Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cry Mercy-Toni Andrews

Cry Mercy
Toni Andrews
Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326489

In the Balboa Peninsular of California hypnotherapist Mercy Hollings has the mental ability to “press" people into doing what she wants them to do using her mind to coax a person. She has always struggled to control her ability because she knows it is not ethical to intrude even when you want to. Her friend Sukey has been helping her look back on her life while moving near the ocean has provided her with some solace.

Mercy wants to know why her adoptive parents eventually abandoned her. At the same time she wants to help former gangbanger chief Tino who wants to become a realtor. Tino also needs Mercy to help get his younger brother out of the gang lifestyle, but not all the punks are normal members as some come from the dark places where souls dare not go.

CRY MERCY is as always with this saga a fun but odd paranormal Mercy Hollings thriller (see BEG FOR MERCY and ANGEL OF MERCY). The story line is fast-paced but owned by the heroine who rips skin with her sarcastic retorts. Fans will enjoy the latest antics of Mercy as Toni Andrews provides an amusing refreshing beach fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Orcs: Bad Blood-Stan Nicholls

Orcs: Bad Blood
Stan Nicholls
Orbit, Apr 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 0316033693

On the planet Maras-Dantia, the Wolverine band of Orc soldiers unwillingly served the cruel evil Queen Jennesta; she demanded they find five instrumentalities. When they are put together, they form a portal that opens up into other worlds. The orcs use it to go to their homeworld Ceragan, a clean place populated by Orcs only. The leader of the wolverine band Stryke and others are weary of the constant deadly battles and see this realm as a haven.

They choose to remain here and stop fighting in order to live out the remainder of their lives rusticating in harmony and peace. Seraphim the human arrives informing them of a depressing tale of atrocities as orcs are in decline and humans are hunting them like they are dumb beasts on Acurial. The wolverines learn that Jennesta still lives and is coming after them to take the instrumentalities that will make her queen of all worlds. Stryke and the wolverines know they must go to Acurial to end the genocide and prevent the queen from achieving her objective. Jennesta remains in a position of power so has much to toss at her former minions whom she calls traitors. Still Stryke and the Wolverines are willing to fight to the death to prevent her from making an already horrific situation worse.

ORCS: BAD BLOOD makes a case that the species is not evil brutal thugs but are intelligent rational beings who battle to the extreme rather than surrender (think of the Highlander warriors in pre Culloden Scotland). They do not believe in slaughter, massacres or genocide, but will bravely fight against overwhelming odds. In fact they look forward to a quiet life and death in bed on their new world, but feel duty calls so they travel Acurial world to free the orcs though they assume a trap awaits them. There is plenty of action though little is settled even as Stryke and his wolverines prove the orcs are so different than the prejudicial Tolkien standard.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 27, 2009

Edge of Desire-Rhyannon Byrd

Edge of Desire
Rhyannon Byrd
Harlequin HQN, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774234

Sheriff Riley Buchanan left his home in Henning, Colorado to come the Pacific as he fears what he is becoming due to the Merrick blood flowing through him. In Purity, Washington, he knows his gut insists he needs a woman, any female; but his heart and head only wants Hope Summer whom he lost years ago. Ironically what he needs is on her land.

Watchman Kellen Scott has accompanied Riley to the Northwest to ostensibly keep an eye on the sheriff who is losing control. They believe the third marker is interred on Hope’s property. Riley had wanted to come and go without intruding on Hope, but he has failed as she will know about his darkening nature and loathe him. However, Hope is also concealing her inner nature and hiding from her ruthless former spouse obsessed with destroying his ex wife and her kind.

The third Primal Instinct tale (see EDGE OF DANGER and EDGE OF HUNGER) ends the current trilogy with an excellent urban fantasy second chance romantic suspense. The story line is action-packed from the opening moment when Riley reaches Purity and never slows down while the overall theme takes a few wonderful spins. However, as in the previous two entries, the edgy characters make for a great finish and perhaps set up some more Primal Instinct Edge of novels.

Harriet Klausner

Black and White-Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittridge

Black and White
Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittridge
Bantam, Jun 2 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553386318

The extrahumans attend the Academy where they obtain intensive training learning how to control their super powers before going out amongst civilians to stop crime. Five years after graduating from the Academy, Joannie “Jet” Greene tries to catch her former school roommate Callie “Iridium” Bradford for dealing with unsanctioned (by the ruling Corps) criminals. The pair was once best friends, but their differences over brainwashing by the Academy and the Corps abuse of extrahumans led to a dispute. Jet believed what she was told while Iri saw a dark commercial purpose behind the institutions. This acrimonious split might be a legacy of their fathers with Jet’s dead and Iri’s jailed or more to the point could be their powers as Jet uses shadows and Iri the light.

The former BFFs separately begin to uncover a dangerous conspiracy in New Chicago. Meanwhile Jet meets and teams up with normal human Bruce Hunter who brings a metaphoric light to her heart while she thinks Iri is part of the treachery. Iri meets and teams up with vigilante Taser who brings a bit of the dark into her heart while she deems Jet is part of the treachery. Soon these two BFFs and their new sidekicks will learn that neither is all light or all dark as the universe has an abundance of colors and shades; that is they will learn if they stop fighting one another and live long enough.

Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittridge provide a fun super friends fantasy that blends elements of romance, thriller, and science fiction into an exciting BFF (in this case BFF was best friend forever but has become best enemy forever) superhero tale. The cast is solid as Jet and Iri begin to understand that the whole is greater than either part. Although fast than a speeding bullet story line lacks depth, graphic comic book fans will enjoy the action-packed quarrel between two former super friends.

Harriet Klausner

Naamah’s Kiss-Jacqueline Carey

Naamah’s Kiss
Jacqueline Carey
Grand Central, Jun 24 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780446198035

From the time she was a young girl in Alba, Moirin of the Maghuin Dhonn, an isolated clan of the Brown Bear worshippers, Moirin heard the voices and saw the faces of other deities. Although she did not know it, other Gods were worshipped in Terre d'Ange. She conducts a quiet inquiry and learns her unknown father was a D'Angeline priest serving Naamah, the goddess of desire. As a mage with power, Moirin also begins to explore and upon maturity travels into the spirit world where she will either be fully accepted or totally rejected by the Maghuin Dhonn

She accepts her and the divine spark, the diadh-anam stays in her essence. Moirin learns she has a destiny to fulfill. She goes to Terre d'Ange to meet her father, but is run over by Raphael de Mereliot whose lover is Jerhanne, the queen of the city of Eula. Moirin learns she has the power to heal people even from death though that drains her. Jehanne and Morin become lovers as the newcomer is the first person the queen has trusted in years; she would like to stay with her lover, but Moirin is asked by her mentor Lord Bo to return home with him to Ch’in because the emperor’s daughter and heir is demon possessed. In Ch’in, Moirin realizes what the problem is and asks Snow Tiger, the emperor’s heir to trust her. Neither was prepared for a coup d’etat by an evil sorcerere.

NAAMAH’S KISS takes place in the same world as the Kushiel saga only decades later. Once again Jacqueline Cary shows her skill at world-building in this super cerebral yet action-packed fantasy. The cast is solid especially the mages and the characters with supernatural powersl, but anchored in time and place by everyday people and political leaders. In many ways a coming of age thriller as the heroine learns of her illustrious roots (not just dad), the story line belongs to the vivid descriptions especially of the dark sides of Ch’in and Terre d’Ange as Morin explores both with energy and love.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx-Sally Koslow

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx
Sally Koslow
Ballantine, May 19 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345506207

Thirty-five year old upper class mom of a precocious preschool daughter Annabel, Molly Marx led a divine life until her battered corpse is found next to her bike near the Hudson. She arrives at Duration holding station in limbo unaware of what happened to her. As she awaits her afterlife fate, Molly watches the investigation by NYPD into her death.

Though it could have been a horrific accident or even suicide, the Manhattan detective Hiawatha Hicks believes murder occurred and look closely at everyone associated with Molly. The prime suspects range from her cheating spouse plastic surgeon Barry; her demanding catty mother-in-law Kitty; the victim’s lover Luke; her twin Lucy; her best friend Brie; and a chorus line of Barry lovers particularly his latest Stephanie who all want to be wife number two even before Molly is buried. Escorted by Bob the spiritual guide, Molly returns to Manhattan to insure her loved ones especially her child are okay and to learn why someone wanted her dead even as she recognizes her faults.

THE LATE, LAMENTED MOLLY MARX is a terrific paranormal police procedural seen mostly through the eyes of the dead victim. Molly is fabulous as she holds the earthy and after life plots together. Readers meet the suspects through Molly’s lens; for instance her twin comes across grieving and deranged, her child misses her mommy, her spouse deserves the Wilt Chamberlain award for scoring; and Brie and Hiawatha seem attracted to one another. Although the ending is not quite as powerful as the visits to the celestial and Upper West Side neighborhoods, Sally Koslow provides a deep character driven crime thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Windless Summer-Heather Sharfeddin

Windless Summer
Heather Sharfeddin
Delta, May 19 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780385341875

The townsfolk of Rocket, Washington depend on summer when the windsurfers and tourists invade to make a living. However, the WINDLESS SUMMER has kept many of the visitors away and has driven off residents and shut down business. The Jemmet Motel overlooking the Columbia has been empty and the owner widower Tom Jemmet fears he may have to close.

Tom’s soul is filled with ghosts that haunt him starting with his late wife and with the living especially his twelve year old autistic daughter Sienna. Others hide damaging secrets too such as Charlene the kind mail clerk who helps with Sienna and the vet Dr. Lauren who conceals her love for father and daughter. However each shares the same abysmal no hope for the future.

That changes starting with the man from Idaho staying in room six. In that room strange happenings begin. Some will call it fate visiting; other the supernatural; while some proclaim divine or devilish intervention. Whatever, the truth is it starts with the weird accident in room six that makes the local news only to be picked up nationally. Soon the town and its motel are flooded with people wanting to stay in room six arousing the darkest fears and secrets of the townsfolk starting with what happened to Tom’s late wife.

This exciting small town suspense thriller effortlessly blends psychological and supernatural elements into a fast-paced character driven tale. The audience will appreciate the switching points of view especially that of Tom, Lauren, the reporter, and to a lesser degree that of Sienna and Charlene. The outside horde that invades the town is treated initially as welcome bags of money, but soon considered unwelcome detriments. Fans will enjoy this intriguing story wondering what happened to Tom’s wife and why he behaves guiltily as if his punishment for what is mostly unknown (but guessed) is penance for life.

Harriet Klausner

Green-Jay Lake

Jay Lake
Tor, Jun 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780765321855

The stranger who bought her from her father the farmer named her Emerald. The child does not know her birth name or recall anything about her mom; she only remembers her father selling her and the stranger taking her from the family farm to the home of the immortal Duke of the Pomegranate Tree where he has ruled over the city of Copper Downs and the Storm Sea for centuries. At the court, she will be trained as a consort and an assassin.

Over time, Emerald as she becomes an adolescent insists stubbornly Green is her name. She becomes the best assassin but decides she deserves much more than to be a courtesan killer for an evil duke. She rebels; which turns the city violent as even the meddling Gods intervene. As the world order changes, Green tenaciously clings to her childhood dream since being sold; to go back to the farm to learn her roots.

GREEN is an exciting somewhat simplistic action-packed fantasy. The uncomplicated story line will still fascinate readers due to the resoluteness of the title heroine as she fearlessly sets forth on adventures that change a world though all she wants is to leave as she knows what she wants and risks all to achieve it. Fans will root for the courageous yet obdurate Green, as she mulishly fights to go home even though that means turning a city upside down.

Harriet Klausner

Skin Trade-Laurell K. Hamilton

Skin Trade
Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley, Jun 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780425227725

Amongst the vampire and shifter communities vampire executioner Anita Blake is notorious for her dead count; no one in the profession comes remotely close. However, recently she has had a catharsis of sorts as those she assumed are evil monsters may be the victims of a zealous bias by human society who has fears of the paranormal. Part of her mental revision is who she socializes with, which has led to the Federal Marshal Service no longer trusting her in spite of her record.

However, Anita has no doubts that the serial killing vampire Vittorio who recently left St. Louis deserves death. He has begun taunting her sending her a victim’s head via the post office. She takes up his gauntlet heading to Las Vegas where the package came from to confront him. In town are Federal Marshal Edward and serial killer Olaf; both want Anita. In Sin City, the sheriff wants Anita to leave while others like Crispin the were-tiger and Marmee Noir the creator of the vampire lines have uses for Anita; all hell is converging on Anita.; other supernatural entities have a use for her as well.

SKIN TRADE is the best Blake urban fantasy in several years as the story line is a throwback to the earlier supernatural detective thrillers. Sex is limited instead of dominating and what there is enhances the storyline instead of owning the plot. Fascinatingly except for Edward there is no direct appearance of any other recurring support character as Anita using her brain more than her brawn and struggles with being the foci of the Vegas paranormal community.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Genesis- Bernard Beckett

Bernard Beckett
Harcourt, Apr 2009, $20.00
ISBN: 9780547225494

Anaximander “Anax” is a student studying the history of the twenty-first century in school. She learns that century was the period of human decline as the Last War proved to be an accurate title as much of the globe was devastated and led to plague, environmental collapse, terrorism, and the end of civilization on the continents.

She also knows that the only pocket of true governance left in the world is her homeland, the Republic, an island in the Southern hemisphere modeled after Plato’s classic Republic. On the verge of taking the four hour exam that will determine her future as an elitist or a drone as the test decides whether she gains admittance to the elite Academy, Anax has also serendipitously studied the outlawed works of rebel with a cause Adam Forde. She likes his stand on human rights and dignity in a society run by a strict code of conduct that bans anything deemed deviant, but especially appreciates his stance as a soldier guarding the Great Sea Fence when he did not kill a young female on a boat breaching the barrier; but Amax knows she must hide her feelings from the panel of examiners.

This is Brave New World meets Plato in a devastated world with several fresh spins as Bernard Beckett provides an intriguing philosophical science fiction tlae that Huxley would have enjoyed. Anax is a terrific student historian who holds the story line together, but does so by concealing her adulation of Adam from her examiners. Fans will enjoy GENESIS as Anax learns the origin of the end of the world.
Harriet Klausner

Phantasm-Phaedra Weldon

Phaedra Weldon
Ace, Jun 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441017164

Zoe Martinique is a Wraith; a being who can travel in spirit form to the Abysmal and Ethereal planes. It has taken her a while to get used to having this new skill, which can occur spontaneously without warning. She is not sure if she is an Irin, the child of an angel and a human. However just when she needs her power to rescue her mother who is trapped on the Abysmal Plane, it vanishes without explanation and she has no earthly idea how to get it back.

The Archer aka T.C is a being from the Abysmal Plane who is linked to Zoe, and if she dies so does she so it is in his best interests to keep her alive. The Phantasm wants to use Zoe to enter the mortal realm where he intends to take control of the planet. TC believes the Phantasm is blocking Zoe’s power so they come up with a plan to get them freed. It is dangerous as the price of victory is extremely high; defeat means most likely death.

PHANTASM contains an exhilarating serpentine story line with so many puzzles to solve; readers will wonder how the paranormal can protect the newcomer. Zoe is a kick butt heroine who has finally accepted her heritage as the audience learns through flashbacks re her childhood. She proves formidable as she believes she can defeat the Phantasm though she understands little about her skills. Character driven though action-packed, Phaedra Weldon’s third Zoe urban fantasy (see WRAITH and SPECTRE) is fantastic.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Academy 7-Anne Osterlund

Done Academy 7
Anne Osterlund
Speak, May 14 2009, $8.99
ISBN: 0142414379

Aerin Renning is a loner with no future; Dane Madousin is the son of one of the Alliance’s most influential people and thus has a perfect future. They both attend Academy 7, the most exclusive school in the universe. For Dane it is a divine right; for Aerin it is a shocker.

The pair contends with one another for the top students at school. They share in common dark secrets in which neither reveals much about themselves to others and a competitive streak as they vie for the top student slot. Dane slaughters her in debate, but Aerin kicks his butt in sparring. When Dane breaks a rule, he inadvertently got Aerin in trouble. During their joint retention, they become friends as each slowly trusts the other with their secrets especially special talent. They fear others especially Dr. Livinski will exploit them even as an unknown adversary sets a deathtrap to destroy them and the school.

The author of the young adult romantic mystery AURELIA, Anne Osterlund provides an entertaining young teen science fiction thriller with a touch of romance in the galaxy. The battling lead couple makes for a fun duet as each sings the refrain: “anything you can do, I can do better” until they get into trouble. Readers will enjoy the somewhat gender bending escapades of Dane and Aerin as they are on the brink of being expelled from school in spite of being the top two students at the same time a nefarious deathtrap tries to keep them apart while also thinking kiss her already.

Harriet Klausner

The Other Side of Magic-Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones

The Other Side of Magic
Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones
Starscape (Tor), Apr 28 2009, $4.99
ISBN: 9780765359834

Natalie struggles to adjust to having Buttercup a nervous rat as her link to the other world; while the other two rookie keyholders, Penny and Luke are pleased with their links respectively Kirin the unicorn and Dracula the dragon. However after being chased by three goblins, their mentor Mr. Leery decides to begin their training. Only Natalie succeeds in finding holes ripped open by agents of evil Queen of the Boggarts in the threads between Morgantown and the supernatural realm.

Natalie takes Buttercup to school and a teacher takes the rat away. The girl is hysterical but Buttercup escapes. Mr. Leery and his link Mr. Mo the cat decide the time is right to take the future keyholders to the OTHER SIDE OF MAGIC.

The second Keyholders elementary school age urban fantasy (see THIS SIDE OF MAGIC) is a fun tale as the three rookie keyholders struggle with their responsibilities; where as Penny and Luke relish their respective links, Natalie is a snob until her rat is taken from her. On the other hand, she proves the only one of the three adept at magic. Young readers will enjoy this fun tale as the threesome with their links and their mentors cross to the OTHER SIDE OF MAGIC.

Harriet Klausner

Dayhunter-Jocelynn Drake

Jocelynn Drake
Eos, Apr 28 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061542831

Fire master NIGHTWALKER Mira has always understood her role as a secret weapon deployed by the ruling Triad to keep the evil Naturi from returning, but now also she knows who she is after centuries of wondering why she is so different from her vampire peers. Mira has made a shaky truce with the vampire hunter Danaus, a human although both know they are natural enemies who probably will one day fight to the death.

The ruling Nightwalker coven orders Mira to come to Venice for a special assignment. She is wary, trusting no one, not even her former mentor. Mira, Danaus who is now part of the Triad, and other members prevent Naturi Rowe from opening the locked portal that prevents his species from crossing over. However, Mira knows it is not over and that some of the Nightwalkers are betraying their kind and the humans; with only the vampire slayer Danaus apparently on her side though she doubts she can depend on him to help her.

This excellent fast-paced urban fantasy is owned by Mira, Danaus, and Venice. The city makes a great location for a dark gritty world in which the protagonist trusts no one; not even the mentor the heroine has cherished. Mira is terrific as she still struggles with self-revelations that she learned of in the first Dark Days novel, and now betrayal of those who she should be able to depend on and a survival alliance with a natural enemy the human vampire hunter. The changing of the relationship between Danaus and Mira is the heart and soul of DAYHUNTER, as anything may be creeping out of the shadows thanks to treachery, but even her new partner conceals secrets re who he is and what his agenda is as fans wonder if another seditious act is occurring.

Harriet Klausner

Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart-Chuck Black

Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart
Chuck Black
Multnomah, May 19 2009, $8.99
ISBN: 9781601421265

In the Kingdom across the sea, Lucius and one third of the warriors loyal to him rebelled and were tossed out of their homes. These beings are Shadow Warriors, who tempt mortals away from the Prince and King. Lucius and his minion travel to Arrethtree to gain loyal followers while the Knights of Arrethtree counter by spreading the Word of the King and Prince.

Sir Dalton is a knight of Arrethtree in training, but lacks the heart and passion of his peers. When the Shadow Warrior Sir Prox captures Sir Dalton, he locks him away in a prison no one escapes from. He plans to break Sir Dalton into disavowing the Word, the Prince and the King andwhen he succeeds he will have another loyal member added to his shadowy minion. Sir Dalton does the impossible as he breaks out. He meets Master Sejus who explains to him about the Code, the King and the Prince until the young knight in training feels the passion in his heart and becomes one of their most loyal supporters. He knows he must challenge Sir Prox in order to liberate the prisoners as he now believes hecan win with the Prince in his soul.

This allegory of good vs. evil is a strong tale that young adult readers and many of us older in the audience will appreciate and understand the symbolic religious significance. Sir Dalton is a doubting Thomas until his escape from the demonic shadow warrior and encounter with a true believer. He finally accepts on faith the Word and is willing to test his belief in battle. Though somewhat similar in tone to the sagas of Sir Bentley and Sir Holbrook, fans will enjoy this engaging parable.

Harriet Klausner

Raphael-D.B. Reynolds

D.B. Reynolds
ImaJinn, Apr 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417479

Although the government and the people know that vampires exist, for the most part mortals prefer not to acknowledge the nocturnal species and the bloodsuckers concur keeping a low profile. There are eight vampire lords, each controlling a jurisdiction while respecting boundaries to avoid a lethal vampire war. Raphael is the most powerful of the octet with thousands of loyalists calling him Master throughout his domain, the Western states in America.

Two human traitors from within storm his Malibu estate in daylight while he is away; they kidnap Alexandria, a vamp he vowed to protect with his life. To deal with mortals, Raphael hires human private investigator Cynthia Leighton, who works vampire cases. From the moment the client and the sleuth meet they are attracted to one another, but Cyn learned early in life not to believe in love, passion, or trust as they will be used as a weapon of mental destruction. Still she is determined to help the vampire lord rescue his sister.

The first Vampires of America urban romantic fantasy, RAPHAEL, is a terrific tale that if it is an indication of the series, sub-genre fans are in for a treat. The protagonist is tough yet vulnerable as she uses psychological defense mechanisms to conceal her weaknesses behind a kick butt façade. The title hero is more aligned towards typical vampire behavior as an arrogant haughty alpha leader used to obedience until his dependant is abducted showing a rare weakness and then meeting the sleuth showing that rarity is a little more common than his minion thought. The investigation enhances the fine story line as star-crossed lovers try to mount the rescue.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Warbreaker-Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson
Tor, Jun 2009, $27.95
ISBN 9780765320308

Though he is loathed to do so, King Dedelin of Idris must adhere to the treaty signed ages ago in which he is required to send his daughter to marry the God King of Hallandren; as he cannot renege since Susebron’s kingdom is so much more powerful than his. However, the agreement is not specific as to which daughter he sends so he decides to go with his younger one, seventeen year old tomboy Siri rather than the apple of his eye, lovely Vivenna.

Upon arrival at her new home, Siri is shocked by the intrigue and backstabbing of her fiancé’s retinue; especially those allegedly loyal to the monarch. Spies are everywhere. Meanwhile, Vivenna runs away from home to save her sister from a fate she believes is worse than death. She joins a band of Idrian travelers and begins to learn to control her magical skills. At the same time back from the dead hero Lightsong wonders what the Returned Gods commanding Hallandren's army of zombies want from King Susebron.

Known for his Mistborn saga, Brandon Sanderson provides a superb stand alone character driven fantasy. The story line is action packed from the moment the courageous Vivenna sets out to save her younger sister Siri and never decelerates. Yet with that fast pace, several great twists, and plenty of adventures, the cast makes the tale super as monarchs, reanimated dead, returning Gods all learn to never judge a book solely by its cover; because if so Vivenna would have stayed girly girl inside her daddy’s castle. Hopefully Mr. Sanderson provides more tales in this interesting realm.

Harriet Klausner

Enemies and Allies-Kevin J. Anderson

Enemies and Allies
Kevin J. Anderson
Morrow, May 5 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061662553

In the 1950s, the Red Menace could be defined two ways: Communists or Martians. In that Cold War environs that could turn hot in a nanosecond, Clark Kent works as a reporter for the Daily Planet while patrolling the skies as his alter-ego Superman. He meets wealthy playboy Bruce Wayne when he interviews Gotham’s finest for a feature article; Bruce uses a James Bond like image to hide his identity of crime fighting Caped Crusader Batman.

Soon after meeting one another as civilians, Superman encounters Batman when both are working on the same threat from within the country. Brilliant sociopath scientist Lex Luther has collaborated with Soviet General Anatoly Ceridov to take over the world by setting up a nuclear confrontation followed by his firm selling the counter defense, which will enable him to do what Ike would one day fear, control the military-industrial complex.

This is an over the top of Wayne Manor and the Daily Planet tale that is fun as Kevin J. Anderson cleverly brings 1950s symbols together including silver age superheroes struggling with a schizoid culture of post war optimism and cold war pessimism. The support cast is comic book thin even the icons like Alfred and Miss Lane while the two heroes travel the world to prevent Luther’s scheme from succeeding. Silver Age fans especially will enjoy the seemingly zillionth “first” team up of Superman and Batman as they seem one step behind diabolically brilliant supervillain Lex.

Harriet Klausner

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America-Robert Charles Wilson

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America
Robert Charles Wilson
Tor, Jun 9 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765319715

It is 2172 and America is a radically different place since the oil was depleted. Transportation and communication are gone; people indenture their lives and that of their children to the Aristos who own vast Estates in return for food, clothing and shelter. The term for a president is thirty years as civilization has reverted back to no better than the early nineteenth century. In fact the goal of the present is a new “Manifest destiny” to encompass the entire continent.

President Deklan Comstock had his brother hung for the crime of becoming too popular; Julian Bryce’s son now lives in the backwater town of Williams Ford. Julian the president’s nephew, his mentor Sam and their friend Adam escape the local enlistment only to be impressed into the army. Julian becomes a hero known as young Captain Commongold throughout the Republic. Deklan is irate as history seems to repeat itself with his nephew replacing his bold and charismatic brother. To prevent further mishap to his presidency, Deklan sends Julian and friends to the front with few supplies and the worst troops; he figures if the enemy fails to kill the usurper, his subordinates will when they rebel.

Extrapolating current day economic, extremism and environmental trends, Robert Charles Wilson paints a bleak future for the sixty stars and thirteen stripes as the Bush legacy. One disaster after another has devastated America until the president becomes a tyrant and the country is divided between the less than 1% ultra wealthy Dominion And Aristos and the impoverished rest. The Christian Churches, the property owners, and the president determine what can be read by the masses and what is dumbed down taught in schools. Julian is an interesting person who is seen through the eyes of the narrator (Adam) as a champion who never wanted to be a hero, but was destined to be one. Though fascinating as he is, it is Mr. Wilson’s America that grimly owns this futuristic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bloody Good-Georgia Evans

Bloody Good
Georgia Evans
Kensington, Jun 1 2009, $6.99
ISBN 9780758234810

During WWII in rural England, country doctor Alice Doyle meets a severely injured stranger, but he heals miraculously almost instantly, and simply vanishes. Soon after that puzzling encounter, Alice is called to look at the corpse of a farmer; he has no blood left inside him.

Stunned Alice wonders what in hell is going on in her hamlet especially as more bodies sucked dry are found. Meanwhile conscientious objector Peter Watson tries to persuade Alice that he is not a coward as he wants to court her; he explains he opposes war. However, he will soon have to take sides as Alice begins to uncover proof that Nazis have infiltrated the area led by lethal Gerhardt Eiche. However, he is not just another vile stormtrooper or saboteur trying to cause havoc from within. He is a vampire trying to conquer England from within. With Peter and her grandma who insists she is a pixie, Alice tries to drive a stake through the Nazi vampire and his flying minion who are having a BLOODY GOOD time devouring Devonshire.

This is a superb opening supernatural World War II thriller starring a strong English cast in which some are not purebred human and Nazi vampire invaders. The story line is filled with action and strong characterizations that anchor this alternate England. However, what makes this historical rural fantasy work is the interwoven tidbits such as the sociology of the paranormal and classic fairy tales are documented historical events. Georgia Evans opens are saga of “Others” with a bloody great tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 20, 2009

House of Suns-Alastair Reynolds

House of Suns
Alastair Reynolds
Ace, Jun 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780441017171

Six million years ago, Abigail Gentian formed her clan the House of Flowers by cloning herself into a thousand male and female shatterlings. She assigns her “children” to travel separately across the galaxy as observers of sentient life-forms. Every two hundred thousand years they are to come home to report on what they watched. The Gentian House has become the wealthiest in the known universe as each child performs their mission diligently.

However, this time something has gone wrong after so many successful spins of the galaxy wheel. The gathering has not occurred on time as someone is killing Abigail’s clones. Worse than death, two shatterlings, Campion and Purslane, have broken the forbidden taboos; not only have they failed to report being five decades late, they have traveled together and fallen in love. Each understands that if their mother learns of their transgression, they will die. However, even before they decide about Mother, the pair realizes that an adversary is murdering their sisters and brothers as they journey home, but death rides with them.

Most of the tale focuses on the dangerous journey home by Campion and Purslane as they have broken other rules especially with a failure to deliver to the family information super library Vigilance and the effort to rescue siblings. This pair finding companionship and love turn Abigail’s inhuman clones into humans as the need to belong and the willingness to sacrifice are traits the shatterlings never had before. Alternating first person between Campion and Purslane (and at times Abigail) seems unnecessary as they are together and their viewpoints almost identical. Still although some fans will miss the vastness of space and time author trademarks that are only hinted at in HOUSE OF SUNS, readers will enjoy this intriguing science fiction thriller as the lead couple goes where no shatterling (or Alastair Reynolds) has gone before with the help of Hesperus the robot they journey to the heart of the galaxy.

Harriet Klausner

Fires of Freedom- Jerry Pournelle

Fires of Freedom
Jerry Pournelle
Baen, May 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416591610

“Birth of Fire”. Earth teenager Garrett Pittson was convicted of a homicide he did not commit but his violent past did not help the delinquent. He is given a choice of a life sentence on earth without parole or deportation as a convicted slave at the penal colony on Mars; Garrett chooses Mars. On the fourth planet from the sun, Garrett meets angry workers used as expendable slaves in horrific mining conditions by the earth-based ruling multinational corporations. He thrives in the hostile environs and soon is in the forefront of revolt.

“King David’s Spaceship”. The civil war on Haven ended with the monarchy ruling as the outside Imperial Navy destroyed the resistance. Rebel leader Colonel Nathan MacKinnie knows the cost of the defeat first hand as his beloved, his friends, and his soldiers are dead. The victor King David asks Nathan to perform a mission; he wants to refuse but acquiesces as he knows the resistance is over. MacKinnie leads a small contingency to the backward planet Makassar where an ancient First Empire Library exists, but no outsider may enter as this is a holy shrine. He must find books on space travel before the Imperial Empire determines his home needs outside rule as the key for full self-rule membership is space travel.

These are reprints of two terrific action-packed science fiction thrillers with similar themes of freedom fighters trying to keep a much more powerful and technological advanced superpower from dominating them.. BIRTH OF FIRE is an entertaining coming of age tale. KING DAVID’S SPACESHIP (with some references to THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE) is an intriguing comparative look at civilizations with the Imperial Empire at a twenty-second century or later level of technology; Haven is at late nineteenth-early twentieth century technology; and Makassar is near the bottom with a medieval technology. Both books are exciting as the pursuit of basic rights is the universal connector.
Harriet Klausner

Overthrowing Heaven-Mark L. Van Name

Overthrowing Heaven
Mark L. Van Name
Baen Books, Jun 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 1439132674

Of all people, nanotechnology enhanced soldier Jon Moore should have known first hand by now that good intentions lead to hell especially if a beautiful damsel in distress is involved (see ONE JUMP AHEAD and Slanted Jack). Still, he started off with just trying to get the femme fatale away from her abusive spouse over the objection of his only friend in the universe, Lobo, his artificially intelligent Predator-Class Assault Vehicle.

One thing leads to another manipulation of Jon while Lobo shakes his engine in disgust as his good deed definitely gets him punished. The Central Coalition, whom Jon knows to avoid having a bad history of “cooperation” with them, has him searching for renegade scientist Jorge Wei, who allegedly is conducting banned nano research on children. Jon and Lobo head to Heaven where Wei is allegedly performing his illegal tests cocooned inside a very popular humongous tourist spot, Wonder Island, a place impossible to enter without permission;. Super soldier Jon and super assault vehicle Lobo no such boundaries, but what awaits them is the results of bioengineering.

The third Jon-Lobo outer space odyssey is identical in tone to the previous novels as the story line is faster than the speed of light, the action never stops, and some of the key characters are two dimensional from the same cookie cutter. Anyone who appreciates space opera at an incredible acceleration will enjoy the latest escapades of the universe’s greatest soldier and his sidekick.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Diamond Star-Catherine Asaro

Diamond Star
Catherine Asaro
Baen, May 2009, $23.00
ISBN: 9781416591603

The Allied Worlds of Earth, The Eubian Concord Trader Empire, and Skolian Imperialate make up the human empires in the distant future. The Skolian Imperialate and the Trader Empire went to war, but neither won. Hostilities remain with another flare up possible. Earth provided sanctuary to some of the Skolian Imperialate Ruby Dynasty. When the war ended with the Trader Empire, the Skolians brought home everyone except Prince Del- Kurj who was separated from his off-world people.

Del is frustrated and outraged as earth politicians are making it difficult for him to go home even with immense pressure from the Skolians. Mac Tyler takes him to a studio where he is seen and heard by producer Ricki Varento. He receives a recording contract, which he hopes will prove successful as he knows his family thinks he is worthless. Dal is a powerful empath, but is surprised when the crowds adore him and admire his talent as they love his music. Within a year, he is number one. However when a friend is abducted and tortured by an Aristo Trader, he sings a song that brings three civilizations to the brink of all out war.

DIAMOND STAR is a fresh excellent addition to the Skolian Empire saga due to mostly Del, a prince who prefers to be a music star. All of the action occurs on earth where an innocent man must adapt to a new challenge. Readers see the world through his Skolian eyes. There are several major subplots tied together by Del as fans will understand how his producers, band members, fans, and even the Aristo Trader see the expatriate Skolian royal. Somewhat tongue in cheek, Catherine Asaro provides a thoughtful tale of a star is born as the prince believes the magic is in the music instead of the purple reign.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Strange Angels-Lili St. Crow

Strange Angels
Lili St. Crow
Razorbill, May 14 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9781595142511

Sixteen years old Dru Anderson is used to traveling around; never staying in any place for more that a couple of months. Her father trained her as his sidekick killing deadly supernatural creatures and once the mission is accomplished the pair would pack up and move to the next monster nest; some of these otherworldly beasts have no English word. Her Granmama taught her mostly in dreams and occasional rare visits how to be spiritually psychically stout. As for her mom, there are the curls.

Everything changed for Dru in the Dakotas the night her Granmama died. Dad acts strange as he goes out on the mission alone. When he fails to come back alive, Dru has to confront realities. The only two people in her life are dead within twenty-four hours of each other; and though she thought she was a pro at hunting, she realizes she knows nothing about what they hunted beyond her extrasensory gift of the “Touch” and even less about surviving in the mundane world. First she must live through the night as she knows mortal teen boys and creatures from beyond have caught her scent; she is not sure which is more dangerous to her existence, but then again there is her dad’s killer stalking her too.

The key to this terrific young adult fantasy is the supernatural creatures seem genuine with the representatives of a variety of species possessing differing personalities beyond just their basic “natural” needs. Dru is fabulous holding the story line together in a first person viewpoint as she is a typical teen with a special skill and a radically different childhood than the norm. Fans will admire Dru and her two new associates Christophe and Graves who risk all in a battle against deadly foes who should not exist in the wintry Dakotas.

Harriet Klausner

Bride of the Wolf-Jennifer St. Giles

Bride of the Wolf
Jennifer St. Giles
Pocket, May 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781416563419

SINCO Oil heiress Marissa Vasquez fled Belize and her evil Tio Luis ending up in Twilight, Tennessee. However, only when she sleeps does she feel safe as she dreams of a black wolf that seems to protect her while they run together under the moon. An injured man arrives at the camp she hides in; she recognizes his eyes as that of the dream wolf-man. Though Navarre the Shadowman is blind, he knows who she is.

Vladarian vampire Herrera captures the pair as he plans to take control of her shares of SINCO. She knows about his reputation having heard he was the most vicious of her uncle’s minion. As Navarre slowly heals with Marissa’s help, their spirits fall in love. While the vampires seem on the verge of species civil war, they must find a way to escape. He knows only if he calls the wolf spirit side of his essence do they have a chance. However, he also understands the possible cost as he wonders whether a purebred wealthy human and a hybrid werewolf find happiness together as love may not be enough.

This direct follow up to KISS OF DARKNESS is a superb paranormal romantic thriller starring two wonderful protagonists who need one another to survive the ordeal. Navarre owns the tale as he knows what he must do for his lifemate, but fears her reaction when he does. With a spin that will shake fans with delight, Jennifer St. Giles continues to make The Shadowmen saga one of the best urban romantic fantasy series on the market today.

Harriet Klausner

The City & The City-China Mieville

The City & The City
China Mieville
Ballantine, May 26 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345497512

The corpse was found near a skating rink ramp in somewhat seedy Beszell. All the curious spectators knew she was murdered just by looking at the award angles of her body. Extreme Crime Inspector Tyador Borlu leads the investigation that he assumes is a simple homicide.

He soon learns the victim is Mahalia Geary, which makes him reconsider the simplicity of her murder. She was the leading proponent of a theory that a third unseen city she called Orciny co-exists in the same physical space as that of Beszell and affluent Ul-Oomaof. Her belief and that of her supporters was this other locale filled the vacant blind spots between the co-located “twin” cities. As Geary’s cohorts mysteriously begin to vanish, Borlu reexamines Geary’s theory because increasingly the evidence points towards a third party conspiracy cleverly manipulating the biases of the two known urban centers.

THE CITY AND THE CITY is a fantastic police procedural parable as brilliant fantasist China Mieville makes a strong case as to how far groups will go to keep the comfort zone of their social order. The story line is fast-paced with the audience accepting the existence of two “cities” intermingled but separate; sort of like the Bronx in the 1970s where a bus line would go from the burned out slums of the south to the affluent estates of the north. .Readers will appreciate this hyperbole as maintaining the illusion of belonging is more critical than economic and social realities. A tale of two cities and perhaps a third too, this is a great whodunit that will have readers pondering what psychological devices we employ to “protect” our places in society.
Harriet Klausner

Carpe Corpus-Rachel Caine

Carpe Corpus
Rachel Caine
NAL, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451227195

Morganville is not your typical college town because vampires make the rules that paranormal and humans must obey. For instance mortals are required to contribute to the blood bank. It is difficult to leave Morganville because you need vampire permission. Amelie was the head vampire, who ran the town with compassion for all, but her father Bishop led a coup d’etat and with the help of spells and insider information has taken over.

Amelie and her followers reside in the shadows waiting for the moment to take back their town from the lethal lock of her sire. Some people, who really know the brilliant teen, Claire Danvers, believe she is the only hope to save the town. However, even Claire must heed Bishop’s call since he marked her. Her boyfriend Shane and her father await execution, but Claire convinces Amelie to free him. Claire her friend Michael the vampire, a vampire scientist and goth girl Eve are also waiting to bring down Bishop and use his blood as an antidote to end the disease killing vampires.

Rachel Caine has carved out a unique niche in the urban fantasy sub-genre with her super young adult Morganville Vampires. Her mythos is wonderful as she makes the town seem genuine with humans and vampires living in a shaky peaceful coexistence; reminiscent of the early Gorbachev-Reagan era Cold War; that is before Bishop took over and brought overt hostility (sort of a return to Stalin) into the insecure relationships. The latest thriller contains plenty of action, but as always in this saga, CARPE CORPSE is character driven by the good, the bad, and the evil.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Revolution Business-Charles Stross

The Revolution Business
Charles Stross
Tor, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765316721

The Clan Corporate believes they are invincible in spite of growing evidence that rebel activity from within their feudal system is growing rapidly. They base their logic on their magical ability to cross into parallel worlds like that of an advanced earth; as with the internal threat, the Clan fails to understand that the scientific based world knows of their cross dimensional ventures and have labeled the Clan a terrorist group by the USA.

At the same time the Clan fails to read the facts, Boston reporter Miriam Beckstein has been freed from jail, but is pregnant and remains at the crosshairs of political rivals on two worlds who either want her dead or incarcerated. She becomes front and center on the American terrorist list when apparently world crossers steal nuclear weapons from the United States at the same time American engineering and science is close to finding a way to cross over to the Clan dominated world.

The latest Merchant Princes fantasy-science fiction (see THE MERCHANTS' WAR) is exciting and action-packed as political intrigue on two worlds makes for an interesting read filled with twists and betrayals. Miriam is terrific as she goes from the frying pan to the nuclear fire while somewhat serving as the closest character to a lead protagonist; with people moving in and people moving out, the temptation is to assume no star exists with the story line to some extent overwhelmed by the masses. Still this is an entertaining entry that sets the table for what appears to be coming: when worlds collide.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Strain-Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Morrow, Jun 2 2009, $26.99
ISBN 9780061558238

The jumbo jet from Berlin has landed at JFK and is taxiing to the gate when abruptly something weird and horrific happens as it suddenly goes pitch dark with no sounds whatsoever; every electric and electronic device is silent. As emergency crews stand by waiting to enter, a door opens for no apparent reason. CDC NYC epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather enters the dark plane only to find a mass graveyard. Every passenger and crew, except for four shocked bewildered survivors, was drained of their blood.

Although Ephraim strongly pushed quarantining the survivors, he is overruled due to their rights. They leave and soon afterward the corpses vanish. Desperate as nothing goes according to standard procedures, Eph begins to heed the advice of an elderly Manhattan Holocaust survivor pawnbroker Abraham Setrakian who insists a master vampire has come to America as a total lunar eclipse is coming.

With homage to Stoker from the modernizing the classic ship scene to Abraham and the Count, Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan provide a super vampire thriller in a current day setting. Ironically this is a throwback to the days when vampires were simply evil predators dining on human blood. THE STRAIN is fast-paced from the moment the plane suddenly stops moving and goes entirely dark as this thriller will be hard to put down apparently a master vampire invades America just before a total lunar eclipse, the first of this kind in four centuries.

Harriet Klausner

The Edge of the World-Kevin J. Anderson

The Edge of the World
Kevin J. Anderson
Orbit, Jun 2009, $14.99
ISBN 9780316004183

The war between the followers of the two Gods, Aiden and Urec, the sons of the creator, has been going on forever. Both nations have suffered from the constant battles and need for vigil. An inferno devastates the city of Ishalem that sits on the isthmus separating the two kingdoms. Each side blames the other for the disaster and back and forth reprisals heats up the hostilities over the next thirteen years.

Hope to end the conflict seems unlikely as massacres especially of civilians are the acceptable norm. Yet each nation decides victory is theirs if they are the first to find a legendary land on THE EDGE OF THE WORLD that hints of divine truths, which also means a dangerous sea race venturing into the treacherous sea beyond the isthmus.

The first Terra Incognita tale showcases Kevin J. Anderson’s skills as he leaves outer space (see the Saga of Seven Suns) for an apparent fantasy saga. However, although there are hints of otherworldly elements, none surface so that the hostilities make the story line seem more like a historical military novel. Still the tale is engaging as Mr. Anderson begins to explore the causes of the conflict; hopefully in future entries he will go core deep into how the constant war impacts societies; as the fight rules these two nations.

Harriet Klausner

Terribly Twisted Tales-Edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg

Terribly Twisted Tales
Edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg
Daw, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780756405540

These eighteen entries will remind readers of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s Fractured Fairy Tales as the authors take an irrelevant spin on famous stories. Almost all the contributions are excellent with a couple, though well written, disappointingly changing the personalities of the key players without explanation. Fans will enjoy what happens to Snow White after she owns the Prince and the Mirror in Chris Pierson’s superb “Once They Were Seven”, the witch chasing after violent Hansel and Gretel in “Waifs” by Dennis L. McKiernan and the scary science fiction twister “Jack and the Genetic Beanstalk by Robert E. Vardeman. Overall this is a great collection that pays homage to the brilliant zany minds of Jay Ward and Bill Scott.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Submissive-Anya Howard

Anya Howard
Kensington Aphrodisia, May 2009, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758228802

Gillian Nordstram has agreed to become a pleasure giving submissive Disciple. She leaves behind her lover Bruce Wolff to receive training at Nemi in the art of sexual submission.

Sethlucius visits Bruce and offers him the job of a lifetime involving his Gilliam. Bruce initially assumes that Gillian’s fantasies have entered his mind, but agrees anyway. As she fears but submits to winged beasts, he follows her with plans to be her only dominant.

This is an interesting erotic fantasy that star two intriguing lead human characters and a horde of paranormals. The sex scenes run the gamut and are very vivid while Gillian and Bruce are fully developed especially his initial self pity and her fears. However, the plot never fully seems developed so that this alternate reality never comes across except in the BDSM scenes. Still fans who relish something way different in their erotica will appreciate the sexcapades of Gillian and Bruce in another realm.

Harriet Klausner

Pop Apocalypse-Lee Konstaninou

Pop Apocalypse
Lee Konstaninou
Harper, Apr 28 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061715372

In the near future the mediasphere has replaced the Internet, enabling users to follow the lives of people to the minutest detail. In fact reputable names have become a commodity item traded on the Reputations Exchange.

Eliot Vanderthorpe, Sr. is the CEO of the firm that runs the mediasphere. Unlike his successful dad, Eliot, Jr. is a wastrel failure. Frustrated with his no chip off the block offspring Sr. places the name of Jr. on the Reputations Exchange. Eliot the son learns of another Eliot living in the banned off-limits Occupied Zone of Northern California where anti capitalists once held sway. Junior decides to meet his other self only to find a conspiracy spinning in many directions like an octopus’ tentacles.

This future tale is a fast-paced lampooning of celebrity fame, pop culture, and media attention span as to what is important. The story line is fast-paced throughout as capitalist society is satirized on seemingly every page; even the Middle East has become one caliphate run by a pop idol. Fans who enjoy an irreverent look at modern culture will want to read Lee Kostaninou’s amusing take no prisoners’ tale.

Harriet Klausner

Haze-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, Jun 9 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765323026

In the twenty-fifth century, there is a new world order as the Chinese dominated Federation rules over earth and colonized planets. War and other events led to the collapse of America and there are parts of the world including the USA that are uninhabitable due to radiation.

Federation agent Major Keir Roget is sent to the world Haze named for the deep covering that makes the orb impossible to see what is on it from space and unable to ascertain whether any civilization inhabits the planet. When he lands planet-side, he is met by
Lyvia, a guide selected to establish contact with outworlders. On the surface Haze seems to be a thriving planet with cities connected by an incredible transpiration system. However, beneath the outer façade there is technology way beyond that of the Federation. Circling Haze are warships that the Government of Dubriety know are there. Roget fears what he has learned, but must find a way to get his information to his superiors and pray they believe him as what he finds is eerily familiar to another mission that left him almost insane.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. takes his fans on a grand tour of a planet so vividly described that readers will picture Haze. The culture is humanoid, at least that is what Roget believes though he believes he has not seem much beyond what the hosts want him to see. Hooked to learn what is beneath the hazy surface, the audience will appreciate Mr. Modesitt, Jr. at his best.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom-Tim Byrd

Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom
Tim Byrd
Putnam, May 14 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780399247835

Grandpa Pat informs her son Dr. Spartacus Wilde his nonagenarian father vanished after giving a talk at a forum at Harvard. The widower accompanied by his twelve year old son Brian, his ten year old daughter, associate Phineas Bartlett and driver Declan mac Coul plan to search for the missing Wilde. However, before they can begin, they are attacked by mutant frogs in their family abode in the Empire State Building.

Next stop for the intrepid warriors is Harvard, which soon leads them to Hidalgo in South America. From there they enter the jungle heading to a remote region with mutant frogs of all sorts attacking them until they reach a cave whose opening is shaped like the mouth of a giant frog. Inside they continue the quest learning that the dark God Frogon, who destroyed his universe, is seeking entrance to this one to destroy it too. As Mac is turned into a Man-frog, the Wildes battle saber-tooth frogs and other species of mutated frog while Frogon begins the ritual to enter the Wilde universe.

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM is a fun pulp adventure that pays homage to Doc Savage while targeting the tweener crowd. The story line is fast and lighthearted as the heroes battle mutant fogs. With literary quotes ranging from Seuss to Lovecraft and beyond, Tim Byrd avoids dumbing down his novel. Young readers will relish the escapades of the Wilde family and friends as they struggle to save the world one croak at a time.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Awakening-Kelly Armstrong

The Awakening
Kelly Armstrong
Harper, Apr 28 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9780061662768

Ever since the Edison Group genetically reengineered her (see THE SUMMONING), teen Chloe Saunders hr life is out of control. First there is the out of control “dark powers” of being able to raise the dead without trying. Being a necromancer causes havoc with one’s social life. Second there are ghosts who are everywhere further devastating her social life.

Having escaped for now and having been betrayed by those she trusted, Chloe is not sure who is friend from foe especially amidst the living. With help from beyond and from the paranormal, Chloe learns more about the Edison group operatives and scientists who are coming for her, dead or alive. At the same time her dad has announced a $500,000 reward for her safe return, which brings out the whackos. Her only hope for survival is her special friends Tori, Derek, and Simon, but that places them in danger.

The second Darkest Powers teen urban fantasy is a terrific tale as the heroine has learned the hard way from her previous escapades trust no one, but to survive the Edison Group Chloe will have to rely on her friends. The story line is fast-paced as supernatural events continual to occur. There is also a hint of romance, but who Chloe chooses between the brothers Derek and Simon remains up in the air as safety is the first requirement. Although it would help to first read THE SUMMONING to better understand how far Chloe has come and how far she must go to survive and not necessarily win, readers will enjoy the paranormal action of THE AWAKENING.

Harriet Klausner

The Patriot Witch-CC Finley

The Patriot Witch
CC Finley
Del Rey, Apr 28 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345503909

In 1775 Boston Proctor Brown joins the minuteman though he knows the woman he loves is a loyalist, which means her father will reject his courting her. However, Proctor has other issues more pressing as he finds himself possessing the ability to use witchcraft; a trait he was unaware of until recently. He inherited them from his mom, who was hoping to hide him from the skill. Though hesitant to use witchcraft, he hopes his ability will further the rebel cause.

Thus he is shocked when he realizes both sides of the conflict have practitioners. Proctor learns firsthand what that means when invincible British Officer Major Pitcairn bullies him and others without any retaliation because of a special protective medallion he wears. As Proctor tries to learn how to use his paranormal gift, the hostilities increase and he realizes he is the only one who might prevent Pitcairn from destroying the local Minutemen without anyone knowing he is a user. Then there is the British Master Witch to contend with that as a rookie he has no prayer to uncover the identity of let alone defeat.

This is an engaging Revolutionary War historical urban fantasy that includes witchcraft as part of battles at Lexington and Concord, and Bunker Hill. The story line is crisp from the moment Proctor joins the rebellion and never slows down as he is an interesting character struggling with what his mom hid from him and what his joining the revolt does to his love life. Fans will enjoy the “secret” Revolutionary War fought alongside the more famous conventional war as readers will wonder what else CC Finley will “find” in the archives.

Harriet Klausner

Ashes of Midnight-Lara Adrian

Ashes of Midnight
Lara Adrian
Dell, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780440244509

Millenia ago a craft containing bloodthirsty savage aliens landed on earth; the newcomers were able to mate with the native women who had a special Breed mark somewhere on their body. Their offspring, always male, became the first vampires. The deadly Ancients endangered humanity forcing their sons to kill them. The Order recently learned that one of the Ancients survived and his grandson Dragos is using him to make more Gen-X vampires that he can control.

Andreas Reichen is on a mission of revenge ever since the corrupt Enforcement Agency killed his brethren. He kill the Enforcement Agency involved until there is only one left behind their leader Wilhelm Roth, blood bonded to Andreas’ former lover Claire Roth. Though Andreas knows she is the only woman he ever loved, his feelings for her will not prevent him from enacting vengeance even if that means he dies. Claire, who thought her Andreas was dead, refuses to help him commit suicide, but is determined to assist Andreas and the Order take down her Blood Bond. Unable to control his fire skills, Andreas saw his death through the eyes of a child. Claire knows the only way they can be together is if she follows him into hell.

The sixth Midnight Breed tale is a fantastic urban fantasy that moves the overarching story line forward while containing a strong internal plot. The protagonists are star-crossed lovers who each believe they have no chance for a happy ending. Filled with action and romance, fans of the series will relish this keeper, placing it along side the other five tales.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Griffin's Shadow-Leslie Ann Moore

Griffin's Shadow
Leslie Ann Moore
Avari, Feb 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781933770048

Jelena nee Preseren is elated to have married Ashinji Sakehera as she loves the son of Lord Kerala and feels great about carrying his offspring. However, she is stunned to learn she is the daughter of Elf King Keizo Onjara of Alasiri. However, her new discovery about her roots puts her in the crosshairs as an ever expanding human empire starts invading Alasiri.

While Jelena struggles with her pregnancy and her new role, her Ashinji is sent into slavery as a gladiator. She is unable to mount a rescue as the Elves face assaults from humans and a sorcerer setting the stage for the Nameless One to conquer all.

The sequel to GRIFFIN’S DAUGHTER is an excellent epic fantasy, which takes a plausible terrific spin that makes the second entry fresh and brisk. Jelena has come a long way since her coming of age adventures in a realm filled with de jure and de facto racism against a half elf like her; however in this tale she must go further into the role of full leadership of many of those who once scorned her. GRIFFIN’S SHADOW is superb tale that will have the audience wanting more from Ms. Moore.
Harriet Klausner

The Human Disguise-James O’Neal

The Human Disguise
James O’Neal
Tor, May 26 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9780765320148

In just a few decades from now, the world is teetering on the brink of annihilation. The United States has become Fortress America closing its borders to keep out people who are carriers of the bio-plague, a man made disease that has killed millions across the globe. Carriers already inside the country are placed on reservations or dumped inside the quarantine zone that has become what was once Miami; NYC is a nuclear wasteland. Iran has been nuked back to the Stone Age and Germany is marching towards Poland.

Unified Police Officer Tom Wilner is spying on his soon to be ex-wife Svala and her lover Tiget Nadonich when he observes guns being fired. A man is injured and not expected to survive; evidence is taken to the station. The man recovers and walks out of the hospital the next day and the evidence vanishes. Tom ends up with it, but to extended family groups, the Hallecks and the Simolits want what he has for radically differing reasons. Tom distrusts both families who seem more than human to him. Each has an agenda with the Simolits wanting to expand the Miami Quarantine zone so that his people can roam free of persecution. Tiget kidnaps Tom’s children to force him to hand over the evidence. Now it is personal as Tom must stop both sides while rescuing his kids.

James O’Neal describes a near future that is bleak and civil rights have become extinct except in fairy tales. Central government is weak and corrupt while convicts are sent to labor camps or front line military fodder. The world is excited about the coming of the Uralian aliens who have made contact and are coming to earth. The premise is riveting and the story line lives up to that theme with a deep mystery, plenty of intrigue, and action starring a former hero beaten down by the human collapse but not out as proven by his reactions. THE HUMAN DISGUISE is on a par with the works of Whitney Strieber.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Last Vampire Standing-Nancy Haddock

Last Vampire Standing
Nancy Haddock
Berkley, May 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425227541

Over two centuries old, vampire Francesca Marinelli feels undead life is great since she regained her freedom due to her new friend Maggie digging her out of the ground while renovating her house. She loves living in St, Augustine where she was born in 1780 and now is considered royalty by the local press and has a boyfriend paranormal crime investigator Deke Saber. Cesca likes having friends who are loyal because of their relationship not her rank and working as a tour guide of St. Augustine’s Old Ghost Town. However, on the down side is her recent battle with the French Bride Killer (see LA VIDA VAMPIRE) has given her unwanted publicity amidst vampire circles who detest the Vampire Princess as the media calls her.

The PR proves ominous when Jo-Jo of the Atlanta vampire nest begs Cesca for sanctuary from a vamp who wants to stake the stand-up comic for certain jokes he told. Finally her shapeshifting childhood friend Triton keeps sending her telepathic warnings that she is in trouble while an insane vampire comes to Florida seeking to kill Jo-Jo and anyone protecting him.

The second humorous Vampire Princess urban fantasy is an enjoyable lighthearted thriller filled with tension somewhat abated by the amusing observations of modern life by the heroine, who was buried in 1803 so has the late seventeenth century as her reference points. The story line is fast-paced as trouble from Georgia comes to the Sunshine State. Nancy Haddock provides a jocular tale even with a paranormal psychopath coming to kill anyone harboring Jo-Jo ergo Cesca.

Harriet Klausner

The Spy Who Haunted Me-Simon R. Green

The Spy Who Haunted Me
Simon R. Green
Roc, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780451462725

The dedicated Drood family understands their mission is to protect mankind from paranormal assaults. However, there appears to be a traitor amidst the Drood brood; shaking the family to its core as none has ever betrayed the trust. Eddie “Shaman Bond” Drood vows to learn who the seditious agent is and the deadly duplicity one way or another.

However, Eddie is forced to put aside his personal quest as the fabled Arthur King is dying without an heir; forcing Eddie and several other agents to try to solve the King’s riddles. Revealing five of humanity’s most puzzling mysteries will lead to uncovering the King’s secrets and to his surprise help identify the traitor.

The quests take Eddie and his intrepid team to some of the more famous mysterious locales like Roswell. However, the key to this superb investigative urban fantasy is the choices Eddie must make between resolving his family’s needs and saving mankind from destruction. The mystery subplot is clever and fun to follow as that is the avenue Eddie travels in unlocking the King’s secrets, but the stops along the way in which he is forced into several Hobson Choices make Simon R. Green’s latest Brood crew thriller (see THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TORC and DAEMONS ARE FOREVER) an excellent adventure.

Harriet Klausner

A Flash of Hex-Jes Battis

A Flash of Hex
Jes Battis
Ace, May 26 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017232

On an alternate earth, materia (magic) is very common) and those who possess it are brought into CORE (the Conservatory of Mage and Others); there job is to police the supernatural community; especially demons, half-demons, necromancers, and other practitioners of dark magic. Tess Corday is an Occult Special Investigator, who, with her gay partner Derrick make a great investigative team. Mia, Tess’s ward, has the VB-positive (vampire retrovirus) and is taking medicine to keep from turning. She knows her family investigates supernatural crimes, but their current one is perhaps the most gruesome yet.

Tess and Derrick go to an apartment where they find the body of a teen floating upside down from the ceiling. He bled out from his carotid artery dripping into a cauldron. The victim is the son of Devorah Kynan, a very powerful mage, who pressures the OCI to find her son’s killer. Four other teenage offspring of mages were killed in the last few weeks in a similar fashion. It looks like a magical entity is carrying out a serial killing ritual and needs to be stooped before it completes its task. Tess has to deal with Mr.Corvid, a pureblood demon raised in another realm. He tells her the answers are in her mind if she would only look inside; to do this she would need to take the highly addicted hallucinogenic drug Hex. She gets some answers from her childhood past when she signed up for CORE and now she needs to put the pieces together and find the entity before it kills again

Urban fantasy is obviously in and perhaps satiating the market, but sub-genre fans will relish A FLASH OF HEX, an exciting police procedural with deep fascinating characters who make the world of Battis seem genuine. The tale is loaded with suspense even when Tess learns more about herself than she ever wanted to know. The support cast is filled with flawed characters that enhance the realm, but the bottom line remains this is Tess’ tale as she and Derrick go after a supernatural serial killer.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 6, 2009

Faery Moon-P.R. Frost

Faery Moon
P.R. Frost
Daw, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756405564

After contacting and surviving imp fever at the Citadel, Tess Noncoire becomes a Celestial Blade Warrior, bonded to her imp Scrap. Instead of staying at the Citadel with its restrictions, she and Scrap become Rogues; individuals working outside the system to stop demons from coming into our realm. The pair plus her grieving mother who just lost her demon husband are in Las Vegas where Tess attends a writer's conference while her depressed mom wants to see the show the Fairy Moon.

They find the show enchanting especially the winged dancers flying without any apparent wires. When Scrap enters the Interdimensional Chat Room, he sees the portal to Faery leaking out energy; which upsets the balance of the realms. They learn the flying dancers are real faeries trapped as performers against their will by Lord Graham. He, with the help of a vampire and other cohorts, has created an incarceration net that does not allow the faeries to leave the building. Tess, her archivist Golum, Damien the half demon, Lucia the vampire pretending to be ademon or is that a demon pretending to be a vamp, and their cab driver Mickey work together to liberate the faeries, send them home, and close the leak.

The protagonist is an amazon fighter who has an imp that turns into a magical Celestial Blade when she is in battle. Tess is brave and resourceful as she copes with the traumas life his tossed at her. P.R. Frost has written a fabulous urban fantasy filled with danger, intrigue and heartache as Tess and Scrap bond into a powerful unit who symbiotically need one another to survive. Readers will stay up late enjoying this engaging magical tale because it enchants the reader.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Relentless-Lauren Dane

Lauren Dane
Berkley, May 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 042522760X

Since the Fifteen Families left Earth to settle in the Known Universe, they have ruled over the Federated Universe. In that pyramidal hierarchy, the orb Ravena and its ruler the patriarch of the House of Lyons is the elite of the elite.

Barrister Abbie Haws, Unranked, wants the system changed dramatically to provide equal rights to everyone. When she meets Ravena's ruler Roman Lyons, she is shocked as she is attracted to her enemy. Even more stunning perhaps, the elitist Roman feels the same way. As they agree to show each other their respective worlds, they turn up the heat with a solar affair; someone wants Abbie dead either because of the tryst or her activism

This terrific science fiction erotic romance is fast-paced and filled with action in and out of the bedroom. However, what makes the tale spin is the plausibility of the society built by Lauren Dane that serves as the conflict between the two lovers. Though the climax is obvious, with a strong lead cast and a powerful support cast (especially his family), fans will enjoy the antics of the lead couple as Abbie rides Roman’s rocket yet continues to argue for her cause.

Harriet Klausner

The Immortality Factor-Ben Bova

The Immortality Factor
Ben Bova
Tor, Apr 14 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765305251

Grenford Laboratory Director Arthur Marshak discovers a method for human organ regeneration that enables the host body to replace ailing parts. The announcement causes a tsunami of support and criticism. Some called him God’s agent on earth while others claimed he was a blasphemer.

Arthur agrees to appear before a Congressional "science court" in Washington, D.C. so that his project is not destroyed by politicians pandering their political base as he believes strongly that his achievement is a great gift to mankind. On the science court board is Arthur’s estranged brother, Jesse, a winner of humanitarian awards for his work with the poor in the Bronx. Jesse opposes the technique claiming another example of money buying health as only the wealthy would be able to afford it. He has personal reasons to be against it too as he and Arthur fell in love with Julia, but he married her and then there is their late mother to split them further.

This is an insightful exciting medical thriller that makes a strong case to keep politics out of scientific research. The story line is at its best during the tribunal hearings as all sorts of irrelevant headline grabbing sound bites is tossed continually including by the “judges”. The relationship triangle feels stiff and out of place as means to add sibling conflict. On the other hand a hostile business takeover attempt though not as explored like the politics intervening in science is interesting as the other firm has agenda to squash certain unacceptable research. Fans will enjoy Ben Bova’s latest tale as he argues politics and science research are a bad combination.

Harriet Klausner

Guardian-Angela Knight

Angela Knight
Berkley, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425224502

Sixteen years ago in 1993 New York, half-breed Nick Wyatt’s mother left him with a powerful stone before the alien Xeron warriors killed her. He survived dedicating his life to saving humanity from the invaders.

In 2009 Nick saves the life of teenage temporal enforcer Riane Arvid from a Xeron assault. To her shock she is stranded in Nick’s time with traitor Ivar Terje and Xeron warrior Victor trying to kill her. Nick saves her life again, but when she realizes he is half-Xeron, she instinctively distrusts him. With the Victor wanting to assassinate both of them sending his “toy” Ivar after them, they flee for their lives, but in spite of their lack of trust, their attraction is explosive.

The latest Time Hunter romantic science fiction thriller is a superb tale that provides a strong story line that pushes forward the overarching plot with war seemingly imminent yet contains a full tale focused on the escapdes of Riane and Nick. Fast-paced and filled with plenty of action, readers will enjoy the gender battles between these beloved enemies as neither trusts one another and for that matter anyone else in 2009. Together they make quite a team as fans of the saga will find out.

Harriet Klausner

The Enchantment Emporium-Tanya Huff

The Enchantment Emporium
Tanya Huff
Daw, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756405557

The Gale brood can be called witches, but actually are something much more. Their magic spells come in the form of charms and are so powerful they can change future events events. The Aunties run the family, but the Cousins allow them their belief but not the control.

After Alysha Gale loses her research grant, she is at loose ends while wishing to escape from her Aunties who demand control of her life. When her Gran writes her informing her she is dead and that she bequeathed her junk store The Enchantment Emporium, Alysha travels to Calgary to look at the shop. The first person she meets in the store is Joe the Leprechaun. She soon is stalked by an assassin who is blood bonded to a sorcerer (evil witch). Alysha concludes the shop services the local fey community. SWhen Alysha learns just how much trouble is brewing in Calgary, even calling in the family to help may not be enough to save the day. Graham the assassin is assigned to keep Alysha out of his master’s business, but his feelings for her are that of man towards the woman he cherishes. She feels the same way about her him However he has a task to kill whatever crosses through the portal and Aly stops him from completing his mission. She must deal with the sorcerer while he must deal with what his love for Aly will do to him.

Tanya Huff has writeen a fantastic urban fantasy reminiscent of her Keeper’s Chronicles. The support cast is great; one of the best in recent memory, as they are quirky yet deadly and determined to save the world. There are plenty of surprising spins in THE ENCHANTMENT EMPORIUM that explain why witches and sorceresses fight to the death when they meet. The lead couple holds all this together as they struggle with a forbidden love at a time of pandemic crisis. Ms. Huff is at the top of her game with this thrilling winner.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This Side of Magic-Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton-Jones

This Side of Magic
Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton-Jones
Starscape (Tor), Apr 28 2009, $3.99
ISBN: 9780765359827

The hedge abetted by magic protects the residents of Morgantown from supernatural creatures like the evil Boggarts whose queen plans to invade the town and then the world. Meanwhile best friends Penny and Luke visit their neighbor Mr. Leery, who asks them to watch his cat Mr. Mo as he attends a funeral of an associate; they agree.

The kids meet a strange fifth grader who wants to see Mr. Leery. When Mr. Mo goes berserk the weird kid flees. Mr. Leery returns and explains to the two kids that they are apprentice keyholders, a job that Penny accepts while Luke wants to decline. Mr. Leery explains he is the last of three keyholders who insure the hedge magic remains strong to keep the Boggarts out; they and someone else will replace him and his two late associates after two centuries on the job. As Penny connects with Kirin the sarcastic unicorn and Luke with Dracula the baby dragon, they learn the third keyholder is the snob Natalie who connects aptly so with Buttercup the rat, and the weird kid is a Boggart spy. Though not ready the three fifth grade keyholders must prevent the Boggart hordes from invading Morgantown.

The first Keyholders’ urban fantasy is a fun often amusing thriller. The tale starts off a bit slow as the players are introduced, but the pace picks up once Mr. Leery leaves town. Penny and Luke are likable kids while affluent snob Natalie is not. The apprentice trio has some humorous moments as they battle the Boggart spy and attempt to prevent the invasion to the delight of elementary school age readers.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers-Angie Fox

The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers
Angie Fox
Love Spell, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505527707s

Though she has become a bit more at ease with her magical DNA heritage (see THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER), Lizzie still has problems adjusting to what is expected of her from her odd blood relative mentor as no one tells her anything. Just before turning thirty she was a Happy Hands Preschool teacher; at thirty she turned into a genetic demon slaying witch.

When Uncle Phil angers a succubus, her witch tattooed grandmother Gertie and her Red Skulls biker coven decide they must go to Las Vegas to rescue Phil; Lizzie has no choice as she is ordered to join the cavalry. Upon reaching Vegas, the Department of Intramagical Matters refuses to allow Lizzie to enter the city as she has no license to practice magic. To obtain a license, she must pass a test, but she has little experience and no training. On the bright side her shapeshifting griffin boyfriend Dimitri is accompanying Lizzie and Red Skulls; she might reconsider her joy if she understood that succubae love shapeshifters and there are a dirty dozen living in Vegas

With a nod to The Greatest American Hero, the second hilarious Exalted Demon Slayer of Dalea urban fantasy is an amusing tale starring an unlikely demons slayer and a horde of eccentric characters either driving her crazy or trying to kill her. Lizzie is almost clueless re her talent, but courageously does her best as fighting deadly demons is safer than riding a Honda with her grandma. Filled with humor, fans will enjoy Angie Fox’s lighthearted frolic as the Atlanta teacher takes Vegas; that is once she gets past the immigration rules for magical practitioners.

Harriet Klausner

Enchanting the Beast-Kathryne Kennedy

Enchanting the Beast
Kathryne Kennedy
Love Spell, May 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527646

In 1861 London, Lady Philomena Radcliffe hosts a séance when Baronet Nicodemus Wulfson barges in. Although he is skeptical about her ghost whispering skills, he will try anything to save his brother, dying from an unknown ailment. He demands she help him by her interrogating the ghosts who reside in his family castle.

Phil realizes Nico is a shapeshifter and agrees to accompany him back to Grimspell. Almost as soon as she enters accompanied by her otherworld contact Tup she meets a spirit in battle armor whom she follows as he walks down to the dungeon. There she finds a locked door and a crypt; once she opens the door she heeds the voices whispering her as she walks a tunnel underneath the castle. She also sees the ghosts of a courtesan and her customers. As she gets closer to naming the person responsible for the condition of Nico’s sibling, she falls in love with her host; not heeding Tup’s warnings that a mortal wanting to hide his or her identity wants her dead.

The third Relics of Merlin alternate history saga (see DOUBLE ENCHANTMENT and ENCHANTING THE LADY) is a fabulous romantic whodunit fantasy. The electrifying story line stars an intriguing descendent of the Camelot wizard and a brooding werewolf who with the foreboding castle brings a gothic feel to the tale. Fast-paced from the moment Nico crashes Philo’s séance and never slows until the final goodbye, fans will enjoy this fun Victorian.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Pretender's Crown-C.E. Murphy

The Pretender's Crown
C.E. Murphy
Del Rey, Apr 28 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345494658

In 1588 Belinda Primrose, THE QUEEN’S BASTARD daughter of the Virgin Queen of Aulun Lorraine Walter, inherited her witchfire magical prowess from her father Robert Drake. She uses her mage skills as the best royal espionage agent and assassin.

However, the Echon continent seems poised for war when Queen Sandalila of Esandia is killed by poison. Belinda wonders if her mother created the tension that grips the continent in a ploy to gain power over the neighbor across the channel Gallin or a diabolical ruse by the alien Heseth to divide the continent in a bloody hostility. As armies prepare to mobilize, Belinda struggles with what to do next as she decides whether or not to break from her mom. Since she has sampled the dark magical lure of Dmitri, Belinda also reflects about her shaky relationship with Prince Javier de Castille of Essandia and Gallin, whose mom’s assassination makes him the uncrowned king of Essandia.

The second Inheritors' Cycle alternate historical fantasy is a fabulous tale anchored by a realistic portrayal of the lead character, as Belinda is no angel. A map makes it clear these countries are part of Western Europe; which enhances the deep look at backstabbing machinations that make up Elizabethan era political intrigue. With plenty of magic, sex, and debates over who the heirs are and who the pretenders to the thrones are, fans will relish C.E. Murphy’s fine late sixteenth century saga as lurking behind the scenes remain the Heseth; perhaps too easily stalking their prey.

Harriet Klausner

Dead If I Do-Tate Hallaway

Dead If I Do
Tate Hallaway
Berkley, May 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425227534

In Madison, Wisconsin, Mercury Crossing bookstore manager Witch Garnet Lacey and her vampire fiancé Sebastian are making wedding plans when his dhampir son Matyas manages to wake up his mother, Tereza, who has been in a coma for centuries. Tereza is irate to learn her husband considers her his ex-wife. Her plan is to kill Garnet and Sebastian; as a special combo zombie, vampire and witch paranormal she might be able to achieve her objective.

In the meantime Tereza curses the engaged couple. This proves instantly successful as wedding plans collapse when everything is abruptly canceled. Losing her cools, Garnet is ready to tackle the ex as her inner Goddess Lilith is fuming for vengeance, but the bride also has new people problems to harass her with the arrival of her clueless mortal parents.

The latest Garnet Lacey urban romantic fantasy (see DEAD SEXY and TALL, DARK & DEADLY) is a lot more amusing than the previous tale (see ROMANCING THE DEAD), as Madison’s favorite witch learns a basic truism that Murphy was an optimist; nothing goes right. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Tereza curses the happy couple. Filled with angst yet amusing, DEAD IF IT DO is a terrific bewitching tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monster-A. Lee Martinez

A. Lee Martinez
Orbit, May 2009, $19.99
ISBN 9780316041263

Monster runs a specialized pest control agency that advertises he catches pesty yeti; what he catches is placed in special in cryptobiological containment facilities as these are not rodents. One night Monster stops at the Food Plus Mart where Judy eats Rocky Road ice cream while working the late shift. He saves her life from a runaway yeti who was running wild in the frozen foods aisle.

Soon after that evening incident, Monster has to remove an infestation of trolls in Judy’s apartment. As with the yeti, Judy almost immediately forgets the paranormal events, which proves she must be a person whose mind cannot accept the existence of magic so she dumps those encounters as not being real. However, Monster does not accept coincidence as Judy seems to be the foci in the rise of deadly cryptobiological activity. Not long after her denial, Lotus, who possesses a stone linked to Judy, abducts her. Used to battling dragons, trolls and ogres, Monster follows her to save her life, but quickly realizes he is in deep trouble even more when he fights with his girlfriend who is literally from hell.

This humorous satire lampoons those street corner philosophers agonizing over how the universe began when people are malnourished, un-sheltered, and receiving no health care. The story line is fast-paced from the opening yeti assault and never slows down as Judy seems to have become the center of zany paranormal activity. Readers who believe in boiling the ocean to see what lives on ground below will pass, but the rest of the universe will enjoy Lee Martinez’s biting thriller that amusingly mocks social cosmologists who fail to see a tree in the forest.

Harriet Klausner

Contact With Chaos-Michael Z. Williamson

Contact With Chaos
Michael Z. Williamson
Baen, Apr 7 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416591542

The United Nations and Freehold fought war over the latter’s sovereignty. In spite of overwhelming superiority and winning the battles, the United Nations left Freehold and the Granne system as an independent nation.

The Freehold survey ship Hound Dog finds a sentient species the Ithkuil; the first alien encounter by humans. Freehold sends Captain Betang of the armed starship Healy to escort selected envoy Mark Ballenger to negotiate with the aliens. The UN sends Nurin Russ as its representative. Scientists begin probing the planet while big corporations salivate over a new customer especially Damon Egan of Halo Materials Group, who was on the Hound Dog when it made its startling find. The outsiders quickly conclude the aliens have little technology as surface metals are scarce yet in contradiction they have large metropolitan areas. Hiding their metal from the aliens so as not to cause disruption, the humans land to begin negotiations of a sort with a surprisingly advanced civilization that has non-metal based technology.

The latest Freehold science fiction is the best in the series (see FREEHOLD and THE WEAPON) as the United Nations and Freehold government agents try to control the capitalists who are biting at the bit to buy and sell with a new customer. The story line is profound as Ballanger finds it extremely difficult to keep the frenzied business interests from overwhelming his mission and the Ithkuil; as he learns hiding metal fails when moguls want to sell it as a high end product. Fans of the series or anyone who appreciates a well written first contact thriller will fully relish Michael Z. Williamson’s realistic spin on economics 101 in outer space as the buck stops when the customer forks it over.

Harriet Klausner