|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.
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
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.