Nobody's Business by Rachel Caine
Tyger, Tyger by Christopher Golden
The Real Santa Claus by Leigh Perry
Taproot by Jeffrey J. Mariotte
Knit a Sweater Out of Sky by Seanan McGuire
Love Story by Jeanne C. Stein
The Million-Dollar Hunt by Jonathan Maberry
Borderline Dead by Nicole Peeler
Extreme Makeover Vamp Edition by Leigh Evans
Don't Be Cruel by Bill Crider
What a Dream I Had by Nancy Holder
Another Dead Fairy by Miranda James
The Bat-Signal by Suzanne McLeod
The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars by Dana Cameron
Widower's Walk by MaryJanice Davidson
The whole concept of this anthology is an unusual one – this is a book of short stories set in Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse World written by other authors – a kind of licensed fanfiction. I have to say I was very very sceptical about the concept after the debacle of After Dead and I feared another cynical, exploitative money grab aimed at squeezing every last drop out of this series and its fans.
Do I think this was another cynical money grab? Honestly, yes – but despite that, there are some quality authors here who managed to pull out some interesting elements and tell some decent stories despite that which made it a far better book than the preceding debacle.
The stories I liked where ones that took regularly occurring characters who were present enough in the series to be identifiable characters and whose little vignette added more to them or the world. So I really liked Nobody’s Business by Rachel Caine which followed Kenya and Kevin, the two under-used police officers who grew to love each other as they pursue crime as normal humans in a supernatural haunted world. It was cute, impressive and fun with Kevin’s admiration and respect for Kenya really shining through even while also conveying the prejudice against interracial couples that overshadow them. Equally I liked The Bat Signal by Suzanne McLeod for taking Luna, an interesting werebat we met only briefly, and expanding her role in trying to be more involved in helping her fellow shapeshifters even if they don’t respect what a bat can do for them, instead favouring the larger predators
Similarly, I liked Tyger Tyger by Christopher Golden which followed weretiger Quinn and touched on a lot of issues with wereanimals being revealed and why it was more shocking than vampires (blood drinking night walkers are inherently separate from humanity – while shapeshifters could, by definition, be absolutely anyone making them a more immediate threat) as well as touching on inevitable military exploitation of wereanimals and issues like senility and elder care for a secretive community like weretigers. It covered a lot in a short space and was a very satisfying story when it ended.
I quite liked The Real Santa Clause by Leigh Perry and Knit a Sweater Out of Sky by Seanan McGuire not because I was especially interested in Amelia or Diantha (or in Sookie’s domestic bliss) but because it did a lot to flesh out the concept of witches and magic which I think the series always left so very neglected. Magic was there, occasionally it got used when it was useful but we didn’t get as much into the full effects of it – like how devastatingly it could be used against a business, or the mindset of witches that was so well displayed from Amelia’s point of view.
I wasn’t a big fan of Million Dollar Hunt by Jonathan Maberry because it was far too generic. Partly this is the fault of the character chosen – Mustapha was an extremely under-developed bit character in the series so there was very little to flesh out into a story that centred around him. But the story itself was generic – wereanimals fighting in the wilderness with a bit of canon twisting? This could quite literally have involved any wereanimal from any book I’ve read with wereanimals in it and not even slightly changed the story. I almost wonder if the story had already been written and they just filed the serial numbers off – there was no sense of world or character there
Borderline Dead by Nicole Peeler was another story I found generic in that it had little to do with Charlaine Harris’s world since it took a small side character – Desiree Dumas. But this story I loved – the idea of vampires playing into right-wing border patrols to try and deflect hatred against them against undocumented migrants – trying to use prejudiced nationalism and xenophobia as a way to prove to everyone that they’re good ol’ patriotic members of society is a nice, nuanced touch. Coupled with Desiree’s own determination to leave vampire control made for an interesting, layered story.