Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: Those Who Fight Monsters

Tales of Occult Detectives

Various authors
Urban Fantasy
240 pages
EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy
Available Now
Received from editor for review

This anthology includes 14 individual stories from some of the most well known authors in the urban fantasy genre. Each tale features a character or characters from popular book series working cases where the paranormal is just another normal day at the office.

Authors featured:
Laura Anne Gilman, Julie Kenner, Simon R. Green, Lilith Saintcrow, Carrie Vaughn, Justin Gustainis, T.A. Pratt, Tanya Huff, Chris Marie Green, Caitlin Kittredge, C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp, Jackie Kessler, C.J. Henderson, and Rachel Caine.

Those Who Fight Monsters is an entertaining collection of short stories featuring a strong combination of both male and female protagonists with a proclivity for fighting supernatural crime. As with any anthology, some stories are more intriguing than others with certain authors managing to create a complex and layered tale in just a few pages while others struggle a bit with the short length, leaving us wishing for an extra twenty pages to give us that added depth we're seeking. All of the fourteen individual tales feature characters from already-established paranormal series, and most do a beautiful job of quickly introducing us to the world should we be unfamiliar with it, giving us just enough information to be able to connect easily as we jump right into the action with little prelude.

This collection would be perfect for those on the hunt for some new urban fantasy series to try, each tale giving us a brief taste of the author's style and their characters. Some delight us with humor and wit, some shock us with paranormal twists to standard detective work, and some hint at a darkness and pain we know will affect us more profoundly should we pick up the full length novels. The only complaint would be the length of each story, on average about 15 pages–a challenge that forces us to absorb a lot of details and individuals in rapid succession and never allows us time to fully settle in. Reading this book is akin to ordering a sampler platter–a great variety of tasty morsels are presented but ultimately we find our favorites and try to savor them before moving on to nibble on the next.

Little Better Than a Beast by T.A. Pratt
Marla is a fun, take-no-nonsense chief sorcerer who approaches her monster of a problem with humor and isn't afraid to dispense some much-deserved violence on a man suffering rather impressively from sexism. Mr. Pratt gives us a complete tale that leaves us wanting numerous additional pages and much, much more time with Marla and her smart mouth.

Under the Hill and Far Away by Caitlin Kittredge
Ms. Kittredge is another on who does a spectacular job of illuminating the world from her Black London novels just enough to provide us a proper welcome and introduction to Pete Caldecott while spinning a mystery that, though easily solved, is enough of a taste of her style to spark a potential addiction.

Defining Shadows by Carrie Vaughn
Jessi Hardin is a detective in the world of Vaughn's Kitty Norville series, and she headlines perhaps the most unusual an fascinating story in the book. Focusing on an incredibly bizarre and exceedingly memorable supernatural being, Ms. Vaughn ensures her tale stands out as unique even amidst a plethora of talented writers. The case Hardin is called in to solve is grotesque but undeniably captivating, and Ms. Vaughn makes a spectacular use of every single one of her pages, making us feel like we've read a full novella instead of a short story.

Overall Rating: 3/5


  1. I always feel on the fence about UF so maybe trying an anthology like this could help me decide on which type of UF works best for me, if anything I'm always up for a bit of wit and humor.

    Thanks Jenny!

    ~Missie, The Unread Reader

  2. May I ask how the Tanya Huff story held up?

  3. The cover always turns me away, but the stories and authors...who knows. I mean I do read more shorties these days

  4. I agree with Blodeudd - the cover is a bit strange. But I still want to read it - the good thing about short stories is that one can find so much variety.

  5. I have a deep respect for authors who write short stories as I think they are much more difficult to write well than a novel simply because of the length. I have not read much UF but I agree with anonymous that perhaps this is a great book to check into the genre more.

  6. I love urban fantasy and would love to find some new series to try so this sounds good. Although I have to admit like Blodeuedd and Misha that the cover is not very appealing. Great review :)

  7. I wish I was more into anthologies---sometimes they are really great but most of the time I am left wanting more (which actually is a big compliment to the authors--that I would have preferred a long story)!

    Great Review :)

  8. I've never been a huge fan of short stories...probably because you just start getting into a story and then it ends. But this does sound cute. I do like collections by authors I already know and love. Then it's fun to read new little tidbits from them.

  9. I like that cover! I'm not big on anthologies or short stories either. I'll only pick up an anthology if it contains an author that I absolutely LOVE. Like Ward or Moning.... ;)

  10. Missie - I found some series I would definitely want to read after reading these short stories:)

    Brandy - The Tanya Huff story featured Tony from her Tony Foster books and I enjoyed it. It was a little darker than some of the others, but I really liked Tony and his partner Lee.

    Blodeuedd - There are a lot of fabulous authors in this one, it's worth a read:)

    Misha - The cover is strange, but there are some good stories beneath it:)

    Jan - I agree, I always have trouble with short stories because I like to be so deeply involved and that's hard to be in only 10 or 15 pages.

    Nic - It's a fun group of authors, definitely perfect for anyone who's thought about trying more in the UF genre.

    Felicia - I'm the same, that's why the rating is a bit lower. I always want more time and 15 pages is not nearly enough:)

    Alison - I do like that these are all short stories from existing series, so I know if I liked them, I can go get more:)

    Mollie - I'm usually not either unless there's maybe only 3 or so authors in a 400 page book, then I feel like there's enough there to suck me in. These were a bit short for my taste, but they were fun to read for the most part:)

  11. Love anthologies! I always hope with my fave that the author turned them in novels.

  12. It's funny, but I never thought about buying an anthology to check out different authors' writing styles. That makes total sense! Great review!

  13. I liked the stories by Jackie Kessler Justin Gustainis. I would definitely check out the series but there were a few that left me confused because I didn't know the backgrounds for the characters.
    Overall a good book tough.

  14. I don't generally like short stories for the exact same reason you started-once you invest in it, it ends too quickly. However, I would love to read more from the Urban Fantasy genre and will be putting this one on my tbr list for that reason.

  15. Savy - This is only my second anthology and it was a fun read. Some of my favorite authors are in there which is always nice:)

    Jacinda - The stories are just enough that you get a little taste and I was able to figure out which authors were for me and which weren't, and I made a list of which characters I would want to read more about in the full length novels:)

    Karen - I really liked Jackie's too, I would definitely read that series:) Some of them left me confused as well, I definitely would have benefited from reading the novels first.

    Rummanah - Oh good, I hope you enjoy it! It gave me some good recommendations:)

  16. Wow, I love that cover!
    Anyway, I'm just going to throw this out there--if you enjoyed T.A. Pratt's story, you should DEFINITELY read his series starring Marla (starting with Blood Engines). I absolutely loved it!
    Great review! :)

  17. I've never gotten into short stories too much, but you make an excellent point - the collections do make a nice little sampler platter for trying out new UF authors (which I am in dire need of). Thanks, Jenny!

  18. I am typically not a fan of anthologies, but I never really took this into consideration This collection would be perfect for those on the hunt for some new urban fantasy series to try, each tale giving us a brief taste of the author's style and their characters. and it does make a lot of sense! I will have to check this out to see what Lili St. Crow has in store for us!

  19. Lauren - I really enjoyed Marla, she had me laughing and cheering when she gave the sexist a little comeuppance:)

    Linds - That's what I really liked about this one, all the characters are from existing series, so I knew I could spend more time with them if I wanted:)

    Avery - I hope you do give it a try since you're such a fan of Lili's YA books, this will give you just a taste of her adult series:)

  20. I've really been wanting to read this one!!! And I totally love the cover too!

  21. Thank you for the info on the Huff story! I was kind of hoping it had the Magic Emporium family in it. *g* Or the Keeper.

  22. I'm not a big fan of anthologies or short stories because they're never as long as I want them to be :) It's like getting a tiny snack when you want a nice meal.

  23. Ashley - Hope you give it a try:)

    Brandy - You're welcome!

    Zahida - Exactly, I wanted more of a lot of these, but at least I know I can go out and buy more:)

  24. This looks like an interesting mix of stories! Love the cover :)

  25. I am not a really big fan of anthologies but I may give this one a try. Thanks for the review, Jenny! =)

  26. I wish I liked anthologies more. They always seem really fun, but I just can't get into them :/

  27. UF is so hit or miss with me, but I love how you reviewed this anthology. Seriously, I'm scared to review Enthralled bc I'm pretty sure I'll prove HBoD right when I attempt to sum it all up haha

  28. What a line up of all my favorite authors... Jenny are most of them like Kittredge based on an existing series or are there authors who have done "teasers" like a prequel to a new series?

  29. Julie - It was a very interesting mix, they were fun to read:)

    Bailey - I'm usually not either, but this one gave me some good ideas of series I might want to try.

    Tara - It's definitely hard. This is only the second one I've tried and I wouldn't run out to buy more just like it, but it was an entertaining read:)

    Melissa - It's okay. We can't get much worse in the eyes of the HBoD. We should just embrace our miserableness since they will forever remember us in a negative light anyway:)

    Jackie - wrote you an email:)

  30. I don't read a ton of anthologies because short stories are so...short. However, I have read some and they are fun in that I still get a story. Sometimes I think the authors should write a whole book based on the short story. I like length :D. (that sounded dirty)

    This sounds good and I like the title and cover, so I may pick it up. Maybe the library will have it in.

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  31. Oh I'm glad. This sounds so good and a 3/5 for an anthology is quite good. I love Carrie's writing and I'm glad she had one of your faves in there. Must be the CO water.... ;)

  32. I don't read a lot of short stories but these are great authors. I'll check it out!