Huntress by Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge, Jenna Maclaine

Christine Warren

This was an anthology I picked up at the friend of the library bookstore a while ago and am finally getting off the TBR. It has an author who writes in a way I like (Marjorie Liu), and another who I’ve meant to try (Caitlin Kittredge). The other two authors are new names to me so this was a good way to find out about them.

  • Devils Bargain by Christine Warren – Half-demon, half-human bounty hunter, Lillith Corbin has just one more task to do for the devil Samael – bring him the book the Praedicti Arcanum, which someone stole from him, in three days. Then their deal will be done and her soul will be saved. What she thinks is a simple job becomes complicated when she encounters Aaron Bullard in the middle of stealing back the book, and he tries to stop her.
This was a very straightforward paranormal romance and overall I’d give it an average grade. There was a lot about the story that felt predictable and the focus seemed to be about the hero and heroine getting together with their role in saving the world from apocalypse a means to do so. The part I liked best was the world building – demons and magic are accepted in everyday life, and the way magic and the demonworld worked interested me. What I disliked was the hero and heroine falling in lust at first sight. There was thin reasoning behind having sex and telling instead of showing.
  • Robber Bride by Marjorie M. Liu – Maggie Greene is her community’s tinkerer and fixer. She owns a junk yard in a world that was ravaged by a virus that killed 70% of the population 20 years ago. One day a strange pale man in a motorcycle arrives, and because Maggie has an odd gift she manages to bargain for her life. But that’s not the end of it. The man comes back with friends and steals people from her community, and she thinks they have Trace, an old woman and friend. With a mysterious raven that followed Trace and now follows Maggie, Maggie sets off to follow the band on motorcycles.
This story had a more urban fantasy feel although there is a definite romantic subplot. The writing was excellent, there’s a gorgeous sense of place and lyrical but uncomplicated writing, and I really enjoyed the fairy tale hints – a necklace of teeth, a journey, people who are not as they seem. I finished this one feeling satisfied and happy. Just this story is worth keeping the book. I’m beginning to feel like I would really like if there was a collection of Liu’s short stories, because I tend to enjoy them.
  • Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go (a tale of Black London) by Caitlin Kittredge – Jack Winter is a mage who does odd jobs for people in between gigs with his band. While he was in Scotland with his band he’s approached by a femme fatale with a job – to help her get to the Black so she can kill a demon. Jack is immediately leery, but is not really given a choice in the matter.
The main characters in this urban fantasy story are both very hard and jaded by their past. Jack is a brash and kind of skeevy, and Ava was a bombshell who exploits her sexuality to entrap him. This made them rather unlikeable so I found myself unattached to what was happening to them. I also I haven’t read the Black London books, of which Jack is a character. I think this story is probably easier to understand if you’ve read those books; although I could figure out Jack’s backstory, there are some places where I felt lost by the conversation. The language here was liberally peppered by Britishisms, but I wondered if they were overdone (does anyone use that much slang?). I would say this is a very gritty one with dark characters, dark places, and monsters that are reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth, but perhaps too gritty for my tastes.
  • Sin Slayer by Jenna Maclaine – Cin Craven and The Righteous, a group of vampire warriors, are tasked to take down Jack the Ripper, a demon who is terrorizing vampires in London. When they get there, Cin’s husband Michael is possessed by the demon and Cin must figure out a way to save him.
The author does a good job in getting the reader up to speed on Cin’s backstory and what The Righteous are, which I appreciated because I haven’t read any Cin Craven novels. There are a two already established relationships in the 4 members of The Righteous, and the sexuality between both couples at the beginning felt gratuitous, but perhaps not to those familiar with the books. After the story was moving along, the focus is on capturing Jack the Ripper, and the twist is that he takes over Michael, which Cin is very concerned about. I thought the relationship between Cin and Michael was illustrated well during his possession and Cin’s pained response to it. Overall a decent story.

Overall: There’s a mixture of urban fantasy and paranormal romance in the selection of stories presented in Huntress, and this is a combination that I think is a mixed bag that may work only for fans of both genres. I’m more of an UF reader than a PR one, so with the exception of Robber Bride, the stories in this anthology didn’t really resonate with me. I think this is worth picking up for those who are fans of the authors and related series in the anthology, but outside of that, the stories ranged from “meh” to “very good” and I would only call Robber Bride required reading.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

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They Call Me Death by Missy Jane

They Call Me Death
Missy Jane

I won this over at Scooper Speaks.

The Premise:
Alexia Williams was once a regular wife and mother when shifters suddenly made themselves known to the population and a horrifying war began. After it was over, Alexia’s family was dead and the shifters and humans have settled into separate territories in an uneasy state of relative peace. The Combine Human States (CHS) doesn’t allow any shifters in their lands and Alexia has become a female killing machine, manning the wall that separates the CHS and The Federal Nation of Therianthropes (FNT). Then Andor, a Golden Eagle shifter comes into her life, telling her that it’s not all as she thinks on the human side and he needs her help because shifters are going missing and they think that humans are responsible.

Read an excerpt of They Call me Death here

My Thoughts: I hadn’t really heard about this book until I got it. The cover sort of looks like an urban fantasy and when I started reading it, the story felt like it fell into that category, but as I continued it started to feel more like a paranormal romance. I just looked at the spine (duh, I should have looked before starting), and it says “urban fantasy romance”. It definitely feels like a blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance to me. Also it is only 200 pages so it’s more like a novella than a novel and was a quick read.

It felt like an urban fantasy at first.  The story is told from the first person viewpoint of Alexia, and we learn about her day to day job as a border guard for the Combined Human States Army and that she is a loner known for her uncompromising attitude towards shifters and her job responsibilities. As the book continues, and Andor Olavson is introduced, the book starts going into the paranormal romance territory. At first the relationship progresses slowly and I liked how the author showed the attraction through nervousness on Andor’s part and uncharacteristic trusting on Alexia’s, but then when Alexia fully comes to trust and like Andor, it still felt like it happened a little too quickly. It’s established early on that Alexia saw her husband and child torn apart in front of her by shifters who lived in her neighborhood, and that she had killed many shifters as part of her job. That did not mesh with the Alexia who let’s down her guard so completely in just a few days.

The world building was well done and I wanted to read more about the CHS and the FNT. There’s also a few scenes that illustrated what life was like in the CHS army as a woman surrounded by men that I really liked. Alexia held her own among pedophiles and perverts and men who just like violence. Once Alexia leaves her job to help Andor however, the world building veers towards Andor’s past and more emphasis is placed on their relationship in the story. I felt like there were a few big plot holes that are created because of the relationship. Andor’s explanation for choosing Alexia to help him didn’t make much sense to me – she was Death to shifters but it’s okay because her kills were in self-defense? I don’t know, I was confused. Also Alexia goes from being a confident killer to being very reliant on Andor during a fight – her personality seemed to have gone soft after Andor.

Personal nit: What is up with paranormal romance heroes having hair down to their waist/ass?

Overall: This was OK. A quick novella-length read, world building seems unique and shows promise, and I liked the heroine, but it isn’t quite an urban fantasy, or quite a paranormal romance and that identity crisis could be a problem for readers who prefer one genre over the other.

Buy: Samhain | Amazon | Powells

FNT blog
Missy Jane’s website

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