The thirteenth and final novel in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, The Witch With No Name, returns one last time to the world of Rachel Morgan and her associates—and there are plenty of things to wrap up, from interspecies politics and survival to the more personal stuff like Rachel’s complex relationships with her chosen family. In this installment the question of vampires’ lost souls is finally on the table, while the conflict between elves and demons is also coming to a potentially catastrophic conclusion. As Rachel struggles to create a better and more inclusive world, or die trying, the threads Harrison has been weaving for years all come together.
The series’ first book, Dead Witch Walking, came out in 2004—so this has been a decade long journey for readers who’ve been around since the beginning. And, with the release of this book in September, it’s done. So, how’s it stack up?
One note, first: I can’t quite offer a 100% full perspective on the novel, because the final epilogue chapter has not been included in advanced reviewers’ copies—so, I’m just working on the assumption that it’s some feel-good wrap up (perhaps a wedding or two?) that won’t much change the tone or direction of the novel’s climax.
Despite that, it’s safe to say that I found this to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. Several long-standing issues are resolved, such as the question of retaining vampire’s souls after their first death, and in a manner that doesn’t feel contrived. With conclusions to problems toppling one after another, it would be easy for a final volume like this to descend into “checklist” territory—a la that last Harry Potter novel—but Harrison manages to weave all of her through-lines together in such a fashion that they feel natural and driven by characters rather than authorial necessity.
The plot itself is twisty and moves along at a quick clip, and while it is occasionally a bit easy to see where things are going, it’s nonetheless a fun ride along the way. Harrison’s worldbuilding is still great, and it was good to have some suspicions that I’d been harboring about the nature of magic and the historical conflict between demons and elves confirmed in this last volume. Those are the big-scale issues we’ve been waiting to see come to a head, and Harrison handles them all with the skill and cleverness that I’d expect based on the last twelve books.
On a similar note, the characters are familiar and their relationships are as well, but there’s still room to grow, and The Witch With No Name offers some good arcs there as well. The relationship between Rachel and Ivy, always complex and tinged with regret for what couldn’t be, seems to have finally reached a point that’s satisfying though bittersweet for all involved; the fascinating balance of love between Rachel, Trent, and Al is also well managed.
And speaking of that, I’d just like to note: I so, so, so appreciate seeing these complex relationships in a popular, best-selling series. While something like the Anita Blake series—for folks who follows urban fantasy, ahem—gives the reader a lot of sexual intimacy, Rachel Morgan’s world is full of far more developed kinds of companionship. Her romantic love for Trent doesn’t diminish the complicated affection she feels for Al, but Harrison never feels a need to make that relationship sexual; it’s possible, in Rachel’s world, to love platonically but intensely. It’s also possible to maintain and manage relationships like the one that sort of wobbles along between Trent, Ellasbeth, and Rachel in this book—parenting is complicated, and I appreciate that while Ellasbeth isn’t likeable for the most part, Harrison also doesn’t reduce her to simply an evil-ex type. She’s got her own motivations, and Rachel is willing to see past the negatives about her to understand that she needs to be a part of her daughter’s life.
I don’t see enough of these sorts of things in novels, especially with the ever-present and often clichéd love triangle device or the trope of a woman protagonist who can’t get along with any other women, and I very much appreciate it.
Harrison’s thoughtful exploration of these difficult dynamics also likely has something to do with the political gist of this series, and in particular the final book: a focus on forgiving past sins and letting go of grudges to move forward into a more cohesive, accepting, unified world. Rachel’s world has changed a lot from book one to book thirteen, and so has she; the message, ultimately, seems to be that people and their actions are not so black-and-white as they might seem. The world is complicated, conflict is multifaceted, and discrimination is not the answer.
Those are all points I can get behind, and Rachel has been a fascinating world-mover in her attempts to bring a lasting and functional peace between the different species who have to share a planet together. She’s developed a lot since that first book, in learning to love and learning to be herself, and I think it’s pretty uplifting that she manages to pull the world she lives in along with her. It’s a good note on which to end a fun, light-hearted series.
In the end, I’d simply say: I liked this book. And really, that’s what makes a review like this a bit of a challenge to write. For readers who have been with The Hollows for the whole journey—like me—this will be of a piece with the other books in the series: solid, engaging, amusing and fast-paced. It’s difficult to point at things that haven’t already been said and praise them; similarly, the critiques I have would be the same as well. But it’s a good book, a good series, and I recommend giving it a look. I’m sad to see it go, but also glad to see it end well and with such panache.
Thanks, Kim Harrison, for a lot of pleasant reading.
The Witch With No Name is available September 9th from HarperCollins.
Brit Mandelo is a writer, critic, and editor whose primary fields of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide. She can be found on Twitter or her website.