Dead Witch Walking
The Good, The Bad, and the Undead
Every Which Way But dead
by Kim Harrison
For some reason I've been on a total supernatural-urban-fantasy kick lately, and the Southern Vampire books didn't scratch my itch due to their flaws, so I figured I'd try again with Rachel Morgan.
These books are yet more in the same... er... vein, if you pardon the pun, following characters involved in a mostly-present-day setting, but with "outed" supernatural beings of various flavors. In this particular case, the main character is (surprise surprise) Rachel Morgan, a witch of the earth magic variety, and the action quickly widens to include a pixy, living vampire, and various other characters - a few of them even human.
If I had to rate these books, I'd probably put them above the Southern Vampire novels - I'm enjoying them more so far - but probably below the Mercy Thompson books (which I haven't actually reviewed, although I believe desdenova did at one point). The characters are fun - Rachel's talented, but definitely not perfect, and the supporting cast is a lot of fun. There are also more than enough plot threads - some stretching through all three books so far without being totally completed, some lasting throughout one book only, some for a couple - to keep up my interest and keep me guessing.
The world is also interesting, with witches being slightly different from humans (and considered a separate species), with earth magic witches using potions and amulets made with plants for their magic, ley line witches taking power directly from ley lines themselves, and each having white and black varieties that can be a bit blurred if the magician isn't careful. Vampires can be either "living" or "undead," and various other supernaturals exist and seem to be pretty well-defined within Harrison's world, which gives the books a surprising amount of depth at times for the genre. They're not epic fantasy, but it definitely feels like the world has been carefully crafted, rather than thrown together as a backdrop for some Mary Sue fan-fiction.
On the down side, the book still manages to fall into some typical flaws of the genre. In two of the three books at least, we seem to have to get into the "oh, time out, gotta have the wild sex scene" mode that it seems is required for authors to keep their Club Undead cards up-to-date, since the advent of Anne Rice and the Anita Blake books (the latter of which I haven't even read and have heard more than enough about). And really, I'm no prude (as y'all might have noticed at points), but it does really feel like that at times, and it's frankly annoying. It's like "plot plot plot, oh, totally random thrown-in sex scene because it feels required, and now... let's get on with the actual story." Gah! The other related flaw of the genre that this book is guilty of is the "every supernatural creature must be dead (no pun intended) sexy, and described in lustful detail to make sure everyone knows this." And as you may also know, I'm not exactly the type to turn my nose up to a pretty guy, but after reading many books of this genre that all seem to fall into this camp, it can make you wince a bit.
There are a few other flaws as well, albeit minor ones. For instance some of the things that Harrison throws in are just glaringly wrong, although I suppose I'm probably being anal about them. Minks, for instance, are not rodents. And throwing a fish into plain untreated water is just asking for a dead fish. But hey, possibly nitpicking here. Also, as I mentioned Morgan is flawed enough to escape Mary Sue-ism, but at times she possibly goes a bit too far in the other direction - I want to pick her up and smack her around for being too damn stubborn and temperamental, to the point where I'm ready to throw the book at something. But those are flaws that I can live with, honestly, and on the balance I'm enjoying the books.
So, long story short (too late), I'll at least give the next book in the series a read, and am more likely to continue on than I was with the Southern Vampire books. I actually already have the fourth book of this one ready to be read, as soon as I'm done with some other things, and will dive into it soon. So if anyone else is looking for something of this genre for some reason - you could do better, but you could also do worse. You might wanna give them a try.
At least, on the bright side, it looks like a new Mercy Thompson book is actually coming out in a few months. Woohoo! And in a slightly less-related note, who the hell said that they could release another Dick Francis book a month ago and not inform me? Y'all are slacking off in your duties people! Let me know these things!