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of Black Magic Sanction, Rachel had made a fragile agreement with a reluctant member of the coven to have her shunning rescinded in return for her silence in regards to the little-known fact that witches came from demons.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.”