Holidays Are Hell

Holidays Are Hell - Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Marjorie M. Liu, Vicki Pettersson Like all anthologies review, we’re going to look at the stories in this separately and then consider the book as a whole.Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel by Kim HarrisonThis story follows Rachel Morgan from the Hollows series, as a teenager before she joined the IS. This is the moment, mentioned in the book, when the young Rachel accidentally summons the ghost Pierce when trying to summon her father and with him manages to foil a crime for the IS. This is where Rachel’s path is set where, still recovering from her illness, she begins to see what she wants to do and why.I had read this book in a book of short stories so already knew the plot. I think this is one of those anthology stories that perfectly hits the balance between having something for readers familiar with the series while, at the same time, providing enough information to get new readers interested in the world.The world was presented ideally without overwhelming excess knowledge, just enough to keep people informed and understanding what’s happening and why it matters. It can be hard in any kind of fantasy short story to get across a sense of the world and all the relevant information without infodumping huge chunks of world building on people. I think here you can see what the Hollows is about, get a brief introduction to the main character and still have a story that is fun and engaging. Had I read this book first, I would have picked up the HollowsFor people who have read the story, well as I said in the review of In The Woods, there’s nothing here you need to know. You don’t need to read this to learn everything about the Hollows and it doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know. But it does add emphasis and depth, I think Rachel becomes a much more understandable character – especially her reckless behaviour and need for challenge and need for validation – when you see this snap shot of what her life used to be like. It doesn’t develop the character per se, but it adds an extra shading – it adds some “why” to the “what”.Six by Marjorie LiuSix is a Chinese secret agent, raised from childhood to be the best of the best and to hunt down and defeat terrorists and other threats to the nation. She is skilled, competent and dedicated but completely unprepared for a world of necromancers and Jiangshi vampires. She has to run with a strange foreigner who has powers she doesn’t understand or trust to try and eliminate a threat that was far larger than she imagined – and one that means she cannot trust any of her usual resources. While running with him she re-analyses her life and what she wants from it – and finds there is more to her existence than duty and service.It is nice to see a story that didn’t follows the same myths and legends of the west we’re so used to – the Jiangshi are a very different creature and a story set in China – without trying to exotify the country. I liked the characters, who were Asian, and I liked the setting as pretty original and, above all, I liked the story. It was fast paced, action packed and didn’t spend pages after pages dwelling on internal monologue and world building. It was quickly, concisely presented and that was it, we were into the action, the world unfolding as it was needed. Even the romance was presented in a relatively brief, concise fashion – not rushed or hurried or abrupt, but without excessive rumination and monologues that is so common.As a short story it was tight, self-contained, precise. I don’t think this is part of any world of the authors, but it did show off a very clear, well paced and fun writing style.Read more