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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

Pale Demon - Kim Harrison Three and a half stars, rounding up to 4.I'd been losing interest in the Rachel Morgan series for a while because she was too static a character. Her emotional reactions in book #8 were virtually identical to book#1 (self-doubt, compensating rush to intimacy, fear and pulling-away, self-berating, failed attempt to regain intimacy), and I just think it's time for her to grow up. Frequently had a bipolar reaction during confrontations, and that's still present here: pretending to be disinterested/in control, then disdainful, then flirty and escalating to shouting/violence. Same stuff, different books. Maybe because I've let the series slide, or because Rachel is growing up a little bit, I enjoyed this book a bit more. She is still making the mistake of refusing to do something on principle, but then ending up doing that very thing moments later. Thankfully, once she gets in the car with Trent, that moment is over. I'm not sure if that's the only way Harrison knows how to write Rachel's motivation, or if that's all her character's got. As I said, it's one of the main reasons I've lost interest in Rachel, and she no longer comes close to favorite UF heroine. Readers might also have trouble with Trent's mysterious elven quest and it's results. An attempt is made to modernize the quest analogy, but it falls a little flat, since it's so mysterious, no one can know anything about it until it's over. It's a quest of dubious ethical standards, and it's unfortunate that Rachel falls for the result. I don't think Harrison set it up enough that the reader can feel confident Trent and Jenks acted by a moral standard, and Rachel becomes complicit in the results. I also question to what extent his success will allow him to "control the future of the elven race." If he is sincere, Rachel should run, run, run, because he is still viewing other people and entities as means to an end. The fact that he released an "ultimate evil" kind of demon as a means to manipulate the witches' council into forgiving Rachel is a perfect example of how he has crossed the line into scary. I've always kind of liked Trent and thought Rachel/ Harrison has a soft spot for him as well; we've been able to see the lonely, sympathetic side. I've never really bought him as the evil Brimstone dealer, but this is proving to be worse anyhow--he truly is willing to sacrifice anyone (and I do mean anyone) to his grand scheme.Otherwise it was written well, with nice integration of the landscape--I think this is the first we've heard about deserted towns and the desolation of middle to west, but it makes sense in the America Harrison created. There's also a very neat twist on demon magic that merits applause. It's a new development for the world, and yet fully integrated with the magic system in place. That's a nice trick to pull off in book 9 of a series. Overall, I enjoyed it and finished it within a couple of days. To me it felt like a nice balance of action and down time--it's just not realistic or fun to be careening from one disaster to the next all the time. I enjoyed the world-building in the demon bar a great deal. It doesn't work very well as a stand-alone book at this point, but I'm sure most people wouldn't pick up book 9 without having read one or two other books in the series at least. Harrison does make an attempt to do a fast background/ context for readers, but it's very light on background. PNR fans might be disappointed as there is little emphasis on developing romantic intimacy. In all, it will definitely merit a re-read at some point, and might make it into my permanent collection.