Archive for November, 2010

Master of Smoke-Angela Knight

November 30, 2010

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

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Spellweaver-Lynn Kurland

November 29, 2010

Spellweaver

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

November 29, 2010

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 the Immoral 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

November 29, 2010

Ascension

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

November 29, 2010

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

November 29, 2010

Shadowheart

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

Vampires Not Invited-Cheyenne McCray

November 28, 2010

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

November 28, 2010

The Triskaidek

Basil Sprig

CreateSpace, May 13 2010, $13.00

www.campfae.org

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)

November 28, 2010

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

The Grim Reaper: End of Days-Steve Alten

November 27, 2010

The Grim Reaper: End of Days

Steve Alten

Variance, Oct 10 2010, $25.95

ISBN: 9781935142164

At the top secret bio warfare lab at Fort Detrick, microbiologist Mary Klipot develops a more powerful derivative of the Black Plague.  She hears a voice in her head who she believes is God.  Following the commandments of her God, Mary deploys her creation Scythe on the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, Manhattan to launch the End of Days.  At the same time Mary launches her death elixir. World leaders including the American president meet at the United Nations.  Her attack is devastating forcing the Federal government to quarantine Manhattan, incarcerating over three million people on the doomed island including those at the U.N. demanding release under diplomatic immunity.

When 9/11 occurred, Patrick “Shep” Shepherd quit Major league baseball to join the military.  He deployed four times over the subsequent years, but now just over eleven years since the Towers were destroyed and thousands died, he has no family, no left arm, and allegorically no life as he suffers from PTSD at a Manhattan VA hospital.  He not only learns of mad Mary’s mass murderous scheme, he plans to obtain the vaccine to inoculate his estranged wife and daughter.  Shep and his therapist Virgil Shechinah march through plague ravaged “Nine Circles of Hell” of what was just yesterday Manhattan.

Combining the Kabbalah and 9/11 conspiratorial beliefs with a strange love of bio chemical weaponry inside a modern day version of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Steve Alten writes an intriguing convoluted twisting thriller.  Shep and Virgil are heroic on a mission of goodness to travel through a Manhattan turned into the inferno as they learn that to reach Heaven they must confront sin.  Although some of the “cantos” are difficult to comprehend as the Kabbalah and 9/11 paranoia remain mystical, fans will enjoy Mr. Alten’s twenty-first century take on the fourteenth century classic.

Harriet Klausner