“Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they have to say.
As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she’s on good terms with Death himself—who happens to look fantastic in a pair of jeans—nothing has prepared her for her latest case. Alex is investigating a high profile murder when she’s attacked by the ‘shade’ she’s raising, which should be impossible. To top off her day, someone makes a serious attempt on her life, but Death saves her. Guess he likes having her around…
To solve this case Alex will have to team up with tough homicide detective Falin Andrews. Falin seems to be hiding something—though it’s certainly not his dislike of Alex—but Alex knows she needs his help to navigate the tangled webs of mortal and paranormal politics, and to track down a killer wielding a magic so malevolent, it may cost Alex her life…and her soul.”
Now, computer troubles put me down for the count last Monday, so let me make it up by throwing a doozy of a book at you guys. Grave Witch has quickly become one of my favourite books, and I can’t remember the last time I picked up a series new to me and fell head over tail in love. Maybe four or five years ago? Yikes.
Grave Witch is full to the brim with everything I love in an Urban Fantasy novel. Magic, mayhem, mystery, miscellaneous beasties of assorted size and teeth-number… it’s got it all. But it’s also wonderfully different and fresh, an awesome new take on a lot of familiar old concepts in the genre, including witches, branches of magical ability, Faerie courts and even folded spaces, which you don’t hear much of in stories but may be one of my favourite concepts – a space of any size that has always existed but just hasn’t been detectable or even spatially present until a catalyst makes it ‘unfold’. Nekros City, the setting of the novel, is one such space and is the hub of weird things in America. Magic is absolutely everywhere in this world – even the most mundane of mundanes use hair straightening tricks, and quick cleaning spells, and complexion charms. The Fae own a bar, witches set up market in the centre of the city, a kelpie lives in the river… it’s fantastic. Well, not the kelpie. She’ll eat you dead. But still! And don’t forget that vaguely prophetic gargoyle living in the garden, who you never see move, but definitely changes location and whose name is Fred.
Urban Fantasy is really brought to the extreme here, with magic more believably integrated into ‘our’ world than I would have thought possible. The descriptions of the riots and violence after the Fae made themselves known and witches came out of the broom closet gave me chills, and there are even powerful political parties within the world against ‘non-humans’. Some of the bigotry demonstrated harkens back to real life in a way that definitely drives the point home.
The Fae and witches and their dynamics in this novel’s world are just great. Their different uses of magic are fascinating, and I loved hearing about all the specific abilities witches alone can have (these witches being ‘wyrd witches’, often powerful in their ability, but paying a steep price in using them – and if they don’t use their magic, it seeps out of them in dangerous ways!). With folks such as grave witches around, those very rare magic users who can raise shades from corpses, see ghosts and even peer into the terrifying, decaying land of the dead, we see into a deeper world. Though it’s really only hinted at, the things that live in the wastes of the land of the dead sound way scary. Definitely not somewhere you want to be trapped if you’re a ghost reluctant to move on to whatever’s next.
Which brings me to the soul collectors. Damn, these guys are awesome. The collectors are this story’s iteration of what we might call ‘grim reapers’ and their job, yep you guessed it, is to take the souls of the dead to wherever the hell they go. Operating through magic all their on, they’re beings utterly shrouded in mystery, invisible and impossible to sense by any other than the dead – and powerful grave witches. And anti-social and governed by rules unknowable to mere mortals as they may be, that doesn’t stop one soul collector from being our heroine’s oldest, closest friend. Hey, if you met the only living person who could touch you and through that make you capable of eating pizza and drinking coffee, you’d hang around too! And it was definitely interesting to find out that Death is a snarky, sassy babe.
Alex Craft is everything I adore in UF heroine. She’s tough and weird and funny, never a self-righteous prude, not too judgemental to others for their life choices (as long as people aren’t being disembowelled because of them, of course). Very much not arrogant, but has plenty of self-confidence and she’s damn well going to make sure haters know it. She is far from perfect with her abandonment issues, her quick-decisions, recklessness and often her blindness – both metaphorical and literal, at times. She is her own person, reluctant to lean on anyone, but so very grateful to those who add support anyway. Death, of course (wow, that’s weird to say) supports her where he can, and she even has a new partner in solving-crime-but-also-kind-of-committing-crime-because-why-the-hell-not, Falin Andrews, mysterious detective who may or may not be human and who may definitely be an ass. A useful ass, but the point stands. I have to say, he has yet to win me over completely. I enjoy his scenes, and I don’t dislike him. But I don’t exactly want to swaddle him up in a bundle of blankets and protect him, which is the symbol of truly beloved characters, as we all know.
The prose itself is wonderful. It’s never too pretentious, but beautifully descriptive and rich, as well as great in conveying emotions. It’s the type of writing that just flows off the page and paints a fabulously dynamic picture in your imagination. Grave Witch is just full of engaging writing that kept me glued to the book and left me dying for more.
The book builds itself up with action and development to an intense climax, filled with great revelations.
Although, if I’m honest here, some of these revelations were a little predictable. But it personally didn’t take the fun out of the story, nor out of watching Alex discover things in her own time. I could seriously read everything about this character and her life, she’s that much fun.
The story was generally steady-to-fast paced, but it did slow in a couple of places, and I did catch myself skimming when I hit them, though it didn’t exactly take a heroic measure of patience to keep going – the book drags you in quite well.
4.5/5 Stars, Very few complaints, all in all, and I am excited for an Urban Fantasy series in a way I have so missed!