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A Fantasy Medley 3 by Yanni Kunzia (ed.)

Kunzia’s third collection of fantasy novellas, published by Subterranean Press, is just as beautiful as the first two.  These collections are well worth picking up.

Fantasy Medley 3Title:  A Fantasy Medley 3
Author:  Yanni Kunzia (ed.)
Publish Date:  December 31, 2015
Genre:  Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionIn “Goddess at the Crossroads,” Kevin Hearne shares a thrillingly memorable episode from the past of his popular Iron Druid Chronicles hero Atticus O’Sullivan, revealing how one night’s dark encounter with the cult of Hecate served as inspiration for Shakespeare’s witches in the Scottish play.

With “Ashes,” Laura Bickle revisits Detroit arson investigator and powerful spirit medium Anya Kalinczyk as she, her five-foot-long salamander familiar Sparky, and Hades’ Charon pursue a destructive fire elemental named the Nain Rouge through the city’s festival in his dubious honor.

“The Death of Aiguillon” finds Aliette de Bodard exploring an episode sixty years prior to the start of her latest novel, The House of Shattered Wings, in which the survivors of an ongoing magical conflict in Paris eke out a grim existence, and one woman’s wish for a better life is granted at a terrible price.

And in “One Hundred Ablutions,” Jacqueline Carey, author of the much-beloved Kushiel’s Legacy series, tells the tale of Dala—a young woman chosen by her people’s overlords to be an exalted slave among slaves—and of the twining in her life of ritual, rebellion, and redemption.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

A Fantasy Medley 3 contains two urban fantasy novellas and two fantasy novellas.  I’m familiar with the worlds in which the two urban fantasy novellas are written: Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and Laura Bickle’s Anya Kalinczyk series.

Kevin Hearne gives us a tale from Atticus’s past, an adventure he had with William Shakespeare, his favorite bard.  This novella is a fun read and adds just a little flavor to Atticus’s past.  Having lived for 2000 years, I’m sure Atticus has many, many fun tales to share.

I was very excited to read the Anya Kalinczyk story, since we haven’t seen an Anya story since 2010.  “Ashes” takes Anya’s story in a wildly different direction than I was expecting, which makes me wonder if there aren’t some thoughts about new novels in the author’s mind.  I hope so!

I have not read any books by Aliette de Bodard or Jacqueline Carey, but after reading the two stories in this collection, I have added them both to my TBR list.

“The Death of Aiguillon” byAliette de Bodard is a lovely tale about the choice humans make between security and freedom, an appropriate topic in today’s world.  “One Hundred Ablutions” by Jacqueline Carey is also about freedom and the cost that is paid to win freedom from oppressors.  “One Hundred Ablutions” is a beautiful and self-contained tale and really piqued my interest in reading more from Jacqueline Carey.

badge4v4My only complaint is that A Fantasy Medley 3 and its predecessors are not available in ebook format. The print books are beautiful collector’s editions, and I appreciate that; but in my house, storage space is at a premium, which is why I prefer buying ebooks over print books, even beautiful ones.

Other reviews…

If you like this book…

…you might try A Fantasy Medley 1 and 2, or books by any of the authors whose stories you enjoyed.

Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

Dark AlchemyTitleDark Alchemy
Author: Laura Bickle
Publish Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Perspective: Third person

Publisher’s Description: Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!).


Nell 100Nervous Nellie says…

Main characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  Petra Dee is the center of this story.  She is a no-nonsense geologist that has taken a position near Yellowstone National Park’s caldera.  Petra has some pretty harsh recent history and is trying to heal her heart from an accident that she claims to have caused.  Her father, Joseph, went missing in 1995 and she is in search of him.  Sig is Petra’s familiar coyote.  Without him, Petra would have been toast a few times over. Gabriel is a creature that is very original to any story that I have recently read.  Gabriel  is a member of the “Hanged Men” that takes the leader role.  He was a Pinkerton Agent 150 years ago and was old west hanged on a tall tree.

Other characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Sal Rutherford is a many-generation rancher that controls the land where the hanging tree is located.  Mike Hollander is the ranger that helps Petra with her law enforcement needs. Marie Yellowrose is Petra’s new friend in Temperance and she has an uncle that has shaman-like/prophet-like skill.

World: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The world takes place in the area near Yellowstone National Park, so if you’ve been there, you can pretty much imagine it.  The whole concept of alchemy has to do with turning base metal into gold or possibly eternal life so there is a little scientific mumbo jumbo that I could pretend I understood, but in reality just nodded all knowingly when the story mentions anything like that.

Story: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Shout out to the salamander! Love that unnamed Sparky!! If you’ve read Laura Bickle’s other series, Anya Kalinczyk, then you will catch the salamander reference.  Anyway, I was saying that this story is very original.  Petra is searching for her missing alchemist father and falls into the magic of alchemy.  The characters are very well put together.  The story is mostly a mystery as we follow along with Petra.  She is trying to figure out, along with where her father might be, the secret to a “locus” that she found near the trailer she is renting.  She, along with us readers, don’t have any idea what is going on and all her experiences are puzzling to a down-to-earth scientist.  Turning base meal into gold  is allegedly what the man that founded the town of Temperance used to make a living.  I wasn’t really clear on the whys and wherefores of what happened to the alchemist other than he had created the “Hanged Men” and went missing, left town, died – whatever, when his house was burned.  Petra meets a lot of unique characters.  Stroud is the “crazier than a pet coon” current living alchemist who claims legacy to the original alchemist’s work.  He, of course, has henchmen.  Sal Rutherford is the local all powerful, nasty toad of a rancher that has control over the Hanged Men and uses them as his ancestors did – to make money at ranching. All these things come together with a crash at the end of the book – oh, there is a cliffhanger, but not wrench your heart out of your chest kind of cliffhanger.  Just one where you will check the interwebs every other day just in case the next in the series has made its debut.

Cover: I think the cover art is right on the money.  The chick on the cover looks like someone who walked out of an old west movie and that’s really what this storyline seems to follow.

Overall: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Awesome start to a new series. Laura Bickle’s story telling is incredible.  The twists and turns are all ones I didn’t see coming.  I had no idea where this ride was taking me.  I was a refreshing spin meshing historical old west, modern day, “out in the middle of nowhere” small town, science and the paranormal.  Good job, Laura!

ivana 100Invested Ivana says…

While I enjoy even the stereotypical Urban Fantasy, Dark Alchemy is refreshingly unique read in the genre.  It gives the study of alchemy – something I associate with medieval Europe, though it is much older than that – a distinctly Native American feel and places it in Midwest America ranching territory.

Petra Dee comes to the small town of Temperance, Wyoming, to both heal from a recent tragedy and search for her missing father.  Temperance is an odd place, the way many small rural towns are, and she finds much more than she bargains for.

I was able to connect with Petra right away.  She’s hurting emotionally and blaming herself for the death of her boyfriend; but, she’s also stubbornly independent and determined to pursue a goal so she feels productive.  Petra unknowingly acquires a familiar, the coyote Sig, who completely steals the show.  I found myself wanting to know where Sig was in every scene.  The author seems to have a talent for creating beloved animal companions, having created the character of Sparky the salamander in her Anya Kalinczyk series.   In fact, a couple of Sparky-like characters appear in Dark Alchemy, presumably as a nod to her character and her fans. 🙂

In Temperance, three characters seem to be on Petra’s side: Mike Hollinder, the local forest ranger; Maria Yellowrose, a local healer; and her usually drunk and somewhat psychic uncle, Frankie.  Frankie is an interesting character with a huge back story; I can’t wait to hear more about it.

The town “baddies” appear to be Sal Rutherford, a ranch-owner with a selfish and sadistic personality, and “The Alchemist,” Stroud, who surrounds himself with young, strung-out meth-heads.  Stroud is searching for immortality through the study of alchemy, counting on the town’s history to provide him answers.  He comes off as a dangerous but ridiculous thug and easy to despise.

Sal Rutherford is a bastard, but not an alchemist.  The ranch hands, Gabriel and his brethren, are one of the most interesting mysteries of the book.  I absolutely love their story (I won’t give it away here) and am so very eager to learn more about them.

Though Petra seems to accomplish her goal at the end of the book, there are still too many unanswered questions, which makes me believe this is the start of a series, though there is yet no mention of Book 2.  I will certainly be on the lookout for it, though, as I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Alchemy and am eager for more of Petra’s story.

Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ However, depending on how this series goes, I can see it becoming one of my favorites.

Stand Out Award Badge2Other reviews:

If you like this book…

For another “weird small town” story, you might try Charlaine Harris’ Midnight, Texas series.  The town of Midnight isn’t quite as spooky as Temperance, but it is odd in its own way.  Another reviewer also suggested Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series, though I haven’t had the pleasure of reading that series yet.  I hope to soon!

No promotional consideration was granted for this review.