I love history. But I really, really love alternate history. You know, taking the world and tweaking the timeline it a little. And perhaps putting in a few things that don’t exist in the world as we know it. For example, let’s just say that instead of the space race of the sixties, there was a focus on bioengineering. And that focus caused a plague started by a most innocuous source: the tomato. After the majority of the human race has been extinguished, witches, vampires and weres (or Inderlanders, as they are all generally known) decide that they’ve stayed hidden long enough. Sound interesting? Then you’ve just landed in Kim Harrison‘s Hollows, a place Rachel Morgan and her friends call home. For A Few Demons More is the fifth book in this series, and though the earlier tales are worth reading, this is a great read all by itself.
That’s because with this book, Rachel’s world is starting to change. She’s got an ancient artifact she doesn’t want and doesn’t know what to do with, demon curses clouding her soul, and more ticked-off Inderlander bad guys gunning for her than you can shake an amulet at. Not to mention a vampire boyfriend who she won’t let bite her because her vampire roommate is in love with her. Now werewolves are turning up dead, and Rachel has to figure out who’s doing the killing, while trying to figure out how to avoid demons who seem to show up whenever they feel like it. Sound complicated? It is. When things come to a head, Rachel realizes she must make some changes while she still can. How this all plays out sets the stage for further books in the series, but this is no filler story, it’s a page-turning tale that had me wondering if I should sit back and enjoy it or up the action and go full speed ahead.
Rachel Morgan is one kick-ass heroine, but she’s nothing without her friends. Harrison has written fully realized supporting characters, rather than simple two-dimensional backups that are trotted out whenever needed. Rachel’s roommate Ivy, living vampire and partner in Rachel’s business, has her own fish to fry; she knows full well she’ll lose her soul when she becomes undead, but that’s secondary to her fears of losing control here and now. She’s a complex character whose life and family history could launch another series. In fact, Ivy gets a story to herself in the anthology Dates From Hell. Jenks is their third partner, a pixy nearing the end of his short life with over fifty kids to raise and a penchant for getting blotto on honey. I have to stop right here and say I absolutely love Jenks; he’s more than just comic relief, he’s not afraid to stand up to anyone, even though he’s only four inches tall. Probably because he’s able to hold his own just fine. Plus, he’s got a slew of colorful curses he’s not afraid to throw around. “Tink’s a Disney whore!” is a personal favorite of mine. In fact, all the different species of Inderlander have their own colorful, species-specific curses, which is just one of the many small touches the author scatters throughout the book, from a certain human’s love of ketchup to Rachel’s, well, let’s just call it lack of fashion grace.
What separates this series, and For A Few Demons More in particular, is the fact that here, nothing is without price. There are no easy outs, no deux ex machina to pull anyone out of the fire at the last minute. You want to play with dark magic? It’ll cost you. Think you’re all powerful? Guess again. And when you get beat up, it hurts. Harrison lays the cards on the table in this story, but then she starts dealing from a different deck, leaving readers with no clear signposts to guide them along a predictable path. The end result is a book that straddles the fantasy and mystery genres easily, giving readers plenty of character and plot development — with a hint of possible secondary character romance, just for fun — during the ride.
At the end of this book things aren’t all tied up with a pretty bow. As with our own personal histories, at the end of the day there are always loose ends left untied, unfinished business to settle another day, and questions left unanswered. No, there’s no cliched cliffhanger, but Harrison spools out just enough plotline to pick up in the next installment of the series.
The back cover has a full-on photo of the author from top to toe. I was glad to see it, having tried to peek through her hair in prior shots (what can I say, I’m nosy). Here she looks positively . . . jaunty. She has every reason to be, since she’s delivered her best Rachel Morgan tale yet. Harrison should take a moment from her writing to pat herself on the back; like her feisty heroine, she may have been good before, but with this book Kim Harrison has come into her own.