Many Bloody Returns
Ed. Charlaine Harris &
Toni L. P. Kelner
Published 2007 355 pages
Summary (from the book jacket) and contents
You’re invited to a celebration of vampires by a baker’s dozen of favourite authors. Sink your teeth into thirteen all-new, never-before-published stories, each one a fresh and unique take on the concept of what birthdays mean to the undead.
Suspenseful, surprising, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous – these frightening original stories will ensure you’ll never think of vampires or birthdays quite the same again.
This anthology contains 13 short stories as follows:
- Dracula Night by Charlaine Harris
- The Mournful Cry of Owls by Christopher Golden
- I Was a Teenage Vampire by Bill Crider
- Twilight by Kelley Armstrong
- It’s My Birthday, Too by Jim Butcher
- Grave-Robbed by P. N. Elrod
- The First Day of the Rest of Your Life by Rachel Caine
- The Witch and the Wicked by Jeanne C. Stein
- Blood Wrapped by Tanya Huff
- The Wish by Carolyn Haines
- Fire and Ice and Linguini for Two by Tate Hallaway
- Vampire Hours by Elaine Viets
- How Stella Got Her Grave Back by Toni L. P. Kelner
Charlaine Harris, author of the bestselling Southern Vampire fantasy series, and crime author Toni L. P. Kelner (Laura Fleming Southern mystery series) have teamed up together to edit an anthology of short stories featuring vampires and birthdays. Both are experienced writers but Many Bloody Returns is their first foray into editing - not that you can really tell they were editing newbies since the finished result is a remarkably well rounded collection of vampire stories.
As a reader I have mixed feelings about vampire anthologies, when done well I’ll gleefully read the stories many times over – the individual stories are great for when you don’t have the time or inclination for a full length book. Done badly, I’m left feeling cheated out of the cover price of the book. Bad vampire anthologies aren’t always the fault of the writers of the stories either - sometimes the publisher must take the blame, especially if it chooses to publish an anthology that contains stories that aren’t original stories but excerpts of longer novels. That behaviour is guaranteed to leave the avid reader feeling cheated – especially if they then shell out for the latest novel by, say Laurell K. Hamilton, and find that they have previously read the first 80 pages in a half-assed anthology. (And yes, we are no longer talking about avid readers but me and the time I brought “Cravings” for the LKH story only to have to find that it is actually the first 3 chapters of “Incubus Dreams”…)
Many Bloody Returns suffers from none of the bad vampire anthology problems. All of the stories it contains are short stories (rather than excerpts from longer works) and all of the stories are published here for the first time – so there is no chance that you will have read them elsewhere.
Some of the biggest names in contemporary fantasy fiction have contributed stories to Many Bloody Returns. As well as the recognised names some authors from other genres such as Toni L. P. Kelner and Elaine Viets have contributed stories, writing about vampires for the first time.
Most of the fantasy authors (Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, P. N. Elrod, Rachel Caine, Tanya Huff and Tate Hallaway) have written stories featuring the characters that they usually write about in their full length novels. For me, this makes reading Many Bloody Returns a bit like going to a party and catching up with old friends – which is great if you wanted to catch up with old friends but perhaps not so great if you wanted to go out and make new ones.
There are no bad stories in this anthology and all of them offer a different view on vampires and birthdays. A few of the stories feature teenage protagonists, others feature mature women and some have protagonists that are hundreds of years old. Nearly half the stories are in someway humorous or light-hearted (although that could just be me) the rest vary from the exciting to the tragic - none of the stories are horrific however, this is a fantasy anthology not a horror collection. The stories are of variable length, the shortest just over 10 pages, the longest 46 pages - most are around 25 pages in length. All in all this makes Many Bloody Returns a most diverse collection of stories that should appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.
My personal favourites from this anthology were by Jim Butcher, Bill Crider and Elaine Viets. Jim Butcher gives us an exciting Harry Dresden story that sees Harry going toe-to-toe with a Black Court vampire using just his imagination - since his staff, protective coat and blasting rod got left at home. Bill Crider tells a funny story about a teenage boy whose older sister wants a real vampire as the guest of honour for her Halloween party - with disastrous consequences. Elaine Viets tells the tale of a middle-aged woman embracing the darker side of life after being scorned by her cheating husband.
Many Bloody Returns is packed full of good stories by some of today’s best fantasy writers. If the hardback cover price puts you off, borrow it from the library or wait for it to go to paperback but don’t miss reading this great collection of vampire stories.
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