Seth's Reviews > Holidays Are Hell

Holidays Are Hell by Kim Harrison
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's review
Dec 27, 2007

liked it
bookshelves: modernfantasy, shorts, themed-anthologies, borrowed, sf-f-h

My overall rating (3) is for the book as a concept and based on the two (of four) stories I've read. This is a theme collection for stories set in modern fantasy series and I don't read the other two series, so jumping in with these stories seems unwise.

I'm not sure I'll ever get around to reading the other two stories, so here are comments on the two I did read, Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel by Kim Harrison (in the Hollows series) and The Harvest by Viki Pettersson (in the Signs of the Zodiac series, or whatever it's called).

The Kim Harrison is why I was loaned this book (and why I'll buy my own copy). I love the series and I'm always happy to see more of it and a Halloween ghost story fits in well with the Hollows setting.

Like the short in Dates from Hell, this takes us back before Dead Witch Walking and shows us how Rachel joined the I.S. Rachel and her brother Robbie wind up escorting a 140-years-dead ghost across town chasing a powerful vampire while Rachel tries to convince Robbie to sign papers for her to join the I.S. and do this kind of thing for a living. It's a fun story and the background it gives us on Rachel's family is especially interesting since the recent books are including more and more of Rachel's mother. I'd probably give this story alone a 4.

I have a love/hate relationship with Vicki Pettersson's Zodiac series. I think they have definite potential and the second book was so much better than the first that I'm glad to read more, but I didn't expect much from the short story. I was wrong. Maybe Pettersson is a better short writer than novelist or maybe this is another sign of the series and the author growing.

This story also gives us a family-oriented flashback. We go to before the first book (Scent of Shadows) to see Joanne's mother, Zoe. Zoe is a fabulous character in abstentia in the books: she abandoned Joanne at the most vulnerable time in her life, she's considered a traitor by some of the "heroes," and she fascinates, repulses, and attracts the villains in equal parts. But since she's gone, we don't get to see her directly (making her all the more interesting).

Fortunately, The Harvest doesn't ruin Zoe's mystique. We follow Zoe working to keep Joanne's daughter alive and safe from the Shadows. Along the way we get some good interaction between Zoe and Warren, showing once again how much the agents of Light are just as arrogant and evil as the Shadow agents, but also giving some context to his abuse of Joanne. It's a good story and it's well-told. I'd give it a solid 3, maybe a 3+.

The theme of the anthology, setting the stories on various holidays, works well. It ensures that each story has some cultural backdrop to draw from. Pettersson uses tradition to set up the context (we get a discussion of the origins and meanings of the cornucopia, for example) while the meaning of Halloween in Harrison is idiosyncratic to the series, but both work well. These theme anthologies for this "group" of authors (probably inspired by the Legends series) is working out quite well.
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