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#45 Running with the Pack Edited by Ekatrina Sedia

To be honest, I don't always get along very well with paranormal short story anthologies. Oftentimes, I pick them up due to an interest in a few of the contributing authors, but find the collection on a whole to be very uneven. This was not the case at all with Ekatrina Sedia's latest anthology, Running with the Pack, which focuses on werewolves. I picked it up due to interest in the stories by Carrie Vaughn, Marie Brennan, and Maria Snyder. What I got was a treasure trove of fantastically written stories that draw their inspiration not just from the paranormal genre, but from humor, science fiction, and horror among other genres. All stories focus on the stories of werewolves, regular humans encountering werewolves, or a human becoming a werewolf. The narrators range from children to the very old, and I was happy to see we even got a few gay and lesbian protagonists as well. For a short review of each story, please check under the cut.

Wild Ride by Carrie Vaughn. This story seems like a nice gift to fans of the Kitty Norville Series. It gives us background information on the character of TJ, showing how he became a werewolf. I like the parallel it draws between being in the closet in regards to being gay, and keeping your werewolf identity a secret. Reading this made me very excited for the upcoming Kitty book, Kitty Goes to War. Four and a half out of five stars.

Side Effects May Include by Steve Duffy. A man travels to China on business, and fractures a wisdom tooth very shortly after the start of his trip. After a few days of immense pain, he finds himself begging for a secret “miracle cure.” Unfortunately. this cure has a few side effects that he wasn't planning on. “Side Effects May Include” was at times slow moving, but I found that I enjoyed this quirky story and really appreciated the twist at the end. Four Stars.

Comparison of Efficacy Rates for Seven Antipathetics as Employed Against Lycanthropes by Marie Brennan. Marie Brennan's contribution really stands out from the rest of the anthology due to the fact that it's written in the form of a scholarly article. Inspired by Mike Briggs (urban fantasy author Patricia Brigg's husband), experiment with casting silver bullets, it follows the work of a researcher attempting to find the best way to kill werewolves. I couldn't help but laugh at some of the humorous developments, and really enjoyed how well Brennan inserts a story into the unconventional format of a research paper. Five stars.

The Beautiful Gelreesh by Jeffrey Ford. I believe this is my second time encountering Jeffrey Ford. Once again, I found myself enjoying his contribution quite a bit. His story is about a mysterious creature called the Gelreesh that kindly and compassionately talks people into suicide. The writing here is quite lovely and the end left me really curious. Four and a half stars.

Skin in the Game by Samantha Henderson. Sandy is excited when she's invited to play bunco with a group of coworkers. When she gets too greedy with her cheating, there's no way she could predict the deadly outcome. While reading, “Skin in the Game,” it doesn't take too long for the reader to suspect what the ending is going to be. Still, it's a lot of fun getting there. Perhaps it's a cruel thing for me to say, but I didn't end up feeling all that bad for Sandy. Four and a half stars.

Blended by C.E. Murphy. I was quite nervous about reading “Blended,” after having a very negative experience with one of Murphy's novels, Urban Shaman. Little did I know, “Blended” would become one of my favorite stories of the collection. It tells the story of a young werewolf on a mission of revenge. Although it's never quite clear if this story takes place in the past, or an fantasy setting designed to look like the past, I enjoyed the change of setting and found myself really sympathizing with the main character. I also enjoyed the romantic elements. Five Stars

Locked Doors by Stephanie Burgis. Tyler is an expert liar at a young age. After all, his father is a werewolf and he often has to spin falsehoods to explain his absences around the full moon. “Locked Doors” is an interesting little story that makes you think about child abuse. It's not Tyler's father's fault that he's a werewolf, but I couldn't help feeling awful for Tyler and the adult responsibilities he has to take on at too young an age due to his father's “condition.” “Locked Doors” is a sad story, with quite an ending. Four and a half stars.

Werelove by Laura Anne Gilman. “Werelove” tells about an old alpha female who gives advice to young werewolves. Although the story at times feels overly vague, it gives the reader a new perspective on the idea of werewolf love. Four stars.

In Sheep's Clothing by Molly Tanzer. “In Sheep's Clothing” is a sci-fi/dystopian short story about the downfall of our society, and what happens after that. Reading this story reminded me a lot of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. The werewolf aspect is not obvious at first, but it's done quite well. Tanzer has created a fantastic voice in “In Sheep's Clothing,” and the twist at the end is really well done. If you're going to only read one story in this collection, read this one. I think it's my favorite. Five stars.

Royal Bloodlines by Mike Resnick. “Royal Bloodlines” tells this story of a shifty preacher who accidentally makes friends with a werewolf, with hilarious results. This is the second short story I've read by Mike Resnick. Although I was less than fond of the first one, I found I really enjoyed “Royal Bloodlines.” I like how he creates s humorous story where other authors would make horror. The protagonist, Lucifer Jones, was also quite amusing. Four and a half stars.

The Dire Wolf by Genevieve Valentine. “The Dire Wolf” tells this story of a werewolf named Velia. Her day job is to inspect suspicious looking wolf bones, and draw away attention from the fact that they look like werewolf remains. “The Dire Wolf” is an interesting story about one woman's struggle with her inner wolf, and with romance as well. Rather solid story. Four stars.

Take Back the Night by Lawrence Schimel. This is a story about a woman who owns an all night feminist bookstore. One day, what looks like a large dog wanders in. Of course it's not really a dog, but a werewolf. “Take Back the Nigh” is an interesting story about a woman trying to reclaim her feminist fury from her youth, as well as being a story about werewolf love. Although a couple elements didn't quite ring true, I found I enjoyed the story. Four stars.

Mongrel by Maria V. Snyder. “Mongrel” tells the story of a young homeless woman who adopts stray dogs. One day, she takes in an injured dog, only there's more to him than she realizes. Although this story is rather different than Snyder's full length fiction, I found it to be very enjoyable. Mongrel is a fully fleshed out character with an interesting past and understandable motivations. The story ends with an open door for a possible follow up story, if Snyder so chooses. I hope she does. Four and a half stars.

Deadfall by Karen Everson. “Deadfall” is the second story (after “Blended”) in this anthology that focuses on revenge. It tells the story of a teenage werewolf named Olwen. One day Olwen and a close friend are attacked by a school bully, and Olwen is determined to get back at him for this vicious attack. It took me a little while to get into this story, but once I did I couldn't help but cheer Olwen on as she worked towards her revenge. I see that this author is planning on writing a full length novel on this character, and I'd be interested in reading more. Four stars

Red Riding Hood's Child by N.K Jemsin. “Red Riding Hood's Child” tells the story about a young orphan changing from a boy to a man. He's grown up hearing stories about his supposed wanton mother, and has a fascination for the night. There's always been something sexual about the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. Jemsin's story just makes the sexual aspects more obvious. It's a very well put together little story about predators, and prey. Four and a half stars.

Are You a Vampire or a Goblin? by Geoffrey H. Goodwin. This story takes place in a strange alternate universe where people randomly start to turn into vampires or goblins. To help them in this process, they're sent to special institute where they have to decide which group they want to turn into. Yvette is a patient in The Institute only she doesn't want to be either, she wants to be a werewolf. The dreamlike, stream of conscious style of writing of this story reminded me of Kelly Link, strangely beautiful and fascinating. It can be a little tricky to follow at times, but I ended up enjoying it. Four stars.

The Pack and The Pick-Up Artist by Mike Brotherton. Prime is a pick up artist, with a knack for charming beautiful women. Then he meets Anastasia, who attracts him like no other woman. “The Pack and the Pick-Up Artist” does a great job of telling us a story about predators. I had a hard time with connecting to the scumbag character of Prime, but I really liked the ending. Four stars.

The Garden, The Moon, the Wall by Amanda Downum. There are two things about Sephie that are a little strange. 1. She's haunted by ghosts. 2. She eats people. The Garden, The Moon, the Wall is the story I struggled with the most with in this anthology. Although beautifully written, I could never really connect with the characters, and as a result don't have too much of a memory for it. Three stars.

Blamed for Trying to Live by Jesse Bullington. After his mother dies, Charles, a young black teenager, moves to a bad neighborhood and becomes obsessed with becoming a werewolf. I really felt for Charles in this story, and enjoyed the little twist in the end. Four stars.

The Barony at Rodal by Peter Bell. The Barony at Rodall tells the story about a father/daughter team traveling in Norway. I really appreciated the Dracula-esque atmosphere of this story, and found that it was written quite well. I think it falls short of some of the other stories in the anthology. I can't put my finger on it but I felt as if something was missing. Still, it was an interesting story that I ended up liking in the end. Three and a half stars.

Inside Out by Erzebet Yellowboy. This story tells about a werewolf named Gretchen, who lives with her two sisters. Gretchen despises her werewolf nature, and the limits it puts on her and her family's lives. This all changes when one full moon, she finds a woman locked in a cage. This tale of sisterhood really drew me in from the start, and I liked how well developed all three women were. I also enjoyed the concept of sort of a reverse werewolf that was introduced here. Four and a half stars.

Gestella by Susan Palwick. I actually had heard about this story on a podcast before reading it. It tells about a young werewolf who falls in love with a human man. In the beginning of the story, the werewolf is still a teenager, but because she ages in dog years, she quickly catches up and surpasses her human mate. This is my second favorite story in the anthology. I love how it examines the impact a beautiful young woman has on the men and women around her. The relationship between Gestella (werewolf) and Jonathan (the human mate) is highly disturbing and abusive, especially as she ages as becomes less appealing to him. The story ends on a terrifying note that will probably give me nightmares. Very well done. Five stars.

Typically, werewolves play second fiddle to the more popular/sexy vampires, but Running with the Pack shows that werewolves can stand on their own very well. Often breaking the horror movie tradition of a wild uncontrollable wolf, Running with the Pack gives us twenty-two stories that examine our darker natures and more violent urges. I would highly recommend this to werewolf fans.

Rating: four and a half stars
Length: 339 pages
Source: Borders
Challenges: This book is not part of any challenges
Similar Books: For other werewolf tales, try Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn, Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey, Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, and Fool Moon by Jim Butcher.
Other books I've read by this editor: Alchemy of Stone (my review)

xposted to temporaryworlds , bookish , and goodreads
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    Cloak of Shards by Jonathan Moeller Cloak Mage book 6. Spoilers ahead for the earlier books and earlier series. . . . And indeed opens in media…

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