Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Vampire's Quest-Vivi Anna

The Vampire's Quest
Vivi Anna
Silhouette Nocturne, Apr 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618088

When Otherworld Crime Unit bomb specialist vampire Kellen Falcon was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder Sangcerritus, he researched it to learn more about the disease that is killing him. He learned two doctors were considered experts and rumor of a cure. Thus Kellen left Necropolis and traveled to the Otherworlder European city Nouveau Monde because Dr. Bueller, one of the premier experts practiced there.

Kellen arrives at Nouveau Monde Medical Center for his appointment with Bueller. However, after stepping back into the reception area for a moment, he recognizes the ticking sound and covers the receptionist with his body when a bomb explodes killing several people including the doctor. Inspector Bellmonte leads the investigation and informs Kellen not to leave town, implying he is the prime suspect. He also assigns Lycan police officer Sophie St. Clair to drive Kellen to his hotel. They are attracted to one another, which surprises him since an alluring vampiress was standing next to Bellmonte. Somewhat cleared because killing the doctor meant Kellen was committing suicide though still a suspect as the disease makes him grumpy and angry, he and Sophie team up on the investigation when other bombs also explode.

The latest Otherworld police procedural romance (see BLOOD SECRETS and DARK LIES) switches locale from the States to Europe, but retains the belief that Nouveau Monde like Necropolis is a real city filled with paranormals (and humans). By simply having the paranormals and humans interact in a progressive positive way, Vivi Anna distinguishes the two continents from one another. The story line is explosive from the opening scene and never takes a break on two fronts: preventing more terrorist killings and the death watch of the hero as he falls in love. THE VAMPIRE’S QUEST is a great thriller as ironically time is running out on the lead male when he used to have all the time in the world at a time he has found his life mate.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dark Crusade-Lori Devoti

Dark Crusade
Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne, Apr 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618095

In Gunngar, witches are hunted as the lowest varmint on the place between worlds. Thus when witch Heather Moore finds herself trapped in Gunngar, she knows to rely on no one but herself as anyone could betray her. However, she also knows she has no prayer of escape and going home without help as the malevolent elf Marina wants all witches dead.

Wolf shapeshifter guardian Kerr Vik offers his protection when he finds her hiding place. Heather wants to accept but fears her attraction to her wannabe guardian might be obfuscating his real reason for tender protection. She knows he works for Marina; so either he is preparing to betray her or his evil employer. To his chagrin, Kerr finds himself bewitched by Heather making him willing to risk his life to keep her safe from the wicked elf.

The world of Gunngar comes across as a plausible dark grim place in which magic and the paranormal abound. Kerr is terrific as a champion caught between his duty and his love while Heather wants to believe her heart but all the facts point to one conclusion that her beloved will hand her over to Marina. Fantasy romance fans will appreciate Lori Devoti’s latest Guardian thriller (see WILD HUNT, UNBOUND and GUARDIAN’S KEEP) as they along with the witch wonder if Kerr deceives Heather with a pretense of love as he has a greater mission to achieve.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Shadow Queen-Bertrice Small

The Shadow Queen
Bertrice Small
Harlequin HQN, Apr 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373773688

No woman has ever ruled the Kingdom of Terah. However, when the monarch Magnus Hauk dies in an accident, his son is not old enough to rule. Thus his mom the faerie Queen Lara will serve as a secret regent until her offspring can formally run the nation.

To assist THE SHADOW QUEEN as she guides her son is her trusted friend Prince Kaliq at a time Terah is threatened by powerful enemies emboldened by the lack of a strong king. However, Lara’s efforts to protect her children go astray when their adversary Jonah the Lord High Ruler beguiles her daughter and her twin sons openly fight leaving the kingdom divided and consequently increasingly weakened. The only thing working for Lara is her reciprocated love with loyal Kaliq.

The fifth Hetar erotic romantic fantasy is an exciting tale as Lara star of the first book is the prime focus again; which enables the audience to see how far she has come and to a degree fallen. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as the heroine realizes she can only protect her children so far, but as adults they will make poor judgments that she can do little about. The romantic subplot is hot and engaging, but also intrudes in some ways on the primary theme of what she must sacrifice to save the next generation, her kingdom, and ultimately two worlds. Fans of the series will relish THE SHADOW QUEEN while spellbound newcomers will seek the previous entries (see THE SORCERESS OF BELLMAIR, THE TWILIGHT LORD, A DISTANT TOMORROW and LARA).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Treasure Keeper-Shana Abe

Treasure Keeper
Shana Abe
Bantam, Apr 2009, $22.00
ISBN 9780553806854

In England, daughter of a seamstress Zoe Cyprienne Lane is a drakon, but conceals her magical skills from others out of fear more powerful mages will use her as an expendable pawn. In 1782 while her fiancé Hayden James is away investigating rumors of a magicians cabal from the continent causing problems. Zoe becomes fearful for her Hayden when his letters stop arriving.

At about the same time Zoe’s childhood friend womanizing Lord Rhys Langford is abducted. Zoe vows to rescue Rhys, though she believes he is an ass through their psychic link, and learn what happened to Hayden. However, to do either means revealing she is drakon, which denotes she will pay an exorbitant price in the future.

Returning to the Georgian fantasy realm of THE DREAM THIEF and THE SMOKE THIEF albeit a decade later; Shana Abe provides her fans with an entertaining romantic triangle suspense thriller. The lead trio especially the courageous heroine makes for a fun gender bending tale as the least in her tribe as well as being a female tries to rescue the male drakon in her life. Clearly targeting romantic fantasy over historical in spite of the late eighteenth century setting, sub-genre readers will relish going on Zoe’s excellent adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Lord of Legends-Susan Krinard

Lord of Legends
Susan Krinard
Harlequin HQN, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780373773657

In 1885 the Earl of Donnington meets and courts American heiress Mariah Marron. He wins her heart and they marry. They move onto his estate, but he never claims his conjugal rights to her shock.

Exploring her new home, Mariah finds a semi-naked male locked in a cell. She tries to help Ash, as she names her husband’s prisoner, as much as she can. Her husband’s explanations make no sense to the American. She spends time with her Ash and he soon learns to speak. As he heals encouraged by the tender Mariah, Ash regains his memories. He knows he is King Arion a unicorn who must go home. To do so means betraying the woman who cared for him when he was not much more than a beast; the woman he loves and who is in peril from her spouse who sought her out because of her mythical connection that Mariah is unaware of.

Filled with twists, LORDS OF LEGENDS is an engaging historical romantic fantasy starring a caring heroine who is betrayed by the males in her life. The story line is fast-paced once Mariah and Ash meet and never slows down even with several spins although the ending is way over the top of Big Ben. Fans will enjoy this late Victorian rooting for Mariah, but have monster doubts about Ash and no second thoughts about Donnington.

Harriet Klausner

New Dawn Rising-Scott Gamboe

New Dawn Rising
Scott Gamboe
Medallion, Apr 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933836959

In the distant future, the United Systems Coalition with its numerous species and the Bromidian Empire were at war (see THE KILLING FROST). However the USC triumphed overthrowing the authoritarian rule of their enemy leading to a democratically elected government. One year later, both sides of the conflict celebrate the peace until assassins kill the visiting USC leaders and a coup d’etat takes down the Bromidian government.

The son of the late deposed former ruler, has prepared for the past year to retake the government with the help of people from the old regime. They are allied with pirates who are led by a new species assisting the new ruler consolidate his rule. The Avengers including Captain Arano Lakeland, his wife and some Bromidians are trapped behind enemy lines. They employ guerilla tactics to weaken the new government. A battle is space between the two forces occurs while the new species observes and waits for a chance to defeat the weakened both sides.

This is an old fashion space opera though much of the plot occurs on planet-side. The USC forces try to overturn a government that came into power through force, terror and assassination although that coup especially the murders seems too easy even arguing that the USC became complacent. There are plenty of fights between the two sides and Arano and his comrades especially the Bromidians are heroic as they risk their lives to bring back the fledgling democracy. NEW DAWN RISING is a fun outer space military political science fiction novel. Readers will wonder what the new species’ will do next.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 23, 2009

Close Encounters-Katherine Allred

Close Encounters
Katherine Allred
Avon, Mar 31 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061672422

In the distant future, humans are divided between Naturals created in the traditional way and GEPs developed to the buyer’s specifications in test tubes as genetically engineered people. Each GEP is indentured to a boss until they are old enough to produce and go on their own.

Kiera Smith of The Bureau of Alien Affairs is much more evolved than the usual GEP as she is stronger, faster, heals quicker and is an empath. She is sent to the planet Orpheus Two, where the Buri race faces extinction as the natives have dropped to under 100 living. Dynatec corporation claims the planet since the Buri will be gone within 100 cycles. Buri leader Thor Sparks and Kiera are attracted to one another and he actually makes her feel she belongs to him; an alien feeling for the GEP loner. His people also welcome her as one of them rather than the usual treating her as an intrusive outsider. She will insure Dynatec adheres to the rules, but the firm wants to expedite their take-over by immediately annihilating the dwindling indigent populace. Kiera risks her life to keep her adopted people safe.

This excellent science fiction tale contains characters whether they are Naturals, GEPs or aliens that seem plausible. The audience will root for the “David” Buri to somehow triumph against the Goliath Dynatec Corporation. Kiera struggles with the awakening of new emotions as the Buri welcome her as an insider showering her with love and respect; something Naturals never have done before as she is used to being a tool to them. Thus when Thor and his people get through to her, she lowers her natural barriers for the first time in her life. Though in some ways too simplistic with the evil industrial giant trying to destroying the pristine native world, Katherine Allred provides an entertaining strong thriller as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS in this case includes the heart and soul of a GEP who never understood she had a soul and her heart that did anything besides pumping blood.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 22, 2009

WWW: Wake-Robert J. Sawyer

WWW: Wake
Robert J. Sawyer
Ace, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0441016790

Blind teenage mathematical genius Caitlin Decter is a wonder with her effortless ability to surf the Internet. Her brain compensating for her lack of sight has embellished her other senses enabling her to easily travel the web.

Caitlin is euphoric with the experimental implant that will enable her to see. However, instead of normal vision, the processor placed inside her allows her to “see” the Web. As she explores her new cyberspace imageries, she realizes another sentient being exists. Caitlin begins to believe that every minute the other seems more aware of its cyber environs and perhaps much more. This "webmind" has become aware of an external existence outside the internet dimension.

This is a terrific opening act as Robert J. Sawyer introduces his readers to the complex WWW though his two lead characters, the teen heroine and the webmind. The story line is much more complex and diverse than described above as the explorations by Caitlin and the webmind lead the audience to all sorts of places around the world such as the Chinese freedom bloggers as the new conscience learns globalization of its dimension. Extremely well written and complex making Tron look like pre-school, this is a terrific first tale in what looks like will be a great trilogy that is also being serialized in Analog (started in November and ending in March).

Harriet Klausner

A Madness of Angels: Or the Resurrection of Matthew Swift

A Madness of Angels: Or the Resurrection of Matthew Swift
Kate Griffin
Orbit, Apr 2009, $19.99
ISBN: 0316041254

In London two years ago malevolent mage Robert James Bakker arranged for the death of sorcerer Matthew Swift. No doubt the young man was dead as his unknown adversary left a grand canyon in his chest. His body was never recovered and his killer never found.

Matthew awakens in a strange bed, but no longer occupies his body alone. He has come back from the dead as a "we" with an "electric angel" as his co-occupant. Swift wants vengeance against his unknown culprit so he investigates what happened to him two years ago. He meets magician Dudley Sinclair, who believes Bakker and his evil cabal with the help of Matthew’s seditious apprentice murdered him. Whereas Matthew is willing to die again to obtain vengeance, Dudley wants the entire Bakker cabal dead as all her evil practitioners.

Although the story line is perhaps overly simplistic and too linear, being as straight as the Bonneville Salt Flats track, fans will enjoy the “Resurrection of Matthew Swift”. Swift is an enigmatic protagonist while Sinclair and Bakker seem like Yin and Yang polar opposite practitioners. The key to the engaging urban fantasy is the world of Kate Griffin filled with mages and A MADNESS OF ANGELS feels genuine enabling the reader to get lost in this alternate London.

Harriet Klausner

Corambis-Sarah Monette

Sarah Monette
Ace, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0441015964

In a desperate effort to start the Cymellunar Summerdown engine that he believes is the only chance to free Caloxa from Corambis, rebel Prince Gerrard Hume dies in his attempt. His lover the Margrave of Rothmarlin Kay Brightmore is not only blinded during the failed coup, the Corambis’ Duke of Glimmering captures and incarcerates her.

Exiled to Bernatha, gay wizard Felix Harrowgate worries about the health of his half-brother former thief and assassin Mildmay when the latter becomes very sick. Needing money for his sibling, Felix returns to what he knows best when short funds, prostitution, but Corambis thugs’ gang-rape him. However, the ritual assault starts the Clock of Eclipses, which, like the Summerdown engine, only the most powerful of wizards, someone of Felix’s caliber, is capable of aborting and this preventing mass destruction; but he has to face the jealous Council of Corambis wizards for his insurgent heretic practices.

The final Harrowgate quest fantasy (see VIRTU, MIRADOR and MELUSINE) is an exciting finish to a strong saga. In some ways Felix has gone full circle, but in most ways he has matured so he is a force to be reckoned with especially with Mildmay having his back. Fans will relish the conclusion though it helps to have recently have read at least The MIRADOR while newcomers will be lost in Corambis without reading the previous three tales.

Harriet Klausner

Magic Strikes-Ilona Andrews

Magic Strikes
Ilona Andrews
Ace, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017027

When the shift started the world we knew ended. Waves of magic swept over the world making technology inoperative and creating magical wielders along with creatures from myths real. People use magic even when technology works as the latter is rare.

Kate Daniels, a liaison between the Mercenary’s Guild and Guild and the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, is a mercenary willing to do anything for a fee a long as it is on the side of good. Shapeshifter Derek asks her to deliver a note to a combatant in the Arena where gladiators fight one another for glory. Derek is caught by the Reapers and is tortured and left for dead. Jim, Chief of Security for the Alpha Beast Lord of Atlanta, maneuvers it so his team must fight in the Arena to obtain vengeance for Derek. Kate joins with a need to fight the Reapers. She will do what is necessary to kill them but not before learning who is behind the Reapers because she thinks it is someone close to her in blood, a person she needs to murder.

Ilona Andrews has written a compelling urban fantasy filled with intrigue, magic and action in a world in which technology collapsed under the tsunami of magic. The heroine is a kick butt person who fights for what she believes in no matter the odds because failure to do so means her adversaries triumph. Thus she has no qualms about battling the most powerful foes especially the deadly Reapers. Fans of Charlaine Harris and Kim Harrison will want to read MAGIC STRIKES.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ages of Wonder-Julie E. Czerneda and Rob St. Martin

Ages of Wonder
Julie E. Czerneda and Rob St. Martin
Daw, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0756405432

This anthology collection is based on the premise that there are other eras besides the medieval and the modern periods in which fantasy can thrive. The collection is broken into six categories as follows: the Age of Antiquity with four entries; the Age of Sails contains four tales; the Colonial Age includes three stories: the Age of Pioneers provides three submissions, the Pre-Modern Age includes three stories; and the Age Ahead contains two. All nineteen contributions are new and well written with this reviewer’s favorite period being the Pre-Modern Age with the awe of new technologies and major scientific advancements. Within each age the tales radically differ and even more so between the sections so that a reader can choose to go in placement order (chronological at the section level) or as I did rotate between sections. Fresh, AGES OF WONDER is an intriguing fantasy collection that lends itself to a fascinating “Age” comparability as the reader can determine which era is best suited for “myths, magic, and monsters”.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue-Cheryl Brooks

Cheryl Brooks
Sourcebooks, Mar 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 1402217625

Queen Scalia of the remote planet Darconia hires Upper Sandusky, Ohio resident Kyra Aramis to teach her daughter Princess Zealon to play the piano. The Queen assigns slave Tycharian to cater to whatever the earthling needs while she stays on the arid reptile dominated world.

Ty informs his “mistress” that he comes from the destroyed planet Zetith, and Scalia saved him and his brother Trag when she bought them at a slave auction. He also tells her he can smell her “scent of desire”. As they begin to fall in love, Trag becomes jealous while Ty turns possessive and Kara confused. However, there are bigger issues on the planet as some of the more traditionalist reptiles object to the Queen’s efforts to assimilate their world into the greater galaxy starting with the piano teacher and subsequently a McDonald’s.

The third Cat Star Chronicles science fiction romance (see WARRIOR and SLAVE; neither read by me) is a terrific character driven thriller as the piano teacher and the slave fall in love on a third world. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Trag introduces himself to his “scent of desire” and never slows down as plots against the Queen balance nicely with the romance. Fans will enjoy ROGUE and look forward to Trag’s thriller as he wants what his brother got, his own “scent of desire” and some more daring readers would also like a certain assertive female reptile’s tale told.

Harriet Klausner

The Repossession Mambo-Eric Garcia

The Repossession Mambo
Eric Garcia
Harper, Mar 31 2009, $$7.99
ISBN: 9780061802836

In the future, the implantation of artificial organs (artiforgs) is big business with corporations selling them in malls. Theoretically, a person can be almost totally man-made if you have the money to pay the exorbitant monthly fees. If one becomes delinquent, a Bio-Repro operative will tear into the person to take back the organ to be resold on the market.

One such person who does this for a living is the unnamed narrator who fell into the Bio-Repo job due to his lack of skills besides tank driving in the African theater of operation. He proves to be one of the best, but is weary and needs a change; his preference is a transfer to sales, which occurs. However, circumstances force him to need an artificial heart, but to pay for it he returns back to his former repo job. He is to retrieve the kidneys of a delinquent female, but he snaps and ends up on the lam and on his firm’s most wanted list with his best friend assigned to the retrieval.

This book is going to be a movie and if it retains the ironic excitement of the novel, it should be a great film. The selling of artificial organs with a force to repossess the goods from the delinquent buyers is a satirical spin on several acceptable principles of current society. THE REPOSSESSION MAMBO is a fabulous science fiction noir starring a bone weary antihero who in some ways will remind the audience of Logan (Logan’s Run). Readers who relish something different will appreciate this deep extrapolation of twenty-first century America’s health industry’s hypocritical corpocracy.

Harriet Klausner

All the Pretty Dead Girls-John Manning

All the Pretty Dead Girls
John Manning
Pinnacle, Apr 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0786017988

She lived under her grandparents’ thumbs as long as she can remember; her grandfather especially was a martinet as he very successfully controlled her thoughts and her activities. They are her guardians as they explained to her that her mother is dead. Sue Barlow is ecstatic when she obtains an iota of freedom by going to the mostly female Wilbourne College in Upstate New York.

Her first impression of the school is a serene tranquil place where nothing bad could occur. Her first inkling that the school was not as peaceful as she thought is when a student vanishes by the college gate with blood engulfing her bike. Soon afterward Sue sees the face of a screaming young woman in Room 323 in Bentley Hall. She learns two decades ago a student was raped in that room and the perpetrator was never caught. People all over the globe are seeing visions of the Virgin who has a message for them; one they can only share with their priest. Two more students disappear and whatever Sue wishes happens. All of these seemingly unconnected events tie together to a twenty-year cycle in which students vanish, but this time the Evil One forces the dark plan of Revelation upon an unsuspecting world; Sue must choose which side she joins as the foci who will determine the fate of humanity.

John Manning’s tense tale starts off as a seemingly simplistic abduction thriller, but turns into a horror saga similar in tome to the early works of Stephen King. Sue is a fascinating lead character as she ponders what her grandparents mean to her after isolating her for so long. She struggles with relationships especially caring friendships. Her childhood of segregation from her peers let alone adults add to the audience sense of dread as we wonder which side she will select when she takes her “Stand”. Readers will enjoy Mr. Manning’s taut horror thriller due to secluded Sue.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dream Warrior-Sherrilyn Kenyon

Dream Warrior
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0312938837

Angry Zeus punishes the lesser god Cratus for refusing a direct order. Cratus refused to murder a hybrid infant as Zeus demanded he do and expected of the offspring of Warcraft and Hate. His indiscretion led to the removal of his power and torture for several millennia. Cratus, known as Jericho, is consumed with rage and vows vengeance.

The baby he saved grows up to be Delphine, a half-human/Dream-Hunter. When two sibling original gods, Noir and Azura begin their plan to dominate the universe, Zeus needs help to stop them. He sends Delphine to bring Jericho back home because he figures they are connected by the once go saving her life. However Azura captures Delphine and bestows the half-breed as a gift to Jericho to ally him on their side or at worst stay neutral.

Although the plot is a bit thinner than the usual Dream-Hunter fantasy thriller, fans of the Sherrilyn Kenyan incredible saga will enjoy DREAM WARRIOR. Delphine is a fascinating heroine struggling to keep humanity safe when they sleep, but now deals with betrayal. She knows her only hope resides with the enigmatic brooding Cratus who saved her life when she was born and whom she needs even more so now if that is possible. Fans will enjoy their tale.

Harriet Klausner

A Forthcoming Wizard-Jody Lynn Nye.

A Forthcoming Wizard
Jody Lynn Nye.
Tor, Apr 2009, $27.95
ISBN 9780765314345

After the events that occurred in AN UNEXPECTED APPRENTICE, smallfolk Tildi Summerbee possesses the Great Book. She knows the responsibly is awe-inspiring as the guardian of the tome that includes the Runes that control the Runes of every living thing or object; a species can be extinct with a simple written deletion. Tildi vows to keep the sacred icon safe while the Knights of the Word vow to keep the guardian from escaping their surveillance of her.

However though Tildi understands she holds something incredibly powerful, she remains ignorant of the awesome supremacy of the Great Book until a knight dies while trying to alter his individual Rune. Tildi’s so-called protector Abbess Sharhava wants to take the Great Book from her to bring to her order’s scriptorium while Knemet the Maker has other plans for using the tome; their motives vary as does their means, but both plan to take the Great Book from Tildi in some way. Although frightened with her responsibility and filled with doubts that a halfling smallfolk like her can do the job, Tildi surrounded by a loyal protective circle of friends especially Rin the centaur and her former mentor Serafina the wizard, refuses to yield the tome to anyone; instead she keeps the Great Book under her control to insure it is used with moral principles and not to further someone’s corrupt affluence.

Although this engaging fantasy takes a bit long to get past the introduction to Tildi’s new world order, A FORTHCOMING WIZARD is a fascinating thriller. Once the stage is set, the story line accelerates into a fast-paced read. Tildi remains the center holding the plot together as she has come a long way from her days disguised as her late brother serving as AN UNEXPECTED APPRENTICE to Serafina. Fans with some patience will appreciate Joy Lynn Nye’s second Great Book saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Better To Hold You-Alisa Sheckley

The Better To Hold You
Alisa Sheckley
Del Rey, Feb 24 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345505873

In Manhattan, veterinarian Abra Barrow has always been more comfortable with animals than with people as she understands the former better than the latter. Her relationship with her spouse Hunter is based on her acquiescing to his requests and to not make waves though she adores him.

When Hunter comes back from a field research study in Romania to look at the local wolf population, he behaves radically different than before he left. He cannot sit still in their apartment and he and her boss Malachy ramble about werewolves or some wacko similar theory. Hunter persuades Abra to move to rural Northside. There his suddenly barbaric attitude flourishes especially in the bedroom, but not always just with her as there is Magda. Abra considers leaving the man she loves as increasingly he acts more like a wild animal while she behaves even wilder with Red.

This is an intriguing tale with a paranormal spin, a bit of a mystery, plenty of romance and a fascinating all in the family twist. The key characters are fully developed especially the beleaguered heroine. Although the story line takes a bit long to set the cast and locale, fans will relish Alisa Sheckley's fine thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Twilight Herald-Tom Lloyd

The Twilight Herald
Tom Lloyd
PYR, Mar 2009, $15.98
ISBN: 9781591027331

The “White Eye” Isak has become Lord of the Farlan tribe following his victory at Narkang (see STORMCALLER). Aiding his claim to overall rule of the Land is possession of two crystal skulls and the sharing of his brain with the soul of dark Elf Aryn Bwr although he is not sure how much help that provides him. Still Isak returns to Tirah in triumph, only someone tries to kill him whom he assumes is baffling Azaer or perhaps a member or the entire group of the deadly White Circle. He suspects seditious actions by others, who either feel they should be in charge or he is unworthy.

Although he knows he must focus on those planning seditious acts and assassination attempts, he sees an opportunity to avenge the downfall of Lord Bahl. He heads to the divided city Scree where insanity rules due to a seemingly “controlled” drought leading to no one trusting anyone and death and danger are everywhere. Isak does not care or fear anyone even those trying to kill him; for he is on a mission of vengeance, which many of the Farlan believes means razing the small city as an example of Isak’s power.

The Twilight Herald is a complex well written fantasy filled with political intrigue and backstabbing that make the Democrats and Republicans look like friendly playmates. The story line is loaded with several major action-packed subplots though most remain dangling for the future; but to truly digest especially the first quarter of the novel with so much happening from the onset the audience needs to have read THE STORMCALLER. Isak successfully takes over the role of solo star with Bahl gone as Tom Lloyd provides a deep complicated political fantasy in which Machiavelli and Borgia would feel at home.

Harriet Klausner

1942-Robert Conroy

Robert Conroy
Ballantine, Feb 24 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345506078

The success of December 7th, 1941 emboldened by its total success of wiping out Pearl Harbor to include the storage fuel, Admiral Yamamoto sees an opportunity to win the war in the Pacific faster than the German blitzkrieg of France. He sends his Imperial forces on a mission to invade, conquer and occupy the Hawaiian Islands while the Americans are reeling. His army succeeds.

An ailing President Roosevelt tries to keep the morale up, but fears he is failing. The U.S. Army sneak onto the islands intelligence officer Captain Jake Novacek to keep code breaker Commander Joe Rochefort safe; as the latter is a major key in kicking the Japanese off of Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific islands now occupied. Jake is forced to put on hold his camaraderie with and attraction to Widow Alexa Sanderson, whose husband died in the first wave. Using torture, rape and murder along with frightened Quislings to keep the locals in line, Japanese Secret Police chief Colonel Shigenori Omori also makes Alexa his mistress while Roosevelt and the Pentagon plan a counterattack and Jake conducts guerilla operations on the islands.

Once again as he did with 1945, 1901 and 1862, Robert Conroy provides an alternate history focusing on a critical year based on a modification of a pivot point; this time Pearl Harbor and a spin to the aftermath in 1942. The story line is at its most exciting when the action especially Jake’s guerilla activity is the concentration. Intriguingly the more fascinating segments deal with military strategy, but those sections can be dry. 1942 is the latest well written retelling of the War in the Pacific.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 16, 2009

Midwinter-Matthew Sturges

Matthew Sturges
PYR, Mar 24 2009, $15.98
ISBN: 9781591027348

Seelie Army Captain Mauritane is accused of treason. He is allowed to live because he is a war hero, but the disgraced officer is sentenced to life behind bars with no parole at the dark mountainous Crere Sulace prison. He has no hope for the future and barely survives the present in this ancient tomb.

That is he has no hope until the Seelie Queen Regina Titania offers Mauritane redemption and freedom if he willingly agrees to perform a suicide mission. He agrees on the condition that he selects his crew and they also receive royal clemency. Titania agrees. As the every century winter freezes the land, Mauritane, Raive the beautiful warrior elf, Lord Perrin Alt, and human scientist woirk to save the Seelie kingdom while the Unseelie Queen Mab deploys the war plan of Hy Pexho to destroy their neighbor.

Besides being an excellent quest fantasy, MIDWINTER is a superb morality play. The hero and his "misfits" must choose between trying to save a nation that incarcerated them vs. fleeing for freedom perhaps in the Contested Lands between the two Fae kingdoms. Interestingly drawing up a pro and con chart would lead to running away because death is the probable response to saving the Seelie. The two nations feel real due to a strong cast in the kingdoms, the Contested Lands that divide them, and the maybe Seelie champions who each has personal enemies. Especially coming alive is the political intrigue inside the Sturges mythos. Fans will relish the eye opening first act from one of the Shadowpack and Jack of Fables comic book team (along with Bill Willingham ), and want more in this Fae setting.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Many Bloody Returns-Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner (Editors)

Many Bloody Returns
Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner (Editors)
Ace, Feb 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441016754

These thirteen new vampire tales focus on the theme of birthdays (and many happy returns). Although the theme is incredibly narrow and restrictive, the contributors provide fresh interesting tales with no losers and star some of the more famous series characters; this the collection serves as a great introduction (albeit limited) to heroes of the supernatural. The most innovative entry is "Twilight" by Kelley Armstrong in which she insists a vampire's birthday is the day they convert as that is a rebirthing. The rest of the stories make for a fun compilation; as the lively authors include superstars of the undead realm such as Jim Butcher (with Harry), P.N. Elrod (with Fleming), and Charlaine Harris (with Sookie), etc. Still singing happy birthday thirteen times even too many series favorites can become a bit long in the tooth and difficult to blow out the zillion candles for some of the recipients; this reviewer suggests leisurely enjoying the anthology over a few weeks.

Harriet Klausner

Calculating God-Robert J. Sawyer

Calculating God
Robert J. Sawyer
Tor, Mar 3 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 0765322897

Hollus the arachnid space traveler arrives on earth in Toronto. The “ET” enters the Royal Ontario Museum stating: “Take me to a paleontologist”. She has come to the third planet to discuss her people’s empirical evidence of the existence of God that they share with another alien race; her mission is to find other sentient species in order to add data supporting their theory.

Hollus meets dinosaur expert atheist Dr. Thomas Jericho. She explains to the earth scientist that on her homeworld and that of another planet five extinction events occurred concurrently; they hypothesized based on that limited data that these events have occurred on every planet with sentient life throughout the galaxy. She explains to the stunned Canadian, who still struggles with meeting an alien, the grand unifying theory of Creationism. Hollus finally makes the case that science has one goal: CALCULATING GOD in order “to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods".

Although most of this profound science fiction novel is passive as the two scientists debate the existence of God, this is a terrific tale that will have the audience pondering how they would we react if an ET arrived with strong empirical evidence that God exists. The story line mostly focuses on Hollus the believer and Thomas the non-believer who wants to believe as he is dying from cancer. There is also a limited but fascinating look at the reactions of various people from the Intelligent Design crowd to the Darwinists and all sorts in between who have their own agendas. Fans of cerebral science fiction will relish the visit from a theistic evolutionary ET spider.
Harriet Klausner

Curse the Dawn-Karen Chance

Curse the Dawn
Karen Chance
Onyx, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0451412702

When the gods were banished from earth, those using the magic bestowed on them by Artemis banded together to create the Silver Circle. Apollo keeps in touch with the mages through the Pythians, but the Silver Circle has kept the chief Pythian under their control for millennia. Cassie Palmer is the current head Pythia, but the Silver Circle fears her independence as she refuses to bow to their control leaving her in their minds susceptible to Apollo’s manipulations.

They place a large bounty on her dead or alive. Cassie thinks they are acting stupid because their action places the Silver Circle at war with Apollo’s followers, The Black Circle as well as the God himself who is playing his foes like a puppeteer pulling the strings of his puppets to abet his returning to earth to rule. Master vampire Senator Mircea Basarab protects Cassie, which further aggravates the combatant Circles as they assume the undead want to use Cassie for their own purposes. No one seems to respect Cassie as her own person as she repeatedly risks her life to do what she believes is ethically right.

Karen Chance affirms that she is one of the best fantasists today with her fourth Palmer thriller (see EMBRACE THE NIGHT, TOUCH THE DARK and CLAIMED BY SHADOW). Readers will believe that vampires, mages and distant interfering Gods exist in the Chance realm. The story line starts at the speed of light and accelerates from there as Cassie has a price on her head that brings out the avaricious dregs of society; leading the audience to ponder the question of whether the end ever justifies the means. The strong support cast, mostly her enemies, enhances this kick butt heroine’s tale as she knows that the enemy of her enemy may remain her enemy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blue Diablo-Ann Aguirre

Blue Diablo
Ann Aguirre
Roc, Apr 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451462640

Corine Solomon has the ability to hold an object and know its history as she can determine who possessed it; sometimes she can even see its future as to who will own it next. As a handler, Corine wants to help people, but feels overwhelmed with their needs as much as she worries about those who fear her “gift”. On her last operation with her then lover Chance at her side, she accomplished what she set out to do, but almost died achieving her goal. Even though she loves Chance, she left him while he was sleeping to keep herself safe. She starts over in Mexico City running a pawn shop.

Eighteen months later, Chance walks into her store informing her that his mother is missing. He asks Corine to help him find her; she agrees. They find a button where the woman was Last seen. Corine holds the button and sees the woman binding four demons using chicken blood. When she touches his mother’s purse at the police station, Corine hears the words “la Zona”; the red light district in Nuevo Laredo. A wizard magically attacks Corine to prevent her from finding Chance’s mother but she and Chance persevere even if they both might die.

The first Corine Solomon urban detective fantasy is a great tale filled with magic, paranormal powers, demons, and spirits bound to the necro. The heat between the lead couple is palpable, but Corine fears her love for Chance will weaken her and put him at risk. Ann Aguirre makes her realm feel realistic as her heroine and her beloved investigate the disappearance paranormal style. This is an enthralling romantic urban fantasy.
Harriet Klausner

Turn Coat-Jim Butcher

Turn Coat
Jim Butcher
Roc, Apr 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451462565

Harry Dresden is a wizard working as a private investigator in Chicago. As an innocent youngster he broke one of the most sacred cardinal rules of the White Council of Wizards and was going to be executed but he got taught right from wrong by a kind mentor who convinced the council to give him probation. Warden Chief Morgan has watched Harry for years waiting to pounce when the lad makes that inevitable mistake; they have tangled several times since and their animosity remains stratospheric.

Morgan comes to Harry’s home looking ill and injured as the Wardens are after their former leader. The weary Morgan explains he was seen over the corpse of Aleron La Fortier holding the murder weapon. Additionally a bank account in his name was found containing millions; phone records show Morgan talking with someone inside the Vampire Red Court. The wizards knew that one of them was selling information to the enemy and that the wardens were investigating, but now all the evidence hangs Morgan. The unknown adversary sends a Skinwalker, a semi-divine god to start a war between the wizards and the White Court Vampires who feed on human essence. Harry knows Morgan is not the traitor so he sets up a scheme to uncover the betrayer and hopefully prevent hostilities.

This is a great Dresden tale as the hero has come a long way from his days as a rebel with a cause though he still defends the underdog with a passion. The story line is entertaining as Morgan turns to his detestable enemy Harry because of the reasons he loathes Dresden; the wizard’s known rebellious nature to defend the downtrodden. Fans will relish this entry as Harry tries to out the real TURN COAT before a war of magic ignites Chicago and beyond while trying to keep an anxious Morgan from charging into the fight like a cow kicking over an oil lamp to Dresden plan and the city.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dragon's Luck-Robert Asprin

Dragon's Luck
Robert Asprin
Ace, Apr 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441016808

Siblings Griffen and Valerie McCandles were raised as humans unaware that they were the offspring of two half-dragons until their unique powers started to manifest. Dragons are a selfish species with a need to accrue more power, which makes them ruthless and avaricious. Griffen is different perhaps an anecdotal proof of nurturing over naturing, but he is only interested in running the gambling empire his mentor turned over to him. A George, a mercenary who kills dragons for a fee, is impressed with Griffen, who is learning to use his new skills. West Coast dragon Flynn watches the New Orleans based Griffen with a close eye trying to ascertain whether this new hybrid is a threat to him or will he be an asset if he decides to bring him into his organization. His lover Mei also keeps a close surveillance on Griffen because her Asian dragon cartel has their eye on him.

Griffen is content with his lot and cares about his friends including the ghost of the former Voodoo high priestess Rose. She asks him to host the Conclave where the various supernatural groups are coming to town to talk and have fun. Griffen agrees to be the moderator for the Conclave. His prime function is to keep the diverse parties from brawling with each other. However, when one of the conventioneers is murdered, someone insures Griffen looks like the culprit. Out of respect for their host and to keep the human police from meddling in supernatural species affair, the Conclave search for the killer.

Because Griffen is atypical of the dragon species, he has many diverse supernatural friends who come through for him when he is framed. That paranormal support cast is three dimensional with the various groups containing radically different overarching personalities; while within a group multiplicity exists just not as lucid. The whodunit is fun sort of a paranormal version of Fritz Lang’s M with the supernatural hunting the killer instead of the criminals.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Second Skin-Caitlin Kittridge

Second Skin
Caitlin Kittridge
St. Martin’s, Mar 3 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 031294831X

Although Nocturne City werewolf police officer Luna Wilder has been transferred to SWAT to allegedly better use her aggressive behavior, her former partner in homicide Detective David Bryson pleads with her to assist him on a weird case. He is investigating the execution style deaths of four weres from the oldest most powerful packs.

Luna quickly finds a link to the legendary Wendigo shapeshifters who drink the blood of their victims. Neither she nor the coroner is prepared for the four dead were to reanimate into something deadlier. Luna survives their assault, but knows her unknown adversary is becoming increasingly powerful and soon will be invincible; what she also does not know is that their leader Lucas has special plans for her.

The latest Nocturne City police procedural fantasy (see NIGHT LIFE and PURE BLOOD) is an exiting homicide investigation in which the legend proves lethally real. The brass still thinks Luna is a lunatic with her obstinate independence, but also knows she gets results. However, this time failure may prove even worse than death as Lucas has chosen Luna for a chosen role in his Wendigo pack. Fans will relish this action-packed thriller from the opening execution to the final graveyard visit.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 9, 2009

Animal Attraction-Charlene Teglia

Animal Attraction
Charlene Teglia
St. Martin’s, Mar 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 0312537417

In spite of being caught by surprise at a Tysons Corner, Virginia mall where she works as she initially thought Zach the customer and the trio were enemy gangbusters; Chandra Walker adapts well to being a werewolf. However, she does not acclimatize herself to the ritual of her new pack. She must test each male in bed and select her mate. Whomever she chooses wilt become pack leader.

Thirteen studs and little to choose between them as all are hot, built and incredible sex machines. Struggling with whom to choose, the pack comes under attack from an unholy alliance between rogue werewolves and were-panthers. Only Chandra with the right mate can save the pack.

This is an interesting heated urban romantic fantasy based on an intriguing premise that a tyro female werewolf must test thirteen hunks to determine who is her soul mate and rightful pack leader at a time when their clan is under siege. The key to the entertaining story line is the chosen female as Chandra has abandonment issues and is used to going it alone, but now has to adjust to a pack of virile males wanting her and needing to protect her like a queen. Fans will relish this fine version of sexual Survivor as time is running out on Chandra and her retinue.

Harriet Klausner

Dancing on the Head of a Pin-Thomas E. Sniegoski

Dancing on the Head of a Pin
Thomas E. Sniegoski
Roc, Apr 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 0451462513

It was Paradise until the Morningstar let pride and jealousy turned him away from the Creator. He and his allies went to war against those loyal to the Lord. Angel fought angel until Heaven was filled with the dead. Although Archangel Remiel of the host of the Seraphim fought on the winning side against Lucifer and his rebels, he witnessed the atrocities that his squad of angels committed in the name of the Father. He left Heaven in disgust and came to earth where he hid his angelic side to live amidst humans and even loved a human. It has been a few months since his beloved wife died and the grieving Remy Chandler, as he calls himself, finally returns to the life of a twenty-first century Boston private investigator.

Alfred Karnighan hires Remy to find some ancient weapons; artifacts stolen from his collection, which is secured by a thick steal door in his basement. The Fallen want the weapons as does the Nomads, angels allegedly inspired by Remy who left Paradise after he did. They are neutrals who come and go between heaven, hell and earth have a grand plan to use these weapons. To prevent a second tragic war, Remy casts off his human cloak returning to the warrior archangel Remiel goes along with a Fallen and a Repentant angel hoping to go home one day if forgiven, into hell.

The allegorical title referring to medieval philosophy aside, DANCING ON THE HEAD OF A PIN is a powerful urban fantasy starring a hero who knows heaven’s occupants were changed by the war; so he wants no part of the new heaven (see A KISS BEFORE THE APOCALYPSE). Still when it matters, Remiel’s gut loyalty to the Creator leads him to defend heaven as he loathes the Fallen especially Lucifer whom he holds culpable for Paradise Lost. Readers will feel for Remy and pray he finds redemption and happiness amidst the humans he admires.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dead After Dark-Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R. Ward, Susan Squires and Dianna Love

Dead After Dark
Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R. Ward, Susan Squires and Dianna Love
St. Martin's, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312947989

"Shadow of the Moon" by Sherrilyn Kenyon. In New Orleans, vowing to keep his clan safe, Fury seeks the adversary who assaulted a werewolf. Vowing to keep her people safe, Angelia knows her people are under siege by the furious werewolf; she hunts him. Neither expected what happened between them.

“The Story of Son” by J.R. Ward. In Caldwell, New York drinking Earl Grey while on a business visit to her nonagenarian wealthy client, attorney Claire is taken aback when the elderly woman says her Son will like her. The tea was drugged and when she regains consciousness, Claire is incarcerated with Michael the “Son”.

"Beyond the Night" by Susan Squires. Fifteen years ago, Drew Carlowe was accused of theft; he swore he did not do it, but no one believed him. Now he is finally home with the goal of regaining the love of the one person he missed. He buys the allegedly haunted Ashland where he finds himself desiring the occupant Freya the “ghost” who haunts his home and his heart while possessing his body.

"Midnight Kiss Goodbye" by Dianna Love. As a VIPER, Belador warrior Trey protects humanity from evil. His current assignment is to keep human witch Sasha safe while they go after a malevolent warlord, but he wonders who will protect her from his attraction for her as his control when it comes to her bewitching him has slipped.

These are four exciting romantic fantasies starring lead characters that bewitch the audience while making the respective “worlds” seem genuine; fans of the Dark Hunter and the Companion sagas have an added treat.

Blood Magic-Jennifer Lyon

Blood Magic
Jennifer Lyon
Ballantine, Mar 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345506344

Funeral director Darcy MacAlister finds arranging her beloved mom’s funeral is a catharsis of sorts although hearing some speak of the deceased as if she was evil bothers her enough that her Special Forces cousin Joe notices and tells her to ignore the fools. At about the same time that she buries her mom, witch hunter Wing Slayer Hunter leader Axel Locke is worried that his sister Hannah has been attacked by a death curse. He knows only two ways to save her: either the curse is lifted or a witch must die. Axel knows if he kills an innocent witch his soul will burn, but those witches who broke their sacred vow to protect humans from demons by switching sides are another matter as their former guardians like him are obsessed with killing the traitors.

Axel abducts a terrified Darcy whom he recognizes as an earth witch. He hopes to gain her cooperation by having her lift the spell. However though she commiserates with Hannah's dilemma, she never knew that witch blood flowed in her veins. Time is running out although she agrees to try to break the curse.

This is a fabulous opening act of a wonderful urban romantic fantasy starring two intriguing protagonists with an unwanted attraction pushing them towards each other and a blood curse pulling them apart. The story line is fast-paced, but owned by the lead pair as they “naturally” squabble while struggling to save his sibling. Jennifer Lyon bewitches sub-genre fans with this terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Keeper of Light and Dust-Natasha Mostert

Keeper of Light and Dust
Natasha Mostert
Dutton, Apr 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525951001

Like her mother and grandmother before her, Mia Lockheart is a Keeper; a person who uses Chi life energy to heal and protect others. She also knows that practitioners of the Book of Life and Death can drain the Chi from a victim. In her case only South London fighters belong to her keep, but she makes them safe just before they enter the ring. One of her fighters failed to tell her he was entering the ring; he died from unknown causes a few days after his bout.

A fighter Nick Duffy is someone Mia could easily love, so she has not marked him as hers. When she asks him about her fighter who died, Patrick mentions other battlers have also died in the same way in the past five years. Patrick hires Adrian Ashton as his trainer for a championship match. Adrian gets his new fighter prepared, but hides his real agenda from Patrick. Mia knows what it is and plans to stop him anyway she can, but can you stop someone who does not comes out of the shadows to reveal what he truly is.

Natasha Mostert has written an enthralling supernatural thriller that combines science, metaphysics, and Asian martial arts to forge a system that can either heal or kill. Mia is a strong woman who comes a from a long line of strong women; she is a warrior and healer. Adrian is the enigma who brings the freshness to the tale as Mia wonders if her attraction to him is because he may be her yang even as she is falling in love with Nick. KEEPER OF LIGHT AND DUST is a magical metaphysical Mostert masterpiece.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Undead on Arrival-L.A. Banks

Undead on Arrival
L.A. Banks
St. Martin’s, Mar 31 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0312949138

The United Council of Entities exiled the vampires from their position of power and brokered a peace between the Weres who change only at the full moon and the Shadow clans who change at will. US Military squad leader of the Paranormal Containment Unit shadow wolf Sasha Trudeau, her team, and her mate Max Hunter were involved at the conference, but Hunter is now in a bad way and it seems the pair is heading for an unhappy ending as Max is demon infested and a double dose of anti-toxins is not working.

Any moment he can turn violent and eat humans. Shadow wolves are supposed to have a natural immunity to the demonization, but his antibody system is failing to produce the antitoxin. Afraid to make love and even more fearful of hurting his beloved, Max disappears. Soon afterward, a human is found half eaten with the evidence pointing to Max as the killer. Sasha refuses to believe that her Max would kill, but her efforts to prove otherwise are thwarted by other wolves.

UNDEAD ON ARRIVAL is L.A. Banks at her best, which is claiming a lot as the author’s urban fantasies are always exciting and refreshingly unique. The story line continues to build up on Crimson Moon world (see BITE THE BULLET and BAD BLOOD) especially the political intrigue and backstabbing within and between species. Although the plot is somewhat more complex than usual, fans will enjoy the character driven entry as lethal mysteries abound throughout.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 6, 2009

Angels' Blood-Nalini Singh

Angels' Blood
Nalini Singh
Berkley, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226926

The Angels hire vampire hunters Elena Deveraux to capture or kill vampires who turn evil. Elena is the first choice of the Angels as she is the recognized best vampire hunter in the world. Her uncanny innate skill of scent tracking is what makes her the greatest.

However even the unflappable Elena is shocked when the Archangel Raphael wants to hire her. She has never done a job for an archangel before and finds his beauty overwhelming. The assignment is extremely dangerous: hunt down a rogue archangel, the most powerful species of all. Raphael says she only track the target as he will perform the kill, but she fears she might be part of the collateral damage of two archangels fighting.

This opening act of a new urban fantasy (after the fabulous Psy-Changeling saga) uses an interesting hierarchal spin to refresh archangels, angels, and vampires. The story line cleverly uses action to depict the relationships between the paranormal; as Angels control vampires using hunters when the bloodsuckers go rogue. Fans will relish Nalini Singh’s excellent first GUILD HUNTER thriller starring a courageous heroine struggling with lust and the powerful archangel who wants her.

Harriet Klausner

Red Headed Child-Jaye Wells

Red Headed Child
Jaye Wells
Orbit, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316037761

Half breed Sabina Kane has not been comfortable in the world of the vampire that she grew up in with her mom. She has limited knowledge of her patriarchal side of the world of the mage; only enough to despise them. Amongst the vampire brood she grew up with, she is a pariah of sorts even within her maternal family only worthy of the lowly occupation of vampire assassin.

Her latest mission leads her to meeting Adam who tells her about her paternal family. She begins to widen her knowledge of other species even as her maternal grandmother demands she obey and do her job; the only task suited for one whose blood is half tainted. Her assignment is to infiltrate a rival vampire clan and kill its charismatic demonic guest or perhaps leader. The mission, if successful, may devastate the uneasy peace between the vampires and the mages, but her grandma insists she do the assignment or be an outcast for betraying her family.

RED-HEADED STEPCHILD is an exciting action-packed urban fantasy starring an intriguing heroine who grew up knowing she is worthless because of her half-breed heritage. In the vampire world of her maternal family hybrids are expendable; a belief her grandmother enforces all the time. The story line follows closely Sabina’s escapades as her latest mission enables her to learn more about her paternal roots. With humorous asides starting with drinking human blood laced with cannabis to the final confrontation in Central Park, fans will relish the adventures of Sabina as she begins to obtain self-esteem.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fire Raiser-Melanie Rawn

Fire Raiser
Melanie Rawn
Tor, Apr 14 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765315335

Evan Lachlan and his Witch wife Holly McClure have moved from Manhattan to her hometown in Pocahontas County, Virginia. It is the place with the most concentration of witches in the country and while Holly is a Spellbinder who uses her blood on spells so they won’t unravel. While her husband Evan is running for county sheriff, she loves the way he takes in stride her family’s magical skills.

He takes a break from the rigorous investigation into an apparent serial arsonist burning down churches using magic as the ignition trigger. The couple attends a fundraiser for Evan at the Westmoreland Inn and Spa. Upon arrival the pair chokes on the magic that fills the air. Holly’s cousin Cam finds a doorway not visible without magic. They all enter only to find some hideous things on the other side and even more horrifying is there is no return exit out.

Melanie Rawn has written a terrific spellbinding action-packed fantasy thriller that will remind the audience of the works of Kelly Armstrong. Readers who became acquainted with the lead couple in SPELLBINDER will especially appreciate how far they have come as a couple since their initial volatile magical meeting. FIRE RAISER is fast-paced and loaded with action from the onset, but ignites when the cast (and spellbound readers) decide to see what is beyond the door.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In The Court of the Sun-Brian D’Amato

In The Court of the Sun
Brian D’Amato
Dutton, Mar 2009, $28.95
ISBN: 9780525950516

Since the recent discover of a new Mayan codex from the seventh century, many people are beginning to believe in the Mayan prediction that the world will end on December 12, 2012. As the date of doom approaches, the Warren Group, firm believers that doing nothing will prove the Mayans right, decide on several methods to delay the end. They especially feel the first step is to send someone back in time to the seventh century when the prediction surfaced into the mind of a Mayan royal as the key to learn why the deadly forecast.

The Group believes Jed DeLanda, an expert on the Mayan’s Sacrifice Game, has the perfect focused mind they need. They send his conscience back through time to 664 AD targeting the monarch; instead his conscience enters the mind of seventh-century Mayan Sacrifice Game playing superstar Chacal seconds before his host is to suicide as a sacrifice.

This is an exciting doomsday science fiction thriller that moves the audience back and forth between the countdown to 2012 and the original prophesy in the seventh century. The story line in both centuries is well written and exhilarating while Jed is a believable hero in both eras. Fans will especially appreciate the vivid descriptions of the Mayans society especially insight into the Human Sacrifice game and the purpose of the Great Pyramid. IN THE COURT OF THE SUN is a refreshing unique thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Nightseer-Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton
Roc, Feb 3 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 0451462521

At five years old half-elf Keleios proves to have paranormal skills that with focus and training would make her a powerful enchanter and prophetess. However, not long after displaying her talent, the evil wicth Harque killed Keleios’ mom; the child vowed to avenge her mother’s death one day. Her thirst leads her to hell where she becomes marked by demonic evil. A third power also surfaces; that of a sorcerer, which sends her back to school at Zeln's Keep learning to control her latest skill. Through all this Keleios has not forgotten her cause.

However, while at Zeln's Keep, she envisions an assault that slaughters many of the dwellers and those who survive the butchery will be brutally enslaved; the Keep will be no more betrayed from within by Keleios’ roommate Fidelis whose mentor is Harque. Keleios struggles to put together a counter team, but few are comfortable with the tainted one. She manages to gain a few allies as Lothor the healer (whose price is her), Tobin the royal mage, Master Eroar the shape-shifting dragon, and Poth the feline sorcerer join her. They fail due to betrayal and become prisoners of Harque, who is the mastermind behind the destruction of Zeln’s Keep.

This reprint of Laurell K. Hamilton’s first novel is an exciting sword and sorcery coming of age thriller (though no Blake, stake, or vampires). The story line is action-packed as battle after battle occurs as the beleaguered heroine and her teammates struggle with survival. Although the world is never developed beyond seemingly a war zone that is not explored beyond the battlefield and neither is the key villainess Harque, fans of the author will enjoy Ms. Hamilton’s debut quest fantasy rooting for Keleios to succeed against impossible odds.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Vampire's Bride-Gena Showalter

The Vampire's Bride
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, Mar 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773596

Two centuries ago the dragon horde killed the beloved Susan. Since then vampire king Layel has lived for one thing seeking vengeance on all dragons; collateral deaths are acceptable consequences. That is until he meets Amazon warrior Delilah who matches him sword thrust to sword thrust.

At the same, in the pantheon, the Gods decide to have fun with the residents of Atlantis. They create life and death contests between sentient species. The rules are simple but deadly: the squad that loses a contest loses a player. However, Layel’s attraction for the female of another team could cost him his undead life; she reciprocates his feelings but does not trust love as binding

With a nod to ancient mythology, Gena Showalter’s latest romantic fantasy is a wonderful tale because the author makes her two protagonists and the key support cast including the pantheons as plausible. No one is above killing as Layel especially has a two hundred years old blood feud in which he has stalked dragons, killing unmercifully. The gods are as fickle as they appear in Greek mythology. Fans who appreciate a touch of realism in the lead characters will enjoy the latest entry in the Showalter mythos (see Lords of the Underworlds saga – THE DARKEST PLEASURE, THE DARKEST KISS and THE DARKEST NIGHT).

Harriet Klausner

Every Demon Has His Day-Cara Lockwood

Every Demon Has His Day
Cara Lockwood
Downtown, Apr 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 1416550526

Constance Plyd has been waiting for months to get her husband to sign the divorce papers; she believes this is the day she has prayed for. However, before that can happen, she finds Jimmy’s dead body with a screwdriver protruding from his back. At the scene is the Pride demon Yeman who killed him. He gives her his card as he and Shadow the Gluton demon know she is the Chosen One as the prophet with visions that indicate who Lucifer is to have sex with in order to begat the Antichrist.

Sheriff Nathan Garret, who years ago had sex with Constance one day and left her the next, questions her. He finds her story unbelievable, which she can understand as so does Constance. In a vision she sees a small dog wearing a pink sweater who will help her. The canine Frank turns out to be an apprentice angel who belongs to movie star Dante London. The star is coming to town to film a movie. She is the vassal chosen to carry the Antichrist, but Frank and Constance wait for more of her visions to determine when and where the seduction will tale place so they can stop Lucifer from carrying out his plan.

Combining elements from urban fantasy, religion, and chick lit elements, Cara Lockwood creates an amusing lighthearted romp starring a non-believer who has visionary powers due to her matriarchal DNA. Constance always thought her mom Abigail was a fruitcake until she began to see the truth. It takes her a while to accept her skill, but once she does even Lucifer believes she is a force to be reckoned with. Readers will enjoy this off-beat humorous yet action-packed thriller as the strong cast knows that EVERY DEMONS HAS HIS DAY even if it takes eternity for it to occur.

Harriet Klausner

Nice Girls Have Don't Have Fangs-Molly Harper

Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs
Molly Harper
Pocket, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 1416589422

It comes as a stunning blow to half Moon Hollow’s librarian Jane Jameson, who has the official title of Director of Juvenile Services, to be fired. Instead of severance pay, she receives a gift certificate at Shenanigans where she gets drunk. Her car breaks down in the woods near her home and she starts to walk home. A drunken driver thinks she is a deer, shoots her, and drives away. Jane knows she is dying, but when she awakens she finds herself in the bed of Gabriel whom she met at the bar.

He is a vampire and converted her so she would not die. It takes Jane a while to adapt to her new undead existence; she informs no one about her new lifestyle except her best friend Zeb. One of her new vampiric peers gives her a care package with a reference book, The Guide for the New Undead. Jane is brought before the Vampire Council on trial for killing the vampire Walter; she insists she did not do it. Rumors spread about her sexual practices even though she is chaste. Someone writes a horrible message on her car window and tries to kill her dog by putting antifreeze in his water bowl. She is framed for another homicide. That unknown adversary keeps stalking her, but Jane is confused as she has not had any time or incident to make such a persistent enemy willing to kill others to stake her.

As a somewhat reticent mortal Jane was prim and proper; but as a vampire she has a new sense of her sexuality especially when she is near Gabriel. She also communicates with the ghost of her Aunt Jettie; these dialogues are jocular yet poignant. Molly Harper has written a bloody good vampire tale with a touch of mystery and plenty of suspense that will enthrall romantic urban fantasy fans.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The After Wife-Lexi Davis

The After Wife
Lexi Davis
Pocket, Mar 31 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 1416505261

Los Angeles prosecutor Malcolm Smalls and Nia Youngblood have tried twenty-eight times to make love, but somehow something always happens to intercede. The twenty-four years old beauty is a virgin, but this time Malcolm expects the charm as they are in Vegas. However, once again her unknown protector intercedes and gifts Nia with a cell phone containing a video of Malcolm with Judge Victoria Bowden.

At a teenage trial presided by Judge Bowden, Nia offers defense attorney David Wrightwood the video of his opponent Malcolm with Vicky. He rejects her offer insisting he will win the case anyway and asks her out instead. As they fall in love, her protector will do what it takes to eliminate the competition even killing the persistent David if need be. Demon Lord Rephaim has waited patiently for two and a half decades for Nia to become twenty-five so he can make her his queen; no mortal regardless of his courage will prevent their destiny.

Inane title word play aside, this is a terific urban romantic fantasy built on the premise of demonic destiny vs. mortal love. The story line is fast-paced with a whimsical underside as Nia wonders if her unseen protector will ever step forward and explain his intentions. Nia accepts the mystic easily; which logically makes sense since she has lived with the paranormal as normal all her life, but a bit more back story beyond mom the witch would have anchored her disposition. Still this is an excellent romantic fantasy as the date of reckoning approaches.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Groove-Alex Bledsoe

Blood Groove
Alex Bledsoe
Tor, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765321961

In 1915 in Passelwaithe Wales, Judge Sir Francis Colby agreed with the villagers’ claim that Baron Rudolfo Zginski was a vampire since the accused did not breathe or have a pulse. Although some of the myths re vampires proved false, a crucifix was thrust into the heart of Rudolfo. The Judge buried the corpse where he felt no one would find it in his home state of Tennessee.

Six decades later, Tennessee pathologist Dr. Rosberry performs an autopsy on a man with a crucifix sticking out of his remains. When she removes the stake, Zginski awakens but is crazed with a need for blood; he drains the doctor. To survive in this modern world, Zginski must learn the common technological advances; when he finds a vampire nest living in the shadows, he knows who will teach him. He selects Fauvette turned at fourteen years old as his guide to 1975 America. Soon Zginski is shocked with what the young vamps believe is deadly as the Lugosi-Lee legends (after his first time) has become the fact. He offers to train them in remedial and advanced vampirism, but they must become his loyal subjects. Most refuse as products of the social unrest of the times make "slavery" unacceptable. However, Zginski will soon be tested when Fauvette is snatched.

The time and place are keys to this unique vampire thriller as Zginski who was an egomaniac for centuries in his previous existence has to adapt to the radical changes WWI and WWII brought and more so to the strong civil rights movement (just a few years after the assassination of Dr. King). Thus Zginski instead of being a king of the local vampires as he expects becomes more of a fatherly mentor to the ignorant brood. Alex Bledsoe has written a terrific unique urban historical fantasy as the aristocratic displaced lead character finds life in 1975 Tennessee is not simple or anything like his past and has a major impact on how the newbies think especially the innocent the charmer Fauvette.

Harrier Klausner

The Rainbow Connection-Ian Harac

The Rainbow Connection
Ian Harac
Black Wyrm, Feb 1 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9780982006719
10307 Chimney Ridge Ct
Louisville, KY 40299

FBI Agent Matt Anders is part o the nerd patrol keeping illegal fiction from coming to Prime earth from other dimensions. He is currently undercover investigating a tip he received from Bobbie Sinderman claiming Comics and More owner Big Frank Brummerman is an illegal bootlegger of merchandise from alternate universes. At a convention, he asks Big Frank if he has any copies of classic Star Trek fourth season; never produced on Prime. Big Frank tells him to meet him later.

He and his partner Brian Friedman arrive at the meeting point when they see a munchkin obviously from Oz. Although they are not supposed to carry weapons, Brian pulls out a gun and kills the alien. Matt is stunned with the outcome of the unnecessary shooting death. His boss Julius Glen informs him nothing will happen to Brian. He also learns that Frank was killed in prison after his arrest for smuggling in the munchkin. Julius assigns Matt to investigate serendipitously Brummerman’s illegal business trafficking. He starts with Bobbie and soon they are fleeing for their lives from cops in a part of Oz Baum failed to imagine and on the censored world of Kansas as well as being charged with murder on Prime for accident killing Brian.

With a nod to Butcher’s Thursday Next, this is a wild satire that lampoons the INS, other Federal law enforcement agencies and Kansas. The story line is fast-paced and descriptive whether it is flying monkeys or munchkins as the key on Oz or the ban on books not pertaining to black and white “Kansas” (think of the opening sequence of the Garland movie). Fans will want to accompany Matt and Bobbie as they dodge cops on three worlds while trying to stay alive and uncover an illegal bootlegging slavery conspiracy.

Harriet Klausner