All four stories are good reads, though there are parts in each that bug me. So Im just gonna go through them in order. Ironically enough, I rate them backwards, with Red Angel my favorite and Ever Night my least favorite.
Ever Night by Gena Showalter
This little story is a play on the old real-person-in-a-fantasy world tale. Rose gets sucked into the world she calls Nightmares every year on her birthday and the first time this happens she encounters Vasili, this dark and powerful man. I loved his character right awayhes vivid and develops well as his feeling for Rose change. The story stays focused on the two of them to the exclusion of much development outside of them. I wanted Vasili to be a prince, to have to navigate power plays and politics and kingdom relationship problems, so in that regard I felt the story was lacking.
Rose is a cool chick. I like that she takes the initiative and learns to fight and takes care of herself throughout the whole thingnone of the hesitant, faint-heartedness that too many novel heroines have.
Despite nice characters and a decent world description, the ending is lackluster; it feels random. When she comes back to Nightmares and asks him to gather his people in 24 hours I thought it was a trap and the whole thing just felt off. I still want to know what she was doing after she returned to her world those few days before the finale, where everyone lives happily ever after trying to bridge their differences.
The Collector by Shannon K. Butcher
First I want to say that I like the concept of a lifemark, and that Neal being only 450-something years old rather than some kind of immortal is cool. It gives him more depth because even though hes long-lived, hes still gonna die at some point. As much as I liked Neal though, I disliked Viviana even more. The real woman under a prim and proper façade just doesnt work for her.
I like the hierarchy set up and little bit of development for the Theronai thats presented, but it feels incomplete, so thats a definite area for more exploration.
I was not impressed with the ending at all. The sgath killed Vivianas professor friend to get the artifact but then got cornered in a cave? Its anti-climatic. And then confusing on top of it when Viviana seemingly passes out for, what? Touching the artifact? I still dont know what happened.
Crystal Skull by Jessica Anderson
I love both of the main charactersand even the secondary onesin Crystal Skull. JTs got that dark alpha male down and Natalie is a take-no-prisoners kind of gal. Even better, JT is well rounded and has a past that propels him forward. I wont provide any spoilers, but hes not what you think at the beginning, and I love that twist; its brilliant because its so simple and obvious but I never would have thought of it.
This story progresses well and comes to an ending thats reasonable and not melodramatic. I would have liked more doomsday stuff, more mythology about crystal skulls and such, and also what JT and Natalie think will happen in the next couple of years. But I guess since the characters dont know then we shouldnt either. Definitely loved this short story; Im going to keep any eye out for Jessica Anderson from now on.
Red Angel by Deidre Knight
Right away, I could tell this story was gonna be sweetthe characters were good and the way the world was set up felt so easy, real and normal for these characters. It helps that the hero, Jamie, is smoking-hot! The perfect alpha male with the right mix of humanity. Not to mention I have a thing for hunters. I like that Sunny is an angel but at the same time Jamie has never heard of guardian angels in human form. That lack of knowledge on his part also helps the reader question other things s/he might know about angles and the supernatural. Using what Sunny knows about her own kind, what we gather from third-party sources and Jamies glimpses of angels, Knight illustrates how important Jamie and his siblings are, and that makes them even cooler.
I have to stop right now and say that I think its awesome that Sunny is African American and Jamie is white, and even more so that his brother Mason is gay. It brings another real-world dynamic to the story.
The ending was a little predictable but it is more than compensated for by a good time getting to that point. I would have liked to see more of Jamie as the hunter, though thats my only real complaint.