Fate or Free Will? Destiny or Choice?

Early to Death, Early to Rise by Kim Harrison is the sequel to Once Dead, Twice Shy. The narrator is a teenage girl named Madison who suddenly has the fate of sinners in her hands. It’s a lot of responsibility, and she doesn’t agree with how she is supposed to deal with them.

“Now it’s my responsibility to send a dark reaper to end a person’s earthy existence. The idea is to save their soul at the cost of their life. Fate, the seraphs would say. But I don’t believe in fate; I believe in choice, which means I’m in charge of the very people I once fought against”

Early to Death, Early to Rise (Madison Avery, #2)Madison believes that she can prevent future Hitlers by reasoning with them rather than killing them before they have a chance to create the tragedy the angels predict they will. The dark reapers would kill baby Hitler and the light reapers would give him a guardian angel to protect him from the dark reapers. Have you seen Minority Report? Imagine the precogs screaming “Murder!” now what to do you do? Madison can’t agree with either side and she wants to use her new position of power to initiate change in how the dark reapers handle a reap.

This book is about her attempt to change one man’s fate without killing him, and trying not to allow for casualties because of her leniency.

It all sounds very heavy with big concepts like destiny but Harrison manages to make it a smooth refreshing read. There’s humour, especially in the portrayal of the supporting characters. Nikkita and Barnabas are reapers trying to pass as humans, and while they have no trouble with battles and life and death they can’t seem to blend in, avoid detention or get along. Madison’s banter and silly expressions like “puppy present on a rug” or “my dad’s going to have kittens!” are really funny even if they are just Harrison trying to avoid having swears in her book.

Good and evil are blurred, and I like that. There is no dark lord who must be defeated, no perfect champion, just flawed (as in human) characters who do what they think is best. Even if they are mistaken or misguided they believe they are justified in their actions, and that’s more believable than those villains who are just EVIL.

I really enjoyed Madison’s realization that our memories make us who we are

“It’s why we make the choices we do. How do you expect anyone to change if you smother the past in a lie?”

What we experiences shapes us as people. If we don’t learn from mistakes or feel guilty about hurting someone why would we not just do the same terrible things over and over?

Harrison’s character development is great when it comes to Madison. The things she misses about being corporial, her fashion sense, the way she worries about her dad, her unwillingness to give up on people…I really like the narrator and that’ s a big selling point for me. I’d like Barnabas to be fleshed out more.

I really enjoyed this book and the third book is on my TBR list for next year!


Don’t Fear The Reaper

cover art of once dead, twice shyYes that’s an awesome song by Blue Oyster cult, and the song is actually mentioned in the amazing book Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison. I was having mixed feelings about running Angel Month for Teen Tuesdays after I read Hush, Hush but Harrison’s novel has me enthused again.

Free will vs. Fate is the big debate this book will spark, and I love a good debate or any book that makes you think about big picture concepts.

What I found most interesting about Once Dead, Twice Shy is the angel mythology that is either new or different from what I am familiar with. That reapers are a kind of angels, and there are different classes of angels within the dark and the light is fascinating stuff.

I love that the dark and the light are not completely clear. With the “dark” angel having white wings and the “light” reaper having grey wings, the ambiguity of their place in the universe as good or bad is seen on a literal level. There is no pure evil and pure good that you might expect in such a story, and both free will and fate make some good arguments.

Everything I felt was lacking in Hush, Hush I found here.

  • Angel mythology
  • A character I liked and related to
  • Male characters who weren’t pigs, masculine minus the stalker/violent syndrome
  • Personality over power (cool powers but they don’t overpower the story)

I will definitely be looking for more by Kim Harrison!