"The Britlingens Go To Hell" by Charlaine Harris. This story is a bit hard to classify. The story involves two female members of an elite Britlingens guard (who appeared briefly as bodyguards in All Together Dead, Sookie Stackhouse book 7) for hire who accept a contract with a thief on a recovery mission to Hell. The setting is a planet in a futuristic alternate dimension. Translation: hovercrafts and time travel portals.
There are a couple historical cameos that pop up inexplicably in an attempt at comic relief; attempt being the operative word there. And Lucifer himself as the villain is more interested in sadomasochism then anything else. The obligatory hellhounds serve as prison guard dogs.
If I hadn't read Charlaine Harris before, this story would probably have kept me from seeking out her other books. This just feels like she phoned it in. The writing is not good, the characters underdeveloped (even for a novella), and the world convoluted and poorly explained. Since I know that Charlaine Harris is a good author, I'm going to dismiss this effort as a fluke.
Sexual Content: references to sadomasochism and male rape. Anatomical sexual incompatibilities.
2 out 5
"Magic Mourns" by Ilona Andrews takes place in the same world as the Kate Daniels series. While Kate is in a few scenes, "Magic Mourns" focuses on Kate's best friend and fellow Knight in the Order of Merciful Aid, Andrea Nash. I'll admit it up front: I bought this anthology solely to read this story. The Kate Daniels series is hands down one of the best urban fantasy series today. I was a little disappointed when I realized that Kate (and Curran) wouldn't be front and center in this story, but my disappointment didn't make it past the first page.
Of all the stories in this anthology, "Magic Mourns" makes the best use of the hellhound concept using Greek mythology and the most famous hellhound of all: Cerberus. Familiar characters abound here, most notably the werehyena Rafael. He had been pursing Andrea since the previous Kate Daniels book and I loved getting to focus more on that relationship.
I also loved how thoroughly and quickly the complex world of this series and those that inhabit it (Masters of the Dead, The Pack etc) were explained and incorporated into the narrative. Longtime fans and new readers alike should love this edgy, and deeply magical story. And a BIG thank you to Gordon and Ilona for the pretty significant reveal regarding Curran at the end. Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels, book 5) is due May 25, 2010, and for me, the wait just got worse.
*"Magic Mourns" is my pick for best story of the anthology*
Sexual Content: References to rape. Implied sex.
"Angels' Judgment" by Nalini Singh continues her Guild Hunter Series following Angels' Blood. In her Guild Hunter Series, Nalini Singh capitalizes on the two hottest trends in the urban fantasy genre today: vampires and angels. I know I don't normally associate the two, but Nalini makes it work.
Sara wasn't used to feeling sorry for vampires. Her job, after all, was to bag, tag and transport them back to their masters, the angels. -Angels' Judgment
If you're new to this series, the world building here spins traditional angel mythology completely on its head. Forget everything you learned in Sunday school, these angels are lethal beings of unimaginable power as well as the creators (and masters) of vampires. When a vampire tries to buck the system and go AWOL, Guild Hunters are called in to bag & tag them and drag them back to their angelic masters.
"Angels' Judgment" is a prequel to Angel's Blood and focuses on Elena's best friend, Sara. While on the hunt for a rogue Hunter who has been butchering vampires, Sara teams up with smokin' hot Deacon (aka The Slayer) to stop the killer and survive the `angel sanctioned tests' long enough to become the new Guild Director.
I loved the original angels in this world and the strong, yet still feminine, character of Sara. I'm not usually a fan of a lot of romance in short stories or novellas simply because there aren't a lot of pages available to develop a love story with any credibility. That being said, I thought the relationship between Sara and Deacon had more substance than most. I especially liked the scene where she `protected' him at the club.
For me, anthologies are a great way to try out new authors and possibly get hooked on their writing style. From there, good characters and unique world building will always reel me in, and with "Angels' Judgment," Nalini Singh has caught herself another happy reader.
Sexual Content: One brief non-graphic sex scene, one long semi-graphic sex scene, a scene takes place in a gay club without any description.
"Blind Spot" by Meljean Brook takes place in the world of her Guardian Series. Ex CIA operative Maggie Wren (who appeared briefly in Demon Forged) has been working as a `butler' for the vampire Colin Ames-Beaumont (from Demon Moon) when she is sent to rescue his kidnapped niece, Katherine, along with the aid of his nephew, Blake. While not a vampire like his uncle, Blake, though blind, has his own talents that include being able to see through anyone else's eyes. Given the title of this anthology, I'll give you one guess what kind of breed his seeing eye dog is.
Despite having roughly the same amount of pages as the other authors in this anthology, Meljean delivers the best romance of the bunch in "Blind Spot." It drives me nuts in a story when character's stop for `sex breaks' during life or death situations (for example rescuing your sister from her demon kidnapper). Fortunately, while there is a satisfying amount of romantic tension here, both characters have enough self control to put Katherine's life ahead of their own attraction.
I really only had one problem with this story. I would imagine that growing up together, Katherine and Blake would have learned the most effective ways of communicating with each other, given their unique abilities. And I have to think that sign language would have occurred to someone by now. I mean how hard would it be to look at your own hands and even just spell out a message alphabetically?
This was my first time reading Meljean Brooks and I'm now going to have to add myself to her throngs of fans. Her writing, pacing, characters, and world are simply delicious. The next Guardian book, Demon Blood is due out July 6, 2010.
Sexual Content: References to sex.