Thursday, June 17, 2010

Early to Death, Early to Rise by Kim Harrison

Madison Avery is dead, but still living on Earth. Through the power of the amulet she stole she's able to create a body. She's also now the dark timekeeper, in charge of the dark reapers, who take someone's soul (that is, kill them) before they have a change to ruin it by committing some kind of sin. Madison doesn't agree with what the dark reapers do, but then, she doesn't agree with what the light reapers do either. Light reapers try to get to a person before the dark reapers can, and give the marked person a guardian angel. The person will then lead a kind of charmed life. Madison wants to change things. She wants to try to talk to the people who have been marked for death and try to get them to make a better choice. Then no one has to die, or get a free pass. None of the angels or seraphs believe it can work. Madison really only has one chance to prove she can do it.

This is the second in a series, the first being Once Dead, Twice Shy, and it's not a series you want to come in in the middle of. There's a lot of back story, and Harrison doesn't spend a lot of time rehashing what happened in the previous book. If you didn't read it, it's going to be really confusing and you'll probably spend about half of Early to Death, Early to Rise trying to figure out who everyone is and what's going on and why Madison is dead, but doesn't seem dead, and so on.

I enjoyed this, and I think it would be a good series to suggest to kids who like supernatural lite - vampire romances, angel romances, etc. It's not really a romance (yet, there are suggestions), but it has a similar feel. Kids just like you but with angels! Or vampires, whatever. I liked Madison's voice, her worry and frustration rang true. The character of Ace threw me a little bit. I understand why it didn't explain in depth, but his anger was so intense and I just didn't understand where it was coming from. Man, he was a lousy person. Harrison certainly did a good job creating a character that we would feel no sympathy for and make it easier to understand the dark reaper's point of view.

While many kids might not go this deep into it, I really liked what Harrison was doing with looking at choice and fate. When you start reading the book, it seems clear that dark reapers are bad, and light reapers are good. It's all there in their title! But dark reapers aren't actually evil, per se, they're trying to save a person's soul before they can destroy it by doing something evil. The light reapers protect the person's body by giving them a guardian angel and the right to make their choice (even if it harms other people), but then the person is protected in all the bad choices they might make. How important is free will? What if other people die because of the choices one person makes? Should that person be allowed to make those choices, or should they be stopped? There are some really interesting ideas going on in these books, I hope they get to be explored more at the same time Madison is running around looking for her body and trying to get people to make good decisions.

However, bad title. Really, really bad. The first one was bad too. Let's try for a well titled book for the third, shall we? Carry on.

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