Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Unbound

 I don't usually read many short stores because I tend to prefer something longer to sink my teeth into.  But I have come to enjoy these anthologies that include work from some of my favorite authors (here, Kim Harrison and Melissa Marr) as well as some authors I am relatively unfamiliar with.  It's a great way to get a taste of a writer's style and possibly find new series to enjoy.  These stories tended to novella length, which I approve of - if I like the story, that is.

The anthology opens with Kim Harrison's "Ley Line Drifter."  It features the pixie Jenks from the Rachel Morgan series.  Rachel is not even in this story, but I didn't mind.  It was fascinating to see the world through Jenks's eyes, and while he can occasionally get on my nerves in the books, I found I liked him more in this story, which portrays him as a more complex character, particularly in his relationships with his wife and children.  The story here is a mystery - he is called upon to help a desperate pixie, whose children are being attacked by something that seems to be possessing a statue near their home.  The story was interesting and suspenseful, but the ending was less than satisfying.

"Reckoning" by Jeaniene Frost is a tale set in New Orleans, and is another supernatural mystery.  This time a hitman vampire named Bones is on the trail of two serial killers who are wreaking bloody havoc during Mardi Gras.  Vampire politics complicate matters, as someone is stalking Bones, and the more he investigates, the more he realizes that nothing is as it seems.  This one held my attention, and the setting was certainly atmospheric, but the characters weren't terribly compelling.  Perhaps if I had been more familiar with other works featuring these characters, I might have been drawn more into the story.

"Dark Matters" by Vicki Pettersson is a story set in the world of her Signs of the Zodiac series.  I have read another story by this author set in the same world, and neither of them has inspired me to run out and start reading the series.  The writing is a bit stilted, and the characters don't seem entirely real to me.  Characters who refer to themselves as superheroes - seriously - make it difficult to suspend my belief through a story.  I also found this one to be fairly predictable - I read through to the end, hoping to be proven wrong, but with no luck.

Jocelynne Drake's "The Dead, the Damned and the Forgotten" is another supernatural mystery.  A vampire named Mira is hunting for the murderer of another vampire - but further murders, some clearly by humans, others by vampires, ensue, muddying the waters.  Cleaning up the situation is paramount, or Mira may lose her territory and have to return to the dreaded Coven.  I found it difficult to care much for Mira's troubles, because her background (and her terror of the coven) were referred to obliquely, and she seemed more interested in solving the murders in order to maintain her control of the territory than for any other reason.  As I am unfamiliar with this author's fantasy setting and characters, I spent the entire story thinking that Mira was a man - I suppose from the way she interacted with the other characters.  It wasn't until the end of the story, when someone calls her a bitch, that I realized she was supposed to be female.  Not that it changed anything, really - but it certainly didn't make it feel like a well-formed story that stands on its own, separate from the series it is derived from.

"Two Lines" by Melissa Marr was my favorite tale in the book, and I'm glad it came at the end, because it was a treat.  This is a standalone story, not connected with her other books, and I think it was the strongest story in the anthology.  It features Eaven, who is a glaistig, a creature from Scottish mythology, but she is resisting the final steps toward becoming like the rest of the women in her family, who kill and feast on humans.  It will take sex or murder to complete the transformation from mortal to immortal, and Eaven is determined to stay human, no matter what sacrifices she must make.  Her life becomes complicated when she begins stalking a serial killer, finding him disturbingly compelling.  The addition of an unwelcome if attractive bodyguard to her life, foisted upon her by her grandmother, complicates matters further.  This one was an exciting tale with compelling characters that I quickly came to care about.

I liked the first and last story in this one, but I wasn't thrilled with the others.  I would recommend it to fans of the contributing authors, but for those looking for a more solid anthology of this kind, I'd recommend On the Prowl, Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, or Holidays are Hell.

Unbound by Kim Harrison, Melissa Marr, Jeaniene Frost, Vicki Pettersson and Jocelynn Drake (Eos ,2009)

Also reviewed at:
Alexia's Books and Such: "This book was a little different for me as I'm already a big fan of all of these ladies, so no new authors to sample. But it is a great selection of stories, so I highly recommend it to all fantasy lovers!"
Beyond Books:  "I suppose overall I was very disappointed in this anthology. How sad."
Bitten by Books:  "As a whole, I really enjoyed the book. As all but the Kim Harrison series is new to me, I was intrigued at the chance to glimpse into the lives of some other memorable characters."
Books and Quilts:  "If you enjoy mythic characters and strong moral characters, then you'll love this book. If you don't like vampires, well maybe not for you."

3 comments:

  1. I read this one a while back. My favourite story was "Ley Line Drifter". In fact, I had to buy more books by this author so I could find out more about the pixies.

    I've added your link to my review.
    http://conestogo.blogspot.com/2009/11/unbound-by-kim-harrison-melissa.html

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  2. I find that the best way for me to read a short story collection is to read one or two stories a day. If I sit down and try to read it all, I get bored...

    Have you read the one Zombies vs Unicorns? I quite liked it...

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  3. Heather - I love it when a story from one of these anthologies leads me to good books by a writer I was unfamiliar with. I'm glad that happened to you! Thanks for adding my link - I've added yours, too. :-)

    Kailana - I think you are right about one or two stories a day. I have another anthology checked out from the library right now - I'll give your method a go. I have Zombies vs Unicorns on my list - it sounds really, really good!

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