Short story anthologies are a difficult sell right now, especially ones based on existing properties. It’s no surprise Josh Erikson describes Short Changed: Stories from Ethereal Earth as a passion project, one he doesn’t expect will be widely read or reviewed. He is likely right; all the more shame, really, as the stories within this 233-page volume are an absolute delight. They deserve to be picked up by those who have read any and all the Ethereal Earth novels; and in case you haven’t, get a kindle or paperback copy and get started asap. It’s my favourite urban fantasy series, bar none. No, not even The Dresden Files can take away Ethereal Earth‘s cake, it’s that good. From this point onwards, I’ll talk a little bit about some of my favourite stories; discussions might hold mild spoilers about the mainline novels. Beware…
The stand-out story for me is told from the perspective of disgruntled kingpin James as he sees his empire crumble and is forced to run for his life. What starts out as a predictable story about this fall from power turns into an unexpected, powerful tale of hope lost and identity reclaimed.
Another highlight was a story told from Heather’s perspective; the succubus has been half the heart of the novels since Hero Forged but always at a distance, her thoughts hidden from the reader. Not so in “New Deals,” which follows Heather’s difficulties following Fate Lashed‘s finale. There’s tension there, and humour, and even a spice of subterfuge.
The remnant of the stories follow either beloved protagonist Gabe or a Templar Knight whose stories I enjoyed more than I thought I would. Slipping into Gabe’s point of view is like putting on your favourite pair of socks–it whispers comfort in your mind, especially as these stories show down-time, those quiet moments in-between the bombastic misadventures of the former conman and his team of fantastic beasts and pals. The KNIGHT SHIFT stories are five in number, fragmentary in nature but captivating for their revealing a wholly different perspective than Gabe’s. Told from the perspective of a minor character Gabe has crossed paths with countless times by now, it shows well how lack of information can paint even the most heroic into the monstrous; I wonder if this particular character will sink into villainy in wholly horrific ways, or if he will become the unlikeliest of allies to Gabe’s reality-saving gang. Time will tell.
Josh Erikson, as always, narrates the audiobook version of this one. There’s a reason audiobook is my preferred format for the Ethereal Earth works – Erikson is that good. The different character voices are just as I remember, and I’m a sucker for consistency. Excellent work all around.
I recommend this one—but more importantly, I want to reiterate the following: Ethereal Earth is excellent urban fantasy and you should read it.