Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison, Book 10 of the Hollows Series

Rachel Morgan is a Demon. She’s finally accepted it. The problem is that to stay safe from the rest of demonkind after riling them up a tad she has to wear a charmed silver necklace that separates her from her magic.

She’s a Demon, but a magicless Demon. And that’s getting in the way of her doing her job and protecting her friends - especially since she’s never been one to hide in the background. And it couldn’t be a worst time to be magicless, with the anti-Inderlander hate group HAPA now active in Cincinnati and a trail of witch victims being left in their wake. And if she decides to reclaim her magic, exactly how does she placate Algaliarept who has every reason to be rather annoyed with her.

Add in both the IS and the FIB treating her as a very dangerous person, she herself being a prime target for HAPA as well as her changing relationship with Trent and a new bodyguard shipped in by her parents and she has a lot to handle.

We have introduced some brand new concepts and shadow groups into the story now - with both HAPA and The Men Who Did Not Belong. Both are going to be interesting. After all, while HAPA is an outright hate group and certain to be reviled, where do the Men Who Did Not Belong stand? Especially since they’re a large, powerful, dangerous human organisation that seems to lack Inderlanders and feels entitled to police, imprison and even kill Inderlanders at their own discretion. There’s a lot of nuance that needs developing and exploring there - does the IS know? What about the Coven of Ethical Standards? What about the Vampires? I think there are seeds for a lot more plots here with both HAPA and the Men Who Did Not Belong and I’m really curious to see where it goes.

I’m also quite relieved that we had a storyline that revolved around human hatred of Inderlanders, including slurs, attempted genocide and prejudice that, in turn, didn’t invoke actual marginalised groups in the real world or marginalisations at all. Inderlanders were hated, but not oppressed, attacked but not facing a power imbalance. It’s a fine line to draw, but in a genre

However, while these stories are interesting and could have gone somewhere, I also feel they were kind of unnecessary. We have existing plotlines - Ku’sox and Al and her relationship with Trent and her relationship with Ivy and Jenks and her continuing realisation of what it means to be a Demon, trying to find a balance with the Demon World, how other Witches treat her, Rynn Cornel’s wish for her to help vampires keep their soul after death - there was a lot of plot there left hanging and we didn’t really develop any of it - instead we ended up going down these new plot lines instead. And they’re interesting, I’ll look forward to reading them, certainly - but we already had issues pending and I was left with the feeling that not much had happened. I’d just read a 500 page book that can be summed up with “HAPA exists, the Men Who Don’t Belong exist, Rachel took her bracelet off”.

In some ways I feel vaguely frustrated by this book. I knew she’d start with the charmed bracelet but after Pale Demon, when she finally embraced once and for all that she was a Demon, while at the same time laying down the mighty smackdown on all around her, I expected some grade A arsekicking. I expected Rachel Morgan, Demon, laden with a few choice curses (which she would, of course, be in two minds about using) and a whole lot of powerful magic making it clear that, in general, she’s a major power to be reckoned with and respected.

And she didn’t. Trent did a few times, he’s certainly coming into his own. But even when she wanted to impress the Men Who Did Not Belong she wasn’t very impressive. I think the only magic she used was setting up circles. It wasn’t her main response, it was pretty much her only response. Where was her magic? Even Winona and Chris - a human - had better magic in this book than Demonic Rachel did. And generally not being impressive was a recurring theme with Rachel - Chris, Gary and certainly Eloy seemed to be more than a match for her over and over again

I’m now desperate for her, in the next book, to spend a week or so prepping curses so we can see her kick arse again. And to stop getting kidnapped - please!

In terms of other things I wasn’t mad keen on, we had a lot less Ivy and a lot less of Rachel, Ivy and Jenks (and Belle and Bis) together being the family they are. I know they’re going their own ways but some more interaction would have been nice - especially since we spent some more time with Wayde. And no, I’m not a fan of Wayde. I don’t even know what he’s especially for, or what he achieved except constantly get in Rachel’s way, and treating Rachel like a spoiled child, because she wouldn’t sit down and do as she was told. I also think Rachel was perfectly within her rights to doubt his competence - if he is giving her reasons to doubt (especially as she is a professional herself) then he should have made it clearer what security precautions he was taking and what he was doing and why. I’d much rather have seen more David and the Black Dandelion Pack.  Also, a book or 2 ago, she was kind of over Kisten - and now she has angst and guilt about him again? And please can we have Trent and Rachel together already - the foreplay is now both tiresome and teeny-boppery. And please don’t make Wayde another love interest, please no. No more distractions!

Ivy’s relationship with Glenn went via a bisexual threesome continuing Ivy’s dubious portrayals but now seems to be petering out. Part of me is glad, but I’m also worried about Glenn being less of a character, partly because I like him and partly because he’s one of the few POC in the books (though there did seem to be an extra emphasis on Ivy’s Asian ancestry in this book). Especially in the wake of Keasley’s absence. And we have more appropriative use of “coming out” that I really do not care for.

I won’t say I didn’t love this book, because I did. I read it in one sitting. It was fun and had enough to keep me engaged and never once lost me. My main problem is that Pale Demon set the bar high, very high indeed, because it was a truly awesome book full of epic. I don’t think Perfect Blood lived up to those very high expectations. It was good, certainly, but it could have been much much better, especially since we’ve seen what awesomeness Kim Harrison has achieved in the past. My hope is that, after this introduction/transition book (with Rachel taking her bracelet off and the introduction of HAPA and the MWDNB) that we will see the story back on its shiny awesome rails by the next book.