Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond
by Kim Harrison
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant
Review by Gayle Surrette
Harper Voyager Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061974328
Date: 09 October 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Into the Woods is a collection of short fiction with seven stories set in the world of the Hollows and Rachel Morgan. Four stories are just good fantasy shorts with memorable characters. One of the best features of short story collections and anthologies is that you can read a story at a time and set the book aside for a while. While some of these stories are quite long ("Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel" is 84 pages) others are around the 20 page mark and some in between.
Each story begins with a short note from Harrison about the story and what it means to her. "Bespelled" gives us some insight into Algaliarept and how he managed to acquire Ceridwen as a familiar. Then in "Two Ghosts For Sister Rachel", readers gain some understanding of Rachel's early years before we met her in Dead Witch Walking. Readers also get to see an Ivy Tamwood as she finally decides to find her own way at Inderland Security and buck expectations. Mia, the Banshee, has some backstory and "Dirty Magic" introduces readers to her and explains a bit about how this particular supernatural race works. Meanwhile the gargoyle, Bis, and Jenks have their own adventure in "Ley Line Drifter". In "Million-Dollar Baby", we finally find out what happened when Trent and Jenks go on their kidnapping adventure that took place off -the-page during Pale Demon
In the section Beyond the Hollows, we have four stories that are what you'd expect from Harrison: well developed characters, crisp writing, tight plots, and entertaining as all get out. "Pet Shop Boys" deals with Cooper, who is working in a pet store and hoping that the owner will eventually come to date him. A young girl comes in to look at the puppies and her beautiful mother seems to take a shine to Cooper, to his immense surprise. But, as usual things are not always what they seem.
"Temson Estates" is about Will Temson. Out of the blue, Will learns that he has inherited a large estate in Great Britain. There was another family member who wanted to inherit and things get a bit intense for a while but Will has hidden depths coupled with a strong sense of right that surprises everyone.
Em is afraid that her granddaughter, Meg, is being wooed by an evil presence in their woods. Lilly fears her mother is going insane and worries about how that is going to impact her daughter, Meg, and her own life in "Spider Silk". There's a lot about family, trust, and lost opportunities.
"Grace" was a real change of pace. Some people have the ability to channel electricity and such power can be used for evil so a special group of officers had been formed to find those who have the ability and to bring them in for training. Grace, the main character and one of the best at talking the young people they discover into coming in for training, begins to have doubts about what she's doing. There's much food for thought on both sides in this story and Grace is a very deep and multi-layered character that I hope to see in other stories someday.
This is a great collection of stories and so much easier than going out to track them down separately.