March 27, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Grave Witch" by Kalayna Price

Grave Witch
by Kalayna Price
ROC (2010)
325 pages
ISBN-13: 9780451463807

I don't read many novels with faeries in them, let alone urban fantasy novels, so Grave Witch helped bump up that number a notch higher. The fae element was actually a bit of a surprise, because when I read the back cover of this one I was expecting witches and ghosts and that's all. Shows what assumptions get you.

This book was a change of pace from the other UF novels I've read lately. It went light on the humor, but didn't take itself too seriously, and the flow of the book felt more like a straight up mystery novel--but with magic. I was a little worried early on that the book was going to play out like a police procedural, which is a genre I still bristle at, but it actually felt closer to something like a Janet Evanovich novel as far as the investigative elements went. That I can readily enjoy.

Alex Craft makes her living as a grave witch, communicating with shades of people who've recently died. She's not a ghost whisperer though, as the shades are like echoes of the dead with the nifty ability to talk. Kind of like the black box of the soul, you might say. But, it's when one of these shades actually attacks her when she summons it in the morgue that things go haywire for the cash-strapped societal outcast.

A detective friend of hers is investigating the assassination of the governor and needs her to raise the guy's shade, which only leads her to get attacked, marked by a soul-sucking spell, the detective in a coma after a botched hit, and a case that may involve her own father, the deputy governor and leader of the Humans First Society--yeah, she's got daddy issues, big-time. Along the way, she finds herself seeking help and butting heads with not just a ghost that's tailing her, but the lead detective on the governor's case, and even Death himself. Not to mention the gang of faeries that seem to have it in for her.

Oddly enough, I was more entertained by Alex and all her interactions with the characters in the books than I did with the actual mystery. One of those experiences where the characters were more rewarding than the plot. The plot offers enough twists and turns to keep things interesting, but what kept me hooked the whole way through was the cast. Little moments like Alex's little dog, PC, who was on the mend with a broken leg in a cast, and his constant begging of food. I'm a dog lover though, so that was an easy hook for me. There was her estranged sister too, and the strained relationship they have as the prospect of their father's involvement in the case comes to bear. I thought that was something that really helped give Alex's character some depth. One of my favorite characters had to be Roy the ghost, with his earnest attitude coupled with a desire to see his murderer brought down. I just thought the notion that a ghost would hound a witch almost incessantly once he realizes someone can finally see him was the much-needed bit of humor that the book needed.

It's not high-octane stuff, but it's a world Kalayna has laid out really well. The whole history of a city and state existing on a neighboring plain of existence after faeries and witches come out of the woodwork felt just believable enough to have me suspend my disbelief. I could have used a little bit more differentiating that world from the preexisting mundane world, but that's a minor detail, and one I'm sure gets worked out as the series continues. It took a while to get round to reading this book, so I hope I don't procrastinate quite so long when it comes to the second installment.

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