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Book Review: Reign of Stars by Tim Pratt

Reign of StarsAlaeron is a killer—or at least he was. He’s not your normal stone-cold killer type, but more the “I caused the death of a very powerful captain of the Technic League in the mysterious and treacherous land of Numeria” kind of killer. But that was a long time ago and in a land far, far away. Sure, he lives his life in fear. So what if the league sends assassins after him every so often? Who cares if they want back the gizmos, gadgets, and magic items he spirited away when he fled the country? These days, Alaeron is living a semi-secluded life as an alchemist. All was sort of normal until a semi-incorporeal messenger was sent from his former master whom he thought dead. She asks Alaeron to return to Numeria to do some work for her and possibly clear his name in the process. The chance of not being hounded by assassins and his over-developed sense of curiosity leads Alaeron to accept the invitation. Accompanied by his only friend, the street savvy thief Skiver, he heads off to a land full of wonder that has fallen from the stars: a land ruled harshly by evil arcanists and a mad barbarian king know as the sovereign. Will Alaeron find the peace he is looking for or will his curiosity kill him and his only friend? This novel is tied to the Pathfinder Iron Gods Adventure Path.

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Book Review: Operation Shield—A Cassandra Kresnov novel by Joel Shepherd

Operation ShieldCassandra Kresnov is not human. She is a synthetic—a manufactured being that has been designed for violent action. Operation Shield opens with a fight on the planet of Droze, a hive of scum and villainy. It seems that a localized rebellion of her fellow synthetics, or GIs as they are called, has started, and Cassandra is trying to assist them. This rebellion has far-reaching implications that could change the already fragile treaty that has stopped intergalactic war. Cassandra has to make tough decisions, and some of them will haunt her long after the fighting has stopped. After making those choices, she heads home with three street-smart and highly advanced youths she has decided to adopt. Because of her fame and notoriety, she must balance her work life with raising children who have endured the horrors of war, the loss of parents, and the quick death of their innocence. As Cassandra learns how to become a mother, the results of some of her actions on Droze come back to haunt her, her children, and the entire federation. Lock and load—this is going to be a wild ride.

Joel Shepherd, why have I not been reading more of your books? This book is the fifth book in the series and the first book I have read in this series. Starting on the fifth book in any series is normally not a good idea, but the folks at Pyr were kind enough to send me a review copy. I figured if Shepherd is as good as they say he is, I should catch on to what is happening at one point or another. I like doing this sometimes since it lets me know if an author can tell me the backstory through the current narrative. I don’t fault authors if they don’t, but it is cool to see if they can tell the current story while giving me enough backstory so that I do not feel lost. Yes, a quick summary at the beginning of any book in a series is a good thing, but it is interesting to see how each author (and sometimes each publisher) handles that. After reading Operation Shield, I can say without any doubt that Shepherd expects that you have read his previous books. If you haven’t, the catching up is on you.

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Review: The Grudgebearer by J. F. Lewis

GrudgebearerThe members of the race called the Eldrennai have pointed ears and live a long time. They created a race of warrior slaves called the Aren and then they crafted a plant-like race called the Vael, who were designed to appeal to the Aren. The main reason behind the creation of the Arens was to defeat a race of magically resistant lizard people named the Zur. The Eldrennai held the Aren captive for thousands of years, forcing them by oath and magical compulsion to serve their whims and fight their battles for them. All this was just fine for the Eldrennai until the Sundering, when the Aren rose up and fought for their freedom.

Now, after the Sundering, all three races meet every century for the Grand Conjunction to renew their peace treaty. This novel takes place six hundred years after the Sundering. Kholster the Aren is still the first of the original one hundred Aren created and still the leader of his people. He has not forgotten the shackles of slavery placed on him by the Eldrennai and has vowed an oath to kill every Eldrennai who was alive during the Aren enslavement. Kholster has also vowed to attend the Grand Conjunction to listen to the peace overtures of the Eldrennai. This conjunction is different since an Eldrennai prince has broken the treaty by unearthing sentient suits of Arenese armor that were sealed away as terms of the treaty. With yet another oath broken by the Eldrennai, Kholster must find a way to protect his people and fulfill his own oaths, even if it costs him everything.

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Book Review: The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder

Return of the Discontinued ManIt’s 9 p.m. on Feb. 15, 1860, a point in time that will change the course of the future—or at least this future, because you can’t change the past. Or can you? Spring Heeled Jack is back, and he is looking for Sir Richard Burton. Not only is this mythical being back from the future, but a blood red snow is falling on London. Meanwhile, while getting assaulted by multiple Spring Heeled Jacks, Burton is hallucinating and he believes someone from somewhere in some time is trying to send him a message. When Burton figures it out, he and the Cannibal Club must organize an expedition through time itself to save the British Empire! God Save the Queen!

Hodder has shown a propensity for blurring the lines between historical fiction, steampunk, and the writings of HG Wells. The Return of the Discontinued Man takes all of the blurring and creates a steampunk mash-up of the movie THX, Pink Floyd’s the Wall, the entire Harry Potter series, and a little Animal Farm into one story. If it is starting to sound confusing and a bit complicated, it is, and it takes Hodder the first hundred pages of the book or so before he actually starts making sense. I have read the other installments in the Burton and Swinburne series, and even with the pervasive theme of time travel, Hodder held things together, but he was very close to losing it on this one.

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Book Review: Desert Moon

Desert Moon
Novel by Mark Walker

The year is 2341, and Earth has formed a multi-planet confederation. As part of this confederation, Earth is now known as Terra and they have a defense force known as the Terran Defense Force (or TDF). The TDF consists of modern weapons including power-armored tanks and vehicles, which are called CATs. Most of these are manned by genetically engineered troops called Purebreds. These troops are made to be faster, smarter, and bigger than normal humans. Combined with this arsenal of equipment and super soldiers are the Assassins. Surpassing even the Purebreds, the Assassins are faster and stronger, and they have their sense enhanced past their peers. Oh, and there is one other catch: They are vampires. Their need for blood drives them to be some of the most feared killers in the confederation. The only weakness these vampires have is that they crave blood; stakes, garlic, and sunlight mean nothing to them unless the garlic is on bread—then they will eat it.

Sediana, the setting for the novel, is the future’s version of a Native American reservation, and it has vast amounts of bauxite, which is a key component in the manufacturing of things like space ships. The TDF wants to protect the resource, but the locals are getting restless and they have just found an ancient stash of M1A4 Abrams tanks, Bradley IFVs, M-4 carbines, and attack helicopters.

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