Harrison, Kim. The Witch with No Name.

NY: Harper, 2014.

This sort-of alternate history series about witches and vampires and demons and pixies and weres and fairies and gargoyles and banshees and trolls and elves — all of whom are “people” — has had me hooked for thirteen volumes now, and it’s finally all winding down to the final curtain.

Rachel Morgan, the main Good Guy, is an earth witch living in Cincinnati, and also what passes for a private detective and security specialist in that world. During the course of the series, she has also been the alpha female in a were pack (mostly for the group insurance coverage), has discovered that she’s also a day-walking demon (as a result of genetic manipulation), has gone into partnership with Ivy, a living (i.e., not yet undead) vampire with whom she has a very strange emotional relationship, and has finally fallen in love with Trent, the elf multimillionaire businessman who put her through some harrowing experiences early in the series. But he’s reformed now. Sort of.

The plot lines are many and they’ve very complex. You almost have to take notes. (In fact, most series authors keep a “Bible” so they don’t forget the details, and Harrison’s must run to several volumes.) The themes throughout, though, involve the demons, who were trapped in the ever-after by the elves a couple thousand years ago, and who want out. And also the elves themselves, who are responsible for having created the demons, but are now dying out — but Trent has been working hard to find a solution to that. And finally the vampires, who are presently at the top of the non-human power pyramid and who like it that way — but they’re being threatened by both the demons and the elves.

All of this we see from Rachel’s POV as she struggles with her family, her love life, her professional standing, and with all the persons and groups who would cheer if she were dead. And there’s Jenks the macho pixie for comic — and sometimes tragic — relief, and Bis, the adolescent gargoyle who takes himself very seriously. After more than six thousand pages, several once-major characters have died, often violently. And, this being the kind of world it is, several of them have returned from the dead. But Harrison manages to bring all the plot-lines together in a pall-mall series of explosive encounter scenes, answers all the longstanding questions, and solves the most important of the key problems. Quite a feat.

The author is terrific at plotting and character development, but even after all these years, her style, frankly, still makes me grind my teeth. At first, I gave her a pass as a novice, but not any more. Among other things, she has a penchant for awkwardly and unnecessarily compound sentences: “It pissed me off that she’d been lying to Ivy all this time, but I think Ivy had known it, her belief that she didn’t deserve anything good or lasting keeping her mouth shut and her eyes blind.” She’s also addicted to gerunds. And she often has Rachel describing herself in terms that really are only appropriate for a third-person observation, such as: “’Sorry,’ I said with a sad little laugh.” I find myself constantly recasting her sentences into a smoother form — which isn’t that difficult. Why wasn’t she assigned a full-time copyeditor ten or twelve volumes ago?

Well, it’s been a long, occasionally bumpy, but generally exhilarating ride and I’ve enjoyed it. And I have to wonder what she has up her sleeve now?


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