Anthologies: My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon (2007), By Blood We Live (2009), Dark and Stormy Knights (2010), Death’s Excellent Vacation (2010), Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives (2011)
Working for Devil (2005)
Dante Valentine is a necromance--she is able to visit the realms of the dead and draw spirits back to the world where they can answer questions or communicate again with their loved ones. Although mages and other psis are out and somewhat accepted by the public, necromances still are feared by most of the public. However, they are still needed, and Danny is one of the strongest necromances around--strong enough that she's hired by the devil to track down a rogue demon.
As a heroine, I have to say that Dante is pretty great. She kicks butt, however, that ability comes from hard work, which I always like. Sure, natural ability is good, but hard work is more important. She also has a rough past, but has managed to somehow become a functioning member of society. (Albeit one who isn't really appreciated by most of society.)
As far as the other characters, I really liked the relationships between Dante and Jaf and the way it develops. However, I understood the relationship between Gabe and Danny, but I didn't feel it in the same way. They're best friends, but I don't always feel like I believe it. The other thing that bothered me was the way that Dante never took any time to listen to what people were telling her--even if those things were important. She was consistent about it, but I found it maddening. I wanted to yell at her to take TWO SECONDS and just LISTEN to what people were trying to tell her.
However, the storytelling more than made up for those small frustrations. The book moved along at a quick pace, dragging me along with it, even if I thought I would be better off going to bed or doing some other mundane task. I also liked how we piece together the world and Danny's past. We don't quite learn everything, but we pick up enough bits and pieces to learn what Danny's childhood was like (bad) and what the world she lives in is like. (Further advanced than ours. Plus magic.) There was a lot of technology, but it wasn't overwhelming enough to bug me (I don't know why, but most science fiction grates on my nerves. Probably because technology annoys me enough in real life--I don't want to deal with it in my escapism.)
There is also some sex, however, it's not a lot, and it's not overwhelming. It might not be appropriate for younger readers.
Another thing that was done well is that although the story arc was concluded, there were plenty of openings for new stories. I'm a big fan of well done series where each story arc is concluded within a single book, but the characters and the story continue from book to book. My favorite!
Dante Valentine is a good, strong heroine, the story is fast paced, and the writing is good. If you like supernatural fiction, then I highly recommend Working for the Devil.
Dead Man Rising (2006)
Dante Valentine has been taking on case after case to try and forget what happened to her in Rio. Unfortunately for her, it’s not working. She and Jace are keeping busy–and she’s all but running Jace into the ground–but she still can’t keep Japh off her mind.
Things get even worse when her friend Gabe calls her in to help with a case–one of the four necromances in the city has been brutally murdered, and Gabe can’t reach her and hopes Danny can.
Things get even worse when Danny realizes she’s going to have to deal with part of her past that she thought she’d buried so deep it’d never come up.
I read the first book, Working for the Devil over a year ago, ordered the second book in the series, and then somehow never got around to reading it. A discussion with a friend reminded me that I had Dead Man Rising and hadn’t yet read it, so I picked it up.
As I’ve wondered about other books, what the heck was I waiting for? Now I have to admit that the last book I finished was a little bit of a disappointment, so I was ready to be taken in by fast pacing and good writing. But it’s more than that. This story is very well written. The underlying mystery is good, and the characters are better than I remember from the first book.
Dante is still bitchy and unpleasant, but she has reason to be. And IIRC, one of the things that annoyed me about her in the first book was that she refused to listen to anyone else. That wasn’t a problem in this book. Not that it does her a lot of good, but she tries to listen, and even though it’s very difficult for her, she tries to share–as best she can–with those around her.
One thing I particularly liked is that the book did a very good job dealing with a very difficult subject, and that is the abuse of children by an authority figure. She also did a very good job of making you feel what the characters were feeling–something that not all authors are good at.
It’s been a year, so the fine details of the first book are vague in my mind, but I was able to jump right into the story despite that. Does this mean you could read Dead Man Rising without having read the first book? I think you probably could.
The Devil’s Right Hand (2007)
Dante Valentine has been living in Toscano with Japhrimel, slowly recovering from the events in Dead Man Rising. Unfortunately for her, relaxation and recovery are about to come to a screeching halt when she receives a summons from the Devil himself.
This book had a very different feel from the previous two books in the series. First and foremost, there was a tremendous amount of world building. We know from the previous two books that Danny’s world is different from ours, but in this book we start to get a good look at precisely how different that world is from our own. The book also has a glossary and supplementary materials that give us a hint of what is happening, but doesn’t clarify Danny’s situation very much. It also provides “supplementary reading” in the back that gives us a bit more world building and history than we get in the book. I can’t think of a book I’ve read that does this much world building in the third book in the series.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons we’re getting a lot of world building is because the series has shifted from self-contained books to a series with more the feel of a trilogy. Essentially, the story arc did not end with this book, but instead ramps up for what looks to be a long series where things are not going to be wrapped up for quite awhile.
I’m not thrilled about this.
I have the fourth book in the series, but will out of reading it for awhile, because it looks like things are not going to be resolved for quite awhile. (Looks like I’ll be checking the reviews to see if this story arc is going to wrapped up any time soon.
As far as the story, the Danny in this book reminded me of the Danny in the first book. She seems to be bitchy and cranky just for the sake of being a bitch. Yes, her life is in turmoil, but she seems to react in the worst possible way–knowing while she is acting that she’s doing the wrong thing. This makes it very difficult to like Danny. I know she’s still suffering tremendously from the events in the past book, but it’s hard not to want to tell her to STOP being so frustrating and annoying.
What I did get in this book was a sense of how alien Japhrimel truly is. Which does to some small degree explain why Danny is so frustrated with him, but it takes half the book to get to this point, unfortunately.
If you have not read the previous two books, I am uncertain as to whether you could dive into the series at this point. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of world building, but as I said, Danny is very difficult, and knowing what she had gone through in the previous books did make it easier to deal with. Jumping into the series at this point, you’d be missing that background, and might not be as willing to be patient with Danny. But it could just be me.
As I said, it was a good book, but I did have several issues with it, and am not sure when I’m going to read the next book in the series.
This was a very mixed bag. Some of the stories were good, some I could barely stand to finish, and in fact, put this anthology down several times, for something (anything?) I liked a little more.
Part of the problem is that several of the stories were tied strongly into a series, so I either had trouble following what was going on or there was zero character development, since it’s all happening in the series.
“Half of Being Married” by Lilith Saintcrow was okay, but the characters kept making pronouncements along the line of, “that’s it, I’m divorcing you immediately” in what seemed to be real anger, and then they’d boink, and then they’d be back to insults and threats of divorce. I really don’t think that was a relationship that would last very long. I also didn’t think much of the magical agency for which she worked, or for her lack of common sense in refusing to call and tell anyone what they discovered.
So, I generally found this a disappointment. If you’re following the series, then it might be okay, but very few of the stories seemed to stand well on their own.
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
By Blood We Live (2009) edited by John Joseph Adams
Snow, Glass, Apples - Neil Gaiman
The Master of Rampling Gate - Anne Rice
Under St. Peter’s - Harry Turtledove
Child of an Ancient City - Tad Williams
Lifeblood - Michael A. Burstein
Endless Night - Barbara Roden
Infestation - Garth Nix
Life is the Teacher - Carrie Vaughn
The Vechi Barbat - Nancy Kilpatrick
The Beautiful, The Damned - Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Pinecones - David Wellington
Do Not Hasten to Bid Me Adieu - Norman Partridge
Foxtrot at High Noon - Sergei Lukyanenko
This is Now - Michael Marshall Smith
Blood Gothic - Nancy Holder
Mama Gone - Jane Yolen
Abraham’s Boys - Joe Hill
Nunc Dimittis - Tanith Lee
Hunger - Gabriela Lee
Ode to Edvard Munch - Caitlín R. Kiernan
Finders Keepers - L.A. Banks
After the Stone Age - Brian Stableford
Much at Stake - Kevin J. Anderson
House of the Rising Sun - Elizabeth Bear
A Standup Dame - Lilith Saintcrow
Twilight - Kelley Armstrong
In Darkness, Angels - Eric Van Lustbader
Sunrise on Running Water - Barbara Hambly
Hit - Bruce McAllister
Undead Again - Ken MacLeod
Peking Man - Robert J. Sawyer
Necros - Brian Lumley
Exsanguinations - Catherynne M. Valente
Lucy in Her Splendor - Charles Coleman Finlay
The Wide, Carnivorous Sky - John Langan
One for the Road - Stephen King
I can’t help myself–I love anthologies. And fantasy anthologies with writers who write their fantasy with a healthy does of mystery? Sign me up! All anthologies have high and low points, but overall this was a fairly strong group of stories.
Lilith Saintcrow‘s story, “Rookwood & Mrs. King” was a vampire story, only without the romantic swoony vampires. Which was a nice change. A woman asks Rookwood to kill her husband, and Rookwood starts to refuse until she tells him her husband is undead and haunting her.
Yes, there were other stories, but they weren’t particular favorites. but the stories mentioned above are well worth the price of the book, especially if you’ve not read stories by these authors before.
Published by St Martin’s Griffin
Mind you, I wasn’t impressed enough with the list of authors to pay full price (this still isn’t out in paperback yet?!) but there were plenty of used copies floating around, which is how I got my fix.
I’m sometimes hit or miss with Lilith Saintcrow, but I very much enjoyed The Heart Is Always Right. A gargoyle is getting ready to go on vacation when events intercede and he has to do the one thing he has been raised to do.
So, a pretty good collection. As always there were stories I didn’t like, but most of them were simple a conflict of taste rather than bad stories. But really, it’s been two and a half years. How is this not out in paperback already?
Published by Ace
Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives (2011)
edited by Justin Gustainis
“Little Better than a Beast: A Marla Mason Story” by T. A. Pratt
“Dusted: A Cosa Nostradamus Story” by Laura Anne Gilman
“The Demon You Know… A Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom Story” by Julie Kenner
“The Spirit of the Thing: A Nightside Story” by Simon R. Green
“Holding the Line: A Jill Kismet Story” by Lilith Saintcrow
“Defining Shadows: A Detective Jessi Hardin Story” by Carrie Vaughn
“Deal Breaker: A Quincey Morris Story” by Justin Gustainis
“See Me: A Smoke and Shadows Story” by Tanya Huff
“Soul Stains: A Vampire Babylon Story” by Chris Marie Green
“Under the Hill and Far Away: A Black London Story” by Caitlin Kittredge
“An Ace in the Hole: A Sazi Story” by C. T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
“Hell Bound: A Hell on Earth Story” by Jackie Kessler
“Impossible Love: A Piers Knight Story” by C. J. Henderson
“Running Wild: An Outcast Season Story” by Rachel Caine
This was, as sometimes happens, a mix of stories I liked and didn’t like, though there wasn’t any particular story I thought was terrible. Just stories that were more or less to my personal taste. There were also several stories I had previously read.
“Holding the Line: A Jill Kismet Story” by Lilith Saintcrow. I am unfamiliar with Jill Kismet’s world, and I can’t say I understand it much better following this story. There was a fair amount I didn’t understand, which got in the way of my enjoyment of the story.
All an all, an interesting anthology, and would I can easily recommend–especially if it’s still only $3.
Published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
Hex Appeal (2012) edited by P.N Elrod
Retribution Clause - Ilona Andrews
Bigfoot on Campus - Jim Butcher
Holly's Balm - Rachel Caine
Snow Job - Carole Nelson Douglas
Outside the Box - P.N. Elrod
How Do You Feel? - Simon R. Green
There Will Be Demons - Lori Handeland
Cherry Kisses - Erica Hayes
The Arcane Art of Misdirection - Carrie Vaughn
I bought the anthology first and foremost because it had an Ilona Andrews story, “Retribution Clause”.
I love Ilona Andrews.
This story is set in the same damaged world as her Kate Daniels series, however, it’s set in Philadelphia, so there were no appearances by familiar characters (although Saiman was name checked).
Adam Talford and his partner Siroun work for POM Insurance. Neither is human, but we’re never told what Siroun is. They’re given an emergency case, and told that the company can’t afford there to be too many casualties. And that’s about it.
This was a very interesting story. If it weren’t for the fact that I track very closely what they have coming out, I’d think this was going to be the start of a new series, but, it isn’t, so enjoy it for what it is. A fun story.
The second author I bought the book for was Carrie Vaughn. Her story, “The Arcane Art of Misdirection,” is set in her Kitty the werewolf world, and Odysseus Grant makes an appearance. Like the Ilona Andrews story, there was no sex.
The last author I bought the series for was Simon R Green. I love Nightside, and “How Do You Feel” is a Nightside story.
Dead Boy is wandering around, getting into trouble and trying to feel something (anything really) when Walker tells him him information about the man behind his death, who caused him to become Dead Boy. I really liked learning Dead Boy’s story. But then, I love Nightside.
No sex, but we learn about Dead Boy’s girl friend finally.
P.N. Elrod’s story “Outside the Box” was another boink free story, and although it’s set in the same world as her Vampire Files series, it’s in the current time, and the magical and undead world have caught up with the times.
I quite enjoyed this story.
Jim Butcher’s story, “Bigfoot on Campus” had lots of boinking, but it wasn’t, well, it didn’t involved Harry Dresden, and it wasn’t particularly romantic. It reminded me quite a bit of the Buffy episode “Where the Wild Things Are,” which I admit wasn’t one of my favorites, but I found this story interesting.
“Holly’s Balm” by Rachel Caine was okay, but I am unfamiliar with that world, and felt kinda lost through some parts of the story. Lots of sex. Lots of thinking about sex.
Not really my thing.
The Carole Nelson Douglas story reminded me why I quit reading her Delilah series.
I read a few pages into “Cherry Kisses” and moved along to the next story, and “There Will be Demons” I speed read through.
But all in all, it was well worth the price of admission for the stories I did like.
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin