I've spent the past couple of weeks curled up with The Hollows series by Kim Harrison. I'm a late convert. There are already 12 books and several short stories and the final book is being released in 2015. I'm so lucky that the series was almost finished when I started because if I had only read the first 3 or 4 books I may not have continued.
There are some dodgy books earlier in the series, not in terms of the story arc but more in terms of the occasionally TSTL actions of Rachel who seems to flail around, unable to align her black and white view of the world with the questionable actions of her friends, enemies and even her own instincts. A lot of hypocrisy and double standards ensue which annoyed me. Her roommate Ivy is a vampire struggling to hold onto her humanity and focusing on Rachel in an unhealthy way as her savior. This implied unrequited lesbian love interest is poorly handled and dragged out waaaay too long. I never really liked Ivy until about book 10 but from the beginning I was 100% behind her desire to retain her soul and could understand her clinging to Rachel to achieve that. I persisted past these issues and for me the payoffs have been HUGE.
Storytelling that gets stronger instead of weaker as the series progresses. I have enjoyed each book more than the previous and it's great to see an author hitting her stride just when it counts.
An overall story arc that never loses direction. Like many readers I have been burned by the never-ending and increasing bizarreness of some UF series (e.g. Anita Blake). You won't find that in this series. It feels like the author always knew exactly where things were going. From about midway on the final challenges that Rachel is going to face to save the world become clear to the reader. And they are really world-changing and they MATTER. She is thrust unwillingly into this quest by her love for her family and friends and can't save them unless she saves everyone.
Each book is a complete story within a story. There are no flashy cliffhangers here. There is a well written plot in each book that has a satisfying conclusion but at the same time moves the overall story arc forward.
A relationship arc that makes sense. How many readers have followed a long series only to be surprised and disappointed by the hero seemingly plucked at random for the final HEA (e.g. Sookie Stackhouse). You won't find that in this series. Rachel's relationships (as angsty as they can be at times) follow a believable, satisfying and epic course to her true heart's desire. It's a very slow build but late readers to the series (like me) have an advantage. Knowing what's in store for Rachel makes the ultra slow pace and love/hate encounters even more enticing.
The gang. Rachel's friendships with Ivy and Jenks and the rest of the gang are the heart of the story. The central three friends, Ivy, Rachel and Jenks, are able to achieve more than all the villains and all the official forces put together and it's their loyalty to each other that wins the day every time.
Personal growth. Every single one of these characters grows during the series. Even the villains. None of them remain the same and several are redeemed (Al I love you! I hope you survive the final book and you and Rach become friends again).
The Humour. Jenks the pixy and his chaotic family supply the light relief. He is able to say plainly what others can't, able to act the fool and still seem courageous, able to make fun of even the scariest villain. He's like my little poodle. Always scrapping above his weight. I just loved him.
The feelz. This series has brought me to tears on several occasions. Some people don't survive but it just made me more invested in the lives of the characters. I know that I'm going to be bawling from the beginning of the last book. My investment in the HEA (for all my favourite characters) could not be any higher.
Clint Eastwood titles. Big fan of Clint so I love them. Especially The Outlaw Demon Wails. That is a fun play on words.
The final book is due out in 2015. I can't wait.
My ratings for the series so far: