Zoey has to deal with her friend Stevie Rae’s death and return as the evil undead. Definitely something she has to deal with
Of course that has to takeZoey has to deal with her friend Stevie Rae’s death and return as the evil undead. Definitely something she has to deal with
Of course that has to take a back seat to her constant conflict over three different love interests.
The People of Faith also seem to have decided they hate vampires, but, really the love interests are way more important
My suffering continues thanks to the cruel machinations of Cyna and Mavrynthia and Merriska and I continue to battle through this series
However, now I can be somewhat positive, because there are some definite improvements in this book, especially Aphrodite. So far she has portrayed in the most grossly misogynist of terms and treated as a parody of a terrible person, here we actually get to see her as a more of a person. Sure, she’s not exactly a very pleasant person, but she is a person rather than a monster in human form. She’s actually far more developed than Zoey’s friends who are little more than mindless drones worshipping her every move.
So Aphrodite finding her own personality, being involved in the plot even if it is in the path of “redemption” for not being a good follower of Zoey in the first place. Even better, not only is Aphrodite not just a caricature of evil and awful, but she actually challenges Zoey in ways that don’t just come down to her being super evil and terrible. She challenges Zoey and she may be right – and she challenges her on several levels: She pokes at Zoey’s ridiculous refusal to cuss and her massive slut shaming and even demands the whole group see sense when they’re busy bickering. Now we have Aphrodite as part of team good-guy which means hopefully we will continue to have a character who will challenge Zoey in the future.
Another nice moment is when her friends actually challenge her over the secrets she’s keeping. Sure, they’re obviously wrong and mean and don’t understand – but this whole series is so saturated in evil people vs sycophants that just seeing someone challenge Zoey who isn’t evil personified is an amazing relief
See, this is the problem with this series – it sets the bar so damn low than it is incredibly easy to be pleasantly surprised.
Right here endeth my praise
Like the previous books in this series, this book is sorely lacking in plot – and actual active involvement in said plot.
We have three main issues du jour – Neferet, the boss of the school is apparently evil despite being a High Priestess of Nyx and Nyx not doing a damn thing about this (slacker goddess can give Zoey stomach cramps of guidance but not stop Neferet running rogue?). Secondly we have Stevie Ray, one of Zoey’s sycophants, who has turned into an undead evil thing and Zoey would rather she wasn’t. And then there’s the love square that makes my eyes roll so much that I get friction burns. So how do these plots progress?
The first one doesn’t. Neferet is constantly used as an excuse to not tell anyone anything without any real indication of why that is so or how it justifies secrecy. It just is.
On the second plot – nothing happens until Deux Ex addresses it. Seriously we have a whole lot of angsting and woe and worry – but every time she considers researching or actually doing something about it, she’s distracted by her convoluted love interests. So she does nothing but fret until WOOO GODDESS POWER!
And this is something I loathe about the plots of these books. There’s no work, action or agency from Zoey or her friends – everything is decided by Nyx, the Irritable Bowel Goddess. She needs to decide whether to say anything? Divine stomach roil. Needs to solve something, goddess intervention. Needs to decide what to do? Goddess cramps. Zoey doesn’t do anything in her own right, she’s just a puppet being manipulated by the goddess inside. Which really does make Nyx not acting in other ways so ridiculous. Is she a hands off goddess letting her people work with free will, or is she getting in her little vampires’ business and micromanaging them?
And then there’s the love interests – each more terrible than the last.
Can someone please acknowledge that her relationship with Heath is predatory? She has “imprinted” on him basically making him addicted to her and crave her touch. She continues to meet with him. She refuses to break it off – she refuses to free him. She keeps going back to him, keep drinking his blood. She recognises it’s wrong – but she recognises it is wrong for the wrong reasons: She is seeing it is forbidden for fledglings and humans to be together, but completely fails to recognise the control she has over him or the abusive dynamic it creates.
Then there’s her relationship with Loren. Now, they do finally consider this relationship to be a problem and that Loren is deceiving and manipulating Zoey with his own agenda. And yes that is certainly a problem and he is terribad awful. But it kind of misses the elephant in the room that absolutely no-one is willing to acknowledge except in a passing moment before handwaving it because Zoey is just so special and the teacher is just so hot that we’re just going to ignore the whole problem of a teacher preying on one of his students.
And finally we have Erik who remains the one appropriate love interest who turns into the terribad jealous slut shaming arsehole over her other boyfriends. Now, I’ve already mentioned the many many many many reasons her other relationships need tearing down and, “waaah I’m jealous and you’re a slutwhorejezebel” is not one of them.
He only bright light in that relationship is, shockingly, Aphrodite who calls out exactly how self-absorbed Erik is.
This is also the book where Zoey loses her virginity – and it’s predatory, manipulative and takes advantage of her while she’s at her most vulnerable. It’s a terrible scene – and it’s not made terrible by the person she’s with, it would be terrible with any of the men.
Gabriel Lennox would rather not be involved in Chosen society at all. He would rather not drink blood, not be involved in their parties and certainlyGabriel Lennox would rather not be involved in Chosen society at all. He would rather not drink blood, not be involved in their parties and certainly not create new vampires. He definitely has no interest in being their prince.
However, his solitude is not to continue. Lillith, his powerful and ancient creator, insists he take the throne while Seth, competition for that throne, is determined to make him into a rival. Throw in the plotting of the true immortals – as well as a whole lot of questioning over what immortality actually means – and Gabriel’s peace is shattered
So this book is definitely different from most of the vampire books out there. We follow Gabriel a vampire and hailed as a prince who really really doesn’t want to be a prince.
There’s a really interesting ongoing plot/debate of this book about what it means to be immortal. After all, Lillith promises the vampires (or not vampires since they often deny the title) immortality but how do they know they have it? And how do you even test that? And does the rules for one apply to all? This is central obsession of Gabriel and Seth – are they really immortal?
And if they are immortal then that begs lots of other questions – like why is Gabriel following orders? Why should he do what Lillith tells him? After all, isn’t he immortal, what is Lillith going to do?
In fact a lot of Gabriel’s character – in between the eternal surliness that is ever-present in this character – is based on him questioning the reality people present to him. He doesn’t want to be prince, but if he is going to be prince then they don’t get to make demands of him so who are all these people giving him orders?
Interestingly we also have some characters in very painful and difficult circumstances – Bela lost in Seth’s shadow and Colin, battling addiction and hatred of the world and himself – that latter of which really drives him to extreme behaviour. I wish more had been developed with him because he seemed to be a far more compelling character than the eternally surly Gabriel whose specialness seems entirely based on the super special woo-woo only he has for Reasons
The world itself is also somewhat unusual. We have many books with vampires deciding they should take over or be superior and the protagonists opposing that. But this comes with a whole different level brought by Lillith and her fellow originators of the vampires, each with their own agenda
One of the main problems is the extremely elaborate writing – and not just in the way people speak (a common way to try and create an idea of time and place) but also in the way everything is described. The setting, the clothing, how people look – over and over again with impossible elaborate and long winded detail. It’s meant to be beautiful and evocative and sometimes it is – but it is painfully slow and dragging. I had to fight not to skim the book rather than read it just to make it move at a decent rate – and I don’t think I would have missed any pertinent points if I had scanned it.
The slowness of the writing (and I really can’t emphasise this enough) combines with some really poor pacing at the beginning of the book. We open with a lot happening and no real relevance to any of it – no explanation, just random events portrayed with very purple, elaborate, slow writing.
So for over half of the book we have Gabriel abstaining from blood and complaining that he doesn’t need it – but no explanation whether that’s him or the vampire kind in general. We have a lot of very vague dreams and prophecies. We have Lillith and no explanation as to who she is and why she is so interested in Gabriel. Gabriel is pushed to become Prince but I’m not sure why people want him for the job or why he doesn’t want it.
Several of these events are covered in the second half of the book. But you have to battle through, fight through, over 150 pages of these long winded events but absolutely no context or reason or any of it. It is hard to keep going, to engage with the story, to want to keep going. We get so much exposition of the world building in the second half creating a very rich world with a whole lot of originality between the creatures that are Lillith’s family and the vampires who they create – and a whole lot of levels and different
Donata Santori is a witch working for the police – one of the future supernaturals that are publicly known to the general population. But even with heDonata Santori is a witch working for the police – one of the future supernaturals that are publicly known to the general population. But even with her useful ability to speak to the dead doesn’t make her very popular with her fellows.
Just when she’s starting to get out of the basement and be trusted one of those ghosts comes to her with a mission that not only risks that newfound trust – but also her life. There’s a painting that holds not just all the secrets of the paranormal races (which the Inquisition Cabal would love to get their hands on to push their crusade) but also a lost race… which may be even more destructive than a renewed inquisition.
This book is a very classic Urban Fantasy – very much in line with all the classic points and elements of a basic Urban Fantasy
And that sounds like a bad thing – but I like Urban Fantasy. I like classic Urban Fantasy. If I didn’t like all the hallmarks of a basic Urban Fantasy then I wouldn’t be a fan of that genre. The key is both what is added to that template and how well done that template is addressed
I do like Donata, the protagonist. Again she is a very classic Urban Fantasy protagonist who ticks a lot of boxes but does it well. She’s a witch, which in this world means lots of ritual magic and utility spells but not much in the way of throwing lightning. She’s also a cop (therefore involve in investigation) and knows enough martial arts to be useful in a fight and not be a damsel. She’s active and dangerous without being super-powerful and story breaking. I really like how she asserts herself when defying both the authority of the Council and her disapproving family (and certainly her two male cohorts) but does so without the classic suicidal sass that is so common to the genre (Honestly, I am tired of raging protagonist raging at authority which should squish them so many times over but never ever does). And she has conflicts with her family but does love them and seems to be blessedly free of the almost compulsory tragic past. I also quite like that the romance was only briefly the cause of men fighting each other
I mentioned that she can hold her own in a fight though it is slightly frustrating that her two male cohorts are so much more physically dangerous than she is – it’s such a trope and when the supernatural are involved it’s so unnecessary. Why can’t the woman be the one with physical super powers and the man be the one with support magic?
The world setting is also interesting – again, it’s very classic. We have a range of supernatural beings forming a council – some of which is known to humanity (the witches) but most of them are still very much hidden. What is interesting is that the creatures chosen are a nice difference from the usual vampires/werewolves. We have witches which are very similar, but also dragons, ghouls, a different take on fae and a very different look at wereanimals.
But the afterlife is not all good. Once the Commons where all people gathered to complete their JournPaul, Anna and Zach all died in a tragic accident
But the afterlife is not all good. Once the Commons where all people gathered to complete their Journey and find out where they’re going next. But now Mr. Brill controls the Essence of life and creation, their power, the potential of their journeys all trapped and enslaved to increase his power and control and create his corporate empire.
These three have the potential, together, of finally loosening Mr. Brill’s stifling grip and restoring things to their natural balance.
In some ways we have a classic adventure story – with a normal boy, Paul Reid, discovering that he is so much more special. He enters the Commons as a normal person and discovers how very very special he is as he goes along, gains new powers and collects companions who are super loyal to him
It’s classic – but things are classic for a reason; it’s the every man adventure story that is often fun when done well – and this is definitely done well. What makes it special is the world.
This huge world that is made up of the imaginations of everyone who has ever passed through is so random. In a wonderful way. Whether it’s the ferret whisperer or the Mososaurs or the hippie soldiers (I LOVED the hippie soldiers in their peace symbol uniforms) and the humbolt squid and so many other random images and creations. It works because The Commons is created from the minds of so many people, everyone who has died and passed on to the next journey
It is fascinating and rich and incredibly fun and zany and the sheer vastness of it makes it an excellent read. It also combines with the complex, multi-faceted plot with three different figures all doing seemingly very different things to bring about the end result – all their missions are connected but in a world that is so outside of normal rules that the connections are almost impossible to see until the end.
I’m torn on this. On the one side it’s amazing, it looks amazing, it’s fun, it’s wildly imaginative and incredibly vivid. At the same time it feels almost like a cheat – but having a world with no parameters, no logical connections, where literally anything mankind can imagine all exists then you also don’t particularly have any onus to create a coherent world. In fact, a coherent world is quite the opposite of what is – because we have all these remnants of imagine smooshed together, all these disparate sources of Essence striving to communicate and fight against the repression of all their infinite potential. This is what makes the book so much fun and so different – because it’s so vivid and bright and random. But it also means that you have infinite supplies of Deus Ex Machinae. There comes a point when you don’t even try to follow the logic of the plot any more, just watch, enjoy and run with it because no-one ever said it had to make sense
And I don’t know if that’s a frustration or an excellent thing. In a way it also underpins the whole conflict of this book. Mr. Brill is order – he is oppression and stagnation and control and predictability. Through him you can even see why, in the early days, people supported him. But the Commons, the Commons and Essence in its true state is wild and random and immense and varied and diverse and strange.
So, despite the waffling back and forth I’m going to say just run with it and enjoy every minute of the fun and joy and wildness and the deep conflict between control and randomness, order and individuality, uncertain dreams and certain yet grim structure.
From his world we also had some interesting concepts – the idea of people who are “Bona Fides” or “Mythical” – people or imaginative creations – but does that make them any less people since they’re still made from essence – just because they were shaped and born differently? I actually think it’s a threat that could have been followed more
One interesting element if this was Po. Po is an Asian man and a huge stereotype (a POC, and the only one I can remember in the book). Which is kind of the underpinning of his character – he’s a Mythical creation from an old 70s martial arts film with all the dubious characterisation inherent to that. He doesn’t speak, he uses sign language simply because he finds the gross stereotypical dubbed language he has to use to be demeaning. He does his utmost to resist what he is created, he’s a stereotype openly rejecting being the stereotype and trying to forge his own character despite the stereotype. It’s an interesting conflict.
Some DNF reviews are the hardest to write. The problem is that there’s an impression that our “DNF” books are the worst we’ve read – after all, what cSome DNF reviews are the hardest to write. The problem is that there’s an impression that our “DNF” books are the worst we’ve read – after all, what could be worse than a book we couldn’t manage to finish? Well it’s certainly true for some of our DNFs, but most of our absolutely terrible books are so bad that I feel almost compelled to keep reading either to fully describe all their awfulness or in an almost train-wreck like ghoulish inability to look away
This book is not awful. It is not terrible. But, at over 500 pages, it is long – and by the time I got to page 210, I, sadly, lost interest. At this point the only supernatural things we’d had were a nifty prologue and then lots of hints.
The prologue, set in classical times, was promising – we had magic and prophecy and different factions and choices and clear challenges and conflict and lots of nifty well written action. That prologue managed to keep me going for pages.
But after that we focus on Felix, a fairly ordinary teenaged boy who is clearly going to become the protagonist special one with lots of power. And there’s a lot of good things about this character – he has recently lost his parents in a terrible accident (which totally won’t be an accident) and he is an excellent depiction of someone suffering trauma. His guilt, his grief, his pain is all very realistic – it’s really well done and built into his character
What isn’t built into the character is the actual plot. And for 200 pages I’ve been following Felix around waiting for something to happen beyond him pining after a beautiful girl, playing football, drinking coffee and portraying his excellently depicted trauma.
We do get lots of fake outs. Like he’ll apparently be attacked and there’ll be action and a possibility of plot… but it’s a dream (it so wasn’t a dream. No it’s not a dream. Damnation don’t just let this lie as a dream!). And then he’ll see a woman in odd clothes on campus who runs… so he chases her. Who does that? It’s the middle of the night and he sees a strange woman and just decides to chase her?! But anyway he decides she’s a vampire or a ghost (this is NOT a magical incorporated world) and ends up exploring tunnels and crypts and then… going home.
Oh how I seethed.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back (check that twisted metaphor) was when a guy who clearly knows all about the supernatural/prophecy/thingy (which I don’t know about) decided to catch up with Felix in a coffee shop. After many pages of being cryptic and vague and annoying Felix he finally says “I knew your mother” special cryptic woo-woo… then has to leave. What, did he leave the gas on or something? Why even bother Felix in the first place if you’re just going to dump crypticness and then disappear?
It’s immensely frustrating and follows a number of sideplots that have been doing the same level of hinting and teasing. Like there’s an actor playing a huge publicity game. It takes pages and pages and is definitely pushing an interesting side-plot along with Felix’s reality show friend about the nature of celebrity and social media as well as how vast sums of money are earned for very little. It’s a really good side plot. An excellent side plot. A side-plot I would praise – if there was an actual main plot for it to be connected to.
There’s the care-taker who is clearly is in on the big secret which he keeps referring to without actually revealing anything and that is SOOO FRUSTRATING!.
And there’s something in the forest being all scary and stuff and a big corporate guy who is clearly evil – all these characters but nothing actually advancing.
Muse has spent the last 5 years playing human, hiding her true nature as a half-demon. Reviled and enslaved by her own card, she clings to the façadeMuse has spent the last 5 years playing human, hiding her true nature as a half-demon. Reviled and enslaved by her own card, she clings to the façade of humanity as long as she can
Then a half-demon assassin visits her shop which promptly explodes. Apparently on someone’s hit list she has only one choice – to turn to her previous saviour, Akil, the Prince of Greed.
I liked this story – it had an interesting world setting of demons in the human world, demons hiding and semi-known to humanity but not quite to the full extent. We have Muse, the half demon, reviled and enslaved in demonic society and trying to find her own place in a world when she doesn’t fit among humanity or demons but needs both.
Muse’s story wonderfully reflects this conflict. She needs to be sheltered from the demons which can only happen with demonic protection. There are humans who will oppose the demons – but they so utterly revile demons that they hate her as well. She needs to control her demonic half which is so capable of destruction but at the same time cannot live without it. So many conflicts make for a good character despite the romance that I am not a fan of. No, really, I can’t stress how much the insta-love zomg-he’s-so-hot-this-overrules-everything is completely unneeded for this book
And there’s Stefan and Akil – both love interests and both with very shadowy and twisty motives. But Muse simply cannot refuse to trust them because she cannot survive alone
I do like the way the story examines ownership, slavery and freedom. Muse has been “rescued” from a master – a cruel and abusive master. But if your new master, no matter how kind and benevolent, still demands your attention and obedience then how free are you? A benevolent master is still a master, a kind owner still an owner. Especially if that “kindness” only extends as far as that obedience.
Unfortunately this book is fairly lacking when it comes to marginalised characters. Muse herself is quite a strong character – she has special powers (but not special enough to be a Mary Sue), she’s powerful (but not so much more powerful than the rest of her species to make her a special snowflake) and while she has anger issues like many Urban fantasy protagonists (who mistake poor anger management for strength) she is largely in control and her anger is always presented in a reasonable format drawing upon her actual experiences and history of abuse. And, yes, like so many Urban Fantast protagonists she does have a terrible, abusive history. But it isn’t tacked on or forced or convoluted or used for random characterisation without purpose (as is so often the case). Her terrible history is an integral part of both her story and her world setting: it carries a lot of the same clichés but there’s an effort to make these clichés work and be real parts of these characters and this world setting. Cliched but reasoned clichés. Cliches with some effort behind them.
Nica, Stefan’s sister, is a decent female character in some ways but she’s pretty vanishingly small role – and she exists as a damsel. And the only other woman in the book.
There are no LGBT people at all and the only POC I remember is the human body that Akil – the human body that the demon Mannon wears and he’s a prince of Hell. And I say wears because there’s a strong implication that it’s just a form he wears rather than his actual self, however, Mannon does draw from POC mythology even if forced into a different pantheon. Another annoying element to note is that Stefan’s mother is a demon that draws from Asian legend – and there’s no indication that Stefan is Asian.
Mercy is now the family’s Anchor and technically in charge of the magic of her family and one of the most powerful witches in the world. If the otherMercy is now the family’s Anchor and technically in charge of the magic of her family and one of the most powerful witches in the world. If the other Anchors would let her be. Hemmed in, limited, constantly spied on to say nothing of her struggle for control, Mercy isn’t finding power particularly easy to live with – especially since all that power cannot be used to find her lost sister
Her fragile world is further thrown into disarray with the return of her mother – who she thought dead in child birth. Her mother has an entirely different story not just of her death and her family but of the origins of magic herself. Mercy, who knows all too well that her family can and does lie to her, now has to try and find the truth between the competing sides and the reality of magic itself – knowing whichever side she chooses will mean losing family.
Throughout a lot of this book we’re left very much in doubt about who to trust, who to support and what the truth is.
A lot of books trey to create this – and usually fail pretty badly. Usually it’s very clear which person is actually the bad guy and while the protagonist may trust them, it’s usually while the reader yells “noooo what are you doing?!”
But both the first book and this book has done an excellent job of continuing that uncertainty and leaving us never sure which character can be trusted. Not because they’re all evil – but because they’re all very human and very flawed. They have their own foibles, they have their own weaknesses, they have their own problems, their own agendas their own values. From Oliver’s light, often self-centredness and casual manipulation to Iris and Ellen with their own tumultuous love lives all overshadowed by loyalty to the Line that permeates the families and makes them make rather extreme decisions if they begin to think the line is under threat.
And the Line itself adds a whole new level of complexity and uncertainty. We have the “official” version of what the line is – of the barrier that keeps the demons at bay that would enslave them all as they have in the past. But that is the official version, the Anchor’s version – a version that suits them well and empowers them. A version pushed by Ginny who we know was deceptive and dangerous and manipulative and certainly didn’t have Mercy’s best interests at heart. But there are rebel families – it seems rather unlikely that the rebel families aren’t fighting for the eager chance to be slaves – so an alternate narrative seems likely, especially since those Anchors love their secrecy.
This is even more complicated by the witches even acting in the best of faith simply not understanding the true nature of the line or the world they’re in – which, in turn, makes them potential antagonists towards Mercy.
Throw in the added difficulty of family connection, Mercy’s long lost mother and her mere existence pointing towards deception among those closest to her (and after those closest to her having already hurt her already) means we’re genuinely in a position of not knowing who to trust.
This makes the whole plot work – it makes Mercy’s conflicts work on top of not knowing what to tell Claire and Peter (while at the same time expanding the world building in a very new way with them) and be far more than Mercy just sitting around stewing and worrying.
Jospehine DeLune is 12 years old and comes from a long family of powerful magical women, each of which baked their might conjure into their creations
EJospehine DeLune is 12 years old and comes from a long family of powerful magical women, each of which baked their might conjure into their creations
Except for Josephine who has no magic and cannot cook… but she has to learn as she has drawn the attention of both a sinister figure, Shaula and, even worse, the dangerous gaze of the Ravenous One.
She now has to learn if she wants to avoid being devoured
I like this book it was fun and had a very fun concept – I love the idea of magic, and conjure, being so mixed with cooking. The whole way they use magic is excellently well written – putting together recipes with magical components and mundane baking. I do love the world building of it, it’s fun, and while it’s not entirely original it is certainly one of the best examples I’ve seen depicted. Just the mix of flour and sugar and Full Moon butter and any of the other mundane and strange ingredients added to make everything from curses to love potions all through food – from pickles to pies to cakes, the food is full of magic
And that even leads to zombies that crave cake – and it works with the story
With such a setting it would be very easy to make a story that was, perhaps, a little silly or too childish especially with a 12 year old protagonist. But it not only worked as a story but there were some nice deeper elements addressed as well – there’s some definite reflections on race (especially since this book is set in 1955) though some of them are confused with prejudice against her magical family, including Authelia a friend who drops Josephine when she wants to be popular and realises she can’t be while being friends with a Black girl. Or Quentin’s parents who are leery of him getting too close
It has to be noted that these prejudices are often conflated or linked to the hostility towards her as a witch. And, if anything, her difficulties seem under-presented considering this book is set in 1950s Missouri
In turn we also have some nice examinations of class and work – Josephine and her mother, Clara are concerned because they do not make much money and her magical bakery is threatened by corporate competition – especially when it comes with the money and power to demonise home baking in the press. Even aside from work, we see a number of people regard Clara with contempt and even pity because she works in the family business and because her parents aren’t wealthy – yet at the same time these people are happy to avail themselves of Clara‘s magical baking. Even her own coven, seemingly largely white women without a large amount of magical talent, are quick to take advantage of Clara‘s labour to present it as their own.
The Kingdom of Silences has declared war on the Kingdom of Mists. The new Queen Arden is far out of her depths and has little idea how to respond…
So sThe Kingdom of Silences has declared war on the Kingdom of Mists. The new Queen Arden is far out of her depths and has little idea how to respond…
So she throws October at the problem. She’s no trained diplomat but she has good friends and she is very good at thinking on her feet
And with both the old Queen and a kingdom that considers Changelings beneath notice, it’s going to be a hard fight to be heard or listened to – or to stop a war that the King of Silences so cruelly wants. Even if she could stop the war, the ongoing injustice and cruelty of the Kingdom of Silences cannot be allowed to continue.
The story is immensely fun, as I definitely expect from this series. October Daye continues to be a scrappy character who runs around well out of her depth as is her wont. But she fights, she struggles and she rests on her friends and her unique abilities to get things done even if she so often has to make things up on the spot
The writing and pacing is, as always, excellent – always keeping me on the hook, reading until I reach the end of the books and all the… well not exactly twists and turns so much as constant questions and confusion. October doesn’t know what she’s doing and that’s really well portrayed in the text. She’s been thrown into a situation beyond her control and she has no plans, she’s incapable of planning in these circumstances. All she can do is run and hope to keep up and hope an answer, some answer presents itself so she can stop a war and save the people she loves
I really like how this is, in turn, reflected in Arden, the Queen. She’s also supremely out of her depth, after all she has only assumed the throne recently and before that she was a book store clerk. Without weakening her in the slightest she is depicted as exactly what she is – a woman who is completely overwhelmed and terrified and needs nudging back into the correct direction. It doesn’t make her a bad person or even a bad queen – any more than October’s flailing makes her and it’s a nice parallel between October and the Queen as we see them both try to adapt to a situation that is so far beyond her. As an extra bonus October’s epic speech to get her back on track is awesome.
I also appreciate the very reasonable mission creep of October: her moral outrage about how changelings are treated in the Kingdom of Silences is both very personal and nicely distanced. In some ways I appreciate how October can be more unemotional about the abuse of changelings, as a changeling, than her pure blood friends. She is a changeling, she has lived as a second class citizen in fae society all of her life. She is used to the abused so even while she can be deeply wounded and affected by it she isn’t shocked by it. She can see it and keep moving because even while it hurts her more than the others, she isn’t emotionally traumatised and shocked by it – because this is part of her reality. It reminds me very powerfully of how marginalised people and people outside that group can react to atrocities against them – when doubt is cast aside there’s often a level of shock from the people in power that the marginalised can’t afford or don’t get because it’s not shocking – it’s appalling, but it’s normal. It’s not unbelievable.
The excellent characterisation of so many of the characters are excellent – October and Tybalt have an excellent relationship I really like. It wonderfully balances both their love and fear for each other – especially since October has such an immense history of throwing herself into danger. But we also see learning from her – she, unlike so many others, actually relies on her friends, contacts and other characters. She knows she can’t do it alone and she will rely on people even while she worries about the, Quentin is fun as he continues to deal with who he is and October’s adventures.
Then there’s Marlis – her battle over how she lives among her enemies is wonderfully layered. I’m really impressed by her.
We also have some good marginalised characters – May and Jazz are two women in a relationship and Jazz is an Asian woman. While Jazz only appears very briefly at the beginning of the book, May is a major participant at least for the first half of the book and we even draw a little more on her nature as a Fetch which has often been passed over in books before now. She takes a back seat about half way through but she is a good character until then and very involved.
Zoey is facing the task of completely redeeming and rebuilding the Dark Daughters into a new, reformed organisation. A difficult task for her at the bZoey is facing the task of completely redeeming and rebuilding the Dark Daughters into a new, reformed organisation. A difficult task for her at the best of times – but with boys from her old school going missing, police suspecting vampires and three guys vying for her attention, Zoey has a lot of distractions.
Before we begin the review, I must remind everyone that my suffering through this series is the fault of Cyna and Mavrynthia and Merriska. I cannot even remember how they convinced me to go along with this torturous read – but in the name of some partial justice I think everyone should remind Cyna that she’s only read the first book of the Fallen Series and really really needs to read the rest.
Ok, let us start positively. Yes, I actually can start positively on this book (well, in relative terms). I do appreciate that an effort has been made in this book to make Aphrodite less of a complete avatar of awfulness (by giving her parents who are complete avatars of awfulness). There’s also a toning down of the all consuming slut shaming of the last book – certainly not a removal of it by any stretch, but a definite reduction. There was also a half-decent attempt at an emotional death scene
I’m not saying any of these are good, because they’re really not and in any other book I would bite off my fingers before saying anything positive about these things, but Marked set the bar so damn low that exceeding my expectations is pretty damn easy to do. Kind of how falling in a compost heap feels more like a warm, soft landing after having swum through a toxic cess pool.
The first complaint I have about this book is the glaring void where the plot needs to be. I have sat for 10 minutes trying to figure out what happened and come up empty time and again. Some guys disappear but she watches that on the news, that’s hardly a plot point. She just kind of wanders around not doing a whole lot until we have some action hastily tacked on the end.
I suppose, in theory, the reformation of the Dark Daughters, the super club of the House of Night is the plot. But it’s not only completely lacking in any kind of substance, but it’s also comically awful.
First of all she does a whole lot of research to come up with the genius idea of a student council. No, really, that’s her master plan that actually requires research on her part which would be sad to begin with. But it gets worse – because she also decides she hates how cliquish the Dark Daughters was under Aphrodite so she’s totally going to make it different no – by making 6 of the 7 council members her, her friends and her boyfriend. Marvel at this for a moment, to remove the cliquishness of the Dark Daughters she decides to replace Aphrodite’s friends with all of her own friends. Yes, Zoey lacks even the slightest sense of self-awareness.
But it gets even worse! Because she decides that they will also have a code of conduct to uphold virtues based on the 5 elements (fire, air, earth, water and spirit). Ok I think this could work – personally I think codes of conduct should be based on virtues you want to uphold rather than whether they make a neat set, but I can see, say, courage or passion for fire, tenacity and steadfastness for Earth or…
….ha! Nope, she’s going by the first letters. Seriously, it’s “authenticity” for air and “faith” for fire. Her meaningful virtue system doesn’t even work in another language. It’s also completely that vague – so all the Dark Daughters now have to be “authentic” whatever that actually means – as well as “sincere” for spirit (which I kind of think is just double dipping the same virtue).
To make this nonsense even more galling is the way everyone treats her like she’s some incredible, amazing genius for coming up with this basic, hollow, empty nonsense. No, really, one character even thinks this amazing non-idea is so impressive that she actually steals it. It’s like copying of a 10 year old for your dissertation. It’s depressing and it’s classic Mary Sueness – the protagonist comes up with the weakest, most pathetic non-idea and everyone fawns over it like it’s utter genius. She literally “sweated for weeks” over these ideas.
On top of this non-idea we have the love triangle – well, square.
I’m not a fan of a love triangle in any book but in this book it’s expressly galling to have the protagonist have 3 separate love interests when so much of this series to date is dedicated to saying what dirty nasty jezebels sexual women are and how all legs must be firmly cemented together in fear of ho-dom. It’s gross hypocrisy to present female sexuality in such a terrible fashion, attacking women constantly as “sluts” and “hos” and then have your protagonist rack up three hot guys to follow her around.
And each relationship is problematic. Sexy guy 1 is the hot teacher who who is hot and quotes poetry while getting all handsy with her. She gets all frustrated that he almost kisses her but doesn’t, never mind the actual boyfriend she has – or that he’s a teacher. The fact that he’s a teacher trying to get it on with a 16 year old is barley even touched upon – he’s just a hot guy and everyone may now drool, never mind power difference or abuse of position. Here’s one time when we can start yelling “shame” and everyone’s silent on the issue
Then there’s the ex-boyfriend human who she regards with constant contempt. She will occasionally mention that he’s cute, but every other word she has for him is contemptuous. Of course, the reason why he wants her so much is because he is magically compelled by her vampire-yness. His free will is completely compromised, he is addicted to her and she can literally magically stalk him. Again, there is precious little attempt to address the abusive nature of this relationship, instead it’s just a conflict because poor poor Zoey doesn’t know who to choose, like it’s her complicated love life rather than abuse.
The final love interest is Eirik. He’s pretty and he does Shakespearean monologues. This is it. There are manikins with more personality. It says a lot that his lack of personality stands out next to the rest of the characters – because no-one is developed. Her enemies are terribad awful. Her friends are characterless sycophants (two of them with the same personality who call each other “twin”). It’s amazing that Eirik can have even less personality than these hollow caricatures
Charley and Reyes are moving closer – he’s even proposed to her, but there are still some obstacles getting in the way. She keeps trying to dig up hisCharley and Reyes are moving closer – he’s even proposed to her, but there are still some obstacles getting in the way. She keeps trying to dig up his past despite his protests and he can’t keep standing by and watching her put her life in danger
A habit she continues when she gets involved with both a soul trading demon and a major organised crime cartel. Neither bring the people who love her peace of mind. And these are just the major challenges, the ongoing chaos of her life continues with commitments and adventures everywhere.
I am happy to be able to praise the immense fun of this book again. I think the last couple of books just got a little too extreme and pushed the zaniness a bit too far. It felt contrived and silly and destroyed a lot of the fun.
This book toned it down and worked a lot better with it. Charley and Cookie are back to being their extremely fun and freaky selves. They continue to bounce off each other excellently and Charley’s endlessly distracted asides are hilarious. Charley is just so much incredible fun even if I would completely understand if everyone around her would merrily strangle her in a minute. I can’t really think of a book series or a protagonist that is this consistently hilariously fun.
One downside of Charley being so hilariously, randomly, zanily fun is that it makes it hard to fully accept the fact that Charley is living with a lot of trauma. She has night terrors, she has anxiety, she has flashbacks. She’s actually an excellent example of a character who is dealing with PTSD after what she has suffered. And, in some ways, the zaniness does work with that- because having PTSD doesn’t mean you ca never have fun or never enjoy life or never find anything funny again – I like the idea of presenting a character with a mental illness who doesn’t just BECOME that mental illness. But the overwhelming light funness of the story just turns her symptoms into another punch line.
The fun of Charley and her random nonsense makes this book. It made me enjoy it for start to finish, which, I have to say, is kind of more than what the plot line did. I’m not saying the plot was bad (and anything that let me enjoy more of Charley’s zany fun is a good thing), but there were too many plot lines and plot-ettes.
We have some minor mysteries, like what exactly the nature of the ghost in her living room is and we have Angel’s (the ghost who kind of works for her) family and we have the ghost that has taken up residence in her car. We have a deeply traumatised ghost and Charley trying to deal with that and the people who hurt her and were equally traumatised. All of these are nice little moments that ensure the daily life of Charley continues even when she’s involved in a mystery. But then we have the saga of getting Cookie and Uncle Bob together (which is elaborate and convoluted because it was one of Charley’s ideas so of course it is). Then we have the FBI agent and the historical case she wants Charley to look into which is also connected to Reyes. Then we have something going on with Charley’s dad and stepmother.
Then we have the actual main plot mystery of the week (which is kind of convoluted and complex anyway because Charley and involves organised crime and all sorts of stuff) and tucked behind that is a final nod to the growing meta-plot, the prophecy, the 12 (possibly two lots of 12) which may be good bad or hellhounds. There’s also Charley’s own growing role and developing powers and her understanding of what it even means to be a Reaper
This book is about 250 pages long and that’s a lot to pack into 250 pages. It works, it works because Charley and Cookie together are so much fun that it could be a book about them watching television or going to the gym or baking a cake or anything similarly mundane and it would still be hilarious fun because these two are hilarious fun. But they’re also extremely good friends and we have some really good moments, especially when they both discuss parenting Amber (Cookie’s daughter).
Related to Charley’s PTSD I also like that there is some addressing and challenging of Charley’s recklessness and selflessness. Recklessness is an obvious character flaw, but it links to her selflessness as well. Time and again we see Charley willing to risk it all for people she hardly knows or doesn’t know at all, which is all very noble and honourable but at the same time it’s ok to want to protect yourself, especially after what Charley and people who love Charley have been through. I’m glad to see people, even if it is Reyes, challenging Charley to not constantly put herself at risk to the despair of those who love her.
Time for me to make the same complaint I’ve made every book – I really really really don’t like Reyes. Yes, he has saved Charley’s life repeatedly, but saving her life doesn’t entitle him to act the way he does. Saving her doesn’t mean he then owns her. Saving her life doesn’t then entitle him to do whatever he wants with her.
It seemed like another series of supernatural murders to investigate – young people aged and left for dead. Definitely a job for Greg, James and SabriIt seemed like another series of supernatural murders to investigate – young people aged and left for dead. Definitely a job for Greg, James and Sabrina.
But they stumble on to a major secret under the city – and James’s life is suddenly riven by dangerous, tragic and difficult conflicts. How far will he go for what is right? Who will he save, and what will he pay to save or avenge?
There’s no easy choices and maybe no good choices.
This book took the series to a decidedly dark place. This series has always had excellent action, a whole lot of zany fun and a very wide world setting – but it has generally been light, fun, jokey. Even when it did try to go dark, it never went that dark, at least not for long. Whackiness normally ensues and overwhelms
This book takes the whole series into a very new direction. I think of this book as the one where James has to grow up – where he faces a lot of conflicts that cannot be easily overcome – not just because there are bad guys to face, but because the conflicts are not just against bad guys you can stab or beat up until they give up. The conflicts are between James and his friends.
Between James and Abbie, James and Greg and even James and Sabrina we have a lot of heartbreaking conflict. Storywise, this drives James to the very edge and pushes him further than I ever expected him to go and puts him in a very different place at the end of the book. He’s harder, stronger and never more powerful – but also never more alone.
The conflicts with his friends and loved ones are especially good because they are difficult to unravel. In each case even when someone is wrong (such as Greg, who is very very wrong about wanting to turn someone into vampire against their will), their anger still comes from a very real place. Yes Greg is wrong, but his emotion, his rage is understandable and, in turn, that makes it all the harder for me to see how the relationship can be bridged
With Sabrina it’s more complex because both James and Sabrina are right and wrong. Her job, as a police woman, is to protect the people of the city. As such she sees the battle as protecting people from monsters – but what about when the people (and especially the police) have been infiltrated by the monsters? And what about when James sympathises with the “monsters” and not the police who are being used by the monsters? What if to save monsters he considers innocents, he has to hurt people Sabrina considers innocent? This is especially complex when we have those police, unlike nameless guards everywhere, actually being people with families and Sabrina objecting to a super powerful vampire tearing through them and sending them to hospital.
Marissa, through various adventures, has found herself in the awkward position of being the handmaiden of the Black Queen, one of the most powerful anMarissa, through various adventures, has found herself in the awkward position of being the handmaiden of the Black Queen, one of the most powerful and dangerous beings in history. Even as someone who started (and stopped) the apocalypse, that’s a tall order to stop.
She has enough to deal with what with cursed birthday parties, lethal cursed cheeses and a whole postgnome cult. She doesn’t need evil Black Queens – or evil dead enemies being pulled out the very vault of hell.
Marissa faces the hardest test of all – does she let her friends save her even if it may be at great cost to themselves? Can she live with being saved.
This is a major turning point book – one so full of answers and revelations that it has changed the course of the entire series. In fact, it’s so dramatically ended, so dramatically changed course that I don’t even know if the book series is going to continue after this – because this feels like an ending and a dramatic conclusion of everything that the book has been leading towards.
We have all the answers of Marissa’s heritage. We have all the answers of Marissa’s origin but also her relationship towards Grimm which has always been complicated and far more than an employee or even a mentor. It, coupled with his relationship with the Black Queen, brings it all together with wonderful complexity and makes it all emotionally involved and twisty and fun.
The story itself is epic – literally world controlling with lots of amazing twists. So very very twisty – as Marissa fights the delicate balance of being a Handmaiden of the Dark queen and also trying to oppose her. There’s a lot of battling the different kinds of magic and finding all the nifty little loop holes to get around things. It’s a very delicate balance and I really liked it. I know I’ve used the word a lot – but there’s a lot of complexity and a lot of different angles.
The tone of the book strikes a very careful balance – and a very well done one. On the one hand it’s a dark world. After all this is a world with the end of the world at risk, there’s a terrifying appalling war coming and the grimness of that is clear. We have the abominations of flesh, the desperate fight to survive and, of course, a desperate loss for Marissa as well as the traumatic feel of the lost she suffers in the battle and the life changing revelation of what she is. Her friends make extreme sacrifices on her behalf
Then there’s the army of demonic poodles and gnomes. There’s a vicious, terrifying lethal werewolf cheese. There’s a princess who cannot cannot drive to an almost magical degree because there has to be balance – and that driving can be weaponised. There’s a lot of really joyful little one liners – little asides like “angels were the only creature I could imagine being dumb enough to mount an attack on hell itself.” Or Marissa’s terribly cursed parties. Or the absolutely classic and amazing take of the Sleeping Beauty story. Or the hilarious singing followers in the High Kingsom. They’re just all so very excellent and made me laugh out loud repeatedly.
And it works. It’s funny and hilarious and grim and dark. Under it all is still a very real, very powerful world – with the seal bearing royal houses and the dark queen actually having a plan and strategy to take over that is well thought out and actually real. It doesn’t let the occasional silliness mean that there’s no need for a well developed and meaningful world building as well.
I can’t stress enough how all these elements work because… well, they shouldn’t. It shouldn’t be funny and grim and dark and silly and so often epic. Extremely epic – the massive confrontations over and over again are really well done even when poodles are involved. All these things at once shouldn’t work – but they do.
It has some really good characters and quirks as well – Ari, and Marissa, even Rosa and Liam. Marissa and Liam’s relationship is excellent – I really love what happened when Marissa stumbles into a beauty spell and they then clumsily try to have sex when her body is so very different – it’s laughably awful and it works so well to make it clear that beauty is far from everything, especially when it is a lie. I just love that whole storyline, the beauty curse the wrongness of it, how it is a lie, is one of the best storylines I’ve seen for a while.
Zacharias, freed slave, reviled by his fellow thaumaturges, is the reluctant head of English magic, the Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers.Zacharias, freed slave, reviled by his fellow thaumaturges, is the reluctant head of English magic, the Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers. And he needs to find out why English magic is drying up, why no more flows from faerie
But his path crosses with the intriguing Prunella Gentlewoman, an immensely powerful witch (despite all of the claims that women cannot use magic) and between them they shake the foundations of English magic to its core
There are a lot of books in the genre set in the Victorian era, after all, the whole Steampunk genre pretty much relies on it. All too commonly, these books highly sanitise what this era was like for marginalised people. While we have seen several female protagonists challenging this narrative and overcoming the patriarchy they have to live under, but we rarely see this with other marginalised people. In fact, POC are nearly always erased which doesn’t touch on the actual diversity of the era and both ignores the diversity of the British Empire – and all of the oppressive problems of colonialism
So here we have a paranormal Victorian story where the protagonists are a Black man and a woman of South Asian descent. Both of their stories are constantly informed by their experiences. Zacharias is the Sorcerer to the Crown, technically the most powerful magician in the country but constantly faces derision, rebellion and open attacks against him because he is Black. The other wizards, despite his obvious skill and patience and impeccable manners, constantly regard him as less than them, as little more than an animal and wholly unworthy of his position. They scapegoat him for any and all problems they’re facing (including England’s declining magic).
Zacharias constantly shows how wrong they are with endless patience and restraint and skill. While his rivals constantly seek their own power and advancement, it’s Zacharias who worries about the actual future of English magic, how their infighting may turn the country against them and how their infighting may jeopardise the treaty they have with the French Sorcières. Even though he doesn’t want the job he performs better than his predecessor and certainly better than any of his competitors. At every stage and at every moment it’s clear that his racist detractors are beyond wrong and clearly Zacharias’s inferiors.
But even beyond the constant derision and attacks Zacharias faces, there are other more complex depictions and challenges of racism. His complex relationship with his mentor, Sir Stephen, is definitely one of them. He clearly cares for the man who definitely cared for him, helped him and championed him – but he equally recognises that the man who freed him from slavery did nothing for his parents and at least in part treated him as a Pigmalian-style project, a curiosity even if he did also value him as a son. The affection doesn’t blinker him from the reality of his situation.
I also very like that he hasn’t completely bought into the whole ideal of British wizards. Their idea of duty is, ultimately, very self-serving – it empowers themselves, it empowers their nation, it doesn’t care about either individual freedom or peace or safety or health – and it certainly doesn’t care about other nations. Zacharias has a compassion above and beyond that, even if it makes him a traitor to his position in St Stephen’s eyes and even if it wars with his own sense of duty. He has a morality that goes deeper than his duty and has to be seen through the lens of him being a permanent outsider.
On top of the complexity of Zacharias we have Prunella, a powerful witch, of South Asian descent – and a woman. As far as the British opinion on magic is concerned, women’s magic is a terribad thing that is just far too dangerous for their delicate fragile bodies. There’s also a shortage of magic in Britain and, of course, women are far too silly frivolous creatures to be trusted with such a vital dwindling resource
Like Zacharias, Prunella does an awesome job of showing how ridiculous this is by being unfailingly awesome. She is definitely the most skilled magic user in the whole book and she has massive wells of power – and skill not just beyond her competitors but also skill that goes beyond what learned English thaumaturgy can manage. She comes from an ancient and powerful tradition of WOC magicians and she kicks arse.
In addition to that, she’s immense fun. While Zacharias is more deep and sad and a little tragic, Prunella is also snarky and tough and fully aware of the silliness of the society around her and, more, she’s quite ruthless. She knows what she wants and she’s going to get it and she isn’t going to let the false rules of a society that doesn’t come close to valuing her hold her back. She’s funny, she’s awesome and she is pretty much centred to be the main character for future books in the series and I’m more than OK with that.
It’s time for the Tournament of Blades, the annual celebration where all the magical families of Cloudburst Falls send champions to compete for the heIt’s time for the Tournament of Blades, the annual celebration where all the magical families of Cloudburst Falls send champions to compete for the hefty cash prize (and, more importantly to the families but not for Lila, the prestige). It’s a major tourist event and there’s no way it can’t go ahead
Even if one of the competitors seems to be trying to kill the competition.
Both Lila and Devon are competing for the Sinclair family, giving them a double motive to win – and to stay alive and find out who is behind it.
This is the second book in the series and I think it is an excellent next step. This book took the story above and beyond the first and helped banish some of the parallels with the Elemental Assassins Series that I found so strong before. This book took the excellent foundation of the first and expanded it and cemented this book as its own.
I’m honestly kind of frustrated with this review because all I really have is a lot of well deserved but somewhat vague praise.
I love the world building, it’s very original with the combination of noble houses who run this town, each of them controlled by magical people all vying against each other, a modern setting and a range of monsters lurking around the fringes of a tourist trap. I like the combination of both the dark danger hiding behind every corner and the bright, shiny exterior which is all welcoming and kitsch for the tourists. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition, the pageantry with the lethal politics lurking just under the surface.
I love the protagonist Lila, with her endless love of bacon and her complicated relationship with the family. Her conflict about being both part of the Sinclair family and outside of it is excellent. Her conflict over whether she can trust the head of the family, whether she can really get invested in it and whether she can really establish any connections there. Her conflict is very real as she both wants to protect and help the family but still feels she needs to be ready to leave at any time and all of this is linked to her complicated memories of her mother who was both loyal to the Sinclairs – and died because of that loyalty. On top this we have her life as a thief, her habit of keeping her head low and hiding and now she’s very much thrust into the lime light, drawing lots of attention and being really uncomfortable about it. This past also comes with an experience of being poor – so even when in two minds about the Sinclairs, their wealth and the comfort she lives in now are not things she can step aside from. I like how well this is down, Lila never feels like she’s greedy or grasping – she feels exactly like what she is, a character who knows poverty and is unwilling to dismiss the security of wealth. She’s a character with a lot of interesting and very real conflicts about her.
The one element I didn’t like about her was her romance with Devon. It feels very forced – along with the whole “I can’t possibly fall in love with him for REASONS!” It’s like we have this whole excellent story and then someone’s looked up some checklist and announced “this needs a romance. A female protagonist must have a rocky romance. It is known. It is in the rules” so Devon and Lila became a thing – only not a thing because there has to be some barrier (Lila is reluctant… for… reasons).
Other romances in the book I liked, especially the romance between Felix and Deah. Not because I especially like the romance and Romeo and Juliet has been done so often, but I appreciated an attempt to make some members of the Draconi family redeemable (unfortunately the general characterisation of the bad guys is terribad people who are bad. Nuanced it is not but, at the same time, while they’re terribad they’re not necessarily cartoonishly so). Even better, while Deah is showed as redeemable and complex and not just one of the evil Draconi, she is also shown as such through avenues other than her relationship with Felix. Her love interest isn’t what makes her good or her avenue for redemption or anything like that.
I can’t say the same about Felix and Katia – I don’t think that the romance really added anything since Katia Already had the excellent conflict with Deah and the characterisation of her father (though, I have to say, I’m not entirely thrilled with Katia’s alcoholic father being presented as the ultimate source of all that is wrong in her life especially since we saw little about him other than being a drunk). Again, it felt like romantic conflict was squeezed in because it must be!
Jake and Rick, with their cousin Nicki, work for their father’s company retrieving hard to find items at very high cost for their very rich clients. UJake and Rick, with their cousin Nicki, work for their father’s company retrieving hard to find items at very high cost for their very rich clients. Unfortunately, not every item is safe nor is every client as they find out when Jake’s father is murdered
They must return to New Pittsburgh, ducking hired killers along the way to uncover a conspiracy that is festering in the city and goes far further than a few items they transported.
There’s a lot about this book I love.
I love the characters – each of these characters has so much potential for being a book series in its own right. I love their history, their interactions and just about everything about them. In fact, this becomes one of the problems simply because they can’t all be suitably awesome at all times
I really love the world setting, the Victorian industrialness with a touch of steam punk and a whole lot of magic and the supernatural being added to really richen the whole thing. It draws upon the supernatural from many European superstitions and belief systems and does an excellent job of creating a city that is defined by its immigrant populations. The different neighbourhoods, the way the city works and the immigrant diversity come together in a really rich tapestry. On top of the magic and industry and aesthetics and Victorian etiquette (which can also be used for the best humour (“Get out of here, Aunt Catherine. You’re in mourning. You can’t be shooting people, it wouldn’t be proper.”) there’s also some really excellent analysis of class. How workers are constantly used as fodder and disposable, the battles of the rising union movement in the face of the mine owners who are willing to raise armies and massacre the workers as well as the restrictions that are hemming in women. We also have the Oligarchy, the very essence of the entitled Robber Barons of the era and their near untouchability along side the disposability of the poor and how little their deaths matters
Class moves nicely in to the immigrant cultures and works alongside the supernatural and magic and world building to make for a truly excellent world building. We throw in some extra bonuses like Kobolds which suggests a whole lot more supernatural creatures lurking and permeating every level of society.
The plot itself draws on every element of this – the supernatural and monsters. The untouchability of the Oligarchy, the disposability of the workers. Magic being used in shiny and scary ways. Massive industry and super-steampunk devices. It was all displayed and it was just so huge and so much fun
Ok, problems, alas, there are problems. For me the biggest problem was the switching POV. I’m not against POV being switched, I quite like following different characters. When done well this lets me see the world and the characters through different lenses and allows for a lot of fun nuance and possibilities. But when done badly it can be clumsy, and this is clumsy on several levels. Part of that relates to the many many many many characters and all of them basically following the same clues and making the same revelations separately. And then recapping each other at great length. The whole book feels a whole lot longer than it needs to be and very repetitive as we just go over the same ground over and over again with different characters.
This is exacerbated by some of these POV characters being the actual villain. Not just is one of the POV character a villain but pretty early in the book we get him and his evil partner basically expositioning their entire evil plan. Almost as soon as the book starts I know who the bad guys are, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how. Literally every last scrap of mystery about the bad guys’ master plan is revealed really early on.
Then we spend the rest of the book with our heroes trying to discover this plan. Which we already no. This really adds to the repetitive feel of the book – we have pages and pages of the heroes questioning, researching, discovering and discussing something we have known almost since the book began.
So the book does feel so very long compared to what it is – which isn’t helped by a truly huge number of characters. Sooooo many names, so many many names and I have rather a lot of trouble keeping track of them all. This frustrates me because I’m interested. Even when I’m trying to juggle these 80 gazillion characters, the ones I remember and can pin down are really appealing. I love Nicki (swashbuckling female character) and Cady (female researcher) and Catherine (Jake’s mother and perhaps the subtle power behind the throne) and am frustrated that they felt superfluous to this actual story because there are so many people. I like the relationship between Jake and Rick with Miksa thrown in (the two heir apparents of the company and their bodyguard) but we don’t really have time to develop it. We had Adam and his super-science and a whole lot of shiny items which people are fighting over and the expert dirigible pilot… sooo many people. So many great people…
There’s a new threat in Portland – the Icy Touch, a criminal cartel made entirely out of brutal Wesen. The leader of which has a long standing grudgeThere’s a new threat in Portland – the Icy Touch, a criminal cartel made entirely out of brutal Wesen. The leader of which has a long standing grudge against Nick and his family
But how can the police face a criminal gang when they cannot be told about the wesen? And how can Nick fight as a Grimm when he is also bound by his work as a cop – and his own fear of what he is becoming?
This is a book based on a TV series which means it’s pretty much impossible to read it without contrasting to its source material. Not only that, I don’t think it’s intended for us to do so – especially with Grimm having so many seasons of world building and character development means that I don’t think you could read any of these books without having watched the show. There’s too much to recap and include to make this book stand alone
Though, I will say this book does a decent job of trying (albeit not very well) but I think it would be much smoother if it just expected all of its readers to watch the show – because I found some of the elements to make it stand alone to be… off. Like Nick can see Wesen as Wesen, including their type, even when they’re not woged which is a bit of a deviation. There’s also a lot more emphasis on some weird Grimm instincts. I did like how they managed to greatly explore the conflict between Nick the cop (often through Hank’s eyes) and Nick the Grimm. How he is often stepping outside the law and a lot of unsanctioned violence. This also couples with his own moral conflict since his actions are not only not ok for a cop, but are generally not acceptable anyway. I also liked how there was more of Juliette’s discomfort and distrust being analysed than we’ve really seen on the show
So, there are elements of moving above and beyond the show that do work and why have books of the show if you’re not going to develop them further?
However, I mainly think the adaption failed. There are some elements like Nick’s new powers that were just wrong.
But the most jarring to me is the voice of every character. All of them sound wrong to me. Hank sounds extremely whiny. Sergeant Wu has been written by someone with much less sense of humour but is still desperately trying to force his wit – so he keeps popping in, making bad jokes, then going away. But the worst are Renard – who is grossly autocratic and high handed and alien to everything on the show. And Monroe who… just bemuses me. This is not Monroe. It doesn’t even come close to resembling Monroe. My gods why would anyone write Monroe like this?!
This means that Monroe’s conflicts over being a Blutbad and his morality all kind of fall flat as well because I just can’t connect them to the character because his characterisation is just so terrible.
Diana Rowan was a vampire assassin, part of the FBI’s squad specialising in destroying vampires. Then she married Robert, had a child, Katie and tookDiana Rowan was a vampire assassin, part of the FBI’s squad specialising in destroying vampires. Then she married Robert, had a child, Katie and took a desk job training new recruits. It’s a happy life… but missing someone
Then an old enemy seems to return to the grave and Diana is pressed to return to the hunt again, once again entering into the vampire world… but can she balance her newly domestic life with the return to the hunt?
This book almost reads like an origin story for me – even though the main character, Diana, has been a vampire hunter/executioner/trainer for some time. This is clearly the start of a whole new chapter of her life, and setting her up for the new series revolving around her in her new life
Despite that, it didn’t feel temporary or transitory. A lot of origin stories will introduce characters and you know most of them won’t be relevant or will be replaced or will change rapidly. It can be a barrier to get invested in them – you see the character starting a series in domestic bliss, know it’s not going to last so the characters that make up that domestic bliss are not exactly people I’m inclined to get to know.
But Diana’s marriage and her life and her family are all such excellent parts of her development, her origin and really contribute to who she is. Especially since it isn’t blissful and I felt like it could have continued.
The central concept of the book is one of very every day sexism. Diana was a vampire executioner, she worked for the FBI as part of its secret supernatural police unit and, like many working women, she chose to change her job (and become a trainer rather than the more dangerous, irregular hours and taxing role as an active duty agent) when she had a baby. I think there is a lot of excellent balance in how this life is depicted. Her husband, Robert is not a terrible person and she’s not unhappy – far from it. But she does have moments of frustration, this isn’t entirely the life she wanted even if she enjoys it, and there are parts missing, parts she does miss from her job before she benched herself. She’s not miserable or sad or angry – but it isn’t perfect.
We also see that not-perfect fray and show all of its sexist flaws when Diana begins to return to her old job, become more active and the cracks show. And it doesn’t require Robert to become all Gorian on her to get the point across – it’s much more subtle and pervasive than that: and not just from him, but her own instincts and assumptions. Like when he is working late is it assumed, when she is working late it is a vast imposition. When he looks after their daughter it’s him doing extra, when she looks after their daughter, it is her job. When she stays home with her, it’s the normal acts of a parent. When he stays home with her it’s “baby sitting”. As she tries to spend more time to do her hunting (exacerbated, of course, by her inability to tell Robert what she is doing) the cracks and the strain grow more and more. It’s all fuelled by his expectations of what she should be as a wife and mother and even her own expectations and assumptions imposed upon herself.
This ongoing theme also touches on some of the other women in the book and their relationships – from Val the superhunter and her determination not to have relationships (but not necessarily through choice but because of these pressures) to Melinda and her relationship breakdown again because of the pressures of where they work and the secrecy they have to maintain.
Due to her being hunted by various forces, Wlodek decide the best thing to do with Lissa is get her out of the way for a while. Thankfully mysteriousDue to her being hunted by various forces, Wlodek decide the best thing to do with Lissa is get her out of the way for a while. Thankfully mysterious Griffin has an idea
Send her to an entirely new world where she can use her great powers to solve a whole load of easily-fixed-by-violence problems in a not-very-alien-society
Meanwhile Wlodek & co try to continue the hunt against Xenides while simultaneously making terrible decisions.
So I pick up the next book in this vampire series and….
Ok that was unexpected. I admit to having reservations, but I’m not adverse to genre mash-up even if I’ve rarely actually seen it do well and if, after three books in this series, I’m not confident that this series would be the one to do it well. And, alas, I was surprisingly right.
So, Lissa ends up going to another world and meeting a range of new species and it is done so incredibly lazily that was just quite depressing. Lissa is moved to this new world through woo-woo. That woo-woo also comes with convenient understand-any-language woo-woo to avoid any kind of culture shock
Of which there is absolutely none. The world is called Refizan, the people are Refizani and may or may not be human. If they’re not they look entirely like humans. And by humans I mean white western humans (there’s an Asian-appearing-alien-who-looks-human-because-LAZY who is apparently clearly not from this planet because he’s not white). Their culture seems to be a vaguely western parallel. Their buildings, cities, market place, food, manufactured products, modes of travel, news dissemination, media – none of it is presented as any different from what Lissa had experienced in the US and London. There was no real description of the world to make it seem any different from a generic western city. Flying over the city as mist, Lissa can pick out buildings like shops and hospitals and religious buildings. Their government is a fairly generic democracy which, like anything el
Honestly, you could replace “Refizan” with “Ohio” and not really make any real difference to the story. An alien world that is completely unrecognisable from a western nation populated by people who are indistinguishable from white westerners with all language and transports difficulties being resolved by woo-woo is some of the laziest damn aliens I’ve ever seen – and that includes every film and TV show that decided a little bit of heavy make up would be sufficient to depict an alien species. Though we did have a giant blue dude. Who was giant. And blue. That’s kind of it.
Even on the supernatural side, the world has its own vampire circle which is basically a direct parallel to Wlodek and his people on Earth. Except lazier
Why lazier? Because to make this lazy plot glide along with minimal difficulty there is no real conflict. And one of the sources of no conflict is Gabron, head of the Refizan vampire council who basically nods and smiles to everything Lissa says because she is the Specilist Person Ever, Praise be Her Sueness and, like so many others, he found her super hot and wants to have sex with her. Despite being a complete stranger and alien, Lissa is trusted, her every suspicion and suggestion is quickly followed up. Including when she declares various prominent vampires to be super evil and deserving of imprisonment. Effectively this turns the vampires into Lissa’s personal army.
Yet the laziness continues! Because this book is AMAZINGLY lazily written. The next item of laziness is Lissa’s powers. Her super shiny Mary Sue powers that make her super-duper dangerous even if she is only 5 years a vampire and able to kill just about anything she comes across with zero conflict at all because she is just that special. Her powers are completely unprecedented and completely eclipse everything any other vampire has ever been able to achieve. On top of being able to kill anything around her with minimal effort, she also has the useful ability of being able to smell evil
Yes we’re introduced to dimension hopping light and dark elves to try and justify this, but it comes down to being able to “smell evil”. With this infallible evil detector she kills bad guys with her super killy powers. No, really, she uses this detect evil power with such lack of subtlety that a 10 year old playing a Paladin in a D&D game would disapprove.
There is no nuance in Lissa’s powers and also no nuance in the bad guys – the Solar Red priests. This is a foreign religion coming to this planet and is regarded with suspicion and worry and accused of human sacrifice. Of course this is an excellent way to examine suspicion of the outsider, how foreign faiths can be demonised, how the rituals we’re familiar with are comforting while foreign ritual seems barbaric even though, objectively, both make as little real sense and seem a little weird and it could be a great way to examine how the persecution of minority religions happens
HAH! No. Solar Red priests are evil. They rape, torture and murder with impunity. In fact that’s all they do. The entire point of this religion is to be pure evil – I can’t even imagine this religion having holy texts. They regularly kidnap and torture people for funsies, they’re brutal for the sheer sake of brutality. They are caricatures of evil. There’s no attempt at nuance here, let alone any attempt to depict HOW this religion has gained so many adherents. I mean, what do you do, hand out religious tracts about the joys of torturing children?
They’re super-duper evil because they’re being controlled by super-duper-evil aliens. Again, that pretty much sums up what they are. Evil for the sake of evilness
I’m not going to begin with my usual “I don’t like short stories because reasons” disclaimer, because I really don’t think I applies here
This is an exI’m not going to begin with my usual “I don’t like short stories because reasons” disclaimer, because I really don’t think I applies here
This is an excellent short book with three separate stories in it. They’re all very compact, relatively simple stories but, above all to me, every last one of them is really useful and even necessary to the broader plot.
The first story, Christmas Shopping, addresses one of my underlying concerns of the story – the relationship between Keziah and Natividad. These two are the most prominent by far (and, to a degree, the only appreciable) female characters in the series – it is a very male dominated series, especially in major roles even if Natividad is usually the protagonist. Few prominent female characters and those female characters hating each other with the fiery passion of a thousand exploding suns is, alas, a powerful trope
So this story of Keziah and Natividad spending time together is an excellent story. They don’t like each other a great deal, certainly – but this is a rift brought about form vastly different experiences, tastes and lives. Them being together in this story both excellently showcases this while, at the same time, having them build more and more connections, more understanding and approaching, if not friendship, then perhaps mutual respect. It’s all nicely capped with something Keziah taunted Natividad about becoming a joke between them
It also comes with a nice bit of world building shouting back to the major war that defines this series. In all, an excellent story – though I do have a discomfort with how very awed Natividad is of towns and cities. Sometimes her POV gives the impression that Mexico has no great cities and isn’t very sophisticated.
The second Story, Library Work, also brings some really necessary elements to the series. In this case we get to see a lot more of Miguel, Natividad’s human twin brother who is often out on a limb in the world dominated by Black Dogs and magical Pure and vampires. This book helped emphasise his strength – he’s smart, he’s cunning, he’s patient and he is excellently skilled in not only navigating around the dangerous Black Dogs and their uncertain tempers – but also in outright manipulating them for his own well being.
On top of this we have the greater development of Cassie, cambiador, cursed human shifter who, again, is primarily empowered by her intelligence. She and Miguel work extremely well together in their cunning, setting themselves up as a very formidable couple who I really want to see more of. It also set them up as a potential romantic couple which is also excellently defined as much or more by respect of their intelligence than it is by physical attraction.
A Learning Experience brought some attention to Thaddeus and his history as well as, though she didn’t play a huge role, the importance of his wife DeAnn. This is important because they are the only Black characters in the series but also bring some very important lenses to the series by being the only Black Dogs with no connection to the Dimilioc. He gives us an excellent insight both into how Black Dogs outside the Dimilioc manage – but also how the Dimilioc appears and has developed from an outsider’s view.
The battle between Kitty and Roman is finally coming to a head as Roman’s master is revealed – and that master’s plan is finally being executed, possiThe battle between Kitty and Roman is finally coming to a head as Roman’s master is revealed – and that master’s plan is finally being executed, possibly leading to the end of the world
Leaving only Kitty and her friends to stand against him – even if she has damaged her own credibility by trying to rally people against Roman’s plotting.
She doesn’t know where he is or how to stop Roman’s immense magic – nor even how to avoid the vast power of his influence, but the world hangs in the balance.
This is the final instalment in Kitty’s story and, thematically, it works. The primary emotions of Kitty here are fear and tiredness. Kitty is ready to stop the fight. She is ready to live, to have a family, to not be afraid, to not keep fighting. It makes the ending especially satisfying since it doesn’t have a huge lavish gift of riches for Kitty so much as a mundane peaceful life. I do find it awfully cliché and such a deeply stereotypical ending for how a woman’s Happily Ever After simply must pan out
It leaves no threads untied and it flows through a lot of action and some very well maintained emotional tension
I find myself immensely frustrated by this book on several levels, especially as a conclusion to this entire series. Here is Kitty’s final showdown with Roman, the final explanation of him and the general conclusion of all of it. And I’m disappointed
I’m disappointed because the whole point of Kitty, as the Regina Luporum, was set up as the major opponent of Roman because she was developing her own coalition. She had allies. She had friends. Even in this book it made a repeated point that Kitty’s super power is her friends. That has always been an excellent point of the series – she isn’t the most powerful werewolf, she isn’t the most powerful supernatural. She doesn’t have super powers, she doesn’t have any secret weapons – but she has friends and allies who are willing to work with her, trust her and make her their leader. She is the opposition to Roman because she was building her own army to match his but in a very different way
So in this book I expected those friends to gather. I expected Kitty to lead them, to gather her coalition, to take advantage of the group she’s put together. And she doesn’t. Oh, those friends appear – Grant, Rick, Tina, Sun and a few others. But they appear because “fate” or because “magic” or some other mystical force guided them. Fate is such a very lazy way of writing because it can justify just about any kind of coincidence. There’s very little emphasis on these people, what they bring to the party or much of their history and involvement with Kitty or why they matter now. And, again, most of her contacts are just irrelevant here (and even most who turn up basically fight a battle where we and Kitty are not).
Ok, the point can be made that the reason fate is directing all of these people towards Kitty and I can concede that. But it still rather robs Kitty of leading this book which is another main problem I have with it. After an initial attempt at a trap in the opening scene (which Kitty fiercely opposes) the rest of the story is out of Kitty’s hands, she completely fails to direct the plot or even actively oppose Roman. Honestly, if Roman and his boss had just decided to skip Denver, Kitty wouldn’t have been involved in the plot at all. They didn’t need to try and bribe her, or conveniently capture her or hunt her – they could have just got on with their plot and Kitty wouldn’t have had a clue of how to stop him nor would he really have done much other than run around and be panicked and worried.
Which brings me to the third element that didn’t enthral me in this book. The enemies. Firstly this whole volcano thing which has been rumbling around for some time now. Roman has a spell he is gathering that will cause a volcano to erupt. Which… ok…? I mean it’s powerful and scary but what are you actually going to do with that? It’s hardly going to give him command of the world or anything else, certainly not more so than all the people he’s rallied to support him. It isn’t necessary to bring down Kitty (in fact, tangential rant, why is Roman and boss bribing Kitty or messing with the odd vampire – why not just send 20-30 vampires to her back garden and tear her into teeny tiny pieces?) because you don’t need a volcano to kill one person. Even when we learn the true plot, I can’t see Roman or his boss particularly seeing any advantage to reducing the whole world to a wasteland…. Why do that? When they’re already gaining so much power and influence, why decide to reduce the world to a wasteland? What does this gain? I’m not saying it can’t be a motive, but this book didn’t really sell it or explain it to me.
Jessica has survived the Underworld and now that she is back, it's off to save her father who has been battling Made wolves. From the moment Jessica'sJessica has survived the Underworld and now that she is back, it's off to save her father who has been battling Made wolves. From the moment Jessica's plane takes to the air, she quickly realises that while she might be back on an earthly plane, she is in no less danger. Having pissed off a Hag, by killing her sister, Jessica's fate is in great flux. Thankfully, Jessica has a strong team around her but is Jessica strong enough to fight off the creator of the werewolves now that he Hags have set them up on a collision course.
It's book five and at this point, it very much feels like Carlson is sick of her own story. Nothing happened in Pure Blooded, absolutely nothing. If that were not enough, it ended on such an odd note that I had to flip backward through the book to ensure that I hadn't missed anything. Character development seems to about having Jessica pull a fancy new magical power out of her ass whenever she feels threatened and having her entourage swear loyalty to her.
At this point It would be fair to say that Jessica is a typical Mary Sue. Everyone around her loves her without question and is absolutely devoted to her. We are told repeatedly how special Jessica is and that if she dies, the supernatural world will simply fall to pieces. At this point I would rather see Carlson's world fall apart than to read anymore of this story. Pure Blooded made me want to scream, "I get it, Jessica's the super special werewolf." Beyond her ability to pull magical abilities out of her ass, I'm not even sure why everyone is so damn devoted to her.
For the first part of Pure Blooded Jessica had to do battle with a bokor who was being ridden by loa. As it turns out, the creator of the werewolves wanted the power that she invested into Jessica's wolf. After some running and dodging along with advise from a wise person of colour, Jessica emerged victorious. Jessica's next challenge was a necromancer who she defeated by simply following her heart. Apparently, brains and logic can't keep one safe but the mystical gut is all knowing. Yes, I'm snarking. To me it just sounds like an excuse for the fact that Jessica does not read as intelligent. Jessica is impatient and rushes in headlong with her team barely holding on. In Pure Blooded, she is even spoon fed information and then gripes about it not being detailed enough. Sure, Jessica is a young immortal and that works as an excuse for awhile but I'm simply tired of her ignorance and the fact that she never sits down long enough to learn about the world she is supposed to change so drastically. In fact, when Jessica is informed about counsel protocol is supposed to work, she casually brushes it aside.
Jessica's neighbour Juanita makes an appearance in Pure Blooded as a Hag who has decided to spend her life protecting the super special Jessica. We see Juanita only briefly in person and for the rest of the novel she communicates in cryptic texts to guide Jessica or warn her about approaching trouble. Juanita is the absolute essence of the magical person of colour; she exists like every character in this book to champion Jessica and alternately hand out timely advice. Juanita is the only character of colour to make a semi regular appearance in this series and so far, and her characterisation is decidedly lacking.
It's time for Rose to finally have an adventure on a planet other than earth and the Doctor is just the Gallifreyan to take her. When the Doctor and RIt's time for Rose to finally have an adventure on a planet other than earth and the Doctor is just the Gallifreyan to take her. When the Doctor and Rose land on Justicia (yes, that's really what Cole named it) Rose is entranced by a beautiful flower growing in the desolate landscape. Before they can contemplate the stark beauty for any length of time, they come across humans building replicas of the Great Pyramids in Egypt, complete with overseers who have vicious whips. It's not long before the Doctor and Rose are noticed and despite fighting to get back to the TARDIS are captured and taken to different prisons. The Doctor and Rose had the misfortune to land on a penal colony without permission and that carries a hefty sentence. Rose and The Doctor immediately begin to work on a way to reunite but it's not long before they realise that something is not right with the prison. The sound of copious farts and belches and a bright blue light hint that the prison may not be in human control after all.
As you can see from the cover, The Monsters Inside is an adventure story staring the 9th Doctor and his companion Rose. You're going to have be patient with me while I fanpoodle for a moment because I simply loved The Monsters Inside, despite the fact that the antagonists were the puerile and disgusting Raxacoricofallapatorian (try saying that three times quickly). It easily could have been an episode of NuWho because Cole managed to capture the personalities of the Doctor and Rose perfectly. Every time the Doctor gave one his larger than life smiles or snarked, I pictured Eccleston. Rose is characterised as plucky, brave and smart.
For much of the story, Rose and The Doctor are separated so the book changes POV several times. As much as I love seeing The Doctor and Rose together, the separation highlighted their closeness because the both of them were so desperate to get back to each other no matter what. Rose didn't sit around like a helpless damsel waiting for the Doctor to find her ans she never doubted they would be reunited. The Doctor's absence gave Rose the chance to step into the roll expert as she led some her fellow prisoners and a guard out of danger. Rose even proved that she has been listening to all of the technical jargon she has learned in her travels with The Doctor as she explained the mechanics of the situation to her fellow prisoners.
While being alone worked well for Rose, it didn't work quite as well for The Doctor. Fans of the series know that the companions serve as a foil for the Doctor. Because The Doctor was separated from Rose, we were treated to his inner monologue. That took away some of the mystery for me. As a viewer, we are meant to know the Doctor is up to something but we aren't really supposed to know what exactly. That said, I do believe the revelation of the Doctors thoughts was thoroughly tempered by the great characterisation.
The 9th Doctor can easily be described as the PTSD angry Doctor. He will do what he has to do but he is always looking for the redemption of those he faces. In the case of (channeling River Song and warning, "spoilers") the Blathereen, though they plan to kill millions, and breed humans as a captive workforce, The Doctor is willing to allow them to live. It's only when they insist on their murderous plans that The Doctor is forced to act. He begs them to stop and finally warns them to stop but in the end, when the Blathereen are not persuaded, the annihilation is near total.
Zoey’s normal life has been derailed by her being marked by a Vampyre Tracker. She is now a Vampyre, chosen by the goddess Nyx and entering the privatZoey’s normal life has been derailed by her being marked by a Vampyre Tracker. She is now a Vampyre, chosen by the goddess Nyx and entering the private school and vampire compound known as the House of Night
But in the House she finds that the leader of the Elite Group, the Dark Daughters, is pretty much terrible and she finds she needs to replace her. Thankfully she has been granted the greatest and rarest power, never seen before, compared to any other vampyre in history.
I try, I really do, in every review to say something positive about a book. There is usually something, some gem, some nugget, some facet somewhere I can seize on and say “hey, despite all the other problems, this is pretty decent.”
I tried with this book. I really did. But, honestly, I can’t think of one tiny, redeeming feature. It’s a a book that manages to be terrible on just about every level. With many other books I would have thrown it away, deleted it from my tablet and DNFed it after vigorously expressing my contempt. But not only am I now committed to reading this series due to the diabolical machinations of Cyna and Mavrynthia and especially Merriska I am now doomed to read this series – but also this book was so bad, so unutterably, shamefully awful that I felt the need to keep going. It was a combination of watching a terrible trainwreck and you know you should look away but are somehow drawn back to the horror, watching someone about to do something epicly ridiculous and watching them to see if they’re really going to go through with it and just reading in a vague, desperate hope that at some point the author would yell “ha! Fooled you, this is a parody!”
It was not a parody. If it were a parody it would be a bad parody because good parodies are more subtle than this.
So, since there’s absolutely nothing right with this book, let’s tackle the wrong. The oh-so-very wrong.
I will begin with the marginalised characters – on team good guy we have one gay man, Damien, and one Black woman, Shaunee, playing sassy sidekicks to the protagonist (along with two white woman, one of which, Erin shares exactly the same personality as Shaunee because characterisation is hard. We also get the joy of these two characters calling each other twin. The other is just a kicked puppy dog following Zoey around with utter devotion she developed within 10 second of meeting her because characterisation is hard).
Damien is gay, we know this because it is mentioned all the time. Even when mentioning things completely irrelevant to his sexuality – like how smart he is – he is the “gay genius.” We’ve seen this trope before and labelled it the Lesbian Shark. It definitely applies. Like all of Zoey’s “friends” Damien exists for the greater glory of Zoey, being slavishly loyal and obedient pretty much from the first meeting. As a bonus he’s used to excuse using the slur f@ggot. We also have such joys as Damien not counting as a guy because he’s the, direct quote “token gay”. He also takes on the rule as the expert of all things “peniled” because while having no relationship himself, it is the duty of all good GBFs to play advisor and counsel to straight ladies. To top this off we have derision of gay men who are “swishy girly-guys”. And all Lesbians are some kind of like minded cult who spend their whole time in the temple because Matriarchal Goddess = Lesbian devotion.
Frankly, it’s almost insulting when the author has a terribad awful caricature call Damien a “f@g” so Zoey can have a PSDA on how homophobia is wrong – you don’t get to inflict this utterly dreadful portrayal on us and then throw in a paragraph PSA and call it good. Throwing in a “homophobia is bad, ‘kay” speech in the middle of a grossly stereotyped and homophobic portrayal is almost comic.
In the few times Shaunee is mentioned (which is usually so she can speak in the most over the top caricature of a sassy Black friend), or any other Black person, the words “mocha” “cappuccino” or “chocolate” will appear. I think the author may have copy and pasted her Starbucks order every time she described this woman. She’s Like Damien, this dubious racial fetishising is justified by Shaunee herself remarking “thank you for appreciating my blackness.” And comparing her to a beverage, apparently. Just because you have your marginalised characters agree with your poor word choice doesn’t make it ok. Shaunee also has “good hair” by which she means “long, straight hair” which is racially problematic to begin with. It’s further compounded by her deciding a Black woman in the enemy camp with “good hair” is definitely “wearing a weave.” Because she’s subtle like that.
Then we get to the portrayal of women – and before we do that we need to look at the caricatures who are Zoey’s enemies. And I say caricatures for a reason because of her friends are one dimensional sycophants (hilariously, this is how she refers to people who follow the big bad Mean Girl Aphrodite but, really, it’s a perfect description of Shaunee, Erin, Stevie Rae and Damien) then her enemies are such over-the-top terrible people that they may as well have twirly moustaches and black hats and spend their weekends tying women to train tracks. And this is relevant because, except for two (her ex-boyfriend who is a drunken, drug using, inept fool and her father who is a cookie-cutter religious patriarch, neither of whom are that influential in the story) all of these villains are women. This means this book is positively brimming with girl-hate – Zoey (and her minions) hate these terribad women and constantly refer to them in the most misogynist terms – slut, hag, ho, bitch, cow, constantly over and over. With an added bonus of Aphrodite’s top minions being the most blatant Straw Feminists you ever did see (they hate all men and want them to die! Because feminism!)
Aphrodite herself is so unbelievably awful that her special magical power, the one that actually gives her the leadership of the Dark Daughters (a special Mean Girls Clique and super influential), is one she actively suppresses and hides. Why? Because it gives her the power to foretell disasters and stop them. Because she is terribad evil she hides it because she doesn’t want to. No, really. She is that awful that she actually goes to great effort to NOT help people.
This book also has a very simple way to designate evil women as evil – they are even slightly sexual. Sexual women are the worst and this book contains completely unnecessary and ridiculous screeds against blow jobs (because oral sex is evil), Aphrodite is repeatedly attacked for being a “ho” and a “slut” (and she was first established as evil because she was trying to give said blow job therefore making her a slutjezebelhussy and therefore evil). I can’t stress enough how Aphrodite being sexual – from her clothes, from her dancing and, again, to the very first time we saw her being giving oral sex to a man saying no, is shown as evidence of her evil. And this could be a comment on consent, but since that man, the oh-so-over-the-top-dreamy-Eric (who smells like - so apparently Zoey has a thing for decomposing wet leaves) is actually Zoey’s love interest it’s more a comment on how much better than Aphrodite Eric and Zoey are because they are not sex crazy sluthussyjezebels like Aphrodite. Or Zoey's sister - when arguing with her mother, Zoey decides to tell her that her older sister has "slept with half the football team". Classy Zoey.
We know the story of the Eddas, the stories of North Mythology from the creation of the Nine Worlds from a cow and a giant right through to Ragnarok wWe know the story of the Eddas, the stories of North Mythology from the creation of the Nine Worlds from a cow and a giant right through to Ragnarok when it call falls apart again.
But this is, as Loki points out, told from the point of view of the Old Man himself, Odin. Who is not entirely a reliable narrator. It’s time for the villain of the piece to tell his side of the story.
This book is a retelling of many of the stories of the Eddas only from a different point of view – this is told from the point of view of Loki.
I have read many of the stories of the Eddas. I like mythology, I like Norse mythology – a book containing mythology of any kind will generally find one of us running to get our hands on it. This book came the closest of any I’ve read to taking so much Norse mythology and so many of their stories and gods and really revelling in it. And, as a fan of those stories anyway, I loved it
I don’t know if I would have loved it more or less if I didn’t know all the stories inside already. In some ways, knowing what was going to happen made it more enjoyable because I could remember the original and see it through this angle the author has considered – seeing things from a different light and turning Loki into a realised and interesting and complex (and certainly not perfect) character just added new appreciation from me for these stories. Of course, if you recognise the stories you’re probably also a mythology fan so would appreciate this book anyway.
The flip side is if you weren’t familiar with Norse Mythology then this book wouldn’t be entirely spoiled for you. At no point in the book did I really not know what was going to happen next – I’ve read these stories, a new angle doesn’t change the progress, the story or the end result. There’s no suspense there and, consequently, there are times when I felt I could have skipped ahead or skimmed, like a book you’ve read several times over
But I don’t think this book can stand alone without the mythology geek’s glee. It relies too much on past knowledge to paint the world, the characters and make this new angle meaningful. The Gospel According to Loki simply won’t be appreciated to the same extent, even after being read, by someone who isn’t already aware of Loki (beyond Marvel adaptations) because that back story is needed.
But even though the story is thoroughly spoiled to me, I still enjoyed it. Loki’s character is fun, complex, deeply imperfect, slightly alien but also very very human and fun. His motives, always kind of put down to being Loki, the chaotic Trickster of extra chaoticness, who does shit because he’s LOKI and he does whatever the hell he wants to. Now we see him, the betrayals, the resentment, his eternal outsider status, how his good deeds are rarely remembered, how he thinks he’s achieved acceptance and then one trick later and everyone turns round and he’s, again, forced into the fringes. His battle between wanting to be accepted by the Aesir and Vanis, thinking he’s achieved it, and the bitterness and rage when he realises, again, how much they all hate him (especially Heimdall). It’s really excellent character development as we see him constantly swap between seethingly seeking vengeance and occasionally backing down as he almost, almost achieves acceptance only to have that hatred return threefold. Of course this leads to him both saving the gods and sabotaging them in equal measure. It also begs the question whether he would ever actually have been accepted if he didn’t sabotage himself repeatedly – or was he constantly being exploited? I like that it’s very clear that, yes, poor Loki is often abused and poorly treated – while it’s equally clear he deserves what he gets quite regularly. He’s not perfect, he gets away with a lot, but he also gets treated poorly when he doesn’t deserve it – it’s not a retelling of the Eddas to make him a saint, but nor to make him a demon – just the chaotic Trickster who turned form Odin’s blood-brother to the bitter enemy at Ragnarok.
Mark is still very much in mourning after the loss of his wife Rebecca. He buries himself in work, has few friends, doesn't date and doesn't really soMark is still very much in mourning after the loss of his wife Rebecca. He buries himself in work, has few friends, doesn't date and doesn't really socialize. What he doesn't know is that this is all about to change. Mark receives a letter in his own hand writing with a list of instructions about what to do when he finds himself sent 17 years into his own past. Like anyone else, Mark is tempted to go back to make changes. Who after all doesn't have some regrets? Unfortunately, time cannot be changed without consequences and this is where The Doctor (#11), Rory and Amy come in.
Touched by an Angel very much reminds me of Blink (season 3 episode 10) during David Tennant's tenure as the Doctor. Luckily, Mark's story is compelling enough to stand on its own and the Doctor's small role didn't decrease my enjoyment of the story. Touched by an Angel is about more than killer statues and wibbily wobbly timey wimey bits, it's about love and loss. I think anyone who has ever lost someone they cared deeply about will closely connect with this story. It was interesting to watch the relationship develop between Mark and Rebecca, even as the story inevitably led to Rebecca's death and the terrible choice Mark had to make. I couldn't help but myself in Mark's shoes and think about what I would do if I had the chance to save someone I love.
Morris takes care to include a ton of 90's references to give us a sense that Mark has indeed traveled back to the 90's. We follow the journey and watch Mark mature from a young man full of hope, to a middle age man dealing with loss and desperation. Similarly, Mark's relationship with Rebecca evolves from one of friendship to an established romantic relationship with all of the pitfalls that this includes. Like any other couple, they make plans but life gets in the way. It's a strong reminder to make the people we care about a priority because we never know when our last day will be.
The angels have long been one of my favourite aliens in the Whoverse. Morris has a tough act to follow given that in New Who, the weeping angels were brilliantly written by Moffat. The angels in this case are looking to feed off of a paradox, something we saw in The Angels Take Manhattan (series seven, episode five) Every time the Doctor, Amy, Rory and Mark found themselves challenged or surrounded by the angels, I found myself struggling not to blink, completely caught up in the story. The angels translated very well in Touched By and Angel and are just as horrific as I have seen them on television.
Unfortunately, Amy Pond was not very well written. To be upfront, I have never been a fan of Amy and Rory because they remind me so much of wet lettuce. Amy didn't seem to really do much and I didn't really get a sense of a bond between her and the Doctor. Predictably, Rory ended up running around and doing the Doctor's bidding, with a touch of sarcasm thrown in for the sake of comedy. I'm not convinced that Rory and Amy worked in Touched by an Angel; however, I wasn't convinced about them on the show either.
First, Sam was the little imp who could and then she became the Iblis after the magical sword chose her and now, in yet another stunning transformatioFirst, Sam was the little imp who could and then she became the Iblis after the magical sword chose her and now, in yet another stunning transformation, she has become the first angel of chaos since the separation between demons and angels. The angels might be fascinated with her new wings but that doesn't mean that they are going to give Sam a pass at anything. When an angel arrives at Sam's door promising three favours if she agrees to give shelter to a woman, naturally, being an imp, Sam doesn't pause to consider the old adage, if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. Sam finds herself protecting a pregnant woman who is carrying a nephilim. Sam may be the Iblis but the angles don't take kindly at all to nephilim. Sam quickly finds herself battling the angles to protect the woman and child she swore to protect and once again shaking up things in Aaru.
Angel of Chaos feels very much like the Imp series returning to its roots. Sam may be an Angel of Chaos but she still manages to find herself up shits creek without a paddle pretty quickly. Sam may now feel morally responsible for the people she has decided are hers but that doesn't stop her hilarious internal monologue. When Sam is attacked by three angels, Gregory naturally assumes that she has been leaving fake vomit in the sixth circle or infesting the first circle with bird lice once again. Gregory knows all to well that Sam cannot resist her impish impulses for too long. Sam may be a cockroach but she's his cockroach and though it means risking his vibration level and opening himself up to new experiences like vodka, chicken wings, chocolate and physical sex, Gregory has decided to strap himself in for the wild ride.
Sam and Gregory started off with a very uneasy alliance and it has grown so much. Unfortunately, it means that Wyatt, Sam's human toy has pretty much been put out to pasture. This essentially comes down to Gregory accepting at least some of Sam's impish ways whereas; Wyatt is determined to change her. Gregory may be the archangel Michael but Sam is now clearly his partner and his equal, even if he does enjoy punishing her in Aaru. I love every single scene they share together and am excited that in the next book, Gregory will be spending far less time in Aaru.
Okay, I know I've done a lot of gushing but I love this series. I love the fact that Angels have hangovers and the growing relationships. These characters feel so very real to me. I really don't want to be critical but even our favourite books have their problems.
In Angel of Chaos we meet Jaq a Nephilim and Kelly who are a couple. Kelly is fiercely protective over Jaq and it's nice to see but we never seem them in a moment of real intimacy. It will be interesting to see if Dunbar expands their role in the series.
Sam and Leithu are definitely bisexual, there is no doubt about that with both of them repeatedly expressing their interest in other women. This book is very good at making that clear
But after so many books now it’s a little odd that these women never actually have sex with women. Especially since this book is so sexually charged; they have sex a lot. They enjoy sex and neither has any desire to be monogamous. We see them have relationships and we see them have a lot of casual sex (including a stream of pizza delivery guys) but always always with men. Wouldn’t these bisexual women, often expressing their lust for other women, very actively pursuing their sex lives at least occasionally have sex with a woman? At least once?
Sterling Wayfair is determined that his last year of high school will be the one where he truly defines himself – when he makes his mark and sets himsSterling Wayfair is determined that his last year of high school will be the one where he truly defines himself – when he makes his mark and sets himself apart from his accomplished and charismatic friends
Then he meets Tetra, a woman from a whole other world who is mystically connected to him – and he realises he is far more unique than ever he imagined. And it comes with a mission far more important than setting himself apart from his fellows at school – or even finally screwing up the courage to ask Waverly, a girl he has a long crush on, out to the prom.
There’s a lot about this book I like. The concept of the book – with people from Noba fleeing to Geo to try and find sanctuary from a genocidal war that has been inflicted on their people by the Naga. This leads to two very interesting characters having to deal with this from separate angels
Tetra remembers Noba, knows Noba and is doing everything she can to preserve the last of her people, defeat the Naga and, especially, protect her bond-mate Sterling. We have some really excellent depictions of her trying to fit into Geo, a world that is pretty much a reflection of the US on Earth (honestly, you could replace "Geo" with "Ohio" and made no real difference). It’s really well done – from language mistakes, to different ideas of social taboos, to hobbies and rituals and attitudes: Tetra is a really excellent depiction of culture shock. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that so well presented a character so completely out of her depth and out of her element. It really does work well – this world is so alien to her and she often comes across as unkind simply because she is in such a different cultural context. She is a wonderful mix of extremely talented, hyper-capable and powerful while at the same time being so totally out of her depth. It’s a wonderful mix of capacity and vulnerability
There’s also her feelings towards Sterling – how she clearly cares a lot for him but she has had to separate herself from him for his own good, forcing her to face all the problems alone. If anything I think there could be more development of her pain over this.
Then we have Sterling who is struggling to get by in life as a very ordinary teenager. Struggling with romance, with school, with making his life and establish his own personality and impact in the shadow of some very accomplished best friends. On top of these very real and very well presented standard high school issues he then has Tetra come into his life, telling him all these incredible things, messing with his mind and his memory and telling him that just about everything he believed is wrong – on top of his own worries about his mental health and having to guide a rather tactless Tetra through the alien vagaries of school life.
I like that he’s not perfect, and recognises that. I like that no-one is perfect. They’re tactless and self-absorbed and often struggling but they care and they try and that’s so very human about them.
There was a lot of good friendship and a nice lack of the usual issues like over the top-cliquism and Mean Girl collective that we so often see in fiction. In fact, I quite liked that the quasi-mean-girl Marjorie was shown to be a full person and defined as a decent enough character beyond her occasional snide remarks.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the same attention has gone into the other characters and I didn’t really engage with Kip or Grey or Waverly or anyone else around Tetra and Sterling. Maybe that’s because Tetra and Sterling are such excellent characters, but the end result was that the end of the book didn’t have nearly the impact I think it was supposed to have. Who lived or died, who loved who etc, was all somewhat irrelevant to me
Prudence Akeldama is a very special child, a meta-natural with the power to steal the powers of vampires and werewolves and child of three of the mostPrudence Akeldama is a very special child, a meta-natural with the power to steal the powers of vampires and werewolves and child of three of the most powerful people in the British Empire – she is destined to be change the world
The first mission of which is for her and her merry band of friends to get on their new airship (the Spotted Custard) to float to India, to ostensibly discover a new source of tea.
Except quickly they find themselves in far deeper intrigue than they ever imagined
This was a very fun book. We had some delightfully amusing characters – Rue’s complete irreverence towards society, her shifting of personalities because of the many excellent influences in her life. She is skilled, capable, confident and pretty much determined to take the world by storm. I kind of love how she has this iron-hard self-assurance. In many characters it would be annoying – but it worked with Rue. Her confidence, her fierce belief in herself, her willingness to jump into any situation confident that her unique abilities, her skills and her relatives to pull her out of any problems she gets in.
We also have Gail Carriger’s excellent writing style that wonderfully uses flowery Victorian style with her humour and dash of silliness that really makes it work.
(Example: “She inspired, at even the best balls, a sensation of immanent dread. It was one of the reason she was always at the top of all invitation lists. Dread had such an agreeable affect on society’s upper crust.”)
I think the story could have been vastly improved if Rue were directing the story. If she went to India with a genuine mission rather than pretty much stumbling on the plot and then, somewhat, ineptly, then stagger around it
The book, sadly, has many problems. Above that there are two main ones. The first of which is that it is covering areas of colonialism, imperialism et al with a very shallow hand which is going to be dubious in any circumstances and I will come back to,
The second is that the Custard Protocol directly follows on from The Parasol Protectorate and it really doesn’t live up to the standards that that series set
I’m trying to think how best to put this…. But, imagine there was a play being put on by some really great theatrical actors. Imagine that their reputation is immense and you cannot wait to see them in action. Then imagine, on opening night, the entire cast being struck by a particularly squidgy form of food poisoning and the understudies have to take over instead.
I mean, the understudies aren’t bad, they’re probably quite decent in face. But you can’t help but wishing each character was someone else. Prudence wasn’t inherently a bad character – but she’s a pale, weak imitation of the supreme awesomeness that is Alexia Tarabotti. Primrose is not terrible character per se – but Ivy was considerably more amusing. Quesnel is not inherently awful – but Madam La Foux was immensely more amusing. The relationship between Alexia and Connor was so much more excellent than that between Quesnel and Rue.
The sad thing is that each of these characters are, more or less, occupying he same place as their parents. Rue is the unusual, forthright young lady who is rather casual when it comes to societal mores – which is the role Alexia occupied. Prim is the best friend who is much more concerned with both societal mores and fashions and “proper female pursuits” – which is the role that Ivy occupied. Quesnel is the somewhat eccentric technical expert – but without the personality, eccentricity and skill of Madam La Foux. The book almost asks me to make the comparisons to past adventures and the past adventurers – and those comparisons are just not favourable.
It would help if everyone but Rue were actually developed – but Prim, Quesnel and Percy all feel quite shallow in the wake of her overwhelming personality.
These characters just feel so much shallower than the original Parasol Protectorate series and it’s not just the characters, it’s the world setting as well. I have repeatedly said with Steam Punk that I want to see some more attention paid beyond the very standard depictions of Victorian England. So this book going to India was something that definitely appealed to me.
And there was some effort to address colonialism – with the British Empire ignorantly applying the mores and laws of England and the way they treat supernaturals to a foreign country with very different creatures and histories and cultures. It was classic colonial ignorance- the Empire assuming that what applied at home applied everywhere so they could just apply the same rules to their colonies without any regard to the consequences. We also had some interesting points with the Vanarra and Mrs. Featherstonehaugh arguing against Rue’s assumption that the British Empire is automatically something they should welcome and want.
Ok, standard disclaimer that I seem to have to write every time I review a collection of short stories – I don’t particularly like them. I am not a faOk, standard disclaimer that I seem to have to write every time I review a collection of short stories – I don’t particularly like them. I am not a fan of short stories, I’m not fan of stand alone stories that aren’t part of a larger series and I’m not a fan of collections of stories that aren’t related to each other
Now, this is a collection of short stories, none of them are from series, and none of them are related to each other. There’s also 19 short stories in this book. I tend to lose interest in any collections of stories that go over 10. I don’t think there’s even really a uniting theme – they’re all by the same author and they’re all speculative fiction, but that’s about it
In other words, I started this book trying very much to like it because I’d heard good things – but fearing that I was going to hate it simply because of my own dislike of short stories.
Thankfully, I loved it. Most of it anyway
It started really well with The Easthound. I loved how this really creepy story of a dystopia led by children really managed to pack a lot of world building in through without any real infodumping – the lack of adults, the fear of growing up, literally starving themselves so they wouldn’t age, the horror of being children with no adults to look after them and how that permeates how they react to the world. They’re children trying to survive – and the way they look at the world is childlike, almost a terrifying game of survival.
I think this sense of the creepy works really well in many of the stories – Old Habits. It’s take on ghosts and what they hunger for is chilling and a truly terrifying view of a horrific afterlife without being s dramatic and gory as so many others
The Smile on My Face was amazing fun and an awesome look at body issues and self-worth with a dash of mythology and a whole lot of getting behind someone and cheering her – and a great scene of battling against rape and sexual assault without graphic depiction of victimisation – it’ strong and awesome all through. I especially like how, despite their being a Mean Girl, Gilla still reaches out to her in clear solidarity (even if it is also an excellent snide put down) because even a Mean Girl would need someone to believe her if she were a victim. On the other end of the scale, Emily Breakfast was also a fun little story (with a large number of LGBT characters and my only brief issue is the only real characterisation was distinctly sexual in nature) that wasn’t as creepy or intimidating as some, but who can be against dragon chickens? More thoughtful was Shift which not only completely took a Shakespearean story and brought out a whole new idea from it – but then had several shifts and complexities that made this story (and it’s apparent antagonists) much much more fun than I imagined and, again, very thoughtful.
I don’t even begin to understand Herbal. I really don’t – but I still found it immensely cute but still have to express my bemusement. Similarly I found Snow Day bemusing and fun – but I have to add extra praise for presenting adventurousness and wish to remain at home as EQUALLY VALID and powerful choices.
Flying Lessons I understand all too well – it’s sad and enraging and awful – and so carefully not filled in with detail which, in some way, actually makes it more stark and awful: seeing this through the incomplete and hurt understanding of a child.
I shouldn’t, but I just love the concept of Blushing Bride and I can say absolutely nothing about it without spoiling it, but it made me very very very gleeful in all the wrong ways
Some stories, to me, just begged for more development, not because what was there wasn’t good enough, but because it begged for more to come because the concepts were so excellent.
Soul Case is one I kind of feel that way yet not. The world setting – building on the concept of Marronnage, in the Carribean with escaped slaves managing to build their own community had such a lot of potential to be developed especially with the excellent mythology based on POC culture. But I think the power of it, the idea that even when committing an atrocity for the sake of good still has dire consequences: it’s done an especially subtle and implied way that really doesn’t WANT developing further. Similarly there’s A Young Candy Daughter which just begs for more development of a child god and their mother – but at the same time not developing it leaves us free to think it through on our own and consider the implications of it.