Hexed - Ilona Andrews, Allyson James, Yasmine Galenorn, Jeanne C. Stein As with our previous reviews of anthologies we’re going to take each story separately then look at the book as a whole.Magic Dreams by Ilona AndrewsI have read Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series and I loved it. So already a novella set in her excellent world was always going to go down well with me. This book follows Dali, the White Tiger shapeshifter and Jim, werejaguar and alphas of the cat shifters. After an outpost of, shifters is destroyed, Jim goes to investigate and is infected with a curse. Dali, as the pack’s only magical expert, sets out to undo the curse and face down the creature that has claimed him – despite her own doubts and having to enter dangerous places where White Tiger body parts are highly valued.For someone who has read her books, this story is excellent. It takes 2 of the side characters – Dali and Jim – and expounds upon them. We get a lot more insight into Dali’s character – and she’s always been one of the more intriguing with her calligraphy based magical system, the frustrations of being a white tiger with all this supposed potential and never feeling she meets it – and being a vegetarian, half-blind tiger in the first place. I like Dali, always have – she’s strong, spunky in a “I will prove myself and I won’t be limited” kind of way, brave with doubts but determined to prove them wrong.For someone who hasn’t read the book, I believe this will be extremely readable. By choosing 2 side characters, there’s no need to be acquainted with the series to get a handle on the back story. The world is complex, intricate and amazing but it is excellently portrayed, doled out in small doses with occasional moments of exposition that neither dragged nor overwhelmed and nothing was told that was unnecessary to this short story. We don’t have 6 books work of world building crammed into a novella.When it comes to racial inclusion, it was also a great story – Dali is Indonesian and we see a number of different Asian cultures and characters, Jim is Black, in fact, I don’t think there was a White person in the story except as side characters. All in all, an excellent short story and if I weren’t already hooked on the world, I’d dive in.Ice Shards by Yasmine GalenornLike Ilona Andrews, I read Yasmine Galenorn’s Sisters of the Moon/Otherworld series and enjoy it. This book follows Iris, the house sprite, delving into her past as a priestess and addressing some of her secrets. She was banished from the priesthood a long time ago when she was accused of killing her consort. Without her memory, she couldn’t tell if she were guilty or not, and even torture at the hands of the priestesses did not break her memory blocks. Her lover was turned into a hungry, evil shadow preying on the people of the Northlands. She is determined to track down the shadow and set him free – and in doing so, confront her possible guilt once and for all.In this case, I’m glad I read the series because I think this book would have been hard without it. Iris is accompanied by Rozurial the incubus, Smokey the dragon, Camille the half-fae witch and Howl the Elemental Lord. Already that’s not only a lot of characters, but that’s a lot of character’s whose natures need explaining. Rozurial at least could easily have been dropped – and this could have easily been Iris on a solo quest with Howl as a guide. Worse, the book frequently references events and characters in the main storyline that just aren’t relevant and give more information than is necessary. As someone familiar with the books, I recognised them, but someone not so aware risks tripping up.I am glad to see more of Iris in the story, especially since in the main series of books she’s a side character who is often called upon to help but not as a protagonist and the story itself is interesting. But it could have been tighter and, inclusionwise it was, again, completely lacking.Read More