The release of each new book in Kim Harrison’s Hollows series is bittersweet for fans of witch Rachel Morgan and her merry band of cohorts because it brings us a step closer to Harrison’s stated plans to end the series after twelve volumes. A Perfect Blood, out this week, is the tenth in the series, and it’s hard not to speculate about where things might be heading.
On the surface, book nine, 2011’s Pale Demon, was a vacation from the series. The story revolved around a road trip Rachel took to the West Coast with pixy Jenks, living vampire Ivy, and treacherously loveable elf Trent Kalamack, all traveling together cross-country by car. They’re headed to a climactic witch conference that forced Rachel to come down firmly on the demon side of the witch-demon line.
But, as A Perfect Blood showed from the outset, some very important business was being conducted on that road trip as Rachel’s long-time relationships began to take not-so-subtle shifts.
The will-they-won’t-they tug of war between Rachel and Ivy settled into a “they won’t” that was a lot more comfortable for Ivy than for Rachel. Jenks started coping with the loss of Matalina. Trent and Rachel’s relationship took a veer into the personal as he revealed more and more of his elven wild magic. And the demon Algaliarept? Well, let’s just say he and Rachel reached a new level of understanding, with ghost Pierce caught in the middle.
Now, as A Perfect Blood begins, everybody’s home in Cincinnati. Al thinks Rachel is dead thanks to her wristband of silver. It keeps her from being detected by the demons in the ever-after (but also blocks her from using ley-line magic, which greatly limits her abilities to do magic). Ivy and FIB investigator Glenn are growing closer. Jenks is becoming whole again. And Trent (it always comes back to Trent, doesn’t it?) finds his early genetic experiments coming full-circle when a human Inderlander-hating group, HAPA, begins doing experiments of its own, using genetic manipulation on witches to try and turn them into day-walking demons — like Rachel.
And a mysterious vampire — an old one, tied into Inderlander Security — is up to his fangs in the investigation and determined to blame it all on Rachel if she can’t help find the real culprits.
There’s more darkness to A Perfect Blood that earlier books, with less broad humor than we’re used to. Light moments between Rachel and Wayde, the werewolf bodyguard hired by Rachel’s rock star dad, Takata, break up the tension. Jenks is always good for some creative cursing. And anytime Trent gets indignant, it’s good for some laughs.
But the stakes are higher than ever, and as Rachel teeters between being the witch she wants to be and the demon she’s proven to be, she feels lost and at a standstill while, around her, her friends and colleagues seem to be moving on with their lives. We know she’s on the cusp of a great change. Whichever path she takes, it will have far-reaching repercussions for everyone she cares about, and for the series we readers care about.
(Plus, having a human hate group turn witches into bizarre, grotesque half-human/half-goat monstrosities isn’t funny, and gets the horrific treatment it deserves.)
In interviews, Kim Harrison has said she plans to conclude the Hollows series with a happy ending for all the characters — but that it might not be the happy ending everyone wants or expects. So it’s hard not to look at Rachel’s relationships, past and present and maybe future, and wonder what everyone’s happy ending might look like — especially Rachel’s, when she’s so afraid she’ll end up stuck in the ever-after with Al.
Darkly fascinating, A Perfect Blood seems to take Rachel along a certain path, but paths can change — and we have two books to go. Stay tuned.
Author Suzanne Johnson is a book geek with a fondness for a good dystopia. Her new urban fantasy series, scheduled to begin with the release of Royal Street on April 10 by Tor Books, is set in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Find Suzanne on Twitter.