Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Review: 7 Against the Dark: Urban fantasy boxed set

Seven Against the Dark: Seven Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance Series StartersSeven Against the Dark: Seven Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance Series Starters by Annie Bellet

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My very favorite thing in this book—which is full of delightful details—is in Kate Danley’s book “Maggie for Hire” about a “magical tracker in L.A. who carries a silver stake her sister had engraved for her at Things Remembered. I loved that detail and I very much enjoyed the story with its magical objects and deep dark secrets.

Danley’s book is only one of seven novels in this bundle and every single one of the books is a lot of fun to read. Annie Bellet’s “Justice Calling” gives a star-making entrance to its sexy tiger-shifter Aleksei Kirov “Justice of the Council of Nine” but it’s the author’s setting—Wyld, Idaho—that elevates the book from its genre. The small town where the heroine runs a comic book and tabletop gaming store is “the shape-shifter capital of the west,” and we can visualize exactly the kind of town it might be. The heroine, jade Crow, has a sense of humor and her reaction to Aleksei is a deadpan, “So, you know, not your average comic book or tabletop gaming enthusiast.”

There’s another heroine named Jade in the book, Jade Calhoun, the empath at the heart of “Haunted on Bourbon Street.” Her description of a “craft shop” run by Bea puts us right in the center of magical New Orleans, and Deanna Chase, like the other writers in the bundle, gives a lot of weight to sense of place.

This is true even when the “place” is one the author made us, as Anthea Sharp did in “Feyland.” Her writing is drop-dead gorgeous, near poetry at times, and lines like, “She smelled of stars and roses,” convey the magical quality of the Dark Queen of the Faeries.

Christine Pope’s “Darkangel” is also firmly rooted in its sense of place, and provides a practical look at the issue of a witch finding her consort. (Let’s just say Angela McAllister has to kiss a lot of frogs before she finds the literal man of her dreams.) One of the hallmarks of this book—like the others in the collection—is the strong sense that there’s a whole world contained in the pages of the book. Angela’s witch clan has rules and taboos and allies and enemies, and all of this is worked out beautifully.

Ditto for Helen Harper’s “Bloodfire” with its casual scattering of paranormal creatures into the mix. (A group of shape-shifters avoids admonishment because there are “water-wights terrorizing pleasure boats on the Thames.”)

I also enjoyed Colleen Gleason’s vampire hunter historical urban fantasy “The Rest Falls Away” with its Jane Austen world (so much better than “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”) The book gave us not just a sense of place but also a sense of time.

Boxed sets are great introductions to writers and series. I’d only read one of these writers before, but now that I’ve read the others, I’ll be back for more.

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