|Title: Pale Demon
Author: Kim Harrison
Series: Rachel Morgan/The Hollows #9
Cover Art: N/A
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Reviewed by: Julia
Attempted rape, allusions to rape, and some sexual scenes.
Condemned to death for black magic and shunned, Rachel Morgan has three days to somehow get to the annual witches convention in San Francisco and clear her name. If she fails, the only way she can escape death is to live in the demonic ever after . . . for ever after.
Banned from the flight lists, Rachel teams up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack, headed for the West Coast for his own mysterious business. But Rachel isn’t the only passenger along for the ride. Can a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car survive for over 2,300 miles? And that’s not counting the assassin on their tail.
A fearsome demon walks the sunlight, freed after centuries of torment to slay the innocent and devour souls. But his ultimate prey is Rachel Morgan. While the powerful witch with nerves of steel will do whatever it takes to stay alive, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.
In anticipation of the release of PALE DEMON, I re-read BLACK MAGIC SANCTION to tide me over. My strategy more or less backfired, as the passion, grief, and action had me even more anxious to read the next Hollows novel, but luckily, PALE DEMON did not disappoint. Despite the drama at the end of BLACK MAGIC SANCTION, PALE DEMON begins in an innocuous calm before the storm. It took the series in a direction I would not have anticipated, and, predictably, ends with me out of my mind excited for the next book in the series.
One of Kim Harrison’s strengths is creating fascinating characters, and even her supporting characters have a depth that is unique in any genre. While this is one aspect of her books I adore, I’m sure this can also be a trial as she has to manage an ever-growing list of complex relationships and individuals (Lee went from being Rachel’s nemesis to Al’s familiar to being married and rescuing Rachel from rogue coven members, who can keep track of this stuff?!). This cast of thousands, in combination with Harrison’s organic interweaving of plot lines, means I can never guess what to expect in one of her novels, or who will show up. PALE DEMON deepened my appreciation for existing characters while introducing a few new ones that I will be excited to see again in the future.
Of the old, familiar characters, Trent Kalamack took center stage and really blew me out of the water. My appreciation for Trent has always been shallow at best. Despite Rachel’s attraction to him, and the hints of chemistry between them, he had never clicked for me. Too controlled, too removed, too devious and untrustworthy. PALE DEMON forces Rachel and Trent to break down many of the barriers between themselves, and build a partnership in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. As a part of this process, for the first time in the series, Trent really began to develop as a potential love interest. Still, I’m never sure if he’ll be Rachel’s worst enemy, friend, or grade-school crush, and the tension is worse than ever now that I like him more as a person.
In addition to changes in Rachel’s relationship with Trent, Ivy also has a few pivotal scenes. I know of several people who have drifted away from this series due to Rachel and Ivy’s relationship, though I myself have never understood the issue (Perhaps the tension between them was so reflexively predatory it never set off my radar as something to worry about or work through. Who can reason with a vampire?). Either way, while the state of their union didn’t bother me prior to this book, I think that those readers who did struggle with it will be pleased to find some resolution (and I’m interested to hear your reactions). Of Rachel’s two partners, I have been almost entirely focused on Jenks over the last several books, and I really enjoyed his portion of this book. There is a tenderness between him and Rachel as they both mourn loved ones that is a pleasure to read, and I enjoyed getting hints of what the next twenty years of Jenks’s life may look like.
The hardest part about reviewing this book is dancing around spoilers when I really can’t wait to dish the nitty gritty details with fellow Hollows fans. While PALE DEMON hasn’t supplanted WHITE WITCH, BLACK CURSE and BLACK MAGIC SANCTION as my latest favorites of the series, I’m looking forward to rereading it over and over in the days and months it takes for Book #10 to make an appearance.