Saturday, May 31, 2008

Shadows Return-Lynn Flewelling

Shadows Return
Lynn Flewelling
Bantam, Jul 2008, $7.50
ISBN: 9780553590081

Alec and Seregil have returned to their home base of Rhiminee, a Skalan city. Both look forward to some R&R as depraved drunken aristocrats. However, both know they are on call by their Queen Phoria who uses the duo as operatives so they can only get intoxicated so much.

Phoria informs her agents she has a job that is of the utmost immediate necessity. She wants them to return to Aurenen, Seregil’s hometown that they just returned from, to bring home her Highness’’ half-sister. Instead they are abducted and sold separately into slavery. Their hopes of rescue and freedom dim by the moment especially Alec, whose master experiments with his half-human/half-Aurenfaie slave.

The return to the Flewelling universe (see HIDDEN WARRIOR and THE BONE DOLL'S TWIN) is a winner as the two heroes struggle to survive in the alchemists’ world in which ethics are similar to that of royal espionage as anyone else is expendable because the pseudo scientists rationalize it for knowledge. Fans will appreciate their joint and separate escapades as Seregil and Alec, especially the latter are in deep trouble in this terrific fantasy thriller that can stand alone, but is enhanced by the other tales in the Skalan saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tower Hill-Sarah Pinborough

Tower Hill
Sarah Pinborough
Leisure, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960525

In Maine college roommates Steve and Liz are excited to be accepted by Tower Hill as incoming freshmen. At the same time that the two students look forward to the semester, Jack arrives posing as Father O’Brien, a priest he killed with assistance from his friend Gray Kenyon, a teacher at the school.

These two psychopaths have come a long way from finding a chest filled with documents in a cave in Afghanistan. They seek two objects with Jack finding his first and then locating the red stone meant for Grey. As the duo becomes less human, they begin to change the townsfolk into zombies they control. Liz and Steve realize something ugly and supernatural is occurring in Tower Hill; they believe they must fight it, but have no idea what or how only why.

TOWER HILL focuses on the basic essences of human nature and supernatural evil; however Sarah Pinborough does this with a fascinating twist. The prime players are not the heroic somewhat stereotypical Liz and Steve; but instead the story line predominantly concentrates on Jack and Gray; readers know them better than their two student opponents. Thus paranormally caused evil has a human face with a deep look inside their rational thoughts that seem logically yet perverse as if a different value system motivates them. Fans will appreciate this strong horror thriller in which the malevolent duo owns the story line.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Darkest Pleasure-Gena Showalter

The Darkest Pleasure
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773107

Reyes has known for millenniums that his immortal life is ugly as he hosts the demon Pain ever since he and dark warriors destroyed Pandora and released her box’s content. However, after all this time, he faces his most difficult dilemma. He wants Danika Ford like has never desired a woman before, but will have to kill his possessed long time comrade Aeron who contains the demon Wrath while the Titans demand he murder the woman.

Reyes has kept her alive from the crazed Aeron, but feels he failed his mission when Hunters capture her; probably to use as bait. He has avoided her, but now must risk his existence to save her life. However, he also wonders why the Gods need this woman and her family dead.

The latest Lords of the Underworlds saga (see THE DARKEST KISS and THE DARKEST NIGHT) is once again an extremely dark exciting tale in which Gena Showalter’s earth seems genuine. The hero is a fascinating brooding protagonist who for the first time since his fall has a sliver of hope although he does not know it as all he can see is battling Aeron to keep him from harming his courageous Danika yet struggles not to harm his long time friend. Though a stand alone, romantic fantasy fans who appreciate a modernization of ancient myths should read the previous two novels; not only are they excellent, they provide depths to this reading pleasure.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Night Bird-Catherine Asaro

The Night Bird
Catherine Asaro
Luna, Jul 2008, $14.95
ISBN 9780373802685

Student mage Allegra was on her way to receive training when she was abducted by desert raiders who plan on selling her as a sex slave; her golden hair they assume will make them quite of bit of money. In Jazid, ruthless General Yargazon and outlawed Prince Regent Markus Onyx bid on Allegra; the latter wins the slave.

However, Allegra is not a docile native female willing to sit idly by while men do whatever they want to her. She intends on escaping but understands the difficulty in a society in which women are by law cattle.. As she plots her freedom, Alegra is attracted to her owner and him to her. However, her hope for escape relies on her untrained mage skills while the General sets in motion a scheme that will gain him power by plunging the region into a large scale war.

What makes this romantic fantasy spellbinding for fans of Catherine Asaro’s Lost Continent saga (see THE FIRE OPAL AND THE MISTED CLIFFS) is the incredibly deep look at the male dominated Jazid culture. Thus being a female makes it that much more difficult for Alegra to escape as being a woman means legally you just don’t wander around. Although the general is a stereotypical Macbeth-like antagonist with ambitions to be the ruling despot and no scruples, readers will enjoy the delightful taboo romance in a fantasy realm in which allies are apt to back stab you rather than watch your back.

Harriet Klausner

The Court of the Air-Stephen Hunt

The Court of the Air
Stephen Hunt
Tor, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765320421

Molly Templar is driving orphanage owner Beadle crazy because he wants to make a profit on her before she is freed next year; but the teen has been fired four times in four months. Desperate the Beadle apprentices her to a major employer of women, Damson Emma Fairburn owner of Fairburn and Jarndyce brothel. At her new employment location, Molly sees a brutal murder that scares her; she races back to the orphanage for safety, but instead finds a mass murder site; every orphan and some of the adults are dead. Molly flees again, but knows she has no haven as she was the target in both places because she has information that several people are plotting against the state.

Oliver Brooks was contented living with his merchant uncle until someone murdered his relative and framed the lad as the killer. Fey special agents try to kill Oliver to insure he cannot defend himself. A Court of the Air agent helps Oliver flee. When he and Molly meet, they team up to battle an ancient evil considered dead since it had not reappeared in a thousand years; defeated back then this malevolence now has strong cold-blooded partners.

THE COURT OF THE AIR places Charles Dickens like orphans in an exciting fantasy thriller. Readers will admire the unsinkable Molly who plans to make something of herself once she is freed of the Beadle; Oliver is the naive one as his uncle somewhat pampered him. On the run on the ground and in the air, they make a dynamic duo whose allies would sacrifice either of them in a heartbeat if they did not need him for their cause, preventing the return of nasty ancient gods. This is a fun fast paced frenzy as Molly and Oliver quickly learn to depend on one another as the good guys and the bad guys could not care less about the mean; only the end matters.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Null-A Continuum-John C. Wright

Null-A Continuum
John C. Wright
Tor, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765316295

Being a dual brained, Gilbert Gosseyn does not fear death because when he dies he wakes up in a new body with his previous lives recalled. However, what he does not know but wants to know are his origins, why the Chessplayer uses him like an expendable pawn, and who the woman is who visits him in his dreams is.

He investigates all three using his ability to telepath great distances with a thought. However, he has to put aside his personal inquiries when he learns of a plot to destroy Earth and Venus by diabolical Enro the clairvoyant dictator who wants to expand his vast empire. Enro’s prime ally is Gilbert’s previously unknown third brain.

This is clearly paying homage to the late great A.E. van Vogt and it pays for the reader to have read THE WORLD OF NULL-A and THE PLAYERS OF NULL-A to better understand the somewhat convoluted yet complex story line. The above reflects a small segment of all that is going on with detailed clarifications embellished by even deeper revelations. Though not easy to follow and no character even Gilbert hooks the reader as the dissertations supersede the players, Mr. van Vogt is smiling in science fiction heaven.

Harriet Klausner

Null-A Continuum-John C. Wright

Null-A Continuum
John C. Wright
Tor, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765316295

Being a dual brained, Gilbert Gosseyn does not fear death because when he dies he wakes up in a new body with his previous lives recalled. However, what he does not know but wants to know are his origins, why the Chessplayer uses him like an expendable pawn, and who the woman is who visits him in his dreams is.

He investigates all three using his ability to telepath great distances with a thought. However, he has to put aside his personal inquiries when he learns of a plot to destroy Earth and Venus by diabolical Enro the clairvoyant dictator who wants to expand his vast empire. Enro’s prime ally is Gilbert’s previously unknown third brain.

This is clearly paying homage to the late great A.E. van Vogt and it pays for the reader to have read THE WORLD OF NULL-A and THE PLAYERS OF NULL-A to better understand the somewhat convoluted yet complex story line. The above reflects a small segment of all that is going on with detailed clarifications embellished by even deeper revelations. Though not easy to follow and no character even Gilbert hooks the reader as the dissertations supersede the players, Mr. van Vogt is smiling in science fiction heaven.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chasing Darkness-Robert Crais

Chasing Darkness
Robert Crais
Simon & Schuster, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780743281645

The forest fire remains out of control so police are evacuating homes in the blaze’s path in Laurel Canyon. In one of the houses the cops find the corpse of Lionel Byrd; he apparently committed suicide.

When Los Angeles private investigator Elvis Cole learns of the death, he is stunned and filled with remorse. Three years earlier, Byrd was accused of a homicide; working for the defense, Cole found proof that his client was innocent; the charges were dropped. However, recently new evidence has been found that strongly implies Byrd committed that murder, four known others before being caught and at least two more since Cole found the prof that freed him. Wracked by guilt for those who died perhaps by his actions, Cole investigates determined to learn whether he was duped, erred, or was right three years ago.

Returning to Cole after his partner Joe Pike starred in THE WATCHMAN, fans of the series will see a different hero as he is obstinately determined to learn the truth; thus there are less amusing asides than usual and few scenes with friends; the plot fits the tone of his demeanor, as Cole suffers from crippling guilt. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, filled with plenty of action, and plausible but powerful twists and red herrings. CHASING DARKNESS is a strong tale as a more introspective Cole than ever before battles personal demons.

Harriet Klausner

Mission Canyon-Meg Gardiner

Mission Canyon
Meg Gardiner
Obsidian, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451224729

Evan Delaney is on his way to a society function to serve a summons on Cal Diamond, who is dressed as Zorro. Her mission fails when she sees there are two Zorro's at the event and she has no way of distinguishing them. Frustrated she returns to the van where her fiance waits for her. Jesse Blackburn is uninterested in Evan’s summons any longer because he saw Franklin Brand, the man who ran over him and left him a paraplegic while also killing his best friend Isaac Sandoval.

Evan gives chase, but loses Franklin. The police are on the case and catch Brand, but he makes bail and is released before vanishing. Evan sees him meeting with Kenny Rudneski, the son of theowner where Brand worked as a VP before being caught embezzling. Evan and Jesse are determined to find Franklin while also believing that Mako technologies, owned by Kenny and his father, is the cause of the blackmail attempts against them and the secret jobs they must undergo as told to them by the cabal if they want to keep their loved ones safe.

MISSION CANYON is unfortunately a very believable tale about cybercrime in which businessmen ally with thieves leaving the innocent to bear the costs of their criminal activities. Evan is an admirable courageous woman who does not care that her Jesse is wheelchair bound; she even acts at times as if she does not notice the chair. There are many suspects and the exciting plot is filled with twists and revelations (perhaps a few too many of the latter) that shock the audience just when the story line seems to be settling into a pattern. Fans will enjoy this timely tale of the avaricious crooks, cops, businessman and innocents caught in their web.

Harriet Klausner

Mage-Guard of Hamor-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Mage-Guard of Hamor
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, Jul 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 9780765319272

On the island of Recluse, master scribe Kian mentored his apprentice younger son Rahl; but unbeknownst to the teacher, his pupil to avoid hassles and make life easier on himself serendipitously used tiny doses of order magic. The Council magisters traced his misuse back to him; his impulsive temper and his seemingly out of control skill led to his exile across the sea to the wilds of Hamor; a place where he will either learn to control himself and his order magical use or die (see NATURAL ORDERMAGE).

On Hamor, mages work for the government or they do not work. Mage-guard Taryl is assigned a bitter Rahl as his pupil. Rahl loathes his instructor who only complains about his failing apprentice. During a civil war between brothers, Rahl is deployed with the Emperor’s army in horrific field conditions. If they are not in combat, the weather is good, and they have foraged enough food and water for sustenance then the soldiers are bored; however usually Rahl and his unit are in the midst of hostilities either from the enemy, the weather or the farmers. He begins to gain wisdom about good and bad, and order and chaos. He realizes he must choose when to be defiant or the Ordermage system will continue to destroy him.

First off, MAGE-GUARD OF HONOR can stand alone, but is so much more understandable if read after NATURAL ORDERMAGE as the audience will better comprehend Rahl’s personality and the complex rules of magic. The story line is a coming of age tale, as Rahl gains wisdom on the tedious trek. Although the exhaustive, agricultural, climate and cultural dissertations can become tedious but realistic, fans will appreciate the latest Recluse tale that occurs almost entirely on a different island.

Harriet Klausner

The Time Engine-Sean McMullen

The Time Engine
Sean McMullen
Tor, Jul 2008, $26.95
ISBN 9780765318763

In 3144 Wayfarer Inspector Danolarian Scryverin had just completed his patrol in the West Quadrant. He stopped at the Mermaid’s Slipper for an ale by himself to reflect about the year of change. He thinks back to the Lupan invasion of Greater Alberin leading to his squad member Riellen preaching electocracy, winning the government power, leading to the expulsion, and finally changing the calendar so that tomorrow what would have been 3145 is now 1 YE (Year of Electocracy).

His musing ends when Lady Velender holding the cat Constable Wallas enters the tavern. Soon afterward, he learns the hard way that she has abducted him into the future along with Wallas and they are on the run while trying to learn how she did it and more important why she did it. He also knows that before he can return to his time and place, he must somehow go to the past to complete a basic law of physics, the circle of causality. He lands in a world rumored to be paradise unless you are the focus of 5000 naked horsemen who apparently have your access home, THE TIME ENGINE; obtaining it does not automatically mean returning.

The action obviously takes place in the future and the past, but in both periods it never slows down for even a nanosecond even with sidebars explaining the somewhat convoluted tale. Fans of the series will appreciate the fourth Moonworlds Saga (see VOIDFARER) as Danolarian is caught in dangerous yet Three Stooges like scenarios.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dragon and Liberator-Timothy Zahn

Dragon and Liberator
Timothy Zahn
Starscape (Tor), Jun 2008, $17.95
ISBN 9780765314192

Fourteen-year-old space pilot Jack Morgan and poet-warrior Draycos continue their symbiotic quest to bring the human closure following the murders of his family and a way to save the K'da dragon’s race from genocide. They have survived much, but neither feels they have made any meaningful progress towards achieving either stretch goal and time is running out at least for the K’da Dragons. Still they work together as Draycos hides as a tattoo on Jack's back.

Neverlin, the human killer of Jack's parents and the fleet in which Draycos was the only survivor, has obtained a Death machine. He plans to use it in conjunction with his allies to eradicate millions of K'da refugees. Only Jack and Draycos stand in his way, but what can a teen and a tattoo do to prevent the holocaust.

Although obviously similar in tone to the previous five books in this exhilarating young adult saga, the final Dragonback adventure is a great finish as the suspense grows to extraordinary levels with the heroes literally having their backs against the wall. The story line is faster than a K’da scout ship never slowing down with the readers wondering if the heroes are going to lose. Although targeting middle school, science fiction fans of all ages will appreciate this strong series as the dragon and human have battled against impossible odds in search of justice for themselves and others.

Harriet Klausner

Fall with Honor-E.E. Knight

Fall with Honor
E.E. Knight
Roc, Jul 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780451462107

2075 in the old calendar, but most would say it is the fifty-fourth year of the Kurian Occupation. These alien murders took the planet by surprise; winning the war with hardly any counter resistance. The Kur stay hidden in their towers while their loyal avatars the reapers release the life energy from humans to send back to the Kur as their nourishment; the reapers sustain their life on blood.

However, five plus decades later, the resistance grows stronger as a fighting force winning some victories and creating pockets of human civilization freeholds to thrive away from the Kur and their minions. The human Southern Command prepares for combat as their plan is to forge a freehold in Appalachia, which will anger the enemy. They also are going to Eastern Kentucky to augment a strong resistance that has surfaced. Southern Command Major David Valentine has been following the resistance since he was old enough. He especially detests the quislings who sold out mankind to the Kurians. David realizes that there is a lot about the Kur he does not know, but he and his force better learn fast as the time of reckoning part two is coming.

The invasion and subsequent occupation is seen through David’s eyes; he knows that facing a devious treacherous enemy means committing atrocities or become fodder. Readers will feel empathy for the hero who is tormented with what he has done including to humans in his unit and what he expects to do if his side is to ever defeat the foe. E.E. Knight focuses on the humans whose differing factions battle the Kurian Order in a chilling occupied earth future.

Harriet Klausner.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ink and Steel-Elizabeth Bear

Ink and Steel
Elizabeth Bear
Roc, Jul 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9780451462091

Prometheus Club author and subtle supporter of Queen Elizabeth through his plays containing magic that emboldened her rule Christopher “Kit” Marlowe is reported murdered. Everyone who knows him is stunned and assumes the enemy Sorcerers assassinated the playwright who has caused them numerous problems in their effort to dethrone the monarch and destroy England.

Kit’s close friend young playwright Will Shakespeare is assigned the responsibility of the new author who spins magical spells with his literature. However, Morgan le Fey saved Kit from murderers resurrecting him in the land of Faeire. Meanwhile the talent and value of Shakespeare has made him a target of the various factions who want to control the Queen. However, Kit brings Will into Faerie where they must confront there an unknown force seemingly more powerful than queens on either side of the veil; an essence that stalks them even as Kit knows they must go home to ferret out the Prometheus traitor who set him up to die.

Set before the events of BLOOD AND IRON and WHISKEY AND WATER, INK AND STEEL is and exciting Elizabethan Era fantasy with the second part book to be published in August; which is the only issue this reviewer takes issue with as we must bear a one month’s wait for the finish. As with the previous books in the saga, the story line contains intriguing references to the real Marlowe and Shakespeare, which in turn makes the magic of their words seem even more genuine. Fantasy fans will appreciate Elizabeth Bear’s terrific historical saga as Promethean Age is at its best in the treacherous land of faerie and at the even more dangerous seditious Queen Elizabeth’s court of intrigue.

Harriet Klausner

Saturn’s Children-Charles Stross

Saturn’s Children
Charles Stross
Ace, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441015948

By the twenty-third century humanity was extinct leaving behind androids that were built to feel and think and even dream like mankind once did. The androids created a caste system. The Aristos are nobles who own slaves expected to obey them or else. There are also some free independent droids who are mostly impoverished manual laborers.

Freya Nakamichi was made to be a sexbot, but thanks to her sibs is free. The mysterious Jeeves offers Freya a well paying job as a courier; she accepts. Her first assignment is to go to Mercury to pick up a biological sample that she is to place in her uterus and bring it to a lab on Mars. The task seems simple and straightforward although she has no idea what the sample is and why suddenly people seem to be hunting her for her “package”. She eludes killers, thieves and an assortment of other predators as she races to Mars.

Imagine a world in which androids are the dominant species and act like humans in all respects except they cannot reproduce. Thus SATURN’S CHILDREN is about a culture the androids have forged centered on a caste system although the slaves and the free strive for a better life. Freya is a bot Lara Craft, a strong willed skilled beauty who uses brain and some brawn to think her way out of danger. Charles Stross answers the Philip K. Dick philosophical question Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? with this original look at a mirror humanoid culture.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Veil of Gold- Kim Wilkins

The Veil of Gold
Kim Wilkins
Tor, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765320063

After breaking with her boyfriend the historian Daniel St. Clair, Rosa Kovalenka returns to her homeland Russia for the first time in years to assist her uncle at a St. Petersburg dilapidated bathhouse. Workers uncover a golden statue of a bear buried in the walls. Rosa asks Daniel to authenticate the find. Accompanied by Em Hayward, Daniel suggests asking his former professor in Archangelsk to take a look at the artifact; Rosa agrees.

Daniel and Em drive towards Archangelsk, but vanish somewhere on the two day trek without a trace. While Rosa searches for her missing former lover, the bear has taken the pair into another realm Swazi; a place where a millennium ago when a Russian princess adopted Jesus the country split apart into the land of men called Mir and the realm of dangerous magic Skazki.

This engaging horror fantasy is played out along three well written subplots. First there is Daniel and Em trying to survive the dangerous Skazi realm while finding a way home; then there is Rosa in Russia trying to rescue Daniel; and finally there are asides starring an elderly person telling tales of the history of Russia to his daughter (and readers) around the time that princess caused the split. However, the key to this excellent saga is no one is incredibly courageous or 100 percent evil. Everyone is a little of both with a basic instinct, whether you are a human in Russia or Skazi or a mythical creature, to survive. Thus the underlying message of this exciting tale is ethics are personal so what the reader might find horrific, another person (or creature) might find as the norm. This is a great work by a terrific author.

Harriet Klausner

Night Shift-Lilith Saintcrow

Night Shift
Lilith Saintcrow
Orbit, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0316001783

As a young girl she lived in the streets selling her body to anyone who had the cash to pay for it. Her life changed for the better when she met Mikhail, who taught her to be a hunter; a person who works the darkside keeping humans safe from hellbreed (demons). She performs the exorcisms that the priests cannot or will not. Ironically the Church believes she is doomed to hell because she kills and consorts with the damned.

Life is about to turn depressing for Jill Kismet even though she has a link to a hellbreed Perry who has given her extraordinary powers. Five police officers were killed by what seems likea hellbreed and a rogue were-shapeshifter. Jill knows these are her natural enemies. As the murders continue Jill thinks the hellbreed is protecting the Were especially when she learns who the father of the damned is. As Jill struggles to end the killings, someone decides to end Jill.

Lilith Saintcrow always provides a spellbinding action packed urban fantasy that contains a touch of romance, which enhance the plot. However it is the locale where magic works and human authorities deal through liaisons with the supernatural in a realm that seems real because the crimes committed by the paranormal come across as genuine and the subsequent investigations feels authentic. Jill is a strong protagonist who takes on the hellbreeds to protect humanity especially the children. She chose to link with Perry so she is a better fighter though she knows that will probably damn her; at least the Church says so. Her efforts on the NIGHT SHIFT make for an enjoyable urban fantasy investigative thriller that shows why this reviewer is a huge fan of Ms. Saintcrow.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gypsy Blood-Steve Vernon

Gypsy Blood
Steve Vernon
Five Star, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147067

Many people live interesting lives, but no one lives a life quite like Carnival does. He tells fortunes out of a storefront and has a permanent ghost residing inside his chest near his heart. Carnival knows his late poppa killed his mother and when he refused to tell him where he buried her, he murdered his dad and placed him in his chest. The only problem with their arrangement is poppa never shuts up even as he refuses to free himself by telling his son where his mom is.

One day he meets the vampire Maya and falls in love with her. He promises to take care of her, which includes insuring she has her blood sustenance every night. The only problem with their arraignment is that Carnival does not like killing people even those who deserve death. He makes a deal with a demon who tells him how to change Maya so she no longer is a vamp. What he fails to grasp is someone is manipulating him and his friends and family to fulfill a master plan. If Carnival wants to live he must learn the full truth, but so far has no inkling that an adversary is playing puppeteer with him.

GYPSY BLOOD is an interesting original supernatural thriller as the protagonist works the paranormal to his advantage and desires, (and to the audience’s delight). The life he placed inside him is a touch of irony while he accepts the undead as his soulmate. His father buried in his chest is a strange symbiotic relationship that will have the Freudians in a feeding frenzy while readers will laugh at their “discussions”. The first Carnival tale is an entertaining unique story that leaves fans anxiously waiting for the next entry in what looks like will be a fun saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Autumn War-Daniel Abraham

An Autumn War
Daniel Abraham
Tor, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780765313423

In Machi most of the Khaiem ignore the warnings of their ruler Otah, who fears they day of reckoning is coming soon. He knows the time is coming soon when the magical elementals andat can no longer be enslaved by the mighty poet-mages to do the Khaiem bidding.

While he worries about the changes of losing control will bring, General Balasar Gice, of the neighboring Galt Empire declares a holy war to rid the world of the dangerous andat that he feels will soon be free to avenge their enslavement by destroying humanity. He knows how to neutralize the andat and does so, sending his mighty military across the sea on a crusade. The Poets are divided with some wanting to regain control to save their mighty city state while others want to slink away to safety with their families. One things is for sure, nothing will return to what it was.

The third Long Price seasonal fantasy (see A SHADOW IN SUMMER and A BETRAYAL IN WINTER), takes a fascinating refreshing spin yet continues its deep poignant look at civilization in a fantasy realm. Although the story line somewhat follows the adventures of reluctant ruler Otah and the escapades of aging Poet Maati and his former lover Liat, the prime focus this time is the fanatical ruthless General Gice who believes he has God and right on his side. Daniel Abraham makes a strong case that societal values can be detrimental as well as fostering, but does so inside a great fantasy tale with readers looking forward to whether spring proves the rebirth or the cruelest season of them all.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Darkness Forged in Fire-Chris Evans

A Darkness Forged in Fire
Chris Evans
Pocket, Jul 2008, $26.00
ISBN 9781416570516

The Calahrian Empire’s Iron Elves Commander Konowa Swift Dragon felt he deserved a hero's welcome, but instead received exile as politics has its privilege. Acrimonious, angry, and cynical he wanders in self pity feeling he got the shaft. The military brass broke up his unit sending them from rebellious Hyntaland to the south and sent Konowa off by himself with no rank. His crime was killing the vicious bloody viceroy of Elfkyna, a political appointee who secretly served the evil witch the Shadow Monarch.

With a new even nastier viceroy in place having locals killed on a whim, the Shadow Monarch grows stronger threatening the empire. Desperate for sound military leadership, Konowa is asked to return to duty to lead the fabled Iron Elves. However, he finds his unit is not the same as these are simple men not elven warriors and their commander is an idiot who is heir to the empire. His mission is to retrieve the Red Star that has allegedly fallen somewhere to the east and heralds a special magic that has returned. His allies are elfkynan witch Visyna Tekoy who like her brethren hate elves and empires, and the most untrustworthy profession of them all a reporter Rallie Synjyn. Revolt is in the air fostered by the Shadow Monarch who also goes after the Red Star.

Though somewhat by the writer’s 101 standardized book for high fantasy quest, Chris Evans uses contradictory traits to make his key cast members seem fresh and different; for instance the disgraced Konowa wanders forests, but unlike the stereotypical elven he loathes woodlands, etc. The story line is fun to follow even when the hero grumbles every step of the way. With the premise that my enemy’s enemies are my allies but still my enemies, A DARKNESS FORGED IN FIRE is an engaging saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Voyage of the Space Beagle-A.E. Van Vogt

The Voyage of the Space Beagle
A.E. Van Vogt
Tor, Jul 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765320773

The crew of the Space Beagle encounters a strange species the Coeurl on this forbidden planet. The creature looks like a cat with large tentacles. The Coeurl concludes these are outsiders from another star system on a scientific expeditions; it knows scientist are brilliant idiots, who cannot kill especially an intriguing beast like it. However, the space travelers quickly conclude they are in danger when they realize this enigmatic beast “eats” the soul of humans for sustenance. Nexialist Elliot Grosveneur, ignored through months of the journey by those who have no idea what his specialty means as he has none being a nexus connecting generalist, chief chemist Gregory Kent, and expedition leader Hal Morton realize they face a dangerous monster.

Above is the first of four alien encounter adventures that the multi disciplined scientific expedition of the crew of the Space Beagle face. All are dangerous meetings in which Dr. Grosveneur plays a key role. The reprint from 1950s magazines showcases A.E. Vogt’s unique ability to combine outer space action with cerebral prevalent social theories; in this case the debate over Oswald Spengler’s cyclical rise and fall like seasons of empires/cultures in his 1920s DECLINE OF THE WEST seems so timely, but it is difficult to grasp the nuances of the debate. Still readers will want to join the crew of the SPACE BEAGLE as they go where mankind has never been before encountering strange species, not all friendly; and will search the net for information on Spengler and Nexialism.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cosmos Incorporated-Maurice G. Dantec

Cosmos Incorporated
Maurice G. Dantec
Del Rey, May 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345499936

The war to end all wars seems an accurate description as sometime in the near future, the hostilities devastated the planet leaving one and half billion survivors to scurry for sustenance on a planet none recognize. Cities are dead and continents radically altered as rising oceans pushed the coastline inland. Multiple nations vanished and there is one world-wide ruling government through a humongous computer network that tracks the movement of everyone.

The Russian-American Mafia assigns Red Star Order assassin Sergei Diego Plotkin to travel from Russia to Grand Junction, but to do so he must cross security checkpoints where his memories would betray his mission to kill the town mayor Orville Blackburn. Thus much of his recall is erased as the mob needs to make an example of the mayor for breaking his pledge to them. He arrives in Grand Junction, site of one of the last operating cosmodromes where one can purchase a Golden Track (ticket) on a space ship to the Orbital Rim, Mars or Luna colonies. Plotkin and his AI Melatron plan the scheme including who will take the fall for the assassination. Then he meets dying Vivian McNellis; he revises his mission to get her to the rim though his employers will come after him.

This post apocalypse tale plays two themes. First there is the paid hitman who will remind readers of the Schwarzenegger character in the movie Total Recall; Vivian makes him a better person, but she also is much more and much less than she seems. Besides the lead characters with a support cast that showcases the pair and their environment, there is also an overarching somewhat in the background theme of a dying earth. Readers will relish this deep look at a grim future yet there remains a glimmer of hope that a Divine Plan is at work.

Harriet Klausner

The Shadows-L.A. Banks

The Shadows
L.A. Banks
St. Martin’s, Jul 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780312368753

In Greece, the Neterus Damali and Carlos injured the Anti-Christ; Lilith is working to stem the bleeding and heal him while her husband Lu is fighting the angels wanting to destroy the Anti-Christ. Damali and Carlos accompanied by their team are in a safe house protected so that the Dark Side cannot find them. They are energy depleted and one their members discovered that A Council Vamp are sending negative essences through communication devices like television, the internet and music so that when the time comes these humans will explode and chaos will be the norm.

The Unnamed One seeks the Neteru team who almost destroyed is heir. In his search for them he has his demonic army go topside and cause havoc on a catastrophic mass destructive level. Damali is pregnant and Carlos is doing all he can to protect her; three of the guardians are also carrying. Vampiric Councilman Sebastian tries to convince Lilith and the Unnamed One it is true they are pregnant but Lucifer believes this is false because the angels are trying to kill him as they think they can win the war now. The Neteru team is forced into another life changing deadly battle against the Darkness.

L.A. Banks latest entry in her Huntress Legend saga is an exciting and evocative thriller filled with the trademark supernatural battles, romance, and plenty of suspense as not all skirmishes go the way of the good guys. Carlos has matured into a heroic leader who makes difficult decisions that send loyal people to their possible deaths. Damali is his ethical spiritual anchor who is vulnerable yet strong. Readers will relish this tale and look forward to the next installment in this superb apocalyptic series.

Harriet Klausner

Vanish-Tom Pawlik

Tom Pawlik
Tyndale, Jul 2008, $12,99
ISBN: 9781414318936

Three people experience the most frightening event in their lives when they are doing ordinary things until a strange storm with odd lights appears without warning. They become unconscious; when they awaken they find no one in sight.

Former model Helen Krause had just been turned down for an assignment and her son informed her he is moving to New York. Mechanic Mitch Kent planned to propose to his girlfriend. Attorney Conner Hunter has his daughter Rachel for the weekend. This trio separately realizes they are alone until they meet and compare their experiences. Each hears shadows whispering and soon believes they are under surveillance of sorts. Soon they conclude that the observers want to separate them and keep them from meeting others, but do not know why, who they are, and what happened to everyone else.

Readers will understand why this is the winner of the 2006 Operation First Novel contest, Each of the key characters has issues that they kept pushing off hoping to ignore; which proves prophetic as the VANISH supersedes their seemingly minor previous problems. The threesome are in many ways similar yet distinctive and fully developed as they wonder how they landed in the Twilight Zone; the truth will shock the audience as Tom Pawlik provides a strong thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Grin of the Dark-Ramsey Campbell

The Grin of the Dark
Ramsey Campbell
Tor, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765319395

Hoping to somewhat rekindle his self destroyed film critic career so that even seven year old Mark implies innocently that he’s a loser, dishonored Simon Lester is writing a biography on long forgotten silent film star Tubby Thackeray. The actor was quite a character who could stir normally serene people into a riotous mob with some of the shocking actions he did until Hollywood had enough and blacklisted him.

Simon detests the research into his subject’s personal life even as the apparent spirit of the scandalous actor seems to harass his every activity even over the Internet. Simon fears he may be losing his mind as he knows there is not such thing as ghosts yet he keeps getting visits from the long forgotten blackballed silent screen star whose grinning clown visage frightens the wannabe author in light let alone what that grin in the dark does to him.

This is a tense thriller in which readers will keep changing their mind as to whether it is a ghost story or a psychological horror tale. Simon simply makes the novel work, frighteningly so, with his seemingly innocent relationships including with the apparent ghost of his biographical subject. Ramsey Campbell keeps the tension stratospheric as the audience will wonder like the lead character whether he is going insane as Mr. Campbell cleverly invoked the images of clowns to add to the foreboding sense of personal disaster.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lover Enshrined-JR Ward

Lover Enshrined
JR Ward
Signet, Jun 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451222725

Brotherhood member Phury knows he has no choice but to be the Primale to the chosen females, but he detests his destiny as he has met his soul First Mate, Cormia the first of the chosen. At the same time he hides from women to search his passionate heart and anguished soul, his beloved Cormia hides from Phury whom she loves but feels unworthy of the Primale.

At the same time these mates hide form one another, the Omega grows stronger and plots the final phase in the destruction of the Black Dagger Brotherhood vampires. Twenty years have past since they first began this diabolically insidious ploy of placing one of them inside The Brotherhood; an individual who has shown loyalty and courage to the Brotherhood. Revelations are coming and rookies are coming of age as confrontations from within and from without seem inevitable.

Though it seems impossible this great series has what may be its strongest tale to date and one of the top five fantasies of the year. Several subplots ignite together in an incredible climax that not only makes LOVERS ENSHRINED complete, but sets the tone for the next entry. More a fantasy than a romantic fantasy with the love subplot being only one of a few storylines, JR Ward provides her audience. This is a one sitting stunner.

Harriet Klausner

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B: The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time Chosen by the Members of the Science Fiction Writers

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B: The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time Chosen by the Members of the Science Fiction Writers of America
Edited by Ben Bova
Tor, Apr 2008, $29.95
ISBN: 9780765305329

The follow up to Volume Two A, which also like this anthology, contains eleven novellas published from 1929 to 1964, is a strong selection; however in fact Volume Two B is a boomer era collection containing one tale from 1928 (close enough for government and sci fi collections), three from the forties, five from the fifties, and two from the sixties. The authors for the most part remain famous, a virtual who’s who to include Asimov, Blish, Budrys, Cogswell, Forster, Pohl, Schmitz, Sherrod, Shiras, Simak, and Vance. Some of the entries like “The Martian Way”, "The Midas Plague" and “The Witches of Karres” remain popular. The choices are solid as none are bad though some handle the test of time better. This reviewer especially enjoyed “Earthman Come Home by James Blish having remembered reading it in high school. The key to this anthology and its predecessor are that it is just about all story; in this case 526 pages of stories with no padding except for a brief two and half page introduction to explain the voting process. Great look back at some of the pre Nebula Awards age, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Two B is a strong enjoyable compilation that validates how entertaining science fiction was especially from 1947-1961.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Valley-Westside War-Harry Turtledove

The Valley-Westside War
Harry Turtledove
Tor, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765314871

There is no such thing as time travel into the past or future; but there is crosstime travel; alternate earths with differing histories. Crosstime traffic usually involves trading with other earths by pretending to be one of their citizens. One divergence led to a nuclear war in 1967 and the need to know why is critical.

The Mendoza brood gets a grant to study the causes of WW III sending civilization back into the Dark Age. A civil war between two local nations now has the Mendozas under suspicion. Liz Mendoza is doing research at the UCLA Campus Library when a soldier points her out to his superior as a possible spy. The Mendozas flee back to their home timeline but return to the nuked earth to gain some more data at a time when the war has just begun.

Harry Turtledove provides his latest exciting young adult multiverse science fiction thriller in which this time the divergence is a nuclear war. WWIII devastated the planet in 1967; the Crosstime Traffic agents wonder why this happened because the remaining records give no idea that hostilities will break out. Liz at times seems more of an adult than her parents as she does the critical tedious research to learn how a nuclear conflagration occurred in 1967.
Harriet Klausner

The Dragon’s Lair-Elizabeth Haydon

The Dragon’s Lair
Elizabeth Haydon
Tor Starscape, Jul 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780765308696

Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme has completed successfully his secret mission for King Vandemere of Serendair and looks forward to some respite before his monarch sends him on another assignment. His hopes for some needed rest are dashed when High King Vandemere says he must leave the area; the Thief Queen is livid that he escaped from her and her Gated City and took with him her grateful daughter. Ven sends him on a task that will place Ven and his friend oceans away.

A dragon is burning Nain villages in the High reaches, which is personal to Ven who happens to be a Nain (a species that has a lifespan four times greater than humans). He agrees to try to stop the dragon. The Kingdom of Lirin and Nain are at odds because the latter has something the former believes belongs to them. He wants Ven to straighten out the problem so the King can get what he wants. The group goes through dangerous adventures to avoid the wrath of the Thief Queen who has her horde of ravens seeking Ven.

Readers will enjoy the latest Ven journal as he describes his escapades dealing with a recalcitrant dragon who has a legitimate reason for his ire towards the Nain and avoiding the Thief Queen’s thugs. Ven also escorts the audience on a tour of the island of Serendair to show the magic it contains. Ven’s comrades are a diverse group that includes a merrow (mermaid) who starts turning human when she loses her cap. Nain Studies expert Elizabeth Hayden has “found’ an entertainingly stunning fantasy journal.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 9, 2008

Time Spike-Eric Flint and Marilyn Kosmatka

Time Spike
Eric Flint and Marilyn Kosmatka
Baen, May 2008,
ISBN: 9781416555384

Supervisor Captain Mark Stephens was observing the guard mount shift changing at Illinois' maximum security prison when the ground rumbled. He and others assumed an earthquake occurred. However, looking outside, the geography has changed radically; The Mississippi river vanished and all evidence of human activity outside the prison like roads are gone. Instead they see strange looking flora and shockingly a dinosaur that uses the prison wall to scratch its skin.

Mark quickly concludes somehow they have been transported back in time to a pre-human era when dinosaurs ruled the planet. They are not alone as other people from various millennia have also gone back perhaps a million years. Some of those locked up are cold blooded killers and some from the other groups like conquistadores quickly prove human life is expendable. Mark and his staff know they have their backs against the wall as they deal with human killers and dinosaurs, but enforcing the law of thou shall not kill is critical for their survival.

The Assiti who relocated Grantville, West Virginia into seventeenth century Europe have stirred earth chronology again this time moving several periods into the dinosaur era although the displaced Illinois crowd is the prime focus. The story line will remind the audience of the first Ring of Fire tale as the story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but has not quite become overly complex with time paradoxes as later tales begin to have. Fans will appreciate this strong opening act of a new Assiti time experiment as humans continue to be their guinea pigs, but for Mark and his staff survival of the fittest means containing the violent prisoners and some as vicious other era travelers.

Harriet Klausner

Victory of Eagles-Naomi Novik

Victory of Eagles
Naomi Novik
Del Rey, Jul 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345496881

The war rages on between England and France, but Napoleon’s forces have landed on English soil. At the same Will Laurence knows he did the right moral thing when he betrayed his country but also feels anguish for doing so (see EMPIRE OF IVORY) as he realizes Napoleon is bringing the atrocities of war to his people thanks in part to his seditious act. Already convicted of treason, he believes he deserves to die even if he still feels he acted ethically as slavery is an abomination.

Meanwhile his dragon Temeraire is bored and grieving as he assumes Will is dead and cannot stand the haggling hags who he shares the Pen Y Fan breeding pen with in Wales as a guest of the state. However, having enough with their jealousies and constant bickering, Temeraire quickly turns them into a dragon force led by him.

When the ship bringing prisoner Laurence to England for his execution goes down in the Channel, he survives. He is given a stay if he reunites with Temeraire to bring the Divine Wind against Bonaparte, who controls London.

The fifth tale in this alternate historical fantasy is a superb entry even as Will and Temeraire stay home unlike the world traveling of the previous novels (see THRONE OF JADE, HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON, and BLACK POWDER WAR). The story line is fast-paced from the onset while once gain insuring dragons at war seem genuine. However it is Laurence’s conflicting anguish between knowing he did right vs. betraying his country and Temeraire’s doubts as to how to help him move past his angst make this a strong military fantasy. Fans of the Naomi Novik saga will appreciate this excellent entry even if Temeraire’s miraculous conversion of the cackling dragons into a precise aerial military unit in Guinness Book of Records time seems implausible as the heroes debate my country right or wrong.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Lost Fleet: Valiant-Jack Campbell

Lost Fleet: Valiant
Jack Campbell
Ace, Jun 24 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441016198

Captain John "Black Jack" Geary knows his Alliance fleet is in deep trouble as they struggle to return to home base. He knows his numerous enemies from within Alliance want him to fail as his heroism and that of his unit allowed others to escape a death trap, which made him a legend embellished by his return from the grave generations after his peers and family died out. However, his predicament is that supplies are extremely low and an external foe is preparing to attack.

Desperate Geary chooses a Hail Mary strategy that he prays will get his force safely into the Alliance sector. His feint gambit works and it seems he has bought the time needed to escape. However, someone apparently wants Geary dead and collateral damage by destroying several vessels and their crew is acceptable.

This military science fiction tale will grip the audience as realism in terms of the vastness of space as communications and maneuvers take time and can be countered leading to the loss of ships and lives; this concept is critical to the story line. Black Jack is a fascinating hero; mindful especially in his decision making of Honor Harrington as both accept death as real outcome. His family’s descendents detest him as much as his jealous Alliance fleet leaders; several who choose betrayal to eliminate him. Fans will appreciate the fourth Lost Fleet tale, but to better comprehend how many light years Black Jack has traversed, this reviewer suggests reading the previous entries first (see THE LOST FLEET: DAUNTLESS, THE LOST FLEET: FEARLESS, and THE LOST FLEET: COURAGEOUS).

Harriet Klausner

By Schism Rent Asunder- David Weber

By Schism Rent Asunder
David Weber
Tor, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780765315014

The military technology advances provided by android with a human brain Merlin Athrawes to King Cayleb II of Charis led to their naval slaughter of the forces of their neighbors sanctioned by the Church of God Awaiting at Darcos Sound and Armageddon Reef. Merlin hopes further victories against the corrupt beleaguered Church will ultimately allow mankind to soar off Safehold into space; currently banned by church doctrine as interfering with God’s way.

The nations who allied with the Church fear retaliation and know there is little they can do to prevent this since their fleets were destroyed. At the same time a stunned Church of God Awaiting considers declaring Charis as a heretic nation and demanding a holy war to be fought on land as the sea belongs to the renegade kingdom. Meanwhile Cayleb and his Archbishop consider making the religious schism official.

This great sequel (see OFF ARMAGEDDON REEF) has much less action than its exhilarating predecessor, but will be considered one of the best science fiction thrillers of the year. The key cast members seem fully developed, but what makes this superb thriller worth reading is how deep yet subtly the story line provides the audience with insight into how much the Renaissance changed the world.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Castle Lake-Thomas A. Ryerson

Castle Lake
Thomas A. Ryerson
Grey Swan Press, Jun 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 9780980037708

On Oct 13, 1821 near Castle Lake, James Murdoch goes duck hunting when a thick fog reduces visibility to near zero. His first shot hits a duck, but his second bullet goes wild and he thinks he may have hit a person. William Fick’s daughter Lorrie Anne and her beau enjoy a pre-birthday celebration on the lake when a bullet goes through her knocking her unconscious.

Sixteen days later she dies on her sixteenth birthday; her mother is in raging pain and strips before walking into the lake and drowning. Determined to get even, William visits the local witch doctor to sell his soul to the devil. The first female Murdoch to reach her sixteenth birthday will die. Sixty one years later Alicia Murdoch is about to turn sweet sixteen when William’s spirit returns from the grave to possess a human host for Alice must die.

CASTLE LAKE is a good old fashion ghost story that will remind readers of Stephen King’s early works. Thomas A. Ryerson writes a stirring story of revenge at any cost even one’s soul with the only acceptable reparation being the life of an innocent female to pay for the life of his innocent females. The characters are developed enough to matter while the gothic atmosphere enhances the effect of a creepy feeling that bad things are going to happen to a good person.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reading the Wind-Brenda Cooper

Reading the Wind
Brenda Cooper
Tor, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780765315984

The planet Fremont was considered a dangerous place for colonization due to its odd lethal flora and fauna as much as from the meteorites that crash on its surface and it’s volcanic and quake activity. However, in spite of a need to cooperate war exploded between the original “unaltered” human settlers and the second group bioengineered to fit the orb; the purebred colonists won the sundering war.

The genetically enhanced survivors are divided between staying or leaving the planet. Whereas altered teens Chelo, Liam and Kayleen choose to stay on the only planet they know as home in spite of the big and little sundering; Chelo’s brother Joseph, his girlfriend Alicia, and their friend Bryan choose to go to the ancestral orb Silver’s Home. Jospeh wants to learn more about his roots and seek help for their broken protector, Jenna. However as Joseph navigates his way around the genemod environment of Silver’s Home, he begins to understand an angry people who thirst for avenging the genocide on Fremont with plans to eradicate the originals. Meanwhile back on Fremont, Chelo and and Liam roam wild Fremont as two of the three only known genetically changed amidst thousands of fearful originals unaware that a new race war is imminent.

The sequel to THE SILVER SHIP AND THE SEA is an exciting science fiction tale that plays out on two subplots before converging into a final confrontation. When the storyline focuses on the three teens left behind or on Jospeh’s efforts to understand Silver’s Home society and belong, the tale is excellent. When Brenda Cooper turns to the confrontational action-packed convergence subplot it feels forced and loses some of its insightfulness into a future in which a group fears bio advacements that leave them “less” than the altered next generation. Still readers will enjoy this fine look at a future form of racism.

Harriet Klausner

Cry of Sorrow-Holly Taylor

Cry of Sorrow
Holly Taylor
Medallion, Jul 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933836263

The Coranians have defeated their enemies the Kymru in battle. However, their leader Havgan does not celebrate the victory as his troops do; he feels there remains one last task to complete before he can claim victory. He must find the four treasures (the Stone, the Spear, the Cauldron and the Sword) that will gain him entrance to the Hall of the High Kings, Cadair Idris; then he can claim victory as the High King of Kymru.

However, Haygan knows his quest is impossible as the Treasures were concealed ages ago. He orders Gwydion the Dreamer to insure he achieves his goal soonest. Reluctantly, Gwydion seeks a lost song which contains clues to the relics in the lyrics at the same time he has doubts about the worthiness of his liege to be the High king. He recruits Rhiannon the witch, her daughter Gwenhwyvar, and his nephew Arthur to accompany him on the dangerous quest while Havgan's soldiers follow them as Haygan trusts no one especially someone allied with a hated witch. In spite of blood relations and friendships when attractions erupt, the wary foursome doubts the loyalty of one other, but for the quartet to succeed, they must depend on one another.

The latest High Kings romantic fantasy (see CRIMSON FIRE and NIGHT BIRDS REIGN) is a strong tale in which the quest and the “counter”-quest make for an engaging twisting thriller. The story line is action-packed as like any quest fantasy there is a lot of strange evil creatures out there. However, it is the quartet distrusting one another even as they pair off in love; feelings no one wants especially at this dangerous time. Holly Taylor is at her best with her strong High King saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Jhegaala-Steven Brust

Steven Brust
Forge, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765301475

Vlad Taltos is upset with his divorce as he married expecting forever. However, he is more concerned over his former employer, Jhereg putting a hit on him for his recent betraying activities. He concludes if he wants to remain with a head on shoulders he has to leave Draegaria until Jhereg’s assassins find a different target to ocuppy their time.

Vlad decides to visit maternal relatives he never met in some way out place. His only clues are their surname is Merss and they reside in Burtz, Fenario. He leaves with his usual retinue of familiars and his telepathic lizard pals Loiosh and Rocza. In Burtz, Vlad expected a hero’s welcome or at least a welcome to the family greeting. Instead he is warned to be careful by everyone in the paper mill town he encounters including his Noish-pa grandfather as he is under surveillance because the leaders expect him to cause trouble. The outsider is further stunned by a lack of a local coven, a given in every Fenario village and the normally potent Guild remains silent while workers are abused. However when a fire that looks like arson kills most of his relatives, Vlad begins to investigate, but each clue he and his limited support crew uncover leaves them with many more questions and danger from a powerful despotic oligopoly.

This is a fresh change to the strong long running series as not only does Vlad leave town enabling the audience to meet some of his maternal roots, but he conducts a fabulous whodunit investigation. The story line is fast-paced but humorous with the amusement mostly performed by the two lizards who provide 1930s style sidekick comments to the sleuth. Fans will enjoy this entertaining trek into Vlad’s heritage Steven brust writes a delightful fantasy investigative thriller.

Harriet klausner

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dragonlight-Donita K. Paul

Donita K. Paul
Waterbrook, Jun 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073788

For the first time in decades the world is at peace. Dragon Keeper Kale is busy taking care of baby dragons since peace has brought a population explosion in that race wheras before they were dying in mortal combat. One day Kalie’s husband Bordan sees a village where empty space used to be. He lands his dragon and talks to the leaders whose villagers call themselves Followers. They say they are spreading the word of the Creator Wuldor with the permission of his voice Paladin.

Bordan hears a fairie hole in the leaders voice and he sees no children and it looks like a boot camp. He doesn’t have time to investigate further because he plans on taking his wife on a quiet vacation. They are going to a hidden Meech community so their fellow traveler Gilda can leave her egg to be hatched at a time of the commune’s choosing. The journey is not an easy one as they are constantly attacked by small black lethal dragonets and have to deal with Followers who have spread across the land. When they reach their destination they face another battle and only with Wulder’s help twill might win against an overwhelming evil.

This is the fifth and last book in Donita K. Paul’s dragon series and it answers all the major threads left from the previous entries. DRAGONLIGHT is an action-packed fantasy thriller starring wonderful characters who insure readers can believe in dragons. The story line is engrossing and the world feels genuine, but as with the rest of the saga, it is soaring with dragons alongside Bordan and Kalie that make this a superb thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Summer Palace-Lawrence Watts-Evans

The Summer Palace
Lawrence Watts-Evans
Tor, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765310286

The Red Wizard continues his campaign to kill all other magical practitioners including his peers and the Chosen, those humans specifically selected by the Council of Wizards to protect people from magical abuse of power. However, ironically the Red Wizard is loved and cherished by his people who have flourished under his rule.

Of the Chosen only Erren Zal Tuyo the Sword still remains free. He knows he must confront the Red Wizard, but also realizes he can cannot win as the mage is extremely popular and everyone knows Erren as the assassin trying to kill their beloved leader. Innocent people will want him dead let alone professional assassins. Instead he mopes in Upland trying to survive while outside the control of the Red Wizard pondering what he should do. Meanwhile the Red Wizard plans to bring the fight to the last of the Chosen.

This intriguing fantasy is radically different in tone being passive as opposed to its much more action packed predecessors (see THE WIZARD LORD and THE NINTH TALISMAN). Much of the saga has Erren by himself in deep thought as to what to do next while going over the past to see if he could have done something different. Well written and interesting, but too reflectve in tone, fans of the Annals of the Chosen will be surprised and probably a bit disappointed as the brunt of the action is a rehash.

Harriet Klausner

Sabriel-Garth Nix

Garth Nix
Eos, May 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9780061474354

Eighteen years old necromancer Sabriel attends the exclusive Wyverley College in Ancelstierre, where Magic does not work. When her father Abhorsen, also a necromancer who uses Charter magic, sends her a message containing his word and special bells, she knows he is asking for help, she leaves the college to return to the nearby Old Kingdom where magic works in order to find him as he is apparently ensnared somehow by Death. She is concerned because this has never happened before when her father or for that matter her return the dead to where they belong.

The quest to save her dad is loaded with danger as many want to prevent her from success especially since she is somewhat a neophyte when it comes to dealing with the dead. However, besides the usual suspects like an evil spirit or a blood thirsty Mordicant, she has to contend with necromancers and a dangerous dead magician who plans to use Sabriel and Abhorsen to bring him back reanimated. Still she bravely dives into the frozen waters of the River of death to attempt the rescue.

SABRIEL is a reprint of a terrific young adult quest fantasy starring a courageous engaging heroine who refuses to quit even though the odds are heavily against her succeeding. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the challenges keep on coming with the young teen audience wondering if Sabriel has the skills and stomach to win. Garth Nix provides a strong fantasy starring a fully developed female teen running an otherworldly gauntlet in an effort to rescue her father from death.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wicked Game-Jeri Smith-Ready

Wicked Game
Jeri Smith-Ready
Pocket, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416551768

Con artist Ciara Griffin has decided to leave behind the life of a cheat and become legal and morally above board. To accomplish her objective, Ciara obtains work at small radio station WWMP where no one cares about your résumé, your past, and your lack of conventional morality as long as you accept the stinky pay.

However, she soon learns a fascinating sidebar about her new place of work; all the night DJs are vampires who are expert musicologists on the era of their respective conversion. However, a huge conglomerate tries to buy the station with plans to change the format. Ciara worries about her night friends losing their link to humanity, especially she is concerned about grunge rocker hunk Shane who she desires. Trying to save her pals by saving the station, Ciara tells everyone listening that the night DJs are bloodsuckers knowing no one would believe her. She was thinking about human disbelief on the subject, something she is familiar with; Ciara failed to consider an ancient vampire might object to her exposure in daylight scheme.

WICKED GAME is a brilliant vampire thriller in which readers will believe in magic of the supernatural as Jeri Smith-Ready makes everyone seem genuine. The concept of vampires stuck in a time warp is ingenious leading to quite a variety in music. Fans will enjoy this fun tale even if “It’s Only Rock and Roll”, blood dining, the infamous Griffin curse that rivals Greek mythology and sex, but we like it.

Harriet Klausner