Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

Waldo & Magic, Inc.-Robert A. Heinlein

March 31, 2014

Waldo & Magic, Inc.
Robert A. Heinlein
Baen, Apr 1 2014, $14.00
ISBN: 9781476736358

“Waldo.” With the latest crash of a North Power-Air plane this time in Nebraska, Chairman of the Board Gleason discusses with key staff the massive failures crisis. Chief engineer Stevens, research supervisor Rambeau, legal head Harkness and chief stationary engineer Striebel remain stymied as none know the cause. Stevens suggests consulting with rude hermit Waldo over the objection of Rambeau. Obtaining approval, Stevens visits Waldo’s only contact Doc Grimes to gain him entrance to the reclusive genius who suffers from crippling myasthenia gravis that forces him to reside in a zero-gravity abode circling the planet. Although he has no reason to save humanity from their poisoning the planet, Waldo’s solution to engine failure ties with man-made radiation causing lethargy but proves outside the realm of science and engineering.

“Magic, Inc.” With its near monopoly on practitioners and absolute control of government certification and licensing, Magic, Inc. brokers the use of magic by contracting it out to business moguls, politicians and other ambitious affluent people for an exorbitant fee. As first rate independent operators are becoming extinct, businessman Archie Fraser seeks magic outside this cabal, but never expected to enter hell with his new practitioner partners.

These are two enjoyable reprints of WWII published fantasy novellas. Robert A. Heinlein’s genius stands out in Waldo as the title character is an antihero at an era when heroes only apply. The storyline deftly changes from science fiction to fantasy while also focusing on issues that remain timely. The companion piece is more typical of the genre circa 1940s though makes a case to beware of the government-industrial complex two decades before President Eisenhower’s farewell speech.

Harriet Klausner

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Blood and Iron: The Book of the Black Earth, Part 1-Jon Sprunk

March 15, 2014

Blood and Iron: The Book of the Black Earth, Part 1
Jon Sprunk
Pyr, Mar 11 2014, $18.00
ISBN 9781616148935

On the Bantu Ray as the ship’s carpenter, Horace and the rest of the Arnossi navy sail into combat at sea against the Akeshian Empire. However, an enigmatic torrential storm that could only be magically created shipwrecks the Bantu Ray. Horace manages to make it to the Akeshia Empire’s Erugash Kingdom where he is taken prisoner; as an enemy combatant he is condemned to a life as a slave.

A second storm forces Horace to deploy for the first time Zoana elemental magic that makes him a desirable commodity at Queen Byleth’s court if he can learn to control his previously unknown skill. Many want him to fail as nobles know a royal favorite mage means less power for them and the Sun Cult priests plot to overthrow Byleth but must rid the monarch of her new champion first. Defending the carpenter are the handmaiden Alyra and slave-soldier Jirom.

The first Book of the Black Earth is an engaging fantasy that showcases the impact of a stranger with superior magical powers on a royal court. Readers will root for the honorable protagonist although others accept him as a friend and ally; and he becomes a mage adept too easily. Still Jon Sprunk creates a fascinating world with intriguing culture clashes as the Arnossi carpenter becomes an Erugash magician.

Harriet Klausner

Immortal Muse-Stephen Leigh

March 12, 2014

Immortal Muse
Stephen Leigh
DAW, Mar 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9780756409562

In 1352 Paris, Perenelle expected a happy life when she married alchemist Nicolas Flamel after her first husband Marlon died from the 1349 pestilence. However, her life remained dissatisfying especially since he rejected her help at the apothecary though as the daughter of an alchemist she knew her chemicals. Worse to Perenelle was his temper that targeted their little girl Verdette for most of his wrath over Perenelle’s objections. In 1370 Verdette escapes her uncaring father via marriage. Over the next two decades Verdette begged her beloved mom to leave the odious ignoramus, but she did not as she loved working in her lab. In 1398 Verdette died, but a few years later a still grieving Perenelle develops an immortality elixir that to her chagrin Nicolas takes too.

Over the centuries in Paris, Rome, London and elsewhere, Perenelle the muse encourages artists while Nicolas brings pain and death to anyone in his path. Every time he finds her, she vanishes and reinvents herself until now she lives as Camille Kenny in twenty-first century New York while knowing he will come.

Immortal Muse is a fabulous fantasy that rotates between modern day NYC and various changing centuries; with each stop and the people readers (and the Immortal Muse) encounter coming across as genuine. Readers will appreciate Stephen Leigh’s fascinating good and evil war while wondering who the author’s creative muse is.

Harriet Klausner

The Barrow-Mark Smylie

March 7, 2014

The Barrow
Mark Smylie
Pyr, Mar 4 2014, $18.00
ISBN 9781616148911

In Manon Mole in the Middle Kingdoms, cartographer Stjepan Black-Heart finds the map into the lethal Barrow of Azharad the ancient wizard that leads to Gladringer the legendary sword. Though several of his companions die on this venture, the map-maker puts together a new team consisting of brothel owner Gilgwyr, insane mage Leigh, survivor of the Manon Mole escapade Erim the female in male grab, mercenary Godewyn Red-Hand, noble Arduin and his sister scandalous Annwyn.

Each of the adventurers understands the danger of this quest, but all insist on risking their lives for diverse seemingly insane reasons. However, none of these scoundrels anticipated what happened when they tried to use the magical map for the first time only to find it cursed resulting in one dead and this guide apparently destroyed. From that devastating start, the escapades turn worse.

The Barrow is a fabulous fantasy made fresh by a magnificent team of seemingly amoral adventurers who over the course of their trek prove to possess a different code of ethics with varying personalities shaped by their respective social class, ethnicity, religion or gender. In spite of a short engaging opening saga in which Stjepan finds the mythical map, the entertaining bloody dark storyline starts leisurely as readers meet the players. Once the treasure seekers are established, the quest plot accelerates into nearly impossible to put down hyperspeed.

Harriet Klausner

The Fall Of Atlantis-Marion Zimmer Bradley

March 6, 2014

The Fall Of Atlantis
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736297

Daughter of a priest, Domaris raised her younger sister Deoris in the Temple since she was eight years old following the death of their mother in childbirth. Her life as a surrogate mom to her sibling is tedious until Micon of Atlantis arrives; he seeks help from the Temple. He claims that recently the Black Robes tortured him. He also insists that when he saw one of their faces; he became blind. Though he can identify this dark practitioner, Micon refuses to do so frustrating a demanding Revieda, head of the Grey Robes.

Domaris and Micon fall in love while Deoris used to her older sister caring for her feels abandoned by the only woman she considered as her mother. Lonely, she turns to Reveida for comfort. Domaris gives birth to his child but Micon dies soon afterward. Grieving Domaris distrusts Reveida and fears for Deoris.

This reprint of a fantasy duology prequel (See Web of Darkness and Web of Light) is an engaging simplistic good and evil magical conflict. The storyline is fast-paced, but feels incomplete as the key characters never seem fully developed. Still these early 1980s novels are fun to read especially for fans of the late great Ms. Bradley.

Harriet Klausner

Hope Rearmed-David Drake and S.M. Stirling

March 3, 2014

Hope Rearmed
David Drake and S.M. Stirling
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $14.00
ISBN: 9781476736303

“The Anvil.” Civil Government Governor Barholm Clerett fears popular General Raj “Savior of the State” Whitehall will overthrow him in a coup. At a council meeting to discuss invading the Brigade lost territories, Chancellor Robert Tsetzas wants to delay military action due to costs accrued by the previous action. Thus when Raj asks for forty thousand troops, he receives eighteen thousand. Accompanied by his wife Suzette who runs the civilian side of the invasion, Raj leads his troops to Stern Isle where he expects little resistance until the assault on Wager Bay, a powerful impenetrable fort.

“The Steel.” Whitehall’s troops take back Crown Peninsula and Lion City, but he knows they face overwhelming odds as the Brigade army outnumbers his forces by 5 to 1. Still they march forward destroying Brigade defenses and freeing towns on the road to Old Residence. The Brigade forces led by Ingreid Manfrond, with Howyrd Carstens providing the brains behind the counter operation, also head towards Old Residence. As the battle begins, a betrayal leaves Whitehall and his army in peril.

Hope Rearmed is an exciting reprinting of books 3 and 4 in the thrilling General science fiction saga (see Hope Reborn for the opening tales The Forge and The Hammer). The terrific blending of nineteenth and twentieth century technology within a feral Holy Roman Empire feudal society on a divided world makes for a strong background. However, it is the grim dark realism of war (in spite of comic book heroics by Raj) and the worship of the silent Computer who abandoned the people but left behind the bible (manuals) that make for a fabulous read.

Harriet Klausner

Broken Homes-Ben Aaronovitch

February 16, 2014

Broken Homes
Ben Aaronovitch
Daw, Feb 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409609

The car crash between two speeding vehicles left Allen Frust dead and Robert Weil severely injured. First first responder PC Slatt notices unaccountable blood in Weil’s car that leads to him being the prime suspect as a mutilating serial killer. A spell involved in the crash leads Queen’s Peace Constable and magician’s apprentice Peter Grant summarizing the case to his boss-mentor Nightingale the wizard that Weil may be a mundane serial killer or a ward of the infamous Faceless Man.

The Southwark Council plans to tear down a housing monstrosity, Skygarden in Elephant and Castle. However, efforts to demolish this ugly high rise complex meet eerie opposition. With political pressure on the police to resolve the interference, Peter and his apprentice peer Constable Lesley Mai investigate to determine whether the Faceless Man prevents the demolition and, if as expected yes, why.

The fourth Rivers of London police procedural fantasy (see Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground) is an entertaining thriller that makes the magical elements seem to be a real force of nature. The human and supernatural cast is strong and Peter continues to grow as an apprentice mage and constable. Action-packed with a terrific twisting finish, fans of the series will appreciate Ben Aaronovitch’s lampooning government sponsored housing projects used to warehouse the poor in isolation until the land is needed for something considered more important than filing away the impoverish.

Harriet Klausner

Dreamwalker-C.S. Friedman

February 15, 2014

Dreamwalker
C.S. Friedman
DAW, Feb 4 2014, $19.95
ISBN 9780756408886

Jessica Drake’s weird dreams of alien worlds have haunted her as far back as she remembers. Uncomfortable, the sixteen year old Jesse shares her haunting dreams with no one except her gamer addicted younger brother Tommy. He, in turn, uses her vivid descriptions in his games.

DNA testing stuns the teen who assumed her parents birthed her; as the data prove they are not her natural family. Even more shocking the results insist she probably is not Homo Sapien. Jesse soon meets other “changelings” with her genetic coding also orphaned on earth while some of these others die in suspicious accidents. When strangers destroy her home and abduct Tommy, Jesse and two changeling comrades follow to a different Earth where the science is magic and the economics is multidimensional colonial mercantilism controlled by a powerful plutocracy. To return to their earth, Jesse and her friends risk their lives by daring to challenge the portal-controlling Guilds.

Dreamwalker is an enjoyable young adult opening act that establishes a parallel earth in a fantasy setting manipulated by the universal 1%. The storyline provides readers with a deep look at this other realm through the escapades of the three changelings. Although the heroine’s companions are underdeveloped sidekicks and a romance feels included as a subgenre requirement, readers will enjoy traveling to C.S. Friedman’s other earth and look forward to more dimensional adventures starring Jesse and her buddies.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Bites-Sherrilyn Kenyon

February 11, 2014

Dark Bites
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s, Jan 21 2014, $25.99
ISBN 9780312376864

This wonderful eleven short story (plus “Redemption,” an extract from the novel Guardian) collection showcases the talent of Sherrilyn Kenyon to provide passionate exciting tales mostly in romantic fantasy, but also includes a twisting High Noon western romance (see “Santa Wears Spurs”). All the engaging entries were published between 2000 and 2006 in different anthologies or venues with an overarching premise of a chance for redemption through love or avenging justice.

In 12,252 BC, the warrior Aricles is sworn to protect the cold Goddess of Justice Bathymaas, but offers her much more in the “House of the Rising Son.” In “Phantom Lover” Erin McDaniels suffers from horrendous nightmares as V’Aidan challenges the serpent Krysti’Ana and makes love to her afterward only in her dreams. At the Atlanta based Dragon.com gala, were-panther Pandora the virgin in heat seeks the help of Acheron as she is frightened having left her pack for the first time, but instead encounters enemy were-panther Dante as the “Stroke of Midnight” arrives. Immortal soulmates for five centuries, in Chicago Velkan the Dark-Hunter and his wife Esperatta realize that a fifteenth century Romanian foe has come to kill them in “Until Death Do We Part.” Katagarian Fury, vowing to keep his clan safe, seeks the adversary who assaulted a werewolf in New Orleans; while vowing to keep her people safe Arcadian Angelia hunts the raging werewolf that threatens them under the “Shadow of the Moon.”

Harriet Klausner

Disenchanted & Co.-Lynn Viehl

February 3, 2014

Disenchanted & Co.
Lynn Viehl
Pocket, Jan 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781476722351

In the Provincial Union of Victoriana, Charmian “Kit” Kittredge firmly believes in the logic of science and math though she knows many in society strongly accept the existence of magic. Kit investigates crimes in which magic is allegedly reported with her objective being to solve the case while proving the mundane not the hocus pocus was involved.

In Rumsen, Lady Diana Walsh states her spouse’s first wife cursed her with the odious words etched into her skin. Though Kit hates dealing with the aristocracy, she decides to look into the assertion; expecting to debunk Walsh’s claim as non-magic means perpetrated by the husband. However, Kit finds there is more under the sun than just physics as she fears the city will turn into a paranormal dead zone while she also avoids the deathmage of Toriana, Lucien Dredmore who pursues her.

The first hard copy printing of the opening two Kittredge alternate steampunk America e-books (see Her Ladyship’s Curse and His Lordship Possessed) is an enjoyable paranormal mystery in which the vivid Viehl world’s pivotal moment is the British won the American War of Independence. Kit the skeptic is super when she works her case that curses her belief system by offering proof that counter her logical preposition. Although Dredmore is too aggressive (assault comes to mind) towards the reluctant sleuth he wants to possess, readers will enjoy Kit’s investigation that takes fans on a tour of a different America.

Harriet Klausner