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

February 18, 2014

Empress of the Sun-Ian McDonald

Empress of the Sun
Ian McDonald
Pyr, Feb 4 2014, $17.99
ISBN: 9781616148652

Everett Singh inadvertently takes the Everness on a Heisenberg Jump to an earth and solar system like none that he or his crew ever seen. This Alderson Disk consists of all the inner planets up to and including Jupiter tied together on a humongous flat surface that would take a civilization millions of years advanced beyond those on the Everness to have created Pratchett’s Diskworld. The crew meets these creators, the lethal Jiju dinosaurs who make the outsiders’ survival chances seems unlikely as the Everness needs rapid repair to jump out of this alternate before they become extinct.

On the readers’ Earth, Everett M battles the Nahn nanobot invaders while knowing he must avoid their touch or die as these bots suck up living essence. Finally Charlotte Villiers sets in motion her latest nefarious scheme to obtain the Infundibulum map of all universes.

The key to the third exciting Everness parallel universes saga (see Planesrunner and Be My Enemy) is the growing complexity; as Ian McDonald honors the intelligence of his teenage audience by not dumbing down scientific theory while also paying homage to Terry Pratchett. Though it remains difficult to keep track of who’s who amongst the multiples (Everett, Charlotte and others) without a scorecard, young adult readers will appreciate this thrilling entry.

Harriet Klausner

July 5, 2013

Elisha Barber-E.C. Ambrose

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

Elisha Barber
E.C. Ambrose
DAW, Jul 2 2013, $25.95
ISBN 9780756408350

Elisa Barber is shaving a customer when his estranged brother Nathaniel arrives. His sibling explains that the midwife sent his wife Helena to the hospital because the baby became wedged. Irate at his sibling for allowing his anger at Elisha preventing Nathaniel from coming to him, the barber-surgeon says hospitals are deadly. He hopes to remove Helena in time and deliver the baby while unlike physician who plans to save the unborn at the expense of the mother; Eli tries to keep both alive. He fails as mother and daughter died, and Nathaniel commits suicide using Barber’s razor. Stunned he says he killed them all.

To insure his brother is buried on sacred grounds, Elisha accepts the constable’s accusation of fratricide. Though he willingly accepts his guilt for the deaths, Barber flees by joining the royal military laying siege to the Duke of Dunbury’s castle. His job is a combat field medic working on wounds and when necessary amputating limbs. Upon meeting Brigit the herbalist, Elisha learns he is an untrained magus.

The first tale of the Dark Apostle medieval fantasy is an exciting fourteenth century thriller. The protagonist is a fully developed fascinating lead who applies advanced (centuries ahead of his time) medical thinking though ironically saving lives and body parts gets him into trouble with the unenlightened; as England is vividly described as a grim nation. Although the support cast never comes across as three dimensional, readers will appreciate E.C. Ambrose’s extremely dark historical fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

June 6, 2013

Eight Million Gods-Wen Spencer

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

Eight Million Gods
Wen Spencer
Baen, Jun 4 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451638981

In New York City, Nikki Delany has two obsessions. First she needs to escape from her control freak mom the US Senator who tries to have her committed as she believes her daughter is a psychotic, dangerous to herself. Second she compulsively needs to write on any surface. Her BFF since childhood, Miriam thinks her college roommate is eccentric but their other roommates Yip and Yap the dogs accept her as a boring member of the family. Thanks to the canines. Nikki escapes her mother’s latest effort to lock her away.

Two months after her latest mommy dearest episode, Nikki joins Miriam in Osaka. While eating out, she tells Miriam about the death of a character in her novel when two cops arrest her as she described the murder of an American with a blender. Nikki has an alibi but Miriam reported the incident to the consulate so mother should arrive soonest. As she searches for the truth of how someone stole her homicidal idea, Nikki realizes that her writings foretell the future. Also Nikki ponders if she is insane as she has an invisible companion claiming to be the spirit of a samurai living in a stolen katana taken from a temple; with her loyal sidekick she wonders to whom of the Eight Million Gods the spirit worships. Matters turn crazier when she meets Leo Watanabe of Shiva.

The key to this strong urban fantasy is whether mom’s assertion her daughter is insane or whether the protagonist actually writes about murders before they happen and runs into all sorts of paranormal phenomena. Fast-paced and filled with action, readers will enjoy Wen Spencer’s super thriller as the heroine keeps the storyline focused while the audience wonder psychotic or paranormal.

Harriet Klausner

March 13, 2013

Earth Girl-Janet Edwards

Earth Girl
Janet Edwards
PYR, Mar 5 2013, $17.95
ISBN: 9781616147655

By 2788 one out of a thousand earthlings are unable to use the portals to travel to other planets. Those immune system challenged one tenth per-centers are considered handicapped as they are Planet One-bound.

The parents abandoned newborn Jarra because her handicap meant she could not live away from earth; so they dumped her there. Now eighteen years old, Jarra, tired of the inane prejudicial Neanderthal ape jokes and a lover of history, plans to prove her worthiness. She masquerades as a normal offspring of a military family from a different portal than that used by her biological parents and becomes a student of University Asgard where she meets Fian. During an archeological dig in what was once Manhattan, a twentieth century skyscraper collapses on a research team; the most experienced on excavations, Jarra becomes a key rescuer. A solar storm forces an earth evacuation that would prove fatal to the abnormal, but instead those orbiting make their first earth landing in six centuries with Jarra key to their staying alive.

Earth Girl is an entertaining futuristic science fiction thriller that focuses on a brave heroine trying to prove to the majority that society thrives when everyone is welcomed inside the tent; prejudice harms more than just the obvious recipients. Obstinate and steadfast, Jarra is an engaging teen as she makes a case that an Earth Girl ape can do much of what the Norms do; in many cases better.

Harriet Klausner

March 8, 2013

Edge of Dawn-Lara Adrian

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

Edge of Dawn
Lara Adrian
Delacorte, Feb 26 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345532602

Mira witnessed her beloved Breed Kellan die in a warehouse explosion. The veiled child, whose eyes prophesize the gazer’s future, grew up that day with a loathing of the rebels. Over the next eight years, she became a warrior and now is a captain in the Order who believes in killing first.

When Mira crosses the line of acceptance on an assignment, her superior punishes her with a fluff task that her boss knows she will hate but do well. Mira serves as bodyguard to award winning human inventor-scientist Jeremy Ackmeyer while he attends the GNC Summit. However, the task goes wrong when rebels abduct her and Jeremy while scheming to blow up the conference. Seeking a way to expedite herself and her charge, Mira is stunned when she meets the leader of the kidnappers.

Two decades have passed since the human masses became aware of the Breed (see Darker After Midnight); Lara Adrian refreshes her romantic urban fantasy saga with new issues of surviving the coming out party. Yet the threats from rebels and humans, who both demand the top rung of the food chain, remain palatable. Readers will enjoy watching how the children as adults become the warriors still led by Lucan as the Order’s next generation takes over though the paradox of prophesy means the journey not the outcome matters. Lara Adrian is one of this reviewer’s top ten authors

Harriet Klausner

December 26, 2012

Ever After-Kim Harrison

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

Ever After
Kim Harrison
Harper Voyager, Jan 22 2013, $27.99
ISBN 9780061957918

Elf Trent Kalamack’s top security expert, Quen Hanson wants to hire witch-demon Rachel Morgan to protect his employer so he can spend quality time with Ceri and their babies (Lucy and Ray). Though she knows she desperately needs the money, Rachel declines the offer due to her bi-polar history with the mogul.

The ley line Rachel created is rapidly eroding the demon Ever After realm. At the same time, Rosewood syndrome infected children start vanishing with Rachel as the only suspect after the ley line disaster; while an insane extremely powerful demon abducts Ceri and Lucy. With no choice, Rachel teams up with Trent and Quen to prevent the end of the demonic realm (and her life) and rescue the security expert’s family while betrayal awaits their efforts.

The latest Hollows urban fantasy (see A Perfect Blood) is a great entry that series fans will relish as the transition to the end game countdown has begun. Filled with action and numerous exciting subplots containing a sense of pending doom (including Rachel’s convoluted AFU personal life and insight into the demon-elf hostilities), the Hollows readers will enjoy this thriller.

Harriet Klausner

December 11, 2012

Enchanted Ever After-Robin D. Owens

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

Enchanted Ever After
Robin D. Owens
Luna/Harlequin, Dec 18 2012, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803477

In Denver, Kiri Palger loves online gaming though her job of the last two years at a national computer firm has left her drained of more energy than losing at Fairies and Dragons. Needing to unkink after a long day on her butt at the office, Kiri takes a walk in Mystic Circle where she lives. A man with a runner’s physique accosts her saying he is from Eight Corps, Human Resources, parent company of Fairies and Dragons where she hopes to work at one day. He refers to her neighbor Jennie Weaver as a reference, but calls her Jindesfarne Mistweaver Emberdrake (see Enchanted No More). When he floats his business card to her, a frightened Kiri rushes home while hybrid Lightfolk Lathyr Tricurrent watches her retreat.

At a neighborhood party that Lathyr attends, Jennie hires Kiri to work on a new game. As she spends time with Lathyr, Kiri works on the new project while she finds herself obtaining mystical new powers. Soon she and Lathyr are on a magical quest as Kiri “tests” in real life the game she is helping to create.

The third Mystic Circle romantic fantasy (see Enchanted Again) is a fun entertaining thriller as the real and virtual worlds merge. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy Kiri’s lighthearted romp as she must choose between magically in love or ennui in the mundane.

Harriet Klausner

November 30, 2012

The Eldritch Conspiracy-Cat Adams

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

The Eldritch Conspiracy
Cat Adams
Tor, Jan 8 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765328748

Siren Princess Adriana and Rusland King Dahlmar agree to a political marriage of convenience to the delight of their respective families. However, the Guardians of the Faith oppose the merger as their mission is Siren genocide. They have killed several individuals with close ties to the royal bride.

The family enlists Adriana’s cousin hybrid vamp-siren Celia Graves as a bodyguard bridesmaid with the threat from the Guardians growing. Celia proves her value when she prevents an assault on the bride’s wedding party at a bridal salon. Adriana returns home to prevent a coup from occurring while Celia stalks the terrorists and the mage abetting their ethnic cleansing agenda. She also needs to set aside time to find a dress for the wedding.

The latest Blood Singer urban romantic fantasy (see Blood Song, Siren Song, Demon Song, and The Isis Collar) is a superb thriller starring a fabulous soul-searching heroine who wonders where she belongs as a no longer human hybrid. While she ponders her place in one of three societies, the impact of feeling like an outsider on her personal life is negatively immense. Fans will appreciate her latest escapades as she hopes to make it to the royal wedding in a kick butt dress after sending the Guardians and their mage to well-deserved graves.

Harriet Klausner

November 15, 2012

The Eyes of Sandala-Cathy Benedetto

The Eyes of Sandala
Cathy Benedetto
BlackWyrm, Oct 31 2011, $15.95
ISBN: 9781613181157

Inside their extinct volcanic Crater home in the Sea of Death, the Shala know they are to protect the humans living in the five nations on the continent of Sandala. Recently strange happenings worry the Shala that the five centuries of peace is coming to an end. Shala TahJeen Teir has a vision that affirms this belief and Sealand on the southeastern coast has closed its borders to its three neighbors.

Fearing what is happening with reports of marauding bands all over the continent, Dania King Sorbonne sends out former Sentinels like Devon to learn the truth. He journeys across Palaton and Sealand reaching the coastal city of Seadawn as an armada from the eastern sea invades the coastal city. From the western sea, another armada invades Dania. As betrayal haunts the Shala, TahJeen struggles to adhere to the prophecy he prefers to ignore in order to mount a counterattack against the invaders and their Quisling allies; having his 7-foot plus back is Ariann.

The first Sandala thriller is an exciting military fantasy though typical of the sub-genre. The storyline is fast-paced throughout though the climax sets up the next entry with little closure to The Eyes of Sandala. Still fans will appreciate the adventures of Devon and TahJeen in a realm where five hundred years of peace has left few if any ready for hostilities.

Harriet Klausner

Elemental Magic: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters

Filed under: Fantasy,Title: E

Elemental Magic: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters
Mercedes Lackey
Daw, Dec 4 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756407872

This solid nineteen short story collection focuses on Mercedes Lackey’s historical Elemental Masters fantasy with all entries no later than 1919. In Oahu, “Makana” (by Fiona Patton) tries to emulate his foster father, a fabulous fisherman but cannot be one with the waves. In ancient times, Kyria and Meto are sailing to their marriage when the sirens call in “A Song of the Sea” by Diana L. Paxson. In 1885 Fire Mage and Daily Clarion reporter Jane Emerson notices the little match girl at a time when arsons threaten New York City in Michele Lang’s “The Phoenix of Mulberry Street.” As McKinley is shot, injured black war veteran Nathanial obtains growing paranormal powers at a time his rage explodes due to overt racism in Georgia (Ron Collins’s “The Collector”). In “I Have heard the Mermaid Sing” by Mercedes Lackey, Miriam the air mage struggles to help a family friend earth mage in coastal Maine. Overall this is an enjoyable anthology in which Ms. Lackey’s fans will appreciate though the strife for the most part is kept to a limited personal conflict (i.e., racism, feminism, etc.).

Harriet Klausner

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