Genre: Urban Fantasy, Short Story Anthology
Publisher: Tachyon Publications on September 15, 2015
My thanks to Tachyon and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Welcome to the many worlds of #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong (Otherworld, Cainsville). As her SyFy channel series,Bitten, enters its second season, Armstrong continues to breathe new life into city-dwelling vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Now travel even further with her, to a post-apocalyptic fortress, a superstitious village, a supernatural brothel, and even feudal Japan.
In Led Astray, you’ll discover the stories of new characters from within and outside Armstrong’s popular novels. Here you will find two original tales from Cainsville, plus journeys to and beyond the worlds of Darkest Powers, Age of Legends, Otherworld, and more.
As with all my short story collection reviews, I’ve broken LED ASTRAY down into its component parts to talk about my favourites – and least favourites – in the collection. While these stories do contain spoilers for some of Armstrong’s work, this review is spoiler free!
Features a supernatural called a Rakshani named Amrita, originally from ancient India but currently bound to an American family of demon hunters. Amrita uses her powers of illusion and shape-shifting to…surprising results. Fascinating.
Kat is a runaway teen who lives with her ‘guardian’ Marguerite, a vampire trying desperately to stay one step ahead of the evil doctors who genetically engineered her. Or did they? Part of the Darkest Powers/Darkness Rising YA universe.
A Haunted House of Her Own 3/5
Tanya and Nathan are living out their dreams of owning and operating a haunted Bed & Breakfast. But the couple always thought the ‘haunted’ status was just for attracting tourists – and Tanya doesn’t like the consequences when she finds that’s not the case.
Learning Curve 4.5/5
Otherworld story featuring Zoe Takano, a Japanese vampire living in Toronto. Someone’s been stalking Zoe – rather sloppily – so she decides to toy with her stalker and teach them a lesson. Zoe is playful and fun, unlike many of Armstrong’s vamp characters.
The Screams of Dragons 4/5
By far the longest of the collection, this Cainsville novella takes place in the 1960s or ’70s and follows the deeds – and misdeeds – of Bobby, a changeling Fae child. Gave me a serious case of the wiggins, but I loved seeing behind the curtain of Cainsville a bit. And if I’m not mistaken, Liv’s cat from the Cainsville books makes an appearance…40 years before Liv even arrives.
The Kitsune’s Nine Tales 3.5/5
This story Age of Legends story takes place about a decade before the events of the trilogy just as Alvar Kitsune has been revealed as a traitor and sentence to exile by Emperor Tatsu. A great glimpse into the minds of two master strategists.
Last Stand 3/5
A standalone zombie apocalypse story with a Walking Dead feel to it, with a definite twist. Monica is the Commander of the resistance against the Others – and she’ll do anything to protect her people.
An Otherworld universe story set in 1877 in the Wild West following a couple who ‘bamboozles’ people to steal their money…and hunt the supernatural. Standout characters and a shippy-romance, plus a great plot. By far my favourite of the collection!
The List 5/5
Foll0w-up story to LEARNING CURVE, this story catches up with Zoe and her new protege who she jokingly calls “Brittany the Vampire Slayer.” These two are dealing with a list circulating Toronto, allegedly naming all the vampires living there. Very funny!
Young Bloods 3/5
Another Otherworld story featuring vampires, this is all about what happens when you make eye contact on public transport with someone you’d rather avoid – and then they start to get hungry. I liked seeing an older protagonist in this one.
The Door 3/5
Sad and sweet, this post-apocalyptic story follows a family struggling to protect their children from the horrors of the outside world. But once the kids open the front door, they can’t go back…
Dead Flowers by a Roadside 2.5/5
My least favourite in the collection, this super depressing story follows a necromancer whose wife and daughter died in a car accident when he was behind the wheel. It’s just all very cliche and melancholy, to be honest.
Suffer the Children 4/5
This is another long one, set during the 19th century in a small village in Frontier Canada that’s recently been rocked by disease. But when a strange man shows up in town claiming he can raise the dead, is it a miracle…or the devil? Explores the clash between Indigenous peoples and colonial settler culture in Canada.
The Collector 3/5
What happens when the dangers of the supernatural world collide with internet scams? Nothing good, that’s for sure. You can bet that Sarah Lane’s going to be battling more than just spam email in this one!
Gabriel’s Gargoyles 4/5
I read and reviewed this Cainsville story in December when it was first released as part of a holiday collection called GIFTED. Here’s my review of the collection.
Jenna is a pretty normal college student when she suddenly finds herself being followed…by apparitions. But are these drowned women ghosts, or are they something more sinister? What does their sudden appearance mean for Jenna? Dark and sad.
V Plates 4.5/5
This Otherworld story reunites fans with the Pack as Nick ‘babysits’ Reece and Noah, two younger werewolves in the Pack. The thing about werewolves is that losing your ‘v-plates’ isn’t as simple as it is for human teens…and that’s saying something.
Life Sentence 4/5
Another Otherworld story, LIFE SENTENCE delves into the corruption rampant in supernatural Cabals. When Daniel is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he choose to fight it by becoming a supernatural – at any cost. Doesn’t work out well.
Plan B 5/5
Gregory and Deanna are having an affair, and the only way forward is to kill Gregory’s wife Abby. But no murder is perfect! No supernatural elements to be found here, just pure GONE GIRL-esque scheming and conniving.
The Hunt 3/5
The Wild Hunt of lore is still running strong (get it?!) in the present day, chasing down their victims. Interesting but very short – only four pages total!
Dead to Me 3/5
Getting divorced is rough, but it’s even worse when your soon-to-be-ex won’t leave you be. The protagonist of this story might say he’s haunting her, if ya know what I’m saying.
Devil May Care 5/5
Another Cainsville story, this one follows Patrick about thirty years prior to the events of the series. We finally get some answers to burning questions about his relationship with Seanna, how his connection to Gabriel is even more complicated than we thought, and the Matilda of the Night story. But what I really learned in this story is that Seanna Walsh was the scum of the earth.
All in all, LED ASTRAY is a strong collection for longtime fans of Armstrong’s works. Definitely on the darker side of things but the stories were very well selected to balance that out. Ultimately though, I would not recommend this for people who are new to Kelley Armstrong…too many spoilers for her myriad series!