Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison

The first book of Kim Harrison’s I read was Every Which Way But Dead. And I was blown away. Like Kelley Armstrong, Kim Harrison was one of the first women in the horror genre to actually get my attention. Yeah, Laurell K. Hamilton got my attention too, but the first book of hers I picked up was Cerulean Sins, and it got my attention more in the way a train wreck gets a person’s attention. Or, perhaps more accurately, in the way unexpected and distasteful pornography gets a person’s attention.

Kim Harrison made urban fantasy cool. Her world is so real, from the descriptions of all the Inderlanders (nonhumans) mingling with the humans, to the church her main character, Rachel, lives in, to the very idioms used by her characters. It’s such a thoroughly written setting that I feel like I could live there. Black Magic Sanction keeps the world alive. The characters, the creatures, everything is there.

***weak spoiler here…close your eyes, D-Chan***

Holy. Elf. Can you believe she makes herself pixy-sized and gets to see the inside of Jenks’s house/stump? I would read the whole book again just for that one description. This is where Harrison absolutely impresses me, because I never would have even explored the idea of going inside the pixy stump. I mean, Rachel is a human (well, a witch, but human-sized. You know what I mean), and way too big. But in this novel she has to get inside, for reasons I won’t divulge, and wow.

***spoiler over…you can open your eyes now***

The only problem I had with Black Magic Sanction was the issue most longer series get into: too many characters. There are so many memorable people in Rachel’s world, and that mirrors life exactly, because we all interact with many people on a daily or weekly basis (unless we are introverts who finally get our wishes and just get to stay home for a few days. Without toddlers. But I digress). This is where literature should not mirror life, and Black Magic Sanction could have benefited from a smaller cast of characters.

I keep waiting to read a Kim Harrison book in which Rachel has simply gone too far in her journey, where she’s hit the limit of her character growth and there’s nowhere else for Harrison to take her (again, not trying to rip on LKH, but see what Anita Blake is doing? If you do, you’ll understand why I get a little skittish once a series gets past book 5 or 6).

That hasn’t happened yet. Rachel is still learning and growing, and I’m thrilled to watch it all happen.

For Kim Harrison’s blog, click here. For her website, click here.


  1. Dana · May 19, 2010

    No worries, I read this already! (Lol, Greg also read it and sent me a text when he got to… er… THAT part, saying, “WTF is going on with Rachel’s ******” except uncensored, and I totally laughed my head off.)

    • bethhull · May 19, 2010

      Yeah, I would say that THAT part of the story was pretty out there. If we’re voting for favorite THAT parts, I’d vote for the thing with Kisten in book #3.

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