Telep, Trisha (Editor). Kiss Me Deadly (2010). 430 Pages. RunningPress. $9.95
This was a definite impulse grab. I was at Borders, looking for a specific book, though at the moment I can no longer remember which book I sought. I don’t think I remembered what I was looking for then, either. When I walk into a building which contains more than a few books, I tend to get a little sidetracked. So I was staring at the Y.A. Paranormal section, feeling a little concerned for the sheer quantity of Twilight-knockoffs — we all know them, they’re the generic vampire romance that has exploded since sparkly vampires were first published — and my eye fell upon Kiss Me Deadly. I had a moment of oh dear, not another, but I’m such a fan of anthologies as a way to sample new authors that I couldn’t help picking it up.
I know it wasn’t an author’s name that grabbed me, because I have to admit that I do not know a single author from this volume. (Though I did also grab Shiver while I was there, because as a fan of romance, paranormal, and young adult, it seemed like a reasonable combo.)I think it was the Editor’s Note which opened the volume which got my attention;
Love in the time of… Zombies?
Somehow, that just doesn’t have the classic ring of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s famous novel Love in the Time of Cholera* … my bet, after titles like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter**, is that this is likely in some publisher’s pipeline somewhere, probably slated for publication next year, or the year after that. (Intro)
Anyway, in a sort of gimmick-y “paranormal = horror” way, there are 13 stories in this volume. Because I do intend to talk at least a little bit about each of them, I’m going to cut this into several posts.
An inherent flaw in short fiction is the feeling of being too rushed. There is a fine line between not enough and too much. Sometimes, when trying to walk this line, authors slip, and something feels rushed or artificial. It doesn’t quite fit, and it nearly would have been better without. Several of the stories in this volume seem to suffer from this particular issue.
“The Assassin’s Apprentice” by Michelle Zink opens the volume. It was a good choice, in that it represented the theme so well. It was not a perfect choice though, because it was quite rushed. “The Assassin’s Apprentice” is about Rose, a Descendant who has lost everything because of the demon Bael,*** and who is seeking vengeance for the murder of her family. Rose is ready to confront Bael at a fight (or something) when Asher steps in and whisks her away– rather against her will– because she cannot handle Bael. Rose is strong-headed and sure of herself, and does not want Asher’s help, but finds herself somehow swayed into accepting his assistance anyway. It is here that things get a little rough– there is a romance which feels artificial, and time doesn’t seem to flow properly. The story starts feeling a bit rushed and forced toward a very cliché end. Despite its flaws, I did enjoy the story.
“Errant” by Diana Peterfreund is apparently related to her book Rampant, which is now on my to-read list because of this story. I think the author summarizes her story better than I could:
This stand-alone short story set in my killer unicorn universe is my first historical-set work of fiction. “Errant” takes place in the 18th century French countryside, and not only does it star killer unicorns, it also features nuns, fine ladies, and fancy frocks. - Diana Peterfreund
Unicorns in her universe are not silky white ponies, or deer-like and graceful. They’re goat-like**** flesh-eating monsters, and they’ve been hunted to near-extinction because of the threat they pose to humans. Unfortunately for Lady Elise de Commarque, it has been determined that her wedding really must start with a unicorn hunt, and the nun who has brought her unicorn is impertinent. Gitta (the nun), meanwhile is unimpressed by the soft, spoiled lady whose marriage is about to cost her the life of her unicorn. The two women remain at odds, both having skewed opinions of the other’s life, through most of the story. Elise does suffer from the “I’m so rich and pampered, but I’m unhappy, poor me” syndrome, and Gitta is bitter and blind. The change in their relationship is abrupt and artificial, which is the biggest flaw. Regardless, the story was enthralling, and I could not put the book down while I read about the fate of the killer unicorn. Though I loved this story, I don’t know that this non-romantic and rather vague love is the right fit for this volume.
The third story was Karen Mahoney’s “The Spirit Jar” which read more like a glimpse into a pre-existing world than a standalone story. (Likely because the story started in The Eternal Kiss, rather than in this volume.) “Moth” is a vampire who “Recovers” objects for her maker. She hopes that retrieving the items he asks for will help her be free of him one day, but she’s a little too pessimistic to really believe in that. However, this mission is not as simple as she first thought, and Moth soon finds herself helping a stranger and hunting a demon instead of returning with the book. Moth manages to be a very solid, believable character, and I’m interested in reading more about her. (So I’ll likely be buying The Eternal Kiss, to read the rest of her story.)
For this part, at least… I’d strongly suggest getting the book. Thus far, it’s been pretty brilliant, and I’m really enjoying the stories. (Despite the pacing problems several have.)
* Or Katie Mac’s Love in the Time of Dragons… I think this prophesy may have been fulfilled before it was written
** I did try to read Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, which started with “pornografie” and creatures in the basement eating prostitutes, and then someone died, and I was just a little too lost to give a damn. I tried though. I suppose it should get scored, but I only got about four chapters in, and that’s not far enough to really count.
*** There are some demon names which keep popping up, just like there are a million Duke of _____’s in the various regency stories, because they like to stick with real titles, but create new characters with them, which means that sometimes Duke ___ of ____ from one story gets mentally mixed with Duke ___ of ___ from another author’s work. This has lead to unfair biases in the past. But Bael specifically is in Katie MacAlister’s Silver Dragons set, so it’s especially problematic because I’ve read them recently, and I enjoyed them enough that I remembered them.
**** Goats, to me, have always been pretty terrifying. I had some as pets, and one of them made a very serious attempt to eat my bicycle. So the idea of a goat having a single horn and being evil is not a stretch.
I have a footnote problem….