Monday, August 09, 2010

Book Review: "Grave Witch" by Kalayna Price

Alex Craft is a Grave Witch; someone who can not only speak to the dead, but who has the power to raise a 'shade' and allow them to speak with the living. Alex straddles the world of the living and the dead and has been friends with Death (the actual jeans and t-shirt wearing version) since she was a child and has made her living, meager as it is, by working as a police consultant and investigator.

A high-profile case involving the Governor, and Alex's politically powerful father, thrusts her in the middle of a situation full of dark magic and ritualistic murder involving other young witches with powers very similar to Alex's. Complicating matters are a mysterious new detective determined to keep her far away from the case and a ghost that decides to follow her home from the morgue.

"Grave Witch" follows a fairly standard pattern for paranormal fiction. The female lead is the plucky sort with unusual powers that either relate to witchcraft or shape-shifting (in this case the former). She has at least one very good looking man as the love interest who is over-protective, secretive and sexy in jeans (this one even says so on the back cover of the book). And she rushes head-long into dangerous situations with no regard to personal safety. Okay, we have that established.

The Good: Even though "Grave Witch" is pretty stereotypical of the genre, it still has some definite strengths. The overall system of magic isn't fully spelled-out in the book, but Alex's powers as a grave witch are pretty well developed. Alex's vision frequently shifts between the corporeal world and that of the dead as she views things through her 'grave-sight.' What I appreciated about Alex's powers as a grave-witch was the toll it takes on her physically as the grave-sight slowly deteriorates her ability to see in the real world. She's also a likable character who has her share of sarcasm but never falls off a cliff into full-on snarkiness which is a balance I like when reading paranormal fiction as the characters can be so similar across the genre.

Needs Work: "Grave Witch" is the first book to really drive me to divide my review into two categories that really spell out the good and bad in the book because, though I liked the book overall, I couldn't skip over some obvious critiques.  The first half of the book sets up Alex's character really well-- her home life, history, magical abilities and friendships. But as you get further into the book it becomes clear that there are still parts of the story that  feel as if they never made it out of the outline stage. The character of Death is intriguing, but I didn't quite understood what he was meant to be-- it just never really made sense.  The other secondary characters are also only sketchily defined and we only learn the barest details about the love interest in the last few pages. But if I had to pick one thing to really point out it would be that some of the non-magical elements really stretch the credibility of the story. For example, are we supposed to believe that someone can just walk into a morgue to visit their friend, the medical examiner-- who happens to be in the middle of performing an autopsy? Somehow I doubt it.

If there is anything that holds "Grave Witch" together it's the character of Alex Craft. Basically, I just liked her and was willing to read through some of the more unrealistic sequences to see what happened to her. I do hope to see some more depth in future installments, both in character development and world building, but I'd still say that "Grave Witch" was a fun book and I'll give the sequel a chance. But future books will have to fill in the credibility gaps if the series is to really succeed.
3 1/2 out of 5


Stewart Sternberg said...

You know, there needs to be a meter for this sort of book. Maybe have five book shelves...Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Laurel K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and the woman who does the one obnoxious series that comes across as a Sex and the City for vampires.

I suppose someone could make the statement for zombie novels, mine included, that they follow a predictable pattern and all start to sound alike...but dammit, the paranormal romance field seems to be in a rut begging for a break out.

SQT said...

I should do that. I've been weirdly stubborn in trying to stay away from the same format that other reviewers do to try to be different. But really, the formats are there for a reason. I'll have to look for my own little graphic though. I'd give this one a 3 1/2 out of 5. Not bad, but not a standout yet.

Sullivan McPig said...

Sounds like a decent read. I might give it a try.