I’m a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong’s The Darkest Powers series, so when I was presented with the chance to interview her about her adult Otherworld series, I jumped at the chance. I had yet to read the series, and the thought of reading a whopping thirteen books in a short period of time was … daunting. Luckily I was told that the last three books work as their own trilogy with no need to read the previous books, which eased off that massive pressure. However, I really wanted to see where it all started, so I decided to first read Bitten and Stolen, the initial two books in the series, before continuing on to Waking the Witch, Spell Bound, and Thirteen.
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I’m not a huge fan of Urban Fantasy, so I was worried that I wouldn’t get into this series (a significant worry when you have five books to read that are 400+ pages each!). Well, there’s a reason this amazing author is a #1 New York Times bestseller. These books were great, and I was hard-pressed to put them down (I even blew off going out one night on a Vegas vacation so I could sit in my hotel room and read.). This will be a combo review, covering the first two books in the final trilogy.
Throughout the series the author switches points of view, and the final three books are told from the point of view of 21-year-old witch Savannah Levine. Savannah first appeared in the series in book two, Stolen, as a talented child about to come into her powers. She’s present in all the books from there forward in some manner, and the reader grows up with her, finding her eventually in her early twenties working for her adoptive parents at their investigative agency.
In Waking the Witch, Savannah is presented with the chance to get out from behind the receptionist’s desk and work her very first case. Women are being murdered in a small town, and it looks like it’s ritualistic in nature, which usually means witchcraft of sorcery. Savannah sets off to investigate, and with the help of her good friend (and long-time secret crush), Adam, who also happens to be a half-demon, she realizes that a lot more is going on in the town than what appears to be happening on the surface. As more people keep showing up dead, and lots of potential suspects become revealed, Savannah has to really use her wits—and her magic—to get to the bottom of the mystery … all the while trying not to become a victim herself.
The first two books are from the first person perspective of Elena the werewolf, so to jump into the head of a young, headstrong witch was a bit of an adjustment. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about another character taking the lead of the story, but the fact that I knew who she was from the previous book helped a lot. I quickly fell into the rhythm of her internal voice, and I’ve actually come to like it better. She is a fun, hotheaded character and I really enjoyed seeing her interact with the small town folk.
It was weird, in a cool way, to have references to the stories previous. These books are supposed to be able to stand alone, and I’d agree that it’s possible. However, I do think that I got a much richer reading experience by reading the first two books, which introduced me to the rules of the world and the major players. And the referencing back wasn’t a lot, not enough to make the story confusing anyway, but it definitely has made me want to pick up the in-between books and see the stories that happened there.
There was a pretty big cliffhanger ending too, which had me reaching immediately for the next book. It was literally the last page, and left me going, “Wait, whaaaa??? …” All in all this was a fun book to read, and I enjoyed being in the complexities that are Savannah’s world.
***THERE ARE MILD SPOILERS FOR WAKING THE WITCH IN THE NEXT REVIEW, SO PROCEED WITH CAUTION IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED!***
Spell Bound literally picks up where Waking the Witch left off, with Savannah losing her powers. She has a casual thought about giving them up to save somebody, and poof, they’re gone. This is not the norm of how these things happen, so Savannah sets off to try and figure out what happened. Of course, to complicate matters, someone’s after her, and when she needs her spells the most she’s forced to use good old-fashioned physical fighting and creative ingenuity for her sneaking around. As Savannah searches for her magic (and balance), she learns about a bigger plot that involves all those she cares about, something that, if it succeeds, will change the world forever.
This was my favorite of Kelley’s books that I read from this series. Savannah’s difficulties with not having her magic to rely on were great to experience, and it felt like a relatable growth story. We all have these experiences; things are taken from all of us from time to time without our consent. How we choose to live in the face of that says a lot about us as people. And Savannah was right there, struggling and introspecting left and right like the rest of us would.
I was also impressed with how the end game slowly revealed itself. There’s always a lot going on in Kelley’s books (in a good way!) and I loved how the big baddies slowly came out of the woodwork as the story progressed. One thing is tied in with this bigger thing that leads to the next big thing. It was great, but I didn’t see it coming, which made the reading all the better.
It’s also great to see the development of Savannah’s friend and crush relationship turn into something more. Being in her head made it fun, and again, who hasn’t been there, worrying about whether or not you’re going to ruin a friendship by kissing that person? It was great, fun to experience, and I really loved this more human side of things in a supernatural world.
Again, like with the last book, I couldn’t wait to start Thirteen, and yet again closed one book and opened the next, because I was dying to see where the story went. Kelley built up nicely for the finale, and it was with excitement that I grabbed Thirteen off the shelf.