Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Strange Brew edited by P.N. Elrod

Strange Brew is a collection of short stories edited by P.N. Elrod.  I picked up this anthology based upon one story written by Patricia Briggs called "Seeing Eye".  Briggs is one of my favorite fantasy authors and I was excited to read her contribution.  In addition to "Seeing Eye" there are stories by Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Karen Chance, P.N. Elrod, Charlaine Harris, Faith Hunter, Caitlin Kittredge and Jenna Maclaine.  With the exception of Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs and Rachel Caine, the authors were new to me so this collection of stories gave me the opportunity to sample their writing in 30 to 40 pages.  Usually an anthology has a theme that connects all of the stories and the theme of Strange Brew is witches and dark magic.
Obviously I was excited to read Briggs' story "Seeing Eye" about werewolf Tom Franklin and witch Wendy Moira Kelley.  Tom and Moira were introduced in "Hunting Ground," the second book in Briggs' Alpha and Omega series. Tom is a police officer and also the second in command of the Seattle werewolf pack.  He has to work with Moira, who just happens to be blind, to solve a crime.  Naturally you would think a blind witch would need extra help (and of course that is just what Tom thinks), but as it turns out Moira is no pushover.  This short story had everything I love about Briggs' writing.  Her female characters may get into trouble but they can usually find a way to save themselves.  She also infuses just enough humor into her writing to cut some of the tension without making a mockery of dangerous situations.  My love for Patricia Briggs began with "Moon Called" the first book in the Mercy Thompson series and has extended to the Alpha and Omega series.

Hello Faith Hunter! Where have you been hiding?  "Signatures of the Dead" by Hunter introduced me to Jane Yellowrock.  A witch and her family are threatened by a group of dangerous (more dangerous than usual that is) vampires.  Enter Jane Yellowrock, vampire hunter, full blooded Cherokee, and skinwalker. Jane isn't a were-anything, she is a woman who becomes another animal (she prefers some type of big cat). Jane has no family to speak of and the threatened witch, Molly, happens to be Jane's best friend.  Although Jane was a supporting character she was by far the most compelling.  After reading this short story I was happy to learn that Jane Yellowrock is the star of her own series starting with "Skinwalker". Fans of Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series should check out Faith Hunter.

I've read several of Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire books, a series written for young adults.  "Death Warmed Over" gave me a chance to sample how she writes for adults.  This is an interesting story about Holly,  a resurrection witch, who takes on a job for the police department.  She is asked to resurrect a man named Andrew because the police need him to solve a crime.  The twist in this story is that this isn't the first time Holly has had to resurrect Andrew and this time the stakes are much higher than before. 

Clearly I enjoy fantasy with strong female characters and a mix of supernatural creatures (werewolves, vampires, witches etc.) and just because the other stories didn't resonate with me doesn't mean they are not worth reading. With that said, I am going to shamelessly plug Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series starting with "Bitten". I discovered Kelley Armstrong in another anthology titled "My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon" also edited by P.N Elrod. If you are looking for someone new to read or a new "favorite author" I highly recommend picking up an anthology.  Think of it as sampling authors like you would ice cream flavors. 

~Amy, Adult Services

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