Saturday, July 9, 2011

Heaven's Needle, Sophia, Bound by Darkness, and Ascension reviewed

Heaven's Needle
Liane Merciel
Pocket, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439159163

In 1218 the Dome of the Sun high priest sends two Illuminer tyros to Carden Vale, at the foothills of Duradh Mal. Their mission is a simple religious ritual. Mourning the loss of her sister, Asharre the warrior with runes on her visage protects the two Blessed. However, evil from beneath the ruins of the mountain fortress has awakened.

Kelland the Sun Knight knows his beloved Bitharn the archer freed his inner power. He accompanies the Spider’s mentee Malentir the Thornlord mage of pain as they head to Duradh Mal. However, something goes wrong and Kelland is incarcerated in the Ang’arta dungeon. To rescue her loved one, Bitharn needs the help of the pain mage, Malentir, but that means the treason of liberating him from Cailan’s tightest prison Heaven's Needle. None are aware that after six centuries of dormancy, the Mad God Maor is arising.

The second Ithelas fantasy (see The River Kings' Road) is a super thriller as the key players face ethics issues that challenge their values when they must decide whether the end justifies the means. For instance Bitharn understands she commits treason but the release of darkest magic awakens the aptly named Mad God so she ponders what other choice she has. Loaded with action, fans will relish this thought provoking look at the relativity of good and evil based on what the person’s beliefs, baggage and situation are. With threads still lingering readers should expect a return to the Merciel mythos. Harriet Klausner

D.B. Reynolds
ImaJinn, $15.00
ISBN: 9781610260497

Her sire Lucien urgently orders Sophia to come to Vancouver. She leaves her home in Rio immediately and flies to Toronto where she connects on flight to Vancouver, British Columbia. There Lucien’s lieutenant in name only Darren informs her that their sire has vanished, but left behind an explanatory letter and a picture of three murdered vampires for her.

Former Navy SEAL Colin Murphy works security in Cooper’s Rest, just north of Seattle. Over a decade ago, he and Sophia were lovers. He learns that someone is murdering vampires and torturing their mates. He and Sophia unite to end the psychopath’s killing spree. Coming to the Pacific Northwest from Malibu also seeking the murderer is Vampire Lord Raphael accompanied by his mate Cyn. Raphael is raging as two of the dead vampires (Marco and Preston) are his offspring. The four team up as a predator must be stopped.

Besides the return of stars from the previous Vampires in America urban fantasy (see Raphael, Jabril and Rajmund), Sophia is a refreshing Undead as she is confident in her power, but instead of being Lucien’s lieutenant prefers her layback lifestyle in South America (or does she?). Her only weakness is courageous Colin who is human but not afraid to confront danger or vampires; especially a Brazilian beauty. With a strong whodunit and several surprising twists, readers will relish the latest entry though perhaps the series title should now be Vampires in the Western Hemisphere as D.B. Reynolds has started to go global. Harriet Klausner

Bound by Darkness
Alexis Morgan
Pocket, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439176047

Since fleeing his world along with others, Kalith warrior Larem has struggled to adapt to this new realm though he has forged friendships with a few of the Paladin warriors who protect this dimension from the dark. At the same time, daughter of a Regent, Sasha Willis’ ambition is to break the gender barrier by becoming the first female Regent.

She has an opportunity to prove herself by cleaning up the fiasco caused by the seditious Kincaide in Seattle. She also sees this assignment as a chance to line up the support of the city’s Paladins. However, she is extremely unhappy with the exiled Kalith in town and that several have befriended the Paladins. When she meets Larem, Sasha finds her racism challenged as she is attracted to the alien. Still some want the glass ceiling to remain in place and the Kalith cleansed from earth; so they target Sasha from completing her task even if that means killing her and her new protector.

The seventh Paladin urban fantasy (see Defeat the Darkness) is a terrific thriller as betrayal leaves the heroine and her new defender in deep trouble and not just from the Others. Sasha makes the exciting story line work as she learns not to stereotype a race when she begins to first trust and then love not hate Larem as he risks his life to keep her safe from deadly assaults. This is another winner in an enthralling dark saga. Harriet Klausner

Sable Grace
Avon, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061964404

The Order of Ancients directs Vampyre-Lychen hybrid Dark Breed Kyana the Tracer to go on a mission that will close the recently opened portal from hell. Although she loathes the vicious mortals who have abused her and still scorn her for being a Dark Breed even with eight decades of loyal service, she knows her duty comes before her disdain so she must prevent the Dark Breed from coming to earth.

Kyana fumes that the Order teams her up with demigod warrior Ryker as they have a horrific history between them. The duo soon finds an archaic cult with dangerous plans and an ancient god scheming to destroy the mortal plane first. Kyana and Ryker are attracted to one another, but ignore their feelings as the mission comes first.

Although the heroine is a stereotype of the overused kick butt female, her sidekick brings out the feminine side of Kyana without diluting the mission. Besides the powerful lead duet, the support cast makes the Grace urban fantasy landscape seem real. The fast-paced story line is loaded with action and tension as twists enhance a strong opening thriller while setting up the next spin in the Grace mythos. Harriet Klausner

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