1) Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews: This is the third story in the anthology but I read it first. 🙂
The Premise: This is a story set in the same world as the Kate Daniel series, but this time the first person narrator is Kate’s best friend, Andrea. Andrea is filling in for Kate one day, when a call comes in about a member of the Atlanta Pack being chased after by a giant, three-headed hound. Andrea goes out to help and is dismayed to find Raphael, a were-hyena is the Pack member in trouble. Raphael has been pursuing Andrea for a while but Andrea is afraid he’s only interested in her for her novelty, not for herself.
My Thoughts: It’s probably better to have read the Kate Daniels series before reading this short story because much of the back story on Andrea’s origins and her relationship with Raphael is in those books, but that’s also reiterated in this story, so it’s not hard to understand what’s going on. I thought Andrea’s personality was similar to Kate’s (independent woman, hiding something, and doesn’t trust easily), but her voice was different enough from Kate’s (more wry humor I think) to make the story interesting. I enjoyed reading this one, because the pacing was just right to me, with a good balance of urban fantasy action and romance. I could savor it slowly. The reader already knows what will happen between Andrea and Raphael, especially if you’ve been following the Kate Daniels series, but it’s satisfying anyway. I also liked how well the story intersects with the Kate Daniels series and reveals a couple of things for people paying attention, but you don’t have to have read that series to follow this story (and there are no spoilers).
Overall: I’m a big fan of Ilona Andrews so no surprise: I liked this story a lot. A must read for Kate Daniel’s fans.
P.S. Is anyone else noticing some re-occurring themes in Andrews stories? Like the protection of children? Not that this is a complaint, I just find it interesting.
2) The Britlingens Go to Hell by Charlaine Harris: This is the first story in Must Love Hellhounds, and by one of the two headlining authors (the other is Nalini Singh).
The Premise: Batanya and Clovache are both part of the Britlingen Collective, highly trained bodyguards for hire, who are assigned an unusual client. Crick wants Batanya and Clovache to protect him in Hell while he retrieves an item that he’d been hired to steal but he was caught the first time he was there.
My Thoughts: It’s a quirky, odd tale and not quite what I was expecting from Charlaine Harris. It takes some time to figure out who the Britlingens are and they use a combination of high tech and magic for their jobs, and hell is a bizarre place with a mixture of mythical creatures in it. Their client and others they run into are oddball people, and the whole tale uses a rather cheerful, matter of fact tone no matter what is happening. An example of bizarre is that someone has 2 penises. TWO PENISES!! It’s half-funny and half-I-don’t-know-what.
Overall: I’m not sure if this will appeal to everyone depending on their sense of humor or level of tolerance for the off-beat. I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t love it either. So I suppose it was in the “OK” to “good” range for me.
3) Angels’ Judgment by Nalini Singh: Set in the same world as Singh’s Angel series, this story centers on vampire hunter Sara Haziz.
The Premise: Sara Haziz’s job is to bring back runaway vampires to their angel masters. Her latest retrieval is of a vampire whose head was almost cut off. Word is that a rogue hunter who has killed other vampires this way is responsible, and Deacon, the Slayer, is brought in.
My Thoughts: This was a straightforward whodunit with two ass-kicking characters and romance between them. The world building was interesting, and I didn’t have any problems following what was going on even though I haven’t read any of the novels set in this world yet. I couldn’t tell where this novella fit in the timeline of the Angels’ series though. At first I thought it was after Angel’s Blood, the first book, and was concerned that I was being spoiled, but then later on it sounded like Elena, Sara’s best friend and the heroine of the series, hadn’t met an archangel yet, so maybe this novella is supposed to happen before the series starts. The biggest issue I had with this was the repeated references to the sexual attraction of the two main characters, which made the romance very physical and not mental enough for me. Deacon bluntly tells Sara he wants to take her to bed within a very short time of knowing her and they pretty much sleep together while on a job together. In the middle of their investigation when Sara is going to be the next hunter Guild Director? I also found it silly that Deacon was so big that he couldn’t fit into Sara’s car and had to follow on his motorcycle. Other than my inability to suspend disbelief at these things (and I think I’m in the minority from what I’ve seen), the story itself was relatively enjoyable.
Overall: Not bad but the romance was too predictable and physical for my tastes, but I think it would appeal to those who like a little steam in their stories.
The Premise: Maggie is the equivalent of a butler for a very wealthy and powerful family, and her boss happens to be a vampire. When Maggie’s employer’s niece, Katherine, is kidnapped in New York, Katherine’s brother, Goeffrey Blake goes to get her, but he runs into some trouble and Maggie is sent over. Maggie and Geoff must work together (along with the family’s hellhound, Sir Pup) to find his sister.
My Thoughts: I haven’t read the Guardian series, but I have read another novella set in this world in the Wild Thing anthology. I remember liking the worldbuilding in that story, but this one is even better. I think this author has grown, and I’m impressed! I felt like I was seeing Geoff and Maggie get to know one another and that although they each had an interest in each other they were aware that finding Katherine was more important. The attraction is shown more subtly, like their mutual curiosity for each other, and in gestures, like Maggie’s quick looks everywhere but pauses on Geoff’s mouth and hands. Meanwhile, Geoff’s thoughts reveal that he has known and thought about Maggie far before they ever met, which pulled me in because I wanted to know why and how that happened. The fantasy elements, such as Sir Pup the shape-shifting hellhound, and interesting abilities (really cool but I don’t want to spoil you), were unique and fascinating but also help along the story. I adored Sir Pup, the half-scary chaperone and comic relief.
Overall: Really enjoyable blend of the fantastic and romantic. I liked this more than I expected to: it ties with the Ilona Andrews novella as my favorite in this anthology.
The Good, The Bad, and The Unread – I think I consistently have a very different opinion from this reviewer, just like now, but we agreed on the Meljean Brook story. She’s also misinterpreted Andrea and Raphael’s relationship prior to when the novella takes place, IMHO.
Literary Escapism – I’m somewhat in line with her thoughts, but probably liked the Singh story less than she did.
Smexy Books – Same as above.
Shaymless Aymless at Babbling about Books and More – also in line with LE and Smexy books