
I enjoy lots of paranormal stuff. I watch Supernatural. I have enjoyed a couple of The Dresden Files books. I can even believe that a radioactive spider bite can give a boy powers that let him stick to walls. But I could not believe this book. Is it because this story focuses on women and I am a sexist jerk? I hope not, but I guess that’s a possibility. Is it because the writing is awful? No actually, this is fairly competently written. Was the plot terrible? Eh, well some of it was kind of silly and sort of didn’t make sense but I have absolutely read worse. I’m not sure what exactly it was that made me just not get into this book. It did give me a lot to think about though. I’m going to give you a plot summary and then point out some things that popped out to me about this book. I kind of think the real problem I had with this book is that if you sum all the parts up, it’s kind of dull.
Spoilers follow below.
Paige is a witch. She has a thirteen year old ward named Savannah who survived some trauma what with her mother being killed and all, and ended up living with Paige. The woman who murdered Paige’s mother and Savannah’s mother is a witch named Leah. That much I just gathered from the story but I think these events are covered earlier in the series. Paige and Savannah think that the whole deal with Leah is over for now but there is one thing they never, ever counted on. Court filings! Yeah, there is a custody battle at the heart of the story because Savannah has a father who was unknown to her previously. Needless to say this father is a sorcerer who runs a Cabal. A lawyer named Lucas Cortez shows up to help Paige and Savannah and needless to say is also a sorcerer but from a different Cabal but kinda kicked out of that Cabal but kinda not really. The father Nast, wants Savannah for two reasons. One, she’s his daughter. Two, she’s thirteen and about to start menstruating which apparently means she’s about to be a very powerful witch given the right circumstances. These Cabals apparently have an employment program where they hire one witch only. They want Savannah to be that witch. Lots of threats, destruction and bad media for Paige happen and in the end, Lucas and Paige hook up, Savannah is rescued from the evil Cabal, Leah is killed and Paige goes through the ceremony and can now most likely kick everyone’s butt. Yay!
Now here’s some things that stand out.
- This passage did not age well – “In structure, though, the Cabal was more Donald Trump than Al Capone.” I think Trump was more Capone than the author realized, Tax evasion anyone? (Not the authors fault but it made me laugh)
- This book does advocate safe sex which I applaud. Here’s proof – “My advice to young women who like to pick up guys in singles bars? Condoms prevent more than venereal disease.” True! Of course she was giving that advice so that no one gives birth to a half-demon hell creature but still, solid advice.
- So the author and Cortez go to great lengths to say how these Cabals are legitimate businesses, not like the mob. Then they act like the mob for the entire book. At one point there is an unconscious guy in Savannah’s house and she asks Cortez how the Cabals handle these people. His answer, “Chain saws and large cement blocks.” That’s a super legitimate business practice not at all like the mob.
- Here’s my favorite sentence in the whole book. “Leah might very well decide to take her revenge and the last thing any of us needed right now was a werewolf/half-demon grudge match unfolding in downtown East Falls.” Maybe they didn’t need it but you know what the book needed? A werewolf/half-demon grudge match unfolding in downtown East Falls! Sadly that did not happen.
- Here’s the best quote from Savannah, “Oh, please. I’m in danger of being handed over to a psycho half-demon and brain-washed into slavery for supernatural mobsters. You think anyone cares whether I know how to conjugate verbs?” Shout out to grammar! Yes! And then Paige tells her to conjugate. Nice mothering!
- There’s a ton in this book that explains how witch spells work. And how these supernatural beings relate to each other. It all sounded pretty boring and like basic office meetings where no one wants to go but you have to so you can collect a paycheck. It had me wondering if at the start of werewolf meetings, they needed to get like a vampire IT guy to come and set up the projector for the powerpoint presentation. Then Paige literally compares casting spells to learning programming languages like C++. Oh my God, being one of these magical creatures is like working in an office! That would drive me crazy. I would need to take two of my friends, steal a printer from the office, take it out to an open field and beat it to death with a baseball bat while rap music played in the background.
- This whole story gets set off with some court papers. Cortez shows up a bunch of times and every time Paige refuses to let him be her lawyer. She can’t trust him because she is a sorcerer and goes two thirds of the book not trusting him then she sleeps with the guy. Uh, that went from zero to sixty out of nowhere.
- Also, when they finally hook up, they are tumbling around on a pile of clean clothes. It’s supposed to be spontaneous and romantic. They do things like light and extinguish candles with their spells and whisper sweet nothings to each other. And Paige inhales the smell of the fabric softener. You know what I thought during that entire scene? I sure hope they wash those clothes again. They didn’t. Although, that may have more to do with the house burning down.
- Savannah is thirteen and about to have her first period. How do I know? It’s mentioned about thirteen thousand times in this book. Yes, I know it’s natural. It’s perfectly normal but the word menses and menstruation appear a lot in this book. It apparently is in part what gives a which her powers. The boys seem to be sorcerers in this book so it just made me wonder, do they have something happen when their voice changes? When they get chest hair? What exactly is the trigger here?
- It made absolutely no sense how often Paige tells Cortez not to be her lawyer. At a point that she is in jail with no money, no prospects, and no one else to help her and could very likely be charged with murder, she refuses his legal counsel. He goes away and then comes back insisting he still is her lawyer even though she told the police he was not. Can you lawyer someone under their duress? I don’t think so.
- This whole huge mob shows up at Paige’s house because there were some cat bodies found there (planted by Leah) and people seem to think she is a real witch. She is but that’s beside the point. I mean I can see how a satanic alter and a few dead cats could be a curiosity but like a whole crowd, really?
- There is a more believable mob later when it looks like Paige maybe killed someone. Cortez flicks people around and makes them stumble with some hand gestures to make their way through the crowd. Anyone looking might find this suspicious in my mind. Then Savannah wants to cast a spell that will make it hail to get rid of the crowd. Cortez and Paige tell her no because hail would be too suspicious in summer. Really?! Weird weather happens all the time and no one is going to think a kid cast a spell to make that happen. How moronic can you get?
- These witches and sorcerers and all seem to be fairly powerful and capable of a lot of stuff. What do they do with that power? They become web designers and lawyers and business people. Seriously? At least in Harry Potter adults got to have cool wizard jobs. (And yes I know, Dresden Files does this too. I think it’s kinda silly there too).
- One night, Paige and Cortez are watching television and Night of the Living Dead comes on. They call it stupid. How. Dare. You. This is doubly ironic considering the book earlier had a scene where the dead came back to life and that scene owed a heck of a lot to George R. Romero to make it work. Don’t insult good films in books!
- Paige ends up in a legal custody battle, is at the scene when a man is murdered, has a violent riot happen outside her house, has her house burn down, goes to the house of Savannah’s father where several people are killed and then the house burns down. Is Paige wanted by the cops? Nope! Why not? Cortez “spoke to them”. Off screen of the story. That’s it. How is she not in freaking jail right now?!?!?!
That seems like a good place to stop. Next week I will be reading Temptation by Brenda Jackson. I suspect I will be tempted to stop reading it.