This uneven anthology proves less edgy than billed, but fans of paranormal romance will find much to like and several promising new authors to follow.
Among the standouts is Kitty Keswick’s “Death Becomes Her,” a Cinderella story featuring a haunted dress and satisfying surprise ending. In “The Secret Box,” Jill Williamson brings a fascinating era to life in her tale of a 13th-century crusader king obsessed with an Egyptian box and the secret it contains. Candace Haven’s “The Cold One” introduces Norse paganism in a Finnish setting as a girl struggles with her non-negotiable appointment as guardian of Viking treasure. Equally strong on atmosphere is Carmen Tudor’s “The Oast House,” where an unhappy teen finds solace in befriending the girl he discovers living in a derelict brewery. Loneliness also drives the unnamed heroine of Maria V. Snyder’s “New Girl” to accept overtures of friendship from an unsnubbable boy who approaches her in the school library. “To Hel and Back,” by Shannon Delany, author of the 13 to Life series, is a far-future, cyborg-human love story; though awkwardly executed and lacking the powerhouse originality of a writer like Margo Lanagan, it’s vivid and original. Proceeds from book sales benefit the nonprofit youth literacy organization 826 National.
Ideal for reluctant readers and gentler-minded fans of paranormal fiction. (Paranormal/short stories. 12 & up)