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Shadowed Souls
Edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes
Roc, $17.00 TPB, 330pp
Published: November 2016

This is a collection of short stories with a supernatural theme; a bit of an undefined theme but mostly it’s about bad people doing bad things, for reasons they think are good.  Many of the contributing authors use one of their popular characters which would be a big draw for their fans; to see the character outside the main story arc.  However, to make this book successful, they need fans who are familiar with many, if not all, of the character stories.  And that’s going to be difficult.  I read widely but I wasn’t familiar with any but Butcher’s Molly.  So, can the stories stand alone for a reader who doesn’t have the back stories?  Not so much.

“Cold Case” by Jim Butcher was a lot of fun for me as I know Molly and Mab.  But for the rest of the stories…not so much fun.  A short story doesn’t give the author the time or space to give the reader the background to appreciate the character so the story has to depend on plot rather than character development…or the reader’s affection for said character.

Seanan McGuire succeeded in entertaining me.  Tanya Huff did okay but the story felt lackluster; I felt she expected me to be sympathic to the protagonist and I might have – if I knew her better.  And I thought the same of Anton Strout’s offering, a weak plot.  Kat Richardson did better with her Peacock character and story; the story was fairly complex in a few pages and kept my interest.  Kevin J. Anderson gave us a bit of fluff with a humorous bent but I know I couldn’t get involved in his series as I never like zombie stories – but it was amusing.

As far as I can (from her webpage) Snyder doesn’t have a series to mine for this anthology and tends to write a lot of short stories.  So if her protagonist isn’t part of a series, I’m a little surprised.  I felt like there is – or should be – a complete backstory on this woman.  And there was more than a hint of Lovecraftian influence.  I liked Jim Hines’ story – I actually didn’t care if this woman had a backstory; this story was sufficient unto itself.  Good job, Jim.  The plot involves a woman who keeps herself neutral in a supernatural battle by being a healer to any and all but ends up being dragged into a situation because of her past; the past that created her. 

Erik Scott de Bie uses one of his characters – a comicbook superheroine – with a degree of effectiveness.  But the story relies too heavily on Lady Vengeance’s character rather than a plot. 

I think my second-favorite story came from Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  I couldn’t discover if the main character is a recurring character but it didn’t matter.  It was a juicy, nice story and I really liked it.  It’s an examination of how a sales force might create sales opportunities; it’s always a challenge marketing something that has a limited client base and the bad guys had to get inventive.

And the last story.  It came from Rob Thurman and features a recurring character named Cal Leandros.  I am not familiar with either Rob or Cal.  It was an intriguing story with a character in Cal that was not familiar.  By that I mean, the character’s voice was unlike most any I’ve read.  I enjoyed it for the character’s voice but was vaguely disappointed that the plot end was so clichéd.  ~~  Catherine Book

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