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Author: John Passarella
Title - Joyride (Supernatural TV Tie-In)
Knowing that his brother, Dean, was feeling antsy, Sam Winchester finds something that they can check out together. No British Men of Letters or tag-alongs. This would be just two brothers doing what they do best- hunting and killing monsters.
In Moyer, Missouri, at the stroke of midnight, everyone awake in the town collapses. Everyone is unconscious about ten minutes. If they were driving, they wrecked. If they were dancing or eating, they fell like stones. When Sam and Dean don their FBI attire to investigate, the town seems peaceful. That quickly changes as the locals begin acting strangely – streaking, slashing tires, petty vandalism and random violence. When the people stop acting odd, they recall nothing. No one knows why he or she committed the act. Then comes reports of strange shadows and horrible murders.
***** FIVE STARS! This author has a way with words. He sucks his readers into the story so fast that they hardly have time to settle into their chairs. From then on, it is a whirlwind of events that leaves readers begging for more. Make sure you have plenty of time before you open these pages. I read the entire book in one afternoon. I grumbled in irritation any time I had to put the book down; even if it was only to make a quick trip to the restroom.
The author captures Sam and Dean’s personalities and mannerisms perfectly. This was like watching a television episode. (For those not used to “tie-in” stories, this novel episode will never be seen on TV. For avid fans who enjoy knowing time lines, this episode happens during season twelve, between “The Future” and “Twigs & Twine & Tasha Banes.”) Personally, I found the best thing about this story is that only Sam and Dean are involved. They find a case, figure out what is going on and why, and then figure out a way to hunt and kill the problem. Sounds so simple … and I loved every second of it. My only problem now is having to wait at least a year before I can get my hands on Passarella’s next adventure.
John Passarella delivers utter satisfaction! *****
For your convenience you may read more about, or purchase this book, from Amazon in KINDLE format by clicking HERE!
Author: Charlaine Harris
Title - An Easy Death (Gunnie Rose #1)
Let me start with a map explanation: The government had started down a slope that had gotten slicker and slicker. Indian tribes had taken back the land that had been theirs. Banks crashed. Drought and influenza reduced the population. The government could not protect itself, and other countries had grabbed pieces of America. Canada took the north, Mexico took the south, and the Holy Russian Empire (HRE – lots of wizards) took the west. To the east, the thirteen original colonies – all but Georgia- formed a bond with England. The southern states banded together as Dixie. Georgia went with them. Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and a bit of Colorado became Texoma. The big area north of Texoma, the plains, became New America.
Lizbeth Rose (“Gunnie Rose”) lives in Segundo Mexia, in Texoma. She is a gunnie. She is part of a guarding crew that helps people cross the lawless land along the border between Texoma and New America. When her band is killed, and only she survives, Lizbeth tracks the bandits, kills them, and gets the human cargo safely to their destination. Without the rest of the crew, Lizbeth is out of a job until two wizards from the HRE approach her. Coopersmith is a fire wizard with tats on her face to show it. Savarov “Eli” is a water wizard. The pair want to hire Lizbeth as a guard and guide while they complete their mission to find Oleg or Sergei Karkarov for their tsar. Lizbeth hates wizards for very personal reasons, but finally agrees to be their gunnie. Traveling with her arsenal of weapons and sharp wits, Lizbeth soon regrets accepting the assignment. Never has she had to kill so many to protect her clients, nor had so many people been eager to kill her.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the first book in the Gunnie Rose series, so I began my synopsis with a map of the land. Needless-to-say, Lizbeth will eventually travel all these lands in the future (or why bother mentioning them?) but this time her travels keep her close to home. The story is non-stop action as one set of bad guys after another show up. By the time the main bad guy shows up, his death is almost anticlimactic. (Too easy for me.) However, I was still satisfied, overall, with the story.
The writing style of Charlaine Harris has not changed from her previous titles. It is still smooth and easy to read with occasional bits of humor in the characters’ dialogues. All main and secondary characters are well developed, as is the scenery. Since the gunnie has an arsenal of various guns, I kept picturing the background as the Old West … with some magic thrown in. I am looking forward to the second book of this series. Original and well crafted! ****
For your convenience you may read more about, or purchase this book, from Amazon in KINDLE format by clicking HERE!
Authors: J.R. Rain, Matthew S. Cox
Title - The Devil’s Eye (Maddy Wimsey #1)
Detective Madeline “Maddy” Wimsey is a witch with a relationship to nature. She has wild red, almost sentient, hair that saves her life more than once and yet causes a bit of mischievousness as well. Her partner is Rick Santiago. He keeps an open mind when it comes to magic and he respects her Wiccan ways, unlike one or two others.
When a deceased victim (Walter Manning) is found in the woods in what looks like a sloppy Satanic ritual, Maddy and Rick are handed the case. This is the same spot in which, a couple of month earlier, some teenagers had been found chanting in robes while getting drunk. Could they have been responsible or are the events unrelated?
**** FOUR STARS! With her wild red hair, Maddy exactly resembles the heroine from the Disney movie Brave. The only differences are that Maddy is a little older and her hair seems to have a mind entirely of its own. (I love her hair!) The story has a secondary plot going on involving a member of her coven who seems to have a shadowy (demon?) figure after her. They mystery involving Manning’s death is concluded in this title. The shadow will continue into the next book. Maddy’s coven life and her detective life are both so interesting that I am unable to choose which I like best. The authors blend them well as Maddy goes about her day-to-day business. All characters are well developed and the scenery is so detailed in some areas that I can almost smell it. I am looking forward to the next case. ****
Authors: J.R. Rain, Matthew S. Cox
Title - The Drifting Gloom (Maddy Wimsey #2)
Detective Madeline “Maddy” Wimsey and her partner, Rick Santiago, are dealing with a serial killer whose MO involves mixing chemicals to kill his victims. Maddy’s seemingly sentient hair continues to save her life while also causing some mischief. Some in the Olympia P.D. say that Maddie should cut her hair (NEVER!) so it would stop doing things such as being caught in doors. But the hair cooperates in tight situations such as not letting an attacker be able to grab hold. It becomes slick.
As for her coven life, one member is being harassed by a shadow figure (demon?) that slipped through a portal to our world while she was younger and trying to summon the spirit of her mother. Maddy’s boyfriend, Caius, finally takes their relationship to the next level (toward the very beginning of the book) with an engagement ring.
**** FOUR STARS! The chemical mixing killer does not simply commit murder. He also tortures his victims physically and mentally. Kids are involved in one, though not killed. Maddy’s hair is still my favorite part of the story. I believe that it really is a sentient entity. It helps in dealing with the case, as well as in dealing with the shadow – which concludes in this title.
New readers will have no trouble understanding and enjoying this story. The characters were well developed in the previous title, but the authors manage to give enough of the information again. I fully admit to being hooked on Maddy’s world. ****
Authors: J.R. Rain, Matthew S. Cox
Title - Convergence (Winter Solstice #1)
Solstice “Sol” Winters has always had a bit of magic, but after purple lightning streaks across the sky one night, the entire world changes. People are starting to actually believe in magic. Of course, it is hard not to since there are now sightings of mythological creatures. Sol’s life certainly changes! She is still a photojournalist for The Spiritualist, a small paper dedicated to magic and the supernatural, but after the purple lightning her physical self has changed. No longer is she a blond, thirty-two year old woman. Now her hair is snow white, her ears are pointed, her eyes are red, she is shorter, and she looks like a teenager. Sol is an elf with an affinity for nature.
Sol’s pictures are now making a stir across the nation, if not the world. (She caught a clear image of the griffin nesting on a roof.) Her fame not only attracts major networks, it also attracts the Ordo Sanguinem Aeternam, a shady group who forcibly insists she help them raise Atlantis; a ritual that will cost Sol her life.
*** THREE STARS! The first quarter of this book is simply getting the reader used to Sol’s world, which only has a little magic in it. After the purple lightning, things pick up as much more magic is noticeable. I could not bring myself to like her boyfriend. Even Sol has doubts about him from the beginning of the story. It is mentioned that when an elf meets her true life’s mate, she will know it instantly. Therefore, I have hope of there being a much better man in her future.
The authors write well together, but this book series is not as written as their latest collaborative work. I recommend their Maddy Wimsey series. (The main character’s living hair is more entertaining to me than having a familiar.) However, this trilogy has promise and I intend to immediately dive into the second title. (Containment.)
Authors: J.R. Rain, Matthew S. Cox
Title - Containment (Winter Solstice #2)
Being the only known elf in the world has made Solstice “Sol” Winters life more difficult. After rescuing her kidnapped sister and escaping the Ordo Sanguinem Aetername, Sol finds herself in Russia. Since she is in Russia already, Sol agrees to help deal with a giant lizard that is eating people, automobiles, and other things. Her magic is not enough to kill it, so she may have to get creative. To make matters worse, the OSA seems to have stirred something up from the Volga River (that resembles a frog-man.) Then there is the Federal Security Bureau sticking their noses into the mix.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the second title in the trilogy and things seem to be heating up quite nicely. There is a lot more action in this installment (and I am enjoying her cat familiar, Mr. Moody.) Sol is still learning what her abilities are. The Russians she meets in the first quarter of the story are very helpful. Again, all the characters, even the secondary ones, are well developed. The authors’ writing styles blend more smoothly this time around too. ****
Authors: J.R. Rain, Matthew S. Cox
Title - Catalyst (Winter Solstice #3)
Someone wants Solstice “Sol” Winters dead. Whoever it is, s/he is using elder magic to send magical assassins that fling sharp blades. While dodging multiple assassination attempts, her friend, Jade, asks for help finding clues to a stolen mummy. Turns out the mummy stole itself. It walked out of the exhibit. Worse, it is kidnapping citizens and mind controlling them to be slaves and killers.
*** THREE STARS! Almost the first half of this book is Sol moping about how long she is due to outlive her family. The magical assassin adds some excitement, but not enough. Once the mummy mystery enters the picture, things perk up a bit. Sol snaps out of her funk to begin dealing with major problems. However, things are so slow in the moping stage that I feel as though the authors are splitting their attention between two (or more) different series and not dedicating enough to this one. ***
Author: John Passarella
Title - Cold Fire (SuperNatural TV Tie-In)
NOTE: This story takes place during Season Ten, between the episodes of “About a Boy” and “Halt & Catch Fire.”
Posing as FBI Agents, Sam and Dean Winchester, along with Castiel, travel to Braden Heights, Indiana. David Holcomb and his wife, Sally, are very new to the area. With no time to make friends or enemies, David is killed; disemboweled and his eyes gouged out. The medical examiner insists it to be the work of an animal, even after others are killed the same way and no animals are ever seen. The Winchesters and Castiel are having trouble finding a definite connection between the victims. When they do, the trio find themselves dealing with a creature unlike any they have faced before.
***** FIVE STARS! Do not begin reading this book until you have a good chunk of time to devote to it. The novel begins in the middle of a battle and hardly takes a breather before plunging into the main hunt. I only managed to pull myself away once; and only for an hour. I could not stop thinking about the creature and ended up canceling my plans for the evening so that I could keep reading.
John Passarella’s writing style pulls the reader into the SuperNatural universe with ease and paints such a graphic picture that the real world simply fades away and time becomes immaterial. This story is horrific, fascinating, outrageous – and I enjoyed every minute that I spent reading it. *****
Author: Kelly McCullough
Title - Drawn Blades (Fallen Blades #5)
Legend says the gods made a key that could only be used once, and only to resurrect a god. There is nothing in the world that Aral Kingslayer wants to do more than stay out of the affairs of gods, dead or otherwise. Yet when a smoky version of Siri Mythkiller appears out of a hearth and places a wedding band of smoke upon his finger, that is what he signs up for. Aral owes Siri both duty and honor. Had she told Aral that she had need of him to do so, he would make war on Heaven itself. She could ask for his life and he would give it without thought.
Accompanied by his Shade, Triss, and his apprentice, Faran, Aral travels to the Sylvani Empire. Siri had once been sent by Namara, the goddess of Justice, to send a myth (a.k.a. god) back into his tomb. The knife Namara had given Siri was left buried in the god’s chest, per protocol. But this buried god is known as the Smoldering Flame and the knife is slowly burning away. Soon the god will fully waken and he wants the key. But the worst news for Aral, and the only part he really cares about, is that Siri’s soul is still bound to the knife and the Smoldering Flames is steadily devouring her soul.
***** FIVE STARS! Author Kelly McCullough has an eloquent writing style that conveys intense situations and feelings in such a way that they seem REAL. By that, I do not mean that he writes realistically; I mean that I could actually feel Aral’s sense of honor, among other things. Had Aral been a real person, writing up his recent experiences, what I felt as I read this story could not been made any more … well, REAL.
Kelly McCullough’s debut novel blew me away. I recall telling my husband that this author was going to hit the big time. I now feel that the author has proved me correct. Mark my words, if there are any Hollywood producers out there with an ounce of taste, one of McCullough’s books or series will appear on television or the big screen one day. When that day comes, I will celebrate. If you think that I over exaggerate, read this series. *****
Author: Kelly McCullough
Title - Darkened Blade (Fallen Blade #6)
When the goddess Namara was murdered by her peers, the Son of Heaven cult massacred her followers, the Blades. The goddess and her Blades delivered justice to those with the power and money to evade it in the courts. The other gods killed Namara because she considered no one to be above justice, including gods, and the swords of the fully initiated assassins could even bring them down. But some of the Blades escaped the slaughter. One of them is a man named Aral. Aral and his brethren each has a Shade. The two are bound so should one die, so too will the other. The Shade is much like a familiar. It hides in the shadow of its partner and gives the Blade a secret weapon.
Aral has come a long way since his days of drinking away his pain. In fact, Triss (his Shade) is proud to say that Aral is almost back to his old assassin self. Yet in some ways Aral is better than ever. Aral now thinks for himself rather than blindly killing the one Namara directs him to. His decisions often weigh heavy on his soul too. In addition to Triss, Aral also has an apprentice, Faran, who has a Shade but was still young when the temple fell and is not a full Blade. That is one of the first things Aral is determined to correct.
Aral joins up with Jax, a fellow Blade, who has discreetly started training others. Out of necessity, Kelo, the former Blade whose betrayal directly caused Namara’s downfall, is with the group (and every Blade eagerly waits until the time he is no longer needed.) The group heads to Namara’s land to perform the sacred ritual that will tie the students to their swords. Once done the small band would take on one of the hardest tasks in history: bringing justice to the Son of Heaven. Should Aral and his fellow Blades fail, the Son of Heaven’s risen curse (think zombies) will devour the lands.
“Justice the goddess may have died, but justice the ideal lives forever.”
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! I warn you in advance, stories by Kelly McCullough are highly addictive. All of them! When I picked up my first novel by this author, I was doomed to clamor for all of them. He is also contagious. I cannot begin to guess how many people I have infected by simply telling them about what I was reading. But this is one virus you won’t mind catching.
The character of Aral evolves throughout the series; however, this time around he is not such a lone wolf. Not only does he have his apprentice, Faran, but Aral slowly becomes part of a cadre again. What his character ends up morphing into is something wondrous. As in our reality, plans always go wrong for the hero and his comrades, no matter how much planning is done in advance. Thankfully for us readers, this means a continuously turbulent atmosphere that is very entertaining. *****
Author: John Passarella
Title - The Chopping Block
(Based on the television series Grimm)
When a pile of human bones is discovered in a forest, severed and stripped of flesh, Portland Homicide Detectives Nick Burkhardt and Hank Griffin are put on the case. The two soon learn that the bones were cooked prior to being buried and the pair suspects that the killer is not human. More bones are found, but no one is able to figure out how the victims are chosen. The body count increases revealing bones from various ages, both genders, and multiple ethnicities.
The detectives turn to their friend, Monroe, who is a reformed Blutbad (basically a vegetarian werewolf) for help. Monroe recalls a story from his grandfather long ago about a group of upper crust and snobby cannibals who gather every twenty-five years to gorge themselves on human meat. The gorge fest lasts one month before all members disappear without a trace. Monroe has always believed the story to be an urban legend, but many signs are changing his mind. The three must act quickly to find and stop the slaughter, whether a killer is acting alone or with a group. Should they fail, many more people would die and many more massacres may happen in the future.
**** FOUR STARS! There is more happening than I dare reveal for fear of spoilers. Everything I state in my synopsis is either revealed to readers early on (in my opinion) or is pretty obvious. If you are not a fan of the television show, I do not believe that you will have any trouble what-so-ever. You will still be able to fully understand and enjoy the story and its plot. However, only people familiar with the show’s characters will appreciate the sub-stories involving the girlfriends of Nick and Monroe. Nick’s girlfriend, Juliette, is a vet who is trying to figure out why a family’s dog keeps going into kidney failure. Monroe’s girlfriend, Rosalee, is the owner of a spice shop.
Personally, I have not watched every episode of the television show, but I have watched most of them. Therefore, I can honestly state that the author has managed to perfectly capture the personality of each individual character. This novel is an original story, never before seen on television or published.
Author John Passarella writes stories that will long linger in your nightmares. ****
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Title - Instinct (Chronicles of Nick)
Nick Gautier deals with zombies, demons, vampires, shifters, all sorts of creatures and people every day. Many of those are his friends and allies. Thanks to them, Nick has survived everything that has been thrown his way. Just as Nick begins to hope that his life is finally back to normal, everything goes to hell – literally.
Nick has accepted the demon that lives within him. Now he must learn to control it. This is not an easy task while trying to keep a low profile. The dark gods are still after Nick. Now that those dark gods know where to find Nick, they will stop at nothing to get him.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Sherrilyn Kenyon’s cast of characters are well developed and seem to become more real with each story. Nick’s character in particular is evolving, growing, and I can see glimpses into what Nick could one day become – and it is fabulous! Some secrets of the Primordial gods are revealed in this installment and readers will learn more about Kody, his mother. These characters are not the only interesting ones in the story either. (Not by a long shot.)
It does not matter if you are male or female. I feel that anyone from the ages of teen to adult would love this story. Heck, they would love the entire series. There is very little language, a lot of Nick’s trademark sarcasm, and an ample supply of action. The only real down side (of the entire series) is that each story seems to have cliff hanger endings. It is no wonder to me that this series (and the author’s “Dark-Hunter” series) are soon to be major motion pictures. Tales by Sherrilyn Kenyon are major awesomeness! ****
Author: Wallace F. Brown
Title - The Echo Stones (Book 1)
Set in early England. The people in the Elmet Kingdom prepare to defend themselves against an invading Saxon army. There are spies behind King Certic’s walls and he fears for the lives of his son and daughter. Certic believes Elmet will be able to hold against a siege for awhile, but without help Edwin’s Saxon army will eventually succeed in breeching their defenses. A plan if formed to send Princess Cristin and Prince Brien to the kingdom of his cousin called Craven. Elmet’s only hope is for King Uryen’s forces to come in behind Edwin’s army.
A mystic warrior named Stephan and his giant friend, Liam, lead the small party through woods that are home to dangerous wild men and the moors where they would be in the open and exposed to the enemy. Also in the party is Flann, a servant to the lovely princess who is small in size but full of surprises and courage. As they travel through hostile country, they are pursued and attacked often by many who wish their deaths. When things are bleak, a forest wizard named Timan joins their quest. The ageless wizard possesses great powers and seems able to peer into a mortal’s soul. Thus Timan knows of Flann’s amazing heritage and about a priceless, ancient gift that the princess carries that must not fall into enemy hands.
*** THREE STARS! This fantasy story by Wallace F. Brown begins with an assassination attempt on the life of the princess. It ensnared my attention quickly and set the tone for the rest of the tale. The story never actually stated the ages of Princess Cristin or Prince Brien, but I soon pictured them as young adults. I, as the reader, watched as Cristin always showed her compassion and concern for those around her. I witnessed Brien begin as (a bit) pampered and matures into a battle-hardened man; a man worthy of the crown. Yet the lead character was Stephan, a man once close to his king before being exiled to live in the surrounding wilderness. His mysterious past will be slowly revealed, but not all his secrets will be told.
The leading and secondary characters are pretty well developed. The minor ones are basically glossed over. (After all, why bother to spend several paragraphs telling about someone’s past when he would disappear shortly thereafter?) This gave the author more space in which to weave his web of wonder. The only big problem I had was with all the typos. I noticed them mainly in the punctuations. Questions would end with a period or one of the quotation marks was missing. I mention this because there are many. (I quit counting at twenty-five.) If you are a reader who cringes at such, you may wish to pass on this title; however, I believe those who can overlook these errors will enjoy this book. ***
Author: Kelly McCullough
Title - Blade Reforged (Fallen Blade #4)
Seven years has passed since Aral’s goddess was silenced. Aral no longer turns to the bottle for comfort. He is not fully back to his old Blade self, but close enough for now. After his previous adventures, Aral’s face no longer resembles anything close to what it once was. He is still getting used to the new face in the mirror. When Aral learns that one of the few people willing to help him during his former dark days has been imprisoned by King Thauvik, he knows that he must do something to aid his friend.
Baroness Maylien Dan Marchon is the unacknowledged heir to the throne of Zhan. She is niece to the king. When Maylien brings proof of her legitimacy to the court, King Thauvik’s reaction is swift and bloody. Only Aral’s reflexes keep Maylien from becoming one of several corpses. The king declares Maylien an outcast. Civil war looms in the near future as Maylien, with Aral’s help, begins forming her allies. But King Thauvik has more surprises up his sleeve than previously; he has two former Blades of his own. One of whom is legendary.
***** FIVE STARS! Once again Aral and his Shade, Triss, find themselves in the middle of a royal mess – literally. Yet this time it is assassin verses assassin verses assassin. That alone promises readers some high quality entertainment. But Kelly McCullough adds several twists, backbends, and hand springs that only a mind as devious (or demented) as his could possibly conceive. Then the author explains Aral’s shaky strategies in such a way that I, as the reader, forgets that they are wild, dangerous, and suicidal. Instead, I end up believing that they are just short of brilliant. (All eight steps.)
Is this the last book in the series? That remains to be seen. The author can end it here or continue it on for another book or two. Personally, I want more! *****
Author: Kelly McCullough
Title - Crossed Blades (Fallen Blade #3)
Though he is still known everywhere as the Kingslayer, Aral no longer recognizes the man in the mirror. It has been a month since the bonewright painfully altered his face. His appearance is not the only thing about him that has changed. Six years ago his goddess was killed and her temple fell. Namara’s death had been ordered by another god, but it was the human group called the Hand of Heaven that destroyed the temple. It was the Hand that tortured and killed the Namara’s Blades. Aral is one of the few surviving Blades, but only because he was on a mission far away when it had happened. For a long time Aral would lose himself in alcohol. Now Aral tries to avoid that vice; especially since he has obtained a new ward. Faran was only nine when the temple fell. The teen has not been Aral’s apprentice for long, but she is already deeply devoted to him. Faran is the reason for Aral’s other change. With the responsibility of caring for and teaching Faran, Aral must now think before he reacts. He has always been a strategic thinker, but now he must become an ever better one.
Aral’s heart almost stops when he sees Jax Seldansbane enter the tavern. The former Blade had been his first lover. She needs Aral’s aid to rescue one of their former teachers, Loris, from Heaven’s Reach. But something does not add up. Jax is keeping secrets from him. Aral and Faran learn that the Hand is using Loris and others as hostages to force Jax into betraying Aral to them. At the same time, they learn that Master Kelos Deathwalker, who had been Namara’s right hand, has become one of the traitors.
Jax reveals her secrets before Aral has to force them out of her. Once all the cards are on the table, the group can finally get down to business. For the death of their goddess, for the deaths of their fellow comrades, and for simple revenge, it is time to bring justice to those who deserve it. It is time to spill blood.
**** FOUR STARS! To me, the most spectacular thing about this author is his eclectic storytelling. Though Aral remains a Blade throughout each story, everything else around him changes. None of those changes are similar to any other. One story is full of stone dogs, another has a creature that can glide through the earth, another being is made up of two ladies and three minds, and the list goes on. (In fact, if you have not done so as yet, check out WebMage, where the author blends Greek mythology with modern computer technology.) I find the variety in the author’s stories to be mercifully refreshing.
Master Kelos is an expedient character. Often I was unsure as how to label the man – totally evil or having to do awful things for the overall good. Faran’s character is truculent, but that is normal for teenagers. And Jax, for the most part, is a walking consternation. The Shades, especially Aral’s familiar, do not do as many tricks this time around, but they all seem to have a didactic attitude. This probably helps them keep their bond-mates in line. As you can see, each character has their own type of personality, which makes the story much more realistic.
If you are seeking a fantasy unlike most others, you will not go wrong by choosing any title by this author. Kelly McCullough’s writing style is indefinable, his imagination is creative and unique, and his pot execution is simply exquisite! ****
Author: Kelly McCullough
Title - Broken Blade (A Fallen Blade #1)
Until a small handful of years ago, Aral had been a Blade of Namara. He had been a human weapon, honed to the finest edge possible by the training of the temple. The Blade of Justice made flesh. His purpose was to bring death to those who deserved it, as ordered by his goddess, Namara. Since he was a child, Aral had been bonded to Triss, a dragon-shaped Shade that lived in his shadow. The powers Triss wielded became an extension of Aral's will. However, five years ago the Emperor of Heaven killed Namara and her followers had been executed. Very few Blades survived.
Aral and Triss now keep a low profile. Aral is a shadow jack, doing occasional shady jobs and drinking himself unconscious. When a mysterious woman named Maylien hires Aral to deliver a secret message for a high wage, he knows that there must be a catch. But Aral is bored and Triss prods him to take the commission. Aral soon discovers that Maylien never intended for him to deliver the letter but rather to witness a clandestine meeting between the Baroness Marchon and Devin Urslan, a former Blade. Until now Aral had believed Devin to be dead. Instead, his fellow Blade is alive and has become a traitor to the priesthood. Worse, having learned that Aral is alive too, Devin intends to coerce Aral into helping him create an army of assassins unbound by any ethical restriction.
In the meantime, Aral is busy helping Maylien gain the baronial seat. Maylien is the true heir to the Barony of Marchon. Currently her wicked sister holds the position and the people suffer because of it. In order for Maylien to take the baronial seat, she must kill her sister in a proper duel. Problem is that Maylien must get close enough to her sister so she can issue a blood challenge.
***** FIVE STARS! This is the first of a new series filled with multifaceted characters, layered plots, and the type of quixotic scenarios that only the imagination of Kelly McCullough could possibly create. The author, once again, crosses genres. (I expect him to break the Fourth Wall [between fiction and reality] any day now.) And though a secret order of assassins has been done by writers in the past, McCullough goes the extra mile. The main characters are magical and each has a unique familiar with various abilities that they share with their human. Of course this also means that any weakness the familiar has could become a serious problem should a foe learn of it.
Stories by Kelly McCullough are one-of-a-kind - just like him. I found Aral's world to be compelling and highly addictive. Brilliant! *****
Author: Kelly McCullough
Title - Bared Blade (Fallen Blade #2)
Set in a coastal city called Tien, the thousand-year-old capital of Zhan. Once he was known as Aral Kingslayer. He was a Blade of Namara, bringing the Unblinking Eye of Justice to those too powerful to find it in the courts. With his goddess dead and most of his order having either been executed or turned traitor, Aral keeps a low profile. Triss is his partner, friend, and familiar. Triss is a Shade, a creature of living darkness who spends most of his time in Aral’s shadow – literally. Only over the past year has Aral been able to pull himself out of the deep depression that his loss had placed him. Now Aral is staying more sober and alert. His skills as a Blade are rusty, but he is slowly returning to what he once was.
Aral and Triss are sitting in a bar, still keeping a low profile, when two foreign women enter. As trouble walks up to the ladies, Triss insists that Aral aid them. As the dust begins to settle, Aral and Triss learn that the two women are Dyad. A Dyad is a collection of three distinct minds and personalities. Stel and Vala each have their own body and their own brain; however, a master entity has also been formed from their conjoined souls, called their Meld. (For the sake of this synopsis and review, let us refer to the Dyad as VoS.)
VoS needs the help of Aral and Triss to locate and retrieve a priceless stolen artifact. VoS had been escorting the item to its rightful place when their group had come under attack. It was only by luck that VoS had been scouting ahead and survived the resulting massacre.
Though his goddess might be gone, Aral is still her Blade and it is his duty to help VoS. But VoS is not the only magical being in Tien searching for the Kothmerk. There is also the Durkoth who look to be made of marble. They are able to move through earth as easily as a human can glide through water. The Crown Guard and the Elite (who are the king’s pet killers with giant stone dogs) are also on the hunt. By helping VoS, Aral and Triss are thrown into a situation that would forever alter their lives – if they somehow survive, that is. The body count is rising, the enemies are closing in, and time is running out.
***** FIVE STARS! The character of Aral is intelligent and audacious. Triss is like his voice of reason. This combination makes for an enthralling adventure and actually caused me to lose an entire night of sleep. By the story’s end, I was introduced to a new character or two, who I eagerly look forward to seeing more of in the next installment. (Book three is titled “Crossed Blades” and due for release at the end of November 2012.) As I was following Aral’s footsteps, I learned a little bit more about the training of a Blade and how one is chosen. It is now obvious to me that McCullough put a lot of thought into the infrastructure of Namara’s Order. I have a much clearer idea of how the temple operated. In fact, it is so precise and becoming structured enough to me that I cannot help but wonder if McCullough is a “method writer”, if there is such a thing. (If so, McCullough owes his family and friends big time for putting up with him.)
After reading the first book of this series (Broken Blade), I did not believe that the author could possibly get any better. Never have I been so happy to be proven wrong. This author seems to get better and more original with each book he has published. I know that I probably sound as if I am gushing, so I want to make it clear to you that I do not personally know this author. I gain nothing by singing his praises and I have absolutely no reason to lie or embellish. Therefore, I strongly urge you to read with caution, because Kelly McCullough’s writings are highly addictive and there is no known cure. *****
Author: Cassie Alexander
Title - Shapeshifted (Edie Spence #3)
Edie Spence is a very good nurse with a lot of experience; however, her types of experiences are not ones she is able to write on her résumé. Until recently, Edie served as a nurse at County General on Y4. This is the hidden section of the hospital where the Super Natural beings are tended to. Edie has dealt with werewolves, vampires, dragons, and more. Ti, her former boyfriend, was a zombie. Asher, another former boyfriend, was a shapeshifter. Yet since Edie had been “shunned” her life has changed – again.
Edie’s mother is terminally ill. The only thing that could save her is vampire blood. But Edie had been previously forced to destroy all vampire blood in the region. Y4 is under the Shadows’ yoke and the Shadows refuse to help Edie unless she finds Santa Muerte. Just as bad is the fact that since Edie no longer works on Y4, the Shadows is no longer keeping her heroin-addicted brother clean.
Edie lands a job at a clinic in a bad part of town. Not understanding Spanish is a big problem, but being able to think clearly and quickly under stress (such as gangbangers with guns entering the clinic) makes Edie a valuable asset. As Edie tries to find a powerful being that not even the Shadows can locate, she must also do her best to keep innocent people out of harm’s way. Turf wars are common. One gang, the Three Crosses, is trying to get protection money from Dr. Hector Tovar, who runs the clinic. Her coworkers, especially Catrina, are not very welcoming and are keeping secrets. But friendship and cooperation can come from unexpected people and odd places.
**** FOUR STARS! This may be the third title in the Edie Spence series, but it will not be the last. Each book contains a stand-alone tale. Edie’s life, both private and public, is the only constant running theme. Characters from the previous stories return in this episode; however, a reader does not have to read them in order to understand what is going on here. Author Cassie Alexander is definitely making her mark in the Paranormal genre! ****
Author: Cassie Alexander
Title - Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)
Edith “Edie” Spence works at County Hospital on the floor called Y4. Y4 is dedicated to the care of the supernaturals. In recent history, Edie helped save Anna, a rare living vampire. On New Year’s Eve, at midnight, the Sanguine will approve for Anna Arsov to ascend during an initiation ceremony. Once done, Anna will be allowed to begin her own House. Reluctantly, Edie agrees to be Anna’s Ambassador to the Sun.
In the meantime, Edie and her coworker/friend, Gina Martin, are just trying to survive each shift on Y4. After witnessing a black truck hit a pedestrian, Edie keeps people distracted so they would not realize that the injured man is not human, but were. Once on Y4, Edie learns that the victim is not just any were; he is Karl Winter, the werewolf king. When the full moon arrives it should heal Winter – unless he is too far gone. It is up to Edie and her coworkers to keep Winter alive.
When not at work, Edie’s life is still not safe. The vampire Dren is pissed-off at Edie for the damage she inflicted while protecting herself from him (during the previous book titled “Nightshifted”). Edie is also being attacked by weres for unknown reasons. To make matters worse, Anna’s driver, Gideon, was assaulted and is staying in Edie’s apartment until after Anna’s ceremony. When Gideon arrived he was little more than a sack of meat, but eventually becomes a cyborg by dismantling and using items in Edie’s apartment. Edie is not sure which way that Gideon is more dangerous. Then there is Veronica, Gideon’s girlfriend, who is currently unconscious in Edie’s closet because she is in the middle of transforming into a vampire. (Who will be very hungry when she finally awakens in a stranger’s closet.) The only good thing lately is that her brother, Jake, is actually trying to turn his life around. But Edie is wary about the “energy supplements” he is selling. Why is nothing ever simple?
**** FOUR STARS! Readers get to see glimpses into the lives of Edie’s coworkers this time around. Edie is on Y4 to keep her brother clean and drug free. Since it looks as though Edie may survive awhile on Y4, her coworkers loosen up a bit. A couple of them tell what deal they made in exchange for their services on the supernatural floor. By the end of this episode, I had a lot of respect for Gina, Charles, and Meaty. Readers also learn more about the Shadows. They, too, have a so-called boss; a higher up they – literally – fear.
Cassie Alexander has given new life to medical dramas by putting a nurse, Edie, into the dangerous paranormals world and yet still lets Edie retain the morbid sense of humor that all emergency personnel develop (in order to remain sane). For those who like to keep up with things, the next title in this series will be called “Shapeshifted” and due for release on June 4, 2013. I see awards in this author’s future. ****
Author: Myke Cole
Title - Fortress Frontier (Shadow Ops)
Colonel Alan Bookbinder has never seen battle. Most of his military career has been spent doing paperwork. In fact, Bookbinder takes great pride in his work. That all changes when he wakes up from a dream where everyone he cares for is drowning. The feeling of suffocation gets worse as the day progresses. A brief trip to the doctor assures him that it is just stress. Yet by the end of the work day, Bookbinder’s magical abilities make themselves loudly known.
Bookbinder is immediately whisked away from his family and transported to a new and dangerous world, where magical abilities are normal and creatures from D&D games are real. It’s not long before he finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier. When he and his people are surrounded by monsters and about to be overrun, the only hope of salvation lies in teaming up with Oscar Britton, public enemy number one.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Myke Cole blends military, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy to create an exciting story that will long be remembered. I found it fascinating to watch a normal paper pusher transform into someone who could have joined the X-Men. Goblins, trolls, and a mysterious contractor (called the Sculptor) enrich the favor of the story and kept me reading late into the night. ****
Author: Kerry Schafer
Title - Between (Book One)
Vivian Maylor has just broke up with her boyfriend, Jared Michaelson, and moved to a new town to work at Krebston Memorial Hospital. Her mother, Isobel, is mentally unstable and is under special care. Vivian is finally on her own, living in a small apartment and just trying to have a quiet, uncomplicated life. Vivian is unable to sleep and wonders if it is due to the stress in her life or if her mother’s insane rants about Dreamworlds is making her feel a little paranoid. But when an emergency room patient begins sputtering about dragons and then spontaneously combusts before her eyes, Vivian cannot help but begin to wonder if Isobel may be on to something.
Things get even stranger when she meets Zee Arbogast, a bookstore owner, who gives her a book about Dreamworlds. Vivian soon learns that the book had been left with Zee ten years prior for him to deliver when Vivian finally walked into the store. Confused and a bit scared, Vivian begins to accept the fact that she is the last of the Dreamshifters, someone who is able to walk through all three worlds: Wakeworld, Dreamworld, and Between. With no one to teach her, Vivian is doing her best to learn what is needed to do her duty. But a witch, Johenna, has stolen the dreamspheres and is using them for evil as she seeks the key to Forever.
*** THREE STARS! In the movie Hook, starring Julia Roberts and Robin Williams, Tinkerbelle tells Peter Pan that she will be waiting in that bit of space where he is not really awake and not really asleep (Between). In Schafer’s story, Between has no cute fairy. It is where dragons lurk. It is a dangerous place and to be avoided whenever possible.
The story does not start off in the middle of anything. It starts off slowly; however, it begins to pick up the pace after a couple of pages. Later events get confusing as Vivian jumps between the three worlds. Combine this with scene hopping and various characters having flashbacks, it is no wonder that I had to start paying strict attention just to keep the characters, places, and times straight. This means that I could not relax and submerge myself in the story. Reading this began to feel like work. Yet once I finally got a hold on what was going on and who/what each character was, I must admit that I liked the plotline that Kerry Schafer was drawing. Be warned that there is a scene where Vivian is being raped, but the author keeps it very brief and only reveals details of pain and a comparison of animals. I do not believe there is enough to trigger anything within someone who has lived through such an ordeal.
This is not a lighthearted read and the scene hopping is choppy, but author Kerry Schafer shows wonderful talent and I plan to keep an eye on her future work. ***
Author: Josh Reynolds
Title - Road of Skulls (Gotrek & Felix)
Karak Kadrin is in the Worlds Edge Mountains and is ruled by Slayer King Ungrim Ironfist. The Slayer King and the dwarfs of Karak Kadrin protect the gate, fighting off any dark forces that attempt to pass through it. Now the largest Chaos horde to spill out of the north since the time of Magnus the Pious is at their door. Slayer Gotrek Gurnisson and his human companion, Felix Jaeger, arrive to find Karak Kadrin under siege. This is led by the warlord named Garmr Hrodvitnir, who intends to unleash Chaos unlike any known before.
As an army of Slayers head out to fulfill an ancient prophecy, Gotrek and Felix are forced to remain at Slayer Keep. According to the aged priest, should Gurnisson march toward and meet the Chaos army in battle, he will find the death he seeks, but the world will die with him. This, of course, does not sit well with Gotrek.
** TWO STARS! I am a big fan of the Gotrek and Felix series. I look forward to each release, eager to read the next adventure. I have come to enjoy Gotrek’s surliness, his jumping into the middle of any battle, and his scowls – to name only a few traits I adore. As for Felix, I am very familiar with his brave and skillful fighting. I now rely on seeing Felix by the Slayer’s side no matter what comes. The human is a bad a…Well, he is deadly, especially with a sword. Occasionally the pair will have company in their travels. One such companion is Snorri Thungrimsson, a Slayer who is usually crazed and refers to himself in the Third Person. There is no one else quite like Snorri.
This story has all three of these characters that I enjoy so much; however, none of them are portrayed correctly. Gotrek is not as moody and he does not put away the ale like water. Felix spends most of his time in battle on his tail. He barely parries swings from his opponents and is constantly being saved by others. Felix does not seem to remember how to fight until late in the story. His spine finally stiffens about the same time. Up until then, Felix mutters under his breath and when Gotrek asks what he said, Felix actually cringes and apologizes. There are no snarky remarks to earn Gotrek’s displeasure or even much of a scowl. Snorri is not the insane comic relief who goes berserk in battle. In this story he is very serious. He is the King’s hearth-warden, his Reckoner, and his Remembrancer. Snorri is the King’s right-hand. He advises King Ironfist, helps strategize, and is a total bore.
Though the characters do not act normal, the battlefield still runs red with blood. Readers who are not already familiar with the characters will probably love this story, but diehard fans may find themselves irritated. **
Author: William King
Title - Blood of Aenarion (Tyrion & Teclis #1)
Long, long ago, Aenarion the Defender defeated four of the mightiest daemons ever to blight creation. But one daemon managed to survive. N’Kari, the Keeper of Secrets, fled unseen. The daemon’s consciousness was a spark of energy that hid within the mighty Vortex constructed by the Archmage Caledor Dragontamer on the Isle of the Dead. The Vortex saved the world, but the ghosts of Caledor and all the other mages who participated in the ritual magic are trapped within, continuously performing the spell for the rest of eternity. N’Kari’s presence went unnoticed as he slowly regained his power. It would take several millennia, but eventually N’Kari would find a way to escape the Vortex. Then he would have vengeance on all of Aenarion’s descendants.
Princes Tyrion and Teclis had grown up in the wilds of Chrace. They are twins and about to turn sixteen years of age. Tyrion is physically superior to his brother. Tyrion is able to see the patterns on a battlefield with hardly a glance. He is a natural when it comes to weaponry and a brilliant tactician. Teclis is weak in body, constantly ill. But he is superior to his brother in intelligence and the magical arts. He remembers everything he reads and is wise beyond his years. The brothers are close, but when their aunt, Lady Malene, and one of the Phoenix King’s elite guards, Korbien Ironglaive, arrive, the twins’ lives would forever change.
Tyrion and Teclis are escorted to the Phoenix King’s court where they are to be tested. They must learn the arts of war and the mysteries of magic, as well as the secrets of survival in the Phoenix King’s court. Soon it becomes obvious that a daemon is on a path of death and destruction. Signs point to the daemon called N’Kari. The twins are hunted by N’Kari’s assassins and beset by treachery on all sides. The brothers must fight to survive if they are to have any hope of claiming their destiny as the greatest heroes of the age.
**** FOUR STARS! The first in a trilogy, this tale begins where all great stories do – at the beginning. In the prologue, readers watch as Aenarion battles the four daemons. Then readers stand witness as the Archmage Caledor and the other mages sacrifice everything, including their eternal peace, to save the world. I was riveted!
From the first page of the first chapter, I found the characters of Tyrion and Teclis to be intriguing. As a long time fan of William King’s, I could easily see the author’s indefinable writing style on each page. The plot line runs smoothly and subplots are subtly planted beneath (for blooming in the future titles.) Though the twins have yet to reach their full potential, the author still manages to keep readers thoroughly entertained. ****
Author: Mike Lee
Title - The Rise of Nagash
(Time of Legends/Nagash Omnibus)
Nagash, Grand Hierophant of the Living City's mortuary cult, searches for the secret to eternal life. Without the fear of death, the gods would have no hold over mortals. Nagash's brother, Thutep, is the king. When Nagash first sees Neferem, the betrothed of Thutep, he feels jealousy as never before. Neferem represents the covenant. She is the conduit for the gods' powers. Once she becomes queen, she stands beside her husband's decisions, helping to care for their people. Nagash, craving power, plots to kill his brother, take the throne and the queen for himself, and bring about the end of the gods' hold on mortals.
Nagash becomes the Undying King. His life-giving elixir is given only to those he chooses. As long as those chosen keep taking the elixir, they are immortal. Through trickery, Neferem is made immortal. She is enslaved, bound body and soul, to Nagash. Her hatred for Nagash is as undying as his elixir makes him.
The sorcerer, craving more and more power, continues his dark experiments. The Hieratic Council in Mahrak defies the Undying King. But before the necromancer is done, all Nehekhara will lie beneath his heel, and Settra's great empire will be restored. The age of the old gods is over!
**** FOUR STARS! Mike Lee has done a terrific job of bringing the legend of Nagash to (immortal) life. As I read about the birth of vampires, there were times that I wondered if perhaps I had been ensorcelled by the author's writing talent. I admit that I found the narrations to be too long-winded at times, yet the images crafted within my imagination as I read were amazing. Highly recommended reading! ****
Many hope, pray, or believe that Nagash the Usurper, Undying King of fallen Khemi, perished with his undead army. The remaining immortals were hunted down, a feat that took decades, and eliminated. Only one remains, Arkhan the Black. As the Usurper's army fell, Lamashizzar smuggled the books of Nagash from the Black Pyramid outside Khemri. Now Lamashizzar, Priest King of Lahmia, City of the Dawn, seeks the power that Nagash once held. With Arkhan nearby, locked immobile within his own flesh and bone, Lamashizzar studies Nagash's tomes. Yet Arkhan knows that once he reveals all Nagash's secrets, he will be destroyed.
Queen Neferata realizes that Lamashizzar cares for nothing more than his studies. The care and protection of Lahmia falls to her. Therefore, without her husband's knowledge, Neferata strikes a bargain with Arkhan. The immortal gives the queen secret tutelage of the necromantic arts. Soon she can deal with Lamashizzar, care for her people, and eventually make Lahmia the undisputed center of power in all of Nehekhara.
Unfortunately for Nehekhara, Nagash still lives. Nagash retreats to the mountains where he slowly rebuilds his strength and finds new allies in many of the barbarians and the skaven (mutant ratmen that dwell beneath the earth). In his new lair of Cripple Peak, Nagash discovers warpstone, which gives the necromancer more power than ever before. Once Nagash unlocks all the secrets of warpstone, he will be unstoppable.
**** FOUR STARS! The blurb on the back of the individual book speaks only of Nagash and the skaven. This is extremely misleading. Less than half of this book follows Nagash. As for the skaven, they are hardly seen or mentioned. The main focus this time is on Queen Neferata. My main problem with the story is the large gaps in time. More than once I turned the page to find that fifty years or more had passed. This caused me to somewhat flounder as I tried to figure out if anything vital had changed. I believe these sections could have been handled better. Yet overall, this story is intriguing. The epilogue, which begins after another huge time gap, gives a minor sneak peak as to how the third book will begin. I look forward to reading more about the beginning of the vampires. ****
Nagash the Usurper, Tyrant of Khemri, still walks the earth, some five hundred years after his defeat at the Battle of Mahrak. His plans to seal the doom of the great cities of Nehekhara are delayed when the skaven dwelling under his dark mountain try to overtake the mining levels and claim the powerful stones called abn-i-khat as their own. Nagash must crush the skaven, a task that will take many years and battles, before he may continue his evil plans.
While Nagash deals with his ratman problems, other immortals are busy too. Neferata is the Queen of Lahmia, the City of the Dawn. Her line has ruled Lahmia for millennium. The vampire has kept her immortality and true nature hidden from the mortals. Within her court resides Alcadizzar, Prince of Rasetra, who she has raised and educated since his birth. (Alcadizzar is thirty-years-old when he is first introduced to the reader.) As the young prince matures, his tutors relentlessly train him to be the best king Khemri has ever had. Few know that Neferata plans to unite Khemri and Lahmia by making Alcadizzar her consort. As the prince continues to learn all he can to help his people in their future, Neferata slowly molds him according to her own wishes.
Alcadizza is fifty-one when he finds out that Neferata is a vampire. Her dark elixirs have slowed his aging, so Prince Alcadizza's appearance has hardly altered. The prince flees Lahmia, intent on warning Nehekhara of Neferata's dark crimes. But without evidence, none of the great cities' rulers dare to move against Lahmia. In order to find proof, the prince travels into the Golden Plains. Under the alias of Ubaid, the prince is adopted by one of the best tribes. Here he will live and fight as one of the bani-al-Hashim for decades. Once proof is finally found, all of the great cities will band together to purge Nahekhara of Lahmia's great evil.
After many, many decades of war between Nagash's forces and the skaven, they form an uneasy alliance. The skaven are greedy by nature and Nagash uses their vice for his own nefarious purpose. The necromancer launches his nightmarish army and finally begins his final attack on the lands of Nehekhara, killing any and all before them. Only one man dare stand in his way - King Alcadizzar. Should Nagash prevail, Nehekhara will cease to be, followed by all the Old World.
*** THREE STARS! This is the last book of the Nagash Trilogy. Nagash is given more time in the spot light this time around, yet still not as much as I would have enjoyed. When I, as a Warhammer fan, think of Nagash, I imagine an incomparable evil. He is a dark figure compiled from the most malevolent sorceries and made sentient. Often the author manages to convey that same image to me, however, there are times that Nagash's character comes across as too weak.
Queen Neferata is as problematic for Alcadizzar as Nagash, if not more so. Our hero will make horrible sacrifices and go through great pain for his people. But will it be enough? Will Nagash and Neferata, or both, be destroyed? Can there be a happy ending? I refuse to spoil the story by telling. ***
Author: Sarah Cawkwell
Title - Valkia the Bloody
As the story opens, Valkia has lived but ten years. She is the pride and joy of her father, Chieftain Merroc. Though considered to still be too young for it, she becomes a shield bearer and fights for her people, the Schwarzvolf.
Valkia knows only unending warfare. Once Valkia seizes power for herself, she becomes the leader of the tribe. The warrior queen begins to strengthen her people by conquering and absorbing the other tribes under a single banner. Valkia becomes the acknowledged champion of Khorne, the Blood God. After defeating Locephax, Demon Prince of Slaanesh, Valkia nails the demon’s living head onto her shield and vows to travel North, to the lands of the gods, and place the trophy at the base of Khorne’s skull-throne herself. Valkia is in sight of her goal, mere steps away from her lord, when betrayal causes her to fall. But Valkia hold the patronage of the Ruinous Powers, and Khorne will not allow death to flee with his chosen queen.
Khorne’s consort emerges reborn. She is the right arm of slaughter personified. With Khorne’s blessing, his unholy queen will lead her new dark army into battle. As for the Schwarzvolf, vengeance comes.
***** FIVE STARS! This author holds back no punches as she tells, in detail, about the life of Valkia the Bloody. From almost the very beginning, every page rings with the loud sounds of battle, whooping war cries, and the moans of the dying. Women and children are slaughtered more than once, but those massacres are not too graphic. They are mainly implied. (Such as Valkia sending her right hand out to locate the caves in which they are hiding and to kill them all.) Still, if you have an imagination as vivid as mine, it is grizzly. (Hey, I blame my imagination on gaming. Due to all the D&D and on-line MMORPGs, it has become quite fertile.)
Sarah Cawkwell has an intense writing style. Almost manic. Being within Valkia’s mind for several hours left me craving for the next battle. After all: “It matters not from whence the blood flows. So long as it does flow.” *****
Author: Nathan Long
Title - Bloodsworn (Ulrika the Vampire #3)
Ulrika Magdova Straghov had been turned into a vampire against her will by Adolphus Krieger. Instead of dying beneath the blade of Slayer Gotrek’s axe that night, she had become a daughter in darkness to Countess Gabriella, a Lahmian vampire, for training. Ulrika had left the countess for awhile, but now returns to Nuln. Yet as Ulrika enters Nuln she finds the Lahmian vampires preparing for war. Across the Old World, their rivals, the sinister von Carsteins, attack their strongholds, lead the witch hunters to their hidden lairs, and are amassing an army to strike. Only a few hours back in Nuln, Ulrika finds herself leaving her mistress – again – and being hunted by her sisters – again. But this time Ulrika is determined to prove herself by bringing back the head of their enemy. However, Ulrika sees red when the humans strike down the only vampire sister she cares for. Angry at the entire sisterhood for treating her as a prisoner and wanting vengeance upon the whole human race, Ulrika forms an uneasy alliance with the von Carsteins.
Count Grigor von Messinghof of Sylvania is who masterminded the vampire revolt, but that was only the beginning. Von Messinghof plots the assassination of Emperor Karl Franz and to use the Lahmians as scapegoats. Once the Empire has been destabilized, the most ancient and evil of mankind’s enemies will return from the grave to drown them all in an ocean of blood. Mannfred von Carstein lives! And Ulrika’s vengeance would be glorious!
***** FIVE STARS! The brilliantly warped mind of Nathan Long is impossible to predict. As a vampire, Ulrika has been just as honorable as when her heart still beat. Throughout this series (as well as the times she spent fighting beside Gotrek Gurnisson and Felix Jaegor), I have tried to remain understanding of Ulrika’s thinking and reasoning. Until now, I would never have believed Ulrika capable of snapping and releasing her inner bloodlust. For such a strong character to break, the author has to expose her weakest link and then ruthlessly crush it. Nathan Long succeeds in doing exactly that. I totally understand how Ulrika’s character, with her need for justice and revenge, would jump at the Sylvanian’s offer.
Eventually the author has to let Ulrika cross blades with Emperor Karl Franz and his champion, Ludwig Schwarzhelm. Once again Nathan Long excels at keeping each character realistic. The Emperor is very wise; an honorable man among men. And of course his champion is the best warrior-knight in the land and has the best gear. Anything else would have been laughable. I was eager to see how the author would handle the clashing of these three mighty beings, as well as the final outcome. To say that I am pleased would be an understatement.
Nathan Long seems to write with a pen filled with venom. I hope the cure is long in coming. *****
Author: Anton Strout
Title - Alchemystic (Spellmason Chronicles #1)
Alexandra “Lexi” Belarus is a struggling artist living in New York City. She is not a starving artist though, because her family owns a lot of land. But when her older brother, Devon, has a building fall on him, Lexi has no choice but to quickly begin learning about the family’s real estate empire. When Lexi is attacked on the dark streets and saved by a massive winged figure, she begins to learn the truth about the Belarus history.
Lexi’s great-great-grandfather, Alexander, was a Spellmason. Spellmasonry is alchemy, using arcane chemical processes to imbue materials with different properties than they would normally have. For example, Spellmasonry can give life to stone. Lexi’s GGF had dark forces conspiring against him and his kin, so he left a spell of protection on his family. Now that Lexi is in danger, the magic has awoken Stanis, a stone gargoyle. Stanis has been standing sentinel for ages. The family’s stone ally had even saved Lexi’s father long ago. But why did Stanis not waken months ago, when Devon was murdered?
As Lexi searches for Alexander’s hidden tomes of knowledge, she learns that Stanis once had four soul stones. For an unknown reason, Lexi’s GGF removed them and hid each somewhere in the city. Riddles have been left to their locations. Lexi vows to restore the stones to Stanis so he would be at full power to help protect the family.
With Lexi is her closest friend, Aurora “Rory” Torres. For years Rory has toned her body through dance. She soon discovers that dance and gracefulness is perfect for fighting. Marshall is Rory’s roommate. Marsh is no fighter, but he is a geek. His years of playing Dungeon and Dragon games have made him into a brilliant tactician. With the stones often surrounded with magical traps, Marsh is actually the most experienced. As a gamer, Marsh is eating this stuff up!
As the secret order trying to kill Lexi and her parents close in, the race is on to find and restore the gargoyle’s soul stones. All the while, Lexi must quickly learn to become a Spellmason.
***** FIVE STARS! Wow! Just…WOW! This is the first time that I have had the pleasure of reading any story by this author; however, he has already made a fan in me! This story will greatly appeal to fans of Fantasy and/or gaming (on board, PC, or consoles), as well as fans of action movies, such as X-Men, Indiana Jones, and Tomb Raider. If any of that fits you, then you will instantly be a perspicacious reader. But no worries, the author explains everything in such a way that non-gamers will totally understand and enjoy.
The story is set in the present. No one knows or believes in magic. Yet any reader who actually lives in New York may find his view of the city to become a bit warped. The characters show themselves to have the same indomitable spirit of those that (in reality) reside in the great city. The author exposes some of the abandoned underground areas, painting the scenery so vividly that I actually began to feel a prickly sensation at one point. The best I can describe Strout’s writing style is to say that he seems to write with a patience coupled with ferocity. I eagerly wait for the next installment of this series. Exhilarating and highly recommended! *****
Author: John Passarella
Title - Rite of Passage
(Supernatural TV Series Tie-In)
Sam and Dean Winchester consider Bobby to be their honorary uncle. After dealing with some harpies, the trio travel to Laurel Hill, New Jersey. On the surface, the small town seems to be having a horrible run of bad luck. In truth, the unfortunate town has been infiltrated by an invincible creature that specializes in orchestrating bad accidents and causing the spread of diseases.
Sam still has a daily struggle to maintain a vise-like grip on his sanity. Occasionally Sam has trouble distinguishing between what is reality and what is “Lucifer-vision”. Dean does all he can to help his brother cope. Often Sam will squeeze the scar on his left hand, prompting real-world pain to push reality back to the surface of his mind. But Dean worries that someday he may lose his brother to madness. In addition to his problem, the Winchester brothers recently had a couple of dark doppelgangers created of them by the Leviathan. These doppelgangers had gone on a cross-country killing spree. Sam and Dean must continually keep looking over their shoulders in case somebody made them as the infamous serial killers. Therefore, Bobby uses his Fed disguise to work with the local police, while the brothers go undercover as insurance claim adjusters so that they may talk to witnesses of all the bad accidents and deaths.
Sumiko Jones is known in school as the Lion Truth Blogger. The teen is intelligent and extremely observant. She uses these talents to blog school happenings that most fail to notice. Her boyfriend is Ryan Bramble. Ryan has been having trouble with his grades this year. Sumiko is helping by tutoring Ryan; yet Ryan feels that it is a worthless endeavor. It does not help that Ryan has been suffering lately from horrible migraines. If the tension headaches are not enough, Ryan is beginning to experience insane rages. He has no idea what is happening to him. The answer is far worse than he could ever imagine. As the chain of misfortunes escalates, Sumiko expands her blog to include all the recent supernatural events in Laurel Hill. Eventually her blog investigation catches the eyes of Sam and Dean.
***** FIVE STARS! This novel is a media tie-in to the hit CW series “Supernatural”. This is an original story and has never been seen on television. You do not have to be a fan of the series in order to fully enjoy this adventure; however, for those of you who do keep up with the television show, this tale takes place during season seven, between “Time for a Wedding!” and “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters”.
Author John Passarella is well known for writing some dark, twisted, and creepy stories. I have often wondered about this author’s mental stability. That possible imbalance is probably what gives each of his stories their surreal aura. Whatever talent, dark imagination, or paranormal ability this author has, he definitely used it in spades for writing this adventure. I ended up reading the entire book in a single sitting. (Thank heavens I was on vacation and did not mind losing so much sleep!) Unforgettable! *****
Author: Tanya Huff
Title - Blood Price (Blood Series #1)
Victoria “Vicki” Nelson had recently been diagnosed with Retintis Pigmentosa. She is slowly going blind. She already has no vision at night. Unable to settle for a desk job, Vicki turned in her badge at the Criminal Investigations Bureau of Toronto. Though Vicki no longer works in Homicide, she cannot give up investigating; therefore, Vicki is now a private investigator.
Bodies drained of blood are beginning to show up around the area. Coreen Fergus is the girlfriend of one of the victims. The newspapers have been claiming that a vampire is the cause of the recent murders and Coreen agrees. Vicki is hired to investigate the death of her boyfriend, find proof that a vampire killed him, and to eliminate the threat. Vicki takes the case. The facts do point to a vampire, but the creatures are only a myth. Vicki figures that Coreen simply needs closure, so she would find out who killed the boyfriend of her client. But Vicki’s world tilts when she finds a vampire standing over the latest body.
Henry Fitzroy was born in the sixteenth century and raised a good Catholic. He is the illegitimate son of Henry VIII. When Vicki finds him with the killer’s latest victim, he has two choices: Kill Vicki or talk to her. Surprisingly, it does not take Vicki long to accept that the impossible is actually possible. Henry is a vampire. Vampires do not want mortals to know they exist. This means Henry wants the killer stopped. Permanently. Working together, Henry and Vicki discover that the killer is a demon feeding. To stop the demon, they must find the mortal summoning it.
Homicide Detective Michael “Mike” Celluci had not wanted Vicki to leave the police force, but he also understood why she did. They had four years of friendship and occasionally slept together. Vicki had acted as Mike’s safety valve and he had done the same for her. The situation has changed; however, being there for each other does not need to. And even though Vicki is now a civilian, she is still a valuable resource and highly respected by most in the force. If Mike cannot keep Vicki from snooping around, then he can at least help her and keep her safe. As for the new man in her life, Henry, Mike does not like him at all.
**** FOUR STARS! An excellent beginning to the Blood Series. I would have given the story five stars had there not been to many typos. (At least in the Kindle version I purchased the typos are everywhere.) The three main characters are Vicki, Henry, and Mike. The villain in this first story is a demon. It will be interesting to see whether each story has a different paranormal creature or not. According to the book cover, this series has been made into a television show called Blood Ties. (I do not know if it is still aired though.) From what I can gather, the Blood Series is six books long. The first five titles are available in print and electronic formats; however, the sixth title is paperback only. (At the time of this review.) That last book is simply a collection of short stories. The only short story not in the sixth book is in the anthology titled A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters.
Tanya Huff has a creative writing style that is also easy to read. All character backgrounds are well developed. Each of the three main characters has unique personalities and their own set of quirks and pet peeves. I can only hope that the rest of the series is this fantastic! ****
Author: Tanya Huff
Title - Blood Trail (Blood Series #2)
Victoria “Vicki” Nelson became a private investigator after her eye disease (Retintis Pigmentosa) forced her off the Metro Police. Her best friend of over four years is Detective-Sergeant Michael “Mike” Celluci. Though Vicki is no longer with the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department, she and Mike still help each other blow off steam. Doing so often leads them to the bedroom. Their relationship is loose. They each see other people. Recently Vicki met Henry Fitzroy. Mike has no idea that Henry is a vampire or that the creatures even exist. Mike only knows that he does not like the man.
When Henry asks Vicki to help some of his friends with a problem, she knows that the problem may not be what most would call normal. Vicki and Henry travel to a sheep farm just north of London, Ontario. The sheep farm belongs to a family of werewolves. Vicki’s job is to find the person, or people, involved in trying to kill them.
Between Vicki investigating during the day time and Henry during the night, good headway is being made. But then Mike shows up unexpectedly. Mike has been doing some background checking on Vicki’s new boyfriend and he is convinced that Henry is involved in organized crime. Vicki is furious of course, but before she can get him to leave Mike learns what her clients are. Mike world not have believed it, except that he had seen a demon trying to kill Vicki only a month or so prior.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the second title in the Blood Series. Last story had a demon in it. This time it has werewolves. The love triangle finally finishes forming during this case. Mike and Henry realize that they both want an exclusive relationship with Vicki, and that neither are willing to give her up. As for Vicki, she is learning not to judge her clients by human standards, no matter how human they seem most of the time.
Huff has another winning story in this book. There are many typos (in the Kindle version that I purchased), but not as many as in the first story. Well done! ****
Author: Tanya Huff
Title - Blood Lines (Blood Series #3)
After being diagnosed with an eye disease, Victoria “Vicki” Nelson left the police force and became a private investigator. Since then, Vicki has become physically involved with Henry Fitzroy, a vampire. Vicki still has a relationship with Detective-Sergeant Mike Celluci, a homicide investigator with the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department. Last April the trio had to deal with a demon, part of August had them associating with a pack of werewolves. This time it is a mummy.
After spending three centuries in the dark, locked immobile inside a sarcophagus, the last remaining wizard-priest of the god Akhekh emerges. The sarcophagus and the mummy it contained have only recently become the official possession of the Royal Ontario Museum. Those few who saw the mummy are quickly killed or have their minds wiped. Though Mike did not see the mummy, he is positive that he had been told it existed. Yet suddenly the mummy is gone and the person who had informed him of its existence now claims that they never said so. Mike’s boss, Inspector Cantree, soon forbids him to continue his personal investigation. With his hands tied, Mike hires Vicki to locate the missing mummy.
For over four hundred and fifty years Henry has not seen the sun. Now he sees it in his mind every night when he wakes. Henry fears that it means he may walk into the sunlight and end his existence, even though he does not want to die. Vicki promises to be there with Henry each morning, when the dawn reaches out to take him. She would fight with him. For him. She would not let him burn. In the meantime, Vicki spends her days searching for a mummy that walks the streets of Toronto, a mummy who brought with it the power of ancient Egypt. It goes by the name of Anwar Tawfik and somehow it has gotten control of the Solicitor General, the police force, and is working on more.
Unless the mummy is stopped, all of Toronto will quickly fall into its hands, followed by the rest of the world.
*** THREE STARS! When it comes to the love triangle, Henry no more wanted something in common with Mike than Mike wanted with him. Except, of course, the one thing (Vicki) that neither of them is willing to give up. So I found it very entertaining to watch Henry and Mike hate, yet grudgingly respect, each other during this third episode. Both men are ready to take their relationship with Vicki to the next level, but Vicki still has a serious commitment problem.
In my opinion, there is too much time spent on describing who, why, and how the mummy will manipulate/entrance next. I actually found myself skimming these sections after awhile. (Something I seldom do for fear of missing anything vital.) This is not the author’s best work, but I still found it to be very entertaining. ***
Author: Tanya Huff
Title - Blood Pact (Blood Series #4)
Vicki Nelson, Private Investigator, is having a difficult time dealing with the men in her life. During the day there is Mike Celluci, a Detective-Sergeant with the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department. During the night there is Henry Fitzroy, the vampire who had once been a prince, a duke, an earl, and a Knight of the Garter. Normally Vicki answers her mother’s phones calls; even when she dreads to. Then comes the night that Vicki has had more than enough drama for one day. When Marjory calls at the worst time possible, Vicki simply cannot deal with listening to her mother too. So for once, Vicki does not answer the phone. This means the guilt hits Vicki hard the next morning, when she is informed that Marjory has died.
Vicki travels to Kingston without telling Mike or Henry anything. Of course, when the two figure out where Vicki went and why, they follow. To offer comfort, if nothing else. Vicki’s guilty conscious keeps her dry-eyed as she moves through the necessary process of dealing with her mother’s funeral and estate. When Vicki opens the casket to find Marjory’s body missing, Vicki is livid! Vicki shuts everything out of her life except the need to find the person or persons who had taken her mother’s body. The next time Vicki sees her mother body, it is standing at a window looking in at Vicki. The body is dead. But part of Marjory is trapped within. Before Vicki can get outside, the body snatchers had already grabbed Marjory and left. Someone is responsible for turning her mother into Frankenstein’s monster. More than likely, the culprits are from the university. And Vicki will not stop until she finds out who is responsible and can finally put her mother to rest.
**** FOUR STARS! This episode Vicki has to deal with mad scientists trying to reverse death. The story has the equivalent, or flavor, of the book/movie titled Frankenstein. For all those who have been waiting for Vicki to – finally – be Changed, this is the episode where it happens. (It has been obvious from the first story that it would happen eventually.) I will say nothing else about it. ****
Author: Tanya Huff
Title - Blood Debt (Blood Series #5)
Private Investigator Vicki Nelson has only been a vampire for two years. She spent the first year in Vancouver with her sire, Henry Fitzroy, as he helped her learn to survive. But every vampire knows that once you create another of their kind and spend a year teaching it, the two must part ways due to their territorial natures. So after one year with Henry, Vicki returned to Toronto and her mortal lover, Detective-Sergeant Mike Celluci, who welcomed her back with open arms.
When Henry calls for Vicki’s help, Mike takes time off from the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department to go with her. A ghost is appearing to Henry as he wakens each night. (And only to Henry.) Henry can ask only one question and if the answer’s yes, it disappears quietly, and if the answer’s no, it screams. When it screams, Henry senses a multitude of dead voices and an innocent person nearby dies. The ghost is scaring people to death.
Vicki and Henry have no choice but to work together if they are to lay this specter to rest. As the pair attempt to overcome their territorial natures and investigate the possibility of organ-legging, Mike does his best to keep Vicki and Henry from killing each other.
*** THREE STARS! This is the last full-length story in the Blood Series. For those wanting more, there is a book (anthology) of short stories titled Blood Bank. (Available only in paperback at the time of this review.) Vicki and Mike also make an appearance in one other anthology (one story among thirteen total) titled A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters.
Author Tanya Huff puts her unique spin on the urban legend of someone waking to find one of their kidneys missing. In this story, a secondary character explains to readers why the odds of it ever happening for real is slim-to-none. The paranormal element involved this time around is a ghost who plays twenty questions with deadly results. If nothing else, this series definitely shows the author’s interest in myths and urban legends. And this is a good one to end the series with. Well done. ***
Author: Jim C. Hines
Title - Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris #1)
Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer. He has the ability to reach into books and create objects from their pages. Every libriomancer has a specialty. Isaac’s is sci-fi. A little over two years ago, Isaac snapped and broke some serious rules. Therefore, Isaac was yanked out of the field, banished to Michigan and forbidden from using magic unless it was an emergency. During the last two years, Isaac has been working in a library, secretly cataloguing books for their magical potential. So when he is attacked by three young vampires while at work, Isaac is surrounded by books that he could open and pull out all sorts of sci-fi weapons. But Isaac is rusty. The vampires believe Isaac has been killing their kind and intend to return the favor. Luckily for Isaac, help arrives in the form of Lena Greenwood.
Lena is a dryad and her choice of weapon is a pair of wooden swords. She proves to be excellent at helping to beat down various magical and undead threats. She also seems to be very interested in spending some alone time with Isaac.
Along with a neurotic fire-spider named Smudge, Isaac and Lena set out to find and stop whoever is behind the attacks. Should they fail, they could be looking at a worldwide war with the undead. Complicating matters further is the fact that by using his powers too often in a small amount of time, Isaac could end up losing control of them and actually wipe himself from existence. But if Isaac is to have any hope of preventing that war, he may have no other choice.
***** FIVE STARS! I have not had this much fun reading a fantasy book in quite awhile. As soon as I saw the author’s name on the book cover, I knew that I was in for a treat. Only recently did I read “Jig the Dragonslayer” the Dragonslayer” and that omnibus made me a fan of this author. For the readers out there who have not read the Goblin’s series (and I feel bad for anyone who has not), Isaac’s fire-spider, Smudge, comes from there.
I have never heard of a libriomancer, so I must guess that the author made this type of mage up from his own fertile imagination; however, it is the first magical power that I really wish I could get. Of course, anyone who truly adores books will be unable to resist envying libriomancers. I fully expect to see other authors in the future mimic this type of mage. Hines drops the names of several authors and titles, such as Anne Rice and Robert Heinlein, but a few are not real. A list of the titles used in this story is listed in the back and reveals which are real titles and which are not. Some devices are used without mentioning which book they came from. But most readers will instantly know from where libriomancer plucked the object. (For example: At one point Isaac is holding a thermal nuclear detonator. I bet most of you out there immediately thought of the book/movie it may have come from.)
This story is fast paced, imaginative, humorous at times, and thoroughly entertaining! This author may now add my name to the list of his fans. Brilliant! *****
Author: Tate Hallaway
Title - Precinct 13 (Alex Connor #1, 8/7/12)
Alex Connor has recently graduated college and is thrilled to have been elected as the Hughes County coroner/medical examiner in Pierre, South Dakota. When Officers Jones and Stone brings in a dead body and makes some cryptic remarks about it, Alex believes they are messing with her. But during the autopsy, a huge snake jumps out from behind the man’s heart, wraps around the entire length of her arm, and becomes a living tattoo. By the time Alex pulls herself together, the male body has already sat up, picked his liver up from the weighing scale, and walked out the door.
Due to her past mental history, Alex has to work up the courage to report the missing body. Alex is sent to Precinct 13, a secret team of paranormal cops. This is where Alex learns that she was never insane or hallucinating in the past. Fairies, vampires, golems, witches – all the myths – actually exist. Her new coworkers are paranormals just like her. They encourage Alex to learn about her abilities, which includes speaking to the dead to solve crimes. In return, perhaps Alex could help Precinct 13 locate the missing body of a necromancer and figure out where all the zombies are coming from.
***** FOUR AND A HALF STARS! Other than being a bit predictable at times, this story is extremely well done. In fact, this is probably the best Urban Fantasy story that I have read all year. The characters surrounding Alex are made up of a wide variety of creatures, humans with special paranormal abilities, and half-breeds. (An example would be the werewolf/vampire.)
Tate Hallaway has a crisp writing style which managed to reach out and grab me by the throat. Once I picked up this book, I never set it back down. I can only hope that the author learns to write faster, because I want the next installment NOW! Incredible! *****
Author: Andy Chambers
Title - Path of the Renegade (Dark Eldar, W40K)
For millennia, the great tyrant Asdrubael Vect has ruled the dark elder city of Commorragh. Vect crushed any who dare to cross him and made public examples of those he wished. The last who dared an attempt to overthrow Vect had been Archon El’Uriaq, three thousand years ago. The doomed archon not only failed, but brought about a Dysjunction. His entire kingdom was destroyed and has only been filled with the curse ever since. Very few survived the Dysjunction. Now Vect’s reach is even longer, he is even more powerful, and he believes his position is unassailable.
Archon Nyos Yllithian of the White Flames Kabal has a well deserved reputation as a master manipulator. The ambitious archon believes he has discovered a way to unseat the tyrant. Yllithian seeks an alliance with two others to aid him: Archon Xelian, mistress of the Blades of Desire, and Archon Kraillach, lord of the Realm Eternal.
The trio unite to begin gathering the two items needed for the resurrection of Vect’s former rival, Archon El’Uriaq. As events get under way, the three archons keep close eyes upon each other, ever wary for any sign of betrayal or that Vect has discovered their treachery. But by resurrecting El’Uriaq, the three conspirators may bring about another Dysjunction.
**** FOUR STARS! It is not often that a worthy story about the Dark Eldar makes an appearance; however, Andy Chambers has succeeded in accomplishing this difficult endeavor. Readers who enjoyed the Malus Darkblade graphic novel or trilogy will especially find this story appealing. Quite often I tasted the same type of rotten flavor seeping through. Andy Chambers writes with a similar semi-bitter taste. The story is full of dark elder conniving schemes and each of the three participating archons would not hesitate to toss the others to the wolves (or into the battle arena) if a chance presented itself.
The story caught my attention almost immediately and held onto my interest until its…disturbing…end. I now have a yen for more of this author’s bittersweet flavor and intend to keep tabs on his future. ****
Author: Chloe Neill
Title - Biting Cold
(Chicagoland Vampires #6)
Twenty-eight-year-old Caroline Merit had been turned into a vampire about a year ago. Since then Merit has found her way into Chicago’s vampire underground. There are more supernaturals than the human public could possibly imagine. Over the past year Merit has trained hard and earned a position as Sentinel of Cadogan House. Protecting the House and her liege, Ethan Sullivan, means everything to Merit. She takes her duties very seriously.
Mallory Carmichael was the best friend and like a sister to Merit. But the little sorceress now has a black-magic problem. Mallory intends to cause great harm on the world by releasing an ancient evil from its prison. The vessel containing the evil is a powerful book called the Maleficium. Merit and Ethan charge across the American Midwest to stop her from unleashing the book’s horror. They both succeed and fail, depending on how one looks at it.
Merit and Ethan return to their House in Chicago to be confronted with political spite and numerous enemies. The GP (Greenwich Presidium) exists to protect the interests of all vampires in the United States and Western Europe. The GP refuses to assist in cleaning up the mess they so tidily made and has, basically, failed the House in a multitude of ways. Yet the GP seems to blame Cadogan House for everything and is actually considering kicking the House out. Should the GP remove their accreditation, Cadogan House would have to watch its back against attacks from their previous allies. While Ethan tries to deal with all the political messes, Merit must deal with her duties as Sentinel. That duty includes dealing with a fallen angel who is big on justice and retribution.
**** FOUR STARS! There are many good reasons for the Chicagoland Vampires series to be six books in length and still growing. My reason for reading them is because Sentinel Merit is honorable, reliable, trustworthy, and fully capable of kicking some serious bad – uh, butts when needed. This is not a series a new reader can simply jump into. These books must be read in order; however, each one is fascinating. All the characters are compelling and have well developed backgrounds. Just like the normal human governments, the paranormals have a chain of leadership. This makes Chloe Neill’s dark world very believable. Also, since the characters make mistakes and must suffer consequences, the entire series comes across as very realistic. In a word: Wow! ****
Author: Josh Reynolds
Title - Knight of the Blazing Sun (Warhammer)
The Knights of the Blazing Sun are a noble order of templars dedicated to the warrior-goddess Myrmidia. The order crushes their enemies with not only sword and pike, but also with wisdom. Myrmidia was the Goddess of Knowledge, even as she was the Mistress of War.
When communications cease from a group of knights, Sir Hector Goetz is sent to the distant island of Svunum to investigate. It soon becomes obvious that someone does not want him to reach the island. Brother Goetz must battle trolls and dodge assassins as he slowly makes his way toward the Brother Knights. Once he is reunited with his comrades, Goetz must help battle vicious pirates and raiders.
Goetz has been having horrific nightmares and they are becoming increasingly disturbing. At the same time, Goetz cannot help but notice that there is more going on than meets the eye. As Brother Goetz tries to figure out what is happening within the order, northern savages lay siege to the island, revealing a deadly secret.
*** THREE STARS! I found the pace of this story to keep varying in flux. As I read, I came to notice that the story could be divided into four sections. The first quarter introduced me to Sir Goetz, let me view him in battle, see how honorable he was, and gave me a little information about the plot. The second quarter was full of mystery as the knight tried to get an idea of what could be happening. The third quarter was full of action as Goetz dodged assassins, creatures of Chaos, raiders and more. The fourth quarter was almost non-stop with adventure as surprising answers were revealed, everything began to come to a head, and final battles clashed. Though the story did not flow smoothly, its concept was terrific and kept my attention until the very end. ***
Author: Kalayna Price
Title - Grave Memory (Alex Craft #3)
Alex Craft is a grave witch. She solves murders by raising the shades of the dead. A shade is unable to lie because it is (basically) just the memory of the body. Alex has been on friendly terms with Death himself since very early childhood. Their relationship has been heating up and becoming more personal; however, due to recent events, a romance between them is forbidden. They can have no direct contact. The only other person that Alex has any interest in is Agent Falin Andrews, who is completely bound to the Winter Queen, making him untrustworthy.
As the story opens, Alex is showing one of her best friends (and soon-to-be business partner) the new office for “Alex Craft and Rianna McBride: Tongues for Dead Investigations”. Rianna has been forever changed by her time spent captive in Faerie, but she is looking forward to this new venture in life. They do not have to wait long. Alex is hired to investigate the death of James Kingly. The shade has no memory of his death or for the three days prior in which he was missing from home. Despite his public suicide, this is murder. Could some sort of magic – a type unknown to Alex and Rianna – overcome the human will to survive? Or perhaps it is some type of virus that is causing the sudden rise in numbers of recent suicides? Whatever the cause, searching for answers may very well cost Alex her own life.
**** FOUR STARS! Kalayna Price has crafted a magical world filled with a cast of such intriguing characters that readers may wonder if they have been glamoured. (I sure did.) The author does not just stick magic in Alex’s world and then stop. Instead, the magic has its own set of laws – much like physics does – and the author explains them so logically that they make total sense. Very believable. And down-right bespelling! ****
Edited by: Christian Dunn
Title - Gotrek & Felix: The Anthology
Within this novel readers will find ten stories based on the characters of the Gotrek and Felix series. Below I list each title, author, give a synopsis, star rating, and a very short review. Overall, I would give this novel a three star rating. Gotrek and Felix are not the main characters in every story. In my opinion, fans of the dwarf/human team will be disappointed in about half of these tales. On the plus side, the two stories by Nathan Long are worth the price of the entire book. You will also meet a few of the favorite secondary characters, such as Snorri Nosebiter, Grey Seer Thanquol, and Ulrika Magdova. You do not have to be a fan of the series to enjoy this novel, but it sure does make the stories more fun!
(1) Slayer's Honour by Nathan Long
After their misadventures in the Black Gulf left them stranded south of the Dragonback Mountains, Slayer Gotrek Gurnisson and his rememberer, Felix Jaeger, decide to go after the dread spider known as the White Widow in the dwarf hold of Ekrund. It is said that the spider is as big as a steam tank and would be a grand doom for a slayer. But to go after the giant cave spider, the duo must first help get rid of the greenskin menace that stands in their way.
***** FIVE STARS! Once again, Nathan Long does his best to grant Gotrek the doom he desires so much. This time the dwarf and human face a huge spider, but the author throws a lot of various enemies in their path first. Slayer Agnar Arvastsson and his rememberer, Henrik Daschke, join the pair in battles against orcs, skaven, and more. Non-stop action and suspense kept me glued to the pages until the very end. Awesome! *****
Author: Stella Drexler
Title – Hex Breaker
Alexandra “Lexie” Quinn and Sho Mondragon went to the Academy of Magic together. Lexie is now a hex breaker. Sho deals with emotional magic, especially love magic. Today they are partners: Quinn & Mondragon, Magicians for Hire. Lexie’s closest friend over the last five years has been Aine Cavanaugh. Aine is an alchemist and sells potions in her store. If not for Aine, Lexie would never go out just for fun. The grand opening of the new nightclub, Slither, is the perfect opportunity to draw Lexie out of the office. Lexie is dressed and ready to leave for Slither when Sho calls her to come in to the office. Upon arrival, Lexie learns they have a new client, Devin “Dev” Rayne. But Lexie wants nothing to do with Dev, who happens to own Slither. She still blames Devin for his part in the death of Adam Hale, her boyfriend back in the Academy. Ten years ago Devin’s father, Aidan, and his partners were selling dark magic to normals. Devin was the best talisman maker in school. Dev was making the talismans for his father, who was selling them as weapons. Though it was Aidan who killed Adam, his cause of death was a talisman of Dev’s.
Devin has done his time in prison. A condition of his release is that he is not allowed to use magic. But Devin is very intelligent when it comes to investments, so he is in no way poor. However, bad things have been happening ever since his lucky talisman was stolen. Believing someone is trying to kill him, Dev wants to hire Lexie and Sho. Locating and retrieving the lucky talisman is pretty easy. But finding out who hexed Dev is not going to be. This would require Lexie and Dev to plunge back into their painful pasts. And the past is a very dangerous place to visit.
**** FOUR STARS! Though I have not been informed of this being the first of a new Paranormal Mystery series, I do believe it is. From the beginning of this story there are scenes revealing how wary the “normals” are of those able to use magic. So much so that the normals are trying to pass some unethical laws against all magic users. There is even a special law enforcement branch that keeps tabs on magic users. (Already, Quinn & Mondragon must send in weekly reports to it.)
Author Stella Drexler has done a terrific job of creating several intriguing characters, with well developed backgrounds, that I am eager to see more of. One visit to Lexie’s amazing world is simply not enough. The only real downside is that there are several jumps into the past; however, I honestly cannot think of any other way that the author could have revealed the information that readers needed to know. If the past, of ten years prior, had been revealed in a prologue, major spoilers would have been revealed. And believe me, there are a few twists and surprises scattered throughout this story to make the flashbacks worth it.
All-on-all, Stella Drexler has a winner on her hands. I hope to revisit this magical world in the near future. Stellar! ****
Author: Nathan Long
Title - Bloodborn (Ulrika the Vampire #1)
Ulrika Magdova had been the daughter of a Troll Country boyar until she died two weeks ago. Back then her closest friends and companions had been Max Schreiber (a wizard), Felix Jaeger (poet, fighter, and lover), and two dwarf slayers named Gotrek Gurnisson and Snorri Nosebiter. They had traveled far to rescue Ulrika from the vampire who had abducted her, but they had been too late. The vampire, Adolphus Krieger, had already given Ulrika his poisoned kiss. Denied their goal of rescuing Ulrika, her companions decided it best to put her body to rest. However, the men had (reluctantly) teamed up with another vampire, Countess Gabriella von Nachthafen, in order to rescue Ulrika and destroy Adolphus. Gabriella convinced the men to allow her to take Ulrika under her wing. Gabriella promised to teach Ulrika to do no harm. (These events happened in Gotrek & Felix #6: Vampireslayer.)
As this story opens, Ulrika is still struggling to control her thirst for blood. Gabriella is a firm, but fair, mistress. If Gabriella had the choice, she would have kept her new protégéé at Nachthafen castle until Ulrika had adapted to her life in darkness. But the vampire queen commands Gabriella to go to Nuln and assist her dark sisters. (They are called the Lahmian sisterhood.)
Something is preying on the vampires in the city of Nuln and threatening to expose their existence to the nation. A witchhunt has begun and the people are becoming more and more violent. When Gabriella and Ulrika first arrive they learn that the two highest ranking vampires are dead. Lady Hermione von Auerbach is now the senior Lahmian in Nuln. Problem is that Gabriella and Hermione have a history, so Gabriella cannot expect complete and/or cordial cooperation from her vampire sisters. As events escalate, Hermione's paranoia (of looking bad to the queen) gets worse. So while Ulrika and her mentor, Gabriella, are trying to find the killer, Hermione's actions keep hampering them.
While out spying for her mistress, Ulrika runs into an Imperial Witch Hunter. Templar Friedrich Holmann soon believes Ulrika to be a fellow vampire hunter. (Seeking revenge for her sister.) As long as Friedrich does not learn the truth all will be well.
**** FOUR STARS! For those who may not have read the Gotrek & Felix series, the first paragraph of my synopsis tells how Ulrika ultimately became a vampire. (The events happened in Gotrek & Felix #6: Vampireslayer by William King. The Gotrek & Felix series is still ongoing. Nathan Long has taken over as the author for the series.)
Though William King wrote the Gotrek & Felix stories in which Ulrika appeared, as well as the tale of her rebirth as a vampire, I feel that Nathan Long has managed to capture her warrior's spirit. Long has his own, unique, writing style and he utilizes his talent to bring Ulrika's story to vivid (un)life. Before Ulrika's transformation, the character was portrayed as a brave and honorable fighter. Nathan Long clearly shows the inner struggle the character must now deal with. Ulrika has to overcome a lifetime's worth of weaponry training and fighting in order to survive as a vampire, which demands that she retreat often and use human pawns to do much of her work for her. In short, Ulrika must become the exact opposite of what she once was. The author clearly depicts the vampire fledgling's turmoil in such a way that I bounced between feeling sorry for her and pride in her accomplishments, no matter how minor those triumphs may have been.
Warhammer stories by Nathan Long are so brilliantly done, they seem to actually leap off the pages. This is one trilogy that should not be missed! ****
Author: Nathan Long
Title - Bloodforged (Ulrika the Vampire #2)
Three weeks have passed since the champions of Chaos had attacked the Lahmian sisterhood in Nuln. Ulrika Magdova Straghov of Kislev has been a vampire for less than two months. Her mentor/mistress is the Countess Gabriella von Nachthafen of Sylvania. Though both women would prefer to return to Sylvania, the vampire queen wishes Gabriella to remain in Nuln. Gabriella and hermione, the leader of the Lahmian vampires in Nuln, are dealing with obtaining new names, disguises, positions, and the ever present animosity between each other.
When Gabriella proves that she does not trust Ulrika's honor, the vampire fledgling rebels and sets out on her own. Ulrika heads for the city of Praag. The friends and companions from her former (human) life had been headed there to help defend the area against the spring return of the Chaos hordes. Ulrika is unsure whether her old friends would welcome her or not, but Ulrika wishes to give her undead life meaning by slaying Praag's enemies. On her arrival, she finds the invaders repelled and no enemy army to fight. Thus Ulrika decides to protect the weak by turning her attention to the human predators within the city. Ulrika soon spies a Slaaneshi cult that intends to claim dominion in Praag. Before Ulrika can do much, the city's Lahmian sisters interfere.
Evgena Boradin rules Praag by order of the vampire queen. She has held the position for over two hundred years and turns out to be as bad as Hermione. Evgena is so concerned with defending her dominance she could not even allow Ulrika to exist. Ulrika's choices are to pledge herself to Evgena, leave Praag immediately, or die. When Ulrika mentions the cult, Evgena refuses to even believe it could ever be a real threat.
Yet there is another vampire in the city that may be of service. Stefan von Kohln has come to Praag to avenge the death of his blood father. The killer is Konstantin Kiraly, a vampire who, ironically, has come for vengeance against the woman who had once betrayed and tried to kill him, Evgena. Ulrika and Stefan stand together. In order to, not only survive, but also triumph, the pair must call upon all of their cunning and savagery.
***** FIVE STARS! For those who read the Gotrek & Felix series, this story takes place after Gotrek and Felix have gone through a magical door in one of Sylvania's hills. Therefore, the pair are battling the beastmen elsewhere and do not have roles to play in this adventure. You will be pleased to know that Ulrika does have a brief conversation with Snorri Nosebiter and that Max Schreiber is distantly seen at times.
This story is the second in the series. If you have not read the previous title, Bloodborn, you will not find yourself totally lost. However, I strongly recommend that you purchase and read it, because at the end of this story startling information is revealed which connects the two books together and sets the stage for the third title. (The title of Book Three has not been announced as of the time of this review; however, its publishing date should be around the Summer of 2012.) In all stories involving Ulrika, the character has been very honorable. Therefore, Gabriella's distrust in Ulrika keeping her solemn vow is worse than a slap in the face or a knife in the back. Nathan Long could not have chosen a better reason for Ulrika to rebel than this soul-deep humiliation. Brilliant! At the same time, Ulrika still feels a warm connection with Gabriella. After all, the countess has been like a mother to her. This nagging sense of kinship helps solidify the foundation for the third and most climatic story.
This excellent fantasy saga, set in the Warhammer universe, overflows with powerful and compelling characters that quickly captured my imagination and refused to release it until the last page had been read. I eagerly look forward to Ulrika's next story. In a word: Magnificent! *****
Author: Cassie Alexander
Title - Nightshifted (Shifted #1)
Edith “Edie” Spence has been out of nursing school for only a year. When her brother, Jake, overdosed on heroin for the third time, she was ready to pull her hair out. That is when Edie was approached and asked if she would like to see Jake clean. Edie has no idea how, but Jake is now unable to get drunk or high. And in return, all Edie had to do was accept a nursing position at County Hospital. Sounds like a dream come true, right?
Now Edie is the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, off the records and off the charts. The pay is lousy and the patients are … different. Floor Y4 caters to the supernatural creatures that others do not know about: werecreatures in their mortal phases, the daytime servants and donors of the vampires, zombies (No, not the horror-movie-eating-brains type), shapeshifters, and more than you can possibly imagine. Edie is just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest night shift unscathed.
When a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, Edie’s life takes a dangerous turn. (Well, more dangerous than normal for a human nurse on Y4.) The man’s dying words - Save Anna - haunts her. Soon Edie finds herself on a mission to rescue Anna from the undead. Crashing a vampire den is just the beginning. Anna is a nearly hundred-year-old, but nine-year-old-looking, vampire. And because Edie rescued the feral vampire, she must now fight for her soul.
**** FOUR STARS! This is not only the first of a new trilogy, but is also Cassie Alexander’s debut novel. And I am very impressed! The author has combined two things I highly enjoy: Urban Fantasy and a hospital setting. To make this story even more alluring to me, zombies are added. (Because every Gamer out there knows that everything is better with zombies.) But Cassie does not stop there. She has decided to do away with the normal type(s) of hero by giving the human heroine a zombie boyfriend. But wait, there’s more! Let’s toss in a mysterious potential boyfriend who is not human and only gives his first name. Are you ready to buy now? Well there is even more! Edie also has a CD player that is haunted by Grandfather. Too bad she does not speak German. By blending all these ingredients together, this author has created one tasty dish.
This story, as you can tell by the title, deals mainly with vampires. The next book (due to come out in November 2012) is called Moonshifted. The last book (due for release in 2013) will be named Shapeshifted. If those future stories are as good as this one is, this author will have earned her stripes. One thing is for sure, Cassie Alexander is an author that I will be keeping an eye on. She has a very bright future ahead of her. Highly recommended! ****
Author: Steven Harper
Title - The Doomsday Vault (Clockwork Empire #1)
Set in London. (Seems to be the Regency Era.) After the plague. Before the secret at the end of the world.
The Honorable Alice Michaels is caring for her dying father, Arthur, Baron Michaels. They are basically penniless and, as the daughter of a baron, it is socially forbidden for Alice to find paying work, no matter how many useful skills she has. Most of her family died from the clockwork plague, so Alice is not considered to be a good choice for one to wed. At the age of twenty-one, Alice has an unladylike interest in automatons. Alice is surrounded by little automatons that she has assembled. (Her interest in engineering is another unladylike habit.) The automatons had arrived in pieces for Alice to assemble from Aunt Edwina over the last five years. Alice's companion (and favorite automaton) is Click, her clockwork cat.
People are used to seeing plague zombies stumbling around, especially at night. Zombies are to be avoided at all costs. One touch from a zombie can pass the plague. Every so often, perhaps one time in a hundred thousand, the plague did not destroy the brain. Instead, it makes the brain work with a wondrous efficiency. Mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry - even some forms of art - become mere toys to these rare and particular plague victims. The geniuses are called "clockworkers". They create amazing inventions, many of which defy universal laws. Clockworkers create with great glee and do not think about repercussions. This is why a clandestine organization, the Third Ward, searches them out, gives these geniuses a place to create their gadgets, and keeps their work in check. Of course, all the inventions are harvested to serve the Empire. (England rules most of the known world.)
High above the earth, Gavin Ennock works on an American airship. After an attack by privateers, he finds himself stranded in London. Gavin has a rare musical talent and uses it to survive. Without warning, Gavin is kidnapped and is trapped in a tower for two weeks. This is when he is rescued by Alice and Click.
When Aunt Edwina disappears, Alice inherits her estate. The house is full of deadly traps. While rescuing Gavin from its tower room, Alice finds one last gift from her aunt, a clockwork valet named Kemp. Alice's inheritance attracts the attention of the Third Ward. The organization is very interested in Edwina. They also want to recruit Gavin, for his astounding musical talent, and Alice, for her multiple talents. But the Third Ward has its own dark secrets. When Alice and Gavin discover them, a choice must be made between the world and the Empire, no matter the risk to all they hold dear.
***** FIVE STARS! There is more going on in this story than I reveal in my synopsis, but to tell more may reveal spoilers. Click, the clockwork cat, has abilities in which Alice is unaware. The author managed to throw me a curve ball more than once with this sleek feline. As for Kemp, this manservant reminds me A LOT of C3PO from the "Star Wars" saga. Often I would find myself amused by the human emotions these two automatons seem to mimic. The only thing about the story that grates on my nerves is the amount of times Alice decides to join the Ward, only to change her mind and back out. For someone so intelligent, this was a little unbelievable for me to accept.
To me, this story is some kind of mash-up between Science Fiction, Fantasy, and with a healthy dose of Regency Romance injected within. Loose strings are left for continuation in the next title, The Impossible Cube (May 2012). This is a well written tale with a solid foundation upon which the author may build. The potential for this series is vast. And though I have never read a story by this author before, I can easily see that Steven Harper has an extraordinary writing talent and his characters, human or not, are all addictive as sin. An eclectic story that I cannot recommend highly enough. *****
Author: Steven Harper
Title - The Impossible Cube (Clockwork Empire #2)
The year is 1857. Baroness Alice Michaels and Gavin Ennock are aboard the airship "The Lady of Liberty" being pursued by Lieutenant Susan Phipps. With Alice and Gavin are Gabriel Stark (a clockworker who calls himself "Dr. Clef"), Feng Lung (the son of China's ambassador to England), Kemp (Alice's mechanical valet), and Click (Alice's windup clockwork cat). They have fled London and are en route to China, which has its own surplus supply of clockworkers, and may have a cure that can restore Gavin's fading sanity and save his life. Upon Alice's left hand sits an iron spider. The spider wraps from forearm to fingers. Its legs end in claws that tipped Alice's own nails, and tubules running up and down the spider's legs flowed scarlet with her blood. Alice is able to cure anyone infected with the plague with one cut from her iron claw, but each scratch costs Alice precious energy. The iron spider, however, cannot cure the people who have become clockworkers, so she cannot cure Gavin. And the spider can never be removed. It has basically become a part of Alice.
Having released a cure for the plague in London (via fireflies that will randomly bite people, injecting the cure), Alice and Gavin plan to do the same in China. Their actions in London set off a chain event, meaning that all residents will eventually become plague-free. Only the rare clockworkers will remain and they seldom live longer than one year. The Third Ward, led by Lieutenant Phipps, is unable to stop the cure from spreading. Though the organization has been disbanded, the Crown has sent Lt. Phipps (and two others) to bring Alice and Gavin back for trial. This means our group of heroes and automatons must evade their pursuers. Disguising the airship, our heroes hide as members of the Kalakos Circus.
According to Dr. Clef, who is about one step away from total insanity, Gavin only has about three months before he goes from being a musical and engineering genius to becoming completely mad. Death would quickly follow. By the time they reach their destination and manage to locate the Dragon Men (China's name for their clockworkers), it would be too late. Knowing they need more time, Dr. Clef is driven to find the Impossible Cube, a device he invented previously but vanished (in The Doomsday Vault, Book 1). If Dr. Clef gets his hands on the Cube, the entire universe will face extinction.
**** FOUR STARS! If you did not read the first book, The Doomsday Vault), I highly recommend that you do so. The author impressed me several times with his mix of science fiction, fantasy, and warped physics - which he managed to make sound as logical and complete sense! However, if you (for some odd or insane reason) do not wish to read the previous title, the author has three pages at the beginning of this book which summarizes the story thus far. (Also great as a refresher for those of us who did read the first book.)
In this story, readers follow Alice's group, but there are a few, short sections that are titled "Interlude" in lieu of a chapter number. During these short Interludes, the readers get a glimpse into what Lt. Phipps and her people are up to. Alice's various automatons are reduced to minor characters and play only small roles this time around. Hopefully they will have more time in the spotlight, as well as more important functions, in the third installment. (Book three is titled The Dragon Men) and due for release on November 6, 2012.) And on a personal note: even though I do not care for "steampunk" novels in general, author Steven Harper (Piziks) has made a fan in me! ****
Author: Cynthia Garner
Title - Kiss of the Vampire
(Warriors of the Rift #1)
Every seventy-three years a dimensional rift happens, caused by a certain comet making its journey through the solar system. Each time the rift occurs, many incorporeal beings from the other dimension makes their way into this one. Each being takes possession of a human body. The combination of the two essences determine what kind of creature the host will become. (Vampire, shapeshifter, demon, elf, pixie, etc.) The entire world now knows about this, but few - if any - are happy about it. The next rift will occur in two years.
Most of the entities that come through the rift are criminals, but not Tobias Caine. Tobias came through the last rift chasing a criminal who had assassinated the leader of his people. Five years ago, Tobias had been dating Nix, who is a half-breed. Believing himself to be a bad influence, Tobias left her five years ago. Uncertain he could stay away from her, Tobias left the state. And had his close friend, Amarinda "Rinda" Novellus, not asked him to return, Tobias would never have come back to Arizona.
Half-demon, half-human, Nix de la Fuente is accepted by neither and mistrusted by both. Nix did not come through the rift. She had been born on Earth. Nix's mother had been one of the succubi. After Nix's mother ended up killing her father, she dropped Nix off at her paternal grandmother's house and disappeared. So Nix had been raised by a woman that hated her. Today, Nix devotes herself to solving crimes between the world's mortals and its "prets". When Nix arrives to the scene of a murder and finds the victim to be her friend, Rinda, her world tilts. Then Nix learns that Tobias has been called in to help with the case. The hunger Tobias and Nix had felt for each other is still there. As they work to solve a string of violent murders, their feelings for each other begins to intensify.
*** THREE STARS! This is Cynthia Garner's debut novel and the author shows great promise. Most of this book follows the main couple (and Nix's partner) as they search for clues to the killer's identity. No real danger enters the story until far into the tale. There are a few secondary characters that will (no doubt) reappear in the next segment of the series to cause trouble, such as Nix's superiors on the council. It will be interesting to see what the author does with them. Various characters in the story have complex, yet compelling, backgrounds that kept the story intriguing to me as I read. It slows down a bit in the middle, but most stories do. As for the ending, AWESOME! I wondered if something similar to it would happen, but did not really expect it. I closed the cover of this book while wishing that the second title was available for me to dive immediately into. I am eager to see what happens to Nix and Tobias next. ***
Author: Aiden James
Title - The Vampires' Last Lover
(Dying of the Dark #1)
The night Txema (pronounced "Chema") Ybarra turned nineteen, her life changes forever. Until then, Txema's plans had been to finish graduating from the University of Tennessee and becoming a veterinarian. But as Txema finishes preparing to go out with her boyfriend, Peter Worley, to celebrate, a vampire appears with warning of evil creatures lurking just outside her dorm. The vampire, Garvan de Sang, is one of five emissaries who have crossed the Atlantic to meet and protect Txema. Of course, Txema does not fully believe it, but all too soon the truth is revealed. Students begin dying. But it is Txema the creatures are seeking.
Upon Txema's neck is a birthmark resembling twin tears. It is a sign of an ancient royal bloodline which carries a gift that a breed of vampires needs to survive, and which allows them to govern the less-fortunate of their kind. Without Txema's bloodline, these vampires would lose control over their primal urges. Should that happen, the vampires would gorge themselves until the human race became extinct.
One of the vampire emissaries, Chanson, is a female distantly related to Txema. Hundreds of years ago, Chanson had been in the same position in which Txema is now. Another vampire, Ralu Izcacus, considers himself to be the king of the lesser beings. (Think of menacing and deformed vampires and cruel human chupacabras which consider humans to be their playthings and/or chattel.) It is Ralu that has creatures hunting the campus for Txema. Ralu would enjoy seeing Txema's bloodline end.
Thus begins a cat and mouse game between immortals that will eventually decide the fate of humanity.
**** FOUR STARS! This story is written in the First Person with Txema as the main focus. The very first page has Txema explaining that she is writing down the last ten days of her life for possible future readers. Fortunately, this means that I see events through Txema's eyes. As Txema learns and understands what is happening, so do I. Unfortunately, this also means that whenever Txema becomes unconscious, I am unable to witness dramatic events unfolding or the clash of exciting battles. In my opinion, hearing about battles (and/or the outcomes) narrated after the fact is not nearly as satisfying.
As with the previous titles I have read by this author, I found the author's writing style to be silky smooth and the main plot line to be extremely creative. The fertile imagination of Aiden James definitely knows what today's readers want to see in their stories. ****
Author: Aiden James
Title - The Vampires' Birthright (Dying of the Dark #2)
After their battle in the castle near Perpignon, Txema (Chee-ma) Ybarra and her five vampire protectors are seeking a safe haven. Txema's life has not been in her own control since the night she woke up in her University of Tennessee dorm room to find a vampire standing over her. That had been the beginning of what the world now refers to as the infamous "Knoxville Tragedy". (Story told in the previous title, The Vampires' Last Lover.) Txema is the last of a bloodline that is vital in keeping an entire breed of vampires from deteriorating into an army of Nosferatu-like vampires.
Thanks to a recent ceremony, Txema is pregnant. During the early stage of the pregnancy, Txema and her vampire protectors are guests at the Palace of Xu Zheng in the Himalayas. However, the army of the demon vampire, Ralu Izcacus, has grown. Bent on wiping out Txema's heritage, Ralu has stepped up his attacks and his mercenaries seem to be everywhere. The aggressive attacks result in Txema having to be whisked away from her Chinese hosts and into seclusion until her daughter, Alaia (A-lee-yah), is born.
Ralu will not be satisfied until he takes over the entire world. The only threats to Ralu's full conquest of all vampires and human beings are Txema and Alaia. Ralu's forces openly chase Txema and Alaia all over the globe, killing humans and vampires alike. All major countries, and many small ones, are already under Marshall Law until the "Chupacabra menace" is over.
Amid all of the violence and craziness going on in her life, Txema's undead protectors are doing all they can to keep mother and daughter safe, while trying to inject as much happiness as possible into their chaotic lives. Though unable to visit her parents, Txema soon has the comfort of Racco de Saint Germain's company. But Txema is unsure about resuming a relationship with the immortal, especially since it could be a distraction when her focus must remain fully on the care of her daughter. And speaking of Alaia, she is developing at almost three times the speed of a normal human, physically and mentally. There are signs of Alaia having a telepathic connection with Txema, as well as possible advanced cognitive abilities.
It is up to Txema's small group of allies to stay at least one step ahead of the demon vampire's welling forces, in hopes that Alaia may someday become the catalyst that heals the growing conflict between humans and vampires.
**** FOUR STARS! As with the first book in this series (The Vampires' Last Lover) this story is written much like a journal or memoir. Txema is the author/narrator. As the story opens, Txema explains that she and her group are still fighting for their lives. This book picks up from where the last one left off and will tell (any future reader of her memoir) what has happened up until Txema's current point in time.
The previous book/memoir covered the first two weeks of Txema's surreal adventure. This time many months are covered. Because there are months during Txema's pregnancy when nothing happens to move the plot along, Txema's writing sticks to the biggest events instead of detailing every hour or every single day. Personally, I like this. As the reader, I am not forced to wade through pages or chapters of "fluff" and "filler". The last book of this trilogy will be titled "Blood Princesses of the Vampires" and currently has a release date set in October 2011.
Unlike the first story, there are no scenes that are too steamy or intimate. Txema does not come across as loose and she still has her trademark sarcastic disposition. Having a child seems to have matured the character a bit. Aiden James tosses a few twists and surprises to keep readers off balance. The author also injects some well known television tidbits to make the story more realistic, such as when Txema mentions missing "True Blood", of which I am eagerly awaiting the release of Season Four. Do not worry about cliff-hanger endings. Though this story does not tie up all loose strings, it comes to a halt at a very good spot. If nothing else, I have learned that anything that comes from the imagination of Aiden James is sure to be interesting, suspenseful, and delightfully demonic. ****
Author: Aiden James
Title - Blood Princesses of the Vampires
(Dying of the Dark #3)
It was only last year that Txema Eriea Ybarra had left America with her group of immortal protectors. Since then so much has happened. Txema is in a serious relationship with Racco St. Germaine, her ancestral cousin who is both human and immortal. Alaia, Txema’s precious daughter, is around one month in age. Alaia is what some would call an “old soul”, and came into this life with advanced knowledge and abilities that put her far beyond her age. Mother and daughter are perceived as the very life source for Gustav’s kingdom of civilized vampires. As such, they are hated by the growing empire of Chupacabra vampires. Should Txema and Alaia die, the whole world would be overrun by the Chupacabra vampires and the human race would be reduced to an enslaved vampire food supply and nothing more.
Txema’s group travels to a remote fortress in the Tien Shen Mountains, where the daughter of Racco and Chanson has resided for over three hundred years. Marissa St. Germaine is the last of the semi-immortal breed. Around Marissa’s neck is an amulet that has protected her from unwelcome vampire attacks for almost two centuries. Racco had built the massive fortress and crafted the amulet for his daughter’s protection long ago. Now Racco plans to replicate the amulet for Txema and Alaia. Marissa has no hard feelings toward Txema; however, she has plenty towards her father.
Huangtian Dadi is amassing an army of older vampires and shifters from all of Asia and Europe to attack the fortress within the week. Vere Kuningas and his band of vampires are too. As their enemies begin closing in, Txema cannot help but wonder if she would be able to survive the upcoming battle or how she could at least ensure that Alaia does.
**** FOUR STARS! Written in the First Person, this book is Txema’s third journal in her ongoing chronicle about the Chupacabra menace. All events within this book happen in only ten days. Txema travels from Bangalore to Almaty, and to Tien Shan and finally Paris during that short time frame. Most of the story is set in the Tien Shan fortress though. Those ten days are filled with non-stop adventure, mystery, suspense, and death.
While the author, Aiden James, keeps me fully informed on what is happening in the vampires’ civil war, he also makes sure that I understand what is going on with those closest to Txema. Txema is mortal while Racco is immortal, so she worries about their relationship lasting. Racco and his daughter, Marissa, clash almost constantly. (After all, Racco is proving himself to be a horrible father.) Gustav, the vampire king, is under tons of stress, fearing the extinction of his civilized vampire kingdom. Alaia is making more of her amazing abilities known. Txema’s once human friend, Tyreen, is still adjusting to her life as a vampire. The list goes on and one. I explain all of this so you can try to imagine the vast amount of details, drama, and battles crammed into one journal that only covers ten days. When I say this story is non-stop, I mean it!
If you have not read the first two novels of this series, you will not fully appreciate and enjoy this story. The author gives a brief recap whenever it is needed, but there is still much untold. Marissa’s character may be over three hundred years in age, but her actions fluctuate between those of a teenager and those of an adult. (Of course, it is not like she has had a lot of social interaction due to her isolation, so this is understandable.) By the end of this story, Marissa’s character matures – in more ways than one. Her character threatened to steal the spotlight often. I hope to see more of her in the future.
Author Aiden James continues to prove that he is very talented in the art of crafting dark fantasy. ****
Author: Dianne Sylvan
Title - Shadowflame (Shadow World #2)
Set in the present day in Texas. Miranda Grey-Solomon has been the Ninth Queen of the Southern United States for only a few months now. Over their first year together, the new Pair will be visited by the Primes, Queens, and Consorts of the other world territories. In the meantime, Miranda is kept busy as she tries to juggle her budding music career, her new royal duties, and her combat training. Life with her new husband, Prime David Solomon, is still in its honeymoon stage.
Prime David spends most of his downtime going over the latest diagnostics of his various (geeky) inventions. David is a genius. Since he became Prime everything was beyond state-of-the-art, because if David did not have the technology he wanted, he simply created it. But when an unknown assassin begins to target his Queen, Miranda's safety gets his full attention.
Being Queen to a Prime is not the only new role in Miranda's life. She became a vampire only a week or so prior to the Signet proclaiming her to be David's Queen. Miranda still has much to learn about being a creature of the night. The attacks could not have started at a worse time either. (Not that having a target painted on your back could ever be considered a good thing.) Prime James Hart of the Northeast United States comes to visit the new Pair. He brings along his harem of vampire women whom he terrorizes into obedience. The women are only given enough blood to survive. They are kept near starvation. The last thing Hart expects is for one of his women, Cora, to get brave enough to ask Queen Miranda for asylum or for it to be granted. Being female automatically makes Queen Miranda less than dirt in Hart's eyes, but for Miranda to actually consider herself to be his equal is an insult. Prime David supporting his Queen is simply too much.
David and Miranda hardly have time to catch their breaths before another royal Pair arrives. Prime Deven O'Donnell of the Western United States and its adjacent territories is welcomed to the Haven. Miranda already knows that David and Deven have long been friends; however, she did not know that they had been lovers for several of those years. When Deven's Signet had proclaimed Jonathan Burke to be his Consort (same as Queen, but male), David had been devastated and fled the territory. David and Deven had parted company with no closure, so the current visit begins awkwardly, but is not intolerable. For various reasons, Miranda and Deven often find themselves clashing; however, both silently agree to give friendship a chance to develop for David's sake. After all, time is one of the things that vampires have an abundance of. Surprisingly, Miranda and Consort Jonathan become instant friends. It is Jonathan to whom Miranda goes to for personal advice when things become strained with David.
Even though the assassin from Auren's Court had been dealt with, another has come forward, aiming at Miranda. But this time the Red Shadow is involved. It is the most notorious network of assassins in the world. Deven and Jonathan may be able to help David figure out who sent the evasive assassin. Things get worse when David and Deven give in to their feelings for each other. The momentary lapse in good judgment causes only a minor ripple between Prime Deven and his Consort, but threatens to crumble the fragile bond between David and Miranda.
** TWO STARS! This is the second story of the Shadow World series. If you have not read the previous title, Queen of Shadows, you may find yourself lost often. As with the first tale, this one has a brief physical assault scene and not all of the relationships between various characters are male/female. There is also adultery. Consider yourself warned.
More of David's history is revealed, but so is a major lack of moral strength. As the reader, I have lost all respect for Prime David. Several new characters are introduced to the series. One or two will obviously cause problems for David and Miranda in future stories, but some will just as obviously e allies. (I would enjoy seeing Cora again someday.)
All-in-all, the story does not move forward much, but new characters and subplots are set up and placed in position to cause chaos in the next story. **
Author: Dianne Sylvan
Title - Queen of Shadows (Shadow World #1)
Set in the present day in Austin, Texas. Unknown to most humans, vampires walk among them. The world is divided into territories. Each territory is controlled by a Prime, and ideally by a paired Prime and Queen, who set the law which is enforced by their warriors. Primes were powerful and had many arcane abilities the average vampire did not. If a Prime has found his Queen (who would have a different set of abilities), they share a bond which enables them to share their power, but in doing so they also share their fates. Should one die, the other would also within a couple of minutes.
Twenty-seven-year-old Miranda Grey has a natural talent for music. From her late mother, Miranda also has the unwanted gift of Empathy. Unable to block out those around her, Miranda is slowly slipping into insanity, just as her mother once did. Miranda avoids crowds, doing most of her shopping late at night and remaining isolated in her apartment. She earns her pay by playing gigs down at Mel's a few nights per week. Miranda best controls her power when she plays her music. Usually it is on her guitar. Mel's is not normally crowded, so her mind is not usually too bombarded by the thoughts and feelings of others. When she plays, Miranda's gift flows and she is able to manipulate the feelings of those around her. (If Miranda plays a sad song, by its end there is not a dry eye in the bar.) Then comes the night that a small group of thugs physically assaults Miranda in an alley. The men use her body, but before they can kill her, Miranda's powers go on autopilot in self defense. She slaughters them all with her mind. Before Miranda can come to terms with what has happened, a strange man in a black trench coat appears. He is gently holding Miranda and barking orders to others as she succumbs to the encroaching darkness.
David L. Solomon, Prime of the Southern United States, is over three hundred and fifty years of age and has an ice cream addiction. While standing in line to pay for a pint of ice cream, David encounters a human female with the most powerful gift of empathy he has ever seen. He also notices that she is untrained. Her mind has zero shields and he could see the road she was headed down. David is following Miranda the night of her attack, but an emergency calls him briefly away. David returns to find Miranda surrounded with the blood and body parts of her attackers. By striking down those humans with her power, Miranda inadvertently crossed a border into the Shadow World. Prime David takes Miranda to the Haven, a sort of vampire stronghold located deep within the Texas Hill Country. There, surrounded by his trusted Elite, Miranda will heal. Then David will be able to teach her how to shield her mind from others and to control her gift.
Meanwhile, Prime David and his warriors are dealing with rogue vampires who are murdering humans. The human victims are left with the Seal of Auren upon them. (Auren had been David's predecessor, a bloody ruler.) The Shadow World's denizens were not known for their good behavior toward humans, and it was Prime David's job both to keep the human people safe and to keep his people safe from discovery. (Note: Select humans in the world's various governments and law enforcement know all about the Shadow World and work with the Primes to maintain order and balance.) Unless Prime David and his Second in Command, Faith, can stop it, the Southern United States would become a dead zone.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the first story in Dianne Sylvan's series about the Shadow World. I understand that some readers find it difficult to read stories with certain elements within them. Therefore, I am informing you, up front, that there is a brief physical assault scene and that not all of the relationships between the various characters are male/female. Knowing that, if this is still sounds like one you may enjoy, then I urge you to take a chance on this title. The author has constructed a dark and deadly vampire world, with its own body of hierarchy that coexists with the human one. The characters are well developed, but some sections of Prime David's past are unclear. Perhaps the reasons of why will be told in a future tale. Still, as the first title, this story sets a strong foundation upon which the author may build several enticing adventures. The future of the Shadow World actually vibrates with potential. ****
Author: Kimberly Van Meter
Title - The Reckoning (Dark Vampire Novella)
She wants more than revenge. She wants nothing less than the complete extermination of the vampire species. She is Dr. Isabella Beckett - Yale graduate, top government scientist, and the sole survivor of the Beckett family. Isabella had been nineteen when she came home from college and found the gruesome sight. Her parents, dismembered in pieces, with puncture marks in their necks. And her fifteen-year-old sister, Savannah...gone.
Now Isabella works for a secret branch of the government, The Bunker. She even has her own secret lab. Thanks to her Special Ops team, Isabella has a vampire locked in Bay III. Drugged blood keeps It weak. Before each examination or test they knock It out with gas chemicals. The government has its own reasons for her research, but Isabella is determined to figure out what makes the monsters tick so she can hunt down the one that killed her family.
Julien de Valsan had not been trapped in over four hundred years. When he wakes after the most recent study, Julien sees evidence that he had been filleted like a fish. His hatred for Dr. Isabella Beckett flares and he promised that there would be a reckoning between them.
When Julien escapes, leaving several corpses behind him, he immediately rushes to Dr. Beckett's home. He could kill her easily, but decides to delay his gratification and savor her for several nights before draining her dry. She has to suffer as he had suffered. But something totally unexpected happens once Julien tastes Isabella's blood.
***** FIVE STARS! I give fair warning that his vampire novella is Dark Fantasy. (Fans of the author Charlotte Boyett-Compo would especially be interested in this story.) The author can either stop here or, if she so desires, she can follow this with a full-length novel...if not a series. Personally, I want a series! There is a lot of potential here and I am very eager for more. A dark, yet tantalizing read! Stellar! *****
Author: Yvonne Navarro
Title - Highborn (Dark Redemption #1)
Brynna Malak is known in Hades as Astarte. She is a fallen angel wanting redemption. Lucifer may be unforgiving, but God is not. In the hope of earning redemption, Astarte leaves Hades and goes to dwell among the humans. She has no idea where or how to even begin turning over her new leaf. The concept of empathy, sympathy, or simply caring for anyone besides herself are totally foreign to Brynna. So much so that when the man she is speaking with at the drug store is shot in the head by a sniper and dies horribly in front of her, Brynna does not even blink. Brynna, still covered in the man's gore, calmly walks through the screaming people and leaves.
Modern man has moved beyond the days of spells and lengthy travel times. Now there is electricity, airplanes, computers, and all types of phones. But Brynna is proof that science and technology will not, cannot, protect you from what is really out there. There are things that existed eons before God created this very planet. Therefore, Brynna has trouble believing that humans, with their very short life spans, are worth even as much as cockroaches. Her view begins to change when she enters a rundown restaurant. Before Brynna can order her food, she has to deal with the thugs robbing the place. She does so only out of selfishness. Yet the owner is grateful and repays Brynna for her "kindness" by finding her a place to sleep.
Detective Eran Redmond and his partner, Bheru Sathi, are trying to locate a serial killer who is terrifying Chicago. Problem is that no one can find a link between the victims. The sniper looks to be picking his targets at random. The only witness is a strange lady who seems to have something off about her. Sathi may have an open mind when it comes to some people having visions or certain feelings about situations, but Redmond believes only in facts. Brynna cannot possibly speak every language fluently and she is simply a fast healer. However, Redmond admits he is attracted to Brynna and that he needs her help to find the killer. The trail leads them to demons.
Nephilim are the mortal children of angels. These humans have no idea that they are special. Each nephilim has a special task, or destiny, to fulfill. It is up to Brynna to convince the stubborn cop that, even though it is a human pulling the trigger to ill these special people, the real problem is the demon manipulating him. At the same time, Brynna must keep a low profile because Lucifer's Hunters are searching for her.
***** FIVE STARS! A fantastic beginning to a new series! The author succeeded in making me view Brynna as a powerful being with zero compassion for the finite humans around her. Well, at least in the story's early stages. I am astounded at how easily I came to believe that Astarte's existence could be real (in Heaven, Hades, and then on Earth). My attention was caught after reading the very first sentence of the Prologue. My imagination quickly took over. Unable to pull myself away, I read the entire story in a single afternoon. I do not regret doing so in the last. It is as if Yvonne Navarro somehow penned Brynna's story with adrenaline-ink. An exciting, compelling, and highly addictive tale. *****
Author: Yvonne Navarro
Title - Concrete Savior (Dark Redemption #2)
Brynna Malak, a fallen angel in human form, is trying to earn redemption. Currently Brynna is living with Detective Eran Redmond, a Chicago cop that she has become involved with. After helping Eran and his Indian partner, Bheru Sathi, stop a sniper, Brynna has managed to become self employed. Since she is able to fluently speak all languages, even those long forgotten by mortals, Brynna works as a translator. Bheru still does not know that Brynna is inhuman, but due to having an open mind, he instinctively understands that there is more to Eran's new girlfriend than meets the eye.
A mysterious "hero" is saving Chicago citizens from certain death. No one seems to know who the man is (because he never stays around for praise or glory) or how he knows when and where he would be needed. The consequence of each rescue is dire. It does not take Brynna long to realize that dark forces are behind these amazing events. And sometimes it takes an immortal to stop an immortal.
**** FOUR STARS! The demon manipulating events in this story is not the same one from the previous title, "Highborn". If anything, this demon is more devious. After all, saving the life of a mere human should not be something a demon would ever consider doing. Ah, but we have all heard about no good deed going unpunished, and Yvonne Navarro has taken that Murphy's Law and expounded on it. An intense walk on the dark side that will keep readers up way past their bedtimes. Yvonne Navarro's new series downright sizzles! ****
Author: Ryk E. Spoor
Title - Digital Knight
This title can be purchased from Amazon in print form, but (at the time of this review) interested people may read this entire novel FOR FREE at the publisher's web site (Baen.com). In fact, I found many, many titles posted at Baen for free reading. An astounding number of the titles are well known and from well known authors. You may either read them from Baen's site or download them to your computer. If you have a Kindle, Baen will even send the free titles to your Kindle. (How is THAT for user friendly?)
This novel is a set of six stories. Each story has the same main characters and picks up where the last left off. Though the novel ends wonderfully, I was hoping to find more novels with this cast. Unfortunately, this book seems to be all there is. For this review, I will list each story's name, give a synopsis, an individual star rating (between one and five, with one being poorest and five being best), and my humble opinion on it.
Gone in a Flash
Jason Wood owns and operates Wood's Information Service. ("Need info? Knock on Wood!") He has created a photo enhancing system to aid with any photo touch-ups he may need. Currently Jason is using the system to help Lieutenant Elias Klein clear up some fuzzy pictures he intends to use in a drug case. The men in the photo are Assemblyman Connors and Verne Domingo. Lieutenant Klein believes he can use the picture to finally bring down Domingo, who is a major drug supplier. After a loud BANG! on the door, Jason opens it to find a bloodless corpse. Before Jason knows what is happening, he finds himself kidnapped and meeting Domingo face-to-face. One thing is certain, Domingo is anything but human.
**** FOUR STARS! The plot is pretty interesting but the "twist" is too predictable. Still, I enjoyed the story. A good beginning for a business relationship between Wood and Domingo. ****
Lawyers, Ghouls, & Mummies
When Verne Domingo decides to stop peddling illegal drugs, the vampire-like being needs a new source of income to provide for his people, and, perhaps, find some small way to rejoin humanity. Domingo turns to Jason Wood for information and possible ideas.
In other news, there are people upset that Domingo has quit drug running. Unable to penetrate Domingo's residence, one decides to go after Wood, who Domingo has recently begun thinking of as a close friend.
** TWO STARS! The relationship between Wood and Domingo solidifies more; however, this story is low on excitement. **
Jason Wood stumbles into the realm of the paranormal once more. This time werewolves enter the picture. Virigar, King of the Wolves, is an ancient enemy of Domingo's. One that even Domingo is not sure he can kill.
***** FIVE STARS! The modern world of the 21st Century meets the magical era of the Dark Ages in this story. From beginning to end, this tale overflows with action, danger, and suspense. *****
Viewed in a Harsh Light
Due to the events within the last story, now dubbed "The Morgantown Incident", the world has been enlightened to the existence of Werewolves. Jason Wood, with his brain always tinkering with "what if" scenarios, has been piddling around with a way to detect the Wolves. But the main concerns on Jason's mind are the heavy Cosmic revelations he and Sylvia Stake, his girlfriend, have been learning.
Jason's most recent case is to locate the foster father of Mr. Tai Lee Xiang. It takes Jason only a few minutes of speaking with Tai to conclude that Domingo is the missing foster parent. Shortly thereafter, Jason realizes that Tai (a.k.a. "Kafan") is wanted by an international task force. But when Jason and Sylvia rush to rescue Domingo from the psycho killer, they learn that all the news propaganda is a pack of lies. This is when Tai and Domingo reveal approximately half a million years worth of amazing history, most of which has been erased by powerful beings. The most important part is that Tai needs Jason's help to acquire him a new identity and to help locate his missing family. The family had been taken by mad scientists for experimental genetic modifications. (Sounds crazy, right?) The scientists still have his mate and daughter somewhere in Vietnam; however, Jason is able to locate Tai's two sons. Seb (renamed Jackie) and Tai Jr. have recently been adopted by US Senator Paula MacLain. Yet even as Jason is dealing with all of this, he cannot help but note that something is physically wrong with Domingo. For some unknown reason, Domingo is slowly dying.
**** FOUR STARS! The character of Jason has morphed from computer geek to private detective in the past. Now that he has become some sort of paranormal magnet, Jason has become a part time inventor. Jason comes across to me as a Paranormal Guardian or Supernatural Sentry. Instead of detecting a known virus before ti harms your computer, his gadgets help you to detect Werewolves.
This story sets up the players and various plots for the rest of the novel, informs readers of a time-displaced background in history, and introduces new villains. ****
Live and Let Spy
With all the weird, paranormal mess that keeps coming to Jason's door, not to mention that he is now high on the hit list of several nasties, Jason decides that it is time to learn as much as he can about the paranormal beings he is aware exists - and then add in the creatures that he does NOT know about, just in case he ends up having to deal with any of them later. To this end, Jason sets up a database for the weird on his laptop and begins spending more time with Domingo, who is helping fill in the blanks. Domingo's foster son (who I will call Kafan from here on, so no one ends up confused with his son) is residing in the home too. Jason is meeting with Senator Paula MacLain to discuss Kafan's two sons, Jackie and Tai.
**** FOUR STARS! The Jammer shows up, in the flesh, and brings his boss, Mr. Achernar, along for a face-to-face meeting with Jason. Readers learn a lot about Mr. Achernar's special task force, but much is still kept hidden. In addition, Jason and Sylvia take their relationship to the altar. Scattered throughout this story is Jason finally popping the question, the wedding plans, and then the actual event. However, the Wolf King pokes his snout in once just to remind everyone that he is still around and watching. ****
The newlyweds, Jason and Sylvia Wood, choose to begin their honeymoon in Venice, Florida. Once again they find themselves stuck in another set of strange circumstances. Seems that the Werewolves have taken over the town. Most of the few humans remaining have become their allies too. But when a Maelkodan (Medusa-like creature that is also able to take the form of the last person it turned to stone) is known to be on the loose, the Wolves need the Woods' help. Werewolves are defenseless against such a being and an Elder Wolf appears to make the Woods a deal.
***** FIVE STARS! This story ends the entire novel. Only a few minor strings are left dangling. Should the author decide to do so, he may create another book with this same group of characters or he may publish some type of spin-off story from it.
I am very impressed with the way Spoor's mind works. His writing style seems simple at first (as if he is using the K.I.S.S. method), but it gradually morphs into something huge and spreads like a computer virus on crack! No matter how bizarre events become, the author eventually shows that they ARE possible. After reading "Digital Knight", I intend to keep an eye out for more books by this author. (Personally, I think it takes a twisted mind to think up some of this stuff, and I loved every minute reading it.) Ryk E. Spoor has an amazing writing talent that will leave you begging for more! *****
Author: Karina Fabian
Title - Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator
Set in California. The year is 2042. No one is sure exactly when or where the first zombie "Zombie Zero" happened. Some believe it all began around 2009, but the first zombie infestations were actually discovered in 2019. The OSHA regulations concerning the make of protective gear, tools and general working environment were first set in 2020 and it has never been updated since then to reflect what has been learned about zombies. This is part of why Neeta agrees to host a reality television show.
Twenty-six-year-old Neeta Lyffe is the host of Zombie Death Extreme (ZDE). Over the past six weeks, Neeta has been training apprentices on zombie extermination. As with most reality shows, these apprentices are out to win the one million dollar prize. However, by the end of the season all of them would be ready to begin working in their chosen career. Neeta's company, Lyffe Undeath Exterminations, has financial problems due to a law suit and the show will help her pay part of it off. But Neeta is growing to loathe Director Dave Lor, who only cares about the show's rating and nothing about the safety of the players. (In fact, Sharon, Dave's assistant, is so stressed out that she keeps her DoDroid SuperSmartPadPhone tuned in to anything about bunnies. They are safe, cuddly, and soothing.) Neeta could care less about glamour or glory. She even refuses to sponsor products for money. Neeta only wants to teach her plebes everything her late mother had taught her, to keep her plebes alive, and perhaps teach Joe and Jane Public that if a zombie invades their home, their best line of defense is not the butcher knife on the counter, but the household cleanser under the sink.
As the story opens, Neeta and her seven plebes are battling zombies in Warehouse Eight. Bernie has been too cocky and it is currently costing the hot surfer-dude his life. Director Dave, of course, wants to exploit Bernie's death, as well as the emotional after effects the horrific death has on the other plebes. One plebe is unable to take any more and walks off the show. The turnover rate is sixty-five percent a year in the exterminator business. Neeta is determined that her remaining five plebes will not only survive, but flourish. As the public watches, the plebes will learn to use various methods in dealing with zombie-ism. Whether it be using a chainsaw to decapitate a zombie, tossing napalm bombs/grenades, or using the delay tactics of undiluted household cleaners, Neeta is a hard core trainer. And after every epidsode's "challenge" each plebe must get on the ZDE web site and post a video blog. There is also a ZDE forum where viewers chat about the show and swap gossip on the ZDE cast members.
But when a horrible road accident has hundred os shuffling zombies en route to a civilian buffet, can Neeta and her plebes rescue the living from the walking undead?
**** FOUR STARS! Usually I tell if a book is funny, serious, or whatever. Well, this book is funny, serious, or whatever. I opened this book expecting something along the lines of a cheesy B-Grade movie. Though this story does have a bit of that tongue-in-cheek flavor, it is written in a serious tone. The ZDE forum breaks in on the story at times and I found these sections to be realistic of how today's on-line forums read. Each forum member has a handle with a small avatar/icon. The ZDE forum even has the typical, ignorant troll that everyone loves to hate and gang up on. (Note: The wrong icon is used once for the troll. At least, it is wrong in my Kindle version. Rigromortis's avatar is used in error.) The author tosses in some well known name brands, but gives them a futuristic tag. (Example: Neeta's chainsaw is a cheap Craftsman Treesplinterer 5000. Then there is mention of a PeopleSpace fan page, the 2041 Jaguar, the H5 [Hummer], and even a 2042 HumVan Sport.)
Producer Alberts is only given limited time in the story; however, other non-plebe characters are given time in the spot light. Many chapters begin with Gary Opkast, one of the show's writers, typing up a documentary, The Zombie Syndrome. Personally, I believe Gary's documentary sections to be a stroke of genius on the author's part. It gives the entire story a touch of realism, as does the forum threads. When it comes to ZDE's cast of plebes, each player has his/her own personality and set of personal quirks. They each have a well developed background which is slowly revealed as the story progresses.
All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed this insane look into the world's future zombie problem. Ignoring the spelling and grammar errors (that are on purpose) from the forum's troll, the only real irritating thing I noticed is that the editing got worse during the last quarter of the story. If I recall correctly, no promises though, it begins somewhere around the area that the troll's avatar/icon is wrong. Still, I am happy to be able to highly recommend this tale to zombie-genre fans, whether they prefer the movies or the books. Author Karina Fabian has a sassy, take-no-prisoner writing style that will keep you hooked from page one. ****
Author: Kelly Armstrong
Title - Haunted (Women of the Otherworld #5, Reprint)
Eve Levine is a half-demon black witch.....and a devoted mother who just happens to have been dead for 3 years! Eve is also obsessed with contacting her teenage daughter, Savannah--which is totally against the rules of the Ghost World. Savannah's father, Kristof Nast,-- sorcerer, is also dead--killed trying to protect Savannah. Eve had cut a deal with the Fates in order to send Savannah's guardians back to the land of the living...leaving her owing the Fates a favour. When a particularly nasty Nix escapes imprisonment, the Fates call in their marker....after several failed attempts by others (including an Angel driven mad), they decide it must take a "bad girl" to catch a bad girl. Unfortunately, the Nix decides to get to Eve by killing Savannah's guardians and setting up Savannah to take the blame. From an Angel's living quarters to a serial killer's hell, Eve must find the strength and cunning--and acceptance--to find and capture the Nix in time to save her daughter.
***** FIVE STARS! What an incredible writer Kelly Armstrong is! "Haunted" is one of at least 10 books in her "Otherworld" Series and I can't believe I haven't known of her before now. The Otherworld is populated by ghosts, witches, demons, vampires, sorcerers and werewolves (among others) living often perfectly normal lives among humans. This world is so well fleshed out and believable that it seems that it's being written from a first-hand point of view. "Haunted" is the first book of the series that I've discovered and I couldn't put it down! Incredibly well-written thriller that had me hooked from the beginning. From obsessing over the living to acceptance of her place in the world of the dead, Eve is such a strong character she'll have you wondering about her long after you've finished this book. Thank goodness there are more! An absolutely fantastic, hang-on-to-your-hat read! Wow! *****
Author: Jenna Black
Title - Dark Descendant (Descendant #1)
Nikki Glass can track down anyone or anything. The skill comes in handy in her line of work as a private investigator in Virginia. Her latest client, Emmitt, turns out to be a true descendant of Hades. Thanks to Emmitt, Nikki discovers she cannot die. Though Nikki had never believed before that the ancient gods were real, she is a believer now. Nikki learns that she is the true descendant of Artemis. Unlike before, Nikki has suddenly become a supernaturally good shot. She hits the bulls-eye without even trying. Descendants of Artemis are extremely rare, and therefore valuable.
The Olympians believe that with great power comes great privilege and no responsibility whatsoever. From their perspective, they are better than everyone else, and that is the natural order of things. For centuries, they have hunted mortal Descendants. They kill all adults and all children over the age of five. The Olympians are led by Konstantin, who claims to be the king of the Liberi Deorum. Nikki's ability to hunt people makes her the perfect person to help them locate mortal Descendants (so they and their families may be disposed of). Nikki had been adopted by the Glasses at the age of eight. Unless Nikki agrees to join and aid Konstantin's people, they will kill her sister, Stephanie.
Nikki goes with option number two. Anderson's small group of immortal Descendants has a treaty with Konstantin. Anyone living in Anderson's massive mansion is considered to be one of his. Konstantin's people will not harm any of Anderson's people or their mortal family members. (Unlike the Olympians, Anderson's group believes that with great power comes great responsibility.) To protect Stephanie, Nikki agrees to join Anderson's group of immortals and help Anderson locate a member who had gone missing ten years prior. The problem is that most of Nikki's new "friends" believe that she killed Emmitt to steal his immortality. A couple of them even believe Nikki to be a spy for Konstantin. Living in a massive mansion with "friends" who vary between suspicious and openly hostile, Nikki is caught between two warring factions of the Liberi Deorum. And this true descendant of Artemis refuses to bow down to anyone.
***** FIVE STARS! This high-adrenaline adventure kept me rooted to my seat for hours. I ended up reading this entire book in one sitting, growling at anyone who dared to approach me.
There is a rigid dichotomy between the groups led by Konstantin and Anderson. Yet even though Anderson's people share a strong camaraderie with each other, it will take Nikki some time to prove herself worthy of their trust and loyalty. Both groups are unmitigatedly lethal and the author steadily builds up the tension until it results in a wild, cataclysmic encounter toward the ending. I do not know if there will be a romantic element introduced in future titles of the Descendant series; however, there is none within this one. I do see one or two possibilities though. And I am very interested to see in which direction the author will steer this story.
Backgrounds of the major players are well developed. Players with little or no impact on this story are glossed over, so readers do not waste time learning information about characters that really do not matter. The cast of characters for this series is larger than most, but again, time is only spent on the more vital names.
If you are hunting for a spectacular tale with an unprecedented story line, then you simply MUST purchase this book. Jenna Black's imagination is incomparable! *****
Author: Charlaine Harris
Title - Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse #10)
In Bon Temps, Louisiana, Sookie Stackhouse's life has become an endless series of dramas. Her telepathic ability is a major cause of this. Sookie cannot hear the thoughts of vampires and only receives bits and pieces from weres, therefore, she steers away from dating anyone not of two paranormal groups. This is not too difficult for Sookie because normal humans consider her to be creepy. Uncomfortable in her presence, few have ever had the courage or self-confidence to ask Sookie out for a date.
Currently Sookie is still dating the handsome Eric Northman. He is the sheriff of Area Five. He also owns and operates a nightclub, Fangtasia. Sookie is recovering from being almost tortured to death recently. Eric feels guilty because Victor Madden (the new vampire leader of Louisiana, appointed by Felipe de Castro, King of Nevada) delayed Eric in rescuing Sookie - even though Sookie is Eric's wife by vampire law. Madden is making Eric's life as difficult as possible for his own reasons. To make matters worse, Eric's sire, Appius Livius Ocella, has come for a visit. And Appius has not come alone either. Alexci Romanov is his new protégé, who has a striking resemblance to former Russian royalty. Eric has not seen Appius in one hundred years and cannot help but fear whatever is bringing his maker to town.
Though Bill Compton is a former vampire boyfriend of Sookie's, she still considers him a close friend. During a recent war/invasion, Bill had been bitten by someone with silver-capped teeth. Bill does not seem to be improving from the silver poison and refuses to locate the one vampire that could save him. Sookie is wondering if and how she should help her reluctant friend.
Now that the fairy portals are closed, Sookie's only fairy relative around is her cousin, Claude Crane. As the only surviving triplet from the recent war, he is dearly missing his sisters. Claude's impertinent attitude toward humans has drastically altered. Not only does this surprise Sookie, but she is absolutely astounded when she opens her door to see Claude standing there with a bag of his clothing. Claude says he is lonely for fae company and even the small amount of fae within Sookie is soothing to him. Sookie is reluctant at first, but with her audacious personality Sookie finally agrees.
Thanks to Sookie's (fae) grandfather pulling some high and powerful strings before closing the portals, the FBI agent, Tom Lattesta, is no longer allowed to gun for Sookie. But that does not keep Agent Lattesta from snooping on her non-human friends. When Alcide Herveaux, the Long Tooth packleader, hears that humans are camping where the pack normally runs, he fears they may be government spies. Therefore, Sookie gives Alcide permission for his pack to use her land this time. Sookie soon learns that there are two bodies buried on her land. The old corpse is Eric's handiwork. But the new one that turns up shows Alcide that there are problems within his pack which must be dealt with. But first, the were body must be removed swiftly. There is no doubt that someone wants to frame Sookie for murder and an anonymous tip to the law enforcement is imminent.
*** THREE STARS! Due to the numerous titles within this series (and still growing), the author has to spend much time reminding the reader of previous events, characters, and problems. The information is spread throughout this story, but I still feel as if almost (if not more than) a third of this novel are refreshers/reminders and updates.
Unlike early novels of the series, Sookie is not present for most of the battles. She either walks into the bloody aftermath or hears about events later. Yet Sookie is present for the most important ones. After all, she tends to be a catalyst for many of the problems, events, and/or battles. The author still develops the backgrounds of new characters, but new readers will not fully understand the backgrounds of the main characters. (Let's face it. There is no room to spell it all out and doing so would become tedious to readers who are keeping up with the series.) And even though I believe this story is a good addition to the series, I cannot honestly say that it is anything special. The story line does not really move forward. If you are a fan of the Stackhouse series, you will enjoy this installment. ***
Author: Charlaine Harris
Title - Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11)
Set in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Sookie Stackhouse's telepathic gift has always seemed more of a curse to her. This is why she never dates normal humans. She does not hear a lot from shape-shifters and picks up absolutely nothing from vampires. Currently her boyfriend is a vampire. Eric Northman is the sheriff of Area Five. He owns and operates Fangtasia, a vampire nightclub in Shreveport. Sookie continues her life unmolested only because Eric had hoodwinked her into marrying him in the eyes of the vampires. Through the blood bond they share, each knows if the other is in peril. They can feel any high emotions, such as fear or anger. (Handy at times when Sookie does not have her cellular phone and is in trouble.)
Recently all the fairy portals have been sealed. Sookie's fairy cousin, Claude Crane, is living with her. Since the death of his two sisters (the three siblings were triplets), Claude claims that he is lonely for the company of other fairies. Even Sookie's small bit of fairy blood seems to sooth him. Also in Sookie's house is Dermot, her great-uncle who is half-fairy and half-human. Sookie cannot help but wonder if there is another motive for her fae relatives wanting to be close to her. But there is simply too much happening in Sookie's life for her to stop and think about why they want to live with her. Besides, most nights they remain in Monroe after the club, Hooligans, closes.
Victor Madden is the Louisiana proxy for Felipe, King of Nevada, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Victor has it in for Eric and, by extension, Cookie. Victor is trying to provoke Eric into doing something rash so he can kill the vampire sheriff without having to justify it to Felipe. Recently Victor has opened two new places of business. Vic's Redneck Roadhouse is luring away a lot of customers from Merlotte's, where Sookie works. Her friend and boss, Sam Merlotte, is actually worried about being able to keep his diner open. It does not help that some customers left because Sam is a shifter. Victor's nightclub, Vampire's Kiss, is luring customers from Fangtasia too, but not enough to really make Eric worry. Sam's diner is in much more dire straits. Especially since someone tossed a Molotov cocktail through Merlotte's window. This is followed by four guys (high on vampire blood) struting in, determined to cause major destruction to the property and to murder Sookie. Sookie also has a problem in the form of an insane human named Sandra Pelt. The psycho-female has been released from prison. She is sure to show up sooner or later with a burning desire to kill Sookie. Can anything else possibly go wrong?
**** FOUR STARS! Unlike the last title (Dead in the Family), this time the story actually moves forward some. Sookie is cleaning out the attic and comes across various items that reveal much about her life and kin. Readers will learn about the men in Sookie's grandmother's life; not all of whom were human. Sookie also discovers where her telepathy powers come from!
Several characters from various past titles make appearances. Most of these have only brief roles to play, yet the author still details their backgrounds more than necessary. (Three pages of background material, followed by two pages of action roles, before the minor characters disappear from the story again.) However, I must admit that the author has included a lot more danger and fighting in this installment. To me, the last few stories had been slow, tedious, and even boring in spots. Not this time!
Readers following the series cannot afford to miss this title. There are major events that will cause drastic changes for all future books. Victor and Eric finally have their major battle-to-the-death. Sookie learns a secret that Eric has been keeping from her. The results of that secret threatens their relationship - much to Bill Compton's delight. And there are a few other twists and events dealing with some secondary characters and sub-plots that I can say nothing about without spoilers. I believe it is okay for me to admit that Sandra Pelt will not be causing any problems for Sookie in the future. I am disappointed in how that came about though. Too easy. Too clean.
I am very happy that Charlaine Harris is finally moving onward with the story line, as well as tweaking some ongoing plot lines. The Sookie, Eric, and Bill triangle may be altering too. I find myself actually eager to see which way the author will take events. Things are starting to look up! ****
Author: Chloe Neill
Title - Hard Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires #4)
Humans used to at least tolerate the vampires which among them, but ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against all supernaturals. Caroline "Merit" has not been a vampire long. She is still learning to be the best vampire soldier she is capable of being. Merit had been dying when the sexy Mast of Cadogan House, Ethan Sullivan, found and turned her into a vampire. Merit is now a Sentinel of Cadogan House and she takes her guard duties very seriously. Then the mayor of Chicago calls Ethan and Merit to a meeting and informs them about a violent vamp attack against humans. Mayor Seth Tate gets his message across: Do something to stop the psycho-vampires or else.
Merit is given the task of finding out what is really going on. Having to deal with humans picketing outside of Cadogan House, a mayor who is threatening Ethan's House, and violent raves where insane vampires are slaughtering humans, the last thing Merit needs is for Darius West to arrive. West is the head of the Greenwich Presidium "G.P." It is headquartered near London. Ethan may be Master of his House, but West is Master of all Houses. So Darius's arrival in Chicago could not portend anything good. To top it all off, some kind of G.I. Joe-wannabe organization, led by a man named McKetrick, has decided to make themselves known. And McKetrick's people will not rest until all vampires have left Chicago. Merit needs help in order to get to the bottom of the psycho-vamps and their bloody raves, but she cannot tell who is on her side. So Merit secretly calls in a favor from Jonah and his underground vamp group. Unless Merit can halt the escalating events quickly, things will devolve until humans become less than cattle to all vampires and the Chicaco streets run red.
**** FOUR STARS! The author has done a terrific job of ensuring that a new reader does not feel lost or confused. (I know this for a fact because I am new to this series.) However, readers that have read the previous titles of the series are in for a major shock! I can state little about the event without giving away spoilers; however, I feel safe in saying that this shocking event may change Cadogan House forever.
Merit's story comes across as an undead version of a television show involving homicide detectives, but with a supernatural flavor. The case (raves and violent psycho-vamps) begins and mostly ends here. However, a few strings are left dangling so that they may be woven into the next story. Even so, I am not left with the feeling of being cheated. Chloe Neill's writing style is much like Laurell K. Hamilton's, smooth and with a dark touch. A terrific addition to the Chicagoland series. ****
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Title - Waking the Witch
(Women of the Otherworld #11)
Savannah, who recently became of legal age, had a tenacious determination to prove that she can successfully resolve a triple murder investigation while her guardians, the head of a supernatural detective agency, are on vacation. Especially, since the requestor was an easy-on-the-eyes half-demon PI from Seattle. There are various twists and turns as to who is hiding valuable information and secret relationships. Accusations are rampant among the town's inhabitants especially since the clues seem to point towards ritual killings as chalk marks, blood and other supernatural clues have been put in Savannah's path. Who else will die as Savannah gets closer and closer to solving the case? Who is the evil doer behind these murders and will Savannah's supernatural powers be strong enough to save her?
**** FOUR STARS! This fantasy murder mystery, with interspersed romantic interludes, was a fun and quick read. ****
Author: Kelly Meding
Title - As Lie the Dead (Dreg City #2)
Evangeline "Evy" Stone took full possession of her current body only two hours ago. (How? Why? A week ago she had been tortured to death by goblins. Three days ago she had been resurrected into the body of Chalice Frost, recently deceased via suicide.) As this story opens, Evy and the members of other Triads have just finished battling Halfies, one elf, and an ancient demon.
Evy head home (Chalice's home) and is looking forward to relaxing, if not taking a long vacation. Instead she finds herself promising Phineas el Chimal "Phin" and his two Owlkin companions protection. These three are the survivors of an ill-advised Triad raid from a week ago. Evy was the reason that their complex had been burned to the ground, killing over three hundred Owlkins. The female of the trio, Aurora, is pregnant and due to give birth any moment. Evy's vow of protection for the three will end once Aurora's baby is born. Therefore, Evy must postpone her down-time until her company leaves.
Immediately after giving her vow Evy learns that Phin is seeking justice for his lost brethren. The Fey Council is on Phin's side. But the one Phin demands the life of happens to be one of the few people Evy is close to. If that is not bad enough, someone is now organizing the goblins and Halfies. Their collective status has just gone from Irritant to Public Enemy Number One.
*** THREE STARS! This is the sequel to 3 Days to Dead and picks up immediately where the previous title left off. (I mean that too. This story begins while they are still cleaning up all of the evidence and bodies from the battle at the end of the first book.) This time most of the story flip-flops between battles and the father of Chalice's late boyfriend who is searching for his son. I do not believe this installment is as good as the first, but Evy does get two more boyfriends by the ending. Most events that were supposed to be shocking were instead very predictable. Yet this series still holds great potential. ***
Author: Jennifer Estep
Title - Venom (Elemental Assassin #3)
To be a true elemental a person must be able to create, control, and manipulate one of the four elements - Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. Some people could use offshoots of one of the four elements. Metal was an offshoot of Stone. Electricity was one of Air. It is rare for a person to be able to utilize two or more elements.
Mab Monroe is said to be the most powerful Fire elemental born in the last five hundred years. She is the head of a Mob-like empire and runs the southern metropolis of Ashland as if it were her own personal kingdom. Her number-one enforcer is a giant named Elliot Slater who thoroughly enjoys his job since it gives him power and often means he gets to kill anyone who irritates Mab. Currently Mab has all her goons, including the lawmen in her pocket, to seek out the identity and whereabouts of the female that had assassinated a guest at one of her parties.
Seventeen years ago her name had been Genevieve Snow. At the tender age of thirteen her life changed forever. As Genevieve watched, Mab and several henchmen entered her home to slaughter her family. After witnessing the deaths of her moth and older sister, Genevieve raced to her little sister, Bria, and managed to hide her before being captured herself. Refusing to tell Mab where Bria was hidden, Mab tortured Genevieve by placing a silverstone rune necklace between the teen's palms and melting both metal and skin. By the end, Mab believed the last two Snow sisters were dead; however, Genevieve had survived.
Today her name is Gin Blanco. Until a few months ago Gin had been an assassin. Everyone has heard of the Spider, the assassin with infinite patience who kills her target and disappears before the body hits the ground. Very few know that the infamous killer is Gin, owner of a small barbecue restaurant. Gin is a rare type of elemental. She has two elements at her command, Stone and Ice. She can even keep most other elementals from sensing her magical abilities, something that is almost unheard of. Gin still intends to someday kill Mab, but there has never been any rush. The Spider is patient. Yet now Gin must step-up her pace because the Ashland Police Department has had a new detective transferred in from Savannah, Georgia. Gin had recently learned that her little sister, Bria, is alive. After being beaten to a pulp by Slater, Gin comes face-to-face with Detective Bria Coolidge. It is bad enough for Gin that Mab's minions were hunting for her, but it is worse to learn that Mab knows that Bria Coolidge is actually Bria Snow. To save her sister, it is time for the Spider to declare open war against Mab - starting with the giant Slater. After all, some people just need to be killed for the good of the public.
Gin Blanco. Restaurant owner. Stone and Ice elemental. Former assassin. It will be just another normal evening of murder and mayhem.
***** FIVE STARS! I am happy to know that this is not the last of trilogy. Unlike most urban fantasy series, this one is just too good for readers to let fade away. The cast of support characters around Gin have changed, keeping things fresh instead of going stale. Even the main man in Gin's life has changed. By letting me see Gin fall in love and eventually part ways from the man the series began with, Gin's character is much more believable to me. Not all of the good guys and/or bad guys survive to fight another day either. With casualties on both sides, and the corpses are not always minor ones, the elemental world becomes more REAL to me. Now that the Spider has declared war (in flaming run glory) and Bria has entered the picture, the author will be hard pressed to keep the adventure high - and the stakes even higher.
Author Jennifer Estep did not simply carve herself a chair in the Fantasy genre, she chiseled out a throne of Stone. *****
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Title - This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress #5)
Cat and Bones never seem to have any downtime. Now they head to Cat's old home state, Ohio, where there are rumors of Masterless vampires disappearing and ghouls are beginning to cause problems.
Apollyon is a ghoul who has lived for several centuries. He has waited six hundred years for a half-breed, such as Cat, to appear. He intends to use Cat's oddities as kindling to bring about war between the ghouls and the vampires. This is not for any benefit to his species, but for his own personal power gain.
Cat and Bones will need the aid of their friends (and not just from the vampire variety) if they are to stop a civil war.
*** THREE STARS! History fans will enjoy the fact that Marie Laveau plays a vital role in this episode, as does Vlad. However much of this story is simply Cat traveling to meet numerous powerful beings, somehow explaining to the reader who s/he is, and also of any special abilities the inhuman may have. There are even a few lulls in the story while Cat learns to fly and other skills, but the author has made Cat's training sections extremely interesting.
Cat's mother and uncle are in the story this time around too. Her mother has only a brief cameo or two. Looks as though Cat will be interacting with her mother and old team members in future titles. But Cat's uncle, Don, has been sick in the previous stories and readers finally find out what is wrong with the man. I will not say more for fear of revealing spoilers. All-in-all, I enjoyed this story; however, there is not as much suspense as in Cat's prior stories and readers that have not read the previous titles will be lost. ***
Author: Christina Henry
Title - Black Wings (Madeline Black #1)
Madeline "Maddy" Black is an Agent of Death. An Agent is responsible for escorting the souls of the newly deceased to the afterlife. Agents are alive. They simply have some magical abilities and black wings which they keep tucked away. When an Agent dies, the next person in the Agent's bloodline is activated to duty. There is no choice, and there is no escape. Since being an Agent is a 24/7 job that did not help pay bills, Maddy rents out the bottom apartment of her flat in Chicago's west Lakeview neighborhood. The bottom apartment has been empty for quite some time now. So Maddy is happy when handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent it. The cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle, Beezle, does not like the new tenant but can tell no reason as to why.
As soon as Gabriel moves in, demons appear on the front lawn and an unholy creature is rampaging around Chicago. Turns out that Gabriel is not exactly human. And Maddy begins instinctively using powers she never knew she possessed. With Gabriel's help, Maddy must quickly learn how to summon and control the unexpected manifestations of her new powers. This is even harder to do since no one seems to know how many new magical abilities are just waiting to pop out. Worse, Maddy learns that her powers are linked to a tainted family legacy.
**** FOUR STARS! A terrific beginning to an exciting new series involving life, afterlife, demons and an unusual woman stuck in the center of them all. Each time I thought I understood everything about Maddy's new powers, one of them would morph or another would suddenly appear - and with chaotic results. But it is Maddy's bloodline that blows my mind away. Unknown to her at first, Maddy has the most unique family tree ever.
Though this title leaves a few strings dangling for the next installment, I do not feel as if I am left hanging. (I detest cliff-hanger endings!) Instead, this book ends with all the major problems resolved. To be fully honest, I must say that the loose ends of this story as though they will be continuously-running subplots for at least two more titles. At this time, I do not know whether "Madeline Black" will be a trilogy or a longer series. What I do know is that Christina Henry has made a fan of me! I eagerly await the next installment of Maddy's extremely interesting life...or afterlife...or whatever would be correct. ****
Author: Taylor Keating
Title - Game Over
Chase Hawkins "Hawk" is a Guardian. It is a Guardian's duty to protect the Fae at all costs. A Fae soul is the most valuable thing in the universe, because without the Fae, there would be no life. Hawk is tasked to find out why Fae soul numbers were dwindling. He allowed his mind and soul to be separated from his body in order to search for the lost souls. The Guardians' scientists can care for his body safely for a year. However, Hawk's mind/soul was trapped by the Dark Lord. For several months Hawk has been a captive.
Long, long ago the Dark Lord had been incarcerated in a virtual world by the Guardians and the Fae. When a young software engineer on Earth somehow taps into his prison with her fully immersive virtual reality game, the Dark Lord takes interest. The Dark Lord offers Hawk his freedom. All Hawk must do is enter a virtual world, watch a certain girl, and probably bring her back to the Dark Lord. But after being with the Dark Lord for so long, Hawk knows that something is not right about it all. Hawk agrees and enters the virtual world, but fully expects the girl to simply be another trick to torture him further.
River Weston is ready to sell her soul to smooth out the glitches in her latest virtual reality project. Then she finds herself trapped in the world she thought she had created for her game. Sever, the NPC (non-player character), is the character River designed to help Player One (the person playing the game) fight his or her way through the game for a chance to defeat the final boss named the Soul Man. Even with her almost superhuman stamina and reflexes, River has yet to win the game. However, this time Sever is no longer acting as she programmed him to. Sever claims his name is Hawk. It soon becomes obvious that someone had altered her game. HER game! And now he was making it personal. River has no intention of being beaten at her own game. But should River lose the battle against the Soul Man this time, the Dark Lord would claim her soul for real.
Hawk slowly comes to realize that River is no ordinary human. She is half Guardian and half Fae. River's Fae magic is tied to her soul. If the Dark Lord wins River's soul, he would be able to use her magic as well and escape his prison.
**** FOUR STARS! The plot of being trapped in a virtual video game has been done too many times to count. Still, Taylor Keating adds a unique twist with the Fae and the Guardians. With just enough realism to make it believable and enough fantasy to give it spice, this series has the potential to become something truly fantastic. I especially liked WHY the heroine made the fully immersive virtual reality game. (People with physical handicaps, such as missing or paralyzed limbs, would be able to feel whole or normal because they would have full use of all their limbs.) For me, this made River a compassionate human yet still tied in to her dual Fae/Guardian persona. This author is one to keep an eye on. ****
Author: Laura Bickle
Title - Embers (Anya Kalinczyk #1)
Lieutenant Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department. Due to economic problems, the city is having higher spikes of crime. This means the DFD is kept busy. As the story opens, it is two weeks before Devil's Night (the night before Halloween). Devil's Night always seems to bring out the city's criminal scumbags. But this Devil's Night is raring up to be a nightmare. Anya is tracking a serial arsonist.
On the side, Anya is a reluctant member of DAGR, the Detroit Area Ghost Researchers, a group of paranormal investigators. Anya is only called when DAGR believes a malicious spirit may be involved. This is because Anya is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern. Ghosts are drawn to Anya and - if needed - she devours the souls with a single breath. Every by her side is her familiar, Sparky. Sparky is a hellbender, a fire elemental salamander that only a special few can see. Things become complicated when Anya accidentally picks up a demonic hitchhiker. This evil demon is ancient and has managed to get tangled in Anya's aura.
The situation worsens when Anya realizes that the serial arsonist is another Lantern, Drake Ferrer. Drake and Anya are attracted to each other, but Drake seems to have no moral ethics. He devours all spirits, not only the bad ones. He is setting blazes, consuming spirits, and killing people to get the attention of Sirrush, the dragon daddy of all reptiles who has been content to sleep deep underground since around the time of ancient Babylon. Should Drake succeed in waking Sirrush, Detroit would burn.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the author's debut novel. After reading this, I believe that Laura Bickle has a long and bright career ahead of her. Anya and Sparky are surrounded by interesting secondary characters. One of them is a handsome, pragmatic geek on the DAGR team and I hope to see him and Anya build a relationship some day. The author not only keeps events moving along with Anya having to deal with her internal demon parasite and an enticing arsonist, but tosses in a few subplots as well. (A certain male chauvinist detective really pushed my buttons and I REALLY look forward to seeing him get his comeuppance. Oh please, oh please, oh please.)
If you want a story that will make your reality totally disappear for several hours, look no further than this gem. Laura Bickle is an author to keep your eye on. ****
Author: Laura Bickle
Title - Sparks (Anya Kalinczyk #2)
Lieutenant Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department. She is also the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern. Ghosts are drawn to Anya and if she decides a spirit is malicious, Anya devours them with a simple breath. On the side, Anya is a reluctant member of the Detroit Area Ghost Researchers (DAGR). The group only calls Anya when they believe she will be needed to exterminate a harmful spirit. Around Anya's neck is a torque/necklace shaped like a small salamander. When out in public, Anya's familiar, Sparky, naps within it. Sparky is a hellbender, a fire elemental salamander. He only bothers to wake himself up under three conditions: when it suits his preternatural whims, when ghosts are around, or when danger is near. To most people, Sparky is invisible and, other than Anya, he can only affect energy fields. He especially loves to play with electronic equipment.
Captain Marsh, her supervisor at DFD, calls Anya to the home of elderly Jasper Bernard. Jasper had been within the house when it was consumed by flames. Anya is stunned to find a lack of Jasper's remains. It looks as though Jasper's actual cause of death was spontaneous human combustion. Captain Marsh believes Detroit has too many bizarre things happening already and orders Anya to find a way - any way - that could explain Jasper's death to be normal. Anya finally links the event, and a few others, to Hope Solomon, head of Miracles for the Masses. Hope is a celebrity psychic who promises miracles for money to Detroit's poor. Hope is entrapping spirits and forcing them to do her bidding. After meeting Anya, Hope decides that she also wants Sparky and the fire elemental's freshly hatched newts.
**** FOUR STARS! Laura Bickle may be one of the newest authors within the Urban Fantasy circles, but she is quickly making a name for herself. With this, the second Anya Kalinczyk story, Laura has proven that she has what it takes to survive and thrive in the publication world. Intriguing characters, fresh plot materials, and Sparky, the unusual sidekick, gives this series a combination of flavors that you won't find anywhere else. I expect big things in the future from Laura Bickle. ****
Author: S.L. Wright
Title - Confessions of a Demon
Allay had been born human. But ten years ago, as a teenager, she stumbled across a dying demon and ended up absorbing its essence. Since then, Allay has been the only living hybrid. She resides in New York City, working as a bartender on the Lower East Side, where she draws energy from her patrons' pain. Drawing the energy not only comforts her customers, but also feeds Allay. Allay is not the first hybrid, but few survive long due to their tendencies to go insane. The essence of a hybrid is extremely sweet and lures demons from all over. To survive, Allay has the protection of Vex, one of the most powerful demons in the world. To earn Vex's protection, Allay passes off payments from the Fellowship of Truth to various individuals, who in turn deliver them to many of the city's high-powered businessmen. The Fellowship of Truth had been founded by Vex long ago, as churches are often above even the law.
Shock was Allay's first demon friend. She is still the only demon Allay full trusts. Like Allay, Shock feeds from her clients. However, Shock is an EMT, easing the pains of her patients as she feeds. Allay is worried when Shock arrives radiating fear and pain. In Allay's apartment above the bar, Shock "splits", creating a new demon. Shock wants Allay to absorb (a.k.a. kill) it. This would renew Allay for two centuries - and Allay is in dire need of replenishing. But Allay refuses to commit murder, even to save her own life. Thus Shock's offspring, Petrify, disappears into the night.
The birth of a new and vulnerable demon quickly lures other demons to the bar. The demon Pique looks like a harmless geek, but he openly attacks Allay in front of many humans. Allay lives only because a human, Theo Ram, manages to break Pique's hold. Allay now has Ram and Shock recovering in her apartment as she begins trying to contact Vex. (Pique is one of Vex's line.)
Throughout history there have been unexplained disappearances of demons. Long ago one demon briefly survived to tell of a demon with the unheard-of ability to conceal his signature essence. Since no demon could possibly mask his signature from others, the entity became a bogeyman among the demons. Few believe the stealth-demon is real; however, after Allay twice saves Shock from an assassin with no signature, she decides to leave Shock in a secure place while she goes to see Vex in person. Dread, Vex's second-in-command at the Prophet's Center, gives Allay a luxury suite as she waits for Vex to return within the next day or so.
Meanwhile, Theo Ram has decided that Allay needs a bodyguard and has taken the position whether Allay likes it or not. The attraction between Allay and Ram sizzles, but Allay refuses to be responsible for placing Ram, a fragile human, in danger. Yet upon Vex's return, Allay learns why Vex has always protected her and keeps her close. Allay and Ram find themselves in the middle of a brewing war between Vex and Glory, who rules Harlem.
***** FIVE STARS! A fascinating and thrilling look into a hidden demon population. The author shows that, just as with humans, there are both good and bad demons. The power structures and demon hierarchy are simple to comprehend, making it easy for me to understand what is going on in Allay's world. Suspense, lies, and betrayals run amuck while unexpected twists and turns kept me reading far too long into the night. Downright captivating! *****
Author: S. L. Wright
Title - Demon Underground
(Sequel to Confessions of a Demon)
Half human and half demon, Allay is a bartender in New York City. The bar resides on the Lower East Side and is where Allay draws (a.k.a. feeds off) energy from her patrons' pain. Doing so does not harm any of the humans. In fact, it actually helps to ease and comfort them, often enticing the customers to return on their next night out. Recently Allay "split" and now Bliss, her new and fully formed demon offspring, resides in Allay's apartment above the bar. Allay's demon friend, Shock, keeps a close eye on Bliss because new demons are usually unstable and unpredictable. Allay feels responsible for Bliss. Shock feels protective of Allay, her only trustworthy friend among demonkind. Bliss seeks only to please others and to feed on their ecstasy energies.
The trio tries to stay out of demon politics. With Vex gone, Dread has taken over the Fellowship of Truth and intends to show humans a religious miracle live on television. This consists of beheading a church member (demon) and allowing the world to view her resurrection. Dread intends to "prove" that humans can achieve immortality from the church. When rogue demons begin stalking Allay and her companions, help comes from an unexpected source. Mystify takes them underground, through the abandoned tunnels that run beneath the city.
Glory, who rules Harlem, and Dread had been considering a truce. But their actions end up having a different effect and the world learns Allay is a demon. The upheaval begins to turn into a political, as well as a religious, scandal. Through it all is Ram, who keeps to the shadows as he watches over Allay's safety.
**** FOUR STARS! Once again S.L. Wright gives a tantalizing glimpse into the demon world which lurks within NYC. More twists, turns, and surprises kept me feeling a bit off balance as I watched Allay's personality slowly change. The characters of Bliss and Mystify are enigmas. Each takes over the spotlight at various times, giving the story a bit of mystery as I wondered what their futures would hold. Though this episode, for lack of a better word, is not as suspenseful as the previous title, Confessions of a Demon, I still found myself enthralled with Allay's demon world. The author reveals Ram's background, including what had happened with Hope, the hybrid he loved long ago. Ram's past is soaked in blood and darkness, yet at times I could not help but feel pity for this character. I am totally hooked on Allay and Ram and I eagerly await the next story in the remarkable series. ****
Author: Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Title - The Wyndmaster's Lady (Dark Fantasy Romance)
When Commander Sierran Morgan of the Ibydosian Forces disobeys a direct order to slaughter an entire city of innocents, he is sentenced to be a prisoner of Dragonmoor until he dies. However, everyone knows it is really a death sentence because the laird of Dragonmoor Keep is Charles Henry Allen, who has predilections for murder, mayhem, and mutilation. Since the Dungeon Master is a member of the Justonian Royalty (he is King Edmond's brother), no one interferes in how he treats the prisoners within his dungeons.
Lady Anna Celeste Allen is the only child of Lord Charles. Celeste's father has basically kept her a prisoner all her life. She is not allowed to leave Dragonmoor Keep, not allowed to enter various areas of her home, and no one is allowed to look at or speak with her. The only company Celeste receives is when she dines with her father, who she believes to be a physician in the local clinic. Celeste is the most precious thing in her father's eyes and he has kept her totally innocent in all ways.
When Sergeant Vargas DuMond and his men storm Dragonmoor Keep to liberate their commander, Celeste finally learns that her father is the total opposite of her beliefs. After having spent a long time under Dragonmoor Keep as the Dungeon Master's entertainment, Sierran had given up on being granted a quick and merciful death anytime soon. But then Vargas arrives with Lord Charles and Lady Celeste in tow. Celeste gets to see the results of the torture inflicted upon Sierran by her father. Noticing the Dungeon Master's rage of Celeste seeing the truth, Sierran orders that Lord Charles and Celeste be taken with them as they travel to Vista del Mar, his home on the island of Zykanthos.
While the Dungeon Master's evil imagination dwells upon the horrors that may be forced upon his daughter, Celeste is tending to the wounds that are covering Sierran's entire body. But as Celeste and Sierran fall in love, the commander's cruel family (who reside in Argonne, a few miles away from the island of Zykanthos) are brewing plans of their own.
***** FIVE STARS! Author Charlotte Boyett-Compo has created strong and compelling characters which quickly grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go. This story is not set on our world, but the setting reminds me of our Regency Era. I warn readers that this, in my opinion, is Dark Fantasy Romance. As in reality, the good guys do not always win every battle or confrontation. Rescue does not happen before torture. Anyone who cannot handle reading of torture and a brief sexual assault should not read this story. For those who are still brave enough to open this book, you will be rewarded with a tale that will stroke your imagination and have you sitting on the edge of your seat as you cheer the good guys onward to victory. An absolutely stellar story! *****
Author: Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Title - The Wyndmaster's Son (Dark Fantasy Romance)
Prince Thiessen "Thie" Allen of Emardia and his half-brother, Lord Morgan Summerall (different mothers), have never liked each other; therefore, the two grew up in separate places. Thie grew up in the fortress, Windemere. Morgan grew up on the island of Zykanthos. When Thie receives word that Morgan is the prisoner of the Solarian king, he and his men mount a rescue attempt. However, the supposed imprisonment turns out to be a trap. Thie finds himself unwillingly wed to a Solarian princess and forced to consummate it.
Warrior Princess Lanelle's father is about to marry her off to a dreadful prince in Ulnia. Morgan, her best friend for many years, convinces her to trap and wed Thie. Once released, King Sierran would annul the marriage, freeing Thie from Lanelle and freeing Lanelle from ever having to marry again. But after his release, Thie turns the tables by immediately returning and abducting Lanelle. As the two spend time together, the sizzling passion between them spreads into the wildfire of love.
Shortly after King Sierran and Queen Celeste meet Lanelle, she is kidnapped by the leader of the Toscalian raiders and Thie is left for dead. The Toscalian raider is named Emilio Silva and it is the second time he has captured the princess. Emilio had not known who she was the first time and Lanelle managed to escape, though not with her maidenhead. Now Emilio insists that she is really his bride because he claimed her first. With Thie horribly wounded, Morgan suggests the king and queen hire an honorable criminal named Kyllian Reddick, who is currently awaiting execution. After all, it will take a hardened criminal to infiltrate the raiders and somehow rescue Lanelle.
***** FIVE STARS! Much of the story's plot involves Emilio's interference within Lanelle's past (before she met Thie) and present. Just as in real life, rescue does not always happen in the nick of time. This story has many erotic bedroom scenes and sometimes not all of the people involved are willing partners. Consider yourself warned because when this author creates a story, anything goes. When it comes to what I call "Dark Fantasy Romance", no one can compare to Charlotte Boyett-Compo! *****
Author: Kalayna Price
Title - Grave Witch (Alex Craft #1)
It has been seventy years since the Magical Awakening, the day the fae decided to announce to the world that the people of folklore actually existed. Alexis "Alex" Craft is a grave with, able to speak to the dead. As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex has seen a lot of dark magic. She has even known Death for over eighteen years thus far - who looks hot in his black shirt and jeans. Death keeps his secrets tight and he never interferes in Alex's work. Until now. Had Death not shoved her out of the path of a bullet, Alex would no longer be breathing.
Alex is investigating a high-profile murder, a favor for the family that no longer claims her as a member. Alex ends up being attacked by the "shade" she is raising, which has never been heard of before. Worse, the wound is infected with a dark spell and it is spreading like a virus.
To solve the case Alex must team up with a new homicide detective on the force, Falin Andrews. The tough detective is obviously hiding something and keeps his secrets locked away almost as tightly as Death. Though Falin does not seem to like Alex and could hardly even tolerate her presence, he needs her help as much as she needs his. They have until midnight on the Blood Moon to stop a killer from casting magic so malevolent that it would cost Alex her soul and bring about massive destruction.
***** FIVE STARS! Author Kalayna Price has created a unique world for readers to submerge their imaginations in. Alex Craft's world still resembles what we (readers) are used to, so I still felt a sense of connection to the environment; however, the various types of magic, and their users, adds some serious ZING! to the whole experience. The character of Alex is bold, brave, honorable, and a totally down-to-earth woman that I could easily call a friend had she been real. This series is more addictive than chocolate. Totally yummy! *****
Author: Ann Aguirre
Title - Killbox (Sirantha Jax #4)
The Conglomerate does not have the ships or resources to patrol and respond to cries for help as Farwan did. Therefore, most of space has become a playground for pirates, raiders, Farwan loyalists, and the Syndicate. To make matters worse, the Morgut (flesh-eating aliens) are attacking stations on the outskirts of space.
Sirantha Jax, a woman who possesses the unique genetic DNA to navigate faster-than-light ships through grimspace, quits her ambassador post. Conglomerate Chancellor Suni Tarn accepts Sirantha's decision, but immediately offers her lover, March, the title of commander and the task of building an armada in any way he sees fit. With the Morgut mustering at a previously unseen level, March shoulders the task of saving humanity. The ex-merc sends out a message on a smugglers' channel offering profit and amnesty to anyone interested. Soon March is deputizing outlaws to uphold the law.
Lieutenant Commander Jax soon learns she is able to jump anywhere in space instantly, but doing so almost kills her. Therefore, Doc and a lovely scientist begin the monumental task of figuring out how Jax can manage impossible jumps without suffering an aneurysm and how other jumpers could do the same.
While the new armada begins to slowly form, cobbled together from the dregs of society, Chancellor Tarn engages the services of a new shady contact. But exactly who is this anonymous person?
**** FOUR STARS! Consider yourself warned that this book has a cliff-hanger ending. I enjoyed watching Sirantha Jax get back some of her kick-butt, no nonsense attitude. March is in the spotlight more often than previously. In fact, a surprise concerning one of his (biological) family members pops up. This twist will obviously be continued in the next title. If you have not read the first three titles in this series, you may find yourself lost once or twice. A few characters from the past reenter the picture. Even a few new characters join the adventure for what may be the long haul. But as in reality, some of the people around Jax must depart and not everyone survives. Ann Aguirre's multifaceted universe and compelling characters will keep you reading late into the night. ****
Author: Seressia Glass
Title - Shadow Chase (Shadowchasers #2)
Shadowchaser Kira Solomon's patron goddess, Ma'at, has elevated Kira's status. She is now the Hand of Ma'at. Upon Kira's throat is a feather tattoo, the symbol of her new position as Ma'at's Chosen. Kira and Khefar, an immortal warrior, have recently defeated a Fallen that had plans for world domination. Kira still grieves deeply for the loss of her friend and handler, Bernie Comstock. Though dead two weeks, Kira is still able to communicate with Bernie through his pocket watch which she now keeps in her possession.
Kira and Khefar temporarily leave Atlanta, Georgia, and head for London to meet with Bernie's lawyer and deal with his personal effects. Kira has not even gotten settled into Bernie's London flat before Balm needs her services. When Balm pays a visit to Gilead London, she finds it in near-complete disarray and the section chief has resigned. Balm appoints a new chief and the two begin some serious housecleaning in the personnel. Balm needs Kira's help in locating Pavel Gunderson, the Shadowchaser responsible for most of Western Europe. Gunderson and his handler have dropped off the grid. Worse, word has it that the Chaser has stolen an Egyptian artifact, the Vessel of Nun.
By Kira's side are Khefar, a spider demigod called Nansee, and the Marlowes (a married couple with military backgrounds). It is up to Team Kira to track down Gunderson and learn if he has gone rogue, recover the Vessel of Nun, return the artifact to where it rightfully belongs, and save Egypt and the world from a flooding of biblical proportions.
** TWO STARS! I do not usually bother to write up reviews for stories I deem worth only one or two stars, out of a possible five. Yet since I reviewed book one and intend to review book three, I feel it only right. I still think the heroine, Kira Solomon, is an awesome character. However, unlike the previous story, this one is mainly made up of filler pages. Until Chapter Eight (on page 109) nothing really happens. These pages are dedicated to Kira thinking about or visiting various characters from book one, who have absolutely nothing to do with this episode. (I see no need to mention Section Chief Sanchez, how much she hates Kira, bad guys from the previous book, or a lengthy visit to Demoz and Yessara at the club.) The plot, which is everything mentioned on the book's back cover and/or in my synopsis, is not even hinted at until Chapter Eight. This is where Kira no longer has time to mope and the story line begins. This is where things become interesting.
Though Bernie's spirit offers little, if any, help to Kira this time around, I found it intriguing to see Bernie appear and offer words of wisdom to Kira. (Much like Obi Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker, but instead of the Force a pocket watch is used.) The danger, suspense, and battles do not begin until past the half-way point of the book. These scenes and events are well written and as outstanding as I have become accustomed to reading from this author. Some new characters are then introduced and Balm is forced to answer many of Kira's questions about her heritage. However, to be perfectly honest, readers will not miss anything if they skip this title. I have no doubt that all of Balm's revelations will be retold at the beginning of the third book. **
Author: Cat Adams
Title - Blood Song (Blood Singer #1)
Bodyguard Celia Graves is an ordinary human, unlike her deceased sister, that protects those who can afford her from mortal and supernatural threats. In this modern world, everyone knows magic is just as real as technology. In fact, colleges teach about both. She is hired to protect Prince Rezza, heir to the throne of a small but politically vital nation, while he tours Los Angeles's least savory hot spots. It all goes wrong: Celia is attacked by a master vampire and feels herself die.
Celia wakes up to learn that she has become an Abomination. "Abomination" is the term used for the small group of persons who should have died or been turned, but instead survived with only partial physiological changes. The good news is that she still has her memories, except for the day and evening of the attack. She also seems to have no problems when it comes to the usual anti-vampire stuff. She can tolerate shady sunlight, has no trouble with running water, holy water, or crosses. In fact, Celia has gained superior eyesight, strength, speed, sense of smell, and faster healing. The sight or smell of blood makes her hungry; however, she is able to control (barely) it. But being bitten by a bat also seems to kick in any latent magical abilities that had not manifested in human form. Celia is about to learn some shocking surprises about her family history.
With the help of a small group of friends (including Bruno DeLuca [the man she loved in college], Detective Karl Gibson, and a sexy werewolf named Kevin Landingham), Celia must get her act together and figure things out - FAST! Because the master vampire that bit her is now hunting her, numerous enemies are trying to kill her, and a lesser demon is wandering around the metro area.
*** THREE STARS! This story is non-stop action and suspense. Celia spends most of the book jumping from one battle to the next. The rest is spent trying to piece together what is really going on. If it were not for the noticeable flaws, this book would have gotten the full five stars from me, instead of only three. The flaws start on the very first page. The small kingdom is called Ruslund and Rusland (and my copy of the book did NOT state it was an uncorrected proof). Now, after I have finished reading the book, I am still unsure as to which is the correct spelling. Then there is a gas line that is about to explode, even though it is outside and there is no heat source. Those are only a couple that I simply could not overlook. Even so, the plot is good. Strings are left dangling and the ending is left wide open, to continue in the next title. Had this book ended a few pages earlier, there would have been no cliffhanger ending. Instead, the story drops the equivalent of a stun grenade and then immediately comes to a screeching halt. Personally, cliffhangers are poor form. Yet I am still looking for the next title because I really like Celia Graves. I only hope the events are better researched and it does not end disappointingly. ***
Author: Morgan Howell
Title - A Woman Worth Ten Coppers
(The Shadowed Path #1)
Yim is the Chosen of the goddess Karm. She has been raised and trained for her destiny by an unloving Wise Woman. Her visions are vague and unpredictable. As the Chosen, Yim is to undo a great evil by bearing a child. The identity of the father is unknown. Yim knows only that she must be a virgin. Yim soon finds herself a captive and sold as a slave to Honus, a Sarf.
A Sarf is one of Karm's warriors. He is a highly trained killer, normally accompanied by a holy man called a Bearer. The role of a Sarf is to obey and protect his Bearer with his life. Unfortunately Honus's Bearer, Theodus, recently died. Having been told by Theodus to never carry his own pack, Yim is purchased to act as his mule. His fierce face is covered with dark tattoos. His entire back is covered with tiny runes which foretell his destiny. A Sarf never knows what is etched upon his back. Only Theodus has consulted Honus's runes and he could understand little. Since Honus is not allowed to know what is written, Yim keeps to herself the bit she sees and understands. Yet that bit speaks about her, by name, though the text had been written before her date of birth.
As Honus and Yim slowly travel to one of Karm's temples, they notice a dark evil spreading across the land. The priests of a violent and bloody good, known as the Devourer, are corrupting the hearts of humans. Led by Lord Bahl, who has the ability to inflame minds with uncontrollable anger, peaceful people are forsaking Karm and rising up to slaughter their friends and neighbors. During their trek, Yim learns that when Honus meditates, a part of him travels the Dark path, where he can view some of memories of those that have died in the area. Fearing the Sarf would deem her as unholy and kill her, Yim conceals her own abilities from Honus. But for how long can Yim keep her secrets from her intelligent and very observant master?
**** FOUR STARS! The author creates an educated young lady, quickly thrusts her into the hard and lowly role of a slave, and then slowly begins to transform her into something amazing. The story does not follow only one character, yet Yim and Honus are its main focus. I watched as minor characters grew into evil and powerful men by the story's end. These puppets of Lord Bahl will play larger roles in the second book of this trilogy. (Book two is titled Candle in the Storm.) Do not fear the frustrations of a cliffhanger ending. The author has chosen a very good stopping point. Filled with magic, suspense, dark battles, and larger-than-life characters on mystical quests, this story is sure to please. ****
Author: Morgan Howell
Title - Candle in the Storm
(The Shadowed Path #2)
The Sarf named Honus and his Bearer, Yim, continue their journey. Lord Bahl and the Devourer's minions are building a massive army. By corrupting the hearts of peaceful people and inflaming their minds to yearn for death and destruction, evil has quickly spread throughout the lands. Followers of the goddess Karm, such as Honus and Yim, are few. Most have abandoned Karm's holy ways and turned to the Devourer, a violent god who craves only death and Yim has unwittingly captured its attention.
Yim and Honus plan to meet up with General Cronin and his sister, Cara, in Averen. As they travel, they must deal with the many dangers tossed in their path. As their feelings for each other grow, they must struggle to keep from joining. Yim is the Chosen of Karm. She is to undo a great evil by bearing a child. Yim does not know the identity of the father, but she must be a virgin when she mates with him. Being the Chosen of Karm is not the slightest bit easy ... and it is about to become a hundred times worse.
**** FOUR STARS! This episode (for lack of a better word) is even darker than the previous. Conflict is everywhere and blood flows freely. Yim's visions are depressing and all hope is beginning to fade. The author springs a few surprises and even throws in an unexpected twist or two. Needless-to-say, I loved it. The action slowed down toward the middle, but the author filled it with mystical (and mythical) creatures and some rare moments of relaxation. The story main focus is on Yim this time. Though there is one more book in this trilogy, titled The Iron Palace, I believe this episode stops at a good place. I eagerly look forward to the final story. (BTW, if you have not begun reading this title as yet, no skimming the story to learn the name of Yim's mate. No peeking!) ****
Author: Jennifer Estep
Title - Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin #1)
Her main cover ID is Gin Blanco. Unknown to all, except an elite few, she is the infamous assassin-for-hire called the Spider. In her down time she works in the Pork Pit, cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, she can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel she walks upon to the Appalachian Mountains.
The Appalachian Mountains cut through most of the city. It makes for a beautiful place. But looks are deceiving, more often than not. Take Mab Monroe for example. Mab is a young, lovely woman. She is also a powerful Fire elemental. Mab runs this town. Heck, Mab OWNS Ashland. Her true nature is hidden behind fund raisers, charity donations, and winning smiles. Mab never hires assassins, like the Spider, to do her dirty work. Mab prefers to personally deal with anyone stupid enough to cross her. In fact, Mab could kill someone in front of a room filled with cops and walk away without any interference.
Gin stays out of Mab's way. The Spider is NOT stupid. She has a few morals left. Gin never kills children or animals. Gin's handler has chosen her assignments for well over a decade. He is one of the few she trusts with her life. So when an Air elemental double-crosses Gin and kills him, Gin is out for revenge. Gin will find out who is behind it all, one body at a time.
Detective Donovan Caine is probably the only cop in Ashland that is not corrupted. Donovan wants the Spider dead for personal reasons; however, he agrees to help he assassin for even more personal reasons. But once this is over all promises will be null and void. The Spider will continue her deadly trade and he will do all in his power to arrest the assassin and put her behind bars forever.
***** FIVE STARS! Wow! This is the first of a new series featuring the Spider, an assassin-for-hire. I have to sympathize with the reasons of why Gin learned the trade and I admire the few morals she has. Author Jennifer Estep has created a remarkable and very different type of heroine that kept me reading far later into the night than I should have. But watching Detective Caine and the Spider interact reminds me quite a bit of watching Bruce Wayne and the Catwoman on television as a kid. they are very attracted to each other, but on opposite sides of the law. This is one walk on the dark side that I was too tempted to resist! *****
Author: Jennifer Estep
Title - Web of Lies (Elemental Assassin #2)
Gin Blanco is the Spider. She is the most feared assassin in the South. She retired from killing people two months ago, after she killed the ones responsible for the torture and murder of Fletcher Lane. The old man had taken her in off the streets, shortly after she had witnessed the slaughter of her family and survived being tortured herself. Thanks to Fletcher, Gin now owns and operates a barbecue restaurant. She does not need to though, because Fletcher also left Gin his home and more money than she could possibly spend in her lifetime. And since Gin is a Stone elemental with a little Ice magic thrown in, she could very well live longer than most people. But every now and then something happens, forcing Gin to briefly come out of retirement. After all, some people are so bad that they just need killing.
When two punks attempt to rob her restaurant, Gin and her Goth dwarven cook, Sophia Deveraux, give them an attitude adjustment. One of the punks is the son of Jonah McAllister, Ashland's highest priced and most successful lawyer. However, their legal threats and veiled talk of bodily violence does not interest Gin. She will deal with the McAllisters later. Right now Gin and her interesting group have agreed to help out an old friend of Fletcher's. Warren Fox and his young granddaughter, Violet, need help to protect their property from an evil coal mining tycoon. Going to the police is pointless. It seems as though only one cop, Detective Donovan Caine, is not corrupted. The honest cop is having a hard time dealing with his attraction to Gin. Perhaps Gin can help him get over that problem - at least temporarily. For now, the Spider has people to kill.
**** FOUR STARS! The author has given Gin a second male admirer. Now her affections could go to either man. After finishing this story I find myself still undecided as to which guy I prefer. Gin's private life is not the only thing getting more interesting either. Gin has a talent for making enemies of powerful people. Granted, she kills many of them off in exceptional ways (imagine my wicked grin here), but even Gin is no match for a few of them. It will be interesting to see how the author plays out the ongoing plot about avenging the deaths of her family members. One secret is revealed in this episode; the identity of the killer. But readers will not be surprised as to the answer. Full of suspense, a small bit of romance, and a lot of kick-butt action, this story will keep you glued to your seat. Jennifer Estep delivers! ****
Author: Kelly McCullough
Title - SpellCrash (Ravirn #5)
Magic and twenty-first-century technology have merged. Ravirn is the umpteenth great-grandson of one of the three Fates. He is a talented sorcerer and THE computer hacker extraordinaire. Tisiphone, a Fury and his lover, has remained in the Norse MythOS. Ravirn and the rest of his small group have returned to the Greek MythOS to find a major power struggle happening. Ravirn of Raven House is the pantheon's newest and least responsible demigod. Becoming the Raven has amped the daylights out of all Ravirn's worst tendencies toward risk-taking and mischief-making. Ravirn the hacker and cracker is now also a trickster, whose mouth does not seem to know when to stay shut.
Necessity, the computer goddess, is broken. Shara, a former webgoblin, is basically plugged in and holding Necessity together for now. Lately, evidence shows there to be a code war happening within Necessity's mind. At least two other entities, besides Shara, are hacking and rewriting. Necessity will soon need to hand over her role as the Fate of the Gods. There are four candidates: Zeus, Hades, the Fates, and Eris. None of the four are good choices for the continued survival of team Raven.
Ravirn's former girlfriend and programmer specialist, Cerice, is no longer human. With the absence of Tisiphone, Necessity needed another Fury. Cerice is now living ice. Shara deputizes Ravirn and grants him a tiny part of a Fury's blood (Cerice's) so he may access any part of Necessity he may need. The entire multiverse is resting on Ravirn's divine hacking skills and god-level magic that he still does not fully understand or know how to use. This WebMage, who is something like the ultimate biological malware, has become the fulcrum on which the future pivots. Ravirn is not positive of how he will accomplish this massive task. One thing is for sure. It is going to take some serious malice aforethought.
***** FIVE STARS! Ravirn and his webgoblin familiar, Melchior, return for the fifth novel in the WebMage series. This may very well be the final book. The author can either stop it here or continue in the Norse MythOS. From the first sentence to the last, this story is non-stop. All the major Greek gods and goddess have come out to play and the members of team Raven barely have the time to bandage their wounds from the last fight, much less recover, before the next fight begins.
Author Kelly McCullough seems to get better with every story he publishes. Though his knowledge of mythology is extensive, the author writes in such a way that all readers will easily understand. Though the plot is intense and the story flows at a fast pace, it never feels overwhelming. The writing style comes across as both simple and elegant. And even though Ravirn has the title in this series, McCullough is the true demigod of Web Magic. Brilliant! *****
Author: Yasmine Galenorn
Title - Night Myst (Indigo Court #1)
Eons ago, vampires tried to turn the dark Fae in order to harness their magic; however, they ended up creating an enemy more powerful than they could have ever imagined. They are the Vampiric Fae. They are the Indigo Court. Those of the Indigo Court not only drink deeply of the enemy's blood, but also from the souls of the victims as well. The Vampiric Fae cannot turn humans or most supernaturals, but their bite will enthrall, and that enthrall can last a lifetime. However, they can turn other Fae and the magic-born. For centuries they have been quietly building in strength. Now Myst, the Queen of the Indigo Court, is rising and a bloody war is about to begin.
Cicely Waters is magic-born. She is a witch who can control the wind. Every by her side when needed is her wind Elemental, Ulean. After learning that her family is in danger, she returns to New Forest, Washington. People Cicely had grown up with have been vanishing. Others have been brutally murdered. The entire city is held in fear by the Indigo Court. Even Grieve, the Fae prince who taught her how to harness the wind, has become enslaved by the Court. Had Cicely and Grieve not shared an intimate past, he would consider her as nothing but prey. Yet still, when it comes to her, Cicely can plainly see the constant battle begin fought within him to keep from tearing her into bloody parts. He has become a fierce and territorial lover, caught between two evils. Cicely must make sense of her own heritage and its secrets, survive all Myst throws at her, and find her missing friends - if they still live - while attempting to save New Forest and hopefully Grieve.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the first book in a new series by an author who has become well known in the Paranormal Romance genre. The suspense begins on the first page and continuously grows from there. The reader must meet and learn about many characters; therefore, long-time fans of Yasmine Galehorn's work will not feel a lot of satisfaction in this title. But keep in mind that the first title of every new series basically sets the foundation upon which all its future titles will build - and this book sets a very strong foundation indeed.
As an added bonus, tucked in the back of this novel, fans will find the list of music that Yasmine Galehorn listened to as she wrote. A short note from the author states that from here on she will note the musical play list she used while creating each story.
All-in-all, I found this to be a fascinating story with a well thought out plot and enticing characters. This book has such dark and deadly shadows that readers will forget to breathe. ****
Author: Lori Devoti
Title - Amazon Ink (Amazon #1)
Ten years ago Melanippe "Mel" Saka left her Amazon tribe, determined to create a normal life among humans for her daughter, Harmony. Though her warrior mother and priestess grandmother did not officially leave the tribe, they did go with Mel. The small group lives in an old high school in Madison, Wisconsin. Upstairs is their living section. Downstairs Mel runs a tattoo parlor. Harmony has no idea that any of them are Amazons and Mel believes she has succeeded with blending in with normal humans.
It seems as though someone knows the truth about Mel and her family though. Someone is killing young Amazon girls, slicing off their magical tattoos, and depositing the bodies on Mel's front doorstep. Mel wants nothing to do with her old Amazon tribe and they want nothing to do with the tribe's only exile. However, Mel has to warn the tribe that someone is killing their girls. Of course, the tribe suspects Mel and wants her dead. The only way to prove her innocence is to let part of the tribe, including Zery, the Amazon queen and Mel's former best friend, move into the gym building as they investigate.
Mel also has to deal with Milwaukee Detective Alan Reynolds who believes Mel is either guilty or knows who is. Mel cannot tell him everything she knows because it would expose the Amazons to the humans. Mel also has to deal with her new (and only male) employee, Peter Arpada, who seems to have secrets of his own. If Mel wants to live through all this, and keep Harmony from becoming a target, she is going to have embrace her powers and accept that even in exile she is still an Amazon.
***** FIVE STARS! This story is full of surprises and quite a few twists as well. I had no time to get too comfortable before something happened to throw me for a loop. I can hardly wait for the second release in what appears to be a new series. Lori Devoti's writing talent spins a web of magic around the reader. And with a story like this one, I hope never to get free. Outstanding! *****
Author: Lori Devoti
Title - Amazon Queen (Amazon #2)
Zery Kostovska has been queen of her Amazon tribe for sixty years. During this time she has never questioned the traditions or any ruling given to her by the high council. They have kept the tribe strong and allowed them to live undetected for millennia. Zery loves her tribe more than anything else and has always put the needs of it before all. But recently the Amazons have discovered that the abandoned sons have organized. These males have the same skills as their female counterparts. Even Zery understands that the tribe must change.
For the first time, the high council has split. Some want to cooperate with the sons. Others believe that the Amazons should revert to the old ways and begin killing or maiming male babies at birth. Zery's new high priestess is keeping lethal secrets, using forbidden technology, and beginning to threaten Zery's rule. Zery has always believed that she would die for her tribe if need be. Now, she just might have to.
***** FIVE STARS! Written in the First Person, the story comes from the queen's view. Some major characters from the first title, Amazon Ink (which is from Mel's view), play vital roles in this episode; however, readers get to actually dive into the Amazon tribe this time around and see how they operate. Modern day realism and ancient mythology clash, yet somehow manages to come across as believable, enticing, and filled with kick-butt action. Brilliant! *****
Author: Daniel Tyler Gooden
Title - The Unmade Man (A Tale of Baeg Tobar)
Thirty years ago Boruin woke up on the Nefazo Highway with a mysterious woman standing above him. They knew the names of each other, but nothing else. Boruin has a long line of magical runes which wraps up, down, and around his body. He has no idea what they mean or how they got there. Few can even see them displayed on his skin, much like a tattoo gone wild.
Wraethe is a dark huntress of unknown origin. By day her body is as mist and her mind sleeps unless some outside event jars it awake. At night she is a fierce predator with a lust for blood. Whenever she fights, Wraethe's mind teeters on the edge of chaos. There is always the possible danger of her war-rage becoming out of control. These thirty years together, Boruin has guarded Wraethe by day. She has guarded him by night.
Two others have joined their band. Toaaho is a killer by trade. Pile is a short grave robber. The four accepts contracts for a variety of tasks: stealing, escorts, bodyguards, and the like. This time the contract is to retrieve a young boy from a far away valley and escort him to another location. Though the boy is mute, there is little normal about him. The boy cannot only see Boruin's runes, but also knows how to use them when need be. The group soon finds themselves betrayed and on the run from more than simply humans.
**** FOUR STARS! No matter what type of Fantasy you enjoy, this story seems to have it. The Fae, giants, flying serpents (Don't you dare call him a dragon!), sorcery, stone-like warriors, mercenaries, and so much more. This is a stand-alone tale, meaning the main plot line is completed in this one story; however, a minor subplot or two may be left for potential future adventures. The story moves at a brisk pace with more than a few sections that seem to dash in a mad sprint. Surprises pop-up at unexpected moments and plot twists kept me guessing. Author Daniel Tyler Gooden is one to keep your eye on! ****
Author: Gail Z. Martin
Title - The Summoner
(Book 1, Chronicles of the Necromancer)
Prince Martris "Tris" Drayke of Margolan learns what hell really is when his brother, Jared, murders their entire family and seizes the throne. Tris barely escapes and flees with a handful of loyal colleagues. The shock triggers the awakening of memories that his grandmother, the legendary sorceress Bava K'aa, had sealed closed from his conscious mind. Tris has always been able to see and communicate with the ghosts of Margolan year round, even though others could only see them during the annual Feast of the Departed. However, Tris has no idea of the years Bava K'aa had spent training him on the use of his power; power he had no idea he could wield.
Jared's new ruling over Margolan is mainly through fear. To increase his land and power, he is forcing Princess Kiara Sharsequin of Isencroft to wed him. With the years of ruined crops and her father under some sort of wasting spell, Kiara fears she may not be able to stall the ceremony for much longer. After creating one last excuse, Kiara goes upon a Journey by the Sisterhood in hopes of finding a way to cure her father and save her people.
Foor Arontala, a Fireclan mage, is Jared's chief advisor and dark sorcerer. He may be helping Jared claim the throne, but Arontala has his own evil agenda. During the Mage Wars, the Obsidian King's soul had been banished into a Soulcatcher orb by Bava K'aa, due to the major threat he caused to Margolan and the Winter Kingdoms. Arontala intends to release the Obsidian King's soul from the Soulcatcher. But there is more to fear about Arontala than simply the fact that he is a powerful mage, much more.
Tris and his small group trek for a hidden place that may have the vital knowledge he seeks to help him understand and control his newly awakened power. As the group travels for a place that may not even exist, Tris must learn to call on a different set of allies: the ranks of the dead.
***** This is a THICK book, but I never grew bored, not once. Hand-to-hand combat, necromancy, goddesses, good and bad spirits, magical combat, betrayal... I cannot begin to describe all the different elements that the author, Gail Z. Martin, has spun together to create this outstanding tapestry. The book ends in, what I believe to be, the perfect place. When I finished reading the last page and closed the book, I sat for several minutes just thinking it all. I am in awe of this author's talents and have to wonder if she may be a sorceress herself. In a word, "PERFECT!" *****
Author: Gail Z. Martin
Title - The Blood King (Necromancer Chronicles, #2)
Margolan, so prosperous and peaceful under King Bricen's rule, has been reduced to starvation in less than a year. Everyone knows of the usurpation of the crown of Margolan by "Jared the Tyrant". He and his fire mage, Foor Arontala, have also broken the truce with the Blood Council and are hunting down all vayash moru (vampires). Things are going from bad to worse as the night of the Hawthorn Moon approaches. On that night, half a year from now, Jared and Arontala plan to feed all the souls captured in the Soulcatcher orb to the Obsidian King. Once accomplished, the Obsidian King will have the power needed to break free of the prison, which the Summoner named Bava K'aa had thrown him into, and evil will claim the entire Winter Kingdom.
He is Prince Martris "Tris" Drayke, son of Bricen of Margolan, Summoner and mage-heir of Bava K'aa. However, anyone looking at him would never imagine that he was more than a simple peasant enduring hard times, just like everyone else. The Sisterhood grudgingly agree to train Tris for his upcoming battles, but there is no guarantee that he will survive the training. Arontala is not only a strong fire mage, but is using blood magic (via sacrifices) to increase his power. Arontala will also draw power from the Obsidian King once he is freed.
Tris may very well be the strongest Summoner since Bava K'aa, but it is still going to be a royal battle indeed.
***** I thought this was going to be a trilogy or series, but the author may very well stop the adventure right here. The two books together are absolutely perfect. However, if she so chooses, Gail Z. Martin may continue the tale in another part of the kingdom. She could use the same characters or some of the secondary characters or even have completely new ones. I eagerly await this author's next title to see if the Winter Kingdom's story continues or not. As for the story itself, The Summoner and The Blood King may very well be the best fantasy story I have had the pleasure of reading in quite awhile. I do not doubt that the author, Gail Martin, will become a huge success in her chosen field. I foresee awards in her future and a large group (gaggle?) of fans, of which I now rank among. *****
Author: Gail Z. Martin
Title - Dark Haven (#3 Chronicles of the Necromancer)
The war is not over yet. It has only changed form. King Martris (Tris) Drayke will have to go to war against Lord Curane soon. There are vayash moru (vampire) in Margolan who intent to go with him. That will strain the Truce or break it completely. The Flow is unstable, and getting worse. When it is out of balance, the Flow's power favors blood magic, and light magic becomes harder to control. That bodes badly for Tris because his abilities as a Summoner are light magic. The Winter Kingdoms have not recovered from the fight to bring down Jared the Usurper. Tris is beyond exhausted, having to cleanse the palace, Shekerishet, of the spirits Jared's rule violated. Shekerishet must be cleansed before Tris weds Princess Kiara and she lives within it.
Jonmarc Vahanian is the new Lord of Dark Haven. By the Dark Lady's orders a mortal must rule Dark Haven to protect the vayash moru from believing themselves too superior. When Jonmarc appears before the Blood Council as lord for the first time Lord Uri, one of the five members of the Council, violates sanctuary and breaks Council law. Then Uri declares both the truce and the Council to be dissolute. Jonmarc must somehow earn the trust of the vayash moru. Uri does not seem to realize that by going rogue, he has given Malesh, his second, the opportunity he has been waiting for.
Lord Curane employs dark mages and may be forming an alliance with Trevath, Margolan's southern neighbor. Lord Curane also has Jared's newborn son hidden away. Should Tris and Kiara not soon produce an heir or should the unborn heir be destroyed, Curane will have it all.
***** The third installment follows all the previous main characters. Jonmarc's is the most interesting this time around, in my opinion. The story has a major cliff hanger ending. More than one loose thread is left dangling, be warned. If you do not like loose ends, buy each title as it is released and hold them until the series comes to a close. This saga is far too good to simply let it pass by unread. It is full of drama, magic, and amazing battles. I gladly lost a lot of sleep just so I could read "just a few pages more." Brilliant! *****
Author: Gail Z. Martin
Title - Dark Lady's Chosen
(Chronicles of the Necromancer #4)
King Martis "Tris" Drayke has wed Princess Kiara, daughter of King Donelan and successor to the throne of Isencroft. The marriage joins the crowns of Isencroft and Margolan until heirs can be born to place the kingdoms under separate rule once more. Now Queen Kiara is pregnant. Succession is assured. The time has come for Tris and his army to lay siege to Lord Curane's stronghold. The great energy river called the Flow is unstable, making it much more difficult for Tris and his mages to counter Curane's blood magic. The siege is going badly. Winter storms are fierce, food is scarce, and plague has broken out.
As Tris fights in the south, Kiara is in danger. A traitor hides within Shekerishet and several assassination attempts have been made against Kiara. Corruption within the Council of Nobles has cast suspicions on old friends, such as Master Bard Riordan Carroway, who now waits for his death.
Cam of Cairnrach, King Donelan's Champion, has been taken hostage to force Donelan into war. Cam has discovered the identity of the traitor whose actions betray both King Donelan and King Drayke (Tris). However, it looks as though Cam will die before he can send warning.
In Dark Haven, Lord Jonmarc Vahanian must deal with chaos caused by Malesh of Tremont. Malesh tried to change Lady Carina into one of the vayash moru (vampire). But her healer magic battled the Dark Gift, leaving Carina between - not alive, but not undead either. Now Malesh is leading rogue vayash moru and slaughtering entire villages of mortals. Unless Jonmarc can quickly stop Malesh's group, the future of the entire Winter Kingdoms will be full of blood.
***** FIVE STARS! Gail Z. Martin brings together all the places and characters from the previous stories and escalates this fantastic drama to new heights. The author helps refresh readers' memories by giving a few summary pages at the beginning of the book. As with the previous titles, this story overflows with suspense, intrigue, betrayals, and court dramas. Every time I pick up a novel by Gail Z. Martin, she takes my breath away! *****
Author: Jenna Black
Title - The Devil's Playground (Morgan Kingsley #5)
Morgan Kingsley is the best and strongest known exorcist around. Within her dwells Lugh, the demon king that is attempting to stop his brother, Dougal, from stealing the demon throne and turning the Mortal Plain into a playground for demons. Though Morgan used to believe all demons were bad and any human that voluntarily allowed himself to be possessed by one was insane, Morgan now realizes her bigotry of demons blinded her to how much they actually help mankind.
By Morgan's side is Brian, her lawyer boyfriend who is going through bouts of jealousy over Lugh. Why? Because Lugh is always present, even though Morgan is the one in control of her body when awake. Morgan and Brian are never alone, even when intimate. It does not help that Lugh is incredibly sexy and tries his best to seduce Morgan in dreamland. Also on Morgan and Lugh's side are the members of Lugh's royal council on the Mortal Plain. Since Lugh fights for humans and demons, not all of his royal council members are demon.
When Shae, the opportunistic owner of The Seven Deadlies demon club, informs Morgan that a sudden large influx of demons (in the bodies of unwilling humans) have been showing up recently, there is little doubt that Dougal is behind it. The time has finally come for Lugh and Dougal to come face-to-face.
***** FIVE STARS! This fifth installment of the series is finally on the store shelves, but will disappear rapidly as readers sprint to grab themselves a copy. With action, danger, and suspense an ever-constant presence, the pulse rate of readers will pound double-time as events escalate to the book's climatic ending. And believe me when I say this book has a very dramatic ending. Wow! Unforgettable and in-freaking-credible! *****
Author: Jenna Black
Title - Speak of the Devil
(Exorcist Morgan Kingsley #4)
America's most powerful and successful exorcist, Morgan Kingsley, is being sued by a wealthy family for an exorcism that seems to have gone wrong. Most everything Morgan owned went up in a fire recently and even though it has been proven Morgan was not the cause, her insurance was in no hurry to pay up so she could get on with her complicated life. Adding insult to injury, the U.S. Exorcism Board has suspended her. Therefore, Morgan cannot even earn money to buy groceries.
Fortunately, Morgan does have a few good allies. Adam White, the Director of Special Forces (responsible for demon-related crimes) is one. When Morgan gets a severed hand in the mail, Adam realizes that someone wants to destroy Morgan and possibly all those she cares for. Brian, her boyfriend, is tired of Morgan keeping secrets from him with the old excuses of trying to protect him from the darker parts of her life. Brian already knows that Morgan is the host of Lugh, the king of the demons. There is very little he does not already know. But until Morgan can allow herself to full open up and trust him in all things, Brian has had enough.
As her stalker's violence escalates, Morgan must turn to Lugh, her small group of demon allies, and one unexpected nosey individual.
**** FOUR STARS! The author takes a temporary side-step for this episode. Considering how many enemies an exorcist must make, it is not surprising to me that at least one would want revenge of some sort. No headway is made in the Dougal vs Lugh saga, but I still found myself intrigued as Morgan searched for answers to what was going on in the darker parts of her personal life. Readers be warned, there is a bit of S&M, but not nearly as intense as in the previous titles. Jenna Black's writing is second to none! ****
Author: Jenna Black
Title - The Devil's Due
(Exorcist Morgan Kingsley #3)
Morgan Kingsley, exorcist, does not want much. She only wants to control her own life. To make her own decisions and worry about no one except herself. And maybe, just maybe, have a romantic relationship with someone. Until recently that someone was Brian. But it looks as though none of it is possible. Lugh, the king of demons, dwells within Morgan. This was not done willingly by Morgan or Lugh, but the two are learning to deal with each other. That is, until Brian helped Lugh kill her father. Morgan is prickly by nature, but now she is royally pissed!
Morgan must try to put all that aside for at least a little while. (Morgan is an expert at procrastination.) Right now she needs to investigate the bizarre possession of twenty-one-year-old Tommy, the son of a wealthy Philadelphia couple. It becomes obvious that Tommy had been singled out by demons by age three, but managed to disappear from the demonic radar while in foster care. Morgan's investigation, with the help of an ally or two, soon proves that things are worse than anyone could have possibly imagined. The bad demons are trying to breed the perfect human hosts - and they are succeeding.
**** This is the third in the series, but not the last. A secondary character is introduced, a reporter, who is not all she seems to be. Her role is minor and I am sure she will turn up again in the next installment or two. This time around there is not as much danger but two things are accomplished. First there is the investigation of Tommy and the breeding project. Second is that Lugh has decided to form his new circle of advisors.
The author did an excellent job of refreshing readers' memories within the first few pages (or getting new readers up to date). Very smoothly done. None of it sounds forced, stiff, or boring. If you have not read the first two books, I highly suggest you do so. This series is best read in order. The backgrounds of the main characters are developed a bit more in this story. The secondary characters have important roles too and all of it will continue in the next installment. All-in-all, this is a pretty good adventure, giving new twists for readers to discover and solidifying the foundation even more for future books. ****
Author: Jenna Black
Title - The Devil You Know
(Exorcist Morgan Kingsley #2)
Demons exists among us. They reside in willing (mostly) hosts. The human part of the body is almost, if not completely, overshadowed by the demon. Some people, such as the members of the Spirit Society, worship them. They begin grooming their kids early so they will agree to let a demon possess them. Other people, such as Morgan Kingsley, refuse. Morgan is an exorcist by trade. Against her will, and unknowing by her, Morgan was possessed by the Lugh, the King of the Demon Realm. Lugh did not possess the exorcist willingly either. The event was forced upon both of them. Morgan's aura is stronger than her possessor. Anyone examining her aura sees nothing of the demon within. Lugh and Morgan are slowly coming to grips with each other. Lugh cannot take over Morgan while she is awake, but can when she is asleep. They communicate within Morgan's dreams, where Lugh tries his best to seduce the lovely human even while telling her what demon will most likely try to kill her next.
The Demon civil war is about to escalate. One of Lugh's brothers is trying to kill him (Dougal). The other demon brother is an enigma (Raphael). Morgan is a key player in the whole mess. Her brother, Andrew "Andy", comes out of his state of catatonia (beginning of book so it is not a spoiler), but refuses to tell Morgan the secrets that his previous demon possessor, Dougal, let him be aware of. Chances are still great that Dougal will permanently silence Andy anyway.
Brian, Morgan's ex-boyfriend and a lawyer, is not ready to give up on Morgan. He is determined to win her back. He has no idea about Lugh though. Even worse, Morgan learns she is a hybrid. Her mother never told Morgan that the man who helped raise her is not her biological father. Yet it explains why Morgan's parents never cared for her nearly as much as they did Andy. As Morgan digs into her past and researches her biological father, the information which turns up goes from bad to worse.
**** This time Morgan has the demon equivalent of a rogue sociopath after her. Well, the demon is after Lugh, but does not know that Lugh is still within Morgan. Andy and Brian play a larger role in this episode as well. I found myself liking Brian, where before I was not too sure how to feel about the man. There is an erotic part or two, but they are brief. (Lugh's doing, of course.)
The author, Jenna Black, fleshes out the back ground of the main characters for readers and tosses in an unexpected twist or two for good measure. This is not fast paced, but flows along at a very steady rate. You do not have to read the first book to understand what is going on; however, if you do not you may not understand some references. Jenna Black is carving a well deserved reputation in the paranormal field. Fabulous! ****
Author: Jenna Black
Title - The Devil Inside
(Exorcist Morgan Kinsley #1)
Many people volunteer to be human hosts for demons. With a demon in control of their bodies, they are able to do heroic things. Morgan Kingsley believes the very idea of someone else controlling her every action to be SICK! She would never agree to host a demon! Her parents are part of the Spirit Society "SS" and actually help convince humans to host. Her parents were never more proud than when their son, Andrew, became host to the demon named Raphael. Morgan, who loved Andrew more than life, now avoids him. To Morgan, Andrew is dead. He is now a back seat driver, unable to do anything for the rest of his life except watch and listen as Raphael uses his body.
Hating demons so much, Morgan grew up to become an exorcist. An exorcist is called in whenever a demonic crime is committed to remove the demon from its host. Problem is that some of the hosts are fine after an exorcism and some of the hosts are empty shells that require care for the rest of their lives. No one knows why.
After performing a routine exorcism on an unwillingly possessed child, Morgan begins sleep walking. Recently Morgan has been finding notes written to herself while asleep. The notes claim that she is an unwilling host and has one of the most powerful among demons within without her knowledge. Morgan believes it a lie made up from her nightmares. But Morgan soon has cause to wonder and turns to Adam White, head of the Special Forces division dealing with rogue demons. Since Adam is a demon, Morgan is not thrilled having to go to him for help, but Adam owes her a big favor. Morgan learns that the demon within her is named Lugh. Morgan's aura somehow overwhelms the demon's. Lugh is not within Morgan by choice either. Turns out Lugh is not only one of the most powerful demons, but a high ranking one as well. Those who trapped Lugh within Morgan finds out she is aware of her hitchhiker and now it seems that everyone in the world is trying to kill her!
***** An outstanding beginning to a new super natural series! The book starts out with action and only gets faster. I never noticed the story to slow down at all. The plot slowly unfolds to reveal that more is going on than anyone can possibly guess. I sincerely believe the author to have a major winner on her hands with Morgan Kingsley. *****
Title - Middlewitch
Author: Heather Parker
As Alicia Meldrew neared the age of ten she realized she was a white witch. As she neared adulthood, Alicia decided to quit using her powers. But now Alicia is twenty-two and is about to be forced, by several outside events, to use her powers in order to protect those she loves and the village in which she lives. Due to lack of use, Alicia's powers are erratic. Often spells do not go according to her plans. Yet with the help of (mainly) her new boyfriend, James, and her two cats, Domino and Tango, Alicia gets by.
*** THREE STARS! Middlewitch is a sleepy little village. It was originally named Middlewich, but the people renamed it in Alicia's honor after she saved everyone from an ancient demon (first story). The book reads as if it consists of several short stories. When they are read back-to-back, the reader gets to view events in the order they happened. Some of the stories are written as narration. One is much like a journal entry. Others are in the First Person; Alicia's point-of-view. Though the characters are not well developed at first, in my personal opinion, I slowly learned more and more about Alicia and several of the secondary characters. Fans of the comics, books, or television series about Sabrina the Teenaged Witch will especially enjoy this book. I have become rather fond of the cat, Domino, and his son, Tango. I should also mention that the setting of the book is in the United Kingdom. So if you live elsewhere (I live in the United States of America) then be prepared for a few words to be spelled differently than you are used to.
Author Heather Parker obviously has a fantastic sense of humor and she weaves her own spell of mirth within every consecutive story. BRAVA! ***
Author: Karen Wiesner
Title - The Woodcutter's Grim Series: Classic Tales of Horror Retold
October 2006. When Rand Parker's ex-wife and kids died in a car accident he inherited everything. In the six months since, Rand still has not touched a cent of it. Rand's current wife, Amy, has sunk into major depression. In hopes of helping her, Rand decides to take Amy on a vacation to a cabin that his lawyer has only recently reminded him of having inherited. It is in the northern part of Wisconsin, in a town called Woodcutter's Grim. But Amy's depression is worse than Rand could ever have imagined. Amy has been seeing the ghosts of the dead children.
Blood of Amethyst
October 2007. Amethyst Phillips had been sixteen-years-old when, completing a dare, she made contact with something evil. Now, at the age of thirty-three, Amethyst is the fiancé of Sheriff Gabe Reece. She is also seven months pregnant with Gabe's child. Gabe is the current Guardian of Woodcutter's Grim, as were the Reece men before him. Hundreds of years ago, when the Great Evil first came to the woods, barriers were erected by the Guardian and the Brethren to contain the evil. The barriers are now breaking.
Dancing to the Grave
October, three years later. Diane Anders-Jones had been Amethyst's best friend nearly her entire life. When the evil claimed Amethyst, Diane lost the baby she had been carrying. Diane and Kurt's relationship was nearly destroyed in the aftermath. Now Diane and Kurt are happy once more. Diane is the school's music teacher. Several of her students have been out sick. Those still at school seem to be in a trance until Diane plays a song or touches them. At the same time, the Brethren is keeping their eyes open for trouble. They are short one member and Kurt believes Diane should fill the vacant slot. Unless Diane joins the secret society, Kurt cannot tell her what is going on. And Kurt is not the only member of the Brethren who believes the evil is targeting Diane next.
The Amethyst Tower
October 2043. Prince has been reborn anew. He has three days left to rescue Rapunzel and fulfil the prophecy or die again. Upon Prince's shoulders - alone - lies the salvation of the past, present, and future.
**** This novel is made up of four stories that actually link together to create one whole. Each story is loosely based on a fairy tale. (One fairy tale has a mythology twist.) The first story reminds me of a blend between the horror movie "Silent Hill" and the fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel". The second makes me think of it as a blend between King's horror movie "Needful Things" and the fairy tale "Rumpelstiltskin". The third story blends the goat-god Pan and the fairy tale "The Pied Piper of Hamelin". The last is a wild time travel fantasy with the fairy tale of "Rapunzel and the Warlock King". All four stories are set at Halloween and EVERYTHING is a circle.
I could not begin to guess which story is my favorite, but only the first tale sent icy chills down my spine. There are a few typos in the book, but no more so than many other book out in the stores. All-in-all, horror fans will find this the perfect way to spend a stormy night alone. ****
Author: Victoria Graydale
Title - Wizard's Daughter (Historical Fantasy)
After Adrian kidnaps two young women to fulfill a commission, he finds himself turned into a bodyguard for one of them. Lady Millie needs to avoid an unwanted marriage, and Phaedra is simply there to protect her lifelong mistress/companion. Soon, Adrian finds himself falling for Phaedra, but she is a nobody, and not someone he can marry. Meanwhile, Millie remains at the center of contention as rivals vie for her hand, though it is the somewhat awkward Egbert that she has given her heart to. Whether or not they can manage to be together is anyone's guess, especially when you consider how backward Millie is socially, and how she insults almost anyone without meaning to. Moreover, Phaedra might not be the nobody people believe her to be.
*** This is a charming, light and simple tale that can be easily enjoyed by all ages. True love and overcoming barriers to it are at its core, with no false padding of sensuality to distract from the honest emotions. Love, loyalty, and the quality of friendship are what matter here, not shallow sensations. ***
Author: Jennifer St Clair
Title - Blood of the Innocents
After years of captivity, Orien and Cullen have been freed from their physical prisons, but both men remain locked in torture chambers created in their own minds by what they suffered. Both are now vampires and find themselves key players in a cold war between light and dark elves. An evil queen, who enjoys others' pain, is determined not to lose. Together with Cullen's sister and a healer, they will fight to save their people and stop a traitor from allowing evil to prevail. Secrets, pains so terrible that minds can not cope with the truth, and greed are the monsters that courage and love must defeat in this sweeping miniature epic.
**** Though I suspect my enjoyment of the story would have been enhanced by knowledge of the world in which it was set, I was still fascinated by the reworking of tried and true concepts into new elements. This is perhaps the first time I have seen vampiric elves, that alone makes it worth taking notice of. However, that is hardly the sole reason. Fantasy is a challenging genre in which to write without falling into old conventions. Somehow, Ms. St. Clair has avoided that and made it work. ****
Author: John C. Bunnell
Title: Phantom of the Operetta
Juliet McKenna ran away from the Sidhe to start a new life among mortals as the artist in residence at a theater company. It was all supposed to be nice and normal, with no magic involved, but when a ghost tries to horn in on a Gilbert and Sullivan production, Ms. McKenna finds herself having to work hard to try and hide her nature while dealing with an over eager spook. How she does so leads to a story that guarantees fun and makes you want more.
*** If you loved Blithe Spirit or Maxie, then you definitely must read this. All you need is half an hour's free time, yet this concise tale is complete and charming. However, there is plenty of room for the author to add to Ms. McKenna's adventures in drama. ***
Author: Jacqui Wood
Title: Cliff Dreamers
Mia's life has always been hard, but she has always been content. Unknown to even herself, Mia has a relationship with the gods that most shamans spend all their lives praying to obtain. At the age of eleven Mia's life changed forever. Karn, the tribe's shaman who has noticed Mia's uniqueness, announced his claim on her. Mia was to become Karn's earth priestess and remain with him forever. Mia dreaded the thought, but she was powerless to stop her fate. When her friend Borg, a trader, offered to help her escape, Mia quickly agrees!
Mia becomes good friends with Kemit, Borg, and the trader crew. Mia takes to the life of a trader quickly. During the winter months, they narrowly escape a major disaster from a place that had previously been safe for the crew. But this is only the first of many adventures waiting for the crew.
Kemit soon announces that he once knew Mia's father. Mia had never known her father. Mia had grown up with her grandmother and had never been allowed to ask about the man. Mia's mother was deceased. So it comes as a total shock when Kemit informs Mia of her heritage. Mia must make one of the most important decisions of her life. Whatever path she ends up choosing will affect her forever, as well as the lives of her friends and future children.
Mia, Kemit, and Borg will go through many adventures together. As they travel, Mia must grow up quickly and try to figure out what her dreams are trying to tell her. She is aided for a brief time by a kind priestess, who teaches Mia all she must know in order to protect herself from dark magic and survive.
Once word gets out as to Mia heritage, there will be many people searching for her; people who will pay anything and kill anyone necessary to find her.
**** As I read this story I could not help but recall a book I had read long ago titled Sacajawea by Anna Waldo. Journeying with Mia is a lot like the journey I took with Sacajawea (in the Lewis and Clark expedition). I saw everything happen as it unfolded with Mia. The story is very engrossing and I enjoyed it thoroughly; however, there was no editing done in this book. Readers can't help but notice many spelling and punctuation errors. Yet, should you overlook this fact, I can honestly say that you will not wish to stop reading. Be warned that this book is close to five hundred pages in length. It covers Mia's eleventh and twelfth years of life. This is also only the first book in what may be a trilogy. Though Mia's entire story is not told, this book ends in a terrific spot. I can only hope that I will be lucky enough to read the second book when it is finally titled and released.
Author Jacqui Wood happens to be an Archaeologist. In fact, you may see her current dig HERE. It shows swan feather pits, which readers will see in this book. The author's experience in Archaeology shows too! As I traveled with Mia, I had no idea how much I was learning about preparing food in different ways. (The author even has a book on the subject HERE.) I found it fascinating. Anyone who enjoys history, or stories set so far back in time that the land had prior names, are encouraged to either download this ebook or get a printed copy! ****
Author: Cindy Spencer Pape
Title: Dragon in the System
Anyone who's ever dealt with a computer virus would agree that the things are evil and need to be stopped. Initially, it is a computer virus, the Wyrm, that brings Eric Gordon and Lori Tremain together. The computer expert has been trying to track down who is behind the virus assaulting the campus and his investigation has lead him to believe that there might also be another sort of worm involved, a giant lizard; and since Lori is a professor who specializes in studying ordinary lizards, asking for her help is logical. Neither of them expected that their quest would lead them into danger, making them targets of malicious attacks. Nor did they anticipate that the sizzling attraction would sprout up between them and lead to love. Of all the things that surprised them though, the most amazing is Drake, the dragon who needs their help in stopping the Wyrm virus before the person misusing it is able to turn him into a slave.
**** Humor, romance, mystery, suspense, and magic blend perfectly into a highly entertaining novel sure to appeal to both women and men who love a good tale. I adored Drake and would be thrilled if Ms. Pape could find some excuse to bring him back in another book. The human cast is also delightfully quirky, playing off each other to make the character-driven plot sing. ****
Title: Bad-Ass Faeries (Anthology)
Part One: Warrior Faeries
First story is "Bad-Ass Faeries" by Monica Richards. Unknown to the human developers, they are caught in the path of a war between the Red and White Faery clans.
Second story is "Cybernetic Assassin Faerie Hasballah" by Adam P. Knave. It is about an assassin and his Ogre target.
Third is "Make Love, Not War" by Lee C. Hillman. The Far-im and Brownies fight over a nesting grove site.
Fourth is "Heart of Vengeance" by Don C. Wilson. A Penn sociology professor comes face-to-face with a canotili.
Part Two: Outlaw Faeries
First story is "Ballad of the Seven Up Sprite" by Brian Kosciensik and Chris Pisano. An outlaw Faery stops in town for a drink and finds himself in a show down.
Second story is "Snow in July" by Jeff Lyman. A pixie village and some outcasts battle birds.
Third is "House Arrest" by Keith R.A. DeCandido. A house Faery is questioned when a member of the human family residing there dies.
Fourth is "A Pressing Problem" by Donald W. Schank. A mercenary is also a publisher and wants to publish a book made of pressed faeries.
Part Three: Wild Faeries
First story is "Hidden in the Folds" by Jesse Harris. In a far off sacred place, a weary ronin learns a hard lesson of dark magic.
Second story is "Pennidreadful" by Lorne Dixon. When a man accidentally kills his lover, he calls for help. But help comes in the form of a tiny magical creature who loves to commune with the dead.
Third is "On Oberon's Throne" by L. Jagi Lamplighter. Pretending to be kind, Puck begins war with the trolls and must make a deal with an arms dealer.
Fourth is "Sally Smiles" by James Chambers. Kids love their dolls, but what if the dolls worship the kids?
Part Four: Street Faeries
First is "The Faerie Queen of Lo Mein" by Vincent Collins. A little street faerie must battle a sewer rat for some left over Chinese food.
Second story is "Hollow Dreams" by Elaine Corvidae. A member of a street gang is a changeling. When his gang enters a house by the river for gin, the changeling just may be their only hope of ever leaving alive.
Third is "Wings of Soul" by R. Allen Leider. A Faery grants the wish of a young girl to stop a drug dealer in the area.
Fourth is "At the Crossroads" by Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Gavin and the Wind Walker go out to rescue their Faery friend.
Part Five: Faeries Noir
First story is "Down Those Mean Streets a Faerie Must Go" by John Sunseri. A Faery private investigator tries to find out why a Faery supposedly suicided.
Second story is "Endgame: A Tale of Terrorbelle" by Patrick Thomas. Ms. Terrorbelle hunts monsters; they have serious bit.
Third is "The Last Night of the Lazarus Brothers" by C.J. Henderson. A new drug is made from the bodies of faeries. Detective Morcey plans to get rid of it, with a little help from Rita of course.
**** Part Five does not have a fourth story. (Perhaps one story was dropped.) So here are nineteen Faery tales which in no way resemble the cute little faeries of our childhood. Some stories are written better than others, but all of them have a serious twist that I could not help but be fascinated by. A terrific anthology that I am proud to recommend! ****
Author: Christopher W. Wilcox Sr
Title - Heir of Westfell
Rory's life is transformed from the existence of a nobody to being the heir of royalty after his mother is murdered by evil men. He journeys to his grandfather, the Duke of Westfell's, home where he is welcomed and learns that not only was his mother the daughter of a duke, but the father who was barred from his life is an elven prince. Thus, he begins learning how to be one of the nobility and discovering skills that make him a valuable warrior. However, his mother's slaying was only the first dark deed. Jealous men and far darker beings have evil plans for the realm, endangering not only the world of men, but the elves and dwarves as well. Yet, against the vile machinations stands Rory, whose love and whose gifts have made him into a warrior well suited to stop the darkness.
**** This tale of Rory's journey to maturity is sweeping in its scope. Mr. Wilcox's world building skills are effective, telling us all we need to know without going into the excessive detail that often makes epic fantasy ponderous and boggy. Fans of Mercedes Lackey in particular should find this a good addition to their shelves, as the tone of the story has a great deal in common with her Valdemer saga. ****
Editor: Kim Baccellia
Title - The Earrings of Ixtumea
Lupe discounted her grandmother's tales of Ixtumea as simply legends, fairy stories, nothing more. She only agreed to wear the beautiful, unusual ruby earrings that were tied to those tales to please the older woman. Then, a man steps out of the myths and carries her away to Ixtumea where Lupe is supposed to save both that world and this one from the Destroyer. In doing so, she will have to learn new things and face much opposition, including that of her own mother who may be willing to sacrifice her to appease the darkness.
*** This is a fast-paced, easy read that will not only carry you to a fantasy land, but give you some insight into one of the fastest rising immigrant cultures in the United States. Classic themes are recombined and made new in this miniature saga. ***
Editor: Lea Schizas
Title - Aleatory's Junction (Anthology)
**** Even if you are not a fan of the Twilight Zone, you have probably heard of it. Imagine that instead of being a place that scares people, it is a place where people are given hope and healing as well as lessons vital to changing their existence into life, rather than just being this side of the grave. That is what Aleatory Junction is. To all outward appearances, it is nothing more than a small town, a stop on the way to Salem. However, three people, Elena Aleatory, her several times over great-aunt's spirit and the aunt's father, tend to the Junction, meeting those people who need its magic. It is a varied group that passes through; a man facing blindness, others with wounds that are only visible on their souls, and others facing choices. Grief, repressed memories, bitterness, and misplaced anger are no match for Aleatorys. If you have ever been hurt in any way, if you have lost someone, if you have been angry and unable to forgive, then you will enjoy this book. Even if you don't normally like fantasy, this is a profoundly moving collection with lessons for us all. ****
Author: Brynn Chapman
Title - A Circle of Crows
Rachael and Raena Macbeth are twins. The two have had a lot of death in their family. One lost her husband to an accident, both lost their parents. However, they still have their adopt sister, Bella, and the inn. The three sisters clothed in renaissance style dresses each day when they had guests at the inn. It was not the life Rachael and Raena would have chosen for themselves, yet they were content for the most part. That all changed when Morgana, Rachael's daughter, disappeared through a mirror that hung in the Autumn Room.
Morgana finds herself locked in a dark and gloomy place, surrounded by small children. Using the skills she gathered from her mother and aunt while helping out at the inn, Morgana is able to care for the frightened children. She soon learns that the evil Queen Ivana has horrible plans for the them. All would have been lost except for the rebellion. Even with the rebellion's help, there is no guarantee that many, if any, of them would survive. Imagine Morgana's surprise when Bella, Rachael and Raena show up somehow!
Since Morgana disappeared, the Macbeth sisters and Sam (Bella's husband) have been searching for a way to go through the mirror and rescue Morgana. Their investigations show that several children between the years 1900 and 1905 had mysteriously disappeared, just like Morgana. It would seem that their grandmother's insane stories of so long ago were not so crazy after all. The journal of former innkeepers and the journal of their grandmother could very well have the key to bringing the children home.
Queen Ivana has the Dark Book in her possession. She needed children, the younger the better, to help in her dark quest. Since the locals knew their babies would be taken from them, they quit having any. Thus Queen Ivana opens portals to other realms so her men could enter and bring back children from there. Unless the Macbeth family and the rebellion can stop her, Queen Ivana will enslave all and her reign will be forever!
**** Author Brynn Chapman gives readers a glimpse into her fantastic imagination. This story includes many magical creatures, some good, most evil. A few of the magical beings I cannot report about, for fear of ruining the tale. However, I feel safe in revealing the "Sepulachar" which are big, black winged creatures whose caw sent shivers down my spine. If you enjoyed the book and/or the movie, "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe", then you will LOVE this tale. Oh no, not the same plot; not even close. But I got the same surreal feeling. I plan to keep an eye on Brynn Chapman's career. I see major talent here! Recommended! ****
Author: Sara Reinke
Title - The Book of Days
Long ago, before the beginning of time, an immortal race roamed the land. When time came for the immortals to leave the world to other mortal races and travel onward, some rebelled. One of these was Ciardha. Ciardha betrayed her king father, her sister, everyone. In the end, Ciardha, the witch of Nocturn, had been sealed deep below ground, behind twin doors of towering black granite, set in place by ancient Abhacan settlers to the realm. It was never meant to be discovered by mortals.
In the year 1712 of the Third Age, King Herdranges and his trusted staff are massacred by his Elfin Queen's brother. Queen Lythaniele has the twin heirs smuggled away before she dies. Wyndetta takes the infants to the only truly trustworthy person, Dagarron. He is to guard the children with his life. The firstborn son, renamed Trejaeran, is raised in a simple village. His twin sister, renamed Qunh, is raised in a different village. Neither of the twins know of their true birth, nor of each other ... for sixteen years.
Sixteen years ago, during that bloody night of death, Queen Lythaniele told Wyndetta that her brother had given himself over to some sort of dark power that had corrupted him. Lythaniele had foreseen that one of the twins would one day overthrow his rule and restore the alliance between the menfolk and Elves. But the queen could not tell which twin would persevere. Her evil brother, Lahnduren, and his new queen, Ciardha, had seen these things too. Yet it took Ciardha sixteen years to locate the twins, find them she did. The shadow now descends, the time of Ciardha has come, and the age of darkness is upon the land ... unless the twins and their protectors can somehow fulfill the prophecy.
***** There is so much more going on in this novel than I can tell in a brief synopsis. This tale is filled with elves, humans, zombie-like minions, dwarves, and even giants. But the reader is unable to guess which twin is the one to strike true. Will it be the son who has more Elfin mental powers than any other before? Or will it be the daughter who has little mental power but is a fierce warrioress with a sword? Throughout the story I went back and forth, never quite sure. One thing is certain, once you begin reading, you will find yourself hard pressed to stop. So make sure you have PLENTY of free time to read, order out for pizza to be delivered so the kids and your husband/wife will leave you in peace, and delve into the amazing realm of fantasy! *****
Author: Tabitha A. Bradley
Title - Arcadia (Dark Fantasy)
Commander Cerin Tesar, leader of the Regissians, has the Quyrin. It is an artifact that can enhance the innate power or potential power within a person, focusing it and enabling the possessor to do whatever he wishes ... including kill with only a thought, mind control, and bring the dead back to life! But the Quyrin extracts a price from the user. Anyone who uses the Quyrin will eventually go mad and fall under its domination.
Alexandra "Alex" T'Kayn had been away from Arcadia for seven years. Now she is back. But the instant she enters the Arcadia Fortress, Alex knows something bad has happened. The Regis Stronghold has finally conquered the Arcadia Fortress! The very thought is enough to chill Alex to the bone. She had been a slave/prisoner of Cerin's several years before. No one knows more than Alex what the mage could and would do to them all. Yet the torture she endures is a blessing in disguise. Alex is unaware that she has wild psi powers and the Guardians on the planet Alara (far, far away) cannot help but hear her psi screams. Even though the Guardians plan to help, could they really hope to defeat such a malevolent mage bent on dominating all?
Then there is Sebastian, son of Cerin. Sebastian is a spoiled libertine, as cruel as his father. He wants to own Alex, bodily if nothing else. However, he must wait until his father is finished with her. Cerin has promised Sebastian that he would not kill Alex, but torturing her nearly to death, and often, is necessary.
**** Fans of J.C. Wilder's dark fantasy novels will adore the writing talents of Tabitha A. Bradley. I warn all that there are intense scenes of torture and abuse. So queasy hearts need not apply. I found myself fascinated with Alex's strong will and her defense of those she cares for. I found myself wishing there had been more detail on Alex's past with Cerin, Sebastian, and Taggart. I could not help feeling that much was missing there. However, perhaps those will be future books from this incredibly talented author. If you enjoy Dark Fantasy, do NOT miss this one. ****
Author: K.G. McAbee et al.
Title - Tales of Masks & Mayhem
***** Anyone who enjoyed the old comics, television shows, and movies about gangsters, masked adventurers, masked heros, and lots of bullets blazing will be in heaven with this exciting anthology. Seven stories, edited by award winning author K.G. McAbee, are together in one thick novel for you to enjoy over and over.
Though you will not find Batman, the Lone Ranger, or the Phantom, you WILL find similar ones. As I read the stories (late at night) I could almost hear the deep and eerie laughter by the evil villains. I pictured outlandish costumed heros with domino masks, attired so that their appearance would strike fear into criminals.
These stories are not by new authors. Several of the authors, and their heros, have books out. (For example, Lance Curry has a "Doc Savage" novel on the Internet currently.) You will not be reading any second hand stories. Expect the best! And bring those old style villains and heros back to life! *****
Author: Elaine Corvidae
Title - Prince of Ash
(Shadow Fae Trilogy, Bk 2)
It has been five years since the fall of the Seelie Court. Mina and Duncan run a bookshop named "Blackthorn Books". Mina's dyana powers are still not under tight control though. She sometimes does not realize she is enslaving minds of the faelings. It is not something she does on purpose. Her husband, Duncan, is bound to a wheelchair, yet he still insists upon helping Mina whenever she goes looking for the young faeling who has been hunting down seelie fae during the nights.
Then Alexandreya "Alex" comes to town. It is obvious to Mina and Duncan that she is running from something. But she is Duncan's young niece and they convince her to stay with them and help run the bookshop. Alex turns out to be something of a genius with a special talent in engineering. The unseelie blood within her is thin and she believes that she has no fae powers.
Alex catches the eye of another young unseelie faeling named Pook. Pook is attracted to Alex from the start. Being a member of a street gang called the Rat Soldiers, he manages to come to her rescue more than once. Pook is a changeling. Being more fae than human, though he refuses to believe it, he has quite a few powers, but a weakness to iron.
Thesse unlikely beings must learn to trust one another ... and quickly. The war in Faerie has spilled over into the mortal world and the city is suddenly crawling with faelings and fae. Mortal blood is being spilled, the battle ground will soon be marked, and the world as they know it is in peril.
***** This is the second book in the Shadow Fae Trilogy. If you have not read the first, you can easily understand all that is happening. However, I highly suggest reading this trilogy in order. Mina and Duncan still have major roles in this installment, but the true main characters are Alex and Pook. This is a fast paced story with lots of magic and action. Fascinating! *****
Author: Elaine Corvidae
Title - The Ghost Eater
Tamaugua had been an eighteen year old Ahkan'i Warrior before he died. Once dead the tribe's Ghost Eater, "the Old One", placed the body within a cave. A spirit of coal, known as the bhargha, entered the body and healed the wounds. No, the body of Tamaugua did NOT come back to life. But the spirit that now dwells within the body has all the memories. A new Ghost Eater is made. The Old One usually teaches the new all the rules. Once done, the Old One perishes by fire. Before that could be done, the animal spirits of the world gave Tamaugua his first and most important mission.
The new Ghost Eater of Bird Creek Town is sent into an Enemy's town. He is to seek out a certain Enemy woman, Gwnedith, and bring her back. The Devourer would soon come to strip bare the mountains and his own people. Then it would continue into the foothills, even into the lands of the Enemy, destroying everything and everyone. To help stop it, they MUST find Gwendith and convince her to help.
Gwendith and her people are called Outlanders. Three hundred years ago they entered the world via a portal and were unable to return home. The people already living in the world each have a talent, a "Way", a skill. Here are just a few examples: A Far-seer can see things as they happen anywhere. A Mist-shaper can create illusions. A Truth-seer can tell if someone or something is false.
A Ghost Eater does not have a Way. Why? Because they are not really alive. They are a spirit in a body. A Ghost Eater can feel pain, but has no breath and no heartbeat. If shot, stabbed, mutilated ... most anything ... he heals himself without even thinking. They do not eat food or drink, but to heal uses energy. To replenish the energy, he must drain the ghost (the life force, the soul) out of someone. Each tribe has ONE Ghost Eater. A Ghost Eater protects his tribe. That, and remembering, are his only functions.
Now the few Ghost Eaters that remain, all the tribes (friendly and non-friendly), and the Enemies MUST join forces somehow to overcome the Devourer. If they fail, the world will cease to exist.
***** Here is an epic battle of nature, spirits, and magic that will blaze in your imagination long after you have finished the story! It is a stand alone novel, but (in my opinion) would make a remarkable trilogy. I certainly wish to see more of this world and its people. A magical story where anything is possible. Astounding! *****
Title - Twilight Crossings II (Sept. 2004)
"Where Lies Beauty" by Sheri L. McGathy
Tanner and her brother, Conn, are Seekers. Seekers bring back things from the Old World, which once held pure magic. For over one hundred times their normal fee, they agree to take a man named Faylon and his deformed slave, Manny, on a quest for a lost magical city. The city is called Sha-da-nay, The City Of Light, and thought only to be a myth. The city is fabled to be full of gold and pure magic. But to reach the city they must pass several dangers. Once there, only a single tear, freely given, will reveal the truth.
"Mourn A Moonreft Sky" by Shannah Biondine
Parxis is no longer a slave. Slavery had been abolished five years before. Due to living mostly underground she has pure white eyes and is sensitive to sunlight. However, she has the ability to track dragons and wyverns across the sky. This is why Zavend, a scholar, asks for her help. Someone has stolen the Umbra Amulet. The wizard who wore it around his neck for eons has been slain, the amulet taken. Without this amulet, there would be "floods or drought, famine, seasons that do not molt" because it controls the very weather and planet alignment. If Praxis helps Zavend on his quest, she would be gifted with her own wyvern.
"The Well Of Forever" by Jeanine Berry
Caireya is a Seeress and has the scrying ability. Her sister is Eronne with the gift of healing. They are slaves to Lord Demor. Demor defies the laws and travels to Maricor, a lost city. Maricor is where the Cataclysm took place centuries ago, leaving the world in ruins. Using Caireya's magic, Demor plans to locate the wand of the legendary mage-king Lohar di Kaya. If he succeeds, the world will see another cataclysm!
"The Treasure Of Arvalis" by Jeanne Allen
The city of Ignatia worships Solone, Goddess of Earth and Sky, a loving and merciful deity. Eirena is the temple priestess. She receives Solone's messages for her people. For two months Solone did not speak. Eirena fears that her people has ignored the goddess, thus the goddess has turned her back on them. Then marauders attack the city. Their cruel gods promised gold and treasures within Solone's temple. But Ignatia is a city of knowledge. The only treasure are the scrolls within the temple library. Valgard, the leader of the warriors, claims Eirena as his own. If there is no gold, then his realm will have the people of Ignatia as slaves. However, Solone has other plans.
***** Four brilliant novellas that will tantalize your imagination to no end. Magic and romance combine to make this a book you won't soon forget. *****
Author: Honor Cummings
Title - Attack Of The Queen
Once upon a time on a far away world, the Tree Women lived in relative peace, sustained by their faith in the One God. Their world is rich and valuable, not only to them, but in the eyes of their enemies, the Vlaad, a blue skinned race of winged warriors. Not all of the Vlaad are evil, however. One, Feodor, has read of the God of the Tree Women and dreams of a different way of life. When his secret is revealed, he is sentenced to immediate death, but fate has other plans. He is rescued by one of the women, Adazza, and nursed back to life. Inexplicably, he seems to be the man who is fated to be her true match, and the one who will turn the world upside down. With his knowledge of the forces working against the Tree Women, Feodor will prove an invaluable ally in the war against the Vlaad and their evil queen. Finding a Vlaad who is not evil is not the only surprise in store for Adazza's people. Their faith is about to be stretched in more ways than one. Where there is love, there is surprise and hope.
*** With a compelling action romance, a fantastic world, and moving message, Ms Brandt weaves a spell around readers that can carry them to other lands. She subtly answers the question of is God big enough to cover more than one world in a delightful way. ***
Sheri L. McGathy
Title - Within The Shadow Of Stone
Bree of Clan Dunstan was chosen. She was to become a true Shroud Born. At the young age of thirteen, in the Year of the Stone 1200, Bree was cornered by Alric of Clan Tynan at the sacred stones called Eldrin's Circle. Alric was determined that Bree would choose him and therefore grant him the power and land of her people, the Skye. This would erase the taint of his clan's sin, done in the Year of the Stone 840. Her need for help was great and a Warrior of the Stones appeared to rescue her. He was her "One". Denied the honor of becoming Bree's Chosen, Alric joined the new order called the Way of the Reform. He vowed to someday claim Bree as his own.
In the Year of the Stone 1208 all had changed. The evil one called Blight, a Son of Twilight, was slowly claiming Bree's land. Dayan Thane, High Commander, and creator of the Way of the Reform was Blight's head minion. He and his men, the Reformers, were almost finished tearing down all the of the sacred stones. The Plague of 1201 had killed all the known Shroud Born except Bree, who was considered a harmless child. Worship of the stones, and the goddess called Hertha who was believed to have created them, was forbidden. The punishments to those who were caught honoring the Old Ways were dire. Eternal darkness would soon claim the land. There was no one left alive who recalled how to waken the Guardians in the stones, the Warriors of the land.
Bree was twenty-one when Hertha, Daughter of the Dawn, appeared. Hertha charged Bree with the task of bringing back the Skye who had gone beyond her reach, past the mists, beyond the veil, and to renew the Pact. Bree must somehow avoid the Reformers who searched for her, especially Alric, and somehow learn the Old Ways. Only Bree could awaken the Warriors and renew life to the land. Only Bree could call forth the One from Eldrin's Circle and keep Blight from taking over.
***** This novel starts with a spell that will enthrall readers from the first page until the last! I was unable to tear myself away from this tale. I simply HAD to know what was going to happen next. Before I knew it, hours had gone by.
Highly recommended for fans who enjoy magic in their Fantasy books! Excellent! *****
Author: T. L. Schaefer
Title - The Brotherhood (Suspense)
Elijah "Eli" Miller is found beaten to death and with a ritualistic bruise mark. Eli had been a member of the Brotherhood of Freedom which is guided by Reverend Charles Montcliff. Sheriff Douglas "Doug" Brewster begins the investigation. The first real clue came from an unexpected source. Doug's friend, Josie, had the same "bruise".
Josie Galloway is the local Wiccan High Priestess and has a shop called The Eight Fold Path. Josie woke up the morning of Eli's death with a mark upon her chest and no idea how it got there. She only recalls horrible, and pain filled, nightmares. The bruise is in the crescent shape of "the sigil of the triskele". After four days the strange bruise had not faded in the least. Even stranger, when dying Eli had bonded with Josie. So every night Josie deals with nightmares and dreamwalks (shares dreams) with a dead man. Josie is stuck with Eli and the mark until whatever Eli is searching for is found.
At the same time a killer from Josie's past has found her. Josie had testified against him long ago and then was sent into the Witness Protection Program. Douglas unwittingly led the killer right to her. Doug and Josie must team up to find Eli's murderer while dodging another!
***** Here is a fast paced novel just overflowing with suspense! This book is the sequel to another titled "Summerland", which is still available through the publisher AND through Amazon online. Both novels are stand-alone stories. If you only read this one, you will NOT be confused at all. However, once you finish with this book, you will find yourself rushing out to purchase the first. This author's stories are THAT good. Author T. L. Schaefer knows drama! *****
Title - The Crow Queen
(Lord of Wind & Fire, Book 2)
The wizard, Ax, appeared to the Crow Queen, Londah, and warned that Jahcgroth of Argannon plans to conquer Jenel, as cold and ice threaten his own kingdom. The Crow Queen was to watch for the arrival of the one named Auglar of Kellsjard, a lord of Jenel. Auglar MUST live through all that would soon come to pass.
Londah had been nicknamed the Crow Queen, because the carrion birds of Segg had surely grown fat on all the corpses she left in her wake. She was the best assassin to be hired. None were as silent or swift as she. To be a bodyguard went against all she knew, but she had her own reasons for agreeing.
Jenel could not afford to remain leaderless, without a monarch, for much longer. To be crowned King of Jenel, Lord Auglar must convince the Council of Lords that he is worthy. Yozerf, a wolfkin, joined his love, a human named Suchen, and the Sworn for the journey to the deadly city known as Nava Ner in Segg. Yozerf had grown up in the city and knew the horrors within. Suchen is Lord Auglar's Steward. Yozerf would never have returned to the vile place on his own. But to protect Suchen, Yozerf would do anything.
Betrayed by other lords, they soon find themselves on the run, trapped in the city with enemies everywhere. It is up to the Crow Queen and Yozerf to get them out alive.
***** Book 1 is titled "Wolfkin". You do not HAVE to read the first book to understand this one. Yet if you wish the full effect, I strongly suggest that you do so. If you enjoy Fantasy books with wizards, the undead, or shape-shifters, then rejoice! This book has all three and so much more besides.
From the beginning until the end this story goes at full speed. No one seems to be as they claim and everyone seems to have secrets, Yozerf more than others. There will be a third book to round out the tale, but this story ties up most the strings. Nothing major will leave you hanging in a lurch, but there are a few loose ends. Excellent tale and recommended to all fans of Fantasy! *****
Title - Wolfkin
(Lord of Wind & Fire, Book 1)
Suchen Keblava was the steward of Kellsjard, a powerful Northern lord. The sorcerer called Ax informed Suchen that she was to give Lord Auglar a message. The Council was corrupted and Queen Rozah Rejana was being held captive. The queen would be forced to wed the Emperor Jahcgroth, who in turn planned to take over the entire Circle Kingdoms.
Suchen and the Sworn (army) were sent to meet Queen Rozah's ally, Lady Trethya, and escort her safely back to Lord Auglar. Trethya had vital information to pass.
Ax sent Yozerf Trihychyl, one of the Aclytese race, to help in the quest. Humans often considered his race no more than servants. Yozerf did not care for the Humans with good reasons. However, he owed Ax his life and agreed to do as asked. Yozerf was more than an Aclytese half breed though. He was a warrior ... and more!
Before it all ends, this group must battle winged demons with gargoyle shaped bodies, betrayal from within, and sorcery!
**** A very good story here! Well written, full of suspense, and a small romance to boot! Definitely worth your time to purchase and read this fantasy novel! ****
Author: Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Title - Windweeper (BK 3: Wind Legends Saga)
This book began where the last left off. Liza and Conar arrive home with their newborn daughter, Nadia. Nadia was only the first of several Liza gave birth to in this novel.
The Domination was not finished with Conar yet. Even Tohre would not be able to help him. Conar's son, Corbin, would also catch the Temple's eyes. Corbin was born with the crescent shaped mark in his hand. The mark was "The Sign of the Wind". Liza would sacrifice much for her son. The whole realm would.
**** Readers again are warned of torture scenes and dark fantasy. I had to be VERY careful not to give anything ital away. This book is fast paced and over-flowing with surprises! I recommend this entire series highly and look forward to book four! ****
Author: Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Title - Windseeker (BK 2: Wind Legends Saga)
Prince Conar McGregor and his wife, Princess Anya "Liza" Elizabeth, were still deep in love. Conar and his father, King Gerren, ruled the Serenia region of the world. Liza was part of the Multitude, one of the Daughters of the Sea. Few knew that, of course. She was more well known for her ability with a crossbow. Conar and Liza were dedicated in their quest to destroy the Brotherhood of the Domination.
Conar's evil twin, Galen, wanted Conar dead and Liza by his side. Knowing this, the Domination planned to use Galen as a way to force Conar into returning to the Great Abbey of the Domination - from where he had escaped just before the age of thirteen.
The sorcerer known as Kaileel Tohre had always had a dark fascination with Conar. He wanted Conar the same way Liza did, as mate. To save Liza, Conar would return to the Domination and complete the Rite of Passage to become "One of the Chosen". Then he would go through the Final Rite of Consecration. If Conar lived through it, he would BE "The Chosen One of the Chosen"! Conar would possess the combined power of the White and the Black Paths.
Jeanne Allen et All: title - Twilight Crossings
This is a combination of Sci-Fi and Fantasy type of novel. It contains four separate stories.
In ISADORA by Jeanne Allen, a young woman is accused of witchcraft and sentenced to burn all because she falls in love with a strange traveler. I cannot reveal where the traveler is from though. That is vital to the story. I would prefer you, as the reader, to find out on your own.
In TWIN STAR by Jeanine Berry, a young woman of the Dorshan race is a "true dreamer". The ruler seeks a bride and orders several single women locked in his harem so he may sample them and choose. These two may change their entire world.
In EIDOLON by Shannah Biondine, a young lady (sort of) has a wager with her brother. I REFUSE to tell anything about her brother though. Part of the story's surprise is finding out. Anyhow, the brother maintains that humans are selfish, lazy, and greedy. She is to secure a pact with a mortal who must prove himself better than his peers. Both demonic and heavenly hosts await the outcome.
In THIEF OF DREAMS by Sheri L. McGathy, the daughter of a lord is wooed by two men. One wants her for herself. The other wants her because the joining of their houses would be considered a great alliance. They have one year to win her heart. This story involves a Faery Ring. Telling anything more would ruin the tale.
**** Fantastic stories from awesome authors that you will want to read over and over. I enjoyed every moment of the book. These stories do not target a certain audience. Great for male or female. Recommended! ****
K.G. McAbee: title - A Fine Impersonation
He was only a traveling player. His troop, led by his mother (Leandra), left him with the Masters when he had been raging with fever. He was to catch up to them once well. However, he awoke one morning to find Master Adrian shaking him awake and announcing that he was about to undertake the role of his life!
Prince Melos had been left to the Masters about nineteen years ago, by his aunt, Queen Ffazia the Fourth. Since all dozen or so others of royal lineage had died, accidentally of course, and the Queen was near death as well, the Queen ordered Prince Melos to wed the commander of her majesty's army, Ravyn Malakar. However, Melos had died four years ago and the Masters had never informed their Queen! So now he was to play the part of Prince Melos and to actually take the throne!
Ravyn Malakar did not want to wed Melos. Only to keep him alive long enough to take the throne. Her job (before and after the so called wedding) was, not to sire heirs, but to be his bodyguard for life! Tough job since it seems several assassins were now after Melos. And all the magic in the air simply could not be healthy for a prince-to-be!
***** Hmmm, this one has an interesting twist for an ending! It holds the possiblity of being continued as well. Good thing, since I hope to see more of these characters in the future. Well written and sure to please! K.G. McAbee has written a world that will entrap readers, willing or not! *****
K.G. McAbee:title - Escape The Past
Valerik had been a gladiator and then a slave. When he murdered his Mistress, he was sentenced to death by hunting. So Val was released to be prey and the hounds were shortly released afterward to kill him.
Saved by the mysterious and lovely Madryn, Val accompanied her on her self appointed mission. Unknown to them, they were to become the champions of some magical guardians in a war against a sorceress and her evil brother.
*****K.G. McAbee seems to breathe life into her unforgettable characters! From the opening sentence, until the last, it is non-stop thrills which is destined to captivate readers! I am proud to recommend it to everyone!*****
Larraine Stacey: title - The Chaos Scroll
(Bk 1 of The Poppan Valley Trilogy)
Long ago a huge war erupted when a Seer named Var tried to control all. At the end of it Var was defeated, but not destroyed. Power was considered too tempting for any mortal to keep. So each Seer wrote out his knowledge. No one was allowed to share their knowledge or spells with another. Then it was all joined together and hidden in a safe place, under guard. It became known as The Chaos Scroll. It was the only known protection against Var. Master Elzabar was a powerful Seer. He had a vision and a prophecy was made!
Var had learned the secret for eternal life. After four hundred years, most of the Seers were dead, and Var returned to Poppan Valley for revenge! He began by kidnaping Briana, a married woman whom he coveted. Her husband was Zernue, the Keeper of the Valley. Their children would embark on a dangerous journey for help against Var and the dark riders. Laila and Tokar, as foretold, would battle magic, demons, and ultimately Var, himself. The world's fate would rest in their young hands!
**** A fanciful tale of magic! Personally, I believe this book is perfect for teens and young adults. However, all ages will find themselves intrigued. Lots of colorful characters and creatures to spark the imagination. Recommended! ****
Linnea Sinclair: title - Command Performance
The story began on the Triad Huntership Vaxxar. Captain Tasha "Sass" Sebastian had many secrets in her past. And that was where she wished them to remain! Her best friend just happened to be the ship's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eden Flynn. Stories abounded about the trouble the often found themselves, as well as, the unique ways they got out. Eden was an emplath with telepathic abilities which greatly helped her in her profession.
Admiral Branden Kel-Paten was referred to as the Tin Soldier. As a teen he had become bio-cybernetic, more computer than human. He was not supposed to feel emotions. So if anyone found out how he felt about Sass, he would be in for a "Section Forty-Six."
After surviving a vortex, they picked up the human pirate Jace Serafino, who was a rogue telepath with a deadly brain implant. Jace and Paten had known each other before. Neither like the other. However, after being attacked by Illithian fighters, they were thrown into an unknown section of space where they must put aside their differences if they intended to survive!
***** A remarkable piece of work! Sass and Eden each have a pet that resembles a cat with telepathy and intelligence. I especially loved those two fury creatures! Each character has their own quirks and personalities, that readers can easily come to care for. The only problem I have found with author Linnea Sinclair is that she cannot write fast enough for me. Highly recommended! *****
C.L. Scheel: title - Under A Warrior's Moon
Assur only expected to rescue one princess from those who had taken Alea hostage. Instead, he found two, Alea and her sister, Kitarisa. Only with Kita's help are he and his men able to get the princess they had been paid to save out of the fortress. Yet, Assur cannot leave such a bold and noble lady behind, and returns for her. Bringing the two ladies home finds their father less than grateful, since he now has to deal with the unwanted Kita when he had thought to be rid of her.
Assur offers to marry her, but before he can claim her, Kita's father seeks to spirit her away to a witch's coven and steal her lands. Only a brave friend saves her from doom. When Kitarisa does join her new lord, he is much more than she dreamed. They undertake the perilous journey home, but soon are called upon to go on a quest to stop the evil plans of the witches and evil lords. When Kita is called upon to rescue her husband, her journey takes her into the heart of the very place she sought to avoid, and calls upon her to learn more about herself than she ever dreamed. Yet, in the end, victory is only achieved by great sacrifice, and the price may separate Assur and his beloved forever.
*** If you love action driven plots, this will suit you to a tee. Those who prefer more character development and relationship-based stories may have a hard time. Despite this, it is clear what that Kita is among the most noble of heroines, and the love between her and Assur is a powerful force. This is a well written promising debut. ***
K.G. McAbee: title - The Plausible Prince
Matthias “Matt” Southers was a professor of Medieval Literature. He taught Remedial English and Literature at Arkwright. So, of course it is reasonable that he enjoyed the hobby of “role playing” in “Dungeons And Dragons” type games all his life. And that life changed forever one evening in a library.
Verene was an adept of the Order Of Marankwar. His talent of “the Arts” was great. He seemed to know everything of everybody and never told the full truth about anything. Using “the Arts” he searched the worlds until he found Matt, who was the spitting image of the prince. Verene and Captain Imre then confronted Matt in a library to request his assistance for their world.
Matt soon found himself on a world called Urrathe, imitating Prince Methos. It seemed that a great wizard, Gremian Brecc, had taken over within the last six years. Now only a small rebel band (led by Commander Hawkmoon), Verene, Captain Imre, and a few noble houses stand against Brecc. Prince Methos was believed dead and had been the last of the royal line. Matt was needed to BE Prince Methos and lead the troops into battle against, not only humans, but also griffins, dragons, ogres, trolls, dwarves, dire wolves, centaurs, and probably a roc or two!
The more Matt learned about his double, the less Matt liked him. And the longer he played the role of prince, the more he longed to remain and be prince in truth! Things may never be the same on Urrathe again!
***** Excellent! Fast paced, exciting battles, and a touch of romance are blended together to make this a story to remember! It leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction and hungry for more! *****
Joan Powell: title - Return Of The Goddess Trilogy
Grand Princess Iona had just finished her sixteenth Natal-Day Celebration when her cousin, Prince Brier, demanded her to marry him! Her father, was off fighting the Kerdsman with the best of his troops. Those left with Iona were no match for the Prince, the huge Gibraleran at his side, and the men he brought with him. Iona's refusal moved Brier to lock her in her own tower until she yielded. Having no knowledge of weaponry, she used her wits to delay the wedding date in hopes that her father would rescue her.
Unknown to Princess Iona, the huge mirror in the tower was magical. In it, she met her other self, her other half, that lived on a different plane of existence. Her name was Princess Anore. Anore was a master at fighting and arms. Iona was the White Dragoness. Anore was the Dark Dragoness. To save both worlds they must become one! The biggest problem was that their mother, the Dragon, died eight years ago and was thus unable to teach Iona and Anore what they needed to know. Only Kuscus, the pet cat-like Siamonk, could travel through the mirror and help the two.
***** An exciting and magical Fantasy of two young women who are really each one-half of a dragon! It ends during a climatic battle that will continue during Part Two. I highly recommend the story! It is WELL worth it! *****
This book continued where Book 1 left off. Iona and Anore have switched sides of the portal. Iona explained to Lirpha (her telepathic, horse-like warrior) and Kuscus (her talking cat) enough that they work with her. She met Dragontroth, the enchanted sword that came to her hand at command and together the group prepared for war. Grand Princess Iona and Realmsman Blackhawk have gotten closer and a romance began.
Grand Mah-desetta Anore also had an attraction with someone. She had conquered Prince Eric Sweetbrier (the villain of Book 1) and his giant guard, Kenderhielm. The two villains had pledged themselves to Anore's service, after she beat them thoroughly on the battlefield one-on-one.
It also appeared that Dragontroth can appear to Iona AND Anore. The portal did not stand in its way. The sword's mate, Dragonguard, has the same enchantment, but responded to only Realmsman Blackhawk. Iona must rescue Dragonguard. Anore must rescue the Grand King Anders.
***** Book 3 should conclude this amazing trilogy. As much as I enjoyed Book 1, I found Book 2 much more exciting! More battles and strategies are in this one. However, much is still left unresolved. Terrific reading! *****
In book three, Iona is still in Anore's body. She seaches for the Gand Maheid Rathmiester and for Dragonguard. A powerful wizard, Nickademus the Bold, holds them captive. She travels with Kuscus and her Equestadorian (stallion) as they meet several new life forms and trudge along in their quests.
Anore is still in Iona's body. She travels with an eight foot tall man-beast, a ferocious Dirkshire Hound, and a young boy as they battle their foes in hopes of defeating Nickademus. The Anore loves, Prince Eric Sweetbrier, has snuck away and Anore fears he has betrayed them all.
Somehow, the two matriarchs are destined to end the Great Chaos. They are to join their separate consciousness and become the double headed dragon, Goddess Anoona! Otherwise, all the Realm suffers!
***** Book Three takes all the climatic power, that slowly built up within the first two, and brings them together for a thunderous conclusion! Take a deep breath before beginning this one, because you will not want to put it down! Do I recommend it? OH YEAH! *****
K.G. McAbee: title - Mage Of The Nexus: Journey To Malmillard
Lord Erek of Taragreen had shown talent in magic. His aunt, Lady Ivera, had tutors brought in to teach Erek only what a high born family considered appropriate. But Magister Andru realized that the young boy showed potential to surpass even the talents of magisters! Erek could become one of the rare master adepts! Andru feared for the boy because most noble families would rather murder their children or other family members than let them become a master adept. Lady Ivera was such a one. So Erek and Andru sought out a Commander in the Queen's Armies of the North!
Commander DiaVandryn was one of the Queen's best! Two of her men, Captain Ursyn and Captain Vlad, dwelled in her manor. They kept each other in trim and fighting form. Many plotted and were determined to have Queen Viianne dethroned. Dia was just as determined to keep Her Majesty alive and well. When her dearest friend, Andru, asked for her help in delivering Erek safely to Malmillard Academy, she immediately agreed! Dia knew from experience the danger that the young lord was in. Thus began a perilous journey over mountains, plains, and sea. All the while evil tracked them from behind. Magical evil that sought the deaths of them all ... and eventually the Queen's.
***** Fantasy gets no better than this! K.G. McAbee sucks her readers into her magical realm, never to escape! I could almost believe the author to be a sorceress, herself! This adventure holds onto its readers tighter than Super Glue! Each character has their own personality and history. Each have their own quirks and wit. You won't want to put this story down! Highly recommended! Destined for the "Keeper" shelves! *****
Michelle Levigne: Title - Heir Of Faxinor
Andrixine was the heir of Faxinor. She never wanted to marry. Instead she wished for the life of a warrior. She wanted to become one of the Sword Sisters. Already Andrixine had earned her warrior braids. Good thing, since someone was trying to kill her.
Andrixine's party was traveling home from Snowy Mount Monastery when they were attacked. Andrixine was able to get her younger sister to safety, but her mother was kidnapped. She returned to the monastery for help in rescuing her mother and came face-to-face with her destiny! The magical Spirit Sword chose Andrixine to become the new Sword Bearer and lead her people in the upcoming war.
Disguised as a boy and traveling with (and learning from) the previous Sword Bearer, Andrixine began to fulfill her duty to the Spirit Sword and her people.
**** Now THIS is an awesome story! The author took the unlikely combination of a princess and a valkyrie and somehow managed to make it work! In doing so, Michelle Levigne has proven to be very gifted in her chosen field of writing amazing stories! In fact, I understand that there may be more upcoming books set in the Faxinor realm! I can only hope this will be true and will closely be keeping my eyes on the store bookshelves for more books from this author! ****
Joshua J. Marsh: Title - Tapestry Of Power
Lairannare is ruled by Powers. They are the three most powerful wielders of magic in the Realm of Earth. Now a war of the Three Powers begins. Orion finds himself with the help of Princess Mystia. Three Realms is in the shadows, hanging onto what its fate will be.
**** Take a trip to the world of Orion to experience the magic and mysterious ways of medieval life. Tapestry of Power will bring the reader into another lifetime. Fantasy at its best. ****
Elaine Corvidae: Winter's Orphans
Mina Cole thought she was just another indentured factory slave. But in rare moments of rage or terror she could feel something snap inside her and incredible things happened. Mina had been an orphan for years and the only person in the world who cared about her was Abby, her best friend. Both worked long hours in a factory for small wages in hopes of someday paying off their Contracts of Indenture, a place to sleep, and perhaps one meal a day. But it all changed during a moment of fear. The iron indentured collar Mina wore could no mute the waves of magic Mina released and the Hounds were sent out to hunt her.
Duncan RiDahn used to be a nobleman. Now he was but a crippled old man in a wheelchair who begged for money, squatted in an abandoned theater, and was Mina's only hope of survival. Duncan felt the shock wave of Mina's power and knew the evil Queen Rhiannon would send out the Hounds. He and one of his students, Bryan, rescued her and began to teach her.
The Fae (faery) were usually human-like, but came in two different types. The Seelie could control fire and air, heat and light. The Unseelie could control earth and water, cold and night. Mina was half human, half unseelie. Duncan taught her how to use her powers to hide from the royal family and survive. The royal family was seelie and thought they had either killed at the unseelie or turned them into Knights and Hounds. With Mina's presence felt, the hunt was on for her and all the unseelie faelings feared being found.
But Duncan knew more about Mina than he told. Mina was not only unseelie, she was a dyana! Her magic was more powerful than any other. If Mina ever willed it so, she could control the minds of all the unseelie faelings for her use, and she could create dark things to kill! She was dangerous to everyone! But Duncan's love for Mina refused to let him kill her, no matter what!
***** It gets no better than this! Like all good books, this one started out in the middle of excitement to hook me quickly. The author created characters that I could easily sympathize with and care for. I got so deeply involved in the story that I was startled whenever reality intruded upon my reading! That shows amazing writing talent! This book is destined to win awards, Readers! This one goes on my "Keeper Shelf" to be reread many times. Keep your eye on author Elaine Corvidae! Highly recommended! *****
Rie Sheridan: The Blood That Binds
Norfulk Roderickson was an evil man with great powers. Determined to rule the Human AND the Elven kingdoms, he put his plans into motion early.
Elven Prince Steavil was five-years-old when he traveled with his mother, the Queen, and Norfulk attacked them. His mother gave him a magical pendant to wear and stressed to Steavil never to take it off. She then hid him and went to meet her fate. Only Steavil survived the attack. The pendant kept him hidden from Norfulk's magic. But a fall left Steavil with amnesia.
King Frederick (human) found him. He was called Stefan and was raised in the castle. Stefan became Prince Roland's page. The two grew up together. Roland was still arrogant, but was trying to change. They were sent out by the king with the river traders to negotiate a fur trade. Norfulk had them attacked to murder Roland. However, Stefan, Roland, and Collyn (one of the river traders) lived.
Soon the humans and the elves must unite if either side was to defeat the evil Norfulk. Prejudices must be overcome and fears vanquished or all would be lost forever!
*** The story line is great and the plot is sound, however, there is way too much back tracking in this book. Roland would go to the Elves then quickly decide he had to return to his father. But en route to his father, he would quickly decide he needed to return to the Elven Princess. Upon arriving he would decide he needed to reach his father, the King.
Other than feeling as though I were traveling from one kingdom to the next often, the story was rich in magic, romance, duty, battles, and legends! Steavil was a strong character that I liked immediately and readers will easily relate to him and all he must go through. A great story well worth the time to read! ***
Elizabeth A. Merz: The Last Gate
Ver dala Ven were a race of magical beings. They were high in numbers. They lived among the Ordinary Ones. Their eyes bespoke of the race in which they belonged. They helped the Ordinary Ones by using their abilities as healers, advisors, seers, and even as servants. It all ended when Daka Redd's love of war caused Betnoni to prophecies before ending her life. Beginning with Redd, one child from each generation of dakas would die. The Ver dala Ven race would dwindle and only one would be born each generation instead of millions. The spirit guide, known as the Massing Star, would fall silent. Her name would be as a curse to the world, until the day the truth became known. To her son, she left a prophecy. He was to pass the prophecy to his children and children's children. They were to remain alert for the signs that told of the prophecy's possible ending. To end it, the seven steps in the prophecy must be fulfilled.
After 2000 years the signs began. This was Ver dala Ven Cobo's generation. He had one son by a daka, who was to be the next Ver dala Ven. But the son was untrained and greedy. As the prophecy signs began, it would be up to Ver dala Ven Cobo, the slave race of Shodites, and a select few others to fulfill the seven steps without fail or all would be doomed.
***** This is a HUGE book! Over 700 pages and every single one held me engrossed! Non-stop action, intrigue, and strategies! I hated to see the book end! *****
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