Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
(Ace, $24.95, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-4410-1633-4
****
Alternating between somewhat fuzzy holiday tales and twisted outlooks on the holiday season, Harris and Kelner have put together a very good collection of stories based on Christmas and werewolves.

At least 75 percent of these stories were great in one way or another, and the other 25 percent just didn't hit me right, but may very well suit other readers. It was nice to see some familiar characters in all their Christmas glory, and the alternate views on the mythology of Christmas and good ole Saint Nick especially were intriguing to say the least.

A brief rundown of the stories and the authors involved:

Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse delivers an off-the-wall Christmas surprise one lonely holiday eve in the story "Gift Wrap."

A Christmas request from her brother leads a devoted (har, har) sister to mix up a spell to turn him into a werewolf in Donna Andrews' contribution, "The Haire of the Beast."

"Lucy, At Christmastime" recalls a dangerous man's first love in the backdrop of Simon R. Green's Nightside series.

Dana Cameron's story, "The Night Things Changed" follows a brother and sister from a clan of heroes Vampires and Werewolves in an interesting twist on the mythology of those beings as they battle one of their own and alter their outlook on their place in the world.

Kat Richardson, stepping away from her Greywalker series, takes us to the North Pole, where we meet a very angry werewolf and a less-than-jolly Santa and his sidekick Black Peter, with whom our werewolf has a befittingly dark history in "The Werewolf Before Christmas."

In "Fresh Meat," Alan Gordon brings to life a dog trainer on Christmas Eve who is under attack and in need of the aid of his furry friends.

Taking place just before the novel Kitty Takes a Holiday, in "Il Est Ne" Carrie Vaughan introduces the lone wolf David and the circumstances under which he and Kitty end up spending Christmas Eve together in a Waffle House.

Not unexpectedly heavy on the mystery, Dana Stabenow's "The Perfect Gift" delves into a series of grisly murders being investigated by the police and secretly involving local werewolves.

"Christmas Past" involves none of the characters from Keri Arthurs previous series, but does follow a werewolf and a psychic from a secret investigative branch as they track down serial-killing vampire brothers on Christmas Eve.

With humor to do Christopher Moore proud, in "SA," J.A. Konrath takes a first-timer to Shapeshifters Anonymous, where the group has a run-in with their mortal enemy, Santa Claus.

A daughter estranged from her father because he is a werewolf beseeches him to help with a young boy under her care who is in danger from another supernatural race in Patricia Briggs' "The Star of David."

Nancy Pickard writes of two Russian vampires longing for their native land who decide the North Pole might have a similar climate, then end up as reindeer bodyguards for an evil Santa in her "You'd Better Not Pyout."

Building on the supernatural world she has created in Las Vegas, Karen Chance writes about a war-mage-in-training who, due to her werewolf roots, is sent out to locate the missing daughters of high-ranking pack members in her story, "Rogue Elements."

"Milk and Cookies" by Rob Thurman, a story about the woes of being the new kid in middle school, tells us how a boy with a different kind of background overcomes the local bully.

Although not necessary the holiday book to share with the kiddies or to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa, Wolfsbane and Mistletoe is a fine achievement and a fine combination of Christmas cheer, good humor, sick humor, and the horror to be expected from a collection about werewolves.

--Sarrah Knight


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