Witch Heart
by Anya Bast, fantasy (2009)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-22553-0

Witch Heart is the third book in a series, but this one can stand alone pretty well, I feel, because the author has provided enough background information for the new reader to follow. Perhaps Ms Bast has done this too well, really, because there are many moments when the narrative gets bogged down by exposition delivered as if Ms Bast is giving a lecture.

We are back to this alternate Earth where we have elemental witches of both sexes running around trying to make this world a better place. In the previous story, we learn that the rogue warlocks of the Duskoff cabal were working with demons from another dimension to cause problem in this world. Witch Heart takes place about a year after Witch Blood, and sees a character introduced at the last few chapters of that book, Claire, showing up on Earth and being hounded by various naughty demons.

Claire's magick is mysteriously closed off from her, but her body also contains the magick of Rue, her demonic master, and this magick makes her the hot target of other demons wanting to get a piece of that power. Sent to Earth by Rue during a demonic invasion of her homeland, for a reason she isn't so sure of herself, Claire wanders around Chicago, asking people about demons and such, until she predictably gets thrown into a nuthouse. Don't laugh at the poor dear, people, it's not as if she knows that people in this world don't know that demons really exist. Fortunately for her, she can mentally call for help and this call brings the good guys in to rescue her. It's a good thing she arrives on Earth just near to the witches' HQ instead of, say, somewhere in Tibet, eh?

Adam Tyrell, the fire witch to Claire's water witch, is charged to protect Claire as he takes her to somewhere safe. Don't worry, people, the demons will always stay away whenever Adam and Claire decide to pause in their road trip to get to know each other better, if you know what I mean, because these demons are so considerate like that.

The romance is pretty disappointing as Ms Bast doesn't try to do much with the romance beyond establishing that fire witches and water witches have a natural affinity to each other and that Adam always like his women hot and sexy. These two characters like having sex with each other, but I have my doubts about whether I can believe that these two are actually in love.

Claire may have her feisty moments and she may claim to have great power, but she is a damsel in distress despite her big talk in this story. But while that is quite disappointing, her character is actually a fascinating one because she is not a black-and-white character. She may be a witch, but she also recognizes that, having grown up with her demonic masters, she actually harbors a degree of something that seems suspiciously like affection for her folks back in the other dimension. Adam is a more straightforward easy-going guy who can be relied on to kick some bad guys' rear ends.

The rest of the story is a pretty good read as the author keeps the action going at a brisk pace and intrigues me by giving me more and more insight into the origins and relationships between the demons and the witches in this setting of hers.

Witch Heart is a better action-driven urban fantasy with romantic elements than a romantic urban fantasy, if I am making sense here, because non-romantic aspects of the story are the most entertaining part of the book. Still, while I may wish that the romantic component has been stronger, I can't deny that I have a pretty good time reading this one.

Rating: 81

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