Once Dead, Twice Shy (Madison Avery Series #1)
  • Once Dead, Twice Shy (Madison Avery Series #1)
  • Once Dead, Twice Shy (Madison Avery Series #1)

Once Dead, Twice Shy (Madison Avery Series #1)

3.9 188
by Kim Harrison

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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.

Madison's prom was killer—literally. Now, thanks to a mysterious amulet, she's stuck on Earth: dead but not gone. She has no idea why the dark reaper who did her in was after her, but she

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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.

Madison's prom was killer—literally. Now, thanks to a mysterious amulet, she's stuck on Earth: dead but not gone. She has no idea why the dark reaper who did her in was after her, but she's not about to just sit around and let fate take its course. With a little skilled light-bending, the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys . . . maybe), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison's ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before it takes control of her.

Well, if she believed in that stuff.

Editorial Reviews

Kelley Armstrong
“Harrison injects her young adult debut with style and originality. Rocking good fun, packed full of twists and turns.”
Melissa Marr
“With a Kim Harrison novel, I expect action, humour, worldbuilding, strong female characters, true friendships, and a bit of realistic romance. I found it all right here.”
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
“Abounds with originality and introduces us to rich characters…is sure to introduce [Harrison] to a whole new generation of readers.”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“An amusing and entertaining jaunt of an urban fantasy.”
Publishers Weekly
A seasoned author of supernatural tales, Harrison makes her YA debut with the story of 17-year-old Madison Avery, who is killed by a "dark reaper" named Kairos on her prom night. But by stealing Kairos's amulet in the process, Madison manages to retain her soul. Along with Barnabas, a beautiful "light reaper," and Grace, her guardian angel, Madison plots to repossess her body and protect her prom date from Kairos and from the dark reapers' attempts to control time and fate. Having been content as an outsider ("I was happier being myself-purple hair, loud music, dead, and everything-than trying to fit in"), Madison must build her trust in others in order to save her life and discover her fate-whether or not she even believes in fate. Though rules and explanations seem at times a little too convenient, Harrison weaves an exciting battle, not between good and evil, but between free will and destiny. A compelling blend of mysticism, suspense and surprise make for a quick and pleasurable read. Ages 12-up.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Melanie Hundley
Finding out your dad arranged for the cute guy you were beginning to like to ask you to the prom is bad. Finding out in the middle of prom is worse. As prom nights go, Madison Avery doesn't think hers could get any worse. She finds out that it can when she flees her prom (and the date her father arranged) and survives a horrible car crash, only to be killed by a guy with a large sword. As she's dying, she grabs the guy's necklace and then wakes up several hours later in the morgue. She meets Barnabas, a light reaper, and he helps her get acclimated to her new life. She rescues souls from dark reapers, battles with timekeepers, and meets angels and seraphs—all the while trying to fit in at high school. Reviewer: Melanie Hundley
VOYA - Susan Hampe
Madison Avery was a normal teenage girl until a dark reaper scythed her, killing her by severing her soul from her body. Stealing his amulet, she is given a half life and becomes swept into the war between light reapers, who believe in choice, and dark reapers, who believe in fate. Ruled by the Seraphs, these two sides have been fighting since the dawn of time. Guided by the light reaper Barnabas, Madison must learn how to use the stolen amulet as she aids him in preventing scything when the danger mounts around them. When her amulet is recognized during a scything, the peril deepens as it is revealed that she stole the dark timekeeper's amulet instead of a reaper's amulet, putting even those around her in danger. Harrison's young adult debut is an amusing and entertaining jaunt of an urban fantasy. Based on a previously published short story that is hinted at or glossed over at best, the book has a slow start, which might annoy some readers. The characters are an entertaining bunch from the witty punk lead Madison, to the humorous guardian angel Grace, to the ever arguing reapers. All points considered, the novel is a solid and enjoyable read, great for fans of fantasy. Reviewer: Susan Hampe
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Madison Avery was supposed to die in a staged car accident after her high school prom, but she partially saves herself by taking her killer's amulet and her experiences only get weirder from there. She is being protected by a light reaper, Barnabas, who is having trouble with his job and his boss Ron, the light timekeeper. Her killer, a supernatural human named Kairos, wants his amulet back, and he is the dark timekeeper, in charge of the dark reapers. Madison, in the meantime, is trying to fit in at a new high school in the town where her dad lives. Her mother sent her there from Florida in an effort to put some more control in Madison's life. Barnabas and Ron finally assign a guardian angel to Madison while they try to sort things out in heaven. Because of the angel and the strength of Madison's amulet, Kairos and friends cannot find Madison, so they start tracking Josh, the human who originally took her to prom. Madison finally convinces Josh that she is dead and that he is in danger. After much conniving, Madison and Josh and the guardian angel save the day. Kairos wanted to kill Madison because she was destined to take his place as the dark timekeeper. One gets the feeling there will sequels to this story. This is an enjoyable and well-conceived book for those who believe in supernatural forces such as angels, and it makes readers consider whether light and dark forces really do represent good and evil. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10–With her purple-tipped hair and Goth style, Madison didn’t fit in when she was alive, and she has real problems now that she is dead. She went to the prom with popular and handsome Josh, but when she found out that her dad had arranged the “fix-up,” she ran off with the dangerously charming Kairos. This was a bad idea. Kairos is a dark timekeeper who needed to strike down Madison because his own time was about to run out and when he tried, she stole his amulet. This event sets off a unique adventure in which Madison is stuck somewhere between life and death. Caught up in a world of dark and light reapers, seraphs, and guardian angels, she has to fight to get the correct amulet and to reunite her body and soul so that she can live out a life cut short. The characters and their specific jobs and places in the hierarchy of heaven and earth are hard to follow, perhaps because this first book in the series is the setup for those that follow. The final chapters are by far the best as readers finally get a handle on all of the intricacies of the story and become attached to some of the characters, such as Grace, a funny and charming guardian angel who often speaks in limericks.–Jake Pettit, Thompson Valley High School, Loveland, CO
Kirkus Reviews
This urban fantasy promises attitude and mystery but doesn't deliver. Seventeen-year-old Madison Avery was mostly killed on prom night by a dark reaper, Kairos. Since she stole Kairos's amulet she's technically dead, but for reasons involving Kairos and the morgue, she's still in possession of a corporeal form. Dark reapers are after her, and she's determined to protect herself and the cute boy, Josh, who's a part of the reason she's dead in the first place. Readers may not know that this novel is a followup to the events of Harrison's short story "Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper," which appears in Prom Nights from Hell (2007). The events of that story set the stage for this novel, but the author does a poor job of recapping. She's equally inadequate at connecting the afterworld to Madison's present, explaining the many powers the supernatural creatures have and making readers understand complicated afterlife politics. Madison's thoughts and dialogue are uneven, and the revelation of the reasons behind her unusual death feels anticlimactic. Readers looking for stories of the afterlife are advised to look Elsewhere. (Supernatural. YA)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Madison Avery Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Once Dead, Twice Shy
A Novel

Chapter One

I leaned my shoulder against a rough boulder and fumed. Dappled sunlight shifted upon my sneakers as the wind made my hair tickle my neck. The sound of kids swimming at the nearby lake was loud, but the happy shouts only tightened the knot in my gut. Leave it to Barnabas to try to turn around four months of failed practice in a mere twenty minutes.

"No pressure," I muttered, glancing across the dirt path to the reaper standing against a pine tree with his eyes shut. Barnabas was probably older than fire, but he blended in nicely, with his jeans, black T-shirt, and lanky physique. I couldn't see his wings, which we'd flown in on, but they were there. He was an angel of death with frizzy hair and brown eyes, who wore a pair of holey sneakers. Would that make them holy holey sneakers? I wondered as I nervously rolled a pinecone back and forth under my foot.

Feeling my attention on him, Barnabas opened his eyes. "Are you even trying, Madison?" he asked.

"Duh. Yes," I complained, though I knew this was a lost cause. My gaze dropped to my shoes. Yellow with purple laces, and skulls and crossbones on the toes, they matched the purpledyed tips of my short blond hair, not that anyone else had ever made the connection. "It's too hot to concentrate," I protested.

His eyebrows rose as he looked at my shorts and tank top. I actually wasn't hot, but nerves had made me jittery. I hadn't known that I was going to summer camp when I'd slipped out of the house this morning and rode my bike to the high school to meet Barnabas. But for all my complaining, it felt good to get out of Three Rivers. Thecollege town my dad lived in was okay, but being the new girl sucked eggs.

Barnabas frowned at me. "Temperature has nothing to do with it," he said, and I rolled the bumpy pinecone under my foot even faster. "Feel for your aura. I'm right in front of you. Do it, or I'm taking you home."

Kicking the pinecone away, I sighed. If we went home, whoever we were here to save was going to die. "I'm trying." I leaned against the boulder behind me, reaching up to hold the black stone cradled in silver wire that hung around my neck. At Barnabas's impatient throat-clearing, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine a hazy mist surrounding me. We were attempting to communicate silently with our thoughts. If I could give my thoughts the same color as the haze around Barnabas, my thoughts would slip through his aura and he would hear them. Not an easy thing to do when I couldn't even see his aura. Four months of this odd student/teacher relationship, and I couldn't even get to stage one.

Barnabas was a light reaper. Dark reapers killed people when the probable future showed they were going to go contrary to the grand schemes of fate. Light reapers tried to stop them to ensure humanity's right of choice. Having been assigned to prevent my death, Barnabas must have considered me one of his more spectacular failures.

I hadn't gone gentle into that good night, however. I had whined and protested my early death, and when I stole an amulet from my killer, I'd somehow saved myself. The amulet gave me the illusion of a body. I still didn't know where my real body was. Which sort of bothered me. And I didn't know why I'd been targeted, either.

The amulet had felt like fire and ice when I'd claimed it, shifting from a dull flat gray to a space-deep black that seemed to take in light. But since then... nothing. The more I tried to use it, the more stonelike it was.

Barnabas had now been assigned to shadow me in case the reaper who'd killed me came back for his amulet, and I'd gone back to living as normal a life as I could. Apparently just the fact that I had been able to claim it without blowing my soul to dust made it—and me—rather unique. But watching over me wasn't Barnabas's style, and I knew he couldn't wait to get back to his soul-saving work. If I could just figure this thoughttouching thing out, he could resume his regular duties, leaving me reasonably safe at home and able to contact him if the dark reaper showed up again. But it wasn't happening.

"Barnabas," I said, weary of it, "are you sure I can do this? I'm not a reaper. Maybe I can't touch thoughts with you because I'm dead. Ever think of that?"

Silent, Barnabas dropped his gaze to the pine-rimmed lake. The worried lift to his shoulders told me he had. "Try again," he said softly.

I tightened my grip until the silver wires pressed into my fingers, trying to imagine Barnabas in my thoughts, his easy grace that most high schoolers lacked, his attractive face, his riveting smile. Honest, I wasn't crushing on him, but every angel of death I'd seen had been attractive. Especially the one who'd killed me.

Despite the long nights on my roof practicing with Barnabas, I hadn't been able to do anything with the shimmery black stone. Barnabas had been hanging around so much that my dad thought he was my boyfriend, and my boss at the flower shop thought I should take out a restraining order.

I pushed myself away from the rock. "I'm sorry, Barnabas. You go on and do your thing. I'll sit here and wait. I'll be fine." Maybe this was why he'd brought me. I'd be safer waiting for him here than several hundred miles away—alone. I wasn't sure, but I think Barnabas had lied to his boss about my progress in order to get out and working again. An angel lying—yup, it happened, apparently.

Once Dead, Twice Shy
A Novel
. Copyright © by Kim Harrison. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Melissa Marr
“With a Kim Harrison novel, I expect action, humour, worldbuilding, strong female characters, true friendships, and a bit of realistic romance. I found it all right here.”
Kelley Armstrong
“Harrison injects her young adult debut with style and originality. Rocking good fun, packed full of twists and turns.”

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