This collection contains the stories “A Questionable Client,” “Retribution Clause,” “Of Swine and Roses,” “Grace of Small Magics” and “Magic Tests.” Committed fans of the Andrews’ works should love this collection. I enjoyed it a great deal, but it leans heavily on romance tradition, a genre I don’t willingly read. Nonetheless, they avoid the generally misogynist tropes in hetro romance and with palatable results.
I’ve read three of these stories before, but I’m generally a fan of the Andrews and a sucker for anything in the post-Shifty Kate Daniels universe, so when this collection was released, I bought. The Andrews were quite honest about the intent of the collection, warning fans that all of the stories have been published before in other collections or venues; that this was a way to feel out the kindle-verse and possibly attract new readers to their series. A less ethical team of authors and publishers might have thrown one unique story in there just to loop in the die-hard fans and bump sales, so I appreciated the author honesty.
“A Questionable Client” is often billed as the first story in the Kate Daniels universe, and is her first encounter with Saiman as well as a meeting with the Russian vokhvi. Action-focused, it’s quick, violent, and draws on an interesting assortment of mythology. Suffers slightly from overmuch of the familiar Kate-Saiman banter (can it be banter if it is one-sided?)
“Retribution Clause” is set in Philadelphia and centers on a cousin of Saiman and his work partner, Siroun. They work for an insurance adjuster firm and are sent to fulfill a retribution clause of a contract. Needless to say, there’s a lot of romantic undercurrents between them, but the story primarily focuses on the job.
“Of Swine and Roses” would have delighted me a few decades ago, say sixteen or younger. It reads young adult. A teen goes on a date to protect her family interests, with unexpected results.
“Grace of Small Magics” is about the same style as “Swine,” only more firmly in new adult territory. Not set in the normal Daniels universe, it is more traditionally urban fantasy setting. Drawing on interesting mythology, I thought it might go somewhere horror-tinged, but no; straight into Romanceland using an action set-up. Ended more abruptly than I expected.
“Magic Tests” is set in the Daniels universe and involves Kate manipulating Julie into seeing a new school. Julie gets roped into an investigation. It has the fun mythology and puzzle-solving of a Daniels story, with teenage dynamics. I thought they did a decent job of individuating Julie’s voice, and honestly, it wasn’t annoying (given that she is often annoying in the stories, as only a pre-teen could be). My favorite.
Three and a half short stars, rounding up because the authors didn’t resort to cheap sales tricks