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 12, 2012

Hunter’s Rise-Shiloh Walker

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

Hunter’s Rise
Shiloh Walker
Berkley, Apr 3 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425248379

A century ago, Sylvia James was forcibly changed into a vampire. That predatory violence has become a rallying cry for her as she travels as a mostly hired assassin taking down evil. However, she has a code of ethics when accepting a client; including no lying; as Faith Dwyer learns when she tried to employ Sylvia to kill her husband. She also does personal not for profit jobs to kill the psychopaths hunting others.

Hired by the parents of a victim Toby, Sylvia travels to Memphis to kill Alan Pulaski, pedophile. A local enclave of Hunters is also after the same thug. The difference is in the outcome as Sylvia will assassinate the predator while the Hunters will turn him over to the cops; with one exception enigmatic two century at least old Toronto the renegade werewolf Hunter who will first beat the crap out of Pulaski. When Sylvia and Toronto meet, each is shocked by their attraction as both thought their respective hearts died over a century ago. After getting in each other’s way, they team up to hunt a predator.

The latest Hunter romantic urban fantasy (see Hunter’s Salvation, and Hunters: Heart and Soul) is a superb entry due to the lead characters, who share in common desire, outcast status and a disgust with falling in love. As they fall in love, they struggle to keep their eye on the mission but remain diligent to end a reign of terror. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this exciting fast-paced thriller with a fabulous late twist.

Harriet Klausner

December 27, 2010

Tales from the Treasure Trove Volume VII-Carrie S. Masek, Jane Toombs, Janet Lane Walters, Karen Wiesner

Tales from the Treasure Trove Volume VII
Carrie S. Masek, Jane Toombs, Janet Lane Walters, Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Press, Feb 2011, $18.95
ISBN: 9781603133944

“Topaz and the Lucky Seven” by Carrie S. Masek. Zaida the Seven has always kept safe Princess Alma. However, she falls in love with Tarik the bodyguard to one of Alma’s suitors Prince Dale. When almost everyone succumbs to food poisoning, Zaida must decide who gets the lone antidote. A great tale..

“The Turquoise Gown” by Jane Toombs. Obese with poor skin, Theodora expects to remain single. Her stepmother promises her that a magical gown will lead to true love. Theodora visits her Great Aunt, who catches typhoid. This leaves Theodora running the estate, which brings confidence and much more to her. Delightful..

“The Amber Tower” by Janet Lane Walters. The witch enchants Prince Rafel before bringing him to Lamau. He learns his only escape from the amber tower is to marry one of the kingdom’s two princesses. Pragmatic, honest but reticent Jalese competes with beautiful, flirting but treacherous Cyna for the imprisoned prince. Magical.

“Moonlight Becomes You” Karen Wiesner. Lance Shaussegeny rejects his mate Heather who gives birth to their son. She struggles to regain her health while their baby becomes ill too. To save their child’s life, Heather believes she must travel to Woodcutter’s Grim where the strange world of the Shaussegeny clan darkly differs from what she has experienced. A wonderful story..

These are very imaginative refreshing romantic fantasies. Well written and entertaining in spite of the novella format limiting somewhat the impact of the setting, readers will enjoy finding true love in the Jewel of the Quill realms.

Harriet Klausner

June 26, 2009

Elfland-Freda Warrington

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

Elfland
Freda Warrington
Tor, Aug 18 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765318695

Every seven years on the Night of the Summer Stars, the Aetherials routinely move back and forth between the Spiral and the Earth when the gates between realms are opened for a short time. The Aetherials live amongst the earthlings as humans, but must go home periodically to touch their basic essence or go insane.

Their return to home trip abruptly fails this year when for no known reason the Gatekeeper Lawrence Wilder shuts the portal permanently. He proclaims danger is coming from beyond that could destroy the realms, but says nothing further. The Aetherials are stuck on Earth and panic stricken though they have lived safely as mortals amidst the humans; but these Fair Folk will go mad and die if they fail to return home. The daughter of their King Auberon, Rose Fox is attracted to one of the sons of the Gatekeeper, though both offspring Sam and Jon Wilder want her. This is not a good time for romance as the desperate visitors are losing their grips on sanity from failing to touch with their Aetherial selves on the other side of the shuttered gate.

ELFLAND, the first Books of the Silver Wheel saga, is an excellent fantasy due to the refreshing cast as the human, the Aetherial, and the Gatekeeper and his family (especially his sons) seem genuine with all types of personal conflicts and desires. Surprisingly, the story line focuses deep on the relationships (carefully keeping the romance from overwhelming the rest of the plot) between and within the two key families while one brood struggles with sanity while trying to go home. Fans will relish Freda Warrington’s opening gamut and look forward to the rest of this character driven series as the Fair Folks instinctively know time is running out on their minds.

Harriet Klausner

March 11, 2008

Space Vulture

Space Vulture
Gary K. Wolf and John J. Myers
Tor, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765318527

Galactic marshal Captain Victor Corsaire has come to Verlinap, a remote planet to arrest two bit crook Gil Terry. However, before he completes the job, notorious pirate criminal mastermind Space Vulture leads a raid on Verlinap. He captures Corsaire and the planetary administrator Cali Russell.

Space Vulture decides to sell the rights to the renowned law enforcement official to the highest bidder. He invites the dirty dozen, who top the most wanted list to his auction. The highest bidder gets to do what he wants to Corsaire; Vulture leans towards making spunky Cali his toy. On Verlinap, the still free and still wanted Gil helps Cali’s sons by picking pockets while they fix rockets; his goal is to regain his body parts hocked to his bookie whom he lost an arm and a leg and more to before the man sells them at auction; their goal is torescue mom; no one’s goal is to save Corsaire as he can rot in Purgatory as far as the kids and the crooks care.

Saluting the Buck Rogers 1950s space pulp fiction thrillers, SPACE VULTURE is an entertaining throwback tale. The story line is a nostalgic amusement to a pre Star wars era as the heroes seem to jump from one adventure into another. Although the plot is razor thin, fans will enjoy this fun space opera that takes readers back in time.

Harriet Klausner

July 22, 2007

Axis

Axis
Robert Charles Wilson
Tor, Sept 2007, $25.95, 304 pp.
ISBN 9780765309396

The Hypotheticals, self-replicating machines and perhaps so much more put Earth in stasis for four billion year and when it emerged, an arch was built that connects Earth to the New World that can only be reached by boat. Humans have colonized the New World many who have prices on their head. Fourths who has been taking anti-aging medicines created from the srains of Mechanicals lives on the New World in comparative freedom compared to the earth where it is outlawed.

Lisa Adams has come from Earth to the New World to find out what happened to her father after he disappeared. She teams up with Turk Findlay who has connection to the Fourths and he takes her to the location where he dropped Sulean Moi off. They find a splinter group of Fourths who performed unethical surgery putting part of a mechanical into the embryo that eventually become Issaac. They hope to make contact with the Mechanicals but what happens creates more questions than answers.

If any book deserves a sequel, this one does. It would be great to know what the mechanicals are; if they are sentient; if they are powerful enough to change the course of a species destiny. This exciting scientific fiction thriller demonstrates just how great a story teller Robert Charles Wilson is. Readers will thoroughly enjoy the entertaining storyline which will be read in one sitting.

Harriet Klausner

July 8, 2006

Roman Dusk

Filed under: Author: X,Horror,Title: R

Roman Dusk
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, Sep 2006, $27.95
ISBN: 0765313911

It is the beginning of the end for the once mighty Roman Empire. Barbarians are at the gates with the outposts falling to the enemies. Legions are not getting paid while ethics no longer go as far they once did leading to widespread hardship and fear. Officials are corrupt using their positions of power for personal gain with extortion being the norm.

Vampire Ragoczy Germainus Sanct’ Fransicus (AKA Count St. Germain) has bad luck when he crosses path with Batsho the decuriae, who collects tax money. Initially, the vampire remains ignorant to Batsho’s animosity towards him as he is preoccupied with healing a suffering widow suffering with his special medicines. He gets his nourishment from a call girl that lacks the emotional intensity he craves when he dines. Inquiries about the vampire’s goods that need to be taxed call his attention to Batsho’s corruption and animosity to him personally because he is a rich foreigner. When Ragoczy learns that one of his servants spies for Batsho, he starts to arrange his departure from Rome, but the Christians have other plans for him.

Every time one reads a St. Germain thriller, one obtains an astute history lesson that is cleverly wrapped inside a delightful vampire tale. The story line in ROMAN DUSK occurs around 160 AD, which focuses on the corruption of the Rome’s powerful at the cost of long term security. Thus the beginning cracks that ultimately lead to the fall of the City-State are occurring as the affluent get wealthier and everyone poorer. This time the vampire is caught in the middle of a power struggle between the current dishonest leaders and the intolerant Christians pushing to eradicate all the sinners and demon offspring by dispatching them to hell.

Harriet Klausner

January 17, 2006

Lover Eternal

Filed under: Author: X,Fantasy,Title: L

Lover Eternal
J.R. Ward
Signet, Mar 2006, $6.99, 464 pp.
ISBN: 0451218043

About an hour north of Manhattan, Caldwell, New York is wracked by an underground species war between vampires and the Lessening Society slayers. Six chosen from selective breeding and special training have become the champions known as the Black Dagger Brotherhood, whose mission is to protect their undead brethren from their devastating adversaries. The Scribe Virgin who brought vampires into existence has cursed the deadliest of the Brotherhood warriors, Rhage with a dark side passion that makes everyone including his brotherhood wary of him.

Also living in Caldwell is Suicide Prevention Hotline Volunteer Mary Luce who suffers from Leukemia. With the recent death of her mother and her own illness, she no longer believes in miracles. Mary a mute boy John who she introduces to her unflappable amazon neighbor Bella realizes the lad is on the verge of changing and will need help. Bella calls the Brotherhood and soon she, Mary and John come to the attention of the Lessoning Society who are not concerned with human collateral damage. Mary makes quite a pawn to use to destroy Rhage, who realizes she is his soulmate and will die to keep her safe even while she holds back from love as her time is short barring a miracle.

The second Black Dagger Brotherhood tale (see DARK LOVER) is a terrific entry starring two star-crossed lovers who find a miracle in the arms of the other. For Rhage his beloved softens his rage while for Mary her beloved “fixes” her death sentence. There is plenty of action as the Lessening Society is lethally on the prowl capturing female pawns in their quest. Fans will want to bite into this terrific paranormal romantic suspense thriller due to the intriguing relationship between the lead pair.

Harriet Klausner

November 2, 2005

Orphans of Chaos

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

Orphans of Chaos
John C. Wright
Tor, Nov 2005, $24.95
ISBN: 9765311313

The five orphans (Colin, Quentin, Victor, Vanity and Amelia) are the only students at the school where they stay all the time being locked in their respective room every night. None know their real name, age, or their linage including where they come from as they chose their names when they were eight to ten years old. All that this quintet knows is the school where conditions are harsh and at times abusive at least for them.

Each has a unique talent. Amelia can observe and influence the physical world in four dimensions and perhaps more. Vanity locates hidden passages in locations where none seemingly existed before her finding them. Quentin is a warlock who has a familiar, Apsu that is a walking stick. Colin employs magic by mentally picturing what he wants to achieve and willing it to happen. Victor uses his mind to telekinetically control matter.

The staff is at least as weird as the pupils. When the Board of Visitors and Governors meet to discuss the pupils, Amelia and Victor listen in and learn somewhat about their origins, their Greek God keepers, and the war.

This is not Harry Potter’s school as the students are abused by the staff including the spanking of Amelia and Professor Glum’s lusting for her and somewhat for Vanity. The five youngsters have unique personalities and several of the faculty likewise have distinctive traits. The story line focuses more on their captivity and attempts to leave even if they just sneak into the nearby town rather than on the talents. Adult fantasy readers will appreciate this opening gamut of what appears to be the Prisoner locked away in a jail school in which discipline draws the line between the prevailing and the capitulated.

Harriet Klausner

September 29, 2005

Mortal Danger

Filed under: Author: X,Fantasy,Title: M

Mortal Danger
Eileen Wilks
Berkley, Nov 2005, $6.99
ISBN: 0425202909

Former cop now FBI Agent Lily Yu takes time off from her case searching for the dangerous Reverend Patrick Harlowe and the magical staff he stole to attend her sister’s wedding. At the reception she notices a woman whom she believes is Helen, someone she killed three weeks ago. She follows the woman into the bathroom only to be hit on the head. Her lupine soulmate Prince Rule Turner insures her she is okay and to make sure she stays that way he makes her move in with him over her objections.

Just prior to the incident Xitil the Great One summons a fearful minion Gan ordering the demon to work with a young looking female who shockingly does not fear the Great One and the human Harlowe; their target is to drink the blood of the sensitive Lily. Harlowe and his demonic associates have set the perfect trap to capture Lily whose only hope of escaping the minions of hell is Rule, but he may prove to be collateral damage.

This is a terrific “danger” tale that continues taking heroine Lily Yu into new fantasy/horror dimensions and away from her mystery roots. The cat and mouse story line is action-packed as Lily seeks to capture Harlowe who in turn sets a trap so that she as a sensitive to magic can be eliminated. The relationship between Lily and Rule will leave the audience howling while the support cast on both sides of the fight enhances a thrilling tale of combat on mystical realms. Keep an eye out for the enigmatic Cynna Weaver in future novels, perhaps even a starring performance.

Harriet Klausner

September 5, 2005

In Golden Blood

In Golden Blood
Stephen Woodworth
Dell, Nov 2005, $6.99, 303 pp.
ISBN 0440242525

In another age they would have been called witches or people possessed by demons but today through the use of the soul scan there is scientific proof that the souls of the dead inhabit the bodies of those who are alive. These people are called Violets because of the color of their eyes and because there are so few of them. The government of each country puts them under their “protection”. Natalie Lindstrom, whose body is inhabited by the souls of those who were murdered, was allowed to testify in court, the spirits accusing their killer and the court accepted the evidence of each soul.

Natalie, tired of death and dealing with killers, leave the North American Afterlife Communication Corps to become a freelancer but the NAACC blackballs her and she is unable to find work. She is so in debt she accepts a job offer by a man pretending to be Dr. Wilcox, an expert on the explorer Pizarro. Nathan Azure, his patron, flees her to the Andes in Peru so she can channel Pizarro and find out where he hid a cache of Inca treasure. While in Peru, Natalie catches on to their scheme and with the help of the spirit of the real Dr. Wilcox, devises a plan to escape and bring the fake Wilcox and Azure down.

This supernatural thriller starts off at mach one and only moves faster giving the audience an exciting read with plenty of action scenes and a heroine one admires (because she quits an organization that wants to control her). Her courage, strength and decency make her an excellent role model that readers will care about. Stephen Woodworth makes the implausible seem very real.

Harriet Klausner

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