Books : reviews

Kim Harrison.
Once Dead, Twice Shy.
Harper. 2009

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 19 August 2014

Madison’s prom was killer—literally. Now, thanks to a mysterious amlulet, she’s stuck on Earth: dead but not gone. She has no idea why the dark reaper who did her in was after her, but shes not about to just sit around and let fate take its course. With a little skilled light-bending, the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys … maybe), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison’s ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before it takes control of her.

Well, if she believed in that stuff.

Madison Avery is dead. She was “reaped” at her prom, but grabbed the dark reaper's amulet, which stopped her moving on. The light reapers have given her a body, so she still appears to be alive to her friends and family. Which means she still has to go to school. But the most important lesson she needs to learn is why the dark reapers came for her, and why they are still searching for her.

This is fun mind candy. It has the standard YA trope of “My parents don’t understand that I’m different. Really different.” However, the plot spins off in unexpected directions, and Madison feels realistic, caught between wisecracking her way out of difficulties, and genuine terror.

Kim Harrison.
Early to Death, Early to Rise.
Harper. 2010

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 3 November 2014

Madison Avery’s dreams of fitting in at school died when she did. Especially since she’d maintained the illusion of a body, dealt with a pesky guardian angel, and oh yeah, brought the reaper who killed her to his untimely end. Not exactly in-crowd material.

Now Madison has learned that she’s inherited the job of dark timekeeper and is in charge of angels who protect fate, whatever that means. Never one to abide by the system, Madison forms a group of rogue angels who definitely don’t heed the rules of the heavens. But as she grapples with terrifying new powers, Madison may not be prepared for what lies ahead—unless she gets some seriously divine intervention.

Madison Avery, 17-year-old dead teenager, has discovered her fate is to be the dark timekeeper, the one who sends out dark reapers to kill those about to lose their soul. But Madison doesn’t believe in fate, she believes in choice, and determines to give those people a chance to like. This upsets a long tradition, and everyone, dark, light, and human, seems to be against her. She needs to save a soul, convince the angels, and not get grounded by her dad.

More fun mind candy, as Madison wrestles with the problems of dating, her dad worried about her not eating, and changing an age old tradition of killing. I think she would be helped by better requirement analysis skills, as the set-up and success criteria seem rather ill-defined.

Kim Harrison.
Something Deadly This Way Comes.
Harper. 2012

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 19 November 2014

When Madison Avery died on her prom night, she knew her life would never be the same. And she was right. Now she has a powerful amulet that gives her the illusion of a body, a team of rogue angels by her side, the ability to flash forward into the future to see the shape of destiny, and a perfect boyfriend who doesn’t even mind that she’s dead.

But Madison soon faces her most difficult decision yet. She could have the one thing she wants most in the world: a normal life. But would that mean giving up everything she’s worked so hard for?

Madison Avery, 17-years-old, dead, dark timekeeper, has successfully save a soul, rather than reaping it. But that doesn’t mean her job is over. She needs to save more to convince the seraphs to change the set-up, and they are not making it easy for her. But she’s tired of being dead: so instead she could find her body, and return to being a real teenager, leaving the dark timekeeping behind her. Yet where would that leave Nakita, the Dark Reaper damaged by Madison’s earlier fight?

This concludes the trilogy with more action-packed mind candy, after a slightly whiney start. Some rather dodgy world building (just what is a soul, that can be shredded and regrown, and can be denied to the angels, anyway?), but some interesting reversals between the supposed good guys and bad guys, as we find out just what happens to those not reaped at the appropriate time.

Kim Harrison.
Dead Witch Walking.
HarperTorch. 2004

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 13 May 2006

In an alternate history, where the world embraced bioengineering more than physics, a genetically modified virus accidentally released in infected tomatoes caused a plague that wiped out a quarter of the human population. But the witches, vampires, weres and more, all in hiding until then, were immune, so they stepped into the breach to keep the world running. And as a result, they are now full members of society, living openly in their own ghettoes, policed by their own Inderland Security.

Rachel Morgan, witch and IS runner, is fed up with her job, getting all the crappy assignments, so she quits, to go private. But when Ivy, a living vampire and her sometime partner, quits with her, her boss decides she's to blame, and puts out a death contract on her. So the race is on, to pull in a big enough villain, while dodging the assassins, so that she can get the contract cancelled.

This is a book to judge neither by its cover, nor its blurb. It is marketed as a "romp", but it's actually much darker than that, with a lot of pain, fear, and nastiness (although nothing like the Anita Blake level, despite, again, the blurb). There is a good gloss of dry humour over it all, but in a rather hard-boiled way, certainly not laugh-a-minute. The world building is interesting, with the different magical types all having their own logic, and the plot is suitably convoluted. In fact. it's so convoluted that not all the loose ends are tied up -- I'm assuming they are being left for later in the series. At the end of this first book, Rachel has won her immediate battle, and made some good friends, but at the cost of making a known powerful enemy, and an unknown even more powerful one. I'm interested enough to want to find out what happens next.

Kim Harrison.
The Good, the Bad, and the Undead.
HarperTorch. 2005

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 5 June 2006

Rachel Morgan, witch and private detective, now has enough of a reputation after her previous adventures to pull in the commissions, but paying the rent is still a struggle. However, someone is killing ley line witches in particularly gruesome ways, and the FBI pull her in as an Inderland "consultant". She agrees to help. But things rapidly get darker, and trickier, as her boyfriend Nick gets in deeper with the demon who tried to kill her before, and Rachel has to go back to school to investigate the FIB's prime suspect, even though she's convinced it's Trent, her previous adversary.

By the end, after lots of blood, and death, and magic, the current villain has been foiled, and lots of interesting small plot threads have been carefully started or developed, to support the series. This is darker than the previous one, although still with the touches of (dark) humour, and some of those plot devices point to darker stuff to come.

Kim Harrison.
Every Which Way but Dead.
HarperTorch. 2005

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 8 July 2006

Rachel Morgan, witch and private detective, has a problem. The vampire Piscary wants her dead, and the only way she could stop him is to put him in jail. And the only way she managed that was to make a deal with a demon to testify against him. And now the demon is coming to collect: to make Rachel his familiar. On top of all that, a new force is in town, threatening her old enemy Trent, an old lover of Ivy's arrives to get Piscary out of jail, the pixie Jenks has left in a huff, and Rachel's love life is turned upside-down. The usual, then.

This takes a while to get going, spending rather too much time focussing on Rachel's new involvement with a vampire (too much following the frankly downward trend of the Anita Blake novels for my taste), but when things do get going, it's non-stop slam-bang action. There are many new characters introduced (the were David, the vampire lawyer Skipper, the ex-familiar Ceri) who are clearly going to become much more important in later stories. And it's no surprise to find that Rachel gets out of her immediate problem, only to find herself in a deeper, darker one -- for next time.

Kim Harrison.
A Fistful of Charms.
HarperTorch. 2006

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 19 August 2006

Rachel learns that her ex-boyfriend, the human Nick, and Jax, Jenks' pixie son, are in trouble in Michigan. Jenks is desperate to save his son, but Rachel knows the four inch tall pixie won't survive alone. So she goes north with him. They discover that Nick has stolen something from a pack of Weres, and the Weres are very insistent on getting it back, torturing Nick to discover its location. Rachel decides she has to rescue Nick, despite the fact he walked out on her, but gets herself captured by the Weres, and finds herself in a fight to the death with their alpha female. Then things start to get dangerous...

This is slam-bang action from the start, as Rachel uses her usual unsubtle head-first approach to solving problems. More flirting with demon magic, more self-discovery, and many bloody battles with weres make this an interesting addition to the series. And that series is definitely getting darker and more serious, as life gets extremely complicated for Rachel, and for her friends.

Kim Harrison.
For a Few Demons More.
HarperCollins. 2007

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 11 March 2007

"Most people make decisions in anger, fear, love, or obligation. You make decisions to irritate people."

The complications for Rachel and her friends continue, as the Inderlanders realise that the Were focus hasn't been destroyed after all, and everybody wants it. Rachel discovers herself in the middle of a battle between Weres, Vampires, demons, and more. It looks like, this time, there might be no way out with her soul intact, or even at all.

There is loads of decent slam-bang action here again, but there is also the beginnings of hints of the "Anita Blake" syndrome, with some of the action concentrating on the intimate relationship of the protagonist and her non-human companions. Let's hope the series continues with the action, and doesn't lose its way.

Kim Harrison.
Where Demons Dare (== The Outlaw Demon Wails) .
HarperCollins. 2008

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 27 April 2008

Life is getting ever more complicated for Rachel Morgan. The demon Al is on the loose every night, hunting her down, and other demons want her help to catch him. Meanwhile Trent wants her to go on a suicidal mission to the ever-after, Ivy is giving her terrifying flashbacks of a forgotten vampire incident, Cari the ex-demon familiar has some unexpected secrets, and pixie Jinks' wife is ill. And Marshall (who helped her and Jinks rescue Nick from the Weres) turns up, not wanting to be her boyfriend.

Everything gets very messy and complicated very quickly, with multiple plot threads spinning off and recombining in unexpected ways. Seemingly throw-away incidents in earlier books suddenly take on a new significance. Lots of action, lots of agonising, lots of revelations, some self-discovery and growing up. There is more of a resolution here than in some of the earlier books, but there are still many loose ends available for further exploration.

Kim Harrison.
White Witch, Black Curse.
HarperVoyager. 2009

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 9 January 2010

Rachel Morgan is getting deeper into trouble for the demon smut blackening her aura. She knows that she is a white witch, but it's not so obvious to others. When a banshee starts preying on people, the Inderlander Security force isn't interested, so it's up to the humans, with Rachel's help, to track her down. But this puts Rachel in serious danger -- which makes her returning memory of Kirsten's murder, and the new ghost in her kitchen, and Al the demon's behaviour, and her developing relationship with Marshal, and her brother's disapproving visit, all the more difficult to deal with.

This is another great instalment, with plot threads whizzing off in different directions, and Rachel struggling to maintain her moral compass and sassy comebacks in the midst of spiralling events. There is a resolution of the book's major subplot, but with many threads left untied, and a massive change in Rachel's status, there's clearly still more to come.

Kim Harrison.
Black Magic Sanction.
HarperVoyager. 2010

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 21 July 2010

Witch Rachel Morgan is having a hard time. She knows she's a good witch, but all her dealings with demons and spelling curses has resulted in her being shunned by the Coven that governs the white witches. Worse, some old acquaintances from the past turn up and help the Coven capture her. Can she escape from witch Alcatraz? Can she stop Trent's plans? Can she get her teacher, the demon Al, to believe she hasn't betrayed him? Can she save herself from the real reason the witches want to capture her? And can she keep her friends safe while she does so?

Another fun slam-bam action-loaded spell-fest, as Rachel charges headlong into every trouble and danger she can find. This resolves the main plot arc, but there are still many side-plots that are still open.

Kim Harrison.
Pale Demon.
HarperVoyager. 2011

Kim Harrison.
A Perfect Blood.
HarperVoyager. 2012

Kim Harrison.
Ever After.
HarperVoyager. 2013

The ever-after, the demonic realm that parallels our own, is shrinking, and it’s up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to stop it before the fragile balance between Inderlanders and humans falls apart.

Of course, there’s also the small fact that Rachel caused the ley line to rip in the first place. And the most powerful demon in the ever-after, the soul-eater Ku’Sox Sha-Ku’ru, has kidnapped her friend and her goddaughter as leverage in his quest for vengeance. If Rachel doesn’t give herself up for execution, they will die.

Rachel must team up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack – a partnership fraught with perils of the heart and soul – to rescue those she loves.

Kim Harrison.
The Undead Pool.
HarperVoyager. 2014

Witch and day-walking demon Rachel Morgan has managed to save the demonic ever-after from shrinking, but at a high cost. Now, strange magic is attacking Cincinnati and the Hollows, causing spells to backfire or go horribly wrong, and the truce between the Inderlander and human races is shattering. Rachel must stop this dark necromancy before an all-out supernatural war breaks out.

Rachel knows of only one weapon to ensure the peace: ancient elven wild magic, which carries its own perils. And no one knows better than Rachel that no good deed goes unpunished…

Kim Harrison.
The Witch with No Name.
HarperVoyager. 2014

Welcome to the Hollows…

Rachel Morgan has come a long way since her early days as an inexperienced bounty hunter. She’s faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She’s crossed worlds, channelled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She’s lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has unexpectedly become something much more.

But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price. Rachel knew that this day would come – and now it is here.

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…