Author: Edited by Trish Telep with 13 contributors (listed below)
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Publication Date: August 3, 2010
Paperback: 432 pages
If you can possibly thirst for more mysterious metaphysical accounts of love, Trisha Telep has organized some of the greatest and most thrilling tales of paranormal paramours since The Eternal Kiss. She presents the acclaimed literary talent of thirteen unique authors, creating a collection of stories that will undoubtedly capture the imagination of every soul who dares to read them. Werewolves, ghosts, zombies, vampires, and fallen angels drive the plot of these riveting romances.
Kiss Me Deadly includes the exceptional writings of several authors, including:
• Sarah Rees Brennan (faeries)
• Becca Fitzpatrick (angels)
• Caitlin Kittredge (witches)
• Karen Mahoney (vampires: sequel to story from The Eternal Kiss)
• Daniel Marks (ghost kids)
• Justine Musk (sorcerers)
• Diana Peterfreund (unicorns)
• Michelle Rowen (demons)
• Carrie Ryan (zombies)
• Maggie Stiefvater (werewolves)
• Rachel Vincent (banshees)
• Daniel Waters (zombies)
• Michelle Zink (gothic ghosts)
Why did I read this book: I loved Telep’s previous anthology, The Eternal Kiss and had been waiting for this one anxiously.
How did I get this book: I got an ARC at BEA
Kiss Me Deadly is an anthology with all new stories by several YA authors, some of them new-to-me. It is edited by Trisha Telep who also edited The Eternal Kiss anthology published last year. I read (and reviewed) The Eternal Kiss and was extremely impressed by the quality of the stories and it was a no-brainer that I would be picking up this new one as well. As with its predecessor, this new anthology has a well-balanced collection of short stories. Out of the 12 stories I read (the collection is supposed to have 13, but my ARC did not contain the story by Becca Fitzpatrick, which will only be a part of the finished product) , one I intensely disliked, 3 I enjoyed to a certain extent and the remaining 8 were, for lack of a better word, completely and totally awesome.
I find myself more and more attracted to short stories these days: a completely different animal from a novel, yet still a perfectly viable form of storytelling. I would even say that when a short story is good, it is really good and I admire authors who can write both shorts and full-length novels. The feeling I had reading those 8 stories aforementioned was that the authors took their time really thinking about them. Diana Peterfreund’s, Carrie Ryan’s and Dan Water’s for example are set in the same world as their full length novels but can be perfectly read as stand alone, because the world-building was less important than the characters and story. This is not to say that attention was not given to the background, it is just that it was integrated in the stories in a way that it never overshadowed the storytelling. It this vein, it didn’t matter to me that I never read a Dan Water novel before, because everything I needed to know about his world came from his main character’s feelings (and I have to say that now I completely understand why Thea is bananas about both Carrie Ryan and Dan Waters’ books) .
A final word before I proceed to examine each story on its own. The Eternal Kiss had a “theme” as all stories had vampires in them. Kiss Me Deadly is supposed to be about “paranormal love” , except that I think this description builds a certain expectation that all stories will be about romantic love when they are not. All stories are paranormal stories, with a great diversity of paranormal creatures and within different genres too but I can’t say that romance is a thread that links all of them and some of them don’t have romance at all. “Love” makes an appearance in the majority of stories, but it can be parental love or the love of a nun for her unicorn. I would go as far as to say that the stories that are supposed to be the most romantic ones are the weakest ones in my opinion – if there is one thing that is really hard to build in the confines of a short story is a believable romance.
Having said that, the stories as they appear in the anthology are:
The Assassin’s Apprentice by Michelle Zink
Rose comes from a long line of Descendants (from Angels) and her entire family has been killed by a demon. Bent on revenge, she is about to attack said demon when she comes across an Assassin’s Apprentice named Asher with whom she forms an alliance. Assassin are usually in charge of protecting the Descendants but Rose is fully capable of taking care of herself, thanks very much. I thought this story had an interesting premise and mythology although the historical setting was not in depth enough for me to know when it was set exactly. I like Rose as protagonist, but felt the romance that started between her and Asher too rushed and artificial, almost like an after-thought to the story. 6 out of 10
Errant by Diana Peterfreund
Part of Peterfreund’s Unicorn Hunters series, Errant is set in the 18th century French when a nun , sister Gitta (a Unicorn Hunter) , accompanied by her unicorn, arrives at a chateau just before the wedding of a girl named Eloise. As part of the celebration, a traditional Unicorn Hunt is to be enacted with Gitta’s help. This story is excellent as it develops, quite well these two characters. Starting with animosity from Gitta’s side – her frustration with these people and this girl who know nothing about tradition and sacrifice, expect yes, yes she does and Gitta slowly realises that and the relationship that builds between the two girls is incredible. There is a communion of spirits between them (and the unicorn) and I would like to use the author’s own words to describe this story:
18th century French feminist killer unicorn story about a nun and a bride and a forest full of monsters.
Perfect. 8 out of 10
The Spirit Jar by Karen Mahoney
This story by Karen Mahoney once again follows her character, the vampire Moth which was introduced in a story in The Eternal Kiss anthology in her struggle to get rid of her Maker, Theo. She keeps going on missions to rescue certain objects for Theo in the hope that one enough difficult missions will buy her freedom. This time around, she travels to London after a book when she meets a part-djinn boy named Adam who is also after the book – he needs it to release his girlfriend’s soul who is entrapped in a spirit jar. Moth is conflicted as to whether help him or just get the book and go away – is she Moth or is she still Marie, the girl she used to be? I loved Moth when I first read about her and I loved her even more here with her reluctant (or is it?) willingness to help the boy. 8 out of 10.
Lost by Justine Musk
I love the opening lines of this story:
“I’ve always been good at finding lost things, but three weeks after a car accident dumped my best friend in a coma, I was the thing that felt lost. And nobody knew where to find me.
Except for one person.”
This is a bittersweet, quite dark-ish tale, a remaining of a well known (and to me, well-loved) Greek myth, which I will leave unspoiled as part of the fun in this story is to slowly realise together with Sasha, the main character, what is her role. Although I liked the premise and enjoyed the writing, I felt that on this case the short format did not help, a longer story was needed to properly develop this. It does work as a teaser though and I would definitely be more interested in learning more. 7 out of 10.
The Spy Who Never Grew Up by Sarah Rees Brennan
It is no surprise that Sarah Rees Brennan, the author of the Demon Lexicon series is one of my favourite writers right now. This story is another reason why. It is funny and terminally clever and maybe even creepy. Peter Pan has been co-opted by the Queen of England to become a spy for the Country in exchange for a “mother” who turns out to be Wendy’s great-great granddaughter.
What I ADORE about this story is how the author totally, completely “gets” Peter Pan. From
“To die for your country,” said Peter. ” “Would that be an awfully big adventure?”
to his creepiness evidenced here by how he has sort of grown up a little bit yet he still has his baby teeth and his need for a mother, any mother. I loved how the girl has been prepared by generations of girls who have been used by Peter and when she faces him it is with a pepper spray in hand. But the thing about Peter Pan, the boy who never grow up (that’s because he has no memories) is how terribly titillating the promise of adventure with him is. Plus you guys: NINJA FAIRIES. Seriously.
“The name’s Pan,” said Peter, who I must admit was showing off. “Peter Pan.”
Neither of them was really on their best behaviour. Spies rarely are.
“What will you have?” asked the bartender.
“Martini,” said Ivana. “shaken, not stirred.”
“Milk,” said Peter. “Warm, not hot.”
8 out of 10 and possibly my favourite story.
Behind the Red Door by Caitlin Kittredge
Small town boredom leads the main character Jo to be dared by her friends to visit decrepit Ash House where she meets the ghost of a boy named Nicholas Day with whom she starts a relationship – which ends up consuming her thoughts. This is part proper ghost story – terrifying and sad – part coming of age as Jo needs to decide what she wants for her life. I loved it. 7 out 10.
Hare Moon by Carrie Ryan
This is definitely another favourite. It is part of Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth series. I have yet to follow this series but Thea is a HUGE fan and now I understand why. This story follows a girl named Tabitha, trapped in a village surrounded by zombies torn between the mysteries of the outside world and the possibility of love and sex with a boy from another village and her duty. The writing is evocative and beautiful about a very fundamental conflict between love and duty, history and memory and choices. 8 out of 10.
Familiar by Michelle Rowan
A story a reluctant teenage witch who, prompted by her mother, must pick a familiar. She chooses a kitten who turns out to be a shape shifter boy hiding from a clan of werewolves. Witches and their familiar are magically bonded and the bond on this case, the bond is created between the two kids – with eventually extrapolated into a romantic bond and in this case, wholly artificial. I was unimpressed by this story. 5 out of 10.
Fearless by Rachel Vincent
Part of her Soul Screamers series, and the only story in the anthology that seems to be connected with the rest of the series it belongs to. It is set about two years before the first book starts. It follows Sabine, a mara, or living nightmare. The girl is currently under arrest in a Correctional facility and there she where she lives off consuming fears from other girls while they sleep. Some of the scenes with Sabine feeding off fears are absolutely terrifying but not near as terrifying as finding out that all that stands between Sabine and madness is….Nash who seems to love her. A promise made by Nash in the last page seems to be foreboding of DOOM. 7 out of 10.
Vermillion by Daniel Marks
This was my least favourite story in the entire anthology – in fact it made me downright angry. The set up is quite vague….in Purgatory dead people take care of problems caused by spirits in the living world. Velvet is the narrator and member of a team which includes her boyfriend (and undertaker) Nick. Called to investigate some disturbances, they have to side with another team led by a girl who from the first time she sets foot in the story is met with hatred and anger by Velvet because she might be after Nick. Regardless of whether this is true or not, the story is filled with girl-hate and with Velvet being focused solely on her relationship with Nick. That does not a good story make. 4 out of 10.
The Hounds of Ulster by Maggie Stiefvater
Bryant and Sullivan are the best of friends, and they want to be rock stars. Bryant narrates this story, which is an elegy for Sullivan who is lost to Them. It is about their dreams and who they are shattered by this one Girl. This story is typical Maggie Stiefvater affair and it sparked the typical reaction in me after reading her stories. Beautiful writing, incredibly powerful setting and a highly frustrating ending and characters. I am not sure how I am supposed to feel about this story and the punch it packs in the end but I know that I somehow felt cheated. In any case, it is actually a good story. 7 out of 10.
Many Happy Returns by Daniel Waters
Another contender for favourite story. Part of Generation Dead series in which teenagers who die might come back to life albeit in a very constricted manner (slower, difficulty of speech), not exactly zombies per since they keep their personality. In this series, a small town tragedy occurs after there is a car accident and several teenage kids die. From the point of view of one of the parents, Cal observes as his friends’ kids come back to life while he hopes and waits for his daughter Mandy to wake up. I don’t care about what is it that makes the kids come back, I only know what this possibility makes it for a very suspenseful read in many ways: is it a good thing to hope for this to happen? What sort of life would Mandy live if she does? But if she doesn’t , how can Cal possibly move on? Grief, envy, lost love it is all mixed in this bag of absurdly good and sad delights. 8 out of 10.
Verdict: All in all, an excellent anthology which I highly recommend in spite of a couple of less than good stories. The excellent ones more than make up for those.
Rating: 7 Very Good (leaning towards an 8 )
Reading next: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce