This one was a pleasant surprise for me so I’m excited for this Chat! As usual, we have to share the basics include the blurb and repeated points in the negative reviews. Let’s get started!
Grave Witch by Kalayna Price
Alex Craft #1 (of 7)
Published: October 5, 2010
Amazon: 806 ratings; 4.3 avg
Goodreads: 32,369 ratings; 3.95 avg
1st Person POV
Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they have to say.
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 a pair of 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…
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 wielding a magic so malevolent, it may cost Alex her life…and her soul.
As usual, despite high averages from our fellow readers, there are still repeated criticisms in the negative reviews. And, as usual, I’d encourage all readers and authors to remember that no book is for everyone and that’s okay.
Despite high ratings, this book has unhappy readers as all books do. I still believe that’s always a good place to start as what annoys other readers could be our pet peeves as well.
Readers’ Negative Reviews included:
–too little description/ too much description
This snagged my attention quickly with action, world building teases, and an engaging FMC…which tells you I’m definitely going to disagree with the negative reviews in this chat. And someone not only didn’t like the dog, but they wanted it to die and I just can’t take that! We’ll move on though…
I really connected to Alex so she didn’t feel flat to me. Several reviewers mentioned that she was the usual urban fantasy heroine. I actually found her to be more likeable than others in the genre. Alex did nose her way into more than she should, but I understood and appreciated her reasons. I also liked that in some ways she was powerful and other ways she had weaknesses. Unlike the reader above, I liked the dog but then I always do so that wasn’t a surprise.
As for the men, there are 2 hot guys vying for her. Both are mysterious and sexy. However, it didn’t feel like a love triangle to me so I was ok with that. I haven’t read further in the series (yet) but I hope she picks quickly as I never pick the right guy in these situations. For book 1, I liked both and would be okay with either. Clearly, she does seemingly pick 1 guy as there’s a sex scene.
Too little description/ too much description
This was a debate in an earlier book chat – some reviewers felt there was too much info dump while others felt lost. I will admit to be slightly confused on physical descriptions for some characters. As an impatient reader, I always take the blame for those things as it’s likely I could have skipped ahead. I don’t recall doing that much in this though. The descriptions and pacing worked well to reveal the world, plot, and characters to me. That’s not to say it was always smooth though. There were a couple of points that jarred me and I had to go back to make sure I hadn’t skipped ahead without realizing it.
While some reviewers decried the world building and characters as a rip-off of other popular UF (and we discussed this in an earlier chat too), it resonated with me. The descriptions were just enough to interest me without boring me. I truly don’t mind reading about a slightly anti-social woman working with the police in a ‘magic is known’ world. This kinda leads into the next reader complaint…
It’s not the first time I’ve read not to trust fae or that a witch use wards to protect her home. It also wasn’t the first time a FMC had a problem with her family and liked two guys at once. I’m okay with all of those things. No book is for every reader though so I understand this one didn’t work for others.
This was the first time I’ve really read about the legal side of magic in a criminal case. As my real world job is in the legal field, I found this particularly fun.
For me, this one is a hit – I give it an easy 4/4.5 stars! I liked the MC and even both love interests, the world building was fun and included a few quirks I hadn’t seen before, and the pacing was a good mix of action, dialogue, and description.
Here’s a quote I think represents the book well: “Most witches formed shields of stone or metal, but I’d long ago learned that visualizing living walls protected me better against the dead.” Witchcraft is a familiar staple in UF, but this is still the author’s unique spin. BTW, the living walls were plants and vines as I only just realized I didn’t include that part of the quote. Oops!
I will definitely keep reading this series and will follow the author too in case other series interest me. Have you read this one? What did you think?
Always feel free to comment here with your review and/ or to share similar books you’d recommend for those who did like it…or to tempt those who did not!
We will move on to the writer perspective next. Feel free to skip down to the cute cat picture for links to this book and our June read. If you want to check out previous chats, both the 2022 Book Chat and Fantasy Book Chat posts have a list with links at the end of the post.
It’s always more fun for me as a writer when I have fun as a reader! I took notes during the read as I was inspired by different aspects, but first…
We discussed Imposter Syndrome in another BOOK CHAT so I won’t dwell on that. I will say again that I think it’s important to read in our genre and to accept that some readers will compare us to other authors in unfavorable ways. Still though, this book has high ratings and the author continues to write and flourish so take hope.
What can we learn from this one then?
Balance is a very personal thing for writers and readers. This one worked well for me and most others, but there will always be readers it doesn’t work for. How do we get balance then? That was one of the things I took notes on during this one and I’ll share those now.
Tips for blending worldbuilding into the story in a balanced way:
–Reveal details by explaining why someone blames the FMC or wants to kill them
–work magic in with smaller details [business card enchanted as an origami paper crane]
–downside of using magic [FMC eyesight weakened]
Side characters are another way to set your book apart while still revealing the world. In Grave Witch, we had Fred the fae gargoyle, but in the Nix series by Shannon Mayer we had the talking guns (link to book chat).
Genre often work the same tropes and even trends which doesn’t bother me as a reader. It’s still important to me as a writer to both meet expectations and also stand out by telling my story my way. These book chats are helping me find/ hone my voice as I find concrete examples of many of the writing tips I’ve seen.
As always, I’d love to have fellow authors join the chat! Feel free to comment or send me a message if you’d like to do a Book Chat Guest Post and review a fantasy book as a reader and author to share what you’ve learned!
Many thanks for joining this month! Below are the usual links for our May and June reads. I couldn’t get a cat picture with the Grave Witch cover so I’m including a second picture which is from my writing perspective.