Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Mercedes Lackey presents three exciting short urban fantasy novels featuring three resourceful heroines and three different takes on the modern world and on magics both modern and ancient.
Arcanum 101: Diana Tregarde, practicing witch, romance novelist, Guardian of the Earth. Studying at Harvard, Diana is approached by Joe O’Brian, a young cop who has already seen more than one unusual thing during his budding career. The distraught mother of a kidnap victim is taking advice from a “psychic” and interfering in the police investigation. Will Diana prove that the psychic is a fake? Unfortunately, the psychic is not a fake, but a very wicked witch—and the child’s kidnapper.
Drums: Jennifer Talldeer, shaman, private investigator, member of the Osage tribe. Most of Jennie’s work is regular PI stuff, but Nathan Begay brings her a problem she’s never seen before. His girlfriend, Caroline, is Chickasaw to his Navaho, but that’s not the problem. Somehow, Caroline has attracted the attention of an angry Osage ghost. Thwarted in love while alive, the ghost has chosen Caroline to be his bride in death.
Ghost in the Machine: Ellen McBridge: computer programmer extraordinaire, techno-shaman. The programmers and players of a new MMORPG find that the game’s “boss,” a wendigo, is “killing” everyone—even the programmers’ characters with their god-like powers. A brilliant debugger, Ellen discoveres that the massive computing power of the game’s servers have created a breach between the supernatural world and our own. This wendigo isn’t a bit of code, it’s the real thing . . . and it’s on the brink of breaking out of the computers and into the real world.
Thoughts: One book, three novellas, two of which deal with characters familiar to fans of Lackey’s overall work. Diana Tregarde and Jennifer Talldeer make their comebacks, much to the delight of many.
Arcanum 101 was a prequel to the Diana Tregarde novels of so long ago, set during the 1970s. To younger readers, this must honestly seem like a different world, a world of partly-line phones, hippies, and a stunning lack of international familiarity. Combine that with an “X-Files meets Scooby Doo” feel with a supernatural mystery, and you’ve got this story in a nutshell. Interesting to read, and interesting to see a piece of Diana’s history.
Drums is one that I don’t feel completely qualified to comment on, because although it was interesting and fun to once again see a character I haven’t seen in a while, most of the plot is centered around aspects of Native American mythology and rituals that I am unfamiliar with. I can’t say that Lackey’s research was superb or lacking, because I simply don’t know. On its own, though, it’s a good tale, though I do admit that reading this one immediately after Arcanum 101 left me with the sense that Jennifer isn’t very different in personality than Diana, although perhaps a little less abrupt. They could be cut from the same cloth, so to speak.
Ghost in the Machine brings us to the modern age, having traveled through the 70s and the 90s in the two previous stories, and gives us a look at how magic and technology can combine in terrifying ways, especially when it comes to the fantasy worlds of online games. It asks the question of just how virtual a world is when so many people place their belief in it and invest so much time in it, and then goes a step further and asks what happens when a creature who’s gained self-awareness in the game learns of the world beyond it, and wants out.
Overall, these stories were fairly light reading, nothing disturbing but definitely thought-provoking, and it was kind of fun to take a step back in time and see the world the way it once was. This definitely isn’t the book to pick up if you haven’t read the Diana Tregarde books or Sacred Ground, as the full effect of the stories with those characters will undoubtedly be lost. Definitely one for the fans.