Book review: 'The Species of Blessing Avenue' by Graveyard Greg
The Species of Blessing Avenue is a collection of short stories by Graveyard Greg, published in 2012.
Even before I got past the introduction, I liked two things about this book. First, it's got a were-lion in its leading role. Second, it was inspired by characters created for the Buffy The Vampire Slayer RPG.
I was warned that I shouldn't have tried to read this as a novella instead of three short stories. I'll try to correct that mistake as I go along with this review.
The Species of Alone
Izzy is a high school student and a were-lion, although that doesn't become apparent until the big fight scene. (Not that I was surprised after reading the introduction and back cover.)
The story is written from Izzy's perspective as a high school teenager. He's all buff and, despite claiming to hate jocks, he comes across as a jock himself because of his attitude and behavior. I like that his love interest is straight, and that he's reluctantly o.k. with that.
I have some minor issues with Izzy confessing/confronting Joshua at the end of the story. It was an awkward scene, of course, but it was also awkwardly written.
The Species of Rivals
This story jumps right into the tracking down of a murderer, who turns out to be a monster. That's so often the case when your town sits on an unnamed hellmouth that attracts these sort of things.
Izzy is dedicated to fighting these monsters, if only to piss off his father (or so he would have the reader believe). The were-lion gets to fire off a bunch of quips as his teenage arrogance and insecurities struggle around in his head.
Of the three stories, this is the superior "monsters hunting monsters" one. I enjoyed meeting the third cast member, Quinn, who's pretty new to the school and to the whole monster-hunting business.
The Species of Triumph
The monster-hunting plot here was wonderful. The dad-interaction sub-plot was less than wonderful. However, my opinion here may have been affected on my first read-through, when I was treating the book as an entire novella.
I first thought this story suffered because of the Izzy-vs-dad thing, and how that drama just sort of dissolved away by the end. This is because the third story turns the father-son dynamic from the first two stories on its head. As a stand-alone story, if I hadn't been relating it to what had happened earlier, I might have enjoyed the young were-lion's befuddlement more. I would have assumed other stuff happened off-screen to justify the changes. Instead, his father's changes came off as sort of arbitrary. Of course, maybe that's just me.
The person reading this story for the monster hunt won't be disappointed, and there is some nice, more explicit male-on-male action, which I thought was sweet because Izzy's still a little arrogant and awkward, even with Quinn.
All in all, it's a good collection of tales in a universe where I wouldn't mind reading a novel or two, but I'm not sure if I would hunt it down.
An earlier review of this book was posted by Fred Patten.