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 24, 2014

The Midnight Witch-Paula Brackston

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

The Midnight Witch
Paula Brackston
Dunne, Mar 25 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9781250006080

In 1913 London, Lady Lilith Montgomery watches sadly as her late father is lowered into the ground. She knows her opium using brother Freddie has become the Duke of Radnor, but she inherited her dad’s other title Morningstar the Lazarus Coven Head Witch though only twenty-one and feeling dreadfully unready for the responsibility.

Her fiancé Louis Harcourt the witch renews his vow to die if need be to keep her safe and to help her protect the Elixir of Life from adversarial sorcerers especially the Sentinels necromancers. As WWI explodes, Louis becomes despondent when a distracted Lilith falls in love with artist Bram Cardale; leading to each failing to defend their prime security mission in life; leaving the Great Secret in jeopardy which has not happened in generations.

The latest Paula Brackston’s bewitching drama (see Witch’s Daughter and The Winter Witch) is an entertaining WWI paranormal historical. Although alone in many respects, Lilith embraces the liberating radical changes that “the war to end all wars” wrought on English society. The engaging storyline contains some reiteration of Edwardian upper class behavior; however treks such as to war-torn Uganda provide freshness to the tale. Fans will appreciate The Midnight Witch as she hopes to follow her heart while also insuring the Elixir remains safe from those who would abuse it for personal gain.

Harriet Klausner

December 6, 2013

Mars, Inc.-Ben Bova

Mars, Inc.
Ben Bova
Baen, Dec 3 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9781451639346

Billionaire Art Thrasher dreams of a manned mission to Mars. He concludes the incompetent government will not undertake the endeavor. Using his business reputation and personal assets as collateral, Art persuades wealthy acquaintances to join him on funding the hundred billion dollar five-year venture.

One year into the project, Thrasher’s Mars vision increasingly seems probable. However, there is strong opposition to his program especially the nuclear propulsion power source that opponents claim too dangerous because if something goes wrong during the launch would prove catastrophic. Additionally adversaries sabotage the mission pushing it behind schedule and upsetting the backers.

Ben Bova opens a new science fiction series based on the premise that a Billionaire’s Club private business consortium will take on a manned Martian mission. The storyline is at its best explaining the scientific knowledge and theories and on the engineering issues that surface over the five years of development. The saboteurs’ subplot feels more like required action filler especially once the underlying reason surfaces and the protagonist seems like a fidgety P.T. Barnum with long legged groupies. Still readers will enjoy Mr. Bova’s return to space after he escorted fans on the Grand Tour of the solar system.

Harriet Klausner

October 31, 2013

Midnight’s Promise-Donna Grant

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

Midnight’s Promise
Donna Grant
St. Martin’s, Oct 29 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250017291

After centuries giving up everything to battle evil, weary Malcolm Munro knows he is mentally in trouble as he is losing hope that he will find a place in this shitty world to end his abject loneliness. Recently the Warrior’s depression has begun to affect his self-control over his powers.

Druid descendent Evangeline Walker is on the run as she believes her paranoia that she is being pursued is real. In Scotland, she and Malcolm meet when he rescues her from a car accident. Both feel the attraction though he struggles with his need after hundreds of years with none and she deals with her expectation of living her life alone. As they fall in love, she may trust him with her soul, but not that of her sibling Brian; so Evangeline turns to the darkness to rescue her brother.

The eighth Dark Warrior romantic fantasy (see Midnight’s Kiss, Midnight’s Captive and Midnight’s Temptation) is a taut action-packed tale starring two fascinating troubled protagonists. The fast-paced storyline focuses on whether two distrusting doubters, whose “… hearts they beat as one; no more love on the run” (Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean), can depend on love to strengthen their resolve if they are to survive their confrontation with overwhelming evil and Death.

Harriet Klausner

September 15, 2013

The Man Who Sold The Moon/Orphans of the Sky-Robert A. Heinlein

The Man Who Sold The Moon/Orphans of the Sky
Robert A. Heinlein
Baen, Sep 3 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451639223

This fabulous Future History collection contains an accompanying timeline dating the stories over several centuries while also summarizing the significant events and characters. All the entries are well written and many timely today while also influencing movies and books; though in some tales the characters are underdeveloped (to fit magazine space) and the science wrong. Readers will appreciate the intriguing brilliant underlying social and political concepts as Robert A. Heinlein shows his genius with these shorts.

“The Man Who Sold The Moon”: In “Life Line” the machine tells when a person will die, but not how they and their loved ones will react. They discover an efficient effective electric source but the power companies say no to “Let There Be Light.” Society depends on those who insure “The Roads Must Roll” as the only means of transportation. The workers feel the pressure of keeping atomic energy safe aware of “Blowups Happen.” Harriman needs financial backing for his planned space trip so “The Man Who Sold the Moon” produces a scheme to turn a profit from investors. Much older and ailing, Harriman still dreams of going to the moon in “Requiem.”

“Orphans of the Sky”: Since the mutiny several generations ago, the multi-generational lower level voyagers think their “Universe” consist of the ship drifting through space; as none believe in existence outside the vessel until Hoyland meets upper level mutants who teach him the truth. Using “Common Sense” Hoyland tries to persuade his people that their acceptable belief system is false.

Harriet Klausner

June 7, 2013

The Magic of “I Do”-Tammy Falkner

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

The Magic of “I Do”
Tammy Falkner
Sourcebooks, Jun 4 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402268151

In 1817 with magic banned in the land of Fae, fairie Claire Thorne returns to the human world where she recently helped her sister Sophia on her mission (see A Lady and Her Magic) but lost her fairy dust. She ends up in the one place she prefers to avoid, the room of hedonistic Lord “Finn” Phineas Tremble who possesses her shimmer in a vial.

Over her objection, Finn declares himself Claire’s protector though she wants nothing to do with a womanizing gambling cad and he believes her to be more an uptight harpy than a fairie. When Claire receives her mission to catch a killer, Finn demands in on her dangerous quest as he has fallen in love with the irritating defrocked fae.

The latest Thorne regency romantic fantasy is an engaging tale as the lead characters amusingly fuss and fight their way to love. Their jocular gender war and her perilous mission make for a fine thriller though Finn is to stereotypical of a reformed Regency rake.

Harriet Klausner

May 26, 2013

Magician’s End-Raymond E. Feist

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

Magician’s End
Raymond E. Feist
Harper Voyager, May 14 2013, $29.99
ISBN: 9780061468438

With the death of King Gregory, the Congress of Lords meets to select the new ruler of the Kingdom of the Isles. However, there are no blood ties so an obvious frontrunner does not exist. The Congress remains divided as to who should be anointed. While they dither, civil war seems imminent as the royal place in Rillanon is threatened. Hal the Duke of Crydee, his brothers Martin and Brendan, and Jim Dasher Jamison and his grandfather Lord James struggle to prevent the war.

Meanwhile Pug the Master Sorcerer, his son Magnus, Nakor, and Miranda struggle to escape the devious trap sprung by the Adversary. This foe has sent his only viable opponent to a different plane of existence with no chance of ever coming back to periled Midkemia. Inside the impenetrable Grey Tower Mountains, a deadly assault on the Star Elves has begun as the Adversary continues his plan to achieve his only goal: oblivion.

The supposedly final fantasy in the three decade long Riftwars is a fabulous fitting Feisty finish to an overall exciting saga of thirty books. The enjoyable storyline is for the most part fast-paced even with reflective asides and ephemeral encounters with characters not seen in a while. Although the fifth of the Riftwars series targets fans only as Magician’s End is no place to start nor is the Chaoswar Saga (see A Kingdom Besieged and A Crown Imperiled), Raymond E. Feist ends with a bang not a whimper.

Harriet Klausner

March 7, 2013

Mountain Echoes-C.E. Murphy

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

Mountain Echoes
C.E. Murphy
Harlequin Luna, Feb 26 2013, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803514

Shaman Joanne Walker still grieves the loss of her estranged mother when FBI Agent Sara Isaac tells her that her dad vanished in the mountains of the Cherokee Qualla Reservation in North Carolina. She flies from her mom’s funeral in Ireland where she was called Siobhan Walkingstick (see Raven Calls) and drives from Atlanta to a place she vowed never to return when she left as Joanne Walkingstick a decade ago. As Joanne heads to the mountains, she wonders how she will cope when she meets her son Aidan who she left behind to reside there with his adoptive family.

Upon reaching her destination, Joanne learns that Aidan’s biological father Lucas has also disappeared and even the Elders have not prevented the malevolence from growing. As she begins her search, Joanne prefers not use her shaman skills but fears she has no choice as increasingly she concludes an evil has assaulted the Appalachians leaving the great chain weeping in pain as only a select few like Joanne can hear. Soon after her unwelcome arrival, Joanne’s former boss at Seattle PD and now love interest Captain Mike Morrison arrives.

The latest Walker Papers (see Demon Hunts and Spirit Dances) is another great entry as the heroine learns you can go home to face your past. Fast-paced, and perhaps the most complicated tale in this super series, fans will relish the Urban Shaman returning to her native roots that she fled almost ten years ago to fight an evil using time as a weapon of mass destruction.

Harriet Klausner

February 28, 2013

Midnight Blue-Light Special-Seanan McGuire

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

Midnight Blue-Light Special
Seanan McGuire
DAW, Mar 5 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756407926

Though generations of her family have studied the Cryptid population and kept these “monsters” safe from the humans and visa-versa, cryptozoologist Verity Price is not a chip off the DNA block as she prefers ballroom dancing. However, Verity still proves Price blood flows through her veins when she came to Manhattan to competitively dance only to get sidetracked with the family vocation due to the snake cult (see Discount Armageddon). Still her recent caper led her to meet her maybe boyfriend Dominic De Luca although it is a star-crossed relationship as he is a monster-hunter for her family’s enemy the Covenant of St. George.

Dominic warns Verity that his bosses are coming to New York to inspect the progress he made in species cleansing and to finish the eradication of the Cryptid species from Manhattan. Putting aside her love of dance, Verity needs to prevent a bloodbath by concealing the monsters from the hunters including a traitorous blood relative seeking vengeance.

The superb second InCryptid urban fantasy is an incredibly fast-paced New York tale that except for an intrusive sidebar involving a psychic cousin never slows down as monsters, protectors, hunters and collateral damage humans converge for a Manhattan Midnight Blue-Light Special. Verity adds humor with her asides as she tries to keep a bloodbath from overwhelming the city. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this faster than the speed of light thriller.

Harriet Klausner

January 14, 2013

My Lord Immortality-Alexandra Ivy

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

My Lord Immortality
Alexandra Ivy
Zebra, Dec 24 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420122725

Over two centuries ago, Nefri the most powerful vampire, used the magic of a Medallion to create the Veil that separates the world of mankind from the realm of the undead. Recently Nefri fears an undetermined threat that could destroy both planes. Knowing the Medallion is the avenue for the evil ones, she breaks it into three parts before hiding them amidst three young mortal ladies unaware of what they possess. However, Nefri also realizes three avaricious vampires plan to take the objects; so with the support of the Great Council, she sends trustworthy vamps to protect them.

Sebastian St. Ives protects amulet recipient Amelia Hadwell from Drake Ramone who will do anything to achieve his hedonistic objective of taking what he wants when he wants from the humans. Drake knows the way to Amelia’s piece of the amulet is through her family. She accepts her kind loving brother William is different but their parents want to lock him up so society never sees his gentle craziness. Two males from the other side with polar opposite objectives vie for her attention.

This reprint of the third Immortal Rogues vampire romance is an entertaining thriller starring a strong human female, a bewildered arrogant vampire, a vile villain, and a gentle-souled sibling. Fast-paced William brings freshness to the triangle that otherwise reads somewhat similar to the predecessors (see My Lord Vampire and My Lord Eternity).

Harriet Klausner

The Mongoliad: Book Three (The Foreworld Saga)-Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo, and Cooper Moo

Filed under: Author: S,Title: M

The Mongoliad: Book Three (The Foreworld Saga)
Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo, and Cooper Moo
47North, Feb 26, 2013, $14.95
ISBN: 9781612182384

In 1241, the Mongol Empire horde continues their feral assault from the east on the European Christian countries. Only the Shield-Brethren company of warrior priests seems to offer any resistance to the Khagan Onghwe Khan and his invading army as the Holy Roman Church remains divided with Cardinals split into rival camps each claiming Jesus supports their quest for power. The resolute Shield-Brethren have doubts as they bury with honor fallen comrades like Finn.

From within the Mongol Empire, the desperate few surviving Shield Brethren holy knights (Raphael and Percival the initiates, Yasper the alchemist companion and exiled Old Man of the Rock knight master Feronantus) deploy a drastic dangerous plan to get to the Khagan. While each expects to die on the mission in the middle of the enemy’s ever expanding empire; in the Holy City of Rome the angrily splintered Cardinals turn to Father Rodrigo Bendrito who insists he has found the savior. In Hunern, the Shield Brethren led by Rutger the Quartermaster of the Rock Knight Master prepare for the war to come to them.

The Mongoliad: Book Three is an action-packed climax to an entertaining alternate historical saga. The storyline never slows down whether it occurs in the East, Rome or Hunern; yet also provides insight into thirteenth century beliefs as the forces of Christ are divided while the Mongols appear more monolithically in support of the Khan of Khans. Ironically, the myriad of subplots mostly are tied up in the 700 plus pages, but also several seem short-shifted. Still this entry and its Foreworld predesescors provide fans with a great epic.

Harriet Klausner

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