Every Which Way But Dead, by Kim Harrison

Title: Every Which Way But DeadEvery Which Way But Dead (Hollows #3)
Author: Kim Harrison
Year of Publication: 2005
Length: 501 pages
Genre: urban fantasy / magical realism
New or Re-Read?: New
Rating: 3.5 stars

These books are weirdly addictive, considering that I still find the heroine too stupid to live, that I still think it would be better told in the third person than in the first, and that I like almost all of the secondary characters more than the heroine.

And yet… I tore through this. I mean, it’s not a challenging read, by any means, but it is longer than the first two in the series, and long for a MMP. And it’s engaging. The plot of Every Which Way But Dead is a lot tighter than in the first two books, and it moves along at a better pace.

In Every Which Way But Dead, Rachel has to deal with the implications of having become a demon’s familiar, in The Good, the Bad, and the Undead, in exchange for his testimony against the vampire Piscary, who was trying to kill Rachel at the time the deal was struck. Piscary now being in jail, Rachel also ends up having to deal with the fallout from that: a city-wide scramble to take over his former areas of influence. Unsurprisingly to anyone who’s been following the story thus far, Trent Kalamack is mixed up in it. There’s also a new player on the field, a Mr Saladan, an accomplished ley line witch. Thanks to this mess, the danger in this book gets amped up a bit.

The characters also all get a little more well-drawn in this book. Ivy’s fallen off the wagon and is a practicing vamp again, which is troubling but also seems to have a good effect on her temper. Jenks has a temper fit when he learns Rachel’s been keeping the secret of Trent’s species from him. Kisten turns from a vapid playboy into someone we see really struggling, hurt by Piscary’s dismissal of him in favour of Ivy, trying to hold Piscary’s business together with both hands. Trent lets Rachel in on more of her own background as well as his, and his current situation and elven politics. We also meet Ceri, the demon’s former familiar, a 1000-year-old elf, and David, a Werewolf insurance agent. As I said — the rest of the cast is intriguing and complex. It’s Rachel I find annoying and dim. My biggest problem with her is that she will full-out know something is a bad idea, will admit that it’s stupid and going to get her into trouble… and then, invariably, does it anyway.

And, I’m not afraid to admit it — I like the smut. Wish there was more of it. I will cheer the day Rachel and Trent get it on (because I simply can’t believe the series won’t end up there sooner or later), but in the meantime, Kisten’s pretty entertaining. I like him better than Nick, who runs off, unable to deal with the backlash from Rachel accidentally making him her familiar. (And are you noticing how all the plot points are the result of poor decisions or incompetence on Rachel’s part?). He always seemed like a placeholder, though; Rachel’s vague thoughts about being truly serious with him always rang pretty false.

Also, if the combined forces of Kisten and Trent can get Rachel to stop dressing like she collided with the clearance rack at Hot Topic, I will be so thrilled. I cringe every time Harrison starts describing leather pants and red halter tops. I can’t decide if she’s trying to be ironic or if we’re genuinely meant to find that cool, but either way, it’s pretty dreadful.

So, overall — I’ll probably stick with this series. It’s not a priority, but I’ll keep alternating them into my schedule so long as they keep getting better rather than backsliding. These books are Twinkies for the brain — no nutritional value, pretty empty fluff, not going to fill you up, but, y’know, tasty enough for a quick sugar fix.

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