Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond – A little bit of old, a little bit of new
Even being the Hollows snob that I am, I admit a couple of stories have slipped through the cracks for me over the years. That’s why I was quite pleased to hear that the stories would finally be included in an anthology! I’ll be honest and say that when I opened it I immediately skipped to “Million Dollar Baby”, the story centering on Trent and Jenks’s elf quest in Pale Demon, and it didn’t disappoint! Everything else for me was a bonus, but it was all worthwhile. Here’s a breakdown of the stories and my general feelings:
“Million Dollar Baby”– this was easily the premiere story for this publication. It was essentially priceless getting into Trent’s head and learning quite a few things that we never knew before. It makes him so much more “human” this way. Trent and Rachel fans eager for anything to support development of these two may be disappointed a smidgen (though not entirely), but I think it’s important to remember when this story took place and what it’s about. While I loved reading about Trent, I admit that I missed Rachel. I’m really attached to the itchy witch and they play off one another so well. No worries though because the bromance that blooms between Trent and Jenks is plenty entertaining. We see why pixies and elves get along so well. Overall, I thought this was a well done story and I wish we could get more stories from Trent, though I know that won’t be happening much.
As for the reprinted Hollows short stories:
“The Bespelled” – a short story focusing on Al and how he ensnared Ceri of 1,000 years ago. I always enjoyed this read. But it has Al so that makes it pretty easy…
“Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel”– a Robbie/Rachel/Pierce novella going back in time to when Rachel was 18 and struggling with her decision to join the I.S. This story was new to me. I was not the biggest fan of Pierce in the main novels, but I must admit that he is a little better here.
“Undead in The Garden of Good and Evil”– a novella focusing on Ivy in her earlier I.S. days. Another entertaining novel with excellent doses of Kisten. If you thought he and Rachel were hott together, you should read this to see vamp on vamp action. I read this some time ago, but I forgot how hott he and Ivy can be together.
“Dirty Magic”- short story about Mia, the banshee from Book 7. While not my favorite I found it interesting to read about her and her complex thought processes.
“The Bridges of Eden Park”– a Kisten and Rachel short that no doubt makes you miss him all over again.
“Ley Line Drifter” – a novella focusing on Bis and Jenks. It introduces the character Daryl who we meet again in the later Hollows novels. I will say it’s sort of weird to read A Perfect Blood and then go back to reading this. My favorite parts were the moments between Jenks and Matalina since we never get to see that first hand.
Stories beyond The Hollows:
“Pet Shop Boys” – I admit that every time I see this title I just want to sing “West End Girls”. Though I promise that the story is completely unrelated. It’s actually about vampires, but they are completely different from our Hollows vamps. I think she could have had something going, but The Hollows vamps are better and more developed, not surprisingly. They have an unfair advantage of having novel after novel of development. I would like to see this become a full novel or two to even the playing field. This was my favorite entry of the non-Hollows stories.
“Temson Estates” and “Spider Web”-a short story and novella focusing on dryads. I don’t think they are my favorite supernatural creature, but I would have liked to have seen a little more regarding the Spider Web story.
“Grace” – novella introducing new powers relating to people who hold special energy capable of destroying electronics. Their powers can be intense enough that, if left unharnessed, they can be a danger to society. This one is more borderline Urban Fantasy to me. It could be categorized as something else.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but normally I don’t enjoy anthologies very much simply because I prefer to read a whole novel as opposed to several novellas (just a personal preference). I found myself putting the book down more often for this reason, but I was definitely engaged enough to read the old stuff all over again along with the new stuff.
I follow Kim Harrison’s work more closely under the Rachel Morgan series than anything else, but the non-Hollows stories give the reader a taste of her skills as an author. It’s a good way to test yourself as a fan, determining whether you plan to follow Rachel Morgan or Kim Harrison in general. The beginnings of the stories were sometimes a little hard to get into because I didn’t always want to switch gears from story to story, especially going from Rachel Morgan to something totally different. But if you stay the course, each read is quite rewarding and interesting, even with such a short window of opportunity to tell the story. I see myself following Harrison throughout The Hollows and beyond.