Book Review: Chaos Cocktail – 13 Fantasy Bar Brawls [Anthology]

Thirteen short stories, each one about a different bar and a different brawl. In this anthology, you'll find shifters, demons, vampires, faeries, witches, pixies, gods, and even some humans who have stumbled their way into a world of magic, and of course lots of alcohol and lots of bar fights!

Book Review: Chaos Cocktail: 13 Fantasy Bar Brawls by Various Authors | reading, books, book reviews, anthologies, paranormal/urban fantasy
Title: Chaos Cocktail - 13 Fantasy Bar Brawls
Pages: 467
My Rating: 3 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon


This anthology started out so promising. I enjoyed the first few stories, they were punchy and fun, but then I got increasingly frustrated with how many of these seemed to be just the beginning of a bigger story, like a prequel or an excerpt from the first chapter of a book. Some definitely were, some I’m not actually sure, but they opened up a bunch of threads and closed none of them. And that’s not what I bought this for. I was expecting short stories that would feel complete and be enjoyable on their own.

That issue aside… I loved the idea for this book—fantasy bar brawls is a fun theme. I appreciated that, for the most part, these stories were fun/interesting/entertaining on the surface rather than requiring the reader to find deeper, hidden themes and meanings. And of course I loved all the supernatural creatures.

“Limbus Lounge” by A.R. Wise really left an impression on me. I wasn’t expecting a short story about a fantasy bar brawl to be such a mindfuck! The story was entertaining with a very unsettling undertone.

“The Tipsy Toadstool” by Jasie Gale was about pixies, and it was so cute! Everything was pixie-fied, like how their bar was a tree and their drinks were sap and honey. It also had an otherwordly faerie circle and a sweet ending.

Those were the two that stood out to me the most. The rest of the stories I had varying opinions of. Some I enjoyed or thought had some interesting elements (like the demons in “Meet Me at the Crossroads” by Kory M. Shrum and the fire/water fae powers in “Rennard’s Tavern of Turmoil” by Kathrine Pendleton). Others weren’t for me, or the feeling that the story was just an excerpt left me frustrated and dissatisfied.

Also, just a note, according to Amazon at the time of this review, this book is 467 pages long, but I think that’s incorrect. It didn’t feel long.

Some readers may enjoy getting a little taste of different books/series in addition to different authors, in which case I think this would be a great read. And some readers may simply have different taste and love all these stories. But, although there are a few standout stories here, overall this anthology did not live up to its potential for me.


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22 thoughts on “Book Review: Chaos Cocktail – 13 Fantasy Bar Brawls [Anthology]

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  1. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Well it sucks to hear some of these are just prequels or snippets from a larger series because the best anthologies are those which are totally standalone! I know there are some collections where 3 or so authors have bundled up their novellas into one bundle but it’s always frustrating as hell. At least you managed to enjoy some of them and it was a cool idea for a collection.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Glad it’s not just me who thinks that! I was so frustrated by the stories that were clearly just the start of a book. Luckily I only paid $0.99 and did enjoy a few of them.

  2. Greg

    Yup I need this one just for the cover. Tentacles, body glitter, drinks… what’s not to like? Seriously though- yeah I would want complete short stories too, not stuff relating to books I may never read. The pixie one sounds fun! Anthologies are so often hit or miss *sigh* and there’s no getting around that, because every story is different and so are people’s tastes, but it is frustrating at times. Sorry there weren’t more that worked for you.

  3. Sam@wlabb

    I am not a huge fan of anthologies, though, the subject matter for this one is interesting. I would be disappointed too, if these read like excerpts, which I have encountered in novellas (one reason why I usually steer clear of them). At least it read fast.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I never used to read them, but I’ve been trying them lately. Not going great so far lol. But yeah, this one just sounded too good to pass up! And I think it could’ve been, but oh well.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m glad it’s not just me. I was half-worried this might be some normal anthology thing I just didn’t know about since I don’t read many anthologies lol.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It wasn’t all of them, but it was definitely some, and it just kinda killed the anthology for me. I agree it should either be stories that stand on their own, or make it a sampler and make sure to advertise that properly.

  4. Lola

    I only read the first two stories so far which were fun enough, but didn’t really leave an impression on me. That’s too bad you felt that overall it didn’t live up to it’s potentials. And I am not happy to hear that some stories feel incomplete or only as a prequel or excerpt, the first two ones felt pretty complete, so I had hoped the rest would be like that too.

    Anthologies are always a bit tricky and often have some hits or misses. I do like the theme of this one and hope to return and read a few more of the stories at least eventually. I am just a bit sad the stories were so short so far. I like anthologies were the stories are a bit longer.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh darn, the second one was one of my favorites! But yeah, some of them were definitely just the start of a story :-/

      This one does have such a fun theme though. I think you’ll like the pixie one at least!

  5. Olivia Roach

    I generally try to stay away from anthologies because I always end up giving them three stars or less as there are stories I either love or don’t love. It’s always such a mix and match! But if I am going to read them they have to all be stories that stand on their own, not excerpts. I am glad you liked the whole idea of this one though 😀