This book is an anthology containing four stories from various authors. I picked this book up on a whim at the library because I've read a couple of books from Sharon Shinn and she has pretty good stories. I didn't recognize the other authors, but it looked like an easy read, so why not?
The first story by Sharon Shinn is called Bargain with the Wind. It's a play on the classic Cinderella story with a twist. I thought it was rather charming the way the characters developed. I loved the narrator, that sort of maid in the background point of view. The elemental magic could have used a little more development, but for a short story, I think it was good. 3 stars. Sharon Shinn is a consistently good writer for fantasy and magic while building a world and community for this magic. She's probably not the best writer for innovation, but a lovely writer for what she does.
The other three really aren't that worth reading. Birthright by Jean Johnson was crap. I would have dropped that story in the first twenty pages if I didn't know it was a short and easy read. Arasa is going on a pilgrimage to see if she is the firstborn and the true heir. Elrik is a wandering mage that happens to join her party along the way. Plot twist: she's the princess. Oh, they fall in love. And look, there are enemies. Whoop-de-doo. Nothing new at all. But even beyond a cliche story-line, the writing is just not good at all. The dialogue is unwieldy and fake. Nobody talks like that. The romance is completely unbelievable - especially the way the two main characters go about telling the other person about their mutual attraction to each other (dialogue problems, see?). The entire plot seems very contrived and pretty much worthless. Honestly, motivations behind every action is unrealistic. And the main character's pilgrimage is a major event for the country - so why aren't other people researching what to do?
1 star. I probably won't read anything by this author unless a friend seriously recommends something to me emphatically. This is the worst one of the four.
The third story is Unmasking by Carol Berg. I also haven't heard of this author, but that's okay. Joelle is a Searcher - a partner that uses magic to protect the world against demons that corrupt people. Well, actually she's just a student right now trying to be a Searcher. But when Joelle stumbles across a suspicious man in the sanctified waters, she is unknowingly drawn into a battle bigger than she could imagine. For her to succeed, she'll have to work with this man to trick a spy from their enemies.
I thought it was okay. I think it was a disservice that it was only a short story because it had potential. But because of the word count limitation, I don't think the reader can fully understand the magnitude of their task - which makes a lot of their actions kind of pointless. I thought the magic system also wasn't developed as well as it should have been. But hey, I get it - it's a short story. But it does have some major plot holes and the conclusion was weak. The premise for task isn't really sound and the reason for why she keeps failing isn't resolved, even though it seems to be at the end. But Berg never explain exactly what changed. It doesn't make sense. But it wasn't bad. 2 stars because it was okay. I might pick something up from this author if I came across it.
The last story is Huntress moon by Rebecca York. Zarah is the daughter of a supposedly traitorous noble. She is sold into slavery. As a spy. But when she gets into contact with Griffin, her target, she falls in love. What's a girl to do?
Ugh, it's not a bad book. But it's just really gives off a tween romance. Well.... with the amount of explicit love-making... maybe not tween. But it still feels juvenile even despite those scenes. I felt like those scenes were also a bit of fan-service rather than helpful to the story. Rather, it felt a little trashy. Especially since the main characters call their emotions love after all of that forced (or what they call seduced) love-making. Please.
Griffin's secret and the resolution was basically a subplot to their romance, which is ridiculous since it touts itself as an adventure. Ha. The ending was bland and the romance worth an eye-roll. But I still read it, so ugh, it's not a bad book. I don't really have problems with York's writing, but I do have problems also with her world. She makes it a parallel universe to Earth, but with magic. However, the slang and speech patters seem way too similar to modern day times. It feels wrong because the story seems to be set in a much older time period with nobles and kings. And yet... we have slang. That's a problem.
2 stars because it was okay. Maybe 1.5 stars. I probably wouldn't pick up this author's books unless recommended. Or it had an extremely gorgeous cover haha.
Overall rating for the book: 2 stars. One story worth reading, the other three mediocre or bad.
Recommended for those who need a quick read of magic and fantasy. And aren't too picky about the quality of writing. Soooo... not really that recommended, to be honest.