Monthly Archives: November 2006

A Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison (review)

A Fistful of Charms
Kim Harrison

Review by Carolyn Hill

In A Fistful of Charms, the fourth book in Kim Harrison’s Hallows series, Rachel Morgan and her partners must rescue Jenks’s son, who has been drawn into Nick Sparagmos’s theft of a dangerous artifact that could cause all-out war between werewolves and vampires.

Rachel and her partners—Jenks, a four-inch pixy warrior, and Ivy, a practicing vampire—are pushed beyond their physical and emotional limits as they leave the familiar confines of Cincinnati for a small town in the north. Jenks allows Rachel to turn him six-feet tall so that he will survive the journey, but being taller doesn’t protect him from the vagaries of father-son relationships and issues of aging as he nears the end of his natural life. Ivy follows Rachel out of love and friendship, but in leaving the big city she tosses aside the constraints that the master vampire Piscary has placed on her and, thus, risks losing all that she holds most dear. And Rachel repeatedly steps over lines she has drawn for herself, making heavy use of demon magic, becoming a wolf to survive combat against the Weres, and embracing her adrenaline-junky appetites.

Ivy and Jenks play larger roles in this book than in the preceding, both in the action portions of the plot and in the emotional arc of the novel. A Fistful of Charms offers satisfying resolutions to several conflicts in their relationships with Rachel, and readers come to see why these three individuals make such a solid team. In particular, we come to understand Ivy more fully—and those who have been rooting for her will have much to celebrate as Rachel makes a fateful decision.

In exploring the explosive consequences of events in the first three books, A Fistful of Charms takes the three partners deeper into the dark and closer to the truth.

Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison (review)

Every Which Way But Dead
Kim Harrison

Review by Carolyn Hill

In Every Which Way But Dead, the third novel in the Hallows series, Rachel Morgan continues the ongoing battle for her soul with the demon Algaliarept and becomes entangled in a turf war between rival supernatural gang lords.

Bloody battles both physical and magical abound, but at center stage is Rachel’s struggle to define herself in an increasingly tangled web of relationships. As new people come into her life and old friends and acquaintances shift alliances, Rachel wonders whom to trust. Sexy vampires who bite? A powerful elf lord who kills? A human boyfriend who’s afraid of her? A roommate who wants to jump her bones? A pixy partner who isn’t good at keeping secrets? A toothsome werewolf who offers a sweet deal on health insurance? Can she even trust herself, knowing that she’ll do anything to survive?

Readers of the series may be surprised by the choices Rachel makes. But she is changing as she deals with the consequences of her actions in the first two books and as she learns more about her father’s death, his friendship with the father of her erstwhile enemy Trent Kalamack, and her own illness as a child. Becoming ever more powerful, she faces hard truths about herself: about her use of demon magic, about her craving for danger, and about her relationship with Ivy, her lesbian vampire roommate, as it becomes increasingly clear that Ivy wants to be far more than friends.

To satisfy her craving for danger (and, readers may suspect, to stave off her attraction to Ivy), Rachel turns to the sexy male vampire Kisten, Ivy’s old friend. Dating a vampire without getting bitten (either by Kisten or by an understandably agitated Ivy) is no easy task—and not entirely a sane choice. But Kisten meets Rachel’s needs in ways that Nick, her human boyfriend, never could: unlike Nick, Kisten isn’t afraid of her growing power, and unlike Nick, Kisten won’t dump her because of fear.

If you’ve read the first two books in the Hallows series, you’ll enjoy watching relationships develop in this third book. But if you haven’t read the first two, you probably won’t be entirely satisfied. Although Every Which Way But Dead can stand alone, its impact depends in part on a reader’s prior investment in the characters, and its ending leaves several tantalizing issues unresolved. But for loyal readers, Every Which Way But Dead offers a sizzling, sexually charged, emotional transition between the entertaining events in the first two books and the explosive outcome in the fourth.

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison (review)

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
Kim Harrison

Review by Carolyn Hill

In The Good, the Bad, and the Undead, the second book in the Hallows series, Kim Harrison raises the stakes for Rachel Morgan and her vampire roommate, Ivy.

Someone is murdering ley line witches, and Rachel Morgan, talented witch and bounty-hunter, suspects the mysterious Trent Kalamack. She returns to college to gather evidence from a professor of ley line magic, but in the process she comes face-to-face with disturbing secrets not only about Kalamack’s past, but also about her own.

As her assumptions about herself and her world are tested, Rachel develops greater skill as a witch, coming ever closer to the line that separates black magic from white. Unfortunately, her desire to stay on the good side of that line isn’t shared by her human boyfriend, Nick, who pursues arcane knowledge by making deals with the evil demon Algaliarept—deals into which Rachel is inevitably drawn, at risk of her soul.

Meanwhile, Ivy walks a fine line of her own as her past makes demands she refuses to meet. Her ancient relative Piscary, one of Cincinnati’s master vampires, orders Ivy to bite Rachel and bind her as a pet. Ivy’s refusal has horrifying consequences, and we see the strength of the friendship between Rachel and Ivy and how far the two friends will go for one another as they fight the ugly realities of vampirism.

Although the murder mystery is central to the plot and Rachel actively employs both fists and magic in solving that mystery, this second book in the series is more overtly sexual than the first, as the effects of the demonic vampire bite Rachel suffered in the first book become clear. Relationships rather than action drive this novel. And those relationships pack a wallop. Readers who enjoy sexual tension and admire strong yet vulnerable characters who sacrifice themselves for their friends will find much to enjoy in The Good, the Bad, and the Undead.

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison (review)

I recently completed reviews of four of Kim Harrison’s fantasy novels for the Chronicles Network. I’ll repost those reviews here.

Dead Witch Walking
Kim Harrison

Review by Carolyn Hill

Set in an alternate modern-day Cincinnati where humans coexist uneasily with supernatural residents of the Hallows, Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking delivers refreshing, lively, and tension-packed entertainment.

When Rachel Morgan, a white witch, quits her job catching criminals for the government and starts her own agency, her former employer marks her for death. Rachel and her new partners—a control-freak, living vampire and an irreverent, temperamental pixy—set up shop and home in an old church, learning to cope with one another’s idiosyncrasies as they fend off assassins and pursue a case against a mysterious biodrug runner.

The three main characters—Rachel the witch, Ivy the vampire, and Jenks the pixy—are intriguing. All three are loyal, courageous, and likeable, but each has flaws that make for interesting reading. Rachel is principled, determined, and quick to adapt, but despite her fear of the black magic that killed her father, she’s too drawn toward danger for her own good. Ivy has dark secrets in her past, and although she longs for Rachel’s trust and hasn’t drunk blood in three years, she’s on edge and close to sinking her teeth in Rachel’s neck. Jenks is a family man with a loving wife and a swarm of cheerful, battle-savvy children, but his pride and his temper are quick to flare, and his tongue cuts as sharply as his sword.

Add a host of entertaining secondary characters, physical action, quiet humor, supernatural confrontation, sexual tension, a deadly demon, murderous fairies, and liberal use of spells and ley line magic. Stir well, and you have a thoroughly enchanting and clever novel.

Dead Witch Walking not only completely satisfies as a standalone read, but also simultaneously sets up characters and tension that will develop in ever more surprising ways as Rachel Morgan’s story continues in the next three novels in the series: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead; Every Which Way But Dead; and A Fistful of Charms.

Terry Pratchett’s The Truth

I just finished reading Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novel The Truth. It’s the second Pratchett book I’ve ever read (the first was Going Postal), and I absolutely loved it. I laughed out loud and felt quite jolly, even during the occasional gruesome bits.

Amid all the chuckles and zippy plot threads, Pratchett manages to say sage things about the printed news media and the public’s relationship to those media: what’s important and what’s not, what the people will believe and what they prefer not to believe, what obligations the press have to the truth and what obligations they do and don’t have to those in power, and what might or might not be in the public’s interest.

Something I very much enjoyed in both Going Postal and The Truth is that both protagonists get swept up by events and find themselves building by bits and pieces what we in the real world see as established institutions. Lacking definite plans, the protagonists cleverly stumble onto methods and ideas that are new to them but old to us, progressing from one method or idea to the next in a somehow simultaneously random and inevitable series of cause and effect. In seeing through their eyes, those methods and ideas become new again to readers.

I am definitely going to add more of Pratchett’s novels to my list of books to read.

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