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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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Excerpt: Dead Witch Walking

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Rachel Morgan was an excellent Inderland Security runner. She could catch any criminal -- witch or pixy or vampire or werewolf -- and bring them to justice. Emphasis on the was. Lately she's had a string of bad luck. Inexplicable things keep happening to prevent her from being the success she knows she can be, and now she's out on runs that a rookie could do. When she catches her latest prey, a tax evading leprechaun, the little lass offers her three wishes. That would be a bribe, if offered to an IS agent, but Rachel's realized that this is her big chance to quit.

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, all decide to quit with her in exchange for one of her wishes and a chance to work with her in the freelance service she plans to open. For Jenks, who's a freelancer, it's no problem. But everyone knows that an IS agent under contract is likely to only enjoy the shortest of retirements should they choose to quit. Rachel figures she's in the clear, because her boss, Denon, must have wanted her to quit anyway, but figured 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.

Dead Witch Walking is a clever and enjoyable read on many levels. The magic in this world is very well done, based a lot on what we already have in our own world, but made even more tangible. 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 very familiar yet nifty. I thought the idea that all spells can be dissolved with salt water was rather well used, and her trying to avoid being tagged by a killer adds a lot to the excitement. There's also a lot of espionage as she and Jenks try and 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 and how she escapes is really neat.

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 makes for some funny -- and scary -- moments.

All the characters are well realized. How Kim Harrison gives each type of character a mini-society is well done, 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 are interesting. 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, also makes for an interesting piece of characterization.

Dead Witch Walking is one of those fast paced, high spirited books that provides the reader with everything -- a sweet romance, narrow escapes, good friendship, and lots of magic. It also left me hungry for more.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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