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Mediocre Harris, great Butcher, and introduction to the Morganville Vampires
on April 4, 2013
Overall, I'm giving Many Bloody Returns three stars, but that's for the general quality of the three stories I read, the value of the theme, and the collection of popular authors. Since all of these stories seem to be set in continuing series, I only read the ones for series I read, since these are unlikely to be good introductions.
Reviews of the stories themselves:
Charlain Harris contributes a rather mediocre Sookie Stackhouse story set on Dracula's Birthday. The story is passable, but it revolves around characters (Sookie and Eric) acting out of character and ends with a contrived and predictable "quirk" (like a poor imitation of Tales from the Darkside, itself a poor imitation of The Twilight Zone). The story is fun enough, but if you're not a Sookie fan already please don't judge the series by it.
The story itself involves Eric slavering to throw a birthday party so sincere that the great pumpkin, or at least Dracula himself, will attend. The action is the predictable is-he-or-isn't-he game of whether Drac is present. You get two guesses and the first two don't count.
Jim Butcher's Dresden Files story is much better, at least because it brings the action and the humor. It should work passably if you haven't read the series, but it's far from a perfect introduction.
Harry Dresden, our wizard hero is trying to deliver a birthday present to his half-brother Thomas, a vampire, and they fall into the usual sort of shenanigans that dog both of them. Along the way, we learn what Thomas is doing for work these days (shortly before his work in the last two books) and uncover a hilarious secret about Thomas' recreation. The secret leads to a large number of innocents for the pair (well, the three, since Molly, Harry's apprentice, is also present) to save.
The action is fun, with chases, hunts, magic, fight scenes, Harry's trademark "I only have to plan ahead 1 or 2 minutes" trickery, and a wonderful bit with an old client of his. The only serious fault is Harry repeatedly using a trick (involving manipulating gravity) that is both far overpowered for his usual magical technique and which never appears again in the two books set after the story; it feels like a plot device from the moment it's introduced. On the plus side, we get some nice brotherly interaction that reminds us how much the two mean to one another. It could actually choke you up a bit. Not that it did that to me, of course. Honest.
I started Rachel Caine's "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" thinking it was a Weather Warden story. Instead, it turned out to be a good, short piece set in her Morganville Vampires universe. I had never heard of this series (it's shelved as YA) and the story is a very nice introduction to one of the secondary characters (and a recurring and amusing minor character as well). Not a lot happens in the story, but the effects are profound for the protagonist.
The story flashes back to Eve's 18th birthday, when she had to decide whether to sign with a vampire or risk being independent. It's a hard choice and the kids taking her out for some fun are torn between their bravado that they'll go it alone and the reality that they won't. Eve is different, of course, and the events of the night lead directly to her decision and her arrival at the Glass House.
It was a great introduction that got me to read the first three books in the series (and eagerly await the fourth).
The book has six more stories, but I can't say anything about them until/unless I try out their series (if they have one) and give them a look.