Cat the Vamp
By Light Unseen Media, Dec 1 2009, $12.00
With the death of her grandmother, the parents of teenage Catherine Taylor explain her heritage that they concealed from her. They and Cat are vampires, a species that lives in secret amidst the humans.
Her parents take the stunned Cat to Blacklune Castle since she is old enough for initiation into the species. They leave, while she and others her age receive ethics training as well as use of their powers. Cat is shocked to meet Morgan, who has starred in her dreams. They become close but they also struggle with their formal education as each feels the glamour of their powers and a thirst to taste human blood. Cat and Morgan flout adult authority including admonitions from their instructor River while paying no heed to what their actions do to others especially their classmates. When they go too far and harm another, the pair finally learns what others had been telling them, but it may be too late.
This exciting urban fantasy places a wonderful conceptual twist on the vampire sub-genre by having the lead teenage pair behaving as juvenile delinquents. That fresh approach comes across as a two edged sword; the pair causes all sorts of rule breaking havoc which gets increasingly worse and nastier while teachers and administrators do little even when a major violation that borders on criminal activity of assaulting a human donor of their blood occurs. Still this brisk updating of Evan Hunter’s Blackboard Jungle into an urban fantasy landscape makes for a brisk unique thriller. Harriet Klausner
Zebra, Dec 1 2010, $6.99
In 1875 Chicago newspaper reporter Gemma Murphy overhears three people discuss saving the world from some affluent British Heirs. Fascinated with what she heard, Gemma makes inquiries into the trio especially the mysterious inventor Catullius Graves. She asks him for an interview.
Catullius knows his first loyalty must be to the Blades of the Rose, but he also feels a kinship to Gemma as he is an intense outsider who knows no one understands him; while he senses she must prove her worth every day to the good old boys’ network at her paper where she is an outsider there. They are attracted to one another but in spite of his efforts to keep her out of his undercover work, Gemma joins her loved one and his Blades to prevent the Heirs from obtaining and using the Primal Source to reanimate King Arthur as the first step in making England the depository for all of the magic in the world.
The Blades of the Rose (see Rebel, Warrior and Scoundrel) is another super thriller as the suspense never slows down while the romance simmers in order to first save the world. Loaded with action as Camelot appears coming to Reconstruction Era Chicago, Zoe Archer scores four consecutive bulls-eyes with this great finish to this terrific saga. Harriet Klausner
Biting the Bride
Zebra, Dec 1 2010, $6.99
Thirty-two years old Sunni Marquette the dhampir (half-breed human-vampire) knows she will always owe the LaForge family for fostering her as a teen with love. They gave her a chance to make it after her horrific childhood. Perhaps the only thing she does not like about being part of the LaForge brood is the weddings, which means ugly dresses and standing a head shorter than the other bridesmaid (she is always carded), but out of loyalty to her beloved foster parents she diligently attends.
At the latest nuptials, she sees a man she thinks is her guardian angel. Stunned soon afterward a drunk attacks her in the bathroom, but to her shock Sunni easily outmuscles the attacker. However, the bigger shocker, perhaps the greatest in her life occurs, when soon after the assault her guardian angel, who saved her years ago from a mugging, talks to her. Jacob has kept Sunni safe for years as he has kept her concealed from rouge vampires who would drink her special blood to gain her power. Jacob fell in love with her years ago, but knows if a rogue finds her he will accomplish the dark side of his mission by killing her. Now a rogue knows of her and attacks by going after her beloved LaForge family.
This exiting action-packed urban fantasy grips readers from the moment Sunni sees her guardian and never slows down until the final confrontation. The Willis universe seems genuine as miscegenation laws cause all sorts of complicated societal issues. However though Sunni is terrific as she holds the plot together and the villain is a nasty power grabber, Jacob makes the tale work with his angst of knowing he will kill his beloved if the rogue has a reasonable chance of taking her. Harriet Klausner
Gail Z. Martin
Orbit, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
Between the civil war, the famine and the plague, the Winter Kingdoms remain in deep trouble. No one can handle another catastrophe. Yet that is exactly what beleaguered Summoner-King Martris Drayke faces.
The Dark Mages using blood magic have invaded at a time when the Winter Kingdoms still teeter on the brink of imploding. King Tris needs allies immediately as the enemy begins it feral assaults, but his mostly likely sources are new monarchs lacking combat experience especially with the enemy being ruthless killers. Adding to his fears is rumors that the Dread are rising from their millennia dormancy, but who is raising them is the actual concern as the King believes the Blood Mages are behind this awakening and may have control of them. His only hope to save the Winters Kingdom reside with the Sworn nomads whose mission for centuries has been to protect the Dread. As Tris tries to gain the support of the Sworn he also wonders if they might betray him out of their oath to protect the Dread who might serve the Blood Mages.
Returning to the realm of The Chronicles of the Necromancer (see The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven and Dark Lady’s Chosen) Gail Z. Martin starts a new exhilarating epic fantasy, The Fallen Kings Cycle. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as well as sets the conflict and establishes key players. Fans of the previous saga will find the opening of the second act at the high level of excellence expected from Ms. Marin. Harriet Klausner