The Midnight Witch-Paula Brackston

March 24, 2014

The Midnight Witch
Paula Brackston
Dunne, Mar 25 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9781250006080

In 1913 London, Lady Lilith Montgomery watches sadly as her late father is lowered into the ground. She knows her opium using brother Freddie has become the Duke of Radnor, but she inherited her dad’s other title Morningstar the Lazarus Coven Head Witch though only twenty-one and feeling dreadfully unready for the responsibility.

Her fiancé Louis Harcourt the witch renews his vow to die if need be to keep her safe and to help her protect the Elixir of Life from adversarial sorcerers especially the Sentinels necromancers. As WWI explodes, Louis becomes despondent when a distracted Lilith falls in love with artist Bram Cardale; leading to each failing to defend their prime security mission in life; leaving the Great Secret in jeopardy which has not happened in generations.

The latest Paula Brackston’s bewitching drama (see Witch’s Daughter and The Winter Witch) is an entertaining WWI paranormal historical. Although alone in many respects, Lilith embraces the liberating radical changes that “the war to end all wars” wrought on English society. The engaging storyline contains some reiteration of Edwardian upper class behavior; however treks such as to war-torn Uganda provide freshness to the tale. Fans will appreciate The Midnight Witch as she hopes to follow her heart while also insuring the Elixir remains safe from those who would abuse it for personal gain.

Harriet Klausner

Advertisements

The Word Exchange-Alena Graedon

March 17, 2014

The Word Exchange
Alena Graedon
Doubleday, Apr 8 2014, $26.95
ISBN: 9780385537650

In Manhattan Chief Editor of the anachronistic North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL) Douglas Samuel Johnson grieves the death of the written word as the demise of civilization. Instead of obsolete books, love letters, maps and photos, Meme devices are commonly used and the Synchronic company controls linguistics via their gadgets and the Word Exchange. Still Doug diligently finishes a twenty-six year old project with the third edition of the dictionary about to come out probably to the “Sound of Silence” (Simon and Garfunkel); unlike the second version back in the antiquated nineties receiving critical acclaim. At the same time of Doug’s latest triumph, his wife Vera is divorcing him.

Doug gives his beloved daughter Anana pills marked as “Alice” to be used only if she is in peril before he vanishes. Ana and her NADAL colleague Bart search for her father, which takes them dangerously behind the curtain of Synchronic’s brilliant insidious marketing wizardry. They also meet the rebellious Diachronic Society and eventually reach the ancient Holy Grail of language the Oxford English Dictionary office. However, they appear too late to prevent the pandemic “word flu” as the end of language without gadgets denotes the end of life (past, present and future) as we knew it.

Extrapolating current communication technological trends (for instance, from print to electronic) into the next century, Alena Graedon provides a powerful dark dystopian future. The exciting storyline contains a strong message echoing Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” so be wary of the technological-industrial-government complex controlling thought through gizmos. Fans will appreciate the misadventures of Ana and Doug as they fall through the rabbit hole into a world which held the wake for obsolete print.

Harriet Klausner

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

Shadow of Freedom-David Weber

March 11, 2014

Shadow of Freedom
David Weber
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736280

In the Talbott Quadrant, Star Empire of Manticore Tenth Fleet Commander Michelle Henke leads her naval forces to an astounding victory over the invincible Solarian League armada. Word of the stunning outcome spreads rapidly in this sector and causally lifts rebel morale with new hopes of obtaining freedom from the tyrannical Solarian League.

The Mobius Liberation Front asks for help from Henke as they rebel against vicious President Lombroso. Although she sympathizes with their cause to liberate the Mobius System from a lethal despicable tyrant, Henke still remains locked in a deadly war with the Solarian League; at a time when the enemy deploys thousands of its most powerful naval dreadnoughts. More confusing to the Commander is the message includes timing of the revolt was coordinated with Manticore. Henke nor her staff ever heard of MLF before this contact. They conclude the slimy Mesan Alignment brilliantly arranged to make Manticore look weak and unwilling to stand up to its vaunted values of freedom for all when Lombroso annihilates his opposition. Dividing their forces leaves them vulnerable to almost certain overwhelming defeat and she lacks authorization though Henke ignores the latter as she makes her decision.

This is an exciting sidebar military science fiction as much of the action occurs before the events of A Rising Thunder while paralleling the major actions of Mission of Honor; although from a fresh perspective (Henke and the Tenth rather than Honor and the Eighth) in a different sector. Filled with political venom and plenty of military encounters, fans who are okay that the overarching theme remains stagnant and that Honor is MIA, will enjoy Henke’s escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence-Robert Conroy

March 8, 2014

Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence
Robert Conroy
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $25.00
ISBN: 9781476736273

In 1781, the French fail to prevent the British navy from reaching General Cornwallis at Yorktown; leading to the crushing of the colonial rebellion and capture of its leader George Washington and other notable traitors. Washington is found guilty of seditious acts and in 1783 is executed at the Tower of London while many of the rebellion’s leaders incarcerated in Jamaica or in brigs are left to die.

One year after the beheading of Washington, rebel spy Will Drake escapes his death sentence on a ship. He travels to Fort Washington to join freedom fighters emerging there. Sarah Benton treks to Fort Washington to avoid the sexual blackmail attempts by the local law official as does Royal Marines deserter Owen Wells where each enlist in the rebel cause.

Governor General Cornwallis orders General Burgoyne to end this revolt using any means necessary. Still fuming with humiliation as the biggest British loser during the recent hostilities, Burgoyne plans to harshly defeat the rebels at a time the French monarchy is in peril from radicals.

This is a super alternative historical in which the pivotal point change occurs at Yorktown. Most of the events that flow from that key event seem genuine as Robert Conroy defends his time line modifications with strong arguments interwoven into the exciting storyline. The prime players appear real though the rebels are too paragons of virtue; while on the British side Burgoyne seeks to regain his fractured pride; Tarleton a vicious psychopath, Arnold an opportunist traitor; and the Iroquois trust neither side but ally with the lesser of two evils. Readers will appreciate this entertaining entry as Mr. Conroy moves back in time from the twentieth century with another winner.

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

Half-Off Ragnarok-Seanan McGuire

March 5, 2014

Half-Off Ragnarok
Seanan McGuire
Daw, Mar 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756408114

Cryptozoologist Alexander Price takes a research position at the Columbus Zoo where he studies non-urban cryptids and assists on the basilisk breeding program. His hidden reason for accepting the move is to help his family especially with what happened to Cousin Sarah and to grandpa. Visiting Australian Big Cat zoologist and Alex’s girlfriend Shelby Tanner also conducts research at the Columbus Zoo.

Something deadly and strange occurs at the zoo when corpses partially turned to stone begin to appear everywhere. To Alex’s trepidation these deaths most likely mean a serial killing gorgon and he knows of one very nearby though he refuses to accept this individual as the psychopath. At the same time, the Aeslin mice warn Alex that his cousin is losing control, which if true makes her extremely dangerous. As he investigates, Shelby wonders what is going on with her man and at the zoo.

The third InCryptid urban fantasy (see Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special) remains fresh as this entry relocates from Manhattan to Ohio and changes lead from Verity to her older brother; while keeping reader fascination into the Price family and the monsters they fight. Fast-paced with a strong support cast, Alex struggles between ending the terror of a stone cold serial killer, being there for his family and hiding secrets from the brilliant woman who rocks his world.

Harriet Klausner

White Hot Kiss-Jennifer L. Armentrout

March 4, 2014

White Hot Kiss
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Harlequin Teen, Feb 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373211104

Although she is grateful to her adopted family, hybrid Warden-demon teenager Layla Shaw wishes she was a normal purebred gargoyle like they are. Though the seventeen years old Layla accepts that she can never be fully accepted as an equal especially to her off limits crush Zayne, she helps the disproving (of her subpar genetics) Wardens with their demon-hunting by her skill to see souls and mark demons for her family to track.

When Layla and Roth the full-blooded demon meet, he mesmerizes her with his claims of knowing her biological family secrets that she knows nothing about. His lack of a soul enables him to steal kisses from her; further rocking her world. As she learns more about her roots and a demon revolt centered on her, Layla fears associating with Roth will cause her to be marked as an enemy by the family who raised her. Additionally she remains ignorant as to the rebellion’s worldwide ramifications.

This Dark Elements young adult fantasy (see Bitter Sweet Love e-novella; not read by me) is an enjoyable tale due to the Armentrout world feeling genuine with its vivid competing supernatural cultures possessing differing views re humans. Roth is a terrific complicated super-bad dude whose White Hot Kiss melts a confused Layla. Although a late underdeveloped threesome arises for no apparent reason except as a sub-genre “requirement” in which I would have preferred the tri-relationships remain inside the heroine’s head only, fans will relish this fabulous teen otherworldly tale.

Harriet Klausner