Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P.N. Elrod

Not all defenders of humanity are human, or noble knights, for that matter. This book explores that concept of knights as defenders of humanity through urban fantasy.

"A Questionable Client" by Ilona Andrews takes her character Kate Daniels on a job where she must bodyguard and safeguard a man named Saeman, who has aroused the ire of a group of Russian Witches who guard the tree of life. But Saeman isn't telling Kate the whole truth, and his not telling her is likely to get them killed, if Kate can't manage to get the information without killing him..

"Even Hand" by Jim Butcher takes us into one of the Strongholds of Harry Dresden's sometimes foe "Gentleman" John Marcone. When Justine, the secretary of Lara Raith, leader of the White Court of Vampires, is chased by a Cantrev Lord of the Sidhe for stealing his property- a young child, Marcone is forced to defend her, and himself, when the Lord, Mag, will not take "no" for an answer. But Marcone hates people who prey on children above all else. Will he allow Mag to take the child back, or defend her to the utmost limits of his powers?

"The Beacon" by Shannon K. Butcher, pairs a man named Ryder Ward with a woman desperate to defend her daughter. Ryder's job, passed on from his grandfather, is to kill the people known as "Beacons" before the otherworldly menaces that break through and attack them can break through. But he hasn't counted on this beacon being a fifteen year old girl- or her mother's determination to save her.

"Even a Rabbit Will Bite" by Rachel Caine tracks the world's last Dragonslayer as she attempts to take and train an apprentice. But with only one dragon left in the world, Liesel knows that this will be the last act of her life. But can she save her apprentice, and herself, when the last dragon decides to kill her for killing its mate long ago?

"Dark Lady" by P.N. Elrod has Jack Fleming sought out by a lady in distress at his club. She is in love with noted tough guy and money collector Joe Graedon. Joe has been collecting a little extra to pay for a wedding ring for himself and Emma Dorsey. But now, Joe has disappeared, and the box with the money had a grenade inside it, meant to kill Emma and Joe's boss, Northside Gordy. Can Jack discover what happened to Joe and who tried to kill Emma and Gordy before they can kill him and Emma, too?

"Beknighted" by Deidre Knight concerns an artist named Anna, who dreams of an entrapped Knight. But to free him, she needs Templar gold, a sort of liquid gold with magical powers. And to get it, she needs a patron. But the patron who shows up with the gold seems to have an agenda of his own, and he wants the soul of Anna's trapped Knight. But can she free him of demonic torment, or will Anna wind up in Hell along with the knight she has come to love?

"Shifting Star" by Vicki Petterson follows Skamar, a former Tulpa turned human as she fights against the Tulpa who nearly killed her by crucifying her, and a human cop who is on the trail of the same creatures that are kidnapping teenaged girls from the neighborhood. But as Skamar gets closer to the man named Vaughn, and their target, the closer she comes to having her heart broken. Even wanting to stay away from humans can't protect her heart from being broken... can it?

"Rookwood and Mrs. King" by Lilith Saintcrow tells the story of the half-vampire Rookwood, a vampire hunter, and a woman named Mrs. King, whose husband has become a vampire. She wants him to kill her husband, but when the job turns out to be more difficult than he expected, he is forced to rely on her help to finish the job. But is the female of the species more deadly than the male? And what has he unleashed on the unsuspecting vampires?

"God's Creatures" follows the werewolf hunter Cormac as he attempts to track down a werewolf who has attacked a field full of livestock. But the local Catholic church seems resistant to his mission. Why? What are they hiding? And can Cormac track the creature and kill it before the next full moon?

I really did enjoy this book, but my only complaint was that all the stories with any kind of romance ended rather unhappily- either with one of the two dying, or the possible pairing separated by the end of the story. While I know I shouldn't have expected all of them to end up together, it would have been nice to see one or two have a happy ending.

My favorite stories in this book were "Dark Lady" and "A Questionable Client", both by authors whom I really love. But none of the stories were bad, and none of them felt out of place in this collection. Aside from my feeling that there should have been more happy endings, I suppose they could still be considered reasonably happy. I also have to mention Jim Butcher's story, "Even Hand", which is a pretty scary look into the mind of one of Harry Dresden's occasional opponents, and how he might be planning to take Harry down one day.

This collection is great for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy. But for those who think Paranormal Romance is the way to go, be aware that there are no "happily ever afters" in this book. Highly recommended.

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