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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Three Slices": Stories by Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, & Chuck Wendig

Title:  Three Slices (anthologye-book or audio)
Authors:  Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Chuck Wendig
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher:  Amazon Digital Services

    As Kevin Hearne explains in the book's "Author's Notes," this is "the world's first tyromancy-themed anthology." Each of the three novellas features a scene in which "somebody along the way predicts the future via the coagulation of cheese." Hearne's story takes place about a week after the events of Shattered, book 7 of the IRON DRUID CHRONICLES. Click HERE to read my reviews of that series. 

     When Hearne invited Delilah S. Dawson to join in the fun, she followed her life philosophy: "Always say yes to cheese." She contributes her first BLUD story written from a man's perspective. Dawson's story is meant to stand alone, and she suggests that it can be an introduction to the "dark, dangerous, whimsical world of Sang, where tyromancy fits in perfectly." This is a prequel story for the series. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in Dawson's BLUD SERIES.

     Chuck Wendig figured that "All the cool kids are doing it," and besides, he wanted to get "a slice (get it"? Slice?) of that sweet, sweet cheese-reader money." His story is part of his MIRIAM BLACK SERIES, coming just before Thunderbird (which is due in April 2016). Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in that series.

     The e-book features beautiful illustrations by Galen Dara, some of which I have included in this review.

     Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Three Slices at the book's page, where you can click on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon. 

       Kevin Hearne's "A Prelude to War" (IRON DRUID CHRONICLES 7.5)     
confronts Loki
     Hearne alternates between two story lines: one from Atticus' perspective and one from Granuaile's perspective. As the story opens, Atticus and Oberon are on a trek to Ethiopia to ask a favor from a long-time ally named Mekera, who is a diviner who predicts future events through tyromancy. Over time, Mekera has made extremely accurate predictions for Atticus in return for his assistance in setting up her isolated cave home in the wilds of Ethiopia. What Atticus doesn't know is that Mekera has not always been a loyal friend to him. This story line ends with Atticus and Oberon heading for Canada, with the vampire Werner Drasche in hot pursuit. It's a cliff-hanger that will be continued in Staked—due in January 2016. 

     Meanwhile, Granuaile wants to get rid of the rune Loki burned into her arm in Shattered, so she decides to request assistance from Odin. The best scene in the story is the suspense-filled confrontation between Granuaile and Loki in which Loki gets much more than he bargained for when Granuaile pulls out all the weapons in her armory and aims them directly at his most vulnerable spots. Again, the ending of this story line is unresolved, with more to come in Staked.

     The novella has lots of humorous dialogue between Atticus and Oberon (who loves cheese, by the way). Granuaile's best line comes when she enters Asgard for the first time and tries to suppress her excitement: "I firmly smoosh my desire to take a selfie in Asgard, because I know how deeply uncool that would be." Unfortunately, it falls to Hearne to explain just what tyromancy is, so he has to slow down the pace for a page or two while he explains the process to Oberon while Mekera is up to her elbows in hartebeest rennet and curdled milk. 

     Delilah S. Dawson's "Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys" (BLUD SERIES)     

Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality3; Humor—2  

Merissa and her
blud mare
     This is an origin story for Dawson's BLUD series, so, naturally, it features Criminy Stain as the first-person narrator. As the story opens, Criminy is forced to run away from his job as a magician in Barnum's Traveling Circus through no fault of his own. When he first comes upon Merissa, a beautiful carnivallero who trains and rides blud mares, in the wilds of the countryside, he (at first) believes that he has found his true love. The story follows Criminy as he meets the other carnivalleros in Merissa's caravan and plots to take ownership of the caravan for himself. As part of the tyromancy story line, we see how Criminy discovers the locket that is key to the plot of the first BLUD novel, Wicked As They Come

     This terrific little story is a delight to read because Criminy is always a such a smart, sly, spellbinding character. In one memorable scene, he makes friends with a daimon by teaching him to hammer a nail into his own eye. "My name is Criminy Stain," he says to the daimon. "And I might be strange, but that's just part of my charm." Although he is sometimes sidetracked by lustful thoughts, he keeps his ultimate goal front and center in his mindto own his own very successful circus: Criminy's Captivating Caravan. As Criminy tells his tale in his snarky manner, with an underlying viciousness that causes the reader to shudder now and again, we can't help but root for him to win his heart's desire even if he does have to resort to a bit of murder and mayhem along the way. 

     This story serves as a great introduction to the BLUD series, but will also be enjoyed by those who have already read the BLUD novels and can't get enough of Criminy.

        Chuck Wendig's "Interlude: Swallow" (MIRIAM BLACK SERIES)          
Ratings:  Violence5; Sensuality2-3; Humor (Dark)—2  

     Wendig tells this story in his usual flashback style, beginning in the present and then hopscotching back and forth between the events of the previous seven days and the current events. Miriam is on her own in this tale, which is when she is at her dark and existential best.

     As the story opens, Miriam wakes up in the dark in a strange place with a pounding headache and a tranquilizer dart wound in her neck. All she can remember is that she is searching for Mary Stitch, the woman who can supposedly cure her of the curse of visualizing other people's death scenes. Before she can figure out who kidnapped and drugged her, Wendig zaps us back to the previous week, when Miriam became acquainted with a local man named John Lucas in a bar.

     Miriam has come to this small Colorado town in response to a message from Madam Safira Starshine, the local fortune teller, who is also a tyromancer. In Miriam's world, you can expect that the divinations will involve a massacre as well as moldy cheese. Miriam describes the odor as "Musky, off, pungent as the congealed sweat on a dead man's scrotum."

     This story will be difficult to comprehend completely if you haven't read the previous MIRIAM BLACK novels because several characters from those novels (particularly Louis) turn up in various hallucinatory forms, and because the link between Miriam and the primary villain is a near-drowning episode that took place in one of those novels. (To give you an idea of the scope of these references, here is one of Miriam's fevered flashbacks: "Florida…Ashley Gaynes. Her mother. Not to mention the thing with Louis. That phone call…"

     "Interlude: Swallow" overflows with Miriam's colorful, cynical narration: For example, after she hurts John's feelings by calling him old, she muses that "it's hilarious how men act so tough like they're all steel rebar and beef jerky. In reality, men are soufflés: they puff up big but shrink fast at the slightest bump, shudder, or temperature dip." And here is a bit from a scene in which Miriam responds to being attacked: "On a resume, one of Miriam's talents would be seizes opportunities. Which she does now, launching herself up like a starving housecoat. Claws out. Teeth bared."

     Wendig has packed a complex plot into a few pages, and it contains several sharp twists and turns, so pay attention to the details. Any fan of MIRIAM BLACK will enjoy this brief jaunt in her company.

NOTE: In addition to the tyromancy link among the three stories, characters in two of the stories (Dawson's and Wendig's) use the old saying "Not my circus, not my monkeys" (a Polish idiom meaning "not my problem"Nie mój cyrk, nie moue malpy.)

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