Friday, September 14, 2012

A Banschhe, Widdershins, Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy

Before I Wake
Rachel Vincent
Mira, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210619

Twenty-nine days ago, sixteen year old Kaylee Cavanaugh, the bean sidhe banshee’s final soul scream was for herself when she was stabbed to death by an incubus math teacher (see If I Die). She has become a reaper working in the reclamation department for Madeline collecting souls. Her boss brought her back hoping a banshee reaper can end the serial soul stealing of an unknown thief. Her dad knows she is dead and she has a new boyfriend Tod the two and a half years old dead reaper at her side as well as Styx the netherworld Pomeranian guard dog.

Now Kaylee faces her greatest challenge yet when she returns to high school pretending to be alive as her death was local headline news. Madeline assigns her to recapture a soul taken by a rogue reaper at the doughnut shop as a training exercise. Kaylee rushes to the doughnut shop where she meets Thane the reaper who killed her mom thirteen years ago. He wants Kaylee dead, and was sent to hell by Rod. Using her banshee skills, she takes the soul to Madeline and with seconds to spare makes it to Eastlake where her former boyfriend Nash is. Now she balances life at school with collecting souls and uncovering the identity of the soul thief who makes the war personal.

The latest Soul Screamers young adult urban fantasy (see My Soul to Keep and My Soul to Save) is a great entry with a stunning climax. Fast-paced from the moment Kaylee faces Thane over the soul of the doughnut shop owner, fans will appreciate this super entry as Rachel Vincent continues to shake up things in the world of Kaylee Cavanaugh. Harriet Klausner

False Covenant
Ari Marmell
PYR, $16.95
ISBN: 9781616146214

In Davillon, Adrienne Sati escaped the mean streets thanks to a benefactor only to return to the mean streets as a thief thanks to the minor God Olgun (not one of the revered 147) sharing her skull. Now known as Widdershins, she knows she was lucky to survive the serial killer nightmare over six months ago (see Thief's Covenant). She and her deity agree to go straight so they try to earn a living working at Genevieve's tavern.

While the pair fails at bar-keeping, a malevolence hunts the nightlife of the city. Widdershins and Olgun return to what they are good at: thieving. However, they uncover a diabolical dark magic plot. The powerful Church distrusts her after the death of their Archbishop. The Guard distrusts her after what happened to Constable Henri Roubert. The Thieves' Guild distrusts her after she left them twice before. Only Guard Major Bouniard seems to be her ally but neither Widdershins nor Olgun trusts the orphan’s attraction to him. If they survive an irate noble who wants her dead; the mortal-deity combo has a night time engagement with an evil serial killer.

Widdershins returns in an exciting entertaining investigative fantasy in which the strong city presence anchors the otherworldly elements. Readers would assume the lead protagonist is schizophrenic, if not for the occasional magic, as she and her guest hold amusing satirical discussions on redemption, death and love. Though there is purposeful stereotyping of secondary players that sets the tone of the Church, the aristocracy, the Guard and the Guild; high school age and older fans will enjoy touring the underbelly of Davillon with the squabbling jocular hosts.
Harriet Klausner

Hunter and Fox
Philippa Ballantine
PYR, $17.95
ISBN: 9781616146238

The Caisah massacred the Vaerli so long ago it has become almost a myth. However, the Caisah’s Hunter, Talyn knows better as she was once a proud member of the Vaerli before she sold her soul to the beast that murdered her people and still rules the world.

The Caisah’s mistress Kelanim fears Talyn’s influence on her lover so plots to destroy her “rival”. At the same time, Finn the teller of tales and Talyn meet. They are attracted to one another, which each realizes is unrealistic and dangerous. Meanwhile, Talyn’s lost brother Byre seeks a means to remove the curse on the Vaerli. Soon all will converge shaking the foundations throughout the Conhaero.

Although the theme of a ruthless vicious ruler and a small band of courageous opponents is an old fantasy theme, the constantly changing Conhaero landscape in which a mountain can become lake in an instant adds some freshness to an engaging storyline. Readers will have mixed feelings toward Talyn who regrets selling her soul to the devil in order to survive while Finn brings hope and secrets; and Caisah and Kelanim are stereotypical evil. Although much of the tale sets up the Ballantine mythos and realm, fans will enjoy this opening act while looking forward to future escapades in this shifting world. Harriet Klausner

In The House Of The Wicked
Thomas E. Sniegoski
Roc, Aug 7 2012, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451464569

Remiel the seraphim archangel fought on the Creator’s side in the civil war against Lucifer’s rebel army. Although his side won, he no longer could abide living in heaven after the atrocities that followed after brother fought brother to the death on the battlefield. Thus Remiel becomes Remy Chandler, Boston PI, and in love with a mortal woman who died leaving him a grieving widow who understands Lord Alfred Tennyson’s immortal words: “'Tis better to have loved and lost; Than never to have loved at all.”

Remy is also very fond of Ashley Berg who he treats like a beloved daughter. When she disappears, Remy vows to find her to bring her home. He learns a sorcerer kidnapped Ashley as an expendable pawn to bring the seraphim to him; he schemes to steal Remy’s power and life force in order to become an immortal. Remy is uninterested in the games of Algernon Stearns and Konrad Deacon who drained life forces immediately after Hiroshima; instead he would go to hell to rescue his Ashley, but at what cost as the ensuing battles could leave humanity extinct.

This is a powerful Remy Chandler urban fantasy (see A Hundred Words For Hate) as someone he trusts with his life is loyal to Lucifer; thus the Prince of Deceivers uses his mole to trick Remy into going down wrong paths (leading to twisting subplots). The exciting storyline effortlessly switches back to Deacon’s past in WWII and afterward enabling the readers to observe the odious antics of an evil individual planning his coup. House of the Wicked is a terrific fantasy that will thrill readers. Harriet Klausner

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