[Urban Fantasy 101] Stitch Reads The Hollows – Dead Witch Walking Chapters 11-15

When we last saw Rachel Morgan in chapter ten, she’d just been about to turn into something after activating a transformation. I couldn’t remember what she’d turned into – only that I was pretty sure that it wasn’t what she’d intended – but thankfully, this chapter gives us an answer soon enough:

Rachel is a mink!

Rachel, as a mink, is also really weird about her pixy pal Jenks considering that she manages to give him the old hairy eyeball as they’re going about figuring out their next steps:

“You look good, Rache,” Jenks said.

My eyes jerked to him. So do you, little man. I idly wondered if there was a spell to turn people pixy size. If Jenks was any indication, it might be nice to take a vacation as a pixy and troll Cincinnati’s better gardens. Color me Thumbelina and I’d be a happy girl.

A few paragraphs later, as she’s watching Jenks fly away, Rachel thinks to herself:

Maybe I could find a spell to make pixies bigger?

I need y’all to know that I lowkey lost it at that because wow are Rachel’s priorities not necessarily relatable but… understandable. Thirst goes where thirst wants to and like… I get it. But it’s also just hilarious that they’re basically about to do a rodent heist and she’s out here like “oh… what if one day… I hook up with a pixie… somehow” because this is the first time that she’s seen a pixy’s face up close and she realizes that… some of them are hot.

(Also, I don’t know if it happens in this series, but I was reminded of how one of the smaller, more “traditional” fairies in Laurell K Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series gets Super Sized… in order to have sex with the titular character of the series. And then he gets stuck like that. Not super related to this, but it’s close enough.)

Chapter eleven is really only interesting for two reasons:

  1. It’s Rachel’s first time transforming into an animal and her inner monologue is hilarious
  2. We actually learn more about Trent Kalamack, the mysterious millionaire whose case Rachel is still on

But other than that? Nothing much happens.

But then chapter twelve introduces us to Kisten, one of the other living vampires that show up across this series. Kisten is set up as a bad influence from Ivy’s former life. He’s a babe of a living vampire with all of the entitlement and annoying self-confidence that comes with being a scion to a fancy vampire – the yet unseen Piscary.

He also is… a sex pest.

Shortly after he and Rachel meet, he doesn’t just come on to her, he refuses to take “no” for a response repeatedly. Like he full on attacks her and then says some truly triggering shit about how “She’s screaming for it. She’ll bitch and moan the first time, but she’ll thank you for it in the end.”

I will stake Kisten myself if he doesn’t die a painful death soon.

Last round, I was already super annoyed at how Ivy’s vampire hunger was exhibited through her leering at Rachel and goingn full predator on her ass – and again, the Predatory Bisexual ™ is a harmful stereotype that should be tossed into the sun.

This time, I’m frustrated that once again, this is the go-to. This is the scariest thing villains can be in urban fantasy apparently. And then they’re never immediately punished. All Kist does – because Ivy can’t kill him without setting off a war she has no hope of winning – is sneer a bit and then plead with Ivy to come back with him because that’s all that matters.

I could reach into this book and yeet Kisten into the stratosphere.

Honestly.

I keep trying to call The Hollows “classic urban fantasy” when I go to unpack it. I don’t know why. But I’m running with it. Because at moments like these where it does the ~classic urban fantasy~ thing, I have to cling to that term.

Because this is the classic urban fantasy thing.

This – the handsome sex pest minor antagonist – is a holdover from the earlier days of the subgenre. It’s frustrating as hell to see. Because we don’t ever need villains like this. Especially in a book where one of the protagonists is sex-pesty and it’s going to take a while for both that issue and Kist’s everything to be handled.

(This is a holdover beef I have from the Anita Blake series where a book would introduce like three more rapists in a book than were already present and then only manage to kill one or two off by the end. And some of those rapists become part of Anita’s life in some way! Which means we keep ending Anita Blake books with more rapists than we started with. Annoying!)

Anyway, the book picks up around chapter thirteen because Rachel gets to be her best petty self and tags along with her former office-nemesis Francis on his interview to talk with Trent Kalamack.

Francis had earned himself a real cherry of a car: a red convertible with leather seats. There were dual climate controls. The windows could go opaque—I knew, because I had tried them. There was even a built-in cell phone whose batteries were now in my bag. The vanity plate read, BUSTED. The hateful thing had so many gadgets, all it needed was clearance to take off. And it still smelled new. A bribe, I wondered with a stab of jealousy, or hush money?

The light over the elevators went out. I ducked behind the pylon, hoping it was Francis. The last thing I wanted was to be late. My pulse settled into a fast, familiar pace, and a smile eased over me as I recognized Francis’s quick footsteps. He was alone. There was a jangle of keys and a surprised “Huh” when the car didn’t make the expected welcoming chirp as he disengaged the alarm. My fingertips tingled in anticipation. This was going to be fun.

Francis really is a familiar character type. He’s a bigot – as seen in how he uses a “racialized” insult towards Jenks repeatedly in this chapter and some major misogyny towards Rachel – who’s another minor antagonist in the series. He’s a character that you’ll see a dozen times across different urban fantasy books: someone who’s in the supernatural but actually hates the supernatural beings around them and makes a point of tearing them down.

That’s why it’s so satisfying when Jenks pixes him – which involves dosing him with pixy dust that raises hives – and then he and Rachel leave his unconscious body in the trunk of his own car on the way to the interview with Trent.

Speaking of Trent –

Have I mentioned that I view him as looking like Treize Kushrenada from Gundam Wing? There is literally nothing to back that up, but y’all… From the first time that I read this book, that’s who came to mind for me because Trent is, from the front, incredibly manipulative and determined. He also just feels like he’d have funky Kushrenada-brand eyebrows…

Trent, because he’s a competent villain, already knows that Rachel isn’t who she’s pretending to be to get the interview with him. And he tries to pullher onto his side… whatever that is.

“Everyone wants something, Ms. Morgan,” he said, each word precise but flowing into the next like water. “What is it you want?”

My heart pounded at his promise of freedom. I followed his gaze to my hands and the dirt under my nails. “You,” I said, curling my fingertips under my palms to hide them. “I want the evidence that you killed your secretary. That you’re dealing in Brimstone.”

“Oh…” he said with a poignant sigh. “You want your freedom. I should have guessed. You, Ms. Morgan, are more complex than I gave you credit for.” He nodded, his silk lined suit making a soft whisper as he moved. “Giving me to the I.S. would certainly buy your independence. But you can understand I won’t allow it.” He straightened, becoming all business again. “I’m in the position of offering you something just as good as freedom. Perhaps better. I can arrange for your I.S. contract to be paid off. A loan, if you will. You can work it off over the course of your career with me. I can set you up in a decent establishment, perhaps a small staff.”

My face went cold, then hot. He wanted to buy me.

Rachel is a lot of things, but she’s generally not bribable. Her response to Trent’s attempt is pretty much to start planning his immediate demise because she’s that offended and I love that for me, honestly. Especially since once Trent’s bodyguard dude Jon shows up and tries to grab her after she rejects Trent’s offer, she flips him and gets ready to take on the other people who’ve shown up to grab her.

Honestly, Rachel’s ready-to-fight attitude is one of the things I do love about her the most.

She is honestly always ready to throw hands and that is delightful.

What’s not delightful?

The absolutely awkward interactions between Ivy and Rachel in the next chapter.

 Like this one:

“Why don’t you just stake me, Rachel?” she said in exasperation as she flipped her hair aside to show me irate brown eyes. “I’m not going to jump you. I said Friday was an accident.”

Shoulders easing, I rummaged loudly in the drawer for a can opener for the mushrooms. “A pretty freaking scary accident,” I muttered under my breath as I drained them.

“I heard that.” She hesitated. A pen landed in the cup with a rattle. “You, ah, did read the book, right?” she asked.

“Most of it,” I admitted, then went alarmed. “Why, am I doing something wrong?”

“You’re ticking me off, that’s what you’re doing wrong,” she said, her voice raised. “Stop watching me. I’m not an animal. I may be a vampire, but I still have a soul.”

If you remember, the whole issue from the previous section was that Ivy can’t just like… ask questions of Rachel. She lets her instincts guide her towards making an unwanted move on Rachel and then basically blames her for it in response because she’s ~uneducated~ in vampiric ways.

Like…

I already don’t like that Ivy is basically a sexual attack bi.

But now to have it set up where she’s all “you worrying about me attacking you after I’ve already come on to you without your consent hurts me” …

Oof.

I just… I wish Ivy was written better and that her relationship with Rachel wasn’t so… uncomfortable and annoying. Half the time she’s treating Rachel like a sexy juice box with legs and the other half, she’s acting like Rachel is her kid. I know their relationship starts to shift to be less awkward soon, but I would like that time to come faster.

Because the whiplash from their back and forth is just… too much.

Next round, we’ll be seeing what happens when Rachel and Jenks (and maybe Ivy) return to Trent Kalamack’s property to find out exactly what he’s so intent on hiding about himself and his operations. This will probably go extremely poorly for them.

Once again, I can’t wait.

About Zeenah

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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