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Review: “The Undead Pool” and Before

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars (3 out of 5)
Title: The Undead Pool (The Hollows, #12)
Author: Kim Harrison
Genre: Urban Fantasy

The first review here is honoured to the title mentioned above. Finally, I have finished reading down to the last sentence of the Undead Pool. It’s not a proud achievement, considering this book is the twelfth of the series that had effectively ruined my entire month of March. Downing twelve books in a month is not a very healthy stunt. Yes, I do know that. I’m supposed to read with more constraint but the erratic, sometimes irritating plot flow and the outright stubbornness of the main character of the series weren’t helping.

Favourite Quotes:

Al: “There are no monsters under your bed, Rachel, or in your closet.”
Rachel: “I found Newt in my closet once.”

“We exist in a zoo. You know that, yes? I hope our funding doesn’t run out. I’d give anything for a better enclosure, one that at least hides the bars.” -Newt

My rating to the Undead Pool is a little above half. 6 out of 10. I was tempted to give a 5.5 but I shall be kind. I’m giving the entire series a 6.5 though (out of 10). The series is good enough for me to want to read on; it has hooked me enough to mess up my dreams and daily non-optional routines such as lunch and sleep.

But then the main character Rachel Morgan isn’t very likeable as the heroine here; some of the events and choices the characters made doesn’t make sense; some things weren’t clarified, especially now that there’s only one more book to go. A lot of things mentioned throughout the twelve books didn’t make another appearance for at least some wrapping up, and more often than not I whenever I reached the end of each of the books in the series I was left confused.

Rachel Morgan

The entire series began with what I thought was this sentence: a bounty-hunting “witch-born” demon who battles numerous supernatural foes together with her business partners, a living vampire and a pixie. I found this series by reading the Wikipedia Article on “Urban Fantasy”, so that was what I thought. Towards the twelfth book, I had to say that the theme isn’t quite that anymore. The series about a bounty-hunter had evolved to become the bounty-hunter and how she fell in love with an Trent Kalamack affable villain who had a heel face turn.

It’s not that I wasn’t looking forward to the romance, but I wasn’t one heavy for romance and I can do without the “oh he’s so sexy” from Rachel in every page where the cookie cutter was concerned. Nevertheless I thought I was being fooled into reading the romance part, because all these while I was expecting something like Rachel finally accepting who she is and do her best as Al’s student. And then she went and had Al annul even that (or I should say, Al went and tantrumed himself into quitting as Rachel’s teacher.) I like Al, he’s one of my favourite character but there are times I simply want to have a line run through him and fry his little kitty brain.

I wanted to see Rachel becoming stronger than a badly trained demon she is. To see her stop wallowing about that smut and get over with it. But the fact that it took about five books for her to get over half of her stupidity was telling. Her magic wasn’t even good to begin with when compared to her physical skills. But at the very least, I thought I could see Rachel finally learning something. I hoped for it, even as I trudged through twelve books, nearly blinded my eyes doing so. But no, there just wasn’t Rachel learning anything more than a chapter or two. The only reason why would Rachel learn anything is when it concerns her and her friends’ survival. Don’t you know what is investment, Rachel Mariana Morgan? It’s a bit to late to learn how to heal when you are dying.

Rachel is also a technical pacifist, and they had more than often got in the way of the practical logical thinking. It didn’t make sense, because sometimes for all her good intentions, things still turned upside down, probably worse than if she had gotten over her pacifist streak. And she’s stubborn as Hell, as could be seen that she had rather turn up freaking naked and hairy in front of the press in public with priceless elf porn in her hand to remove her shunning. To be honest, I had rather stay in ever-after rather than attempting such stunt. One has to salute at Ms Morgan’s infinite gumption.

 

Trent Kalamack

This cookie-cutter here had a 180 degree face heel turn in this book. Oh wait, was it the book before or twice before? It was in this book that his personality was written as something drastically different from the Pale Demon (book 9). He was supposedly a person of ends more than means, which was not what Trent was in the Undead Pool. In the 12th book our cookie-cutter here is amazingly… moral. I wasn’t complaining much when someone is finally learning, but it was a little too abrupt, I think. He needs the sly, cunning and cold-heart to become the great Trent Kalamack he was from the first book. It’s like Algaliarept. Al might have shifted into the evil nasty friend type, but he had remained as vindictive and as scary as ever. He didn’t lose the Al essence, as Trent had in the Undead Pool. There is still the final book to wait for, though, and who knows. Maybe Trent ends up doing something so stupid Rachel blows?

 

Trent/Rachel

I can see it from the beginning, but probably not as what the Undead Pool is showing. Their relationship, I expect ever since the first book when Rachel was trapped in Kalamack’s office as a mink, was truly black rom. There was almost no reason for the black to shift into red. I do not think it was unreasonable that Trent and Rachel will have their HEA, but they turned into the red rom too fast. That was the problem. Every time Harrison ends one book and goes to the next, something happened in between chapter thirty-something and chapter one, as Harrison added something in that chapter one she thought she had forgotten to mention in the previous book. If anything, I think it would be more reasonable if Trent and Rachel goes into a kind of love-hate relationship. Having Rachel fawning over Trent’s parking ticket turned legitimate wasn’t in my mind. If you don’t understand that double entendre, ask Jenks.

And then it didn’t make sense. Trent had been bad to Rachel (and Rachel herself had never been nice to Trent herself)

 

Trent/Al

They could have so many more possibilities. No, I’m not talking about Trent X Al. How can that ever happen, seriously? But as some kind of frenemy. Antagonistic bromanship or something. It was in chapter 9 of TUP that I realised  Rachel had Newt as her demon “big sister”, what with their “girls talk”, and then out of elf-hearing range away, Al was scuffling with Trent. If that isn’t bromanship (or guy-guy talk), then what is it? Not that I was expecting anything… Al hated elves too much.

 

Algaliarept

The most heart wrenching part in TUP was in the second last chapter, when Al walked away as Gally.

I was as confused as I was saddened. Yes, Al Gally walking away was nearly enough to make me pull the book apart at its spines if the book I was reading wasn’t an e-book. It was even more infuriating to know that the 13th book won’t be coming out till next year, to brace myself for the fear that Al might not make as much appearances as I would like. The whole thing about Trent and Rachel coming together was making it a little tough for Al to step in. Knowing that TrentXRachel wasn’t Harrison’s original idea… I felt kind of sad, really. Maybe Al would have done more wonders. The ending with Al was also why I had given TUP quite a low rating. Too much tantrum, not enough clarification. Rachel didn’t seem too sad, and that’s plain ridiculous. Rachel cares of the demon more than she may had realised.

 

Rachel/Al

There are books where Trent-Rachel appears quite exclusively, and I believe that as her teacher (past tense) , Al should have been given more free running. Every time it seems that he was going to make more appearances, Kim Harrison took him out. I remember what happened at the end of Pale Demon with vehement anger of having been tricked. Just when it all looked so good Rachel went and let a charm bracelet cuff her up. I understand that she was afraid of demon magic or whatever crap she is spewing out, but had she considered how Al would feel? I didn’t think Al and Rachel would couple. Al was more like an Uncle and Mentor to Rachel, although I had seen hints that Al might have had a crush on Rachel. Being afraid is one thing. Leaving someone to think that she was dead was cruel, and ironically Rachel had always been so protective of her friends, even saving Al from being killed once without a thought. And here I had to protest again, Rachel wasn’t being sad enough that Al had left. Maybe she had thought Al would soon come back, but no, Rachel was still fawning over Trent’s baby fine hair. Women.

 

Jenks, Ivy and the rest

It was clear that Kim Harrison was wrapping things up. Jenks seem to have fully recovered from Matalina’s death, Ivy was going into a stable relationship with Nina and David and the weres now had a real alpha. The few things not yet covered was the vampires and saving their souls, the demons and their cursed genetics, the surviving Rosewood babies, the elves community and the entire drama with Rachel-Trent-Al-elves-whoever-it-is. I was still wondering if Nick was still alive, as he was known to be “stored” as somewhere “safe” by Newt the last time he was mentioned. It seemed too much for one book to wrap it all up.

 

But all in all?

I couldn’t put the damn book down. The last time I had tried urban fantasy, it was with Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine Series. Except for the first book the series pretty much sucked. I read on in glances to know what was going to happen with the demon Japhrimel is all. The Hollow was hundred times better, although Rachel still annoyed me at times, it was bearable. Just. There was enough plot and action and interesting clues popping up regularly that had kept me reading on. It didn’t give me the same sense of satisfaction as with Jenna Black’s Morgan Kingsley Series, but Algaliarept, Newt and Jenks made up for where Rachel lacked. Besides, no matter how miserable the progress was, character development with regards to learning something new was still interesting enough to hold my attention still.

Kim Harrison was perhaps the first author I had felt that the minor characters were as well developed as the main. The side characters, even minor, had been well-developed and even the unnamed police in the corner written nicely enough to bring interest, even when Rachel Morgan hadn’t really reached my expectation as a heroine. I mean, who goes through the crap of Nick-Kisten-Marshal-Pierce-Trent crap in the entire godly span of two-three years? No one but that itchy witch, and she has to go and wrap things up with the interspecies romance with an elf. Rachel was well written in the fact that she has learnt from her stupidity and impulsiveness to go into trouble head first, but really, as an adult? One who knows how to take responsibility, stop denying herself of the truth and actually learn something useful? She was the worst kind of student Al ever had, I warrant.

If the 13th and the final book can finally get her to even the beginning of the stage of that maturity rather than more bleary eyes and sexes with Trent, I would be a happy reader, unless I trust Kim Harrison to come up with her own ideas that are actually better. Judging from the previous twelve books, I wasn’t feeling optimistic, but I had a year to wait, and I had rather forget about the book for twelve months rather than let it bother me for the entire year.

 

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