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Kings River Lite:

KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
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Friday, July 26, 2013

Fiery Edge of Steel by Jill Archer


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Terrance McArthur


Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this post.

In Jill Archer’s Fiery Edge of Steel, Armageddon was 2,000 years ago, and Heaven lost. Demon/human-descended Maegesters keep the demon warlords in line and act as judges with waning magic. The women of their lines use waxing magic to heal and make things grow. Noon Onyx, the first woman trained as a Maegester, was born with waning magic in a birth mix-up, and she and her lover Ari are about to go on their first mission: determine if the demon Lord of the Shallows killed fifteen fishermen from the village, and punish the guilty. First, Noon and Ari must choose their Guardian Angels.

Starting with the execution of a demon masquerading as a human, yet the woman he deceived still loves him, there is a theme of the masks we wear and the reality behind appearances. Noon had hidden her waning magic for years, the two Angels who travel with them to the Shallows (a slacker and a perky Scripture-quoter) conceal their own secrets, and they face demons that can disguise themselves. Who knows what will be uncovered when Truth is revealed?


Image source: Penguin

This follow-up to Dark Light of Day (reading it first would explain a lot of “Huh?” moments) is thickly layered. The beginning in the city and universities has a Hogwarts/Harry Potter flavor mixed with The Paper Chase, while the journey to the Shallows evokes elements of The Heart of Darkness and/or Apocalypse Now, The African Queen, and a touch of Jason and the Argonauts. The hunt for the answer to the mystery of the missing villagers is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, The Exorcist, and (not exactly, but sort-of) The Crying Game. Somewhere along the way, you might toss in The Wizard of Oz.

The characters casually swear and pray in the name of Luck, referring to Lucifer, using it as we would say “gosh” or “jeez.” It is a strange inversion, but Archer pulls it off with a smooth confidence.

Fiery Edge of Steel is a journey into unfamiliar territory, marked by danger, betrayal, and surprises. Enter carefully, watching for signposts along the way. At your destination, you will see that the markers you ignored pointed the way to the answers you sought.

To enter to win a copy of Fiery Edge of Steel, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Steel”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 3, 2013. U.S. residents only.



Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews


⇧ switch to KingsRiverLife.com for the full issue ⇧
Terrance McArthur


Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this post.

In the Ilona Andrews penned world of Magic Rises, the world of Kate Daniels and Curran (her Beast Lord husband), magic washes in waves across the world, silencing the machines and awakening the power of magic until a techno-current stifles the paranormal powers and the land becomes mundane…and semi-automatic machine guns work again.

Many adolescent shape-hangers go loup—cannot control their changes—and must be killed. Supplies of the drug that can help the children are controlled by the European packs. When Curran and Kate are offered a year’s supply of the “panacea” for guarding a pregnant shifter, they go across the Atlantic and into the Black Sea, knowing it’s a trap, but they don’t realize who the trap is supposed to ensnare.

Although Kate is the only human in a pack of Shifters, she is not defenseless. Trained by a master in armed and unarmed combat, she has paranormal abilities that she tries to conceal to keep her "I-want-to-rule-the-world-again" father from finding her. Her differentness is frequently brought up and thrown at her, as if it makes her less than the shape-changers. The fact that she is the Consort of a great gray lion, rather than his wife, proves to them that she doesn’t really belong. Another shifter is trying to win Curran’s affections, and Kate feels betrayed.


Image source: Penguin

The pregnant shifter, a woman-wolf, is the pawn in a battle for power with the Carpathians, and feels no self-worth, merely a bargaining chip in her father’s political plans. Kate tries to get her to stand up for herself.

Ilona Andrews is the husband-wife team of Andrew Gordon and Ilona Andrews. Their world building is complex and thorough. Magic Rises has wolf-shifters, jackal-shifters, hyenas, blue creatures, badgers, someone who takes care of books, sea monsters, porpoise-men, magical powers, a were-mongoose, healers, echoes of Babylonian myths, robbers, millennia-old mages, innocent shepherds, and little men. The action is wild and crazy, with white-knuckle battle sequences and some super-friendly sex.

A feature of several Andrews' books is like a print version of the Special Features section of a DVD. They include stories that didn’t make the final draft, but they explain story points from the finished book so they are included as extra novellas after the novel is finished. In this case, “An Ill-Advised Rescue” explains why the bluish Saiman owes a debt to Kate. It’s fun to read as a short subject before the feature presentation of Magic Rises.


To enter to win a copy of Magic Rises, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Magic”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 27, 2013. U.S. residents only.


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Shadows of Falling Night By S.M. Stirling



⇧ switch to KingsRiverLife.com for the full issue ⇧
Terrance McArthur


Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this post.

Vampires, werewolves, and succubi: legends.

Shadowspawn: the stuff that legends are made of.

In S. M. Stirling’s Shadows of Falling Night, third in the Shadowspawn cycle, the Shadowspawn are shape-shifting, blood-drinking, world-controlling creatures that can live in the darkness after they die.

After a century of scientific breeding, Adrian and Adrienne Brézé are the most powerful of their kind, but she wants to trim mankind down with a plague to a number easy to dominate; he is married to Ellen, a human with no powers and doesn’t want to control humanity…beyond manipulating governments and the Stock Market to his benefit–he’s not totally good, but he’s better! In addition, there are Shadowspawn who want to atmospheric-nuke the world back to the good-old, pre-tech Dark Ages and rule as gods, as well as a rogue Spawn (or is he part of someone else’s plan?) with a plutonium device, out to blow up a Shadowspawn gathering in Georgia (the former Soviet republic, not the Southern state).



Image source: Penguin

Part of the near-future chess match between Adrian and Adrienne is who has custody of their twins–yes, brother and sister had children–euwwww, and that expression is used repeatedly in the book–and this triggers several mega-action sequences as Adrienne tries to get them back. There are aerial attacks, chases through fairy-tale forests with bunches of big and/or bad wolves, and a wizard's-war at sea where the siblings shape-change into creatures that can take out each other’s creatures. There are deadly feedings, betrayals, disguises, and even a Murder of the Orient Express!

Stirling originally made his mark in the military SF arena, co-writing with the likes of James Doohan and Anne McCaffrey (The City Who Fought). His take on the urban-paranormal genre shows the attention to detail, meticulous world-building, clever dialogue, and military precision that are his hallmarks. I love the references to movie sequels that are yet to be made.

The third book in the series, Shadows of Falling Night, makes a grand finale to the story with a rousing climax that could bring about an apocalyptic end of the world…although…there are some major changes of the playing field that beg for further installments.

To enter to win a copy of Shadows of the Falling Night
simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Falling”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 20, 2013. U.S. residents only.





Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Darkness Unmasked by Keri Arthur



⇧ switch to KingsRiverLife.com for the full issue ⇧
Terrance McArthur


Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this post.

Keri Arthur doesn’t want me to sleep. She keeps writing stories in her Dark Angels series that have me reading late at night, when I should be getting the beauty rest I so badly need. I look like I do because of her!

Darkness Unmasked
is the fifth book (after Darkness Unbound, Darkness Rising, Darkness Devours, Darkness Hunts) about Risa Jones: half werewolf, half Aedh (spiritual, angel-like entities). She can travel the grey lands between Heaven and Hell, but she doesn’t fear the Reaper: she’s sleeping with one of the soul gatherers.

Her big job is to find the stolen keys to the afterworld, keys that many groups want for the power they will give. Risa found one already, but it was taken from her while she battled mutant creatures. While she looks, a vampire leader (sort of an Australian Margaret Thatcher with fangs, minus the redeeming qualities) has her looking for the person/spirit/thing who sucked blood, brains, bones, and life out of her lover, leaving a husk of skin wrapped in webbing. Risa is helping the vampire because she claims she will help find out who murdered Risa’s mother. These quests take her to bars, storage lockers, museums, deserted buildings, and between symbol-engraved stones that light up like the coils of a toaster and send her hundreds of miles from Melbourne in a moment. Her language is coarse, and—for someone dealing with soul Reapers and sort-of-angels—she has a lot of sex…and there is rape.



Image source: Penguin

The only problem I have with this book is rape. It’s a major part of the plot, there are multiple victims, it’s brutal, it’s pretty graphic, it’s repulsive, and she says it gave her some pleasure (the cad was using a spell on her to get information from sex in the past), which makes it seem…dirtier. It’s like cutting into a fantastically-appetizing salad to find a disgusting bug.

Risa has always been a take-charge heroine, but all the damage and abuse she has taken has made her tired of the demands on her time and powers, and she wants to give up and die, so she can re-unite with her mother. However, that may no longer be possible, and she feels betrayed…in several ways. Several characters are unmasked along the way: sometimes it’s their purpose, sometimes their nature, and sometimes their disguises. It’s an intense read that will bring up a lot of feelings for the reader…some of them unpleasant.

It helps to start this set of novels from the beginning, because Keri Arthur has created an intricate paranormal reality, and the multi-book story arcs can take a while to decipher. Darkness Splintered comes out in November; I’d better start getting extra sleep, now.

To enter to win a copy of Darkness Unmasked simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Unmasked”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 13, 2013. U.S. residents only.




Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.