Title: Dead Witch Walking
Author: Kim Harrison
Review Number: 14
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Fiction
Stand alone or series: First book in The Hollows (Rachel Morgan) series
Summary: (From kimharrison.net)
All the creatures of the night gather in “the Hollows” of Cincinnati, to hide, to prowl, to party … and to feed.
Vampires rule the darkness in a predator-eat-predator world rife with dangers beyond imagining — and it’s Rachel Morgan’s job to keep that world civilized.
A bounty hunter and witch with serious sex appeal and an attitude, she’ll bring ’em back alive, dead … or undead.
Why did I read the book: After the bad taste that Dante Valentine left in my mouth, I needed to read another paranormal heroine who could help salvage some of my battered faith in the genre. Since paranormals are “buy one get one half off” at Borders right now, I had this on the shelf having picked it up along with Working for the Devil. I had heard good things about Rachel Morgan, so warily (but encouraged from the Jim Butcher and Kelley Armstrong recommendations), I eased into the world of The Hollows.
Rachel Morgan is a witch, working as an underpaid and unappreciated runner for the Cincinnati Inderland Security. The world that she lives in is not too dissimilar from our own—as in most paranormal fiction series’, it’s a world where humans have to share with Vampires, Were-creatures, assorted fae, Witches and Warlocks. You know, the standard fare. Humans are mistrustful and for the most part ignorant, judgmental asses; the supernatural creatures are dangerous, but have to deal with legislation and typical bureaucracy. Except Ms. Harrison’s universe has a funny, quirky tinge to it—after Watson and Crick (and Rosalind Franklin, thank you very much!) “discovered” the double helix structure of DNA, in the throws of the Cold War both the east and west began to fiddle with biological engineering. The ubiquitous tomato was infected by an escaped biologically engineered virus…which became the seed of destruction for humanity. The escaped Angel virus pandemic wiped out nearly half of the human population. While this virus was lethal to humans, most supernatural creatures were immune (exhibiting various reactions due to their unique genetic makeup)…and no longer grossly outnumbered by humans, they Turned. That is, they revealed themselves to the world and became an important, functioning part of society (not that they weren’t important before, but the Turn revealed them to humans).
The Turn led to a relocation of people, the establishment of new government agencies, and new laws. Enter Rachel Morgan, a witch in a career that is going nowhere due to her dislike of paperwork, and a meathead boss she keeps pissing off. The book opens with Rachel trying to tag a Leprechaun for tax evasion, which Rachel takes as an insult to her talents. Helped by pixie sidekick Jenks, and fellow star runner Ivy (a living vampire), Rache stakes out a bar and nabs the Leprechaun. With a golden opportunity in her hands, Rache decides to quit the S.I. and take three wishes from the Leprechaun, before letting her go. Ivy and Jenks decide to also quit, and join Rache in business, snagging two of her three wishes as payment.
Unfortunately, while Rachel quitting the I.S. is no big deal, taking Ivy with her pisses off Rachel’s former boss to no end—and he puts out a nasty death warrant on her head. Hence the title, Dead Witch Walking. The only way to stay alive? Rachel needs a BIG tag to buy out her contract and keep the I.S. off her back, and she focuses on nabbing a renowned charitable businessman who also happens to be a lethal drug lord. In between trying to evade assassins, keep her vampire roommate from coming on to her (and ripping her throat out), and mixing charms from scratch since all her possessions have been cursed and she has a big goose egg in her bank account, that is.
I was very pleased with this book. Rachel Morgan is a worthwhile heroine that isn’t barbed and doesn’t put on a “tough girl” front. Ms. Harrison writes a funny, endearing character in Rachel. She’s young and sensitive, but fair minded when it comes to her friends. Not to mention, she’s pretty funny. Not in a bitchy Anita Blake or cussed-out Danny Valentine kind of way, but in a less jaded, more innocently brazen of way.
The supporting characters are similarly engaging, and surprisingly complex. Even the big bad villain in this book (and in the next book I’ll bet) is more than meets the eye. The characters of Ivy (Rachel’s sexy, creepy vamp roommate) and Jenks (an unlikely pixie bodyguard) are more than just filler characters or simple sidekicks. The only problem I had with this book is how Rachel kept getting bailed out of trouble by her buddies and hardly ever on her own accord. But, then again, it’s nice to see a main character have friends that s/he can count on, and I liked the vulnerability that Ms. Harrison depicted Rache with.
Good pacing, good characters, and strong writing makes this read—even at 400+ pages—a quick one…and leaves the reader eager for more.
Notable Quotes/Parts: After a scary interlude with her vampire roommate, Ivy tells Rachel that she didn’t mean to come on to her so strongly, just that Rachel was throwing out all the wrong (right?) signals. Ivy hands Rachel a book (Vampire dating guide) to read to make sure the situation doesn’t happen again. Rache reads this portion on the bus:
“”If your vampire lover moves to a more private location in the middle of a conversation, be assured that he or she isn’t spurning you. It’s an invitation. Go all out. Take some food or drink with you to get the jaws loosened up and the saliva moving. Don’t be a flirt. Red wine is passe. Try an apple or something equally crunchy.”
“Not all vampires are alike. Find out if your lover likes pillow talk. Foreplay can take many forms. A conversation about past ties and bloodlines is sure to strike a chord and stir pride unless you lover is from a secondary house.”
Double Damn. I was a harlot. I was a freaking vampire hussy.”
It had me in fits! Poor, unsuspecting Rachel.
Additional Thoughts: I liked the genetic spin Ms. Morgan put in her universe. It makes perfect sense that a witch’s (or a were-creature, vampire, warlock, pixie for that matter) DNA is different than regular old human DNA. And it was interesting to see witches and warlocks as a separate species from humans, even though they look identical.
Verdict: If you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, you’ll love Rachel Morgan–Ms. Harrison has a very similar writing style, and the blend of humor and thrills is good fun. I enjoyed this book immensely, can’t wait to dig in to book 2.
Rating: 7 Very Good
Reading Next: If Angels Burn (Darkyn Book 1) by Lynn Viehl