Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P.N. Elrod

Dark and Stormy Knights is an anthology I was looking forward to reading. Previously, I'd only read the work of one author included in this anthology (Ilona Andrews), but you know me... I'm always looking for new authors and new books to add to my list, and I find that an anthology is a great way to get a taste of an author's writing style, or that one series that I've been thinking of reading. 

The first short story "A Questionable Client" by Ilona Andrews is all about the first meeting between Kate Daniels and one of my favorite secondary characters in the Kate Daniels urban fantasy series, Saiman. In this prequel, Kate is still working for the Mercenary Guild and she's sent by them to act as Saiman's bodyguard. Russian mythology is used in this little installment. The story was well developed and the reader gets a great sense of who the characters are in this little short. Saiman in particular is well-defined, and the events here give a clearer and greater understanding of his character. The story itself was both gripping and entertaining in the way I've come to expect from the Andrews writing team. Grade B+

"Even Hand" by Jim Butcher is a short story related to his Harry Dresden series. It's told from Marcone's point of view, a criminal and Dresden's nemesis. In this short, Marcone commits a crime and then proceeds to save Justine and a child from a Mag. I enjoyed this story and Marcone's voice, as well as looking into the world and mind of Dresden's enemies. I've not read this series, although I did watch the television series and I do have the first book to read. I wonderful story from this character's perspective and one that persuaded me to pick up that first Harry Dresden book. Grade B+

Shannon Butcher's "The Beacon" is the story of Ryder, a man whose inheritance is to kill Beacons. Beacons are people who unknowingly open portals into our earthly plane for evil monsters called Terraphages to come and eat and butcher people and entire towns. They are next to impossible to kill, so by killing the Beacon first, Ryder saves thousands of lives. This story had a good concept, however quite a bit was left unexplained. We don't know exactly where this monsters are coming from or why. Some of what happened between Ryder and the Terraphage was muddy and quite confusing and even after re-reading that part of the story I still couldn't quite make sense of it. This was one of the weakest stories in this anthology for me. Grade C-

"Even the Rabbit will Bite" by Rachel Caine was a great story. The last dragon and the last dragon slayer leftover after centuries of battling. The dragon slayer is an old woman and she's training her replacement while keeping an eye on the dragon through a Dragon's Eye. He has been at the Egyptian desert for centuries doing absolutely nothing. I enjoyed both the story and the characters, it was a true knight's tale in many ways. However, I had one question at the end and that was from whose point of view the story was told. Grade B 

The anthology continues with "Dark Lady" by P.N. Elrod. Her contribution is part of her Jack Fleming vampire sleuth series. The series is set in 1930's Chicago and it's all mob related. Jack is asked to help a distressed lady whose fiance has betrayed Gordy, one of the biggest mob bosses in Chicago and Jack's friend. I just loved this short story and Jack Fleming's narrative voice, as well as the intriguing secondary characters. This short story had me at the introduction where Jack explains who he is and says: "Now and then I'll step in, against my better judgment, and attempt to lend a hand; just call me Don Quixote with fangs." This was one of my favorite stories in the anthology, and I've already ordered the first three books in the series. Grade A

"Beknighted" by Deidre Knight was a true knight story and not part of a series. It's all about a knight who sold his soul for Templar-grade gold, a villain, and an artist. I enjoyed all the twists and turns in this story and the way it was developed from beginning to end. Grade B

"Shifting Star" by Vicki Petterson is part of her Sign of the Zodiac series and told from Skamar's point of view. In this short story Skamar is getting used to having a body and being hunted by a Tulpa. She is also fighting an attraction for a flirty neighbor. Young girls have been kidnapped and Skamar and the neighbor, who turns out to be a cop, team up to investigate their disappearance. This was not my favorite story in the anthology. It's obvious that it's part of a series and as a short story it does not stand well on its own. I'm sure all will be clear to those who do read the series, however for this reader the whole world seemed quite confusing. As a result, it was impossible to connect with the characters or care about the story. Grade C

"Rookwood and Mrs. King" by Lilith Saintcrow was another favorite story for me. In this story Rookwood goes after the vampires who attempted to turn him and enlists Mrs. King's help. Mrs. King was betrayed by her own husband, who is now a vampire. This story kept my attention both with the action and the intrigue and I was hoping there would be some books on either Mrs. King or Rookwood. When I couldn't find either, I decided to purchase The Demon's Librarian by Ms. Saintcrow and give that book a try. :) Grade B+

And the anthology ended with "God's Creatures" by Carrie Vaughn, another enjoyable read. This story is part of Ms. Vaughn's Kitty werewolf series, and told from Cormac's point of view. Cormac is called by a farmer whose cattle is being slaughtered by an unknown predator. He proceeds to follow the trail of what he knows is a werewolf to the town's Catholic church. This was a well written story that stands well on its own, where the main character's internal dialogue certainly kept my attention. Grade B

Conclusion: I thought the Dark and Stormy Knights anthology was worth purchasing and an enjoyable read all around. There are definitely some great stories that held my attention, but that will not get me to read the author's work, and others that did. Most of the stories definitely stand well on their own even though they're part of a series, and still other stories are obviously not part of a series and were written for this anthology. However, they all fit well with the Dark and Stormy Knights theme.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: None - Anthology
Released: July 20, 2010
Overall Grade: B

8 comments:

  1. Great review, Hilcia! I find reviews to anthologies far and few between, but I always benefit from them, so thanks for taking the time to review this one!

    I was floored when I saw this one come in on my library's new book list recently, so I am definitely going to pick it up soon.

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  2. I'm getting this from the library too. I know I'll read the Andrews but not sure about any of the others. I'll probably read the Elrod and the Saintcrow. They both sound good. Thanks for reviews each story. :)

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  3. Great review Hils - thank you! I will have to see if my library has it just for the Ilona Andrews novella.

    I'm bad when it comes to anthologies - I only read the novellas I'm interested in!

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  4. Hi Christine. I never thought of that but it's true... not too many reviews for whole anthologies out there. I think its because most people read a few of the stories & the reviews can be long, lol! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Hope you enjoy the book.

    Leslie, I think you'll enjoy those stories. The Rachel Caine "Even the Rabbit Will Bite" is also quite good! My question at the end did not take away from my high enjoyment of that story... it was actually excellent in many ways.

    Thanks Orannia. I think you'll enjoy the Andrews novella. It's as good as the rest of their work.

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  5. Okay, I think I should give this anthology a chance LOL. Well actually, I did already since I bought it... but actually read all the stories in it :D

    Very nice review, Hils :D I'm glad there were so many winner stories for you :D

    So, who are the authors you're going to try now?

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  6. Nath, so you didn't read all the stories yet?

    Well, I'm definitely going to begin the Harry Dresden series, so Jim Butcher for sure. I purchased the first three books in the Vampire Files series by P.N. Elrod (Jack Fleming); and I bought "The Demon's Librarian" (a standalone) by Lillith Saintcrow because I liked her style. :)

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  7. I haven't even started it yet ^_^;

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  8. Oh, well Nath... get to it and let us know what you think! LOL! JK... I hope you enjoy it.

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