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

January 10, 2014

Quests of Shadowind: Sky Shifter-L.A. Miller

Quests of Shadowind: Sky Shifter
L.A. Miller
Millhouse Press, 2013, $10.95
ISBN: 9780615439259

On summer vacation, frightened thirteen year old Mindy Oakes wakes up her fifteen years old brother Logan concerned that their parents were gone. Logan wants his bratty sister to let him sleep, but he soon realizes nothing is right including the room he sleeps in as the house is not theirs; neither is the location; or the PJs he wears. He tries the phone with its odd umbilical cord to call his parents, but no one answers.

Stepping outside, Mindy and Logan see no adults except their neighbor Preston, but mechanical insects grab and take him away as today is his twentieth birthday. The horrified siblings soon meet other young people like Samantha but no adults. As they learn more about this new world, the Oakes and others begin a quest to obtain the Staff of the Sky Shifter before Lord Torrent releases his computer virus with the help of Kyle Whitelaw the neighborhood bully in both worlds. To do so they must enter Computerland even as the evil Torrent deploys his WMD to devastate their earth and their new (hopefully temporary) home Shadowind

The first Quests of Shadowind is an exhilarating young teen fantasy that brings the Lord of the Flies and gruesome beasts into the digital age. The action-packed storyline with its vivid locales is excellent when the focus is on the Oates (especially Logan the leader) and Torrent, but loses some steam when cartoonish Kyle (think of a teen Bluto), take center stage. Armchair readers will appreciate spending time with the struggling to survive youth in vivid Shadowind and colorful Computerland while also knowing we are home.

Harriet Klausner

September 29, 2012

Quantum Coin-E.C. Myers

Quantum Coin
E.C. Myers
PYR, Oct 2 2012, $16.95
ISBN: 9781616146825

Summerside High student Ephraim “Eph” Scott found the coin that when flipped seemingly granted wishes. However, the quarter proved much more complex than simple magic as he learns basic multiverse physics since the coin is a cosmic traveling machine that sent him into alternate realities (see Fair Coin).

One year has passed since he stopped an evil version of his best friend Nathan from destroying his loved ones. The coin no longer works as he used its power to repair the evil Nathan’s destruction of the alternate universes. He gave it to his girlfriend Jena as part of a necklace. However, Zoe, a Jena counterpart from another realm arrives needing his help. Nathanial has sent an SOS. Unsure how Zoe got to his plane of existence since his coin died, Eph, accompanied by the two identical yet different girls he likes, investigates. They learn the multiverse is slowly committing suicide.

The second Coin science fiction is a terrific young adult thriller that makes great use of chaos theory and teen romantic angst. At times frantic-paced, yet the key triangle thrives and insures that Quantum Coin stays anchored. E.C. Myers provides a fabulous tale as seemingly heads the multiverse dies and tails the multiverse dies.

Harriet Klausner

August 14, 2012

Queen of Wands-John Ringo

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

Queen of Wands
John Ringo
Baen, Aug 7 2012, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451637892

In Algomo, Mississippi devout Christian Barbara Everette is a soccer mom raising three kids (Allison, Jason and Brooke) and a husband Mark who appears to be in charge. Barbara asks Mark if she can take a needed respite from the family, which he approves as he assumes she will take a few days in Gulfport to clear her head. Instead, the Foundation for Love and Universal Faith (FLUF) agent has been hearing voices and seeing demons riding on people unaware of them. Barb assigns her oldest offspring teenage Allison to run the house while she is away.

Barb consults with sexagenarian FLUF agent Sharice Rickels who tells her she has gained the Gifts of the Sight of demons and the Ear of the thoughts of demons and other creatures. FLUF operative and Special Circumstance FBI consultant Augustus Germaine asks Barb and Sharice to come to Chattanooga where Asatru priestess Doris “Janea” Grisham is near death because her ka has been removed from her body. FBI Agent Kurt Spornberger arrives from Atlanta working the Madness cases as he and the FLUF operatives head to Moccasin Bend Mental Health Facility where evil abounds with walking dead people who lost their ka and ba. As Janea fights for her existence, Barb and associates fight to prevent a zombie takeover.

The sequel to Princess of Wands is a fun urban fantasy starring two intrepid heroines fighting evil on different planes though the book comes across more like three interrelated satirical tales rather than a novel. Mindful of Julie Kenner’s amusing Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom but bloodier and gorier, fans will enjoy the adventures of Barb and Janea even with an odd ending.

Harriet Klausner

July 17, 2012

Queen’s Hunt-Beth Bernobich

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

Queen’s Hunt
Beth Bernobich
Tor, Jul 17 2012, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322180

In Tiralien City, Varaene lovers Ilse Zhalina and Raul Kosenmark break up after a quarrel. In fact their highly visible argument was a sham in order for them to prevent war between the kingdoms of Károvi and Varaene.

Thus Ilse leaves town allegedly to escape her former lover, but actually to find one of the three magical Lir jewels to counterbalance that held by Károvi King Dzavek. At the same Raul, once upon a time a royal court attendee seeks information on the plans of two kings. Their enemy Markus Khandarr captures and interrogates Ilse; who escapes with an incognito queen seeking peace and a disgraced female soldier.

With a late medieval feel to the plot, the second River of Souls fantasy (see Passion Play) is an engaging entry; as the lead couple spends most of the storyline on separate exciting adventures with each trying to save the world from dark and light magical and mundane hostilities. The secondary cast, especially the two female companions of Ilse and allies of Raul, are fully developed as they enhance an entertaining thriller.
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Harriet Klausner

June 16, 2012

Precinct 13-Tate Hallaway

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

Precinct 13
Tate Hallaway
Berkley, Aug 7 2012, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425247792

As a child growing up in Chicago, Alex Conner’s parents thought she had a vivid imagination; claiming to see trolls under bridges, shapeshifters and other mythological beings. When her mother died and her father remarried, Alex believed her stepmother was a demon until she was brainwashed into believing she was insane and locked away.

After leaving the padded cell and graduating from college, Alex wins the election of Hughes County coroner/medical examiner based in Pierre, South Dakota. However, she freaks out fearing the insanity has returned when a corpse calmly stands up and leaves. Stunned and expecting to be fired at best and locked away again at worst, Alex tells her supervisor what happened. Her boss orders her to go to Precinct 13 where the police have psychic and magical skills. Instead of scorn, the cops recognize a peer as she can see the real essence instead of the glamour used to fool humans. They believe Alex is a necromancer paranormal like them. Feeling for the first time since her mom died that she belongs as she even has a lover Valentine the dragon-shifter. Alex investigates the missing body and a case involving crop rings and cattle mutilations

This enjoyable urban fantasy police procedural is a terrific investigative thriller starring a young woman who spent her life thinking she was delusional until she goes to the epicenter of eerie phenomena Hughes County, South Dakota. The paranormal species run the gamut but share in common hiding out in the open. Alex finally finds acceptance amongst the paranormal and even love after being caged by the normal as a schizoid. She makes the newest Hallaway mythos seem real.

Harriet Klausner

April 17, 2012

Queen of Kings: A Novel of Cleopatra the Vampire-Maria Dahvana Headley

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

Queen of Kings: A Novel of Cleopatra the Vampire
Maria Dahvana Headley
NAL, May 12 2012, $15.00
ISBN 9780593067048

Octavian is irate with his former brother-law and Triumvirate partner Marc Antony. He plans to punish the traitor for choosing Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. His Roman legion laid siege to the city of Alexandria where Antony and Cleopatra reside. Not long afterward Antony is dead while Cleopatra makes a deal with Sekhmet the ancient lion-headed Goddess to pay any price if the deity brings back Antony. She fails to complete the sell as the Romans arrive and soon force her to burn her believed husband’s body on a funeral pyre.

She soon learns the price of her folly as no longer wants to live but has become an immortal seeking the blood of the living. Still Cleopatra plans to take revenge on Octavian, who is now the Emperor Augustus, which means she must go to Rome.

This is an intriguing historical fantasy that spins the tale of what happened to the Queen of Egypt after General Agrippa takes Alexandria. Action-packed, readers anticipate the bad vs. bad war between Cleopatra and Octavian even as neither comes across as sympathetic. Filled with real historical events and persona that anchor the time and place, fans of historical vampire thrillers will want to read this engaging ancient paranormal.

Harriet Klausner

May 9, 2011

The Quantum Thief-Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum
Hannu Rajaniemi
Tor, May 10 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765329493

Mysterious Mieli breaks out master thief Jean le Flambeur from the infamous Dilemma Prison run by the Archons of the Sobernost collective of the Inner Solar System. Flambeur never thought he would escape from the eternal mind boggling incarceration in which he was deftly mentally tortured into participating in games against himself in which he either killed or was killed by Flambeur.

His liberator takes a grateful Flambeur on her sentient ship to the Martian moving city Oubliette where the commodity markets include the selling and buying of time. The Tzaddiks law enforcers send Detective Isidore Beautrelet to do grunt field work on Mars. Soon the thief and the cop intersect with neither any longer sure of their past or present as memory is sold along side of time on the exchange.

This is a great intelligent science fiction thriller that uses quantum physics theories fueled by the seven deadly sins to take a fabulous tale. The story line is convoluted and difficult initially to grasp as Flambeur competes in deadly games against himself; he even conceals his most significant secret from himself. This may be the best quantum spin which grasps the scientific theoretical complexities inside of an exhilarating thriller since Vanna Bonta’s 1998 Flight or perhaps the 1980s Professor Q books of Trevor Hoyle.

Harriet Klausner

January 28, 2011

Primal Bonds-Jennifer Ashley

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

Primal Bonds
Jennifer Ashley
Berkley, Mar 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780425240786

Humans keep shapeshifters in run down squabble. They also insist the beasts wear fae created collars to insure these monsters are unable to use their animal nature.

Half-breed fae-lupine Andrea Gray flees from a potential mate who insists she belongs to him. She arrives at the Shiftertown section of Austin where she hopes to find protection. Feline shifter Sean Morrissey, who possesses the powerful shifter soul release sword, claims her as his mate though he does so in name only to keep Andrea safe. As the two alphas begin to investigate their desire for one another, they fall in love, but each fears to raise the issue of being true life mates as he expected no one due to his sword’s skill and she has always detested the concept of belonging to any mate even as she knows he is not just any mate.

The latest Shifters Unbound urban fantasy (see Pride Mates) is an enjoyable thriller as the Ashley mythos is further developed with a sense that shifters exist and what happens in Austen is genuine. The story line is fast-paced with the sexual taut relationship between the feline and the lupine cutting across the action packed tale. Readers will enjoy the Primal Bonds between two alphas who mate at the drop of a page to the delight of fans.

Harriet Klausner

January 20, 2011

Pack of Lies-Laura Anne Gilman

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

Pack of Lies
Laura Anne Gilman
Luna, Jan 18 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803248

In New York City, a mob of humans assaults the mortal companion to a ki-rin. When the dust settles, all the attackers are either dead or near death. Bonita Torres of Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations (PUPI) leads the inquiry into the deadly incident at a time when anger is high between the humans and the fatae and the Casa Nostradamus members refuse to talk to cops.

At the same that Bonnie and her team scrutinize the deadly scene, she and her boss Benjamin Venec struggle to control their attraction for one another. Each wants the other, but both understand a non professional relationship between a superior and a direct reporting individual is trouble.

The second Paranormal Scene Investigations urban fantasy (see Hard Magic) is a terrific “Electric Apple” police procedural that comes out of the gate at full speed and never decelerates as the PUPI team struggles with the magical community closing its ranks to outsiders. The Gilman’s Gotham comes across as real due to little things like Pink Floyd while Bonnie is a super lead investigator and her teammates on the case (Pietr and Sharon) add depth. Readers will enjoy astute Bonnie’s first person account as she has come a long way since her college days, which she will remind readers were seemingly just yesterday.

Harriet Klausner

November 1, 2010

The Other Side-J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Patricia Gaffney, Ruth Ryan Langan and MaryKay McComas

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

The Other Side
J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Patricia Gaffney, Ruth Ryan Langan and MaryKay McComas
Jove, Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515148671

“Possession in Death” by J.D. Robb. In 2060, NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas takes Father Lopez home when elderly Hungarian Gizi runs in front of her car. She begs the warrior cop to save her Beata. Eve’s team arrives to find a cold corpse of Gizi though a stunned Eve has just spoken to the deceased.

“The Other Side of the Coin” by Mary Blayney. In 1810 Bettina tells her husband Harry he is having an affair; he denies it. Bettina makes a wish on a coin as does Harry. Their wishes are granted as each wears the shoes of the other having switched bodies.

“The Dancing Ghost” by Patricia Gaffney. In 1895, spirit investigator Henry visits Massachusetts where house owner Angeiolina insists the ghosts of a dancing ancestor and her cuckolded husband occupy her home.

“Almost in Heaven” by Ruth Ryan Langan. At the Copper Creek Country Club, Vanessa and Ted throw an engagement party for their daughter Christina and her fiancé Mark. Vanessa and Ted leave to go home with their six years old son Tyler who suffers from Autism, but the brakes fail killing them. Mark pressures Christina to marry him. Christina delays the marriage to stay with Tyler. The deceased couple soon learns the shocking truth.

“Never Too Late To Love” by MaryKay McComas. Thirtyish accountant M.J. wants her late mother’s house torn down as she plans to sell the property. She finds inside the ghosts of her late mom and two aunts. The three sisters cannot leave until they find what they lost, but none know what they lost.

Each tale is a solid well written fun entry using a different plot device or setting making the anthology fresh in spite of the novella format not lending itself to character development.

Harriet Klausner

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