Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Hunter Burrows used to be an insurance investigator on Earth. But something happened 6 months ago and Hunter ended up a shifter of unknown species who was transported to Nightshade, a literal city of monsters in a near-Earth dimension called Dev. Nightshade is filled with vampires, weres of all types, zombies, reverse tooth fairies, and yes, even Yetis. Left somewhat amnesiac by the transition between dimensions, Hunter learns that having a job is high priority and becomes a finder for a fee. Since Hunter doesn’t know what type of shifter he is, he can pass between territories when on a mission.
Still Hunter is depressed about his new status and, apparently permanent, new city. He spends his time gambling and drinking, taking jobs when necessary to eat and pay the rent. But all that changes when Hunter runs into a new arrival in Nightshade. Sakari Karim has just been transported into Nightshade and Hunter fears leaving a “newbie” alone on the streets. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Sakura is handsome and gay as well.
When Hunter is pressed into looking for the twin brother of a reverse tooth fairy, Sakura comes along to help. Will Sakari change Hunter’s luck? Will Hunter and Sakari ever find out what type of weres they are? Is romance in the cards for Hunter and Sakari? Take a trip into the city of Nightshade for the answers and a ton of fun too!
I am a fan of Andrea Speed. From Infected‘s Roan to Josh of the Damned and all manner of creatures in between, Andrea Speed’s inventive and somewhat warped mind continues to create some of the funniest, wildest, and over the top species and worlds around.
In City of Monsters, Speed returns to her Josh of the Damned universe, a place ruled by Medusa, the god who runs this particular universe. Nightshade the city is full of dark towers, condominiums for the unearthly, the slums of Dog Town where packs of werewolves roam and trash piles up to the ordered and upscale vampire district where vampire run casinos are always open and suckers are not always willing. All types of beings go about their businesses here, including several that we have meet before in the Josh of the Damned series, like the lizard people, the reverse tooth fairies and the Yeti. I couldn’t have been happier to have them back.
Into this maelstrom of the supernatural and unearthly are plopped former human beings who were unlucky enough to have a magical animal attack/encounter on Earth and have been transformed into a type of were or supernatural being. Upon being bitten or what have you, the unlucky person is transferred to Dev almost immediately, losing most of their memories in the process. What a shock to the system and that has made Hunter an unhappy boy! I love that Speed brings this weirdly attractive and out of whack place vividly to life. Nightshade itself is easily pictured from the clear images her descriptions convey. There is the classy vampire district that lies next to Dog Town, a smelly place where the werewolves pee constantly marking their territory and the buildings resemble that of a slum. The intersection of Pierce Avenue and Barker Lane mark the division of territories…of course! The vampire boss of the casino is called Macula (duh) whose gang of poseurs calls itself Bloody Monday, a criminal gang called the Lobos that operates out of dog town, and Mustafa, a vegan vampire who faints at the sight of blood and favors Hawaiian shirts, sno cones, while trying to stay out of everyones way.
In Andrea Speed’s world, no detail is too small to play with, no large element too big to get its own makeover ala Nightshade style. It’s funny, sometimes priceless and yes, there’s a romance as well. Hunter is depressed, lonely, and constantly plagued by his possessed blender for fresh fruit to make smoothies. Yep, one of the funniest characters is Blender, a happy, fruit loving blender with a need to please and make delightful concoctions. A true favorite of mine! Back to Hunter, he is also an out of control gambler who tries to forget his woes at the local vampire casinos, never a good idea. His occupation? He finds things, creatures, what ever you want because he can cross territories that others cannot. We don’t get a lot of back history on Hunter or even Sakari, because we can’t. The trip in between dimensions robs them of their memories of their past lives for the most part. So Nightshade really represents a tabula rasa for them. It will be what they make of it, if they survive that is.
I wish that Hunter and Sakari had more time together to make the burgeoning romance between them more a thing of sexual heat and attraction than circumstance and availability. I really liked what I learned of Sakari, including an ongoing need for an adrenaline rush. Had this story been enlarged a bit to include more of their new life together, that would have made their relationship feel more authentic than it does in places here. But if the romance comes across a little less substantial, Speed makes up for it with her hysterical and addictive characters. Terry the reverse tooth fairy missing her twin brother Larry. Wulf the head of the Lobo gang and all are unable to make their cell phones work. Why? No one is sure but “they bet Verizon is involved”.
I laughed, I guffawed, and had to keep going back to reread certain paragraphs that I missed because I was giggling too hard to read. I only wish that Josh and the others had shown up as well. Then this would have been perfect. As it is Dev and the city of Nightshade are locations that I can never visit frequently enough. I leave the stories wanting more of the characters, their wild new lives, and wanting to see all the city inhabitants I haven’t met yet. I want to know where the Yetis live and the lizard people too. More I say, much, much more, please!
If you are looking for romance alone, this might not be the story for you. But if you love to laugh, enjoy clever jokes and a neat turn of phrase , zany storylines, as well as characters you will never forget, then Andrea Speed should be a “go to” author for you. Enjoy the insanely delicious bon mots that are tossed here and there, the cultural references obscure and common, and the creativity that flows from start to end. I loved it and read it twice to get all the bits and pieces I missed the first time around. For bonus stories, also pick up the Josh of the Damned stories, short reads all but irresistibly hard to put down.
Cover art by Simone. Loved it, what a fun graphic!
Note: This title is part of the My Haunted Blender’s Gay Love Affair, and Other Twisted Tales collection. – See more at Riptide Publishing City of Monsters page.
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing All Romance eBooks (ARe) Amazon City of Monsters
Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1
Peek-A-Boo (Josh of the Damned #2)
Josh of the Damned #3.5: Night of the Dust Bunnies
Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #2: The Final Checkout
ebook, 80 pages
Published August 11th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titleCity of Monsters