Today's hottest urban fantasy authors come together in this delicious brew that crackles and boils over with tales of powerful witches and dark magic!
In Charlaine Harris' "Bacon," a beautiful vampire joins forces with a witch from an ancient line to find out who killed her beloved husband. In "Seeing Eye" by Patricia Briggs, a blind witch helps sexy werewolf Tom Franklin find his missing brother—and helps him in more ways than either of them ever suspected. And in Jim Butcher's "Last Call," wizard Harry Dresden takes on the darkest of dark powers—the ones who dare to mess with this favorite beer.
For anyone who's ever wondered what lies beyond the limits of reality, who's imagined the secret spaces where witches wield fearsome magic, come and drink deep. Let yourself fall under the spell of this bewitching collection of short stories!
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|File size:||353 KB|
About the Author
P.N. Elrod is the editor of Dark and Stormy Knights, Strange Brew, My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon and My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding, which won the 2006 Pearl Award for best anthology. She is the author of many novels, including the Vampire Files Series, as well as numerous short stories. In 2010, she was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy, and she is the winner of the Pioneer Achievement Award. Elrod loves meeting readers at science-fiction conventions all over the country. She has two dogs—Sasha and Megan—and an incurable addiction to chocolate. She lives somewhere on another planet, but maintains a convenient citizenship in the state of Texas for tax purposes.
Read an Excerpt
By P. N. Elrod
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Patricia Briggs
All rights reserved.
Seeing Eye Patricia Briggs
The doorbell rang.
That was the problem with her business. Too many people thought they could approach her at any time. Even oh-dark thirty, even though her hours were posted clearly on her door and on her Web site.
Of course, answering the door would be something to do other than sit in her study shivering in the dark. Not that her world was ever anything but dark. It was one of the reasons she hated bad dreams — she had no way of turning on the light. Bad dreams that held warnings of things to come were the worst.
The doorbell rang again.
She slept — or tried to sleep — the same hours as most people. Kept steady business hours, too. Something she had no trouble making clear to those morons who woke her up in the middle of the night. They came to see Glinda the Good Witch, but after midnight, they found the Wicked Witch of the West and left quaking in fear of flying monkeys.
Whoever waited at the door would have no reason to suspect how grateful she was for the interruption of her thoughts.
The doorbell began a steady throbbing beat, ring-long, ring-short, ring-short, ring-long, and she grew a lot less grateful. To heck with flying monkeys, she was going to turn whoever it was into a frog. She shoved her concealing glasses on her face and stomped out the hall to her front door. No matter that most of the good transmutation spells had been lost with the Coranda family in the seventeenth century — rude people needed to be turned into frogs. Or pigs.
She jerked open the door and slapped the offending hand on her doorbell. She even got out a "Stop that!" before the force of his spirit hit her like a physical blow. Her nose told her, belatedly, that he was sweaty as if he'd been jogging. Her other senses told her that he was something other.
Not that she'd expected him to be human. Unlike other witches, she didn't advertise, and thus seldom had mundane customers unless their needs disturbed her sleep and she set out one of her "find me" spells to speak to them — she knew when they were coming.
"Ms. Keller," he growled. "I need to speak to you." At least he'd quit ringing the bell.
She let her left eyebrow slide up her forehead until it would be visible above her glasses. "Polite people come between the hours of eight in the morning and seven at night," she informed him. Werewolf, she decided. If he really lost his temper, she might have trouble, but she thought he was desperate, not angry — though with a wolf, the two states could be interchanged with remarkable speed. "Rude people get sent on their way."
"Tomorrow morning might be too late," he said — and then added the bit that kept her from slamming the door in his face: "Alan Choo gave me your address, said you were the only one he knew with enough moxie to defy them."
She should shut the door in his face — not even a werewolf could get through her portal if she didn't want him to. But ... them. Her dream tonight and for the past weeks had been about them, about him again. Portents, her instincts had told her, not just nightmares. The time had come at last. No. She wasn't grateful to him at all.
"Did Alan tell you to say it in those words?"
"Yes, ma'am." His temper was still there, but restrained and under control. It hadn't been aimed at her anyway, she thought, only fury born of frustration and fear. She knew how that felt.
She centered herself and asked the questions he'd expect. "Who am I supposed to be defying?"
And he gave her the answer she expected in return. "Something called Samhain's Coven."
Moira took a tighter hold on the door. "I see."
It wasn't really a coven. No matter what the popular literature said, it had been a long time since a real coven had been possible. Covens had thirteen members, no member related to any other to the sixth generation. Each family amassed its own specialty spells, and a coven of thirteen benefited from all those differing magics. But after most of the witchblood families had been wiped out by fighting amongst themselves, covens became a thing of the past. What few families remained (and there weren't thirteen, not if you didn't count the Russians or the Chinese, who kept to their own ways) had a bone-deep antipathy for the other survivors.
Kouros changed the rules to suit the new times. His coven had between ten and thirteen members. ... He had a distressing tendency to burn out his followers. The current bunch descended from only three families that she knew of, and most of them weren't properly trained — children following their leader.
Samhain wasn't up to the tricks of the old covens, but they were scary enough even the local vampires walked softly around them, and Seattle, with its overcast skies, had a relatively large seethe of vampires. Samhain's master had approached Moira about joining them when she was thirteen. She'd refused and made her refusal stick at some cost to all the parties involved.
"What does Samhain have to do with a werewolf?" she asked.
"I think they have my brother."
"Another werewolf?" It wasn't unheard of for brothers to be werewolves, especially since the Marrok, He-Who-Ruled-the-Wolves, began Changing people with more care than had been the usual custom. But it wasn't at all common either. Surviving the Change — even with the safeguards the Marrok could manage — was still, she understood, nowhere near a certainty.
"No." He took a deep breath. "Not a werewolf. Human. He has the sight. Choo says he thinks that's why they took him."
"Your brother is a witch?"
The fabric of his shirt rustled with his shrug, telling her that he wasn't as tall as he felt to her. Only a little above average instead of a seven-foot giant. Good to know.
"I don't know enough about witches to know," he said. "Jon gets hunches. Takes a walk just at the right time to find five dollars someone dropped, picks the right lottery number to win ten bucks. That kind of thing. Nothing big, nothing anyone would have noticed if my grandma hadn't had it stronger."
The sight was one of those general terms that told Moira precisely nothing. It could mean anything from a little fae blood in the family tree or full-blown witchblood. His brother's lack of power wouldn't mean he wasn't a witch — the magic sang weaker in the men. But fae or witchblood, Alan Choo had been right about it being something that would attract Samhain's attention. She rubbed her cheekbone even though she knew the ache was a phantom pain touch wouldn't alter.
Samhain. Did she have a choice? In her dreams, she died.
She could feel the intensity of the wolf's regard, strengthening as her silence continued. Then he told her the final straw that broke her resistance. "Jon's a cop — undercover — so I doubt your coven knows it. If his body turns up, though, there will be an investigation. I'll see to it that the witchcraft angle gets explored thoroughly. They might listen to a werewolf who tells them that witches might be a little more than turbaned fortune-tellers."
Blackmail galled him, she could tell — but he wasn't bluffing. He must love his brother.
She had only a touch of empathy, and it came and went. It seemed to be pretty focused on this werewolf tonight, though.
If she didn't help him, his brother would die at Samhain's hands, and his blood would be on her as well. If it cost her death, as her dreams warned her, perhaps that was justice served.
"Come in," Moira said, hearing the grudge in her voice. He'd think it was her reaction to the threat — and the police poking about the coven would end badly for all concerned.
But it wasn't his threat that moved her. She took care of the people in her neighborhood; that was her job. The police she saw as brothers-in-arms. If she could help one, it was her duty to do so. Even if it meant her life for his.
"You'll have to wait until I get my coffee," she told him, and her mother's ghost forced the next bit of politeness out of her. "Would you like a cup?"
"No. There's no time."
He said that as if he had some idea about it — maybe the sight hadn't passed him by either.
"We have until tomorrow night if Samhain has him." She turned on her heel and left him to follow her or not, saying over her shoulder, "Unless they took him because he saw something. In which case, he probably is already dead. Either way, there's time for coffee."
He closed the door with deliberate softness and followed her. "Tomorrow's Halloween. Samhain."
"Kouros isn't Wiccan, any more than he is Greek, but he apes both for his followers," she told him as she continued deeper into her apartment. She remembered to turn on the hall light — not that he'd need it, being a wolf. It just seemed courteous: allies should show each other courtesy. "Like a magician playing sleight of hand, he pulls upon myth, religion, and anything else he can to keep them in thrall. Samhain — the time, not the coven — has power for the fae, for Wicca, for witches. Kouros uses it to cement his own, and killing someone with a bit of power generates more strength than killing a stray dog — and bothers him about as much."
"Kouros?" He said it as if it solved some puzzle, but it must not have been important, because he continued with no more than a breath of pause. "I thought witches were all women." He followed her into the kitchen and stood too close behind her. If he were to attack, she wouldn't have time to ready a spell.
But he wouldn't attack; her death wouldn't come at his hands tonight.
The kitchen lights were where she remembered them, and she had to take it on faith that she was turning them on and not off. She could never remember which way the switch worked. He didn't say anything, so she must have been right.
She always left her coffeepot primed for mornings, so all she had to do was push the button and it began gurgling in promise of coffee soon.
"Um," she said, remembering he'd asked her a question. His closeness distracted her — and not for the reasons it should. "Women tend to be more powerful witches, but you can make up for lack of talent with enough death and pain. Someone else's, of course, if you're a black practitioner like Kouros."
"What are you?" he asked, sniffing at her. His breath tickled the back of her neck — wolves, she'd noticed before, had a somewhat different idea of personal space than she did.
Her machine began dribbling coffee out into the carafe at last, giving her an excuse to step away. "Didn't Alan tell you? I'm a witch."
He followed; his nose touched her where his breath had sensitized her flesh, and she probably had goose bumps on her toes from the zing he sent through her. "My pack has a witch we pay to clean up messes. You don't smell like a witch."
He probably didn't mean anything by it; he was just being a wolf. She stepped out of his reach in the pretense of getting a coffee cup, or rather he allowed her to escape.
Alan was right: She needed to get out more. She hadn't so much as dated in ... well, a long time. The last man's reaction to seeing what she'd done to herself was something she didn't want to repeat.
This man smelled good, even with the scent of his sweat teasing her nose. He felt strong and warm, promising to be the strength and safety she'd never had outside of her own two hands. Dominant wolves took care of their pack — doubtless something she'd picked up on. And then there was the possibility of death hovering over her.
Whatever the ultimate cause, his nearness and the light touch of breath on her skin sparked her interest in a way she knew he'd have picked up on. You can't hide sexual interest from something that can trail a hummingbird on the wing. Neither of them needed the complication of sex interfering in urgent business, even assuming he'd be willing.
"Witchcraft gains power from death and pain. From sacrifice and sacrificing," she told him coolly, pouring coffee in two mugs with steady hands. She was an expert in sacrifice. Not sleeping with a strange werewolf who showed up on her doorstep didn't even register in her scale.
She drank coffee black, so that was how she fixed it, holding the second cup out to him. "Evil leaves a psychic stench behind. Maybe a wolf nose can pick up on it. I don't know, not being a werewolf, myself. There's milk in the fridge and sugar in the cupboard in front of you if you'd like."
She wasn't at all what Tom had expected. Their pack's hired witch was a motherly woman of indeterminate years who wore swami robes in bright hues and smelled strongly of patchouli and old blood that didn't quite mask something bitter and dark. When he'd played Jon's message for her, she'd hung up the phone and refused to answer it again.
By the time he'd driven to her house, it was shut up and locked with no one inside. That was his first clue that this Samhain's Coven might be even more of a problem than he'd thought, and his worry had risen to fever pitch. He'd gone down to the underpass where his brother had been living and used his nose through the parks and other places his brother drifted through. But wherever they were holding Jon (and he refused to believe Jon was dead), it wasn't anywhere near where they kidnaped him.
His Alpha didn't like pack members concerning themselves with matters outside of the pack ("Your only family is your pack, son"). Tom didn't even bother contacting him. He'd gone to Choo instead. The Emerald City Pack's only submissive wolf, Alan worked as an herbalist and knew almost everyone in the supernatural world of Seattle. When he told Alan about the message Jon had left on his phone, Alan had written this woman's name and address and handed it to him. He'd have thought it was a joke, but Alan had better taste than that. So Tom had gone looking for a witch named Wendy — Wendy Moira Keller.
At his first look, he'd been disappointed. Wendy the witch was five foot nothing with rich curves in all the right places and feathery black hair that must have been dyed, because only black Labs and cats are that black. The stupid wraparound mirrored glasses kept him from guessing her age exactly, but he'd bet she wasn't yet thirty. No woman over thirty would be caught dead in those glasses. The cop in him wondered if she was covering up bruises — but he didn't smell a male in the living-scents in the house.
She wore a gray T-shirt without a bra, and black pajama pants with white skull-and-crossbones wearing red bows. But despite all that, he saw no piercings or tattoos — like she'd approached mall Goth culture, but only so far. She smelled of fresh flowers and mint. Her apartment was decorated with a minimum of furniture and a mishmash of colors that didn't quite fit together.
He didn't scare her.
Tom scared everyone — and he had even before their pack had a run-in with a bunch of fae a few years ago. His face had gotten cut up pretty badly with some sort of magical knife and hadn't healed right afterwards. The scars made him look almost as dangerous as he was. People walked warily around him.
Not only wasn't she scared, but she didn't even bother to hide her irritation at being woken up. He stalked her, and all she'd felt was a flash of sexual awareness that came and went so swiftly, he might have missed it if he'd been younger.
Either she was stupid or she was powerful. Since Alan had sent him here, Tom was betting on powerful. He hoped she was powerful.
He didn't want the coffee, but he took it when she handed to him. It was black and stronger that he usually drank it, but it tasted good. "So why don't you smell like other witches?"
"Like Kouros, I'm not Wiccan," she told him, "but 'and it harm none' seems like a good way to live to me."
He knew that Wiccans consider themselves witches — and some of them had enough witchblood to make it so. But witches, the real thing, weren't witches because of what they believed, but because of genetic heritage. A witch was born a witch and studied to become a better one. But for witches, real power came from blood and death — mostly other people's blood and death.
White witches, especially those outside of Wicca (where numbers meant safety), were weak and valuable sacrifices for black witches, who didn't have their scruples. As Wendy the Witch had noted — witches seemed to have a real preference for killing their own.
He sipped at his coffee and asked, "So how have you managed without ending up as bits and pieces in someone else's cauldron?"
The witch snorted a laugh and set her coffee down abruptly. She grabbed a paper towel off its holder and held it to her face as she gasped and choked coffee, looking suddenly a lot less than thirty. When she was finished, she said, "That's awesome. Bits and pieces. I'll have to remember that."
Still grinning, she picked up the coffee again. He wished he could see her eyes, because he was pretty sure that whatever humor she'd felt was only surface deep.
"I tell you what," she said, "why don't you tell me who you are and what you know? That way I can tell you if I can help you or not."
Excerpted from Strange Brew by P. N. Elrod. Copyright © 2009 Patricia Briggs. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsSeeing Eye by Patricia Briggs,
Last Call by Jim Butcher,
Death Warmed Over by Rachel Caine,
Vegas Odds by Karen Chance,
Hecate's Golden Eye by p. N. Elrod,
Bacon by Charlaine Harris,
Signatures of the Dead by Faith Hunter,
Ginger: A Nocturne City Story by Caitlin Kittredge,
Dark Sins by Jenna Maclaine,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
~Seeing Eye After reading this story of Moira Keller, a good witch in Seattle who gets a late night visit from a man - or werewolf - in need of help against Them -- I cannot believe I have not read any stories by Patricia. Tom is looking for his kidnapped "gifted" brother, Jon. Everything Tom told Moira rang true with her as it matched her dreams. Moira believes Jon was kidnapped as a sacrifice on Halloween for Kouro Samhain and his coven. I really enjoyed the unexpected turns and events of the story. This story has made purchasing the anthology worth it. And this was only the first story. ~Death Warmed Over Holly Anne Caldwell, a witch who's the best at what she does - resurrection, hates doing ressurections on a work night, as they take all night and no sleep doesn't help the day job. But Sam asks her to do one on Thursday, it's Monday. A long-term resurrection for the Police Department can't be a good thing, and on such short notice. Will she take it? The person she is to resurrect has a long strong history himself, and a short history with Holly too. I really enjoyed this short story. I loved the way the characters where developed in this short story and connected with each other and find I want to read more of the short time Holly and Andrew spent together before. I am definitely going to have to get a few more of her books after reading this short story. Great read! ~Signatures of the Dead A whole family is butchered and Brax wants to get the killers. Brax needs to know for sure if its vampires, if they are okay, and where they sleep to get justice. Molly is a unique Earth Witch and could help. But could it hurt her? Being a short of thirty-three pages, I felt the suspense and couldn't wait to get to the end to see where they story went. As the story went the plot thickened for me. I really felt pulled in to this world with these characters. The characters abilities and limits amazed me. I really liked the way witches were broke down and made a bigger type of character with new rules (for me) along with limits. This short story introduced me to a character I really liked the idea of, Jane Yellow rock - from Skinwalker. ~Dark Sins Cin a witch turned vampire three years ago by Michael, unusually retained her witch powers - yet she doesn't have control of them and has premonitions. Cin and Michael are on a holiday in Venice with their friends Devlin and Justine when they are attacked by a dark Wizard and his witches. When Cin wakes up she is on a stone floor surrounded by a ward and her friends are laying on alters. Why are they wanted in this town? This story starts off with action of both sexual and physical battle. I enjoyed how the action kept moving through this story. This short story also had a start, climax, and an end to the story. There was a creation of a god and plans for the future with these characters. I look forward to other stories here in this world, whether in anthologies or full books. I am going to have to find this series of Cin Craven now.
All in all I really enjoyed this urban fantasy anthology; it was a lot of fun. I gave this a 4-star rating because there were only a couple duds out of all the nine authors who contributed; and that in itself is really surprising to have so many good novellas in one anthology. Faith Hunter "Signatures of the Dead" Now this novella was spectacular! This was definitely my favorite out of all nine authors. We are introduced to Jane Yellowrock, the heroine in Faith Hunter's new series. This novella however, focuses on Molly Trueblood, an earth witch. Molly assist her friends, Jane and a detective in locating rogue vampires who are currently on a vicious killing spree. The story was exciting, mysterious and smoothly done. The whole story felt complete even though it was only 31 pages long. 5+/5 Caitlin Kittredge "Ginger" This one comes in at a close second. This novella takes place in Caitlin's Nocturne City world. The story focuses on Sunny who helps Luna in infiltrating a blood magic coven. The story was interesting, moved fluidly and was full of action and intrigue. 5/5 Rachel Caine "Death Warmed Over" I stop reading Rachel's Weather Warden series last year because it started to seem completely unbelievable and coincidental. This story however, was flawless! Holly, a Necromancer, is asked by the police to resurrect a tenacious Zombie War hero to assist them in a current case. This story really surprised me. It was dark, interesting, humorous and smooth. 5/5 Karen Chance "Vegas Odds" Lia a mage teacher and her werewolf boyfriend Cyrus are attached in her home by a few of her rogue students, hellbent on killing her. This story was invigorating, exciting and fast paced. 5/5 Patricia Briggs "Seeing Eye" Moira, a powerful witch aids a werewolf in the search for his brother. The story was interesting but the transitions weren't smooth and flowing; instead it felt choppy and hurried. Regardless of the rushed impression, I liked Moira. She's a blind witch with a lot of courage and a steel spine. She chose to walk into a lion's den in complete darkness, for a complete stranger. 4/5 Jim Butcher "Last Call" Harry Dresden gets more than he bargained for when he goes on a beer run. This was my least favorite. Now I loved the show The Dresden files from the Scifi network and was pissed off when it got canceled. Surprisingly though, this story just didn't hook me. I found it boring and tedious. 1/5 This anthology was a surprisingly fast read and I highly recommend it. Most of the stories had a nice spooky and comfy feel to them. Like when you snuggle up and crack open a good book on a cold and snowy night, and more importantly, with a day off from work the next day.lol
I always find this collaboration of writers keep me interested. The stories are offbeat, sometimes commical, usually thrilling and definitely original.
If you haven't read anything of each of the authors who provide a short story, "Strange Brew" will help you by giving you a taste of how they write and of the characters of their books. I have all the books of the series for Butcher (Harry Dresdan), Harris (Sookie Stackhouse), and Briggs (Mercy Thompson and the Omega Series). Read this then take the time to find out more of what these authors write. They are worth the time.
I am a Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris fan already and I enjoyed the chance to read some other current SF/F writers without committing to a whole novel. I enjoyed the stories in this book and will probably end up checking out some of the authors' novels, which was, I am sure, the intent of this compilation. This is also good if you enjoy some reading before bedtime, but you're too busy to get engrossed in a long novel. I picked this up during my busy season and it was great to have something entertaining to read before bed and I didn't have to worry about staying up too late because I "just couldn't put it down".
the book is done by several diffrent authors. thus you will have a nice variety to stories. there is a little of everything for everyone. the action, romance,humour,suspenes,saddness, and horror. i fully enjoyed the book personally. Introduced me to new authours and stories to look into futher for future reading. however, this is not a book i would recommend for younger teens or children. over all i gave it high marks.
I have read several of the short story collections edited by P.N. Elrod, and as with the others I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. The variety of stories from a number of different authors exposed me to writers that I haven't read before and resulted in my starting to read several other series.
A fun quick read. A few of the stories are even touching.
For fans of the wizard, werewolf and night beastie gang, this is a great read. Butcher's Dresden stories are always a great mix of humor, magic and Sam Spade type detective story. All of these writers are at the top of their game for the genre. No eternal classics here but a lot of great fun reading. Highly recommended.
The top two stories in my opinion would be Jim Butcher's 'Last Call' and Charlaine Harris' 'Bacon'. Bacon doesn't have Sookie in it, or any of the other major players, but it is set in that world. Most of the other stories I liked except for two., which were Rachel Caine's 'Death Warmed Over' and Jenna MacLaine's 'Dark Sins'. And that was more because of the stories, than the writing.
This is a wonderful collection of stories. I couldn't put it down. As I finished each story, I wondered if the author had more stories with those characters. This book is a nice introduction to the styles of each of the authors.
P.N. Elrod has made a set of excellent choices of authors shorts in this unique collection of magical and mythical tales. I have read Jim Butcher's work in the past, but none of the other authors until now, and will be doing some homework to add titles to my list. Works from Patricia Briggs, Rachel Caine, Karen Chance, P.N. Elrod, Charlaine Harris, Faith Hunter, Caitlin Kittridge, and Jenna Maclaine, all make this book an excellent source of getting a feel for what out there that is good to read, and interesting. witches, werevolves, Vampires, all make their make here, and some in mixed company, and mixed races. I think this will actually have me out looking for other collections edited by Elrod as well.
I got this primarily for the stories by Patricia Briggs (author of the Mercy Thompson series), Karen Chance (author of the Cassandra Palmer series), and Charlaine Harris (author of the Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire series). Those three stories alone make the book a great buy! But I ended up enjoying all the other stories, too! I just consider the rest a bonus. If you like "paranormal" stories, then you will not go wrong with this book. I recommend it!
I think the stories were supposed to be linked via the use of a brew (usually a potion). Sometimes that works better than others.I was amused by Jim Butcher interpreting "brew" to mean McAnally's prized beer. It was a nice story, no guest appearances aside from Murphy, and no major revelations about things from the novels.Karen Chance had a story from a new series that might be interesting. Then again, her protagonist is dangerously close to spending a lot of time whining about how it's not safe for anyone to love her because she puts them all in danger... not quite accidentally burned down her entire village with uncontrolled powers, but not far from it, either. I might check out the first book.A solid anthology with stories from a few different Urban Fantasy series.
Nothing extraordinary, but a solid representation of the authors involved. I would consider it more for fans of the authors than an introduction to them. Many of the stories involve side characters of the author's main series, so a complete knowledge their work isn't necessary. The three big names had decent contributions; nothing soul-shaking but skillful explorations of their world. Patricia Briggs looked into the back story of a character mentioned in her latest novel, with an interesting view of how her werewolves seem to an outsider. Charlaine Harris avoids her main characters but gives a story showing the darker sides of both vampires and werewolves. I liked the double crossing going on in the stories, as the characters underestimate each other's ruthlessness. Jim Butcher lets Harry get into big fights involving sexy villains and booze. Anything with Murphy comes out good. P.N. Elrod (the editor) included another Jack Fleming story, with lots of double-crossing and thirties style gangster action.The other stories were a bit disappointing, with Rachael Caine and Karen Chance showing the traits that made me stop buying their books. Their protagonists make too many silly choices, or explain their actions in unlikely ways. The romance in Caine's story may set a new record in severe creepiness for me -- the heroine falls for the man she resurrects, but I never got over the fact that he was dead. The misunderstanding in Chance's effort deserves a spot in Silly Romance Hall of Fame, and clearing that up in the final paragraphs left me with a bad taste in my head. The final three authors were new to me, but I probably won't be seeking them out. Faith Hunter's story wasn't bad, but wasn't amazing, and Caitlin Kittredge and Jenna Maclain's offerings were weak. Maclain's story provides a textbook example of a deus ex machina, since the protagonist can't figure a way out of her situation. A goddess literally shows up, tells Our Heroine that she is silly, and grants her enormous powers. Heroine messes up again, but nice goddess fixes everything. Again. Nothing our character thought or did made any difference. If this is explaining something inside a larger story, that might be acceptable, but as an introduction to an author it doesn't make me look for more.
Overall this is a decent set of stories. The highlights for me were Karen Chance's super action packed "Vegas Odds" and Jenna Maclaine's beautifully written, action packed, and intricate "Dark Sins". I found Cin from "Dark Sins" to be a very interesting heroine and I would definitely like to read more about her. I also really liked meeting Jane Yellowrock in Faith Hunter's "Signatures of the Dead." Jane is a character I would also like to read more about.My least favorites were Elrod's story (not surprising because I have read a couple of the books with Jack and don't enjoy her writing style all that much) and Harris's "Bacon". See a summary of each below. I liked the book in general and really liked that is gave me a look at some of the new authors and characters coming out in series.- Seeing Eye by Patricia BriggsA witch named Moira and a werewolf named Tom go to save Tom's brother from an evil coven. Pretty good, I enjoyed it. 4/5- Last Call by Jim ButcherEntertaining story about Murphy and Harry tracking down the source of some tainted beer that Mac accidentally served in his bar. Tons of action, very entertaining! 4/5- Death Warmed Over by Rachel CaineAbout witch named Holly who resurrects an old witch, Andy, to help the police find a witch killer. Unfortunately Holly and the resurrected witch have a history. Fast-paced and engaging story although I didn't like the main character all that much. 4/5- Vegas Odds by Karen ChanceLia is a War Mage stuck in the middle of a war between good and evil. When her house comes under attack she is left to figure out who the attackers are and hunt down their master. I really liked this story; it was packed with action and set in an interesting world that I want to learn more about. 5/5- Hecate's Golden Eye by P. N. ElrodJack and Charles are hired to recover a stolen piece of jewelry. The crime turns out to be more than it first seems. This was a fast paced story featuring Elrod's well known Jack Flemming. Overall a decent story. 3/5- Bacon by Charlaine HarrisThis story is about a vampire, Dahlia, who hires a witch to help avenge her werewolf husband that has been murdered. Overall I thought this story was boring and the plot a bit hard to folllow at points. I didn't really like any of the characters much either. 2/5- Signatures of the Dead by Faith HunterAbout a witch named Molly who works with a Skinwalker named Jane Yellowrock to bring down some rogue vampires. I really didn't find Molly to be all that fascinating of a character. I did really like Jane Yellowrock though. The story moved quickly, was very engaging, and had lots of good action scenes. I am eager to read more stories involving Jane Yellowrock. I know that Hunter's book "Skinwalker" featuring Jane came out earlier this summer and this short story really makes me want to check it out. 4/5- Ginger: A Nocturne City Story by Caitlin KittredgeA witch named "Sunny" gets kidnapped as part of a larger plot onvolving a witch coven. This was an okay story, although I didn't think it was great and didn't like any of the characters much. 3/5- Dark Sins by Jenna MaclaineI really liked this story. Cin Craven is a vampire who attained her witch powers. Her and her S.O. Michael are attacked and captured; and need to escape to save their lives and the lives of their friends. This story was set in the Victorian era. I really liked both Cin and Michael as characters. Just the glimpse this story give hints at a very interesting and intricate world with a lush history. Lots of action and a tad of romance. The entrance of the goddess Morrgan made things very interesting. One of my favorite stories of the bunch. 5/5
An anthology of witch- and wizard-based short stories.This is my first attempt at reading self-styled Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Fiction, so mine is an outsider's perspective. If you're already a fan of these writers or the sub-genre, you may want to give more weight to other reviews.Simply put, I don't think this sub-genre is for me. Two reasons:Stylistically, there were a lot of smirky introductory moments. Things like, to make one up off the top of my head, "Her pendant was silver. I hate silver. You see, I'm a werewolf." These made my eyes roll and I couldn't sustain much interest in the story.On a more philosophical level, I found there to be too much of an overlap between the mundane and the fantastic. There was no sense of awe at the otherworldly. Magic, vampires, werewolves... they're treated as ordinary as gym socks.
More romancy than I expected but still good. I'm partial to Jim Butcher, and his Dresden Files story was the highlight of this anthology for me. It was quite humorous and might be my favorite of all Buchter's shorts. The stories by Briggs, Caine, and Chance were all enjoyable, though very relationship-focused. P.N. Elrod's vampire P.I. mystery was campy, but in a good way (or maybe I'm just fond of detective stories). Faith Hunter's work was gory, but intriguing. Maclaine and Kittredge's stories left something to be desired; the former's chosen-one-of-unequaled-power plot line was too cliche and the latter was plagued with plot holes and unremarkable characters. Surprisingly, one of the worst stories in this anthology was the one by Charlaine Harris. Her characters were annoying, the plot predictable, the dialogue disjointed, and the writing mediocre at best. Despite its clunkers - all anthologies have them - Strange Brew was entertaining and will be appreciated by fans of the urban fantasy genre (but be warned that it definitely rides the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance).
Anthologies are often uneven. This one is mostly very good to great, with a very few exceptions. I really liked the stories from Briggs, Cain, Chance, and Hunter. The stories from Butcher, Elrod, and Kittredge were good. I didn't care for Harris and Maclaine's stories. Seven good or very good stories out of nine is makes this a worthwhile purchase in my opinion, especially since many of these stories tie in to or introduce the authors' longer running series. I am particularly interested to see if Rachel Caine is going to do anything more with the characters in her story.
A decent set of werewolf and witch themed urban fantasy stories. Mostly fast-paced quick reads with an element of mystery and a touch of romance.
Elrod edits good anthologies. This one is a collection of stories about vampires and witches, or vampires who are witches, in several cases. Authors include Elrod, Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, and more. Butcher's is a Harry Dresden story, and Harris' is in the Sookie Stackhouse universe but doesn't have Sookie as a character.I enjoyed all the stories, though one or two were a little too melodramatic for me.
I bought this last year for Patricia Briggs' entry "Seeing Eye," but on found the majority of the stories to be fairly readable. On re-reading it recently (and discovering I hadn't actually entered it into LT!) I like a couple of the stories better having become more familiar with their characters in the meantime. Standouts for me other than "Seeing Eye?" (Which, by the way, fills in some backstory on a couple of minor characters that show up in one of the full length books quite nicely.)Rachel Caine's "Death Warmed Over" made me want to track down a full length book and read more about the escapades of the necromancer and her dead not-quite lover. Karen Chance's "Vegas Odds" - it was nice to catch up with Cyrus and Accalia again now that I've encountered them elsewhere. The storyline is starting to make a bit more sense!"Bacon" by Charlaine Harris was clever, but her characters seemed a bit stiffer and less sympathetic than others of her characters, and the reasoning behind the plot felt a bit muddled.And "Dark Sins" by Jenna Maclaine begged for a bit more information - another author whose work I'll have to look for.All things considered, I guess I'd say this anthology accomplished its purpose - LOL!
I enjoyed this anthology more than many I've read in the last year. My favorites include Jim Butcher's "Last Call" , Cassandra Palmer's "Vegas Odds" and Patricia Briggs' "Seeing Eye." All three of these authors have never disappointed me in the short story (or novel writing) department. The stories are always well crafted with interesting characters, very good pacing and lots of action. P.N. Elrod and Caitlin Kittredge also delivered well written stories. Oddly enough, the worst of the bunch for me was Charlaine Harris' "Bacon." Unfortunately, I've never much cared for her short stories. I do love her novels, especially the Southern Vampire Mysteries. "Bacon" was not a Sookie story but it's characters and the feel of the whole thing felt like an episode of True Blood - a bit ridiculous. As a whole though, this was a good collection of stories. Recommended.
These were short stories by various authors 2 I¿ve read a lot of books from 1 I¿d read only another short story and the rest were all new to me.Seeing Eye by, Patricia Briggs- I always enjoy Patricia Briggs writing and I hope to see Tom & Moira show up again in the World of the Marrok.Last Call by, Jim Butcher- This was my first Jim Butcher/Harry Dresden and it piqued my interest enough to order the first book in that series.Death Warmed Over by, Rachel Caine- This was an okay story although I felt like I was missing major parts of the plot. Don¿t know if it made me want to read more of Rachel CaineVegas Odds by, Karen Chance- This one was definitely action packed this is the 2nd short story I¿ve read by Karen Chance and I will be finding more by her.Hecate¿s Golden Eye by, P.N. Elrod- good story the writing made me interested enough to look for her Vampire Files books.Bacon by, Charlaine Harris- This story was okay it¿s not a Sookie story but they off-handedly mentioned a character from those books. But the last line of this was GREAT!!Signature of the Dead by, Faith Hunter- Good action packed story. Will find the book Skinwalker which is about one of the characters in this story.Ginger by, Caitlin Kittredge- This story intrigued me enough to look for more by this author.Dark Sins by, Jenna Maclaine- Maybe if I¿d read this author/character before I would have enjoyed it better it was just ok or less.
A fun, exciting collection of supernatural stories, all dealing with witches and/or potions and brews. Recommended!