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Dead Witch Walking
Kim Harrison
HarperTorch, 416 pages

Dead Witch Walking
Kim Harrison
Born in the Midwest, Kim Harrison has been called a witch, among other things, but has never seen a vampire (that she knows of). She loves graveyards and midnight jazz, and wears too much black.

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SF Site Review: Dead Witch Walking
Excerpt: Dead Witch Walking

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

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Stop me if you've heard this one before. A witch, a pixy, and a vampire walk into a pub.... No, this isn't the beginning of a joke. It's the beginning of Kim Harrison's amazing new book, Dead Witch Walking.

Rachel Morgan is a witch and runner working for Inderland Security, in an alternate world where forty years ago, a bioengineered disaster wiped out a great deal of the world's population. In the process, it exposed the existence of the supernatural communities that had long lived alongside humanity. Now, in modern-day Cincinnati, Rachel works to take down unlicensed and black-art witches, rogue Weres, criminal leprechauns, overzealous vampires, and all the other inhuman nasties that get out of line. Problem is, she's been having a run of bad luck with her cases, generally getting the short end of the stick; the cases not even an intern should have to put up with.

Fed up with how she's being treated, she quits I.S. But no one quits I.S. and lives to tell about it, not without some pretty hefty bribes to pay off their contracts. Now Rachel's marked for death, and has everything from invading fairy clans to homicidal Weres on her tail, as well as an assortment of truly nasty death curses. All she has going for her are her new partners, and fellow I.S. deserters: Ivy Tamwood, a non-practicing vampire and the best runner I.S. had, and Jenks, a pixy whose diminutive size, flight, and other magical talents make him the ideal scout or backup. Taking up residence in an old church, the three unlikely partners form an independent bounty hunting team, albeit one mostly dedicated to keeping Rachel alive.

Insistent upon finding a way to get I.S. off her back, Rachel embarks on the brilliant scheme of trying to expose the city's most prominent man as a supernatural being, and more importantly as a druglord. Getting the goods on him would be a major coup for whatever federal agency scored the bust. Sadly, Rachel's idea of planning leaves something to be desired, getting her into more trouble than she can rightly handle. It's up to Ivy and Jenks, and a few unexpected allies, to watch her back, and help solve the most dangerous case of their careers.

I have to admit: I was absolutely floored by this book. Fascinating concept, great setup, believable setting, gripping characters, and a fast-paced plot that doesn't let up for a single page. Within the first few pages, I was hooked, to the point where it preempted all of the other books I'm already reading. Rachel's a wonderful character, possessing a rich combination of strengths and flaws, and a delightfully wry tone. Her fierce independence, stubbornness and inability to plan are the perfect contrasts to Ivy's mystery, sensuality, and anal-retentive planning, and Jenks' mouthy loyalty. As a team, the three characters complement one another quite nicely, though not without their fair share of arguments and mistrust. The growing bonds of loyalty and friendship provide a good sense of continuity throughout the course of the story, and the uneasy tension (sexual, emotional, and physical) between Rachel and Ivy kept me turning the pages to see how it would develop.

There's no doubt about it. I want more of this world and these characters, and happily, there's just enough loose threads left at the end of the book to provide future material. Dead Witch Walking reads like Laurell K. Hamilton at her best, with a great deal less "spice", and like Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files) with a female protagonist. It has been a long time since I've wanted to rave about a book so strongly, but believe me, my enthusiasm is well-placed. For those who like urban fantasy, for fans of Hamilton, Butcher, Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels, and for those who like a good blend of magic and action, this is one book not to miss.

Copyright © 2004 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.


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