IN THE HOLLOWS VAMPIRES ARE ONLY THE BEGINNING…
KIM HARRISON UPS THE ANTE FOR THE BOUNTY HUNTING WITCH, RACHEL MORGAN, AS SHE GOES UNDERCOVER AND IN OVER HER HEAD
The Good, The Bad And The Undead
(The Hollows, Book 2)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Format: Paperback, 453 Pages
Date: 5th January 2012 (First Published 2005)
With Dead Witch Walking, the first book of The Hollows series, Kim Harrison established a very solid foundation upon which to build the rest of her urban fantasy series. With this second instalment, Harrison, raises the stakes for her plucky but incompetent, bounty hunting heroine, Rachel Morgan; revealing more about the history and character of both Rachel and the people in her life (friend and foe alike). All the while further expanding and expounding on the alternate history, supernatural world that is the playground of these characters.
The second book of a series can often be a make or break affair in the minds of some readers. Those who are on the fence about committing to a book series after reading the first book, will usually decide whether or not to continue after reading book two. In this regard, The Good, The Bad And The Undead, should be more than sufficient to persuade most readers that The Hollows is worth their time.
It’s three months since the events of the previous novel, and Rachel Morgan is no longer a dead witch walking. Though her first case as an independent runner ultimately ended in failure, the death sentence placed on her by her former employer was rescinded. But her new assignment may very well give Rachel the opportunity to take down her nemesis, councilman Trent Kalamack, this time around. She is brought in as a consultant on a missing persons case which she quickly connects to a recent spate of serial killings of ley-line witches. Without a shred of evidence, Rachel gets a bee in her bonnet that Trent is the “Witch Hunter Killer” and sets out to prove it.
Harrison’s decision to not place the investigation front and centre for the entire story was actually an inspired choice. Taken in isolation, the investigation isn’t particularly interesting until much later in the book when readers are hit with a number of surprising twists. But by virtue of also focussing on Rachel’s personal life, away from the case, Harrison is able to provide deeper insight into her protagonist. Readers will learn more about the pivotal moments of Rachel’s childhood, and the unlikely connection between the Morgan family and the Kalamack family, that goes back further than Rachel could have imagined.
There is also plenty of welcome development of some of the important characters in Rachel’s orbit, as well as exploration of the relationship dynamics between them and her. This is especially true with regard to Ivy Tamwood, the living vampire who is friend, house-mate and business partner to Rachel. Throughout book one, Ivy, demonstrated a fierce loyalty and protectiveness toward Rachel, that due to her enigmatic nature created an ambiguousness as to what her motivation was. Is she in love with Rachel? Is she just physically attracted to her? Or is there some other reason that the reader is not privy to? Harrison does a wonderful job elucidating just what the pair’s friendship means from Ivy’s point of view, providing one or two eye opening revelations that grant readers with a deeper understanding and appreciation of Ivy’s persona.
Many of the best scenes in The Good, The Bad And The Undead are those shared by Rachel and Ivy. These moments make it abundantly clear that there is more than just vampiric hunger at play. Indeed, even though there is also a romantic and sexual component to Ivy’s commitment to Rachel, there is so much more to it than that. She wants and needs more from their friendship than even Rachel realised, and it is more than she is prepared to give. And though Ivy could take what she wants by force, she would prefer for Rachel to surrender herself willingly. Further complicating the matter is the reality that the longer Rachel rejects Ivy, the longer she is putting her own freedom and life at risk.
But Rachel is rather adept at putting her life in jeopardy; it’s probably the only thing she is competent at doing. Her grudge induced attempts to prove that Trent is the “Witch Hunter Killer” lead her to discovering his most closely guarded secret. Yet even knowing that Trent would kill to maintain this secret, Rachel can’t resist letting him know that she knows. If that wasn’t bad enough she continues to date the, very shady, human demonology enthusiast, Nick Sparagmos, even after learning that, behind her back, he has been summoning, Algaliarept, the demon who almost killed her three months previously.
With all that said, my mild irritation for the protagonist doesn’t detract from the quality of the book. Harrison has once again served up another engaging read. It’s just a pity that some of Rachel’s quirks will inevitably drive some readers away from the series. But for those readers who are able to forgive, or at the very least tolerate, her incompetence and stupidity there is a great deal to enjoy here. As with the previous novel, the pacing of the story is perfect; it starts slowly and steadily, but continues to build up momentum right up until the climax.
I would say that The Good, The Bad And The Undead is a slight improvement upon its very good predecessor. I really appreciated the author’s continued development of the supporting cast of characters, whom I consider to be the best aspect of the series. Gaining more insight into the traits, history and motivations of a character not only makes it so much easier to empathise with and relate to them, it also gives them much more depth, making them more rounded and believable. The antagonist, Trent Kalamack, is probably the biggest beneficiary in this respect. I was initially indifferent about him but he is now a much more interesting character. It is also clear that he is a potential future love interest for Rachel; poor guy, assuming Harrison goes down that road.
Ivy Tamwood remains my favourite character thus far, and it was great to learn a little more about her. I can only hope she eventually breaks her fixation with Rachel, as it’s all too obvious that nothing good will come from it. My only real gripe about the book is the limited “page time” devoted to Ivy. I still maintain that The Hollows would be an even better series if Ivy was the protagonist.
In summation, Kim Harrison has further cemented her position as one of the best voices of the urban fantasy scene. The Good, The Bad And The Undead is a spellbinding, murder mystery where nothing and no one is exactly what they appear to be; and dark secrets and hidden agendas, with far reaching implications, abound. I heartily recommend this book (and the series in general) to fans of the genre. Add it to your reading list immediately; you will not regret it. At least you won’t if Rachel Morgan doesn’t aggravate you too much.
Telling it like it is. Giving you honest and balanced, spoiler free reviews. Completely devoid of irrational fanboyism, or shameless astroturfing.