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Book Review: Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison

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Kim Harrison has a gift for infusing today’s world with an urban fantasy twist. The author’s obvious love of the supernatural shows in her adult series, The Hollows. Now she’s turned her attention to the popular young adult fantasy market with her first book in the Madison Avery series, Once Dead, Twice Shy.

I really enjoy Harrison’s gift for first-person narrative. She manages to crawl right inside her characters and present them as flesh and blood human beings with ease. Madison Avery is a well-rounded, well-developed character and I totally got where she was coming from as the girl just out of step with the rest of the world.

Of course, Madison’s death and resurrection as something more and less than human on her prom night as a junior in high school added another step – but not in the right direction. I like the way she thinks on the page and all the issues she has to deal with at the same time.

However, I have to admit that I felt like I was walking into the middle of everything in this one. I believe Harrison debuted Madison’s origins in a short story in an anthology, then spun the character off into a young adult novel/series.

Unfortunately, I ended up having to backtrack the character’s story a lot before I understood everything that was going on and everything that was at stake. For a while there I felt every time the action progressed, I had to deal with some kind of flashback to reintroduce events and characters.

I do enjoy Harrison’s knack for creating a mythology seemingly out of whole cloth. The witch, vampire, and spell background she uses in The Hollows is a lot of fun. The angel riff Harrison plays with in this book seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun as well. Especially since our heroine is playing around with the darker set of powers that exist in the world. The vision of the seraphs with wings flying through the air and wielding swords offers a lot of excitement, and I can’t wait to see where the author takes us from there.

Her dialogue in this book is fantastic. The characters speak the way I believe real teens would given a situation like this. Their concerns seem real and Harrison delivers them in great exchanges.

Her usual sense of pacing seemed a little off in this book, but I think it was because she had to waffle between getting the story down and making sure everyone was brought up to speed regarding prior events. A little patience is required to get through that. Then when everything is revealed, a little more patience is required to understand the supernatural world Harrison has created.

I had a good time with this book, and it dealt with adult issues without resorting to adult language that might offend or shock some unwary readers. Harrison delivers a good story to her readers without leaving the YOUNG adult world too far behind.

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