Published 2011 439 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Condemned and shunned for black magic, Rachel Morgan has three days to get to the annual witches' conference and clear her name, or be trapped in the demonic ever-after… forever after.
But a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car going across the country? Talk about a recipe for certain disaster, even without being the targets for assassination.
For after centuries of torment, a fearsome demon walks in the sunlight – freed at last to slay the innocent and devour their souls. But his ultimate goal is Rachel Morgan, and in the fight for survival that follows, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.
Warning: the last paragraph of this review contains a plot spoiler. Don’t read it if you don’t want to know.
Pale Demon is the ninth book in Kim Harrison’s bestselling Hollows urban fantasy series. The series follows the (mis)adventures of Rachel Morgan a witch who works as a magical investigator chasing rogue supernaturals and fixing magical problems. For the last few books in the series Rachel hasn’t had much time for working cases since most of the problems she’d been trying to fix have been of her own making. She has literally managed to pave the way to Hell with good intentions, most of which have back-fired upon her in some way…
It’s vital to have read the previous books in this series before this one. There is a long running story arc at work and the author doesn’t spend much time playing catch-up at the start of the book – it’s assumed you will already be up to speed on the back story. Events in previous books have seen Rachel discover that although she was born a witch, to witch parents, she’s actually a demon. She’s been shunned by other witches for using black magic even though she only did it for the best of reasons (and hurt no one but herself in the process) and targeted by hit squads sent by the ruling body of witches as a result. We’ve seen her dodge magical assassins, banish demons and perform impossibly complex spells while fighting to protect her friends from harm.
Pale Demon is pretty much more of the same. This time Rachel needs to get to San Francisco for a trial by her peers. The charge is black magic and the punishment death is she’s found guilty but she’s been promised a fair trial and a good outcome. The first clue that her trial isn’t going to be a fair one comes when she is refused boarding onto the plane that supposed to get her to her trial in California – leaving her with no option but to make a road trip. At the same time she is approached by her old frenemy Trent, who asks her to protect him as his travels to perform an elf-quest, luckily scheduled for same weekend and also on the West Coast. And so, pursued by elf assassins and harassed by a day-walking demon Rachel, Jenks, Ivy and Trent drive across the country together – bickering their way to California and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
There are plenty of opportunities for kick-ass action and magical mayhem, giving the story a fast paced adventure feel, but it’s nothing series readers haven’t already experienced in previous books. Thankfully there is less of the angst and soul searching that has plagued Rachel throughout the series but it’s too soon to say if the new angst free Rachel will hold. I seem to remember writing previous reviews where I’ve been thankful that the angst has stopped only for it to creep back into the very next story…
Again, Rachel finally seems to have learnt from all her past experiences that the dangerous bad-boys that she’s attracted to are no good for her. It’s a welcome relief that Pierce, her latest inappropriate main squeeze, is sidelined for most of the story and there seems to be an air of finality to Rachel’s decision stop pursuing unhealthy relationships. However I also seem to remember having written this is a review before too – only for her to keep repeating the same old mistakes…
For the most part Pale Demon is a good addition to the Hollows series and while overall there is little new here what is new is solid fantasy gold. Rachel’s exploration of the ever-after is a fascinating insight into the world of demons and leaves plenty of room for further discoveries in this area in future books. Al’s character is given further development which should delight his many fans (of which I class myself one) his scenes easily the most amusing and intriguing of the whole book.
Now I’m about to giveaway a plot spoiler so look away now if you don’t want to know. Still here? Okay then, let’s talk about Trent. Trent insinuates himself into Rachel’s road trip. He’s on an old fashioned elf quest. There are rules – he’s not allowed to fly but must complete his quest by ground travel and his mission is secret. One of my gripes here is that when Trent and Jenks go and do the elf quest thing that they leave the reader behind with Rachel, because she’d not invited and the story is narrated from her point of view. The elf quest sounds tantalisingly mysterious and news reports suggest it’s quite the adventure but we (the readers) will never know. This is my small gripe. Now for the big one. The elf quest is stealing a baby. Apparently it’s a traditional elf thing. Apparently I’m the only person to think is a horrid thing to do to the baby’s mother. Everyone else in the story sees the baby is just soooo cute and that Trent loves his daughter sooooo much that it makes it okay. Even allowing for cultural differences, he stole a baby. Come on people! Oh and on the way he deliberately released a day walking demon that kills a lot of people, in very horrible ways. He did it to save Rachel from being banished to the ever after. Well that makes everything okay then. After all even Rachel doesn’t seem to consider all the people the demon killed (in very horrible ways) while it was free and she doesn’t blame Trent for it. In fact Rachel is now making goo-goo eyes at Trent (what is it about a man with a baby that some women can’t resist?) I suspect that even as she promises herself she’d learnt her lessons about men he’ll be her next dangerously inappropriate main squeeze. I despair. Rant over.
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