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Wither's Legacy by John Passarella
Review by Drew Bittner
Pocket Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0743484797
Date: List Price 7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK /

Wendy Ward thought her problems were over when Elizabeth Wither's hellish spirit was defeated in her final incarnation.

She was wrong.

In Wither's Legacy, Wendy cannot let go of the memory of her final encounter with Wither. There was something the dying witch said ... and Wendy's drive to learn what it was triggers a dormant evil, like a magical posthypnotic suggestion, that sets a fresh terror on her trail.

Wendy has been on the road since the final clash killed several teenagers in her Massachusetts hometown of Windale. She hasn't wanted to come to terms with her own parents' deaths, so she's kept busy with friends and training in the magical arts. However, dreams (and warnings from a time-traveling spirit she calls the Crone) compel her back toward Windale ... and a showdown with a monster unleashed by Wither's malice.

By unlocking the spell Wither set upon her, Wendy has awakened a cannibalistic monster in western Canada. Equipped with hideous strength, near-invulnerability and the ability to follow Wendy anywhere, the creature indiscriminately murders all who get in its way. Worse, it has the ability to seem human for brief periods.

And Wendy doesn't realize until late what it is that follows her.

Not that she's alone in this struggle. Her close friend Kayla (another survivor of the Wither onslaught) has fallen in love with a young deputy named Bobby, while her toddler-aged friend Hannah (the contemporary counterpart of the Crone) struggles to understand the danger facing Wendy and Windale itself. And, of course, there's her love interest, Alex, who doesn't understand the danger but refuses to let Wendy face it by herself.

From Canada to Massachusetts, the monster stalks Wendy, even as Kayla begins to suspect she's been infected with evil and Hannah fears that Wendy will fail against the monster. In one future, Wendy and her friends all died ... but what can Wendy do to change the outcome? Can she figure it out before it's too late?

Comparisons with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Anita Blake are facile and don't do justice to this series. In a market increasingly crowded with young female do-gooders battling supernatural evil, Wendy Ward is refreshing. She's a reluctant hero who doesn't know everything and whose hesitation and self-doubt feels authentic and not a way of stretching out the story. Her desire to protect her friends feels more real, given that the characters have personality; we readers also sense what the stakes are in this battle to come, when Wendy fears she doesn't have the answers.

John Passarella has turned in an excellent book in Wither's Legacy, the third of the Wendy Ward tales. He brings in a creature from Canadian folklore in a clever way, with flashback sequences that remarkably build sympathy for the monster. His police characters are excellent and he even does some great writing with the character of Abby, a shapeshifter struggling with her alternate shapes.

There's a lot more, but why spoil it?

If you're a fan of contemporary urban (dark) fantasy, you'll enjoy it. Recommended.

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