ARC supplied by author for an honest review.
Generally, I’m not drawn to anthologies, because when it comes to books, the bigger, the better! I love long, twisty, layered stories. I love finding out about characters histories and how the affect their present. And I get frustrated when a short story terminates, and I can feel it’s got the legs to keep going. And so I approached these ten tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy knowing I was going to be to be tantalized, and possibly left wanting. I was not disappointed.
The author line up is fantastic, for starters, and the diversity of the stories-ranging from urban fantasy, to historical, fantastical and contemporary, has a little something for everyone…witches, wizards, warlocks, vamps, goblins and humans. I think the best way to deal with a review of ten individual stories is by it’s best to giving a brief review of each story and then my feelings on the anthology as a whole.
The anthology kicks off with the spirited ‘Dim Sum Asylum’ by Rhys Ford.
Starting with an all action chase through a Blade Runner style Chinatown, by Detective Roku of the Arcane crimes squad. Dragon eggs have been stolen and he is on the case. The story really clicks into gear when Roku meets his new partner Trent Leonard. “he was good looking, in a thunder god kind of way and my unruly dick was more than happy to make his acquaintance.”I really enjoyed this story. It was well written, pacey, funny and hot.
Story 2 ‘Swift and the black dog’ by Ginn Hale.
Wizard and revolutionary poster boy Jack Swift is out for revenge against his former comrade, Peter Tyber, a wizard who, after the revolution, has eased his way into the ruling class and mishandled his power. This mission leads to Jack meeting Finch and with that fated meeting, finding more than he bargained for. I love Ginn Hale’s work and once again she delivers with a story was just wonderful. The characters were so enticing and the story was brimming with fantastic world building detail, and a crackling romance. It was frustrating that it was short, as I would definitely read a novel about Jack and Finch.
Story 3 ‘A Queer Trade’ by K.J Charles.
In this wonderful historical, an Apprentice magician is alarmed to arrive at the home of his master to find out he has died, and his house contents are in the process of being swiftly stripped and sold on. His alarm increases when he realises that papers of a ‘dangerous nature’ were sold on to a waste merchant, papers he must retrieve at all costs. This is a wonderful historical romp, set in old Victorian London, with many laugh out loud moments and wizardly shenanigans. It also has an adorable multi-cultural romance thrown in.
Story 4-‘Magically Delicious’- Nicole Kimberling.
I was previously unfamiliar with Nicole Kimberling, but this was a really well written, fun twist on the law enforcement/ paranormal storyline. This time, with pesky leprechauns and pixies getting up to all kinds of law breaking shenanigans. NIAC agents are being targeted in pixie dust attacks and, when agent Keith Curry’s partner is attacked, he is hot on the case. Another funny, entertaining read.
Story 5: ‘Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns’-Jordan Castillo Price.
Yes, the title is correct, clowns freak me out and I’m not mad into ghost stories either, so I approached this story with caution! But there was no need to be afraid. Psycop Victor Bayne and his partner Jacob take a little detour on the way to a Halloween party and end up doing a Scooby Doo, and searching for a Clown ghost in an old movie theatre. Naturally, this was well written and great fun.
Story 6: ‘The Thirteenth Hex’- Jordan L Hawk.
As one would expect with Jordan L Hawk, ‘The Thirteenth Hex is a quirky historical, but set in magical old New York. Dominic Kopecky is working as a Hex-man for the Metropolitan Witch Police. He is asked by a police ‘familiar’, named Rook, a tall dark handsome man who can shift into a crow, for his hex-pertize on solving a case. During the investigation sparks fly, and Dominic learns the truth about himself. I loved this story; I love Hawk’s beautiful language, the tender connection between Dominic and Rook, and the heart-warming end. An absolute delight.
Story 7: ‘The Soldati Prince’ by Charlie Cochet.
Charlie Cochet plays an absolute blinder with her story ‘The Soldati Prince’. Barista Riley Murrough has no idea he is fated to be claimed as the mate of a king who lives ‘beyond the veil’. So when demons enter the café he works in and try to kill him he is, naturally alarmed. His rescuers come in the form of tigers, who, when shifted back in to human form realise how special Riley is. I loved this story, Charlie’s characters always appeal to my irreverent sense of humour, and in this story it was no different. She made me laugh, and cry and laugh again…please don’t let the ending be the end!
Story 8: ‘One hex too many’- Lou Harper.
Again, another author I am unfamiliar with, and now suitably impressed. Extramundane Crimes agent Mike Mulligan believes he comes with a curse, so has been flying solo since his last partner’s unfortunate accident. Then his boss lands with rookie named agent Fox and a case… I really enjoyed this story. It was a well-written, solid, magical cop based adventure…and the ending was super- hot!
Story 9: ‘Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom’ by Andrea Speed.
Doug works nights at a Quik- Mart that caters for all kinds of paranormal customers-vamps, necromancers, zombies, werewolves…But his night gets a little tricky after he is inundated with zombie hamsters, and then gets a visit from a rogue vampire with an agenda. The goofy style of this story was different from the rest of the anthology, and it contained little romance. To be honest, it was not the kind of story I would generally choose, however, it was still an entertaining read.
Story 10: ‘The Trouble with Hexes’: Astrid Amara
This story ends the anthology on such a high-note. A Hex-breaker named Vincent gets a visit from his Private Investigator ex-boyfriend Tim, who is in a whole heap of trouble. He has been hexed and they have to find out the whom, why, and where the hex root is, before the effects kill Tim. A really fantastic, thrilling story, riddled with angst of lost love, misunderstandings and a beautiful heart warming ending.
Well, I am delighted to have read this impressive anthology. There were authors whose work I knew well and some I did not, and the quality of writing did not wane at all. If I had to choose my favourites they would be Ginn Hale, Jordan L. Hawk and Charlie Cochet and Astrid Amara- who I really hope write novels about these characters. A fantastic collection of Gay Paranormal and fantasy stories.
Good job everyone. Highly recommended.