Bite Marks, Jennifer Rardin, Orbit, Oct 2009, ISBN: 9780446043823
Jaz Parks and her boss and lover Vayl the Vampire are part of a CIA hit team who battle mortal and supernatural entities. The squad is in Canberra, Australia are on an important assignment to stop a horde of gnomes led by the followers of the god Ufran from getting their larvae into the Canberra Deep Space Complex. Jaz figures kicking gnome butt will prove easier than moving sheep. From the moment they arrive at the Canberra Space Complex nothing goes right.
The gnomes are sending carriers of larvae to Madrid and California Space Complexes as ; if the larvae succeed, three stations will be destroyed. Jaz has additional issues starting with King Brude the Domtyr who sends souls to the hells. He now reside inside Jaz’s head. While she tries to restrain Brude so she can work the mission, one of her team Cassandra the seer is avoiding Kyphas whom she signed a binding contract with, but regrets her action. The team rallies around her and they are all getting ready to do battle with the Ufranites. This is all in a day’s work for crappy pay as Jaz thinks this is so not a walk in the park because one said anything about fighting Kyphas the invincible demon or that would be a traitor in their midst.
Jennifer Rardin’s latest Jaz Parks urban fantasy is a super Down Under thriller in time for Halloween as the story line is filled with action (in and out of the heroine’s head) and romance (also in and out of the heroine’s head and other body parts). Jaz is a sort of Lara Croft with perilous adventures of all sorts as she battles gnomes, seers, Domtyr , souls in her head, and a female demon. BITE MARKS is a bitingly good jazzed up tale. Harriet Klausner
Stoneholding, James G. Anderson and Mark Sebanc, Baen, $14.99, ISBN 978143913299-9
The king of Ahn Norvys is assassinated and the queen and their infant heir are kidnapped. With a power vacuum looming, the powerful Mindal merchant council select dangerous Gawmage as the ruler although many object though none as strongly as those in the highlander Stoneholding keep in Arvon.
It has been almost two decades since the murder and Gawmage has tightened his control through a powerful army that is strangling the kingdom. The only hope to rally opposition resides with the lost Prince Starigan, whom has not surfaced in all that time. Gawmage’s army seems set to destroy all holdouts including Arvon. Although feeling ancient and achy, the High Bard of Arvon Wilum knows time has run out as the Black Scorpion Dragoons attack. He will need to venture out of the devastated keep for the first time in decades and pray that the sacred artifacts that he guards diligently, the Sacred Fire and the Talamahd golden harp, will remain safe while he, his apprentice Kalaquinn Wright, and a few ragged survivors of the assault search for the lost prince and find a way to relight the Sacred Fire.
With a nod to Beowulf and Tolkien, the strong cast (especially the intrepid brilliant apprentice and his dedicated intelligent master) makes for an exciting energizing epic fantasy. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action although some spins seem doubtful with what is known in this realm. Still fans will relish this super saga once the audience understands Baen has left at least for STONEHOLDING the science fiction and alternate history genres. Harriet Klausner
Serrano Succession, Elizabeth Moon, Baen, Sep 8 2009, $24.00, ISBN: 9781439132883
“Change of Command”. The Familias Regnant are stunned when the dynastic head Bunny Thornbuckle is assassinated. The murder throws the Family into chaos and discord. Hobart Conselline cleverly takes advantage of the confusion and lack of successor power to become the new council speaker of the Grand Council at Castle Rock He gets new laws passed that target removing his only threat, the late Bunny’s Widow Miranda, his daughter Brun and the children that the latter was forced to carry (see RULES OF ENGAGEMENT). At the same time the Regnant is divided between Hobart supporters and those loyal to the widow, military officers Esmay Suiza and Barin Serrano marry over the objections of their respective adversarial families.
“Against the Odds”. The Fleet military wing of the Familias Regnant rebels. This leaves the Familias in jeopardy from its bigger stalking neighbor, the Benignity. Meanwhile the Fleet discharges Lieutenant Esmay Suiza for marrying Barin Serrano compounded by her religious belief. Suiza travels to Castle Rock where she hopes to obtain support from Grand Council member Brun Meager, whom she rescued at a time the leadership debates the issue of near-immortality of the wealthy vs. the aspirations of their heirs.
These are reprints of two of the Suiza-Serrano tales that will please fans of the outer space romantic science fiction series; newcomers will be better off starting with last year’s reprint; SERRANO CONNECTION. Both tales are well written and enable the audience to feel they are in space as family members of a Mafia like planetary government. Although the myriad of subplots can prove confusing and bog down the pace, SERRANO SUCCESSION remains a super spellbinding Suiza-Serrano space saga with more stories to reprint. Harriet Klausner