Apr. 19th, 2011

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I feel pretty torn on this one. I love Kalayna Price's Haven series, and I wanted to love this just as much. It has necromancy and that's one of my favourite urban fantasy things, so that's a plus. It has an interesting world, a fresh take on the magical set-up of said world, and a very likeable heroine. But I didn't love it. I enjoyed it, just not as much as the Haven books.

Alex Craft is a grave witch/private investigator who raises shades for various purposes. Her latest case sees her working with Detective Falin Andrews to track down a dangerous serial killer who seems to have ties to Alex's family. They don't have much time to stop him, and luck really isn't on Alex's side. This was actually something I did love about the book - Alex is very capable magically, but beset by very mundane problems. Crappy car, not much money, a dog to feed... It was kind of nice to see her worrying about the practicalities of her life instead of these things just being handwaved away as they can often be (like the girl in Unclean Spirits who just happened to inherit a vast fortune so she didn't have to bother with a pesky day job whilst she fought evil).

I also liked that there were serious drawbacks to Alex's magic. Using her grave-sight (an essential part of her raising a shade) leaves her near-blind. I liked that Alex wasn't a superwoman, and that using magic has a cost even for those naturally inclined towards it. I like that she has friends and a social life (even if she can't always keep up with them). I love that she has a Chinese Crested called Prince Charming as a pet.

So why was this a book I just enjoyed rather than loved? Honestly, I found some of the world-building under-explained. There are grave witches and, apparently, death witches, but the difference between them wasn't explained and I couldn't think of a difference myself, which irked me. There are hints of deep relationships between Alex and Death (not literally The Death, but one of many Deaths, it seems), and Alex and her missing college roommate, that I felt needed to be fleshed out more in order to make their roles in the story satisfying. For example, we see a bit of flirting between Alex and Death, and at the end of the book Death proclaims his love for Alex, but we never see enough interaction or get enough history for their relationship to feel that significant to me. Likewise, the missing roommate is mentioned once or twice, but I don't think the foreshadowing of her role in the story was handled as well as it could have been. I don't want to give spoilers, so I can't really expand on that, but I'd love to know if other people agree with me.

I think this is a series with great potential - Alex is lovely, her life is interesting, and the side characters are strong. But for a first book, this felt weak in places in a way that Once Bitten, the first Haven novel didn't. Maybe it's not fair to compare the two - they are very different - but whilst I'm chomping at the bit for the third Haven novel, I can only really say I'm intrigued about the next Alex Craft novel.

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Dirty Little Whirlwind

December 2011

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