Alternative Worlds: Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Reviews

03rd April 2015

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

April 8, 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

March 8, 2014

White Hot Kiss-Jennifer L. Armentrout

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

White Hot Kiss
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Harlequin Teen, Feb 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373211104

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.

Harriet Klausner

February 18, 2014

Broken Homes-Ben Aaronovitch

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

Broken Homes
Ben Aaronovitch
Daw, Feb 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409609

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.

Harriet Klausner

July 5, 2013

Elisha Barber-E.C. Ambrose

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

Elisha Barber
E.C. Ambrose
DAW, Jul 2 2013, $25.95
ISBN 9780756408350

Elisa Barber is shaving a customer when his estranged brother Nathaniel arrives. His sibling explains that the midwife sent his wife Helena to the hospital because the baby became wedged. Irate at his sibling for allowing his anger at Elisha preventing Nathaniel from coming to him, the barber-surgeon says hospitals are deadly. He hopes to remove Helena in time and deliver the baby while unlike physician who plans to save the unborn at the expense of the mother; Eli tries to keep both alive. He fails as mother and daughter died, and Nathaniel commits suicide using Barber’s razor. Stunned he says he killed them all.

To insure his brother is buried on sacred grounds, Elisha accepts the constable’s accusation of fratricide. Though he willingly accepts his guilt for the deaths, Barber flees by joining the royal military laying siege to the Duke of Dunbury’s castle. His job is a combat field medic working on wounds and when necessary amputating limbs. Upon meeting Brigit the herbalist, Elisha learns he is an untrained magus.

The first tale of the Dark Apostle medieval fantasy is an exciting fourteenth century thriller. The protagonist is a fully developed fascinating lead who applies advanced (centuries ahead of his time) medical thinking though ironically saving lives and body parts gets him into trouble with the unenlightened; as England is vividly described as a grim nation. Although the support cast never comes across as three dimensional, readers will appreciate E.C. Ambrose’s extremely dark historical fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

June 15, 2013

Shapeshifted-Cassie Alexander

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

Shapeshifted
Cassie Alexander
St. Martin’s, Jun 4 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312553418

Nurse Edie Spence is depressed ever since she was shunned from working at the County Hospital’s secret Y4 ward. She loved her exciting job especially helping the paranormal patients. Her loss has impacted her brother Jake as the Shadows used their magic to keep his heroin addiction under control, but her unemployment removed the magical protection. Strike three occurs when her mom tells her that she is dying from Stage Four breast cancer.

Edie learns the only way to save her mother’s life is with an infusion of vampire blood. However, she no longer has access to anything paranormal as she is considered an outcast. She applies for a job at a clinic, but Dr. Tovar tells her she in unqualified. As she leaves she gets involved with a shooting victim while thugs are waving guns and a grandmother is praying to Santa Muerte in Spanish; she gets the job where she hopes to find vampire blood as gang turf wars are rampant while her werewolf maybe boyfriend has come home.

The third Edie Spence urban fantasy (see Nightshifted and Moonshifted) is a fast-paced noir as the heroine, who tried but failed to stay out of the fray, needs to jump into the fray. Filled with action and noirish humor, series fans will enjoy Edie trying once again to save her world but as Asher asks who saves Edie.

Harriet Klausner

May 11, 2013

As Twilight Falls-Amanda Ashley

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

As Twilight Falls
Amanda Ashley
Zebra, Apr 30 2013. $7.99
ISBN: 9781420130393

Free-lance writer-photographer Kadie Andrews gets lost in Wyoming while working on a story about ghost towns. She crosses a wooden bridge during a storm but runs out of gas. Her cell phone fails to work. Vampire Darrick Vaughn welcomes her and takes the reluctant human to a tavern for coffee. He then takes her to a vacant house for her to stay. Vaughn claims her as his. However, master vampire Rylan Saintcrow says she belongs to him.

Human Donna tells her no one leaves town. Kadie tries to walk across the bridge but cannot complete the trek. She notices a special house that gives her the chills. At night Vaughn takes her to a restaurant but he does not eat. She joins a reading group where she learns the town contains a vampire coven of eight males and one female. They warn her of Saintcrow who no one has seen in years. Kadie tells Vaughn she wants to leave. He says she cannot and calls her his private stock. Saintcrow arrives and informs her everyone in town belongs to him. Saintcrow wonders why he needs Kadie as she is the first woman he invited into his Blair House. As they fall in love, the couple learns her father is aligned with hunters as he needs Saintcrow’s blood to save his dying other daughter.

Readers will believe vampires run a city in which humans cannot leave (the Eagles’ Hotel California) though with the horror in Cleveland, the concept becomes much more nightmarish. The star-crossed romance is nicely developed as is the transformation of Saintcrow although he is too powerful; ergo limiting suspense.

Harriet Klausner

May 9, 2013

Hair Raising-Kevin J. Anderson

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

Hair Raising
Kevin J. Anderson
Kensington, Apr 30 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758277381

In the Unnatural Quarter, Rusty the full-time werewolf hires zombie private investigator partner Dan Shamble of Chambeaux and Deyer (he being Chambeaux while Robin the African American lawyer is Deyer) to watch for suspicious behavior during cockatrice fighting family night. The client is especially concerned that Monthlies like bad bikers Scratch and Sniff will cause trouble. Shamble assumes the full-time is paranoid due to the prejudice between his type and the Monthlies. However, the action ends when Officer “McGoo” and other cops arrive.

While Robin assisted by Sheyenne the office assistance ghost work a father rights case for graveyard Steve against the Addams Family Practice; Dan investigates the assaults on werewolves that leaves them humiliatingly hairless. Bald werewolves prove less horrific to Dan than dealing with the human horde attending the Worldwide Horror Convention.

The latest Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. paranormal investigation (see Unnatural Acts and Death Warmed Over) is once again a superb satirical thriller as Kevin J. Anderson lampoons societal morality in which feuds over microscopic differences are the norm. Readers will enjoy this entry with added twisting freshness coming from the Unnatural Quarter residents fearing the dangerous denizen of paranormal human fans attending a horror convention.

Harriet Klausner

April 2, 2013

Bite Me, Your Grace-Brooklyn Ann

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

Bite Me, Your Grace
Brooklyn Ann
Sourcebook, Apr 2 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402274442

In 1821 Duke Ian Ashton is going crazy for two reasons. First, as the Lord Vampire of London he must deal with the crazy fad caused by Dr. John Polidori’s tale “The Vampyre” written over a weekend with the Shelley couple and Byron as the aristocracy goes vampyre. If he has to take any more bites of garlic, show up in daylight or prove you can see his reflection in a mirror, he may drain his host.

Second his neighbor, wannabe writer Angelica Winthrop, has been sneaking into his home and asking questions as she seeks a theme for her novel. Ian decides she will be the perfect cover of his true identity after he bites and marries her. However, even that goes wrong forcing him to find that damn Polidori and more difficult not to love his spouse while a slayer stalks anyone who acts differently with a stake first and questions later attitude.

Bite Me, Your Grace is a refreshing amusing yet dark Regency urban fantasy romance that uses the famous weekend ghost wirting contest as the springboard for a fun tale. Fast-paced with a strong cast and a wonderful twist, readers will enjoy Brooklyn Ann’s fabulous fang frolic.

Harriet Klausner

March 28, 2013

Passion’s Prey-A.C. Arthur

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

Passion’s Prey
A.C. Arthur
St. Martin’s, Mar 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312549121

FBI Agent Xavier Santos-Markland the Topetenia jaguar-shifter works the deadliest predator cases mostly in the Washington D.C. area. He drops in at Athena’s topless where he watches Caprise Delgado perform an exotic dance that has him and the other patrons drooling. Though his senses are overwhelmed by his desire, Xavier realizes Rogue shifters, who abandoned the Etica code of ethics and deserted one of the five tribes to most likely join drug dealing Topetenia Sabar Tavares’ gang, are nearby. With no explanation, he escorts the hybrid dancer to safety where their mutual attraction is temporarily satiated though each craves more.

Xavier knows Caprise conceals something that frightens her from him. He offers his help but she rejects his aid, which angers and frustrates him as he fears for the woman he knows is his life mate. Her stalker continues to threaten her; as this hybrid killer also claims Caprise as his mate.

The latest Shadow Shifters romantic urban fantasy (see Temptation Rising and Seduction’s Shift) is an action-packed entry; as A.C. Arthur expands her realm by introducing other tribes and a new hybrid. The lead couple is a nice pairing of flawed feisty mates though their first encounter following her performance seems very doubtful; while the psychotic villain adds sinister tension to an exciting triangle of life and death.

Harriet Klausner

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