Friday, January 8, 2010

Saint Germain and Others

Burning Shadows
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, Dec 8 2009, $27.99
ISBN 9780765319821

In 438 C.E., Dom Feranescus Rakoczy Sanctu-Germainios is part of the Regional Guard of Apulum Inferior as the Huns flood Europe. His lover Atta Olivia Clemens flees the Carpathians for the relative safety of Constantinople, but though she begged him to accompany her, he felt an obligation to lead the fleeing villagers to a safer place.

On the way to the isolated Sanctu-Eustachios monastery that prefers no visitors, Rakoczy meets Nicoris, who is also on the run from the Huns’ horde too. They are attracted to one another from the onset. As the pair and hundreds of frightened peasants take refuge at the monastery, Rakoczy conceals his vampiric nature, but his lover learns of his True Nature. With the Huns closing in on them, Rakoczy fails to realize the biggest danger may come from within as she too has a dark secret might lead to his True Death inside these holy walls.

This is a terrific entry that works on two fronts: a strong insightful look at those fearing the Huns horde and a romance between Saint Germain and his true love Nicoris. The story line brings to life villagers and Roman legionnaires who expect death and worse once the invincible army arrives. Adding to that profound look at the fifth century are the reclusive monks who believe god’s predetermination means life and death has been doggedly resolved by the Maker so why worry about defense. Although the ending could have used more flesh on it so as to fully bring out the blood and guts of the final twist, fans will relish Saint Germain’s latest bittersweet historical adventure. Harriet Klausner

Red Claw
Philip Palmer
Orbit, Oct 15 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316018937

Professor Richard Helms leads the classification of the animalia and plantae found on recently discovered New Amazon. The planet is a nightmare with its acid rain and the discovery of “kingdomshifters”. Still even with the hostile orb seemingly at war with the outside occupiers, the team of scientist protected by genetically enhanced human commandos and gigantic robotic soldiers finish the cataloguing of this alien ecosystem.

The invaders plan to burn everything to the ground so they can terraform New Amazon into a place for humans to live without wearing protective helmets. Instead of the final solution, the crew is attacked by a flying seemingly invincible monster forcing them to find shelter in the deadly jungle. Survival of the fittest means betraying your friends and lovers as the rain forest proves lethal as does the robots. As the human number dwindle Helms fails to take the helm as the commandos with weapons overwhelm the scientists,

Although this tale has a pulp feel with an over the top of Mt Olympus satirical stripping away civilization story line, fans will enjoy this tale that is the Lord of the Flies in outer space. The story line is fast-paced and filled with dark humor starting with Dr. Baal’s opening “whatever” diary and never slows down as terraforming becomes terror forming. Filled with several twists, readers will enjoy Red Claw as the scientists argue how to classify gryphon, Godzilla, and seditious killing robots while the mercenaries argue how to survive the hostile ordeal with pathetic intelligentsia leaches unable to set up camp. Harriet Klausner

The Golden Shrine
Harry Turtledove
Tor, Oct 13 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765317124

To the North as the glaciers retreat, a gap opened in the ice wall. Through the aperture came the vicious riders called the Rulers whose destruction of anything in its path was abetted by powerful wizards. The Bizogots nomads and Raumsdalian Empire fail to stop the assault somewhat because the Emperor Sigvat refuses to accept the threat; preferring to believe it is nothing more than Count Hamnet Thyssen’s need to be important.

Hamnet and his small unit fight the Rulers in a counter insurgency while seeking the Golden Shrine. Hamnet knows the Rulers need him dead to prevent a prophecy from occurring, but though he remains resolute, his side is in trouble. New hope arises when he meets an unlikely ally; cannibalistic shaman Marcovefa, who also seeks the artifact that legend says will destroy the Rulers.

The third and final Opening of the World dawn of time fantasy (see The Breath of God and Beyond the Gap) is a terrific tale in a strong saga. The story line is fast-paced yet filled with intricate details so that the reader will feel transported back to the Bronze Age as the war to end all wars explodes. Harry Turtledove is at his epic fantasist best with this action-packed BCE series.
Harriet Klausner

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