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Book Review: The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison

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Imagine an ordinary Cincinnati suburb after one-quarter of the world's population has been wiped out by genetically modified fresh tomatoes, resulting in a whole host of paranormal beings 'coming out of the closet.' The result is the Hollows, a neighborhood comprised primarily of witches, werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural creatures, who work side-by-side with humans in an effort to maintain, or in some cases disrupt, the collective peace.

The Outlaw Demon Wails is the sixth book in Kim Harrison's Hollows series. The interwoven tales have grown increasingly more complex throughout each novel, and this most recent volume is sure to captivate Harrison fans by offering the alternate historical intrigue and edge-of-your-seat action scenes combined with the humor for which Harrison has become known. The strength of Harrison's storytelling lies in her ability to spin a compelling yarn.

Ivy's long hand trembled. My heart gave a hard thump as she pushed from her computer and focused entirely on me in a familiar mix of anger and the sexual domination she used to protect herself. I met her angry expression with my glare, and a twinge came from my neck. I ignored it. The tips of her gold-highlighted hair shifted with her breath, and a feeling of unease rose behind me, like the creepy-crawly things that live under the bed that only kids know are there.

Though Harrison does a fine job of succinctly summarizing plot-lines in each novel, newcomers to Harrison's stories may want to begin with the first book in the series, Dead Witch Walking, in order to fully appreciate the background behind the action-packed Outlaw Demon Wails. She has also written several short stories, such as that found in the urban fantasy collection Dates From Hell, that further construct the Hollows adventures.

Harrison has taken the time to develop each of her paranormal cultures throughout the series. Initial installments of the Hollows series feature the role of vampires, while later books focus on weres. The Outlaw Demon Wails tackles the intricate history of demons. The grey area somewhere between good and evil continues to serve as an underlying theme for most of the major characters.

This sixth book answers many of the questions eluded to in previous novels, such as:

  • What is the nature of the ever-after?
  • What sort of relationship will develop between leading witch/detective Rachel Morgan and pure-bred living vampire Ivy Tamwood?
  • What's the history behind the witches?

Many writers are able to intrigue the reader by building suspense and playing upon the imagination, but oftentimes, once the reader finds out the answers to the underlying mysteries, the final result leaves one feeling disappointed. Finding out what actually lays beyond the curtain is rarely as captivating as wondering what might be there. Fortunately, this is not the case with Harrison's wrap-ups. Her answers are inventive yet plausible. Perhaps the key to her skill is that she doesn't spoon-feed every detail; rather, she allows the reader's imagination to fill in a few blanks or develop new theories based on the information that is provided.

While many threads are tied up in this sixth novel, perhaps the most comprehensive of the Hollows stories, fresh new characters and plot-lines are also introduced. Harrison manages to create an alternative suburb in which the reader comes to accept that these paranormal creatures are, in fact, people too, with the same virtues and flaws as the rest of us mere humans. Harrison's work may leave you wondering if the housewife next door stirs potions in her spare time, or if that star baseball player actually runs on four legs during the full moon.

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