Monday, July 9, 2012

More from Harriett

Circle of Cranes
Annette LeBox
Dial, $16.99
ISBN: 9780803734432

Travel agent Lao from Fuzhou arrives in the remote mountain village of Cao Hai, China. He explains to the townsfolk that he escorts people to the Gold Mountain – America for a fee of fifty thousand dollars, which is an investment as the villager who goes with him will send home a fortune. To ease the fee, he offers a migrant loan, which the leaders accept. They choose thirteen years old Zhu Suyin to go over her objection.

Zhu, who is connected to the village cranes, and her fellow young female passengers cross the ocean on a terrible too crowded ship that appears ready to sink at any moment. In New York City, the girls work fourteen hour-days in a horrific Chinatown sweatshop without wages. Suyin, who has the magic of the Crane Sisterhood, fears she is the last one and if she fails at her mission to save the Crane Queen the magical crane women will become extinct.

Targeting tweeners, this is an entertaining contemporary fantasy that focuses on the horrid working conditions of young illegal migrants from China. The fantasy elements are fun while insight into China's ethnic minorities enhances the tale although the diversity of these different groups is lost behind the dumbing down Chinese stereotype Miao. Based on real human trafficking news, Circle of Cranes is a profound tale that looks at an inconvenient aspect of illegal immigration ignored by those in power except when an incident occurs. Harriet Klausner

The Night Sessions
Ken MacLeod
PYR, $17.95
ISBN: 9781616146139

By 2012, most people have turned their backs on organized religions following the Middle East Faith Wars culminated with nuke strikes at Megiddo. Politicians who seek office avoid any mentioning of religion as the Second Enlightenment has ripped religious posturing from politics though there remain millions of fanatics around the globe.

In Edinburgh, a bomb blows up a small church killing the Roman Catholic priest. St Leonard's Police Detective Adam Ferguson and his sentient robotic aide Shulk investigate the bombing murder. As other incidents occur, he realizes terrorist acts against the maligned mistrusted minority most likely by militant atheists are occurring. However, the evidence soon points to the sinister return of the God Squads trying to reignite the End of Days that never happened during the Faith Wars Armageddon.

This is a great police procedural science fiction that condemns people (especially politicians who send someone else’s child off to war) for invoking God on their side as a rationale for war. The inquiry is terrific as it not only relates a strong whodunit but uses the inquiry to provide insight into the near futuristic world of Ken Macleod. Although the climax is acceptable albeit weak compared to the storyline’s journey, readers will appreciate this action-packed thought provoking investigative thriller. Harriet Klausner

Lance of Earth and Sky
Erin Hoffman
PYR, $17.95
ISBN: 9781616146153

Captain Vidarian Rulorat desperately opened the gates between worlds (see Sword of Fire and Sea). Now he faces the second order effect as elemental magic is no longer dormant as it had been for centuries. As a consequence of his action, many powerful people like his best friend Ruby died. War between Qui and his homeland Aloria has exploded since leaders in both nations believe the balance of power shifted due to the magic explosion.

The Aloria Emperor orders Vidarian to lead the sky ships in battle against the Qui and to train the demoralized Sky Knights to ride beasts that shapeshift. However, he has two missions besides keeping his country somewhat safe. First he wants his beloved fire priestess Ariadel back in his life and he needs to learn to control his new magical skills. However, Vidarian theorizes the real threat to his empire and their enemy comes from the powerful Alorian Import Company.

The second Chaos Knight fantasy is an engaging thriller that has less action than its predecessor but also provides much more insight into the Hoffman mythos. Although the world contains little freshness, this fast-paced tale will remind readers of the Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar saga as Vidarian’s struggles with the moral implications of what he wrought. Harriet Klausner

The Immortal Rules
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen, $18.99
ISBN: 9780373210510

The plague changed the food chain as humans became cattle while vampires took over the top rung. Inside the walled vampire dominated cities, people like seventeen years old Allie Sekemoto live at the outer Fringe as a food source at night while in the day they are scavengers who better be careful especially if they venture into the Inner City as quislings will sell a peer out to their Masters. Outside the walls are the brutal hybrid Rabids who thrive on human flesh.

While Allie was scavenging for food, a Rabid assaults her. Kanin the vampire gives Julie a choice between dead and undead. Though she loathes vampires, Julie chooses life. She vows to retain her humanity while Kanin mentors her on vampire society. Julie joins human refugees seeking asylum on the mythical island of Eden, but hides her vampiric nature from the wary travelers. On the dangerous trek though the devastated Rabid land, Julie falls in love with Zeke, but fears telling him the truth.

The “legend” of the Blood of Eden teenage saga begins with a strong paranormal romance in a fully developed dystopian world. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Julie escorts readers around the city and never slows as the band of adventurers run into all types of danger and obstacles. With a nod to Hiero’s Journey (Sterling Lanier), Julie is a terrific heroine who keeps the exciting thriller focused as she, her mates and the appreciative audiences travel the lethal Kagawa world. Harriet Klausner

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