Series Spotlight: The Hollows by Kim Harrison
Enter the Hollows—a world where witches, demons, vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night come out to play no matter what time of day it is.
This series is comprised of thirteen main books, starting with Dead Witch Walking and ending with The Witch With No Name. It also has two graphic novels based on the series, several novellas and short stories, and a companion book called The Hollows Insider.
From start to finish, the books are narrated by powerful and sometimes pretty silly, Rachel Morgan. In Dead Witch Walking, Rachel is a “runner” (aka bounty hunter) for Inderland Security, which helps keep the supernatural species in line – or at least attempts to. They’re rivaled by the FIB (a play on the FBI), which is a human-run organization that also tries to police both sides.
Other organizations come up throughout the series and pose both allied forces and threats to Rachel and her friends. Groups like the Council, a group of witches who deem Rachel a black-magic demon; the Elves/Dewar, who are trying to promote their species at any cost; HAPA, which is a hate group that kidnaps Rachel in order to make more of her kind; and the Demon Collective, a bunch of demons from the Ever After who share their powers and knowledge (but more often not) when Rachel needs it most.
The series is set in the city of Cincinnati, across the river in a placed called The Hollows. Here it’s common for pixies to claim territory, werewolves to play soccer, and demons to drag your butt down streets. For the most part, there’s a lot of tension between the species. Vampires are assholes, especially the undead ones (and yes, there’s living and undead vamps); demons are… well, demons, and are getting people in trouble as often as they’re trying to be accepted into society; witches are found in all kinds of colors, from white to black to in-between, like Rachel; pixies are fierce, independent, and quite frequently dirty-minded, but also loyal to a fault; but there are many more – werewolves, banshees, goddesses, fairies, elves, leprechauns – a whole system of magical people living in the Hollows.
The history of this world is fascinating, too. There’s a virus that comes from a genetically-engineered tomato that destroys most of humanity, but also elves, witches, and other “mixed” species. So the Inderlanders (supernatural beings) have to step up and help save it. It’s called the Turn, and it’s basically when the population of night creatures step out into the light and turn the tides (I guess there’s a novel coming out here soon that’ll explain more, but for right now, that’s all we know). Also, there was a giant war between the Elves and demons that landed the demons in the Ever After permanently and sent the Elven population dwindling to nearly nothing.
Now, onto the characters at last.
Rachel Morgan starts off being an awkward, often klutzy girl who gets in way over her head by quitting the I.S. When she and living vampire, Ivy Tamwood, team up a second time to start their own business, the I.S. puts out a hit on Rachel and she’s gotta figure out how to survive. Luckily, as the series progresses, she begins to get a lot of allies. For one, Ivy, who’s a broken vampire afraid to love, but has a desperate need to protect her friends. And of course, Jenks, the smart-mouthed pixy with more kids than he can count, a great Peter Pan pose, and a good heart. Though more characters enter the scene, these three are the most consistent and therefore the “BFF’s for life” crowd.
Later, there are several characters who enter the scene as allies. Kisten, a living vampire who Rachel falls in love with, only to lose. Al, the demon who starts out trying to kill Rachel, only to mentor her and become a father figure in the end. Quen, a very powerful elven bodyguard who is also a great friend. Newt, a crazy female demon. Ceri, an elven princess with a temper and great power. Pierce, another lover of Rachel’s, who dies in the past, returns as a ghost, and then becomes real again in the present! And many others come along the way but I don’t want to list them all or we’d be here a while!
She also makes some enemies – Ku’Sox, a demon with immense power that all the other demons are afraid of; HAPA, the hate group that kidnaps and experiments on her; Nick, a former lover who turns against Rachel; and a couple of pretty bad undead masters like Piscary.
But someone who starts out as the bad guy and becomes the good guy, and Rachel’s true love, is Trent Kalamack, one of the elves. He starts out as a genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist (hehe, sorry, couldn’t resist) who runs drug deals under the table and kills anyone he thinks might turn against him. As the series progresses, he presents a lot of problems for Rachel, kidnapping her in the first one and forcing her to fight as a rat against other rats; summoning Ku’Sox from the Ever After and causing trouble in Pale Demon; and then finally becoming a father to two children and trusted friend and lover of Rachel’s in the final three books. Their relationship starts out rough but becomes something very strong, as he is mostly present in all the books. Rachel even interrupts his marriage to whiny, manipulative Ellasbeth, and she enjoys it because she’s arresting him!
If you like friendships that last throughout thirteen books, funny one-liners, lots of magical action, and a great supporting cast, you’ll really appreciate this series. My favorites were Dead Witch Walking, For A Few Demons More, Pale Demon, and Witch With No Name. My favorite characters were Al, Jenks, and Newt. I also liked Nick, even if he was the bad guy for the most part.
I will admit, I often find myself liking early-on Rachel better than older, matured Rachel because she seemed less lovesick and more magicky than she does in the last couple books. I feel like the magic that’s so well described in books 1-7 kind of diminishes after book 8 when new magics are introduced. Also, I like that Rachel got herself into trouble and tried world-saving tactics a lot.
Overall, I rate this series a five because I gave most of them five. I think I gave books three and eight four stars, and the Hollows Insider a three because it was just a guide book. But it’s an awesome series I’d recommend to all fans of urban fantasy and kick-ass heroines.
I, too, rate this series a 5. It is one of my very favorites because of the relationships between the characters. All the characters are flawed and dysfunctional, display both good and bad tendencies, and are just so real. They are full and rich and complex, and none of them ever give up on the others. They truly feel like friends to me.
The Hollows is one of the series I’ve “cast” on a Pinterest board. Check it out!
There are several short stories in this series that you don’t want to miss. In fact, three of them are critical to understanding the next full novel: “Undead In the Garden of Good and Evil” in Dates from Hell, “Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel” in Holidays are Hell, and “Dirty Magic” in Hotter than Hell (or find them all in the anthology Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond) before you read Book 07, White Witch, Black Curse. In my opinion, Book 07 is very confusing if you don’t.
The audiobooks in this series read by Marguerite Gavin are fantastic. If you’re an audiobook fan, I recommend them highly. One book, The Outlaw Demon Wails, is read by a different narrator, and I don’t like it quite as well. The narrator changes the pronunciation of many of the names and doesn’t have the same range of voice Gavin has. I’d love it if they redid this audiobook with the original narrator like they did with Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story. Consistency really does matter in audiobooks.
Readers of later generations may not notice that the titles in this series are variations of movies or TV movies connected in some way to Clint Eastwood. That’s kind of fun. I’m not sure if the author intended this, but Rachel is definitely breaking new ground in her world as much as Clint Eastwood tackled the frontier in his cowboy movies. And neither of them tend to play by the rules if they can help it. 😉