Saturday, 25 March 2017

#CBR9 Book 27: "Every Which Way But Dead" by Kim Harrison

Page count: 501 pages
Audio book length: 16 hrs
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is book three in a series. This review will contain spoilers for previous books in the series, so if you mind that sort of thing, skip this, and start at the beginning, with Dead Witch Walking.

Never one to live a quiet life, Rachel Morgan, independent witch for hire is in trouble. She successfully took down the master vampire who was summoning demons to murder leyline witches and lived to tell the tale. She had to bargain with a demon in order to do so, and he now wants to make her his familiar. She tricks Algaliarept, however, accidentally freeing his former familiar, a beautiful elf from the dark ages in the process. While he was unable to compel her to become his new enslaved familiar, he's even more pissed off than before, and Rachel is in danger every time she taps a leyline.

Her boyfriend Nick has been distant and wary of her, ever since she had to tap a line through him (she accidentally made him her familiar in the previous book) to save her life. He leaves town suddenly without saying goodbye and while Rachel wants to deny it, it's clear to her and everyone around her that he's broken up with her and does not intend to return. To make matters worse, her business partner Jenks, the tiny pixy whose massive family are living with Rachel and Ivy, discovers that they knew the secret behind Trent Kalamack's identity from him, and he quits the firm and moves out.

Ivy's ex-boyfriend, Kisten Phelps, takes advantage of Rachel's vulnerability after Nick leaves to make his move. Like Ivy, Rachel's roommate and business partner, Kisten is a living vamp and while he knows Ivy is interested in Rachel, he also knows the witch professes to be straight. Once Rachel agrees to go on a date with him only if he can spend less than forty dollars total for the evening, he gratefully accepts the challenge. As Rachel only seems to enjoy hanging out with dangerous people, the date involves people trying to kill Kisten and a deadly curse being aimed at Rachel.

Lee Saladan, the casino boat owner who tried to kill both of them is making a power play in Cincinnati now that Piscary is in prison. He's also interfering with Trent Kalamack's business, and the influential and wealthy businessman comes to Rachel with an offer of employment. As his normal bodyguard, Quen, is susceptible to vampires, he won't be able to fully protect Trent when he meets with Saladan. While Quen still believes Rachel will require a lot more training, not to mention control, to be a really good security operative, he knows that she has long experience with fighting vampire pheromones and has recommended her for the job instead. While Rachel still strongly dislikes Trent, she learned more about him while clearing him of murder in the last book, and he does pay such ridiculous amounts that she can't really refuse. Trent also holds secrets about her father, who worked with Trent's dad in the past, and helping him offers her a chance to discover more of her past.

This is another very action-packed book, where Harrison starts to reveal some of the deeper connections between the characters. As someone who never liked Nick, Rachel's human boyfriend, even the first time I read the series (I hate him SO much more with all that I know about him now), it was never particularly sad for me that he leaves Rachel high and dry in this book. I do think she rebounds very quickly with Kisten, but as I much prefer the charming and sexy living vampire and his patience and understanding of Rachel (even when she frankly makes some dumb decisions), I can totally live with this. With Kisten introduced as a viable romantic interest for Rachel, it turns the already complicated with Ivy into a strange love triangle, though, and I could have done without that.

This book first introduces Ceridwen, or Ceri, Al's more than thousand-year-old elf familiar, who is released when Al makes Rachel his new familiar. She's managed to persuade the demon while still retaining her soul, but keeping her soul also leaves her with her free will and she's able to refuse coming into the Ever After (the place the demons live) with him. Suffice to say, the demon is not pleased by her trickery and tries more than once to sieze her and drag her back with him. Having been Al's familiar for a millennia, Ceri is extremely skilled in magic and deeply grateful to Rachel for freeing her and having her soul returned to her. She goes to stay with Rachel and Ivy's neighbour across the road, and tries to tutor Rachel in magic so she can withstand Al's unpredictable assaults.

Over the course of this book, once Rachel has risked her own life to keep Trent alive, once Lee Saladan proves especially ruthless and treacherous, Rachel discovers more about her past and her father's work with Trent's dad. She finds out why the enzymes of her blood allows her to apparently kindle demon magic, a trait shared only with one other (the aforementioned Saladan), thanks to genetic tinkering done to keep her alive as a child. Her discovery comes in useful when she's fighting for her life towards the end of the book, having to make some difficult choices in order to save her own hide from demons.

Rachel also discovers that she works rather well with Trent, a realisation she's not at all comfortable with. She has a rather uncomfortable run-in with his fiancee, a high-born and influential elf from the East Coast who is as rude and unpleasant as she is clearly rich and beautiful. Discovering that Trent is clearly going to enter into a marriage of convenience with a woman he can barely stand for the sake of furthering elven genes, Rachel feels uncomfortable about hiding Ceri's existence from Trent, but she also doesn't want her new friend to end up in one of Trent's labs, being experimented on, so keeps her mouth shut.

My love for this book has dimmed a little, as once again, it's quite clear that Rachel is less than gracious when it comes to women she dislikes. She has a lot of very derogatory terms for both Candace, the vamp assisting Saladan and Ellasbeth, Trent's fiancee. While both women aren't exactly friendly, calling them "bitches" and/or "whores" is just unnecessary and unpleasant. The very action-packed plot is also a bit all over the place, with Harrison cramming in just so many different storylines over the course of the book that it all gets a bit much. It's still a good book, but not as great as I once thought it was. Sadly, the next book up is probably my least favourite in the entire series.

Judging a book by its cover: The covers for these books make them seem a lot more sex-focused than they actually are. While there is one sex scene in the second one, and a pretty steamy one in this book, for most of the books, anything of that sort happens off page, so to speak. Of course, based on the way Rachel's dress sense is described, she'd bee perfectly likely to wear a supershort skirt and thigh-high leather boots. Not sure about the stiletto heels, though, she needs things she can run in (she gets chased a lot).

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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