Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Vampire Diaries Season 3, Episode 16: 1912


I think that the Vampire Diaries team would have been better off staying on hiatus, than offering the viewers this episode.  As we know, since early in the season, founding family members have been found murdered. In All My Children, Alaric discovers Meredith's little stash of weapons and she promptly shoots him. When he awakes he is jail and Liz believes that he is the one who has been killing the council members.  He tries to establish an alibi but it turns out that he was alone at the time of the murders.  When Alaric tries to convince Liz that Meredith shot him, he learns that she said that it was a self inflicted gun wound.  Turns out that Ms Fell is very crafty.

Elena and Damon are told by Liz to stay out of this and to let her do the investigation.  The moment she said that, it was like an enticement for Elena stick her nose in the middle of things.  Elena prods Damon who asks if she wants him to make a meal of Meredith but Elena is disgusted and accuses him of pushing people away.

Damon returns home to find Stephan with the shakes.  Though he has not had any human blood, the desire is still very strong.  Damon tells him that he needs to feed but that he needs to control it.  The end up discussing the murders in Mystic Falls in 1912.  They ran into each other for the first time in 50 years at the funeral of one of their family members.  Damon is still highly pissed off with Stephan for turning him into a vampire, and Stephan's mission is to try to convince Damon to abstain from human blood.  They decide to have a drink together and for the first time they run into Sage - a very old vampire.  Sage is in the boxing ring taking on all comers for 100 dollars a shot.  When Sage approaches Damon after he kills a woman, he tries to pull away from her saying that he is already spoken for, but she persists and tells him that he needs to hunt, not merely for survival.

At the bar, Rebekah is searching for the tree that could potentially kill the originals.  It turns out that back in 1912 the Salvatores ran the logging mill.  This of course means she is going to have to spend more time around Damon and Stephan.  She doesn't however tell them the real reason why she is spending time with them.  It's worth noting however, that this is one of the few episodes in which Rebekah acted remotely like a thousand year old vampire.


In the meantime, Elena has run into Meredith, who informs her that she really has no idea who Alaric is.  It turns out that he has been arrested twice for fighting and his ex wife had a restraining order out on him before she married him.  In a final slap, Meredith reminds Elena that she dates vampires, so she shouldn't be surprised that her friend is violent. 


Elena and Matt decide to break into Meredith's home. Matt asks what they are doing there because he believes that the police have already been through the house with a fine tooth comb, but Elena assures him that they are there to find what the police cannot.  They get into Meredith's closet and discover a secret founder hiding space.  Meredith has the diary of Elena's distant cousin, and they also discover a coroner's report claiming that the time of death originally assigned was wrong.  Before they can leave the house, Meredith discovers them in her closet and Elena and Matt are dragged back to Liz's office.


Elena thinks she has finally found the proof of Meredith's duplicity when she hands Liz the coroners report only to discover that Meredith handed it over earlier in the day and apologized for accusing an innocent man.  

The Secret Circle, Season 1, Episode 16: Lucky




So, Secret Circle’s back, everyone! Are we thrilled? What waits in store for us? Maybe they’ll repair their mangled canon? Maybe Melissa will actually have a part? Maybe Faye will have a purpose? Maybe Adam will cast aside his Wet Lettuceness? Maybe Jake will decide that trusting murderous witch hunters is a bad idea? Maybe Jane, Cassie’s grandmother, will crawl out of the plot hole she fell into! Oh so many possibilities!


So we open with Faye (Mean Girl) being, well, Faye and dropping a bombshell on Dawn (Evil Parent #1) that Cassie’s dad, John (Evil Sorcerer… uh, Evil parent #3 I guess? Y’know, it’s actually kind of hard to see the witch hunters as wrong when so many of the Parents Circle were actually evil) is ALIVE! DUM DUM DUM!

Meanwhile Cassie is playing hostess to her father (that would be the Evil Sorcerer guy) and she still has no real reason to trust him but since when has that stopped her? She does get to make sarcastic comments about his evil dark magic – because, y’know, that’s totally how you deal with an evil sorcerer in one’s living room, sarcasm. Yes, yes it is. I especially like how she doesn’t want him staying with her because he’s a “complete stranger who everyone is terrified of” yes an actual quote. See, this is new Ms. Manners etiquette – it’s acceptable to share coffee with evil sorcerous strangers but gauche to have them as overnight guests.

Ok sarcasm aside, they have a talk about Dark Magic and how it changes and twists people – John (Evil Sorcerer Parent) thinks it warped him and Cassie shouldn’t do it. Cassie think it’s a nifty trick. I hesitate to say it, but John is kind of the voice of experience Cassie’s dismissing. Gah, Cassie, why do you make me agree with people I dislike? First Adam (Wet Lettuce) and now John!

Circle meeting time (Ok Faye’s “then you could each have one” comment was wrong. And mean. And awesome – damn I wish I’d thought of that line!) in fact, Faye continually makes mean, but very true statements while Diana (Chief Scooby) is kind of vapid and fluffy, Jake (the Sexy Witch Hunter Lover) and Adam (Wet Lettuce) are busy testosterone duelling over Cassie. And Melissa is just, well, there.  Jake is all in favour of trusting John (Evil Sorcerer Parent) because he just looooves trusting people who may kill them.

Thankfully discussions about Black Magic, witch hunters and other life and death matters are put aside after, oh, 2 minutes so they can discuss the next school event. No, really. And of course Diana (Chief Scooby) is organising things with the help of Melissa (Universal side-kick), her trusty servant. I wonder if Faye and Diana have organised a time share roster with Melissa so they both have their side-kick on hand. Couldn’t they just bring back Sally then they could both have a black side-kick! After all, she used to be the one doing all these dances and events before she fell into a plot hole and Diana took over.

Anyway, Diana and Melissa are collecting party gear and meat cute Australian guy called Grant (hereby known as Unnecessary Distraction) whereby Melissa does her side-kick duty and does her best to set Diana up with Grant. Grant’s pick-up lines include excessive lectures about proper viticulture and implying Diana’s name is old fashioned.

And speaking of Unnecessary Distractions, Lee (White Voodoo Guy) has saved Eva, his old girlfriend after much plotting and she rewards him be declaring eternal loyalty/stalking.  Faye also goes looking for Lee because she wants a date for the special party Diana is setting up. Lee doesn’t bother to explain to Faye that Eva is back on the scene. This calls for Faye to meet up with Diana and Melissa, so Melissa can play best friend to both of them at once. She’s got multi-tasking skills! So Faye goes back to seduce Lee and meets Eva. Oh funsies.

In the abandoned house Cassie spies on her father, seeing him hiding something and breaking the furniture, which naturally has to be reported to Adam (Wet lettuce). Adam knows what he was looking for – a Swaye, an amulet that steals a witch’s power (exactly like the last amulet we saw. C’mon, isn’t it a little early to recycle concepts?). Adam talks sense about Cassie not taking the power stealing amulet to confront her father with since he has a past history of stealing witch’s power. It being sense and all, Cassie doesn’t listen.

John claims that the Swaye actually transfers magic to a mortal – and it was how Eben (Evil Black Witchunter) was able to subdue the Parent Circle – and someone in the Parent Circle must have spelled it to help him when he killed half the Parent Circle and he needs the Swaye to find the traitor. Quick meeting between Cassie and Adam (Wet Lettuce) and Cassie suspects Ethan (Adam’s father – the only Parent in the Parent Circle who isn’t evil) and Adam is annoyed that Cassie is accusing his dad ion the word of Evil Sorcerer John. She then decides to take her suspicions to Jake because Jake is so impartial in this. Jake then takes that to John (Evil Sorcerer), yes Jake is trusting dangerous, possibly evil people, again.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review of Autumn: Human Condition by David Moody: Book 4 of the Autumn Series



When we last left Moody's survivors, they were finally safe on he island of Cormansey. Autumn Human Condition does not actually start where Autumn Purification left off, and instead seeks to wrap up some open threads. For the first time, we also get to see the Autumn world from the point of view of the zombies.  Though they are clearly not capable of rational thought, it's now confirmed that all that they really want to do is survive at all costs and for the pain to stop.  They are attracted to noise and light because it presents the possibility of hope, or a threat to their existence. 

In past books in the series, there was a sense of hopelessness, as each time a survivor became settled in a location, the zombies inevitably presented a threat.  For the first time in the series, we are not focused centrally on a hand full of characters and this time, there is no escape from the ruins of the world.  The survivors of the initial air borne virus largely die, rather than find a method of escape and as dark as this is, it feels real.  One question keeps being asked, if they somehow manage to escape from whatever situation they are currently in, why keep moving?  If running away and escaping today, means only having to run away and escape tomorrow, perhaps the whole effort is futile.  More than anything, Autumn Purification is a coming to terms with their situation story.  Each character in their own way must decide how much their life is worth, and how long they should continue to fight.

Penelope Street, is the first physically disabled character in the stories. She is trapped in a furniture store and because she can only move from the neck up, she sits in her chair waiting for death to find her.  She is absolutely helpless in the face of this disaster and will soon die from dehydration and hunger.  I understand why Moody chose this character, but at the same time, I would much have prefered that he had chosen a disabled character who was able to fend for themselves.  There are various forms of disability and it feels as though this example was chosen, to prove that the disabled are helpless without the aid of the temporariliy able bodied.

Annie Nelson, an elderly woman who we met in Autumn, escaped the Whitchurch Community center when it became over run by the zombies.  I thought that this was great, because far too often in dystopian fantasy, seniors are invisible, or framed as a drain on survivors. Annie Nelson returned home and found a way to live despite the fact that she was surrounded by zombies.  It will be interesting to see if in further novels, Annie will meet other survivors.

Review: Tegan's Blood, by LH Cosway, Book 1 of the Ultimate Power Series




Tegan has just managed to drag herself out of her home, after weeks of her life being on hold in the aftermath of her boyfriend killing himself, leaving her bereft, in pain and grieving, unable to face the world.

But she can’t just work her way back into a normal life – because she is special. Or something about her is – and both the city’s vampires and warlocks are desperate to find out exactly what that is. Which is, to say the least, not a comfortable place to be in, especially when you didn’t know that vampires and warlocks even existed. And even more complicated when you consider that vampires and warlocks are not exactly on polite terms with each other.

Throw in some vampire slayers, a vampire who is all too attracted to Tegan and a returning monster that everyone thought was long since gone and things get very confusing indeed


It is hard to tell a vampire story these days and manage to bring something unique to the tale, indeed a lot of the supernatural worlds has now been heavily covered in many variations. But I’m still surprised at what new angles new authors can bring and this book is definitely one of them. The concept of Tegan being special but without any particular powers is still relatively rare in a genre that has legions of super-powered protagonists. Her power puts her at risk far more than it benefits her.

We have a world that has magic and vampires – and dhampires which could always do more exploration. As well as an interesting take on where the lines are drawn and how the politics lie. It’s also interesting to see vampire Slayers fully integrated into the supernatural world rather than at war with the entirety of it. I also quite like the nuance of the Slayers. We don’t see vampire hunters as evil monsters persecuting the poor misunderstood vampies, but nor do we see them as righteous crusaders battling out to save humanity either – similarly with the vampires. They’re neither poor misunderstood, sad angsty creatures (in fact, there was no vampire angst at all!) but nor are the unabashed monsters. It also seems to have an interesting magic system with actual rituals and rules being carefully planned out rather than just hand-waving, magic words – ta-da shinies!

The different factions in the world are intriguing and, if anything, I’d like to see more of them (and hope to do so) as we see everything from the old families of Warlocks dealing with Rita and the wrangling over the position of vampire governor – to say nothing of the prize that Tegan represents. I look forward to seeing more.

The main problem I have with this book is the character’s decisions. Tegan frequently does things – and trusts people in ways that bemuse me. She’s held against her will at a club to the point where she is crying in fear –but is quite willing to meet her captors the next day. She condemns Ethan for defending himself when attacked by men with very large weapons and regards him as a murderer for that self-defence. Yet she decides to trust – and go home alone with – one of those sword wielding vampire slayers when that is all she knows about him (and all he knows about her is that she’s the pseudo-girlfriend of a vampire). She actually wanders off alone, without telling anyone, with numerous supernatural or just plain dangerous strangers despite having zero reason to trust them

Urban Fantasy: Escapism When the Real World has too Many Minorities

'Question mark' photo (c) 2005, Marco Bellucci - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Erasure is one of the more prevalent phenomenons in urban fantasy. Many times we hear the excuse that because a book is set in a rural town that the percentage of the population comprised of historically marginalized people is so insignificant as to make inclusion pointless. We want to make it utterly clear here that this is not an excuse either and any erased book can be extremely damaging. Inclusion is never pointless, and even in rural areas, marginalized people live and prosper. 

When the story moves from a rural area to a larger city, there is even less justification for exclusion and, at times, it becomes nothing short of farcical. If you have a story and choose to set it in a place like Toronto, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York, Vancouver, Montreal, London, Manchester, Brighton etc., population demographics quite obviously indicate the presence of historically marginalized people.  To some degree to read and enjoy urban fantasy, one must suspend belief, however to be expected to just accept that marginalized people don’t exist is not about suspending belief; it’s an exercise in privilege.

Atlanta appears in several books and series, it’s one of the Urban Fantasy hubs we’ve noticed. Now, real world Atlanta has a whole lot of POC, and specifically a large African-American population. There are also a significant number of GBLT people, yet on The Walking Dead, we are presented thus far with complete GLBT erasure and two token men of colour. This is made problematic because we are dealing with dystopian fantasy and this then suggests a genocide.  Ilona Andrews’ wonderful Kate Daniels’ Series? Again, token inclusions. What happened? Do zombies love the taste of black people? Did the magic wave decimate GBLT people and POC?

Las Vegas also makes a regular appearance in Urban Fantasy - Vicki Pettersson’s Zodiac Series is entirely in Las Vegas and how many POC? Well, in the real Las Vegas, that would be more than half the population. In fiction? Let’s just say you won’t need to use both hands to count - and you don’t have to worry about holding your breath for their complete screen time.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong, Book 3 of the Otherworld Series




In this book we follow Paige Winterborne, young witch from Stolen who has come home with a major duty – to look after the extremely powerful 12 year old witch, Savannah Levine. An already daunting task to take on with the full disapproval of the Coven elders levelled against her.

But Leah is back – and the half-demon has brought the Nast Cabal with her, determined to claim custody of Savannah. The Cabal’s pockets are vast – but even that is dwarfed by the magical assets they can bring to hand. Legal battles, murdered lawyers, the rising dead and the constant threat of sorcerous magic and Leah’s devastating telekinesis makes for a daunting threat. Worst of all, they take the battle public, accusing Paige as a witch, as a Satanist, as anything they can get to stick and watch crowds of humans and media converge on Paige’s doorstep

Ostracised by her community, abandoned by her Coven, Paige has to handle the full might of the Cabal on her own –except for the altruistic intervention of Lucas Cortez, Sorcerer and do-gooder crusader – with the oddest family connections.


I loved this book. While the last book was, perhaps, a little clumsy in introducing the full range of supernatural beings, this book has been introduced and can now use all the things we’ve seen. We get to see magic, what it really means and what it really involves, we get to see more and learn more about Half-Demons and Sorcerers and Witches and Necromancers, we get history and context and so much more world building – but all of it is fully integrated into the story. No awkward dumping or shoe-horning, no lectures and no convoluted explanation moments. We get to see the world through the story, not it pushed in whenever it can be. I also like that the Cabals, in many cases the big bad of the supernatural world, are not presented as uber-evil criminal organisations. It’s more nuanced than that

And I loved the story, the desperate flailing against the many resources and challenges being thrown at Paige. And Page, confident, strong, determined, panicking, doubtful, overwhelmed – she’s just a perfect character for this role and what she faces. You never knew what was coming next or what new angle would be thrown at them or how Paige would navigate them. And, on top of that, while Paige is, of course, reacting to constant attacks – she doesn’t abandon her own agenda. She doesn’t just run around fighting –she pursues her magic, she works with Savannah and her ritual – she keeps working on her own things. She doesn’t let the attacks completely overwhelm  her life even when it is overwhelming.

Review of Unbound by Kim Harrison, Melissa Marr, Jeaniene Frost, Vicki Pettersson and Jocelynn Drake

We don't normally read anthologies here at Fangs for the Fantasy, but having read many of the authors in this book, I decided to give it a chance.  

Ley Line Drifter by Kim Harrison

In The Hollows series, Rachel is the protagonist, with Ivy and Jenks forming her version of a scooby group.  Ley Line Drifter takes a different approach because Jenks is the protagonist and Ivy and Bis are his backup.  He is approached by a Pixie named Vincet for help.  Vincet's children are being attacked by  a statue in his garden and he has already lost one of his newlings. Jenks is originally surprised that he has been approached to do a run all by himself, but he jumps at the chance to prove what he can do.  

He takes the time to think about his actions determined not to leap head first into things the way that Rachel does but inevitably makes the same mistake, with Bis having to save his life twice.  Jenks is excited to take his son, Jumoke on the run because he understands that because the young buck has brown hair and brown eyes, that he will have difficulty finding a wife and tying himself to the land.  This means that Jumoke must develop some sort of skill/trade in order to feed himself. I loved their interaction because often in the books, all we see is Jenks yelling at his children, and in this short story, we really get to see him as a parent, and his love and concern for his family.

We learn more about Pixy society and how a short hard life, makes every single victory important.  There isn't anything that Jenks won't do for the stability of his family but now that he has everything he finally wanted, he begins to question the wish he made for sterility.  He and Matilina can have no more children, though this wish has probably extended Matilina's life, he still misses the joy that comes with an infant.  This is something that I can relate with as mother who no longer has any babies in the house. 

Reading this story, for the first time in a very longtime, I didn't find Jenks irritating.  Most of the time he is busy ranting on about Tinks panties that it is hard to take him seriously. I really feel as though Harrison invested in making Jenks a fully fleshed out character for a change, and it saddens me to know that she didn't carry this through the rest of the The Hollows series.  

Reckoning by Jeaniene Frost

As someone who is not familiar with Frost's work before this short story, I feel that it was a great introduction to what her world might be like.  It was a touch cliche in that it was set in New Orleans and had a British vampire but I can forgive her because at least Frost manages to avoid the tell tale bleedin' and bloomin' nonsense that writers normally use to ensure that the character is read as authentically British.

Bones, a vampire, took the job of killing two ghouls under the false assumption that he was hired to do so by the voodooo vampire queen of New Orleans.  Marie is strong not only because of her age as a vampire but because of the fact that in life she was a voodoo princess.  In many ways, this once again constructs voodoo as a dark force behind power.  Vampires themselves are descended directly from Cain, which not new origin myth for them.  This was not expanded upon so I have no idea how Frost differentiates this from similar vampire stories with the same origin myth. I assume that this is something that she delves into further detail in, in her series.  In this story ghouls are created simply be drinking a vampires blood before they die.

This is one of the few stories in the genre that I have read that actually includes a disabled character. Jelani is a ghoul who had his arms and legs eaten by a ghoul before transition.  His body has the ability to heal; however, injuries before transition are permanent.  Apparently during life he was a slave, which judging from where they are located he is a man of colour; however, other than this fact, Frost did nothing else to make this clear.  Jelani contracted Bones to kill the ghouls because he wanted revenge on those who had killed his wife and turned him against his will.  Even though he knew the cost for this betrayal of Marie would mean his life, he was determined to act.  I liked the fact that Jelanie was given the agency to act but I don't like the fact that he was still described as helpless relative to the able bodied characters in the book.  A great deal was made about the fact that he could not defend himself and that without Marie's protection he would be vulnerable.

Cover Snark:The Shoes!

Alright, I get the OMG Shoez and I know it’s essentialist but I bet a few women do as well. You know, the pair that you see in the window that are just damn fierce you know they have to be yours, until you stop and pause and realize that you may not be able to take a step in them. Ok, we can’t put it off any longer but we have to comment on the shoes.






Yes shoes. It’s not only glaring but it is ridiculously common - how many of these kick arse, dangerous Urban Fantasy protagonists decide that when fighting vampires, werewolves, demons or the various gribbly monsters out there then what they need to break out the stilettos. You don’t save the world in your Sitting Shoes!






Now in some books the authors seem aware of the fact their heroine is going to be depicted wearing 6 inch heals whether they want it or not - so they have her use them in battle. yes, the much used stiletto kick! After all, nothing kills a vampire as surely as a 6 inch silver/wooden stiletto plunged through the heart! I get that many have shoes that we pretend are practically even as they are squeezing our feet and cutting off circulation, but hey at least admit that they’re not practical.





Except, of course, this requires said heroine to perch precariously on one stiletto heel while performing a high kick on a vampire which is, presumably, fighting back. There are Olympic gold medalist gymnasts who just went pale contemplating that maneuver.



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Alcatraz: Episode 8: Clarence Montgomery




So Clarence Montgomery, the first POC inmate we’ve seen. And we begin with him at a swanky auction then joyriding with a beautiful woman in a golf buggy. Ok, whatever he’s guilty of, pardon him now because he’s already declared several kinds of awesome.

Except the awesome is interrupted by some odd flashes and then Clarence carrying her body with its throat cut – and him wondering who did it.

In the past we flash back to a racially segregated Alcatraz and Clarence tasting food for Warden James. And we learn that Clarence is a chef with an expert palette and that, despite segregation, Warden James wants him to cook for everyone.  Something he’s apparently very good at – judging by Warden James’ excellent line “put the seamstress on alert, my waistline’s in jeopardy”

Except, of course, the white inmates won’t eat the meal Clarence has prepared and quickly a fight breaks out – and Clarence is beaten.

Clarence has an interview with Dr. Sangupta where she talks about him working as a chef in an all white country club and his girlfriend (the owner’s daughter) having her throat cut, but Clarence is very clear that its his race that resulted in him being arrested. But later he gets a far worse experience with Dr. Beauregard with electroshock therapy apparently intended to make him admit to being guilty.

Except it seems to have the opposite effect, making the innocent man more stab happy. Well done Dr. Beauregard. Or, rather, this was intentional on the part of Dr. Beauregard and Warden James

In the modern world, Dr. Soto is doing his detective thing – and connects the dead woman with Clarence. Just as we see Clarence seeking refuge with a friend, Emmet Little, who was in Alcatraz with him – but someone who hadn’t leaped through time. Clarence also appears to have been an innocent man in Alcatraz, which is definitely a new one.

At the murder scene we gather the Scooby gang to do some investigating. But no witness can identify Clarence as the murderer and the pathologist examining the bodies is certain that past and present victims were not killed by the same person – different methods despite the same body position. But the killer must have copied Clarence’s alleged ancient crimes and know a lot about them. They get to meet up with Emmet Little and are told that Clarence was innocent of his past crime – but through the medicine Clarence is taking, the pathologist identifies one of Clarence’s hairs left on the modern victim’s body.

Review: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison, Book 1 of the Hollows Series


 
Rachel Morgan is a witch working for the IS, a police organisation that governs the various Inderland races – vampires, witches, weres, leprechauns, pixies, fairies and many many more. It’s a varied and exciting job - usually. But her boss doesn’t like her very much and she keeps getting rather dull assignments. It doesn’t help that her last few have not gone according to plan

And she’s had enough. Now with Ivy, a living vampire and fellow runner and Jenks, a pixie backup, she has quit and is ready to go it alone and start her own firm. Except the IS takes exception to people leaving – especially Ivy leaving – and the goodbye letter comes with a death threat. Now Rachel doesn’t just have to make a living, she has to dodge assassins and pay off her contract before one of them gets lucky

Enter Trent Kalamack. City councillor, millionaire and crime lord – if only she can prove it, it’d definitely get her free and clear.

In between hunting Trent and dodging assassins she also has to deal with the problem of a hungry – and abstinent – vampire house-mate and a demon. More than enough for any witch to deal with.



I think the most impressive thing about The Hollows series in general and this book in particular is the world. There are few worlds that I love as much as the Hollows (I think Ilona Andrews’ is the only series offhand whose world building I love as much) and none that surpass it. With living vampires, dead ones, weres of various stripes, elves, pixies, gargoyles, fairies, the ever after, demons, trolls – and things I can’t even remember but are all connected somehow – this world is incredible

But not just the various creatures (and their cultures and habits) but the history as well. The Angel Virus, the Turn, the consequences for genetic engineering and ongoing nervousness about tomatoes – this world is rich and has been clearly worked on in great great detail. Kim Harrison is one of those authors who makes me think she’s got a huge shelf of world building and plot notes (that I would probably commit several crimes to obtain). In short, I love love love this world and if Kim Harrison does finish this series, I hope it will be to start a dozen more all set in this wonderful world.

Rachel has many qualities I like. She’s tough, she’s brave, she’s fun and she’s fiercely, dramatically, furiously independent. These qualities are, however, linked to more than a little Spunkiness. She’s reckless to a degree that is infuriating. She doesn’t plan nearly enough, she ad libs too much, she sticks to a course of action long after most reasonable people would have written it off. In other words, she’s a fun character but her decision making is so incredibly flawed and frequently annoys me. In general, though, her behaviour feels more like real personality flaws rather than contrived tropes (that doesn’t mean they don’t fit tropes, but it means it feels authentic at least).

Storywise I enjoy it –but I admit I love it more for the world than the story at this point. Rachel is flailing around trying to buy off her IS contract and in doing so shows off all her best and worst qualities. It’s interesting to see the little plots and the twists as she tries to survive the IS and hunt down Trent – but all are interesting more to show off the world, introduce the characters et al more than in and of themselves (did I mention I love the world?) Not that it’s boring – far from it, the action scenes are well written and exciting and never once made me put the book down. But there are large parts of the plot that are caused as much by Rachel’s poor decision making (such as the rat fights) or, worse, random unconnected events (going to the library) that I didn’t like – I liked the scenes, but not how we got to those scenes.

Being Human U.S.,Season Two, Episode Nine: When I Think About You I Shred Myself

This was most definitely one of the better episodes this season so far.  Sally's storyline finally developed some meat, we got some back story on Henry and Aidan, and Josh of course continued to angst.

Josh:

This episode Josh runs into Stu who has been stalking Josh's ex girlfriend Julia.  He is shocked to Stu because he had hoped that Stu had gotten his door but it turns out that Stu had to many issues in life for this to happen, chief amongst them his unresolved love for Julia.  At first Stu warns Josh away from Julia, telling him that even a friendship is going to be problematic between the two of them.  Josh does a pretty good job maintaining a platonic distance until one night he and Julia head out drinking.

When Josh awakes hours later, he finds himself in bed with Julia and realizes that his good buddy Stu, stole his body in order to have sex with Julia.  Josh's only concern at this point is that this is going to confuse the relationship between him and Julia and lead to a situation in which she ends up hurt.  I don't understand for the life of me why alarm bells weren't ringing in his head.  Julia consented to sex with Josh, she most certainly did not consent to having sex with Stu.  For all his claims of love, Stu raped Julia and it is wrong.  I am sick of the fact that the writers continue to ignore the issue of consent in these scenes.

Stu claims that he was too shy to approach Julia in life and admits actually following her from Ithica to Boston and so not only is he a sick rapist, he is a stalker.  I think what bothered me the most about this scene is that there was a clear attempt on the part of the writers to make Stu sympathetic.

In end, Josh has no anger for Stu and goes back into the house where he initiates sexual contact with Julia, thus proving Stu right.  Stu watches as they kiss before disappearing silently.  Josh has probably justified this to himself by saying that he doesn't want to hurt Julia's feelings but considering what he did to Nora when they got close, this is clearly not a good idea.

Aidan:

Aidan returns to the house with a clearly skinned Henry in tow.  When he knocks on the door, Josh comes downstairs, shocked that Sally didn't bother to check and see who is it the door.  I think it's about time that Sally give both Josh and Aidan a bit of the cold treatment because the two of them have been so self involved they have paid virtually no attention to the issues that she is battling with.  When Josh opens the door he finds Aidan and Henry waiting for an invite into the house.  He is resistant to the idea because this means that his home is no longer a safe place.

Aidan takes Henry upstairs who begs to be staked because of the pain that he is in.  Instead of conceding to his wishes, Aidan slips out and convinces two young girls to come back to the house.  When they resist entering because the party that he promised them is clearly not happening, he uses his vampiric influences to force them to enter.  This btw is yet another incident in which the agency  of women is denied.  Clearly no doesn't mean no, it means force me to do your bidding.  Outside of the bedroom, Aidan influences them again to believe that Henry is the most beautiful man that they have ever seen.

In flashback scenes for the first time we get to see that Aidan and Henry met in mobile hospital unit in WWI.  Aidan has been brought in because he is riddled with bullets, though he managed to kill a lot of the enemies in the process.  The doctors immediately discard Aidan and tell Henry not to use any morphine to ease his pain when he is going to die shortly.  Aidan tells Henry to remove the bullets from his body and bites down his bullet to stop his screams.

As Aidan heals, Henry reads books to him and they share a bit about their lives.  Henry confesses to Aidan that he could never kill a living person.  Slowly, Henry notices that Aidans wounds are healing and tries to call the attention of the doctors to this miracle but Aidan stops him.  Henry is then further distracted when another wounded soldier arrives.  One of the doctors throws a bloody rag on the floor and Aidan picks it up and wrings the blood out of it.  What Aidan does not know is that someone is watching him.  The witness is a French man and he yells desperate to get the attention of the others, to warn them that a vampire is in their midst.  His screams become more aggressive and finally, Henry goes over to speak with him and learns why he is so upset.  Henry believes that the man is clearly delusional, but he gets up and tries to attack Aidan with a stake.  Henry jumps between Aidan and his would be murderer only to be stabbed himself.  Aidan then slaughters everyone in camp and then turns Henry into a vampire. In the morning Henry awakes in the field and Aidan offers him a living human to feed.  Clearly, this is a dark Aidan without any kind of respect for human life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review of Tempest's Legacy Book 3 of the Jane True Series by Nicole Peeler

Back in Rockabill, Jane True continues to work on her training with Nell and hanging out at the local watering hole with her friends.  Things are still awkward with Ryu the baobhan sith, now that she knows that a relationship between them is just not something that she wants.  Jane's feelings for Anyan Barghest. Each day Jane becomes more confidant in her skills, which is good thing because she is going to need all of her power to bring justice the man who killed her mother and kidnapped Iris.

Jane wants to fully participate in the investigation but Anyan and Ryu have other ideas until she uses her magic to slam them repeatedly the ground.  Things have changed and Jane now not only has the ability to defend herself, but the ability to go on the offensive.  

Traveling to the Borderlands, Jane learns about the warehouses set up to experiment on purebloods and halflings.  As she listens to the stories of the survivors she is even more determined that this must come to an end. No matter his position in the court, Jarl cannot continue to experiment on women in this fashion.  

Tempest Legacy, is the third book in the Jane True series and just like many books in the genre, it seems that Peeler has finally seen fit to make her world a touch more diverse.  In this book, for the first time ever we meet people of colour.  Though I am happy to finally see some people of colour, Peeler feel into what we like call the blackety black trap in her description of Capitola.
She was long and lean with a catwalk model's body. Her face was carved from jet-black ebony; an artiste's rendering of the perfect female.  She was a queen, a Nefertiti, and I knew the barghest must be in love with her. [page 60]
In case you didn't get the message, Capitola is Black.  We get to meet Capitola's family who are also African-American.  They are side characters and after having an absence of 2 books without people of colour, it would have been nicer, had they been stronger characters and had much more to do with the story than they did. I will however say that beyond the description which I found to be a touch excessive, that her characters of colour did not fulfill any of the typical tropes that have become common in urban fantasy. I am however very curious why it took the change of location to Chicago, to finally add in some characters of colour to the story? I am further not pleased that they are segregated from the rest of the cast, though the reason given was not their race but their status as halfings.

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 15: Red Handed



In fairy tale land we follow Red Riding Hood, her Granny and an interesting interpretation on the “huff and puff and blow your house down” line and a very handsome man, Peter. And the theme is Red wanting to get away from where she is. Especially since they’re under siege by a wolf – that is repelled by red (hence the hood) and her Granny is keeping her very firmly under the thumb (but Granny is kind of badass so she’s totally forgiven).

And Red meets Snow White stealing eggs, alas, before Snow White developed several levels of badass which we have seen her with, there’s an edge of her Storybrooke persona’s wet lettuce about her. I do like that they had her pick Margaret and Mary as her alias, though. They go to fetch water – and find a lot of massacred wolf hunters. See, Granny was right. Listen to Granny in future.

There’s a town hall meeting to discuss killing the wolf while Granny schools the town on how the wolf is something you hide from rather than fight, especially since its predecessor killed her family and bit her. Listen to Granny, people.

Sadly red decides not to listen to granny and, listening to Snow White talk about love, she decides to run off and kill the wolf all on her lonesome – because daylight alone will turn the tide. Listen. To. Granny. Be told! But no, it’s hunting REALLY BIG wolf time for Red and Snow. And tracking it’s paw-prints… which become foot prints and, guess what, the wolftime (when the wolves appear) is once a month at full moon. Can we guess what it is yet? And those footprints end up at Red’s window – where Peter was the night before. After a pretty damn good speech by Snow, red is pushed to try to talk to Peter in order to stop him killing the hunters or the hunters killing him.
So plan is planned! Red goes to Peter and ties him up to control his wolf, while Snow tricks granny. But Granny is worried – for it’s not Peter who is the wolf, it’s Red (hence the footprints going to Red’s window) and poor Peter is tied up next to her. Red’s mother was a wolf – and so was granny, though with age all she has left is her sense of smell to track Red with.

Following from last week, Emma has to question David (Prince James) about the disappearance of Catherine since there’s an unexplained phone call between them on their phone records (supplied by Sidney, working for Regina). Emma’s lie detectors skills are powerful and, besides, there’s no case yet – though David needs a lawyer. And Emma takes the time to let the na├»ve Mary Margaret know that the town is going to look down on her and David; suspecting David murdered the missing Catherine.

Review of Lost Girl Season Two, Epsiode Nineteen: Truth and Consequences

This week, the Ash decides to put his relationship to the task by getting her to investigate the Glaive - one of the most powerful light fae.  Lochlyn is concerned that she has developed a relationship with the Garuda.  As we know from previous episodes, the Garuda wants to end the peace treaty between the light fae and the dark fae.  A war is most definitely coming, and the Ashe believes that Bo needs to do whatever necessary to either avoid it, or contain it.

Bo is not thrilled with the suggestion and tells the Ash that she is no murderer and so she attends a motivational speech given by the Glaive.  Bo is taken in and I'm sure it helps that the Glaive tells her that she is a true representation to fae women everywhere.  It's only when she returns to Trick and he tells her that she may be more than the image that she presents to the world, that Bo decides to have another look at the Glaive.  How is it that Bo could not have figured that out by herself? 

Back at the batcave, Kenzi and Nate are sharing a moment.  He wants to move their relationship to a new level and he hands her a key to his place.  He wants them to have a space where they aren't drawn into the turmoil of Bo's life.  Kenzi is really pleased with this development, but she knows that the fact that she cannot be honest with Nate is definitely a problem in their relationship.

When Bo returns home, Nate is gone and she tells Kenzi that Trick has given her a pill to resist the Glaive's powers.  Kenzi is rearing to go and help out, but Bo tells her that this is a one girl mission.  Kenzi heads off to the bar while Bo confronts the Glaive.  Kenzi is troubled because she is not sure that she has a place in Bo's world and this is confirmed by Trick who tells her that she is actually a liablity because she is Bo's weakness.  Trick is worried that Bo will be focused on Kenzi's safety during battle and believes that the best thing that Kenzi can do is to run off with Nate and build a life together, though he does toss in that he will miss her.  Okay, I don't know about you but I had to pause.  Kenzi a weakness?  Seriously?  Has Trick not been paying attention?  Bo is supposedly the tough succubus but she routinely gets herself into scrapes where she needs to be saved and Kenzi has come to the rescue on multiple occasions.

Lauren is busy analyzing Nadia's blood.  When Nadia asks what she is up to, Lauren tells her that she is looking for a reason that she is still not feeling like herself.  On one compound mix Lauren discovers similarities to a fae disease.  When Lauren tries to inject Nadia with a cure, Nadia knocks the syringe across the room saying that she is not going to tolerate anymore needles.

Bo approaches the Glaive at her private office under the guise of wanting advice on who to align with.  the Glaive asks Bo to tell her about herself.  Back at the batcave, Kenzi and Nate are having yet another sweet nothing moment.  I actually like them as a couple.  Lauren is taking a shower and what seems to be an attempt to release some stress, when straight out of Psycho, Nadia pulls the curtain aside and moves to slash her with a huge knife.  Lauren falls to her knees begging and pleading and Nadia walks out of the room.  This should have been a sign that Nadia was dead woman walking.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, episode 58

This week we discuss the Walking Dead (and the Death of Shane!!!!), Being Human (US), the Vampire Diaries and the Game of Thrones.

We also discuss musty vampires and true vampire villains.

We also talk about Mercy Blade by Faith Hunter, the 3rd book in the Jane Yellowrock Series



Face Off: Vampire Villains

After looking at the ranks of Musty Vampires, we have to look at the flip side of the coin - our sexy vampire villains. With their cool accents, their disposable minions and their diabolical plans, these vampires remind us that the undead are, indeed, monstrous and dangerous and not to be trifled with. In this era of sparkling and musty vampires pursuing teenage girls with tearful eyes and tortured souls, it’s refreshing to find a vampire who is clinging to their horror story roots.

So, which one does it right, readers - who is bringing the evil back?




Russell Edgington: Russel made his appearance in season three of True Blood. When he was not mourning for his lost love, Russel made infamous television appearances (which managed to be both horrifying and amusing) and showed no pity, when it came to hunting and terrorising Sookie. Russel is ancient and not even remotely interested in dancing around with vampire authorities - even killing an inquisitor to prove his point. He aligned himself with the werewolves, hooking them on vampire blood ensuring that, like any self-respecting villain, he has minions. While he lacks the required menacing British accent, he is a British actor, so he still gets points. For his classic one line zingers and bold actions, Russel is a villian’s villan.

We last saw Russel encased in concrete - but what can be more villainous than a villain who is sure to return?





Klaus Mikaelsen:

In The Vampire Diaries, Klaus is one of the first vampires, one of the Originals, making him over 1,000 years old. He’s also a hybrid - a combination were-wolf/vampire and nearly impossible to kill. This also provides him with a necessary staff of minions. He makes long ranged schemes, and is willing to kill anyone and anything to get the job done. Like all good villains, he has a menacing British accent (an almost pre-requisite), so he sounds suitably malevolent when required.

Klaus, alas lives in Mystic Falls and, as such, is exposed to the Aura of Mustiness. He has now started to fall in love with Caroline and is, no doubt, being slowly drawn into Elena’s Mary Sue field and will soon be adoring her and serving her like everyone else. He has already started the angsting and the crying that is the first symptom of being thoroughly mustified. Enjoy him while you can, vampire villain fans, before the angst claims him forever.

Review: Timeless by Gail Carriger, book 5 of the Parasol Protectorate Series




Alexia is settling into her life with her husband Conall and the Infant Inconvenience, Prudence, living alongside and with Lord Akeldama, they have created something resembling a routine. At least so faer as such tempestuous personalities can ever be said to form anything as mundane and peaceful as a routine.

It’s not to last, however, as Lady Kingair, alpha of Conall’s old pack, is in the city looking for her lost beat – in an investigation that won’t just take part in London,  but also in Egypt. Alexia also receives a message from the ancient vampire queen, Matakara who wishes to see Prudence – in Egypt, and it’s a summons she cannot ignore.

Add in the mystery of the godbreaker plague and the fact that Alexia’s father seems to have been involved and there are a whole lot of threads in Egypt to unravel. Which leaves Biffy and Lyall back in London to try and hold the fort – which becomes more difficult as Lyall’s history becomes more widely known.

And it’s nearly impossible to get a decent cup of tea in Egypt. How very vexing.


The story for this book is interesting and curious as there are so many issues working at the same time – the Kingair beta, the godbreaker plague, the machinations of Matakara, Alexia’s father, old secrets coming to light, the management of Prudence – there are many parallel plots but they all come together into one plotline – there are no real side plots, just the main plot approached from several different directions. But what makes this story, like every story in this series, are the characters and the world setting. The characters make this series.

This book, is again, hilariously funny. There are so many times when I laughed out loud – I think the prize goes to Alexia asking Ivy if she can wait to faint and Ivy deciding she could because fainting hatless in a foreign country is just not done. The proper protocol and language of the Victorian era and Victorian society is woven into an array of constant humour. That same language continues to make these books so very evocative of their age.

Alexia’s relationship with Conall – and, indeed, everyone around her – is hilarious. Alexia’s combination of propriety and wilful refusal to accept limits or to do anything that she doesn’t want to do is joyous to behold. Her sparring with her husband, her autocratic demands to

I’m also glad that the eminently practical and stolid Alexia didn’t become a gushing and twee mother. No, while she clearly loves her child, she has no illusions about her Infant Inconvenience nor is she inclined to be sweet and delicate. This isn’t’ some cookie cutter version of fluffy motherhood, this is motherhood, Alexia style with her personality and being very much apparent.

And I love Prudence for being exactly what a daughter of Alexia and Connal would be. A menace, a handful, opinionated and strong willed and wild and determined requiring an entire staff to keep in line. Ivy, also, remains such a perfect character with her ridiculous hats and ridiculous theatre troop and ridiculous mannerisms and general ridiculousness all round. I completely didn’t expect the ending for her but I can see it so perfectly. I think a series of books following Ivy in her new role will be beyond hilarious.

The Walking Dead Season Two, Episdoe Eleven: Better Angels

 
The episode opens with Dale's funeral where Rick says that Dale was honest and brave.  "I couldn't always read him but he could read us. He saw people for who they were.  He knew things about us the truth - who we really are.  In the end, he was talking about losing our humanity and he said this group was broken. From now on we are going to do it his way, that his how we honour Dale," Rick said in his eulogy of Dale. 

In flash scene, we see Andrea, Shane, T Dog and Darryl driving until they come across some zombies, and then they stop to kill them.

They decide it's time to move everyone into the house, saying that with winter coming they are too vulnerable. When Rick talks about releasing Randall again, Shane is upset, but Rick tells him that the plan was right, but the execution was wrong. Shane is clearly not at all mollified.

Alone  with Rick, Hershel says that he has no patience with Shane anymore.  When Andrea joins them, Rick asks her to keep an eye on things.  Hershel says that if he stays there permanently that Shane has to understand that what he and Rick says goes.  Andrea is upset about being asked to baby sit Shane, and tells Rick that maybe he should stop leaving.  Yeah, so now they have Andrea saying Lori's lines?  If she hadn't aligned herself with Shane to begin with, Rick never would have thought to ask

Carl approaches Shane and wants to talk, but asks him to promise not to tell his parents.  Shane says that this is a bad idea for both of them, but when Carl walks away, Shane calls him back.  Carl shows Shane the handgun he took from Darryl's motorcycle and admits the role that he played in Dale's death. Shane tells him that it is not his fault, and that he needs to hold onto the gun to protect himself.  Carl tells him that he is never touching another gun again, but Shane answers that this is not an option. Carl tells Shane to give it back to Darryl and walks away.

Glenn comes in the house and Maggie tells him to put his stuff in her room, but Glenn is not comfortable doing that with Hershel in the house.  So he can have sex with her in a pharmacy with the threat of death hanging over them, but Hershel being in the same house is too much?  Really?

Hershel gives up the bed to Lori, and says that he will take the couch rather than seeing a pregnant Lori sleeping on the floor.  When Lori says that she can't because this is Hershel's home, Hershel tells her that it is their home as well. When Lori attempts to refuse, T-dog says "if you two can't decide, I'll take it".  Great, they can't give T Dog anything serious to do but move shit around, but hey, he can play the role of comic relief.

When Hershel and T-dog go inside,  Laurie see Shane fixing the windmill.   They chat about life before the zombies and Laurie asks him to come down. Laurie says, "this is real and we can't keep at bay; it's already got us and it just keeps coming.  I made a mess of things, and I put you and Rick at odds. I don't even know whose baby this is.  I can't imagine how hard that is on you.  You lead us out of Atlanta with no thought of yourself. " She tells him that she never thanked him for getting them out of Atlanta.  "Even though things got confused between us, you were there for me, thank you".  Shane says that he she doesn't need to thank him for that.  Lori says, "what ever happened between us, I'm sorry Shane. Please believe me I am so sorry".

Okay, what the fuck was that? No, seriously, what the fuck was that?  Did she suddenly forget that Shane tried to rape her?  What woman decides to thank her rapist?  I am sick and tired of the way that The Walking Dead has chosen to treat the attempted rape like it never happened.  We are only encouraged to see Shane as bad because, he killed Otis.  What's a little attempted rape right?  This is just one more sign that the writers don't take their female characters seriously.  

Darryl and Rick stand on the porch plotting where to dump Randall.  When Rick asks him about killing Dale, Darryl says, "Ain't no reason you should do all of the heavy lifting".  It's clear at this point that Darryl is being set up to be Rick's number two.  I don't like the way this is heading because Tyreese has been cast and if he ends up playing third to Darryl and Rick, I don't hold much hope for strong characters of colour on this show.   

When Shane pulls up, Darryl leaves and Shane tells Rick about Carl's run in with the walker.  When Rick tells him that he will have Laurie talk to him, Shane says, "I think he needs his father".  Then Shane suggests that he ride out with Darryl to dump Randall, so Rick can talk to Carl.  Rick turns him down, and Shane puts the gun down in front of Rick and says that dealing with Randall is more important than dealing with his son. As much as I despise Shane, that was a brilliant guilt trip. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Grimm, Season 1, Episode 14: Plumed Serpent





“Said the dragon, “Many knights have left their lives here, I shall soon have an end to you too,” and he breathed fire out of seven jaws.


So we have 2 guys looking to steal copper from an derelict factory who are apparently consumed by fire and an apparently reptilian Vesen. Looking up at the quote that began this episode and I think we have a Clue.

In comes the Grimm team – Nick, Hank and Sergeant Wu, who has thoughtfully brought smell suppressing stuff (oh so useful – and a nice authentic touch). And an Arson investigator called Jordan (now, if I were cynical, I’d say that, since this person got a name, he’s probably involved in some way). And the 2 very charred bodies that were burned in a super hot almost explosion – as have all the locks (in this and other derelict sights) - and Hank finds some oily residue that burns super quick.

Back at the police station analysis shows this residue contains human fats and that all this copper being stolen isn’t being sold. And a witness who saw an apparent homeless man with burn scars fleeing the scene which he gets a sketch artist to draw (and she’s a woman! I was beginning to think this Portland only had 10 women in the whole city).

Said burned man decides to hit Lance Truman – the guy who owns these derelict properties – across the head with a metal bar. All 3 of the Grimm team go to investigate and find Homeless Dragon guy – who nearly burns Sergeant Wu with his oily firebreath. That has to be bad for the environment. This allows Dragon guy to flee to his big coppery stash while Sergeant Wu is sarcastic and amusing even with gunk in his eyes/ears/nose.

For reasons that escape me, the arson investigator has done a background check on the DNA found in the human fat oil – veteran and ex-welder Fred Eberheart and his next of kin, Ariel Eberheart who Nick goes to speak to – alone (coincidentally because the grimy stuff is starting ow so Wu and Hank get put into their plot box). And it’s a club with lots of scantily clad female dancers – and lots of Vesen. Including Eddie, the Grimmopedia and Ariel herself (who is doing fire tricks, which I’m sure we’re all shocked about).

Eddie calls her a Damonfure – dragon-like lineage that are very rare. And that they vomit their own fat that is extremely flammable. Interviewing her involves lots of flirting and learning that her father Frank’s life fell apart when his wife died and she hasn’t had much contact with him. This leaves Nick with the option of very unsubtly stalking her home (really, he may as well have leaned out his window and yelled “hey, I’m going to follow you, can I get directions?”) which leads to more flirting and sexy pushing from Ariel – it’s actually several kinds of amusing to see her refuse to cower away from the stalking Grimm. And she gets to answer a call from Juliette on Nick’s phone allowing her her cursory appearance this week as Nick gets to explain things to his jealous girlfriend.

Ariel isn’t done, of course, and invites Nick to her house (while making the call naked, of course), ostensibly to help him find her father. Nick, fearful of her sexy wiles (and Juliette’s wrath) brings Hank along (Hank, you do have a role to play!) And find that her house has lots and lots of copper in it (and actually looks all kinds of cool with it). But no Ariel.

Because Ariel is at Nick’s house, kidnapping Juliette (Juliette, you got upgraded to Victim!) and fixating some more on Nick. It’s her plan to help heal her disturbed father – which Eddie (and of course Nick has to pick up Eddie) puts down to a full on quest dynamic – dragon, knight and (of course) the poor damsel in distress. We also learn that nick has the LOUDEST mobile phone in the whole world –being able to hear it outside in the street despite him having left it in his bedroom.