Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kim Harrison's "The Outlaw Demon Wails"

Kim Harrison is the dark urban fantasy author of the New York Times bestselling For a Few Demons More and other works.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new novel, The Outlaw Demon Wails, and reported the following:
From Page 99:

The shrill shout was punctuated by a flash of dust I could see even in the strong afternoon light. “It gets better,” I said, stepping into the empty street and heading for the tired, sixty-plus-year-old house Ceri and Keasley shared. “He wants me to go into the ever-after to get a sample so their child will be born without any effects of the curse. Tried to guilt me into it.” And it almost worked.

“Pregnant?” Jenks repeated, his angular face showing his shock. “I gotta smell her.”

The scraping of my boots on the pavement faltered. “You can smell it when someone’s pregnant?” I said, somewhat appalled.

Jenks shrugged. “Sometimes. I don’t know about elves.” He darted to the sidewalk, then back to me. “Can you walk a little faster? I’d like to get there before the sun sets and that thing in the eaves wakes up.”

My gaze went three houses down to fi nd Keasley outside enjoying the fall weather, raking leaves. Great, he’d seen me tear into here like a bunny on fire. “Jenks,” I said suddenly. “I’m going to do the talking. Not you.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said, and I fixed my gaze on him with a threatening sharpness.

“I mean it. Ceri might not have told him yet.”

The hum of his wings dropped in pitch, though he didn’t lose a millimeter of height. “Okay,” he said hesitantly.

My boots hit the sidewalk and the dappled pattern of sun that made it through the colored leaves still clinging to the dark branches. Keasley is Leon Bairn? I thought as I looked him over. Leon was the only other person besides me to quit the I.S. and survive, though he’d apparently had to fake his death to do it. I was guessing that Trent knew it because he had helped. He would have been about fifteen then, but just coming into his parents’ legacy and eager to show his stuff.

I glanced at Jenks, remembering how mad the pixy had been when I hid from him that Trent was an elf. If Keasley was Leon, then he was a runner. And Jenks wouldn’t violate that trust for anything.

“Jenks, can you keep a secret?” I said, slowing when Keasley saw us and stopped his work to lean on his rake. The old man suffered from....

In this passage, Rachel is going to confront her neighbors about something she just discovered about each of them, relating her new gossip to her business partner on the way. Ah, he’s a pixy. It’s complicated, but trust me, it really works, and I have a lot of fun with these characters.

As far as the balance of action, dialog, and plot, it’s a pretty good representation of the book as a whole. But what’s being said in this single page is a remarkable representation of what Rachel is dealing with herself.

Some of the strongest plot threads of The Outlaw Demon Wails revolve around procreation. Not the “bumping uglies” part of it, though there is this one scene ... No, the book touches on the passing on of ourselves, our ideas, our physical traits, talents, and morals. Seeing Rachel going to confront Ceri about her pregnancy relates to this nicely.

The second plot thread here is that of Keasley’s past. Again, Rachel is returning to an ongoing theme in the book of discovering her own past and coming to grips with it as she goes to confront Keasley with the knowledge of his past.

The Outlaw Demon Wails is strongly concerned about the struggle to pass on something of ourselves, and how the past can shape the future. This small passage here is concerned with just that, the same issues that Rachel is dealing with — discovering her past, seeing her future, and finding a way to reconcile that with who she wants to be. So in this case, I’d say that the page 99 test works well as far as content. As far as quality? I’d rather the reader decide that.
Browse inside The Outlaw Demon Wails, and learn more about the author and her work at Kim Harrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue