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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street, East Providence, RI 02914

 LAST UPDATE 12/17/11  

The Crowfield Demon by Pat Walsh, Chicken House, 2011, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-545-31769-6

Ivy and the Meanstalk by Dawn Lairamore, Holiday House, 2011, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-8234-2392-7

Back to the stack of YA books, this time two more fantasies, both the second in a series. The first is the sequel to The Crowfield Curse and involves a young boy who has the power to see magical creatures invisible to the rest of the world. He is befriended by a hobgoblin apparently met in the first book, as well as some fairy types.  Now he discovers the existence of a demonic creature in the local church. This one is pretty good, suspenseful, well plotted, and with a nice touch of mystery.  Almost creepy enough to call it horror. The second title is a reimagining of the obvious fairy tale, told in a fairy tale style, and follow up to Ivy's Ever After. It's lightweight and mildly amusing but essentially a low key quest story and not nearly as good as its predecessor. 12/17/11

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby, Scholastic, 2011, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-545-27424-1

Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien, Roaring Brook, 2011, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-59643-570-4

 Two young adult fantasies, both parts of series, one of which I have not previously seen, so my appreciation of the second title is necessarily constrained. The first is a followup to The Clockwork Three and describes the adventures of three royal children sent to a remote fortress during a war. Their hideaway is imperiled by the presence of a traitor among their entourage and the protagonists no longer know whom to trust. I really liked the first in this series and this one is even better. One of the best YA fantasy novels I've read in a long time that wasn't by J.K. Rowling.  The second title is the middle volume of another trilogy. A sixteen year old girl and her younger sister have apparently escaped a totalitarian city only to find themselves in another, although initially it looks more appealing. It's a matriarchy but a prudish one with very strict codes of behavior. There's less physical action and suspense in this one than in Kirby's novel, but more mystery and character depth. I didn't like it quite as much, and I wish I'd read its predecessor first, but it's still one of the better YA fantasies of the year.  12/15/11

Liar's Moon by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Arthur Levine, 2011, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-545-13608-2

I've accumulated a small stack of young adult fantasies so it's time to look at a few.  The first is actually pretty good, sequel to StarCrossed, which I haven't seen. The protagonist is a young pickpocket in a fairly typical fantasy realm who finds herself spending a night in jail in a cell next to a nobleman who has been convicted of killing his wife.  She once benefited from his help and doesn't believe that he's guilty, so when she is released she sets about solving the crime before he can be executed unjustly. Not surprisingly, the investigation turns up more complexities than she anticipated and results in danger and romance. The mystery is interesting, the setting adequately realistic and detailed, and the protagonist is a well defined character.  I liked this one considerably. 12/14/11

Lightbringer by K.D. McEntire, Pyr, 2011, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-61614-539-2

Pyr enters the young adult market with this new fantasy novel, which mildly overlaps into horror. The protagonist is a young girl who sees dead people, their spirits anyway, not the most original idea but still a potentially interesting one. It moves more firmly into fantasy in short order as we learn of the existence of a state of quasi-living called the Never, and our protagonist begins to feel romantically attached to one of its residents, even though she knows it is a kind of way station where no one should remain for long. Add a dose of creepy critters who prey on the souls of the dead and the outline of the rest of the story should be fairly obvious.  This is not written down noticeably and addresses some genuinely difficult questions.  One of the better YA fantasy novels I've read this year.

The Doctor and the Kid by Mike Resnick, Pyr, 2011, $16, ISBN 978-1-61614-537-8

Doc Holliday is back after his magical adventures at the OK Corral in The Buntline Special.  Although he had planned to retire, financial problems force him to consider bounty hunting, and the most attractive bounty is the one on Billy the Kid. Unfortunately Billy is protected by considerable magic so Doc has to use both magic, thanks to Geronimo, and science, a tip of the hat to Thomas Edison, in order to have any chance at all.  Resnick brings the old west to life, sort of, considering that it's not the west that really happened. As with all of his novels, the story flows so smoothly and efficiently that it's over almost before we realize what's happening. My first adult reading was paperback westerns and I'm still fond of Max Brand, so this rare blending of the two genres was predestined to appeal to me.  Not quite as good as its predecessor, but still lively and entertaining.  12/6/11

Endurance by Jay Lake, Tor, 2011, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2676-8

Green is back for another adventure, a kind of other worldly urban fantasy that is hard to classify but which overlaps with China Mieville and Alan Campbell without giving up its individuality. Green is a former slave and sex object who killed a local ruler and gained her freedom. Her world is full of living, physical gods - although the term is relative since these particular gods can be killed.  And someone is killing them and that frightens them into requiring that Green discover the identity of the killers and stop them. And therein lies the story. Some of the novelty of Green's world has worn off by now, but Lake compensates by giving us a stronger than usual story line, and Green herself continues to be an interesting character in an interesting setting.  This comes close to being my favorite Lake novel.  12/2/11

Infidel by Kameron Hurley, Night Shade, 2011, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-59780-224-6

Sequel to Gods' War, set in a world where warfare is the normal state of affairs. The protagonist is a retired assassin who obviously isn't fated to stay retired long. She's off on an expedition to another part of her magical world where she encounters ruffians, magicians, and giant insects, among other things. She's pitted against her fellow assassins in this one when they turn on the government. There are also shape changers and a few other plot devices to keep us guessing.  This is a wild adventure story that is frequently fraught with tension and while I enjoyed it considerably I thought it was a bit less focused than its predecessor, though not enough to make a significant difference. This is a kind of fantasy  that has been rather overdone in recent years, but it's always good news when someone finds a way to make it seem fresh and interesting. 11/27/11

Death's Heretic by James L. Sutter, Paizo, 2011, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-60125-369-9

One in a series of novels set in the Pathfinder computer game universe, but the first by Sutter. This one mixes traditional sword and sorcery with a bit of a detective story, a combination not always done well but frequently rewarding when it is. The protagonist is a typical angst ridden warrior who is coerced into helping the minions of a goddess. Someone has stolen a soul and wants to exchange it for a magic potion that imparts immortality. He is variously aided and hampered by a feisty young woman as he travels to a variety of worlds and meets a similar variety of characters. Pretty good adventure story and a nice puzzle.  11/21/11

Legends of the Dragonrealm Volume III by Richard A. Knaak, Gallery, 2011, $18.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-5

This is an omnibus collection that contains the eighth and ninth novels in this series, The Crystal Dragon and The Dragon Crown, plus three short stories. I read the novels when they first appeared but not the short stories, which apparently were written and copyrighted a few years later and never previously published.  The series is a very loose one and the subject matter varies from contention over the succession to a throne to the discovery of ancient magical artifacts of great power and the awakening of a race that supposedly vanished. Knaak is an old hand at this sort of thing and he handles the familiar subject matter with skill and some deft story telling. 

Fenrir by M.D. Lachlan, Pyr, 2011, $16, ISBN 978-1-61614-527-9

I've never really been a big fan of Viking fantasy, but I found the first in this series about a werewolf who becomes an influential warrior entertaining enough that I welcomed the arrival of this follow up.  The sequel is even better, involving the Viking siege of the city of Paris, and a good deal of the book is told from the French point of view. There's a crisis of confidence in the leadership because the siege has not been lifted, and a crisis of faith as well since God has not smitten their antagonists. There's a good deal of violent action, some elaborations of Norse mythology and actual history, and the interplay among various characters with different levels of competence and commitment. One of the best historical fantasies I've read in quite a while.  11/11/11

Stands a Shadow by Col Buchanan, Tor, 2011, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3106-9

Sequel to Farlander. This is another fantasy world wrecked by warfare, although the writing is sufficient skillful to prevent that from becoming an overriding cliche. Buchanan creates vivid characters as it appears a long siege is about to end with the collapse of the defenders. Or is it?  The first book contained a few twists so I took nothing for granted this time. The leader of the attackers is in turn targeted by an assassin, although he is torn by conflicting motives and rationalizations. In fact, a lot of the characters end up doubting the wisdom of their actions in the past and wondering if it is time to change course for the future. Which means that the reader can't reliably predict which way the plot will turn. Good action sequences and a gripping story line make this one exceptional.  11/9/11

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire, DAW, 2011, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7564-0683-7

Another urban fantasy, although this one has a more distinct individual flavor. This is the fifth October Daye novel, set in a version of our world where the lands of magic intersect with ours. Daye has become something of an aristocrat among the fey folk and she's settling into her new life when a kidnapping upsets the applecart. The victims are the children of the ruler of an undersea city and the prime suspect is the fey ruler of another on the land. If war is to be averted, someone has to discover the truth and, hopefully, return the two boys to their family. And naturally that somebody has to be our protagonist. And just as naturally, the parties behind the abduction are determined that she will fail, and perhaps perish in the process.  This one is pretty good but either I wasn't in the mood or it was not quite up to the quality of the earlier books in the series. Despite the fairly interesting mystery element, I had no trouble setting it aside from time to time, possibly because it seemed quite a bit longer than was necessary for the story. 11/7/11

Death Magic by Elaine Wilks, Berkley, 2011, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-24512-5

Heart of Darkness by Lauren Dane, Berkley, 2011, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-24451-7

I've been neglecting/avoiding urban fantasy for a while so my guilty conscience has me pulling a few of them out of the pile.  Both these authors are new to me, though not to the genre. The first is part of an ongoing series, the Lupi, and the second is the opening novel in another. Wilks' series involves an FBI agent who is romantically and professionally involved with nonhumans. She becomes aware of a secret organization supposedly fighting evil magic but since it operates illegally she is unwilling to join. Her lover, on the other hand, sees this as a chance to further the cause of his people. Then a prominent man is assassinated and their diverse paths begin to converge.  A fair mystery mixed up in this one but while it was certainly competently written it never really engaged my interest.  Dane's plot isn't all that different and there's a more overt romantic/erotic element. Her protagonist is investigating a man who appears to be using magic in a way that is against the rules of the magical community. During the course of this she finds a lover and an older woman who has become addicted to the use of magic and a potential threat to everyone around her.  This one is a livelier story and I liked it slightly better, but the romantic excursions are more intrusive and disruptive to the momentum of the story. Both should satisfy the romantic portion of the urban fantasy romance audience, but they're less likely to please fantasy fans.  11/6/11

Magebane by Lee Arthur Chane, DAW, 2011, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7564-0679-0

There's nothing particularly new in this new title from a new byline, apparently for Edward Willett, whose earlier work includes some so-so young adult fantasy.  This one's more ambitious.  After a war that ended with the containment of all magic behind a mystical barrier. A small realm exists within that containment, but there is no contact with the non-magic users that live beyond. Then a powerful sorcerer decides to remove the barrier and use their power to conquer the surrounding area. His nefarious plans are in readiness and he is ready to strike when an outsider manages to circumvent the barrier and arrive in the magic lands, and his advent changes the rules of the game entirely.  An entertaining if familiar mixture of intrigue and adventure with a suitably nasty but still quite human villain and several interesting supporting characters.  11/5/11

Thanquol's Doom by C.L. Werner, Black Library, 2011, $8.99, ISBN 978-1-84970-085-6

The Red Duke by C.L. Werner, Black Library, 2011, $8.99, ISBN 978-1-84970-074-0

Two Warhammer sword and sorcery novels by the same author although they have considerably different tones. The first is a pretty straightforward fantasy adventure.  There's a city under siege and a magical artifact that could affect the balance of power, and an intrigue among the besieging army that might change the rules of the game. This is part of a subset of the Warhammer universe involving the mage - Thanquol - and his various efforts to gain power. It's competently written and standard s&s fare.  I actually prefer Werner when he's being darker, which he often is, and the second title is a case in point The title refers to an ancient, evil vampire who has been dormant for a long time but who is restored to vitality by a sorceress and then launches a new wave of terror. No wimpy or touchy-feely vampire here but an evil undead with a thirst for fresh blood. One of his best. 10/29/11

The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff, DAW, 2011, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-7564-0686-8

I used to enjoy contemporary fantasy a lot more than I do now that urban fantasy has overwhelmed the genre, but there are a few writers like Charles De Lint and Tanya Huff who were here before the tide came in and will no doubt still be here when it recedes again. This is the sequel to The Enchantment Emporium, which is one of my favorite of her books, and features a family involved with witchcraft. There's some intergenerational conflict despite the family ties but the cracks become wider when members take opposite sides in a battle between offshore oil drillers and a tribe of selkies. This main plot is enveloped in several subsidiary stories including the travails of a folk band and the nefarious activities of the drilling company. Huff manages to hold everything together and the result is one of the more refreshing contemporary fantasies, which brushes against urban fantasy without embracing it.  More than worth your time. 10/27/11

The Hour of Dust and Ashes by Kelly Gay, Pocket, 2011, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-2547-9

The stack of urban fantasies has been growing so it's time to read a few.  This is the third in a series about Charlie Madigan - and I haven't read the previous ones - who works for a police force that deals with supernatural menaces. In this case it's a new drug which facilitates possession. This one's a bit more fantasy than urban, with excursions into mystical areas and some more than usually elaborate background weirdness.  The writing is more than competent although I occasionally felt I was missing something - probably references to the earlier books - and the plot is actually variant enough that it didn't feel like a simple retread.  10/25/11

The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer, Night Shade, 2011, $14,99, ISBN 978-1-59780-283-3

The conflict between those who wish to use magic and those who want it banned is not new to fantasy fiction, obviously, but it gets a few nice twists in this first novel, first in an inevitable series.  The protagonist is a mountain guide and sometimes smuggler who has a bigger job than usual when he agrees to smuggle a person across the border between two communities with radically different attitudes toward magic. Everyone, of course, has a deep dark secret.  The plot is familiar but well constructed and the best parts for me were the scenes set in the mountains. There are a lot of promising things in the book but I'd like to see a little more inventiveness in the story line.  10/24/11

Wolfheart by Richard A. Knaak, Gallery, 2011, $26, ISBN 978-1-4516-0575-4

This is a World of Warcraft tie-in novel, but it might just as well be a generic sword and sorcery adventure so you don't need to know anything about the game to enjoy it. The plot is nothing out of the ordinary. Negotiations are underway to form alliances among the various factions of elves and others, and an old wrongdoing threatens to fracture the fragile structure that has managed to maintain a balance of power. Within this overarching plot, we have a bit of a murder mystery and a few other subplots that all barrel along toward the ending. Knaak has been doing this sort of thing for a long time and he does it as well as anyone else in the business, but it's hard to get really excited about a mild variation of an overworked theme. 10/23/11

My Memories of a Future Life by Roz Morris, Red Season, 2011, ISBN 9781463784904

The theme of reincarnation is not among my favorites, either in fantasy or in horror. I'm not sure why that is, probably because the mechanism seems totally random and implausible, but I have no problem with other random and sometimes implausible speculations. Given the existence of reincarnation, however, we have some interesting situations for exploring human character and it's not surprising that most reincarnation novels are very much involved with psychology rather than overt action, which is the case here as well. The author turns the idea on its head a bit here. The protagonist doesn't remember a past life, she recognizes that she is the past life of something who has yet to be born. The novel is almost entirely inner directed, as the protagonist suffers an injury which prevents her from playing the music that is the focus of her life, forcing her to seek new anchors for her thoughts and ambitions.  An ambitious and mostly enthralling novel that reminded me at times of Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside.  1022/11

With Fate Conspire by Marie Brennan, Tor, 2011, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2537-2

A new Onyx Court novels, in which the world of fairies exists secretly below London during the last years of the Victorian age. The fairies have not revealed themselves to humans, who pose a threat to them, except for a chosen few. The balance has existed for centuries but the onset of the Industrial Age has put the equilibrium in jeopardy because the natural world is deteriorating and that poses a new threat to the hidden culture. Against the backdrop of one evolving, one collapsing civilization we follow the adventures of a young woman hunting for someone she believes was kidnapped and sold by the fairies. Neither humans nor fairies are all good or all evil, but it's obvious that many on both sides are going to become victims before the turmoil ends. Brennan does her usual fine job of evoking the era in which the story is set and peopling it with characters, human and otherwise, that engage our emotions as well as our intellect.  Nicely done in every way. 10/15/11

Fire Works in the Hamptons by Celia Jerome, DAW, 2011,$7.99, ISBN 978-0-7564-0688-2

This light hearted urban fantasy series, which is what used to be known as the Unknown style of fantasy adventure, stood out for me with the very first book and the third is the best yet. Willow Tate is an illustrator who can bring magical creatures into our world by drawing them, in both senses of the word. Her latest is a fire wizard which leads to a series of magical mishaps involving fire, until the secretive organization that deals with these things sends a man whose presence suppresses fire. But that leads to all sorts of new complications. There's a bunch of quirky subsidiary characters, amusing plot twists, and Keystone Kops type mayhem.  This is definitely not a series you want to lump in with the majority of recent urban fantasy, and it's guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.  10/14/11

Spellbound by Blake Charlton, Tor, 2011, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-1728-5

The first protagonist of this sequel to Spellwright, which I somehow missed, is a physician who uses magic to heal wounds, living an undistinguished life until she gets involved with a rogue magician and various supernatural entities.  The second is the magician himself, a somewhat tormented soul who has lots of enemies, human and otherwise, and who is trying to solve a problem from the past. There's a fairly sophisticated mythology governing this reality whose intricacies are gradually revealed to us.  Some of the dialogue is sharp and snappy and there are some unexpected twists to the plot.  It's not as ground breaking as the blurbs would suggest, but then again, novels rarely are and this one at least should keep you entertained. 10/13/11

Scholar by L.E. Modesitt Jr., Tor, 11/11, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2955-4   

I enjoyed the three Imager novels as much or better than anything else I’ve read by this author, so it was a promising sign that this new book – part of a new sequence – is set in that same universe, though centuries earlier in its history. The protagonist is involved in a diplomatic mission to reduce tensions among the various nations, but he also secretly has magical powers. Modesitt throws a lot of things at us – court intrigue, military posturing, a plot against the imagers, pirates, attempted murder, disasters and near disasters, and a few other tidbits to keep things moving. It’s an exciting if somewhat unfocused story that serves to set things up for the next book.  I liked it, but I left it with the not unexpected feeling that I’d only read part of a novel. 10/11/11

Slayers by C.J. Hill, Feiwel and Friends, 2011, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-312-61414-0

In ages long past, dragons were driven to the brink of extinction by an order of knights.  Only a handful of eggs has survived into our present and they remain dormant.  Or do they?  Recently they have fallen into the hands of those who might wish to see the dragons emerge again.  But the ancient order of knights is still around, including our teenaged protagonist who finds himself poised to prevent the emergence of humanity's greatest enemy. This is a nicely down young adult novel, well written and with a reasonably plausible plot and some interesting characters. For some reason it is printed in a very small and somewhat light font that made it difficult to read for long stretches, but the story was interesting enough that I kept coming back to it.  10/8/11

Vamparazzi by Laura Resnick, DAW, 2011, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7564-0687-5

Esther Diamond's third adventure has her working with an off Broadway play about vampires that runs into more than the usual varieties of problems. There are problems with fans, with protestors, and with an actor who claims to really be one of  the undead. That wouldn't be so bad except there really are vampires in Manhattan, and as a corollary, there really are vampire hunters, and our protagonist finds herself caught in the crossfire. To add to her problems, there's a mysterious death and she's the prime suspect in the eyes of the police.  All of this could be a pretty tense horror novel, but Resnick plays it as much for laughs as well as suspense.  In the hands of a less talented author, this could have been fluff, but instead it's a substantial - and sometimes quite funny - novel. 10/7/11

The Harrowing of Yeshua by Hodden Grey, Kindle, 2011

I don't read ebooks in any format but the author sent me a hard copy of this first novel, also first in a series, so I'm making a bit of an exception here. This is a Christian based fantasy set partly on our familiar Earth and partly in an imagined afterlife where good and evil contend once again. Lilith, Lucifer, the archangel Michael, and other familiar names are involved along with entirely new characters including a young woman who becomes an unlikely hero. The period of Lucifer's expulsion from Heaven has come near to its end and no one can predict what that will mean. Not surprisingly given my tastes, the scenes set on Earth seemed more effective and certainly held my attention more.  I had occasional problems with the pacing. Some events were compressed to a few sentences where I thought they should have been explored in more detail.  And a problem I see frequently in first novels is here as well; I rarely had a sense of the physical place where things were happening, as though the author was so concerned about advancing the story that he had no time to paint the backdrop as more than a few brush strokes. Some interesting inventiveness and a basically sound plot suggest the author has more potential than this first effort suggests.  10/2/11

Ashes of a Black Frost by Chris Evans, Gallery, 2011, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-4391-8066-2 

Third in the Iron Elves series, a kind of military fantasy set within familiar bounds. The hero and his troops have won victories in the past, but the usual “dark lord” lurks in the distance, providing the greatest threat of all. The author provides some new twists by introducing primitive firearms into a world where magic works and having technology and sorcery interact. A fairly extensive cast of characters is caught up in the fighting as a new wave of evil critters descends upon the civilized world. There is some memorable imagery scattered within a story that manages to separate itself from others of its type just enough to be familiar but novel.  Better than the first two in the series as well. 10/1/11

The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffith, Pyr, 2011, $16, ISBN 978-1-61614-523-1

Second volume of the Vampire Empire series. It's an alternate version of Earth where the temperate zones are ruled by vampires and normal humans shelter toward the equator. The two species are at war and there's lots of intrigue and adventure as agents contrive to strike at their enemies. As one might expect, there are rivalries among the humans that cause fractures and even open hostility, which blunts their effectiveness in opposing the vampires. Against this backdrop we have a romantic entanglement - but not a cloying one - and a woman who may be developing a strange new power as a reaction to the the decline of humanity. Like the first in the series, this one mixes elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror and wraps them around a kind of Alexander Dumas adventure story. A little less involving than the first, a common problem with middle volumes of trilogies, but pleasant and exciting and I'm looking forward to the windup. 9/26/11

The Shattered Vine by Laura Anne Gilman, Gallery, 2011, $26, ISBN 978-1-4391-0148-3

Although I actually prefer this author's contemporary fantasy to her traditional other worlds work, this series has grown on me as it has progressed. It's set in a world where magic was strictly assigned to a group of people who could  not use it to wield unauthorized power, and naturally those authorized to wield power could not use magic.  But all of that has begun to change, chaos resulting, and our heroes have to figure out why and restore stability. They have discovered some of the truth in the previous volume, but knowing what has happened is not the same as knowing how to stop it from getting worse. This is the concluding volume and ties things up neatly.  9/25/11

Awakenings by Edward Lazellari, Tor, 2011, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2787-1

This promising first novel follows in the footsteps of the Amber novels and more recently the Roumania novels by Paul Park. The two protagonists both live pleasant lives despite having complete amnesia about their early life.  Then someone starts trying to kill them and a strange woman shows up to help them.  They are, of course, refugees from another world where magic works and their fate is linked to a power struggle in that other realm that reaches from one reality to the next and could put both worlds in jeopardy. Mystery and adventure intertwine and while it falls short of being another Amber, it's consistently entertaining and does a particularly good job with the interplay among the various characters. Will watch for more. 9/22/11

Prospero Regained by L. Jagi Lamplighter, Tor, 9/11, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-1031-9   

Third in the Prospero series. Too many series lately, but that’s another topic. Prospero is a sorcerer who has lived through the ages using his magical powers to protect our world from various supernatural threats, while his daughter runs the mundane side of things for him. But he isn’t all powerful and when some clever demons abduct him and carry him off to Hell, daughter Miranda and company have to organize a rescue mission to get him back. This series has been a kind of blend of Christian and urban fantasies, with strong religious elements but the rousing adventure and inventiveness of the latter. It’s considerably better than most urban fantasy, which it vaguely resembles, but despite its epic plot and some nice twists, it’s rather average overall. 9/15/11

The Watchtower by Lee Carroll, Tor, 2011, $15.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2598-3 

Garet James, the woman who protects the world from supernatural evil, returns for her second outing, this time involved in part in an attempt to cure a good vampire of his affliction. Their quest involves encounters with a number of magical creatures – which are really the best parts of the novel – and an investigation into the means by which the man was vampirized in the first case. Despite the vampires, this is more fantasy than horror, a modern day quest story with some very nice touches along the way. It shares some elements of urban fantasy so it should have a broad appeal. 9/14/11

Dangerous Waters by Juliet E. McKenna, Solaris, 2011, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-907519-96-3 

First book in a new series. McKenna writes what I think of as middle level fantasy – not really high fantasy but not plain sword and sorcery either. The highest ranking magician in a typical fantasy world has prohibited the use of magic as an instrument of warfare. This is problematic to the local people who are plagued by increasingly violent attacks by pirates who effectively constitute a foreign power. But at least one of the magicians has disobeyed the rule.  Unfortunately, he has sided with the pirates, worsening an already bad situation.  I was in the right mood for this one and my only complaint, inevitable with most fantasy, is that the story is not yet complete. 9/9/11

Water to Burn by Katharine Kerr, DAW, 2011, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7564-0691-2

There are signs that the flood of urban fantasy has finally reached its crest and is starting to recede. That doesn’t mean that more authors won’t jump on the bandwagon before that happens, or that some of the better work might yet appear.  Kerr has written some excellent high fantasy and now she turns to a more contemporary setting. Her protagonist works for a super secret government organization that deals with the supernatural – obviously nothing new there – but the plot is considerably different. She isn’t after vampires and werewolves but struggles against a cult that uses occult powers to pursue their ends. There’s a romantic element and some subplots as well.  A little too busy at times, I thought, but the author needed to get a lot of things established quickly. 9/2/11