As an avid reader of Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, I had to grab this anthology, of course, even though I’m not familiar with the other series that were featured with novellas here. The resulting collection and my reading experiences were pretty mixed. It’s a quick read in any case.
After the jump I’ll talk about the four novellas separately.
Secrets at Midnight by Nalini Singh [part of the Psy-Changeling Series]
Leopard changeling Bastien is ready to settle down. All that’s missing for him is finding his mate to settle down with. And then he catches her scent, and after a bit of searching, he finds Kirby who feels drawn to him as much as vice versa. But there’s something about Kirby – and not even Kirby herself seems to know what that is.
Secrets is very much what I’ve come to expect of Singh. Her couples do have the same dynamic more often than not and it’s not really different here (although for a short moment I thought that Kirby might be male and that she’s finally dared to approach Teh Gayz, but no such luck). Bastien and Kirby are not my favorite couple, but I did enjoy this novella.
Magic Steals by Ilona Andrews [part of the Kate Daniels series]
When members of their supernatural community go missing, Dali and Jim pair up to investigate what’s going on, which is also an excellent opportunity to look at their romantic interest in each other. If only Dali wasn’t so unsure about herself – being a blind, tigress shapeshifter who can’t stand the sight of blood will give you some hang-ups. But Jim isn’t hang-up-free either. They’ll just have to figure out, how to work together.
This novella takes place between the 6th and 7th book of the Kate Daniels series that I don’t know in the slightest, and oh boy, did I feel that lack of knowledge. It felt like I was missing at least 70% of the necessary information about the world, despite the fact that Andrews really dumps a lot of information into the novella to avoid my predicament. It still didn’t feel enough. Maybe also because she spends a lot of time on Dali’s Balinese background. While I liked that Dali is a woman of color and that her migration history as well as the Balinese community are part of her, the way things were explained felt a little sterile to me, a bit like Andrews did a lot of research on it to do the culture justice (which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong), but didn’t manage to quite apply that acquired theoretical knowledge into practice. And maybe there was a certain touch of exoticizing the entire thing as well.
Apart from the background info, the story was well-handled, if forseeable. I liked Dali and Jim but their relationship developed a little too fast for me (maybe because I don’t know the books that came before this one). Altogether, it did little to spark my interest in the series as a whole, but it was okay.
Lucky Charms by Lisa Shearin [part of The SPI Files]
Seer Makenna Frazier has her first day at the Supernatural Protection and Investigations, the detective/bodyguard service for the supernatural world. She’s off to a rocky start, paired with a gruff partner, Ian, and tasked to keep track of a leprechaun’s prince bachelor party. And things get really out of hand really, really quickly.
Lucky Charms was a prequel to The SPI Files series, and while it still suffered a little from the infodumping that still had to take place, it worked and was the only of the novellas that would motivate me to check out this new to me series. It was enjoyable and fast-paced and had a nice sense of humor for the most part, although the latent transphobia in it really soured things.
The Beast of Blackmoor by Milla Vane
Kavik is a great warrior but when he asked the goddess for help in a revenge plot and she refused, he defiled her temple and now he is cursed. Mala’s fate, too, has been set on its course by the goddess who sent her to tame the Beast of Blackmoor, so she may gain the necessary warriors to defend her homeland. When Kavik’s and Mala’s paths cross, it becomes clear that their destinies are closely entwined.
Good grief, this was so much not my thing I have barely words to express ist. I only finished it because it is a really quick read, but that’s pretty much the only positive thing I can say about it. The overwhelming religiousness of it all, the rape in all shapes and forms, the fetishizing of virginity – there was exactly nothing there that I found unproblematic or interesting. And I still don’t know what to make of his stalk-dreaming/dream-stalking of her. No, won’t be touching anything by Vane (and probably not even by Meljean Brook whose alter ego she is) ever again.
Summarizing: It’s not a bad format to get when you want to familiarize yourself with the series featured within, but it didn’t particularly inspire me to dig further.