Rachel Morgan: Dead Witch Walking (2004), The Good, The Bad, and the Undead (2005), Every Which Way But Dead (2005), A Fistful of Charms (2006), For a Few Demons More (2007), The Outlaw Demon Wails (2008)
Dead Witch Walking (2004)
This book had a lot to overcome. I don't like the cover, I hate the title, and the first time I picked up this book I couldn't get past the first ten pages. However, I kept hearing good things about it, and Michael said that he liked it, so I decided to give it another chance. I again started it, and I again found the main character so annoying that I almost put the book back down before finishing even the first chapter. But I didn't have anything else to read, so I resigned myself to reading on, and was surprised that once I got past the first chapter, the story took off, and I quite enjoyed it.
Rachel is a Runner for Inderland Security--the bureau that deals with witches, vampires, pixies, etc. Unfortunately, Rachel is also fed up with her job. She's gotten nothing but crap assignments, and everything seems to go wrong on the assignments she does get. So when the opportunity arises to leave--she takes it.
As I said, once I got past the first chapter, the story was very interesting. However, I had a hard time feeling sympathetic for a character that dressed like a hooker, and complained about her job without any seeming reason. (Once we actually see her at her job, I felt much more sympathetic.) Once we moved on, the story was interesting, and the fact Rachel dressed like a tramp seemed more like a quirk than a defining characteristic.
The other thing the story had was a good deal of mystery, which is always a bonus as far as I am concerned. However, not all the mysteries are resolved. The story arc is completed, but you don't get answers to all the questions that are asked. Which is okay, because it was done in a "life is like that" kind of way, rather than an "I'm leaving things unresolved so you'll have to read the next book" kind of way.
The difference between the two is, I think, primarily due to the quality of the writing.
There were some things that bothered me. I found some of the transitions between chapters to be jarring. Time has passed, but it's not immediately clear how much time has passed, and things like that bug me. But there were plenty of pluses to offset the things that irked me. Once we finally got down to explaining how the world is different from our own, I very much liked her world building and explanations of how things had turned out the way they had.
And as always, I'm fascinated what mythology was kept for the vampires and other supernatural creatures, and what was discarded. It amazes me that folklore can be interpreted in so many different ways, so that supernatural creatures from one author to another can be completely different from one another, yet wholly recognized as themselves.
So I recommend this book, and if you have trouble getting through the first chapter, push on and give it a couple more chapters and see if you're hooked by then.
The second book finds Rachel Morgan still working with Ivy and Jenks, and struggling to make ends meet. She's getting jobs, but they're barely enough to cover the rent. Plus, she still has to figure out how to pay off the demon she owes for saving her life. All the while Rachel and Ivy are still trying to figure out how to make their living arrangements work.
Additional, someone is killing Cincinnati's ley-line witches, and each death seems more horrible than the previous. Neither the FIB nor the IS has any good leads, so the FIB ends up bringing Rachel in as a consultant.
Strangely, although this book seemed strong than the first, I found it somehow less satisfying. I enjoyed the mystery more, but I think there were far more questions asked than answered in this book, leaving the story feeling unresolved, even though the main story arc--discovering who was killing Cincinnati's ley-line witches--was completed.
Part of the problem for me might have been there was a lot less of Jenks, and a lot more boinking and near boinking. Not that it wasn't well done--I'd just rather have more mystery. I'm not saying that those bits weren't well done--they are. They're just not my favorite parts of a story. Okay, and I'm also slightly irked by the fact that everyone in this book is good looking. Are there any unattractive people in post-Turn Cincinnati?
But I do like the struggle between Ivy and Rachel in keeping Ivy's hungers at bay, as they experiment to discover what works and what doesn't. I also like that Rachel worries about things like health insurance and struggling to pay her bills.
The characters are still interesting, and I hope that the mysteries will continue to get better, but I'm hoping that there were will more questions answered than asked in the next book. I prefer to keep reading a series because I like the characters and the writing, not because the author refuses to resolve plot points.
Every Which Way But Dead (2005)
It actually took me several weeks to read Every Which Way But Dead. It ended up in my jacket pocket for riding on the PRT and sitting in waiting rooms, so I was only reading a few pages at a time. However, I eventually reached a place where I didn't want to read just a few pages at a time, because I wanted to know what happened, and read through huge chunks of the book at a time.
Every Which Way But Dead continues the story of Rachel Morgan, the earth witch who is living in an abandoned church Cincinnati with her living vampire and pixie partners Ivy and Jenks (and the pixie's family).
Rachel is trying desperately to figure out how to escape her status as familiar with the demon Algaliarept, and is hired to protect Trent at a meeting between the top two drug lords in Cincinnati. She also continues to figure out her relationship with Ivy and her friend Kisten--as they try and hold together the Cincinnati vampires while Piscary sits in jail.
As hard of a time as I had getting into the first chapter of the first book in this series (I think it took me about a year) I quite enjoyed Every Which Way But Dead. As with previous books, the characters came alive, and the story pulled me in as I wanted to find out what happened with Rachel and Ivy and Jenks.
I also appreciated that the characters acted in real ways. Ivy and Rachel are still attempting to come to a living arrangement that won't make them both crazy, and the people Rachel spends time with don't all get along with each other, in a way that people don't get along in real life.
I also like how there are consequences--good and bad--to the actions Rachel takes, and even a single action can have a variety of consequences as the action resonates differently with different people.
In other words, the characters had reactions that felt real.
As with the previous books, there are a good deal of sex in this book, however, knowing going in that there was going to be a good deal of boinking made it far less distracting. It also made more sense withing the context of the story, as Rachel has to come to terms with her various relationships, and how who she sleeps with is going to affect her friendships.
Although there was a large thread left hanging at the end of the book, the major story arcs were concluded, including one left over from previous books. And I didn't actually mind the hanging thread that much, since it was one of those consequences I mentioned earlier, and it wasn't a suspenseful thread--no one is in danger and there isn't a huge mystery left hanging. It's simply an issue of relationships, and needs the work that all relationships require.
All in all, I enjoyed Every Which Way But Dead far more than the previous two books in the series, and recommend it to those who like supernatural fantasy.
A Fistful of Charms (2006)
The fourth book in the Rachel Morgan series, A Fistful of Charms takes place several months after Every Which Way But Dead. Rachel and Ivy are still trying to figure out how to mend their relationships with Jenks, and Rachel is enjoying her relationships with Kistin, although she is unsure just where that relationship is going. Rachel also has to come to terms with her ability to work demon magic--and the stain such curses place upon her soul every time she crafts one.
As with the previous book, the strength of this book lay in the relationships between the characters, and the ways that those relationships are affected by the actions each of the partners takes.
I also particularly liked the fact that actions continue to have consequences. Rachel agreed to become David's alpha almost unthinkingly (as she takes many of her actions) in the last book--now she must deal with both the positive and negative consequences of those actions.
But most importantly, Rachel is finally starting to consider the consequences of her actions. As she becomes more deeply involved in demon magic, she has to accept that the taint on her soul is permanent, and that her newfound powers don't come without a heavy price. This was a very interesting way to make her more powerful without making that power overwhelming. Rachel now has access to almost unlimited abilities, but those abilities come at the price of her immortal soul.
As with Every Which Way But Dead, the story arc was completed in the book, although there were many threads left open, we were not left hanging for any major plot points.
There was also a lot less sex in this book. There was still plenty of sexual tension, but most everything elsewhere, which was perfectly fine with me.
There were a few things that bugged me. Jenks had initial trouble adjusting to the results of his potion, however, Rachel was able to deal with her new form almost immediately. Although she had some previous shifting experience, and the spell was crafted by her for her, I still thought she should have had a greater period of disorientation. I also had a hard time believing that there were not going to be hugely serious consequences for Ivy's actions. However, perhaps well see those consequences in a later book.
I also liked the fact that the story went places I wasn't expecting. Despite the fact that he has treated her badly, Rachel still insists upon saving Nick, never minding the peril that doing so places herself and her friends in. Although she is unsure about many things in this book, she still attempts to keep to her principles.
And don't bother with the copy on the back of the book--it doesn't seem to have much of a relationship to the book I just finished.
This was another solid addition to the Rachel Morgan series. If you've been reading along so far, then you are not going to want to miss A Fistful of Charms. If you have not read the previous books in the series, but are a fan of supernatural fantasy with strong female lead characters, then I recommend starting the Rachel Morgan series.
For a Few Demons More (2007)
Michael is actually the one who has been following this series. I’ve been reading them, but only after his initial push to get me to read them, after I started the first book and was completely and utterly annoyed by the main character, Rachel Morgan.
As Michael said, Rachel got better as the book went on, and has continued to improve throughout the series. There are some things that still annoy me, but they’ve become more like quirks than major annoyance. Plus, miracle of all miracles, her friends are actually trying to get her to dress better. (But really, why do they care so much about clothing? This infatuation with dressing well is one of the things that annoys me most about supernatural fiction directed towards women. I don’t care what they’re wearing, and don’t want to read a multi-page description of anyone’s outfit.)
Rachel is still doing ley-line magic, and still owes favors two two demons. She’s also trying to resolve her relationship issues, and deal with the consequences of not destroying the were Focus. Never mind the number of living elves she knows. Many of these things end up coming back to bite Rachel in For a Few Demons More. Trent wants Rachel to work as a bodyguard during his wedding, Rachel and Kirsten are trying to find balance in their romantic relationship while Rachel and Ivy attempt to find balance in their friendship. And to make things worse, the Focus is not remaining quietly hidden away, but is instead causing problems for both Rachel and David.
The strongest part of this series is Rachel’s struggle with her magical powers, and her fight to keep from using dark magic. It is this struggle that interests me most. I also like Rachel’s dependence upon her friends. She is not ultimately powerful, and makes many mistakes. Rachel is a flawed character who is struggling to deal with her lot in life, and those flaws make her a complex and interesting character.
The other thing I like is that Kim Harrison is not afraid to kill of major characters. Rachel has suffered several losses throughout the series, and there are more losses in her future, as we are reminded of Jenks short lifespan. I have a lot of respect for authors who are able to do that, because Rachel’s lifestyle is a dangerous one, and if she and her friends and companions were constantly surviving unscathed, the stories would be unbelievable. So even if I don’t like it when someone is killed off, it makes a great deal of sense.
There were some issues with this story, primarily that several issues remain unresolved, including who killed one of the main characters in this story. I suppose that since the death wasn’t part of the story arc/mystery, this wasn’t quite as frustrating as it could have been. But it was frustrating.
But mostly, I am enjoying the way that Rachel is growing through this series, and learning to live with her responsiblities–whether she likes them or not.
The Outlaw Demon Wails (2008)
Unfortunately, their expedition is rudely interrupted by Al, who has somehow escaped the confines of prison and is out to kill Rachel.
I really liked this book. Rachel is continuing to grow and to accept the fact that she has made bad decisions in the past. I am really enjoying her serious look at her actions and their consequences. Doesn’t mean that she doesn’t act without thought still, but she is getting better and better at controlling her impulsiveness and thinking through her actions before she takes them.
She still continues to take risks even if those risks are not in her best interest, because she still believes in doing what is right.
There were also a lot of surprises in this story. Lots of them were painful, but again, even if Rachel over-reacts, she has reached the point where she recognizes that fact that apologizes or makes amends as necessary.
I’m very curious as to where Kim Harrison is going with this story. Rachel has a lot to deal with now, and her choices are going to continue to place her in danger, but I’ll enjoy watching her continue to learn how to act instead of react.