I love paranormal and urban fantasy. No matter how many times I get burned I keep going back to the well. I will even keep going with a series until I reach a point of self loathing – please see last year’s review of this series. Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series came recommended by the lovely Malin, and when Malin makes a recommendation, you should at least give it a try. Malin’s recommendation came shortly before the final book of the series was published. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I wouldn’t have to wait impatiently between installments (as I do with the Dresden Files, Kate Daniels, and October Daye). On the other, I wouldn’t have years of rereading old installments while speculating what the next will bring. To me, this has been an important part of enjoying a series. But fear not, I have fallen in love with Rachel Morgan and The Hollows. Here’s how it happened.
I’m three and a half books in and while it’s not perfect, it’s got a good foundation. Rachel Mariana Morgan lives in a modern day, alternate history Cincinnati. In this alternate reality, it’s 40 years after genetic modifications caused a tomato borne plague that almost wiped out humanity. As a result, the Interlanders (weres, witches, vampires living and dead, fairies, and pixies) came out of hiding, both to save humanity, and because they could now that human numbers were down. Demons are real, and they are real bad news. There’s more, but I’ll give you the chance to discover it yourself. Rachel is a witch, a white earth witch, in a crappy job with a boss she’s pretty sure is trying to ruin her life. The problem is, if she leaves her job and can’t pay off her contract, she’ll be marked for death. She doesn’t have the money to pay off her contract, but assumes they won’t care because her boss wants her gone. Of course, she’s wrong. Rachel doesn’t really seem to have her shit together and a lot of book one is dealing with the fall out of her own poor planning.
Rather inexplicably, a wealthy and powerful living vampire named Ivy decides to quit with Rachel and go into a partnership with her. Their third partner is a 4 inch pixy named Jenks who is married and has 54 children. Don’t be fooled by his size, Jenks is formidable. Fortuitously, Ivy owns a former church on consecrated ground that’s just perfect for a witch. I think we’re going to find out that this isn’t a coincidence. I spent a good portion of the first two books wondering what was up with Ivy and why she was there. It seemed possible for awhile that she was going to serve as the regular Deus ex machina, but she is shaping up to be an interesting and complex character in her own right.
Over the first three and a half books, Rachel starts exploring magic more, her skills develop as the threats she faces ratchet up. We meet her likely love interests, her antagonists, and the parameters for Post Turn Cincinnati become more fleshed out. I don’t know if Kim Harrison planned this, or if it developed naturally as she wrote the series, but in each succeeding book, the characters become more focused, and I become more comfortable with them, as Rachel gets to know them better.
The moment I fell in love happened 61% of the way into book 4 – Ivy and Rachel are talking while Rachel is having an emotionally low moment and Ivy says something to Rachel that illuminates everything that has gone before, and sells me on the series.
“So you need the rush of possible death to keep your soul awake and turn you on. That’s not bad. It just says you’re one powerful bitch, whether you know it or not. Dangerous doesn’t always equal untrustworthy. Drink your cocoa and get over it.”
This is where I know the author sees more in Rachel than bluster and angst. This is the moment when I know all this stuff is going to pay off. I haven’t read any further, so it may not pay off well, but this is the moment I know I’m going to marathon through 9 more books. It doesn’t really matter that my discovery process will be weeks, not years. I’m in. Start with book 1, Dead Witch Walking. Nothing will really make sense if you don’t. It’s good if not great, and necessary to get the really good stuff later on.