Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Black Swan Rising-Lee Carroll

Black Swan Rising
Lee Carroll
Tor, Aug 3 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765325976

In her New York City neighborhood jewelry designer Garet James walks into a curio shop that she never noticed before. Owner John Dee notices the swan design on her ring is identical to that on an antique silver box that he cannot open. He asks her to open the box. Shortly afterward, three men with no whites in their eyes enter ner father’s art gallery and then her apartment. They take the box and her father is shot; he informs Garet they are demons who tried to take him over. Garet returns to the store, but it is shut and looks like it has not been used in years.

Garet sees a picture of billionaire Will Hughes and his home which has the same swan design on the arch as that of the ring and box. When they meet, he explains she is a guardian watchtower standing between two worlds fighting evil. Garet visits the Cloisters in the Bronx; where a manticore comes alive and bites her. Will tells her he is a vampire; his bite will rid her body of the deadly manticore toxin. He further explains he is tracking the demons Despair and Discord who came to this plane when the box was opened and are in the process of forming. Will wants to prevent them from spreading their malevolence and needs her help starting with her meeting King Oberon of the fairies.

Garet’s metamorphosis from designer to arcane warrior make for a fun urban fantasy as she sees fey on the city streets. Garet adapts to her new world order rather too easily as the heroine meets demons, elementals, air sprite, a mermaid, a dragon, a gnome and others while falling in love with a vampire. Fans will enjoy touring the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx with Garet as our guide.

Harriet Klausner

After America-John Birmingham

After America
John Birmingham
Del Rey, Aug 17 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345502919

Several years have passed since the catastrophic wave of energy destroyed the United States in 2003 that came like a tsunami Without Warning. Scientists remained baffled with what caused it, why it abruptly vanished a year later and how to prevent a return. In the meantime the White House moved to Seattle where American President James Kipper is frustrated with no answers and as is the case with the traumatized people struggling to endure, he fears what will happen if another such wave assaults the continent. Still he pushes forward with the greatest reconstruction project in the history of the world.

President Kipper visits the Declared Security Zone of New York where militia and pirates rule the city and the burbs, but is greeted by an assassination attempt. At the same time in the breakaway republic of Texas, farmer Miguel Pieraro follows the path to citizenship in the New America until an ethnic cleansing campaign led by a rogue army officer destroys his family. In England, American army officer Caitlin Monroe struggles to survive an assault on her life. Finally, in the wasteland of the Middle East comes a major threat to what is left of the world. Between lawlessness on the eastern seaboard and what is occurring overseas and in Texas, Kipper, a builder by heart, needs to find his warrior fortitude as he is reluctant to confront anyone with America still reeling; but ignoring the threats to local security will destroy the United States permanently.

The sequel to Without Warning is a terrific exhilarating thriller that grips the audience from start to finish. Heroes are everywhere from every walk of life whether they are city engineers turned POTUS, a Mexican-American farmer, an overseas officer and others risking their lives against ruthless lethal fully armed adversaries. Readers will enjoy this exhilarating post-apocalyptic tale that stands alone, but enhanced by reading what the wave caused first.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Do Unto Others-Michael Z. Williamston

Do Unto Others
Michael Z. Williamston
Baen, Aug 3 2010, $22.00
ISBN: 9781439133835

Minors Bryan Prescot and his family invented technology that enabled the mining of planets in the most inhospitable places. The invention made him and his kin the richest people in the universe. On the down side, many unscrupulous people see the Prescot brood as targets to be mined.

To keep his daughter Caron safe, Bryan hires the Ripple Creek Security firm whose guiding vision is protect the client at all costs. The magnificent six (Jason, Artemis, Alex, Bart, Shaman, and Elke) guard Caron with their lives; each vows to remain vigil as they pledge no harm will come to her. . However, an unknown adversary has sent a horde to kill the girl and her protectors. She has the sextet who doesn’t feel too concerned that they face an army that could take a planet but only need to take out one person. To the six keeping Caron safe is their business even if they have to nuke their way to keeping their client safe.

This is a wild outer space caper as the odds are overwhelming in favor of the thugs kidnapping Caron and killing all on her side. However, the magnificent six plus the miners defend her so don’t bet against Caron and her protective cronies. Over the top with nothing new as Michael Z. Williamston takes the honorable mercenary Magnificent Seven from Mexico into Outer Space (with six) to fight amoral ruthless outlaws. Yet knowing this going in, readers will enjoy every page of the confrontation as Mr. Williamston will not need to beg forgiveness from his fans with this entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Page-Anthony Huso

The Last Page
Anthony Huso
Tor, Aug 17 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765325167

Twenty-three years old Caliph Howl is the heir to ruling the Duchy of Stonehold. He is proud of his work at school as he is set to graduate with honors; however, his perfect life plan is devastated when he meets upperclassman Sena. She is filled with magic and enthusiasm, but conceals her legacy that she does not quite comprehend. Abruptly she ends their relationship.

In the Seventh House coven, her Shradnae sisters prepare her for what they know is her rightful place in Stonehold as well as theirs. Her assignment is to spy on the new High King who is attracted to her. Obsessed with power, Sena is unaware of what she and her coven wrought when civil war ignites and the ancient Cisrym Ta text surfaces with implications that the mathematics of life and death will change existence. At the same time in the capital of Isca, inexperienced Caliph becomes the High King when the leader is forced to make deadly decisions that will harm the innocent; unaware of the return of Sena. He needs his blood to open the arcane tome.

The world constructed by Anthony Huso is a wonderful imaginary numerically design that readers will admire. The beauty if the Huso realm is fully appreciated when the math formulas of life and dead appear to be changing. Although at times the language seems purposely and to this reader illogically shocking, taking away from the overall fine fantasy, readers will enjoy Mr. Huso strong saga from the start to the Last Page as the logic of math applies to this world’s equation suddenly becomes an out of balance inequality.

Harriet Klausner

The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer And The Undead-Mark Twain and Don Borchert

The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer And The Undead
Mark Twain and Don Borchert
Tor, Aug 3 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780765327291

The plague turned people into zombies who could only be stopped by beheading them or shooting them in the head. People like young Tom Sawyer and his Aunt Polly adapted to the Zum as southerners called the zombies with some safety adjustments to normal living like sharpening the top of wooden fences. Tom ever the imp causing Polly and the townsfolk despair was punished for a misdeed by being forced to perform zombie antiterrorist fence sharpening, but conned the other lads into doing his work.

Tom, Huck and their friend play pirate on a nearby island. They stay for days and rumors spread amongst the townsfolk they were dead until they miraculously return home. Another time Tom and Huck get lost in a cave with Becky Thatcher and the Zum serial killer Injun’ Joe.

This is amusing historical fantasy uses the prime cast and story line from the Mark Twain classic, but adds Zum fever to the tale. The cast is solid, but the plot is clearly owned by the mischievous title character and his prime adversary the Undead Injun’ Joe serial killing Zum. Readers who enjoyed zombie invasion of the classics like the respective tales by Seth Grahame-Smith and Steve Hockensmith starring Jane Austen or W. Bill Czolgosz’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim will want to read Tom’s undead farce with Injun’ Joe.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Death’s Excellent Vacation-Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

Death’s Excellent Vacation
Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
Ace, Aug 3 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441018680

This is a fun thirteen fantasy collection in which the paranormal go on vacations and have holidays that make the Griswold family and Monsieur Hulot seem tame. “Two Blondes” (by Charlaine Harris) Pam and Sookie go to a not so gentleman’s club in Mississippi for the weekend. Jim the demon (see Aisling Gray) heads to Paris for a good time but runs into “The Perils of Effrijim” by Katie MacAlister. The eight immortals get together as “The Boys Go Fishing” by Sarah Smith, but conclude drinking tea is easier. In “One for the Money” by Jeaniene Frost, hitmen Cat and Bones find their vacation interrupted protecting an heiress when the former’s mom arrives. You can’t go home if you want time out as affirmed by Toni L.P. Kelner in “Pirate Dave’s Haunted Amusement Park”, “The Demon in the Dunes” by Chris Grabenstein and “Home From America” by Sharan Newman. Readers will enjoy the amusing vacations of the supernatural as whether it is Bermuda (Lilith Saintcrow’s “The Heart Is Always Right”) or Port Arthur (“Seeing is Believing” by L.A. Banks), fans will want to accompany the paranormal when they go on Death’s Excellent Vacation tours.

Harriet Klausner

Cast In Chaos-Michelle Sagara

Cast In Chaos
Michelle Sagara
Luna, Aug 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803194

The City of Elantra’s influential are stunned when the powerless charlatans on Elani Street suddenly possess magical skills. Alarm spreads even by some of the new practitioners. This trepidation turns to abject fear when rains of blood come down from the sky and abnormal births become the norm.

The Oracles are confused as the leaders at the Dragon Court declare a homeland security emergency. The leadership concludes that something from outside is trying to penetrate the barriers between worlds. They also believe their response to prevent this from happening rests with Hawk elite force Private Kaylin Neya whose mysterious skin markings is postured to have the answers. Unintentionally somehow Kaylin enters a void that has been opened between worlds; here she meets the dark trying to crash through to the light of Elantra.

The sixth Cast “police procedural” fantasy continues the growth as a person of Kaylin who has a come a long way since her early days as a prejudicial cop on the Shadow beat. Although the story line is character driven by the courageous heroine, her efforts (and the prime plot) is to simply save the world. Fans of Elantra will want to soar with the heroine as her latest case takes several twists and spins.

Harriet Klausner

Cast In Chaos-Michelle Sagara

Cast In Chaos
Michelle Sagara
Luna, Aug 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803194

The City of Elantra’s influential are stunned when the powerless charlatans on Elani Street suddenly possess magical skills. Alarm spreads even by some of the new practitioners. This trepidation turns to abject fear when rains of blood come down from the sky and abnormal births become the norm.

The Oracles are confused as the leaders at the Dragon Court declare a homeland security emergency. The leadership concludes that something from outside is trying to penetrate the barriers between worlds. They also believe their response to prevent this from happening rests with Hawk elite force Private Kaylin Neya whose mysterious skin markings is postured to have the answers. Unintentionally somehow Kaylin enters a void that has been opened between worlds; here she meets the dark trying to crash through to the light of Elantra.

The sixth Cast “police procedural” fantasy continues the growth as a person of Kaylin who has a come a long way since her early days as a prejudicial cop on the Shadow beat. Although the story line is character driven by the courageous heroine, her efforts (and the prime plot) is to simply save the world. Fans of Elantra will want to soar with the heroine as her latest case takes several twists and spins.

Harriet Klausner

Total Eclipse-Rachel Caine

Total Eclipse
Rachel Caine
Roc, Aug 3 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463456

Weather warden Joanne Baldwin and her husband Djinn David defeated their enemy former weather warden Bad Bob (see Cape Storm), but at a price that she knows was too high. Besides her friends like Lewis becoming ill, she and David are stripped of their power, Djinn are dead in mass numbers, and the Black Corner of the planet no longer contains earth’s natural pulse. Their victory at all costs has come with an even greater price as Mother Nature is waking up from a long nap; outraged by the pollution that has destroyed much of the planet’s magic.

With the Djinn gone, no one can intercede to persuade Mother Nature to give mankind one more chance; her inclination is extinction of humanity and all other living essences. Leaving “Gilligan’s Island” (as she has no gowns anyway) to save the world, Joanne accompanied by her man David, her BFF Cherise and Cherise’s soul mate Kevin set out on a quest to prevent the end of times though they have no power beyond that of humans.

The ninth tale in the Weather Warden urban fantasy saga is a great finish that showcases why Rachel Caine is a master wizard. The story line is simple: save the world from a rightfully righteous fuming Mother Nature without any otherworldly powers. Fans of the long running series will relish the climax as Joanne and company find themselves in dire straits with no hope of success; however as she understands to hit a home run one must swing the bat and risk striking out; as not trying means out anyway.

Harriet Klausner

A Wild Light-Marjorie M. Liu

A Wild Light
Marjorie M. Liu
Ace, Jul 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019014

Every year, demon hunter Maxine Kiss kills a zombie on her birthday; the anniversary day of her mom’s murder. In Seattle, this year Maxine wakes up in bed next to Grandfather Jack Meddle’s bloody corpse. She recalls nothing about the previous evening, not even Jack wishing her happy birthday. Maxine soon finds other gaps in her memory as she has no idea who her soul mate, the Lightbringer Grant is. Adding to her trepidations, her five demons residing as tattoos on her epidermis are mute. Her worst fear is that she gone dark and killed her beloved grandpa.

Still Maxine needs to fill the holes in her head and get the “boys” communicating. She begins making inquiries and uncovers a potential calamity if not resolved yesterday; as the inner ring containing the demon horde inside is crumbling with Reaper Kings prepared to glean the harvest of souls.

The third Hunter Kiss urban fantasy (see The Iron Hunt and Darkness Calls) is a terrific entry that contains a powerful story line while also moving forward on the overarching theme. Readers will learn much about the heroine’s heritage as she investigates what happened to her and Jack. With a late great twist, fans will enjoy Marjorie M. Liu’s dark A Wild Light.

Harriet Klausner

Stuff of Legends-Ian Gibson

Stuff of Legends
Ian Gibson
Ace, Jul 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019304

In a world where magic exists, the leading form of entertainment comes from the traveling bards who sing about the adventures of heroes; courtesy of Central Casting. The most cherished champion throughout civilization is the incredible Jordan the Red who remains the best of the best even though he vanished two decades ago. Although no one seems to know where he is, people still love hearing his tales of daring do.

Jordon hopes to remain is hiding as he retired years ago. Unfortunately Eliot obsessively wants to meet his hero in order to join him on an adventure. His former Elfish babysitter Kess gives him a braid with strings of wishes. Jordan’s former agent sends the bard Cyral to chronicle Jordan’s comeback escapade. They all converge on Jordan who insists he is retired with no plans of a farewell tour. When an enemy of the reluctant retired hero abducts Elliot Jordan sighs because he knows he must intercede. From there his life goes catastrophic as all the enemies he defeated in his first heroic run have formed a gauntlet to kill Jordan. If he survives the horde, he next faces the dragon he once fought.

Stuff of Legends is a refreshing amusing fantasy in which the star is told to follow the script while his foes ignore the plot. However, the adventures are real so the hero can die (like John Wayne at the Alamo). Jordon was the best and has no desire to prove he still is until his agent lures him out of retirement the sleazy way. Although some of the jocularity fails to feel funny, fans of Robert Aspirin’s Myth-adventures and early Xanth will enjoy the lampooning of quest fantasies as with Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero comes to mind, but what happens after hours.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Omnitopia Dawn-Diane Duane

Omnitopia Dawn
Diane Duane
Daw, Aug 3 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756406233

By 2015, anyone who knows their name participates in multi-player on line games. The most popular of the interactive internet games is Dev Logan’s Omnitopia. There are so many players; the game has surpassed TV and movies as the number one entertainment outlet in the world. Millions not just play, but prefer the reality of Omnitopia to their “real” existence.

Dev and his crew begin a major upgrade to his game system. However, while working on the expansion, he is stunned to learn his creation is alive. Whereas he has always dueled with unscrupulous hackers, elected officials with false morals, and unprincipled industrial espionage operatives, he never lost sight that it was only a game. Now it is more than a game as he tries to keep the ruthless immoral thugs from murdering or kidnapping his “offspring”.

This is a terrific techno-thriller that uses the enthusiasm of game players to extract a near future in which on-line interactivity is the in thing. Although AI tales have starred frequently in books (Asimov) and movies (Spielberg), Omnitopia Dawn provides a fresh perspective due to a rotating 360 degree viewpoint. Fans will enjoy likable Dev’s efforts to protect his child while also seeing how players, the expansion crew, and the devious look at Omnitopia.

Harriet Klausner

The Reapers Are the Angels-Alden Bell

The Reapers Are the Angels
Alden Bell
Holt, $15.00
ISBN 978-0-8050-9243-1

Fifteen years old Temple has learned one thing in her life; either one kills the zombies and other predators or they die. She can never remember a time before the Meatskins when the globe was relatively safe, but recalls the old man and her younger sibling before she was forced to begin her trek to nowhere.

At an alleged safe house, human Abraham Todd assaults her. Following her credo, she kills him but flees before his family or allies can come after her. Outraged by the teen’s murder of his brother, Moses vows to find, torture and kill Temple. On her trek, Temple finds a dim witted mute Maury who starts tagging along with her. She cannot shake him and soon feels responsible for his safety; as he brings back memories she would prefer to forget. Meanwhile Moses stalks her and the meatskin zombies chase her and her companion.

The world of Alden Bell is a dark place, a terrible place to live but Temple refuses to die so circumstances of survival has made her one of the fittest and toughest. Temple makes the grim convergence of horror with science fiction work as she seeks redemption instead of the remorse that fills her soul. Her journey is deadly battling predators of all kind; some who would rape and then kill her; other who would eat her to death. The Reapers Are the Angeles is an exciting fast-paced thriller that grips readers from start to finish.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 25, 2010

The War That Came Early: West and East-Harry Turtledove

The War That Came Early: West and East
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, Jul 27 2010, $27.00
ISBN 9780345491848

Following Chamberlain’s rejection of appeasement, Hitler's War continues on three fronts. He attacks France planning to take Paris soonest. His troops head east towards Soviet Russia and the oil fields. Finally his military machine heads north to Scandinavia starting with Denmark.

However, the three German fronts don’t go as well as planned. In Czechoslovakia, the tank blitzkrieg runs into some opposition from freedom fighter using antitank rifles. In France, his forces are behind schedule in his demand that Paris is burning. Finally only in the northern front are things going somewhat smoothly. In the Pacific, the Japanese are rolling all over Asia uncontested.

The second entry in the alternate history of The War That Came Early series continues to extrapolate events based on Chamberlain taking a stand in 1938. The story line is exciting and fast-paced but is at its best when Harry Turtledove takes his audience to the real fronts where those who will never make it into the history texts star. When the plot seeks the big picture of a world at war it loses some of its in depth and the personal horrors of what happens in war even at the home front away from the battlefield. Fans will root for the everyday person on both sides of the conflict as Mr. Turtledove takes his readers to the Atlantic and Pacific, to Singapore, Japan, Siberia and all over Europe as even the maniac Hitler shows some soul when he enables an American to escape Germany.

Harriet Klausner

Waking the Witch-Kelley Armstrong

Waking the Witch
Kelley Armstrong
Dutton, Jul 27 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780525951780

The three homicides in Columbus, Washington imply that a supernatural serial killer is on the loose. Portland, Oregon twenty-something witch Savannah Levine of Cortez-Winterbourne Investigations (one bolt would change the name to Levine Investigations) and hybrid human-demon investigator Jesse Aanes make inquiries.

Savannah wants to prove that she has the mental and physical toughness to go it alone. She believes her witch powers will enable her to obtain the information needed to determine who the culprit is. However, to her chagrin when she casts a spell,her powers fail her. Meanwhile their unknown adversary continues the killing spree with no end in sight unless Savannah and Jesse find the serial killer.

This is an entertaining twist to Savannah’s saga as her traits as the tough sassy child of Stolen remain in the adult though more under control. Making matters difficult for her is when she most needs her bewitching skills they seem to vanish. Filled with wonderful spins and a horde of corpses, Waking the Witch is a wonderful Otherworld urban fantasy mystery as unlike her heroine Kelly Armstrong’s bewitching ability to entertain remains as strong as ever.

Harriet Klausner

Death Most Definite-Trent Jamieson

Death Most Definite
Trent Jamieson
Orbit, Jul 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780316078009

Following his divorce, Steven de Selby becomes a Psychopomp at his family firm Mortmax Industries. His job as a Pomp requires him to send the souls of the dead to their final resting place.

At the mall for lunch, a female ghost who should not be there warns Steven to run, saving his life, but before he can pomp her she is gone. An unknown entity attacks the employees at the company’s offices in Sydney and Melbourne; everyone is killed. The ghost of a former peer warns Steven that he and the other Pomps at the Brisbane office are targeted next. Just an average guy, Steven dodges an apparent supernatural killing machine giving him no time to mourn for the loss of his family as he is a target. He also struggles with an impossible backlog of souls since the organization was downsized by the enemy. Then there are the Stirrers wearing the bodies of his loved ones: Steven knows being a Pomp is an unsafe occupation at the moment.

This is a fun tongue in cheek Australian urban fantasy whose underlying premise is soul departing has been privatized by “Mr. D”. The story line is fast-paced and filled with straightforward action as the reader will not be surprised by events, but will enjoy each soul raising escapade that Steven seems to get caught up in. Fans will appreciate his adventures to avoid pomping himself with few others around to do so as death becomes him.

Harriet Klausner

Lord of the Changing Winds-Rachel Neumeier

Lord of the Changing Winds
Rachel Neumeier
Orbit, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316072786

In the land of Feierabiand in the woods by the small remote village of Minas Ford, teen Kes the healer gathers herbs, but stops to watch the beauty of the visiting griffins soaring through the sky before completing her chore. She rushes home to her worried sister farmer Tesme and their helper Jos as a horse River is about to give birth. With Kes’ aid, the siblings celebrate the birth of the foal when a stranger asks Kes for help.

Kes senses the man is different and somehow has ties to the griffins. Bering a healer who uses herbs she goes with him to attend to healing the griffins. As she assists them without herbs and communicates telepathically; a mage and diplomat escorted by soldiers arrive to investigate tales of griffins coming across the mountains from Casmantium.

The insight into the griffin culture owns the opening tale of the aptly titled The Griffin Mage saga; the humans even the heroic lead healer pale in comparison. The story line is an entertaining fantasy; however in spite of a map, the deployments of large forces including the griffins flying across the mountain range were difficult to envision what it took these various groups to accomplish their respective missions; that is a key reason exiting Iraq in an orderly manner takes time. Still this is the tale of the griffins soaring through the skies over Feierabiand and their healer learning their ways and more to help them to fly with the winds they brought with them.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prospero in Hell-L. Jagi Lamplighter

Prospero in Hell
L. Jagi Lamplighter
Tor, Aug 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780765319302

The immortal sorcerer Prospero remains missing (see Prospero Lost) ever since one of his plans backfired. He is lost in hell. He would be surprised and proud of his adult children as they have come together after years of estrangement.

However, even with this sudden sibling camaraderie, Prospero’s offspring must cope with the constant threat from the Three Shadowed Ones. These devious predators seek the magical artifacts held by Prospero’s offspring. The oldest Miranda tries to keep her brothers and sisters united, but they remain fractious while they grapple with a series of stunning shockers. Still she investigates what happened to her sire and learns somewhat of his life since the events of five centuries ago immortalized by that hack.

Following up on Prospero Lost, Miranda leads the title character’s offspring as they struggle to team up even as their immortal world seems to be heading to hell in a broken hand basket. Fast-paced throughout, fans will enjoy the sibling rivalry while wondering if Prospero will remain lost in hell forever. His centuries’ old children acting like battling little kids fail to get their act together; although Miranda is kicking butt for them to shape up now. L. Jagi Lamplighter provides another strong Tempest thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lucy-Laurence Gonzales

Laurence Gonzales
Knopf, Jul 13 2020, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307272607

With the death of her associate in the Congo, primate anthropologist Jenny Lowe rescues her crony’s daughter Lucy as the civil war continues to go unabated and ugly. Jenny and Lucy go to the anthropologist’s home in Chicago where the girl acts weird, but not shocking as she lived in the jungle.

Jenny begins to reconsider the child’s skills displaying abnormal strength and superhuman agility. However, it is Lucy’s seemingly instinctive preference to stay in trees rather than the ground that leads Jenny to realize that her tweener is a hybrid mix of half human and half pygmy chimpanzee. DNA testing confirms what the two females sort of knew. The kid insists she is a humanzee who reads the classics and can speak in several tongues, but has incredible senses well beyond the human range. Scientists make a bid to study her and HSD declares she doesn’t have any rights because she is not human and could be a terrorist

This deep look at what is human will have readers pondering the definition while wondering with a nod to Frankenstein although Lucy is charming how far science should go. The story line is fast-paced while introducing readers to a myriad of complex social, scientific and religious problematic convergences. Although the ending feels overly neat after how complicated the questions of Lucy’s human rights as a hybrid, fans will relish this thought provoking powerhouse.

Harriet Klausner

Labyrinth-Kat Richardson

Kat Richardson
Roc, Aug 3 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780451463364

In Seattle, paranormal private investigator Harper Blaine seeks a way to liberate her father’s ghost from the Grey maze while concerned with the street violence caused by the vampires but which the cops suspect her. She has no time for cops and undead as she seeks the person who killed her. Also unbeknownst to Harper the Greywalker is that the ancient Egyptian god-king of the asteme Pharaohn-ankh-astet leaves London to pursue her in Washington.

While Harper struggles with her dad’s predicament and her own homicide case, vampire chief Edward Kammerling has vanished. His rival as undead boss Carlos Pires Ataide is dying unless Harper can remove a soul sucking knife from his body. Her under siege boyfriend Quinton and Chaos the ferret have her back; perhaps good intentions is a bit more accurate as truthfully she has their backs.

Harper continues her metamorphosis into a grave paranormal entity in this delightfully evolving urban fantasy. The story line is action-packed as the Greywalker gets further baptism under fire from the ancient one, being in the middle of a vampire surge and seemingly civil war, having cops watch you breathe, and her dad’s predicament. She ponders when she will find time for finding her own murderer. With the apt title, this is a complicated superb entry in an evolving series growing stronger and deeper.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wolf’s Cross-S.A. Swann

Wolf’s Cross
S.A. Swann
Spectra, Jul 27 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780553807394

In Anno Domini 1353 in Nurnberg, Prussia Brother Josef and other Wolfjäger Teutonic warrior monks are stunned by the horrific massacre though they have seen plenty of hellish gore. The evidence is overwhelming that a werewolf caused the gruesome scene though the locals have blamed the Jews for their plight and blight; and burned them out of fear. However, the real monster attacks the Teutonic Knights with a vengeance. Although severely injured, Josef the knight probationer fires a silver coded arrow into the eye of the beast; the creature flees howling.

A servant Maria tends to the wounds of the severely hurt Josef. He is attracted to his healer and her to him; but she also has feelings for the stranger Darien, who has a scar on one of his eyes. Darien desires her too and explains to his Maria that like him she is wolfbreed too; only the silver crucifix her father placed on her prevents her from changing into a berserker.

Although the story line is a typical paranormal triangle, the time and place (same period and general location as Wolfbreed) makes for a terrific medieval historical romantic fantasy. Filled with plenty of action from the opening assault, the strong cast makes for a powerfully gripping saga as readers will wonder which enemy combatant the “commoner” Maria will choose as her soulmate, the knight or the wolf.

Harriet Klausner

The Fire Lord’s Lover-Kathryne Kennedy

The Fire Lord’s Lover
Kathryne Kennedy
Sourcebooks, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402236525

In 1724, elven lords from Elfthane rule England with a cruel iron fist. Half-breed son of elven Fire Lord evil Mor’ded, Dominic Raikes conceals the full extent of his magical skills and more important his heart from his sire because he knows his father would view him as a threat for either and kill him.

Meanwhile the human Rebellion, who want to overturn the Elven malevolent reign of terror, raise seemingly innocent Lady Cassandra Bridges to appear prim and proper to disguise her other training as an assassin. She and Dominic wed in a marriage of convenience. However, to their shock, the newlyweds fall in love with one another. Unintended consequence is his human side of empathy and love supersedes his ruthless elven half, which leads to his worst nightmare that his dad becomes aware of what has occurred.

This is a superb Georgian romantic fantasy that effortlessly merges facts of early eighteenth century London with a mythical spin. With several great twists the story line is loaded with otherworldly action anchored by the realism of 1724 England as the Rebellion and the elves control the destiny of the newlyweds. Ironically even with others trying to pull their strings, the exciting plot is owned by the lead couple as she is a top rate assassin and he a half-breed coming into his power due to the love of the mortal he married; while Mor’ded tests his son.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow’s Son-Jon Sprunk

Shadow’s Son
Jon Sprunk
PYR, Jun 8 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616142018

In holy Othir, Caim the assassin makes his living with his bow and arrow as his choice of weapon. Being a distant sniper is his preferred choice though a blade is okay if a close up action is required. Having no scruples or any dangerous dangling alliances, any assignment is acceptable as long as he completes the task unscathed.

His current client hires Caim to kill abusive torturer Duke Reinard of Ostergoth who is manhandling his guests at a whipping gala when the assassin’s lover Kit alit in his way. Somehow Caim misses the mark and hits guest Liram Kornfelsh of the Merchant Syndicate. All hell breaks loose as he shoots two more arrows at those now protecting the Duke before he flees for his life while guardian spirit Kit keeps a barrage of I told you so coming at him.

Things go from bad to much worse as soon Caim finds himself eluding the on the take law enforcement officials, other assassins, and something insidious from beyond the Other Side. He eludes crooked lawmen, rival killers, and sorcery from the Other Side. Betrayed by his agent, he is now known with his only chance to survive is claiming his heritage as the Shadow’s Son. His only allies are Kit who no one else sees or hears and seventeen year old upper class Josephine as they unravel a plot that will shake the church’s foundation if it leaves the shadows of a secret society.

This is an exciting quest fantasy starring a likable somewhat surprisingly naive antihero, a perhaps too mature debutant teen, and a know-it-all spirit. The story line is fast-paced from the opening missed shot until the final revelations. Readers who appreciate a complex fantasy thriller in a strange but well designed world will want to visit the escapades of the Shadow’s Son in Sprunk’s sphere.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mozart’s Blood-Louise Marley

Mozart’s Blood
Louise Marley
Kensington, Jul 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758242129

Octavia Voss is euphoric as she will soon sing an aria at the Milan opera house; the same place she sang two centuries ago when she shared blood with the great composer. However, during rehearsal her personal assistant Ugo vanishes. She is worried for the welfare of her ancient friend as she knows he would not desert her and she fears she will have to bite for blood since he provided her nourishment.

Octavia thinks back to when they first met during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. She begins her quest to find her friend, but soon becomes the target of those who want her Mozart enhanced blood and by the Ancient Ones who will kill even centuries-old innocent vampires like her to prevent new ones from being promulgated.

This is a terrific vampire thriller with a refreshing interesting spin in which shared memories come with the drunken blood. The story line rotates between the frantic present day search by Octavia who is hunter and hunted, and several biting eras in her past. Fans of supernatural urban fantasy will want to drink from Louise Marley’s marvelous Mozart’s Blood.

Harriet Klausner

Dragongirl-Todd McCaffrey

Todd McCaffrey
Del Rey, Jul 27 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345491169

On the planet Pern, junior Weyrwoman Fiona of Fort Weyr returns after going back in time and spending three years away in Igen Weyr healing the wounded men and dragons as well as the newly impressed dragon riders so they will be able to fight Thread when they return to their present. When she returns, she realizes she is no longer capable of being the junior Weyrwoman at Fort. A lethal plague strikes; which leaves many dragons and their riders dead.

When all the dragon riders of Telgar go between because they are mortally wounded from fighting Thread Fiona moves to Telgar as senior Weyrwoman along with dragons and their riders from Fort and other weyrs. Fiona takes charge, but at first no one trusts a young outsider who happens to their new Weyrwoman at a time when an unknown plague is killing the dragons and their riders. Fiona, her gold queen Talenth and all the Weyrs riders and their dragons try their best as Thread falls, but the Weyrs lack enough dragons to prevent tragedy from occurring. With each Fall, more dragons and their riders die and time is running out of for the people of Pern.

Pern continues to be a wonderful science fiction saga as Todd McCaffrey in his latest solo flight (see Dragonsblood and Dragonsheart) has picked up the thread started by his semi-retired mom. Dragongirl is a poignant action tale driven by key characters of who the audience roots for as they display sacrifice and courage. There is an enjoyable romantic subplot between the heroine and her beloved Kindan the Harper and Tegar’s Weyrleader T’mar, but this tale is owned by the lethal Thread made more dangerous by the decimation of the dragons and their riders due to the plague even with the riders and their dragons who spent time in the past to help save the present.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blood Law-Jeannie Holmes

Blood Law
Jeannie Holmes
Dell, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592672

Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigations (FBPI) field enforcer Alexandra Sabian resides in Jefferson, Mississippi; a town in which half of the six thousand residents are vampires to include forty-something Alex. She relocated to the quiet town six years ago for some needed respite from her internal issues.

An unknown predator begins serial mutilating and killing vampires that remind Alex of her father’s brutal homicide forty years ago, which haunts her. Nassau County Sheriff Harvey Manser makes it clear at the latest murder scene that his belief that the only good vampire is a truly dead vampire. The remains are horrific with fangs and heads removed amongst other vicious mutilations. The FBPI provides Alex with backup sending in retired agent Varik Baudelaire; her former fiancé and mentor whom she detests for his betrayal.

This is an entertaining urban fantasy with a fascinating premise that does not always work. Four decades ago the vampires came out of the coffins demanding equal rights and legally received them within seven years of protesting, but de facto racism remains strong. The story line is at its best when the focus is on the taut dysfunctional relationship between the investigating FBPI agents. When the tale takes a moral species rights stand, it becomes too obvious a metaphor that pales compared to the realities of the Civil Rights Movement. Still readers will enjoy the opening gamut of the FBPI as Mississippi’s Burning.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rapture Untamed-Pamela Palmer

Rapture Untamed
Pamela Palmer
Avon, Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061794704

The draden drain the life force of the Therians when they can. Feral Warriors risk their lives to protect the Therians from the draden. In 1433 the draden attacked a Therian stronghold in the Scottish Highlands as the protective spell fails due to the Mage stealing it. A young girl Olivia is the only survivor of the attack; no draden survived either due to her being changed by being draden-kissed. Olivia now can siphon off the life force energy of others just like the draden but not kill her source unlike the draden. Her dad warns her to conceal her change from everyone as the Therians and the draden will kill her.

Centuries later, Jag the shapeshifting Feral Warrior who works alone is teamed up with Olivia to hunt daemons stalking the mortals. Both are unhappy with the attraction between them. He because he wants no one and she because she fears being outed and what she can do to someone even a loved one as she learned when she almost killed her father five centuries ago. Jag learns the secret of his courageous partner, but as she fears what he will do she wonders whether he will expose, kill, or protect the woman he loves.

The fourth Feral Warriors "untamed" romantic urban fantasy (see Passion Untamed, Desire Untamed and Obsession Untamed) is a fast-paced and exciting entry filled with plenty of action and passion. As with the previous tale in which Feral Warrior Paenther's back-story was told, the audience obtains a bit of what happened to Olivia, her mom, other Therians and the dreaded Draden on that fateful lethal attack in the fifteenth century. Readers will, enjoy Jag’s dilemma wondering what he will choose.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Flame-Alyson Noel

Dark Flame
Alyson Noel
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jun 22 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312590970

With the new power of being an Immortal, Haven behaves like a child with a new toy. Her conversion places Haven and her friend Ever in strife as the former wants to irresponsibly show off her nouveau skills while the latter wants her to conceal them for fear of what exposure will cause to the Immortals.

Ever also tries to liberate Damen from her enemy Roman’s control. She attempts a very dark magical spell to free her eternal beloved from the curse. However, instead of unbinding Damen from Roman, her incantation binds her to her adversary. As Ever struggles to keep free from what she wrought onto herself, she pleads with Jude to help her as she risks all she cherishes; on the other hand Roman gleefully turns on the heat to bring the enervated female Evermore under his thumb.

The fourth Immortals young adult fantasy is a strong entry in a powerful series (see Shadowland and Blue Moon) although the heroine is not quite as feisty as she has been; part of that is psychological as she knows she erred. Fans of the saga will enjoy Ever’s latest adventure as she struggles to avoid surrendering her Immortal soul to the Dark Flame of her most loathed foe for ever more.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 18, 2010

Need Me-Shelli Stevens

Need Me
Shelli Stevens
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jun 29 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758235299

Her mission on Belton is to steal semen for use on her all female adopted planet. Being a lethal warrior, Nika vows to insure a successful endeavor as her people need it.

Lieutenant Brendon Marshall is a sentinel watching over the planet’s most valuable asset, seeds. Nika first attempt at the theft fails due to Brendon’s diligence. Her superior orders her to seduce him in order to obtain the semen. They make love with both hotter than a sun. However, he soon realizes she is the semen thief he seeks so holds her in sexual bondage unaware that a bounty hunter seeks his “guest”. .

This is a heated erotic science fiction that readers will enjoy but must suspend credibility due to the actions of the guardian and the bounty hunter. Nika is a strong lead character as she does what it takes to accomplish her mission. Fans will wonder why Brendon fails to turn her over to authorities even if he has just had the most mind blowing sex of his life; thinking with the wrong head can get the right head castrated. Still Need me is an entertaining sci fi erotica.

Harriet Klausner

Wolf Tales 10-Kate Douglas

Wolf Tales 10
Kate Douglas
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jun 29 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758242662

In Montana, Eve Reynolds knows that when she was a human she was a doormat; but now as a Chanku she has become a strong female. Her soulmate Adam ells her he loves her though both are upset that she remains non-pregnant. Eve drives to town but loses track of the road and crashes. Her last thought was a cry to Adam. Anton informs Adam Eve died. Adam blames himself for not going with her.

Eve wakes up to see the Goddess Liana and asks why she failed her, but gets no response. There is room for one Goddess and the Mother has selected Eve. She visits Adam while he sleeps and tells she has a new purpose and he must move on. Adam tries to commit suicide but Eve and Liana save his life. Eve tells Adam to teach Liana how to live as a mortal. Liana knows the pack loath her; she regrets not looking out for the Chanku.

Adam rages at everyone even his best friends Mei and Oliver before attacking her only to be assaulted and raped by him. Liana knows she failed Eve and deserves Adam’s hatred though she loves him. The Chandu begin to see Liana’s failures in new light. All forgive her except Adam. However, they work together as healers to include helping Igmutaka the spirit guide cougar. When Liana and Adam have sex she realizes she cannot stay with the Chanku any longer even as an inferno bears down on the lodge.

The story line refreshes the entire saga as a prime star dies with a super twist. As always the ensemble cast comes across as always as different fully developed characters in and out of the sex scenes; of which there are plenty of diverse trysts. Although the suspense is somewhat limited for what is expected of the Wolf Pack Big Sky romantic fantasy, readers will enjoy the latest entry in a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

Wyndano's Cloak-A.R. Silverberry

Wyndano's Cloak
A.R. Silverberry
Tree Tunnel Press, Apr 2010, $21/95
ISBN: 9780984103768

Aerdem Princess Jenren hears the whispers in the wind that warn her something horrific is coming. Out of fear for the safety of her family and friends, the princess runs back home. Her brother Prince Dash and his fiancée her BFF Bit take the omen seriously because they the malevolent Queen Naryfel is back. Her father tells them don’t worry, be happy. In fact to affirm his belief he insists they all attend Count Pompahro's gala honoring the debut of Lady Vieveeka and Dash’s birthday. Disaster strikes when someone abducts the queen and princess, and the king and prince are magically incarcerated in an odd tangle of branches that no one else can enter, nor the royal pair exit.

Jen tries to escape, but struggles to do so because she refuses to leave her mom behind. At the same time, though she still feels unworthy of Dash’s love, reticent Bit, with the help of Countess Pet, seeks the one person who might be able to rescue her beloved fiancé and her future father-in-law who are unaware what she needs to hope to succeed on her quest. Meanwhile Naryfel continues to move forward on her diabolical scheming.

The story line rotates subplots as Bit stars in trying to rescue the men and Jen tries to escape taking her mom with her. Both are excellent as the heroic females, so different in personality with one an introvert and the other an extrovert; personalize their particular quest to try to rescue their loved ones before dealing with the bigger threat of saving the kingdom from the evil queen. Wyndano’s Cloak is a superb young adult fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blood Curse-Crystal-Rain Love

Blood Curse
Crystal-Rain Love
ImaJinn, Mar 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417059

Vampire hunter Aria Michaels a mortal has dreamed of the same man for years. Lately her nocturnal fantasies have become so heated; they feel real to her leaving her wet with desire. He is Aria’s hope in an ugly filled world in which demons devastate the realm and vampires struggle to prevent them from doing so.

Rialto Renaldi believes the prophecy of Hope is a child’s inane fantasy. He rejects the Blood Revelation, which claims a vampire and his true mate will bring forth a child that will become a light to counter the growing darkness; in his mind the world is beyond saving. Rialto's mother knows in her heart that her son and Aria are the prophetic pair. However, they would be star-crossed lovers as she hunts his kind ever since a vampire killed her mother.

In spite of the author’s upbeat name, the world of Crystal-Rain Love to quote Marmalade in Reflections of My Life: “The world is a bad place … A terrible place to live” as this realm is dark and evil even with the light of love flickering to life. Fast-paced throughout starting with the iconic search for Poe’s cottage near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor the audience will enjoy the pair denying their feelings as she plans to use the star of her nocturnal dreams to enable her to hunt down her mother’s predator; and he wants to avoid the human his mom insists will fulfill the prophecy with him. This is an entertaining “Charm City” romantic urban fantasy as each will learn that there are much nastier things out there.

Harriet Klausner

Hell's Warrior-Jaye Roycraft

Hell's Warrior
Jaye Roycraft
ImaJinn, May 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417554

Less than two decades ago Chicago was in a bloody war between the humans and the vampires. The city’s top vampire Che “Cade” Kincade managed to end the hostilities, but knows how quickly the streets can turn combative. Cade got Mayor Deborah Dayton elected as she ran on a peace platform and so far the blood has stopped flowing.

However, when Her Honor the Mayor is assassinated, Cade, who was receiving a donation from Red the blood whore, is blamed for her murder. He goes into hiding, avoiding the vampires of the city and CPD detectives seeking to arrest him. His loyal energetic assistant Thorvald Sweet the vampire and Red the human witness who can vouch for his alibi are with Cade as he moves from one place to another while trying to determine who wanted the peace movement ended. Cade and Red meet with a vocal anti-vampire group, but as they leave, violence erupts. Trusting no one, Cade continues his mission to keep his city from falling into a bloody conflation in honor of the late woman he loved.

All hell has broken loose in Chicago as it seems a new war is about to occur, but this time the heroic pair who ended the last combat are not there to stop the civil war. Ironically, Dayton’s policy of inclusiveness divided the city. Rotating between Cade’s fifteenth-year along the Illinois River in 1697 when he was different from his peers with a thirst to learn from the Black Robe with tomorrow’s struggles to prove his innocence without harming Red while trying to prevent another cross species inferno. Jaye Roycraft crafts a fangulous sequel to the fangtastic Half Past Hell.

Harriet Klausner

Grave New Day-Lina Gardiner

Grave New Day
Lina Gardiner
ImaJinn, Jun 15 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417561

Remorseful NYPD secret vampire Police Captain Jess Vandermire knows she owes John “Britt” Brittain who saved her life, but died doing so. Even though his body has not been found, she plans on giving Britt the best funeral send off she can. Jess also relooks hiding her existence and even her police work as that no longer feels the same to her.

Because she has a partial soul thanks to Regent her brother, Jess has a partial soul and so feels regret and guilt over Britt’s death. She knows that makes her unique as other bloodsuckers kill without a second thought. Jess buries Britt’s empty casket. The only other attendee is a stranger to her, Zeke who insists he is Britt’s friend and has plenty to tell her about choice between returning to human being or remaining a vampire to fight an ancient evil threatening all humans. However; her police instincts tell her not to trust this informant while fearing failure to heed Zeke’s guidance could mean mankind’s extinction; adhering to it might mean the end anyway.

The third Vandermire Vampire Hunter is a fast-paced urban fantasy that grips fans of the series from the beginning to the cliffhanging climax that ties up some threads, but adds new danglers. Action-packed, the Gardiner universe expands but newcomers will be lost as this super saga must be read from the Grave start to fully comprehend what is happening especially to the heroine.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire’s Kiss-Vivi Anna

The Vampire’s Kiss
Vivi Anna
Silhouette Nocturne, Jul 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618392

In Nouveau Monde, NMPD investigator Olena Petrovich is excited as this is her first time on a case as the lead. She and her team look into the crime scene at the Nouveau Monde National Bank where people were put inside the vault before the safety deposit boxes were exploded apart. Thus when Interpol inspector Cale Braxton arrives to take command from her in solving a vampire homicide, Olena is fuming as she knows how rare her boss Inspector Gabriel Bellemonte delegates the lead. To make her even angrier is her attraction to Cale.

Olena is a professional so she will not hamper the case. They team up and follow clues starting with victim’s plan to sell a computer virus, but backed away from doing so. The two law enforcement officials believe the non sale led to the murder. Making the case more complicated is their need to keep the witch niece of the vampire safe from the killers who think she might have what they demand

From start to finish the latest Otherworld police procedural fantasy romance (see is a terrific tale that continues the escapades in Europe’s Nouveau Monde (see The Vampire’s Quest) after leaving the States’ Necropolis (Blood Secrets and Dark Lies). The story line is fast-paced but made to feel real as the Otherworld paranormal species and humans interact as if that is normal. The whodunit and why are cleverly designed as once again time is running out to prevent ruthless killers from murdering more innocents in their quest for something that eludes the two law enforcement officials chasing the villains and each other.

Harriet Klausner

Zombie Moon-Lori Devoti

Zombie Moon
Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne, Jul 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618385

Samantha Wagner wants to save her best friend Allison from the evil doctor. The madman is changing people into zombies that he controls. She has little hope of succeeding and in fact fears she will instead become another converted lost soul, but will not give up the fight.

Samantha believes she has a break when she meets werewolf zombie hunter Caleb Locke who lost his beloved family to the voracious zombie horde. She fools him into leaving with her. However, Caleb quickly figures out Samantha’s ruse and gets her to confess why. He agrees to try to rescue Allison and others about to be changed, but is unable to persuade Samantha he should go it alone. As they work together, they fall in love, but he fears her reaction to learning what kind of monster he is

Zombie Moon is an exhilarating urban fantasy romance that takes off from the opening gun when the lead couple meet while encountering zombies by a dumpster and never decelerates as the pair risks their lives to try to save Allison and his “monsters” from a lunatic. Samantha and Caleb are courageous soulmates dedicated to their respective cause. Fans of zombie romantic suspense thrillers will appreciate this terrific tale as Caleb knows his inner monster recognizes just who Samantha is to him, but also believes revealing what he is will kill him because she will leave horrified by his revelation.

Harriet Klausner

Black Dust Mambo

Black Dust Mambo
Adrian Phoenix
Pocket, Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439167878

Kallie Riviere enjoys her time at the New Orleans Hecatean Alliance’s carnival where she and other Hoodoo practitioners and Voodoo witches have fun and share experiences. She enjoys even more sharing her bed with Gage the nomadic outlaw biker conjurer with Gypsy blood and a fine butt (and other body parts). However, her euphoria ends abruptly when she finds Gage dead and soulless in her bed; triggering the memory from almost a decade ago when Mama fired a bullet into Papa’s head and tried to kill her too back in Bayou Cypres Noir.

In the present Kallie concludes she was the target of the killing soul sucker. With her best friend Belladonna accompanying her and covering her back, she fears for her childhood buddy Dallas, as she assumes he may be on the hit list too. The two BFFs search for Dallas while eluding a deadly malevolent being who wants to suck Kallie’s soul from her; and has no compunctions about doing likewise to Bella while Gage’s clan brother Layne seeks vengeance at a time when Lord Augustine is determined to possess Layne’s body in order to avoid having to leave this plane. More frightening is the clues lead back to her Tante Gabrielle who took her in when she became an orphan and has mentored her and her cousin Jacks in Hoodoo.

This super opening gamut in the Riviere urban fantasy hooks readers from the opening scene of finding her lover in bed dead and never slows down as the heroine believing she was the intended target of the Black Dust Mambo magic begins her inquiry. The support cast is solid though this is clearly Kallie’s star as Adrian Phoenix starts her new saga with a strong magical mambo murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Circle-Linda Robertson

Fatal Circle
Linda Robertson
Juno (Pocket), Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439156803

Persephone Alcmedi, high priestess of a Cleveland coven, takes care of her grandmother and nine years old foster daughter Beverley. Her boyfriend Johnny the werewolf has groupies sniffing at him and his Lycanthropic band. However, all that seems like child play to Seph when compared with her destiny of uniting the paranormal witches, weres and vampires into a cohesive peace; considering the three groups have an ancient history of combat.

However, the Fairies demand Seph kills her magical bond mate, ancient vampire Menessos. She conceals her ties to the vamp because she knows her coven will react by banning her from using magic so she has few she can turn to for help. Johnny is aware of the tie, but loathes it as he detests her odd friendship with the vampire. The linked pair knows a showdown with the Fairies is imminent and believe to survive they need Johnny on their side against the fairies. However, even Johnny is unsure he can fight alongside a vamp, especially this particular undead.

The third urban fantasy Circle tale (see Vicious Circle and Hallowed Circle) finds the heroine overwhelmed, but not just by her destiny. Seph struggles with a complicated romance with her Were while bonded to her Vamp, a High Noon confrontation with the Fairies or killing her bonded Vamp, and the most difficult mission of all is what to do about Beverly’s upcoming birthday while Granny hovers. Seph and the cast makes for a strong thriller as she and her sidekicks want to insure the monsters don’t devour Cleveland as Maynard G Krebs would have said.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Year’s best Science Fiction Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection

The Year’s best Science Fiction Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois (editor)
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jul 6 2010, $21.99
ISBN: 9780312608989

This anthology always lives up to its hyped title as the “best” as Gardner Dozois does his usual yeoman’s job of selecting from print and the net a strong collection; this time thirty-two short stories (631 pages of contributions). The Summation of 2009 is the usual profound absorbing essay that focuses on the good with overall strong creative writings especially in book anthologies and on the Internet; and the bad with the continual collapse especially early in the year of print magazines and the panic amongst publishing firms as Mr. Dozois says reminiscent of the 1929 Wall St. collapse though as I say no one jumped. In his article he recommends going to the Internet as the anthology golden age is ebbing but the year also turned to hard copy retrospective anthologies of famous authors.

Most of the selected shorts in this year’s collection are from known authors like Ian McDonald, Robert Chares Wilson and Nancy Kress while the Honorable Mention listing does likewise to include a Bear, a Beagle and a Baxter amongst an A-Z who’s who. This reviewer especially enjoyed those entries I never read before especially from the electronic publications; as an aging Boomer I need the hard copy. The selections are excellent as readers will enjoy the compilation with tales like “Useless Things” by Maureen G. McHugh, "Things Undone" by John Barnes's and Karl Bunker’s “Under the Shouting Sky” affirming Mr. Dozois’ claim of the “Best” in breed as the collection runs the science fiction universe..

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pray For Dawn-Jocelyn Drake

Pray For Dawn
Jocelyn Drake
Eos, Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061851803

Daneus the millennium old vampire Hunter struggles with his feelings for the seven century old Nighwalker vampire Mira. Logically and instinctively she is his natural enemy yet his soul feels taken by her as neither can go for the final kill as she feels the same internal war.

Having returned from Spain to investigate the murder of a girl in Mira’s turn, Savannah, Daneus is confronted by three werewolves led by Nicolai. The Naturi has returned with the same mission as before to annihilate all races on the earth. The vampires and lycan must unite against a strong common enemy who just killed that girl as a calling card. As Mira is losing her grip on sanity and Daneus fears the Bori who possess half his soul and want the rest as a portal to this plane, the beleaguered pair teams up to try to save the planet without allowing the humans to know they exist or are in peril.

The fourth Dark Days urban fantasy (see Dawnbreaker, Dayhunter and Nightwalker) is a fabulous entry as all hell is breaking out in Georgia and elsewhere. Fast-paced throughout, readers will enjoy the switch from Mira’s viewpoint in the previous entries to Daneus’ perspective as the action never slows down and sets up the next book in Drake’s dramatic darkening, Wait For Dusk.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 14, 2010

Twice Bitten-Chloe Neill

Twice Bitten
Chloe Neill
NAL, Jul 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451230645

Humans have recently learned that vampires live among mortals. Shapeshifters fear they will be next and debate how to handle what they anticipate will occur shortly.

In that regard to plan on the inevitable, Gabriel Keene, Apex of the North American Central shifters, has convened a conference of the packs to determine their best course of action. He also invites Cadogan House Sentinel Merit and master vampire Ethan Sullivan to attend as security as evidence is strong that an assassin is coming for him and terrorists plan on disrupting the convention. Though only a couple months since she was turned involuntarily, Merit takes her security work seriously, but has trouble focusing with arrogant Ethan nearby.

The third Chicagoland Vampires romantic urban fantasy) is an action-packed thriller that never slows down from its opening quick synopsis of the previous two biters (see Friday Night Bites and Some Girls Bite until the biting climax. The rookie vampire and her mentor (she would say tormentor) try to protect a leader of the other prominent paranormal species as many want to prevent an outing. Fans of the saga will fully relish Merit’s actions as she continues to adjust to her new life as an undead.

Harriet Klausner

Demon Blood-Meljean Brook

Demon Blood
Meljean Brook
Berkley, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425235478

Three hundred years ago in Florence, demons persuaded Rosalia’s father and brother to join their side. Her once beloved family turned tainted and tried to kill her. She survived and chose to defend humanity against demons and their horde by becoming a Guardian

Deacon the Vampire lost everything dear to him to a demon and wants revenge. He thirsts for vengeance so much that he has betrayed the Guardians. Rosalia asks for his help, but he refuses. She ignores his denial as Rosalia loves Deacon. However, besides feeling undeserving of her love, his contempt for himself leads him to believe Rosalia wants to use him to complete her mission and then dump him.

This is an excellent Guardian thriller that stars two delightful heroes. Deacon is excellent as a vampire seeking vengeance while Rosalia the Guardian understands him and wants to save him. Each believes their love is a privilege they must earn. His blood thirst has lined up strange bedfellows ready to destroy him and any allies assisting him. Readers will wonder whether he will learn in time that vengeance is tundra cold while love heats the heart as she is there for him as he struggles to be there for her, which he cannot if he continues his quest. Set aside time to read this wonderful tale in one sitting because, Meljean Brook has her fans hooked from the Bedtime Story summary of the past to the powerful finish.

Harriet Klausner

Cold Sight-Leslie Parrish

Cold Sight
Leslie Parrish
Signet, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451230744

Investigating a string of suspicious runaways, Granville Daily Sun reporter Lexie Nolan considers someone malevolent and sinister is behind the disappearances. As she digs deeper, her boss tells her to drop the story; stunning her as this has never happened before to the investigative journalist.

When another young girl Vonnie vanishes, Lexie knows she cannot live with herself if she quits. Instead she asks former Extrasensory Agent Aidan McConnell to help her find the latest missing person. Aidan informs Lexie he no longer searches for people after his last mission ended disastrously. However reluctantly he agrees to help as he finds himself unable to deny her anything. He has feelings he never allowed himself to have before he met sexy Lexie. They connect as they follow clues to Savannah.

This is an entertaining paranormal whodunit starring an intrepid reporter and a man with telemetric extrasensory psychometric abilities. The changing relationship between the pair is fun to follow as they investigate the abductions and murder. Although the villain is inane, fans will appreciate the first Extrasensory Agent urban fantasy romantic suspense due to the lead characters and Vonnie.

Harriet Klausner

Bonds Of Justice-Nalini Singh

Bonds Of Justice
Nalini Singh
Berkley, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425235447

In New York, Councilor Nikita Duncan finds too coincidental the deaths of several of her closest advisors and employees in the Bay area. She sends enforcer Max Shannon to San Francisco to investigate the recent deaths in order to ascertain if they were murdeedr as she suspects has occurred. Nikita trusts Max’s sleuthing skills and as important his ability to thwart Psy mental influences even though he is human.

Psy Justice operative Sophia Russo volunteers to assist Max although she knows that each new memory extraction may mean her death. She fully understands her mind is fracturing due to her hazardous work that also dramatically reduces life spans. This is due to the consequences of telepathic shields being lowered dangerously so the J agent can take down the barrier of the prey they extract their information from. Still she refuses to quit as she works closely with Max on his inquiry.

This is a great police procedural romantic urban fantasy entry in a terrific series that seems heading to a pandemic cataclysm. Max is terrific as he understands the glass ceiling for primitive humans in law enforcement, but has unique skills that make him perfect for this investigation. The star-crossed romance enhances a terrific mystery as the world of Nalini Singh is deeply explored through the primitive cop and the Psy Justice.

Harriet Klausner

Night Myst-Yasmine Galenorn

Night Myst
Yasmine Galenorn
Jove, Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515148145

With the murder of Marta the witch whose throat was ripped apart and the death two years ago of her mother Krystal, Cicily Walters can come home as her reawakening wolf wants to. She inherits Marta’s magic business. This would mean finally returning to her hometown New Forest, Washington after two decades on the road with mom. Reluctantly, she feels the time is right.

In New Forest, something strange is happening to the magic born. They are either dying or vanishing. The NFPD ignores what is going on to some of the citizens as does the vampire overlord. Worse, Cicily senses a different nefarious shadow lingering as fear owns the Cascades town. Cicily’s friend, Fae prince Grieve tells her to leave if she is smart and her aunt has been abducted and allegedly has become a blood thrall to the vampires; if she still lives. Not heeding Grieve’s advice, Cicily fights back but the fae-vampires are coming for her too.

The first Indigo Court urban fantasy is an entertaining tale that introduces the reader to a world filled with mythological species and magic. Cicily is a solid person who has doubts about coming home after her mom fled town with her as a child and replacing Marta. However, the rest of the cast feels overwhelmed by too much insight into the rules of magic and what each paranormal species can do. Still the opening supernatural war is fun to read. Myst has begun the end of days that will leave her ruling the world.

Harriet Klausner

Pariah-Bob Fingerman

Bob Fingerman
Tor, Aug 3 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765326270

Around the world in eighty seconds is what the zombie pandemic seemed like to those not bitten. It occurred so fast, zombie became the dominant species on the planet. Humans were food and forced to hide behind barriers. New York City, for instance, contains eight million of these reanimated dead and little pockets of hiding mortals.

In an apartment building in Manhattan, a few souls remain concealed, but are running out of water and food. From windows they can see the supermarket, but zombies hang out on the streets seeking fresh flesh. The besieged group see hope when a female teenage human walks freely while the zombies avoid her. Mona brings food and drinks as she moves in with the adults at 1620 York Avenue, but the danger remains constant.

This is an exciting fast-paced zombie horror tale that grips the audience early and never let’s up as it will remind readers of I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (and to a lesser degree the Will Smith movie). The vivid opening in which zombies walk the streets while humans are locked behind barriers is riveting with an implied social spin as to who owns the neighborhoods. Additionally with civilization collapsed, the humans trapped inside an apartment with no electricity prove horror comes in many shapes and forms as Bob Fingerman provides a taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Catching Hell-Greg Gifune; Jill Bauman (illustrator)

Catching Hell
Greg Gifune; Jill Bauman (illustrator)
Cemetery Dance, Jun 1 2010, $30.00
ISBN: 9781587671913

In 1983 the summer stock season on Cape Cod is over. Three actors and a stagehand drive a 1967 Ford from the Cape to Maine; a six to seven hour drive as a respite before New York City theater or college. On a lonely stretch of I-95 in Maine heading to Banger, the quartet (Billy, Stefan, Alex, and Tory) are hammered by an odd violent storm that comes out of nowhere and seems to attack their Fairlane. Then a bird crashes into the windshield leaving behind blood, no corpse and Billy believing it is the harbinger of death.

They exit in Boxer Hills, population 108. None of the fearless foursome expected anything beyond a small rustic village. Instead they find what appears to be a ghost town stuck in the Truman-Eisenhower Era. They soon learn to escape from Boxer Hills means surviving until the sun rises. This village is where seventeenth century rituals wrought a malevolence that in the late twentieth century still welcomes guests permanently.

This is a terrific horror thriller that starts a bit slow ironically while driving on I-95, but once the quartet leave the Interstate for a rural stop, the pace accelerates into hyperspeed as the protagonists are not just Catching Hell, they seem in hell. Readers will feel they are caught in the middle of this tense horror thriller enhanced by the B&W drawings as Boxer Hills is a Maine version of the Hotel California; once you’re inside, you never leave; the four friends learn the only out is death or survive until the sun rises following a night of evil.

Harriet Klausner

The Darkest Lie-Gena Showalter

The Darkest Lie
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774616

Like the other Lords of the Underworld who released Pandora’s Box, Gideon hosts a demon as his punishment. He is the keeper of Lies, which denotes unbelievable agony if he tells the truth. The Lord of Lies also has the ability to detect when someone else fabricates.

At their Budapest fortress, Scarlet Keeper of Nightmares arrives claiming she is Gideon’s wife. He is stunned because not only can he not remember her, he cannot tell if she is lying. His demon Lies is ecstatic with the saucy sassy sexy siren; Gideon wants her too but is much more cautious as he knows he must speak lies or feel the crippling pain. Hunters close in again while his teammates fear how Gideon behaves with Scarlet as a woman scorned is deadly so they want her dead but the Gods interfere with his truth seduction scheme.

Gideon is one of the more fascinating of the Underworld warriors as he talks in lies so needs a special woman who can translate what he is saying. He hopes Scarlet proves that she is that extraordinary female who knows when her beloved says hate he means love, but fears she will believe hate means hate. The story line is fast-paced but it is the characters who make it work as the audience receives an insider look at the Showalter pantheon with Gods like Cronos intruding. Fans of the saga will appreciate the tale of team Gidlet wondering if they will kill each other as The Darkest Lie is a strong entry in a deep darkening romantic urban fantasy series.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shadow Bound-Erin Kellison

Shadow Bound
Erin Kellison
Leisure, Jul 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505528292

In Appalachia, West Virginia, Adam Thorne is an obsessive dreamer wanting his Segue Institute to succeed. He has put up his vast inheritance to fund the foundation and backed that with time. His personal goal is to kill his brother Jacob a former CEO turned wraith; who he has incarcerated for six years with little success; while the institutes’ mission is to study vampiric wraiths.

Adam believes he has found the solution in Talia O’Brien who suffered a near death experience. She has the uncanny paranormal ability to cloak herself in the darkness so that neither humans nor wraiths can detect her. However, she must learn to use her ability, but loathes applying it as she detests being different. Adam mentors Talia but conceals from her is motive with a caring nurturing veneer.

This is a fascinating urban romantic fantasy starring an obsessed lead male and the woman he plans to use as a tool to achieve his immediate objective of fratricide though he knows his sibling is no longer human. The story line is fast-paced, but the criticality that makes it fun to read is that wraiths and an enigmatic Shadowman seen genuine. Fans will relish this entertaining tale as Adam begins to fall in love with his latest weapon to kill his wraith sibling.

Harriet Klausner

A Mighty Fortress-David Weber

A Mighty Fortress
David Weber
Tor, Apr 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765315052

Not yet thirty years old, many believe that Cayleb Ahrmahk is the greatest naval officer in history. His victories are legendary as he defeated handily the combined forces of five princedoms. On a personal level, his success at sea enabled him to meet, court, and marry Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm. On Safehold, the pair forge the Charisian Empire built on his naval prowess.

However, their most powerful adversary on Safehold, Church of God Awaiting, has declared the regime’s rulers heretics and must be destroyed. Their first endeavor failed as the Church faithful failed to use the technology of the Charisian Empire. The second assault is an armada unlike anything in the history of Safehold. However, their foes do not have warrior-monk named Merlin Athrawes on their side. Merlin is the cybernetic avatar of a long dead female Nimue Alban, who died while watching the Terran Federation on numerous planets destroyed; Safehold is the last human stronghold and inadvertently the Church is leading the final extinction.

The latest Safehold science fiction thriller (see By Heresies Distressed) is a great continuation of the struggle for First Amendment type rights and freedoms from a church controlling society. The world of Safehold is incredibly developed as readers obtain a deep look at a culture run by a religious dominated caste system that compares unfavorably to the freedom of the relatively small Charisian Empire. With a strong cast (though the hero feels like a Harrington clone) fans will relish David Weber’s powerful condemnation of church equals state; or for that matter any oligopoly controlling all aspects of society by oppressing freedom.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Unholy Magic-Stacia Kane

Unholy Magic
Stacia Kane
Del Rey, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345515582

A serial killer is targeting prostitutes. Rumors spread that a deadly ghost is behind the homicides. The Church of Real Truth field debunker and ghost dispatcher Chess Putnam is assigned to ferret out the truth. She expects the killer to be human concealing his or her identity with ghostly whispers. That she knows is the norm when she investigates a reported haunting as some mortal hides one or more of the seven deadly sin transgressions however some supernatural essences are killers.

Chess makes inquiries in which everyone she interviews insists a ghost is at large and other evidence supports the claim of something from beyond. As she digs deeper into the case, she realizes a lunatic is combining murder with sex to dabble in the paranormal. To bring this maniac out into the open means risking her soul.

Unholy Magic is a terrific urban fantasy whodunit starring a street tough investigator. Chess is fabulous as her experience as an operative means eliminate the obvious and the rumored leads to almost always find a deranged or scamming human. However, the occasional outlier is what makes Chess’ job dangerous. Readers will appreciate her investigation into what in her mind is a mortal serial killer whose become a paranormal myth; as with her previous case Unholy Ghost the line of demarcation is especially emaciated.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Office of Shadow-Matt Sturges

The Office of Shadow
Matt Sturges
PYR, Jun 22 2010, $16.00
ISBN 9781616142025

Womanizer Silverdun shocks anyone who knows him when he becomes a priest. However, being a man of the cloth proves tedious as all he hears is whining confessions. When the Seelie leadership asks him to serve as a lead espionage field agent of the newly approved (by Queen Tatiana) top secret department Office of Shadow who will perform functions that go against the kingdom’s value system like using psyops techniques including blackmail, extortion, and abduction to cause unrest amongst the enemy or stealing Unseelie secrets; he agrees.

However, he is put off by his new employer’s demand he receive training in combat skills; mundane and magical. Ennui settles in until he is teamed up with soldier-magic academic researcher Ironfoot, and deadly almost out of control Sela the empath on a dangerous impossible mission. Their mission is to learn the origin of Einswrath, the weapon of mass destruction that Queen Mab and her Unseelie forces apparently are deploying in what will lead to a second battle in the Seelie-Unseelie war (see Midwinter).

This is a typical espionage thriller and a typical quest fantasy, but brilliantly combined into an atypical enthralling espionage fantasy. The Office of Shadow has selected the right person to lead the charge while his teammates bring diverse but needed skills to the table. Fast-paced and filled with plenty of action , yet clearly character driven by the band of three and their cohorts, readers will relish the second Seelie-Unseelie dispute as both sides approve anything goes tactics.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Corpse King-Tim Curran

The Corpse King
Tim Curran
Cemetery Dance, Jun 2010, $30.00
ISBN: 9781587671968

Long after the mourners leave the graveyard, Samuel Clow and Mickey Kierney arrive to dig up the body. They make a living selling corpses to those in need of cadavers. They never lack for customers or supply as skeletal remains in high demand.

During a bloody downpour, the pair works until Kierney’s shovel hits a wooden object. He scrapes mud off of it and hits it again. He tells his ghoulish partner he is uncomfortable with what might be inside this wood; Clow figures his partner found the devil’s work so he hooks the wood to life it out of the grave. They find a woman with perfect teeth that a dentist would buy covered by a shroud. They stop at the Sign of the Boar where dead drunk for two pennies is a way of life for all patrons. However, this time they will learn of a more experienced competitor who is a grave robber too, but this defiler of the dead does not sell the merchandise; instead harvests the dead for personal use as The Corpse King who has plans to use the pair of miscreants.

The atmosphere is dark, grim, and creepy; and that describes the non cemetery scenes. The nocturnal trips to the cemetery are even darker, grimmer and creepier. Readers who relish a throwback horror thriller with a Poe like gloomy environs and slimy lead characters including the rapaciously hungry title protagonist will enjoy the Corpse King.

Harriet Klausner

Sparrow Rock-Nate Kenyon

Sparrow Rock
Nate Kenyon
Leisure, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843963779

Scott Myers bought Sparrow Rock, a barrier island where he built a bomb shelter. One day while a high school gang of teens smoked reefer and bitched about life, his granddaughter Big Sue mentioned she knew how to get inside. Jay enters first followed by Dan, Big Sue, Tessa, Jimmie and Pete.

While inside, they feel a slight tremor. The TV and cell phones fail and they soon realize nuclear Armageddon has occurred. They have food, water, a power source, and protection from the radioactive fall out. What they don’t have is information re the surface or what joined them in their underground bunker. Those who crawl out of the bunker soon learn the surface is an ecological horror story.

This is an exciting post nuclear holocaust thriller that grips readers once Dan realizes what occurred and shuts the hatch. The story line is fast-paced especially as a diabolical sinister adversary leaves the teens distrustful of one another as they are not immune to death. Although the pack is stereotypical until a late twist spins two of them from the mould, fans will enjoy Nate Kenyon’s taut teen thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 3, 2010

13 To Life-Shannon Delaney

13 To Life
Shannon Delaney
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jun 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312609146

Jessica Gillmansen has still not recovered form the death of her mother; killed by a teenager who was her age and part of the in-crowd, but did not have the right to drive that car. She cannot wait to get out of her small town of Junction and make something of herself once she graduates.

Her morning at high school is uneventful until she meets new student Pietr Rusakova. She does not want the burden of helping him acclimate to his new school as directed by the guidance counselor. The new dude is a hunk, but Jessica in interested in super jock Derek who is seeing her enemy Jenny the cheerleader. Jessica pushes Pietr at Sarah who was a in a coma for a week and suffered brain damage although she is recovering and is intrigued by the first generation Russian-American. He has an odd edginess to him that most assume is because of his roots, which will prove right but not in the way anyone believes. Pietr brings Jessica into his dark secret world, but by doing so he places her in danger from his family and pthers.

This is a dark atmospheric young adult fantasy mindful of Twilight complete with odd behavior and strange animals appearing in weird places. Shannon Delaney draws her readers into the storyline even before the late twist of Pietr drawing Jessica into his world. Jessie holds the fine plot together as a vulnerable teen still unable to move passed her mom’s death. She is compassionate, independent and brave, but even she is not quite prepared for his world.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Song of the Dragon-Tracy Hickman

Song of the Dragon
Tracy Hickman
Daw, Jul 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756406073

The elves of the Rhonas Empire are a sadistic warmongering race who practically made humanity almost extinct and subjugated all other sentient species like the Manticore, Chimerians and the Goblins. The Rhonas attack and defeat the Dwarves. Drakis the human and the rest of his warriors are slaves, controlled by Aether magic, are now fighting the dwarfs.. Drakis finds and takes as booty the dwarf Jugar; his magical artifact the Heart of Aer and his treasure for their master. Jugar takes the Heart of Aer and throws it at the House Aether Well causing the slaves to recall what their masters did to them re torture and degradation.

Drakis, two Manticores, two dwarves, and a Chimerian escape. Jugar preaches to anyone in contact with Drakis that he is the savior of prophecy. He believes the human is the one who will come again when he is needed most. He is gathering a following, but one of those who escaped with Drakis is a traitor while others are being killed by the Iblii (Inquisition) who have been in touch with Drakis and heard the message. Drakis is unsure whether he is the one from the prophecy, but will go to the Northlands where he should find either answers or death.

Readers learn about the various races through representatives who bring their respective culture alive without slowing down the plot. Drakis, freed from the enslaving Aether magic, keeps his sanity while others freed lose theirs when memories return to swamp their minds. He is a doubting Thomas but after the elves try to kill him, he vows to learn whether he is the Drakis of prophecy or just a namesake trying to rally the various enslaved races against the oppressors. Epic fantasy fans will enjoy the enthralling opening Annals of Drakis saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Carnal Sin-Allison Brennan

Carnal Sin
Allison Brennan
Ballantine, Jun 22 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345511683

For seven years Moira O’Donnell trained for one thing as she moved from place to place to stay safe. Her goal is to prevent her evil mother, the queen of the underworld Fiona and the woman’s vile lover Matthew Walker from bringing demons across through his Good Shepherd Church in which they created a portal enabling the malevolent to walk this world. With allies like Rafe Cooper and demonologist Anthony Zacarddi, she faced down the first deadly sin Envy left trapped in a vault in Santa Louisa, California at a cost to the team (see Original Sin).

As Fiona has doubts that Santa Louisa is the “beacon for evil”, a report of an odd case in Los Angeles reaches them. A nice forty years old Kent Galion attacked a blonde before being subdued by Detective Grant Nelson; Galion died. Moira saw the vision of a demon possessing a man. She and her posse rush to L.A. as Lust is loose at the Velocity nightclub; men marked by the demon are dying for hard sex.

The second deadly Sin urban fantasy is a strong suspense thriller that grips the audience with the opening assault at Velocity and never slows down as the beleaguered hero team face off against a powerful demon and a coven protecting the evil. The cast, especially the good gals and guys are fully developed so that the reader knows their desires, flaws, and other distractions and detractors as much as their strengths. For instance, Moira fears she will hurt a teammate when she goes into her visionary trance and fears falling in love again; having lost a beloved soul before. Carnal Sin is a superb urban fantasy thriller as Allison Brennan is two for two.

Harriet Klausner

Masked-Edited by Lou Anders

Edited by Lou Anders
Gallery (Simon and Schuster), Jul 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9781439168820

This fifteen short story collection pays homage to superheroes and supervillains, as each needs the other (like Ali and Frazier) to anchor their super status. None of the entries are horrific though a coupleare only okay. Most are entertainingly super as the authors captured the essence of the comic book sub-genre. The creators of the great Jack of Fables, Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham respectively open and close the anthology with fascinating solo entries: “Cleansed and Set In Gold” by Sturges focuses on heroes struggling with the death of a seemingly invincible member while “A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too)” by Willingham is an odd but interesting encyclopedic look at flawed super-humans. In "Message from the Bubble Gum Factory" by Daryl Gregory, an envious sidekick finally understands what sacrifices a superhero must endure. Marjorie M. Liu's "Call Her Savage" stars a classic heroine whose legend for destruction forces her to live up to the myth as her fan following would expect nothing less. Also excellent is Stephen Baxter’s science fiction "Vacuum Lad." as the first star child grows up in a seemingly vacuum, but was born over two decades ago in 1557 in Saudi Arabia (2136 by the Christian calendar user). Strange but superb is “Tonight We Fly” by Ian McDonald as Chester gets no peace from the next door kids while Belfast has no heroes or villains yet Captain Miracle flies far away from his adversary Dr. Nightingshade. Masked is a strong collection that catches the essence of the modern golden age of superheroes and their super opponents.

Harriet Klausner

The Web of Titan-Dom Testa

The Web of Titan
Dom Testa
Tor, Jun 29 2010, $8.99
ISBN: 9780765360786

The tail of the comet Bhaktul flew inside the Earth's atmosphere. This quickly proved not a close miss though contact did not occur; the tail left a virus behind that killed anyone over eighteen and killed anyone who turned eighteen in the future. The human species is heading to extinction. To save the human species, a ship was constructed to take two hundred and fifty-one of the planet’s top teens less than sixteen to colonize a planet in a distant solar system. Two years later the Galahad leaves with a sabotaging stowaway on board (see The Comet’s Curse).

When the Galahad reaches the Saturn moon of Titan, they pick up a metal pod. The teen crew has no idea what it is or why it was so important that they pick it up. They retrieve the pod, which contains two chambers; the adult compartment is empty while the smaller one holds a cat. At the same they pick up the object, several crew members become extremely ill and the ion drive suddenly accelerates to a point that if it does not stop, the Galahad will explode. Desperate ship commander Triana directs the crew to focus on the two emergencies.

The second Galahad young adult science fiction thriller is action-packed but also contains a strong cast, who make the voyage and the current crises seem genuine. Readers will relish the frantic efforts to survive that are mindful of Scotty’s save the Enterprise of original Star Trek. Triana is the charismatic leader who encourages the crew not to quit though solutions are not working in spite of incredible efforts to save themselves as they are humanity’s last hope.

Harriet Klausner