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

April 10, 2014

Sea of Shadows-Kelley Armstrong

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

Sea of Shadows
Kelley Armstrong
HarperCollins, Apr 8 2014, $17.99
ISBN: 9780062071248

From their birth, twins Moria and Ashyn were respectively anointed as the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood; considered the most dangerous spot in the Empire as spirits roam nearby due to proximity to the Forest of the Dead where the barrier between dead and living lacks depth. This is also a place where the guards dump undesirables to die. One other Keeper-Seeker pair works at the court; while two other couplings roam the empire.

Accompanied by her Hound of the Immortals Tova, Ashyn the Seeker enters the Forest of the Dead to collect corpses and send their spirits on; while Moria and her wildcat Daigo protect her sister and the villagers. However, instead of just dead bodies, Ashyn finds living people and hellish monsters. As the feral beasts overwhelm Edgewood in a bloody slaughter, the twins and their bonded animals flee to warn the emperor. Joining them on their dangerous trek are Ronan the con artist and Gavril Kitsune the disgraced warrior.

The first Age of Legends young adult quest fantasy is an exciting tale as the two sisters have been trained to do their jobs; but not mentored in relationships besides with each other, their family and their familiars or adapting to radical change making mission accomplishment impossible. Their difficult adjustment while traversing a vividly lethal landscape turns Sea of Shadows into a strong opening act.

Harriet Klausner

April 8, 2014

Sea of Shadows-Kelley Armstrong

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

Sea of Shadows
Kelley Armstrong
HarperCollins, Apr 8 2014, $17.99
ISBN: 9780062071248

From their birth, twins Moria and Ashyn were respectively anointed as the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood; considered the most dangerous spot in the Empire as spirits roam nearby due to proximity to the Forest of the Dead where the barrier between dead and living lacks depth. This is also a place where the guards dump undesirables to die. One other Keeper-Seeker pair works at the court; while two other couplings roam the empire.

Accompanied by her Hound of the Immortals Tova, Ashyn the Seeker enters the Forest of the Dead to collect corpses and send their spirits on; while Moria and her wildcat Daigo protect her sister and the villagers. However, instead of just dead bodies, Ashyn finds living people and hellish monsters. As the feral beasts overwhelm Edgewood in a bloody slaughter, the twins and their bonded animals flee to warn the emperor. Joining them on their dangerous trek are Ronan the con artist and Gavril Kitsune the disgraced warrior.

The first Age of Legends young adult quest fantasy is an exciting tale as the two sisters have been trained to do their jobs; but not mentored in relationships besides with each other, their family and their familiars or adapting to radical change making mission accomplishment impossible. Their difficult adjustment while traversing a vividly lethal landscape turns Sea of Shadows into a strong opening act.

Harriet Klausner

March 28, 2014

Vampires…Need Not Apply?-Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

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

Vampires…Need Not Apply?
Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Forever, Mar 25 2014, $8.00
ISBN: 9781455546992

While on vacation in Mexico, affluent Spanish physicist Dr. Antonio Acero remains haunted by a woman pleading with him to free her. When he locates a mysterious Mayan tablet that allegedly will prevent the Apocalypse, obsessed Antonio tries to deploy the relic to open the gate restraining his enigmatic incarcerated female. Instead of success, an accident leaves Acero blind.

For seventy long lonely millennia, Ixtab the goddess of suicide has avoided the touch of humans after she accidently caused the death of her beloved. Wearing her veil to conceal her face and garbed in Goth mourning clothes, Ixtab arrives to help Antonio with his quest and regain his eyesight. To her astonishment, the philandering Spaniard not only looks like her memory of her one true love, but somehow survives touching her.

The latest Accidentally Yours romantic fantasy (see Accidentally in Love with…a God?, Sun God Seeks …Surrogate? and Accidentally Married to…a Vampire?) is a fascinating tale due to the lead Goddess’ dilemma that will remind readers of the X-Men’s Rogue. The hero thinks “Heaven Must be Missing An Angel” (Tavares) though he meets her while blind and she hides her visage behind her veil which in his mind means she must be hideous. Series fans will enjoy this fast-paced entry with over the top humor as the overarching theme of mad Cimil making life interesting moves somewhat forward.

Harriet Klausner

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

March 13, 2014

Shadowmaster-Susan Krinard

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

Shadowmaster
Susan Krinard
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 4 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373885916

In the San Francisco enclave, Aegis Director of Operations Chen assigns half-dhampir agent Phoenix Stryker to uncover the identity of Draken and prevent this killer from assassinating a senator. Chen chose Stryker for this dangerous mission because she believes this lethal Opiri assassin is most likely heterosexual and thus unable to resist the call of dhampir blood.

Getting inside his camp, Stryker meets Draken, but instead of being a deadly monster as her superior described, she finds a caring person who wants to end the ugly exiling of criminals to Erebus where they are used for sustenance or slaves by the Opiri. He also has a personal agenda to avenge the destruction of his loved ones. However, Draken revises his goals to include keeping the newcomer he cherishes safe.

The latest Nightsiders romantic fantasy (see Nightmaster and Daysider) is an action-packed thriller that nicely blends desire with peril. Though the overarching drums of war fails to move forward much, readers will relish this taut twisting storyline as the lead couple has some complex decisions to make in which each choice seems overwhelmingly lethal to them.

Harriet Klausner

Running With Wolves-Cynthia Cooke

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

Running With Wolves
Cynthia Cooke
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 4 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373885923

In the Cascades, the Colony’s wolf shifters’ leader Malcom assigns loyal member Jason Stratton to find and escort to the pack a former chief’s daughter to bring peace and consolidate the alpha’s power as his mate. Jason locates a confused Shay Mallory, who has recently dealt with weird happenings and still misses her late father who protected her while warning her to beware of strangers.

Feeling treasonous due to his attraction to Shay, Jason explains to her she must mate with a shifter; but she rejects the notion of being bound with a man she never met. As he escorts Shay and her companion Buddy to the enclave, enemies attack them several times. To save her life, Jason mates with Shay so she can shift though he expects once he gets her to safety, Malcom will kill him.

The keys to why Running With Wolves is a strong romantic fantasy are Cynthia Cooke’s supernatural world populated with the paranormal seems genuine and the hero is a caring passionate person preferring to make love not war. Action-packed, readers will enjoy joining the protagonists on their dangerous road show to love.

Harriet Klausner

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

March 8, 2014

White Hot Kiss-Jennifer L. Armentrout

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

White Hot Kiss
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Harlequin Teen, Feb 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373211104

Although she is grateful to her adopted family, hybrid Warden-demon teenager Layla Shaw wishes she was a normal purebred gargoyle like they are. Though the seventeen years old Layla accepts that she can never be fully accepted as an equal especially to her off limits crush Zayne, she helps the disproving (of her subpar genetics) Wardens with their demon-hunting by her skill to see souls and mark demons for her family to track.

When Layla and Roth the full-blooded demon meet, he mesmerizes her with his claims of knowing her biological family secrets that she knows nothing about. His lack of a soul enables him to steal kisses from her; further rocking her world. As she learns more about her roots and a demon revolt centered on her, Layla fears associating with Roth will cause her to be marked as an enemy by the family who raised her. Additionally she remains ignorant as to the rebellion’s worldwide ramifications.

This Dark Elements young adult fantasy (see Bitter Sweet Love e-novella; not read by me) is an enjoyable tale due to the Armentrout world feeling genuine with its vivid competing supernatural cultures possessing differing views re humans. Roth is a terrific complicated super-bad dude whose White Hot Kiss melts a confused Layla. Although a late underdeveloped threesome arises for no apparent reason except as a sub-genre “requirement” in which I would have preferred the tri-relationships remain inside the heroine’s head only, fans will relish this fabulous teen otherworldly tale.

Harriet Klausner

Half-Off Ragnarok-Seanan McGuire

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

Half-Off Ragnarok
Seanan McGuire
Daw, Mar 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756408114

Cryptozoologist Alexander Price takes a research position at the Columbus Zoo where he studies non-urban cryptids and assists on the basilisk breeding program. His hidden reason for accepting the move is to help his family especially with what happened to Cousin Sarah and to grandpa. Visiting Australian Big Cat zoologist and Alex’s girlfriend Shelby Tanner also conducts research at the Columbus Zoo.

Something deadly and strange occurs at the zoo when corpses partially turned to stone begin to appear everywhere. To Alex’s trepidation these deaths most likely mean a serial killing gorgon and he knows of one very nearby though he refuses to accept this individual as the psychopath. At the same time, the Aeslin mice warn Alex that his cousin is losing control, which if true makes her extremely dangerous. As he investigates, Shelby wonders what is going on with her man and at the zoo.

The third InCryptid urban fantasy (see Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special) remains fresh as this entry relocates from Manhattan to Ohio and changes lead from Verity to her older brother; while keeping reader fascination into the Price family and the monsters they fight. Fast-paced with a strong support cast, Alex struggles between ending the terror of a stone cold serial killer, being there for his family and hiding secrets from the brilliant woman who rocks his world.

Harriet Klausner

The Fall Of Atlantis-Marion Zimmer Bradley

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

The Fall Of Atlantis
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736297

Daughter of a priest, Domaris raised her younger sister Deoris in the Temple since she was eight years old following the death of their mother in childbirth. Her life as a surrogate mom to her sibling is tedious until Micon of Atlantis arrives; he seeks help from the Temple. He claims that recently the Black Robes tortured him. He also insists that when he saw one of their faces; he became blind. Though he can identify this dark practitioner, Micon refuses to do so frustrating a demanding Revieda, head of the Grey Robes.

Domaris and Micon fall in love while Deoris used to her older sister caring for her feels abandoned by the only woman she considered as her mother. Lonely, she turns to Reveida for comfort. Domaris gives birth to his child but Micon dies soon afterward. Grieving Domaris distrusts Reveida and fears for Deoris.

This reprint of a fantasy duology prequel (See Web of Darkness and Web of Light) is an engaging simplistic good and evil magical conflict. The storyline is fast-paced, but feels incomplete as the key characters never seem fully developed. Still these early 1980s novels are fun to read especially for fans of the late great Ms. Bradley.

Harriet Klausner

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