Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Review: Dead Witch Walking, by Kim Harrison

I didn’t actually know much about the plot of this book before I read it. I’d heard a few people saying that they liked the author’s work, and I’d listened to the episode of I Should Be Writing that featured an interview with her. When I picked it up to read last month, after getting through all my BISP month books, I did, what for me, is an unusual thing. I looked at the blurb.

Instantly I remembered why it had lurked on my TBR pile for more than a year. The blurb is appalling. I don’t know what it’s like on the UK edition, but I’ve got the US/CAN edition, and it tells you the protagonists name, that she’s a bounty hunter and witch, the name of the place where she lives, and that there are vampires there. It doesn’t tell you anything about the plot, or even about the world really. Usually when I write my little plot introductions for reviews, I get a bit nervous about doing the book the proper amount of justice, but this time I am confident, because the blurb set the standard so low!

Dead Witch Walking is set in an alternate universe, where, shortly after the discovery of DNA, a virus was bioengineered that decimated the human population. Previously humans had massively outnumbered all the supernatural creatures – or Inderlanders – but now the numbers are a lot closer to even. Rachel Morgan is one such Inderlander, working for their branch of the police, until she gets sick of getting all the worst jobs. One night she decides to quit, and to her surprise, successful living vampire Ivy and pixy Jenks offer to work with her. Their boss wouldn’t mind Rachel leaving, he’s wanted rid of her for a while, but when he finds out that Ivy is leaving with her, he puts a price on Rachel’s head. Hence the title, Dead Witch Walking. Rachel and her new partners have to find a way to work together to get Inderlander Security to call off the assassins before Rachel runs out of time.

I enjoyed Dead Witch Walking and I read it relatively quickly. I really liked the world in which it was set, however, there was something missing. A really strong protagonist. I’ve read several times that if writers are struggling to decide which character in their story should be the first person narrator, they should pick the one that is the most interesting. I just didn’t feel like Rachel was the most interesting character in the story, quite the opposite, in fact. I was really intrigued by Ivy and her relationship with her parents and other vampires, and by Jenks, his wife and many children. Rachel just didn’t seem that exciting by comparison, perhaps her life is just too straightforward, but I wondered whether the author was deliberately holding back information about Rachel, possibly to put it into later books. There was a lot that wasn’t really explained, like her relationship with her mother. I also couldn’t understand why Rachel was so impulsive, and why she would get herself into really risky situations without any sort of plan to escape them.

I have read on Goodreads and other websites that this series does get better, some people have even said that it’s worth persevering because the later books are amazing. I’m willing to give this series a couple more books to improve, so willing I’ve already got the second, The Good, The Bad and The Undead, on my TBR!

The BookDepository

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