LitStack Review: Ever After by Kim Harrison

Ever Afterever after
Kim Harrison
Harper Voyager
ISBN-10: 0061957917
Release Date: January 22, 2012

The ever after, the demonic realm that parallels the human world, is shrinking. If it disappears completely, so does all magic. It’s up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to avert catastrophe and keep life from changing… for the worse.

While saving the world is important, it isn’t Rachel’s only motivation. There’s also the small fact that she caused the ley line to rip in the first place, setting off a chain reaction of unfortunate events. That little mistake has made her life forfeit unless she can fix it. It’s also made her more than a few enemies, including the most powerful demon in the ever after—a terrifying entity who eats souls and now has an insatiable appetite for her. He’s already kidnapped her friend and goddaughter to lure her out, and if Rachel doesn’t give herself up soon, they’ll die.

But Rachel has more than a few impressive and frightening skills of her own, and she isn’t going to hand over her soul and her life without one hell of a fight. She’s also got a surprise: elven tycoon Trent Kalamack. With this unlikely ally beside her—a prospect both thrilling and unnerving—she’s going to return to the ever after, kick some demon butt, rescue her loved ones… and prevent an apocalypse before it’s too late. Or, at least that’s the plan.

 

Kim Harrison has expectations. She expects, by way of her lush, comforting writing, for her fans to enjoy the time they spend in the Hollows. Readers in return know what to expect from her. There are no sweeping recaps of previous books in her series; no milling around, browsing the memory to recall “where we left off” with Rachel, Jenks and Ivy.  Ever After, the eleventh book in what will be a thirteen book series, does what many Hollows books in the past have done: it quickly reminds readers why they come back again and again to Harrison’s world.

In Ever After we travel to the Hollows, Harrison’s community of the supernatural where bounty hunter Rachel Morgan tries to capture some semblance of normalcy as she chases down evil doers and avoids getting killed. Harrison again complicates the plot and lifts hurdles already set high by her previous novels. Stakes are raised, loyalties are tested and, ultimately, it is up to Rachel to secure the safety of those she cares for and for herself. But this time, she isn’t solely on her own. It is the demon, Algaliarept, and elf/person-who-Rachel-crushes-on, Trent Kalamack, who completes a triquetra of power that enables Rachel to defeat her enemy. The three pair up in a unique and wonderfully intimate way to rid the Ever After, (“a magical plane that exists outside the ken of normal humans”), of a psychopathic demon bent on destruction. It is in this trio and the faith and trust they put in one another that exhibits each characters’ consistent growth. They are no longer attacking one another. They share the challenge of battle and the striking pain of loss, something that readers may have never anticipated from this small motley crew.

It is the deaths in Ever After that places Harrison into the company of writers who understand the necessary sacrifices their characters must make. Like JK Rowling and George R.R. Martin before her, Harrison is not afraid to send a beloved character or two into the “ever after,” so to speak. There are deaths, shocking deaths, in fact, but they are executed in an essential-to-the-story-arch manner. Readers feel the pain of those losses, but understand that they will cradle Rachel’s hunger for vengeance and further her quest to dole out punishment to the responsible party.

The security of the Ever After and the protection of her own life isn’t simply what motivates Rachel, but it is certainly the catalyst that forces her to trust that unflappable instinct to never surrender. It’s a task that keeps her struggling to the very end and only enhances the fast-paced race that Rachel takes throughout the novel. The pacing is perfect – all action, all conflict, that has the reader delving in deeper, makes them turn “just one more page.” From nearly the first scene Rachel is on a mission and it is one that will not allow for much pause. The conflict doubles as the plot progresses and gives readers a swift, intricate look at how complicated Rachel’s life has become.

What makes Ever After, in my opinion, one of the best Hollows novels to date is that the responsibility that Rachel has always leveled on herself, to prove she is capable of protecting, is lifting somewhat and she is finally allowing others to help her shoulder the weight. She is growing as a woman, as a heroine, and is finally admitting that she cannot do all things on her own, that she has hopes, dreams that are separate from the very heavy burden she carries.

In a genre where the heroine always gets her man and does it by kicking butt and not apologizing for needing no one’s help with the job, sometimes the “formulas” of Urban Fantasy can grow tiresome. But with Harrison’s series there are no fixed premises, no tropes that are constant and worn out. Rachel Morgan is cast as the smart, elegant hero struggling to survive, to rescue, to succeed. That she is female is inessential to her overall character and wholly encapsulates the true essence of what an Urban Fantasy novel should be.

I have a theory about Urban Fantasy novels: Fifteen years ago, Buffy Sommers became the most successfully capable, empowered heroine destined to save the world (repeatedly). With Buffy, Joss Whedon created the first truly contemporary feminist hero and it is from her metaphorical womb that Rachel Morgan, Anita Blake and Mercy Thompson was born. The difference, however, is that Rachel is the most like and separate from that female heroine paradigm. She’s smart. She makes mistakes, but she never seeks isolation and is constantly positive about her potential. She’s loved and lost, but it is the journey she takes that matters, not who is at her side with each step. This series isn’t like many in the genre; romance is secondary, it is the “spice” that cooks the gumbo, not the key ingredient that has you salivating.

Once again, Kim Harrison has given her readers a satisfying, (I don’t think I’d be remiss in saying the most satisfying), episode in the Rachel Morgan chronicles. Ever After is full of heart and heartache, loss and victory and will have Harrison’s fan eagerly waiting for Rachel’s next happy ending.

Highly recommended

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