July 2005

Every Which Way but Dead
A Novel by Kim Harrison
HarperTorch, June 2005 ISBN: 006057299X
Paperback, 512 pages

This month I bit into Kim Harrisonís new novel about vampires, witches, demons, werewolves, pixies, and the occasional human being. Every Which Way but Dead continues the story of Rachel Morgan from Kimís previous two books. Having made a deal with a demon, Rachel must now battle for the very possession of her soul. To complicate issues, she struggles to reconcile a crumbling relationship with her boyfriend, Nick. He seems to be on his way out, and Rachel wonders if there is anything she can do to stop him. Her roommate, Ivy, while in the past determined to suppress her vampiric tendencies, has embraced the hungers of her race, making Rachelís life all the more complex. Kisten, having become a powerful Vampire in the Hollows, complicates Rachelís life further with his continuous advances. When a second demon comes into the mix, Rachelís world is literally going to hell.

Since I havenít read the first two books in this series, I can only comment on how this novel stands alone. Being fairly unfamiliar with this genre, I must say that, overall, I was pleasantly surprised. Harrison masterfully develops vampires, witches, and werewolves into real human beings. Despite the nature of what they are, they struggle with the same issues as ordinary people: love, acceptance, friendship, trust. Oh, sure, thereís the occasional showdown with a demon, but even that is done in a way that makes it fairly easy to swallow. The demons donít think of themselves as the ďbad guys.Ē They are what they are, and they do what they believe they should.

Harrison does well in making the novel accessible to those who have not read the previous books, but I sense that my appreciation of Rachelís journey would be much deeper if I had witnessed her past. The novel focuses strongly on character development. Harrison fleshes out the relationships with a slow, sure hand. My only real complaint with the novel is that there was a bit too much focus on character. I found myself longing for some action, to see Rachel on one of her famous runs as she chases down unearthly villains, to watch the supernatural battle between this world and the ever after. When these scenes did transpire, I was mesmerized.

Every Which Way but Dead is an entertaining read full of surprises. Harrison is mercifully short on sex (unlike some of her peers writing in this genre of dark fantasy), choosing instead to deepen the emotional complexity of the characters. If you have yet to sample Kim Harrisonís world of the Hollows, Iíd recommend picking up her first two books prior to reading this one, but if you want to start here you will follow along easily enough. She has also set the stage for plenty more novels to come, so you better get started.

Copyright © 2005 by Shaun Farrell. All rights reserved.