Orbit, Feb 7 2011, $24.99
Union commander Lord Marshal Kroy knows his direct reporting officers are incompetent mostly political appointees who believe they will be the hero of the upcoming combat. None of these egomaniacs has any real combat experience. However, you must play with the deck you are dealt.
The much smaller opposing force of Northmen is led by Black Dow, who has quite a kill rate. His throne is shaky as his brutal reign is built on his citizens’ fear of him and the Union King wants no deadly rival as his neighbor. On top of that Calder wants to replace Black Dow as the ruler arguing for peace in our time. Soon all will converge in a battle for the ages as all of the North land will feel the epic impact for centuries to come.
Though located in the Abercrombie world of the First Law thrillers, this terrific saga can be read without the trilogy. War enables ordinary people an opportunity to perform heroic deeds (think of the medial of Honor winners). Joe Abercrombie pulls no punches when it comes to combat as masses are fodder for the glory of a general, a king or a country. Yet like U.S. Army staff sergeant Guinta and those listed on the Vietnam Veterans Wall (included in the Mall and Virtual at www.virtualwall.org) these are the real heroes of battle that Mr. Abercrombie honors when the avaricious leads to insanity by leaders seeking empires. Harriet Klausner
Tor, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
For five decades the theocratic Holy Empire of Mann has conquered the countries on The Heart of the World. Their ruthless dictator, Holy Matriarch Sasheen remains in control of her vast empire due to her specialty trained Diplomat Corps of diabolical vicious priests.
Ash the Roshun belongs to an assassin group who provide a protection to clients by meting out revenge on anyone who murders one of their customers or a family member. He has been ill lately so has taken on a mentee Nico from the streets of Bar-Khos, an island under a decade old siege by the forces of the Holy Empire of Mann. When Sasheen’s heir Kirkus kills the daughter of a priest who has paid for Roshun’s protection for himself and his family, the assassin knows he and his apprentice must complete a vendetta against the “sacred”.
This is an engaging “historical” that looks closely at the impact of a long war on individuals representing different groups caught up in the conflict. The intriguing story line is driven by a moral undercurrent as the values of the Holy Empire of Mann and of the Roshun conflict when Kirkus committed murder. Readers will want more tales set in the Col Buchanan’s Heart of the World as the author brings to life his realm through a murder requiring contracted retaliation against a protected VIP. Harriet Klausner
Tor, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
In Wales their single mother’s spell goes terribly wrong when her daughters interfered by trying to thwart the incantation. Teen Morwenna survives but is severely hurt; her twin sister was not as fortunate as she dies.
Mori flees her raging mother’s wrath seeking shelter with her father in England. He welcomes his daughter by immediately shipping her off to a boarding school. Feeling alone, Mori employs a spell seeking souls like her own who escape their troubles with literature. This leads her to a science fiction readers club, but Mori has no time to make friends. She senses her irate mother searches for her to kill her. Mori concludes she has no way to elude her mother much longer and has no place to hide; as her father made his feelings perfectly clear when she first arrived at his home seeking shelter and protection.
Mori makes the tale with her journal focusing on her loneliness and her obsessive need to belong especially since her only friend, her twin, is dead. The teen is realistic and believes she can never truly belong though she yearns for such; as anyone who befriends her becomes instant fodder for her insane mother’s wrath. That is why books are her friends. Readers will be hooked by Mori’s lament that she will never really belong Among Others though that is her strongest need (Dr. Maslow would have loved to interview Mori, but her insane mom better had not found out); in many ways more so than surviving the anticipated showdown with her mother.
Tor, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
Due to an interstellar military duty, affluent attorney Skip Grison is now two decades older than his contracted paramour Chelle Blue though they were the same age when they met at college. Her time in outer space was months, but years in North America where he waited for his wife to come home from serving in the combat. Skip seeks a special present for his beloved who came home early due to war related injuries; he thinks he may have one. Skip arranges for Chelle and her estranged mother Vanessa, whose essence has been loaded into a new body, to see one another.
Soon after the mother-daughter reunion, Skip takes Chelle and her mom on a cruise that circles the globe. However, the vacation proves anything but relaxing as hijackers, assassins, and others of their ilk come after someone on board with collateral damage acceptable.
This is a terrific science fiction mystery with the whodunit and why-do-it thriller themes up front as the prime thread, and the futuristic SF elements serving as background enhancement. The fast-paced story line grips the reader from the moment Chelle and Skip reunite with her so many years younger than him chronologically but in many ways her military experience makes her seem older than him. Red herrings abound in this exhilarating character driven thriller. Harriet Klausner