Welcome to this week’s“meeting” of the Preternatura Book Club! A few weeks ago, commenters voted on which novel they’d like to tackle first, and the winner by a landslide was Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking, the first in her Hollows series featuring witch Rachel Morgan.
Here’s how it works. Each week, I’ll post a summary (spoiler alert!) on two chapters, and we’ll chat about them. Try to minimize spoilers beyond what’s happened in the book we’ve read so far. You can read along, read ahead, or just stop by and read the summaries. After the Book Club has been up a few days, I’ll move it to archives so you can still come back and read. There’s a “Book Club” tab above. So, let’s get started!
DEAD WITCH WALKING, CHAPTERS 21 and 22
We pick up with Rachel (in mink form) still in her cage at Trent’s. She’s seen him murder a scientist who objected to his plan to fight Rachel in the city’s illegal rat fights. So she’s freaked out. Plus, Trent’s man Jonathan is tormenting her by poking her with pencils and dowels. When chapter 21 opens, she’s trying to ignore him after chewing up a pile of pencils. Trent’s new secretary Sara Jane comes in and insists, despite Jonathan’s protests, on giving Rachel the leftover carrot from her lunch. Even though it tastes funny, Rachel gobbles it up because she’s refused to eat the gerbil food and is starving. Too late, she realizes Trent has drugged the carrot. She fights and tries to escape, but eventually (after a couple of bites) she’s caught and put in a carrier to go to the rat fights.
Rachel comes to at the fights. Trent’s holding the cage with her in it, and registering her (as “Angel”) to fight one of the later rounds—to the death. He tells Rachel he’s sure she can kill a rat or two. His plan is still to break her so she’ll agree to work with him—and if she dies, so be it. Rachel, of course, has never killed anything. She doesn’t know if she can kill even a rat. Trent realizes the rat fights are a great place to do some business networking, and sits next to the mayor.
Finally, “Angel” is called to the ring, and Trent drops Rachel into a smelly, bloody fighting ring, with a large rat named Bloody Baron (HARRY POTTER FAN ALERT!). At some point during the fight, Rachel sees the Baron’s not really trying to kill her, nor she him. And finally—Eureka!—she realizes he’s a bespelled person too. Rachel and the Baron begin working together, both realizing they need to appear “dead” if they have any hope of escape. They bloody each other and fall still, so the fight master has them pulled out of the cage to see if either is still alive so a winner can be declared.
As soon as the chance arises, both Baron and Rachel make a run for it. And, yay, here comes Jenks—he’s been waiting for a chance to rescue her (as has Ivy). Rachel and Jenks head for the kitchen, and hide in a cabinet under the sink whose door was ajar. She realizes there’s a hole around the drain and begins crewing frantically to make it bigger. By pointing with a tootpick-sized piece of wood Jenks has pulled lose trying to “help,” Rachel makes him understand that Bloody Baron needs rescuing too. Jenks guides him to the cabinet, and they barely chew their way out before they’re caught by the rat-sniffing dog. Rachel hears Trent above in the kitchen, sounding unhappy that they got away. Too bad, Trent! Baron and Rachel write “thanks” to each other in the dirt, which Jenks thinks is just too sweet. And so they make their escape.
LET’S CHAT! Okay, did anybody see that coming, really? The first time I read it, my jaw dropped. It’s just too, too clever. What did you think of the rat fights? Are you anxious to find out who Bloody Baron is and why he had been trapped as a rat?