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Haunted by Kelley Armstrong

Book coverHaunted belongs to a series of books, The Women of Otherworld, that I read sporadically and unabashedly out of order. While I did not appreciate the full background of this book, I also did not find it a problem, and I was familiar enough with the characters to appreciate much of the novelty Armstrong has woven in for dedicated readers.

In many ways, that's what this book is, a novelty for people who read her series regularly. It stems from a pre-climactic plot point in the previous Otherworld book (which I read after Haunted) in which deceased witch Eve Levine bargains with the fates to gets the main characters of that book returned to life after accidentally falling into a portal to the afterlife in pursuit of the bad guy. Now, Eve owes the fates a favor, and they are calling it in to have her track down a particularly pesky Nix who has escaped from a hell dimension and has so far eluded all efforts to bring her to justice, and meanwhile inhabits the minds of women in the real world, turning them into murderesses. With the help of her erstwhile real world lover, Kristof, and an angel with human sensibilities, Eve scours the expansive ghost-world, which very often overlays the real world, intent on hunting down the Nix.

When I looked this book up on Amazon to refresh my memory on the plot details, I was mildly surprised that it got a rather snide review from Publishers Weekly (the default editorial review). Not because it's fabulous literature, but because these generic plot-summary reviews so often praise the most mindless of books. Haunted is not a book I'd recommend to every SFF fan, but I found it entertaining. These books are written, stylistically, like a romance novel, however, they don't follow the plot formula of the romance genre. What I mean, is that the style is very pop-commercial, and the focus of the book is very much on character relationships within families, i.e. parents, children, lovers, spouses. The female character may be portrayed as strong and independent, but relationships are always very important to them, and those relationships get special attention in the book. It's a "nesting" theme that gets a lot of attention in romance novels. Here there's the nesting, but not the controlling "will they or won't they" plot that tends to drive most romances. There are some minor love-relationship conflicts, but they are, indeed, very minor. The plot of this book is, indeed, Eve's pursuit of the Nix, and I found this plot entertaining because it is well-grounded in Eve's character. Each step of the unfolding plot is driven by Eve, her character development and her decisions. Even if the Nix makes a surprising move to upset Eve's plans, Eve's reaction to it is equally active and decisive. In other words, the plot doesn't happen to Eve; Eve happens to the plot.

While this book revolves in a lot of ways around the novelty of Armstrong's constructed ghost world and the focus on known characters brought back from earlier novels, it's not necessary to have read the earlier novels to enjoy this book. It's a fun, character-driven novel that is, admittedly, something of a chick-book.     

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