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

August 23, 2013

Wrath-Bearing Tree-James Enge

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

Wrath-Bearing Tree
James Enge
Pyr, Aug 20 2013, $18.00
ISBN 9781616147815

The son of the mighty Merlin Ambrosius, the hunchback Morlock knows he has quite a lineage to live up to especially since his father is a traitor. On top of that his siblings are do-gooders. Still he does his best.

The Graith of Guardians assigns Morlock and Aloe Oaij to investigate the murder of a lesser God in Kaen, a land not under their sworn jurisdiction. The two agents travel by sea before crashing onto the Kaen coast. They quickly find out that their nemesis Two Powers twin gods Fate and Chaos are involved once again (see A Guile of Dragons). Nothing is smooth on this trek as danger mounts from natural enemies fighting each other for power. Frightened Gods claim their protection as much as their souls; Andhrakar the demon has demands; acrimonious exiled Merlin thinks his offspring is mad; while A Guile of Dragons runs amuck causing havoc and further panic; but the worst of all to Morlock is his sister Ambrosia is involved at a time when the Balancer is no more.

The second Tournament of Shadows sword and sorcery fantasy continues the exhilarating prequel escapades of Morlock as a young dwarf (before his later epic adventures – see The Wolf Age, Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way). The thrilling fast-paced storyline grips S&S quest fans from the moment Merlin uses the brain of an atheist to escape a lesser God and never slows down until the final anticipated family affair.

Harriet Klausner

May 9, 2013

Defender of the Flame-Sylvia Engdahl

Defender of the Flame
Sylvia Engdahl
Ad Stellae Books, Apr 20 2013
ISBN: 9780615804347

Starship pilot Lieutenant Terry Radnor is irate and desolate when Fleet headquarters abruptly without explanation reassign him from his assignment at Centuri Ops Center where he was due to command on his next explorer mission to the desolate training base on Titan. He assumes the brass wants him to instruct future pilots to explore space. Drew Larrson welcomes Terry, but warns him he will go stir crazy like all of the other pilot exiles.

After seeing psychiatrist Dr. Aldren, Admiral Derham asks Terry if he would volunteer to be part of a top secret project involving a new type of psychological and physical training. He signs the life-binding Extraordinary Secrets Acknowledgment agreement, but is quickly transferred to the Shepard. As a contented Terry finds his life-calling and Allison, he suddenly loses everything except his need to regain what he once had in order to protect Ciencia.

The third Flame futuristic science fiction (see Stewards of the Flame and Promise of the Flame) is a fabulous twisting outer space thriller that will keep readers wondering what next will happen to the protagonist. Character driven by Terry, readers will enjoy his exploits and also appreciate his ethics as he learns inconvenient truths that tear his core values asunder.

Harriet Klausner

March 13, 2013

Earth Girl-Janet Edwards

Earth Girl
Janet Edwards
PYR, Mar 5 2013, $17.95
ISBN: 9781616147655

By 2788 one out of a thousand earthlings are unable to use the portals to travel to other planets. Those immune system challenged one tenth per-centers are considered handicapped as they are Planet One-bound.

The parents abandoned newborn Jarra because her handicap meant she could not live away from earth; so they dumped her there. Now eighteen years old, Jarra, tired of the inane prejudicial Neanderthal ape jokes and a lover of history, plans to prove her worthiness. She masquerades as a normal offspring of a military family from a different portal than that used by her biological parents and becomes a student of University Asgard where she meets Fian. During an archeological dig in what was once Manhattan, a twentieth century skyscraper collapses on a research team; the most experienced on excavations, Jarra becomes a key rescuer. A solar storm forces an earth evacuation that would prove fatal to the abnormal, but instead those orbiting make their first earth landing in six centuries with Jarra key to their staying alive.

Earth Girl is an entertaining futuristic science fiction thriller that focuses on a brave heroine trying to prove to the majority that society thrives when everyone is welcomed inside the tent; prejudice harms more than just the obvious recipients. Obstinate and steadfast, Jarra is an engaging teen as she makes a case that an Earth Girl ape can do much of what the Norms do; in many cases better.

Harriet Klausner

February 17, 2013

The Arena Man-Steve Englehart

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

The Arena Man
Steve Englehart
Tor, Feb 19 2013, $28.99
ISBN: 9780765325006

In between his war against supernatural evil, former Vietnam grunt Max August the immortal but destructible magic practitioner and his apprentice lover Pam continue their unsuccessful search for the lost soul of his first wife Val. The pair ends their current investigation when they learn troubling information. The Necklace cabal of international magickal societal leaders and the demonic Belia’al have united. The powerful malevolent union plans to deploy Black Ops and magick to cause an attack that will gain everyone’s focus as thousands will die from their mass murder against man.

At the same time Alexsandra the diabola pretends to be the lover of the Gemstone leader of the Necklace Lawrence Breckenridge. She hides her real agenda behind her farcical tryst as her plot is to defeat Belia’al. Max takes over the identity of a dead conspirator (whose body he places in the Collective Unconscious) in order to get inside to learn what the cabal and the demon plot. At the same time, Pam seems trapped inside the Subconscious even as she needs to bring the Key to Max.

The latest Max August fantasy (see The Plain Man and The Long Man) is an exhilarating hyper-paced thriller. With a comic book style of non-stop action, series fans will relish this rousing entry as Max knows he must be a mad man playing the superhero to save those who disdain him against a seemingly invincible enemy who has the support of those same people he tries to rescue (to the PR goes the masses).

Harriet Klausner

November 9, 2012

Angel In Chains-Cynthia Eden

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

Angel In Chains
Cynthia Eden
Kensington Brava, Nov 27 2012, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758267634

Azrael had been the most powerful Angel of Death in Heaven before he became one of the Fallen and burned six months ago. Now he angrily lives in the Hell known as New Orleans by the humans who dwell on death and stink. He lives for one thing: escaping this hellish realm by returning to golden Heaven.

Azrael comes across a pack of were-panthers surrounding a seemingly helpless mortal female. He intervenes unaware that Jade Pierce has fled from her former evil lover who obsesses over her return. No longer wanting to run, Jade believes the supernatural power of Azrael might allow her to stop retreating. Thus she plans to seduce the powerful stranger while he struggles with his desire for her and his craving to go home.

The latest Fallen romantic urban fantasy (see Angel Betrayed) is a strong entry that combines a powerful suspense with a heated paranormal love story. Fast-paced from the moment of the heavenly intervention and never slowing down, fans will appreciate the human and the Fallen finding salvation in each other.

Harriet Klausner

October 4, 2012

The Stockholm Octavo-Karen Engelmann

Filed under: Author: E,Title: S

The Stockholm Octavo
Karen Engelmann
Ecco, Oct 23 2012, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061995347

In 1791, Offices of Customs and Excise Sekretaire Emil Larsson loves the life of a swinging single in enlightened Stockholm. He enjoys drinking, playing cards and is contented as a bachelor though his employment is in jeopardy if he fails to marry soon.

Everything changes for Emil when he meets gambling club owner Sofia Sparrow. A fortune teller whose clientele include King Gustav III, Mrs. Sparrow lays out the bureaucrat’s personal Octavo of eight people who will assist him in finding his fiancée and a promotion. What she fails to tell him is that his Octavo overlaps with hers in a Divine Geometrical connection and that his octet is divided on both sides of a scheme involving the monarch.

This is a fresh thrilling Swedish historical fantasy that ties what is happening in France to what occurs in Sweden. The opening act is incredible as readers learn of aristocratic intrigue and the applications of the pseudo sciences (Divine geometry, numerology, hand fan magic and cartomancy). Soon Emil’s search by the numbers for a wife via the Octavo contacts lead to the demands of opposing female conspirators (Mrs. Sparrow and Baroness Kristina Uzanne). Complex due to changing roles and relationships (thankfully a cast listing included as there are fourteen key players and the city), readers will appreciate this strong though at times convoluted late eighteenth century tale as the audience and the protagonist learn it is in the cards.

Harriet Klausner

September 18, 2012

Forge of Darkness-Steven Erikson

Filed under: Author: E,Fantasy

Forge of Darkness
Steven Erikson
Tor, Sep 18 2012, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765323569

In in Kurald Galain, the Tiste people look forward to the peace after a brutal war against the Forulkan and the Jheleck. However, the militia having no external hostilities to fight refuses to give up power earned during the war and argue between themselves over leadership. Additionally, the three prime Tiste races (the Andii, Liosan and Edur) also are divided as the eight-Highborn noble families covet more affluence and influence.

In this hodgepodge of potential violence, Tiste ruler Mother Dark chose Draconus as a lover. This angers the other noble families who feel their ruler slapped them with picking Draconus; as in their minds the consort is a nonentity lesser Highborn while each of the other aristocratic houses expected one of their members selected. Even the commoners take issue with Draconus as they demand Mother Dark choose their hero Vatha Urusander. Civil was seems imminent.

The opening entry in The Kharkanas Trilogy prequel to the Malazan Book of the Fallen is a fascinating tale that occurs centuries before any event (including flashbacks) in the main saga. The engaging storyline focuses on how they got here questions from the series though there remain older historical events (including new references). Well-written for fans of the Malazan although there is no closure, readers will appreciate this epic prequel.

Harriet Klausner

September 15, 2012

Skarlet-Thomas Emson

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

Thomas Emson
St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 2 2012, $14.99
ISBN 9780312621704

At Religion, a club in London, twenty-eight partygoers take a new drug Skarlet. Anyone who did take it dies. Police Superintendent Phil Burch suspects club bouncer, disgraced veteran Jake Lawton killed these people. Jake had the means with his Iraqi tour; the opportunity as his boss supported by two employees implies he stole the tape of what happened, and the motive since his estranged girlfriend is one of the victims. Insisting he is being set up as he was in Iraq Jake storms out of the club.

Forty-eight hours after the clubbers died, each victim rises from the grave with a thirst for live blood. Reporter Christine Murray who destroyed him allegedly for killing an unarmed civilian in Iraq and Lithgow the dealer who brought the drugs to Religion join Jake as they battle an ancient conspiracy fostered by human avarice.

This is a superb vampire thriller that stars a scapegoat hero and a strong support cast. The fast-paced storyline deftly merges pathos with gore. Fans will enjoy exciting Skarlet as the drug of choice becomes blood.

Harriet Klausner

September 9, 2012

Fallen Masters-John Edward

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

Fallen Masters
John Edward
Tor, Sep 18 2012, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765332714

Astronomers locate the dark mass and determine that the cloud hurtles toward the Earth like an arrow targeting a bulls-eye. However scientists are bewildered as to what this phenomenon is and how to prevent a calamity. Religious leaders representing all denominations are also at a loss as to what can be done. NASA scientist Jason Chang informs the President of the United States that Dark Matter has appeared from apparently a location in the Abell 2744 galaxy cluster with a trajectory destination earth.

Internationally respected inspirational singer Charlene St John heads to Mexico for her last performance as she has terminal cancer and is hoping to gain an audience with the Lady of Guadalupe; whom many believe is the Virgin Mary. Psychic Mama G envisions evil in space that will make humanity extinct unless this malevolence can be stopped. Surgeon Tyler Michaels lost his wife and unborn child while he saved someone else. He and Nurse Rae bond as both feel the cloud traveling towards earth is evil coming to destroy mankind. The dark horde waits for their advanced party to complete the first mission including the assassination of the American President and the abduction of the First Son as destination earth has begun.

Fallen Masters is an entertaining good vs. evil thriller that focuses on mankind’s final days in which the last hope is the inherent goodness in most people. The storyline makes a plea for readers to allow their inner spiritual goodness to flow free in order to make a better place to live for everyone. Although the characters are stereotypical to the nth degree, John Edwards’ fans will enjoy the psychic’s novelization of his spiritual message.

Harriet Klausner

August 19, 2012

Guile of Dragons-James Enge

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

Guile of Dragons
James Enge
PYR, Aug 24 2912, $17.95
ISBN 9781616146283

In the Whitehorns, the Longest War between the Seven Clans of dwarves of Thrymhaiam and the dragons went unabated seemingly forever beneath the Northhold. When the dragons gain new allies in the dead kings of Cor and the masked gods of Fate and Chaos, victory seems imminent as they cut off their enemies from the Graith of Guardians as they kill many dwarves; take numerous prisoners; and change some with their evil dragonspells. The dwarves’ stronghold Northhold is on the brink of collapse.

The last hope for the dwarves is Morlock Ambrosius, son of traitor Merlin Ambrosius (and Nimue Viviana). However, Summoner Earno thinks Morlock betrays the dwarves like his sire did when shipments stop and Guardians vanish. Morlock and his foster father Tyr syr Theorn try to discover who is betraying the dwarves when the lad learns the true secrets of the Longest War.

The first book in the latest Morlock Tournament of Shadows fantasy is an exhilarating prequel thriller that showcases the escapades of the hero as a young dwarf (before his later adventures – see The Wolf Age, Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way). In many ways Morlock is more fascinating in this epic as he considers himself a son of syr Theornthan the legendary Merlin. Readers will appreciate the action-packed storyline as Morlock may be the last savior of the dwarves but has to constantly prove his loyalty.

Harriet Klausner

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