Always on the look-out for something new in urban fantasy, Charish did not disappoint with her light-hearted take on death magic. I had previously read two books in her Owl series, a fun take on a thief trope with a more mythological/archeological focus. Verdict? Diverting. It’s a quick, summer-drink kind of book that focuses on the personal.
In true middle-rating fashion, I find myself both uninspired and lazy with little to offer in the way of summary. Tadiana has a great review that lays out the parameters of the story. In short, Kincaid Strange, roommate to the ghost of a Seattle grunge star, is saddled with a suspiciously alive zombie as the most likely maker–her former mentor–has disappeared. There’s a very second-to-tertiary plot line with a former boyfriend that puts it firmly outside the paranormal category, which is a plus in my book.
What I will offer instead is comparisons. The set up feels just a little like early Anita Blake. Remember when she raised zombies to help resolve inheritance disputes? (you know, back before group sex). That’s where society is now with zombies. There’s ghosts, ghouls, and poltergeists (oh my), but no weres or vampires yet (a feature for some, a detraction for others). The magic system actually reminded me a great deal of Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series. I’m not entirely sure that Charish has worked out all the finicky details with souls, religion, and such, and I’m okay with that. However, she has created a very interesting vision of an underground and undead Seattle that I found intriguing (although perhaps not on my TripAdvisor list).
What is more of a challenge is the writing style. It’s improved since Charish’s early writing, certainly. She occasionally spends too much time with adjectives, and the internal voice is that of a snarky twenty-seven year-old, but mostly it’s this strange kind of UF style that feels like inexperienced writers, or writers without editors (which sounds like a bizarre gang). It’s not bad; it’s just not great. But hey, it was better than a number of the books I tried (and even read) under quarantine brain. A random early sample (and yes, the line breaks reflect the book spacing):
“‘He glanced up from his mug, the sun catching the yellow flecks in his eye. ‘Everything comes with a price. You know that.’
And sometimes the steepest price isn’t monetary. What had Cameron had to pay?
As if reading my thoughts, Max added, ‘All you need know is we reached a mutually beneficial arrangement.’
Yeah, I’ll just bet. ‘And the fact that your services could gain you some publicity and validation was nothing to you?'”
So, read it; don’t. No skin here. You could certainly do both better and worse. But in the crowded UF field, there’s something to be said for an entertaining book without a vampire or were in sight. I’ll definitely check out the next.