Review: ‘Pale Demon’ by Kim Harrison

I was fortunate enough recently to be approved to read a galley of Pale Demon (link has sneak-peek at first chapters!), the soon-to-be-released 9th installment of Kim Harrison’s popular urban fantasy Hollows series featuring witch and independent runner, Rachel Morgan. It’s summer in Cincinnati as the story opens a couple of months after the ending of Book #8, Black Magic Sanction, and Rachel is about to embark on a trip out west, to attend her brother’s wedding and formally have her shunning removed by the coven of moral and ethical standards during their annual convention.


Here’s the blurb:

Condemned to death for black magic and shunned, Rachel Morgan has three days to somehow get to the annual witches convention in San Francisco and clear her name. If she fails, the only way she can escape death is to live in the demonic ever after . . . for ever after.

Banned from the flight lists, Rachel teams up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack, headed for the West Coast for his own mysterious business. But Rachel isn’t the only passenger along for the ride. Can a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car survive for over 2,300 miles? And that’s not counting the assassin on their tail.

A fearsome demon walks the sunlight, freed after centuries of torment to slay the innocent and devour souls. But his ultimate prey is Rachel Morgan. While the powerful witch with nerves of steel will do whatever it takes to stay alive, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.


While this review contains no spoilers for this book, it most definitely contains spoilers for the series to date so if you have yet to read through book #8, proceed with caution! I’ve been looking forward to the impending release of this book for some time but as I’ve been doing my re-listen of the entire Hollows series over the past month, I’ve become increasingly excited to finally read this ninth installment of the series. I was not disappointed.

At the end of Black Magic Sanction, Rachel had made a fragile agreement with a reluctant member of the coven to have her shunning rescinded in return for her silence in regards to the little-known fact that witches came from demons. Oliver, the coven member she was blackmailing… erm, making the deal with, rather… was quite insistent that he couldn’t make the deal himself and stated that Rachel would be required to apologize to the coven in person for her previous use of black magic… and she had to go to San Francisco to do so.

So at the start of this book, the staff of Vampiric Charms Independent Runner Service is ready to hit the road and head  to California. Mass transit is out and so they hop into Rachel’s mom’s Buick and set out on the open road. With Trent. Yes, charming, charismatic (and oftentimes first class jerk) bio-drug lord and multi-millionaire elf, Trent Kalamack  has his own urgent, and apparently secret, business to attend to on the West coast so he’s going along for the ride. Rather, he’s requested that Rachel escort him and keep him alive because his ex-fiance’s family is trying to kill him. How nice.

So they’re off… and what a ride it is! Rachel fears an attempt on her life from the coven, they’ve got elf assassins on their tail, and the icing on the cake would be the day-walking demon that eat people’s souls and has turned his blood-thirsty eye toward Rachel. Witches, elves and demons, oh my! Makes for quite the interesting road trip.

Of course one of the highlights of this book is the great deal of interaction between Rachel and Trent. There is plenty of time to chat on a 2,000 mile long road trip and I’m happy to say that they do a lot of it. One of Rachel’s greatest issues with Trent for the past couple of years in the world of Cincinnati after the Turn, is trust. She doesn’t trust him, and why should she? After all, he kept her prisoner, killed an employee right in front of her, entered her in the city’s rat fights, tried to hunt her down with dogs and… need I go on? Trust? Definitely an issue. Although… he did keep her alive after she performed the same service for him after the explosion on Lee’s boat in book #3, Every Which Way But Dead, among other things that have made her question her previous opinion of him. Yes… to trust or not to trust. That is the question for Rachel in regards to Trent on this latest of her many adventures.

As was revealed earlier in the series and highlighted in book #8, the two have known each other since they were kids and Rachel attended Trent’s father’s Make-A-Wish Camp where Rachel received the bio-drug treatment that enabled her survival from the usually deadly Rosewood Syndrome. Most witches die of the disease and so it’s never been discovered that those who suffer from it are the witch community’s closest links to their demon ancestors. It’s also not widely known that witches are even related to demons. And now Rachel is a living, breathing, demon magic-wielding link to them. Which is where all of her problems seem to originate: with her ability to kindle demon magic and because of that, with her inevitable association with demons. One demon in particular.

We get to see a new side of Algaliarept in this book and it’s quite an interesting peek. I thoroughly enjoyed Al’s scenes, particularly those in which he shows a bit more emotion than anger, hatred and general demonly nastiness, which is usually all we see from him. As I’ve stated in previous reviews, I do enjoy this character, especially when listening to the audios read by Maruerite Gavin as she does a particularly fine job with Al’s voice. I won’t spoil anything but I will go so far as to say that I was very  moved by a couple of Al/Rachel scenes. Take that as you will, considering my aforementioned tendency to be a crybaby.

We also get to see a bit more of the ever after than Al’s kitchen and the random surface scene. I have the hope that we’ll get to see more one day, especially if Rachel’s able to do a bit more re-decorating. *wink* Newt made a reappearance in this book and frankly, I rather enjoyed her scene. I can only hope that Gavin does her voice the way she originally did it because during Newt’s brief appearance in BMS, I almost didn’t recognize Newt, her voice was so different.

Pierce is featured quite a lot in this book, once Al sends him along to babysit and he does help Rachel out a bit, though he does screw up royally, as well. I’m still touched by the lengths to which he’ll go to protect Rachel and I do believe that he loves her. “I will cry when I go because I could love you forever.” That line from Black Magic Sanction still gets me!

Jenks and Ivy are, well… Jenks and Ivy. Awesome as always, snarky comments and ass-kicking expected and included. Jenks also has the occasion to talk with Trent a lot while on the road trip, their sleep schedules being the same and all. The result is quite interesting and I can’t help but want to see where that particular association might go in future books.

Last, but surely not least… especially considering the circumstances in which he enters the story, is Bis. Oh, Bis… the young gargoyle who was kicked off the Basilica earlier in the series. For spitting on people, no less. It’s no wonder he and Jenks get along so well, but Rachel’s been squeamish about the whole bonding with a gargoyle thing. Bis truly goes above and beyond in this book and I find myself liking him more than ever. You go, Bis… you bad-ass little gargoyle, pixy babysitter and line-jumper, you!

If you’re a fan of the Hollows series, then I dare-say you’ll enjoy the hell out of the 9th book in this fun and touching series. If you’ve never read a Hollows book then I highly recommend that you remedy that gross oversight in your reading repertoire and burn through the first eight books so that you can get to this one. You’ll be glad you did. I promise.

And now, for a few of my fave quotes: Ivy to Rachel: “Fine, you drive. I’ll sit with my head hanging out the window like a golden retriever.”

‘Jenks darted in, and I followed, eager to see what a penthouse suite looked like. Nice. I think the word would be “nice”. Or really nice. I’d go as far as friggin’ nice.’

Jenks: “Take a chill strip, Rache. They’re faster than the pills and come in convenient dispensers.”

I.S. Guy: “If Rachel permanently eliminates the threat of this day-walking demon, no one will care if she’s the queen of the damned and eats live kittens for breakfast in front of kindergarteners.”

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.


Review: ‘White Witch, Black Curse’ by Kim Harrison (audio)

Book #7 of Kim Harrison’s popular Hollows series is White Witch, Black Curse and independent runner and witch Rachel Morgan is back, juggling a job that hits too close to home with a couple of men from her past, one alive and one dead.



Some wounds take time to heal . . . and some scars never fade. Rachel Morgan, kick-ass witch and bounty hunter, has taken her fair share of hits, and has broken lines she swore she would never cross.

But when her lover was murdered, it left a deeper wound than Rachel ever imagined, and now she won’t rest until his death is solved . . . and avenged. Whatever the cost.

Yet the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and when a new predator moves to the apex of the Inderlander food chain, Rachel’s past comes back to haunt her. Literally.

This seventh installment of the series was published in February of 2009, just over four years after the release of book #1 but in Harrison’s version of Cincinnati, only about a year and a half has passed since Rachel Morgan quit the I.S. in Dead Witch Walking and struck ‘on her own’ to start an independent runner firm with living vampire Ivy Tamwood and Jenks, the bad-ass pixy with the colorful wit.

At this point in the series, I think anyone picking up this book at random would be seriously confused. Harrison does spend a bit of time ‘catching up’ with the characters and the happenings from previous books but her allusions to past events are more of a refresher for those who have already read this far into the series. Not that I mind this, of course, as I’d rather move on with the plot of the book and indeed, of the entire series than sit through a ton of info dumps designed to bring people up to speed on the story. I’m a firm believer in reading the series from the beginning!

Rachel is once again a busy little itchy witch as the New Year approaches and she finds herself smack dab in the middle of a whole lot of crap. One of the things I really enjoy about these books is that they’re so fast paced and full of stuff. Rachel has to whip up some charms while fighting off a demon, placating her family, keeping Ivy sane and tagging the bad guy to save the day! It’s no wonder she’s always thinking about coffee. Her life would wear a girl out!

One thing I was dreading about this book was the sob-fest during chapter 31. Fans of the series will know how poignant the events of that particular chapter are just by knowing it involved Rachel recalling the events on Kisten’s boat in book #5, For A Few Demons More. I knew that I’d be affected by Marguerite Gavin’s reading of the chapter as I recalled from the last time I listened to this book how much emotion she instills into the characters but wow… it really got me. And my eyes are still red and puffy hours later from listening to that chapter, as well as tidbits here and there throughout the rest of the book that allude to the events of that chapter and the aftermath of Rachel’s recollection. Powerful writing, powerful reading.

Have I mentioned how happy I am to have Gavin back for this book? The other reader just was NOT as good and this scene would NOT have been as good had I been forced to either listen to her read it or read it in the book. Don’t get me wrong, I cry when reading emotional scenes, too (I’m just a crybaby like that, don’tcha know?) but hearing them read by a reader who actually makes their voice break, who makes you hear the pain, the loss, the fear, the terror, the anger… it impresses the hell out of me and makes the the story… no, it makes the experience much more vivid. So  yeah, awesome job, Marguerite.

Favorite quotes include this one from Ivy, upon learning about Pierce: “We have a randy ghost?”; Rachel’s mom when Rache gets called away from a family dinner by Captain Edden: “Go kick some bad guy ass!”; Jenks, wanting to get out of a vamp lair: “I’m okay, you’re okay, Ivy’s freakin’ okay, we’re all okay, can we get the hell out of here?” and educating Pierce on the proper way to curse: “The correct vernacular is ‘holy shit!'”; Al, ordering for Pierce at the coffee shop: “The runt will have a juice box. It will make you big and strong, won’t it, little fella?”; even the bad ‘guy’ Mia had a funny line: “Remus, quit playing with that dead man and hold the witch down.”; and another from Ivy that made me laugh out loud at the end: “Why did Pierce pop into the car and tell me to pick up a grande latte double espresso Italian blend, light on the froth, heavy on the cinnamon with a shot of raspberry?”

Hmmm, a lot of the funnies revolved around Pierce. Yeah, I like Pierce. No mention of Rachel funnies this go-round. Not to say there weren’t any, there were just too many others to mention. Though we do have the next book in the series to look forward to, don’t we? Time for Black Magic Sanction!