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

June 7, 2012

Judgment at Proteus-Timothy Zahn

Judgment at Proteus
Timothy Zahn
Tor, June 5 2012, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322135

Recently Quadrail investigator Frank Compton and Bayta have found startling evidence of a nefarious genocide plot to wipe out the twelve civilizations tied to the interstellar train system. Frank and Bayta believes the bellicose Shonkla-raa race, a genetic offspring of the Filiaelians, thought extinct a million ago has set in motion a plan to destroy the Quadrail and the races who thrive from this interstellar rail.

They head to Proteus Station where Frank is accused of murder at a time he needs to focus on the clandestine war. However, on the bright side his enemy the Modhri joins the resistance to the Shonkla-raa. Failure means racial obliteration with billions dying.

The latest action-packed Quadrail space adventure (see The Domino Pattern) is an exciting science fiction thriller filled with twists. The storyline is fast-paced though there is a sense of déjà vu while the villains spend too much time talking like Blue Dog from the Laredo TV show (“I’m gonna kill that Ranger”). Still fans will enjoy riding the rails across Timothy Zahn’s galaxy as increasingly extinction seems probable.

Harriet Klausner

March 30, 2012

Hunted-Rebecca Zanetti

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

Rebecca Zanetti
Kensington Brava, Apr 24 2012, $14.0
ISBN: 9780758259271

Moira Dunne the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter witch deploys quantum physics to move around in time and space. One century ago she had a one night stand, but though she immensely enjoyed the tryst that was in the “past”.

However, Moira is unaware that her rendezvous with Connlan Kayrs turned out to be much more when he marked her as his mate. He has patiently waited decades for her to mature before Conn can claims Moira as his. Now Conn is back in a stunned Moira’s life as he insists he needs her and by the way her family’s support against a vampire clan creating a customized virus to attack the mates of the undead.

The third Dark Protectors romantic urban fantasy (see Fated and Claimed) is an engaging thriller that moves forward the overarching theme of a pending war; which is a two edged sword as the motive for the paranormal hostilities is not very lucid. The action-packed storyline is fast-paced as Conn claims the witch he is fated to mate with while betrayal leaves their relationship and their family and friends in peril. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Rebecca Zanetti’s exciting novel as the vampire and the witch prove absence makes the heart (and other body parts) grow fonder.

Harriet Klausner

March 24, 2012

A Temptation of Angels-Michelle Zink

Filed under: Author: Z,Fantasy,Title: T

A Temptation of Angels
Michelle Zink
Dial, Mar 20 2012, $17.99
ISBN: 9780803737266

Sixteen-year-old Helen fell asleep to the sounds of arguing in the family library when her frantic mother awakens her while it is still dark outside. Her mom gives her strange directions to go to a house before sending her child through a hidden doorway in her bedroom that the teen never knew existed. As her house burns with her parents inside, a shocked Helen flees to the address her mother admonished her to go to for her safety.

Brothers Darius and Griffin Channing welcome Helen into their London abode. They explain to the stunned teen that she, like them, is responsible to protect the planet as Keepers are descendants of an angel species. The siblings further explain they are the last ones as an assassin has killed all the others and targeted Helen before she can be skilled. If their kind becomes extinct so will the earth.

Although this exciting young adult fantasy starts confusing due to the introduction of a horde of characters forcing readers to need a scorecard, once the Zink mythos and cast is established, the storyline turns into a fast-paced High Noon thriller. Helen is terrific as she has no time to grieve due to the demands of gruff Darius; she also has two men attracted to her, Griff and her childhood friend Raum. Vengeance may be the Lord’s domain, but the three remaining Keepers (the parents of the brothers suffered the same fate as those of Helen did) claim it as theirs.

Harriet Klausner

March 10, 2012

Let Them Eat Stake-

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

Let Them Eat Stake
Sarah Zettel
Obsidian, Apr 3 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451236456

When the vampires came out in public, humans reacted overall with equanimity. They granted all rights to vampires and the other paranormal species (weres, witches and warlocks) who followed except they must register. Just like humans have restrictions the paranormal do too. For instance, vampires can drink human blood that is given freely but cannot be sold as a commodity. The paranormal species are not a monolithic block as vampires and witches have been enemies for centuries. Clubs and restaurants cater to the paranormal. For instance, Nightlife, owned by Chef Charlotte Caine and her vampire brother Chet, serve “Noir Cuisine” to Nightbloods and Daybloods.

When celeb chef Oscar Simmons quits working a marriage gala, event planner Felicity Garnett begs Charlotte to cater the multispecies wedding of the decade between witch Deanna Alden and Gabriel Renault the Nightblood allegedly from Paris (not Hoboken). Charlotte accepts the job that could make the restaurant a success. Soon afterward, Oscar is dead from what appears to be a heart attack and the groom’s side has begun to disappear. Charlotte realizes her boyfriend Brendan Maddox is related to the Alden family and everything turns sour when someone steals the anti- vampire weapon the Arall. Charlotte seeks the purloined object before she serves rations to the combatants.

The second “Vampire Chef” mystery is a delightful amateur sleuth fantasy that is much darker than its predecessor (A Taste of the Nightlife). The paranormal comes across as normal; especially enhancing that sense of “reality” is the heroine’s egalitarian attitude as she believes all species are equal with each having the good, the bad and the ugly. Readers who want something different will enjoy stopping for something red served up by Sarah Zettel at Nightlife.

Harriet Klausner

January 5, 2012

Cobra Gamble-Timothy Zahn

Cobra Gamble
Timothy Zahn
Baen, Jan 3 2012, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439134061

Jasmine “Jin” Moreau Broom awakens on the ship of Warrior the Troft heading to Qasaman with her injured husband Paul nearby; she knows her leaders consider him a traitor for giving the ISIS system to the adversarial Djinn but she also believes that is the last hope to save humanity. The female Cobra warrior meets up with her son Lorne as Qasaman Djinn delegates Siraj Akim and Carsh Zoshak conduct a combat exercise.

Warrior asks the Troft in Sollas for permission to land; they agree to allow him to put down his vessel near Milika instead. He escorts the Cobra and Djinn delegation along with their ISIS cargo to a secure military station before disembarking from the planet. At the same time Milika Qasaman patrol leader Gama Yithtra assigns Jin’s oldest son Merrick the cobra and villager Nalis Kinsta to scout Troft activity. Time is running out for the uneasy Cobra and Qasaman Djinn allies as war with the mutual enemy has led to strange bedfellows.

This Cobra War science fiction thriller (See Cobra Guardian and Cobra Alliance) is a well written entertaining tale that can be divided into two sections. The first half of the storyline focuses on the relationships between the various parties as trust is a rare commodity in spite of a mutual enemy. This political segue is fascinating as Timothy Zahn drills deep into the strange bedfellows generalization as well as make the alien races seem real, but is also somewhat slow as action is limited. The latter half of the novel turns into a fast-paced military sci fi thriller as the war ignites. With the key threads tied up, readers will enjoy Mr. Zahn’s exciting Cobra War saga.

Harriet Klausner

November 29, 2011

Cobra Guardian-Timothy Zahn

Cobra Guardian
Timothy Zahn
Baen, Dec 6 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451637656

Governor-General Chintawa seeks the only female Cobra Jin Moreau Broom. Her second son Lorne pretends ignorance though he knows his mom and older brother Merrick illegally fought on the side of the Qasamans against the Troft invaders (see Cobra Alliance). Merrick remains on Qasama receiving treatment for severe injuries while Jin travels with Siraj Akim the Qasaman Djinn to Aventine. Chintawa assigns Lorne to find his mother; he also directs his new assistant Nissa Gendreves to help him.

Troft ships arrive at Aventine where they release deadly spine leopards. Meanwhile a family reunion on Caelian occurs as the Cobra and the Qasaman become tentative allies in the hostilities against the Troft who are not entirely monolithic combative as the Cobra World Council previously thought.

The Cobra War Book 2 (see Cobra Alliance) is a terrific military science fiction tale as the conflict with the Qasaman has somewhat abated due to the heroism of the mother-son team. The Troft show a schism as not all their houses are behind a second war. Although the characterizations are very thin, the Jin-Siraj relationship is fascinating. Still with plenty of personal courage, fans of the saga will enjoy the latest escapades of those deployed in space military soldiers.

Harrier Klausner

October 16, 2011

Claimed-Rebecca Zanetti

Filed under: Author: Z,Fantasy,Title: C

Rebecca Zanetti
Kensington Brava, Nov 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758259257

Geneticist Emma Paulsen has always protected her empath sister plant physiologist Dr. Cara Paulsen and her four years old niece child Janie. However, Emma lost that role to vampire warrior Talen Kayrs (see Fated) though she still seeks a cure to save her infected sibling and unborn nephew.

Talen’s brother Dage, King of the Realm, wants Emma as his mate. He has waited centuries for her and has no patience when she rejects his mark. To her chagrin, Emma is attracted to the ultimate chauvinist, but rejects his bossy attitude. Meanwhile the enemies of the vampires,, the Kurjans, wants her research and are willing to kill the innocent to obtain it.

Although Dage’s bullying abuse adds realism as he is not a sensual vampire but instead someone used to getting his way, readers will dislike him. Still the story line is action-packed and the sex scenes heated as Dage’s only success with Emma resides in the bedroom. Readers will enjoy the romantic urban fantasy but outside of the mark subplot, no major threads are climaxed.

Harriet Klausner

May 24, 2011

Star Wars: Choice of One-Timothy Zahn

Star Wars: Choice of One
Timothy Zahn
Del Rey, Jul 12 2011, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345511265

Months have passed since Luke Skywalker blew up the death Star (see A New Hope), but he diligently practices to become stronger in the force. The war between the Empire and the Alliance continues with the former seeking to strike back at the rebels who desperately need allies, equipment and supplies. Empire Officer Thrawn warns Emperor Palatine that they are threatened by more than just the rebels. Nusoesva, a powerful warlord in the Unknown Region is conquering worlds in Wild Space and looks like he will soon make incursion into the Imperial sector. Palatine ignores the concern because the warlord is just an alien.

The rebels are offered a base on Poln Minor in the Outer Rim. Since the Empire won’t help them fight Nusoesva, the leaders of the planet turn to the Alliance asking for protection. The Emperor learns of two possible treasonous acts and deploys his Hand Mara Jade to determine the truth; if affirmed she is to kill the Governor of the Candoras sector, Bider Ferrouz and his accomplices. Han, Leia, and Luke head to Poln Major to find out if the governor’s offer is authentic or a trap. Also on the planet are the disgruntled Hand of Judgment storm troopers who work to root out evil in the Empire. All will converge with betrayal and death the common denominators

It is amazing to see caring good people like Mara and the storm troopers Hand of Judgment believe that the Emperor is a kind person who cares for his subjects. That soul searching element enhances an action-paced space opera. Readers will praise Timothy Zahn as he captures the original essence of the Lucas pantheon; not an easy mission to achieve since this would make a fine movie number 4.5 (in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back).

Harriet Klausner

May 9, 2011

A Taste of the Nightlife-Sarah Zettel

Filed under: Author: Z,Fantasy,Title: T

A Taste of the Nightlife
Sarah Zettel
Obsidian, Jul 5 2001, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451234070

In a world much different than this one; humans know vampires, weres, witches and warlocks exist. However, the paranormal species do not have the same rights as humans as they must register, but share most all the other liberties. Although vampires can drink human blood, it must be freely given and not sold as a commodity. There exists special clubs and restaurants that cater to the nocturnal creature crowd where vamps can drink and meet friends while mundane food is also served.

One such restaurant is Nightlife, an up and coming in place that serves “Noir Cuisine”. Chef Charlotte Caine and her vampire brother Chet own the place. One evening a drunken warlock Dylan Maddox causes trouble with spells and almost burns down the joint; shortly afterward Dylan is found murdered in Nightlife’s foyer. Charlotte later finds a vial of human blood and fears her brother is involved. She des not turn the vial over to the police. Instead the dead man’s brother Brendan a security expert and Antole the restaurant critic join Chef Charlotte in investigating what happened though that means walking the thin red line of were-vamp politics.

Fantasy author Sarah Zettel provides readers with a delightful riveting urban fantasy amateur sleuth tale. The whodunit is complex while the cast range from quirky to dangerous and to charming (except in Caine’s kitchen). The twisting story line is fast-paced while containing plenty of biting action and humorous interludes. Readers will want to stop for a bloody drink and A Taste of the Nightlife if only in their thoughts.

Harriet Klausner

April 8, 2011

Stormy Knight-Shannon Duffy and John Zakour

Stormy Knight
Shannon Duffy and John Zakour
Blue Leaf Publications, May 28 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780975509593

She does not drink blood and she can go out in the sunlight, but otherwise she has all the powers of her mother Candi, the Vampire Queen. She can also spell-cast thanks to the magic of her father who has a spark for it. Stormy Knight tries to live as a human, but she lapses at times especially when her archenemy Rosie does something to harm her or friends or people in general.

Rosie is determined to be the prom queen and Stormy who has been nominated asks to withdraw as a candidate. She starts seeing ghosts, the first one a boy Jack who appears in her classroom. He pleads with her to kill him so he can return to where he was. On Prom Night, Stormy is at a bowling alley with her friend Marie when the ghost of the former librarian Ms. Snider appears. She tells Stormy that she has to go to the prom because something terrible will happen if she does not stop a magic user from carrying out his plan. Stormy rushes to the school, but fears she will be too late to prevent a tragedy.

With a nod to Buffy, this whimsical chick-lit urban fantasy is an entertaining tale due to the heroine who wants to live life as an ordinary teen, but fate keeps forcing her to use her paranormal skills to perform good deeds. She shares the same problems as any teen supplemented by tsuris due to what she can see with her third eye and has a sixth sense that works overtime. A quirky support cast, a reluctant heroine and a spell caster who doesn’t know the consequences of his actions makes this a character driven charmer.

Harriet Klausner

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