I know I’ll be sad when I get to the end of this series – and not just because there will be no more episodes after that, but also (and possibly even more so) because at this stage, there cannot really be any doubt that things are not going to end well for the members of the FBI’s Anomalous Crime Task Force which we readers have come to know quite intimately over four seasons of episodes and vignettes.
Volume 12 of Shadow Unit continues the fourth and last season of this mock TV-show over from the last installment. We get no less than four episodes here, which I think is a record for the e-book publications of the series, but barely any additional material – not sure whether that is a sign that the authors are getting tired of the series or of increased focus as they are nearing the finish line.
I’m leaning towards the latter, as I at least was not able to find any signs of exhaustion while reading this; to the contrary, I was impressed how the authors still managed to keep everything fresh even so many volumes into the series. The first two episodes here, “Five Autopsies” and “Hope Is Stronger Than Love” achieve this by giving us an outside perspective on the team and its work, the remaining two by furthering the main story arc and deepening relations between the protagonists, and all of them by presenting a well thought-out and excellently written crime plot which, in keeping with the rest of the series, stays as rigorously realistic in its depiction of FBI procedures as it is compellingly imaginative in the invention of the crimes that are being investigated. Good stuff, and I know I’ll be sad when I get to the end of it.
This is the first volume in a Paranormal Fantasy series – by a male author, so unsurprisingly there is not much in the way of Romance here. This is mostly in the vein of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels, except considerably trashier and even closer to the Noir roots of the genre. In fact, even though there are many supernatural elements (magicians, demons and angels, for the most part), Sandman Slim reads more like a noir pulp novel from the fifties than a paranormal fantasy from the early 21st century – there is no private detective here, and law enforcement in general is mostly absent, but the novel’s protagonist – back on earth after eleven years in Hell (literally) and out to get the people who put him there – is on a mission of vengeance and he has few, if any, scruples to remove anything out of the way that gets between him and his revenge.
This is the tenth entry in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, and Kitty is visiting London this time to take part in the first International Conference on Paranormal Studies where she is supposed to deliver the keynote speech. To sum it up in advance, it’s a solid, quite entertaining entry in the series but nowhere as good as some previous volumes.
Even after her Women of the Otherwold series has officially come to an end with 13, Kelley Armstrong does not seem to have given up on the series (there is another novella out, too, but it is an e-book only release, and for some reason Subterranean Press refuses to sell it to anyone not living in the US – I have ranted about this subject before, and and this (pardon my English) utter bullshit is making me very grumpy towards a publisher I used to like).
Forbidden is sold as a novella, but it is long enough that it could have passed as a short novel back when that did not mean 300+ pages minimum – one could even imagine it (with the addition of some sub-plot and maybe a sex scene or two thrown in) as a full-length addition to the series. Like her previous novella, Hidden, it is about and mostly told from the point of view of Elena, female werewolf and alpha-elect of the North American pack; the illustrations are done by a different artist though, and I have to say that while I’m still not all that keen on them, I like them somewhat better this time, because they at least do not look like wannabe comic panels. And like always with Kelley Armstrong, we get a highly entertaining adventure with excellent characterisation – here, most notably Morgan who we first encountered in Frostbitten and who has decided to leave his isolation and give joining a try. His uncertainty about where exactly his place is and his being torn between his previous life as a loner and his desire to belong somewhere is very well described, and as usual Armstrong manages to convincingly pull off her unique mixture of wolf and human psychology.
All in all, Forbidden might not be the most exciting entry in the series, but it is nice to see Armstrong still returning to the characters and it is overall a solid and very enjoyable read for readers of the Women of the Otherwold series. It is maybe a bit more fanservice-ish than even the earlier novellas (I admit I already have to struggle a bit to remember what the main plot was about), but being a fan myself I don’t really have any issues with that. And I would really like to read her new e-book novella as well, but as I’m not a US citizen
The previous novel in Marjorie Liu’s Hunter Kiss series brought the main story arc that had been spanning the first three volumes to a close and revealed quite a few of the mysteries that had been teasing the reader’s curiosity. Not every question was solved though, not every thread tied neatly off, and so The Mortal Bone, the fourth instalment in the series answers some of the questions left open and asks a copious amount of new ones, starting what I presume will be a new story arc.
Not so much Greatest Hits as Collected B-Sides, this volume contains mostly stories that have appeared in various anthologies over the years. Not all of them (indeed, only the minority) have Kitty Norville as their protagonist, but they are all set in the same universe as the Kitty novels and the reader of this collection will encounter many familiar names. Like with all good B-sides there is a lot of experimentation going on here, where Carrie Vaughn strays from the familiar Kitty formula and tries new things, plays with different sounds and reaches for different modes of expression.