The Only One, an anthology

>> Friday, November 25, 2005

I bought The Only One purely for the Susan Squires story. I'm always interested in stories which redeem former villainesses.

The first story, Christine Feehan's Dark Descent, was one I simply skipped. I've tried Feehan too many times already and I've never even mildly liked one of her stories, so there was no point in wasting my time.

The second story was much more interesting to me. I've read most of Susan Grant's Star books, and The Star Queen is a prequel.

"The Star Queen" is the "Mother of all prequels," taking place 11,000 years before the Star books begin. It's a dark and atmospheric tale of life on the decimated planet of Sienna, where Romjha B'kah and Taj Sai dream of driving out the ruthless warlords and attempt to rebuild their demolished civilization.
I very much liked the premise of the story and I loved Taj's character, but this one ended up being just ok. It's a story with a huge scope (the survival of a civilization, in fact) which is something that can work fine, as in Jo Beverly's story in the Irresistible Forces anthology. Unfortunately, in this case, that very ambitiousness resulted in a story that felt a bit unfocused. And also, I didn't appreciate that whole thing about the men going off to fight while the women wait and worry and do womanly stuff, especially after Taj and Romjha's initial characterization, which led me to expect something a bit different. I expected better after that. A B-.

Susan Squires's Sacrilege was the story I liked best.

She had committed the ultimate crime against her kind. But after struggling against her fate, she embraced her rehabilitation. Now she is exiled from the safety of Mirso Monastery into the world of the twenty-first century, where temptation abounds. She must leave behind her mentor and the unruly feelings she has for him. And neither Magda nor Pietr realize that she will asked to pay the ultimate price for the fact of his secret love. Together, they will break every rule to find a love their kind considers Sacrilege.
Sacrilege is the sequel to Sacrament. I haven't read that one, but I was never lost, even if the action here seemed to draw heavily on what had happened in the previous book. Even the mythology, which seemed very complex and had some very big differences to the usual vampire lore was easily explained... probably not fully, but more than enough for me to be able to follow the action.

This is a story that actually feels even bigger than the previous one, but one that, all the same, feels the right length. I really liked how Squires dealt with Magda and Pietr's issues, especially that of how they should deal with their blood hunger. Only the romance was a bit shortchanged. I think I would have liked more romantic interaction between Magda and Pietr. A B+.

I don't know how I should grade the anthology as a whole, given that I didn't even give Feehan's entry a chance. It's seems unfair to grade it down for that, so I'd just average the B- and B+ and get a plain B.


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