There’s a used bookstore about forty minutes from my house that’s just amazing. It’s a gigantic labyrinth of bookshelves filled with hidden treasures, and it’s got a great sci-fi/fantasy section.
It’s where I found this copy of Inked, an urban fantasy short story collection published in 2010.
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Four tales of urban fantasy and paranormal romance explore body art that is more than it seems–in a world of magic and mayhem that always leaves its mark…
New York Times bestselling author Karen Chance’s “Skin Deep” tells the tale of a war mage in Las Vegas who stumbles across an ominous magical ward that appears as a dragon on her skin–and has a mind of its own…
When New York Times bestselling author Marjorie M. Liu’s demon hunter Maxine Kiss investigates a grisly murder, she finds herself involved in a conspiracy dating back to World War II–-and a secret mission that her grandmother may have carried out for the US Government, one that involves the mysterious “Armor of Roses.”
In New York Times bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn’s “Etched in Silver,” a supernatural agent is on the trail of a sadistic serial killer, when an unexpected–and dangerously seductive–ally comes to her aid, setting in motion a magical ritual that may end up binding them together, body and soul.
When the heavily tattooed body of a man is found in a Northern California town, FBI Agent Lily Yu is drawn into the case. Trouble is, the victim wasn’t human–-and the killer isn’t finished in USA Today bestselling author Eileen Wilks’s “Human Nature.”
“Skin Deep” by Karen Chance
The blurb for this one is a little misleading. While the sentient dragon tattoo/ward is a part of the story, it’s more of a subplot. The main plot follows the heroine as she tries to find her werewolf boyfriend who’s missing, possibly dead.
And it’s a great plot. I really felt the heroine’s desperation as she disobeyed orders and threw herself into dangerous situations to search for clues about what happened to him. The story is fast-paced and full of action but still takes time to explore the characters and world. I liked how the heroine, whose mother was a werewolf and father a mage, doesn’t feel like she fits into either society. And her slowly coming to accept her mate bond with her boyfriend was nice too.
Overall, this was a strong start to the anthology.
“Armor of Roses” by Marjorie M. Liu
This story was so awesome. I adored the heroine, Maxine, and her posse of demon tattoos that come alive. The antics those little demons got up to were hilarious and provided some nice jokes in a story that could get pretty dark at times.
I was hooked from the beginning with the murder, mysterious message from the past, and shadowy conspiracy. Then the time travel happened, and OMG, things got wild. There were twists and revelations, and just when my mind was blown, the ending wrapped up everything perfectly.
I’ve read Liu’s Monstress graphic novels but haven’t tried her urban fantasy before, which is something I need to fix ASAP.
“Etched in Silver” by Yasmine Galenorn
I felt like the short story format wasn’t long enough to truly develop the romance between the main characters in this one. I would’ve liked to have seen the story expanded or possibly have the characters know each other for longer, as their relationship felt rushed.
That said, the worldbuilding in this story was fascinating, and I enjoyed exploring Otherworld. I also liked the main character and her sisters, who have very different personalities but are all half fae, half human and face discrimination because of it. So I would give other books in this series a try.
“Human Nature” by Eileen Wilks
This was a great urban fantasy mystery. You’ve got an FBI agent with supernatural powers investigating the murder of a shifter in a small town with a prejudiced local police force. The plot throws plenty of complications at Lily, the heroine, and I enjoyed following her investigation and trying to guess who the murderer was.
There’s a great romantic subplot too, and I liked how Lily and Rule’s relationship wasn’t perfect. They both make mistakes but work to fix them and obviously care about one another.
Since this was the final story in the anthology, I’m glad it ended on a high note.
This was a great find and a fun read. It was a perfect introduction to several new-to-me series, though each story stands perfectly well on its own. And I love going back to older urban fantasy books and seeing what elements have changed or stayed the same in the genre.
Did anybody else read this anthology back in the day? If not, I would recommend checking your local library or used bookstore for it. Or you can get a copy from Amazon here.