Traitor by Clare London (review)

Tagline: Twice betrayed – interrogating one’s ex-comrade and ex-lover

7&7 Anthology Book Cover

Virtue #7: Fortitude
Title: Traitor
Author: Clare London
Genre:  Spy / Cloak & Dagger (LGBT)
Format:  Short Story (42 pages)

Series: 7&7 Anthology

Publisher: DSP Publications (May 2016)

Bonus:   Free on publisher’s site

Rating: 3.75 stars (out of 5)

DSP Publication’s anthology covers 7 virtues and 7 vices, and the theme of Clare London’s short story is the virtue of fortitude.

British intelligence officer Aiden is sent to interrogate a recently recaptured traitor, who also happens to be his ex-lover.  As if the situation was not bad enough, he must conduct the “interview” in the midst of his old unit that had expelled and demoted him not too long before.  Facing his former boss and seeing the depredations suffered by his traitorous ex make the cross-examination even more challenging.  How does the most skilled interrogator keep his own emotions in check to get to the bottom of his former friend’s dubious deeds?

This entry is difficult to rate, as the spy genre is not particularly enticing to me, interrogation and psychological one-upsmanship are not normally particularly my cup of tea.  Still, the characters and setting were certainly intriguing and kept my steady interest throughout the narrative.  The physical intimidation discussed and displayed was just one piece for characters who were seasoned agents yet also struggled a bit to keep their personal feelings in check, a nice counterpoint making an already tense situation worse.  The psychological thrill of the personal, professional, and political conflict was certainly present and explored efficiently and quickly in this short story, as their past intimacy spilled forth and affected the story in unexpected ways.

 

Red Light Special by Rhys Ford (review)

Tagline: Fae and elves and a succubus, oh my! (In Detroit)

7&7 Anthology Book Cover

Vice #6: Lust
TitleRed Light Special
Author: Rhys Ford

Genre:   Urban Fae Fantasy
Format:  Short Story (38 pages)
Series: 7&7 Anthology

Publisher: DSP Publications (May 2016)

Bonus:   Free on publisher’s site

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)

DSP Publication’s anthology covers 7 virtues and 7 vices, and the theme of Rhys Ford’s story is the vice of lust.

Tam the Fae is the Knight of Detroit, exiled by Oberon to keep an eye on all things supernatural in this struggling city.  When a graffito insults the mighty Fae overlord, and suddenly a Knight of Chicago comes poking around, things get complicated for the half-breed, semi-snarky hero.  Throw in a succubus that makes his dick get hard over the most unlikely of souls (including a barely sentient tree – splinters!), and the fae’s day becomes more than a little complicated.

This author’s lightly snarky, street-sounding dialog seemed particularly authentic to my not-so-delicate (unless, apparently, it’s horror) sensibilities.  The characters were enticing and fun, with plenty of attitude that did not undermine their basic likability (for me).  The setting was brief but compelling, begging for further exploration for fans of Urban Fantasy, especially Fae-centered stories in modern times.  (I absolutely love Fae characters with the right mix of haughtiness and sympathetic qualities, and this writer does an excellent job in creating interesting and likable-enough Fae.)

Writing –  Clearly this is my kind of writing.  I bitched and moaned about the lack of intemperant, pissed-off language in the “Canadian nice” story on anger, which is to say I am accustomed to a different (south side of Chicago) brusqueness to language.  This Detroit-Chicago story certainly had an authentic, sometimes over-the-top, chuckle-inducing writing that matched the setting for me.  I’m not sure how Fae are supposed to sound, but the main character sounded like he was from Detroit or Chicago to me:

Favorite, fun quotes (sometimes sounding a bit like an adolescent trying to be street):

  • “Detroit was a wasteland. Sure, there were pockets of the city refusing to acknowledge it was dying, kind of like watching a chicken running around the yard after its head’s been cut off. Lots of feathers flying, wings churning, and legs kicking up dirt—that was Detroit.”  Unfortunately there is plenty of truth in that statement, as I recently commented on in a reblogged post. 
  • “But then my dick was the most elven thing about me, and kind of an arrogant, self-serving ass hat on most occasions.”
  • “Death not only touched him, it skull-fucked him, slam-dunked his worthless ass into the end zone, then danced through his entrails”.
  • “Just… get your dryad to stop leaving orange spooge all over our bed. It’s kind of creepy.”

Excerpts From: 7&7 – A DSP Publications Anthology of Virtue and Vice. Dreamspinner Press, 2016. ePub.

Looking over the comments that amused me, apparently I have a bit of a thing for juvenile, street-sounding, snarky comments.

Beyond the Temperance Effect by S. Yates (review)

Tagline: Decades long space journey and a government mission tests the temperance of the crew

7&7 Anthology Book Cover

Virtue #4:  Temperance
Title: Beyond the Temperance Effect
Author: Serna Yates
Genre:  Science Fiction
Format:  Short Story (36 pages)

Series: 7&7 Anthology

Publisher: DSP Publications (May 2016)

Bonus:   Free on publisher’s site

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

DSP Publication’s anthology covers 7 virtues and 7 vices, and the theme of  Serena Yates’ short story is the virtue of temperance.

In this science fiction setting, a crew in hibernation for fifty years is awakened to prepare for colonization of a remote planet.  As the story progresses, it seems a key thing they were counting on isn’t quite working correctly, with potentially dire consequences for all aboard.  In order to get through it, a significant dose of temperance may be required.

The intergalactic setting was interesting, especially the contrast between the skeleton crew that manned the ship and aged while the bulk of the party was in cryogenic suspension.  Fans of the rigors and difficult practicalities of space travel in the not-too-distance future will finds some nice attention to the logistics of just how to make this happen.  As far as the theme of the story (temperance) goes, the characters find more questions than answers as the importance of that virtue is clearly central to their ongoing story, including just how much of it can be generated from society and how much personal will is involved. One aside is that some powerful interests believed that temperance was not a useful virtue for one specific type of occupation, posing (but not answering) questions about the role this even-keeled attitude should play in a person’s life and social relations. I enjoyed an ending which underscored the importance of such a virtue while leaving the broader questions wide open.

On a side note, the LGBT aspect of the story was present but very minor.  This is an interesting science fiction story with a character who was incidentally gay, so it’s an LGBT friendly piece with a focus on broader social, personal, political, and space travel issues.

Heirs to Grace and Infinity by C. Cummings (review)

Tagline: Fugitive sorcerer matches wits with the Bureau’s top agent

7&7 Anthology Book Cover

Virtue #3:  Justice
Title: Heirs to Grace and Infinity Gate
Author: Carole Cummings
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Format:  Short Story (31 pages)

Series: 7&7 Anthology

Publisher: DSP Publications (May 2016)

Bonus:   Free on publisher’s site

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

DSP Publication’s anthology covers 7 virtues and 7 vices, and the theme of Carole Cummings’ short story is the virtue of justice.

The Orthodox government protects the nation from the dangerous magic of theurgists and their treacherous ilk. The Bureau’s buff and brave agents, with support from bright personnel like Kyle the computer and communication expert, are key to protecting the public from the nefarious Sorcerer.  This short story moves swiftly through the central players’ struggle with their own safety, their personal feelings and attractions, and eventually the larger issues of keeping society safe.  The author’s quick, strong, and tight story weave includes a wide range of personal, sexual, ethical and political challenges in a relatively small handful of pages.  The teasing glimpses of the dangers that a handful of magical individuals would pose in a modern society are handled deftly and create a nice tension in this Urban Fantasy setting.

Many novel length works do not address such a range of character, plot and setting issues so effectively, let alone in a work as short as this.  While some of the plot twists were predictable, there was also a surprise or two that worked well for me. Certainly the personal, ethical, and intimate themes the author explores resonated, hitting a sweet spot of what I personally find enjoyable in a short read. Still, I was also clearly impressed with how the plot and character and setting themes swirled together so nicely in a brief work.

Hellmaw: Of the Essence by G. Harbowy (review)

Hellmaw: Of the Essence Book Cover

Title: Hellmaw: Of the Essence
Author: Gabrielle Harbowy
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Format:  Novel (179 pages)
Sites: PublisherGoodreads | Amazon
Series: Hellmaw #7
Publisher: Ed Greenwood Group (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781772700305

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Tagline:  A threatened daemon treads a treacherous path of blackmail and murder 

Another departure from my usual male-male romance reviews, this novel is an interesting,  intriguing and LGBT-friendly urban fantasy story, so it may be of interest to paranormal LGBT romance fans.

In the dangerous and sometimes bloodthirsty world of intrigue for those daemons exiled on Earth, the artist Quills attempts to stand apart. The story of her attempt to remain safe in a swirling sea of danger is inventive and compelling. The novel was a wonderful weave of political intrigue, cloak-and-dagger scheming, and the strength of individual conviction, yielding a highly personal tale of struggle within a broader, brutal setting.

The protagonist had a nice mix of daemonic hunger, the detachment of an exiled expatriate, and a clarity of personal will that made Quills a compelling character. Her story is a rewarding journey to the Hellmaw, and I’m looking forward to see other stories in this potentially horrific yet strangely enticing setting.

The story does lead to a couple of  intimate encounters (very appropriate to the plot), including some LGBT-friendly passion.  The writing draws the reader nicely into the intimacy with some nice bits of sizzle before a satisfying “fade to black.”  (The daemons at the center of this setting seem to be able to shift all parts of their forms, which leads to gender-fluidity and hints at varied and interesting intimate if not always romantic couplings.)

 

Mooreeffoc by Aleksina & Single (review)

Mooreeffoc Book Cover

Title: Mooreeffoc
Authors: Tetiana Aleksina & Tony Single
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Format:  Short Story (19 pages)

SitesGoodreads | Amazon
Publisher: Kindle (March 2016)
ASIN: B01CX4WYUY

Bonus: Kindle Unlimited title

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Tagline:  Divine presence intrudes on a coffee house pick-up

While I normally focus on male/male romance, especially paranormal romance, Mooreeffoc (read it backwards if you’re confused) is a short story that centers on a possible male/female hookup with a supernatural bent.  The presence of divinities wrapped in the encounter makes this a nice little urban fantasy read.

This was a trippy short story replaying a pick-up at a coffee house from various perspectives, including the eyes of the two flirting mortals and the gods who haunt each one.   It’s an interesting journey into a comparative “point of view” escapade with a man, a woman, and several Egyptian gods all providing their own, somewhat snarky reactions to the encounter.  The contrasts between the characters are certainly interesting and the authors provide an interesting window into each personality, which is a noteworthy accomplishment in such a short piece. The ending is nicely surprising and entertaining, yielding an overall quick but enjoyable reading experience.