Title: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
Author: Kim Harrison
Year of Publication: 2005
Length: 453 pages
Genre: urban fantasy/magical realism
New or Re-Read?: New
Rating: 3 stars
If I keep reading this series, it will be entirely for Trent Kalamack.
I totally called it, by the way. His secret, I mean, the mystery of what he is. Called it back in book one, because, let’s face it, there’s only one supernatural species with that kind of charm. And so I find him fascinating. He’s my favourite thing in the series (especially since Jenks and Matalina didn’t figure as strongly in this book as they did in the first). Smooth, suave, genteel yet ruthless, unflappable yet intense — it all makes for a delicious anti-hero.
I still have trouble with Rachel as a heroine. The sheer number of times someone says to her, “This is a bad idea, here are the reasons why, how about we wait five minutes to form a better plan?” and she then blindly charges off, it’s just absurd. It’s hard to sympathize when bad things happen to her, because she so blatantly invites them all in. I also still feel like the rules of the world aren’t clearly enough defined. Whether that’s because Harrison hasn’t defined them for herself or because she’s holding them back, I don’t know. It’s getting a bit better as Rachel explores ley line magic, because that forces some definitions into the narrative, but there’s still so much that’s maddeningly vague. Like, how is it that some humans can use the same magic as witches? It seems to take them a lot more effort, but it sort of feels like that ability ought to be what makes witches… witches. And there are still a lot of blurry lines around the edges of the alternate history and the Turn and just how the Inderlanders kept society together, not to mention how it’s currently operating. This all sort of hovers in the background without much explication, enough to be interesting, not enough to keep from frustrating me.
The plot is also fairly uneven. The bits with Piscary and Ivy don’t twine together with the “witch-killer” plot as well as they probably ought to, and the “witch-killer” plot itself never has all that much power behind it. We learn about too much of it in retrospect, rather than actually feeling the mounting tension of a serial killer at work in the shadows. It’s precisely the sort of thing that the Pendergast series does so well, but Harrison doesn’t do it at all here. One of her perpetual problems seems to be that of telling rather than showing, which is a guaranteed story-killer.
I can tell that Harrison is improving, though. I’m just not sure it’s enough, or that it’s happening quickly enough, to hold my attention. But, the steamy scenes in this book are a lot more enticing than in the first. The moment where Ivy snaps and offers to make Rachel her scion is hot and heavy, and the following sex scene with Rachel and Nick is pretty good as well. And then there’s the epic tease with Kisten in the elevator. And, like I said, there has been some improvement in the world-building.
Overall… I’ll probably given the third book a go, but I’m in no rush. This series is so far good enough for idle entertainment, but it’s not winning me over as a true and dedicated fan so far.