Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Child Thief

THE CHILD THIEF, Brom, Eos, 19.99, 486 pages, ISBN: 9780061671340, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

Peter the elf persuades abused and runaway children that the mist covers the island of Avalon which is a haven for them unlike nearby Manhattan. The children always come because he has a silver tongue and primes them a refuge. He fails to warn the children until they arrive that the evil Flesh-eaters; men with scales and elongated claws led by the Captain want to kill them.

Peter and his youthful soldiers and the Captain and his beastly pirates have been at war for centuries. Each death causes Avalon to lose some of its magic as the power of the Lady is waning. Devoted to the Lady, Peter and his army the Devils prepare for combat, but a new recruit Nick objects and wants to return to the mean streets of Manhattan. Peter refuses until the latest battle is done.

is a much darker version of Peter Pan than the Williams or Disney movies or the J.M. Barrie original novel from a century ago. Peter is obsessed with saving the Lady and the island on which he has lived for a millennium as seen in flashbacks. To continue to do so he needs an army and thus must charm throwaway children to voluntarily come with him. They always do, but Nick changes the equation when one dares to say he wants off the island. Well written, but extremely bleak and filled with gore, blood, and violence throughout, this trip to Never-Neverland spins the classic fairy tale into a realm in which war is hell. // I have admired Brom’s artwork for many years and now I have had the chance to sample his writing. He is a multi-faceted artist and the illustrations show his creativity in both fields. This is a wonderful adult rendering of a childhood favorite. Don’t miss this. Barry //


Blood of the Mantis
Adrian Tchaikovsky
PYR, May 25 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616141998

With the Darakyon spirits as companions of sorts forcing him to complete his mission, Achaeos reaches Jerez an isolated marsh town. He knows time is running out before the Shadow Box is possessed by the Wasp Emperor. Achaeos struggles with regaining the stolen artifact before disaster strikes as not just the Wasp ruler wants it, so do beasts and traitors desire ownership; all know the possessor rules the world.

In the Lowlands, the other the tribes of the Empire hope to strike back as the divided groups prepare for a counter surge against the mighty Wasp army expected spring invasion. Led by spymaster Stenwald Maker, they know their chances are bleak once the spring offensive from their enemy begins. However, the real fight is in Jerez.

The third Shadows of the Apt military fantasy (see Dragonfly Falling and Empire in Black and Gold) is a great tale that contains two strong subplots. First there is the owning of the Shadow Box, which dictates in many ways (but not all) who the winner will be in the conflict and then there is the military preparation leading to the bloody spring offensive. Blood of the Mantis is a wonderful entry in a powerful saga as Adrian Tchaikovsky provides another intelligent parable of the foibles of society with racism, fear-mongering, and loathing the cornerstones of a military-magical solution. Harriet Klausner

The Unincorporated War
Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin.
Tor. May 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765319005

The Unincorporated Man Jason Cord led a rebellion against the tyranny of corporations that ruled the solar system. His revolt partially succeeded as the Outer Alliance broke free of the inner planets who remain mindlessly controlled by the corporations. Jason becomes the president of the OA, but knows he will never return to earth where he is an outlaw.

Fearing the rebellion widening and believing the outer planets are colonies, Earth dispatches its starship armada to destroy the breakaway alliance. Jason knows his side is in trouble as the enemy is much more powerful and feels remorse that he sends soldiers to die, but refuses to surrender. Instead he sends a counter force to battle the enemy’s militia.

This sequel to the Unincorporated Man is a fast-paced military science fiction. With a lot more solar system space battles and much less political intrigue than its predecessor, The Unincorporated war is action-packed throughout, but lacks the nuances of extrapolating trends from today’s corporate-political-judicial (since Citizen United decision) complex. Still this is a top rate outer space thriller.
Harriet Klausner

The Infinity Gate
Sara Douglass
Eos, Jun 1 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780060882198

With Tencendor gone, trapped inside the Tower of Elcho Falling is its Lord Maximilian, fallen god heroic Axis SunSoar, and Serpent Coil Priestess Isabelle Brunelle and their comrades. Though have raised the magic of the tower, they are in deep trouble. Their adversaries are coming from every location tightening the grip on those besieged inside the magic tower. Those who come arrive with one intent: kill all caught inside.

From the tundra to the north arrive the traitorous winged Lealfast and from the south come the ferocious Skraelings. However, the most dangerous and lethal enemy is the One, who absorbs Infinity magic from the DarkGlass Pyramid. Those trapped have no hope of surviving for themselves or their world as betrayal by a key ally leaves them seemingly defenseless. Yet Axis raises his Strike Force using the Star Dance magic to fight back while a glimmer might be Ravenna the Marsh witch who no one trusts.

The third DarkGlass Mountain fantasy (see The Twisted Citadel and The Serpent Bride) is a great action-packed finish to a top rate trilogy as revelations and twists will keep the audience fully occupied with what comes next. The action never slows down while the cast is top rate. Readers will fully relish Sara Douglas’ strong epic as darkness appears poised to win. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More Interesting Titles

The Darkest Passion
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774555

He was one of those who opened Pandora’s Box freeing the demons trapped inside; his punishment, as with the others who joined him, is to carry a demon inside him. In modern day Bucharest, thanks to Paris the Keeper of Promiscuity, Lord of the Underworld Aeron has somewhat controlled the insane rages that his Wraith demon inside him caused.

Olivia the Warrior Angel has been directed to kill him. She currently hunts her prey who senses her nearness in spite of her invisibility. Pursuing her target, Olivia finds he is not the evil being she expected and cannot perform her direct order. Instead, she chooses angelic suicide by falling in disgrace. Her wings ripped from her, a severely injured Olivia turns to Aeron for help. He and Wraith are attracted to her from first lustful sight. However, Olivia’s mentor Lysander the Elite Warrior Angel plans to bring her back under his wings and Aeron’s Demon friend Legion has seductive plans for her “pal”.

This is a strong Lords of the Underworld entry as the lead male has been an out of control lunatic so he distrusts his feelings because he knows how much Wraith’s raging has affected his mind. Olivia is terrific as a fallen angel who gave up her lofty position out of love for a fallen warrior. Throw in Legion to the mix and that leaves readers with a super romantic fantasy as this series continues to be one of the best sub-genre recurring series. Harriet Klausner

The Crowded Shadows
Celine Kiernan
Orbit, Jul 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316077088

The schism between the father Southlands King Jonathan of Kingcourt and his rebellious son Prince Alberon remains wide and potentially deadly. Wynter Moorehawke searches for the Rebel Prince to learn why the split happenrd and what his intentions are. However each step on her quest seems dangerous as many have come to join the Rebel Prince’s cause.

Thus when Prince Razi and Christopher Garron whom she loves join her, Wynter welcomes them. The trio conceals their identity from rebels, royals, and outlaws as none can be trusted to leave them travel harmlessly. However, the most insidious are Loup-Garou slavers, but the most frightening is rumors that Alberon has forged an alliance with an enemy Marguerite Shirken, who in turn apparently has gained an alliance with the Merron; as everyone seems to want to overthrow King Jonathan.

This sequel to the equally great The Poison Throne is a superb young adult political fantasy filled with plenty of intrigue outside of Kingcourt as strange bedfellows seem to be making alliances. Wynter and her two comrades find potential friends apparently already have joined known enemies as life for the heroine has become increasingly convoluted and complicated; not that love has simplified her personal relationships. This is a strong teen tale as Wynter has no time for coming of age as that will prove to late for the Southlands. Harriet Klausner

Swords and Dark Magic
Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders
Eos, Jul 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780061723810

Although this strong fantasy anthology claims to be the new sword and sorcery, most of the entries feel like entertaining throwbacks to Robert E. Howard or to a contributor’s long running series.

None of the entries are clinkers; in fact most are quite strong. “The Sea Troll’s Daughter” by Caitlín R. Kiernan stars a villain rescuing a damsel in distress while Steven Erickson presents the multiple perspectives of five surviving riders of the Goats of Glory troop retreating from an invincible enemy. However, much of the fun in this fine collection resides with the return of heroes (and antiheroes).

Michael Moorcock contributes Elric in “Red Pearls”; Cugel the Clever stars in Michael Shea’s “Dapple How the Tint Master”; “Dark Times at the Midnight Market” by Robert Silverberg is led by Majipoor: and finally the Black Company of Glen Cook heads “Tides Elba”.

With the rest of the authors being a who’s who of fantasy, readers will enjoy Sword and Dark Magic although once again the compilation is less the “New Sword and Sorcery” and more homage to the late great Mr. Howard.
Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Interesting Titles

Ancient Whispers
Marie-Claude Bourque
Love Spell, Jun 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505528339

On their wedding day in 1755 in Acadie, Gabriel and Evangeline were separated by death when the Anglais raiders attack and destroy the village of Grand Pre. Heartbroken yet not giving up hope to find his soul mate, Gabriel asks for help from the sorceress Morag Callan. She agrees to assist him finding the love of his life in exchange for his becoming a Priory of Callan member.

Over two hundred and fifty years later in Providence, Morag informs Gabriel she has succeeded on his boon. He must persuade his Evangeline, who has been reincarnated as Lily Bellefontaine, that they belong together. Lily is attracted to Gabriel, but he does not fit in her life’s plan. Pragmatic, she agrees to a weekend with him, but afterward plans to return to her normal life. However an odious mage and nightmares will not allow her to move on making Gabriel only a memory.

This is an enjoyable romantic fantasy starring a strong female lead, a desperate male praying for a second chance at love, and a powerful support cast to include Providence and to a lesser degree Grand Pre. Readers will relish this enjoyable tale as love is tested by reincarnation and a malevolent mage. Harriet Klausner

No Werewolves Allowed
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin’s, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312946425

The ancient Alpha werewolf Dmitri Kral Beketov informs hybrid Drow-human Nightracker Nyx and her purebred human partner Olivia that someone is abducting and killing his pack members. He wants to hire the paranormal crimes private investigative pair to find out who is the culprit that leaves no clues behind; not even olfactory.

The stakes rise when the culprit kidnaps several werewolf pups. The two sleuths are assisted by other Night Trackers and NYPD detective Adam Boyd, who not just has Nyx’s back but wants her on her back, scour the woods for the malevolence. Nyx soon realizes the vile motive and who the evil one is, but to end this reign of terror could cost her and her partner their lives.

The second Night Tracker urban fantasy whodunit (see Demons Not Included) is a terrific paranormal investigative novel told by the hard-ass Nyx. Fast-paced with a strong twist, the New York City Underworld seems genuine while evolving with Were, Vamps, Demons, and assorted other ilk traipsing the cement canyons. Cheyenne McCray continues to provide strong tales (see the author’s magic saga) to the deserved accolades of her sub-genre fans. Harriet Klausner

Strange Neighbors
Ashlyn Chase
Sourcebooks, Jun 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402236617

Former Rhode Island resident Merry Mackenzie works as a nurse at Boston General Hospital. She rents an apartment from baseball superstar pitcher Jason Falco; whom she never heard of but her brother and dad think he is great with his blazing fastball. She is attracted to her new landlord almost as much as she is euphoric that Chad the ghost allegedly resides in the historic Back Bay home since the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. Jason calls his mom back in Minnesota to lament that he has struck out on his first at bat with beautiful Merry.

Merry soon finds her unconventional borders are not just eccentric. They include two witches running a phone sex business; several shape-shifters, and a vampire. However, the most frightening paranormal is reporter Lila Crum, who plans on Jason being her double play partner. Jason's kind snooping aunt has chosen his partner for him, but he and his new renter go on a merry chase of love.

This is an amusing at times heated but always heartfelt paranormal romance. Jason’s baseball asides and Merry’s caring for others while knowing noting about sports are enhanced by Chad’s “colorful” commentary. The support cast is solid especially her family and Chad’s neighbors. Fans will enjoy this humorous lighthearted romp as the baseball pitcher swings the bat and hits a home run with a woman who never knew his strike zone until they met. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Werewolves, Paranormals and a Dying Sun

No Werewolves Allowed
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin’s, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312946425

The ancient Alpha werewolf Dmitri Kral Beketov informs hybrid Drow-human Nightracker Nyx and her purebred human partner Olivia that someone is abducting and killing his pack members. He wants to hire the paranormal crimes private investigative pair to find out who is the culprit that leaves no clues behind; not even olfactory.

The stakes rise when the culprit kidnaps several werewolf pups. The two sleuths are assisted by other Night Trackers and NYPD detective Adam Boyd, who not just has Nyx’s back but wants her on her back, scour the woods for the malevolence. Nyx soon realizes the vile motive and who the evil one is, but to end this reign of terror could cost her and her partner their lives.

The second Night Tracker urban fantasy whodunit (see Demons Not Included) is a terrific paranormal investigative novel told by the hard-ass Nyx. Fast-paced with a strong twist, the New York City Underworld seems genuine while evolving with Were, Vamps, Demons, and assorted other ilk traipsing the cement canyons. Cheyenne McCray continues to provide strong tales (see the author’s magic saga) to the deserved accolades of her sub-genre fans. Harriet Klausner

Strange Neighbors
Ashlyn Chase
Sourcebooks, Jun 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402236617

Former Rhode Island resident Merry Mackenzie works as a nurse at Boston General Hospital. She rents an apartment from baseball superstar pitcher Jason Falco; whom she never heard of but her brother and dad think he is great with his blazing fastball. She is attracted to her new landlord almost as much as she is euphoric that Chad the ghost allegedly resides in the historic Back Bay home since the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. Jason calls his mom back in Minnesota to lament that he has struck out on his first at bat with beautiful Merry.

Merry soon finds her unconventional borders are not just eccentric. They include two witches running a phone sex business; several shape-shifters, and a vampire. However, the most frightening paranormal is reporter Lila Crum, who plans on Jason being her double play partner. Jason's kind snooping aunt has chosen his partner for him, but he and his new renter go on a merry chase of love.

This is an amusing at times heated but always heartfelt paranormal romance. Jason’s baseball asides and Merry’s caring for others while knowing noting about sports are enhanced by Chad’s “colorful” commentary. The support cast is solid especially her family and Chad’s neighbors. Fans will enjoy this humorous lighthearted romp as the baseball pitcher swings the bat and hits a home run with a woman who never knew his strike zone until they met. Harriet Klausner

Nights of Villjamur
Mark Charan Newton
Spectra, Jun 29 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345520845

As the ice continues to spread as forecasted decades ago across the Jamur Empire archipelago and when it became obvious the sun was dying, increasingly humans and others coming from all the islands take refuge in the ancient city of Villjamur. Some of the horde of thousands comes for more insidious reasons. Thus stability of leadership even if the top person is insane is critical at this time although some in power like Chancellor Urtica choose personal ambition over what is good for the island empire. When the mad emperor Jamur Johynn dies suddenly, placing his untested heir, his elder daughter Rika as the queen, Urtica plans to act to replace her with himself immediately. His strategy is to foster hatred of the desperate immigrants flocking the city before he leads a coup d’etat and an ethic cleansing of all outsiders.

As Rika sits on the throne precariously though sympathetic towards the plight of her people, her mentor Randur Esteyu advises and encourages her while her sister Eir supports her, but her council wants to use her for personal power. Meanwhile someone murders Councilor Ghuda leading to Inspector Rumex Jeryd a nonhuman rumel to investigate at a time the city and kingdom needs unity, not divisions and conspiracies plotting to overthrow the monarchy.

Although the plot starts just a bit faster than the encroaching ice age, Mark Charan Newton creates his world of human and nonhuman; once set (just under a third of the way), the fantasy thriller turns into a police procedural that grips the audience. The cast is solid whether they are human, banshee, rumel or other; but the key player, the dying sun fed ice never feels as if it threatens to destroy all life. Still this is an entertaining tale as death squads initially sent by Johynn and now employed by Urtica use eradication to solve problems though sometimes the dead come back. Harriet Klausner

Some From Harriet

Thief of Midnight
Catherine Butzen
Stark House, Jul 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933586311

Life changed for Abby Marquise the night she was attacked by a ghoul. Her son thinks she is insane; her husband left her; and she is fearful of the night filled with creatures of legend and myth. She joins the Society for the Security of Reality, an organization dedicated to disposing the evil beasts that harm humans.

The group is unaware that it has a real enemy that is also humanity’s adversary. Created from human imagination, their job is frightening children into behaving. They feed on fear and accrue power. In this century, they are invincible as few adult believe they exist. That enables them to kidnap thousands of kids across the country. The boss of the Family El Cucuy has a wider agenda than snatching children, but two of his cohorts disagree. Somehow Abby and her allies must free the children and stop El Cucuy from completing his ultimate agenda.

Catherine Butzen has written a chilling horror thriller that would make a great movie. Readers learn about the culture and behavior of the Bogeyman who with few exceptions feel humans are worthless. Abby fights for her beliefs though her family and friends ridicule her for insisting beasts who should not exist roam the night as bogeymen. She brings the human interest to the thrilling plot as a heroine scorned by her loved ones. Harriet Klausner

The Darkly Luminous Fight For Persephone
Leanna Renee Hieber
Love Spell, May 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843962970

Reckless nineteen year old Persephone “Percy” Parker of the Athens Academy mounts a desperate rescue attempt to save her fiancé, Professor Alexi Rychman and his six Guardian cronies from the assaults of the agents of Underword. However, by doing so, Percy may cause unintended consequences. Her internal magic has risen beyond the point of danger to herself and others.

The Whisper World faces chaotic destruction. Percy knows she must act, but is not sure what to do as war seems inevitable to London in the year of Our Lord 1888 and she has not begun obtaining her destiny as the seventh prophesized Guardian. However intrepid Percy and the Magic Guard who stand with her refuse to flee even if it costs them their lives.

The second Percy Parker Victorian romantic suspense fantasy is an entertaining tale filled with ghosts, Guardians and an incredibly eerie Victorian landscape. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never stops except for a touch of tea. Although it helps to have read (see The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker) to know how far the heroine has come of age and how much further she must go, fans will relish the charming yet exhilarating Persephone saga. Harriet Klausner

Ancient Whispers
Marie-Claude Bourque
Love Spell, Jun 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505528339

On their wedding day in 1755 in Acadie, Gabriel and Evangeline were separated by death when the Anglais raiders attack and destroy the village of Grand Pre. Heartbroken yet not giving up hope to find his soul mate, Gabriel asks for help from the sorceress Morag Callan. She agrees to assist him finding the love of his life in exchange for his becoming a Priory of Callan member.

Over two hundred and fifty years later in Providence, Morag informs Gabriel she has succeeded on his boon. He must persuade his Evangeline, who has been reincarnated as Lily Bellefontaine, that they belong together. Lily is attracted to Gabriel, but he does not fit in her life’s plan. Pragmatic, she agrees to a weekend with him, but afterward plans to return to her normal life. However an odious mage and nightmares will not allow her to move on making Gabriel only a memory.

This is an enjoyable romantic fantasy starring a strong female lead, a desperate male praying for a second chance at love, and a powerful support cast to include Providence and to a lesser degree Grand Pre. Readers will relish this enjoyable tale as love is tested by reincarnation and a malevolent mage. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Tindalos Cycle

THE TINDALOS CYCLE, edited by Robert M. Price, Hippocampus Books, $20, 364 pages, ISBN: 9780981488851, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

It’s strange how some books will cause you to dig up old memories and force you to remember times past. This time it’s one of those good memories. In the 1970s I was privileged to be a member of the Esoteric Order of Dagon, an amateur press association dedicated to the works of Lovecraft and the other Mythos writers. Most of the members were scholars in the field and I was there because of my love of the fiction they had written.

During this time, Ben Indick passed Frank Belknap Long’s address to me and we had a too brief correspondence. Long did autograph some books for me as well as answering the letters in his own hand. He even arranged for Arkham to send a copy of IN MAYAN SPLENDOR. He was a wonderful, giving person. Sadly, most of the mannerly gentlemen are long gone, but their literary creations live on.

This collection brings together Longs’ tales of the hounds from another dimension and time that only move in angles – much like the knight in Chess. Here, too, are tales by others (Block, Campbell, Carter, and the editor) who have taken the nature of the beasts and given them more teeth. Price also gives us stories from Robert W. Chambers – whose classic THE KING IN YELLOW is not to be missed; and, Ambrose Bierce – whose life and writings are still shrouded in mystery.

All of the stories are masterpieces and Price adds to the charm of the book with his insightful introduction to the book and each story. Books like this do not come along often enough and one needs to grab them when they do. Order this from your local bookseller or order direct from As Long stated about the hounds, “They are hungry and athirst!” You will be too once you sit down to devour this collection.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cover versions: What makes for a good fantasy novel cover?

Cover versions: What makes for a good fantasy novel cover?

NEW YORK & LONDON--(SCIFI-PR-WIRE) --HarperCollins Voyager, the fantasy and science fiction imprint of HarperCollins, are currently in the process of re-jacketing many of the old classics on their list to bring the novels up-to-date.

Some of the first re-covers to hit the market will be for the Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts’ ‘Empire’ trilogy – while British fantasy author Stephen Hunt’s works are also being re-designed, with the paper-back of his 4th novel in the Jackelian series, ‘Secrets of the Fire Sea’, breaking away from the look of the current hardback’s jacket. These new designs will be on sale in September 2010.

When word of Stephen Hunt’s redesign filtered through the market, the original hardback for ‘Secrets of the Fire Sea’ sold out of its last print run on Amazon within days, with collectors purchasing what they anticipate now becoming a collectable.

The original designs for Stephen Hunt’s Jackelian fantasy series featured a line-work motif that echoed the Victorian level of society which features in Hunt’s imagined ‘Kingdom of Jackals’ – a post-ice age take on what England transforms into millions of years in the future, filled with page-turning jeopardy, intrigue, strange races and the debris of lost civilisations.

The new jacket designs feature a more contemporary take on Hunt’s deeply imaginative creations, suggestive of the mystery, romance and adventure which runs through the novels.

Literary agent John Jarrold, who represents Stephen Hunt, said the designs “are quite dashing”, while Hunt commented, “It’s an opportune moment with the print runs for the Jackelian books still selling out and new editions about to hit the bookshops, to seize the opportunity to do something distinctive and fresh for their covers.”

First published in 2007 after a fiercely fought auction for his debut fantasy novel, the success of ‘The Court of the Air’ (it’s still the only debut fantasy novel to be given mass-market distribution by Tesco) helped kick-start a now rapidly growing sub-culture known as steampunk, with a slew of novels in the genre following in Hunt’s foot-steps on both sides of the Atlantic.

Books in the series include ‘The Court of the Air, ‘The Kingdom Beyond the Waves’, ‘The Rise of the Iron Moon, ‘Secrets of the Fire Sea’, ‘Jack Cloudie’ (pub: 2011), and a 6th as yet untitled work in the series due for publication in 2012.

The Jackelian series is published in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand by HarperCollins; the USA by Tor; and as foreign language editions by various publishers in Japan, China, Russia, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

Stephen Hunt launched a new author’s blog last month at and his official author’s site can still be found at

Raymond E. Feist can be found online at

HarperCollins Voyager’s new blog can be found at

Nocturn City, Anita Blake and Rizzoli and Isles

Daemon’s Mark
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin’s, May 25 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312943660

In Nocturne City, homicide is a way of life. At least that is what NCPD Supernatural Crime Squad police lieutenant Luna Wilder believes as she spends much of her time investigating murders. However, she has found solace away from the job in her relationship with ATF agent Will Fagin.

Her current case is nasty as someone brutally killed an underage teen Were. Jurisdiction problems arise between her unit and that of Special Victims who deal with minors flares up. As Luna and her team investigate the gruesome murder, they find an unexpected connection to the Russian mob. Following her instincts leads Luna to a dangerous confrontation in which she knows she will be fortunate to come out alive and with her heart intact especially where the case leads.

The fifth Nocturne City police procedural urban fantasy (see Witch Craft and Second Skin) is an exhilarating entry as the heroine remains nasty to subordinates, superiors and associates in the NCPD (just ask SV Detective Lane), and even worse when she grills outsiders. In fairness Will has mellowed her a bit since Night Life. The investigation is entertaining as Luna kicks supernormal and natural butt; mostly of a Russian variety. Fans of the series will enjoy Luna’s latest lunatic inquiry although once again one must wonder how, in spite of her resolution record, she remains a supervisor as she is as far from a people’s person (regardless of species) one will meet. Harriet Klausner

Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley, Jun 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780425234334

At the Circus of the Damned, vampire executioner extraordinaire and zombie animator Anita Blake sees her lover St. Louis master vampire Jean-Claude arguing with his second in command Asher. They were once lovers, but Jean-Claude refuses to share his body because he fears how Anita will react. Anita assumed the pair was having sex all along. Richard Zeeman informs her he has reconciled himself to what he is and joins the fun,

They are having fun, when Belle Morte, Jean Claude, and Asher creator interrupts them in a metaphysical astral projection. She has a piece of the Mother of All Darkness, the first vampire in her body which makes her believe she can bind them to her. She is wrong and Padma Master of the Beast tries to break the ties that bind them to each other which will weaken them.. The Vampire Council is determined to destroy the Triumvirate of Richard, Jean-Claude and Anita because they are accumulating so much power they threaten the vampire hierarchy everywhere even the ruling Vampire Council. The Mother wants Anita’s body since she lost her own, but Anita is strong and rejects the Mother and the Council trying to prevent her and her lovers from owning America starting with assassins sent to kill them.

The nineteenth Blake Vampire Hunter urban fantasy is a great entry, which is extraordinary as most of the long running series is excellent. The keys to this terrific tale is so much comes to a head as the vampires and shapeshifter hierarchies fear the Triumvirate and decide to destroy it before it is too late. The fun is trying to discover who are the assassins, spies and enemies in the Mother of All Darkness war. With sedition and a mole inside the Circus to augment the action, fans of the saga will relish this strong thriller as hell is coming to St. Louis. Harriet Klausner

Ice Cold
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine, Jun 29 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345515483

Boston medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles is attending a convention in Wyoming. Meeting some friends from two decades ago like Doug “ponytail-less” Comley, she joins them on a ski trip to the nearby snow covered mountains. However, the SUV stalls out on a remote snowy road as a blizzard strikes. Maura and her conventioneers find haven in Kingdom Come, a hamlet with twelve identical houses. They are stunned when no one response to their knocks or noise; and they are shocked when they find each abode deserted even with food on the tables and cars in garages. Unbeknownst to the stunned outsiders someone is watching them; someone who left prints in the snow.

Several days later, Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli learns of Maura’s death as her charred body was found in a ravine. Grieving Jane vows to learn what happened to her friend. Accompanying her to Wyoming is FBI agent Gabriel Dean and Father Daniel Brophy. The trio is going to find more than want to know about Kingdom Come and what lies beneath the snow, and the fate of the skiers.

The latest Rizzoli-Isles thriller (see The Keepsake) is a fabulous suspense novel that grips the audience once the SUV fails and never slows down until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced throughout leaving fans breathless. Although several twists seem unlikely and distracting, readers will enjoy the Bostonian invasion of Wyoming. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Writers of the Future, The First 25 Years

L. RON HUBBARD PRESENTS WRITERS OF THE FUTURE: The First 25 Years, Kevin J. Anderson – executive editor, Galaxy Press, $44.95, 270 pages, ISBN: 9781592128488, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

In the 25 years that the Writers of the Future contest has been in existence, there have been many wonderful writers who have gone on to reach the bestseller lists. By their count there have been over 700 novels and 3,000 short stories published by the contest winners. That’s quite an accomplishment for a simple writing contest. There’s no telling how many writers who have entered the contest and have had success as well.

This volume is overflowing with photos showing the workshops, award ceremonies, and special guests who have helped the contestants move from unknown to becoming a published author. Some of them have gone on to win awards such as the Hugo, the Nebula, the Stoker, and the National Book Award as well as others.

Each published volume is represented by the cover, a list of winners, and remembrances by some of the winners and other finalists. Robert Silverberg presents a retrospective of the contest, K.D. Wentworth takes a look back at growing from contestant to judge, and there is a look at some of the writers who have been judges over the years.

This is a treasure trove of information that has been 25 years in the making and shows an idea can grow from origin to fruition and change the lives, not only those of the winners, but the publishing industry and the millions of readers who have been entertained with the fruits of their labors.

Thanks to Kevin Anderson, Galaxy Press, and the Writers of the Future for an extremely interesting and well done volume. Put this on your Christmas wish list or, if you can’t wait, pick it up now. It should be on the Hugo list next year for "Best Related Work".

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Suburban Knights

SUBURBAN KNIGHTS: A Return to the Middle Ages, E.F. Kitchen, Power House Books, $35, ISBN: 9781576875360, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

This is one of the more unusual coffee table books I’ve seen in years. Several years ago the Society for Creative Anachronism was at the forefront of the Renaissance Faire’s that would pop up once or twice a year. Now they are more common and a tourist attraction during the summer months.

From 2003 to 2005, Kitchen took photographs of the personages in their armor. He also collected memoirs from them so they could use their own words to tell how and why they have adopted new persona's to go along with their armor.

There are many pictures showing the chain-mail, helmets, shields, and swords that go with the other parts of their costumes to make them unique.

Some of the characters shown are Sir Marcus the Merciless, Duke Dick, Sir Gaston Bonneville de la Croix, Lord Dietric von Hessen, the Honorable Lady Bridget Lucia Mackenzie and Sgt Duncan the Monster. The book also has an appendix that shows everyone as they normally appear.

Although this may not be a book for the casual reader, it is a fascinating and once in a lifetime look at a unique group of people who believe that the metal of a man can be worn outside the body for all to see.

Vampyres, Fallen Angels, and Templar Knights

Have got a couple of reviews almost finished. Will have more time as the Census job ended today.

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, May 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312606169

Unable to mentally accept what has recently happened (see Tempted), Zoey Redbird implodes with her soul ripped from her body and running off to the Otherworld. If her soul and body fail to unite within one week, Zoey will be dead as a body cannot exist without a soul.

The Vampyre High Council writes Zoey off as dead refusing to waste assets on her. However, she has friends who will not quit trying as long as she still lives. In Tulsa, Stevie Rae considers seeking information by digging into deadly ancient powers for information while her sort of boyfriend demands to know what is going on and the Red Fledglings are out of control. Others in Venice as well as Tulsa like Aphrodite and Stark pray for Zoey while considering a desperate rescue attempt though increasingly as time expires; a Hail Mary is all that is left to save their friend. At the same time they know they must keep their eye on the more critical mission to prevent the twisted plot of Neferet and Kalona from occurring.

This is a strong House of Night urban fantasy entry as Zoey suffers mental anguish from what previously occurred to the point that she suffers a paranormal post traumatic distress disorder breakdown; she prefers to remain in Otherworld in order to die. The story line rotates perspective amongst her friends who increasingly grow frantic and panic-stricken and her enemies whose reasons become clearer than in previous thrillers. Readers will relish this excellent tale, but need at a minimum to read Tempted to understand why the heroine suffers from paranormal PTSD.
Harriet Klausner

Angel Slayer
Michelle Hauf
Silhouette Nocturne, Jun 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618378

Working at an art gallery near Chelsea Park where her first showing is being held, artist Eden Campbell muses that she paints angels from her nocturnal dreams, but wisely tells no one her source as she prefers avoiding padded rooms. However, a fallen angel Zaqiel knows who she is and why she dreams of angels.

Zaqiel stalks her looking for the moment to abduct and rape her. As a Muse, she will birth his offspring, a nephilim who will cause the apocalypse now. Demon Asher Manning has been sent from Beneath to kill Zaqiel and as a temporary second order effectively protect Eden. However, he desires her and she falls in love with him; but demons cannot love in return.

Set in the same realm as the Wicked Games and Bewitching the Dark sagas, the first Of Angels & Demons urban fantasy romance is a terrific paranormal due to a strong cast who insures the otherworldly species seem real. Eden is a wonderful female in peril character, but Asher owns the story line as he knows demons’ first sin is falling in love. Fans of Michelle Hauf will enjoy her expansion of her Old Testament Book of Enoch mythos as the Angel Slayer is a great paranormal romance.
Harriet Klausner

Lindsay McKenna
Silhouette Nocturne, Jun 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618361

In 1308 Templar Knight Nicholas de Beaufort and his cohorts prayed to the Cathay God not for themselves, but for those who were burning them at the stake. French King Phillip used his army on the Albigensian Crusade killling a million people. However though his body died in the inferno, his spirit and that of his peers survive at the Village of the Clouds. They remain warriors for the Taqe forces of light on the eternal battle against the Tupay forces of the dark.

In the present Mary Anderson has been assigned to find the last two missing spheres to a magical necklace that will bring peace and harmony to mankind. Although he prefers not to return to earth as a mortal, Nicholas understands he must as his task is to protect Mary from the evil Tupay Dark Lord Victor Carancho Guerra and advising her on her efforts to find “Saturn” in her Scottish trek. As they fall in love, Mary and Nicholas seek the final two emeralds with help from her late grandfather, a warrior owned by Victor.

The sixth Warriors for the Light romantic urban fantasy is a wonderful finish to an engaging mythos. The story line is loaded with action yet insures the lead couple is fully developed as they struggle with their quest, a powerful insidious enemy, and love. Fans of the series will enjoy the end of this arc and marvel at Lindsay McKenna setting up the next spin in her saga. Lindsay McKenna can only write books that are sublime. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Star Wars, 2012 and More

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Allies
Christie Golden
Del Rey, May 25 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345509147

Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker and his son Jedi Knight Ben are on a mission to find out what turned Jacen Solo to the dark side of the Force. Accompanying them is Sith Apprentice Vestara Khai from the unknown Sith tribe on the planet Kesh. Luke and Ben are surrounded in space by a Sith armada that include Vestara’s father. Shockingly, instead of killing the Skywalker pair and their crew, the Sith offers a temporary alliance. They want to go with Luke and company when they enter the Maw, an area of black holes and hostile space. They agree to a joint mission.

The Jedi who spent their childhood during the war at Shelter are going insane. The dark creature who lives in a black cluster in the Maw, Abeloth, is thought to somehow influence those losing their minds. The Sith have reasons of their own to find her. As they enter the Maw, back at Coruscant, the capital of the Galactic Alliance, Chief of State Natasi Daala continues her assault on the Jedi Order trying to turn them into outlaws or obedient to her governmental rule.

This is the middle book in a nine saga arc, but it remains an exciting Star Wars entry with a stunning twist as well as moving forward on the two overarching themes. Filled with the trademark action expected of a Star Wars thriller, Allies also contains an intriguing alliance between enemy combatants and an even more fascinating theme of slavery complete with rebels, underground railroads with conductors and a quasi organization located on planets where slavery is legal. Leia and Han are in minor but critical roles finding ways to break Daala’s siege while also bringing needed humor to lighten the dark forces moving across the galaxy. Harriet Klausner

Spiritual Seduction
Desiree Day
Gallery (Simon & Schuster), Apr 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439126783

Bradley Tyson is abusive with a horrific violent temper. His wife Riley pleads with him to go out with her on their fifth anniversary while her sister watches their two young children, Carter and Brie, but he refuses; instead he slaps her and leaves. A few hours later, two police officers wake her up with the news he is dead; a pimp killed him when he refused to pay for a blow job

Ironically, in death Bradley is a more attentive husband as his spirit visits Riley every night; he seduces her into believing he cares though she has doubts. Her misgivings prove true that even in death a leopard does not change its spots. Bradley steals her soul taking her into the vilest of realms. Riley’s boss of several years Malik Davenport vows to save her soul from her odious late husband; something he hopelessly could not do when the prig lived. A royal ancient warrior who kills demons, he enters the most hellish of hells to save Riley while the war between the demons and the paladins has teetered towards evil winning due to Bradley; Malik and his peers plan to win Armageddon; he has an added incentive: Riley.

This is a great urban fantasy in which battered Riley is the foci of the war between demons and the paladins. Fast-paced from the opening setting when Bradley shows his snarling teeth and never slowing down, fans will appreciate this strong saga as the romance takes a back seat to saving a soul and a world; neither an easy task. Readers will root for Riley to kick Bradley’s spirit to hell’s curb, but wonder if she can find the courage even with those who cherish her like her sister, her boss, and his brother coaxing her to do so. Only one thing could get her to challenge her dead mate. Harriet Klausner

Beyond 2012: The Omega Point
Whitley Strieber
Tor, Jun 22 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765323347

On December 21, 2012, the world anticipated the end that never came. However, while everyone sighs in relief, unbeknownst to humanity something critical occurred on that date, but was so tiny in its alpha entry into the vastness of the solar system it went undetected. A supernova occurred in a long ago universe’s past has released energy into the solar system on December 21, 2012. Over the next few years as the energy travels towards the sun, it absorbs all in its path causing horrific solar storms on earth and leading to the wealthiest retreating underground.

In 2020 in West Virginia, Dr. David Ford becomes the Acton Clinic’s chief psychiatrist. On his first day at work, Aubrey Denman explains that besides his medical role, he must defend the clinic’s top secret mission to save the planet from the supernova energy assault from prosperous sinister adversaries especially the Seven Families who own the planet’s wealth. When Denman dies in a car bomb explosion, Ford finally believes what she said although he struggles to understand what is going on. Trusting no one even his clinic peers, Ford learns that December 21, 2012 was the alpha and that the Omega Point when time ends for mankind is soonest.

This exhilarating sequel to 2012: The War for Souls is an action packed doomsday science fiction thriller that is fun to read when the storyline centers on the supernova extinction threat. When the plot expands beyond the doomsday countdown into biblical figures and similar observations, it loses some of its strength of the end is now. Ford is a strong lead character who feels incapable of what is expected of him, but knows he must do more than just try as the threat of annihilation is real. Sub-genre fans will relish Whitley Strieber’s exciting tale while wondering throughout is mankind’s reign over. Harriet Klausner

Amazons, Dwarves and Sherilynn Kenyon

Amazon Queen
Lori Devoti
Juno, Apr 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439167724

In a shopping center in Beloit, Amazon Queen Zery and several of her tribe women manage to tale a baby away from two male Sons. However, before they can bring the infant to safety, they apparently lose the child back to a Son. Thus her leadership is challenged insidiously yet serendipitously by her supposed top advisor the High Priestess, who wants to be the Queen as does a newcomer. The Council offers no advice to her.

Matters turn ugly for Zery when not only is she removed from the throne by the Council and replaced by her alleged ally, but a Son she is attracted to admits to spying on her for five years. Furthermore, Zery has doubts that the old ways that has kept the Amazons superior to mankind work anymore as the Sons prove organized and their equal except with a greater thirst for destroying their female counterparts as they know first hand the gender cleansing done by their mothers. While Zery feels as if she fits nowhere; she fears for her race because of the internal squabble threatening to split the Amazons as much as the external threat from the Sons, but she feels hopeless to do anything about it..

The sequel to Amazon Ink is a terrific urban fantasy that focuses on the two disputes that place the Amazons in jeopardy. Zery tries to deal with both, but is kicked aside not by incompetence but by opportunism. She is a wonderful lead character who is no longer sure which threat is most dangerous to her people’s existence. Ironically her tribe and the Sons look at humanity as beneath them; yet she understands the threat caused by technology. Although there is a relatively minor romantic subplot; that takes a back seat to the prime story line of what will happen now that Zery’s word is no longer law. Harriet Klausner

Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jun 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312599072

In New Orleans lives fourteen year old Nick Gautier whose mother is a stripper and whose father killed people in the double digits. He sees the world like most mortals, but soon the filter will be lifted from his eyes; enabling him to observe the preternatural world, the good and the bad. Both sides will want him for their own purposes because he possesses powers that have not yet been tapped, which means whatever side he picks,the dark or the light, will deploy him as a powerful weapon.

When Nick chooses to prevent his friends from robbing and killing two elderly tourists, Night Hunter Kyrian Hunter saves his life by rushing him to the hospital. He also pays the bill and gives him a hefty salary intending to make him a squire later on. Nick is unaware of most of Kyrian’s plans, but he gets a close-up glimpse of the dark side when students are turned into living zombies who hunt him while eating people. He is only one of many who note the changes in the people turned zombies but he may be the only hope they have to find a way return them back into carefree teens.

Expanding on her mythos, Sherrilyn Kenyan has another hit series with “The Chronicles of Nick”, which targets young adults but also will be appreciated by the Night Hunter audience fans of all ages. The affluent students who attend scholarship Nick’s new private school, their parents and the faculty believe Nick and his mom are trailer trash; however he refuses to let them put him down as he adores and admires his mom so their opinion and snide asides mean nothing except to toughen him. He will need that mental toughness and thick skin in his new vocation as readers will enjoy the teen exploits of Nick the hunter squire in training.
Harriet Klausner

The War of the Dwarves
Markus Heitz
Orbit, Apr 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780316049368

Tungdil Bolofar the dwarf has become a legend amidst the various species like the Dwarves, Elves and humans after he led their side to victory over the Nod’onn. Everyone knows defeat would mean genocide with the total destruction of Girdlegard.

The hero hopes to rest somewhat on his laurels but remain vigilant. Tungdil is aware of how precarious the triumph is as the Alfs and the Bognilim Black Water immortal Orcs still plot to drive the Dwarves and humans out of their position of power. He also hears whispers that the demi-god Avatars are preparing to invade from the Outerlands to ethnically cleanse what they believe is evil. However, it is what he does not know yet is that the biggest threat of all are the blood thirsty lethal Thirdlings Dwarves ho are planning a violent coup d’etat.

The follow up to The Dwarves is a super fantasy that expands the Heitz mythology for instance with the addition of the Freeling Dwarves and the new malevolence. The story line moves at a terrific pace on sea, land and underground as the hero of the previous war is back dealing with another nasty menace and treachery from within. The War of the Dwarves is a strong saga as the key cast including the bad dudes seem genuine while the political and social structure of the species enhance the incredibly action packed fantasy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Death Echo

Death Echo
Elizabeth Lowell
Morrow, Jun 8 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061629754

She left her field CIA work for what she assumed would be a much safer position. Thus former agent Emma Cross now works at St. Kilda Consulting in what has to be an easier job than being caught in the crossfire of tribal combat as she previously was.

St. Kilda looks into a simple incident of a vanished yacht the Black Swan that probably was stolen. The mission is to get on board the Black Swan’s identical twin Blackbird as the insurance company thinks the second vessel is actually the missing ship. Emma and former special op officer Mackenzie Durand are in charge of the assignment. He trusts no one as he believes the CIA betrayed his team on a dangerous mission five years ago in which he was the only survivor. In spite of his attraction to his partner, he prefers going alone as no one has his back. Still as he takes control of the Blackbird, Emma must overcome her instincts of also distrusting everyone if she is to learn what is going on; neither expected to fall in love or be back in the CIA’s deadly outreach.

Death Echo is an action-packed romantic suspense espionage thriller that remains at an incredibly high speed yet enables the audience to understand what motivates the powerful distrust in the two lead characters. That pairing of two classic misanthropic skeptics whose similar pasts come back full throttle makes for a taut St. Kilda thriller (see Blue Smoke and Murder, and The Wrong Hostage).
Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Some From Harriet

Who Fears Death
Nnedi Okorafor
DAW, Jun 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756406172

The world may have been shattered by a nuclear holocaust, but mankind continues to fight one another; just on a smaller scale. In post-nuclear Sahara, genocide is the norm as the followers of the Great Book ethnically cleanse the region. Thus the Nuru believing God is on their side, hunt and eradicate the Okeke. In one village, the lone survivor is raped by the exterminators. She escapes into the desert eventually giving birth to a girl who the mom knows is unique. Using an ancient forgotten African language she names her offspring (from the brutal sexual assault) Onyesonwu, "Who Fears Death".

As a shaman raises Onyesonwu, the genocide continues unabated. However, new hope arises amidst the embattled Okeke that a savior has come. Onyesonwu has been learning about her magical power to end the murderous cleansing. However, she must study evil to understand evil before she can sacrifice herself in death so that the Okeke can live.

Using a futuristic fantasy base, Nnedi Okorafor provides a great but grim realistic drama that focuses on genuine problems in Africa today. Through the escapades of the heroine, the story line disturbingly examines ethnic and religious cleansing, racism, sexism, female genital mutilation and sex slavery as humanity is inhumane to each other. Who Fears Death is superb as Ms. Okorafor provides a powerful post apocalyptic thriller with strong ramifications in today’s on the Eve of Destruction world. Harriet Klausner

Catherine Coulter
Putnam, Jun 15 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399156533

Yale Professor Edward Kender has colon cancer in which the drug Culovort he receives as part of his treatment seems to be working when he is informed production by German firm Schiffer Hartwin is nonexistent. Stunned he assumes the pharmaceutical industry is playing death squad to drum up profits. He hires private investigator Erin Pulaski to make an inquiry into the firm. She breaks in and enters the head office of the American subsidiary in Stone Bridge, Connecticut in order to hack into the files of the local CEO Caskie Royal. She finds info on plans to stop the Cartwright Labs in Bartonville, Missouri from manufacturing the drug; as well as stopping it in Spain in favor of a French firm Labortoires Anconder’s drug Eloxium. However, Royal and production manager Carla Alvarez arrive and discuss what they are doing with the firm and then have sex..

The next day she learns that the firm’s troubleshooter was murdered near where she downloaded computer data that made no sense to her. Meanwhile, the FBI sends married couple Agents Sherlock and Savich to Stone Bridge to assist FBI agent Bowie Richards with the homicide. They begin to find troubles with the pharmaceutical company while Pulaski wonders what to do with her illegal download; Pulaski becomes their prime suspect. Savich also investigates the poisoning of a lobbyist whose real target may have been aimed at a US Senator.

This is a great timely entry in the long running S&S FBI police procedural series due to the pharmaceutical connection as much as the freshness brought forth by Richards and more so by Erin who knows her B&E was stupid but felt strongly that they needed to expose true death squad bottom lines. Fast-paced from the onset, the second case takes somewhat of a back seat though it is well written and quite exciting too. Fans of the series will relish this strong entry while newcomers will find Whiplash a winner too. Harriet Klausner

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte, Jun 22 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385341974

Four years ago, in Heartsdale, Grant County’s popular police chief Tolliver was murdered; the case remains unsolved. His widow Dr. Sara Linton was the county coroner and ran a children’s clinic, but left after her spouse died. She is back in town visiting her family on Thanksgiving yet is still thirsting for her husband’s homicide to be resolved although she is positive that Officer Lena Adams is at the center of her husband’s homicide.

At the same time, Special Agent Will Trent is also in Grant County to investigate a questionable death of a prisoner. Not surprising, he finds the local police officers circling the wagons protecting each other form the intruder. Will concludes that Police Officer Lena Adams is concealing something, but is not sure what or why. As he struggles with the uncooperative cops, he is taken aback when Dr. Linton asks him to look into her husband’s murder, a cold case. Trent is being pulled by two women in opposite directions of the Blue Line that keeps him outside in spite of being law enforcement too.

This is an intriguing Grant County thriller (see Faithless, Undone and Blindsided) as Will instead of Sara holds the story line together with two females yanking him in opposite directions. The insightful look at the learning disorder agraphia augments the taut tale as it showcases how an individual learns to conceal a problem with some form of over compensation. In a starring role, Will brings freshness to the plot as he investigates two deaths that cast the Grants County Police Office in a shroud of darkness. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Solaris scores a win at The Shirley Jackson Awards

Solaris scores a win at The Shirley Jackson Awards
Monday 12th July 2010

Oxford, UK: Solaris Books are happy to confirm that Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Ellen Datlow, won the coveted Shirley Jackson Award for ‘Edited Anthology 2009’ announced at Readercon 20 last night.
The Shirley Jackson Awards are given in recognition of the best imaginative fiction work published in the preceding year. They are named after Shirley Jackson, author of The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous American short stories ‘The Lottery.’ Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work.
Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe coincided with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe. This anthology celebrates the depth and diversity of one of the most important figures in literature. Compiled by multi-award winning editor, Ellen Datlow, it presents some of the foremost talents of the genre, who have come together to re-imagine tales inspired by Poe.

Sharyn McCrumb, Lucius Shepard, Pat Cadigan, M. Rickert, Gregory Frost, Kim Newman and more, have leant their craft to this anthology, retelling such classics as ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘The Masque of the Red Death.’

"Frost demonstrates his mastery of the short story form..."
- Publishers Weekly on Gregory Frost

"Newman's prose is a delight."
- Time Out on Kim Newman

"McCrumb provides fresh evidence that there is no one quite like her among present day writers."
- San Diego Tribune on Sharyn McCrumb
Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe –Edited by Ellen Datlow
978-1-84416-652 £7.99 R.R.P (UK)
978-1844165-957 $15.00 (US) / $17.50 (CAN) R.R.P

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Musings and Reviews

I've been busy working on a story for the Whortleberry Halloween Anthology, The Dead Can Dance, so I'm adding some more reviews by Harriet.

Distant Thunders
Taylor Anderson
Roc, Jun 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451463333

The reptilian Grik continue their assault using any sort of mass weapons of destruction against the Lemurians whose strongest supporter are the dimensionally displaced U.S. Navy Captain Matt Reddy and the crew of the USS Walker. The American navy desperately is trying to move forward the Bronze Age Lemurians into at least an Industrial Age and preferably past that too especially with their ship badly devastated in the last encounter (see Maelstrom). That is the only hope for the allies against the overwhelming superiority of the invading Grik.

Reddy and his unit make some progress using paddle-wheel steam frigates developed in New Britain as the Americans free cities in the west from the previously invincible conquerors and give new hope to their allies. However when word reaches Reddy that the enemy has captured New British Princess Rebecca Anne McDonald, he rushes back east on the renovated USS Walker to mount a rescue of a key symbol.

The latest Destroyermen science fiction thriller, Distant Thunders, is an action-packed entry with strong relevant moral questions about the rules of combat engagement running throughout the adrenalin pumping story line. Reddy ponders whether negotiations with a species apparently seeking genocide are feasible as the enemy seems resistant to a peaceful solution although the displaced hero recognizes some of the beliefs on both sides may be bogeyman propaganda. He also wonders whether are any weapons of mass destruction include biological, chemical or nuclear in their arsenal that will be used especially on the brink of perhaps extinction acceptable? Taylor Anderson is one of the best at military science fiction as his plots combine cerebral thought provoking issues within a great adventure tale; the alternate realm of the Destroyermen saga is worth the journey. Harriet Klausner

The Machinery of Light
David J. Williams
Spectra, May 25 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553385434

In 2110, the assassination of the American President Harrison leads to a military takeover of the United States. Ignoring the Treaty of Zurich of 2105, the American Generals seize an opportunity and quickly launch an attack against the Eurasian Alliance led by the Russians and Chinese in an attempt to destroy their space-aerial defenses. WW III has been lunched (See The Mirrored Heavens and The Burning Skies).

The Eurasian Alliance launches the top secret mega-spaceships to destroy the enemy and its fleet. Meanwhile the Autumn Rain commando unit begins a seemingly suicidal desperate maneuver on Luna just ahead of the Eurasian joint fleet but behind the squad’s creator. At the same time super cyborg Claire Haskell the Manilishi post-human implements the programming of her designer-creator Matthew Sinclair. He is several steps closer to achieving his goal as he has deployed project Armageddon.

Fasten your seat belts as the latest dystopian military science fiction thriller starts at hyperspeed and accelerates from there. The action overwhelms the key characters, but no one (except bewildered stunned first time riders) will care as The Machinery of Light is an exhilarating action-packed futuristic twister in which reality is blurred at best. Readers will appreciate David J. Williams’ fast-paced but extremely grim twenty-second century earth-moon sphere of operations. Harriet Klausner

Blood Song
Cat Adams
Tor, Jun 8 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765324948

Los Angeles bodyguard Celia Graves protects her wealthy clients from the supernatural. Currently she guards Prince Rezza of Rusland, a small kingdom in between Poland, Ukraine and Czechoslovakia. Natural gas has made the tiny nation strategically significant to the apoplexy of the Russians. They are ambushed by vampires with Celia bitten and anticipating death with her last thought being dying sucks.

However, she survives the biting assault, but has become an Abomination as she has been partially converted. Celia knows she must understand the limitations of her new powers and not assume anything. However, at the top of her list is execution of the vampire who transformed her or become his unwilling slave. As she learns more about her new nature, Celia realizes that a conspiracy of epic proportions is going on with her being expendable.

This is a superb political urban fantasy that will have readers believing in vampires, ghouls, demons and alas Abominations. Celia keeps the story line focused while she also lightens the dark tale with her amusing often darker asides. Although kick butt female Noir heroines are flooding the market, fans will appreciate Celia’s grave quest to kill her master before he either finishes the job by sucking her dry or enslaving her. Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 10, 2010

PTSD Announcement

New Developments on PTSD claims by Veterans Administration

Washington (CNN) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs is making it easier for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder to get benefits, a development President Barack Obama calls a "long overdue step."

In his weekly address Saturday, Obama said Veterans Affairs will launch new rules for easing PTSD documentation requirements starting next week.

Current department rules require veterans to document events like firefights or bomb explosions that could have caused the disorder. Such documentation was often time-consuming and difficult, and sometimes was impossible.

Under the new rules a veteran need show only that he or she served in a war and performed a job during which events could have happened that could cause the disorder.

"... for years, many veterans with PTSD who have tried to seek benefits -- veterans of today's wars and earlier wars -- have often found themselves stymied. They've been required to produce evidence proving that a specific event caused their PTSD. And that practice has kept the vast majority of those with PTSD who served in non-combat roles, but who still waged war, from getting the care they need," Obama said.

"Well, I don't think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application. And I've met enough veterans to know that you don't have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war. So we're changing the way things are done."

Under the new rules, no benefits will be passed along until a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that a veteran actually suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Department officials say that should reduce the risk of fraudulent claims.

One congressional analysis reportedly put the cost of the new changes at $5 billion.

A senior department official said the cost is "relatively small" because under the older, much longer process, most vets eventually were granted benefits. The new process, while likely granting benefits to more veterans, will be quicker and easier and therefore less costly per case, officials said.

Obama says the new process "will help veterans not just of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but generations of their brave predecessors who proudly served and sacrificed in all our wars.

"It's a step that proves America will always be here for our veterans, just as they've been there for us. We won't let them down. We take care of our own."

Fantasy Reviews from Harriet

From Hell With Love
Simon R. Green
Roc, Jun 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451463326

Eddie Drood reflects on the changes in his life since becoming family head as he wallows is self pity, but sill leads the charge of protecting humanity from creatures mankind prefers to pretend do not exist. The ingrates treat the Droods like mental lepers. Currently Eddie’s prime assignment as the temp in charge is to discover who killed his predecessor the family Matriarch though he knows the Drood broods bet on either him or his girlfriend Molly to figure it out; Eddie’s wager is on Molly as he knows he did not kill the old hag.

Eddie attends a minor auction of priceless magical artifacts when Doctor Delirium steals and escapes with the Apocalypse Door. The portal can be used to enable the denizens of hell to enter this world. Eddie must prevent this from happening because once the beasts cross, it will prove impossible to end the apocalypse. However, he soon concludes that diabolical dastardly Doctor Delirium decrees death to Droods so he and his violent volatile malevolent allies can cross over and destroy the world.

The fourth Secret Histories save the earth urban fantasy (see The Spy Who Haunted Me, The Man With The Golden Torc and Daemons Are Forever) is a fun thriller; as Eddie raps to the only person who listens to him (himself) and that Kermit is almost right as it is not easy being Drood. The story line is fast-paced in spite of a series of battles that have an interchangeable sameness feel to them. However, it is Eddie’s introspection on Marmalade Reflections of My Life that make for a deep satirical spin skewing espionage and supernatural thrillers as only a Drood could and would. Harriet Klausner

Magic Bleeds
Ilona Andrews
Ace, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018529

Kate Daniels pays her lost bet to the Beast Lord Curran with a meal she prepares. However, when he fails to collect, Kate becomes outraged by his affront and humiliated as she wanted to see him. Fuming, she declares war on Curran; leading to not talking, emailing or twittering one another.

However, a truce is needed when a “Steel Mary” plague carrier arrives in Atlanta planning to kill shapeshifters; collateral damage of the innocent being acceptable. The Order of Merciful Aid assigns Kate to hunt down the lethal Steel Mary using whatever force is necessary to end the deadly plague. However, as Kate, with Curran’s reluctant help, closes in on the deadly visitor, she fears she knows who macabre murdering Mary is.

The latest marvelous “Magic” urban fantasy (see Magic Bites, Magic Burns, and Magic Strikes) is a terrific entry filled with a deadly dangerous inquiry balanced by jocular domestic pandemonium. Kate is kissable and killable as she works the Steel Mary plague case as well as her personal hostility with Curran. She and readers will wonder which side is the more dangerous combat to the heroine as Ilona Andrews provides another powerful Magical Mystery Tour of Atlanta. Harriet Klausner

Darkling Fields of Arvon
James G. Anderson and Mark Sebanc
Baen, May 11 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781439133538

The world of Ahn Norvys is turning increasingly dark as a tyrant runs the nation with an evil iron hand. The serenity and prosperity of the Harmonic Age of King Ardiel is practically over.

The only hope of dethroning the usurper and returning to the affluence of the Harmonic Age rests with the recently deigned High Bard Kalaquinn Wright and his rebellious band of miscreants. However, though he keeps the faith in what hew must do, Kal has doubts as he feels he is too young for the mantle of savior and his team too odd to succeed against the growing malevolence sweeping across the land. Still they know what must be done and set out to do so in spite of their lack of confidence. They seek the missing rightful heir to the ancient throne the missing Prince of Starigan and relight the Sacred Fire. To achieve this they must first find the Talamadh magical harp that maintains the peace across Arvon.

The second entry in the Legacy of the Stone Harp (see The Stoneholding) is an entertaining quest fantasy that sub-genre fans will fully enjoy. The story line offers nothing new and the champions are never fully developed beyond their fear of failure. Yet Kal and company are likable with their youthful energy at times leading to mistakes but also surmounting their deficiency in experience and belief in themselves. Darkling Fields of Arvon will hook the reader throughout as it is a fun tale in which the audience will join Kal and his team on the save the world mission. Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 9, 2010

Harriet's Reviews

Spooky Little Girl
Laurie Notaro
Villard, Apr 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345510976

Lucy Fisher was looking forward to her vacation in Hawaii, hocking her life to be able to go. The dream vacation was a disappointment. When she comes home, she finds her possessions all over the lawn as her fiancé Martin tossed them randomly out the door. Bad comes in three as Lucy learns when her boss accuses her of trying to steal money and drugs before firing her. A stunned Lucy moves in with her sister Alice.

On her way to the unemployment office, Lucy learns what bad luck really is when a bus runs her over. Now she is a student at Ghost School where if she completes her assignment she will move into the State of after-death. Lucy diligently applies herself as she wants to go back to earth not so much as to haunt her former fiancé, but to learn why he kicked her to the curb and why no one, not even her sister or the bus driver attended her funeral. Only Tulip seems to miss her.

This clever paranormal chick lit is a fun tale though the serio-comic story line never turns as profound as it could have been; opting more for a winking jocularity that in some ways will remind readers of the movie Over her Dead Body. The beleaguered heroine is likable so that fans will root for her as grandma has made living in the State of the dead precarious for both of them and Lucy knows you only get one chance at it. Harriet Klausner

Stealing Kathryn
Jacquelyn Frank
Zebra, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420109849

Adrian serves as a middle man who steals dark energy from the nightmares people suffer and delivers if to his masters. However he has paid a high price for his servitude as the once handsome hunk has been converted into a beast due to the dark forces he absorbs.

Known through history as Sandman, Morpheus and other aliases, Adrian visits Kathryn intent on doing his job, but finds he needs much more from her. Obsessed with owning her, he abducts her to add to his bounty inside his castle. Shocking him, Kathryn is repulsed by the creature that kidnapped her. Shocking her, she is actually attracted to the fiend although she abhors being his prisoner. Still with his sister explaining who he is, she begins to see the diminishing flicker of light that still glimmers inside his heart and plans to make it shine with love.

Stealing Kathryn is a terrific dark romantic fantasy starring a fascinating villain and the female who redeems his soul. Although Adrian is an intriguing energy collector, Kathryn’s seeming flightiness makes the tale as she falls in love, but her doubts about her beloved’ redemption lead her bouncing back and forth between flight (from him) and fight (for him). Jacquelyn Frank’s second Gatherers’ novel (see Hunting Julian) is a wonderful character driven tale. Harriet Klausner

Meg Cabot
Morrow, Jun 8 2010, $22.99
ISBN: 9780061735066

In New York, Meena Harker writes scripts for the soap opera Insatiable. She enjoys her work and is diligent with hopes to obtain a promotion. However, she is hurt when the boss selects Shoshona Metzenbaum the 00 sized treadmill walker with family connections like super director aunt and uncle for the position. Things get even worse when Shoshona directs Meena to write a vampire storyline for the TV show. Having the “gift” of sight that enables her to see who will shortly die; Meena detests the vampire craze and especially loathes her soap following the parade not leading it.

In the apartment building where she lives with her brother and Jack the dog Meena meets Romanian Prince Lucien, who is visiting neighbors. She likes the fact that for the first time she has encountered a person whose death she cannot foresee. However as she falls in love with the sophisticated East European Meena is unaware of why she fails to be able to foresee his death; the reason being he is dead as befitting the offspring of Dracula and is in town due to his being the ruler of the vampire community.

This is a jocular tongue in cheek urban fantasy romance that takes a bite out of the sensual vampire craze. Closer to George Hamilton than Bella Lugosi or Christopher Lee, Insatiable is an amusing lampooning of the craze that those who would dine on us care about us as equals not cattle. Although at times the verbiage turns verbose as if Meg Cabot targets the Princess Diaries crowd rather than the older audience this story line is fun and readers will enjoy her humorous Love At First Bite romantic comedic satire. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Reviews

Most of these are available now from the sources listed. THE CALLED is available for pre-order and should be ready soon.

ISLAND LIFE, Willie Miekel,, $1.99 ebook, 261 pages, ISBN: 9781907190018, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Sometimes we think technology has gone too far and other times we wonder why it’s still ages behind what we expect. With the advent of e-publishing, writers are able to rescue their out of print works and make them available to a new group of readers at a low cost. This will allow them to discover a new audience without either of them having to invest a lot of cash into the process. In this economy, it’s a win/win situation.

ISLAND LIFE is pleasing tale that starts off well and then descends into a horror tale as the students working on a dig descend into their find. Off the Scottish coast lies the Outer Hebridean Islands and it is here that Duncan McKenzie is seeking the reason the fish are becoming scarce; a group of student are excavating a burial mound; and, one of the old timers has a feeling of dread.

Duncan is developing an interest in Meg McTaggart, daughter of Anne and Jim who run the pub and post office. Anne and Jim are the only remains of a hippie colony that remained on the austere island. Tom and Dick are the lighthouse keepers and John Jeffries is the farmer who thinks the students are the cause of his sheep mutilations.

The problem arises when the students open the mound and release Calent and his followers – a group of barbarian cannibals that have been sealed underground for almost 5000 years. Calent is a follower of “The Father” and has been around since he caused the destruction of Atlantii.

There is plenty of action as the islanders seek to defeat Calent and resume their “normal” lives. The body count rises as the action moves along with a surprise or two thrown in. Many thanks to Miekle for getting this available again, it’s available on Amazon or

THE INNSWICH HORROR, Edward Lee, Cemetery Dance, 190 pages, out of print, limited to approximately 700 copies, mentioned by Barry Hunter.

This is an odd review. The book is already sold out and it will not add any money to the coffers of the publisher or the writer, but it is a very interesting and enjoyable book. Hopefully, it will get picked up for a paperback edition (are you listening Leisure?).

Lee has entered Lovecraft territory with this one and has made himself at home with it. Foster Morley is on a tour of northern Massachusetts when he discovers the town of Innswich Point. It’s not on the map and he wonders if this might be the origin of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth. As he searches to find out the secret that lies under the wharf and how much Lovecraft incorporated into his work, he finds more horror than he can bear.

Lee makes an interesting tale of Marley’s adventure and makes a home for himself in the Mythos Canon. He leaves me wanting more about this quaint town and Lovecraft’s adventures there.

TAXPAYERS’ TEA PARTY, How to Become Politically Active – and Why, Sharon Cooper and Chuck Asay, Baen, $12.00, 192 pages, ISBN: 9781439133637, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Like it or not, these are political times and a lot of people are concerned with the way this country is headed. This is a revised edition of a 1994 release with updates to bring in the politically super charged atmosphere we have today.

Chuck Asay is a political cartoonist and the first part of the book uses his talent to put across a lot of points in a fun but serious way.

Sharon Cooper then makes her points and has plenty of suggestions on how to get on “The Road to Rebellion”. It is chock full of examples and resources so that you can make your voice heard. There are addresses for the major networks, commentators, and a list of all the current members of the House of Representatives and Senate which includes phone, fax and email addresses.

Even if you don’t agree with what the Tea Party stands for, this is a good book to use for reference and will make you more informed. Who knows, you may find yourself agreeing with them after you finish the book.

ONE FOR THE ROAD, Stephen King, Illustrated by James Hannah, PS Publishing, $120 – 500 copy edition, $280 -100 copy edition signed by James Hannah, 44 pages, ISBN: 9781848630536, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

This is one of the more unusual books in the varied career of Stephen King. This is a picture book of one of King’s short stories about the town of Jerusalem’s Lot and a stormy night in Maine.

Booth and Herb Tooklander are about to close down Tookey’s Bar, when Gerarld Lumley stumbles in after walking six miles in a blizzard to get help for his stalled car and his wife and daughter he left there.

Lumley was lost and took the road to Jerusalem’s Lot and got stuck in a snowdrift. He convinces the two men to go help him rescue his family, even though they know it is probably useless.

The story fills in their journey and the things they find when they arrive at the stalled car. It is typical King and makes for an interesting book. It’s a good story and an unusual book to add to your collection.

THE CALLED, Warren Rochelle, Golden Gryphon, $24.95, 367 pages, ISBN: 9781930846630, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Rochelle has written an interesting tale that starts with the closing of the gateway between the worlds of the humans and the faerie. When the door was closed, there were many changelings and now there is trouble brewing on Earth. The events depicted here lead up to the events of December 2012 and Rochelle has written an exciting and action packed novel.

Malachi and Hazel are half faerie and half of the tetrad with Russell and Jeff. Malachi and Hazel returned to Earth to help those left behind on Earth while Russell and Jeff remain in the White City. There are rumblings of problems that will affect not only the changelings, but the human race as well.

Magon, one of the Fomorii – enemy of the faerie, has come to earth and formed an alliance with radical religious extremists to destroy the changelings and anyone who gets in their way. President Gore’s government is overthrown and the extremists start their campaign to rid the world of their enemies.

Rochelle keeps his story set in North Carolina where Malachi has been kidnapped and Russell, Jeff and Hazel have joined forces with the Cherokee to rescue Malachi and prepare the world for what is to come in December.

There is plenty of action, personal and political backstabbing as no one knows who to trust. Rochelle ties in Cherokee and faerie myth along with the lost Roanoke Colony. This is a well written tale that has a cast of interesting characters and some unusual ideas about what to expect when the Mayan Calendar ends.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Steampunk Tales

Indy electronic publishing companies thrive in emerging markets; Steampunk Tales completes a successful first year.


With eBook readers finally taking hold as popular consumer electronics devices, independent publishing firms are finding themselves in a growth market.

Emulating the style of the pulp adventure magazines of the 1920s and '30s, Steampunk Tales is a bi-monthly electronic magazine of first-run, original fiction written by an A+ list of award-winning authors. Having now completed its first year in publication, Steampunk Tales has published 7 full issues containing first-run content by over 50 different authors and artists such as Catherynne M. Valente, Jay Lake, G. D. Falksen and David Wellington. After only one year in what is traditionally a tough marketplace, Steampulp Publishing, LLC is thriving and profitable.

"We initially published Steampunk Tales exclusively on iPhone, but we were quickly flooded with requests to publish in a wider variety of formats such as Adobe Acrobat, MobiPocket and Amazon Kindle. We were surprised not only by how many people were asking us for these additional formats, but by the number of formats we were being asked to support," says John Sondericker III, Steampulp Publishing's founder. "We responded by supporting all of them, and our readers appreciate that we publish our magazine without digital rights management (DRM) wherever possible. If you provide a great product at a great price, people prefer to purchase it rather than make bootlegged copies. Our customer base is made largely of tech-savvy internet users, and their general opposition to DRM means that instead of protecting our product, DRM would actually alienate our customers."

Additionally, electronic distribution has enabled small, independent publishers to control expenses. "As we provide a bi-monthly anthology of original short fiction, electronic publishing has allowed us to keep costs down when compared to print distribution," continued Sondericker. "We are able to reach readers on a large variety of platforms in millions of homes worldwide. This opportunity, on the scale in which it has emerged is a new and expanding opportunity for the independent publishing firm. The timing is perfect to re-introduce the world to the 'Penny Dreadfuls', and the iPhone and other modern eBook readers are platforms that can truly do them justice."

Issues of Steampunk Tales are released bi-monthly at a cost of $1.99 USD on most platforms.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fantasy Reviews

Stealing Fire
Jo Graham
Orbit, May 25 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316076395

The Macedonian world conqueror is dead and his strongest supporters struggle with what to do in the aftermath as Alexander the Great was a man of epic proportions. Lydias of Macedon was with Alexander as he defeated all opponents, but he learns quickly that nothing will be the same as he leaves behind his ruler’s corpse fleeing for his life.

Lydias joins the side of one of Alexander’s top officers, General Ptolemy, who heads to Egypt to take control of the African nation. In country, Lydias meets other expatriates who pledge loyalty to Ptolemy. However, the Macedonian is shocked from those who come from beyond as the dead and the gods abet the general and his supporters in bringing Alexander’s corpse and spirit to Egypt as his final resting place. However the biggest stunner for the honest Lydias is what Isis bestows on him.

This is a great ancient historical fantasy that brings to life the era just after Alexander’s sudden death within a strong Egyptian mythos. Diogenes would have ended his search if he met Lydias who with a strong support cast serves as the center of the story line even as the real General Ptolemy begins a dynasty in Egypt. Stealing Fire is a terrific BC Egyptian thriller. Harriet Klausner

The Office of Shadow
Matt Sturges
PYR, Jun 22 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616142025

Womanizer Silverdun shocks anyone who knows him when he becomes a priest. However, being a man of the cloth proves tedious as all he hears is whining confessions. When the Seelie leadership asks him to serve as a lead espionage field agent of the newly approved (by Queen Tatiana) top secret department Office of Shadow who will perform functions that go against the kingdom’s value system like using psyops techniques including blackmail, extortion, and abduction to cause unrest amongst the enemy or stealing Unseelie secrets; he agrees.

However, he is put off by his new employer’s demand he receive training in combat skills; mundane and magical. Ennui settles in until he is teamed up with soldier-magic academic researcher Ironfoot, and deadly almost out of control Sela the empath on a dangerous impossible mission. Their mission is to learn the origin of Einswrath, the weapon of mass destruction that Queen Mab and her Unseelie forces apparently are deploying in what will lead to a second battle in the Seelie-Unseelie war (see Midwinter).

This is a typical espionage thriller and a typical quest fantasy, but brilliantly combined into an atypical espionage fantasy. The Office of Shadow has selected the right person to lead the charge while his teammates bring diverse but needed skills to the table. Fast-paced and filled with plenty of action , yet clearly character driven by the band of three and their cohorts, readers will relish the second Seelie-Unseelie dispute as both sides approve anything goes tactics. Harriet Klausner

Dragon Soul
Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
Spectra (Bantam), Jun 8 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553807691

The war (see Havemercy) is at least for now over as the two sides agree to a truce. However, neither the Volstov nor the Ke-Han trust one another. Both know it would not take much for hostilities to reignite as the magic weaving Volstov and the dark sorcery of Ke-Han remain diligently wary and weary.

Thom believes the tentative peace is a good time to bond with his despondent brother Rook. However, the grieving Rook, the most volatile yet successful warrior in the recent combat, has no interest in this or anything else. He still struggles with his Havemercy and the other great dragons dead; their bodies spread in small pieces across Ke-Han. Still he agrees to travel with Thom but the siblings are stunned to learn someone is paying good money to buy the remains of the fallen dragons. They soon realize that the beasts may be dead, but their magic lingers; in the wrong hands a new war could explode and there are several operatives seeking the means scattered all over Ke-Han.

Although somewhat different in tone than the great military fantasy Havemercy as that tale told the cost of a war on anyone within the sphere; this time the quest is less militarily epic for the most part but could turn rather quickly. The siblings are a terrific lead as Rook is a fierce warrior in aguish over the death of his equally feral dragon while Thom is a scholar who prefers to ride a book rather than a beast. Together, these opposites make for a strong saga as they follow the Marines’ credo of no one left behind in their search for the soul of Havemercy before enemies or allies possess the heart of the brave dragoness warrior.
Harriet Klausner

Wolves and Dragons

Baryon 116 has been sent to Pete to put up on the web. Send me an email and I'll email you a copy.

Tall, Dark, and Wolfish
Lydia Dare
Sourcebooks, May 4 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402236952

In 1816 Edinburgh, Caitrin the seer warns her coven friend Elspeth Campbell that the man with beast is coming for her. While her three other coven sisters worry about her, Elspeth says the man is probably her father whom she never met.

In London Lord Benjamin Westfield is concerned that for the first time since puberty he failed to change during the full moon. Not wanting to deal with his two older brothers, he turns to Major Forester who suggests he see a healer. Reluctantly and concealing what he does from his sibling by pretending to visit friend Alec MacQuade, Benjamin heads to Edinburgh to ask an old hag Elspeth Campbell to help him.

At the Ferguson gala, Alec escorts Caitrin while he arranges for Benjamin to take Elspeth. Caitrin recognizes Benjamin as the beast from her vision. When Elspeth’s beloved grandfather dies, he is there for her. He learns the woman he seeks is her late mother. As they fall in love, each knows they must reveal their innermost secret; he as the wolf and she as the witch.

The second Westfield Regency fantasy romance (see Ben’s brother Simon in Certain Wolfish Charm) is an engaging tale that sub-genre readers will enjoy. The support is a powerful group with fans hoping for more stories especially that of Alec and Caitrin as well as the third Westfield sibling. The lead couple is a terrific pairing of star-crossed lovers summed up nicely by Ben’s other brother Will when he muses her friends might burn his coach in a pique; as the question remains can a wolf and a witch dare to find happiness together? Harriet Klausner

The Dragon's Secret
Donna MacQuigg
Five Star, May 19 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148682

In 975 Wales, Sayrid the sorceress saw a vision of Viking warrior Kyran and his warriors defeat King Aswyn of Dragon's Head and his army not far from her cottage in the Mystical Forest. Soon after his actual triumph, he leaves the battlefield to seek a small brook he remembers from his childhood before Aswyn betrayed Kyran’s father. He is attacked and injured before someone in the woods shoots his adversary with an arrow.

Sayrid killed his attacker and heals his wounds while insisting he is just a noble barbarian. After Kyran takes over Dragon's Head, the witch Brynn joins neighboring King Oddrun, who had been Aswyn’s partner, in a scheme to overthrow the new overlord. Sayrid believes Kyran is another despot so she is cautious with him though he shares in common the same amulet with her. As the hedge witch and the conqueror fight their feelings, their love is the first step of an ancient prophecy.

This is an exciting Dark Ages romantic fantasy that is fun to read but never quite anchors the era or the romance. Kyran is the Ancient Ones’ destined champion though he prefers to just win back what was taken from his father by treachery and punishing those who committed the seditious acts. Sayrid is an even more suspicious individual as she distrusts everyone especially the latest conqueror who reads her thoughts and enters her dreams. Sub-genre fans will enjoy their escapes as the fated duo learning The Dragon’s Secret. Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Hodge Podge of Reviews

Chaos Bites
Lori Handeland
St. Martin’s, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312366032

Her dead lover Navaho Skinwalker Sawyer, whom she killed, (see Apocalypse Happens) visits Liz Phoenix every time she dozes off. His nocturnal appearances gives her hope she may be able to raise him from the dead though she has no idea how to bring him back to her and his shapeshifting baby that she is raising and protecting from malevolent forces.

Liz turns to her acrimonious former lover Jimmy Sanducci to help her find a magical tome protected by spells and beasts who no one in their right mind would want to encounter or tangle with. Her job of keeping the baby safe makes their mission all the more difficult. Their trek is dangerous as there are many things out there that prefer the end of the world.

The latest Phoenix Chronicles (see Doomsday Can Wait and Any Given Doomsday) is an exhilarating urban fantasy as the prime triangle continues their escapades with Sawyer reaching out to his beloved from the grave. Fast-paced throughout, the aptly titled Chaos Bites is a great run through a gauntlet of death as apocalypse now continues to happen overwhelming the heroine who also has a baby to contend with (shades of Willow).The Haviland mythos is creative and a great place for readers to visit. Harriet Klausner

The Poet Prince
Kathleen McGowan
Touchstone, May 25 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780743299985

Researcher Maureen Paschal has diligently probed the “Confraternity of Saint Mary Magdalen”. She finds some racy information referencing the Libro Rosso and the Order of the Holy Sepulcher. After learning this she heads to Florence to follow up with Destino, her ancient teacher.

Destino explains to his favorite student that much is known about The Poet Prince Lorenzo de Medici as he was the guiding light in the Renaissance. However, even more is unknown. Lorenzo secretly married Lucrezia “the Colombina” Donati, who was a star model of Botticelli. As she learns more about de Medici, Maureen also becomes heartbroken when she learns a former lover of her beloved Scottish oil mogul Berenger Sinclair accuses him of siring her baby at a time the duet were researching his family links back to de Medici and further back to Roman Longinus Gaius, who used the infamous Spear of Destiny to stab Jesus on the cross.

The third Magdalene Line thriller is an enticing gripping but somewhat convoluted tale as Maureen struggles with what she has learned about her beloved: a modern day Poet Prince. The heroine also begins to believe she knows who Gaius, doomed to walk the earth for eternity, is. Fans of the saga will relish this enthralling entry while newcomers should start with the previous two entries (see The Book of Love and The Expected One) for a better understanding of the increasingly complex McGowan Magdalene mythos. Harriet Klausner

The Burning Wire
Jeffrey Deaver
Simon & Schuster, Jun 1 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9781439156339

Police consultant and criminologist Lincoln Rhyme is a quadriplegic who uses his partner in life and work Amelia Sachs as his field eyes and ears. As a team they have solved more cases than healthy cops. His biggest issue is boredom, which is the state he is in right now; wishing he was in Mexico City where his nemesis Richard “Watchmaker” Logan is giving authorities a merry chase.

Rhyme’s ennui ends when he asks to consult on another case. A substation of Algonquin Consolidated Power and Light goes off line and the computer tries to get it running by diverting power from other locales. When another substation goes black, power is diverted to the original substation that went off line. That happens several times until a wire hanging out of a substation hits a bus destroying it and killing a passenger. This was an act of sabotage and it happens two more times. With the evidence so far gathered, Lincoln thinks a disgruntled employee performed the deed as the culprit is able to control substations. HSD and FBI believe terrorists are at work due to the electronic tech they find. When Lincoln reaches the end game, he realizes how wrong he has been, but has no time to wallow as he must find a way to rectify his mistake.

Series fan will want to read Rhyme’s latest police procedural because he allows the audience to get close and personal with his inner most feelings; as he must decide between euthanasia, experimental surgery or the status quo. The mystery is cleverly executed and the suspense remains high throughout with the enthralled audience consistently kept off guard. The Burning Wire is Lincoln at his most complete best. Harriet Klausner