Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows #1) by Kim Harrison

Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison

It's really hard post-hoc reviewing books that begin long-running series you've already read. It's too easy to overlook things that gave pause on first read, or were unclear, because you know where it's going. On the other hand, it's sometimes hard to see the really clever flourishes in the world-building, the exact things that pulled you in the first time, because this world and it's inhabitants are already old friends.

In any case, the Hollows books are rip-roaring urban fantasy with a pretty great female protagonist. There's romance, but these are not PNR (although there's the odd sexytimes scene, maybe 4-5 times in the entire first ten books, unless I'm misremembering). I mention this because I'm so over reading poorly written "PNR" that's just an excuse for horribad erotica, and I know I'm not alone there.

As mentioned, long but completed series, I'm just gonna suggest you pick up the first book and see if you like it.

But if you're interested in more thoughts, read on. Consider yourselves warned, this might get long. Even for one of my reviews.




    • The worldbuilding is fantastic. No point going over that again here, everyone and their mother has written a plot summary.

    • The writing is pretty darn good. The books flow, notably Harrison can write action scenes well, so I don't do my usual skipping over the five pages of fisticuffs. Which is good because Rachel gets into it pretty often. The characters have different voices and perspectives on things, and they are largely self-consistent.

    • Rachel, has a scooby gang and appreciates them for their different perspectives. She doesn't always do as they would like, and nor do they always behave how she would like, but they somehow manage to stay friends and have differing opinions.

    • The scooby gang are fully fleshed out characters and not just sidekicks, and they're really fun. Jenks the pixy is a hoot, and while I didn't like Ivy much to begin with, I warmed to her a bit over time.

    • Rachel screws up sometimes, and gets her ass handed to her. Of course she always gets out of it, somehow, but she doesn't come out unscarred. Over the course of the series she takes some pretty hard hits. She always picks herself up and pretty much lives by a "let's just get through THIS problem" strategy. Yet she still manages to (eventually) grow up a bit.
    • I'm going to break off and talk about the romance here for a bit. I'm not a PNR fan, I don't read romance much (I don't hate it, but it's not my fave thing). And yet it's actually one of the strengths here.

      Rachel has an actual dating life. I was going to say "healthy" dating life, but err.. well. There's no "fated mate" or instalove or anything of that kind. And yet her romances rarely drive the plot, although they sometimes really mess it up. She's got that "one who got away" who turns out to be not such a catch after all. There's the guy with all the sexual tension that she doesn't actually like. There's the Darth Ex who just keeps on showing up to screw with her life. The kind of dating catalogue a lot of us have racked up over the years before settling down, and while characters poke fun at her about her sometimes messy romances once they're over, her friends bite their tongues while she's going through it and are there to support her when it's over.

      But she's a healthy good looking 26yo woman at the start of the series, and why shouldn't she be out there dating and playing the field a little? It's odd that I find this to be such a pro, but honestly, it's rare. UF is full of "already a couple at the start and bound to be that way forever", and "Starcrossed but fated to be lovers for eternity, because the pheremones say so" couples or even just couples who meet in book one, are clearly into each other but in denial and spend all their time angsting over it. It's nice to see something even a little more grounded, someone who's comfortable with their own sexuality, and not being punished for having any (nor punishing herself over it.)


    • The Ivy thing. Rachel's roommate is a bi vampire and is very into Rachel. Rachel is straight, and not interested, but neither she nor Ivy can't separate "take blood" and "have sex". It's actually a clever setup, but it's not always handled well, and the first book handles it particularly poorly. I'm going to send you over to read Bookaneer's review . As she points out, there's a pretty strong degree of victim-blaming going on here. I guess the biggest mitigating factor here is that this comes up much less in later books, and eventually almost disappears altogether. But book 1 loses a whole star for this one thing.

    • I've never got past book 10 because I got spoiled that the last few books change things somewhat. To be honest, By the end of book 10, Rachel is in a pretty good place: She's happy, all her currently living friends and even frenemies are alive and well, she's got her business and her life mostly in order after having it turned upside down and inside out. I've been happy to leave it there and pretend that's where the series ends - there's really only a couple of outstanding plot threads and nothing that I really care about.

      Apparently, The Moonlighting Factor strikes this series after book 10. The character who started out murdering someone right in front of Rachel's face (as well as keeping her in a cage and putting her in a rat fight while transformed into a mink), becomes the love interest and Rachel is effectively neutered as a character, going from badass "I'll solve it myself thanks, stay the hell out of my way" to "OMG; Trent, come save me, I'm so helpless." The thought of that has been enough to put me off the last few books, although I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

      (show spoiler)

That's it really. If you're still with me, and you like UF, definitely give this one a try.