The King of the Crags
Roc, Feb 1 2011, $25.95
In the Realms, Prince Jehal has succeeded in achieving the first objective in his strategic plan. He has placed his lover Queen Zafir in charge of the hundreds of drugged brutally trained dragons and consequently their respective aristocratic riders. Everything came together except for that pesky white dragon who, if still alive, could destroy his plot to replace Zafir as the ruler of the realms; Jehal is unconcerned that if the freed beast attacks many will die.
Snow the White Dragon is planning to liberate her peers. The task will be difficult as they are drugged but just like she telepathically linked to her master Kailin, she knows she mentally will reach the intelligent part of the dragons. Whole Zafir distrusts Jehal and prepares to prevent his coup d’état, exiled Princess Jaslyn and Hyrkallen the dragonmaster lead a counterinsurgency.
The second Memory of Flames dark fantasy (see The Adamantine Palace) continues the brutal gruesome adventures in the bleak Deas Realms as this is no cozy. The story line is fast-paced with literal back-stabbing a normal acceptable way of life as alliances are temporary and fragile. Readers will appreciate soaring through the skies of the Realms as every free thinker has a deadly agenda with civilian (human and dragon) deaths an acceptable consequence. Harriet Klausner
Orbit, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
Due to the unmanaged deaths of many of his extended kin’s Psychopomps who worked like he did at the family firm Mortmax Industries (see Death Most Definite), Steven de Selby has been promoted to Australia’s Regional Manager. He knows he is not ready for this new position that he got due to being the last Pomp standing so he does what most young males do – he turns to drink, rage and more drink and his girlfriend Lissa.
Finally he accepts that he has no choice except turn the Death collection firm around though he faces plenty of issues starting with a stirrer revival epidemic due to a shortage of experienced Pomps (thank goodness for high unemployment as the survivor benefits are excellent not that the recruit will care), plan for a Death Moot, organize the office Christmas party and deal with an apparent zombie master who wants to end the world as Steven knows it. In other words he has to stop wallowing in survivor guilt and begin Managing Death while avoiding death as someone wants to reengineer the system; all that and a few drinks at the Christmas party.
The second Death thriller is a terrific entry that has less action than its predecessor but stronger character development especially Steven, who comes out of his PTSD to find the regional end of the world, has become more global. Told by Steven, fans will enjoy insight into his work, office pace, and an Australia turned upside down by Trent Jamieson. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Steven’s rapid rise to the top of the dead heap, but he knows there is always someone gunning to take you down; in his case that is literally not figuratively. Harriet Klausner
Tor, Mar 1 2011. $24.99
In 1918, more to escape from his abusive father rather than any sense of patriotism, Alex White joins the army. He is quickly sent to the trench warfare in France where he meets Harold Lightfoot who is from Gatford, England. When Harold dies, Alex finds gold in his duffle bag instead of Harold’s bag. Alex instantly decides to visit the place Harold called the most beautiful village in the world. Alex crosses the Channel, but soon realizes locating the rustic quaint village is not easy as if Gatford does not want to be found by just anyone.
He rents Comfort Cottage using the money he received by selling the gold. The owner is shocked when it turned to dust; this is the beginning of the travails he finds in the village where the townsfolk believe the Faerie live in the nearby woods. They warn him never to leave the path and to avoid Widow Magda Variel the witch. Alex fails to heed the sage advice as he and Magda begin a relationship and encounters Ruthana a beautiful Faerie. Both women want him exclusively, but the more time Alex spends with Magda, the more ne becomes wary of her actions. He enters Faerie, but life there proves dangerous there also as someone wants him dead.
This is a chilling DNA helix-like twisted historical love story as a female uses her power to keep the male object of her obsessive affection at her side while her rival is willing to sacrifice her desire for his safety. Told in the first person, Other Kingdoms draws the reader into Alex’s account starting with his enlistment, but mostly his time in Gatford and the surrounding areas as he believes he has fallen in love with two diverse women. Harriet Klausner
Enter the Zombie
Starscape (Tor), Jan 4 2011, $17.99
Although Nathan knows he owes the Bureau of Useful Misadventures (BUM), especially their leader Mr. Murphy and Dr. Cushing, for hardening his bones as the life span of a zombie is rather disgustingly short, he prefers to avoid them. Nathan and Abigail see Murphy at their school where he demands they and Mookie team up in a contest sponsored by evil RABID as a drafting mechanism to find appropriate young recruits.
Rodney the bully also forms a team to compete and pound into the ground Nathan and his squad. However, during the games, Rodney and others closely observe Nathan leaving behind bodily yucky pieces on the playing field. Nathan sadly tells Abigail that mission-obsessed BUM in their way is almost as evil as Rabid is; he concludes Mr. Murphy will never humanize him because having a zombie on call, even a preadolescent, is a great secret weapon.
Although there are several less pints of puke and other loosely labeled bodily fluids that the EPA would condemn, Enter the Zombie is a terrific upper elementary school thriller. Nathan and Abigail display wisdom as they draw generalizations based on observations, For instance, her wry comment on research and his re the merits of BUM and Rabid in which they share in common the tenet that the end justifies the mean. Mookie provides comic relief when the gross meter is about to implode. Fans will appreciate the latest Nathan the child zombie tale as the trio works together to survive the brains and brawn contest while seeking the Zombie fever cure. Harriet Klausner