Thursday, December 17, 2009

Future War, Fairies, and Sorcery

Cobra Alliance, Timothy Zahn, Baen, Dec 1 2009, $24.00, ISBN: 9781439133064, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

Following the hostilities that led to the Troft claiming the human colonies of Adirondack and Silvern, the Earth leadership realized they could not win a sustained war against the superior enemy. They changed tactics from space battles to guerilla ground warfare and created the Cobra force of specialized warriors containing lethal nanotech weapons surgically placed on the body of the soldier.

Decades have passed with interplanetary warfare part of the history books and the Troft no longer hostile enemies. Leaders question the need for Cobra as it is costly and fears of losing freedom abound. However, that changes when a Troft force attacks Oasama. The next generations’ warriors from families like that of the Moreau whose matriarch and oldest son step forward as Cobra comes to the rescue of a planet that has been vocal about eliminating Cobra.

This terrific military science fiction is a super return to the worlds of Cobra as the underlying conflicts are not just against the Troft. The Qasaman do not want Cobra on their planet, but also do not want the Troft, so they try to manipulate both. The characterizations are extremely emaciated except for the mother-son relationship in which mom is showing her age and her offspring is ready to take charge and put her in the home for old solders. Filled with personal courage and action, Timothy Zahn makes a case that the U.S. Army’s seven values of LDRSHIP remain a strong core for future deployed in space military soldiers.

Dreamdark: Silksinger, Laini Taylor, Putnam, Sep 2009, $18.99, ISBN: 9780399246319, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

The demon slayer faerie Magpie Windwitch has saved the Djinn Magruwen from the assault of malevolent “uncreator” Blackbringer. With her loyal crows, she believes she must find the other Djinn to keep them safe in order to save Dreamdark from the demonic horde. Maggie seeks Whisper Silksinger, the last of her faerie clan guardian who protects the Djinn Azazel.

The Silksinger has fled with Azazel inside her kettle as devils chase her. She reaches Nazneen where she hopes to return Azazel to the safety of his temple; not undertsnading betrayal also awaits them.

Hirik Mothmage is on a quest to take over the protection of Azazel from the Silksinger whether she acquiesces or not. He obsesses with returning honor to his abashed clan who allowed the assassination by noninvolvement of Fade the dragon.

These three Faeirie converge along with Prince Talon and others including vile demons trying to kill the Djinn. Egos clash among the faerie that could lead to failure of the prime mission to protect Azazel.

The sequel to the awesome BLACKBRINGER is a great young teen quest fantasy as once again the mythological species seem genuine. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of action starting with Whisper knowing death as being of two kinds, peaceful and violent with the latter seeming to be her destiny. Filled with battles and superegos clashing over what is right, fans will roots for the three faeries and their allies who must overcome their personal aspirations to be a hero in order to keep Azazel safe from the demonic horde.

Iorich, Steven Brust, Tor, Jan 5 2010, $24.95, ISBN: 9780765312082, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

In Draegara, the House Jhereg crime syndicate has placed a price on the head of Vlad Taltos, who has avoided the mob for several years. However, his skill at staying in hiding ends in a small village tavern when he overhears news that his friend Aliera e’Kieron was arrested by the Empire for practicing taboo elder sorcery. As Aliera never concealed her activity from anyone and no one cared including the Empress, Vlad wonders why now especially with Sethra Labode to testify against her. Apparently, Aliera is accused of trying to kill the Empress Zerika, betray the country to some foreign army, and released a demon inside the House of the Dragon.

Vlad knows all the reasons to mind his business starting and ending with being a foreigner who betrayed his House Jhereg. So he heads to the capital city Adrilhanka that he has avoided for several years to rescue Aliera to learn the real truth behind the incarceration of his friend accused of violating Imperial Articles of Indictment for Felonious Conduct even if it kills him to do so.

This is a terrific entry in the long running Taltos saga as the latest Vlad’s excellent adventure focuses on him landing in plenty of trouble; more tsuris than usual, which says a lot. His activities also stir up problems for everyone else within his circle including the female sorcerer he has come to rescue. Just another few days for Steven Brust’s superb tale as the hero, his friends, his enemies and especially the reader learn life’s critical meaning: “we are what we worry about.” And some of us worry through life.

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