The Dark Griffin, by K.J. Taylor

Arren raised his head, too, and screamed his own name at the heavens.
He thought he saw the black griffin pause in its circling. Then it screamed back. There were no discernable words there, just a long, harsh screech, like an eagle’s. Arren paused at this; he’d never heard a griffin’s cry that sounded like that. But as the black griffin began to descend and he began to run away out of the village, toward the fields, a thought flashed across his mind: this griffin had no name.

Despite being a Northener, the former slave race, Arren Cardockson has managed to become a griffiner. With his griffin, Eluna, he oversees trade in the city of Eagleholm, but knows his northern appearance means he will never be fully respected. When Arren and Eluna are sent to capture a rogue griffin, Arren sees a chance to earn some money and some respect, but his meeting with the mysterious black griffin begins a chain of events which sees his fortunes plummet.

For the black griffin, life has been hard and lonely. Living in the wild, he has little memory of his mother and has only met, briefly, one other griffin. His meeting with Arren will also change his life, from one of freedom to one of imprisonment and confusion.

Griffin and griffiner are in conflict, but as their lives spiral out of control it seems they may have something in common.

The Dark Griffin is the first title in a new fantasy series, The Fallen Moon. The land of Cymria is ruled by those humans who can communicate with, and work with, the griffins, with both rogue humans and wild griffins treated poorly. For Arren, who has risen to his position because a griffin chose him, his background means that he does not have access to justice. For the black griffin, his inability to communicate with humans means he does not understand the human world. Each of the pair must fight for survival, and for freedom.

This is a gripping fantasy offering suitable for both adult and older teen readers.

The Dark Griffin (Fallen Moon)

The Dark Griffin (Fallen Moon), by K.J. Taylor
Harper Voyager, 2009

Gladiatrix, by Rhonda Roberts

The surge cut out abruptly. The feeling of being lifted forward was replaced by the sensation of dropping. Falling. Towards something green.
Then I realised I was falling! The green was a grassy field far below me.

A scream forced itself out of my mouth and my body went into red alert.

Kannon Jarratt doesn’t know who she really is. When she was just two she was left for dead in a cave in the Australian bush. Now, twenty years later, her adoptive mother is dead and a new lead to her identity has emerged. Could she be the long-missing daughter of US Time Marshal, Victoria Dupree?

Kannon is determined to meet Victoria , and, in spite of her fear of flying, is soon bound for the US. But nothing prepares her for just how far her journey will go, when she finds herself thrust back through time to ancient Rome, where Victoria has gone missing. To find and rescue her mother, Kannon must become a gladiatrix, and fight to the death in the arena.

Gladiatrix is an action-packed time travel adventure, set both in an alternate present and in the past, allowing readers a glimpse of Ancient Rome as well as some of the implications of time travel.

The first in a series, Gladiatrix combines action and adventure with some moments of humour.


Gladiatrix, by Rhonda Roberts
Harper Voyager, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Witches Incorporated, by K. E. Mills

That’s it. I’ve done it. I’m a real live janitor.
He wasn’t ready. He didn’t know nearly enough. The international law, the restricted incants, the seventeen volumes of case files that didn’t even scratch the surface of the Department’s work over the past ten years. He’d barely absorbed any of it. All was chaos in his head, facts and figures tumbling like leaves in a windstorm. He didn’t know enough yet to be let loose on the world.

Gerald Dunwoody is now officially a janitor, and off on his first assignment – a case of espionage with international consequences. His friends Melissande and Bibbie are on a case of their own. They have started a new witching agency, and they, too, have their first big job. Unfortunately, it seems Witches incorporated and Gerald’s assignment may be about to step into each other’s territory. Soon, though, stepping on their friends’ toes might be the least of their worries.

Witches Incorporated is an exciting fantasy novel set in a fantasy world where witches and wizards play key roles. Gerald is a wizard who has newly discovered powers, and must learn how to use and control them. His friends have problems of their own. Melissande is a princess who has turned her back on royal life and both she and her partner, Bibbie, must battle the restrictions of being female (or ‘gels’) in a male-dominated society. Reg, the third in the Witches Incorporated agency is a bird who not only talks but was also once a human queen.

Aimed at an adult readership, this series is especially likely to appeal to the crossover market of older teens and slightly older, with its blend of characters and issues common to members of that age group. The second in the Rogue Agent series, the title can also stand alone.

Witches Incorporated

Witches Incorporated, by K. E. Mills
Harper Voyager, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Gene Thieves, by Maria Quinn

‘You see, I want to recreate myself, or rather myself as I should have been.’
Impatient to get the worst over with, the lawyer brusquely responded. ‘Please get to the point, Dr Brown, and in words a layman can fathom, if you will.’
‘The child I intend to raise will be the child of my parents, a new beginning, a chance for their genes to combine more successfully than at my conception and ultimately to be passed on to future generations, without creating another genetic mistake like me.’

Brilliant scientist Piggy Brown wants to have a baby – but not just any baby. Piggy is brilliant but, from birth, has been physically imperfect, resembling the animal he is nicknamed after. Now he wants to use a surrogate to give birth to the baby he believes his parents should have had. Peter Tebrett – Dancer- is the lawyer Piggy turns to for help in dealing with the legalities of such a baby. Dancer has his own reasons for wanting to help his client, not the least of which is to assuage his conscience. But in time a friendship develops between the pair.

Unfortunately for both men the surrogate chosen to carry the baby comes with baggage, and a past neither of them is aware of until it is too late. Piggy himself has problems. His genetic research has made him a target of mercenaries who will stop at nothing to gain his knowledge – even if it means violently kidnapping the baby.

The Gene Thieves is a gripping thriller set in a near-future which is plausible. The UN Ethical Science Council tries to ensure that advances in research do not take mankind down dangerous paths – but in a world where money can buy almost anything, this is a difficult task. Meanwhile, couples wanting children can legitimately use the services of professional surrogates, and marriage has become a temporary state, entered into as a legal mating contract.

In this world full of beautiful people, a man like Piggy finds it hard to live a normal life and sees producing a perfect baby as going some way to rectifying the disappointments of his now dead parents. But perhaps past wrongs can be righted in ways that are not so obvious.

There is much at stake in this tale – friendships, lives, reputations – but perhaps, most importantly, the future of humanity.

A gripping tale.

The Gene Thieves, by Maria Quinn
Harper Voyager, 2009

Dreaming Again, edited by Jack Dann

How best to describe an anthology which features stories by the cream of the Australian speculative fiction community? Perhaps a starting point could be to quote from the call for submissions by editor Jack Dann:

Dreaming Again will showcase the very best contemporary ‘wild-side fiction’ (those stories that have an edge of horror or fantasy, or could be categorised as magical realism) and the very best genre fiction, which includes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. We are looking for brilliant writing, style, and fresh ideas. Our only criterion is quality.

These were Dann’s aims, and the reader of the collection will not be disappointed. This is truly a collection of top quality speculative fiction, as diverse as it is awe-inspiring, with story after story proving irresistible to the reader who wants (or needs0 to put the book down for a while.

From stories set in sparse or shocking futures, such as Purgatory by Rowena Cory Daniells or Kim Westwood’s Nightship to fantasy numbers such as Kim Wilkins The Forest, all stories have a sense of familiarity for Australian readers. Many have very Australian settings, others Australian characters, and even those with neither of these have a very Australian feel.

These thirty five stories will prove a delight to lovers of speculative fiction. A simply superb collection which will be talked about for years to come.

Dreaming Again

Dreaming Again, edited by Jack Dann
Harper Voyager, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.