Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More reviews from Harriet

Here are some more reviews from Harriet. I've been taking care of a sick wife and looking for a job. hings are still pretty rough in this area. We are sitting at 10% and I expect it to be a while before things start picking up.

I hope you find something of interest.

Midwinter, Matthew Sturges, PYR, Mar 24 2009, $15.98, ISBN: 9781591027348

Seelie Army Captain Mauritane is accused of treason. He is allowed to live because he is a war hero, but the disgraced officer is sentenced to life behind bars with no parole at the dark mountainous Crere Sulace prison. He has no hope for the future and barely survives the present in this ancient tomb.

That is he has no hope until the Seelie Queen Regina Titania offers Mauritane redemption and freedom if he willingly agrees to perform a suicide mission. He agrees on the condition that he selects his crew and they also receive royal clemency. Titania agrees. As the every century winter freezes the land, Mauritane, Raive the beautiful warrior elf, Lord Perrin Alt, and human scientist woirk to save the Seelie kingdom while the Unseelie Queen Mab deploys the war plan of Hy Pexho to destroy their neighbor.

Besides being an excellent quest fantasy, MIDWINTER is a superb morality play. The hero and his "misfits" must choose between trying to save a nation that incarcerated them vs. fleeing for freedom perhaps in the Contested Lands between the two Fae kingdoms. Interestingly drawing up a pro and con chart would lead to running away because death is the probable response to saving the Seelie. The two nations feel real due to a strong cast in the kingdoms, the Contested Lands that divide them, and the maybe Seelie champions who each has personal enemies. Especially coming alive is the political intrigue inside the Sturges mythos. Fans will relish the eye opening first act from one of the Shadowpack and Jack of Fables comic book team (along with Bill Willingham ), and want more in this Fae setting.

The Twilight Herald, Tom Lloyd. PYR, Mar 2009, $15.98, ISBN: 9781591027331

The “White Eye” Isak has become Lord of the Farlan tribe following his victory at Narkang (see STORMCALLER). Aiding his claim to overall rule of the Land is possession of two crystal skulls and the sharing of his brain with the soul of dark Elf Aryn Bwr although he is not sure how much help that provides him. Still Isak returns to Tirah in triumph, only someone tries to kill him whom he assumes is baffling Azaer or perhaps a member or the entire group of the deadly White Circle. He suspects seditious actions by others, who either feel they should be in charge or he is unworthy.

Although he knows he must focus on those planning seditious acts and assassination attempts, he sees an opportunity to avenge the downfall of Lord Bahl. He heads to the divided city Scree where insanity rules due to a seemingly “controlled” drought leading to no one trusting anyone and death and danger are everywhere. Isak does not care or fear anyone even those trying to kill him; for he is on a mission of vengeance, which many of the Farlan believes means razing the small city as an example of Isak’s power.

The Twilight Herald is a complex well written fantasy filled with political intrigue and backstabbing that make the Democrats and Republicans look like friendly playmates. The story line is loaded with several major action-packed subplots though most remain dangling for the future; but to truly digest especially the first quarter of the novel with so much happening from the onset the audience needs to have read THE STORMCALLER. Isak successfully takes over the role of solo star with Bahl gone as Tom Lloyd provides a deep complicated political fantasy in which Machiavelli and Borgia would feel at home.

Desire Unchained, Larissa Ione, Forever, Mar 2009, $6.99, ISBN: 9780446400985

Almost a year has past since the human Runa Wagner caught her boyfriend Shade with two vamps. She fled from him, which, though he misses her, was for the best as a demon breed Seminus has no future with a mortal; worse if he should ever find his bond mate, the curse will torment him for eternity.

Runa’s ire over what she saw has grown into outrage with a thirst for vengeance for Shade destroying her innocence. However, her plan falls apart when Shade’s breed brother Roag, who loathes him more than she does, captures him and Runa. They awaken chained together in Roag’s dungeon. Shade’s insane sibling’s scheme is diabolically brilliant as he believes she is his brother’s love bond and plans to expedite his "loving" concept.

The latest Demonica erotic romantic urban fantasy (see PLEASURE UNBOUND), DESIRE UNCHAINED, is a fabulous tale of love hurts. The story line is fast-paced from the opening sequence of three years ago when a despondent Shade thinks his brother died and never slows down as Roag spellbinds them as lifemates to destroy his sibling. Sub-genre fans will relish a visit to the Ione realm through the Harrowgate to and from New York and Sheoul demon world.

Immortals: The Reckoning, Jennifer Ashley, Joy Nash and Robin T. Popp, Love Spell, Mar 2009, $7.99, ISBN: 0505527685

"Wolf Hunt" by Jennifer Ashley. Six months ago LAPD cop Logan the werewolf saved the life of Nadia the demon Nadia. Now he receives an urgent call from her from the woody California-Oregon border that they are coming for her. He drops everything to keep her safe, but now faces a dilemma from his past as pack leader Matt and her preadolescent son Joel are involved as much as his heart is.

"Blood Debt" by Joy Nash. One hundred years ago, Leanna the Sidhe killed Jackson in Paris. He survived the encounter but was turned and became a slave to master vampire Armand Legrand. Now he is returning to Paris to kill his former overlord and perhaps Leanna too especially if she tries to prevent his achieving his life’s ambition.

"Beyond the Mist" by Robin T. Popp. Poseidon has come to claim what was willingly pledged to him by Sekhmet though the ocean God admits he no longer desires her one year old grandson’s soul, but even he cannot break the magical contract. He needs a soul for a soul so Sekhmet thinking the witch Jenna killed her parents offers her up. Spirit-walker Dave and Jenna are on a cruise ship run by Poseidon who comes to collect his debt. If she can free her powers repressed by her mental reaction to family homicides and with Dave’s help, she might survive with her soul intact, but can she fight back once she knows the alternate price.

These are three terrific Immortals' tales containing strong lead characters, super key support players, and the return of former stars inside deep paranormal thrillers. This is a winning anthology for fans and newcomers by the saga’s authors who have writeen at least two novels each.

Turn Coat, Jim Butcher, Roc, Apr 2009, $25.95, ISBN: 9780451462565

Harry Dresden is a wizard working as a private investigator in Chicago. As an innocent youngster he broke one of the most sacred cardinal rules of the White Council of Wizards and was going to be executed but he got taught right from wrong by a kind mentor who convinced the council to give him probation. Warden Chief Morgan has watched Harry for years waiting to pounce when the lad makes that inevitable mistake; they have tangled several times since and their animosity remains stratospheric.

Morgan comes to Harry’s home looking ill and injured as the Wardens are after their former leader. The weary Morgan explains he was seen over the corpse of Aleron La Fortier holding the murder weapon. Additionally a bank account in his name was found containing millions; phone records show Morgan talking with someone inside the Vampire Red Court. The wizards knew that one of them was selling information to the enemy and that the wardens were investigating, but now all the evidence hangs Morgan. The unknown adversary sends a Skinwalker, a semi-divine god to start a war between the wizards and the White Court Vampires who feed on human essence. Harry knows Morgan is not the traitor so he sets up a scheme to uncover the betrayer and hopefully prevent hostilities.

This is a great Dresden tale as the hero has come a long way from his days as a rebel with a cause though he still defends the underdog with a passion. The story line is entertaining as Morgan turns to his detestable enemy Harry because of the reasons he loathes Dresden; the wizard’s known rebellious nature to defend the downtrodden. Fans will relish this entry as Harry tries to out the real TURN COAT before a war of magic ignites Chicago and beyond while trying to keep an anxious Morgan from charging into the fight like a cow kicking over an oil lamp to Dresden plan and the city.

Blue Diablo, Ann Aguirre, Roc, Apr 2009, $6.99, ISBN: 9780451462640

Corine Solomon has the ability to hold an object and know its history as she can determine who possessed it; sometimes she can even see its future as to who will own it next. As a handler, Corine wants to help people, but feels overwhelmed with their needs as much as she worries about those who fear her “gift”. On her last operation with her then lover Chance at her side, she accomplished what she set out to do, but almost died achieving her goal. Even though she loves Chance, she left him while he was sleeping to keep herself safe. She starts over in Mexico City running a pawn shop.

Eighteen months later, Chance walks into her store informing her that his mother is missing. He asks Corine to help him find her; she agrees. They find a button where the woman was last seen. Corine holds the button and sees the woman binding four demons using chicken blood. When she touches his mother’s purse at the police station, Corine hears the words “la Zona”; the red light district in Nuevo Laredo. A wizard magically attacks Corine to prevent her from finding Chance’s mother but she and Chance persevere even if they both might die.

The first Corine Solomon urban detective fantasy is a great tale filled with magic, paranormal powers, demons, and spirits bound to the necro. The heat between the lead couple is palpable, but Corine fears her love for Chance will weaken her and put him at risk. Ann Aguirre makes her realm feel realistic as her heroine and her beloved investigate the disappearance paranormal style. This is an enthralling romantic urban fantasy.

Angels of Destruction, Keith Donohue, Shaye Areheart (Crown), Mar 3 2009, $25.95,

ISBN: 9780307450258

In 1985 in wintry Pennsylvania nine year old Norah knocks on the door of lonely widow Margaret Quinn. The older woman lets the frozen waif inside, but is surprised to learn the child insists she does not have parents and has always been on her own. Norah explains that she needed shelter from the cold night and saw the light in Margaret’s home. Margaret excitedly allows Norah to stay; feeling redemption as her own daughter Erica as a teen ran away a decade ago to the West Coast with her boyfriend to join the radical Angels of Destruction.

Margaret and Norah agree that Norah will masquerade her as her granddaughter. Norah enters the school and becomes friends with a student Sean whose dad abandoned him. When Norah begins to insist she is an angel with a destructive message, some fear her while others revel in her seemingly magical happiness. However, one person in the shadows has followed her from before and struggles with what to do about her.

Obviously the bond between Margaret and Norah is the center of the tale as they even convince the older woman’s skeptical sister that the child is her grand-niece. Using flashbacks, readers learn what happened to Erica on the road west. However, the key to the story line that keeps reader’s attention is who Norah truly is and what is her mission in Pennsylvania.

Curse the Dawn, Karen Chance, Onyx, Apr 2009, $7.99, ISBN: 0451412702

When the gods were banished from earth, those using the magic bestowed on them by Artemis banded together to create the Silver Circle. Apollo keeps in touch with the mages through the Pythians, but the Silver Circle has kept the chief Pythian under their control for millennia. Cassie Palmer is the current head Pythia, but the Silver Circle fears her independence as she refuses to bow to their control leaving her in their minds susceptible to Apollo’s manipulations.

They place a large bounty on her dead or alive. Cassie thinks they are acting stupid because their action places the Silver Circle at war with Apollo’s followers, The Black Circle as well as the God himself who is playing his foes like a puppeteer pulling the strings of his puppets to abet his returning to earth to rule. Master vampire Senator Mircea Basarab protects Cassie, which further aggravates the combatant Circles as they assume the undead want to use Cassie for their own purposes. No one seems to respect Cassie as her own person as she repeatedly risks her life to do what she believes is ethically right.

Karen Chance affirms that she is one of the best fantasists today with her fourth Palmer thriller (see EMBRACE THE NIGHT, TOUCH THE DARK and CLAIMED BY SHADOW). Readers will believe that vampires, mages and distant interfering Gods exist in the Chance realm. The story line starts at the speed of light and accelerates from there as Cassie has a price on her head that brings out the avaricious dregs of society; leading the audience to ponder the question of whether the end ever justifies the means. The strong support cast, mostly her enemies, enhances this kick butt heroine’s tale as she knows that the enemy of her enemy may remain her enemy.

Calculating God, Robert J. Sawyer, Tor, Mar 3 2009, $14.95, ISBN: 0765322897

Hollus the arachnid space traveler arrives on earth in Toronto. The “ET” enters the Royal Ontario Museum stating: “Take me to a paleontologist”. She has come to the third planet to discuss her people’s empirical evidence of the existence of God that they share with another alien race; her mission is to find other sentient species in order to add data supporting their theory.

Hollus meets dinosaur expert atheist Dr. Thomas Jericho. She explains to the earth scientist that on her homeworld and that of another planet five extinction events occurred concurrently; they hypothesized based on that limited data that these events have occurred on every planet with sentient life throughout the galaxy. She explains to the stunned Canadian, who still struggles with meeting an alien, the grand unifying theory of Creationism. Hollus finally makes the case that science has one goal: CALCULATING GOD in order “to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods".

Although most of this profound science fiction novel is passive as the two scientists debate the existence of God, this is a terrific tale that will have the audience pondering how they would we react if an ET arrived with strong empirical evidence that God exists. The story line mostly focuses on Hollus the believer and Thomas the non-believer who wants to believe as he is dying from cancer. There is also a limited but fascinating look at the reactions of various people from the Intelligent Design crowd to the Darwinists and all sorts in between who have their own agendas. Fans of cerebral science fiction will relish the visit from a theistic evolutionary ET spider.

A Vampire’s Claim, Joey W. Hill, Berkley Heat, Mar 2009, $15.00, ISBN: 9780425226087

In 1953 Lady Daniela, the rare offspring of two vampires, travel to Western Australia to claim her maternal inheritance since her mom chose sun suicide. On the trek through the Outback to Thieves’ Station, Daniela meets visiting English human Devlin at a dive. They hit it off making love that night to her shock as she has met many males over her two millennium existence that rarely tickle her let alone ignite her desire.

Dev accompanies Daniela to her station and learns what she is. He assists her in her goal to rid the world of an evil vampiric despot. She wants his soul voluntarily. However, when she violates her beloved by claiming him as her servant without his permission, Daniela fears she went too far and will lose the independent Dev since he does not understand the repercussions to her by her naming him.

Besides a great vampire romance by an author marking the sub-genre fans as loyal followers, (see THE VAMPIRE QUEEN'S SERVANT and THE MARK OF THE VAMPIRE QUEEN) Joey W. Hill provides a strong sense of time and place. The story line insures readers will be in the remote Outback as Ike and Elizabeth rise to power. Filled with action and two strong lead protagonists, readers will appreciate this enticing invigorating thriller.

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