The Witch With No Name (The Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison
Rachel Morgan’s come a long way from the clutzy runner of Dead Witch Walking. She’s faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She’s crossed worlds, channeled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She’s lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has become something much more.
But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price. That time is now.
To save Ivy’s soul and the rest of the living vampires, to keep the demonic ever after and our own world from destruction, Rachel Morgan will risk everything.
Full disclosure here: this book would have had to have been a complete disaster to have received less than a 5-star rating. I admit, I went into this one with a predisposed bias toward it being great, and I normally try to approach my rating way more objectively than I seem to be with this book. I feel that’s ok, this is the last book in the series, and I’ve been reading Harrison’s books approximately annually, even during the Dark Ages During Which Liza Was Not Reading. So I think it earns some of those extra props anyway. But I wanted you, my lovely readers, to be aware that the number of stars was very nearly set in stone before I started.
That said, even on a purely objective basis, I still would have given this book 5/5 stars. I absolutely adored it, and I’m going to have a bit of a challenge to write a review that does this justice without giving anything away. (*quickly re-reads the book blurb to establish limits*)
One of my absolute all-time favorite things to read in a book is world-breaking. That’s right, that was breaking, not building. The books that truly stick with me are the ones where the main character has to not only overcome some outside force, but also has to change that force in order to keep on going. It’s one of the things that I think made The Hunger Games so powerful with its startling conclusion of book 1 (I’m not going to go so far as to say the sequels were as well). A truly powerful book takes us on a journey of impossible odds, and it has characters strong enough that it forces the world to accommodate them, rather than the other way around.
Rachel Mariana Morgan possesses the strength of will to accomplish that, as she has shown time and time again throughout this series. But really, it’s more than just her stubbornness that allows all of this wonderful world-breaking to happen. The first key ingredient is to have a world so well built and so real that it actually can be broken. Such a world needs to have context, texture, and history to such an extent that the reader can completely lose themselves in it. It needs to have rules so well understood that they can be pushed and tested. The world of The Hollows has all of these qualities, most of which have very gradually developed over the last 12 books.
The second key ingredient is characters who have something to lose, and those characters need to elicit a certain fondness and belief from the readers. I don’t just mean your main character here. In order to support the real-ness of the world, every character needs to feel uniquely real. You have to have a well-balanced cast of characters, and they each need to make sense independent of all of the others. Every one has a back-story that we catch glimpses of in the same way we might learn snippets of person information from a coworker. And a close inspection of the main cast of characters needs to feel complete: we need to know all of the characters we’ve been following for a while, and we need to love them. And more importantly, we can’t be allowed to forget about them.
A perfect example of this from A Witch With No Name is when the shit hits the fan, each of the main characters has their own priorities that all make sense. We don’t have a supporting cast that are merely concerned with the main character’s well-fare: Ivy is worried about Nina and about her parents, Jenks is worried about his kids, Trent is worried about the girls. They all very realistically go their separate ways to make sure the ones they care about are ok. Hell, even Al shows his soft spot. We as readers are allowed to wonder about the same things because we all already known Nina and Ivy’s parents and Jenks’ kids, and who doesn’t love Trent’s girls?
And that’s exactly what the main character has to lose if everything goes wrong. Nevermind any other motivations that might exist: the other characters alone would be enough. And as readers, we’re just as invested in their well-being.
The third key ingredient is a believable force driving the need to break the world. Either something that really will break the world by itself, or something that boxes the main character into a corner with no other options (as with The Hunger Games), or something of that ilk. This one kind of speaks for itself, but I want to emphasize the word believable.
A Witch With No Name meets these three criteria and then some. Each book in the series has had some kind of world-breaking going on: book 1 saw the breaking of a long-established “you don’t do this” rule when Rachel, Ivy, and Jenks all left the IS and survived at seemingly impossible odds. Then Rachel was able to survive the onslaught of the demons. I could compile a very long list here, but I’ll spare the details for those of you who haven’t read any of this series yet.
A Witch With No Name wraps up the series with a world-breaking endeavor on steroids. Seriously, it was such a big deal that we’re talking a beyond-global scale. And decisions that were made decided the fate of not one, not two, but (at least) three different species. It was an excellent way to end the series, as I’m not sure what in Rachel’s impossible life could possibly top that.
So I’ve talked about world-breaking to-death. What else did I love about this book?
We had a very acceptable amount of romance going on, and I must say I approved. It wasn’t distracting from the main issue, and it really felt natural after how the last book concluded. It wasn’t really a slap in your face, we didn’t have to deal with the awkward “getting to know you” phase of the relationship, as we pretty much already had that hashed out. Really, it just was. And it was the extra support that Rachel needed. (I’m seriously trying really hard not to mention anything important for folks who haven’t read the series at all, so I’m going to stop there).
We already talked about the characters in the world-breaking section of this review, but there’s just one more thing I want to mention there. Even in the thick of things, there’s still humor in the way that friends who are staring down the end of the world as they know it would find something absolutely insane to laugh about, and I love that we still get that coming through.
The following passage comes from later in the book, and may give away a tidbit of info, so if you’re super anti-anything-spoilerish, don’t read. It doesn’t touch on any plot points though. For those of you who haven’t read any of the series, Al is a demon who is countless centuries old.
“If I’m not mistake, he works for … the I.S.?” Trent guessed.
“The FIB, actually,” Al said, and I sank down into the chair at the breakfast nook. “I chose the FIB over the I.S. because the I.S. currently functions on decisions from old white vampires who have lost touch with the ever-changing social structure and are slowly losing power. Progress and all.”
Thunderstruck, I blinked. “You work for the FIB?”
Al tugged his suit coat straight. “I accepted a request to investigate the damage to your church initially, but I like it and I needed a job on the rental agreement other than former emperor of China.” Trent was chuckling, but I failed to see anything funny.
“I get to push people around, poke my nose where I want, and no one stops me. At least not more than once,” Al finished with a familiar evil smile.
Tired, I rubbed my forehead. “Did they give you a bright shiny badge?”
Al flushed, but I figured they had when he touched a breast pocket.
The “other than former emperor of China” bit had me practically rolling on the floor when I read it—I suspect a good deal of that was a result of lack of sleep, as it was getting well past my bedtime.
But I digress and this review is getting rather lengthy, so let’s move on.
The few downsides:
- Rachel does get a bit whiny in this book. Everything is her fault. I’ve seen this very strongly criticized, but it honestly doesn’t bug me all that much. It’s a character flaw, yes. It’s healthy for characters to have flaws, and Rachel’s is the fact that she always feels responsible for everything. That particular trait is what allows her to do all that world-breaking I was talking about earlier, and without it these books wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable.
- There are a lot of people really fixated on getting one thing or another for really stupid reasons. Again, this doesn’t bother me because in the real world, that’s pretty much expected. I might not have appreciated that thick-headedness quite as much before getting out of school, so I advise younger readers to not judge so harshly on the seeming stupidity of some of the antagonists in this book.
In summary, if you haven’t given this series a shot yet, you absolutely should. It’s been a blast, and I love the little detail of this series being a 13-book-long story about a witch. Thank you, Kim Harrison, for sharing such a wonderful series with the rest of the world.
Posted on September 17, 2014, in Urban Fantasy/Paranormal and tagged book reviews, books, dead witch walking, demons, elves, fantasy, kim harrison, ley lines, pixies, rachel mariana morgan, rachel morgan, the hollows, the witch with no name, urban fantasy, vampires, wild magic, witches. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.