Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review of The Vampire Diaries Season Three, Episode 19: Heart of Darkness

If I could use only one word to describe this episode it would be ANGST.  Between Elena and her conflicted feelings for Damon, the return of Esther mommy dearest, Rebekah vampire barbie quarreling with Caroline over a dance it was all a bit too much. 

The episode begins with Stefan sending Elena and Damon off on a road trip to find Jeremy so that he can talk to Rose and find out who their line began with.  Stefan feels that he can make amends for everything that he has done, but he must know if Elena truly loves him. Stefan decides to stay with Alaric in the hope that when Alaric falls asleep that his other half will make an appearance.

At the highschool, Vampire barbie and Caroline are arguing over the theme for an upcoming dance.  I understand that The Vampire Diaries is supposedly a YA show, but they just need to stop with the high school talk, since they never actually attend class.  Furthermore, if they expect me to believe that Rebekah is actually over one thousand years old, they need to stop writing her character like an angsty teenage girl.  It's nonsense and an insult to the viewers intelligence. It's bad enough to have these two snipping at each other, but the upped the ante by having Caroline through in a little slut shaming for good measure.  Yes, we know that Rebekah is insecure and falls for anyone paying her the slightest bit of attention but that is no reason to shame her for her sexual behaviour. It turns out that the little squabble was simply a distraction so that Caroline could sneak off and see Tyler.

When Elena and Damon find Jeremy he is at batting practice.  They quickly explain that they need him to talk to Rose but Jeremy tells that he doesn't even know Rose and that his powers don't work like that.  He promises to help them after he hangs out with his buddy who just happens to be Kol.  Elena tells Jeremy to run just as Kol picks up a bat and starts to beat up Damon.  They manage to get away when Damon grabs a broken wooden bat and stakes Kol with it. 

Caroline and Tyler meet up on the old Lockwood plantation.  They go into the cell where Tyler used to change and make love.  When it's over, Caroline tells him about the plan to kill Klaus and Tyler quickly realizes that this could mean his death, because Klaus turned him.   In turn, he tells Caroline that he still needs to check and see if he has really broken Klaus' sire bond.

Back at the Michaelson mansion, who should show up but Mommy dearest.  Rebekah is not impressed by this arrival and becomes even less sympathetic when Esther tells her that she is dying because the the connection to the Bennett witches has been severed.  Rebekah is still upset that her mother tried to kill her, and complains that she never got the chance to live a life.  Uh huh, and this somehow explains her fascination with high school right?  Esther comforts her by telling her that she watched over her from the other side before collapsing at Rebekah's feet.  When Klaus walks in, she simply tells him that their mother is dead.

Not big on mourning the two head to the Salvatore's where Stefan is busy trying to get Alaric drunk enough to pass out.  Klaus simply wants to Klaus but Stefan tells him that they cannot leave the stake unaccounted for because if an original dies, so do all of the vampires in their line.  Klaus is not impressed that the fate with vampires lies in Alaric's hand and kills him.  Luckily, Alaric is wearing his ring so he is down but not out.

Back at the hotel, Jeremy starts asking questions about Rose in order to contact her.  Damon tells them about Rose's last day which catches her attention.  They start of with pleasantries and this includes a request from Rose to tell Damon that she is rooting for him and Elena.  This completely throws Jeremy off his guard.  He clearly is not happy about any potential relationship between his big sister and the big bad vampire. Rose promises to return when she has tracked down her sire.

The Secret Circle, Season 1, Episode 19: Crystal

So we begin this week with the search for the crystals so they can defeat the witch hunters once and for all! And to achieve this, Faye (with help from, of course, Melissa) is searching her house to see where her mother (Dawn, Evil Parent #1) is hiding the family crystal. Instead she finds a journal that talks about Dawn’s affair with John Blackwell, Cassie’s father (Evil Parent #3).

Back at the Scooby Den we have more discussion about the dangers of the witch hunters, the power of the crystal (and that they can be drained). The Elders know where the crystals are but John believes the Elders won’t help because they’d never trust the kid’s circle since they did strip the parents of their magic. So it’s time to split into groups and search some old people’s homes

Cassie also hopes that John and Jane – Cassie’s grandmother – will get along all happy families like. Since John used magic to plant a false story in Jane’s brain it seems unlikely he is that invested in a joyous reunion. Meeting Jane back at the house, she’s similarly unenthusiastic about John.

Melissa’s grandmother has many many crystals – so she and Adam have to sift through them (while Diana is with Grant – Pointless Aussie Liar guy). At Jake’s grandfather’s Cassie, Jake and Faye are told that the family considers the grandfather “crazy” and her has many many locks on his door (he is called Royce and will hereby be known as “Mentally Ill Elder #3” since Diana’s grandmother has already claimed “Mentally Ill Elder #1” and Jane is currently auditioning for Mentally Ill Elder #2”. Not like this show follows patterns or anything, is it?). They magically break in anyway and find stacks upon stacks of papers – and a conspiracy wall – which is like a wall collage for people who think Alien Elvis Shot JFK while making crop circles.  And he has a list of their names and birthdates on the Conspiracy Wall – which is wonderfully reassuring, I’m sure.

Royce catches them, doesn’t believe Jake is Jake and throws a desk at them – of course, it’s 3 Circle witches against 1 witch so they pass it back again which is convincing apparently. But he thinks the Circles will kill them all. He gives them a history lesson – after the Salem witch trials (yes, of course they had to bring them up. You can’t have a programme about witches without invoking Salem) there were 3 Circles – 1 of which came to Chants Harbour (hadn’t they suffered enough?) but a Balcoin came to corrupt the Chants Harbour witches with black magic and forcing them into a confrontation with the Witch Hunters - and that he intended to corrupt the circle by having children (plural) with lots of dark magic. If he can corrupt all 3 Circles then he tips the balance and the war between good and evil (WHAT war between good and evil?) will be won by evil, end of the world, alarm etc. And he won’t give them his crystal because together they form a Crystal Skull which is the worstest weapon evah.

Faye reveals her mother’s affair to Cassie and Jake suggesting that she is the second Blackwell Child (and, therefore, Cassie’s half-sister). Sisterly feeling isn’t big though.

Meanwhile Callum (Evil Voodoo Drug Dealer) steals Royce’s map to his crystal because… I actually have no idea why, but he does. Melissa and Adam are sent to get the crystal before he does. Unfortunately down the mine Adam and Melissa find that it was an iron mine – which means magic won’t work

They get the crystal by Adam doing heroic things and Melissa worrying – but run into Callum carrying a gun. He wants to sell the crystal for a large amount of money. Melissa gives him a crystal to make him go away and the rest of the Scooby gang arrives. Callum tries to escape on a bike – Faye tries to stop him on her own to prove she has dark magic of her own but can’t – but Cassie comes and she can.

Charles (Evil Parent #2 – Diana’s father) meets with John (Evil Parent #3, Cassie’s father) to establish they dislike each other and that Charles blames John for his wife (Elizabeth’s) death and the whole disaster with the witch hunters that killed so many of the Parent Circle.

Charles follows this through by going to visit Jane – who is carving an anti-witch spell into a chair. They plan to kill John by sitting him on the anti-magic chair then using a Witch Cruet that Jane has prepared earlier to kill him. Jane, you have a knife. If you want to kill him you could do this thing we like to call “stabbing”. You’ll find when one has someone bound helplessly to a chair it’s actually really easy to do.

Anyway the plan works and while John is helpless and before they make with the Cruet killing, Jane decides she wants to know what really happened to Amelia (psst, it was Charles that did it). The crystal shows that John didn’t kill Amelia – and because of that Jane can’t bring herself to kill him. Charles can though and uses the Cruet – and it kills Jane! Surprise, John knew it was there and had already tampered with it (see? This is where stabbing is so much better). Showing himself as the most crafty one of all he makes Charles kneel with magic and makes it clear he’s alive because he’s useful.

Unnecessary Australian Guy, Grant, is still flirting with Diana. And, of course, she keeps running off when they’re supposed to be on a date and he is most displeased by this.

And Evil Voodoo drug dealer Callum is after Melissa. Melissa, I’d put in for a trade in for cute, awkward Australian liars – you got the worse end of the stick.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Lunatic Cafe by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 4 of the Anita Blake Series

Anita Blake has a new case brought to her through several angles – shapeshifters are going missing, disappearing without a trace. And when you’re a person who can change into a vicious predator with a grip that can rip a person in half, it’s difficult it disappear without a trace.

The police also have a man, a human, who has been savaged by a massive, wild animal with human intelligence. Unfortunately the shapeshifters and police aren’t sharing information, leaving Anita to work both sides as best she can

But there’s also Anita’s love life. Her relationship with Richard has depend but she has her own doubts about settling down – and, the more she learns about lycanthropes, even more doubts about being with Richard at all. And that’s without the complication of Jean-Claude, master vampire of the city who is determined to win Anita’s affections one way or the other; Gretchen, a vicious vampire who is besotted with Jean-Claude and determined to remove the competition and, of course, Marcus – Richard’s packleader who would love to see his second in command dead

I love how the story works in this book. We think it’s answered – but no, there’s more! And there’s more! Ok maybe 3 is a bit of a stretch for coincidence, but I like that there isn’t just one pat answer. That just because you’re working on one dramatic mystery doesn’t mean that the whole world will now centre on that mystery to the exclusion of everything else and not everything has a single, simple, clean answer.

And, again, it’s paced well – with enough twists and revelations to keep things interesting without it being convoluted. We have side-plots but they all come elegantly together. We also, unfortunately, have the Gretchen storyline that adds nothing – I think it’s a clumsy insert to drag Jean-Claude into the story somehow rather than serving any story purpose. Still, despite that the story flows, is never boring, is coherent and keeps you reading without pause.

I love the world still and there’s some wonderful development into the nature of shapeshifters and shape shifting – the many methods and what each means. We continue to have suggestions of supernatural creatures from around the world, from every culture and every mythology, albeit we still have a western focus on the dominant characters. In all it’s broad and it’s exciting.

I’m increasingly clinging to Ronnie as a character in these books because Anita is surrounded by a lot of men. Lots and lots of men. Lots and lots and lots of men. Other than Ronnie and bit parts, the only other women we saw in this book were Raina (evil and tangentially attached to Anita’s man) and Gretchen (unstable and jealous of Anita’s man). Admittedly part of this stems from already having read the series and knowing what’s coming so I can see the early pattern emerging - but here is the foreshadowing of the future women of Anita Blake’s world.

Now I normally dislike love triangles – and I really really dislike any storyline that has a love interest ignore a “no” and continue pushing – so both Gretchen on Jean-Claude and Jean-Claude on Anita both annoy me a lot. What I do like, though, is Anita’s internal monologue which adds a new dimension – her thoughts on what she considers human and dateable – on how she let Richard in only when she knew he was human and never even considered Jean-Claude because he was a vampire, her admission that she does love him, her consideration of types of love are all great reads

Do You Have Any Recommendations?

'Question!' photo (c) 2007, Stefan Baudy - license:

At Fangs for the Fantasy we’re always looking for new Urban Fantasy to devour; we love this genre and we’ve always got a book or 3 and several series on the go. It is a running joke now that if you take your eyes off us for a minute, we will reach for the e-reader.

But we’re always looking for new content - new TV series, new books, new films - even new media forms we haven’t even considered; we’ll give it a go! We’re particularly interested in works that are inclusive - because we are social justice bloggers and the very purpose of this site is to examine the genre we love through a social justice lens.

So, do you have any suggestions, gentle readers? Stuff that is so good you want to recommend? Or stuff so awful you just have to share? Or stuff you’re just curious to hear what we think about something?

Not just books - any media, let us know. As ever, our preferred genre is Urban Fantasy. While we do consider other works of speculative fiction, Urban Fantasy will always be front and centre for us and our definite preference.

When it comes to Fantasy, Movies and TV loses to Books

'Trevor Blake: Television' photo (c) 2010, Trevor Blake - license:

When reading across the genre we have, obviously, come across many tropes and stereotypes that have raised their ugly heads in books over and over again. We’ve seen a lot of marginalised people reduced to tokens, a lot of offensive portrayals and, above all, a lot of erasure where marginalised people do not appear at all. We’ve also read a lot of books that have failed to address the issues they raised in any real depth - when dealing with marginalisation we’re more likely to see appropriation of real oppressed groups than portrayals of oppression, we’re more likely to see things brushed over than examined.

But while we’ve found this in books, they still stand head and shoulders about the Urban Fantasy series and films we have seen. The books certainly have a better record than anything we have watched - which is very telling, especially when we consider the wider audience that is reached through television.

First and foremost this is shown simply in the series that are chosen to be turned into films and series are ones that do not address issues. And there are Urban Fantasy novels out there that do this marvellously - the Kara Gillian and White Trash Zombie series by Diana Rowland contain awesome analysis on class. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne has a black Jesus.  The Spiritwalker Trilogy has excellent considerations of sexism and class. Nicole Peeler’s Jane True series is a champion for female agency.

We have others that, while not necessarily covering issues in the book, do at least heavily contain marginalised characters and marginalised protagonists: Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thomas Series, LA Banks’s Vampire Huntress Series, Seressia Glass’s Shadow Chaser series, Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series and Adrian Phoenix’s Hoodoo Series. These series are out there but they are not the ones being transformed for the TV.

Then we look at what did make the cut to television and film.

In many cases this means the more vapid and erased stories are translated into film for e.g. Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and Secret Circle to name a few. None of these shows offer any depth or analysis or thought to the mythos let alone serve to portray a positive social justice message through real inclusion. Even the Dresden Files - now I love these series both books and TV, but at the same time it’s neither challenging nor inclusive.

The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris became True Blood. There can be no doubt that there have been occasions of challenging content on True Blood and characters which were either short lived in the series or non existent were added in an attempt to complicate the plot however the addition of these characters has not been altogether positive.  The character of Lafayette was simply a gay cook who died after attending a sex party.  This clearly read as a punishment for daring to be gay.  In True Blood the character has been expanded upon and become a fan favourite however Lafayette is still a gay, drug dealing, prostitute. His very existence is one huge trope.  His lover Jesus was added in season three, only to die violently in season four, after an extremely lackluster romance when compared to that of the heterosexual couples on the show..

Secret Circle and Vampire Diaries actually had to drop in token black characters because their books were so erased. It didn’t really add anything to the television shows since the tokenism (and the poor treatment of those characters) was so obvious but in doing so it really emphasised how erased the books were in the first place.

Even simple matters of inclusion can be fraught - Blood Ties adapted Tanya Huff’s novels to TV but in doing so bisexual Henry appears to have become straight and gay man Tony has disappeared and been replaced by a straight woman. I wasn’t happy with the portrayals in the books - but it’s glaring that they had to be entirely erased to make the leap into television.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: Enthralled by K Drollinger

Annette is living a normal life as a vet with her grandfather in a nice town in the Pacific northwest of the US. She has a quiet life, filled with the normal problems of her grandfather’s bereavement, her neighbours and her work. At least, she would have if it weren’t for the disturbing dreams she has – the dreams of women being murdered long in the past.

Until in comes Phyllis, a highly eccentric woman claiming to be psychic and talking to animals – including an injured wild opossum she insists on adopting. Phyllis is on her way to a job – to find hidden treasure in an old manor house in the middle of nowhere in a gated estate. And she has pictures of the woman from Annette’s dream

Annette is uprooted following the image of this strange woman and trying to find her ghost. But upon arrival she learns far more than she imagined – and that there are far more terrifying and powerful creatures that ghosts lurking in the world. But when in an isolated home in the middle of a storm and people start disappearing, you have to learn to adapt quickly; especially when your life is on the line.

The concept of this book was interesting, we have several qualities here I love. We have a diverse and rich supernatural world, we have different kinds of supernatural creatures. I also think that the creatures in question – especially the fae and the vampire but even the werewolves, go back more to the original core of their myths rather than more recent urban fantasy tropes. I appreciate the revisiting of the classics with a new twist on them. I also like that the main character is a medium, it’s also not something that is commonly done and presents with a whole new set of ideas and potentials.

And having several strangers go to a house with dark and hidden intent and then face a life threatening mystery is an old theme – but it’s a goody and has a great deal of potential when it comes to tension, grand revelations, trust and isolation.

But the execution wasn’t something I enjoyed for several reasons.

The writing style struck me as clumsy. It was over-written for one. It was wordy, over-described and had an excessive use of Annette’s full name when “she” would have been more than sufficient. I also don’t think the word “say” was used once in the book. There was plenty of sneering and shouting and screaming and yelling and even bubbling, but no-one actually said anything. Apart from being jarring and clumsy, it meant no-one actually had a conversation – and there was an impression that they all flew off the handle into massive rages at the slightest thing since they started shouting and screaming almost instantly. For some reason they also stop using contractions randomly as well, and the conversations themselves suffer from too many words – it’s like people pause to tell mini speeches to each other. Unfortunately there’s such a lot of conversation in the book that all of this combines to not be a hurdle I have to jump to enjoy the book so much as a massive barricade to scale – a barricade manned by rabid, gun toting militiamen at that.

I think there’s also some confusion as the meanings of certain words. What jumps out at me the most is the word “leer” that is used with extreme frequency (even if it were used correctly, I’d still be suggesting a thesaurus) but the author seems to think is synonymous with “glare”. It’s jarring to find all these arguing, angry people leering at each other.

Now the over-writing can create some very clear scenes – particularly we got to learn a lot about Annette’s life in the first part of the book – it was a very nice picture of how she lives, her family, her home etc. And then it was all rendered utterly irrelevant because she leaves it all behind for the rest of the book. Her grandfather and his grief and her life as a vet and her home town and her neighbours – it all goes away and never ever becomes relevant again. Which is a shame because we spend the best part of 30-40% of the book establishing all this. We have this very detailed, very well described and portrayed setting that we don’t actually use. It’s like going to the theatre and watch them painstakingly and carefully put together a magnificent backdrop, an amazing scene and line up all these great props – then go next door to actually act it. I think this is especially a problem because the spooky, haunted mansion with its secret passages, flickering lights all to the backdrop of a huge storm and dark, scary woods ISN’T described in such evocative detail. And all that potential tension etc etc of the setting? Just isn’t there.

Which is another issue I have, and I admit this is a personal preference thing, but I love speculative fiction because I love the fantastic. This book spends a long long long time getting to the fantastic. Another problem is the link to the fantastic – and the whole foundation of the story, just strikes me as convoluted to the point of unrealistic. Annette is here, living her life when she runs into a woman she takes an instant (and reasonable) dislike to. After seeing a photograph in the Phyllis’s possession of a woman she dreamed about being murdered she decides to suddenly go with this stranger, at short notice, to a house she knows nothing about, owned by a man she doesn’t know for several days. I think even the most impulsive of people would raise an eyebrow.

Blood Ties Season 1, Episode 3: Bad Juju

Vicki has a new case and a new client – Angelique has lost her brother, Royal. They come from New Orleans after Katrina and she can’t go to the police because she suspects her brother has fallen into criminal activity with a man called Henri Gregoire. And as they leave the club they’re meeting in they’re attacked by a clumsy, moaning man who has zombie written all over his forehead (C’mon no gooey rotting effects? I am cheated by the substandard quality of this zombie), he knocks Vicki down, kills the man guarding Angelique and then chases after Angelique

She calls the police and in comes Mike Celucci and his partner Dave, but they can’t get in touch with Angelique. And Vicki takes the time to point out to Mike that the attacker wasn’t breathing – causing him to have a rant about her losing touch with reality –and makes a dig at her vision which is, thankfully, recognised as crossing the line.

On to Henry Fitzroy – who else are you going to talk to about zombies other than the vampire you know? And yes, Henry confirms that it was a zombie – resurrected by a bokor, a voodoo practitioner and he gets all dramatic to try and scare Vicki off – but agrees to help in the end. We also get some dramatic flirting over his half-finished graphic novel.

We switch quickly to the bokor – and he’s dressed like Baron Samedi on a limited budget, sat on a chair of bones and making his minions vomit snakes. Someone spent all of 10 minutes researching these stereotypes.

On to some investigation, leaving Coreen (Vicki’s new sidekick) to do some research they go to the bar they met Angelique in where Henry, for reasons that aren’t apparent, decides to accost the bar tender and rile the clientele. It achieves nothing but they do leave the bar and follow the bar tender instead.

This leads them to Angelique, practicing at a Voudoun altar who tells them her history as a child of a mambo and a hougan (Voudoun priests) who were murdered by members of the Sac Rouge, dark Voudoun practitioners who are now threatening her and her brother. Vicki is quick to offer to help, much to Henry’s disagreement. But you don’t disagree with Vicki.

Check in to Celucci for some investigating but mainly sniping between Henry and Mike – thankfully broken up by Vicki before it got too childish (these 2 are supposed to be grown men?) before moving on to the next scene and another dead body. And another zombie they have to subdue. But this sets Vicki into a guilt trip because the zombie is so unstoppable even for vampires. But she hardly spends a second wallowing before demanding to know why Henry is so afraid of magic – cue a reminiscent to the 1920s when Henry went to Haiti and a woman he liked was murdered and turned into a zombie

Back to Celuccis for more info and a frustrating conversation where Henry demands to be told the truth but nothing about the supernatural – as Vicki says “you’re the one who keeps beating your head against an open door” which is a great line I may have to steal. And Vicki lays it out to him concisely and clearly – she’ll share the info and he can take it or leave it. Mike doesn’t seem to take it and asks Dave to run a background check on henry – and even Dave very clearly points out how much this is about Mike’s jealousy rather than any actual police work.

So they track down Baron Stereotype and we get some more drama and tacky plastic skulls – he has killed Royal, her brother. But he claims he has done it because Angelique and Royal are the dark practitioners and they had to be stopped. While he serves good and bad (a bokor serves with both hands) he claims Angelique and Royal are all bad – and that they’re both ancient but look young because of the children they sacrificed. He also says Angelique will want to use magic soon to resurrect her brother

And at Vicki’s office Angelique is casting a spell and sealing Coreen’s mouth when she tries to interrupt. The spell uses the charm she gave Vicki wasn’t for protection – it was to channel her spell to kill Baron Stereotype. The run to confront Angelique – but she has a voodoo doll of Vicki.

Cover Snark: Is there a Chiropractor in the House?

I often wonder what i would do if I lived in an Urban Fantasy world. Would I be a monster? Would I be a monster hunter? Would I be a cool vampire? Would I be hunted by zombies?

But then, I decided, what I actually want to be is a chiropractor. Yes, a chiropractor, because with these women I could make a fortune. See, this is why so many of them assume the crouch - their backs are killing them

Now this is where it begins, these are spine benders in training. On Poisoned Kissed, we have a clear amateur who is merely leaning backwards to better display her breasts. Sure, she’ll get a crick in her back, but it is anatomically possible. Kitty Raises Hell goes a little further - her arse is bent over then she strains her back to actually be stood upright. Look at that spinal curve right there - she nearly pulls it off, but that’s a woman who is going to be in pain if she keeps that up


In Blue Blooded Vamp we have a more advanced version for Kittie’s pose. Her arse is stuck so far back that she should be touching her toes - to avoid it she has craned backwards - I can’t imagine someone’s muscles can even do that - there must be an invisible guy with his knee in her back pulling on her shoulders. The Demoness of Waking Dream shoes that this pose can be pulled off in any clothing - don’t think that loose, billowing dresses excuse you from a proper spine breakage (and look, her arms are stretched backwards - that’s the man helping pull her torso upright)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Fade Out by Rachel Caine, Book 7 of the Morganville Vampires

After the last few books, life in Morganville has just come out of a series of disaster. The war with Bishop is finally over, with the ancient vampire destroyed. The illness that was slowly killing the vampires of Morganville has finally been cured – it looks like the town has been saved and can begin to return to normal – reinforced and made more just by the concessions Claire wrung from Amelie for the rights of humans within the town.

But things are not stable. The new laxer rules have led to some humans prowling in gangs, carrying the weapons they are legally allowed to carry

Similarly, groups of vampires are frustrated by the “domesticated” way that Amelie makes them live, working through the blood banks and the people they protect rather than hunting and are seeking to either change the system or leave Morganville entirely.

These revolts couldn’t happen at a worse time as Amelie is consumed by grief from the loss of Sam. She’s unable – or unwilling – to put down the revolts and even Oliver is questioning her ability to rule.

Against that we have the problems of reality TV coming to Morganville – and Ada, the vampire computer that maintains the town, its portals and its veil of secrecy is becoming increasingly more erratic and dangerous – threatening not only Myrnin and Claire but also the future of Morganville.

The book makes me think almost that one story was planned and then the author changed her mind after a few chapters and decided to write another. I think we’re supposed to be having the found work of how Morganville is now unstable with vampires and humans rising up against Amelie’s control and this is supposed to be foundation for a new meta arc after the end of the Bishop storyline. But I don’t think it went especially smoothly, we spend a lot of the beginning of the book worrying about vampire opponents of Amelie, whether Oliver will stand against her, whether there is going to be an anti-vampire human uprising – then we suddenly leap over to the cameras.

There’s not much smooth transition there and the two plots are tied together clumsily in a way that, I think, is supposed to suggest that one leads into the other.

Similarly there’s the plot line with Ada and the implications of that, what it means for Claire and Myrnin and what it means for the town as a whole – Ada is vital for the continuing functioning of the town and enforcement of its rules and status after all. Again, there’s a vague sense of tying it into the previous 2 plot lines but no real connections so much as a jump from plot to plot.

I think what frustrates me more is that any of these three could have been interesting plot lines in their own right – political unrest after the war with bishop could be interesting to pursue and tax the Scoobies decisions on where they stand and why. There could be a continuation of the question of whether to support vampires at all, even exploration of Amelie’s claim that vampires are dying out and humans control the rest of the world so don’t they need a space? This could have been an interesting plot – and I really hope it’s explored in future books because it wasn’t here.

Similarly with Ada – what are the consequences for Morganville without Ada, what does it mean, what did Ada do, can Morganville exist without it? This needs exploring a great deal more than we saw.

Even the reality TV show, its implications and the considerations of national media et al could have done with extra exploration. Instead we had the previous two ideas developing and then this plot line kind of slapped on top. It didn’t flow for me.

Despite that, all 3 plotlines were more interesting than the Bishop storyline for me, primarily because Claire is involved (albeit convolutedly) in these stories and not just a clumsy, awkward observer to action that is, primarily, happening behind the scenes. I got a much larger sense of being involved in the plot this time, of Claire at least somewhat fitting into the story and us seeing the full extent of the action unfold rather than being an outsider, only seeing half of the story and any scenes where Claire was involved being somewhat shoe-horned into the proceedings.

Wednesday Reboot: The Crow

The Crow was released in 1994 and stars Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott and Rochelle Davis.  Eric Draven and Shelley Webster are murdered when on the night before Halloween, because they attempted to fight an addiction.  Draven is beaten and thrown from a building and Shelley is raped.  Sarah is a neighborhood girl and friend to the couple who is the only one who really cares. Sergeant Albrecht is the cop who investigates the murder of Draven and Wincott but gets nowhere.

A year after their deaths, Draven rises from the dead with the help of a crow, determined to get justice for himself and his slain fiancee.  He begins by killing Tin Tin a man famous for the pain he causes with knives.  The crow leads him one by one to the men that are responsible, including the pawn shop owner who bought Shelley's engagement ring. Draven is able to give these criminals a dose of their own medicine because the crow had made him impervious to harm.  I suppose, the crow taught him how to fight as well, as prior to being resurrected, Draven was a guitarist in a rock band.

There isn't a single daylight scene in the entire film and much of the time it is raining.  I suppose this was meant to give it a dark feeling but much of the time it felt like a cheap Gotham city rip off with less theatrics. The dialogue is highly predictable and much of Draven's attempts to be philosophical and poetic simply fall flat.

Women in The Crow fall into the drug addict who needs saving, the spunky street wise kid, the mystical dragon lady and of course Shelley the murdered rape victim.  I am going to start with Shelley because we hear the most about her but only see in her in flashbacks until the very end of the film.  We are repeatedly told about the fact that she is raped and suffered for thirty hours until she succumbed to her injuries.  She exists solely to be a victim until Draven can find justice for her by killing her murderers. I guess it would have been too much to have a woman seek her own justice right?  Better to play up the innocent victim.

Being Human U.K. Season Two, Episode Eight: All God's Children

Now that Being Human U.S is on hiatus for the year, we thought it would be a good idea to continue our reviews of Being Human U.K. 

All of God's Children is the final episode of season two and so as you might well imagine, a lot happens.  In episode 7, Mitchell discovered that Lucy, the woman who he had been dating has betrayed him.  He is determined to make her pay for blowing up the vampires and to save George and Nina.  He arrives at Kemp's lair and systematically begins to slaughter the young men working with Kemp.

George, Nina and Annie are quite unaware of what is going on, though George senses that something does not feel right.  He is extremely worried about Mitchell and tells Nina that he is going to leave for a day to find him, but Nina convinces him to stay.  She believes that there will always be a reason to delay the procedure and because Mitchell is a vampire who is over 100 years old, that he should be able to take care of himself. 

George decides to at least give Mitchell a call.  When George calls Mitchell's cell phone, he gets no answer and so he decides to check the messages at the house in case Mitchell left a message there.  What George does not expect is to hear the goodbye message that Annie left for them both.  He is horrified and rushes back to his cell. 

In the meantime, Lucy and Kemp realize that Mitchell is in the building and that he is killing people.  Lucy ties this into the fact that earlier in the day a werewolf that was murdered in the chamber named Amy McBride appeared to her. Kemp reassures her that they did the right thing by removing McBride from the earth.  He sends Lucy down to the basement because Mitchell has already checked there and he believes that he will face Mitchell. Kemp orders that Annie and George be moved to a secure area.

Mitchell outsmarts them and doubles back to the basement where he meets up with Lucy.  They have a very tense conversation in which Mitchell demands to know why Lucy betrayed him.  Lucy minimizes his feelings and points out that he is a vampire and therefore a threat.  Mitchell counters saying that neither of them have any business have a conversation about morality, when they both have blood on their hands. 

George and Nina are about to moved to the secure area when he begs for a moment to see Annie.  George asks Annie why she would do this, and she responds that once he is human that she will be alone, because he will no longer be able to see her.  It seems that she cannot stand the idea of centuries laid out before her with no human contact.  George offers to stay human if it means that she will agree to stay.  Finally, he gets Annie to agree not to leave until they talk again.

George leaves, and both he and Nora get locked into a room.  They have a nice moment playing I spy, until Nora sees some writing on the wall.  The writing is actually a warning, stating that all of the werewolves have died.  At this point, George knows that come what may, they have to get out of there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gil's All Fright Diner By A. Lee Martinez

Duke, who is a werewolf and Earl, who is a vampire -- are travelling together -- when their old truck runs out of gas, in the small southern town of Rockwood, just outside of Gil's All Night Diner.  When they enter Loretta the proprietor and waitress questions them about whether they saw anything weird, but they simply shake their heads.  Duke empties the last of his change asking how much food this will buy him.   When the food finally arrives, Duke begins to eat but his meal is interrupted when zombies break through the restaurant door forcing Duke and Earl to fight them off.

Loretta is upset that once again the  zombies have broken her door and that she is forced to pay for their disposal.  It seems that for the last few weeks, zombies have been making themselves a menace and scaring off customers. Loretta decides to hire Duke and Earl to get rid of he zombies and lay a gasline in the restaurant.

Duke decides that he will handle the gas line and he sends Earl off to deal with the zombies.  When he gets to the graveyard he meets Cathy the guardian.  The last person buried in a cemetery is always forced to guard it and this frees the other ghosts to either wander the earth or go into the hereafter.  Cathy is super excited to see Earl because he can see her, and this means that she has someone to talk to.  Earl is not at all comfortable talking to Cathy at first and her request for a handshake particularly bothers him, because he does not like touching ghosts.

What Duke and Earl do not realize is that they have stumbled into a larger problem than simply zombies rising out of their graves.  Gil's All Night Diner, is located at a gateway which has the potential to release the old Gods into the world.   Tammy who is Asian and is only in Rockwood because her parents adopted her has been busy practising the dark arts. When she is performing magic she demands to be called Mistress Lillith by solitary follower Chad.  Tammy's goal is to get Loretta to give up the diner so that she can open the portal but unfortunately, Chad, while helpful at times, seems to be more interested in getting into her pants.

Review of Charmed Season Two

The best word to describe Charmed is fluff.  With the exception of Prue, the sisters just fall short of being irritated.  After a year of discovering they are the charmed ones and vanquishing demons, and warlocks the sisters have grown closer but they really don't seem to have grown as people with the exception of Phoebe.  Because Phoebe has the only passive power, she learns martial arts.  Ass kicking girl power is extremely old hat in 2012 but in the 90's it was still new and powerful.  The only problem of course is that martial arts is something that takes years to master but Phoebe seems to be come an expert after watching a few videos and taking a self defense class.  It would have been much better if we had seen Phoebe actually evolve into someone with martial arts skill, than to have her show up with it one day to counter the strength of her sisters. 

Phoebe has always been the slightly irresponsible flighty sister.  She moves from low wage job to low wage job trying to find herself.  In season two, Phoebe goes back to college and after what could only be a couple of semesters her point of view experiences a real change.  She is no longer flighty Phoebe but intelligent well rounded Phoebe.  Education she learns in The Painted World is not something that one can just wish for.  Though she ends up finding a solution to the problem without relying on magic to make her smarter, it's this incident that is the impetus for her to go back to school.

In season two we get the love triangle between next door neighbor Dan and Leo the white lighter.  Dan is sweet and king while Leo is unavailable.  I actually find Leo's interest in Piper to be quite creepy.  Leo has been watching over Piper since she was a little girl.  Granted, Piper is now a grown woman and is capable of making her own choices but there is something about Leo watching her and biding his time to enter her life and become her lover that feels predatory.  Leo knows everything about Piper, while she actually knows nothing about him.  There is also the issue of the age difference between them.  Their relationship differs from the typical ancient vampire falling in love with a teenage girl, because of Piper's standing as an adult but for the life of me, beyond magic, I cannot figure out what they could possibly have to talk about.

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 3: What is Dead May Never Die

I will begin by again linking to HBO’s most excellent guide to the 10,000 characters on this show, to help people keep up with who is who.

We begin beyond the wall with Craster evicting the Night’s Watch because Jon Snow the Whiney followed him the last episode. Jon the whiny tries to tell Lord Mormount that Craster is killing all the baby boys – but Mormount already knows. But he’s too useful and too needed for them to condemn him.

We also see Sam pursuing his awkward kindness/courting of Gilly with a thimble – something from his mother. It’s actually a very strong, emotional scene and well done – I was expecting much worse.

In Winterfell Bran’s dreams continue – dreaming of being a Dire Wolf which remind him of stories of men who could ride the body of animals – though Master Luwin doesn’t believe in them or the dream he shared with Rickon about Ned’s death. We also get a nice little bit of backstory about the Maester’s chains – and showing that he has studied magic, but that magic doesn’t exist

We move to a new location – the court of King Renly and another tournament where we see the woman knight, Brienne defeat Ser Loras, the Knight of Flowers who, in return, asks for a place in Renly’s kingsguard. And Lady Catelyn the Spunky is there to meet Renly (and his new wife, Margaery of House Tyrell, Loras’s sister) on behalf of Rob, King in the North. There are some attempts to snipe at Catelyn (some particularly catty comments by Loras Tyrrell) but she holds her own admirably.

Renly has 2 of the 7 kingdoms behind him, the Stormlands (House Baratheon) and the Reach (House Tyrell, High Garden) and a huge army; but Catelyn finds them too soft and gentle people.

Later we join Loras and Renly in bed – at last, after episode after episode of breasts we have the 2 gay men in bed together. Except after 10 seconds of kissing, Loras gets pouty and whiny – and points out that Renly needs to sleep with Margaery (Loras’ sister, Renly’s wife) to consummate their relationship. So Margaery arrives and, lo, there are the breasts. Of course. It’s obvious that Renly isn’t even slightly interested – and that Marjorie is well aware of the relationship between Renly and Loras. And we learn that Margaery is far far more crafty than we imagined.

In the Pyke Theon confronts his sister, Yarna, (who shares their father’s contempt for him). Balon’s plan is to attack the north – Winterfell, pillaging and conquering the north while the armies of Winterfell are south fighting the Lannisters. Theon is bitter because he is given a single ship to raid with, rather than a fleet like Yarna. Theon tries to convince them to ally with the North – but his talk of pledging fealty doesn’t go down well with the proud and independent Greyjoys

After much deliberation and considering warning Rob, Theon re-pledges himself to the cruel, uncompromising Drowned God, the god of the Iron Isles. He also changes his wardrobe and looks 10 times rougher, it’s a really well done transformation

In Kings Landing we join Tyrion the awesome and Shea – and Shea resenting how Tyrion keeps her locked up and hidden. And Shea keeps slapping Tyrion down awesomely as he tries to use his clever words to get round her – refusing to accept she’s too foolish to understand and refusing to be regarded as a weakness.

Meanwhile Sansa is having a meal with Cersei and her 2 younger children – talking about Sansa’s wedding day. And we see what gentle, nice children Joffrey’s younger siblings are, and how impossible a situation Sansa is in.

Later Shae goes to Sansa as her new handmaiden – it seems Tyrion has found a compromise. Except Shea has no idea how to be a handmaiden and Sansa has no patience to teach her. Meanwhile Tyrion is being crafty and checking which of his advisors are trustworthy – telling Pycelle that he plans to marry Princess Marcella to the Princess of Dorne, Varys that he wants to marry Princess Marcella to Theon Greyjoy and Petyr that he plans to marry her to Robin of the Vale; all with strict instructions not to tell the queen. Notably, Petyr is someone who needs to be bribed – with lordship of the Riverlands and Lord of Haranhal.

Naturally Cersei hears this and brings her fury down on Tyrion – for trying to send her daughter to Dorne, proving Pycelle doesn’t keep secrets. Time to confront Pycelle (and his prostitute). Pycelle tries to blame Varys but it’s clearly Pycelle – and he’s sent to a cell. Petyr is also very very vexed at being used but Tyrion has other plans for him. He also discusses matters with Varys who has some extremely clever riddles and ideas (y’know, I kind of like Varys).

And we check in with Arya on the road north, and Arya having nightmares over Ned’s execution and talks with the Night Watch guide. It’s another one of those powerful emotional scenes that Game of Thrones is very very good at doing. But more soldiers have arrived – and the guide is killed, but not before he takes some down with him. The boys headed for the Night Watch are captured, Arya frees the prisoners – and saves Gendry by telling the guards that it was one of the dead who was Gendry.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast, Epsiode 62

This week we discuss the season finale of Being Human, Game of Thrones and our book of the week, Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen We also discuss Fantasy worlds including prejudices from the real world with no good reason or justification

Review: One Salt Sea, by Seanan McGuire, Book 5 of the October Daye Series

October Daye, the new Countess of Goldengreen has a new mission and never has so much rested on her.

The children of the Duchess of Saltmist, an Undersea realm bordering the Kingdom of Mists, have been kidnapped. Worse, the suggestion is that the Kingdom of Mists is involved – war is very much in the air. But it’s a war the Kingdom of Mists will not be able to win – and even if they did, the cost in immortal fae lives would be far too high.

The only chance to stop a war is to find the children – unharmed – and find out who has taken them and why. But on a more personal stake, October’s own daughter has also gone missing – and the same perpetrator is indicated. Saving the children now includes saving her own, mainly human, daughter as well.

There are few distractions from this main plot in this book – despite the running of Goldengreen and her knew squire – October has a kingdom (and children) to save in a mystery that takes her to the bottom of the ocean, confronts old enemies, follows a long path of clues and calls upon all her friends and allies to help.

The world building of this series continues to be amazing – and draws me in each book with as thirst to know more, especially now the whole concept of Undersea has opened up. Even almost-throwaway things like the origins of the Selkies are beautiful rich additions to an extremely varied and well planned world. I get a really huge sense of vast numbers of notes, maps, biographies and histories on Seanan McGuire’s desk that goes into making this amazing world.

The story itself is extremely well balanced and paced. There’s a maintained urgency without rushing and the story blurring. We take the time to be fully exposed to the emotional impact and consequences of what is happening without maundering around or getting bored by it or reduced to yelling “just rescue them already!” at the book. It’s well put together between emotional depth and exciting action with revelations coming often enough to keep things interesting without them being cheap or overwhelming.

And all of it was well written – the emotional scenes were strong and painful, the sense of tension and threat and the looming horror of war was fully presented and conveyed, the pain of the parents, the sheer amount at stake was all powerfully presented without being excessive or melodramatic

The story itself has sufficient clues and twists to keep it interesting as a mystery without so many that it becomes lost and convoluted – there are no loose ends, no excess distraction and the investigation is actually sensible and reasonable rather than relying on coincidences or random leaps of logic – again, a really well balanced story with the mystery and the logic working well together even in a world of fae and magic.

If I had one quibble about the story it would be that fairly early in the books the Duchess of Saltmist realises and seems to believe that her children have not been kidnapped by the Queen of Mists or her agents – so I’m not entirely sure why she is pursuing the war and imposing such a tight deadline on it as well.

Dresden Files, Season 1, Episode 3: Hair of the Dog

We open rather dramatically with a man running for his life in a park from something that growls, has claws and catches him at a stone monument – the camera pans away before the no-doubt grisly end.

Dresden is busy buying herbs from an Asian woman (yes, it had to be, didn’t it? On TV only Asian people grow herbs. It is known) before being called by Murphy to go and see the mauled body that has had its hair and canine teeth removed – but the body we see is a woman, not a man. There is no male body. She’s the second body that has been mutilated like this.

They do find blood at the monument whether the man was cornered. And we get to interview Heather, the room mate who happens to have dropped round to the park – but she does tell them Mina (the dead woman) was on a date that night.

At the autopsy Murphy is told that the blood on the statue isn’t hers – it’s a man’s. And that the dead woman had silver powder (from old fashioned film development) in her nose and lungs. But she is interrupted when she finds Special Agent Raskin, an FBI agent from Miami investigating a serial killer is linking Mina’s to the previous deaths and taking over the investigation.

Harry has his own methods of investigating – bringing Bob out to look at the blood. By touching the blood he can assume the form of the people it came from. He reveals what the man looks like – and that the woman was a werewolf who died tasting silver. Bob posits that the man was defending himself from a werewolf hunting him, but Harry points out that he came with silver ready and that he took teeth and hair – so who was hunting who. We have a quick cameo to the man cleaning his wound over the 8 locks of hair he had collected.

Harry goes to check up with Murphy to confirm the silver and runs into the Special Agent who is, obviously, not especially happy to deal with a wizard – and is quick to push Harry out. Harry won’t take that and decides to interview Heather instead (with a rather hokey speech about unexplained things that she can’t discuss with the police). In a club one night Heather and Mina went to, something odd happened -  Mina got into a fight in which she was scratched (or bitten: the marks apparently could be either) in a fight with a woman at the bar. It was the bar where she met the man she was dating

They go on a little trip to the bar where it all happened allowing Dresden to take a mirror from the bar and then use a spell on it and Heather to review what happened in the bar – and to see the woman: Special Agent Raskin.

That’s when the FBI comes into to arrest Harry and bundle Heather off into a car with Agent Raskin – who then bites heather with wolfy fangs. Harry gets interviewed by Special Agent Harry Bushnell – the man who the werewolf was chasing. They found silver powder in his apartment (somehow managing to get a search warrant for it) and are arresting him for all of the murders.

In prison Harry is visited by Murphy and Harry asks about Raskin’s past – including a breakdown in Bosnia (presumably when she was bitten). He tells Murphy his suspicions about the 2 FBI agents – but all of the evidence from the crime scene has disappeared so they have no more blood to compare to Bushnell’s – in itself suspicious and pointing the fingers. He worries that heather is now in their hands

Speaking of – we switch to Heather hallucinating and dreaming about Mina who advises her to find Dresden to get help. But she’s being held prisoner by Agent Bushnell. They plan on releasing heather into the park and killing her after she turns. They need to kill heather as part of a ritual to cure Agent Raskin of lycanthropy – to bring her back, at least so Bushnell says before Heather uses her werewolf strength to send him flying. Agent Raskin, meanwhile, has gone to the prison to kill Harry – only to find him sat silently and the cell door unlocked – and the Harry there is just an illusion. Wizards are hard to hold.

Back to Harry’s shop, Dresden finds the FBI has pretty much torn it apart, which doesn’t amuse him. But they completely missed his hidden lab with Bob. Between them they confirm that there is a ritual – if you kill 9 werewolves of the same bloodline then you can cure lycanthropy.

Then Heather arrives, ill and sick and turning – and yes she tells Harry she has been bitten. Bob urges harry to use silver spikes to kill her but Harry refuses – telling Bob to get out. But Heather is turning and is losing control. Harry and heather work desperately to strengthen her control – and Harry reveals he knows lycanthropes who have managed to control themselves and live with lycanthropy.

Face Off: Worst Idea Ever.

'Jester' photo (c) 2006, Michael Neel - license:
So, one of the most common things we’ve complained about from Urban Fantasy protagonists is that they don’t always act in an entirely sensible fashion. In fact, sometimes we have run the risk of damaging our e-readers throwing them at the wall in sheer disgust.

After much debate we just can’t decide which protagonist has had the worst possible idea - so we have to face off some of the finalists! Honestly we looked at a list of many many many Spunky protagonists but they just didn’t compare with these 4 - these are the Elite Spunkies

Elena from CW The Vampire Diaries

Elena spent most of the summer searching for Stefan her vampire boyfriend who had gone rogue.  After much hand twisting she learns that he is on top of a mountain where the werewolves have gathered to shift and hunt as a group during full moon. Elena could have waited until after the full moon to go but no. That would have involved far too much common sense and so she dragged Alaric, and Damon up the mountain. Would you believe that they were actually attacked by werewolves? I'm shocked, really.

Of course, a particularly bad element of this foolishness is that it drags others along with her - they can’t abandon her and are forced to follow her silly self into ridiculous peril.

Rose from The Vampire Academy Series

Rose is absolutely destroyed after the man that she loves Dimitri  is turned into a strigoi.  She is desperate to free him from his fate and decides to travel to Russia to find him.  She knows that he is from a very small town somewhere in Siberia. She takes off for Russia and somehow despite the size of the country she not only manages to find his family, but Dimitiri himself.  She must have stopped by the Palin house for directions, because with being able to see Russia from her house she must have intimate knowledge of Russian geography.

In fact, this whole situation can be summed up with this wonderful drawing from Chai Latte