Friday, December 11, 2009

Triplet Reviews: ANTHOLOGIES, Part 1

Alpha Heros and Literary Escapism decided to hold a Short Story/Anthology Reading Challenge.

Since Apprentice Writer recently powered through three of those babies, she decided to give it a whirl.

Here's AW's idea about anthologies: they are supposed to give readers who are unfamiliar with an author's work a taste of his/her writing style, and whether the subgenre or fantasy world appeals. So in theory, if the reader likes a specific new author he/she will be motivated to go out and buy a full-length novel, and if he/she doesn't like that new author - no harm done, it was a small page commitment. So the test here will be: was the story enough to make AW seek out more?

Of the THIRTEEN author collected here, AW had previously read a total of TWO. An almost perfectly clear anthological landscape. Here we go:

MUST LOVE HELLHOUNDS (Paranormal/UF, 2009)
Cover: Did nothing for AW. Apparently, hellhounds are particularly unattractive Rothweilers, and the women who take them for walks have spotlights shining out of their crotchal areas.

The Britlingens Go To Hell, Charlaine Harris
Premise: A pair of elite female bodyguards escort a thieving client to hell and are caught.

Writing Style: Didn't appeal.

World: Some imaginative details (loved the dust monsters) and the idea of elite female bodyguards was intriguing, but ultimately some parts of the story torpedoed willingness to suspend disbelief and left no desire to explore this author's world(s) further. Hellhounds played very minor role.

Prediction: Probably won't read this author again.

Angels' Judgement, Nalini Singh
Premise: Guild hunter about to be promoted teams up with loner hunter sent to terminate serial vampire murderer.

Writing Style: Zipped along effortlessly, showing the author's practice at the short story format. Yet despite story tightness and good alternation between action and quieter moments, AW didn't feel drawn in or engaged with either main character. This may have been due to:

World: AW really isn't much of a vampire person. There has to be something else compelling about a story for her to become interested if they form a large part of what's going on. In this case, the angel aspect just didn't make up for it. Hellhound was irrelevant to the plot.

Prediction: From this story alone, wouldn't read this author again. However, she is incredibly popular, especially with other authors who praise her worlds, characters, and writing skills. On that basis, Probably would read this author again.

Magic Mourns, Ilona Andrews
Premise: Shapeshifter with childhood issues teams up with shapeshifter with partner issues to investigate who is controlling a hellhound (among other things).

Writing Style: Loved it. Was rooting for the heroine on multiple levels from page 1. Was so engaged didn't care about the author apparently giving in to the temptation of overpacking the suitcase so it bulged to point of bursting. Whole lot of characters and things going on here, but forgave all and trusted that things will be better integrated with each other in full-length format.

World: Fascinating.

Prediction: Definitely yes. The first volume in this series is already on AW's night table.

Blind Spot, Meljean Brook
Premise: Former CIA-operative turned butler seeks kidnappee with employer's seeing-impaired nephew.

Writing Style: Loved it, but AW already knew that, this being one of the two authors whose previous work she had read. Very nice to be confirmed in belief authory goodness.

World: Consistent, not overwrought, a very imaginative and convincingly written bit about how the hero's special ability is applied. Good example of how other elements make up for presence of vampire characters. Best story of the bunch, not least because the hellhound has some truly hellish qualities and plays a central role.

Prediction: Definitely, AW will keep reading this author! She is quite excited about the upcoming steampunk debut.

QUEEN IN WINTER (Fantasy, 2006)
Cover: Very compelling. Beautiful color combos, lovely arty image, great use of snow. Best cover of the bunch.

Whisper of Spring, Lynn Kurland
Premise: Elf princess is abducted, her brother and non-elf prince mount rescue mission.
Writing Style: Didn't engage.
World: Didn't believe.
Prediction: Probably won't seek this autor out again.

When Winter Comes, Sharon Shinn
Premise: Sisters must flee their home and evade pursuers when one gives birth to a baby with magical powers in an anti-magical world.
Writing Style: Compelling. The reader could sense the characters pain, anxiety, and yearning for a better place and emotional connection.
World: Believable. Felt like the story grew naturally, wasn't forced into premature shape due to short story contstraints.
Prediction: Definitely will read again.

Kiss of the Snow Queen, Claire Delacroix
Premise: Seer sets out to rescue a sorcerer and is aided by a spirit voice from another time.

Writing: Was the most experimental, in that the story starts out in fairly classic high fantasy style, very historic and fairy-tale feeling, and the spirit who speaks to her sounds contemporary.

World: Interesting, with the split in 'era sense' perhaps making it not as easy to fall into the world as would be the case with a story that was either purely modern or classically fantasy.

Prediction: Would read this author again based on interesting approach. (Actually am doing so at the moment - the dystopian 'Fallen' series).

A Gift of Wings, Sarah Monette
Premise: Bodyguard and recuperating wizard are stranded in a mountain inn during a snowstorm and solve a murder.

Writing Style: Loved it, again not a surprise as AW picked up this antho due to this author's inclusion.

World: Similar to and yet distinct from the world created in the 'Doctrine of Labyrinths' series. It was intriguing how gender role reversal was worked in, with the female character, a professional soldier/mercenary, the physically and mentally strong one, and the male character still suffering from psychological abuse inflicted on him.

Prediction: Definitely will continue to read this author.

Please come back for Part 2 of this Triplet Review tomorrow.

In the meantime - is the Gentle Reader familiar with any of these anthos? Agree? Disagree?



Nicola O. said...

Ooo, I like what you have to say about Delacroix. Might have to check her out.

I generally don't rule out authors from a short story, because so many of them do long work much much better. But if they hit a short out of the park, that's an EXCELLENT indicator for me.

As for Singh, I like her psy-changeling series way better than the angel one. I think I'm in a Romancelandia minority for not loving the archangels, but what can you do.

M. said...

Hi Nicola!

It is true that it's probably not completely fair to rule someone out based on a short story - but, life is short, and books are many. It's gotten to the point that if I'm not intrigued by SOMETHING in eighty-odd pages, I'd rather devote future reading time to another author.

Regarding Ms. Singh's more established series - I feel like it's so evolved already, it would take forever to catch up. And there is something about all the covers that bugs me.

Regarding Ms. Delacroix - I recommend the Fallen series. Great dystopia.

Wylie Kinson said...

Love how you set up these reviews, treating each story/author individually as opposed to one big lump.
I'm about to read an antho too -- my first (for shame) called The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes - Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer and Anne Stuart.

Jenners said...

These were some book covers I have to say!! And have your read any of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books? Did they not appeal? I've heard they are the best things she's done.

Nicola O. said...

Wylie, you may have discovered by now, TUFMF isn't an anthology but a collaboration. And, sorry to say, the better of the two Crusie has done with other women (I like her stuff with Bob Mayer but it has a distinctly different feel).

Eeek, M., if I skipped books with bad covers I'd have a lot less reading to do. And I'd have missed out on Kresley Cole (some of the WORST COVERS EVAH right there)

Wylie Kinson said...

Nicola O.
Yes... um... discovered and disappointed. Not in the book (though I'm not far enough in to judge) -- but I wanted 3 stories to read, not one collaboration!! *shrugs*

M. said...

Wylie - I have that one waiting under my bed too! Please tell me what you think so I'll know whether to move it up or not.

Nicola - I liked the second J.Crusie/B.Meyer book, but the first did nothing for me. Now, they seem to have stopped working together????

M. said...

jenners - i haven't read any of the sookie books. partly because the thought of how long the series is makes me feel faint, partly because i'm not a vampire person.

Nicola O. said...

No, I think there's another Mayer collaboration out in March, but apparently it's not a romance.

On another note, I got my copy of Agnes signed by Mayer last fall. :-)

Nicola O. said...

ps, I think Crusie just writes really slow, and if can make an inference, I wonder if all the collaborations sort of distract her.

Mayer seems to do a ton of workshops and speaking gigs, which can't be great for his page count either...