Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
November 11, 2008
We’re practically swamped in anthologies lately, this one is a holiday themed collection. The stories in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe involve werewolves and Christmas, though several of them could have been set at any time of year and seem to only include seasonal mentions as an afterthought.
- “Gift Wrap” by Charlaine Harris
The lonely Christmas that Sookie is expecting turns into an adventure thanks to an unexpected guest. I get the intention, and I get that supernaturals have drastically different standards of morality and appropriate behavior. But still, the twist feels really creepy on multiple levels.
- “The Hair of the Beast” by Donna Andrews
The brother of a bitter researcher asks her to help figure out a werewolf spell. It’s funny but mean-spirited. I’m not a big fan of revenge-based stories.
- “Lucy, at Christmastime” by Simon R. Green
A troubled man spends Christmas Eve with his first love in the oldest bar in the world. It’s a very good story, but it’s sad. I’ve been a fan of Green’s for years, but lately he’s becoming more of a favorite. I’d can’t recommend his new Secret History series enough.
- “The Night Things Changed” by Dana Cameron
A werewolf and his vampire sister fight evil even after finding it uncomfortably close to home. I wasn’t crazy about the way that the “supernaturals fight for the good guys” idea was implemented, but it was a nice change of pace for this collection. The story kind of dragged at times though.
- “The Werewolf Before Christmas” by Kat Richardson
A werewolf hunts the wrong prey on Christmas Eve, which leads to an encounter with St. Nicholas that stirs up his unhappy past. The tone was really inconsistent, and the protagonist was unlikeable and surprisingly boring.
- “Fresh Meat” by Alan Gordon
The main character is a werewolf who works as a dog trainer. He has a special connection with his dogs, and it comes in handy when trouble arrives. I liked this one, it was paced really well.
- “Il Est Né” by Carrie Vaughn
Kitty the talk-radio werewolf encounters a newly-turned stray and learns about a series of brutal killings. It’s a pretty good story, but some of the plot is coincidence-heavy.
- “The Perfect Gift” by Dana Stabenow
A group of werewolves figures out a way to handle an out-of-control pack. I liked the style of this story, but one aspect of the ending seemed awkward to me. Maybe (and I rarely say this about short stories) it should have been a bit longer?
- “Christmas Past” by Keri Arthur
A human with the ability to sense evil is forced to work a serial-killer case with her werewolf ex. It was okay, but I’d have preferred more characterization and less circular relationship angst.
- “SA” by J. A. Konrath
A fun, silly story about shapeshifters and the special threat they face during the holiday season. The start felt really goofy, but the farther I got the more the whole thing grew on me. This story definitely stands out.
- “The Star of David” by Patricia Briggs
When a werewolf mercenary gets a call from his estranged daughter, he goes to help her protect a special young man. If you’ve read the Mercy Thompson series then you may remember the main character, but the story works on its own well.
- “You’d Better Not Pyout” by Nancy Pickard
Two vampires go to confirm their suspicions about Santa Claus, and end up witnessing a bizarre confrontation halfway across the world. It starts out with a cute idea, but the vampire and werewolf elements didn’t mesh very well.
- “Rogue Elements” by Karen Chance
A half-werewolf war mage turns to an old flame while investigating the disappearances of some young, female werewolves. It’s pretty good overall, but some steps of the main character’s investigation could have been explained better.
- “Milk and Cookies” by Rob Thurman
A dark story about a teen who faces down both a bully and his lack of holiday spirit. It’s pretty grim at times, but I enjoyed the flow of the story.
- “Keeping Watch Over His Flock” by Toni L. P. Kelner
A young werewolf who recently joined a pack broke it’s rules on Christmas Eve. It’s an okay story with some cute moments, but also some pretty cheesy ones.
As always, short story collections are a mixed bag, though there should be a few things here that fit most tastes. There are definitely some stories that I’d like to read again, but I’m going to be waiting for the paperback release before buying my copy.