Roc, Mar 2010, $24.95
When she was Queen the first time, Cassidy of Bhad was too weak and plain so her retinue deserted her to join the stronger court of much prettier and more powerful Queen Kermilla. At the same she is dethroned, the deceitful Queens ignored the honorable Rules of the Blood and ruin Dena Nehele leading to revolt.
As the Rose-Jeweled Queen Cassidy expands her efforts to cleanse the entire realm and affirm she deserves being the ruler, Cassidy continues to grow in moral fiber, which enables her to grow in power to cleanse the land of the taint.
Fans of the long running Black Jewels saga will relish this terrific entry; newcomers need to at least read the previous entry The Shadow Queen to better understand the action-packed entry though perusing previous books would be even better as Anne Bishop paints a complex realm. Harriet Klausner
Jade Man's Skin
Del Rey, Feb 16 2010, $15.00
The Dragon in Chains is no longer locked in the Straits of Taishu. Instead she soars in the sky free with an obsession to take her vengeance on those who chained it. However, the beast has not been able to rid itself of her liberator, Han the apprentice scribe who remains telepathically tied to the dragon.
At the same the exiled young Emperor remains alive because of the dragon, but also feels like a bird in a gilded cage as he is trapped in the mountains of Taishu Island by his enemies and the beast. He is changing due to jade exposure that leaves him more powerful, angrier and frustrated as he no longer wants to hide in the mountains. His first step back is taking control of the city of Taishu as the Emperor strikes back. General Ping Wen believes capturing the Jade Throne is his first step to what he should be – Godhood. Besides counting his losses over the years, pirate Captain Li Ton tries to take over the military as the civil war continues unabated. The exiled Emperor’s favorite concubine Lady Mei Feng is also in the mix cleverly out maneuvering the ambitious general. However, out of the sea comes the Li-Goddess who comes after the dragon, but collateral damage of people is no concern to her.
The second medieval fantasy captures the essence of Chinese mythology with an even deeper more complicated tale than the Dragon in Chains. The story line is fast-paced with several subplots brewing as various individuals want power; some want godhood power. The point of view changes, but never slows down as the dragon unchained is a strong tale as the conflict expands. Harriet Klausner
The Battle Sylph
Leisure, Mar 2010, $7.99
Her father arranged for Solie to marry a forty-five years old obese man. She refuses so believing her maiden Aunt Masha would taker her in, Solie flees her village. However, she fails to arrive at the haven she seeks. Instead she is captured by soldiers working for the prince of Eferem who expects a visit from a Battler Sylph. To bind him to the royals, they need a virgin sacrifice; hence the plan is to kill Solie the moment the Sylph crosses over as that enslaves them to the killer of his “queen”.
However, the soldiers underestimate their helpless prisoner who escapes their binds and calls to the Sylph “Hey You”. He kills the prince and immediately the named Heyou and his queen Solie flee together. Outraged King Alcor Baldorth sends royal warriors and other Battle Sylphs to chase after this abomination of a female master of any kind of Sylph, but especially the most fearsome type, the Battler.
This is a great opening romantic fantasy with a delightful tongue in cheek attitude that enhances the fun of the action-packed tale. The story line is fast-paced from the opening failed binding and never slows down as everyone knows females cannot be masters of sylphs. As Solie and Heyou rock their kingdom, readers will appreciate their escapades of trying to find haven, which is how she got into this mess in the first place. The Battle Sylph is a superb first act. Harriet Klausner