Monday, September 1, 2014

The Witch with No Name (Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison

Cormel, Undead Master vampire, is finally tired of waiting for Rachel to discover how to preserve their souls after death. He wants results and he wants them now – or Ivy dies.

You’d think angry Master vampires would be enough for anyone to deal with – but the Dewar of the elves is forming their own plans – machinations that could have dire consequences not just for the vampires caught in their manipulations – but the future of magic itself.

Throw in Earthbound demons, pixies that can’t fly and the elven goddess coming back and gunning for Rachel and it feels like everything is collapsing at once – and only Rachel can put it together again.

This is the last of the Hollows Series and I’m not sure how to react to that

Actually, that’s a lie. I react to that by weeping inconsolably, running around the house babbling incomprehensibly in between screaming “WHYYYYYYYYYY?! at an uncaring sky before huddling in a corner, clutching my tablet and rocking back and forth, occasionally pleading with the universe for just one more book.

But that rather lacks dignity, it has to be said.

This book, the last book (NOOOOO), just makes all of that even worse! Because it is pretty much the perfect ending to the Hollows Saga, it draws upon so much that has made this series awesome ; it manages to both perfectly cap this awesome series and remind me how awesome this series is and how it CANNOT END! NOOOOO!

Ok, I’m trying to write a coherent review, I really am – but all I keep hearing is “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” repeating over and over in my head.

This story brings together this awesome world, bringing it back to its core and underscoring everything we’ve already learned – that basically nearly everything out there is a result of the Elves vs Demon conflict – the vampires and their lack of souls and their whole toxic society and culture, the weres, the witches, the curses on the elves and the demons, the ever-after, ley lines etc. I love how the power of this is shown through the eyes of those around Rachel – especially Trent and Al – we see that hatred that is saturated in their cultures but we also see the guilt; the awareness of the sheer atrocities both species have inflicted not just on each other but also on the world in general is really prevalent throughout the book.

Another constant reminder is just how broken their world actually is – how everything is pretty much wrong; like the undead vampires and their constant, normalised abuse, the FIB and their inability to enforce the law and the IS and their unwillingness to do so and so many other little hints.

The best thing about all these reminders is that it draws upon the whole series. We don’t need to be told these things again, we are just reminded – we’re reminded of the demon’s humanity under their painful bitterness (which reflects so much on past book), we’re reminded  of the abuse we’ve seen Ivy and Kisten suffer among the vampires, we’re reminded of how Edden and the FIB were desperate when they turned to Rachel. And these reminders place those past books in context – so many I can’t even list but the biggest one to me was Trent who seems to have transformed so much as a character. We look back on Trent in the early books and see his cruelty, his need to dominate and control, his hunger for power – and while there was certainly an element of saving his species, ultimately his morality was purely elven. As we see more elves and more of elven society it’s really clear now that Trent in Dead Witch Walking and beyond wasn’t just an evil mob boss – he was an elf. A typical elf with elven values and elven goals and elven thinking.

Ultimately, this world is a mess and nothing can truly be resolved, nothing can be fixed, nothing can be stabilised until that endless, bitter hatred between the elves and the demons is addressed. But at the same time this broken world rests in a very fragile balance and anything disrupting it too greatly; everyone tolerates so much brokenness for fear that everything will shatter if they try and fix it. I just think this is such a perfect culmination to the whole series – because the whole series has been about this fragile balance. Rachel locking away Piscary and disrupting the balance of power, David and the Were focus, the Banshees learning how to increase their breeding, uncursing the elves and Cormel’s idea of the undead keeping their souls – the whole series has been about that fragile power balance and how, in some ways, Rachel herself (an unbound, uncursed demon with connections to every supernatural faction) is the very epitome of that balance being upset.

All of this culmination of the whole series, making every book relevant, really makes me want to start the whole series again and see all the gems that will be revealed with this hindsight.

So that brings us to this book – we have the core storyline; Landon and his scheming and Cormel’s ultimatum drives the plot - but it’s more crowning everything from the series – unwinding the world’s biggest knots the foundation of which has to be addressing the war between the elves and the demons and through that everything else – but only in a way that won’t destroy the already fragile balance.

But along with the big world questions on how to get this setting in a stable place with its worse wrongs addressed (which it does, awesomely) there’s also the personal stories: Jenks and his family that has grown up, Ivy and her constant self-hatred and fear of losing her soul, Nina and her battle with Felix, Rachel and Trent’s relationship, what she feels for him and whether she’s sabotaging him. And, of course, Rachel herself – born a witch, earthbound demon, member of a werepack, best friend with a vampire and covered in elven magic – where does she stand, how does she balance them all.

Which is yet another element of Rachel I love – how she’s grown as a character goes without saying but also how she stands at the centre of all the groups and sees them all in so many ways and so deeper than most – like her trust of Al and being the one person who really doesn’t want the demons trapped in the Ever After. I love how she convinces others, especially Trent (and Al and the children is just too perfect).

I could keep going for hours about how perfectly this book finishes the series with an epic plot that draws in every element that made this amazing world and these excellent characters – but that will eat in my rocking back and forth in a corner moaning time.

After many many books of endless pain and anguish, Ivy actually get a happy ending and with another woman. It has been very shaky for a very long time and for most of the book – but Ivy and Nina. Between them they represent the only POC and LGBT people in the book (and for much of the series for that matter which is a criticism though it pains me to see any negative about the previous, there is a lack there) and their path has been painful and hard – but it doesn’t end in the tragedy I have long feared.

I can go on for a long time lavishing fulsome praise upon fulsome praise – I could literally go on for hours. But that would delay me barricading myself in a small room with a huge vat of coffee and just read the whole thing back to back without a single pause or interruption (except for bouts of wailing because this series is over).