Industrial Magic is the fourth book in Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, and the Otherworld grows more and more complex with each installment.
Paige Winterbourne, first introduced in Dime Store Magic (which LLB, btw, enjoyed), is a witch without a coven. As told in that earlier story, her ward, Savannah, a powerful witch of complex supernatural lineage, was given to Paige to care for when her mother, Eve, died. After she accepted that responsibility, Paige’s coven cast her out and she found herself homeless and in danger. Her only ally was Lucas Cortez, sorcerer and heir to the powerful Cortez Cabal.
Lucas is a crusader, determined to help the helpless and use both his supernatural and legal talents to chip away at the power of the insular, mafia-like cabals. His father, Benicio, mostly tries to ignore this “rebellion,” but when Cabal children are murdered, Benicio brings the case to Lucas. And to Paige. Since kids from all of the American cabals are at risk, Benicio knows that all four will want to be involved in apprehending the killer, and the resulting infighting will slow any action down. Paige and Lucas can operate outside this and, with Cortez resources at their disposal, they might manage to crack this case before more kids die. Both Paige and Lucas are wary of letting Benicio lure them into any kind of cabal involvement, but kids just like Savannah are dying, and they can’t say no. So begins a cross-country search for a preternaturally powerful and inhumanly vicious killer.
The increasing complexity of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld is both a positive and negative here. Armstrong accomplishes some very good world building, laying down the rules for her various types of Otherworldlies with an even hand and avoiding the ever-present pitfall of this genre – information dump. Armstrong’s first book Bitten revolved entirely around werewolves, but in Stolen, her second, she revealed that weres were only a small part of a much bigger picture that included vampires, witches, and sorcerers. Industrial Magic builds on the concept of sorcerer cabals which were introduced in book three and adds necromancers and ghosts to the mix, preparing the way for book five, Haunted. While these details are interesting and remain consistent throughout the series, one unfortunate effect is that the special quality of each type of supernatural is muted by the presence of so many other strong and gifted characters.
As a witch, Paige seems to have inherited a comparatively weak set of gifts. Granted, she becomes stronger and more proficient with each book, but physically she can’t compete with the weres and vamps, and magically, she’s out of her league with the sorcerers. She has integrity, curiosity, and intelligence, but in this book she’s not really a match for the killer she’s trying to catch.
All of the books in this series are written in first-person point of view, but Paige’s voice is a little too weak to sustain the 500 plus pages she’s expected to narrate here. Both she and Lucas are a little, well, bland. Paige has come a long way from the annoyingly inept know-it-all she was in Stolen, but, basically she’s a nice person with gifts she hasn’t quite manage to fully work yet. She doesn’t have fetishes. She’s not darkly funny. She’s a trifle insecure, but who isn’t? Had this been written in third-person, Lucas might come off as more interesting than he does. But with Paige narrating and focusing on what’s happening than on enumerating his best characteristics he comes off more as a partner than a lover.
Other characters are more interesting. Lucas’ father Benicio is both loving and highly manipulative. He’s also easily as dangerous as the villain of this book, though not as unhinged. Jaime Vegas, the necromancer Paige uses to contact the killer’s victims is also well drawn. Characters from previous books in this series also make appearances, but they don’t add much to the mix.
Ultimately, I have to grade Industrial Magic on the story it tells, and it does that well. While the book is a bit too long and introduces a few too many supernatural concepts, the story it tells is face paced, and engaging and held my interest to the end. For that, I can recommend it.