Edited by P.N. Elrod
Cover Artist: Tony Mouro
Review by Gayle Surrette
St. Martin's Griffin Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312590727
Date: 05 June 2012 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
I find anthologies a great way to learn about new writers and enjoy the shorter works of writers whose novel others snatch up as soon as they come across my desk. Hex Appeal edited by P.N. Elrod, introduced me to two new authors whose work I'd previously overlooked -- Lori Handeland and Erica Hayes. Based on their stories here, I'll definitely keep my eyes open for future works. The other authors are all ones whose work I've previously enjoyed -- Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Carole Nelson Douglas, P.N. Elrod, Simon R. Green, and Carrie Vaughn.
Hex Appeal is all about love and magic, but mostly love. We're not talking lust here but the straight to the heart love for another that will cause a person to go the extra mile or come back to help them when even death can't keep them apart. All the stories will cause that long sigh of satisfaction when you reach the end of the story. That's not to say there isn't action, adventure, violence, politics, hurt, and betrayal along the way -- but the love carries through. This is not what is dismissively called chick-lit -- these are fully realized characters who act as most people would act if they lived in a world with demons, wizards, fallen angels, and true soul-sucking evil. Men will read for the action adventure and women for the side benefit of characterization and nuances.
One of my favorite stories was "Bigfoot on Campus" by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden has a repeat customer who wants him to keep an eye on his son, whom he has never actually met, and who is now in college. He has the feeling that his son's life is in danger. Dresden agrees to help but insists that the dad introduce himself to his son if he does. At the college, Dresden meets the son and his new girlfriend -- every things seems okay until he realizes that the girlfriend isn't human and his client's son may indeed be in danger. There's the usual twists and turns and the story is told as Dresden waits for the local warden to come bail him out of jail. Of course, Dresden did warn the police chief that he wouldn't believe him. This one was very poignant on several levels and action packed as only a Harry Dresden story can be.
Carole Nelson Douglas's "Snow Job" has Delilah Street trying to undo a curse on Snow and his night club. The entire place is not as it should be in some very funny as well as dangerous ways. Then "Holly's Balm" by Rachel Caine deals with a couple who each want what's best for the other person -- sort of an O'Henry tale. There's a lot of hurt, anger, danger, betrayal and finally love comes through but along the way the readers knows that if they only listened to each other most of these problems could have been avoided.
In Carrie Vaughn's "The Arcane Art of Misdirection", a stage magician, who is much more than he seems, works with a black jack dealer to find out how someone is beating the odds at the tables. It's nice to see a normal person who is caught up in abnormal circumstances pull their own weight for a change. (Yes, I know it's been done before but not in the stuff that I've been reading lately.)
Overall, there is not a story in this collection that I wouldn't recommend. You can read them all in one session or savor the stories over days. Either way you chose to read this book, you'll enjoy yourself and be vastly entertained until you turn the final page.