Rating: 4.25 stars
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Creature Feature 2 is a two-story anthology by authors Poppy Dennison and Rhys Ford. Unlike the first Creature Feature (written by Dennison and Mary Calmes), these two stories are linked by a shared world and characters.
The book opens with a prologue that sets up both stories for us. A construction crew digging in Detroit uncovers a nest of vampyres that have been trapped for 100 years. Two powerful mages, one good and one evil, fought to the death years before. The death mage, Mac Gerailt, created the vampires in an attempt to rule over the humans. And the good mage, Pierce Chapman, tried to stop him. When the crew uncovers the vampyres, they go on a bloody rampage and escape out into the city.
Hunters Taz Cohen and Javi Navarro are called in to get rid of the vampyres. They realize the vampyres are seeking out Mac and Pierce’s descendants in an attempt to get as close to their blood line as possible. So the men split up, each seeking a relative of one of the mages, in hopes to eliminate the problem.
I really liked the set up here for this book and think the shared foundation really helps both connect the stories nicely. We already know all the background from the prologue so it allows us to jump in faster to the individual stories and pulls the anthology together well.
Rise of the Revenants by Poppy Dennison
Taz Cohen is hunting escaped vampyres and he is tracking them to various properties owned by John Chapman, descendent of the good mage Pierce Chapman. It turns out John renovates homes in bad areas in an attempt to revitalize the neighborhoods, and because he owns so much property in the area, the vampyres are hovering around many of them, trying to find John and get to his blood. At one house, Taz runs into Darren Foster, an electrician who works for John and who is trying to figure out the strange goings on at the various construction sites. Not only was his ex-boyfriend killed in the original accident that let loose the vamps, but two of the sites have strange smells and weird events happening that have made Darren curious.
Taz has no intention of telling this stranger that it is all really vampyre activity, but when one shows up and Taz must spring into action, it is too late to keep things a secret. Darren helps him fight off the vamp and is now determined to help Taz on his hunt. It turns out John is actually out of the country for a bit, so in the meantime Taz and Darren visit the different sites, trying to track down the vamps and kill as many as they can. Along the way they give in to the attraction they have for one another as well. Taz normally doesn’t do long term; his hunter lifestyle doesn’t allow for much putting down roots. But he still enjoys his time with Darren.
Eventually the search pays off and the guys find more vampyres than they can handle. Multiple sites are infected and once you add in the poltergeist and a rogue werewolf, they all may be in way over their heads. But Taz is determined to stop the vampyres and save his city, even if he has to risk his own life to do it.
This is a nice set up story that introduces us to the first half of the hunter team and focuses on the good guy in the mage battle. We get to learn a lot more detail about the vampyres and the lore surrounding them as Taz seeks them out and is forced to defend against their attacks. There are some exciting battle sequences, especially the big fight at the end, and it is nicely tense and suspenseful without being too terrifying.
I think where this story fell somewhat flat for me is in the relationship between Darren and Taz. For whatever reason, I just didn’t much much in the way of chemistry between them. Part of that may be because we never really get to know much about either man. We get a little more info on Taz, being told that he is hunter and the kind of guy who doesn’t do relationship. We also learn he is a werewolf hunter by trade, which puts him out of his element at times (and confused me because why then of all people is he called in to handle this enormous vampyre disaster?). All we really know about Darren is that he lost his ex-boyfriend in the initial attack and he is really invested in helping to revitalize these bad neighborhoods. That is pretty much the sum total of what we learn about either man.
The guys jump into bed almost immediately, but even then I didn’t really feel the heat between them, which is an issue since at that point they were working on pure attraction and not much else. After their initial sex, most of the story shifts to action, and we really don’t see much more develop between them. I just needed either more sizzle from the sex end or more emotion from the romance end to get really invested in them. Even at the end, we get the sense that there is a future for them, but that scene happens in the form of a discussion between Taz and another side character, not even with Darren. So overall the connection between them just felt somewhat lackluster.
My other issue is that at times I felt there was just too much going on to really keep the story tight. The guys visit many of John’s construction sites and end up banding together with the workers to help fight the vamps. So we get a LOT of secondary characters and I had a lot of trouble keeping them all straight, especially during the battle scenes. Adding to this, the guys are not only dealing with this horrific vampyre problem, but also face a poltergeist and a werewolf in the middle of it all. There was just a lot going on here and I think given the story length, a bit of streamlining might have helped. Especially because then at the end, things finish somewhat abruptly. I mentioned how the relationship resolution happens without one of the MCs, but in addition to that, the story ended unexpectedly for me. I didn’t anticipate a full resolution to the overarching plot with the second story left to come, but I didn’t really see much resolution to this initial plot either.
So overall I liked this one and thought it was a good lead in story. The suspense and excitement was good, but the relationship end didn’t do it as much for me.
Legacy of Blood and Death by Rhys Ford
This second story picks up with the adventures of Javier Navarro as he tracks down the second mage descendent, Ciarnan Mac Gerailt. Ciarnan is from a family of death mages and was raised doing blood magic. However, years ago, Ciarnan finally managed to break free of his family legacy of evil magic and has become a bit of a recluse, living with his wolf-dog, Elric, and his tiny dark fairy familiar, Shaddock.
When Javi tracks Ciarnan down, the vampyres are attacking him and some neighborhood kids. The two men end up in somewhat of a scuffle as well, as neither knows or trusts the other, and by the time the vamp is eliminated, Javi is also knocked out and recovering in Ciarnan’s bed. Quickly the two men realize they are on the same side, however. Javi is determined to track down the remaining vampyres who are drawn to Ciarnan and eliminate the threat to the city. Ciarnan wants to help, but he no longer practices any magic, fearful that if he takes even a tiny step back down that road he won’t be able to control himself. Without Ciarnan’s magic however, many more people are sure to die as they try to round up the vampyres one by one. Ciarnan must risk himself and both men have to fight to the death if they have any hope of saving the city.
Oooh, this was such a great story. It starts off right in the suspense and thrills and things just ramp up as the story continues. Ford gives us some nice, gory, terrifying battles with lots of excitement and death around every corner. So definitely some great horror elements here as the men battle the vampyres, hoping to finally end the threat that Ciranan’s great-grandfather started.
I really loved these guys together as well. There is a definite sexual chemistry with them right from the start, and the guys don’t hesitate to act on it. I loved the enemies to lovers element here, as the guys start off at odds but then realize they are on the same side in this battle. Ciarnan is a particularly interesting character, raised for evil and having spent most of his life indulging. Now that he is on the path of good, he is really torn. On one hand, he has made roots in the neighborhood and hates the idea of getting anyone killed. But he fears himself more, worried that if he lets loose his magic, even with good intentions, the dark side of him may come out and he will lose control. I liked the way Javi is able to give him the strength and confidence (and some ass kicking) to convince Ciarnan that he is strong enough to take these steps and still retain the good in him. They are super sexy together and I enjoyed them as a couple.
This story ties together nicely at the end, reconnecting us with Taz and Darren and closing out the larger story arc, as well as settling things with both couples. It is a great story, sexy, exciting, scary, and creative.
I really enjoyed the way Creature Feature 2 is put together and found that the prologue with two connecting stories really worked well and made for some nice world building. It was a great way to get two different takes on this paranormal world, while still having it read almost like one large book. Though the difference in styles is still apparent between authors, the stories are interrelated enough that it all works together well and certainly needs to be read as a set and in order to make sense. So overall I enjoyed this book and think it was a lot of clever fun.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.