In near-future New Orleans, Draugar, again-walkers, are faster and stronger than most humans, but not venomous until they are a century old. Until then, they shamble and bite. Since not everyone wants to see their relatives end up that way, Geneviève Crowe makes her living beheading the dead.
But now, her magic’s gone sideways, and the only person strong enough to help her is the one man who could tempt her to think about picket fences: Eli Stonecroft, a faery who chose to be a bar-owner in New Orleans rather than live in Elphame.
Then human businessmen start turning up as draugar.
Suddenly, the queen of the again-walkers and the wealthy son of one of the victims, both hire Geneviève to figure it out. She works to keep her magic in check, the dead from crawling out of their graves, and enough money for a future that might be a lotlonger than she’d like. Neither her heart nor her life are safe now that she’s juggling a faery prince, murder, and magic.
tw: self surgery (non-suicidal), death, loss of a loved one
I have been dry heaving for some witchy books. I did not expect to be getting a Bi witch with blue hair and a sword.
Imagine New Orleans with a vampire outbreak except the vampires are actually Draugr, creatures out of mostly forgotten Icelandic folklore. Fifteen years prior, a handsome man was ripped apart on Bourbon Street. Draugrs had existed for centuries but the newly dead started attacking across the nation. Some cities with law after law (and some blood tests) managed to be Draugr free. This is the part where our own world’s threat of COVID-19 seems eerily similar and almost metaphorical. Like Marr’s New Orleans, there is corruption in our own world and people suffer greatly from that.
Gen is a hired hand. A witch warrior with a faery bartender assistant, she goes in to prevent family member’s loved ones from rising and becoming the walking dead. Born of magic and death, our Geneviève.
The magic system is very earthy. Gen’s own magic is completely earth based. Mother: witch. Father: Draugr. She is Draugr and Witch. Her bed has dirt in it, something very like vampire lore. Her prayers are much like what I imagine a real Witch would do. The importance of prayer for witches is significant and that is represented here. I appreciate all the key details to lore and religion that Marr has written into her novel. Gen is also Jewish in addition to being a witch. Since I was born Catholic, and not Jewish, I cannot speak to how Jewish people are represented.
I was Witch. The fire of life and death was in my veins, and I could end a life or create one from the ashes of death. Small dead creatures rested in the soil. The bones of a wolf scattered on the ground as flowers pushed their blossoms between dried remnants of its ribs. The hunter had become the food. His meat had fed the soil, and seeds had sprouted. I could bring wolf and prey to life again.Melissa Marr
Her mother seems like all those classic flower power hippie witches. Gen’s herb and flower growing earth witch mother wanted Gen’s walking dead father to give up everything (meaning his vampy food source) for a ‘vegan lifestyle’ which had me rolling on the floor. It feels like such a nod to a certain sparkly vamp trying to be vegan.
I cannot think of very many Urban Fantasy novels giving a nod to the origins of Urban Fantasy: Faeries. The only other author I know that is writing Faerie’s in urban fantasy is Seanan McGuire.
When I was in high school I used to be a big fan of Marr and Holly Black. I remember Black mentioning in a podcast all these old anthologies from the 80s and 90s. Terri Windling edited these anthologies, the Borderlands. They launched the subgenre now called Urban Fantasy. I am still waiting for Urban Fantasy’s origins with Faerie to come back with the same popularity that werewolves or vampire have been given.
Melissa Marr is here for reader’s like me. Readers that want to see that earthy and urban within cities, where flowers, magic, and sin reside amidst the politics of humans and faerie. I would really love to read those types of stories again. I know that other readers would too.
Gen’s best friend, draugr slaying assistant and faerie bartender reminds me so much of that history. Eli and Gen have a grumpy friendship to resisting love type of relationship. When the story starts, they already know and have feelings for eachother. He offers his castle of drinks and she flirts with him. The sexual tension of a faerie offering you drinks and ancient swords. Sizzle.
You see their development through other means of the narrative. Eli is the softest cuddle bear faerie whose totally willing to torch the entirety of New Orleans for his buttercup warrior witch. He’s constantly referring to Gen by delicious desserts. It’s not done in the way misogynists typically do it but there’s a reason for it and it is very sexy.
I also just find it entirely funny that a soft romantic faerie is calling a rough around the edges warrior Witch cute little nicknames.
Gen placing an importance on her female friendships had me sighing in relief. I still feel Urban Fantasy could work on its female friendships. There is a reason I have strayed from this sub-genre for years. It all sums up to the internalized misogyny. Marr strips and revises the hell out the toxic tropes this genre has been known for. She gives a cast of diverse characters. All those nods to Urban Fantasy’s origins. The Wicked and the Dead reads like the soft earthy magic of Practical Magic but with the hardness of thriller urban fantasy novels.
The romantic cuddle bear Faerie dead gone on his slayer lady love is exactly the shape I want my urban fantasy future to look like. Of all the vodka drinking witches and cupcake faerie beaus slaying monsters in New Orleans I choose this one.
Thank you to Melissa Marr for providing an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes used are from an advanced readers copy and are subject to change.