Hollows: Blood Work
by Kim Harrison, Pedro Maia, Gamma Magno (Random House, 2011)

This original story is a prequel to Kim Harrison's Hallows series, specifically Dead Witch Walking, taking place some time after the events in Undead in the Garden of Good & Evil. It's the setup for how living vampire Ivy Tamwood came to be partners with witch Rachel Morgan.

Apparently, Rachel was -- at that time, anyway -- an unwelcome and unwanted addition to Ivy's complicated life. Their differences were considerable, which of course caused a lot of sparks to fly. Both work for Inderland Security, a police-like entity that keeps the peace on the supernatural end of things, so they are essentially police officers, making this story a standard police procedural but with the murder of a were at the heart of it.

The story addresses one of the key elements in the ongoing series, which is Ivy's attraction to Rachel. Of course they move past not getting along to getting along somewhat better, but their case stymies them. And Ivy's life is one big complex knot: she's in thrall to a vampire master who's sadistic, she is afraid to take chances and just wants to play it safe (whereas Rachel, of course, does not) and she is close to losing physical control around Rachel. What's worse is that her attraction to Rachel isn't just some superficial attraction. It's much deeper than that, and it has more to do with her boss than she's comfortable with.

One of the story's weakest points is its "murder of weres" plot. That's getting to be a standard plot development in just about any paranormal series, whether in print or on TV. It doesn't help that it has a "shoved in" feel, as if it's just a project for the girls to tackle. On top of that, Ivy's slave-like relationship with her master Piscary seems to overshadow everything. If she's that in thrall to someone else, how could she even develop an attraction to another living being?

The other blank spot is the generic use of the visual element. The story reads as if it were a regular novel, with the pictures just meant to accompany the story, not necessarily convey anything special. Being saddled with conventional art and a rather standard plot makes Blood Work a less-than-memorable experience, but since it's Harrison's first time in the medium, I'm willing to see how the story develops as the series continues.

It can be fun in a B+ kind of way. The structures of paranormal societies are fascinating, and the way each author goes about their particular world building is, to me, worth a look. Harrison, while obviously having difficulty writing for comics, is still capable of crafting a believable world where mundanes and paranormals mix socially and magic is normal.

A second strength of the book is the way in which the women overcome their differences to forge a friendship. The characters are actually pretty three-dimensional and well-rounded. The way they learn to trust and respect one another is interesting enough, even if everything else is average. It should be fun enough for some fans.

review by
Mary Harvey

28 July 2012

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