This is part of my 9 book challenge and 1st in a series challenge.

First of all, this book has a horrid cover. I would never have picked up this one if it hadn’t been recommended again and again. I have no idea which book the cover was commissioned for but it’s a very poor fit for the story. The cover sells sex and the book contains no sex at all. Even the romance subplot is very much a *sub*plot. (By the way, poor Moon Called suffers from the same problem; the cover tells us that it’s about sex, sex, sex, and yet there’s no sex in the story. Enough already with the phony sexy covers!)

This is the first book in the Hollows Urban Fantasy –series. It’s set (as usual) in the US but in a post apocalyptic world. Or at least that’s what I call a world were half of the population has died of a virus.

Some years back, scientists were genetically engineering a brand of tomatoes and the virus got loose from the laboratories. It killed about a half of the normal human population and so gave the non-humans a chance to come out of the shadows. The non-humans pretty much saved the infrastructure of various Western countries but still (or because of it) the normal humans are often afraid of them. Even though now the non-humans live openly they often have their own part of the town where normal humans don’t much visit. The paranormal folk include pixies, fairies, vampires, leprechauns, various weres, witches, warlocks, and other fairy tale folks. In Cincinnati, their part of the town is called the Hollows.

Rachel Morgan is a witch and a runner for I. S. I. S is Inderland Security who is supposed to keep the paranormals, or Inderlanders, honest. As a runner, Rachel’s job is to bring in the non-lawful kinds of paranormals. Alas, the job isn’t as exciting as it sounds because Rachel has mostly brought in folks who try to avoid paying their taxes. She’s convinced that her boss hates her and is just looking for an excuse to fire her. She’s also thought of just quitting except then she would breach her contract with the I. S. and they can send assassins after her unless she can pay off her contract and she doesn’t have that kind of money. But if her boss, Denon, hates her, shouldn’t he be just relieved to be rid of her?

When Rachel talks about quitting with her co-workers, pixie Jenks and living vampire Ivy Tamwood, much to her surprise they not only encourage her but want to quit also and to form an independent agency with her. Denon isn’t happy that one of his best runners, Ivy, leaves. Ivy has so much money that she can pay off her contract so I.S can’t (officially) send anyone after her. So Denon decides to send assassins after Rachel.

While Rachel is in the office during her last day, she hears that a Councilman’s secretary has been murdered and that there’s a rumor that the secretary had been running drugs. Rachel is suddenly convinced that if she can get solid evidence that the Councilman in question, Trenton Kalamack, is dealing in illegal drugs that would big enough favor for I. S. and they would leave her alone. So, she decides to investigate Kalamack.

Of course, that’s not easy. Even if the Councilman wasn’t well guarded Rachel’s own life has been turned upside down. She has been evicted from her apartment and all of her stuff has a curse on it. Fortunately, Ivy was able to find them an office at Hollows so at least Rachel has a place to stay. The office turns out to be a former church which Rachel isn’t too happy about. Ivy had to also move into the church and a vampire isn’t the easiest roommate. Fortunately, the church has an excellent herb garden and the priest used to be a witch himself. When he fled with a woman he left behind many old spell books. This all seems almost too good to be true and maybe it is.

Dead Witch Walking is a highly entertaining first book in the series. It’s not tightly plotted nor is it very fast paced but it has charming characters and a very interesting setting. It also has humor which tends to be sadly missing from UF and from the fantasy genre in general.

I really liked the characters. Rachel herself is willful, impulsive, and brash. She doesn’t listen advice well (just like some people I know :)). On the other hand, she’s loyal, always means well and has a good sense of humor. The pixie Jenks is perhaps the best character in the book. He’s smart mouthed but what do you expect when he’s six inches tall and has to live in the human world? Pixies also have a fierce rivalry with fairies over gardens because they both live in gardens. Jenks has a wife and a dozen children who help him in his duties and his wife patches him up after fights. The living vampire Ivy is a more mysterious and tragic figure – what else would you expect from a vampire… She swears that she hasn’t fed on human blood for three years but can Rachel trust her word? After all they have only worked together but don’t know much about each other beyond that.

I liked the relationships and friendships in the book and Harrison takes the time to introduce the relationships and the characters to us instead of keeping up a furious pace all the time. There’s also humor in both the characters and the events themselves and I felt that Harrison didn’t take everything too seriously which is a good thing. I really liked the shapeshifting sequences.

Rachel doesn’t have a big repertoire with spells and she’s used to buying her spells from stores. So far I’m impressed with the way the supernatural works although it would seem that it’s quite easy to do all sorts of illegal activity with spells. Of course, then the I. S. steps in.

Overall: I’ll definitely continue with the series.

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