The Charmed & Dangerous anthology is a wonderful collection of stories from ten fabulous authors. The stories fall in a range from fantasy, to urban fantasy, to contemporary with a supernatural twist. What ties them together is the connection to the world of magic.
I was really blown away reading this one, as the stories are consistently great and very solid throughout. Some are real standouts and just incredible examples of how a talented author can bring depth and complexity even to a short format. I absolutely adored this one and would highly recommend it to anyone.
Dim Sum Asylum by Rhys Ford
After shooting his old partner who turned out to be a dirty cop, Detective Roku MacCormick just got a new partner, Trent Leonard. Their first day working together in San Francisco’s Arcane Crimes Division has the guys hunting an enchanted statue that has come to life and is spreading lustful thoughts around the city. As the men chase the statue through the streets of China Town, they get to know one another, even as they risk their lives to keep the streets safe.
Rhys Ford has created such a fabulous world here in this story. The detail, creativity, and depth is amazing for a short story and I loved this spin on San Francisco she has created here full of magic, fae, dragons, and more. The city is like an alternative, supernatural view of our current world and is just so incredible well developed I was totally engaged right from the start. I don’t think we get to know the men as well as I would have liked, especially Trent who we learn almost nothing about. But I liked these guys a lot and am so intrigued by the world building that I’d love more set in this world and with these characters.
Swift and the Black Dog by Ginn Hale
As a teen, Jack Swift helped lead a revolution to overthrow the Tyrant. Although he is a national hero, life isn’t what he expected as a youth fighting for his ideals. Jack and his fellow rebels are all wizards who fought to overflow an evil leader and create more opportunities for those on the bottom of the stratified society. But the new ministers aren’t much less corrupt than the old leader and it looks like an old friend is up to no good. When he meets a young soldier, Jack begins to see there might be more hope than he imagined, and more to live for. Determined to stop the corruption, it might take all Jack has in him to once again fight for what is right and help bring justice to his land.
This is another story with incredibly rich and well developed world building. The universe Hale has created here in so few pages is really amazing. I loved the details on the society built upon ledges, with the wealthy living high above the masses and the poor stuck down below near the river of sewage. The rebel wizards have such interesting powers and the whole world is just different from anything I have ever read. I will admit at times it went over my head a little, as I had trouble with all the details and understanding exactly what was going on. But I am incredibly impressed with this story and what Hale managed to create within a short format.
A Queer Trade by K.J. Charles
Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe is shocked to find that upon his master’s death the family has sold his magical papers, papers that could have disastrous consequences if they get out into the world. Crispin manages to track them to a waste paper seller named Ned Hall, who is willing to help him track them down. Sparks fly between the men, but before they can act on it, they must find the papers and contain the magic before chaos ensues.
I loved this story set in the world of Charles’ A Charm of Magpies series. We feel Crispin’s panic right from the start as he realizes the papers have been sold and what problems they could cause if they get out into the world. Not just that, but he knows the type of magic he is practicing is illegal and he fears he will be blamed for any problems. And Ned is this great, steady presence. At first he can’t quite believe in Crispin’s tales of magic, but once he is on board, Ned is determined to help. I love that both men could see past the surface of the other to the real man inside. And of course, I loved the little taste of the Magpies world here with a cameo from one of my favorite characters. Overall, I totally loved this one!
Magically Delicious by Nicole Kimberling
Someone seems to be attacking NIAD agents, leaving them hallucinating and out of commission for days. When his boyfriend, Gunter, becomes the latest victim, Keith decides to step outside his normal duties as a magical food safety inspector to investigate who could be behind the attack. Even though it means potential trouble with his bosses, Keith digs into the case, taking on picketing leprechauns, important mages, and missing pixies. Not to mention facing Gunther’s goblin parents in the process.
This was a really engaging story about a character introduced in the Irregulars anthology. Though I haven’t read that book, I had no problem jumping into the world and Keith and Gunter’s relationship. I found the story entertaining with a nice bit of mystery as Keith investigates the case. I really liked the world Kimberling has created here and found Keith and his gorgeous goblin boyfriend to be a great couple.
Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns by Jordan Castillo Price
It’s Halloween and Victor Bayne is heading to a party with his boyfriend Jacob. When Vic recalls spotting a ghost at an old theater on Halloween as a teen, Jacob’s is excited at the idea that the ghost might still be around and Vic is thrilled to be escaping the party — not to mention the chance he might benefit from Jacob’s ghost related turn ons. The old theater is falling apart and has been turned into a haunted house for the night. Things are even creepier than they seem when the men realize what is really going on there, especially when the ghost clown makes an appearance.
Hurray! More Victor and Jacob! These guys from the PsyCops series are one of my favorite romance land couples so I was thrilled to see Castillo Price’s story featured them. This one isn’t quite as quirky as the main series, nor does it follow the series arc (which means you can easily jump into this one even if you aren’t familiar with the series). It was definitely a fun chance to connect with Jacob and Victor.
The Thirteenth Hex by Jordan L. Hawk
Dominic is a hex maker for the metropolitan witch police. He had always dreamed of being a witch himself, but his test for magical skills came back negative. Still, he is a skilled Hexman and likes his job. One day a magical familiar named Rook comes to Dom for help. He believes a man has been falsely accused of murder through hexes and wants Dominic’s help. As the two investigate the case, they learn the treachery goes deeper than ever imagined. Dominic finds himself falling for Rook, but the men may not make it out of the investigation alive.
This is a fun story and I loved Dominic. He had a job that requires detail and precision and he is used to following the rules. I enjoyed seeing him with Rook, who gets him to step outside his box a little and find out the type of man he truly is. The story is short so the mystery gets solved pretty quickly, but the story is engaging and the world building very clever.
The Soldati Prince by Charlie Cochet
Riley Murrough lives an everyday life as a barista when one day demons attack and he is rescued by four tiger shifters. Riley then wakes up in another realm, only to be told that the surly man with him is the King of the Soldati warriors and Riley is his mate. Neither man wants anything to do with the other, and King Khalon is sure it is all a mistake. But when Riley’s life in in danger, both men realize how much they truly care for each other.
Oh, I just adored this story by Charlie Cochet. I loved snarky Riley who is completely adrift but still tough and fiery. And he is perfect paired with the gruff but powerful Khalon who is sure there has been some mistake when he finds his human mate. The interplay between these two guys is great and I loved the shift from dislike to total love. The world Cochet has created here is amazing and I would LOVE to see more for both Riley and Khalon as well as the larger Soldati world.
One Hex Too Many by Lou Harper
Detective Mike Mulligan works for the Extramundane Crimes Division. He has bad luck keeping partners, but things seem promising with his latest, Hugh Fox. The two get assigned a case involving the murder/drowning of a man named Dan Roberts. It looks like the case involves dark magic, something with which Mike is all too familiar. The men get closer to solving the case, but they may end up risking their lives in the process.
This is a well done mystery with a nicely developed case for a short story. It is more police procedural/investigation focused than the other stories in the anthology and the world building isn’t quite as developed, but still interesting and well done. The end comes a little abruptly with not much detail on Hugh or his sudden interest in men. Still this is a nice solid mystery story that kept me well engaged.
Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom by Andrea Speed
Josh works at the Quik-Mart with a portal to hell in the parking lot. With strange creatures coming out of the portal all night long, it makes for a crazy but interesting job. Plus that’s how he met his sexy vampire boyfriend, Colin. One night Josh is at work when he encounters a murderous vampire, zombie hamsters, and a menacing animated toilet. Just all in a day’s work for Josh.
This story is part of Andrea Speed’s Josh of the Damned series. I have read a few of these stories and found them light, silly fun. Josh is a regular guy who has somehow gotten stuck in this crazy world and each adventure seems more unbelievable than the last. Readers unfamiliar with the series should have no problem following along here. This is the only comedy of the anthology so the tone here is a bit different than the other stories. After reading several of the stories in this series I am also starting to find the format a bit on the repetitive side. But it is still a nice addition to the anthology.
The Trouble with Hexes by Astrid Amara
Six months ago, Tim Keller broke up with his boyfriend Vincent when he learned Vincent was practicing hex breaking, risking migraines and seizures. Now Tim has come to Vincent for help, as he is the victim of a withering hex, something that is slowly killing him. The hex is nasty and complex, and until they figure out who placed the hex on Tim, Vincent can’t break it. In the meantime, Tim’s health is rapidly declining. If they don’t find out who is behind the hex soon, Tim is going to die.
This was a really interesting story with a bit of a darker edge. We can feel Tim’s pain as the hex slowly destroys him, along with the deep regret about how things ended with Vincent. Tim couldn’t stand watching Vincent harm himself while doing hex breaking, and now Vincent is watching the man he loves die. There is a bit of a mystery built in here while the guys try to discover who is behind the hex. Given Tim’s imminent death, at times I felt the guys didn’t have near the urgency I’d expect to solve the crime. Both went to work even as Tim had literally hours left to live. So that seemed kind of odd, but other than that, I really enjoyed this story and the tale of lovers reunited.
Overall this is a wonderful anthology and one I can highly and solidly recommend.