Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Redeemed in Darkness-Alexis Morgan

Redeemed in Darkness
Alexis Morgan
Pocket, Dec 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9781416547136

Paladin warrior Cullen Finley crossed the barrier between worlds to deliver a message. Once he completes his mission, he is to immediately return to his universe. However, something happens to the barrier and Cullen is trapped on the wrong side in the Other universe of his enemy.

Lusahn q'Arc considers the Paladins as her enemy. Her first reaction upon seeing her combat foe Cullen is to want to torture information out of him as she was expecting to meet her missing brother Barak. Next she finds herself either wanting to making love with him or killing him. When he provides her information on the smuggling of the blues that bring light to her dark world, she realizes she must hide him. As they fall in love, both conclude that traitors on both sides of the feud are using the dying sun of the Others to maliciously manipulate the rivalry.

The fourth Paladins of Darkness romantic fantasy (see DARK PROTECTOR, DARK DEFENDER and IN DARKNESS REBORN) is a fabulous entry with a wonderful freshness as Alexis Morgan takes her audience to the demon side. Fans as well as Cullen will begin to see a different humanized Others instead of the demonic killers. The forbidden romance enhances a fabulous thriller that will have readers enthralled once the hero crosses over.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night-Kresley Cole

Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night
Kresley Cole
Pocket, Nov 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9781416547037

In 1827 Mariah of the Three Bridges is murdered in the shadow of the full moon. Her last sight is watching her beloved Bowen MacRieve of the Lykae Clan howl at the full moon in rage.

In 2007 Bowen remains angry, frustrated and acrimonious as he has over the past nine score; and he has become a bit of a hermit. When offered a chance to participate in the treacherous and grueling Talisman’s Hie, he immediately accepts. Bowen believes the risk is nothing only his life; but the prize is everything as winning enables him to go back to 1827 and correct the pivotal tragedy that has shaped his life since

Mariketa the Awaited leader of the House of Witches has strong reasons to win the contest hosted every two and a half centuries by the Goddess of Impossibilities Riora. Though the Witch is prepared for any contingency, the revolting acrid Lykae fools her and ensnares Mari in a deadly cave; Mari in turn casts a death spell on Bowen. He realizes he must save her to save himself if he is save Mariah. However, he is confused as he reacts to Riora as if she is his soulmate, not Mariah.

When Kresley Cole writes a romantic fantasy, there is NO REST FOR THE WICKED or readers as fans finish her exhilarating complex tales in one wonderful sitting. WICKED DEEDS ON A WINTER’S NIGHT may be the best entry in the Cole Lore as the lead couple is deadly rivals who over the course of the competition turn from enemy combatants into beloved enemies. Readers will relish this powerful entry as the mythos of the sentient races not human entertainingly expands leaving the audience with a HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER for the next saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Silken Shadows-Jennifer St. Giles

Silken Shadows
Jennifer St. Giles
Berkley, Dec 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425217948

In 1880 Gemmi Andrews has the uncanny ability to see and hear ghosts. Her skill helps the cops catch Jack "the Ripper" Poole.

However, not long afterward, a series of homicides occur that use the same MO as serial killer Poole; there is only one problem with accusing him of more murders: he is dead. Some assume is a copy cat while others believe Poole is murdering people from beyond the grave. Because of her “gift” Gemmi knows either theory could be correct so she is determined to learn the truth. She sneaks onto Captain Deverell Jansen's ship, but is found. The stowaway and the captain are attracted to one another, but when he perceives she is in danger, he insists they marry so he can keep her safe. As the newlyweds fall in love, she relives each homicide as if she is the victim.

SILKEN SHADOWS is an engaging paranormal romantic suspense starring a likable intrepid heroine who uses her gift to help others and an honorable hero who risks his life to keep his beloved safe. The story line is fast-paced but the hook that grips readers is whether Poole has somehow returned form the dead or from beyond, or is a copy cat on the loose. Fans will also feel for Gemmi who “sees” each homicide first hand. Jennifer St. Giles is at her best with this frightening serial killer thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Beyond the Dark-Angela Knight, Emma Holly, Lora Leigh and Diane Whiteside

Beyond the Dark
Angela Knight, Emma Holly, Lora Leigh and Diane Whiteside
Berkley, Dec 2007, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425218761

"Dragon's Dance" by Angela Knight. During a SWAT operation, Sergeant Arial Dean is contaminated by the Hyper. The Hyper Tracker tries to nurture Arial through the often deadly change, but she wonders if she survives the Hyper transformation will she endure life without her guide?

"Caught by the Tides” by Diane Whiteside. In 1803 the king's mage Owen Bentham and Emma Sinclair the mage team up with love to prevent Napoleon’s invasion of England.

"Queen of All She Surveys” by Emma Holly. King Ravna sends his son Warrior Prince Memnon as a war prize to the demon enhanced Queen Tou of HHAMOUN with hopes his offspring can capture the lady with sexual wiles, but instead of loathing and betrayal he finds love.

"In a Wolf's Embrace” by Lora Leigh. In 2023 New York, Matthias Slaughter must keep Grace Anderson, a witness to an assassination, alive not so much for her to testify, but because she is his soulmate.

These four erotic romantic fantasies are terrific novellas with strong lead characters that sub-genre fans will fully relish.

Harriet Klausner

Destiny's Warrior-Heather Waters

Destiny's Warrior
Heather Waters
Berkley, Dec 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425219621

Fae King Arrane loses the love of his life when the human her cherishes Geraldine leaves his kingdom to keep their offspring safe from his ambitious purebred family. She returns to Scotland where she raised her son Gavin McCain as a single parent; she never told him of his Fae heritage although she never forgot her beloved Arrane.

Years later, Laird Gavin McCain remains ignorant that magic exists let alone his paternal bloodlines affirm it until Lady Nakkole arrives to keep him from harm’s way. Apparently, Gavin's half sister, Queine Elphina, a succubus’s daughter, plans to usurp the Fae throne, but must get rid of the half-breed mortal heir. As purebred Nakkole performs her duty, she falls in love with the half-breed she protects.

This is an entertaining romantic fantasy in which Waters' world seems genuine as the audience will, like the hero, begin to believe that magic is real. The key cast members insure the magical elements come across as plausible especially the metamorphosis of Gavin from scorn to true believer. However, the romance between Nakkole and Gavin seems intrusive as the fast-paced story line is at its best when magic outside of the heart rules.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 29, 2007

I Never Saw Paris-Harry I. Freund

I Never Saw Paris
Harry I. Freund
Carroll & Graf, Aug 2007, $23.00
ISBN: 9780786720545

In Manhattan, four people wait on the sidewalk for chance to cross Park Ave when a car jumps the curb killing each of them and the driver. The group of strangers consists of sexagenarian businessman Irving Caldman, fifty something personal shopper for the wealthy Clarissa Bowen; grandmother Essie Mae Rowder employed as a housemaid; twentyish interior decorator Brett Taylor; and the driver Mendel Perlow who survived the holocaust to own a New York candy store.

Malakh welcomes the group at a heavenly rest stop where he prepares the quintet for their upcoming worthiness before the Judge of the Universe. He orders each to share their life history with the others. At first none of the five are comfortable revealing their inner most fears and desires, but over the course of bickering and fighting, each opens up revealing good and bad memories as a camaraderie forms.

This is a fabulous parable with an interesting spin on how heaven works and what it takes to get there as deeds count. The story line focuses on all five recently deceased mortals with Irving as the prime player with his dry assertion that he never saw Paris nor will he at least in that lifetime. Readers will appreciate Harry I. Freund’s insightful look at five strangers going through the stages of a group (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Terminating as Malakh moves them on) while also the stages of grief for those they left behind.
Harriet Klausner

Half the Blood of Brooklyn-Charlie Huston

Half the Blood of Brooklyn
Charlie Huston
Del Rey, Jan 2007, $13.95, 246 pp.
ISBN: 9780345495877

Vampyre P.I. Joe Pitt is no longer a Rogue but is an Enforcer for the Society, a clan that carved out a piece of Manhattan belonging to the Coalition. The two clans have an uneasy truce, one that can be broken by the smallest misdeed. Joe isn’t interested in vampire politics but in his girlfriend Evie who is dying from AIDS. However, it is just a matter of time before war breaks out and the Manhattan clans are trying to get allies from the outer boroughs.

Terry, the leader of the Society is turned down by the Docks for an alliance and he retaliates even though he knows he will make an enemy of that clan. Joe is sent to look at a death caused by what looks like Van Helsing and the sad part is that the victim was not a vampire but a businessman who sold blood to the vamps. Another clan wants to negotiate but this time when Joe drives to Brooklyn, he is taking a hostage so that the negotiator will be brought back when talks are finished with Terry. It sounds like a simple plan but Joe becomes involved in a clan war and the end result is losing everything that matters to him.

This dark supernatural urban noir shows a brutal vampire society that is hidden amidst humans yet are predators who think of humans as prey. Manhattan is the perfect place for this storyline to take place because it is full of predators only in Charlie Huston’s world they are of the supernatural kind.. Most are out for themselves and want power and territory. Joe is no choir boy but a predator who has one soft spot, his dying Evie. Clan warfare is comparable to the mafia wars.

Harriet Klausner

Racing the Dark-Alaya Dawn Johnson

Racing the Dark
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Bolden, Sep 2007, $24.00
ISBN: 9781932841282

Teenage Lana lives on the island earning a living diving in fresh water to take jewels from mandagah fish. When Lana goes through the rite of adulthood ceremony, she finds a special blood-red jewel that she hides from her family and the village elders. She knows the gem means she is someone with power, but she does not want to become an elder as those who obtain special jewels become; elders have no independence as their life is filled with responsibilities for others.

Six months after she hid the jewel, the village cash crop, the mandagah fish are dying out caused by changes to their watery environs. Lana’s family wants to relocate to another island, but have no means to pay neither the transportation nor settling. To do so Lana obtains an apprenticeship with a strange “exiled” witch the sorceress Akua, who uses blood sacrifice to fuel her spells. As Lana learns how to cast spells, she must sacrifice something of personal value to cast her incantations. When she is tricked into sacrificing her beloved mother, Lanai knows she cannot; she must find someway to save her mother’s life, which means using even more ancient forbidden dark magic.

This is a terrific coming of age fantasy thriller starring a thirteen years old girl whose rite of passage into adulthood takes a dark turn when she finds the special blood gem. Readers will feel they have entered Johnson’s Island (not the military base in the Pacific) realm as the geography and climate come across rather influentially and powerfully. However, the island culture beyond the gem economy and government never fully seems developed although in fairness the gems are the heart of society. Still filled with twists especially the key Twilight Zone spin, young adults will enjoy RACING THE DARK alongside of Lana, who would do anything for her beloved mother as witnessed by her sacrificing her soul to apprentice to the blood witch.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Year’s Best Science Fiction Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection-Edited by Gardner Dozois

The Year’s Best Science Fiction Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection
Edited by Gardner Dozois
St. Martin’s, Jul 2007, $21.95
ISBN: 9780312363352

As always this annual collection is the best science fiction anthology of the year. Besides the strong selection of twenty-eight stories, the Summation 2006 is an interesting article that concludes that 2006 was “overall a relatively uneventful year”. Still in this quiet year, Mr. Dozois references Locus magazine stating that “there were 2495 books of interest to the SF field” excluding a myriad of Internet options and other tie-ins that would dramatically increase the total. All of the chosen twenty-eight are well written with many of the authors highly regarded like Cory Docterow, Robert Charles Wilson, Kage Baker, Alastair Reynolds, Robert Reed, Greg Egan, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette and Stephen Baxter, etc. The best of the best (at least in my opinion) are "Riding the Crocodile" by Greg Egan in which two immortals consider boldly conspicuously suicide together; Robert Charles Wilson’s Julian: A Christmas Story as two men meet and struggle to survive a wintry night before traveling different life paths; and a tour of Venus in Tin Marsh by Michael Stanwick, who according to Mr. Dozois has been writing for over two decades, but I confess I only read any of his works for the first time recently (see THE DRAGONS OF BABEL). Once gain this is a superb compilation as none of the entries are losers and most are excellent exploring the genre from quantum physics communicating with the dead to outer space and beyond; 2006 may have been lacking in innovation, but still with quality tales abound prove to be a great year affirmed by Mr. Dozois’ latest anthology.

Harriet Klausner

The Curse of the Campfire Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales-David Lubar

The Curse of the Campfire Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales
David Lubar
Starscape, Sep 2007, $15.95
ISBN: 9780765318077

As with the two previous “Weenie …” Tales (see LAND OF THE LAWN WEENIES and INVASION OF THE ROAD WEENIES), this collection consists of thirty-five extremely short stories (average size is approximately five pages) that target children as the prime audience. The tales are fun to read and usually contain a subtle morality message or a question to ponder that is interwoven into the story. For instance in “Mr. HooHaa”, Mr. Lubar asks a key metaphysical question of are clowns more frightening without the make-up or a profound look into the universally accepted tenet that “You Are What You Eat”. In “The Tunnel of Terror”, Rachel learns the hard way that avoidance or even closing your eyes does not make the issue vanish (sounds like Rachel will grow up to be a politician). So like Ben get yourself a drink at “The Soda Fountain” and enjoy reading the warped and creepy tales of an expert as Mr. Lubar’s latest shows how the grass is not necessarily greener when you escape from “The Curse of the Campfire Weenies” to end up with the Girl Scouts singing campfire weenies.

Harriet Klausner

The Dragons of Babel-Michael Swanwick

The Dragons of Babel
Michael Swanwick
Tor, Jan 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765319500

In a tiny village east of Avalon and on the edge of the Old Forest, young orphan Will le Fey and others saw the war dragons with their riders soaring in the sky. Whereas the others fled to the safety of their village from either side of the war as the basilisk are as nasty to the innocent civilians as the dragons and their half mortal riders; Will stayed to watch although an explosion warped time.

Not long afterward, a wingless crippled dragon with holes in his fuselage crawled out of the Old Forest and collapsed in the village. The villagers assume he belongs to Will, instead this feral beast made of flesh and metal owns the lad and declares he is the king of this area From that point forward, every evening, the somewhat healing dragon uses the boy to learn of any insurrections until the locals exile Will. The patrol capture him as no wanders the land and take him to a refugee camp run more like a prison. However, conmander Nat Whilk frees Will whose odyssey continues below the food chain at the sewerage and stinking tunnels beneath the Dread Tower of Babel as he learns the key lesson of the politically powerful to get what they want regardless of the costs to others such as the use of war as a mechanism to stay in power.

This hardcore fantasy uses mythological characters to tell a coming of age saga of a young man who learns that Lord Acton was right as power corrupts. Politicians including are skewed by Michael Swanwick through the lessons learned by the hero as he climbs the stairwell up the Tower Of Babel until he can achieve his objective winning the hand of the Elven woman he loves, but was too far above him in social class. Readers who appreciate a hardcore fantasy satire will enjoy Mr. Swanick’s version of New York City as THE DRAGONS OF BABEL will never give up power willingly risking the lives of patriots who are someone else’s offspring.

Harriet Klausner

The Morcai Battalion-Diana Palmer

The Morcai Battalion
Diana Palmer
Luna, Dec 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780373802890

Attempts for peace throughout the galaxy appear impossible and a deadly intergalactic war seems imminent. Most understand that billions will die and whole planets destroyed if the fragile treaty collapses. Yet the Rojok dictator Mangus Lo pushes hostilities with his brutal assaults on planets; his objective to be the lone ruler of the galaxy. In minutes he turned the trial peace planet Terramer with a colony from one hundred twenty federation planets into dust killing ten million.

After failing to prevent the latest Rojok war crime, on board the SSC Bellatrix, horrified Tri-Fleet Strategic Space Command officers Lieutenant Commander Madeline Ruszel, Dr. Strick Hahnson and Captain Holt Stern along with their crew are forced to flee their damaged spaceship. They manage to gain passage on the Holoconcom vessel Morcai, but the divergent groups clash. When a betrayal leaves members of both sides imprisoned and tortured by the Rojok, Holt knows he must unite the two sides if they are to escape to fight another day against an amoral enemy who wantonly kills innocent people in order to terrorize his foes.

THE MORCAI BATTALION is a rewriting modernization (seems odd to state modernizing a futuristic tale) of a 1980s Diana Palmer science fiction thriller. The story line is action-packed with the galaxy containing numerous populated planets at war. Readers will root for the good guys especially Holt, but though limited in appearance, Rojok steals the show with his mental forceless Darth Vader like contempt for everyone else. Not for fans of Ms. Palmer’s western romances, fans of stark outer space military science fiction will appreciate this sobering at war thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 26, 2007

Heart of the Storm-Lindsay McKenna

Heart of the Storm
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN, Dec 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373772254

Rogan Fast Horse stole a sacred ceremonial pipe, killing the female guardian on the Rosebud Reservation. The thief next used the special pipe to magically kill the vice president of the United States. The FBI conducts a massive manhunt, but the few clues they find make little sense.

The daughter of the murdered guardian Dana Thunder Eagle was to have inherited the pipe from her mother, but following the homicide she fled her home on the reservation. Although feeling unprepared, she accepts the responsibly of retrieving the pipe and preventing Rogan from using it to kill again. She has five weeks left to before Rogan can regenerate the power to reuse the pipe to magically murder someone. Former Delta Force soldier and psychic warrior Chase Iron Hand trains Dana to become a special kind of fighter able to defeat Rogan.

This is an exciting tale in which the perpetual action is built around Native American mythos. The lead couple is an interesting pairing as they have no time for much more than training; to a degree that leaves Chase and Dana somewhat enigmas to readers, which in turn adds to the tension. HEART OF THE STORM is an enjoyable cat and mouse as Chase knows Dana must recover the pipe as its power is gender specific, but she is not ready even as he expects the stakes to be higher than the second homicide.

Harriet Klausner

The Perfect Match-Kimberly Cates

The Perfect Match
Kimberly Cates
Harlequin HQN, Dec 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373772650

Her nonagenarian Irish “fairy godmother” Great Auntie Maeve MacKinnon tells twenty-seven years old Rowena Brown to open her animal rescue pet store in Whitewater, Illinois because in this tiny town she will find her soulmate. Rowena heeds the advice of her godmother although she has mixed feelings about finding the love of her life.

Using her magical Cuchullain pipe, Rowena is able to perfectly match people with the animals she heals; so her rescue store proves very successful. She matches nine year old sad faced Charlie with the hundred plus pound and growing juvenile delinquent Newfoundland dog her father Deputy Cash Lawless calls Destroyer and Rowena calls Clancy because the child and the canine are soul mates. Cash is initially irate until he sees how good Charlie is with the dog. As Rowena becomes involved with Cash, Charlie and his other younger daughter Mac, she realizes her fairy godmother is right that she will find her soulmate here as the Lawless father and two daughters stole her heart.

Male names aside, THE PERFECT MATCH is a delightful whimsical romantic fantasy starring three wonderful humans and a canine who steals many of the scenes. Rowena and Cash are fully developed and readers will feel for Charlie as much as her father does. The secondary players, mostly regally commanding “Princess” Mac the townsfolk, other rescued animals, and of course Clancy, enhance a warm tale of love.

Harriet Klausner

Holiday with a Vampire-Maureen Child and Caridad Pineiro

Holiday with a Vampire
Maureen Child and Caridad Pineiro
Silhouette Nocturne, Dec 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617760

"Christmas Cravings" by Maureen Child. Tessa Franklin saves the undead life of Grayson Stone left to die in the sun. However, his life remains forfeit as vampires warn him to pick sides and die; stay neutral and die. This is multifaceted vampire romance starring two strong protagonists, but the resolution seems too easy following stratospheric problems and threats.

"Fate Calls" by Caridad Pineiro. Connie Morales tries to raise money for charity ringing her Christmas bell. Across the street from Connie is irritated vampire Hadrian Aurelius who finally decides the only way to stop the ringing is to kidnap the irritant ringer. He abducts Connie, but instead of peace on earth, he finds himself attracted to Connie. Caridad Pineiro writes a wonderful Christmas paranormal romance starring two appealing lead characters.

Sub-genre fans will appreciate spending the HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE (or two).

Harriet Klausner

The Empath-Bonnie Vanak

The Empath
Bonnie Vanak
Silhouette Nocturne, Dec 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617777

The Morphs and the Draicon detest one another as they differ when it comes to the third sentient species on the planet. The Morphs are shapeshifters who believe humans are beneath them on the food chain whereas the Draicon werewolves believe all life is sacred.

Draicon werewolf Nicolas Keenan learns that the Morphs threaten his soulmate, a Draicon veterinarian Dr. Maggie Sinclair, who thinks she is human. He races to Florida to keep her safe, but she rejects him as being a lunatic. Her belief systems changes when the evil shapeshifting Morphs attack her and Nicolas saves her life. As she realizes who she is and who he is to her, they team up in love to fight for their lives.

The key to this paranormal romantic suspense fantasy is the belief that the Draicon and Morph are genuine species who are in a shapeshifters’ civil war. Nicolas and Maggie are interesting lead characters whose relationship morphs (a bad action verb for this couple) from her assuming he is crazy to joining him in love and safety. Fans will appreciate Bonnie Vanak’s engaging thriller as her world is a dangerous place to live let alone fall in love.

Harriet Klausner

A Dark Sacrifice-Madeline Howard

A Dark Sacrifice
Madeline Howard
Eos, Dec 2007, $14.95, 432 pp.
ISBN 97800660575922

Ouriana is the Divine Incarnation of the Devouring Moon, strong in magic due to the deity that resides in her. Like her, it feeds on blood and death and works only dark sorceries. She is impregnable and is served by the Furiadhim, mutated beings who were once men who wield black magic. The only thing that Ouriana fears is the prophecy that states one of her blood will overthrow her. Her niece Winloki is the child of the prophecy all grown up and living in Skyrana in the north adopted by King Ristil who is at war with the Eislanders.

Winloki, a healer accompanies Prince Kivlik and his relative Skerry to battle but they are overrun and find themselves trapped in the fortress at Tirfang. A small group who want Winloki to fulfill the prophecy are marfching to the fortree including the powerful healer Sinderian, her dead father who takes the shapes of various birds and the half-Faey fPrince Ruan. The people are under siege from giants, shapechangers and Eislanders. When Winloki is kidnapped by the Furiadhim, the siege ends; her allies go out to find and rescue her. Both groups face danger from various creatures and supernatural beings.

A DARK SACRIFICE is a wonderful fantasy set in a world where magic is taken for granted and dwarves, the fae and other creatures of myth and legend are real and dangerous to humans. Readers will feel sorry for Winloki who has to adjust her conception of herself and admire Sinderian who is willing to do whatever it takes to defeat Ouriana. These strong willed independent women come to realize the power that resides within them and make difficult choices according to their nature. Madeline Howard is a first rate fantasist.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Ivory and the Horn-Charles de Lint

The Ivory and the Horn
Charles de Lint
Tor Orb, Oct 2007, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765316790

These fifteen Newford tales are a fun interrelated collection as the characters find solace from the everyday pain of living, but every action leads to a related reaction. For instance Jilly’s artist pal Sophie enters "Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery" as a child only to find herself years later isolated in a Native American dream world in "Where Desert Spirits Crowd the Night"; while her parents first meet "In Dream Harder”. Thus the audience obtains deep fantasy tales that contain characters in several entries, which in turn leads to even more profound sagas. Although all except for "Bird Bones and Wood Ash" have been printed in other publications, fans of the series will enjoy reading them in one anthology that makes for easy mix and match as Newford character linkage between sets of stories showcases Charles de Lint’s abilities to intelligently entertain his fans.

Harriet Klausner

Air Apparent-Piers Anthony

Air Apparent
Piers Anthony
Tor, Oct 2007, $24.95
ISBN 9780765304100

The son of the Gorgon and Good Magician Humphrey, Hugo disappears without a trace from the cellar of his home. His blind wife of seventeen Wira, panics as her spouse is always prompt and not subject to vanishing. At the same time that Hugo went poof into thin air or somewhere else, the corpse of a murder victim arrives in the cellar.

Meanwhile something happens to Humphrey’s book of answers so that he cannot provide any help; besides the cost is very high when you are already paying him like everyone else in Xanth seems to be doing. Instead, a bewildered Wira gets a break when thirteen year old Debra arrives from Mundania. However, Debra, “De-bra” to males has crossed over in hope that Humphrey can provide her the cure to her curse of the accent of her name by men; Humphrey cannot help her since his book of answers remains out of commission. The Gorgon converts Debra into a naturally bra-less flying centaur in exchange for her helping find Hugo and uncover the identity of the killer. Debra accompanied by Wira pun their way across Xanth on their quest.

AIR APPARENT is simply Xanth filled with horrendous puns that readers either make readers groan or laugh at the wild cast. The story line is a typical Xanth quest that roams anywhere and everywhere a pun or bad word joke can be found. Piers Anthony thanks his fans for providing some of the worst jokes that even Milton Berle would not have borrowed. Yet even at 31, the escapades in Xanth remain fun and humorous with the loyal audience casting a spell for Mr. Anthony to continue rewriting Humphrey’s book of answers.

Harriet Klausner

Demon Eyes-.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims

Demon Eyes
L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims
Leisure, Dec 2007, $6.99, 378 pp.
ISBN: 9780843959727

She is being offered a chance of a lifetime, to be promoted to personal assistant to Alex Keltner, the managing director of Keltner Industries. The offer is so sudden that she needs time to think about it. When she gets home she tells her lover about it who finds it a two edged sword. On one hand they need the money but on the other hand Helen doesn’t want Emma traveling for long periods of time. They agree she will try out the position and if it doesn’t work out, she will leave.

While Emma is accepting the offer, Helen dies in what seems like a supernatural event. While grieving, Emma must act the hostess at her boss’s country home where all the firm’s most important clients are attending. Her former boss gives her a warning to get out while she can but shows fear when Alex watches them. Emma notice that later her ex-boss is nowhere to be found. Emma sees and feels things that make her believe she is dealing with people who only wear the mask of humanity. She’s afraid that if she doesn’t escape, she will end up being their puppet, doing what they want with no will of her own.

L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims write a true horror story that will scare the heck out of readers. The heroine is forced to come to terms with what she sees and at first denies because it seems possible that the Keltners have a strange interest in her as if she is a key to their future. People who know the Keltners for what they are join forces to try to rescue Emma and if successful, though that is doubtful, might even save the human race.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Saint City Sinners-Lilith Saintcrow

Saint City Sinners
Lilith Saintcrow
Orbit, Nov 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780316021432

Her Lucifer assignment to capture four demons is on hold though she prays that the prince of Darkness is ignorant of being put aside even temporarily; Dante Valentine does not need another confrontation with a superpower who would not mind her being dead. However, the text message Gabrielle “Gabe” Spocarelli is succinct and to the point: “Danny, Mainthusez I need you. Now. Gabe”. Only for her best friend in her Saint City childhood would Dante put of Lucifer.,

Dante returns home to learn Gabe’s beloved Eddie was murdered ten days ago and Saint City is filled with danger. Dante seeks vengeance, but is irate with her demon lover Japhrimel, who seems to know who and why, but refuses to tell her anything. As Dante’s frustration grows, Japh turns increasingly obstinate as he insists his prime objective is to keep his beloved safe including from her own reckless self at the cost of their relationship if need be. However once again he underestimates the necromancer who affirms hell hath no fury like a female seeking revenge even when it is against the wrong individual as she fails to see she is the victim of a Judas betrayal.

The latest Dante Valentine paranormal thriller is an exciting tale that showcases the talent of author Lilith Saintcrow as she combines angst and heart break with supernatural action. The story line is fast-paced, but the key elements to this superb fantasy are the plausible plot twists that send the heroine deeper into depression and anguish; she even seems suicidal ready for demons or Lucifer to kill her (kind of like having the cops shoot you). SAINT CITY SINNERS affirms that you can’t go home even for a heavenly cause.

Harriet Klausner

Old Friends-Constance O’Day-Flannery

Old Friends
Constance O’Day-Flannery
Tor, Dec 2007, $6.99
ISBN 9780765354051

Although she feels good for her close friend who just announced her engagement, forty three year old Claire Hutchinson feels depressed. Her clock ticking away and still she has not found a forever love and is not sure she wants too. In front of her buddies the Yellow Brick Road Gang, Claire hides her growing belief she will always be alone, but also ponders if that isn’t bad because she remains independent and, in spite of close caring friends, hides her darkest secrets.

At a video store, Claire meets Michael. Although she is taken aback that he knows a lot about her, she is also attracted to him. However, a death in her family propels Claire to her estranged relatives, which in turn forces her to look back at the incident that caused the painful split. However, she also learns why Michael seems to know her so well, which adds the twin pains of betrayal and being used to her already emotional mess even as he tries to persuade her otherwise of his intentions.

The third Yellow Brick Road Gang is an entertaining paranormal romance although it lacks the sharp suspense spins of the previous tales (TWICE IN A LIFETIME and BEST LAID PLANS). Claire is an interesting lead character as she has mixed feelings about falling in love; on the one hand she wants what her friends have just obtained, but on the other hand fears the cost to her independence may prove too great. Michael is the mystery as to just who he is. Fans of the miniseries will enjoy the latest member’s Metaphysical Misadventures.

Harriet Klausner

Air and Graces-Toby Bishop

Air and Graces
Toby Bishop
Ace, January 2008, $7.99, 352 pp.
ISBN: 9780441015566

The most important commodity in the Duchy of Oc is flying horses. These marvelous winged creatures only let females ride them, refusing to allow a man near them let alone touching them. Duke William is obsessed with riding a winged horse and is developing a new breeding line that will allow men to ride them. He is so intent on bonding with a winged horse that he neglects his duty to his people.

The village of Onmarin is attacked by the barbarous Aesklanders and two of the students of the Academy Of Air witnessed the event. The duke won’t avenge his people’s death or try to find the two children that were taken. Horsemaster Philippa of the academy works behind the scenes to get the students back without Duke William, her sworn enemy, knowing of her plans. An academy student Larkyn finds out what William is doing and reports to Phillipa; but William brings charges against Philippa. William is growing increasingly insane and dangerous as he takes an elixir that turns his body into a female so that his first flying horse Diamond will accept him. His brother Francis is the only one who can limit his older brother’s actions but his power is restricted and the duke is cunning using stealth and trickery to get his way.

Readers who read the prequel to the novel AIR BENEATH THE MOON will thoroughly enjoy reading how much Lark has matured as she learns patience and caution. The duke hates her because he believes she stole his first flying horse of his new bloodline away from him. Her concern for her mentor Horsemistress Philippa endears her to the audience who can see she cares more about her mentor and her horse than she does herself.

Harriet Klausner

Metal Swarm-Kevin J. Anderson

Metal Swarm
Kevin J. Anderson
Orbit, Dec 2007, $25.99
ISBN 9780316021746

The Terran Hanseatic League known as Hansa, the Ildiran Empire and the recently formed Confederation of Hansa (former colonies of the failing Terran Hanseatic League) struggle to survive while fighting one another. The three groups know they need to forge an alliance as they have external threats to their respective security.

However none of the leaders want to be accused of taking the first step towards forging an alliance as no one trusts the others to adhere to any pact. Instead they each continue to go it alone with some military resources diverted to keep the other two empires in check. Separately they struggle against runaway robots, strange intelligent fire beings and worst an insectoid race that has pandemic plans to eradicate all humans on planets found in all three spheres that they consider theirs. Failure to unite means extinction in many sectors of the universe.

The latest intergalactic interspecies hostilities outer space thriller is fast-paced and exciting, but has too much going on making it difficult to keep up with the zillion subplots especially for newcomers. Still the exhilarating story line is filled with plenty of non-stop action. Though no character stands out (there are almost as many key players as there are insectoid), fans of the series will enjoy the METAL SWARM of killer robots, fire creatures and the bugs as humanity stands on the brink of extinction in some places due to species cleansing if they fail to forge an alliance between distrusting enemies.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Collection

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Collection
Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant (editors)
St. Martin’s, Oct 2007, $21.95
ISBN: 9780312369422

As has been the case (at least since this reviewer began reading this annual collection several years ago), this anthology provides some of the best horror and fantasy short stories, poems and other media from 2006. The forty entries are always fun even for those who may have read most of them in other collections. The tales range the gamut from wishfully whimsical to fundamentally frightening to awesomely amusing. However, once again it is the deep articles that provide “Summation 2006: Fantasy”, “Summation 2006: Horror”, “The Year in Media of the Fantastic: 2006”, “Fantasy in Comics and Graphic Novels 2006”, “Music of the Fantastic: 2006”, and “Obituaries: 2006” that bring an extra edge to this always strong collection; even the obits enhance the book with its short homage to the famous like the Jims Baen and Williamson and the not so famous (to me) such as “Retro Hugo” winner Wilson Tucker. This reviewer especially enjoys comparing this year’s trends as described in the Summations to the last few years. Readers will enjoy meeting new authors (at least to me) like Ira Sher and Margo Lanagan and long time favorites like Gene Wolfe and Terry Dowling. Besides the articles, perhaps the best entry is the realistic futuristic "Another Word for Map Is Faith" by Christopher Rowe (right surname for the author of this tale), who extrapolates the religious right teaming with the Neocons into a scary vision of a Taliban-like control of America. The Twentieth Annual Collection is a terrific compilation.

Harriet Klausner

The Unnatural Inquirer-Simon R. Green

The Unnatural Inquirer
Simon R. Green
Ace, Jan 2008, $21.95
ISBN 9780441015580

In Nightside, Pen Donavon insists he owns a DVD that contains a recording of the afterlife. He obviously is convincing that he has such proof because THE UNNATURAL INQUIRER signs a deal with him; then again many of Nightside’s shadowy residents would point out that the publication is a tabloid so proof is too strong an assertion.

However, not long after Donavon pens his deal with the scandal rag, he vanishes. With civil war possible over who governs the Nightside, the competing powers search for Donavon and his DVD as the latter might give an edge to the group possessing it. Assassinations become the norm as each of the rivals murders their opponents. Private investigator John Taylor, accompanied by half-demon reporter Bettie Divine, search for Donavon a bit differently than anyone else as he figures the best way to find the missing individual is to focus on who abducted him, which means why and not necessarily to own the DVD, but perhaps destroy the DVD to eliminate incriminating evidence.

The eighth Nightside paranormal private investigator mystery is a fabulous often amusing tale as once again Taylor is working a difficult case because of the homicidal amateurs fogging up the already murky atmosphere. However, with his usual aplomb and the beautiful Halfbreed humanized she-demon with him every step of the killing fields, Taylor navigates the eerie otherworld center of London in which one mistakes means HELL TO PAY for the hero. Simon R. Green continues to provide novel mysteries in a strange otherworld.

Harriet Klausner

Master of Shadows-Janet Lorimer

Master of Shadows
Janet Lorimer
June, Sept 2007, $12.95, 286 pp.
ISBN: 9780809557820

After her father disappeared, Ariel McPherson learned that he was a gambler who left them in poverty except for a cottage in the village. Her fiancé Michael broke up with her and his father Daniel Gilchrest is struggling to keep the business afloat because her father, who was his partner, embezzled finds to fund his addiction. In the village, Ariel goes to the stream in the woods to get water for her ailing mother who believes it contains medicinal qualities.

It is there she meet Louvel who is kind to her even though he doesn’t let her see him. He offers her employment in the form of fixing up his library and she accepts. After a time, she tells him she loves him but he rejects her and sends her back to the cottage where Michael is waiting for her. He reminds her of their engagement and tells her that her father’s body has been found; washed up from the sea. She and her mother return to the city where society accepts them. Her mother is happy but Ariel is uneasy in Michael’s presence and misses Louvel, a man she never even saw. Eventually she learns the truth about Michael and Louvel and discovers the true meaning of love.

When Ariel is in the city, there is a modern day feel to the storyline; but when she is in the woods and at Louvel’s castle readers feel as if the characters are in a fairy tale. The heroine is determined to learn the truth about both men in her life even if it means going against Louvel’s decrees. Readers will enjoy this enchanting romantic fantasy as the audience will hope Ariel obtains her happily ever after.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Maiden-Norma Lehr

Dark Maiden
Norma Lehr
Juno, Sept 2007, $12.95, 227 pp.
ISBN: 9780809557806

Everyone says that Sheila Miller’s son Timmy died of SIDS but she knows an Asian woman sucked the soul out of her infant. Her husband Karl believes she hallucinated seeing an Asian woman as a means of projecting her feelings of guilt onto someone else; and had her hospitalized for three months. When she gets out they move to Auburn to be near her Aunt Iris. When she arrives there she meets Chad Olson and they both have immediate feelings for one another as if they knew one another in a previous life.

Sheila starts hallucinating about a Chinese massacre that happened near the mine on the property. Chad is obsessed about opening up the mine and digging for artifacts. Sheila begins to hear sound and seen Asian woman and she starts blacking out. She doesn’t remember what she did but those around her got hurt or killed. Chad sees a giant fox following Sheila around but she thinks he is seeing things. Sheila’s psychiatrist from the hospital contacts the Wus and shows them a drawing she made while in the hospital. The elder Wu has an identical amulet and tells thr doctor that Sheila’s condition is explained by a supernatural being and if it is not stopped, Sheila will cease to exist

DARK MAIDEN is an enthralling and entertaining dark fantasy that will bewitch readers with its hypnotic storyline. Readers will empathize with Sheila who has to cope with the loss of a child and supernatural attacks. Norma Lehr is a talented writer who somehow makes the events that take place in this tale as believable as her characters who behave in plausible manners. Once the audience learns what motivates each of them it is exciting reading about their encounter with and how they react to the supernatural..

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Breath and Bone-Carol Berg

Breath and Bone
Carol Berg
Roc, Jan 2008, $15.00
ISBN 9780451461865

Valen the sorcerer does not want the role he finds himself in as he fears for the realms of the mortals and the Danae; the beleaguered mage is convinced a new evil era is coming to both spheres.

Adding to his discomfort and uncertainty is his feeling that he is the midpoint foci of a dangerous pair of villains pulling at him. He knows he must choose to ally with Osriel the bastard prince of Evanore or priestess Sila Diaglou; both believe that the end is now. His selection between the lesser of two evils even if he chooses the right one still could prove too late as doom appears the most likely outcome for humanity and or the Danae regardless of what he does.

This sequel to FLESH AND SPIRIT is an entertaining character study as much of the fantasy saga is an introspective of Valen seeking to save the worlds while also redeeming himself for his past transgressions. Readers who prefer fast-paced action should look elsewhere. However, those in the audience who enjoy a doubting hero struggling to be a champion while hesitating at every step he takes will appreciate Carol Berg’s intriguing BREATH AND BONE.

Harriet Klausner

House Infernal-Edward Lee

House Infernal
Edward Lee
Cemetery Dance, Dec 2007, $40.00, 984 pp.
ISBN: 9781587671692

Venetia Barlow, a pious young woman, who is thinking about becoming a nun, is working the summer for extra credit to fix up St John’s Prior House. After her arrival she learns that the builder of the house was an approved Vatican architect who was a closet Satanist. There are hidden names and message throughout the house as well an involution in the catacombs. She also finds out that two months ago two virgin nuns were murdered here. Unknown to Venetia a Pith leading to hell is in the catacombs of St John’s Prior House

In Hell, High Lord Boniface, an anti-pope from the Middle Ages and one of Lucifer’s most devoted servants, has a Pith the atrium of his fortress. For a hundred years he has tortured and raped captured angels who the demons made pregnant. The years of pain caused them to lose their purity making them ripe for Lucifer’s purpose. Father Alex and Ruth, two Human Dead, have a mission that will enable him to ascend to heaven and her to purgatory in a thousand years if they are successful. Their assignment involves preventing Venetia from being used as a weapon that will impact life on earth.

Readers will be able to visualize the different areas of Hell thanks to Edward Lee’s very graphic and colorful descriptions. Venetia is ignorant of the tug of war role between heaven and hell they want her to play, but she trusts her own instincts to do the right thing for God. At first when she hears Father Alexander’s voice, she thinks she is going crazy but she perseveres with her beliefs and tries to convince herself that it was all a dream. This is a fantastic horror novel that readers will place on their keeper shelf.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dark Lullaby-Mayra Calvani

Dark Lullaby
Mayra Calvani
Whiskey Creek, 2007
ISBN: 9781593749071

Astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz enjoys an intellectual debate especially over beer, but recently he has had doubts he will ever find a passionate love as his relationship with Liz went from girlfriend to friend. Meanwhile the only person he loves, his pregnant Elena begs him to be there when she gives birth as she is frightened having lost a newborn three years ago. Gabriel would do anything for Elena so he promises to come to Belgium where she lives.

However, his sibling’s need vanishes form his brain when he meets Kamilah. She challenges his intellect with debates on good and evil and what is justice. Instead of going to Belgium, he accompanies Kamilah to her home in the Turkish mountains overlooking the Black Sea. Once in Rize, Gabriel loses his cell phone and becomes very sick suffering from nightmares that make sleep horrendous and he suffers even worse hallucinations when awake. As an increasingly paranoid Gabriel fears for his mind and wonders if somehow Kamilah is behind his descent into insanity and overall ill health, a panic stricken Elena keeps wondering where he is as he never failed her unlike their parents and she cannot believe he will fail his soon to be born niece.

This is a terrific horror tale that hooks readers who in spite of knowing that Kamilah is malevolent from almost the first siren meeting with Gabriel wonder what her her motive is and who she is. Fans will assume due to Gabriel’s descent into paranoia and Elena’s increasing manic panic attacks and anxiety-depression that borders on bipolar that this is a psychological thriller; but the Turkish locale and Kamilah make it so much more. Maria Calvani will have fans hooked in a one sitting read as the author's appreciative attentive audience will want to know is it madness or something more paranormally chilling.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

20th Century Ghosts-Joe Hill

20th Century Ghosts
Joe Hill
Morrow, Oct 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061147975

This is an interesting horror short story collection with the supernatural and teen male angst playing major roles in all the tales. All were printed in various magazines over the past decade, but never brought together under one collection until now. None of Joe Hill’s entries are weak, while some are excellent. All showcase how talented Mr. Hill is (see HEART SHAPED BOX). Readers will feel for John locked in a basement that's stained with blood (similar to the army physical during the draft days) of other murdered children calling him on a disconnected “Black Phone and empathize with Alec whose “paramour” Imogene is the title character a “20th Century ghost” haunting the Rosebud Theater. However, the best of the lot is "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead" as he is an unsuccessful comedian who meets his married ex-high school girlfriend on a horror film set. 20th CENTURY GHOSTS is a terrific 21st century horror anthology.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Borne In Blood-Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Borne In Blood
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, Dec, 2007, $27.95, 368 pp.
ISBN 9780765317131

In 1817 the vampire Comte Franciscus Saint-Germain Ragoczy is living in peace in his chateau in Switzerland with his paramour widow Hero and both of them are very happy in their relationship. She accepts him for the four millennia year old being he is; recognizing that he is more humane than most of the humans who are living in the time when poverty is rampant thanks to Napoleon’s wars and defeat. He understands that there is a perpetual sadness about her because her father-in-law has custody of her children.

Saint- Germain plans to visit one of the authors of his Eclipse Publish Company who is studying the nature of blood. Graf Van Rasenberg welcomes a man of his stature to see his work and it is the court’s hope that her father-in-law will let her see children. At a party celebrating her engagement to an older man, Hyacinthine plans a surprise that will destroy several lives yet bring her a peace that has eluded her for years.

The twentieth Saint-Germain book takes place just after the Napoleonic Wars when French soldiers are turning to banditry and becomes outlaws because of the sudden poverty in a power vacuum that is not being filled to for these veterans and their families. Saint-Germain does what he can to help feed the starving masses as crops have failed for two years due to terrible weather but comes under suspicion when bandits steal it. In spite of all he undergoes, he retains his humanity in a world that looks at a foreigner and exile with suspicion. Ms Yarbro’s vampire novels are some of the best historicals on the book shelves.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Awakening-Lara Adrian

Midnight Awakening
Lara Adrian
Dell, Dec, 2007, $6.99, 370 pp.
ISBN: 9780553589399

Vampires who find their Breedmate, recognizable by a certain mark somewhere on their body, can have children. Their bond is a lifelong commitment and the woman doesn’t age as long as her mate is still alive. The Breed are a peaceable society and most of them live in the Darkhavens, which are underground and surrounded by the best security systems in existence. The Rogues have given in to their blood lust and have no care for human life because their craving is too strong.

The Rogues and the minions (Renfields) are controlled by Merek, the brother of Lucan who is in charge of the Order. Its mission is to kill the rogues while its counterpoint the Enforcement Agency believes in rehabilitation and looks upon the order as barbarous.

Elise lost her husband in the war against the Rogues and her son to the Bloodlust that made him go Rogue. She lives to kill them and nobody interferes with her until Tegan, a powerful agent in the Order, discovers what she is doing. Centuries of staying apart from his brethren are gone when he realizes how courageous Elise is. Though he tries to stop her, she puts herself in the middle of a war zone and he ends up giving her his blood to strengthen her. He avoids thinking about his feelings for her as they both concentrate on figuring out what plan Merek is working on. He finds Elise is a valuable helper and as the danger mounts he finds he cannot hide his feelings from her and himself any longer.

Lara Adrian has created a whole vampire culture that is separate from humanity and makes it feel vulnerable. Her latest and most exciting work will appeal to fans of Laurell K. Hamilton as her vampires have heart and care about each other and the humans who they could easily dominate as the Rogues want to do. Both Elise and Tegan have suffered great losses so when love comes knocking on their door, she is eager to embrace it while he fears getting hurt again. Both protagonists are complex likeable characters who endear themselves to the reader.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 15, 2007

Forecast-Jane Tara

Jane Tara
Love Spell, Nov 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 0505527448

In Greenwich Village, everyone knows to visit the Shakespeare females if they wanted accurate predictions of their future. If you need to know the weather or find a lost child or object, most know to stop at the Shakespeare Second Site new age store. Rowie Shakespeare loves her grandmother who manages the store and her mother the mystic, but would like to move past the mysticism starting with a boyfriend, who with a first kiss she does not know his future with some other bimbo.

TV weather man Drew Henderson is the in meteorologist because he goes where the action is and explains complex science so that his viewers understand it without dumbing it down; it helps that he is a hunk. Covering a hurricane he is injured, but his studio chooses a psychic weatherwoman rather than a professional to temporarily replace him. As he has cardiac arrest, Rowie becomes a celebrity with her uncanny 100 per cent accuracy. When they kiss for the firs time, she cannot read his lips except for their wanting to kiss her again.

This is an amusing New Age romance with whimsical fantasy elements to enhance the tale. In many ways FORECAST is an updated version of Bell, Book, and Candle, but has a freshness of its own due to the weather predicting “rivalry” between the psychic and the scientist. Jane Tara provides a charming entertaining tale of love amidst TV meteorology ratings that this reviewer predicts will gain the author many appreciative fans.

Harriet Klausner

Beyond Fearless-Rebecca York

Beyond Fearless
Rebecca York
Berkley, Nov 2007, $7.99
ISBN 9780425218662

Palm Beach millionaire Terrence Sanford hires Zachary Robinson, known for locating lost treasures, to find his sixty years old missing brother William who vanished with his yacht Blue Heron off Grand Ferandino in the Caribbean. Zach prefers to use his regular crew as he is uncomfortable with strangers, but has managed to hire two experienced sailors from the local Florida area. However, the diver Jose panics when they enter the sunken Blue heron; later he claims he saw Pagor the war god of the island’s Vadiana deities.

Not long after that Zach meets a magician-psychic Anna Ridgeway, who has fled Denver for Grand Fernandino to perform for enigmatic Etienne Bertrand at the Sugar Cane Club and to escape a dangerous situation in the States, but fears the danger followed her. When she and Zach meet, they share an impossible inexplicable telepathic and emotional link that neither can resist. However, Anna’s hunch that danger followed her proves true as local shopkeeper and black magic practitioner Raoul San Donato has plans to make Anna his and remove Zach from the triangle.

The second “Beyond” tale (see BEYOND CONTROL) is an entertaining romantic suspense fantasy with plenty of action in and out of the boudoir. The cast makes the story line fun as Zach is a bit of a hermit, Anna is in hiding so she is limiting personal contacts, Bertrand is strangely “off” kilter, and Raoul is a dark magician. Much more romance than fantasy or suspense, sub-genre fans will enjoy this tale from Beyond.

Harriet Klausner

Devil Inside-Jenna Black

Devil Inside
Jenna Black
Dell, Dec 2007, $6.99
ISBN 9780553590449

In Topeka on a job, kick demon butt professional exorcist Morgan Kingsley is embarrassed to find Lugh heir to the demon kingdom residing inside her. She wants to get rid of him, but has no earthly idea how to do it safely as the two options are between death and lobotomy.

Lugh is also unsure how he entered his hostess, but knows she has a strong human aura that keeps him somewhat under control. He only communicates with her when she is sleeping. However, after Morgan’s denial and fooling her expert peers re possession, Lugh through her dreams persuades Morgan they need to work together. He explains they must learn how his opponents transplanted him inside of her without either aware of it happening and how to get him out without harming her; although in his mind if he escapes her, she is expendable. As his demonic adversaries want him dead due to his radical position on human possession, the easy way to accomplish this is killing Morgan.

This is a fabulous urban fantasy in which the Black world filled with demons, possessions, laws, and special prisons make for an exhilarating thriller. Morgan will entertain the troops although somewhat a comic book heroine similar to Lara Craft; she is especially at her best when she rages at the humiliation of an exorcist being possessed. Fans of an offbeat but wildly enjoyable tale starring a take no prisoners heroine will want to read the DEVIL INSIDE, as the title is literally apropos.

Harriet Klausner

A Sword from Red Ice-J.V. Jones

A Sword from Red Ice
J.V. Jones
Tor, Oct 2007, $27.95
ISBN: 9780765306340

In the Great Want, Raif Sevrance knows he is in deep trouble as he is lost and running out of supplies, but rescued by the enigmatic Lamb Brothers, who seek the dead to bring solace to restless souls. When a wrall kills one of the brothers, Raif teaches them how to send his soul on before he turns into a Shadowflesh.

At the same time Raif struggles to survive, Ash March, still shook from the battle with the Blind creatures, has been separated from her Sull guardian Mal Naysayer, but meets Sull Far Rider Lan Fallstar; she is enthralled with his nasty kick butt attitude while he escorts her through the Racklands. Bram Cormac has been sold while the Cursed Clan abducts Effie Sevrance. Raina Blackhail’s plan to replace Mace Blackhail as chief fails as he prepared for such a contingency. The death of Surlord Penthero Iss reaches the battlefield where his chosen heir Marafice Eye sees victory stolen when his allies the Grangelords desert him to claim the surlord as their leader’s right not his. With war seemingly widening, the greatest threat comes from the Endlords and their army of the Unmade

There are a lot more subplots with incredible layers of complexity than the brief simplistic descriptions above as A SWORD FROM RED ICE is a well written transitional tale that implies many more books in the Sword of Shadows chronicles to come. The ensemble cast remains strong especially Raif, who has the dubious distinction of explaining to his saviors the Lamb Brothers that they must choose between what they consider the lesser of two evil choices. Although progress seems slower on most fronts than what is occurring in Iraq; fans of the series will enjoy this apparently getting much deeper, wider and apparently longer fantasy saga.

Harriet Klausner

Opening Atlantis-Harry Turtledove

Opening Atlantis
Harry Turtledove
Roc, Dec 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451461742

In 1452, English fisherman Edward Radcliffe steers his vessel St. George to Le Croisic in Breton to buy salt before he and his crew including two of his sons Henry and Richard sail into the Atlantic seeking cod; the salt will keep their catch from spoiling. After purchasing quality salt from salt merchant master Abrgall, the Radcliffes stop at a tavern for a drink. They listen to Bretons and Basque argue over what year it is, which leads to them meeting Breton Francois Kersauzon. He tells them a tale about a new continent way past the western most sailing lines in the Atlantic.

The English assumes he is talking about legendary Atlantis, a place so isolated without human contamination that strange unique species developed like the Honkers and the giant eagles that hunt them. When Edward returns to England after a successful fishing venture, he decides Atlantis is his utopia where he and his family can safely live free of the royal wars. However, as rumors spread that Edward plans to colonize Atlantis, many people demand passage with them. Edward and his sons create a colony on Atlantis not aware that future immigrants will demand more of the land while war, as with Europe, seems the norm throughout the decades.

The above paragraphs are the OPENING ATLANTIS New Hastings act of a three era tale that showcases Harry Turtledove’s ability to write a believable alternate historical thriller (the first of an Atlantis based trilogy). Readers need to understand that this is not the New World of Columbus fame, but instead a giant land mass somewhat in between Europe and the Americas; nor is this the advanced technological society of fable. Thus all sorts of differences from climate to international trade to hostilities develop. Although not as deep as some of Mr. Turtledove’s alternate historical sagas, genre fans will appreciate a different take on the legend of Atlantis and its impact on Europe.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hot Mama-Jennifer Estep

Hot Mama
Jennifer Estep
Berkley, Nov 2007, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425218662

In Bigtime, New York, fashion designer Fiona Fine lives a precarious double life as superhero Fiera fighting crime especially the Fearless Five. She would not give up either her day job or her alterego work although unable to grieve in public her recent loss makes being a superhero not quite as glamorous as it may seem. Fiera struggles to hide her despondency over the death of her fiancé superhero Travis.

After a period mourning, Fiona knows she must move on so plans to begin dating again. As she works up the courage, she is attracted to newcomer wealthy playboy Johnny Bulluci. Meanwhile superhero work never stops as two new nasty supervillains have caused Bigtime trouble and the latest reincarnation of Johnny Angel seeks vengeance from those who murdered his previous body. With all the men in her life, Fiona does not have to look hard to find a date though some of them play dangerously.

The latest satirical superhero romantic fantasy is a fun tale starring Fiona-Fiera, a young woman with a temper that burns. The story line is told by her so that readers see her vulnerability, confusion, and courage as a caring person with responsibilities. HOT MAMA is an enjoyable lighthearted thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Garden of Darkness-Anne Frasier

Garden of Darkness
Anne Frasier
Onyx, Dec 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451412478

Too much happened in Tuonela, Wisconsin to allow her unborn baby to be born in a place filled with evil memories caused by supernatural malevolent beings (see PALE IMMORTAL), but especially of one betrayer, her once beloved Evan Stroud. Thus medical examiner Rachel Burton is leaving town to move past his nightmarish duplicity.

However, before she leaves town, a skinned corpse is found in the nearby woods. People also complain that they see spirits walking the streets as if the dead have come back to life. Everyone blames Evan, but no one not even Stroud understands yet that the prize display of the Tuonela Museum, THE PALE IMMORTAL alleged vampire corpse, is calling out to the deceased and the living dead. All are coming to town, especially to the Old Tuonela part of town, and no one not even a pregnant medical examiner can leave.

GARDEN OF DARKNESS, the second Tuonela thriller is a fabulous horror thriller that combines events from the past with a frightening present. The story line grips the audience from the moment a couple driving stop when the woman who just miscarried sees a girl and never slows down from her first scream to the last confrontation. Keep the lights on as Anne Frasier provides a powerfully scary supernatural tale.

Harriet Klausner

Star Shadows- Colby Hodge

Star Shadows
Colby Hodge
Love Spell, Nov 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505526298

The house of Phoenix, who rule Oasis, know the danger to their kingdom from the evil Circe witches is real, but the king and queen decided to spare their children Arielle and Alexander from how deadly this menace is. As Elle and Zander remain ignorant, their best friend Boone knows the malevolence could strike at any moment. Against his better judgment as he believes his two buddies would be better off knowing the truth of this evil threat, he swore to his liege not to tell them.

However, living a protected life in a cage proves false when the Circe witches apparently abduct Zander. His family grieves for him as they assume he was slaughtered by these abominations and his sister angrily holds Boone culpable for concealing what he knew. Feeling guilty, Boone vows to learn whether Zander still lives and if so plans to rescue him. However, he vanishes leaving it up to a now contrite Elle mount a rescue.

Colby Hodge’s latest “Star” romantic science fiction (see STARGAZER and SHOOTING STAR) is an exhilarating action-packed thriller that stars the younger generation of Oasis heroes. The story line is filled with adventure as first Boone and then Elle set off to learn the truth. Although Elle’s obstinacy helps her on her escapade, fans will be somewhat annoyed at her narrow-mindedness. Still, she makes a fine heroine as STAR SHADOWS soars closer to the final confrontation between the witches and the House of Phoenix.

Harriet Klausner

The Nightwalkers: Elijah-Jacquelyn Frank

The Nightwalkers: Elijah
Jacquelyn Frank
Zebra, Dec 2007, $6.99, 360 pp.
ISBN: 9780821780671

There are many Nightwalker races, who can pass themselves off as humans; including Demons, Lycanthropes, vampires, & nightwalkers. Demons only look like the monsters portrayed in books and movies. It is when they are Summoned by a necromancer into a pentagram they look like the evil creatures of legend and are no longer capable of reasoning. For centuries the Demon and Lycanthrope races have been at war but after her father died, Siena, the Lycanthrope Queen has made peace with the demons and hopes one day lingering hatred will fade away.

Elijah, the captain of the demon warriors is in lycanthrope territory when he is attacked by hunters and necromancers led by two rogue demon women Ruth an her daughter Mary who want to destroy the demon race. He is near death when Siena finds him and brings him into a nearby cave where she saves his life. During their time alone they Imprint, mated for life though Siena tries to fight it as she doesn’t want a king to rule with her. The problem is easily resolved when he agrees to be prince consort and they are happy together until Ruth once again attacks the demon she hates the most, Elijah. The demon king brings the war to her not realizing it will change demon-lycanthrope relations forever.

The latest book in the Nightwalkers series is entertaining and action oriented with just enough romance to keep fans of the genre very happy. Jacquelyn Frank does for Demons what Anne Rice did for vampires and witches and what Tolkien did for Hobbits. The pairing of an alpha male demon and an alpha female lycanthrope makes for an interesting battle of the sexes as each tries to dominate. The other characters from previous Nightwalker books make appearances and play pivotal roles that give the audience a sense of continuity.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Watcher-Jeanne C Stein

The Watcher
Jeanne C Stein
Ace, Dec 2007, $7.99, 304 pp.
ISBN: 9780441015467

Bounty hunter Anna Strong never knew vampires existed until she was bitten by one and was turned. Now she is taken under the wings of two different kinds of men. The San Diego Chief of Police is a century old vampire who formed the Watchers; vampires who police the supernatural community keeping humans safe from the ones that are evil. She gets her human drug supply in a small desert Mexican town when the local bar is run by Culebra. It is the meeting place for vampires who need to drink human blood and humans who want to donate it.

She sees her lover Max there but he looks frazzled because of the bounty on his head by a Mexican drug lord. When she returns to San Diego, a FBI agent tells her that Max, a DEA agent, has gone rogue. She believes the agent is lying; and assumes the agent has a personal and evil vendetta. She intends to find Max but when she returns to Beso dela Muerte she discovers the witch Ms. Burke and her coven are going to summon a demon in the one minute window of opportunity on Halloween. She has to stop her not only because the demon will kill all the good supernaturals and because she intends to sacrifice Culebra. While she is battling the forces of darkness the drug lord kidnaps Max and intends to abduct Anna in order to torture her in front of him.

Everyone has plans for Anna but she has her own ideas of what she wants to do with her life and she is strong enough and independent enough to choose her own destiny. No human, including Max, knows Anna is a vampire and she fears if Max finds out he will leave her. This action paranormal thriller is full of unexpected twists, red herrings and the occasional wild goose chase. Jeanne C. Stein writes an enthralling vampiric mystery that has a lot of suspense, a touch of magic and a bit of romance so that readers of multiple genres are satisfied.

Harriet Klausner

Wyrvenhail-Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Delacorte, Sep 2007, $17.99
ISBN: 9780385734363

Being a half breed, Hai knows her blood lines are considered impure by her paternal serpentine family and by her aviary maternal kin. Neither side recognizes her beyond being a mongrel even with cobra blood flowing inside her. Even more painful proof of being a lowlife outsider is her broken falcon wings that occurred when she lived on Ahnmik Island and envisioned her beloved Nicias with a full blooded flacon female at his side. However, residing at the Wyvern's Court has not proved much better though albeit a bit safer as she is unaccepted by anyone and everyone fears her out of control magic causing havoc.

When Hai's half cousin Oliza Shardae Cobriana abdicates the Wyvern's Court throne, the kingdom is thrown into chaos. Hai has visions of the terrible destruction of her new home. It is ablaze and she also sees serpent King Salem dying while Nicias the Falcon guard is unable to save the children or himself. She knows she must do what she can to save the people especially the children, but she feats what it will cost her.

Volume five is a strong ending to the Kiesha’Ra young adult fantasy thrillers that has been a deep coming of age saga. Hai is terrific as she feels a responsibly to save the court especially the children although most of the adults have treated her with bias and disdain because of her mongrel status. Readers of all ages will enjoy the finish, but it behooves the audience to peruse the previous four tales as this is a fine series.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 12, 2007

Not Quite Dead-John Maclachlan Gray

Not Quite Dead
John Maclachlan Gray
St. Martin’s, Dec 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312374716

In 1848 on a cargo ship sailing from Liverpool to the United States, Irish stowaway Finn Devlin steals a package containing worthless papers “David Copperfield, Final Four Numbers, by Charles Dickens.” Although the Irishman sees no profit, he plans to visit Dickens’s American publisher to see if they might pay him anyway. Angry with his treatment Devilin kills the publisher.

In 1849 in Baltimore, infamous author, journalist and critic Edger Allen Poe collapses and is rushed to a hospital where he insists he has proof of a mob hit. Allegedly dying, he arranges with his childhood friend Dr. William Chivers to fake his death so that he can elude the Irish mob that wants him silent. Charles Dickens begins an America tour by having as a roommate in a dive, the maniacal Poe, who hides from the Irish mob. Soon all the players on this stage will collide in a final chapter worthy of both writers.

Although well written and very insightful into mid nineteenth century Baltimore and Philadelphia, NOT QUITE DEAD loses some speed by rotating perspective from the first person accounts of harassed Chivers and a third person viewpoint of Devilin’s crossing and lethal time in the States where he seems more like a character from a Corman movie version of a Poe novel. Poe and Dickens play key roles, but are secondary to the prime duet.

Harriet Klausner

Eternal Love-Maggie Shayne

Eternal Love
Maggie Shayne
Berkley, Nov 2007, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425217399

“Eternity”. In England Witchfinder Priest Nathaniel Dearborne condemns mother and daughter Lily and Raven St. James to death for being witches. His apprentice Duncan Wallace tries to save their lives but he fails. Sometime afterward, Raven awakens and learns from her mother’s notes that she earned her immortality in a previous life. Raven flees to America where she meets witch Arianna Sinclair who becomes her mentor. Duncan Wallace learns Raven lives in the New World and vows to join her there Nathaniel also knows she is there and as a dark immortal steals the hearts of his peers to remain what he is. A reckoning is coming to the Americas.

“Infinity”. For five centuries, Immortal High Witch Nicodimus Lachan has been in a comatose death-like sleep interred in the Scottish Highlands as his heart was stolen by a mortal. Before his tragedy, Nicodimus figuratively lost his heart to his wife Arianna, also an Immortal High Witch. Nathaniel and Nicodimus’ mortal betrayer Marten team up to con kind hearted Arianna, which leads to her husband losing his heart. She has vowed to risk her life no matter how long it takes to return his heart to him.

ETERNAL LOVE is a reprint of two superb Maggie Shayne romantic fantasies from the late 1990s. Both are superb tales of the heart with “Infinity” being a both a prequel and sequel to “Eternity”. Ms. Shayne shows she was a force back and then and remains one of the top guns today.

Harriet Klausner

The Black Dragon-Allyson James

The Black Dragon
Allyson James
Berkley, Nov 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425218440

Although she is a very powerful witch and eight months have passed since her harrowing experience with dark witches and dragons, Saba Watanabe struggles mentally to recover. To her chagrin the most difficult memories to deal with from her trauma was her time of enslavement to black dragon Malcolm, as she misses his arrogance as he has returned to his Dragonspace while she remains in San Francisco.

On the streets of San Francisco a white dragon attacks Saba. She magically contacts Malcolm for help; he returns to keep her safe and destroy the stalker. Meanwhile they both fear that the actual target is their mutual friend Lisa the rare silver dragon who is about to give birth. However, Malcolm is in trouble from a debilitating spell; his only hope to survive is Saba, but the means for her to keep him and Lisa safe remains in Dragonspace.

Readers will appreciate the romantic fantasy writing skills of Allyson James as she converts Malcolm a bad dragon (at least to humans) in DRAGON HEAT into a heroic champion as befitting the male romantic lead. While trying to save one another, Lisa and two worlds, the witch and the dragon acknowledge their love for one another although the odds are their coupling will be short-lived as the enemy has the advantage. The audience will relish this compelling entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Beast Within-Lisa Renee Jones

The Beast Within
Lisa Renee Jones
Silhouette Nocturne, Nov 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617753

When her brother-in-law Mike dies in a car accident, travel writer Karen Gibson leaves her Caribbean tour to run home to Brownsville, Texas to be there for her grieving sister Eva. However, instead of deep mourning, Karen finds her sibling suffering from some odd ailment. Knowing she is out of her league, Karen takes Eva to the neighboring ranch seeking help. There she meets Jag.

They are attracted to one another immediately, but besides not trusting one another, Jag fears for anyone he shows an interest in because of his enemies, the evil Darkland Beasts, who killed his wife years ago. Jag leads the Knights of White in the millennia old civil war for species control against the Darkland Beasts. Karen would be a pawn to these malevolent beings, but he cannot stop himself from falling in love for the second time in his long lifetime as he learns just who she truly is.

The fascination that the romantic fantasy crowd will have with Lisa Renee Jones delightful The Beast Within resides with the Knights of White who are no that different from their adversaries as heroes like Jag suppress the evil within them or join the other side. Readers will appreciate this engaging thriller as Jag and Karen battle love and much more.

Harriet Klausner

Saving Destiny-Pat White

Saving Destiny
Pat White
Silhouette Nocturne, Nov 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617746

In England, the Cadre captures Kadenshar and to his shame forces the demon warrior to journey to the United States to bring to them American research scientist Destiny Rue. Kadenshar, who is afraid of nothing and is the best at tempting mortals to sin, fears this female; he believes she is the legendary healer Crystal Goddess, whose peacemaking activities will annihilate his species.

Destiny fears she is going insane like others of her family as she starts hearing voices. When she meets businessman Kade Sharpe she is attracted to the handsome hunk who surprises her by displaying interest in her work. He also tells her about the Crystal Goddess while suddenly needing to keep her safe by protecting her from his demonic brothers trying to kill her before she attains her destiny, which would, as an unintended consequence, eradicate their race.

This superb romantic fantasy works because of the believable metamorphosis of the male lead from cold blooded Kadenshar the demon to warm blooded in love Kade the protector. Destiny also changes due Kade’s entry into her life as she finds she has someone to lean on and trust while coping with a fate that makes insanity seem welcome. Pat White delivers with the thrilling SAVING DESTINY.

Harriet Klausner

The Pearls-Deborah Chester

The Pearls
Deborah Chester
Ace, Dec 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441015481

Few men took the kiss of Eternity and survived, but Shadrael tu Natalloh did and he became one of the fiercest and ruthless legionaries in Emperor Kostinon’s service even though the cost was very high. He lost his soul and casts no shadow, but was able to draw on part of the magic from the shadow gods. When ex-slave Caelan fought and defeated Kostinon and the Shadow War God Beloth, a new day dawned in the empire. With the shadow gods destroyed, the men in the legion were to renounce their allegiance to the old gods and wear fealty to Light.

Shadrael refused and his legion was destroyed, stripped of their rank and exiled. Now he hires himself and his men out to the highest bidder as mercenaries. His brother the Warlord of Ulinia plans to have his province succeed from the empire. He wants Shadrael to kidnap the emperor’s sister Lady Lea, who he will use as a pawn to obtain independence for Ulinia. Reluctantly Shadrael accepts the assignment, but when he and Lea meet, her goodness changes him in subtle ways.

Although Caelan the Light Bringer sits on the throne, the empire heads towards civil war because many that were loyal to the shadow gods remain filled with rage and are waiting for the right moment to retaliate (mindful of some Sunni in Iraq). The choices Shadrael and Lea make will determine the path the empire follows in what on the surface appears to be a battle between good and evil. Lea senses there is much more depth to her captor then the darkness he displays. Deborah Chester writes an enchanting fantasy filled with magical and mundane intrigue, enhanced by a hint of romance.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taken by the Night-Kathryn Smith

Taken by the Night
Kathryn Smith
Avon, Nov 2007, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061245022

For six centuries, Saint has been a vampire who has seen loved ones die. Not willing to feel the pain of loss any longer, he refuses to fall in love ever again.

Over the past few years whenever he is in London on business, Saint stays at the Maison Rouge brothel when he is not home. In that time he has watched the madam's daughter Ivy Dearing grow into a beautiful intelligent woman that by 1899 he is attracted to; his first in hundreds of years. He helps Ivy with her amateur sleuth investigation into the murders of two Maison women. When more females are killed, Saint who wants to drink Ivy’s blood and kiss her senseless, knows she could be a target of a dangerous serial killer who may prove more powerful than a vampire in love.

The latest Kathryn Smith historical vampire romance (see BE MINE TONIGHT and NIGHT OF THE HUNTRESS) tale is a fabulous paranormal Victorian whodunit. Readers will feel transferred back to the late nineteenth century as the atmosphere of London seems to take on a life of its own even in a backdrop role. The romance between Ivy and Saint is done in such a manner as to not overwhelm the serial killer subplot nor visa versa. However, the key that makes this tale take over a reader’s night is Ms. Smith’s ability to make her cast seem genuine, which in turn means vampires and paranormal killers feel real.

Harriet Klausner

Halfway to the Grave-Jeaniene Frost

Halfway to the Grave
Jeaniene Frost
Avon, Nov 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061245084

Half-breed Catherine “Cat” Crawford has always had an icy relationship with her mom because her mother has never moved past the fact that her daughter was the result of a vampire raping her. To try and gain her mother’s approval, Cat hunts down and kills vampires; but in spite of her being good at her vocation and the danger she places herself in, Cat knows her mother still sees her as a rape byproduct who ruined her life.

When Cat attacks master vampire Bones, who is a professional vampire bounty hunter, he defeats her. He is attracted to this unique warrior and persuades her to join him in battling evil vampires. While that will not make her any popular with mom, she agrees especially when he explains he has chased after Hennessy for years, but the psychotic vampire successfully kidnaps and kills the unattached.

This dark vampire romance will grip fans from the moment that Cat and Bones meet and never slows down until the last bite occurs. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action even with a first person perspective because the grim world of Frost comes across as real. Fans will enjoy this fine thriller as Bones may convince Cat that since she can’t please her mother not even if she died, she should try to please herself; if not that than please him as a worthy partner who admires and loves her.

Harriet Klausner

The Road to Hell-Jackie Kessler

The Road to Hell
Jackie Kessler
Zebra, Nov 2007, $15.00
ISBN: 9780821781036

Having finally been freed from an eternity as the centerfold of HELL’S BELLES, Jezebel starts life anew in New York City. Changing her name to Jesse Harris, the former succubus no longer uses sex as a weapon to steal souls or shoot fire and brimstone and she stopped torturing humans. Of course she still teases and titillates the males as Jesse uses sex to earn a living as a mortal exotic dancer. She also lives with New York cop Pete Hamilton, whom she loves with all her new soul.

However, back in her hometown of Hell (not the one in Michigan), Jesse’s former demonic compatriots are outraged by her conversion and the drop in soul harvesting productivity since she became a born again mortal; there is also envy in their rage. These demons want her back in hell enticing humans to cede their souls for a taste of her instead of this inane monogamous relationship with a cop. The scheme to bring her back is simple; abduct the expendable pawn Pete so that Jezebel follows on THE ROAD TO HELL with the good intention of rescuing her beloved; if they cannot re-convert her to soulless state, they will steal her soul anyway.

The second Jezebel saga is a fabulous amusing fantasy as the heroine provides a laugh out loud account of her new life in the Big Apple (where else would a succubus formerly from hell live but in a city nicknamed for Satan’s favorite fruit) and her rescue attempt of her lover. THE ROAD TO HELL may be paved with good intentions, but when Jezebel traverses it, all hell breaks loose on earth, the road and back in her hometown. Fans will appreciate this well written tale starring a beautiful female who rips skin off opponents with her acid tongue that goes quite well with her shimmering body.

Harriet Klausner

Eternal-V.K. Forrest

V.K. Forrest
Kensington, Dec 2007, $15.0, 304pp
ISBN: 97807582131168

During the fifth century when Christianity was on the rise, the Kahill sept of vampires rejected Him and developed a taste for power and blood. God damned them with eternal life; each vampire dying and being reborn and with the onset of puberty, the memories of all their lives returned to them. The only way to kill them is to decapitate the head so the body can not regenerate and the soul can’t return to the body. Fia led some slayers to her village and the sept was forced to leave their country and ended up in Clare’s Point on theDelaware peninsular.

In the present, Mia is an FBI agent and she is assigned by someone in the Senate to investigate the death of one of their own in Clare’s point something that has never happened. She is forced to work with FBI agent Glen Duncan, the spitting image of her lover and the slayer who betrayed her three centuries ago. They have no evidence for the first death and the townsfolk are frightened that the slayers have found them again. Two more vampires are killed and like the rest of the sept, Fia is beginning to wonder if one of their own is the killer. In trying to rescue the fourth victim, Fia is captured; Glen prays that he is not too late to rescue the woman he loves.

God has given the sept a second chance and they have become protectors of humanity, hunting the predators that prey on the innocent; drinking human blood and having a relationship with a human is strongly discouraged. They want to be redeemed and Fia feels the need more than the others because of the guilt she feels because she was the one who escorted her lover and the other vampire hunters to their small Irish village. The vampire mythos that V,K. Forrest invented is original and makes the reader empathize with the bloodsuckers. Fia is a strong willed beautiful vamp with a lot of hang ups but she is willing to fight for what she believes in and protect humanity from beings like herself. This is a fantastic vampire paranormal romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

High Deryni-Katherine Kurtz

High Deryni
Katherine Kurtz
Ace, Dec 2007, $24.95
ISBN 9780441015269

Although only fourteen years old and of Deryni background, Kelson Haldane has become the king of Gwynedd. Already having faced a difficult struggle to gain the throne, he has an even thornier time to keep his crown. The wary Church loathes anyone with the Dernyi magic flowing in their blood; let alone one wearing the crown. Kelson’s nobles resent him on two counts; being a teen and his Deryni blood.

His rival monarchs also detests the upstart youth. Especially opposed to him is the ambitious King Wencit of Torenth, a sorcerer who plans to be the one sovereign ruling the eleven Kingdoms; he recognizes in the teen a potentially dangerous opponent. On the plus side Kelson has the support of powerful Duke Alaric Morgan and Father Duncan McLain, although both have been excommunicated by the Church for using magic.

The revision of the original Dernyi trilogy is a solid ending to a fine rewrite. The story line focuses on mostly political manipulations to either keep or dethrone Kelson. Although it behooves the audience to read the previous two tales (see DERYNI RISING and DERYNI CHECKMATE) as this is not a stand alone book, fans of the series will enjoy this more complex and in fairness convoluted version filled with new twists.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dead of Night-J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas

Dead of Night
J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas
Jove, Nov 207, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515143676

"Eternity in Death" by J.D. Robb. In the middle of the twenty-first century, NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas struggles with a murder that implies the culprit is a vampire. While she scoffs tat that theory, her husband Roarke and Peabody believe a bloodsucker did the crime.

"Amy and the Earl's Amazing Adventure" by Mary Blayney. They will find the answer to their enigma first hand when Amy Stevens and Simon West wonder how a coin minted in 1808 appears in an 1805 painting.

"Timeless" by Ruth Ryan Langan. Modern day urbanite Laurel Douglas explores an ancient Scottish castle when somehow she is transported into the past; everyone including laird Conal MacLennan assumes Laurel is his missing wife.

"On the Fringe” by Mary Kay McComas. Bonnie knows her marriage is collapsing, but a magical carpet takes her to the world of what could have been where the grass no longer seems as green to the lass.

Although the Eve Dallas futuristic vampiric police procedural seems out of place with three time travel romances, DEAD OF NIGHT is an entertaining paranormal anthology containing four well written novellas. Readers will enjoy this collection as good as the previous compilation by this Jovian quartet (see BUMP INTO THE NIGHT).

Harriet Klausner

The Down Home Zombie Blues-Linnea Sinclair

The Down Home Zombie Blues
Linnea Sinclair
Bantam Nov. 27, 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553589641

Bahia Vista, Florida Homicide Detective Sergeant Theophilus “Theo” Petrakos is stunned to find a mummified corpse near a strange looking laptop. Not long after he leaves the crime scene, what seems like a zombie attacks him, Commander Jorie Mikkalah of the Guardian Force saves his life.

Jorie and her squad came to earth when they lost contact with a hunter agent stationed here. Apparently a zombie killed their agent. Her government created these monsters two centuries ago to control space traffic until a flaw in the programming turned them from HERO into killing mechs. The Guardians hunt them down, but here on Earth is the largest herd of zombies that has ever been reported; worse they are also the most intelligent found so far. Jorie must perform Intel to learn how before destroying the Three Hundred without the local humans nils learning of either of them. Still since Theo does Jorie drafts him to help on their mission before taking him back with her as he cannot be allowed to tell his people about them. Neither the cop nor the commander expected to fall in love while fighting THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES.

This is a terrific science fiction with the zombies nothing like those in the Romero universe; instead they are the result of bad technology and work as a cohesive unit. The story line is action-packed from the moment that the Floridian detective finds the corpse and the weird computer and never slows down until the final moment; yet there is much humor especially as the Guardian Force troops struggle to adapt to Florida’s way of life so that the locals do not know they are not of this world. Enhancing the superb thriller is that the romance between the nils and the alien is low-key as both know their priorities. Perhaps the only item left for Linnea Sinclair to answer is whether the zombies voted Republican in 2000.

Harriet Klausner

Captain’s Fury-Jim Butcher

Captain’s Fury
Jim Butcher
Ace, Dec 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441015276

The war between the Alera and its vicious neighbor the Canim has mostly been fought on the former’s lands. However, recently a not so subtle change has occurred as the invaders are no longer sending powerful armies into Alera, but instead frightened refuges are fleeing Canim for temporary shelter in Alera.

First Aleran Legion Captain Tavi concludes a third foe has arisen and devastated the Canim, whose military for the most part were at war in Alera. As the torrent of desperate newcomers crossing the border remains unabated, the Aleran resent the immigrants who they have been at war with for two years and do not trust them as the locals assume their enemy is subversive terrorists. However, Tavi recognizes that the Cane and the Aleran must forge an alliance to have any hope of defeating the Vord, who has easily conquered Canim and has begun the invasion of Alera. Military Commander Senator Amos ignores the outside threat. Instead he marshals the troops to destroy the Cane, former Aleran slaves who seek an alliance with the foreigners, and any citizen including Proletarian who does likewise. Tavi knows that course means the end of his country so he disobeys orders to lead his First Aleran Legion against the Vord.

The fourth Codex Alera fantasy is an exciting military thriller in which the star attraction is the convoluted nature of war which is explored and not just on the battlefields (although that are some of the most intense scenes). The Senatorial debate mirrors much of the argument over the Iraq war and the immigration “crisis” in DC. Readers will ponder when war is the answer while a truism is emphasized that yesterday’s enemy is today’s ally when a new foe surfaces. Perhaps the only negative is this insightful and serious tale is it is not Dresden; a fate that Jim Butcher obviously understands as he is like the actor associated forever with a particular popular role.

Harriet Klausner

The Web and the Stars- Brian Herbert

The Web and the Stars
Brian Herbert
Five Star, Dec 2007, $25.95
ISBN 9781594142178

The discovery of the cosmic web and how to use this faster than light transportation link between the stars of the galaxy led to an economic boom for the newly formed Merchant Princes Human Empire. However legendary researcher Noah Watanbe has noticed the web is showing signs of deterioration that could lead to a pandemic depression if the solar shortcut connector begins failing.

At the same the Human Empire is at war with the shape-shifting Mutati Kingdom; who plan to activate doomsday weapons to destroy the human worlds. Noah knows he must shift his research to prevent such a calamity from occurring, but he has enemies like powerful Doge Lorenzo, who just want him and his influence removed from the Human Empire anyway possible. Finally the HibAdu Coaltion consisting of neutrals from both sides of the hostilities try to broker a peace while the alien Parvii to keep the warring parties apart; only the HibAdu plan to supersede the Human Empire and the Mutati Kingdom by taking over the galaxy through stealth while no one knows what the Parvii want.

The second Timeweb Chronicles science fiction thriller (see TIMEWEB) is an interesting space opera focusing on an a galactic war between two economic giants while the environment that enables interstellar travel is disintegrating. Instead of war for oil; it is war for the cosmic web. The third neutral party brokering a peace while pursuing a hidden agenda is a clever concept, but to be honest this reviewer is not sure how secret that would remain based on how the Neocons early obsessions with Iraq has surfaced though they did the war they craved. Still this is an entertaining tale, especially the action-packed latter half in which readers get past the long introspections of the hero and his rival.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Elemental Magic-Sharon Shinn, Rebecca York, Carol Berg & Jean Johnson

Elemental Magic
Sharon Shinn, Rebecca York, Carol Berg & Jean Johnson
Berkley, Nov 2007, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425217863

"Bargain With the Wind" by Sharon Shinn. At Grey Moraine Lord Baler meets Lady Charis, who is in trouble. As they elope he is remains ignorant of the air that surrounds him, but could kill him.

"Birthright" by Jean Johnson. Elrik the mage escorts Arasa on a quest to learn who will inherit the fire.

"Unmasking" by Carol Berg. Joelle is a searcher, who has failed at passing the final exam that would allow her to fight demons; yet whether it is in water or land, she will use her skill anyway to save those she can like Gareth the vegetable farmer.

"Huntress Moon” by Rebecca York. Although she feels as if she is on hell on earth, to save her mother from a terrible fate, Zarah accepts being sold as a slave, who must spy on Griffin to regain her freedom.

These four entertaining elemental romantic fantasies are fun quest tales that sub-genre readers will want to read.

Harriet Klausner