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

November 6, 2013

Siren’s Secret-Debbie Herbert

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

Siren’s Secret
Debbie Herbert
Harlequin Nocturne, Nov 5 2013, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373885825

Because of her hybrid human-mer DNA, with the exceptions of her cousins (Jet and Lily who adore her), her purebred sea-living compatriots treat Shelley Connor with disdainful superiority. A physical therapist, she enjoys late nocturnal swims. While on a midnight swim, Shelley sees someone disposing of a corpse several miles at sea; the killer sees her and knifes her before she escapes.

Shelly fears the culprit will come after her, but conceals part of the truth from Sheriff Tillman Angier, who recently returned to the Bayou to help his widow mom care for his autistic brother. Attracted to Tillman, Shelley instead turns to Jet and Lily as to what to do. Jet says kill the predator and poetical justice dump his body in the ocean while Lily and Shelley insist they plant evidence so that Tillman can arrest the psychopath. However Tillman knows Shelley hides something from him and the three cousins are suspects due to their tampering; while the murderer plays chess with the half-mermaid and her two relatives.

Rotating first person accounts between Shelly, Tillman and Melkie the killer, Siren’s Secret is an engaging romantic police procedural urban fantasy. The lead couple and her cousins are three-dimensional flaws and all; on the other hand Melkie is one dimensional and the Mer race underdeveloped. Still readers will relish this taut thriller as the Three Musketeers battle a stalking maniac at the same time the sheriff and the mixed race siren fall in love.

Harriet Klausner

September 18, 2013

The Demon’s Wife-Rick Hautala

Filed under: Author: H,Horror,Title: D

The Demon’s Wife
Rick Hautala
JournalStone, Sep 13 2013, $18.95
ISBN: 9781936564958

In Portland, Maine, lonely and bored Claire McMullen works as a purchasing agent for Montressor; her time spent inside her broom closet-sized office is listening to a Philadelphia radio station streaming over the internet and checking out social media sites. She shares an apartment with Sally Lewis, who persuades Claire to stop at the Margarita Grille before they see The Economy perform.

At the Grille, Sally flirts with Samael, but he focuses on Claire. When someone assaults her just outside, Samael rescues Claire. She goes to the hospital, but once released Samael takes her home. When they finally make love, Claire is stunned by his lack of the usual male tools and by how sensational his tail proves to be. However, Claire fears he wants her soul for some nefarious purpose besides love’s redemption. As Samael makes his case that they belong together, raging demons believe this coupling is a sinful transgression of the natural order and must end with the human banished for eternity.

The Demon’s Wife is an engaging romantic urban fantasy starring two fascinating characters falling into a taboo love that shakes the eternal cold war order of Heaven and Hell. Fast-paced with plenty of action and strange bedfellows; the demons mount a campaign to end this immoral horror and the angels reluctantly protect the partnering. Samael’s reformation never feels right as he recognizes his nasty history though love enables him to say Honest to God. Still fans will appreciate the late Rick Hautala’s wicked relationship drama; summed up by Milton in Paradise Lost: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

Harriet Klausner

Dead of Night-Charlaine Harris and Amanda Stevens

Dead of Night
Charlaine Harris and Amanda Stevens
Mira, Sep 24 2013, $11.95
ISBN: 9780778314769

“Dancers In The Dark.” Dancer Rue May answers an ad for job dancing with vampires at Blue Moon Entertainment and Black Moon Productions. Rue gets the job. Vampire Sean O’Rourke finds he is attracted to the mortal, but believes she is hiding something. As he tries to learn the truth about Rue, they fall in love, but her actions leave her in danger from an unknown person who is part of the troupe.

“The Devil’s Footprints.” The cloven footprints first appeared in Adamanet, Alabama in 1922 during a freak snowstorm; nothing further was found. Seven decades later, the battered mutilated corpse of seventeen year old Rachel DeLaune is found in the same area with those same devil’s footprints nearby. Her younger sister Sarah thinks Ashe Cain killed her sibling, but no one else believes he exists. Fourteen years later in New Orleans, Sarah remains disturbed by her sister’s death. Two mutilated corpses are found near her home with those same telltale cloven footprints. Her ex-lover, New Orleans Detective Sean Kelton leads the homicide investigation; he asks Sarah to interpret strange etchings on the bodies. She immediately thinks of Ashe and wonders if he is coming for her.

These reprints of two taut thrillers grip the reader throughout though Dancers In The Dark is a romantic paranormal and The Devil’s Footprints keeps readers guessing whether it is horror or psychological suspense.

Harriet Klausner

September 15, 2013

The Man Who Sold The Moon/Orphans of the Sky-Robert A. Heinlein

The Man Who Sold The Moon/Orphans of the Sky
Robert A. Heinlein
Baen, Sep 3 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451639223

This fabulous Future History collection contains an accompanying timeline dating the stories over several centuries while also summarizing the significant events and characters. All the entries are well written and many timely today while also influencing movies and books; though in some tales the characters are underdeveloped (to fit magazine space) and the science wrong. Readers will appreciate the intriguing brilliant underlying social and political concepts as Robert A. Heinlein shows his genius with these shorts.

“The Man Who Sold The Moon”: In “Life Line” the machine tells when a person will die, but not how they and their loved ones will react. They discover an efficient effective electric source but the power companies say no to “Let There Be Light.” Society depends on those who insure “The Roads Must Roll” as the only means of transportation. The workers feel the pressure of keeping atomic energy safe aware of “Blowups Happen.” Harriman needs financial backing for his planned space trip so “The Man Who Sold the Moon” produces a scheme to turn a profit from investors. Much older and ailing, Harriman still dreams of going to the moon in “Requiem.”

“Orphans of the Sky”: Since the mutiny several generations ago, the multi-generational lower level voyagers think their “Universe” consist of the ship drifting through space; as none believe in existence outside the vessel until Hoyland meets upper level mutants who teach him the truth. Using “Common Sense” Hoyland tries to persuade his people that their acceptable belief system is false.

Harriet Klausner

July 26, 2013

A Study In Silks-Emma Jane Holloway

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

A Study In Silks
Emma Jane Holloway
Del Rey, Sep 24 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345537188

While the ruthless steam barons rule 1888 London, Evelina Cooper enjoys science and is skillful with magic (ask Mouse and Bird) though the sorcery must be hidden as those in power claim this is the demon’s tool worthy of death or incarceration in a prison lab. In spite of being the niece of the renowned Sherlock Holmes, Evelina knows the elopement of her parents from two polar opposite worlds permanently brushed her with their scandal. The father of her BFF Imogen Roth has allowed her to stay with them at Hilliard House for her debut; as she chose her mother’s aristocratic past over her father’s traveling show heritage, but realistic Evelina also realizes if scandal touches her he will kick her out. Imogen’s dissolute brother Tobias does not care what happens to Evelina as long as she sleeps with him and Nick who joined a traveling show to find her has reentered her life.

In Hilliard House, Evelina is horrified when she finds the murdered corpse of a woman. Tobias arrives and recognizes the victim as Grace the maid. After consulting with Imogen, both agree that Evelina’s uncle would investigate. Thus motivated, the two friends look into the homicide; ignorant of how dangerous their probe will prove to them and their families from powerful barons.

The first The Baskerville Affair, A Study In Silks, is a strong steampunk Victorian mystery. The Holloway world is vivid as the author uses a myriad of characters to paint an alternate refreshing realm though there is some repetition. Fans will enjoy the adventures of Sherlock’s niece even if scarlet at times supersedes silk as Emma Jane Holloway provides a fresh Holmes whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

July 4, 2013

The Outcast Prince-Shona Husk

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

The Outcast Prince
Shona Husk
Sourcebooks, Jul 2 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402280160

Lydia Callaway inherited irreparable Callaway House, home of illicit affairs, from her late grandmother, but though she wants to restore it to its glory, she may have to sell it as her mother received all the money. As it is she hosts a garage sale to bring in needed cash. Caspian Mort, a rare fairy changeling born on earth rather than in Annwyn, walks around assessing and touching things with reverence as his psychometric ability shows him the object’s history. He offers to buy a mirror that used to creep out Lydia’s mom as a portal it can look into Annwyn where a power struggles has disrupted the kingdom.

Fairies search for Caspian who prefers his life with the mortals. A Gray, seeking the mirror, stalks him and his father the beleaguered king demands The Outcast Prince come to his ancestal home. As Caspian and Lydia become acquainted, the residue of the past acts as a matchmaker. Falling in love, though wary after Natalie, Caspian vows to keep his Lydia safe from the Annwyn conflict seeping into the mortal realm.

Leaving Goblins in The Shadowlands, Shona Husk begins a romantic fantasy series starring fairies who are amoral by human standards. The protagonists are a fabulous pairing who because of the demand on Caspian become star-crossed while if they met earlier would have been ignored. The storyline opens leisurely introducing the species (but fails to develop interracial and intra-racial relations), key players (for instance Caspian’s touch adds fascinating anecdotal history) and the scenarios in two realms. Readers will enjoy the opening Annwyn thriller as civil war amongst the fairies seems imminent.

Harriet Klausner

May 16, 2013

Dark Star Dawning-Elyse Hendricks

Dark Star Dawning
Elyse Hendricks
ImaJinn, Apr 30 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9781610261272

Victoria Hart grew up a wanderer as her mother could not stay in any one place for very long. When Tori managed to stay in a residence for more than a cup of milk, she was with a foster family. She relishes settling at one address in Hope, Ohio where she runs an antique shop.

Widower Captain Reese Taren arrives in Hope seeking the Heart of Destiny, an artifact he does not believe exists but his Emperor sent him to find it to save what is left of his world from alien invaders. He kidnaps Tori who Reese thinks is the key to destroying the feral enemy he loathes for killing his wife, child and others. However, he never expected her to be his Heart of Destiny, but knows what must happen to his beloved to save a world and perhaps a universe.

Dark Star Dawning is an entertaining science fiction romance starring a heroic male and a bewildered female feeling out of her element within a worlds collide setting. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy the dilemma the lead couple confronts as the risk for Tori is almost certain death, but doing nothing means billions die. Although the plot contains several inconsistencies, Elyse Hendricks provides an engaging sci fi love story.

Harriet Klausner

Shield of Sea and Space-Erin Hoffman

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

Shield of Sea and Space
Erin Hoffman
PYR, May 7 2013, $18.00
ISBN: 9781616147693

The Tesseract magic practitioner Vidarian Rulorat wants to avoid conflict for two powerful motives: his partner Ariadel and their newborn. However, desires do not always happen in real life as Vidarian knows his time at Calphille is ending soonest due to the devious machinations of the Alorean Import Company merchant cabal who want to control all magic on Andover. The affluent diabolical Alorean Import Company has goaded kingdoms into wars leaving nations bankrupt and in debt; forcing Vidarian to leave court seeking allies against the merchant cabal.

Vidarian opened the gate between worlds and freed Starhunter the goddess of chaos. She brought back wild magic to Andovar; leading to shape- changers and elemental technologies. The evil cabal needs to cleanse the realm of most of the newcomers in order to control all of the magic so as to complete their plan to rule the world.

The third Chaos Knight fantasy (see Sword of Fire and Sea and Lance of Earth and Sky) is an exhilarating thriller as a final war will determine the future of a world. With a shot at the military-industrial-congressional complex, fans will relish Kate Hoffman’s fabulous mythos as readers will believe in species like gryphons due to the actions of Altair and Khalesh who make the unbelievable believable.

Harriet Klausner

May 9, 2013

Undone-Sara Humphreys

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

Sara Humphreys
Sourcebooks, May 7 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402258527

Depressed by not finding her mate as she passes her thirtieth birthday, Pure-blooded Bear Clan Amoveo Marianna Coltari, a Kodiak bear shapeshifter, feels her powers waning. To avoid her race, she hides at the Vampire owned Coven, but Hayden arrives there anyway as he wants her as his Mate. Meanwhile her twin brother Dante (see Untouched) fears the violent Purists will assault his Pure Blood sibling for remaining Mateless with so many of their kind to breed with. Thus he orders human Pete Castro, a former cop who works at Dante’s Inferno Securities, to keep Marianna safe from the Purists.

As they hide from those who want to use Marianna, Pete is attracted to her but will not act on his feelings because his first need is to protect her; besides he believes a purebred human is a lesser species than a purebred Amoveo. Marianna dreams about Pete, which she knows means he is her mate and she will act on her feelings.

The fourth Amoveo Legend paranormal romance (see Untamed and Unleashed) is undeniably a fabulous entry as star-crossed soul mates fall in love while being in the crosshairs of an impending species civil war that will determine dilution or ethnic cleansing purification. With a fully developed cast that makes the Humphreys mythos seem genuine, series fans will appreciate Sara Humphreys’ latest super romantic urban fantasy as the Amoveo Legend saga continues to be great.

Harriet Klausner

April 27, 2013

Blood of Dragons-Robin Hobb

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

Blood of Dragons
Robin Hobb
Harper Voyager, Apr 9 2013, $27.99
ISBN 9780062116857

The Elderlings human-dragon hybrids reestablish the lost city of Kelsingra so that the young dragons they have pledged to protect can thrive. However, most of the fledglings cannot fly across the river to their new sanctuary, which leaves them exposed. The dying Duke of Chalced needs dragons to live; thus he has hunters stalking the beasts so that he can extract their life sustaining attributes.

Meanwhile the ancient dragon queen Tintaglia also struggles for her life after a vicious attack by Chalced mercenaries seeking blood for their duke. Her followers scream for war against the humans who committed this audacious atrocity. At the same time the Elderlings search for Silver so that the dragons do not lose their memories of their true form especially within a city filled with species’ memories.

The latest Rain Wilds Chronicles epic fantasy involves a vast rotating cast so that the engaging storyline always seems slightly off kilter yet works for those who read the previous entries (see Dragon Keeper, Dragon Haven and City of Dragons) as the depth makes the world of Hobb seem genuine. Fans will enjoy the confrontation between the good (Thymara), the bad (Chalced) and the ugly (Hest).

Harriet Klausner

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