Who'd have known? Apparently there are strict rules of behavior for witches in this world, and many of these rules aim at preserving a fairly conventional moral structure. Furthermore, all witches take the “beneficium pledge,” which could be confused with the Girl Scout oath. At least, that’s how Camille DeAngelis’ world of witches operates, and indeed, this reader wouldn’t have it any other way. Otherwise, the morally responsible half of Petty Magic’s dual personality—the part that describes witch Evelyn’s battle against the Nazis in World War II—would sound a mite dubious. Ordinarily, one would expect a witch to fight for the Nazis, not against them. But that’s not what happens here.

Evelyn (known as Eve) is 149 years old, but with the pass of a finger over her face and the right words, she can still look and act young and beautiful. She lives with other witches in buildings that were long ago torn down, and she rarely cooks the “slow” way, preferring to conjure up dishes with, perhaps, a wink of an eye. Against this background, DeAngelis works in that far more serious subplot involving the underground battle against the Nazis in Europe, where Eve finds and loses her true love, Jonah. Somehow DeAngelis manages to give each of these accounts, past and present, its own space, though things tighten up a bit when Eve runs into Jonah’s dead ringer, Justin, 60 years later.

Full of engaging characters, from the family parrot, who is “working his way through the metaphysical poets,” to Eve’s well-meaning, witchy family, who have a mystery of their own that must be investigated, Petty Magic pulls off the magic of being, at the same time, serious and tongue-in-cheek. If you’re a witch, petty magic is what you’ll amuse yourself with in your old age. But readers of all ages will be enchanted by this novel and, in the end, unwilling to break its spell.



 

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