Deathstalker: Too much like NIGHTSIDE

Deathstalker by Simon R. Green

The galactic empire is ruled by a brutal empress, a woman who terrorizes both the peasants and nobles who bow down to her. She’s the kind of ruler who decorates her palace with the tortured bodies of her dead enemies. Or she brainwashes them, augments their bodies and, as she sits on her Iron Throne, requires them to sit naked at her feet and protect her. Or, if she’s feeling merciful, she summons them to her throne room and, when they board her personal subway car to make the journey, has them gassed. They call her The Iron Bitch. She’s really mean.

One of her most recent targets is Owen Deathstalker, a quiet and studious young man who is the last “Deathstalker,” a lineage with a genetic gift that allows them to turn on a power “boost” when fighting an enemy. Owen wants to be a historian, not a rebel like his father, but the empress doesn’t like what he’s studying. When she strips ... Read More

Foreigner: A familiar culture with outstanding characters

Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh

“Sometimes the clothes do not make the man…” sang George Michael. Fortunately the cover of C.J. Cherryh’s literary sci-fi offering Foreigner can boast the same. The story contained within is (pun intended) light years from the throwback sci-fi cover. And the back cover is only slightly better than the front. The Publisher’s Weekly quote reads: “Cherryh’s gift for conjuring believable alien cultures is in full force here, and her characters… are brought to life with a sure, convincing hand.” Copy which is often overstated, and this statement is only partially true. The first part is a twisted untruth (or an insult to traditional Japanese culture), while the second part strikes the truth square on the head. In other words, ignore the publisher’s contribution to Cherryh’s 1994 Foreigner... Read More

The Invisibles (Vol. 1): Say You Want a Revolution by Grant Morrison

The Invisibles (Vol. 1): Say You Want a Revolution by Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison gained recognition in the United States for revamping the flagging title Animal Man. He's now known also for some of his early, quirky Vertigo titles such as Doom Patrol and The Invisibles. I don't know why it's taken me so long to sit down and start The Invisibles, but I'm glad I did. At the moment, I've read only the first eight issues that comprise volume one of Read More

Monster (Vol. 1): The Perfect Edition by Naoki Urasawa

Monster (Vol. 1): The Perfect Edition by Naoki Urasawa

Warning: This review is spoiler heavy, but I wanted to write a review of volume one that could let you know if you might want to read the entire series. You can read safely up to the first place I've marked for spoilers. There's another place I warn of even more spoilers, so you have two places you might want to stop reading.

Monster by Naoki Urasawa is an award-winning manga that was written from 1994-2001, and once completed, it was eighteen volumes long. It is now being re-released in the United States, and I'm very pleased: I have read some of Urasawa's other work, and it's not average manga. He is known for both 20th Century Boys, of which I have read a little, and Read More

The Fire Rose: A Beauty and the Beast retelling

The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS is a series of ten (so far) novels that take place on an alternate Earth where some people are born with the ability to learn to control fire, water, air, or earth. Each book is also a fairytale retelling, though you may not notice that if you’re not looking for it in the story.

The first ELEMENTAL MASTERS novel, The Fire Rose, is based on “Beauty and the Beast” and is set in 1905-1906 San Francisco. Years before, Jason, a Firemaster (the “beast” of the story), was experimenting with a dangerous magic spell. He managed to curse himself and has been living as a man-wolf ever since (this is obvious from the book’s horrid cover, so I’m not spoiling anything here). He has been searching for a way to reverse the spell, but his beastly shape makes it difficult to search his grimoires for information. (The book cover shows him with hands,... Read More

Majestrum: An homage to Vance

Majestrum by Matthew Hughes

Majestrum is a relatively short science fantasy set in our own far-future universe which has been colonized far and wide by humans from Old Earth. The protagonist, Henghis Hapthorn, is a “discriminator” (“he unravels conundrums, picks apart puzzles, uncovers enigmas”) who uses his keen logical skills to solve mysteries.

But some strange stuff is going on: Mr Hapthorn's integrator (a sentient computer which assists him in his work) has recently donned flesh and blood and become more like a familiar than a computer. Also, the small intuitive part of Henghis's psyche has suddenly asserted itself as a separate personality which shares Henghis's brain and body. These occurrences seem to indicate that sympathetic association (magic), which waxes and wanes across the eons, is now rising again. And soon Henghis Hapthorn's double personality and his familiar find themselves hunt... Read More

Into the Land of Unicorns: Not rainbows and candy-floss

Into the Land of Unicorns by Bruce Coville

The wanderer is weary...

I had just finished reading THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy and was in search of something lighter to read — and what could be lighter than a book about unicorns, right? Well, Into the Land of the Unicorns is squarely aimed at a seven-to-ten year old reading range, but it manages to have a certain level of depth and darkness that certainly elevates it above the usual "rainbows and candy-floss" favour that usually surrounds the subject of unicorns.

Bruce Coville is a prolific children's author, perhaps best known for his MAGIC SHOP books and MY TEACHER IS AN ALIEN series. With THE UNICORN CHRONICLES he turns to the subject of unicorns (duh) in crafting a four-part story about a young girl and her adventures in ... Read More

A Prince Among Men: Relentlessly ho-hum

A Prince Among Men by Robert N. Charrette

Aside from some rather grotesque cover art, there’s really not anything particularly wrong with A Prince Among Men. Unfortunately, it’s equally difficult to think of anything that it actually does right. It’s a relentlessly ho-hum sort of novel, reasonably diverting while it’s in front of you but always giving the lingering sensation that if an overenthusiastic friend or a speeding bicycle messenger were to come along and knock it flying from your hands into a storm drain, you wouldn’t feel any particular sense of loss, just a kind of unfocused irritation for the two seconds it took you to forget about the book entirely. This is a bit of a shame, as the premise actually seems pretty fun.

The basic idea is that somewhere in a vaguely sketched future run primarily through Asian corporate interests, a sorceress is plotting to reawaken King Arthur i... Read More

The Forbidden Game: A frantic and exciting story

The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith

Well, I do have to thank the Twilight phenomena for one thing at least, and that's that the collected trilogies of Lisa Jane Smith have been pulled out of the Simon and Schuster publishing vault, given brand spanking new covers, and re-released for both a new reading audience, and old-time fans who are ready to fill in the gaps on their bookshelves.

Out of all Smith's body of work, it was The Forbidden Game that I was least familiar with. First published as a trilogy, the middle book was on the shelf of my school library, but the preceding and concluding installments were impossible to get hold of. For the last six years or so, all I had experienced was a story with no beginning and no end. As such, it was with immense satisfaction that I settled down with all three books handily bound togeth... Read More

Aurian: Fine popcorn entertainment

Aurian by Maggie Furey

Aurian is a highly entertaining story that, with a boundless sense of "sky's the limit" confidence, unapologetically runs the gamut from heroic high adventure to bodice-ripper (which is, I'm told, a very pejorative term amongst the romance set, but hey). It’s a great guilty pleasure. Don't think I'm belittling this book, people. Sure, it's about as arch and melodramatic a novel as you're likely to find without the Silhouette imprint on the cover. But Maggie Furey, in what was her debut novel, works it like a seasoned pro. Aurian is perhaps the ne plus ultra of the trend towards fantasy-romance crossover. I enjoyed myself immensely the whole time, in the way one only can when confronted with entertainment so shameless in its sentiment and energetic in its appeal to your limbic system that your only two choices are to set the thing on fire or giv... Read More

The Godmother: Fairy tales with a dash of social consciousness

The Godmother by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

In traditional fairy tales, fairy godmothers show up when they are least expected but most needed, to right wrongs and assist those in peril. Enter Felicity Fortune. Summoned to Seattle by a sweet but burned-out young social worker named Rose, she sets out to solve problems both modern and ageless with magic and kindness.

Felicity discovers many young people in danger in the city. Hank and Gigi have been abandoned by their mother and kidnapped by a child molester. Cindy has just been fired from her job by her own stepsisters and booted out of her family home. Snohomish is hiding in the woods from a hit man hired by her jealous supermodel stepmom. Dico is living on the streets, unable to get any breaks... until he meets a magic cat. Any of this sound familiar? ;)

In this entertaining and sometimes thought-provoking novel, we see that today's problems are not as new as we mig... Read More

The Sword of Maiden’s Tears: Pamela Dean meets a slasher movie

The Sword of Maiden's Tears by Rosemary Edghill

I've become a bit of a Rosemary Edghill fan lately, so I opened the cover of this foray into urban fantasy with anticipation. It takes place in New York in the eighties (take note of the clothing styles for a nostalgic chuckle). Thrust into the teeming streets of New York City is elfin lord Melior — and of course, as an out-of-towner, he gets mugged almost instantly. The mugger steals his magic sword and leaves him bruised and shaken. Melior is taken in by a young grad student, Ruth, and gets to know her and her circle of friends.

This circle of friends is the best part of the book. Ruth, Philip, Jane, Naomi, and Michael are all intelligent misfits, drawn together by the feeling that they don't fit in anywhere else, and sharing a tight but often uneasy bond. The unofficial "den mother" of the bunch is Naomi; the group spends most of their time at Naomi's apartment,... Read More