‘Tis the Season for Witches, Ghouls and Goblins…Or Something Like That! A Review for Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong

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Led Astray

Two brand new tales anchor this wide-ranging collection from one of urban fantasy’s most successful authors. Here is the first time that best-selling fantasy, YA, and crime author Kelley Armstrong has had her stories collected from Otherworld and beyond. With her signature twists and turns, Armstrong gives a fresh spin on city-dwelling vampires, werewolves, and zombies, while also traveling further afield, to a post-apocalyptic fortress, a superstitious village, a supernatural brothel, and even to feudal Japan.

With tales that range from humorous to heart-stopping, these are the stories that showcase Kelley Armstrong at her versatile best.

  • Rakshashi (standalone)
  • Kat (Darkest Powers universe, non-series narrator)
  • A Haunted House of Her Own (standalone)
  • Learning Curve (Otherworld universe, Zoe)
  • The Screams of Dragons (Cainsville universe, non-series narrator)
  • The Kitsune’s Nine Tales (Age of Legends universe, non-series narrator)
  • Last Stand (standalone)
  • Bamboozled (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • Branded (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • The List (Otherworld universe, Zoe)
  • Young Bloods (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • The Door (standalone, original to this collection)
  • Dead Flowers by a Roadside (standalone)
  • Suffer the Children (standalone)
  • The Collector (standalone)
  • Gabriel’s Gargoyles (Cainsville universe, Gabriel)
  • Harbinger (standalone)
  • V Plates (Otherworld universe, Nick)
  • Life Sentence (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • Plan B (standalone)
  • The Hunt (Cainsville universe, non-series narrator)
  • Dead to Me (standalone)
  • Devil May Care (Cainsville universe, Patrick, original to this collection)

REVIEW

I recently had the opportunity to read the ARC for Kelley Armstrong’s latest offering, Led Astray, which is due to be released this October, just in time for the “witching hour” of Halloween. As a general rule of thumb, I tend not to read short story anthologies, probably for the same reason that I prefer hour-long dramas versus a short, half hour sitcom, if I like something then I always want more. That said, Armstrong has long proven to be able to satisfy her readers over the years regardless of the format of her storytelling. She has always been generous with her fans, posting short stories related to her current writing projects via her website. This latest collection of Armstrong’s work is no exception. Armstrong’s knack for grabbing her reader’s attention from page one and propelling them through the various adventures of the supernatural world has definitely not faded over the years.

BittenIt is hard to believe that it has been almost 15 years since Bitten was first published, Armstrong’s debut novel which introduced us to the werewolf super-couple Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers (my personal favourite) from her Women of the Otherworld series. From there, she has gone on to write a wide-range of novels and short stories, mostly in the supernatural realm, with the odd exception such as the Nadia Stafford series which is about the adventures of a female hit woman. After reading Bitten, I read through most of the Otherworld series, firstly to get my Clay and Elena fix, but I also learned to appreciate her many other cast of characters that included witches, demons, ghosts, vampires and of course werewolves. Armstrong has also achieved acclaim with her YA series’ such as the Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising books.

BTVSWhat I enjoyed the most about Led Astray was the fact that I found each story to be compelling. Some of Led Astray’s short stories are companions to pre-existing series’ like the Otherworld such as “Bamboozled” which goes back to the days of the wild west and a couple not unlike Elena and Clay living in the American frontier. I really enjoyed reading about a another female werewolf and her mate, as it clearly debunked the myth that Elena was the only female werewolf ever to exist. In the stories, “Learning Curve” and “The List”, we are introduced to a vampire named Zoe who is living in Toronto and after an evening of being “stalked” by a half-fire demon who fancies herself to be a vampire hunter, Zoe decides to take her would-be stalker and turn her into her protege. After reading “Learning Curve” which comes earlier in the anthology than “The List“, I was fondly reminded of my “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” days, and thoroughly enjoyed reading the evolution of the friendship between Zoe and her trainee, Brittany. Supernaturals need to stick together, you know.

Of the standalone stories, one of my favourites was the first entry in the anthology entitled, “Rakshasi” which is about a demon warrior named Amrita who is enslaved by a curse to walk the Earth trying to make up for her crimes during her human life in order to regain her freedom. As a “rakshasi”, Amrita is bound to her master, also known as an “isha”, who orders her to eliminate the most wanted criminals in society, but Amrita has been doing her job for 200 years, and she is beginning to wonder when her debt will be repaid, if ever?

The “Last Stand” is a dystopian story that explores the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Who doesn’t love a good zombie apocalypse??? In the “Last Stand” we meet survivors who are forced to become soldiers, to fight the zombies, or so we think that is who the enemy is in the beginning. And of course, a little romance or something like is always able to flourish even in the most dismal post-apocalyptic landscape. For both of these standalone stories, “Rakshasi” and “Last Stand”, I was left wanting more, and hopefully, Armstrong will explore both stories a little more in the future. I think that both short stories have the potential to be great novels.

In the early days, I really enjoyed reading Armstrong’s collection of short stories online, so having a collection such as this is a great way to sample Armstrong’s talents. But beware, sometimes Armstrong’s story-telling can become a little too engaging, as she weaves the fine threads of the supernatural world with that of horror and you might just find yourself looking over your shoulder or wondering about the things that go bump in the night.

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