Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dead Witch Walking

Dead Witch Walking
by Kim Harrison
Pages: 368
Publisher: Eos/Harper Collins
April 2004

The underground population of witches, vampires, werewolves—creatures of dreams and nightmares—has lived beside humans for centuries, hiding their powers. But after a genetically engineered virus wipes out a large part of humanity, many of the "Inderlanders" reveal themselves, changing everything.

Rachel Morgan, witch and bounty hunter with the Inderland Runner Services, is one of the best at apprehending supernatural lawbreakers throughout Cincinnati, but when it comes to following the rules, she falls desperately short. Determined to buck the system, she quits and takes off on the run with an I.S. contract on her head and is reluctantly forced to team up with Ivy, Inderland's best runner . . . and a living vampire. But this witch is way out of her league, and to clear her name, Rachel must evade shape-changing assassins, outwit a powerful businessman/crime lord, and survive a vicious underground fight-to-the-death . . . not to mention her own roommate.

I decided to read Dead Witch Walking after reading about Kim Harrison’s book series on a Barnes & Noble Nook blog, where they were hyping this first book of the series as part of their ebook give aways. So, it’s free, why not give it a try? I had somewhat glanced over her books in the past in the bookstore, thinking that they might be interesting, but never actually took the step of either buying it or going to the library to see if I could get it there. It took this free give away and the accompanying rave review of the blogger to convince me that I should give it a try, some six years after it was published.

Dead Witch Walking has a variety of urban fantasy beings—vampires, witches, demons, were-creatures, pixies, and faeries. It’s an interesting mix, and the three main characters of the book are one witch, one vampire, and one pixie. These paranormal beings are referred to as Inderlanders in Harrison’s universe, and considered separate from actual humans. I don’t feel that was adequately explained. For instance, humans in her universe have an aversion to tomatoes, but inderlanders don’t. So, what makes a witch different from a human? What happens when a human is turned into a vampire? Do they suddenly like tomatoes again? Another thing that bothers me is the relationship between Ivy and Rachel Morgan—colleagues that set off together to form their own venture, but yet Rachel, as she has to struggle with getting to know Ivy better, doesn’t seem to be all that trusting of Ivy, something that you can hardly go two pages without being reminded of. In that regard, I think this book could have built a better framework, but maybe as the series goes on, that basic framework will improve. This book also was hard for me to get into. Is that just a funk I’m going through? I don’t think so, as my wife also decided to read this book as well, and as we were reading the first few pages, I asked her what she thought of the book. Her comment was that she had trouble figuring out what was going on, which is a description I’d agree with it. Ms. Harrison throws you right into the middle of her universe without working up to anything, leaving you the reader a bit confused. Imagine yourself walking through a door, and finding yourself in a foreign country that you know nothing about, and that is how this book starts out. Sure, you eventually find your way around, but it takes a bit.

However, as the story progressed, I found myself not wanting to put the book down, as Ms. Harrison’s universe truly came alive and the flow seemed to improve significantly. She does a good job of setting up the series over the course of the book, introducing characters—both allies, villains, future possibilities, and just who are some of these characters?—at a good pace, and she leaves room for growth within their characters as well. If you are wanting a good paranormal romance book, this isn’t it. There are other authors out there that can give that to you. There are some authors out there that started out there series as good urban fantasy and then ruined their series by focusing less on an actual urban fantasy story and turning it more into a romance story with very little action going on. If you want a good urban fantasy book with maybe a small touch of romance, then I’d suggest checking this book out.

I would have given this book a much higher rating if the story had been consistent all the way through it.