Reviewed by Berni Phillips Bratman
[This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:10 (#351) in October 2011.]
All the cool kids are getting their fantasy series made into graphic novels lately. Kim Harrison’s world of the Hollows is the latest entry.
The Hollows is an alternate version of a section of Cincinnati. In Harrison’s world, forty years ago, the vampires, werewolves, witches, and other things that go bump in the night came out of hiding after an event called the Turn. The Hollows is the part of Cincinnati where they live, and the I.S., Inderlander Security, is the paranormal-peopled police unit which keeps things under control.
Blood Work tells of the meeting of Rachel Morgan, the witch who is the protagonist of the Hollows novels, and Ivy Tamwood, the last living vampire of the wealthy Tamwood clan. Ivy wears a cross to emphasize her status as a living vampire still in possession of her soul. Recently busted down in the I.S. from homicide to street detail, she has now been saddled with a new, somewhat green partner, Rachel.
Blood Work predates Dead Witch Walking, the first of the Hollows novels. In all the novels, Rachel and Ivy are partners in a paranormal detective agency, Vampiric Charms (telegraphing their two talents). Fans of the novels should be aware that the graphic novel also does not include Jenks, their pixie partner. Another switch is that Ivy is the POV character in Blood Work, not Rachel. We see it all from Ivy’s perspective: the early, repressed Ivy still in thrall to Cincinnati’s master vampire, Piscary.
Irritated by the “gosh-wow!” enthusiasm of her new partner, Ivy fails to take their first joint assignment seriously. Rachel plunges right in — literally, jumping into the water under a bridge and interrogating the resident troll. She discovers a murder victim, and her street savvy and sensitivity allows her to gather information from the troll that Ivy’s snobbery would never admit possible.
As you would assume, this odd couple pairing works and manages to solve the crime. Rachel’s innocence, enthusiasm, and plain chutzpah complements Ivy’s steely resolve and focus. (There is a hilarious scene in which Rachel pretends to be a horny lesbian in order to get a bouncer to let them into a popular club.) Those who have read the novels may sigh to see Rachel so innocent and vulnerable before the world (or Kim Harrison) dragged her through the events of the nine novels (to date).
The artwork is very well done. Besides being visually beautiful, the artists worked closely with Harrison to get the characters to her specifications. Rachel isn’t quite as I pictured her, but Ivy is dead on, and this is Ivy’s story. In her introduction and interview at the end, Harrison talks about the importance of getting the skin tones right. They had started out too dark. Rachel is a red head with light skin that freckles and burns easily. Ivy, as a vampire, had to be paler than that. There are sketches after the story of various characters before changes created by Harrison’s input. There is great attention to detail, even to the thickness of a chain that one of the male characters wears around his neck. The backgrounds are well-rendered, the colors beautiful. The visual depiction of Ivy’s vamp-pheromones (also known as “pulling an aura” in the novels) works well to illustrate the effect of her power. It’s not what I had pictured, reading the novels, but it is a good “short hand” for a graphic novel to explain the effect.
In the interview at the end, Harrison reveals that she is working on a second graphic novel. This is being set up in Blood Work. There is a shadowy figure who is observing throughout. On the last page, he reports to his unseen master. On the second reading, I realized that this unseen master must be Trent, Rachel’s on-again, off-again antagonist “frenemy.”
Fans of the Hollows novels will be pleased by this addition to the canon. For those who are new to the Hollows, this is a lovely introduction.