Roc, Jun 2010, $7.99
A decade ago someone kidnapped young Lukas Korsak. The lad just disappeared from sight with no ransom or any demand. His family grieved their loss as the assumption was he was murdered.
Lukas’s older brother Stefan has never forgotten his sibling. Working for the Russian Mafia, he still searches for Lukas when he can. Following a lead, he assaults a top secret human laboratory that brainwashes and genetically modifies kids turning them into lethal assassins. There Stefan finds a teen who looks identically like Lukas adding ten years of maturity to the mental image the mobster has maintained. Freeing the teen, they flee from the facility’s leader who sends a horde of transformed young trained killers after them.
Using technology rather than supernatural as the means of conversion, Rob Thurman provides a strong, faster than a speeding Flash thriller. Intriguing that both brothers are killers; yet the older one trusts their DNA and shared past while the younger sibling distrusts everyone as he has been thoroughly brainwashed so that his instincts are to kill regardless of collateral damage. Readers will relish this tale of brotherly love as Stefan tries to save his brother from what the Madhouse did to him, but soon believes he will be Abel to Lukas’ Cain. Harriet Klausner
Bell Bridge Books, Feb 2010, $14.95
Shapeshifter Kita Nekai has not adapted to her new diet very well as a Bloody Mary can only go so far. She remains irate with Nathanial for changing her need to that of liquid ever since he sank two fangs into her and dined. The worst of being Once Bitten is stuck in one crappy shape though her shifting was slightly less formidable than her peers; she used to turn into a cute kitty while most of those she grew up with were lions, tigers, and oh my.
During a gala for a visiting Vampire Council VIP that she is directed to attend, Kita stumbles upon a headless dancer corpse. Apparently several more powerful vampires than her “sire” covet her. As more headless bodies and bodiless heads have her tripping, the local master decides to rid himself of the competition by simply killing Nathaniel; she offers herself willingly if the Master allows an irate jealous Nathanial to live. Finally there is the ancient Collector who wants like Barnum to add the oddity of a shapeshifter turned vampiress to his collection. Life as an undead is so complex living.
The second Kitty Kat blood-lit tale is a fun urban fantasy starring a likable heroine who wants to purr over a chocolate shake not suck someone’s blood. Ironically she needed protection as a Were and she needs protection as a vamp; cute just does not cut it in either community. Readers will enjoy her survival techniques in an entertaining lighthearted frolic. Harriet Klausner
The Left Hand Of God
Dutton, Jun 15 2010, $25.95
The fundamentalist true believers of The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp receive young male orphans rejected by society who does not want to know what goes on behind the closed faculty; not that anyone would dare. Most of the boys fail to make it through the endless verbal and physical abusive methods to indoctrinate the children with the true faith and turn them into holy warriors of God. Those who miraculously survive the ordeal do so not because they turn to faith, but because they become psychopathic liars who fool their brutal instructors that they turned to faith.
Three surviving students Cale, Kleist and Vague Henri explore the endless Sanctuary when they come across a Redeemer surgically slicing up a living female while another waits her turn. Stunned, the trio attacks the Redeemer, freeing the female in the queue Riba. Cale enables the foursome to escape from Sanctuary; leading the band to Memphis; a city-state ruled by the Materazzi knights. With no status, the quartet is the lowest on the local social system even after Cale proves his combat skills. However, the Redeemers attack Memphis.
The medieval background for the most part is limited to the warrior caste system; yet the teens in flight or fight mode make for an entertaining tale. The story line is fast-paced predominantly owned by cunning and captivating Cale who is the prince of liars as he proves his worth as a fighter yet knows instinctively when to flee. His traveling companions provide support as they face abuse from the Redeemers and disdain from the residents of Memphis. Although a few seemingly key subplots seem to vanish without a resolution, readers will relish the coming of age saga of an accomplished sociopathic warrior. Harriet Klausner