Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Master of Smoke-Angela Knight

Master of Smoke
Angela Knight
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239162

Five years ago, the dire wolf attacked Eva Roman. She survived but was never the same. Instead she taught herself to shapeshift and successfully concealed her condition from her parents and everyone else.

That anonymity ends when the comic bookstore employee saves a man from the assault of giant white dire wolf Warlock. The person she rescues suffers from amnesia as a consequence of Warlock using a spell to steal the victim’s magical power by splitting him into three essences. She names him David; neither is aware he is Smoke the demigod Sidhe warrior. If David fails to reunite his parts into Smoke, Warlock will prove too powerful to stop. Ergo were-hitmen try to kill David and Eva as the former struggles to regain his memory and the latter wonders how to have sex with the hunk without murderous chaperones interfering.

The latest Mageverse romantic urban fantasy (see Master of Fire) is a great entry that, in spite of its January release, will be considered one of the best sub-genre books of the year. The story line is loaded with action as hostilities grow and all out war between and even within species seem imminent. While the world teeters on the brink, Eva makes the tale as she brings a sort of New York shtick to the mix with her acerbic humorous asides and in your face commentary. With warlocks, were-mobsters, vampires, witches, and Camelot, fans will appreciate the comic bookstore employee who only blinks in bed with her amnesiac as she insists she has faced much worse with customers.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spellweaver-Lynn Kurland

Lynn Kurland
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425238639

Although an offspring of Gair the dark mage, Ruithneadh of Ceangail concealed his magical skills by ignoring what he inherited from his evil sire following the deaths of his family (see the Nine Kingdoms’ first trilogy). However, the daughter of a witch whose only magic is “seeing spells”, Sarah of Doire asks for his help on her seemingly futile quest to save her brother Daniel from the dark side (see A Tapestry of Spells).

The Nine Kingdoms remain under attack from what his dad wrought on them. He reluctantly agrees as he no longer can hide in the shadows of being a raging wizard while ignoring what his malevolent father did. The two adventurers seek his sire’s spells as his father deploys them against the Nine Kingdoms. The only hope resides in their teamwork with her seeing the spells and his destroying what she sees. However, in spite of their risking their lives, foes of his father either covet what they assume he possesses or want him dead for what they assume he possesses.

The second Ruith-Sarah quest fantasy contains a complicated story line as the pasts of both champions are depicted in depth as each has quite a blood line that impacts their current dangerous situation and the potential of a future together as their initial doubting trust has begun to turn to love. This is an excellent entry due to the complex lead characters whose heritage implies each will be the end of their respective gene pool as the sins of the parents to include fear of a repeat lead many enemies wanting both dead.

Harriet Klausner

Immortal Champion-Lisa Hendrix

Immortal Champion
Lisa Hendrix
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239216
Two centuries ago, Cwen the sorceress cursed the Viking warriors for killing her son. For the past two hundred years they have become immortal were-creatures with no control over their shape shifting as the curse included being beasts for half of a day.

Recently two of the crew have broken the curse by finding their soul-mates (see Immortal Outlaw and Immortal Warrior). However, Gunnar the Red has no hope for himself as he lives in the forest where he roams as a bull during the day. Lonely and depressed, the freezing weather that rips him nocturnally in his human form sends him seeking shelter. At Richmond Castle, he saves Lady Eleanor de Neville from a fiery death. Eleanor rewards her hero with a kiss. She quickly loves the kind dark champion; he also falls in love, but reacts by leaving as she is betrothed to another. Unable to stay away from his beloved, Gunnar returns not knowing what type of reception he will receive, but he vows to tell her the truth.

The third Immortal medieval romantic fantasy is once again a fabulous historical. The story line is character driven more so by Gunnar whose despondency is heart felt by readers although Eleanor is a strong protagonist also. Fans will enjoy the latest Immortal entry as Lisa Hendrix has a trifecta with another strong seemingly star-crossed tale.

Harriet Klausner

Ascension-Caris Roane

Caris Roane
St. Martin’s, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312533717

Alison Wells assumes she became a therapist because she has always been different and forced to be distant so she understands people better than most. Her special skills lately for no apparent reason have become enhanced, which makes it that more complicated to avoid hurting people when she touches them.

Weary warrior of the Blood Kerrick of Endelle arrives to save Alison from the assault of another winged person. Besides seeing two winged people, Alison is astonished he can touch her and she him without his being hurt. He explains to her that his dimension is trapped in a vampire civil war between his Endelle warriors and the death vampires under the leadership of vicious Commander Greaves. He also tells her about the call to her of Second Earth where "ascenders" who share her skills can go. As both combatant enemies realize how much power Alison possesses, Kerrick guards Alison as she completes the ascension ritual and his olfactory sense makes him aware she is his mate. Twice widowed and having seen his children die, he vowed no more women, but will risk death to keep Alison safe from Greaves who needs her dead.

This is a super urban romantic fantasy in which the audience will believe in the vampires and the Ascension. The story line is fast-paced even when Kerrick is grounded as the assassination attempts keep him and his mate on the lam. Although the soul mate rescue element has been used a zillion times (to bad it was not a gender switch), readers will appreciate the first thrilling Guardians of Ascension tale in the Roane mythos.

Harriet Klausner

The Witch’s Daughter-Paula Brackston

The Witch’s Daughter
Paula Brackston
St. Martin’s, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312621681

In 1627, the plague ravages Wessex as well as the rest of England. All of the Hawksmith family dies except for the matriarch and her daughter Elizabeth Anne. The child is unaware that her mom the earth healer made a deal with Satanist warlock Gideon Masters. However, mother and daughter are accused of witchcraft; the locals hang her mom while Bess flees into the night making her own pact with Gideon that begins an eternity of solitude.

In 2007, Elizabeth trains Tegan the teen hedge witch how to use her powers wisely. She also tells her female student tales about her family especially her mom, her master Gideon and his master, her encounter in Whitehall with Jack the Ripper, and her work as a nurse in the front lines in Flanders during WWI.

This is an entertaining epic fantasy in which ironically the historical subplots engage the audience; while the modern day segue feels awkward and distracting rather than anchoring the story line. Overall The Witch’s Daughter is an enjoyable read as Bess is an intriguing Forrest Gump like witch who’s almost four centuries past hopefully will be explored further.

Harriet Klausner

Shadowheart-James Barclay

James Barclay
PYR, Dec 1 2010, $17.00
ISBN: 9781616142506

The hostile debate between the four colleges of magic finally explodes into open warfare as Xetesk seizes the opportunity to take the first rung on their vision of dominion with an assault on the depleted Julatsa, who sacrificed so much in the Wesmen wars (see Chronicles of the Raven trilogy). The Julatsa know they must find a way to survive the invaders, but to do so they will need the interred Heart of Julatsan.

The other two colleges Lystern and Dordover discuss what to do when a somewhat depleted Xetesk turns to them and how to control what is left of the Raven. They forge an alliance with a plan to invade Xetesk after it wastes much of its magic, but to do so they must lock away or assassinate the Raven survivors. However, way to the west, a power is surfacing whose vision is that of a Balaian continent with no magic or eastern mage-rulers. In a ploy to conquer the other three colleges and thereby the continent, Xetesk has turned to the Balaian as an ally especially with the alliance and Raven in the way of their manifest destiny.

The second Legends of the Raven fantasy (see Elf Sorrow) is a terrific middle tale as the hostilities that remained outward towards the anti-magical Black Wings (their mass grave as described in this thriller is simply grim and eerie) turns inward between the colleges. Readers will appreciate the continual saga of the Raven as the exhilarating story line is filled with action, but it is the political intrigue that makes for another great entry by James Barclay.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vampires Not Invited-Cheyenne McCray

Vampires Not Invited
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin’s Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312532680

In New York City, hybrid human-Drow Princess of the Dark Elves Nyx moonlights as a Night Tracker private investigator investigating incidents (see Demons Not Included and No Werewolves Allowed) involving paranormal species. Her current case is frustrating her as a gang of sprites impishly mock human landmarks like painting Liberty’s toes pink.

Her elven half gut tells her there has to be more than just inane graffiti and sillier pranks; a trademark of the pain in the butt obnoxious sprites. Digging deeper, she finds what she feared. The mischief sprites work for Master Vampire Volod and his fang gang who want a return to the prominence they once held in ironically what seems like a lifetime ago. His plan is for his vampires to rule nocturnal New York. Nyx and other trackers realize the sprites are a divergent ploy to occupy the trackers with nonsense while Volod uses the opportunity to exploit the weaknesses of other species. Nyx plans to use all her strength to end this threat as everyone knows Vampires Not Invited to any shindig let alone run the city.

Obstinate Nyx, who breaks the rules as she even dates a low life, as all humans are, remains tenacious and confident as she plans to stake her life on preventing the Vampiric take-over. She holds the fast-paced exhilarating private investigative urban fantasy focused as her stubbornness never allows her (or the reader) to take their eyes off the ball as despicable Sprites and Vampires come out of the shadows and coffins to challenge the leadership.

Harriet Klausner

The Triskaidek-Basil Sprig

The Triskaidek
Basil Sprig
CreateSpace, May 13 2010, $13.00
ISBN: 9781452886893

The faire parents send their kids for the summer to Camp Fae. Though part of the reason the offspring are exiled to camp is parental R&R, but this particular camp is for the Fae to learn to use their magic.

However, this year a mistake occurs and a non-fae Alley Willowwood is sent to the camp. She is a non-believer in magic as is most of her ignorant species. However, she becomes a quick believer when she has a need to fly post haste to escape a harrowing scenario; thank goodness she won a kite. Her counselor informs Alley that she must be fairy or would never have found Camp Fae. Unlike many who learn they are a Triskaidekaphile, but fail to cope when the Triskaidek moment occurs; she begins to learn all she can on her personal Triskaidek thirteenth day of the thirteenth month of her thirteenth year, her human upbringing makes her unique and the only who may be able to save the endangered species the Blimeys while concealing the paranormal world from the nearby human camp where her friends attend and from her single mom, her new world.

Targeting middle school children and warning away triskaidekaphobics, Basil Sprig provides an engaging urban fantasy as his two worlds nicely merge with Alley as the vortex. She is a terrific heroine who uses instinct not always successfully to learn if the huggable boy really likes her and to rescue the Blimeys. With a tweener nod to the Greatest American hero, Alley is the greatest Triskaidekaphile heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Chicks Ahoy-Esther Freisner (editor)

Chicks Ahoy
Esther Freisner (editor)
Baen, Dec 7 2010, $12.00
ISBN: 9781439133019

This omnibus collection contains the frisky frolicking first three Chicks Amazonian anthology adventures. With a parry, lunge and tongue in cheek (that is the female warrior not turning the other cheek like in “The Old Grind” (Laura Frankos) but in the other’s cheek. Heroines are not afraid to fight in the MUD as George Alec Effinger affirms.

Chicks in Chainmail. These are the original twenty tales. Elizabeth Moon (she also contributes shorts to the other two collections) sets the tone with "And Ladies of the Club" as the king plans to tax bras while Janni Lee Simner answers with “Bra Melting”. Holly Lisle’s "Armor-Ella" stars six foot El and not so Prince Charming. Finally there is super mom at "Career Day" by Margaret Ball and a female guard protecting a brothel in "The Guardswoman" by Lawrence Watt-Evans (he also contributes short stories to the other two collections).

Did you say chicks?! The second Chicks warrior anthology contains nineteen entries including a Starhawk tale by Barbara Hambly. Harry Turtledove's contribution shows the importance of gender teamwork and a “valiant vanquished” in The Attack of the Avenging Virgins by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (she also contributes a short story in the first book) as women (virgins and veterans) kick all types of butt.

Chicks 'n chained Males. These sixteen contributions star women in shining armor (often less attire) who come to the aid of lads in distress. Susan Casper’s “Why Do You Think They call It Middle Earth stars a fighting female taking on dragons and other ilk to save hapless men as does “Leg Irons, The Bitch and the Wardrobe by Ms. Frankos.

Readers of both genders will appreciate this compilation, but I suggest reading the Chicks Ahoy saga over several months as the theme is singular skewering satires summed up by “A Bitch in Time” (Doranna Durgin).

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 26, 2010

Flaming Dove-Daniel Arenson

Flaming Dove
Daniel Arenson
Moonclipse, Sep 15 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780986602825

It was supposed to end quickly with the victor obvious, but Armageddon turned into a draw as the legions of Hell led by ruler Beelzebub and the armies of Heaven led by Archangel Michael fight for every inch of land; a sort of WWI trench warfare. Humans have become constant collateral damage with the population now at about one million and dwindling. The earth is in ruins although the battles continue. Into that horrific stalemate Laila arrives.

A hybrid, Laila is half demon and half angel. Her father Lucifer was killed by Beelzebub when he refused to allow his aid to marry his daughter. Laila is unable to survive in either Heaven or hell as Angel and Hel burn her. She teams up with Michael seeking a place where she can live. Her half-sister Bat-el, daughter of Gabriel, is a legion captain until Beelzebub captures her. She falls in live with the devil. Ironically he falls in love with the angel. Laila plans to invade Hell and cleanse if of hellfire even if it means combat with the devil and his new wife. Twenty-seven years of unrelenting combat, but the end of days seem near cur but who will win is in doubt.

Flaming Dove takes an intriguing spin on the more typical interpretations of Revelations as Daniel Arenson implies the New Testament is a form of propaganda written by one side to make them victorious. Additionally there is little to choses between the two combatant sides as each goes all out at any cost for victory. Michael is the action leader representing Heaven while Beelzebub is sort of his evil counterpart who contains some goodness. Laila is the wild card as she is a mix of the two enemies. Though God never intervenes (for that matter surfaces much), this remains a fascinating creative endless days’ thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Finding Destiny-Jean Johnson

Finding Destiny
Jean Johnson
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425238622

“Sundara”. When his abusive owner dies, dyara Chanson frees Eduour the Mandarite slave as the village lacks males since most have been deployed in battle.

“Guildara”. Arbran Knight Diplomat Sir Zeilas meets his former enemies the Guildarans led by Marta Grenspun.

“Aurul”. Guildaran Gabria Springreaver is the new envoy to Aurul where a strange prophecy abounds.

“Jenodan Isles”. Aurulean Royal Captain Ellet and Mita the pirate meet when he stalks her under royal command in the Jenodan Isles.

These super interrelated fantasies enhance the Sons of Destiny mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Angel at Dawn-Emma Holly

Angel at Dawn
Emma Holly
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239650

In 1956, B movie Hollywood director-producer Naomi “Nim” Wei is in Two Forks, Texas with her assistant Grace Michaels producing I Was a Teen-Age Vampire. Nim and Grace visit nearby rancher Christian Durand to ask him to take take the lead role. Both being Master vampires, though she is more experienced, Christian yells at Nim no way that is until he sees the visage of Grace. Five centuries ago his Grace died, but now he stares at his Grace, who works for the “Witch of Florence”. He agrees to the film only if Grace coaches him though she betrayed him.

Grace is confused by her reaction to Christian as she wants him in a way she never felt before. He knows Nim works fate like a master concerto, but wonders what is going on even as he wants Grace to remember her treachery though he still loves her. However, someone wants Grace dead and Christian assumes this is Nim with another of her convoluted diabolical plots.

This direct sequel to The Devil at Midnight is an engaging Upyr romantic suspense fantasy that vividly brings to life 1950s American when B-horror moves and Joe McCarthy found Communists in very pot and around every corner. The story line is fast-paced from the first time Christian saw her face in centuries until the final altercation with the killer. Although series fans need to read The Devil At Midnight to better understand references in Angel At Dawn, Emma Holly provides a charming spoof of her saga and the Eisenhower Era.

Bitten-Dan O’Brien

Dan O’Brien
iUniverse, Sep 16 2010, $17.95
ISBN: 9781450258470

FBI Agent Lauren Westlake traveled to the small northern Minnesota town of Locke on a working woman’s vacation. A recent death occurred nearby that defies logic as the mutilated body had the skin ripped off. The insane beast that committed the murder takes the skin back to a shack in the frozen woods and sews it onto his epidermis.

The Fed is not the only stranger in ton. Lauren meets Dominic at a bar and for the first time in what she thinks is forever she is attracted to someone. However, the case remains her top priority as more deaths have townsfolk up in arms. She meets Maude, a woman in a cottage in the woods, who gives Lauren a magical brew. The elixir opens her eyes into the past and she learns she deals with two males: a madman who wants to be a werewolf and a werewolf who wants to be a man. She must identify both to determine who the werewolf is and whether the “beast” is the psychopathic serial killer.

Dan O’Brien has written a chilling thriller that takes a unique spin on the werewolf legend. Lauren is a strong person who is also a resolute good law enforcement official. She may be a stranger, but she makes a difference in Locke because without her the situation would be much worse because no one can accept the evidence as it is outside of their logic’s comfort zone. Armchair readers will brave the frozen Northern Minnesota woods to learn who the title character of aptly named Bitten is.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Water Wars-Cameron Stracher

The Water Wars
Cameron Stracher
Sourcebooks Fire, Jan 1 2011, $16.99
ISBN: 9781402243691

The Water Wars devastated the United States which split into six nations in conflict with each other and Canada. The eco disaster is so great that Niagara Falls on both sides of the former boundary is bone dry. Children have become commodities to sell on the market as liquid finding slaves.

In Illinowa, the government Water Board Authority, the most powerful agency, distributes desalinated water to citizens. The chemical cleansed liquid leads to disease as the mother of young Vera and Will seems to be dying from the toxin. The kids meet Kai who seems to have an endless supply of fresh water. He explains he gets his water from his dad who knows the location of an underground river. When someone kidnaps Kai and his father, Vera and Will search for their new friend.

Cameron Stracher provides as strong cautionary tale based on the premise that in the near future the liquid wars will focus on water and not oil. The author’s harsh environment in which the polar caps are gone is so vivid, readers will feel constantly thirsty. Violence is prolific as fights on grand and small scales are the norm; think in terms of the range wars of the late nineteenth century, but on a global scale. Although none of the three teens are fully developed as the Stracher world overwhelms the cast, young adult readers will appreciate this engaging thriller.

Harriet Klausner

What So Proudly We Hailed-James Howard

What So Proudly We Hailed
James Howard
CreateSpace, Jul 2 2010, $12.00
ISBN: 9781453672433

While driving home with his son Brian, Jason Ribault sees the bright alien light in the distant sky and does not need to observe what follows to know the United States is under nuclear attack. The radio confirms what he thought happened.

Understanding what this means to America, Jason gathers up his family and sails on their boat to a deserted South Carolina barrier island. Cell phones fail so he turns to a short wave radio in which he learns the North Koreans launched the bombs and China invaded the rogue nation. With the electric grid failing, the USA grinds to a halt as the lawless takes over the streets. In the Arab world, a Messianic figure surfaces creating a regional Caliphate, which sends in the name of Allah people to turn America into a Muslim nation. Australia opens up its borders to Americans who can reach it. Jason and others wonder if they should flee from the Muslim influence, the riots and the worsening unbearable conditions.

With recent headlines about North Korea and the wealth of the Middle East elite who temporarily would lose a major customer, this tale, which seemed implausible a few months ago, suddenly appears frighteningly possible. Fast-paced and filled with action as the Ribault family are forced to hide in the salt marshes where they find other scared occupants, readers will enjoy this chilling thriller in which taking out the grid means take out America.

Harriet Klausner

Towers of Midnight-Brandon Sanderson

Towers of Midnight
Brandon Sanderson
Tor Book, Nov 2 2010, $29.99
ISBN: 9780765325945

Increasingly the seals that contain the Dark One in the shadows are rotting abetted by the evil minion. Soon barring a miracle the malevolence will be back and no Dragon appears capable of defeating the evil.

In Caemlyn Mat Cauthon hides at the same time trying to find a way to breach the Tower of Ghenjei even as the golam still haunts him. At about the same time Perrin Aybara faces the Slayer in the dream and tries to ignore the haunting murder of two Children of the Light, which he knows will come back on him. Meanwhile Egwene the Amyrlin Seat seeks Messana the Forsaken, who hides amidst the White Tower sisters. All three face personal confrontations even the Wheel of Time moves in favor of the Dark One.

In his second book at the helm of the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (see The Gathering Storm), Brandon Sanderson does a terrific job of closing out several personal troubles that have been around seemingly for over a decade (our time). The author also appears to have set up the anticipated end of time finish. The story line is well written and fans will overall be pleased though there is a tendency towards dangling participles instead of dangling subplots. The key characters are fully developed yet they seem different from Mr. Jordan’s writings as unlike The Gathering Storm, Mr. Sanderson has clearly placed his stamp on Towers of Midnight.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Werewolf in Manhattan-Vickie Lewis Thompson

A Werewolf in Manhattan
Vickie Lewis Thompson
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232472

Paranormal romance author Emma Gavin writes novels starring werewolves. However, she becomes concerned when a fan begins sending her letters claiming he is a bona fide werewolf. Frightened by the disturbing correspondence, she obtains a bodyguard Aidan Wallace.

As heir to a powerful affluent Manhattan werewolf pack, Aidan was assigned as her bodyguard because his leaders fear Emma knows too much about their concealed species and that someone is betraying them by informing her with the facts. His hidden agenda is to learn how much she really knows. Aidan quickly concludes she is totally ignorant except for some lucky guesses. However, he has a new problem besides what she knows. Aidan is attracted to Emma who he risks his life to keep safe when she comes under attack from one of his kind. Torn between his love for her and his loyalty and love for his pack, Aidan has a complicated choice in which he will hurt someone; if not his Emma than his chosen bride and his family, but regardless definitely he knows himself.

This is an entertaining urban romantic fantasy with some intrigue caused by inter and intra pack rivalries. The story line is fast-paced in the boudoir and out as the seemingly star-crossed lovers cannot get enough of each other. Although the ending is abrupt and facilitates issues too easily, readers will enjoy Vickie Lewis Thompson taking a bite or three out of the Big Apple.

Harriet Klausner

Surrender to Darkness-Annette McCleave

Surrender to Darkness
Annette McCleave
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231932

In Japan Kiyoko Aishida is dying as the ancient relic the Veil is running out of energy; the Veil is all that has kept her alive to fight evil demons but once depleted in a few days she will be dead. Kiyoko actually has an option besides death; as she can choose to transcend.

She has made up her mind until she meets Jamie Murdoch the soul gatherer, who reports directly to Death. His mission is to retrieve the Veil that destroys demons. However, the simple task proves difficult because whenever he touches Kiyoko, he turns into a raging maniac lusting for her; she might be near death but feels as intense. Both are surprised by their attraction and reaction so agree to test their need, which amplifies exponentially with each sexual contact. Jamie must decide between his assignment and his beloved, as arrogant Azazel the fallen angel ignores the Scottish soul gatherer as a nonentity when he comes for Kiyoko’s blood and the Veil.

The third Soul Gatherer romantic urban fantasy (see Bound By Darkness and Drawn Into Darkness) is an entertaining character driven thriller as the lead couple struggle with love, a nasty high rung fallen angel demon, and their respective missions. Fast-paced readers will relish the fascinating, multifaceted and fresh McCleave mythos, but focus is needed as the mythology is dramatically different than the usual gathering of the angelic and demonic suspects. Fans will enjoy surrendering to the “darkness” of Ms. McCleave’s vision.

Harriet Klausner

Frostfire-Lynn Viehl

Lynn Viehl
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451413024

Lilah is a Kyndred whose genetically enhanced DNA has made her a target of the GenHance biotech company; they became aware of her when she recued kids from a bear. The firm believes Lilah contains super DNA that enables her to communicate with animals. They want her DNA dead or alive. They drug her and when she regains consciousness she is handcuffed to an apparently dying man, but she heals Walker, a veteran of the Afghan war.

He vows to keep his savior safe. However, Lilah has another stalker wanting her apparently dead. This person is a Kyndred like she is. Lilah thought she could trust her “species” but by the time she learns the truth that an insider betrayal leaves her at risk, she may be too late to react.

The third Kyndred romantic urban fantasy (see Shadowlight and Dreamveil) is a fabulous thriller as Lilah wonders if the trite maxim no good deeds goes unpunished is true; the truth is much more complicated as she and walker will learn. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans of the series will relish this exciting entry while wondering who is the traitor.

Harriet Klausner

Demon Marked-Anna J. Evans

Demon Marked
Anna J. Evans
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451232106

Emma Quinn was Demon Marked as a child. To survive, Emma gains sustenance from the life forces of others. She chooses victims who are abusive and cruel to others.

In the wee hours of the morning at the Demon’s Breath bar and Grill south of the 14th Street barricade in Manhattan, Emma feeds off of a Death Ministry gang member, but he dies probably by her siphoning away too much of his life force. The gang comes after her with a vendetta as no one lives after killing one of their members. She flees hoping her sister Sam’s Conti Mafiosi in-laws will help her. Their lawyer Andre Conti offers his assistance, but she has never trusted outsiders yet also is attracted to the attorney who does not believe in her powers.

The second Demon Bound romantic urban fantasy is a terrific thriller that has a different type of intensity but contains the same level of passion as Sam’s starring role in Shadow Marked. Emma and Andre are polar opposites who deal with the gangbangers and their attraction. Fast-paced from the opening over siphoning until the final altercation, fans will enjoy roaming Anna J. Evans’ dark vision of lower Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

Apocalypse of the Dead-Joe McKinney

Apocalypse of the Dead
Joe McKinney
Pinnacle, Nov 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786023592

After the hurricanes destroyed much of Houston including the refineries, chemicals were released into the atmosphere, on the ground and in the water. A virus developed in the toxic soup. Those who caught it became zombie like creatures who feasted on uninfected human flesh. A barrier was created to keep in the infected and the uninfected who unfortunately were trapped with the monsters. The authorities have standing orders to kill anyone trying to breach the barrier.

A daring group of uninfected survivors slip through the quarantine zone and head for Florida. However, one of them actually carries the virus, but has not shown the disease. By the time they reach The Sunshine State, they are all infected. They spread the disease rather quickly so that the authorities cannot contain the horrid pandemic that crosses the country. In North Dakota, Preacher Jasper forms a community that must conform to his rigid code based on his strict beliefs or face the consequences of zombie fever; some bow but some like retired US Marchsl Ed Moore choose to fight.

Apocalypse of the Dead is a taut roller coaster thriller with plenty chills, spills, and terror. The authorities were so over confident in their conviction that the monsters could not escape they developed no contingency plans; their cockiness led to the pandemic and left it up to pockets of people to find ways to survive as the Preacher and the marshal did in diverse ways as the zombies are on the top of the food chain on the verge of dominance. Fans of zombie mania will appreciate Joe McKinney’s apocalypse now.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Fair Succubi-Jill Myles

My Fair Succubi
Jill Myles
Pocket, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
OSBN: 9781439188194

Noah the fallen angel stuns his lover Jackie Brighton the fallen archeologist turned succubus with a personal question. Before she can react the angelic Serim Council take the pair into their midst giving Jackie a chance to figure out to respond; though she believes the Angels’ action is a form of house arrest.

Meanwhile her BFF Remy has lost control of her demon who takes control. Jackie flees the Serim Council only to find her former lover Zane the vampire wants her. Confused as ever, Jackie wonders which hunk she digs more to scratch her Itch, whether she has to choose as each brings different assets, and what to do about her BFF.

This amusing lighthearted urban fantasy continues the jocular escapades of Jackie who knows from itching and scratching that Succubi Like It Hot, and her companions. The story line is humorously fast-paced as Jackie, her two lovers and her BFF struggle with all sorts of tsuris under heaven and hell. Sub-genre fans will enjoy a stay in the Myles universe where Gentlemen (and readers) Prefer Succubi.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Taken by the Others-Jess Haines

Taken by the Others
Jess Haines
Zebra, Jan 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420111880

Elder vampire Max Carlyle has waited for centuries to find a tool to avenge a grudge he holds against a long time peer Alec Royce. Max believes he has the ideal expendable pawn in human private investigator Shiarra Waynest who has a legal obligation to Alec. Max kidnaps Shiarra and directs two of his fledglings to dine on her blood.

Royce rescues Shiarra from further abuse. However, Shiarra knows the vampire will continue to stalk her unless she acts as she refuses to wait for anyone, even Alec the vampire, to rid her of this pestilence. She plans to stalk her stalker to kill him although even she knows her charms and her allies enhancing her chances are probably not close to the power level of Mad Max.

The third H&W Investigation urban fantasy (see Hunted by the Others and Speak of Temptation; part of the Nocturnal anthology) is a great entry. From the opening scene when a human purebred member of the White Hats points a gun into her face and never slows down as she becomes the pawn in a vampire war and with the White Hats. With vampires, werewolves, White Hat humans and mages seem to all want several pints of Shairra’s blood.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets of the Demon-Diana Rowland

Secrets of the Demon
Diana Rowland
Daw, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406523

Although she has doubts about wasting her time watching over lead singer Lida Moran and her band Ether Madhouse, Beaulac, Louisiana Police Detective Kara Gillian a demon summoner does so anyway. When a golem tries to snatch Lida, Kara and FBI agent Ryan Kristoff prevent the abduction but also know a supernatural essence threatens the singer.

Kara realizes how wrong her original assertion was when band members are murdered. Kara and Ryan team up to keep Lida safe and learn why someone is killing the band of Ether Madhouse and tried to kidnap the singer. Meanwhile Kara struggles with her summoning relationship with Demonic Lord Rhyzkahl and her attraction to Ryan while she soon concludes her whine seems minor to what she has just learned.

This is an excellent police procedural urban fantasy that like its two previous arcane forensic investigations (see Mark of the Demon and Blood of the Demon) stars a terrific lead protagonist who holds together the merging of science and magic in a whodunit. Kara is fabulous as the focus of the case and of relationships with the Fed and with the demon as the Bayou heats up with another magical mystery tour that will take readers away from the mundane to the enjoyable world of Diana Rowland.

Harriet Klausner

Surrender to the Will of the Night-Glen Cook

Surrender to the Will of the Night
Glen Cook
Tor, Nov 23 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765306869

The Grail Empire and for that matter the world is undergoing an apocalyptic climate change. Temperatures are dropping rapidly as winter has become much harsher and lengthier. Water levels are shrinking to dangerously low levels; partly because the tundra is expanding covering increasingly the northern mountain ranges.

Piper Hecht has the uncanny skill of being able to kill gods. His knowledge is not a god send as he has enemies seeking revenge, adversaries wanting him dead before he kills them, and family and friends who try to abuse his ability. His sister Heris and their ancestor the Ninth Unknown Cloven Februaren plead with him to join their fight to prevent the dark god Kharoulke the Windwalker from returning. The insane Grail Empire Empress Katrin demands that he lead as the Commander of the Righteous Army a crusade into the Holy Lands against the Pramans. Besides their demands and those of power grabbers, Piper fears their world is dying as The Wells of Power is weakening and the malevolent Instrumentalities from the Time Before Time are returning

The third The Instrumentalities of the Night (see The Tyranny of the Night and The Lord of the Silent Kingdom) is a super entry as the overarching plot moves forward including ending notable threads while setting up the next thriller. The story line predominately is owned by Piper so the audience mostly sees the cataclysmic events and the political misdirected or inactive reaction through his mind filter although there is enough insight from support players to provide a somewhat balance. However, the key to why this tale and the previous two are great is Glen Cook skewers politicians but never loses sight of the big picture apocalyptic end of days. This is a great complicated series in which newcomers need to start at the beginning to see how fast the plot has cooked.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Silver Zombie-Carole Nelson Douglas

Silver Zombie
Carole Nelson Douglas
Juno (Pocket), Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439167816

Delilah Street has faced down several nasty souls while residing in Las Vegas. However, her next assignment takes her to the most dangerous place in the world, not Dorothy’s Kansas but Delilah’s Kansas where she comes from. Her boyfriend Ric Montoya and her wolfhound Quicksilver accompany her as she drives Dolly her mintage Caddy.

Delilah promised she would investigate her childhood to learn her past and confront it and those involved. Ric’s former FBI friend Leonard Tallgrass greets the trio as he wants to question Delilah about a cow mutilation story she investigated just before leaving town. They soon become entangled in an inquiry into who is using zombies and why with the silver road leading to a house of mirrors and Lilith a mirror image of Delilah.

The fourth Delilah Street urban fantasy (see Dancing with Werewolves and Vampire Sunrise) takes a rural trek home that affirms you can go home, but leaving alive is a bit more difficult. Silver Zombie is much more personal than the previous entries as Delilah and readers learn much about her past. With a nod to the Emerald City and zombie fever, this is a terrific tongue in cheek thriller as Lilah sums it up nicely when she considers Maria the robot from the film Metropolis is a poor thing virgin and will remain a poor thing virgin forever.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dark Waters-Alex Prentiss

Dark Waters
Alex Prentiss
Bantam, Dec 28 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9780553592986

In Madison, Wisconsin the “Lady of the Lake” Rachel Matre recuperates from her harrowing experience in which the lunatic Arlin Korbus kidnapped and tattooed her before she escaped (see Night Tides). Diner owner Rachel heals rather quickly because of her link with the friendly spirits of Lake Mendota though doubt lingers in her mind because she almost failed her mortal and supernatural friends.

Murder near the lake disrupts the spirits. Additionally, Rachel’s recovery stops abruptly when an evil spirit arrives. The malevolence cuts her off from her spirit allies and the tattoo has her craving for what she should avoid. As she tries to learn what is going on and whether her friends in Lake Mendota are okay, Rachel obtains help from Ethan Walker. With time running out, she fears for the safety of the townsfolk, the spirits of the lake, Ethan and lastly herself as an ancient deadly mystery has surfaced near Lake Mendota.

This is a delightful aqua urban fantasy starring a wonderful woman still recovering from the trauma she suffered in Night Tides, which the large tattoo serves as a reminder. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Rachel’s link to the water spirits is abruptly severed and never slows down as she obsesses to do the right thing by them and the people of Madison, but also finds herself battling with dark desire. Fans will enjoy this engaging thriller wondering whether the now Dark Waters will become Rachel’s grave.

Harriet Klausner

Captive Soul-Anna Windsor

Captive Soul
Anna Windsor
Ballantine, Dec 28 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9780345513908

In the battle of Manhattan Camille Fitzgerald the fire sibyl and her quad defeated Rakshasa leader Strada and his troops. When she was about to end the current conflict by killing Strada, Camille stops suddenly. Something enigmatic occurred in seemingly a nanosecond. The sibyl senses that New York’s Occult Crimes Unit agent John Cole’s soul, which was inside of Duncan, somehow moved into the body of her enemy Strada; though Camille believes that is impossible.

Knowing he is marked for death at first sight, Cole searches for Rakshasa alone. He also struggles to keep the essence of Strada trapped and his desire for Camille hidden. Meanwhile Strada’s brother Tarek has taken control with new allies including zombie units to destroy the sibyls.

The latest tale in the Dark Crescent Sisterhood urban romantic fantasy second “Captive“ saga (see the “Bound” entries for the first series and Captive Spirit ) is a fabulous thriller due to the location and the dynamic star-crossed lead couple. Camille and John are in love, but he fears he is losing control to his hellish enemies and she loathes that the visage of her beloved is that of her despicable enemy and not that of Cole. With the war always there and the plight of the protagonists, Anna Windsor will have another captive book-bound audience.

Harriet Klausner

My Immortal Assassin-Carolyn Jewel

My Immortal Assassin
Carolyn Jewel
Forever, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446563864

In San Francisco, thanks to Tigran the fiend, Grayson Spencer escapes from the captivity of the malevolent human mage Christophe dit Menart. Durian, a former mageheld fiend, works for Nikodemus the warlord as an assassin and protector of mages including Christophe. When he finds the hiding Gray, Durian is shocked with what she is.She is an enigmatic with duel magic “inherited” from a fiend and from Christophe.

Durian offers Gray a deal that she considers carefully as she trusts no one. He will train her on the use of her newly acquired magic, but she must pledge her loyalty to him. Gray has one personal vow she plans to adhere to; killing Christophe, but if she succeeds she will destroy the already shaky peace that her liege is struggling to maintain.

The latest “My” mage and fiend romantic urban fantasy (see My Wicked Enemy and My Forbidden Desire) is a terrific thriller as love wars with duty and avarice; and not just for the lead couple. Fast-paced from the moment Gray and Durian meet on the streets of San Francisco, fans will wonder whether love truly conquers all or the thirst for power will prove much more powerful.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mercy Blade-Faith Hunter

Mercy Blade
Faith Hunter
Roc, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463722

Her name is Jane Yellowrock and she is a skinwalker; the last of her kind. To survive she is a rogue vampire slayer. She shares her soul with Beast and they communicate with each other. When Jane shapeshifts she usually turns to Beast, but she can change into any animal she chooses. Now the Weres have gone public and Jane works exclusively for the Blood Master of New Orleans, Leo Pellissier. Leo hates werewolves and when a clan of weres arrives to stake a claim in Leo’s territory, he orders Jane to come to his house.

He wants his security systems and peoples to be at full alert which is Jane’s department. Leo also wants her to meet someone near a pub to tell home to get out of town. When she arrives at the spot she notices the werewolves are there. She meets Girrard who once worked for Leo as his Mercy Blade, but Leos almost killed him when he tried to kill Leo’s insane daughter. Not interested in a chat, Jane prepares for the gala where the African werewolves try to make peace with Leo and his vampires. The American werewolves get past the sentries and attack. By the end of the confrontation, the hall is flowing with blood. Making matters worse, Rick, Jane’s lover is undercover and she realizes that he is having sex with a werewolf as part of his job as a police officer. The Weres plans another assault on Leo’s complex and Jane is pleased when the carnage ends and peace is restored. Now if she can only find Rick who still remains missing.

The third Yellowrock urban fantasy (see Blood Cross and Skinwalker) is great thriller starring a flawed heroine whose childhood memories are nightmares and gets upset with the slaughters but does her job while dealing with various supernatural species. Girrard adds an enigmatic element as Jane wonders what his tie to her boss is. Readers will appreciate Mercy Blade as paranormal blood flows in the Big Easy.

Harriet Klausner

The Runestaff-Michael Moorcock

The Runestaff
Michael Moorcock
Tor, Dec 7 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765324764

Eternal Champion the Duke of Koln Dorian Hawkmoon and his loyal friend Huilliam D’Averc travel by sea to Europe on a vessel given to the pair by the grateful citizens of Nawleeen. The courageous pair stops at D'Nark as the faithful Servants of the Runestaff to continue their efforts to prevent world domination by the Granbretan Dark Empire.

Following their successful layover, Hawkmoon and D’Averc prepare for the return to Europe. Each knows the final battle against the Granbretan is coming while both realize failure means their deaths and the end of world as they know it.

This is a reprint of the final History of the Runestaff Eternal Champion fantasy series. The story line is fast-paced as Hawkmoon understands that though he prefers otherwise and is not egotistical about his lot, he is the only being in the way of the Granbretan world domination. Elric fans will enjoy the saga of another Eternal Champion. However, to appreciate how far the beleaguered hero has come in his quest, readers should peruse the other tales in chronic logical order (see The Jewel in the Sky, The Mad God’s Amulet and The Sword of the Dawn) as The Runestaff can somewhat stand alone but is better enhanced by it predecessors.

Harriet Klausner

The Battle For Commitment Planet-Graham Sharp Paul

The Battle For Commitment Planet
Graham Sharp Paul
Del Rey, Nov 23 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345513717

On August 3 2401 Universal Date, Federated Worlds’ Commander Michael Helfort suffers from mental anguish that the doctors say caused psychosomatic pain. His executive officer Junior Lieutenant Jayla Ferreira informs him he has been negligent inhis duty. The captain of three Dreadnaught warships (Redwoods, Red River and Redress) explains to his XO that he is shook by a message he received from Hammer Worlds’ Colonel Hartspring. The enemy explained to Helfort he has a choice to ether surrender to him on Scoble’s World by October 1 or the woman he loves and held captive by this odious war criminal will be turned over to a rapid depraved unit of DocSec soldiers to gang rape her before she is executed.

Jayla insists they should assault the Hammer’s prime base Commitment Planet to cut at the heart of the vicious enemy and perform a “dirt rescue” of Anna Cheung and other POWs. Helfort feels energized as he gives the order to his Dreadnaught crews to deploy as he will lead the raid with one additional personal mission to rip off the head of Hartspring.

The IV “Battle For …” in the Helfort’s War series is an exhilarating military science fiction thriller that pulls no punches when it comes to armed hostilities; as Hartspring personalized the war after he and his squad got their butt battered by the Dreadnaughts. Commitment Planet is fast-paced from the opening battle sequence even before Jayla’s lecture on cutting corners dangerously to the confrontation that started as a Long Shot” Hail Mary. Fans of the series will enjoy this testosterone (to include the female soldiers) outer space tale as Helfort faces hell supported by courageous loyal men and women to save Anna and put a knife into the gut of the enemy.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Of Truths and Beasts-Barb Hendee, J.C. Hendee

Of Truths and Beasts
Barb Hendee, J.C. Hendee
Roc, Jan 4 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780451463753

Wynn Hygeorht accompanied by her vampire-protector Chane Andraso and the elven wolf Shade pursues her search for the Forgotten History. Having found lost texts on her trek, Wynn returns to her guild to peruse the treasures that offer a small window to the Forgotten History. To her ire, the Guild leadership takes away the documents and sends her on a wasted mission.

Obstinate and resolute, Wynn and her two traveling companions seek the long lost stronghold of Baalate Seatt, home of the Dwarves. There she hopes to locate the Orb of Spirit used by the Ancient Enemy in the war that became part of the Forgotten History. Stonewalker Ore-Locks, who hides the fact that his ancestor was the mass murderer Lord of Slaughter, joins them on the quest while Sau’ ilahk the wraith wants to prevent them from succeeding on their search.

The latest quest fantasy entry in the Noble Dead Saga Series Two (see In Shade and Shadow, and Through Stone and Sea) is a fabulous thriller due to the strong yet vulnerable heroine who holds the story line together. Action-packed once the frustrated Wynn leaves the stifling Guild, fans will want to join the searchers as they seek an apparent ancient weapon of mass destruction (one of the five orbs), but also wonder why the urgency to bring such a killing device potentially into usage; pondering whether the wraith is right. A super entry, it behooves newcomers to at least read the previous two novels in this series as so much goes on the in the world of the binary star Hendee.

Harriet Klausner

The Soul Mirror-Carol Berg

The Soul Mirror
Carol Berg
Roc, Jan 4 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 9780451463746

Anne de Vernase is traumatized with what has happened to her family. Her father committed treason using illegal sorcery when the natural sciences currently prevail at court; her mother unable to cope went insane; her brother lingers in prison; and her magical using sister was murdered. Although a believer in the natural sciences, she is unsure how she will survive the debacle but feels good about one thing that she lacks the magical ability that led to the destruction of her family.

However, in the royal city of Merona, Anne is stunned when the Sabria King Philippe’s secretary Duplais informs her that she will serve as a handmaid to the queen as she assumed the de Vernase name meant poison. She also concludes she must save her family, but not sure how. She hears her father whisper to her for help but she has never been trained in the use of sorcery. Still Anne knows she must start with her sister’s homicide though the inquiry will take her to realms she preferred remained in her nightmares, but she cannot avoid it even though her world is collapsing into sink holes of sorcery.

The sequel to The Spirit Lens is an enjoyable otherworld fantasy that has an Age of Reason historical feel to the story line. Anne is a super lead protagonist while Dante the queen’s sorcerer is a grumbling cantankerous counterpart to the optimistic naturalist. Although the story line starts slow and remains as such for a third of the novel as Merona’s war between science and magic is shaped for the reader, fans will want to accompany the reluctant heroine as she learns there is much more than science in the wonderful world of Carol Berg.

Harriet Klausner

Seducing the Vampire-Michele Hauf

Seducing the Vampire
Michele Hauf
Harlequin HQN, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775385

In 1785 in Paris, Constantine de Salignac the vampire is attracted to the bloodborn vampiress Viviane LaMourette. However, she rejects him as she does other males who desire her; as she refuses to be under the domination of anyone while her patron Henri Chevalier keeps her safe. Obsessed with her Constantine is irate with her refusal.

When her patron is murdered, Constantine decides that offering her his patron protection will enable him to possess Viviane. However, hybrid vampire-werewolf Rhys Hawke blames Constantine for the death of his beloved. He plans to take out his revenge by seducing Constantine’s beloved. Instead his scheme fails when he falls in love with the pawn he was going to discard; Viviane reciprocates his affection. Raging Constantine enchants Viviane while informing Rhys his beloved died. Over two centuries later, Rhys hears rumors of a Snow White vampires buried underneath the Paris streets; he wonders if this is true and could this be his Viviane.

Seducing the Vampire is a very dark entertaining thriller as Viviane is trapped in a triangle of death. The three key characters are fully developed with the sibling rivalry so ugly each brother has their soul filled with loathing. Viviane is terrific as the trapped Snow White caught in the fratricidal war as only one can survive.

Harriet Klausner

Tempest’s Legacy-Nicole Peeler

Tempest’s Legacy
Nicole Peeler
Orbit, Jan 3 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316056601

Half-selkie Jane True know she is fortunate to be alive after her last incident with a part of the ruling Alfar (see Tracking the Tempest) that want hybrids dead. She vows to never again be caught unaware or unskilled as she did when she took a Bostonian timeout. Thus Jane has diligently trained on the use of magic while life in Rockabill has been serene; her biggest problem is she throws fireballs like a girl.

However, Jane suffers a personal setback when barghest Anyan informs her that her mother who vanished ages ago was found murdered. Jane vows to find her killers who apparently have been conducting evil experiments on the supernatural essences. However, in a short time, Jane has made enemies who look at those she loves as a means to destroy the upstart.

Jane remains true to herself while struggling with the knowledge of her mother’s murder as she had hoped they would one day they would be together. Her vow to avenge her mom’s death leads her into a new Tempest Rising as she makes enemies who have no qualms about collateral damage to her loved ones as they did to her mother. Fans will enjoy Jane True’s third urban fantasy as she is a delightful “original” character.

Harriet Klausner

Enchanted No More-Robin D. Owens

Enchanted No More
Robin D. Owens
Luna, Jan 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803231

Over fifteen years ago during a magic ritual, Jindesfarne “Jenni” Mistweaver lost her family due to a deadly assault. Since the tragedy that traumatized her, Jenni, overwhelmed by survivor guilt, has buried herself among the humans planning to one day die amongst the mortals.

However, Drifmar the Lightfolk dwarf arrives at her porch in Denver to inform her that we have problems; she responds you have problems as her family died saving the Lightfolk when Jenni and brother Rothly survived but he blamed herand jenni elt the same way about the tragedy. Jenni makes Drifmar vanish, but the two brownies who accompanied him remain behind. Reluctantly, Jenni learns her sibling has vanished so to find him she accepts a quest that the faery folk demand she undergo if she wants her brother back alive. Her former lover Aric joins Jenni who soon finds she fights against evil that wants her soul.

In this exciting mixed urban-quest fantasy, much of the action occurs on the other side where readers learn of a complicated caste system. The story line is fast-paced and the supernatural species seem real. Although understandably so with the family tragedy that occurred while performing their duty, Jenni whines a bit much (should have been in Green Bay where she could wear a cheesy hat), which in fairness comes across as genuine. Still overall aptly titled Enchanted No More is an enchanting quest fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Earl of Darkness-Alix Rickoff

Earl of Darkness
Alix Rickoff
Pocket, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439170366

In 1815 in Wales, Maelodor, the last of the surviving Nine of the inner circle learns that the Kilronan’s Diary he thought destroyed still exists. Filled with rage and anger as the last head of the Hydra, he vows revenge for his forced hiding in a mountain cave. To achieve this he must obtain the diary.

In Dublin, Lady Catriona O’Connell struggles to survive residing in the slums and how to eat. She is hired to steal Kilronan’s Diary from the Earl of Kilronan. However, the Earl Aidan Douglas catches Cat in the act of the theft in his library. He immediately recognizes his guest is a hybrid Fey and human Other. Aidan controls his desire for Cat as he needs her skill to read the mystical language entries contained in the diary that his late father possessed before he was murdered. Thus he offers her a deal: she can go to jail or translate the tome. Cat tediously translates the enigmatic scribbling, she and Aidan fall in love. However, all hell breaks loose starting with a demon demanding the diary as the pair is caught in the midst of the Kilronan legacy.

This is an exciting action-packed opening act of an entertaining Regency romantic fantasy with ties to King Arthur. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the raging Maelodor plots his vengeful return from deep inside the remote Cambrian Mountains and never slows down although most of the plots set up future tales. Fans will enjoy the Earl of Darkness while awaiting further escapades in the Kilronan saga by the lead couple as Cat and Aidan make a fun pairing.

Harriet Klausner

The Spirit Eater-Rachel Aaron

The Spirit Eater
Rachel Aaron
Orbit, Dec 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780316069083

Professional thief Eli Monpress the charm wizard decides he and his two partners, Josef Liechten the swordsman with a magic sword and Nico the demonseed who stalks the shadows earned some R&R after their successful venture in the impenetrable Duke of Gaol citadel (see The Spirit Rebellion). His plan is to spend money and have fun, but not be auspicious.

However, a friend Pele Slorn begs Eli to find her missing father Ferdinand the Head Shaper and Guildmaster of the Shaper Clans. Although he could use a respite, Eli agrees to search for him and his two companions accede to delay their relaxation to assist him.

Meanwhile Nico struggles to control the demon that lives within her. She fears the voice is taking over her head so she tries to suppress it. However, their quest to find Pele’s dad needs Nico’s demonic generated power so either she releases the dynamo for the sake of her friends or deny the existence of the Spirit Eater she fears is destroying her identity.

The latest Monpress Spirit fantasy (The Spirit Thief) is a super tale as the three thieves search for a missing shaper wondering how to find someone who can change shapes and may not want to be found especially with the Lord of Storms, the League and demons involved. The story line is action-packed from the moment Pele pleads with Eli and never slows down until the final Monpress-caused altercation. However, even with Eli at his outrageously charming thieving best, what makes this a super tale is the internal conflict within Nico as the demon inside her battles for control with her essence in a sort of fantasy version of dissociative identity disorder.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vampyr?-Kevin D. Randle

Kevin D. Randle
Five Star, Jan 5 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149214

Reporter Tom Johnson shoots Romanian vampiress Linda Miller in the forehead. Almost immediately after he fires the gun, cops arrive. He explains to the police that Linda was about to bite into the jugular vein of his unconscious girlfriend, Sarah Hartwell.

As the police arrest him for murder, Tom pleads with the police officers to burn Miller’s corpse so she can never come back as he insists this is the best way to destroy the vampire virus that infected her. Police captain Steve Mitchell scorns Tom's fantasy as he assumes the culprit is either seeking an insanity plea or trying to destroy the evidence. Thus Mitchell is shocked when the coroner steals Linda's body, but instead of a corpse, she has returned to “life” while the pathologist is found dead.

This is an engaging paranormal police procedural due ironically to the lively Linda although Tom is the star. Whereas the villainess is a fresh and perky vampire, the hero is somewhat stereotypical. With a nod to McGavin’s Kolchak the Night Stalker original movie, fans will enjoy this Vampyr? thriller anticipating a “crash” between Miller and Johnson.

Harriet Klausner

Night Star-Alyson Noel

Night Star
Alyson Noel
St. Martin’s, Nov 16 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312590987

Haven believes former best friend Ever killed her boyfriend Roman. She vows revenge anyway she can. In fact she considers the best avenue to get back at Ever is an assault on her enemy’s boyfriend Damen. Her plan is simple: reveal the dark secrets to Ever that Damon hides from one of Ever’s past lives.

When she learns the truth, Ever is caught between a rock and a hard place. She has difficult decisions to make. She must decide whether to destroy her former BFF turned adversary with a one way eternal ticket to Shadowland and whether she feels her relationship with Damen supersedes his secrets.

The fifth Immortals young adult fantasy (see Shadowland and Dark Flame) is more personal as the story line moves forward the overarching theme that had slowed down a bit due to the heroine having psychological doubts that she did not have before she erred. Although Damen’s dark secret does not come close to the earth shattering end of the universe, fans of the saga will enjoy Ever's latest adventure as she struggles between her former BFF who she still loves as a sister and her beloved Immortal soul mate.

Harriet Klausner

The Kensei-Jon F. Merz

The Kensei
Jon F. Merz
St. Martin's Griffin, Jan 18 2011, $14.99
ISBN 9780312662233

Needing rest from his last lethal balancing assignment (see The Syndicate), vampiric secret agent Lawson travels to Japan in to get away from it all. Part of his stay is to attend an ultra advanced martial arts training at the dojo he always visits when in country. He also anticipates a tryst with former KGB assassin Talya.

However, he immediately alienates the Yakuza when he prevents a murder from happening on a train. He also assists Talya in her quest to eliminate an organ-trafficking ring. Kensei the albino vampire crime lord is outraged with the foreigner’s interference with his plan for world dominance by creating a loyal army of super soldiers. He plans to dine on Lawson’s blood while Lawson plans to tear Kensei’s head off.

Over the top of James Bond’s Moonraker adventure, the Kensei is an exciting urban fantasy thriller starring two macho fangsters ready to rip the guts (and jugular) of one another. Tongue in cheek while teeth aggressively are showing, sub-genre fans will anticipate the High Noon over Tokyo confrontation between the Balance undercover enforcer and the wannabe world dominator.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Lost Gate-Orson Scott Card

The Lost Gate
Orson Scott Card
Tor, Jan 11 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780765326577

His ancestry comes from another world, but they were sent here in exile. Danny North knows his DNA flows with ages of mages, but does not think much about it. That changes when powers surface that scare him. He is a gatemage.

Danny knows he can open a portal for his race to return to their home world. However, he fears revealing his skill to anyone as gatemages are not a longevity occupation; as the squabbling banished clans prefers the peace over going home; this means executing gatemages before they cause havoc. Danny flees before he is murdered. He finds a temporary shelter and begins experimenting with opening the Great G for the first time in fourteen hundred years.

At the same time on the planet Westil, Wad the gatemage falls in love only to be betrayed. He struggles with his lost memory as he has poor recollection of how he arrived at this remote castle.

The Lost Gate is an entertaining young adult fantasy with a nod to Stargate, but with a Surf Ninja crowned prince different spin. The story line loaded with action but with some exciting subplots that seem to add little to the prime theme of a beleaguered “antihero” teen Danny struggling to survive something he did not desire; becoming a gatemage.

Harriet Klausner

Catacombs-Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Del Rey, Dec 7 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345513786

The Barque Cats: and their human Cat Persons bond in an almost mystical way. Each and their human seem to instinctively know what the other wants as if reading minds. Mysterious feline Pshaw-Ra somehow changes the dynamic that leads to a telepathic link between Chester the Barque Cat and his Cat Person; other cats soon follow.

A plague leads to the government order to destroy those considered the carriers, which brings unwanted focus on the Barque Cats. Pshaw-Ra opens up a mousehole to carry the Barque cats and their Cat Persons on the starship Ranzo to Mau where he plans to breed the newcomers with his felines; the offspring will rule the universe. However, he finds problems at home with daughter Nefure claiming the throne while his other daughter Renpet fleeing into the catacombs beneath the Mauan desert. Pshaw-Ra is a target of scorn while something dormant for almost as old as the universe has awakened with a thirst for the light starting with cats for breakfast.

This is a fun feline frolic as the Barque Cats and their Cat Persons try to save the universe from the Mau residents. Faster than the speed of light, readers will enjoy the escapades on Mau although wonder why everyone especially the off-worlders seem emotionally detached from Pshaw-Ro’s scheme. Still this is an entertaining human-feline outer space thriller (see Catalyst).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Fallen Blade-Jon Courtenay Grimwood

The Fallen Blade
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Orbit, Jan 27 2011, $ 14.99
ISBN: 9780316074391

In 1407, di Millioni Family descendants of Marco Pole (see End of the World Blues) rule Venice. The city-state is powerful on the Italian Peninsular but has much stronger enemies across the continent from the expanding Ottoman, Byzantine and German Empires. Political finesse is needed but the Duke of Venice Marco IV is known as “Simpleton” for an obvious reason. His Uncle Prince Alonzo rules as the Regent supported by a guild of assassins and the alchemist Dr. Hightown Crow. Marco’s widowed mother Duchess Alexa abetted by her stregoi witch A'rial keeps the ambitious Regent under some restraint.

Alonzo arranges for Marco's fifteen year old cousin Lady Giulietta to marry King Janus of Cyprus in a strategically astute move to forge an alliance against the Ottomans. However, his plan is actually much more insidious than a simple pact. Giulietta will already be pregnant carrying a di Millioni offspring when she weds Janus; after their marriage she is to kill her spouse and his relatives.

Instead Giulietta vanishes. Alonzo dispatches his top agents to recover her. Inside the ship Quaja, guards find a chained naked teen; they free him only to watch Tycho escape using superhuman speed and strength. Later Master Assassin Atilo il Mauros observes Tycho drinking blood from someone the lad just killed. The aging Atilo knows he has found his replacement at a critical time when his team has been battered by German Prince Leopold’s werewolves.

This is a fascinating action-packed alternate historical fantasy. Even with the paranormal elements, Jon Courtenay Grimwood captures the intrigue that was so prevalent in early fifteenth century Venice especially at the top levels of leadership, which in turn makes the otherworldly segues seem genuine. With a delightful twist tying the strong subplots together, fans will appreciate this tense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Hell's Horizon-Darren Shan

Hell's Horizon
Darren Shan
Grand Central, Jan 5 2011, $19.99
ISBN: 9780446551731

The City is ruled by crime boss the Cardinal. Al "Algiers" Jeery works for the head mobster as a personal guard at Party Central. When Al’s new girlfriend Nic Hornyak is murdered in a hotel owned by the Cardinal, the fuming mob chief orders his loyal but stunned subordinate to investigate.

Al makes inquiries, which proves he knows nothing about Nic as her friends are weird and not in a nice eccentric way. He soon finds himself the target of blind Incan priests and the mysterious killing machine Paucar Wami, who assassinates without impunity as nobody dares go after him. Al fears he is a walking dead man with no escape as he believes he is next on the ultimate hit man’s list.

This reprint (under the name of Darren O'Shaughnessy in 2000) is a terrific parallel thriller to Procession of the Dead urban fantasy. Although there are major similarities between the stars of both tales especially their relationship to their respective “mentors”, fans will enjoy this twisting entry particularly the perfect killer Wami as Al learns the City is filled with all types of deadly snakes.

Harriet Klausner

Ghost Country-Patrick Lee

Ghost Country
Patrick Lee
Harper, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780061584442

In Washington D.C. Paige Campbell leaves a meeting with POTUS. Her motorcade drives away when a precise unit attacks them. Everyone accompanying Paige is killed. Before she is taken prisoner she manages to contact her partner at Tangent Bethany Stewart.

Stewart asks Travis Chase, who was involved in a Tangent operation (see Breach), to assist her in rescuing Campbell. She also informs him of a top secret essence that looks like a dark metallic cylindrical gizmo that opens a window into time. What has been seen is a forbidden future. Chase and Stewart believe POTUS or advisors close to the President were behind the assault as the timing was impeccable and though they want to save Campbell, the first priority is to save mankind.

This is a great action-packed science fiction tale that grips the audience from the opening cell phone call Campbell makes to her partner and never slows down as Tangent works a dangerous scenario in which the duet switches from mission recue Paige to save the world. Fast-paced at an incredible rate of speed, fans will not stop to ponder plausibility or a deep breath as Patrick Lee hooks the reader with his superb Ghost Country thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Youngest Templar: Orphan of Destiny-Michael P. Spradlin

The Youngest Templar: Orphan of Destiny
Michael P. Spradlin
Putnam, Oct 28 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780399247651

In 1191, Tristan of St. Albans continues his quest to complete the mission of the Holy Grail as assigned to him by Sir Thomas in Outremer (see Keeper of the Grail). Thanks in major part to his companions Robard, Maryam the Al Hasshashin and Angel arrive in Calais (see Trail of fate). However, the lunatic chasing them from the Holy Land Sir Hugh threatens to hang Maryam of Tristan fails to hand over the Grail. Tristan holds Queen Mother Eleanor hostage, but all seems lost. Although Tristan is hurt and unconscious, they manage to row across the Channel landing two days south of Dover where Sir Hugh awaits them.

With no place to go with the Grail except St. Albans in Scotland, they head there. However, ha harrowing trek upon arrival, they find the abbey burned to the ground. Only Brother Tuck lives. While Tristan and his allies ponder what to do with the Grail, Tuck gives him letters from the late King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Brother Rupert; the correspondence explains all Tristan as coveted knowing.

Orphan of Destiny is a fabulous fitting finish to a strong young adult late twelfth century thriller. Fast-paced with amazing action, readers will enjoy the final stretch of the quest as the trio struggles to find someone to trust with the Grail while Hugh continues to apply the pressure on them. Fans will enjoy the adventures of The Youngest Templar as he risks his life to complete the pledge he made to his mentor Sir Thomas in Outremer.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer-Lucy Weston

The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer
Lucy Weston
Gallery (Pocket), Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9781439190333

In 1559 as she is about to become Queen Elizabeth I, the soon to be monarch meets the ghost of her mom Anne Bolyn, whose only transgression that led to her execution was not bearing a male. Anne informs her daughter that besides ruling over England, she has a much more important mission of the Slayer that has come down though the generations of her ancestors as far back as King Arthur whose offspring from the wrong side of the sheets Mordred is a vampire.

Mordred visits the young Tudor to offer her a deal of a lifetime; in his terms that is already a millennium. Although Elizabeth knows what her late mom wanted from her, Mordred’s offer of immortality and ruling over England together for eternity are much more tempting than fighting his kind.

Similar in concept to Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith including a journal, The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer is made fresh by fascinating Mordred as he brings a delightfully evil option to the young Tudor Queen. Although one must wonder why Anne waited until Elizabeth is queen to tell her daughter of her heritage, fans will enjoy this fast-paced tale from the moment that Elizabeth is escorted to meet her mom’s ghost and never slowing down as Lucy Weston provides a fun alternative historical fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked City: the Scarlet Clan-Hideyuki Kikuchi

Wicked City: the Scarlet Clan
Hideyuki Kikuchi
Seven Seas (Tor), Nov 9 2010, $10.99
ISBN: 9780765323323

The Black Guard diligently watch the barrier between the mortal world and the demonic realm for breeches from the dark other side. In Roppongi, a Black Guard unit intervenes to end a summoning ritual at Torizaky Church. That night agent demon Makie informs her human lover agent Taki at his home in Hamadayama that she had a vision of the assault due to the hybrid child she carries. She also says their unborn told her that the summoning worked.

Apparently the summoning is to bring back the Shu demonic mob locked away in 978. This deadly clan prefers war between the two species and within each species. Over one millennium, they have waited for the mixed race baby to be born so that they can kill it and prevent the peace that many in both races see the infant represents. Starting with a psy phone call to possess and kill Taki, the Shus begin their direct attack on the pregnant demoness as they send snake handlers and fire demons to assassinate the female they consider traitor. Taki and the Black Guard struggle to protect his unborn and defeat an invincible demon mob that never loses.

The third Wicked City urban fantasy (see Black Guard and The Other Side) is a fabulous thriller that reads like a comic book novella with no images except those in the reader’s mind. Fast-paced from the onset, the focus of everyone is on the unborn hybrid. Although the key characters are severely underdeveloped, fans will enjoy the latest entry that stands alone, but obtain a better understanding of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s fantasy-horror Japan by reading the previous thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Red Harvest-Joe Schreiber

Star Wars: Red Harvest
Joe Schreiber
Del Rey, Dec 28 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345511171

On the cold desolate planet Odacer-Faustin, Sith Master Lord Darth Scabrous sets up a training program to teach the young the techniques in using the dark side of the Force. Rumors abound that the Sith Master searches for the right pupils who will fill his formula for immortality. From time to time a student vanishes. One of the trainees who disappears Wim Nickter finds himself surrounded by medical equipment. He will “donate” his blood to Scabrous. As he lays dying
The beginning of a plague begins

Scabrous seeks a Murkamis Orchid, which he receives when “talented botanist” Hestizo Trace “delivers “the plant to the Sith Lord. The sentient flower has bonded with Hestizo and needs her as does Scabrous. He abducts the human and takes her to his planet for she and her dark orchid are the final keys to his immortality formula. Her brother Jedi Knight Rojo traces her through the Force as he wants to save his sister, but finds himself facing an army of zombies and worse.

If someone told me when I saw the first Star Wars movie back in ancient times I would read a Star Wars novel with zombies and a Sith Lord acting like a vampire, I would have said no way. Yet, Joe Schreiber entertainingly brings zombie fever to the Force during the Old Republic era. Zo is a heroic person who fights to the end to prevent the zombie pathogen from turning pandemic. However this is Lord Darth Scabrous’ story as his insidious malevolence owns the exciting tale. Mr. Schreiber provides a face to evil as the Force turns to its darkest horror niches.

Harriet Klausner

A Hard Day's Knight-Simon R. Green

A Hard Day's Knight
Simon R. Green
Ace, Jan 4 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780441019700

In the Nightside, private investigator John Taylor obtains the legendary Excalibur though he is unsure why Arthur’s sword has been sent to him by the Post. He does not want the blade partly because he knows his heart is not worthy of such a weapon. On the other hand, he knows in Nightside he is much more worthy than probably everyone else. Still he believes the blade needs safe keeping. He feels strongly, though he would prefer not to, venture into London Proper to deliver Excalibur to the London Knights, the Last Defenders of Camelot.

However, John’s enemies wait in ambush to kill him, steal the legend, or preferably both. Although unsure how his adversaries know, John and his lover Shotgun Suzie, the bounty hunter Valkyrie, who when it comes to dead or alive always brings them in dead. They begin the deadly trek. They remain ignorant to the significance of what they do as his destiny is to prevent a potentially end of the world war and that a traitor amidst the London Knights has sold his soul to gain power by giving the sword to malevolent beasts.

This is a super refreshing Nightside entry starting with the double edged title as the quest takes place during A Hard Day’s Night while the other reference is obvious. Side allusions are a consistent fun part of a Simon R. Green urban fantasy as the author has done repeatedly with this saga and the Secret History series. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as the foes have the numbers and the weapons, but John knows he has his beloved “Oh Christ, It’s Her, Run” watching his back in London’s Nightside and Proper.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Wolf Prince-Karen Kelley

The Wolf Prince
Karen Kelley
Kensington Brava, Nov 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758238405

In Texas, Darcy Spencer is taking a walk near the home of her parents when she sees two strange sights. First she notices a wolf followed immediately by a naked man. Assuming she has run into a pervert, Darcy hammers the nude dude with a stick to his head, knocking the streaker out.

When he regains consciousness he recalls nothing except his name is Surlock. Feeling guilt for causing the amnesia, Darcy allows Surlock to move into the guest house. Having become a private investigator, Darcy uses her new skills on her first case to learn who her visitor is. Surlock begins to regain his memory of his mission on earth to protect the mixed-race human-Symtarian Darcy from rogue shapeshifters who want the half-breeds exterminated.

The third New Symtaria royal ET Texas romantic fantasy (see The Falcon Prince and The Jaguar Prince) is a fun lighthearted romp although the story line reads so similar to the previous princes’ thrillers; the character can replace each other with no slowing of the plot. Still filled with humor due to the alien’s behavior like swimming naked in the pool to the delight of gawking maids, Karen Kelley fans will enjoy the third close encounters of the first kind humorous tale.

Hungry for You-Lynsay Sands

Hungry for You
Lynsay Sands
Avon, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061894572

Marguerite Argeneau has the uncanny skill of pairing off life mates. Her ability sends family member immortal Cale Valens to Canada to meet his fated intended Alex Willan. At the same time, Alex’s sister Sam still refuses to change until both of her sisters (Jo Willan since has found Nicholas in The Renegade Hunter) find their immortal mates as she has with Garret Mortimer (see The Rogue Hunter). She has hopes her sibling Alex and Cale are the final pairing of mortal sisters to immortal caring hunks. Mortomer’s aide Bricker learning Marguerite sent Cale says his bachelor days are over.

Cale quickly learns his Alex is ignorant that vampires exist. He obtains a position as a chef in her restaurant, but there is one minor problem; Cale can’t cook so is fired. However, an unknown adversary goes to incredible lengths to prevent Alex from opening her second restaurant. Cale assisted by the Argeneau brood protect Alex.

The entertaining finish to the Willan sisters is a fun Argeneau-Hunter vampire romance. Filled with humor from the onset with the Olive Oyl – Jessica Rabbit comic gender debate and with a terrific casualness re vampirism when Bricker welcomes Cale to Canada with one bag or two, fans will enjoy this entry. The suspense takes a back seat to the chef who can’t boil water without burning it and the restaurateur falling in love but after waiting for an eternity for his lifemate, he must show patience he does not have. Fans of the urban fantasy saga will appreciate the latest romantic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

In the Dark of Dreams-Marjorie M. Liu

In the Dark of Dreams
Marjorie M. Liu
Avon, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062020161

Twelve years old Jenny found the injured silver boy on the beach. She is taken aback somewhat by his fins, but also fascinated by them and him. She comforts him until a merman arrives to take the wounded lad home. The sea adult frightens Jenny as he ignored the boy’s pleading not to take him back to the sea. Every morning that summer and several years afterward, Jenny would return to the beach hoping her sea friend would return; he never did but she never stopped hoping.

Because of that incident at the beach, Jenny became a marine biologist. Her goal is to find the silver boy who she considers a friend and more though their acquaintance was for a short duration. Meanwhile, Jenny’s family is divided as some have joined the Consortium while others like her work for A Priori.

Exiled from his world beneath the sea, Perrin constantly thinks of the female surface dweller who befriended him when he needed help. Soon they connect through their dreams at a time when a world threat begins to emerge from a dormant respite at the bottom of the ocean.

This is a tremendous Dirk & Steele thriller (see The Fire King) that grips the audience from the moment the pair meets on the beach and never frees the reader until the final apocalyptic confrontation. Fast-paced, the lead couple and the anticipated fight with the Monster from the Ocean Floor (Roger Corman movie) make for a strong entry as a chance short meeting on a beach as tweeners years later turns into a superb save the world romantic ocean fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Immanuel's Veins- Ted Dekker

Immanuel's Veins
Ted Dekker
Thomas Nelson, Sep 7 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9781595540096

In 1772, Tsarina Catherine the Great sends her loyal battle hardened soldier Toma Nicolescu to Moldavia with instructions to keep the Cantemir family, especially the two sisters Lucine and Natasha, safe at all cost. Although unhappy with leaving the war zone to watch over pampered royalty, Toma understands his mission is to die if necessary to protect his charges.

Toma and his friend, also an experience warrior, Alek Cardei arrives in Moldavia to perform their task. However, Toma is attracted to Lucine while Alek likes both charming siblings. All is well until Vlad van Valerik and other travelers arrive from some obscure locale in Transylvania. The men wear black and the women wear tight fitting garb that showcases their assets. One of the newcomers “kisses” Natasha, leaving her unconscious and bloody while Alek fumes as he wants her. Soon Natasha begins visiting the outsiders while the Russian bear sworn to protect her distrusts this enigmatic stranger and his friends. However, he wonders if he suffers from jealousy as he watches angrily Vlad courts Lucine although Toma trusts his instincts as if he is in battle, which he may be.

This is a fascinating dark Christian historical thriller in which the Carpathian Mountains setting during the Catherine the Great era brings a fresh tone to the tale. The story line is fast-paced with good and bad extremely obvious as Toma is pure Old Testament angelic and Vlad is pure Dante’s Inferno devil. Although the odd use of modern phrases (especially by womanizing smart aleck Alek) more than just distracts, as it knocks armchair travelers back to our present, fans will enjoy Ted Dekker’s entertaining Eastern European vampiric historical.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Primal Heat-Crystal Jordan

Primal Heat
Crystal Jordan
Kensington Aphrodisia, $14.00, Oct 26 2010
ISBN: 9780758238306

“Wicked Lord”. The Kith arrived on earth seeking their Emperor Kyber’s “One” mate in the universe. Every night, Kith Ambassador Lord Farid Arjun enters the fantasies of Army Sergeant Major Bren Preston. She cannot prevent the half-human, half-tiger from turning her sleep into a sexual fantasy; nor is she sure she would want to stop him if she could. It is his penetration of her dreams that allows Bren from keeping Farid from having her when they are awake. However, he will not quit because he knows she is his “One”; but they must protect his leader from her malevolent leader.

“Carnal Empress”. Jana Townsend knows she is in love with the Kith shapeshifter whose life she saved, risking her own, from the dastardly perfidious earth leader. However, she also relishes the incredible idea that her beloved Kith Emperor Kyber searched the universe to find his One who is her; but also fears she is not worthy of being his empress soulmate.

Primal heat contains two interconnected ET erotic romances. The lead couple in each entry is fully developed and the story line provides deep insight into the Kith culture. Although the evil scheme of the earth’s leader is over the top of the Kith Empire as it detracts from two otherwise strong romantic science fiction thrillers, sub-genre fans will enjoy Crystal Jordan’s entertaining star-crossing romances.

Harriet Klausner

Flip This Zombie-Jesse Petersen

Flip This Zombie
Jesse Petersen
Orbit, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780316102957

David and Sarah believe they can make a go of their marriage and form a business after learning so much about Living with the Dead (see Married with Zombies). They figure there must be a lot of paying customers In Arizona who would hire them to exterminate zombies; ergo Zombiebusters Exterminators, Inc. is born with the vision of being the Trump or Gates of Zombie killing.

Research scientist Dr. Kevin Barnes hires the pair to catch a live zombie specimen so he can conduct field work in his efforts to find a cure for the plague. Sarah is attracted to the handsome scientist. However, the pair realizes the zombies are changing into creatures more dangerous than those they first battered as the new generation is faster and contains cognitive thinking skills. However, they capture one with the help of eleven year old Robbie who demands a cut.

Humor and gore come together in this entertaining straightforward urban fantasy as the couple reconciles their differences indirectly due to the fear factor of zombie marital counseling. The story line is fast-paced though quite bloody linear while Jesse Peterson offers suggestions to the successful business mogul to make a profit and staying alive. Fans who appreciate an irreverent tale will add to their contact list Zombiebusters Exterminators, Inc. as “who ya gonna call?” the duo driving the “doobious” Mystery Machine.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 8, 2010

Elfsorrow-James Barclay

James Barclay
PYR, Nov 1 2010, $17.00
ISBN 9781616142483

Following the cessation of the horrific war between the four colleges of magic (see Chronicles of the Raven: Dawnthief, Noonshade and Nightchild), Balaia survivors struggle to stay alive. Making matters worse during the ordeal is the desecration of the Elven god Yniss Temple has revealed a previously unknown plague Elfsorrow that is further destroyed the already devastated land.

The Raven Mercenaries have no time to rest as they trek to the new continent Calaius, which was the ancient home of the elven. They seek mages to end to the conflict. Others also arrive with plans to plunder the island by stealing magic and mages. At the same time in Balaia, Selik and his Black Wings anti-magic insurgency demands the leaders vow to not use magic as no one any longer trusts in this type of force.

The opening act of the Legends of the Raven fantasy is a terrific complex follow-up to the harrowing war vividly described in the Chronicles of the Raven trilogy as the survivors hope to get on with their lives in the aftermath. The story line is fast-paced even with several major subplots that ties cleverly together. Mindful of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, readers will appreciate James Barclay’s superb thriller as the war is won, yet the peace remains unsteadily unresolved.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Atlantis and other Places-Harry Turtledove

Atlantis and other Places
Harry Turtledove
Roc, Dec 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451463647

The super dozen alternate history tales were all previously published in the past decade, but never together. The one volume speaks loudly as to how skilled Harry Turtledove truly is when it comes to the sub-genre where he is the champion grandmaster whether it is a saga, a novel, a novella, or a short story. In the first entry, "Audubon in Atlantis", the naturalist arrives on the island seeking rare birds. The second tale satires Bush and Bin Laden who make strange “Bedfellows”, who need each other like yin and yang. All the "News from the Front" is the news not worth printing during WW II, as Mr. Turtledove rips the main stream media. Whether it is the American leaving the ducks swimming in Central Park to attack a German castle as in “The Catcher in the Rhine”, soldier “Uncle Alf” writing from occupied Paris in 1929 to his niece about thr lazy French, r Socrates role in the Peloponnesian Wars ("The Daimon", fans will agree this anthology affirms Mr. Turtledove’s abilities whether he lampoons or just changes a pivotal moment he remains the top guru of the alternative historical universe.

Harriet Klausner

Pirate Sun-Karl Schroeder

Pirate Sun
Karl Schroeder
Tor, Nov 9 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765326423

In Virga, Admiral Chaison Fanning learns no good deed goes unpunished. His bodacious foray prevented an assault on his orb Slipstream; he was imprisoned for his actions, but he is liberated by he assumes his daring subversive wife Venera who when he was first captured he saw fleeing.

Returning to his town, to his amazement, Fanning is considered a traitor by those he saved; he expected the ruler who initially betrayed him to paint him as such but not his neighbors. As revolution, civil war, and outside invasion threaten the Virga spheres, he fights alongside Antaea Argyre, who is from another orb of the “system” near its edges. There he begins to understand there is much more to the universe than just what is connected to Virga’s central sun Candesce.

As with the first two books of the Virga chronicle (see SUN OF SUNS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE), it is the variety of town-spheres that make for a complex exciting science fiction saga in which anything seems possible under the sun (of Candesce that is). The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Fanning, though scorned and swiftboated continues to do what he thinks is the ethically right thing for the good of his people. His escapades never slow down as Karl Schroeder provides a strong outer space opera thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark Griffin-K.J. Taylor

The Dark Griffin
K.J. Taylor
Ace, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019786

A Northerner son of a slave Arren Cardockson has come a long way due to his bond with Eluna the griffin who chose him and he named her. However, the teen griffiner understands in spite of the fact that his peers rule Cymria; his roots will never allow him to break through the glass ceiling. Some already feel the Northerner has been allowed to soar to high as he can. With Eluna at his side they watch over trade in the city of Eagleholm.

Arren and Eluna are assigned to catch a rogue griffin, which the Northerner hopes to make some money on this venture to pay off debts. Arren meets the nameless Dark Griffin who has lived alone in the mountainous wilderness with vague memories of his mother when he was a fledgling. They are connected, but that link harms Eluna who does leaving Arren in an emotional void in which he holds himself culpable.

This is a fascinating fantasy as readers will be enthralled by the violent nameless Dark Griffin who steals the show from his violent survival birth to his even more unrestrained savagery. Adding to the strong tale are Arren knows he is directly at fault with the foolish debt he incurred that led to the mission and Eluna’s death and the de facto racism against Northerners. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy flying the skies over K.J. Taylor’s Cymria in this outstanding fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Frost Moon-Anthony Francis

Frost Moon
Anthony Francis
Bell Bridge Books, Mar 1 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780984325689

In Atlanta six foot plus Mohawk wearing Dakota Frost runs the Rogue Unicorn in Little Five Points. She claims to be the best kick-butt magical tattooist in the Southeast. Her clients include witches and shapeshifters as she is a super skindancing tattooist. Dakota hates bloodsuckers like Republicans and vampires; in her mind both rule the world with one more overt about their dining on others.

Atlanta Police department Homicide detective Rand, who is close to Dakota’s father, asks her to come to the station. There he shows her evidence of ripped off human skin with a tattoo on it pinned to a board. Rand asks Dakota questions as to what the magical tattoo does; she says it is the work of Richard Sumner, buried in Cincinnati in 2005. Rand says he needs her help open the case where as the normally offensive amazon just wants to puke as the wood is actually a box containing more epidermis. Obviously a serial killer is murdering the tattooed. She knows if she assists the cops and Feds, she will be drawn away from drinking coffee at gentile outdoor cafes with patrons like witches into the darkest slum of the city; Edgeworld where the nastiest paranormal live amidst the tormented souls.

Although too much of the Francis universe is introduced in the first SKINDANCER urban fantasy, fans will enjoy this terrific paranormal amateur sleuth. In many ways the story line reads like an otherworldly noir starring the latest six foot plus kick butt female tattooist (see Ellie Jasper’s Dark Ink Chronicles and Karen E. Olson’s The Tattoo Shop). Dakota’s take no prisoners’ investigation provides readers with the vivid vision of Anthony Francis’ Atlanta Underground inside an exhilarating thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Haint Misbehavin’ -Maureen Hardegree

Haint Misbehavin’
Maureen Hardegree
Bell Bridge, Jun 1 2010, $12.95
ISBN: 9781935661931

Heather Tildy wants to be accepted when she enters high school as a freshman at the end of the summer. She figures her best chance is with her older sister Audrey who treats her like a miscreant alien.

However Heather’s campaign to win over her sibling hits snag when she meets a preadolescent aged ghost from the ninetieth century. Assuming she is going crazy by having an imaginary friend as a teenager; Heather worries about how to rid herself of this spirited spirit. Making matters worse while convincing Heather that she is haunted by Amy, the ghost at times possesses Heather’s body. She makes her do stuff that makes Audrey and her friends deem her as weird. Embarrassed as she knows her family, friends and the hunk lifeguard scorn her for Haint Misbehavin’, Heather needs to help Amy move on.

This is an enjoyable middle school Ghost Whisperer thriller starring a wonderful teenager who is abashed by her new paranormal skill as everyone who matters to her believes she is fruitcake except for her aunt who everyone knows is a fruitcake; ergo Heather a chip off the nutty block. Although her family is somewhat stereotyped especially Audrey, young adult readers will enjoy the opening Ghost Handler teen urban fantasy due to the heroine who thanks to her ghost is in deep trouble with her parents and others.

Harriet Klausner

Demon Underground-S.L. Wright

Demon Underground
S.L. Wright
Roc, Dec 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463678

Allay tends the Den on C bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in order to dine off the anguished emotions of human patrons who drink there though she finds doing that an abomination even though she has somewhat adapted. She is a one of a kind type of demon; as she is a human who ingested the life force of a demon. Her scent signature differs from demons who would all love to feed off her. Allay’s offspring Bliss seems more adjusted than she while her BFF Shock warns her not to trust Theo Ram who has killed his offspring for many millennia. Allay is attracted to Ram.

Being a unique hybrid places her in an odd position of no one trusting her and thus she is the perfect individual to foster an agreement to end the squabble between powerful fighting demons. However, as she works on the place, Allay has some doubts about what is going on. She fears she is being used as an expendable discard and though feeling paranoid as she believes assassins are flooding the streets with her as a target; she goes underground knowing the hostilities is about to explode into open urban warfare.

The second demon urban fantasy (see Confession of a Demon) continues the Manhattan saga of Allay trying to survive in a world where she feels she does not belong. The action-packed story line will hook readers from the onset as the heroine is trapped in a deadly demonic tug of war. Although it pays dividends to read the first exhilarating thriller to better understand key players especially the heroine, a mix of California mellow and New York shtick, Demon Underground is a super tale.

Harriet Klausner