Paperback: 336 pages
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Source: purchased copy
As a grave witch, Alex Craft can speak to the dead-she's even on good terms with Death himself. As a consultant for the police, she's seen a lot of dark magic, but nothing has prepared her for her latest case.
When she's raising a "shade" involved in a high profile murder, it attacks her, and then someone makes an attempt on her life. Someone really doesn't want her to know what the dead have to say, and she'll have to work with mysterious homicide detective Falin Andrews to figure out why...
Grave Witch is one of those books that left me unsure about how exactly I felt about it. I neither hated the book nor did I love it, but despite finishing it several days ago, I found myself unable to formulate an in-depth review. I think the problem stems from the fact that the book moves along very quickly, the story is rather formulaic, and the characters and their environment are underdeveloped. Actually, everything about the book felt rather superficial, lacking adequate description and depth. This is not to say that I wasn't entertained because I was, but the entertainment was unfulfilling. To put it in other words, this book is like a Michael Bay movie; it has fast-paced action, good-looking sexy characters, a dose of humor, and flashy effects, but no real substance—no thought-provoking, emotionally stirring character or story development.
So what did I like about Grave Witch? Well, as I mentioned, it was fast paced with a good amount of action that propelled the story forward without any noticeable lagging. The mystery, despite feeling like it was following a familiar formula, was still engaging. I thought that the concept of "grave sight" was quite unique and interesting. I also liked the fact that Alex was very human and ordinary despite her magical abilities. She didn't have super strength or fighting abilities. On the contrary, she had very limited resources to aid her in her work, and she could get hurt just as easily as you and me. Moreover, she made mistakes and rushed into decisions without thinking them through. She wasn't this idealized heroic archetype; she was a regular person with money and family problems, who was trying to make the best of what she had. Thus, Alex's realistic portrayal makes it easy for the reader to relate to her.
So now for the bad news. The thing that really disappointed me about this book is that there was a lot of wasted potential. The story takes place in an open alternate universe, meaning that in Alex's world magic and supernatural beings are out in the open for all of the public to know about. I like both the open and closed universes for different reasons. The thing that I like most in an open universe is seeing the changes the interactive presence of the supernatural brings to the everyday life of the human population. Naturally, nonhuman beings have their own cultures, and I find it fascinating when authors actively acknowledge and utilize this in their world and story development. Unfortunately, Kalayna Price did not do this. In fact, there was virtually no world building in Grave Witch. The book introduces less than a handful of supernatural beings and tells the readers almost nothing about them.
Another source of appeal that I felt was not tapped into effectively is that of the two love interests and their individual interactions with Alex. I was really excited when I first learned about Death and his role in Alex's life. I liked that he had a dark, mysterious aura and flirtatious demeanor. Given his clear hunger for physical contact and the fact that Alex was the only living person who he could interact with, I thought there would be a lot of titillating tension between them. Sadly, aside from a couple of very short scenes that subtly crackled with mutual attraction, their chemistry never fully developed and was left to ultimately fizzle out by the end of the book.
And then there's Falin. I liked that he and Alex pushed each other's buttons, and I knew that their bickering would eventually lead to attraction. I was actually looking forward to watching that shift from dislike to desire and maybe even love down the line. Unfortunately, I thought that the transition in their relationship happened way too quickly and without real merit, since their interactions were limited and shallow and they barely knew anything about one another. Falin's feelings in particular seemed to make a complete 180 degree turn midway through the book, which I found rather confusing.