I am not much of a fan of the horror fantasy genre, but for this book I will make an exception. That is because the tale is so tightly woven, the story so compelling and the characters so believable that even if you are not a fan of horror I know you will enjoy this. I will start by stating that I got my comp copy of this from the folks at NetGalley in exchange for a review. I chose it because I was at first taken by the description. But it came to be the writing that continued to draw me in.
The story takes the old tales of the far northern tribe called the Tlingit, who have lived in what is now Alaska since the very first human migration from Asia to America. Living in British Columbia, I am very aware of the old myths of a lot of the northern tribes up this way, so I was eager to see what Onspaugh would do with them. I wasn’t disappointed.
He weaves these old gods and ideas into a modern world where the simple boredom of living out the final days of your life in an old age home are placed next to the horror of what appears to be a serial killer. But in the end it is something far more dangerous. For an old god has been awoken. He is the personification of chaos, a god without face or form whose return from his icy prison may mean the end of the world. It is up to an old Tlingit shaman and a New York detective to find a way to stop him.
The Old Ways Find a Place in the New World
When we first meet Jimmy Kalmaku he is a child being initiated by his uncle into the shamanic ways of his people, the Tlingit. It is here he first sees the mask of the Faceless One and comes to understand its deep evil. When we next see him, he is an old man trying to keep some semblance of a real life in a retirement home.
He has befriended George and together they entertain themselves with card games and sly acts of small rebellion. It is a long way from the small village of his childhood, but somehow Jimmy finds a way to keep that spark going within him. This is fortunate, since he will need all the willpower and memories of the old ways he can muster in the days ahead.
Evil Comes to New York City
He will need it all, for the mask of the old god he had faced as a child has been found by an archeologist and brought back to New York City. It is our first glimpse of the power of the ancient being, and we are taken into Daniel’s thoughts as he struggles to find a way to contain the evil he knows is in the mask. In the end he fails. We watch with horror the deadly power literally rips the apartment and the man apart. Here is true evil and horror, and we soon understand that it is now looking for a host to bring it back into this world.
That is when we meet Stan Roberts, as tough a New York cop as you can imagine. He and his partner are on the case, first with the murder of the archeologist Daniel and then following a blood-spattered pathway through the lawyer who represented Daniel, the lawyer’s partner, the UPS driver who took delivery of the mask and onward. For wherever the mask goes, whoever touches it, death is sure to stalk them in a thoroughly horrific way. Stan thinks he has a serial killer on his hands. He soon discovers it is much worse than that.
In the Heart of a Small Boy
In the Tinglit tradition the relationship of a child and his uncle are an almost mystic connection. We see it first in the teaching of Jimmy by his Uncle Will. Even after death Jimmy’s Uncle Will comes to him to give him guidance and hope. It is echoed in the relationship of Daniel and his brother’s son Bobby. The connection between the two becomes the third side of this triangle as we come to understand that The Faceless One intends to use Bobby as a conduit to gain form on the human side. He will be his instrument of destruction for the human race.
Soon we are following headlong as Detective Stan Roberts struggles with a powerful force that drives him across the country to unite the old mask with the young boy. Jimmy and his friend George are also on a journey, to find a way to stop the ancient god from taking form. The boy’s father Steven is soon drawn into the battle as we watch each player fight their own demons as they come to understand the stakes at play.
Horror Fantasy that Strikes at the Heart
Yes, there is a fair amount of gore here, I won’t deny it. But it is all there for a purpose, to illustrate the power and evil of this old god. We move from viewpoint to viewpoint at each chapter, but are never left bewildered. The pace of the story is steady without being frantic, for I felt compelled to continue reading long into the night.
This is not a “things that go bump in the night” horror story, though it certainly has some of those elements to it. There is something primal and pre-human about it. It is almost like it calls to our oldest fears, the ones as children when we saw things in the dark that made us hide beneath the covers. Mark Onspaugh has taken the horror fantasy genre and used it to fine tune our deepest uncertainties. That may be why in the end this was a book difficult to lay down until the last chapter was ended.
The Faceless One will be released October 28th and will only be available from the good folks at Amazon in Kindle format at that time. Let’s hope some other version comes out soon for those without an e-reader.
Although YA fantasy has become the rage, I have to say that this particular one stood out from the crowd. It wasn’t just the gorgeous cover, though that is what stopped me dead in my tracks when I was looking through NetGalley for a new book to review. I do want to make a note that I got my review copy for free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. But what made this one stand out for me went far beyond just the cover.
It was also the stubborn and yet wise very human narrator of our story, Gwen. For a teenage girl who is faced with some pretty scary new realities, she is not someone to be pushed around. It isn’t as though she doesn’t get scared; she does but she also handles it well. But then, if I was suddenly kidnapped by some handsome but strange guy and then told I was in a past life a magician that could save the world from certain disaster I would question my safety as well. And therein lays the strength of this story.
Gwen is one of those girls you notice in high school are always alone. They aren’t ugly or nerdy; they simply don’t seem to fit in with anyone. She is not looking forward to being the new kid at school again, as her family has just moved to Oregon and she is starting her senior year in high school. But she is determined to find a way to deal. Then, on her way to her first day of school she is followed and kidnapped.
Her kidnapper reveals that she is a magician, with the ability to stop some evil from taking over the world. Like any bright kid, she has read the papers and figures he is a crazy person that she needs to get away from. That was when I knew this would be a good read, when Gwen reacted to the news like any normal person would – she tried to run away. In fact, it took quite some time for Kian to convince her that everything he said was real. But as a girl who is used to thinking on her own and not following the crowd, Gwen is the perfect hero to save the day. The only problem is, she doesn’t know how to. Oh- that and she needs to find the others who like her are magicians without knowing it.
The Mysterious Kian
Kian is a bit of a mysterious figure, dark and handsome but not pretty-boy. We aren’t always sure just where he fits into the story at first. I found myself trying to guess if he was Gwen’s son or lover in that past life. However, when his secret is finally revealed it will turn out to be an unexpected turning point for everyone involved.
He tells Gwen that she has a past life, in ancient Britain. There she and others like her fought against both the invading Romans and an evil mage. They made a pact to pus
h their souls forward in time so they could together be prepared for battle. It is the mage she and the others must overcome in our world today.
This mage’s struggle to gain power is what is causing massive erratic weather and storms across the US. These storms soon loom out of control and throughout the story tell us of the mage’s growing power. It is an awesome symbol and one I have not seen before in fantasy.
Kian knows there are others that can help in this battle, but he isn’t precisely sure where they are and what they will look like. They take off to New York City, a location he has been told for finding the others. Gwen still isn’t sure about him, but then she begins to get dreams, dreams of her other life and it seems that Kian is in them.
Dreams that tell her not just who she once was, but perhaps who she can be now. These same memory dreams reveal how evil is hunting her now, across time. But can they find the others before the evil that is hunting Gwen finds her?
The Seven Wanderers
Slowly Gwen and Kian find the other warriors that have come up through the time-stream to be with her. Like Gwen, they are all teenagers. Without the training of warriors they are all in danger, so training begins. As they train together they slowly knit as a team, learning to trust each other.
But the dreams continue to haunt Gwen. They become like puzzle pieces, some giving her clues and others simply confusing her. Kian continues to tell them that it is their memories that will give them the key to confronting and triumphing over the evil mage. But can they remember what they need to know in time?
A New YA Fantasy Series
This is just the start of the series, titled The Seven Wanderers. It has a lot going for it, great characters, a fascinating premise and some concepts for fantasy that I have not run into before. I would have liked to know more about the lives of the others before Gwen and Kian found them. It is a small thing and I am hoping we see more in the story to come. The sense of reality in the book was what really sold me. The fact that Gwen takes nothing on Kian’s hearsay, she has to find out on her own, makes her a great choice for the narrator.
The only weakness I see is that it definitely has the feel of an introduction to a series. We learn a lot about Gwen, Kian and the others. We learn enough about the menace to feel it is every bit as dangerous as Kian says it is. But I was left at the end of this book feeling I wanted more. Then again, perhaps that is a good thing. Not sure when the next one is coming out in this trilogy, but I hope soon.
Lives of Magic will be released January 2014 but you can preorder. I find myself doing this more and more as I find great books I don’t want to miss out on. Plus, if makes my email feel like a gift machine when I get my email notice that Amazon just sent the book! At this point Lives of Magic is only available as a paperback.
If you have been following the Eternal Assassin series, this fantasy novella is going to answer some questions about the relationship between Gin and Owen. The only complaint I have is that it doesn’t answer all of them, but that maybe should have been expected. Still, I love it when we get a different POV in a series. That is exactly what Jennifer Estep does here, as she tackles taking on the view of the lover who turned out to be a cad. It is an interesting and intriguing decision by Estep.
Owen was introduced several books back and at first the fans (me included) loved him. He just seemed like the guy for our Gin. But when he messed up, he did it big time and by the end of Deadly Sting I was more than happy he seemed to be out of the picture.
This time around we get his view of it all, and believe me he is sorry he messed up. This is only a novella so I can’t say much without giving it all away, but if you want to see some Spider action with a different point of view, I would say to check this one out.
When an old friend of his takes him out to their favorite club to celebrate his survival of a nasty bullet wound, Owen finds himself oddly out of sorts. He can’t get Gin out of his mind. So when she walks in, along with what looks like a few unwanted shadows, he knows he has to do more than just hang in the shadows himself. He has to act, whether she wants him to or not.
Get your little dose of Eternal Assassin adventure right now when you download this novella which is only available as a Kindle download from the folks at Amazon.
Who hasn’t heard of Dr. Who? Certainly if you are a fan of fantasy, particularly the kind you watch on the small screen, then the irrepressible Dr. Who is probably one of your favorites. For those who have never somehow seen the sci-fi television show, it is a wacky and very fun low budget British sci-fi show that has been running in some form since 1963.
Along the way it has taken a slew of awards and become a cult classic. You can even check it out here to see some of the classic Doctor Who sci-fi television shows or instantly watch the latest season. You will see why it has become to popular.
One of the keys to its longevity is the premise that the alien humanoid called the Time Lord we follow in the show (simply called “the doctor”) has the ability to regenerate when fatally injured. This has allowed a progression of actors to portray the main character. If you really do need the full rundown on the show and characters, feel free to check it all out in its very detailed Dr. Who Wikipedia entry.
Moving Beyond the Show
It isn’t surprising to find out that, like many other popular sci-fi television shows, the stories have actually spun out beyond the episodes that have run on the screen. What we are talking about here are the books, based on the various twelve doctors that have appeared on the show. There are, in addition, plenty of books that talk about the show, give you backgrounds on characters and even a cookbook called Dining with The Doctor. That may sound strange but the recipes work and think how cool this would look in your kitchen! But we need to move on to the actual stories.
There are at last count been eleven actors portraying the doctor in the series. Since they are all simply reincarnations of the same person, they are referred to by the order in which they appeared on the show (the first doctor, the second doctor, etc.). It shouldn’t be surprising that each of these doctors have their own fans and so they also have a set of books written outside of the actual shows that revolve around each of the eleven doctors we have seen so far.
Since each actor brought his own interpretation of the doctor to the screen, the books each take on their own distinctive flavor. Here are some good examples of this:
This is from the collection The Tenth Doctor book series. The Doctor and his companion Martha discover what appears to be a derelict space ship, The Castor. As they explore the giant ship, they begin to have their suspicions that the ship is not as empty as they thought.
Then they discover a forest that has suddenly sprang up in the middle of the ship. What overcame the crew and could it be what is keeping it powered now? This story has the feel of the classic Dr. Who mystery, great fun!
Here we have the fifth doctor going back into the 70s to visit a time period that we know is part of the third doctor’s history. The Doctor is taking a holiday with Tegan and Turlough when he runs into an old friend from his former life who is investigating some strange balls of light that plunged into the sea.
When the pair discover the crew of the boat Papillon has been slaughtered they know they will need to get involved to get to the bottom of the mystery. Fast paced adventure for any Doctor Who fan.
It is two doctors for the price of one as an adventure from the second doctor impacts a mystery needing to be unraveled by the fourth doctor. Lynchburg in the 1950s draws the Tardis as the time anomalies and temporal contradictions act like honey to a fly.
There is a mysterious force that is affecting the people of the town, one that seems linked to Aleister Crowley in the 1980s. There the fourth doctor is trying to trace the consequences of Crowley’s occult experiments, and it seems that Lynchburg may be the key. Enjoy great writing and cross-doctor adventure in another Stone classic.
Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Short Stories
The nice thing about these is they are short and easy to just gulp down, and they are quick to download onto your kindle. The bad thing is that as far as I know they are only available by Kindle. But heck, at less than three bucks a pop they are cheaper than that fancy coffee you had on the way to work and less fattening.
The plan is to tell eleven stories, each about one of the eleven doctors within the eleven months of the anniversary. Sounds like fun? Here are just a few to show you what you can expect:
Travel with the fourth doctor and his companion Leela to the Heligan Structure. It is a tree in space that dreams of a man in a blue box that looks suspiciously like Tardis. The only problem is, it dreams of vengeance and with the arrival of the good doctor, it has awoken!
Travel back to middle America during the 1940s with the Fifth Doctor and his companion Nyssa. They are there to discover why a craze has suddenly popped up, a craze called Truth Tellers. Kids love this but there is a far more deadly secret behind it than anyone, even the doctor, could guess.
The Doctor has made plenty of enemies along the way. It is therefore not that surprising that when the Sixth Doctor and his companion Peri travel to the planet Koturia they come up against one of the most dangerous of them all. With a genius that is the equal of the good doctors, will this villain triumph and succeed in his evil plans regarding both Peri and preventing the wedding?
More Dr. Who to Come?
Of course, with the 50th anniversary and the announcement of the 12th doctor, we know that for Dr. Who fans there are always new adventures to look forward to. While researching this on Amazon I was amazed at the sonic screwdrivers and fact-filled books on Dr. Who facts I ran across. Dr. Who has proven to be the sci-fi television show that just won’t quit. I, for one, am certainly happy that like the good doctor, the show just seems to reincarnate with each supposed death blow. Let’s hope it continues its amazing journey for many more years to come.
The heroine of this paranormal romance is Bergdis Hildegun O’Dell. With a name like that is it any wonder that she has spent so much of her life fighting? However, what she generally fights are not kids calling her names, but very real and very scary paranormal creatures. Often she is the only one who can see them, but that doesn’t stop them from being dangerous.
At a pretty early age Beri found out that she was not like everyone else. She went through changes that left her with a startling appearance, strength beyond what even the serious weight-lifters in the gym could match and the ability to see all kinds of beings, especially ghosts. Bounced through a succession of foster homes, it was a “sister” in the last one that remained her only true friend.
The Danger Becomes Personal
But now it appears that something is causing people all over Florida to fall into a coma, and Beri’s sister has asked her to come and help her find out why. At first it doesn’t feel like her problem. There have been some pretty bad experiences connected with her recent attempts to help. She wants desperately to find out just who and more importantly what she truly is, and she knows that going after any paranormal activity might gain her a clue. But the last time the price was too steep, she doesn’t want to go there.
Then her sister becomes another victim of the comas and Beri knows she has to find out just what is happening here. She is pretty sure someone or something is trying to steal souls, including her sister’s soul. Beri has her two spirit guides to help along the way (when they are willing to) but in the end it will probably be up to her to find out what is causing people to drop into comas.
Setting a New Bar for Paranormal Romance
As far as an urban fantasy, this one goes a bit out of its way to redefine a few elements, and does it well. Although the trend right now seems to be “kickass heroine saves the day”, Beri actually has some real character to her. She is tough, but her doubts about her origins make her vulnerable. Her need to have some kind of connection through her sister gives her a humanity often missing in most of the urban fantasy heroines I read these days. Beri may be inhumanly strong and such, but she is still a young woman trying to find her roots.
The other element that made this story so entertaining is her two “sidekicks” the spirit guides Fred and Phro. They introduce humor without it knocking you over and get to ask the tough questions. They give Beri balance.
And then there is Nikolos. He is a dark mysterious warrior, a Minoan that may or may not be just what Beri needs in her life. She is attracted, that is not the question. But there is something about the man that just doesn’t feel right. He has secrets, and she is afraid they may be ones that could lead her to danger. But walking away is just not an option, either.
All the Right Elements
For a paranormal romance this one has lots of kickass adventure and even some mystery. Yes, the romance is there and Nikolos is every bit the dangerous yet sexy character you would want for it. Beri is complicated, which makes her all the more interesting and the support cast is not so numerous I need a guide, a problem that is way too common these days.
It’s the first book in a new series by newcomer Rinda Elliot and the next book Blood of an Ancient is due out in October, so you won’t have to wait too long. If you are looking for a nice slow boil of an adventure with plenty of suspense and a dose of dark romance, this is it. Well worth checking out, as I think we may be hearing more from Ms. Elliot in the years to come.
For anyone who loves speculative fiction, some of the top sci-fi fantasy books are those that make the best use of both elements. YA fiction has begun to crowd the shelves of the local book stores and fantasy films come out with bigger and bolder special effects.
It seems that we have a wealth of choices right now from some of the best selling fantasy stories in any media. But as always, we fall in love with those that bring us stories of daring adventure and magic.
Luckily, there is plenty to choose from as we seem to be living in a golden age for magical stories filled with romance, adventure and mystery. So pull out your Kindle for reloading or make room on your bookshelves. This week we take a look at some of the books that are not only among the best selling fantasy stories but in our not so humble opinion are amongst the top sci-fi fantasy coming out in the last six months.
This fourth book in the series will have you laughing, swooning and totally unable to put it down until it is done! The series centers on the adventures of Cosmos Raines, a brilliant scientist and self-made millionaire whose idea of a good time is a 48 hour stint in his lab instead of jetting around the world with babes. He recently invented, by accident, a gateway that connects the Earth to distant planets. That would be fine except for the constant visitors, mostly alien, that litter his home.
Prime amongst his complaints is the young daughter of the High Chancellor of Baade, a planet where the scarcity of women have made them so prized they are practically prisoners of their own families. When the Chancellor fears his daughter may be in danger of abduction for the purpose of marriage, he sends her through the gateway to the protection of Cosmos. The only problem is, she is not only a handful she is one that Cosmos finds himself inevitably drawn to. The feeling is mutual but her father has other plans for her, ones that don’t include lowly human males.
It is the near future and the President of the US is struck by an unknown disease, one without a known diagnosis or cure. When all seems lost and the vice-president stands ready to take his place, he reappears. For all intents he seems not only healthy, but untouched by the disease. The only person to suspect all is not as it seems is his long time friend and Minister of Defense Colonel John Cardwell. Cardwell sees something in the eyes of his friend, something that doesn’t belong there.
Then strange changes begin to happen, laws set in place that threaten social order and enemies treated as allies. When an atomic attack on a inconsequential island-state shocks the world, Cardwell begins to have his suspicions that though this may look like the President, he is not who he seems to be. Instead he is something alien, something other, but what is not only hard to decipher but terrifying to face.
Justice, the best selling fantasy that begins this series, will remind us all of how superheroes caught our imagination as kids. In a city with the highest concentration of superheroes and villains anywhere in the country, being a cop isn’t easy. But being one whose childhood crush on the hero Justice was destroyed when he failed to come to your parents rescue in a mugging that left you an orphan is particularly hard. Joanna is a detective whose secret pain is that the man she loves, her best friend, is getting ready to marry someone else.
When the most dangerous super-villain of all escapes prison and goes on a rampage; the entire city holds its breath. Will the city’s Chief of Police, along with its heroic Justice be able to bring Alkaline back in time? As the attacks get closer to home, Detective Joanna realizes she is the villain’s next target. Witty and bitter-sweet, this is a great concoction of romantic idealism, tough cynicism and a cocky heroine who won’t quit until her city is safe once more.
Dive into this fun adventure by downloading the Kindle format today. Sorry, Amazon does not offer any other format.
This exciting adventure has a classic sci-fi space opera setting for a story, but then the author introduces some fantasy twists that put it in a whole new category. Set in a future world on board Centennial Fulrum,a colonization ship, our hero Letho Ferron is just one of many ordinary citizens. When an encounter with the Fulcrum law and its agents force him to flee to the dark and dangerous bowels of the ship, he learns that there is more here than he was even aware of before.
He meets a mysterious race called slave bears and through them begins to enravel the truth about the Fulcrum, his identity and why the slave bears are here. Choices must be made when space pirates attack, forcing Letho to choose sides he didn’t even know existed before. Can he help his people to find freedom, or will he stay hidden and safe? The choice is not as easy as it sounds when your entire world is a giant ship hurtling through space.
Hugh awoke in a crater of a volcano without any memory of who he was or how he got there. All he can think is that he is alone, and he cannot trust a soul. When his stumbling attempts to find out who he is leads him in the dangerous path of a murder taking place he is shot, and survives. He has healed his own body, and he doesn’t know how or why.
Fifteen year old Cece has her hands full taking care of her mother, who is bi-polar and trying to not get them evicted from the broken-down trailer they call home. When Hugh and Cece meet, they realize they are kindred spirits and a love grows between them. But now a creature who is the real murderer behind the recent spate of deaths is choosing a new victim to stalk. Somehow, Cece and Hugh know that the secrets in their own past will lead them to uncover this creature’s true identity. Can they find out the truth, and will their love survive it?
The second book in the Invisible Recruits Series is just as snarky and fun a fantasy adventure as the first. Once again we are along for an amazing ride as Alex and her band of powerful women set out to right some wrongs and maybe have a few laughs along the way, their style. The gang is still in the learning stages, so there are more than a few close calls along the way.
We get right into the swing of things within a few paragraphs and the action never slows down after that. These books are a real roller coaster ride and it is probably one of the reasons you may find that once you pick up this fantasy adventure you will have a hard time putting it back down until you are done.
Alex may be a shaman and a witch, but she is young and sometimes just a little too cocky. Her sometimes lover, Bran, is a warlock of immense power and little patience. The attraction is there alright, but then so is the animosity. It makes for a very interesting relationship, to say the least.
But saving humanity from the beasties of the world, even if they aren’t too aware they exist outside of fairy tales, is just the beginning. For Alex has the Council to contend with, team leader Stone to placate and most of all her brother to rescue from the monster that is planning to reveal just how many paranormals exist to the rest of the world.
For Alex anything is better than being sent back to prison. That was the deal; save humanity, stay out of prison. Mess up and the deal is off. For Alex, learning to cope, getting the bad guys and saving her brother are all part of a very demanding negotiation.