Magic! It's pretty much a requirement for urban fantasy, whether it's subtle and ethereal, or big and flashy. And "women with magic" is also the unifying theme for "Hexed," a collection of four novellas by Ilona Andrews, Yasmin Galenorn, Allyson James and Jeanne C. Stein -- two are excellent, and two are pretty good but not brilliant.
In Andrews' "Magic Dreams," four shapeshifters are missing and werecat alpha Jim is mysteriously suffering from amnesia. So awkward weretiger Dali Harimau sets out to not only find a cure for what is slowly killing Jim, but discover what has been causing the trouble -- and uncovers a secret horror that she cannot possibly defeat except with her brains.
Galenorn's "Ice Shards" focuses on Iris Kuusi, a Finnish house sprite/ex-priestess of some ice goddess. Long ago, Iris was accused of killing her lover and binding his spirit to a shadow, so she was stripped of her powers and her fertility. Now she's returning to the scene of the crime, hoping to find out if she actually DID kill him -- and to either accept punishment or be free to marry her fiance.
Then comes James' "Double Hexed," in which Stormwalker Janet Begay and her buddies find themselves stuck in a hotel which has apparently been hit with a megahex -- faucets running blood, electrical failures, and even the loss of Coyote's magic. And finally there's Stein's "Blood Debt," in which vampire bounty hunter Anna Strong is called upon to kill an evil witch, but ends up in over her head.
Quite honestly, you should buy this book right now. Why? Because Ilona Andrews' story is absolutely brilliant, weaving together urban fantasy settings with Asian folklore (including yokai and Indonesian fairy tales), and also giving us a solid story of an "ugly duckling" whose brains must be used to save the man she loves. It's funny, wrenching, and its ending reminds me of JRR Tolkien's "The Hobbit."
As for the other stories, they're a mixed bag. Galenorn's story has a predictable twist, but it's a very nice story that fleshes out a side character well, and explores her traumatic history. James' story is pretty entertaining but it drags a bit at first, with one crisis piling on top of another, but it picks up in the second half. Stein's is a bit fluffy, but a decent piece of work with a likable heroine, and a pretty good introduction to her world.
"Hexed" is a pretty decent collection of novellas -- Andrews' is easily the best of the pack, and the others are a pretty decent read as well.