Friday, October 24, 2008

“Wolfsbane and Mistletoe” Edited by Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner

My favourite urban fantasy anthology of 2007 was Many Bloody Returns featuring stories by a diversity of fabulous authors on a theme of ‘vampires and birthdays’. This year Harris and Kelner have followed it up with Wolfsbane and Mistletoe which includes stellar cast of writers on a theme of ‘werewolves and Christmas’. A surprisingly large number of dark tales are to be found (I know, I know—they’re werewolves) considering the seasonal setting. Makes me rethink the pecking order of werewolves versus vampires.

Here is a brief look at the 15 howling Christmas tales.

"Gift Wrap" by Charlaine Harris
A short Sookie Stackhouse story that occurs after the events of the most recent novel. Sookie is spending Christmas alone until she finds an injured werewolf in the woods near her home. Nuturing Sookie just has to take action. Contains spoilers if you aren’t up to date on the series. A feel-good story although I must say Sookie’s relative is a piece of work despite his good intentions.

"The Haire of the Beast" by Donna Andrews
A humorous tale of revenge. A witch’s brother wants to be a werewolf so she researches the spell but also concocts some magical Christmas brownies for her ex. A Lhasa Apso is involved. An amusing ending.

"Lucy, at Christmastime" by Simon R. Green
Simon Green is known for his Nightside series and here we have a werewolf in a Nightside bar reminiscing about Christmas pasts and his lost love. You can see the ending coming from a mile away, but it still brings a smile to you face anyway when you get there.

"The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron
This tidy little tale of a brother and sister team tracking down a serial killer. She’s a vampire and he’s a werewolf. In their world supernatural creatures are members of the Fangborn and are always the good guys until now when they learn the killer is one of them. Some nice ideas and suitable HEA.
"The Werewolf Before Christmas" by Kat Richardson
Perhaps my favourite of all the stories in the collection, Kat Richardson who writes the Greywalker series, turns out a very twisted tale. Matthias the werewolf finds himself at the North Pole and having just finished off eating Rudolf the Reindeer is corralled by St. Nick into being his replacement. Most definitely an alternate take on our Christmas traditions. The clever Matthias ends up with more then he bargained for.

"Fresh Meat" by Alan Gordon
Turns out that dogs aren’t only mans best friend but a werewolf’s best friend too. A smart, fun story where the dog and the girl save the day and the bad guys get their just desserts. Another one of my favourites.

"II Est Né" by Carrie Vaughn
A Kitty story set at Christmas just before Kitty Takes a Holiday. Kitty feeling alone and depressed meets a newly made werewolf in a Waffle House. The chance encounter leads them to catch a serial killer, brighten Kitty’s outlook and save the sanity of the new werewolf. A nice ‘It’s a Wonderful Life” style ending.

"The Perfect Gift" by Dana Stabenow
A confusing tale of two cops in Alaska tracking down serial killers (what’s with all the serial killers?). She’s a werewolf and he isn’t. Or is he? My least favourite of the collection as I just couldn’t figure this one out.

"Christmas Past" by Keri Arthur
The author of the Riley Jensen series brings us a Christmas romance story about two cops tracking a killer. He’s a werewolf and she has psychic abilities. Ex lovers they find their new joint case brings them together again. Hottest story in the collection.

"SA" by Joe Konrath
Perhaps the most twisted tale in the anthology and outrageously absurd and funny. Forget everything you thought you knew about Santa Claus and his elves. Here is the straight scoop. The SA of the title refers to Shapeshifters Anonymous. Manages to include were-turtles, were-coral and even furries (don’t ask). Tied as my favourite. I guess I have a sick sense of humour.

"The Star of David" by Patricia Briggs
A poignant story of Christmas reconciliation from the author of the Mercy Thompson stories. After many years, the estranged human daughter of a werewolf asks her father for assistance even though he killed her mother/his wife under tragic circumstances. Another favourite.
"You'd Better Not Pyout" by Nancy Pickard.
Another amusing twisted tale of two ex-soviet vampires (hence the ‘pyout’) in Florida who figure out that Santa is a vampire and that his Christmas scam gets him an open invitation to homes which he later visits for snacking on more then milk and cookies. Wanting in on the action, they ultimately end up in Africa thwarted by a werewolf. Don’t worry it all makes sense once you’ve read it.

"Rogue Elements" by Karen Chance
This is a fine police procedural mystery from the author of the Cassandra Palmer series. Set in the Las Vegas of the Palmer universe, it is a tale of werewolf pack politics and intrigue. Lia a member of the War Mage Corps is in denial about her were heritage.

"Milk and Cookies" by Rob Thurman
Rob Thurman of the Cal Leandros series offers up a deliciously bent story of what werewolf children really want under their Christmas tree. Loved this one.

"Keeping Watch Over His Flock" by Toni L. P. Kelner
Another poignant tale from editor Toni Kelner. Jake a young shapeshifter learns the true story of the nativity and the role of werewolves. He becomes a hero when he rescues a missing girl but needs to shapeshift into something unexpected to protect the secrets of the pack. Funny with a nice HEA.

There are more then enough great stories in this collection to recommend it, although it is not quite as strong as last years anthology.


  1. Have you read any of Kat Richardsons Greywalker books? If not go and get them right now, they are awesome.

  2. Yes I have read all of them. A very superior series. A very unique character and setting. Check out my review for the most recent one here.

  3. Hey, if you're showing me yours I should show you mine right ;)

  4. I just got around to reading this post. Sounds like a terrific collection. I'll add this book to my Need-to-Buy list.

    Thanks for another entertaining review!

  5. Patricia I can't recall how many times stories in this collection had me laughing out loud. A great collection.

  6. I enjoyed this anthology very much - and it sounds like I need to pick up the previous one, since you liked that even better! And it also sounds like I need to try the Greywalker books, too, sigh. Thanks ever so much for adding even more books to my toppling book pile! :-)

  7. Hi Darla it is hard not to like these collections with such a great lineup of authors. Besides I don't want to miss any stories from ongoing series and a lot of these authors are series writers. I'm a big fan of Kat Richardson's Greywalker series. Hope you enjoy.


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