This Virtual Night: An entertaining SF thriller

This Virtual Night by C.S. Friedman

C.S. Friedman’s This Virtual Night (2020) is billed as book two in her OUTWORLDS/ALIEN SHORES series but these novels are, so far, stand-alone stories set in the same universe. Thus, you don’t need to have read the first book, This Alien Shore (1998), though I’d recommend doing so anyway because it was fabulous. All you need to know about Friedman’s world is that, long ago, the humans who left Earth to colonize other galaxies evolved in ways that their fellow humans who remained on Earth find repulsive. There is little communication or cooperation between Earth and the outworld “Variants,” though some people on earth are trying to reconcile the two groups.

In t... Read More

Year of the Griffin: A sweet boarding school fantasy

Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones

Year of the Griffin (2000) is a sequel (of sorts) to Diana Wynne JonesDark Lord of Derkholm, a satirical fantasy aimed at children and young adults, but just as enjoyable for grown-ups. Year of the Griffin is different — it’s not a satire and, for that reason, probably isn’t as appealing to adults, but I still enjoyed it. It’s what I like to call a boarding school fantasy, in the vein of HARRY POTTER. You don’t need to read Dark Lord of Derkholm first.

Year of the Griffin begins eight years after the events of Dark Lord of Derkholm and stars one of Derk’s c... Read More

The Second Summoning: Some great characters, but a little too silly

The Second Summoning by Tanya Huff

Note: This review will contain mild spoilers for the previous book, Summon the Keeper.

I was entertained by Tanya Huff’s first KEEPER’S CHRONICLES novels, Summon the Keeper, about a woman named Claire whose job, as a Keeper, is to travel around closing evil holes in the fabric of the universe when they pop up around Canada and the US. In Summon the Keeper, Claire and her talking cat (Austin) were “summoned” to a bed & breakfast which was endangered by a portal to Hell that had opened in the furnace room. I liked the B&B setting, the cat (I’ve never met a cat I ... Read More

Planetary: The Fourth Man, Volume 2

Planetary: The Fourth Man, Volume 2 by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday

Having just written a review of Volume 1 of Planetary by Warren Ellis, I didn’t think I’d feel any need to write a review of Volume 2; however, I just finished reading Planetary: The Fourth Man, Volume 2 again and feel that it certainly deserves a review of its own. Please read my first review to get a full picture of the complex nature of this profound yet quickly-paced comic book. To summarize briefly, the title refers to a three-person team of mystery archeologists who attempt to uncover the secret history of the twentieth century. That secret history ranges from popular culture to haunted cities to mad scientists... Read More

Lord of Emperors: So much drama and passion

Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay

Lord of Emperors is the second (and final) novel in Guy Gavriel Kay’s THE SARANTINE MOSAIC duology. The story, set in a pseudo-Byzantine Empire, mostly centers on Crispin, a mosaicist from a neighboring kingdom who’s been commissioned to decorate the ceiling of a new chapel the emperor is building. Against his wishes, Crispin has been drawn into the Sarantine court’s political intrigue. In this second installment, the political turmoil finally comes to a head and Crispin’s life is, once again, drastically altered by events he can’t control. Not only are his and his friends’ lives in danger, but the changing political climate has major consequences for his art.

While reading Sailing to Sarantium, the first book in the THE SARANTINE MOSAIC, I had a hard time believing in the characters and the drama ... Read More

First Rider’s Call: High epic fantasy with a strong heroine

First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain

After impressing King Zachary with her courage in Green Rider, Karigan G'ladheon has been sent north on a diplomatic mission. When her companions make the bad decision to camp in a magical place, a dark supernatural force is inadvertently loosed upon the world. It seems to be linked to Mornhavon the Black, who used evil magic to try to conquer Sacoridia a thousand years ago. Back then he was captured and walled into the Blackveil Forest, but now he is working his way free through a breach in the wall. Karigan’s friend Alton D’Yer has been sent to the wall to try to repair it. Meanwhile the whole country is experiencing strange magical events that are frightening the people and undermining their faith in the king. The Riders are experiencing problems with magic, too — suddenly their powers have become unreliable. And, most frightening of all, there’s a secret band of Sacoridi... Read More

The Lost Heiress: Doesn’t quite match the excellence of the first book

The Lost Heiress by Catherine Fisher

The Lost Heiress, Catherine Fisher’s follow-up to The Dark City, picks up the action a short while after the close of the first book. Galen, Raffi, and the Sekoi have left the city of Tasceron behind, while Carys has returned to the Watch. The book opens with a bang when Raffi and the others steal back the blue box relic from Alberic, the dwarf thief-lord who had stolen it from them in book one. Some time after that, Carys informs them that the Watch has discovered that the Emperor — long ago deposed — has a living granddaughter. The story then splits in two. One half follows Galen, Raffi, and the Sekoi as they try to find the titular character, all while avoiding both the Watch and Alberic, who is hot on their trail seeking revenge. Meanwhile, Carys is posted to the Tower of Song, a center of Watch activity and recordkeeping, and once... Read More

Blade of Tyshalle: Heavy with philosophical and psychological themes

Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Woodring Stover

Several years after the events in Heroes Die, Hari Michaelson, known as Caine on the fantastical inter-dimensional planet called Overworld, is now wheelchair bound. Despite this he still holds onto administrator status in the martially enforced caste system of Earth’s grimly overpopulated and ultra-corporate controlled future. When Hari/Caine discovers a plot to gain control of Overworld’s desperately scarce natural resources by infesting its people with a deadly virus, all hell breaks loose. Caine’s many enemies take the opportunity to strike at him, targeting his wife, the Overworld goddess Pallas Ril, and their daughter. In Blade of Tyshalle, the fate of Overworld hangs in the balance as the conflict escalates to include ancient and forgotten gods.

Handicapped and getting older, Caine remains as tough, mean, and defiant as eve... Read More

Divided Allegiance: Make sure you have the next book!

Divided Allegiance by Elizabeth Moon

I have previously reviewed Elizabeth Moon’s entire The Deed of Paksennarion, the trilogy of which Divided Allegiance is the middle book. Brilliance Audio sent us a copy of their audio book version of the story, and I was planning on listening to the first CD or two to review the quality of the production since I have read the whole series probably ten times now. But that is not what happened. Not only did I listen to the whole book, I broke out book three and read that again as well.

I have always been pleased with the quality of Brilliance Audio’s recordings. Jennifer Van Dyck’s narration is excellent, with easy shifts o... Read More

Dragon and Phoenix: Slow To Begin, But Well Done Overall

Dragon and Phoenix by Joanne Bertin

Joanne Bertin's Dragonlord plot has been rather weak overall. However, Dragon and Phoenix is a huge improvement on The Last DragonLord.

The Dragonlords are no longer the sole concern and in fact, they are hardly mentioned for a good deal of the novel. They're much less overbearing this time around and while the whole "soultwin" bit is still silly, it isn't quite as absurd as it was throughout The Last DragonLord.

There is an intricate plot, full of intrigue, woven through this book, which is both a blessing and a curse. It strengthens the story in some ways, but also weakens it. The intrigue is so well done that the Dragonlords' part in it feels tacked on like an afterthought. Joanne Bertin may have done be... Read More

A Sterkarm Kiss: Doesn’t hold up well

A Sterkarm Kiss by Susan Price

The novel that preceded this, The Sterkarm Handshake was an explosive, riveting and nail-biting story based around the concept of the cultural clash that would follow 21st century time travelers attempting to exploit the riches and opportunities that the past had to offer. The corporation FUP had completed a Time Tube that would transport employees into the past of a different dimension, in order to explore the possibilities that the unspoilt land offered. Only one thing stood in their way; the fierce and treacherous Sterkarms who were not prepared to stop their feuding and troublemaking just because a bunch of "Elves" asked them to.

The scientific ramifications of a time traveling device was not the focus of the novel; instead Susan Price focused solely on the interactions between past and present, and the impossible odds that her protagonist Andrea Mitchell had to face in ... Read More

Wolf Star: Muddled but interesting story

Wolf Star by Tanith Lee

Wolf Star (also published as Wolf Star Rising) is the second of four books known as the Claidi Journals, stories told in the format of a diary by the young escaped-slave Claidi and her travels throughout a fantasy world in search of her origins and a home of her own. In the first installment, Wolf Tower, which you really must read if you want to understand what's going on in this story, Claidi escaped the confines of the House with the handsome Nemian, only to find that his intentions for her were less than honourable. Taking her to his dismal city and the matriarch Ironel, Claidi found that the inexorable Law of the Wolf Tower made her the new distributor of the cruel and unnecessary rules that governed the land.

Destroying the mechanisms that put the Law in place, Claidi made her escape wit... Read More

Wit’ch Storm: Immensely enjoyed

Wit'ch Storm by James Clemens

As much as I enjoyed Wit'ch Fire, the first part of James Clemens' The Banned and the Banished, it has to be said that this is better.

Wit'ch Storm picks up the tale of Elena Morinstal shortly after where the last book left off. Once again, the prologue intimates that the reader is party to a text that has been banned for being dangerous and is clearly not true — a hook I have found effective every time Clemens has used it. I not only want to know what happens within the book itself, but I want to get to the end of the series to know (1) who is the writer we are told is a liar and (2) what happened to make the tale so dangerous?

At any rate, I was drawn in inside a few pages, and that is very difficult to do. The plot is, as before, fast and frenetic an... Read More

Stormchaser: Large improvement over the first book

Stormchaser by Paul Stewart

Stormchaser is the second book of the Edge series and it is a vast improvement over book one — Beyond the Deepwoods. The book picks up a few years after Twig's adventures in Beyond the Deepwoods. He is now sailing aboard the skyship of his recently-discovered sky-pirate father and has exchanged the monster-horrors of the Deepwoods with the more human horrors of city-life, pollution, and corruption (though monsters still make the occasional appearance).

Whereas Beyond the Deepwoods suffered from being overly episodic, plunging Twig into one-unrelated confrontation after another, Stormchaser is much more focused and has a much better sense of narrative. The famed sky city Sanctaphrax is at risk of breaking its m... Read More