If you haven't read Kim Harrison's short story in Prom Nights from Hell I urge you to do so before starting this book. The story in Prom Nights will give you the background you need to understand what's going. Harrison eventually doles out the necessary information, but she takes her sweet time and if I hadn't previously read the short story I think I would have been totally lost.
Madison Avery is dead, killed by a dark reaper, Seth. Her spirit should have gone on somewhere else after she died, but she managed to steal Seth's stone necklace. The good news is that it means she can stick around on earth, the bad news is that Seth then stole Madison's body.
She still appears normally to other people, helped out by their belief that she's still alive. (The light reapers altered the memories of those who thought she was dead).
The story begins a few months later, with Madison trying to learn how to use her stone and be a light reaper. Unfortunately, she's never managed to do any of the things a light reaper should be able to do, which frustrates both her and her mentor, the light reaper Barnabas. It seems that light reapers don't so much reap themselves as try to stop dark reapers.
On the training excursion they manage to stop the dark reaper, Nakita, but they're recognized, and so they have to call down a higher up, Chronos (Ron) the light side timekeeper (he can bend time). While reapers are always heavenly beings, only timekeepers are human, although they have a much extended lifespan. Only Chronos can change the resonance of their necklaces so they won't be easy to find.
Chronos wants Barnabas to make a report with him to the Seraphs, the head angels. He leaves Madison behind with a first level guardian angel which she names Grace (the acronym for the unit the guardian angel is from is G.R.A.C.E.S., which I thought was clever).
It's not long before the dark wings (the dark reaper scavengers and scouts) come after Madison and then Josh, the boy she took to the prom but ditched in favor of Seth. She soon learns that while Josh's memory may have been altered, he still dreams about her death. She eventually tells him the truth to keep him from thinking he's going nuts, and, I suspect, because she needs somebody to talk to.
The rest of the book is spent trying to keep Josh alive and figure out how to use the powers in the stone necklace.
The first part of the book was kind of slow, but eventually it picked up and it got extremely interesting in the end.
Harrison does a good job working in the struggles of the new kid trying to fit into a small town. I thought the section where Madison was taking picture at the charity event was extremely well done.
I loved the twist at the end. I think that opens up a lot of potential for the series and I like that light and dark don't equal good and evil. I'm a little confused about the dark reapers though. Is it more of that, you have free will so long as you act the way I want business?