DISCLAIMER: I discovered this book eight years ago in my then-preferred Fantasy section. This is the book that really caught my interest and made me search out this genre. As such, I’m not entirely impartial. For me, this book was more than a series starter. It was the beginning of a whole new world and a whole new type of story.
I know Kim Harrison wasn’t the first to write Urban Fantasy.
Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire, 1976) could easily be argued to have begun the genre though she was shelved in general fiction. Laurell K. Hamilton, an early adaptor, (Guilty Pleasures, 1993) was shelved in horror – yes, I’ll agree that her books no longer fit in Urban Fantasy, but in the beginning they could have. Tanya Huff was another forerunner, her book Blood Price having been published in 1991, but I don’t know where she was shelved in the beginning. I didn’t discover her until well after I found Kim Harrison’s series, until Urban Fantasy had its own name.
Maybe Tanya Huff had been hiding in Mystery, because that genre seems to have lent much to Urban Fantasy – a main character trailing through many events and books and whose name drives the series. Sherlock Holmes, anyone? Tanya Huff’s Victory Nelson is an ex-police officer gone private investigator, so it isn’t that much a stretch. In fact, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake works with the police, and in this series Rachel Morgan is leaving Inderland Security (police for the paranormal) to start her own investigative agency.
She lives in the Hallows; the part of Cincinnati where witches, vampires, and others who are not entirely normal (Inderlanders) collect. This would have been the fringes of society, except for the virus spread by a genetically engineered tomato that decimated the normal human population, and left the Inderlanders mostly unaffected. Once the world settled, Inderlanders realized they were no longer massively outnumbered. They came out of hiding to keep civilization going. Here, the paranormal is part of everyday life and our main character is a witch.
We start with something simple. Rachel Morgan tracking down a tax-evading leprechaun; a little nothing case that should be easy.
A catalogue of her recent spate of embarrassing mistakes directly contradicts her certainty that she’s better than this run, but it feeds into her desire to escape a job where she’s being quickly and certainly set into the role of incompetent, and worse, incompetent stuck in a thirty year contract.
A thirty year contract that required a significant outlay for training. It doesn't take long for the rumors of the nasty death following the non-completion of a work contract is buried beneath a mountain of job stress and Rachel does the unthinkable.
That might have been acceptable – they wanted her and her mistakes out anyway – but her some-time partner and the rising star of the agency, living vamp Ivy, quits too. For that, they would happily kill her. To be sure she knows where she stands, they start with a deadly spell on her last paycheck. She has to thwart their first assassination attempt in order to leave the building alive.
After that she’s running to avoid sudden death; to earn enough money to pay off her training costs which she hopes will convince the I.S. to stop trying to kill her; or to catch a big enough criminal that it would make the I.S. look bad for trying to kill her.
Really, her goal is to stay alive for more than a day.
As I said, this has been one of my favorite series since it came out and it stands up reasonably well to a re-read eight years later. There a few more typos and formatting errors than I remembered (causalities instead of casualties), but the copy I’m reading is my first e-book ever, so I won’t cry foul until I’m sure the error is not me pushing the wrong buttons. Even so, it is still one of my favorites and I’d recommend it to any Urban Fantasy fan that might have missed this one.
I am eagerly awaiting the release of book nine.
Pale Demon hits the shelves February 22nd.
Since I wanted to play with my new toy (I finally got an e-reader!) and didn’t want to avoid my self-assigned homework (this review) I purchased Dead Witch Walking as an e-book to let me do both at once.
That means I have a paper version on my shelf I can offer up so someone else can experience Rachel's life on the run. To win, comment below with a unique and recognizable name (anonymous can only win if there’s only one of you), and tell me
A) Why I’m wrong in my review,
B) Why you haven’t read this series yet,
C) Suggest another Urban Fantasy Series for me to read and review for the next ‘Series Starter’.
(Should you want to do one of those things, but already have this older book, tell me you're entering for Friends of the Library and I'll pass it on to them if you win. I don't want to discourage anyone from pointing out other facets of the story.)
You have until midnight Thursday the 24th. I'll announce the winner on Friday.
And since our blog is new and young, I wanted to offer something super-special if we get more than twenty-five comments and luckily enough, a few years ago I had collected some extras. So, for that amazing outpouring of love, you’ll get the Dead Witch Walking book from my shelf, a Burning Bunny pin, the RIP Kisten Felps armband extra from 2008, and the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office toe tag for Rachel - extra from 2007.
What a haul.
You may only enter once, but you may send as many friends our way as you'd like.