The Darkest Passion
Harlequin HQN, May 25 2010, $7.99
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
Orbit, Jul 1 2010, $14.99
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
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.