“Cat’s Claw” by Amber Benson (Ace, 2010)

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Calliope Reaper-Jones is back . . . sort of.  Actually, she just wants her life to get back to normal, to do her stressful, fast-paced job, and live in the normal world, but of course that’s not going to happen.  In Death’s Daughter, Calliope ended up owing the three-headed guardian of Hell, Cerberus, a favor, and now he wants to collect on that.  After being forcefully summoned to stand before Cerberus, she is offered a deal: to find a an ancient Egyptian architect who has gone missing.  She only has so much time to complete this task: if she succeeds, her debt will be filled and she’ll get to keep Runt, the cute offspring of Cerberus who Callie adopted; if she fails, she will have to take over Cerberus’s job as the guardian of the gate of hell.

Cat’s Claw continues Calliope’s adventures from our world into the underworld and beyond – even traveling through time at one point – as Amber Benson continues to have fun with the world she’s created.  While this sequel lacks a little of the depth and complexity of Death’s Daughter, it’s nevertheless a fun romp into an interesting fantasy that plays around with mythology and history.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on March 22nd 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

“A Dark Matter” by Peter Straub (Doubleday, 2010)

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Peter Straub’s new novel, A Dark Matter, is about an event that happened in the past, in the sixties, with a group of high school teenagers and a mysterious man; a ritual that went terribly wrong, or perhaps exactly as guru Spencer Mallon planned.  It is a story that appears simple and seemingly straight forward at first, but as the book continues, more details fall into place, things becomes more complicated, and the true horrors of that fateful night come to light.

Lee Hayward is a writer looking for something new and interesting to write about; a book unlike any of his others.  He didn’t participate the night of the ritual, not liking Mallon from the beginning, choosing to avoid him.  But now, decades later, Lee wants to get to the bottom of the story and find out exactly what really happened.  He meets with each of the surviving members – Hootie Bly, Dilly Olson, Jason Boatman, and his high school sweetheart who became his wife, Lee Truax – interviewing them in depth, to hear the different stories, and put all the pieces together.  Hootie has just been released from a mental hospital, after what happened that night, while Lee has never fully confront his wife and asked for her confession.

On that night terrible things happened.  A portal was opened between our world and another, and demons, beasts, or creatures were released; people died, slaughtered, reduced to pieces.  Whether Mallon ever wanted this to happen, the reader will never really know, or for that matter, who this enigmatic man really was, but they will take a journey with Lee into the past, and along the way experience the horrific things these teenagers saw and felt, as well as try to find out the big why of it all.

Straub slowly gives out the pieces in a great growing mystery, as the reader learns more and more, but at the same time the horrors being revealed are hard to face and accept.  But then confession is good for the soul, and when these people talk about what happened, it will ultimately make them feel human again, perhaps for the first time in many years.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on March 22nd 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.