is a science fiction and fantasy book review site, written and published by accomplished reviewer Harriet Klausner. For more information, please check the About page.
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March 8, 2014
David Drake and S.M. Stirling
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $14.00
“The Anvil.” Civil Government Governor Barholm Clerett fears popular General Raj “Savior of the State” Whitehall will overthrow him in a coup. At a council meeting to discuss invading the Brigade lost territories, Chancellor Robert Tsetzas wants to delay military action due to costs accrued by the previous action. Thus when Raj asks for forty thousand troops, he receives eighteen thousand. Accompanied by his wife Suzette who runs the civilian side of the invasion, Raj leads his troops to Stern Isle where he expects little resistance until the assault on Wager Bay, a powerful impenetrable fort.
“The Steel.” Whitehall’s troops take back Crown Peninsula and Lion City, but he knows they face overwhelming odds as the Brigade army outnumbers his forces by 5 to 1. Still they march forward destroying Brigade defenses and freeing towns on the road to Old Residence. The Brigade forces led by Ingreid Manfrond, with Howyrd Carstens providing the brains behind the counter operation, also head towards Old Residence. As the battle begins, a betrayal leaves Whitehall and his army in peril.
Hope Rearmed is an exciting reprinting of books 3 and 4 in the thrilling General science fiction saga (see Hope Reborn for the opening tales The Forge and The Hammer). The terrific blending of nineteenth and twentieth century technology within a feral Holy Roman Empire feudal society on a divided world makes for a strong background. However, it is the grim dark realism of war (in spite of comic book heroics by Raj) and the worship of the silent Computer who abandoned the people but left behind the bible (manuals) that make for a fabulous read.
White Hot Kiss
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Harlequin Teen, Feb 25 2014, $7.99
Although she is grateful to her adopted family, hybrid Warden-demon teenager Layla Shaw wishes she was a normal purebred gargoyle like they are. Though the seventeen years old Layla accepts that she can never be fully accepted as an equal especially to her off limits crush Zayne, she helps the disproving (of her subpar genetics) Wardens with their demon-hunting by her skill to see souls and mark demons for her family to track.
When Layla and Roth the full-blooded demon meet, he mesmerizes her with his claims of knowing her biological family secrets that she knows nothing about. His lack of a soul enables him to steal kisses from her; further rocking her world. As she learns more about her roots and a demon revolt centered on her, Layla fears associating with Roth will cause her to be marked as an enemy by the family who raised her. Additionally she remains ignorant as to the rebellion’s worldwide ramifications.
This Dark Elements young adult fantasy (see Bitter Sweet Love e-novella; not read by me) is an enjoyable tale due to the Armentrout world feeling genuine with its vivid competing supernatural cultures possessing differing views re humans. Roth is a terrific complicated super-bad dude whose White Hot Kiss melts a confused Layla. Although a late underdeveloped threesome arises for no apparent reason except as a sub-genre “requirement” in which I would have preferred the tri-relationships remain inside the heroine’s head only, fans will relish this fabulous teen otherworldly tale.
Daw, Mar 4 2014, $7.99
Cryptozoologist Alexander Price takes a research position at the Columbus Zoo where he studies non-urban cryptids and assists on the basilisk breeding program. His hidden reason for accepting the move is to help his family especially with what happened to Cousin Sarah and to grandpa. Visiting Australian Big Cat zoologist and Alex’s girlfriend Shelby Tanner also conducts research at the Columbus Zoo.
Something deadly and strange occurs at the zoo when corpses partially turned to stone begin to appear everywhere. To Alex’s trepidation these deaths most likely mean a serial killing gorgon and he knows of one very nearby though he refuses to accept this individual as the psychopath. At the same time, the Aeslin mice warn Alex that his cousin is losing control, which if true makes her extremely dangerous. As he investigates, Shelby wonders what is going on with her man and at the zoo.
The third InCryptid urban fantasy (see Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special) remains fresh as this entry relocates from Manhattan to Ohio and changes lead from Verity to her older brother; while keeping reader fascination into the Price family and the monsters they fight. Fast-paced with a strong support cast, Alex struggles between ending the terror of a stone cold serial killer, being there for his family and hiding secrets from the brilliant woman who rocks his world.
The Fall Of Atlantis
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $15.00
Daughter of a priest, Domaris raised her younger sister Deoris in the Temple since she was eight years old following the death of their mother in childbirth. Her life as a surrogate mom to her sibling is tedious until Micon of Atlantis arrives; he seeks help from the Temple. He claims that recently the Black Robes tortured him. He also insists that when he saw one of their faces; he became blind. Though he can identify this dark practitioner, Micon refuses to do so frustrating a demanding Revieda, head of the Grey Robes.
Domaris and Micon fall in love while Deoris used to her older sister caring for her feels abandoned by the only woman she considered as her mother. Lonely, she turns to Reveida for comfort. Domaris gives birth to his child but Micon dies soon afterward. Grieving Domaris distrusts Reveida and fears for Deoris.
This reprint of a fantasy duology prequel (See Web of Darkness and Web of Light) is an engaging simplistic good and evil magical conflict. The storyline is fast-paced, but feels incomplete as the key characters never seem fully developed. Still these early 1980s novels are fun to read especially for fans of the late great Ms. Bradley.
Pyr, Mar 4 2014, $18.00
In Manon Mole in the Middle Kingdoms, cartographer Stjepan Black-Heart finds the map into the lethal Barrow of Azharad the ancient wizard that leads to Gladringer the legendary sword. Though several of his companions die on this venture, the map-maker puts together a new team consisting of brothel owner Gilgwyr, insane mage Leigh, survivor of the Manon Mole escapade Erim the female in male grab, mercenary Godewyn Red-Hand, noble Arduin and his sister scandalous Annwyn.
Each of the adventurers understands the danger of this quest, but all insist on risking their lives for diverse seemingly insane reasons. However, none of these scoundrels anticipated what happened when they tried to use the magical map for the first time only to find it cursed resulting in one dead and this guide apparently destroyed. From that devastating start, the escapades turn worse.
The Barrow is a fabulous fantasy made fresh by a magnificent team of seemingly amoral adventurers who over the course of their trek prove to possess a different code of ethics with varying personalities shaped by their respective social class, ethnicity, religion or gender. In spite of a short engaging opening saga in which Stjepan finds the mythical map, the entertaining bloody dark storyline starts leisurely as readers meet the players. Once the treasure seekers are established, the quest plot accelerates into nearly impossible to put down hyperspeed.
Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $25.00
In 1781, the French fail to prevent the British navy from reaching General Cornwallis at Yorktown; leading to the crushing of the colonial rebellion and capture of its leader George Washington and other notable traitors. Washington is found guilty of seditious acts and in 1783 is executed at the Tower of London while many of the rebellion’s leaders incarcerated in Jamaica or in brigs are left to die.
One year after the beheading of Washington, rebel spy Will Drake escapes his death sentence on a ship. He travels to Fort Washington to join freedom fighters emerging there. Sarah Benton treks to Fort Washington to avoid the sexual blackmail attempts by the local law official as does Royal Marines deserter Owen Wells where each enlist in the rebel cause.
Governor General Cornwallis orders General Burgoyne to end this revolt using any means necessary. Still fuming with humiliation as the biggest British loser during the recent hostilities, Burgoyne plans to harshly defeat the rebels at a time the French monarchy is in peril from radicals.
This is a super alternative historical in which the pivotal point change occurs at Yorktown. Most of the events that flow from that key event seem genuine as Robert Conroy defends his time line modifications with strong arguments interwoven into the exciting storyline. The prime players appear real though the rebels are too paragons of virtue; while on the British side Burgoyne seeks to regain his fractured pride; Tarleton a vicious psychopath, Arnold an opportunist traitor; and the Iroquois trust neither side but ally with the lesser of two evils. Readers will appreciate this entertaining entry as Mr. Conroy moves back in time from the twentieth century with another winner.
February 18, 2014
DAW, Feb 4 2014, $19.95
Jessica Drake’s weird dreams of alien worlds have haunted her as far back as she remembers. Uncomfortable, the sixteen year old Jesse shares her haunting dreams with no one except her gamer addicted younger brother Tommy. He, in turn, uses her vivid descriptions in his games.
DNA testing stuns the teen who assumed her parents birthed her; as the data prove they are not her natural family. Even more shocking the results insist she probably is not Homo Sapien. Jesse soon meets other “changelings” with her genetic coding also orphaned on earth while some of these others die in suspicious accidents. When strangers destroy her home and abduct Tommy, Jesse and two changeling comrades follow to a different Earth where the science is magic and the economics is multidimensional colonial mercantilism controlled by a powerful plutocracy. To return to their earth, Jesse and her friends risk their lives by daring to challenge the portal-controlling Guilds.
Dreamwalker is an enjoyable young adult opening act that establishes a parallel earth in a fantasy setting manipulated by the universal 1%. The storyline provides readers with a deep look at this other realm through the escapades of the three changelings. Although the heroine’s companions are underdeveloped sidekicks and a romance feels included as a subgenre requirement, readers will enjoy traveling to C.S. Friedman’s other earth and look forward to more dimensional adventures starring Jesse and her buddies.
Daw, Feb 4 2014, $7.99
The car crash between two speeding vehicles left Allen Frust dead and Robert Weil severely injured. First first responder PC Slatt notices unaccountable blood in Weil’s car that leads to him being the prime suspect as a mutilating serial killer. A spell involved in the crash leads Queen’s Peace Constable and magician’s apprentice Peter Grant summarizing the case to his boss-mentor Nightingale the wizard that Weil may be a mundane serial killer or a ward of the infamous Faceless Man.
The Southwark Council plans to tear down a housing monstrosity, Skygarden in Elephant and Castle. However, efforts to demolish this ugly high rise complex meet eerie opposition. With political pressure on the police to resolve the interference, Peter and his apprentice peer Constable Lesley Mai investigate to determine whether the Faceless Man prevents the demolition and, if as expected yes, why.
The fourth Rivers of London police procedural fantasy (see Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground) is an entertaining thriller that makes the magical elements seem to be a real force of nature. The human and supernatural cast is strong and Peter continues to grow as an apprentice mage and constable. Action-packed with a terrific twisting finish, fans of the series will appreciate Ben Aaronovitch’s lampooning government sponsored housing projects used to warehouse the poor in isolation until the land is needed for something considered more important than filing away the impoverish.
Empress of the Sun
Pyr, Feb 4 2014, $17.99
Everett Singh inadvertently takes the Everness on a Heisenberg Jump to an earth and solar system like none that he or his crew ever seen. This Alderson Disk consists of all the inner planets up to and including Jupiter tied together on a humongous flat surface that would take a civilization millions of years advanced beyond those on the Everness to have created Pratchett’s Diskworld. The crew meets these creators, the lethal Jiju dinosaurs who make the outsiders’ survival chances seems unlikely as the Everness needs rapid repair to jump out of this alternate before they become extinct.
On the readers’ Earth, Everett M battles the Nahn nanobot invaders while knowing he must avoid their touch or die as these bots suck up living essence. Finally Charlotte Villiers sets in motion her latest nefarious scheme to obtain the Infundibulum map of all universes.
The key to the third exciting Everness parallel universes saga (see Planesrunner and Be My Enemy) is the growing complexity; as Ian McDonald honors the intelligence of his teenage audience by not dumbing down scientific theory while also paying homage to Terry Pratchett. Though it remains difficult to keep track of who’s who amongst the multiples (Everett, Charlotte and others) without a scorecard, young adult readers will appreciate this thrilling entry.
January 16, 2014
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The Forever Engine
Baen, Jan 7 2014, $15.00
In 2018, Professor Jack Fargo teaches History at the University of Chicago. British Army Major Reggie Llewellyn orders Jack to come to Wessex without explaining why. Jack remembers Reggie from their Afghanistan War days as a casual killer. They meet at the Wessex High Energy Collider where the visitor is shown a recently minted Roman coin that Reggie insists is real. When the collider sends items into the past, an equally weighted object arrives in the present. However, the coin differs as it apparently represents a different historical timeline than that Jack and Reggie claim as theirs.
Jack observes an experiment until an explosion repels him back to 1888 London. Captain Gordon of the Horse Guards escorts Jack into a different city then the one he knows as a historian as he learns The Confederate States of America has an embassy in Great Britain. At Dorset House, scientists and military Intel interrogate Jack. Quartermaster General Redvers Buller accepts Jack’s contention of time travel while assigning him, Gordon and Glasgow University Physics Professor William Thomson to find killers threatening the kingdom. Thomsom introduces Jack to Nikola Telsa before the trio crosses the Channel on a Grand Tour where French agent Gabrielle Courbiere joins them as they head to Bavaria to inspect a twenty-first century damaged armored vehicle found there.
Using the same world as the Space 1889 game, The Forever Engine is an entertaining alternate Victorian due to the fascinating nation changing and the fun steampunk technology. Readers will appreciate this engaging thriller anchored by a wonderful cast (real persona included) who don’t know Jack as the time displaced single dad just wants to get back to his college bound daughter Sarah.