In the pages of Strange Brew, edited by PN Elrod, you'll find stories from some of the hottest stars in the Urban Fantasy galaxy. Generally anthologies are a bit hard for me to review, but Strange Brew works really well together. The editing has to play a part since the stories are a bit longer than short stories, but not long enough to be Novellas. Whatever magic Elrod did, these stories flow well and you'll feel a satisfying ending with all of them.
First up is Patricia Briggs (love me some Patty Briggs novels), author of the fabulous Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series. Her contribution is Seeing Eye where we meet a blind witch named Moira. Moira lost her sight against the Samhain coven. When a werewolf to help find his bother that he believes was abducted by the same coven, Moira has a personal stake in helping him contacts her.
This is the first time that I know of that Ms. Briggs has let a witch take the spotlight in one of her stories. Generally shapeshifters wind up ruling the stories with other supernaturals being secondary characters. The mythos she begins to create around witches seems to be a vibrant as her world of shapeshifters.
If this is the beginning of Ms Briggs further expanding her universe I can't wait for a full novel. Fans of Patty Briggs won't be disappointed and I believe new fans will be intrigued enough to pick up her other series.
Next up is Jim Butcher's Last Call starring his PI, Harry Dresden. Being Harry he just wants to be left alone and get a pint at a pub. Finding scattered, unconscious people throughout the pub makes Harry reconsider that drink. Especially when a spell is found on the beer. Harry and his favourite police officer, Karrin Murphy must stop this tainted beer getting out to the public at large.
Mr Butcher writes his PI Wizard Harry Dresden with his usual aplomb. Someone is messing with two of Harry's favourite things, his beer and his pub. Not exactly Mr. Butcher's best, but enjoyable for it's length.
Rachel Caine brings us, Death Warmed Over. Holly Caldwell is a necromancer, a resurrection with, able to bring back the dead. She's asked to bring back the witch Andrew Toland who gives his life during the zombie war. This will be the second time Holly has raised Andrew. It becomes more difficult when she realises she might just be in love with this dead man, but to help stop the person killing resurrection witches, he will be needed.
Rachel Caine gives us an enjoyable departure from her Weather Warden series. The construction of this story, considering the pages in which it's told, is nothing short of amazing. As with Charlaine Harris' contribution, if you dig mystery mixed in with your Urban Fantasy, you will have a good time with Death Warmed Over.
One of my personal favourites of the anthology is Karen Chance's, Vegas Odds. Further expanding upon the world she's created in the Cassandra Palmer and Dorina Basarab novels she brings us Lia the war mage. An instructor to other mages, she's taken by surprise the day her students attack her. Lia must find whoever has cast this illusion upon her students, and with the help of her Werewolf boyfriend, Cyrus, she will tear through anyone who gets in her way.
There's just something about the way Karen Chance constructs a story. Mixing solid storytelling with action packed stories seems to be her forte. Vegas Odds is no different. Like most of the stories in Strange Brew, this is a chance for most of the author's to expand on their currently existing universes. If you're someone like me who picks up the new Karen Chance whenever it appears, you need this book.
The editor herself, P.N. Elrod, brings you Hecate's Golden Eye. Jack Fleming, the vampire PI, is on the trail of a necklace in 1930's Chicago. Should be no problem for Jack and his partner Charles, right? Well, with the exception of the necklace being cursed and killing any man who touches it, it shouldn't be a problem.
Elrod seems to have fun having Jack in his 1930's setting. Actually if you've read her Jack Fleming stories before you know that she generally has a good time, but Hecate's Golden Eye seems to be a story she wanted to tell for enjoyment. A satisfying read.
Bacon, by Charlaine Harris introduces us to widowed vampire Dahlia. She wants revenge upon the person who killed her werewolf husband and asks witch Circe to help her get it. Like most of Harris's stories this is a paranormal mystery and takes the best kind of twists and turns she's famous for.
Charlaine Harris is a superb Urban Fantasist along with being an amazing mystery author. The fun of her stories is that you never know where you're going to end up. A character who seems unredeemable evil may wind up being the saviour of everyone. I think Ms. Harris needs more room to allow her stories to breathe though. Bacon comes across as choppy in points and you'll find yourself transported, very quickly, to another part of the story.
Admittedly my favourite of the bunch is Faith Hunter's Signatures of the Dead. Perhaps because we're introduced to the world of Skinwalker Jane Yellowrock and as I just reviewed Skinwalker and loved it. Signatures of the Dead is told by Jane's witch friend Molly. Molly is asked to track some rogue vamps, but finding and destroying rogues is Jane's specialty.
You will get bits and pieces of this story in the first full length Jane Yellowrock novel, Skinwalker, but Signatures of the Dead is where it all begins. This story is told from Molly's point of view, but of course, Jane is the star. Hopefully this story makes people run out to purchase Skinwalker. Jane Yellowrock is not a character to be missed.
Strange Brew delivers stand-alone stories from all of these authors. Although most are expanding upon their existing stories, Strange Brew can be read as a stand-alone. Plus, it does what I believe all of these anthologies are designed to do, gives readers an introduction to these authors if you've never read them.
Strange Brew receives a 3 out of 4 stars rating.
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Make sure to check out all these author's website or blogs.
Patricia Briggs Website
Jim Butcher's Website
Rachel Caine's Website
Karen Chance's Website
P.N. Elrod's Website
Charlaine Harris' Website
Faith Hunter's Website
Caittlin Kittredge's Website
Jenna Maclaine's Website