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Brie's Corner

Supervillain book reviewer. Lover of secret pains and purple proses. I review over at Romance Around the Corner.

Irregulars - Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling, Ginn Hale, Josh Lanyon Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerAll four novellas in this anthology take place in a shared world. Said world is pretty much the same we live in but with a huge exception, all sorts of fantastic creatures -from fairies to vampires- are real and living among us. And when I say all sorts of creatures, I mean everything you can think of, and things that you can’t even begin to imagine. Some of these beings have their own worlds and alternate realities, and some live life as humans. All the governments in the world are aware of their existence, but the regular people aren't, so there are different organizations in charge of both keeping it a secret, and implementing the law and regulating them. One of these organizations is NATO Irregulars Affairs Division (NIAD), and each novella involves one Irregular agent trying to solve a crime.The first one is Cherries Worth Getting by Nicole Kimberling. Keith Curry is less than happy when he’s paired with his former lover, Gunther Heartman, to investigate a series of gruesome murders and the possible illegal trade of human flesh. Their relationship wasn’t particularly serious but Keith was annoyed and disappointed when Gunther ended it for no apparent reason. So now he must add having to work with him, to his increasing list of problems.Since this was the first novella part of its purpose was setting up the world. And Ms. Kimberling does it remarkably well without having to resort to info-dumping. I admit that the first part was a bit confusing, but once I got the hang of it the story flowed smoothly.All the stories but the last one, are narrated in first person from the main character’s POV, so that’s always the character that we really get to meet. In this particular case the protagonist is Keith. A former chef (you will have to read the book to find out why he quit) now turned Irregular agent and vegetarian, who has some heavy baggage and issues to overcome. He was more angry and jaded than tormented and it was interesting to see how his descriptions became more and more food-like as the story progressed, almost as if by having to confront his problems he became more acceptant of his past.Gunther was interesting as well, although we don’t get to see into his head. But he was more open so by the end of the novella I had a good grasp of who he was. The stories are gritty and tinted with violence, but there’s also humor, and in this story it came from Gunther and his weird eating habits (again, you will have to read the book). I liked how it ended, both in terms of the mystery and the romance, very fitting to the story and the characters.Grade: 4Next we have Green Glass Beads by Josh Lanyon. Archer is a half fairy obsessed with recovering a family heirloom that used to belong to his mother and that caused them much pain. He works as a curator of the Museum of State-Sanctioned Antiquities and once upon a time he used to be a member of a criminal organization known as the Society for the Rescue and Restoration of Indigenous Art or SRRIM, which used to deal with dangerous artifacts. The NIAD wants proof that the SRRIM still exists and thinks Archer will lead them to it. The officer in charge is Commander Rake, a demon that’s been studying Archer for a while now and may have developed his own obsession. So now they must work together but will that be enough to actually be together? I had a hard time getting into the mystery plot and the investigation. The action gets more interesting closer to the end, but the beginning was slow. The main character, though, was one of my favorites of the anthology. Archer was very likeable, my favorite part about him was that he had a strong will and was almost obsessive in his quest to find himself and give sense and purpose to his life, to find a place to belong and a connection to his past. He was an interesting mix of strength and vulnerability that I found very compelling. Rake was a mystery from beginning to end. He wasn’t fleshed out, but regardless of the lack of insight into his character, I felt like he was a good match to Archer and there was an undeniably chemistry between them. The ending was sweet and satisfying.Grade: 4The following story is No Life But This by Astrid Amara. When Deven Shaw was ten, his father took him to live to the realm of the Aztaw. While there, a struggle for power ensued and the new reigning lord asked for his father’s allegiance in exchange of Deven’s life. When his father refused, the lord cut Deven’s throat but surprised by the kid’s courage he saved his life, and decided to overlook the fact that he was human to raise him as his. That’s how Deven became a feared assassin and the lord’s personal bodyguard. After a new revolution ended the lord’s life, Deven was forced to return to earth and adjust to human life. In the meantime, he works as an Aztaw specialist and that’s how he ends up in Mexico aiding a murder investigation.Everyone who works with Silas August labels him as an unbearable prick, everyone but his NIAD partner. But now his partner is dead and Silas must work with Deven to solve the case. In truth Silas is in pain because of a tragedy in his past, and uses his temper and poor disposition as a defense mechanism. However, Deven is about to show him that maybe he can be happy again. But first they must survive.This was the only author I hadn’t read before and I’m happy my ignorance ended here because she is wonderful and I can’t wait to read more by her. This novella was perfect. The characters were compelling and likeable and the world building was fantastic. What’s great about this anthology is that the shared universe is so vast that they have free reign to do what they want. They can invent new creatures and new worlds with different rules, and that’s exactly what Ms. Amara has done here. Yet, the richness of the story doesn’t overshadow the characters, and that’s where the novella truly shines. I couldn’t get enough of Silas and Deven and I want to read more about them.I loved how awkward Deven was. He had assimilated Aztaw culture so he had a hard time adjusting to being human again. But he never truly belonged to Aztaw so he felt a bit lost even when he was there and all he wanted was a sense of purpose. Silas was just as lost but for different reasons and in the end finding each other saved them both. This was one of the most romantic stories and I didn’t want it to end.Grade: 5And last but not least there's Things Unseen and Deadly by Ginn Hale. Jason Shamir is a regular young man, except that he’s not, but he doesn't know it. When he was a kid he witnessed how his father was brutally murdered by monsters and ever since then he’s been in and out of psych wards. Convinced that what he saw was a hallucination he lives on meds and tries to get by as best as he can, but when the monsters come back and try to kidnap him, he realizes that they are real.Henry Falk is one of NIAD’s oldest and most notorious agents. His glory days are over and now he’s known as Half-Dead Henry, the crazy guy who looks like a hobo and drinks all day. But no one can deny that he knows what he’s doing so he is assigned to protect Jason and find out why he is such a sought-after commodity. Henry will help Jason to learn about his true past and who he really is, and Jason will force Henry to step out of the shadows and start living again.This is the story that in a way binds them all together, which is why I recommend reading the novellas in order.It’s also a bit different from the previous ones in that we get the two main character’s POVs. Henry and Jason are very different from each other. One is very young and completely clueless and the other is old and has seen and experienced it all. At first the power imbalance between them made me uncomfortable and I kept seeing Henry as a father figure to Jason, so the idea of them as a couple made me uncomfortable. However, there’s a subtle shift of power that takes place throughout the story and that exposes Henry’s vulnerability and Jason’s strength that made it possible for me to believe in their relationship, so when it actually happens I didn’t find it as disturbing as I thought I would.There’s a lot of magic and action at play here, as well as secrets and suspense. This book also deals with fairies and that’s my main complaint, I would have preferred to see yet another creature so each novella could be truly different and to explore more of this book. These fairies are different from those in Mr. Lanyon’s story, but it did felt a bit repetitive.Complaints aside, I enjoyed this tale a lot and I was happy to see that the characters in the previous stories make cameos in this one. It was a great ending for a great anthology.Grade: 4This is how anthologies should be, great quality, riveting stories and unforgettable characters, all the necessary characteristics to give the reader that great feeling of having read a truly wonderful book. The stories are all about the world and the investigation and not so much about the romance, but the most important part, the character development, is present in every single one of them. They all stand alone and have clear endings, but to experience the book at its best you should see them as a whole novel instead of as four independent novellas. If you are a fan of suspense, paranormal romance and urban fantasy, or if you just like great stories regardless of the genre, then this book will be perfect for you. I hope the authors team up again and write more Irregulars stories because quality is addictive and I was lost the minute I opened the book.Overall grade: 4.5Source: We received an e-ARC from the publisher for review purposes.