The anthologies I've read lately have been hit or miss, as far as the stories go, so I was a bit hesitant to pick up this one. But when I saw stories by Charlaine Harris, Karen Chance and Patricia Briggs, I had to give it a chance - and I'm glad I did. It offers some very compelling tales, all dealing with werewolves and some aspect of the holiday season. I enjoyed stories about some favorite characters and worlds, and I was introduced to some new authors and series, too (because evidently I don't have enough series on my plate at this point and must have more).
Check out the review links below for some great synopses of each of the stories. I particularly enjoyed the first one, by Charlaine Harris, which features Sookie Stackhouse (I really need to reread those and continue on with the series some day), which was sweet with some fun surprises. Patricia Briggs offers a poignant tale about a father and a daughter who are at odds with each other; Carrie Vaughn's story about her character Kitty was great fun and has inspired me to read more of her work; and Karen Chance's story, set in the world of Cassandra Palmer, is an action-packed tale that made me even more impatient to read her next book.
I loved the twisted humor in some of the stories, and my favorite of those was "SA" by J.A. Konrath. It concerns a man who is experiencing blackout periods with disturbing consequences and comes to the conclusion that he must be turning into a werewolf. Not to fear, though - he discovers a shapeshifters hotline. Not that he really, completely believes he's a werewolf, but he calls, just in case. The hotline attendant understands that he is worried about who he might have killed, and tells her that shapeshifters - "therianthropes" - are attracted to evil people, as far as victims go. He asks her if she is a shapeshifter, and she replies that she is a weresquirrel:
"When the moon rises, you turn into a squirrel?"
"A squirrel with buck teeth with a big fluffy tail?"
"That's the one."
Weston wasn't sure if he was supposed to laugh or not.
"Do you shrink? Or stay full size?"
"And you eat people?"
"No, sir. Not all therianthropes are carnivores."
"So, if you don't mind my asking, what do you do when you change?"
"I hoard nuts."
Weston chose his next words carefully.
"Are they...evil nuts?"
"Sir, I'm going to put your sarcasm down to you being on the edge of a nervous breakdown, so I'll ignore it."
If you think that's funny, wait till you get to the part about the Shapeshifters Anonymous meeting!
I loved the great mix of humor, horror, suspense and romance. The same editors produced the anthology Many Bloody Returns, which I'm now looking forward to reading as well. This is a solid anthology that has added a bunch of new authors to my list, and I recommend it.
Wolfsbane and Mistletoe edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P.Kelner (Ace Books, 2008)
Also reviewed at:
Darque Reviews: "Each story is written as a stand-alone, but among them readers will find entertaining additions to some of the most followed series."
Nalini Singh's Weblog: "I loved all the stories - each author's voice is unique and the stories cover the spectrum from dark to laugh out loud funny."
SciFiGuy.ca: "There are more then enough great stories in this collection to recommend it, although it is not quite as strong as last year's anthology."