Friday, February 29, 2008

Fallen-Tim Lebbon

Tim Lebbon
Bantam, Apr 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553384673

Four millennium before the DUSK occurred, Noreela sends forth intrepid explorers into unknown territories. These brave souls expanded the nation’s glory and affluence on all sides except the south. There voyagers ran up against the Great Divide that ranges so high its top is hidden somewhere in the clouds above. Of those who have tried to scale the Great Divide, none has come back to tell the tale until now. Ten claims to have done this with his proof being an ancient parchment.

Cancer stricken Ramus Rheel has always competed against his friendly rival wealthy adventuress Nomi Hyden to be the first to reach the clouds and beyond and return to tell the tale though Ten has made that claim. For Ramus besides wanting the mantle of the greatest voyager ever, this is probably his last escapade; for Nomi wearing the greatest mantle is everything. As they make the trek together accompanied by Serian soldiers, they go past the line where no information is known except Ten’s questionable ramblings There they run into the “home” of one of the ancient Sleeping Gods and they soon find themselves fighting to live to tell their saga.

The latest Noreela fantasy thriller (see DAWN) is an exhilarating adventure tale into the unknown in which fans will want to trek up the Great Dive alongside the exploring Voyagers. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the fully developed lead duo that makes the escapades seems genuine especially in the encampment of the Sleeping God who “awakens” to the intrusion. Tim Lebbon provides a fascinating quest fantasy with a different spin to the quest as a consequence of their actions is the need to the save the world endeavor

Harriet Klausner

Key to Conspiracy-Talia Gryphon

Key to Conspiracy
Talia Gryphon
Ace, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780441015764

Marine Corps Special Ops psychiatrist Dr. Gillian Key is an expert in abnormal paramortal psychology as she works with supernatural patients with biting problems. However she is assigned as part of a team to provide assistance to the victims of a horrific earthquake in Russia. Though she knows she will see plenty of tragedy and her specific task is investigating rumors of child selling, Gillian looks forward to getting away from her usual paranormal clientele especially the brass.

However what should have been a natural calamity with a horrific aftermath turns into a supernatural disaster. Dracula, whom she met on a previous adventure (see KEY TO CONFLICT), is fascinated by the soldier-psychiatrist as he is more used to subservient females not combatant women. As bad or perhaps worse Jack the Ripper is using the mishap as an easy cover for his nefarious activities. Of course Gillian wonders if she has Murphy DNA as she meets a who’s who of horror superstars.

Whereas KEY TO CONFLICT is preeminently military urban fantasy, KEY TO CONSPIRACY is more horror although the heroine’s patients include vampires with biting guilt complexes, werewolves with species identity issues and military brass with 5-star superegos. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but also contains an underlying satirical feel as Talia Gryphon lampoons the sub-genre. Readers will relish the Russian adventure as the Key to this tale is the fully developed (with a wink) lead protagonist who copes with Drac, Jack and general whackos.

Harriet Klausner

Wrath of a Mad God-Raymond E. Feist

Wrath of a Mad God
Raymond E. Feist
Eos, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780060792985

A Rift (or portal) was created connecting Dasati to Kelewan, and the Dark God’s Death priests have caught the powerful magician Miranda to find all they can about humanity before they invade. When Miranda escapes, she kills many of the powerful enemy, but also learns the Dasati not only plan to attack, but also to turn Kelewan into a place identical to their evil world which is hostile to humans. Miranda rallies the troops to go to war against a more powerful enemy, but her sides knows the outcome if they lose to the Dark God.

Miranda’s husband Pug, the most powerful magician in the world, is in Dasati gathering intelligence. The Dark God has made Dasati into a dark place in which the inhabitants enjoy killing as if it is a sports contest and enjoy providing pain to others. Despite the precautions, the Dasati breech the Kelewan defensive perimeter, killing millions. On Dasati, Pug concludes the only way to end the deadly assault and return balance to the worlds is to kill the invincible immortal immoral Dark God.

To fully understand what is going on in the third Darkwar Saga tale, fans must read at least the previous two stories (see FLIGHT OF THE NIGHTHAWKS and INTO THE DARK REALM) as this thrilling fantasy does not stand alone. What is even better is to peruse the entire Rift War and Midkemia novels as that will fill in a little more background especially about Pug. WRATH OF A MAD GOD is a complex tale with multiple plotlines that converge into a terrific climax. Fans of the long running series will relish the finish to Raymond E. Feist’s fine fantasy trilogy.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dawn’s Light-Terri Blackstock

Dawn’s Light
Terri Blackstock
Zondervan, May 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310257707

It has been a year since the Pulses from the dying supernova knocked out all the fiber optics sending civilization back into a pre-electrical age (see TRUE LIGHT, LAST LIGHT and NIGHT LIGHT). Beth Branning has seen her father shot; her sister Deni in the hands of a serial killer; and Deni’s boyfriend Mark beaten severely by vigilantes. She is waiting for the “Next Terrible Thing” to happen; which of course occurs.

She witnesses a man kill a person and comes after her next; however a homeless man intercedes and Beth escapes even as her good Samaritan rescuer is murdered. The killer warns Beth not to tell anyone or he will go after her family. He knows her name because it is on the back of the shirt she is wearing. Mark plans to propose to Deni, but on the night he intends to give her an engagement ring, her former boyfriend Craig visits her. Since the Pulses occurred, he has been working diligently trying to get the electricity running. Beth sees a notice of a missing man on a bulleting board; he was the first victim she saw killed leaving behind a wife and their toddler. She worries about the killer coming for her loved ones until he arrives and almost kills her. Her parents find Beth hurt and rush her to the hospital where she undergoes brain surgery. Mark and a deputy search for her attacker while Craig uses his connections to get Beth medicine. The Branning clan knows that Beth’s fate is in the hands of God, but a few prayers by them might influence the outcome.

The final Restoration thriller will lift the spirits of readers while simultaneously leave readers weeping. Fans care about the Branning family and friends so feel deeply they feel their trials and tribulations. Mark is heroic as his love for Deni is so unselfish he is willing to give up what he most wants in life, her, if she loves Craig instead of him. Craig likewise is a good person but he tries to put strings on Deni while helping Beth. Terri Blackstock reaches the hearts of her audience with her belief that God remains in charge especially when things are darkest.

Harriet Klausner

The Restorer’s Journey-Sharon Hinck

The Restorer’s Journey
Sharon Hinck
NAV Press, Mar 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9781600061332

Before Susan, Mark and their eighteen years old son Jake use the portal to return from the dimension of Lyric to their home on earth (see THE RESTORER’S SON), Councilman Cameron and the Rhus Media (who can twist and poison the minds of her victims) they escape through the portal into our earth too. They disappear for several weeks before they return with packages and force Susan to get through the dimension corridor with them.

Mark is unable to use the portal, but Jake travels to the other world to rescue his mother. Jake has changed since the last time he was on the other side. Cameron claims to have records that say when Restorer appeared twice in a generation, the line ends. This is a lie because Jake is the new Restorer, a person sent to the One to fight for the people and help the guardians. While Jake seeks his mother and a plan to defeat Cameron and throw the Kahlarea out of Render, Susan is trapped in the land of Rhus where Medea’s protégé tries his best to beak her by crawling through her mind.

Anyone who has felt the darkness close in on them while also feeling rage and despair should read THE RESTORER’S JOURNEY. Susan and Jake feel all that and more, but they draw on the strength from the One and in their hearts and refuse to allow evil to win. Sharon Hinck writes fantasy that takes the audience to a special magical place where faith is the cornerstone of life. Those who fail to adhere to that philosophy end up destroying themselves from inside their souls to their physical presence.

Harriet Klausner

Before They Are Hanged-Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged
Joe Abercrombie
PYR, Mar 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781591026419

In the South Inquisitor torturer Glokta serves as the Superior of the city of Dagoska. He has two missions to accomplish if he is to survive his new position unlike his recently assassinated predecessor. He must root out the traitors before they murder him; and he must keep the city safe while it is under siege from superior enemy forces with no hope for outside supplies..

In the North the powerful well trained and equipped Northmen military have invaded neighboring Angland. Crown Prince Ladisla demands leadership of his Union army as he plans gloriously to repel the enemy back beyond his frozen border. However, as Major West escorts the bodacious royal fool he knows his side lacks proper arms, training, leadership and courage while the other side will swamp the battlefield with its superiority.

In the center the First of the Magi Bayaz leads a party of pariahs (incompetent apprentice Malacus Quai, warrior Logen, Ferro the Navigator, Brother Longfoot and Jezal) seeking the Seed. Each person distrusts the rest of the participants, but it is this band that must defeat the Eaters that threaten humanity. Bayaz understands this so he tells the tale of creation to encourage them

As with the First Law Book One: THE BLADE ITSELF, the second tale contains three well written major plots; there is also somewhat of a fourth segue re the Named Men remaining undecided. The best of the trio is Glotka’s saga as the audience sees deep into his unsympathetic “soul” while he tortures (graphically) anyone using the rationale he seeks to save the people by rooting out enemy plotters; his detachment from his victims is classic. The West subplot is fun to follow too as he knows what his Prince is leading them into, but can do little to prevent their charge into the valley of death (think of The Charge of the Light Brigade). Finally, the Bayaz clip tells a lot about the history of the world in vivid descriptions, but his teammates fail to listen. This is a complex well written quest fantasy that will have the audience clamoring for the next law book.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fires Rising-Michael Laimo

Fires Rising
Michael Laimo
Leisure, Mar 2008, $7.99,
ISBN 9780843960648

Father Pilazzo oversees the renovation of the once abandoned church. He dreams of the flock returning and the ancient church regaining the respect it once had. As the workers tear up the floor, they find a pit underneath; inside this man-made excavation is a long forgotten buried wooden crate. The workers excited by their find open the box.

None knew what they have unleashed on humanity. The demon interred is free causing havoc as it leaves a trail of death with every person the monster touches. Father Pilazzo blames himself for liberating the demonic killer as his sin of pride led to his ignoring his nightmares that warned him to stop the repairs. He knows he must end the abomination even if it means he spends eternity in hell for releasing this evil on the innocent.

Although the releasing of an incarcerated buried demon has been done many times in movies and books, Michael Laimo provides an entertaining horror thriller. The demon never rests once liberated while Father Pilazzo is filled with guilt that he knows he will take to the afterlife with him, but also feels accountable as he plans to take the evil one with him even if it means being stuck in hell with this malevolence for eternity. Readers will enjoy this good and evil confrontation as the innocent become casualties.

Harriet Klausner

99 Coffins-David Wellington

99 Coffins
David Wellington
Three Rivers (Crown), Jan 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780307381712

After the horrors she faced (see 13 BULLETS), vampire hunter Laura Caxton vows never again as field work is too gory for her. However, at an archeological dig at the Gettysburg Battle Site, Civil War era coffins are dug up. Detective Jameson Arkeley realizes what the team found is the remains of a Union vampire corps. He knows the only person to handle this gruesome finding is Caxton; so he sends for her.

Caxton reluctantly arrives at the tomb and finds 100 coffins with 99 occupied by vampires without hearts; one is empty and the coffin smashed as if a vandal attacked it. Worse someone manages to return one of the vampires from the dead to the undead; soon the rest of corps begins to reawaken to finish the mission they started in 1863. Caxton knows she must stop them before the Civil War is reenacted with real blood flowing from the victims of a night-stalking militia obsessed with completing its mission.

99 COFFINS is a unique vampire military thriller that rotates between the present, and Civil War Era journals and other writings. Thus the action-packed present stars a heroic Caxton who wants to retire from paranormal hunting while the 1860s correspondence provide insight into the vampire regiment especially their mission that they feel strongly must be achieved over a century and a half since they got their orders. With Gettysburg at stake (pun intended) the battle lines are drawn in this bloody superb tale.

Harriet Klausner

A World Too Near-Kay Kenyon

A World Too Near
Kay Kenyon
Pyr, Mar 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9781591026426

The Tarig constructed the concentric circles Fortress Ahnenhoon to protect the engine that uses the Rose universe as its prime power source to provide energy to sustain the Entire universe. In the Rose universe, sentient beings on planet earth realize the power draining caused by the Ahnenhoon will suck life out of this universe.

Pilot Titus Quinn knows the only way to save earth’s universe is to destroy the Ahnenhoon engine although that could result in destroying the rival universe where his wife and daughter reside. However, scientist Helice Maki insists humanity cannot trust Quinn to do his job as he has a motive to keep the Entire functioning. Maki believes Quinn will try to skip the Rose for the Entire to find his wife Johanna abducted by the Tarig over a decade ago and probably incarcerated inside Fortress Ahnenhoon; and once he rescues her they will search for their missing daughter, Sydney. Maki is sent to accompany Quinn on his mission, but the scientist has a scheme to use the nano-technological weapon to take control of the Ahnenhoon engine and from there usurp the Tarig as the power of two universes fight for survival.

The sequel to BRIGHT OF THE SKY is much more complex than described above as the two “dueling” universes contain convoluted relationships; thus plenty of twists and spins await readers who accompany Titus on his quest. The story line is action-packed, but also further describes the two universes especially the Entire while key characters like beleaguered Quinn and ambitious Maki are fully developed. With two universes on the brink of mass destruction, science fiction fans will want to join Quinn on mission.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Lost Ones-Christopher Golden

The Lost Ones
Christopher Golden
Bantam, April 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553383287

Oliver Bascombe has learned so much about the creatures of legend since that night Jack Frost busted into his Maine home (see THE MYTH HUNTERS) and the Sandman abducted his sister Colette (see THE BORDERKIND). The American attorney has crossed the Veil several times to and from the Two-Kingdoms mostly to save his sister, but has learned of an interesting prophesy that vaguely implies earthlings saving this realm; could the Bascombe siblings be the saviors?

However, when the sly Atlantans destroy the peace between Euphrasia and Yucatazca, Oliver realizes he must prevent Armageddon. He blunders when he is fooled into using the sword of Euphrasia and kills the ruler of Yucatazca. As the doomsday clock ticks down, Oliver frees himself, Collette, and his fiancée Juliana Whitney from the Yucatazca royal dungeon. Whereas Collette and Frost journey to Euphrasia to reason with Hunyadito, Oliver and Juliana beg the indifferent legends of the Two-Kingdoms to save the realms as no one will remember them if they fail to act. However, no longer one to sit idly on the sidelines with cold feet, Oliver attacks Atlantis bringing the hostilities to the place that started the fiasco.

Although like in most if not all (can’t think of an exception) quest fantasies, readers know what to expect, but will still be enthralled by the conclusion to the Veil trilogy as this is a golden winner. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the Maine siblings use Yankee know-how and some magic to try to save the day. Fantasy fans will appreciate this fun finish to a fine saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Golden Rose-Kathleen Bryan

The Golden Rose
Kathleen Bryan
Tor, Mar 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765313294

The Duchess of Quitaine Averil knows it is time to fulfill her promise that she made to her uncle last year. She pledged to the traitorous malevolent bachelor King Clodovec that she would come to his court in Lutrec within a year to select who will sire the heir to the Kingdom of Lys with her. She made that vow to keep Clodovec from destroying the people of her duchy.

The depressed Averil begins her quest knowing her soulmate and magecraft bondmate is commoner Gereint, who she can never marry. However, Averil finds some hope when she meets opponents of the monarch who believe in the Serpent God of Chaos like the king does, but not to release this deity from his incantation incarceration. She also learns that her seditious uncle is planning to do to the Ladies of the Isle what he did to the Orders of the Knight. She knows he must be stopped with her only hope residing with Wild Magic; that means introducing chaos and anarchy by finding a way to void the marital laws of nobility to marry Gereint so besides their love they can craft the mystical counterpoint to the king.

The second War between Order and Chaos tale (see THE SERPENT AND THE ROSE) is a terrific fantasy suspense thriller that will have readers on the edge of their seats from the moment Averil knows it’s time and never slows down until the cliffhanger sets up the next entry. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced, but it is Averil and Gereint’s forbidden relationship that makes this saga excellent as the kingdom’s laws forbid their marriage yet they need to bond in holy matrimony to raise the Wild Magic in order to save the people. Although this novel stands alone, it behooves readers to obtain the first stupendous story as that explains how Kathleen Bryant got us to this magnificent point.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Staked-J.F. Lewis

J.F. Lewis
Pocket, Mar 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9781416547808

In Void City Eric the vampire cannot remember the last time had so much trouble as he has had over the past few days. It is not that his blood sustenance has turned sour, but he has had some bouts of mini amnesia and suffers apparent blackouts. Roger his business partner at the Demon Heart Strip Club acts strangely as if he wants more; and Eric fears he may owe Police Captain Stacey an exorbitant “Fang Fee” to cover his recent unknown crimes. His human girlfriend Tabitha has begged him to turn her; something he has been hesitant to perform, but mental erosion sets in as the insistent nagging persuades him to change her; only to have her dump him once her new teeth are set; besides her sister seems cuter.

However, Eric has even bigger problems as he had an incident with a werewolf pack that kill his Mustang and capture him, but immediately afterward turn up dead in Orchard Park with the evidence affirming that a vampire killed them. He knows he is being framed but does not know why or who. The dead lycans’ pack led by the father of one of the deceased, is outraged by the affront. Evangelical William the Alpha sends his minion after Eric.

STAKED is a thrilling action-packed urban fantasy starring a predatory fall guy who finds everyone in his circle seemingly using him for personal gain. The story line is filled with action as Eric does what vampires do to stay alive while battling vicious werewolves, magical assaults; clever blood suckers, bribing cops, and the most dangerous species of all: human females; all in a night’s bite. Fans will appreciate J.F. Lewis’ fine opening tour of Void City where even the undead wonder if you are better off dead.

Harriet Klausner

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana-Anne Rice

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana
Anne Rice
Knopf, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781400043521

Rumors have always abounded that Yeshua bar Joseph was miraculously a virgin birth child. However, he never gave that a second thought as he faithfully attends synagogue every Sabbath just like his brother James and everyone else in the village of Nazareth. However, recently Yeshua has had emotional issues between his religious calling and his love for a kinswoman. He knows what he must do, but is reluctant to embrace it as he sadly realizes he is about to lose his youth though he accepts the cause is worth the cost. On the “Road to Cana” he changes water to wine at the family wedding of Reuben and Avigail. Three years later Yeshua starts preaching the people must return to God. He performs miracles as he walks the path that the Lord has assigned to him.

The first Christ the Lord tale (see OUT OF EGYPT) was a strong opening story, but added little poetic license to the gaps of what is already known of Jesus. THE ROAD TO CANA is much deeper and better as Anne Rice provides an insightful look at Yeshua that miraculously makes him human as he covets love and feels loneliness with his increasing understanding of the heavenly mission bestowed on him. He displays human feelings yet Godly responsibilities that converge at the wedding where a family dispute has led to unhappiness at a moment that all should be rejoicing.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 22, 2008

Galaxy Blues-Allen Steele

Galaxy Blues
Allen Steele
Ace, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441015641

Being caught helping his brother to pass his exams at the Space Academy by giving him the answers, Jules Truffaut is kicked out of Union Astronautica Space Fleet. For months he works towards one goal: to get airborne. He stows away on the spaceship headed for Coyote but he gets caught. He steals the shuttle and lands on the planet where he is arrested. He hoped to ask for asylum when he landed but instead he knows with the charges against him that the Chief Magistrate will deport him.

Before he goes in front of the judge, billionaire Morgan Goldstein visits Jules in his prison cell; the wealthy man offers a proportion to the prisoner. He gives Jules a chance to become a crew member of the Pride of Cucamonga en route to the Rho Coronae Borealis System in order to make a trade pact with the elder species the hjadd. If he agrees all charges will be dropped and he will receive asylum. He agrees to go on the mission.

When the crew reach their destination, a cultural misunderstanding turns disastrous. Jules and his mates take part on a dangerous mission that more than likely will mean their death, but correcting the blunder is critical. If they succeed the hjadd will reconsider allowing humanity into the Talus, an organization of highly sentient races who exchange science and technological advances.

Set in the same universe as the Coyote trilogy, GALAXY BLUES is a rip roaring electrifying space opera in which humans are infants compared to the elder races. Readers will thoroughly enjoy learning about the hjadd and their strong unconscious belief in their superiority to the visiting barbaric mankind. Jules is an interesting antihero who tries to disapprove the hjadd perception that advanced technology equates to superior culture and species. Fans will appreciate his efforts.
Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ravenous-Ray Garton

Ray Garton
Dorchester, Apr 2008, $7.99
ISBN 9780843958201

Big Rock, California is a small quiet town where violent crime never occurs as everyone knows everyone else. However, that was before; now Sheriff Hurley struggles with a apprehending a serial rapist whose last victim works in his office. He feels overwhelmed but keeps searching for clues.

Fargo arrives in Big Rock claiming to be a werewolf hunter and that the town is infested with them, Hurley has enough on his plate with the rapist so he ignores the lunatic’s ramblings although he keeps an eye on him. However, Hurley reassesses his belief when reports of assaults by large animals begin and torn up mutilated bodies surface.

Ray Garton turns lycanthropy into a sexually transmitted disease; thus a vicious epidemic cycle occurs in which those victims who survive the sexual assault become unrepentant nasty RAVENOUS werewolves on the prowl needing to rape someone. With a nod to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs the werewolves are motivated by Physiological Needs making them seem real and more terrifying. Hurley is terrific as the beleaguered small-town sheriff initially struggling to accept the evidence, but it is the widening werewolf epidemic that turns this into a fabulous horror thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Piara’s Legacy-Scott Gamboe

The Piara’s Legacy
Scott Gamboe
Medallion, Mar 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836256

Led by the Necromancer Volnor, a legion of the dead invaded the three countries that make up the continent of Pelacia. They killed everyone in sight ravaging the land in a blighted earth policy. Previous rivalries are put aside and the trio of nations united; they successfully repel the enemy horde forcing Volnor and his minion to take refuge in Desert of Malator.

Over time that great saviors’ war became part of the ancient mythos with nobody believing that a malevolent soulless one raised the undead into an army as there are more pragmatic concerns for those residing on the continent today. In that environs Elac the Elf makes a living as a merchant with no thoughts on legends. However, renegade Kobold marauders attack his caravan leaving him fleeing for his life. Rilen the Elven warrior rescues Elac who joins him on his journey to Unity where the former hopes to gain support while calling the alarm that Volnor is back. No one except Elac and a hand full of travelers heeds his warning; so that the only hope resides within the soul of the merchant who, if he can figure out what it means in today’s context, has ties to the last successful repelling of Volnor and his evil.

This is an exhilarating fantasy due to the two elves, Rilen and Elac, and the threat of Volnor, deftly handled to increase the suspense. Rilen is like a Jeremiah ignored by the leaders who scoff at the return of a mythological necromancer. However Elac is the more fascinating character as he is a successful businessman who suddenly is thrust at the head of a save the world quest in a sort of coming of age way. Fans will appreciate Scott Gamboe’s fine fantasy and seek his previous science fiction thriller, THE KILLING FROST.

Harriet Klausner

The Golden Cord-Paul Genesse

The Golden Cord
Paul Genesse
Five Star, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146596

Wyverns, griffins, and dragons are devastating the villages killing many people because they see humans as food. They also want to control Ae’leron making it free of dwarves and humans. Humans live in hidden villages as they conceal themselves from the Wyvern-kin attacks from above and the ground assaults of the Drobin Empire army that takes them as slaves.

The hamlet of Cliffton is in the middle of Thornclaw Forest near the Void, the cloud cover that does not allow anyone to look into the Underworld. Drake Bloodstone does not do much hunting unlike the rest of the men; instead he and his canine pals stay behind to guard his people and his home from outside threats. When two Drobin warriors come to the gate, Drake lets them in and learns they are seeking their kin who settled in the nearby town of Armsted in the mine of Quarzaak. They need a guide to escort them through the forest; Drake agrees to take them although he believes they hide their true objectives and intentions because he wants them away from his village and because it is the right thing to do.

THE GOLDEN CORD is epic quest fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien as the first Iron Dragon tale is an enthralling thriller filled with monsters out of the myths devouring humanity. Because of the danger from the sky and the ground, society has been forced to remain in small agricultural packets of hunters, crop growers, and gatherers. There is plenty of action, but it is the ever dangerous Genesse world that makes this a fascinating opening gamut.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Hidden World- Paul Park

The Hidden World
Paul Park
Tor, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780765316684

Miranda Popescu is beginning to understand her heritage as the once lost thought dead Roumanian princess and as the mythical shape-shifting White Tyger. However, that knowledge also means responsibility to her people and lethal threats from within and without. Nasty sadistic Colonel Bocu wants Miranda dead; the spirit of evil Baroness Nicola Ceausescu may be even more malevolent than when she was living if that is possible; her late Aunt Aegypta has proven untrustworthy and so has the deceased evil Elector of Ratisbon a sinister alchemist. As Miranda now knows dead does not mean the threat expired as they can still cause havoc from the Hidden World. However, the biggest danger comes from the aristocracy still inanely and insanely experimenting with ancient magic that is not understood very well.

In that environs her country is losing the war to Turkey and some in her inner circle want that to happen so the outside upstart is dethroned. As she relies on her friends from the other earth’s Massachusetts army officer Peter Gross and gender-species shape shifter Andromeda, rumors abound that tinkering with the old magic has led to a weapon of mass destruction that some say is a planetary doomsday machine based on necromantic physics.

The fourth and final tale in this superb alternate earth (circa WW I) epic coming of age fantasy is a terrific conclusion to a strong saga. The story line is fast-paced as peril seems to come from everywhere and on just about every page; yet Miranda remains a strong center holding the tense story line together. Although it behooves newcomers to read the previous three novels (see THE WHYTE TIGER, THE TOURMALINE and A PRINCESS OF ROUMANIA) as threads from them are tied up in THE HIDDEN WORLD, Paul Park provides a great finish.

Harriet Klausner

Dragons Wild-Robert Asprin

Dragons Wild
Robert Asprin
Ace, Apr 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780441014705

Long before man appeared on earth, dragons ruled the planet killing off the dinosaurs and ant other species that got in their way. They looked at the newcomer humanity as harmless until it was too late, forcing the proud dragons into hiding by disguising themselves as humans. Recent Michigan University graduate Griffen McCandles thinks dragons are nothing more than a mirthful myth until his Uncle Malcolm claims that his nephew (and niece) is almost a full bred dragon and will soon come into his secondary powers. He also warns Griffen that some dragons will want him dead because of the prophecy while others will want to use and abuse him; some will remain cautious observing him closely to see what powers he develops before acting.

Griffen wonders what type of weed his uncle took as he does not take his relative seriously; that is until his girlfriend Mai says something about dragons and vanishes. His bookie Jerome tells Griffen that he too is a dragon albeit a lesser blood and that his boss Mose wants him to head up their gambling operations in New Orleans. Griff and his sister Valerie take up the offer since the George the dragon killer has left his calling card the Knight of Swords at his door. In New Orleans Griffen begins to grow into his powers and though George followed him, there are also other local dragons using animals to spy on him. Griff realizes he has an enemy besides George who wants him dead.

This is the start of what looks like will be a great urban fantasy series that is funky, funny and fun. The young dragon must learn what his powers are while trying to stay alive by avoiding the George and the unknown adversary. Griffen’s sister is like all female dragons as she is independent, temperamental, and charming and she too must learn to control her new skills instead of just protecting her helpless male brother. Robert Asprin has begun another fine myth with his first entry in his wild dragon culture.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Small Favor-Jim Butcher

Small Favor
Jim Butcher
Roc, Apr 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780451461896

Finally a respite for Chicago's only openly practicing professional wizard Harry Dresden as no one has tried to kill in quite a while. However, Harry’s serenity abruptly ends when the Queen of the Winter Court of the Sidhe and Queen of Air and Darkness Mab arrives to call in his IOU. Harry prayed this day would never come when he asked her for a favor years ago, but he now owes the ever dangerous Mab two favors.

Harry is relieved when all Mab asks of him is to rescue crime boss John Marcone, who was recently kidnapped. He figures how hard this can be as dealing with a mundane mob killers seems easier than some of the supernatural soul stealers he normally contends with. Still he is confused why Mab wants this done and bewildering him further she does not know why. Harry investigates to understand better the scenario as he finds it difficult to fathom how John was abducted from a highly guarded safehouse. He asks his friend Michael Carpenter, father of his apprentice Molly, to help him, but the “Knight of the Sword” hesitates as he distrusts Harry since the wizard was exposed to a curse. However, Harry soon realizes that by abetting Mab, he has brought onto him and his friends, the most powerful adversary of the Queen of the Winter Court, the Queen of Summer.

Dresden is at his best in this private investigative urban fantasy as his R&R ends with paying his debt. Fans will appreciate the hero as the favor seems simple enough, but soon spirals into soul threatening danger that would have hard core sleuths like Marlowe peeing in their pants. Dresden’s inquiries are cleverly done to set the stage for the usual lethal fantasy spin. Readers will relish Jim Butcher’s latest tour of Chicago’s underground as the sunny skies abruptly twist into deadly tornadoes.

Harriet Klausner

In the Earth Abides the Flame-Russell Kirkpatrick

In the Earth Abides the Flame
Russell Kirkpatrick
Orbit, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316003421

In Faltha, the Company led by teens Hal and Leith completed their quest, rescuing their parents Mahnum and Indrett from the Bhrudwons who snatched them to keep their invasion plan secret (see ACROSS THE FACE OF THE WORLD). However, the group still grieve their losses and the survivors recover from their wounds; but wary they realize a new mission has surfaced as the Bhrudwons were right to want to silent Mahnum, who knows their insidious scheme. The Company needs to inform the ruling Council of Faltha that their neighbor led by the Destroyer plans to invade so the country can prepare.

The heroes travel to the capital Instruere where they soon find themselves mostly ridiculed by the Council members; as some are corrupt and already bought by the Bhrudons while others disbelieve such an assault is imminent and all fear the at hand religious threat from within. Frustrated Hal and Leith realize the only hope to unite the country resides with finding the legendary Jugom Ark that most people believe never existed. The second quest has begun.

Like its predecessor this quest tale differs from fantasy sagas as most of the plot occurs on the mundane plane rather than the otherworldly realm; this enables the audience to feel they are part of the Company with a deep taste of geography and history. However, after the harrowing escapades of their previous rescue adventure, the relationship between the siblings feels off as it seems static rather than having changed, which makes them feel less developed than in the previous book. Still this is an entertaining save the world from evil entry although it behooves new fans to read the previous entry first.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lord of Lies-David Zindell

Lord of Lies
David Zindell
Tor, Apr 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 9780765311306

The seventh son of the King of Mesh, Valashu “Val” Elahad uses the ancient sword Alakaladur. However, he and his bone tired friends come home for some needed rest and recuperation after their traumatic but successful adventures to recover the powerful LIGHTSTONE golden cup. They hope the outcome of their quest leads to peace and prosperity for the kingdoms of Ea as prophesized.

Now that he is home, Val knows the next step is to figure out how to release the power of the Lightstone. He knows that something or someone named Maitreya is the source, but who or what remains an enigma while he has doubts about his inner strength to remain virtuous; failure to do so by him or his inner circle means defeat. While he and his team begin the second part of their quest to find a prophet who can either point them to Maitreya or better yet release the power, the dark lord Morjin, angry over his recent loss to Val, plans to steal the Lightstone and kill those who recently defeated him.

The third Ea fantasy (see THE LIGHTSTONE and THE SILVER SWORD) is an entertaining Tolkien (some might say early Robert Jordan) quest thriller. The keys, as with the previous entries, are the vivid details that make the Ea continent seem genuine and the hero; especially the latter although he comes out of the fantasy quest type casting. Although the rest of the players are one dimensional including Morjin the angry who lost some depth since his previous appearances, fans will appreciate the well written LORD OF LIES.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Embrace the Night-Karen Chance

Embrace the Night
Karen Chance
Roc, Apr 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451461995

The Silver Circle is stunned that untrained magic practitioner and vampire crime chief protégé Cassandra Palmer has been named Pythia, the chief seer as they expected one of their own to be honored as such. This has always happened for the past few millenniums. Cassandra knows she must become the one due to the domino chaos effect in which a chain of disasters pretty much left her the last one standing.

However to perform her new duties responsibly she has to rid herself of a minor problem. Cassie and sizzling hunk Mircea the master vampire are magically bound to one another; both find this arrangement abhorrent as it crimps their lifestyles. Research leads Cassie to conclude that the only way to survive breaking the link is through an incantation found in the long lost spell-book Codex Merlini. She decides to search the past for this ancient tome not understanding when she starts on her quest why the Codex Merlini vanished; but she will learn soon the hard way that possession places the world in danger from the evil she might inadvertently release as an unintended consequence.

The third entertaining Cassie Palmer dark fantasy (see TOUCH THE DARK and CLAIMED BY SHADOW) focuses on Newton's Third Law of Physics that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Fans will appreciate Cassie’s escapades as she tries to end her magical tie to Mircea (though she would not mind a hickey or three from him) leading to potential pandemic peril. Sub-genre fans who have not read Cassie’s sags should take a chance as these are well written horror-fantasy tales.

Harriet Klausner

Apricot Brandy-Lynn Cesar

Apricot Brandy
Lynn Cesar
Juno, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780809572045

Decades have passed since Karen Fox returned to her family’s farm; twenty years since she walked out on the man who was supposed to protect her, but instead sexually assaulted her. Now her father is dead having blown away his face with a self inflicted shotgun blast; Karen has come home to make special arrangements for the land and her father’s cremation.

She is unaware that her father was the High Priest for the Green God Xibalba and his acolytes drop his corpse into a fissure beneath the morgue. Her sire joins his Master and confers power on Acting Assistant Sheriff Carver, who prefers to rule above ground unlike Karen’s father whose preference in the underworld. From the moment she stepped onto the farm Karen sensed something was wrong. While looking at her father’s body, Karen feels something close around her wrist followed by seeing a dress she wore as a child that was destroyed years ago yet is in pristine perfect condition complete with a still moist blood spot.. Quetzal a Mayan witch who knows that Xibalba is near; she plans to fight the evil God along with the ghosts that will accompany her. However, she also knows she must protect Karen from the malevolent Green God who has plans for the daughter of his loyalist worshipper.

APRICOT BRANDY is an exciting combination horror and dark urban fantasy that takes readers to the edge of sanity and leaves then there wondering if this time evil will triumph. Karen may be innocent, but she is the catalyst (thanks to her DNA) that sets things in motion although she is the polar opposite of her cruel father. She reaches inside herself with determination to defy him and his God while the Mayan witch rallies his ghostly horde and the townsfolk. Readers will find Lynn Cesar’s work magically entertaining.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dream Chaser-Sherrilyn Kenyon

Dream Chaser
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312938826

A “deceased” half-demon demi-god, Xypher lives for one thing vengeance against the female whose betrayal has left him locked away in Hade’s most secure prison Tartarus. His target Satara knows he will try to come for her if he escapes; especially in her dream state so to mute his threat she has “bonded” him to Tulane University medical examiner Simone Dubois. If either dies the other also dies, but this time permanently.

Although he does not like being tied to anyone, Xypher realizes that Satara made an error by selecting Simone as she is used to the paranormal rooming with a teen ghost and solving murder mysteries by consulting with the victims. Instead of panic, Simone begins to work with Xypher especially when the mortal world becomes threatened.

DREAM CHASER is a delightful often amusing romantic fantasy starring two interesting protagonists and a fascinating antagonist. Readers will emphasize with Xypher who understandably out grouches Oscar and admire Simone who does not blink when the paranormal enters her life. Their debates make for a fun time especially their discussion as what to do to Satara. With additional spins leading to save the world or else, Sherrilyn Kenyon provides a superb romantic thriller that answers the question of whether bonding includes love at least for this couple.

Harriet Klausner

The Automatic Detective-A. Lee Martinez

The Automatic Detective
A. Lee Martinez
Tor, Feb 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765318343

Mack Megaton was created as the ultimate doomsday machine capable of mass killing; his handlers planed on using him as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction leading to global supremacy. Instead something went haywire as Mack not only developed a conscience he was too kind to kill for profit. Now he drives a cab in sector of Empire City or what the Learned Council calls "Technotopia".

When his neighbors the Bleakers vanish without a trace, Mack becomes concerned though they kept their distance. He decides to investigate to insure they are all right and if not save them. He is unaware that aliens seek the blood of Holt Bleaker because it contains a mutation that they believe will prove useful when they invade Empire City. However, if Mack learns of their treachery, he would prevent it, but he has personal issues as the evil psychic Grey has done something nefarious to his programming while robotic guru Lucia Napier tries to return him to his normal state.

This is a brilliant satirical science fiction Noir in which the zany cast lampoons several typical genres’ standbys such as the little green alien mob boss. Mack is fabulous as THE AUTOMATIC DETECTIVE in a city filled with eccentric lunatics. Fans who relish something different will enjoy this well written amateur sleuth save the world investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Magician and the Fool-Barth Anderson

The Magician and the Fool
Barth Anderson
Bantam, Mar 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9780553383591

Disgraced as an academia art historian Jeremiah Rosemont fled to remote areas to just get away from the treachery of his peers. He is currently hiking through Central America when a stranger informs him he has been summoned to Rome; the man gives him a plane ticket and leaves.

Rosemont flies to Rome and enters through a back door a hotel where he sees some sort of weird gala occurring; filled with people he once knew. At the same time that Rosemont is left bewildered, two killers in Minnesota pursue Boy King, a dumpster driving tarot card reader. They seek a legendary ancient pack that they believe Boy King owns; that same pack is why Rosemont has been brought out of self exile; disgraced or not he is expected to affirm its origin. If he is able to do so it will change recognition of this thought to be pseudo science into something valid and acceptable.

This is an exhilarating convoluted thriller that is not going to allow readers to remain in their comfort zone. Instead THE MAGICIAN AND THE FOOL is a well written complex tale that questions what is real in a singular and collective sense and is the singular real normal if it differs from the collective. Fans looking for something radically different and not easy to comprehend will relish Barth Anderson’s atypical tale that will either turn someone off early or have them re-read immediately to gain additional nuances and perspectives.

Harriet Klausner

Orphan’s Journey-Robert Buettner

Orphan’s Journey
Robert Buettner
Orbit, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780316001731

As an advisor to the Tibetan rebels, General Jason Wander had orders not to fire at the Chinese troops unless he came under fire from them. However, he could not let the rebels he trusted die in combat so he disobeys a direct order. To keep him out of further trouble the brass exiles him to the New Moon resort station where scientists work on figuring out how to fly a space ship captured from a Slug with engine powered Cavorite at its core. The ship was captured during the most recent hostility. Jason is on the station to get his godson Jude to power it up with reflexes only he has and which are needed to interface with the engine starting up.

Jason persuades Jude they need it done so they can fly back to earth together, but something goes wrong; the Cavorite fueled ship takes off from the station and travels through a black hole before landing on the planet Bren. For a millennium they have mined Cavorite and given it to the Slugs so they will be left alive and alone to fight amongst themselves. However, when Jason and his crew touch down, the Slugs decide to eradicate all humans except those they need as drones and slaves. Jason has to unite the feuding clans, who have been at war with one another for years, if they hope to extricate the Slugs from Bren for that is the only way they will survive. Adding to his dilemma is the Slugs are breeding so his chances of winning are nil unless he can come up with a dramatic Hail Mary. Whatever happen he is responsible because the clan leaders named him Commander.

The latest Jason Wander military science fiction thriller (see ORPHANAGE and ORPHAN’S DESTINY) is a great space opera reminiscent of the early Heinlein sagas. The protagonist still struggles with accepting that in war there are casualties including collateral damage of the innocent. He detests that he sends men to their deaths, but understands the greater good. He is sensitive and willing to disobey orders if he feels they are wrong. However, what makes this tale so strong is the insight into Bren culture where Homo sapiens fight one another with nineteenth century equivalent technology while avoiding a confrontation with the Slugs.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 4, 2008

Howling the Moon-Karen MacInerney

Howling the Moon
Karen MacInerney
Ballantine, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345496256

In Austin, Texas, Sophie Garou is a highly regarded auditor at Withers and Young. She receives a strange box that contains a Ziploc bag of dried green leaves. The note makes it clear that someone knows she is a werewolf though she is only a half werewolf as her mom is a human witch. Sophie uses wolfsbane to control the transformations but that does not work during the full moon especially at the equinox.

Sophie gets a call from her mom’s employee at her store informing her that her mom has been arrested for the murder of Congressman-elect Ted Brewster who apparently died from a love spell she sold him. Sophie tells her best friend accounting associate Lindsey and goes to see her mom in jail.

On the way Sophie is shocked to see a werewolf as she thought there were none in Austin. She tells her mom she needs a lawyer, but mom is not worried. Lindsey suggests they investigate as the cops are only looking at her mom. They can start with the librarian who Ted bought the love spell for. Meanwhile Sophie’s human boyfriend Heath reminds her he has arranged a special date for their anniversary. She is worried because he is unaware that she is a half werewolf and their date is on the full moon equinox. Adele informs Sophie they will be conducting drug testing on the day of the full moon equinox. Things get worse from there.

This amusing paranormal amateur sleuth tale works because readers will believe werewolves and witches are real and living in Texas. The half-breed urban werewolf heroine is terrific with her humorous asides as she faces all types of woes especially with the demands on her time at the equinox. The support cast is fully developed to bring out more of the lead female’s troubles or to help her, which also can lead to more tsuris for her.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Ties-Pamela Freeman

Blood Ties
Pamela Freeman
Orbit, Apr 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316033466

Over a millennium ago the Northern invaders displaced the locals throughout the Eleven Domains. The conquerors became brutal warlords and the conquered Travellers; nomads with no place to call home or a haven from their abusive rulers. Men watch their women of all ages raped and can do nothing but eat their rage for that is the lot of the Travellers to keep on shuffling from one place to another unwelcome by any warlord.

In this world Travellers flee from one atrocity to another. However several have taken differing approaches. Bramble a young villager has tasted the taking of a life but feels no remorse as she flees from soldiers wanting to rape her. Apprentice Ash has been trained by street wizard Doronit as a safeguarder assassin who has killed, but feels regret with ghosts of his victims visiting him; he knows he is no better than the butcher Acton the warlord. However it is Saker the enchanter who considers using black magic to destroy his people’s enemies and return what he believes is rightfully his. Their actions and that of other Travellers and the warlords impact the ordinary people who just want to survive.

The first tale of the Castings trilogy is an insightful fantasy in which an event has repercussions that have further repercussions; nothing is isolated. In some ways it will remind readers of Palestine. When the prime Travellers Ash and Bramble act, readers see their actions and the consequences on others, but not just warlords as communities are impacted. This brings a deep sense of reality, but can detract from the prime theme of the warlords vs. the outcasts. Still few fantasy sagas make the villages seems so genuine. BLOOD TIES is a strong opening gamut to the Freeman fantasy realm.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Victory Conditions-Elizabeth Moon

Victory Conditions
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey, Feb 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 0345491610

The ISC war against Gammis Turek and his pirate empire has enabled Kylara Vatta to rise rapidly in the admiralty to where the relatively youthful officer commands forty spacecraft. However, she knows the enemy is brutal and brilliant with his latest threat being Slotter Key, her homeworld.

Ky learns rank may have privilege, but it also has difficult decision making responsibility. She knows she will send soldiers to their deaths but also realizes the war could devastate her family like her Aunt Grace and Vatta Enterprises. Still as she feels haunted by those who died and will die under her command, she feels strongly failure to act will lead to even more deaths by Turek and his horde. Combat is inevitable; she knows what she must do though it weighs on her mind, but hopes her actions will make her side victorious.

The key to the final Vatta’s War is the strong cast not just the heroine who bring to life and death the full facets of the impact of war on everyone. The story line is fast-paced yet no critical thread is left dangling while the cast drives the saga. Fans of the series will relish Elizabeth Moon’s finish as Ky concludes that the conditions for victory mean deaths for friends and family.

Harriet Klausner

Empress-Karen Miller

Karen Miller
Orbit, Apr 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316008358

In Mijak, seven Warlords, with each one having a Godspeaker, have divided the land into fiefdoms. However, poverty is rampant as the soil is failing. Most assume the Nameless God is punishing the wicked. In that realm a hysterical woman pleads with her man to keep this one. However he is adamant that the she-brat will be gone once the Traders arrive as he cannot afford another worthless female to feed. He warns the woman with his fists that she has cursed his seed with five bitches and to give him strong sons who can work or face the Godspeaker.

Thus when the Traders come to the hostile north they purchase the nameless she-brat. In chains Hekat as she is now called arrives at the flourishing capital city of Et-Raklionwhere she is sold in bondage to warlord Raklion. The she-brat may be a domestic slave, but she has ambition and intelligence. Hekat learns the secrets of power and how to keep it by observing and listening as most in the inner circle fail to notice a slave even one as beautiful as she is except as a sex object. Manipulating rivals becomes her tool of choice. Hekat climbs in power until she becomes the EMPRESS of Mijak with a vision of turning the country from seven fiefs into the most powerful empire ever one bloody battle at a time.

This is an exciting epic fantasy starring a powerful heroine whose ambition makes Lady Macbeth look like a kindergarten student claiming she will become a nurse. The strong support cast starting with Hekat’s parents and enhanced by those in the capital bring to life a country where women and children have no rights and betrayal is an acceptable practice. Especially fascinating is The Godspeaker, a frightening individual even in the shadows. Character driven, the first of the Godspeaker trilogy is a strong opening act that will have fans seeking Karen Miller’s previous saga, Kingmaker, Kingbreaker.

Harriet Klausner

Poison Sleep-T.A. Pratt

Poison Sleep
T.A. Pratt
Bantam, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553589993

Felport chief sorcerer Marla Mason is called to the Blackwing Institute for deranged sorcerers; she learns that an insane prisoner tried to escape, but was caught. However, her escape attempt wakes up Genevieve Kelly, who has been in a catatonic sleep for fifteen years after being raped. She is considered dangerous because Genevieve is a reweaver who can change physical reality. Genevieve transported herself to a dream state and only enters the real realm for a few minutes at a time with no pattern to her visits.

Maria has to find Genevieve because her reality is bleeding into the real world with flowers, towers and supernatural beings appearing. Maria is unaware that she is also under assault from powerful sorcerer Gregor who was informed by a seer that if he leaves his building Maria will kill him. Zealand the assassin tries to kill Maria, but he becomes entangled in Genevieve’s world and his feelings for Genevieve change his priorities. Marie knows that a battle is coming between her and her allies against Gregor and hi minions with the future of Felport at stake.

In the Pratt universe, magic remains in the shadows so the ordinaries remain ignorant. Thus this dark urban fantasy is dominated by a ruthless lead protagonist who will do whatever it takes to protect her friends and city even if it means causing havoc amidst the mundane realm. The sorcerers have their own culture that coexist with the mundanes but are more powerful as they work behind the scenes. However in POISON SLEEP Maria and company may prove too weak against Gregor and his cohort Reave who wants to rule the world after he takes care of Marla.

Harriet Klausner

Magic Burns-Ilona Andrews

Magic Burns
Ilona Andrews
Ace, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780441015832

Magic has returned to the world, but it comes in waves. When it flares, it is out of control; when it flows it works. The world obviously has changed since the return with cities devastated as the magic hates tech and skyscrapers and either destroys them or changes them into something else.

In Atlanta Kate Daniels works for the Order and the Mercenary’s Guild who helps people in need. She takes dowwn a killer in an underground garage but an unknown person does the actual kill using a special dart. A member of the shapeshifting Pack asks her to find maps stolen from them. The thief used the same dart that killed the man in the garage.. Kate returns to the scene where she got the dart. There she follows a clue to a child Julie, who is looking for her mom, a witch belonging to a nearby coven. Each vanished without a trace. Kate takes Julie home with her, but that proves no haven as sea demons attack. She next brings the child to the Order. She finally meets the dart thrower Bran who informs her that she, the witches and the shifters are caught in the middle of a war between two gods.

This urban fantasy is a spellbinding compelling read. On this alternate earth, vampires, shifters and other paranormals co-exist with humans; often not in harmony. Kate has a secret agenda and apparently has powers and a secret that are hinted at throughout the exciting story line. She makes the tale work as this alternate Atlanta seems genuine as a fascinating culture built around magic feels plausible. However it is Kate who will bring fans back for future tales.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Crosstime-Andre Norton

Andre Norton
Baen, Mar 2008, $23.00
ISBN: 9781416555292

“The Crossroads of Time“. Orphan Blake Walker is about to attend Havers as an art student, but currently resides in a nearby hotel waiting for school to begin. When he opens his door he sees a man holding a gun on another person. Blake intercedes and saves FBI Agent Mark Kittson who fears for the teen’s safety so he takes him with him to a loft over a warehouse, where he meets three associates including Jason Saxton, who believes historical pivotal points lead to alternate timelines. When someone attacks Blake mentally from outside, the agent save his life before further explaining CROSSTIME, but not the full mission involving a rogue maniac.

“Quest Crosstime”. Blake has become a full member of the CROSSTIME project. His assignment is to track down a missing telepathic twin with the help of her sister by traveling across a series of alternate earths formed during pivotal moments in the timeline. They find several odd places, but finally feel the mission is achievable when they reach earth E6525. Blake pretends to be a New Britain trader in a world where the Plantagenet rule modern day England because Richard III won the decisive Battle of Boswell and the Aztec Empire includes all of America west of the Mississippi River as the Spanish Empire never occurred nor did the Louisiana Purchase.

These are fun well written reprints from four or five decades ago (about the time of the most influential classic DC comic Flash of Two Worlds) that showcase the creativeness of late grandmaster Andre Norton in spite of the scientific background seeming obsolete. Each of the tales is entertaining with The Crossroads of Time more a coming of age story (a theme that Ms. Norton excelled at) and by Quest Crosstime he shows his leadership skills. Although the ending of the sequel leaves many threads hanging loose on E6525 and as far as I know no other time Crosstime novel was written, fans of the author will appreciate these fine enjoyable science fiction time thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

When the Tide Rises-David Drake

When the Tide Rises
David Drake
Baen, Mar 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9781416555278

The war continues unabated between the Republic of Cinnabar and the Alliance of Free Stars. Although his side is short on battleships and experienced combat officers, Cinnabar Space Navy Officer Daniel Leary expects to be mothballed since his mentor on the Board was replaced by someone who detests the maverick as success does not matter; political connections do.

Instead he and his crew are assigned to help the fledgling navy of the Independent Republic of Bagaria, who seceded from the Alliance. Espionage agent Signal Officer Adele Mundy accompanies Daniel and his crew. Upon arrival at the frontier republic, they find the biggest problem is from within the divided Bagarian political leadership as treason seems to be the norm especially for those who lost power when Bagaria left the Alliance.

The latest Leary outer space military science fiction thriller (see SOME GOLDEN HARBOR, WITH THE LIGHTNINGS and THE WAY TO GLORY, etc.) is an excellent entry that has the author’s trademark look at the brutality of war, but much more. The story line contains the usual Mr. Drake’s deep look at the outcome of hostilities on civilian populations as well as the surviving military. However, the tale also provides a fascinating political twist that is mindful of Iraq and the Baath party. Those who were in power under the Alliance want back what they lost; while those who gained power refuse to share. WHEN THE TIDE RISES is a thought-provoking entertaining entry in the Cinnabar-Alliance war.

Harriet Klausner