Sue CCCP's Reviews > Dead Witch Walking

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
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4.5 Stars

My full review: http://coffeecookiesandchilipeppers.b...

Amazon suggested this book to me not long after I bought some of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse titles, and there are some similarities. Both series deal with a human world coming to terms with the other species living amongst them and both have a strong, feisty heroine. However, Ms Harrison’s Vampires are even further removed from the traditional garlic-fearing undead: Ivy is a living Vampire, born that way and destined to rise again after her death. Humans can be bitten and infected with the virus, but they must depend upon an undead vampire to raise them to undeath. One other significant difference is the exploration of the magic that Rachel wields. This is an interestingly practical form of magic that involves a lot of preparation to cook up potions that can be impregnated into wooden charms and which must be activated by a drop of blood. It makes a very nice change for magic to be slightly more than just shouting and pointing. But perhaps the greatest addition to the supernatural universe is that of the Pixies. Jenks and his family are amazingly well drawn and amongst my favorite characters of all time. Jenks may be only four inches tall, but his personality is massive and his hyperactivity fills any scene that he is in. He is funny, witty, sarcastic, brave, protective . . . and looks like a blond sex-god: no wonder he has so many children!

Rachel is a strong character and given some depth, which is fortunate as the book is written in the first person from her perspective. She is fully realized and stands out against the backdrop of world building that is always necessary in the first book in a series. Not that the exposition is overt and distracting: Ms Harrison deals with the differences between our world and hers in such a subtle way that I was never jarred out of the story. This is a wonderfully detailed world, which has an interesting, and believable, history. This makes it so much easier to make the leap of faith needed to accept the presence of the supernatural in ‘normal’ human society. However, the first two-thirds of the book are a little slow, though the action kicks off after that and the last third moves at a more satisfying pace.

One thing I especially like about Rachel is that she is not perfect: she worries about her looks, sometimes makes dumb decisions and is often clumsy, but is always her own person and is willing to stand by her poor choices without too much whining. Also, she values her relationships and the friends that support her, although this can make life uncomfortable for her. The biggest example of this is Ivy, who is obviously very attracted to Rachel and who has a great deal of difficulty controlling her desire to take their relationship further. For Harrison’s Vampires, sexual relationships are closely tied to feeding because they produce a neurotoxin in their saliva that turns the pain of their bite into erotic pleasure. Ivy is a real threat to Rachel’s safety, but there is such a deep trust between them that they both struggle to make their relationship work. It is also encouraging to see a LGBT character treated as perfectly normal.

The bad guy, Trent, is nicely ambiguous: is he really evil, or not? There is a twist right at the end of the book that shakes Rachel’s belief that he is rotten to the core, so who knows? He is certainly capable of great cruelty, and has little regard for the lives of the humans and Witches that he manipulates ruthlessly. Even some the supporting characters are ambiguous: only Rachel and Jenks’ family to seem to be totally good. Ivy is more than capable of killing or enslaving Rachel, whilst Nick, the nominal love interest, seems to have a dodgy past, because he is known to the FIB, and knows how to handle demons. The book does tie up the plot quite neatly at the end, but we are left with many questions about secrets and motivations that I hope will be explored later in the series.
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