Witch Fire
by Anya Bast
(Sensation, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-425-21614-9
***
The paranormal craze in publishing has brought us vampires, werewolves, and psychics galore, but I haven't seen too many witches. Now here comes Anya Bast with a series revolving around a coven of elemental witches. There is quite a bit of potential, but the bland story and predictable characters don't live up to it.

Mira Hoskins grew up an orphan. Despite her Wiccan upbringing, she learned nothing of her family heritage. She never knew she had hidden talents which could make her one of the most powerful air witches in existence. When a good-looking stranger kidnaps her from her own home, she figures it's more of her usual bad luck with men.

Jack McAlister manages security for the Coven, the governing body of witches. Thomas Monahan, its head and Mira's unacknowledged cousin, has heard that warlocks (or bad witches) are after Mira. He has asked Jack to protect her and to bring her to the headquarters when necessary. Normally, Jack wouldn't bother with such a minor matter, but this case is different. When he was only fourteen, he saw Mira's mother die at his father's hand. Though he immediately left his home, severing all contact with the evil man, he has not managed to shed his guilt. He wants this opportunity to redeem himself. Of course, the fact that he is terribly attracted to Mira helps. When he sees his father's minions trying to break into her house, he overwhelms them and forces her to take refuge in his apartment.

Initially, Mira and Jack fight their attraction. She isn't sure she can believe him. He is worried about her reaction to his family origins (and dim-witted romance hero that he is, he doesn't tell her!). Besides, everyone knows a bodyguard shouldn't sleep with his client. Despite their misgivings, they aren't able to resist. Before they can take their relationship to another level, he has to do something about the threat that's plaguing her and cut her into his big, bad secret.

Mira spends a good part of the novel learning how to use her powers. As she is inducted into this parallel world, so too is the reader. In it, witches live among humans and manage human-type businesses, but they have their own concerns. There are four types of witches, each related to one of the four basic elements: air, fire, water and earth. With the necessary training, witches can command their own element: Jack, a fire witch, literally plays with fire, and Mira is soon capable of whipping up hurricanes and cyclones from mere currents of air. Warlocks, like Jack's father, kidnap good witches and sacrifice them in order to release demons, who will work at their bidding. Fighting these two kinds of evil is the chief occupation of witches.

Mira's initiation into magic goes hand in hand with her discovery of sexual pleasure. Though the numerous sex scenes are fairly graphic, they are nothing outstanding given today's crowded market. As with much of the rest of the novel, they could have used more editing. Do we really need pages and pages of how Mira goes through Jack's underwear drawer? How many times must we hear about her miserable orgasm-less married life?

            Clearly, Bast has a resourceful imagination, and there is little doubt that, given the subject matter, her series will draw a strong following. Her characters and storyline, however, fail to conjure up that special out-of-this-world magic that would deserve a higher recommendation.  

--Mary Benn


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