Grave Witch by Kalayna Price – Review

Book Jacket:

Not even death can save her now.

As a grave witch, Alex Craft can speak to the dead-she’s even on good terms with Death himself. As a consultant for the police, she’s seen a lot of dark magic, but nothing has prepared her for her latest case. When she’s raising a “shade” involved in a high profile murder, it attacks her, and then someone makes an attempt on her life. Someone really doesn’t want her to know what the dead have to say, and she’ll have to work with mysterious homicide detective Falin Andrews to figure out why…

 You can read an excerpt here.


I’ve been on the hunt for a new urban fantasy series to add to my repertoire for a good while now, and while Grave Witch (the first entry in Kalayna Price’s Alex Craft series) is a solid effort, it just doesn’t have the magic of my UF stalwarts (Ilona Andrews, Kim Harrison, and Patricia Briggs). Still, there was enough to this book to make me want to give this author another try.

For me to really, really fall in love with an urban fantasy, it has to feel like something I haven’t read before. Grave Witch, while a perfectly competent effort, just left me with a nagging sense of familiarity. First off, when it came to the magic system – a witch who can communicate with the dead, fey, different planes, and earth magic  – nothing felt new or fresh. Sure, the trappings were different – the set up of Nekros city was fun, and Price has a nice flare for visuals when it comes to Alex performing her magic – but the patina of originality just couldn’t hide the familiar supernatural architecture.

As for the characters – again, they worked, but there was a definite whiff of archetype about them. Alex is a tough as nails, overworked, underpaid, and emotionally unavailable PI (sigh). Fallin, her love interest, is your typical antagonistic yet irresistibly good looking partner. Alex’s circle of friends are basically stand ins for her to talk to, who chime in with concern right on cue. Really the only thing that truly hooked me into Alex’s character was her screwed up family – and even though I very much liked where Price went, in terms of twists and revelations about the family history, I still didn’t feel like it was entirely earned. There is a pell-mell pace to this book, which certainly makes it a fast read, but in terms of character work everything felt rushed – I never felt like I got enough time to know the players before Price was changing the game. So while there was nothing so glaringly awful as to trip me up, overall I was just left a bit underwhelmed on the character front.

On the detective side, once again I found myself in familiar territory. Take away the magical means of acquiring clues and you pretty much have your standard P.I. boilerplate in action – broke gumshoe takes on a case way over her head, and ends up risking life and limb. Aside from Alex nearly getting killed with predictable regularity, the plot was solid enough – I liked who the bad guy turned out to be, and there was a nice surprise at the end – and I certainly had no trouble getting to the end of this book, but at the end of the day this is a fairly standard, by the numbers murder mystery. The magical trappings just enhanced my trope fatigue instead of delivering me from it.

However there was one truly original piece to this story, and it was easily my favorite part of the book – and that was the character of Death, another of Alex’s love interests. Now don’t worry, it’s not as icky as it sounds – Alex is not going around trying to kill herself so as to be near her Eternal Beloved. Death is just a good looking guy in jeans who has known Alex since she was a kid, and their relationship has grown in the natural way over time. It’s downright cute and a refreshingly different take on forbidden love – and I for one would have liked to see a lot more of Death in this story.

So in the end, there’s nothing terribly wrong with this book, but there’s nothing fantastically right with it either. It’s a solid debut, and I like this author’s potential, but sadly this book just didn’t make me fall in love.

Byrt Grade: B

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Lurv a la Mode says:

Grave Witch is neither the best not the worst urban fantasy I’ve ever read, pretty much middle of the road really. It does, however, have the ever hopeful potential.

Beneath Shining Stars, I read says:

Anyways, if you like urban fantasies, witches, corpses, a string of murders, and the occasional fae you may want to check this one out…Not a “I have to know what happens next!” book, but more or less a “This is rather interesting.” book.

 Smexy Books says:

While I had some problems with the beginning of the book, the last 100-150 pages really caught my attention and played out well…Told in the point of view of Alex, I didn’t get along with her at first. Instead of coming across tough and sarcastic, it felt more like abrasive and crass. I just didn’t like or get her in the beginning. Further on, as we get to know her, I definitely warmed up to her and I ended the book liking her very much.