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

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