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Book Review: Grave Dance by Kalayna Price

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

I’ve found that I don’t usually decide on a series after the first book.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe one book isn’t really enough time to get me invested in the characters.  Maybe I’m subconsciously worried about the “sophomore slump” some series seem to hit.  Regardless, I’m not usually sold on a series until after the second or third book.

Kalayna Price’s Alex Craft series is no exception.  I liked the first book, Grave Witch, but I was still unsure about whether I’d continue reading the series.  But when I picked up the second book, Grave Dance, I was happy to discover that this book is even better than the first, adding the series to my “must buy” list.

The book description, courtesy of the author’s website:

Whoever said dead men tell no tales obviously never met Alex Craft.

After a month spent recovering from a vicious fight with a sorcerer, grave witch Alex Craft is ready to get back to solving murders by raising the dead. With her love life in turmoil thanks to the disappearance of Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews and a shocking “L” word confession from Death himself, Alex is eager for the distractions of work. But her new case turns out to be a deadly challenge.

The police hire Alex to consult on a particularly strange investigation in the nature preserve south of Nekros City. The strange part: There are no corpses, only fragments of them. A serial killer is potentially on the loose, and Alex has no way to raise a shade without a body, so she’ll have to rely on the magic of others to find leads. But as she begins investigating, a creature born of the darkest magic comes after her. Someone very powerful wants to make sure the only thing she finds is a dead end—her own.

Minor spoiler warning for Grave Witch, if you haven’t read it already.

Grave Witch introduced Alex Craft, a witch with the power of raising the shades of the dead.  After being beaten and battered in the first book, she’s ready to relax for awhile—until the police department calls her in on a case involving several severed left feet…and nothing else.  As Alex investigates the murders, we start to see some of the new powers—and limitations—she’s discovered as a result of what happened to her in the first book.

One of the things I like about Alex is that’s she’s not a perfect heroine.  She is both flawed and vulnerable.  When she uses her grave sight—the ability to see the world of the dead—it causes permanent damage to her vision and leaves her chilled to the bone, and she’s been known to take anonymous men home to fight this chill.  She’s got family issues, a lot of them.  And she does stupid things.

By Grave Dance, Alex is right in the middle of one of the more interesting love triangles I’ve read in awhile, with Falin Andrews, the Fae Investigation Bureau agent who aided her in the previous book, and Death himself (actually more of a sexy grim reaper-type soul collector, but still).  What I like about this love triangle is that, if you think about it, neither guy is a good choice.  Falin is the knight/lover of the Fae’s Winter Queen, and Death is…well, he’s Death.  He lives on a different plane, and he takes people’s souls after they die.  What does it say about me that I actually like them both?

The scenes between Alex and Death are soft and sweet, maybe just a little bit tentative.  One of my critiques of the last book was that I wanted to see more of Death, and Grave Dance does not disappoint—though I found myself still wanting to see more of the two of them together.  It’s a seemingly impossible relationship, but that makes me root for them all the more.  If anything, I want even more Death in the third book.  (Death the soul collector, not death the circumstance.  Though that may not be such a bad thing, either.  What can I say?  I’m a sadist.)

As for Falin…at the end of Grave Witch, I was feeling a little disenchanted with Falin.  He doesn’t make the best first impression, and his last impression isn’t much better.  At the beginning of Grave Dance, he’s disappeared for a month.  But when he finally does show up, we get to see him to his best advantage.  We get to learn more about what makes him Falin tick and how and why he ended up as the Winter Queen’s right-hand man.  It painted a much more sympathetic picture of Falin than we’ve seen previously.

The plot moves quickly, and the ultimate resolution has some greater implications for where the series will go for the future.  There were a few things I was left confused about, but—as is usually the case with me—I’m not sure whether it’s because I read too quickly and missed a few things, or if there were genuinely some loose ends here.  There are also some mysteries about Alex and her family that were brought up in the first book and have yet to be resolved, which will likely keep readers tuning in for more.

Overall, the Alex Craft series is on the rise, and I can’t wait to see where Price takes it next.l