“Undead in the Garden of Good & Evil” (originally released in Dates from Hell)
Ever wonder what Ivy was like before she met Rachel? We get a little peek in this short story. It’s set a couple of years before the events in Dead Witch Walking. Ivy has been a Homicide Investigator at the I.S. for about 6 months. She is living with Kisten and they are in a relationship. This is before her blood-fast… she is still giving and taking blood. But she is very confused about what it means to her. She tries not to equate a blood exchange with anything emotionally meaningful, unless it involves sexual intimacy. And her boss, Art, wants both from her. If she doesn’t give in, he’ll never promote her. But she doesn’t like the man and if she gives in, it will be a huge blow to her self-respect. This novella is great for Hollows fans because it shows us the Kisten/Ivy relationship that has been referenced all along in the series. It shows us the events that lead to Ivy abstaining from blood and gives us a better insight into her struggle with what her vampiric needs mean for her. And it introduces Art. He comes back to bite our friends in a big way down the road. This story sets the stage for why he hates them so much.
“Dirty Magic” (originally released in Hotter Than Hell)
This story doesn’t directly involve any of the main characters in the Hollows, but instead, focuses on a banshee named Mia. We met her in “Undead in the Garden of Good & Evil,” when she was called in to help with a case Ivy was working on. She was the one who helped Ivy realize should could change her life. And we learn here what happened to that wish Rachel gave Ivy in Dead Witch Walking. She gave it to Mia. The banshee has since gone on to marry and have a banshee baby named Holly. And now, she is having an affair with a human named Tom. She is soaking up his love like a sponge, but in the process she is killing him. Can her wish give her the lasting relationship no banshee has ever been able to maintain? –This story is very short… only about 30 pages. And I didn’t like the twist at the end. You could skip this one… but we do see Mia and her clan again in a later story.
“The Bridges of Eden Park” (originally released in For a Few Demons More)
It was very bittersweet to get this short story about Kisten and Rachel after the tragic end of For a Few Demons More. It’s probably set chronologically, just before that book’s beginning. Our couple is having a picnic at the park, when they are interrupted by Kisten’s sister and his nephew, Audric. The child’s father is trying to kidnap him and sends thugs to get the job done. Kisten and Rachel work together to stop them. This story is only 12 pages long, but it reminds me how much I love Kisten.
“Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel” (originally released in Holidays are Hell)
We get a blast from Rachel’s past in this novella. It takes place when she is just 18 years-old and has decided she wants to join the I.S. Her big brother Robbie is against the plan, sure she is not strong enough. But he agrees that if she can do a spell to ask their father’s ghost –and he gives his blessing– Robbie will support her. When Rachel does the spell, though, she brings forth the ghost of a witch named Pierce, who hunted evil vamps over 100 years ago. He quickly realizes that a vampire he once hunted is kidnapping girls in the present day. He and Rachel work together to bring him down and save the child. This story gives us a chance to meet Rachel while she still feels the effects of her illness. But she already has that fire we love about her. There are definite sparks between her and Pierce –and we haven’t seen the last of him yet.
“The Bespelled” (originally released in The Outlaw Demon Wails)
This quick, 9 page read, gives us the backstory of how Ceri became Al’s familiar. It seems that unlike any other would-be familiar he has brought across the lines, Ceri was willing to go. After 7 years of summoning Al, she had fallen in love with him. And he seemed strangely enamoured of her as well. Though it was not enough to keep him from breaking her will and torturing her for 1000 years.
“Ley Line Drifter” (originally released in Unbound)
Jenks gets his very own story in this novella. Another pixy comes to him, asking for help when a statue in his garden seems to be possessed by an evil force. The statue is endangering his babies and he doesn’t know what to do. So Jenks and Bis come to the rescue. It turns out that it’s a Druid trapped in the stone… and a nymph has been tasked with keeping him bound there. Jenks struggles to determine who is the good guy and who is the bad, so he can help the young pixy family in need. It was great to see things from Jenks’ perspective while we get a closer look at pixy culture. Somehow, I think we’ll see Sylvan the Druid again someday.
"Million Dollar Baby" - This is the story you will buy the book for. And it will be worth it. I loved this story. Loved, loved, loved. We get to see, firsthand, the adventure of Trent and Jenks as they kidnap baby Lucy from Ellsbeth. I think what really makes it sing is that it is in Trent's POV. We get to finally have a little peek as to what is going on inside his head. Unfortunately, there is no big Rachel reveal, but it's still really interesting stuff.
We get a glimpse of how Trent sees himself and about the kind of man he wants to be. And we see the camaraderie build between him and Jenks. This story makes me 10x more hungry for Ever After than A Perfect Blood ever did. More Trent!!!
"Pet Shop Boys" - This short story is set in a world where vampires and the Fae live in a realm parallel to humanity. Cooper, a 20-something pet shop employee finds out about their existence the hard way. It all starts when a strange young girl and her beautiful mother enter his shop to buy a cat. The woman invites him to an exclusive club where he quickly discovers all is not as it seems. There is something sinister behind the ratio of beautiful people to average-Joe's. Can he get away or was his fate sealed the moment he entered the door?
This story was ok. I never really got what made Cooper so special that Felicity would want him the way that she did... especially after such a short time in his company. I also thought the world-building was really hazy here. The premise was interesting, but I think it needed a lot more fleshing out to really work.
"Temson Estates" - Will travels across the ocean to claim his inheritance when his grandfather dies. It's a huge plot of woods and he realizes he can sell the land for logging. He could really use the money to help in his life. But his grandfather's sister has other ideas. She knows there are dryads (tree spirits) inhabiting the woods. So she sets out to help him learn the truth about the family land.
The story flew by pretty fast. The dryad mythology was interesting and Will seems like a good guy, It's not very deep, but for 15 pages, what can you expect?
"Spider's Silk" - I thought this one was really cool, with an awesome/ horrible twist at the end. For her entire life, Lilly's mother has told her stories of the spirit Penn that lives in the trees. It wears the guise of a young man, hoping to lure girls into the woods for his own nefarious ends. Her mother says she trapped Penn inside a tree in her youth, but now he's back and he is targeting Lilly's daughter.
Of course, Lilly initially thinks her mother is crazy, but as the story progresses, she becomes less and less sure. Then, it seems Penn has set his interest on her. Is she strong enough to fight his lure, when he knows exactly what she needs? This one is kind of creepy, but I liked it.
"Grace" - This was my favorite of the four "non-Hollows" stories. It's title character is a "throw" --a person who can manipulate energy. Her job is to collect young people with the same abilities, so that her employer, The Strand, can either teach them how to control their powers or burn them out to prevent a danger to society at large.
This story follows Grace on a particularly tough run, one that will test her skills and her moral compass. Making an already difficult situation worse is the re-emergence of an old flame into her life. The world-build here is very intriguing. Grace is very likable and I'd really like to see her story continue beyond this. Especially with Jason. (*fingers crossed*)
Overall, this is a good anthology. Especially for readers who haven't read all of the previously released novellas. The Trent novella alone makes it a must-read for any Hollows fan.
*ARC Provided by Harper Collins
Click to purchase: Amazon
Into the Woodsby Kim HarrisonRelease Date: October 9, 2012Publisher: Harper Collins