Unbelievable as it may seem, we’re into a brand new month and that means another great Featured Author. This month, we’re honored to feature dark Urban Fantasy phenomenon Kim Harrison. Harrison is the New York Times bestseller of the popular Hollows series which follows the hijinks and heartaches of bounty hunter/witch Rachel Morgan. The Hollows is set in an alternate history where the recent open existence of magical and supernatural species, primarily witches, vampires, and werewolves, with the human population became necessary due to a worldwide pandemic. The historical investment of Cold War military spending in genetic engineering as opposed to the Space Race, resulted in the accidental release of a virus via a genetically modified tomato in the 1960’s and killed a significant portion of the human population. The series is set approximately forty years after this plague, referred to as The Turn.
The series is told in the first-person point-of-view of Rachel Morgan, a detective witch who works with local law enforcement agencies and faces threats both mundane and supernatural in origin. The series also focuses on Rachel’s relationships with her partners, a living vampire and a pixy, as well as her personal relationships with males of different species.
Part Buffy, with dark fairytale hints, The Hollows is a series that captivates, entertains and has readers waiting impatiently for the next installation.
Thank you to Mrs. Harrison and Harper Voyager for allowing us to showcase some of her best work during our February Featured Author segment. The first in our segment is a review of the eighth Hollows novel, Black Magic Sanction.
Black Magic Sanction
The danger one faces with reading a series is that, after a time, they can get monotonous. If you’re a true fan, you know the details, eccentricities and jokes intimately and after several books, if poorly executed, they become tiresome. However, when said series is in the hands of a master, then that “old hat” expectation never happens. For me, this is true of Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. After nine books, (the tenth, A Perfect Blood released this month), the series has yet to grow stale. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become invested in the characters, in the lush, intricate world that Harrison creates. Perhaps, it’s because I’m far too curious to find out what fate has in store for Rachel Morgan. In any case, reading a new Hollows novel, is like sitting down for a very long visit with an old friend. There is comfort, humor and familiarity in these characters; there is potential in what we hope will happen, what we hope will be avoided.
Black Magic Sanction is all about Rachel’s future and who will control it. In previous novels in the series, Rachel discovered the truth about her heritage: that she is a white witch with demon ancestry and that any children she may have will certainly be demons. This information, coupled with her unwillingly agreement to be a demon familiar, earns her a shunning by the Coven Council . She is given a choice: sterilization or prison time in Alcatraz.
But Rachel Morgan isn’t a woman who likes to be controlled, though there are plenty who are eager for the opportunity: Trent Kalamack, the rich politician/hiding elf whose father is responsible for her demon blood; the Coven Council who are hell bent on punishing Rachel for being able to twist demon magic; Algaliarept, the demon who schemed his way into making Rachel his familiar and the long dead witch, Pierce, who takes an “any means necessary” approach to getting out of his obligations.
The lesson that all the above refuse to learn is that control cannot be taken from ones unwilling to relinquish it and in Black Magic Sanction, it’s a lesson that each learn the hard way.
The novels follows Rachel into her past, opening long-slammed shut doors that have made her the witch she has become. This includes her first encounter with Pierce and the dangerous situations he led Rachel into as a teen and her history with Trent when they were children together:
Tulpa’s feet left the earth, and he stretched forward. One with him, we leaned as well, instinct older than magic taking hold. The beating of his hooves was silenced, and the thumping of my heart was all that there was. For an instant, we flew.
Tulpa’s front feet touched, and the world rushed back. The cadence of his hooves beat into me, and I shouted, letting go of Trent. It had been marvelous. Wonderful beyond belief. Exuberant, I smiled, feeling breathless and powerful all at the same time.
Trent turned, wonder in his eyes, shock almost. “You held on.”
Previous and current interactions hint at things to come between Rachel and Trent and the love/hate relationship they share. For all the traitorous things they have done to one another, there is a mutual respect that is central and layered throughout the story. Rachel’s other relationships, with her family, her friends, partners and her community are tested in this novel, but they are ultimately resolved, perhaps, especially because, Rachel is, above all else, a survivor. She is also a force of nature, a driven character that only wants to do her job, protect those she loves and live her life as normally as a part witch/part demon can.
It is this character’s unyielding insistence to never give up that, I think, appeals and addicts Harrison’s readers. She has fashioned a world where the underdog, the relentless woman, can learn and grow and define the path she will take, regardless of the plans others have for her.
Or, as Pierce tells Rachel:
You’re firm in will, pure in intent, strong in magic. But now it’s tempered with wisdom, and you’re more beautiful and brilliant yet…you are shades of gray swirling, balancing needs and desires…you are good, Rachel. No matter what your choices lead you to, you will remain such.”
Harrison is one of the best in the genre. She has written the paradigm of great UF and effortlessly sets the bar higher and higher with every Hollows novel she writes, defying others to match her. So far, no one has.