On the road to nowhere: thoughts on the first part of Kim Harrison’s Into the Woods

into the woods coverI am going to try posting from the Word Press iPhone app today because the husband and I are driving to parts unknown for an event of extreme importance and I elected to sleep in today rather than rising early to be productive. I’ve been making steady progress through my current book, a collection of short stories/novellas based in the world of The Hollows. My only major complaint is that there are more typos in this book than I’ve ever found in a book published by a major publishing house ever (HarperCollins, shame on you). And my only other complaint is a silly one: I’m enjoying these stories and I’m enjoying getting back into Kim Harrison’s universe, but I miss Rachel! I know that the entire point of this collection is to see The Hollows from beyond her point of view, but it’s not the same without her.

Most of these stories were previously published, either in various anthologies or as bonuses at the end of mass market editions of The Hollows books (you know, to convince people they need a second copy of a book they already own). There are a few that are newly published in this volume, though, which is nice. I’ve actually only read one of them before that I remember, which is, conveniently, the first one in the book.

“The Bespelled” tells the story of how Algaliarept stole his familiar, Ceri, from her home. Ceri is a frequently recurring character in the series: she is ancient elf royalty and Rachel frees her from her ties to Al at one point or another. Al abducts her on the eve of her marriage, a marriage she doesn’t want, to a man she doesn’t love. Al uses Ceri’s desire for something more in her life, and her apparent love for him, to steal her into servitude to him for I believe a thousand years. She becomes his familiar, which means she is basically his slave, and a means for him to store and channel ley line magic so he can access it more quickly than he would be able to do on his own. Their relationship is pretty terrible and Ceri hates Al by the time Rachel saves her. But in this story we see a different side of both of them. Ceri definitely loves Al at the beginning, before he takes her. And I got the feeling that Al has feelings of some sort for Ceri–he sees her as interesting and doesn’t end up selling her to another demon (and a royal elf would have fetched a pretty price on the demon familiar market). This story was a good reminder of Al’s ruthless nature. And it was nice to see Ceri as she was before Al got his hooks into her. I would have liked to see more of the elf world Ceri lived in than the small view we got here though.

The next story is “Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel,” and takes place on the Winter Solstice of the year Rachel is eighteen. She is still recovering from her long fight with Rosewood Syndrome, which almost killed her as a child. This is actually a major plot point I’m glad to have a chance to share. Rosewood Syndrome is a disease of witches that is generally always fatal in childhood. Rachel is one of the few survivors. She was cured by Trent Kalamack’s father’s genetics research. The secret thing about Rosewood Syndrome goes back many thousands of years. We learn during the series that witches came to exist because of a spell cast on demons by elves. I don’t remember the details but it was meant to weaken demons, and it did. Witches have genetic mutations that make them unable to kindle the more powerful demon magic with their own blood. But, sometimes witch children are born who can do this–and they are the ones who develop Rosewood Syndrome and die young. Except Rachel. And one other witch named Stanley Saladan who I’m not going to get into. Anyway. Rachel survived the treatment, but wasn’t very strong. She wants to join the IS and follow in her deceased father’s footsteps, but she isn’t old enough and her mother and brother worry about whether or not her body can take it. In this story, we see the beginnings of the Rachel who exists in the present day: strong, clever, brave. Her brother makes her a bet that she can’t do a very advanced spell to summon a ghost. They agree that if she can summon their father’s ghost using this spell she will do whatever her dad recommends about whether or not she should join the IS. She does the spell, and it works. Except the ghost she summons isn’t her father. It’s Pierce, a ghost who has been dead since before the civil war. He apparently has unfinished business with an undead vamp still active in Cincinnati, who likes to kidnap and torture little girls. Pierce and Rachel work together to capture this fellow, and Rache convinces her family she can handle herself. Pierce is around in the main series as well, but is much more conniving than he is here. Here is is a good guy as far as I can tell. When he turns up later on, he is desperate to be alive again, and goes so far as to bind himself to Al in exchange for a body.

Okay gang, I’m going to call it quits for now. Typing on a phone for this long is headache-making, and I want to read. More to come on Into the Woods!

This entry was posted in Fiction - Fantasy, Fiction - general, Fiction - SciFi, Fiction - Short Stories, Fiction - Vampire Porn, Kim Harrison, Reviews by Jill. Bookmark the permalink.

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