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Guest Post! Three Stars: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

Dead Witch walking is an urban fantasy about a young witch who quits her safe, government bounty hunter job to strike out on her own. Problem is, the government doesn’t let people quit. So while she is trying to set up a new business and bring in a bad guy on her own (with a little help from her friends), she is also dodging attempts on her life from all quarters …

Reading is definitely something I get from my parents and as a break from writing, my mom wrote up some guest posts of books I hadn’t had a chance to read yet for the blog! Check it out:

I have recently gotten hooked on urban fantasy, having enjoyed several series by writers such as Patricia Briggs, and I wanted something light with a strong female lead. This book had received good ratings on Amazon.com, so I loaded it on the Kindle and settled in for some easy summer reading – which is an accurate description of what I got. This is the first book in The Hollows series, but I am not sure that I will spend money to read the rest since there are so many series in this genre waiting to be explored.

Goodreads
Title:
 Dead Witch Walking
Author: Kim Harrison
Pages: 432
Genre-ish: Urban fantasy with magic and magical creatures plus paranormal romance
Rating: ★★★ – interesting, but annoying development problems
Setting: Like most urban fantasy, the book takes place in a world that was like ours until an event changed everything – forcing people to adapt to a world in which magic now exists or has been revealed. Dead Witch Walking is set in a parallel version of Cincinnati, Ohio in a world where magic and magical creatures existed in hiding until a genetic engineering catastrophe nearly wiped out normal humans. Witches join vampires (living and undead), fairies, pixies, and demons in living in regions separated from humans, such as the Hollows, although people from both sides of the line mingle – often with unfortunate results.
Premise: Rachel Morgan works for the I.S. – one of two agencies that try to keep law and order in the changed world. She is not a stellar employee and keeps pulling the least important jobs … and frequently manages to bungle even those. Eventually, she rebels and quits – but the I.S. does not forgive broken contracts so easily. She is marked for death upon leaving the agency unless she can come up with enough money to buy out her contract. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to face this situation alone. She is joined first by her pixie partner, Jenks, and vampire friend, Ivy, but she manages to pick up several other allies during an investigation into a solid citizen who seems to not only be running drugs but the far more dangerous biodrugs that nearly wiped out humanity in the first place.

Strengths:

  • The protagonist is well-written. She is a bright and talented witch who is capable of difficult magic, but she lacks confidence and experience as well the ability to think strategically and plan. This combination gets her into tight places where her simple persistence becomes the key to surviving until she can figure out the next successful move. She’s a refreshing hero in a genre that tends to make its leads nearly omnipotent. She reminds me a lot of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum – a nice sort of underdog that you can’t help but hope will come out on top.
  • Many of the supporting characters are more complex than expected, and Harrison does a great job of creating just enough mystery about their past or unexpected abilities to keep the reader intrigued but not frustrated. They have talents and skills that come together to make a pretty effective team that supports Rachel but also at times gets her into even more trouble than she would manage on her own.
  • The magic system of this world is also complex. Spells take time, training, ingredients, and judgment to create and invoke. Some characters suffer from having only a partial education or having been misinformed about potential dangers – with unpredictable results that form interesting plot-twists.

Weaknesses:

  • The unrequited, lesbian paranormal romance, unfortunately, felt very forced and was quite distracting during the first third of the book. One episode of Ivy nearly losing control of her dark nature would have been fine, but the sense that she is constantly on the verge of destroying her friend and would-be lover is too much.
  • Similarly, the idea that anyone needs a guidebook – with do and don’t suggestions – for encouraging a vampire lover is crazy. Rachel spends most of her interactions with Ivy in trying to fend her off. They can’t even have a conversation in the hallway that is not fraught with “romantic” tension. The only time Ivy is fully in control of herself is when Rachel is actually bleeding all over the place!
  • If you like procedural legal dramas, this book is a bit disappointing. The business and legal system of the series is unrealistic even for a fantasy.

Summary:

At the end of the book, I am torn and not sure if I want to try the next book or move onto a better-written series. I am intrigued by the potential development of several of the supporting characters and Rachel herself, but I am afraid that the vampire lover-mania of the urban fantasy genre is going to be a major detraction. I mean, they can’t ALL be rich, beautiful, graceful, and always on the verge of ripping out the throat of the one they supposedly love, right?

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-Barbara

Similar Stories Reviewed:
Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs – More urban fantasy with a strong female lead!
Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk – More girl power adventure with a strong emphasis on the romance. Not PG though!

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

 

© 2012 – 2016, Barbara. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. I am just about to start this one, good to hear it broke down into strengths and weaknesses as I have heard different opinions on this one. Be interesting to see how I find it.

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net
    Lainy SMBSLT recently posted…Dying For Christmas by Tamar CohenMy Profile

  2. Erika Messer says:

    Thank you for the honest review, I might have picked this book just based on the title. I may still try it and see but at least I know going in what is happening.

    • Yeah, I get the impression that if you are expecting a light and fun urban fantasy, this series will be perfect for that, just have to know what to expect :)

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