Publisher: ROC (Penguin)
Released: October 2010
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Mystery/Romance
Series: Alex Craft
Challenges: Witchy Books, Mystery & Suspense, Speculative Romance
As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she's on good terms with Death himself - who happens to look fantastic in jeans - nothing has prepared her for her latest case. Alex is investigating a high-profile murder when she's attacked by the "shade" she's raising, which should be impossible. To top off her day, someone makes a serious attempt on her life, but Death saves her. Guess he likes having her around...A sassy heroine, a gripping mystery, a heartthrob of a love interest - Grave Witch has all the perfection of every essential element! I loved Alex from the first pages, where her attitude and snarkiness shows through in all its glory. Why do I love snarky heroines? Eve Dallas of the In Death series, now Alex - the more sarcastic and cynical they are the more I like them. Huh. I'll have to puzzle that one out. Anyway, Alex is tough but deep down vulnerable, and I love that about her. It sets things up for later on in the book, when Falin gets under her guard and such sweet scenes result from it. Very briefly, because obviously Alex can't change that easily - and I'm looking forward to seeing how she does in Grave Dance.
To solve this case, Alex will have to team up with tough homicide detective Falin Andrews. Falin seems to be hiding something - though it's certainly not his dislike of Alex. But Alex knows she needs his help to navigate the tangled webs of mortal and paranormal politics, and to track down a killer who wields a magic so malevolent, it may cost Alex her life...and her soul.
I really love the world-building that Kalayna does, seemingly effortlessly. Every little detail matches up to the rest, and each detail is important to the plot and development of the story. It feels like this world is organic - it just grew, and Kalayna is simply reporting on what she observed growing. It's brilliant how the magic has all these complicated rules, but with virtually no explanations given, we can understand exactly how it all works and what effects each new bit of magic will have.
The two threads of the story - the mystery and the romance - are perfect. The mystery is all nail-biting suspense, as Alex gets in more and more danger even as she gets closer to finding out the answer, culminating in a scene where I literally was at the edge of my chair, holding my breath as it played out. And the romance, as I explained before, fits Alex's personality perfectly, and having a strong and silent - well, almost silent - leading man adds a kick of excitement to the whole thing. I like how the romance didn't interrupt the mystery and actually helped it along in some ways.
I can't wait to read Grave Dance now, because though the whole mystery is tied up in this book, there's more about Falin, about Death, about Alex's family that needs to be answered, and Kalayna leaves us with a bit of bait at the end to tempt us along to the next installment of Alex's wild investigations.