What happens when the Greywalker series delves too deep, and too greedily? Let’s excavate Underground, by Kat Richardson.
Harper Blaine was your average small-time P.I. until she died for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker — walking the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she’s discovering that her new abilities are landing her all sorts of “strange” cases.
Pioneer Square’s homeless are turning up dead and mutilated, and zombies have been seen roaming the underground–the city buried beneath modern Seattle. When Harper’s friend Quinton believes he may be implicated in the deaths, he persuades her to investigate. But the killer is no mere murderer–it is a creature of ancient legend. And Harper must deal with both the living and the dead to stop the monster and its master …unless they stop her first.
I have a confession to make, dear readers: …well, actually, this time, I don’t. But I started my reviews of the previous two books in this series this way, and I am nothing if not a creature of habit.
Harper’s latest case has her investigating the deaths and disappearances of homeless people, some of which return as rotting zombies. After initially eying the vampire community, Harper determines that the perpetrator behind the crimes is a monster rather than a man: a supernatural predator which devours some victims whole and zombifies others to shrink-wrap their tasty souls into their flesh for later consumption. And that’s where the story kind of fell apart; because the more Harper learned about the monster, Sisiutl, the more jarring and awkward I found it.
The thing is, Sisiutl isn’t exactly a smooth fit into world thus far established by the Greywalker series. Yes, being urban fantasy means that it is open to plenty of supernatural elements, but not all types of fantasy play nice with one another. The previous supernatural creatures of Greywalker all fit a certain mood and atmosphere: ghosts, vampires, poltergeists, zombies. But then you casually mention that, oh yeah, there’s also a giant three-headed serpent from Native American mythology which serves an ogress who in turn serves the Native American gods; and oh yes, the Native American gods are apparently real, did I neglect to mention that before? One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong… It doesn’t help matters that, earlier in the book, the idea of werewolves is laughed off as completely implausible. I mean, come on: werewolves? That’s just ridiculous. No one ever heard of vampires existing alongside of werewolves. Whereas vampires and legendary Native American three-faced semi-divine serpent-monsters are of course famed for how seamlessly they fit together.
The book is also hampered by a couple of awkward subplots that never quite seemed to gel. There’s Harper and Will’s relationship really abruptly coming to an end due to his inability to deal with her connection to the supernatural, followed by her hooking up with Quinton almost immediately afterwards – giving me chilling flashbacks to the awkwardly-handled romance in Bitten by Kelley Armstrong; though at least Harper has the decency to wait until after the end of her first romance to begin the second, rather than finding some way to justify it to herself as “not really” cheating, so points for that I guess? Then there’s Quinton suddenly revealing that he’s being hunted by the NSA – and if you think vampires and Sisiutl don’t quite go together, imagine how well they mix with Bourne Identity-type political subterfuge – only for that to be just as quickly resolved with a random serendipitous corpse-swap at the end. Oh, and there’s a short bit about how Mara’s been treating Albert like Casper the Friendly Ghost when he’s more Vigo the Carpathian; but that doesn’t end up going anywhere, either.
Yeah, I’m just not feeling this one. Underground is an awkward story which should have staid buried.
Final Rating: 2/5