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Friday, July 3, 2009

Queer Legends: Queer Wolf an anthology

Queer Legends: Queer Wolf an anthology
Publisher: Queered Fiction
Genre: Paranormal Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Anthology)
Length: Full (299 pages)
Other: M/M, F/F
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Review by: Phlox

A Pink Moon is Rising...

“Their world lies between the shadows and the moonlight, between man and animal…and in the city under neon moons and through iron-treed streets, the queer wolves run.”

Bound within QUEER WOLF is an exciting collection of contemporary, urban and sensual werewolf tales; a gathering of queer wolves presented by exciting, new and established authors.

Anthologies can be a bit of a clay pigeon shoot: they can be hit or miss and sometimes have the bad habit of repeating the same arc over and over. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this one, an anthology not only of paranormal stories but of an incredibly specific sort: queer werewolves. Imagine my surprise when I found myself reading seventeen unique works of fiction, marvelously varied in voice, mood and substance. They range from sweet to dark to funny, some staying in the traditional horror/paranormal modes while others decidedly did not. Were they all gems? No, like most anthologies, there were a couple of misses, but the large majority of these stories are well-crafted, by writers who understand the short story form. Seventeen stories are a lot to discuss, so I’ll attempt to edit myself and briefly visit them all.

“Wolf Strap” by Naomi Clark: This is part traditional horror, part hard-boiled noire, except the investigation here isn’t done by Philip Marlowe, but by punky, tough little werewolf Ayla and her lover Shannon. Fast-paced and tightly packed, the success of this story is in its completeness – a fully realized alternate world, fully realized characters and an exciting story brought to its full conclusion before the end. Well done.

“Moon Sing” by Laramie Dean: From classic horror, we switch to a short first-person romance in a completely different world where there is no room for wolves. The ‘teen-speak’ of the narrator’s thoughts was slightly annoying but the story is bittersweet and satisfying and the overall mood consistent and well-delivered.

“Wolf Lover” by Michael Itig: The first completely erotic offering in this anthology, this story about a man with a fetish for werewolves males is hot and steamy – a short, hard ride with some very interesting twists.

“Shy Hunter” by Ginn Hale: I’m going to pick favorites; as the reviewer, I’m allowed. This is one of them. Back to a more traditional horror vein, David is a werewolf who works as a rescue dog, partly to rescue people from the monster lurking up on the mountain, the psychotic werewolf who changed him. His protective instincts are what make him so endearing as a character and also make him vulnerable to those less ethical than himself. Well- drawn, wonderful characters and some great twists and turns put this at the top of my list.

“The Stray” by Anel Viz: Short and filled with ironic humor, this is one of those stories where the reader knows exactly what’s happening and the narrator is quite clueless. A good break from the more serious offerings, this one had me chuckling throughout.

“New Beginnings” by Cari Z: A story of shared danger and scarred hearts, one has the feeling here of a dystopian world, a world devolved into clans and tribal behavior, though, thankfully, there are no long winded explanations regarding the state of the world. It simply is and the characters have to deal with it in their own ways. Spare, tense and compact, evoking anxious feelings and tender concern, this one worked well for me.

“Where the Sled Dogs Run” by Jerome Stueart: This is the first story in the collection which did not work for me. The premise is cute, the tone light and sometimes funny, but the dialogue often fell flat and the characters never felt filled out enough to be real. The end is odd and abrupt and leaves you wondering what one was supposed to get out of it.

“Pavlov’s Dog” by Andi Lee: An interesting set of premises without a real story, I enjoyed the writing and the promise of the characters but this was not a short story. It could well be the first chapter of a longer piece and would work very well in that role but not as a short story. No real conflict, no resolution, the beginning of something interesting that ends too soon.

“Wolves of the West” by Charlie Cochrane: Another of the less serious offerings, I found the notion of a society of gay werewolves ensconced as the board of a natural history museum utterly charming. Civilized, educated weres who solve their problems in civilized fashion is just not something you run into every day.

“Family Matters” by Moondancer Drake: This is the third and last of the real ‘misses’ for me in this collection. Again, the story’s failing is not due to poor writing or premises but in the lack of understanding of what constitutes a short story. Far too many ideas are thrown out in a short space of time, far too much is left unresolved and far too many characters are involved for the reader to become attached. First chapter of a novel? Yes. I’d read it. Does it work as a short story? No.

“Wrong Turn” by Stephen Osborne: A sweet romance with some horror elements, this piece has some interesting thoughts about how weres might live alongside humans successfully and what happens when these worlds accidentally bump into each other.

“Leader of the Pack” by Robert Saldarini: A different take on the WWII story, this is a spare. Almost terse look at how our reactions and perceptions can change over time. Guilt and forgiveness are treated in a way that saves them from being overly sentimental while letting us examine them nonetheless.

“War of the Wolves” by Charles Long: A fast-paced story and yet another take on werewolf society, this one is both bloody and sweet. I’m not generally fond of the first person, present-tense mode but it was well done and not the distraction I’d feared.

“Flip City” by Lucas Johnson: Another one of my favorites – this is pure horror and a ripping good story. The characters draw the reader in and don’t let go, the story is well-conceived and executed with just the right mix of tension and release.

“Night Swimming” by RJ Bradshaw: Short and sweet, city wolf meets country wolf. Very fun.

“In the Seeonee Hills” by Erica Hildebrand: I think I was a little disappointed that the story did not take place in India as I had expected from the title. It’s certainly an exciting story with perhaps a bit too much convenience in the plot twists but a good read all the same.

“A Wolf’s Moon” by Quinn Smythwood: The last of my favorites, this was an excellent choice to end the collection. The writing here fits the paranormal plot, ethereal and haunting. Nothing is over-explained and the feeling of dread only grows as the story progresses.

Taken altogether, this is an excellent, well rounded collection with enough horror to satisfy the paranormal buff and enough steamy sex for the erotic reader. For those of us who like both, well, you can’t help but sink your teeth in.

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