When I read and reviewed Kim Harrison's young adult novel, Once Dead, Twice Shy
I made a comment about it being (hopefully) a rare fumble for an otherwise great author. Having finally read the first in her adult urban fantasy series, The Hollows
, I can definitely say that my thoughts proved true.
The first thing that really struck me about Dead Witch Walking
is the world-building. The Hollows
world is one where a pandemic (caused by genetically modified tomatoes) wiped out a large portion of the human race. From the chaos the Inderlanders - witches (like main character and narrator Rachel Morgan), werewolves, vampires and more revealed their identities and helped keep the world from falling apart. Harrison very quickly sets up the feel of the world, the wariness of both sides and the different subtypes of Inderlanders, and deftly reveals more of the depth as time goes on. It's a fascinating world to read, full of complexities and many layers of rules, and for me it was definitely one of the high points of the novel.
The other high point to Dead Witch Walking
is the characters (the plot comes in a close third). Rachel is smart and tough, yet definitely flawed. She makes her mistakes, and while she fixes some on her own sometimes she needs a little help. But isn't that what friends are for? Jenks, the devoted family man (or should I say pixy?) and tiny spy steals the spotlight as the comic relief, while Ivy - despite struggling against her nature and not so keen on what her undead future will be like - is a wonderful example of a vampire, dangerous yet fascinating, and some of the most intense scenes of the book are her struggles between herself and her vampire nature... with Rachel stuck in the middle.
While Dead Witch Walking
does have a few issues common to first books in series (having to introduce all the main players, bringing up all the backstory etc.) Harrison clearly is in her element here. Dark and gritty, yet full of humour, I found Dead Witch Walking
to be a very addictive read (I was very glad to have the next one at hand!) and a great next step in my journey through adult urban fantasy reads.