Debut Review – Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding

Three Days to Dead

Kelly Meding (website)
Mass market paperback, $7.99

Reviewed by Raven

A murdered woman wakes up in the morgue, in a stranger’s body, with three days to figure out who killed her and why. After those three days are up, she’ll be dead for good. With that plot, I couldn’t pass this up. It’s 100% high-concept, as they say in Hollywood. You can hook your audience on the plot with one sentence (okay, maybe two). I got hooked, at any rate.


She’s young, deadly, and hunted—with only three days to solve her own murder…

When Evangeline Stone wakes up naked and bruised on a cold slab at the morgue – in a stranger’s body, with no memory of who she is and how she got there – her troubles are only just beginning.  Before that night, she and the other two members of her Triad were star bounty hunters — mercilessly cleansing the city of the murderous creatures living in the shadows, from vampires to shape-shifters to trolls. Then something terrible happened that not only cost all three of them their lives, but also convinced the city’s other Hunters that Evy was a traitor . . . and she can’t even remember what it was.

Now she’s a fugitive, piecing together her memory, trying to deal some serious justice – and discovering that she has only three days to solve her own murder before the reincarnation spell wears off. Because in three days, Evy will die again – but this time, there’s no second chance…

However, one of the downsides of a high-concept plot is sometimes the book (or movie) ends up being mostly plot-driven, and characters don’t get developed as fully as readers (or viewers) might like. That was the biggest problem I had with Three Days to Dead.

The plot itself was fine. It hit all the right beats in the right places and included a twist I hadn’t predicted to get the characters out of a tight spot near the end (I did predict the subsequent twist on this twist). The story was resolved satisfyingly. But as someone who reads for character, I felt a lack.

Evy Stone, the murdered protagonist, is a bounty hunter who hunts “Dregs,” non-human creatures who would love to replace humanity with themselves. Actually, not all of these creatures are bad, and Evy doesn’t hunt indiscriminately. The novel includes a bunch of supernatural races, some pure evil, others less straightforward. Kelly Meding even manages to get away with elves.

Now, Evy should have been a character I’d enjoy spending time with. I tend to go for dark characters with gray morality and trauma and tragedy in their pasts. It doesn’t get much more traumatic than dead, and I think you could say as a bounty hunter operating on the fringes of society, Evy’s in the gray zone. Granted, she had some strikes against her. She’s a kickass female urban fantasy protagonist, and I’ve kind of had my fill of those. But I went into the novel hoping I’d like her because I liked the novel’s hook so much.

But I had trouble empathizing with Evy. Actually, there was only one character I found myself empathizing with, and he wasn’t major AND he got killed off (it’s not a spoiler since I’m not telling you who he is). The characters served the plot well, but they didn’t give me the emotional connection I was looking for. That made this novel less memorable and engaging than it could have been. Also, if a novel is the first in a series, which this one is, and has a self-contained plot, which this one does, then the main reason I’d go out and buy the next book would be I couldn’t get enough of the characters. If the characters didn’t leave as much of an impression on me as I would have liked, I probably won’t buy the next book (or get it as a review copy).

Of course, not everyone is like me. I’d love to hear from other people on why they continue to buy the books in a series.

My final verdict on Three Days to Dead: For fans of highly plot-driven urban fantasy with a kickass female protagonist, I can recommend Three Days to Dead as a read you’ll probably enjoy. But if you read for character, you might want to browse significant chunks of this novel to make sure Evy’s going to work for you before you commit.

11 Thoughts to “Debut Review – Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding”

  1. Tia Nevitt

    I can’t believe how this worked out — two reviews back-to-back featuring plot-driven novels with protagonists named Evangeline.

    Kickass female protagonists don’t bother me, and this book actually doesn’t have any turnoffs for me. Can you say why Evy didn’t work for you? Do you think you would have liked her with more character building? Which might come in a second novel?

    Interesting questions about why I keep reading books in a series. I’ve finished books where I was certain that I would read the next book, but when it finally came out, the anticipation has worn off. For this reason, I can see why many book publishers release books in a series back-to-back. However, that doesn’t always work either. I can easily need a break from a series that I’m enjoying. For example, I’m still reading the Gaslight Mysteries, because I’ll only read three books in the series at a time.

    What surprises me is when I develop anticipation for the next book over time. When I finish the book, I think, it’s pretty good. But when the next one comes out, I’m really ready to read it. This happened with Acacia, and I’m still pretty ready for The Name of the Wind to come out as well. So for me, a two year gap actually works pretty well. Recently the second book came out in another series that I enjoyed, but I’m having trouble getting back into it. This time, the second book came out too soon for me.

    However, because I am a book reviewer, I have different reading priorities and pressures than most people. The second book has to make me want to set all that aside. My behavior was quite different before I started reviewing books.

    1. The funny thing is I can’t say exactly what was missing for me in Evy’s characterization. As I mentioned, she should have been a character I’d like. But she felt flat to me. Some of it may have been a lack of specific quirks and traits that set her apart as a character. Some may have been the voice chosen for her by the author, which was serviceable but not striking. But I guess I have to fall back on saying overall she just wasn’t developed enough for me. And yes, the second novel might develop her further.

      Publishers have a tough job trying to estimate the ideal pace for releasing a series so the greatest number of readers will be ready to pick up the next book. I can’t remember any specific instances where I’ve developed greater interest in the next book over time, although I do need to be in the right mood for what I read. If I’m not, I just won’t start it (although I’ll buy it if I know I want to read it eventually).

      I had a strange experience recently where I browsed the latest book in a series I’d given up on… and ended up buying and reading it. So I now own #1, #2, and #5, but I haven’t read #3 or #4, which I have no interest in (I didn’t finish #2 either). 😐

  2. Chicory

    I’d have to agree that characters are the big draw for reading on in a series. Another draw is the author’s voice. The biggest thing is a really terrific ending. But then, if you don’t care about the characters, the ending isn’t going to have that impact. Maybe a combination of all three? Great characters, engaging voice, and a terrific ending? But that’s like saying `I like a well written book’ which doesn’t actually tell you anything.

    1. Hehe, I hear you. Those things *are* all super-important, though. 🙂

    2. Tia Nevitt

      I’ve read novels where the execution of the writing was actually sub-par, but the characters were so wonderful that I loved the novel anyway. So for me, story trumps well-written novels.

      Voice does it for me as well. If I really love a voice, it will make the book stay with me. I loved the voice for Kimberly Frost’s Southern Witch series, and T. H. White’s Once and Future King (to pick some rather oppose examples!)

      1. I can forgive a certain amount of poor execution if I’m really enjoying something about the novel (usually characters & voice). But if a novel’s too poorly executed, it’s probably poor in all areas.

  3. For me, I think the most important element is not just the characters, but their relationships. Not that I won’t follow a series for other reasons, but the books I love the most – the ones I keep picking up for “just a peek” after I’m finished – are ones with Something Special between two or more characters. I don’t mean just romantic relationships, tho those can be involved. So can siblings, cousins, parents and children, friends, and so on. {Smile} For instance, I love the way Neddy worries about his little sister, Rose in Edith Patou’s East. {SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    1. That’s a good point. That’s part of what makes a memorable character for me, too. It’s not just the character but his/her interactions with other characters.

      1. I can learn a lot about characters when they’re by themselves. However, if they aren’t interacting with other people or thinking about/remembering interacting with other people, I’m just not as interested. Those aren’t the scenes I go back to. {Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  4. Crono

    Just finished this book, and I didn’t like it at all. The main problem was that the narrating voice was simply boring, and the plot events weren’t good at all. And all the revelations made throughout the book just fell flat.

    1. Hmm, sounds like neither plot *nor* characters worked for you! Sorry to hear it.

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