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Urban Fantasy Review: ‘Greywalker’ by Kat Richardson (Greywalker 01)

Synopsis:

Harper Blaine, a PI living with her ferret, Chaos, in Seattle, sometimes runs out of luck. One of such instances (a very agressive debtor determined not to pay his debt) results in her being taken to a hospital in a very bad state of utter confusion – grevious bodily harm and such. When she comes to her senses (more or less) she finds out that she was clinically dead for approximately two minutes. Ok, no big deal, it can happen in this line of work and if the paramedics still manage to resuscitate you it is fine, right? Wrong.

Harper goes out of the hospital, determined to continue earning her living and paying the outstanding bills when things start getting strange. It seems she has developed the ability to see into the Grey, the purgatory-like alternate reality in between here and the afterlife, full of vampires, ghosts, and various creepy critters. Unfortunately for Harper, the creatures of the Grey have the ability to see her as well and not all of them are exactly harmless or friendly. Will she be able to learn how to defend herself?

Back to the normal world. Soon enough Harper is having two new clients. A posh, middle class lady is looking for her missing son, a uni student, who’s disappeared without most of his precious goods and chattels. The police don’t want to investigate because a missing student is hardly a big deal. A strange foreigner is looking for old pipe organs, once allegedly his possession, and wants Harper to find them for him. Nothing difficult for a PI, isn’t it? Or maybe, just maybe, these two cases are somehow connected and far more complicated than they sound?

What I liked:

I found this one in a bookshop with cheap sale books and somehow the blurb took my fancy so I bought it. The book one is not exactly new (it was released in 2006) but I admit I found it a lot more unique than I expected. The Grey, somewhere in-between the real land of the dead and the harsh reality… an intriguing concept and the author didn’t disappoint in that respect. The world building was a refreshingly different, and surprisingly coherent and let me tell you, it is no mean feat to achieve it with more and more series being increasingly oversaturated with vampires, werewolves, and intrepid female PIs. We have vampires and revenants and witches and ghosts all inter-twined in different ways – and even these simple labels rarely encapsulate the full power and variety of each being.

Unlike the familiar heroine in the genre, Harper appears older and rather mature (however her age is not stated in the first installment so forgive me if I am wrong). I was so happy we were spared annoying wisecracks and fashion tips, not to mention shopping for clothes. Also the vampires, presented here, are more bloodthirsty and cunning than in your average paranormal romance. Yes, we get one Edward and one Alice but Edward is a manipulative, sadistic businessman and Alice is his biggest enemy – no Twilight traces. Which is good.

The plot I found interesting and well-spaced, although a bit slow at the beginning; still starting a book with the death of the main character is always an original move. There is some romance but no insta-love or any such inanities.

What I didn’t like:
I know it is the first book in the series and a debut novel to boot but it was sometimes weird that you don’t learn anything about the main character except that she was attacked, died for two minutes, has shoulder length hair, lives alone and owns a ferret. Ferret was actually sweet and funny but she can’t stand for the whole family, right? In my opinion such skeletal characterization makes Harper harder to relate to at first. It seems as if this book was just a lot of set-up for other books, and that the author idn’t have a clear picture of how she wanted to flesh out her main character.

The narration also spends quite a lot of time on Harper blindly trying to figure out what the heck is going on with her and not believing other people (like one Irish witch called Mara) who try to help her. It was a bit irritating. From time to time (too often in my humble opinion) we get such a scene:

Harper: I don’t want this Grey. It hurts!
Mara: Because you’re fighting it. Accept it and it’ll stop hurting.
H: But I don’t want it. I want it to stop, to go away, to vanish! Shooo ugly monsters!
M: They won’t go away and this can’t be undone. Accept it and it will be easier.
H: But I don’t want to be the Greywalker! I don’t believe in it and I don’t like the smell!
M: You must accept it. There is no other option.

*Harper glowers, pouts and storms out without another word*
*Hours pass and then they talk over the phone or in person and…*

M: I’m sorry I pushed you too strongly.
H: It’s okay. I know you did me a favour.
M: Come along for a piece of cake and some good energy.


Yeah…did I say the heroine is mature? Scratch that. She is SOMETIMES mature and sometimes not.

Final verdict:

In my opinion Greywalker has a potential to evolve into a good series. The good news is that you don’t have to wait forever for the rest – as far as I know there are at least seven other novels available on the market.

If you’re looking for an original spin on the standard urban fantasy tropes or a female-protagonist urban fantasy with a lot more action and a lot less romance, then this novel is worth taking a look at. It is nothing great but it will keep you entertained.

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