Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison (The Hollows #1)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Torch on July 1, 2004
Audio: Audible Productions narrated by Marguerite Gavin
All the creatures of the night gather in “the Hollows” of Cincinnati, to hide, to prowl, to party … and to feed.
Vampires rule the darkness in a predator-eat-predator world rife with dangers beyond imagining — and it’s Rachel Morgan’s job to keep that world civilized.
A bounty hunter and witch with serious sex appeal and an attitude, she’ll bring ’em back alive, dead … or undead.
This has been the year of urban fantasy for me, since I’ve started more than 6 UF series, many of them long-running and very popular. Kim Harrison’s “The Hollows” series is longer running and more beloved than most – and since the final book was just released this year, it seemed like the perfect time to jump on board. All of my blogging friends who read UF (which is at least 60% of them, honestly) rave about this series and how good it is. I was also warned by a few of them that the first few instalments were the weakest of the series, and Jessica from Rabid Reads in particular said that people need to stick it out at least until book 9 for some BIG THINGS to happen. I like BIG THINGS and I like the books recommended by the Rabid Reads ladies, and despite its problems I still really enjoyed Dead Witch Walking.
After reading Dead Witch Walking I can definitely see where those people were coming from: Rachel Morgan, the protagonist of “The Hollows” series, has serious potential but she’s clearly got some growing up to do. Rachel is a brilliantly sassy woman and an equally brilliant witch…it’s her actual mental acuity that could use some work. As an agent for Interlander Security, Rachel is tasked with policing the Interlander (supernatural) population of Cincinnati and its suburbs, particularly the Interlander dominated neighbourhood called The Hollows. Apparently Rachel’s pretty good at her job, although I can’t see how that’s even possible given how obtuse she is.
Nowhere is this tendency towards thickheadedness more obvious than in Rachel’s exit from Interlander Security. Apparently no one ever quits the I.S. before their contract is up and lives to tell the tale, but there’s no way they’ll try to kill her for leaving. Her boss doesn’t even like her! But of course, the I.S. puts a hit out on her. And there’s no way that little ol’ Rachel would be of interest to Trent Kalamack, a sexy and quite probably evil businessman who’s an I.S. person of interest. But of course, she is! Because despite her many blunders, Rachel’s a damn fine witch. And I don’t just mean her looks.
But even the finest of witches need some back up now and then, and that’s where the crew of magical friends swoops in to save the day. When Rachel leaves the I.S. she brings some people with her, and she meets a few others as she bumbles about trying to stay alive. There’s Ivy, the living vamp who no longer drinks human blood but definitely thirsts for Rachel’s; there’s Jenks, the scrappy and foul-mouthed pixie who serves as Rachel’s eyes and ears in the field; and then there’s Nick, the human librarian hottie that Rachel’s crushing on. Ivy presents some interesting issues: she’s basically the roommate from hell, the one who keeps weird hours and steals all your groceries. But instead of eating Rachel’s food or drinking her beer, Ivy just wants to drink Rachel’s blood. An already awkward situation is made way worse by the fact that Rachel can’t control her suspicions about Ivy and her vampy intentions. The sheer number of times that Rachel screamed “Ivy! Nooooo!!!” was mind boggling and quite frankly, annoying. Rachel needs to kick Ivy out or accept her as is, and that’s all there is to it.
Jenks was a complete scene-stealer, helped along by the narration of the inimitable Marguerite Gavin. Gavin’s portrayal of Jenks as a high pitched, high speed, and irate speaker was spot on. The pixie man is loyal to a fault, and he’s got the full weight of his pixie family behind him. They may be small, but they are legion, and they can do some serious damage. Where Jenks was lovable and hilarious, Nick was pretty underwhelming. You know it’s a bad situation when there’s a male librarian (some of my coworkers call them ‘manbrarians’) and I’m not feelin’ the love. As annoying as Rachel can be at times, she definitely deserves someone with more personality. Like Trent. I know the guy’s supposedly evil but I still ship it.
With a fantastic cast of characters, interesting world building, and a cliffhanger-free ending, Dead Witch Walking is a strong start to what promises to be an excellent UF series. I think it might take Rachel a few books to find her footing and really come into her own, but I’m more than happy to wait it out until that occurs. If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t read this series yet (#alwaysthelasttoreadthings) I highly recommend the audio version: the only downside to Gavin’s narration was how convincing she was with all of those “Ivy! Nooooo!!!” moments, since the yelling got to be a bit much. I suspect that Rachel will tone it down in the future. My predictions for the series: Rachel needs Ivy’s help to run the business, Nick gets left in the dust, Rachel deals with bad juju, and Trent puts the moves on Rachel. That last one might just be my wishful thinking, though.