Monday, February 20, 2012

More Fantasy Reviews

Anna Dressed in Blood
Kendare Blake
Tor Teen, Aug 30 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780765328656

Cas Lowood is a chip off the old block just like his late dad was a chip off the old block and if he has a kid too, etc. His widow mom the witch supports her teenage son as he does the family vocation ghost hunting.

Cas’ latest mission is to kill Anna of the white dress that she wore when she was murdered back in ‘58, dripping blood and infamy for slicing and dicing those who inanely dare enter her haunt. When Cas enters her house in Thunder Bay, Ontario; Anna is confused that her out of control obsession to kill fails to deploy as it always does. He feels identically the same. As each is afraid of the other, both are more afraid of the loneliness accentuated by their meeting. Others have deadlier opinions on what should happen to the ghost and the hunter.

Anna Dressed in Blood is a great teen horror mystery starring two lonely beings who find a deep affinity with each other. The story line is fast-paced and filled with gore, romance, and a cold case mystery. Kendare Blake provides a strong opening act with this tense paranormal beloved enemies' thriller. Harriet Klausner

Crucible of Gold
Naomi Novik
Del Rey, Mar 6 2012, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345522863

In 1809 British aviator William Laurence and Temeraire his dragon companion remain exiled in New South Wales for their treasonous act of saving French dragons from a plague. Their saving England from Napoleon kept them from state execution (see Tongues of Serpents).

Meanwhile plague brought by the Europeans devastates the Incan Empire at a time when Empress Anahuarque Inca considers allying with the Brits or the French. She leans towards a marital arrangement with Napoleon if he dumps Josephine while Iskierka the dragon pushes her captain Granby as a better alternative. Spain has fallen to the French and the powerful Tswana African tribe, with French support, raids Brazil tentatively to rescue black slaves but also to hold the royals captured in Rio. Tottering on the brink of defeat, the British government sends self-proclaimed ambassador plenipotentiary to China, Arthur Hammond, to return to the front Laurence and Temeraire.

Fast-paced and filled with action, the latest terrific timely Temeraire historical fantasy is a great thriller that grips readers throughout with a taste of life in many diverse spots while the world is at war. The abolitionist hero feels contempt towards his side’s leadership; who demand patriotism from grunts risking their lives with little logistical support (can’t raise a war fee tax) while the leaders direct the war from the comfort of their London suites. Fans will enjoy this excellent historical as the British leadership fumble the war while hiding behind the Decatur mantra of “Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!”; but forced to bring home Laurence whose mantra is the Shurtz corollary: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” Harriet Klausner

Jane Vows Vengeance
Michael Thomas Ford
Ballantine, Feb 28 2012, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345513670

Living in Brakeston, New York as Jane Fairfax the owner of Flyleaf Books, Jane Austen agrees to marry Walter Fletcher. They plan their wedding, which proves difficult for Jane in a proof positive you legally exist photo ID era. Jane has no family to invite as they died two centuries ago and few friends. When Walter receives an invitation to tour the fine architect of Europe, he and Jane decide to marry in the Tower. An astonished Lord Byron gets her a passport through a zombie forger.

At the Tower, Jane is distracted by the appearances of the two lost princes. The ceremony is cancelled when Joshua Mobley, Jane’s husband of nine days over two centuries ago, arrives. Walter grudgingly accepts the wait until his fiancĂ©e can extradite herself from her nuptials. Jane wonders who told her vampire husband that she would be at the Tower. She also hears about Crispin’s Needle, an object that allegedly if stuck into a vampire’s heart turns them into a human with a soul. Jane searches the continent for the device while in London she is the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

The latest Jane the contemporary vampire tale is a witty satire that continues the spoofing of the Austen mania including the novels by Michael Thomas Ford (see Jane Goes Batty and Jane Bites Back). Jane’s sardonic self-deprecating sense of humor keeps her sane in a world that seems insane as she jumps from one crisis into another. With Lord Byron and Charlotte Bronte to help drive her crazy, Jane learns how complicated life for an undead who just wants to get married can be in a digital ID mania age. Harriet Klausner

Benedict Jacka
Ace, Feb 28 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9781937007294

In London, Alex Verus runs a magic shop. Not only does this proprietorship enable him to use his knowledge but is also the perfect cover in plain sight of his talent. Alex is a diviner mage who can see the infinite possible futures and can sometimes influence which one occurs. His ability has the warring forces of the Light and the Dark wanting him on their respective side and will do anything even causing collateral damage to the innocent to make him their stooge.

Choosing neither side as he believes both are wrong with the damage they cause to civilians, Alex has one other unique trait that no other mage apparently possesses as he is an empath who feels for those he knows. The mage factions demand Alex open a relic from the ancient mage war. He looks into the future and realizes that the outcome of doing their bidding is one hundred percent deaths for him and his two dependents, Luna the cursed woman, and Starbreeze the ancient air elemental dumber than a rock. Alex and his wards flee as he foresees their only slim possible chance to survive the assaults from the Light and the Dark is flight not fight.

This is a great opening act as the first Alex Verus urban fantasy establishes the Jacka rules of magical physics but does so interwoven inside a fast-paced storyline. The cast is solid (even the ephemeral) but rascally Alex keeps the tale focused as he versus a world in which the superpowers reject neutrality; nor does either side care about the mundane. Instead the mantra is "You're either part of the solution or part of the problem" (Eldridge Cleaver). Harrier Klausner

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