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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June 7, 2013
A Captain and a Corset
Sourcebooks, Jun 4 2013, $6.99
In 1843 London, Sophia Stevenson knows she will never go back to her rigid frivolous Victorian life before the Root Ball changed her. Now inside the Illuminist’s Solitary Chamber she is the rarest of the rare a Navigator in training to guide ships.
Her instructor Captain Bion Donkova is stern and demanding, which angers and frustrates Sophia who struggles to adjust to her new lifestyle though she respects the Illuminist’s goal to make the world a better place for all. He thinks she is too frivolous and troublesome as she does not appreciate what she possesses. However, each conceals their attraction from one another. One of the unfriendly groups abducts Sophia in order to use her abilities to further their agenda to grab power. Wishing his beloved student was more biddable and adhered to the rules, a worried Bion pursues the kidnappers to rescue the woman he loves.
The second Illuminist steampunk romantic thriller (see A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious) is a fast-paced action-packed tale that never slows down from the moment Sophia is snatched. The villains are top of the line and in many ways steal the show (along with the wonderful Wine world) from the protagonists. Although the romance feels rushed, fans will enjoy the thrilling A Captain and A Corset.
June 5, 2013
Medallion, Jun 1 2013, $14.95
English college professor Alan Hammerstun inherits a house from his paternal Uncle Phillip; a man he met a few times and a place he visited once thirty years ago. He persuades his wife Heather to move from New York where they lived their entire lives to start fresh in this home in the Smoky Mountains. Depressed Heather agrees to leave the bad memories of two miscarriages and her subsequent suicide attempt behind. Thus they and Jerry Lee the farting dog drive to North Carolina.
Their new neighbors seem young, healthy and friendly, and the air quality perfect. Oriole fanatics especially Hank Gerski befriends him. Alan finds a path with strange stone markers through the forest. That night he dreams the path leads to a lake and he dives into it. When a child is hit by a car, Hank and others carry the injured lad to the nearby lake. The kid heals almost instantly. The neighbors warn him to be careful with the lake; while psychic George YoungCalfRibs tells him the lake can do bad things against those poisoning the land and water. Alan ignores them as he spends all his time there wondering if this water will heal Heather’s health issues unaware of his increasing paranoia that the neighbors hold him culpable.
Cradle Lake is an exciting horror tale that feels like a throwback to 1970s books and movies in which Mother Nature revenges the destruction of the environment. Readers will be hooked early on as the atmosphere gets increasingly darker as Alan who holds the storyline focused slowly loses his mind. Although fans will anticipate the climax, Ronald Malfi provides a tense thriller.
May 2, 2013
The Forever Knight
Daw, April 2 2013, $25.95
Lukien once was the beloved Bronze Knight until he betrayed his king. Despondent he lost his love Cassandra and several friends, he sought death as the way out of his lonely existence after bringing peace; no one needs a hero after the victory. However, he learns that is not quite true as he became the immortal champion of the magical using Inhuman desert dwellers who live in impoverished isolation deep in the desert at Grimhold.
Lukien remains the defender of Grimhold, but no longer possesses both Eyes of Gods amulet. Instead he now yields the Sword of Angels that possesses the Akari spirit of an earlier age hero Malator. Needing a purpose, Lukien leaves Grimhold with encouragement from Malator. On the road from apathy he meets youthful Cricket a seeker of her lost memories.
The profound premise in this first follow-up to the Bronze Knight fantasy trilogy (see Sword of Angels) focuses on what happens to a hero after the mission is accomplished and accolades received, As MacArthur said: “old soldiers never die; they just fade away”; but fails to mention what to do with the rest of their (immortal in this case) life. There is plenty of action as expected in a John Marco thriller, but it is the psychologically scarred Lukien and his counterpoint Malator who make the story fascinating. Cricket adds depth but her young and innocent immaturity seems out of place in a realm where teens mature fast or die. The Forever Knight is a deep opening gamut as the larger than life hero needs a purpose.
April 8, 2013
The Scrivener’s Tale
Harper Voyager, Mar 26 2013, $14.99
A trucker wanting to be home with his wife and kid pushed himself on Britain’s M1 until his eyes shut. The ensuing pile-up left many dead including Lauren and Henry; fate intervened and spared the life of their husband-father psychiatrist Gabe. He coped for a year before fleeing to France for the last fifteen months. In Paris, Gabe the bookstore employee agrees to provide a professional opinion on the mental state of Angelina. She tells him about her haunting delusions that frighten the psychiatrist as they eerily link to his nightmares.
In Morgravia, Fynch the guardian feels a powerful malevolence places the Wild in peril; so he deploys a plan to save the land from the demon who escaped the void. Cyricus the demon seeks destruction of the Wild for his eons of exile. He begins his vendetta by possessing those foolish to join his quest, which will end when he as Queen Florentyna orders the devastation of the Wild that will also lead to war between the neighboring nations of Morgravia, Briavel and The Razors. Gabe mysteriously arrives in the magical Kingdom where he encounters Cassien the warrior guarding Queen Florentyna from internal threats and Hamelyn the orphan. Together the three must defeat Cyricus or a world will perish.
Taking place long after The Quickening trilogy, fans of the series and newcomers will relish this engaging quest fantasy due to a strong cast especially the fully-developed flawed heroes. Filled with non-stop action except for the French interlude that never quite fits inside the storyline in spite of establishing that Gabe is otherworldly in time and place, The Scrivener’s Tale is a delightful engaging good and evil fantasy.
March 19, 2013
Zebra, Mar 5 2013, $6.99
“The Chosen.” In 1883 Arizona, as the Chosen Darkin hunters, attorney Remington Jackson and his brothers, Winchester (see The Slayer) and Colt (see The Hunter) grew up being trained to fight evil. Currently they each must find a segment of the Book of Legend in order to combine the tome needed to prevent Hell from invading earth. In the Bisbee Mining Camp, Remy enlists the help of incarcerated shapeshifting thief China McGee whose skills he needs to steal his part of the tome. The Darkin, who has worked with Colt, agrees to assist him in return for her freedom, but China has plans for the relic that do not include Remy. In the Aztec jungle, as they fight for their lives, China widens her options to partner with Remy long after the mission is done, if they survive.
“The Inventor.” In 1868 London Sir Marley Turlock works on his invention in order to obtain membership in the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain by impressing Queen Victoria though he has hit a glitch. Lady Persephone Hargrieve works alongside of him and soon afterward her father Lord Hargrieve asks Marley to join in the fight against Darken. Skeptical, the inventor joins the battle against demons, vampires and those even more lethal evil.
The Chosen, the third Legend Chronicles, is an exciting Wild West urban romantic fantasy starring the last Jackson sibling and a master Darkin thief who Colt insists can steel rail from underneath a train. Action-packed throughout with a strong cast, readers will enjoy the rumble in the jungle as time has run out on the Jackson brothers. Additionally, the bonus prequel the Inventor looks at a key series support character Sir Marley’s introduction to the Darkin.
March 7, 2013
Harlequin Luna, Feb 26 2013, $14.95
Shaman Joanne Walker still grieves the loss of her estranged mother when FBI Agent Sara Isaac tells her that her dad vanished in the mountains of the Cherokee Qualla Reservation in North Carolina. She flies from her mom’s funeral in Ireland where she was called Siobhan Walkingstick (see Raven Calls) and drives from Atlanta to a place she vowed never to return when she left as Joanne Walkingstick a decade ago. As Joanne heads to the mountains, she wonders how she will cope when she meets her son Aidan who she left behind to reside there with his adoptive family.
Upon reaching her destination, Joanne learns that Aidan’s biological father Lucas has also disappeared and even the Elders have not prevented the malevolence from growing. As she begins her search, Joanne prefers not use her shaman skills but fears she has no choice as increasingly she concludes an evil has assaulted the Appalachians leaving the great chain weeping in pain as only a select few like Joanne can hear. Soon after her unwelcome arrival, Joanne’s former boss at Seattle PD and now love interest Captain Mike Morrison arrives.
The latest Walker Papers (see Demon Hunts and Spirit Dances) is another great entry as the heroine learns you can go home to face your past. Fast-paced, and perhaps the most complicated tale in this super series, fans will relish the Urban Shaman returning to her native roots that she fled almost ten years ago to fight an evil using time as a weapon of mass destruction.
February 28, 2013
Midnight Blue-Light Special
DAW, Mar 5 2013, $7.99
Though generations of her family have studied the Cryptid population and kept these “monsters” safe from the humans and visa-versa, cryptozoologist Verity Price is not a chip off the DNA block as she prefers ballroom dancing. However, Verity still proves Price blood flows through her veins when she came to Manhattan to competitively dance only to get sidetracked with the family vocation due to the snake cult (see Discount Armageddon). Still her recent caper led her to meet her maybe boyfriend Dominic De Luca although it is a star-crossed relationship as he is a monster-hunter for her family’s enemy the Covenant of St. George.
Dominic warns Verity that his bosses are coming to New York to inspect the progress he made in species cleansing and to finish the eradication of the Cryptid species from Manhattan. Putting aside her love of dance, Verity needs to prevent a bloodbath by concealing the monsters from the hunters including a traitorous blood relative seeking vengeance.
The superb second InCryptid urban fantasy is an incredibly fast-paced New York tale that except for an intrusive sidebar involving a psychic cousin never slows down as monsters, protectors, hunters and collateral damage humans converge for a Manhattan Midnight Blue-Light Special. Verity adds humor with her asides as she tries to keep a bloodbath from overwhelming the city. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this faster than the speed of light thriller.
February 10, 2013
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Baen, Feb 5 2013, $25.00
Clan Korval moved to planet Surebleak though Liad will always be home in their hearts. However, in their settlement Jelaza Kazone, the youngest family member Syl Vor feels worthless with no responsibilities and no friends since his cousins left for other worlds as apprentices. He believes his only importance is as a token showing his clan’s support to the newly established school that he attends. With nothing to do, Syl Vor helps a neighbor with seed planting, but failed to tell the clan so is lectured as several rogue Department of Interior agents seek their deaths.
An assassin tries to kill lifemates Liaden Val Con yos’Phelium and Terran Miri Robertson. Clan Korval searches for this killer as no one gets away with killing any of them, but especially this pair as they together are the Delm. The Bedel clan bunkers down in their tunnels until young Kezzi sneaks out with her dog. A vendor catches her stealing food but Michael Golden the Terran pays her tab. A Kompani guardian brings a comatose body to healer Silain who tries to save the coma victim. Golden follows clues that lead to her and her granddaughter Kezzi who soon meets Syl Vor at school.
Necessity’s Child is an intriguing Liaden thriller that appears to be a transition to the next generation as much of the somewhat limited action focuses on Kezzi and Syl Vor. The overarching theme fails to move at all yet the plot sets up the future with an insightful look at their new planet, another culture and the young of Korval and Kompani. Series fans will have mixed feelings on Necessity’s Child, but will agree this is a clever perceptive entry.
February 8, 2013
The Ship Who Searched
Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey
Baen, Jan 1 2013, $14.00
Archaeologists Doctors Pota Andropolous-Cade and Braddon Maartens-Cade conduct an evaluation at a Salomon-Kildare site with no one else on the planet except their school aged daughter Hypatia “Tia” Cade. For the most part Tia is by herself at camp while her parents work though she has her own excavation site in the nearby trenches. Just after Tia’s seventh birthday, Moira and Brawn Tomas arrive with supplies and a blue teddy bear gift for the child who calls her present Theodore Edward Bear.
Tia finds a real artifact that she seals inside a container before showing it to her parents. However, the container leaks dust into the child’s face. While her excited parents look for more artifacts in the locale Tia found her relic, the child becomes paralyzed. The Institute accepts Tia as a shellperson installed in a brainship delivering supplies to excavations with her Brawn being Alexander Joli-Chanteu. Accompanied by Theodore Edward Bear, they specialize as first responders on controlling diseases until the medics can arrive. MedCen assigns them to search for smugglers importing diseases into the Central Worlds even as Tia seeks the source of her paralyzing ailment.
The reprint of the entertaining third Brainships entry (see The Ship Who Sang and Partnership) is an engaging science fiction. Tia is a super protagonist who keeps the storyline steady and on course with help from her Brawn and her teddy bear. Filled with compassion, courage and chutzpah, The Ship Who Searched remains a fabulous outer space thriller.
January 8, 2013
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Power Under Pressure
Andrew P. Mayer
PYR, Jan 8 2013, $17.95
In New York, the assassination of Sir Dennis Darby on the Brooklyn Bridge by the Automaton devastated the Society of Paragons. Sir Dennis served as the groups’ social compass; without his ethical leadership, the Society collapses as individuals chose self-interests over the good of the group.
Former member Sarah “the Adventuress” Stanton possesses the steel clockwork heart of her killing friend the Automaton; having hidden the mechanical beater in an obscure Brooklyn junkyard. Craving to gain favorite status from Sarah though he knows her heart is filled with revenge for the deaths of her father and mentor, Emilio vows to reconstruct the Automaton over the objection of his angry victimized sister Viola. Also needing the steel heart to complete his plans to industrialize the world under a thick blanket of smog is Lord Eschaton. His plans near fruition with the creation out of death of the Shell and the capture of Nathaniel, Eschaton must prevent the Adventuress from thwarting his scheme; while she must find a way to bring back together the Society of Paragons enhanced by reformed supervillains and still crazy mad scientists to forge the Society of Steam dream team to stop her adversary from achieving his world domination objective.
The third Society of Steam Steampunk Victorian fantasy (see Hearts of Smoke and Steam, and The Falling Machine) is an exciting tale as the frustrated beleaguered heroine wonders if she made a poor decision when she left high society to join the Paragons with vengeance filling her heart. Readers will appreciate this entry as Fortified Steam serves as the technological base for a fast-paced alternative nineteenth century New York thriller.