A shifter leads two lives: one as a human, and one as an animal. Sometimes these lives are intertwined, and sometimes they are not, but always the shifter has to find a way to reconcile one with the other. Dark Menagerie follows characters as they explore the darker side of what it means to have one foot in the animal world and one foot in the human world. Some struggle to keep the animal starkly separate from their lives as a human being, but for others, their shifting leads them to a darker corner of the mind where human and animal are nearly indistinguishable.
First, in Dominant, Kade has left everything he valued in his life behind; his family, his fiancée, his entire future. He tries to make peace with what he has become by running away to a small town, but fails. Then, a monster in a suit walks into his life, a monster just like him. Then, the four in The Four of Us devised a game: pick two humans, lure them in, and hunt them down. The game, the shared thrill of the hunt, was what brought them together, but also what threatens to tear them apart.
Justin, of Horsefeathers, had one job—to get a new Mustang for his boss’ ranch. But at the holding pens, he can’t look away from a stunning stallion. He isn’t at all what the boss wants, but Justin can’t say no. He soon learns that he’s brought back much more than simply a beautiful horse, and that there are some legends that he wished weren’t based in truth. Finally, Breathe concerns a young dolphin shapeshifter who has to deal with his own hateful feelings about himself, a deadly dull partner, and the presence of a new shifter in town. And a hurricane bearing down on their home in Key West, of course.
“Dominant” by Katya Harris
This was a short but interesting little story. To me it felt more like a teaser. There is definite room there for a longer more in depth version that I would like more. Considering its length it was very good. I really loved the writing and the characters. I wish there had been a lot more to it. It felt incomplete the way it ended. I would actually love to have more of this story.
“The Four of Us” by Lor Rose
This is a creepy read, interesting, but creepy. Podagros and Deinos are legends along with their companions, Lampon and Xanthos. They are all monsters who hunt and eat humans, especially the heart which they need every other month to live. They can each nothing but human flesh. The two are sent out to seduce their next two prey. Unexpectedly they find emotion and feeling/touch again. Now what to do.
This was very well written. I actually felt for the characters and considering what and who they were that says something. No the characters aren’t deep but they still allow the reader to bond with the story. I can say I really enjoyed this creepy read.
“Horsefeathers” by Caitlin Ricci
Nohatu is a Native American that is also a shapeshifter/skinwalker. He was turned long ago and had remained a horse for a long time, enjoying the openness of the prairie to the closeness of a city. Unfortunately for Nohatu the BLM has gathered up mustangs in an effort to save them from overpopulation. Nohatu and many of those horses are up for adoption. Justin adopts Nohatu, as a mustang, for his boss even knowing his boss won’t be happy. Nohatu returns to human shape demanding to go back and senses something within Justin.
Justin is an interesting character. Nohatu is very mysterious though we get a good glimpse of the man when he tells Justin his story. Again this felt very incomplete, like an excerpt for a longer book. I enjoyed the small glimpse I got and hope the author plans on more for these characters.
“Breathe” by Arielle Pierce
Nathan is a spotted dolphin shifter. He lives on an island in the keys where there are a lot of other shifters. Nathan has traded most of his life as a skinwalker to live with a man that abuses him so he can be an artist full time. He is on a self destructive path that includes very rough, rape like sex with others. This is when he meets Jacob’s. Jacob and he are instantly attracted to each other but Jacob refuses to take what he wants from Jacob.
Jacob is a sweet man and poor Nathan is terribly messed up. I feel the same thing with this that I felt with most of the stories in this book, that it is just part of a story. A teaser to more weather with this particular story or with other characters within the story. This was a sweet story that is very simple. I liked it but it was missing something. I just didn’t connect like I thought I would with it. Still it is a cute story.
Overall these stories mostly felt like a smaller part of bigger stories. I liked them and most of them I would love to see more. It is a bit frustrating for a reader to read this though not knowing if/when we might get more. That is why overall the stories as an anthology will get a lesser rating than the individual stories call for. If you don’t mind feeling this frustration this is a wonderful read!