Penguin Group (USA)/BerkleyThis collection of novella's has a terrific line-up of some of today's best urban fantasy writers - Charlaine Harris (with a new story only marginally associated with Sookie), Meljean Brook with a Guardians story, Iona Andrews with a Kate Daniels universe entry and Nalini Singh with a Guild Hunter novella. All of the novella's in one manner or another include a Hellhound, some central to the story, others not so much.
Published: September 1, 2009
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN #: 9780425229590
Fair warning, don't read this story expecting a Sookie Stackhouse tale. The only connection to that story universe is that the main characters Clovache and Batanya were bodyguards in All Together Dead for one of the vampire Kings. On the other hand I found this story to be funny, light-hearted, whimisical and very earthy. The Britilingens inhabitat an alternate dimension and are the ultimate assassins and bodyguards. They take on a client who wants to recover an object inadvertantly left in the hands of Lucifer - in the Hell dimension. I found the dialogue to be clever and witty especially between Clovache and Batanya and there is a pretty high level of amusing raunchiness to be found. I am pretty sure Harris is giving a nod to some of her science fiction and fantasy favourites with slug creatures that make tunnels (Star Trek), killer tumbleweeds that can be defeated by letting the air out of them and a meeting with Amelia Earhart that is also charming. How to summarize? Maybe Die Hard meets Alice in Wonderland. Different and thoroughly enjoyable.
This novella is set in the Guild Hunter universe. I hate to admit it, but I have yet to read Angel's Blood. That didn't stop me from appreciating this charming paranormal romance. The Guild Hunters enforce the angels laws that apply to vampires. Rogue vampires are ending up dead and there is a suspicion that the killer may be a Guild Hunter. Sara, heir apparent to be the next Guild Director, is sent on a mission to uncover the culprit along with the mysterious and independent Deacon, known as the Slayer, whose sole task is to hunt rogue Hunters and bring them to justice. A mission already fraught with danger is further complicated by random attacks on Sara by vampire agents of the angel's sent to "test" her worthiness to be the new director. Angel's Judgement is loaded with action, intrigue and a very satisfying romance that concludes with a particularly feel-good HEA. I quite liked the world-building as well, and look forward to pulling my copy of Angel's Blood off of my TBR shelf.
Magic Mourns takes place after the events of Magic Strikes and Kate spends most of the story off-stage while her best friend Andrea holds down the fort. The game is afoot and it comes in the form of a giant hellhound that is chasing werehyena Raphael, Andrea's persistant suitor. Raphaels stepfather has died and his body is missing. And a powerful vampire has also disappeared off the radar. Is there a connection? Andrea who really loves her weapons gets to really let loose in this action-packed novella as can be seen by this comment upon her locating the hellhound -
A twenty-foot-tall three-headed dog. Whoa. This was quite possibly the coolest thing I'd ever seen through the scope of a rifle.Andrea and Raphael partner quite nicely in this story and while they don't quite give Kate and Curran a run for the money, their dynamic is fun and engaging. I could easily read a spin-off novel featuring these characters. Magic Mourns introduces a new mythical character and where would a Kate Daniels universe story be without a surprise. Magic Mourns is a perfect complement to this excellent series.
Blind Spot by Meljean Brook
Blind Spot is perhaps the most nuanced tale of the four stories. It intricately weaves themes of love, loyalty and honour into a strongly plotted novella about a kidnapping. Maggie is a body guard to Savi and Colin, the main characters in Demon Moon (my favourite of the Guardians series). Maggie is sent to retrieve Blake, Colin's nephew and rescue Blake's kidnapped sister and she brings along Sir Pup, the hellhound as backup. Blake and his sister, Katherine have special abilities of which Maggie is unaware and these powers play a significant role in the success and outcome of events.
Maggie suspects that a mistake in judgement from her past is connected to events and may come back to haunt her and ruin the new life she has been building, but she refuses to let it interfere with the choices she makes to aid her employer. We discover that Blake has followed Maggie's progress from afar - is intrigued by her and in fact desires her. Working with her despite the circumstances is an opportunity he doesn't plan to let slip away. The action and the romance are perfectly balanced. Of note are the always entertaining scenes involving Sir Pup who easily upstages everyone when present. The story is filled with wonderful little details one of which is the explanation and back story on the origin and meaning of Maggie's nickname 'Winter'. Blind Spot again is a perfect complement to Meljean's Guardian series.
Can I choose a favourite among these four stories? Not a chance. They all stand together with shoulder-to-shoulder goodness. If you need an introduction to the writing of any of these authors, you can't find a better place to start then with Must Love Hellhounds.