Kim Harrison‘s Hollows series is and will remain one of my favorite urban fantasy series. By and large, each of the (so-far) nine novels is well-plotted, funny, and filled with compelling characters. Plus, this was the very first contemporary urban fantasy series that I read, and it kicked off my love of the genre.
I even wrote to Kim Harrison (aka Dawn Cook) in 2005, when I was still an undergraduate, to ask if what advice she had for aspiring writers. I still have that email somewhere, encouraging me to practice my writing and also find some other career I enjoyed to pay the bills.
Oops. I sure do practice writing, but I kind of belly-flopped on the whole enjoyable career bit.
Anyway, that’s enough of a trip down memory lane—let’s talk about our plucky heroine, Rachel Mariana Morgan in terms of Freudian Friday. When we first meet Rachel in Dead Witch Walking, she’s quitting the system (also known as Interland Security: like the FBI for this world’s magical beings) and striking out as freelance investigator with the help of a living vampire named Ivy and a pixie named Jenks for back-up.
The step to leave Interland Security is a dramatic one for several reasons: one, no one quits the system without consequences; two, Rachel has not much money or clout for starting her own company; and three, her dad worked for Interland Services and seems to have died in that service.
Since we’re talking about Daddy Issues in Urban Fantasy, it’s this last reason that matters to us. Over the course of the series ***HERE BE SPOILERS*** Rachel learns that her father worked for a man conducting illegal genetic research, that he used that genetic research to tamper with Rachel’s blood and turn her into something more than Witch, and that (gasp) he was not actually her father!
On top of all that, Rachel discovers that her biological father is a musician she had a crush on once upon a time. In his grave, Freud is probably nodding, winking, and touching the side of his nose. This Electra complex isn’t even metaphorical.
So if all this information makes for great reading, but what does it mean for Rachel as a character?
First of all, her relationships are not the best. Jenks, her pixie-partner, likes to say she falls for the underdog—she likes a man who needs rescuing, fixing, or help all around. Her first boyfriend of the series, Nick, is a human and a thief. Her second boyfriend, Kisten, is a living vampire who dies twice protecting her. Her third boyfriend is a fellow Witch and an all-around nice guy—and he really doesn’t do much for her. Her most recent love interest is a resurrected Witch of questionable morality she met as a ghost when she was a teenager (it’s a long story).
So, what? Is she trying to atone for a life she shouldn’t have by saving the people around her? She should have died as a child, but her father’s explorations of illegal science kept her alive—as a half-demon. Rachel’s children would be born as demons because of that research. She shouldn’t exist, and much of her recklessness comes from knowing that.
We could say that she’s trying to save men because no one could save her father. But I don’t think it’s that simple.
Rachel’s character arc shows a gradual realization that life and magic are rarely black-and-white. With titles like White Witch, Black Curse, we see that Rachel is coming to learn that “illegal” and “immoral” acts are not always “evil,” and neither is the person who performs them.
The wonderful thing about Rachel is that she defies Freud’s categorizations. Sure, she pursued her career because she wanted to be like her father and perhaps be worthy of his sacrifice. But she also has her own demons (pardon the pun), and she’s living her life to atone for and own her own sins, not her parents’.
What do you think, readers? Is Rachel irreversibly screwed-up because of her parents’ actions? Did her father’s tampering with her genetic code ruin her moral code? How much are her parents’ actions actually effecting Rachel’s choices?
P.S. If you haven’t actually read this series, go get Dead Witch Walking right now! You won’t regret it, I promise!