Archive for January, 2014

The Knife’s Edge-Matthew Wolf

January 29, 2014

The Knife’s Edge
Matthew Wolf
Matthew Wolf, Apr 15 2013, $29.99
ISBN: 9780989148320

Rumors abound of the Return with few like Ren having the courage or foolishness to say the name Ronin. Almost everyone else acts like Kirin fearful of even whispering the dreaded word.

Neophyte Vera passes the Seven Trials, but coveting power wants much more than being a mere Reaver. She attempts to release the power of the sword. Her boyfriend Kirin finds her dead with the sword protruding from her corpse. The palace guards believe he killed her. Kirin grabs the sword, but loses control and kills several people. His grandfather informs him he is the prophecy of the Return, but not ready; thus Kirin’s elderly relative intercedes wiping out his memories. He becomes Gray living a solitary life with his only companion a hermit. However, Vera sends evil beasts to kill her former boyfriend, who escapes and flees as he reluctantly begins to accept what he is and must do.

This an entertaining quest fantasy with a fascinating twist re how the characters, particularly Kirin-Gray, think of the Ronin legend as evil vs. the seemingly reality of harsh savior. Though the storyline goes as expected, Gray brings freshness as a sort of Frodo struggling with what is going on to him with the changes in his life. The support cast, especially vile Vera and Gray’s “buddies”, enhances the exciting storyline as we want to know why people strongly fear the Return and why just about everyone believes the Ronin is malevolent.

Harriet Klausner

The Vanishing-Wendy Webb

January 28, 2014

The Vanishing
Wendy Webb
Hyperion, Jan 21 2014, $15.99
ISBN 9781401341947

Three months ago in Chicago, novelist Julia Bishop’s husband Jeremy committed suicide when his Ponzi investment scheme collapsed. His death left his widow holding the bag of a myriad of lawsuits from irate investors and possible criminal charges of being his partner even while she claims she was unaware of his illegal endeavor.

Though they never met before, Adrian Sinclair visits Julia at her home with an employment proposition that will enable her to escape the howling wolves wanting her blood. She accepts his job offer of companion to his aging mother at their Havenwood Estate in isolated northern Minnesota. Julia is amazed that Adrian’s mom is renowned horror author Amaris “the female Edgar Allan Poe” Sinclair, who reportedly died a decade ago; that Havenwood was the sight of a horrid eerie incident in 1875 involving a homicide and spiritualist Seraphina; and that spirits from that Reconstruction Era deadly event remain at the mansion with one of them insanely evil.

Wendy Webb’s latest supernatural (see The Tale of Halcyon Crane and The Fate of Mercy Alban) is an exciting contemporary haunted house thriller starring a woman who thought as she left Chicago nothing could be worse until she meets the occupants of Havenwood. Although the key late twist feels unsatisfactory and implausible (even with ghosts), readers will enjoy this haunting modern day gothic.

Harriet Klausner

The Broken Dragon-Irene Radford

January 27, 2014

The Broken Dragon
Irene Radford
DAW, Jan 7 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409159

Teen twins Lily and Valeria are opposites due to their respective magic skills; yet inseparable as halves together they make a whole. Lively Lily lacks any magical talent but is an accomplished healer; non-vivacious Val is a great mage but is always sickly as usage drains a person. With the support of his mate Brevelan the witch, Senior Magician and Chancellor of the University of Magicians Jaylor insists his daughter Val learns to care for herself; as he has separate missions for his daughters. Jaylor also explains adversaries plan a coup d’état that threatens the reign of King Darville and their adopted son Glenndon, heir to the throne (see The Silent Dragon).

Da assigns Val as keeper to control Lady Ariiell’s magic while the pair heads to the home of the latter’s father and to report any strangeness in Lord Laisac’s household. Lily will become companion to Lord Jemmarc’s wife ailing Lady Graciella while escorting her from Coronnan City to Castle Saria’s fresh sea air. However, a magically-generated super storm leaves the country in peril from a raging talented magician with the only hope to prevent the pandemic catastrophe rests with the separated sisters uniting with each other and others.

The second Children of the Dragon Nimbus is an exciting coming of age quest fantasy as the twins must find themselves while on separate adventures yet also need each other in the immediate fight. The fully developed with differing skills and personalities siblings are terrific as they keep their respective subplot focused. Fans of the original Dragon Nimbus saga (see The Glass Dragon, The Perfect Princess, The Loneliest Magician and The Wizard’s Treasure) will appreciate Irene Radford’s entertaining next generation series.

Harriet Klausner

Into The Wilderness-Mandy Hager

January 26, 2014

Into The Wilderness
Mandy Hager
Pyr, Jan 7 2014, $17.99
ISBN: 9781616148638

Following the Tribulation that decimated the world population, the white Apostles of the Lamb leaders of Onewere Island abused the brown-skins. Witnessing the horror of those they worshipped as deities, the brown-skinned former believers turned doubters Ruth and Maryam know they must leave before they become dead victims. Thus the Blessed Sisters, accompanied by white Apostle cousins Joseph (who loves Maryam) and Lazarus, leave their insular community by sea.

Sailing the Pacific, the quartet arrives in violent racist what was once called Australia before the Tribulation. On Marawa Island, they find their hope for the future shattered as apparently no humans reside there. Meanwhile Maryam and Joseph struggle with their love for each other while she also loathes Lazarus for what she saw he did on the Star of the Sea cruise ship before the foursome fled for their lives (see The Crossing for his atrocity).

The second Blood of the Lamb dystopian post-apocalyptic teenage thriller once again profoundly and harshly looks at organized religion and civilization turning brutally barbaric after the Tribulation collapse. The enjoyable storyline is at its best when the Blessed Sisters (especially Maryam) confront a vicious new world order as violent as what occurred on the Star of the Sea though when the plot leaves Maryam to focus on others it loses some momentum. Still readers will appreciate the dark middle book in a world in which rape and murder are the accepted norms.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Duets-Christopher Golden (editor)

January 25, 2014

Dark Duets
Christopher Golden (editor)
Harper Voyager, Jan 7 2014, $25.99
ISBN 9780062240279

This seventeen story collection focuses on “tales of horror and dark fantasy” with the caveat that each contribution must be coauthored by a collaboration of at least two writers who previously never teamed up. The compilation is very well written as expected by the highly regarded participants, but the entries often miss the dark adjective requirement and ergo are rarely horrifying. “Violence is as American as Cherry Pie” (H. Raps Brown) for the deceased as much as the living in “Wielded” by Tom Piccirilli and T.M. Wright. In “Dark Witness” (Charlaine Harris and Rachel Caine) the female struggles to cope with rape. Erin persuades her BFF Jana to come to the party where the latter learns the hard way about the cost of “Blind Love” (father-daughter team Lansdale). The troll’s feeding tastes would lock him away for life or execute him in human society for two distinct reasons in “Trip Trap” by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kevin J. Anderson. This is a fun anthology but many of the tales use humor that lightens the intended darkness.

Harriet Klausner

Flame-Amy Kathleen Ryan

January 25, 2014

Flame
Amy Kathleen Ryan
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jan 7 2014, $18.99
ISBN: 9780312621360

Two ships (the New Horizon and the Empyrean) left dying earth in hopes of finding a new home planet. Instead of a mutual beneficial collaboration between the vessels, Pastor Anne Mather of the New Horizon establishes a brutal lethal theocracy that included abductions from the sister ship. When the kidnapped teen girls led by Kieran escaped back to the Empyrean, with no choice they left their parents behind (see Glow). An attempted rescue fails and the Empyrean destroyed (see Spark).

The former leaders of the Empyrean (Waverly, Kieran and Seth) manage to get on board the New Horizon, but under diverse circumstances. Mather mentors Kieran; an elderly male conceals Waverly while plotting rebellion from the theocratic iron fist of the righteous Pastor; and ailing Seth, like he did on the Empyrean, remains alone living in hiding.

The final Sky Chasers outer space thriller is an entertaining young adult science fiction. The fast-paced story line rotates perspective between the three teen former leaders of the ruined Empyrean as each has landed in a different set of tsuris. Filled with suspense as the heroes and readers wonder whom to trust and whether the protagonists will ever see each other again, teen fans especially will relish the climax of a strong science fiction trilogy.

Harriet Klausner

Moon Rising-Lori Devoti

January 25, 2014

Moon Rising
Lori Devoti
Harlequin Nocturne, Jan 7 2014, $5.75
ISBN 9780373885886

The human may be living in squalor in Cave City, Kentucky, but his claim on a blog to have found hidden treasure sends hermitic vampire Marc Delacroix to his abode as he believes the man found a vampire cache. Moments after his arrival at the dump, two werewolves enter the building. Russell and Cece Parks learned of the hidden werewolf treasure when a drunk bragged about it. A dog angry over the invasion has the three intruders fleeing.

Marc and Cece are attracted to each but distrust supersedes desire. Though her pack wants their natural enemy dead, Cece risks becoming an exiled lone wolf by rescuing him; while a third party paranormal hunt for the same artifacts killing anyone, regardless of species, in their way.

Moon Rising is an exciting paranormal taboo romance due to the fully developed lead characters whose relationship goes from attraction to love rather quickly; while trust proves more convoluted and extremely difficult to achieve due to conflicting loyalties. Fast-paced readers will enjoy the treasure hunt teaming by the vampire and the were in the ideal locale, Mammoth Cave National Park.

Harriet Klausner

Fury Of The Demon-Diana Rowland

January 23, 2014

Fury Of The Demon
Diana Rowland
Daw, Jan 7 2014, $17.99
ISBN: 9780756408305

Though still recuperating from Demon Lord Rhyzkahl’s vicious betrayal, still shocked Demon Summoner Kara Gillian has no time to heal. She and her beloved rescuer and mentor Demon Lord Mzatal rely on one another as they plan to rescue his kidnapped ward Idris from summoners loyal to Rhyzkahl.

They leave the land of the demons as clues lead them to earth where Kara not too long ago was once a mundane Beaulac, Louisiana Police Detective. FBI agents Ryan Kristoff and Zack Garner assist them starting with making her an agency consultant. When Kara and Mzatal become embroiled in a homicide by magic, the summoner fears this is much more than a simple S&R as the pair concludes Rhyzkahl’s minion grows exponentially.

The latest Kara Gillian urban fantasy (see Mark of the Demon and Touch of the Demon) is a fabulous tale as the heroine psychologically struggles with betrayal by so-called friends while reassessing her interpretation of her recent past. She also deals with the horrific revelations of what happened on her home plane while Mzatal trained her for months in his realm. Fast-paced throughout, series fans will appreciate the Bayou Summoner’s return home.

Harriet Klausner

Touch-Michelle Sagara

January 22, 2014

Touch
Michelle Sagara
Daw, Jan 7 2014, $17.99
ISBN: 9780756408008

Teenager Emma knows heartbreak as her beloved boyfriend Nathan died one month after they first got together. Three months have passed since his demise, but for Emma that seems like eternity as besides missing him, she has learned she is a necromancer who sees and communicates with the dead; for instance her late dad lecturing her over the importance of high school. At Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Emma visits Nathan’s grave, just like his mom always does, but unlike his mother they talk and touch.

Emma learns from two friends, necromantic-hunters Eric and Chase, that the Queen of the Dead prevents souls from leaving this plane. Her heart conflicts over alienating the powerful Queen by helping Nathan depart and keeping him with her.

The second Queen of the Dead teen fantasy (see Silence) is an exciting tale as the heroine must choose between a Hobson’s Choice of the ghostly status quo and her love moving on. Newcomers would better understand the protagonist by reading Silence first as Emma has come a long way in a seemingly short time from her reluctant early days as a necromancer and the importance of her ability to make friendships with anyone even those needing to kill her.

Harriet Klausner

Snowblind-Christopher Golden

January 21, 2014

Snowblind
Christopher Golden
St. Martin’s, Jan 21 2014, $25.99
ISBN 9781250015310

The citizens of Coventry were used to powerful blizzards, but this one was the strongest that anyone who survived could remember as affirmed by the records. Many died from exposure or accidents while some simply vanished with their bodies never found. Unnerving reports surfaced from those who endured the ordeal of blue-white “ice men” racing about in the blizzard at extraordinary impossible speeds.

A dozen years later, the citizens of Coventry prepare for the latest storm of the century. However, unlike the previous lethal mega storm of twelve years ago, confidence is long gone as those who lived through that horrific blizzard fear the ice men cometh for them.

In spite of a different season, the exciting Snowbound will remind readers of Stephen King’s Storm of the Century as they share the premise of a supernatural attack during a monster storm. Although why Coventry failed to become a ghost-town after the eerie deadly blizzard twelve years ago is left unanswered, readers will enjoy this suspenseful horror.

Harriet Klausner