Title: Shadowed Souls
Author: This is an anthology
Nutshell: Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes put together this anthology of stories about people on the fringes of mundanity, steeped in the supernatural world. As with any anthology, within the parameters the editors set is a great variety.
Molly Carpenter faces the challenges of working for Queen Mab while facing a bizarre cult in Alaska.
Peacock, street thief indentured to some kind of supernatural mob tycoon, steals a soul from Hell.
Elsie Harrington, half-demon, gets kidnapped from a roller derby by the local D&D group.
It’s a dark and occasionally quirky collection of stories for the urban fantasy reader.
Read-alikes: Any of the authors’s other works are of course like this. Jim Butcher and Kat Richardson are the ones I’m familiar with. Simon Greene, though I didn’t care for the book of his I read, is quite like.
Confession: I read anthologies backwards.
I don’t know what kind of logic goes into the arrangement of the stories in a collection, but I’ve found, in general, that the first two or three stories are the ones least likely to end on a sour note, and the ones at the end are. I find this perplexing, and frustrating, and so now I read them backwards. (Sometimes I just skip over the ones that are by my favorite authors and come back to them. With Martin and Dozois’ Dangerous Women, I did both.)
A lot of these are set in existing franchises with familiar characters. I wasn’t familiar with any of them except Molly Carpenter and one character that I encountered in a different anthology. None of the stories were difficult to follow, and a few made me want to see more from a particular character. But it’s hard to ramble about short stories. There’s so little to them. The central theme is the climax, so I can’t really muse on it. The character arc is also the twist, so that’s out. And I’ve already highlighted the hooks of the stories that really stood out to me, so I’m out of things to say. The book was dark, but not as bitter as many anthologies I’ve read. (In fact, I think I recall only two others that had more enjoyable stories than despressing ones.) It’s a good snapshot of what’s happening in urban fantasy right now.