Non-Review: “Dead Witch Walking,” Kim Harrison

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group

I do a “non-review” when I couldn’t finish a book. I won’t review it on Amazon or GoodReads, but I don’t mind telling you here why I chose not to finish. If there’s one thing I’ve found over the years, it’s that there are too many good books to spend my time finishing a book that I can’t get into.

Rachel is a witch and a sort of bounty hunter for the Inderland Security agency. They bring in criminal non-humans. She has a contract with them, and they’re rumored to kill off anyone who breaks a contract–but her job has become miserable. She’s had a run of bad luck and been given crap jobs. She’s pretty sure they’ll be happy to be rid of her rather than upset that she’s leaving. So, she and a couple of co-workers decide to strike out on their own. Only problem is, Ivy is one of the best agents the IS has–they really don’t want to lose her, and they blame Rachel for the loss.

Dead Witch Walking is book one of The Hollows. Normally I like it when the first book in a series has references to previous events–it gives the world a lived-in feel and gives depth to the characters. In this case it’s way overdone, and just makes the beginning of the book confusing.

There are some ungainly info-dumps in here. There’s a discourse on how vampires work early on. Later there’s a sudden dump of history involving a bio-engineered virus that wiped out much of humanity. It’s extremely jarring; up until that moment the book has presented the standard urban fantasy setting, and a big ol’ bio-tech plot comes seemingly out of nowhere. The extended info-dump makes it feel all the more jarring because it sets it apart from the story so far.

After reading a bunch of high-stakes books recently with lots of danger and imminent death, the stakes in this one feel off. Rachel risks getting assassinated for breaking her contract because her job sucks. I can buy her risking quite a bit to leave, but death? Seriously? I just can’t see it. The first assignment that we see Rachel involved in isn’t bad enough to justify it. Poor her, she’s in a dive bar getting hit on by annoying guys, backed up by an annoying pixie, bringing in a lowly leprechaun. There are plenty of jobs in the world that are riskier, more boring, more exasperating. It makes her come across as whiny.

Finally, I didn’t like any of the characters. They’re all floridly stereotypical and overblown. Rachel dumps a drink on a guy for no better reason than that he hit on her by sending her a free drink in a bar, for heaven’s sake–and I’m supposed to like her?! I really hope I missed something important there.

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