WARNING: This review has spoilers.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this series for over a decade now. I think the extreme reaction happens because I like the world Harrison has created so much, little inconsistencies or things that don’t make sense REALLY bother me, whereas I don’t care so much in most other series. Harrison was also the first urban fantasy author I read who developed something using the concept of Familiars, and obviously I took that and ran with it; Demonic Café isn’t really like The Hollows much, but I still owe Harrison an artistic debt that I take seriously.
One major issue I’ve always had with The Hollows is that Rachel Morgan can be a tough protagonist to root for. She constantly goes into dangerous situations without much of a plan, and other people suffer for it. To be fair, this is something that has been directly addressed in the books and Rachel has improved, but she still makes some questionable decisions. For example, the first thing Rachel does in this book involves getting into a fistfight with multiple vampires, which leaves her with bruised ribs. Why is she fighting vampires hand to hand, when she could blast them away with her magic? She’s one of the most powerful magic users in the world, but she doesn’t seem to reach for magic unless she’s already gotten beat up first. Weird.
Another issue is that characters sometimes do incredibly stupid things in order to create drama. In the previous book, Rachel decided to protect a demon named Hodin, and her demon allies all took offense to this and told her that she was in the wrong to put her neck out for this guy. Which is fine, except none of them bothered to tell her WHAT Hodin had done that was so despicable. Rachel finally gets that information in this book, after Hodin has already betrayed her, and it can all be covered in about two sentences. Why did no one volunteer this information back when it actually would have helped? Especially Al, Hodin’s brother, who has a very close relationship with Rachel and could have told her. Instead he just acts pissy that Rachel has chosen Hodin over him and stops speaking to her. Great work, Al.
All that said, this is still a lot of fun. Fan-favorite characters Al and Ivy return in this installment, and it’s fun to see Rachel and her boyfriend Trent fighting together as an awesome battle couple. Trent is also hot as hell in this book, just for the record. I haven’t warmed up to the new characters (Pike and Stef), but there’s nothing wrong with them. Well, with Pike I feel like we’re supposed to be really interested in him, but he’s really just the umpteenth vampire character to appear in the series; I’m not feeling the love. Still, he contributes nicely to the mayhem. The new pixie on the block, Getty, is a delight.
I could write another ten paragraphs about things that bug me about this series, but you know what? This is book #16 in the series, and if Harrison comes out with #17 (and #18 and #19 and #20), you bet I will read them. That says it all, doesn’t it?