Yes, back to Kelley Armstrong yet again. I pre-ordered this book a number of months ago when it was announced and had more or less forgotten about it by the time it finally turned up in the mail.
Counterfeit Magic (Subterranean Press, 2010) is a novella-length paranormal mystery story published as a Subterranean Press standalone like last year’s Angelic. The narrator is the witch Paige Winterbourne, wife to the sorcerous Cabal heir Lucas Cortez, who is living out his own version of The Godfather by trying to change the evil, Mafia-like Cabal from the inside without being corrupted by it. The resulting tension and the hostility of the Cabal toward Paige are stressing their marriage.
That’s the ongoing series background.
Lucas and Paige’s ward, the powerful witch/sorcerer/half-demon crossbreed Savannah Levine (the family backstory is too complex to recount), now twenty-one, plays a critical role in infiltrating the fight club, providing the opportunity for a girl-on-girl fight scene that plays both to and with sexist stereotypes. Savannah also shows some moral ambiguity in her use of dark magic that Paige and Lucas are quietly pretending not to notice. It’s clear that this story takes place a bit before this fall’s Waking the Witch, which has Savannah out on her first solo case.
The illustrations by Maurizio Manzieri suggest that he did not actually read the story (Ava doesn’t walk through doors like a ghost; she teleports), but he does a nice enough job with what I suspect are digital-photo-based-manipulated-composite (what IS the term for this sort of thing?) pictures of sexy women and handsome men posing attractively or doing things often not particularly relevant to the story. The best of them is on page 100, with a sexy woman -- Ava? Paige? -- so drawing the eye that it’s easy to overlook the interesting details in the background.
I was privately amused by the race name "Tripudio" for the teleporting demons. The immediate association with that word for me is Italian Renaissance dance, specifically Guglielmo Ebreo’s fifteenth-century De Pratica Seu Arte Tripudii (On the Practice or Art of Dancing).
Overall, Counterfeit Magic is pretty much a trifle for series fans, giving us an update on the Paige/Lucas marriage and relationship with the Cabal along with a mystery story that at first appears clunky but twists just enough to redeem it. Ava’s aggressive flirtation with Lucas highlights the fractures in his and Paige’s relationship, which saves the Paige-Lucas part of the series from what was looking in recent books like an unconvincing happy ending. It's a fine enough little story, but I recommend it for series fans only -- without that background it's not going to be terribly exciting.