Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dead Witch Walking, by Kim Harrison

So, I'm pretty sure you're all very aware that this is not my usual type of book, just from the cover. I'll admit that if I hadn't been told about the subject matter I would have never picked this book up in a million years. Honestly the only reason I was interested in this book was it's an urban fantasy set in my home city of Cincinnati. When I was given a brief outline of the plot I decided it was worth taking the risk and borrowed a copy from the library. The bad news is, sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover, and this happens to be one of those cases.

Dead Witch Walking at least starts as a promising urban fantasy. For most of human history, Inderlanders like witches, vampires, and werewolves have been hidden among the human population. In this particular universe, the United States and the Soviet Union decided to focus on genetic research rather than atomic research, attempting to find genetic superweapons. However, as a result a deadly virus got attached to a genetically modified tomato and killed a significant portion of the human population in 1966, while Inderlanders remained unaffected. With the Inderlanders having roughly the same strength now as the humans they decided to reveal themselves to us normals. Forty years later humans and Inderlanders live side by side in an uneasy peace. Our protagonist is Rachel Morgan, a runner for Inderlander Security who decides to strike out on her own and is joined by a vampire named Ivy and a pixie named Jinks. However Inderlander Security doesn't take its agents leaving lightly and it looks like Rachel will be dodging assassins for some time.

To be completely fair, the book started out good and if it weren't for this one huge thing I would not hate this book so much. It's an interesting premise, I like seeing my home city featured in a major book, and it's a nice change of pace from the usual books that I like to read. The book is very definitely a first in a series and spends a lot of time setting up larger plots for the rest of the series while the arc resolved within this book is a fairly minor arc by comparison. And, I'll openly admit it, I rather liked the characters, especially Jenks and his family. They all felt unique and had their own personalities and I felt like I could get used to hanging around this crowd. However, there's the huge thing that ruined the book and had me feel like I can't continue the series in good faith.

So, as I mentioned, Rachel's friend and roommate Ivy is a vampire. Now, keep in mind vampires are different in this novel, but if you're an old hand at fantasy you shouldn't be surprised at this point. The thing that irritates me is apparently within this universe there is a whole list of innocuous things that seem perfectly normal that are apparently major turn-ons for vampires and make them want to violently rip your throat out and drink your blood. These turn-ons include: asking them about their family, eating food in front of them, getting angry, following them into another room in the middle of a conversation to continue a conversation, and getting scared when they lose self-control and start trying to rip your throat out. And if you don't know these strange turn-ons and accidentally set off a vampire? Well then it's your own damn fault for being such a hussy. Honestly, I equated this to saying that if you get raped it's your own damn fault, and if you don't understand why that statement is wrong then we need to sit down and have a serious conversation. The utter wrongness of this whole statement made me wonder if this series is worth following.

I'm still debating if I should follow this series because the writing is actually pretty good and the characterization's well done, but the statements with vampires leave me rather bothered. Maybe it'll get better in later books, but I'm understandably worried.

- Kalpar

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