Pros: Strong stories in fascinating worlds using engaging characters
Cons: I guess I expected a bit more hellhound…
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
How could I resist a read of Must Love Hellhounds? It includes four hellhound-themed stories by four wonderful authors: Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, and Meljean Brook. Each story appears to take place in a world the author has already created, but you won’t find yourself lost despite that—I was only familiar with one of them and had no troubles adjusting. The authors do a wonderful job of making these stories stand alone, and you might just find yourself falling in love with a new author or world!
In Charlaine Harris’s The Britlingens Go to Hell, bodyguards Clovache and Batanya are required to accompany a thief to Hell itself—where they’ll make an unusual time-traveling friend, encounter demons of all kinds (including a couple of not-entirely-fearsome hellhounds), and attempt to steal a treasure from Lucifer himself. I immediately fell in love with this quirky and unusual world and its hard-hitting inhabitants.
Nalini Singh’s Angels’ Judgment is set in her Guild Hunters’ world, one I’ve already fallen head-over-heels for, although this one stands alone well. In it, we find out how Sara became head of the Hunters’ Guild, how she and the weapons-maker Deacon got together, and where a big, black hellhound named Lucy fits in! Her world takes a wonderfully original view of vampires as the creations and servants of angels, giving them new life.
Ilona Andrews presents a very unusual world filled with supernaturals in Magic Mourns. The general idea—something happened to the world (in this case waves of magic ebbing and flowing) that changed the face of things, had apocalyptic effects, and resulted in plenty of supernaturals running around—is nothing new at this point, but the execution is interesting. Vampires are mindless, bloodthirsty monsters, unless a necromancer controls them like a puppeteer. In packs of were-hyenas, vicious females are alpha. When magic flows, tech doesn’t work, and vice versa. And a hellhound is as big as a house. The main characters, Andrea and Raphael, are both were-hyenas (of a sort), and Raphael is courting Andrea in the unusual manner of his people. It’s a bitter-sweet tale, with complex threads of grief, love, lust, fear, and desperation.
Meljean Brook’s Blind Spot takes Maggie Wren in search of her vampire employer’s missing family members, a young man and woman, with the help of a three-headed hellhound named Sir Pup. Maggie would like nothing better than to get blind Geoff Blake out of harm’s way while she searches out his sister, but it turns out that with Sir Pup’s help, he can be more of a help than hindrance to her—in some highly unexpected ways. It just remains to be seen what the kidnappers want from Geoff’s sister, what Maggie’s connection to them is, whether her employer will forgive her for that connection, and whether she and Geoff can resist their attraction to each other for long…
Apart from the fact that the hellhounds referred to in the title were less central to some of the stories than I expected, this is an excellent book. The worldbuilding in all four worlds is fascinating and engaging, ranging from a sort of fantasy/sci-fi blend in Charlaine’s story to urban fantasy in Ilona’s, paranormal/urban fantasy in Nalini’s, and paranormal in Meljean’s. There’s also a range of explicit sexual content, from mild to lusty, and some romance as well, although those aren’t the focus of the book as a whole.
In particular, this book serves as a fantastic introduction to these ladies’ worlds if you aren’t entirely familiar with them. It would be a great way to find a couple of new authors—or to snack on a few sweet treats by authors whose work doesn’t come out often enough for your tastes!