Sunday, November 30, 2008

Catopolis-Edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Janet Deaver-Pack

Edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Janet Deaver-Pack
Daw, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756405144

Feline fantasy fans will enjoy these seventeen tales of life in a magical "city of cats" that resides alongside our mundane world, but is kept hidden. Each tale is well written, but because the theme is somewhat limiting in terms of its catastrophic anthropomorphosis theme, readers should spread out enjoying the visit to Williams Lake, Wisconsin over a few weeks. The contributors are a nice blending of famous writers like Esther M. Friesner, Ed Greenwood, Richard Lee Byers, Jean Rabe and Donald J. Bingle with relatively newcomers; though some have had several short stories published. The tales range the spectrum from political to criminal to fantasy thrillers. Once again all seventeen are interesting with personal favorites being “I Am King” by Edward Carmien which has relevancy in DC right now, Lee Martindale’s “Old Age and Sorcery” as “the life of Free Cats was not without its dangers”, and “The Persian, the Coon, and Bullets (Matthew Woodring Stover) as cats learn bullets may be the means but its humans who kill. Readers will enjoy following the escapades of feisty felines like “The Guardian of Grimoire Hall" (Christopher Welsh) and the “Mentor of the Potala” (Bruce A. Heard) as CATOPOLIS is an entertaining compilation.

Harriet Klausner

Castaways-Brian Keene

Brian Keene
Leisure, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960891

On a deserted island, a group of contestants compete for a million dollars on the reality based show Castaways. The players must live off what is on the island and battle one another in various contests that the producer arranges. The winner of the day is immune from deportation while the group votes on who is exiled. The last person standing wins the prize. The contestants and the support crew assume the island is deserted, but they will learn otherwise.

The natives live in caves, but as the show’s participants will learn they are hominid but not quite human. They are covered in fur, never wash or use tools and communicate with one another without speaking in any known language. It is also difficult for their females to become pregnant and those who are born are typically deformed. Their plan is simply one of survival.; they will eat the male intruders and rape the females keeping them pregnant until they no longer can bear their offspring. No rescue for the Castaways is in sight.

Although the tale of a reality TV show on an isolated Pacific island filled with monsters is not new (see Jaci Burton’s Surviving Demon Island), Brian Keene refreshes his version by placing his Castaway within a horror version of Christie’s And Then There Were None. Fans of Survivor will enjoy the twist as there is no getting off the island for the humans who are either sustenance or child bearers. The island paradise location adds depth to the horrific scenario confronting the show participants as Mr. Keene provides an enjoyable dark twist to reality TV.

Harriet Klausner

Castaways-Brian Keene

Brian Keene
Leisure, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960891

On a deserted island, a group of contestants compete for a million dollars on the reality based show Castaways. The players must live off what is on the island and battle one another in various contests that the producer arranges. The winner of the day is immune from deportation while the group votes on who is exiled. The last person standing wins the prize. The contestants and the support crew assume the island is deserted, but they will learn otherwise.

The natives live in caves, but as the show’s participants will learn they are hominid but not quite human. They are covered in fur, never wash or use tools and communicate with one another without speaking in any known language. It is also difficult for their females to become pregnant and those who are born are typically deformed. Their plan is simply one of survival.; they will eat the male intruders and rape the females keeping them pregnant until they no longer can bear their offspring. No rescue for the Castaways is in sight.

Although the tale of a reality TV show on an isolated Pacific island filled with monsters is not new (see Jaci Burton’s Surviving Demon Island), Brian Keene refreshes his version by placing his Castaway within a horror version of Christie’s And Then There Were None. Fans of Survivor will enjoy the twist as there is no getting off the island for the humans who are either sustenance or child bearers. The island paradise location adds depth to the horrific scenario confronting the show participants as Mr. Keene provides an enjoyable dark twist to reality TV.

Harriet Klausner

Castaways-Brian Keene

Brian Keene
Leisure, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960891

On a deserted island, a group of contestants compete for a million dollars on the reality based show Castaways. The players must live off what is on the island and battle one another in various contests that the producer arranges. The winner of the day is immune from deportation while the group votes on who is exiled. The last person standing wins the prize. The contestants and the support crew assume the island is deserted, but they will learn otherwise.

The natives live in caves, but as the show’s participants will learn they are hominid but not quite human. They are covered in fur, never wash or use tools and communicate with one another without speaking in any known language. It is also difficult for their females to become pregnant and those who are born are typically deformed. Their plan is simply one of survival.; they will eat the male intruders and rape the females keeping them pregnant until they no longer can bear their offspring. No rescue for the Castaways is in sight.

Although the tale of a reality TV show on an isolated Pacific island filled with monsters is not new (see Jaci Burton’s Surviving Demon Island), Brian Keene refreshes his version by placing his Castaway within a horror version of Christie’s And Then There Were None. Fans of Survivor will enjoy the twist as there is no getting off the island for the humans who are either sustenance or child bearers. The island paradise location adds depth to the horrific scenario confronting the show participants as Mr. Keene provides an enjoyable dark twist to reality TV.

Harriet Klausner

Castaways-Brian Keene

Brian Keene
Leisure, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960891

On a deserted island, a group of contestants compete for a million dollars on the reality based show Castaways. The players must live off what is on the island and battle one another in various contests that the producer arranges. The winner of the day is immune from deportation while the group votes on who is exiled. The last person standing wins the prize. The contestants and the support crew assume the island is deserted, but they will learn otherwise.

The natives live in caves, but as the show’s participants will learn they are hominid but not quite human. They are covered in fur, never wash or use tools and communicate with one another without speaking in any known language. It is also difficult for their females to become pregnant and those who are born are typically deformed. Their plan is simply one of survival.; they will eat the male intruders and rape the females keeping them pregnant until they no longer can bear their offspring. No rescue for the Castaways is in sight.

Although the tale of a reality TV show on an isolated Pacific island filled with monsters is not new (see Jaci Burton’s Surviving Demon Island), Brian Keene refreshes his version by placing his Castaway within a horror version of Christie’s And Then There Were None. Fans of Survivor will enjoy the twist as there is no getting off the island for the humans who are either sustenance or child bearers. The island paradise location adds depth to the horrific scenario confronting the show participants as Mr. Keene provides an enjoyable dark twist to reality TV.

Harriet Klausner

Night Hunter-Yasmine Galenorn

Night Hunter
Yasmine Galenorn
Berkley, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425225462

In Seattle, the three half Fae D’Artigo sisters continue to work for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. Each has personal issues as Camille the good witch struggles with being an equal opportunity multi-species hunk magnet, Menolly is still adjusting to being a vampire; and Delilah the shapeshifting were-cat tries unsuccessfully to deny she has become a Death Maiden servant of the Autumn Lord as that makes her relationship with her human boyfriend Chase the police detective seem impossible.

Meanwhile Karvanak the Raksasas demon and his associate Vanzir the dream stealer have obtained the third Spirit Seal and are after the fourth. To achieve their objective they abduct Chase, who is already in Delilah’s litter box for whispering some other woman’s name in his sleep while lying with her. With the help of her sisters Delilah hopes to rescue Chase, but the Autumn Lord has demands for her too.

Once again in this excellent urban fantasy saga, the various types of paranormal species seem genuine and the good guys do not always win so expect the unexpected as the lead role rotates this time from Camille (see DRAGON WYTCH) to Delilah. In spite of the non-stop action that never slows down for a moment and the myriad of support cast that can be a bit distracting, NIGHT HUNTER superbly builds on threads from the previous “Sisters of the Moon” books; yet can be read as a stand alone. Yasmine Galenorn provides a strong entry as the love between the sisters and the males in their lives propel the D’Artigo trio to do what they can to save Chase, but never lose sight of keeping safe the two worlds they have their feet standing in.

Harriet Klausner

Real Vampires Don’t Diet-Gerry Bartlett

Real Vampires Don’t Diet
Gerry Bartlett
Berkley, Jan 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425225646

For centuries old vampire Glory St. Claire is having a bit of a hissy fit because she is spending New Year’s Eve in Austin by herself. Her boyfriend Jeremy Blade is traipsing off on some sort of rescue mission as his daughter was allegedly abducted by radicals. She is not quite by herself though as her telepathic dog Valdez tells her to go get a life when she plans for them to share a special bonding evening with chick flicks from hell (his not so subtle thoughts).

Infant vampire rock superstar Israel Caine invites Glory to a party he hosts; she knows he is drinking, a horrific error for a turned vamp so she rushes over to save him from himself. They go out on a boat ride on his vessel the Star Snoops on Lake Travis only to rescue Aglaophonos, call her Aggie a siren. Aggie informs Glory that she owes Circe three male vampires to break a curse and now has two captured albeit one is female and can only serve as a hostage. Caine, trying to keep Glory safe, declares she is his fiancée which upsets Blade while Glory persuades Aggie to cut a deal in which she and Caine will bring to her the three vampires; she figures how hard can it be to find and capture three evil vamps in Austin.

The fourth Gloriana Real Vampire saga (see … HAVE CURVES, LIVE LARGE and GET LUCK) is an engaging urban fantasy filled with action and amusing chick lit asides. Glory is terrific as she struggles with a way out of the fiasco that Aggie has her in without alienating Circe. Fans will enjoy this fun lighthearted romp as Glory needs to deliver three vamps to lift a curse before she becomes a victim.

Harriet Klausner

Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand-Carrie Vaughn

Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand
Carrie Vaughn
Grand Central, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446199537

After being bitten by a werewolf, Kitty Norville became one too (see KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR). When her lawyer Ben, who was also bitten, Kitty, saw him through the change, their wolves’ side knew before their human half understood they belong together. As Denver’s werewolf population recognizes them as the alpha couple of their pack, they also maintain their contacts with their human family and human friends. The pair decides to marry so Kitty’s radio show producers arrange for her to do a Vegas TV show.

Kitty initially saw the Vegas trip as a working vacation, but reassess her belief as the hotel she is staying at hosts a gun show with bounty hunters of werewolves attending. She knows some of them will try to kill her because of her fame. Odysseus Grant performs an old fashioned magic act that many think is the real thing, but refuses an invitation to do his act on Kitty’s show. He also warns her to stay away from the animal act made up of shapeshifters at the Hanging Guardians run by Balthasar the King of the Beasts. When Ben is kidnapped, Kitty has a whole group of suspects to pick from who committed the crime starting with the bounty hunters where she gets a shocking surprise.

KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN’S HAND is an exciting supernatural romantic suspense. The protagonist and her mate have come a long way as they have adapted to being werewolves lifemates leading their pack while running their New Moon Restaurant, a paranormal neutral zone hang out. Though the abduction and related investigative mystery comes late, it is fun to follow as readers wonder whether Kitty will come out with a roll of a natural or craps as she tries to rescue her mate. Carrie Vaughn provides an enthralling and spellbinding urban fantasy as Kitty takes on Vegas.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lamentation-Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes
Tor, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765321275

Way into the distrant future in the Named Lands, the city of Windwir is recognized by most as the center of world. Much of that proclamation comes from the city being home to the Androfrancines, who are the keepers of the Old World knowledge in their Great Library; a place where science and magic mingle. This is a normal day until a metal bird flies above the city. Soon afterward darkness engulfs Windwir. When the dust settles and the sun shines through, the city is gone; left behind is a scorched plain.

Nothing will be the same inside the Named Lands from that moment when the Old World metallic weapon quoting Xhum Y'zir's Seven Cacophonic Deaths destroyed the city. Stunned warrior Lord Rudolfo of the Ninefold Forest Houses saw from a distance the smoke that is all that is left of Windwir. He heads there immediately and finds a shocked survivor apprentice Isaak sitting where the city was moments earlier sputtering references from the Seven Cacophonic Deaths; he had been just outside when the devastation occurred. The kingdoms blame each other and maneuver to take advantage of the dramatic change in relationships. Increasingly evidence points to the Entrolusian City States Overseer Sethbert as the culprit. He apparently has brought back the ancient weapons of mass destruction as war threatens to send the Named Lands back to the Stone Age.

The first Psalms of Isaak is an excellent epic fantasy that in many ways is a post apocalyptic science fiction thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the incredibly opening sequence and filled with intriguing twists that never quite allows the reader to gently peruse the plot. The world seems plausible and solid enough while the key players Isaak and Rodolfo are well developed so readers get to know them.. Fans will relish Ken Sholes’ strong opening act as war engulfs the Named Lands while mindful of nineteenth century novelist Alphonse Karr’s commentary “The more things change, the more they are the same”.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dawnkeepers-Jessica Andersen

Jessica Andersen
Signet, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0451225759

Nightkeeper warrior Nate BlackHawk rejects the notion that he and his inexperienced fighting peer Alexis Gray are destined to be together although he admits to himself she stirs his rebellious blood especially when he sleeps; she knows he is the one even as he pretends to ignore her. Instead he rejoices in the recent victory the Nightkeepers gained when they prevented the demon Banol Kax from breaking through the barrier to their realm (see NIGHTKEEPERS).

However, King Striking-Jaguar begins to find evidence that an ancient enemy has arisen and poses a threat. He and others believed the evil Banol Kax lords of the underworld Xibalba were locked away from the earth twenty-four millennia ago, but they believe an effort to return has begun when an obviously powerful mage starts to acquire the seven sacred Mayan artifacts. To stop this malevolence from amassing more relics that will soon turn this deadly predator invincible and break the barrier keeping the evil Ribald horde away, the Nightkeepers must find the remaining statues. Nate and Alexis team up to do so and he can any longer ignore destiny’s pairing.

This exhilarating urban romantic fantasy saga is constructed around modernizing Mayan mythology, to include but not limited to the doomsday prophecy. Nate is an intriguing protagonist who rejects his Nightkeeper bloodline that insists Alexis is his soulmate (some readers will believe: "Me thinks thou dost protest too Much!" – Shakespeare) with his denial while she easily accepts their destiny. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the overarching Andersen mythology is wonderfully embellished with this engaging entry.

Harriet Klausner

Alpha Wolf-Linda O. Johnston

Alpha Wolf
Linda O. Johnston
Silhouette Nocturne, Jan 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618026

In Mary Glen on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, veterinarian Melanie Harding knows she has come a long way from Beverly Hills, but learns how far she has traveled the hard way when performing a good deed leads to punishment. However, she also knows she would do it again in spite of the danger to herself from being a Good Samaritan saving the life of a dog someone shot with a silver bullet.

A fervent anti-werewolf group is outraged by what the vet did. Melanie is bewildered by their hostility as everyone knows there is no such thing as werewolves except in novels and movies. The dog’s grateful owner US Army Major Drew Connell and Melanie begin to see one another. As their attraction grows, Melanie begins to see indications that there is substance behind the legend of shapeshifters.

Melanie makes this werewolf romance a fun read as her beliefs change over the course of the fine story line. She converts from her initial shock that the locals believe in a supernatural creature until she begins to accept a pack of real Lon Cheney werewolves and falls in love with one of them. Although the werewolf community lacks cultural insight and overall substance beyond the hate of the purebred humans, sub-genre fans will enjoy the story of the vet and the vet falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil To Pay-Michele Hauf

The Devil To Pay
Michele Hauf
Silhouette Nocturne, Jan 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618026

His parents, a vampire and a witch, sold his soul as an indentured servant to the devil before he was born in return for favors. When he turned twenty-one, the devil collected his due in Minneapolis. Since then the half-breed Ivan Drake has been at the beck and call of his owner, doing whatever mischief the devil demands of him. He has no hope of ever being liberated; as a realist he understands that a contract with the devil means being a slave for eternity; even in death he would be the devil’s minion for all the transgressions he committed or will perform.

His current assignment is to retrieve the legendary Grand Grimoire, a tome that includes every known spell. When Ivan meets witch Desideriel “Dez” Merovech, he is shock as he is attracted to her; he has never felt such a deep need and affinity to anyone before, not even his sell his soul parents. He begins to dream that his Dez might not only help him regain his soul, but also extract him from the devil’s deal.

This is a terrific romantic spin to the Faustian deal as Dez gives Ivan a reason to not just live, but to live with love, but he believes to do he must reclaim his soul. With a wonderful twists and a strong cast, Michel Hauf’s terrific urban romantic fantasy will have readers demanding more tales from Twin Cities’ witch-vampire war.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow’s Edge-Brent Woods

Shadow’s Edge
Brent Woods
Orbit, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0316033650

He survived as Azoth a street urchin thief in his hometown of Cenaria until he became Kylar Stern, apprentice “wetboy” to legendary assassin Durzo Blint (see THE WAY OF SHADOWS). When they became embroiled in the Godking's successful coup, his mentor and his best friend the rightful king of Cenaria Logan Gyre died though he survived again; he quits the life of a professional killer seeking a new start with his beloved Elene.

Kylar and Elene accompanied by their adopted daughter Uly leave Cenaria with its too many recent deadly memories for Caernarvon. There he opens up herbalist shop as a skill he learned as a wetboy assassin, but instead of murder, he uses it to heal. However, inside his soul, he feels pulled by his love for Elene vs. his missing the adrenalin rush of an assassination. While somewhat accepting the ennui of a shopkeeper, he hears rumors that Logan is alive and hiding in the Hole of Maw prison amidst cannibalistic and psychopathic killers. Meanwhile, the former shadow rulers of Cenaria the Sa’kage continue to rebel against the Godking, but face extinction without a miracle. Jarl asks Kylar to join them by rescuing the rightful king and assassinating the wrongful king.

Although not quite as action-packed as the opening gamut, SHADOW’S EDGE has enough escapades to avoid the mid book feel of only setting up the finish. Kylar is a fascinating protagonist as he has matured since his deadlier days, but still feels the addiction of a kill. The support cast is solid from his family who yank him with love to Jarl who yanks him with adventure and the fate of his buddy to Logan who is slowly dying in the Hole. The second book in the Night Angel trilogy is an engaging character driven fantasy as the audience expects Kylar to return to the shadowy world of the assassin, but at the same time have some doubts whether he is willing to pay the cost: his life with Elene and Uly.

Harriet Klausner

Enclave-Kit Reed

Kit Reed
Tor, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765321619

Former marine "Sarge" Whitemore renovates Clothos, an isolated island that once was a Benedictine monk monastery. The only survivor from the religious order is elderly lay brother Benny. After the reconstruction is completed, Sarge offers a deal to affluent parents with troubled youngsters. In exchange for an exorbitant amount of money, he informs them that he can save their dissolute off spring from themselves and the ugly world. Give him their kids so his “hermetically sealed private school” can “keep them safe”.

The response from bone weary emotionally shot adults is incredible as bidding wars over obtaining one of the hundred seats begin. Sarge collects the chosen hundred; tosses away their gizmos and on Destination Day takes them to the remote isle that the unhappy kids scornfully call Mount Clothos. Nothing works in accordance with the plan as the physician is a drunk, kids hack into the computer room, Benny hid an ailing friend whose illness has pandemically spread amongst the residents, and then there is the rest of the staff and the ghost.

Ironically in spite of his martinet throwback drill instructor persona, Sarge is not the champion of this intriguing story line. Instead the teens led by peer Killer Stade are the heroes as they fight to stop the virus spread and the mob mentality of the staff and faculty. Quite frankly adults are condemned (worse than in Wild in the Streets) as miscreants who fail at the ecology, at raising their kids, and at saving those stuck at the isolated island. Fans who appreciate something off beat will enjoy this satirical allegorical thriller that claims the boomers and Gen X as pathetic losers with the present teen generation the only hope to save the planet from its elders.
Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stay the Night- Lynn Viehl

Stay the Night
Lynn Viehl
Onyx, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451412669

Still an outlaw after seven centuries of first being declared as such by King John’s merry losers, immortal Darkyn Lord Robin of Locksley knows he must intercede when the ancient mythical tome Maiden's Book of Hours is stolen and not by him; he waited for over five hundred years for this book that contains the only picture of his long lost love Marian to surface. Undercover FBI agent Christina Renshaw is appalled with the theft since she is the one who dangled the priceless book to catch a brilliant art thief. Since the thieves also have takes hostages, the FBI is even more involved. Christina and Robin meet and are instantly attracted and conflicted as to what to do; that is on recovering the Maiden's Book of Hours and saving the captives.

Robin's long time enemy Nottingham has joined forces with an obsessed deadly Kyn female. His adversary’s diabolical scheme leaves Robin with little choice, but to yank a stunned Chris into the Darkyn realm. Soon the pair is in Europe where Darkyn lords are meeting as all hell in breaking out.

Tthe overarching Darkyn saga moves forward (see TWILIGHT FALLS, NIGHT LOST and IF ANGELS BURN) while also telling the romantic suspense tale of Robin the Prince of Thieves, Lynn Viehl provides an interesting entry in her wonderful urban fantasy saga. The story line focuses on the lead couple’s search for the Renaissance Era book while also continuing the war between the Darkyn and the Brethren. With a couple of late stunning spins and a reference to Coleridge, the powerful riveting Darkyn chronicles will have sub-genre fans anxious to learn what the author will unveil next.

Harriet Klausner

The Thirteenth-L.A. Banks

The Thirteenth
L.A. Banks
St. Martin’s, Feb 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 0312368763

The fourth seal has been broken releasing the pale horse. What American cities are attacked the powers that be fear terrorists have struck again but it is really demons and vamps that Lucifer brought to the surface to kill as many mortals as possible. The media, controlled by Hell’s forces make the Neterus Damali and Carlos and her Guardians out to be terrorists; they are on the run so the Light brought them to Bermuda. They need to return to the States and get the rest of their crew and they meet Montley Sinclair who wants in on the battle and gives them a ride on his yacht.

Lucifer and Lilith are waiting for the Anti-Christ to finish gestating; plague, famine and pestilence are everywhere. Chaos rules as order has broken down. Saints and martyrs help the Neteru and the Guardians when the fifth seal is broken. The team rushes to Jerusalem to find out the home of the chosen THE THIRTEENTH who will free the bound fallen angels in the Euphrates and will lead a horde of two hundred million warriors to kill off much of humanity. Damali and Carlos need the name and the weapon that can defeat him, but with Israel on dead alert and Hell’s minion looking for them, they have little chance of surviving the skirmishes.

The Neteru-Guardian team is struggling with the End of Days yet are willing to die to fight the evil Dark that seems overwhelmingly on the verge of victory. Carlos has evolved over the course of the thirteen books from a mob boss to the chairman of Hell’s Board o a Netura who worships the Light. He has come a long way from the vice king to a hero worthy of Damali. The final excellent tale in this great saga is an exciting and evocative urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Inukami! -Mamizu Arisawa with art by Mari Matsuzawa

Mamizu Arisawa with art by Mari Matsuzawa
Tor, Oct 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 0765321467

Hedonistic and selfish Kawahira Keita has shamed his famous family as the first one to fail to obtain an Inukami for him to tame; the spirit dogs scorned him as being too self centered. His grandma gives the slacker Keita some hope when she informs him there is an Inukami who selected him, but was unready at that time. He is euphoric and more so when he meets his “dog” a beautiful looking babe Yoko. They agree to a contract for him to tame her so they can battle as a team fighting evil, but he only forges his half of the deal.

He soon learns that his failure to complete the binding leaves him open to attack by demons wanting to steal his soul. Keita also finds out the hard way about his partner’s selfishness that rivals his when his disobedient dog leaves him naked in public; she is impish and considered by her peers as un-trainable. Instead of her serving him, he serves her as she punishes his transgressions, real or not. Worse another Inukami Nadeshiko is sent to train the pair on proper behavior, but that only outrages Yoko who is jealous.

This is an amusing manga fantasy that targets older teens with its innuendos and beastly humorous take on relationships (though the Inukami look human, manga style, except for their tails). The story line is a bit thin, but fun to follow as two selfish individuals star in an outrageous cross-species jocular gender war.

Harriet Klausner

About a Dragon-G.A. Aiken

About a Dragon
G.A. Aiken
Zebra, Dec 2 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 1420103741

For over a decade and a half, powerful Nolwenn witch Talaith has tolerated marriage in order to keep her beloved daughter Izzy safe from harm. The goddess Arzhela has held Izzy captive using her as a pawn to insure Talaith cooperates when the time is right to use the witch's skills; hence the marriage of convenience for her.

Were-dragon Briec the Mighty sees Talaith and decides he wants her sexually (not as a snack). When he rescues her from an angry mob, he expects gratitude and sex. Instead he receives constant verbal tiradea ripping his scales off. In fact her chatter is giving him a headache whether he is in human or dragon form. Talaith makes it abundantly clear no sex without rescuing her daughter although she silently keeps to herself she would not mind riding this steed. As they argue for who is on top, neither is aware there is a dangerous scenario coming their way, which could prove fatal to both of them and much of the realm.

Returning to the Dragon Kin fantasy realm (see DRAGON ACTUALLY), G.A. Aiken provides another engaging humorous medieval paranormal romantic thriller. The jocular story line is fast-paced from the moment Briec and Talaith define tongue exchange 180 degrees differently and never slows down from one verbal battle to another. However, even with the gender war on-going, there remains a critical subplot filled with action especially deadly battles. Although Zebra states ABOUT A DRAGON was previously published as THE DISTRESSING DAMSEL, sub-genre readers will enjoy the war of words between the dragon and the witch as the foreplay of a lethal background.

Harriet Klausner

Spiral Hunt-Margaret Ronald

Spiral Hunt
Margaret Ronald
Harper, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061662416

Because of how powerful the magical undercurrent that flows through Boston is the Fiana , mages who left Ireland due to the famine and settled in Boston. Massachusetts. Over the decades, their power grew so that they set the laws of magic usage; non-members are frightened by the iron rule of this cartel as much as they fear addiction of excess usage of magical undercurrent.

Frank McDermott calls his former lover Evie “Hound” Scanlon, a practitioner who avoids the undercurrent as much as she can, to help him as he wants to escape from under the dictatorial control of the Fiana. Evie is renowned for her incredible olfactory sense that enables her to locate missing people and things. Her police detective friend Rena asks Evie to identify a strange corpse of a person who has the body of youth and visage of age; Frank was assassinated with his body covered by Celtic looking patterns. Three more bodies similar to the remains of Frank have been found in the past, but in spite of police investigations, the cases have become cold. Evie considers for some unknown reason the Fiana are after her, killing her loved ones. Her theory seems affirmed when they snatch the young sister of a friend; placing her in a difficult situation because a rescue attempt probably means death.

The vivid account of magical Boston in which non-practitioners are ignorant of the swirling undercurrent, the detailed laws of magical physics and vicious Fiana enforcement make for a superb urban fantasy. Readers will admire intrepid Evie who knows the probable outcome of what she faces, but proceeds anyway even as she distrusts any magical practitioners because they could be Fiana operatives; instead she turns to non-magicians for assistance. Readers will appreciate this strong opening tale with a unique vision of Beantown. Urban fantasy lovers have a new star on the horizon.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mona Lisa Darkening-Sunny

Mona Lisa Darkening
Berkley, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226476

Queen of the Louisiana Monere Children of the Moon Mona Lisa behaves very differently towards her followers than her peers. She treats her subjects with respect rather than contempt. Perhaps it is her being the only half-breed Monere queen or her having lived amongst the humans.

On the night of the vernal equinox, Mona takers her followers outside in the bayou to celebrate the holiday by drawing on rejuvenating power of the light. However, under the full moon, something goes wrong; instead of light Mona is cocooned in an eerie darkness. While some of her shocked subjects remain paralyzed with fear and others want to act but don’t know at who or what, she vanishes. In the realm of the damned, a gargoyle captures her while the evil Monere queen Mona Louisa tries to take control of Mona Lisa’s body. However a hero will step forth to go into hell for the heavenly cause of rescuing Mona or being damned for eternity if he fails.

Using an excellent twist, Sunny totally refreshes her unique erotic urban fantasy saga. A simple celebration turns dangerous for Mona Lisa while her loyal followers feel helpless and concerned as they do not know what happened to their beloved queen, whose involved or what to do; their frustrations enhance Mona’s trek through Netherhell, the realm of the damned that makes Dante’s depiction look PG. The superb DARKENING focuses mostly on a beleaguered Mona as she struggles to survive while trying to control her appetite of wanting the hard gargoyle inside her and not succumbing to the sexual desires if becoming enslaved to him.

Harriet Klausner

Witch Heart-Anya Bast

Witch Heart
Anya Bast
Berkley, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425225530

In the demon realm of Eudae human witch Claire saved the life of coven leader Thomas Monahan when he was held prisoner. However the handmaiden to Rue demon decided to stay on Eudae rather than return to earth with Thomas When Atrika demons attack Rue, he instills a powerful magical weapon the elium inside Claire and sends her back to Earth.

Fire witch Adam Tyrell rescues Claire even as demons led by Atrikan military Commander Tevan chase after her to retrieve the elium from her. Stunned by the changes on earth since she became a handmaiden over two decades ago, Claire goes with Thomas, Adam and the rest of the coven, who know they must prevent the Atrika from obtaining the magical weapon and also somehow safely remove the elium from Claire without killing their patient.

The third Witch Blood urban romantic fantasy (see WITCH FIRE and WITCH BLOOD) is a fabulous tale as Adam risks his life and his heart to keep his beloved Claire safe. The story line is fast-paced from the onset with deadly Tevan relentlessly tracking down the heroine while Adam and his coven do everything they can to protect her. Fans will enjoy the third bewitching blast as the witch and the handmaiden fall in love, even as the enemy keeps on coming to steal the elium without regard to Claire’s wellbeing.

Harriet Klausner

Bones Of The Dragon-Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Bones Of The Dragon
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Tor, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 076531973X

Everyone except Skylan Ivorson believes the self conceited pup is too young and egotistical to properly lead a clan, especially a clan of raiders, but all acknowledge he has becomes the chief of chiefs of his clan, the Vindras. Skylan believes the War God Skoval has looked favorably at him and many agree calling him the Blessed, but he soon realizes his seafaring raiders are actually cursed as being the Blessed also means doing suicidal bidding.

The ancient gods including Skoval are under assault by newcomers who want the top level of the pantheon. They are proving successful in their war against the ancient ones. The only known way to repel the intruders is to find and bring back together the Five Bones of the Vektan Dragons. The Dragon Goddess has selected the Blessed one and his weary clan to accomplish the quest; Skoval orders Skylan to complete his destiny as the Blessed.

Although similar to Greek and Roman mythos with a destined quest bestowed by interfering Gods, readers will enjoy the opening Dragonships' fantasy due to the lead character, who learns the hard way being chosen is a double edged sword. The story line is action-packed even as Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman introduce their new world and the war of the gods to the audience. Fans of the writing team will appreciate the first tale in their new saga as the hero learns that the gods bestow not out of altruism but so that the gods demand when they need too.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gears of the City-Felix Gilman

Gears of the City
Felix Gilman
Bantam, Jan 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780553806779

Arjun is lost as he wanders the dark gloomy city Ararat that he does not recognize. He is weary and a bit frightened because his amnesia is so deep he cannot recall his name. He feels like a forlorn ghost being hunted by brutal hollow men. Only because of his rescuers the Low Sisters and the words of a prophesy does he use the moniker Arjun, which feels right so he assumes is his real name though he cannot be sure.

He does believe he is on a quest as he volunteers to find his hosts’ missing third sister trapped by a ghost like him inside the ominous Mountain palace; he also thinks that someone is trying to prevent him from succeeding on his mission by stealing his memory. Arjun feels he must gain access to the nearby Mountain that rises above the city, but he has not been able to break free as if the stronghold repels his efforts though he knows it is more physical with traps than metaphysical. If he fails on his quest Arjun assumes the Mountain will spread the darkness through all space and time; only he can prevent the engulfing of his world.

This is a superb strange science fiction thriller that hints at paranormal elements with the ethereal sinister Mountain casting an evil shadow on the city and its residents. Fans will wonder whether the Mountain is advanced technology or otherworldly as Arjun goes about his quest. He is a solid character even with no memory while the Low Sisters are developed enough to enhance the mystery of the Mountain in the key role of menacing antagonist with what the palace apparently has done to Ararat including Arjun. Fans will enjoy this brooding portentous quest thriller as Felix Gilman keeps the audience engaged wondering what is the Mountain.

Harriet Klausner

Regenesis-C.J. Cherryh

C.J. Cherryh
Daw, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780756405304

In the research city of Reseune, eighteen year old scientist Ariane “Ari” Emory is a clone of a late brilliant warped person whose work on psychogenesis, the cloning of psychology and memory, was ingenious; the evidence being Ari II. However, Ariane I was killed by an unknown adversary during a power struggle. Meanwhile another clone Justin Warrick mentors the “second Ariane”.

However, all hell breaks loose when Justin’s prototype Jordan comes home from exile demanding justice. He wants to know who killed Ariane I. Even more disturbing in his mind is that the history of the Union seems to be repeating itself with violence and death, but this time the battle for power also includes clones.

Two decades have past since CYTEEN was published, but fans of the series will feel the wait was worth it as the sequel REGENESIS retains the dark gloomy future of the first tale. The key is the cast who make Cherryh’s grim picture plausible although the plot with several clever spins focuses on Ari II; she holds it together as a second power struggle erupts. Although reading CYTEEN is not a must prerequisite to appreciate REGENESIS, this reviewer suggests starting with the original super first story that holds up nicely as that enhances the backdrop to the excellent sequel.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Primal Needs-Susan Sizemore

Primal Needs
Susan Sizemore
Pocket, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 1416562125

Vampire Sidonie Wolf and werewolf Joe Bleythin fall in love. Both know their respective species outlaws a relationship between them; the penalty is death. Fearing for her Joe, Sid sacrifices her heart by modifying his memories of her and their love. Soon afterward, Joe shuts down their private investigative partnership and breaks up with her. Joe joins vampire Tobias Strahan's Dark Angels, a group dedicated to protecting paranormal species.

Meanwhile Sid's father, Antony has cherished from the shadows for six decades the human Rose; he loves her but is forbidden to do anything about his feelings by his species for the last 60 years. When someone kidnaps his Rose, Tony pleads with his daughter to save her life. She is teamed up with Dark Angel Joe to find and rescue Rose. Still angry with her for what she did to him, Joe also realizes she could not erase his love for her or conceal her love for him.

The latest Primal (see HEAT and DESIRES) urban romantic suspense fantasy is a strong tale of star crossed lovers. Sid thought she was doing what was best for Joe while he felt she betrayed their trust. Their acrimonious beginning makes vampires and werewolves seem genuine in Susan Sizemore’s Primal realm. Fans will enjoy this refreshing second chance at love thriller,; that is if they survive the enemy and their two species.

Harriet Klausner

Succubus Takes Manhattan-Nina Harper

Succubus Takes Manhattan
Nina Harper
Del Rey, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345495075

Lily loves her current lifestyle as living in New York is exhilarating and working as the accessories editor for Trend magazine is hot. Of course the three millennium old succubus knows what is hot as her night job is that of a Chosen One delivery person; she brings to her employer Satan, three desiccated souls of creepy studs; a quota she meets with ease. Still she would like to get out of her Faustian deal with Satan because she would just like to fall in love with someone who loves her back.

When Lily meets the mortal private investigator Nathan, he is different towards her; she falls in love, but he proves how he differs from her typical brain down there creep as he cannot deal with her demonic soul. He ends their relationship, something the succubus has never dealt with before. As she finds solace with one of her own kind Martin, the Hierarchy of Hell wants her dead; her friend’s demon lover has been abducted; and a former lover returns wanting her. Life in Manhattan is as always excitingly out of this world.

The second SUCCUBUS IN THE CITY tale is a lighthearted urban fantasy starring a terrific female who holds the story line together. There is plenty of action and suspense yet the prime cast members are fully developed especially the heroine (ironic as she turns creeps into ash), the PI, and the demons (wonder if they are considered illegal aliens?). Nina Harper makes believers of her audience that demons in particular one sexy succubus are trying to make it in Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wolf Tales VII-Kate Douglas

Wolf Tales VII
Kate Douglas
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jan 2009, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758226938

In Montana, Anton Cheval suffers a nightmare that he fears is a premonition; he worries for his wife Keisha and their infant Lily as well as other Chanku. Keisha and her friend Xandi run together while Anton and Xandi’s mate Stefan watch their babies. Kiesha and Xandi mentally tell their mates about two men tracking them who attack them; three more humans assault the house; all are killed though one breeched the home.

In San Francisco the female Chanku of Pack Dynamics are in Golden Gate Park when humans attack them. They mentally tell their men who come rushing to their aid. The attackers fire shots before fleeing hitting Tinker, but Adam who fixes things heals his wounded shoulder.

In Maine, while two Chanku are away, Adam’s sister Manda and her mate Baylor are attacked. Manda recognizes one of the men is a scientist who experimented on her for twenty-five torturous years when she was half human and half wolf. Baylor kills the trio.

Anton invites the two coastal groups and Ulrich and Millie living in Colorado to meet in Montana to discuss the attacks. Soon twenty one adults and two babies meet in a giant natural cavern that runs next to the Montana home to discuss the concerted attacks and the counter assault; that is in between sexual activity

This is a terrific entry on the Wolf Tales saga as the ensemble comes together from two coastal locations and Colorado to gather in the fourth pack’s enclave in Montana yet the adults contain differing personalities. That is the marvel of Kate Douglas’ erotic fantasy as each adult Chanku remains unique. The threat to their safety in three locations makes for a tense story line; however, the humans seem to have no problems breeching the complexes in spite of the super extraordinary senses of the three packs. Still fans will relish this exciting Chanku tale as the packs assemble to deal with a dangerous threat tot their lifestyle.

Harrier Klausner

Gray/Guardians-Kathy Porter

Kathy Porter
BookSurge, 2007, $17.99
ISBN: 1419636685

In the near future, the inconvenient truth is the earth is dying as the environment has reached code red. Natural disasters have become epidemic and disease pandemic. Earthquakes and tsunamis at sea and in the air have become catastrophic as if the planet is in its final death throes. Humanity appears on the eve of extinction as the Doomsday Clock has reached the point of no turning back.

Hope arises when aliens arrive to treat ailing humans suffering from the Severe Environmental Allergy Syndrome. The Grays offer the governments a plan to save the species from the dying planet. They will bring selected humans to their home planet; predominantly women of child-bearing age.

Soon afterward, a second alien race appears. The Guardians insist earth can be saved if enlightened people make the concerted effort and that the Grays' secret agenda is a breeding program to establish super lethal hybrid to dominate the universe. Selling their belief to the embattled human leaders is near impossible as the Guardians are technologically inferior to the Grays so earthly leaders assume less knowledgeable; besides which they wonder what is the Guardians’ agenda? On the other hand, the concept of not leaving home with most surviving is one generality humanity embraces. As the Grays and the Guardians battle over the future of mankind, humans feel somewhat helpless since their input seems to not matter, but both extraterrestrials underestimate the earthlings.

This cautionary science fiction thriller uses real people like Bush and agencies like SETI to establish a feel of plausibility that two alien races arrive at a time when earth is on life support. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but also provides intriguing metaphors on how western civilization looks at other cultures from a purely technological perspective; if you can’t plug and play wireless you are backward. Readers will appreciate this deep science fiction thriller that is mindful of Frank Stockton’s classic The Lady and the Tiger as humanity must choose but which of these aliens is the beast and which is the nurturing mother.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 16, 2008

War Games-Christopher Anvil; edited by Eric Flint

War Games
Christopher Anvil; edited by Eric Flint
Baen, Dec 2 2008, $22.00
ISBN 1416556028

This is a terific collection that includes one novel (see THE STEEL, THE MIST AND THE BLAZING SUN) and Christopher Anvil’s early short stories. The shorts were published in the major science fiction magazines of the fifties and sixties like Astounding, Galaxy and Analog; as well as one each in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The compilation includes two published in the fifties, thirteen in the sixties; one from the seventies; and two in the eighties (including the novel). Each entry is well written filled with twists, humor, and satirical hyperbole of war as so complex that his key characters consistently set out to do what they believe is ethically right only to find morality issues at every turn; a sort of Bushian spin since “Mission Accomplished”. Incredibly even the plug and play world is anticipated by Mr. Anvil in defense of one’s home.

THE STEEL, THE MIST AND THE BLAZING SUN. Two hundred years have past since WW III between the USA and the Soviet Union left devastation across the globe with the deployment of the nukes. Elected King Arakal of Wesdem O'Cracys (his adventures start in the included short “Ideological Defeat” – read that first) and his militia annexed the Russian colony in America and forged an alliance with New Kebeck to the north. He goes east across the ocean as west is too radioactive. His target is the Old O'Cracy islands of Old Brunswick and the continent just beyond the small channel starting with Old Kebeck. The Russians look forward to greet him with open warfare. Although feeling outdated with the collapse of the Soviet Union, this is an entreating war novel, which like the included shorts, proclaims war is absurd but is as human as eating and breathing.

Harriet Klausner

A Woman Worth Ten Coppers-Morgan Howell

A Woman Worth Ten Coppers
Morgan Howell
Del Rey, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0345503961

The Wise Woman leaves young Yim with the the Seer who takes her South across the Highlands from her home near the Cloud Mountains of the Northern Reach so she can serve in the temple although he knows troubles are worse in the direction he leads them; he has no choice because the vision from the Goddess directs him. She asks if he is Theodus as that is the name of her guide as "whispered" to her; he says no insisting the Goddess Karn is her guide. Yim realizes “her father” as she is to call him in front of strangers is trying to hide his fear behind a veneer of calm. His fears prove right when they are attacked on the road; the Seer is murdered and Yim bound and raped by he who calls her scornfully “Ribbon Girl” before selling her to a slaver.

Honus, the Sarf warrior dedicated to Goddess Karm, is rudderless. He prefers to die for he has no purpose in life, but is unable to do so. His reason for living serving the holy Bearer ended when the followers of the evil God Devourer killed her. At the slave market, Honus for no reason he can discern decides to buy a back packer to carry his bags. Thus he travels to the village of Durkin where he buys the youthful Yim for ten coppers. He will soon know why the Goddess sent him to buy A WOMAN WORTH TEN COPPERS as their adventures just begin as nearby Lurwic Castle is burning down and its ducal family dead; Lord Bahl is on the deadly march..

Following up to the exciting Queen of Orcs trilogy, Morgan Howell starts a new saga with a superb quest fantasy starring two intriguing protagonists who both have emotional issues from recent traumas. The story line is fast-paced filled with plenty of action. However, as with Ms. Howell’s Orc tales like KING'S PROPERTY the insight into the culture make for a dynamic tale; even the villains seem real. Fans will enjoy the opening gamut, which in many ways is a coming of age tale as the relationship between Yim and Honus change over the course of their escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Just Another Judgment Day-Simon R. Green

Just Another Judgment Day
Simon R. Green
Ace, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441016747

Since time began, there has always been The Walking Man; an entity who travel’s God’s path by killing sinners regardless of their crimes against the Lord although he focuses mostly on those beyond redemption. He has become invulnerable with incredible strength and speed. He has no compassion, no empathy, no pity; he cares naught about their souls or their surviving loved ones. Heavenly justice is all that matters to this judge, jury and executioner.

Now he is coming to clean up Nightside, a city invisible within London; a place where sin thrives and where every perversion known to humanity flourishes in the open. The Walking Man demands the end of transgressions or else; he includes sinners and hedonistic self indulgers. Nightside will die once he purges the community. Private investigator John Taylor intends to stop the invincible Walking Man; he understands what he is going up against as all who ever opposed this legend died. However, he also comprehends passivity denotes death anyway. At the Adventurer’s Club House, John takes a last stand with many locals at his side; but in the end it will be him and The Walking Man with only one walking away.

As is the case in the previous saga, Nightside is a place where anything happens as John Taylor is well aware of from the numerous cases he has worked. This place is in his blood and in a sense his heritage. The irony of this deep two person character study is that John also dispenses justice on evil doers in his Marlowe tough guy manner. The difference resides on interpretation as John discreetly ignores self inflicted depravities that harm no one not involved in the dissoluteness; while The Walking Man does not discriminate as he goes after anyone who in his mind has violated God’s rules; hence the title. Simon R. Green has refreshed his terrific urban noir fantasy with a paranormal gunfight at the OK Corral showdown.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mean Streets-Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson and Thomas E. Sniegoski

Mean Streets
Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson and Thomas E. Sniegoski
Roc, Jan 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451462497

“The Warrior” by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden knows he has faced some death defying strange cases, but fears this time with the Michael scenario he may not make it out even dead let alone alive.

“The Difference a Day Makes” by Simon R. Green. In the Nightside, the femme fatale enters the private investigative office of John Taylor to obviously hire him. However, her request is off the chart, which says a lot with what the detective has seen and done; she needs John to find her lost memory.

“The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog” by Kat Richardson. The case was expected to be easy and fast so the Greywalker wonders why she is in such dire straits as nothing went right starting with the attacks from the grave of the raging vengeful late Harper Blaine

“Noah’s Orphans” by Thomas E. Sniegoski. He is hired to uncover who killed the centuries old Noah; for a fallen angel like Remy Chandler the case seems simple, but he will soon learn once again as he did when he fell from grace that there is nothing straightforward under heaven and earth.

These four paranormal urban fantasy noirs occur in the author’s renowned “world” starring ultra famous lead characters. Each tale is well written feeling complete even in the novella format and complement one another as the writers rose to the occasion of expectations from their fan base. An obvious must for readers of any of the four paranormal sagas, newcomers will appreciate the introductions to these literary legends as they investigate the otherworldly MEAN STREETS.

Harriet Klausner

Long Shadows-Erin Hunter

Long Shadows
Erin Hunter
HarperCollins Nov 25 2008 $16.99
ISBN: 9780060892142

Since the solar eclipse occurred shaking many of the cat clans because the pale yellow eyed Sol, belonging to no one, predicted it. ShadowClan Leader Blackstar consulting with his Deputy Russetfur and his Medicine Cat Littlecloud announces to his loyal followers they will no long adhere to the ancient warrior code of the StarClan, but instead pledge their allegiance to Sol. His pronouncement has shocked his clan and stunned ThunderClan, WindClan and RiverClan. The Ancients led by Furled Bracken and his Sharpclaws are also taken aback.

ThunderClan apprentice Jaypaw is not convinced that tossing the code of StarClan for the enigmatic nomadic Sol is the right thing for the communities; he seeks the truth in the long forgotten ancient past. ThunderClan warrior Lionblaze wants out of his destiny as it is killing him even when he sleeps, but the litter-mate sibling code will not allow him to betray his two comrades. The third destined one Thunderclan warrior Hollyleaf fears that Blackstar’s ruling is the beginning of the end as the StarClan warrior code has been the underlying ethical base of the clans forever and that will crumble under a Sol cult. However, as each of the threesome struggle with the radical change, the LONG SHADOWS of death by murder stalks ThunderClan.

The latest Powers of Three Warriors book is an exciting middle school fantasy. The story line rotates perspective between the three youthful heroes as the understanding they have gained in THE SIGHT and DARK RIVER is abruptly unraveling. Each is confused by what is happening to the code that they are pledged to follow as their previous experiences may turn out to have been for naught as obsolete adventures. As they go on their separate journeys to find the truth, all three subplots are well written and exciting, but also contain the trademark impending doom which seems inevitable. Once again the Power of Three is a winner with a great twist on the coming of age theme.

Harriet Klausner

The Stepsister Scheme-Jim C. Hines

The Stepsister Scheme
Jim C. Hines
Daw, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756405328

Danielle de Glas Whiteshore, better known as Cinderella, is just getting used to life at the palace when her stepsister Charlotte comes into her castle trying to kill her. Charlotte fails but escapes, but not before mentioning that something happened to her brother-in-law Prince Armand. Her maid Talia, who does not act like a royal servant nor like her famous name Sleeping Beauty, arranges for Danielle to meet with Queen Beatrice and her attendant Snow (as in agent White). They are told Armand has been kidnapped from the inn he was staying at and was taken to Fairytown by Danielle’s two stepsisters.

Danielle is shocked that her stepsisters used a spell as she was unaware either had magical skills. The princess obtains the password to call the Summoner to help her and her allies pass through thehedge that separates fairy from human lands. Inside the realm of the Fairy, Danielle and her team learn Charlotte’s sister Stacia is a powerful mage here. The princess and her two regal agents travel to the powerful fairy Duchess, who is despised by the king and queen of fairy to rescue Armand, but the trek is hazardous as disaster strikes at the courageous princess trio.

This tale occurs in the days after “happily ever after” as the three princesses face all types of adversarial situations while Danielle tries to rescue her husband. This adult fairy tale with amusing chick lit asides is an enchanting enjoyable fantasy. Jim C. Hines creates great heroines who even on their dangerous adventure retain their classy demeanor while trying to stay alive. Hopefully Beauty and White get the special Hines treatment.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Steel Remains-Richard K. Morgan

The Steel Remains
Richard K. Morgan
Del Rey, Jan 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345493033

Ringil Eskiath, the hero of Gallows Gap, found fame brought notoriety due to his sexual preference, which led to exile from his ashamed aristocratic family as his saving humans from the Scaled Folk is superseded by his being gay. Legally as a degenerate the state should execute him. He remains alive due to his family connections; his heroism; and his speed with the sword that matches the speed of his temper. Angry by the prejudice he faces and the lack of gratitude for risking his life, he has become an out of shape has-been residing in the squalid boondocks Gallows Water where he earns room and board at a dive talking about his glory days and pocket change using his Kiriath sword to battle the mighty mite populace.

His mother Ishil arrives to demand Ringil search for his cousin Sherin, whose husband Bilgest legally sold her into slavery. Reluctantly he returns to Trelayne where he acts like a bull in a pottery shop flaunting his sexual proclivity. He angers Poltar, shaman of the nomadic Skaanak, who wants to dispose of the clan master Egar the Dragonbane for his blasphemous ideas learned in the Kiriath city Yhelteth. The Emperor sends the last Kiriath, Archeth Indamaninarmal, to investigate the destruction of Khangset. She, Ringil and Egar meet as they did once before when they defeated the Scaled Folk, but that seems like a picnic compared to their foe, the Dwenda magical race that ignores the laws of physics when it comes to the time-space continuum.

This character driven sword and sorcery science fiction fantasy focuses on the three heroes, flaws and all, as they prepare for a second adventure of a lifetime. The world is detailed so it seems genuine as a wonderful hyperbole of our country (even with Richard K, Morgan being a Scottish author). Although much of the story line is inner musings and angry diatribes over unfairness, the military battles are exhilarating. From the opening gay encounter, Mr. Morgan provides a deep look at what happens to heroes when they choose to behave differently than the societal expectations of what a champion must be.

Harriet Klausner

The Horsemen’s Gambit-David B. Coe

The Horsemen’s Gambit
David B. Coe
Tor, Jan 2009, $26.95
ISBN 9780765316394

The Southlands are populated by three groups who distrust one another. The Oirsi practice a life stealing magic; the Mettai use blood mixed with the earth to cast spells; and the Eandi do not use any form of magic. Over six decades ago a SORCERER’S PLAGUE destroyed a Mettai village; more recently that same plague devastated Kirayde, the hometown of Lici. She vowed vengeance against the Qirisi raiders whom she blamed and succeeded much more than she could have imagined when she interwove the SORCERER’S PLAGUE into baskets.

The Eandi peddlers sell her infected baskets to the unsuspecting Qirsi without relaizing that they are cursing the villagers they leave behind with a nasty death from their in demand product. With many villages eradicated as the epidemic spreads, the survivors believe the Eandi peddlers are killing them as they seem immune to the curse. Meanwhile from the Forelands, Eandi Captain Tirnya Onjaef leads a force south to conquer the stunned Qirsi while Grinsa the Weaver tries to escape incarceration by the Fal’Borna so that he can locate Lici and persuade her to end the plague. There is two problems for him and his allies; first escaping will not be easy and second they are susceptible to the customized lethal disease.

The second book of the Blood of the Southlands is a superb fantasy tale that not only avoids the mid book set up syndrome, but enhances the tension between the clans as each blames the other for their problems. Lici is a bit more off stage this time as her efforts have proven fruitful. Fans will relish this entry for its deep look into the social, political, economic and military interactions between the three distrusting groups; ignorance and racism are the norm with the hostilities turning the Southlands into a large killing field.

Harriet Klausner

StarFist: Wings of Hell-David Sherman and Dan Cragg

StarFist: Wings of Hell
David Sherman and Dan Cragg
Del Rey, Jan 2009, $23.00
ISBN 9780345500991

The troops of the 34th FIST (Fleet Initial Strike Team) marines feel like A WORLD OF HURT after their latest battles with the alien Skinks (see FIRESTORM). Those who survived are mentally and physically tired and looking forward to R&R at their home station installation on the planet Thorsfinni’s World.

One thing the latest fight did do was to raise the consciousness level of the Confederation, which is no longer in denial, that the Skinks exist. However, some politicians running for office on earth strongly resent the marines trying to cause a war as they from their safe haven believe the aliens are not dangerous. Out in space light years away from the mother planet, the Skinks manage to establish a landing on Haulover. Rest, relaxation and healing are over as the 34th is deployed to repel the invaders from Haulover while other military components and economic and political interests especially the presidential election campaign interfere for differing reasons.

WINGS OF HELL may be the best entry in this superb military science fiction saga. What makes this tale and the entire Starfist universe (see Force Recon series) excellent is the insightful look at the psychology of the individuals of a unit and the team building sociological aspects in which the squad supersedes the person. For instance outside events like politicians pandering for reelection especially harm the morale. Fans will enjoy this fabulous interstellar military science fiction that cleverly uses space like it is the Pacific Ocean and planets are islands where battles occur.

Harriet Klausner

The Comet’s Curse-Dom Testa

The Comet’s Curse
Dom Testa
Tor, Jan 2009, $16.95
ISBN: 0765321076

Comet Bhaktul did not collide with the Earth, but its tale past through the atmosphere, providing people with a good light show of bright red particles. Months later, adults around the globe come down with a fatal virus. The comet contaminated anyone eighteen and over with the pandemic death rates devastating the adult population. If a vaccine is not found soon, humanity will be extinct as eighteen is a death sentence to the survivors.

To preserve the species, a special ship Galahad is built as dedicated scientists give up what precious little time they have left with their families to build the craft in a timely manner. The best and brightest teens under the age of sixteen, a crew of 251, are selected to colonize a new home in a distant solar system. Two years later, Galahad led by Triana Martell leaves planet earth. They are ready for anything outer space sends their way, but not inner space as number 252 is a stowaway on board sabotaging the quest.

With nods to Wild in the Streets and Lost in Space albeit much more serious in tone, young adult since fiction fans will love this sold space opera whose prime characters are easy to relate to and admire. Although all carry a heavy burden, the teens are strong and independent as each contributes to the common good of the Galahad community. The prime focus is on Triana, who was traumatized by her beloved father’s death that turned her into a loner unable to make friends, but capable of caring for others while making difficult decisions. Readers will enjoy the opening gamut of this six book saga to save the species.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 10, 2008

Royal Exile-Fiona McIntosh

Royal Exile
Fiona McIntosh
Eos, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061582684

Using strategy that makes no military sense, tribal warlord Loethar and his deadly barbaric horde easily conquered Dregon and Voragan while Cremond capitulated without a fight. He now invades the final land in the Denova Set, the Kingdom of Penraven with once again little successful opposition. The flesh eaters easily slice their way to conquest defeating everyone who dares to face them. King Brennus is frustrated and worried, but will soon be dead as Loethar fearing nothing has every member of the renowned ruling family the Valisars killed although the king and queen go willingly so that one member of the royals can escape and insure Loethar fails to have access to their power.

The Champion of the Cohort Gavriel De Vis escorts away from the castle the first born son of the Valisars, young Prince Leo, whose special skills unlike that of his father and forefathers back eight generations has failed to surface. He seeks allies, but few sign up to join his noble but seemingly helpless cause. Not only has his talent remains dormant, but Loethar is too powerful and malevolent to fight against anymore; evil has won as the side of good allowed complacency and egotism to leave them unprepared leading them to defeat.

The first book of the Valisar trilogy occurs in the same world as the Percheron Saga, but is a different age and place. Readers will relish the return to Fiona McIntosh’s fantasy realm as the opening act proves to be a worthy successor. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as the kings wonder how they could fall so fast to the blitzkrieg of Loethar. Leo is a wonderful wannabe hero, but his coming of age has a long way to go (two more novels) while Loethar is a fascinating in a macabre way villain who we meet early on after he has drank blood and looks forward to sharing a drink with King Ormond of Barronel. Ms. McIntosh opens her latest fantasy with a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Accidental Sorcerer-K. E. Mills

The Accidental Sorcerer
K. E. Mills
Orbit, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN 0316035424

Twenty-three-year-old Gerald Dunwoody was a Grade Three Wizard at Ottosland's Department of Thaumaturgy. His rank means he is at the bottom of the food chain and soon learns a lesson about pyramidal hierarchies as sh*t rolls down hill. Someone has to take the fall for the PR and budgetary nightmare of blowing up a factory so though he followed orders and since he accidentally did the deed, his superiors claim they are clean and blame the moronic rogue at total fault for the accident. He loses his good government job, the lowest form of public debasement known to the people.

Although he is depressed as he assumes he stinks at being a wizard since no one breathing loses a bureaucratic job, his companion, Reg the magical raven believes otherwise. Reg thinks Gerald is a super mage lacking proper training. Meanwhile Gerald obtains a second government job as the court wizard in the remote isolated kingdom of New Ottosland. It is ruled by King Lional, who has big plans to expand his kingdom assisted by his new mage. Gerald just wants his employer to be the usual royal egomaniac, who rules over nothing while his loyal subjects play make believe that his domain is a country. Instead his regal ambitious boss demands his new employee turn into a lethal sorcerer. With Reg as his mentor advisor, Gerald begins his new job knowing there is the threat of being fired again with no other exile placement available.

Somewhat tongue in cheek, THE ACCIDENTAL SORCERER, the first book of the Rogue Agent saga, is a fabulous fantasy starring an individual who seems so inept that he has to take a position in as remote a land as one will find in the Mills universe. Only his friend Reg believes otherwise as even Gerald assumes he stinks at wizardry 101; his new employer may have grandiose schemes but figures Gerald is an idiot or he would not be in the end of the world. Fans will relish Gerald’s escapades as K.E. Mills provides a strong opening act with this wonderful coming of age (though he admittedly has a long way to go) fantasy tale.

Harriet Klausner

One More Bite-Jennifer Rardin

One More Bite
Jennifer Rardin
Orbit, Jan 2009, $12.99
ISBN 9780316022095

She works for an organization that deals with crimes involving supernatural entities; her boss Vayl is someone she cars about, but though he wants to make her his, Jaz Parks is not ready for a commitment. After killing the vampire Edward "The Raptor” Samos, Jaz, Vayl and Cole travel to Scotland where the dead undead has left a power vacuum in which Samos’s former allies, (the Flock vamp gang, the Valencian Weres and the Coven of Inverness) battle for supremacy. Jaz’s superiors believe a balance of power between the three groups is best for everyone else.

However, the Valencian Weres have taken out a contract on the Coven’s leader Floraidh Halsey; it becomes the job of Jaz’s team to prevent the killing from happening. This proves exceedingly difficult as Jaz and her teammates have no idea what the target looks like nor how powerful she really is. The Coven worship Scidair whose followers live long lives because of the sacrifices of the dead they make to it. Floraidh is creating a spell that means danger for Jaz, but with the help of Vayl and the ghost who lives on her land, she has a slight chance of surviving their mission; succeeding at the goal of the mission is less likely.

Following up on the Raptor affair, Jennifer Rardin takes her Manhattan based operative to Scotland, which refreshes this amazing and provocative urban fantasy with new dangers for the heroine and her horde. The story line is loaded with action as the CIA agents work diligently to prevent a disaster; which is why the plot is actually character driven as the audience observes the strengths, weaknesses and desperate desires of much of the key cast. Besides the obvious Jaz and Vayl, the rival leaders are fully developed so that for instance the Coven witch is 200 proof evil, but there are even more malevolent creatures out there than she is. Jaz is at her best as she is tough, courageous yet vulnerable.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Deep Water-Pamela Freeman

Deep Water
Pamela Freeman
Orbit, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0316033677

The mage Saker continues his obsessed quest for vengeance against the descendents of Acton and his horde when they crossed through the Death Pass into what became the Eleven Domains massacring his ancestors the Travelers, who resided there. To succeed in his endeavor, the crazed enchanter sprinkles his blood on the bones of those murdered to forge warrior ghosts with a thirst for revenge that supersedes his. His initial efforts prove successful when he sends his dead army into Carlion, killing most of the residents.

Meanwhile as Saker improves as a necromancer, Bramble and Ash visited the Well of Secrets which advises them their only hope to prevent Saker from destroying the Eleven Domains resides with the long dead Acton. They go their separate ways on different aspects of the quest. Ash must go home to visit his scornful father, who believes his son is a failure as he only holds bards with regard; there he will find the song to raise Acton. On the other hand Bramble needs to explore the real events not the legend that occurred, a millennium ago when Acton led the invasion from the Death Pass.

While all this is happening Thegan the warlord plans to expand his rule from one to all Eleven Domains. He does not care who dies to further his ambitions placing Leof in an ethical dilemma between loyalty to his liege and to the common good of all the people.

The problem with this excellent middle book in the Castings trilogy (see BLOOD TIES) is waiting for the finish as DEEP WATERS will come FULL CIRCLE hopefully tying up the threads as each of the prime players have gone their separate ways in this entry. The story line is fast-paced with Acton playing a major role as Bramble begins her effort to separate the myth from the truth (think of Robert Wuhl’s special Assume the Position). Well written with plenty of excitement though little tied up (the middle book syndrome), Pamela Freeman sets the table for what should be a spectacular finish.

Harriet Klausner

The Way of Shadows-Brent Weeks

The Way of Shadows
Brent Weeks
Orbit, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN 031603377

Azoth understands survival of the fittest first hand in his hometown of Cenaria; a city run by a criminal oligarchy. He knows that if he does not make a move soon, the constant beatings especially from the bully Rat will kill him. The young street thief loathes most of the gang with Rat being the most despicable but also cares what happens to his only friends Jarl and Doll Girl. Azoth needs to escape somehow but urchins like him have no options.

However, Azoth envisions making an alternate lifestyle choice. He must become the apprentice of legendary assassin Durzo Blint, who would never take on a rascal like him. Shockingly the aloof cantankerous Blint will accept him as his wetboy trainee if he assassinates Rat within a week. Reluctantly as he converts himself into the killer apprentice Kylar Stern, the lad fears the one shadow that remains inside him; the link to his former self as Azoth wonders how his beloved Doll Girl will react to his killing one of the gang.

The story line is fast-paced in spite of this being the opening gamut in the Night Angels saga, which denotes setting up the culture and environment and providing insight into the key characters. However, the plot is character driven as the key players which include Regent Prince Logan Gyre are not always what they first seem; instead shadowy twists that feel genuine and quite exciting will surprise the audience. Especially fascinating are the poetic legendary assassin and his new apprentice with his new identity. Fantasy fans will enjoy a visit to Cenaria, a place where the felonious rule.

Harriet Klausner

Black Cathedral-L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims

Black Cathedral
L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims
Leisure, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843961997

The British government subsidizes Department 18, a special unit dealing with bona fide supernatural and paranormal activities. Robert Carter a powerful psychic and medium, along with Sian are sent to a home in an English suburb to investigate what has reported poltergeist calamities. From the time they enter the house they realize they are dealing with something much more evil. Carter sends Sian to the car and locks the door but the monster beetles in the walls get inside and leave no trace she was even in the car.

Robert is suspended, but his superior pushes to bring him back to active duty so he can join the group heading KKulsay Island off the Scottish coast. A group of middle managers sent by their influential corporation to work together as a team on the island have vanished without a trace; sixty years ago the islanders also disappeared. A helicopter arrives on the island seeking survivors, but sinks into the ground. Carter and his group arrive next and immediately sense the malevolence that permeates the island; that evil prepares to attack the latest intruders.

L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims once again write a scary horror story that will frighten the audience into leaving all lights on. There is plenty of action with unexpected twists to shake readers from any complacency they might feel. The protagonist is also shaken by the disappearance of Sian and believes there is a link between the two incidents. Robert is hero in spite of himself as he courageously goes about his investigation into otherworldly activities on the mortal plain.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Airs of Night and Sea-Toby Bishop

Airs of Night and Sea
Toby Bishop
Ace, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441016693

There is trouble brewing in the Duchy of Oc as Duke William is obsessing over riding a flying magical horse; a feat only women are capable of doing. He thinks that with the potion he is taking that gives him breasts, a beardless face, and a female shape he will be able to ride his steed Diamond. He has cut back on funds to the Academy of Air run by women who train young girls to ride the flying horses in service of the duchy.

He sends his militia to the Academy of Air to spy on the people who reside there. Mistress Philippa Winter is in hiding from the duke, who wants to punish her for her transgression. He kidnaps the Kree trainee Amelia from the school as a hostage believing that will force Philippe out of hiding. Larkyn “Lark Hamley, flies to Kree to tell Amelia’s father what the Duke has done to his daughter. A warship attacks the duchy’s harbor and it looks like war is coming between Kree and Isamar as the people are divided between supporting the duke and deposing the duke. Lark tries to defuse the situation to keep the Academy of Air from being destroyed.

Lark might not be an aristocrat like the rest of the trainees attending the Academy, but she has more inner strength and fortitude than the other students. She believes she must act as the duchy faces a lot of issues in THE AIR OF NIGHT AND SEA. William is actually the key as he forces events. Some will say he is evil while others believe he is nsane as he ignores his responsibilities to the duchy to purse his obsession, but when people turn against him he seeks revenge. He can no longer care for the common good, but ironically is in charge. Thus Toby Bishop raises a fascinating question of what to do with a leader who is incapable of rational leading in this fabulous fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Beyond the Grave-Lina Gardiner

Beyond the Grave
Lina Gardiner
ImaJinn, Nov 2008
ISBN: 9781933417431

NYPD Police Captain Jess Vandermire used to believe she was the only living vampire with a soul. However, while working a vampire serial killer case, the detective has to reconsider her soul belief. Lately she has suffered from dizziness and blackouts; each time she goes unconscious, a human female dies. Jess fears she may have gone rogue and as a psychological defense mechanism blacks out to forget what she has done.

Her partner Police Lieutenant John Brittain strongly believes his superior officer is innocent. He vows to find the real killer and uncover the link to Jess’ blackouts. He has no GRAVE ILLUSIONS that this will prove easy as humans are physically inferior to vampires as he is to Jess. Still he owes her as she gave him a reason to live and even more important he believes in her. Britt’s biggest fear is that the killer is working his way to a grand deadly finale starring Jess.

This action-packed vampire police procedural will hook the audience into a vampiric hypnotic state the first time Jess collapses and never let’s go for an instant. The story line is faster than a speeding vampire, but also goes deep inside the souls of the two cops as both fears that if she survives she will be another soulless undead. Adding to the spins and twists of the serial killer investigation is a secondary character, a caring priest whose faith in God regardless of what he faces keeps those in his circle of influence safe. Fans will relish this delightful urban fantasy whodunit as Lina Gardiner makes vampires with and without souls seem genuine

Harriet Klausner

In Shade and Shadow-Barb & J.C. Hendee

In Shade and Shadow
Barb & J.C. Hendee
Roc, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0451462505

After parting ways from Magiere the Dhampire and Leesil the half-breed elf, Wynn Hygeorht returns to the Guild of Sagecraft in Calm Seatt. She brings with her journals she has cribbed that describe what she witnessed and did as well as arcane texts written by vampires during the time of the Forgotten History and the Great War, millenniums ago. These need translation, but to her disappointment she is not one of the scholars working on this because the highest ranks consider her confused as the Noble Dead Vampires do not exist.

The Guild Scholars translate what they can with what Wynn brought home before farming them out to various scriptoriums to be copied. When two journeymen go to pick up the texts, they are killed by what looks like a black blob of darkness that murders people without touching them. Identical homicides follow of those picking up the texts that the killer steals. Wynn abetted by Chane, a Noble Dead, who has feelings for her, investigates and discovers the serial killing thief is a different type of undead than previously encountered. Both believe that this is connected to the Enemy who destroyed the world during the times of the Forgotten History. Wynn has to rely on her beliefs to prevent a killer from bringing the seemingly invincible Enemy back for a second world destruction tour.

IN SHADE AND SHADOW starts the second Noble Dead series turning the focus from Magiere the Dhampire and Leesil to the little scribe Wynn. She is stubborn and independent with a need to know the truth. Readers learn what is expected of scribes as the job description does not allow for poetic license or interpretation; instead one writes down what one is given even if it is obviously false. Wynn’s need to go beyond the word will make her a fan favorite on a par with the heroes of the first saga. Thus she and Chane conduct a serial killer investigation concentrating ion what the predator is and the link to the return of the Enemy rather than just note another murder by the blob. This is a great start to the newest Noble Dead series.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 7, 2008

Unclean Spirits-M.L.N. Hanover

Unclean Spirits
M.L.N. Hanover
Pocket, Dec 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416575979

Like most young people, Jayne Heller has a full life between going to college and having a boyfriend. However, her normalcy is shattered forever when someone murders her Uncle Eric. Jayne closes his estate as his prime heir, but is unable to obtain emotional closure as she cannot understand why an uncle she hardly knows left her his estate and why he was killed; she already knows Randolph Coin of something called the Invisible College where the research is solely on demonic spirits conversion into sources of incredible power.

Obsessed Jayne is determined to avenge her uncle’s murder. Several of Eric’s friends and associates help her as they too want the killer brought to justice though their definition strongly differs from that of Jayne. However, as she explores Uncle Eric’s weird world she begins to meet a horde of Hollywood mythical “UNCLEAN SPIRITS” who rock her physics based realism off its foundation as she wonders can this be Denver and keeps reminding herself this can’t happen to Jayne.

This engaging urban fantasy amateur sleuth is more a character study than a whodunit as the intelligent technologically astute heroine is clearly out of her element with her former belief that demons are in games, movies and urban fantasies not the streets of Denver. Although Jayne’s adept skill at fighting otherworldly monsters seems over the top of the Rocky Mountains even with her late uncle’s “blessing”, fans will enjoy learning alongside the heroine the rules of para-physics in the realm of the “Black Sun's Daughter”.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Zen and the Art of Vampires-9780451225603

Zen and the Art of Vampires
Katie MacAlister
Signet, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451225603

As her fortieth birthday approaches Pia Thomason decides to celebrate with a tour of Europe hoping to find a lover’s fling across the pond. Her first stop is Iceland, but for whatever reason people calls her Zorya. Even more mysterious Pia ends up in possession of a light-producing moonstone.

Bewildered Pia finds things turn even stranger when an enigmatic group of weirdoes the Brotherhood of the Blessed Light demand she marry their Sacristan. At the same time ghosts begin to show up claiming she the guiding reaper expected to escort them to the promised land of Ostri. Wondering what else could occur on this trip that makes no sense, the Dark One Kristoff needs Pia to help him enact vengeance on the Brotherhood at the same time he wants to insure she never obtains her full power, which means he must marry her.

The latest Dark One screwball vampire romantic suspense comedy is a jocular action-packed tale. As always in this wonderful zany series, the heroine gets trapped in an out of control frenzied frolic once Kristoff meets Pia. Readers will enjoy this latest biting romp as the escapades never slow down. Katie MacAlister provides some of the zaniest paranormal tales with her Dark Ones’ saga (see EVEN VAMPIRES GET THE BLUES; SEX, LIES, AND VAMPIRES; SEX AND THE SINGLE VAMPIRE; and THE LAST OF THE RED HOT VAMPIRES).

Harriet Klausner

Dark Nights, Dark Dreams-Savannah Russe

Dark Nights, Dark Dreams
Savannah Russe
Signet, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451225665

With a shortfall of State Department volunteers willing to work in Iraq, Foreign Service specialist Sam Chase is stunned that she is being loaned to the CIA although she understands why. Sam’s ability to see the future and being warned by an inner voice, some say a guardian angel, has kept her safe. The CIA has assigned her to a new Top Secret cell with special paranormal skills.

Sam is assigned to help DOD forensic investigator Lance "Bear" Rutledge, who cannot believe they dump a civilian on him based on a mumbo jumbo fraudulent talent; he scorns psychic ability as either a ruse or a mental case as he believes in the facts. Another cell mate voodoo priestess Rina Martus warns that stolen corpses are being converted into an army of zombies. As Bear, who assumes Rina is a fruitcake, and Sam search for the army of the dead.

Darkwing Chronicles’ vampires aside, the first of four "Sisterhood of the Sight" psychic romantic suspense thrillers is a superb paranormal tale as the heroine and her partner confront peril from beyond. The story line is fun from the moment Sam and the bear meet; as she is living proof of what he scorns as ridiculousness. Falling in love interferes with the mission so neither wants to act on their desire, but both need to act on their passion for the other. Savannah Russe opens up her new series with a winner.

Harriet Klausner

Jake’s Wake-John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow

Jake’s Wake
John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow
Leisure, Dec 30 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960761

Jacob “Jake” Connaway is a televangelist whose show has attracted a cult following as has his Church of Everlasting Life. He comes across as a sincere believer interested in saving souls. However, the truth is he is evil as he is into white slavery, adultery, pyramid schemes and other crimes and transgressions. His latest salvation occurs when he scores with Sugarplum whose boyfriend kills Jake.

Three days later after his funeral service as his corpse is about to enter the crematorium, Jake arises from the dead. He and his friend Gray, a stone cold killer,go to his home where he finds his widow Esther, his whore Evangeline, and his acolyte Emmy talking. Esther frantically wants to know what Jake did with their money that he took from his church as she needs it to keep her home from being repossessed. Jake and Gray enter his abode to begin sadistic games and those tring to stop him do not know how to kill a dead man.

JAKE’S WAKE is a combination slasher rise from the dead horror thriller filled with gore. There are an over abundance of killer scenes told in vividly red detail, but the nightmare to everyone except Jake and Gray is the lack of understanding of why he was resurrected. Fans of Brian Keenee will appreciate this dark tale as God works in mysterious ways with the exciting Jake’s awakening serving as proof.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hold My Hand-Serena Mackesy

Hold My Hand
Serena Mackesy
Soho, Oct 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 1569475334

Knowing first hand how violent her former husband is and how undependable he can be even in terms of caring for their daughter Yasmin, Bridget Sweeny needs a job somewhere safe. Thus she thinks it is God sent when she is hired as the caretaker at the Hotel Rospetroc, a Cornish converted manor. Bridget and Yasmin waste no time in fleeing London and the abuser for the Cornish coast.

At Rospetroc, the Sweeny females receive a cold welcoming from the Blakemore family who own and reside at the hotel. Bridget and Yasmin meet sad nine year old Lily Rickett a ghost haunting the manor house. Lily tells the Londoners that she was evacuated from London during the WWII bombings only to be terrorized at Rospetroc by the mistress before vanishing; she owes the Blakemore brood and by employment extensions Bridget and Yasmin.

The atmosphere enhances a strong ghost story in which a little girl abused and discarded six plus decades ago, seeks vengeance from the descendents of her predator and those who work for that family. Lily makes the story line work because readers will believe in angry spirits haunting a manor house. Although the ending seems improbable (ironic to state that since this is a ghost tale), fans will relish Serena Mackesy’s terrific paranormal thriller as Bridget feels she jumped from the frying pan into the fire, but has no alternate leap to make.

Harriet Klausner

Fish Out of Water-MaryJanice Davidson

Fish Out of Water
MaryJanice Davidson
Jove, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515145496

Life used to be simpler for grumpy Boston Aquarium expert Fredrika “Fred” Bimm. That all changed when the Undersea Folks came out of the oceanic closets to reveal themselves to the surface dwellers in an effort to reduce ocean pollution. Fred has feet and tail in both worlds.

Underwater King Mekkam has hired Fred as his public relations consultant with the land humans, a job she tolerates though she is media phobic. Meanwhile Prince Artur continues his pursuit of her, wanting her to announce their engagement although she has not quite agreed to marry him. Human Dr. Thomas Pearson also wants Fred and does not hide his affection for the half breed. However, Fred is worried as the Undersea Folk are starting to vanish for no apparent cause and her biological merman father Farrem, exiled for a failed coup attempt, has suddenly entered her life; making her wonder if he using her to take the throne.

The third Fred the half-breed mermaid tale (see MAKING WAVES and SWIMMING WITHOUT A NET) is the usual zany comedic romantic fantasy that MaryJanice Davidson is renowned for consistently writing. The story line is action-packed on land and under the sea. Fred remains the crank queen of both worlds out grouching Oscar, but this time has a cause for her irritability as she now knows who she gets it from as her biological father threatens her two worlds. Fans will enjoy this fine entry while wondering whether Fred will select Artur, Thomas, or neither; going in neither is the heavy favorite.

Harriet Klausner

Cursed-Jamie Leigh Hansen

Jamie Leigh Hansen
Tor, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0765357216

Since they attended high school together, Alex has loved Elizabeth. However, although she feels for him, she has made it clear that an intimate relationship beyond friendship is impossible. He assumes he suffers from unrequited love, but she has secrets that keep her from reaching out to him. Alex is a healer whose touch can cure anyone; Elizabeth is a dream weaver with the ability to ensnare people in her nightmares. Although she loves Alex, she fears what she will do to him especially since her father is a powerful fallen angel who is battling her soul for control of her mind and body. Thus she left him and their hometown.

Elizabeth has returned home to help her family while Alex knows as he did before she left he still loves her. However, besides her rogue angel dad, a goddess has plans for Alex; anyone in the way must die and who knows (besides Ms. Hansen) what else might crawl out from the Tunnels of the Forgotten Ones.

Somewhat overwhelming with a large cast and so much happening, CURSED, the sequel to BETRAYED is an intriguing romantic urban fantasy. The story line is filled with action, but at its best when either or both lead characters are at the vortex of the plot. Readers will wonder whether Elizabeth and Alex have a future together and for that matter whether either has a future at all.

Harriet Klausner

Veil of Midnight-Lara Adrian

Veil of Midnight
Lara Adrian
Dell, Jan 6 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780440244493

Nikolai the vampire is in Montreal searching for the Gen One vamp Sergei Yakut to warn him to be on the alert because someone is targeting the founding generation of the Ancient extraterrestrials and their families who mate and produce offspring with them. He walks into a trap sprung by some vampires and Breedmate Renata who can put him under with the power of her mind. Nikolai mentions his warning and is escorted to Sergei’s compound for a discussion.

While there, Renata who trusts no one begins to think Nikolai is a good individual. Nikolai discovers that Sergei has hunts with humans as the prey; upset he walks out in disgust. He returns once he calms down, but Renata knocks him out as she believes he killed Sergei; unaware that his treacherous son committed fratricide. When the traitor sells the child Mira, who Renata loves like a daughter, she escapes the compound and rescues Nikolai. Their feelings blossom until they become blood bonded. However the Order that protects the vampire nation has assigned Nikolai with a mission that conflicts with Renata’s plans to rescue Mira.

Once again Lara Adrian writes a gripping character driven romantic urban fantasy that leaves readers believing vampires exist while hiding in plain sight. Characters from the previous books in the "Midnight” series (see KISS OF MIDNIGHT, MIDNIGHT RISING, and MIDNIGHT AWAKENING) appear while a new surprising vampire joins the Order which is now dedicated destroying the Ancient and Dragos. Nikolai is stunned by his feelings for Renata, but less shocked than she is as she always believed she would be an untouchable loner. His mission leaves his soul divided between loyalty to his beloved and to the Order. Readers will relish the lifting of the VEIL OF MIDNIGHT while looking forward to more vampiric escapades in the Adrian universe.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Darkscape: The Rebel Lord-R. Garland Gray

Darkscape: The Rebel Lord
R. Garland Gray
Medallion, Dec 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836485

In 3210 the solar system peace between the clans is fragile. Many pray that the upcoming peace conference will strengthen those wanting cooperation rather than war. However, one of the attendees, Commander Lin Jacob Rama leads an attack on Clan Douglas on Ceres. He takes Lachlan de Douglas, heir to the clan, prisoner.

Combat pilot Lieutenant Kimberly Kinsdale worries that madness is taking over her commander's mind. She fears the assault and abduction of Lachlan will lead to clan warfare. Her only hope to prevent what seems like Rama's deliberate sabotage of the peace conference is to rescue Lachlan, which she succeeds in doing though she is branded a traitor and deserter. As the two warriors try to expose a deadly conspiracy that has the planetary clans at war, they fall in love, but saving humanity remains the prime directive.

The premise behind the Darkscape tales is simply placing pre-Culloden Scotland in outer space; thus clan wars are all over the solar system and where they are not, hostilities are one incident away from exploding. Kimberly is a remarkable protagonist struggling between performing her duty by doing the ethically correct thing vs. loyalty to her superior officer and her clan by obeying orders. Her dilemma makes the early segment of the story line very appealing while the rest of the tale continues that strong ethical exciting start. For instance, Lachlan is terrific in the co-lead role as he must sacrifice his personal quest for vengeance for the better good of all the clans. Together they make quite a force though the enemy seems quite insurmountable. R. Garland Gray provides readers with a superior stimulating space opera.

Harriet Klausner