Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Grave Visions (Alex Craft #4) by Kalayna Price

Alex Craft is one of two grave witches in Nekros.  Since discovering that she is Fae, Alex has been trying to balance dealing with the drama that comes with it, her overly complicated love life and her business.  When a new drug called glitter hits the seat, Alex is tasked by the Queen, who believes that someone is trying to end her rule to find out the guilty party.  This is made even more difficult because Alex, who is not tied to a court is fading.  As a fae, Alex needs a tie to faerie to survive in the modern world and her unwillingness to pledge herself to any court makes this a big problem. Somehow, Alex has to convince the Queen to give her unaligned status, avoid the marriage that her father set into motion for her and find the person responsible for distributing a very dangerous drug.

Grave Memory, book 3 in this series was published in 2012, and I actually read it in 2013.  That's a long time between books.  While I read our previous review, I have to admit that because this series has so many moving parts, it took me a bit to catch up and get back into Price's world.  It was helpful that in many ways along the way, Price did recaps reminding us of who these characters were to Alex Craft and some of their history.

The story begins when Alex sees a man ride by on a unicorn. Yeah, I would stop and stare if I saw that as well.  It seems that a new drug called Glitter has hit the streets and people are dying because their life essence brings to life their worst nightmares.  Drugs are bad Mmkay.  I could have used a little bit more nuance with this part of the storyline.  There are various reasons people turn to drugs yet none of this was explored.  Essentially, Price puts drug use down to simple youth experimentation and then couples it with the most negative consequences.  The direction this took reminded me very much of those old eighties after school specials. Yes, I know I am dating myself so shut up about it.

Price spent a lot of time on Craft's romantic life.  At present, Alex's boyfriend is Death and this poses a problem because they're not really allowed to be a couple and so consequently he is in and out of her life.  Death cannot be there to talk through Alex's problems or even be a steady shoulder to lean on. In fact, Alex doesn't even know Death's real name or even how long he has been a reaper. Alex has known Death since she was a child and begged him not to take her mother's soul but she doesn't really know him and this bothers her more than she cares to admit. Then there's Fallon, who is sworn to the Queen and therefore cannot be trusted. This doesn't mean that the attraction toward Fallon has dimmed, it just means that Alex has acknowledged that there's no future between them no matter how many times Fallon tries to show his love for her. It's Fallon who jumps into muddy pond to save her life and Fallon who stands between Alex and the Queen whenever he senses that she is danger of losing her head to the monarch. The problem is that if the Queen orders Fallon to kill Alex, he must obey that order.  It seems that there are really no good options when it comes to romance for Alex.

Alex is one of the few disabled protagonists in this genre.  Alex is night blind and is losing her sight because of continued use of her magic to raise shades to solve murders.  Every time Alex uses her powers she is unable to see and at one point actually has to be guided around my Fallon.  My issue with this is that Alex often turns into a super crip.  She supposedly is trying to use her powers less because of a fear of going blind but throughout Grave Visions, Alex constantly uses her powers. Sure, there are reasons for Alex to rely on her power but my issue is that she never tries any other alternatives. Does this sound like someone worried about going blind to you?

I really wanted to see Alex think through the case more than just stumbling around. The few times that she has legitimate ideas, Fallon seemed to be one step ahead of her and so the investigation really came down to Alex using her super special powers to find out something from a shade rather than her intelligently following the clues.  I suppose I should be thankful that she didn't simply solve the case by gaining new powers which is a trope in this genre. I know that Alex is smart; she couldn't run a business without that being the case but I really wish that Price would go through more effort to show us this rather than relying so much on magic.  If Price is going to move forward with the idea that Alex is going blind because she is using her magic and therefore needs to resist using it, we are going to need to see Alex really investigate more using conventional means.

One of the things I love most about this world are the interesting fae that Price weaves into her story. Some feel benign like the satyr bartender and others are absolutely creatures from nightmares like the boogeyman.  The descriptions are so vivid it's easy to picture these creatures.  It made me not want to walk down a flight of stairs for fear of what might be hiding under them.  Everything about Grave Visions is absolutely vivid and feels real, allowing the reader to get lost in the story.  A few times Price had me wishing that I could just glamour up the things I wanted.  I love that Price continually reminded us how different the fae are and that though they are in someways treated as something to bring in tourists, they are not to be played with because they are genuinely scary.  I loved that Price took the time to take us to different realms of faerie, once again reminding us how truly large and magically diverse this story is. In fact, faerie is so diverse that not only do different realms exist they interpret things differently.  In the Winter realm blood on ones hands is something to be ashamed of but its not a universal feeling at all.

One of the things that I love about Alex Craft is the way that she prioritizes her friendships. Too often in this genre we get is a heroine surrounded by men and completely cut off from women, sometimes even hating women outright. What better marker is there of female friendship than agreeing to be a bridesmaid at wedding, even if it includes wearing a ridiculous dress and shoes that are impossible to walk in? Alex is there for her friends even when her life is complicated and though she doesn't always know the right things to say, she tries to give whatever comfort is needed when necessary. Sometimes it just means eating a ridiculous amount of wedding cake after the boogeyman crashes a wedding and ruins it.

I know I have been a little fanpoodly in this review but I must add that this is book 4 in this series and there are still no LGBT characters. I find it odd that Price can create such a diverse world and still not include an LGBT character.

There's a log of good about Grave Visions and despite being 352 pages, I read it very quickly.  I was never once tempted to put this book down and do something else because I wanted to see how this all worked out for Alex. I must admit that when things started falling apart for the Queen, I was certain that somehow Alex would become the Queen of the winter court.  When Price however solved it differently, it made me realise that she kept me guessing about the end of this story and that is always a marker for a good book in my mind.  Grave Visions, is a good re-entry to this series and while it left some loose ends for the next book, it felt like coming home to something good and fun.