The Hollows #2: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison

Read: 10 October, 2013

I had a lot of negative things to say about Dead Witch Walking, mostly involving contrived plot hinges and senseless decisions. I had been recommended the series as a friend and wanted to stick it through because of that, but I was unimpressed and waited a long time before I bothered to pick up the next book.

I’m really glad that I took my friend’s advice and kept reading! The second book is a huge improvement. The plot is much tighter, the character motives are clearer, the suspense is more believable… All around, it’s a far better book. It also answers many of the questions from the first that had bugged me, and is much better at asking questions for future instalments (one of the complaints I had about the first book was that there were plot elements that I was confused about and only figured out that I was supposed to be confused by looking them up online – nothing in the text had hinted that the mysteries were still open).

That being said, I did find Morgan’s fixation on Trent rather disquieting. There really wasn’t a reason for her to think he was involved in the murders she was investigating, yet she hounds him down anyway. Then her behaviour in the case was utterly incomprehensible (and her realization of how inappropriate she’d been didn’t seem to explain why she’d ever thought her actions were a good idea in the first place). The lengthy arguments with the F.I.B. officers over her wanting to just accuse and lock up Trent without anything more than her suspicions were tiresome and frustrating.

Even so, I can definitely see the series picking up, and I think I can now consider myself “into it.”

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The Hollows #1: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

Read: 19 March, 2013

Rachel Morgan has been getting bored with all the small-fry runs she’s been sent on lately. She knows she’s a good runner, so why won’t they give her any good runs? So, on a whim, she decides to leave the I.S. and strike out on her own, despite the stories about the last person who tried to break his contract…

I did enjoy the book – really! – and I fully intend to read more of the series. But there were some issues that bugged me. For example:

Rachel really needs to get laid, or maybe just masturbate or something. Throughout the story, she is physically attracted to the point of distraction nearly every character she meets! Except, of course, the one she ends up dating. She notices his body on a few occasions, but not in the “gaga” way that she notices Ivy, Jenks, or Trent. In fact, while I’m on the subject, the whole Nick romance feels somewhat forced.

There are other plot critical points that just don’t seem to make much sense, or aren’t sufficiently explained. For example, why won’t the I.S. let her leave? If the problem is just the breech of contract, why not sue her or seize her assets instead of trying to kill her? If the problem is that she might have some “insider knowledge,” why doesn’t she seem to have any? And if the issue really is just that she’s taken Ivy with her so her old boss has a personal grudge, in what world is having someone killed an acceptable (let alone institutional) way of dealing with such things?

Or the point was just to add some tension to the story early on and give Rachel a reason to keep pursuing Trent once he proves himself to be rather more dangerous than she might be able to handle. Yet even this didn’t quite work. The idea that there was some suspicion surround Trent is raised early on, but there’s no reason to believe that the I.S. would suddenly stop trying to kill Rachel just because she brought in Trent – or anyone else. In fact,  if Trent is really as powerful as he’s made out to be, it seems that the I.S. might have more reason to want to avoid such a high profile and volatile case.

Same goes for the Ivy subplot. There’s some questions about Ivy’s motives, and Rachel distrusts her throughout the story, but she stays with her anyway. Again, it feels forced. Either the issue is a simple misunderstanding that an honest conversation could fix, in which case Rachel is blowing it way out of proportion, or Ivy really is a threat, in which case Rachel needs to stop trusting her so much. But it feels like Harrison wants to preserve the mystery while still having Rachel and Ivy be friends, so instead Rachel just bounces back and forth between trusting Ivy and being terrified of her.

We’re told on a few occasions that Rachel is a great runner, but the story doesn’t really seem to play that out. She scoffs at the idea of planning ahead and just kinda throws herself into situations completely unprepared. Again and again, she relies on luck and other people to save her.

And the size of the role that luck plays is rather disappointment. For example, when Rachel is in the fighting ring (no spoilers!) and just happens to be pitted against the one person who can help her. I kept waiting for it all to be part of Trent’s plan, but no. It was just unbelievable luck.

But, like I said, I really did enjoy the book. It was fast paced and there are some characters I really like. Jenks and his family are fantastic, and I loved the bits about fairies and pixies. I also found Nick intriguing, and I feel like there’s going to be a lot more to him later in the series.

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