Dark and Stormy Knights, an anthology edited by P.N. Elrod
I’m so happy that Dark and Stormy Knights is out! I’ve been so excited to read Ilona Andrews and Vicki Pettersson’s stories, and I’m thrilled to report that there are some great stories in here, from the same folks who brought us Strange Brew last year.
The first story in the anthology is A Questionable Client by Ilona Andrews, describing Kate Daniels’ first encounter with Saiman, which means it’s set before the series starts. After putting in a long shift for the Mercenary Guild, Kate’s offered a high-paying bodyguarding gig for a VIP client, a man named Saiman. It’s a long night.
I loved A Questionable Client. I’m a huge fan of author team Ilona Andrews but skill with novels doesn’t always equal skill with short stories. I really enjoyed their entry in Strange Brew, about Kate’s friend Andrea, and this was similarly, if not more, excellent. The plot takes a few twists and turns, and perfectly establishes Kate and Saiman’s future relationship. I particularly enjoyed the resolution of the storyline — I laughed out loud when I read Kate’s line.
The next entry in the anthology is Even Hand by Jim Butcher. Set in the same Chicago as his Harry Dresden stories but told from the perspective of John Marcone, one of Harry’s enemies. It’s been a while since I’ve read a Harry Dresden story – the last book I read was White Night so I’m about three behind – but it was fun to get back into his crazy Chicago. In Even Hand, one of Harry’s acquaintances, Justine, approaches Marcone for help in his capacity as the only mortal fey lord. It was really neat to see everything through the villain’s eyes, and explore his character.
The third story is The Beacon by Shannon K. Butcher. I don’t usually read her stories and so I’m not sure whether or not this is set in her usual world or not. The basic premise is that Ryder Ward hunts Beacons, people who attract Terraphages, creatures that come through to our world for the night and disappear in the morning. Ryder’s usual solution is to kill the Beacon but this time he can’t because the Beacon is a little girl. I didn’t really enjoy this story. I thought it was less imaginative than many of the other stories in this anthology, with fairly flat characters.
Even A Rabbit Will Bite by Rachel Caine is a lot of fun. I’m not a huge Rachel Caine fan, though I did enjoy the first few books in her Weather Wardens series, but this entry has reminded me why I loved her writing once upon a time. Even A Rabbit Will Bite is a great stand-alone story about the last Dragonslayer, Lisel, training her replacement to take on the last dragon. It’s a very well-written piece, with richly described characters and a nice resolution. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this story.
Next up was Dark Lady by P.N. Elrod, another installment in her Jack Fleming series. Though there are full-length novels in the series, I’ve only read Elrod’s short stories and this is probably my favourite so far. There’s a nice plot, a fun ghost, and plot points I didn’t anticipate. Maybe this will be enough to prompt me to borrow her books from the library…
Beknighted by Deidre Knight was probably my least favourite entry in this collection. It’s about a knight trapped in a painting, and the woman who’s going to pull him out of it. I really wasn’t a fan – the plot seemed contrived, the characters weren’t all that engaging, and knowing that the protagonist wears a D cup don’t do much for me.
Shifting Star by one of my favourite authors, Vicki Pettersson, was much more fun. It’s a story about Skamar, the tulpa that Zoe Archer created, and her life away from Jo. It’s an interesting vignette in the Signs of the Zodiac world and I very much enjoyed seeing a different perspective. That being said, Skamar has never really interested me as a character, and it would have been fun if Zoe had been on deck a bit more, but it was cool to see how much of a personality and a conscience Skamar has developed over time.
The second last story in the collection is Rookwood and Mrs. King by Lilith St. Crow. I enjoyed her Dante Valentine series quite a bit, but found the Jill Kismet books to be something a retread, so it’s been a while since I’ve read any of her fiction. (I read her blogs on Deadline Dames.) I wasn’t thrilled with Rookwood and Mrs. King when I started reading it but I thought it was quite good by the end. There’s a neat twist that I appreciated, and really made the story for me.
The last story is God’s Creatures by Carrie Vaughn. It stars Cormac, one of the characters from her Kitty Norville series. I’ve read the first three or four books in the series so he was familiar territory but I didn’t love the story. This could be because I stopped reading the series at its midpoint. Still, it was fun to read something from Cormac’s point of view since he’s so mysterious in the Kitty books I’ve read.
All in all, I’m glad I purchased the anthology. There are some fantastic stories in here and it was a lot of fun to read. I did buy it mainly for the Ilona Andrews and Vicki Pettersson stories and I loved the Ilona Andrews contribution so much that it alone was worth the price of the book!