Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Knight of the Red Beard-Andre Norton and Sasha Miller

The Knight of the Red Beard
Andre Norton and Sasha Miller
Tor, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765307484

Having resolved their adversarial relationship the NordornQueen Ashen and NordornKing Gaurin ruled pragmatically yet with fairness for years over a prosperous kingdom. However, before their respective ages becomes issue, the NordornLand monarchs must look at the next generation to insure the heir Dependable and conscientious Bjaudin succeeds them to the throne.

After seeking adventure by stowing away on a Sea-Rover, Bjaudin’s eleven-year-old younger brother Mikkel is made prisoner by the ferocious Wykenigs; especially interested in the captive is abusive Gunnora who has a past with her detainee’s family. His thirteen years old sister Elin, coveting the throne, turns to her scheming malevolent grandmother Ysa as her mentor-ally causing havoc for her parents. Meanwhile, the age of peace and prosperity seems to have ended as a new threat to the NordornLand surfaces; the other grandmother, Zazar uses magic to attempt to free Mikkel and to eliminate the danger.

This is an exciting well written Oak, Yew, Ash and Rowan Cycle fantasy that will leave fans of the saga enjoying the “final” entry, but annoyed that closure to the major dangling plot threads from the previous four books failed to occur. Instead new subplots lead to the conclusion more novels are coming. Still this is an entertaining story as the focus is on the children of Ashen and Gaurin and to a degree their stereotypical diametrically opposite grandmothers.
Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 29, 2008

Swallowing Darkness-Laurell K. Hamilton

Swallowing Darkness
Laurell K. Hamilton
Ballantine, Nov 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345495938

Princess Meredith NicEssus of the Unseelie Court knows the danger of being a princess; she also knows how hazardous being pregnant can be as Her Aunt Andais the Queen promises that if she gets pregnant before her son impregnates someone else, she will be the heir to the throne. Since few children are born in Fairie, Merry carrying twins from six fathers has become the hope of revitalization and the target of those who want to use her like her insane Uncle Taranis who kidnapped and raped her. He plans to claim that he sired his niece’s children. Even her beloved Gran, under a spell apparently performed by cousin Cair, tries to kill her.

Outraged Merry demands the Wild Hunt to obtain revenge but that comes at a price; as Mistral, another of her children’s’ fathers, is dying. She asks the Goddess to save him and another injured father Doyle. Meanwhile another sire Sholto and Merry are crowned as King and Queen of the Slaugh in Faerie while her uncle stalks her and Queen Andais’ son tries to eliminate her. Merry’s wrath against family is growing.

SWALLOWING DARKNESS has a different overall tone thn the rest of the books in this series as there are infrequent sexual time outs with the battles and plans highlighted instead as Merry needs revenge on those trying to harm her, her unborn and her loved ones. Merry is a wonderful person, who tries to be fair to everyone, but does not fear using her powers against nasty folks. The two Courts remain overall malevolent with one more overt about their evil agenda. Fans will appreciate the latest Princess Merry hypnotic romantic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tender Morsels-Margo Lanagan

Tender Morsels
Margo Lanagan
Knopf, Oct 2008, $16.99
ISBN: 9780375848117

Single mom Liga Longfield has barely survived her father's sexual molestations and a gang rape although emotionally she is on shaky grounds in spite of living in an apparent heaven. Her daughters are polar opposites as Branza is calm and soothing while the bored Urdda is ready to take on the world they left behind.

Meanwhile their isolated haven soon has a treasure hunting visitor, a "little man"; who comes and goes. Others also arrive to include a kind teenage boy who transforms into a bear and nasty bear-man. Fearing the intrusion, Liga can do little when her now teen Urdda wants to leave for the exciting life of the "vivid people".

This is an intriguing dark character study that looks deep at the human psyche through a lens of “two border worlds” representing the extremes of humanity; one side is abusive and brutal, and the other is caring yet boring. Liga has seen both sides having been molested and raped, and now is living in a gentle realm raising her children. She fears for her daughter who wants a taste of the wild side, having had that taste shoved down her throat with sexual abuse. Although the plot can turn overwhelmingly moody and introspectively slow at times, TENDER MORSELS is an engaging tale.

Harriet Klausner

Black Glass-John Shirley

Black Glass
John Shirley
Elder Signs Press, Nov 2008, $15.95
PO Box 389
Lake Orion, MI 48361
ISBN: 1934501077

In 2033, former cop Rick Candle is being released from the California State Centenary once he is ReMinded. He spent four years of being UnMinded for taking the software piracy rap for his younger brother musician and V-Rat addict Danny.

Slaken CEO Terrence Grist is unhappy with Rick’s freedom as the cop came close to destroying his empire. However the Fortune 33 member has a hitman Halido poised to kill Candle.

Rick visits Danny’s former girlfriend Zilia, who he is attracted to, but she has no idea where his sibling is. Meanwhile Shortstack hires Rick to protect his underground illegal web. At the same time Grist orders his leading technocrat Sykes to create the Multisemblant, a merging of the personalities of five of the top Fortune 33 members. Soon that new creation will be out of control and after Rick who stands in the way of its personal agenda.

This is an engaging somewhat cautionary cyber future thriller in which Big Business runs the United States any way they want. The story line is action-packed from the moment Rick regains his mind and never slows down as he searches for his brother, deals with his attraction to Zilia and tries to protect Shortstack and his cronies from Grist’s killers. However it is the unique Multisemblant that steals the show as the copied conscience of five of the top of the Fortune 33 personalities seems almost God-like with the ability to go almost anywhere in cyberspace. BLACK GLASS is a terific science fiction tale.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 26, 2008

Agent To The Stars-John Scalzi

Agent To The Stars
John Scalzi
Tor, Nov 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 0765317710

Although relatively young compared to his envious peers, Hollywood agent Tom Stein is the top gun in his vocation at this moment. His confidence is extremely high that he can sell anyone. His newest star literally comes from the stars. He will represent the sentient alien Yherajk as they make their first appearance on the earth stage.

However selling the Yherajk to xenophobics will be difficult as the Yherajk are not what humans would call centerfold material. Instead they are gelatin gels with a distinct odor that makes a spraying skunk smell nice. However Tom is confident he can sell his new client to humans though he understands the issues he and Yherajk face.

Although he leaves the military science fiction sector (see THE ANDROID'S DREAM and the OLD MAN'S WAR), John Scalzi continues his specialty of lampooning icons; this time Hollywood and spin doctors. The story line is amusing as Tom adheres to the Barnum-Bush capitalist theory that you can sell to the American people anything. Fans who enjoy am lighthearted first contact satire will relish the selling of a species that smell worse than fish rotting.

Harriet Klausner

The Black Ship-Diana Pharaoh Francis

The Black Ship
Diana Pharaoh Francis
Roc, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0451462424

One of the best of the elite Pilots, few can navigate Crosspointe's magical deadly seas better than Thorn can. However, he is stunned when the Pilots' Guild bans him from his love: sailing the seas. Though he knows someone betrayed him and set him up to take a fall and that individual had to be an important person in the guild, he remains clueless as to who and why.

While despairing what to do since he lost his vocation, things get even uglier for the beleaguered Thorn; he is kidnapped and dumped on an unmarked vessel sailing the seas. He soon learns the ship Eidolon is also unregistered but concludes the captain is insane, the crew ready to mutiny and someone in the shadows is sabotaging the vessel to insure it never makes it safely to a port.

The second Crosspointe tale (see CIPHER) is a superb fantasy in which the hero’s shanghaied ocean voyage leaves the audience feeling they are on board the ship; as Diana Pharaoh Francis’ water building is incredible. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the setting along with a fully developed crew, captain and the disgraced pilot who make for a strong thriller.

Harriet Klausner

V The Original Miniseries-Kenneth Johnson and A.C. Crispin

V The Original Miniseries
Kenneth Johnson and A.C. Crispin
Tor, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765321992

One minute cameraman Mike Donovan and his co-worker Tony Wah Chong are filming a skirmish in El Salvador and in the next all activities halt as a space ship five miles in diameter hovers in the sky. Ships like this vessel are floating above every major city in the world and a voice asks for the United Nations Secretary-General to meet with them in one of their smaller crafts. They insist they come in peace having come to earth seeking help in creating a chemical needed on their homeworld; in return they will provide major advances in technology.

They are welcomed as friends and not even the disappearances of scientists seem to disturb anyone. Mike sneaks aboard one of the alien’s ships where he sees the Visitors; when he gets into a fight with one of them, the Visitor’s skin peels off leaving a sentient lizard with large veracious eyes. Mike escapes with the film he took on board. Soon an underground resistance forms with people risking their lives to get the planet free of the Visitors who are stealing the water and using people as sustenance.

It has been several years (perhaps decades) since this reviewer watched the original miniseries, but this fine science fiction rendition captures the essence of the TV show. The Visitors turn earth into a totalitarian state so they use the planet as a feeding ground. The resistance grows as more people understand the truth. Fans of the saga will appreciate the collaboration of Kenneth Johnson and A.C. Crispin as they convert the exciting V: THE ORIGINAL MINISERIES into an entertaining novel.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stormcaller-Tom Lloyd

Tom Lloyd
PYR, Oct 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781591026938

White eyed are elitists as they are the chosen ones of the Gods. They are always physically and intelligently superior to the inferior non-white eyes and on top of those advantages can use magic too. Besides obvious envy from the nonentitites, their quick rage has left the “nons” fearing the white eyed.

Isak is a white eye who killed his “non” mother in childbirth; his father loathes his wagonbrat offspring who he is unable to discipline as they travel as peasants in a caravan. When the lad turns sixteen he is selected as an heir to white-eyed Lord Bahl of the powerful realm of Farlan. Like his mentor and all white-eyed, Isak can be brutally nasty and impatient yet also inspiring; all within nanoseconds. The God of Storms presents Isak with the armour and sword of a legendary elven king who was the last monarch of all the land; a prophesy that insists the wearer will be a great ruler. Meanwhile vampires are roaming the land attacking humans and the elves want their armour back. War is imminent, but Isak feels unworthy to lead the human counter attack especially against the vicious elven horde.

Book one of the Twilight Reign is an exciting fantasy thriller with the similar problems that most opening acts of a genre saga struggle with: introducing the cast and their pecular traits. In this case, the uniquenss of the wagonbrat suddenly transported into a world of affluence is deftly handled as the reader sees what Isak observes: bewilderment, confusion and strangeness like a fish out of the sea. Building from that premise, Tom Lloyd provides a deep first tale as THE STORMCALLER introduces fans to a unique refreshing world through a stunned teen who goes from unwanted to wanted in a blink.

Harriet Klausner

Stormcaller-Tom Lloyd

Tom Lloyd
PYR, Oct 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781591026938

White eyed are elitists as they are the chosen ones of the Gods. They are always physically and intelligently superior to the inferior non-white eyes and on top of those advantages can use magic too. Besides obvious envy from the nonentitites, their quick rage has left the “nons” fearing the white eyed.

Isak is a white eye who killed his “non” mother in childbirth; his father loathes his wagonbrat offspring who he is unable to discipline as they travel as peasants in a caravan. When the lad turns sixteen he is selected as an heir to white-eyed Lord Bahl of the powerful realm of Farlan. Like his mentor and all white-eyed, Isak can be brutally nasty and impatient yet also inspiring; all within nanoseconds. The God of Storms presents Isak with the armour and sword of a legendary elven king who was the last monarch of all the land; a prophesy that insists the wearer will be a great ruler. Meanwhile vampires are roaming the land attacking humans and the elves want their armour back. War is imminent, but Isak feels unworthy to lead the human counter attack especially against the vicious elven horde.

Book one of the Twilight Reign is an exciting fantasy thriller with the similar problems that most opening acts of a genre saga struggle with: introducing the cast and their pecular traits. In this case, the uniquenss of the wagonbrat suddenly transported into a world of affluence is deftly handled as the reader sees what Isak observes: bewilderment, confusion and strangeness like a fish out of the sea. Building from that premise, Tom Lloyd provides a deep first tale as THE STORMCALLER introduces fans to a unique refreshing world through a stunned teen who goes from unwanted to wanted in a blink.

Harriet Klausner

Order 66: Star Wars Republic Commando-Karen Traviss

Order 66: Star Wars Republic Commando
Karen Traviss
Del Rey, Sep 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345506184

The bloody Clone Wars seem nearing the pivotal moment with the two enemies poised for victory as much as defeat. Still, neither Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) nor the Separatists have gained a major advantage in the hostilities, but Chancellor Palpatine’s forces are overextended and in seemingly deeper trouble than the Seps.

However, the Republic’s elite unit Advance Recon Commando (Null ARCs) fighting against overwhelming odds is stunned when rumors spread that Palpatine has held back clone units that he plans to sacrifice for his cause. Outraged Sergeant Mandalorian Kal Skirata, who trained many clone commandos, plans to rescue them from the Chancellor’s nefarious expendable plan although he knows to truly save their lives he must slow down their incredible aging process. At the same time the Jedi have deployed Order 66 putting the loyal Omega and Delta commando units caught between loyalty to the Chancellor and their admiration of the Jedi.

Karen Traviss shows why she is so popular amongst Star War fans as readers know the future yet are hooked by a terrific story line filled with action that ties together the threads from the previous Traviss tales and a great moralistic character. Obviously the Clone Wars is the prime player, which means for newcomers it would help to read the previous Republic Commando events (see HARD CONTACT, TRIPLE ZERO AND TRUE COLOURS) that has led to ORDER 66: Star Wars Republic Commando. Skirata is the key to the plot as he puts a face to the war in this great entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Wyrmling Horde-David Farland

The Wyrmling Horde
David Farland
Tor, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0765316668

Lord Despair captures the son of the Earth King Fallion Orden on the barbaric world Rugassa the latter ironically made by consolidating realities. The flameweaving wizard has little hope to escape as he adheres to his vow to never accept the "endowments" of others.

Fallion’s lover Rhianna, her foster sister warrior Talon, and the Emir Tuul Ra start a dangerous quest to rescue Fallion from Despair. They have made no pledge to spurn endowments so gladly take what is offered by others. However, Despair has allies too on the planet; agents who know how to torture a person’s soul into begging for death.

The seventh Runelords fantasy follows up directly from the powerful climax of SONS OF THE OAK so it behooves readers to have read at least that tale to know how Fallion fell into the predicament he and the audience finds him in. The scenes are bleak, bloody, and depressing, but well written although there are some counter upbeat moments (not directly involving the heroes who despair failure and obviously not Despair whose optimism is visions of death and destruction). This tale is well written and extremely exciting although progress in terms of the overarching theme moves slower than an Ice Age glacier. Fans of David Farland will appreciate the attempt to rescue Fallion from Despair.

Harriet Klausner

Ender in Exile-Orson Scott Card

Ender in Exile
Orson Scott Card
Tor, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765304964

The third Formic War ended thanks to Andrew “Ender” Wiggins who believed he was playing a computer simulation game at Battle School instead of actually killing the Queens who gathered on a single planet. With their deaths, their soldiers, workers, and pupae died; Ender was responsible for the genocide of a race. He also killed two bullies in self defense, but the leaders of earth’s nations do not want him residing in the United States because he could become a weapon that could destroy their own country. His brother Peter wants to be the ruler of a one world government, but his sister Valentine decides to accompany her younger brother to prove her sense of freedom.

The Formic Worlds are colonized by Earthlings since they remain in a pristine state. Ender decides to go to Planet Shakespeare where he hopes to learn why the Queens gathered in one place so that they could be killed. He is to be the governor as a hero to those who remained and the new colonists. The Commander of the ship taking him to Shakespeare wants to be the power behind Ender’s government or to find a way to exile him back to earth. Ender, a thirteen years old boy with a brilliant mind prevents the coup before it begins by creating a better standard of living for the people. Ender, in his spare time, digs up Formic artifacts seeking clues to the Queens gathering.

Ender is intelligent and compassionate yet in many ways he is also tortured because of his wisdom and passion. His parents will not communicate with him and he rejects Battle School as he has to emotionally deal with real deaths he indirectly caused and not simulated gaming deaths. Less action than previous tales in the Ender saga, ENDER IN EXILE is much more cerebral as Orson Scott Card takes his fans deep into the heart and soul of a young boy forced to grow up too fast.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Devil's Eye-Jack McDevitt

The Devil's Eye
Jack McDevitt
Ace, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780441016358

In the far future, famous horror writer Vicki Greene leaves a message of despair with antiquities dealer Alex Benedict. Soon after dispatching her note, Vicki has her memory expunged.

Alex and his pilot companion Chase Kolpath follow a series of clues that take them 36 light years away to the rimway of the galaxy. Apparently Vicki was conducting research there for her next novel. Something or someone panicked her. Soon after arrival at the edge of nowhere Alex and Chase are harangued by officials who want them to leave or else. The pair begins to unravel a pandemic crisis threatening Salud Afar, but are swept aside by government officials and bureaucrats and it seems too late to safely evacuate the residents.

The latest Alex Benedict futuristic science fiction novel (see SEEKER) is a superb action thriller that focuses on how central governments act and react to internal emergency crisis especially concealing critical information. The story line is fast-paced with a deep cautionary message that those in charge will choose to save face not people. With a nod to the Bush response to Katrina, fans will relish this strong exhilarating thriller in which the spin does not just supersede the need, it is the need as far as those in charge are concerned. This is the genre at its extrapolating best.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Golden Tower-Fiona Patton

The Golden Tower
Fiona Patton
Daw, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756405175

The city of Anavatan is both magical and mundane. It is the home to six gods and thus protected by the God Wall that keeps malevolent spirits out. Like any city, it has its rich and poor; even homeless children like Brax, Spar, and Graize, who have untrained power. Brax is indifferent to Spar until all three were trapped outside during Haven’s Dance; three nights of terrible storms. To save himself and Spar, Brax pleaded with Estav o save them and he promises to become her favorite. Brax becomes a warrior and Spar became a powerful seer.

Graize was thrown over the God-Wall and also became a powerful seer. Filled with hatred Grazie uses his power to create the Godling called Hisar. Spar befriends him and he taught it things about the world.. Graize lives for one thing; revenge against Brax and Anavatan. He is using the Petchan tribe to help him destroy his enemies and his memories of being a childhood pickpocket in Anavatan to survive. Graize captures Brax, Spar realizes he cannot rescue him in time so he must turn to the Godling for help if he can figure out how to do so.

THE GOLDEN TOWER is pure magic, enchanting the reader with the magical city; a place of palaces and slums populated and divided by seers and Gods who communicate with their followers, at times in person. The city and the Godling are the main characters because each plays a major role in the plot. Spar, Brax and Graize represent differing personalities that make up the functioning city (seer, warrior, and outsider). If this first entry in the Warriors of Estonia fantasy saga is any indication of the quality of the series, fans are in for a delightful time.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 22, 2008

Immortals: The Crossing-Joy Nash

Immortals: The Crossing
Joy Nash
Love Spell, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505527677

The half breed Sidhe demigod Manannan Mac Lir thought his heroics saving the Immortal warrior Tain would lead to a glorious final victory for good vs. evil (see Jennifer Ashley’s IMMORTALS: THE REDEEMING). He proved only partially correct as Tain and that half she-demon cop Samantha found each other; however Mac has learned the wisdom of the old adage of the road to hell is paved with good intentions. His soul is now a carrier of death magic.

Faeries ask Mac to help them when a death magic spell is gradually killing a child. He agrees and his inquiry leads to witch Artemis Black, who has problems of her own. A demon is blackmailing her to cooperate in order to save her son's soul held hostage in hell. Instead she cut a Faustian deal with another demon to steal life magic in exchange for saving her son. Mac escorts Artemis to stand before the Sidhe council, but she instead flees to hell; he follows.

The latest second Immortals miniseries is an exciting entry as a caring hero battles with his feelings and a mother who goes into hell for her heavenly cause. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Fairies request Mac investigate and never slows down as he follows his heart while fearing for her soul. Although the love subplot takes a needed backseat to the escapades and therefore feels abrupt and rushed, romantic fantasy fans will enjoy the latest Immortal saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saint Antony's Fire-Steve White

Saint Antony's Fire
Steve White
Baen, Nov 2008, $24.00
ISBN 9781416555988

In the early sixteenth century, instead of finding the Fountain of Youth that he sought, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovers a strange craft that apparently fell from the sky. He returns to Spain where rumors abound that he found something unique in the New World. In 1540, The Society of Jesus go to the Florida colony to investigate the de Leon tales. That expedition returns to Europe with a heavily cloaked small figure and soon afterward obtains Papal permission to establish a new order that include the Gray Monks.

Over seven decades later, Queen Elizabeth and her military advisers believe they will defeat the Spanish Armada that is sailing towards England. Instead the Spanish use weapons that shoot light beams of fire with uncanny accuracy. Led by the Gray Monk Father Jeronimo, who happens to be a Grella extraterrestrial, the Spanish destroy the English fleet and burn London with their antimatter weapon “ST. ANTONY'S FIRE.” Due to the heroics of privateer Captain Thomas Winslow Queen Elizabeth is evacuated by sea to the Virginia Colony. The English soon learn that the vanished Roanoke colonists last year entered a portal to another world where they have been at war against Jeronimo’s people, the Grella for two decades.

This action-packed alternate history thriller will hook readers who will want to know what happens to a host of real people like the Queen, William Shakespeare and the missing Roanoke colonists, etc. The fast-paced story line never slows down as one adventure leads to another revelatory escapade. Although none of the characters seem fully developed with the courageous heroic Thomas the most complete, fans will relish Steve White’s thrilling tale that seems to be the opening act of a fun stirring saga.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Reign-T.A. Pratt

Dead Reign
T.A. Pratt
Bantam, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780553591354

The chief guardian sorceress of the large East Coast city Felport Marla Mason is looking forward to the upcoming Founders’ Ball after barely surviving the attempts on her life by a mercenary psychic assassin (see POISON SLEEP). However, a hunk arrives in town with two dangerous followers; reanimated John Wilkes Booth and a psycho necromancer. The newcomer, with sexy looks to die for, insists he is Walking Death, chief of the underworld. He orders Marla to give him the magical dagger that signifies her position as the chief guardian. She tells him to go to Hell. Fuming with fiery brimstone, Walking Death sends Marla to the underground.

As he enjoys dispatching people to his home, Walking Death fails again to understand the inner strength of Marla. She finds a few unreliable maniacs and brings war to Hell.

The third Marla Mason wild sorcery thriller (see BLOOD ENGINES) is a madcap maniacal fantasy that from the opening visit by the deadly sex machine Walking Death until the final macabre dance never slows down. The support cast is over the top of Felport or under the ooze of Hell as nothing not even death is sacred. Fantasy fans who appreciate something well written but different will want to read the marvelous Marla Mason tales as they are insanely humorous fun.

Harriet Klausner

The Flame and the Shadow-Denise Rossetti

The Flame and the Shadow
Denise Rossetti
Ace, Nov 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780441016341

He is Grayson of Concordia also called the Duke of Ombra; he has a problem he would like to get rid of as soon as possible. His shadow is an independent sentient entity yet it is also a part of the mercenary sorcerer. It even has his own name Shad and he loves Gray, who repels him because the sorcerer believes the shadow is the darkness manifested from his soul. He made a deal with the wizard Deiter that he would kidnap the grieving fire witch Cenda in exchange for the destruction of Shad.

Gray travels to the planet Sybaris where Cenda lives grieving the death of her child that has turned her once fiery heart to ash with a desire to die. She is the first fire witch to be found in centuries and has enemies who want to abduct her to use as a weapon. Gray tries to get her off planet to his client as soon as possible. However, she discovers the secret of Shad and accepts both as one who cherish her. Stunned by her reaction, he realizes he cares for her. Once she learns what his plans for her were she is hurt and angry. He proves he cares for her by saving her from the find the technomage scientist who kidnaps her and wants to experiment on her to see if she can duplicate Cenda’s powers.

THE FLAME AND THE SHADOW is an erotic evocative fantasy in which science and magic coexist but practitioners fight for supremacy. Gray is a conflicted person; hating Shad for something that occurred on his home planet; he wears the scars of that incidents and wants Shad to suffer though he understands the shadow is him. Cenda is a strong willed individual who falls for all manifestations of Gray. Her acceptance brings healing and redemption to she Shadow sorcerer, but does not abate the danger to either of them or her. If this thriller is any indication, Denise Rossetti is a welcomed newcomer to the fantasy genre.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Strength and Honor-R.M. Meluch

Strength and Honor
R.M. Meluch
Daw, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756405274

The Roman Empire never died; it just went underground waiting for the right time to emerge. That time came when FTL ships made traveling to the stars possible while the internet connected the Romans all across the globe. They took a spaceship and colonized the planet Palatine, modeling it after the ancient Roman Empire. They have since colonized planets all over the galaxy and they have conquered their sector of space. Caesar Romulus declares war on the United States for breaking a treaty which America never did.

It is believed that Romulus’ father was assassinated on his son’s orders and the Patterner Augustus is still on the USS Merrimack determined to pay Romulus back for killing his Caesar. In a surprise move, Romulus has his troops attack the United States; while they hold their own the government orders the space armada to attack Palatine. Romulus has a plan to conquer earth and make it another Roman colony, but someone who is dead reaches out from the grave to try to foil his scheme. Captain Farragut of the Merrimack is in the thick of the hostilities on earth and Palatine even as Augustus makes a move and the Hive feels regenerated.

R.M. Meluch writes a fantastic military science fiction tale with vivid battle scenes, intricate plotting, and great characterizations. Although Earth and Palatine are home planets to humans, their cultures are radically different, making it seem like two diverse species. The key element is how well the author makes a case that war is waste and the fool’s folly of politicians who care nothing about expendable soldiers except the bottom line. The Patterner (a super cyborg who seeks intelligent patterns in the midst of seemingly random chaos) adds to the overall feel of a distant future in which the earth is still at war.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 19, 2008

Toll The Hounds-Steven Erikson

Toll The Hounds
Steven Erikson
Tor, Sep 2008, $17.95
ISBN: 0765316544

It has been six years since the last deity battle, but another one between competing Gods seems imminent in Darujhistan. The native Crippled God and the Dying God want a seat at the pantheon. Each uses expendable humans to gain an edge over their rival.

Meanwhile as these two Gods battle for supremacy and the prize, others converge on the city in which factions already are divided. No matter the outcome, the “City of Blue Fire” will burn. Assassins are everywhere trying to eliminate Malazans and other foes, and the hounds howl over the toll of death. Behind the scenes of the night the Son of Darkness warrior ruler Anomander Rake of Black Coral tries to manipulate the various foes. Finally the night arrives when the city will never be the same as violence and the dance of death are everywhere.

Overall this is a strong Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen especially when the focus remains in Darujhistan; however when a subplot moves the story line to the distant Black Coral city, it loses some of its fast pacing in spite of Night of Darkness Anomander insidious plotting. Still this is an exciting entry as readers return to the City of Blue Fire for an epic battle between Gods competing for a seat at the supreme pantheon.

Harriet Klausner

Fallen Angel-Margaret Weis and Lizz Weis

Fallen Angel
Margaret Weis and Lizz Weis
Avon, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780060833336

He was a martyr when he was burned at the stake. However Matthew Gallow devout Christian in life fell from grace in death. He was sent back to earth as a human.

In his second reincarnation, Matthew is a drunken con artist. He makes money to pay for his alcohol as a charlatan shamming clients by performing phony exorcisms. However something goes wrong when he actually succeeds in casting out a demon from a teenager. He becomes famous with everyone wanting him. Music Manager Natalia Ashley hires Matthew to perform when her superstar Cain performs his mega hit “Possession”. The money is too good to say no. However, neither the manager nor the FALLEN ANGEL knows that Cain signed another contract with Satan; in exchange for fame and fortune, he will convert his fans into the devil’s army.

The second angelic collaboration (see WARRIOR ANGELS) from mother-daughter Weis is a terific and spellbinding character driven paranormal possession thriller. The Faustian story line is exciting, but the strong cast makes it a fun tale and not just the tormented title star. On Matthew’s team besides Nat is an archangel who must have worked the borscht belt-burlesque circuit with deprecating gallows humor the shtick, a doormouse who must have come from Alice’s Wonderland, and grandfather Woof the Dead-head ghost; on the other “Faust” side is Satan, Cain, and their fans. The team Weis fans will enjoy this superb supernatural.

Harriet Klausner

Matters of the Blood-Maria Lima

Matters of the Blood
Maria Lima
Juno, Sep 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780809573035

Few know the dead like Keira Kelly doesknow the dead. Keira Kelly perhaps knows the dead better than the living. Keira is part of a clan of paranormal people although she prefers to live outside amongst the normals. Currently she lives in Rio Seco, Texas if one can call residing there as living. She watches over her cousin Marty Nelson, who not only failed to inherit the family gift making him a pathetic purebred human outcast, but works as he puts it -in a dead-end job as a mortician.

As Keira begins to learn what her powers are, someone is beheading and draining the blood of animals at The Wild Moon resort. Keira believes the culprit is inhuman. However, though she does some tremulous investigation, she is not committed until Marty is murdered with all his blood emptied from his corpse. As her former boyfriend Sheriff Carlton Larson investigates and makes it clear he wants her back, Keira visits Wild Moon only to find Adam Walker, someone she once desired, owns the place. Keira wonders could he have killed Marty because the mortician was learning the truth about the new resort not filled with many guests.

The cast makes this horror mystery into a one sitting read as fans will anticipate every chilling bump that sends the heroine into frighten mode. The story line is fast-paced with no one quite like they initially seem as most of the townsfolk are not purebred human. Readers will appreciate this superb paranormal whodunit with a touch of romance with plenty of interwoven subplots that will elate fans of various sub-genres, but the center holding this superb tale together is the likable Keira who makes the abnormal seem so normal.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Reawakened-Jeri Smith-Ready

The Reawakened
Jeri Smith-Ready
Luna, Nov 2008, $14.95
ISBN 9780373802715

Twelve years ago the feral Descendents of the Ilion Army took advantage of the schism between the four Spirit villages attacked Velekos and Asermos. The war between them is nasty with one side unconcerned with collateral damage to innocents. There is the fundamental value of the world at stake in a winner takes all conflagration. The Spirit uses animal magic that has made them increasingly more powerful with each new generation; the Descendants loath Spirit magic as evil. However, the Descendents outnumber their enemy and increasingly appear to be winning the hostilities.

The Spirit followers pray that the ancient prophecy that claims the only Spirit Raven who has failed to guide a human will do so soon as the dark days are turning bleaker. Spirit mages Rhia of the Guardian Crow Spirit and her husband Marek accompany their eighteen years old son Nilik, who they hope is the one as he seeks vengeance against the murdering Descendents who killed his girlfriend; He joins his uncle’s army while the hostilities remain unabated. Rhia must deliver the REAWAKENED if her side is to survive.

Fans of the Aspect fantasy (see VOICE OF CROW and EYES OF CROW) will relish this entertaining finish but newcomers will be lost for much of the tale. The story line is filled with action, but driven by the desperation of Rhia and her family as a way of life is to be decided between clashing cultures. With a nod to Native-American nineteenth century heritage (including war with the invading American armies, Jeri Smith-Ready provides a deep metaphoric trilogy of cultures at war.

Harriet Klausner

King of Sword and Sky-C.L. Wilson

King of Sword and Sky
C.L. Wilson
Leisure, Oct 2008, $8.99
ISBN: 9780843960594

The evil High Eld Mage destroyed much of the Fey and Tairen. Both races seem on the brink of extinction with little hope for surviving. However, one individual based on an ancient prophesy may be the savior; the true mate of the Fey King

The problems are that the true mate of Fey King Rain Tairen Soul is Ellysetta Baristani; she is linked to their lethal enemy; besides she mourns her losses as her mom was killed in the recent assault. War is inevitable and Rain understands the significance of Ellysetta to the cause. However, most of his allies starting with the nobles of Celieria and other supporters do not trust her due to her direct ties to the High Eld Mage. Without her the king knows they lose even as he wearily yet heroically tries to save the Tairen kitlings.

The third Fey-Tairen fantasy (see LORD OF THE FADING LANDS and THE LADY OF LIGHT AND SHADOWS) is a great addition to one of the stronger genre series in years. The gloom and doom is spreading with the Fey King and his true mate the only hope to halt the evil advance and ultimately defeat it, but Rain knows his allies distrust his true mate; as they believe she is aligned with the malevolent lethal enemy. Thus a relatively simplistic scenario leads to a complicated societal order that enhances the “reality” factor. Fans of good vs. evil fantasy epics will want to read this entertaining saga.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fortune and Fate-Sharon Shinn

Fortune and Fate
Sharon Shinn
Ace, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780441016365

Considered one of the best amidst the Riders sworn to protect the king, Wen is down on herself; when a revolt broke out, the warrior failed to protect King Baryn. Adding to her depression is that her lover married someone else; leaving her no one to turn to for solace.

Wen’s mental state improves a bit when she saves Karryn, teenaged daughter of a rebel, from a kidnapping and rape. Karryn’s grateful Uncle Jasper Paladar offers Wen a position as instructor to his bodyguards; she accepts. Reluctant at first, Wen ends up falling in love with her intellectual employer

Although not part of the original Twelve Houses saga, this exciting sword and romantic fantasy directly feeds off the events of that quartet especially with the attitude of the heroine. Thus it helps to have read the previous tales to better understand Wen’s depression and her world, but FORTUNE AND FATE can stand alone. The story line is fast-paced focusing on a female warrior who makes a strong case that women can be adept in combat as well as lovers. Although nothing new is added to the Shinn mythos, fans will appreciate this fine entry that looks deep into the soul of one of the survivors.

Harriet Klausner

Thirteen Orphans-Jane Lindskold

Thirteen Orphans
Jane Lindskold
Tor, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765317001

One-fourth Chinese-American, South Carolina resident Brenda Morris is attending college as a freshman when her world turns upside down staring with a father-daughter weekend that makes no sense to her especially when he leaves her with her Aunt Pearl in California. She suddenly finds herself caught in the middle of the mystical hidden realm of the Thirteen Orphans. These mages use mah-jongg as their power source and can shape shift into the animals of the Chinese zodiac; her aunt is the Tiger.

Although her preference is to not get involved, Brenda courageously battles against deadly otherworldly foes when just a few days ago she would scoff at their existence. The odds are against her side as the original thirteen is down to a few, struggling she finds herself attracted to a predator who tried to kill her father Gaharis. Still refusing to quit, Brenda continues to fight against experienced more powerful adversaries while her veteran allies are being eliminated.

This opening urban fantasy is a fascinating coming of age tale that uses the Chinese Zodiac as the focus of magic. Like most first acts, the emphasis is on setting up the world even when the prime real estate is Northern California. Thus the plot is slowed down so that the rules of magic and mah-jongg are explained. Still fans will enjoy THIRTEEN ORPHANS as the college frosh soon goes from worrying when she will stop growing taller and turn curvier to staying alive.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Irreversible-Liz Maverick

Liz Maverick
Dorchester SHOMI, Oct 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527783

Katherine “Kitty” Gibbs is living the dream life as she is popular and engaged to a hunk who cherishes her above everything else. There is only one flaw to Kitty’s perfect life; it is a WIRED lie created by her revenge attained genius maniac lover Leonardo Kaysar, who manipulates the time-place continuum changing her reality. In fact Kitty’s best week ever is replayed week after week after week.

Her best friend L. Roxanne “Roxy” Zaborovsky recently escaped from that virtual world due to the help of her lover Mason Merrick. She feels guilty having left Kitty behind in a no escape virtual programming loop. Roxy hires time-anomaly specialist Walter “Q” Sheffield to rescue her roommate from the insane machinations of Leonardo. Q relishes the mission impossible until this relationship phobic realizes only love can free her and he is the one who loves her sol he can possibly reverse the IRREVERSIBLE.

As good if not better than the superb WIRED (Roxy’s tale), IRREVERSIBLE is a great romantic science fiction thriller. The story line is a one sitting fast-paced tale with the irony of the heroine has no reason to be saved from her existence. Thus the hero who stinks in reality relationships realizes only love can give Kitty a reason to break out of her “heavenly” existence, but she believes she already is in love. Liz Maverick provides a strong romantic cyber sci fi novel.

Harriet Klausner

Woodcutter's Grim-Karen Wiesner

Woodcutter's Grim
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press, Sep 2008
ISBN: 9781603132565

"Papa". Six months ago his children died in a car accident when his ex wife's vehicle for no apparent reason went off a bridge. Still mourning, Rand takes his second spouse Amy to Woodcutter's Grim. Amy quickly realizes that Rand's dead children greet them with plans to escort them into the Gingerbread House so Papa can be with them forever. A delightful tale

"Blood of Amethyst". Over the last few days Amethyst's beloved father has acted very strange until he entered Woodcutter's Grim and never came home. The local sheriff Gabe is worried about his beloved pregnant Amethyst, who has acted strange since her dad vanished in the woods. He fears the woods wants her blood like he believes it took her father's blood. Incredible Storytelling

“Dancing To the Grave”. After a trial separation music teacher Diane and her husband Kurt have reconciled their differences. However, heeding her concern over children behaving oddly, Kurt, a Guardian and his peers investigate only to learn the kids are turning into feral rats. A deliciously spooky tale

“The Amethyst Tower”. Prince knows his mission is to save Rapunzel, incarcerated in a tower in Woodcutter's Grim Woods; he also knows once you enter these woods, you never leave. Still he must perform his quest even if the evil seems overwhelmingly insurmountable. A beautiful adult fairy tale

Retelling classic fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Pied Piper of Hamelin and Rapunzel) has been done many times over the years. Few authors keep them classic yet scarier like Karen Wiesner has achieved with this collection; the audience will feel they are entering the woods of Woodcutter’s Grim and sense they may not get out. The key that makes this quartet superb is the feeling everything starts of normal like a second chance at love (“Papa” and “Dancing to the Grave”), a concerned lover (“Blood of Amethyst) or a hero rescuing his damsel in distress (“The Amethyst Tower). Then Ms. Wiesner deftly changes the venue in each into frightening fantasy novellas. This is an excellent anthology in which the readers will want more stops in Woodcutter’s Grim, sort of like a Hotel California adult fairy tale location.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fool’s Experiments-Edward M. Lerner

Fool’s Experiments
Edward M. Lerner
Tor, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765319012

Virtual reality researcher Doug Carey works on programs to improve bio-mechanics ever since the accident occurred. He misses his beloved spouse Holly who died in an accident that cost him metaphysically his heart and physically his right arm. He diligently plays racquetball in an attempt to train his bio-mechanical arm to fit his body.

Computer scientist AJ Rosenberg is working on artificial intelligence. He creates a breakthrough program that can modify itself as needed; he assigns the program to survive at all costs for billions of cyberspace years.

The entity now exists but not in any known space; it was, is, and will be. It is beyond that of a simple computer virus or worm as it infests humans who have some computer technology inside them like bio-mechanical arms. With its prime directive of surviving the entity sends highly regarded scientists over the edge of sanity and threatens the computer based world.

FOOLS' EXPERIMENTS is an exciting cautionary science fiction that warns what could happen if technology runs amuck especially in “webolution”. The story line is fast-paced as the computer worlds of Doug and AJ collide via the entity. Although not much new is offered especially on the AI side of the equation, fans will enjoy this fun tale even if the turning on of the supercollider in Europe failed to end the world (for now).

Harriet Klausner

Fool’s Experiments-Edward M. Lerner

Fool’s Experiments
Edward M. Lerner
Tor, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765319012

Virtual reality researcher Doug Carey works on programs to improve bio-mechanics ever since the accident occurred. He misses his beloved spouse Holly who died in an accident that cost him metaphysically his heart and physically his right arm. He diligently plays racquetball in an attempt to train his bio-mechanical arm to fit his body.

Computer scientist AJ Rosenberg is working on artificial intelligence. He creates a breakthrough program that can modify itself as needed; he assigns the program to survive at all costs for billions of cyberspace years.

The entity now exists but not in any known space; it was, is, and will be. It is beyond that of a simple computer virus or worm as it infests humans who have some computer technology inside them like bio-mechanical arms. With its prime directive of surviving the entity sends highly regarded scientists over the edge of sanity and threatens the computer based world.

FOOLS' EXPERIMENTS is an exciting cautionary science fiction that warns what could happen if technology runs amuck especially in “webolution”. The story line is fast-paced as the computer worlds of Doug and AJ collide via the entity. Although not much new is offered especially on the AI side of the equation, fans will enjoy this fun tale even if the turning on of the supercollider in Europe failed to end the world (for now).

Harriet Klausner

Heir to Sevenwaters-Juliet Marillier

Heir to Sevenwaters
Juliet Marillier
Roc, Nov 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780451462336

In the Sevenwaters and Glencarnagh that contain the forest where the Tuatha De Danann Fair Folks dwell, Chieftain Sean is excited and frightened as his wife Aisling carries what he prays is the HEIR TO SEVENWATERS and his beloved survivies as she is on the wrong side of age for childbearing. With his oldest daughter Muirrin the healer married to Evan the healer and his second offspring Deirdre about to marry Southern clan chieftain Illann, Sean depends on his third oldest daughter Deirdre’s younger twin capable Clodagh to maintain the household and to to care for her mother.

Sean’s twin sister, her chieftain husband and their son Johnny, the current heir to Sevenwaters, attend Dierdre’s wedding. At the gala Clodagh meets Johnny’s personal guardsand she takes a dislike for the uncouth Cathal. Soon after the vows are exchanged, Aisling gives birth to the new heir; but the Fair Folk abduct the newborn and replace him with a changeling. Clodagh and Cathal team up to try to save her brother by entering the insane to humans Otherworld where Prince Mac Dara has begun a dangerous ploy.

The fourth Sevenwaters romantic fantasy (see DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST, SON OF SHADOWS and CHILD OF PROPHECY) is a strong entry in a magnificent saga. Juliet Marillier once again shows her skill in writing an exciting “border” thriller that enable readers to believe in the Tuatha De Danann; mostly because of how the humans behave towards the Fair Folk. Sub-genre fans will want to accompany the heroic duo as they enter hostile territory on a quest that challenges their lives and minds as their senses cannot be trusted with a different perception than on their side of the thin separating veil.

Harriet Klausner

Heart and Soul-Sarah A. Hoyt

Heart and Soul
Sarah A. Hoyt
Bantam, Oct 28 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553589689

Charlemagne stole the ruby the Soul of Fire from its avatar shrine in the heart of Africa; he used it to bind the world’s magic to him and his descendents. Nigel Oldhall was to obtain the rubies and turn them over to his boss, but learns instead the worlds are splitting out from this earth until eventually the realms implode. Nigel changes his mission to return the rubies to their rightful original locations in order to save the world he knows.

Before he can complete his quest, Zhgng, the second in command to the True Emperor of All Under Heaven, steals one of the precious gems because he wants to be the new ruler instead of Wen, an opium addict. Wen depends on his sister Red Jade to rule behind the scenes. Jade and Wen’s third wife known as the Third Lady go on separate missions to save the Chinese throne from the usurpers. Whereas Third Lady escorts Wen to the underworld to fight to regain his power stolen by Zhang, Jade goes after the rubies disguised as a dragon. When she and Nigel encounter one another, they each realize the mission has morphed out of control as has their hearts.

In the Hoyt vision of the Victorian Age, magic is controlled by the nobles of Europe; aging Queen Victoria wants to use the rubies to regain her youth and to bind the world’s magic to her and her legitimate offspring. Originally Nigel was doing her bidding, but he concludes the rubies need to return to their proper place even if magic trickles down to the commoners; to do otherwise could destroy the earth. Nigel has grown since he started his quest) see SOUL OF FIRE and HEART OF LIGHT), but like Jade is unable to reveal his deepest regard for her (or him in her case). Sarah A. Hoyt delivers a first class urban historical fantasy filled with HEART AND SOUL.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Lord-Protector's Daughter-L. E. Modesitt

The Lord-Protector's Daughter
L. E. Modesitt
Tor. Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765321633

Since the vile Ifrits were defeated by Mykel and Rachyla, they and their descendents have ruled as the Lord Protector over Lanachrona and its neighbors. However, when leadership is past by hereditary, the Talent does not necessarily follow until one would be hard pressed to compare the current Lord Protector to Mykel.

Her father the Lord Protector plans for his daughter Mykella to marry a foreign royal in a political marriage. However, she wants much more than to be a pawn so she spends her time evaluating the accounts at the Finance Ministry where she notices a significant drop in tariff collections. She interviews traders, who insist they have paid more not less. She continues her investigation into the stolen gold, but soon some of the clerks she interrogated are murdered. Though fearing for her life and that of her loved ones, Mykella keeps digging trying to find proof for her father to take action.

This Corean investigative fantasy thriller is a terific sidebar tale that fans of the saga will enjoy and newcomers will find as an intriguing entry. The story line is shorter than the usual L.E. Modesitt, Jr. tome, but is incredibly fast-paced and action-packed. The amateur sleuth inquiries by the courageous heroine make for an enjoyable refreshing novel.

Harriet Klausner

Night Falls Darkly-Kim Lenox

Night Falls Darkly
Kim Lenox
Signet, Oct 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451225375

In 1887 Shadow Guard Archer Black reclaims the marked soul of Mr. Winslow, but in spite of his caution, collateral damage occurs when the deviant brings an innocent young woman into the fray. After completing his mission, to save the female’s life and keep her safe, Archer erases the memory of Miss Elena Whitney and vows to be her protector. Elena thinks that the accident caused her amnesia. She appreciates her unknown benefactor who has arranged for her to work as a nurse in Whitechapel and has done so much more for her include giving her hope she might one day become a doctor.

Almost two years later, Queen Victoria orders Archer to London to end Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror. He becomes mortified when he observes Elena walking the unsafe streets of Whitechapel where the Ripper kills his victims. To the Guardian’s chagrin, he finds focusing on the Ripper difficult because of his attraction to Elena; he knows he must put her out of his head so he can concentrate on the deadly East End psychopath.

NIGHT FALLS DARKLY is a supernatural Victorian romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience with the opening sequence when Archer goes to collect the marked soul and never slows down as he struggles to do likewise with the Ripper. The story line is filled with action and the right amount of romance; however it is the vivid time and place that anchors the novel and makes the “urban” fantasy elements seem genuine. With a fascinating underlying paranormal concept, this Shadow Guard saga opens with a refreshing new look at stopping Jack.

Harriet Klausner

The Darkest Touch-Jaci Burton

The Darkest Touch
Jaci Burton
Dell, Oct 28 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780440244547

In an Australian cave, the Sons of Darkness, powerful demon lords, answer directly to the Evil One. They demand archeologist Angelique Deveraux to meld with the black diamond she was hired to find. When she touches it the diamond’s magical light goes out. Instead of making it glow stronger. Angie is afraid that her twin sister Isabelle, who was always a bit evil, will bring the stone to life. While the Realm of Light demon hunters fight the Sons of Darkness, Angie hides the diamond so her sibling will not use it.

A Realm of Light member observes Isabelle to see if she embraced the demon inside her as the father of her and her sister was a powerful demon lord. Dalton ends up following Isabelle while Ryder who is supposed to get the gem from Angie falls for her. Both men fear what will happen to their women and themselves. When the Sons of Darkness kidnap the twins, they both understand their new rescue mission is to save their respective significant other or die trying; while the sisters have decisions to make that if made wrong will end up with the Sons of Darkness ruling humanity.

The two sisters will have come to terms re their dark heritage and understanding the evil that makes up part of their “DNA”. The story line is a dark vs. light romantic suspense fantasy. The Sons of Darkness want nothing less than ruling all life on earth while the Realm of Light is determined to prevent that from happening; the twins are caught in the middle. Jaci Burton provides a dynamic and enthralling paranormal romantic thriller as demon war threatens the planet.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide

The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide
J.R. Ward
NAL, Oct 2008, $14.00

This reference guide is must reading for fans of Ms. Ward’s romantic urban fanatsy series that focuses on a special superpower band of brothers protecting their vampiric species from their enemies the Hunters. Besides insight into the stars of the six “Lover” novels to include interviews along with their individual dossiers, the tome includes an entertaining eighty plus page novella, “Father Mine”, which in Ms. Ward’s writing world is short, but still excellent. There are also sections devoted to the lore, language, and upstate New York setting. Most fascinating are the sections on “Deleted Scenes” that still may show up in a future novel and the original proposal for the Brotherhood. Obviously targeting fans of this terific saga, J. R. Ward puts together a deep compilation of her mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Magic to the Bone-Devon Monk

Magic to the Bone
Devon Monk
Roc, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451462404

It has been thirty years since magic was first discovered and now it is channeled through pipes made of iron, lead, and glass; this makes it accessible to the public. The pipe technology and the Storm Rods that contain the magic found in the world are housed below the city of Portland and patented by Mr. Beckstrom. Magic users know that when they tap into it there is a price to pay in terms of illness and memory loss. People who do not want to pay the personal penalty offload it onto an innocent.

Allie Beckstrom is called to a part of Portland where there is no magic by a client who wants her to Hound the person who offloaded magic into his five years old son. The magical energy signature is that of her father; for the first time in seven years she is going to see him to demand he take care of the child he abused. The next day she learns her father was killed by magic and her enemy Bonnie the Hound informs the authorities that it is Allie’s signature on his corpse. Beset on all sides by people wanting her dead, Allie is under magical assault as she tries to learn who killed her dad and why.

Devon Monk is the latest writer to join the ever expanding urban fantasy pantheon with an intelligent entertaining mystery. The kick butt heroine is strong and independent (must traits in this sub-genre) as she stays on the right side of the law, but is not afraid to go head to head with those who cross the line. MAGIC TO THE BONE turns the element into an energy technology with supply and demand economics to include pipes, storage facilities, and a cost wonder what would happen if a Katrina hit as oil spills did occur). Exciting fun, readers will look forward to more adventures of Allie in Portland.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All the Windwracked Stars-Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear
Tor, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765318824

The Valkyries know what defeat means so they fight to the end. However this is the Last Day so they all die except for historian Muire who cowardly fled.

Twenty-three centuries later, the ice continues to slowly expand across the world. Little is left beyond the last city the human settlement of Eiledon. Muire, living in shame for the two plus millennium since she deserted her late sisters, vows to save the remaining mortals. However, she is not sure how or for that matter why this sole outpost remains standing. As she begins to solve the mystery of Eiledon, Muire learns of the forbidden magic that keeps it afloat.

Imagine living twenty-three hundred years filled with guilt and remorse; knowing the only closure is your death. That is Muire’s life since she deserted her Valkyrie sisters. She seeks redemption and is obsessed with joining her fallen comrades. She makes the tale exciting as her chance to redeem her soul (in her mind) has finally arrived, but proves extremely complicated because her choices could mean the end of the world. Although the story line starts slow with the Last Day battle, twenty-three centuries later it turns into a great fantasy thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Leapfrog-Steve Hendry

Steve Hendry
Medallion, Oct 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 1933836504

Over a century ago, the aliens sent a message to earth from the Scorpios Constellation offering advanced space travel if the humans prove worthy. The earthlings build Leapfrog, appropriately named for the quantum leap in science and technology, to meet the aliens. However, the Federation Secret Dervice takes over the mission killing the General in charge. With no thoughts of sharing with others, Earth proves lacking to the aliens and fails the test.

Ten thousand plus years later, the crew of the Leapfrog begins to revive from cryogenic sleep. Kim Finch takes charge and sends to the sun those officers who destroyed the mission. As they near earth they receive no signal. They soon learn of a man made virus and a nuclear assault. The humanoids on the planet are cannibalistic Neanderthal, but are not top of the food chain; that is crocs with brain power superior to the crew of Leapfrog. With the ship deteriorating, the humans need a safe place to land, but none seem available as the crocs seem to be in every fresh water locale and they have skills beyond the capability of the new two-legged intruders.

LEAPFROG is a fascinating futuristic science fiction thriller that grips readers from the moment humans fail to meet the simple standard set by the technologically superior aliens of sharing the benefits bestowed to earthlings. The action is fast-paced and never slows down as the humans return to earth to confront two new lethal species and the realization that mankind no longer is at the top of the food chain. The prime cast is solid as they make difficult decisions to stay alive. Although a side trip to the moon brings an exciting deadly third species that sequence feels unnecessary as it adds little to the prime objective: survival on an earth when the top dog is a physically and mentally superior species.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe-Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
Ace, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441016334

In MANY BLOODY RETURNS, editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner limited the scope to vampire birthdays. This time the pair restricted the topic to a merry werewolf Christmas. The results are similar as in spite of the incredibly narrow and restrictive theme, the fifteen contributors provide fresh interesting tales with no losers and star some of the more famous series characters like Sookie Stackhouse in “Gift Wrap” by Harris and radio talk host Kitty in “Il Est Ne” by Carrie Vaughn. Patricia Briggs’ "The Star of David" showcases that even werewolves have family issues while Simon R. Green opens and closes with the memorable line of “You Never Forget your first” in his short short “Lucy, at Christmastime”. Fans will enjoy this fine anthology whether it is a paranormal investigative tale (see "Christmas Past” by Keri Arthur) or half breeds (see “Rogue Elements” by Karen Chance) summed up nicely over “Milk and Cookies” (by Rob Thurman) as simply “You Better not Pyout” by Nancy Pickard. My only suggestion is to spread the compilation over the Twelve Days of Christmas (or longer) because singing Jingle Bells fifteen times in one sitting will lead to a Blue Christmas.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Whispers of the Flesh-Louisa Burton

Whispers of the Flesh
Louisa Burton
Bantam, Oct 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9780553385304

“Certain Devils”. In 1829 just before he is to take his final vows, the Jesuit David Beckett crosses the Channel to investigate rumors of demonic activity at Chateau de la Grotte Cachee in France. There he meets the enchanting immortal Ilhtu-Lili while her companion Elric loathes how she looks at the Englishman. To his chagrin and guilt, Beckett finds himself confused with his stay at this HOUSE OF DARK DELIGHT as he wants the enchantress who makes him wonder if he is capable of being a priest.

"Satisfaction". In the present at Grotte Cachee, the chateau administrator Emmett is dying from pulmonary fibrosis. His daughter Isabel keeps visiting him from New York to spend time with him. His friend Hitch is also there reminiscing about the events of 1972 in the hidden hedonistic valley.

The two erotic novellas share much in common in spite of the almost two century gap between when they occur. Each tale is well written as fans will believe in the sexual escapades of the immortals with mortals. Although newcomers might have some early adaptation issues due to no initial background, they, like readers of the previous Grotte Cachee erotic fantasies, will quickly be enchanted by WHISPERS OF THE FLESH.
Harriet Klausner

One Bite with a Stranger- Christine Warren

One Bite with a Stranger
Christine Warren
St. Martin's, Oct 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0312947033

Now that Regina McNeill is no longer living with cheating ex boyfriend Greg, her four close friends remind her she no longer has an exemption from the “Fantasy Fix” the others agreed to try. Not accepting Reggie’s protests of no interest, the fearsome foursome friends demand she select her fantasy date. She chooses a night with a vampire.

The Others council member vampire Dmitri Vidame thinks how far he goes to carry out his responsibilities as he and Graham the werewolf attend an East Village human Vampire gala; the pair hope to catch a rogue vampiric predator who attacks the mortal pretenders. Dmitri is stunned when he sees Reggie across the crowded room as he has an instant need for her. He wonders what the chances are of “Strangers in the Night” sharing love; for he has waited hundreds of years to meet his beloved. As Dmitri tries to persuade the hesitant human to WALK ON THE WILD SIDE with him, her friends intrude to insure she is safe; Greg still believes she is his; and Dmitri has failed to inform her he has slightly different diet than her.

The latest Others’ romantic urban fantasy stars a strong lead couple and a solid support cast, especially her caring albeit interfering friends. The story line lacks the depth of the Christine Warren’s previous paranormal entries as the focus is more on the lead couple’s relationship than the serial killer. However ONE BITE WITH A STRANGER remains a fun tale because of the lead couple. They will remind the audience of the Sinatra tune Strangers in the Night as “Something in your eyes was so inviting. Something in your smile was so exciting. Something in my heart,told me I must have you.”

Harriet Klausner

Veiled Truth-Vivi Anna

Veiled Truth
Vivi Anna
Silhouette Nocturne, Oct 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617975

A serial killer is terrorizing Necropolis. Police detective witch Lyra Magice investigates the homicides and begins to fear a powerful predator is murdering people. Dhampir Theron LeNoir agrees to help Lyra end the killing spree and what each believes is a systematic attempt to take control of the city.

Lyra is grateful for his assistance because she knows Theron owns an ancient tome that might provides answers to ending the terror that is crippling the city. She also knows he should hate her; she fled her attraction to him several years ago. Instead Theron still loves his bewitching cop; however he also strongly believes she is the key sacrifice to open hell’s door, which would enable evil demons to cross over.

The latest Necropolis romantic suspense urban fantasy (see BLOOD SECRETS and DARK LIES) is a strong police procedural that works on two levels: the demonic serial killing investigation and the romance between the lead couple. The latter strengthens the inquiry as Theron’s fears grow with what they are learning about the adversary seems to lead to his beloved being the foci. Sub-genre fans will shout Vivi Anna.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Succubus Dreams-Richelle Mead

Succubus Dreams
Richelle Mead
Kensington, Oct 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758216434

Shape shifting succubus Georgina Kincaid is concerned with the strange dreams of a weird future she has begun having as she is unused to being the one drained of energy; instead as a hell class succubus she does the draining of men she has sex with. Desperate for relief, she visits dream interpreter Dante Moriarty, but he proves more charming than a snake oil salesman; providing her with no sustenance.

She considers discussing her fears with has platonic boyfriend bestselling writer Seth Mortensen, but hesitates as she knows he is obsessed with his writing at the moment; besides she might want to test the life in her man which can prove deadly to the male. Finally there is her inept apprentice succubus Tawny, but the new kid on the block is a know it all who knows nothing at all. Soon, matters turn odder when angels arrive for no earthly reason. New York is turning into hell in a hand basket if you ask Georgina as she has an unknown adversary to confront.

The third well written Succubus saga (see SUCCUBUS BLUES and SUCCUBUS ON TOP) is an engaging lighthearted paranormal romantic romp with Georgina struggling to solve the mystery of whom and why someone is draining her when she sleeps. The story line is fast-paced and filled with heated sex, but it is the bewildered beleaguered belle from hell who keeps the plot focused as she deals with the men and one woman in her life instead of the usual life in her men.
Harriet Klausner

The Last Protector-Daniel C. Starr

The Last Protector
Daniel C. Starr
Twilight Times, May 2008
ISBN: 9781606190012

At the Stuff Your Belly for a Small Copper Coin dive, Nalia the bar maid is beating the crap out of some unruly customers when 6’6 kilt wearing Scrornuck Saughblade joins her side. His companion, James Peter “call me Jape” Phelps, watches the two defeats several foes while drinking Midwestern Pale Ale. When the guards arrive to jail the trio, they leave through the back door that Scrornuck makes with his sword peeling open a wall.

Jape knows the two players he needs to prevent the annihilation of thousands of worlds as if they never existed are now with him. Scrornuck is his warrior protector while Nalia is a telepath who circumstantial evidence implies is the vortex that began the time-stream crossings changing and threatening to eradicate billions of sentient beings as if they never lived. The quest to find an artifact of an age of mad technology that may not exist is key along with Nalia; however, Jape has no idea how anything fits in a multiverse turning increasingly chaotic that he and his allies somehow must save; he does know time is running out on so many with adversaries trying to prevent their success.

The quest leads the threesome and readers to some interesting worlds where morality is defined differently than western culture; in fact it is while meeting various ways of life the readers learns how complex each of the three heroes truly is. The story line is action-packed from the onset, but what makes the mission to save worlds are two realties Jape understands: first he cannot save everyone and he and his two partners must learn to live with that knowledge; and second any means is acceptable including sacrifice of life for the better good end of saving billions. Fast-paced, THE LAST PROTECTOR is an exciting science fiction morality play

Harriet Klausner

The Gods Return-David Drake

The Gods Return
David Drake
Tor, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780765312617

After the great victory espeically over the Palomir Empire (see THE MIRROR OF WORLDS), Prince Garric, Princess Sharina and wizardess Tenoctris thought they would have time to mentally and physically heal from their ordeal. The triumphant threesome figured to the winners go the spoils; in this case Garric ruling over the united isles. Instead no rest for the weary as their Palomir enemies refuse to accept the last defeat should have meant the end of the war.

Instead the Change that led to the trio’s win also brought radcial Change to the pantheon of the Gods; the Old have vanished while other divine beings replace them. In this context, the desperate Palomir turn to their forbidden dieties with prayer and rituals culminating with human sacrifice. Their Gods listen and send forth the horde of Rat Men. At the same time the Sky God heeding a ritual from the sea bring forth the Worm devourer of entire villages. Adding to the victors’ woes is the hypnotically powerful myserious Scorpion King.

The exciting finish to the Crown of the Isles (see THE FORTRESS OF GLASS) is fast-paced as the bone tired Garric, Sharina and Tenoctris battle on three fronts against extremely powerful adversaries. That however is also the problem with the otherwise exhilerating story line as the brave heroes seem to cast off their mental exhaustion and physcial bone weariness with a shrug too easily, which in turn reduces what at first seems like three invincible opponents. Still fans of the series will enjoy THE GOD RETURN even if ther oic triad does not.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Inferno-Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Orb (Tor), Sep 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 0765316765

Renowned popular science-fiction writer Allen Carpentier makes a bet with his fans at a Los Angeles convention. Right out of War and Peace, he sits on the windowsill of a room on the hotel’s eighth floor drinking a bottle of rum. About half way through he gags and falls out the window to his death.

When Allen lands after what seems like eternity to him, he is shocked that he can think though somehow he finds himself in some sort of brass bottle that he wonders if it is his coffin. Some big Italian who says to call him Benito frees him from his bottle prison and agrees to be his guide as Allen treks through the concentric circles of Hell.

This is more than a reprint of the 1976 homage to Dante as Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle apparently revised some of the journey to “set the stage” for a sequel next year. Accompanying Allen and Benito on the trek is fun as they meet an assortment of sinners through the circles. Obviously still filled with adulation of Dante, INFERNO is a modern day faster and hipper version.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret of Laurel Oaks-Lois Ruby

The Secret of Laurel Oaks
Lois Ruby
Starscape (Tor), Sep 2 2008, $17.95
ISBN 9780765313669

Since mom is giving a presentation at the Biophysical Anthropology Conference on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, her entire family decided to attend. Besides mom, dad, and their two children (fourteen year old Gabe and thirteen year old Lila) leave their home in Albuquerque to stay for a few nights at creepy allegedly haunted (that is what the Smithsonian web site claims) Laurel Oaks B&B.

The ghost is Daphne an antebellum young slave accused of murdering her Master Judge Nethercott’s wife and two daughters Molly and Alice in 1840 at Laurel Oaks Plantation; Daphne died in the nearby Mississippi. She has never moved on because she is obsessed to know what truly happened on that horrific day when four females died. She believes that Lila is the person she has waited for to help her investigate the murders.

The supernatural aspects of the tale has been done a zillion ties, but is somewhat refreshed with non-graphic implications of the uglier realism like molestation and rape on a slave plantation. The story line rotates perspective between the two teen female stars with Daphne’s occurring in 1840 and the more fascinating of the two “tales”. Young adult fans will enjoy Lila’s cold case murder investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Savage Survival-Darrell Bain

Savage Survival
Darrell Bain
Twilight Times, 2005
ISBN: 193335366X

The aliens came and conquered the Earth without much resistance. Many humans died in the first wave; other became guinea pigs for horrific survival testing though none of the earthlings know why. That is the pandemic big scale impact.

However, there are little stories also that roll up into the globalization nightmare like that of eleven year old Lyda Brightner. Her beloved father Bruce is dead; her equally overprotective mom Elaine is gone and assumed either dead or about to be dead. Lyda is hurt badly, but awakens in a camp with no protector. Someone named Boris sells her for a brick and water to Big Bill. He mistreats her and sells her to a slave owner. Lyda escapes and meets Ginella Sparks who is hiding with her baby having escaped from the “spiders”. Lyda vows to never be abused again as she finds an inner strength to protect herself and those who soon depend on her for leadership. As she and the others adapt to a rough terrain and the alien tests they grow stronger mentally and physically. They each wonder what the spiders have in mind for the dwindling survivors.

Readers will enjoy SAVAGE SURVIVAL, a wonderful “Darwinian” science fiction tale that questions what human strength truly is. Lyda is a terrific lead individual who mentally grows stronger with each horrific adventure as she adapts to whatever is thrown at her; she truly comes a long way from the overly-protected suburban tweener to a powerful ethical leader. Darrell Bain provides a coming of age saga of a pampered loved preadolescent becoming a strong independent woman.

Harriet Klausner