"I hate selkie stories. They're always about how you went up to the attic to look for a book, and you found a disgusting old coat and brought it downs...more"I hate selkie stories. They're always about how you went up to the attic to look for a book, and you found a disgusting old coat and brought it downstairs between finger and thumb and said "What's this?", and you never saw your mom again."
And that's how one the best little stories I've read all week begins. This is a nice, tight, little story about love and loss. About fighting against our parents' legacies in order to forge a happier life. About forcing yourself to breathe even in new places.(less)
I have never hated a character as much as I hate Hekat. She is a complete sociopath who only views other people in terms of how she can use them, othe...moreI have never hated a character as much as I hate Hekat. She is a complete sociopath who only views other people in terms of how she can use them, otherwise they mean nothing to her. Not her husband, not her lover, and not her son. In fact the cold way she treated her five year old son after he was in riding accident that killed his horse gutted me and made me stop reading the book. I cried for that boy. If she had not been the view point character I might have enjoyed this book, but, unfortunately, we the readers get to spend all our time with her, in her head. And Hekat has not an ounce of empathy or caring for anyone other than herself and the gods. Get in her way, and even if you are her child, she will cut you down. She is the single most hateful character I have ever read about.
I sort of want her son's story because he seemed like he might be okay, but I do not want to finish Empress in order to get to book 2 in the series that I can't do it.
Hekat's hatefulness sort of snuck up on me. Hekat came from terrible circumstances, from a childhood so horrifying that slavery was a step up for her. I was really sympathetic, because who doesn't feel sorry for the horribly abused child? But Hekat never grew emotionally from that child, she just grows older. She never learned to care for other people beyond what they can give her. From a distance it just seems sad, but in her head it is agony, watching decent person after decent person being used and thrown away by her. The men in her life are completely trampled under the weight of her self-interest.
I hate her, and I hate this book, and I have no interest in reading anything by Karen Miller ever again. This is a terrible introduction to this author and series.(less)
Meh. I'm hitting a lot of meh dnf books lately. This one happens in a school to some teenagers/young adults and I really don't like teenagers and youn...moreMeh. I'm hitting a lot of meh dnf books lately. This one happens in a school to some teenagers/young adults and I really don't like teenagers and young adults, much less reading about their love lives. I don't like this whole YA/NA thing that's happening in general. I'm sure it's a good book but I'm tired of seeing GR recommend this thing and similar stuff to me so hopefully this gets rid of it.
Ginn Hale's a decent author but I prefer it when she writes about adults.(less)
I read a lot of, uh, interesting books as a kid. Having jumped straight from Dr. Seuss to "grown up" books, without a stop in what would be called YA...moreI read a lot of, uh, interesting books as a kid. Having jumped straight from Dr. Seuss to "grown up" books, without a stop in what would be called YA today I ended up reading things that might have been a little too mature for me at the time, but I still enjoyed them immensely. One of these books, which was a huge favorite for me for at least a year when I was 12, was Unicorn Mountain. I'm writing about this book now before I reread it, then I'll review it again and see how well my decades' old recollection matches the book and if it holds up to how good I thought it was. For that reason I'm not going to rate it until I read it again. If you click this review to see more there will be spoilers.
The appeal for me was obvious, it had unicorns! But the book is about far more than that. Every winter unicorns roam Libby Quarrel's ranch. It's not something she and her one ranch-hand Sam ever talk about really, it's just something that happens, like that the fact that after midnight her black-and-white TV plays color broadcasts from what appears to be the land of the dead. This year, however, something's wrong. The unicorns are sick and dying in both the land of the living and (according to the broadcasts) the land of the dead of some mysterious plague, and Sam's ex-wife is back from the dead. In the midst of all of this Libby's ex-husband asks a her a favor, his cousin is dying of AIDS and no one else in the family (not even him) will take Bo in. Meanwhile Sam's estranged daughter starts a spiritual journey toward becoming a medicine-woman.
Thinking back on it there were definitely some things that were completely over my head. For one thing this was my first exposure to the mere idea of homosexuality, and it didn't help that Bo was a bit hard to like at the time, after all he had abandoned his partner when he first became sick. It would take reading Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series for the idea to really click with me, and even longer for me to realize my mushy feelings toward women meant that I was bi. Bo was actually quite a well-rounded character and it would be interesting to see how I feel about him these days if I ever reread the book. Looking back on it I have to imagine that he, a gay man in the 80s watching his friends and lovers die left and right, must have been terrified, and people who are terrified often do cowardly things. He isn't the only one in the story. Sam had a difficult relationship with his wife and daughter and ended up abandoning them, his only contact being to show up at his daughter's high school graduation. At least until his ex-wife (dead of a suicide) returns to kick his ass into gear.
Libby, for her part, wasn't sure at first what to do with Bo, although it was obvious to her that he couldn't be allowed to live (or die) alone. This is all swept away when the problem of the unicorns comes to a head and their bodies start piling up on the ranch. Libby and Sam round up what living unicorns they can find and bring in a vet to try to figure out what's going on. It turns out that the disease the unicorns are dying from is related to a horse disease--except the vector for the disease only lives on the Other Side, in the land of the dead. The unicorns are infected in their other home, migrate through a series of old goldmines onto Libby's ranch, and then either recover or die. The ones that recover then return to the land of the dead only to be reinfected. In order to save the unicorns from extinction two things are needed, a person to carry this information to the land of the dead, and the unicorns that are still in the land of the living need to be cut off from their migration routes and trapped in a world without their disease-vector.
There are, I'm discovering, large chunks of the book that I can't really recall. For example Sam's daughter's name--she's one of the main characters but fuck me if I can remember it. Her entire subplot as she journeyed toward becoming a medicine woman was fairly important but I can't recall how it fit into the rest of the story. I do remember that she went through some sort of spiritual quest involving dancing for days without drinking water to produce visions. It sounded amazing and dangerous. It also helped Bo to heal spiritually as he faced his immanent death from AIDS. Sam's wife--another name I can't remember--seemed to be trying to communicate the unicorns' migration route and what to do about it, as well as making him face what he did to their family, but I can't remember much of the details (other than the fact that since she'd blown her brains out with a rifle she came back without much of a head).
In the end Sam and Libby hook up, and Sam reconnects with his daughter. Bo dies, and the living characters watch him on late-night color TV as he dances with his partner. Presumably he tells the people in the land of the dead what, exactly, is going on with the unicorns and that they need to be trapped in the land of the living in order to save them from extinction.(less)
When I saw this little freebie on Smashwords part of me thought it sounded good, and another part of me experienced a sort of horrified facination (ce...moreWhen I saw this little freebie on Smashwords part of me thought it sounded good, and another part of me experienced a sort of horrified facination (centaurs?? Does that mean horse dicks???). Haha, no fear, there is no centaur-sex in this story so you can rest easy. In brief, the reason why this story gets 3.5 stars (3 on GR) instead of four is that it is too short, and had some editing issues. The story itself was quite enjoyable. Spoilers after the cut.
(view spoiler)[ Pet is a loner after the tragic murder of his boyfriend, Dios, by his (former) herd stallion. Lamed in the tragedy that took Dios' life he spends his time doing programming in a converted warehouse (centaurs being rather inconvenient to house in a human-sized home) and drinking his sorrows away. One day Mathias, a young male centaur from his old herd shows up at his door, saying he doesn't have anywhere else to go.
The story is told from Pet's point of view. He's quarrelsome, and self-pitying, and drunk, and prone to fits of rage which he takes out on anyone near him, even himself. He's certainly a hard person to love, but as his story comes out it begins to make more sense. It's the standard 'driving everyone way from me' motivation, but it does make sense for his character. One thing that I do appreciate is that he is written as a person with a horse body. Little details like the concrete floor of the warehouse being covered in rubber mats, or the way he wants to kick in frustration near a pile of debris, but is too nervous of accidentally hurting his already lame legs. The way his skin twitches like a horse's and the way his canon bones hurt when he abuses them.
The relationship with Mathias isn't quite as well developed, however. Pet mentions having babysat for the herd's foals, which included Mathias, but there doesn't seem to be much connection between the two despite that. Even after Mathias showed up at Pet's front door Pet seems to feel primarily nothing but irritation toward him. The outcome of the story really isn't unexpected unless you focus purely on the age-difference. Mathias steps in and reorganizes Pet's life, starts limiting his access to alcohol and cigarettes and makes him eat better--all actions of a 'good' herd stallion. It's really a shame that the story is so short because it feels like this is merely an introduction to their relationship, not the whole story. This would be a much better story if it were to be expanded. Mathias has plans for a revolution against the bad stallion back in their home herd, what are they? Centaurs, and other magical non-human creatures face persecution by society, how is that dealt with? and so on. These are all things that I was left wondering about and should be dealt with in a longer story.
Finally, there were several mistakes in editing that make me think the author did all the editing himself. "Heard" was used instead of "herd" several times, for example. The story was less than 10,000 words so it's not like it couldn't have been edited easily by a friend.
Neither of these things are fatal flaws (editing can be fixed, stories can be expanded on, etc). Over all this is a nice short story with some unique MCs (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Oh wow, looks like I'm the first person to rate or review this book, go me.
Vasilios is a eunuch and slave in the vaguely Late Roman-ish "Holy Empire"....moreOh wow, looks like I'm the first person to rate or review this book, go me.
Vasilios is a eunuch and slave in the vaguely Late Roman-ish "Holy Empire". When he starts having dreams of a demon devouring babies he turns to General Markos, a long-time acquaintance of his master, and long-time crush, for help. Markus has been tasked to hunt down the murderer of the babies. Over the course of the novel they realize they're long-standing love for each other, and along the way meet some very interesting characters in the form of Arite, a holy woman living out in the desert, and Brother Strovos, a half-man, half snake monk.
The plot is a bit simplistic over all, but Vasilios makes up for it by his grace and competence throughout the story. He bends, but he does not break. Markos is slightly more enigmatic at first, he appears to be a compassionate and caring person, but his attraction to Vasilios, a person who in their society is nearly invisible, is not well developed. It's clear they have some sort of history, but anything prior to the novel is not expanded on and it leaves the romance a little abrupt-feeling. Still, by the end his respect and love for Vasilios feels completely natural.
Readers looking for a hot Master/slave story will be greatly disappointed. Fortunately I was not looking for that and don't usually enjoy that sort of story. Markos admires Vasilios as an equal, and Vasilios likewise. This novel is not particularly hot and heavy, there's a couple sex scenes toward the end that, while interesting, are not particularly hot (ie, no anal sex). Vasilios is a eunuch who has been cut with what was historically the most common, and most extreme, form of human castration, complete removal of cock and balls, so it's fairly interesting watching the characters work around that. It's also quite interesting reading a novel where the main character's ability to feel sexual desire is severely hampered, he can still fall in love, but it's a slow, graceful, and very clear-headed sort of love.
The end is more of HFN rather than HEA, but it's sweet and gives me hope for the character's future together.
Over all this is a solid 4 star read, and I would certainly keep an eye out for this author's future works.(less)
Quatrain, as the title suggests, contains four novellas. Each of the four novellas are a sort of post-script to another series or stand-alone novel by...moreQuatrain, as the title suggests, contains four novellas. Each of the four novellas are a sort of post-script to another series or stand-alone novel by Sharon Shinn. Due to spoilers I really recommend reading the related works first before reading Quatrain. The four stories are Flight, a prequel to Archangel, Blood, a sequel to Heart of Gold, Gold, a sequel to Summers at Castle Auburn, and Fire, a prequel to Mystic and Rider.
Flight is a 4 star novella. Sameria is a world ruled by angels, who intercede with the god Jovah to alter the weather, receive medicines from the god, etc. Angels have beautiful voices and Jovah can hear them anywhere they sing, and will answer their prayers. (view spoiler)[because Jovah is a spaceship and it's all done with science hahaha I love this series (hide spoiler)] When Salome was a young woman she ran away from home to become an angel-seeker--a woman who has sex with angels with the hope of bearing an angel child. While she was an angel-seeker she hooked up with the most important angel of all, the Archangel Rafael, the villain of Archangel. She escaped him roughly twenty years before the story starts, and now lives peacefully raising her niece on a farm as a straight-laced, middle aged farm worker. But when Rafael comes back she must take drastic measures to save her niece.
This is a slow-burning romance between Salome and the angel Stephan, who was her love interest back in her angel-seeking days. Most of the focus is on Salome's relationship with her niece and her tragic past. Stephan is more of a mystery, we know that he loved her, but couldn't seem to convince her of that when they were young, and that he searched for her everywhere and couldn't find her after she disappeared. But he's a bit of a cypher beyond that. Salome, on the other hand, is very controlled and fierce. She is very strong and intelligent, and not afraid of anyone, not even an Archangel she knows first hand is evil. Anyone who has read Archangel will not surprised about what her deep secret is, but its nice to see that Rachel, the heroine of Archangel, isn't the only person who knows about it. (view spoiler)[Rafael killed the woman who was supposed to be his god-appointed wife and replaced her with an angel-seeker. Originally he intended for Salome to be the replacement, but she refused. In the world of Sameria Rafael's action is considered tremendously blasphemous and potentially world-destroying. The Archangel's spouse is possibly the single most important person in Samaria, to kill him or her is to invite destruction. (hide spoiler)]
The story ends with a HFN ending. Salome is not willing to leave her farm and niece for Stephan, and Stephan is an angel and has duties to all of Sameria--he cannot simply leave his hold and move in with her. Those who have read Archangel know, however, that the situation with Rafael will not last forever (after all, what usually happens to villains in romance novels?), and Salome strongly hints that she is mainly staying until her niece is safely married to someone who loves her.
Blood. Five stars. Hands down, this is my favorite novella of the collection. Blood is a sequel to Heart of Gold, which is possibly one of my favorite books ever. The world of Heart of Gold is divided into three races, the indigo, the gulden, and the albino (but go ahead and forget about them). The Indigo are a matriarchal race who are, as their name suggests, blue in color. The gulden are, well, gold in color, and heavily patriarchal. Think tribal Pakistan level patriarchy. The Indigo, on the other hand, are heavily matriarchal, rather like the 1940s-1950s USA, and then reverse the sexes. Men stay home and raise the kids, women inherit everything and run everything, but some men are starting to strike out and get jobs outside of the home or military (the other place men can work traditionally). Naturally there is a lot of conflict between the two races, especially since they are trying to build a city together in order to exchange technology and goods. The world building is fairly shallow compared to Sharon Shinn's other novels, fortunately the world building isn't what snags me.
Kerk is a gulden man moves into the City with his stepmother and the man she married after his father died. As a fatherless gulden man his life is somewhat on edge, it is only due to the compassion of his step parents that he is even alive, let alone has a home and career. He is on a mission--his mother ran away from his abusive father to the City seventeen years ago with his infant sister, and he wants to try to find her. For previous readers of Heart of Gold this is an ominous situation, honor-killings are common among the gulden and it is not unknown for a husband or brother, or even a son, to follow a gulden woman into the City and slay her for running away. It is only due to the fact that I, as a reader, trust Shinn to give me a good story that kept me going. She would not write a hero who would murder his own mother. Kerk never once suggests that he would do such a thing, but with the circumlocution of the gulden he never clearly states his intentions, either.
Once in the City he locates the ghetto of the gulden women and meets Jalci, an indigo heiress, and distant relation to Kitrini, the heroine of Heart of Gold. Jalci is like no women he has ever met before, aggressive and outgoing. She volunteers at a community center for gulden women, lending her skills, wealth, and influence to help them. Like many indigo heiresses she's under pressure to marry a boring if politically valuable man. She finds herself captivated by Kerk, just as he is with her. Whether this captivation is something that will develop into a romance, or simply a good friendship, is left up to the reader.
Jalci brings Kerk to the gulden community center to speak to the director, Del, a gulden woman of strong opinions and a distaste for gulden men. There he discovers a loose plot thread from Heart of Gold, the young gulden sons of the women who had fled to the City. Fatherless and directionless, they often become violent or resort to crime. Kerk grew up fatherless as well, in a culture in which who your father is is vitally important, and knows better than anyone else what that's like. He becomes a father figure to the boys, teaching them the positive parts of being a gulden man, emphasizing treating others with honor and respect.
In fact, the entire story is about finding family, and not where you expect it, nor where you want to to be. I would love, love, love to see Shinn do a real sequel featuring Kerk and Jalci. I'd love to see more from Jalci (such as, how does her family REALLY feel about Kitrini and Nolan? And what would really happen if Jalci married a gulden man?)
Gold This is by far the weakest story in the anthology. It is a sequel to Summers at Castle Auburn. Zara is the daughter of the hero and heroine of Castle Auburn, and a rebellion has sent her fleeing reluctantly to the land of the Fae across the Faeylin River, where her uncle Jaxom now lives with the Fae queen. The trouble is the land of the Fae is seductive, it is beautiful and peaceful and the magic makes anyone who steps foot in there want to stay forever. By entering Fae she is at peril--not from any danger but because she may never want to leave. Only love, in the form of Orstin, a faithful palace guard, can set her free. Well, love and gold, the only thing the Fae cannot abide the touch of.
The trouble with this story is that Zara, frankly, is spoiled as shit. I wanted to slap her so much. She isn't bad-natured or terrible as a person, but I really feel that her parents would have done so much better if they had made her experience the (very brief, I must say!) siege. Orstin tolerates her spoiled behavior better than I would have, and for that he deserves a metal. This was a three star story.
The last story in this anthology is probably the only non-romance, and that's because Seneth and Tayse get their story in Mystic and Rider.Seneth is her usual self, full of magic and determined, and so very human it hurts at times. I'm in love with Seneth, she really is the best character ever (male or female). I'm a bit torn on this story, much of it revolves around various characters telling her that she needs to find a family or a close circle of friends. All of this is foreshadowing for the entire Mystic and Rider series, where she finds just that. Part of me appreciates it, and part of me is annoyed as character after character (most of whom don't even know her that well) tell her that she needs bond with people. It does fill in the details about how she discovered that moonstones don't really hurt her, and how she ends up meeting Tayse, but really. The mystery as to who, exactly, was setting the devastating fires was pretty easy to spot early on, but it still is somewhat shocking considering the amount of suffering it caused. Over all I give this story four stars, mainly because it features Seneth and I am really biased whenever Seneth appears. Did I mention that I love Seneth?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)