Archives for posts with tag: Tor

Ban This Book (Starscape) by acclaimed author Alan Gratz deals with banned books at a school library, and with the efforts of a young elementary school student to read every book on the list for herself, and start up a lending library so that any of her fellow students can also read the books if they want. The young girl, Amy Anne Ollinger, starts off by desiring to simply want to borrow her favorite book from her school’s library, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg.

Amy has read it numerous times before, but loves to reread it over and over again. When she attempts to borrow it this time, however, she finds it has disappeared off of the shelves of the library, and that the mother of one of her classmates, Trey, is planning on talking to the school board to have the book, as well as others, banned from the school library. Amy is determined not to let the banning of books which she thinks her fellow students should have the freedom to read prevent them from having access to the books. For a chance to win a hardback copy of this novel that all book lovers will want to read, just enter this contest by being a resident of Canada or the United States and leaving your name, mention the state or province and city where you live, and follow the few other simple rules below! The last contest I ran was involving winning a hardback copy of the thriller, City of Saviors,(Tor/Forge) by Rachel Howzell Hall. Due to a lack of entries, there was not a winner chosen…it’s so easy to enter these contests, though, so I urge you to enter this one!

At the beginning of Ban This Book, Amy is just an ordinary student, a young lady who loves reading books, and who has several “favorites.” The one she loves the most, however, is the afore-mentioned one, by Konigsberg. Amy has always feared speaking up for herself, and making her opinions known, especially living as she does with her sisters always striving to be the centers of attention. She has always just gone with the flow, wanting to say what her opinions are, but saying something else, instead.

However, Amy finds herself changing and she becomes a stronger person, inside, throughout the course of Ban This Book, as she fights her own battle against censorship. Her father takes her to a local book store where she buys herself a copy of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and she loans it to her best friend, Rebecca Zimmerman, who also loves the book after she reads it, and is intrigued with the idea of reading something that has been forbidden them. Rebecca has another book that is on the banned list, and she lets Amy read it. That is how the idea that Amy gets of creating a lending library of banned books is born.

In Ban this Book, Amy realizes that starting up the lending library could get her and her friends into trouble, if they get caught; but, she feels it is worth it to take a stand for her love of books and the rights we all have under the First Amendment. For the chance to win a hardback copy of this book, besides following the few simple rules above, you just need to be 18 or older, anda person who is not related to me. The contest will run from Tuesday, October 10, 2017, to Friday, October 20, at midnight. I will then chose a winner at random. The potential winner will have five days to get back to me with his/her snail mail address, just so I can let Starscape, the publishers, know where to send the novel. If I do not hear from the potential winner after five additional days, I will chose a new winner, from the rest of the entries. Multiple entries from the same person are allowed, but Spam-related ones will not count as eligible entries. People can also enter by providing the information I mention here to me via a Twitter or Facebook message or via email. Good luck!

Written By: Douglas R. Cobb

This contest has now ended. Nobody entered, so sadly, nobody was the winner of this excellent novel by Alan Gatz.


Killing Is My Business (Tor/Forge) is Adam Christopher’s sequel to his critically acclaimed novel, Made to Kill, featuring noirish robot detective — and killer — Raymond Electromatic. Christopher deftly combines the genres of mysteries, detective dramas, and science fiction, with a good dose of sly humor, in Killing Is My Business, a highly entertaining romp that fans of all of these genres, and just plain good writing, will enjoy reading.

What’s more, thanks to Yours Truly, the book’s publishers, Tor/Forge, and Adam Christopher, one lucky reader who is also a resident of the United States who leaves a comment below, mentioning the state he/she lives in, will win a hardback copy of the book! A few more simple rules follow this review. I had a winner for my first-ever giveaway, of the thriller Tower Down, by David Hagberg; but, due to lack of response for the second giveaway, a hardback copy of Putin’s Gambit by Lou Dobbs and James O. Born there were no winners chosen. Sometimes one shot is all it takes….try your luck, and YOU could be the winner of a copy of Killing Is My Business!

As Killing Is My Business opens, robotic sleuth, Raymond “Ray” Electromatic is tracking down yet another person, Los Angeles city planner, Vaughan Delaney. The reason why isn’t personal. It’s to kill Delaney. Ray has been given his orders, via a roll of magnetic tape, changed out at the end of each day. He has no memories of past days, other than what might serve him in continuing on his search, and his “boss” is a brassy supercomputer. Why he has been asked, by some client he has never met and doesn’t know, he does not know. He just has a job to do, and that is to kill whoever he has been assigned to kill.

Ray definitely has a personality, though, and certain meories are hardwired into him, like his love of beautiful cars and admiration of those who also love them, even if…he has been ordered to kill them. Only, in the case of Vaughan, the city planner, on the outside a happy family man, beats Ray to the punch by taking a dive out of a window where he works on the sixth floor and killing himself. To Ray’s unknown client, a dead Vaughan is a dead Vaughan, no matter how he met his end, so Vaughan’s death still filled Ray’s unkonown employer’s pockets with cash.

Then, Ray is charged with locating and killing another man, a very wealthy individual, Emerson Ellis…and the plot of Killing Is My Business really takes off, with the elusive Ellis proving to be quite difficult to track down. Despite going to check out Ellis’ businesses and questioning his secretary, butler, and others, and journeying to his prey’s various houses, Ray comes up empty-handed, but far from defeated or deterred.

Killing Is My Business is a witty, very cool genre-crossing novel by Christopher, an extremely entertaining addition to the author’s series about his robot gumshoe, Ray Electromatic. I highly recommend that you add it to your reading lists today!

To win a hardback copy (one is being given away), simply leave a comment below, with your name and the state you live in, so that I know you are from the United States, for shipping purposes. The giveaway will run from August 31, 2017, to September 14, 2017, at midnight, when I iwll randomly select a winner from all eligible entries. The winner must also be over 18, and be willing to provide me with his/her complete snail mail address, so i can give that information to the publishers, Tor/Forge, as they will mail out the copy to the lucky winner. Good luck, and who knows? YOU might wind up being the winner!

By: Douglas R. Cobb

tower downTower Down by award-winning thriller author, David Hagberg, is an exciting, fast-paced novel about events that could have been torn out of today’s headlines, involving terrorism, ISIS, and the bringing down of newly-constructed “pencil towers” in New York City.  A blood-thirsty freelance killer, code-name Al-Nassar, or “the Eagle,” educated in England masquerades as a multi-billionaire, Khalid Seif, after having killed him, and sets into motion a scheme that brings one of the pencil towers crashing down onto Carnegie Hall, killing hundreds of people, including seventy to eighty multi-billionaires from around the world who are inside the building. Can former CIA operative, Kirk McGarvey, prevent the killer from striking again? Details on how to win a copy follow, after this review!

Author David Hagberg delivers the goods with Tower Down, an intense page-turning thriller, the 21st novel Hagberg has written featuring McGarvey. The action begins before McGarvey, known as “Mac” by his friends, enters the picture. Al-Nassar leaves a trial of bodies wherever he goes, but his fingerprints are not on file, and he takes great care to clean up possible loose ends — by methodically killing anybody he thinks might later be able to identify him.

The pencil tower known as the Tower was built to be impossible for terrorists to destroy, so that there would not be any repeat of the events of 9/11. A nine-ton counterweight near the top of the Tower, controlled by a computer, helps the building adjust to any swaying it might otherwise have experience due to high winds. Over 90 percent of the apartments in the Tower were sold prior to the building’s construction, for exorbinant sums of money, with one penthouse going for a hundred fifty million dollars.

Al-Nassar strikes during a party Seif had planned, with some of the world’s wealthiest men and women in attendance. When the Tower inevitably falls, their lives are forfeited, along with the lives of hundreds of people below.

After his wife, Katy, daughter and son-in-law’s murders, and the deaths of other women in McGarvey’s life, he has been cautious about letting his guard down when it comes to his love life. However, in Tower Down, McGarvey has, once again, found love, in the form of his latest girlfriend, Pete Boylan, and he intends for their love to last. But, with his own life hanging in the balance, can McGarvey also protect Boylan’s, as he tracks his elusive prey to Cannes and other locales?

YOU could win a hardback copy of Tower Down from Tor/Forge and What’s New in Book Reviews if you are a resident of the United States, by simply leaving a non-Spam related Comment below and mentioning the state you live in. If you are selected as the winner, I will need your complete mailing address, so I can forward the information to Tor/Forge, so they can mail the copy out to the winner.  The comments will be seen by me as Feedback, instead of as comments. A winner will be chosen on midnight August 1, and if he/she does not respond with his/her mailing address after five days, a new winner will be selected. To purchase a hardback, paperback or Kindle copy of Tower Down at Amazon, click here — good luck to everyone who enters!

By: Douglas R. Cobb




Menelaus Illation Montrose, Texas gunslinger, idealist, and posthuman genius, who author John C. Wright introduced us to in his brilliant Count To a Trillion, is back in the sequel, The Hermetic Millennia. He is in cryo-suspension, but is brought out of it at periodic times. These are always at crucial turning-points in the history and evolution of mankind. Without his genius and militaristic action as the leader of the Knights Hospitalier, humanity could easily find itself enslaved, or made into the serfs of an advanced alien race, or face the possibility of extinction.

At the point when Menelaus is awoken, humans are under the control of Psychohistorians. There are the Giants and the Iron Ghosts, who both want to mold humanity’s evolution. The Giants are posthumans, articial humans within Menelaus’ intelligence range, while the Iron Ghosts are creations of the Scholars, who made the Iron Ghosts to contain emulations of Montrose’s brain. The Giants have gargantuan genetically-modified bodies to house, as Sir Guiden puts it, “their correspondingly elephantine brains.”

The Hermeticists are called that because they were originally the crew members of the spaceship, the Hermetic, who, along with Montrose, journeyed to study an alien artifact in Count To a Trillion known as “The Monument.” There, they learned technologies and techniques unknown on Earth, through the alien hieroglphs on “The Monument.” This advanced knowledge was the product of an ancient alien civilzation billions of years older than our own, much of which–to humans–seemed indistinguishable from magic. The knowledge made over sixty of the seventy crew members eventually go mad when they attempted to implement the “Prometheus augmentation,” but the remaining members of the crew became the rulers of mankind.

Sir Guiden tells Menelaus that the ringleaders of the crew and the Hermtecists somehow “are still alive and sane.” These include the Master of the Earth, Ximen del Azarchel, the commander-in-chief of the world armed forces, Narcis D’Arago, and Menelaus’ arch nemesis, Blackie. However, they have been in hiding since the “Decivilization War,” which destroyed the major cities of the Earth. They were burned to cinders by the Giants, who directed “orbital mirrors” towards the cities. The whole world saw and heard someone who looks exactly like Montrose give the orders for the cities to be burned.

The war was fought between the Giants and the Ghosts, but it was humans who suffered the most. As Sir Guiden tells Menelaus, though it involved math equations, “It was no mere abstract argument. It was about whether humanity would be dehumanized and tyrannized.” The fate of mankind, if the Hermeticists had their way, would be to make subspecies of mankind which would then serve as the slaves and serfs of the intelligent machine-life of the Hyades Cluster. But, even to do this and ensure humanity’s survival, the evolution of mankind’s intelligence would need to be artificially speeded up. The machine-life of the Hyades Cluster was accidently summoned when humans meddled with The Monument.

Among the many other conflicts that Montrose has to deal with in The Hermetic Millennia are the efforts of Rania to bring a Diamond Star made from antimatter out of its orbit. That is the only way, Rania believes, that humainty can stand a chance fighting afainst the aliens of the Hyades Cluster. That’s because, as Menelaus tells Sir Guiden, to defeat such advanced foes it would require a lot of energy: “It takes fuel to calculate. Fuel to think.” The aliens, though, have launched an offensive of their own: a dirigible gas gaint the size of Uranus which will arrive circa A.D. 11000.

A rogue Hermeticist, known as the Judge of Ages, wants to create a free version of mankind. They would then fight against the aliens, and though tey’d be about as mismatched as the Zulus were agaisnt the British, like the Zulus, they might be able to win. The energy that humanity could mine from the Diamond Star, which they could reach much more easily if Rania’s efforts are successful, could mean the difference in a potential war against the alien machine-life.

The Hermetic Millennia is sweeping and epic in scope, and is a thinking man’s Space Opera. I enjoyed reading the first book in the series, Countdown To a Trillion, but I wondered if any sequel to it would be as good. It’s a fantastic read, and a great addition to the series. Since Menelaus is so hyper-intelligent, certain parts of the book are written in a complex manner, using terms and jargon that may be unfamiliar to many readers–but, that’s often the case with the “hard science” type of science fiction that authors like Isaac Asimov wrote about in his Foundation series. If you’re a fan of Countdown To a Trillion and hard SF, I highly recommend that you read The Hermetic Millennia by John C. Wright.

The back of (click to buy) Tribulations by Ken Shufeldt dramatically states: “The World Has Ended…The War Is Only Beginning.” That’s enough to capture the eye of almost any SF fan. Similar themes of the end of the world and warfare between different civilizations have been the fodder of many SF novels, but still they are fascinating frameworks for countless science fiction novels. In the right hands, a literary masterpiece can be created from such ideas; or, in lesser hands, a dismal flop can be the result. Which one of the two extremes does Tribulations most resemble, or does it fall somewhere in-between the two extremes? Read on to find out!

The very title of Ken Shufeldt’s novel evokes an Old Testament feel: Tribulations–the difficult times & trials God’s Chosen people undergo before they can finally attain their long-promised homeland/salvation. Fine, I thought before I even began reading–likely the novel will combine science fiction, science, and religion, either one of Earth’s religions or that of another planet. Lots of great SF has been written with religious undertones, like Dune, by Frank Herbert; Hellhole, by Brain Hderbert and Kevin J. Anderson; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, by PK Dick; and A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller, for four examples off the top of my head. I loved reading each of these four books, but I also recognize that anyone who attempts to combine religion and SF walks a fine line. If the book leans too much towards a religious outlook, it can seem to be too preachy and even overbearing to someone who is an atheist or who follows a different religion.

In Tribulations, Ken unabashedly wears the Judeo-Christian religion on his sleeve, though he theorizes that its foundation began on another planet and its basic ideas/concepts were taken here by aliens who were forced into landing on Earth because their spacecraft was damaged. These humanoid aliens were stranded here, and lived out their entire lives on our planet, trying to make the best of their situation and indoctrinate the natives with their religious POV. Their beliefs of there being one god became the foundation for the JudeoChristian religion.

Ken Shufeldt’s novel begins with an amazing archeological discovery. An ancient metal sarcophagus has been “brought back from the battlefields of Iraq” by Larry Sheldon, one of a team of Logos scientists. The group of people known as Logos were an “ultra-secretive evangelical society.” The sarcophagus had been the one the female alien, Evevette, had used “to bury her husband, Adamartoni.” Though the author doens’t come right out and say it even more plainly, this couple’s names seem to indicate that they were the Adam and Eve from the Bible.

Some of the DNA gets injected into the body of a human boy, Billy West, by “accident,” or fate, and some gets fed intravenously into the bloostream of a little girl, Linda Lou Bustamente, who “needed an operation to save her life.” Again, coincidently, her parents “had been lifelong friends” with Billy’s. These two children grow up and are educated under the watchful eyes of Logos, and they progress rapidly in their education, due to their super-enhanced genetics.

Long story somewhat short, the Billy and Linda Lou eventaully learn of meteorites headed Earth’s way, and they realize that Earth is doomed. They plan to have a small fleet of interstellar spacecraft built and they choose a planet that appears to be suitable to sustain human life as their ultimate destination. The name of their particular ship is Genesis, a name torn again directly from the Bible, as it’s what the first book of the Bible is called.

I would have preferred there to be a bit more subtlety in the naming of the two main characters and their spacecraft. Also, Billy’s and Linda Lou’s ability to communicate with each other telepathically seemed to me to be maybe a bit too pat. Still, even with their enhanced DNA, and Biblical prophecy behind them, even with their being the supposed prophesied saviors of humanity in their favor, Billy’s and Linda Lou’s lives aboard the spacecraft are far from Paradise.

Billy knows time is working against them, that reaching the planet he thinks would be the best opportunity for their success will take way too long. So, he decides to try to make the Genesis travel as fast as the speed of light, or faster, despite the apparent impossibility of such a thing. He has a measure of success, but then his plans go terribly wrong. The weakened Genesis gets separated from te rest of the fleet and drifting towards a myserious planet.

Not only that, but the planet is inhabited by opposing sides engaged in a bloody civil war. Upon landing, the members of Genesis are forced into choosing sides just to stay alive. That is where the story gets REALLY interesting, and I was reminded of the story of the land of Canaan in the Bible, where the Israelites had to kill the Canaanites in order to claim their Promised Land. Does a similar outcome happen in Tribulations? I’m not going to tell; read it for yourselves to find out!

Tribulations is a fascinating take on the science fiction theme of aliens possibly having guided human civilization from the very beginning. It’s an apocalyptic but a hopeful tale. While I believe aspects of the novel could have been handled a little more subtley, overall it’s a very well written book that fans of apocalyptic SF will embrace. Check it out today!

Marie Brennan’s historical fantasy series about the Onyx Court, the realm of the fae, that lies hidden below Queen Victoria’s London was too big, too grand in scale for a mere trilogy. To do the job of writing about it sufficiently well, four books were needed, at minimum. Going against the trend of trilogies, Marie’s With Fate Conspire is an excellent addition to the Onyx Court series, and is perhaps her best novel to date.

Queen Lune and her realm are threatened as never before by the Industrial Age. The presence of iron is anathema to the existence of elves and the other fae, and London is becoming a city where iron is everywhere, in pipes, bridges, railways, trains, and buildings. She realizes that the conitnued existence of her realm is much in doubt, and that it will only be a matter of time until it collapses. The most she can do is to prolong its life through her sheer determination, indomitable will and the power of her magic.

One of her past human consorts, the Prince of the Stone Benjamin Hodge, tried to talk others into not tearing down a part of the ancient wall that surrounded London, but he was unsuccessful. With the destruction of the wall, like that of the gates that General Monck had commanded to be torn down fifty years previously, to when the Great Fire burned part of the entrance to the Onyx Court, the details of which are mentioned in the other books in the series, Lune has feared what these changes would mean to the survival of the Onyx Court. Will her best efforts finaly prove to be not enough in this finale to the series?

Marie Brennan skillfully weaves into her tale several Dicksenian themes, like those of social injustice, poverty, the unjustness of the class system and the presence of ignorance and enlightenment amongst every class, and a playful sense of humor into her writing. One of her most villainous characters is one of the results of this: that of Nadrett, the gangster lord of the Goblin Market. The underworld of the Goblin Market reminded me of Fagen’s London, where he enlisted the aid of children to do the dirty work of picking pockets for him. Brennan’s research into the London of the past, including its sewer system, makes With Fate Conspire and the London within it come alive for the readers of this book, as with the other novels in the series, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and the marvelously entertaining A Star Shall Fall. Then, there’s the seemingly unrelated question of why are large chunks of the memories of certain prominent citizens disappearing, and how is that, if at all, connected to the other developments in the novel.

There is a large cast of characters in With Fate Conspire, again a trait of Dickens and another one of the greatest writers who depicted social injustices, Victor Hugo. Brennan handles this extremely well, and creates some of the most fascinating and realistic characters of any fantasy novel ever written. For example, there’s Elizabeth (Eliza) O’Malley, one of the Whitechapel Irish people brennan writes about. Her childhood sweetheart, Owen Darragh, was stolen away from her seven years ago by the faeries of the Goblin Market, but she still has not given up her search for him. It is hard for her to get anyone to help her, because no one believes her account.

Benjamin Hodge, the current Prince of the Stone, is left–along with the remnants of the Onyx Court–to maintain order in the realm after Queen Lune’s disappearance and presumed death. But, how can a mere mortal, even if he is the Prince of the Stone, hope to succeed in keeping the Onyx Court going, with so many people and evil fae working against him?

Besides the lord of the Goblin Market, Nadrett, there is, for instance, his servant Dead Rick. Dead Rick is a shape-shifting Black Dog, who is held as a slave by Nadrett to do his will by the memories Nadrett stole from him. Benjamin Hodge definitely has his work cut out for him.

Dead Rick is one of the only people or fae that believes Eliza, and he sympathizes with her. Eliza gets a break when she overhears a conversation between two women referencing faeries in the city. She applies to be a maid for one of the women, Miss Louisa Kittering, and discovers that the real Miss Kittering has been replaced by a faerie changeling. Though the changeling helps her connect with her lost love, Eliza faces many further obstacles in her attempts to restore him to his former self.

With Fate Conspire by Marie Brennan is a magical, awe-inspiring conclusion to her Onyx Court series. The lines between good and evil are rearranged, and both mortals and faeries must work together to save the faerie kingdom and maintain the safety of London. Marie Brennan has written a dramatic and page-turning final to her series that is a Must-Read for the fans of her Onyx Court series, and for anyone who loves reading historical fantasy novels.

–Douglas R. Cobb–

The land is ravaged by war and strife. Dragons piloted by elves with mortal blood flowing through their veins fly the skies. These dragons are not ones entirely of flesh-and-blood, but are biotechnolgical hybrids. Although the city of Babel is a central character in this story, The Dragons of Babel remains at its core a tale of Will coming to grips with his past, present and future – whatever it may be – and in so doing, ordinary dragons, if such things ever existed–no, they are biotechnological marvels, which run on fuel and drop bombs upon their enemies. One of the only creatures who can bring about their deaths are the basilisks. When several dragons fly above Will le Fey’s village one day, and a basilisk brings one of the dragons down, the creature is not quite killed–instead, though its wings have been torn from its body and it is injured, the dragon is still powerful enough to make itself the king of Will’s village.

Will le Fey becomes the dragon’s assistant and lieutenant. At first, Will cooperates because the dragon forces him to, piercing his wrists with needles and invading his body and mind. The dragon insists upon learning Will’s true name, so that he can have even more control over him; but, Will is enable to tell the dragon, as he doesn’t know himself what his birth name is, having either never known or forgotten. The dragon learns that Will is a mortal, and has one hundred percent human blood in him, which potentially makes him into a candidate to be his pilot.

The first part of the novel by Michael Swanwick, rereleased in paperback by Tor, The Dragons of Babel, is about the relationship that develops between Will and the dragon. Will leaves behind his old friends, including Puck Berrysnatcher, whose leg gets blown off by a landmine. Puck gets placed into a coma by the healing ladies of the village, and buried in a swampy area. When he is revived a week later, his hair has turned white, and he now turns against Will, organizing a group of youths to fight against the dragon.

Besides the relationship that develops between Will and the dragon, the first half of the novel is also about Will’s exile from his village brought about by a showdown with the dragon, and his arduous trip to Babel. The novel is set in the same universe as The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1997). On Will’s train ride to Babel, he is joined by two companions: a magically-touched girl name Esme and a donkey-eared con man named Nat, who has many other aliases. I won’t get into many other details, because I don’t wnat to spoil the plot for anyone who would like to check this great novel out, but Will and Nat come up with a con whose consequences resonate throughout the novel.

Michael Swanwick is excellent at worldbuilding, with Babel itself becoming a major “character” in the novel. It is a fully realized world, and there is a lot of room for the author to continue the series with sequels. It’s difficult to classify The Dragons of Babel as being more of a Fantasy novel, or a science fiction one. It’s not really a Steampunk one, as there are no inventions that rely on steam power, so I’ll say it’s a Fantasy novel with science fiction elements to it. But, it’s also more than this; it’s a coming-of-age narrative, filled with political intrigue, and it’s a who-done-it, a romance, and a story about a father’s and son’s love, among other things.

The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick is a page-turning novel that fans of both the Fantasy and SF genres will love reading. There are dragons, basilisks, and other cool legendary creatures to please Fantasy fans, and enough mention of technological advances that readers of SF should get into this terrific book. Add it to your reading lists today!

Miranda and her esteemed brothers plumb the very depths of Hell to rescue their father, Prospero, in Prospero Regained, the brilliant page-turning finale to L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Prospero’s Daughter trilogy. But before Miranda can search for her father, she must first travel through the different Dantean cirlces of Hell to locate all of her brothers, who got scattered all around by the Hellwinds she conjured up with her magical flute in the previous book (Prospero In Hell).
Miranda has been in control of her father’s company, Prospero, Inc., for five hundred years in this trilogy, which is loosely based upon William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Among other things, the Prospero family has carried the responsibility to make sure the natural, man-made, and magical calamities that have befallen man are not as calamitious as they would have otherwise been. The family are the protectors of mankind. But over the centuries, the once close-knit family has split apart, and thus their power has been weakened. It’s up to Miranda to bring the family back together again, including her father…who is scheduled to be executed on the night of Twelfth Night by Lilith, the demonic Queen of Air and Darkness, unless Prospero’s children can save him in time.

Two of Miranda’s brothers have managed to stick by her side: the irascible Erasmus, and Gregor, who once was a pope and is still holy. Another companion who was not blown away is Mab, the northeast wind, an elemental to whom Prospero gave a human form and who developed a soul as a result. He is a sort of Philip Marlowe character, a sleuth who carries notebooks with him to write down clues and the names of potential people in Miranda’s family who might be the traitor that they’ve been warned is in their midst.

Miranda can no longer call upon the mysterious Lady of her former religious order for aid anymore, as she is no longer a virgin, having been defiled by a demon in Prospero In Hell. This loss has ramifications for her entire family, since, as a handmaiden to the Lady, Miranda had been able to make a once-a-year- pilgrimage to a well and obtain a special type of water that would prolong the lives of her and her family. As long as she continued to have access to the water, she and her family would be practically immortal, though they could be killed by means other than old age.

Miranda is furthermore trying to learn more about who her mother was, having been told that she may have been the witch, Sycorax–who was also the mother of Caliban, which means he may be her brother. She can’t help but wonder if she is Sycorax’s daughter and if Prospero has been using her as a pawn her entire life. This is a question that she has both been trying to answer and fearing to know.

Miranda’s brothers continue to argue and bicker even as Miranda attempts to rescue them and their father. Erasmus, in particular, doesn’t trust Miranda at all, and believes that when she unleashed the Hellwinds, she did it deliberately to split up the family throughout Hell. He loathes Miranda, and reasons that if anyone is a traitor in their family, it probably is her. How he can maintain this false conviction despite her attempts to bring the family back together is beyond me, but his faulty reasoning and his tellings of past sword battles he and other brothers engaged in make for some fascinating reading.

Lamplighter, whom I interviewed previously for Boomtron, is one of today’s best fantasy authors or authors of any genre, IMHO. In particular, I am impressed by how the author incorporates so many various references to mythology, legends, and literature throughout the entire trilogy. I am a fan of Dante’s Inferno and his Divine Comedy in general, and it remains rich fodder for people to borrow from even today, as Lamplighter proves. Also, the titles of the first and third books are another homage, to Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.

Prospero Regained is a epic, page-turning journey of fantasy that will leave you breathless. It, and the entire Prospero’s Daughter trilogy, ranks as one of the greatest sustained achievements of modern-day literature. I would say that it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, but that it would be best to read the entire series, to get some background before you read this one. I highly recommend Prospero Regained and the entire trilogy to anyone who loves reading fantasy novels.

Imagine that the powerful magician Prospero and his daughter Miranda, whom Shakespeare wrote about in his play The Tempest, were real, and still alive today, running a company called Prospero, Inc., dedicated to protecting the Earth from dangerous spirits. Miranda and her father are also aided by her eight younger step-brothers. That’s the premise for L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Urban Fantasy series, which began with her novel Prospero Lost and continues with Prospero In Hell. Miranda’s father has gone missing and is presumed to be in Hell. It’s up to her to reunite her brothers so they can join forces in combating the Three Shadowed Ones, and assorted monsters, demons, and minions of Hell.

L. Jagi Lamplighter is a remarkably gifted author, well-versed in world mythologies, religions, and folklore, and she fills the pages of her novels with memorable characters she gathers from these diverse sources. If she can be faulted for anything, it’s perhaps in this very diversity, which makes for a very large cast of characters that can be a bit difficult to keep track of at times.

Besides Miranda’s eight brothers, there is Mab, “an incarnated Aerie One” with “a New York accent,” who serves as Miranda’s servant and gumshoe, helping her solve various mysteries and questions that surround her family, its history, and her father’s disappearance. Also, Father Christmas, who was in the first book, is mentioned, and another of her servants, Caurus Skeiron Boreal, who is “Lord of the Northwest Winds.” Like Mab, Caurus is incarnated in a human body. There are lots of mythological beasts, too, like rocs, yetis, mermaids, and the flying horse Pegasus. Other beings you’ll read about in the novel include djins, elves, fairies, and Iblis al-Shaitan, the evil Flame-lord who comes close to killing Caurus and who burns up many of the priceless treasures and artifacts in Miranda’s crazy brother Mephisto’s, house.

Prospero In Hell is breath-taking in its scope, taking readers, like Dante’s Inferno has done since the 1300′s, into the depths of Hell. The Prospero family is extremely interesting to read about, each brother with very unique personalities and powers. The author jam-packs the novel with so many references to characters, creatures, monsters, gods, goddess, heroes, and demons it can be difficult to keep track of them all, but reading her novels is a richly rewarding experience.

The third novel in the series will be called Prospero Regained. Lamplighter refers to Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained with the titles of the first and third novels, and references Dante’s Inferno and Virgil’s Aeneid in Prospero In Hell, among many other references. There’s action aplenty in the novel, also, right from the very first chapter, when birds of Ice and snow attack Miranda, Mab, and Mephisto as they ride over Canada on the back of Pegasus. This novel is one that people who like lots of action and adventure should enjoy immensely. If you’re a fan of Urban Fantasy, you’ll definitely find that Lamplighter’s latest novel is one helluva read.

By: Blake Charlton
Published by: Tor/Forge
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1728-5

5 Stars

I was blown away by Blake Charlton’s debut novel in his trilogy, Spellwright. I was expecting that the second book, Spellbound, would be equally as good, but it’s not–it’s even better! Spellbound is set ten years after the events in Spellwright. Nicodemus Weal is still pursuing the demon Typhon, because he needs to get the Emerald of Aarahest that Typhon has. It contains a part of his soul and a cure to his cacography, or inability to do certain spells. Without the Emerald, Nicodemus cannot learn spells in other magical languages. With it, he can become the Halycon, the prophesied savior of magical language; without it, he is the Storm Petrel, the prophesied destroyer of magical language. Will Nicodemus defeat Typhon and recover the Emerald of Aarahest, or is he doomed to be the Storm Petrel?

Francesca DeVega, a healer/cleric in the city of Avel, becomes even more important to the trilogy in Spellbound. Her storyline, in fact, is the first one taken up in the novel. While she is operating on a patient, using her magical healing sentences, she does something wrong, and her patient–Dierdre–dies, despite Francesca’s best attempts to save her life. Dierdre is a demigoddess, an avatar whom a goddess has inhabited.

She is also an unwilling servant of Typhon, who can only find freedom from him for the short time of around an hour whenever she “dies,” and is then restored to life. Dierdre had made it almost impossible for Francesca to succeed on purpose, so that she could use her hour after being restored to life to scheme against Typhon and try to defeat him. The avatar tells Francesca of a chain that’s around her ankle that Typhon had placed there which would prevent her from leaving Avel. Francesca doesn’t believe her, and is stunned when she sees it’s true when Dierdre removes the chain and show it to her.

Nico is also in the city of Avel in his pursuit of Typhon and the Emerald. Dierdre has told Francesca that she must meet Nico and warn him, but to not touch him. Francesca has heard tales of Nico and the dead bodies he left behind at the Starhaven Academy, so doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, but their meeting is the beginning of romance between them. Francesca’s character adds a lot to the novel. Her escape with Dierdre from the clutches of the Savanna Walker, a sort of half-dragon, half monster servant of Typhon’s, was one of the many exciting moments of Spellbound.

I liked how the author even manages to make Shannon, who died in the first novel, an interesting character in Spellbound. He’s a ghost, or at least a reasonable facsimile of one, created through and with magical sentences by Shannon before he died. How he figures out ways to help Nico despite being a ghost, and his escape from a construct that’s a warkite that’s trying to kill him, were exciting to read about and Charleton made him very believable.

Spellbound does not suffer from the usual sophomore slump that occurs with the second book of a trilogy. I really enjoyed reading about the inventive magical system that Blake Charlton came up with of using silver and gold sentences that a person inscribes in one’s skin and flings out with his/her fingers to cast spells. Spellbound by Blake Charlton is a truly impressive sequel that can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone book. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s read Spellwright, and to anyone who loves the fantasy genre.

–Douglas R. Cobb–

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