urban fantasy


A collection of novellas and short stories set in these writers’ own worlds, except for Marr.

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Publication year: 2009
Page count: 358
Publisher: EOS

Originally, I bought this collection for Drake’s story because I love her Dark Days series. The only one I haven’t read before is Marr. All of these stories assume that the reader is familiar with the world and the characters.

Ley Line Drifter by Kim Harrison: The main character in this story is the pixie Jenks who is Rachel’s main sidekick in the Hollows series. A strange pixie enters his home but the pixie is there ask for help and not try to challenge him. After thinking it over, Jenks agrees to try to help him.

I love Jenks and this a great story about him. However, it’s further along the series than I’ve read and refers to things I don’t know about. Also, Harrison doesn’t open the world or the characters at all but assumes that the reader is familiar with the violent world of the pixies in the Hollows series. Also, the story is left unresolved.

Reckoning by Jeaniene Frost: the main character in this story is the vampire Bones. New Orleans’ vampire queen summons him. Her closest minion gives Bones the task of killing a pair of ghouls who eat their victims alive. Also, another vampire is hunting Bones.

Bones is a very powerful and charming vampire and uses his powers of seduction and intimidation to the max. He’s the main love interest in the Night Huntress series but carried this story alone well. Also, I think this story stood alone better.

Dark Matters by Vicki Pettersson: This is the story of the parents of Pettersson’s Signs of the Zodiac series. A superhero has an affair with a supervillain. They know from the start that their relationship is doomed because they can’t alter their behavior or destiny. But they’d drawn together anyway.

I really don’t care for the way that the characters are born to good or evil in Pettersson’s series, so the story didn’t work for me.

The Dead, the Damned, and the Forgotten by Jocelynn Drake: Fire Starter vampire Mira is the Keeper of her town of Savannah. Most supernatural people in her town know to keep their secrets from human eyes. When a vampire is killed and left for humans to find, Mira has a big problem in her hands, especially when another vampire comes to town, intending on dragging Mira to Venice for punishment if she can’t solve the murder quickly.

This was a great Mira story, set right before the series starts. It gives her and her second in command Knox relationship a little bit more depth. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed.

Two Lines by Melissa Marr: this is apparently her first adult supernatural thriller. Eavan was born to a family of monsters, the glaistig, who feat of sex and death. Eavan doesn’t want to be a monster like them, she wants to stay a human. So she has avoided both so far. But now she’s become obsessed with a very attractive drug dealer who is drugging young women senseless and selling them. Eavan wants to stop that but doesn’t want to kill him and is very attracted to him. The matriarch of her family, Nyx, wants to turn Eavan to a full glaistig and forces a very attractive bodyguard on her. The bodyguard, Cillian Owens works for Crypto Drug Administration and knows something about the supernatural world. However, he’s less than thrilled when Nyx bribes and threatens him to become Eavan’s bodyguard. But he takes his job very seriously. Eavan is also very attracted to Cillian and doesn’t want him to get to any danger because of her.

This was an entertaining story with a lot of sexual tension.

These were entertaining stories but I’m not sure how well the first four will open to readers who aren’t familiar with the series.

The third book in the Casino Witch humorous fantasy cozy mysteries.


Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Page count at Goodreads: 189

About a year ago, Ella’s dad was murdered and she found out that she’s a mage. Her father’s death is still a mystery but she doesn’t have any clues about who did it. She doesn’t have any memories of her mom. She also doesn’t know why her dad kept her a secret from everyone in the magical community or why he didn’t tell her that she’s a mage. Her dad’s old friends Badger and Bear agreed to train her. About six months ago, Ella declared herself a Monza, a follower of “old way” who must stay celibate. She did it to get out of the clutches of mage law. She had, and still has, feelings for handsome, if aloof and unfriendly, security consultant Vin.

For six months, Ella has been training or rather burying all her feelings in training. She’s also pushed her best friend Vanessa to train with her. But now Vanessa is putting her foot down. Her mother who is Ella’s teacher, is away for a week. Ella has pushed them to go through all the exercises in just couple of days and Vanessa wants to stop doing them.

Their friend Natasha comes to Ella’s loft. Natasha has her own comedy show in on the casinos. Two of the women working in her show have left and she needs help. Vanessa jumps at the chance but Ella hesitates. She wants to keep practicing.

After Vanessa and Natasha leave, Ella’s tutor Bear stops by. Apparently, the girls from Natasha’s show haven’t left: they’re dead from drug overdose. Bear wants Ella to investigate. Ella agrees and a job at the comedy show is a great way to go undercover. However, she decides to keep the investigation secret even from Vanessa.

This is a more serious entry in the series. While we still get wild antics from Patagonia, Ella’s huge black familiar cat, there aren’t many other jokes or humor, especially compared to the previous book which was set in a hilarious cheese convention. Ella investigates the overdose with a drug which seems to affect only mages. Also, a handsome new love interest appears. The mystery around Ella’s dad and childhood deepens, though.

While I didn’t enjoy the plot as much as in the previous book, I did enjoy the characters and quite a lot of other things, like the descriptions of Ella performing on the comedy show. She thought it would be just a small thing but it’s really not and panicked at first. Vin doesn’t appear much which is good because I can barely stand him. Natasha is a great character and I’d like to see more of her.

The first book in the urban fantasy series Santa Olivia. Can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2009
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours 51 minutes
Narrators: Susan Ericksen

I freely admit that I had pretty high expectations from this book. Based on reviews I expected it to be an unconventional superhero book. The ideas were good but unfortunately, it didn’t really work for me.

The main character, and the third person narrator, is Loup Garron who was born and raised in the small town of Santa Olivia. It’s set in a future (or alternate reality from ours) where there is a demilitarized zone between Mexico and Texas. Santa Olivia is in that zone and it’s inhabitants are prisoners in their own town: they can’t leave and their access to the outside world is limited. The US military controls the town. Apparently, the rest of the world don’t even know that town exist and the town’s name was even changed to Outpost number 12. The only entertainment they really have are boxing matches. Sometimes the town’s champion can box against the military champion and if the town’s man wins, he wins a ticket out of the town. Nobody has ever won. Oh, and US doesn’t have female soldiers anymore.

The story starts before Loup is born, with her mother Carmen as the POV character. She has flings with some guys, essentially living off them because her waitress job doesn’t really pay enough. She falls in love for the first time and the man dies, leaving her with a little boy, Tommy. Six years later she meets and falls in love with a deserter, Martin, who turns out to be a genetic experiment. He has really dense muscles and he doesn’t know fear. For a few months Carmen hides Martin and they have mind-blowing sex. Martin is supposed to be infertile but isn’t. In the end, a jealous local turns Martin in and he must flee. Carmen stays in town with Tommy.

Before Martin left, he told Carmen and Tommy that they must keep Loup safe. She can’t do it herself because she won’t know fear. She will also be faster than humans and stronger. Throughout her childhood, Loup must always be on guard to hide her abilities.

Carmen raises the two kids but she dies when Loup is fourteen. Tommy is old enough to get a job and also practices boxing so that he could take Loup out of Santa Olivia. Loup goes to the local orphanage where she has a hard time keeping her secret.

This is essentially a coming-of-age story and focuses on the people around Loup, on overcoming hardship more than actual fights. It only has a few fight scenes. A couple of times Loup and her friends act like vigilantes against men who have wronged the townspeople. But mostly it deals with her growing up: getting friends, dealing with her mom’s death, her awakening sexuality. Through it all, Loup must keep her secret or the military will drag her away. It has romance, especially near the end but the romance isn’t the focus of the story.

To me, Loup felt a very composed character. She rarely has strong emotions. Her main motivation is to keep the people around her safe and herself out of trouble. Of course she makes mistakes, she’s a teenager. She knows that she’s different from everyone else and dreams of escaping the town and finding her father.

The book has an interesting cast of characters. Loup’s big brother Tommy is very protective of her but he’s also single-mindedly focused on winning the boxing championship. I quite liked him but didn’t like what happened to him, but I guess it was inevitable. Another strong secondary character is the boxing teacher who is an older man and apparently knows the military commander quite well.

A larger cast develops when Loup goes to the orphanage. I found them to be an interesting mix and enjoyed them a lot.

The first book in the Templar Chronicle urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: ebook
Page count on GoodReads: 306
Publisher: Harbringer Books

Cade Williams in the Knight Commander of his own elite team of Knight Templar. The Echo team has a reputation for getting things done, but Cade himself is called the Heretic and many of the deeply religious knights fear him and think he’s damned.

One of those knights is Knight Lieutenant Sean Duncan. He’s the head of the protetive detail for one of the leaders of the order. One of the knights’ stronghold is attacked bytsupernatural forces and every knight is killed and the graveyard is desecrated. Duncan’s superior calls in the Echo Team. The team is missing one member and Cade chooses Duncan to replace the dead man. Reluctantly, Duncan agrees but he’s very suspicions of Cade from the start.

Cade has suspicions on just what has attacked the stronghold and he starts an investigation which unearths a plot against the whole order.

There are a lot of legends around the Poor Knight of Christ of the Temple of Solomon or Knight Templar or Templars. In this story, they are the good guys, protecting humanity from supernatural dangers. The bad guys are sorcerers who are bringing demons and undead spirits to the world.

It has two major point-of-view characters, Cade and Duncan. While they have quite a few similarities, they have differences, too. Both were inspired to join the order because their wives where murderd. They both have magic powers which they’re keeping a secret from everyone. Cade has the Sight with which he can see to a world beyond ours and also past events of object he touches. He can also travel to the Beyond through mirrors. Duncan can heal with his touch.

However, Duncan is devoutly religious while Cade lost his faith when his wife was murdered before his eyes. Duncan is also very faithful to his superior while Cade pretty much does as he pleases. Cade is hunting for the Adversary who ordered his wife killed.

This was an exciting read with lots of fight scenes and a fast-paced plot. It didn’t end in a cliffhanger but it left major plot poins open at the end.

The second book in the fantasy series Craft Sequence. It’s a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 347
Publisher: Tor

This is a very different book from the first one. It’s set in a different city with different characters.

Caleb Altemoc is a risk analyst to the Red King Consolidated. His father Temoc is a famous terrorist and Caleb doesn’t want anything to do with him. The Red King Consolidated is responsible for distributing clean water to the city of Dresediel Lex which is in the middle of a desert. It has 16 million people.

When Tzimoth demons are infesting a water reservoir Caleb is sent to check it out in the middle of the night. It’s very unlikely that the demons have come there naturally. One woman flees the scene. She seems to be a cliff runner, just there for the thrill of it. Caleb chases her but can’t catch her. He falls instantly in love/lust; he doesn’t tell his employers about her and instead tries to find her himself.

However, he suspects that his father Temoc is behind the attack. When Caleb returns home, Temoc is waiting for him.

Twenty years ago, the city was supported by human sacrifices to the gods who hunger blood. But then the Craftmen and Craftwomen rose in revolt in God Wars. One of them was a man whose (male) lover was killed as a sacrifice. Now, that man is the King in Red. Craft (magic) has eaten away his flesh and he is essentially a walking skeleton. He has made many, many contracts to support his company and in practice he rules the city. Not only does his company rule water but his Wardens are the police (who ride on flying lizards).

Caleb’s father is the last priest of the old gods. Temoc and the King in Red battled fiercely during the war. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Red King has taken an interest in Caleb. Temoc is hunted and has learned how to keep hiding. He still wants the old ways to return and to him the Craftsmen and -women who rose and killed gods are blasphemers. Still, he loves his son and is interested in what’s going on in his life.

Caleb’s main hobby is gambling. He’s good at it, too. He’s very loyal to the King in Red and loathes his father and the blood-soaked system he represents. I found the gambling fascinating because one of the few deities who are left is the goddess of gambling. When she’s present, the players bet a part of their soul, usually very small part. The winner gets the soulstuff of the others.

The city’s whole economy is based on soulstuff. The people are paid in soulstuff and they pay everything with the pieces of their souls. Indeed, some people are enslaved after death. The company has zombies working for it and I think it was said at some time that the workers had sold his body before they died so this isn’t a case of necromancers robbing the bodies. But otherwise the city feels quite modern: modern professions and corporations with office workers. They even go to ullamal games and support various teams.

While this was an entertaining enough read, I didn’t like it as much as the first book. The magical parts of the city were fascinating and I quite liked the side characters. Teo is Caleb’s best friend. She’s from a wealthy family but loathes her family and wants to get by on her own. She works for the RKC, as well. She’s in her forties. Her girlfriend is an artist. I also found the relationship between the King in Red and Temoc very interesting. The theme of revolution interesting and it’s not used very often in fantasy.

The budding romance between Caleb and the mysterious cliff runner Mal is one of the main features in the story. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for it.

I thought RKC is supposed to be criticism against modern corporations and reading about how they “employ” dead, it does sound rather chilling. And of course some other things we find later on are really troubling. But the King in Red is an immortal so he has far longer view than any corporation where the people in charge think in only four month segments, if that.

An entertaining read but to me not as appealing as the first book.

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer book set late in the third season.

Publication year: 1999
Format: Print
Page count: 289
Publisher: Pocket Books

Buffy’s world is falling apart. Her mother Joyce has met a very nice man and is dating him.

Also, Giles seems more absentminded than before. He promised to look after Oz’s wolf form but delegated it to Angel instead. When Buffy storms off to his apartment, she finds out that he’s with a new, beautiful teacher.

At the same time, Buffy’s old friend Pike from Hemery High (from the movie) comes to Sunnydale. He’s evasive at first but confesses that a stone demon is hunting him. The demon can change any living flesh to stone. While Pike knows about vampires and demons, he fights them only when hasn’t got another choice. He’s asking Buffy for help.

Buffy’s friends try to convince her that her mom dating is completely normal, at least when the man in question seems to be completely normal. Still, it’s hard for Buffy. Of course, Buffy has her own love life to worry about when Pike comes to make trouble for her and Angel.

Giles’ absentmindedness continues so much that Buffy and the others really start to worry about him. They keep a close eye on him and, indeed, something sinister is happening to him.

This was a pretty enjoyable book otherwise but I really didn’t care for the Pike/Buffy/Angel triangle. We know that Buffy can’t choose Pike because he’s not in the show, so it’s really pointless. The stone demon was a pretty average monster of the week. The Giles story line also had something I thought couldn’t be canon at all but it was resolved at the end.

The characters are well done, of course. Golden is usually one of the best Buffy writers.

A Buffy book set during early third season.

Publication year: 1999
Format: Print
Page count: 210
Publisher: Pocket Books

Willow is babysitting a toddler, when she starts hearing strange bumps from upstairs. She calls Oz and almost convinces herself that it’s nothing. Meanwhile, Buffy and Giles are hunting vampires. They’re also talking about the latest drama among the Slayerettes: Cordelia is organizing a big spring party in Weatherly park. It’s the same park which in danger of being mowed down and Willow is trying to stop that by organizing a demonstration. So, Cordelia and Willow are at odds with each other.

However, the bumps upstairs turn out to be real. When Willow gets there, to her horror the baby has turned to a monster with wings. The monster tells Willow that she must join the monster and save Weatherly park. Then it attacks. When Xander and Cordelia get there to save Willow, the monster is gone but so is the baby.

It turns out that other babies have disappeared, too, and it’s kept a secret. Even though people are warning Buffy and her friends to stay away, of course they investigate.

This is a quick and entertaining read set during the time when Cordelia dated Xander and Willow dated Oz. No mention of Faith or the Mayor, though. Buffy deals with a lot of vampires with Angel’s help. The fight scenes don’t really add anything to the plot but simulate some episodes rather well. That’s a bit of friction between Cordelia and the other characters, but not a lot and that’s fine with me.

A short story collection of various genres. Like, the name says, almost all of them are fast-paced and exciting.

Publication year: 2018
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 295

This is another Fiction River collection which as stories from multiple genres, from sci-fi to fantasy to modern military action/adventure. It also has a story with a penguin main character and one story has a cooking contest.

“Payback is a Bitch” by Diana Deverell: Bella is in charge of providing private security for US government people in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She’s on a supposedly routine drive, when her team of bodyguards turn against her.

“Death-Blind” by Robert Jeschonek: The main character of this story wakes up in a maze, his own voice blaring at him, urging him to kill someone before the time runs out.

“The Airship Adventures of Captain Jane Fury” by Anthea Sharp: The captain of the HMS Minotaur, an airship, is on an urgent mission which could very well change the future of Britain, if she arrives on time. A storm, a band of pirates, and even a bigger menace try to stop her.

“Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest” by Henry Martin: A group of SEALs has been ordered to take back a cruiser which has been high jacked by pirates. Things go wrong from the start.
“The Tomb of Arisel” by Bonnie Elizabeth: The main character needs desperately an item from the catacombs below the temple of the Goddess of Love, Arisel. But she has fearsome guardians.

“Goodnight, Madison” by Lisa Silverthorne: Five days ago, Sam’s little daughter disappeared. He’s a police detective but he can’t find the person responsible. Until other kids start to disappear and Sam gets a letter.

“Romancing the Puffin” by Louisa Swann: Magnus and his moody but brilliant girlfriend are in the Antarctic, studying penguins. Now, she’s transformed him into a penguin and he must try to survive to find out if she can forgive him and turn him back.

“Dominant Species” by Dayle A. Dermatis: The main character of this story is a shapeshifter. She also works tirelessly to expose animal abuse. This time, she heard that people on a remote farm abuse dogs. Unfortunately, the situation is far worse and turns out very badly for her.

“Three Seconds” by T. Thorn Coyle: Zachary used to be a troubleshooter and a killer but he gave it up when he met the right man. But Zachary’s past has come to haunt him.

“Blood Chase” by Leah Cutter: Parayat is a loyal servant of the emperor and was born a star sister, able to create illusions. Now, the emperor has tasked her to slip inside the house of a traitor and kill him.

“Caterpillar Boot Man” by Valerie Brook: Cuba has been beaten bloody and now an armed man is chasing him in a car. Can Cuba get away?

“The Case of the Dead Son” by Laura Ware: This is a noir urban fantasy story. Eli Leafrunner is a police detective and a half-elf. He works in the Neighborhood, the dark underbelly of the Islands of Fantasy where most magical people live (and run it for humans to visit). Sorin is an influential elf. When his son’s death was declared a suicide, Sorin put a death curse of Eli. Eli has just hours to find out what really happened to Sorin’s son.

“Breakfast at Luigi’s” by Thea Hutcheson: Deirdre is a smart and beautiful young woman. She’s found a “sugar daddy” in a retired mob accountant, Luigi. When two hitmen invade the house, Deirdre is terrified but determined to get out alive.

“Black Phantom, Gray Op” by Stefon Mears: Aren Vestergaard has just quit from the Navy. He bought a ship and has set up a charter piloting business. On his first day, two people hold him on gunpoint and force him to take to a planet deep outside of human space.

“The Last Ramekin” by Liz Pierce: Molly is a kitchen witch and all the other cooking wizards and sorceresses look down on her. She’s made it to the final round in the contest and is determined to give it her all.

“The Princess, the Huntsman and the Monster” by Erik Lynd: Emily has just escaped from a man she thinks of as the Monster. She’s naked and alone is the snow.

I enjoyed almost all of the stories. The last one is the slowest but it’s pretty good. “Romancing the Puffin” and “The Last Ramekin” were my favorites.

A Buffy the Vampire slayer book, set in the third season.

Publication year: 2000
Format: Print
Page count: 178
Publisher: Pocket books

The story starts with a young woman, Heidi, who is chased by two vampire men, twins in fact. They catch her and take her back to their “home”, to their mother who is also a vampire. Together they drink from the girl and kill her.

Buffy and her mom Joyce are in the mall, having a nice day together. Then Buffy realizes that someone is following them. It turns out to be Suz Tompkins, one of the “tough girls” in Sunnydale High. She asks Buffy for help, nearly crying because her best friends have gone missing and she suspects something really bad has happened to them. Heidi’s own mom doesn’t care and the police think that Heidi has just run away or joined a gang.

Buffy agrees to help and the vampire twins arrive in the Bronze. Buffy lures them out. She and Angel attack them. She kills one of them and then their vampire mom arrives just in time to see her kill the other. The vampire mom summons the Greek goddess of revenge, Nemesis, and asks for revenge against Buffy. Nemesis puts Buffy on trial.

This was a fun Buffy story, except she does more contemplation than usual. The Scooby Gang are in character and pretty funny. It has several references to earlier episodes, which I quite enjoyed. Overall, I enjoyed the story.

The first short story in the historical (fantasy) Avon Calling serial.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: SpearPoint Press
Page count: 33 (at Amazon)

Avon Calling serial is set in the 1940s New York. At a first glance, Betty Jones has everything a middle-class woman could want: she’s a stay-at-home mom for two kids and has an adoring husband. Sometimes she sells Avon’s cosmetics products. Yet, she has a side that her family doesn’t know about. Betty can hear other people’s thoughts and has formidable combat skills. She also has a troubled past and has changed her name.

This was a great starting story: it introduced Betty and her world and yet left a lot of questions unanswered. We find out that Betty’s mother also had the same ability and that she was cruelly used.

In this story, Betty goes to sell the cosmetics to a woman she knows but finds another woman, who has been battered by her boyfriend. Betty smiles and pretends not to notice, but when the evening comes, she pays a visit to the boyfriend and his small band of drug dealers.

I found the combination of cosmetics and Betty’s secrets surprising but also appropriate. Cosmetics can be used as a mask, to change a woman to appear more appealing to men and also to other women. It can be an armor, to shield a woman from the outside world or a way to fit in. Seeling cosmetics is also a great way for her to meet women who need help. Betty definitely has two sides and she works hard to fit in as mom and wife while going out at night to kick the backsides of cruel men.

Season 1 collection has ten episodes.

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