Blurb: NATO has a kind of X-Files team called Irregular Affairs Division in this anthology. The agents in these stories are keeping order in San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, and Mexico City - it is wild, wonderful, and fantastic journey into the realms created by four strong writers.
I am now on my third read through of this anthology, and it keeps getting better. Each of these writers is talented and strong on their own, but put the four together and magic becomes reality. I loved how each story complimented the other, but had strong characters and plots that stood on its own merit.
The first time I read "Cherries Worth Getting" I wasn't sure I would be able to continue because the imagery and the thought of consuming human flesh was so repugnant. However, reading it through the second and now third time, I appreciate Nicole Kimberling's strong narrative and subtle humor interwoven throughout her story. Who couldn't love a trans-goblin that plans an annual Christmas Cookie Jamboree for misfits?
Josh Lanyon's "Green Glass Beads" is a delightful story featuring a half human - half fairy protagonist and his nemesis - Commander Rake of NATO Irregular Affairs Division. The chemistry between Archer (our half Fae) and Rake is palpable as I have come to expect from Josh's stories - also the humor and turn of a phrase where you find yourself guffawing are delightful. The "You're not Canadian are you" line is pure gold as well as so many others throughout the story.
I hadn't read anything by Astrid Amara prior to Irregulars, but she captured my attention and imagination with the Aztaw world she created in "No Life but This." The imagery which drew partly on Aztec mythology was both enchanting and horrific -- the fantastically decorated sugar skulls from Mexico's Día de los Muertos came to mind often as I read Astrid's story. Deven, the protagonist, is a human that lived among the Aztaw is complex and multi-layered. He is believable as someone who hasn't quite assimilated to his own kind but is also an outsider to the Aztaw. I found myself anxiously reading and wondering if Deven would successfully defeat Night Axe.
Anchoring the end of the anthology is Ginn Hale's story "Things Unseen and Deadly" which lulls you into Half Dead Henry's dark loneliness and compassion. I loved the contrast between Henry, who seemed so weary, and Jason who was anxious to begin his life outside hospital confinement. The story takes place in my city of San Francisco...is truth stranger than fiction? It is possible that some interesting anomalies peculiar to The City are true? And maybe just maybe, it is possible that out of order Port-o-Lets are portals to travel into other realms or at least Oakland.
I'm giving this anthology five stars because I love all the stories and it keeps getting better with each read.
Strange Fortune; The Darkling Thrush; Turnskin; Hell Cop; Hell Cop 2; Wicked Gentlemen (Hells Below); The Shattered Gates (The Rifter); The Archer's Heart Book One