Monday, October 20, 2014

Closer to Home-Mercedes Lackey

Closer to Home
Mercedes Lackey
DAW, Oct 7 2014, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756408992

In Haven, Valdemar, Mags the Herald is with his Companion Dallen when he hears the Mindvoice shriek of the King’s Own Nikolas.  Using Mindvoice he tries to contact Nikolas but his mentor fails to respond.  Dallen and Mags see Nikolas floating in the nearby river.  On top of Dallen, Mags pulls Nikolas onto the shore, but he is not breathing.  Using the Breath of Life technique Bear taught him, Mags saves Nikolas’ life. 

Rolan the Companion selects the incapacitated Nikolas’ panicked daughter Amily to replace him as the King’s Own though the monarch Kyril fears having an untested young female in such a critical position.  Complicating matters for the new King’s Own and the monarch is a treasonous coup to extinguish the Heralds and fill the power void.  With unprecedented Mindspeech skill, Mags assists Amily in an attempt to uncover the traitors before the Collegium is shattered, its Heralds eradicated and King Kyril loses the throne.

The first Herald Spy Valdemar fantasy is a fabulous opening act as Mags (no longer a stranger in a strange land) and Amily face impossible odds.  Both fear they’re not ready for the big leagues without adult supervision (Nikolas), but they bravely team-up to do the right thing with so much at stake.  Fast-paced throughout, yet vivid Valdemar and the key cast (particularly the protagonists and their companions) seem genuine.  Genre readers, especially series fans, will delight in returning to Valdemar.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Chaplain's War-Brad R. Torgersen

The Chaplain's War
Brad R. Torgersen
Baen, Oct 7 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736853

In the middle of the twenty-second century, the alien Mantes cyborgs invaded human space with one objective: total genocide.  The humans fought back but the enemy proved superior.  Five years ago the Mantes defeated an invading force and captured Chaplain Assistant Harrison Barlow and many other soldiers on a planet the POWs call Purgatory.  With the Chaplain dead, Harrison helps his fellow prisoners keep the faith though he avoids any specific religion.  Two years ago he completed a chapel for those who want to pray alongside him to God for deliverance.

A Mantis, who tells Harrison he is equivalent to a Professor, visits him constantly to learn more about the Holy Man’s belief in an invisible God.  The Professor explains humanity is the third essence the Mantes have met that believes in an indiscernible guiding spirit.  When Harrisons asks the Mantis what his race believes in; the Professor responds “nothing”.  While Harrison teaches the Professor about human spiritualty, some of his race feels he betrays them while some of the Mantis’ race insists it is insignificant what the enemy thinks.

This intriguing science fiction is told in three parts (with one and two modifications of previously released “The Chaplain’s Assistant” and “The Chaplain’s Legacy”) and the third section ("The Chaplain’s War") totally new.  The expansion enhances the fascinating focus on two species at war with differing social values especially highlighted by a to believe or not to believe in a deity; ironically most members of each race share in common the competitive drive for all out victory.  Thus the Chaplain Assistant and The Professor are outliers as they thrive for understanding of each other’s respective species, which is a step towards all out peace. 

Harriet Klausner

Brood-Chase Novak

Chase Novak
Little, Brown/Mulholland, Oct 7 2014, $26.00
ISBN 9780316228008

Manhattan residents Alex and Leslie Twisden lived a great lifestyle until they went to Slovenia for illegal fertility treatments.  The procedure worked and they had twins Alice and Adam, but also turned the nice couple into malevolent ogres (see Breed).

Moving into the renovated Upper East Side townhouse that Alex and Leslie turned into a monstrosity, antiques dealer Cynthia Kramer becomes guardian to her troubled niece and nephew.  She hopes to nurture them into a good mental state through love.  However, the youngsters fear puberty will make them a chip off the cannibalistic block and especially do not want to harm their caring aunt.  Alice and Adam flee to Central Park where evil greets them with a scheme to use the siblings.

The efforts to prevent what seems inevitable turn this sequel into an exciting urban horror though Mother Cynthia’s constant anxiety panic attacks detract from an otherwise electrifying family drama.  With a stunning climax to an overall tense tale (mainly when the twins rule the storyline), this is a winning read particularly when the Twisden brother and sister invade Central Park.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Wonder Of All Things-Jason Mott

The Wonder Of All Things
Jason Mott
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778316527

At the Fall Festival in Stone Temple, North Carolina, former resident Matt Cooper entertains the locals with flying stunts when his plane sputters and crashes.  Cooper dies, but the crowd miraculously survives.  Sheriff Macon Campbell finds his thirteen year old daughter Ava and her BFF Wash trapped under rubble.  Ava touches Wash’s severe wounds and a second miracle occurs when the teen heals instantly while someone records the event on a cell phone.

The recording goes viral leading to hordes arriving in Stone Temple to glimpse the “Miracle Child” or obtain a cure.  However, the physical cost to Ava begins to appear as each miracle weakens her until she is hospitalized.  Trying to avoid any more damage to her body, Ava soon has a Hobson’s choice when Wash learns he has leukemia.

Once again dealing with the impact of divine miracles on a small-town (see The Returned, the basis for the Resurrection television series), Jason Mott provides a poignant novel that looks deeply into the responsibilities towards others and the rights of one vs. the needs of the many.  The sidebar focus on the woes of support characters detracts from the otherwise fabulous storyline; as Ava is a great protagonist who wants to do the right thing to help those suffering especially her Wash; but the cost she pays for being the Good Samaritan increasingly seems to be her life. 

Harriet Klausner

Burning Desire-Donna Grant

Burning Desire
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250060709

When Rhi the Light Fae vanishes in Cork, Ireland, the Dragon Kings become concerned that she may go to the dark side.  Dragon King Kiril arrives to gather intel while his peers remain in Scotland. 

Her Dark Fae family has locked away Shara for centuries because of her unacceptable embarrassing behavior towards others.  Now she has one last chance to prove to be a loyal member though Shara has never felt like she belonged and their demand goes against her nature; failure to do so means her execution and ironically succeeding means being married off to a vicious Fae.  Her mission is to lure the visiting Dragon King so that her kin can make him their prisoner when his guard is down.  Instead, Shara finds she is attracted to Kiril and does not want to cause him any harm.  As she assists her beloved with saving Rhi from Balladyn, Shara becomes this Dark Fae’s prisoner inside his fortress leading to Kiril believing his beloved betrayed him.

The latest Dark Kings romantic urban fantasy (see Fire Rising and Darkest Flame novels and Dark Heat stories) is a thrilling entry filled with plenty of action highlighted by an apparently doomed star-crossed romance.  The lead couple is a delightful pairing as trust proves fleeting.  Although depth is added to the overarching premise, no thread is completed.  Yet series fans will enjoy these natural enemies falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Choir Of Angels-Debbie Macomber

Choir Of Angels
Debbie Macomber
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778316732

Shirley, Goodness and Mercy.”  In San Francisco, sexagenarian Greg Bennett has a sinful history of abandonment (his pregnant girlfriend and dying mom) and betrayal (his brother and partner).  He wanders into a church where he prays for the first time in decades.  No angel wants to help this loser find redemption so Archangel Gabriel assigns the impossible project to his three zaniest subordinates: Shirley, Goodness and Mercy.

“Those Christmas Angels.”  In Seattle, Anne Fletcher worries about her son Roy, who used to be an outgoing friendly person, but now is an acrimonious workaholic Scrooge.  She wants Roy to rediscover what life is all about though a grandchild would be nice so she prays for heavenly intervention.  Now Anne might have reconsidered turning to heaven if she knew angels Shirley, Goodness and Mercy were going to answer her prayers.  The angelic trio literally tosses Julie Wilcoff in Roy's path.  However, when this threesome interferes it means chaos. 

“Where Angels Go.”  Although he expects these three rule breakers to cause him heart failure, Archangel Gabriel realizes they miraculously get heavenly results.  He reluctantly sends them to answer Christmas prayers for divine intervention. Mercy tries helping elderly Harry find peace before he dies as he fears leaving his beloved wife behind. Goodness assists Beth in taking a second chance at love ever since her forever marriage ended quickly. Finally Shirley grants a wish to a little boy who just wants to keep his dog, but his family cannot afford another mouth to feed.

This omnibus reprint of three lighthearted tales stars the Murphy of angelic matchmaking; as “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” with this trio’s heavenly intervention

Harriet Klausner

Ghost Wolf-Michele Hauf

Ghost Wolf
Michele Hauf
Harlequin Nocturne, Oct 1 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009299

Raging and grieving, Beckett Severo seeks vengeance against human hunters after he witnessed one of that pathetic species shoots and kills his father, and worse had to break the news to his hysterical vampiress mother.  Two months later, Becket runs into a female wolf shifter near Tangle Lake who impressively leaves him with a mean right to his jaw. 

Daisy-Blu Saint-Pierre hopes to obtain the Tangle Lake Tattler reporter internship by doing an article on the Ghost Wolf, who has been seen recently in the vicinity twice by frightened hunters.  She plans to ask Beck if he knows anything about the Ghost Wolf when she runs into him again.  Meanwhile Beck finds each shift increasingly drains him to the point he fears he soon will die from what was once natural but not since fairy magic changed him into the Ghost Wolf.   As he and Daisy Blue bond, she learns his secret.  If she reveals what she knows in the Tattler, she would surely get the position she covets seemingly more than her wolf; while his craving for revenge leaves their love teetering.

The first Saint-Pierre werewolf romance is a pleasing frolic starring two appealing protagonists whose youthful enthusiasm makes the tale, but also leaves something permanent between them doubtful.  Readers will appreciate their energetic romp even as danger threatens the two shifters.

Harriet Klausner