I apologize excessively for the delay in getting this review together. I’ve had a busy week at work; but not only that. I needed more than a few days to process this book, to roll it over in my mind like hard toffee and to, well, grieve.
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for books 1-4, though I will be marking spoilers for book 5. Please note that comments may also include spoilers and I cannot be responsible for the etiquette, or lack thereof, of my readers.
For A Few Demons More (further known here as FFDM) is, by no small measure, Ms. Harrison’s best novel yet. Of course, each subsequent work since Dead Witch Walking has improved. FFDM is the fifth book in the series that, while without an official title, has come to be called “The Hollows Series” or “The Rachel Morgan series”.
A History Of The Hollows
The Hollows-verse, as it has come to be called, resembles our own world very closely except for a few fine points. First, the ‘space race’ never existed. Both scientific research and money were instead devoted to genetic research. By the mid-1960’s, science had created cures for genetic diseases that we still haven’t in our own world. In 1966, a world-wide disaster called the Turn began.
A biological weapon escaped from a laboratory somewhere in the world and latched onto a weak spot in the DNA of a genetically engineered tomato. Before the slip was caught, the tomatoes had been shipped throughout the world and hundreds of thousands of humans perished. Eventually, people came to realize that certain kinds of people were getting nothing more than a mild case of flu, if any symptoms at all. Human curiosity and a charismatic Inderlander* finally outlined the truth.
Most of those ‘fairy tales’ we’d been told as children? They were real. Species that were completely unaffected by the virus: witches, pixies, fairies, and the undead. The weres, living vampires, and leprechauns developed a mild case of the flu. The elves, having interbred with humans a little too closely to bolster their sagging numbers, disappeared. Oops. I guess that plan backfired, huh?
Since a large number of humans perished, it was the Inderlanders (*The term for non-human species.) that held the world together while it was in the midst of it’s death throes. When the dust settled, the numbers were even. Rather than draw battle lines against creatures that could obliterate the rest of the population, humans instead took their retribution out on geneticists and other scientists. It was a Scientific Inquisition.
As such, genetic research is now outlawed and punishable by death. Subsequently, tomatoes are also shunned by humans and tomato-based products can only be obtained commercially through specialty stores. The only product to survive the purge was Cincinnati-style chili. I can understand that. It’s damn good, after all. I’d risk death to eat it, too.
Where Is The Hollows?
The Hollows is a slang term for an area located across the Ohio River from the city of Cincinnati. When the Turn ended, most humans flocked to the inner cities for a sense of safety. Naturally, most Inderlanders then moved to the suburbs and countryside, since real estate there became cheap in a big hurry. The Hollows is Cincinnati’s main Inderlander suburb. It’s also where our heroine, Rachel, resides.
The Main Players
- Species: Witch
- Born: 1981
- Treated for an unnamed genetic disease as a child at a summer camp for sick children. This fact is kept a secret, as genetic research is illegal; and anyone having been subject to genetic medicine is either killed or shipped off to the arctic.
- Resigned from the IS in book 1 and was one of the only people to have survived the death threat put out on her life for not buying off her contract.
- Species: Living Vampire and only remaining (living) heir to the Tamwood family.
- Born: 1979
- Subjected to a brutalization of her sense of love and self-worth as a teenager by family patriarch, and undead vamp, Piscary; when we first meet Ivy she is in the midst of a 3 year blood abstinence.
- Quit the IS with Rachel and used most of her early inheritance to pay off her contract.
- Resides with Rachel in a church in the Hollows, from which they operate their independent runner business: Vampiric Charms.
- Species: Pixie
- Born: unknown
- Third member of Vampiric Charms
- He, his wife Matalina, and their 30-odd children all live in Rachel’s garden behind the church.
- Coming to the end of a pixie’s typical 20 year life span.
- Species: Living Vamp
- Born: 1980
- Ivy’s childhood companion (and once-upon a time, her lover as well).
- Member of Piscary’s camarilla.
- Manager of Pizza Piscary’s, a popular Inderland restaurant that serves pizza with real tomato-based sauce.
- Species: Elf
- Born: 1979
- Councilman of Cincinnati & popular philanthropist.
- Runs several successful legitimate businesses, as well as an illegal Brimstone ring, and an even more illegal network of genetic laboratories.
- Has a goal of getting Rachel to work for him and has been manipulating her toward that end since the beginning.
- Scheduled to marry Ellasbeth, another elf, during FFDM— not for love, but for political and genetic reasons.
Ceridwen Dulciate (Ceri):
- Species: Elf
- Born: Pre-Turn, over 1,000 year ago. Exact date unknown.
- Rescued by Rachel from over 1,000 years of being a demon’s familiar.
- Extremely well-versed in demon magic and able to twist demon curses, although she doesn’t have the correct enzymes to invoke them.
- Currently living across the street from Rachel, with Mr. Keasley.
- Species: witch
- Born: unknown
- Rachel’s mysterious neighbor from across the street.
- Took in Ceri when she was rescued.
- Suspicous of authority figures, and as such, keeps medical equipment in his home.
(Here be spoilers. Beware.)
This novel is the most heart-breaking in the series because one of the (much beloved, in my opinion) characters in the series is set to perish. Not only that, but it is one of the more difficult books for Rachel, whom I identify with strongly. She spends a lot of time in conflict, debating and second-guessing her own motivations.
Rachel wants desperately to find a blood balance with Ivy, but she’s more sexually attracted to Kisten. Ivy, through the twisted assistance of Piscary, has difficulty disassociating the taking of blood with sex. Ivy obviously wants a sexual relationship with Rachel. Rachel, though being sure that’s she’s heterosexual, is drawn to Ivy as well. What she’s not sure of is: Is it just her tendency toward thrill-seeking that attracts her to Ivy, or is it a sense of desire? Rachel knows she loves Ivy, if only as a friend, and doesn’t want to hurt her by giving in for the wrong reasons.
Compounding this problem is Rachel’s obvious, and easy, attraction to Kisten. Is Kist the glue that can hold Rachel and Ivy together, or is he the force that can tear them apart? Rachel is well aware that part of what draws her to Kisten is also her danger-seeking behavior, but she is better able to accept that with him because Kist fits with her sexual preferences.
Now, I personally would be disappointed if Rachel decides to go forward with a sexual relationship with Ivy. Not only would I be less able to relate to Rachel, but I feel that Rachel’s attraction to Ivy is for the wrong reasons. In the beginning, Rachel was sure that she would never be able to feel sexually attracted to Ivy. Now, she’s not so sure anymore. What’s changed? The addition of Rachel’s scar and the vampire pheromones. I believe that Rachel would be doing a disservice to herself, and to Ivy, if they allowed themselves to become sexually entangled.
To add to Rachel’s problems: It has now become known that the focus was not destroyed on the Mackinaw bridge at the end of the last book. I think Nick has had lots to do with this information becoming known. Namely, he’s the only one besides those in Rachel’s confidence that knows that it still exists. Sure, it could’ve been coincidence, but I doubt it. Why would the weres be searching for it in Cincinnati when it was last seen in Michigan if not for a little tip as to it’s whereabouts?
Ultimately, we come to the heart breaker of the book. Piscary is released from prison, and has given Kisten’s ‘last blood’ as a gift to an undead outside of his own camarilla. For Kisten, it isn’t the death sentence that hurts him most, but the fact that he has been outcast and given as payment to someone outside of his own family.
A great mystery surrounds his death, of course, when we discover that not only was Rachel there when it happened; but someone has spelled her with a forget potion in her own home. Distraught and nearly broken, Rachel declines to have her memories of that night brought to the surface. I don’t really blame her for that decision, although I know I would’ve been too curious to resist returning to the pain and the memories.
I am, of course, skipping over a great deal of the story. It would be impossible and ultimately self-defeating to rephrase everything here. I’m giving you just enough to: a) begin discussion, and b) draw in any of those naughty people still reading this who haven’t yet picked up the book. You know who you are!
I’ll leave you with my biggest questions for the next book.
- Who really killed Kisten, and what were the circumstances of his death?
- What exactly is the “group of witches” who wished to recruit Rachel because of her public dealings with demons? What do they intend to do? I’m positive they’ll be back to cause trouble for her again.
Please, feel free to discuss your theories in the comments.