I don’t normally say this, but… People! Aim higher! Not the authors, although that goes for them too. No, I’m talking readers. Ilona Andrews, as always, has an interesting blog post about the ‘Cheap, Fast, and Good’ phenomenon in publishing. You should read it, as I think she offers some excellent insight, particularly the comment, “Research has shown that if a person wants a particular movie or book, they would rather settle for a mediocre book on their preferred topic than buy a better quality book in a different genre.” (April 12, 2017). The jacket copy on Hexed claims that all four authors are ‘bestselling,’ two of them from the NYT Bestseller list. Which leads me back to my point, that readers need to demand better, not more, because if this is bestselling, these short-form writers really need to read more Peter S. Beagle or Roger Zelazny.
The first story ‘Magic Dreams’ is set in Andrews’ Kate Daniels universe, about Dali, a brilliant Indonesian woman who is called upon when her crush is exposed to deadly magic. It’s a solid story, although I feel like Dali’s personality doesn’t come through well; she mostly seems like a young, awkward girl with a giant crush on a powerful man. This is in contrast with the confident woman of the Daniels’ series, who volunteers for death matches and pretends she’s a professional race-car driver. Still, it has fun mythology and gives a little more insight into another corner of Atlanta. Three stars.
The second story, ‘Ice Shards‘ by Yasmine Galenorn is utterly incomprehensible, over-wrought, over-written drivel of the sort a clever fifteen-year-old who reads too much Juliet Marillier might write. Twenty pages was enough to make me swear off reading for the evening, poisoned by the language sinking into my brain. In an effort to purge it, I’ll share: “I stared at Grandmother Coyote’s portal. We were standing in the middle of a snow-shrouded wood, in the Belles-Faire district of Seattle, a few miles from home. But we were about to travel through the veil, to the Otherworld, the land of Camille’s birth. From there we would journey to the Northlands, the world I’d left behind so long ago, when I’d been branded a murderer, stripped of my strongest powers, and cast out of the order of Undutar, the Goddess of the Mist and Snow.” That’s on page three, in case you were wondering. No, you don’t get more explanation that makes sense.
How about our heroine? “Most people thought I was a pushover, an easy mark, since I was so short and petite. Some assumed I was mild and delicate; others thought I was a cozy maid. But I’d seen too much to ever be mild or cozy or an easy mark. I hid my memories well, but they were always there to fuel the need to fight.” Gack. What is a ‘cozy maid?’ Why are we bringing memories into it? And believe me, in twenty pages, there wasn’t any fighting, just a tear or two, a meeting in a bar and etc., etc., yawners. One star.
The third story, ‘Double Hexed,‘ by Allyson James, is a fun urban fantasy and will probably appeal to fans of Kate Daniels. Another no-nonsense heroine with a straight-forward writing style. Interesting magical-being building, although I could pass on the tantric magic. Interesting integration of Southwest Native mythology with conceptions of withcraft, vampires and black magic. Three stars.
The final story, ‘Blood Debt,‘ by Jeanne C. Stein feels a little knock-off-ish and unfinished, but with potentially interesting bones. A woman who was recently made a vampire is called to account for killing a murderous witch by powers from the other world. Straight-forward prose. Choppy with partial sentences. (See what I did there?). Two stars.
Overall, definitely don’t buy. Worth picking up only if you want to see a novella by one of the authors you enjoy.