Falling to Ash by Karen Mahoney tells about a teenage girl that’s been a vampire for ten years. When her human mother dies, Moth travels back home to attend the funeral service. Then her sire finds her in town, and he ropes her into an assignment: steal the ashes of a staked vampire from a vampire slayer. Falling to Ash is an interesting little story that’s fun to read and possesses a likable protagonist. Its biggest drawback is the fact that it feels more like the beginning of a novel than a short story. By the end of the story, not much is resolved, which makes the whole thing feel unfinished. Three out of five stars.
The interesting thing about Shelter Island by Melissa de La Cruz is it starts off like more of a ghost story than a vampire story. Hannah lives in an old house on an island. Every night, she wakes up to find the lights on. At first she thinks that she’s forgotten to turn them off, but she quickly begins to realize that that’s not the case. Then, she starts to see the figure of a young man who claims that her house is actually his. De La Cruz has a writing style that’s really easy to get into, and does a great job of creating a creepy atmosphere. I found myself intrigued by Hannah and Dylan’s story, and am now curious about picking up her books. Like the first story, Shelter Island is also part of a larger universe, and not everything is resolved at the end. Still, I felt that enough was resolved to make it a proper short story. Four out of five stars.
Sword Point by Maria Snyder is about Ava, a fencing student who gets caught up in the world of vampires. Sword Point is very different story than Snyder’s novels, which are more traditional fantasy. Much like her novels, it’s filled with characters that are easy to connect with. Ava, a young woman so dedicated to fencing that she pushes off all friendship, would have been cold and unlikable under a different author, but Snyder does a job making her relatable. I also like the creepy way that vampires are presented here. I have nothing against more human-like vampires, but there’s something about undead being just scary. Four and a half stars out of five.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is by far the best written story in this anthology. Taking place in the near-future, Matilda has been bitten, and must go through the eighty-eight day process of changing from human to vampire. To quell her lust for blood, she numbs herself by ingesting large amounts of alcohol, the only way she can stay herself. When she learns that a friend of hers is trying to become a vampire as well, will she be able to save her friend without losing herself in the process? Black does a great job of telling about a young woman changing from human to vampire, by putting her own unique twist on the vampire mythos. I really enjoyed the dystopian setting, and found the ending to be both surprising and satisfying. This is easily my favorite story in the collection. Five out of five stars
The next story in the collection, Undead is Very Hot Right Now by Sarah Rees Brennan, stands out as it’s the only piece in the collection that I would categorize as comedy. Christian, a young vampire, has recently been cast in a band that’s on its way to fame, glory, etc. He just wants to live a normal life as possible, but finds it difficult when his manager wants to use his undead status as a gimmick to gain more media attention. The best part of Undead is Very Hot Right now is that it does not take itself too seriously. The author pokes fun at the music industry, horror clichés, and vampire obsessed fangirls (which are basically, most of the people who will be buying this anthology). I will be checking out this author’s other work. Four and a half stars out of five
Kat by Kelley Armstrong takes place in her Darkest Powers universe. While a child, Kat spent most of her weekends being trucked off to a strange lab owned by the Edison Group, an organization that performs experiments on supernatural kids. That is, until the vampire Marguerite rescued her. Now, a teenager, Kat doesn’t know what she is, but likes to joke that she’s a werecat (even though they don’t exist). When the Edison Group tracks her down, she will be forced to discover her supernatural side. As a fan of Kelley Armstrong already, I suspect that Kat will be part of the next Darkest Powers Trilogy, called Project Phoenix, and maybe even a future narrator. I found her story here to be quite exciting to read, although not quite as addicting as Armstrong’s full length novels. I’m curious what will happen to this character in the future. Four out of five stars.
The Thirteenth Step by Libba Bray is quite a different read than her novels, which are works of historical fantasy. After watching her sister become addicted to drugs, Lauren decides to work at Angeles House, a home for addicted teenagers. Over time, she begins to notice something strange about her new co-workers. Perhaps there’s more going on at Angelus House than she suspects. Although given the subject of the anthology, it’s obvious about what’s really going on in The Thirteenth Step, but Bray does a great job of raveling its secrets, using news headlines and moments of strangeness to drop clues here and there. The Thirteenth Step also leaves the reader with a satisfying ending, making you wonder what will happen next. Four and a half out of five stars.
All Hallows by Rachel Caine. Okay, perhaps something is wrong with me, but I really cannot get into Rachel Caine, and this story is no exception. Taking place in her Morganville Vampires world, All Hallows tells the story of Eve Rosser, a goth girl who’s dating a vampire. When her boyfriend is kidnapped on Halloween, she goes to rescue him. Chaos ensues, etc. etc. Now there’s something about this story, and Rachel Caine’s work in general that does not mesh well with me. On the surface it seems like the kind of story I would like. All Hallows stars quirky characters, who deal with supernatural mayhem along with their own relationship issues. The only problem is it doesn’t feel very authentic with me, as if the author sat down and tried to write a paranormal story with all the typical elements, but didn’t quite succeed in the end. Characterization is clunky, both with the main characters, and the two-dimensional secondary characters (including the nameless big, meat headed jocks, because all sports enthusiasts need to be big and meat headed in this type of story). The dialogue, which is meant to be witty, feels false and forced. Occasionally it’s cringe worthy bad. I’m sorry. This story is just not for me. One out of five stars.
Wet Teeth by Cecil Castellucci is one of the shortest entries to this anthology, but the author manages to get her story across quite well with the lower page count. Our main character is a vampire named Miles who becomes fascinated with a unique young woman who visits the park where here hunts each night. I enjoy how the author plays with our expectations on the human-vampire romance. I also like how she fully embraces the first vampire legend to get thrown out by most authors, the fact that Miles can turn into a bat. Wet Teeth also has a successful ending as well. Four out of five stars
Other Boys by Cassandra Clare tells about a high school girl named Jennifer who becomes enthralled with the strange new boy in her school that claims to be a vampire. Although her friends and family discourage it, she can’t help but be drawn to him. This story works on multiple levels. On one hand it’s about a young woman who, raised by conservative parents, has been forbidden to date or see boys. This story is about her sexual awakening. It’s also a vampire story, and I really like how Clare deals with the supernatural elements, by almost sneaking them in at the end. I think I will be checking out her other work as well. Four and a half out of five stars.
Passing by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie is a science-fiction story. Here, our world has been over-run by vampires, and those who wish to fight back attend Salamanca, a university dedicated to creating vampire hunters. Jenn is about to graduate, but she has a secret. She has fallen in love with one of the creatures that she has sworn to kill. Although I’m not familiar with Debbie Vigue, I distinctly remember Nancy Holder as “the one who wrote the really good Buffy books with Christopher Golden” from when I was fourteen. There are plenty of Buffy parallels to be found here, but for the most part, it feels like an original story. I like how the authors dealt with the “in love with a vampire” story in a non-cliché way. One thing that really discouraged me was the fact that this story read like the season finale to a television show. There’s just too much shoved into one short story here, and big revelations don’t have the emotional impact that the authors are going for. We just haven’t had a chance to fall in love with the characters yet. This made this story at times frustrating to read. Three out of five stars.
Ambition by Lili St. Crow tells the story about a scholarship student at a prestigious Catholic high school. She spends most of her time with her friend Gwyneth, a snobby rich kid who seems to have it all. She can’t help but feel different from the kids around her, so when one guy takes notice of that, how far will she go? This story didn’t appeal to me too much. I found the protagonist (whose name escapes me) and all of the side characters to be rather unlikable. Another thing is it hits on one of my pet peeves, which is the portrayal of private schools as filled with so many uber-rich/snobby/flaky kids, that protagonist (the lone non-wealthy person in the school) has no choice but to befriend rich, flaky people. As someone that went to a private school and made plenty of normal non-snobby (and middle class) friends, this just rings false to me. The one thing I did like was how the supernatural elements were never openly stated, only implied. I felt it was a neat way to fulfill the challenge of the book. Two out of five stars.
All Wounds by Dina James is about a teenage girl named Becky dealing with the mental deterioration of her guardian, her grandmother. When a classmate is brought injured to her front step, Becky discovers that her grandmother is in fact a healer, who can mend the wounds of the supernatural, an ability that she has inherited as well. All Wounds has a lot of great ideas behind it, but it’s obviously the first thirty pages of a novel, not a short story, as it’s mostly set up for something more. The fact that it cannot stand well on its own, really weakens the short story. Also, it begins rather awkwardly and didn’t grab my interest until the supernatural elements entered the story. Three out of five stars
In conclusion, although this anthology loses steam by the end, there are a lot of really nice stories here that I would recommend for fans of vampires and young adult literature.
Rating: three and a half stars
Length: 416 pages
TBR Pile: 139 books
Similar Books: The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer, The Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong (my reviews), The Silver Kiss by Annette Kurtis Clause, and Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde (my review)
Other books I've read by this editor: This is my first experience with Trisha Telep
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