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REVIEW: Imaginary Creatures Anthology

Imaginary Creatures Anthology

Genre: Paranormal, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: Ace, Bi, Demi, Gay, Gender Fluid, Lesbian, Non-Binary, Trans FTM

Reviewer: Tony

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About The Book

Let go of the mundane and escape reality with four tales of strange, wonderful magic by up-and-coming authors in the realm of queer romance.

Imaginary Creatures by Shai Porter explores the relationship between two people who meet via online fandom. Loo isn’t asking for much from life, really. Just a safe place to start over with her daughter and cat, the occasional glowing comment on her fan fiction, and maybe even a washer-dryer. Anything else…well, that would be too much to ask of the universe. So when her online friend Tribs starts looking less like a friend and more like a potential partner, all Loo’s insecurities come to the surface. Meeting in person? Online friends do that sometimes. That doesn’t mean anything, does it? Besides, who could possibly want “something more” with someone who always finds herself falling short of other people’s expectations, when everything about her seems too complicated for someone to even acknowledge, let alone build a relationship with. Anyone wanting that with someone like Loo couldn’t possibly exist.

This Feast Fit For All by Regina Jade introduces us to Aidan, who lives out in the sticks with only his dogs and the fish in the river for company. Aidan works as underpaid adjunct faculty at the local college, and tends to be overburdened by his schedule, his students, and his demanding boss. When he notices an ad for meal preparation services, he figures anything would be better than his slapdash attempts at meals, and decides to give it a shot. He’s immediately spellbound by Duncan Carter, the owner of the meal delivery service. A former doctor, Duncan seems to be capable of magic when it comes to cooking, and his willingness to understand Aidan’s feelings of not belonging makes Aidan feel safer with him than he has with just about anyone before. Through his growing friendship with Duncan, Aidan learns that there is an entire world out there he has never known – and he is very much a part of it.

Blessings by Max Turner is another tale in which we meet a man who has fled to the outer reaches of civilization in search of a happy life. In Chase’s case, his decision to move to an isolated cabin in the mountains had to do with the intensity of his Blessing, a genetic ability that most people have. Chase can hear thoughts. It’s not an unusual Blessing, but the way that it overwhelms Chase is, and the only way he feels able to live peacefully is to live alone. Then, one day, John arrives at his doorstep, and Chase can’t hear a single one of his thoughts. Is it possible to find the one out in the middle of nowhere?

Come Take Me Out of This Dull World by Briony Hastings is a sweet, lighthearted tale of interspecies adoration. We are introduced to Etis, a faerie who lives mostly in the pond near a university. When Etis is interrupted in his maintenance of his pond one night by a drunken student named Sam, Etis is sure it’s a one-off meeting. Sam will think back on their meeting and dismiss it as a dream. When Sam returns, Etis knows he should refuse to interact – it’s law, among the fae, not to reveal themselves to humans – but he can’t seem to stop himself. Sam is fascinated by Etis. They never imagined a creature like that could exist, let alone that they would feel such a deep bond with one. Sam is determined to show Etis that they can be friends – or, ideally, more than friends.

The Review

Imaginary Creatures is a collection of four stories that have a protagonist meeting someone who will become important to them. The protagonists range from gender fluid to trans to ace-allo. 

The contents include: 

  • Come Take Me Out Of This Dull World by Briony Hastings
  • Blessings by Max Turner
  • This Feast Fit For All by Regina Jade
  • Imaginary Creatures by Shai Porter

As you will see, three out of four hit the mark very well. All have quite unusual ‘imaginary creatures’ or ones acting out of character. Other than the naiad, you will have to read the stories yourself to discover who they are.

‘Come Take Me Out Of This Dull World’ follows Sam and Etis as they get to know each other. Sam is a human student. Etis is a naiad, a male water nymph, and probably just about the most unluckiest naiad going, see as how he becomes enthralled by an irritating human. Even if he has a sweet smile, Sam is sweary, self-centred and self-pitying. In his favour, Sam is persistent, rather like a case of warts. This story has the makings of an abusive relationship, where Sam’s main term of endearment is ‘fucking idiot’ and Etis has to fight his inclination to drown Sam. What do I think? Etis, be true to your nature, just drag that human down to the depths of that pond and keep him there as long as is necessary. This is a dull world, as the title says, and the one planned for Etis by Sam seems equally dull and restrictive.

‘Blessings’  concerns Chase Adams, who has bought a cabin in a remote area in Alaska. He has a Blessing, a super power that’s more of a curse, as he can’t control it. Like many others, he can read everyone’s thoughts, but he can’t block them out. His life changes when a stranger falls through his cabin door but it’s going to be a painful journey. This is a heart warming tale.

‘This Feast Fit For All’ is a good little story that could really do with a beta reader as there are a few continuity errors. Lets just put those aside, though, and consider the story. Aiden has transitioned and is a rather put-upon teacher. Duncan is an ex ER surgeon who has turned to catering due to a traumatic experience. They both secrets that are revealed. In Aiden’s case it’s a secret that has been kept from him as well.

The story is bit clunky in places and I cannot quite understand why Aiden gets caught in his underpants even when he knows someone, Duncan in fact, is about to arrive. Ahh! Maybe it’s intentional. The sneaky thing. I could be exaggerating a bit here. I enjoyed it all but would be better if it could develop its themes further and at a more leisurely pace. There’s a novella at least looking for release.

‘Imaginary Creatures’ is about Sherri. Sherri is difficult to label. She thinks of herself as either asexual or ace-allo. What she is good at is being a mother and a writer. She is also in the middle of divorcing her controlling husband. Tribs is an online fan and friend who may become more. In truth, Tribs is so much more, as Sherri is about to find out. I found this story a little, long but it did take me on a journey of discovery and it left me with a smile on my face.

The Reviewer

Tony is an Englishman living amongst the Welsh and the Other Folk in the mountains of Wales. He lives with his partner of thirty-six years, four dogs, two ponies, various birds, and his bees. He is a retired lecturer and a writer of no renown but that doesn’t stop him enjoying what he used to think of as ‘sensible’ fantasy and sf. He’s surprised to find that if the story is well written and has likeable characters undergoing the trails of life, i.e. falling in love, falling out of love, having a bit of nooky (but not all the time), fending off foes, aliens and monsters, etc., he’ll be happy as a sandperson who has just offloaded a wagon of sand at the going market price. As long as there’s a story, he’s in. He aims to write fair and honest reviews. If he finds he is not the target reader he’ll move on.

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