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 18, 2012

Commedia della Morte-Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Filed under: Author: Y,Horror,Title: C

Commedia della Morte
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, Mar 13 2012, $29.99
ISBN 9780765331045

Count Saint-Germain learns that the Revolutionary Tribunal of Avignon determines that Madelaine de Montalia will be guillotined. Determined to rescue his beloved from losing her head, something even a vampire cannot heal from, Saint-Germain joins Photine d’Auville and her Commedia del’Arte troupe as a musician (and a paying traveler) as they head to Lyon where Madelaine is under house arrest.

Though he loves Madelaine, Saint-Germain and Photine share a tryst that further irks her angry teenage son Enee. His resentment growing, Enee wants Saint-Germain dead and plots to betray the ancient vampire.

The latest Saint-Germain historical vampire thriller (see An Embarrassment of Riches) is an entreating tale that fascinatingly captures the changing morality of the French Reign of Terror from idealistic caring of all citizens to an insidious bloodbath. The troupe is terrific as they perform Racine’s Phaedra while trying to stay out of the troubles. Although there is too much backstory from previous entries mostly involving Madelaine (see In the Face of Death, Out of the House of Life and Hotel Transylvania), saga armchair fans will enjoy touring Revolutionary France with the vampire count as our guide.

Harriet Klausner

January 10, 2012

A True Son of Asmodeus-Zvi Zaks

Filed under: Author: Y,Horror,Title: U

A True Son of Asmodeus
Zvi Zaks
By Light Unseen Media, Dec 9 2011, $13.00
ISBN: 9781935303350

In Los Angles, hematologist Dr. Eli Rothenberg mentions to Sheila the ER head nurse that the zoo will end in under an hour, she takes him seriously as his workload comments determine staffing needs. Eli tells her that when he was ten he predicted his dying cousin would recover from meningitis, which happened. His father tried to use his psychic skills at poker but lost his shirt and slapped Eli. He vowed to never use his skill, but Sheila insists subconsciously his ESP talent surfaces.

Eli is shocked when his mentor Dr. Andrew Netter arrives on a gurney with an empty sleeping pills bottle taped to his comatose body. That is the impetus for Eli to quit his job and leave his compassionate girlfriend Karen Lodge to accept a fellowship jointly sponsored by the University of Heidelberg, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and the University of Munich. On the trek to London, Eli meets Hasidic Jew Abram Rabinowich of Munich and Schmuel the converted Jew. In London, horrific murders occur while Schmuel visits Eli. He heads to Munich; at the Dachau concentration camp Eli survives evil. Stunned he visits Abram, who introduces him to the Perceptive warriors while malevolence waits for Eli in Auschwitz though six million allies pray for him.

This terrific Hasidic religious thriller grips the audience from the first premonition until the last. Fast-paced and filled with action, Eli is a great hero as he goes from denier to skeptic to believer due to the events that his rationale mind wants to reject. Fans will relish Eli’s enlightened run through the darkest evil, which thrives when monsters like Hitler and his gruesome wannabes provide the sustenance.

Harriet Klausner

August 11, 2011

Dark Warrior-Rebecca York

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

Dark Warrior
Rebecca York
Berkley, Sep 6 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425243701

After attending a late meeting of the Sedona Business Association, Sophia drives home to the Seven Sisters Spa where she and her Ionian sisters live. Something comes out of the dark at an incredible speed causing Sophia’s car to land in a ditch. Her cell phone fails to work. Her clan’s enemy, a Minot shoots a vapor into her face, which freezes her and begins to assault her when another male intercedes. The first flees while the second mentally tells Sophia he is a friend. Jason wants Sophie the way his late Ionian mother and deceased Minot father wanted each other.

Sophia explains to the leader Cynthia and the others what happened. She shows mental pictures of her attacker and rescuer. Cynthia insists both males are enemies and that the rescuer could not have shared a mental thought with Sophia.

Wealthy Minot, Rafe wants a child with Sophia’s biological sister Tessa. Sophia interviews Jason for a veterinary position at the spa. She is shocked as he is her rescuer, a Minot who got passed their wards. They have sex in which he names her mentally. At the same Rafe knows only one other Minot to ally with him in his quest as that man loathes the Ionians. Cynthia is right as trouble has arrived at Seven Sisters Spa.

The key to this fast-paced enchanting New Mexico fantasy is that the Ionian and Minot races seem genuine. Although the Minot seems to have easy access to the impregnable compound and no thinning of the Ionian or Minot blood after two millennia with human sex partners, fans will enjoy this star-crossed romance as her Sisters object to their match even if he has proven a hero.

Harriet Klausner

January 22, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches-Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Filed under: Author: Y,Horror,Title: E

An Embarrassment of Riches
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, Mar 1 2011, $29.99
ISBN 9780765331038

Early in the thirteenth century, Count Saint Germain uses the name Rakoczy Ferancsi as a guest of Bohemia’s Queen Kunigunde. For now, he knows he cannot go home but even if he could the mercurial monarch keeps the Count locked in a gilded cage. Still, he enjoys his respite in Prague making jewelry for Her Highness and trying to avoid court intrigue.

However his efforts prove futile as the ladies at court assume he is rich and single, and can see handsome. Three females vie for his attention: sneaky Rozsa, Imbolya the teenager and resolute Iliska. He eludes the trio though not easily especially Rozsa as she threatens to expose Saint Germain to the local Church, who already is suspicious of the stranger, if he fails to do her bidding.

As with all the recent Saint Germain tales (see Blood Games) the story line is much more a historical thriller than a horror novel. Still readers will enjoy the hero’s time in medieval Bohemia as he tries to avoid any entanglements but starting with the avaricious women, he cannot keep out of their affairs, that of the court especially the queen, and the church. Readers will enjoy An Embarrassment of Riches as once again the Count’s efforts to fit quietly in a new location and time make for a fresh thriller even with over three decades of starring roles under his cape.

Harriet Klausner

November 2, 2010

Day of the Dragon-Rebecca York

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

Day of the Dragon
Rebecca York
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425238189

Although the shapeshifter Ramsey Gallagher defeated his enemy twin Vandar the psychopathic half-dragon half-vampire, he paid quite a cost. Ramsey apparently lost his skill to shift into dragon form as well as other innate abilities like mentally rolling the dice.

In Las Vegas, however that does not prevent him from seeking more information about his unknown heritage. As such he intends to attend a lecture presented by Dr. Madison Dartmoor on her findings in an ancient Italian tomb located near the site where he was found by himself as a small child. However, a nasty assault on the excavation site leads to the presentation being cancelled. While deciding what next Ramsey stops an attack on Madison. He feels a need to keep her safe from her overwhelming enemies who want her dead.

The latest super “Moon” romantic fantasy (see Dragon Moon) looks deep at the good twin after he defeated his bad seed brother as the winner suffers a form of paranormal post traumatic stress disorder with his psychological consequences as nasty as the physical. Yet even with a profound look into the second order effects of the epic sibling battle on Ramsey, Rebecca York provides plenty of action as for the first time he considers risking his heart with Madison, the woman he cherishes more than his soul.

Harriet Klausner

August 31, 2010

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe-Charles Yu

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Charles Yu
Pantheon, Sep 7 2010, $25.00

In Minor Universe 31, time travel is a way of life as is paradoxes caused by someone tinkering with the past. Time technician Charles Yu fixes the stupid actions of those wanting change without comprehending the consequences. He councils these idiots, but does so calmly even when he tries to pacify his harried boss Phil.

Yu visits his mother, who is trapped in a life of one-hour in which she prepares dinner infinitely. He still seeks his father who invented the machines that enable time travel, but vanished while testing his gizmos. Accompanied by TAMMY the operating system with Yu’s personality (to include a lack of self-worth) and Ed the imaginary ontological canine, he continues his personal quest to meet and talk with his dad; having gained hope by a book he will one day author, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

This is an intriguing time travel science fiction tale starring a stay out of trouble extremist (think of Columbus in most of the movie Zombieland) who as a bureaucrat quietly rectifies the mistakes of others while searching for his lost dad to have a father-son chat. The story line feels like a Moebius series of loops so is difficult to follow yet quite fun to do so. Although the climax is abrupt and seemingly out of character for the safety only lead protagonist, SF fans who enjoy something radically different will want to read Charles Yu’s escapades in time and space.

Harriet Klausner

August 1, 2010

The Replacement-Brenna Yovanoff

Filed under: Author: Y,Fantasy,Title: R

The Replacement
Brenna Yovanoff
Razorbill, Sep 21 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9781595143372

Sixteen years ago in Gentry, the tattooed princess sent Mackie Doyle as The Replacement who took the place in a crib of a newborn human baby. He is not the only Replacement in the town, but the locals are unaware of the switches and besides the changes has proven profitable for the ignorant but blissful townsfolk, other nearby places have collapsed. Mackie leaving Gentry to go to the underworld tunnels of Mayhem is dangerous for him but by staying he has allergies to iron and blood that can kill him. The girl he likes Alice donates blood and has silver pinned on her pierced tongue; he also cannot walk on sacred earth though his dad is a pastor with a church.

However, the strange death of Natalie has shocked every one. Natalie’s family attends the church of Mackie’s dad though the lad does not know her or her older sister Tate who attends his school. The grieving girl obsesses over learning the truth about her sibling’s death, which places Mackie in the awkward situation of choosing life above ground or below as he comes to know Tate.

This is an extremely dark horror tale that grips the audience from the moment the teens are introduced and never slows down until the final confrontation. The Gentry high school students makes the story line seem plausible as most behave with reckless abandon with sex, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol prevalent; the teens challenge the adult authority. This is a strong novel that uses the Doppelganger Replacement as the premise of an exhilarating novel that warns readers to look beyond the glitter to insure there is no monster; like Tate is doing with no allies until Mackie joins her quest.

Harriet Klausner

December 22, 2009

Except the Queen-Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder

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

Except the Queen
Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder
Roc, Feb 2 2010, $23.95
ISBN 9780451462732

The two Fae sisters, Serana and Meteora accidentally uncover a secret that at a minimum would ruin the reputation and credibility of the Fairy Queen. Before they can react, the pair loses their magical skills and looks, separated and exiled to Earth.

Serana lands in the strangest world she has ever seen, New York City; Meteora likewise feels the same way about Milwaukee. Serana meets a homeless boy who suffers from dark apocalyptic visions; Meteora meets a young girl with an incredible tattoo on her neck that could only mean an artist with magic powers who wants to kill the beholder of his work. Soon all will conjoin as the mortal and Fae realms are threatened with total destruction.

This is a great urban fantasy with an atypical feel to the story line that enhances the otherworldly tale. Fast-paced from the onset, fans will welcome the siblings as each struggles with adjusting to the world of the mortals. The sisters make the thriller work as their adaptation is slow and before they can partially adjust, they are caught up in a save two realms scenario. Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder team up with a winner as fans see New York and Milwaukee through the eyes of “political immigrants”.

Harriet Klausner

October 12, 2009

Burning Shadows-Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Filed under: Author: Y,Horror,Title: B

Burning Shadows
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, Dec 8 2009, $27.99
ISBN 9780765319821

In 438 C.E., Dom Feranescus Rakoczy Sanctu-Germainios is part of the Regional Guard of Apulum Inferior as the Huns flood Europe. His lover Atta Olivia Clemens flees the Carpathians for the relative safety of Constantinople, but though she begged him to accompany her, he felt an obligation to lead the fleeing villagers to a safer place.

On the way to the isolated Sanctu-Eustachios monastery that prefers no visitors, Rakoczy meets Nicoris, who is also on the run from the Huns’ horde too. They are attracted to one another from the onset. As the pair and hundreds of frightened peasants take refuge at the monastery, Rakoczy conceals his vampiric nature, but his lover learns of his True Nature. With the Huns closing in on them, Rakoczy fails to realize the biggest danger may come from within as she too has a dark secret might lead to his True Death inside these holy walls.

This is a terrific entry that works on two fronts: a strong insightful look at those fearing the Huns horde and a romance between Saint Germain and his true love Nicoris. The story line brings to life villagers and Roman legionnaires who expect death and worse once the invincible army arrives. Adding to that profound look at the fifth century are the reclusive monks who believe god’s predetermination means life and death has been doggedly resolved by the Maker so why worry about defense. Although the ending could have used more flesh on it so as to fully bring out the blood and guts of the final twist, fans will relish Saint Germain’s latest bittersweet historical adventure.

Harriet Klausner

September 25, 2009

Dragon Moon-Rebecca York

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

Dragon Moon
Rebecca York
Berkley, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425230985

Kenna the psychic crosses through a hidden portal into earth on a mission to obtain information for her owner. During a vicious storm, a soaking wet Kenna is almost killed by a tree that falls. Werewolf Talon Marshall who prefers to be alone finds her in his lupine form, but saves her in his human body.

They are attracted to one another and he fears she is his soulmate; someone the recluse can do without but knows he cannot. Kenna wants to tell him the truth about what she knows re her master Vandar the psychopathic half-dragon half-vampire, but a mental barrier will not allow her to so. He knows she hides something important from him, but has no earthly idea what; only that he does not trust her and obviously she reciprocates as she distrusts him with her secret

The latest Moon romantic fantasy displays the creativity of Rebecca York as she refreshes her werewolf-life mate plot with the enslavement spell that leaves the hero distrusting his beloved and the heroine frustrated with her inability to tell her beloved the truth. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene in vile villain Vandar’s cave and never slows down as love comes at the wrong time for this couple. Series fans will relish DRAGON MOON with a strong casting as the malevolent paranormal hybrid controls the werewolf’s life mate.

Harriet Klausner

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