Saturday, October 31, 2009

Starfire-Stuart Vaughn Stockton

Stuart Vaughn Stockton
Marcher Lord, Apr 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780982104941

Being a low born Yangkuch in the Karn Empire, Rathe, has no future except to become a Saurian warrior; still Rathe dreams of becoming much more. His hope lies in being the best warrior. He works hard at training to be ready when his chance at success occurs.

However, his first assignment is routine so Rathe knows he cannot shine as his dreams of glory will wait. Still he does his best and works his way up the ranks based on a lie about saving a hatching from a Jerkrenak. On his next mission he finds an ancient artificial intelligence who says his name is Karey. She takes control of the female body of a scientist and firmly believes Rathe is her protector. However, Rathe and his unit are in mortal combat with the Herians and the fearsome Jerkranaks.

Pulled in two directions the hero is terrific as Rathe stars in a coming of age allegorical science fiction saga. The story line is fast-paced yet filled with references to the Karn Empire including its simplistic caste system that keeps low born like Rathe drowning in the ooze below the food chain though his “heroism” lifts onto the ladder. Devoid of humans in the entire novel, Stuart Vaughn Stockton provides a clever well written inspirational head biting thriller as salvation is within anyone’s grasp if they reach out of the darkness.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark Man-Marc Schooley

The Dark Man
Marc Schooley
Marcher Lord, Apr 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780982104934

In Texas undercover agent Charles Graves, the man with a thousand faces, is assigned to destroy the last remaining powerful Christian leader in the United States, Reverend James Cleveland. As he gathers evidence, Charles goes to arrest Reverend Cleveland, but suddenly hears voices in his head insisting he heed the message his target proclaims.

This turns Charles from a cynic to a believer in God. He quits his law enforcement position and works to protect James and the word against his former associates, which includes his father. However, the Dark Man from his past urges him to forget this Christian nonsense and take care of himself especially when his former comrades are searching to assassinate him as a traitor. Charles has to choose between standing up for God or standing up with the Dark Man who haunts his breathing.

This is a fascinating but grim future tale that has Big Brother (and Sister) watching you ready to prance and harass. Charles is a terrific conflicted protagonist pulled schizoid like in two directions. Although The Dark Man inside his head also appears inside other people’s brains abating the issue of the hero’s sanity, fans will relish this profound look at persecution as religious tolerance is unacceptable.

Harriet Klausner

Flesh Circus-Lilith Saintcrow

Flesh Circus
Lilith Saintcrow
Orbit, Nov 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316035453

The Cirque de Charnu comes to Santa Luz although Jill Kismet would prevent them entry, but the compact these Hellspawn refuges live under does not give her that latitude. Still the hunter reminds the Ringmaster and the others of the sufferance rules of engagement and demands her hostage whom she rings. However, someone is even less tolerant than Jill and is killing the performers. Although sympathetic with the killer, Jill investigates fearing the murderer may be one of her colleagues.

The hunter also struggles with exorcisms linked to voodoo practitioners who are dying following the rites they perform. Zombie hordes are flocking to the city so between the Cirque and its death toll, the voodoo mage and its death toll, and the zombie needed death toll; Jill has no time for a rest.

The fourth Kismet Noir fantasy thriller (see Night Shift, Hunter’s Prayer, and Redemption Alley) is loaded with action and starring a kick butt heroine who from the opening scene until the final climax is donkey kicking seemingly every character in sight. Jill makes the tale as she is a hardboiled noir with a soft inside but not when it comes to protecting Santa Luz; in this case from the memories of the past causing havoc on the present.

Harriet Klausner

Elric In the Dream Realms-Michael Moorcock

Elric In the Dream Realms
Michael Moorcock
Del Rey, Oct 27 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 978-0345498663

“Fortress Of The Pearl". Lord Gho Fhaazi wants a position on the Council of Seven that rules over the city of Quarzhasaat, but he knows he needs help to overcome his rivals. He chooses Prince Elric of Melnibone as his tool to obtain the Pearl at the Heart of the World that will insure his spot on the council. To insure Elric cooperates, he poisons him using a slow acting agent in which he has the serum. Elric begins his escapades as the affluent class' minion the Sorcerer Adventurers try to prevent his success and eventually trap his mind inside that of a comatose teenage female, but with the Dreamthief to guide him through the Dream Realm, Elric continues his quest.

The novel above is half of Elric In the Dream Realms. It is one of his greatest early tales and makes the book worth reading. The short story “A Portrait in Ivory” is terrific also as the albino hero is confronted by his worst enemy, the mirror reminding him he should be known as Elric Kinslayer filled with remorse for Cymoril more so than Imrryr. The other entries like “Elric: The Making of a Graphic Novel”, the essay “Aspects of Fantasy”, and the background material of “Earl Aubec of Malodor”, etc. target die hard fans of Michael Moorcock only. Overall the fifth Chronicles of the last Emperor of Melnibone is an engaging look at Elric In The Dream realms.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 30, 2009

Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy-Theodore Beale

Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy
Theodore Beale
Marcher Lord, Oct 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780982104927

Amorran Church noble scholar Marcus Valerius is part of a delegation traveling from the Republic to Elebrion to end the heated argument between church scholars whether elves have souls. The delegates know how complex the issue will prove without the threat of a holy war lingering depending on their decision, but each plans to do the right thing religiously regardless.

On the trek to the kingdom of the elves, Marcus becomes friends with the scornful Bishop Claudo and Father Aestus, and especially his new dwarf bodyguard. He also enjoys his time spent with the elf accompanying the delegation. In Elebrion, the monarch King Caerwyn throws a welcoming gala, but Marcus soon uncovers a seditious betrayal as he thinks of his Uncle Magnus’ warning before he set forth on the trek.

This is a terrific fantasy that uses the premise of Anatole France’s Penguin Island in a Tolkien like Holy Roman Empire. The story line is mostly told from the viewpoint of the young brilliant yet naive scholar as he learns so much about life and faith in the light of betrayal yet keeps his hope and belief high. Fans will enjoy Marcus’ adventures in the kingdom of the elves.

Harriet Klausner

By Darkness Hid-Jill Williamson

By Darkness Hid
Jill Williamson
Marcher Lord, Apr 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780982104958

Since he has no family to protect him, Achan Cham is an orphaned stray with fewer rights than that of a slave. He survives at Sitna Manor because he can feel what others think so he knows when abuse is coming and can elude it in spite having to drink the slave tonic. With no hope for a future except kitchen duty serving Lord Bathak and Prince Gideon, Achan is stunned when Sir Gavin a knight observes his uncanny skill of handling two bullies and selects him as a squire. He begins life as a squire being trained with hopes to become a Kingsguard Knight, something almost impossible for a stray to achieve. However, since he no longer takes the tonic, he begins to hearing voices that are driving him crazy.

To avoid a marriage to the prince she loathes, Vrell Sparrow hides out as a male stray. When she realizes what is happening to Achan with the bloodvoicing, as she has the same skill Vrell concludes he is the heir to the throne. However, before they can pursue what she learns, a wizard is aware of her bloodvoicing ability and sends henchmen to abduct her. Only Achan can save her if he believes in her mentally calling him for help.

Rotating perspectives between Achan and Vrell, BY DARKNESS HIS is a super coming of age fantasy thriller with an underlying inspirational message of the one voice of God is the light in any darkness. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the lead couple struggles to survive in a world filled with enemies whom mostly they do not know. Jill Williamson provides a strong sword and sorcery thriller starring two fully developed heroes and the mentor guiding them as villains search for them.

Harriet Klausner

The Prisoner-Carlos J. Cortes

The Prisoner
Carlos J. Cortes
Ballantine, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553591637

In 2059, the voice at the Hypnos prison keeps informing the latest convicts to stay calm as they are put into a suspended animation state. Three lawyers Laurel Cole, Bastien Compton and Raul Osborne are put away in tank 913 that contains 136 official prisoners but Homeland Security hides four others from Congress.

Soon after they are put to sleep, operator Lukas Hurley wakes two of them up, but Bastien died in the process from cardiac arrest. He also awakens Eliot Russo who has been in the tank for eight years, which means he is insane. He is the cause of why the lawyers entered the facility as he is proof that the Hypnos firm and Homeland Security Federal Bureau of Hibernation are performing illegal detentions. The foursome escape through the sewers with Raul carrying Lukas. The prison is aware of their escape, but fails to prevent them from reaching Nyx Corporation where Dr. Floyd Carpenter helps them, but Nikola is coming for them as nobody escapes from the reach of the FBH.

This is an exhilarating futuristic science fiction thriller that extrapolates from America’s greatest growth industry during the Bush years: warehousing of prisoners to make the incarcerations more efficient and effective. The cast is solid but the most interesting is Nikola who adapts to every failure by not modifying the goal of recapture but by changing the action plan steps. Fans will enjoy this terrific cat and mouse tale while balking at the cost financially and emotionally of three strikes and you’re out.

Harriet Klausner

Exodus: The Ark-Paul Chafe

Exodus: The Ark
Paul Chafe
Baen, Nov 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781439133224

The earth was nearly extinct when the Ark was launched on a ten thousand year trek to another star system. However the desperate designers had not considered the mental state of those on board after centuries have passed since the chosen departure. Those descendants by Shipyear 3809 are clueless that they ride a humongous space ship. Instead the Prophetsy evolved as a terrorizing theocracy.

Although most people live in fear as slaves with a few masters, some of the oppressed remain mentally strong. Danil has spent his life in bondage, but believes the time to overthrow the brutal despots is coming and he plans to be part of the liberation. Annaya, the daughter of the ruler the Prophet Polldor, detests the primogeniture male only system that prevents her being next in line though she feels superior in every sense than the heir apparent her brother Olen. Her father plans to marry her to the best ally, but had not considered thedesire of his offspring to become the next ruler although only a male heir can become the next Prophet. Instead of a dutiful marriage Annaya plots to overthrow both her father and the Prophetsy itself. Olen agrees to support his sibling’s plan to overthrow their father, but assumes he will sit on the throne.

The exciting second Exodus science fiction (see Genesis) with a twisting nod to Macbeth is fast-paced though not quite faster than the speed of light. The theocratic two caste culture of ruling and slave classes on board the Ark is an entertaining look at societal development in an enclosed environment; a sort of island in space. The prime three protagonists are fascinating though none developed beyond their intense interrelationship with the other two. Still fans will enjoy riding along on Paul Chafe’s Ark several centuries of generations after the original pioneers left the doomed planet earth.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Apocalypse Happens- Lori Handeland

Apocalypse Happens
Lori Handeland
St. Martin’s, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312366025

Hell has opened the portal to earth so warrior Elizabeth Phoenix heads to Los Angeles to close it before the Apocalypse Happens. However, as she battles to control her dueling nature, the leader of the light Liz is stunned as someone long dead is alive. Still she must prevent the Varcolacs half dragons from causing the ultimate eclipse that will plunge the earth into total darkness as the sun and moon will be destroyed. Sill even if she wins, Liz sentences many to death.

At the same she struggles with simply saving the world, she wonders about her relationships. Her former lover Jimmy Sanducci returns and her mentor Navajo shaman Sawyer seems to want her on a more personal level. Perhaps it is all her doomsday fighting, but she is unsure whether she trusts either of the men in her life.

The latest Phoenix Chronicles (see Doomsday Can Wait and Any Given Doomsday) is a gritty urban fantasy starring a kick butt heroine who finds her world turning uglier and darker as she has reached the point that she distrusts the two men in her life. Although at times the story line feels overwhelming to Liz and to the reader with so much going on, fans will enjoy her latest escapades as the heroine knows that even delaying doomsday does not prevent Apocalypse Happens.

Harriet Klausner

Spellbent-Lucy A. Snyder

Lucy A. Snyder
Del Rey, Dec 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345512093

In Ohio, Jessie Shimmer and her lover Cooper are magic practitioners commonly called Talents. They come under the authority of the Circle who police witches to insure they remain insider the rules. The two go to the Grove in Taft Park to perform a spell chant that farmers are paying them to end a debilitating drought. The spell misfires and Cooper vanishes into an intradimensional portal that opened up. Cooper’s familiar Smokey returns to his true form of a dragon and tries to kill a demon, but Jessie stops the malevolence at the cost of an eye and an arm.

She awakens from her unconscious state to find Mr. Jordan, head of the Circle forcing her to sign a contract that orders her not to search for Cooper if she wants to remain as a legal member of the magic community. She refuses to sign so he places an anathema spell on her that repels Talents away from her. With the help of her familiar Pal the ferret and Cooper’s half brother Warlock, she seeks the portal that leads to Hell; sheenter knowing the probability is that they will not return especially since Mr. Jordan makes the odds exponentially worse.

This opening act of a wonderful urban fantasy is filled with intrigue, romance and plenty of magic that blend together to make an enticing Spellbent tale. Lucy A. Snyder makes her realm feel genuine as she mixes a Donna Quixote - Joan of Arc heroine into a world that has a Lovecraftian feel to it. Jessie goes “willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause”(The Impossible Dream) with her courageous adorable sidekick Pal; each knowing if they fail they are condemned to remain in Hell for eternity while if they succeed they are condemned to live in a hell outside the Circle of their peers.

Three Days to Dead-Kelley Meding

Three Days to Dead
Kelley Meding
Dell, Nov 24 2009$7.99

Triad supernatural bounty hunter Evangeline “Evy” Stone is confused when she wakes up naked on a slab in the morgue. Worse yet she does not know who she is or why she fails to recognize her bruised body; that of Chalice Frost. Her only memory is that of her handler Wyatt Truman; so she must find him in a city of a half of million.

Wyatt explains he brought her back to life; her Triad partners long dead. She had been tortured, but died before she could explain what she learned of an alliance between The Bloods vampire gang and the Goblin horde. If true, humanity is dead. She also learns she has 72 hours to live in this body before dying again. Three days to find out if the unholy alliance is true and who killed her and her partners at a time when her former bounty hunter peers believe she had her two teammates murdered.

This is a terrific urban fantasy starring a fascinating lead protagonist back from the dead to complete a mission before she returns to the dead while her former cronies want her dead (talk about finding a life). The story line is fast-paced and vividly descriptive so that the audience will believe in this paranormal realm, but setting the physics of the Meding mythos somewhat detracts from the investigation by Evy-Chalice. Still Three Days to dead is an exciting first tale with a solid premise that should contain strong sequels.

Harriet Klausner

Apocalypse Happens- Lori Handeland

Apocalypse Happens
Lori Handeland
St. Martin’s, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312366025

Hell has opened the portal to earth so warrior Elizabeth Phoenix heads to Los Angeles to close it before the Apocalypse Happens. However, as she battles to control her dueling nature, the leader of the light Liz is stunned as someone long dead is alive. Still she must prevent the Varcolacs half dragons from causing the ultimate eclipse that will plunge the earth into total darkness as the sun and moon will be destroyed. Sill even if she wins, Liz sentences many to death.

At the same she struggles with simply saving the world, she wonders about her relationships. Her former lover Jimmy Sanducci returns and her mentor Navajo shaman Sawyer seems to want her on a more personal level. Perhaps it is all her doomsday fighting, but she is unsure whether she trusts either of the men in her life.

The latest Phoenix Chronicles (see Doomsday Can Wait and Any Given Doomsday) is a gritty urban fantasy starring a kick butt heroine who finds her world turning uglier and darker as she has reached the point that she distrusts the two men in her life. Although at times the story line feels overwhelming to Liz and to the reader with so much going on, fans will enjoy her latest escapades as the heroine knows that even delaying doomsday does not prevent Apocalypse Happens.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tempted-P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, Nov 2009, $17.95
ISBN: 9780312567484

In Tulsa, Zoey Redbird and her friends should be able to celebrate their victory with some R&R after they kicked the butt of High Priestess Neferet, the immortal Kalona and their horde of Raven Mockers. However there is no respite for the teen, as the danger remains extremely high. Her visions warn her to beware Kalona, but Zoey knows she is probably the only who can prevent the Immortal from destroying the world. Perhaps more difficult is the males in her life like Erik and Heath.

Stevie Rae has Johnny B and Dallas with her, but still works with Zoey while also hiding something from her. When Zoey finds a severely hurt Stevie Rae she saves her life. Still Zoey knows she delays the inevitable as she must risk all in a confrontation with Kalona while worried about those close to her heart.

The latest House of Night tale is a transition urban fantasy that spins Zoey and Stevie Ray into new directions. Rotating viewpoint between the two best buddies (and occasionally others), fan will enjoy this fun entry as Mama and Daughter Cast sets up new deadly tests for Zoey, Stevie Rae and company.

Harriet Klausner

Suicide Kings-George R.R. Martin & Melinda M. Snodgrass (Ed)

Suicide Kings
Edited by George R.R. Martin & Melinda M. Snodgrass
Tor, Dec 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765317834

The People's Paradise of Africa (PPA) and Caliphate of Arabia meet in a battle that will determine whose vision of despotic rule in Africa will dominate. Whereas Prince Siraj has the superior military, the PPA leaders, siblings Dr. Nshombo and Alicia, own the Wild Aces though one key Wild Card Tom “Radical” Weathers increasingly is losing mental control of right from wrong. Even after his side wins the fight, the Radical gleefully continues his slaughter of enemy soldiers. Nshombo and Alicia believe they must eliminate Radical , who has gone insane with a berserker blood craving.

In the United States, Wally “Rustbelt” Gunderson worries about his friend Lucien being caught up in the war. He begs Jerusha “Gardener” Carter to accompany him when he sneaks into the war zone to rescue Lucien. At the same time Michelle “Amazing Bubbles” LaFleur comes out of her coma with help from a dream girl needing help to escape from a mass grave. Michelle and zombie Hoodoo Mama travel to Africa to rescue the dream girl who may not be real. As Prince Siraj blackmails Noel “Double Helix” Matthews to help him with a counter attack; the Wild Aces converge in Africa for a final confrontation.

The latest collaboration (see Busted Flushes and Inside Straight) is a royal flush in international fantasy that grips readers from the opening war in the Sudan until the final climax occurs. Much more than just what is described above happens in the action-packed thriller as the authors somehow keep their cast of a zillion superheroes and supervillains unique from one another. Fans will believe George R.R. Martin, Melinda M. Snodgrass and the other contributors have dealt the audience a royal flush straight with this terrific look at those with extraordinary powers, who for the most part want acceptance not fear from the NT (like a combo Watchmen and X-Men).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Time of Jacob’s Trouble-Chris Hambleton

The Time of Jacob’s Trouble
Chris Hambleton
Outskirts Press, Aug 2009, $19.95
ISBN: 9781432724696

When the Israelis reveal they have a rich reserve of oil in their land, the Russians are furious as that means other countries no longer need depend on them for supplies. They sponsor covertly Arab terrorists to sneak into Israel with nuclear bombs. The plans works as the nukes are launched from within the country, but Israel retaliates in kind. The world asks both sides to disarm and disengage, but Israel refuses. A coalition invades, but God intervenes and destroys the enemy of Israel.

Several months later, the so called aliens the Anshar arrive on earth to help mankind rise to the next step in evolution. People want this, but believers in the Christ know they are being conned by demons working for Lucifer. He raises up David Medine as the world ruler. Medine signs a treaty with Israel guaranteeing them the rebuilding of the Temple and seven years of peace. The Rapture occurs and Christian believers are brought up to Heaven. On earth Medine shows his true colors and the people of Israel flee to Petra for three and a half years. For Jesus to appear to take care of Medine and his allies the Sanhedrin that rejected Jesus as their savior two millennia must ask him to come to the world’s aid and accept Jesus as their Savior.

This fantastic yet chilling tale focuses on the Rosenberg family as their daughter Ruth vanishes in the Rapture, their son Saul is one the 144,000 who is given the gift of oration to preach the Word. Their other son took the mark and will never reach Heaven and their parents Jacob and Naomi gradually, after seeing the miracles, convert to Christianity. Comparisons are going to be made to the Left Behind saga as both adhere to the bible’s prophecy, but the details are described are sometimes radically different There is plenty of action with a potent message that avoids preaching as if readers are the choir, but instead uses Jacob’s problems during the end of days.

Harriet Klausner

Desert Lost-Betty Webb

Desert Lost
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen, Dec 1 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586815

In Scottsdale, Arizona private investigator Lena Jones works a night shift surveillance of a storage yard in order to catch vandals. She hears some odd noises outside of the facility so she goes to investigate. Lena finds the warm corpse of a woman wearing a calico dress that symbolizes she must be a “sister-wife” married to a polygamist.

Lena who dealt with the issue in the past (see Desert Wives) wonders why kill and dump the body here as the nearest known polygamist encampment is several hours to the north on the Utah line. Lena is unable to resist an inquiry as she has her own troubled past to urge her to investigate. She soon meets up with the Desert Los male teens kicked out of the various polygamist cults by the male elders who have no room for the young men. Lena keeps up her search for who and why in complex convoluted cult compounds.

This is a strong profound desert mystery that provides a deep look at the underbelly of polygamist incestuous lifestyles as the forgotten exiled are angry and bewildered lost boys who have not found a place in the greater society yet have not other place to go. The whodunit is well written enhanced by two personal subplots, but mostly serves as a vehicle as the author warns society of the lost boys dumped when they turn fourteen as surplus because “if a man can have ten wives, nine men will have no wives.”

Harriet Klausner

Flight of the Renshai-Mickey Zucker Reichert

Flight of the Renshai
Mickey Zucker Reichert
DAW, Oct 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780756402730

King Griff of Bearn has no time to mourn the loss of his son Prince Arturo from a pirate assault as the menace on the Southern Sea has gown out of control. Likewise the Renshai who lost loved ones protecting the prince have no time to grieve as they are under assault too.

The Northmen have persuaded many in Erthyame that the Renshai stole their land from them. Pressure mounts on King Griff to make reparations starting with exiling the Renshai from the Westlands to the Eastlands at a time he needs their warrior skills to complement his Erthyane Knights. As the Northmen mounts attacks abetted by the organized pirates and Giants on the retreating Renshai, the sons of heroic Kevral Tainharsdatter try to bring leadership to the trek, but Saviar and Calistin Ra-khirsson and Subikahn Taesson have personal demons and issues to overcome as well.

This opening act of another Renshai chronicle is a terrific entry into the wonderful swashbuckling fantasy world of Mickey Zucker Reichert. The story line occurs about two decades after the last trilogy (see The Children of the Wrath)) ends and starst the next generation of heroes. Readers of the saga will fully relish the return to the Westlands and beyond as this is a fresh beginning to the third saga yet it contains all the sword and fantasy play fans expect.

Harriet Klausner

The Time of Jacob’s Trouble-Chris Hambleton

The Time of Jacob’s Trouble
Chris Hambleton
Outskirts Press, Aug 2009, $19.95
ISBN: 9781432724696

When the Israelis reveal they have a rich reserve of oil in their land, the Russians are furious as that means other countries no longer need depend on them for supplies. They sponsor covertly Arab terrorists to sneak into Israel with nuclear bombs. The plans works as the nukes are launched from within the country, but Israel retaliates in kind. The world asks both sides to disarm and disengage, but Israel refuses. A coalition invades, but God intervenes and destroys the enemy of Israel.

Several months later, the so called aliens the Anshar arrive on earth to help mankind rise to the next step in evolution. People want this, but believers in the Christ know they are being conned by demons working for Lucifer. He raises up David Medine as the world ruler. Medine signs a treaty with Israel guaranteeing them the rebuilding of the Temple and seven years of peace. The Rapture occurs and Christian believers are brought up to Heaven. On earth Medine shows his true colors and the people of Israel flee to Petra for three and a half years. For Jesus to appear to take care of Medine and his allies the Sanhedrin that rejected Jesus as their savior two millennia must ask him to come to the world’s aid and accept Jesus as their Savior.

This fantastic yet chilling tale focuses on the Rosenberg family as their daughter Ruth vanishes in the Rapture, their son Saul is one the 144,000 who is given the gift of oration to preach the Word. Their other son took the mark and will never reach Heaven and their parents Jacob and Naomi gradually, after seeing the miracles, convert to Christianity. Comparisons are going to be made to the Left Behind saga as both adhere to the bible’s prophecy, but the details are described are sometimes radically different There is plenty of action with a potent message that avoids preaching as if readers are the choir, but instead uses Jacob’s problems during the end of days.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 23, 2009

Makers-Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow
Tor, Nov 2 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765312792

Garage hackers Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks receive enormous funding (in their minds that is) from corporate America to develop a 3D printer capability that is easy to use. Their success reaches the attention of reporter Suzanne Church., but the firm fails.

However the technology explodes throughout society as the ease of use makes it a winner. Gibbons and Banks back to unemployment and garage technology begin creating amusement rides from their printing capability. However, the industry and other corporate raiders object and sue the New World order while Goths invade Florida and Suzanne blogs; as for the two garage hackers who started the endeavor with a whisper their story turned into a big bang bubble that bursts.

Using stereotypes to represent a cross section of self indulging Americans like the techies, the suits, the Goth teens, the bloggers, Cory Doctorow once again mocks Wall St, Main St and the Internet St. with an amusing acerbic satire of free enterprise as a fraud. The story line is humorous but also tends to wander as Makers lampoons economic prosperity bubbles that make the rich richer, the poor poorer and the middle class stagnant. That is until the burst when the rich retain their gains and obtain a bailout, the poor retains their loss and receive a cut in needed services to pay the bailout, and the middle class eats the collapse as the victims of free market capitalism, the American way.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Time Raiders: The Protector-Merline Lovelace

Time Raiders: The Protector
Merline Lovelace
Silhouette Nocturne, Nov 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618224

As part of Project Anasazi Air Force Lieutenant Cassandra Jones and Major Max Brody are sent back in time to the seventh century Chinese Tang dynasty in order to retrieve another piece of the twelve pieces scattered in time and place alien bronze medallion also known as the Karanovo Stamp. Once all the pieces are gathered and assembled, the stamp will enable Earth to join other worlds of the Pleiadian Council.

Max is uncomfortable with time travel and ET but trusts his former CO General (R) Ashton who recruited him from duty in Iraq. He does not trust his traveling companion Cassie as he holds her responsible for the accidental death of his friend Captain Jerry Holland at the academy where she was working as a weather officer. Using the device found in the Roswell crash, they go back to the reign of the Empress Wu Jao. However, he has no time for his suspicions and disdain when the alien Centaurian race tries to abort their mission as they want the Stamp. Cassie's uncanny weather changing sixth sense proves critical to them staying alive long enough to have a chance to accomplish the mission.

The latest Time Raiders romantic suspense science fiction thriller is a fast-paced tale that flows on tow interrelated subplots. First there is the retrieval mission and second there is the major’s personal investigative mission. Although the Centaurians seem like wusses in the seventh century and in Arizona, fans of the sage will enjoy the action-placed fourth entry (see (see The Avenger by P.C. Cast, The Seeker by Lindsay McKenna and The Slayer by Cindy Dees).

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire Affair-Livia Reasoner

The Vampire Affair
Livia Reasoner
Silhouette Nocturne, Nov 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618231

When investigative reporter Jessie Morgan learns that supernatural creatures exist, she is unaware of how dangerous that knowledge is. Vampire hunter Michael Brandt takes it upon himself to keep the intrepid journalist safe, but she rejects his plea to forget what she knows and move on back to her old world.

Instead Jessie demands Michael and his family of hunters train her in vampire combat. When a vampire enemy of his bites Jessie, Michael desperately tries to save her life; having lost one woman to this ancient scourge. However, taking a bite out of Jessie is not enough to destroy her as her Native American heritage enables her to stand by the man she loves hunting down the bloodsucking predators.

Although a modern day paranormal romance highlighted by what businessman playboy and hunter Michael carries an attaché case (filled with legal pad, gun, knife, wooden stake and holy water, etc), the super The Vampire Affair feels in some ways like a throwback novel. Livia Reasoner leaves no doubt about the good and evil conflict that places Michael in a difficult situation as the rule is one bite and you’re dead. Sub-genre fans will fully appreciate this terrific taut thriller as the hero knows his duty but cannot for the first time in his career carry it out as Jessie has metaphysically taken a bite into his heart.

Harriet Klausner

First Lord's Fury-Jim Butcher

First Lord's Fury
Jim Butcher
Ace, Nov 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441017690

Having come a long way since he was a fifteen years old shepherd assistant concerned with preventing predatory "herdbanes" from stealing his sheep, Gaius “Tavi” Octavian must find a way to unite ancient enemies to fight against the evil Vord. He knows none of those who he recruits will be docile like his sheep was; which is a positive in the sense of saving the world from destruction yet also a negative because each has a previous grudge with their new ally. Making matters worse for the recently named First Lord of Alera he has learned the Vord has swamped the Canim Blood Lands. To prove he is worthy of his title, Tavi must rally the forces in a desperate final defense in the Calderon Valley where his ascendancy and his people’s dependency started.

Meanwhile all the news he receives s disheartening with desertions expected as the Vord Queen has gained control over elemental Furies; a magic that previously only those of Aleran blood could perform. Still Tavi knows he has no choice but to send people to die in battle so that others may survive; still not grasping idiots from within his side are betraying Alera.

This is an entertaining and great super finish to the Codex Alera coming of age fantasy saga. The story line is fast-paced and ties up the major overarching threads in a satisfactory way summed up by Kitai the female Marat who upon a Tavi explanation on a ceremony says “Alerans” in a frustrated mocking tone that denotes the word is a curse. Fans will relish the saga as Jim Butcher leaves Dresden in its’ respective urban fantasy setting for an exciting quest fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Hidden Empire-Orson Scott Card

Hidden Empire
Orson Scott Card
Tor, Dec 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765320049

It took a mini civil war and an alleged attempted coup to make former Professor Averell Torrent President of the United States as his predecessor was assassinated. As a professor Torrent had definite ideas on what the USA should become (an empire) spreading Pax America around the world. He has more power than any president in history even war time leaders, but no one knows if he intends to implement his concepts. Presidential advisors Colonel Bartholomew Coleman and Cecily Malich, whose husband died in Torrent’s service, watch him carefully, but all he displays is a good executive performing his duty to make American a better place.

When an epidemic breaks out in southern Nigeria with a fifty percent death rate, Torrent orders a quarantine of the continent. The disease spreads rapidly and Cole and his unit deploy to Africa to prevent the Muslim part of Northern Nigeria from massacring the survivors in the oil rich plague region in the south. Cecily and her thirteen year old son Mark also go there as Christians providing aid to the unfortunate victims. Cole is afraid that his crew group is planning something deadly that could impact the globe if he and Cecily fail to make the right moves to prevent this from happening.

This sequel to Empire is a cautionary tale that warns of the abuse of power by allowing too much in one person who is constructing a Hidden Empire. Torrent is not evil but instead a visionary who believes the outcome justifies any mean to achieve it. Cole is a fascinating character as he serves a person he loathes but admires. Although lacking subtly re the warning message that overflows throughout the story line, fans will enjoy Orson Scott Card’s chilling techno thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Silver Silence-Joy Nash

Silver Silence
Joy Nash
Love Spell, Nov 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527172

Rhys the Druid seeks surviving Druids to bring them home to Avalon. Breena the seer loves Rhys, but knows it must remain unrequited as he is forbidden to love any female.

She travels to a holy shrine to pray for divine guidance as Rhys has been away for almost a year; which is something he has never done in his decade and a half time traveling mission. Breena meets Myrddin, who asks her to save Igraine in the Lost lands. Tracking Breena, Rhys travels into the future to find her and bring her home. Breena discovers a scheme to harm Igraine; Rhys, who has caught up to her, acquiesces to assist her in reuniting the woman with her beloved. Although he knows the price, Rhys can no longer deny his love for Breena.

Returning to the pre-Camelot Druid realm of THE GRAIL KING and DEEP MAGIC, Joy Nash provides a fantastic romantic fantasy as the hero continues his quest to save the Arthurian future. Breena and Rhys are strong protagonists working the mists of time to save those who they believe should dwell in Avalon while also struggling with love, a forbidden emotion for the hero. Fans of Camelot will relish Joy Nash’s latest entry in her super saga as SILVER SILENCE is a terrific tale in a strong series.

Harriet Klausner

Queen of Song And Souls-C. L Wilson

Queen of Song And Souls
C. L Wilson
Leisure, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960600

To save their species, they may be forced to use the forbidden dark magic. However, both Fey King Rain Tairen Soul and his Truemate the woodcarver’s daughter Ellysetta Baristani know the cost would be exile. They accept the price to continue to fight to prevent the spread of evil transmitted by the malevolent Eld Mages.

Ellysetta also fears the High Eld Mage soon will be able to control her as she has four marks on her. The only way to prevent this from happening is if she and her Truemate Rain complete the mating bond ritual as the enemy army marches forward with little resistance. Rain tries to raise a counter offensive, but finds obtaining allies almost nonexistent as the Eld Mages have infiltrated the inner circles of power.

Although more a bridge book, the fourth Tairen and Ellysetta high fantasy is still a super entry in an incredible saga. There are numerous subplots that move forward though none major reaching completion as the lead couple struggle to survive and prevent the Eld mages from winning with their only hope being the release of Tairen’s soul, which might have unintended consequences. Not a stand alone, the audience would be better suited to read the previous novels to grasp how the heroes got to hanging over the abyss and full relish this fabulous fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dragon Rule-E. E. Knight

Dragon Rule
E. E. Knight
Roc, Dec 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451462954

They may be siblings, but the dragons are as different from one another as night is from day. AuRon the scale-less grey wants nothing to do with humans as he prefers isolation with his mate. Wistala the female believes dragons and humans cal live in harmony together. Copper lives in the Lavadome at the bottom of a dormant volcano; as the Tyr emperor of the Upper World and Protector of the Grand Alliance. He believes dragons are superior to humans.

He forms an alliance with the crumbling Hypatian Empire, providing a dragon protector to each province. The Hypatian increasingly become dependent on the dragons to maintain and even expand their power. AuRon and his mate Natasatch are appointed Protectors of Darius, the only dragons King Nef will accept. Darius was part of the old Ghioz Empire and the Hypatians fear he will withdraw from the Grand Alliance; an act they oppose. AuRon’s mate convinces him to take the position while the Tyr’s crippled qeen asks Wistala to be the Queen-Consort as she fears there is a plot a foot to dispose Copper. After being on the job awhile Wistala agrees with the assessment of her brother’s mate, but no one has made a hint of a move so far.

The fifth and final Age of Fire fantasy has the three dragon siblings going their separate ways but the threat to one is perceived as a menace to all so they reunite as part of the Grand Alliance. AuRon has still not forgiven his brother for what he did when they were hatchlings, but finds to his surprise that blood is thicker than resentment most of the time. This is an exciting finish filled with many escapades, but it will be much more fulfilling by reading the previous entries to better understand how the dragon threesome got to this point where they must rely on one another or their species becomes extinct.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blaze Of Memory-Nalini Singh

Blaze Of Memory
Nalini Singh
Berkley, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425231111

Steely Shine Foundation chief Dev Santos is absolutely certain the waif he has found outside his door is a trap set up by his enemy the Psy. Still Dev cannot kill her even though he knows he should or even ignore the battered female.

She suffers from starvation and total memory loss. Her mind is deteriorating without access to the Net Mind although she receives enough feedback to barely hold onto her tenuous grip of reality; the Silence being unbearable. Katya as she is called and Dev know she is probably a deadly weapon programmed to kill by Ming and the Council with him and his organization who protect the Forgotten as her probable target(s).

The latest Psy-Changeling urban fantasy not only moves the overarching theme forward, but Nalini Singh provides insight into the Silence. The story line is fast-paced as Dev cannot figure out why he feels protective of what is obviously a conditioned killer who’s most likely coming for him. Fans will appreciate this super entry as love and determination battle against devastating preconditioning brainwashing that literally washed the heroine’s brain clean and replaced her past with a future imperative (think of The Manchurian Candidate) in a great entry.

Harriet Klausner

Confessions of a Demon-S. L. Wright

Confessions of a Demon
S. L. Wright
Roc, Dec 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451462329

She does not eat or sleep, but tends a bar Den on C in Manhattan in order to dine off the emotions of human patrons who drink there. Allay is a one of a kind type of demon; as she is a human who ingested the life force of a demon. Her scent signature differs from demons who would all love to feed off her, but cannot because Vex, the ancient demon protects her as she is of his line.

Pique the demon enters Den on C and attacks Alley. He almost kills her, but as she is getting unconscious, human Theo Ram arrives at the bar and breaks up the fight. Allay and Theo feel an immediate attraction and he declares himself her bodyguard. Allay knows she must feel off a demon if she is to live another two hundred years, but rejects the concept because that would end her last vestiges of humanity. Allay learns that he plans to use her at his church the Fellowship of Truth to show the world she was once human so he can announce to the world that demons exist. She learns his end game is for demons to rule the world. Allay believes his domination plan is horrific and wants no part of subjecting humans. Theo watches out for her in the demon challenges and when it looks like a demon civil war will break out. However, she is still dying and needs a miracle to save her because she won’t subsume a demon

This is a very enthralling, evocative and electrifying urban fantasy whose underlying premise is demons are just another sentient species and not angry at God or ordered by Lucifer. Like humans, demons have the good, the bad and the ugly unmentionables. S. L. Wright adds to the realism by the fascinating way they reproduce. Ally refuses to lose her humanity, but to keep it she will die soon, which she is okay with as that should save humans for now. Filled with awe and twists, CONFESSIONS OF A DEMON is a refreshing powerful Manhattan thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Orcs: Army of Shadows-Stan Nicholls

Orcs: Army of Shadows
Stan Nicholls
Orbit, Oct 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316033688

After getting off their malignant homeworld, Stryke and the Wolverines settle on the Orc orb Ceragan. Their new home proved idyllic, but over time ennui set in so eagerly they venture to anther world Acurial where they join the resistance whose members are not afraid to fight unlike the Orcs who fear the wrath of the Peczan Empire and their evil Sorceress Jennesta. The Wolverines risk their lives to liberate the oppressed orcs from human domination. Their efforts to spark the feral berserker nature of their submissive local peers lead to a civil war.

Using the stars that let them dimension hop to Acurial they land on a world mostly made up of water with islands as the only land. They land on one island populated by dwarves who believe the newcomers are gods especially the dwarves who are part of the Wolverine horde. When slavers kidnap a dwarf, the Wolverines go after them. In their way is Peli Madigan of the Gateway Cops whose job is to get the stars and bring them back to her order as it is too dangerous for individuals to use. Jennesta lands on the world forcing Stryke to make a decision no sentient being should have to make; the Wolverines believes they can win against overwhelming odds, but must find the courage to battle their enemies.

Tolkien gave Orcs a bad name, but Stan Nicholls redeems them with his Wolverines who are good with a strong sense of morality especially by making them do what they promise once they give their word.. Although battle ready, the group prefers other options before choosing war as a last resort (if only President Bush was a Wolverine). Filled with action that never slows down on dry land or water, readers will be fascinated by the two worlds the Orcs visit on their quest and look forward to final book in the so far entertaining trilogy.

Harriet Klausner

The Infernal City-Greg Keyes

The Infernal City
Greg Keyes
Del Rey, Nov 24 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345508010

At sea, the sailors feel the heaviness the water and look up to see floating in the air a big mountain wit the cone pointed downward with a beautiful city on top. The ship speeds to the docks to spread the word, but was given no credence until Annaig the young human female and Mere-Glim the sentient reptilian find themselves on the floating island of Umbriel. They had floated up there using the magical potion that Annaig had drank, but also has no way to turn them home in Limoth, which was once part of the Empire but now belongs to the An-Xileel due to the events of four decades ago during the Oblivion Crisis.

The island’s inhabitants find themselves on the south of Annaig’s world especially the High Lords while the lesser beings shall need to find food to stay alive. Annaig obtains a position as a cook and the Lord live her banquet meals. She uses a mechanical bird to send a message to try and get Prince Attrebus back to the Empire to rescue them get rid of Umbriel. To do so they need to travel through the inter-dimensional portals. It is not long before the people with various missions getting rid of Umbriel is next to impossible but it must be done before its evil destroys all life on the surface below its shadow.

Based on the Elder Scrolls video game, THE INFERNAL CITY occurs between the fourth and fifth game. Readers do not need to have played game four as the novel stands alone, but it helps to understand the events of four decades earlier that led to the current surface world. Annaig is the star of the tale as her ability to face up to challenges lead others to want to assist her; she makes friends with them though they are of a different sentient essence. Although at times the plotting feels like a game especially when Annaig gets in trouble, fans will enjoy Greg Keyes’ fine adaptation that stays true to the original saga yet brings fresh action-packed excitement on its own front.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword of Avalon-Diana L. Paxson

Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword of Avalon
Diana L. Paxson
Roc, Dec 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780451462923

At the end of the Bronze Age on the Island of the Mighty off the western coast of Europe, traitors kill the royal rulers of Ai-Zir; burning to the ground the village of Azon. Fearing for her nephew the rightful ruler and believing in a vision that once the mists clear he will be king, pregnant Anderle the Lady of Avon flees with young Mikantor before he is assassinated. Although she regrets having to do so, she leaves him with others to raise. Anderle gives birth to Tirilan before returning to Avalon with sadness in her heart.

After being sold into slavery. Mikantor eventually works for blacksmith bastard Prince Velantos whose father is the King of Tiryns on the Achaea Peninsula in the Middle Sea. Meanwhile back home in Avalon, while evil sorcerer Galid tries to take control of the kingdom with only Anderle opposing him, rumors abound that the rightful heir to the throne is returning so killers are sent forth to find and assassinate him without understanding the fulfilling prophecy they start. Tirilan, who loves Mikantor, assumes he is dead in spite of her mom’s belief so she becomes a celibate priestess.

The latest Avalon fantasy is a super prequel that will grip fans of the saga and should lead newcomers to seek the backlist. The story line is fast-paced throughout while the cast is as strong as Excalibur. This is a winner as Diana L. Paxson provides a strong tale that will surely leave the late great Marion Zimmer Bradley smiling with joy with this entry in her beloved saga.

Harriet Klausner

Liberating Atlantis-Harry Turtledove

Liberating Atlantis
Harry Turtledove
Roc, Dec 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451462961

In The United States of Atlantis, Victor Radcliff led a revolt to liberate the island continent from its British masters (see The United States of Atlantis). During the revolt, Victor sired a son with a slave. However, decades after leading the USA to victory, his grandson from that improper union Frederick Radcliff is a well kept house slave owned by Henry and Clotilde Barford.

An incident with his vile owner Clotilde has him kicked out of the house and away from his beloved Helen into the field. Already questioning how the Founding Fathers including his paternal grandfather omitted liberty for so many, Frederick angrily has had enough. He flees, but not long after his desertion, he leads a growing slave insurgency. The powerful slave owners try to force their hand picked politicians to bring the forces of the USA to put down the rebels. However the Atlantis Senate remains divided as the two lead Consuls, abolitionist Newton of the North and slave holder Stafford of the South paralyze the government with their disagreement re the growing revolt. With the Union in peril of splitting apart a reluctant Newton finally supports sending troops to put down the revolt.

The third Atlantis tale (see Opening Atlantis) continues Harry Turtledove’s sort of alternate American historical saga. The story line is filled with plenty of action, but is character driven. Stafford is Calhoun and Newton is Webster as they debate the merits of their respective position while a reluctant Radcliff leads the insurgency. All three are solid with strong beliefs that come across as genuine; ironically Radcliff with the most to gain and lose is the doubter of the trio. Fans will enjoy this deep look at the situation that led to the American Civil War and its aftermath through the lens of an enjoyable thought provoking alternate history.

Harriet Klausner

Candle In The Storm-Morgan Howell

Candle In The Storm
Morgan Howell
Del Rey, Oct 27 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345503978

Those remaining loyal to the Goddess Karm have little hope to defeat the dark forces of the Devourer. His horde led by his incantation Lord Bahl has devastated anything in their path. Despair from Averen to Vinden to Luvein and elsewhere is the norm as the Devourer's bewitched army massacres those foolish to remain loyal to Karm.

Two Karm loyalists may be the last prayer of a world facing the abyss of the apocalypse. Honus the warrior and Yim the former slave with the power to potentially defeat Bahl remain united in love for each other and for the Goddess. However, their love is shaken to the core as Yim must perform a task that she loathes doing; she questions the worthiness of their side of the deadly dispute as she loses faith in the Goddess and perhaps in Honus too.

The second Shadowed Path fantasy is a terrific middle book that builds directly from the previous tale so newcomers should first read A Woman Worth Ten Coppers. The story line is even grimmer than its predecessor as the world is on the verge of an extreme Dark Age while the lead couple is trying to prevent the sinister encroachment from occurring as they struggle internally; with their relationship being a microcosm of what is engulfing the heart and soul of humanity. On a world level and on a personal level, Candle in the Storm is a powerful quest thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Chaosbound-David Farland

David Farland
Tor, Oct 13 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765321688

Flameweaver Fallion Orden continues his struggle to consolidate the splintered One World before it is too late following recent harrowing fights by his allies to rescue him from Lord Despair (see The Wyrmling Horde). Two of his supporters, warriors Borenson and Myrrima have no time for respite though they could use some. Fallion has used some magic in a desperate ploy for a super warrior on a critical quest; he consolidates into one warrior Borenson with berserker Aaath Ulber, a horned giant from the other side.

However that amalgam proves to be a two edged blade. While Myrrima observes in horror and angry helpless understanding, Borenson increasingly loses much of his human essence with each passing moment while undergoing mission impossible to be Fallion’s prime tool to unite humans against the wyrmlings.

The Eighth Book of the Runelords is a profound fantasy that explores deep complex philosophical themes of what is a human, when does honor and patriotism turn myopic, and finally when does the sacrifice of another go too far. To fully grasp the complexities of the Farland universe, it is imperative to read the previous three books (see SONS OF THE OAK) that make up the second saga as each leads to the next. Not for everyone, though there is plenty of action as expected when a berserker runs wild, CHAOSBOUND is still a deep reflective tale with timely applications our world.

Harriet Klausner

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil-Drew Karpyshyn

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil
Drew Karpyshyn
Del Rey, Dec 8 2009, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345511560

The Jedi Order believes the Sith are gone, but whenever they hear of the discovery one of their artifacts they quickly confiscate them. However the truth is that two Sith survived, Darth Bane and his apprentice Zannah. The loyal acolyte must kill her Master in order to become the next Sith Lord with her own apprentice. Bane concludes Zannah is not worthy to one day succeed him because she has failed to challenge him; the key step to becoming the Sith Lord.

His body is failing from years of using the Dark Side of the Force, but takes heart in learning of a dead Sith Lord Darth Andeddu who transferred his essence into another body living for centuries. Bane sends Zannah to Doan where a Jedi was assassinated looking for Sith artifacts while he goes to Prakith to find the information so that he too can transfer his essence into another body. Zannah meets and defeats dark Jedi Set Herth making him her apprentice. They learn that Princess Serra of Doan kidnapped Bane with plans to torture him for what he did to her and her father over twenty years ago. However, Bane’s abduction forces Zannah to mount a rescue because she must kill him as she is ready to do now to become Dark Lord of the Sith.

The third Darth Bane Old Republic saga continues the escapades of those who traverse the dark side of the Force. There are several subplots that move forward the overarching theme from the previous books in this arc, Path of Destruction and Rule of Two; especially the latter. The cast driven of strong personalities embrace the dark side for differing motives. Darth Bane has no redeeming qualities while ambitious Zannah waits for the right moment to strike against her mentor. Set is ironically a dark version of Solo while Serra lives for one thing: vengeance. Drew Karpyshyn provides a fascinating look at the dark side during the Old Republic era.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Winter Kiss- Deborah Cooke

Winter Kiss
Deborah Cooke
Signet, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451228437

The doomsday countdown that has lasted for more than a millennium seems to be ending as the shapeshifting dragons appear ready to finally defeat their adversaries the elemental Pyr who risk all to protect the earth. However, one Pry is in self-exile as his assessment is that he poses a danger to his peers. Delaney died, but the slayer Magnus brought him back to life using dragon blood.

Delaney fears Magnus may control him, but he also resolutely hunts the evil slayer with a strong need to destroy the malevolent concoction that returned him from the dead. However, as he stalks Magnus, Delaney meets his probable soul mate Ginger Sinclair who sends him into a firestorm frenzy of desire. They share one hell of a night, but though he wants to stay with her, his mission comes first. Ginger follows him and rushes into battle on the side of her beloved against a dragon.

The fourth Dragonfire “Kiss” firestorm urban romantic fantasy is an exciting tale with a superb ironic twist as Delaney meets his fire mate at perhaps the worst time this could occur. For her sake he leaves her to continue his quest, but underestimates Ginger’s courage and intelligence. She makes this good vs. evil entry work and also makes it very entertaining and compelling.

Harriet Klausner

In Great Waters-Kit Whitfield

In Great Waters
Kit Whitfield
Del Rey, Oct 27 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345491657

The leaders of Venice broker a deal with the deepsmen to benefit both the landowners and the merfolk. Over the centuries the two races intermingle through marriages with the mer controlling the water. Other countries followed suit to keep a watery invasion from occurring. However, many countries like England began to ban mixed marriages with the offspring to be executed while the mer insist a half-breed must rule the nations of the landsmen bordering on the sea.

After five years under the sea, illegitimate cowardly Whistle becomes Henry when he is placed in England to be quietly put on the throne by his controllers. Blue faced Princess Anne is part of the plot to have puppets as king and queen as rulers of England. However, their handlers never expected Henry or Anne let alone both to prove intelligent and unmanageable as they team up in an unexpected alliance.

This is a terrific alternate historical fantasy that brings the world of Kit Whitfield alive as readers will believe in the existence of the mer. Henry makes his species seem real especially early in the story as he goes from a happy child swimming in the deep blue sea to a frightened displaced illegal immigrant feeling alone while struggling to adapt to the landsmen lifestyle of England. Fans will appreciate the depth of this exciting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dark Passage-Junius Podrug

Dark Passage
Junius Podrug
Forge, Oct 2002, $24.95
ISBN: 0312875142

The agents abduct Marseilles prostitute Marie Gauthier and fly on Air Force One to a top-secret laboratory in New Mexico; there researchers are creating the "synchrotron" time machine. Also kidnapped and taken to the same locale is Israeli engineer David Ben-Dor and former CIA agent John Conway.

The explanation seems over the top to the trio especially when the Feds and scientists insist that the psychopathic Islamic fundamentalist Zayyad brothers broke into the lab and are going back in time to 30 A.D. to assassinate Jesus. Even less believable is the displacement brought forward that confused the shepherd Isaiah. This four is being sent back to 30 A.D. to prevent the insane fanatics from killing the Son of God.

Over the top of Mt. Masada with a zillion subplots from the Land of Enchantment to the biblical land of Salome, Romans, Zealots and a few other rebellious sects, as spins go everywhere in a convoluted way, yet Dark Passage completely grips the audience. The story line is fast-paced even while moving back and forth in time and vivid especially during the biblical era. Fans will want to join the four hunters trying to prevent Islamic fanatics from killing Jesus centuries before the Prophet Mohammed is born.

Harriet Klausner

Darkscape Redemption-R. Garland Gray

Darkscape Redemption
R. Garland Gray
Medallion, Dec 1 2009, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836553

In 3211 after serving as a Commander in a clan war, trader Declan de Douglas travels to Planet Forest from his home Braemar Keep on Planet Mars to negotiate a textile agreement between his clan and that of MacKendrick. Although filled with rage due in part to a DNA synthesis, the savage beast is calm every time he meets Fallon MacKendrick. Her father warns her to stay away from the savage as he is too dangerous, his clan deceitful, and besides her dad has completed a betrothal contract for her.

However, she is attracted to “Douglas the Savage”, who reciprocate although he remains filled with guilt over the war and fury re his brother’s DNA infused in him. When Fallon learns Declan has been kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, she vows to rescue her beloved even as clan warfare seems ready to ignite again. However, in spite of the belief in knowledge is power by both clans, neither realize the real threat comes from a devious third party at a time when the solar system peace is fragile.

The premise behind the Darkscape tales is simply placing pre-Culloden Scotland in outer space; thus clan wars are all over the solar system and where they are not, hostilities are one incident away from exploding. Redemption adds a Romeo and Juliet twist to the mix. Although it helps to read the previous Darkscape science fiction romance (see The Rebel Lord) to better understand the dysfunctional relationships between the feuding clans and the story line is somewhat expected, R. Garland Gray provides readers with a super outer space opera.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Golden Shrine-Harry Turtledove

The Golden Shrine
Harry Turtledove
Tor, Oct 13 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765317124

To the North as the glaciers retreat, a gap opened in the ice wall. Through the aperture came the vicious riders called the Rulers whose destruction of anything in its path was abetted by powerful wizards. The Bizogots nomads and Raumsdalian Empire fail to stop the assault somewhat because the Emperor Sigvat refuses to accept the threat; preferring to believe it is nothing more than Count Hamnet Thyssen’s need to be important.

Hamnet and his small unit fight the Rulers in a counter insurgency while seeking the Golden Shrine. Hamnet knows the Rulers need him dead to prevent a prophecy from occurring, but though he remains resolute, his side is in trouble. New hope arises when he meets an unlikely ally; cannibalistic shaman Marcovefa, who also seeks the artifact that legend says will destroy the Rulers.

The third and final Opening of the World dawn of time fantasy (see The Breath of God and Beyond the Gap) is a terrific tale in a strong saga. The story line is fast-paced yet filled with intricate details so that the reader will feel transported back to the Bronze Age as the war to end all wars explodes. Harry Turtledove is at his epic fantasist best with this action-packed BCE series.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Red Claw-Philip Palmer

Red Claw
Philip Palmer
Orbit, Oct 15 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316018937

Professor Richard Helms leads the classification of the animalia and plantae found on recently discovered New Amazon. The planet is a nightmare with its acid rain and the discovery of “kingdomshifters”. Still even with the hostile orb seemingly at war with the outside occupiers, the team of scientist protected by genetically enhanced human commandos and gigantic robotic soldiers finish the cataloguing of this alien ecosystem.

The invaders plan to burn everything to the ground so they can terraform New Amazon into a place for humans to live without wearing protective helmets. Instead of the final solution, the crew is attacked by a flying seemingly invincible monster forcing them to find shelter in the deadly jungle. Survival of the fittest means betraying your friends and lovers as the rain forest proves lethal as does the robots. As the human number dwindle Helms fails to take the helm as the commandos with weapons overwhelm the scientists,

Although this tale has a pulp feel with an over the top of Mt Olympus satirical stripping away civilization story line, fans will enjoy this tale that is the Lord of the Flies in outer space. The story line is fast-paced and filled with dark humor starting with Dr. Baal’s opening “whatever” diary and never slows down as terraforming becomes terror forming. Filled with several twists, readers will enjoy Red Claw as the scientists argue how to classify gryphon, Godzilla, and seditious killing robots while the mercenaries argue how to survive the hostile ordeal with pathetic intelligentsia leaches unable to set up camp.

Harriet Klausner

Burning Shadows-Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Burning Shadows
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, Dec 8 2009, $27.99
ISBN 9780765319821

In 438 C.E., Dom Feranescus Rakoczy Sanctu-Germainios is part of the Regional Guard of Apulum Inferior as the Huns flood Europe. His lover Atta Olivia Clemens flees the Carpathians for the relative safety of Constantinople, but though she begged him to accompany her, he felt an obligation to lead the fleeing villagers to a safer place.

On the way to the isolated Sanctu-Eustachios monastery that prefers no visitors, Rakoczy meets Nicoris, who is also on the run from the Huns’ horde too. They are attracted to one another from the onset. As the pair and hundreds of frightened peasants take refuge at the monastery, Rakoczy conceals his vampiric nature, but his lover learns of his True Nature. With the Huns closing in on them, Rakoczy fails to realize the biggest danger may come from within as she too has a dark secret might lead to his True Death inside these holy walls.

This is a terrific entry that works on two fronts: a strong insightful look at those fearing the Huns horde and a romance between Saint Germain and his true love Nicoris. The story line brings to life villagers and Roman legionnaires who expect death and worse once the invincible army arrives. Adding to that profound look at the fifth century are the reclusive monks who believe god’s predetermination means life and death has been doggedly resolved by the Maker so why worry about defense. Although the ending could have used more flesh on it so as to fully bring out the blood and guts of the final twist, fans will relish Saint Germain’s latest bittersweet historical adventure.

Harriet Klausner

The Better Part of Darkness-Kelly Gay

The Better Part of Darkness
Kelly Gay
Pocket, Nov 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9781439109656

On October 13. thirteen years ago, heaven and hell came out of the closet. Mankind had no choice but to recognize the Revelation of the existence of heavenly Elysia and hellish Charbydon, and a horde of biblical legendary mythological creatures residing in both. Atlanta has become an urban center for all these visitors from heaven and hell, which is why the Integration Task Force has a major presence in the city.

ITF single mom Charlie Madigan raises Emma while conducting an investigation with her partner Hank into the death of Amanda Mott, a student at Hope Ridge School for Girls. Charlie, who knows what it is like to die having done so before returning to life, makes the case personal as she knew Amanda who was like a big sister to Emma. Other young people also die as a dangerous off-world drug has hit the streets; ash kills speedily. Charlie and Hank make iqnuries trying to find the source of the smuggling even as her power grows, but she feels helpless as ash spreads to her family and friends with her fear being for Emma.

Starting with its opening dialogue in which Hank lectures his partner for skeptically questioning an Oracle to prove her statement, readers will be hooked with this super police procedural urban fantasy. The key to the exciting story line is the denizen of green card recipients from Elysia and Charbydon seem genuine. This makes for an enjoyable read as the donkey kicking heroine and her sidekick work the mean streets of post Revelation Atlanta in an enlightening mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Unleashed-John Levitt

John Levitt
Ace, Nov 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017980

There is a magic world that the Ordinaries know nothing about even its existence. To keep it that way, certain magical practitioners serve as cops to insure no one deviates from the righteous path. They also cover up when something magical happens so that s mortals do not learn of their existence. One enforcer with medium level strength is Mason, who has an Ifrit Louie, a faithful familiar shaped like a dog.

Mason tries to help some San Francisco homeless practitioners who are gradually losing their humanity and turning into beings from the myths and legend. They accidentally create an anti-Ifrit who killed people. At first Mason thought the anti-Ifrit murdered ordinaries, but he revised his theory. He now thinks a Wendigo came out of the energy field that the anti-Ifrit came out of and is the killer. The pair finally gets it right when they figure our what the real killers are. Mason, Louie, their mentor Eli and Chief Enforcer Victor know it will take team work and a miracle to destroy the killer

Magic, mayhem and mystery make up Unleashed, a poignant yet often amusing urban fantasy that is filled with intrigue and a sense of wonder. Mason will do anything for his Louie and likewise the Ifrit canine will sacrifice himself for his partner; as man’s best friend is his dog. The danger begins due to out of control practitioners losing their sense of reality and allowing a pseudo Ifrit, a Wendigo and a killer out of the energy pool leading to a wonderful original urban fantasy whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Tuloriad-John Ringo & Tom Kratman

The Tuloriad
John Ringo & Tom Kratman
Baen, Oct 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9781439133040

To save humanity, the Posleen aliens had to be defeated as the latter considered the former beneath them on the food chain; a source of sustenance. The final battle leaves mankind struggling but thriving and the Posleen almost extinct. Those few surviving Posleen begin a desperate mission to track their heritage although many of the sentient races belonging to the treacherous Galactic Confederation would prefer the final solution instead of what the Posleen may learn.

At the same time, the Posleen prepares its trek, the victors in the war send missionaries from the major religious groups to convert the heathens to their particular religion. These self appointed emissaries of God catch up to the Posleen researchers. The Poleen are finding shocking evidence of their origins that shake the earthlings and representatives from the other races like the devious Darhel and the legacy of the benign manipulative Aldenata is not the altruism they thought they pursued. Hell and distrust between and even within species is the norm.

The latest entry in the Posleen-Humanity science fiction thriller (adding war to the title seems inappropriate at this point) has less action than usual as John Ringo & Tom Kratman raise fascinating questions about religion, military intervention, and social rules. The story line however is very thin as the concepts for instance of the Muslim marital allowance, the “white man’s burden” and the American invasion to take out a brutal bully in Iraq have parallels but never quite explored beyond a slim veneer as the authors detract from the plot with their opinion. Still fans of the series will enjoy this cerebral turn as the Posleen come across less B movie monstrous and more humane with the underlying theme asking do other sentient species have souls.

Harriet Klausner

The Sapphire Sirens-John Zakour

The Sapphire Sirens
John Zakour
Daw, Dec 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756405816

In 2060, Zachary Nixon Johnson is the last freelance detective in the world. He is ably assisted by his AI sidekick HARV and together they have saved the world many times over.

Zach’s latest case is finding former basketball star turned entrepreneur Don Rickey’s Baseball card collection. He gets a blackmail letter asking for four million dollars to get the collection back. The paper the note is written on is Prime especially since most people communicate through paperless means. The client’s ex-wife bought the paper. Zack finds in her home a sapphire who fights him and knocks him out. She takes him to Lantis an island dominated totally by females who came from another planet millennia ago and use a force field and other advanced technology to keep intruders out. His “man-napper” sapphire-haired Amazon Princess Kiana demands Zach find out who killed her mother. The evidence points to Kiana, but the sleuth thinks she is being framed as her guilt is too overwhelming to be true. He has two days to uncover the truth or one of her three sisters will be the heir to the throne of Lantis and Kiana will be execured; of course than again the proof may prove right.

This amusing pulp action science fiction mystery is loaded with futuristic technology, royal politics, a two meter plus giantess, amazons, baseball cards, comic books, Zach and HARV. What more could someone ask for?. The relationship between HARV and Zach is evolving as the AI increasingly seems more human, which makes them behave more like friends. Zach treats the island case like he does any as he easily adjusts to kick butt females (he knows Threta first hand), technology (He has HARV) and royal bull (he has the law). John Zakour provides another colorful insane sci fi whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Noonshade-James Barclay

James Barclay
PYR, Oct 2009, $16.00
ISBN 9781591027829

The Raven mercenary band has no time to celebrate the victory over the Wytch Lords, who they banished with the DAWNTHIEF spell. Instead they have learned the spell tore a hole in the dimensional walls.

Deadly dragons have started to cause havoc so the Raven team must find answers fast to close the hole and destroy those creatures that have entered through the gap. Dimensional traveler Septern has left hints how to fix the growing gulf so the Raven seeks him at the same time the Wesmen barbarian horde invade the eastern lands on the ground while the dragons assault both sides from the sky.

There is plenty of action, both mundane and arcane, as NOONSHADE with its fantastic spin from DAWNTHIEF is a super fantasy. The sword and sorcery story line is fast-paced from the onset, but the key to James Barclay’s strong tale is the cast. The Raven team comes across as individuals instead of a Borg like collective though they fight as one. Although the villains are stereotypical of the genre, fans will enjoy this terrific thriller as the Raven learns the lesson of unintended consequences.

Harriet Klausner

Sasha-Joel Shepherd

Joel Shepherd
PYR, Oct 2009, $16.00
ISBN 9781591027874

In the Kingdom of Lanayin, the monarch supports the newer Verenthane religion over the established Goeren-yai. This has increased the schism and caused widespread intolerance. Some people are especially caught between the old and new like Svaalverd style master bladeswoman Princess Sasha, who has blood from both sides.

To Sasha who fights from the heart, everyone seems to argue religion especially her mentor-teacher Kessligh Cronenverdt, her royal siblings and her neighbor Jared. However, it was the death of the king’s heir, her brother Krystof that has her seeking vengeance as closure is impossible. War is imminent as each religious faction wants to dominate; to her shock, principled idealist Sasha leads an army against her pragmatic father who struggles with the cause that will destroy his country especially when he knows neighboring nations foster the civil war that divides families.

Although the story line starts slows as the support cast define the realm through banter, humor and wit; fans will enjoy this entertaining coming of age saga. SASHA is a terrific lead character struggling with the hostilities while also being a cock-sure combatant. Ironically this sword and sorcery fable has few blood scenes and non-existent fantasy segues as the only possible (so far) paranormal element is the non-human Serrin who joins in the religious philosophical debates. Fans who appreciate a deep thought provoking thriller will enjoy Joel Shepherd strong look at social, cultural and religious divides that threaten to tear apart a nation that sounds so colorfully familiar.

Harriet Klausner

This Crooked Way-James Enge

This Crooked Way
James Enge
PYR, Oct 2009, $16.00
ISBN 9781591027843

After his failures and defeat (see BLOOD OF AMBROSE) enchanter Morlock Ambosius flees on his horse Velox; he hopes to buy time to regroup and try again. Instead a stone beast attacks the enchanter and his steed. Morlock survives, but Velox vanishes.

Morlock searches for his horse while heading to Sarkunden where he runs into the Sorcerer Slash who says to call him Charis before pleadings with Morlock to help him; the enchanter reluctantly agrees to do so. On his quest he meets new allies, who initially fear the legend, but as they get to know him befriend him.

This is an exciting fantasy that focuses on the meandering travels and dialogue of an exiled enchanter and the associates he meets on his crooked trek towards and into the Kirach Kund where the Khroi rule by killing outsiders. Those people the protagonist meets on his dangerous journey tell much of the tale as they relate their initial fear and dread of the aloof unflustered enchanter but become friends with him once they discover his human flaws make him more like them than the frightening superior being they expected to encounter. Thus his quest is clearly humanized by the secondary cast. Although the climax is relatively smaller and much diminished in comparison to the roar of THE BLOOD OF AMBROSE, fans will relish the second saga as the well written character driven THIS CROOKED WAY comes across as a deeper look into the lives of wizards, sorcerers, and one particular enchanter.

Harriet Klausner

Me And My Shadow-Katie MacAlister

Me And My Shadow
Katie MacAlister
Signet, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451228383

Doppelganger May Northcott has two major issues that could keep her from her beloved wyvern mate Gabriel. First she has a dangerous dragon shard inside her heart and second she remains in indentured servitude to sexual predator former demon lord Magoth.

However, while the loving couple struggles with her delicate conditions, the lethal black dragon Baltic has apparently come back to life. No one in their right mind trusts Baltic, so though he is PLAYING WITH FIRE and risking everything GOING UP IN SMOKE Kostya the black dragon demands a council showdown. While every creature jockeys for position, a pregnant Aisling Grey and her mate Drake await the birth of their child.

The latest Silver Dragons entry is a fabulous urban fantasy as everything even to a degree the storyline seems out of control, chaos lives in the heart of Katie MacAlister’s saga. The story line is fast-paced form the onset and never slows down as Gabriel struggles to keep his beloved at his side and safe while the dragons are heading towards an encounter with a neat twist. Fans will enjoy visiting the chaotic charming world of Ms. MacAlister where the unbelievable becomes believable.

Harriet Klausner

Vampire Sunrise-Carole N. Douglas

Vampire Sunrise
Carole N. Douglas
Juno (Pocket), Nov 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439156773

It has been years since the Millennium Revelation when all the creatures of myth and legend rose up from the shadows to reveal themselves to humanity. Delilah Street comes to Las Vegas from Wichita to work as a paranormal investigator. Deep below the Karnak Hotel lives a vast Egyptian vampire sect ruled by two Pharaohs; humans are bred and brought to them as food. Delilah rescued her lover Rick MMontoya by giving him the Resurrection Kiss to restore his life.

After Rick was in a coma, Delilah finds she has the ability to kiss away from his back thescars he received while he was a slave for a master criminal.. He wakes up and remembers what happened to him and is determined to free the other humans held by the Egyptian vampires. Before they leave on theur quest, the werewolf Cesar Cicerau summons Delilah to remove the ghost of the daughter he killed who haunts his hotel. A supernatural creature is stalking the hotel killing anyone who gets in the way. Delilah is clueless how to rid the hotel of this deadly fiend and the ghost while below ground the vampires are dining on humans.

The latest Street Paranormal Investigator thriller combines horror, mystery, romance, and sex into an exhilarating urban fantasy that puts the sin in Sin City. With plenty of twists, VAMPIRE SUNRISE is a roller coaster doing loops with each spin accelerating the ride. Readers will enjoy following the clues, surreal and mundane, as Carole Nelson Douglas lets Midnight Louie catch a cat nap while Delilah does the sleuthing above and under the streets of Las Vegas.

Harriet Klausner

Tainted: The Blood Lily Chronicles-Julie Kenner

Tainted: The Blood Lily Chronicles
Julie Kenner
Ace, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780441017843

Monstrous Lucas Johnson viciously attacks Rose. Bad to the bone twenty-six year old Lily Carlyle seeks out her younger sister’s molester, but Lucas kills her instead. An angel gives the dead Lily a second chance at righting all the wrongs she committed.

Soon afterward, Lily Carlyle reawakens inside the body of Boston bartender-waitress Alice Purdue. Lily still wants to go after Lucas and wonders what happened to Alice. However, her heavenly assignment is preventing a demon horde from opening the last of nine gates from hell. She is ready to die again, but is confused by her attraction to Deacon Camphire, who saved her second life, but whose soul seems filled with absolute darkness and no light.

Although somewhat similar in tone to the superhero coming back from the grave for a chance at redemption by simply saving the world, fans of dark urban fantasies will enjoy the first Blood Lily Chronicle. Lily is an interesting protagonist who was a thief until she failed at vengeance but in her second chance she still craves retribution although she has bigger monsters to fight. Deacon is the enigmatic champion rescuing her at her darkest moments, but fans will wonder is he a hero or a future villain as the book is still out on him. Julie Kenner leaves her lighthearted suburban soccer mom resting in goal while turning to a grave thriller starring a different personality demon assassin heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Draycott Everlasting-Christina Skye

Draycott Everlasting
Christina Skye
Harlequin HQN, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774159

“Christmas Knight”. Although she has not seen Glenbrae, Hope O'Hara purchases the Highlands Manor with plans to convert the house into a bed and breakfast. The Wishwell sisters think Hope is perfect for Ronan McLeod, the thirteen century first owner of Glenbrae. Although they live seven centuries apart, the siblings use magic to bring Hope and Ronan together; believing love will do the rest.

"Moonrise". Former Crusader Knight, Navarre the Wolf plans to kill his former friend Adrian the ghost guardian of Draycott Abbey for betraying him. Collateral damage is acceptable to Adrian who casts a spell that will kill everyone inside by moonrise. The lone human resident is FBI agent Sara Nightingale seeking clues to a missing treasure, but instead meets Navarre and Adrian.

These are two entertaining Draycott romantic fantasies with Christmas Knight being a 1998 reprint and Moonrise a novella. Fast-paced and filled with strong characters especially lead protagonists in conflict and love Christina Skye casts a spell on her audience with the coupling of the new and the old.

Harriet Klausner

Child Of Darkness-Jennifer Armintrout

Child Of Darkness
Jennifer Armintrout
Mira, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326700

Human-Faery Queene Ayla has ruled for two decades in the Lightworld; having come a long way from once being an assassin (see QUEENE OF LIGHT). However, she has some recent concerns when an Upworld Fae warns her to beware of the elves and their allies the Waterhorses. Concerned over the safety of her daughter Cerridwen, Ayla proclaims her offspring will marry her advisor Cedric, who she believes will keep her daughter safe.

Cerridwen is outraged by her mother’s declaration without consulting her. In fact she believes she loves Fenrick the elf. She runs away to be with her beloved, but to her consternation, Fenrick betrays her to the elves. Cerridwen becomes a prisoner of the increasingly feral elves-waterhorse allied horde. A despondent Ayla sends her mortal consort former Death Angel Malachi to rescue his offspring Cerridwen whom everyone assumes is the daughter of the late traitor Prince Garret and heir to the throne. War seems imminent.

This Lightworld/Darkworld fantasy thriller is an exhilarating tale that has become even more personal for Ayla when seemingly everyone on several planes wanted her dead. She may have come a long way from assassin to queene, but to Ayla the one constant is assorted species wanting her dead and now her daughter is in deadly danger. Cerridwen is a chip off the old danger block(s) and Malachi remains as kick butt as ever even if his soul mate has brought some mortal light to his former dark world. This is a terrific action-packed yet character driven tale.

Harriet Klausner

A Touch of Dead-Charlaine Harris

A Touch of Dead
Charlaine Harris
Ace, Oct 6 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780441017836

“Fairy Dust". Claudine asks Sookie for a favor to read some people who have agreed to do so; of course this simple request turns deadly.

"Dracula Night". Vampires celebrate the Count on his birthday with Eric organizing quite a bash on "Dracula Night", but Sookie as a guest never expected to attend a biting gala.

"One Word Answer". Sookie learns that her cousin Hadley died so she must attend the funeral not expecting to meet the vampire Queen of New Orleans.

“Luck”. Insurance agent Greg Aubert hires roommates Sookie and Amelia the witch to determine who is breaking into his files as “Luck” is running out on residents of Bon Temps.

“Gift Wrap”. Sookie is lonely for Christmas as she has no family to share the holidays with; depressed, she finds a wounded were outside whom she takes into her home.

This is a terrific introduction to the few people in the country who have not visited the urban fantasy world of Sookie Stackhouse. The five entries are reprints from other collections, but not placed in one anthology before. Each tale is fun to read as even when the heroine tries to mind her business, she ends up in the middle of a paranormal fiasco.

Harriet Klausner

Time Raiders: The Avenger-P.C. Cast

Time Raiders: The Avenger
P.C. Cast
Silhouette Nocturne, Oct 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618200

The Time Raiders send psychic Alexandra Patton back to 60 A.D. so that she can bring back part of the medallion that will enable Earth to join the alliance of other space-traveling planets. Alex loathes the brutal feral behavior of her hosts; as she speaks to the dead who often are victims of atrocities.

Alex pretends to be a soul speaker priestess to the goddess Andraste when she and Queen Boudica’s Druidic cousin Caradoc meet and are attracted to one another. As she falls in love, he helps her adjust to ancient times. However, she knows that Boudica will die in the battle for Londinium, but fears Caradoc will too though she does not know for certain.

The third Time Raiders romantic suspense thriller (see The Seeker by Lindsay McKenna and The Slayer by Cindy Dees) is an entertaining tale that hooks readers from the opening dialogue between Alex and the dead but restful Andred and keeps the audience’s attention throughout. The spin to the exciting story line is what the time traveler knows about ancient Britannia and does not as Alex fears her beloved will die alongside his famous warrior cousin. This tale and the saga are winners due to a strong casting leading to readers wanting to accompany the heroes on their treks back in time to find the medallion segments and love.

Harriet Klausner

Immortal Wolf-Bonnie Vanak

Immortal Wolf
Bonnie Vanak
Silhouette Nocturne, Oct 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618217

Leaving New Orleans for Tennessee, Draicon executioner Raphael Robichaux is assigned to kill the ancient shapeshifter Emily as her pack fears her because everyone she touches dies. However, Raphael is taken aback when he meets the female he must kill. Emily Burke is young and is his life mate.

Ignoring her pack’s insistence he do his job, Raphael chooses to investigate the deaths that has haunted this Draicon clan. On the other hand her pack is prepared to kill both of them if he fails to carry out his mission immediately as she has killed her father and her aunt in the past year. Raphael soon realizes she also possesses healing power instead of killing power. He begins to theorize that someone evil lurks in the background trying to prevent Emily from fulfilling an ancient shapeshifter prophesy.

Emily is a fascinating lead protagonist who believes she needs to die as her future is that of a hermit unable to touch anyone; the audience will think of Rogue of the X-Men. The urban romantic fantasy story line is fast-paced from the moment the executioner arrives and twists immediately as he knows he must kill his life mate, which will kill him too. Ironically she had been the bringer of life and he the destroyer, but now she apparently is the destroyer and he brings the hope of life. Fans will believe in the supernatural world of Bonnie Vanak as eastern Tennessee is home to the Burke Draicon clan.

Harriet Klausner

Finding the Lost-Shannon K. Butcher

Finding the Lost
Shannon K. Butcher
Onyx, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451412829

Eight years ago, the Synestryn insectoid monsters destroyed her family when she was a child. Andra Madison vowed to hunt down these six foot insectoid nightmares and kill every one of them. As she has matured, Andra modified her goal in honor of her sister Nika, whose mind went when the deadly intrusion occurred; instead of just killing she obsessively needs to rescue abducted children snatched by the insidious Synestryn.

After centuries on the frontlines, Sentinel Theronai Paul fears he is losing his soul as time is running out for him to find his lifemate. He makes a deal with Logan the Bloodhunter; in return for some of his Sentinel blood, the hunter helps him find his woman. In Omaha they roughly save Andra during her rescue of young Sammy. Paul knows she is his female Theronai, but she rejects his advances as her only thought is for the dying fearful Nika even as the Synestryn who murdered her family is coming for her.

The second Sentinel War urban fantasy (see Burning Alive) is a terrific grim thriller with the romantic subplot playing a strong supporting role. The cast is powerful as the audience will feel every emotion that Andra feels from fear for her sister to fear for her falling in love. FINDING THE LOST is a dark tale as Shannon K. Butcher paints a forbidding gloomy landscape in which an ancient war between humanity’s guardians and their nasty adversaries heats up in Nebraska.

Harriet Klausner

Never After-Laurell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Sharon Shinn and Marjorie M. Liu

Never After
Laurell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Sharon Shinn and Marjorie M. Liu
Jove, Oct 27 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780515147285

"Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?" by Laurell K. Hamilton. Elinore rejects her father’s arranged marriage to the perverted earl; instead she decides to rescue Prince True from the witch in the cave who proved women are stronger than men.

"The Shadow of Mist" by Yasmine Galenorn. Siobhan Morgan the wereseal selkie rejects the arranged marriage with the man who raped her; Terrance has searched for her for over a century demanding she complete the contract. Siobhan ponders her next move.

"The Tangleroot Palace" by Marjorie M. Liu. The king orders his daughter Princess Salinda to wed the warlord, but instead Sally flees to a magical forest where a queen demands she complete a quest or else.

"The Wrong Bridegroom" by Sharon Shinn. At Kallenore Castle, King Reginald offers his daughter Princess Olivier in marriage to the first man who completes three tests successfully.

This super thematic romantic fairy tales collection is owned by the independent women who reject men ordering them to marry mates not of their choice; bravely they insist on much more from a mate.

Harriet Klausner

Night of Demons-Tony Richards

Night of Demons
Tony Richards
Harper, Nov 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061474675

Cornelius the Shadow Man believes the Old Ones speak to him; directing him to kill whole families. They praise him informing him that his serial killing spree is bringing about the Apocalypse. On the back roads in Massachusetts to escape the police, he enters Raine’s Landing, a town protected by ancient magics cast by witches that should have prevented his entry.

Cornelius enters the home of adept Lucas Tolburn while the witch is working with the magical Wand of Dentiere. The practitioner uses the wand to stop Cornelius, but he kills Lucas and grabs the rod. Believing in magic, the sentient artifact turns Cornelius into mist that allows him to enter any body he chooses. He enters a father who he uses to kill the whole family and make it look like the father committed suicide. He begins a killing spree and soon has a partner; Lucas’ ambitious granddaughter Millicent who uses a spell that ties her to the wand and Cornelius and they go on a brutal killing rampage. Former town cop Ross Devries and Boston Police officer Laura Brennan investigate the serial killings that the outsider says is the work of the Shadow Man. They must prevent the mists from destroying the town and potentially the country.

This is an exiting good vs. evil horror thriller that cleverly keeps the audience wondering about whether Cornelius is a psychopath or is the voices from some outside evil essence. His magical partnership with Millicent will remind readers of Michael J. Fox’s The Frighteners. Ross suffers from visions, but seems more attuned to Cass than he is the townsfolk he once protected and is doing again. Character driven, NIGHT OF DEMONS is a super horror thriller with the twist of the champions are the non practitioners in town.

Harriet Klausner

Boneshaker-Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest
Tor, Sep 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765318411

In 1863 in Seattle, Washington Territory, Russians hearing rumors of gold in the Yukon and Alaska Territories hire scientist Leviticus Blue to invent a device to obtain the precious metal buried under the frozen tundra. He creates Dr. Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine; a steam-powered machine that drills through the thickest layers of ice to extract gold. He beta tests his gizmo in downtown Seattle, but something goes awry leaving several dead people from the ensuing accident and a stripped mining like hole that emits an eerie looking gas dubbed Blight as it turned nearby breathers into “rotter”, fresh flesh eating predators.

Almost two decades later, Leviticus’ son Zeke Wilkes wants to clear his dead father’s blighted reputation. He sneaks inside the walled containment zone with his concerned mother Briar in pursuit as she fears her offspring will turn into one of those putrefying rotters. However, her fears turn into mortification when she learns that mad scientist inventor Dr. Minnericht looks like the identical twin of her late husband and he seems to have taken a fatherly interested in her child.

This is a great Zombie alternate America thriller that hooks the readers from the moment that Dr. Blue turns on his machine and never takes even a gruesome puke break. The story line is fast-paced yet the three prime characters are fully developed though the rotters are what the BONESHAKER is all about. One should not read this on a full stomach unless a toilet is nearby as the descriptions are bone-shaking and breaking steampunk. .Readers will relish Cherie Priest’s sensational Seattle saga as a mom without apple pie battles zombies, mad scientists and other ilk to rescue her cub.

Harriet Klausner