This is an anthology in the Jane Yellowrock series containing "Snafu," "Black Water," and "Off the Grid."
I'm not sure how anyone not familiar with the Jane Yellowrock series would fare with the stories (I'm almost finished with the series).
"Snafu" -- 4 stars. A good adventure, an episode within the series more than a standalone short story if reader unfamiliar with Jane and her peeps. But, I enjoyed it.
"Black Water" -- not rating. This was flash fiction, not short story. A couple of pages of Jane shows up, has a fight outside and meets first boss then story stops. Ugh. Waste of my time.
"Off the Grid" -- 4 stars. I jumped to this story because was the reason I'm reading this anthology. Reason being the introduction of Nell, the heroine of author's Soulwood books. What I wanted (the backstory to how Nell and Jane met) plus introduced the vampire character "Yummy." Necessary to the Jane Yellowrock or Soulwood series? Nope, pretty much the events are summarized elsewhere in series books. But a good story if you already know Jane.
"Dark Queen" is the book Jane Yellowrock fans have been waiting for. It's the one where we finally see the long-promised conflict between the European vampires and the Leo's New Orleans vampires. It's the one that will shape Jane's world.
If you haven't read the other Yellowrock books, don't start here, Go back to "Skinwalker" and see Jane arrive in New Orleans on Bitsa, her restored Harley, with nothing but the clothes on her back, the weapons in her saddlebags and a business card saying "Have Stakes. Will Travel".
We've all come a long way since then and "Dark Queen" uses all of the complex history carved out in the previous eleven books to enhance the impact of the big finale.
This book is more than just a "Who's gonna win the big vamp fight?". It's a book in which Jane takes stock of what she has that makes her life worth living: a self-made family, firm friends, strong allies and whether she can ever step off the bloody path she's carved to become who she now is; Vamp Enforcer, Dark Queen, feared killer.
From the start "Dark Queen" has the feel of the end of a series or a complete reboot of the situation.
Personally, I welcomed this. It was time to draw things together. To make an end and perhaps a beginning.
For a while, in the second half of this series, Jane became someone I didn't like much. She'd gone from Vamp killer to chief protector of the vamps. She'd started to lose her humanity and her sense of who she was. This turned around in the eleventh book, the excellent "Cold Reign", where Jane no longer concealed her Skinwalker nature and where the arrival of the "take over the US and enslave the human cattle" European vampires gave Jane a cause worth fighting for. "Dark Queen" follows through on this and gives a quite satisfying resolution.
The strength of this book comes from the depth of the relationships as much as it does from the blood-soaked, up-close and personal fight scenes. It's the relationships that make the outcomes of the fights matter, especially when someone we care about dies.
I felt it suffered a little from a series of guest appearances, typical of a series finale, necessary perhaps but still detracting from the pace. There was a whole sequence with the wereleopards that, while it tied up a loose end, didn't add much to the plot.
Faith Hunter delivered a finale with real impact, pulling no punches and keeping me guessing. She gave Beast (my favourite character) a starring role and she turned Jane back into someone who was not human but had regained her soul.
I won't go into the plot. If you're a fan you'll read this book anyway
I'll just take the opportunity to say thank you to Faith Hunter for giving me Jane Yellowrock, the people she loves, the people she hates and the complex world they all live in.