Once upon a time I went through all the Women of the Underworld books that Kelley Armstrong wrote. That was back when there were only eight plus a novella. Um. I think she’s up to eleven novels in that series, with a twelfth to be released later this year. There are also two short-story collections and four novellas, one of which is this one, published by Subterranean Press some time last year. Also another series, the first of which will be reviewed shortly. She’s still Canadian. I checked.
Anyway, Counterfeit Magic is narrated by Paige Winterbourne, the main character of Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic. It features her and Savannah Levine, the daughter of Eve Levine, narrator and star of both Haunted and Angelic (the latter also a Sub Press book). Savannah is also the narrator of books 11-13 of the series, apparently. Paige and her husband run a private investigation business, and Savannah works for them as well. They receive an invitation to investigate a case that involves the existence of underground supernatural fight clubs, and Paige and Savannah have to infiltrate them.
Because it’s a Sub Press book, I have an ARC, and it’s got some drawings in it which may not be in final format. That may be wishful thinking, though, as I really don’t like the drawings. They’re very well-done, but the tone seems a little out of place with the actual themes of the book. They’re very . . . well, frankly, they’re bordering on soft-core porn in some cases. Again, they’re well-done and actually look like some of the characters and scenes in the book, which is much better than I can say about some illustrations or covers, but I wasn’t that enamored of them as an addendum to the book.
Paige is married to Lucas Cortez, a sorcerer and the heir to a very powerful family. Unfortunately, his very powerful family is also very male and is having a lot of trouble accepting her as an equal. She is also reluctant to ask Lucas for help, as she wants to be his equal and that doesn’t include asking for help. Because of this, they’re having some minor relationship trouble. Honestly, though, this trouble threads in and out of the entire book, and it’s a mature, feminist/equality-minded view on the whole situation–which is why I really don’t think the pictures fit with the book. Having explained that, though, I’ll deal with the story on its own.
The supernatural fight clubs were pretty dang cool. I’m not really sure there’s much more I need to say about them; they’re pretty much what one would guess, although both men and women are allowed to fight (usually against the same sex). Demon powers, as well as spells and other sorts of gifts, make the fights much more interesting–limited teleportation, for example, as well as knock-back spells and the sort.
The plot is rather convoluted for being only 144 pages long, in the best Kelley Armstrong sort of way–politics of her world plus twists only possible through her forms of magic plus several threads of actual human interest. I think she even sets up one major plot thread that will be picked up in books 11-13. However, she did use a rather common trope from romance novels and romantic comedies, so longtime romance readers may look at that part of the plot and shrug or be gleeful, depending. (It’s not my favorite trope.)
Anyway, readers who have continued with the series may enjoy this; it appears to fit in before book 11. Although I don’t think it particularly stands on its own or makes a good entry into the series, it’s not intended to do either. Ignoring the artwork, it’s a solid 4/5 stars and, as it’s a Sub Press edition, I can safely assume it’ll be a lovely physical object as well.