Saturday, 8 September 2007

On the Prowl - Anthology


The problem I find with anthologies is you tend to buy them for one (or maybe two) stories. Which almost predisposes you to like one more than the others. Therefore I shall admit my bias straight off and say I bought On the Prowl for the Patricia Briggs story.

I also feel strongly that even if a story is set in an ongoing series that it should be able to stand on its own.

I'll grade each of the stories individually and then the grade at the end will be for the book as a whole.

First up we have Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs. Set in the Mercy Thompson universe (Moon Called, Blood Bound). It follows Charles (the son of werewolf king Bran) when he comes to Chicago to deal with unrest in the Chicago pack. Although this story takes place during Moon Called I don't think it's necessary to have read Moon Called to enjoy the story.

Not surprisingly I really liked this. It's also a story I've dipped back into whilst reading the other three. My favourite part being when Anna initially calls Bran for help. In a way this serves as an introduction to Anna and Charles who will be getting their own series of books in 2008, so there is something of a feeling that there is more to come. If I had any quibbles it would be that on p69 Anna smells Boyd's blood but Boyd wasn't involved in the fighting. So surely it should be Justin's blood? It's possible I missed something here, though having gone back and read it a couple of times I don't think I have. I'm torn between giving this an A-, a B+ or no grade because I'm too much of a fan to be objective.

Inhuman by Eileen Wilks.
As I'm not familiar with the Universe this is set in, I found it unsatisfying. I felt like I'd come in part way through the story, the characters were talking about things I knew nothing about. Also the situation is resolved by magical means so I didn't feel like it had really been dealt with. Terrible things happened but it felt like the perpetrator got away with it because they were misunderstood. The heroine wasn't that interesting, but Nathan (the hero) was well written, I could have read more about him and how he saw the world. Grade C.

Buying Trouble by Karen Chance.
This was my second favourite. I thought the story had real humour and the characters were well written. It had a bit of a slow start, but once the gamelan (favourite bit) got loose, the story had much more pace. Claire's transformation scene was very well done, and Heidar has a way with the witty remark. Claire had an engaging voice and I could happily read more about her. (I'm not certain but I think I started to read a Karen Chance book before, and got annoyed because she 'pulled out' of a love scene before it was completed. She was all build up and no follow through. In a way this happens again here, but it's more forgivable in this story because there's a very good reason for it. Based on this short story I'm going to dig out that book and give it another go.) Grade B+

Mona Lisa Betwining by Sunny
Okay, I probably have to issue a warning here. I may go into a bit of a rant. Sunny fans may want to skip this.

First of all, the word 'literally/literal' is used four times. FOUR TIMES! That's three times too many for a novel, let alone a short story.

Deep breath.

Now, I have only read Book 1 of the Mona Lisa series. And if you're in the same position you may want to give this story a miss. Because it's got huge spoilers in it regarding the death of a character.

This isn't a short story, there is very little plot here. There's quite a bit of exposition bringing you up to date with what's happened - kind of like a 'Previously in the Mona Lisa Universe...'. It's more of a filler between books and is probably only interesting if you're a fan of the series. Nothing really happens, and it happens for about 60 pages.

It's also slightly (okay, a lot) like reading the bastard child of Anita Blake (my beast moved inside of me), Merry Gentry (sleeping with multiple partners), and the Black Jewels Trilogy (Demon Dead, High lord of Hell).

Not one I shall be re-reading. Ungraded because I obviously lost my objectivity along the way. :)


Anonymous said...

I had very similar thoughts to yours on this book.

I loved the Patricia Briggs story - but then I love all her books, so I'm not exactly unbiased. I'm so looking forward to both the next Mercy book, as well as the Anna & Charles full-length novel.

I've liked Karen Chance's books as well - the only thing I would say is that they move too fast. I thought the pacing in this story was better.

Eileen Wilks' story was a bit of a disappointment. I've loved her Lily/Rule books, but was a bit lost with this one. Too many supernatural creatures, I think!

And as for Sunny, the least said the better!

LesleyW said...

Hi Li

Thanks for posting. I am desperately looking forward to Iron Kissed and the first full length Anna & Charles novel. I think it will give Patricia Briggs a chance to go deeper into their relationship than she was able to in the short story.

I have finished Touch the Dark by Karen Chance - the book that was in my TBR pile. And will be posting a review soon. Though I very much enjoyed it.

Glad I'm not alone with my opinion of the Sunny story. It does seem that people either love her stuff or hate it.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this book. I've read Alpha and Omega a couple of times and loved it. Wilkes created a world I really wasn't interested in. I usually enjoy Chance's books, but I don't even remember what this story was about. Sunny, how to talk about Sunny...I like the Mona Lisa series. But I don't like that her short stories ARE 'fillers between books'. That is the best way to put it because if you haven't read the other books you are too lost.

Anonymous said...

You and I are definitely on the same page when it comes to Sunny. I think that what bothers me is that there's nothing original in her stories. Not the plot, characters, world-building, none of it.

This looks like an anthology where I'll be reading the one story by Briggs in the bookstore. I'm willing to shell out the money if there are at least two stories in an anthology I'll read, but not when it's just the one.

LesleyW said...

Jepad - LOL - if you have time read the Karen Chance story as well, it might make the book worth buying for you.

Scooper - Hope you were okay with the review. There seems to be no middle ground with Sunny. People either love her or hate her. I know loads of people on message boards who just rave about her. Unfortunately I'm in the other group.

Anonymous said...

I like that she's not afraid to push the table with sexuality. There aren't too many series where women rule the race. While I really can't stand the other queens, Mona Lisa is a different take on the 'aliens on earth' theme.

LesleyW said...

Scooper - I'm pretty sure you've probably already read these but just in case. Have you tried Anne Bishop's Black Jewel books, or Wen Spencer's - A Brother's Price.

Both have a more female dominated society. I feel I should warn you people either seem to love A Brother's Price or hate it though.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say - re the Sunny story, was it just me or was there a major spoiler for her previous book in the short story?

I found Wen Spencer's "A Brother's Price" interesting because it made you look at traditional romance scenes in a new light, but it felt as though she just swapped "she" for "he" in some. Maybe that's what she wanted to do though.

LesleyW said...

Li - Nope it's not just you there was a major spoiler for anyone who hadn't read all the books in the Mona Lisa series.

scooper said...

I haven't read either. Over the last couple of years I've become interested in dark fantasy, but before that I was strictly romance. I'll have to check them out.

LesleyW said...

The Black Jewels trilogy is definitely dark fantasy. The books are - Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness. There is also a book of short stories - really two short stories and two novellas - Dreams Made Flesh. But you need to read the trilogy first, as one of the short stories takes place after the trilogy. And there is another book - The Invisible Ring which takes place before any of the others and is a standalone.

A Brother's Price is a much much lighter read. More romantic. Set on a world where women vastly outnumber men and a man has to marry all the women in a family.

Naomi said...

I loved the Patricia Briggs' story far more than I enjoyed Moon Called. Moon Called left me feeling a bit "meh" whereas Alpha and Omega really sucked me in.

Karen Chance's story was good too, although I think she tries to pack too much in too quickly - I had the same issue with Touch the Dark. It took me two attempts to read it, and although in the end I liked it, I felt the pacing needed work.

Eileen Wilks' story lost me a bit, but I haven't read any of her novels, so I was probably lacking some background information. I did like the idea behind Nathan's character though.

Sunny... I have a weird, sado-masochistic relationship with Sunny's books. No matter how bad and unoriginal they get, I don't stop reading. I thought this was the weakest of her efforts so far, really nothing more than filler. But equally, I know I'll buy the next thing she puts out. Sigh. She's my guilty pleasure.

LesleyW said...

Naomi - everyone should have at least one guilty pleasure. :)

Anonymous said...

Loved the Karen Chance story. I don't think she packs too much plot in her stuff at all. I like that she assumes intelligence on the part of her readers. I'm so sick of suthors telling me things about a dozen times. It's why I stopped reading Kim Harrison. After the fifth time over a plot point, I get it already!

Agreed with you on the Sunny. She's not my cup of tea, but maybe because I've read Bishop and LKH, the two authors she plagiarizes from.

Liked the Briggs story, but didn't love it. Thought the romance developed too quickly to be believable or satisfying.

Was meh on the Wilkes.

LesleyW said...

Anon - I've now read the first book in Karen Chance's Cassie Palmer series (Touch the Dark) and have picked up the second. That's one of the things I like about anthologies that they open you up to reading stuff you might otherwise have missed.