Huntress
by Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge, & Jenna Maclaine
(St. Martin's, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN  978-0-312-94382-0
***
A collection of stories about very strong—and, of course, supernaturally inclined—heroines by a handful of today's leading ladies in paranormal fiction, Huntress is designed to impress anyone with an interest in the genre. It seems likely that even those authors that readers have felt weak before may find a new following.

Christine Warren, never a personal favorite, presents a rollicking tale about a supernatural bounty hunter, Lilli Corbin, who's so dedicated to her job that she once made a deal with the devil to get her man. Now, she's on her last duty for the particular demon prince and it's an easy one: find a book that is missing from his library and return it. Unfortunately for Lilli, she's caught red-handed and almost instantly falls for the book's keeper ... who happens to be the true purpose behind Lilli's assignment.  "The Devil's Bargain," though it has a few of Warren's characteristic silly moments, is fast-paced with very likeable characters that are extremely well-developed given their short airtime.

Marjorie Liu's contribution, "The Robber Bride" is a chilling taste of a post-plague world. Maggie is very much of this new world, one with no cities and very few of what we would consider modern conveniences.  Maggie is a junkyard keeper and what she calls a fixer. However, when her friend Trace goes missing and Maggie spots Trace's shark's-tooth necklace around the neck of one of the dangerous men who has been scoping the area lately on motorcycle, Maggie takes off cross-country on her bicycle.  She knows she's looking for those men again, but she doesn't know anything about the world away from her own small town--and she doesn't know anything about these men, who have a history of coming into towns and taking off with their citizens.  Thankfully for Maggie's sanity (or perhaps despite it), she's found a friend in a crow that insists upon accompanying her on her journey.  Maggie will soon find out that nothing is as she's always thought: not the world, not the cities, not the crow, not even the capped teeth on the necklace she now wears.

Following some of the very best traditions of the short story, Liu provides an engrossing story—certainly the most compelling in this collection—that will have readers thinking hard from the get-go and turning pages nonstop.

As someone who was looking forward to the Kittredge entry, I have to say "Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go" was a massive disappointment.  I haven't yet read Street Magic, which I understand is also about Jack Winter, but I have liked a previous short story with him in it.  "Down in the Ground" is set in the 1990's and Jack, playing in a punk band, lets a woman seduce him into taking on a demon.  When the demon then consumes the woman, a demon-hunter named Ava for whom Jack has developed a sex-induced fondness, Jack goes a bit wild and becomes a captive of the demon.  

Full of characters one never grows to like and plagued with distracting British slang (so, yeah, he's British, we get it ...), if you're not planning on reading the whole book anyway, I'd skip this story.  If you're a fan of the new Jack Winter series, probably it'd be nice to have a bit of background on him in short fashion.

The Sin Craven story, "Sin Slayer", by Jenna Maclaine is as fast-paced as previous tales of the nineteenth-century vampire and her "Righteous" quartet; basically, Sin, Michael, Devlin, and Justine are vampire police and executioners.  This time, they're in London after Jack the Ripper--who, as it turns out, is not human, but a demon inhabiting the bodies of vampires or dead humans to do his work.  When he jumps into Michael, Sin's husband's, body, things quickly go to hell in a handbasket...

Not only will readers be excited to see their favorite authors with between-the-books stories; for the most part the speed, action, and memorable heroines of these tales are enough to please all on their own.

--Sarrah Knight


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