The Raven Queen
Spectra, Feb 22 2011, $15.00
Her father King Eochaid of Connacht married Maeve to two lords as political alliances, but broke off both. She hoped to remain home, but her dad arranged another marriage for her to the King of Ulaid Conor.
Two years later, desperate not to be a political pawn of the male rulers, Maeve concludes her only way out of marital hell is to replace her father when he dies though he has a son still living, her older brother Innel, as his heir. She flees Conor offering her knowledge of his Red Branch warriors for her freedom, but her dying father and ambitious brother call her traitor. Maeve knows if miraculously she becomes the Queen of Connacht she has less time than a man would have to insure affluence comes to her kingdom. To do that she must overcome her sibling, his rivals, the clan’s anti female bias and her husband; thus to succeed she needs to convince Ruan the Lake wanderer and the Fae to support her claim. If she fails almost from the onset the Druid priests will sacrifice her to the Fae in exchange for their providing wealth to the kingdom.
The latest entry in the Watson mythology (see the superb Swan Maiden), The Raven Queen is another terrific Ancient Eire mystical thriller. Filled with action but driven by courageous Maeve and supported by a strong secondary cast, fans will relish this lyrical Irish mythos as Jules Watson brings to life ancient Eire with this exciting tale. Harriet Klausner
After the Golden Age
Tor, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
In Commerce City, Celia West the forensic accountant is fortunate that the Olympiad superheroes protect her because she keeps getting kidnapped. She is the daughter of the group’s leaders Suzanne known as the Spark because of her ability to create and control fire and Warren endowed with super speed and strength. However, Celia is estranged from her parents as she wants to live a normal life working assets and liabilities that are numbers and not fighting supervillains with masks and powers.
Currently she is looking into the records of supervillain Destructor seeking proof of tax fraud. When his case comes to court, her relationships through her parents to the alleged felon are exposed. This costs her the job and her friends while widening the rift with her parents. As a crime wave hits the city and with too much idle time on her hands, Celia sees a pattern that ties all the felonious activity to one person. She uses the supercomputer at the Olympiad headquarters trying to uncover the identity of this diabolical mastermind, but also learns much about the yin yang births of superheroes and supervillains.
Carrie Vaughn is a superhero of an author as she deftly switches voices and worlds with her different series (see Kitty the werewolf tales). The story line obviously pays homage to the Golden and Silver Ages of comic books with the twist of an accountant working the numbers to bring down supervillains. Readers root for Celia who they hope reconciles with her parents and obtains self-esteem as she fears she can never live up to the legends her parents are. Filled with pathos and a touch of romance as well as plenty of POW! And AM! Fans will enjoy the silver adventures of the offspring of two Golden Age heroes. Harriet Klausner
The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse
Steven C. Schlozman, MD
Grand Central, Mar 25 2011, $19.99
A zombie plague has been turned loose upon the earth, but the disease is not natural as it is man made. The research has turned people into NGH, No Longer Human. This leads to medical researchers on a remote island dissecting and experimenting on captured zombies seeking a cure with the belief that NGH types are classified as monstrous beasts who live to feed endlessly on human flesh.
Nuclear bombs fail to end the spread of the epidemic. Meanwhile on the coral atoll Bassas de India between Madagascar and Africa, a research center has been established to find a cure. Led by renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Blum and Dr. Blanca Gutierrez, volunteers have come to help. They conclude that the disease works similar to catching the flu with prions playing a key role. They believe they are closing in on a vaccination, but abruptly they seem to have vanished. However, Dr. Blum’s The Zombie Autopsies’ journals have been found and under review by the World Health Organization; as time runs out on Homo sapiens remaining the dominant species on the planet.
As Z books go, The Zombie Autopsies is a truly gruesome horror medical thriller; not so much due to someone creating the disease, but more because of the inhuman experiments on humanoid bodies by scientists mindful of Dr. Mengele and the Nazis. Although the reader will understand the despite attempts to save humanity, the scientific saviors lose what makes a person human while conducting their research. Dr. Blum and the Z crew put the faces to the tale as he knows he will never leave the island as he regrets what he believes he must do while fans will have to decide whether the zombie is a monster or sick grandma as this is a chilling, vividly gory thriller. Harriet Klausner
Roc, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
Hybrid human-Auphe Cal Leandros awakens on a beach with no idea how he got there or why he is surrounded by dead spidery monsters. Although his memory is gone, Cal believes in his gut he is a natural born killer as he heads into Nevah’s Landing, South Carolina.
Two men he does not recognize arrive claiming they are here to help him. One of them says he is Cal’s purebred brother Niko and the other insists he is their friend Robin Goodfellow. Niko explains they are BFFs also and run a private investigator business together. He distrusts both of them as his instincts, especially his Auphe side, insist he do so. That changes when more spidery monsters attack and they have his back as other enemies surface.
The latest Cal Leandros thriller is an exciting tale enhanced by a realistic modification in the relationship between the siblings. While Niko is hurt by his brother’s behavior towards him, Cal continues to struggle between his dueling dual natures as Cal fears what he truly is since he has no memory of who he is. Filled with action, Rob Thurman provides a terrific twist to the protagonist in the angst-laden Blackout (see Roadkill and Deathwish to fully understand the spin).