Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bared Blade, Elfhome and Earth Unaware Reviewed

Bared Blade
Kelly McCullough
Ace, Jun 26 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9781937007676

In Tien, Zhan Aral Kingslayer sits in his office in the Gryphon’s Head Tavern with his best (and only) friend and secret partner Triss the shade in his shadow, musing how far he fell when his Goddess of Justice and the Downtrodden Namara was assassinated. He was a Blade of Namara delivering justice to affluent and impoverished alike. Now he earns a living as a jack of all shadow trades to clients beyond the fringe of society which is a step up from where he was one year ago when he became a Broken Blade with a price on his head.

Two women enter the tavern; one is very tall and muscular while other a lithe dancer. When Cobble Runner Shadow Lieutenant Boguin offers money to do both of them, Triss, acting out of character, insists Aral intervene, which he reluctantly does as he tells the officer they are with him. Stel and Vala order Aral to leave them alone. Almost immediately afterward, a magical assault hammers the Gryphon’s Blade. The four survive though bystanders and assassins do not. Attracted to Vala who reminds him of his former fiancée Jax, Aral and his Shade find themselves in the crosshairs of a battle for an artifact.

The second Fallen Blade fantasy stars an interesting hero with an irreverent, self-deprecating attitude as he no longer has a purpose to live. Ironically, Aral and Triss struggle to help the extremely competent females who come to their aid as often if not more than they do for them. Fans will appreciate the magnificent McCullough mythos as the BFFs learn the mantra the road to Shadowside is paved with good intentions. Harriet Klausner

Wen Spencer
Baen, Jul 3 2012, $24.00
ISBN: 9781451637830

An orphan from Pittsburgh, Tinker knows the second order effect of her actions left 60,000 Steeler (and Pirate) residents isolated in the Ghostlands rather than Pennsylvania. Tinker’s cousin Orville “Oilcan” Wright notices a young female Stone Clan elf drumming with olianuni sticks in front of a soda machine in the train station. He warns her that Pittsburgh has become dangerous, but Merry the elf insists she has a letter to give to the Earth Son. Oilcan informs her that the Earth Son is dead. He escorts her to the Stone Clan embassy where Thorne Scratch tells him to keep her safe. She soon joins the Naekanain band of mixed breed musicians.

At the same time Tinker’s mate, Wolf Who Rules Wind invites former slave, Oni hybrid leader Tommy Chang and his brethren to join the Wind Clan as Beholden. Tommy distrusts the Windwolf’s motives, but Jin Shoji the Tengu freed from captivity by Tinker suggests the Wind Clan leader offers the Oni a seat at a special table. As he considers what the Tengu says, Tommy searches the forest for oni.

The latest Elfhome fantasy widens the super Spencer world as other species like the purebred stranded humans, the Tengu and the hybrid Oni take the lead from elves; even the featured elves focus on other clans besides the Wind Clan in this entertaining story line. The prime subplots are the coming of age of Oilcan and Tommy as responsibility for the well-being of others makes you mature rather quickly. Character driven by racism triggered by a history of hostilities including genocide, fans will enjoy meeting the other species as major change has come to the Ghostlands with many preferring the pre Tinker status quo. Harriet Klausner

Earth Unaware
Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Tor, Jul 17 2012, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765329042

An extended family affair, the mining ship El Cavador travels deep inside of the Kuiper Belt. When an object is detected decelerating, the crew knows this is a visit by a vessel from outside the solar system. On an asteroid, they debate what to do with Victor Delgado insisting they warn everyone. Captain Concepcion questions who while the leaders proclaim no one as they fear claim-jumping corporates.

Corporate miner Lem Jukes tests a machine that breaks down an entire asteroid into its various molecules. He chooses the locale where the El Cavador is, but starts with a sneak attack on that ship. Several days later, Victor and others finally fix the prime systems but lack communications to warn the imminent invasion by aliens. While on Earth, Captain Wit O'Toole seeks the best of the best from the military to join the U.N.-backed Mobile Operations Police.

This prequel to the Ender’s Game outer space thriller is an exciting tale that fans will enjoy though it covers the same time, space and theme as Marvel’s Formic War saga. The storyline is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as the aliens attack as do the corporates. Fans of the series will enjoy reading the events of what led up to the Enders Game though if you read the comic books the plot comes across as déjà vu with more depth. Harriet Klausner

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