Flora Reviews… Urban Enemies: an urban fantasy anthology by various authors

Flora Reviews…

Urban Enemies: stories from the Villains of your favourite Urban Fantasy Series

by Joseph Nassise (Author & Editor), Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Kelley Armstrong,  Jonathan Maberry, Jeff Somers, Steven Savile, Caitlin Kittredge, Sam Witt, Craig Schaefer , Jon F. Merz, Faith Hunter, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Lilith Saintcrow, Carrie Vaughn and Domino Finn

 

Read: 29th July – 12th August 2017

Format: Kindle

My Goodreads Rating:  3 Stars

 

So, before we get into what I thought about this book, I want you to know that I was lucky enough to be given a digital version of this book for free from the publisher (Gallery Books) after making a request via Netgally.com in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the advance copy.

The publication date was 1st August 2017.

 

…So what’s this book about?

This anthology (approx 448 pages) is a collection of short stories by bestselling and award winning urban fantasy authors. The stories featured have been written from the perspective of the villain from the author’s best selling urban fantasy series.

I requested this book from NetGalley in the hope of finding some “new to me” authors and series, reading work from those I’ve admired but as yet unread and reading some new tales from a couple of existing favourites.

If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know, I don’t post spoilers of any kind or reveal any plot twists in my book reviews, so here’s what the official blurb has to say about this book as a whole:

Villains have all the fun—everyone knows that—and this anthology takes you on a wild ride through the dark side! The top villains from sixteen urban fantasy series get their own stories—including the baddies of New York Times bestselling authors Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Kelley Armstrong, Seanan McGuire, and Jonathan Maberry.

For every hero trying to save the world, there’s a villain trying to tear it all down.

In this can’t-miss anthology edited by Joseph Nassise (The Templar Chronicles), you get to plot world domination with the best of the evildoers we love to hate! This outstanding collection brings you stories told from the villains’ point of view, imparting a fresh and unique take on the evil masterminds, wicked witches, and infernal personalities that skulk in the pages of today’s most popular series.

The full anthology features stories by Jim Butcher (the Dresden Files), Kelley Armstrong (the Cainsville series), Seanan McGuire (October Daye), Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles), Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger), Lilith Saintcrow (Jill Kismet), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville), Joseph Nassise (Templar Chronicles), Steven Savile (Glasstown), Caitlin Kittredge (the Hellhound Chronicles), Jeffrey Somers (The Ustari Cycle), Sam Witt (Pitchfork County), Craig Schaefer (Daniel Faust), Jon F. Merz (Lawson Vampire), Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock) and Diana Pharaoh Francis (Horngate Witches).

For each of the sixteen stories, I have added the series that its characters are from, given a brief review and rated it. If you want to find out more about each author, just click on their name to be whisked away to their little corner of the web.

Story 1 – Even Hand (Dresden Files) by Jim ButcherHarry Dresden, professional wizard, has faced more than his fair share of villains amid the supernatural underbelly of Chicago’s dark streets, but none has proven more vexing than Gentleman John Marcone. In Evan Hand, Marcone sets aside his plans to kill Harry to go head-to-head with a more pressing problem…

Although I have, of course heard of Jim Butcher, I have yet to read any of his books but after reading this short story about the human criminal boss, Marcone and his staff, I want to read more. Will it taint my view that I actually really like the son-of-a-B? I’ve already added book 1 of the series to my Amazon wish list.

My Rating: 5 stars (Loved it!)

Story 2 – HOUNDED (Cainsville and Otherworld series) by Kelley ArmstrongThe Cainsville series takes place in a town settled by refuge fae. Welsh fae (Tylwyth Teg) share the region with the Cwn Annwn, the Welsh version of the Wild Hunt, who are tasked with hunting killers and sending their souls to the afterlife. Betrayals (Cainsville #4) introduced a rogue Huntsman, who lost his hound to the protagonists. In Hounded, he’s out to replace the missing canine companion.
Believe it or not, Kelly Armstrong is another new-to-me author although I have of course heard of her I haven’t read her books. I really liked this story; it feels like a traditional tale, a story to teach the reader morals/ethics. Unsure whether I’d read the actual Cainsville series but I’ll take a closer look.

My Rating: 4 stars (Loved it!)

Story 3 NIGSU GA TESGU (An Ustari Cycle Story) by Jeff SomersMagicians aren’t nice people. They’re not moral people. They’re not good people. Magic can be wielded by anyone who learns the ancient language of power (Known colloquially among magicians simply as the Words) and who is willing to shed blood to fuel the spell – their own or somebody else’s. In this dark, bloody world of power and predators, Mika Renar is one of the most powerful ustari in the world – because she speaks the Words better than most, because she doesn’t hesitate to bleed as many people as necessary to get what she needs, and because she knows the meaning of this story’s title, “Nigsu Ga Tesgu”.
Jeff Somers is a completely new-to-me author so I have no previous knowledge of the series that this short story is set in. Our main character here is definitely one of the baddies; she’s got no redeemable features! But what I like here, is her opponents are not nice either so as this story is written in the first person from her perspective, you end up rooting for her. Lol! Although I loved this short story, I don’t think the series is one that’s for me.

My Rating – 5 stars (Loved it!)

Story 4 SIXTY-SIX SECONDS (Harmony Black series and Daniel Faust series) by CRAIG SCHAEFERCraig Schaefer’s interconnected series depict a world mired in crime, black magic and infernal intrigue. Fontaine (from the Harmony Black series) is a demonic bounty hunter, sworn to uphold hell’s cruel laws and drag his targets to eternal damnation. The Redemption Choir (from The Daniel Faust series is a sect of terrorists determined to tear down the gates of hell at any cost. In “Sixty-Six Seconds”, when their paths inevitably cross, it makes for one long and blood-soaked night.

Craig Schaefer is another completely new-to-me author so once again I have no previous knowledge of his worlds that this short story is set in. I’m assuming that our main character in this tale is on the “enemy” side of this series, but I liked him; it’s the romance of the story that swung it. I liked the way the story was broken down and the pace of the adventure; I think I may have to find out more about this series before committing to buying any books.

My Rating – 4 stars (I liked it!)

 

Story 5 – KISS (Jill Kismet Series) by LILITH SAINTCROW – Readers of the Jill Kismet series will recognize Perry – a character of whom the author has often said makes her want to scrub herself with a wire brush every time he shows up. Santa Luz’s resident hellbreed leader has a long history, and a long entanglement with Jill’s line of hunters. The hunters battle the things that go bump in the night, and Jill herself made a bargain with her own personal devil to gain the strength to bump back. What she didn’t know, of course, was just how far that bargain would take her. One suspects her teacher, and his teacher before him, didn’t either.
Ok so although I have heard Lilith Saintcrow, I haven’t read any of her books. I found this story very hard to read; lots of personifications, I had to keep stopping to get my head around what exactly the text referring to and lots of references that I had to look up. I understood what the story was about by the time I’d finished, it was OK, but it hasn’t piqued my interest in the series.

My Rating – 2 stars (It was OK)

 

Story 6 – THE NAUGHTIEST CHERUB (The Iron Druid Chronicles) by KEVIN HEARNEThis story, narrated by Loki, takes place after Staked, book eight of The Iron Druid Chronicles.
I am already a fan of Kevin Hearne’s writing style and although I have only read the first book (Hounded) in the Iron Druid Chronicles I don’t have extensive knowledge of this series. I loved that this epic adventure was squeezed into so few pages without losing the plot’s integrity or balance, I loved the humour that found its way onto most of the pages; it’s what keeps it enjoyable for me. I loved this short story starring Loki and Lucifer; it has reignited my desire to read the rest of the series!

My Rating – 5 stars (Loved it!)

 

Story 7 – THE RESURRECTIONIST (Hellhound Chronicles series) by CAITLIN KITTREDGE – “The Resurrectionist” is set in the continuity of Hellhound Chronicles during the early 1930s. This is a collection of stories about villains, but Lee Grey is a monster hunter – a man who’d probably be considered a hero for protecting humanity. But Ava and the other characters populating Hellhound Chronicles are monsters, and to them, a man like Lee, with special abilities designed to kill their kind, would be the ultimate enemy. This is the very beginning of Lee’s story… but far from the last time he and Ava will cross paths.
Caitlin Kittredge is another completely new-to-me author. I really liked her writing style and fell right into this story. This short story had mystery, action and moral/ethical debate; I like it when monsters are more complex than just good or evil. I will be adding this series to my Amazon wish list.

My Rating – 4 stars (I really liked it)

 

Story 8 – DOWN WHERE THE DARKNESS DWELLS (Templar Chronicles) by JOSEPH NASSISEIn the world of the Templar Chronicles, a resurrected Templar order is tasked with defending mankind from supernatural threats and enemies. One of the recurring villains in the series is the necromancer Simon Logan, leader of the Council of Nine. Logan is an acolyte of an even greater threat, the fallen angel Ashereal, also known as the Adversary. “Down Where The Darkness Dwells” reveals how these deadly and dangerous individuals came to be allies…
Ooh, a short horror story. Joseph Nassise is another completely new-to-me author. I liked his writing style and felt gripped throughout; the tension was maintained and you definitely don’t see our main character, Simon Logan, as a good guy even after what he has to go through – true villain. Does this tale reflect the style and sub-genre of the series? I really liked this story but not sure if the horror theme will end up being too dark for my tastes.

My Rating – 4 stars (I really liked it)

Story 9 – BELLUM ROMANUM (Kitty Norville series) by CARRIE VAUGHNIn the Kitty Norville series, werewolf Kitty hosts a talk-radio advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. At first the show is all about consoling lovelorn women whose vampire boyfriends have become pains in the neck. But the farther Kitty delves into the supernatural world, meeting powerful vampires and sinister magicians, the more she realizes the world isn’t what it seems and a deep, dangerous conspiracy is afoot. At the centre of this conspiracy is a mysterious vampire named Roman. Before he became Kitty’s nemesis, Roman was Gaius Albinus, a centurion of Rome, and two thousand years ago he was dragged into the supernatural world against his will. He’s been seeking revenge ever since.
Carrie Vaughn is yet another completely new-to-me author. I found her writing style easy to read and you definitely got a handle on the sort of man Gaius Albinus was/is but I thought this story was going to be about how he became a vampire. This story was a nice mix of historical fact and paranormal fiction but I felt there was something missing, it didn’t grip me enough to find out more about the series.

My Rating – 2 stars (It was OK)

 

Story 10 – ALTAR BOY (Joe Ledger series) by JONATHAN MABERRYAltar Boy” is set in the world of the Joe Ledger weird science thrillers. The series began with Patient Zero, and the more recent Dogs of War is the ninth volume. Joe Ledger is a former Baltimore cop recruited into a covert Special Ops group tasked with confronting terrorists who have cutting-edge weapons. This story, however, does not feature Ledger but instead focuses on Toys, a character introduced in the first volume as a villain and who continues in the series as a “recovering bad guy”, fighting for his soul every step along the rocky path to redemption. Toys is no one’s idea of a hero but he isn’t quite the villain he used to be. Maybe.

Jonathan Maberry is another author that although I have heard of, I’ve yet to read any of his books. But oh I loved this short story; his writing style just had me completely engaged with Toys and his life, the pace was perfect, the plot well thought out, balanced and even contained unexpected twists! Loved it! I will definitely be adding his books to my Amazon wish list.

My Rating – 5 stars (Loved it!

 

Story 11 – MAKE IT SNAPPY (Jane Yellowrock series) by FAITH HUNTERMake it Snappy” is set in the modern-day world of Jane Yellowrock, a Cherokee skinwalker, but a few years before Jane and Leo Pellissier meet. Leo, the vampire Master of the City of New Orleans, is attacked from a direction and by an enemy he never expected. The story introduces Katie (Leo’s vampire heir), George (his human primo), the outclan priestess, Bethany, and Leo, before Jane and her Beast begin to tame the MOC. It is a time when Leo’s hubris runs free and his humans are little but cattle. “Make it Snappy” is a rare look at the backstory of Leo, one of the heroes… or villains… who started it all
Faith Hunter is yet another new-to-me author; although I have, of course, heard of the Jane Yellowrock series I’ve yet to read any of the books. I found this quite an easy read, the pace of the story felt slow and a bit introspective a couple of times considering the shortness of this story and although I didn’t think it added anything new to the classic vampire traits already prevalent in the PNR genre, I did enjoy this story; it made me smile, there were some good characters, nice banter and generally I liked it. I may consider adding this series to my wish list in the future.

My Rating – 2 stars (It was OK)

 

Story 12 – CHASE THE FIRE (Lawson Vampire series) by JOHN F. MERZWhat if weren’t undead, but had evolved in secret alongside humanity, protected by an elite cadre known as Fixers? In the Lawson Vampire series, Lawson is one of the elite, constantly battling rogue vampires, terrorists, spies, and more. “Chase The Fire” is a glimpse at the insidious plot brewing from within the vampire governing body, one which Lawson will soon have to deal with.
John F Merz is a completely new-to-me author. Without a doubt, our main character here is no hero; Shiraz Aziz is quite the cold-hearted villain and, in fact, I felt that the whole story was cold, lacking passion, clinical. I think that this tale is more of a bonus ‘flash fiction’ for existing Lawson Vampire series fans. Neither the plot or characters in this story have sparked my interest enough to want to read the series.

My Rating – 1 star (I didn’t like it)

 

Story 13 – UNEXPECTED CHOICES (Horngate Witches series) by DIANA PHARAOH FRANCISIn the Horngate Witches series, the magical apocalypse has struck, A vast amount of destructive wild magic has washed over the earth, unleashed by the Guardians – a group of elemental beings with extraordinary power – in order to restore the balance of magic and magical creatures in the world. Giselle is a witch who established the Horngate covenstead to help preserve those humans she can, though her methods are often brutal. Shoftiel is an angel of justice. Centuries before, he was imprisoned in the Mistlands after passing a death sentence on an innocent woman. Free again, he finds himself repeating his mistake, seeking vengeance on Max – one of Giselle’s supernatural warriors – who he mistakenly believes has imprisoned two of his angel brethren. Now he faces eternity in the bleak, unchanging Mistlands. Both Giselle and Shoftiel are villains in their own ways. Both are seeking redemption. “Unexpected Choices” brings them together once again. The question is, can either of them overcome their hatred and suspicion of each other to save the world and themselves?
Diana Pharaoh Francis is another completely new-to-me author. This story grew on me as it progressed. Books based in sci-fi or fantastical fantasy worlds are not my preferred reading genre; I find myself to often getting lost in the world descriptions and loosing the plot thread too easily. I did enjoy the characters in this story and I liked Shoftiel; he’s my kind of hero-in-the-rough. I am considering adding the Horngate Witches series to my Amazon wish list because of him.

My Rating – 4 stars (I really liked it)

 

Story 14 – REEL LIFE (A Glass Town Story) by STEVEN SAVILEThere are monstrous creatures in Glass Town, but the worst of them by far is an ordinary man, Seth Lockwood, whose envy of his brother drove him to kidnap the love of his life – a beautiful young actress, Eleanor Raines – over a century ago because he couldn’t stand the thought of his brother being happy. Glass Town spans generations of obsession. Seth lives in a world where one hundred years pass as one, and he has lifetimes of being unlucky enough to get what he thought he wanted lying ahead of him … but there are cracks beginning to appear now as Damiola’s great illusion is failing, allowing Seth to slip between then and now. Without Seth, there is no Glass Town. Without Seth, our young lovers might just have been the Hollywood happy ending after all. “Reel Life” follows Seth through the cracks as he comes to grips with a century’s worth of obsession, looking for a way to win once and for all, and damning himself in the process…
Steven Savile is yet another completely new-to-me author. Books based in sci-fi or fantastical fantasy worlds are not my preferred reading genre; I find myself to often getting lost in the world descriptions and loosing the plot thread too easily. This was a surreal horror tale, our main character, Seth Lockwood, has no redeemable qualities and is a true villain. This short story was well written and had real depth, I was intrigued, however, the thesis for the world was too complex and tricky for me to get my head around. It won’t be a series I’ll pursue.

My Rating – 2 stars (It was OK)

 

Story 15 – THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DECEIT AND DELUSION (Black Magic Outlaw series) by DOMINO FINNBlack Magic Outlaw kicks off with a hero in trouble and on the run through the blood-soaked streets of Miami. Those particular events, however, were set into motion many years earlier. Various criminal elements, some not altogether human, have long flourished in a city ripe with vice. “The Difference Between Deceit and Delusion” is a rare look at the backstory of one of the villains who started it all.
Domino Finn is yet another completely new-to-me author, his story is well written, scenes are well described and the plot progresses at a good pace. However, this short story is a sort of blood-thirsty horror-slasher-type tale; lots of explicit violence, blood and torture which is not my preferred reading genre when it comes to series but I was intrigued by the plot here and our main character is definitely a true villain, no redeemable qualities. So, although I did engage with this story I won’t be adding Black Magic Outlaw to my wish.

My Rating – 3 stars (It was good)

 

Story 16 – BALANCE (InCryptid series) by SEANAN McGUIREWhen monsters and men are one and the same, it’s up to the cryptozoologists to keep the peace, and keep humanity from understanding that we are not alone. Most of the cryptids in the InCryptid universe are perfectly lovely people. But then there are the cuckoos. Telepathic ambush predators who will steel everything you are, and laugh while your world falls apart around you. They live for math. They live for malice. In “Balance”, we see that these two things are not always at odds…
Although I know of Seanan McGuire work; I’ve yet to read one of her books. I really enjoyed this story; it was well written, I found her writing style easy to read and I like it when we view things from the other side of the fence, it makes you think. I particularly like it when authors include our very human double standards, “Does a human who makes their dog work for its supper consider themselves malicious? Do they feel like terrible people because they enjoy a good piece of steak on occasion? No. They recognize themselves as the higher creature, and they use the lesser as they see fit. We simply do the same. We simply do it to them.” Although the pace of this tale is gentle, it doesn’t lack content and it has a great dramatic ending; it gripped me and has captured my attention, I will be checking out the InCryptid series.

My Rating – 4 stars (I really liked it)

 

Story 17 – EVERYWHERE (Pitchfork County series) by SAM WITTThe Pitchfork County series follows the struggle of the Night Marshall, Joe Hark, against the forces of darkness that threaten the world at every turn. When Joe discovered the Long Man, his mentor and long-time ally, had become one of the horrors they’d battled he had no choice but to turn against his old boss. “Everywhere” pits the battered foes against one another once again, and sets the table for the final war against darkness.
Sam Witt is a completely new-to-me author. I loved the ending to this short story, however, the ending wasn’t enough to counter-balance my confusion from start to finish. I was unable to visualise many of the scenes that played out in this story, I was bewildered as to who the good or bad guy was – I wasn’t given enough information within these pages to make the choice myself – I couldn’t determine what/who was the Long Man was, I didn’t like the Joe Hark character and didn’t understand why the Long Man was treated like he was by the Father. This story assumes the reader has read the series and has adequate knowledge of the characters and past adventures, in short, I think that this tale is more of a bonus ‘flash fiction’ for existing Pitchfork County series fans.

My Rating – 1 star (I didn’t like it)

 

So, basically what I’m saying is…

I think that this is a good anthology; I feel that it has got a nice assortment of different settings, writing styles and sub-genres under the urban fantasy themed umbrella to suit most tastes. The collection of villains that we meet here are just as varied; some are predators just doing what they do naturally, some are potential heroes in the rough and some would be better off obliterated from the face of the earth. *shiver*

I have enjoyed having this as an ongoing back-up, to be able to pick up and read when I’ve had a bit of free time – who doesn’t have time to squeeze in a short story?! What I’m thrilled about is that I have found a couple of new-to-me authors to check out and I’ve finally read work from authors that have popped up on my radar for years.

I’ve really loved reading 4 out of the 17 tales while about 6 stories did not float my boat; I think that level of satisfaction is quite exciting for a collection of this quantity, don’t you? However, at the time of writing this the price for this book on Amazon UK is £8.49 Kindle (approx 50p per story) and £12.99 paperback (approx 76p per story) – paperback due to be released in September 2017 – so this is not a cheap and cheerful book, if I’m honest it’s probably a bit out of my price range but only you will know whether it’s worth the price for you.

So, has my review of URBAN ENEMIES sparked your interest in this book or any of the stories listed? Just click on the links below to check out the anthology yourself, or to find out more about other books I’ve read, take a look at my profile on Goodreads.

See URBAN ENEMIES on Goodreads.com

Buy URBAN ENEMIES at all the usual places including; Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com or through Barnes & Noble

To be whisked away to the various authors own websites, just click on their name either at the top of this review or next to the individual review of their story.

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