Thursday, August 16, 2018

Dire Blood (Descent Series #5) by S.M. Reine

Elise died in the last book. But she’s not going to let that stop her - she’s back and she’s a demon. Much to James’s concern

But the most powerful witch in the world doesn’t have time to adapt to this. Nor can he focus on his newly found, magically powerful son (and budding Elise sidekick) or reconnecting with his ex-fiance. Because he’s been kidnapped and taken to hell to stand trial for breaking the Treaty of Dis

Elise is not going to stand for this.

I expect a lot from the Descent Series

I expect lots of awesome action scenes. I expect lots and lots and lots of epic.

I expect an awesome, conflicted, struggling characters dealing with their own dark issues while handling

I expect major stakes, the world in the balance and all kinds of epic, dangerous figures appearing to assail Elise and her band

I expect an amazing, complex, connected world with extreme originality.

And I got all of that - and so much more because this is a vast turning point for Elise and the world.

What, surprisingly, I found rather interesting about this book is what a dramatic difference it makes to Elise. Not that she’s actually that different a person but that she’s… optimistic? Maybe optimistic is a strong word but after 2+ books of Elise moping in a corner, slowly spiralling into self-destruction. And I have to repeat what I’ve said before - said self-destruction isn’t BAD. Elise is deeply traumatised and handling some major, heavy issues in utter despair. It was a GOOD portrayal but it was a hard one to enjoy. Similarly her relationship with Anthony was just… awful. Again, not badly written awful, but awful because they’re in an awful relationship with two characters awfully out of their depth and hurting and lashing out. The whole thing was a great portrayal but not a fun read - which isn’t a bad thing. But it is nice to move away from it at times because the bleakness can build

Elise has transformed a lot this book - not just dying and coming back to life but gathering a whole new set of powers and even species. But the main change I think is looking at who and what she is - no longer feeling the need to defend Reno, not having the ties she had in Reno, the duty weighing on her, no more concerns about the Union and, even, to a degree not being a kopis any more seems to have freed Elise to set her own agenda to a degree. While she’ll never be a light hearted or sunny character she certainly feels much less worn down and spiralling as she focuses more on James. It feels like she’s going for the priorities she actually has rather than those she thinks she should have.

This change of direction doesn’t just move the character but also the world. We’ve had book after book of my chuntering away “I love this world but more world building!” well, this greatly changes the focus: after last book with the mother and father of all demons we definitely opened up a lot of the mythos. This book takes Elise into that mythos - and in more detail and more understandable detail than I could follow before. Ethereal cities and portals confused me a lot in the past but here we have Elise, in hell, much more examination of the Treaty of Dis and why it matters, and what is at stake, the various dimensions, who James is - what James is - and why that matters. Not only does this expand the book but also more of Elise’s purpose as the Godkiller and her parentage - even seeing more of Isaac and Ariane, Elise’s parents. While with James we see more of his history, his coven, his power and what that added to the world. It made all this vast world building (with some really original and fascinating elements with angels and demons and the nature of Hell (and the really fascinating different demons and the original elements of the hell dimension which is really well done like so much of the world building here)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Preacher, Season 3, Episode 8: The Tom/Brady

Jesse has been delivered by the All Father with Starr pretending to change sides while secretly on Jesse’s side. But still overwhelmingly in awe of the Allfather and his fascist power that he can’t bring himself to actively fight him, even while helping Jesse

Jesse does kill the first wave of Grail minions, quite easily, in the lift before shooting the Allfather. Who is, of course, too fat to be hurt by bullets. Because “fat” is pretty much all the Allfather is

Jesse is captured and strapped to a gurney so Genesis can be extracted. Starr puts a gun in his pocket to shoot the Allfather in the head which sounds good… but he’s tied up. Starr kind of needs to do more - but Starr continually bottles it. Jesse makes an epic speech about faith and how he is sure God chose him to have Genesis, that everyone else splatters and he has been tested over and over and proving his worth.

The Allfather wants to extract Genesis and put it into Humperdoo, the Christchild. Who  promptly explodes into a huge splatter of guts and blood and Genesis returns to Jesse

Let me say again how utterly awful the Allfather (fat man of fatness) and Humperdoo (disabled man who doesn’t even get a name, watch him explode!) is.

Jesse is smug. But it doesn’t do to underestimate the vast resources of the Grail: they are not foolish; they’re an ancient powerful organisation of vast wealth and knowledge and it would be a mistake to underestimate them. Though it’s understandable that you would given we have Allfather and Humperdoo crushing this at every turn with their ridiculousness. It can make it hard to understand that they are at least All Powerful Adjacent

One of the Grail’s clever scientists has an army of Christchild clones. Genesis, as the product of an angel and a demon, is a mix of good and bad. So they just need to inject the clone with a mix of genetics from two human to hit the perfect balance which Jessee coincidentally has (can’t they just use Jesse’s DNA? If we’re going to run with DNA = good or evil and can change things via injection).

Starr assumes this won’t work - because he’s a misogynist and the scientist is a woman so he doesn’t believe she could possibly succeed

And because his misogyny is utterly wrong, he is wrong. And she does succeed with a genetic mix of Wayne Brady and Thomas Jefferson: the Tom/Brady. Humperdoo manages to hold and control genersis, is shot in the head and the Real Christchild is to be brought in.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Wynonna Earp, Season 3, Episode 4: No Cure for Crazy

Hunting a Revenant, Doc and Wynonna are helped by rather unexpected moving tree. Which is unusual but helpful. Unhelpful is Peacemaker glitching and not firing

“Don’t embarrass me in front of the bad man.” - Wynonna

This is a bad sign. Another bad sign is that they are running out of money. Dolls gave the legitimacy, funds and some level of authority. Without him they have no funds, no quasi federal status as marshalls and the new City Manager (is this a thing? I mean it kind of sounds like “mayor” got all corporate?) is cutting them off. Which is bad when you’re now searching behind sofa cushions for bullets

The lack of legitimacy is also not helpeful, with Nedry also clearly being utterly worn down by the job and the struggle. Which is super sad because I love him. Wynonna does suggest that he should step down for Nicole. Which will also be good.

We also have Wynonna and Nicole kinda sorta circling about the secrets each kept (about the massacre in Nicole’s youth - and she decides to throw away a ring connected to it this episode? - and Wynonna and her hidden mother in a secure mental institution). Still because this is Wynonna Earp they still respect each other when they still have issues. And Waverley demands a group hug.

We also have a new character, Robin - and he’s gay. And we know this because the show actually, after 2 seasons of playing coy with Jeremy, calls him gay. There are some dubious elements in his introduction - he runs from a tree which has an eye and is literally bleeding, and runs into Waverley and says “hey girl bangs”. Yeah, because even when running from a demonic evil tree, a gay man will notice and comment on a woman’s hair. But after that things get better - sure Waverley (noting that Jeremy is lonely in this very rural, conservative small town and that he kind of thinks Waverley and Nicole got the super rare unicorn relationship there) wants to instantly squish Jeremy and Robin together. But Jeremy is quick to say that that’s not ok or reasonable. Even if she does do it. She also dumps the whole “there’s a bleeding tree with a person inside” on Jeremy which… this could be actually something important rather than an excuse to hook Jeremy up. Waverley should be better than this

This results in Jeremy and Robin trawling through the forest. And getting lost. Robin is a park ranger - unfortunately he’s a park ranger because it’s the only job he could find after coming home to look after his sick father and he actually hates the outdoors, trees et al. These two are not outdoorsmen and woefully unsuitable for the task. They don’t find a bleeding tree but do find a spooky ominous staircase - and then lose that as well. Even the pictures they took just show spooky ominous mist. This does not bode well.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Killjoys, Season 4, Episode 4: What to Expect When You're Expecting... an Alien Parasite

So everything is super bad and D’avin recounts all this to Dutch while trying to give it a positive spin. There is no real spin here

But can I say this episode seems to have an awful lot of recapping in this episode which I don’t think it actually all that useful or necessary? Most of what is being recapped happened last episode and we don’t need this much fill in the blanks.

Delle Sayah is giving birth. And she is awesome. Her snark at D’avin, the father, at Zeph who is being the attending doctor is all priceless. I especially like her reading a magazine, totally phoning in lamaze breathing, examining Zeph’s nails and asking “is it out yet” while being unwilling to push. She’s Qreshi.

She also demands hard drugs or hard booze, bar keep. She and Pree has some nice exchanges with him passive aggressively offering her ice chips and reminding her that she’s actually an enemy and she knocks him out with his bowl of ice

Honestly Delle Sayah never ceases to be made of awesome. And these two have to be enemies or the world would end.

The problem is that we have Hullen baby issues. The Hullen baby is growing super fast and can’t be born vaginally because it’s too big. Unfortunately a C-section isn’t possible because of Delle Saya’s ultra healing powers close any incision before they can get the baby out. This is a problem and their one solution - to use D’avin’s anti-Hullen powers seems likely to kill her and the baby.

Meanwhile Johnny is now doing well. Reunion with Dutch doesn’t go well as Johnny is going through all the pain, trying to bang his head on a wall and generally falling apart. He can barely look at Dutch and she is determined to save him so heads to the planet with the nearest source of goo which derails everyone else’s plan to try and get to the Armada - which is somewhere.

Except the goo there has also turned to crystal. In fact all the goo everywhere in the Quad has turned to crystal - that means there’s no goo to complete Johnny’s turn to Hullen or to cleanse the goo from him. There’s also no goo to help Delle Sayah with her giving birth. Which is all unfortunate

In particular this is bad for Johnny because he is half-human and half-Hullen. That means He is alternating between caring for and loving his friends and family and then not giving a shit and then caring again. He’s constantly losing them, getting them back and then losing them again - and Johnny adamantly refuses to live like that. Being pure human or pure Hullen would be tolerable but not this

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Glitch, Season 2, Episode 5: Walking Wounded

So we ended on a tense moment last episode with James finding Phil’s bloody clothes in the washing hamper and demanding an explanation from Sarah - she fumbles and finally recounts how she was bleeding heavily from the vagina after her pregnancy and she used this t-shirt to stem the blood. Her heartbreaking recount naturally directs James to get her to the hospital where they focus on making sure Sarah is well and awesome midwife is there to look after her. And free James up to return to shenanigans when suitably reassured that she’s ok

Kirstie has finally tracked down her murderer - it’s policeman Chris’s brother. A man in a wheelchair and with a brain injury after rolling his car when he was 19. Chris insists his brother doesn’t remember anything which is not nearly enough for Kirstie. Chris won’t let her see him and Kirstie accuses him of letting his brother get away with rape and murder.

Which he is. Though this can be described without disabled slurs.

She leaves and calls James who is bemused as to what exactly he can do - he can’t exactly arrest a man for murdering someone who is actually alive. He’s more concerned with whoever killed Elishia since he assumes that a man in a wheelchair isn’t a threat (this is a problematic assumption that infantilises disabled people - it doesn’t take the ability to walk to use a gun).

James briefly holds onto the idea that Owen is the one responsible for the murder of Elishia but finally admits this is way more to do with Kate’s relationship and his inability to get over her than anything else. Perhaps finally leaving that red herring alone he goes to collect Paddy because he wants them all together and safe. Oh James, don’t you know that working with the Risen is like herding cats? He speaks to Beau and learns what Paddy’s up to but also that his step-dad Phil is in town and had a near death experience

James makes a not-entirely-unreasonable-but-still-a-bit-of-a-reach conclusion and tells everyone that Phil is the killer. Because near-death = possession. He also gives Chris a talking to about hiding his rapist brother but with everything else going on he kind of puts a pin in that.

James’s whole demeanour this episode is “seriously?! Now what!”

Of course, everyone has scattered to the four winds. It started with a reasonable assumption that being in public was actually safer than being isolated in a cabin, but they quickly start splitting up

Kirstie tracks down her murderer and tries to confront him about his crimes - but he cannot remember them due to his head injury no matter how she threatens him she doesn’t get an admission or any satisfaction. It’s a moving and painful scene to see her pain and anger and having no real recourse for that - not even the empty satisfaction of screaming in her victimiser’s face.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Immortally Yours (Argeneau #26) by Lynsay Sands

Image result for Immortally Yours (Argeneau #26) by Lynsay Sands

Beth has had a thing for Scotty, the Scottish laird for as long as she's been an immortal but unfortunately, Scotty has proven time and time again that he's far from Beth's number one fan. With most of the North American hunters in Venezuela, Scotty shows up in Toronto to lend a hand to the North American hunters. Beth's libido might be happy to see Scotty again but she's not exactly pleased to be working with a man who thinks so little of her.  Scotty and Beth become intertwined when they are forced to travel to B.C. to deal with the daughter of the head of the Russian Council, exposing Beth to a second attempt on her life. Knowing someone is trying to kill you is a tough thing to deal with but Beth is actually more uncertain about the fact that Scotty seems to have changed his mind about how he feels about her. 

This is the twenty-sixth novel in the series and so by now, it's pretty formulaic. Unlike the previous books, Sands doesn't try to add anything new to the world.  Immortally Yours, is entirely predictable with no real twists and turns. Sure, Sands tried to turn the identity of the person trying to kill Beth into a mystery but a two year old could have figured out who the antagonist is from the very beginning. Because the mystery is so uninteresting, the only real thing to draw the reader is the relationship between Beth and Scotty.

As a female protagonist, I like Beth very much which is not something I often have to say about Sands's female characters. Beth is very strong, independent, smart and most importantly, she's a survivor, who has no interest in being saved or having her past erased. Beth has completely accepted who she is and the path that led to her current identity. Beth was sold into prostitution by her father, had her virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder and was beaten regularly until an immortal intervened in her life. For most of Beth's life she worked as a prostitute, determined to be self reliant until the end.  I absolutely love that she pushed back against the shame society and even Scotty tried to make her feel. 

This review wouldn't be complete if I didn't take the time to talk about Sands's treatment of sex workers in this novel. Sands floated back and forth between the socially constructed hooker with a heart of goal, and the money grasping evil whore.  It would not be understating it to say that Sands's treatment of sex workers is absolutely toxic and misogynistic. Scotty spends much of the book disparaging Beth because of her past as a sex worker.
Now that he was being forced to confront his feelings on the subject, he admitted that before meeting Beth he'd always thought prostitution to be the lowest of trades. He'd been raised to believe prostitutes were shameless, deceitful whores who cared only about coin... and he couldn't bear knowing that Beth had once been one. (pg. 200)
Odilia, in part based her hatred of Beth on the fact that Beth was once a sex worker.
"You are a prostitute! A whore! You probably spread your legs for half of London back in the day, and half of Toronto since you got here. He will believe it, and he will see how cheap a slag you are and how unworthy you are of him and the love he proclaimed for you. (pg339)
Even characters like Magnus are more than happy to make excuses for Scotty's slut shaming by suggesting, "We come from an earlier era, one that forged our morals and opinions. We were taught prostitution was an abomination to our Lord God. Of course you would struggle with it." Even when Scotty does do a turn around, it's only because Beth has redeemed herself in his eyes with her willingness to care and sacrifice herself for others. It was further cemented by him realising that Beth chose to continue her profession because she didn't see that she had any other options. By telling her story, Scotty came to realise that not all women prostitute themselves because "it was easy coin, or because she enjoyed the power of controlling men with her body." 

To make matters worse, we learn that Scotty's disdain for sex workers is because of his hatred of his cruel mother. 
"And then there was me mother. She was a whore. No' professionally. At least, she did no' have a pimp or live in a brothel. However, she traded sexual favors for -" he shrugged helplessly, his chest moving under her -"basically for whatever she wanted. She slept with the king to gain favor for her father, and boost his - and by extension her- position at court. She slept with high ranking officials, lairds ... basically anyone who could do something for her that she wanted. And then she slept with me father."
Through Scotty's description of his mother, we learn that he saw her as a conniving social climber. This description is heartlessly cruel when put into social context.  Men held all the power during that time and the only influence women often managed to gain was through using sex expertly or manipulating social associations to their best advantage. Scotty didn't bother to interrogate the world which gave women few choices but instead shamed women for utilizing the only path to power they had.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Requiem: The Originals

After five seasons The Originals has finally come to a close; after coming back from he dead over and over again this show has finally died for the new season of Legacies to drag itself from the ashes.

The Originals was one of those shows that actually managed to pull off a spin off - it made it work and managed to create a unique entity that both had all of the connections it needed to the Vampire Diaries while still being its own unique creation. And that kept going for five seasons

Whether or not that was a good thing is… debatable.

The Good

The acting. There has always been some top notch acting on this show. Even with these often terrible storylines, even having to force all of these endless angst and drama scenes over and over and over. They were not given a lot to work with but damn they worked it well.

I also think the underlying world setting of this series is good. The Original Vampires, the different kinds of witches, the werewolves and their curse - at its core it was a fascinating world setting I would love to explore. It actually makes me a little angry that the writers cared so little about continuity that they ruined this one element I liked

The Bad

When The Originals first spun off from the Vampire Diaries the writers had two major problems. Firstly, The Originals were the worst. Oh Rebekkah and Elijah had been shown with some redeeming features - but Klaus and Kol were definitely irredeemably awful. It was hard to think of how these characters could be sympathetic protagonists unless you’re going to outright run with “audiences will tolerate any evil so long as the guy is hot.” While this is true, it’s unusual to outright openly rely on that

The second, and bane of any writer, is that they are ridiculously powerful. For much of Vampire Diaries they were figures of almost legend. The founding vampires, the first, hundreds of years old and more powerful than anything in the world. Which works for a mighty antagonist your cast is afraid of - but as a protagonist?

This scenes encapsulates the problem:

Each Original is quite capable of massacring entire armies - and we KNOW they have no moral qualms about killing since pretty much all of them has slaughtered people on occasion. One alone is pretty unbeatable - get any number of them actually working in tandem and the writers are faced with trying to think of a convoluted reason WHY Klaus/Elijah/Kol/Rebekkah don’t just unleash a massacre. Several seasons of Marcel challenging Klaus? Massacre. Nazi vampires? Massacre. Angry witches? Massacre. The Stricts? Massacre. The return of Lucien and their oldest children? Massacre. Angry werewolf pack? Massacre. Massacre, massacre, massacre.

This led to the writers either continuing and exacerbating The Vampire Diaries habit of changing the various powers and abilities of the creatures based on what is narratively necessary with mighty Original vampires either massacring armies or being brought down with a convenient magical item or not that impressive witch in between

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Shadowmancer (The Circle #1) by Lee Isserow

Jules is a powerful magician… but has spent much of his life avoiding the greater magical community living as normal a life he can with his husband and child

His magical skills are rare - and when a new supernatural threat those are in demand. The Circle needs his magic and his help - the world needs it. But Jules’s grandmother warned him about the Circle and how it was falling to selfish corruption… can Jules work with them even for the sake of humanity?

This book had a really excellent foundation, especially with some really good characters and world. We have Jules, a Black gay man with a strong grounding in social justice and considerable suspicion of authority. At this point it would be easy to create a shell character who exists more as a PSA than a character - but he isn’t; his opinions and vehement beliefs are worked well into the character and his story. We also have some really neatly incorporated world building through children’s stories which does an excellent job of introducing the world, his family - both his son and his infamous grandmother - and giving us some insight into magic. It was really neatly done and is an excellent example of how good the writing is

The actions scenes are fun and excellently written, well paced and nicely knife edged and in even the brief time we have we do get surprisingly amounts of information about the characters. Again with brief words we get a better shape of the world, the circle and the how magic works.

Unfortunately in addition to all that it was also… really short? And kind of undeveloped because of it. Like I love that Jules is gay and has a relationship with Akif and a son. But Akif is a name, I think he has three lines in the whole book. Yes there wasn’t a lot of chance to showcase this relationship but that, again, is part of how short this book was. The actual chance to develop Jules, Akif, his relationship, his history, who he is, who they are are all somewhat missing. We get Jules’s history with his grandmother and a brief reference as to why they’re in London but then we kind of hit the ground running, Akif is forgotten which is a shame because it clearly should be a major part of Jule’s life. It would have been nice to build more of a base line for Jules and Akif et al before the plot got moving, maybe introduced his powers, some concepts of magic etc. Because the author already did a really good job with the stories he tells his child (giving us some magical world building) which makes me think the that more world building would be really well done

Albeit there’s just a little side line of gross-out and obsession with orifices in the magic world we could probably do without.