I've been reading Kim Harrison's Hollows for nearly a decade now, it's one of the only series I've stuck with through the entire run and a large part of that is the fun, fast nature of the novels. And now, with The Witch With No Name, she's giving long-time fans the satisfying ending we deserve.
The Hollows books are urban fantasy action-adventure romps in a dark post-apocalyptic alternate timeline where humanity managed to wipe out 50% of themselves. The supernatural species came out of hiding when we'd whittled ourselves down sufficiently that our respective populations were more or less equal in number. It's a series that does it's best when balancing awesome flashy scenes with actual deep thought on what an America that lost a massive amount of its population would look like and function.
The result of the complex world-building is that the final book in the series, The Witch with No Name, is almost impossible to describe without sounding absurd. It's a testament to Harrison as a writer that over 13 books, 2 graphic novels, numerous short stories and one world encyclopedia, she's built a society that feels totally real to her readers, and is cracktastic in all the best ways — but from the outside sounds certifiably completely inscrutable and ridiculous.
Don't believe me?
In this final installment Rachel Mariana Morgan's life is a bit rocky because neither the Demon Collective nor the Elves are happy with her dating Trent Aloysius Kalamack, elven Sa'han, billionaire businessman and illegal geneticist. Rynn Cormel, powerful undead vampire and former President of the United States of America, is tired of waiting and wants Rachel to deliver on her promise to restore their souls to the undead. He's forcing her hand by threatening Ivy Tamwood, the living vampire who's Rachel's best friend and for a while there looked like she might become her girlfriend as well. Meanwhile Landon, head of the dewar — the elven religious faction — is back, and playing his own twisted game in a play for elven superiority.
See, it sounds crazy and like it could never work or make sense but it does! I maintain that any book series that builds a complex rich world over the course of numerous volumes sounds farcical when whittled down to a paragraph.
No one's trying to argue that this series is Shakespeare (though maybe someone should since people forget that often what we consider classic literature was in it's own time pop-lit, so basically in 100 years Sex and the City may be considered a classic like Sherlock Holmes... well, maybe 200 years). What the series definitely is though is funny, well-paced and a delight to read with endearingly real side characters who are also all dealing with their own lives and messes independent of the main character. Any fan of Jim Butcher and the Dresden Files is sure to especially love Jenks, the foul-mouthed, vicious, hilarious, sometimes honey-drunk pixie backup with a slew of kids.
Harrison does her best to paint a world that feels real, even with elves, pixies, vampires, fairies, witches and demons in the mix. She's actually thought through social ramifications that would result from having such a mixed society. Some examples are split law enforcement agencies, coffee shops that have protection circles built into the floor, paparazzi trying to interview rare species, laws regarding black magic, all those good details makes the Hollows feel like a real world.
The main character, Rachel, also feels like a real person. She's a strong character with real emotional and physical problems, she makes stupid decisions sometimes but is also smart enough to put clues together in a fairly quick manner which stops the reader from getting too annoyed with some of her decisions.
In fact, it's not long until Rachel figures out where the vampire souls are and how to reattach them — my one complaint about this book would probably be that this problem that's proved so difficult for Rachel to figure out before gets solved pretty quickly here. However, that's where things get interesting — because she figures out that vampires getting their souls back would actually be a VERY BAD THING™ because hundreds of years of depravity and torture against those you purport to love don't go too well with suddenly having a conscience again. In fact, it seems like it might cause all the undead vampires to go sunicide, which would be fine except in the previous book The Undead Pool we saw exactly what goes down with living vampires when the undead ones are unable to exert control — chaos and blood orgies. It also doesn't help that the few undead who believe it might cause them to kill themselves don't care and want their souls back anyway. As is often the case in this series, it's not a question of "Can it be done," but "Should it be done" — and what social ramifications will result from possibly creating a huge power vacuum. Should people be able to choose a destiny that will ultimately lead to their doom?
This definitely isn't the book to start out on, for newcomers to the series — but for long time fans, it's a very satisfying ending. (I'm semi-assuming, what I read was good but I don't have the very last chapter as the publisher decided to redact it from the ARCs to control spoilers so I don't honestly know how the whole thing ends yet. However, I've trusted Harrison for 13 novels I trust her not to wreck it all in the last chapter/epilogue unlike some other authors I could mention.)
For anyone who's looking for a new urban fantasy series — go pick up the first Hollows book, Dead Witch Walking.