Pale Demon, the brand-new, ninth installment of Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, takes Rachel Morgan and her offbeat, dysfunctional band of merry men on the road — and what a long, strange trip it is! Shunned witch Rachel has but a few days to get to a crucial meeting on the west coast that will determine her fate — but, as it goes with everything in Rachel’s world(s), nothing comes easy! Partners Jenks and Ivy are along for the ride… and so is Rachel’s quasi-nemesis Trent Kalamack, who has a mission of his own! Throw in some homicidal demons, witches with grudges, and elven assassins and it’s an explosive road movie playing out on the page.
I’ve always been a huge fan of The Hollows books, finding Harrison’s books more consistent than a lot of other ongoing urban fantasy series. What I appreciate the most is that while Rachel is undeniably attracted to Trent, involved in a complex friendship with Ivy, and entangled in relationships with fellow witch Pierce and her demon teacher Al, there’s never a sense that Rachel has lost herself. She may fear what’s happening to her, but Rachel’s struggle with her identity is, to me, the overarching thrust of the entire series. What is she…and what does that mean about who she is? Pale Demon digs deeper into that, and unearths some very dark things in the process.
Of course, Rachel’s arc has gone increasingly dark over the last several books — heck, I think readers knew all bets were off after what happened to Kisten — and her interaction with Al in the ever-after in this installment might be a bit much for those who don’t like the turn (no, not The Turn) the series has taken. For me, the entire ride of Pale Demon is enthralling… even the parts that made me gasp. Rachel’s relationships are growing more complex… all without her turning fickle and unsympathetic. Because her curiosity, her insatiable need to understand what’s going on in her life, isn’t something that can be sated with a few spells and a romp in the sack. I think another author would’ve had Rachel in bed with Ivy and Trent (possibly at the same time!) three books ago! But nothing is so cut and dried in The Hollows. People who were just villains early on don’t fit into such easily labeled boxes. Rachel’s entire universe has expanded beyond the safe space of the church and her partnership with Jenks and Ivy… and they, too, are questioning their place in this new world.
So where do they go from here? Who’s going to be with Rachel when (if!) the dust settles? I’m not sure about anybody else, but I know I’m there!