The traveling carnival is a leftover of a bygone era, a curiosity lurking on the outskirts of town. It is a place of contradictions—the bright lights mask the peeling paint; a carnie in greasy overalls slinks away from the direction of the Barker’s seductive call. It is a place of illusion—is that woman’s beard real? How can she live locked in that watery box?
And while many are tricked by sleight of hand, there are hints of something truly magical going on. One must remain alert and learn quickly the unwritten rules of this dark show. To beat the carnival, one had better have either a whole lot of luck or a whole lot of guns—or maybe some magic of one’s own.
My Thoughts :
I have been looking forward to reading this anthology ever since I saw it advertised. The author roll call on this one is enough to make any Paranormal Urban Fantasy lover pee their pants in excitement. However as with every anthology you have to be prepared to hate a few and love a couple and ignore the rest.
PAINTED LOVE by Rob Thurman
This wasn't a great start for me. After waiting so long to read this anthology this was not the beginning I was hoping for. My constant love/hate relationship with these books was pushed to its limits and if it wasn't for the other brilliant authors that were to come I doubt I would have carried on reading the book.
I can see how some people would enjoy this story but I felt like I was missing something. It all becomes clear in the end but I don't like this style and I wasn't too impressed with the content/plot. Or I just went in with a bad attitude. Whichever it was, this wasn't my favourite.
THE THREE LIVES OF LYDIA by Delilah S. Dawson
I have never heard of this author before and therefore do not know her work. This story is set in the Blud Series and I have to admit that I was a little lost. I have no idea what this series is about and found it a struggle to keep up with what was going on. While I love short stories based in the worlds I know and love it is a real pain to find one in an anthology set in a world you have no experience with.
A little dark and dismal for my liking and once again a story that didn't make me feel like continuing with the rest of the collection.
THE DEMON BARKER OF WHEAT STREET by Kevin Hearne
I am new to the Iron Druid series and when I saw that this short story was set in the world 3 books further along than I am, well I wanted to cry a little. You see I loved the first book and I am desperate to start the second, third, fourth etc and I was extremely worried that this snippet in the series would spoil things for me. However I didn't need to worry because the author was kind enough not to ruin things for people like me.
There was Oberon and there was Granuaile. It is nice to see that these two characters have managed to stay constant in the series and I look forward to seeing what they get up to. In this story they are as I expected them to be. Oberon was funny and thinking of poodles and sausages and Granuaile was being a naive apprentice. Perfect!
All in all a great little story and I appreciated the lack of depth and location set away from Atticus' normal jaunts. If you haven't read the series yet and want to see what the fuss is about then you will love this story and want more. One of the best reads in this anthology.
THE SWEETER THE JUICE by Mark Henry
I have praised this author on many occasions in the past but I think Mark Henry was working his way through something (a keg? something more potent) when he wrote this story. Transexuals, zombies and some other very weird and gross stuff was mixed up in one of the most confusing plots that I have ever come across. I missed the carnival theme altogether as I prayed for this one to come to a quick end. I hate to say it, but maybe this was even the worst of the bunch.
THE WEREWIFE by Jaye Wells
Jaye Wells is another author I have praised over the years and this story while not her best is still a nice addition to the anthology. The idea of a wife changing into a werewolf once a month has more than a few jokes attached to it and sometimes it felt a little too much. However the reason for her monthly problem and the way the story twists around is really quite cunning. I liked this one and it was just what I needed after the previous story.
THE COLD GIRL by Rachel Caine
If you haven't read anything by this author then it is high time you do. Rachel Caine is very well known in the Paranormal Urban Fantasy genre and her YA series about the Morganville Vampires is a cult hit. So I wasn't surprised at the pace and feeling of this story. It was deep, dark and somehow very real. It had an amazing 'It could happen' feel then slipped into the paranormal element leaving me with goosebumps.
One of the best, if not very imaginative, stories in the book. This was horror movie style YA and it was a nice change of pace in this mixed bag of stories.
A DUET WITH DARKNESS by Allison Pang
An Allison Pang book is either on my wishlist or hiding on my Kindle and I think I need to look for it soon. While I had no idea about who and what Abby Sinclair is, I felt like I need to get to know her after reading this short story. I would most likely have enjoyed it more if I was familiar with the series but alas, I had to trudge through.
This had a nice story and concept and it was definitely one of those reads that makes you want to get to know the author and series more. Allison Pang will be getting some new readers because of this short story.
RECESSION OF THE DIVINE by Hillary Jaques
Yawn! This story didn't do anything for me. I didn't really understand what was going on most of the time and I have to admit I wasn't interested. Nothing spoke to me and nothing grabbed my attention. Even though I was curious about another new author I won't be checking on her other work. Maybe this one will appeal to others but this fell flat for me.
PARLOR TRICKS Jennifer Estep
I had already read Parlor Tricks a while back when it was released as a preview for this anthology. It is the story that really makes the Collection worth reading. Jennifer's Elemental Assassin, Gin, and her sister Bria, take the reins in this short story finds them having a wonderful adventure worth reading about. You don't need to know the series to read this one but if you haven't already read the series I have to wonder why not...
One of the best of the bunch and everything I expected from this well established author and her amazing series.
FREAK HOUSE by Kelly Meding
I am behind on my Kelly Meding reading and I have no idea why. I was hoping this short story wouldn't ruin my place in her books and I was happy to find it didn't. Actually I hope like mad that this is the start of a new series because it is really one I would love to read.
Great idea and super characters, I was hooked from the beginning right to the end. This story was in my top three reads in the anthology. Please give us more of this!
THE INSIDE MAN by Nicole Peeler
Although I have read all the Jane True books (except the latest release) I felt very confused while reading this book. I couldn't place the characters and Jane doesn't make an appearance. I recognised some of the elements of the series but didn't feel like I was in the same world. The story was ok but it wasn't one I enjoyed that much and I could have easily skipped it.
A CHANCE IN HELL by Jackie Kessler
A surprise for me! A story from the Hell on Earth series! I thought this was over but maybe I have missed something? Or Jackie is just teasing her loyal readers? I love Jezebel and couldn't believe my luck when this story came along in the anthology. I sucked it up and enjoyed it so much that I can only hope that there will be more Jez soon! Of course if you haven't read this series it will not be exciting and amazing. Actually you will feel, I am sure, quite lost.
HELL’S MENAGERIE by Kelly Gay
Another series I am behind on. Charlie Madigan is a character I liked a lot and I have no reason why I haven't visited her lately. This short story was about her daughter Emma and was pretty mediocre compared to what I remember of the series. An ok read but it didn't leave me rushing to go pick up the books I am missing.
DAUGHTER OF THE MIDWAY, THE MERMAID, AND THE OPEN LONELY SEA by Seanan McGuire
Another new author for me but one I have heard a lot about. This story was a nice interesting one but I didn't really care too much for the characters. It was however a nice change of pace. Most of the stories in this collection were about people going to a carnival of some kind whereas this one was a carnival person having problems with townies.
As per usual this anthology was a mixed bunch of tricks. Where some stories shone out above the rest a lot of them dwindled in the dark and shouldn't have seen the light of day. My love/hate relationship with anthologies continues and I promise myself not to pick another one up before Christmas.
If you like at least a third of the authors who contributed to this book then you can't help but get a copy. There are some real treasures in here and you may even find some new authors to help fill your wishlist/shopping basket/bookshelves. It is also a nice book to pass around to friends who aren't sure about those weird paranormal books you keep reading.