Sunday, March 8, 2009

White Witch, Black Curse - Kim Harrison - Review

I'm going to wrap up this week's unplanned Harrison-fest with a review of the most recent book in the Hollows series, White Witch, Black Curse. I don't think I was quite clear on the fact that I hadn't read it yet when I did the previous two posts. I think I know what's up with that cat now, f'rinstance.

Do you think there's a limit on how many books in a row you can read from a series without getting burned out? I was a little bit let down by this one, and I'm trying to figure out if it's just that I ran out of steam, after reading 5 or 6 of them consecutively, or if maybe this one was a little sloppier than its predecessors. For instance, scent is important in the Hollows universe, and witches have a sharp nose. But she's just now figuring out what a pixie scent is? (p 79 in the hardback edition). That seemed odd to me, since Jenks regularly hangs out on her earring. And, heh-- I remember this from reading Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys-- every book has to detail certain things over and over again just in case readers have skipped the previous books. I guess it can't be helped, but jeez, how much does Rachel love her kitchen? A REAL LOT, that's how much. Because Ivy remodeled it before they moved in and it has a window overlooking the graveyard and an island and separate stoves for cooking and spelling and at this point I could write the scene myself. Ahem. *OK, grip gotten.* Sorry.

Every Hollows book seems to introduce and feature a new paranormal race or two - we get ghosts and banshees in this one, plus some additional insight into the witch's culture. Considering that Rachel IS a witch, this kind of seems long overdue, but it's good, so, OK. Each book introduces new characters, most of whom continue to appear in subsequent books, so by now, it's getting a little more difficult to keep track. I tend to confuse Glenn and David pretty regularly, for example. But that's probably just me.

I recognized Mia the banshee from the Hotter Than Hell anthology, and definitely got a nagging feeling that I was missing something about the new character, Pierce. Can't confirm, but I suspect there's a little backstory on him in 2007 anthology release, Holidays are Hell. It was enough to bug, so I recommend you go find that short before reading WWBC.

One of the things I really like about the Hollows series is the ongoing character arcs with Rachel, Ivy, and the various Powers That Be in Cincinnati. I like the shifting alliances and powerplays, and the friendships and crushes that come and go in Rachel's life. So it's probably more a sign of my own fatigue than a flaw in the series that the ongoing Rachel/Ivy angst started to feel like it was too much. And while Rachel reaches a fairly important decision (either this book or the last one, they blur) about her relationship with Ivy, it still feels unresolved and the ongoing spun-out tension is starting to feel artificial.

Overall, WWBC had more action and several competing plotlines and, IMO, less character development than previous books. I was a little frustrated that there wasn't more to do with Al in this book-- at the moment, he's definitely one of the most interesting characters and with the setup from the last book, I expected to see a lot of him. *sigh* Maybe in the next book.

It's still a good read, and for Hollows fans undoubtedly a must-read. I would not recommend reading this on its own; I think the cast of thousands and their ongoing histories would be pretty confusing.

For me though, I sort of wish I had taken a bit of a break sometime in the last half-dozen books so it would feel a little fresher. Clearly, the rest of Harrison's fans have no problem with this book; it recently hit 3rd on the NYT best seller list, so congrats are in order there.

A final tidbit: At the end of Outlaw (paperback edition), the extra scene about Al and Ceri included a flock of blue butterflies. The same butterflies appear momentarily in WWBC, and per Harrison's comments at the booksigning, we should "watch for the butterflies." Anyone who's read both want to hazard a guess? (I think they have something to do with Al's potential for 'good,' challenging the Hollows' current belief that demons and demon magic are 100% evil.)

Edited to add:
What others are saying about White Witch, Black Curse
Sci-Fi Guy - Loved it; includes lots of little quotes
Book Series Review - liked it but with caveats about the anthology stories, like me.
*headdesk* Balanced review but overall liked (great blog name, no?)

1 comment:

Jackie (Literary Escapism) said...

Honestly, I shouldn't have read as much as I did since I'm writing my review up for this for the BWC carnival as well, but I really didn't think Pierce's backstory story was all that important to know. I actually forget that he was in the short in Holidays Are Hell and I don't remember him having all that much of a presence. Could just be me though.

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