Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Many Bloody Returns Many Bloody Returns
Edited by Charlaine Harris And Toni. L. P. Kelner

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jo Toon

Many Bloody Returns is a short story collection, based around the dual themes of vampires and birthdays. There are thirteen stories in the collection, with a mixture of good and dud ones amongst them. Some contain characters who have their own series (Sookie Stackhouse and Harry Dresden both make an appearance), some are standalone, and others are ones which I really hope are going to be continued at some point, because I desperately want to know what is going to happen next.

Dracula Night (Charlaine Harris) is the first story in the collection, and is the aforementioned Sookie Stackhouse short story. To be honest, it isn't a particularly exciting story to begin a book of vampire tales. There isn't any particular tension, even in the denouement scene. It isn't badly written, but it could have had a bit of extra bite to it.

I was a Teenage Vampire (Bill Crider) is probably the most disappointing of the short stories in the book. I like my short stories to at least either have a strong storyline to it, or a good twist at the end (preferably both); this one has neither. The 'twist' is broadcast from very early on, and the storyline itself is very weak. The characters are just irritating, particularly the view point one; the author is trying too hard to imitate a teenage 'voice'.

It's My Birthday, Too (Jim Butcher) is the Harry Dresden story. This, I really enjoyed. I've not read any Dresden stories before (and have only watched one episode of the TV series), but the dry sense of humour throughout the story is perfectly timed, along with the suspense. The characters were set up well enough that it did not matter that I did not know who any of them were, without having to resort to paragraphs of explanation as to who each person was.

The First Day of the Rest of your Life (Rachel Caine) is one of the stories which I have enjoyed enough to want to go and seek out more in this series (reading the author's biography at the front of the story, I am anticipating that this is a short story set in a particular series), as I really want to find out what happens to the characters after the end of the last paragraph. The tension builds throughout, and there isn't a sense at any point of the viewpoint character (even though it is told in the first person) being 'safe'.

The Wish (Carolyn Haines) is the deceptively simple, haunting tale of a mother who loses her children in a car accident, and has been searching for Death for twenty years. It is beautifully written, even though very little happens, with descriptions which echo long after the story itself has finished.

How Stella Got Her Grave Back (Toni L. P. Kelner) is a murder mystery. This is Kelner's first vampire story, according to her biography, and I hope it will not be her last. The characters and emotions are very well written, and the tension builds throughout. I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters, and the peripheral ones were also well realised and believable.

Overall, I did enjoy the book; I had a few frustrations, particularly early on, with the stories that I didn't enjoy, but they do improve through the collection, and are well worth a read.

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