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wild-thing-anthI have mentioned before that I rarely read anthologies cover to cover-which begs the question of why I buy them in the first place. The answer is that I want one-perhaps two-of the stories within, and that I want that one story bad enough to pay for content I know I am likely never to read.

You can imagine how happy I am on those occasions when two or more of the stories in the same anthology resonate with me. These are two such stories, originally published in 2007 in the Wild Thing anthology by Berkley.

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“Paradise” by Meljean Brook

The third story in Ms Brook’s Guardians series (which started with the short “Falling for Anthony” published in the Hot Spell anthology*, followed by Demon Angel), it tells the story of Selah, one of the oldest remaining Guardians, and Lucas, a powerful vampire.

From the back cover:

Follow the dark shadows that stalk both the living and the undead in a world of restless vampires and guardian angels…

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Picking up shortly after the events of Demon Angel, the Guardians are hunting the couple hundred demons who managed to escape to Earth before the Gate from Hell was closed. Selah has been sent to Ashland to find out whether or not one of these demons is responsible for a number of vampire killings in the area. Apparently these are part of a ritual to divert the Gate there from Caelum to Hell-which would free Lucifer and his hordes to wreak havoc on Earth again.

The first order of business is to locate the head of the vampire community in Ashland. Lucas Marsden is young to be such a leader, but he is powerful due to the circumstances of his turning-a former Guardian saved him and his late consort from a nosferatu two decades earlier. Between his power and his personality, along with the unusual composition of the vampire community in Ashland, it was inevitable that he would become the leader.

As the story starts, we learn that Lucas’ consort has recently died (under not quite clear circumstances) and that Lucas is struggling to overcome a deep sense of responsibility and guilt over both her death and their relationship. She was his consort only because her husband-and his best friend-didn’t survive the night when both were turned.

Soon we learn that Selah is also trying to cope with memories of her failure to help Colin, a friend and another vampire. Memories of leaving him, helpless and alone, to the horrors of Chaos. On top of that, she harbors resentment towards the numerous Guardians who chose to Ascend, leaving so few of them behind to protect humanity.

There is an interesting balance between the external conflict-Guardians vs demons-, the internal conflict Lucas and Selah character face, and the development of their relationship. While the action lasts only a handful of days… erm, nights :grin: , what develops between these two is momentous enough to change them and the course of their destinies.

The plotting is tight and the characterization compelling. In just over a hundred pages there is enough world building sprinkled through that even a reader coming fresh to the series would get a clear picture of the Guardians’ universe and most of its rules. For the fans of the series there are some cameos-Colin, Lilith, Hugh and Michael.

8 out of 10

*which, much to my shock, I have yet to review here. In the meantime, here’s this review at the Smart Bitches

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“Wild Hearts in Atlantis” by Alyssa Day

The second installment in the Warriors of Poseidon series, “Wild Heart in Atlantis” follows Bastien, one of Atlantis’ seven chosen warriors as he meets his fate in the person of one Katherine (Kat) Fiero, half human, half shapeshifter. At 75 pages, the world building in this story is sketchier than in the first novel in the series; the impression I get is that the reader is expected to be familiar with Atlantis Rising before picking this book up.

Back cover blurb(let?)

Get swept away by the passions that rise out of the unfathomable depths of the lost city of Atlantis…

In the aftermath of the events narrated in Atlantis Rising, Conlan, King of Atlantis, must form alliances with human groups and shifter communities if he is to prevent vampires from taking over Earth-and bringing about the final cataclysm. In order to do this, he sends Bastien, one of his must trusted warriors, to act as liaison with a large group of panther shifters in South Florida.

The idea is to prevent said shifters from siding with a particular group of vampires who have ties to the ones Conlan and company defeated in the first novel. These vampires happen to have access to some ancient scrolls which may (or may not) contain the key to controlling both shifters and humans in large enough numbers to tip the already unstable balance of power.

To fulfill his mission Bastien must, in turn, connect with Kat Fiero, the daughter of the previous alpha of the panther pride in question. In the normal course of things this shouldn’t be an issue, but… all his systems shut down and his wires got crossed a couple of years before when he met her during a brief mission on ‘land’.

Bastien is another tortured hero, though to a much lesser degree than Conlan. One of his darkest memories is that of having to kill a number of babies who have been turned vampire (anyone who has read or watched Interview with the Vampire would understand his reasoning, though). Thankfully, he comes to terms with his feelings for Kat-both his possessiveness of her and his need for her-without too much angst.

For her part, Kat has spent her life stuck in limbo. Not only isn’t she a pure blooded shifter, but her human mother’s legacy is a psychic gift that completely overrides her shifter nature: in the presence of aggression, Kat will inject calmness and serenity, diffusing violent impulses almost to the point of zen. It is not quite clear how much of this ability she ca control-such as during the bar fight, early in the story-and how much is triggered by strong emotion without volition-such as when finding a dying Nick. In the end, though, it matters not, for it’s most tangible effect on Kat is that it doesn’t allow her to shift.

Throughout the action, and despite some shades of the dreaded Deus ex Machina plot device, I liked both Bastien and Kat, and by the story’s end I could believe in the attraction between them, enough to be able to imagine them working through the obstacles before them-from DNA to tradition and so on. My main complaint, though, is the length-I need more pages!

6 out of 10

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