Author: Kim Harrison
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 462 (hardcover)
Selected By: Elle Tea
Elle Tea’s Score:
“Rachel Morgan’s come a long way from the clutzy runner of Dead Witch Walking. She’s faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She’s crossed worlds, channeled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She’s lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has become something much more.
“But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price. That time is now.
“To save Ivy’s soul and the rest of the living vampires, to keep the demonic ever after and our own world from destruction, Rachel Morgan will risk everything.” – from the Goodreads summary.
So, here we are. The last Rachel Morgan installment of the Hollows series. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the urban fantasy set over this moment…
But not from this gal. No, ladies and gents, as with my review over the previous installments of this series, I remain completely unimpressed and absolutely baffled as to why these books remain so popular. Sure, the first book was great, and the second one was pretty good, but they began fizzling out with the third novel… and they didn’t really ever recover, save with the ninth installment, Pale Demon, which reminded me why I started reading these in the first place (and is probably the only real reason I continued reading them – I kept waiting for one of the later ones to surprise me as much as that ninth one did).
But this review is for this book alone, so I’ll try to stay focused here. First, let me give credit where credit is due, because I do believe in fairness:
The world that Harrison has created remains clever, fascinating, and, for the most part, cohesive with this final novel. I have no problem believing in a future population effected by genetically-modified food staples, and my imagination didn’t have to stretch too far to believe that the rising factions that exist in Harrison’s brave new world – supernatural though they are – have a tendency to bicker and fight amongst themselves over the getting and keeping of power.
I have, since the beginning, really loved that the magic of the Hollows is not just something that can be tapped into with a wand and a series of rhyming commands, but, rather, a science reserved for those with a select set of biological markers – and even they must study and learn how to access and wield it properly. The ley lines referenced so frequently as the sources of Rachel’s (and just about everyone else’s, for that matter) power feature heavily in this final novel, and, while I enjoyed the “logical” explanations provided for their existence and how they actually work, it did start to get a bit murky when it came to destroying, repairing, and replacing them; for so important a feature of the world and its denizens of the paranormal persuasion, they were remarkably delicate (and yet not so necessary or as irreplaceable as one might assume).
If nothing else, it does have to be said that The Witch with No Name had a rapid pace. In the end, the story didn’t interest me much and the characters we do interact with fell flat compared to their previous appearances, but the story itself rushes along at a fair clip. The writing itself is still rather “off” for me, with a lot of repetitive phrasing and tired adjectives – and the overuse of those horrid “catchphrases” I hate so much (such as “Mother pusbucket”, which, as I mentioned in my previous Hollows review, I cannot read without thinking of Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters I).
As always, I do still like Harrison’s versions of vampires, pixies, fairies, elves, banshees, witches, and werewolves, though most of the races and characters we’ve been introduced to over the past ten years are lucky if they get so much as an honorable mention in this final installment.
Rachel Morgan has never been my favorite character in any of the Hollows books – in fact, she probably ranks as one of my least favorite characters in the entire series, based primarily on the fact that she never learns from her mistakes and stubbornly refuses to grow as a (fictional) person over the three-year period in which this series is meant to occur. But quite a lot has been said by other reviewers about what a strong, “kick ass,” independent heroine little Rachel is…
Yet here we are, thirteen books in, three years after the occurrences of Dead Witch Walking (Book 1), a decade after cracking open the spine of that first book… and I still have to admit that I haven’t seen any evidence of strength, independence, or even of her kicking much ass. I’ve read plenty about her getting her ass kicked, and I’ve read about her friends getting their asses kicked because of or for her. I’m not sure what passes for strength and independence with most people, but I’m fairly sure that if I had to use two words to describe Rachel Morgan – even the Rachel Morgan of just this one last book – “strength” and “independence” wouldn’t be anywhere on that list. In just The Witch with No Name, our “kick ass” heroine has to repeatedly have some pillar of strength in the form of a male supporting character come pick her up, oozing concern and dripping chivalry, and carry her to a couch, table, for a roll in the hay, or for a bath when poor Rachel is tuckered out after a long day of fighting. She doesn’t display the characteristics of a strong, independent, kick-ass heroine; rather, she betrays herself at every turn to be just as co-dependent, weak, and self-absorbed as ever. And what’s really disheartening to me about it is that I really believe she appeals to a majority of women solely because a majority of women still think being rescued by some guy is romantic (i.e., what I call the Princess in a Tower complex); they think being desirable is the best weapon a woman can successfully rely on and wield, and they think it’s the epitome of romance to be rescued by some strong manstudthing (this also explains the ridiculous amount of popularity achieved by such horribly written books as Fifty Shades of Grey and the Twilight series).
During the course of this final novel, Rachel is forced to face head-on not just the demon collective but also the elven dewar and, as always, the vampires. One of her closest friends is almost killed, the ley lines are threatened, her boyfriend’s way of life is coming unraveled, the ever after is crumbling, the elven Goddess is running amok, Ellasbeth is up to her old kidnapping shenanigans, and what, I ask you, what do you suppose could possibly be at the fore of our quasi-heroine’s mind during this trying time, this veritable End of Days?
Why, whether she has commitment issues and whether she sabotages her own romantic relationships. Naturally.
Yes. She mentions this repeatedly throughout the novel, whenever any other character pauses for breath, whenever there’s a brief lull in the action, there she is, worrying about her ability to be loveable. Because that’s what strong, independent, kick-ass heroines do.
The supporting characters that really made this ten-year journey through Rachel Morgan’s self-absorbed wreck of a life worthwhile for me at all were surprisingly – and sadly – fairly flat in this final installment. Jenks, who usually gives us a break from Rachel and lets us get a giggle or two in at her expense, comes across as rather stale, relegated to little more than delivering his tired catchphrases (i.e., “Tink’s panties!”), while Belle essentially stalks in, delivers a morose line or two, then stalks right back out – for good. Our other big humor pot, Al, was too preoccupied with survival for a good portion of this book to concern himself with humor, but his meager attempts were the most entertaining. David, who has been a regular since his initial appearance, flitted in for a nod then shot right back out again – his brief appearance comprising the last we see of the shape-shifting population of the Hollows. Bis pops onto the stage just long enough to take his bow, and that’s it – he literally sleeps through the rest of the book.
As the newest flavor of the month, Trent is evident throughout. He has always been one of my favorites – even when he was wearing his Bad Guy mask, I still found him to be one of the most intriguing characters in the series and, quite possibly, the only one with any sort of depth at all. His calm decisiveness is the only force really pushing this novel along, but this is not the hard, do-or-die, sacrifice the good of one for the good of many Trenton Kalamack of yore. Instead, we have this new character, the one that represents what’s left behind when Rachel Morgan gets her co-dependent claws into him: Trent, the soft and squishy family man who poses no threat to Rachel’s overall faux badassness.
In The Witch with No Name, we’ve come full circle to find Rachel once more forced to focus on the vampires and their souls. The driving force for Rachel here is Ivy, of course, who we find still torturing herself over a loved one. Cormel is still flexing his muscles, though in this book he sounds remarkably like the Trent Kalamack of the earlier novels – a businessman who takes things too far to get what he thinks he needs. The demons are, surprisingly enough, reduced down to just Newt and Dali, both of whom make very brief appearances before taking their bows.
And before I tackle the ending, I want to just say one more thing about the sex in this series. Let me begin this by saying I am certainly not a prude; back in the day, I worked at a headshop that sold “novelty items” (ahem) and the types of movies that require their own special, windowless storage room and for which one must show an ID before being permitted to view so much as the DVD covers. So, suffice it to say that I am not so easily offended, rattled, shaken, or even impressed.
But it has to have a purpose. And it’s my opinion that if sex and romance are the purpose, then the novel isn’t really urban fantasy at all, but a Harlequin romance that happens to contain paranormal characters. And for the love of all that is sweat and toe-curling, if you absolutely must drop in two or three unnecessary sex scenes in every book, at least make them worth the effort it takes to hit the “next” button on my Kindle; make them fun, make them different – Rachel Morgan has various partners throughout this series, and each one is of a different race with very different gifts and dangers… but she has the same tired, tragically boring sex with every single one of them, and, just as tragically, this strong and independent kick-ass chick lets these guys do most of the work. In fact, I do believe the award for Steamiest Sex Scene in a Hollows Novel belongs to Ivy, who at least took the initiative, got Rachel’s uptight ass up against a wall, and gave her a hint of the real price of being with a vamp… and the two of them (a) weren’t even actually having sex, (b) were never actually involved with one another, and (c) ended up fighting at the end of that scene.
And the finale? Well, to avoid ruining it for those of you who want to read it yourselves, I will say only this: I haven’t been this disappointed by a flash-forward epilogue since J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter & the Half-Hearted Ending.
So. I will finish my review of the (finally) finished Hollows series with this last recommendation:
If you’re a fan of urban fantasy who prefers their female protagonists to actually be strong, independent, and kick-ass, check out the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. If you’re a fan of romance novels who also happens to like supernatural / paranormal themes, then the Hollows series might just be right up your alley.
Elle read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.