St. Martin’s, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
Alison Wells assumes she became a therapist because she has always been different and forced to be distant so she understands people better than most. Her special skills lately for no apparent reason have become enhanced, which makes it that more complicated to avoid hurting people when she touches them.
Weary warrior of the Blood Kerrick of Endelle arrives to save Alison from the assault of another winged person. Besides seeing two winged people, Alison is astonished he can touch her and she him without his being hurt. He explains to her that his dimension is trapped in a vampire civil war between his Endelle warriors and the death vampires under the leadership of vicious Commander Greaves. He also tells her about the call to her of Second Earth where "ascenders" who share her skills can go. As both combatant enemies realize how much power Alison possesses, Kerrick guards Alison as she completes the ascension ritual and his olfactory sense makes him aware she is his mate. Twice widowed and having seen his children die, he vowed no more women, but will risk death to keep Alison safe from Greaves who needs her dead.
This is a super urban romantic fantasy in which the audience will believe in the vampires and the Ascension. The story line is fast-paced even when Kerrick is grounded as the assassination attempts keep him and his mate on the lam. Although the soul mate rescue element has been used a zillion times (to bad it was not a gender switch), readers will appreciate the first thrilling Guardians of Ascension tale in the Roane mythos. Harriet Klausner
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
Two centuries ago, Cwen the sorceress cursed the Viking warriors for killing her son. For the past two hundred years they have become immortal were-creatures with no control over their shape shifting as the curse included being beasts for half of a day.
Recently two of the crew have broken the curse by finding their soul-mates (see Immortal Outlaw and the Immoral Warrior). However, Gunnar the Red has no hope for himself as he lives in the forest where he roams as a bull during the day. Lonely and depressed, the freezing weather that rips him nocturnally in his human form sends him seeking shelter. At Richmond Castle, he saves Lady Eleanor de Neville from a fiery death. Eleanor rewards her hero with a kiss. She quickly loves the kind dark champion; he also falls in love, but reacts by leaving as she is betrothed to another. Unable to stay away from his beloved, Gunnar returns not knowing what type of reception he will receive, but he vows to tell her the truth.
The third Immortal medieval romantic fantasy is once again a fabulous historical. The story line is character driven more so by Gunnar whose despondency is heart felt by readers although Eleanor is a strong protagonist also. Fans will enjoy the latest Immortal entry as Lisa Hendrix has a trifecta with another strong seemingly star-crossed tale. Harriet Klausner
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
Although an offspring of Gair the dark mage, Ruithneadh of Ceangail concealed his magical skills by ignoring what he inherited from his evil sire following the deaths of his family (see the Nine Kingdoms’ first trilogy). However, the daughter of a witch whose only magic is “seeing spells”, Sarah of Doire asks for his help on her seemingly futile quest to save her brother Daniel from the dark side (see A Tapestry of Spells).
The Nine Kingdoms remain under attack from what his dad wrought on them. He reluctantly agrees as he no longer can hide in the shadows of being a raging wizard while ignoring what his malevolent father did. The two adventurers seek his sire’s spells as his father deploys them against the Nine Kingdoms. The only hope resides in their teamwork with her seeing the spells and his destroying what she sees. However, in spite of their risking their lives, foes of his father either covet what they assume he possesses or want him dead for what they assume he possesses.
The second Ruith-Sarah quest fantasy contains a complicated story line as the pasts of both champions are depicted in depth as each has quite a blood line that impacts their current dangerous situation and the potential of a future together as their initial doubting trust has begun to turn to love. This is an excellent entry due to the complex lead characters whose heritage implies each will be the end of their respective gene pool as the sins of the parents to include fear of a repeat lead many enemies wanting both dead. Harriet Klausner
First Grave on the Right
St. Martin’s, Feb 1 2011, $21.99
Private investigator Charley Davidson knows she cannot quit her haunting 24/7 job as her potential clients will never go away. That is the plight of being the Grim Reaper, who helps dead people complete their business on earth so they can move on. Most of her deceased customers died due to ugly causes like murder and want their perpetrator skinned alive though they will settle for them being brought to justice; thus they turn to Charley who tries to resolve the issue so they can go into the light. Her recent dreams are XXX rated starring a paranormal Entity, who has been in her life forever only lately it has been different; she has no idea why or how; nor how to find out.
Three people killed in a triple homicide ask her to investigate the crime. At the same time she learns who Entity is the offspring of, and his claim they are ironically soul mates.
Charley is the queen of humorous biting sarcasm even when in the heat of sex (live and dreaming) and never lets up on her mocking the living and the dead summed up by the heroine at the onset with her comment about her wet dreams being “death by divine pleasure”. In other words a ghost in need is a pest as she makes or breaks the tale depending on your tastes. Fans who appreciate an acerbic heroine will relish this strong investigative urban fantasy; otherwise need to pass. The Jones mythos is set nicely so the reader will believe in the mocking Ghost Whisperer who is not a tender Jennifer Love Hewitt but still solves homicides enabling dispirited spirits to cross into the light. Harriet Klausner
St. Martin’s, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
NSA chief David Cassius the vampire assigns otherworldly FBI Agent Jace Valchek to continue her hunt of Free Human Group terrorist Aristotle Stoker, but to do so she must cut a deal with insane Asher the shaman. She was pulled into this alternate realm because she believes Cassius needed a serial killer profiler, which in his world none exist. The paranormal on this plane are the normal; for every human there are almost 100 paranormal. Cassius promises to return Jace to her world if she succeeds with capturing Stoker though he conceals his hidden agenda re her.
Still off kilter with her new environs, Jace travels to Vegas without her golem partner Charlie Aleph as he is tied up with a dispute over golem rights in a dispute with vampires and weres. She ponders how to profile what in her realm is fiction and thinks what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but hopefully not to her. Her teammate on this dangerous mission is shapeshifter Azura the Astonisher mage stripper; an expert on the magic of deception.
The third Bloodhound Files (see Dying Bites and Death Blows) is an action-packed alternately worldly urban fantasy starring a spunky displaced FBI agent whose run-ins with a variety of supernatural newcomers embellish the Barant universe. The story line is fast-paced and fun to read, but in terms of the overarching theme, the plot feels more like a set up for future discord. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy Jace’s latest adventures, but like the heroine will wonder where the ruby slippers are that will bring her home. Harriet Klausner