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

April 10, 2014

Balance Point-Robert Buettner

Balance Point
Robert Buettner
Baen, Apr 8 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9781476736440

“Balance Point.” The second Cold War between the Earth and the Yavi seems over as cooler heads from both sides push for peace. Mort the Grezzen telepath mentally tells American Intelligence Officer Captain Jazen Parker that Earth Trueborn Bartram Cutler was pardoned. With the presidential ban on raids of the Yavi, Jazen informs his partner Trueborn Army Colonel Catherine “Kit” Born and Lieutenant General Howard Hibble that if the Yavi obtain the C-drive, he believes his planet unfairly, as most of the populace has no hostilities towards Earth, will be nuked into oblivion. On Rand, Cutler undercover as “Quartermain” and Yavet Director General of Internal Security Maxillian Polian as “Hitchcock” barter over the former providing the latter with C-drive data to make the device. Meanwhile Jazen receives a deathbed request he cannot refuse from his adoptive mom Orion who wants to see him before she dies. Thus he rushes home to Yavet unaware of a trap by ambitious warmongers.

“Mole Hunt.” Otman the Yavi covert operative takes a crew to Dead End with plans to change human history by salvaging a crashed fighter’s C-drive. He and his mates are unprepared for the Grezzen and the orb’s other unwelcoming species.

The third Orphan’s Legacy military science fiction (see Overkill and Undercurrents) is an engaging twisting timely thriller with hawks believing the end justifies the means and doves wanting to “Give Peace A Chance” (John Lennon). Readers will appreciate this gender bending entry as Jazen rushes home with Kit rushing after him as she knows it takes an intelligent female to rescue a foolish male. Mole Hint is a reprint of a very short entertaining story in the Orphan’s Legacy realm.

Harriet Klausner

March 8, 2014

The Barrow-Mark Smylie

Filed under: Author: S,Title: B

The Barrow
Mark Smylie
Pyr, Mar 4 2014, $18.00
ISBN 9781616148911

In Manon Mole in the Middle Kingdoms, cartographer Stjepan Black-Heart finds the map into the lethal Barrow of Azharad the ancient wizard that leads to Gladringer the legendary sword. Though several of his companions die on this venture, the map-maker puts together a new team consisting of brothel owner Gilgwyr, insane mage Leigh, survivor of the Manon Mole escapade Erim the female in male grab, mercenary Godewyn Red-Hand, noble Arduin and his sister scandalous Annwyn.

Each of the adventurers understands the danger of this quest, but all insist on risking their lives for diverse seemingly insane reasons. However, none of these scoundrels anticipated what happened when they tried to use the magical map for the first time only to find it cursed resulting in one dead and this guide apparently destroyed. From that devastating start, the escapades turn worse.

The Barrow is a fabulous fantasy made fresh by a magnificent team of seemingly amoral adventurers who over the course of their trek prove to possess a different code of ethics with varying personalities shaped by their respective social class, ethnicity, religion or gender. In spite of a short engaging opening saga in which Stjepan finds the mythical map, the entertaining bloody dark storyline starts leisurely as readers meet the players. Once the treasure seekers are established, the quest plot accelerates into nearly impossible to put down hyperspeed.

Harriet Klausner

February 18, 2014

Broken Homes-Ben Aaronovitch

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

Broken Homes
Ben Aaronovitch
Daw, Feb 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409609

The car crash between two speeding vehicles left Allen Frust dead and Robert Weil severely injured. First first responder PC Slatt notices unaccountable blood in Weil’s car that leads to him being the prime suspect as a mutilating serial killer. A spell involved in the crash leads Queen’s Peace Constable and magician’s apprentice Peter Grant summarizing the case to his boss-mentor Nightingale the wizard that Weil may be a mundane serial killer or a ward of the infamous Faceless Man.

The Southwark Council plans to tear down a housing monstrosity, Skygarden in Elephant and Castle. However, efforts to demolish this ugly high rise complex meet eerie opposition. With political pressure on the police to resolve the interference, Peter and his apprentice peer Constable Lesley Mai investigate to determine whether the Faceless Man prevents the demolition and, if as expected yes, why.

The fourth Rivers of London police procedural fantasy (see Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground) is an entertaining thriller that makes the magical elements seem to be a real force of nature. The human and supernatural cast is strong and Peter continues to grow as an apprentice mage and constable. Action-packed with a terrific twisting finish, fans of the series will appreciate Ben Aaronovitch’s lampooning government sponsored housing projects used to warehouse the poor in isolation until the land is needed for something considered more important than filing away the impoverish.

Harriet Klausner

October 27, 2013

Black and Blue-Gena Showalter

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

Black and Blue
Gena Showalter
Pocket, Oct 22 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451671605

Michael Black insured the three Otherworlders he found as abandoned babies were raised comfortably in caring homes while he trained them. Owing all to Michael as he gave them sustenance and a reason to live, Solomon “Solo” Judah (see Last Kiss Goodnight), John No Last Name and Corbin Blue became his elite black operatives.

While discussing Operation Dumpster Dive to take down Gregory Star, a bombing at their chief’s house separates an injured Blue from his cronies Solo, John and their leader Michael. He was left with perilous third degree burns. Being an Arcadian may save his life but only if he can find shelter to heal. Instead of his naïve fiancé Pagan Cary, Blue turns to Michael’s estranged adopted daughter Evangeline a doctor and rare Rakan as the only person he trusts with his life; though he previously insisted he’d “rather be slit open from naval to nose” than have anything to do with her; being a former operative she carries a knife. As he recovers, they must drop the animosity and team up in search of her father and the other two members of the Dynamic Trio. At the same time each remains in denial re how they really feel by hiding behind a façade of acerbity.

The second exciting Otherworld Assassin romantic urban fantasy is a fun tale that focuses more on the war of the words than the search and rescue. Readers will enjoy the Beloved Enemies storyline as Black and Blue blend together into the color of love.

Harriet Klausner

July 4, 2013

Black Market Medicine-Cassandra Collins

Black Market Medicine
Cassandra Collins
Haikalis Publishing & Art, Jul 1 2011, $16.95
Baltimore, MD
ISBN: 9780615418094

The U.S. Healthcare Distribution System Act of 2045 declared the federal government as the sole proprietor of healthcare to all citizens. The bureaucracy makes all medial decisions based on formulaic allotments.

In 2075 Janis suffers from painful cancer, but her medical apportionment was reduced. Caregiver 42 offers her nothing as rules matter not patients. Desperate Janis pleads with God but like the government the lord ignores her need. Finally unable to take it any longer, Janis looks back to what her mom said about healthcare before the takeover. At the same time dedicated providers seek ways around a rigid system to treat their patients.

Using interrelated anecdotal struggles by providers and patients, Black Market Medicine is a timely strong condemnation of healthcare in America that makes a powerful case of keeping the government (albeit Obamacare and anti-abortion legislation) out of the system. The insurance companies can be substituted for the feds as supply is controlled by the biggies forcing demand at times to go outside the legal system (for example buying prescription drugs in Canada). With the key fully developed players drowning in a process that demands don’t use logic and passion, only follow the regulations; readers will feel the horror of a failed by the book system that forces many to turn to the black market for their medical needs.

Harriet Klausner

Beginnings-David Weber

David Weber
Baen, Jul 2 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 978-1451639032

“By the Book” by Charles E. Gannon. Near Hygeia, Custom Patrol Lieutenant Lee Strong leads a rescue of prisoners held by space pirates. However, upon escorting the rescued to a space station, Lee feels something’s not right so he investigates.

“A Call to Arms” by Timothy Zahn. Axelrod Corporation official Jeremiah Llyn hires Admiral (self-anointed) Cutler Gensonne and his Volsung Mercenaries to fight a key battle. At the same time Lieutenant (Senior Grade) Travis Long in the HMS Phoenix is taking part in simulated space battles that turns hot.

“Beauty and the Beast” by David Weber. Royal Manticoran Navy Lieutenant Alfred Harrington matriculates at a medical school on Beowulf. He and another medical student Allison Chou are attracted to one another when all hell breaks loose.

“Best Laid Plans” by David Weber. Twelve year old Honor Harrington hikes to Rock Aspen Creek where she meets treecats and Peak bears.

“Obligated Service” by Joelle Presby. Grayson Midshipwoman Claire Lecroix enjoys her time especially swimming in clean water training on the Saganami Island. However, like her Aunt Jezzy warned her returning to the reality of Grayson and its toxic oceans proves difficult.

The sixth Worlds of Honor science fiction anthology (see In Fire Forged and The Server And The Sword) is a strong collection. Especially interesting is Beauty and the Beast as fans read about the first time Honor’s future parents meet.

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

April 2, 2013

Bite Me, Your Grace-Brooklyn Ann

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

Bite Me, Your Grace
Brooklyn Ann
Sourcebook, Apr 2 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402274442

In 1821 Duke Ian Ashton is going crazy for two reasons. First, as the Lord Vampire of London he must deal with the crazy fad caused by Dr. John Polidori’s tale “The Vampyre” written over a weekend with the Shelley couple and Byron as the aristocracy goes vampyre. If he has to take any more bites of garlic, show up in daylight or prove you can see his reflection in a mirror, he may drain his host.

Second his neighbor, wannabe writer Angelica Winthrop, has been sneaking into his home and asking questions as she seeks a theme for her novel. Ian decides she will be the perfect cover of his true identity after he bites and marries her. However, even that goes wrong forcing him to find that damn Polidori and more difficult not to love his spouse while a slayer stalks anyone who acts differently with a stake first and questions later attitude.

Bite Me, Your Grace is a refreshing amusing yet dark Regency urban fantasy romance that uses the famous weekend ghost wirting contest as the springboard for a fun tale. Fast-paced with a strong cast and a wonderful twist, readers will enjoy Brooklyn Ann’s fabulous fang frolic.

Harriet Klausner

March 9, 2013

Beauty Awakened-Gena Showalter

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

Beauty Awakened
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, Feb 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373777433

His beautiful cold Mommy Cornelia hated him and sliced off his wings as a small boy before sending seven year old Koldo to live and preferably die with his even eviler father. He survived his father’s torture though psychology Koldo is damaged due to parental loathing and abuse. Koldo joined the on probation Angels of the Dark army led by Commander Zacharel (see Wicked Nights) whose brutal combat against demons has led to human collateral damage.

Koldo meets twins Nicola and Laila Lane while on an operation. Each sister suffers from chronic heart conditions with Laila dying; both also have been used as sustenance by demons. When Nicola has a concussion, she begins to see demons. Her only hope for her and her sibling to survive resides with the wingless avenging angel Koldo who she finds overwhelmingly attractive.

The second Angels of the Dark romantic urban fantasy contains refreshing unique romance as the embittered lead male (Freud would have had wet dreams fulfilled with Koldo as a patient) is the virginal one though their tryst comes across somewhat limpid. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment readers meet young Koldo and never slows down as this offshoot of the Lords of the Underworld saga provides fans with a grim exciting thriller starring a traumatized male whose heart was pulverized when his wings were clipped.

Harriet Klausner

January 17, 2013

Blue Bloods-Melissa de la Cruz

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

Blue Bloods
Melissa de la Cruz, Robert Venditti (adapter) and Alina Urusov (art)
Hyperion, Jan 15 2013, $19.99
ISBN: 9781423134466

Only the elite Blue Bloods attend Manhattan’s ultra-exclusive Duchesne School. However though the students are a special breed as offspring of the movers and shakers, there is a caste system at Duchesne like any school. Below in the ooze underneath the hierarchal ladder is where Schuyler Van Alen and her friend Oliver Hazard-Perry reside or as far from superstar Jack Force or his twin sister Mimi is possible. That is until they change as their reincarnated vampire genes manifest with nightmarish looks as far back as seventeenth century Roanoke.

Duchesne student Augusta Carondolet dies at a nightclub; also there with her were the Force siblings, new pupil bad dude Dylan Ward, student Bliss Llewellyn and sneaking in for the first time Schuyler and Oliver. Soon after Aggie’s death, other Blue Bloods die. As she learns the truth about who she is, Schuyler also inquiries about a schism that goes back to the original Virginia colony as an avenging group the Silver Bloods have begun a killing spree.

This terrific graphic novelization of the first Blue Bloods young adult vampire thriller captures the essence of the original storyline and its high school age lead characters. Fans of the series will appreciate Robert Venditti’s wonderful adaptation enhanced by powerful Alina Urusov’s art as Melissa de la Cruz’s entertaining vampiric teen lit suspense (with two mysteries) comes vividly alive.

Harriet Klausner

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