Monday, May 31, 2010

Miranda-M.R. Sellars

Miranda
M.R. Sellars
Willow Tree, Jul 1 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780979453366

Annalise Deveraux was the previously unknown half sister of witch Felicity O’Brien. Unlike her half-sibling, Annalise practiced voodoo using blood magic and invited the spirit of Miranda into her body. Miranda died over a century and a half ago; she was a sexual sadist who relished pain and murder. Annalise, at least what is still her as Miranda owns the shared body, are in a mental institution.

Miranda plots to leave the body shell of Annalise and enter the body of Felicity. The only reason she fails so far to enter her new body is Rowan Grant prevents her. Like his wife Felicity, Rowan is also a practicing witch; but unlike her he can also communicate with the dead. He visits Annalise in order to confront Miranda, but she makes him lose control, which causes Felicity to have unnatural desires from her corporal usurper. Miranda jumps out of Annalise’s body and cuts off Rowan’s communication with the dead. She kills enough people to insure she has enough power to retake Felicity’s body as she has done before (see All Acts of Pleasure). She succeeds, but family friends repel her leaving Felicity in a child like state and Rowan willing to do anything to get her soul back into her body.

Rowan Grant stars in another strong St. Louis urban fantasy as the evil Miranda returns to cause havoc (see the Miranda trilogy). Rowan has worked the ethereal plane before, but when it comes to the vicious Miranda, he knows it is personal as he wants her out of his wife’s body and their lives forever. Character driven, the lead couple shares a common belief to do what they believe is right even when it goes against the norm. M.R. Sellars has written another superb magical horror mystery thriller as one of the best villainesses of the last decade co-stars with Rowan and Felicity in a triangle from hell.

Harriet Klausner

Red Hood's Revenge-Jim C. Hines

Red Hood's Revenge
Jim C. Hines
Daw, Jul 6 2010, $ 7.99
ISBN: 9780756406080

As a child, Roudette witnessed the Hunt murder her grandmother. That was the impetus into turning her into the cold calculating assassin, Little Lady of the Red Hood.

Roudette’s current kill is Princess Talia better known as Sleeping Beauty. However, the trail to the royal leads Red to Talia’s two regal pals, Princesses Danielle (Cinderella) and Snow (White). The three royals have come a long way but each vows one for all and all for one as they unite to find the individual who hired Red Hood. Their quest takes them to Arathea where Talia remaines wanted for murdering the prince who awakened her from her slumber.

The latest Hines’ royal treatment of female stars of fairy tale classics (see The Stepsister Scheme and The Mermaid’s Madness) is a terrific fantasy that contains plenty of action and adventure, but also a much deeper look at the desires, motives and mental barriers of the lead trio than previously. Fast-paced, the somewhat thin plot focuses on Roudette’s hunting of Talia who prefers to take the fight to the queen of assassins. Readers will enjoy the latest escapades while wondering who will sleep with whom; as the four ladies know for ever after is found exclusively in fairy tales.

Harriet Klausner

God of War-Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman

God of War
Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman
Del Rey, May 2010, $15.00
9780345508676

Kratos the warrior knows that serving the Gods of Olympus means being a monstrous murderer. He accepted his fate as a slave but feels being labeled by his fellow Greeks as a murderous monster is unfair when Ares or Athena demand you do their bidding; saying no is not an option until now. The chains of the Blades of Chaos that bound him are broken as the Gods apparently abandoned him to his conscience as the Ghost of Sparta.

Hermes taunted Athena with news that her pet mortal was considering entering Hades. She is stunned and upset but believes Kratos’ downfall into thinking of suicide started with the Grave of Ships mission that set sail on the Aegean; leading him to an inferno engulfing Athens. His freedom from doing the biddings of Olympus was to kill Ares the God of War; someone Kratos loathes for atrocities on humanity that the God made him commit. Athena advised Kratos that the Blades of Chaos, the weapon he is bound to, is the only thing that could kill the God of War. He sought to confront Ares; with his goal that one of them will die, which one did not matter to Kratos.

Clearly intended for fans of the fantasy game, God of War provides an intriguing mythological thriller with an underlying message to watch what you wish for as sometimes you get what you asked for. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Athena thinks back to the adventures that led to her mortal pet being depressed and suicidal. Game players and Greek mythos readers will especially appreciate Kratos’ “final” (if he survives the Gods are a capricious crowd toying with their inferiors) quest.

Harriet Klausner

Veil of Justice-Regan Black

Veil of Justice
Regan Black
CreateSpace, May 2010, $11.99
ISBN: 9781452828138

In 2096 in Chicago, undercover agent Nathan Burkhardt is captured and held in solitary confinement as prisoner B-21187 by Dr. Leo Kristoff, whose illegal genetic experiments have him believing he is the Creator. His guards are assigned to break B-21187, but they are ignorant of his link to sanity. He has telepathic trysts he dreamingly shares with Kelly when she sleeps. However, she has severed their ties and without them he has no hope

His sisters Petra Callahan and Jaden Thomas search for him by searching for Petra’s missing assistant Kelly who is “dead” from any one’s radar. Kelly had disappeared with Nathan’s Mustang six months ago and her history goes back only five years. The target of the two siblings wants to die since the tragedy that engulfed her family resulted in the deaths of her father and six brothers. Meanwhile the growing power of the demon goddess Nin continues unabated as she is the one who sent her minion who killed the Guardian- family but failed to retrieve the ancient artifacts they protected and she covets. One adult Guardian remains; Calisto the sister-daughter sent away because females are never Guardians, but she changed her identity five years ago.

The third Shadows of Justice recurring late twenty-first century fantasy thriller is a great entry that moves the lead from Jaden and Brian the cop (see Judge Incarnate) and Petra with Gideon the cop (see Invasion of Justice) to their brother’s undercover tale. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that a desperate Nathan fears his mind will wither until he goes insane if he fails to reconnect telepathically with his sanity link Kelly who has her own deity issues. Readers will relish this terrific tale that stands alone; as the Shadows of Justice series is one of the best futuristic urban fantasies on the market today

Harriet Klausner

Discord's Apple-Carrie Vaughn

Discord's Apple
Carrie Vaughn
Tor, Jul 6 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780765325549

With her dad Frank dying, Evie Walker leaves Los Angeles for his home In Hopes Font, Colorado, to take care of her father. She moves in with him, but is stunned by the attitude of the visitors who ignore her and barely greet her dad. They insolently enter the basement and leave with hardly a farewell salutation toting out strange junk. A comic book writer, Evie reflects on how the strangers are stranger than her characters.

In Troy, with the help of Odysseus, Sinon the “Liar” gets in the walled city. He persuades the doubting Trojans that Greeks gave up their siege and left behind a large wooden horse. His ruse enables the Greeks to win the war, but also angers Apollo with the dishonorable deception. He ignores Odysseus holding the Liar culpable. A furious Apollo kidnaps Sinon, forcing the Liar to become his cupbearer.

In Colorado, with the death of her dad, Evie takes over shielding the basement from those who have no business there. Hera orders Evie to give her the golden apple that causes discord and actually began the Trojan War though some say that the affront by Helen’s stepfather to Aphrodite is where it began. Evie fears what the Goddess will do with Discord’s Apple; her prime ally in refusing Hera is a stranger Alex, who conceals his agenda from the mortal he is falling in love with.

This is a wild super Rocky Mountains fantasy as Carrie Vaughn departs from her DJ werewolf novels to tell an intriguing epic adventure that includes a hodgepodge from Camelot, Greek mythology and even someone who claims to have known Jesus in his heyday. The cast is strong including the basement storage facility and the fascinating artifacts as Evie and readers learn that the victors write the mythos of history.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Queen of Sinister-Mark Chadbourn

The Queen of Sinister
Mark Chadbourn
PYR, Jun 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 978161642001

The Dark Age of magic has rendered technology useless; the world we know vanished overnight with Beasts sending fire from the skies and creatures stalking humans across the British landscape. Deadly chaos is the norm with most humans believing it could not get any worse; they are wrong.

A pandemic plague attacked Britain. No one knows the source only those who catch it die violently and painfully. Dr. Caitlin Shepherd tries her best, but the twenty-eight year old mom feels overwhelmed as she is too young to be in charge, but out of default is. feeling helpless. She is hammered further when her beloved husband Grant and their son catches the deadly infection at a time the town is invaded by a horde whose purple mist causes incredible depression and despair. Caitlin feels helpless between the plague killing her family and these Whisperers mentally destroying anyone unfortunate to get in their way. However her friend witch Mary Holden introduces Caitlin to Professor Crowther; he insists the GP is a Sister of Dragons and the only hope to curing the plague. All she has to do is enter the Otherworld is to find the magic elixir. Caitlin and Crowther begin the quest accompanied by the female teen Magalia , the young male mute Carlton, , and Matt seeking his daughter he insists Faeries carried away.

This entertaining tale is not on the epic proportions of the Age of Misrule trilogy or this saga’s predecessor The Devil in Green. Still The Queen of Sinister is an intriguing fantasy as the heroine and her teammates cross into the Otherworld on a quest with little hope of success. Filled with action throughout and an incredible twist, fans of the author will want to join Caitlin as she treks across a realm from Celtic mythos to save what is left of her local world starting with her two loved ones.

Harriet Klausner

Pathfinder-Laura E. Reeve

Pathfinder
Laura E. Reeve
Roc, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463449

Ariane Kedros is not her real name, but she is a partner of Aether Exploration as well as a Reserve Major in the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds. The Terran Expansion League wants her dead as a war criminal who killed everyone residing inside the Ura-Ginh solar system. Her deadly effort ended the war and led to her new identity enhanced by modern technology.

Now she is considered a hero for saving G-145 by sending a temporal distortion weapon into N-space. The Minoans, the only other known sentient race, is to humans what humans are to horses. They know of her past and the speeded up metabolism that make her the perfect candidate to go to and explore the Builder’s home world; none of them can perform the mission as it would kill them. Wanting to explore the world of another sentient race even one that faded into oblivion Ariane volunteers; that is if the implant proves compatible to her body. However, even in deepest space Ariane cannot elude her enemies as one still stalks her.

In the distant future, mankind has reached the stars, but instead of fighting over a dying ice aged earth, wars are in space and on populated planets. Fans of military science fiction will enjoy the Kedros saga though Pathfinder has fewer battles than previous entries (see Peacekeeper and Vigilante). Courageous yet filled with remorse for the outcome of killing a billion people doing her duty, Kedros still seeks redemption. Pathfinder may not provide that for her, but she hopes it allows her to run from her past of what is acceptable as espionage and civilian deaths if you are with the victors and war crimes if you lose. Though she has doubts re her war time actions, she raises the fairness issue of the grunts take the blame as “rotten apples” for atrocities while those who give the orders receive medals and promotions (think Abu Ghraib).

Harriet Klausner

The Devil in Green-Mark Chadbourn

The Devil in Green
Mark Chadbourn
PYR, May 25 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616141981

One year has passed since the new dark Ages began with the Fall. Technology has vanished and is all but forgotten as mankind cowers in corners with the food chain altered as the supernatural roam and hunt humans.

Britain no longer claims the last successful invasion was William as the ancient faerie and the deadly demons stalk the blood of Englishmen and their compatriots. A slim hope flickers at Salisbury Cathedral, where Christian Knights Templar prepare for combat against the immortal while spreading the Lord’s Word amongst the faithless. Even with these volunteers, belief is nonexistence. For instance Mallory, who is fleeing his past, assumes there is no God but works diligently to become one of the Brothers of Dragons.

In the countryside, Paganism is entrenched as the Celtic Nation has formed that includes Sister of Dragons Sophie Tallent the witch. Mallory and Sophie meet, but before they can explore their feelings, his unit deploys on a search and rescue mission that fails. He survives, but after barely making it through a supernatural landmine he arrives at Salisbury to find a demonic army of occupation outside while inside a paranormal serial killer terrorizes the residents. Mallory now knows he can run but never hide as no place is safe.

The first stirring Dark Age’s thriller wastes no time to get the audience inside the beleaguered world as Mallory on his way to join the human army rescues a man Miller who becomes his brother in arms. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as the paranormal attack mortals throughout. The human cast is solid while the supernatural seem genuine as Mark Chadbourn manages to make his Dark Age’s world seen frighteningly genuine. Fans of his Age of Misrule and those who relish a post-apocalyptic thriller will want to join Mallory’s escapades in a world gone mad.

Harriet Klausner

Kraken-China Mieville

Kraken
China Mieville
Del Rey, Jun 29 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345497499

In London's Natural History Museum, curator Billy Harrow escorts a tour into the Darwin Center where a giant squid resides in a special tank prepared by him. Billy is proud of what he and most experts consider the top attraction of the Darwin center and perhaps the entire museum. When he and the tour group reach their destination, Billy is stunned to find it empty as that is not possible. What is more eerie is that not just the squid is gone, but the tank and preservative too.

Investigating police officer Kath Collingswood explains magical teleportation to a shocked Billy. He has now entered the realm of sorcery where Kath explains the only way to fight back is with sorcery. As Billy learns more about a part of London he and most residents never knew existed, the Congregation of God Kraken worship the giant squid while one of their flock Dane Parnell tries to keep curious Billy safe from two nasty wizards who get off with torture. Sent by their leader Tattoo the insane gangster survived sans body of his own as a tattoo put on the flesh of a wretched soul thanks to the greatest dead wizard. As the curator becomes more acquainted with the other London, city's familiars are refusing to perform as they picket for better pay, improved working conditions and health care.

Kraken is a wild over the top of Big Ben urban fantasy starring a likable curator, a fascinating dedicated cop-mage, and a vision of London that feels like something from Alice in Wonderland or Simon R. Green. Although the plot meanders much more than a Hyde Street Park speaker, and at times is overwhelmed by the paranormal antics throughout the city, fans of China Mieville will enjoy his jocular lampooning of the police procedural-amateur sleuth in an urban fantasy environs.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Transformers: Cybertron-Alex Irvine

Transformers: Cybertron
Alex Irvine
Del Rey, Jun 22 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345519856

The planet Cybertron is populated by sentient mechanical beings; a place so stagnant that they know what they will be doing every moment of the day. Once put in a job, the bot gets the position for life. In the gladiator in the underground a champion arises who calls for freedom from the tyranny of the caste system that destroys freedom of choice and encourages the bots to work under a rigid schedule.

Data collector Orion Pax hears Megatronus (later named Megratron) call for the end of the castes and a return to the glory days of Cybertron when freedom and the arts flourished. Megatronus incites a rebellion that splits the rebels between those supporting Orion Pax while some feet that Megatronus’s methods will work. The two meet and form an alliance to visit the High Council in strength to state their opinions. When Orion Pax is named Optimus Prime and is given power tat comes with the title Megatron feels betrayed and declares war on those who support his former ally and the autobots who want their freedom. The war leads to a nasty stalemate as each side destroys the land; Megaton now a tyrant longer no longer about the Cybertronians and he is the one Bot who could destroy all life on Cybertron.

Watching a gladiator rise to power by pretending to be a spokesman for freedom and a data collector turn into a planetary leader turns this Transformer tale into a good vs. evil war to control Cybertron. Optimus Prime is a born leader who proves the caste system fails as that society prevents talent fro rising above their birth spectrum. The characters are developed with feelings and thoughts that make sentient machines seem genuine. Fans of the saga will enjoy the Autobots vs. the Deceptions in “the official history of the war for Cybertron” for the right to choose as Alex Irvine captures the essence of the mechanical species, before they became movie stars.

Harriet Klausner

Imager’s Intrigue-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Imager’s Intrigue
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, Jul 20 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765325624

Rhennthyl has come a long way since his time as an apprentice portrait artist when a fire unveiled his talent as an Imager. In L’Excelsis, Solidar he has become Captain, Third District of the Civil Patrol; Rhenn is also ranked as a Maitre D’Structure of Collegium Imago of Solidar; he has been married for five years to Sellora though they never sleep the night together due to his Imager nightmares that could burn down a room; and finally the pair has a delightful daughter Diestrya.

While war looms again between Ferrum and Jariola, an arsonist torched the grain warehouse of a Freeholder; the latest to be burned down almost all owned by Freeholders while High Holders seem suspiciously immune. Finally an explosion near Place D’Opera in the Second District left several dead including Factor Broussard D’Factorious and his family; who was the target of terrorists Workers for Justice. Commander Artois says be vigil. Rhenn is soon caught in the crosshairs as his work as an apprentice painter (see Imager) and as a liaison to the law (see Imager’s Challenge) makes him a target from a powerful adversary. This enemy knows Rhenn’s skills from their previous confrontations and needs to insure the Imaging Captain is neutralized to prevent his interference with a diabolical plot; killing him and his family is the only way to eliminate him.

The third Imager Portfolio is an exhilarating thriller that reads like a Victorian French fantasy, which stands alone, but is enhanced, by reading the previous two entries especially when the past comes home to roost. The story line is fast-paced while the locales are vivid; as expected from a former artist turned Imager. Readers will relish the latest entry as L.E. Modesitt, Jr. entertainingly ties the news together in a strong tale in which the hero knows he has come a long way, but learns how fast you can go in reverse.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Fuller Memorandum-Charles Stross

The Fuller Memorandum
Charles Stross
Ace, Jul 6 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441018673

Needing to come in from the cold to update the paper work, demonologist Bob Howard is stunned when the top secret The Fuller Memorandum vanishes. As shocking, his dedicated boss Angleton, who could scare the sh*t out of God if there is one, also disappears at the same time. The management of Laundry assumes Angleton stole the highest classified dossier.

Bob knows he must go back into the field to find the missing Fuller memorandum and what happened to his boss. He soon runs into angry Russian espionage agents, even angrier demons, and the moronic cult followers of the Eater of Souls who if they raise the evil one they will learn life lesson 101 that when it comes to the malevolent; they owe no favors as they will dine on the followers before moving on to the rest of mankind.

The latest Laundry Files (see The Jennifer Morgue and The Atrocities Archives) is a terrific pull no punches paranormal espionage thriller as the action starts from the onset even with Howard musing about Jesus, Moses and the Dalai Lama in his usual irreverent scornful way. Fast-paced as Howard makes his inquires into the missing Fuller memorandum and his boss, and the lunatics who are trying to bring the end of the world to the world. Bod and Bourne never faced the adversaries Howard confronts; as he fears finding and not finding Angleton, and wants to avoid becoming the Eater of Souls’ dessert.

Harriet Klausner

LegaciesMercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill -

Legacies
Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
Tor, Jul 6 2010, $18.99
ISBN: 9780765327079

The car accident killed her entire family; only teenage Spirit White survived. She has little time to grieve and barely enough to heal as she is informed she will live at Oakhurst Academy where she will attend school.

Spirit is shocked to find Oakhurst is a school for orphans with magical skills. They are being trained to fight in a war against an alleged evil. As she makes friends with Burke, Lachlan, Muirin and Adelaide, Spirit begins to question the accident that left her an orphan and the intentions of those running Oakhurst Academy when it comes to the students who have no parental protection.

Putting aside the obvious comparison to Potter, the first Shadow Grail teen fantasy is an exciting thriller in which the locale, creepy Oakhurst Academy brings the freshness with its foreboding sort of gothic ambience. Spirit is a terrific lead protagonist while the rest of her inner circle of BFFs comes out of the DC Teen Titan handbook. Still with a bit of romance, a lot of suspense and a young adult investigation into missing students, teenage fans will want to attend the dances at eerie Oakhurst Academy.

Harriet Klausner

Close Contact-Katherine Allred

Close Contact
Katherine Allred
Eos, Jun 8 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061672439

Genetically enhanced person Echo Adams is not a typical GEP. She was gifted with a rare Psi ability, which makes her perfect on her current diplomatic assignment as an emissary in the Alien Affairs office.

Echo is disturbed when she is ordered out of the office to perform field work; as she does not do stinky outdoor work; especially when others might shoot you. Still she is considered the only person capable of handling the powerful Daughter Stone of the Limantti species that has been stolen. Accompanied by Peri the dragon bird and using her Psi skills to follow the thieves’ trail leads Echo to Madrea; a planet in which the ruler has severed all relationships with the Federation and outlawed technology. Echo understands the mission is to retrieve the Daughter Stone, get out alive and not cause a King to ignite in fury. Her only hope of success is with Royal Commander Reynard.

The second Alien Affairs science fiction romance (see Close Encounters) is a jocular affair that satires the kick male butt heroine phenomena as this lead female prefers the air conditioned office in which choosing what to eat for lunch is an adventure rather than off planet field encounters of a deadly kind. Fast-paced, fans who enjoy a fun somewhat simplistic lampooning of the super heroine sub-genre will want to read Close Contact as Echo Adams is promised a lot, but nothing until the end is met; as her amusing asides throughout will attest.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Sleeping Beauty- Mercedes Lackey

The Sleeping Beauty
Mercedes Lackey
Luna, Jul 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780373803156

Eltaria is an affluent kingdom that its neighbors covet favosr from. Especially of interest is the unmarried Princess Rosamund. Following the death of her mom the shepherdess turned monarch, all anticipate the magical Tradition should soon force her into some sort of fairy tale adventure with her own county’s aristocracy wanting to become her spouse and that of nearby nations hoping to work a pact through her marriage to one of their nobles.

Not long after her mom’s death, Princess Rosa flees from the royal huntsman charged with killing her. Seven dwarves rescue her, but she drinks a poisonous potion that puts her to sleep. Viking Prince Siegfried tries to kiss her awake as heroes do. However, Rosa’s fairy godmother (aside quote from my insightful nephew Jordan: “they don’t make fairy godmothers like they used to.”) throws out the Tradition book when she insists on a contest to win the still top catch in the area. Rosa agrees to the games between contenders to her hand, but insists on setting the rules of the events.

The fifth Five Hundred Kingdoms fairy tale romance is an amusing entertaining tale that obviously follows for the most part The Sleeping Beauty legend but also includes pieces from other fables as Mercedes Lackey spins the original into a refreshingly new Tradition. Fast-paced and very jocular, the plot lacks the passion of previous entries like The Snow Queen, but is still fun as the insider fairy tale puns and jokes mindful of Shrek (with a nod to Puss N Boots for instance) make for a lighthearted frolic; the Three Stooges being Siegfried, Leopold and Luna the unicorn with Rosa playing the straight woman.

Harriet Klausner

The Girls with Games of Blood-Alex Bledsoe

The Girls with Games of Blood
Alex Bledsoe
Tor, Jul 6 2010, $14.99
ISBN 9780765323842

He had survived for ages until 1915 when Baron Rudolfo Vladimir Zginski was staked through the heart. In 1975 pathologist Patricia Johnson withdraws the cross from the mummified corpse, which revives the dormant dead Continental vampire. In Memphis, when he meets some moronic young hippie vamps, he reluctantly takes the kids under his wings (see Blood Groove).

Mentoring vamps is not easy for a vowed misogynist; especially the push for gender and racial equality when he knows he is the superior breed due to his aristocratic heritage, sex and race, yet his sidekick is black Leonardo Jones. However, he has a new passion with the modern age and buys a 1973 Mustang from Zeb Crabtree while Jones wants to bite Zeb’s daughter, Clora. At the Ringside Club Rudolfo owns, his waitress Fauvette meets undead singer Patience Bolade who like her estranged sister Prudence thrives without drinking blood. Zeb wants to bring the battling sisters past their civil war fight to the modern age as he wants to taste both Bolade babes; unaware how nasty a baseball bat can be when it strikes the head of even a vampire when the hitter swings for the fences.

Not for everyone as the Baron may be sophisticate and suave, but he also is a malicious racist, nasty sexist and arrogant elitist. Starting with the opening profound one word profanity at the bar the story line is filled with gore, action, and gore as the Baron goes after sisters of the blood in an entertaining but over the top of the Smokey Mountains historical vampire tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Season of Risks-Susan Hubbard

The Season of Risks
Susan Hubbard
Simon & Schuster, Jul 6 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9781439183427

Ari Montero is a hybrid half vampire who played an instrumental part in finding her mother and bringing her back to her home where she reconnected with her family. Being a hybrid she has yet to find out what powers of a vampire she will eventually have. Like most of the Sanguinist sect of vampire, Ari and her family drink artificial blood; unlike the Colonists and Nebulists who see humans as chattel while the latter believes the species will become extinct.

Although Ari has the body of a fifteen years old, she is twenty-one and involved in a relationship with Senator Neal Cameron who as an independent has a real chance to be elected president; he also belongs to no sect. They keep their relationship quiet because of Ari’s official age. She allows Dr. Roche, a vampire, to inject her with the synthetic growth hormone Septinal. She soon looks like she is older, but someone shows her true birth certificate saying she is only fifteen to the media; destroying Cameron’s election chances. She is unaware that Roche is cloning people and inhabitant them with spirits. Ari and company bring Roche before COVE (Council of Vampire Ethics) to accuse him of illegal experiments but he turns the table around and accuses Ari and her family of heinous criminal activity. He insists they pulled the strings and defending themselves is not easy because they destroyed the evidence,.

Susan Hubbard’s wonderful vampire tale will appeal to fans of vampire lovers who love their vamps portrayed as another species most of whom are good and live like humans except at mealtimes. As a half human who is ignorant of what her extrasensory abilities will be since hybrids rarely exist, Ari must learn them while the heat is on. Her energy is invigorating as she discovers by trial and error what she can do. With a political sexual subplot that is very realistically portrayed, readers will enjoy Ari’s coming of age enthralling and riveting hybrid investigative urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Devil in the Details-K.A. Stewart

A Devil in the Details
K.A. Stewart
Roc, Jul 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463432

Jesse James Davidson has extraordinary fighting skills in the job he has chosen to do. Sometimes people make deals with a demon until they want to exchange for their souls and later decide the cost is too high. Jesse bets his soul that he can defeat the demon in a fight and so far he has won every bout. He got into the guardian profession when he risked his soul to rescue his younger brother.

His latest satisfied customer is the President of the United States. He gets a call from a potential client baseball giant Nelson Kidd who made a deal with a demon to restore his ability to be a champion baseball player. He took his team to the World Champions but now wants out of the deal. Jesse charges him a huge fee because he earns it to pay his medical bills from the fight with the demon. Two other champions Miguel and Guy have fallen off the radar and it is assumed they died. Both called the same number before they vanished and both tried but failed to log on to the guardian database. It looks like something is killing the guardians but Jesse has no time to investigate because he has a demon to fight. He is also staying away from Axel the demon who wants his soul and who apparently is stalking him.

K.A. Stewart is a welcome addition to the urban fantasy writers with a strong opening entry. Told in the first person by the laconic hero in a sardonic witty voice, readers get to know Jesse up front and in person. Flawed and courageous, Jesse risks eternity to help those who cut demonic deals although by doing so he shortens his lifespan because one day he will lose a fight. A Devil in the Details is a dynamic debut.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shades of Gray-Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge

Shades of Gray
Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge
Bantam, Jun 22 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780553386325

In New Chicago, Jet and Iridium know their relationship is still changing. Once the pair was the best friends forever; soon afterward they became the best of enemies forever; recently out of desperation they teamed up to defeat the Night (see Black and White) though each believes this changes nothing between them.

However an unintended consequence of their victory over the rogue superhero is in destroying the brainwashing transmitting gizmo that controlled Squadron loyalty has posed a new threat. With no one pledged to Corps-Co any longer since the transmitter failure, the Squadron members are outraged, divided and confused. Extrahumans wants revenge while normal humans are turning catatonic as an old enemy of superheroes Everyman has surfaced with vengeance in mind. While Doctor Hypnotic has escaped incarceration using his mesmerizing power to cause further mayhem for everyone especially the former BFFs who still want to remain on the side of the law though that is increasingly turning impossible as their former allies, their enemies, even a dad, and the humans they pledge to protect are after them.

This is a great work of speculative fiction that rotates past and present through the viewpoints of various characters. Fast-paced with plenty of action as seemingly everyone residing in New Chicago wants to either kill or ate least kick the butts of Jet and Iridium. With a nod to The Watchmen, fans will relish the second Kessler-Kittredge superb superhero world as the heroines learn an inconvenient truth about the past and unintentional second and third order effects.

Harriet Klausner

Tracking the Tempest-Nicole Peeler

Tracking the Tempest
Nicole Peeler
Orbit, Jul 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316056571

In Rockabill, Maine hybrid Jane True struggles with learning she is half Selkie. She also tries to understand her new skill as a magic practitioner. However, Jane is also running out of time as purebreds detest Halflings; preferring the Selkie species to be perfectly pure. On the other hand Nell the gnome, Anyan the dog and Trill the kelpie train her on her new skills; though Jane thinks torture is a mire accurate description of their mentoring her.

Her beloved Ryu the vampire is on her side though he is in Boston on a homicide investigation. When she decides to visit her vampiric investigator, Jane never expected to become part of an inquiry he is making into Conleth the Halfling Ifrit, who escaped from a Dorchester lab that blew up right after he got out. Ryu thinks Conleth blew up the lab and has become a serial killer especially of Halflings, but Jane finds several other suspects who will not mind the murder of a nosy Halfling.

The latest Tempest urban fantasy (see Tempest Rising) is an excellent urban fantasy as the heat is on the heroine (and her lover) in Boston. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the heroine joins her “Impaler” lover in Boston and never slows down as the pair search for a paranormal serial killer. Readers will relish Tracking the Tempest as Jane seems truly to be in the eye of the perfect killer storm.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 24, 2010

American Music-Jane Mendelsohn

American Music
Jane Mendelsohn
Knopf, Jun 1 2010, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307272669

In 2005 twenty-one year old physical therapist Honor works at the Bronx VA hospital. Her current patient is Iraqi veteran Milo, having suffered a spinal column trauma. He is moody and uncooperative, but she goes about her job with professionalism.

However, as she begins to touch parts of his body, the therapist and the patient begin seeing visions of people they never met. There is jazz saxophonist Joe, his wife Pearl and Vivian her cousin. Vivian shares Joe’s love of music; while Pearl studies the law and they have an affair. The therapist and the patient meet others from the past like the late 1960s-1970s trio Iris, Alex, and Anna and early seventeenth century in Turkey Parvin, Kaya and Hyacinth. Honor and Milo struggle to connect dots as the visions become clearer with each new revelation.

This is a fascinating well written metaphysical tale in which the diverse deliberately slow paced segues repeat several times with each new rendition adding depth to what Milo and Honor learn about the dance of forbidden love over the ages. Like the lead couple, readers will need to know what is going on in the different pasts and why this pair “see” these vivid dramas at this time.

Harriet Klausner

Tongues of Serpents-Naomi Novik

Tongues of Serpents
Naomi Novik
Del Rey, Jul 13 2010, $25.00
ISBN 9780345496898

Considered traitors for saving French dragons from a deadly plague while his country is at war with France, English Captain Will Laurence and his Chinese-British dragon Temeraire are exiled to New South Wales. However, he never anticipated being embroiled in a local dispute over who should rule the colony.

The former royal governor wants back in control, while insurgents want to control the government. Both sides try to persuade Laurence and his dragon allies to support them. When a dragon egg is stolen, Laurence and Temeraire lead a quest to recover the egg; a dangerous trek over the Blue Mountains

The sixth Laurence-Temeraire thriller is much darker and less passionate than previous entries (see Victory of Eagles, His Majesty's Dragon, Throne Of Jade, Black Powder War and Empire Of Ivory). The heroic pair works a grim landscape, but never gets close to the Aborigines; a missed opportunity to see how the natives and the dragon interact. Having Bligh of the Bounty fame adds a solid twist and Temeraire’s draconian outlook adds a fabulous perspective so that fans of the saga will enjoy the exile to Australia where in spite of their good intentions the dragon and his human get involved with a nasty dispute.

Harriet Klausner

Mission of Honor-David Weber

Mission of Honor
David Weber
Baen, Jun 22 2010, $27.00
ISBN 9781439133613

The seemingly endless war (a dozen books worth) between the Star Empire of Manticore and the Republic of Haven is finally drawing to a conclusion. The Manties have all but won. However, the Empire leadership believes they must further cripple the enemy as they distrust the idea that the other side wants peace as they would not if the situation was reversed.

Admiral Honor Harrington is almost all alone amidst the top brass in her belief that the Republic wants to end the conflict. She leads a group to the Havenite system to negotiation the terms of peace. However, the peace in our times is devastated when a sneak attack on the Manticoran worlds occur while the Solarian League flexes its muscle at the same time as they distrust the apparent winner of the war especially when they claim the Manties have provoked them with vicious attacks.

Fans of military science fiction will be euphoric with the return of Harrington who struggles with political and military leaders and bureaucracies as too many of those chicken hawks in charge who never left the office cannot see passed their ambition to the horror of battle (think Cheney vs. Eisenhower). Fast-paced from start to finish, Honor works on a peace agreement when new conflations erupt. Once again David Weber provides a strong winner in one of the top sub-genre series as the aptly titled Mission of Honor takes readers on quite a spin.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Frankenstein: Lost Souls-Dean Koontz

Frankenstein: Lost Souls
Dean Koontz
Bantam, Jun 15 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780553808018

Deucalion informs his closest friend Brother Salvatore that the former’s creator Victor Frankenstein AKA Victor Helios of New Orleans has arisen from the dead again. He knows this because of his dark blood insisting it is so.

Victor uses the name Leben and moves to Rainbow Falls, Montana where he believes he can continue his creationist work using modern science and technology in isolation until he is ready to release his super human species on mankind. He actually has a secret financial backer, Victor begins anew. Meanwhile efficiency expert Rainbow Falls Mayor Erskine Potter meets his only adversary, himself; as the Community replaces him with his “brother”.

The quintet that stopped Victor Helios in New Orleans two years ago regroups. Police Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison, Victor’s manufactured wife Erika 5 and her buddy Jocko, and Deucalion the tormented “Adam” gather in Rainbow Falls. However, unlike their last encounter, this time Victor has a Community of supporters who will kill anyone who interferes with his work; innocent collateral damage is part of being efficient and effective.

Obviously readers of the first Dean Koontz Frankenstein revision trilogy (see The Prodigal Son, City of Night, and Dead or Alive) will relish the return of the creator Dr. Victor while new readers will have no trouble diving into Lost Souls. The key is fully developed to rival Victor’s creations as each of the heroic five has doubts while finding being human is not easy to define when you are not God’s children. Readers will enjoy this strong investigative science fiction thriller as the magnificent five anticipate a second High Noon confrontation with Victor, but this time he has powerful allies ready to kill any interfering with his creation of a master race.

Harriet Klausner

The Dragon Variation-Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

The Dragon Variation
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Baen, Jun 1 2010, $12.00
ISBN: 9781439133699

“Local Custom”. His Liad clan Korval demands trader Er Thom yos'Galan marry an acceptable bride and sire the heir. Duty comes before desire as he loves unacceptable earthling Anne Davis; whose linguistic research has led to adversaries wanting her dead. He goes to say goodbye but is stunned when he meets his son Shan. Instead he brings his beloved Anne and their hybrid son to his clan where his mom makes it clear the outsider is unwelcome.

“Scout's Progress”. Clan Korval demands master pilot Daav yos Phelium marry a Liaden he dislikes; her feelings are mutual and her clan loathes his for hosting an earthling abomination. At the same time revered mathematician Aelliana Caylon needs to escape the ire of her jealous brother. When she obtains a ship playing the odds, she decides to learn to fly so she can escape. Daav trains the woman worshipped by pilots everywhere due to her life-saving modifications to the ven'Tura Piloting Tables.

“Conflict of Honors”. A decade ago the High Priestess of the Goddess declared teenage Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza dead. Exiled, she until now she is the cargomaster on the Liaden vessel Daxflan. When she realizes that Captain Sav Rid Olanek has brought on board illegal drugs, she ignores it preferring not to get involved with anyone or anything. That fails to protect her as Olanek dumps her on a backwater planet with no funds and a revised history proclaiming her as a thief. Priscilla obtains help from Liaden Captain Shan yos'Galan of the Dutiful Passage. He teaches her to pilot while pursuing the Daxflan as he has a vendetta too; however Olanek has high level protection.

These first three exciting Liaden romantic science fictions tales contain similar story lines starring a woman unwanted except by a rogue Liaden pilot. Feeling in some ways like a Regency romantic suspense in outer space, fans will enjoy reading the opening acts in the Liaden Universe.

Harriet Klausner

Red Hot Fury-Kasey Mackenzie

Red Hot Fury
Kasey Mackenzie
Ace, Jun 20 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018925

Like the other Fury Sisterhood members, Marissa “Riss” Holloway protects mortals from the others. For the last five years, Riss has been the Chief Magical Investigator in Boston.

When an arcane body corpse is found in Boston Harbor, she leads the official inquiry. Riss is shocked because the corpse is that of her Fury sister Ness, who was her best friend before their dispute ended all contact. Even more stunning to the cop is Ness’ tattoos have been slightly magically modified. Riss notifies her superiors only to be suspended although she fails to comprehend why. Her theory is someone at the top of the leadership does not want a real homicide investigation. When an assassin tries to kill her, Riss asks her ex, shapeshifting Warhound Scott Murphy, to help her as she investigates the murder, the reason she was removed from the case and the attempt on her life that she believes is tied together with the only probable cause being someone is generating a cross-species war.

This exciting urban fantasy investigative thriller takes off once the uneven difficult to read introduction to the key players and a paranormal Boston are established. From that point readers obtain an enjoyable investigative thriller starring a kick butt heroine (the sub-genre is inundated with these tough females) who follows leads into the upper crust and cesspool communities resided by human and paranormal beings. Her efforts along side Murphy make Red Hot Fury an overall entertaining tale as Boston comes alive with the others because the heroine seeks vengeance for her former BFF and to prevent genocide.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere-Jacqueline West

The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere
Jacqueline West
Dial (Penguin), Jun 15 2010, $16.99
ISBN: 9780803734401

The Dunwoody family move into a fixer upper Victorian mansion left vacant when elderly Ms. McMartin died. Eleven year old Olive finds the house odd, but her mathematical minded parents see nothing out of the ordinary starting with the inability to remove the strange drawings from the wall, but upon a closer look she sees things moving inside the paintings.

Looking around the house, Olive finds glasses that she puts on for fun. Instead of blur, she realizes she enter the pictures and travel in a realm that sort of looks like her natural one, but seems shadowy and too quiet to the stunned tweener. Horatio the cat warns her not to stay too long in their world and never lose the glasses if she is on this side of the frame. Olive also meets raging Morton who claims he is from her side of the divide, but was thrown into the picture world because he knew too much. As she learns more about the house and its contents, Olive fears something evil wants to keep her silent in order for her not to reveal what the darkness wants to do to the light.

With illustrations from Poly Bernatene enhancing the strong haunted house mystery, Jacqueline West provides an exhilarating middle school age tale. Fast-paced, young readers will want to join courageous Olive as she investigates the goings-on inside the painting world and the house, but is unsure who to trust with her growing concerns especially in light of her parents thinking logically that she is playing make believe.

Harriet Klausner

The Reluctant Mage-Karen Miller

The Reluctant Mage
Karen Miller
Orbit, Jul 28 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780316029216

The last Mage War ended with Morg the sorcerer defeated and the Barl's Wall destroyed. Asher of Restharven and his wife Dathne settle in Dorana hoping to raise a family in peace and domestic tranquility. However, he realized his people still needed his skills and out of protection for his son Rafel blocked some of the child’s magical abilities.

Seventeen years since the great war to end all wars, Rafel and Asher argue over the former’s magic at a time when Weather Magic is failing. Rafel insists he cross the Barl Mountains to find a legendary magical library in order to research what is needed to save their people. Unaware of what exists on the other side, Asher refuses to allow his offspring to go on such a precarious journey. Ignoring his sire, Rafel leaves, but he and his party also vanishes. Magically depleted Asher follows as his daughter Leenie and her companion Charis journey to the south; as she insists her sibling lives and is tormented and Morg’s legacy and rebirth flourishes unchecked.

This is a powerful return to Asher the Mage and his family is a terrific entry in a strong quest fantasy saga. The story line is fast-paced except for a bit of generational squabbling that enhances the characterization. However, as with some of the previous Mage tales, the cast makes the plot entertaining as Asher’s offspring take control somewhat of the story line. Although newcomers will find it difficult to jump into The Reluctant Mage as there is so much referenceto Morg and the last great Mage War, fans of Karen Miller’s fabulous saga will relish the escapades of Asher and his brood.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thief of Midnight-Catherine Butzen

Thief of Midnight
Catherine Butzen
Stark House, Jul 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933586311

Life changed for Abby Marquise the night she was attacked by a ghoul. Her son thinks she is insane; her husband left her; and she is fearful of the night filled with creatures of legend and myth. She joins the Society for the Security of Reality, an organization dedicated to disposing the evil beasts that harm humans.

The group is unaware that it has a real enemy that is also humanity’s adversary. Created from human imagination, their job is frightening children into behaving. They feed on fear and accrue power. In this century, they are invincible as few adult believe they exist. That enables them to kidnap thousands of kids across the country. The boss of the Family El Cucuy has a wider agenda than snatching children, but two of his cohorts disagree. Somehow Abby and her allies must free the children and stop El Cucuy from completing his ultimate agenda.

Catherine Butzen has written a chilling horror thriller that would make a great movie. Readers learn about the culture and behavior of the Bogeyman who with few exceptions feel humans are worthless. Abby fights for her beliefs though her family and friends ridicule her for insisting beasts who should not exist roam the night as bogeymen. She brings the human interest to the thrilling plot as a heroine scorned by her loved ones.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shakespeare Undead-Lori Handeland

Shakespeare Undead
Lori Handeland
St. Martin’s griffin, Jun 8 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312641528

In 1592 London, William Shakespeare walks at night in the Southwark neighborhood when he is attacked. Amateur chasseur hunter of the undead Katherine slices his throat. However, Shakespeare counterattacks the lad who tried to cut off his head; only to find he is a she.

To his regret, the vampire bard is attracted to his chasseur especially after he steals a kiss from his dark lady. They soon team up on solving a mystery that threatens the undead and the living of London as zombie gangbangers troll the streets; while Shakespeare also wonders if this time he gets the happy ending with the girl instead of another tragedy in five acts; as the last one he wanted he lost to a Roman and ultimately the asp.

Shakespeare Undead is a lighthearted frolic based on the concept that the Bard would have needed several lifetimes to produce the quantity and quality of his work; thus he must have been an immortal vampire. That twisted logic permeates the humorous spoofing story line. With references to the Elizabethan Era and to the masterpieces, Lori Handeland provides an amusing lampooning starting with the Dark Lady star of the sonnets trying to cut off the Bard’s head; making one wonder just who the Fool is when he wants her with his other head. Over the top of Westminster Abbey, this is a fun Elizabethan fantasy spoof.

Harriet Klausner

The Infinity Gate-Sara Douglass

The Infinity Gate
Sara Douglas
Eos, Jun 1 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780060882198

With Tencendor gone, trapped inside the Tower of Elcho Falling is its Lord Maximilian, fallen god heroic Axis SunSoar, and Serpent Coil Priestess Isabelle Brunelle and their comrades. Though have raised the magic of the tower, they are in deep trouble. Their adversaries are coming from every location tightening the grip on those besieged inside the magic tower. Those who come arrive with one intent: kill all caught inside.

From the tundra to the north arrive the traitorous winged Lealfast and from the south come the ferocious Skraelings. However, the most dangerous and lethal enemy is the One, who absorbs Infinity magic from the DarkGlass Pyramid. Those trapped have no hope of surviving for themselves or their world as betrayal by a key ally leaves them seemingly defenseless. Yet Axis raises his Strike Force using the Star Dance magic to fight back while a glimmer might be Ravenna the Marsh witch who no one trusts.

The third DarkGlass Mountain fantasy (see The Twisted Citadel and The Serpent Bride) is a great action-packed finish to a top rate trilogy as revelations and twists will keep the audience fully occupied with what comes next. The action never slows down while the cast is top rate. Readers will fully relish Sara Douglas’ strong epic as darkness appears poised to win.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Unincorporated War-Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin.

The Unincorporated War
Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin.
Tor. May 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780765319005

The Unincorporated Man Jason Cord led a rebellion against the tyranny of corporations that ruled the solar system. His revolt partially succeeded as the Outer Alliance broke free of the inner planets who remain mindlessly controlled by the corporations. Jason becomes the president of the OA, but knows he will never return to earth where he is an outlaw.

Fearing the rebellion widening and believing the outer planets are colonies, Earth dispatches its starship armada to destroy the breakaway alliance. Jason knows his side is in trouble as the enemy is much more powerful and feels remorse that he sends soldiers to die, but refuses to surrender. Instead he sends a counter force to battle the enemy’s militia.

This sequel to the Unincorporated Man is a fast-paced military science fiction. With a lot more solar system space battles and much less political intrigue than its predecessor, The Unincorporated war is action-packed throughout, but lacks the nuances of extrapolating trends from today’s corporate-political-judicial (since Citizen United decision) complex. Still this is a top rate outer space thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Swords and Dark Magic-Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders

Swords and Dark Magic
Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders
Eos, Jul 2010, $15.99
ISBN 9780061723810

Although this strong fantasy anthology claims to be the new sword and sorcery, most of the entries feel like entertaining throwbacks to Robert E. Howard or to a contributor’s long running series. None of the entries are clinkers; in fact most are quite strong. “The Sea Troll’s Daughter” by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan stars a villain rescuing a damsel in distress while Steven Erickson presents the multiple perspectives of five surviving riders of the Goats of Glory troop retreating from an invincible enemy. However, much of the fun in this fine collection resides with the return of heroes (and antiheroes). Michael Moorcock contributes Elric in “Red Pearls”; Cugel the Clever stars in Michael Shea’s “Dapple How the Tint Master”; “Dark Times at the Midnight Market” by Robert Silverberg is led by Majipoor: and finally the Black Company of Glen Cook heads “Tides Elba”. With the rest of the authors being a who’s who of fantasy, readers will enjoy Sword and Dark Magic although once again the compilation is less the “New Sword and Sorcery” and more homage to the late great Mr. Howard.

Harriet Klausner

The Crowded Shadows- Celine Kiernan

The Crowded Shadows
Celine Kiernan
Orbit, Jul 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN 9780316077088

The schism between the father Southlands King Jonathan of Kingcourt and his rebellious son Prince Alberon remains wide and potentially deadly. Wynter Moorehawke searches for the Rebel Prince to learn why the split happened and what his intentions are. However each step on her quest seems dangerous as many have come to join the Rebel Prince’s cause.

Thus when Prince Razi and Christopher Garron whom she loves join her, Wynter welcomes them. The trio conceals their identity from rebels, royals, and outlaws as none can be trusted to leave them travel harmlessly. However, the most insidious are Loup-Garou slavers, but the most frightening is rumors that Alberon has forged an alliance with an enemy Marguerite Shirken, who in turn apparently has gained an alliance with the Merron; as everyone seems to want to overthrow King Jonathan.

This sequel to the equally great The Poison Throne is a superb young adult political fantasy filled with plenty of intrigue outside of Kingcourt as strange bedfellows seem to be making alliances. Wynter and her two comrades find potential friends apparently already have joined known enemies as life for the heroine has become increasingly convoluted and complicated; not that love has simplified her personal relationships. This is a strong teen tale as Wynter has no time for coming of age as that will prove to late for the Southlands.

Harriet Klausner

Nights of Villjamur- Mark Charan Newton

Nights of Villjamur
Mark Charan Newton
Spectra, Jun 29 2010, $26.00
ISBN 9780345520845

As the ice continues to spread as forecasted decades ago across the Jamur Empire archipelago and when it became obvious the sun was dying, increasingly humans and others coming from all the islands take refuge in the ancient city of Villjamur. Some of the horde of thousands comes for more insidious reasons. Thus stability of leadership even if the top person is insane is critical at this time although some in power like Chancellor Urtica choose personal ambition over what is good for the island empire. When the mad emperor Jamur Johynn dies suddenly, placing his untested heir, his elder daughter Rika as the queen, Urtica plans to act to replace her with himself immediately. His strategy is to foster hatred of the desperate immigrants flocking the city before he leads a coup d’etat and an ethic cleansing of all outsiders.

As Rika sits on the throne precariously though sympathetic towards the plight of her people, her mentor Randur Esteyu advises and encourages her while her sister Eir supports her, but her council wants to use her for personal power. Meanwhile someone murders Councilor Ghuda leading to Inspector Rumex Jeryd a nonhuman rumel to investigate at a time the city and kingdom needs unity, not divisions and conspiracies plotting to overthrow the monarchy.

Although the plot starts just a bit faster than the encroaching ice age, Mark Charan Newton creates his world of human and nonhuman; once set (just under a third of the way), the fantasy thriller turns into a police procedural that grips the audience. The cast is solid whether they are human, banshee, rumel or other; but the key player, the dying sun fed ice never feels as if it threatens to destroy all life. Still this is an entertaining tale as death squads initially sent by Johynn and now employed by Urtica use eradication to solve problems though sometimes the dead come back.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 14, 2010

Healer-Linda Windsor

Healer
Linda Windsor
David C. Cook, Jun 28 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434764782

In the sixth century in Alba, Brenna’s mother the powerful healing witch Queen Joanna of Gowrys abruptly awakens from a frightening vision of the destruction of her subclan caused by Chieftain Tarlach O'Byrne. The powerful Tarlach still rages at Joanna for her audacity to marry someone else when they were an obvious pairing due to ancestry. He has never forgiven her for defying their destiny by her marrying her beloved Llas. Tarlach leads the O’Byrne clan on a deadly vengeance, but before she dies Joanna curses him with the prediction that her offspring will divide his brood leading to peace for everyone.

Taking her death words gravely serious Tarlach hunts for Brenna who was taken to the woods by her cousin Ealga her nurse and raised there. When her surrogate mom Ealga dies, Brenna has no other human to talk to and her only companion is Faol the wolf. As they have done for two decades, the O’Byrne clan searches for Joanna's daughter. Tarlach’s heir Ronan leads the hunt, but he is hurt and dying. Brenna, a healer on a par with her late mom, saves his life, but by doing so exposes herself to her enemy.

The first Brides of Alba Christian Arthurian fantasy is a strong opening act that follows up nicely with a fresh arc from the Fires of Gleannmara trilogy. The story line is fast-paced for the most part especially when Ealga flees with her infant cousin to raise her safely in the woods and continues when the two clan heirs meet. The tale slows down a bit after Ronal heals, but regains speed into the final turn. Fans will relish the return to Linda Windsor’s strong Christian Arthurian mythos with the saga of the healer.

Harriet Klausner

Wizard Squared-K. E. Mills

Wizard Squared
K. E. Mills
HarperCollins, Jul 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316035439

Calling him an ordinary wizard was being kind to minor third grade bureaucrat Gerald Dunnywood. That all changed in a flash when Gerald the safety inspector for Ottosland's Department of Thaumaturgy was caught in a thaumaturgical factory explosion that brought out his untapped inner magical self (see the Accidental Sorcerer).

That was then and this is now as Gerald and his friends Monk Markham, Bibby, Melissande, and Reg perform magical assignments as Witches, Incorporated. Out of nowhere, but actually from a parallel universe arrives Monk Markham. The newcomer explains to Monk and the others except Gerald who is on assignment that his universe’s Gerald became more evil than the malevolent wizard-king he defeated when he became The Accidental Sorcerer. The Monk from the other universe has come to plead with Gerald from this universe to return to his to fight Gerald.

The concept of opposite personalities is not new (Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde and a classic Star Trek, for instance), but made fresh with the Miller Mythos. The Third Rogue Agent fantasy is an enjoyable story that starts off a bit slow as the crew’s amusing bickering and grousing slows down the plot. Towards the middle of the story line, the squabbling is abated and the tale takes off as the audience awaits a confrontation between the two Geralds. Fans of the saga will appreciate the return of Gerald as he is twice the fun with a good and evil versions colliding.

Harriet Klausner

Kitty Goes to War-Carrie Vaughn

Kitty Goes to War
Carrie Vaughn
Tor, Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780765365613

Midnight Hour talk show host Kitty Norville is also an alpha werewolf; perhaps the most visible in the country. On her show, she talks with callers about Speedy Mart and its owner Harold Franklin. The discussions focus on verified supernatural happenings at many of his stores. The final call-in for the evening insists Franklin is always there when a weather catastrophe occurs. Before she can react, his lawyer sues her. They meet, but accomplish nothing.

Meanwhile Kitty gets a call from the NIH Center for the Study of paranormal Biology. A werewolf soldier in Afghanistan infected other soldiers; they were successful as a unit until the alpha died. The squad falls apart as the new alpha Sergeant Vanderman kills those who opposed him. By the time they are stateside, only two soldiers and Vanderman remain. They are held at Fort Carson, Colorado as each is out of control suffering from a form of PTSD. Kitty arrives to save the two followers as Vanderman is too far gone. She takes them outside on runs trying to show them what a good pack is like. During a blizzard, one flees from Kitty in an attempt to rescue his alpha Vanderman. Kitty learns Franklin is causing somehow the blizzard. She can see clearly that she must end the storm and find the missing werewolf before feral Vanderman escapes and the storm becomes like another Katrina. Catching Franklin would be the icing on the cake.

Carrie Vaughn continues to expand her wonderful werewolf urban fantasy mythos with an edgy, poignant yet at times amusing thriller. The cast is solid as everyone wants to sue, kill or help Kitty. However, as always this is her tale as she struggles with helping werewolf soldiers suffering from PTSD. She and the audience will be stunned with a twist as Kitty Goes to War.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cheat The Grave-Vicki Pettersson

Cheat The Grave
Vicki Pettersson
Eos, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061456770

In Las Vegas Joanna Archer knew what she was giving up when she rescued a child to save the light. Her sacrifice is her superpowers and her allies.

Although she swears she would do it again Joanna has nagging doubts. Her destiny not only radically altered by her good deed, her friends deserted her; in fact they want to kill her. Feeling alone but forced by her revised destiny to act if the prophecy is to occur, Joanna travels through a nightmare in which everyone is her enemy, but one particular psychopathic predator plots to kill her. Joanna knows only her former foes give her a chance to survive and fulfill the prophecy.

The latest Sign of the Zodiac is a terrific entry that centers on Joanna in a twisting of the coming of age theme. Urban fantasy readers will enjoy the fast-paced thriller that wastes no time by moving out from the onset. Joanna is terrific as she struggles with a myriad of emotions with the changes to her. She makes Cheat the Grave a great novel and though the story line can stand by itself, it is enhanced by reading the previous books to see how far the metamorphosis occurred.

Harriet Klausner

Blood of the Mantis-Adrian Tchaikovsky

Blood of the Mantis
Adrian Tchaikovsky
PYR, May 25 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616141998

With the Darakyon spirits as companions of sorts forcing him to complete his mission, Achaeos reaches Jerez an isolated marsh town. He knows time is running out before the Shadow Box is possessed by the Wasp Emperor. Achaeos struggles with regaining the stolen artifact before disaster strikes as not just the Wasp ruler wants it, so do beasts and traitors desire ownership; all know the possessor rules the world.

In the Lowlands, the other the tribes of the Empire hope to strike back as the divided groups prepare for a counter surge against the mighty Wasp army expected spring invasion. Led by spymaster Stenwald Maker, they know their chances are bleak once the spring offensive from their enemy begins. However, the real fight is in Jerez.

The third Shadows of the Apt military fantasy (see Dragonfly Falling and Empire in Black and Gold) is a great tale that contains two strong subplots. First there is the owning of the Shadow Box, which dictates in many ways (but not all) who the winner will be in the conflict and then there is the military preparation leading to the bloody spring offensive. Blood of the Mantis is a wonderful entry in a powerful saga as Adrian Tchaikovsky provides another intelligent parable of the foibles of society with racism, fear-mongering, and loathing the cornerstones of a military-magical solution.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil in Green-Mark Chadbourn

The Devil in Green
Mark Chadbourn
PYR, May 25 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616141981

One year has passed since the new dark Ages began with the Fall. Technology has vanished and is all but forgotten as mankind cowers in corners with the food chain altered as the supernatural roam and hunt humans.

Britain no longer claims the last successful invasion was William as the ancient faerie and the deadly demons stalk the blood of Englishmen and their compatriots. A slim hope flickers at Salisbury Cathedral, where Christian Knights Templar prepare for combat against the immortal while spreading the Lord’s Word amongst the faithless. Even with these volunteers, belief is nonexistence. For instance Mallory, who is fleeing his past, assumes there is no God but works diligently to become one of the Brothers of Dragons.

In the countryside, Paganism is entrenched as the Celtic Nation has formed that includes Sister of Dragons Sophie Tallent the witch. Mallory and Sophie meet, but before they can explore their feelings, his unit deploys on a search and rescue mission that fails. He survives, but after barely making it through a supernatural landmine he arrives at Salisbury to find a demonic army of occupation outside while inside a paranormal serial killer terrorizes the residents. Mallory now knows he can run but never hide as no place is safe.

The first stirring Dark Age’s thriller wastes no time to get the audience inside the beleaguered world as Mallory on his way to join the human army rescues a man Miller who becomes his brother in arms. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as the paranormal attack mortals throughout. The human cast is solid while the supernatural seem genuine as Mark Chadbourn manages to make his Dark Age’s world seen frighteningly genuine. Fans of his Age of Misrule and those who relish a post-apocalyptic thriller will want to join Mallory’s escapades in a world gone mad.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The White Road-Lynn Flewelling

The White Road
Lynn Flewelling
Bantam, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553590098

In Rhiminee after all that happened to them starting with enslavement in Plenimar, bone weary Alec and Seregil want to return to the way it was before the shattering recent events (see Shadow’s Return). However, both understand that going back to nightrunning cannot happen until they know what to about Alec’s “offspring”, Sebrahn, not of woman but of Alec’s alchemically treated blood.

Sebrahn has paranormal skills that pose a danger to those near him. He can heal as easily as he can kill. However, his major flaw is he cannot stay away from his sire. Alec and Seregil try to learn just what Sebrahn is while adversaries plan to use the offspring as a tool to get at the pair and their friends and clan.

This superior fantasy directly follows previous entries so it behooves newcomers to read them first to better grasp what has happened to the two protagonists that brought them to the White Road. The story line is action-packed as the two Nightrunners fail to get their needed respite as everyone except Alec and Seregil wants control of Sebrahn, a new “weapon”. Fans of the series will relish traveling the dangerous White Road with two tested warriors and their “ward” while a horde of foes wants them dead to get them out of the way in order to possess Seregil literally blood kin.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Red Demon-Deidre Knight

Red Demon
Deidre Knight
Signet, Jun 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451230454

Although his beloved died a hundred years ago, Aristos Petrakos still grieves his loss. Adding to his misery is his feeling of guilt as he believes that the love of his life Juliana Tiades loathed his shapeshifting and his wings so chose death by drowning in the Savannah River rather than an abomination like him.

Sophie Lowery visits Ari and informs him that she believes Juliana’s spirit lives at her house and is trying to contact him as if she does not comprehend she is dead. He does not believe her, but cannot ignore what she said just in case his Juliana needs help and perhaps a miracle. Juliana wants to be with her beloved Ari so has not accepted she died a century ago. An apparent female angel gives her a chance to return to corporal form and she takes it; not grasping the Faustian deal she made. However, Ari has doubts that this is Juliana and besides he spent ten decades in remorse believing she rejected him. Juliana has to persuade her Ari to listen to their hearts.

This is an excellent Gods of Midnight (see Ted Kiss) romantic urban fantasy with a terrific premise as a second chance at love for a relatively short time together comes with the price of likely one and maybe two souls. Fast-paced throughout with a strong lead pair and a solid support cast to include Sophie the medium, a fuming Ares, a Djinn demon, and the Spartan Brotherhood; fans will need to set aside time as this is a one sitting red eye special.

Harriet Klausner

Assassin’s Honor-Monica Burns

Assassin’s Honor
Monica Burns
Berkley, Jun 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425234167

Although her parents strongly believed in the Order of the Sicari and encouraged her to do so likewise, the Chicago-based archeologist Emma Zale assumes the legend is myth and no more. Still their tales of the ancient order and their murders led Emma to study archeology as a way of honoring them.

While on a dig, Emma is shocked to find evidence that the Sicari were real. Soon after, she uncovered her proof, her boss is murdered. When she meets Ares DeLuca he claims to be a Sicari telekinetic assassin. The Sicari war and the Praetorian Guards are at war with the latter committing ethnic cleansing. Unless Ares can find the Tyet of Isis, his people will become extinct. To prevent the genocide he needs Emma’s help because he thinks she know where the ancient artifact is hidden; to stay alive she needs Ares’ help because she thinks he is a great warrior, but her fear is he will also take her heart.

The first Order of the Sicari romantic urban fantasy is a superb opening tale that focuses on a several millennia war between the Praetorian Guard and the Sicari assassins. The lead couple is a terrific pairing while the support cast enhances the sense of a long running deadly feud. Monica Burns has an excellent first act of what appears will be a wonderful series. Assassin’s Honor is a spellbinding tale.

Harriet Klausner

Dreamveil-Lynn Viehl

Dreamveil
Lynn Viehl
Onyx, Jun 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451412881

Rowan Dietrich left Georgia for a job in Boston because the man she loves has chosen a different mate. She stops in Manhattan to look at the place she ran from several years ago and senses the old man knows she is in town. After getting gangbangers to leave her alone, she goes on her bike to finish her trip, but something hits her from behind. She crashes into a car in the ally next to D’Anges Restaurant. The owner yells at Rowen, but the restaurant owner Jean-Marc Dansant fires him. He is attracted to Rowan and offers her a job, which she accepts though she is unsure why. He also gives her an apartment to use.

Taire is happy she caused the accident that led to Rowan staying. She seeks answers and believes Rowan has them as she saw what the woman did mentally to get rid of the gang, saw the tattoos on her arms just like she has, and recognizes the smell. Taire sleeps in an abandoned hotel; fearing Father who expects perfection and might kill her for her failure.

Sean Meridan is irate that Jean-Marc allowed someone to move in next door. Gerald King calls him demanding he find his missing daughter Alana. Sean refuses, but Gerald arranges to kill a man standing next to Sean and threatens others. He has three weeks to find Alana or die as Gerald is also dying. Rowan and Sean meet, but he coldly warns “Cupcake” to stay away from him. Jean-Marc feels guilty about kissing Rowan, but makes her forget he did it. The players converge in ways that none could have imagined.

The Kyndred story line is fast-paced throughout as the action never stops. Yet the cast is strong as is the romantic triangle containing a delightful unexpected late twist as does the Taire-Rowan-Gerald connection. Although the villain does not live up to his early toughness, readers will enjoy this strong urban fantasy thriller. This urban fantasy is pure magic.

Harriet Klausner

Go, Mutants!-Larry Doyle

Go, Mutants!
Larry Doyle
Ecco, Jun 2010, $23.99
ISBN 9780061686559

J!m Anderson understands you cannot pick your parents, but wonders how far out can you get. His father led a failed alien invasion before allegedly being nailed on the Washington Monument. His mother was a siren cat woman, who earns a living as a sexy cocktail waitress.

Growing up as a hybrid outsider, J!m fell in love Marie Rand in high school. Her roots are not much better though she is a purebred human. Her dad is a mad scientist Dr. Howard Rand and her mother lost her head, which floats in a pan filled with fluid that EPA would condemn but her dad worships.

This is an entertaining over the top of the Empire State Building, Washington Monument and a few other stratospheric locales that presume the stars of 1950s science fiction and horror movies are real. Loaded with movie information and amusing satire, the offspring horde of monsters, aliens and evil attend high school. Although the plot is thinner than a B-movie, fans will enjoy this amusing homage to the height of the Cold War paranoia that hooked Hollywood in the Eisenhower Era.

Harriet Klausner

Wormfood-Jeff Jacobson

Wormfood
Jeff Jacobson
Medallion, Jul 2010, $15.95
ISBN 9781605421018

In Whitewood, California, Fat Ernst hires the lads to do a job for him involving the funeral of affluent rancher Earl Johnson; grieved by no one as all people loathed him. Skinny Arch Stanton is the designated driver as he and his friends plan to moon the corpse. However Arch slips and knocks the coffin into an irrigation ditch with the top falling off the casket.

From within the coffin come worms a foot long who occupy the insides of living species while eating their way out of their mortal dining facility. All hell breaks loose as the worms show up in cheeseburgers as one of their prime hosts is cows. Fat Ernst is upset because the worms are costing him customers.

This feels like a 1950s movie enhanced or detracted depending on your perspective by a string of profanity. The plot of the attack of the killer parasitic worms is light fun and thinner than Arch’s butt as stereotypes are the norm; even the worms come across as a horror film standard casting.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 10, 2010

Forged Of Shadows-Jessa Slade

Forged Of Shadows
Jessa Slade
Signet, Jun 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451229779

In Chicago, Jilly Chan is stunned when she loses her job working with street kids as the cause in her mind is not apparent. She is even more shocked with the Ascendant of a penitence demon seeking atonement who possesses her to fight evil.

Liam Niall informs the feisty Jilly that she has been asked to join a team of warriors also possessed by demons. However, he also rejects their apparent psychic bond. Meanwhile club owner Bella hangs around Liam while Jilly’s allies are dying as a new form of malevolence has surfaced. Liam begins to question whether Lilly is the evil or the other half of his Mated-Talyn Bonds.

This is an exciting urban fantasy starring two likable individuals who lost half their souls during a demon Ascendant although a century and a half apart as he came from Ireland during the Irish Famine of the mid nineteenth century. The story line is fast-paced with a strong cast making the two realms (human and demon) and the separating veil seem real. Although Liam’s guilt and doubts seem off kilter and unnecessarily forced, fans will relish his dilemma mindful of Frank Stockton’s The Lady or the Tiger as he considers trusting in the love soul mating bonding or killing his love.

Harriet Klausner

Inhuman Resources-Jes Battis

Inhuman Resources
Jes Battis
Ace, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018840

Someone brutally murders renowned necromancer Luiz Ordeno. Occult special investigator (OSI) Tess Corday and her OSI partner Derrick lead the official inquiry into the homicide in the victim’s penthouse. The crime scene with its material (magical) locked room leads the two cops to conclude Ordeno knew his killer.

However, the case takes a spin that Tess would prefer not happen as clues lead to her lover, Lucian Agrado. Furthermore nothing makes sense about the gruesome killing including what Ordeno wore when he died. Lucian helps Tess take the investigation into the tight knit necromancer community. However, entrance does not necessarily include exit.

The third OSI police procedural urban fantasy (see A Flash of Hex and Night Child) is a super investigative thriller that grips the audience with a need to solve the case and to follow the heroine’s personal life that intrudes on her work. Tess and Derrick struggle with the case that takes them to where no OSI operation wants to go: the political world while they also raise their VB-positive (vampire retrovirus) teen wards. Fans will wonder what is next for the OSI duet as they have followed clues into the necromancy realm.

Harriet Klausner

The Unit-Terry DeHart

The Unit
Terry DeHart
Orbit, Jul 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780316077408

It is no consolation that when the nuclear bombs hit New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC, the United States retaliated by nuking the nations that enabled the terrorist to strike. More bombs hit big cities with China and Russia joining American and Europe in attacking Al Qaeda and those countries hosting the terrorist group. An EMP Pulse knocked out all electricity so that the scattered survivors have little idea of what is going on beyond their narrow sphere.

The Sharpe family consists of patriarch Jerry, his wife Susan and their two teenage children Melanie and Scott. They travel in search of a safe place to live. On the road the Sharpe family scavenges for food, machinery and clothing that they take from the dead left behind by a feral gang of teens led by the vicious amoral Billy Jr.. His horde escaped Juvie Hall when the lights went out and the guards left. Now the world is there for their taking. Bill wants to kill the Sharpe parents and son, and take Melanie. However, his adversaries have found a defensible position shooting the ambushers. The juvies kidnap Melanie and pass her around so everyone can enjoy raping her. Jerry searches for her with rage in his heart while his spouse and son continue their journey although now the radiation sickness is coming with the contaminated snow.

Once the country’s centrifuge collapses after the bombs fall, people fail to bond; instead they kill without remorse. Each member of the Sharpe family and Billy tell their tale in the first person in alternating chapters so that the readers comprehend what each is thinking and what motivates their actions. Putting aside whether the abduction should have occurred, Terry DeHart’s post-apocalyptic chilling version of On the Beach in which an apparent entire nation and perhaps world has gone crazy with kill or be killed as the only rule of law.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bird of the River-Kage Baker

Bird of the River
Kage Baker
Tor, Jul 20 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780765322968

In spite of her pledge to her two offspring to lay off the drug, Falena could not resist smoking Yellow that has them wandering from town to town seeking either a diving gig or an uncle; though the latter has become infrequent as her looks have faded. Making her mom feel guilty, teen Eliss persuades Falena to dive so they can pay their bills although her mother insists she is too weak. Falena dies diving leaving Eliss filled with remorse and regret as well as caring for her ten year old half-brother Alder.

Eliss keeps them fed and somewhat sheltered by doing odd jobs on the river that took their mom. Eventually the Bird’s crew begins to realize she is an asset as she warns them of potentially danger spots in the river like tree snags and pirates. Krelan, a minor assassin family’s son her age, teaches her to read people who use masks and ruses to conceal their agendas. She assists him as he investigates the murder of a wealthy client starting with claiming the head.

Set in the world of The House of the Stag and The Anvil of the World, The Bird of The River is a great epic fantasy starring a wonderful heroine supported by the men in her life. The story line is filled with the activities of the long river as Eliss and her entourage meanders along while working on the mystery of the severed head, who the pirates are and what the captain is. Kage Baker, who died a few months ago, will please her myriad of devoted readers with this strong tribute to her talent.

Harriet Klausner

Terminal World-Alastair Reynolds

Terminal World
Alastair Reynolds
Ace, Jun 1 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780441018666

The call to the Department of Hygiene and Public Works said a smear fell from above; the dispatcher sends Cultel and Gerber to clean up the probable faller. The pair arrives to see the victim possessed wings; the deceased is an angel who fell from way above in the Celestial levels to the Neon Heights sector of the city Spearpoint. They bring the freaky to Quillon the pathologist.

However, the angel is alive though dying. He was sent to Quillon by the quickest way: a fall from above to warn the only posthuman angel to turn into a prehuman that he is on the agenda from above and a shift is planned. Quillon leaves his home to cross zones in an unwelcoming world beyond Spearpoint for the posthuman will send something horrific to kill him. His contact Fray knows what he was and calls Quillon Cutter. He arranges for him to leave accompanied by Meroka the mercenary who would kill without remorse any creature from above. They flee through a secret tunnel and on a train heading to the Boundary. Quillon fears a Zone Shift assaulting Spearpoint would kill much of the populace when technology fails. He has no hope to prevent it so prepares for the worst until the two escapees meet Ricasso, chief of the Swarm airship armada that patrols the arid tundra planet. However, as he understands their mission, his tiny flicker of faith seems ready to revert back to despair again.

This is a fascinating science fiction noir as each section of Spearpoint seems to represent an era based on the predominant technology; as you go up the levels, the more powerful the gizmos and the less human the residents. Once the former posthuman and the mercenary leave the city, the story line turns more into an exciting but typical futuristic sci fi thriller. Although radically different than Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns, fans will want to join Quillon’s journey to save Spearpoint from his former comrades in the highest echelon.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Revenant-Phaedra Weldon

Revenant
Phaedra Weldon
Ace, Jun 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441018659

Zoe Martinique conceals from her mom and her friends the changes that occurred to her from her recent combat with the Phantasm (see Phantasm). She is unsure how anyone will react to her new skill of becoming a wraith that can traverse the abysmal plane, but also can take her body with her to this place where only the astral self travels. However, Zoe is not the only essence who knows of her new talent. Her adversarial mentor Archer is more than aware as he is instructing her; his motive is simple - he is linked to Zoe to the extent that if she dies so does he.

In Atlanta, at the same time Zoe is receiving an education, a malevolent being is targeting Revenant First Borns, who bonded with humans by draining their blood. Zoe wonders if someone has found and deployed the incantation that can kill First Borns and the Phantasm; and if so she considers the possibility that the spell within the Grimoire is what bonded with Dags’ soul. She knows one truism: trust no one; albeit she hides her latest skill from family and friend.

The latest Martinique urban fantasy is a terrific entry in a fabulous series (see WRAITH and SPECTRE). As with the three previous tales, the story line is character driven predominantly by the beleaguered heroine although it is action-packed as well.. Something is exhuming the blood of the First Borns and as much as Zoe would prefer to ignore it she cannot. Phaedra Weldon's latest Atlanta underground urban fantasy is a fantastic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Moon Sworn-Keri Arthur

Moon Sworn
Keri Arthur
Dell, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440245711

Hybrid werewolf-vampire Riley Jenson remains grieving the loss of her Guardian partner Kade and the death of her soulmate Kye Murphy who she killed (see Bound to Shadows). Riley believes it its time for her to quit her Guardian position before someone else close to her dies.

Helping her cope and much more are her brother Rhoan and her millennium old vampire lover. However even as she contemplates retirement with Quinn, she gets no respite from death as her fears of a loved one dying occurs. Someone blows up Quinn’s car with the vampire inside his vehicle at the time of ignition. Riley ire explodes too, but when she regains consciousness, she has no idea who she is; at a time when a long feuding adversary stalks her and her loved ones.

The superb final Guardian urban fantasy saga ends with quite a bang that will please the fans of the series. Riley is terrific as goes through a myriad of emotions with no time to mourn her losses. The well written story line reads like two books as the beginning is grieving and more grief; the middle is amnesia; and the end is confrontation with those causing her grief (closing out the beginning). Readers will enjoy Riley’s rousing last stand.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bullet-Laurell K. Hamilton

Bullet
Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley, Jun 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780425234334

At the Circus of the Damned, vampire executioner extraordinaire and zombie animator Anita Blake sees her lover St. Louis master vampire Jean-Claude arguing with his second in command Asher. They were once lovers, but Jean-Claude refuses to share his body because he fears how Anita will react. Anita assumed the pair was having sex all along. Richard Zeeman informs her he has reconciled himself to what he is and joins the fun,

They are having fun, when Belle Morte, Jean Claude and Asher's creator interrupts them in a metaphysical astral projection. She has a piece of the Mother of All Darkness, the first vampire in her body which makes her believe she can bind them to her. She is wrong and Padma Master of the Beast tries to break the ties that bind them to each other which will weaken them.. The Vampire Council is determined to destroy the Triumvirate of Richard, Jean-Claude and Anita because they are accumulating so much power they threaten the vampire hierarchy everywhere even the ruling Vampire Council. The Mother wants Anita’s body since she lost her own, but Anita is strong and rejects the Mother and the Council trying to prevent her and her lovers from owning America starting with assassins sent to kill them.

The nineteenth Blake Vampire Hunter urban fantasy is a great entry, which is extraordinary as most of the long running series is excellent. The keys to this terrific tale is so much comes to a head as the vampires and shapeshifter hierarchies fear the Triumvirate and decide to destroy it before it is too late. The fun is trying to discover who are the assassins, spies and enemies in the Mother of All Darkness war. With sedition and a mole inside the Circus to augment the action, fans of the saga will relish this strong thriller as hell is coming to St. Louis.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The War of the Dwarves-Markus Heitz

The War of the Dwarves
Markus Heitz
Orbit, Apr 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780316049368

Tungdil Bolofar the dwarf has become a legend amidst the various species like the Dwarves, Elves and humans after he led their side to victory over the Nod’onn. Everyone knows defeat would mean genocide with the total destruction of Girdlegard.

The hero hopes to rest somewhat on his laurels but remain vigilant. Tungdil is aware of how precarious the triumph is as the Alfs and the Bognilim Black Water immortal Orcs still plot to drive the Dwarves and humans out of their position of power. He also hears whispers that the demi-god Avatars are preparing to invade from the Outerlands to ethnically cleanse what they believe is evil. However, it is what he does not know yet is that the biggest threat of all are the blood thirsty lethal Thirdlings Dwarves ho are planning a violent coup d’etat.

The follow up to The Dwarves is a super fantasy that expands the Heitz mythology for instance with the addition of the Freeling Dwarves and the new malevolence. The story line moves at a terrific pace on sea, land and underground as the hero of the previous war is back dealing with another nasty menace and treachery from within. The War of the Dwarves is a strong saga as the key cast including the bad dudes seem genuine while the political and social structure of the species enhance the incredibly action packed fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Infinity-Sherrilyn Kenyon

Infinity
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jun 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312599072

In New Orleans lives fourteen year old Nick Gautier whose mother is a stripper and whose father killed people in the double digits. He sees the world like most mortals, but soon the filter will be lifted from his eyes; enabling him to observe the preternatural world, the good and the bad. Both sides will want him for their own purposes because he possesses powers that have not yet been tapped, which means whatever side he picks,the dark or the light, will deploy him as a powerful weapon.

When Nick chooses to prevent his friends from robbing and killing two elderly tourists, Night Hunter Kyrian Hunter saves his life by rushing him to the hospital. He also pays the bill and gives him a hefty salary intending to make him a squire later on. Nick is unaware of most of Kyrian’s plans, but he gets a close-up glimpse of the dark side when students are turned into living zombies who hunt him while eating people. He is only one of many who note the changes in the people turned zombies but he may be the only hope they have to find a way return them back into carefree teens.

Expanding on her mythos, Sherrilyn Kenyan has another hit series with “The Chronicles of Nick”, which targets young adults but also will be appreciated by the Night Hunter audience fans of all ages. The affluent students who attend scholarship Nick’s new private school, their parents and the faculty believe Nick and his mom are trailer trash; however he refuses to let them put him down as he adores and admires his mom so their opinion and snide asides mean nothing except to toughen him. He will need that mental toughness and thick skin in his new vocation as readers will enjoy the teen exploits of Nick the hunter squire in training.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 3, 2010

Daemon’s Mark-Caitlin Kittredge

Daemon’s Mark
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin’s, May 25 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312943660

In Nocturne City, homicide is a way of life. At least that is what NCPD Supernatural Crime Squad police lieutenant Luna Wilder believes as she spends much of her time investigating murders. However, she has found solace away from the job in her relationship with ATF agent Will Fagin.

Her current case is nasty as someone brutally killed an underage teen Were. Jurisdiction problems arise between her unit and that of Special Victims who deal with minors flares up. As Luna and her team investigate the gruesome murder, they find an unexpected connection to the Russian mob. Following her instincts leads Luna to a dangerous confrontation in which she knows she will be fortunate to come out alive and with her heart intact especially where the case leads.

The fifth Nocturne City police procedural urban fantasy (see Witch Craft and Second Skin) is an exhilarating entry as the heroine remains nasty to subordinates, superiors and associates in the NCPD (just ask SV Detective Lane), and even worse when she grillins outsiders. In fairness Will has mellowed her a bit since Night Life. The investigation is entertaining as Luna kicks supernormal and natural butt; mostly of a Russian variety. Fans of the series will enjoy Luna’s latest lunatic inquiry although once again one must wonder how, in spite of her resolution record, she remains a supervisor as she is as far from a people’s person (regardless of species) one will meet.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spiritual Seduction-Desiree Day

Spiritual Seduction
Desiree Day
Gallery (Pocket), Apr 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439126783

Bradley Tyson is abusive with a horrific violent temper. His wife Riley pleads with him to go out with her on their fifth anniversary while her sister watches their two young children, Carter and Brie, but he refuses; instead he slaps her and leaves. A few hours later, two police officers wake her up with the news he is dead; a pimp killed him when he refused to pay for a blow job

Ironically, in death Bradley is a more attentive husband as his spirit visits Riley every night; he seduces her into believing he cares though she has doubts. Her misgivings prove true that even in death a leopard does not change its spots. Bradley steals her soul taking her into the vilest of realms. Riley’s boss of several years Malik Davenport vows to save her soul from her odious late husband; something he hopelessly could not do when the prig lived. A royal ancient warrior who kills demons, he enters the most hellish of hells to save Riley while the war between the demons and the paladins has teetered towards evil winning due to Bradley; Malik and his peers plan to win Armageddon; he has an added incentive: Riley.

This is a great urban fantasy in which battered Riley is the foci of the war between demons and the paladins. Fast-paced from the opening setting when Bradley shows his snarling teeth and never slowing down, fans will appreciate this strong saga as the romance takes a back seat to saving a soul and a world; neither an easy task. Readers will root for Riley to kick Bradley’s spirit to hell’s curb, but wonder if she can find the courage even with those who cherish her like her sister, her boss, and his brother coaxing her to do so. Only one thing could get her to challenge her dead mate.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Allies-Christie Golden

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Allies
Christie Golden
Del Rey, May 25 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345509147

Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker and his son Jedi Knight Ben are on a mission to find out what turned Jacen Solo to the dark side of the Force. Accompanying them is Sith Apprentice Vestara Khai from the unknown Sith tribe on the planet Kesh. Luke and Ben are surrounded in space by a Sith armada that include Vestara’s father. Shockingly, instead of killing the Skywalker pair and their crew, the Sith offers a temporary alliance. They want to go with Luke and company when they enter the Maw, an area of black holes and hostile space. They agree to a joint mission.

The Jedi who spent their childhood during the war at Shelter are going insane. The dark creature who lives in a black cluster in the Maw, Abeloth, is thought to somehow influence those losing their minds. The Sith have reasons of their own to find her. As they enter the Maw, back at Coruscant, the capital of the Galactic Alliance, Chief of State Natasi Daala continues her assault on the Jedi Order trying to turn them into outlaws or obedient to her governmental rule.

This is the middle book in a nine saga arc, but it remains an exciting Star Wars entry with a stunning twist as well as moving forward on the two overarching themes. Filled with the trademark action expected of a Star Wars thriller, Allies also contains an intriguing alliance between enemy combatants and an even more fascinating theme of slavery complete with rebels, underground railroads with conductors and a quasi organization located on planets where slavery is legal. Leia and Han are in minor but critical roles finding ways to break Daala’s siege while also bringing needed humor to lighten the dark forces moving across the galaxy.

Harriet Klausner