Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe-Charles Yu

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Charles Yu
Pantheon, Sep 7 2010, $25.00
ISBN:9780307379207

In Minor Universe 31, time travel is a way of life as is paradoxes caused by someone tinkering with the past. Time technician Charles Yu fixes the stupid actions of those wanting change without comprehending the consequences. He councils these idiots, but does so calmly even when he tries to pacify his harried boss Phil.

Yu visits his mother, who is trapped in a life of one-hour in which she prepares dinner infinitely. He still seeks his father who invented the machines that enable time travel, but vanished while testing his gizmos. Accompanied by TAMMY the operating system with Yu’s personality (to include a lack of self-worth) and Ed the imaginary ontological canine, he continues his personal quest to meet and talk with his dad; having gained hope by a book he will one day author, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

This is an intriguing time travel science fiction tale starring a stay out of trouble extremist (think of Columbus in most of the movie Zombieland) who as a bureaucrat quietly rectifies the mistakes of others while searching for his lost dad to have a father-son chat. The story line feels like a Moebius series of loops so is difficult to follow yet quite fun to do so. Although the climax is abrupt and seemingly out of character for the safety only lead protagonist, SF fans who enjoy something radically different will want to read Charles Yu’s escapades in time and space.

Harriet Klausner

Tome of the Undergates-Sam Sykes

Tome of the Undergates
Sam Sykes
PYR, Sep 1 2010, $17.00
ISBN 9781616142421

They are a band loathed and feared by everyone else. They take only jobs that no one else even considers as that is the only work they can get. These mercenaries are not a band of brothers (and sisters) in arms as they detest one another. Their leader by default is Lenk the swordsman whose prime job is to prevent Denaos the thug, Asper the priestess, Dreadaelon the wizard, Gariath the dragonman, and Kataria the shict from killing each other especially when they are on the job.

Their current assignment is to protect a Priest while searching for the stolen by an oceanic malevolence Tome of the Undergates as they sail on the Riptide. Cragsmen of the vessel Linkmaster attack their vessel, but the six defeat the pirates though thy are incredibly outnumbered. However that is a forerunner as soon the sextet will learn what their greed means as they are caught in the crosshairs of a war in which the hell beneath the sea wants to dominate the world.

This is an entertaining seafaring fantasy filled with plenty of adventures. The story line is loaded with action as the six fight adversaries including each other. The back stories of each are well written and interesting though their tales slow down the pace of the oceanic fantasy and in spite of their diversity reads somewhat interchangeable. Still fans will enjoy the opening Tome of the Undergates.

Harriet Klausner

Intrigues-Mercedes Lackey

Intrigues
Mercedes Lackey
Daw, Oct 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756406394

Once Magpie was a slave for a sadistic mine owner, but the young teen became free when the Valdemar Companion Sentient Horse like magical being, who communicates telepathically, Chose him. Mags is ensconced in Haven training at the Herald Collegium to become a herald. Although the curriculum is hard, Mages believes he is paradise with a comfortable place to sleep and plenty of food to eat.

However, Mags does not feel a part of the group and prefers to sleep in a bedroom in the barn where his Companion is boarded. In the records, he learns the names of his parents who were foreigners. He comes under suspicion when those who foresee have a vision of the king with blood on him and the sense the person with him is a foreigner. His peers at school especially suspect Mags, but his true friends band together and make him feel as if he belongs. One day when he is in Haven, Mags sees the phony tradesman and his bodyguards who say they are from Seejay. After Mags and his buddies exposed their fake identities they pretended to leave. Mags sees the phony person again and knows they are dangerous to Hven. With his Companion injured and he being isolated, Mags must prevent the foreigner from performing the dastardly deed he plans on doing.

Once again Mercedes Lackey brings her fantasy Kingdom of Valdemar to life; a place where magic and Psi power are considered natural skills though most citizens lack either. This entry is a brilliant coming of age story in a realm with a distinguished culture especially a deep rooted belief structure and a thriving political system. Mags brings the energy and excitement to the entertaining plot as he learns he is the son of foreigners growing up as a stranger in a strange land who suddenly observes foreigners seemingly following him.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weight Of Stone-Laura Anne Gilman

Weight Of Stone
Laura Anne Gilman
Gallery, Oct 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9781439101452

In the Vin Lands, the powerful Sin Washers sect accuses Vineart wine mage apprentice and former slave Jerzy of heresy dealing with their ruling Commandment involving magic users and rulers. He knows their condemnation is an open invitation to kill him, so he flees. Joining him on the lam are former aristocratic Lady Mahault the warrior, Ao the trader, and Kainam the Prince of Atakus an island kingdom that has disappeared.

Jerzy and his friends continue their tracing of the taint of the vines. They begin to believe an incredulous conspiracy is behind the destruction. Following the clues by sea, Jerzy and company elude the Washers who demand he face trial and punishment and danger from under and on the water and on board their vessel.

The second Vineart War fantasy (see Flesh and Fire) continues the escapades of Jerzy in a fast-paced tale that also provides deeper focus and understanding of the complicated refreshing Gilman science of magic based on winemaking. Jerzy is a terrific protagonist though he and his three traveling companions seem to whine a lot over wine. Filled with tension throughout, readers will toast the quartet as they trek through the dangerous Vin Lands where the washers want to drink to their deaths.

Harriet Klausner

Lodestone: The Sea of Storms-Mark Whiteway

Lodestone: The Sea of Storms
Mark Whiteway
VBW Publishing, May 200, $14.95
www.virtualbookworm.com
ISBN: 9781602645462

On Kelanni, people are disposable with their solo mission to mine "Lodestone" for use by the planet’s great dictator. The Prophet who rules the orb is the grandmaster of using the lodestone resource that comes to Kelanni in meteor showers. His powerful extremely loyal Keltar Knights insure no one tries to rebel.

Lyall vehemently rejects the Prophet and the concept of slavery. He vows with his best friend Alondo to overthrow the violent despot. When he meets Shann, who wants the Prophet's reign of terror to end , he teaches her his knowledge of lodestone. The prophet learns of the growing unrest and he sends Keris the Keltar to brutally destroy the rebels using them as an example for others to obey. She has doubts about her vocation and her current mission. When a giant bird attacks her, a Chandara saves her life. Boxx the Chandara informs Keris of her leader’s evil plans so she joins Lyall and his insurgents.

Once author Mark Whiteway establishes relativity laws of physics (and astrophysics) in his universe, the first Lodestone tale is a terrific science fiction thriller that in many ways reads like a fantasy. The world of Kelanni is what makes this a strong opening entry as readers will feel they are there along side of Keris as she begins to doubt what she believed all her life was gospel. Fans who enjoy something different yet exciting in their outer space novels will want to read Mr. Whiteway’s entertaining take on despots, rebels and negative matter.

Harriet Klausner

Grave Witch-Kalayna Price

Grave Witch
Kalayna Price
Roc, Oct 5 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451463807

Having met Death when she was five years old, Grave Witch Magic Eye Alex Craft makes a living by raising ghosts for living clients. The Nekros City police department consults with Alex on some recent homicide cases. However, she is stunned when one of the shades she brings back, that of a murder victim, attacks her. That has never happened before and she thought it was impossible.

Following a call from her frantic sister Casey, Alex probes the corpse of assassinated Governor Theodore Coleman, which made their father George Caine governor. Alex finds someone cast odd but dangerous spells. Homicide detective Falin Andrews makes it clear that he is unhappy with Alex intruding on the official investigation. When Alex learns from the ghost of Roy Pearson that the late governor’s body is actually his, the witch fears a powerful spellcaster is operating in the area.

This is a terrific private investigator urban fantasy with a noir feel to the story line; not so much by the heroine, but more so by the uneasy dysfunctional relationship between the normal, the paranormal, and the practitioners that bring the two uncomfortable groups together. Fast-paced from the moment Alex leaves an unhappy customer to answer her sibling’s call pleading with Alexis to help her, fans will be hooked and demand more Alex Craft cases.

Harriet Klausner

Bayou Moon-Ilona Andrews

Bayou Moon
Ilona Andrews
Ace, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019458

The Adrianglian Secret Service asks William Sandine the Changeling to stop Spider from possessing a weapon of mass destruction that will lead to war. Loathing his long time enemy, William agrees to go to the Bayous of Louisiana to challenge Spider and his insidious ring of operatives.

When Spider abducts her parents, Cerise Mar becomes the clan chief. To save their property the Mire swamps of the Edge, Cerise visits the Broken. Returning to her home, Cerise and William meet. The outsider realizes she and her kin may be the tool to prevent Spider from achieving his nefarious scheme and perhaps ending his terrorism all together. However, William’s biggest problem is his attraction to his hostess; a foreign feeling to the Changeling who belongs nowhere and to no one.

This is a powerful swamp romantic fantasy starring a harassed heroine, a hermit hero, a vile villain and the mad Mar mob. The story line is fast-paced with a sort of Scottish historical Highlander feud feel to the Mire while the Spider weaves his web. However, the fun in this delightful tale is the return to Ilona Andrews’s Weird world of the Edge (see On the Edge) where malls and magic converge.

Harriet Klausner

Masques-Patricia Briggs

Masques
Patricia Briggs
Ace, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019427

Aralorn the shapechanger has been a spy for Sianim for years as the money is great. She is assigned to penetrate the Kingdom of Reth where the powerful sorcerer Geoffrey ae'Magi has established a cruel dictatorship; her mission is to assess how potent the mage is and what he is scheming on beyond this beleaguered land. To Aralorn accompanied by Wolf, this is another easy task.

However, once inside she realizes how dangerous and powerful Geoffrey is. Aralorn quickly completes her mission and rushes back to Sianim to report. Only she now learns how far Geoffrey has ties as his insidious control reaches everywhere. With Wolf at her side, Aralorn the mercenary takes her first stand without a thought of money when she joins the resistance.

This is a revision of Patricia Briggs’ first fantasy from the early 1990s; the sequel never released before will soon follow. The rebellion against magical evil story line is entertaining even without Mercy although the cast comes across stereotypical of the sub-genre. Still fans will root for Aralorn as she goes from avarice give me the money realist to rebel with a cause idealist.

Harriet Klausner

Twelve-Jasper Kent

Twelve
Jasper Kent
PYR, Sep 1 2010, $17.00
ISBN 9781616142414

In 1812, Napoleon's army marches closer and closer to Moscow. Nothing seems to slow down the inevitable. Four Russians are dispatched to obtain help from a dirty dozen mercenaries to hassle the French in order to slow down the encroachment; they agree.

However, two of the Russians Aleksei and Dimitry soon debate whether they made a deal with the devil when the twelve beasts attack civilians; drinking their blood. Aleksei feels these vampires must be destroyed as they harm the populace; Dimitry claims they are allies hurting the French as much as the peasants. As his friend insists the end of stopping Napoleon justifies the mean of deploying vampires even as the undead cause collateral damage without a second thought, Aleksei internally ponders how to rid Russia of the twelve when even his mistress wants to become one of them.

This is a fascinating historical vampire thriller as Jasper Kent places Napoleon’s devastating wintry march into Moscow within a horror setting. The vampires are a bloodthirsty lot who do not delineate when it comes to a French or Russian morsel when dining on humans; a lesser species on the food chain. Aleksei is an intriguing character whose conscience has him deeply disturbed with what they wrought. Although he can overdo his internal debate, readers will enjoy this terrific horror thriller as vampires turn the snow red.

Harriet Klausner

Sparks-Laura Bickle

Sparks
Laura Bickle
Juno (Pocket), Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439167687

In Detroit, city fire department arson investigator Anya Kalinczyk works more than just the blazes as she is also a Lantern. Her latter skill is to send spirits into nothingness. Used to 24/7 shifts, six months ago, with her salamander familiar Sparky having her back, she faced the vaunting challenge of Sirrush (see Embers) and has been slow to rebound mentally.

Recently, Anya feels she is returning to her lifestyle pre Sirrush. However, her two skills merge when she is assigned an investigation into what has been purported to be spontaneous human combustion at the home of elderly wealthy Jasper Bernard who was caught in the inferno but left not an iota of a trace of his remains. Her inquiry leads to Hope Solomon who insists she grants miracles to her donors. While Sparky hatches the next generation, Anya senses something not quite right about her or her charity backers as if evil has taken hold feeding on the souls of the desperate.

The terrific second Kalinczyk urban fantasy is a great saga that works mostly because of the portrait of Detroit as a city with many ruins, but trying to recreate a new image. The heroine is fabulous as she keeps her wits and sense of humor in the midst of infernos (some created by unnatural arsons) while battling psychopathic and avarice arsonists and supernatural malevolent essences; in this preying on impoverish forlorn seeking miracles.

Harriet Klausner

Killbox-Ann Aguirre

Killbox
Ann Aguirre
Ace, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019410

Sirantha Jax, March and their crew struggle with ending the death and destruction of jumpers in Grimspace. However as the peril from the man-eating Morgut expands, the Conglomerate has need of March. They want March to train an Armada whose missions will be to take the war to the deadly pirates and the Morgut.

Jax considers a perilous trek jumping through Grimspace without the use of beacons. Hesitating she wonders if her new nanotechnology will enable her to do the jump or kill her. However, while she vacillates, Jax also knows time is running out.

The fourth Jax science fiction (see Doubleblind, Wanderlust and Grimspace) continues the outer spaces escapes of the heroine and somewhat less March in the dark (sort of like leaping in grimspace without a beacon) bleak Aguirre universe. The story line is faster than the speed of light as Jax goes from one thrilling adventure to another though she is much more mature but still her philosophy remains shoot first or be killed; questions are irrelevant if you are dead. Fans of the saga will need to set aside time as Killbox is a terrific taut thriller, which sets up book five; newcomers can jump right in and appreciate this entry, but will relish it much more with the reading backlist.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I Shall Wear Midnight-Terry Pratchett

I Shall Wear Midnight
Terry Pratchett
Harper, Sep 28 2010, $16.99
ISBN: 9780061433047

Trained in witchcraft by experts like Nanny Ogg (unofficially in this case that is), Tiffany Aching has become the Witch of the Chalk. Being young and wanting fun with and without witchcraft, Tiffany understands her responsibility to perform the spells to help those in need although she gains no acclaim as she does her work diligently in secret. Adding to her discomfit is reactions of the normal are rarely what she expects them to be.

However while at a fair feeling like a fool tied to her broom; just like the little kids with balloons, Tiffany senses something is not right. Soon people begin to assault witches for no apparent reason beyond their normal fear of the witches. She and her miniscule belligerent intoxicated pals, the Wee Free Men, begin to search what is playing on the trepidations of people towards witches. Needing help, she journeys to Ankh Morpork to meet with Roland, the baron's heir and with a shopkeeper before returning to confront whatever evil is stalking the Chalk.

Targeting teens, the fourth Aching fantasy (see The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith) is a terrific entry that will have readers fully engrossed in the exciting story line. Yet the tale also ponders deep philosophical issues of esteem, fitting in (or not) and it’s okay to be different and to a degree alone while making a strong case to speak up if you are domestic abuse victim. All that and more without decelerating and linked to the Discworld saga; fans of that great satirical series will also relish Tiffany’s coming of age final test escapades

Harriet Klausner

The Rebel Prince-Celine Kiernan

The Rebel Prince
Celine Kiernan
Orbit, Oct 18 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316077071

Though young in years, the trio matured rapidly from a harrowing experiences while on their quest (see The Crowded Shadows and The Poison Throne). Now the cat whisperer Wynter Moorehawke, the illegitimate Prince Razi Kingsson and the musician Christopher Garron feel the worst is over as they finally believe they have found the hidden camp of the rebellious Prince Alberon who welcomes his half-brother and his traveling companions.

Wynter, Razi and Christopher try to persuade Alberon to make peace with his father for the good of the kingdom. Instead Alberon ignores the pleas of the teens as he has BHAG to ally with his country’s enemies in order to build a military that will enable him to take the throne. Those with Alberon in his encampment are an eerie lot as they proclaim being his supporters while encouraging death and destruction to anyone not allied with them.

The final tale in the Moorehawke Trilogy is fast-paced, loaded with action and blood, but clearly character driven. The three teens are stunned (as will be readers) as the Alberon they envisioned (over the first two books) is nothing like the real flesh as he has hardened his heart and turned rigid in regards to his enemies who are anyone not overtly friend. Although the ending seems rushed, fans of the saga will appreciate this terrific political military fantasy as the final tale like its predecessors is a wonderful entry to a strong series.

Harriet Klausner

Trio of Sorcery-Mercedes Lackey

Trio of Sorcery
Mercedes Lackey
Tor, Oct 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765328519

“Arcanum 101”. Diana Tregarde is just starting college, but also is a Guardian witch dedicated to keeping mortals safe from nasty supernaturals. She makes friends with four other students who reside in the same building she does. They saw her banish a dybbuk; but rather than fearing her, they offer to assist her in finding a kidnapped little girl. There only clues come from the fortune teller advising the distraught mother, but the Harvard freshman Guardian believes the woman practices the dark arts.

“Drums”. Nathan Begay, the new client of private investigators Jennifer Talldeer and David Spirited Horse, hires them to follow his girlfriend Caroline. She does not want to see him or any of her friends. Caroline seems lifeless as of her soul has been drained from her. Jenny observes Caroline dancing with a ghost; a raging evil spirit who died without honor or love and has chosen Caroline as his death bride.

“Ghost in the Machine”. Tom Bishop was intimately involved with the MMORPG (multi-player online game); he helped create another zone to the game. Dark Valley is very popular, but the programmed Wendigo is doing things outside the coding and Tom cannot stop him doing what it wants. The programmers hire Ellen McBridge to fix the flaw. She uses shaman magic to try to get the ghost out of the machine.

The returns of Diane Tregarde (early 1990s; see Children of the Night and Burning Water) and Jennifer Talldeer (mid 1990s; see Scared Ground) will elate fans of Mercedes Lackey. While this is Ellen McBridge’s first tale, she holds her own with the other two paranormal investigators. The three novellas are well written and entertaining while starring strong females with similar traits but different scenarios confronting the supernatural.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nightshade-Andrea Cremer

Nightshade
Andrea Cremer
Philomel (Penguin), Oct 19 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780399254826

The Keepers have already ordained the joining of two Guardians from different werewolf packs Calla Tor leader of the Nightshade clan and Ren Laroche leader of the Bane clan once she graduates from the Mountain School. Everyone wonders who between these two alphas will be top dog.

While on patrol looking to insure their enemy the Searchers are not lingering nearby, Callie breaks a key law of the Guardians when she rescues a human boy from a bear attack that meant certain death. Callie and Shay break a second rule when they become friends. However, though forbidden, Callie abetted by her human friend Shay ignores another taboo when she investigates the secrets of the Keepers.

Much more complicated than the above, Nightshade is a fabulous young adult romantic mountain fantasy in which the triad of species (in addition to the humans) seems genuine as werewolves and others roam Colorado. In some ways a coming of age tale, but more a rebel with a cause, Calla is terrific as she holds the plot together while suddenly breaking the laws of the Keepers after her whole life dedicated to strict adherence. Attracted to the fully developed key two males in her life, fans will wonder how far she will go between her desire for Shay and Ren.

Harriet Klausner

Troubled Waters-Sharon Shinn

Troubled Waters
Sharon Shinn
Ace, Oct 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441019236

While grieving the death of her father Navarr of the flame, Zoe Ardelay receives a surprising visit from the capital Chialto where she and her late father once fled to rusticate in safety. King Vernon sent Darien Serlast to bring back Zoe as the fifth bride of the monarch in order for a numerically balanced court. The Five Families fight through their respective queen to propel their offspring as the heir. Zoe met the ruler before her father fell out of favor and learns from Darien that his family possesses all that hers once did.

However, before entering the castle, Zoe slips away to the nearby river where she is stunned to realize she is the “Coru Prime” of another family Lalindar of the water. Ergo she is no longer the next bride of Vernon. Zoe explores her new power and investigates palace secrets while facing danger from envious enemies, many of whom remain shadowy unknown adversaries who reject an upstart new dynamo. She and Darien also are attracted to one another, but both know many will use their desire as a weapon to destroy both of them. Zoe’s biggest lesson at court is trust no one as everyone seems manipulative with a personal agenda to move up the ladder without regard for others.

Troubled Waters is a great opening political fantasy that is filled with a strong cast, wonderful refreshing laws of magic and court intrigue. From the moment Darien arrives for Zoe, the story line never takes a respite as this is a fast-paced thriller. Sharon Shinn affirms what her fans already knew from the Twelve Houses saga that the author is one of the best fantasists; with her new series loaded with action yet introducing the key characters and significantly the mathematics of magic.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Harvest Moon-Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara, Cameron Haley

Harvest Moon
Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara, Cameron Haley
Luna, Oct 1 2010, $17.95
ISBN: 9780373803224

“A Tangled Web” by Mercedes Lackey. At. Mt Olympus, Thanatos kidnaps Brunnhilde in the opening ploy of a scheme to enable his master Hades to capture Persephone. Ever since he met her (see The Sleeping Beauty) Leopold is not one to sit idly by when Brunnhilde is in danger.

“Cast in Moonlight” by Michelle Sagara. In Elantra, teenage Kaylin Neya joins the hawks as she works her first case.

“Retribution” by Cameron Haley. Enforcer Domino Riley killed her rival for the position she now holds in accordance with Mob Rules, but an otherworldly hit man is coming after her also in accordance with Mob Rules.

These are three fine fantasies that fans of the respective authors especially will enjoy as Mercedes Lackey provides a Five Hundred Kingdom’s entry; Michelle Sagara contributes an Elantra saga; and Cameron Haley an Underworld tale.

Harriet Klausner

Poison Kissed-Erica Hayes

Poison Kissed
Erica Hayes
St. Martin’s, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312624705

Kick-butt Mina the blue-haired banshee with a deadly siren’s tune works as an enforcer for snakeshifting mob boss Joey DiLuca because she owes him for saving her life. Currently Joey and his gang are at war with a rival mob. Joey and Mina are attracted to one another, but each has a million reasons not to form a romantic entanglement between them.

Mina vowed a long time ago to avenge her mother’s murder, but has made no progress until now as to who the culprit is. She obtains evidence that shakes her to her bone marrow as what she learns implies Joey was somehow mixed up in her mother’s homicide.

The third entry in the Shadowfae Chronicles (see Shadowfae and Shadowglass) is an intriguing dark urban fantasy starring two paranormal beings who trust one another with their respective soul until now. The story line has too much going on with a myriad of subplots, but readers will appreciate the main theme wondering what Mina will do next. Alternate Melbourne has not looked darker or more entertaining than Erica Hayes exhilarating take on the Australian mobs.

Harriet Klausner

Bones Of Empire-William C. Dietz

Bones Of Empire
William C. Dietz
Ace, Oct 5 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441019229

The Uman Empire has conquered many worlds, but the species they watch most carefully and carefully is the shapeshifting Sagathies. Feral to a berserker level, these predators are caged on the planet Corin under the watchful eyes of Xeno police officers who have been reengineered physically to keep these beasts from changing shapes and running violently amuck.

All seems right until Xeno-cop Jak Cato arrives with others only to be attacked by professionals. His reputation tattered and with a thirst for avenging his mates driving him, Jak takes a needed R&R in the capital city of Imperialus. There he is stunned to observe the Uman Empire emperor through his reengineered eyes is a dead shapeshifter who he thought he killed.

The second part of the Uman Empire science fiction duology (see At Empire’s Edge) is an action-packed faster than the speed of light futuristic in space thriller. Filled with gore yet also loaded with ET politics and social order, fans who read the first entry will appreciate the race to the finish line as a disgraced beleaguered hero has few allies left after the mass slaughter of the cavalcade, but must save the empire from a diabolically brilliant loner or an incredible conspiracy that would include his people.

Harriet Klausner

The House On Durrow Street-Galen Beckett

The House On Durrow Street
Galen Beckett
Bantam, Sep 28 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780553807592

Saving her country Altania and having married the mage Mr. Quent, the witch Ivy and her sisters have been welcomed back by the aristocracy (see The Magicians and Mrs. Quent). She and her siblings establish a residence in the mysterious house inherited from their late father on Darrow Street.

However, all is not quite idyllic in Ivy’s world as she feels pulled by two conflicting natures. First she is a witch married to a magician and that is hard to ignore. Then there is her place in high society. Though both have some inclusiveness, mostly they are exclusive. All those woes come across as nothing compared with learning the secrets of The House on Durrow Street before raging rogue magicians cause further havoc throughout the land.

This is a terrific dark fantasy in which magic feels genuine due mostly from the interesting eccentric support cast and the title abode. The heroine is a fabulous lead protagonist who readers will like and root for as she works the enigma of what she and her sisters inherited. Galen Beckett obviously had fun writing the second Mrs. Quent quirky fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Kill the Dead-Richard Kadrey

Kill the Dead
Richard Kadrey
Eos, Oct 5 2010, $22.99
ISBN: 9780061714313

Stark, known as Sandman Slim, is not a human. He is a Nephilim; the offspring of a fallen angel and a human mother. He has all the power of a Nephilim, but still was not strong enough to fight black magician Mason Faim, who dispatched him to hell for over a decade. When Lucifer releases Stark, he returns to hell on earth where he dispatches Mason back to Lucifer’s kingdom. While there the mage mason tries to take over Lucifer’s throne.

The devil comes to earth to watch a picture of him being made and wants Stark to serve as his bodyguard. He also takes jobs for the Golden Vigil, sometimes called “Pinkerton’s Angels, such as killing Eleanor the vampire, who wears a belt buckle that interests him for reasons he cannot figure out. Besides the Golden Vigil and Lucifer gigs, Stark works on fighting demons and a way to kill Mason. However, a new threat arises as zombies begin to walk the streets of Los Angeles killing all humans who cross their path. Stark has to figure out who is controlling the walking dead and get rid of him so the zombie menace will end..

Stark is a terrific antihero whose conversations with a horde of paranormal and normal (that is in a specie sense; not a mental sense) is humorously biting satire. He is a half-breed who is neither angel nor demon, but works for both sides as he has no place with either. The story line is fast-paced, filled with high octane testosterone action, but is owned by Stark who tells his latest misadventures in a noir style first person account. Urban fantasy readers will fully appreciate the goings on in the city of angels. This reviewer can’t wait for the next Sandman Slim novel.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Black Prism-Brent Weeks

The Black Prism
Brent Weeks
Orbit, Aug 25 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780316075558

He had been the Prism who controlled the magic of the Chromeria. However that seems like eternity as he lost the civil war to his brother Gavin, the current Prism. Everyday since Gavin incarcerated him in a dungeon beneath heir home. Jacen sees a world of dispiritingly gray; he lives hoping to regain the colors he lost to his sibling.

Gavin may be an intelligent High priest-Emperor who controls the Prism since he defeated his sibling by using guile, but he knows what happened to his brother could occur to him as Prisms have relatively short life cycle usage. Once his prism dies, he will die too. Gavin knows his prism has five years of life left; five years for him to accomplish five unattainable quests or his world will lose all color and consequently all life.

Gavin is stunned to learn he sired a son. Kip will have the power of the Prism, untrained. The lad could be the opponent in the next war of power. At the same the son learns who his dad and uncle are and begins to find out about the sibling splintering, but is unsure what he should do as increasingly he fears the world is going to implode if the colors run out.

The opening tale in the Black prism fantasy is an exhilarating thriller that uses the colors of a prism as the source of magic. The story line focuses on the three male leads while cleverly interweaving the Weeks’ “physics” of magic into the plot. Fast-paced and character driven, fans will enjoy the first act as the Prime Prism practitioner begins a quest knowing he must remain vigilant watching for his son and his insane brother; failure will mean death or worse a lunacy to parallel that of colorless Gavin who once tasted the power of the colors.

Harriet Klausner

Sin Undone-Larissa Ione

Sin Undone
Larissa Ione
Grand Central, Aug 24 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446556811

Assassin’s Guild. Chief Seminus demon Sin unintentionally released a virus that is killing werewolves. The epidemic threatens to go pandemic and wipe out the species. Stunned, Sin wants to save the surviving werewolf population from extinction while others have a different deadly agenda for the shapeshifters.

Sin knows her life is in jeopardy as many including herself believe she deserves punishment for the plague she wrought. Her guild also has opportunistic ambitious assassins who plan to kill her so they can take over running the Guild. Connal “Con” Dearghul is directed to bring Sin in, dead or alive, but they are bound by blood. Con knows he must choose between bringing her head in on a platter that would make him a hero who obeyed orders; or assisting her, which would leave him as a hunted outlaw.

The fifth Demonica romantic fantasy (see Pleasure Unbound and Desire Unchained) is a terrific sinful saga as the wicked assassin is finally undone by love. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as Con must choose between his lady and his duty. This volatile mix makes for a great time for sub-genre readers especially fans of Larissa Ione.

Harriet Klausner

A Star Shall Fall-Marie Brennan

A Star Shall Fall
Marie Brennan
Tor, Aug 31 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765325365

Almost a hundred years ago back in 1666, the Fae and all of London were threatened by the great Dragon Spirit of Fire. However, by 1682 the Fae successfully deported the lethal beast inside its home of what was soon to be named Halley’s Comet, but not before the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of the city above and beneath the ground (see Midnight Never Come).

In 1705 at Gresham College, predictions of Halley’s Comet retuning in 1758 stun the astronomers who though the Great Dragon Spirit of Fire from the sky was gone. In 1758, the Fae astronomers of Onyx Court inform their leader Lune that the lethal dragon is definitely returning as the comet along with its hitchhiker is coming back. Ailing Lune has issues within the Onyx Court as challenges to his rule have surfaced at a time of the pending crisis with many deniers insisting no way. As the great dragon nears earth, London residents (human and fae) are in peril. The only hope for salvation resides with the Stone Prince of the Onyx Court, novice Galen St. Clair, who has no experience whatsoever in dealing with such a catastrophe especially with political enemies from within making his learning curve steeper as time runs out.

This great historical fantasy sequel moves forward in time nine decades to an age where science and math is building off the works of Newton and others. Thus a sense of historical accuracy makes this unique enlightened London seen real as the myriad of vivid descriptions will hook the audience as much as the pending dragon of doom. Marie Brennan provides a fabulous saga that will have newcomers seek the previous visit of Halley’s Comet and fans looking forward to the next visit in seventy-five years.

Harriet Klausner

The Way of Kings-Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings
Brandon Sanderson
Tor, Aug 31 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765326355

The storms of Roshar are legendary for their fierceness as natural selection has led to flora and fauna adapting to the intensity. Failure to do so means extinction. Humans understand the basic premise for survival of the fittest as they have built great cities only in places where shelter from the torrents can be found. Centuries ago the Knights Radiant laid down their arms having disestablished their units. Now four thousand five hundred plus years since they dispersed, they have become myths while their shardblade weapons and shardplate armor have become the most valuable commodity on Roshar.

Shallan the scholar has uncovered an inconvenient truth as she serves as an apprentice to the sister of the King. Unlike his aristocratic peers, visionary warrior Dalinar Kholin, the current king’s uncle looks to the past to forge an honorable just future. Finally acrimonious Kaladin went from aristocratic surgeon to slave to save the life of his brother, but it cost him his honor and caring of others.

The opening act of the Stormlight Machine an epic fantasy which a monster sized book in which Brandon Sanderson establishes his world in minute detail (some might say overly detailed) and the flaws of his three prime players. The story line contains several subplots with Shallan, Kholin and Kaladin serving as the main three in the intertwining saga. Especially intriguing, besides the encyclopedic fascinating depth of Roshar, is the gripping sagas of Kaladin and Shallan; while the arc of Kholin feels forced as if a fantasy element was needed to spice up the saga. Still this is a fascinating grand beginning to what looks like an epic worthy of the late Robert Jordan.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 23, 2010

Haunted Legends-Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamaras

Haunted Legends
Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamaras
Tor, Sep 14 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765323002

These twenty regional ghost stories based on local legends around the world make up a spirited fun anthology that will have readers keeping the lights on for two or three weeks. All the entries are fabulous with perhaps the best of the lot being the final contribution by Joe Lansdale, “The Folding Man" and the haunting (starring Stalin’s ruthless henchman Beria) "Tin Cans" by Ekaterina Sedia. Also excellent are Fiji based “That Girl” by Kaaron Warren, the Japanese located "15 Panels Depicting the Sadness of the Baku and the Jotai" by Catherynne M. Valente, and "Return to Mariabronn" by Gary A. Braunbeck. Whether it be “Akbar” by Kit Reed in India, a “Knickerbocker Holiday” by Richard Bowes in Hudson Valley New York or vampires in Rhode Island As Red as Red” by Caitlin R. Kiernan, this is a super diverse collection.

Harriet Klausner

Against All Things Ending-Stephen R. Donaldson

Against All Things Ending
Stephen R. Donaldson
Putnam, Oct 19 2010, $29.95
ISBN: 9780399156786

Linden Avery worries about her adopted son Jeremiah as the Despiser wants the lad though she is unsure why. Meanwhile, over the objections of others who fear what she plans will destroy the world, Linden, using her Staff of Law and the High Loric's krill dagger, brings out of the Arch of Time her dead lover Thomas Covenant.

However, for every action there is a reaction. In this case her awakening her beloved from beyond the grave also rouses the dormant Worm of the World's End, who will devour all in its path. While her lover lies calmly in a field hating who he is; Linden knows she must risk her life to prevent what she wrought. Her only answer to her desperate prayer comes from the last person she would expect to possess such power.

The latest tale in the Last Chronicles arch of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever series is a fascinating fantasy with a neat twist that makes it read different from previous entries. While Thomas is mostly negatively musing but inert, this time Linden is the prime player as she tries to undo what she caused while also keeping her lover alive; a want your cake and eat it too scenario. The story line is fast-paced and contains a strong back story though first time readers will still be lost in the complex realm of Stephen R. Donaldson. At a minimum, readers should read the first two entries in this segue (see The Runes of the Earth and Fatal Revenant). For long time fans, Against All Things Ending is a strong thriller even with Thomas taking a time out to reflect.

Harriet Klausner

Memories of Envy-Barb Hendee

Memories of Envy
Barb Hendee
Roc, Oct 5 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451463531

There are very few vampires in existence today because they failed to abide by the laws of the elders such as not killing humans. Instead they should use their powers to insure the mortal they drank blood from forgets the incident. Eleisha Clevon lives by that rule and the other laws. She has gathered two vampires Rose and her protector Philip to the Portland underground, an abandoned church set up as vampire headquarters. Wade Shelfield is the investigator who has located vampires so that Eleisha can reason with them to diligently stick to the old laws and offer them sanctuary in her Oregon home.

Standing in their way is Julian who has notelepathy, but he likes power and ignores the ancient laws. He has killed vampires before and uses, without their knowledge, Eleisha and her group to take him into the hiding place of other vampires so he can kill them too. Eleisha learns about the dead vampire Maggie’s progeny Simone Stratford and is determined to bring this Roaring Twenties ingĂ©nue to her home. She fails to realize that cute innocent looking Simone enjoys the hunt and plans a deadly game with her wannabe savior and Philip who she is attracted to.

Urban fantasy vampire readers will thoroughly enjoy the latest Vampire Memories thriller (see Hunting Memories). Eleisha is a good individual who lives by the moral code of the elders. Her vulnerability is being a Good Samaritan trying to help her peers see the light as she hopes to forge a law-abiding community. She is naive as her faith in her species is strong with her only picturing Julian as evil. Her protector was a predator for years, but now is there for her by trying to abide by her rules. However, it is Simone who makes the tale entertaining as she teaches Eleisha a lesson not to judge a book by its cover.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 21, 2010

He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson-Christopher Conlon

He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson
Christopher Conlon
Tor, Sep 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765326133

Christopher Conlon brings together fifteen highly regarded authors to pay homage to He Is Legend Richard Matheson. The concept is simply to have each participating writer contribute a work tied to a Matheson masterpiece to create a companion short story. The best entries are those that bring a fresh venue to the original story; for instance, "Throttle" by Joe Hill and his dad Stephen King based on Duel (think of the Spielberg film) Recalled by F. Paul Wilson based on The Distributor. The other tales range from I Am Legend, Hell House, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Somewhere in Time. Although some rehash the original, all are well written as this anthology affirms that Mr. Matheson is in deed a legend.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ghosts Of Ascalon-Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb

Ghosts Of Ascalon
Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb (
Pocket, Aug 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416589471

Two and a half centuries ago, the bestial charr invaded Ascalon. Desperate King Adelbern, knowing his monarchy was about to be overrun by the evil charr, called forth the magical Foefire to burn the malevolent assailants. He succeeded in killing the enemy, but the magic did not differentiate between friend and foe so many humans died too. Upset and perhaps insane with grief, the dead Ascalonians became spirit protectors of the burnt remains of a destroyed kingdom. The few survivors left for neighboring Kryta.

In the present Queen Jennah hopes to sign a peace treaty with the charr abominations, as a war would devastate the humans. However, before negotiating the charr demand the return of the Claw of the Khan-Ur, perhaps the holiest of artifacts that they lost in the Foefire of Ascalon. The monarch orders adventurer Dougal Keane to lead a team of misfits into the ruins of Ascalon, a place he considers worse than hell. Not only is he unsure what awaits him in the shadows though he has heard of the legend of the Ghosts of Ascalon, but is positive many charr and humans prefer war for various motives and will kill a band seeking a peace trophy.

This is an entertaining quest fantasy with an obvious tie to the game. The story line is fast-paced with exciting action-packed combat scenes and a strong cast especially Dougal and his comrades. Although the plot ebbs (in between the hostilities) and flows (vivid battle scenes), fans of the GuildWars video game will want to join Dougal and his team that he despises as they venture on a journey with little hope of retuning.

Harriet Klausner

Rajmund-D. B. Reynolds

Rajmund
D. B. Reynolds
ImaJinn, Aug 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781933417073

In Buffalo the Vampire Lord of Northeast Krystof appears to be losing his sanity. New York City Master Rajmund Gregor knows he is the only one capable of replacing his sire, but detests the need to take control from Krystof; still he will do what is right for his offspring and siblings though he will grieve for what must be done.

However, he must first uncover the serial killer of human females who the BPD insists is a vampire. While he works the murder case, Sara Stratton whom he met in the Big Apple is back in her hometown of Buffalo. When they meet again, each recognizes their initial attraction was no fluke. Still, she conceals a paranormal skill that she ran way from a decade ago; an ability he needs to rescue any of the kidnapped women who may still be alive while an evil human tries to blackmail her.

The key in the excellent book three of the Vampires of America (see Raphael and Jabril) is that the lead vampire behaves radically different from his star predecessors even with each being arrogant males (an oxymoron). Sara is his equal as she is, when forced, a feisty fighter even with her running from herself. Additionally, the story line spins differently as Rajmund is an intelligent leader who delegates and in fact his lieutenant is the prime field operative. This is a great fresh romantic urban fantasy with a strong late twist, as the vampires and Sara investigate in order to search for a psychopath.

Harriet Klausner

Left for Undead-L.A. Banks

Left for Undead
L.A. Banks
St. Martin’s, Sep 282010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943028

After the New Orleans incident (see Never Cry Werewolf), shadow wolf Sasha Trudeau and her lover Hunter, both belong to Paranormal Containment Unit but tired, they take a well deserved respite in New Hampshire. Their idyllic vacation ends when the advisor to Sir Rodney, King of the Seelie Courts, asks them to talk to the him about allying himself with his ex-wife Queen Cerridwan of Hecate in matters of love and war. The vampire graves are being invaded with indications pointong to the Unseelie Queen who claims her innocence.

When Sasha and Hunter stop at the Seelie Court, a vampire attack kills six fae. This is the beginning of what appears to be a big war where innocent humans and other species will die. Evidence, at the last assault site, leads to denizens of the underworld placing the Fae and the Vampires against one another. Sasha, Hunter and their allies seek who made a pact with the demons and to find a means to break the unholy alliance by sending the devils back to hell before the deployment of the lethal master plan.

The sixth Crimson Moon Book novel is an excellent story in a great series. Hunter and Sasha no longer have doubts about each other, their relationship or children in spite of being on the front lines of a multi-world going insane as each expects the war of the species. There are several subplots that enhance the prime story line as the lead protagonists and other couplings struggle to balance their respective relationships with the growing hostilities. Supernatural horror and romance converge on a New England fantasy plane with surprising twists adding to the fun of an exciting tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Native Star-M. K. Hobson

The Native Star
M. K. Hobson
Bantam, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592658

In 1876 in Lost Pines high in the Sierras Mountains local witch Emily Edwards struggles with a failing business as technology has changed and her neighbors mo longer purchase spells from her as they can mail order them. She decides to cast a love spell to catch a man she has adored since she was a child. She mouths the rhyme while dancing nude and applying lavender.

However, success proves a failure as she has her man adoring her, but she realizes it is not the real thing. Making her feel worse about her error is the exiled wizard from the East Coast Dreadnought Stanton who snottily enjoys telling her she is a snafu. However, Emily has a bigger issue to contend with as minors are turning into hungry berserker zombies and raccoons as large as whales due to ill advised magic appear. Finally, after finding an artifact Emily eludes witch hunters, mindless assassins and evil blood sorcerers. She figures if she flees California for New York, all will be right in her out of balanced world; Dreadnought accompanies her.

This is an entertaining alternate historical fantasy as M.K. Hobson does a great job setting up a United States in which the government uses magic to enhance national patriotism and magic can be bought through the mail. The story line is fun as Emily struggles to undo her error while Dreadnought smirks at her until both are running, riding, and railing for their lives. Sub-genre fans will appreciate The Native Star as alternate Reconstruction Era America comes vividly alive.

Harriet Klausner

Ragnarok-Patrick A. Vanner

Ragnarok
Patrick A. Vanner
Baen, Sep 7 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9781439133842

In 2197, humanity and Xan-Sskarn are at war with atrocities being prevalent. The enemy destroys worlds with no concern of the genocide they commit to the native population. The aliens want earth’s pristine clean water, which over time they will pollute before heading to the next orb they will devastate.

Two years ago, then Terran Navy’s elite Dead Jokers Captain Alexandra “Alex” McLaughlin survived an encounter with the deadly salamander like enemy, but most of the subordinates under her command died. She is loaded with guilt, but learned a lot about the enemy. However, someone high in the Terran command is a Quisling, but she is unsure who that person is as the clever traitor has made it appear she is selling valuable information to the Xan-Sskarn. Her only hope and that of her endangered species is to take the war to Ragnarok.

Although there is nothing really new here (think of Marvel’s Galactus or Star Trek’s the Borg) and the overall plot contains spins that wobble similar to the tilt of Uranus, Ragnarok is an entertaining military science fiction thriller. The action is fast paced especially when Alex tries to take the war to the enemy in honor of her fallen comrades, but a traitor has left her and their species vulnerable. Fans will appreciate the water war as only one side will survive and increasingly it looks like it will be the alien invaders.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Beast Within-Erin McCarthy, Bianca D’Arc and Jennifer Lyon

The Beast Within
Erin McCarthy, Bianca D’Arc and Jennifer Lyon
Kensington, Aug 31 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758247353

“The Howling” by Erin McCarthy. Liv wonders whether she should delay her marriage to Scarborough as she still loves his brother Sebastian, who obviously rejected her having vanished with her money six months ago. While Scarborough flies to New York on business, Sebastian runs as a wolf while healing from when his sibling tried to kill him. He vows to return to lead his pack, but is angry with Liv for moving in with his brother.

“Smoke on the Water” by Bianca D’Arc. Donna is immune to the zombie contagion so has been partnered with veteran CIA operative John. They head to Tennessee to conduct undercover surveillance of Elizabeth who allegedly created the disease. John and Donna pretend to be newlyweds on a fishing vacation as the lodge next door makes observation easier. They begin to fall in love but neither knows where Elizabeth conceals her horde.

“Redeeming the Wizard” by Jennifer Lyon. Mira hates Gage the wizard who she blames him for the deaths of her parents, killed by trolls while visiting him seventeen years ago. Still she needs his help when a wizard kidnapped her matchmaking Gram. He asks what she offers in payment and she responds with anything he desires. Seventeen years ago Gage trusted his apprentice Jillian who seduced him and stole some of his power when she tried to bring over a demon, but lost control. The demon killed Mira’s parents. Gage killed Jillian and banished the demon, but his power overloaded and fried to unusable. As they fall in love he remains her enemy.

The male leads know what they want and go after the women they want while the fantasy elements are cleverly designed to feel genuine although the story lines are thin.

Harriet Klausner

Game Of Cages-Harry Connolly

Game Of Cages
Harry Connolly
Del Rey, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345508904

A few days before Christmas, Twenty Palaces' sorcerer Catherine Little asks former convict turned grocery clerk Ray Lilly to assist her with an emergency in Washaway. When he learns the details of the mission, Ray knows he is not the right person for the job, but no one survives refusing lethal Little. Apparently, a predatory alien was on the auction block, but escaped incarceration. Little wants it captured and taken away from these street peddlers or dead; and warns her assistant he is to assist her and no more or else face her deadly wrath.

Neither Ray nor his leader expected the auction participants and staff will kill anyone using guns, magic or both who tries to catch the deadly alien or kill the beast. Meanwhile, the alien predator is devastating Washaway.

The second Twenty Palace Society rural fantasy (see Child of Fire) is a great thought provoking yet action-packed noir as readers will ponder the use of drones in the Middle east killing the enemy and the innocent. Little is a fabulous character as collateral damage of the innocent does not faze her with her bottom line mission accomplished as all that matters. People die in combat is her philosophy. Ironically Lilly is the ex convict with a conscience while Little is a societal elitist with an amoral value system. The auction crowd beliefs align with Little though she is their adversary. Filled with non-stop gory action, readers will enjoy the bloody Game of Cages.

Harriet Klausner

Salute the Dark-Adrian Tchaikovsky

Salute the Dark
Adrian Tchaikovsky
PYR, Sep 1 2010, $16.00
ISBN 9781616142391

The armies of the Wasp Empire continue their ruthless conquest of the other nations. Their prime opponent is Stenwald, but though he and his Lowlander allies have had some success slowing down the blitzkrieg (see Blood of the Mantis), conquest by the belligerent Wasp Empire seems inevitable. Ironically under their iron rule, the various Lowlander entities would be forced to cooperate; however, although still free none of the at-risk kinden trusts the other sects.

Meanwhile inside the Wasp Empire where technology has recently superseded magic unlike their weaker neighbors, vampiric sorcerer Uctebri incongruously uses the Shadow Box to stealthily control the ruler. As the combat turns bloodier, the certainty of the outcome appears very lucid even to a wary frustrated Stenwald who has learned sometimes the good guys fail.

The latest Shadows of the Apt military fantasy is a fabulous entry as the overarching theme moves forward while individuals find out the hard way that good intentions are meaningless in the heat of battle as the bad guys are winning. Action-packed with a clear stunning cause and effect consequences, readers will relish Adrian Tchaikovsky’s strong tale.

Harriet Klausner

Siren Song-Cat Adams

Siren Song
Cat Adams
Tor, Sep 28 2010, $14.99
ISBN 9780765324955

Professional bodyguard Celia Graves remains emotionally stunned by the assault that has left her belonging to no species as she is an Abomination half-breed as well as also learning due to the vampire attack that she has siren blood in the mix too (see Blood Song). Adding to her feelings of detachment is she has no earthly idea as to what powers she has and now has a new family she never knew existed.

Of course that is the easy part of her transformation; as resolute adaptable Celia has a new set of deadly adversaries; some of whom she has not met. In court, Celia demands to remain free insisting her human blood will prevent her from becoming a shark like feeding machine that force the lock up of vampires and that she did not murder her BFF Vicki. However, she is being yanked by her siren kin whose queen demands she visit to kneel her allegiance to her and she faces an avenging demon, but must make time to protect the king of Rusland from an assassination plot. Finally her former lover Bruno DeLuca the magician demands time with her.

Although it seems as if there are too many subplots as the heroine would testify so, Cat Adams’ talent to keep each coherent and flowing is masterful as readers will be able to keep track of Celia’s busy schedule. Action-packed with demands coming from apparently everywhere and then some, Siren Song is a great urban fantasy as last week Celia was just a purebred human bodyguard living in California though in Eastern Europe on an assignment; and now has vampire and siren blood mixed with her red and white corpuscles; her DNA is amazing. This is a wild stupendous second story in the Celia’s Song saga.

Harriet Klausner

Esperanza-Trish J. MacGregor

Esperanza
Trish J. MacGregor
Tor, Sep 14 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780765326027

High in the Andes in Esperanza, Ecuador, two visiting Americans who never met before are stranded at an isolated bus station waiting who knows how long for the bus to arrive. FBI Agent Tess Livingston and Minneapolis journalism professor Ian Ritter chat as she wonders how she got here being on a case of international counterfeiters while he also ponders how he ended up in Peru when he was going to Galapagos Islands. While they wait they explore the town.

Shapeshifting spirit Dominica notices the pair and muses whose body of the two outsiders she will possess. When she begins her take over, Dominica is shocked to recognize each is a transitional soul of the nearly dead. These semi ghosts are dangerous to spirits like her and must be avoided, but she also finds them macabre and fascinating.

Esperanza is an exciting but strange supernatural thriller starring unnatural enemies. Ian and Tess struggle with their transformations as they try to understand the eternal war between good and evil. Although the time traveling sequences add complexity to the story line such as Ian trying to prevent singular atrocities that he knows will occur; these subplots also detract from the entertaining character driven paranormal triangle between the transitional souls and the spirit; the latter is fun to follow as the reader will want to know how it plays out.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Exile-Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Nguyen (Illustrator)

The Exile
Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Nguyen (Illustrator)
Del Rey, Sep 21 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345505385

After being in exile from his beloved Scotland for seemingly forever, in 1743 Jamie Fraser is returning home though he knows the danger he will face in war torn Scotland. His godfather Murtagh will do what he can to keep Jamie safe because of a death pledge he made to the lad’s late parents, but he also knows British Captain Black Jack Randall has a large bounty for the head of Jamie.

Meanwhile the MacKenzie clan disputes the return of Jamie. The chieftain Jamie’s Uncle Colum, demands his nephew choose between death and fealty while war chieftain Uncle Dougal demands his death. However, strange, stubborn and beautiful Claire Randall appears out of nowhere; convoluting the return of the prodigal Scot. He saves her life and wants her as does his vicious enemy Randall. Murtagh believes she is an Old Ones’ envoy; Randall asserts she is a spy; the feuding uncles believe she is a danger; and Jamie offers his heart even knowing he has hers in spite of also believing she hides something critical from him.

This graphic rendition of the original Outlander saga is refreshed by Hoang Nguyen’s terrific pictures and told from Jamie’s side as opposed to the original mostly seen from the WWII displaced Claire. The story line is filled with action from the onset, but also lacks the time travel aspects that made the original haunting as the key elements of Claire’s husband is two centuries in the future while she falls in love with the enemy of her spouse’s ancestor remains in the background. Thus this leads to a strong historical saga that fans of the long running series. Readers will appreciate the well written return of the Exile in graphic form; newcomers will enjoy the work, but should start with the original novel (see The Outlander).

Harriet Klausner

The Heir of Night-Helen Lowe

The Heir of Night
Helen Lowe
Eos, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780061734045

As the heir to the House of Night, Malian understands the eternal war between her people the Derai and the demonic Darkswarm. High in the frozen mountainous tundra of Haarth is the Wall of Night that has held back the demons, but since the Great Betrayal, the Nine Houses worshipping the nine gods of the Derai are a house divided leaving cracks in the defense.

Malian knows she has the blood oath to her House of Night, but many believe she is the prophesied One-To-Come who will unite the Houses at a time their squabbling will lead to breaches of the wall they defend. Yet in spite of the need for the One, many of the Derai oppose her as do the Darkswarm who want her dead. Exiled from her House, Malian with outcast Priest Kalan of the House of Blood and several locals led by Herald Jehane Mor seek the lost artifacts of legendary Yorindesarinen the Bright who as the Child of Stars died in combat when she killed the Worm of Chaos.

This is a superb coming of age quest fantasy as the heroine knows her calling, but also knows she does not want the responsibility of being the One and her reluctance to leave the shelter of home enables the reader to understand the youthful heroine. . Malian brings the freshness as her shoulders bend under the weight placed on her knowing that the idol she duplicates died in combat. With a deep look at Derai warrior culture of a people who accept honorable death as the norm, the Great Betrayal civil war has left rancor and distrust between the Houses as that went against the value system. Although the trek is somewhat sub-genre conventional, high school aged readers and older fans will enjoy accompanying Malian and her comrades across Haarth.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Fall-Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Fall
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Morrow, Sep 21 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061558221

The strigori virus that started in New York City (see The Strain) has started to spread pandemically around the globe. Nothing seems to prevent the Vamps from owning the planet with small futile pockets of resistance remaining. Elderly ultra wealthy Eldritch Palmer continues his quisling support of the Master by abetting the strigori undead as the vampires intensify their control of earth. The Master of the seven Ancients also has decided to eliminate his peers so that he and his horde dominate the world with humans as their cattle.

One resistance group that caused problems in Manhattan for the Master still remains in spite of his minion’s efforts to dine on them. CDC epidemiologists Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez, Holocaust survivor Professor Abraham Setrakian, and NYC Bureau of Pest Control Services worker Vasiliy Fet have forged a resistance insurgency. The team’s prime advisor, Setrakian is a veteran vampire slayer who killed his wife when she was turned; he insists their only hope rests with a Renaissance vampiric Genesis tome. Eph believes that to end the epidemic they must assassinate the Master who has converted his wife and she wants to change their son Zack. Finally Fet adapts easily from rodent pest exterminator to vampire pest exterminator.

The middle book of the Strain urban fantasy is an interesting thriller that never takes a respite from start to finish. The heroes are fully developed with each understanding the horror they face using self-mocking jocularity to lighten their mental burden. Loaded with action and fast-paced as a lot occurs in under a month, readers will be spellbound to follow what is going on and where Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is leading the audience to in this grim saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Spirit Thief-Rachel Aaron

The Spirit Thief
Rachel Aaron
Orbit, Oct 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316069052

In the prison under Allaze Castle, charming Eli Monpress persuades the spirit of the oak door that being nailed is an injustice, the conned door agrees and spits out the nails before falling to the floor in euphoric rejoicing. Eli escapes the cell and in spite of tight security searching for him, the charm wizard and his allies (Josef Liechten the swordsman with a magic sword and Nico the demonseed who stalks the shadows) kidnap King Henrith of Mellinor. The master thief believes this will lead to achieving part one of his plan as he is sure to become the felon with the greatest reward for his head.

Spirit Court envoy Miranda Lyonettete riding Gin the beast arrives too late as Eli is gone with the king; left behind is an apparent ransom note for 40 thousand assumed to be in council’s standard gold. She says she will rescue their monarch, but expects the closed land of Mellinor to open up to the envoy from the Spirit Court. Soon after her frustrated arrival, Henrith’s brother exiled Prince Renaud the bounty hunter introduces himself to the thieving wizard; and follows that up by arriving at Allaze to claim the throne. His first act is telling Miranda to leave.

The first wizard thief fantasy is an amusing tongue in cheek thriller. The story line is fast-paced as readers will be mesmerized by Eli as he and Miranda play a satirical game of cat and mouse. Lighthearted throughout, fans who appreciate a jocular satire loaded with charm and irony will want read The Spirit Thief and look forward to more capers by Eli with the serious Miranda in pursuit.

Harriet Klausner

Antiphon-Ken Ken Scholes

Antiphon
Ken Schoels
Tor, Sep 14 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765321299

When the arrogant Androfrancine Order monks ruled the Named Lands with an iron fist, they ignored the people’s well-being to focus on the technolgy and magic of the ancient Wizard Kings. Thus their neglect and fall leaves chaos throughoutout The Named Lands as groups that once believed in te now dead Y’Zirite religion rises with its bloody violence.

When Nebious was a child, he witnessed the horror that haunts him as an desert chieftain; he watched the genocde of Windwir. He misses his Marsh Queen spouse while suffering from feral nightmares and is aware that women warriors seek to kill him. His mother the Ninefold Forest Queen Jin Li Tam tries to keep him safe, but so many want him dead. Nebious learns from his mother that her religious advisors believe that Jakop, the baby son of the Gypsy King Rudolfo, is the “Child of Promise”; if affirmed the infant has followers who want him as the high king and adversaries who want him dead. At the same time hidden in the shadows is the most dangerous threat to the Named Lands while eerily music spreads from the wastes across the lands leaving the Androfrancine monks and Rudolfo wondering what this denotes.

The third volume of the Psalms of Isaak (see Lamentation and Canticle) continues the excellent moxing of science fiction and epic fantasy with a powerful mystery adding excitement (a venn diagram in which the three genres’ respective circles mostly overlap). The fast-paced story line contains a myriad of subplots yet also is filled with action that cohesively moves forward the overarching theme. With all the adventures that takes place, fully developed players representing different aspects of the Named Lands’ various societies, especially the key leads, make for a terrific thriller that showcases Ken Scholes’s talent. This series is a winner.

Harriet Klausner

The Ragged Man-Tom Lloyd

The Ragged Man
Tom Lloyd
PYR, Aug 24 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616142063

Although he had to act cold hearted and vicious in the war with the gods and saw his death in visions, the demise of Lord Isak has left the Farlan armies leaderless and retreating in confused panic. Several “humans” try to take up the leader void. King Emin Thonal of Narkang and the Three Cities and Ruhen possessed by the angry shadow-god Azaer who was shockingly defeated by Usak and the Farlan at devastated Scree, push their agenda.

The next key battle is coming. However, the gods learned from what happened at Scree. Instead of leading their supporters in battle, they direct their followers from the safety of a distant command post. The Grave Thief, the Hail Mary last hope for mankind, is realistic about his leadership skills so he seeks a hero to lead the bone weary battle fatigued human military; he turns to the graveyard for his champion.

The fourth Twilight Reign fantasy (see The Twilight Herald, The Stormcaller and The Grave Thief) is a great tale filled with plenty of vivid action. Readers will feel they retreat along side the despondent Farlan, who have come down from an adrenaline berserker frenzy to despair following the stunning death of Isak. Tom Lloyd displays his juggling ability as several interesting subplots with a large cast move forward towards what looks like the coming of the apocalypse confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 14, 2010

No Mercy-Sherrilyn Kenyon

No Mercy
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s, Sep 7 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312546564

The assault on Sanctuary left many dead and severely injured while the once safe zone is rightfully no longer considered as such. Shapeshifter Dev Peltier and his family guarded Sanctuary for centuries, but with their parents dead, he and his siblings must regroup, but mentally struggle with grief and concern that the enemy has grown stronger than them. They know they survived the battle of New Orleans because the Dark-Hunters allied with his were-hunters to fight the wolves.

Former Amazon warrior turned Dark-Hunter Samia Savage, who was at Troy and the Sanctuary battles, returns to the Big Easy to keep Nick Gautier safe. However, Stryker apparently wants her most likely because of her and her gift for psychometric skills. Dev also wants her because he is attracted to her. Sam desires Dev too although both understands that is taboo.

Although the romantic premise is somewhat similar to Bad Moon Rising, this is a terrific entry made fresh by the aftermath of the Sanctuary assault and the female Dark Hunter (Huntress perhaps more descriptive). The story line is fast-paced and filled with non-stop action from the moment Sam arrives riding her bike and informs Dev she is as passionately furious in the sack as she is on the battlefield. Fans of the ever expanding urban fantasy saga will appreciate Sherrilyn Kenyon’s super entry as even allies make strange bedfellows.

Harriet Klausner

End of Days-Max Turner

End of Days
Max Turner
St. Martin’s Griffin, Sep 28 2010, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312592523

Vampires exist in the world hiding in the shadows and protected by the Underground, which consists of humans, vamps and Others who look out for the Undead trying to live a normal life. Dracula using an iron fist controls all vampires and insures the underground was serving its purpose. With his death, his minions are fighting for control with everyone concerned only with their personal well-being.

Dracula turned the child Zack Thomson because he believed he was the vampiric Messiah who would bring a new order to the species. The Elders detest child-vampires like Zack, his friend Charlie and his girlfriend Luna. At a rave, the vampires come to kill the trio, but a huge werewolf like creature, who kills vampires, chases them away and then goes after them. Zach and his friends search for the beast so they can kill it before the humans learn of its existence.

In the latest Night Runner teen urban fantasy thriller (see Night Runner), Zach must delay his alleged destiny of bringing order to the Underground by dealing with the creature they call Hyde. The heroic lead characters bring youthful courage as they try to do the right thing re the chosen one Zach, but prophecies are just visions lacking action plans with steps so the teen titans must fill the gap. Max Turner brings a fascinating premise to the vampire mythos that grips readers who root for Zach and his BFFs while anxiously waiting for the next entry in the saga.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 13, 2010

Love Bites-Adrienne Barbeau

Love Bites
Adrienne Barbeau
Dunne, Aug 31 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312367282

Five centuries old Hollywood legendary actress and studio head Ovsanna Moore looks as beautiful as a twentyish wannabe. Besides her movie roles, she takes care of her Los Angeles based vampyre clan to insure the paparazzi do not discover their secrets.

However, she feels more like a teen going out on her first date with Beverly Hills Police Detective Peter King who she is attracted to but also worries about the cop in him will learn some biting truths about her; beyond what he knows about her being a vamp. They worked together on the Cinema Slayer case, which they resolved to their personal satisfactions, but BHPD will want a body that they cannot produce since the killer melted away. A shapeshifter attacks her just before the date which leaves Ovsanna a bit freaked out while also struggling with vampire unemployment issues. He has issues too as his latest homicide is nasty; but the biggest concern for Peter is dating a much more experienced vampire as he keeps thinking of her giving him a hickey.

The second Vampyres of Hollywood romp is a jocular romantic police procedural urban fantasy. The fun in the tale is the Hollywood crowd who participate in the satirical frolic. Fast-paced throughout, fans will enjoy the vamp and the cop as they date in between murder, supernatural assaults, paranormal jealousy and a bite or two.

Harriet Klausner

Chosen-Jeanne C. Stein

Chosen
Jeanne C. Stein
Ace, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019175

Her first year since the change is coming and Anna Strong has adjusted to becoming a vampire though she does not like it. Instead, Anna tries to cling to whatever humanity is left even as her vampiric needs are starting to supersede all else. She fears the legend that she is the Chosen One as she just wants to go back to being a human bounty hunter.

Anna and her boyfriend Lance travel to Palm Springs. There a dangerous adversary attacks her. She survives and assumes her archenemy Warren Williams assaulted her. However, she will soon learn there are even deadlier foes under the sun as Lance’s creator Julian Underwood believes Anna is the Chosen One and hence has plans to use her for his own benefit.

Chosen, the latest Strong urban fantasy (see Retribution and Legacy) is an action packed thriller from the onset and never takes a breather as Jeanne C. Stein puts her heroine through a harrowing gauntlet. Anna takes some nasty shots emotionally and physically as she begins to comprehend how treacherous being the Chosen One can be when you’re even unsure of your friends. This is a great entry in a strong series.

Harriet Klausner

Desperate Souls-Gregory Lamberson

Desperate Souls
Gregory Lamberson
Medallion, Oct 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781605421704

A new drug is sweeping the streets of New York City and it is more addictive than any illegal or prescription drug. Black Magic was made with malice and evil as it turns the user eventually into a zombie who can only be killed by a blow to the head, which allows the soul to finally leave the body for its final destination.

Former police officer turned private detective Jake Hellman meets one of these creatures and is shocked that only a blow to the brain will kill it. He traces the Zombie Plague to drugpin Prin e Malachai the one who sells the drugs though he unaware that his lover the Voodoo Priestess Katrina has the power to control him thanks to the demon lover who gives her magical powers. They plan to take control of the city’s drug business, but she has an even bigger strategic goal. Jake needs to kill herb because assassinating Katrina means he will be able to unravel her spells.

After fighting the demon Cain (see Personal Demon) Jake would have been happy doing background checks and following errant spouses. Fate has a different plan for him as he called upon to hunt the supernatural evil. Like Jake, readers will get the creepy crawlies as they visualize the zombies that only a few people believes they exist even though anyone who really sees them knows that something is wrong with the way they look . Gregory Lamberson is one of the bright new stars in the horror world.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dragons of the Valley-Donita K. Paul

Dragons of the Valley
Donita K. Paul
Waterbrook, Sep 21 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073405

Chiril is a peaceful prosperous land. However the tranquility ends when an army invades the country. Tipper Schope must hide three statues because if the enemy gets it will mean the end of her nation as she knows it. She enlists her Bealomondore the artist to help her with her quest. He understands he must wield a sword like he did a brush.

At the same time that the terrible foe marches into Chiril, a horrific beast is stalking and killing anyone in its path. No one is safe from the predatory Grawl. Time is running out for the two heroes and their companions as they struggle to reach the Valley of the Dragons where they plan to leave the statues.

The latest inspiration dragon fantasy (see Dragonknight and Dragonquest) is a fabulous tale that, as always in a Donita K. Paul thriller, takes the audience soaring across the author’s vivid mythical landscape. As chaos threatens the land, Tipper and Bealomondore are heroic figures; not because they may succeed, but due to risking their lives against overwhelming odds as for instance a peace loving artist picks up the sword. Action-packed with deadly perils from outside coming in and inside expanding out and with a strong cast especially the champions, fans will need a seat belt as this fast-paced novel never takes a respite.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits-Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson

Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits
Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson
Ace, Sep 7 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441019199

"Phoenix" by Peter Dickinson. In Britain elderly caretakers Dave and Ellie begin to care for the ancient Egyptian Phoenix, who struggles with the change in climate; the pair is rewarded for their kindness in an unexpected way.

"Hellhound" by Robin McKinley. Miri rescues the red-eyed dog from a shelter; not anticipating her kindness will be reciprocated when her canine stands at her side during a confrontation with an evil spirit in a graveyard.

"Fireworm" Peter Dickinson. The fireworm threatens the Home Cave of the dwelling clan. Tandin challenges the beast on the spirit plain, but is stunned to realize the enemy has a mate that it protects from the cave-dwellers.

"Salamander Man” by Peter Dickinson. Tib the orphan is sold to a mage, which leads to his turning into a blazing giant freeing the salamanders and the city residents from the abusive magicians.

"First Flight" by Robin McKinley. Ern prefers to hide in the shadows as he is the subject of ridicule when he is out in the open. His extroverted brother Dag comes home fuming because an injured dragon is assigned to a task that the beast cannot accomplish, yet encouraged by a wizard Ern enables the beast to enter Flame Space.

The sequel to Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits contains five fine fiery fantasy fables that young high school students will enjoy.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dark Peril-Christine Feehan

Dark Peril
Christine Feehan
Berkley, Aug 31 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780425236598

An ancient Carpathian warrior Dominic decides on what he knows is a suicidal mission to destroy the South American vampires. To achieve his objective, he swallows parasites needed to control the urges which will enable him to go undercover and infiltrate the vampiric horde. Dominic keeps his sanity by dreaming of a shapeshifting female Jaguar warrior who keeps him focused though he doubts she exists.

Although she knows this is suicidal to be at war with her evil father Broderick who killed most of their family and clan, shapeshifter Solange Sangria has kept up the fight to rescue other shapeshifting women and her sanity due to her fantasy of a heroic lover. She and Dominic are stunned when they meet because each assumed their dream lover was a fantasy they made up, but now have each other. With both on death quests, they need to find a way to survive yet also achieve their respective objectives as they now have a reason to live.

The latest Dark Carpathian romantic fantasy (see Dark Slayer) contains a wonderful refreshing premise of two individuals on suicide missions who have found solace in their dreams of the other. Although the tale would have been stronger if either or both fail in the flesh and bone to live up to the image each has of their dream lover, fans of the long running saga will enjoy the action-packed aptly titled Dark Peril as her father and the vampiric horde are a formidable foe.

Harriet Klausner

The Longer the Fall-Inanna Arthen

The Longer the Fall
Inanna Arthen
By Light Unseen Media, $28.00
http://bylightunseenmedia.com/
ISBN 9780979302893

In 1952 Boston, recently divorced thirtyish Diana Chilton has belonged to the Order of the Silver Light her entire life. However, she decides she has no reason to stay since her marriage broke up and as a political activist seeking freedoms for all she is frustrated with the glass ceiling for females. So she leaves for Pepperell, Maine home of the “Hermit of Pepperill Hills”.

Diana meets the hermit Thomas Morgan, who was once part of the same order she just left. He has lived for ages because, as she learns, he is a vampire. Thomas was dying from cancer when he begged the Fae to save his life; they did sort of by cursing him by converting him into an Undead who craves human blood. Thomas persuades Diana to help him especially with curing him of his obsession with human blood. However, that proves easier to say then do as the human and the former human spend two years trying to eliminate his thirst. However, each conceals their real agenda from the other.

The second Vampires of New England novel (see Mortal Touch) is an interesting thriller as mortal and the undead work together, but hide their respective motive from one another. The story line loses some speed towards the middle due to the sexual trysts and other happenings expanded too long; but the plot regains the accelerated momentum when the lead couple confronts what they wrought. With a great twist to the delight of appreciative fans, readers will enjoy Inanna Arthen’s vampire tale.

Harriet Klausner

Gideon Redoak-Anne Fraser

Gideon Redoak
Anne Fraser
By Light Unseen Media, May 2009, $59.00
http://bylightunseenmedia.com/
ISBN: 9780979302817

From the day he was born in 1622, Gideon Redoak was raised in a very strict Puritan family. His father the baron demanded respect as he dominated every aspect of life for his family. Gideon was not allowed to speak to single women, nor read anything except the Bible. His sister Prudence likewise was under the strict thumb of their father.

When Gideon is nineteen, his father is murdered most likely by highwaymen. Gideon becomes his sister’s guardian and takes care of his mother while running the estate he inherited. When Simon Paxson, who is of an age of his late father, arrives insisting he has a spoken deal to marry Prudence, Gideon says he has no proof and already arranged for his sister to wed James Carter, the estate steward she loves. After his sibling and James marry in 1642, Gideon hires a new steward Etienne Corbeau to run the estate at a time when three strange murders occur. He also realizes his father’s chosen bride for him, although of proper breeding and wealth, Piety fails to move him while his new employee does. Etienne seduces Gideon and turns him into a vampire. Over the years Gideon adapts even finding love, but fears his maker is not finished with him.

This is an entertaining life in a vampire saga over the centuries. Seventeenth century Gideon expected eternal punishment, as part of his Puritan upbringing, for lying about knowing Paxson’s deal and the betrothal between his sister and his steward; so there is plenty of irony as the protagonist adjusts emotionally, sexually and religiously to the change. Not for all vampire aficionados as the action is for most part off page and muted, fans of a profound character study will want to read the late Anne Fraser’s fabulous fable of the life and death and un-death of a young man.

Harriet Klausner

Krymsin Nocturnes-Joseph Armstead

Krymsin Nocturnes
Joseph Armstead
By Light Unseen Media, May 2010, $29.00
http://bylightunseenmedia.com/
ISBN: 9781935303077

For millenniums, the Moon-Chosen vampires and the humans compete for domination of the world. The human governments have cut secret agreements with the vampires while concealing from the general populace that the undead Homo Draeconis live amongst them. Only the metahumans Olympians battle the vamps and their avaricious mercenary mortal quislings.

Blood Mage sorcerer Rajan Seddig Al'Meffistah discovers that a powerful relic has been hidden in California's Borrego Bay. He wants it as he knows that the talisman will make him an unmatched deity ruling the world. His former lover Calianne has followed him to California to prevent him from succeeding. An alliance of strange bedfellows consisting of Quinn of the moon-chosen, spiteful spirits, gangsters, government “spooks” and immortal and mortal mercenaries are also deployed to prevent the calamity from happening.

Krymsin Nocturnes is an action-packed vampiric techno-thriller that genre fans will fully enjoy. The key to Joseph Armstead’s strong tale is that the author makes his premise of vampires living secretly amidst mortals due in part to human government cooperation seem real without slowing or dumbing down the plot. Readers will want to join (from their armchairs) the confrontation in New Barrington and West Sussex on Borrego Bay as the world order is at stake.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Solitary-Travis Thrasher

Solitary
Travis Thrasher
David C. Cook, Aug 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434764218

Following his parents’ divorce, Chris Buckley knows leaving Chicago suburb Libertyville, Illinois to live with his mom in her hometown of Solitary, North Carolina will require a major adjustment. At the high school, he is an outsider as 99% of the 700 students would not know Strangeways, Here We Come by the Smiths; however thanks to his murky T-shirt picture he meets the 1%, three Goth juniors. The silent one Jocelyn Evans helps him find his classroom, but he is a bit taken aback when the other kids stare at him as if he was a disease.

Chris is attracted to the enigmatic Jocelyn, who he realizes is a pariah beyond just being a Goth Girl. However, as he pursues her wanting her as his girlfriend; she rejects his advances though she is attracted to him. He and his mom are warned to stay away from Jocelyn, but when he asks why, no one responds; not even the teen he adores who likewise warns him. Chris’s pursuit soon proves dangerous to him and his mom though he remains ignorant as to what is going on in spirited Solitary confinement.

Although targeting young adults, older readers will also appreciate this terrific dark teen thriller in which the increasing eeriness of the town leads to a frightening sinister atmosphere. The audience will anticipate the worst will happen, which is a doubled edged sword as it adds tension but also the intelligent Chris feels the same way as the reader yet allows himself to fall for duplicity several times though one might claim love makes people do dumb things. The support cast is strong including the hero’s “club” and those staring strangers as Travis Thrasher provides an exciting taut horror thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Mass Effect: Retribution-Drew Karpyshyn

Mass Effect: Retribution
Drew Karpyshyn
Del Rey, Jul 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345520722

The Reapers starships have entered the galaxy where earthlings have joined other alien sentient races mostly in harmony (see Revelation). These bellicose outsiders have come with one purpose in mind; “harvesting” the organic.

Few humans understand the extinction danger posed by the reapers. Cerberus leader The Illusive Man not only does, he plans to act by gaining critical insider knowledge of the deadly Reapers to prevent pandemic slaughter though few support his means. He selects his former operative Paul Grayson as his guinea pig. Paul is abducted and implanted with reaper technology so he can be studied like a rat in a lab. Ascension director Kahlee Sanders, who helped Paul rescue his daughter Gillian (see Ascension), is worried about the disappearance and asks Alliance war hero Captain David Anderson to help her investigate as she believes the outlawed evil Cerberus is behind the kidnapping. As they serendipitously sneak inside the experiment zone, Grayson is turning increasingly into a Reaper as the alien make up supersedes his humanity; leading to him being a galaxy-wide threat from within.

Obviously targeting the fans of the Mass Effect gaming universe, Retribution is a fabulous outer space thriller although it helps to have either played the games or read the previous books. The irony within the story line is that the species who The Illusive Man wants to save is the species that claims he and his Cerberus black ops agents are evil. This fun tale warns the audience to beware of science and technology with questionable ethics while also pondering whether ever the means justifies the end as Stalin said "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic", but trillions dead is neither as none will be left to mourn.

Harriet Klausner

Tarizon: Conquest Earth - Volume 3-William Manchee

Tarizon: Conquest Earth - Volume 3
William Manchee
Top Publications, Sep 10 2010, $23.00
3100 Independence Parkway, Suite 311-349
Plano, Texas 75075
ISBN: 9781929976652

Aliens abducted teenage earthling Peter Turner and took him to Tarizon where many believed he was the Liberator. However, known as Leek Lanzia, he learned the hard way how difficult his new role proved to be when Civil War forced him to choose sides. Now with the dictator Lai dead, Leek takes a vacation with his beloved wife Lucinda and their baby child Tokin. At the same time Lai’s adopted son Evohn Cystrom pledges to keep fighting on his home planet and to take the hostilities to earth as his late father envisioned a grander Pearl Harbor attack.

Captain Lanzia cuts off his family time early when he is apprised of the Cystrom threat. Accompanied by his wife and child, he commandeers a shuttle to fly to earth to warn his birth planet of an invasion, but must escape Tarizon without the enemy aware of his leaving. Cystrom learns of the earth mission and sends his best troops to thwart it while Leek as Peter reunites with his parents before retuning to his new home planet.

Continuing the space adventures of the son of his top rate detective Stan Turner (see Disillusioned and Act Normal), William Manchee provides a strong Tarizon science fiction military thriller (see Liberator and Civil War) as the war goes off planet. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans will appreciate Conquest earth as Cystrom takes up the mantle of his late dad. Although it helps to read the previous two Peter/Leek novels to understand how far the hero has come from earth, fans of the saga will relish this entertaining entry.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The High King of Montival-S.M. Stirling

The High King of Montival
S.M. Stirling
Roc, Sep 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451463524

It has been a quarter of a century since the world was plunged into darkness with electricity and electronic based technology failing. People formed communities to keep safe as mankind returns to the Middle Ages standard of living and society. Rudi Mackenzie traveled from Montival (parts of Oregon and Washington State) to Nantucket where he found the Sword of Lady in the World. He drew it out just like Arthur did Excalibur and it granted him mystical powers that enabled Rudi to become the ruler Artos of Montival when he gets home.

Getting back is just as different as people of different communities look at them at as the enemy. Rudi and his allies have to trust their numbers and strength in the wrecks that was once cities to make better time and fight off groups that want to rule Montival like the leads of Boise and Corwin and the Cutters soldiers of the Church Universal and Triumphant. While back home, the various groups that make up Montival are fighting to maintain their way of life against well trained warriors.

When Rudi takes control of the Sword (see Sword of the Lady), he needed to adapt to a new radical change again while also rallying various groups, many of whom he fought against just a few months ago as the evil enemy threatens their well-being. The High King of Montival is filled with plenty of action, intrigue and a touch of romance. Readers will muse over whether magic or a neo branch of physics has entered the world and what it means as S.M. Stirling provides another fabulous post-apocalyptic thriller to his Change saga (see The Scourge of God and The Sunrise Lands).

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Soul To Keep-Sharie Kohler

My Soul To Keep
Sharie Kohler
Pocket, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439101599

In Paris her father was abusive to everyone especially his family. In that cruel world, Sorcha the half-breed Lycan grew up distrusting everyone. In fact only her father’s top assistant, half-breed Jonah was ever nice to Sorcha. She never forgot the kindness he gave her.

Twelve years later, Widow Sorcha seeks to avenge the murder of her husband that she blames on a demon-witch who cursed the Lycan. The person she wants to murder is under the protection of Jonah who thought his Sorcha was dead and felt guilty all these years for failing her. They have not seen each other in what seems to each as forever, but their attraction that both avoided in the past explodes between them. As they fall in love, Sorcha and Jonah must move beyond their pasts if they want a future preferably together especially when someone wants both dead.

The lead couple is a terrific pairing as they have a past that ended tragically and seemingly no future second chance at love since they are adversaries. The story line focuses deeply into the souls of Jonah and Sorcha so the action is somewhat muted. Still fans of the Moon Chasers urban fantasy woo enjoy this spellbinding tale.

Harriet Klausner

Hellfire-Kate Douglas

Hellfire
Kate Douglas
Zebra, Sep 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420110005

For his role in the escape of the former demon Dax and the human Eddy Marks from a Lemurian prison, Alton the son of the ruling Chancellor, was sentenced to death. He would have preferred to have persuaded his father and the Council of Nine of the long term danger to their world by the increased demon activity, but does not rue his choice even if he dies for it. His action against the demon horde activated his crystal sword HellFire, converting it from a seemingly inanimate though actually dormant to an intelligent speaking species.

Alton also admits he is attracted to the human Ginny Jones, who is passionate about life; unlike females of his species. He sent her to safety to Sedona using hypnosis, but has learned a new portal has allowed demons to invade earth possessing animals. With Ginny at his side and hellfire as his weapon he fights the demons, which is the easier task than persuading the Council of Nine that not just earth is endangered as Lemuria is the obvious next stop once the evil ones defeat the humans.

The latest DemonSlayers romantic fantasy (see DemonFire and the novella Crystal Dreams in Nocturne) is an enjoyable thriller that continues the few rebellious Lemurians risking their lives to save humanity from the invading demon horde. The matching of Alton and Ginny is fabulous as he assumes her being female she will be dainty like those of his race, but instead she kicks demon butt. Though somewhat similar to DemonFire in tone, readers will enjoy HellFire as the war of the worlds continues on battlefield earth.

Harriet Klausner

Rebel-Claire Delacroix

Rebel
Claire Delacroix
Tor, Aug 31 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765359513

In 2100 Armand is a fallen angel who knows what he must do to regain his wings that he sacrificed to save mankind. To rejoin the exclusive club, Armand and his fallen angel partner Baruch must assassinate Maximilian Blackstone, who is running for president of the Republic. Nothing goes right and Baruch is severely hurt.

If the credit is right Theodora the wraith will kill. However, though her clients assume she is a hedonist seeking blood stained credit while ignoring the fact they hire her to do their dirty work; she has a secret motive to provide for her loved ones that if revealed would make her vulnerable to nasty sorts; so she hides from everyone while doing the kills others prefer not to do. As the government’s eyes are everywhere, Armand and Theodora team up. They soon begin to understand what is divine and what is human.

The third futuristic angelic post-apocalyptic thriller (see Fallen and Guardian) is a great tale due to the pairing of the fallen angel who gave up everything to save humanity but wants a second chance at heavenly redemption and a hit woman wraith with a hidden altruistic agenda. Both sacrificed a lot for others, but their call for duty brings them together as The Republic is at a crossroad with the pending election as are Armand and Theodora.

Harriet Klausner