The Crimson Pact: Volume 3 by Paul Genesse (The Crimson Pact)

I felt quite privileged in being asked to review this third anthology, having reviewed the previous two. Again, this is a volume for all those fans of demonology, but the mixture of genres, styles and authors means something should appeal to everyone. If you like some dystopian sci-fi with your demons, check out Fight. If you prefer some sweet yet gritty romance--with vampires too, no less-- check out Stumble and Fall (one of my favourites, and with a favourite character from I and II). Singe, Smolder, Torch, Whither left me squirming and looking for blue glowing eyes. For the conspiracy theorists, there’s the voice inside the computer with Whispers in the Code. The Recruit is a modern play on the old contract with the devil. There’s even a tale told from the enemy’s perspective in The Ronin’s Mark, an intriguing insight into the mind of one of the demon horde. There’s a lot of swearing, guts and gore, but also triumph, tragedy and heart-warming moments. These stories can scare, disgust, or horrify you. They can also make you laugh and cry.

Most of the stories are a continuation from one or both of the previous volumes. But each story is complete in its own way, so even if you haven’t read the previous two you’ll have no trouble connecting to the stories and characters in this one--although if you enjoy volume three, go back and get the other two. It also had fewer stories in than the previous two, but since I enjoyed this one a smidge more than the prequels, I’d say there’s definitely quality to make up for any lack of quantity. A couple of them missed the mark for me, but with an anthology it’s more a case of personal taste and I’m not going to pick them out for that reason.

One thing I did note with this anthology is that several stories are set in first person, something that can irritate the heck out of me. It says much for the various authors’ skills that I found those stories just as wonderful--if not more so--as those set in the preferred industry standard of third.

The really great thing about these anthologies is that despite the unifying central theme, the authors really have been given free rein to interpret it and write around it as they wish. This is what gives the stories their greatest appeal, to my mind.

9/10 These stories can scare, disgust, or horrify you. They can also make you laugh and cry.

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