Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Huntress by Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge and Jenna Maclaine

This is a collection of four stories, each one by an author of urban fantasy/paranormal romance. Each story involves a woman who hunts, whether vampires, demons or something else.

Devil's Bargain by Christine Warren introduces us to Lilith, a half-demon bounty hunter. In exchange for a favor from a devil named Samael, or "Sam", she's agreed to do three favors for him. She's already done two, and now her last favor is to track down a book that has been stolen from him. She's skeptical that this is just any book or any simple job, but as soon as she does this favor, she is free, and that's a big factor in her thinking.

Unbeknownst to her, the book is a very rare and mystical book named the Predicti Arcanum, or Arcane Prophecies, which is a guidebook to the end of the world. The man who now owns the book, Aaron Bullard, knows the worth of what he has. But as he discovers, if a major devil, like Samael, manages to get his hands on the book, he can actually speed up the Armageddon. And neither Aaron nor Lili wants that. But can they find the way to defuse the armageddon through the proper sacrifice? Or will it end up with the death of one of them?

The Robber Bride by Marjorie M. Liu concerns Maggie, a tinker who has survived the Apocalypse. When disease brought down everyone who lived in the city, most fled to the countryside. But when Maggie encounters a cold-blooded stranger on a motorcycle that works, and her friend Trace goes missing, she finds Trace's necklace in the hands of another cold, shark-toothed biker, and realizes she must find the source of these strange people to find her missing friend.

But even as she tracks down Trace along with the help of a crow that she almost begins to understand, she finds out things about herself- things that she must confront if she is to find her friend and rescue the other humans who the bikers have kidnapped. But can she survive the bikers themselves?

"Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go" introduces us to Jack, a Cockney mage who sings in a rock and roll band. When he meets Ava, a demon hunter who wants to take down a big-time Demon named Areshko, Jack is willing to be bought, although he's not one who wants to go on taking out demon lords. But when he makes the mistake of sleeping with Ava, he finds out that she knows and does sex magic and once he's done her, he has to do what she says.

Jack and Ava go to take on Areshko, but when the demon inhales Ava like smoke, Jack must work with a Necromancer to save not only Ava, but himself, from Areshko's ravenous hunger, which threatens to consume everything in not only the Underground city, but the world above. But how can he fight such a powerful evil without Ava's demon-killing powers?

Jenna Maclaine adds "Sin Slayer" to the mix. Cin Craven is a witch and a vampire, whose witch powers survived her being turned. She, her love, Michael, and her friends Devlin and Ginny are known as the Righteous, who hunt down Rogue vampires and destroy them. Now, they are summoned back to England by its Regent, her old enemy, Sebastian Montford, to come to England to deal with Jack the Ripper.

Jack wasn't a problem for the vampires when he was killing humans, but now he is killing vampires, because they are more challenging targets. And Jack is neither a human nor a vampire, but a demon, able to take over anyone nearby when the body he is using is killed. But when the Demon Ripper takes over the body of her love, Michael, can Cin find a way to imprison the demon without killing the man she loves? And who summoned and set the Ripper free on London, and to what end? Can Cin find the truth before the demon kills her?

This was an interesting book, and I enjoyed all four of the stories just about equally, but some of them really did strike chords in me. Caitlin Kittridge's story hero, Jack, reminded me an awful lot of John Constantine as he is portrayed in the comics. As a bonus, he was Scouse (like Jack), played in a rock back in his youth (like Jack), a mage (like Jack) and both a pisser and a prat (I'm only going to repeat myself here- LIKE JACK). It was like reading John Constantine with the serial numbers filed off. And I mean that- all Jack lacks is the trenchcoat and suit- he even has the hairstyle. Oh, and the charm, because Jack in this story is an annoying prat who I wanted to kick in several painful places. I don't know exactly why he annoyed me so much, only that he did. While the story is otherwise okay- well, except for another big point, that Ava, the Huntress, isn't the main character of the story, i saw Jack's character as not very good fanfic of John Constantine.

The other stories are all excellent, and I think only Cin Craven is a continuing character in a series. Actually, Jack apparently turns up in another book by Caitlin Kittredge, but with a different love interest. Maybe I will find him better in longer story. Maybe. I'd definitely be willing to read more about Lili and Maggie, but their stories are really truly stand-alones. They find the man they love, they have adventure, and Maggie is set to return home with her man, while Lili looks ripe to settle down with Aaron- any further stories would be mere paste-ons to an already harmonious whole.

Aside from my problems with Jack in the Caitlin Kittredge story, this is a good story collection, and the stories are well-told and mostly hang together. My other problem is that Ava is not the main character for her story, Jack is, and Ava comes off as downright lousy at her job, considering how easily she is defeated by Areshko- and that makes that story somewhat weak for me. Recommended, but not highly.

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