FINDING A SERIES OR AN AUTHOR:

USING THE PAGE TABS (ABOVE) TO FIND A SERIES OR AUTHOR:

Only the most recent posts pop up on the HOME page. For searchable lists of titles/series reviewed on this Blog, click on one of the Page Tabs above. On each Page, click on the series name to go directly to my review.

AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kim Harrison: THE HOLLOWS/RACHEL MORGAN SERIES


Author:  Kim Harrison (aka Dawn Cook)

Series:  THE HOLLOWS/RACHEL MORGAN  
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher and Titles:  Eos
      Dead Witch Walking (2008)
      The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (2008) 
   “Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil” in Dates from Hell (2006)
      Every Which Way but Dead (2008)
      A Fistful of Charms (2008)
      “Dirty Magic” in Hotter Than Hell (2008)
      For a Few Demons More (2007)
      "The Bridges of Eden Park" (in mass market ed. of For a Few Demons More)
      “Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel” in the Holidays Are Hell (2007)
      
The Outlaw Demon Wails (2008)
     "The Bespelled" in mass market ed. of The Outlaw Demon Wails and in Demons anthology (2011) (Click HERE to read this story on line. Click on "Table of Contents" tab above cover art and scroll down to "Other Back Matter") 
      White Witch Black Curse (2009)
      “Ley Line Drifter” in Unbound (2009)
      Black Magic Sanction (2010)
      Pale Demon (2011)
      Blood Work (graphic novel by Del Rey, 2011—a prequel story about Ivy and Rachel's early days together at IS)
      A Perfect Blood (2/2012)
      Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows & Beyond (compilation of shorts) (10/2012)
      Blood Crime (graphic novel of Rachel & Ivy's early years) (10/2012)
      Ever After (1/2013)
      The Undead Pool (2/2014)
      The Witch with No Name (9/2014) (FINAL)
      The Hollows Insider: New Fiction, Facts, Maps, Murders, and More in the World of Rachel Morgan (10/2011)

     This post was revised and updated on 10/2/14 to include a review of The Witch with No Name, the 13th (and FINAL) novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of novels 9 through 12.        

               BOOK 13: The Witch with No Name                

     This is a terrific finale to a one of most fascinating and well-written urban fantasy series I have ever read. I'm always afraid to read the final novel in a long series (especially a series that I absolutely LOVE), but I am happy to say that this time, my fears were unfounded. Harrison has put together an action-filled, intricately plotted story that resolves all of the major conflicts that arose in previous books. One of the most mind-boggling statements is made near the end by Rachel when she, Jenks, and Ivy once more head off together into danger. Jenks says, "Just like old times." And Rachel scoffs, "Old times…We've only been doing this for three years." (p. 373) Yes folks, this entire series has taken place within a three-year time span! It hardly seems possible. 

Here is the publisher's blurb:


     Rachel Morgan's come a long way from the clutzy runner of Dead Witch Walking. She's faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She's crossed worlds, channeled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She's lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has become something much more. But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price. That time is now. To save Ivy's soul and the rest of the living vampires, to keep the demonic ever after and our own world from destruction, Rachel Morgan will risk everything.     

     Now, here is a list of the primary issues Rachel has to deal with in this final book:

    > Rachel is still surrounded by the elven mystics, which is a major turn-off for the demons, who hate elven magic. Both Trent and Rachel fear that the mystics will either lead the elven Goddess to her or will suck her into the void. And it nearly happensmore than once: "…a remembered soothing numbness stole out from between the cracks of reality, rising up to envelop me, dissolving me in the words slowly spinning in the circle of sound and lassitude." (p. 190) Also, the elven Goddess, Cormel, and Landon are still looking for Rachel with death, punishment, and/or servitude on their minds. Rachel's major task is to figure out once and for all how to reunite undead vampires with their soulseven if it is a very bad ideaand then to deal with the consequences.

    > Trent has lost his fortune, his influence, and his position as the elven leader. Rachel fears that it is her fault and that if she had given him up he would still be rich and powerful. She knows that the elves will never accept Trent as their leader if she, a demon, is by his side. Trent keeps trying to tell her that she is more important to him than anything he lost, but her self-image is so low that she can’t make herself believe him. She keeps telling herself that Trent would be better off with Lucy's mother, Ellasbeth (so lots of Rachel-angst about that problem).  

    > Elspeth Withons is still trying to get custody of the children, Lucy and Ray, and she will use any means at her disposal. Although Elspeth hates Rachel’s demon heritage, she eventually begins to realize that Rachel has the best interests of Trent and the children at heart.

    Algaliarept (Al) is still furious with Rachel for her rejection of him, her continued involvement with Trent, and her use of elven magic (i.e., the mystics).
           
    > Rynn Cormel is commanding Rachel to give him his soulright now. Rachel doesn’t want to do it because she knows that having a soul will make him feel such horrific guilt for all of the bad things he has done that it will drive him to suncide. Cormel's method of motivating Rachel is to threaten to kill Ivy if Rachel doesn’t do as he demands.

    > Ivy is terrified of dying a second time and becoming an undead vampire, thus losing her soul. She loves Nina, but has to be on the alert at all times to keep Nina’s strong emotions under control, and sometimes she needs Rachel's help with that.

    > Nina is still possessed by the evil Felix, who has forced many of his strong emotions on her. She is too young a vampire to handle them, so she is unstable much of the time, but she loves Ivy unequivocally. Meanwhile, Felix also wants his soul back, which will have a major downside for Nina.  

    > Landon is the diabolical elf who now heads the elven dewar and who previously tried to kill Rachel. Unbelievably, he tricks Rachel and Trent into using a curse that has horrific ramifications. In fact, all the way through the book, Landon goes after Rachel and Trent, trying to hurt them, kill them, and publicly blame them for a series of really bad deeds that he and his elves carry out.

     I'm not going to go into any detail on the way the story lines play out because to get the most enjoyment, you really need to read your way through the book yourself. Rachel has come a long way since she was a loner who worked as a runner for Inderland Security (I.S.). Now, she has a familial network of people who trust her, depend on her, support her, and love her. She has had to overcome many obstacles and has had to adjust to both the pros and cons of her growing powers (both elven and demon). Along the way, she has continued to be selfless in her support of those who need her, even though they sometimes double-cross her or let her down. Her heart has been broken (sigh…poor Kisten); she has been turned into a mink (by Trent); she has fought all kinds of monsters; and she has even served as a werewolf alpha (for insurance purposes). When she finally realizes how much Trent loves her, she muses, "It was a frightening thing to have the love of someone so determined, resolute, and unafraid of committing a great wrong for his personal right…I hoped I survived it."

     As I look back on the series, I think that Trent may have changed even more than Rachel. He began as the evil antagonista drug-dealing, murdering, cut-throat business tycoon. Then, as he and Rachel began to interact, even saving each other's lives a few times, he became sort of an anti-hero. Now he's Rachel's soul mate, for the first time living a life that he really enjoys. Although it was fun to watch the two of them battle one another so viciously in the early books, it's also great to see them together: two smart and powerful people who have learned the hard way that going it alone isn't the best way to live.   

     Even Al makes some major personality adjustments (and life-style alterations) in this novel as he deals with the large-scale and personal changes that occur in his life. To give you a clue as to how great those changes are, here's a word that describes Al in one part of this book: babysitter. Doesn't that concept alone make you want to read the book?

     Here are some of my high and low ratings for the series:
      Best book: Pale Demon (danger-filled road trip with Rachel and Trent steeped in simmering sexual tensionneed I say more?)
      Weirdest book: A Fistful of Charms (missing werewolf artifact, weaselly ex-boyfriend Nick, jumbo-sized Jenks, scuba diving in Michiganit's a very odd mix)
      Best ex-boyfriend: Kisten Phelps (sexy and tragic)
      Worst ex-boyfriend: Nick Sparagmos (a lying scumbag)
      Best snarky comments and inventive curse words: Jenks
      Most heartbreaking deaths: Kisten, Matalina, and Ceri
      Most vicious villain: Ku'Sox Sha-Ku'ru
      Most pompous, underhanded loser: Ellasbeth (She never learns from her mistakes, and it's such fun to see her fail, time and time again.)
      Craziest demon: Newt
      Wiliest demon: Al

     At this point, all I can say is that if you haven't read this series, you're missing out on a lot of great urban fantasy reading. Please don't start with this book, though. Go back to the beginning and follow Rachel, Ivy, Jenks, and Trent chronologically as they try to survive and prosper in magical Cincinnati.  

               WORLD-BUILDING              
     Rachel Mariana Morgan is a powerful earth witch in Cincinnati, a city divided into the human side north of the Ohio River and the Hollows (the supernatural, or Inderlander, side) south of the river. Rachel is an urban fantasy heroine, so naturally her childhood had some imperfections—most importantly, a potentially fatal disease and some genetic experimentation, which have had an ever-increasing influence on the rest of her life. Throughout the series, Rachel is constantly torn between her white-witch (good) side and her dark-witch (demonic) side, with the dark side slowly growing in influence no matter how hard she fights it. Each time Rachel uses dark (demon) magic, more smut gets added to her aura.    

     In this world, a virus spread through biogenetically engineered tomatoes 40 years ago, wiping out a quarter of the world’s human population and leaving the world almost equally divided between humans and supernatural beings (aka Interlanders). This event is referred to as the Turn, reflecting the Interlanders’ decision to go public and demand equal power. Currently, distrust and animosity run deep between the two groups. Click HERE for an annotated list of the Inderland races that describes the basic elements of the mythology for each race.

      Two agencies police the masses: the Federal Inderland Bureau (FIB), run by the humans, and Inderland Security (I.S.), run by the supernaturals. Rachel starts out as an I.S. bounty hunter, but quits to make it on her own. Throughout the series, the I.S. is constantly on her back, making life difficult for Rachel and her friends.  

      Rachel’s partners throughout the series are her roommate, Ivy, a bisexual vampire who yearns for Rachel to be her scion (causing a number of sensual blood-lust scenes in the early books), and Jenks, a male pixy, who lives in Rachel’s garden with his wife and fifty-four children. When Rachel and Ivy move into a desanctified church, they inherit Bis, a young gargoyle who serves as a sentinel.  

      Other ongoing characters are Algaliarept (“Al”), the demon who’s out to drag Rachel back to the hellish ever-after as his slave; Trent Kalamack, a  dangerous, drug-dealing, elven mobster who has know Rachel since childhood; Quentin, Trent’s bodyguard; and Ceri, Al’s former slave. Supporting characters in the early books include Nick, Rachel’s ne’er-do-well human boyfriend; Kisten, Rachel’s vampire lover; and David, her werewolf friend and pack alpha. A supporting character (and love interest) in the later books is Pierce, a black witch who was buried alive by the Coven and resurrected by Rachel. Among these characters, the one who changes the most during the series is Trent, who begins as Rachel's bitter enemy but eventually becomes her friend...and more.

      Plots include near-constant demon, vampire, and werewolf battles as Rachel battles the bad guys and gets closer and closer to losing her soul each time she is tempted to use black (demon) magic. Levels of sensuality vary widely from book to book, depending upon Rachel's current romantic situation. 

     In terms of read-alikes, the series has some close parallels to Jim Butcher's HARRY DRESDEN FILES. Another series in which a witch battles her dark side is Stacia Kane's DOWNSIDE GHOSTS series. 

     Here is Harrison’s answer (from her web site) to the FAQ about the reason behind her Clint Eastwood titles: "Why the Clint titles? There is a reason. I've always liked the characters that Clint Eastwood has played, especially the westerns where the guy comes in off the plain, able to solve the town's problems with a bully, but not all that eager to, but after some persuasion, he does. Not only does he take care of business, but he does it in a just, not necessarily legal way. I sort of see Rachel like that, if Clint had a pixy instead of a gun, and a convertible instead of a horse."  

     Click HERE to go to a page on Harrison's web site that describes The Hollows Insider, a companion book to the series. Click HERE to read my reviews of Blood Work and Blood Crime, the first two HOLLOWS graphic novels. Click HERE to go to the Hollows Wiki, an excellent source of information about the characters and plots. Click HERE to go to Harrison's FAQ page where she explains why she chose Cincinnati as the setting for THE HOLLOWS. Click HERE for a nice analysis of all of Rachel's boyfriends.

               NOVEL 9:  Pale Demon               
            In this terrific novel, Rachel goes on a road trip to the West Coast with Ivy, Jenks, and Trent. Can you imagine that unlikely group confined to a car for days on end? It goes just as badly as you can imagine. Rachel is headed to San Francisco for her life-or-death Coven hearing, and Trent is on a mysterious elven quest to Seattle. In St. Louis, the group is attacked by elven assassins in a scene that changes that city’s landscape. Further along, they are attacked by a demon that even other demons fear—the powerful and crazy Ku’sox—who is after Rachel, and not in a good way. Attacks keep coming even after they reach San Francisco, this time by Rachel's fellow witches, who want her dead for practicing black magic and for knowing some dark secrets about the history of witches.

     In the final chapters, Rachel’s personal life and her relationships with all of her friends (and enemies) undergo tremendous changes. The story leaves us hanging, holding our breath until the next book, when Rachel will be forced to make a fateful decision about her future. This novel adds greatly to our knowledge about the demons and their life in the ever-after. We also get to see a different side of Trent, as his quest changes his life forever. In one of my favorite scenes, Trent has a bowl of tomato soup in a roadside restaurant—a milestone for Trent because he has always hidden his elven heritage and tried to pass for human—and in this world, only supernaturals can eat tomatoes (for reasons explained in the World-Building section above). Pale Demon includes no sensual scenes, but it does have many scenes with high levels of violence.

               NOVEL 10:  A Perfect Blood               
     As the story opens, Rachel is dealing with the ramifications of the events in Pale Demon when she inadvertently created devastating changes in the ever-after and began her new life as a demon. Currently, Rachel is wearing Trent's magic-dampening bracelet, which hides her from the demon world but which also prevents her from using demon magic. That meansas Trent keeps warning herthat she is essentially living without magical protection in a world full of enemies. At this point in time, Rachel is back in Cincinnati trying to cope with her new life. Here she explains why the coven declared her a demon and took away her identity as a witch: "I'd been born a witch, but my blood kindled demon magic and the way the coven of moral and ethical standards saw it was that if looked like a demon, did magic like a demon, and could be summoned like a demon, it was a demon." (p. 35) Problematically for Rachel, her new demon identity means that she no longer has the rights of a U.S. citizen, so the simplest tasks become a bureaucratic nightmarelike trying to get a driver's license.

     In the midst of Rachel's struggle to get her license, she is summoned by an ancient I.S. vampire to a murder scene, where she is shocked to learn that she is the chief suspect. Unbeknownst to the general public, a serial killer has been leaving horrifically mutilated corpses strewn about the city. In each case, the victim was a witch who has been partially morphed into a demon. Soon, Rachel and the I.S. have a new suspect: HAPA, Humans Against Paranormal Association, an organization of fanatics who want all Inderlanders dead. Most people believe that HAPA disbanded years ago, but Rachel discovers that the I.S. knows that HAPA is alive and well and that it has been keeping that knowledge a secret. When the I.S. threatens to pin the murders on Rachel if she doesn't track down and capture the killer(s), Rachel calls in the FIB.

     Two new characters join the series in this book: Wayde, Rachel's new bodyguard (paid for by her birth father), is determined to watch over Rachel even when she doesn't want his protection. Felix is an ancient I.S. vampire who takes over the body of Nina, the head of the motor vehicles office where Rachel has been unsuccessfully trying to get her license. He's the one who threatens Rachel with punishment if she doesn't catch the perpetrator of the murders.

     The story follows Rachel as she and her crew attempt to track down the HAPA fanatics who are experimenting with the blood of selected witches in an attempt to manufacture demon blood that they plan to use as a weapon against all Inderlanders. At one point, the HAPA operatives capture Rachel and are thrilled to discover that she has the titular "perfect blood" for their task. By the end of the book, Rachel and Trent have proof that HAPA has infiltrated the FIB, and they have made contact with a mysterious black-ops-type organization that is trying to eliminate all of the HAPA operatives. This will no doubt be the story line for the next book.

     The action-filled HAPA scenes are interspersed with scenes in which Rachel watches her friends in their happy relationships and pines for someone to share her life. Ivy has Glenn; Trent and Ceri have their children; and even Jenks has a budding relationship with the fairy, Belle. One important focus in this novel is on Rachel's relationship with Trent, which has taken a dramatic turn in the past two books. The two are learning to trust one another, and Harrison does a great job with showing the hesitancy on both sides as they take baby steps toward a true friendshipone that may well become much deeper. In one dramatic scene, Trent stands unconditionally by Rachel as she removes her magic-suppressing bracelet and deals with the immediate, enraged appearance of Al, who is furious because Rachel left him with a big mess on his hands in the ever-after after she faked her own death. Trent continues to support Rachel throughout this book, even explaining away some of his past dastardly actions as being attempts to help or protect her. 

     In this book we also see Rachel come to terms with the responsibilities that come with her powers. She realizes, for example, that she must eventually deal with the damage she did to the ever-after. In a powerful sequence, she promises to help a woman who was demonized by HAPA, and even though Rachel is terribly afraid of failure, she stretches her magic to make good on her promise. Here, Rachel muses about the fine line she walks between light and dark magic: "Was it okay to use a demon curse to catch a person committing a horrendous crime? What if the curse looked benign? Was using 'dead-man's toe' morally okay if the man's relatives had knowingly sold him for parts? Was it okay if they hadn't, but using it would keep a sick wacko organization from making more tragedies...? I didn't know, and I was too tired to figure it out.....Finding effective curses that didn't violate my moral code was getting harder, but I wasn't going to succumb to fast, easy, cheap, morally wrong magic. I was a demon, but I was not demonic." (pp. 305-306)

     Just as an aside: In one inadvertently humorous scene that occurred after a vampire killed a HAPA operative named Kenny, I was reminded of the final line in a typical South Park episode. One of the other HAPA fanatics exclaims, "That putrid clot in the suit killed Kenny!" Doesn't that sound just like Cartman? (Although Cartman would have called him a "putrid clot bas----.")  

               BOOK 11:  Ever After               

     In this book, Rachel must deal with her old nemesis, Ku'Sox Sha-Ku'ru, the vicious and psychotic demon she first met back in Pale Demon. This time, Ku'Sox has a diabolical scheme to destroy the ever-after and blame it on Rachel. What Ku'Sox has done is damage the ley lines so badly that they are causing the ever-after to begin shrinking away into nothingness. Since the demons know that Rachel damaged the ley lines (in a previous book), they hold a "trial" that ends with their demand that she fix the lines within four days or die. Unfortunately for Rachel, even though both she and the demons know that Ku'Sox is really at fault for this huge magical problem, the demons are terrified of Ku'Sox and besides, Rachel doesn't have solid proof of his guilt. The plot follows Rachel as she attempts to fix the ley lines and avoid death.

     If this were Rachel's only problem, the situation would be dire enough, but Rachel's problems always come in multiples, and this is no exception. Early on, she learns that babies with Rosewood syndrome are being kidnapped. Then, Ku'Sox—working through Rachel's villainous ex-boyfriend, Nick Sparagmos—kidnaps Ceri and baby Lucy. In response to the kidnappings, Lucy's mother (Trent's ex-fiancée), Ellasbeth, comes to town. All of these sub-plots feed into the main ley-line plot. As Rachel and Trent work on their strategies, Rachel must decide once and for all whether to trust Trent with her life.

     This book differs from previous books in its lack of sardonic, communal dialogue. Rachel works alone through most of the action, although Trent, Quen, Jenks, and Bis step up in a few key scenes. That's what made this a less-than-perfect book for me. I missed Ivy, who doesn't appear until late in the story and then only briefly. I missed Jenks, who spends most of the book spouting pixy profanities and hanging around until Rachel does what she needs to do. He is rarely part of the action. I also missed Al, who is a shadow of the tricky demon he used to be and who appears just a few times. In one rare, humorous scene, Al is up to his usual devilish antics when he makes off with Rachel's coffee pot. One strong point in the plot is that we learn more of the back story about the war between the demons and the elves and get a description of what demons used to look like. The blue butterflies make another appearance, but we don't yet know what they symbolize.

     As for Rachel, she spends an inordinate amount of time apologizing to various characters. At one point, after she says, "Sorry," yet again, she thinks to herself, "I needed to stop saying that." (p. 353), but then, a few paragraphs later she nearly says it again: "Sorry, I thought, then quashed it." (p. 353) The scene I really didn't get was the one in the midst of the drama leading up to the big showdown scene when Rachel worries at length about what to wear to the battle and eventually selects an ivory, 1970s jumpsuit that belonged to her mother (the one pictured on the cover). Dressing up in mom's 35-year-old clothes would never have occurred to me as the best wardrobe choice for a fight-for-your-life battle. (The blood-stain issue alone boggles the mind.) In an interview that I read after reading this book, Harrison says that she has absolutely no input on the cover art so she sometimes adds scenes to her novels to intentionally match them up with the cover illustrations. I'm guessing that's why this improbable scene made it into the book.

     This novel definitely builds towards the coming end to the series as it reviews all of Rachel's ex-boyfriends (finding most of them wanting) and gets rid of some key characters (disappointingly, off screen and barely mentioned). Here's a sad, but poignant, quotation from Rachel as she muses about her love life: "Everyone I had sex with died. Except Marshal, and that had only been because he left in time." (p. 279) The relationship between Rachel and Trent takes some further strides forward into romance, but there's still the threat of Trent's need for Ellaspeth's elven heritage hovering over them.

     As the series approaches its finale, here are two quotations from Harrison (from the HarperVoyager web site) that give us hints as the the nature of the ending:      

     Will Rachel find her happy-ever-after? Oh yes, very much so, but I always caution readers that it might not be the traditional happily ever after they expect with the white-picket fence, two kids, and a ring on her finger. Rachel is the girl next door, but she is anything but traditional, and her happy-ever-after will reflect that. My idea of a happy-ever-after has always been when the protagonist comes to understand her flaws and has learned how to work with them, becoming happy with who she is and learning what she needs to go confidently forward. In a way, Rachel has had this for a long time. She simply had to recognize it and accept that she is deserving of happiness.


     I've long told readers that my goal is a happy ending for everyone. I probably should have said my goal is a happy ending for everyone who survives. Ever After ups the stakes for the last couple of books. No one is safe. But then again, there are a few characters I would celebrate if they met their end.     

               BOOK 12: The Undead Pool              

    Ever since Rachel saved the demonic ever-after three months ago, things have been quiet in Cincinnati and the Hollows. In the interim, Rachel has been working as Trent's bodyguard while Quentin is on the West Coast supervising his and Trent's daughters (Ray and Lucy) as they visit with Trent's elven fiancée, Ellasbeth Withon (Lucy's mother). Although Rachel knows that she and Trent have no chance for a long-term relationship, she can't keep herself from remembering their smoldering kiss three months ago. In fact, she spends so much time mooning over Trent that in the opening scene, Jenks wisecracks, "When you going to put us all out of your misery and boink him? (p. 1) I believe that Jenks speaks for all of us loyal, but frustrated, readers!

     In the first scene of the novel, magic begins to go wrong for just about everybody in the Cincinnati area. Spells and charms backfire, causing multiple injuries and deaths, and no one knows why. Then, to make things worse, all of the master undead vampires except for the villainous Felix go into a permanent state of sleep, leaving their living vampire children unsupervised and uncontrolled. Those vamps soon begin an escalating series of random attacks on humans all over the city. 


     Oddly, the strange magic seems to be following Rachel as it moves on its destructive paths. When Rachel investigates, she discovers that these wild waves of magic are being pulled through her ley line at Loveland Castle and that they match her personal aura. Once again, she is in the middle of a dark magical situation that she didn't cause, but must cure.


     This novel is constructed more like a paranormal romance than a straight urban fantasy in that the Rachel-Trent relationship remains front and center throughout the story. Obviously, both have strong feelings for one another, but Trent is enmeshed in elven politics that require him to marry Ellasbeth, an elven woman selected by the elven Dewar (spiritual leaders) even though he does not love her. Throughout the story, Rachel and Trent engage in sexual banter and touching that moves their relationship from simmering to boiling
and eventually to (drum roll here!) consummation. By this point, the relationship between Rachel and Trent has developed into a true partnership, and it's nice to see them working together instead of against one another. As Jenks tells Rachel, "You're perfect for each other! You irritate people, and he smooths things out. You have good mojo, and he only thinks he does. You're broke, and he's rich. You've got those weird feet of yours, and he's got them cute ears." (p. 217) For me, their best relationship scene (other than the consummation) is their charming night out at the bowling allyTrent's first-ever date.

     As Rachel and Trent work together to stop the magic and wake up the vampires, waves of magic continue to undulate across the city, and Cincinnati slowly disintegrates around them. The FIB and the I.S. are seemingly powerless to deal with the situation, mostly because their mutual distrust keeps them from working together in any kind of cooperative manner. As the magic waves roll, the vampires escalate their bloodlust, and Rachel must
—once againsave the day. 

     To review: In this mythology the vampire hierarchy is headed by master vampires (aka undead vampires), who have died twice and are quite old and powerful. The undead vamps are cold, soulless beings who think only of their own wants and needs. They treat their "children" like blood slaves and have no compunctions about killing humans. The children of the undead vamps are the living vampires—humans infected with the vampire virus. Living vamps (like Ivy) will turn into undead vamps when they die, but in their "living" state, they appear to be human, except for having certain physical advantages, sporting fangs, and requiring blood to survive. Although living vampires retain many of their human qualities, they are closely tied to their undead sires, both for blood and for guidance and control. Rachel describes living vamps as "beautiful innocents kept in an intentional childlike state who loved their abusers [masters] with the loyalty of an abandoned child suddenly made king." (p 92) In this novel, we meet a third group of vampires who call themselves Free Vampires. These are living vampires who file down their fangs, pass as humans, and want nothing to do with their undead masters. As you can imagine, Harrison wouldn't be introducing a new group into her novel if they weren't central to the plot.


     Added to the primary plot are several related story lines continued from previous novels: Ivy's girlfriend, Nina, is still being intermittently possessed by the evil Felix, and Ivy is determined to save her. Rachel has been neglecting her duties as female alpha to a local were pack, and she has to sort out that situation. Ellasbeth is determined to win Trent over so that he will marry her and turn away from Rachel. Two of Rachel's frenemies from the demon world play key roles in the story: Al and Newt. In fact, Rachel's decisions at the end of the story change her relationship with Al forever, and Newt actually comes to Rachel's rescue in a rare moment of sanity.   

     In this novel, both Rachel and Trent are forced to reevaluate their lives and make some extremely difficult choices. For Trent, power, money and prestige have always been the driving forces in his life. For Rachel, her identity as a witch with demon powers has been central to every decision that she makes. Do Trent and Rachel really love one another enough to make huge sacrifices and life-style changes just to stay together, or are they so tied to their current identities that they reluctantly decide to part ways? 


     Two elements make this novel different from the previous ones. First is the romance (which I have already discussed). Second is the huge amount of new world-building, which involves two elements of the series mythology: the ley lines and the elven Goddess. Harrison has stated in interviews about this novel that she purposely included extensive information about the structure and workings of ley lines so that readers would understand the intricacy of their magic. The elven Goddess is introduced as being "both one being and a thousand….A communal mind….When an elf petitions for attention and help, he…is not communicating with the entirety of the Goddess, but only the parts of her that are sympathetic to the petitioner's aims." (p. 173) In this novel, the Goddess and the ley lines share top billing as key plot elements.  So…how well did Harrison work all of this information into the story line? For me, the romance worked well enough (although it seemed really strange for Rachel to be so infatuated so much of the time), but the ley-line and Goddess info dumps sometimes brought the plot to a grinding halt. Unfortunately, though, they are both tied intricately to the main plot, so you do need to understand their inner workings.


     One other nitpick: Several times, Rachel and/or her allies had one or more of the villains in their grip, but allowed them to escape. In one scene in particular, one of the prime villains was surrounded by Rachel's supporters, but instead of capturing him, they let him walk away. Why would they do that (other than to keep the story line from ending sooner)?    


     For a series fan, this is a must-read novel. Although it could be read as a stand-alone, you would miss the richness of the extensive history of ups and downs in the Trent-Rachel experience. Remember, they began the series as bitter enemies. He actually turned her into a mink and forced her to fight a rat  (in Dead Witch Walking) in order to keep her quiet about his illegal activities and to coerce her into working for him. I don't know about you, but I have my fingers crossed that Rachel and Trent will achieve their well-deserved HEA in the final novel.      


     Click HERE to view a video interview with Kim Harrison about The Undead Pool. Click HERE to view Harrison's video recap of the first 11 HOLLOWS books. Click HERE to listen to a lengthy radio interview in which Harrison discusses The Undead Pool with Mark DeWitt on Cover to Cover.  

No comments:

Post a Comment