Now for the much belated second part of my review of Dark and Stormy Knights. My humble apologies for taking so ridiculously long.
Part two of the review starts with anthology editor’s P.N. Elrod’s “Dark Lady,” which takes part in Elrod’s Vampire Files series, and stars vampire Jack Flemming. “Dark Lady” has a very thirties noir feel to it, which is appropriate, being as it is set in 1938 Chicago. Jack is a vampire who, he says in the opening line, is owned by a nightclub. He’s also plugged into Chicago’s underground, both the supernatural and the general human kind. Occasionally, he helps the rare damsel in distress–which is how he ends up nearly getting blown to bits, getting shot, and having to pick shards of wood out of his skin. It’s a fun short story, and one that makes me curious about the series it originates from.
Deidre Knight’s “Beknighted” is, as far as I can tell, separate from her novels (I could be wrong, though.) The protagonist, Anna, is an artist working to free a knight…by painting him. If I had been reading this in another genre’s anthology, I would’ve expected a hunk to come out of the painting when she finished to sweep Anna off her feet, and I’m glad “Beknighted” isn’t that kind of story. The ending to the knight’s story is the beginning of Anna’s, and now I’m hoping that this short story is part of Knight’s longer works, because I want to know what Anna is going to do next.
“Shifting Star,” by Vicki Pettersson, takes place in her Signs of the Zodiac world. Skamar, the protagonist, is a being thought into being and given name and form by a former agent of Light. She’s hunting that which hunts her, and at the same time putting minimal effort into blending in with the humans she lives among. Skamar has the most growth of any of the characters in the anthology, I think, and for that reason alone I really appreciate this story. She’s a kick-butt character, and her experiences here are touching. The world Skamar is part of is interesting, too, so I’m very, very curious about Pettersson’s series now.
In “Rookwood and Mrs. King,” you have this opening sentence: “I need to kill my husband.” In this way, Jeremy Rookwood meets Amelia King, a recent widow whose husband worked for–and works still–for Rookwood’s nemeses. When handed everything he wants on a platter in this way, Rookwood can’t turn Mrs. King down as a client or resist the urge to use her as a means to an end. He gets more than he expects from the widow, though, and both Rookwood and I were pretty much cheering for her in the end. What I’d really like now are the further adventures of Mrs. King, and to find the time to read more of Lilith Saintcrow’s work.
Cormac is a man with a family history of hunting monsters in Carrie Vaughn’s God’s Creatures.” He’s called in by a rancher whose livestock is being slaughtered but not eaten–a sure sign of a werewolf close to loosing control of him or herself–and he begins his hunt. What he finds isn’t what he expects, and by the end of the story the burden of his family’s legacy of hunting is heavier than ever, even knowing that he is doing what is necessary to protect the innocents around him. With this short story I find myself suddenly wanting to bump her novels to the top of my reading list. She weaves a great story.
This anthology has been a great introduction to these authors, and I’m both thrilled and dismayed by how much longer my reading list is. Want good urban fantasy? You could do worse than to read Dark and Stormy Knights.