I am a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series and flew through the whole series very quickly earlier this year. I was simultaneously happy that the whole series was published so I could satisfactorily binge-read the whole thing, and also sad that there were no more books to come. So imagine my surprise when browsing the web to discover this collection of Cainsville tales was published at the end of July! I was so happy I practically levitated with excitement while waiting for it to be delivered. Now I very rarely get on with short story collections so I was a bit apprehensive that this book would mar my otherwise wonderful experience of this series, but luckily I adored it.
Armstrong’s writing never lets me down, I was quickly lost in this wonderfully tense world of fae, mythology and fascinating characters. There’s so much to enjoy it’s difficult to know where to begin. The world itself is excellently depicted throughout the main series and this collection houses some key tales that explain certain characters’ motives and behaviours that may have seemed blunt/rude in the main novels (Ahem, Patrick). I particularly enjoyed the way Armstrong built up tension through an underlying sense of unease when describing certain characters/scenes in the main novels, it provided a real sense of danger throughout and I was so pleased to discover this is something she manages to translate easily into the short story form.
Sufficed to say that these insights into the characters and extra snippets of the world made me desperate for more stories and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has read the full series and wants a little more Cainsville. According to Armstrong’s website, this series is ‘current’ rather than ‘completed’ so I’m keeping everything crossed for more! I’m also going to chat a little about one of the individually published novellas, Rough Justice, at the end.
Here are my brief (or you’d be reading forever!) thoughts on the stories included in this beautiful collection… ps. please don’t read on if you have not read all the books in this series as there are spoilers!
The Screams of Dragons – This one is so unsettling! We follow Bobby, a young boy who dreams of castles and meadows but also can hear the screams of dragons… His mother has links to Cainsville and he interacts with a young Rose, among other Cainsville regulars, on his visits. It was spooky as hell and really left me feeling comfortable by the end – it was great! It was a nice insight of how others touched by the fae can interact with the world while not truly understanding who or what they are. And also nice to see young Rose.
Devil May Care – The story we’ve all been waiting for… Gabriel’s conception! We follow Patrick as he discovers the legend of Gwynn ap Nudd & Mallt y Nos and we learn how much of a good man he is! My heart broke for him in this story, it was really interesting to learn why Patrick behaves the way he does in the main series and get the background of what really happened between him and Seanna.
Gabriel’s Gargoyles – From one heartbreaking character to another… young Gabriel! We’re teased about Gabriel finding all the gargoyles in Cainsville throughout the novels and here we see how he manages it while growing up with distant and negligent Seanna. It was lovely to read from Gabriel’s young view and see how much he really cared for Rose even then. And the ending! All the heart eyes. The Patrick/Gabriel relationship is just so tragic but so good.
The Orange Cat – This was a fun story about one of Gabriel’s stranger cases – and hint that the world is not always what we think!
Bad Publicity – Another excellently insightful Patrick story – the more I read about him, the more my heart broke and the more I liked him. He really was just trying his best and it explains so much about his attitude in the series.
Matagot – A fun story about Liv’s cat, TC. We get the feeling The Cat understands more than we could expect and it was good fun learning more about its past and links to Liv/Cainsville. It expands the mythology even more and there’s also a little throwback to the first story in the collection.
Lady of the Lake – The longest story in the collection and so great! This one shows what Liv and Ricky got up to when they went on holiday – happens at the same time as Gabriel’s novella Lost Souls. While it was a bit weird to be getting a Ricky & Liv story after how the main series ended, it also worked really well. I think it’s a testament to how well Armstrong dealt with the Arawn/Matilda/Gwynn situation that I don’t dislike/hate any of them and actively enjoyed this story. It’s another fascinating insight to the lore and how Arawn & the Otherworld are linked.
Now for a little scream about this beautiful novella that was also published after the main series had ended, Rough Justice.
This was also fantastic (is anyone even surprised anymore?). I love, love, love Liv and Gabriel and this story gave me everything I could want. Great friendship between the main three, a good murder mystery at it’s heart, and more knowledge/understanding about the mythology of this world. WE NEED MORE.