The first half of this book contains a series of short stories set in the Hollows world. And I think they do some excellent jobs as short stories – filling in the gaps of the character’s development. They tell the story of things we know happened in their past that we’ve heard about, that has often been mentioned, but which we haven’t actually seen. Because we’ve read the Hollow’s series we know that they are pivotal moments in the character’s past and really add to what makes them the characters they are and what motivates them.
So we see Rachel when she first summoned Pierce. Her struggle in still recovering from her illness and the constant battles against fatigue which, in turn, drive her to prove she is as strong and physically capable of those around her. Her resistance to a quiet “academic” life as, in some way, giving in to that weakness. It also really characterises and adds depth to her relationship with her brother.
We see Ivy first framing Arthur, her supervisor which certainly becomes a major element in later books as well as her interviewing Mia the Banshee for the first time. I think this story is excellent not just for showing us two iconic events in the Hollows series, but also for displaying vampire culture at its most blatant. I don’t think we learn over much about Ivy, certainly not beyond what we already do – the broken, damaged person that Piscary abused and the problems that left her with – but it did really show how much such abuse fits into the vampire world and how it is an expected part of vampire politics and, through that, the IS. The expectation that a rising living vampire has an obligation to give up their blood and their bodies, and how harmful this exploitation and abuse can be to their psyches.
The stories I thought were most revealing were both looking through Jenks’s eyes – just seeing things from the point of view of the Pixie, their culture, their size, their power and seeing through Trent’s eyes as he claims his daughter back. After so long with him being the cold hard manipulator, the almost antagonist, it’s such a change to actually see who he is, his motivations, his beliefs, his worries – and through them to gain an insight into Elven culture, perhaps the Inderlander species we’ve seen the least of. The same applies to seeing Ceri first becoming Al’s familiar – these were the 3 stories that shed more light into corners of Inderland we hadn’t seen very much.
At the same time, if you have read the Hollow’s series, this book won’t add anything. Everything in these books has been referred to or inferred to some degree in the main plot line. The extra information added does nicely flesh things out and let us see their pasts rather than merely hear it reported or remembered; but it adds nothing new, nor, particularly, does it develop the characters since we know this about them. It is still nice to see these moments we know defined their lives, nice to hear it from their own mindsets and especially nice to step outside of Rachel’s POV and see what the characters around her think – gaining gems like Ivy’s respect for witch magic or Rachel’s determination to overcome her physical weakness and definitely Jenk’s pixy-eye view.
It’s also worth noting for people who have bought anthologies that these short stories appear in different anthologies Kim Harrison has contributed to. Double check if you don’t want to buy the same story twice.