Archive for March, 2011

Shadow Raiders-Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes

March 31, 2011

Shadow Raiders

Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes

Daw, May 3 2011, $24.95

ISBN: 9780756406622

On the world of Aeronne, the Kingdoms of Rosia and Freya have been enemies for centuries.  Both nations have engaged in arms race as each tries to produce a more powerful weapon to topple their adversary.  Freyian patriot master spy Sir Henry Wallace believes he has the means to defeat Rosia.  A Journeyman knows how to merge magic into metal, which makes the alloy impenetrable by artillery.  Sir Henry goes to Rosia to bring the Journeyman and his family to Freya.

Lord Captain Stephano de Guichen detests his powerful mother who is the advisor to King Alaric of Rosia.  The Counte Cecille de Morjolaine orders her son to find a missing Journeyman who was experimenting on a new weapon when he vanished.  She thinks Sir Henry kidnapped him.  Stephan and his friends the Cadre of the Lost follow Sir Henry’s trail and meet up with Father Jacob of the dreaded Arcanium and the godfather he never met, Sir Arder Martel is a knight protector to the priest.  They join forces at the Abbey of Saint Agness where one hundred nuns were massacred.  Demon riders attack them, but they use counter magic to eliminate the horde.

Also seeking Sir Henry is Grand Bishop Girard who has Agent Dubois searching for the master spy and the Journeyman he escorts.  Dubois knows he must prevent Sir Henry and his retinue from reaching Freya as all parties converge on Westfirth.

Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes have written a grand epic fantasy reminiscent of the early Shanarra books.  Magic is emboldened in objects and large percentages of the populace can use it.  Readers will feel they are visiting another world mindful of the English French medieval war period; but also filled with paranormal creatures; some are allies of mankind while a few are indifferent and the rest are belligerent.  The key characters are fully developed, but most important is the magic of the first Dragon Brigade saga seems real.

Harriet Klausner

Bite Club-Rachel Caine

March 30, 2011

Bite Club

Rachel Caine

NAL, May 3 2011, $17.99

ISBN: 9780451233189

In Morganville, Vassily the vampire opens up a new gym offering a class in self-defense to humans.  Shane likes the idea of beating the crap out of vampires; that is if they have crap as he detests the undead though ironically his best friend is Michael the vampire.

After a few lessons, over the objection of his girlfriend Claire, Shane joins an underground extreme fight club in which humans and vamps will participate.  However, someone tapes the fights and places them on the Internet.  Soon afterward Michael and Shane vanish leaving it up to Claire and their fourth housemate Eve to find and rescue them, but from what.

The tenth Morganville Vampire urban fantasy (see Ghost Town) is a brisk fresh entry due to Shane playing a major second fiddle role enabling fans to learn what makes him tick.  The story line is fast-paced as underground fighting has come to this unique Texas town.  Blood will flow but how much and how deadly is to be read as Rachel Caine provides a wonderful extrapolation of contemporary issues facing teens like joining the Fight Club, to MIT or not to MIT, and a taboo cross-species relationship in this super urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Hard Bitten-Chloe Neill

March 30, 2011

Hard Bitten

Chloe Neill

NAL, May 3 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780451233325

As anti-vampire protesters picket Cadogen House, three women go missing.  Chicago Mayor Tate warns Master vampire Ethan Sullivan head of the Cadogen House that he will go to jail or worse if he fails to catch and hand over the serial killer of humans.  Ethan assigns his young Sentinel Merit to investigate the homicides.

To keep her master from spending time in prison, Merit and the underground vampires team up to find the killer.  However, Merit knows she must watch her back with the underground who have their own objectives.  She is unprepared as to the direction the clues lead at the same time humans demand she and her associates mind their own business or else.

The fourth Chicagoland Vampires (see Twice Bitten and Friday Night Bites) is an exhilarating entry as the lead vamps and the Mayor face difficult issues.  The story line is fast-paced with a sort of amateur sleuth feel to the plot as the heroine explores the human and paranormal species links while hot heads from both sides want her staked.  With a great stunning late twist Chloe Neill continues to rock the urban fantasy sub-genre with her strong thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

Spellcast-Barbara Ashford

March 30, 2011

Spellcast

Barbara Ashford

Daw, May 3 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780756406820

Following losing her job and the ceiling plaster in her New York apartment caving in, Maggie Graham decides to spend a weekend in Vermont to get away before regrouping.  When she learns of summer stock roles performing at the Crossroads Theatre in a barn just outside Dale, Maggie shocks herself and decides to audition.  She is further stunned when she obtains roles in three shows.

Maggie muses how she has come full circle; having left the stage years ago only to return.  She finds the troupe odd yet endearing.  However, Maggie is most disturbed by director Rowan Mackenzie, who she has never seen leave the Crossroads Theater and never casts a person in the role they plan to try out for; instead he somehow knows what the person needs to perform on stage and in life.

Maggie keeps this wonderful whimsical witty tale focused as her past (she feels she failed professionally and personally) has impacted her present belief she is a loser and how she feels about her lack of a future.  The theater proves healing and mesmerizing as it casts a spell on Maggie (and the audience).  The otherworldly elements subtly enhance Barbara Ashford’s tender look at a second chance at making dreams real.

Harriet Klausner

The Lens and the Looker-Lory S Kaufman

March 30, 2011

The Lens and the Looker

Lory S Kaufman

The Fiction Studio, Mar 16 2011, $14.95

www.fictionstudio.com

ISBN: 9781936558025

 

By the twenty-fourth century, humanity has come a long way from the brink of extinction due to AIs creating a better world.  One particular improvement to foster better citizenship is the History Camps, where the young are sent to learn from past mistakes during a realistic reenactment.

In 2347 CE in the New York Community, rebellious teen Hansum scores a 0 on a test so the school’s Dean Turkenshaw decides enough nonsense and enrolls the seventeen year old student for a two week session at the Deep-Immersion History Camp, which means his communication implant is removed to isolate him.  Hansum looks forward to the lesson he plans to provide the enactors. 

Hansum, fifteen year old Shamira and fourteen year old Lincoln arrive in 1347 Verona.  The boys are apprentices to a lens-maker while the girl is assigned kitchen duty.  The trio pretends to behave until the end.  When the truth about the recalcitrant threesome surfaces, they are sent to Arimus who escorts them to the real 1347 Verona where they will behave or face real punishment.

The first Verona science fiction story is a terrific thought provoking tale as the History Camps are the futuristic boot camps to make recalcitrant students behave.  The three teens are strong leads who just want to have fun their way in a society that has different expectations.  The premise of learning from history’s mistakes with lens-making and cooking was never clear how that teaches life lessons as the time in the community and the camp was relatively limited.  Still The Lens and the Looker is a super opening act that hopefully contains more events in the future at the Community and at the Camp.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught-Jack Campbell

March 29, 2011

The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught

Jack Campbell

Ace, Apr 26 2011, $25.95

ISBN 9780441020379

The war is over and the Alliance won thanks mostly due to the strong military leadership of Admiral John “Black Jack” Geary (see six books of The Lost Fleet Syndicate Worlds war).  As his reward, the popular officer is assigned command and control of the newly commissioned First Fleet.

However, the Alliance political leaders who were grateful to Geary for the tough war decisions do not want a popular war hero hanging amongst them.  They order Geary and his First Fleet to enter into the far rim of Syndic space allegedly to investigate alien occupation.  Geary understands though the combat with the Syndicate Worlds is over with the enemy shattered, entering the deepest sector is suicide.  Making the mission even more perilous is his unit has been supplied with inferior equipment and orders that stifle accomplishment while increasing risk.

With a great space rotation, The Lost Fleet turns from military science fiction to Star Trekking Beyond the Frontier.  The story line is as always faster than the speed of light as hostilities remain extremely high even with the war over; as Black Jack’s previous political supporters want him out of town.  Jack Campbell creates a terrific unexpected spin to his great outer space saga as the formerly Lost Fleet now The First Fleet is sent by armchair leaders to die.

Harriet Klausner

Skeleton Crew-Cameron Haley

March 29, 2011

Skeleton Crew

Cameron Haley

Luna, Apr 19 2011, $14.00

ISBN: 9780373803262

Los Angeles street smart and kick butt tough Domino Riley continues to serve as the lieutenant to six millennia old Sumerian gang boss Shanar Rashan having faced several paranormal Mob Rule challenges to her position (see Mob Rule and Retribution in the Harvest Moon anthology).  However, even she is unprepared for the zombie horde that appears ready to dominate Southern California.  To prevent L.A. from becoming Zombieland, Domino needs to rescue the sacred dogs who carry souls to the other side.

In her way and that of her team are demons who prefer the old order overturned with chaos as only zombies can do.  Besides dealing with zombies, demons, and some unmentionables, Domino also must look inside her heart to how deeply she feels about her attraction to her employer’s son Adan.

The latest Underworld Cycle urban fantasy is an entertaining often jocular story mostly due to the hard-boiled heroine whose only soft spot is Adan; a feeling she feels ranks not much above the flu as she seeks resistance to the love bug.  The cast is very powerful and Cameron Haley’s vision of Los Angeles is superb as this feminist Noir makes the thin plot fun for sub-genre fans who will enjoy Domino and her odd team battle a Skeleton Crew (and a few other evil dudes).

Harriet Klausner

The Council of Shadows-S.M. Stirling

March 29, 2011

The Council of Shadows

S.M. Stirling

Roc, May 3 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 9780451463937

They are creatures of myths and legends: beingss who drink blood; rhose who shift shape; and sorcerers who use magic to control people and the environment.  They are Homo Nocturnis Shadowspawn hominids who are not human as they contain genes that enable them to use the energy powers of the universe.  Their source is science not magic and once the Empire of Shadow in prehistorical times ruled mankind.  Over the eons, their bloodline wasdiluted by mating with the humans and now they rule in the shadows, working behind the scenes to control people and events.

The Council of Shadows want to come out in the open and believe they can accomplish this by killing about half the human population in what they declare Operation Trimback. The Council will decide how when all the Shadowspawn meet in Tbilisi. Shadowspawn Adrian Brézé and his human wife along with the rebel group the Brotherhood want to prevent the pandemic species cleansing.  He will soon be taken aback to learn who is leading the death squads as that person is as powerful as Adrian is, but also sinister as collateral damage even among the Shadowspawn is an acceptable price and has traitors supporting the endeavor.

Ellen and Adrian are in love, but while she lacks enough genetic material to tap into the Shadowspawn energy, he treats her as his equal.  The middle book contains less action than its predecessor (see A Taint in the Blood) as the entreating story line digs deeper into the psyche of individuals and the group dynamics of the Council and the Brotherhood.  Urban fantasy readers will appreciate S.M. Stirling’s enjoyable urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Retribution Falls-Chris Wooding

March 28, 2011

Retribution Falls

Chris Wooding

Spectra, Apr 26 2011, $16.00

ISBN 9780345522511

In Vardia, Darian Frey is captain and solo driver of the Ketty Jay.  He works closely with freebooters.  However, his quasi-legal world crashes when a robbery in the air leaves someone dead.  He is accused of the murder as well as piracy by law enforcement. 

Frey knows he must flee before the authorities Century Knights, bounty hunters or a nasty ex Trinica Dracken catches him; the latter being the most dangerous threat.  Because his crew is ruthless and sleazy with each out to take care of only number one (as does the captain), he distrusts them but needs their support.  They were loyal to him only due to the fact he owns and steers the aerium-fueled aircraft they use in their heists.  He needs to keep track of each of them because he believes at least one of them sold him and his team out, but who and to whom remains nebulous.  Beleaguered Frey considers the daemonist accompanied by his golem, the new recruit and the alcoholic doc as the most likely suspects because the frame takes intelligence and contacts.

From the opening Russian Roulette scene until the final confrontation, this is a fun steampunk fantasy.  Frey and the key secondary characters are developed over the course of the entertaining story line.  Although the plot at times slows down under the weight of the vivid background, sub-genre fans will enjoy riding the Ketty Jay.

Harriet Klausner

Fang Me-Parker Blue

March 28, 2011

Fang Me

Parker Blue

Bell Bridge (Belle Books), Mar 14 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781611940121

In San Antonio, every paranormal species wants to possess Encyclopedia Magicka.  Especially pushing for ownership are the enemy combatants vampires and demons as the side that has the tome has an incredible edge in the hostilities between them.  Both opponents will kill anyone who gets in their retrieval path.

Val Shapiro the vampire hunter known by those she kills as Slayer and her sidekick Fang the canine understand what the Encyclopedia Magicka means to the underworld foes.  They need to obtain the arcane book before the wrong hands destroy the city with it.  Val distrusts her side as much as she does the vampires as she is well aware the spells are hard to resist; since she owned the book inherited from her demon sire until someone stole it.  While in search of the thief, Val struggles to contain her attraction to Shade the shadow demon as the cost of surrender may be too high while Lola the lust teen demon inside her wants him.

The latest Demon Underground urban fantasy (see Try Me and Bite Me) is an entertaining thriller that readers will enjoy as the heroine seems to step into one problem after another.  The fun story line is fast-paced with a nod to Buffy and Angel.  Fans will enjoy this “Blue” tour of San Antonio escorted the courageous lead trio.

Harriet Klausner