Hunting Season
by Shelly Laurenston, paranormal (2009, reissue)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-672-3


Hunting Season was previously published by Triskelion Publishing back in 2005. Now that the publisher had long gone to the giant bankruptcy vault in the sky, this story finally gets a second breath of life with Samhain Publishing. I'm not sure whether this story has been revised in its current edition. The publisher website doesn't say so, therefore I'll assume that this is merely a reissue.

This is a story by Shelly Laurenston, and if you have read enough stories by her, you will know what to expect here: alpha heroines who take no prisoners, alpha males who adore these heroines, delicious violence and some gore, and plenty of chaos and mayhem. Ms Laurenston specializes in creating romantic poetry of lovers tenderly looking into each other's eyes while cheerfully slitting the throats of their enemies in the battlefield, and this story is no different.

Denise "Neecy" Lawrence and Wilheim Yager are on the same side as well as opposite sides. Let me explain. Neecy is a Crow, one of the bloodthirsty warrior women of the Gathering who serve the goddess of the future called Skuld. Despite her occasional association with the Viking gods and especially the Valkyries, Skuld considers herself a free agent, answering to no one, and Neecy therefore answers to Skuld alone. Will is a Raven, a warrior serving the Viking god Odin. What is the difference between the Ravens and the Crows?

Like Odin, she wanted her own warriors, but unlike Odin, Skuld didn't choose from the finest Nordic stock. Instead she chose from the descedents of the girls his people had stolen. Girls thrown over warriors' shoulders and carried away to a cold and foreign land they knew nothing about. Mike probably put it best when he observed of the two groups, "The Ravens look like an ad for Hitler Youth while the Crows look like a big box of crayons."

Set in the present day, this one sees Neecy and Will crossing paths when they find themselves often pursuing the same naughty fellow who had wronged the gods in one way or the other. Indeed, when the story opens, these two and their faction of warriors go at it in a manner that would make any bloodthirsty grandmother weep tears of joy and pride. Will has always been besotted with Neecy - it was love at first kick - and he can't understand why they can't just get married. And I love he manages to lose the confrontation with the Crows and still squeeze a major victory by getting Neecy to crack a little and demonstrate that she cares for him. Events will conspire to get them together, however, so the fun has only just begun as some villain shows up to take on the Crows for a sinister reason.

It isn't just Neecy and Will - all the Crows and Ravens here can behave like boisterous buddies, but when they are on duty, they get really serious and somebody is going to die. Te result is beautiful mayhem as we have both men and women side by side cracking heads and breaking bones. There is no gender stereotyping here. Men and women all kick ass and the women make no apologies for being butch or unfeminine by romance novel conventions. Neecy is glorious, but then again, so are the rest of the Crows. Will and the Ravens can keep up very well with them, but what I love about these men is that they love the women for being what they are. A secondary character gets an erection when he watches the Crow he has his eye on calmly break the neck of her prey. Il adore.

Hunting Season is a pretty typical example of this author's work, so if you enjoy her previous efforts, chances are you'd enjoy this one too. The reverse is also true - if you can't get into her previous efforts, there may not be much here that will change your mind about this author's works. Me, I'm not sure how the author does it, but I still feel this exhilarating and giddy excitement when I read this story, even after having read enough of this author's books in the past to know what to expect from her. Ms Laurenston has struck a perfect balance between humor, violence depicted in a cool flair, and romance. I especially love how she can sneak in an unexpectedly romantic moment amidst the zany mayhem going on in this story.

So yes, I'm just a willing thrall of this author's brand of magic, not that I am fighting too hard to resist in the first place. Forget the T-shirt - I want a leather bustiere telling everyone I'm a big fan.

Rating: 86


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