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Tag Archives: Supernatural

Shadowed Souls

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Edited by: Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes

ROC New York, NY 2016

ISBN: 978-0-451-47499-5

 

This is an anthology that explores that grey space between “good” and “evil”.   The stories tend towards characters most people would perceive as “evil” (or at least “bad”) doing good things.  Alternatively there are stories where the characters are doing “bad” things for “good” reasons or to positive outcomes.

The anthology is marketed to the fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series.  There is a Dresden Files story included (featuring Molly in her new role as Winter Queen).  Here fans of the Dresden series know Molly as a “good guy”.  She is after all the daughter of an Archangel.  However, being a queen in the fairy realm brings with it certain “conditions” and Molly hasn’t read all of the small print.

Jim C. Hines is another featured author in this anthology.  Many people see Hines as the “next” Jim Butcher.  Some of his work does seem like highly elevated fan fiction.  But he is clearly coming into his own and this piece is a good example.  Like Butcher’s story, Hines main character is a woman who is immediately perceived as a “good guy”.  But unlike Molly, Julia’s background isn’t happy and it’s coming back to bite her in the ass.

There does seem to be an attempt to include women authors in this anthology.  A good third of the stories are by women and like Hines and Butcher many of the male authors feature strong female characters.  The stand out female author for me was Kat Richardson.

Her short story, Peacock in Hell, did have a female protagonist, but her male counterpart was at least equally represented and in the end he was the one orchestrating the action.  What I liked about this short story was its potential.  This could easily be the lead in to a series, and one I’m sure I would enjoy.

In this short fiction the world is clearly established.  The setting is vividly drawn.  The dynamic between the characters is an entertaining push and pull.  The supernatural elements are well grounded in an internal logic, apparent even in this limited space.

I like a good anthology and this is a very good collection.  None of the stories fell flat.  All of them really did explore the question of that line between “good” and “evil”.  This fiction is thoughtful and thought provoking.  It’s well written and has a great appeal in the fantasy genre.

 

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Idle Ingredients

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by: Matt Wallace

Tom Doherty Assoc. (Tor)  New York, NY 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-9003-5

I picked this book up at the library because I was struck by the cover.  It was in the “new fiction” section and looked like something I would enjoy.  Stories set in kitchens tend to appeal to me.

I immediately felt like I was coming into the middle of the story.  In effect I was.  This is the fourth book in a series.  The Sin Du Jour (the catering company the books are centered around) series is about the people who work that line between humans and the other “supernatural” races.

This book, although it relied heavily on the characterizations already established in the series, does stand on it’s own – barely.  I got enough sense of the world and the characters to be intrigued by the series.  I suspect if I’d started at the beginning I might well have binged my way through to this book.

The problem is that the storyline is a bridge.  There is clearly an established relationship with the main character, Lena, and the Sin Du Jour.  The opening scenes are set in an entirely different restaurant.  Something happened that made it impossible for Lena to go back to work, so she went away and found work elsewhere.  But someone has come to bring her back.  She needs to return to the catering company to be “safe”.

Thing is there is no sense of what it is that traumatized Lena so severely.  There is also never a real explanation of what danger Lena is in outside of the Sin Du Jour, nor why she would be a target.  All of the pressure that sets up the dynamic for this storyline comes from the series.

Then, as it turns out, there is plenty of danger within Sin Du Jour.  The entire story line is informed by a political drama taking place in the supernatural world.  Again, this is probably better filled out by the rest of the series.  That drama impacts the management structure of Sin Du Jour which of course affects all of it’s employees.  Given that Lena has been forced to return and then is being effectively pushed out by the management changes  she is not having it.

I was just confused.  Why go to all the trouble of finding an employee and bringing her back if management doesn’t really want her there?  The structure of the story was very shaky.  The story line itself flowed well.  The characters were interesting.  The world is exactly up my alley.  Even the crazy cooking (what do you feed sylphs and gnomes?) was creative and fun.

I don’t know if I’ll go back to the beginning and read the series or if I’ll just put it aside.  I’m pretty sure that I would be hooked if I’d started there, but starting in the middle has left an uncertain taste in my mouth.

This was a hard book to stay with, and even harder to review.

Other books in the Sin Du Jour Series:

Envy of Angels  

Lustlocked

Pride’s Spell

 

 

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