Title: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
Author: Kim Harrison
Review Number: 17
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Fiction
Stand alone or series: Second book in The Hollows (Rachel Morgan) series
Summary: (From amazon.com)
It’s a tough life for witch Rachel Morgan, sexy, independent bounty hunter, prowling the darkest shadows of downtown Cincinnati for criminal creatures of the night.
She can handle the leather-clad vamps and even tangle with a cunning demon or two. But a serial killer who feeds on the experts in the most dangerous kind of black magic is definitely pressing the limits.
Confronting an ancient, implacable evil is more than just child’s play — and this time, Rachel will be lucky to escape with her very soul.
Why did I read the book: I loved the quirkiness of Rachel Morgan in book 1, and I had to see where book 2 would take her.
I thought book 1 was a solid start to a promising series, and Ms. Harrison completely won me over with book 2. No sophomore slump here—this brilliant author manages to defy the law of diminishing returns and create a sequel that is even better than the first.
First off, let me just say that the little summaries from the publisher on the back of the books are completely misleading. They make Rachel Morgan sound like some sexkitten voluptuous witch that slinks around defeating creatures of the night without messing up her hair. This sort of “sexy” characterization couldn’t be further from the truth! Rachel Morgan is a tall, skinny, flat-chested, freckled redhead—with hair that never quite listens to her or her anti-frizz charms. She’s cute and likes to dress how she likes to dress, but she isn’t some sexy maven on the prowl. (That would be her vampire roommate, Ivy.)
Now that I’ve got that off my chest…this time around, Rachel Morgan really manages to get in a serious pickle. She has a penchant for attracting big time trouble, and lands in a mess. Dead Witch Walking closes with some loose ends that are nicely addressed in The Good, the Bad, and the Undead. The book begins with Rachel and Jenks—her pixy partner—undercover on a run, to steal back a fish that happens to be a team mascot. Very Ace Ventura—in a good way. After narrowly escaping with the stolen fish and cursing the fact that the effort of the run was sooo not worth a scant $500, Rachel is immediately scooped up by the F.I.B. (the Federal Inderland Bureau) for another run contract—she helped the F.I.B. in book 1 as an independent contractor, in an attempt to bring down drug lord Trent Kalamack. Someone has been killing ley line witches in Cincinnati. The F.I.B. suspect a former professor of Rachel’s is behind the murders, and tell Rache if she wants the contract, she’ll have to pose as a student. Despite the objectionable going to class and doing homework, Rache can’t deny the run…especially when Trent Kalamack himself is implicated in the murders.
At the same time, Rachel has her own personal problems to deal with. Demon-marked from book 1, Rachel continues to be terrorized by Algiarept (the demon sent to kill her in Dead Witch Walking). Things get even more complicated with Ivy, as the undead vamp seems to have deeper designs for Rachel in the future—what’s worse is, Rachel’s demon scar has some nasty implications for Rachel, leaving her unsafe around any vampire. Especially when Master Vamp Piscary, Ivy’s ‘uncle’, decides that Rachel is an obstacle that needs to be silenced one way or the other.
Did I mention that Rachel also has some pretty nasty man problems after accidentally screwing up her familiar claiming spell?
Ms. Harrison’s alternate world is complex and utterly convincing. This is one author that knows how to define parameters and makes sure to stick by her own rules—it’s a major pet peeve of mine in fantasy books when authors half-ass world creation or have whack power/magic ratios. In order to suspend disbelief in a genre that by definition is fantastic and beyond belief, specifics need to be nurtured and realized. And Ms. Harrison does it just as well as the best in the Urban Fantasy genre.
I love the ‘rules’ of vampirism in Ms. Harrison’s universe—probably the best new vampire lore I have ever read. You can’t just be bitten by a vamp with no consequences here; anyone that is bitten by a strong enough vampire becomes their “shadow”. That is, you can only become aroused by that specific vamp and become their “partner”, so to speak. Until they die or get tired of you. Things are even more complicated for Rachel since she is pumped up with vampire saliva from her demon attack, but never has actually been bitten by a true vampire which means that she can be “claimed” by the first vamp to bite her. It makes for a damn suspenseful story.
Rachel again proves herself as a heroine you want to know and root for. She’s imperfect, headstrong, and her observations and conclusions are often impulsive and flat-out wrong, but that’s what makes her endearingly real as a character. The tension-filled relationship between Rachel and Ivy jumps to a new level in this book, and I have to admit that I am fascinated by the interplay between the two. It’s angst-ridden and frankly, it’s pretty sexy. Ms. Harrison again proves that she can do it all—write complicated storylines, create (and continue to develop) realistic characters, all while maintaining suspense, romance and horror simultaneously.
This is no small task, and Ms. Harrison does it seamlessly. Anyone that might be tired of the genre or is ‘vamped out’—I feel your pain. But if you haven’t read the Rachel Morgan books you truly are missing out. I’m reading through this series and can’t get enough of it. Rachel Morgan is definitely one of the elite in my book, right up there with Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series.
Notable Quotes/Parts: For the romance fans out there, The Good the Bad and the Undead has an incredibly hot sex scene. After a sparring session with Ivy that nearly ends up with Rachel getting a throatful of fang, Nick (Rachel’s boyfriend) rescues her and takes her over to his apartment. After being exposed to all the vamp pheromones from Ivy, Rachel and Nick get busy in a pretty intense way. Rrraaaoowr!
Additional Thoughts: On the titles—I love that each title is an allusion to old Clint Eastwood (as the man with no name) movies. My dad is a huge Clint Eastwood fan and I grew up watching spaghetti westerns (whether I wanted to or not!). The Good, the Bad, and the Undead is probably the most easily spotted of the titles—a reference to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. But the next books A Fistful of Charms and For a Few Demons More also play off the Clint Eastwood theme (A Fistful of Dollars, and For a Few Dollars More). For those not familiar with Clint in his “blondie” role, the man with no name was one of the first movie/western main characters that was not a ‘hero’ per se, but in fact a bounty hunter driven by a need for a payoff…but also played by his own moral rules. Knowing this and reading Rachel Morgan, you can see how Ms. Harrison was inspired to translate some of these qualities down in her heroine (as later in the series Rachel is forced to ally with character that she doesn’t particularly like or trust, but does it for the greater good, and for the handsome payoff).
Verdict: Loved it. Can’t get enough of it!
Rating: 8 Excellent — and only getting BETTER with each book.
Reading Next: Fire Study (Book 3 of the “Study” Series) by Maria V. Snyder