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The Hollows series (also called the Rachel Morgan series) is a series of eleven mystery novels, six short stories, one graphic novel, and one compendium resource by Kim Harrison, published by HarperCollins Publishers, in an urban fantasy alternate history universe and set primarily in the city of Cincinnati and its suburbs. The alternate history is built upon two premises: the recent open existence of magical and supernatural species, primarily witches, vampires, and werewolves, with the human population; and the historical investment of Cold War military spending in genetic engineering as opposed to the Space Race, which resulted in the accidental release of a virus via a genetically modified tomato in the 1960s that killed a significant portion of the human population. The series is set approximately forty years after this plague, referred to as 'The Turn' within the series.
The series is told in the first-person point-of-view of Rachel Morgan, a detective witch who works with local law enforcement agencies and faces threats both mundane and supernatural in origin. The series also focuses on Rachel's relationships with her partners, a living vampire and a pixy, as well as her personal relationships with males of different species.
With the exception of the first book, titles in The Hollows series are allusions to Clint Eastwood films, including several of his most famous westerns. The graphic novel shares the name of an Eastwood movie, an allusion of the most literal sort.
A witch-detective initially working as a runner for the Inderland Security (I.S.) service. She procures three wishes from a leprechaun she apprehends on her last run for the Inderlander Security service and uses a wish to get her independence. She makes a deal with the living vampire, Ivy Tamwood, and the pixy, Jenks, to give them the remaining wishes for their assistance in leaving the I.S. The three create the Vampiric Charms freelance runner service, and take various runs, or 'missions', both together and separately. In earlier books, she works to remove a death bounty placed on her by her former employer as well as freeing herself from a demon's debt. In the most recent books, Rachel finds herself learning about and using ley line and demon magic, both in order to do her job and protect her life and the lives of her friends and family. She is deeply ambivalent about using dark magic, but will continue to do so when she finds it necessary. Her aura's initial color is gold, like Trent's and Algaliarept's.
A living vampire that works with Rachel at the I.S. and follows her into freelance work. Ivy is six feet tall, elegantly thin, and very pale, with long black hair and an Asian cast. Ivy struggles with her vampiric nature on a personal level, as well as attempting to keep Rachel from being attacked by fellow vampires. She is bisexual and harbors a deep longing and affection for Rachel. She is deeply devoted to Rachel and Jenks, doing whatever it takes for them, mainly Rachel. Ivy is the last living vampire of the Tamwood bloodline (her younger sister, Erica is part of the Randal bloodline) and Ivy has been made a scion of her old master vampire Piscary. He has purposely tried to direct Ivy into lack of control and violence in any of her blood-related relationships. After claiming her as his scion, Ivy has had to work ever harder to resist his pressure to follow his desires. At one point, Ivy has to agree to let Piscary control her even more, in return for him leaving her sister alone. Ivy sees Rachel as her only true friend, her deep love interest, and as her one hope to escape her future as Piscary's scion. She hides her caring for Rachel beneath a very brittle and distant veneer, but she will kill anyone who gets in her way if Rachel needs her help.
A pixy who works with Rachel and Ivy in their freelance business. He often provides the comedy in the novels as well as working as a saboteur, electronics expert, and spy. He is always watching after Rachel, worried about her and Ivy's interactions, as well as the men who come into her life as they usually turn out to be untrustworthy. Jenks, with his wife Matalina and their countless children, lives in a stump against the garden wall in the yard of the old church, providing site security and guarding against incursions by their mortal enemies, fairies.
A purebred elf who is a shrewd businessman, one of Cincinnati's most powerful Inderlanders, and has a childhood history with Rachel. He is very attractive, tall, with baby-fine blond hair and green eyes. His father is responsible for curing Rachel's Rosewood Syndrome. Trent's goal is to resurrect the fertility of the elven race using whatever means necessary. He has a deep hatred for demons, due to his race's biological warfare with them in the past which nearly caused the elves to be wiped out. He is often flanked by his bodyguard and fellow elf, Quen and assistant, Jonathan. Even though they are very similar with different ideals, Rachel and Trent have a love/hate relationship.
A 5,000 year old demon whose job and livelihood depends on tricking susceptible victims into the Ever-After for servitude through cunning manipulation. Al is typically shown as a tall, muscled Britishman who has long brown hair, wears blue-tinted smoked-rim glasses, and dresses in a crushed green velvet, laced outfit with boots. Several characters throughout the series have owed Al demon marks or have had dealings with him. He was married to a demoness named Celfnnah.
The series is set in an alternate history where supernatural beings live side-by-side with normal humans. According to this timeline, after the discovery of the DNA double-helix by James D. Watson, Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin, genetic manipulation becomes a possibility, changing several events in the history of this alternate universe. A virus nicknamed the T4 Angel virus attached itself to a flaw in the genome of a genetically manipulated tomato (its lab identification being T4 Angel tomato), and quickly spread around the world. As a result of the plague, all biogenetic research, including reverse engineering and genetic splicing, has been outlawed. Additionally, the human race has developed a cultural fear of tomatoes and tomato-based food products such as pizza sauce and tomato ketchup.
The T4 Angel virus killed a quarter of the human population. Upon noticing the combined number of their various species now neared that of humanity, the supernatural species quickly seized the opportunity to make themselves known. The fact the structure of the civilization remained somewhat intact during "The Turn" is attributed to the fact many of the supernatural beings being in (or seizing) positions of power, including a vampire named Rynn Cormel acting as the president of the USA (but never sworn in).
The supernatural beings are known as "Inderlanders". As laws and societies are dramatically changed by factors relating to these new sentient species, all levels of law enforcement in the United States break down. Two new organizations, the Inderlander Security service (consisting entirely of non-humans) and the Federal Inderlander Bureau (consisting entirely of normal humans), replace the former law enforcement agencies at all levels. The convention that allows both agencies to operate forbids Inderlanders from being on the F.I.B. payroll, although consulting jobs mostly are allowed.
The Ever-after is a magical plane that existed outside the ken of normal humans until the Turn. The main pixy character, Jenks, describes it as "...a drop of time that got knocked out, sitting alone by itself with no past behind it to push it forward and no future to pull it along." Concentrations of Ever-after energy are scattered across the normal plane and are called "ley lines." Ley lines can be felt on the normal plane by magic users and the races that formerly dwelt in the Ever-after, such as the elves and witches. The only race that currently dwells in the Ever-after is that of the demons, having driven out the elves nearly two thousand years ago. Witches also formerly dwelt in the Ever-after but fled to the mundane plane approximately five thousand years ago.
The Ever-after presented in the novels is referred to as the basis for the 'happily ever after' that often occurs at the end of modern fairy tales; due to mistranslation and omission, the factual "in the Ever-after" (referring to a place) became the figurative "happily ever after" (referring to time).
The Ever-after, once a beautiful land filled with fog and forest, was destroyed by the imbalance of the Elf-Demon war, leaving a desert-like wasteland stinking of burnt amber.
We learn in EVER AFTER that the war was caused by a break in the alliance between Elves and Demons. The Elves enslaved the Demons, and the Demons, in return tried to trap the Elves in the Ever-after. This led to them being bound there in yet another war, until the Elves migrated to reality.
The novels use Inderlander to refer to all of the supernatural beings that revealed themselves during the Turn. They are divided into two groups: those that are derived from humans and those that are non-human in origin.
Vampires in this series are similar to common portrayals of vampires, with some exceptions. Their saliva contains drugs that make the pain of a vampire's bite feel like pleasure, similar to the vampires of the Red Court in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. Vampires can also sensitize their victim's bite so that only that vampire can affect the victim, leaving the victim mentally bound to that vampire. There are two kinds of vampires, living and undead.
Living vampires are normal humans infected with the vampire virus. They are divided into two groups: high- and low-blood. Low-blood vampires are normal humans that have been infected by the bite of an undead vampire, and have only a small amount of the benefits the virus grants, such as increased strength and speed, as well as the craving for blood. When low-blood vampires die, be it of natural causes or otherwise, they simply die like any other humans, unless an undead vampire is there at their moments of death to bring them back as undead by giving its blood. Unlike traditional vampires, low-blood vampires don't have fangs and aren't pale.
High-blood vampires are vampires who were born already infected by the virus, which has influenced their development in the womb. They have increased strength and speed, more so than low-blood vampires, but not as much as the undead; they do however have some abilities that the other kinds don't: living high-blood vampires are empathic and can "pull an aura" to influence, intimidate, or control others. They have sharper and slightly longer canine teeth than humans or low-blood vampires. They also have a greater craving for blood than low-blood vampires, but it is not essential to their existence. When high-blood vampires die, no matter the cause, they rise again as undead the next sundown. Their appearance as undead is more like traditional literary vampires such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, so they then have longer fangs and paler skin.
When vampires become undead, they gain the full physical benefits of the vampire virus, but lose their souls and their ability to keep their aura in the process. They now have the ability to turn humans into vampires and bespell even unwilling hosts. Vampire society is regulated by master vampires, usually in control of the underworld in larger cities. Master vampires have a coterie called a camarilla, to which their followers and families belong, with a complex social hierarchy in which everyone is subordinate to someone else except master vampires, who are the kingpins of the vampire society. Vampires outside of a camarilla often look to become part of one, as a camarilla serves as a support group for the lifestyle demanded by vampires.
As for weaknesses, while low- and high-blood living vampires are immune to sunlight or holy items, they can be killed in any normal way: weapons, diseases, poisons, age, and so on. On the other hand, undead vampires have all the traditional vampire weakness: stakes, sunlight, holy items, silver, fire, and decapitation. However, in the Hollows series there is one original weakness: sharing the blood of another undead vampire will result in death.
Weres are lycanthropes with bestial attributes who are otherwise human in appearance. According to legend, the origin of the Weres lies in a demon's curse upon a group of humans. The demon used a spell to turn into a wolf, then proceeded to have intercourse with them, and werewolves were the result.
The common presentation of Weres in the novels thus far is that of a traditional werewolf although werefoxes have been mentioned. Reportedly, the main difference between werewolves and werefoxes is werefoxes can control the size they turn, while werewolves' sizes are converted over from their human weight and relative size.
In society, Weres live and operate much as natural wolves do: they form packs with alpha pairs, betas, etc., and there are also loners as well. It is not uncommon for them to date outside their species early in life.
There is no "werewolf curse" as presented in other lycanthrope stories. Instead, Weres must rely upon breeding to increase their numbers, unless under an external influence. In the series, legends tell of a demonic device which allows Weres to turn a human by bite. The story tells that this device, called the "Focus", once used to play a major role in their political structure, revolving around who controlled it. The legend stated that over five thousand years ago, the focus-empowered Weres planned to convert humanity by force. However, the witches crossed over to reality from the Ever-after around that time; driven by self-preservation, the vampires, humans, and witches banded together to remove the Focus and its influence from the Weres' possession. It was said to have been destroyed, but was only kept in hiding. The Focus plays a role in the middle books of the series.
The existence of ghosts and spirits is made plain by references to fears by characters. Ghosts are disembodied souls that are in limbo have not "moved on" according to the series mythos. Ghosts can also be created by the desecration of a tombstone. One character is a ghost but is later given corporeal form.
Although many claim none exist, religious artifacts have a great deal of power and several characters of note are religious. It is suggested that it was not unusual for Inderlanders to convince humans to worship them. The Trickster Goddess, the Goddess of Wild Magic, is one who appears in the story. Her Laughter or Her gaze often accompanies Wild Magic.
There are four known branches of magic in the novels, earth magic, ley line magic, demonic magic, and wild magic. All magic draws its power from ley lines, sources of energy that are scattered across the surface of the world. A magic user is labeled as either white or black, depending upon how the magic affects his or her soul. White magic is not damaging to the practitioner's soul, while black magic is. The stain upon the magic user's aura (energy emanated from the soul and that which protects one's soul) depends on how much the magic distorts the natural and causes an imbalance. The stain or smut, named because it appears as a black layer covering the aura, can be fostered off onto another but cannot be destroyed.
Earth magic filters ley line energy through plants and animals and, although slower than ley line magic, is just as powerful. It is associated with living things, potions, amulets, and charms. Spells can sometimes be stored and called upon later. Earth magic can actually alter one's physical appearance or shape. The effects are permanent unless doused in saltwater. Earth magic tends to be associated with white magic users since it is more difficult to gain access to the materials necessary for black earth magic. Black earth magic involves the sacrifice of animals and, in some cases, humans or Inderlanders.
Ley line magic has less permanence than earth magic, but is much faster and more easily adaptable. Power can be drawn directly from a ley line or through an animal familiar. The energy is either channeled using a focus object or what is referred to as "wild magic" in which the power is imprecisely directed by the magic user that drew on the line. Ley line magic can only alter perception and not physical form like earth magic.
Demonic magic combines ley line magic and earth magic to create something very fast, very powerful, and everlasting. As its name implies, demonic magic is practiced almost entirely by demons. Demons also use familiars, but instead of animals, they use sentient species such as witches, elves, and humans. This type of magic is extremely powerful and can be used to change one's species and cause huge amounts of damage. For example, a demonic curse can allow a being to "Were" (change into an animal), retain cognition of the original being, yet continue its life as the animal who can even have offspring. Because of the perversion of the laws of physics that demon magic embodies, the cost of this type of magic is extremely high, so much so that demons try to foster off the cost onto their familiars or other willing parties. Witches with the gene to wield demonic magic were cursed long ago by the elves so that any witch with the genetic mutation usually dies before his or her first birthday from Rosewood Syndrome. Only two witches have been seen to practice demon magic: Stanley Saladan and Rachel Morgan. It is later revealed that Rachel Morgan and Stanley Saladan, while the children of witches, are genetic demons.
Wild magic, also known as Elven or Celtic magic, incorporates a religious system grounded in nature and practiced by Elves. Wild magic is powerful but unpredicatable, almost alive at times. It will do the task it is meant to do, but the how is unpredicatble and dependant upon the Trickster Goddess. Wild magic uses singing when cast, often accumpanied by the Goddess's laughter.