Author: Kim Harrison
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: February 2011
Hardcover: 432 Pages
Stand alone or series: Book 9 in the Rachel Morgan/The Hollows Series
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 passanger 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.
How did I get this book: eARC from the Publisher
Why did I read this book: The Hollows series is one of my current favorite Urban Fantasy series’ – even though I’ve bee a bit disappointed in the past two books, I will always have a very special place in my heart for Rachel, Ivy and Jenks. With the series coming to a close soon, I was of COURSE anxious to jump on this title.
**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS FOR BOOKS 1-8 IN THE HOLLOWS SERIES. If you have not read the earlier books in this series and wish to remain unspoiled – seriously unspoiled – look away now. You have been warned.**
Rachel Mariana Morgan, you’ve gone through one hell of a ride this past eight books. This is a series that I love very, very much – book 5, For A Few Demons More was in fact the first book I had ever given a perfect 10 to here on The Book Smugglers – but as of late (meaning the past two novels), I have felt that the series has backtracked and started to lose focus. So, it was with a bit of nervous trepidation that I began Pale Demon…
And Tink’s a Disney whore, it was awesome.
Not only has Kim Harrison managed to erase any doubts that I might have had about the series, but she’s also managed to raise the stakes and write one of the strongest Hollows books, period. But before I get ahead of myself, first, the story:
Rachel Morgan has had a rough streak of luck in her professional life, her family life, her love life, and…well, life in general. Being hunted by the coven as an evil black magic witch that consorts with demons, Rachel is determined to clear her name. Per an agreement with Oliver, one of the high-ranking coven officials, in return for her silence about witches and their biology as stunted demons, Rachel’s name will be cleared, her shunning will be rescinded, and the assassination attempts will stop after her hearing with the coven in San Francisco. In theory, all Rachel has to do is get there on time and alive. Of course, things are never so simple, and Rachel finds herself in a whole mess of trouble. The coven isn’t going to make it easy for Rache to get out to the west coast, putting her on a no-fly list and blatantly attempting to detain her so that she never makes it to her hearing. At the same time, Rache finds herself pressured by Trent Kalamak, who (as always) has his own agenda. Trent needs Rachel to get him to the west coast, too, for some secret secret elf-political matter that he refuses to disclose, and is adamant about Rachel escorting him there. With elven assassins, subterfuge from coven members, and one unprecedentedly all-powerful, day-walking demon on their tail, Rachel, Ivy, Jenks, and Trent have a long, hard mission ahead of them. Reaching the coast alive is one thing – getting Rachel’s name cleared and keeping her out of the ever-after is quite another.
Where do I start with Pale Demon? I cannot speak too much about actual plot points for fear of massive spoilers that are best discovered on one’s own, but the character growth and overall story development is something Ms. Harrison nails in this book beautifully. Although Pale Demon starts a bit slowly with Rachel’s somewhat irritating brand of naivete (her wide-eyed belief that the coven will actually keep their word), once she and the gang hit the road and demons become involved, the story picks up the slack and does not once let up. The plot and pacing are throwbacks to old school Rachel Morgan, with danger aplenty and a brand new type of demonic menace that goes by the very odd name of Ku’Sox (which makes me think of a weird hybrid of NCAA basketball and pro baseball). I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say that Ku’Sox is one bad mother trucker. So much happens in this novel, as Rachel finally comes to a head with the idiot witches gunning for her and, more importantly, with her own limbo-status as a woman that can twist demon curses, but does so for the greater good. There’s a lot of soul searching in this book, and Rachel is forced to finally grow up. No longer can she be ruled by her insane hormones (if you’ve read the series this far, you gotta admit that the woman has a one-track mind and a self-destructive streak from here to the ever-after) or ignore the implications of her magical actions. No, in Pale Demon, Rachel must come to terms with exactly what she is and what her unique abilities mean.
Although there’s a bit less from Ivy and Jenks in this book – they are along for the trip, but aren’t ever really a focal point for the story – familiar faces also play big roles in Pale Demon. Besides Rachel, the other stepping up big character in this book is the sometimes friend-sometimes foe Trent Kalamak – who has always been one of my favorite characters because of his far-reaching agendas, which often are so often not in Rachel’s best interest. We began The Hollows series with Trent as a bonafide Bad Guy, who transformed Rachel into a rodent and then was intent on coercing her to work for him in order to test out his own elvish-race-serving agenda (in which he tests out his theories re: genetically-modified-witch-twisting-demon-curses). But since then, Trent’s allegiance has become a bit more amorphous. He’s saved Rachel’s life almost as many times as he’s thrown her to the wolves, but even though he finds himself bound to her at the onset of Pale Demon, Rachel cannot bring herself to trust the elf (and rightly so). This is a book of transformation for Trent just as much as it is one for Rachel, as he finally seems to have something to care about (or at the very least, his motivations finally seem like they stem from basic compassion). That’s really, really cool. And I like the strange relationship that he and Rachel share, with plenty of fodder for thought for the next novel. (And secretly, the fangirl in me is excited by the opportunity because I have kind of always wanted to see where this relationship would go.)
There’s a sense of forward momentum with characters in this book and the overall series arc, just as there is a feeling of looming finality on the horizon. Like Rachel’s dream at the end of Pale Demon, there is the promise of something poignant and bittersweet to come. I cannot wait.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
“Brown or green for the drapes, Rache?”
Jenks’s voice slid into my dozing state, and I opened an eyelid a crack to find him hovering inches from my nose. The sun was hot, and I didn’t want to move, even if his wings provided a cold draft. “Too close. I can’t see,” I said as I shifted in the webbed lounge chair, and he drifted back, his dragonflylike wings humming fast enough to spill a red- tinted pixy dust over my bare middle. June, sunbathing, and Cincinnati normally didn’t go together, but today was my last day to get a tan before I headed west for my brother’s wedding.
Two bundles of fabric were draped over Jenks’s arms, spider silk most likely dyed and woven by one of his daughters. His shoulder-length curly blond hair—uncut since his wife’s death—was tied back with a bit of twine to show his angular, pinched features. I thought it odd that a pixy able to fend off an entire team of assassins was worried about the color of his drapes.
“Well,” I hedged, not any more confident in this than he was, “the green goes with the floor, but I’d go with the taupe. You need some visual warmth down there.”
“Brown?” he said, looking at it doubtfully. “I thought you liked the green tile.
“I do,” I explained, thinking that breaking up a pop bottle for floor tile was ingenious. “But if you make everything the same color, you’ll wind up back in the seventies.”
Jenks’s wings dropped in pitch, and his shoulders slumped. “I’m not good at this,” he whispered, becoming melancholy as he remembered Matalina. “Tell me which one.”
I cringed inside. I wanted to give him a hug, but he was only four inches tall. Small, yes, but the pixy had saved my life more times than I had spell pots in my kitchen. Sometimes, though, I felt as if we were worlds apart. “Taupe,” I said.
“Thanks.” Trailing dull gold dust, Jenks flew in a downward arc to the knee-high wall that separated my backyard from the graveyard. The high- walled graveyard was mine, too, or Jenks’s, actually, seeing that he owned the deed, but I was the one who mowed the lawn.
Heartache took me, and the sun seemed a little cooler as I watched Jenks’s dust trail vanish under the sprouting bluebells and moss, and into his new bachelor-size home. The last few months had been hard on him as he learned to live without Matalina. My being able to become small enough to help him through that first difficult day had gone a long way in convincing me that demon magic wasn’t bad unless you used it for a dark purpose.
The breeze cooled the corner of my eye, and I smiled even as I dabbed the almost tear away. I could smell the newly cut grass, and the noise of a nearby mower rose high over the distant hum of Cincinnati, across the river. There was a stack of decorating magazines beside my suntan oil and a glass of melted iced tea—the lull before the storm. Tomorrow would be the beginning of my personal hell, and it was going to last the entire week, through the annual witches’ conference. What happened after that was anyone’s guess.
Nervous, I shifted the straps of my bikini so there wouldn’t be any tan lines showing in my bridesmaid’s dress, already packed and hanging in a garment bag in my closet. The witches’ annual meeting had started yesterday on the other side of the continent. I was the last on the docket—like saving the biggest circus act for the end.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: I’ve always loved the play on Westerns that each title of The Hollows series uses, and Pale Demon is no exception.
A play on yet another Clint Eastwood classic, Pale Demon borrows its name from Pale Rider – a movie about a gunslinger, with a title that alludes to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Death, that is.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
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