Reading the foreword is moving and sets the tone for this entire book. I picked this book up mostly because I saw Asil's next date story by Ms. Briggs and that Anne Bishop plus Chloe Neill have stories in this book. How could I pass this up? I dived into the first story ... and fell completely flat on my face and didn't like the book. Devasted, I decided to go straight to the author I wanted to read first. Ms. Brigg's here I come!
Little Things by Jim Butcher kicks off the collection from the viewpoint of a Pixie. I believe this is part of the Dresden files and Harry is an auxiliary character here. Perhaps it is because I haven't read the series that this story did nothing for me. I found the concept interesting. The storyline was good. It is very well written. I just didn't like the story at all. None of the characters did it for me and the dialogue was hard for me to get through. Disheartened, I quickly decided to read only the female authors. I am biased towards reading only female authors. I am posting these in the order I read them.
Dating Terrors by Patricia Briggs
Oh my goodness! Asil! What is happening here? Is this the last of the blind dates? I've read the other ones and they had me chuckling like a loon. I loved this story. It is so smooth and I really liked Asil and his wolf working together for once. I am so eager to see what can happen next with Asil. With this awesome story with Asil being the black knight to save the day, I excitedly dived into the next author I wanted to read.
The Dark Ship by Anne Bishop
Wow. I loved this novella in the world of the Others. The human interaction with terra indigene is fantastic here. Little has been said about what happened when the terra indigene took action against the humans in Cel-Romano. This short story gives a grim glimpse into the continued atrocities humans perpetuate. This time, it is focused on themselves. Wonderfully written and appeals to all things I love about this universe. Definitely a winner for me. On to the next author I eagerly wanted to read.
Comfort Zone by Kelley Armstrong
For those familiar with the Otherworld series and its spin-off, this story may make a little more sense. For someone like me who read the Otherworld series so long ago, it took a little bit for my brain to catch up and figure out what was going on. I am guessing it can be read as a standalone but some of the back histories would enhance the experience better. Two teenagers are trying their best to survivor what happened to them. This is a growth piece for them as they learn they can move on and start making a difference.
Silverspell by Chloe Neill
Into the world of the Heirs of Chicagoland, we get to see more of Elisa and Connor. I do like this couple together. They solve a serial killing and it foreshadows something else coming up. This story excites me. I wonder what will happen in the next book in the series. Ms. Neill also brings forth an interesting question. What happens if what seems like an atrocity is what is needed to save the world? What if it is a sacrifice of a few for the greater good? This is an anathema concept for most of North America and a few other Western thinking countries. I love this kind of theme.
The Return of the Mage by Charlaine Harris
What is this delicious new world? This is patently different than other stories I have read by Ms. Harris and I am floored. I loved this new world and I want more. I hope this is a glimpse into a new series. Or if it is an existing one and I somehow seemed to have missed it, point me in the right direction! This is a tightly woven story that captured my attention with interesting characters and a slight plot twist.
The Vampires Karamazov by Nancy Holder
Ms. Holder is a recognizable name and I have read her before in another anthology. Then I also recalled she wrote a Buffy the Vampire Slayer trilogy. I do love BtVS. This story follows a couple of others in this collection with a dark backdrop. These characters are more anti-heroes and one Blacksheep who is kind of a hero at the end. There seems to be more to this story that the reader is unaware of and makes the story feel a bit unfinished. Or that we are dropped in the middle of an act and then whisked away before we can be fully immersed.
Now that I have read through all the names I recognized and wanted to read, let's dive into the remaining ones.
The Necessity of Pragmatic Magic by Jennifer Brozek
New-to-me author Ms. Brozek pens a world where witches blend in with normal humans and none the wiser. Or at least that is how it seems. I enjoyed the conflict here and it reminded me a little bit of the plot line for Wonder Woman 1984. I prefer what is written here by Ms. Brozek over that travesty of a movie. The two witches uniting to end an ancient evil is a nice showing of women working together instead of competing jealously against each other.
Troll Life by Kerrie L. Hughes
This is a gem and I loved the concept, the story, the characters - everything about it. I looked her up and good ole trusty Goodreads showed that I read something from her back years ago in another anthology. It appears Ms. Hughes focuses on short stories added into collections. If she ever decides to write a full novel, I would love to read what she comes up with based on the world she's created in this one. It is charming and intriguing.
Train to Last Hope by Annie Bellet
This one moved my heart to tears. The loss of a child is never easy. It either brings couples closer together or breaks them. This one is both of these and yet not. I cannot describe how beautifully written this story is and it reminds me a little bit of how Patricia McKinley wrote Deerskin. I loved that book and I cherish this story. This is an unexpected piece of an unresolved missing child that finally receives closure. New-to-me Author Ms. Bellet wows me and I want to read more of her writing.
Grave Gambles by R.R. Virdi
Full disclosure, not only did I not know this author but I didn't know their gender either. So I picked this book next and it isn't until I looked the author up to write my review did I know the author is a male. I loved this story. I liked the characters and the concept. It is kind of a Quantum Leap concept except to right the injustice perpetrated by supernaturals. This is a hard-hitting and fast-paced story. I am intrigued and need to pick up his series, The Grave Report.
Fire Hazard by Kevin Hearne
Yes, yes, I do know who author Kevin Hearne is and yes, I'm well aware of what he writes. I haven't read anything by him as I tend to shy away from male authors with my very CONSCIOUS bias. I may have to revise my stance and make an exception for Mr. Hearne. If his writing of the Iron Druid is like this short story, I am going to probably like him. I loved this story and it is a great finish to an overall amazing collection. This story is told from the point of view of a dog. It is phenomenal and I loved the humour in the dire situation. All I can say is... I hope Oberon receives his ass candle. He is a good doggy. The best doggy.
This collection hit it out of the ballpark for me with the majority of the stories. I highly recommend this to sci-fi/fantasy lovers who want a book filled with the underdog facing adversity.
*provided by NetGalley