I had never heard of Larry Coreia or the Monster Hunter International novels before finding this anthology, The Monster Hunter Files, by chance in our library’s New Book section. The cover is lurid, with a lady spiffed up in a typical ridiculous costume of bare midriff with cleavage and lots of black and red, slashing a nasty looking scaly creature with two long swords. Anyone who reads fantasy knows the covers often feature midriffs and cleavage, so we overlook that and check out the author list and theme. Hmm. Two authors that I often like, Jim Butcher and John Ringo. Why not give it a try?
Thistle, by Larry Correia (original Monster Hunter International author) is excellent, albeit with a twist ending. The story has plenty of action and delivers a real sense of the desert Southwest, its dusty heat, beat up barely-making-ends-meet homes, the sun, the dry vegetation. We meet Owen Pitt, main character in the first Monster Hunter novel, and see him risk his life to save a little girl. Thistle is pretty good, enough that I requested a few more books in the series from our library.
Small Problems by Jim Butcher was one of my favorites. We have the slightly askew character with unexpected depths of humanity and heroism, a unique set of challenges, plus plenty of danger. In other words, classic Jim Butcher. I hope we meet up with Sid again in other Monster Hunter books.
Darkness Under the Mountain by Mike Kupari felt a little uneven although enjoyable. I felt it ended just when it needed to start.
A Knight of the Enchanted Forest is a real treat, picking up on the Monster Hunter universe’s version of “elves” and introducing Glad, a young girl who likes Twinkies and Ho Hos and wins at Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Glad is also a hard-nosed realist who can’t help it that no one believes that her science teacher really is a werewolf. That’s OK because she’s willing to tackle the gnomes infesting the Enchanted Forest trailer park. The author, Jessica Day George, combines a light-hearted feeling with a true sense of mission – those gnomes really are repulsive – and brings Glad, her father Winston and Her Majesty to life.
The story was good enough that I looked for novels by George; however she writes mostly YA fantasy, one of which I tried and did not care for, and Silver In The Blood, a fantasy meant for adults and older teens, which is quite good.
Another author who is new to me is Quincy J. Allen, writer of Sons of the Father. This particular story is intense plot with fast action, not a lot of characterization or setting, an enjoyable read.
John Ringo’s The Case of the Ghastly Spectre reminds me a bit of his Hot Gate series and The Last Centurion, a good story, well written, some pontificating, a main character who wins with his head, not just his fists or his gun.
Hunter Born by Sarah A Hoyt is another story with a young lady heroine, this time Julie Shackleford age 16 and going to her first prom. Sadly her date is an incubus who has other things in mind than dancing.
The other stories are also pretty good. Unlike many anthologies all the contributors deliver at least a decent tale, some good and a few very good to excellent. All the authors kept to the feel of the Monster Hunter International universe; several picked up on characters that got tiny mentions in other novels and built full stories around them. The Jessica Day George is a good example of this.
The editors are to be commended for delivering a consistent good quality product in an anthology where the unifying factor is the underlying theme and background story. Overall excellent job.
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