Review: ‘Three Slices’ anthology

Three Slices

Three Slices presents three novellas by modern fantasy writers:

A Prelude to War by Kevin Hearne

After an old friend is murdered in retaliation for his mercenary strikes against the oldest vampires in the world, Atticus O’Sullivan must solicit the aid of another old friend in Ethiopia if he’s going to have a chance of finishing a war he never wanted. Meanwhile, Granuaile MacTiernan starts a private war of her own against Loki, the lord of lies, and if it brings Ragnarok early — so be it.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys by Delilah S. Dawson

The number one rule of the circus? Don’t kill your volunteers, even accidentally. That’s how young magician Criminy Stain ends up on the run in a forest, where he meets a beautiful woman holding a bucket of blood. But is Merissa the answer to his prayers — or the orchestrator of his ruin?

Interlude: Swallow by Chuck Wendig

Miriam Black is back. Miriam is tired of her curse and finally believes she knows how to be rid of her ability to see when and how other people die. She follows a lead to the mountains of Colorado, where she believes she sees signs of a serial killer she thought she already killed. (Set between THE CORMORANT and THUNDERBIRD.)

It’s very rare to find an anthology where you’ve read all (and are up to date on the relevant series by) the contributing authors. It’s never happened to me before, at any rate! So of course when I saw Three Slices, which has stories by three awesome urban fantasy writers, I had to buy it.

I maybe should have guessed from the title, but all three stories have one thing in common: oracular cheese. (Yes, cheese.) That element was really cute, and was one of the things that tied the stories together. There were a few other things, some of them more subtle than others — Kevin Hearne gives a nod to Chuck Wendig’s heirloom apple obsession, for example, while Chuck uses the Polish expression that is the title of Delilah Dawson’s story. I loved seeing those little easter eggs sprinkled throughout.

On the stories themselves, I enjoyed all three, although Delilah’s story was probably my favourite, mainly because — of the three of them — it was the one that stands alone the most cleanly. For fans of her Blud series, seeing how Criminy Stain winds up in the circus he’s the ringmaster of in later books is very entertaining, and Criminy is still my favourite smoking hot magician vampire.

Wendig’s Swallow was a little peek at how Miriam is going; the mystery within the story is resolved internally, but does heavily reference previous books. (Also, note that although I enjoy Wendig’s raw style, it may not be for everyone — I shelve this series in “horror” on Goodreads for a reason.)

As for A Prelude to War, I did enjoy catching up with Atticus, Oberon and Granuaile, but this story is the least able to stand alone. If you haven’t read the series up till this point, you will be lost. Still, it was very satisfying to see Granuaile’s interaction with Loki, though.

Very, very satisfying.

Four stars

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My 2014 Goodreads challenge wrap up

This year I really embraced the reading challenges (both the Goodreads and the Australian Women Writers one) and you can really tell. Last year I read 40 books, whereas this year I read 61 — excluding picture books. Originally my goal was to read 40, but when I got there I discovered I’d read 12 novellas or childrens books. So I increased it to 52, figuring that way I’d get at least 40 full-length novels.

Here are my reads as I write this (from most recent to least recent). I haven’t counted books I wrote, even though I’ve read three of those this year, plus a novella. 😉

A few observations:

  • Roald Dahl (13%) and Kevin Hearne (also 13%) were a feature. Both were writers I listened to on audiobook, the former with my son in the car, the latter not so much. :p
  • Female writers were heavily represented at 59% of my reads, which I’m really happy with. Eleven of those, or 18%, were Australian.
  • Eight (also 13%) of the books I read were self-published.
  • There were four novellas (6%), nine childrens books (15%), and one non-fiction, which means I read forty-seven full-length novels. Win!

I think I’ll aim for 40 full-length novels again next year and see how I go!

2014_reads


Review: ‘Hounded’ by Kevin Hearne

Hounded

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old — when in actuality, he’s twenty-one “centuries” old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power — plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish — to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

I finished this last month, but hadn’t quite gotten around to writing a review (I guess I’ve had other things going on lately — dunno!). I’d heard Kevin Hearne’s name on Twitter, and since I love urban fantasy I thought I’d use my monthly Audible credit to download the audiobook of Hounded.

I found it a little hard to get into at first. Some of that was the voice actor; the guy is good but all the previous audiobooks I’ve listened to had smexy British voice actors, so it took me a little while to adjust. Maybe because of that, I was really aware of just how much exposition there is early on in this story. The book is told from Atticus’s point of view, and he likes to interrupt a conversation to provide us a little backstory, or an explanation of druidic magic. It felt a little heavy on the tell rather than the show.

The characters are fun, although Atticus is a little bit of a male Mary Sue (a Mary Stu?) — he’s pretty much perfect. Handsome, powerful, unique, and all the hot goddesses want to sleep with him. He’s also meant to be 2100 years old but, even in his thoughts, sounds like his claimed age of 21.

However, for me he was redeemed by his sense of humour and loyalty to his best friend, Oberon. Oberon is a wolfhound who communicates with Atticus via telepathy. He is very literal, and absolutely hilarious. Far and away my favourite character … although the Morrigan was also pretty awesome. I liked Granuaile too. Actually, I liked most of the characters, despite Atticus’s immaturity at times. (The wedgie scene made me cringe. Dude, you were born BCE — act your age!)

The story follows events in Atticus’s life as Angus Og, the Celtic god of love and Atticus’s lifelong enemy, finds out where he is and starts to send minions after him. It doesn’t help that people who are ostensibly on Atticus’s side tend to complicate his life too. The story was fast-paced and kept me interested, and like I said, it was very funny. Just don’t expect anything deep from this book; it definitely fits into the “read for entertainment” category.

Four stars