Alternative Worlds: Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Reviews

31st October 2014

Fantasy and sci-fi book reviews

Alternative Worlds 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.

Please feel free to use the links below to navigate to book reviews alphabetically, either by Author Name, or Book Title, or else use the main left-hand links to main genres, or most recent reviews.

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Latest Reviews

April 10, 2014

Sea of Shadows-Kelley Armstrong

Filed under: Author: A,Fantasy,Title: S

Sea of Shadows
Kelley Armstrong
HarperCollins, Apr 8 2014, $17.99
ISBN: 9780062071248

From their birth, twins Moria and Ashyn were respectively anointed as the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood; considered the most dangerous spot in the Empire as spirits roam nearby due to proximity to the Forest of the Dead where the barrier between dead and living lacks depth. This is also a place where the guards dump undesirables to die. One other Keeper-Seeker pair works at the court; while two other couplings roam the empire.

Accompanied by her Hound of the Immortals Tova, Ashyn the Seeker enters the Forest of the Dead to collect corpses and send their spirits on; while Moria and her wildcat Daigo protect her sister and the villagers. However, instead of just dead bodies, Ashyn finds living people and hellish monsters. As the feral beasts overwhelm Edgewood in a bloody slaughter, the twins and their bonded animals flee to warn the emperor. Joining them on their dangerous trek are Ronan the con artist and Gavril Kitsune the disgraced warrior.

The first Age of Legends young adult quest fantasy is an exciting tale as the two sisters have been trained to do their jobs; but not mentored in relationships besides with each other, their family and their familiars or adapting to radical change making mission accomplishment impossible. Their difficult adjustment while traversing a vividly lethal landscape turns Sea of Shadows into a strong opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Balance Point-Robert Buettner

Balance Point
Robert Buettner
Baen, Apr 8 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9781476736440

“Balance Point.” The second Cold War between the Earth and the Yavi seems over as cooler heads from both sides push for peace. Mort the Grezzen telepath mentally tells American Intelligence Officer Captain Jazen Parker that Earth Trueborn Bartram Cutler was pardoned. With the presidential ban on raids of the Yavi, Jazen informs his partner Trueborn Army Colonel Catherine “Kit” Born and Lieutenant General Howard Hibble that if the Yavi obtain the C-drive, he believes his planet unfairly, as most of the populace has no hostilities towards Earth, will be nuked into oblivion. On Rand, Cutler undercover as “Quartermain” and Yavet Director General of Internal Security Maxillian Polian as “Hitchcock” barter over the former providing the latter with C-drive data to make the device. Meanwhile Jazen receives a deathbed request he cannot refuse from his adoptive mom Orion who wants to see him before she dies. Thus he rushes home to Yavet unaware of a trap by ambitious warmongers.

“Mole Hunt.” Otman the Yavi covert operative takes a crew to Dead End with plans to change human history by salvaging a crashed fighter’s C-drive. He and his mates are unprepared for the Grezzen and the orb’s other unwelcoming species.

The third Orphan’s Legacy military science fiction (see Overkill and Undercurrents) is an engaging twisting timely thriller with hawks believing the end justifies the means and doves wanting to “Give Peace A Chance” (John Lennon). Readers will appreciate this gender bending entry as Jazen rushes home with Kit rushing after him as she knows it takes an intelligent female to rescue a foolish male. Mole Hint is a reprint of a very short entertaining story in the Orphan’s Legacy realm.

Harriet Klausner

Operation Shield-Joel Shepherd

Operation Shield
Joel Shepherd
Pyr, Apr 8 2014, $16.95
ISBN 9781616148966

On Droze, Cassandra Kresnov retired from the Federation’s military to work as a field operative for the Federation Security Agency. Sandy’s mission is to free android super-soldiers like she once was who were illegally created and are lethally misused by corporations as expendable pawns.

However, a clever adversary leads a vicious campaign naming her as a vile enemy of the GIs she tries to rescue. Complicating matters, the League takes away from her the three orphans she considers adopting. When a battle between the Fleet and the League occurs leaving many casualties especially among the GIs seeking asylum, the Federation Grand Council demands full retreat as they want to avoid at all costs another war.

The latest Cassandra Kresnov military science fiction (see 23 Years on Fire, Crossover and Killswitch) is a complex timely thriller with many more subplots than briefly described above; Joel Shepherd cleverly interweaves real issues into this action-packed storyline. Besides the dandy Sandy prime plot, especially fascinating are the effort by some politicians to change the Constitution in order to restrict the rights of others and the related hit on a lawyer working to expand the constitutional rights to the GIs. Add in the fascinating arrival of a non-soldier GI along with Sandy’s contemplating retiring into motherhood leading to a strong entry with plenty to follow.

Harriet Klausner

April 8, 2014

Peacemaker-C. J. Cherryh

Peacemaker
C. J. Cherryh
DAW, Apr 1 2014, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756408831

The heir to the Atevi leader of the Western Association Tabiniaiji, Cajerji celebrates his ninth birthday with his people and select human friends he made. At the same time a deep schism inside the Assassins’ Guild explodes into the open between the traditionalists like the Atevi dowager Ilisidi who demand the foreigners including Cameron leave and the modernists like Tabiniaiji who want increased contact. This split especially endangers the party attendees as the Guild provides security to the gala.

All this occurs while Cajeiri’s mother Damiri will soon give birth to a royal daughter and his grandmother Ilisidi believes she knows who has assassinated family members. She plans to avenge these murders starting with breeching the impregnable Assassins’ Guild Headquarters. Paidhi-aiji Bren Cameron knows his mission is to protect Cajerji and the guests as he promised his friend Tabini. However, the diplomat fears he can do little to prevent a civil war that apparently was deployed long before he arrived here; although he also knows who the enemy is and that this foe probably will take the fight to the party.

The latest Foreigner Universe thriller (see Protector, Intruder and Betrayer) is an entertaining entry with numerous fascinating but passive explanatory essays on hostile politics and ethics based on the end justifies the mean with diverse ethnic beliefs being the underlying cause. Cajerji remains the focus of enemy camps sharing in common only that the heir is a pawn to further personal agendas. Series fans will enjoy this enjoyable bash as the major threads of the Cameron saga are tied up and contains the additional bonus of “Lord Geigi’s History of the Aishidi’tat with commentary by Lord Bren of Najda, paidhi-aiji”.

Harriet Klausner

Upon A Sea Of Stars-A. Bertram Chandler

Upon A Sea Of Stars
A. Bertram Chandler
Baen, Apr 1 2014, $14.00
ISBN: 9781476736365

“Into the Alternate Universe.” Although ridiculed for what many proclaim a foolish dangerous one-way ticket, Commander Sonya Verrill persuades Commodore John Grimes to accompany her on field research into two dead people and the Rim Ghosts on a no return trip to the galaxy’s rim.

“Contraband From Otherspace.” As Rim Mamelute Commodore Grimes knows accepted principles of time-space continuum physics do not apply at the galaxy’s outer rim; still the eerie ship Distriyir is solid matter but the crew odd and the vessel strangely off kilter. As Grimes learns the truth about the Distriyir and those on board, he must make a decision that could impact his time-space continuum.

“The Rim Gods.” Bored with his tedious office job as the Astronautical Superintendent of Rim Runners and desk jockey commanding officer of the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve; Grimes jumps at a chance to go back into space even with the mission at the rim of the galaxy.

“The Commodore at Sea.” At the galaxy’s rim where the time-space continuum bends in incomprehensible ways, Grimes and Verrill go kinsolving where they meet Holmes, Watson, Lady Chatterley, William Cody, Lord Greystoke and Jane, and A. Bertram Chandler, etc.

The fifth Grimes omnibus space adventures reprint (see Ride The Star Winds) briskly focuses on escapades outside of the space navy at the galactic rim where the time-space continuum twists in weird ways to the delight of readers. Into the Alternate Universe and Contraband From Otherspace are exciting novellas while The Rim Gods and The Commodore at Sea are entertaining small anthologies.

Harriet Klausner

Sea of Shadows-Kelley Armstrong

Filed under: Author: A,Fantasy,Title: S

Sea of Shadows
Kelley Armstrong
HarperCollins, Apr 8 2014, $17.99
ISBN: 9780062071248

From their birth, twins Moria and Ashyn were respectively anointed as the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood; considered the most dangerous spot in the Empire as spirits roam nearby due to proximity to the Forest of the Dead where the barrier between dead and living lacks depth. This is also a place where the guards dump undesirables to die. One other Keeper-Seeker pair works at the court; while two other couplings roam the empire.

Accompanied by her Hound of the Immortals Tova, Ashyn the Seeker enters the Forest of the Dead to collect corpses and send their spirits on; while Moria and her wildcat Daigo protect her sister and the villagers. However, instead of just dead bodies, Ashyn finds living people and hellish monsters. As the feral beasts overwhelm Edgewood in a bloody slaughter, the twins and their bonded animals flee to warn the emperor. Joining them on their dangerous trek are Ronan the con artist and Gavril Kitsune the disgraced warrior.

The first Age of Legends young adult quest fantasy is an exciting tale as the two sisters have been trained to do their jobs; but not mentored in relationships besides with each other, their family and their familiars or adapting to radical change making mission accomplishment impossible. Their difficult adjustment while traversing a vividly lethal landscape turns Sea of Shadows into a strong opening act.

Harriet Klausner

March 28, 2014

Vampires…Need Not Apply?-Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Filed under: Author: P,Fantasy,Title: V

Vampires…Need Not Apply?
Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Forever, Mar 25 2014, $8.00
ISBN: 9781455546992

While on vacation in Mexico, affluent Spanish physicist Dr. Antonio Acero remains haunted by a woman pleading with him to free her. When he locates a mysterious Mayan tablet that allegedly will prevent the Apocalypse, obsessed Antonio tries to deploy the relic to open the gate restraining his enigmatic incarcerated female. Instead of success, an accident leaves Acero blind.

For seventy long lonely millennia, Ixtab the goddess of suicide has avoided the touch of humans after she accidently caused the death of her beloved. Wearing her veil to conceal her face and garbed in Goth mourning clothes, Ixtab arrives to help Antonio with his quest and regain his eyesight. To her astonishment, the philandering Spaniard not only looks like her memory of her one true love, but somehow survives touching her.

The latest Accidentally Yours romantic fantasy (see Accidentally in Love with…a God?, Sun God Seeks …Surrogate? and Accidentally Married to…a Vampire?) is a fascinating tale due to the lead Goddess’ dilemma that will remind readers of the X-Men’s Rogue. The hero thinks “Heaven Must be Missing An Angel” (Tavares) though he meets her while blind and she hides her visage behind her veil which in his mind means she must be hideous. Series fans will enjoy this fast-paced entry with over the top humor as the overarching theme of mad Cimil making life interesting moves somewhat forward.

Harriet Klausner

March 24, 2014

The Midnight Witch-Paula Brackston

Filed under: Author: B,Fantasy,Title: M

The Midnight Witch
Paula Brackston
Dunne, Mar 25 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9781250006080

In 1913 London, Lady Lilith Montgomery watches sadly as her late father is lowered into the ground. She knows her opium using brother Freddie has become the Duke of Radnor, but she inherited her dad’s other title Morningstar the Lazarus Coven Head Witch though only twenty-one and feeling dreadfully unready for the responsibility.

Her fiancé Louis Harcourt the witch renews his vow to die if need be to keep her safe and to help her protect the Elixir of Life from adversarial sorcerers especially the Sentinels necromancers. As WWI explodes, Louis becomes despondent when a distracted Lilith falls in love with artist Bram Cardale; leading to each failing to defend their prime security mission in life; leaving the Great Secret in jeopardy which has not happened in generations.

The latest Paula Brackston’s bewitching drama (see Witch’s Daughter and The Winter Witch) is an entertaining WWI paranormal historical. Although alone in many respects, Lilith embraces the liberating radical changes that “the war to end all wars” wrought on English society. The engaging storyline contains some reiteration of Edwardian upper class behavior; however treks such as to war-torn Uganda provide freshness to the tale. Fans will appreciate The Midnight Witch as she hopes to follow her heart while also insuring the Elixir remains safe from those who would abuse it for personal gain.

Harriet Klausner

March 13, 2014

Shadowmaster-Susan Krinard

Filed under: Author: K,Fantasy,Title: S

Shadowmaster
Susan Krinard
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 4 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373885916

In the San Francisco enclave, Aegis Director of Operations Chen assigns half-dhampir agent Phoenix Stryker to uncover the identity of Draken and prevent this killer from assassinating a senator. Chen chose Stryker for this dangerous mission because she believes this lethal Opiri assassin is most likely heterosexual and thus unable to resist the call of dhampir blood.

Getting inside his camp, Stryker meets Draken, but instead of being a deadly monster as her superior described, she finds a caring person who wants to end the ugly exiling of criminals to Erebus where they are used for sustenance or slaves by the Opiri. He also has a personal agenda to avenge the destruction of his loved ones. However, Draken revises his goals to include keeping the newcomer he cherishes safe.

The latest Nightsiders romantic fantasy (see Nightmaster and Daysider) is an action-packed thriller that nicely blends desire with peril. Though the overarching drums of war fails to move forward much, readers will relish this taut twisting storyline as the lead couple has some complex decisions to make in which each choice seems overwhelmingly lethal to them.

Harriet Klausner

Running With Wolves-Cynthia Cooke

Filed under: Author: C,Fantasy,Title: R

Running With Wolves
Cynthia Cooke
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 4 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373885923

In the Cascades, the Colony’s wolf shifters’ leader Malcom assigns loyal member Jason Stratton to find and escort to the pack a former chief’s daughter to bring peace and consolidate the alpha’s power as his mate. Jason locates a confused Shay Mallory, who has recently dealt with weird happenings and still misses her late father who protected her while warning her to beware of strangers.

Feeling treasonous due to his attraction to Shay, Jason explains to her she must mate with a shifter; but she rejects the notion of being bound with a man she never met. As he escorts Shay and her companion Buddy to the enclave, enemies attack them several times. To save her life, Jason mates with Shay so she can shift though he expects once he gets her to safety, Malcom will kill him.

The keys to why Running With Wolves is a strong romantic fantasy are Cynthia Cooke’s supernatural world populated with the paranormal seems genuine and the hero is a caring passionate person preferring to make love not war. Action-packed, readers will enjoy joining the protagonists on their dangerous road show to love.

Harriet Klausner

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