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 8, 2014

Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence-Robert Conroy

Filed under: Author: C,Title: L

Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence
Robert Conroy
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $25.00
ISBN: 9781476736273

In 1781, the French fail to prevent the British navy from reaching General Cornwallis at Yorktown; leading to the crushing of the colonial rebellion and capture of its leader George Washington and other notable traitors. Washington is found guilty of seditious acts and in 1783 is executed at the Tower of London while many of the rebellion’s leaders incarcerated in Jamaica or in brigs are left to die.

One year after the beheading of Washington, rebel spy Will Drake escapes his death sentence on a ship. He travels to Fort Washington to join freedom fighters emerging there. Sarah Benton treks to Fort Washington to avoid the sexual blackmail attempts by the local law official as does Royal Marines deserter Owen Wells where each enlist in the rebel cause.

Governor General Cornwallis orders General Burgoyne to end this revolt using any means necessary. Still fuming with humiliation as the biggest British loser during the recent hostilities, Burgoyne plans to harshly defeat the rebels at a time the French monarchy is in peril from radicals.

This is a super alternative historical in which the pivotal point change occurs at Yorktown. Most of the events that flow from that key event seem genuine as Robert Conroy defends his time line modifications with strong arguments interwoven into the exciting storyline. The prime players appear real though the rebels are too paragons of virtue; while on the British side Burgoyne seeks to regain his fractured pride; Tarleton a vicious psychopath, Arnold an opportunist traitor; and the Iroquois trust neither side but ally with the lesser of two evils. Readers will appreciate this entertaining entry as Mr. Conroy moves back in time from the twentieth century with another winner.

Harriet Klausner

January 16, 2014

A Liaden Universe: Constellation Vol 2-Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

A Liaden Universe: Constellation Vol 2
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, Jan 7 2014, $16.00
ISBN: 9781451639445

The second Liaden Universe: Constellation compilation contains sixteen strong previously published short stories including twelve self-published by the authors. The anthology provides depth to various worlds in the trade routes, but the collection also takes a no frills approach with no introductions except for a brief Foreword that focuses on the publishing market. On Skardu in “Veil of the Dancer” Inas craves being a chip off the old paternal block as she wants to become a scholar. Kore sends a letter to Midj asking the pilot to come to Shaltren in “Quiet Knives”. Daav and Clarence meet on Liad in “The Beggar King”. “Prodigal Son” Val Con returns on a mission to Vandar. The entries are quite good with series fans appreciating them especially if you can place where these tales fit in terms of time in the wider universe of novels, novellas and the other shorts (see A Liaden Universe: Constellation Vol 1). Newcomers will enjoy the stories as exciting singles but not as an introduction to the wonderful vast Lee-Miller galaxy.

Harriet Klausner

December 13, 2013

Lost Covenant-Ari Marmell

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

Lost Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr, Dec 3 2013, $17.99
ISBN: 9781616148119

Several months have passed since teenage orphan Widdershins and her god Olgun, of whom no one else reveres, fled Davillon. During their journey, the former relatively successful thief and failed ex tavern-keeper learns that the family of her deceased savior Alexandre Delacroix is in trouble from the machinations of a rival house.

Feeling she owes a debt from when she an urchin called Adrienne Sati before and during the time kind Alexandre removed her from the streets; Widdershins decides to protect the Delacroix house. Thus she and the tiny god inside her investigate the insidious plot. The late Alexandre’s family distrusts his adopted daughter, which makes her efforts more dangerous to her, Olgun and the Delacroix clan.

This Widdershins thriller (see Thief’s Covenant and False Covenant) is an entertaining investigative fantasy due to the schizophrenic-like antics of the protagonist. Though there remains plenty of magic, the fun is with Widdershins’ debates with her deity and her (and us) hearing people’s casual phoniness and transgressions. Fast-paced with humor from a persistent suitor and satirizing hypocrisy, readers will enjoy Widdershins to the rescue of those who scorn her.

Harriet Klausner

October 11, 2013

Lighthouse Island-Paulette Jiles

Lighthouse Island
Paulette Jiles
Morrow, Oct 8 2013, $26.99
ISBN: 9780062232502

In the harsh endless city, parents abandon their four years old daughter. The neighborhood watch takes the bewildered child away and soon she ends up in an orphanage where many of the abandoned reside. All the children watch television and do nothing else. Only Raisa cannot see the screen or anything else, which gives her time to think. She believes that her mom will come back one day and turn on her eyes so that she can see the North Star.

The Agency for Parentless Dependents names her Nadia Stepan. While the others live in absolute fear from the powerful and numb their phobias with TV, Nadia the loner dreams of a life without trepidation. She turns to the outlawed Big Radio for tales before the sea to sea urbanization and loves poetry. However, her quest to find Lighthouse Island keeps Nadia going even when hope abandons her.

Lighthouse Island is a bleak futuristic dystopian thriller that paints a drab existence for the 99.9% as group ennui leaves no room for individualism. Although the large support cast makes for some difficulty to follow the plot, readers will relish the protagonist on her dream quest for happiness in an Orwellian world.

Harriet Klausner

March 27, 2013

The Lost-Vicki Pettersson

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

The Lost
Vicki Pettersson
Harper Voyager, Mar 19 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062064653

Five decades ago someone murdered private investigator Griffin Shaw and his wife Evie; the case was never solved. On the bottom rung of the celestial ladder, Griff assists the purebreds by collecting the souls of murder victims; in exchange for his cooperation he has permission to investigate the homicides of him and his spouse. Recently, he met Las Vegas reporter Katherine “Kit” Craig when he was to collect her soul; but he broke the rules by failing to do so as he fell in love with the mortal after Anas clipped his wings due to defiance (see The Taken).

A new deadly drug eats away the flesh of the krokodil users. An obsessed Kit believes she and her beloved angel need to prevent further deaths, but Griff must collect the soul of krokodil user Jeap Yang, which angers his mortal girlfriend. Kit interferes, which leaves her vulnerable to fallen angel Scratch. Still, as is her personality, she leads the charge against the powerful Marielitos Cartel.

The second Celestial Blues bittersweet romantic urban fantasy (see The Taken) is a strong tale starring a hard boiled 1950s detective with a soft boiled heart and the “Impossible Dream” reporter “… willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause”; as defined by her and not heaven. With the angelic hierarchy seemingly real, fans will enjoy this super thriller; as the cold case murder mystery, Scratch and the drug war deftly come together.

Harriet Klausner

February 1, 2013

The Love Of My Other Life-Traci L. Slatton

The Love Of My Other Life
Traci L. Slatton
Parvati Press, Jan 17 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9780984672622

Divorcee Tessa Barnum wonders what next will befall her as her already shaky world seems in the final stages of implosion. An artist who has not painted in three years while never having a showing, she struggles with paying her rent and buying groceries.

On another earth, brilliant scientist-mathematician Professor Brian Tennyson teaches at Yale though he prefers baseball. He pursued the love of his life Tessa Barnum the cello player who was his age as a student in his Calculus class. When he tests his decoherence theory based on quantum chromodynamics, Brian lands in a parallel universe in which the divorced Tessa Barnum is a failed artist.

This is an entertaining romantic science fiction frolic with a powerful philosophical theme of swing the bat even though you may strike out. Brian is a fun genius whose physics humor and Star Trek trivia add depth to his travelogue. Tessa is a bit more complicated as she struggles to get back into playing the game after making bad decisions in her life. Readers will enjoy their changing relationship as love proves to be the most powerful force in the Slatton multi-universe.

Harriet Klausner

December 29, 2012

Love, Lust & Pixie Dust-Erica Ridley

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

Love, Lust & Pixie Dust
Erica Ridley
Intrepid Reads, Dec 20 2012, $8.99
ISBN: 9780985455880

Daisy le Fey is an ambitious pixie who craves becoming a licensed Tooth Fairy. She has an opportunity to prove herself worthy with her first assignment to snatch the Angus tooth.

In the Costa Rican rainforest anthropologist Trevor Masterson leads an excavation that he knows must succeed; failure denotes no funding for future digs. He falls asleep with his face on the specimen tray only to abruptly awaken when he spots an unknown female with wings stealing his prize find a fossilized tooth that falls off his chin. He thinks she is a bespectacled Victoria’s Secret model while she insists he go back to sleep or she will leave him no money. As Daisy tries to fly away with the tooth, Trevor tries to prevent her. One magical fumbled attempt after another leads to turning his T.A. Katrina into a smoking pumpkin and several kisses; Trevor and Daisy reconsider their respective life goals even as her superiors take action against her for her felonious behavior with a mortal.

The first Nether-Netherland romance is a fun lighthearted farce that lampoons the urban fantasy’s relationships between humans and paranormal as the course of True Love flows uneven. Fast-paced, fans, who enjoy an amusing storyline that never takes itself seriously, will want to read this jocular frolic.

Harriet Klausner

December 22, 2012

A Love Untamed-Pamela Palmer

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

A Love Untamed
Pamela Palmer
Avon, Dec 26 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062107510

Once he was Kieran the Therian, but now he has become the latest rendition of Fox. He was the only one of the new shapeshfting Feral Warriors who did not attack the team veterans (see Ecstasy Untamed). Still as the rookie, Fox needs to prove as much to himself as his teammates he belongs as their equal in their endless war against the evil Daemons.

He is assigned teaming with Melisande the Ilena warrior who loathes shapeshifters. Expecting his teammate to be like all females wanting him, Fox is stunned by her hatred and distrust of him. As he begins to defrost the ice warrior, they become snared inside a daemon mage trap. Working together to escape before time runs out on them, Melisande and Fox find love and trust as the keys to freedom.

The latest exciting Feral Warriors romantic urban fantasy (see Rapture Untamed) is an enjoyable entry as two warriors, a newcomer and a shapeshifter hater, pair up. The storyline is fast-paced but has a somewhat déjà vu feel with the couple falling into a spirit trap. Still series fans will appreciate this tale as only love can save the lives of the Feral and Ilena Warriors.

Harriet Klausner

November 21, 2012

Last Kiss Goodnight-Gena Showalter

Last Kiss Goodnight
Gena Showalter
Pocket, Dec 26 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451671599

Michael Black found the three Otherworlder newborns just after their biological parents abandoned them on earth. He arranged for them to grow up with human families while he trained Solomon Judah, John No Last Name and Corbin Blue to be elite black operatives.

The bombing of Black’s office left Black fading and his three adult mentees missing. Evil Gregory Star captures the three Otherworlders. Solo awakens inside a magical cage as a freak attraction on display. The malevolent owner Lukas assigns his abused deaf daughter Vika to take care of the latest animal the Allorian they just purchased from Star as she does all of the captives. Solo recognizes Vika as his though his initial reaction is to kill her due to her carrying out the orders of her brutal father. He soon realizes she does her best to keep the “animals” safe and hopes this Allorian she wants can save her just like she tries to save him.

The opening Otherworld Assassin is a super ultra-dark urban fantasy starring two soulmates trapped in cages as their relationship positively evolves until they recognize that “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon). With biblical citations like that just mentioned to enhance the sense of something epic going on, fans will appreciate this thriller as the warm romance and the brutal viciousness serve as counter weights to a strong introduction to Gena Showalter’s newest realm.

Harriet Klausner

November 18, 2012

Luck of the Draw-Piers Anthony

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

Luck of the Draw
Piers Anthony
Tor, Dec 24 2012, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765331359

Magic relocates ailing octogenarian widower Bryce from Mundania to Xanth where he becomes a twentyish person who can see the future. Princess Dawn informs the confused Bryce that Demons placed a bet on him and others over who will win the affection of sixteen years old Princess Harmony; he being a long shot. Furthermore she explains his quest is dangerous but he has no choice as he is compulsively spellbound to compete although he feels some remorse as an ex-geriatric with a young man’s bod but the mind of a geezer courting a teen.

Given the mighty weapon of a pen, Bryce on his mission with two allies; Rachel the talking German short-haired pointer and nineteen year old Mindy join him. However, as he enjoys his fountain of youth and loves to draw, the teen object of his desire rejects his and her other suitors.

The latest Xanth fantasy (see Well-Tempered Clavicle) is duh a fun pun filled entry. Fast-paced with amusing (and some awful) bon mots, fans of the series will enjoy the Luck of the Draw.

Harriet Klausner

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