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

November 22, 2013

The Grey Star-James Bartholomeusz

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

The Grey Star
James Bartholomeusz
Medallion Press, Dec 1 2013, $9.99
ISBN: 9781605427003

In their quest to obtain the Risa Star shards, the weary Apollonians have won a battle on oceanic planet Nexus that destroyed much of the world and left the Emperor dead. However, they and the apparent Ubermensch Jack have no time to celebrate or even rest. Their adversaries the Cult of Dionysus members remain powerful with plans to obtain and deploy the Risa Star that will kill billions. In combat, the Cult’s disregard for collateral damage gives them a fighting edge over the Apollonians.

Making matters more complicated and dangerous for Jack and his allies is they must split up in their task of gaining the final two shards. However, the weight of the universe is on the Ubermensch who faces an enemy so great, his only chance of winning seems to lie with mass destruction.

This Seven Stars middle school fantasy is a fast-paced tale although the predictive final confrontation is slowed considerably by passive explanatory commentary rather than active combat except for an odd climatic battle. Jack is a solid hero matured by the fight while his prime opponent seems greater than him. Tweeners and young teens will enjoy the third novel if they read the previous two thrillers (see The Black Rose and The White Fox).

Harriet Klausner

November 10, 2013

The God Tattoo: Untold Tales from the Twilight Reign-Tom Lloyd

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

The God Tattoo: Untold Tales from the Twilight Reign
Tom Lloyd
Pyr, Nov 5 2013, $18.00
ISBN 9781616148591

This superb eleven story collection enhances the macro view of the Twilight Reign fantasy saga with a darker micro level return to the Land. In the opening act, “A Beast in Velvet” brutally hunts the residents of Narkang with a calling card of battered corpses and enigmatic runes. Daken the mercenary believes mages are natural born sociopaths while the indifference of the Gods makes both groups untrustworthy with their hidden agendas in the title story. Now retired, “The Marshal’s Reflection” of a time just before the war came to Narkang remains vivid. Marshal Calath learns a life lesson that good intentions do not necessarily mean good outcomes in “A Man from Thistledell”. All the entries are excellent leading to Twilight Reign fans relishing this strong anthology and newbies showing their appreciation by reading the novels.

Harriet Klausner

June 2, 2013

The Girl With The Iron Touch-Kady Cross

Filed under: Author: K,Fantasy,Title: G

The Girl With The Iron Touch
Kady Cross
Harlequin Teen, May 28 2013, $17.99
ISBN: 9780373210855

In 1897 London, automatons apparently working for the remnants of the evil Machinist kidnap Emily O’Brien because of her mechanical skills. They demand she place the brain of Leonardo Garibaldi into automaton 312; their late master’s creation which is more human than mechanical. She refuses as she does not want another battle to the death with another Machinist. When her abductors threaten her straynge friends (Finley Jayne, Lord Griffin King and Sam Morgan), Emily knows she must fake cooperation while stalling the transplant until she escapes or is rescued.

Meanwhile Emily’s three buddies desperately search for her. Finley Jayne pleads with master criminal Jack Dandy to help save Emily; Jack kisses her shaking and confusing her heart as she loves Griffin. The Aether beckons Griffin who fears he is losing his mind, but deals with his sanity alone as expected of an aristocrat. Though more machine than man, a panicked Sam knows his heart and soul propels him to search forever for the female he loves.

The latest Girl With Steampunk Chronicles historical fantasy (see The Girl in the Steel Corset and The Girl in the Clockwork Collar) is a terrific entry that grips readers from the moment Emily is snatched and never loosens that hold unto a final confrontation. Action-packed yet vividly described, teen readers will think they crossed over into an alternate late Victorian London in a coming of age thriller; as the trio and their allies struggle with runaway emotions that could betray the rescue mission while at the same so does the abductee.

Harriet Klausner

April 4, 2013

Let the Dead Sleep-Heather Graham

Let the Dead Sleep
Heather Graham
Mira, Mar 26 2013, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778315056

In New Orleans, Danni Cafferty is in a hospital room as her father lies near death. Heartbroken she tells her dying dad she loves him and needs him to stay with her. He abruptly tells her he failed her when he delayed telling her of her inheritance; as he allowed his love for her to let her live a little longer as a normal. Before collapsing, her father insists she keep his curio shop she inherits and protect his ancient lore tome.

Not long after her father’s death, a distraught woman enters the shop to demand Danni take away an evil statue that killed her husband and will kill her next. Danni arrives at the woman’s home to learn she committed suicide and meets former NOPD cop turned private investigator Michael Quinn; the statue is gone. After informing her he collaborated on cases with her late dad, Michael further explains to her he is looking into strange deaths related to a Renaissance statue stolen from the grave of a malevolent monster. They team up in search of the missing artifact though both fear what will happen to them if they obtain this evil without precautions like having Catholic and Voodoo priests accompanying them.

The first Cafferty & Quinn romantic urban fantasy is an engaging tale though the love subplot between the protagonists seems more of an intruding sub-genre requirement. The New Orleans hunt for the malevolent killing relic is fun to follow even without a Krewe of Hunters for readers to rely on; as Heather Graham opens up her new series with an entertaining paranormal thriller.

Harriet Klausner

March 4, 2013

The Golem and the Jinni-Helene Wecker

Filed under: Author: W,Fantasy,Title: G

The Golem and the Jinni
Helene Wecker
Harper, Apr 23 2013, $27.99
ISBN 9780062110831

In Konin near Leipzig Polish Jew Otto Rotfeld was arrogant, feckless and lonely. He destroyed in a short time the thriving family furniture business he inherited; making him even less marketable to women. A desperate Otto visited Yehudah Schaalman, an extremely old man who dabbled in the Kabbalah to ask the dark mage to create for him a golem. In 1899, Rotfeld leaves on the steamship Baltika accompanied by his golem. On the trip over, the Golem’s master dies while the crew assumes she is his widow. In New York City Rabbi Avram Meyer, realizing the supernatural clay essence of Mrs. Rotfeld, internally debates whether to kill her before she brings destruction or help her; he names her Chava and gets her a job in a bakery.

In Manhattan tinsmith Boutros Arbeely frees a jinni from a millennium old copper flask. He names the jinni Ahmad, who becomes a metalworker. Ahmad misses his ancient Syrian Desert fiery birth place especially the palace, which he knows is long gone. When Ahmad and Chava meet, they are attracted to one another though her master is dead while his Ibn Malik lives on.

This is a strong historical fantasy that weaves together the story of two supernatural beings from different mythos. Although the desert coda feels abrupt, the key to this super thriller is the support cast the protagonists encounter as each of these souls’ respective tales brings depth to the storyline.

Harriet Klausner

February 28, 2013

The Goddess Inheritance-Aimee Carter

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

The Goddess Inheritance
Aimee Carter
Harlequin Teen, Feb 26 2013. $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210671

Kate Winters spent the nine months of her pregnancy in captivity. For most of her incarceration, her beloved Henry was led astray by Walter and Ava to believe Kate accompanied James searching for the missing Rhea. Kate believes her Henry finally knows the truth re her fate. Everyone seemingly wants the unborn as perhaps the most powerful being ever since Cronus the Titan claims the fetus is his (though Henry sired the child) and the Queen of the Gods Calliope makes sacrificial plans for Kate’s baby once born.

Kate knows she can do nothing against either super God as Calliope takes away her newborn Milo. Cronus offers her a deal he knows that she cannot refuse. He will spare her and her newborn Milo and limit human collateral damage in the war of the gods if she pledges her total loyalty to him. She understands the cost of committing to Cronus means Henry, her mother and the Gods will die; failure to pledge means Milo is gone forever and she, much of mankind and her loved ones will probably die.

The final Goddess Test urban fantasy (see the Goddess Test and Goddess, Interrupted) is a strong twisting ending to a fabulous series as a distraught Kate finds herself caught between the love of her family and saving the world by self-sacrifice. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans of the trilogy will enjoy the final confrontation though they will question Kate’s terrible decisions even factoring in the protagonist’s Olympus levels of stress and depression. Still Aimee Carter provides an engaging end to an entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

January 19, 2013

Gates of Paradise-Melissa de la Cruz

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

Gates of Paradise
Melissa de la Cruz
Hyperion, Jan 15 2013, $16.99
ISBN: 9781423157410

As the London coven has little to celebrate the New Year, Lucifer begins his final assault on the gate of Paradise as he believes victory is now. Supporting him is the powerful sibling angels Abbadon and Azrael, respectively known as Jack and Mimi Force elsewhere, who are assigned by Lucifer to kill their loved ones.

While Lucifer continues his attack, former vampire Bliss Llewellyn and Lawson the wolf team up to liberate his people from hell; Abbadon and Azrael prepare for the right moment for a betrayal. At about the same time Schuyler Van Alen, worried about Jack who she last saw in Egypt, becomes a prisoner in Hell where she thinks the only hope for Heaven and earth resides with doing what Michel refused to do when faced with the same crisis in Ancient Rome.

The final Blue Bloods urban fantasy (see Lost In Time and Bloody Valentine) is a super climax to a strong good and evil saga as the prime subplots are tied up. The cast is powerful from the diabolical Prince of Hell to the Force angels who expect death regardless of the outcome to the heroic sacrificing Schuyler ready to die in hell for a heavenly cause.

Harriet Klausner

October 26, 2012

Great North Road-Peter F. Hamilton

Great North Road
Peter F. Hamilton
Del Rey, Jan 1 2013, $30.00
ISBN: 9780345526663

In 2004 Kane North uses family money to hire the best geneticists to work a cloning program. Over the next few years three clones of him are born with severe defects. In 2012, triplet clones Augustine, Bartram and Constantine are born. In 2020, Wan Hi Chan’s theory of trans-spacial connection proves instant travel as doable leading to links to rival interstellar programs. In 2034 Augustine, Bartram and Constantine form the Northumberland Interstellar Corps. However, by 2087 the siblings split up with Augustine remaining at Northumberland while his brothers leave the firm becoming rivals.

In 2121 on the planet St. Libra someone slaughters Bartram and his family. The police arrest Angela Tramelo who is convicted and given a life sentence; she insisted she was innocent and that an alien killed them. Over two decades later, an eerily similar slaughter of a North clone occurs in Newcastle, England. Detective Sidney Hurst leads the investigation that he knows will prove a career killer regardless of what he does. He and others also know Angela has the perfect state sponsored alibi. She is freed to search the planetary jungles for the deadly predator as the only survivor of the alien psychopath while he investigates the slaying in England.

This is an exciting futuristic thriller that is at its best when focusing on clone creation, instant interstellar travel and a great murder mystery in Newcastle and on St Libra. The Zanth assault on human colonies at first seems out of place as if Peter F. Hamilton switch the theme, but he shows his skills as an author when he cleverly brings everything together in a taut science fiction detective tale.

Harriet Klausner

October 18, 2012

Ghost Planet-Sharon Lynn Fisher

Ghost Planet
Sharon Lynn Fisher
Tor, Oct 30 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780765368973

Environmentally compared to earth Ardagh-1 is Eden. However, there is one major problem with this otherwise idyllic world: a native species hooks onto a human by taking the form of a dead person the outside knew. The alien spirits are meek followers of their “host”. Psychologically the colonists struggle with a deceased loved one following them everywhere they go. New Seattle Counseling center chief psychologist Dr. Grayson Murphy issues the “Ghost Protocol,” which bans the colonist from interacting with their ghosts.

Dr. Elizabeth Cole arrives on Ardagh-1 to help the unsettling humans with their mental traumas. She thinks the “Ghost Protocol” is a mistake. Additionally the new psychologist is attracted to her supervisor until she realizes that Dr. Elizabeth Cole died due to a malfunction upon landing in the ocean instead of a pad. Her host Dr. Grayson Murphy ignores her existence, but unlike her new docile peers she plans to learn what she has become.

Ghost Planet is a great romantic science fiction with a strong premise that Sharon Lynn Fisher executes perfectly. Elizabeth is a super protagonist even though we (and she) know she died by chapter 2 as she keeps the fascinating storyline focused. Character driven, readers will appreciate this engaging tale.

Harriet Klausner

September 22, 2012

The Greatcoat: A Ghost Story-Helen Dunmore

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

The Greatcoat: A Ghost Story
Helen Dunmore
Atlantic Monthly, Oct 2 2012, $24.00
ISBN: 9780802120601

In 1952, Great Britain still digs out of the horrors of WWII. Newlyweds Isabel and Philip Carey move to rural Yorkshire where he takes over a medical practice. Philip dives into his work as a country doctor while Isabel suffers from loneliness and a sense she does not belong here rusticating.

On a lonely night, Isabel finds an RAF greatcoat buried in the top of a cupboard by apparently their landlady Mrs. Elizabeth Atkinson. To keep warm on this freezing evening, Isabel puts on the coat and falls asleep. Not long afterward, the ghost of the owner of the coat Alec, a late RAF officer, taps from the outside on the flat’s window. The isolated woman and the dead pilot begin a tryst.

This is an exciting 1950s ghost story that switches between the “present” (1952) and WWII as Isabel obsesses over her new “friend”. Although none of the triangle protagonists are fully developed beyond their prime role, fans will appreciate the tale of the Greatcoat.

Harriet Klausner

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