BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Rachel Morgan must deal with magical mayhem in Cincy while also juggling her forbidden feelings for Trent Kalimack in the penultimate book in the Hollows series.
PROS: Attention to detail is flawless in a fully realized magic-rich Cincinnati, and longtime fans will be very satisfied.
CONS: While fans will be satisfied, this one is not for the uninitiated. Make sure you’re caught up before diving into this one. Also, it gets off to a pretty slow (but steady) start. I personally like this, but it may try the patience of some readers.
BOTTOM LINE: With intricate characterization, plotting, and a story line that stays very true to firmly established back stories, Harrison more than delivers in one of the best urban fantasy series going.
[Note: There are no spoilers for this book, although there may be for prior books. This review assumes you’re caught up with the series.]
Poor Rachel. She’s been doing security jobs for Trent Kalimack again while Wren is away with the girls, and it’s been months since that scorching kiss. The attraction is undeniable, but Rachel feels that there would be no future for the two of them. Fortunately, Rachel is about to get a distraction from her feelings for Trent when her attempts to avert a spell on the golf course goes wildly wrong. Magic is misfiring all over Cincy and since it seems that wild magic might be leaking out of Rachel’s ley-line, of course she’s getting the blame. Will Al be able to help her find out what’s happening? Maybe Newt can shine some light on the subject, if she can stay sane for more than five minutes. Meanwhile, undead vamps won’t wake up, and a group calling itself the Free Vampires are wreaking havoc. Rachel wonders if the leaking magic and the Free Vampires are connected. If only the IS and the FIB could contain the misfires, she may be able to investigate. The fact that Trent wants to help is a good thing, right? Even if Ellasbeth is back in town, Rachel is happy for the help, even if she has to watch as Ellasbeth attempts to monopolize Trent’s time. This, of course, leads to Rachel wondering how she’d ever have a chance with Trent in the face of such perfection, but I digress. Things begin hitting close to home when Nina, Ivy’s lover, disappears, and Ivy fears that Felix (one of the undead vamps), is in firm control of his unwilling scion once again.
Meanwhile, the head of the elf religion, Bancroft, is in town with his oily lackey Landon, and the Goddess is restless. I’m sure you’re asking yourself “What does the Goddess have to do with Rachel?” Don’t worry, you’ll find out, and it’s kind of creepy, but kind of awesome, too. Trust me.
Again, as in Ever After, there’s a ton going on in The Undead Pool. However, we get a much deeper look into elf/demon relations, and the mistrust that runs deep on both sides, for good reason. Trent has changed so much since we were first introduced to him, and it’s hinted that a positive change can be attributed to Rachel. If you’re one that frequently got frustrated that Rachel second-guessed herself a little too much, rest assured that that Rachel is gone, and a tougher, even more sensitive Rachel has come out of her shell (even more so than in Ever After, and she kicked serious butt in Ever After). It’s a good thing, too, because she’ll need every single ounce of that toughness to deal with the Goddess. Speaking of which, with the Goddess, Harrison gets into some fairly major metaphysical stuff. With another writer’s pen, this may have been difficult to handle with a first-person narrative, but of course, Harrison makes it look easy. Elf and vampire politics clash with disastrous results and we find out just how powerful ancient elven magic really is.
I know what’s on every Hollows fan’s mind, though, and that’s Trent. When we first met him, he was a class-A jerk, but ohhh has he changed and the changes are so very good. The scenes with Trent, Rachel, and Ellasbeth are very angsty, but in the best way. So much delicious tension! Trent is a man at war with what is expected of him, and what his heart wants, and we all know what his heart wants, don’t we? Well, don’t we??
Kim Harrison balances her always-good magic-slinging fight scenes with plenty of levity and with stakes (heh, sorry) this high, it’s necessary. Things are tense, and lines like this: “Ah, Rachel? I don’t want to know about those two cadavers in your front room, but they’d better be gone tomorrow, ok?” go a long way toward relieving a bit of the near constant tension. I mean, we’ve got undead vamps dying of aura starvation, Free Vampires rampaging, elves blaming vamps, vamps blaming elves, rogue magic waves threatening to devour Cincinnati, and our Rachel is rather intimately connected to the Goddess (well, sort of). Whew! As usual, Kim Harrison has delivered up sophisticated urban fantasy with a killer of a conclusion. I can’t wait to see what the 13th, and last, book brings.