Harper Blaine is headed for the Twilight Zone -- and by that, I mean Forks and the Olympic Peninsula. Thankfully there are no sparkly vampires or drooling fangirls.
No, we've got a slew of Chinese demons, magically cursed lakes, voodoo zombies and dead bodies turned into soap. Awesome. Kat Richardson's "Downpour" does suffer a little from barely following up on the last Greywalker novel, but it's a strong urban fantasy with plenty of murky gothic Pacific Northwest atmosphere.
After her third death, Harper finds that her Grey powers have been diminished. But not so diminished that she can't hear the pleas of a faint ghost named Steven Leung. So Harper heads out to the Lake Crescent area to find his body and uncover who killed the poor man -- and finds the place swarming with strange, dangerous creatures.
It turns out that the "cursed" lake and the bizarre creatures (monstrous guai, undead deer) are connected to Leung's surviving family, the domineering Jewel and the elusive wild Willow, as well as a bitter ranger, a crazy old man, Chinese demons and a a ley weaver. One of these lake people is a cold-blooded murderer, and Harper might be next if she keeps investigating.
I was a little disappointed in "Downpour" at first, because it seemed to almost avoid the fact that Harper was pretty much dead at the end of the previous book. She doesn't seem to have any physical or mental scars from it, and it's only really mentioned in passing. Fortunately that's the only big pothole in the story.
The rest of it is rich and developed. Richardon writes the story as a sort of Pacific Northwest gothic -- dark, rainy and murky, with shimmering Grey magic and lots of twisted grudges and family struggles. Richardson's writing has become even stronger, with lots of eerie horror moments ("The hand-spider dissolved, leaving nothing but skeleton fingers clothed in tatters of rotten flesh"), as well as scintillating beauty (the ley weaver and its, um, Art).
And I love that instead of the usual faerie/vampire/werewolf mixes, Richardson includes some very non-mainstream monsters (white-faced demons with burned-branch horns) and magical systems.
And unlike many other authors, who give their heroines power-ups until they achieve God Mode Sue, Richardson gives her heroine a power-DOWN. This is a pleasant surprise, and it means Harper becomes more vulnerable, and depends more on her brains and wits than on her magical skills. And her relationship with Quinton takes a few more steps forward, linking them in a surprising new way.
"Downpour" doesn't follow up much on the previous book, but it's a solid gothic urban-fantasy. Also, it makes a nice alternative to "Twilight" -- all the Pacific Northwest scenery, none of the whining and antifeminism.