Short works

Books : reviews

Tanya Huff.
Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light.
DAW. 1989

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 27 September 1999

Rebecca may be 'simple', but she can See the little people, including the little man who lives in her tree outside her Toronto apartment. Then she finds him stabbed, bleeding. She turns to the one person who may be able to help -- Roland, unknowingly on his way to becoming a Bard. Together with the bag lady Mrs Ruth, Rebecca's social worker Daru, Tom the cat, and Evan the champion of Light, they start of a battle of Light against Dark where failure will mean the end of the world itself.

That summary of the plot might make it sound clichéd, but the reality is very different. As ever, Tanya Huff manages to infuse her story all the way through with tension, drama, humour, real characters with moral dilemmas, and unexpected plot twists.

Tanya Huff.
The Fire's Stone.
DAW. 1990

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 12 November 2000

Aaron is a thief with a death wish, Darvish is a drunken prince with nothing to do, and Chandra is a wizard who doesn't want to marry Darvish. When The Stone that protects Ischia from the volcano is stolen, this mis-matched trio has to find it in time.

It's pretty obvious from early on who the traitor is, and there are few twists in the plot. It is the interplay between the three characters that makes the story: each starts off being not particularly likeable -- spoilt, even -- but their forced interaction during the "quest" brings out the best in them. The action whizzes along, and the conclusion is a little different from usual.

Tanya Huff, Alexander Potter, eds.
Women of War.
Daw. 2005

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 27 October 2005

An interesting collection of stories about women warriors, before, during, or after battle. The ones that worked best for me were ones set in universes I already knew, where I could draw on the consequent depth and background not achievable in a short story. Nevertheless, some of the standalones also manage to be thought-provoking and/or exciting.


Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Fighting Chance. 2005
A Liaden Universe story. How Miri Roberston was recruited off Surebleak by Angela Lizardi.
Rosemary Edghill. Painted Child of Earth. 2005
A warrior has an enchanted sword that makes her immortal, until it can use her to destroy the world. She fights its influence, saving a lad who wants to be a hero, and realises the benefits of companionship in keeping her humanity
Julie E. Czerneda. She's Such a Nasty Morsel. 2005
A Web Shifters story. How Skalet, one of Esen's Web, became so involved in war.
Fiona Patton. The Children of Diardin: To Find the Advantage. 2005
A pack of Sidhe shape-shifters need to find a battle advantage over the invading giants -- and discover that their mother is a force to be reckoned with.
Tanya Huff. Not that Kind of War. 2005
A Confederation story. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr has a new, gung-ho Leuitenant to take care of, during a retreat.
Michelle West. The Black Ospreys. 2005
Sometimes to win a war, you have to use desperate tactics. But who do you choose to use them?
Bruce Holland Rogers. The Art of War. 2005
Maybe the destrying alien fleet don't actually want to wage war, maybe they are just unimpressed with our fighting aesthetics.
Kerrie Hughes. Geiko. 2005
A Geiko bodyguard hopes her young charge will become a trader, not a bodyguard too. Then she discovers that an assassin is after her, not her charge.
Robin Wayne Bailey. Shin-Gi-Tai. 2005
What lengths a warrior and her alien lover will go to to stop a war that is destroying both sides.
Jana Paniccia. The Last Hand of War. 2005
A complex story of warriors, and the warrior spirits who bond with them, fighting against a maddened sprit who threatens to destroy them all.
Lisanne Norman. War Games. 2005
An attempt to rescue the President's kidnapped daughter has bizarre consequences that the warriors know cannot old forever. [The sexist subplot seems a bit 1970s, and out of place in this future army.]
Jane M. Lindskold. Fire from the Sun. 2005
Andrasta helps clear a slave clan of a charge of uprising. But the events are part of a larger plot that will change the way of her own clan forever.
Stephen Leigh. Sweeter far than Flowing Honey. 2005
A VR pilot engaged in a war against the Ghastlies keeps having strange dreams about other warriors and their destroyed families.
Anna Oster. Token. 2005
Jun-Li is chosen to be the new Holy Defender, but is she up to the task?
Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Elites. 2005
Rowena's half-way house for PTSD veterans has a great reintegration rate, so why doesn't she want others to use her cure?

Tanya Huff.
The Silvered.
Titan. 2012

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 13 April 2014

The ancient mountain kingdom of Aydori is governed by werewolf Packs and their mage spouses, while the nearby Kresentian Empire is ruled by a power-hungry emperor, prejudiced against magic in all its forms.

When a prophecy warns that the empire may be destroyed by an unborn were-mage child, the imperious emperor invades Aydori and kidnaps a group of top-level mages, including the Pack Leader’s wife. With the Pack defending the border, it falls to Mirian Maylin, a low-level mage, and Tomas Hagen, younger brother of the Pack Leader, to liberate the captives. Together they race deep into enemy territory, but with every step, the odds against their survival grow steeper…

Mirian Maylin, failed mage, is trying to avoid her mother’s attempts to marry her off to a were-Pack member, whilst also making her realise the capital is dangerous in wartime. When they do finally evacuate, Mirian witnesses the abduction of six Mage-pack members by the Empire, and goes to the pack leadership to report what has happened. But disaster has struck, and Mirian, along with young pack member Tomas, has to venture into enemy territory herself.

This has some nice fantasy world building, starting from the standard content of werewolves and mages, and weaving them into something more, in a post-mediaeval society. As usual with Huff, we feel the realistic grit and grime, and exhaustion, of a campaign.

A good fantasy war complement to the Valor series. I wonder if we will see more of Mirian’s world?

Tanya Huff.
Valor's Choice.
DAW. 2000

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 20 April 2000

Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is not having a good day. Despite being battle weary, she and her Marine platoon are yanked from their R&R, assigned a brand new shiny second lieutenant, and made the honour guard to a bunch of ambassadors trying to persuade the Silsviss to join the Confederation, not the Others. But General Morris assures her it is an easy, ceremonial assignment -- no fighting. Hah!

Sometimes one gets the feeling that SFnal armies are populated entirely by officers, so it makes a pleasant change to see a battle from an NCO's PoV, as Torin tries to keep her troops alive, and breaks in the new officer. Torin is a strong character, and the multi-species Confederation is good. I did occasionally lose track of which species various of the Marines are supposed to be, until I was jolted when they do something other-species specific -- but this must be intentional -- to Torin they are all just her troops. There is certainly never any doubt which species the various ambassadors are.

The reactions of the Marines to despised ceremonial duty, then their behaviour when the battle starts, is all well drawn. The action itself manages to contrast well the horror and the glory of battle. Although some of the plot twists are rather apparent, and the Real Life battle that forms the basis of the one here is soon fairly obvious, nevertheless, this is a real page turner. Now we know Tanya Huff can do straight SF as well as fantasy, and I for one want to see more of Torin Kerr.

Tanya Huff.
The Better Part of Valor.
DAW. 2002

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 4 May 2002

Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr's "reward" for her previous success is to protect a team of civilians examining a mysterious spaceship, with only a small newly formed team of Marines, and under the command of the reckless glory-seeking Captain Travik. The scientists are convinced they don't need the Marines -- after all, this is a peaceful expedition, and there won't be any need for fighting. Hah, again.

This is even more of a break-neck paced page turner than its predecessor, as things start going very wrong much sooner. There's a smaller cast of characters, and instead of a big pitched battle, there are many small fire fights as the team desperately tries to move through the alien spaceship to safety, hampered by the civilians. There's nice characterisation of the Marines (although do all the officers have to be such idiots?), interesting inter-species conflicts and partnerships, some good space battles, and a marvelous Big Not-so-dumb Object.


Tanya Huff.
The Heart of Valor.
DAW. 2007

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 15 June 2008

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr finds herself giving constant briefings to just about everyone on "Big Yellow", the sentient alien spaceship recently discovered. So when she gets the opportunity to go on a training mission with a trainee Marines, baby-sitting a newly-regenerated Major, she jumps at the chance. Naturally, things go wrong, and Torin soon finds herself stranded on a hostile planet, fighting a battle against robot drones with only a bunch of raw recruits. She has to come up with some innovative solutions to novel problems.

More great slam bang action, building on the discoveries made in the earlier books, and not shying away from the death, blood, and gore of war. It's fun seeing Torin have to deal with "unblooded" recruits rather than rely on seasoned Marines. At least this time the officer in charge is competent. The end of this battle makes a good conclusion, but some of the events will definitely lead on to more, and bigger, problems for Torin.

Tanya Huff.
Valor's Trial.
DAW. 2008

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 7 June 2009

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr knows the Others don't take prisoners. So when she's blown up in battle then wakes up in a cave where lots of other Marines are being held, she is surprised. It is certainly more like a PoW camp than the afterlife. But first, she must restore proper military order to the Marines by removing the bullying Sergeant who has set himself up as leader, then organise an escape bid. And when that escape leads her to a group of Others, she is even more surprised.

This is non-stop breathless action. Here we see Torin in extremis, fighting battles against her own people, with no weapons and heavily outnumbered. There's even a lovely moment when we see her wishing for an officer, to look after the big picture while she gets on with the job. Since Huff isn't scared to kill off characters, there's also a kind of horrified wondering of who's going to die, when. But in the end, this is about watching Torin being a Gunnery Sergeant, a force second only to God.

There is a lot of closure at the end of this book, but I hope there is more to come: I love Huff's aliens.

Tanya Huff.
The Truth of Valor.
DAW. 2010

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 27 September 2011

Ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr has left the Marines, now that the war with the Other is over, exposed to have been a plot by the intelligent plastic aliens. She has teamed up with Craig Ryder, and is learning how to be a Salvage Operator in a very unstructured social environment. But then pirates kidnap Craig and leave Torin for dead. Big mistake. Torin gets Marine-friend help, and soon the pirates discover there is in fact no such thing as an Ex-Gunnery Sergeant.

Interesting to see Torin trying to adjust to a civilian life style, and pretty much failing. Which is just as well for Craig. Lots of action and mayhem, and a delicious little final teaser (no, not that) for future plot developments.

Tanya Huff.
An Ancient Peace.
Titan. 2015

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 21 January 2016

The centuries-long war between the Confederation and The Others, a group of violent alien species, is over. Intergalactic peace is finally restored. Torin Kerr and her crew of ex-Marine friends have gone freelance – using their military experience as guns for hire. But this calm equilibrium cannot last.

Someone is searching for the lost weapons of the H’san: powerful tools capable of destroying entire planets. Though the H’san gave up fighting long ago, the reappearance of their weapons would no doubt lead to a devastating war. It is up to Torin Kerr and her team to fix this problem before it explodes. But the more Torin learns about the relationship between the Elder and Younger races, the more she fears war might be unavoidable…

So life as a Salvage Operator did not work out for Torin Kerr, and she and her crew of ex-marines and others have been making a living doing certain secret jobs for the Justice Department. But then Milatary Intelligence co-opt her to do a really secret job, secret even from the Justice Department: find the secret weapons cache of one of the older races, before the bad guys do and restart the war, and also before the older races find out they are looking and decide to do something drastic about the violent younger races. Soon she and her team are up to their necks in mayhem again.

It’s always good to see Torin at work. Here things are happening on a smaller scale, and we get to contrast Torin’s leadership style with that of the leader of the bad guys. We have the standard stereotypes of the alien marines, be they permanently in heat di’Taykan or totally omnivorous Krai, but these are being used to good effect in the plot. Also, there is some interesting character development. And whilst this book is complete in itself, the ending demonstrates that Torin and her crew will not be resting for long.

Tanya Huff.
A Peace Divided.
Titan. 2017

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 23 July 2017

Ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr drew together an elite corps of friends and allies to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not officially touch.

When the scientists doing a preliminary archaeological dig on a Class Two planet are taken hostage, Torin’s team is sent to free them. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the mercenaries holding them are a mix of Confederation and Primacy forces, and are looking for a weapon with power beyond anything previously known. Torin must contend with the politics of peace that have added members of the Primacy—former enemies—to her team. She will have to sift through shifting loyalties as she discovers that the line between “us” and “them” is anything but straight.

The continuing adventures of ex-Gunnery Sergeant now Warden Torin Kerr and her crew of ex-marines now Justice Department Strike Team Alpha. The bad guys are now criminals rather than enemy Primacy soldiers, and need to be arrested, not battled. That just makes the job harder. And when her crew is teamed up with a Primacy strike team, to help take down a mixed crew of kidnappers, it remains to be seen which way old loyalties will play out.

This is another fun self-contained plot, but clearly with an underlying arc of a covert bad guy who is not going to make Kerr’s life any easier, combined with some possible clues about the plastic aliens. It’s great to see Kerr’s forces working with a bunch of Primacy aliens, to rescue a bunch of Elder Races archaeologists. Huff does interesting aliens.

Tanya Huff.
The Privilege of Peace.
Titan. 2018

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 30 October 2018

Former space marine Torin Kerr returns for one final adventure to save the Confederation in the last book in the military science fiction Peacekeeper trilogy.

Warden Torin Kerr has put her past behind her and built a life away from the war and everything that meant. From the good, from the bad. From the heroics, from the betrayal. She’s created a place and purpose for others like her, a way to use their training for the good of the Confederation. She has friends, family, purpose.

Unfortunately, her past refuses to grant her the same absolution. Big Yellow, the ship form of the plastic aliens responsible for the war, returns. The Silsviss test the strength of the Confederation. Torin has to become Gunnery Sergeant Kerr once again and find a way to keep the peace.

The various threads from the previous two books – the Humans First terrorists, the discoveries made on the various planets by Torin Kerr's team, the Elder Races disdain for the warlike Younger Races – all come to a head when Big Yellow, the hostile alien plastic responsible for the war with the Primacy, returns.

This is billed as the final book in the (sub)trilogy, although the climactic revelation could hopefully lead to more adventures for Torin and her crew. It feels a little scrappy to start with, as events gradually pile up to force the final showdown. But that showdown is well handled, with lots of threads being tied up, some maybe a little too easily, and one enormously unexpected (to me) revelation, which makes me want to go and re-read the earlier books to see the clues I missed.

I hope this is not the last we see of Torin Kerr and the lovely Confederation aliens.

Tanya Huff.
Child of the Grove.
DAW. 1988

rating : 4.5 : passes the time
review : 4 January 2000

In this, her fist novel, Tanya Huff has not quite found her 'voice' yet. The first half of CotG is pretty much generic fantasy -- a world of faded Elders retreating into their Groves, interacting intermittently with Mortals to produce Powerful Children. And naturally there's trouble brewing: here the last of the evil Wizards, all thought destroyed a thousand years ago, is still around, trying to take over the world. The Elders bestir themselves just enough to create a final, good, Wizard -- Crystal -- to battle him.

Once Crystal appears on the scene, about half way through the book, the pace picks up a bit, and the Huff voice can be heard now and again, with acid comments from the various characters about their fates. It's all over a bit too soon, and a bit too easily, but the future promise of the author is visible.

Tanya Huff.
The Last Wizard.
DAW. 1989

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 5 January 2000

What do you do when you are the last wizard in the world, created for one specific purpose, after you have fulfilled that purpose? And when everybody around you either fears and hates you for being a wizard, or worships you for having saved the world? And when the stuff out of which your mind is made seems to be slowly unravelling? Go on a quest, of course.

This is much closer to Tanya Huff's 'voice' than its precursor CotG: the story of the wizard Crystal, the mortals Raulin and Jago, the giant Sokoji, the dwarf Doan, and of Lord Death, is less self-consciously mythic, and much more a tale of (extra)ordinary people. In particular, the characterisation of Lord Death is well done.

Tanya Huff.
The Enchantment Emporium.
DAW. 2009

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 4 July 2010

Alysha Gale is a daughter of the Gale family, with all that implies. So when a series of "coincidences" see her in Calgary, running her disappeared grandmother's junk shop, she is expecting weird stuff to happen, and will need to keep her Aunties at bay when it does. The Leprechaun is about par for the course, but the dragons are a bit worrying...

This is another great Huffian fantasy story, combining humour, pathos, and darkness very well. I particularly like the way that the early chapters just leap into the middle of the family reunion, not explaining anything of the weird behaviours of the family members. Just what the family actually is, and what the danger actually is, emerges throughout the book (a style I much prefer to those great gobs of up-front backstory exposition that lesser writers feel obliged to present). There are clues to the underlying puzzle planted along the way, but they are so well interwoven with the overall story that I found them hard to spot until afterwards.

I hope there are more stories in Alysha's world.

Tanya Huff.
The Wild Ways.
DAW. 2011

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 29 December 2012

Charlie Gale has been living relatively quietly in Calgary with her cousin Allie (whose story was told in The Enchantment Emporium), and with her young cousin Jack the Dragon Prince. But Charlie Gale's talent is a Wild one, and she's soon on her travels again, off to play with a Celtic folk band in an East Coast music festival. There she discovers several Selkies in distress: their skins have been stolen by an oil company, and they are being blackmailed into raising no objections to a drilling platform. What concerns Charlie is here Auntie Catherine is the one stealing the skins, for reasons unknown. Charlie soon finds herself pitted against another, much more experienced, Gale Wild Power.

This took a while to get started, with some background events carried over from the previous book. But once Charlie leaves home and starts playing with her new band, the pace doesn't let up. The plot hares off in lots of unexpected directions, and it's not clear whether Charlie will beat Catherine, or whether Catherine is actually to one doing the "right" thing. I'm looking forward to more Gale adventures, especially with dragon Jack growing into his new role.

Tanya Huff.
The Future Falls.
DAW. 2014

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 25 June 2015

When Charlotte Gale’s aunt warns their magical family of an approaching asteroid, they scramble to keep humanity from going the way of the dinosaurs. Although between Charlie’s complicated relationship with sorcerer Jack, her cousin Allie’s hormones, the Courts having way too much fun at the end of days, and Jack’s sudden desire to sacrifice himself for the good of the many, Charlie’s fairly certain that the asteroid is the least of her problems.

But together there isn’t anything the Gales can’t deal with—except possibly each other.

There’s an extinction event asteroid on collision course with earth. It’s too close for NASA to deflect. The Gale family magic might help, but the Aunties are only interested in saving the family, not the whole world. It’s up to Charlie Gale, Wild Power, and her forbidden dragon love Jack, to stop the rock. But first they have to deal with the rest of the family, and a few annoying elves.

More fun with the deeply weird Gale family, focussing again on Charlie and her music. The solution to the Jack problem is hinted at (they even discuss it, and say why it won’t work), and the teddy bears are put to good use. The final resolution happens offstage, but the circumstances enabling it will probably echo through the next book in the series (I hope there is one!)

Tanya Huff.
Summon the Keeper.
DAW. 1998

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 10 May 1998

Claire Hansen is a Keeper, one of the people who patch up the fabric of the Universe when it has been torn, to stop the evil leaking through. She and her cat Austin have been Summoned to a guesthouse, where she finds herself in charge, with an evil Keeper asleep for the last 50 years in room 6, being used to plug a hole to Hell in the furnace room. And why doesn't room 4 have any windows?

The premiss sounds usual enough, and there's plenty of tension as Claire battles with the various evils, with a real chance of there being no satisfactory solution. But what raises this above many others in its genre is the glorious surreal humour of the subplots: any author who can use the term post-necrophilia guilt in context, humorously, and not at all distastefully, has my vote! The constant fights between Claire and the cat Austin over what he can eat -- Austin's relationship with the mice -- the interactions between Claire, the handyman Dean, and the ghost Jacques -- the upper-case monologues Hell has with itself -- the succession of weird travellers who arrive at the guesthouse -- are a delight.

Tanya Huff.
The Second Summoning.
Tor. 2001

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 20 April 2001

More adventures with Claire Hansen the Keeper, her smart-mouthed cat Austin, and her new boyfriend Dean. Between them, Claire, Dean, and Claire's younger sister, Diana, an even more powerful Keeper, but rather undisciplined, are partly responsible for the intrusion of a very confused teenage angel and balancing demon into the world.

Just as consistently funny as the first in the series, but not quite so deep or dark. The angel trying to help people who don't want to be helped is almost as funny as the demon trying to be nasty to people who think she's just a typical teenager. So, delicious froth, but not quite enough substance.

Tanya Huff.
Long Hot Summoning.
Tor. 2003

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 24 May 2003

Diana Hansen, Claire's more powerful younger sister, is looking forward to leaving school, and becoming a full time Keeper. And her first Summons comes one minute after she leaves. It leads her, and her cat Sam, to a mall with Dark goings-on. Realising how serious it all is, she calls in help from Claire and Austin. On the Otherside of the Mall, they discover some street kids turned elves, being led by a young Arthur, fighting against the encroaching Darkness. Mayhem ensues, accompanied by walk-on parts from mummys and Egyptian gods, talking mirrors, and a strangely familiar midget basketball team, as Diana realises she may have to make the Ultimate Sacrifice to put things right.

A strong third book in the series. It's not as laugh-aloud funny as the first -- but the humour is still good. And it has a roller-coaster plot that zooms from one calamity to the next, and you wonder how, or even if, everything will come right in the end. A bit like the Buffy show it mentions a few times, and like Duane's Wizard series, it manages a breathless mix of humour, danger, and real moral dilemmas.

Tanya Huff.
What Ho, Magic!.
Meisha Merlin. 1999

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 13 November 1999

I'll read anything written by Tanya Huff. It took me a while to realise this -- maybe because I hadn't mentally linked the author of the Quarters books and the Vicki Nelson books. But by the time I'd read Summon the Keeper, I'd realised that all this disparate good stuff was coming from the same author. So I leapt at this collection -- despite it costing nearly twice as much as a mass market paperback.

The stories are a mixed bag, ranging from the okay to the really rather good. Off-beat characterisation is what Huff is best at, which is hard to do in a short story. So the ones about Vicki Nelson work best in that respect (if you've read the novels) because the background is there. And it can be hard to develop rising tension in such a short space. "A Debt Unpaid" probably does that best, and sticks in the mind the longest. And a few of these verge more to horror that to SF or fantasy. But, as I said, I'll read anything by Tanya Huff.


The Chase is On. 1989
A spaceship Captain finds an unwanted stowaway -- with two very powerful competing factions in pursuit. (Pure space opera, with some amusing touches, but nothing special.)
Underground. 1992
He always preferred being under things -- so a job in subway maintenance seemed ideal. But his supervisor was in for a shock.
I'll Be Home for Christmas. 1992
Elaine is trying to give her daughter Katie a real Christmas, but it seems their new farmhouse, especially the cellar, isn't cooperating.
Shing Li-ung. 1992
Donna Chen inherits a dragon talisman from her dying grandmother -- which could be quite useful protection for a Chinese-Canadian with a rebellious brother. (Quite interesting, but a little over-earnest.)
First Love, Last Love. 1993
That old car rusting in the back garden looks very familiar...
Word of Honor. 1995
Pat Tarrill gives her word to a dying man to return an artifact to Scotland. (I think this is the best story in the book.)
The Harder They Fall. 1995
When his daughter sees a tiny dragon, Colin discovers to his delight that magic is real ... but it's not quite what he expected.
A Debt Unpaid. 1995
The mine safety engineer bears some of the responsibility for the mine accident -- but there are others who owe a debt, too.
February Thaw. 1997
Spring comes early when Persephone quarrels with Hades, and returns home to Demeter. Demeter is horrified, not just because the seasons are out of whack, but because Persephone won't allow her to continue her winter slob-out in front of the TV.
Symbols are a Percussion Instrument. 1997
Cynthia doesn't believe in the Tarot reading, so the Tarot has to take extreme measures to get her to notice.
A Midsummer Night's Dream Team. 1997
The elves join in the Olympics
This Town Ain't Big Enough. 1995
Vicky Nelson discovers someone else on her patch. (The events take place soon after the end of Blood Pact)
What Manner of Man. 1996
Henry Fitzroy has an adventure in Regency England.
The Cards Also Say. 1997
A Romani warns Vicky Nelson that someone is trying to kill her -- and may well succeed.
The Vengeful Spirit of Lake Nepeakea. 1999
Vicky Nelson and Mike Celluci investigate some strange happenings at Lake Nepeakea. Is it just that the locals are trying to scare away a property developer -- or is there really a monster in the lake?

Tanya Huff.
Relative Magic.
Meisha Merlin. 2003

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 14 February 2004

Another collection of short stories. I think these work rather better than the previous collection -- maybe Huff is getting better at squashing her trademark off-beat characterisations into short stories. And several of the stories left me wanting more -- especially those of the thief Terizan -- can we hope for a whole novel based on her exploits?


Burning Bright. 1999
When Carlene's mother Beth Aswith dies, she remembers that she is more fire than human. But she likes being human. So it's up to her and her eccentric friend to convince the squabbling wizards to restore her.
When the Student is Ready. 2002
Beth Aswith's death has left a hole in the ranks of the wizards. Her power passes to a new host, who must be trained before the dark powers catch her unawares. But is a down-and-out street wizard the best teacher?
Nanite, Star Bright. 2002
A great little retelling of the fairy tale of the shoemaker and the elves, in a SFnal setting.
All Things Being Relative. 2001
A villainous queen tells the story of her bloody route to the throne to a very apprehensive scribe.
Now Entering the Ring. 1999
Wrestling as catharsis.
Death Rites. 2001
An early job for brother and sister assassins Bannon and Vree (before the setting of Fifth Quarter), as they must break a treasonous siege, caused by the stupidity of the King's cousin-marshal.
Someone to Share the Night. 2001
Henry Fitzroy (Blood series, set after the last book) discovers he is lonely without Vicki, so advertises in a singles column. The responses make him realise how much he has changed.
Oh Glorious Sight. 2001
How John Cabot's sailing to the new world had a helping hand.
Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice. 2001
A 15-year-old genius trapped in a four-year-old's body get her revenge on the doctors experimenting on her.
Another Fine Nest. 2002
Vicki Nelson (Blood series, set after the last book) is contacted by a nerd to hunt down a nest of blood-sucking King-tics preying on subway travellers. It becomes personal after she discovers Mike Celluci has been bitten...
To Each His Own Kind. 2001
Dracula in Victorian London.
Nights of the Round Table. 2002
Mother Orlan, a cleaner at Camelot, dispenses common-sense advice to King Arthur's knights. Her granddaughter helps her, also dispensing harmless advice...
Succession. 2002
A tale of securing the succession in ancient Egypt.
Swan's Braid. 1996
Terizan the thief applies to join the Thieves' Guild. Her test -- the seemingly simple task of stealing the braid of the great mercenary leader, Swan.
In Mysterious Ways. 1997
Terizan the thief is charged with stealing from a god -- an act which would normally result in a short, uncomfortable remaining life for the thief. But Terizan is no normal thief.
The Lions of Al'kalamir. 1999
Swan asks Terizan to steal some royal regalia for her employer. It is very well guarded.
Sometimes, Just Because. 2003
Terizan is commissioned to steal from a wizard -- a task normally fraught with grave peril. But then she discovers that the real task is even more dangerous.

Tanya Huff.
Stealing Magic.
Edge. 2005

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 27 August 2006

Magdalene is the most powerful wizard in the world. This might be a problem for everyone else, but fortunately she has no desire for power -- she prefers lounging round in the sunshine, or bedding attractive young men. But warlords, wizards and demons keep disturbing her peace, and need to be put in their place.

Terizan is the best thief in the city, and so the Thieves Guild, fearful of the competition, keep giving her seemingly impossible tasks. Will they manage to find one Terizan can't succeed at?

This collection of short stories, the front half about Magdalene, the back half (flip the book up the other way and start reading from the other front!) about Terizan, are written with Huff's usual amusing light touch, enhanced with a clever plot resolution. Fun stuff.


Be It Ever So Humble. 1991
Magdalene, the most powerful wizard in the world, just wants to find a village where she can live peacefully.
Swan's Braid. 1996
Terizan the thief applies to join the Thieves' Guild. Her test -- the seemingly simple task of stealing the braid of the great mercenary leader, Swan.
In Mysterious Ways. 1997
Terizan the thief is charged with stealing from a god -- an act which would normally result in a short, uncomfortable remaining life for the thief. But Terizan is no normal thief.
The Lions of Al'kalamir. 1999
Swan asks Terizan to steal some royal regalia for her employer. It is very well guarded.
Sometimes, Just Because. 2003
Terizan is commissioned to steal from a wizard -- a task normally fraught with grave peril. But then she discovers that the real task is even more dangerous.
The Last Lesson. 1989
Apprentice Magdelene learns that she is the most powerful wizard in the world when her master attempts to steal those powers, much to his discomfort.
Mirror, Mirror, On the Lam. 1997
A thief steals the demon-containing mirror from Magdalene, forcing her to exert herself before the demon is freed.
Third Time Lucky. 1986
A powerful wizard keeps challenging Magdalene to prove that she is more powerful than him, not remembering that he has failed before.
And Who is Joah?. 1987
An apprentice arrives to learn from Magdalene, but gets captured in the demon world.
Nothing Up Her Sleeve. 1993
The conclave of wizards decide to strip Magdalene of her powers. Then demons attack them.
We Two May Meet. 2002
Magdalene gets split into two personalities, and must find out how to remerge before the demons come pouring through the portal into this world.

Tanya Huff.
Finding Magic.
ISFiC Press. 2007

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 16 April 2018

Another good collection of Tanya Huff short stories. A few have appeared in previous collections, but most are here for the first time. Some are set in on-going series; some are stand-alone. All show how Huff's work, always readable, continues to improve.


I knew a guy once. 2003
Able Harris, the new barkeep on Io mining station, has her work cut out, not just pouring drinks, but somehow keeping the station stress levels under control.
Choice of ending. 2005
Mrs Ruth, eldest avatar of the triple Goddess, needs to complete just one more task before she passes her power.
He said, Sidhe said. 2004
The Queen of Faerie's bad taste in men strikes again as she takes a skateborder home.
After School Specials. 2006
Tony Foster is training Brianna, his boss's daughter, in magic, which is useful, as her school has a poltergeist.
Finding Marcus. 2004
Rueben the dog is chasing his lost owner Marcus through a series of portals; he meets Dawn the crow on his travels.
Jack. 2004
Jack and the Beanstalk meets the 21st century.
Slow Poison. 2005
How can the palace Cook fight back against the barbarian conqueror? Food fight!
Tuesday evenings, six thirty to seven. 2006
A rather different kind of Brownie pack.
Blood in the water. 2007
Shapeshifter Navy Seals tackle a sea serpent.
Not that Kind of War. 2005
A Confederation story. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr has a new, gung-ho Leuitenant to take care of, during a retreat.
Under Summons. 2006
Keeper Diana Hansen and Sam the cat are Summoned to cure a problem at Main Duck Island; to Sam's disgust the problem is under water.
A Woman's Work .... 2007
Queen Arabel has read the Evil Overlord list, and knows what to do when a Hero turns up.
The thing everyone knows. 2007
Terizan the thief is tasked with discovering if there is a conspiracy, but how to find proof of nothing?
We Two May Meet. 2002
Magdalene gets split into two personalities, and must find out how to remerge before the demons come pouring through the portal into this world.
The Demon's Den. 1997
A Herald is trapped in a collapsed mine; the only person who can save him is a mining engineer badly crippled in a previous accident.
Brock. 2003
Brock, called half-wit by the villagers, claims he is a Herald. Then two real Heralds arrive. Their Companions are strangely supportive of Brock.
All the Ages of Man. 2005
Circumstances oblige Herald Jors to mentor the young, attractive Herald Alyise on her Internship, but he's worried that he's too young for the responsibility.

Tanya Huff.
Sing the Four Quarters.
DAW. 1994

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 1 June 1996

Annice, sister to King Theron of Shkoder, is a Bard: she can Sing the spirits (kigh) of earth, air, fire and water, and can get them to help her out in various ways (communicate with other bards, push boats against the current, ...). Because she would not follow his plans for a politically arranged marriage, the King has disinherited her, and forbidden her to bear a child.

Now she's in trouble: not just pregnant, but pregnant by Pjerin, a man who has been condemned to death for treason. Annice and Pjerin don't even like each other, but are forced unwilling on the quest to clear his name together, and, naturally, save the kingdom from peril (of invasion by their larger neighbour, Cemandia). Annice's own lover, Stasya, another bard, is drawn into the danger, too.

This is saved from being just another generic "bardic fantasy quest" by the earthy, interesting characters, who don't always react in the 'obvious' way.

Tanya Huff.
Fifth Quarter.
DAW. 1995

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 19 July 1996

Vree and Bannon are sister and brother, assassins in the Empire's army. On one mission, their target, Gyhard, traps them, stealing Bannon's body. Vree saves Bannon from death by catching his expelled kigh ('spirit') in her own body.

Their quest is to find Gyhard and get Bannon's body back. But it's not as easy as that. Gyhard wants to steal Prince Otavas' body (and hence power), and Vree and Bannon's oath to the Emperor means they have to stop him. But Kars, an old, mad lover of Gyhard's, who robs graves to reanimate the recently-dead, has already stolen Otavas, mistaking him for a younger Gyhard. So Vree, Bannon, Gerhard, and Karlene (a Shkodern bard who feels responsible for Otavas' capture) together try to rescue him --- all for different reasons.

Set about 16 years after Sing the Four Quarters, the action takes place in the Havalkeen Empire bordering Shkoder. Again, the reasonably complex characters make this an interesting story. For example, Bannon, the 'victim', isn't particularly likeable, whilst Gyhard, ostensibly the 'villain', is the more sympathetic character.

Tanya Huff.
No Quarter.
DAW. 1996

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 31 July 1996

Set immediately after Fifth Quarter, and continuing its story, the action takes place in Shkoder.

Bannon has his body back, Vree having swapped his kigh for Gyhard's in her own body. Vree travels to Shkoder to get help for Gyhard from the bards; Bannon travels to Shkoder to get Vree back and get his revenge on Gyhard; Karlene travels to Shkoder to escape the wrath of the Emperor (she had lied about Gyhard being dead); Kars travels to Shkoder for no very apparent reason, causing his usual havoc as he reanimates the dead (he has stopped robbing graves for his bodies -- he's now killing people in order to reanimate them). Everyone joins forces to defeat Kars, squabbling amongst themselves in the usual way.

The plots are getting more involved, with more characters appearing (we meet many old friends from Sing the Four Quarters, now rather older), but Tanya Huff manages to handle the multiple viewpoints reasonably well.

Another good romp.

Tanya Huff.
The Quartered Sea.
DAW. 1999

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 10 March 2000

Benedikt is a bard who can sing only one quarter -- water. The other bards go to such lengths to point out that this isn't a problem that he is convinced it is -- and feels rather sorry for himself. To prove himself, he volunteers for a dangerous mission, and ends up shipwrecked in a treacherous foreign land, prey to brutal rival factions who want to use his abilities to further their own ends. He needs to convince himself he truly is a Bard of Shkoder, before misuse of his powers puts a whole people in danger.

A rather darker tone than the previous books, with Benedikt at first moping about in Shkoder, then undergoing some horrific experiences in the foreign land. The culture is well drawn, but so deeply unpleasant it is not really a place I much want to visit, even in fiction. A few of the characters seem to do things or feel things just to move the plot forward, but Benedikt's grim ordeals that take him from sulky youngster to mature bard are convincing.

Definitely not a romp, though.

Tanya Huff.
Blood Price.
DAW. 1991

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 11 January 1999

I don't really like vampire novels. So why have I read the first eight of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books in the last seven months, and why have I started on a whole new series by a different author? Well, it's not the vampires -- honest -- it's the sassy, sarcastic detectives.

Vicki Nelson was a cop, a brilliant homicide detective, until failing eyesight made her quit the Toronto police force and the job she loved. She hasn't really got over it yet. Then one night she discovers the grisly remains of a corpse in what turns out to be the first of a series of gruesome killings. The tabloids are quick to scream 'Vampire'. Henry Fitzroy is a vampire; and he knows the killings are due to something much worse. The two of them have to stop the real killer before all Hell breaks loose.

Vicki is not quite in Anita Blake's almost-superhero league -- she's just a (relatively) ordinary person with one great skill: solving murders. But there are some good touches: having a vampire hunter with non-existent night vision is just one of them. And the flashbacks of Henry's earlier life add some depth, too. So, not tremendously rip-roaring, but some good solid vampire detection, and interesting characters.

Tanya Huff.
Blood Trail.
DAW. 1992

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 15 January 1999

Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of King Henry VIII, now Vampire, has some werewolf friends who have a problem: someone is shooting them with silver bullets, and they can't go to the police. So he calls in PI Vicki Nelson to help. But there are complications: her boyfriend Detective-Sergeant Mike Celluci is suspicious of Henry, has been investigating his background, turns up to confront him, and accidentally witnesses a werewolf Change.

Some more good detective work, snappy one-liners, and action. The werewolves are well drawn: their behaviour is different enough from human to feel alien. And it makes a pleasant change for vampires and werewolves to be the Good Guys.

Tanya Huff.
Blood Lines.
DAW. 1993

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 15 January 1999

Getting out of the museum had been a lot less complicated than getting in; Henry had simply caught the guard's eye, then the two of them had walked right on by. Vicki hadn't been able to stop herself from muttering, "These are not the droids you're looking for."

Mike Celluci investigates a death at the Royal Ontario Museum, and a strange set of incidents convince him there is a killer mummy on the loose in Toronto. Well, obviously Vicki Nelson and Henry Fitzroy are the only people he can confide in. So they set out to track down the evil acolyte of an evil ancient Egyptian god, who might well turn out to be too powerful for them.

Lots of nice Egyptology, and Bela Lugosi jokes. Vicki seems to be coming to terms with her deteriorating vision, and it actually gives her a small advantage at one point. Henry is made an offer he might not be able to refuse; Vicki is forced to experience her own worst nightmare; Mike might just have to shoot his boss. And finally, we discover what Vicki keeps in that bag. Rather too many coincidences needed to drive the plot, but still the best of the series so far.

Tanya Huff.
Blood Pact.
DAW. 1993

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 16 January 1999

Dr. Burke turned and transferred her glare to the radio. "If they're doing another '70s retrospective, we're changing stations. I lived through disco once, I shouldn't have to do it again."

Vicki Nelson gets a devastating phone call: her mother has dropped dead with a heart attack. Grimly holding on to her control, she travels to her mother's town to arrange the funeral. But at the service, a gruesome discovery is made: the body is missing. Then Vicki sees her dead mother at the window, and what started out as a simple body-snatching case quickly develops into its full Frankensteinian horror. And if Vicki's mother is walking dead, what will happen to her when she is finally tracked down?

Rather fewer snappy one-liners, and rather more angst, as Vicki has to come to terms with her mother's death, and with her relationship with Henry Fitzroy and Mike Celluci. Good stuff, with a cracking finale in the laboratory, but I could have done with fewer Mad Scientists.

Tanya Huff.
Blood Debt.
DAW. 1997

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 17 January 1999

"It feels like there's something missing, but I don't know what. It feels wrong, but I don't know what it needs to make it feel right. Oh, God." She let her head drop onto her knees. "I'm writing country music again. I hate it when that happens."

Henry Fitzroy, now living in Vancouver, finds himself being haunted by a ghost each sunset as he awakes. Who you gonna call? Well, Vicki Nelson, PI, that's who. Although he's not sure he will survive the recent change in their relationship.

I can see why Tanya Huff left the series in limbo for a few years, after nearly writing herself into a corner at the end of Blood Pact. That's always the problem when people and relationships grow and develop: you can't just write the same book over and over again, but you run the risk of losing the features that made the series fun in the first place. She pulls it off quite well, however, letting the characters change believably, and letting them realise and accept how they have changed, without sacrificing the underlying detective plot. We get fewer Highlander-esque flashbacks of Henry's earlier life, but just as many deliciously acid observations and wisecracks. But I could have done with fewer Evil Doctors.

Tanya Huff.
Smoke and Shadows.
DAW. 2004

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 17 May 2005

Tony Foster, ex-lover of vampire Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of King Henry VIII, has a job on a TV set in Vancouver, He's a production assistant on Darkest Night, which features a vampire detective. He starts seeing strange things in the shadows, and comes to realise something weird is going on, and that the special effects wizard knows more than she is saying. Because she's a real wizard, refugee from another world, and the Shadowlord is coming to get her, destroying everything in his path. It's up to Tony to stop the Shadowlord, save the world, and hang on to his job. With a little help from Henry.

Set in the same universe as the Vicki Nelson books, but without Vicki herself, I wondered if the spin-off series could keep up the pace. It does. Tony is an engaging character in his own right, and there's all the characteristic Huff style of wisecracking comments about popular culture, a wry appreciation of what it would really be like if these sort of events happened in the everyday world, mixed in with a real sense of doom, danger, and darkness. A good start to a new series.

Tanya Huff.
Smoke and Mirrors.
DAW. 2005

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 23 December 2006

Tony Foster has a problem with the location shoot for a haunted house episode of the TV Vampire Detective series Darkest Night: the house really is haunted! He, several cast members and crew, and his boss's two awful daughters, get trapped in the house, which starts sending them mad and trying to kill each other. Only Tony knows what to do, and the others don't trust him, especially as their supressed memories of the horrific events in Smoke and Shadows start to return.

This is fun. The haunted house is scarily done, and all the usual cliches woven in beautifully, and experienced by a cast of characters who know those cliches, and react in classic Huff style to that knowledge.

Tanya Huff.
Smoke and Ashes.
DAW. 2006

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 16 June 2007

Tony Foster, now Trainee Assistant Director on TV's premier Vampire Detective show, meets a Demongate: a three thousand year old woman whose continued existence is all that is preventing a demon from breaking through and wreaking havoc. But a demonic convergence is allowing other demons to break through, and try to kill her. Tony must protect her, stop the other demons, and save the world, all while trying to placate a suspicious Mountie, a tabloid journalist with a nose for the truth, his workmates, and his vampire lover Henry Fitzroy. All in a day's work. Literally.

This continues to be fun. The snappy dialogue, as people well versed in the modern world meet supernatural powers, is very well done, as usual. And this is all mixed with a real sense of menace and fear. Huff (like Duane) is an author who can makes doing good be interesting, fun, exciting, and worthwhile (and frightening, painful, and heart-tearing), whilst letting evil be petty and small and unglamorous.