Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Paradise Damned (Descent Series #7) by S.M. Reine

Elise is trapped within the Garden of Eden - and it is time for the godslayer to finally comfront God himself. Or at least try to survive his presence...

James has run to the rescue - but he is trapped and lost in endless limbo. While on Earth forces gather, the Union, hunters and even demon/angel hybrids as a cataclysmic event is predicted

This book is an odd book. There is plot but for the most part it doesn’t progress and go anywhere. We follow Elise almost exclusively now she is trapped in The Garden with her long nemesis - Adam, God. The god, the god that she, the godslayer, was always intended to face

But while in that garden she experiences a great deal - but, through sheer powerlessness doesn’t do a great deal or move the plot forward. And I think that works and is very necessary to convey just how very powerless and lost Elise is at this moment - how her just surviving and continuing to go forwards in a realm that is inimical to her very being in the face of a being of literally omnipotent power. Being frustrated, being stuck, seeing no way out but fighting on anyway is the core of this book and Elise herself

And while that happens we have the revelations - oh the revelations and truly fascinating world building and take on the ancient Adam and Eve mythology. The nature of Adam/God, the very different nature of Eve (which definitely flips the power scale before Adam ruined everything) the nature of Lillith, the birth of angels, of demons of humanity, why the whole idea of sacrificing women to the clearly dangerous and broken god keeps working, Metaraon and his motives towards all the events in the series so far, including the shape of this coven - so much is here.

On top of that we have nice moments from Nathaniel (James’s son), Elise’s mother Arianne and James himself all adding new shades to their characters both now and going forwards as well as more flashbacks of Elise’s past which helps understand her a bit more. I especially appreciate, after my previous complaints, that Elise and James have a major confrontation over the information he has been hiding from her - and it’s neither dismissed nor swept up. In fact it’s a nice contrast how she kind of rebuilds a lot of bridges with Anthony after their deeply broken relationship after they were both emotionally reeling - but such a neat resolve is denied James

The book ends with epic. And I think it needed to - after so longer with Elise captured and helpless we needed reminding of her awesome strength, we needed reminding that just because she was so helpless in the face of an impossible force doesn’t make her weak. It worked - and I think it worked even more that we had a sort of mini epilogue to basically say that it isn’t over That despite the whole massive, world changing hugeness that just happened, life still goes on and it goes on in quiet, sad and often mundane ways

One odd side effect of all the epic hugeness this is that Lucas, Malcolm and Anthony, making their way to Oymyakon, seeing the Union getting up to various shenanigans is a very fun romp (and I will always kind of love Malcolm, the quintessential rogue) but also jarringly out of place and bizarrely mundane next to all the epic world building and revelations out there - but at the same time the only part of the story that is actually moving forwards

Box of Frogs (The Fractured Faery #1) by Helen Harper

Madrona woke up on a golf course next to a decapitated body and with absolutely no memory of what just happened, who she is or anything else for that matter

And with three goons apparently trying to kill her, amnesia may be the least of her worries. At least she seems to have super powers to help save the day! And with these powers she can certainly do a lot of good

I mean, she is one of the good guys. Right?

When I read The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series (people say it’s a trilogy, I adamantly refuse to accept that this series is only 3 books long. Refuse refuse refuse. No novellas don’t count) I was joyously surprised as it was one of the funniest, realist, most entertaining book series I’ve read in a long time. I loved it and was determined to read more of this author’s work - especially since I had had another series but this author recommended (not this series… this is what comes of whimsically working from memory)

So I went into this book with immense amounts of glee and joy and so much of it worked.

I loved how Madrona, suffering from amnesia, goes about learning who she is - and what she is. I love her creeping realisation that she’s not actually a nice person, her horror when she thinks something that is… less than charitable and reels back at her own reaction. It also goes really nicely with her generally highly upbeat attitude and positivity and infinite confidence. I also like her snark and sass, her complete lack of shame and her willingness to dive in head first. And while this genre has no end of protagonists who prove they are Strong Female Protagonists but shouting and swearing at the closest authority figure or big guy with a large gun to show their strength. But the difference here is that Madrona is very aware that her mouth is an issue, a character flaw

And there’s also a very real conflict under the fun and snark - as Madrona learns more about her past activities and herself there’s a very real conflict and angst about exactly HOW much of a not-nice-person she was. And this is such a powerful thing - not having any memories of yourself but clearly having done some dubious things - and dubious things without the comfort of the little lies and excuses we tell ourselves. It’s an excellent internal conflict

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Mane Squeeze (Pride #4) by Shelly Laurenston


Werebears! Why do we have so few shapeshifter books about werebears? We need more werebears!

Big clumsy snuffling, curious werebears that just want to know how things work and then end up breaking them because they’re just big, hulking, strong goofy people who are just adorable!

And all the bears want is plenty of honey and salmon and sleeping a nice long time all in peace without the other shapeshifting species getting in the way.

While those other shapeshifting species view them as massive engines of destruction to be poked at your own risk. And I think that’s a nice element; I mean we have big scary wolves and lions but when it comes down to it, a grizzly bear is a grizzly bear and every other predator is better off leaving it alone.

So we have Lock, our big, sexy, lumbering bear with his ice cream and honey and nice long sleep in and his quietly perfectionist carpentry, being generally exasperated by the manic antics of all the other shapeshifters around him. Oh and he knows that lions, tigers or bears, a Philly girl is apparently scarier than anything else, which amuses me muchly.

And those antics include the Wild Dogs which may still be my favourite shifters in this series because they’re goofy and silly and they have fun and they play and they chase their tails but are still probably more united and more serious and even more dangerous than the other packs. I love their whackiness, their geekiness, their squabbles and how they leave the poor bears thoroughly thoroughly confused by all that energy, random weirdness and big tearful eyes if they need to get there.

And I like Gwen and her story - I like her struggles for independence in the face of her mother’s plan for her - and her brother’s interference. I like that, even though she has the skills and knowledge to follow in her mother’s footsteps, she’s pursuing something else she wants to do. She faces a lot of discrimination because she’s a hybrid - a child of two different shapeshifters: She’s a Tigron, half tiger half lion. I think more could have been made of her Tigron nature and what it means - same as her best friend Blayne who is part wolf part wild dog. But I think it’s interesting that they didn’t emphasise any supernatural difference: because it’s not necessary or even accurate - and instead focused on how they were treated differently. A lot of supernatural prejudice involves a group facing discrimination but it turns out that, yeah, there’s a good reason for that. This managed to emphasise both the direct hatred they faced AND the subtle, not-feeling-welcome feeling that Gwen’s family gave her felt more real.

Gwen and Blayne have a great mutually supportive relationship covering their mutual plumbing business (which is excellent) through to calling each other out on their ridiculousness, through to roller derby. They work really well together and have an excellent us-two-against-the-world vibe.

So I like Gwen and her storylines building her own life . I like Lock, the concept of him and this poor, hulking lethal giant just wanting a quiet life with his family and the wild dogs pushing him to be more

But I’m not sure I see their connection. It’s not that they’re bad together - because her random weirdness and his quiet curiosity make for a lot of very fun scenes. But I don’t see them really being connected in any of the larger metaplot, nor is Loch part of the family/friend group established in the last three books - which is different from the actions of the previous books - and rather than kind of introduce Lachlann to the greater friend group he’s kind of dropped in as if he’s always been there with a sudden military link and friendships that seem to have come from nowhere. It hasn’t said “hey, here’s Lachlan, let us introduce him and build connections”, instead it just pretended he’d always been there.

Charmed, Season 1, Episode 5: Other Women

Harry is now living with the Charmed Ones which comes with funny little misunderstandings around the bathroom which apparently doesn’t have a lock. What bathrooms don’t have a lock?

Also Harry in a dressing gown? Yes. Yes we can have that. Yes yes we can. Oh yes

This episode actually contains a lot of good which is a little surprising after the last couple episodes have kind of raised progressive issues and then dumped all over them… but this kind of followed through and then dropped something pretty awful to ruin it all.

So, the elders have the Book of Shadows for vetting and research and everyone has relationship issues. Maggie feels super guilty because Parker kissed her and now he’s dumped Lucy and she’s super super sad and is recruiting Maggie to try and figure out who Parker is cheating on her with. Which is awkward. And Macy is having problems because Galvin has pretty much given up on her and is now with beautiful, successful woman Summer.

But the main issue is Mel. Last episode Tripp, Niko’s partner, was killed and the elders both faked his suicide and had him confess to being a serial killer in his suicide note and dumped lots of evidence on him as well. Needless to say Niko is pretty traumatised by this - not only that a man she cared about and respected killed themselves and was a serial killer but she’s a detective and noticed nothing so she’s beginning to doubt her own abilities and self worth and believing everyone who disparaged her.

Naturally seeing this utter self destruction in the woman she loves is devastating for Mel. But Niko has received messages from Tripp which point to him having evidence about the death of witch elders - several women being murdered including Mel’s mother. She also learns that Tripp has hidden evidence including DNA - she’s super excited about this and thinks Mel will get on board because, of course, Mel has been insisting her mother was murdered since the first episode. This is why Niuko broke up with her - because of her obsession with her mother’s murder. So Mel suddenly saying that nah they shouldn’t investigate this strikes Niko as rather odd.

But there’s motive - a shapeshifting demon is trying to track down this information and that evidence and is willing to kill to do it. He’s faking being an FBI agent, is able to assume Tripp’s shape and follows Niko to Tripp’s fishing cabin where he has lots of evidence for the conspiracy and hidden witch elder DNA. As one does. Niko finds it (honestly her only just remembering this exists kind of makes me think that maybe she isn’t that brilliant a detective) and the shapeshifter arrives to knock her out and set the place on fire with eerie green hellflame. Mel manages to save her despite the time magic resistance

The demon makes another attempt in the hospital, stopped only because Mel realises there’s two nurses and actually (and perhaps most shockingly) calls Harry for help - he’s also been the one offering most comfort and support for her in this hard time. I like this because it’s dealing with their antagonistic relationship and developing a new level between them.

To the others - Macy is super jealous of Summer who has an amazing resume and is just practically perfect in every way and Maggie suggests (having read her mind to get in on the whole drama) that she’s a demon. Macy refuses adamantly to demonise another woman in the name of jealousy but Maggie suggests that maybe Summer is an actual demon. Consulting Harry, he concedes she could be a succubus and gives some pointers on how to identify one (I actually like the idea that demons with wings and tails etc hide them but then replicate them as tattoos because it’s overtly giving the nod to a trope that is used a lot with little explanation). And she has those tattoos.