Reviewed by Helyce
I am not a fan of the ‘anthology’ but I am guilty of purchasing many of them simply because there is one author within who I must read no matter what. However, more often than naught I am a bit disappointed in the short story because an author can only do so much with 100 to 150 pages and I always feel that something was lacking and that the overall story arc of the series was not really impacted by the short story. I’ve heard that an anthology is a good way to test out or find a new author by just getting a taste of their writing style, etc. and I admit that on one occasion that was the case for me. But I have never read an anthology where I follow three of the four authors listed as it was with Supernatural and for the first time I looked forward to each story. I was especially excited to read Kane, by Ms. Frank. I loved her Nightwalkers and had been under the impression that the series ended with Noah, which released in 2008. I had never read G.A. Aiken, so looked forward to her story as well.
Vampire Fight Club by Larissa Ione (Demonica 5.5; Lords of Deliverance 1.5)
Vladlena is a medic at Underworld General. When her brother Vaughn is brought in one night, it’s clear that he’s been beaten nearly to death. In his last moments, he whispers “Thirst” to her. It’s meaningless to her, but Wraith is familiar with the club. Housed below a Goth club, Thirst is an illegal fight club where bets are placed and fighters fight to the death. Vladlena decides to get a job as a medic there to try and infiltrate the club to see what happened to her brother.
Nathan Sabine is in charge of Thirst, but not exactly by choice. Once a fighter himself, he now oversees the operations for the real boss, Fade. But Nate has ulterior motives. Fade is directly responsible for the death of Nate’s one true love and no matter how long it takes, he will get his revenge on Fade.
When Nathan meets Vladlena there is instant attraction on both sides, but Vladlena cannot be distracted in her quest to find out what happened to her brother and how he came to be in this place. In solving one mystery, Vladlena learns things about herself that answer questions about her and her family. Nathan, too, is finally able to extract the vengeance that he’s waited patiently for for decades.
This was a great treat to revisit my favorite characters from the Ione’s Demonica series. Eidolon, Shade and Wraith, along with a cameo of Thanatos-one of the Four Horsemen, make an appearance. This story is action packed and both Vladlena and Nathan get answers and find closure with their pasts.
Darkness Eternal by Alexandra Ivy (Guardians of Eternity 7.5)
Darkness Eternal is the story of Uriel and Kata. Uriel is a vampire warrior, second in command to Victor, Clan Chief of Great Britain. When Victor tasks him with the job of trying to locate a missing gypsy he is not happy. He thinks it’s a job for a lesser warrior, but Victor insists that it must be him. Kata is too important.
Kata has been held in partial stasis for years by a vampire named Marika. Aware of what is going on around her, but unable to do anything she’s been a virtual prisoner. Sadly, Marika was Kata’s own sister. After being turned and going to the dark side, she had kidnapped her in the hope of drawing Kata’s daughter Laylah close so that she could get her hands on the special child in Laylah’s protection. Unbeknownst to Kata, Marika had joined their souls so that if she died, Kata’s soul would be subject to the same fate. Uriel has just found Kata when a portal opens and they are both sucked into what can only be a hell realm.
I really liked this story. Uriel is typically arrogant and not happy with this task. Kata might be thankful that she is no longer in the clutches of Marika, but where she’s ended up is no better. The attraction between the characters is believable in spite of the shortness of the story. They are forced to work together to get themselves out of hell and in the end, both learn things about themselves. For Uriel especially, the revelations are important to what has happened in past. It will allow him to fall in love, something he had never allowed himself to do.
Kane by Jacquelyn Frank (Nightwalkers 1.5)
Kane is a mind demon with a huge dilemma. He is drawn to a human woman named Corinne with every fiber of his being. It’s as if she is calling to him. He watches her from a distance until he just can’t stand it. The laws of his people forbid him to act on this attraction, but he’s finding it more and more difficult to stay away. When he sees her with a man, it infuriates him. The man is unworthy of her. One night, when she is out him, Kane uses the power of his mind to send the man away. He approaches Corinne, and with the lightest touch skims the tip of his finger along her cheekbone. The feeling of rightness fills him, how can this be wrong?
It’s been a few years since I read the Nightwalker series, but as I read Kane it all came back to me. I remembered in Jacob’s book, the reference to his brother whose mate had fallen ill and was finally healing. That apparently, Kane’s touch had set off a transition of sorts so that her druid DNA came forth. Unfortunately, Kane didn’t know it and by the time it was realized Corinne was very ill. The term Imprinting is used in this series-that of one soul finding and binding itself to the soul of its other half.
I loved seeing Kane and Corinne’s beginnings played through having only got pieces of it in Jacob’s book. If you are not familiar with the series, however, I think you might be a bit lost. There is much back story and it is explored a little in Kane’s book, but even having read the series I found myself questioning a few things. It’s referenced that Jacob, Kane’s brother, was the first to imprint with a human/druid hybrid (Isabella who happens to be Corinne’s sister), thus changing their laws as they knew them. Yet, Kane is not allowed to pursue Corinne. I’d have to go back and skim Jacob’s book, but I guess it’s inferred that Jacob and Kane meet their perspective mates at about the same time. I loved revisiting the Nightwalkers-I had some confusing moments, but all in all a good read.
Dragon On Top by G.A. Aiken (Dragonkin 4.5)
Ghleanna the Decimator is not in a good place. A highly ranked soldier, she is respected for her skills on the battlefield. She has proven herself to be worthy of this respect 100 times over, but she is a female and there are those that would attempt to knock her off her pedestal. When Queen Rhiannon requests her presence and tasks her with acting as a bodyguard to Bram the Merciful as he ventures to the Sand Dragon Territory to discuss a truce of sorts, she balks. Why her?
Bram the Merciful has been attracted to Ghleanna for years, but she doesn’t know he exists. He’s a scholar and uses his intelligence to affect positive changes within the Dragon communities. He fights with his brain not a sword and he fears he is invisible to Ghleanna. Queen Rhiannon is well aware of how Bram feels about Ghleanna and she encourages him to use this trip to make her see him for what he truly is.
This was definitely my favorite story of the four which surprised me as I have not read the Dragonkin series. I had no trouble following the characters and understanding their world. It’s the longest of the four stories at 170 pages and the author did a bang up job of setting up the world and giving us believable conflict while we watched Bram and Ghleanna fall for each other. There is also a lot of humor and I adored this authors writing style. Ghleanna and Bram certainly make a good case for the ‘opposites attract’ rule. I most enjoyed Ghleanna coming to the realization that Bram was not just some soft, academic, nerd type. Also, great secondary characters in Ghleanna’s brood of brothers and most especially Queen Rhiannon and her mate Bercelak. Hilarious!
Overall Rating: A