Irregulars, a Shared-World Anthology
By: Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon,
Astrid Amara, & Ginn Hale
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Release Date: March 14, 2012
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
NATO’s Irregulars Affairs Division is a secret organization operating in thousands of cities around the globe. Its agents police relations between the earthly realm and those beyond this world, protecting us from terrible dangers as well as enthralling temptations.
These agents—Irregulars, as they are known to the few who know them at all—are drawn to the work for their own reasons and close cases in their own unique ways.
Agent Henry Falk–an undead tramp brought back for a mission that might finally put him into a grave he can’t climb back out of.
Agent Keith Curry–a former carnivore chef turned vegetarian currently dealing with a goblin problem.
Agent Rake–a tough and ambitious guy with a penchant for easy living and dangerous games.
Agent Silas August–an uncompromising jerk with a dead partner and an assignment babysitting an assassin.
Four adventures from four award-winning authors, all set in one amazing world. Is your security clearance high enough to read on?
Overall Anthology tags:
Please see individual reviews for additional tags/warnings.
There is very little in the world that I love more than a well-curated anthology. It seems like most anthologies are very hit-or-miss, where some stories are great and others flop, or where not every story is balanced along the same theme. The Irregulars anthology, however, is simply perfection. Every story is exceptional, every author has a unique voice that fits well within the collection, and the shared world is richly detailed and hauntingly gorgeous.
This collection only has four stories, but each is a novella, long enough to capture the world-building and characters while only taking up one small slice of the universe. I’m going to go through them one by one briefly, but I don’t want to give too much away.
Cherries Worth Getting, by Nicole Kimberling: Agent Keith Curry is an utterly delightful and wholly relatable character– and I don’t just mean that because he’s one of the few humans in this story. A former chef who found his way into the Irregulars, he’s smart, charming (and charmingly grumpy), and still reeling from heartbreak. Gunther Heartman is the man who broke Keith’s heart… well, the goblin, anyways. There’s witty banter, an excellent mystery, and the story is the perfect length, wrapping up all of the loose ends but still leaving me craving more! Warnings: xenophobia, cannibalism
Without opening his eyes Gunther said, “Are you hungry?”
“I’ll make myself some grilled cheese in a minute.”
“That’s pretty much the only thing you eat now, isn’t it?”
Gunther shook his head. “It doesn’t seem like that could possibly be good for you.”
“Says the man who ate two and a half packs of cigarettes today.”
Green Glass Beads, by Josh Lanyon: This might be my favorite story in the anthology, although that’s really a distinction that changes regularly. But I adore characters like Archer Green, the snarky and sarcastic half-fae whose less-than-legal quest for a family heirloom puts him at odds with Commander Rake of the Irregulars. I love when humor and wit are matched with brusque and gruff, because the ends results are usually… well, pretty explosive, if you know what I mean!
Orly drew back. Rake’s face twisted into that sardonic expression once more. “You enjoy your little games, Mr. Green,” he remarked.
“As do you, if the last five minutes are anything to go by.”
Rake’s smile was thin and brief. “Let’s try this again. State your legal name and occupation for the record.”
No Life But This, by Astrid Amara: In terms of world-building, this story takes the cake. While the first tw stories are set in our world, and pull in elements of the magical creatures, Amara’s story builds a second plane from the ground up. Deven is a human living in our world, but has spent most of his life in another universe of night and monsters– a world where he thrived. Now stuck in the mundane realm, he teams up with Agent Silas August. Strangely enough, it’s not Deven who steals the show for me, but Silas, whose attitude and impeccable fashion sense helps to make the story a hell of a lot more fun. My one regret in this story? It’s a bit too dense, with a mythology that was a bit difficult to parse at times.
And he despised it when anyone said anything about Lord Jaguar. He was too great to even be spoken about by the likes of these people.
He recalled his therapist’s shocked face when he’d first broached the subject of Lord Jaguar’s kindness to him. Everyone here saw him as a monster. They didn’t understand that, in a world of monsters, Jaguar had been Deven’s only friend.
Things Unseen and Deadly, by Ginn Hale: I don’t think it’s too pretentious to say that this is a story about being true to yourself, and about looking beneath the surface. It’s also one hell of an urban fantasy story, with a captivating plot, two fantastic and complex main characters, and an adorable kitten named Princess that needs 300% more page time. This is the perfect Happily Ever after fairy tale (or is it faerie tale?), and a perfect close to the anthology. With a few cameos from characters in other stories, it really shows the depth of the Irregulars ‘verse, and integrates the magic and the mundane perfectly. Plus, the creativity here is off the charts… Ginn Hale’s imagination is a place I could happily live in!
Between the spritz of holy water in Henry’s direction and her cool tone, Commander Carerra had made it clear that her state-of-the-art strike force did not need the assistence of some shabby relic from an age when Irregulars’ operations had been run on half-assed witchcraft, peyote spit, and blood sacrifices.
This anthology is incredible. It’s a bit on the pricey side (I picked it up in paperback during an Amazon holiday sale last year, and let me tell you: ZERO REGRETS. I’ve re-read it so many times in its entirety), but I can assure you that if you love M/M romance, urban fantasy, paranormal, and some insanely creative world-building, it is well worth sinking the money in for this anthology. Plus, it’s long (my paperback comes in at just under 500 pages), so you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.
This is the kind of anthology that all other anthologies should aspire to. Four amazing authors, four distinct voices, and four superb, magical stories.
(Also, bonus: some of these characters do reappear elsewhere! Feel free to drop me a comment if you’re curious.)
Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, three dogs, three goats, and a horse. By day she is a civil servant. By night her time is devoted to her writing, working for animal rescue organizations, and sleeping. Find her online at http://astridamara.com/
Gin Hale resides in the Pacific Northwest with her wife and two cats. She spends many of the rainy days tinkering with devices and words and can often be sighted herding other people’s dogs, bees and goats. Find her online at http://www.ginnhale.com/
Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Find her online at http://www.nicolekimberling.com/
Josh Lanyon is a distinct voice in gay fiction, and the bestselling author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure, and unapologetic man-on-man romance. Find Josh online at http://www.joshlanyon.com/