After I saw teresaelectro’s review of the first three novels in the series, I figured this would be right up my lane. Despite that I was rather pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this initial entry. Even some of my favorite urban fantasy series have struggled to find their footing in the first novel, not really hitting their stride till book two or three, such as the Kate Daniels series and even the October Daye series. While I know there is much more to come and so much more background to add to this world, I felt like Price did a decent job of having a character that is both knowledgeable and good at what she does but still has a bit of a learning curve.
Overall, the world itself reminds me most of Kim Harrison’s The Hollows and her Rachel Morgan character. While I quite liked that series by the end, Rachel was a character that took some time to grow on me as she was still figuring herself out – she started her series a bit dizzy and judgmental, and ended it as a complete badass who could see shades of gray. Alex Craft and her world reminded me of that but one of the novels in the middle of the series. Alex already has more gravitas and confidence than Rachel started with though both have secrets to discover.
I think the other reason this one felt similar to me is that the magical world revealed itself around 70 years ago, leading to some social uproar and upheaval. There are witches and faeries in this world, and as a grave witch, Alex has a special connection and ability to see Death. Her magic involves seeing beyond into the other side, but her main gift is the ability to raise shades. Shades are not the same as ghosts, they are a collection of memories and must always tell the truth – this basically makes them the perfect witness for a murder, and Alex is about to be the grave witch that raises a shade at a trial for the first time ever. When she is shot at after leaving the morgue for a different case, she doesn’t know if it’s someone who is against magic and shades on the witness stand, or if it is related to one of the two bodies she just checked at the morgue, both of which exhibited their own peculiarities and didn’t act like normal shades/bodies at all.
The novel quickly establishes Alex’s friendships and relationships, including her friends such as John, a detective, Tamara from the morgue and Holly. She also finds herself crossing paths with a mysterious new detective throughout this novel, Falin, and isn’t sure if he can be trusted. Finally, Alex is estranged from her family and has even changed her name since her use of magic would be rather embarrassing for her father, a high ranking member of the local Human First political party.
I’m definitely looking forward to see where this one goes, but hopefully the hinted at love triangle doesn’t distract too much from exploring the long game behind some of the decisions being made in this world and the various types of supernatural beings and their powers.