Now this is my wheelhouse, folks. Dark and twisted, verging on the edge of being considered horror fantasy; full of magic, monsters, and mayhem. Yep, Shadowed Souls has it all. It’s made up of not just one tale, but eleven, all of which are loosely connected through the title of the book. If spooky and abnormal is up your alley, then your alley must look a lot like mine. Edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes, this anthology covers a wide range of fantasy sub-genres, including some I didn’t even realize existed!
I won’t go through every one of the shorts, but there are a few that stand out to me, such as the first story from Butcher himself, Cold Case. While it is part of the Dresden Files, it focuses on Molly Carpenter and her new position as one of the Queens of Winter. Only a week into her gig as the new Winter Lady, she finds herself in scenario that isn’t as cut and dry as what she might like. There are lessons here, but none she will enjoy. She seemed to forget that she was on a mission for Winter; one that was meant to harden her, I presume.
Next on my list is Solus from Anton Strout. The humor of the main protagonist Simon is really what hooked me. The dialogue is so smooth and realistic that you get caught up in the character’s thoughts and feelings quickly enough to become invested in their well-being in just a few pages. Expert storytelling with a haunting twist, that what this is. Equal parts willpower and sheer stubbornness play a huge part in winning the day. And the saddest part of it all? He wasn’t even getting paid for this one, it was all off the clock. I hate it when I fight creatures of the darkness for free, don’t you?
This was my first experience reading anything from Kat Richardson, but it will not be my last; Peacock In Hell is perhaps the most backstabbing tale of the bunch. A literal trip through hell is bound to be fraught with danger, but who is playing who this go around? Nothing is as it seems and not everyone lives happily ever after. It seemed pretty cut and dry, but just when you think you’ve got it figured out, boom…it all changes on you.
And my final pick is Lucy A. Snyder‘s What Dwells Within, an emotionally charged story that pulls at your heartstrings in all the strangest ways. Not all families are loving, caring groups. Sometimes the monsters you fear are the ones that you look at in the mirror or across the dinner table. Jessie is laden with all sorts of power, but nothing in the story prepared me for the true horror of her ability to like both Coke and Pepsi! What devilry is that?
The other stories are all great in their own ways, but those four really spoke to me; of course, the Dresden Files one was a given as I am a huge fan. And this book does contain other well-known writers such as Kevin J. Anderson, Tanya Huff, and Rob Thurman. Hell, I’ve already started ordering books from some of the others thanks to this compilation. Honestly, there’s something here for every fantasy or horror fan.
Whether you want a story that deals with the existential concepts of life after death or just plain zombie detectives trying to find missing body parts, you will be entertained! At a time when everything around us seems to be filled with political mudslinging and people brandishing their intolerance of things they hate, Shattered Souls offers escapism. So go out and grab a copy at your local bookstore or click on the links above to have it conveniently sent directly to your house, and then kick back and enjoy. Put aside the worries of the world for a few hours and fall into another world (or eleven). You won’t regret it for a moment.