Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison, Book Review

Song of the day - What Scares You The Most - Manic Bloom
Status - Anxious to get started

Jaime told me about these books by Kim Harrison.

1. Dead Witch Walking (April 2004)
2. The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (January 2005)
3. Every Which Way But Dead (June 28, 2005)
4. A Fistful of Charms (June 27, 2006)
5. For a Few Demons More (March 20, 2007)
6. The Outlaw Demon Wails (February 26, 2008)
7. White Witch, Black Curse (February 24, 2009, forthcoming)

Some of the names were so blatantly borrowed from Clint Eastwood movies I had to see what the books had to offer.

In the first book of this series,
Dead Witch Walking we are treated to the adventures of Rachel Morgan, a bounty hunter witch who lives in downtown post apocalyptic turn Cincinnati. So that's where the Clint Eastwood movie titles came in--the bounty hunter part, not the living in Cincinnati. Okay, interesting.

Rachel Morgan is an Inderland Security runner. She is equal to any criminal--witch, pixy, vampire or werewolf--able to bring them down with magical charms or just by physically tackling them. But she isn't happy. Her talents are being wasted as an IS agent. The runs she gets sent on a rookie could handle. So when she is offered three wishes by a tax evading leprechaun, she jumps at the chance to quit the IS and strike out on her own.

Rachel isn't the only one to leave the IS. The vampire Ivy, who really is one of the best IS
runners around, and the pixy Jenks, who was assigned to act as Rachel's back up, both decide to quit with her in exchange for one of her wishes and a chance to work with Rachel in the freelance service she plans to open.

Leaving isn't a problem for Jenks, he's a freelancer. But an IS agent under contract is likely to only enjoy the shortest of retirements should they choose to quit. Once in, there's no way out except dead. Rachel thinks she's in the clear, because her boss, Denon, seems to have wanted her to quit anyway, but knows they'll be less than thrilled to loose Ivy. And she's right. When Ivy pays off her contract Denon blames Rachel for encouraging her to go and assigns some top assassins to kill her. Now Rachel is a dead witch walking unless she can prove that councilman Trent, one of the most powerful men in the city, is running Brimstone.

For the most part, Dead Witch Walking is clever on many levels. The magic in this world is very well done. Amulets and potions that can be timed or targeted on one person, black spells and white spells and ley lines, all combining to give a system that is both familiar and a good idea. Rachel trying to avoid being tagged by a killer adds a lot to the tension, while she and Jenks try to sneak into Trent's home through some ingenious means. One of the high points occurs when she turns herself into a mink and is caught. She eventually ends up being entered in a rat fight, and who she meets there and how she escapes is interesting.

The relationships between humans and vampires is also explored in interesting depth, as Rachel and Ivy's attempts to live together despite Rachel innocently violating certain rules-which is intended to be humorous, but really is pretty scary.

Kim Harrison gives each type of character a mini-society, giving us a lot of context in a little time, for example, the methods and reasons why Jenks and his pixie family defend the church garden they live in, their territorial wars with Fairies, and the prejudices Jenks faces. The idea that Ivy is a living vampire, infected with vampirism from the womb, and her relationship with her mother now that she is undead yet Ivy isn't, makes another non typical characterization.

It all hangs together to make a complete whole. Everything in Rachel Morgan's world works. Even though I couldn't buy in to everything that Kim Harrison sets up, I could see how her characters lived true to the fictional world they were in.

For me, Rachel Morgan is almost an antihero, in the Clint Eastwood bountyhunter mold. Only that's as far as the similarities go. Rachel is headstrong to the point of being stupidly stubborn, getting herself into one fix after another. She thinks she's the only one who knows what is going on and is the only one who can successfully get the 'perp'. Time after time she finds herself in more trouble than when she started. It's amazing she gets out the prediciments she gets herself into. I had a hard time liking her. However, the book is interesting enough to try the next one.

1 comment:

Jaime Theler said...

Wow, my head's spinning just reading your review. But it's not anywhere close to starting the series with book #5. Nooot a good plan...