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Hex Appeal
edited by P.N. Elrod
St. Martin's Griffin, 376 pages

Hex Appeal
P.N. Elrod
P.N. Elrod lives in Texas with her two dogs, a house full of books, tapes, and a full-sized TARDIS.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Lifeblood
SF Site Review: Cold Streets
SF Site Review: Lady Crymsyn

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'It's not easy having a sex life when you're dead.'
Hex Appeal is described by the publisher as an impressive array from heavy hitters. All together there are ten authors at work here, two of whom write under a collective name, presenting paranormal tales from the world that lies just out of sight, most of the time. These include stories about bigfoot, albino vampires, professional wizards, a resurrected boyfriend, and a supporting role for a pleasure droid from the twenty-third century! Editor P.N. Elrod wrangles a nicely diverse collection of talent, including six award-winning and internationally acclaimed writers. But former glory is never a guarantee. Is what they serve up the literary equivalent of a gourmet meal, or more like a dog's breakfast?

As with all such collections, the diversity of writing styles means that few readers will be wild about every contribution, and some stories simply work better in the short form than others. All present here are competently written, and several have strong links to much larger works and significant characters from those works. What stands out is always going to be a matter of personal taste, and for me the top three were Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine and Simon R. Green. Also telling tales are Ilona Andrews, Carole Nelson Douglas, P.N. Elrod, Lori Handeland, Erica Hayes and Carrie Vaughn. The stories are all set within their own worlds, and obey their own mythologies. Those who enjoy the more romantic vein of vampire fiction, and kick-ass Anita Blake style hunters are catered for, as are readers who prefer more quirky examples of magic intruding upon normality. Giving a little more detail about my top three, "Bigfoot On Campus" the Jim Butcher story, is a stand-alone Harry Dresden piece concerning the potentially fatal romance of two college kids, one of whom is the son of a Bigfoot, and the other is…. something else. Rachel Caine gives us "Holly's Balm," a bitter-sweet, at times disturbing tale, of a working witch and her resurrected boyfriend. The unusual pair track a murderer who reanimates his dead victims in order to kill them again. "How Do You Feel" from Simon R. Green is a more comically dark contribution, and will be of particular interest to fans of his Nightside series. It's a glance backwards that finally details the origin of Dead Boy, one of the more charismatic Nightside regulars.

Hex Appeal presents glimpses into worlds that appear almost familiar, mostly staying the right side of believable, even when the impossible happens. The general theme is one of small scale, up close and personal encounters with magic. Bereft of any encompassing tone and touched by only the lightest editorial guidance. Some contributors run with that opportunity, and the rest shamble along well enough. As short story collections go, it is a quick, fun read, where at least half of the contributions are interesting enough to entice new readers to seek out more. And that, is the name of the game.

Copyright © 2012 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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