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 12, 2014

Immortal Muse-Stephen Leigh

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

Immortal Muse
Stephen Leigh
DAW, Mar 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9780756409562

In 1352 Paris, Perenelle expected a happy life when she married alchemist Nicolas Flamel after her first husband Marlon died from the 1349 pestilence. However, her life remained dissatisfying especially since he rejected her help at the apothecary though as the daughter of an alchemist she knew her chemicals. Worse to Perenelle was his temper that targeted their little girl Verdette for most of his wrath over Perenelle’s objections. In 1370 Verdette escapes her uncaring father via marriage. Over the next two decades Verdette begged her beloved mom to leave the odious ignoramus, but she did not as she loved working in her lab. In 1398 Verdette died, but a few years later a still grieving Perenelle develops an immortality elixir that to her chagrin Nicolas takes too.

Over the centuries in Paris, Rome, London and elsewhere, Perenelle the muse encourages artists while Nicolas brings pain and death to anyone in his path. Every time he finds her, she vanishes and reinvents herself until now she lives as Camille Kenny in twenty-first century New York while knowing he will come.

Immortal Muse is a fabulous fantasy that rotates between modern day NYC and various changing centuries; with each stop and the people readers (and the Immortal Muse) encounter coming across as genuine. Readers will appreciate Stephen Leigh’s fascinating good and evil war while wondering who the author’s creative muse is.

Harriet Klausner

October 31, 2013

The Influence-Bentley Little

Filed under: Author: L,Horror,Title: I

The Influence
Bentley Little
Cemetery Dance, Oct 29 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781587674198

Engineer Ross Lowery lost his position at Air Research during the Great Recession and has not found work since. He always sent money to his family when they needed it even when he didn’t have much. However, now that he needs assistance, all (including his siblings) except his cousin Lita ignore him. Though not wealthy, Lita and her husband Dave invite Ross to stay with them in remote Magdalena, Arizona for a few months while he applies for jobs over the Net.

At the town’s New Year’s Eve bash, everyone shoots into sky at midnight; only something falls to the ground. Soon afterward the townsfolk begin to face changes in their fortunes. A rancher’s cattle die with eerie creatures leaving the corpses before vanishing and Lita’s eggs hatch lizards and spiders; Ross receives job offers and falls in love, and a beautician wins the mega lottery. When children vanish, realizing something is not right in Magdalena ever since the creature fell from the sky and altered 180 degrees the fortunes and misfortunes of everyone, Ross believes he and others must rescue the young and prevent whatever is occurring from spreading.

The Influence is a strong horror thriller in which darkness threatens life as the townsfolk knew it. The reactions by the affluent suddenly hammered by bad luck and the threat of poverty, and the impoverished suddenly charmed with a run of good fortune make for a super storyline. With deep underlying social messages from scriptures: “But by the grace of God I am what I am …” and “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (karma aside). Bentley Little provides a taut thought-provoking tale.

Harriet Klausner

October 25, 2013

The Iron Traitor-Julie Kagawa

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

The Iron Traitor
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen, Oct 29 2013
ISBN: 9780373210916

Iron Queen Meghan Chase’s younger brother Ethan wanted nothing to do with his sibling’s Iron Realm Nevernever after spending a traumatic time as an abducted four year old in that abomination (see The Iron King). In the normal realm, Ethan hid his true nature behind an angry tough guy loner façade until he met Mackenzie St. James at his new school. That encounter eventually led to his return accompanied by her to the last place he wanted to visit (see The Lost Prince).

After a week in Faeryland, he is back in normal land, hopefully with Kenzie as her boyfriend. The cops question him re shell shocked Todd and Kenzie whose parents order her not to see Ethan again after he explains that he drove her to New York for a week. Meanwhile Ethan’s same age as him nephew Keirran, who he met for the first time on his recent visit to his sister, vanished. The family fears the teenager plans to raise the deadly Forgotten. Feeling a sense of responsibility that he knows sucks Ethan must stop his relative before he devastates two realms.

The second entertaining Iron Fey Call of the Forgotten urban fantasy (see The Lost Prince) continues to focus on Ethan who no longer is an angry teen since he has friends and family to care what happens to them especially Kenzie. Though it behooves the audience to read the previous book to better understand the protagonist (and for that matter Meghan’s saga – see The Iron King, The Iron Queen and The Iron Daughter), fans will enjoy this entry as Ethan learns the importance of family.

Harriet Klausner

May 6, 2013

Inferno-Sherrilyn Kenyon

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

Inferno
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s Griffin, Apr 9 2013, $18.99
ISBN: 9781250002839

The Cajun-demon Nick Gautier turned sixteen with concerns that seemingly everyone wants him dead. He has no friends as he learned firsthand to trust no one. The nearest individual to an ally Death wants him dead but warns him even his loved ones will betray him. Stunned Nick confronts his girlfriend Nekoda Kennedy, who confesses she must prevent a future Nick from becoming the Malachai who ended the world by stopping him now. Dumping Nekoda, being a teen Nick turns to Casey the cheerleader.

Enemies attack Nick and his Malachai father with no regard to collateral damage as they rationalize all will die otherwise. However, as their adversaries deploy increasingly deadlier assaults without success, they desperately turn to an ancient they cannot control. Nick soon concludes he must risk his life to stop the abomination threatening the world and also keep the future Nick from ending the world from happening while dating.

The latest Chronicles of Nick (see Infamous, Invisible and Infinity) is an action-packed twisting fantasy as the protagonist struggles to survive, save the world and find a date who does not want to kill him. Action-packed, fans will enjoy this entry although feel frustrated with the abrupt cliffhanger climax requiring a wait for book five.

Harriet Klausner

March 25, 2013

I Left My Haunt In San Francisco-Mark Everett Stone

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

I Left My Haunt In San Francisco
Mark Everett Stone
Camel, Mar 15 2013, $15.95
ISBN: 9781603819275

After a decade plus as the top agent and only still living member of his graduation class at the Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, Kal Hakela faked his death so that he could kill the invincible Finnish monster Iku-Turso who murdered his sister (see What happens In Vegas, Dies In Vegas). His BSI boss BB re-recruits him to train the Green Peas in protecting the World At Large where humans dwell from the denizen of The World Under. Once his current term ends, Kal considers retiring with his beloved WWII MI-7 agent Jeanie whom he met in 1943.

BB tells Kal that former BSI agent Thomas Mace jumped to his death in San Francisco. Someone had ripped apart his intestines, but somehow Mace ran up thirty flights of stairs in five minutes, and opened and closed steel doors before leaping off the roof of a building. Kal leads the inquiry in a city where he years ago eliminated a psychopathic serial rapist magic practitioner but left innocents dead and the Bay’s protector Emperor Norton irate.

The third Hakela urban fantasy (see Things to Do in Denver When You’re Un-Dead) is a superb entry as the lone wolf goes into the field with no additional support from a depleted BSI and three major changes in his life. He no longer obsesses with rage over killing monsters; he has Jeanie in his life though she currently works a case in the Bayou; and he learned people care about his well-being after volunteers joined him in Vegas. One thing remains the same; Mark Everett Stone provides another intelligent, wry action-packed satire that will have fans waiting for the next stop on the Hakela Americana tour.

Harriet Klausner

March 5, 2013

Immortal Ever After-Lynsay Sands

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

Immortal Ever After
Lynsay Sands
Avon, Feb 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062078117

“Igor” came every night to give his caged female prisoners drug-laced oatmeal, fruit and water except the one his master chooses for his “night out” dining. This evening the vampiric psychopath selects veterinarian Valerie Moyer as his latest bloody snack. However, far from being docile, she stopped eating the oatmeal after her last “night out” Valerie surprises and stakes Igor. She calls 911 but the dispatcher thinks she is on drugs when she mentions six other women, stakes, bites and a vampire who has come for his meal. Wounded and exhausted, she escapes only to faint.

Monitoring the 911 call, vampiric enforcer Anders Andronnikov leads a team into the house. The vampire is gone, but they tend to the women and the police answering the 911 call. Anders finds Valerie and with Bricker takes her to home of Lucien and pregnant Leigh Argeneau. The enforcer also knows Valerie is his lifemate while the vet feels the attraction. As she accepts the concept of good and bad vampires, her nightmare stalks her waiting for the opportunity to bleed her to death.

The latest Argeneau romantic urban fantasy (see Under A Vampire Moon and The Lady is a Vamp) is an enjoyable thriller due to the likable protagonists and a self-trained rogue vampiric survivalist. The sister bonding between Leigh and Valerie adds freshness while the horde of cameo visitors detracts from the plot. Still series fans will enjoy this engaging triangle.

Harriet Klausner

February 26, 2013

Immortally Embraced-Angie Fox

Filed under: Author: F,Fantasy,Title: I

Immortally Embraced
Angie Fox
St. Martin’s, Feb 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312546670

Having been drafted during the war between the Old and New Greek Gods, Army MASH Dr. Petra Robichaud, a hybrid fairy, pulled off a miracle; not the oracle prophesy she fulfilled that led to the cease-fire she fostered as the peacemaker, but instead finding love in Demi-God Commander Galen. As a reward for her valor and diligence, she becomes a part of a special MASH unit to the paranormal.

Her current patient is an over three thousand years old pregnant gorgon who fears telling her parents. After Petra informs Medusa of her delicate condition and telling her to come back for an ultrasound, Galen embarks on a needed but suicidal mission after ending their relationship. Meanwhile her former lover Mark arrives pleading with Petra to investigate a ghost causing havoc amidst the enemy. Neither is prepared for what they confront and learn nor another Oracle Prophecy.

The latest Robichaud MASH unit military urban fantasy is fast-paced from the opening scene in which the Doctor to the Gods (and wannabes) explains to Medusa that she got pregnant the old fashion way and never slows down until the final confrontation. Filled with satirical humor especially with placing the Greek pantheon in a modern day environment and loaded with action, readers will relish the adventures of the Army doctor though it helps to have read Immortally Yours to best understand the Fox mythos.

Harriet Klausner

December 23, 2012

The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Trivia Book-Brian James Freeman

Filed under: Author: F,Horror,Title: I

The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Trivia Book
Brian James Freeman, Hans Ake Lilja and Kevin Quigley; Illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne, Cemetery Press, Dec 31 2012
ISBN: 9781587673115 (trade – $19.95); 9781587673122 (hardcover – $40.00)

Obviously for fans of the renowned author, this collection asks trivia questions involving fifty four movies based on Mr. King’s works (including Bachman novels like The Running Man), his acting roles not all based on his novels (Nightriders), film sequels and the Dollar Babies (this is new for me; I would love a film festival of them). Each film is given its own chapter with numerous almost all multiple choice questions like whose name is on the bat Wendy used on Jack in the Shining and what cartoon show is Tad watching in Cujo? With over 1,000 questions (many of which were provided by fans) and numerous Glenn Chadbourne Illustrations taken from the movies, readers will enjoy this fun entertaining compilation.

Harriet Klausner

December 13, 2012

Indigo Awakening-Jordan Dane

Indigo Awakening
Jordan Dane
Harlequin Teen, Dec 18 2012, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210763

In Los Angeles, Mia arrives at the apartment of her younger emancipated seventeen year old sister Rayne with a cop demanding her sibling hand over their brother Lucas. Mia insists Lucas is sick and needs drugs while Rayne believes Mia’s Church of Believers hunt people like her sibling.

The meds have finally left his body so that Lucas can hear the voices and the music that was muted too long. He vanishes into the Sunset Boulevard area after cautioning Rayne not to look for him as she would place herself in danger from the Believers who hunt the “Indigo” teens like Lucas. Rayne rejects her troubled brother’s warning as she searches for him on the mean streets of the city. There she meets mysterious loner Gabriel Stewart, who she feels compelled to protect though he frightens her; she scares him with her belief that deep down he cares and worse how much he wants to protect her. Reluctantly Gabe assists Rayne in her quest while the Believers stalk them.

The first Hunted teen romantic fantasy is a great thriller as Jordan Dane makes her world if special power teens and a Church hunting them down seem believable in an X-Men way. The lead characters and Lucas seem genuine, but it is the fanatics (though somewhat stereotyped) like Mia who make the tale work as they recognize what the Indigo mean to the present dominant species.

Harriet Klausner

December 5, 2012

Imager’s Battalion-L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Filed under: Author: M,Fantasy,Title: I

Imager’s Battalion
L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Tor, Jan 22 2013, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765332837

Quaeryt’s brother-in-law, the ruler of Telaryn Lord Bhayar, names him subcommander in the army that is about to punish Bovaria for its recent annexation invasion of their kingdom as part of an effort to unite the five squabbling nations into what it once was as Lydar. Realizing the opportunity to prove the value of imagers like him, Quaeryt logically plans to display leadership, courage, worthiness and loyalty when he takes his unit into combat so that he and his peers become accepted by society as heroic rather than the pariahs they currently are.

However, Quaeryt’s obsession costs the lives of many of his troops in battle yet accomplish little in terms of acceptance. Even with the heroics performed by him and his soldiers, the anti-Imager adversaries at Lord Bhayar’s court and in the military continue their unrelenting assault on Quaeryt and his Imager peers.

The latest Imager Portfolio fantasy (see Princeps and Scholar) is a fascinating tale as brilliant Quaeryt learns that his rational thinking does not mean others will do likewise regardless of what he and his unit achieve. Though there is limited action considering this is a military thriller, series fans still will enjoy the thought provoking concepts generated mostly by a hero with a deep need to belong.

Harriet Klausner

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