Review: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

Posted May 21, 2014 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Urban Fantasy / 104 Comments

Review: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
Series: The Hollows #1
Published by Harper Voyager
Published on: April 27 2004
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 413
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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All the creatures of the night gather in "the Hollows" of Cincinnati, to hide, to prowl, to party ... and to feed.

Vampires rule the darkness in a predator-eat-predator world rife with dangers beyond imagining -- and it's Rachel Morgan's job to keep that world civilized.

A bounty hunter and witch with serious sex appeal and an attitude, she'll bring 'em back alive, dead ... or undead.


The Hollows is another one of the first Urban Fantasy series I ever read. The bug had gotten me, but I was still new enough to not really know what was available. I think I was just pursuing every lead Amazon gave me, and that was back in the 3-for-4 paperbacks days, so I was in the habit of ordering the first four books in any newly discovered series.

Which was a good plan, b/c by the time I finished Dead Witch Walking, I was well and truly hooked, and if I had days to wait before I could start the next book, I might have cried.

Rachel Morgan (a witch) lives in one of my favorite UF worlds—the creatures-out-of-the-closet world.

The first time I encountered this kind of world, I didn’t know what to do with it—it was too foreign a concept for me to unquestioningly swallow. However, upon closer acquaintance, I realized how much simpler things were if the humans knew there really were things that went bump in the night: the hate groups could just be the standard bastard collection of racists and bigots instead of super, secret society types, and the creatures’ actions weren’t limited to what they could do without being, horror-of-horrors, discovered.

Provided there was a reasonable explanation for why the creatures were out in the open, I soon preferred this set-up almost across the board.

Unfortunately, that’s where my main issue with The Hollows began . . .

In Rachel’s world, a disease piggybacking off a genetically modified tomato decimated the human population—the creatures, or Inderlanders, were mostly immune to the disease so that when the dust settled, for the first time perhaps ever, the humans and the creatures were, numbers-wise, largely equal.

The Inderlanders took advantage of the situation and came out of the closet. If Harrison had left it at that, I probably would have been okay.

But she didn’t.

Nope, she had the silly humans outlaw SCIENCE, b/c they were AFRAID. Afraid of SCIENCE. Afraid of TOMATOES. Just pathetically, ridiculously AFRAID.

“Outlaw science? What does that even mean?” you ask.

Well it means that the masses are dying of previously treatable illnesses, b/c silly humans destroyed the knowledge and shut down (burned down) anything resembling a research facility.

So yeah . . . that was a problem.

More realistically, the silly humans also tried to deprive any Inderlanders of their jobs, especially if said job was some form of government employment. Newly deprived of gainful employment, the Inderlanders blew their noses at the humans, and started their own government agencies.

So there.

Rachel works for one such agency, only she’s been getting really crappy assignments (or runs) for awhile now, and she’s just about ready to quit.

Except no one quits I.S. (Inderlander Security), the creature version of law enforcement, before their contract is finished . . .

At least no one quits . . . Dun dun duuunnnnn . . . and survives.

But Rachel thinks she’s found the out she’s been looking for when she captures her latest target, a tax-evading Leprechaun, who offers her 3 wishes in exchange for her freedom.

It seems like the perfect solution.

And it is. Until Ivy Tamwood, another I.S. Runner, former training partner, AND living vampire (can’t forget that part), and Jenks, pixy back-up extraordinaire, decide they want in on the action. Ivy even proposes they put out a shingle together and start their own private runner service.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for one, Boss Man at I.S. is seriously pissed about Ivy buying out her contract (living vamps are loaded), so even though he admits to giving Rachel crap runs for the last two years in an effort to get her to quit, he decides to take his anger over Ivy leaving out on Rachel by using Ivy’s generous payout to fund the hits he keeps putting on Rachel’s life.

If that wasn’t awkward (HA! Awkward!) enough, Ivy seems to have a bit of a crush on Rachel.

And that’s problem #2.

Roommate situations already have the capacity for awkwardness, but when one of the roommates has “secret” feelings for the other . . . awkward in the extreme. And it has nothing to do with Ivy and Rachel both being female, so calm yourself. It’d be just as awkward if Ivy was a guy. No one wants to be dodging come-ons in their own home. Especially if the source of the come-ons is a vampire who wants to eat you . . . *snorts* . . . that’s not what I meant, and you know it.

*shakes head at gutter-minded people*

BUT, on the whole this book was S-T-E-L-L-A-R. The characters are well-developed from the start, and if you ignore the ban on medical research, the world-building is fantastic too. Rachel is pretty kickass, and has limitless growth-potential, and the dash of romance is ridiculously cute. Action-packed, Dead Witch Walking will grab your interest and hold on to it . . . indefinitely. Don’t let that scare you off though. The last book in the series comes out in September, and after that there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to return to a productive life. (Disclaimer: Rabid Reads can in no way be held responsible for addictions to really excellent books or the shambles your life may potentially turn into due to your inability to do anything but read.)

Jessica Signature

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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104 responses to “Review: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

  1. I love this series. It was one of the first UF series I read and still one of my favorites. It was also one of the first audiobook series I listened to. I highly recommend it on audio. Marguerite Gavin does a great job. I love hear for voice for both Jenks and Al. This is on a relisten list for me soon.

    Jenks is my favorite sidekick ever. “Tink’s little pink dildo”

    • Melanie, I SO love your narrator and audio recommendations. I seriously have a list. I haven’t listened to a ton of audio books yet, but at least of them was absolutely ruined by the narrator. So thanks 😉

      And yeah, you can’t beat Jenks as a sidekick. “Tink’s a Disney whore!”

  2. Well I’m just beginning. But I love this review. You’ve thought of a few things from another perspective and that’s great. Thanks for that. That disclaimer about not being responsible for excellent books making one’s life a shambles – priceless! I’ve been holding Julie responsible for years. LOL. And yesterday I was so excited I was reading 2 books at once – I NEVER do that.

    • Thanks, Anne! I’m so glad that you’re loving this series too. And that’s great—mostly the only time I’m actually reading (rather than place-holding b/c I had to take a break from a series for whatever reason) more than one book at a time is when the books are LAME, and I’m having to take frequent breaks to get through them. Reading two books at the same time that you actually LIKE . . . that’s a different thing altogether 😉

  3. You know what is funny? I love this series now but I didn’t until after book two which is kind of crazy because this series has all the things I love (now) as a reader but at the time of starting it, I was just barely getting into the genre.

    • Yeah, I know what you mean. I love this series too, but something just didn’t sit completely right for me with this book the first time I read it. It wasn’t until I started writing this review that I realized that part of it was the ridiculous ban on science, but regardless, it held my interest enough to get me through book 2 (which is probably where my fate with this series was sealed as well).

  4. Jessica, I wish I had your talent in writing those amazing reviews. You manage to describe the book perfectly, your likes and dislikes, and you don’t spoil a single thing. I completely agree with you. Humans banning science, well, scared humans are just stupid.
    I happen to love this series, and am behind as I don’t really want it to end just yet. Ever After is on my shelf, glaring down on me.

    • *blushes* Thank you, Aurian. *blushes some more* I love this series despite the stupid fear of science too, and I’m dreading it’s conclusion. When I found out that the last book was coming out in September instead of February, I was simultaneously thrilled and panicked. Half of the time I had to reconcile myself to the end was just gone, but I was getting a Hollows book early! LOL. Also—I really liked Ever After. You should read it, so it will stop glaring at you 😉

  5. Don’t hate me for saying this but I don’t actually like the creatures out of the closet world .-. I don’t mind those kind of worlds but I prefer the creature in the closet worlds because thats how I roll. 😛

    But now that all my stuff is almost over, I am going to binge read this series 😀 I CANNOT WAIT TO GET STARTEDD (in a week or two).

    Great review my dahling.
    (I imagine myself saying that in a southern accent)
    (Okay I have no idea what I am doing with myself I’ll go away now).

    • Well, I didn’t like it at first either. It was only after reading a lot of BOTH kinds of adult UF that I starting showing a preference, and besides that, just b/c I prefer it doesn’t mean everyone else has to 😉 And WORD. With all the arcs I’m supposed to be catching up on, you might actually catch up to me. Not that we need to buddy read them for you to bombard me with any questions you have. I am . . . *ahem* . . . kind of an expert on The Hollows . . . reading a series 5(ish) time will do that to a person, LOL.

      And thank you, my lovely. If you will really want to say it with a Southern accent, it would be “Darlin'” 😉 Now imagine Clay Danvers calling you that!! *swoons*

  6. Oh yes, I’m gutter-minded xDDDD The whole time I was reading this baby, since Ivy’s crush became obvious, I was like “uuuuh, she’s gonna eat ya at some point” *bwahahaha* Which I would have been totally down with, lol 😀

    I loved the worldbuilding, the writing, the MC, Jenks ( xD ), and I’m looking forward to finishing this series! Taking advantage of the read-along thing to finally catch up with the series, now I have no excuse for putting it off, lol! I wanna be up to date when the **sniffle-sniffle** last one *sniffle-sniffle* comes out 😀

    • LOL!! Poor Ivy though. Rachel’s just not interested 🙁

      And yes, this read-a-long is fantastic. Although I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to keep to the schedule . . . Once I get sucked in, there’s no stopping me, schedule be damned. And I don’t even want to think about it ending. Every time I do I start to panic 😉

      • Yes, yes, heartbreaking to contemplate the “e” word, I agree. I’m definitely not on schedule, lol, but I’m hoping the deadline thing will work better than a schedule, which sounds really weird in a context including an end and all, lol!!

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed this book too when I read it years ago. The premise was fun, the plot kept moving, the characters were unique to me. I was happy my book club chose it. It took me several years to pick up the second book though and I didn’t like it so much :/

    • Yeah, I just finished the second book, and while I loved it, I had forgotten that Harrison could be that gritty (if that’s even what you didn’t like about it). If it was, I don’t recall that happening again more than a time or two, and everything else has made up for it for me. It would have taken a LOT more than a few grisly deaths to keep me away from Rachel and Jenks and the multitudes of awesome characters that kept being introduced 😉

    • Well, medical science anyway. They still have computers and modern cars, etc. But no pharmaceutical companies and things like that. And yes, once you get past that, definitely enjoyable!

  8. This is another one of my favorite audio book series. I love the Rachel, Jenks, and the rest of the gang. I’m still amazed at how much Trent and Al have went from two characters that I loathed to two of my favorites. I have often wondered if Kim Harrison hates tomatoes and that’s how she came up with the apocalyptic tomato premise. 😉 As always…great review!!!

    • See, I think she must LOVE them. The absence of tomatoes could hardly be a big deal if you don’t like tomatoes, but if you (like me) love them . . . that would be quite an adjustment. AND b/c almost everyone likes them, it makes how quickly and how deadly the spread of the disease was more believable. If it had been brussels sprouts, who knows how long it would have taken for anyone to realize there was a problem, LOL. Probably wouldn’t have taken out more than a handful of people (I REALLY hate brussels sprouts).

      I completely agree about Al and Trent, but more with Al (b/c I’ve always harbored a not-so-secret-crush on Trent, and refused to see him as unredeemable). And thank you, Ginny 😉

  9. I’ve always wanted to check out the Hollows series, but at this point the number of books is intimidating! I don’t know if I can get past the ban on science though, I’m a pretty big science geek, that might just piss me off enough 😛

    • It’s just a ban on medical science. They still have the internet, and modern cars and stuff. AND there’s a whole black market, super secret underworld of bio-drugs. I think the science geek in you would like the way Harrison set things up 😉

  10. Okay, while the science ban sounds freaking stupid, I think the rest of the book sounds like it’ll be pretty good. I think I’d actually probably be able to take the roommate too- takes a lot for a character to annoy me haha.

    • Yeah, I love this series. I just don’t want to be all, “OMG best book EVER” and then have a bunch of people read it, and be like—k, the book was good, but it had problems. I want you guys to trust me, so I’m up front about the problems 😉 The world-building and roommate situation bugged me, but not enough to keep from reading the next book, and the next book blew my friggin’ mind.

  11. This was the first real UF series I committed to, I read it with a group of friends so it was a blast. I actually wasn’t too fond of Rachel in the first couple of books…she was just a HOT MESS, but as the series progressed she grew on me and I ended up loving her, she might be my favorite UF heroine because she was my first! I wish I had time to re-read the series but I have way too many books to get to #bloggerproblems 😉

    • Oh, that would have been awesome! The closest I’ve gotten was convincing my sister and my best friend to read them after the fact, and getting bombarded with questions as they were progressing through it. And I very deliberately haven’t reread this series in years b/c I knew the end was coming. Even before blogging, I knew I was going to have to plan if I wanted to fit ALL 12 books in again, LOL.

  12. Really? (Disclaimer: Rabid Reads can in no way be held responsible for addictions to really excellent books or the shambles your life may potentially turn into due to your inability to do anything but read.)

    I hold you all responsible! That’s right! I do!

    • LOL. I was particularly feeling that this time b/c I’m supposed to be adhering to a book a week read-a-long schedule, but I just don’t see that happening. So a disclaimer seemed prudent 😉

  13. WHAT.ARE.YOU.DOING.TO.ME. And yes, I’m holding you responsible for recommending amazing books and this is yet another book I will be adding to my ever growing TBR!!! 🙂 STUNNING REVIEW my friend! ♥ In case you were wondering my life has been consumed by EVERYTHING Throne of Glass thank you very much! 😉 And PS: I am one of those gutter minded people *points to herself* and I proudly admit that. 🙂

  14. Now now now, I need to crack my brain and invent some machine which will stop time for me. So I could read some amazing books. I always say how I must read some UF books soon, but I never do (SHAME ON ME). Anyhow I’m so glad you enjoyed this one and it sounds really great! Great review, Jessica 🙂

    • Thank you, Tanja! I totally need one of those too. And I did enjoy this one b/c it WAS really great. If you ever do decide to add some UF into your mix, I hope you try this one 😉

  15. I am so glad you liked this one. I love this series, I remember it took me a bit to settle into it, and there are a couple of books in the middle that aren’t so awesome, but assure you once you hit book eight Pale Demon, this series excels. I just got the final book for review and I am nervous!

    • Pale Demon is my favorite book in the series too. AND I AM SO JEALOUS!!! OMG!! I requested the arc on Edelweiss, but they’re making me WAIT!! Oh well, at least it wasn’t straight-up denied. There’s still hope *crosses fingers*

  16. I can’t believe that the last one in this series comes out this year!!!! I’m so sad BUT it does mean that I can reread the ENTIRE THING and it’s been long enough that going back to the beginning will be like a semi-fresh slate.

  17. bookwormbrandee  

    OMG! What a fun review, Jessica! The Hollows was one of my first UF reads as well – I think there were 5 out when I started. I’m a couple behind at present and REALLY need to get to them. 🙂 Oh, I love your disclaimer too. You’ve definitely made me want to re-read this entire series! <3

    • LOL! Thanks, Brandee! Book 8 had just come out when I first started, so you’ve got a few years on me with this series, but I LOVE it. And yes, you NEED to get to them. Did you read Pale Demon before taking your break? B/c it is the BEST!! Seriously—favorite book in the series. And you should totally join the reread. It’s still early. You could totally catch up 😉

  18. There is nothing silly about fear of tomatoes. I know sometimes my wife puts whole cherry tomatoes on my salads and I quake with fear until she looks away and I move them off.

    • Yeah, the number of books is kind of daunting, but slow and steady wins the race, LOL. And really, these books are SO good. Out of all the UF series that get way up there in the numbers, this is the one I recommend the most.

  19. Come to think of it, I should have had a much bigger problem with science being destroyed. I think I accepted it for two reasons – (1) humans have an unbelievable knack for acting stupid and destroying what they’re afraid of and (2) I suck at science. LOL! This was not my favorite book in the series by far, but I agree with you, it’s a decent start to a really fantastic series. I can’t believe it’s going to be over in September!!

    • I suck at science TOO!! And no, it’s not the best start to a series ever, but overall . . . definitely one of my absolute favorites. I’m loving this reread b/c I’m remembering why I love this series so much. It’s been years, and with the last couple of books . . . still good, but not up to Pale Demon (IMO), I was wondering why I had this series in my #2 spot. I remember now 😉

  20. Oh I’m so glad you had a great time with the first book, I love the series but well I’m a little behind, I need to read book 7. I love Rachel and her world like you. The tomatoes thing is fun right? And well all the characters are so winderful to discover you’ll see. I hope you’ll like the others as much as I did. Great review Jessica!

  21. Christy  

    It is taking sooo much willpower to not read this book right now. It is constantly taunting me. I’m so afraid to read it though because it’ll be OVER. 🙁

    • LOL! I know what you mean! BUT . . . then you can more on to the next one that’s even better, then the one after that, then . . . you can see where this is going, right? 😉 With all of the other books on your plate, it will take a LONG while to get through all of them, and this series is SO worth it!

  22. Thanks for the recap Jessica, now I am ready to pick up book no. 3 (which I have put off for ages because it’s such a confusing, complex world). The whole thing between her room mate and her was such an awkward, strange dynamic.

    • It really is. It totally bugged me in the beginning. I can tell you it gets better, and I just started book 3 (for the 5th time, LOL), and it’s the book that gets really good IMO. And book 4 . . . don’t even get me started on book 4. It was my favorite all the way to Pale Demon 😉

  23. I agree I like the out of the closet type UF books more because there just aren’t enough of them. I think its almost every UF book its a “secret world” and only a small freaking handful of people know about anything which is just annoying. Written in Red does the out of the closet, and so does Agent of Hel by Jacqueline Carey and hmmm thinking of some more.

    Anyways it does suck they outlawed science but I didn’t have a problem with that – people always over react so not surprised that happened. As for your second gripe haha it’ll be so interesting to see what you think of how that develops.

    • I didn’t know you’d read Agent of Hel! The first out-of-the-creature-closet series I ever read was Sookie, quickly followed by Anita Blake. And yeah, the “secret world” can be so limiting. And of course someone is always getting killed or reprimanded for close calls with the humans. Blah.

      It was really just the tomato thing that got on my nerves. The throwing them in the garden so Nick or Glenn’s delicate sensibilities wouldn’t be offended. Glenn stealing ketchup packets b/c of his “secret” addiction. *rolls eyes* And I know how it turns out, girlie 😉 This is probably my 5th time through books 1-8.

  24. Awesome review Jessica!!! “Not responsible” HA! Okay, I won’t hold y’all responsible for the addictions that I already have (including my Hollows fanaticism) ….but do you know how many more you have exposed me too? Well? More than I can count! You’re just lucky I know that you’re as addicted as I am LOL!!

    • Seriously, LOL. On ALL counts. My TBR list was ridiculous before I got into blogging, and you guys . . . Suffice it to say I perpetually live in a state of dauntedness. But is that really a complaint . . . I don’t think so 😉

  25. Awesome sauce review, Jessica! LOL, Rachel afraid of Ivy “eating” her brings back memories. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this series, but you capture so much of it.

    Happy Friday & have a great weekend! 🙂

    • Well, the science stuff didn’t bother me enough to keep me from reading the rest of the books, and in the reread, I’m remembering why I have this series firmly in my #2 Top UF spot 😉 You should join the read-a-long! Come on . . . your potentially most favorite UF series deserves a reread before the LAST book comes out, doesn’t it? 😉

  26. Rachel is pretty kickass, but the many stupid moves and decisions in the first couple books were almost unbearable. But that’s kind of why I love her too.

    The Hollows series taught me what a real urban fantasy series was.

    Great review!

    • LOL! I just wrote my review of book 3 yesterday, and instead of a normal review, it’s more of a commentary on Rachel’s bad relationship decisions! Something about great minds and thinking . . . 😉

      Thanks, Jennifer! The Hollows definitely set the bar high for me as well.

  27. Ahhhh, the Hollows love…. yes, it was my first, too (memories…. ) I actually had no problems with the whole humans shying away from genetics. It made complete sense from my POV b/c I was reading these around the time my son was 2 years old. He was just being diagnosed with autism. I think you know where I’m going with this. Us humans are pretty fearful, stupid creatures. If masses of us were dying, I could see the masses going the other way.

    Just my humble, old lady has seen the world, opinion 😀 tee, hee… Yeah, and I invented the internet, too…

    • I can’t actually remember if Sookie or Rachel was my first love, but Rachel definitely edged out Sookie over time. And I definitely understood the fear aspect of the medical research ban, but the specific fear of tomatoes . . . just got on my nerves, LOL. I’m sure most people thought it was funny, but I just thought it was dumb. *shrugs awkwardly*

      So I agree. And HA! Do you also by chance have some lovely, oceanfront property in Nebraska that you’d like to sell me 😀

  28. Faye M.  

    Shoot, there I went, buying this one off Amazon as soon as I read your review 😛 The way you review this feels like you just showered it good graces from the heavens. Hopefully I won’t be too frustrated with her as I can have a short tolerance for overly reckless heroines, but hey, like you said, that means there’s a lot of room for character development, and the kickass-ness would probably compensate for that. Lovely review, pretty lady <3

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    • Thank you, Faye! And WOOT. I know you don’t have much tolerance for reckless heroines, but Rachel typically leaves her bad decisions to her relationships, and the worse of it is in the early books. If you’re patient with her, I don’t think you’ll regret it, b/c Rachel is probably one of the most growingest(<——it's a word, if I say it's a word) characters I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

  29. Oh poooh, Jessica! Who looked at the likelihood of the world-building in earlier urban fantasy in those days?! We were just so excited to read anything out of the norm nobody thought of critiquing it 🙂 I loved Ivy and Rachel and shifty Trent, and I cried my eyes out when you know who died. Still 2 books behind in this series but glad it’s ending at last. Fab review as usual!

    • Thank you! And good point, LOL. But seriously, it was only the tomato thing that really got on my nerves. The rest of it I could handle, ESPECIALLY when that part of the world-building became necessary to Trent’s motivations. I hated that Rachel had to go through it when youknowwho died, but honestly, I knew something had to happen to him. Anytime there’s more than one viable romantic option, one of them has to die. Otherwise, they’re always hanging around, making things awkward . . . but yeah . . . it made me sad too 🙁 I’m also sad that the series is ending, but I guess it’s time. *sighs*

  30. Michele

    Have mercy… I’m going to have to move some things around and get to this series sooner rather than later! You have me so intrigued! I want to meet all of these characters and know ALL THE THINGS! Super fun review, my friend!

    • Thank you, Michele! And I really think you’d like this series. The characters are fantastic and the world that Harrison has created is unlike any other that I’ve ever encountered.

  31. wrkreads  

    I’ve never actually read this series. So late to the UF party, even though they’re my favourite books. I love worlds where the creatures are all out and everyone lives together. It creates so much more diversity.