Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Sword Of Michael-Marcus Wynne

The Sword Of Michael
Marcus Wynne
Baen, Nov 4 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736891

As the dead man he killed twice chases him into a cemetery, Shaman Marius Winter muses the story of his life is in his hands as he holds the sacred power of Christ’s rosary beads and the profane worldly Glock.  He fires shots into the knees and elbows of the zombie, preventing it from moving before sprinkling holy water on the Dark Force and asking Michael of the Light to cleanse this evil.  Marius now knows the Dark Forces are back and he is a prime target probably because of his Depossession success rate

Hell’s Dark God Belial sends a sorcerer to destroy Marius starting with possessing the souls of those his adversary loves; like his girlfriend Jolene, Avatar to the Goddess.  When Marius learns the fate of Jolene and others he cares about, guided by his triad of spiritual advisors (First In Front medicine man, Tigre the spirit tiger and Burt the spirit raven); he accepts the risks associated with his undertaking to save their souls.  Accompanied by his guides, Marius initially must deal with the hellish sorcerer and, if successful, traverse the circles of Hell to confront Belial in the innermost; losing at any point means the Dark possesses his soul.

With a nod to Dante, the first Depossessionist urban fantasy is filled with plenty of action-packed fighting scenes and some religious philosophizing.  The storyline is at its best when the plot stays focused on the war, but loses momentum with unnecessary, odd power hungry groups joining the fray.  Although the cast, even the hero, is never developed beyond their prime reason for existence, The Sword Of Michael is an entertaining Forces of the Light vs. Minion of The Dark thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Empire of Dust-Jacey Bedford

Empire of Dust
Jacey Bedford
DAW, Nov 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780756410162

Psi-tech telepath Cara Carlinni is on the run from Alphacorp because she is aware her former boss and one time lover Ari van Blaiden will kill her once his goons catch up to her; as he wants no witnesses to the pirate attack he arranged on a colony.  Desperate to avoid mind to mind detection and aware of withdrawal torment that will probably kill her anyway, Cara still shut down the implant that the firm financed in exchange for her being their indentured servant. 

So far Cara eluded her ruthless pursuers on El Arish and Shalla where an off the grid psi-much suggested she go Station Mirrimar 14, a place with allegedly psi-tech rebels.  Not only has she failed to find her peers, Alphacorp arrives.  Cara meets Reska Benjamin who agrees to take her with his team of psi-techs to Olyanda to assist with colonization.  Adding tension is many of the client Ecolibrians loathes psi-techs and the discovery of mineral deposits places Olyanda on pirate looting list.

The first Psi-Tech science fiction is an action-packed outer space thriller in which the Bedford galaxy seems real.  Filled with plenty of escapades mostly on a world that comes across as genuine and starring a beleaguered woman in peril, a haunted hero and a ruthless villain; readers will want to journey to Olyanda where several rivals compete for control. 

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 20, 2014

Closer to Home-Mercedes Lackey

Closer to Home
Mercedes Lackey
DAW, Oct 7 2014, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756408992

In Haven, Valdemar, Mags the Herald is with his Companion Dallen when he hears the Mindvoice shriek of the King’s Own Nikolas.  Using Mindvoice he tries to contact Nikolas but his mentor fails to respond.  Dallen and Mags see Nikolas floating in the nearby river.  On top of Dallen, Mags pulls Nikolas onto the shore, but he is not breathing.  Using the Breath of Life technique Bear taught him, Mags saves Nikolas’ life. 

Rolan the Companion selects the incapacitated Nikolas’ panicked daughter Amily to replace him as the King’s Own though the monarch Kyril fears having an untested young female in such a critical position.  Complicating matters for the new King’s Own and the monarch is a treasonous coup to extinguish the Heralds and fill the power void.  With unprecedented Mindspeech skill, Mags assists Amily in an attempt to uncover the traitors before the Collegium is shattered, its Heralds eradicated and King Kyril loses the throne.

The first Herald Spy Valdemar fantasy is a fabulous opening act as Mags (no longer a stranger in a strange land) and Amily face impossible odds.  Both fear they’re not ready for the big leagues without adult supervision (Nikolas), but they bravely team-up to do the right thing with so much at stake.  Fast-paced throughout, yet vivid Valdemar and the key cast (particularly the protagonists and their companions) seem genuine.  Genre readers, especially series fans, will delight in returning to Valdemar.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Chaplain's War-Brad R. Torgersen

The Chaplain's War
Brad R. Torgersen
Baen, Oct 7 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736853

In the middle of the twenty-second century, the alien Mantes cyborgs invaded human space with one objective: total genocide.  The humans fought back but the enemy proved superior.  Five years ago the Mantes defeated an invading force and captured Chaplain Assistant Harrison Barlow and many other soldiers on a planet the POWs call Purgatory.  With the Chaplain dead, Harrison helps his fellow prisoners keep the faith though he avoids any specific religion.  Two years ago he completed a chapel for those who want to pray alongside him to God for deliverance.

A Mantis, who tells Harrison he is equivalent to a Professor, visits him constantly to learn more about the Holy Man’s belief in an invisible God.  The Professor explains humanity is the third essence the Mantes have met that believes in an indiscernible guiding spirit.  When Harrisons asks the Mantis what his race believes in; the Professor responds “nothing”.  While Harrison teaches the Professor about human spiritualty, some of his race feels he betrays them while some of the Mantis’ race insists it is insignificant what the enemy thinks.

This intriguing science fiction is told in three parts (with one and two modifications of previously released “The Chaplain’s Assistant” and “The Chaplain’s Legacy”) and the third section ("The Chaplain’s War") totally new.  The expansion enhances the fascinating focus on two species at war with differing social values especially highlighted by a to believe or not to believe in a deity; ironically most members of each race share in common the competitive drive for all out victory.  Thus the Chaplain Assistant and The Professor are outliers as they thrive for understanding of each other’s respective species, which is a step towards all out peace. 

Harriet Klausner

Brood-Chase Novak

Chase Novak
Little, Brown/Mulholland, Oct 7 2014, $26.00
ISBN 9780316228008

Manhattan residents Alex and Leslie Twisden lived a great lifestyle until they went to Slovenia for illegal fertility treatments.  The procedure worked and they had twins Alice and Adam, but also turned the nice couple into malevolent ogres (see Breed).

Moving into the renovated Upper East Side townhouse that Alex and Leslie turned into a monstrosity, antiques dealer Cynthia Kramer becomes guardian to her troubled niece and nephew.  She hopes to nurture them into a good mental state through love.  However, the youngsters fear puberty will make them a chip off the cannibalistic block and especially do not want to harm their caring aunt.  Alice and Adam flee to Central Park where evil greets them with a scheme to use the siblings.

The efforts to prevent what seems inevitable turn this sequel into an exciting urban horror though Mother Cynthia’s constant anxiety panic attacks detract from an otherwise electrifying family drama.  With a stunning climax to an overall tense tale (mainly when the twins rule the storyline), this is a winning read particularly when the Twisden brother and sister invade Central Park.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Wonder Of All Things-Jason Mott

The Wonder Of All Things
Jason Mott
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778316527

At the Fall Festival in Stone Temple, North Carolina, former resident Matt Cooper entertains the locals with flying stunts when his plane sputters and crashes.  Cooper dies, but the crowd miraculously survives.  Sheriff Macon Campbell finds his thirteen year old daughter Ava and her BFF Wash trapped under rubble.  Ava touches Wash’s severe wounds and a second miracle occurs when the teen heals instantly while someone records the event on a cell phone.

The recording goes viral leading to hordes arriving in Stone Temple to glimpse the “Miracle Child” or obtain a cure.  However, the physical cost to Ava begins to appear as each miracle weakens her until she is hospitalized.  Trying to avoid any more damage to her body, Ava soon has a Hobson’s choice when Wash learns he has leukemia.

Once again dealing with the impact of divine miracles on a small-town (see The Returned, the basis for the Resurrection television series), Jason Mott provides a poignant novel that looks deeply into the responsibilities towards others and the rights of one vs. the needs of the many.  The sidebar focus on the woes of support characters detracts from the otherwise fabulous storyline; as Ava is a great protagonist who wants to do the right thing to help those suffering especially her Wash; but the cost she pays for being the Good Samaritan increasingly seems to be her life. 

Harriet Klausner

Burning Desire-Donna Grant

Burning Desire
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250060709

When Rhi the Light Fae vanishes in Cork, Ireland, the Dragon Kings become concerned that she may go to the dark side.  Dragon King Kiril arrives to gather intel while his peers remain in Scotland. 

Her Dark Fae family has locked away Shara for centuries because of her unacceptable embarrassing behavior towards others.  Now she has one last chance to prove to be a loyal member though Shara has never felt like she belonged and their demand goes against her nature; failure to do so means her execution and ironically succeeding means being married off to a vicious Fae.  Her mission is to lure the visiting Dragon King so that her kin can make him their prisoner when his guard is down.  Instead, Shara finds she is attracted to Kiril and does not want to cause him any harm.  As she assists her beloved with saving Rhi from Balladyn, Shara becomes this Dark Fae’s prisoner inside his fortress leading to Kiril believing his beloved betrayed him.

The latest Dark Kings romantic urban fantasy (see Fire Rising and Darkest Flame novels and Dark Heat stories) is a thrilling entry filled with plenty of action highlighted by an apparently doomed star-crossed romance.  The lead couple is a delightful pairing as trust proves fleeting.  Although depth is added to the overarching premise, no thread is completed.  Yet series fans will enjoy these natural enemies falling in love.

Harriet Klausner