For a debut novel, Kalayna Price’s Grave Witch was a surprisingly fun read. It featured unique world building and mythological creatures, a rare find in the urban fantasy genre.
The main character, Alex Craft, is a grave witch. Her power allows her to raise “shades” of the recently deceased and communicate with ghosts. Unlike other grave witches, Alex can also see and talk to Death.
Alex works with the local police department of the imaginary Nekros City. Whenever the police have a difficult case, they call her in. She was the first grave witch to raise a shade and have it testify against its murderer in court. When she’s not working with the police, Alex is usually raising the dead to sort out issues surrounding last wills and testaments.
I would have given this book more stars if the main character’s power and profession weren’t so similar to that of Laurell K. Hamilton’s highly popular Anita Blake series.
Though the two are similar, Alex is a much stronger character than Anita Blake. Unlike Anita, and unlike so many other female characters in the urban fantasy genre, Alex does not rely on men to come to her rescue. She may accept help from the men in her life, but she fights her own battles. While I prefer Alex to Anita, at times Grave Witch seems too much like a rehash of Hamilton’s world. Due to the similarities, I couldn’t help but compare the two books. Both characters work as private detectives; they both raise the dead for a living; and, they’re both the strongest in their fields of magic.
That said, Grave Witch is extremely well-written, especially when one considers the fact that this was Price’s first book. She was able to weave together multiple subplots that at first did not seem to have any connection. However, Price brings the various plots together at the end in a nice conclusion. Her supporting characters are strong and engrossing, and the book reads smoothly from beginning to end. I wasn’t sure what to think of Alex for the first few chapters, but her character strengthened throughout the book, and she grew on me. I also enjoyed the minor touches Price added to make her world unique and distinct from Hamilton’s. Too many urban fantasy novels lack explanations for why magic and monsters go unnoticed in big cities, but Price is careful to explain how magic developed and when humans first began to use it.
I could have done without the obviously forced love triangle between Alex and the two main male characters, but it wasn’t too distracting from the main plot. While Price’s writing isn’t exactly addictive, these books are perfect for urban fantasy fans who are waiting for the next installments of their favorite series. It’s a quick, fun read full of magic, adventure, police procedure, and fantasy.