Harrison, Kim. Pale Demon.

NY: HarperCollins, 2011.

Way back in 2004, an unknown author came out with a sort-of urban fantasy called Dead Witch Walking, about an earth witch (a “white” witch, that is, and a sort-of private detective), named Rachel Morgan and her partners, Ivy Tamwood (a “living vampire”), and Jenks (a six-inch-high pixie, complete with wings and Tinker Belle dust, and thoroughly deadly).

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be caught dead consorting with witchcraft/vampire novels with a strong romance flavor to them, but that one was different, even though the awkwardness of the prose often made me wince. Now, seven years, nine novels, and 3,000-plus pages later, Harrison’s every book is on the Best Sellers list and she has a dozen imitators. The writing is much smoother these days — usually — the characters have terrific depth and dimensions, and the plotting is so complex you may want to take notes. Because it’s all really one long narrative, each volume picking up where the last one left off, and with very little of the “here’s what happened earlier” that one expects of a sequel. (So don’t even think of starting anywhere but at the beginning.) This time, Rachel, who has been consorting with demons (especially Al, extraordinarily powerful compared to humans but actually a not especially important resident of the ever-after and always in financial difficulties) and learning black magic, and had managed to get herself shunned by the Coven, which is sort of the governing body of witches, is on a road trip from her home in Cincinnati to the annual convention in San Francisco where she has to plead her case to keep from being imprisoned, or worse. At the same time, her longtime nemesis-love interest, Trent Kalamack, who is a Very Big Deal among the few remaining very secretive elves in the world, also has to get to the west coast on his own quest, so the two of them reluctantly join forces — sort of. Rachel can do earth magic (her birth right) and demon magic (by study and because she has unusual genes, thanks to Trent’s father), but Trent himself does elfin “wild magic,” and that affects everyone. I said it was complicated. Harrison has definitely become one of a small number of authors whose newest books I grab automatically without even looking at the reviews. (The others being people like Tim Powers, Bill Gibson, and Neal Stephenson — and that’s good company.)

But I have to say, she still makes occasional boners, like when someone is feeling nauseous, “her gore rose.” Um, no, Ms. Harrison, the word is “gorge.” And she’s too much in love with certain words and constructions, especially “from” — e.g., “the words exited from her lips.” And she seems to have an aversion to simple, straightforward declarative sentences. It’s the sort of thing one expects to see from a college sophomore in her first creative writing class. Someone please assign this lady a copyeditor!

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Published in: on 1 July 2011 at 6:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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