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Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond
Kim Harrison
Harper Voyager, 513 pages

Into the Woods
Kim Harrison
Born in the Midwest, Kim Harrison has been called a witch, among other things, but has never seen a vampire (that she knows of). She loves graveyards and midnight jazz, and wears too much black.

Kim Harrison Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: White Witch, Black Curse
SF Site Review: The Outlaw Demon Wails
SF Site Review: For A Few Demons More
SF Site Review: A Fistful of Charms
SF Site Review: Every Which Way But Dead
SF Site Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
SF Site Interview: Kim Harrison
SF Site Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
SF Site Review: Dead Witch Walking
SF Site Review: Dead Witch Walking
SF Site Review: Dead Witch Walking

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandra Scholes

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Readers of Kim Harrison's other novels like Pale Demon, A Fistful of Charms, and The Good, The Bad and the Undead will have some idea of what to expect with her latest offering of short and long stories which are based either in or out of the Hollows. They feature bounty hunter and witch heroine, Rachel Morgan, and Into the Woods is a compilation of stories, as well as a special Hollows novella. This is a large book, so her fiction is more novella than short stories, and it takes the reader through her realms where nothing is what it seems when elves and other beings lurk in the shadows.

"The Bespelled"

Algaliarept is a busy man, and he would rather not be doing paperwork, but he finds himself at his desk, quill in hand doing just that until he gets summoned by Ceridwen, a Dulciate elf he has been seeing every week for the past seven years, and he wants nothing more than to entertain her. Al and Ceri originally come from The Outlaw Demon Wails, and Al is in his earlier mental mode of using everyone he came into contact with. He is a truly deplorable character with only thoughts of what he wants in life, rather than of other people. He has no concept of sharing his life with another, and as he has his own familiars and slaves, he can only understand others in these terms. Yet he is a demon, so it's to be expected, though even he has the possibility of changing. When things don't go so well for Al, Ceri sees him show a side of him that she has never seen before; he is almost desperate to keep her his, but he tries not to show her whether it is plain lust or love. You tend to get the impression he doesn't know anything of love, as that is essentially how a demon would think, and could never process what true love is. Deep and wickedly humorous, the pair seems made for each other if Al wasn't such a nefarious demon.

"Two Ghosts For Sister Rachel"

Everyone has an idea of what they want to do with their lives, and Rachel is an independent girl who wants to do as she pleases now she is an adult, but her mother and brother have different ideas about what is good for her, and as she is so independent, she doesn't like them messing in her business. Rachel wants to join the Interland Security (IS) as she doesn't think she is cut out to live a normal life flipping burgers or working in a shop -- she's tried both and they didn't impress her one bit, so she sees the IS as a way out, but her mother and brother see a different kind of future for her where she can become more than just a woman out catching felons for a living. Her brother can't understand why Rachel wants to be so active with martial arts instead of being a top notch witch in her field, but her mother does. This story was first seen in the anthology Holidays Are Hell, and it gives the reader a good idea of what kind of girl Rachel is in the face of danger. She feels weak and strives to become strong, and it is this that defines the character.

"Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil"

Ivy Tamwood works at the Interland Security department, she is making use of her degree in a great job, but she is having dirty thoughts about Kisten, which she would rather not have being a vampire working the homicide division. In Harrison's work her vampires are split into two types, living and undead. It is an original take on the myth, and one that works well in this story. There are ones like Ivy who are born with the vampire virus embedded into their genome, so she has the vampire strengths and none of the hatred of sunlight, crosses or garlic etc., while undeads have all the failings of being vampires lusting for blood, and are jealous of the living vampires. This is more of a vampire evolution tale than the canon idea of vampires from Bram Stoker's Dracula.

"Dirty Magic"

Banshees don't feature much in paranormal fiction, let alone romance fiction, but Mia is a Hollows Banshee and we first get an idea of what she is like from this story. She is thinking about her life, her husband, her lovely daughter and her past with Remus who certainly picked on the wrong woman with her. Mia takes power from others, and has to be careful how she does it, as it is a delicate balancing act of taking power and keeping that person alive. She bathes in their mixed emotions, drinking them in, and making herself feel better again. Her relationship with Tom isn't as easy for when they meet; she drains him of his life-force, making him weak and worse still, very ill. He loves her, even though she can't forgive herself. She wants to leave him alone so he can live, as other men have died from being too long in her presence, but she knows she needs him just as much as he needs her. The idea of her staying there with him is that love can conquer all, but sometimes this ideal way of life doesn't go the way she thinks. "Dirty Magic" first appeared in the anthology Hotter Than Hell.

"The Bridges of Eden Park"

Chrissie and Kisten are out one day when their quiet time together is shattered by the vampires who are trying to snatch Audric from the school yard. These vampires know what they want, and have come for him, and his sister is in danger because of it. Harrison wrote this as an ending for the character, even though she did not want to; he was a good character she had enjoyed thinking up and writing about. Though as soon as she got to For a Few Demons More, she came to the conclusion she might have to write him out entirely. Through the story you never think of Kisten as just a vampire, he is a man with special powers, who also has deep emotions, the ability for love and forming attachments to people like anyone else. He also has a special friendship with Audric and does not want to see him get into the wrong hands of some deviant and equally powerful vampire leader. Kisten and Chrissie could be the perfect couple, but as readers will find out, other parts of his life keep getting in their way.

"Ley Line Drifter"

Jenks thought his day would be an ordinary one until Vincet strolls into his life asking for help. At first he points him to Rachel but Vincet insists he wants him to help him, not anyone else. He has a problem where he is living. It's in a park he thought was goddess made and his family is in great danger if they stay there and worse danger if they leave as his family have younglings and they would die if they had to travel any distance to find another place to stay. When the killer turns out to be nothing more than a statue, Jenks is at a loss as to how something made of stone could do such a thing. "Ley Line Drifter" is a story that keeps the reader on the very edge of their seats, and rather than being a standard tale of pixies, it keeps the reader focussed on the darker side of the Hollows, but also the friendship that Vincet and Jenks have made in a short space of time.

"Million Dollar Baby"

This is a Rachel and Trent story where Rachel is out with Trent, and he's trying to steal back the baby he originally had with Ellasbeth, and Rachel doesn't know about it. He is sure that when she does find out, he will have to explain himself well in his defence. Through his whole story, Jenks has to be the voice of reason, helping Trent along, and giving his advice, but it is up to him if he takes it and by the looks of it, he should. "Million Dollar Baby" started out life as a what if, after Harrison wrote Pale Demon and chronicles what happened when Trent and Jenks set off on their elf quest.

"Pet Shop Boys"

Cooper is about to get off his shift at the pet shop when a young girl comes in and takes a fancy to one of the dogs, and wants to swap it for her bat. Cooper is shocked at this until her mother appears and offers to give Cooper a night to remember. Cooper can't believe his luck or refuse her as she is a beautiful woman, but his going to her home comes with a price. Felicity is not what she appears, and that is what gives this story its charm and mystique, as with every moment Cooper sees her he grows ever fonder for spending time with her right up to a point where all he wants to do is leave. Harrison has done her readers proud with this story of a brief encounter gone wrong.

"Temson Estates"

When Will Temson inherits the home, grounds, and his brother's offshore investments, he intends to sell the woods, but Diana tries to get him to keep them as they mean so much to her. He wonders why they would as they are only trees after all, or is the forest hiding a secret? This story is another detour from what would be a normal story. Harrison puts in a nice fantasy twist that makes it worthwhile and enjoyable.

"Spider Silk"

Dryads are the fairy people at the core of this story, and the place they live in isn't what they would call a decent abode, but a prison of a place that can stifle their normally pleasant lives. Meg is heading for a strange time when she reaches twenty and the curse is passed onto her. As a story it shows how she handles the problem of growing up, and the stress that come with it. It is a great coming of age story.

"Grace"

Boyd and Grace are on a mission to get an older child. They want to initiate him into the Strand, but before this happens, the child has to already display unusual abilities such as telepathy, ESP, or telekinesis. Either way it has to be seen by those in the know to be a strange ability to humans, or almost considered impossible to them. These two have the task of finding them and bringing them in, but it doesn't always go well for them, and the boy in question isn't one to go without a strong fight. They need to assess the child's ability and whether he can control his powers. If he can't, they will either take him back and help him with that control, and he will have a steady job working for the Strand like Boyd and Grace, or if he refuses help, they will take away his powers from him forever if they believe he is a threat. The story shows how Grace feels when she is on her missions collecting those who would be a threat or useful to the Strand. She feels for each individual, as does her partner, but they try to hide it, as she has her own past problems to deal with if she intends to look to the future.

Copyright © 2012 Sandra Scholes

Sandra first started out as a freelance artist having worked for Eclipse and Lightspeed magazine, but soon moved on to being a reviewer for The British Fantasy Society, Active Anime and Love Romance Passion.


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