I think I’ve mentioned before that my “go-to” urban fantasy authors are two who were writing well before the market got oversaturated with Were-things and fairies and what-have-yous: Kelley Armstrong and Kim Harrison. They’re solid, consistent, and I’ve yet to be disappointed by one of their books. Heartbroken (thank you, Ms. Harrison), but not disappointed. So I was really happy to get through Black Magic Sanction with the winning streak still intact!
Unlike with Laurell K. Hamilton and her Anita Blake series, Harrison’s Rachel Morgan still feels like Rachel all these books later. While she may be turning into something she’s desperately trying to make sense of, her core character is the same strong, irreverent person who would throw down for her friends that readers met in Dead Witch Walking. And, again unlike Anita, Rachel is hyperaware of the choices she makes and how much smut she’s literally taking on, as she delves more and more into her supernatural identity. There’s a moment in Black Magic Sanction where she feels like a tramp because she’s been with three guys in two years. I laughed and laughed, thinking, “Oh, Rache’, please. You’re not a tramp until you have to satiate your ardeur by bedding a bunch of wereleopards.” Since Kim Harrison has yet to endow Rachel with some mystical thingy that makes her into the world’s biggest nympho, I think she’s doing okay.
Fortunately, Rachel’s love life isn’t really the focus of these books; the most important relationships Rachel has are with her partners in her PI firm, Ivy and Jenks. And also, oddly enough, the demon who tried to kill her on more than one occasion, Al. And while Ivy doesn’t get a lot of screen time in this book, the reader definitely gets insight (and then some) into Rachel’s student/teacher relationship with Al, and her understanding of her demon/witch dual identity. And there’s something with Jenks that is so moving I cried. It basically encapsulated why Rachel twisting curses and dabbling in black magic is for positive ends.
It’s such a rich universe that Harrison has built, a real community. Whenever I read one of The Hollows books, I feel like I’m checking in on friends and neighbors. Whether that’s asshat extraordinaire Trent Kalamack or Al or one of Jenks’ many children. Admittedly, I can’t stand Pierce, Rachel’s current love interest, but since it’s sort of a running theme that her relationships don’t last long, I’m not all that concerned with him sticking around.
I’m just glad Rachel, Ivy and Jenks are sticking around, and that their little family has expanded to include all kinds of misfits.