Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Many Bloody Returns edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

Vampires and Birthdays are the subjects of this collection of short stories by Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Kelsey Armstrong, P.N. Elrod, Christopher Golden and Tanya Huff, among others.

Sookie Stackhouse, telepathic waitress, features in "Dracula Night" by Charlaine Harris- all over the world, Vampires celebrate the birthday of Dracula, and Vampire Bill's Boss Eric Northman is no exception. Sookie is invited to the celebration at Fangtasia- where she finds out it is rumored that Dracula makes an appearance at one of these parties- and Eric hopes it will be Fangtasia this time. But if Dracula really does show up, what could happen?

In "The Mournful Cry of Owls" by Christopher Golden, Donika, raised a normal teen in America, faces her sixteenth birthday, and a terrible tale of her true parentage from her mother...

"I was a Teenage Vampire" by Bill Crider focuses on a normal boy named Carleton, is told to ask Binky, a boy who knows a vampire- to get the vampire to come to her party. Binky is soon fixated on Carleton, who is the only one who actually seems to be nice to him. But when the party night arrives, will Carleton survive the coming of the vampire?

"Twilight" by Kelley Armstrong claims that vampires can live without killing for most of the year, but on the night that marks their rebirth into a vampire life, they must kill a human to retain their immortality. But when a female vampire tires of the life, can her new companion persuade her to keep on going?

In "It's my Birthday, Too" by Jim Butcher, Harry Dresden's attempt to deliver a birthday present to his brother, the White Court vampire Thomas Raith, is interrupted by a LARP party and an attack by a Black Court Vampire and her vampire minions on the LARPers. But can Harry, his apprentice Molly, his brother Thomas and the purely human LARPers survive the most vicious and deadly of the Vampire Courts?

"Grave Robbed" by P.N. Elrod has Vampire Jack Fleming drawn into a battle with a medium who seems intent on marrying a widow grieving for the spirit of her dead husband- killed in an outing on the same lake where Jack himself was sent to the bottom in concrete overshoes.

"The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" has a teen who is turning 18- the choice where she must choose to stay in Morganville under the protection of one of the many vampire Protectors, Leave, or try to survive on her own without protection. After a car crash that kills three of her friends, she refuses to stay with the vampire who protects her family, But without him or the support of her family, how can she survive?

Jeanne C. Stein's "The Witch and the Wicked" has a witch who caters parties- for vampires, saving the dust of a vampire who was immolated to try and create cosmetics that can return her youth, if not some beauty- but when she succeeds in somehow reviving the dead vampire's spirit, what will become of her?

"Blood Wrapped" by Tanya Huff has vampire Nobleman Edward Fitzroy and his roommate and Wizard Tony on the trail of a kidnapped Girl. But was she kidnapped by Werewolves, as the evidence seems to suggest, or something even worse?

"The Wish" by Carolyn Haines, is about a woman who lost her two children in one horrendous accident to the spectre of death. As she sought to die and find her children again, death kept telling her it wasn't her time to die. Now that it is, can she cheat death, and find existence on her own terms?

"Fire and Ice and Linguine for Two" has witch Garnet and her lover Sebastien stranded when they try to go out to dinner on his birthday- which he claims is cursed. But when they are picked up by a strange woman in a pickup truck and it starts to snow, can they escape the wrath of a creature who wants to use their energy to make a really ferocious storm?

"Vampire Hours" by Elizabeth Viets examines the life of the wife of an unfaithful surgeon. Over the years her looks have suffered, and she knows it. But can she really take the steps to leave her old life behind when her husband and her friends seem to keep betraying her, one by one?

And in "How Stella Got Her Grave Back", a vampire returns to the small town she grew up in and was desperate to leave, to find that she has no gravestone in the cemetery. Instead, there is a small plaque to a Jane Doe buried in the plot- a young woman found dead in a field. But can the vampire and her childe find out who killed the girl and bring her murderer to justice? And can they discover her true identity as well?

I loved this book, but the stories within can be very uneven. Some of them felt like the ideas within were only partly developed- that the stories should have been longer to really develop the ideas within, because they seemed oddly truncated the way they were. It was as if the story didn't come to an appropriate ending, it just- stopped. In particular, I felt "The Mournful Cry of Owls", "I was a Teenaged Vampire", "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" and "The Witch and the Wicked" were prime examples of this, though some more than others.

The other stories were better, and there were some I'd really enjoy reading more of the protagonists. Some, of course, I already do! Sookie, Jack Fleming, Harry Dresden and Garnet are all previous reads of mine. I wish I could say that I found other series to read, but the ones I enjoyed that I didn't previously read all seemed to be throwaway short stories that aren't part of a series, which was a disappointment.

But as a compilation, it's not bad. There are plenty of eminently readable stories which, if you don't already read about those characters, are enough to get you interested in a big way. The others may not thrill you with the abrupt endings, but they will make you want to read more. Recommended.

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