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

March 13, 2014

Shadowmaster-Susan Krinard

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

Shadowmaster
Susan Krinard
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 4 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373885916

In the San Francisco enclave, Aegis Director of Operations Chen assigns half-dhampir agent Phoenix Stryker to uncover the identity of Draken and prevent this killer from assassinating a senator. Chen chose Stryker for this dangerous mission because she believes this lethal Opiri assassin is most likely heterosexual and thus unable to resist the call of dhampir blood.

Getting inside his camp, Stryker meets Draken, but instead of being a deadly monster as her superior described, she finds a caring person who wants to end the ugly exiling of criminals to Erebus where they are used for sustenance or slaves by the Opiri. He also has a personal agenda to avenge the destruction of his loved ones. However, Draken revises his goals to include keeping the newcomer he cherishes safe.

The latest Nightsiders romantic fantasy (see Nightmaster and Daysider) is an action-packed thriller that nicely blends desire with peril. Though the overarching drums of war fails to move forward much, readers will relish this taut twisting storyline as the lead couple has some complex decisions to make in which each choice seems overwhelmingly lethal to them.

Harriet Klausner

December 9, 2013

Alien Research-Gini Koch

Alien Research
Gini Koch
DAW, Dec 3 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780756409432

While completing Operation Sherlock A-C Ambassador Jeff Martini was named to fill the vacant New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District seat (see Alien In The House). His wife Kitty Katt-Martini remains the A-C Ambassador, a position they shared.

Protestors spoil breakfast with her daughter Jamie and their friends by a garbage assault on their limo followed by the new leader of Club 51 in her face telling her that the aliens and their human Quislings will soon die. Kitty returns to the Embassy only to learn some Congressional reps want the FBI to launch an inquiry into the events at Gaultier Enterprises and Titan Security. However she has no time to react to that undesirable news as A-C Embassy Security Chief Walter from his training site contacts Kitty with the fact that he and his staff are in trouble. The situation turns further dire when the impossible occurs with the hacking of the highly protected Centaurion files culminating with the destruction of the in-house data. Kitty knows that only the legendary rumored to exist Chernobog the Ultimate could have performed this task.

Although the trademark cultural misunderstandings humor is much less than normal in this darker than usual entry, readers will enjoy the latest Alien science fiction (see Alien Diplomacy). Once again the size of the cast expanded making the need of a Cecil De Mille sized cast scorecard a necessity while the paranormal rescues feel overused. Still series fans will appreciate this exhilarating thriller as Kitty Katt and company face several dangerous attacks.

Harriet Klausner

October 31, 2013

Dead Set-Richard Kadrey

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

Dead Set
Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager, Oct 29 2013, $22.99
ISBN 9780062283016

After the unexpected death of her father, grieving sixteen years old Zoe and her mother who has no time to mourn their loss move into a run-down apartment in San Francisco. They are broke and cannot afford for Zoe to regularly check her email. Zoe does not hate this apartment, but feels miserable there and at her new school while her dreams frighten her except for mysterious Valentine who she does not know always being there.

The enthusiasm Zoe’s late father had for punk bands is her fondest memory of him. When Zoe meets music store owner Ammut, she feels a connection her dad. Ammut tells her he can arrange for her to meet her father’s spirit. Excited Zoe ends up in Iphigene; where trapped souls like that of her father linger for eternity. Zoe’s deceased brother she never knew existed welcomes her and guides her as she tries to help her dead family members move on from an evil despot and ultimately for her to return to her mom.

This is a fabulous young adult allegory that looks deep into grief as everyone mourns a loss differently. Although the storyline contains no twists, readers will feel the depth of despair Zoe carries in her heart and the burden of the Dead Set denizen stuck in Iphigene in this profound fable.

Harriet Klausner

October 25, 2013

The Iron Traitor-Julie Kagawa

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

The Iron Traitor
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen, Oct 29 2013
ISBN: 9780373210916

Iron Queen Meghan Chase’s younger brother Ethan wanted nothing to do with his sibling’s Iron Realm Nevernever after spending a traumatic time as an abducted four year old in that abomination (see The Iron King). In the normal realm, Ethan hid his true nature behind an angry tough guy loner façade until he met Mackenzie St. James at his new school. That encounter eventually led to his return accompanied by her to the last place he wanted to visit (see The Lost Prince).

After a week in Faeryland, he is back in normal land, hopefully with Kenzie as her boyfriend. The cops question him re shell shocked Todd and Kenzie whose parents order her not to see Ethan again after he explains that he drove her to New York for a week. Meanwhile Ethan’s same age as him nephew Keirran, who he met for the first time on his recent visit to his sister, vanished. The family fears the teenager plans to raise the deadly Forgotten. Feeling a sense of responsibility that he knows sucks Ethan must stop his relative before he devastates two realms.

The second entertaining Iron Fey Call of the Forgotten urban fantasy (see The Lost Prince) continues to focus on Ethan who no longer is an angry teen since he has friends and family to care what happens to them especially Kenzie. Though it behooves the audience to read the previous book to better understand the protagonist (and for that matter Meghan’s saga – see The Iron King, The Iron Queen and The Iron Daughter), fans will enjoy this entry as Ethan learns the importance of family.

Harriet Klausner

September 17, 2013

Styxx-Sherrilyn Kenyon

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

Styxx
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s, Sep 3 2013, $27.99
ISBN: 9781250029881

In tenth century BC, twin brothers Acheron and Styxx were separated as young children. Their sire King Archon preferred their deaths but feared the Oracle’s prophecy especially re Acheron. Over the millenniums both sons faced endless torture. When Acheron died, the omen proved true as horror came to devastate the world. Though he did not want to return to save those who spurned him when he lived especially his distrusting twin and raging sire, Archon saved the world.

Years after Archon’s heroism, Prince Styxx still struggles to retain his humanity after over a hundred centuries of torment at the hands of his insane father and his sire’s wrathful followers. When Styxx and blind Bethany meet they fall in love. As the Goddess of Wrath and Misery, Bethany must right the wrong Acheron caused and dispatch him to hell’s pantheon of dead deities. However, Styxx changes the dynamics as he risks his life to prevent the malevolence that Acheron once faced from destroying the world.

This epic fantasy is a profound Dark Hunter companion piece to Acheron; as more than half of the book follows a similar timeline but this tale is from the older twin’s anguished perspective. The abuse and rage Styxx’s received for eleven millennia (and hundreds of pages) are persistently atrocious and graphic as the protagonist is a victim of his father’s psychotic paranoia. The romance is a secondary but is a critical subplot as Bethany brings to the angry adult a chance for something wonderful though she remains fixated on killing the twin he learned from his father to hate; yet ironically love mellows him but a lifetime of loathing is hard to ignore.

Harriet Klausner

July 26, 2013

The Dark Man-Stephen King

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

The Dark Man
Stephen King
Cemetery Dance, Jul 30 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781587674211

He is the ultimate dangerous wanderer because as the outsider with no attachments, he loathes those with friends and families. In his denims, fuming with rage 24/7 he nightmarishly rides the rails frightening the hobos who recognize what he is and what he is not; or hitches at night with those moronically picking him up learning too late why he is The Dark Man.

A forerunner of Randall Flagg, Stephen King wrote this aptly titled short poem while in college. Artist Glenn Chadbourne provides his interpretation through approximately seventy intriguing illustrations to the 200 or so dark words. Fans of Mr. King will enjoy this entry though the picture to word ratio at times fragments the structure of the dark ode.

Harriet Klausner

June 7, 2013

Smoking Hot-Karen Kelley

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

Smoking Hot
Karen Kelley
Sourcebooks, Jun 4 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402263927

Raine McCandless left the life of a cop on dangerous patrol in a bad neighborhood of Fort Worth to come home to comatose Randolph, Texas as a Sheriff’s Deputy because her Grandpa needed her. After completing the night shift, Raine comes home only to find a Smoking Hot stranger inside waiting for her.

Dillon Taylor claims he is an immortal nephilim hybrid angel-man. He has come to prevent Raine from dying in a robbery that turns ugly. When the bank robbery occurs, her boss suspects Raine and her Grandpa committed the crime. Dillon must find a way to keep the purebred human, who fans the flames of heat inside him, out of prison. Raine realizes she must focus on the investigation but she knows “where there’s heat” there’s distracting desire.

Smoking Hot is a heated romantic urban fantasy starring two full blooded protagonists and a strong secondary cast. The mystery is clever with fabulous twists and red herrings that will have readers and the heroine wondering who robbed the bank while the romance seemingly has no future. Karen Kelley provides a wonderful tale.

Harriet Klausner

June 2, 2013

The Girl With The Iron Touch-Kady Cross

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

The Girl With The Iron Touch
Kady Cross
Harlequin Teen, May 28 2013, $17.99
ISBN: 9780373210855

In 1897 London, automatons apparently working for the remnants of the evil Machinist kidnap Emily O’Brien because of her mechanical skills. They demand she place the brain of Leonardo Garibaldi into automaton 312; their late master’s creation which is more human than mechanical. She refuses as she does not want another battle to the death with another Machinist. When her abductors threaten her straynge friends (Finley Jayne, Lord Griffin King and Sam Morgan), Emily knows she must fake cooperation while stalling the transplant until she escapes or is rescued.

Meanwhile Emily’s three buddies desperately search for her. Finley Jayne pleads with master criminal Jack Dandy to help save Emily; Jack kisses her shaking and confusing her heart as she loves Griffin. The Aether beckons Griffin who fears he is losing his mind, but deals with his sanity alone as expected of an aristocrat. Though more machine than man, a panicked Sam knows his heart and soul propels him to search forever for the female he loves.

The latest Girl With Steampunk Chronicles historical fantasy (see The Girl in the Steel Corset and The Girl in the Clockwork Collar) is a terrific entry that grips readers from the moment Emily is snatched and never loosens that hold unto a final confrontation. Action-packed yet vividly described, teen readers will think they crossed over into an alternate late Victorian London in a coming of age thriller; as the trio and their allies struggle with runaway emotions that could betray the rescue mission while at the same so does the abductee.

Harriet Klausner

May 6, 2013

Inferno-Sherrilyn Kenyon

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

Inferno
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s Griffin, Apr 9 2013, $18.99
ISBN: 9781250002839

The Cajun-demon Nick Gautier turned sixteen with concerns that seemingly everyone wants him dead. He has no friends as he learned firsthand to trust no one. The nearest individual to an ally Death wants him dead but warns him even his loved ones will betray him. Stunned Nick confronts his girlfriend Nekoda Kennedy, who confesses she must prevent a future Nick from becoming the Malachai who ended the world by stopping him now. Dumping Nekoda, being a teen Nick turns to Casey the cheerleader.

Enemies attack Nick and his Malachai father with no regard to collateral damage as they rationalize all will die otherwise. However, as their adversaries deploy increasingly deadlier assaults without success, they desperately turn to an ancient they cannot control. Nick soon concludes he must risk his life to stop the abomination threatening the world and also keep the future Nick from ending the world from happening while dating.

The latest Chronicles of Nick (see Infamous, Invisible and Infinity) is an action-packed twisting fantasy as the protagonist struggles to survive, save the world and find a date who does not want to kill him. Action-packed, fans will enjoy this entry although feel frustrated with the abrupt cliffhanger climax requiring a wait for book five.

Harriet Klausner

April 24, 2013

Without A Summer-Mary Robinette Kowal

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

Without A Summer
Mary Robinette Kowal
Tor, Apr 2 2013, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765334152

In 1816 England is suffering from an extremely cold summer due to volcanic activity. Glamour artists Jane and David Vincent recover from their horrible working honeymoon and her miscarriage in Blinche, Belgium (see Glamour in the Glass) at her family home. When the couple decides to accept am Irish Catholic couple as clients, they leave Long Parkmeade to return to their London house with Jane’s depressed sister Melody joining them as she has no suitors while rusticating.

At a time when the freezing weather is blamed on the magic using Coldmongers and the raging Luddites attack machinery, Jane and David fear that Alastair O’Brien, son of their current clients, is involved in sedition. Making the situation worse is that Alastair is courting Melody and David’s abusive father comes a calling.

The third Glamourist Histories fantasy (see Shades of Milk and Honey) is an engaging thriller that deftly uses real events like the 1816 weather, the Luddites and the English-Irish dispute; and people like Jane Vincent nee Austen within a London teeming with the magic of glamour. Filled with action after a leisurely start and still seeking a mate for Melody, fans will enjoy this entry as Mary Robinette Kowal paints a fabulous alternate Regency England.

Harriet Klausner

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