REVIEW: My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon edited by P.N. Elrod
While many readers dislike anthologies because the good stories are often outnumbered by the bad, I’m not one of them. I love anthologies. They let me sample many different authors at once — old favorites and new-to-mes. And sometimes all it takes is one perfect story to make an anthology worthwhile.
The follow-up to My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding, My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon presents nine authors covering the spectrum from paranormal romance to straight urban fantasy. The variety is the anthology’s strength. I think there’s something for everyone who likes these genres. On the other hand, some of these stories aren’t as accessible to new readers as they could be and the quality varies widely.
“Stalked” by Kelley Armstrong
I’m a huge fan of yours and the werewolves are my favorite characters from the Otherworld series, so I was greatly pleased to read this story. Set two years after the birth of their twins, Elena and Clay are enjoying their honeymoon, which amused me because they’re technically not married. (It’s more of a symbolic gesture than anything else.) It’s meant to be relaxing and enjoyable but as usual, they have the bad luck to pick up a stalker who’s interested in challenging Clay and claiming Elena for himself.
The writing here is top notch and I thought it did an excellent job combining the romance of an established relationship, action, and the werewolf politics we’ve come to expect from the Otherworld series. What didn’t work for me as well was that a large portion of the emotional tension depends on lack of communication. While it fits both Clay and Elena and the circumstances presented in the story, I can’t help but wonder why they aren’t past this hurdle yet. I also question whether this story works for someone not familiar with the Otherworld series, because certain plot aspects depend upon events that took place in Broken. It’s a good introduction to the world, but I’m not convinced it’s the best. B+
“Heorot” by Jim Butcher
Your long-running Harry Dresden series has been around for several years, but I think a lot of people were introduced to Chicago’s only wizard through the recent Sci-Fi channel television series, myself included. In this story, Harry agrees to help find a missing bride, who vanished soon after the wedding but before the honeymoon. No one believes the poor groom when he says she was kidnapped; most just assume that she got cold feet and ran off, but Harry’s investigation proves otherwise.
Any story in which Harry is with his dog, Mouse, is a good one, and the presence of Gard and a grendelkin provide some worthwhile entertainment. But while this was a solid, straight urban fantasy effort, I also believe the length hampers how good I know a Harry Dresden story can be. I kept turning pages, but nothing left much of a lasting impression. B-
“Roman Holiday, or SPQ ARRRRRRR!” by Rachel Caine
I haven’t read the Weather Warden series or the Morganville Vampire young adult novels, so this is my first introduction to your work. This is unfortunate, because this read more like a piece of Pirates of the Caribbean fanfiction than an original story.
My initial impression isn’t helped by the fact that this is a follow-up to your contribution to My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon. Since I haven’t read that anthology, I have no frame of reference for newlyweds Cecilia and Liam. I’m not invested in these characters, so I don’t much care when Liam’s crew mutinies because they don’t like the modern world, and I don’t care when another pirate shows up and kidnaps Cecilia because he thinks she’s a witch who lifted Liam’s curse. It read like one ridiculous event after another. I felt like I’d walked in midway through a movie and never caught up. I love the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but I’ve already seen them and I have no desire to read a watered-down version in literary form. D
“Her Mother’s Daughter” by P.N. Elrod
This is my first introduction to your vampire detective, Jack Fleming. I thought he provided an interesting contrast to Harry Dresden: a vampire detective from Depression Era Chicago versus a wizard from present-day Chicago. Even the plot presents a nice contrast: here, it’s the groom who goes missing and the bride who hires Fleming to find him.
I really enjoyed the setting of this story, and I loved the gangster feel provided by the bride’s family, as well as her refusal to become another hapless damsel in distress. That’s why I regret to say I didn’t enjoy this enjoy as much as I’d hoped I would or think I should have. However, it might work better for readers more familiar with your Vampire Files series. C
“Newlydeads: A Tale of Black London” by Caitlin Kittredge
Since your debut novel, Night Life, doesn’t come out for a few months, I believe this will be most readers’ first introduction to your writing. So I admit I was a little disappointed when I realized this story takes place in a different setting with a different cast of characters from your forthcoming werewolf urban fantasy.
To cheer up his partner-of-sorts, Jack Winter takes Pete Caldecott on a holiday and tricks the hotel management into giving them the honeymoon suite. Unfortunately, it’s a holiday that proves anything but restful when hotel guests start disappearing into the lurking fog.
What frustrated me most was that this story relies so much on previous events that took place elsewhere (I believe there is a book in the works about these two?), I again felt like I was missing half the plot when it came to Pete’s issues. I think it’s possible for a story to be connected to other pieces of work, whether they are previous stories or novels, but they also need to stand on their own so new readers can jump in at anytime. Since much of Pete’s lack of emotional well-being depended on events not covered by this story, I was a bit let down by the climax. That said, I did catch some glimpses of brilliance in the writing, so I think this might be one of those cases where future works from you will be astounding. It just might take a few novels and short stories to get there. C
“Where the Heart Lives” by Marjorie M. Liu
I really enjoy your Dirk & Steele series, so I looked forward to this story about the foundation of our favorite paranormal-powered detective agency. Lucy comes from a family of stone cutters who have no use for her, or women in general, as shown by her mother who ran off with a gypsy the year before. So when the opportunity arises, Lucy’s father sends her to take care of a house belonging to a woman named Miss Lindsay. There, Lucy meets Miss Lindsay, a woman with unusual powers, her brother Henry, and Barnabas, the young man who lives with them.
This story reads almost like a fairy tale: a bride stolen by a forest-dwelling faerie witch, a man who pines for the woman he lost, and the very normal woman caught in the middle of it. Of all the stories in this anthology based on existing continuities, I think this is the one that stands alone the best and serves as the best introduction to the world of Dirk & Steele. B
“Cat Got Your Tongue” by Katie MacAlister
This is another first introduction for me and much like the other stories, I think it’s one that’s best enjoyed by existing fans. Fiona and Raphael St. John are on their honeymoon at Fyfe Castle, where they are beseeched by the ghost of Lily Summerton, the wife of one of its former owners, Sir Alec Summerton. She seeks revenge on her husband who betrayed her and supposedly caused her death.
I greatly enjoyed the humorous tone, which provides a great change of pace from an otherwise serious anthology. What made the story less enjoyable was that I predicted what would happen the instant Fiona and Raphael agree to help Lily’s ghost. It’s a good story, and one that I believe loyal fans will enjoy, but when there’s no surprise for me waiting at the end, I find it hard to be excited. C+
“Half of Being Married” by Lilith Saintcrow
I adoreyour Dante Valentine series, so I was happy to find a story of yours included here. And after reading several stories based on pre-existing worlds, I was even happier to learn this doesn’t take place in that setting either. Katrina and Mitchell Black are on their honeymoon but they both failed to reveal an important secret about themselves to the other: Kat is a vampire hunter and Mitch is a werewolf. And when they discover there’s a nest of vampires in the town where they’re staying, things get even more complicated.
I loved the relationship between Kat and Mitch. She very much believes in the mission of her holy order of vampire hunters, while Mitch is very much a product of his werewolf upbringing. I liked that they were both upset when they realized they didn’t know this crucial fact about the other, but that they were able to work through it and then work together, although reluctantly on Mitch’s part, to flush out the vampire nest. And anyone who enjoys the action of your Dante Valentine series will not be disappointed by the action presented here. This was simply a lot of fun, in a bite-sized package. B+
“A Wulf in Groom’s Clothing” by Ronda Thompson
It’s with a sense of bittersweet sadness that I write this. Many readers were saddened by your loss, and reading this final story set in the world of your Wild Wulfs of London series drove that point home. Laura is a city girl, through and through, but her new husband, Sam Wulf, loves the outdoors and she’ll do anything to make him happy, even if it means lying about her true feelings towards the outdoors. As for Sam, he comes from a family that bears a certain curse and hopes that Laura’s love will release him from it.
This is another story about a couple who’ve kept important secrets from one another, but here the bulk of the story focuses on them working through the issues that arise from not sharing those secrets. I liked how Laura wouldn’t accept Sam’s nightly jaunts without explanation and how she tried her best to overcome her dislike of the outdoors because she loved Sam. Normally I hate it when people keep secrets from one another in stories, because it often seems like the author does it to maintain an otherwise superficial conflict but it worked for me here. It’s the motivations of both Sam and Laura that made it believable — Sam doesn’t want to tell Laura he turns into a wolf because he’s afraid she’ll think he’s a monster, and Laura doesn’t want to tell Sam she hates the outdoors because she knows he loves it so much. I do think the ending is a little contrived and perhaps too convenient, but all in all I think it’s a great final send off for the Wulf family. B-
This book can be purchased in mass market. No ebook format.
This was all over the place for you, wasn’t it? I read the Kelley Armstrong story before I sent it on and enjoyed it quite a bit. I didn’t attempt to read any of the others because they were even shorter than a normal anthology contribution and I just didn’t have high hopes for it.
One difference I’ve noticed between romance and fantasy anthologies is the number of stories. Romance anthologies typically 3-4 authors, which means their offerings are novellas and that allows more development. On the other hand, fantasy anthologies feature more authors and I’d say 9-10 is actually on the low end of the spectrum. I grew up reading anthologies featuring, on average, 15-20 stories and that’s not even getting to the annual best volumes that are published every year. So I think genre expectations play a role here. I’m very used to anthologies having stories that elicit wildly diverse reactions from me. I think it’s very rare to find an anthology where you’ll love every single story it contains. The odds just aren’t in your favor.
I do wish more of the stories here could stand alone outside of their respective continuities. While I’m sure there are some people who’ve read all the authors, chances are there are more who’ve only read a couple. Many stories seemed to be written for existing fans, not to hook new ones and I would think this was the perfect opportunity to do just that.
After reading this review, I’ll definitely be waiting until this one shows up at my library. If you have the time, though, you should definitely pick up the first of Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden books. I’ve tried reading some of her other stuff, and can’t stand it, but the Weather Warden books are a lot of fun.
Although, Newlydeads has my interest the most, the book looks like it will be an interesting read. I never read your first book, My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding, but this one appeals. I’ll be on the lookout for it here in England.