Regent Balthaar Arosh plans to return the Bacosh back to what it was over two centuries ago before the alien serrin of Saalshen ended the ancient system. His forces conquer Enora and Rhodaan, partially because the local populace is divided.
The Lenayin king is dead while most of the army is humiliated by how the kingdom behaved as their neighbors suffered great losses and atrocities. Unable to remain quietly in exile, Sashandra Lenayin returns to lead those soldiers ready to fight against the Regent. This divides the country in the same way the city of Tracato was split as Sasha’s brothers supported by the Verenthane join the side of the Regent.
The final battle that will determine the fate of the Bacosh is in the human border city of Jahnd in the Saalshen. However, for Sasha and her allies to repel the conquerors depends on Ilduur sending its Steel into the fight. Most of the Ilduur rejects joining the war as the mountains protect them from the battles to the north. A desperate Sasha becomes the Lenay warlord as she heads south to plead with the Ilduur to send troops.
The final A Trial of Blood and Steel political military fantasy is a super climax to a powerful saga (see Petrador and Tracato). The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as the armies of both sides meet for an epic battle that will determine the future of the Bacosh. The irony of this timely saga is the humans support the Regent because he is one of their species though his objective will return them to an age of enslavement while opposing the enlightened serrin who have brought prosperity and freedoms. Besides the nearby Ipshaal River flowing with blood, this thriller is a thought provoking tale. HArriet Klausner
Harlequin HQN, $7.99
Vaillant the pureblood vampire lives for one thing only; the death at his hands of his father Constantine de Salignac. His sire incarcerated his mother inside a glass coffin for two centuries driving her insane. Meanwhile Vail’s life in Faery has been one of misery so when he is exiled by the Lord of Midsummer Darkness he is unconcerned.
Vail’s stepfather Rhys Hawkes offers him a deal. He wants Vail to locate and bring to him Lyric, daughter of the Santiago vampiric thieves, and the special dress she wears. If he succeeds Hawkes will give him his father’s location. Vail begins his quest with youthful vigor and ignorance; unaware that the powerful Lord of Midsummer Darkness seeks the girl and her powerful gown too.
This is a superb romantic fantasy as the two protagonists share in common a desire for freedom and justice though there definitions of the terms vastly differ. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Vail begins his hunt and accelerates when the pair meets as the adventures are just beginning. Readers will enjoy Michele Hauf’s tense Forever Vampire. Harriet Klausner
The Last Warrior
Harlequin HQN, $7.99
In Tassagonia, the people recognize their savior is General Uhr-Tao, who defeated the brutal Gorr. War weary, the honorable hero comes home wanting peace and tranquility, and to spend time with his sister Aza who is married to King Xim and their children.
The Kurel study diligently the forbidden ancient disciplines of science and medicine. One of them Elsabeth has vowed to kill King Xim for murdering her parents so she joins a group of dissidents wanting the monarch replaced. She obtains a position as the royal tutor. There she meets Tao, who knows his brother-in-law and his dangerous retinue are hurting the people of Tassagonia.
Known for her science fiction romances (see Your Planet or Mine?) Susan Grant provides a terrific outer space adventure starring a war hero and a tutor. The people are descendants of lost Earth travelers with much of the technology to span the stars long gone; this is a critical element as the protagonists come from a vast divide on the use of science and medicine. Readers will relish the tour of Tassagonia as the action never stops with suspense and romance mounting. Harriet Klausner
Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Harper Voyager, $7.99
In London, someone abducts the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences archivist Wellington Thornhill Books. Field Agent Eliza Braun rescues him from his Antarctic prison.
However, though she gets the job done, the MPO leadership decides Braun uses too much brawn with her excessive collateral damage and Books thinks the archives is his personal library. Ministry Director Dr. Sound finds a subtle solution to his two problem children. He assigns Braun to work for Books. However, her work there leads her back to her first cold case Rag and Bone Murders that left her partner insane. This quickly takes the operative and the archivist into uncovering a nefarious plot by the House of Usher. Filled with sound and fury, the Director will learn sometimes you get what you wish for.
The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences steampunk fantasy is a fun tale starring a gender bending couple with apt surnames of Book and Braun. The story line starts with a big bang at their first encounter and remains loaded with action; but some scenes seem more like cul de sac additions. As the lead pair struggle to survive one escapade after another with the help of cute Oliver Twist kids, fans will enjoy their dysfunctional exploits. Harriet Klausner