Monday, February 23, 2009

Review – “White Witch, Black Curse” by Kim Harrison

Some wounds take time to heal . . . and some scars never fade.

Rachel Morgan, kick-ass witch and bounty hunter, has taken her fair share of hits, and has broken lines she swore she would never cross. But when her lover was murdered, it left a deeper wound than Rachel ever imagined, and now she won't rest until his death is solved . . . and avenged. Whatever the cost.

Yet the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and when a new predator moves to the apex of the Inderlander food chain, Rachel's past comes back to haunt her.

White Witch, Black Curse is the long anticipated seventh book in The Hollows urban fantasy series. I’ll state up front that I am probably biased when it comes to this series as it is my favourite urban fantasy pleasure. It is also difficult to discuss the books without revealing some plot points or events from past or current books that might be considered spoilers, so read ahead forewarned.

When last we left Rachel in The Outlaw Demon Wails, she had agreed to become the demon Algalierept’s apprentice so I was fully expecting White Witch, Black Curse to delve into the inner workings of the ever-after and explore how much additional trouble Rachel would get into practicing demon magic. Not so. While big Al has an important role in the story, White Witch, Black Curse concentrates on an entirely new mystery and revisits the unresolved mystery of Kisten’s death as well as advancing several other important story arcs.

It is the emotional power of our three central characters - Rachel, Ivy and Jenks - that continues to command my attention irrespective of the action of the moment. After six books they have grown and worked their way into my heart and mind. We know that Jenks and wife Matalina are entering their twilight years and Matalina’s health is suspect. There is an air of unspoken sadness that surrounds them in White Witch, Black Curse. Here is an exchange between Rachel and Edden -
I brought my eyes up, unshed tears for Jenks warming them as I found a deep understanding in Edden's gaze, the understanding of a man who had lost his wife.
"No," I said. "Pixies live only twenty years."
I could feel Jenks light and warm in my hands, and I wished he was bigger so I could just help him into the car, take him home, and cry with him on the couch.
Rachel and Ivy’s relationship continues to simmer, Rachel is still in fear of becoming blood bound but they also both begin to open up and communicate their feelings more effectively to one another with Ivy in particular becoming more engaged. Hope remains that before the series ends, Ivy and Rachel will make a go of it. From Ivy –
"You have hurt me," she said, arms around her drawn-up knees and her chin high. "You will again. I don't care. That's the sick part. That's why I don't touch you anymore. I'm addicted to your little white lies. I want love, but I can't live with myself if I make you hurt me again. I don't want pain to feel like love. It's not supposed to."
And Rachel becomes more determined then ever to find a solution so Ivy can retain her soul when she becomes undead. Kisten’s death continues to haunt them both and as Rachel remembers more about the night of his death, she shares as Ivy asks -
“But he couldn’t remember why he loved you, could he?”
I shook my head when a remembered feeling of mental pain drifted up "No, he couldn't."
Ivy silently took that in. Deep in her shadowed eyes I could see her wish that I might find a way to save her from that fate. "I don't want to live not remembering why I love," she finally said, her face pallid as she looked ahead to her own soul death.
"I'm sorry, Ivy," I whispered as I fell into step beside her while we headed for my vehicle.
"It's what we are," she said stoically.
But it wasn't who she wanted to be.
White Witch, Black Curse re-introduces a character first seen in the Hollows prequel Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel that appeared in the Holidays Are Hell (2007) anthology. Rachel’s behaviour and reaction to this reappearance provides some new insight into her relationships with men as this interaction between Jenks and Rachel demonstrates -
"You think I'm cooking up a boyfriend in my kitchen? Grow up."
"You grow up!" Jenks said. "Let's just say he's a nice ghost who needs a little help and is not spying on us for some demon. I know you, Rache. He is a ghost. You're a witch. He needs help, and I'd be willing to bet the first time you met him, he did something strong and powerful. And now he needs help, which turns him into freaking Rachel candy."
I couldn't help a flush from creeping up my face. Okay, maybe once, but I was smarter now.
Those that have read the novella will more fully appreciate the way it is woven into Rachel’s personal history. If you haven’t read the novella, find it and check it out. The novella also features Robbie, Rachel’s brother who returns to Cincinnati for a visit in White Witch, Black Curse. Their sibling rivalry is honest and well-portrayed and humanizes Rachel even more.

In White Witch, Black Curse our Vampiric Charms team works with the F.I.B. to apprehend a fugitive Banshee wanted for a near-fatal assault on Edden’s son Glenn and several murders. The chase is full of twists and turns, revelations and is chockfull of action and confrontations. Rachel’s reputation takes an enormous hit in this instalment which you will have to read to discover. Despite all her best efforts she just can’t seem to catch a break. Rachel also solves the mystery of who Kisten’s murderer was with an added bonus – we learn of the demise of a much reviled character for one of those satisfying ‘hurrah’ moments.

White Witch, Black Curse is a terrific book and I can’t stand the thought of having to wait another year for the next. In an interview with Suvudu, Kim Harrison reveals that she is finishing the final pages of Book 9. That’s two more completed Hollows books! Buy this book, buy the series.

I leave you with a favourite line from White Witch, Black Curse. A deathly ill little girl in the hospital explains to Rachel what her mother says about her impending mortality -
"She says the angels want me back so I can teach them about love."
To me that sentiment embodies the heart of The Hollows series where the meaning of love is invested in each and every character and story line.

AUTHOR AND BOOK SHOWCASEOfficial Kim Harrison Website

HarperCollins Publishers (EOS)
Published: February 24, 2009
ISBN #: 9780061138010
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 504

Read an excerpt of the first five chapters.
Listen to the audio book excerpt.

Recent Interviews:
Suvudu (Question 5 reveals Kim is working on the last pages of Book 9)

The Hollows Series:

  1. Dead Witch Walking (2004)
  2. The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (2005)
  3. Every Which Way But Dead (2005)
  4. A Fistful of Charms (2006)
  5. For a Few Demons More (2007)
  6. The Outlaw Demon Wails (2008)
  7. White Witch, Black Curse (February 24, 2009)

Video of Kim Harrison Talking About White Witch Black Curse
(Note - may contain spoilers)


  1. Excellent review! This title is one I have been anticipating!

  2. I miss Kistin (oh how I cried when he died) but I'm looking forward to reading this.

    Great review!!!

  3. I had to kind of skim your review, since I'm hoping to read this one soon. I'm so glad you enjoyed it - and I'm almost dreading having read it, because of the long wait. I know how you feel! :-p

  4. Thanks Patricia. I liked this one a lot. Now I will probably buy the audio book and listen to it too. Love the audio versions of these books.

    Ladytink well I cried for Rachel and Ivy. There are some great moments in this one too.

    Hi Darla drop back and let me know what you thought once you've had a chance to read it. Always like to hear from fellow Hollows fans.

  5. I just finished the book, and of course I loved it! Thanks so much for including the name of the story and the anthology it's in, as I missed it the first time around, and I wish I'd read it before I read this book! I'm looking forward to reading it, in any case. And you are right, it is going to be a hard wait for the next one, sigh.

  6. Hi Darla apparently there are a couple of other related short stories as well that several other reviewers mentioned but sorry I can't seem to find the links.

  7. Thanks - I'll see if I can dig them up, and then I'll include them in my series list, so people who love to read things in order (like me!) can know where to go. It'll give me something to do while I'm waiting for the next book to come out. :-)

  8. Do I need to read the books before this to understand it?

  9. To be honest - probably. Starting in a middle of a series means you lose backstory and character nuances. If you read strictly for plot than you could start here.


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