Although I am a fan of the relatively new genre of urban fantasy, I'm not blind to the fact that it's hard to find the nuggets of gold amongst the enormous pile of dross which has flooded the market, most of which isn't urban fantasy at all but merely paranormal romantica. (Twilight, I'm talking about you!) A problem with which most authors in this genre are now faced is finding a hero or heroine who is different or at least will stand out from the plethora of tormented vampires, sexy werewolves and assorted other paranormal beings. Kat Richardson has come up with Harper Blaine, a human to all intents and purposes but one with a newly acquired ability. She's a Greywalker.
Harper Blaine is a hard working private investigator, just about making a living but when in the course of her job she gets a thorough beating which results in her dying (for precisely two minutes), her life changes forever. When Harper eventually leaves hospital she discovers she can now see strange things; a weird grey fog from which weird creatures emerge snarling and snapping. It seems she now has access to a world beyond our own where all manner of paranormal creatures exist and it looks as though Harper is going to be dragged into that world, especially if she wants to solve her latest couple of cases.
I picked this book up some time ago in a charity shop, intrigued by the back cover blurb and encouraged by the quote from Charlaine Harris on the front cover which told me the book contained 'nonstop action with an intriguing promise'. It's appropriate that the quote should come from Charlaine Harris as if this book gives a nod to any other writer, it's to Ms Harris. For those who can remember back to the early days of Sookie Stackhouse, there was a hefty dose of crime and mystery amidst the paranormal and Greywalker follows in that tradition.
Harper Blaine is a small-time private investigator based in Seattle and she's very much rooted in the real world. After she ends up in hospital following a savage beating, she initially thinks the strange foggy visions that she's having are as a result of her injuries. She isn't only seeing things though; there are strange buzzing and gurgling noises and even stranger (and sometimes unpleasant) smells. Being a pragmatist Harper puts these strange visions down to the head trauma she'd sustained but after a visit to her doctor things begin to take a totally different direction. Her doctor confirms that the visions are probably nothing to do with her injuries and he suggests she meets with some friends of his who may be able to help her. His description of the friends as 'having ideas that are straight out of the Twilight Zone doesn't exactly fill Harper with confidence but when she meets Ben and Mara Danziger, a whole new world of possibility is opened up to her.
Because this book is the first in the series, the pace of the story slows down every so often in order for the author to bring the reader up to speed with the world that's being created: the Grey. In essence, this world is layered over our own and is inhabited by all kinds of mythological beings, some of whom can cross over into the real world. It not only takes Harper a while to get to grips with this new level of consciousness, it also took me a fair amount of time to fully understand what was going on and just what was real and what was from the Grey.
Into this paranormal mix is added an enjoyable mystery or two. The first is that of Cameron Shadley, a missing university student which on the face of it, seems a straightforward enough case but Harper soon discovers that Cameron is now a vampire! Harper finds this out after knocking Cameron out and when he regains consciousness, calmly asks him 'Excuse me, Mr Shadley, are you aware you haven't got a pulse?' Her second task is to track down a missing antique for Grigori Sergeyev, something of a shady character and it isn't long before Harper discovers that both cases are linked to each other and also to the Grey.
These two investigations bring Harper into contact with Quinton, an electronics whizz, and Will Novak, a local auctioneer. These two men, I suspect are destined to play a much larger part in Harper's life going forward as are her paranormal go-to friends, the Danzigers.
What I really enjoyed about this book was the realism, even of the paranormal elements which were treated in a prosaic manner that made them ultimately more believable. Harper behaves as a person would do who suddenly finds themselves confronted by strange visions: she's confused and frightened and seeks explanations from the real world first before accepting that what's happening may be of a paranormal nature. The balance between the real and the paranormal also is good and neither one overwhelms the other. For the paranormal themes Kat Richardson uses a lightness of touch which, again, makes it far more believable. Though her vampire is fits the proscribed description for most literary vampires, she manages to introduce slight humour into the situation. Poor Cameron Shadley is having difficulty coming to terms with his newly acquired vampire status: he sleeps in the boot of his car because that's where he keeps his native earth in which he must be buried during daylight and he's not doing too well getting his necessary sustenance because not wanting to kill humans, he's having trouble finding an ethical source for the blood he needs.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The pace is good, though slightly uneven because of the necessity to inform the reader about certain aspects of the Grey, the story is engaging and entertaining and the characterisation is excellent. Harper is an appealing heroine who isn't so feisty that she appears aggressive and she possesses just enough vulnerability about her newly acquired talents to make her likeable. The secondary characters, too, are all well drawn and fleshed out enough to be realistic. The difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance is the level of romance included in the story. Here, the romance is hardly touched upon with the emphasis firmly on world building and plot and is all the more enjoyable for that.
There are currently six books in the Greywalker series and I've yet to read the second one but I shall certainly be on the lookout for it because this story makes a very promising start and I can only assume that the series will pick up pace as the need for explanations of the Grey become less demanding.
Greywalker is still in print and available from various online sources from 1p plus postage. Currently, only books 5 and 6 of the series are available on Kindle.
Originally posted on Ciao under the same user ID