For A Few Demons More, by Kim Harrison (Eos, 2007)

You’d think that after a while, the universe would give Rachel Mariana Morgan, witch and bounty hunter, a break. After all, her best friend is a living vampire who’s drinking blood again, the shady machinations of her ex-boyfriend left her saddled with an ancient artifact of immense power, a prominent drug lord wants her to work for him, and demons want her, body and soul. Rachel knows it’s really bad when Newt, an insane demon, shows up in her home in the middle of the night, and it only gets stranger, and worse, from there.

Caught up in the passions, power struggles, and plans of vampires, demons, werewolves and elves, Rachel is pushed to the brink of her endurance — and beyond — once again, and her efforts to extricate herself from the deadly morass her life can only end in bloodshed and tears. Her best bargaining chip — through which she’ll save her own life and the lives of everyone she loves — is a demonic artifact that’s better off destroyed, and the people she’ll bargain with truly are the worst of some bad choices. Is it even possible for Rachel to make a good choice anymore? And what’s with the dead werewolves turning up in her wake? Is the artifact responsible, or is it something worse?

Trust me, when the biggest, boldest deal of Rachel’s career goes through, no one will escape unscathed, and more than one person may just end up dead. Permanently dead.

Welcome to life in the Hollows.

A heck of a lot goes on in For A Few Demons More, an urban fantasy which is part adventure, part intricate soap opera, and no small part of the story is made up of the complex character relationships which have come to define this particular series. The Rachel-Ivy dynamic, in particular, has become one of the richest, most complicated, most frustrating ones I can think of in any series, with the two friends dancing around a whole host of emotional and physical issues. Kim Harrison gets major points for taking her characters in some unexpected directions, and I always look forward to seeing just how Rachel and Ivy are going to screw up their friendship and rebuild it in each book. (Come to think of it, I’m strongly reminded of the emotional set-up between Francine and Katchoo in the long-running, popular comic book, Strangers in Paradise.)

Beyond that, you have Rachel and Jenks (one of the coolest, smallest characters around), Rachel and Kisten (a hot relationship, definitely), Rachel and Trent (here’s a hint, Rachel, get over yourself and quit giving the elven drug lord a hard time…) and Rachel and demons (bad idea in general…). Who am I kidding? To try and diagram out the interactions in this series would eat up more space that I rightfully have. Suffice it to say, things get messy and stay messy, but at least it’s never dull. Unfortunately, this time around, it may just lead to tragedy.

One thing that helps this series stand out is that the heroine is so wonderfully, spectacularly flawed. It’s a sure bet that given any stressful situation, Rachel will undoubtedly make the choice which screws her over the most in the long run, no matter what her short term success rate is. She spends half her time trying to figure out her relationships with people, and the rest of the time either offending them or mending bridges. And she’s slowly coming to terms with her addiction to danger, a condition in which she actively courts disaster despite her better inclinations, and you just know it’s going to get her into a heap of trouble. But at least she’s aware of her issues, and when she’s not trying to overcome them, she’s trying to make them work for her. Rachel’s a great character, fun to follow and sympathetic (though sometimes you want to smack her for her whining). She almost doesn’t deserve the wonderful support network she has in her friends, partners, and loved ones.

Between the complex, multi-layered character interactions, and the nonstop peril-filled story, this book’s got more than enough going for it. Harrison delivers some of the best urban fantasy out there, with a richly-developed setting and a wonderfully distinctive take on vampires, werewolves, and their ilk. Harrison’s fans will have plenty to enjoy in this latest installment in the Hollows.

Originally posted at SF Site, 2007

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