Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
The Autumnal equinox—when the trees dress in their formal scarlet and gold and the crisp air whispers of chance and change, when bright days turn into sudden storms and the veil between reality and imagination thins. Join the Mischief Corner authors as they share stories evoking this often unpredictable time of year.
I’m really hooked on these seasonal anthologies that Mischief Corner Books is rolling out each year. The stories they contain spark the imagination, pull up memories of old mythologies forgotten, and just plain entertain. And sometimes they bring that twinge of something more, something a little painful, joyful and unexpected. That was certainly Travels Through The Scarlet Equinox, a more surprising mixup of stories that, upon reflection, works together for four tales of change. Ah, the Autumnal equinox…
A Bear’s Bear by Toni Griffin Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Matthew Warner’s been a Chicago Bears fan as far back as he can remember. What other team was a young bear shifter from the Smokey Mountains supposed to root for? When his college friend gets tickets to the next home game, Matthew jumps at the chance for a holiday. It’s his favorite time of year and Nic promises him pumpkin carving and a visit to the world’s largest corn maze, what more could he want?
What Matthew doesn’t expect is finding out the defensive tackle for the Bears is his mate. Between fainting at the realization, meeting family, and dealing with the media fallout of his mate’s coming out Matthew is in for a hell of a rocky Halloween.
Toni Griffin’s bear shifters have really won me over. I can’t believe I’m saying this but this story is the “most normal” of the group. A young, shy bear shifter travels to see friends in Chicago and carry out a service for his Alpha at the same time. When those two elements combine into a meeting with his Alpha’s best friend in Chicago, the unexpected happens and not just for Matthew. I loved the author’s descriptions of Matthew and Hudson, they definitely exhibit bear-like tendencies, the emotions flowing between them feel real and the story exudes a lot of heart and warmth.
The Autumn Lands by J. Scott Coatsworth. Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Jerrith is running. Kissed by an elf, he can’t remain in his hometown of Althos anymore. Not that he wanted to stay.
Caspian still hasn’t figured out why he kissed Jerrith, but he’s running too. Since he was exiled from the Autumn Lands, his past has been hazy, and his future uncertain. But when a stray memory brings things into focus, the two decide to run toward something together. What they uncover will change how they see the world, and themselves, forever.
I loved this story. I felt Coatsworth’s world building was amazing as was his characterization. It was so close to perfect, hurt only by the short length. It cried out for a longer novel so certain elements, which needed to be expanded, could be more fully told. The author’s use of certain standard elements pertaining to physiology in a non conventional way was unexpected and quite wonderful (no spoilers here, sorry).
And then there is the romance between Cas and Jerrith which is touching and so sweet. Almost a Romeo and Juliet or Jules if you prefer. I thought the ending was in keeping with the mythology the author had established and worked so well within the framework of the story. However, I can hear some of you now. You won’t be pleased. Sigh.
Beside a Black Tarn by Angel Martinez Rating: 5 stars out of 5
When Shax stumbles across rumors of an experimental house that responds to the occupant’s brain functions, creating scenarios to please and delight, naturally he wants to steal it. But with the return of a troubled and hunted Julian Parallax and an overabundance of Poe references, even Shax’s scheming may not be enough to get the Brimstone crew out alive this time.
Of course, Angel Martinez had me at Shax. But then she brought back Julian Parallax and my happiness was complete.
Once again the crew of the Brimstone is off on a misadventure but this time the stakes are unexpectedly high…their lives and sanity. Angel Martinez has always managed to find a way to combine humor and horror in her tales and here she has done it once more.
I loved Julian Parallax from the earlier story Potato Surprise and was thrilled to see him return. But of course trouble was not far behind, troubles of the demon prince scale, troubles of the sort that brought horrors that gave have me the shudders and shivers. To counter that Angel Martinez also gives us elements of humor and romance. The author introduced a new crew member, Maximillian, the marvelous pink, opera singing millipede. And two crew members finally get their chance at love.
In between, things get blown up, there are imps getting ballet lessons, things go splat and there are Ron Perlman references. Be still my heart!
I loved this story, especially the promise it hung out there of Julian and Shax and the crew working together sometime in the future. What a tale that will be.
Eternity in the Tides by Freddy MacKay Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Autumn has always been Zak’s favorite season for hiking and camping. Not to mention breathing in all that crisp fall air and sitting around toasty bonfires. That all changed year and a half ago when a rich prick high on prescription pills sideswiped Zak while he was out biking.
Now his days are filled with pain and limited mobility. No more camping. No more trails. Zak’s life as he knew it is gone forever.
Back at his beloved stomping grounds, Zak is ready to say hello and goodbye one last time. But when a cry from the frigid Lake Superior waters throws him into the role of a rescuer, more than just his life hangs in the balance. Little did Zak know how much one person giving a damn mattered to him.
It’s stories like these that make me want to kick myself. It happened in the Chestnuts Roasting Anthology and now here again in Travels Through the Scarlet Equinox. It seems to take an anthology for me to find Freddy MacKay all over again. This time I’m making a ginormous post it note and sticking it on the monitor because this story exemplifies why she should never be forgotten.
The beginning of this tale is so haunting, so realistically painful I stayed up reliving it after the story was through, that and many other scenes throughout this moving story. You flow into Zak’s life at what is possibly the lowest point of his life, where all the pain, frustration and rage has combined to let Zak decide to commit suicide by drowning himself. Every dreadful moment of his decision, each pain-filled movement he makes in the boat, every memory from the day forward when his body was demolished, the author makes Zak real and his predicament immediate and heartbreaking.
Then in his boat, he hears a nearby splash and cries. Then realizes someone is drowning. And makes a decision that changes the course of his life forever when he cuts a man free of fish nets, saving him from drowning and putting off his own suicide.
We forget that most of the old fairytales were equal parts horror stories but not Freddy MacKay. The author remembers that there is always a price to pay, that what one person may think is marvelous, another will covet, what one will want, another will reject or destroy. Eternity in the Tides pulls in Chinese mermaid mythology, old lore specifically (including some horrific elements), and mixes it with modern science of genetics and combines it all with a touching romance that teaches about hope and new possibilities, just not in the way you might think.
There is so much beauty here, beauty and blood. Love and hate. Forever happiness…just not what you might predict. The ending and the epilogue will surprise you. I did find myself sobbing more than once. It was the perfect way to end this anthology. And I promise myself, it won’t take another anthology to find Freddy MacKay again.
I highly recommend this collection of stories. If you are expecting four stories of exactly the same thing, this is not the collection for you. But if you love exploring, have a bit of the heart of a adventure lover in you, seek this one out, it won’t disappoint. Startle you, make you laugh, make you cry, and make you start reading them all over again, certainly. But never disappoint.
Cover art by Freddy MacKay is sort of perfect for this collection.
ebook, First, 485 pages
Published November 18th 2015 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC
original titleTravels Through the Scarlet Equinox
seriesMischief Corner Anthologies #6