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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Anthology: "Chicks Kick Butt"

Title:  Chicks Kick Butt  
Editors:  Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes  
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher:  Tor (trade paperback, 6/2011, mass market paperback, 12/2012)

     This is one of the better urban fantasy anthologies currently on the market. It was originally published in the more expensive trade paperback version back in 2011 and is now available in a mass market paperback version. As the title suggests, each story has a strong, independent, intelligent heroine who needs little or no assistance in solving her own problems and taking down various treacherous villains. Most of the stories are told in the first person from the point of view of the intrepid heroine. Many are part of established series, but most can be read as stand-alones. These are all strong, well-developed storiesnot a weak one in the whole collection.

Rachel Caine:  "Shiny" (a WEATHER WARDEN story)
     When Joanne Baldwin (the series heroine) and her djinn lover, David, take time off for a day at the beach, they run into a conflict involving Whitney, a young djinn supermodel, who covets a diamond-encrusted bikini and a million-dollar Bugatti so much that she runs off with them. Whitney is a real piece of work who flirts outrageously with David, sparking a few moments of jealousy in Joanne. Here's how Whitney responds to David's warning to stop being rude to Joanne: "'Or what, big daddy? You'll spank me? Mmmmm.' Her tongue glided over her lower lip. Pure suggestion." It's nice to revisit this completed series to catch up on Joanne and David's lives. This is a cute, mostly non-violent story with an unexpected, action-filled twist at the end. Click HERE to read my review of the OUTCAST SEASON series, which takes place in the WEATHER WARDEN world.

Karen Chance:  "In Vino Veritas" (a DORINA BASARAB story)
     The very first line gets us off to an action-filled start: "The bottom half of my longneck shattered, splashing golden liquid all over my jeans and the bar's floor." That bottle belongs to Dorina (Dory), and in this story, she has a run-in with the Chinese vampire mafia when a mob leader suspects that she is interfering in his business. They agree to settle their feud in a drinking contest that includes many bottles of fairy wine. In addition to the mob action, we get a nice scene with Louis-Cesare, Dory's wannabe lover. 

Rachel Vincent:  "Hunt" (a SHIFTERS story)
When the young were-cat, Abby, goes off on a camping trip with four college friends, she never expects that most of them won't survive the experience. This is one of the most violent of the stories, with lots of bloodshed and mutilation at the hands of a trio of sociopathic humans who hate shifters. Although Abby is a newbie fighter, she shows plenty of courage and intelligence as she tries to save her friends and punish the bad guys. If you're a SHIFTERS reader, you'll recognize Abby as Faythe's cousin, who had a terrifying kidnapping experience in one of the later books in the series. Here is Abby's response when Jace (now a pack leader) scolds her for going off on her own instead of waiting for help: "I stared at the floor feeling guilty, but not guilty enough to apologize. I'd done the right thing. The only thing I could do. The thing he would have done..." Abby would make a great heroine for a new SHIFTERS-related series. Click HERE to read my review of the SHIFTERS series.

Lilith Saintcrow:  "Monsters"
     Elena is a Kin Preserver whose job it is to gather and care for their talented wards, who are frequently artists of some type. When a group of nine human hunters murder three of her wards, she tracks them down one by one. Elena doesn't have much respect for the humans; after she attacks and mortally injures the first one, she thinks to herself, "They are so breakable." As Elena tracks down the hunters, she uncovers an even bigger and more dastardly scheme and manages to rescue a captured werewolf who comes along to help her achieve her ultimate revenge. When Elena finds the ninth murderer, she learns that someone she thought was her friend has betrayed her. This story is not part of a series, but the author indicates that these characters may appear in a series some day.

P. N. Elrod:  "Vampires Prefer Blondes" (a VAMPIRE FILES story)
     Bobbi Smythe, who describes herself as "a damned pretty girl with a head of carefully tended platinum blond hair," is a nightclub singer who happens to be the human girlfriend of Jack, the hero of the VAMPIRE FILES series, although he doesn't appear in this story. No, this is Bobbi's story all the way as she tries to help out a human woman from the chorus line who is being pursued by her villainous vampire husband. What does a girl do when a powerful vamp and his gang are after you? Trust Bobbi to rely on her brains and a handy broomstick to handle the situation.

Jenna Black:  "Nine-Tenths of the Law" (a MORGAN KINGSLEY EXORCIST story)
     First line: "Nothing good ever comes from private citizens visiting my office." This certainly turns out to be true when a wealthy couple hires Morgan to exorcise a demon from their teen-age daughter. Unfortunately, the situation turns out to be much more sinister and dangerous than just a simple exorcism when Morgan discovers that the God's Wrath fanatics are involved and that Mom and Dad have some secretive and ulterior motives for getting Morgan involved. 

Cheyenne McCray:  "Double Dead" (a NIGHT TRACKER story)
    Nyx is a Dark Elf and a Night Tracker, and as the story begins, she has been captured by a group of villainous metamorphs. According to the brief glossary included at the beginning of the story, metamorphs are "Slimy paranorms who can take on the persona and appearance of any human and almost any paranormal. Metamorphs have no redeeming qualities. None." This particular group of Metamorphs plans to take over the Paranorm Council, and they intend to use Nyx in their evil scheme. Click HERE to read my review of the NIGHT TRACKER series.

Elizabeth A. Vaughn:  "A Rose by Any Other Name Would Still Be Red" (a CHRONICLES OF THE WARLANDS story)
     Red, the story's heroine, is "a mercenary in the service of Lord "Josiah, High Baron of Athelbryght." The Baron has sent her to find a royal messenger who has disappeared from a slavers' guardhouse after being sent with a royal decree that slavery is ending. Red is supposed to negotiate his release, but she soon finds herself alone and under attack by the slavers. It's up to her and some unexpected allies to rescue herself, the messenger, and a group of imprisoned slaves. Red is a smart and lethal heroine who makes the most of her talents.

Jeanne C. Stein:  "Superman"  (an ANNA STRONG CHRONICLES story)
     This "story" is actually the first chapter of book 7 (Crossroads). It takes place one month after Anna Strong accepts the mantle of the Chosen One, and Anna hasn't fed since that time. "I'm feeling the effects of lack of blood. Like a diabetic without insulin, my body is slowing down, my mind becoming sluggish." To get herself back on track, she heads out to her friend Culebra's desert hide-away for a meal. Culebra tells her that Anna's human ex-boyfriend, Max, needs her help, and Anna reluctantly calls him. Max needs Anna to help him capture a vampire who is preying on illegal immigrants as they sneak across the border. Anna has to deal with her feelings for Max as she takes on an ancient female vampire all on her own. Click HERE to read my review of the ANNA STRONG series.

Carole Nelson Douglas:  "Monster Mash" (a DELILAH STREET story)
     Delilah Street leads a weird and magical life in an alternate Las Vegas that is filled with supernaturals, most of them quite dangerous. When Cesar Cicereau, the mobster werewolf owner of the Gehanna Hotel, asks Delilah to help him stop some magical shenanigans in his hotel, she doesn't know just what she's getting into, but she soon discovers that, as usual, nothing about this assignment is straightforward. The story includes lots of scenes with various Cinema Simulcrums (aka SinCims), who are "black-and-white movie characters overlaid on zombies to give the tourists some semi-'live' entertainment they could not only gawk at, but actually talk to." The story gets a bit bogged down among the SinCims and other magical beings, but in the end, Delilah triumphs, as usual, with a minimum of violence. This is one of my least favorites among the stories. You'll probably appreciate and understand this story better if you have been reading the series. Click HERE to read my review of the DELILAH STREET series. 

L. A. Banks:  "Wanted: Dead or Alive"
     Tanya is a mob assassin who was turned into a vampire during her last assignment. But Tanya turns the tables on the vamp, and manages to kill him shortly after she is turned. In this world, the person who kills a vampire inherits his worldly possessions, as well as his memories and talents. "Everything he'd owned, she inherited, even at times the way his words threaded through her mind and changed her normal patterns of speech. She now owned his made men, too. But in the vampire world that also meant that she owned the late Dimitri Andropov's problems as well, namely those who had wanted to wrest power form him for a long time. And that meant a nightly vigil against those who wanted to take her down and not knowing whom to trust..." As Tanya battles a pair of thuggish vamps, she gets some help from another vampire who shares her view that vamps must stop killing humans and begin to peacefully coexist within the mortal world. 

Susan Krinard:  "Mist"
     Mist is a Valkyrie, one of Odhinn's handmaidens who was charged by Odhinn to preserve his magical spear, Gungnir, after Ragnarok (the Last Battle), which was to have brought about the end of all worlds. "Gungnir. The Swaying One, the spear that could not miss its mark. The magic weapon Odhinn had entrusted to her in the final moments of his life..." Mist is now living in San Francisco in the modern mortal world, still keeping Gungnir safe under protective wards and wondering what has happened to the rest of the Aesirthe Norse gods and goddessesIn this story, Mist learns that, contrary to the prophecy, the worlds did not end. The evil god Loki has returned, and he wants Gungnir for himself. Mist  is soon horrified to find that she must battle Loki on her own, with just a treacherous elf to help her. Mist is a strong character who would make a terrific series heroine.

Nancy Holder:  "Beyond the Pale"
     This fantasy is based on the ancient German legend of the Erl King, a darkly magical creature who leads the Wild Hunt and carries humans off to their deaths. In this story, the Erl King is stealing human babies and leaving changelings in their place. The story's heroine is Meg Zecherle, a former U.S. Border Patrol officer who has been recently recruited into the House of the Knights, teams of psychically gifted men and women who attempt to retrieve the stolen babies before they are taken beyond the Pale. In this world the Pale is a supernatural realm that humans cannot enter without dying. Here's Meg's description of the Wild Hunt: "...dozens of spiky goblins in medieval armor rode black chargers, capering and gibbering as they galloped, a thundering horde...Orange flames flared from the horses' nostrils; sparks flew from their hooves. Hellhounds of ash and smoke bayed at their heels..." This is one of the strongest stories and would make a great series.

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