Kelly's Reviews > Strange Brew

Strange Brew by P.N. Elrod
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jul 11, 2009

liked it
Read in July, 2009

The theme of Strange Brew is witchcraft. This anthology features nine well-known urban fantasy authors, each with their own spin on the theme. Some of these stories feature well-known characters. Others focus on characters who are secondary in the author's series, or characters who are entirely new. Glancing at the table of contents and doing a little mental math, most of the stories are around 40 pages, give or take a few. (The longest is Karen Chance's at just under 60.) As is always the case with anthologies, I had my favorites and my less-favorites, but if you like urban fantasy, there will probably be something here for you.

"Seeing Eye" by Patricia Briggs: A werewolf enlists the help of a blind witch to help him find his missing brother, who has been kidnapped by a sinister coven. The witch has some history of her own with this group. Moving and bittersweet, with a hint of romance. I liked the explorations of good family relationships vs. bad ones, and healthy covens vs. cultlike ones.

"Last Call" by Jim Butcher: Harry Dresden goes to his favorite bar one night and finds a scene of chaos. Someone has put a spell on Mac's beer, and Harry has to stop the culprit before anyone else can drink the tainted brew. This story had me in stitches. Any character who refers to a pretentious "dark arts" store as "Bad Juju-Mart" is cool by me. I've been meaning to read the Dresden Files for ages, and "Last Call" helped cement that desire.

"Death Warmed Over" by Rachel Caine: A resurrection witch has to raise a dead man to help the police with a dangerous assignment. Trouble is, she's in love with him and doesn't want him to suffer any further. This story is emotionally compelling in a sad sort of way, right up until the last page. The ending features a great big deus ex machina. I have no idea how this event occurred; there's nothing in the story that suggests that it's possible. It would have been better if it had been foreshadowed, or if the story had ended the way it looked like it was going to end.

"Vegas Odds" by Karen Chance: Starts with a bang. Lia de Croissets, who trains war mages for the Corps (a magical bureaucracy), is suddenly attacked in her home by a group of intruders. Karen Chance is good at writing action scenes, and this one is no exception. It's fast, furious, and sometimes funny: "The bathtub ended the discussion by taking that moment to kamikaze the kitchen table." After the battle, Lia must unravel the plot that led to the attack. It's an interesting plot with lots of schemes and betrayals. I have to confess, though, that the opening fight scene was my favorite part.

"Hecate's Golden Eye" by P.N. Elrod: Noir-inspired story featuring vampire Jack Fleming and "private agent" Charles Escott. They've been hired to recover a stolen, cursed jewel. The "witchcraft" element is more McGuffin than anything else, but the story is a lot of fun, and a nice change of style and setting from the other contributions.

"Bacon" by Charlaine Harris: Harris is, as always, great at characterization. Both of the main characters in this story (a vampire and a witch) are hard to like, but no one can say they're not vivid. This is a twisted little tale of revenge. And the idea of Circe having a surviving grimoire, passed down through the generations, full of spells and gossip--well, that would have to be an interesting read!

"Signatures of the Dead" by Faith Hunter: Molly, a witch, teams up with her shapeshifting friend Jane Yellowrock to take on a nest of murderous vampires. Molly makes a lot of narrative observations about Jane's personality and mannerisms, with the effect that Jane jumps off the page more strongly than Molly does. The writing is good, and Hunter has some refreshingly original ideas. Looking forward to Skinwalker.

"Ginger" by Caitlin Kittredge: Sunny, cousin of Luna the werewolf, is used to thinking of herself as a wimp. However, a situation arises in which she has to be the hero. I think this is a story where I'd have benefited from being more familiar with the Nocturne City universe, but it was fun watching the "weak" character get to kick some butt.

"Dark Sins" by Jenna Maclaine: An episode from the (undead) life of Cin Craven, set in Venice in 1818. For some reason, it never quite felt like 1818. Authors walk a fine line when setting stories in the past; the tone can't be so modern that it throws the reader out of the story, and it can't be so archaic that it's unreadable. I felt like this was a little toward the too-modern side. I liked the Goddess intervention, involving a deity you might not expect in a vampire story. I'm always impressed when an author does something unique. On the other hand, it seemed like this intervention made Cin a little too powerful. I haven't read the Cin Craven books, but a quick look at Maclaine's website tells me that this story takes place between the first two novels in the series.

Overall, Strange Brew was enjoyable. It's "fluff" reading for the most part, but sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered. And the stories are short enough that you can squeeze one in when you don't have time to immerse yourself in something longer. My favorite stories were "Seeing Eye," which was the most emotionally engaging, and "Last Call," which was the funniest, with an honorable mention to "Bacon," which set a deliciously nasty mood by playing on some of the older, more sinister views of witches.
3 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Strange Brew.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

07/08/2009 page 244
show 1 hidden update…

Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-1 of 1) </span> <span class="smallText">(1 new)</span>

dateDown arrow    newest »

Anita A well written review ... thank you.

back to top