Ley Line Drifter by Kim Harrison
I bought this anthology specifically for this story because I'm a huge fan of Harrison's Hollows series. In this novella Rachel is away and Jenks takes center stage. It was really interesting to not have Rachel around at all, and yet see how much influence she's had on Jenks with their association.
I felt like the story was not the main thing here, and that it was instead just the framework used to let us get a more detailed look at the social customs and life cycle of pixies. Jenks is hired by another pixie who's family and home is being threatened by a mysterious statue. It falls to Jenks to put together a team and run the investigation, a role he hasn't taken on before. Bis, the resident teenage gargoyle, is tapped to be his backup and Jenks also decides to start training one of his sons to follow in his footsteps.
The issue with the statue, while central to the mystery Jenks is trying to solve, takes back seat in the story to following along with Jenks as he figures out how he should proceed and the plans he makes. Ivy fans also get an interesting peek at her near the end, seeing what she's like when Rachel isn't around.
The immediate threat is resolved in the story, but it's also left very open ended because Jenks made a big mistake. One that I wanted to bop him over the head for repeatedly during the story because he never asked the all important question, Why. I guess he needed to learn that lesson the hard way.
Reckoning by Jeaniene Frost
I haven't read anything by Frost before so I'm not familiar with her characters or world. The story was written in a way that this didn't create a barrier to enjoying the story or understanding what was going on or who was who. Even her unique distinction of ghouls and vampires was easily picked up without needing any extensive exposition.
This story is basically a hunt, with the vampire Bones after two evil ghouls, and it turns out someone is also after Bones, just to keep things interesting and moving along at a nice fast pace. It's a pretty straight forward story with a couple minor twists, but no real complexity or serious surprises. The ending was bittersweet and also provides us with a scene with a fascinating female vampire of incredible power. Something I consider a big plus to any story.
The story is self-contained with no loose ends left dangling. Though it does leave some possibilities to be carried over in the way of a couple debts owed. Not having read the series itself I don't know if they've ever actually come into play.
Dark Matters by Vicki Pettersson
I have read the first two books in Pettersson's Zodiac series, but it was when they were first published, so it's been a while and details of events are pretty hazy by this point and I don't know anything about what's happened in the more recent books. But that wasn't a problem since this story is a prequel about how the Kairos came to be conceived.
One thing that had frustrated me with the series, and it's possible this has been addressed or dealt with in more recent books, is the seemingly senselessness of the never ending battle between Light and Dark, with neither side getting the upper hand for long. It's just an endless cycle of fighting, killing, and replacing those who are killed. Making me wonder if there is any real point to it and if humanity is in actuality served by it in any way.
This story is about two characters, one of the Light and one of the Dark, who also seem disenchanted to at least some degree with how things work and their places in the process. Especially JJ who has done everything required of him but suffers from not being able to have anything special just for himself. And while Solange doesn't exactly come up smelling like roses, being one of the Shadows, she has allowed JJ to escape unharmed on more than one occasion.
The two of them are drawn together in an illicit affair, ala Romeo and Juliet, where they are able to share parts of themselves with each other they haven't been able to share with others. But nothing is ever as it seems and while their fate isn't the same as Shakespeare's couple it's still a suitably tragic ending.
The Dead, The Damned, And The Forgotten by Jocelyn Drake
I was really looking forward to reading this one because even though I haven't read any of her books yet I had been planning to. But I thought this story was the weakest of the bunch as far as the writing goes. Drake has an annoying tendency, at least in this story, to over explain everything, totally disregarding the rule of "show, don't tell". This came across to me as if she doesn't trust the reader to be able to pick things up on their own.
The story itself was interesting, sort of a whodunit. Three murders take place, starting with a vampire being killed. Even though I was not familiar with the characters or Drake's world I had no problem getting into the story and understanding the setting and who the various players were. The entire story takes place over just one night so is fast-paced. I was impressed with how many characters and factions Drake was able to cram into a novella without any confusion being created.
Two Lines by Melissa Marr
I hadn't read anything by Marr before either. This story was the most intriguing to me in the anthology, primarily because a new (to me) creature is used for the main character. Eavan is a glaistig. Marr used a Celtic mythological creature (yeah I went and looked it up after reading the story), and then put her own twist on what they are like.
In addition to having a very different type of creature for the protagonist, the story was also different than the others because it was more about Eavan fighting against herself, rather than outside forces. She has been fighting between her instincts (and family) and her right to make her own choices. Events in the story force this internal battle to come to a head and force Eavan to make irrevocable decisions. This story, like the Harrison story, was more open-ended. There was resolution to the immediate issue, but left me wanting to know what happens next.
All five of the stories in this collection are very good. I liked some better than others, but there aren't any that I felt were a waste of my time. So I'll give a big thumbs up to this one as being yet another very solid urban fantasy anthology.
Kindle note: The biggest formatting problem is that drop caps were used at the start of each chapter, so there's a bad line break. There were a few dropped words and typos throughout. But mostly the errors were fairly minimal and not detrimental to reading.
The overall ebook design was excellent with a linked Table of Contents and each story is marked with a dot on the progress bar at the bottom of the screen. This lets you see how much farther you have to go in the story you're reading and also allows you to skip back and forth between stories using the 5-way.