Friday, August 31, 2012

An Alien Collective by Roxanne Barbour


Today we enter the realm of indie YA science fiction. An AlienCollective by Canadian author Roxanne Barbour begins with the protagonist, Cyn-Tia Silverthorne and 7 other humans,4 females and 4 males, waking up in a strange world in a compound surrounded by 3 other compounds holding similar groups of aliens. They are all at the same stage of life as she is – young adulthood. The captives are a mix of four species from worlds which, like earth, are at the stage of making the leap to the rest of the galaxy.  All have universal translators around their necks, and each species is unique and clearly drawn.  Cyn seems to be quite a fan of Star Trek type shows and is unphased by this turn of events, accepting it and going along with the wishes of her abductors for the time being. 

At first they are separated by a barrier they can communicate through, with a strange box acting as the nexus in the center corner connecting the four compounds.  She meets Stire, a male of the world of Temma. When Cyn and Stire touch the box, they realize that the four groups will have to cooperate to open the box.  Reluctantly the others, Jana from Irandis and Frakis from Reanon comply, and box opens into each compound to reveal cryptic instructions for each group. They are not told why they are there, they are to live in integrated communities and the four individuals who opened the box are the leaders of the individual groups, and cannot be changed as their DNA is required to open the box. 

As their time goes on, they make friends and form alliances, learn many skills they need to survive, and embark on discovering the why of their kidnapping and become adults. In true Gene Roddenberry tradition, a tentative interspecies romance develops, which is both touching and believable.

I enjoyed the way Barbour creates the aliens, and gives them unique characteristics which are specific to their species, and also gives them similarities which might be common in diverse species who’ve reached our level in technology.  I must admit, Cyn is portrayed as being far more mature than an average seventeen year old, as is Stire; but her interactions with the others are interesting and believable. Several times during the tale I found myself backtracking, but overall it was an enjoyable reading experience, and is one which should appeal to teenagers and young readers from age twelve on up.  I give it four solid stars and will be buying it for my young family members who are discovering science-fiction.

Roxanne Barbour is also the author of the YA scifi murder mystery  A Way, About and can be found blogging at You can follow her on Twitter at @RoxanneBarbour.




Friday, August 24, 2012


In Unicorn Bait by S. A. Hunter, Naomi’s day begins badly with her examining an artifact of her late grandfather’s – a purported ‘unicorn horn’. She accidentally pricks her finger and drops the horn, breaking it – and then the world she knows disappears and she is transported to a burning hut in a village that is under attack. An old woman named Agatha saves her from being raped and murdered, and gives her a dress to wear so she won’t stand out so much.  Unfortunately, the leader of the pillagers, Lord Tavik thinks her to be the wife of the late lord of the realm, Lady Naomi. As the conqueror, and he insists she marry him or die.

Lord Tavik wears an evil-looking mask at all times, never taking it off for one moment.  He’s murderous, given to conquering and blood-shed. He hates Agatha, and is completely paranoid. Naomi agrees to marry him as long as there is no sex and he agrees, giving her a cook, Yula, as her maid/jailor.  Oddly enough, he honors his side of the bargain.

After arriving at Tavik’s home castle, Naomi finds a mouse who not only talks, he claims to be a wizard, Mister Squibbles.  Apparently a spell has gone awry and he ended up as a mouse.  He agrees to tell her about Unicorns if she will provide him with wine and cheese. It turns out Tavik and Agatha are at odds over the evil God he worships.  It also turns out Mister Squibbles knows Agatha better than he would admit as he is her familiar.

This book is a hoot.  Naomi is desperate to find a unicorn, so she can get back home and she needs a virgin to act as bait to attract one. Oh my!  Guess what worshipper of an evil God is a virgin!  The adventures she has as a result of her inadvertent breaking of her grandfather’s Unicorn Horn are wildly creative and the characters are fun and extremely likeable.  I found myself thinking about this tale all day when I was doing other things and couldn’t wait to get back to reading it.
Hunter manages to tell a tale that's a hilarious take on the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale with just a hint of 'Sleeping Beauty' rolled into it , making it both modern and clever. Naomi and Tavik have great chemistry and all of the characters make you want to know them. Unicorn Bait is a great romp and I loved it - it's a great read and for the price of .99 at how can you lose?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Osric’s Wand - The Wand-Maker’s Debate by Jack D. Albrecht Jr. & Ashley Delay

Osric’s Wand - The Wand-Maker’s Debate by Jack D. Albrecht Jr. & Ashley Delay is one of the most original fantasies I have read in a long time. In the world of Archana magic is commonplace – everyone has it. What separates you from the rest is how well you use your magic and your wand. A good wand is a must.

At large public celebrations one must beware of stepping on the drunken squirrels and giants hurl boulders into the air for enchantresses to turn into fireworks.  Lions tell stories reminding those who hunt to eat to respect the last wishes of their prey. The people are a mix of talking animals and people, all of whom apparently wish to die an honorable death by feeding someone (!) instead of dying of old age.

Osric is Portentist, and is a security officer. He has the gift of knowing when something momentous or dangerous is about to happen, and can sense the threatening intentions of others. His skills have advanced him to the high position of Vigile Contege, but he can’t shake the suspicion his superiors haven’t told him everything. The previous Contege has disappeared. Osric has been given a fine Eni wand as a reward for having thwarted an attempt to assassinate the Chancellor of the Wizardly Union.

The people are celebrating the ratification of a treaty, and at the big party in the castle, Osric’s gift as a portentist kicks in and he realizes a terrible crime is about to occur. This time, his gift tells him 2 things are about to occur and he chooses to go to the throne room to stop whatever is happening there. He discovers the problem – a goblet full of pearls is glowing, and he also discovers his wand is missing. Unable to prevent the pearls from exploding, Osric is knocked unconscious.

While being dug out of the debris, Osric is given a wand made by the famous wand-maker, Gus (a prairie-dog), one that he hasn’t had time to finish and pretty up yet and so it looks like an ordinary stick instead of a wand. The first time Osric uses it, he is overcome by the power-lock – the experience a person has when getting used to a new wand. Not only that, but unicorns have begun to take an interest in him – one saving his life in the explosion. He meets Bridgett, Maiden of the Unicorns, who can give him no answers as to what the unicorns know about the explosion.

Soon, Osric discovers that the weasels and something called the irua – a subterestrial race who occupied the same lands as the weasels, are involved in the explosion. Soon, he and his companions are boldly going into danger and Osric is discovering all sorts of powers his new wand bestows upon him. A witch’s vision declares ‘Victory cannot be achieved until the wand-that-is-not-a-wand is known by all on their path.’

Of course, more is going on than meets the eye at first. The treachery goes deep and Osric is determined to unravel it.

This is an intense tale, with many different characters and all of them clear and unique. There is a great deal of action, but the conversations are fascinating and quite humorous. The adventures Osric has with his companions are unexpected and exciting, and Osric himself is so much more than merely a policeman. Despite the fact it is a setup for a series I loved this book. It ends well enough to satisfy, and leaves you wanting more.  I like that in fantasy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Prince of Bryanae, Jeffrey Getzin

I want to thank you all for your patience over the long hiatus – summer came and vacations interfered with my work ethic, but I did manage to read some awesome books while I was gallivanting all over the continental US.  Today, we celebrate my return to blogging about my favorite subject by sharing Jeffrey Getzin’s  breathtaking epic fantasy, ‘Prince of Bryanae’.

“Discipline. It was the most important word in Willow’s vocabulary.”  This is the opening line of one of the best fantasy books I’ve read all summer, and I read a lot of them.  The story begins with Willow, an elf and Captain in the King’s Guard, and who is in the service of the royal family of Bryanae. Willow’s life has taken a sudden turn for the bad, and it's about to become even worse.  She is beset by problems she has no control over, and no matter how much discipline she applies to the situation, it keeps spiraling out of control. She’s attracted to Captain Snyde, an arrogant man she despises but whom she inexplicably desires against her own wishes. To top it off, she refuses to admit she is in love with Private Tamlevar, a good, decent man who is in love with her and whose loyalty to her is unswerving.

From moment of the opening line, the action begins, and it is nonstop up to the final page. Willow is unfairly demoted, her despised mother shows up and Vazerian, the prince she is supposed to be guarding, gets kidnapped and she is frozen in place, unable to stop it, leaving her open to accusations of cowardice.   Those are the better parts of the week. Willow’s life as she knows it over, and all the discipline she has spent her very long life developing can’t keep it from going to hell.  Terribly injured and now on the run, only discipline keeps Willow from completely breaking under the onslaught of bad luck - discipline and Private Tamlevar who has insisted on following her.

Ultimately, Willow finds herself risking her life for the country which had turned its back on her, choosing to attempt to rescue the kidnapped Prince of Vazerian, even though she no longer has any authority.  Willow’s quest to save the prince takes her to the last place she ever wanted to be, and in the process she and Tamlevar discover what really happened, both in the past and in the present and who is really behind the death and destruction of everything and everyone Willow ever loved.

I am glad to say, I suspected all along things were not as they appeared with a certain character, but the final revelations took even me by surprise. As I said before, this is a complex tale of action, reaction and the repercussions actions taken frequently have.

Add the relentless action to the emotional roller-coaster which runs through all of Willow’s and Tamlevar’s adventures and you have tale which is incredibly intense and which completely captivated me. This is most definitely a five-star adventure, the sort I am always looking for but only rarely stumble upon.

You can find Prince of Bryanae at and at Goodreads.  Jeffrey Getzin can be found blogging at