Monday, November 26, 2012

Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond by Kim Harrison

Rating: 1.5/5

I don't read a lot of short stories, but I've read enough to have an opinion on these ones. They ranged from 'meh' to 'I hate this'. I had to force myself through this collection bit by bit, only stomaching about 1 story a day.

I read Harrison's The Hollows series, and though they've been declining for awhile now, I usually manage to get some enjoyment out of them. Not so much with these Hollows shorts. Reading them together made me realize how alike all of her characters are, and just how much she relies on inner conflict to fill pages. And all the characters struggling with guilt in the same exact way, even Trent (who was way more interesting when he was written as cold and calculating). It's as if Harrison is stuck in her own formula.

The story about Ivy made me grind my teeth - in the middle of her plot, she'd stop and be all "Oh! My feelings!" every third paragraph, basically repeating what she'd said in the last emo eruption minutes before, in ever more confusing ways. Plus, Ivy's issue with love & blood have been covered multiple times in the book series, so I didn't feel like I was learning anything new about her.

"Dirty Magic", the story about Mia, made absolutely no sense at all. [spoilers removed] There's a difference between misdirection and lying. After the last page, I felt like the whole damn story had been a lie, and that pissed me off.

Throughout the book there were quite a few problems with sentence structure that made certain passages downright confusing. Call me a grammar Nazi if you want, but I literally can't help but notice those things. They jump out at me and break the flow of the story. It makes me angry because it tells me the writer/editor is lazy and/or doesn't really give a crap about the reader's experience.

Here's an example: "he knew that despite what Quen said, the means did not justify the ends." The means justifying the ends? That's backwards. If I picked that up on a casual first read-through, why did neither the author or editor notice?

In all fairness, some of the stories were okay. I think the last one was probably the most interesting to me, even if Grace is a bit dull.

All of Harrison's characters try SO DAMN HARD to do the right thing, and feel SO MUCH GUILT when any little thing goes wrong, it's really starting to annoy me. At this point, I'm glad The Hollows is ending*. It was fun, but I'm getting tired of the genre conventions in urban fantasy. I keep reading this genre looking for that thing that drew me to it in the first place, but it's hard to find in the sea of hastily-written, unoriginal fluff books that I keep coming across. I'm not blaming Harrison for all of that, of course. The Hollows was pretty original and exciting (to me, at least) when I started reading the series. I feel like the pressure on an author to churn out a book a year indefinitely is totally detrimental to the quality of the stories, so they're pretty much guaranteed to decline and be lacking in depth of meaning as the series goes on. It's a shame, and sometimes it makes me want to stick solely to trilogies and single novels.

*update: The Hollows is not, in fact, ending any time soon.

All Ratings and Reviews For Kim Harrison's Hollows Series

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