Mallory is a death witch, the only one known. While this has left her with a painful past, it gives her skills that makes her a utter asset to the police
And far more so when zombies seem to be running a protection racket. But it’s far from that simple when you have voodoo, werewolves and an ever growing death count needing Mallory to unpick it
I really like the opening of this book and how it establishes Mallory. We see the tragedy, the horror, the deep sadness and the pain of her – but unlike so many characters that have The Tragic Backgrounds ™ it doesn’t consume her characters. We do not get repeated depictions of her mourning and no great big pits of angst. It definitely shapes her, what she is, her power, how she views it – but it doesn’t consume her. It is not all she is or even a hugely significant part of her – but it does go to making her. She’s a character with layers
I think she bounces well with her partner Danny – they work extremely well together and fit well with the job as well. We see how her magic works among the mortal police – we see the opposition she faces, we see the usefulness and acceptance without it entirely replacing actual police work and it all comes with decent friend interactions which are fun to watch and manage to convey a lot of information without completely unnecessary infodumping.
Similarly it’s don a really good job of incorporating the supernatural into the greater world in a very seamless way. I especially like how there’s no attempt to make the supernatural vanishingly rare with witches actually making a significant portion of the population. I’m curious to see how that develops. I love the different kinds of witches, how the gods are related to that and the suggestion of so many other supernatural beings.
I really liked the plot – the whole investigation was nicely twisty with some excellent complexities, some really good red herrings and a great reveal. I liked how they investigated, I liked how they had down time above and beyond that. Yes, she’s a police detective, but she still has friends, she still has a life, her job isn’t everything she is and everything she does.
There’s a lot I like here – the writing, the characters, how they relate and I really love the world setting and the story
I don’t like Jakob the love interest and not just for the reason I mention below. I don’t find him very engaging – I mean I really like the idea that he’s a cook and revels in the food options of the modern world. I love this idea, it’s an excellent take and one of the things that makes this book fun. But every interaction with him is basically sex. Lots and lots of sex which gets very dull very quickly.
The way this book treats voodoo is interesting. I started a scathing criticism of how voodoo was portrayed here as the religion was repeatedly demonised. But as the book develops there’s a nice twist here as we see not how much voodoo is treated, but how voodoo is being scapegoated. It’s an excellent depiction of how demonisation and bigotry can be exploited and used – as people are too eager to follow their own prejudices than see the truth which is a really excellent point.
The book opens with a large immigrant community which is generally portrayed very positively while also acknowledging how vulnerable they are; largely Hindu Indians but a noteworthy Latino werejaguar, Indigo, who is definite character with a decent role to play in the story. Also he’s a chocolatier. A very good chocolatier. You have to love a good chocolatier. And I think it’s kind of awesome to have a wereanimal chocolatier – how often do we see wereanimals in anything close to this kind of role? He is a definitely significant character
Mallory’s boss is a Black man. There is an element of promotion to obscurity as he doesn’t play a huge role. But we also avoid that most annoying of tropes – the boss of the police detective who hampers them and fights them every inch which I’m glad to be missing. Among the police we also have a Native Hawai’ian air witch who is not a major a character but isn’t vanishingly minor. While the two main characters are white, there is a definite effort to include racial diversity around them
I also like her female friends – she respects them, she likes them (which is sadly rare) and they are very different women, including very traditionally feminine women. We have women who love clothes, women who love partying and dancing (including a larger women who can dance up a storm) and a woman who is overtly and happily sexual and not even slightly judged or shamed for it, regardless of her choices. She lives her sexual life with the whole support and respect from her friends. It’s a wonderful thing and deeply sad that it’s not more common. No slut shaming. No women hate.
Mallory’s history also has an excellent depiction of depression and how she lived during her marriage with her husband. It is a really excellent characterisation with some insight in how “being looked after” isn’t always helpful