Review: ‘Dead Witch Walking’ by Kim Harrison

Dead Witch Walking

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.

I’d never heard of Kim Harrison before, but now I’m wondering why. I discovered her when I asked on Twitter for some urban fantasy audiobook recommendations before Christmas; on Boxing Day I had to drive my son interstate to spend some time with his father, and wanted something to listen to on the way back. Nicole Evelina recommended this series.

My favourite thing about Dead Witch Walking is the world-building. Rachel Morgan’s world is one where, following a terrible virus outbreak halfway through last century, the supernatural creatures all got outed by virtue of the fact that there weren’t as many humans to hide amongst anymore. Now they live in plain sight, tending to stick to their own communities but otherwise part of society.

Rachel, a witch, starts out working as a runner (a type of cop) for Inderland Security — sort of like the FBI for supernatural types. But she decides very early on that she’s tired of getting all the milk runs rather than the real jobs she knows she can do. She’s confident in her own abilities, although that does tend to lead her to be reckless at times. She decides to quit, and two of her IS colleagues, Jenks the pixie and Ivy the living vampire, quit with her to go freelance.

Unfortunately the IS has a policy of not letting runners leave in the middle of their contract, and the consequence is to take a hit out on them — presumably to discourage that sort of behaviour from everyone else.

The hit on Rachel was the one thing I was left scratching my head over. It is commonly known that the IS do this; even the human version of the IS, the FIB, knows about it. But somehow it’s sanctioned? I guess because the FIB figures so long as no one else gets hurt, it’s the supernaturals in-fighting, and whatever, but I just would’ve expected the law enforcement bodies to frown on assassinating people, even if it’s then done on the sly.

The characters were fun. Jenks is sarcastic and has as much attitude as any of the full-size characters, only packed into a pixie-sized package. Imagine if Tinker Bell was able to speak, and that’s what Jenks is like. Rachel’s recklessness is offset by Ivy’s OCD-level of planning, which causes tension between them at times. The other source of tension is Rachel’s paranoia that Ivy wants to eat her. While it’s understandable, it does get a little old after a while. Fortunately, there is character growth on Rachel’s part throughout the book, and I liked her courage and willingness to admit when she’s screwed up.

A comment on the audiobook: the narrator, Marguerite Gavin, was very versatile. She managed to capture Rachel’s general no-nonsense narration — that businesslike delivery — while still acting out her moments of fear and the other characters. One of my beefs with James Marsters’ delivery of the Jim Butcher books is that his delivery is done in a sort of lazy noir drawl that he never breaks up, no matter which character he’s voicing. Gavin is much better (sorry, James!).

Four-and-a-half stars

6 Comments on “Review: ‘Dead Witch Walking’ by Kim Harrison”

  1. Glad you liked it, Cass! The whole Ivy/Rachel thing gets explained more in future books in the series (FYI book 4 drove me insane, but book 5 was PERFECT.) And Jenks just gets better and better. Do you plan on reading more of the series?

    • I kind of hope Ivy and Rachel kiss at some point. There’s clearly tension there! 🙂 And yes, I do – I’m waiting for my January Audible credit to download the second book.

  2. sjhigbee says:

    Reblogged this on Brainfluff and commented:
    Love ‘Dead Witch Walking’ and thoroughly enjoyed reading Cassandra’s take on it – so I thought I’d share it with you…

  3. […] had high hopes for this book. I love Harrison’s The Hollows series (I reviewed the first book here if you want to see what that’s all about), and I was in the mood for some YA, so this seemed […]

  4. […] Celaena will have a different partner, or person she’s attracted to, in each book? How very Rachel Morgan of […]

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