I only read the first three stories--Ilona Andrews' 'Retribution Clause,' Jim Butcher's 'Bigfoot on Campus' and Rachel Caine's 'Holly's Balm.' I was p...moreI only read the first three stories--Ilona Andrews' 'Retribution Clause,' Jim Butcher's 'Bigfoot on Campus' and Rachel Caine's 'Holly's Balm.' I was pleased with all three, especially 'Retribution Clause.' We got to see a little bit more of the world Kate Daniels inhabits, and a lot more of the magic system. Butcher's story was also really entertaining, as Harry Dresden usually is, though I am a little sick of his chivalrous hero/knight-complex. It worked here, but it could easily be too much. Caine's story isn't part of a larger world, though we met Holly & Andy in another short in 'Strange Brew.' The 'twists' were really predictable (I knew who the serial killer was almost right away), but the magic system is unique, and I just LOVE the two main characters. I hope Caine writes more about them!
The other stories are mostly in series I don't read, except Simon R. Green's Nightside story. As I do read that one, I was turned off immediately by the HUGE infodump at the beginning and quit reading. Seriously, Walker just wanders past Dead Boy and tells him his whole 'death' story, like he doesn't know. Huh? No thanks. I mostly read Nightside for John Taylor and Suzi Shooter anyway.(less)
Rhiannon Murphy sees dead people. Unfortunately for her, the dead she sees aren't limited to the ghosts her necromancy reveals, but vampires too. She...moreRhiannon Murphy sees dead people. Unfortunately for her, the dead she sees aren't limited to the ghosts her necromancy reveals, but vampires too. She left Miami after her best friend went home with a bloodsucker, never to be heard from again, and now she's been Shanghaied into working with a local vampire, Disco, to find the person responsible for the ritual murders of several vamps. Her smartass mouth might have gotten her into this situation, but she's going to need all of her considerable powers and Disco's help to get out of it.
This book is really fantastic. Rhiannon is a smartass who tends bar at a strip club, works out somewhat obsessively, and sees ghosts. She could have easily fallen into the UF cliche of mouthy, tough girl heroine, but doesn't. She often doesn't think before she speaks, but it never comes off as out of character. Her past is tragic, but Ms. Saare doesn't play it for sympathy, even though it obviously colors much of Rhiannon's life. The reader doesn't even find out what happened (though it was relatively easy to guess the direction--it's a depressingly common story) until a bit past half-way. She's determined not to be a victim again, and throughout the novel, she repeatedly shows that she can take care of herself. She even says once if you wait for a white knight to save you, you'll miss the chair aimed at your face. It's refreshing to see a woman who can defend herself, but that doesn't consider violence as the answer to everything.
Rhiannon is an unusually powerful necromancer, in that she can see the "twice dead," or vampires that have died. This gift is the reason she comes to the attention of Disco after one of his family members disappears. Her interactions with Ethan/Goose served well to teach the reader about necromancy without a big infodump. The eventual villain reveal was a bit out of the blue, but it did make sense within the context of the mystery. I loved that even in an almost hopeless situation, she doesn't wait for Disco or anyone to save her, but she's not too proud to take help when she needs it.
I did have a couple issues with this book. One was Disco. Not his character--he was a nice love interest, and I liked his interactions with Rhiannon. But really, "Disco"? The only person in the novel who calls him that is Rhiannon, and, briefly, Ethan. Gabriel is a perfectly good name, and much sexier than Disco. Seriously, I'm feeling Studio 54 here, and that's not a good look for anyone.
Another was the strange formatting of the paperback. The text seemed extremely small, and there wasn't much margin. Somehow the actual book came in at 172 pages in my copy, and that few pages feels odd in trade format. It's a minor quibble, but I would highly suggest purchasing the ebook over the paperback if you don't want to strain your eyes.
And here's my big, big issue, the issue that takes this from almost five stars to four: I HATE CLIFFHANGERS. I get that this is a series. I get that the next book is out already, so I should just go get it and shut my trap. But I believe very strongly that books should be able to stand on their own. Let a few threads hang, yes, please! I want to look forward to reading the next installment, I want to think forward to what might happen. But big cliffhangers like this one make me want to ignore the next novel out of pure spite. This story is fantastic, and letting it hang like that does it a disservice. I want to know more about Rhiannon, and Gabriel (Disco), and Paine; the cliffhanger at the end was an unnecessary annoyance.
Overall, this is a strong four-star read. Rhiannon is a strong character, and I'll be checking out her next story (despite my cliffhanger-induced anger) The Renfield Syndrome as soon as I can.(less)