Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Otherworldly – and perfectly enchanting

Kelley Armstrong


Kelley Armstrong
Random House Canada

Kelley Armstrong concludes The Women of the Otherworld with her 13th novel in the series. Thirteen also concludes the trilogy of books focused on young witch Savannah Levine's first solo adventure which began in Waking the Witch (2010) and Spell Bound (2011).

After a prologue featuring Savannah's late half-demon mother Eve, who is now an angel in the afterlife, Thirteen begins where Spell Bound left off, just after Savannah and her half brother Bryce have escaped from a laboratory explosion. Bryce is desperately ill from an "immortality vaccine" administered by the Supernatural Liberation Movement (SLM), a faction of supernaturals who want to reveal themselves to the population in general. They are led by a man named Giles de Rais, who claims to be the original historical entity from the 15th century.

Savannah's relief at being rescued is short-lived when she is arrested by a police officer who is turning in supernaturals to SLM. The arrest sets off a chain of events which includes Eve's manifestation in the corporeal world, something that is not supposed to happen. It's a poignant reunion for Savannah, since she knows her mother could be called back to the afterlife at any moment.

Story continues below advertisement

In addition, she and her friends are subjected to kidnapping, being charged with treason by one of the Cabals, and nearly being killed in various horrible ways. Savannah, her no-longer-secret-crush Adam and the others have to overcome each obstacle in a race to help Bryce, who is slowly dying, and to keep de Rais from accomplishing his plot. Savannah is still without her full powers for most of the book, although she does regain them toward the end, and she finds that she is more thoughtful and committed when she has to figure out what to do without them.

The novel ends on a high note, with Savannah looking forward to further independence and new adventures. For those who can't quite say good-bye, there is one last short story featuring werewolves Elena and Clay.

All the major players from the Otherworld books make an appearance, but Armstrong keeps them moving and doesn't let them pile up in one location. Savannah is the first-person narrator for most of the book, but when other exposition is necessary, Armstrong inserts a third-person interlude from one of the other women. These passages are graceful and few, and they spare the reader from long awkward dialogues replete with plot exposition.

The novel is fast-paced and plot-driven, but the characterizations don't get left behind and are consistent with the previous novels. Jeremy Danvers, for example, is still aloof and regal, yet very much in love with Jaime Vegas and capable of nuanced tenderness. Clay may be volatile, easily provoked, but he also has a sense of humour and, when with his children, a sense of wonder. Savannah still has the smarty-pants cockiness of her earlier portrayals, but she has also grown up and understands when she has to exercise restraint.

The conclusion to the series is so strong that one might wonder why Armstrong is not planning to continue the books. It speaks to her wisdom as a writer to know when to stop, or at least take a breather. Too many times, an author will carry on with a series that becomes more and more "manufactured" with each entry. The main character has gotten stale, the plots staler, and the other characters lose any depth they may have had.

Granted, Thirteen fulfills her contract with the publisher, but it is clearly a conscious choice on Armstrong's part to wrap it up, and it is a good one. In her final note, she says that this is how she envisioned the series ending. This reader is looking forward to seeing what new worlds Armstrong will explore in future novels.

Donna Scanlon lives with her family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where she is a sometime librarian and a substitute teacher.

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨