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From Publishers Weekly
Fans will best appreciate the 14 often darkly humorous fictions in bestseller Hamilton's first story collection, which includes several unpublished tales. Stories like "Selling Houses," in which a determined real estate agent faces up to the difficulties of selling a house where a gruesome mass murder has taken place, and "Here Be Dragons," a horrific account of a psychic child whose dreams can kill, show talent but need polish. Anita Blake aficionados, though, will relish the opener, "Those Who Seek Forgiveness," with its early version of a somewhat naïve vampire hunter. Stories set in the sword-and-sorcery world of Hamilton's first novel, Nightseer—"A Token for Celandine," "Winterkill," "The Curse-maker" and "Stealing Souls"—reveal that she has always had a talent for portraying strong female characters. Brief author introductions to each selection provide context. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Laurell K. Hamilton is the New York Times bestselling author of the Meredith Gentry novels: A Kiss of Shadows, A Caress of Twilight, Seduced by Moonlight, A Stroke of Midnight, Mistral’s Kiss, as well as fifteen acclaimed Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, novels. She is a full-time writer; she lives in a suburb of St. Louis with her family.
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Top Customer Reviews
The first story, 'Those Who Seek Forgiveness', is a very dark tale featuring Anita, and while it is the earliest Anita tale, it is still very well written. I very much enjoyed the story 'Selling Houses' as it is a look at Anita Blake's world as others experience it- in this case, a real-estate agent. One of my personal favourites was 'A Scarcity of Lake Monsters' which I found very touching.
Fans of 'Nightseer' will be pleased to see many stories in this anthology that are set in the same world, though the characters are different. Personally, I very much enjoyed the stories featuring Sidra- a master thief- and her sword, Leech- which speaks for itself.
All in all, I loved these stories. Hamilton is a gifted writer who brings detail and emotion to all of her stories and characters. Anyone who is a fan of Laurell K. Hamilton, or a fan of excellent writing in general, should certainly read this anthology.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
For an excellent collection of paranormal romance stories of many different subsets, look no further than Strange Candy. The stories collected therein give an excellent depiction of Laurell K. Hamilton's range as an author. Each story has a personalized introduction from the author and it's nice to have added perspective on a story's history rather than just reading it cold. Some of them were considered failures by editors, others display the goals she set for herself as a novice author. I've never read anyone who takes as many risks as Hamilton does within the paranormal genre. Though not every story hit home with me, there were a few that I felt were stellar, and that was enough to ensure that I'll read more of her work in the future.
In particular, I loved:
A Lust of Cupids: A woman in her early-thirties is hunted by a group of young cherubs determined to see her fall in love. When she is rescued by a man around her age who is equally determined to stay off the marriage market, what else could happen but that they'd fall in love. I was particularly captivated by this story because I've never thought of Cupid outside of the idea that he was a single Roman god and had never even considered that there might be groups of cupids. That Hamilton was willing to twist such an established idea, and do it so thoughtfully and humorously, was delightful to me.
Here Be Dragons: This is one of the darkest tales in the book, and for that reason it stood out for me. Jasmine Cooper is an empath and dream therapist who is called in to consult on the case of a ten-year old sociopath. Jasmine is known for quelling the sadistic desires of some of the harshest criminals by using their dreams against them, but even she doesn't know if she's any match for this child's dangerous mind games. In the introduction Hamilton says that this is the only science fiction story she's ever completed. It's a shame because I'd love to read more where this one came from.
Overall, I think this book is a great introduction into Hamilton's work. There's enough range to get you interested in her different characters and to let you know which of her different forays into the paranormal you'd be most interested in. Strange Candy was a delight to read and has definitely made me interested in checking out some of her other stories. It's a shame all candy doesn't taste this sweet.
The first story in the book, "Those Who Seek Forgiveness" is, as Laurell puts it, "the first time Anita ever walked on paper for me." I hate to say it, but it's not that great a story. This is obviously Anita Blake Mark I. The character traits that would make Anita something special, the wit, the vicious sense of humor, the repressed sexuality, are nowhere in evidence - because they didn't yet exist in the author's mind.
Many readers will be shocked to discover "Those Who Seek Forgiveness" was the template for much of Laurell's short novel Micah. I said good things about Micah upon its release. I would have been less impressed had I known how much of it was a retread. The basic plot of Anita being hired by a murderer to raise the zombie of their victim, the zombie breaking free of Anita's control to attack its killer, Anita flung through the air to crack her head on a gravestone, being knocked unconscious, waking up at the end of the story in a hospital bed after her client's death, all were lifted from "Those Who Seek Forgiveness".
The rest of the stories are mostly forgettable, about half-and-half not-very-fantastic fantasy and not-very-horrible horror. There's a reason Laurell K. Hamilton is not known as a great short story writer: she isn't. Overall her characters are cardboard, she hasn't the gift of sketching a believable, sympathetic personality in the few strokes allowed within a short story's limited word count. There's rarely a sense of real peril involved in the problems her characters face. The stories come across as unsatisfying, by-the-numbers exercises in which "people" you don't care about go through the motions of adventures that don't involve.
One irritating thing about the stories in Strange Candy, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the order in which they're presented. For instance, there are two stories starring Sidra Ironfist set in Laurell's Nightseer universe. But why the hell is Sidra's first-ever appearance presented **after** the follow-on story?
We're almost through the book before we hit a real winner, "Here Be Dragons". And Here Be One Hell of a Story. It's shocking, after wading through so much dreck, to suddenly hit one of the neatest, most vicious little psychological horror pieces I've ever experienced. It's like reading the work of a completely different writer. If every story in Strange Candy was of the quality of "Here Be Dragons" this would be a 5 star collection.
"Winterkill" which is also set in the Nightseer world, is, surprisingly, pretty darn good. Other than "Here Be Dragons" it's the only decent story in the collection, in my opinion. I found myself liking and rooting for main character Jessa - which, considering she's basically a killer-for-hire is a great accomplishment on the writer's part.
Strange Candy is bookended by two Anita Blake tales. It begins with "Those Who Seek Forgiveness" and ends with "The Girl Who Was Infatuated With Death" which takes place within continuity just before the novel Narcissus in Chains. As with so many recent Laurell K. Hamilton tales, "TGWWIWD" has a great set-up. Anita is hired to find a girl who is (a) dying of bone cancer and will in fact have her leg cut off in a few days, (b) about to be "turned" by a vampire, that very night, mostly so she can avoid the mutilation and painful death by cancer awaiting her otherwise. Problem: she's underage to legally make that choice. If the vampire turns her, he'll be up for execution. Does Anita "save" the girl from being turned - which legally is what she should do - knowing that by doing so she's condemning her to mutilation and, in short order, real death, or should she let it happen, knowing she's condemning the vampire? This presents Anita with a no-good-choices serious moral dilemma.
Unfortunately the great set-up soon gives way to zero forward momentum as the focus turns to - you guessed it - Anita's sex life. An over-emphasis on this one facet of Anita's life to the exclusion of plot has ruined every recent Anita Blake story, and it's no exception here. Thus, instead of bending all her efforts to finding the girl and the vampire in the few hours she has left, instead Anita spends the time playing footsy with Jean-Claude in his office at Guilty Pleasures while the police and other vampires do the job for her. Even Jean-Claude comments, "There was a time, ma petite, that you would have insisted on riding to the rescue yourself, questioning the girl's friend, and refusing to bring in the police at all." At which point I could not help but think, "Yeah, and wouldn't that be fun to read? There was a time this story would actually have been good."
Recommended for Anita Blake completists who absolutely need to own every word ever written about the character. Recommended for "Here Be Dragons" and "Winterkill". For myself this is a library rental, nothing more - a collection of mediocre short stories that just happens to contain one absolutely killer piece and one pretty good.
I hope LKH has more old stories tucked away somewhere.
But with the first few stories I was very disappointed. They were not good. I thought the first Anita story was dull, the second A Lust of Cupids simplistic and predictable. And the forward remarks by LKH to the Cupid story were unbelievable. Her arrogance about the rejection of this story when she originally submitted it only because she wasn't "a big enough name" at the time. Edge of the Sea was interesting but Why and How was never answered! I think about 6 stories were in the Nightseer world and though I did enjoy them the plots were repetitive.
I was very surprised by A Clean Sweep. I liked it a lot. I thought it was very different, clever and amusing. I read it to several people. I was also surprised that there was only one sex scene and a very mild and romantic one too!!! The last story with Juan Claude was very good, I did enjoy it. But really it was the usual stuff.
As has become my habit now with this author, I did not buy this book new. I am so glad I did not. Recycled short stories do not deserve my money.
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