Alvar’s Spear, Charles Freedom Long

Alvar’s Spear, Charles Freedom Long

Alvar’s Spear

Gar is a respected scientist on the Antal homeworld of Alvar, despite his status as a despised goldeneye. Favoured by Queen Hakan and working in an area of genetics dear to the silvereye ruling class, he is protected from much of the class hatred festering in the Antal race. However, underneath the veneer of the respected and respectable geneticist lies the leader of a revolution; a leader on a deadline to prevent the eradication of his entire race at the goddess Alvar’s hands. The Antal hive has become contaminated and stagnant, and to survive, they must change or die.

Alvar’s Spear is a powerful story of revolution, love, and acceptance, weaving themes that will resonate with every reader into its plot. The book is replete with conflicts, driving the story forwards: between the goddess Alvar and the direction of her people; between the factions of Antal society; and not least between Gar and the eminent Terran geneticist whose help he must have to save his race. Author Charles Freedom Long’s personification of elements of nature and of the world of Alvar itself is an intriguing way of integrating the wild environment, and it contrasts sharply with the protocol-bound Antal society living in isolation from the world it inhabits. In many ways, understated as it is, the theme of the walls that people build between themselves and other people and things is in some ways the most powerful single element of the book. Like its predecessor, Dancing with the Dead, Alvar’s Spear is a book guaranteed to make you think, layered with concepts to uncover.

Playing With Fire, Cris and Clare Meyers

Playing With Fire, Cris and Clare Meyers

Playing with Fire: Criminal Elements #1

Playing With Fire is an urban fantasy set in the underground world of international crime, where the top operators use magic to augment their more mundane skills. Renée Devereaux is a professional thief, flying about as far under the radar as she can. Sam ‘Stone’ Anders is a hitman for hire. When they meet on a job in Russia, the fact that the job requires both of their diverse skill sets turns out to not even be the strangest thing about it, and it takes all Renee’s magic with stealth and Stone’s destructive Talent with fire for them both to escape with their hides intact. Nearly fifteen years later, when a chance to take out the man who set them up in Russia comes their way, they’re both more than ready to accept the challenge…

Renée and Stone make for interesting protagonists; they initially come across as the French chick and the all-American hero, but they develop into much stronger, more original presences in the story, adding their own unique quirks. While all the characters are written very much in the present, the interactions are really one of the high points in the book, especially once the secondary characters are introduced. There are plenty of hints of more back story to be uncovered, and as this is the first in a series, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that details will be forthcoming as the series unfolds. Rook, Grace, and Medium make a quality supporting cast.

I felt that there were areas where the tension could potentially have been made a little more of; Renée and Stone are written as highly competent, and in places, it made it hard to worry too much about their long-term well-being. The magic structure has some particularly nice touches, realistically written and with enough downsides to make it plausible, and it added an excellent thread of ‘power corrupts’ to the overall plot. The book was also editorially solid, which I always appreciate. Taken all in all, this is a very enjoyable story, a strong series-starter – I look forwards to seeing what authors Cris and Clare Meyers do with the next couple of books.

Anchor Leg, Jack Croxall

Anchor Leg, Jack Croxall

Anchor Leg

When the overcrowding forced Earth to seek alternatives to house its population, stations were founded as far out as Saturn, and spaceships travel the vast distances between planets, serving as transport, supply, research, and mining vessels. Seren Temples is a security apprentice on the Charybdis, an orphan from Earth among the primarily system-born crew, trying to escape her past on Earth and make herself a future – any future. However, when an SOS signal disrupts their planned course, Seren and her security team find themselves involved in events that could destabilise the delicate balance of the whole solar system.

Jack Croxall’s Anchor Leg is a fantastic sci-fi novel, with a fast-paced plot, twisty intrigue, and incredibly well-developed characters. While I’m a self-confessed cynic, I also found the romance in this plot was nicely handled, neither distracting nor detracting from the primary plot, but actually supporting the action and contributing to character development. That’s a challenging achievement for many books, and one I admire. The exposition also managed to maintain a perfect balance between keeping the reader informed enough to understand the undercurrents and managing to completely avoid the fatal data dump. This book was an extraordinarily satisfying read on pretty much every level, and I have every intention of going to camp out on this author’s page to do my best Oliver Twist impression. An outstanding achievement.