Alternative Worlds: Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Reviews

23rd July 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

November 15, 2012

Phoenix Rising-Ryk E. Spoor

Filed under: Fantasy,Title: P

Phoenix Rising
Ryk E. Spoor
Baen, Nov 6 2012, $14.00
ISBN: 9781451638417

The prophecy of the cyclical Chaoswars plunging the Zarathan planet into a dark age appears on the brink of happening again; as apparently the Gods have spoken once more. At a gala in small Evanwyl near the western coast, the aristocratic family of Kyri are betrayed and murdered though she escapes leaving her beloved country behind in chaos; praying to return to free her people one day. Exiled Prince Tobimar Silverun hopes to one day return to his homeland Skysand in the Northeast.

Both flee across the lone known continent as she seeks an ancient armorer to create her a special sword to lead warriors against the forces of the dark that have devastated Evanwyl and he believes he will never go home even as he become a master swordsman. When they meet, each feels they have found a lost kindred soul. Soon a third champion, tiny Poplock Duckweed, joins them.

The keys that make this strong fantasy a great read are the vivid dark world of Ryk E. Spoor and the fully developed cast as the audience visit a planet on the brink while the good, the bad and the ugly seem genuine due to moments of reflective thought amidst the action. Fast-paced, readers will demand more escapades against the forces of the dark by the heroic trio on Zarathan as well as hints of previous Chaoswars leaving a fertile realm for further adventures of other champions.

Harriet Klausner

October 28, 2012

Polterheist-Laura Resnick

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

Polterheist
Laura Resnick
Daw, Nov 6 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756407339

Actress Esther Diamond obtains work as Dreidel the Jewish elf in Manhattan’s Fenster Department store. She got the position because several people hired for the annual meet Santa display failed to return to work.

Santa is running very late while a crowd becomes edgy. Dreidel entertains them while Candy Cane the elf looks for him. Finally Esther’s friend Big Satsy arrives screaming in terror with his Santa suit on fire. A little boy Jonathan also starts screaming claiming a Santa with fangs tried to eat him. At the same, the Fenster family fights over control of the retail giant and thieves hijack shipments. When a tree attacks Dreidel, her on and off boyfriend NYPD Detective Connor Lopez claims mechanical failure, but Esther knows otherwise. With Max the three century and a half old sorcerer at her side, they investigate supernatural happenings unaware that a malevolence is deploying a wicked scheme to make for a deadly Christmas.

The latest Esther Diamond satirical urban fantasy (see Vamparazzi, Unsympathetic Magic and Doppelgangster) lampoons the excesses of commercialized Christmas in a fun lighthearted farce. Once again intrepid Esther proves fearless as she chooses fight rather than flight by facing danger on the freight elevator, the tree, a retired gangster and the Fenster family feud. Laura Resnick writes a not so merry Christmas paranormal mayhem.

Harriet Klausner

October 13, 2012

Kissed By A Vampire-Caridad Pineiro

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

Kissed By A Vampire
Caridad Pineiro
Harlequin Nocturne, Oct 16 2012, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373885589

Two millennia ago, a betrayal by her beloved turned Stacia into a vampire who trusts no one so she roams the night alone. While on the prowl for chow in South beach, she finds a mortal near death. Though she cannot fathom why, instead of biting what was left of his life, Stacia saved him (see Death Calls).

In Miami, DEA agent Alex Garcia works a human trafficking case that targets young girls. When he runs into Stacia, Alex is stunned as he assumed the beautiful female haunting his dreams was a fantasy caused by his near death experience. Stacia realizes why she saved Alex’s life as she is attracted to him just like he is to her.

The latest action-packed Calling paranormal romance (see Fury Calls and Blood Calls) is a fast-paced romantic urban fantasy starring an elder vampire and a DEA human. Fans will enjoy their Miami joyride as they team up in love to rescue the girls and take down the vicious criminals.

Harriet Klausner

October 4, 2012

Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall-Jill Koenigsdorf

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

Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall
Jill Koenigsdorf
MacAdam/Cage, Oct 26 2012, $24.00
ISBN: 9781596923836

In Sonoma, California single mom Phoebe is a failed artist who keeps herself and her daughter Audrey from starving by designing wine labels though her creditors are demanding remittance or else. Twenty-five years after he died, the ghost of Marc Chagall arrives in her kitchen. He is thankful that Audrey cannot see him while he ponders why a painting he drew that her father found during the 1944 liberation of France never came to Phoebe or her mother. Marc is pleased to see his host has reproductions of his work on her walls. Vowing to help her find what is due her while also resolving the one thing that disturbed him when he was alive: his hundred or so paintings that vanished during WWI.

After a spirited introduction, the wannabe artist and the dead artist begin their trek to find La Contorsioniste. They soon run into an assorted motley crew wanting to ether help them or help themselves as witches, black market traffickers, sinister collectors, an inn keeper and much more join the search.

This fabulous paranormal amateur sleuth works brilliantly on two levels. First the historical provides the audience with strong insight into Chagall and his work, as well as the Nazi art theft with each intricately interwoven into the engaging storyline. Second is the exciting amateur sleuth search for the missing masterpiece and other works by the renowned artist. Fans will enjoy this good (art lovers) and evil (art profiteers) thriller as Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall investigate.

Harriet Klausner

September 15, 2012

Portlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes-Rob DeBorde

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

Portlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes
Rob DeBorde
St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 16 2012, $15.99
ISBN: 9781250006646

In 1887 retired marshal Jim Kleberg digs up the grave of Abraham Thomas Alcott whose gravestone states he died in 1874. When the caretaker asks him what he is doing, Jim shows the man a skull and asks if that is him. Jim reluctantly arrives in Portland, Oregon to live with his daughter Katie, her blind husband Joseph, and their twin children (Samuel and Maddie).

At the same time that Jim goes to live with his daughter and her family, Henry Macke resurrects and reanimates the Hanged Man. This zombie seeks a demonic weapon while targeting mentally impaired Jim. Not long afterward a zombie horde attacks Jim and his family as Joseph with his extrasensory skills and Andre Labeau the occultist lead the battle against these undead monsters.

Portlandtown is an exhilarating action-packed western zombie thriller. Fast-paced, the key living cast (especially the Oregon Wyldes’ wild family interrelationships, Jim’s apparent senility and Andre’s quest for redemption) and the Hanged Man are fully developed. Readers anticipate an OK Corral good and evil confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

September 14, 2012

Poison Princess-Kresley Cole

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

Poison Princess
Kresley Cole
Simon & Schuster, Oct 2 2012, $18.99
ISBN: 9781442436640

Evie attended high school in Sterling, Louisiana but was sent away by her mom to an asylum to help her ignore her grandma’s ranting’s and in order for the delusions to vanish. She took meds and finally got out. Back at school she is paired with newcomer Cajun biker Jackson.

Evie hears voices and draws her nightmares in her journal as she thinks of the apocalypse. Death talks to her calling her the Empress and promising with his ally Ogen to eat her bones. Her prime voice Matthew warns Evie to prepare as the Reaper is coming. Evie asks about the red witch, which Matthew says is the Poison Princess.

Evie and her mom survive the apocalyptic Flash that leaves many dead. There are no plants and zombie like bagmen seeks survivors. Her mom is ill from a bagman attack and when Evie cuts herself with her suddenly large nails, the blood grows crops. Jack arrives and warns them a militia is coming. He wants to know how she grew fresh vegetables. When Evie’s mom dies, they burn down the farm so there is no evidence of vegetables, which would make Evie a prisoner. They begin their trek to the North Carolina Outer Banks where her grandma lives with the truth.

Although the storyline starts slow to anchor the personalities of the lead couple before the world changed in a flash, the Cole post-apocalyptic realm seems real and the cast fully developed as readers will accept the deft transformation of the heroine and the survivor skills of Jack. Evie’s attitude towards Jack seems off kilter as he risks his life to save her several times. Still Poison Princess is an entertaining exciting twisting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

September 12, 2012

Personal Demon-Susan Sizemore

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

Personal Demon
Susan Sizemore
Ace, Sep 25 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425254721

In Chicago, demon Ivy Bailey the vampire hunter insures the city’s undead population strictly adheres to the “rules”. When someone breaks one of the edicts, she hunts the felon down.

In 1888 London Christopher Bell defeated the evil Jack the Ripper. The English vampire’s investigation leads him to Chicago. There he notices something that looks eerily familiar stalking Ivy. Christopher warns Ivy and offers to watch her back, but she declines. Meanwhile someone is magically murdering witches with demons as the most likely culprits. Ivy senses a connection as she hunts the serial killer while a malevolent creep stalks her; Christopher ignores Ivy’s bravado as he pursues their common Personal Demon.

The first Laws of the Blood urban fantasy (see Heroes) in several years is an engaging grim entry that brings the vampire enforcer road show to Chicago. A major reason this entry is fun is the diverse outlook on how humans, vampire, demons and others should co-exist as the Brit and the American define community differently. Readers will appreciate the triangle battle with the murderer as death stalks the Windy City.

Harriet Klausner

August 11, 2012

Primal Possession-Katie Reus

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

Primal Possession
Katie Reus
Signet, Sep 4 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451237781

Residents of serene Fontana, North Carolina are shocked by the hideous activity of the Anti-Paranormal League. The APL has invoked a campaign of hate crimes against the paranormal and terrorist attacks against human civilians who live in harmony with the supernatural residents of Fontana.

The APL target human December McIntyre for her acceptance of shifters although she still struggles with what one of them did to her sibling and with her attraction to Liam Armstrong; he realizes at first sight she is his mate. Knowing she needs protection from these home-grown terrorists, December turns to the shifter pack number two Liam. As they fall in love, Liam risks his life to keep his December safe.

The latest Moon Shifter romantic urban fantasy (see Alpha Instinct) is a superb take that makes the paranormal seem normal through the actions of the APL and several local allies. Action-packed, readers will empathize with December as her traumatic memory of what a shifter did to her family and other fears of their kind battle with her love and feeling safe with him. Katie Reus writes a wonderful winning thriller.

Harriet Klausner

May 8, 2012

The Paths of the Dead-Steven Brust

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

The Paths of the Dead
Steven Brust
Orb, May 22 2012, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765330307

Two centuries have passed since Adron’s Disaster imploded the Empire with the magical destruction of the capital Dragaera (see The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After) and the loss of the emperor. Many ambitious dukes vie for leadership of the unstable remnants especially the powerful Dragonlord Duke of Kana Skinter. The Gods are divided with some insisting the present cycle requires a Phoenix as emperor and therefore they support the Phoenix heiress Zerika as the Empress; others defend Skinter.

To become the Empress Zerika must retrieve the Orb that is the primary base of wizardry. To obtain the orb she must traverse the dangerous Paths of the Dead. The Enchantress of Dzur Mountain Sethra Lavode supports her and lines her up the offspring of legendary warriors to assist her on her quest. Viscount of Adrilankha Piro, Tazendra the Dzurlord wizard, Kytraan the warrior, and others escort her to the Paths of the Dead while the sorceress Orlaan and her bandits led by Wadre and Mora, and Skinter’s loyal supporters try to prevent them from achieving their goal.

This reprint of Book One of the Viscount of Adrilankha, allegedly written by Sir Paarfi and translated by Steven Brust, remains an exciting uniquely written teen quest fantasy that assumes young readers are intelligent and savvy. The story line contains other subplots but the one above is the main theme of The Paths of the Dead while the others are for another day (future book). Although it behooves the audience to read the previous two volumes to learn how the Empire got to where it is, readers will appreciate this witty entry that remains fresh with its unconventional approach to a quest fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

May 5, 2012

Princeps-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Filed under: Fantasy,Title: P

Princeps
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, May 22 2012, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765330956

In Tilbor, Quaeryt prevented the coup attempt against Lord Bhayar. As his reward for preventing a bloody civil war from occurring, Quaeryt is named Princeps and ordered by Bhayar to marry his sister Vaelora. In his new position, Quaeryt plans on rebuilding the land, but he is unaware that his wife is unhappy with the disrespect the High Holders show toward them because of her husband’s birth class.

A volcano destroys the old capital of Telaryn in Extela killing the governor and others. Bhayar names his brother-in-law as the interim governor of the battered province and sends him to restore order and provide sustenance to the populace in a place where official corruption has always been an acceptable norm but now looting has begun too. At the same time nearby Bovaria sees an opportunity with what the volcano wrought so they mobilize. Knowing he needs Quaeryt’s unique secret imaging skills, Bhayar places him in charge of a special imaging unit.

The second Imager Portfolio (see Scholar) continues the exciting prequel saga that occurs centuries before the tales of Rhennthyl. Filled with action, the keys to this engaging fantasy are the fully developed social and economic systems that seem plausible. L.E. Modesitt, Jr. provides a fabulous thriller as his hero needs to be in two places at the same time.

Harriet Klausner

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