Warning: Spoilers will follow.
Can I contract swimmer’s ear from headsets? For the last month, I’ve worn headsets everywhere—in the yard, when I have a spare moment at work, in the tub, in the car (well, the headset covers only one ear then). I’m so addicted to my current set of audio books that my ears are sunlight and fresh air deprived.
And it’s all because of Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, my current favorite binge-worthy series, and Rachel Morgan. Have you heard of her?
Rachel Morgan was a government-sanctioned bounty hunting witch, but she quit her job–despite the death threats–to live and work with a living vampire, a foul-mouth pixie, and his extensive family in a sanctified church. She’s also protected from vampires, alpha to a werewolf pack, enemy number one of a politically popular murderous elf, and coveted and feared as a new breed of chemically-created demon (sort of). Plus, she has horrible fashion sense, bad people skills, scary driving, and the worst taste in men since Cally fell for Tyrol.
Let me explain.
Every book is like a television season.
The best elements of those shows are a part of Rachel Morgan’s life story. Each book of the 13-book series (excluding novellas and prequels) is a TV season’s worth of drama, battle, and romantic conflict. She must escape hair-raising adventures, there are cliffhangers between chapters instead of at the end of a book–I haven’t been so committed to the next installment since Xena and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the TV show, not the movie).
In the first book Dead Witch Walking, Rachel
- accepts a leprechaun’s three wishes,
- quits her job,
- moves into a church with a vampire who has a major crush on her,
- narrowly escapes fairy, werewolf, and witchy assassins sent by her former employer,
- breaks into a businessman’s compound,
- fights a rat as a mink because an angry businessman wants her to work for him,
- rescues herself and the rat,
- barely survives a demon attack,
- owes the same demon a favor, and
- steals blackmail documents from a man who with hell hounds hunts her down on horseback.
These major events don’t engulf the full scope of the story line. Even Buffy didn’t experience this much havoc when Angel lost his soul or Glory hunted her sister. Yet each Hollow book is as busy as the first book, and while Rachel resolves some issues, bigger concerns loom just beneath the story line, so I stayed excited about each upcoming installment.
So excited that I talked to the empty air as I listened to Rachel’s decisions unfold. Yes, I was that weirdo in the car next to you yelling at empty air.
You thought that was road rage? Nope, I yelled at her for forgetting to use her magic. I cheered her on as her burst of temper resolved a dangerous situation.
But like Buffy, Rachel has those moments of what to wear, what to do, who to fight and who to trust such as Trent, Nick, Pierce, and Al.
Trent, Nick, Pierce, Al—No one is absolute.
Decisions about the people in her life regularly plague Rachel. She has men whom she’s never trusted along with a brimstone kingpin, illegal genetic researcher, murderous elf with a noble cause, a beautiful daughter, and loyal friends. For several books, Rachel never trusts Trent, but he and his bodyguard Quen repeatedly help her, even when they don’t want to or need to. With too many connections to nearly every business or death in Cincinnati, most situations lead back to Trent.
On the other hand, an ex-boyfriend who helps Rachel almost as often as he betrays her, Nick seems no better than Pierce (the hundreds-year-old ghost-demon familiar possessing a dead witch’s body) who manages to hurt Rachel every time he helps her. Both men place Rachel in life-threatening situations, but their intentions are vastly different. Even Big Al is likely to garner audience sympathy despite his characterization–a violent demon who teaches Rachel how to cast curses.
So who’s evil? It’s not that simple.
The Hollows’s characters repeatedly prove that good and evil are complex constructs. Instead, “bad” is a spectrum.
Even Rachel’s “good guy” best friends become violent predators when their home, friends, and family are attacked, yet paragon Rachel, who has never intentionally killed anyone, never judges these lapses in morality. Rachel, too, commits “bad” acts for the right reasons. While several secondary characters are rigidly good or evil, the complexity of character was refreshing since the books encourage readers to judge.
No one in the series is exclusively good or evil. Saving a species requires vicious decision-making. A caring boyfriend can be a masterful thief and liar. A dedicated coven leader protects witches through black magic and demon murder. Their behaviors and morality float based on the situation and people involved. As a reader, Harrison allows me to place the characters on a personal spectrum of naughty to evil rather than tell me how to feel.
So far, it was worth it.
I have complained about authors who needlessly extend their stories to achieve a word count, but not finish the story line. Sure, in the end, the work is a novel (technically), but the content is filler, and the second, third, fourth, and fifth books could be one longish book, maybe two books, instead of five volume series at $5.99 each.
Obviously, money rather than quality motivates these writers. Thus, I am leery of lengthy book series.
Now, obviously, that’s not true of all writers. Some authors—Charlaine Harris, B. L. Brunnemer, and Kim Harrison—make their extensive series worth their readers’ time.
Harrison shares a new adventure in each book that moves major plot points forward while delving into the characters’ complex drama-riddled lives. Each book has a unique plot that engages the reader without dragging the reader through pointless retelling of previous plots for more half the book. Each segment of the story is worth my time, worth my interest.
Thus, I merrily plow forward with three more books of the original series, plus another seven related novellas, because I want to know everything.
Anyway, I love investing in a good character, and Rachel is a great investment. She makes me chuckle and shake my head as she falls into unexpected trouble. I moan “why” as she dates the wrong men. I want to shake her when she makes bad decisions. Rachel Morgan and her Hollows release me from my submissive reader role, and for that, I love her.