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WesternSFA
Grave Memory
by Kalayna Price
RoC, $7.99, 373pp
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Alex Craft is human enough to pass the genetic test that qualifies her for membership in OMIH, the Organization for Magically Inclined Humans, which functions as a buffer between mundane and magical domains. But Alex is part fae, and while she prefers to operate in the mortal realm, she is under increasing pressure to choose an alliance with one of the four great Courts of Faerie, or to declare herself an Independent.

The Winter Queen takes a particular and peculiarly malignant interest in claiming Alex for her Court. In the best tradition of Bitch-Goddess, the Winter Queen alternately tempts and torments Alex, which is especially easy for her to do when she holds in thrall one of the two men Alex possibly loves. Falin, who is true fae, is the Winter Queen’s knight, and if anyone has wondered why Harry Dresden was so reluctant to assume the position of Queen’s Knight, Falin is an object lesson. As for Falin’s rival for Alex’s affections, well, that’s an immortal of a different nature altogether. One of them does manage to steal quite an erotically accomplished march on the other.

Some writers try so hard to emulate a popular style or to establish their ‘voice’ that it practically hurts to read them. Price, on the other hand, writes graceful, effortless prose, letting characters and events unfold with a good sense for dramatic juxtaposition. I like the way the advantages that Alex’s power bestows is balanced out by the price she pays for using it: she is losing her sight as she exercises her Sight. And in this adventure, the ability to talk with the Shades of the dead, who are unable to tell a lie, an ability that has made Alex an invaluable – and unquestionably reliable – source of information in criminal investigations, is proving useless. In a series of apparent suicides, the Shades have no memory of the three days preceding their violent demises. This blindsiding lack of memory proves a major setback for an impecunious consultant who has just started an otherworldly investigative business with her best friend.

Alex finds herself pulled in many directions, as grieving family members look for explanations in the face of police stone-walling, and as friendships make rival claims on her human nature and fae heritage. Worst of all, the Winter Queen’s harassments are escalating just as a trigger-happy, hardcore agent for the Magical Crimes Investigation Bureau named Briar Darque shows up and blames Alex for an outbreak of supernatural nastiness. As the body count mounts, Alex has more than one occasion to confront Death.

This is the third installment in the adventures of Alex Craft, following Grave Witch and Grave Dance. The author summarizes established relationships and nestled conflicts well enough that you can and read Memory before you dance with the witch, but I predict that if you do, you will want to backtrack and savor what has gone before. And then eagerly look up the release date of the next one. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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