Review: Heroic Hearts

Posted: April 12, 2023 by in Books that are Mediocre (3.4/5 single_star) Meta: Jim Butcher (Ed), Kerrie L. Hughes (Ed), Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

When I saw the announcement for this anthology, I was totally on board. After my experience with SHADOWED SOULS (EBR Review), which was also edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie Hughes, how could I *not* immediately want to read something new from them? Granted, yes, it has a new Dresden Files story, and I am absolutely a sucker for anything Dresden these days, but even outside of the Dresden story in SHADOWED (which was AWESOME), nearly every story in that group was simply great reading.

HEROIC HEARTS is the second collection of stories put together by these two editors. This time the stories are predominantly what one would categorize as urban — easily 9 of the 12 — with the remainder some other flavor of fantasy. Bunch of big names as well, so I had some high hopes for it. Per my typical MO, if I’d read any of these separately, I’d have sorted them all into the following rating bins.

  • Books We Love: 3
  • Books We Like: 1
  • Books that are Mediocre: 8
  • Books We Don’t Like: 0
  • Books We Hate: 0

After the high of the first story (Dresden, of course), I found that the stories tailed off into the realm of very mediocre, and I kind of lost my steam for getting through them. Took getting through three or four of them before I decided to go back and try to figure out what my problem was. Although all of them were relatively well-written in general, I found that there were two large issues that were kind of hitting me in the face over and over again, and that pattern continued for most of the rest of the anthology.

The first was a concept that is very near and dear to our hearts here at EBR: characterization. There just wasn’t a lot of it, and what was there didn’t inspire any great moments to be ogled. Even after re-reading a few of the stories with an eye critical to what I’d deem as good characterization, I just wasn’t finding it. Not even in any of the subtle ways that some authors like to use. So it wasn’t any wonder that I just wasn’t feeling it.

The second was that despite a lot of decent plotting and good descriptions, I wasn’t finding a whole lot of what I’d term “heroic” things either. Maybe that’s something particular to me though. Maybe my perception of what “heroic” means, is more than just deciding to step up to the plate, so to speak. That concept is something that most of these stories shared. Someone willing to step up and do something about a given situation. Guess I just think it’s more than that. Doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else won’t find them good examples though, I guess.

Despite the large number of mediocre offerings, there were a few stories that rose above the pack. Here’s a bit about each of those:

Little Things by Jim Butcher: Toot Toot finds an infiltration of gremlins has snuck into Dresen’s new digs, and with a little help from his friends, is able to save the day. Totally made me want to cook a freezer pizza in celebration after I got done. This one was so much fun. Easily one of my favorites. (Loved)

The Vampires Karamazov by Nancy Holder: A brother that is both Christian monk and vampire, resists the urges of his brothers to kill their father, all of whom are also vampires. Man. This one was so well-written. From the word go, I sank in those words and paragraphs and absolutely forgot that I was reading. (Loved)

While mostly filled with mediocre urban fantasy, HEROIC HEARTS has a few pieces that are absolutely worth the read and shouldn't be missed.

Dating Terrors by Patricia Briggs: A woman with some middling magical power allows a friend to call in a powerful werewolf to kill her tormentor under the guise of a blind date. I’ll be honest. I’d never read anything from Patricia Briggs before this. (Yes, even though Vanessa loves her.) Mostly, I find that my Urban fantasy needle pegs rather quickly. This one was so good though. Afterward, I immediately bought the first book in her Mercy Thompson series. We don’t have a review up for that one yet, but it was ridiculously good too. Will be remedying that lack shortly. (Loved)

Comfort Zone by Kelley Armstrong: A female necromancer that lives with her werewolf boyfriend are contacted by the ghost of a recently dead young man that asks her to help save the life of his little sister. Well-written, straight-forward, fun read. (Liked)

Overall, the anthology as a whole was a bit lackluster for me. Nothing particularly bad, but definitely not much that was particularly good besides those that I’ve mentioned above. If nothing else, I’m glad that this one finally gave me no excuse but to finally read something from Patricia Briggs. I am so going to go buy all of her books now, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll go and do likewise.

Until next time.

  • Recommended Age: 15+ for a little bit of everything
  • Language: Fairly mild overall, but a handful of f-words confined to two stories
  • Violence: Fairly brutal in a few places, but not particularly bloody
  • Sex: Threat of rape in two stories

Two stories include themes of physical violence against, and the murder of, young children

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