Bait and Switch

Title: Bait and Switch (Driftwood Mystery Book One)

Publisher/Author: Addisyn L. Tyler (aka AL Tyler)

Pages: 290pp

Price: $14.99 (paperback) / free (ebook)

Jette Driftwood is a witch in hiding. A decade ago, her father was framed for corruption and imprisoned by the Bleak, the ruling council/police force of the magical community. Since then, Jette has dedicated her life to freeing her father. Towards that end, she went to work for the Bleak, learned all of their tactics — and then stole an ancient artifact and absorbed all of its magical power. But the magic is too much, and it is quickly killing her. Even worse, a violent murder and kidnapping have rocked the small town where she took refuge … and only Jette knows that the crime is magical. She has to solve the murder, and quickly, before word gets back to the Bleak …. Or, she could just run and save herself ….

I am always on the hunt for new urban fantasy to read, so, when Bait and Switch popped up, I downloaded it immediately. Once I started reading it, I didn’t stop. Bait and Switch kept me entertained until the last page.

First, Jette is a terrific character. She is unique even among witches in that she has synaesthesia. To her, all magic sounds like music. Different kinds of magic produce different kinds of music, and Jette is particularly skilled at restoring “out of tune” magic or even breaking it apart entirely. Unfortunately, the ancient magic that she absorbed from that stolen artifact is burning and sparking out of control; she has to keep discharging the excess as hot and cold (usually into a bathtub or as steam from her hands) or risk dying, violently and painfully. That, along with her determination to liberate her father and the Bleak’s price on her head, means that she is a loner. She keeps telling herself that she doesn’t need anyone, that she doesn’t have any friends, that her sole focus should be on her mission.

Except that she does have friends. Like Marge, her larger-than-life supervisor at her mundane cover job; and Charlene, the gossipy secretary who is always trying to get Jette to particpate in office parties. And even — surprise — Nick, the vampire who tracks her down and plans to turn her in for the bounty.

Speaking of Nick: vampires are ridiculously common in urban fantasy. I was a bit leery when he appeared, but was then pleasantly surprised at how atypical he is. In the world of Bait and Switch, most vampires have been killed off by the Bleak; the few who survive do so as agents of the Bleak, bound by various spells and artifacts to keep them in line. Nick pushes against those controls, doing what he thinks is right, even at the risk of his own immortal life. And, while he may have no love for the Bleak, he recognizes that they help to maintain order and keep people safe in a dangerous world. People like his deceased wife and children; he still mourns them, but prefers to focus on the positive, on the good memories.

Unlike most urban fantasy, religion also plays a role in Bait and Switch. Jette regularly refers to “the gods,” though she doesn’t get into specifics. The murder victim was a follower of the Rite of Athena, a religious minority within the witch community which is actively persecuted by the Bleak. And, of course, there are hunters: nonmagical, human fanatics convinced that magic is evil and that all witches should burn.

Bait and Switch is a highly entertaining tale of murder, redemption, and magic. Recommended to fans of Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars, Gretchen Galway’s Sonoma Witches series, Jennifer David Hesse’s Wiccan Wheel Mystery series, and Tina Gower’s The Outlier Prophecies.

[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her published works can be found there.]