Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison is the first full length novel in the Madison Avery series. I had previously been introduced to Madison when I read a short story "Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper" by Kim Harrison in the Prom Nights From Hell collection which turned out to be the prequel to Once Dead, Twice Shy. At the time I wrote that the story had "more potential which instead of fulfilling she saved for her actual novels" so when I had the opportunity to listen to the first novel on audio book and find out if that was the case, it seemed like the perfect way to spend my walk to work."My name is Madison Avery, and I'm here to tell you that there's more out there than you can see, hear, or touch. Because I'm there. Seeing it. Touching it. Living it."
When Once Dead, Twice Shy begins, Madison is adjusting to life as a dead girl after being prematurely killed on her prom night by a Dark Reaper. The only thing keep Madison from vanishing is the amulet she stole from her killer. The Light Reaper Barnabas is trying to teach her how to use her amulet to communicate with him through thoughts, but despite all the nights they've spent practicing- Madison doesn't need to sleep now that she's dead- it's just not happening. When Madison has a run in with a Dark Reaper, she learns the reason she can't get her amulet to work is that the guy she stole it from wasn't a Dark Reaper at all but a Dark Time Keeper. While Barnabas and the Light Time Keeper go off to petition to allow Madison to keep the amulet anyway, she's assigned a guardian angel who speaks mostly in limericks. Madison and the guardian angel who she names Grace, are also trying to protect Josh, the guy Madison ditched at the prom the night she was killed. From that point forward the book is mostly an effort in keeping Josh alive and Madison from having her soul taken, and it takes place over only a couple days.
Although I didn't originally think it was necessary, once I got into Once Dead, Twice Shy I was extremely grateful I'd read the short story first, as the world Harrison has created is extremely complicated with guardian angels and reapers and time keepers, and it's hard to keep track of at first. That said my biggest issues with the novel weren't with the paranormal world Harrison has invented but rather with the human one. Madison is supposed to be a rebel girl, because, as Harrison points out every few sentences, she has purple tips in her hair and wears skull and crossbones on her clothing. These repeated descriptions seem as if they are attempted to make Madison seem cool and hardcore, but instead it comes across as dated as Define Normal by Julie Anne Peters did but at least that book had the excuse of having been published a decade ago, Once Dead, Twice Shy is from 2009!
It's not just the clothing that comes across as dated though, I appreciate the attempt to write a "clean" book but Madison repeatedly uses made up swears like "son of a dead puppy" which sound even more ridiculous when listening to them on audio book. It's just unbelievable that any teen, especially one so rebellious she was sent to live with her father by her mom for being out of control, would speak the way Harrison writes. That said, I actually did enjoy the audio book reader Mandy Siegfried with the exception of when she did this rasping voice for the female Dark Reaper, Nakita, which was a bit strange. I found Siegfried enjoyable to listen to, and young enough sounding that it she worked well as a teenage narrator.
I was actually really excited going into Once Dead, Twice Shy despite my normal aversion to paranormal. Not only does the book feature a heroine with a backbone, but it's also not all focused on gushy romance both of which are aspects I found really refreshing. Unfortunately, Harrison inability to create believable teenage characters as well as the overcomplicated paranormal world results in Once Dead, Twice Shy being a book I will definitely not be picking up twice.
Release Date: July 1st, 2009
Pages: 256 (6 h 3 min)
Source: Audio book
Buy the Book