Review: ‘Black Magic Sanction’ by Kim Harrison (audio)

Book #8 in the Hollows series by Kim Harrison is Black Magic Sanction and once again, Rachel is fighting for her life. But hey, what’s new? Oh, wait… witches from the Coven of Moral and Ethical Standards are trying to kill her?! Yeah, that’s new…

Be warned, I do discuss spoilery stuff in this post!


Here’s what says about the book:

In New York Times best-selling author Kim Harrison’s most complex and nuanced adventure yet, bounty hunter and witch Rachel Morgan fights a deadly battle—mind, body, and soul.

Rachel Morgan has fought and hunted vampires, werewolves, banshees, demons, and other supernatural dangers as both witch and bounty hunter—and lived to tell the tale. But she’s never faced off against her own kind, until now. Denounced and shunned for dealing with demons and black magic, her best hope is life imprisonment-at worst, a forced lobotomy and genetic slavery.

Only her enemies are strong enough to help her win her freedom, but trust comes hard when it hinges on the unscrupulous tycoon Trent Kalamack, the demon Algaliarept, and an ex-boyfriend turned thief. It takes a witch to catch a witch, but survival bears a heavy price.


Aaand Rachel finally uses the term ‘bounty hunter’ to describe herself for the first time that I can recall. No more will I gripe about the book blurbs that refer to her as such! This installment takes place four-ish months after Book #7 and Rachel’s having rather a bad time of it. She’s shunned, she can’t find work and she’s reduced to grocery shopping where humans frequent. And then it gets worse when the Coven of Moral and Ethical Standards attempts to kidnap her. Which is really not cool, considering the fact that they use “white” magic to cause harm and that they want to imprison Rachel sans trial, lobotomize and/or magically castrate her… and yeah, harvest her ovaries. They’ll stop at nothing and they don’t seem to care who gets in their way or what methods they’ll need to use to get what they want. And they say that Rachel is bad?

We meet up with Rachel’s ex-boyfriend Nick Sparagmos again in this book and again, as always with this character, I’m torn between empathy for him and disappointment with him. On the one hand, despite screwing Rachel over numerous times, he then turns around and helps her. Why would he do such a thing? Why would he be so contrary? Why, indeed. I get the feeling that he still cares for Rachel and that perhaps his feelings are why he keeps coming back to help her despite all he’s done and continues to do to harm her. But then he misunderstands so much… and judges her so much… and *sigh*… betrays her yet again. Oh, Nick.

I loved the Pandora Charm chapter in which Rachel recalls a scene from her childhood at the Make-A-Wish Camp. It was so very fun to see young Trent interacting with young Rachel. I especially enjoyed Trent telling Rachel, “You’re so blind that I bet I could sneak right into your cabin and take the ring off your finger and you’d never know.” I’m happy to see Rachel discover that despite Trent doing bad things, maybe he really can be a good person. She, after all, has twisted demon curses (and does so again, with impunity, multiple times in this book) yet still considers herself a good person. She’s beginning to accept that good and bad aren’t always black and white and that since she exists in the gray areas in between, maybe it’s okay that he does as well.

As with all of the Hollows books, there is so much going on! There are certain interesting developments with Ivy and Glenn; we get to see Lee again and lo and behold, he helps Rachel! Also, “drugged Rachel” as read by Gavin is hilarious, as always, and I love how tickled she was when Lee named her friend. We see Rachel and Al actually cooperating a couple of times, testing their tentative trust in each other and developing, if not a friendship, at least a working relationship that’s unfolding in a most interesting way. I’m impressed with Harrison’s accomplishment with the development of this character, this demon that I used to hate but that I now quite enjoy. Bis is featured strongly in this book and while I as the reader got to know him better, I really took a shine to himperhaps it’s the loyalty he shows to Rachel or the way he seeks reassurance from her when he’s feeling insecure or scared. Perhaps it’s both but I really like Bis!

We see a lot more of Pierce in this book and while he can be infuriating too, it’s obvious that he cares a great deal for Rachel and that can’t help but give a body warm fuzzies now, can it? I’m a self-proclaimed crybaby and so I freely admit how many parts of this book brought me to tears… however, one such moment that was quite unexpected occurred in a Rachel/Pierce scene. Pierce is doing as Rachel asked and is lying to her, telling her what she thinks she needs to hear but then she hears the truth in his words as he says,  “I will cry when I go because I could love you forever.” Yeah… call me silly and sappy but that line really got me!

Despite really enjoying Marguerite Gavin’s reading, I need to take a moment to express my disappointment at her change in Newt’s accent. I liked the exotic sound of her accent in the previous books and she just doesn’t sound like Newt without the accent! Granted, it was a very brief appearance, but it struck me nonetheless.

This book sees the heart-wrenching death of yet another character and while there has been quite a lot of foreshadowing of this event in previous books, it didn’t quite go down as we expected. Jenks’ grief over losing Matalina is excruciating to listen to and the combination of Harrison’s words and Gavin’s voice truly makes the listener feel the depth of his loss… his confusion, his hopelessness, his despair. I would have had yet another sob-fest over the whole thing had I not been listening at work which required that I pause the audio book every few moments-literally every few moments-so that I wouldn’t break down.

The following are quotes of notable mention not because they were amusing but because they were so touching and I can’t help but wonder if Gavin was able to read these parts without getting choked up or if she had to do a few takes. Perhaps… no, likely, I’m just a more accomplished crybaby than she.

Matalina to Jenks, as she lay dying after the fairy attack: “I’ll wait for you. Under the bluebells. I’ll be there, always.” *pause-sob*

Jenks, waxing poetic in front of Matalina’s funeral pyre is intense and moving: “Tears could not be equal if I wept diamonds from the skies. My words silent though I should howl. Muffled by death, my wings can’t lift me high enough to find you. I feel you within, unaware of my pain, not knowing why I mourn… and why I breathe alone.”

So now it is with bated breath that I prepare to read Pale Demon a wee bit early! I’m sure I’ll have that review up in a few days.


2 thoughts on “Review: ‘Black Magic Sanction’ by Kim Harrison (audio)

  1. I know! SO heartbreaking! And I really am a crybaby during scenes like that! :o(

    I was going to mention a bunch of funny quotes, too… but I cut them out to paste them in a different place and upon reading through the post, I decided to leave them out.

    I hope Bis is featured a lot in Pale Demon. Only got 2 chapters in last night but I have it here at ♫woo-orrk♪!


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