Saturday, March 5, 2011

Interesting Reviews from Harriet

Passion Play
Beth Bernobich
Tor, Oct 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322173

Sixteen years old Therez Zhalina loathes her home life even though it comes with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her businessman father and her grandmother are at constant war while her mother fears her husband’s rage. Her brother has simply withdrawn into himself; emotions that Therez envies and worries about.

Her father makes an economic power deal with a ruthless man in which Therez will marry this abuser. Not wanting to be like her mother living in fear she flees in fear. Changing her name to Ilse she struggles to survive on the street in poverty after a life of affluence until she meets Raul Kosenmark who protects and mentors her in the use of magic. Raul, an exiled prince, wants to save the same people, who forced him to leave from a terror.

This is an engaging romantic fantasy that has a historical, fifteenth or sixteenth century, feel to the story line. Raul seems to be a dedicated individual who has a cause that will have readers admire him as he has reasons for turning his back on his people. Therez comes a long way when she becomes Ilse in a coming of age arc. Although nothing is resolved, fans will enjoy this entertaining thriller. Harriet Klausner

The Griffin’s Flight
K J Taylor
Ace, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019977

As the victim of de facto racism Arren Cardockson knew first hand being the son of a Northerner slave, his “peers” who rule Cymria would never accept him as their equal in spite of his bonding with Eluna the griffin. Eluna dies while on a mission, but grieving and filled with guilt Arren still bonds with the rogue Dark Griffin. However those who loathed the upstart slave betray him by arranging his death.

Stunningly he returns from the dead though Arren cannot understand how. He knows staying means suicide, but he needs to avenge his death before fleeing the area. With the human-eating Skandar the Dark Griffin helping Arren, he murders those who murdered him. Dubbed the serial killing Mad Northerner, the griffiner-powers who run Cymria hunt for him declaring Arren an outlaw sentenced to immediate death. The rogue pair flees for Arren’s homeland in the northern tundra where he hopes to learn more about his ancestry and a cure for his heartless curse. He meets Skade, who portrays a less than rosy view of his countrymen.

This is a strong complex fantasy thriller that still focuses on one man’s rise and fall as did the previous Fallen Moon saga, The Dark Griffin, but filled with more viewpoints and a vaster deeper look at Cymria. For instance Skade paints a radically different Northern lands in which amoral killers exist like in Cymria. Adding to the sense of soaring over the Taylor landscape is the emotional separation the fully developed protagonist and his equally complete comrade are from the audience affirming his frozen roots yet readers will believe in humans riding griffins. Complicated with several terrific twists that turn the story line and ergo Arren (and the reader) upside down, The Griffin’s Flight is an entertaining plot driven tale. Harriet Klausner

Nancy Holzner
Ace, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019809

In Boston’s Deadtown quarantined zone, Vicky Vaughn is the only local professional demon exterminator amongst a horde of paranormal Americans. After her recent banishing of a Hellion demon, Vicky figures she can take the advice of her sister dormant shapeshifting wife and mother Gwen who tells her to get a life by enjoying her time with her First Amendment rights lawyer boyfriend Kane the werewolf.

However her respite ends when she realizes she is the connection between the recent horrific murders of several now twice deceased zombies. Her concerned Aunt Mab demands her slayer niece go to Wales to obtain training on fighting a Hellion demon. She also tells Vicky she must read The Book of Utter Darkness to understand her part in the prophecies; although when she was a child her touching the forbidden despicable tome led to her father’s death. A stranger arrives insisting he is Pryce her cousin who knows her destiny and plans to use Vicky’s role to bring hell on earth.

With the Human-Paranormal Joint Task Force “Goon Squad” watching her every move, Vicky already feels paranoid, which will exponentially grow as she begins to understand her destiny. Demons, demi-demons and other ilk try to manipulate her, but Vicky is an exterminator; so she begins to fight back with Kane and her teenage zombie apprentice Tina having her back as the action goes global including "to hell and back" (late Medal of Honor winner and actor Sergeant Audie Murphy would understand). Harriet Klausner

Songs of the Dying Earth
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (editors)
Tor, Dec 7 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765320865

Sixty years ago Jack Vance issued the classic Dying Earth saga in which magic practitioners, demons, other hostile paranormal and normal species fight for power when the red sun ebbs towards solar system extinction. This volume consists of twenty-two mostly famous authors paying homage to the great Mr. Vance by providing tales that occur on the Dying Earth. The quality level differs slightly as there are no clinkers, but a couple of well written disappointments because they attempt but fail at tying up some lose threads. Most of the entries capture the essence of Mr. Vance’s timely dark vision of the future. Especially entertaining are “Grolion of Almery” by Matthew Hughes who seems like a Vance clone with a the person obtaining shelter in the wrong house and Terry Dowling’s “The Copsy Door” in which cursed Amberlin the Lesser stumbles into a magical contest. Mike Resnick’s “Inescapable” affirms the axiom don’t lose your head to a female because she may take a literal connotation. Other strong contributions include “Abrizonde” by Walter Jon Williams, Dan Simmons's “The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz”, Paula Volsky’s “The Traditions of Karzh”, “Caulk the Witch-Chaser” by Liz Williams and “The Green Bird”' by Kage Baker. This entire anthology is a great tribute.
Harriet Klausner

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