Review: The Undead Pool

KIM HARRISON
The Undead Pool (RACHEL MORGAN #12)
HARPER VOYAGER
URBAN FANTASY
february 25, 2014 (KINDLE EDITION)

Blurb via Amazon, which may contain spoilers for previous books:

Supernatural superhero Rachel Morgan must counter a strange magic that could spell civil war for the Hollows in this sexy and bewitching urban fantasy adventure in acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison’s Hollows series.

Witch and day-walking demon Rachel Morgan has managed to save the demonic ever after from shrinking, but at a high cost. Now, strange magic is attacking Cincinnati and the Hollows, causing spells to backfire or go horribly wrong, and the truce between the races, between Inderlander and human, is shattering. Rachel must stop this dark necromancy before the undead vampire masters who keep the rest of the undead under control are lost and all-out supernatural war breaks out.

Rachel knows of only weapon to ensure the peace: ancient elven wild magic, which carries its own perils. And no one know better than Rachel that no good deed goes unpunished . . .

The book’s been out long enough, so, spoilers. Potentially. We shall see.

I’ve waited way too long to review this book and have no earthly idea why it’s taken so long because frankly? This book one hundred percent satisfied. If that immediate previous line was enough, that’s all I’d be writing about The Undead Pool in this space, because it’s true. Sure, I might be biased because this has been my number one favorite series since I began reading it several years ago – but whatevs. It’s fact. this book is awesome.

Now that we’re clear on that, it’s with much ado and sniffling (and wasting of the Earth’s natural resources by way too much tissue usage) that I must get the lamenting of the series end out of the way. No, this isn’t the last book in the series, but it’s the penultimate one. I’ve already got that bittersweet feeling I always knew I’d have when we finally begin to wind down with the Rachel Morgan books. But that’s not to say that the series is slacking. Oh no, it actually manages to continue to excel even in this next-to-last installment. Kim Harrison has always promised her readers that Rachel would end up happy by the end of the Hollows series. Rachel has also always been a gal looking for love and she’s got a healthy (and I mean that sincerely) appreciation for the opposite sex. I’ve really come to enjoy the way Harrison has played out Rachel’s love life and was not a little surprised to see the turn the series was taking a book or two back with this particular issue.

Trent used to be one of my least-liked characters in the entire series, and while I admit this is in large part due to my total infatuation with Rachel, I have to hand it to Harrison. She writes shades of gray characters very well, but even so I was still surprised at how much I’ve come to appreciate Trent. In a likable way. I liked his devious and underhanded qualities before, but more so as a villain. I never expected earlier in the series to one day totally be rooting for a Trent and Rachel pairing. I think where the storyline succeeds with these two is we finally get to see a vulnerable side of Trent. He’s always been important to the series, but thanks to an ever-growing entanglement with Rachel, we get to see past the drug-lord persona he’s usually known for. At times it felt like he was a little one-dimensional in the past, but he gets some stellar character growth in this round. I’m happy to say it was often of the rather…warm variety when it involves Rachel.

Rachel herself was a little more, hmm, how to say it, humbled and at times frustratingly lacking in self-esteem. The self-esteem issue isn’t new, and if you think back on all she’s gone through in the series (Kisten, the whole hey-I’m-a-demon-WTF thing, her dad’s a rock star, say WHUT, IVY fa gosh sakes, etc.), anyone would be experiencing issues with self-esteem. But this is Rachel, and she’s awesome, and I want the best for her, so when she wonders why in the heck someone like Trent would want someone like her – come on, girl. Seriously?

As the series is beginning to come to a close, and is this many books in, readers surely will have different opinions about what the overall purpose was. For me, it’s how much Rachel cares for people, and they in turn her. Harrison has done remarkable characterizations over the years with her characters, and buried underneath, but no less important than, Rachel’s issues with/for/against/in favor of people  are the  way other characters in the series care for others, too. There’s the always complex relationship between Ivy and Rachel, which at one time took up a rather large emotional/tense/almost suspenseful chunk of the series. Now we see Ivy more in control of her vampire nature to need someone to control her, and to solve her vampiric problems for her. There’s the ever irrepressible Jenks and how truly loyal a friend he’s been to both Ivy and Rachel, as well as the tragic loss of his beloved wife, and how he carries on afterward with his gazillion children. There’s even the always fascinating relationship between Rachel and All, her demon teacher. Boy do they ever take an unexpected turn in this book! And there is always, always the adorable Bis, Rachel’s gargoyle who kind of invited himself into their lives and made it all the better. He;s very good for Rachel, especially in this book. In short, the relationships and how Rachel is so clearly loved even when she’s not her own biggest fan – I heart this series so much for it all.

Harrison has always done a great job too with the worldbuilding of the Hollows, an alternate, magic-laden Cincinnati and wherever Rachel’s shenanigans take everything. Intrinsically woven into plot after thrilling plot, she manages to slowly reveal something different plot-wise every time and build upon the world while doing so. This time we delve deeper into the world of the elves and the elven “goddess” as well as their relationship with demons. Once again Rachel has to take on an incredibly complex situation that puts her in the direct path of All the Things. By now we’re used to this with Rachel, but Harrison still manages to make it suspenseful to the point of wondering if this is finally it for Rachel.

I also have to mention how this series has always been so cohesive in the sense that I never felt like one installment or another took the tone of the overall series in such a  different direction that it no longer felt true to where the series started. One good example of a series that unfortunately jerked its series tone so far off track was the Sookie Stackhouse series. For me, there was a definite rift later in the series that was like this line being drawn, very clearly, in the book sand and I knew I couldn’t remain a fan. In large part it had to do with characterization issues that felt so inorganic to Sookie and Eric and others. I feel that Harrison has taken readers on one incredible journey after another with this series, yet together those journeys make the overall experience a very strong one. I always find myself reflecting back on previous adventures with Rachel and I amazed every time at how truly organic and natural this series has remained, how true to itself it’s been.

Favorite moments in this installment:

1. Anything to do with Rachel and Trent. Especially the steamy parts. Ahem.

“Because I’m never going to let you go, Rachel. I don’t care how much you push me away because you’re scared. I’ll just hold you until you get over it.”

And…

“Mr. Kalamack,” I said playfully, and he took my wrists and pinned them to the wall beside my head. There was just enough force in it, the demand tempered by passion, and it zinged through me, lighting me alive.

Heart, meet Thud.

2. Newt. The Ever After’s resident and only female demon for…oh, a long time. She’s just crazy enough to be unpredictable and at time just sane enough to make the crazy even scarier. If that makes any sense.

3. Jenks, who, for all his good intentions, is somewhat like Rachel’s whacky therapist when it comes to Trent, and who helps Rachel to see that she and Trent could actually have something.

“Rache…” Jenks rose up, his expression pleading as his dust hit the pan and sparkled. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you’re perfect for each other! You irritate people, he smooths things out. You have good mojo, he only thinks he does. You’re broke, and he’s rich. You’ve got those weird feet of yours, and he’s got them cute ears.”

And…

A silver dust slipped from him as he gyrated. “Stop it Jenks.”

 

“Rolled in the hay, played train and tunnel, got their parking tickets validated…”

 

“Grow up, Jenks!”

 

Giggling like a twelve-year old boy, he went to the mantel when I threw a handful of popcorn at him. “I’m telling you, Ivy, this is the best thing to happen to her since that boy band she liked got run over by a pack of migrating deer…”

Love Jenks lolol!

4. Bis. He’s so good for Rachel – and for kicking Jenks in the figurative pants about Trent. Plus Bis is just an adorable adolescent gargoyle who is loyal to Rachel and who does NOT love that?

Good news for Hollows fans in case you’re not already aware – we’re getting the final book in the series way earlier than originally expected. The Witch With No Name releases September 9, 2014 – only 4 months away! Let the end-of-the-series-sobbing commence! I really want to go back and reread the series afterward back-to-back. We’ll see how that goes, but in the meantime, this installment gets the biggest full five scoops. Ever.

Rating: 5 Scoops (See? Big. Big scoops.)

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2 comments

  1. I’m 99.9% certain that a fair amount of sobbing will be involved when I read the final book. This series means a lot to me, not just because it’s one of the best out there, but because it’s one of the first series I started reading when I started migrating more towards the urban fantasy/fantasy/paranormal romance side of things.

    I have to agree with you when it comes to the character development in this series. Harrison has a knack for adding compelling layers to all her characters, until they become so much more than you originally thought they were, but not so different that you don’t recognise them. I really liked the contrast between Nick starting off the good guy, and Trent the bad guy, and the complete role reversal that happened over time.

    I remember reviewing one of the books a few years back, before we found out that Jenks’ life had been extended by the curse that made him full size, and feeling really sad because I thought Jenks would eventually have to die in the books. And when Kisten died, I cried so hard. But all that was balanced out by this amazing balance of humour and quirkiness. You had Trent fumbling around trying to get shit done, Ceri being badass, Jenks being just damn right unashamedly derogatory, Bis being incredibly adorable, Al being camp and cruel, and Newt just being… well, Newt.

    I’m going to miss this series like hell, and I’ll probably do what you did and read them all in one long run. Part of me is also pretty interested to see what Harrison has planned next, too.

  2. Lianne, sorry I missed your comment! I don’t think my email notice for new comments is working.

    It’s a little comforting to know other readers feel the same way about this series ending! This was one of my first urban fantasy series as well.

    I didn’t pin the whole role reversal with Nick and Trent – good point! And UGH, Nick! :D

    I’m very excited to see what Harrison has planned next as well. She’s been updating a little here and there but I’e kind of tuned that out because I don’t want to get my hopes up either. But whatever it is, I’m definitely giving it a try.

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