White Witch, Black Curse by Kim Harrison
Spoilers for The Outlaw Demon Wails (The Hollows, Book 6)
It seems in the previous book, The Outlaw Demon Wails, somebody murdered Rachel Morgan’s boyfriend. Rachel’s little pixie friend Jenks clocked her with a magical sucker punch that took her memory of the event in order to keep her from going on the warpath half-cocked and getting herself killed. Unfortunately, before this happened she hadn’t told anybody else what she knew (least of all her dead boyfriends ex, a bisexual living vampire who has the hots for Rachel and also happens to be her roommate). So what you’ve got coming into this is a protagonist on an emotional rollercoaster with her angry, angst ridden vampire quasi-girlfriend trying to figure out who they need to kill to avenge their dead boyfriend. Everyone is upset and confused and touchy and there are mood swings and flashes of anger, angst and frustration and sadness and …. Well, there’s a lot of emotion in this book, which I think would be untenable without the amount of estrogen that accompanies it.
The plot and events in the book seem almost like an interruption to all this as the protagonist deals with the cumulative results of a lot of bad decisions she has made in the past. You’ve got the ghost of a witch burned at the stake and buried in blasphemed ground centuries ago for black magic. A shunned witch hanging around making menacing remarks. A demon she’s managed to become bound to in a bargain trying to show her who’s boss. Then there are all the attendant difficulties of walking around town with demon smut on your aura. Plus a Banshee just happens to pick this particular point in time to run amok in the city, wreaking havoc and mayhem willy-nilly in order to meet the nutritional needs of her new baby (Banshees feed on emotions the way vampires feed on blood).
I’d never read any Kim Harrison books before this one, as I tend to shy away from female protagonists in general and those written in first person in particular. To me, the female mind is a dark and frightening labyrinth, and besides that I really don’t have much interest in reading a sex scene from a female point of view. In the spirit of open-mindedness, I’ve gone ahead and read a few, and found that while they’re mostly like I thought they would be, there are exceptions (Magic to the Bone, for instance) .
As I read this book, the thing that stuck out the most was the number of (superficial, at least) similarities between Rachel Morgan and Harry Dresden.
Rachel Morgan is a witch. It’s basically a race, you’re born able to do magic. Harry Dresden is a Wizard. Again, you’re born that way.
They’re both attractive, and in their mid to late twenties.
They’re both detectives.
Rachel has Jenks the pixie. Harry has Toot-Toot the dew-drop fairy.
Harry has a vampire half-brother. Rachel has a vampire roommate/pseudo girlfriend.
Harry is a consultant to the local Police and has a high ranking ally there. Rachel Morgan has a nearly identical relationship with human law enforcement in her city.
Harry is entangled in sticky dealings with the powerful, otherworldly denizens (Faeries) of an alternate place of existence called “The Never Never”. Rachel Morgan is entangled in sticky dealings with the powerful, otherworld denizens (Demons) of an alternate plane of existence called “The Ever After”. Because of this, Rachel is viewed with suspicion and mistrust by many in the Magical community. Harry is viewed similarly, still even though he’s a Warden now. Both do things that are technically verboten when that’s what they have to do to get the job done.
Rachel and Harry have both had a string of relationships that ended badly; people they loved hurt or killed because of who and what they are. They both are a little gun shy in the relationship department because of it and as a result usually lonely and a little depressed about it, though Harry only thinks about that once or twice per book, late at night when he’s all alone and things have died down. Rachel Morgan whines to herself about it constantly.
They are both good people who will do whatever is necessary to do what they think is right even if it stains their reputation or puts them at risk from the authorities. They’re both sarcastic, cynical yet altruistic, tough (Harry is tougher though), and perpetually broke.
In fact, I think the few differences between them are small details (aside from Rachel’s incessant whining) mostly having to do with the settings. Rachel Morgan lives in an modern world that springs from an alternate history whereas Harry Dresden’s world is just like ours at least on the surface.
What I’m saying, in a nut shell, is that Rachel Morgan is the chick version of Harry Dresden.
Despite this, I just don’t like her nearly as much. Did I mention she whines a lot? Angst, angst, angst. I hate that.
I freely admit though, that the writing is excellent. There is no failing in the telling of the story, and what the story is worth and how cool the characters are is completely subjective. If you like girlie heroes that spend a lot of time feeling conflicted (or just feeling a lot of stuff all the time, and talking to themselves about it) you’ll love this one.
One word of advice; if you think you’ll like it, do yourself a favor and start with number one and work your way up to number seven. Otherwise, it’s like jumping into a soap opera you’ve never watched in the seventh season, and you’ll spend more time on the internet trying to sift through the back-story than you will reading the book. It’s not that the book doesn’t stand alone, to a point, but you’ll have this nagging feeling you’d get a lot more out of it if you’d been in on it from the beginning.
by Matthew Walker – Staff Writer
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