Saturday, November 23, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Season 1, Episode 6: Who's Alice

The White Rabbit has dug his portal to Jafar so he can find someone Alice cares about – and he emerges in London. Old timey London anyway. He asks a witness to this emerging from the ground with an animated bunny the direction to Bethlem – after a moment of stuttering, good manners takes over and the man gives Jafar directions. Followed by Jafar assaulting him for his clothes.

Jafar, newly attired arrives in Bethlem posing as a doctor to consult with Dr. Lydgate – Alice’s doctor. He brings up Alice and Dr. Lydgate claims ignorance and becomes agitated (since he saw a lot when Alice escaped) and he certainly wishes to deny seeing a talking rabbit. Especially when Jafar opens his bag and shows him – the White Rabbit. Poor Dr. Lydgate, he’s tried so hard to deny the impossible. Jafar wants to know everything Dr. Lydgate knows about Alice – and as a man trained to get inside heads, that should be a lot.

In Wonderland, the Red Queen arrives at Jafar’s tower to find everyone gone – the guards, Jafar and the genie. Only the other prisoner remains – she batters him around a bit to get him to talk and he claims that Jafar took Cyrus with him. The Red Queen is no fool, Cyrus’s cage has been cut open, Jafar would have opened the door. Thwarted in his lies, the prisoner resorts to sappiness – Cyrus has the power of True Love! The greatest power of all….. Yeah, I kind of think a 12 gauge could make pretty short work of even the truest love, personally.

Cyrus has climbed down the tower and uses his genie powers to hone in on Alice’s necklace – and heads towards her. Alice, of course, isn’t standing still and is making her way towards the tower though is accosted by two bandits who exposition that she’s heading for the Black Forest before she beats them both up.

We flash back to a year before in Victorian England with Alice returning from Wonderland crying over having lost Cyrus. She is found by a little girl called Millie and her father, who is rather shocked to see her. Shocked to see her alive as well after years of her absence – while she’s been gone he has remarried and Millie is her new little sister.

Present! And Alice enters the Black Forest, walking past numerous warning signs and remarking “seems like an awful waste of wood when one sign would do.” This may be the most perfect line ever and had me cackling for quite a long time afterwards. She comes to a wall of liquid darkness that ripples like water when she touches it – she goes through.

Poor Knave staggers around until he finds someone to borrow water from (he says he’s been stoned, the old man remarks that he has been at the wrong stuff. This episode is really hitting the one liners). He runs into the two bandits Alice just beat up and they direct him towards the Black Forest.

Alice, walking through the Black Forest, grows increasingly more nervous and afraid, surrounded by ominous sounds – until her torch gutters and go outs. But the blackness is pierced by a bright, white light. Think it’s the exit, Alice runs towards it and emerges into a beautiful flowered grove filled with purple scents. There is the Carpenter who tells her she’s in the Borrow Grove. He encourages her to stay in the beautiful grove and bask in the sun – she becomes very confused trying to think of a reason why she shouldn’t. She forgets, drops her sword and is mesmerised by the beautiful grove.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Season 1, Episode 5: Heart of Stone

Starting flashback – the Knave and Red Queen (or Will and Anastasia at this point) all prepared to run off together when Anastasia’s mother arrives disapproving most strongly of her match with a “loser”. She spent her whole life working to help Anastasia climb the social ladder (by marrying well – a nobleman, she doesn’t think Anastasia is princess material) and now she’s going to marry a thief. Her mother tells her that she can’t live on love and if she comes back it will be as a servant.

In the present the Red Queen is messing around near the edge of a precipice and Alice is concerned about the new Statue Knave getting cold and puts a blanket on him. She mopes about not knowing what to do or even where Cyrus is – and the Red Queen appears; she knows where Cyrus is. Alice rejects her help but the Red Queen knows where the genie is and tells Alice to get down off her high horse so they can make a deal. They have a shared problem – Jafar; the Red Queen calls him a means to an end but she needs a way to protect herself from him once she reaches that end.

The Red Queen wants some dust that will protect her from dark magic – a near suicidal quest. Alice gets her that and the Red Queen will show Alice Jafar’s hidden tower – which is shrouded by magic and impossible to find otherwise.

In the Tower, Cyrus’s fellow prisoner is returned to his cell after being forced to drag giant rocks up a staircase (hi, Sisyphus!) who also has something Jafar wants, though he says Jafar will never get it. Cyrus shows the hole in the bottom of his cell he’s carved – today’s the day they escape. The old man is worried about the guards and Jafar’s craftiness but Cyrus is all optimistic and hopeful and no-one deserves to be a prisoner! (What about murderers?). He escapes – and kicks the guard into the pit the cages are suspended over

Flashback to Will and Anastasia, struggling to find food and make a life for themselves in Wonderland. They hear from a passing baker that there’s a ball at the palace – Anastasia wants to go; a bit of fun gatecrashing. Once they “borrow” Anastasia a new dress.

To the present with the Red Queen giving Alice a lift in her carriage to the place the dust is and Alice threatening the Queen. Alice wants to know exactly what the Queen wants but they just go round in circles of wealth not buying everything and everyone comes to Wonderland looking for something (and she snarks at Alice wanting her father’s love)

The Red Queen isn’t the only one who can plot –  Jafar has one of his minions deliver the White Rabbit to him, curious as to why the Rabbit would betray Alice. He’ll sort out the Rabbit’s debt to the Queen if the Rabbit spills everything about Alice and everyone she’s ever loved so Jafar can force her to use more wishes.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 5, Episode 8: Dead Man on Campus

Dr. Maxfield is experimenting on his captured Jesse vampire and feeding him “Augustine blood” (whatever that is). Interesting new development – Augustine blood makes vampires super strong! Either that or he’s just grossly underestimated the strength of an actual vampire and hi bonds are far too weak. Either way, the doc becomes snack food.

To college! Where Bonnie is lampshading how ridiculously huge their dorm room is and excitedly telling her mother all about being in college (and how, y’know, she spent all summer away somewhere even during her dad’s funeral – but let’s move speedily past that). Caroline and Elena arrive with supplies for Bonnie’s welcome party and wave the booze around while Bonnie calls it low key (I so would do the same). After the call ends, Caroline and Elena also fill in the exposition in case you missed last episode – Bonnie is the anchor to the other side, technically a ghost and no longer a witch any more.

They plan to have a massive party to celebrate absolutely everything (and because it has been WEEKS since they last had a big social scene) and quickly recap Bonnie on what’s been happening (though Bonnie has been ghostly stalking them out of sheer boredom and even her afterlife revolving around them) including a reference to the Augustine secret society (Founder’s Council #2)

Oh and they’re not just going to move to another college without a Founder’s Council #2 because… reasons.

Bonnie makes her excuses to go make out with Jeremy – even though Caroline and Elena see through the excuse and find it hilarious and laughable, Bonnie still isn’t massively comfortable parading a relationship with Elena’s baby brother in front of her. Nor does she particularly find Damon’s house ideal to meet either – so it’s in the park where an older woman in borderline hippie-clothes can stare at her like she’s just been poleaxed by a ballistic salmon – but Jeremy doesn’t see her. A ghost? Wouldn’t Jeremy see a ghost? Isn’t that his thing?

Bonnie heads off quickly, making excuses but the old woman follows her and says “I’m ready” and grabs Bonnie’s arm, disappearing. Bonnie collapses in pain – it’s another dead supernatural passing on to the Otherside through her.

Elena, meanwhile, calls Damon to drag him to the party and tries to get Aaron to come as well. Either because she’s extremely pushy and has no concept of when a guy is desperate for her to just leave him alone, or because she has so few friends that this party is going to more deserted than a Miley Cyrus dance school. Elena tells him he’s just pushing people away as he told her at the last party – except she compelled that out of him and then made him forget. Oopsie – quick compulsion including compelling him to come to her party. She also tells Damon to invite Stefan despite him remembering everything and hating them. Stefan isn’t up for a party because he’s having traumatic flashbacks and damaging the furnishings

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bitten Sneak Peak

Bitten will be coming to Syfy on January 13th. We've been a fan of Kelley Armstrong's books, so we're interested in seeing how this adaptation works

Revolution Season Two: Episode Nine: Everyone Says I Love You

Charlie loads a gun and says that she saw an access on the roof.  Charlie, Miles and Rachel discuss going in to save Aaron, Cynthia and Gene, with Rachel saying that they have no choice.  They prepare to move and Miles suddenly stops. When Rachel checks, she sees a field patriot soldiers.  When Miles checks the pulse of one soldier, he discovers that they are not dead, just out cold.  They head to the front door which is ajar and make their way through the building to find more soldiers passed out. Miles wonders if the soldiers were gassed and Rachel wonders where Gene is.  Charlie hunches down to check out some prints and surmises that Aaron was there.  Miles questions if Aaron knocked out 40 guys and then strolls out.  Charlie takes the lead and they follow Aaron's footprints into a room.  They find a big hole in the wall, as some of the soldiers start to regain consciousness.  They decide to leave before they are discovered.

At at the train station, Roger is complaining about having to bring both Neville and Jason on his security detail.  Neville of course claims that he only wants to be of service.  When Roger points out that Jason is an escapee, Neville deftly reminds Roger that he helped him with his little problem. When Roger walks away, Neville informs Jason that they are going to the White House.

Horn is preparing a syringe when he is interrupted by a Patriot soldier informing him that they believe Aaron just walked out through the tunnels. Horn comments that there is no end to the surprises with Aaron.

Charlie, Miles and Rachel are outside the town walls and Miles wonders what the Patriots are doing with a tunnel like that.  Charlie suggests they follow the trail and Miles questions if Aaron is responsible for the foggy day.  Rachel then says that she has to go back and get Gene.  Miles points out that the Patriots are going to be looking for Aaron and adds that can go looking for Gene after they find Aaron.  Miles says that he is totally out of his depth.  Rachel points out that Gene might be dead but Miles argues that if Gene is, he did it to save them so they could save Aaron.  In the distance, they hear a horse neigh and hide in the bushes, as Patriot soldiers go riding by with Horn in a wagon.

Aaron awakes in a high school and sees Cynthia unconscious a few feet away.  Aaron checks for a pulse and then notices that the wound on Cynthia's abdomen has healed.  Aaron questions whether he did this and then suddenly hears a noise.  Aaron stands and moves about the room to investigate and runs into a little boy. The boy claims to live at the school and says that Aaron walked in carrying Cynthia.  Apparently, Aaron has no memory of this.

Monroe is hiding in the woods watching the Patriots.  In another area, Charlie reveals that she has lost Aaron's trail.  Charlie, Rachel and Miles stop walking as three Patriots head towards them. Charlie throws her knife and they manage to subdue a soldier but not before he gets a shot off, warning the other soldiers.  Miles, Charlie and Rachel turn to find a soldier pointing a rifle at them but before they can react, Monroe sneaks up and slits the soldiers throat. Monroe says, "I'm Batman" and they all take off into the woods. Was that supposed to be comic relief? If so, it failed miserably.

On the train, Roger approaches Jason to find out where Neville is. Neville has gone up front to find out why the train is stopping.  Roger retreats and Neville returns.  Neville looks out the window and watches as man kisses Julia, the wife Neville thought was dead.

Aaron has Cynthia's head on his lap and he gives her some water as the boy watches.  Aaron tells the boy that he looks familiar and asks where his parents are.  The boy says that he is from Oklahoma and is looking for his parents. What they don't know is that a Patriot soldier is looking in the window at them.

Horn starts to hear voices and is interrupted by a soldier who suggests that they should wait until the fog lifts and the scouts report.  Horn says no and instructs the man to get back to town and tell Truman to send every man he's got.  Horn adds that he is out of time but does not explain what he means.

The group has returned to Monroe's hiding spot and Miles wants to know what happened.  Monroe replies that he did the best that he could. Miles suggests that Monroe's best sucks. Monroe makes it clear that the reason he saved Miles is his son and demands to know where he is.  Miles shows Monroe his infected arm and Monroe checks and discovers that Miles has a fever.  When Monroe suggests that Miles needs a doctor, Miles points out that he is having a hard time swinging a sword and adds that he needs Monroe. Monroe insists that Miles needs help and that Aaron is not worth dying over. Monroe tells Miles that he has gone soft and says that this is not his problem. Miles tells Monroe that if he doesn't help, he will never help him find his kid.  In the backroom, Rachel talks about how she left things with Gene and says that she needs to talk to him.  Rachel tells Charlie that she loves her. Monroe tells Charlie and Rachel that they should go and find Staypuff. That was a nasty little bit of fat shaming Aaron. 

Six years before the blackout, Miles is dressed in military gear heading into the station when Rachel arrives and questions why he didn't say goodbye. Miles shakes his head no and says that they cannot keep doing this.  Miles says that Ben is his brother and that he is a smart good man, who is better for Rachel.  Miles suggests that Rachel start a family with Ben and be happy.  Rachel questions if this is how he really feels and adds that all he has to do is say that he loves her and she will leave Ben and wait for him. Miles says that he doesn't love Rachel and she tells him that she doesn't believe him.  Miles turns and leaves a teary Rachel behind.

The Tomorrow People, Season 1, Episode 7: Limbo

There’s apparently a “lunatic” on the loose. So much so that a man is escorting people from a building to the subway or their cars. But one woman doesn’t want to wait for him to come back – to be fair, she can actually see her car. Seriously, she could throw a rock and hit it, so being escorted, say, 50 feet does seem a little silly (or he could escort her first).

Anyway, of course she is accosted on the way – by a man who disappears from one place and appears in another. She tries to pepper spray him and he reflects it back – and teleports away with her.

Stephen wakes up in a hotel room and reaches out telepathically for Cara. Who is in the bathroom and having a massive case of the regrets.

And at HQ, John and Russell are back from their road trip and John has even bought her a present. Feel that guilt churn! She also claims she was in a hotel for “me” time – right before Irene and Tim arrive with news of a breakout to cut the awkward: the man who sexually assaults women. Cara is shocked that one of them can become a rapist and has a bit of a rethink of the whole “homo superior” thing. John points out that their powers make them more powerful, not more moral but Cara seems to have been really invested in the whole idea of them being better people, especially with her history.
They decide to go after the guy because they’re better than Ultra and may get him before another woman is attacked – but they need Ultra’s intel so John suggests Cara contact Stephen. AWKWARDNESS!

At Ultra, we have a new character giving Stephen grief for killing his partners – repeatedly. He says “you’re too young, too green and your partners end up dead” no lies detective – except he missed the part where Stephen is so obviously a double agent that it’s amazing everyone doesn’t burst out laughing at the idea it’s even a secret. Jedikiah interrupts to tell them about the rapist and shockingly is more upset about exposure than women being raped. Stephen is shocked and appalled that his evil uncle is evil despite endless proof of said man’s evil and has a little tantrum. He also adds more angst for killing agents (in the evil organisation that you are supposed to be actively sabotaging, remember Stephen) and Jedikiah gives him time off and reminds him that quitting gets him killed (since Stephen seems to have forgotten the whole evil thing yet again).

John drops in to learn Stephen is being given time off for stress – and Stephen adds that it’s extra stressful keeping his secret identity! I KNOW! He actually believes his being a double agent is still somehow secret?!

At school, Stephen is keeping up his angst marathon about how he breaks everything and Astrid advises him to have a little fun with his powers (and try not to listen to classmates thinking they have crabs). This involves playing basketball and stealing a scene from Teen Wolf (the original movie) where he uses his special powers to make his team win despite being apparently underclassed (the ones supposed to be good athletes appear to be Black men while the lesser athletes are either women or unfit white men – there’s some lazy coding there). Downside is, the coach pushes him to join the team since several of his normal players are out.

American Horror Story, Season 3, Episode 7: The Dead

Opening flashback with Kyle before he was zombiefied and his not!dead rapist frat mates in a tattoo shop. His friends are arseholes, which is no surprise to anyone, and Kyle wastes time telling them his dream of becoming an engineer and why that’s important. Ultimately we see that Kyle adamantly refused to get a tattoo because it could ruin those hopes while the rest of his fratmates got them.

And back to the present with Zombie!Kyle chained up – and because his is frankenzombieKyle he has his friend’s tattoos on the limbs Madison and Zoe replaced. Zombie!kyle cries and screams incoherently – and Zoe watches from a distance with a  gun hidden behind her back. She goes to him and tells him she should have let him go, she shouldn’t have brought him back – he killed his mother and there’s only one way to fix that (dance on her grave?) all while Kyle cowers away from her – until he grabs the gun off her. He puts the gun in his mouth…

And she runs over, takes the gun and throws it away, shooting out a window and then holds him. Zoe, you need to make your mind up because you’re giving some seriously mixed signals here.

On to Madison with a surprisingly good monologue. How she spent her life trying not to feel pain, to ignore pain, how she threw herself into her raucous lifestyle so hard and so strong to try and stop feeling any pain from her broken movie star life and terrible parents. How she was so driven to avoid anything like a negative emotion that she was gang raped and the next day pretended nothing had happened.

And now, as a zombie, she is drinking every spell component Cordelia has to try and feel something, anything, even pain. She tried to burn herself to feel something other than the “eternal silence inside of her”.  She talks about her eating disorders and how even they are not evoking anything in her.

Queenie goes to the kitchen to find food but, of course, Madison has cleared the place out. She’s joined by LaLaurie who is also hungry so they decide to go out and get drive-through. Seriously, LaLaurie and Queenie are going on a food trip together? Please reverse this budding friendship before I have to vomit on my screen. Despite being slightly confused by the recorded voice, LaLaurie even makes a friendly joke about supersizing the order. Over their food they joke and Queenie does have some good lines when LaLaurie makes a crack about her weight and says she doesn’t mean to give offense Queenie replies that “but she always does.” Her not meaning to doesn’t matter. And when LaLaurie falls back on the whole being out of time excuse Queenie hits back then – she’s confused, well so is Queenie: “I come from Detroit to join my sister witches and instead is sitting in a fastfood parking lot at 3:00am with an immortal racist.”

So very true.  LaLaurie also tells Queenie the other witches will never accept her as a sister to them because she’s Black “black as coal”. Which doesn’t anger Queenie, but it does sadden her.

Abusive Tropes are not Romantic

'Ball and chain' photo (c) 2006, Simon Law - license:

Though each book is supposed to be new and unique, invariably paranormal romance, like it’s bigger cousin conventional romance often ends up following the same patterns. Obviously all fiction has its tropes and there are certain patterns which, while they may be overdone, are not necessarily damaging. For example, there is the obvious boy meets girl, girl hates boy, problem arises, they overcome the misunderstanding and live happily every after screwing their brains out for eternity

These books are meant to sell us on the idea of romance and the inevitability of true love. However, some of these tropes are less benign and that path to true love can often be highly misogynist which is either expressed through characterisation or placing the female protagonist in untenable situations, even outright abusive situations - where she should be calling the police while running away screaming. Yes, these are not meant to be more than fantasy but this does not excuse the horrible messages that are repeatedly sent.

While we have addressed many individual elements that uphold abusive relationships, it is when we see several of these troublesome elements come together that the full scale of the problem becomes clear.

1) The Inexperienced/virginal woman is an absolute favourite. This places the man in dominant position because he is more sexually experienced and inevitably suggests that the perfect woman, is the woman who is pure. Let’s have a look at a few characters which we were introduced to as virgins: Sookie Stackhouse (Charlaine Harris) Bella Swan (Stephanie Meyer) Cassandra Palmer (Karen Chance) Clary Fray (Cassandra Clare) Chrysabelle (Kristen Painter) Cindy Spencer Pape - 4 out of 5 of the female protagonists, Damali (L.A. Banks), many of the female love interests in Lyndsay Sands Argeneu series. This long list of doesn’t even include the penchant for the gently used protagonist, who has had few experiences and is, of course, tortured to some degree over it (see Anita Blake before Laurell K Hamilton discovered that porn sells). The woman must always explain why she has not saved her virginity whereas this is an acceptable status quo for the man and any sexual experience she has had will have been deeply inferior and unsatisfactory (as if bad sex gives one honourable virginity). Virginity or little experience is always stressed and yet these women moan and carry on (supposedly in pleasure and not pain) about being penetrated with 12 inch penises as round as tree stumps.  

2) Centuries Old, Powerful Love interest: To contrast with the virginal purity of the protagonist, her love interest will have been around for years, sometimes centuries, boffing away at anything that moved. He will be experienced, he will be skilled, sometimes supernaturally skilled, he will teach her and show her and open her eyes (and other places). Yes, this fits the usual fantasy elements of the romance story - shouldn’t the love interest be the epitome of excellent sexual prowess? But it’s a power imbalance - his experience, his skills contrast sharply with her complete “innocence”. Her ignorance and sheltered life leaves her prey to being coaxed into “expanding her horizons” whatever reservations she may have and inevitably puts him in the driving seat of their love life.

And he will often be more powerful than her as well, especially if he is a supernatural creature. The power imbalance is pushed wide open by centuries old, supernatural monsters seducing inexperienced teenagers in school, women - or girls - who are utterly helpless and dramatically fragile in contrast.

3) The Woman is Isolated: This common trope in a lot of Paranormal Romance (or Urban Fantasy with strong romance elements) repeatedly brings us women who have few people in their lives. It’s a running joke that parents are an endangered species in the genre - given the number of orphans running around (Sookie in the Sookie Stackhouse Series, Elena in The Vampire Diaries, Nikki in the Nikki and Michael series, Elena - in fact, a number of female protagonists, in Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, Tessa in The Infernal Devices, Gaby in Hopeless - the list goes on) and an equal number of characters who have either absent or inadequate parents (Bella Swan’s absent mother and out of depth father in Twilight, Clary’s comatose mother in The Mortal Instruments).

Similarly, many of these women do not have friends or many friends (many of the female characters in the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and many of the female characters in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter Series) - they are often considered outcasts or freaks (like Sookie) or don’t fit in to their respected worlds (Sookie, Elena from Women of the Otherworld).

These isolated women are inherently vulnerable - they lack protectors and advocates, they lack people who are ready and able to warn of dubious behaviour, they lack second opinions and they lack safety nets.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jinx by Alice Rozen

10 year old Jinx is just that - a jinx, terrible bad luck follows her around and leaves her very much the outsider.

When her long lost mother – her long lost demonic mother – arrives so much more comes clear for the young witch as she’s gifted with her grimoire and good friend and bodyguard (alas, no broomstick). Things are looking up this Hallowe’en.

Such gifts were just in time – because there’s dark magic afoot this Hallowe’en and the whole town is left in an enchanted sleep; it’s down to Jinx to save the day.

I made a mistake accepting this book for a review. I read over the email a little too quickly and focused on the GBLT character and said yes. Then the next day I looked back and realised I just accepted a children’s book.  Oh dear. Well, I’d agreed and I don’t go back on that – so I took a deep breath and turned to the book

I wish all of my mistakes could end so fortuitously.

It is a children’s book – meaning it is accessible to children. Parts of it are pretty simple and simplified, it’s not long and it’s not too twisty. But nor is it patronising, simplistic or boring – in fact it’s more than passable as a YA book or more, if it weren’t for the protagonist being 10. I think it’s accessible for children but unless you went in expecting a children’s book you wouldn’t know it.

And I enjoyed it.

The plot was fun (if a trifle unbelievable in places – like how quickly Jinx accepted her heritage or her random exploration of someone’s house). It was funny, it was witty, it was clever and it had some interesting original elements and plenty of imagination. The word use was excellently chosen and still very accessible and the whole thing was a joy.

And I love Jinx, I would read more of this series for Jinx. I would read a YA series with an older Jinx. I would read an adult series with a still older Jinx. I love Jinx.

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 2: Skin

A man and a beautiful woman are together in a hotel room – she in her underwear and, as the conversation progresses, it’s clear she’s a sex worker. She keeps offering to have fun but he seems more interested in testing her, using devices to check her mouth and a light to scan her skin (she assumes for STDs). There’s a camera in the room and at the other end a man is watching several monitors showing men and women together (presumably other sex workers) and his attention is drawn by the man’s scanning her (not by the other… more distracting images). He turns up the audio and blows up the image. He calls his boss, Andrei, and shows him the video –speaking in what seems to be an Eastern European language.

Andrei makes a call, two men arrive at the hotel, spraying themselves with an aerosol that makes their faces appear as white cut-outs to CCTV. They go to the room and kill the man with the sex worker; scanning and taking hair samples is a big no-no it seems. They check his ID - the driver’s license on the dead man says Sebastian Jones – and then leave with the sex worker; leaving behind a device the explodes and coats the room in stranger, white-green light.

John and Dorian arrive on the scene and a group of kids are impressed to see a “bot”; Dorian impresses them by showing the lights on the side of his face. They seem pretty disappointed by boring old human John – who tries to impress them by stabbing his synthetic leg. Yes, that doesn’t go down well, with all the screaming. Community policing isn’t his strong point. As Dorian points out, he hasn’t even been a child and he knows that would scare one and tells John he has negative energy that kids can sense (and cats). Leaving John having to defend his issues with cats.

Banter aside, they reach the room and that bomb was apparently a DNA bomb, tainting any evidence in the room – along with special silenced bullets and “flash masks” for the CCTV. Examining the footage they do have, Dorian sees that the woman is an android.

Back at the precinct they join Detective Valerie and Captain Sandra to look up Sebastian Jones – he’s a sexbot maker (engaging in industrial espionage it seems) with no criminal record and Dorian and John keep up the banter – that’s definitely beginning to grow on me. All sexbots have to be registered, apparently but the woman in then hotel room isn’t on file. Sebastian is apparently a pioneer at his trade and Richard-the-always-awful praises his work, Valerie tries to shame him by suggesting he has experience but Richard has no shame about it and sees no reason to be ashamed. According to Sandra, violence in the sex trade is down considerably since the sexbots had been introduced.

Despite that success, Sebastian is bankrupt, his company bust and all his assets are in storage by a repo company – next stop, that storage unit where they find a number of deactivated sexbots and plans for more as well as papers showing that Sebastian was being sued. John gets a call from Valerie – while the guys left no DNA, every surface the sexbot touched left the DNA of a woman called Nicole who was kidnapped in a car park.

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 7: Bad Boys

Opening in rural New York with some kids playing in a barn at night before an old man tries to get them inside to bed; only the dark barn suddenly becomes extremely cold. His torch stops working and his tractor starts up by itself and runs into him, impaling him on the spikey bits at the front (what? Like I know anything about agricultural machinery!)

At the Winchester cave Sam is trying to get a private moment to read an Oz book when Dean gets a call from someone called Sonny calling him “D-Dawg”. Turns out when they were kids, Dean once farmed Sam off on Bobby and disappeared for a while when he was 16 – not on a hunt: but he’d lost the money their dad had left them on a card game and resorted to stealing which ended up with him being caught and him being sent to a boy’s home. Sonny looked after him and he knows what Dean does – and has called him with a problem. It was John, their dad, who decided to keep it secret from Sam.

Which he has – so it’s off to the Catskills. Dean also backwards checks to see if Ezekiel is ok with this – and if he keeps this up there’s no way he’s going to keep this secret.

They arrive at the place and Sam is surprised that their dad couldn’t find Dean there – he could, but because Dean lost the money if he left Dean there. As ever, Dean rushes to his dad’s defence while Sam finds this behaviour highly dubious. They go into the house with a strict woman demanding they remove their boots and Dean has a flashback to his arrival there as a teenager in handcuffs. For stealing peanut butter and bread – and his dad telling the police to let him rot in gaol.  (And Dean gave the cop a black eye, of course he would). Sonny notices bruises on Dean’s arms and asks him about them – and young Dean snarks “werewolf did it.” Which doesn’t get any reaction – Sonny seems pretty immune to snark and sass.

Back to the present Dean greets Sonny and notes that the farm is rather run down: the system isn’t interesting in working to turn boys’ lives around any more, it’s happier to just throw them in prison. He tells them what’s been happening – including the tractor running the old man over, lots of flickering lights and noises.

Sam checks the house and finds Dean’s old bed (his name under several layers of labels – and a pentagram carved into the bedpost) and finds Ruth, whose role is rather unspecified, praying for the ghost that is haunting them to leave. She tells Sam the history – the farm used to be owned by Howard and Doreen and Jack (the dead man) worked as a farmhand. Howard got drunk and believed that Jack and Doreen were sleeping together and tried to kill them – Jack escaped, Doreen didn’t and got chopped up with a meat cleaver. Howard recently died – but he swore “revenge” on Jack

In the barn, Dean’s little electronic thing finds a ghost in the area (we haven’t seen that thing in seasons! It’s been a while since ghosts and spooky things were the enemies) and he runs into a boy called Timmy (who I half suspect is a ghost or psychic or something) and he tells Dean he didn’t see anything but how cold it got.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Haven Sneak Peak and Shinies

We have some shinies to whet our appetites for next Friday:

A sneak peak at the next episode:

As well as a Behind the Scenes of the last episode

And a sneaky look at the Darkside Seekers

Cold Steel (Spiritwalker #3) by Kate Elliott

Cold Steel is the last book in the Spiritwalker trilogy. Those who have read Cold Magic and Cold Fire are by now well acquainted with the alternate earth imagined by Kate Elliot. In her world, the Roman Empire is still in existence and people live in a feudal state with Princes and Mage houses controlling them.  People are extremely aware of the spirit world, which once a year unleashes the wild hunt to gather the souls of those who are going to die in the following year.  Nothing is stable in this world, as the people are trying to overthrow the regimes which rule them. Cat, the protagonist, must not only deal with the political upheaval and war but the legacy of her heritage as the daughter of the Master of the Hunt.

Like all novels in this trilogy, I firmly believe that Elliot could easily have dropped 100-150 pages and not lost a thing in terms of the story.  I often found myself wishing that she would just get to the point.  It also felt very disconnected, as the characters were repeatedly presented with problems to over come and then quickly did so, only to then be thrown into yet another issue.  These problems didn't really seem to connect and it felt like we moved from one action scene to another.

One of the things I love about this series is the fact that nearly all of the character are multi-racial in some form.  As a person of colour, I am used to seeing myself erased in science fiction and to see Elliot's passion for including us really did present me with some hope. This inclusion however did not extend to GLBT people, which while normal, is never acceptable.  We were introduced to a disabled character but because of her relative youth, she was never actively a part of the major plot and instead served to bind Vai to the Mansa. It was however encouraging to see Cat advocate that she should get a proper cane as befitting her size, as well as an education. 

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

The nice exposition lady informs us that it’s 2048 and everything is grimdark and bad – with lots of organised crime, a huge crime rate, drugs, badness and mime artists roaming the street. Possibly not the latter. To help the beleaguered police, every officer now gets an Android.

From there we move to an outright war zone, police with big guns fighting a gang with similar big guns. The police are badly outnumbered and Detective John Kennex gets the call that one of their members are down. He wants to launch a rescue mission and overrules the android who tells him how silly it is to risk the lives of many for the sake of one man – they go in and that android gets shot in the head and destroyed. They get to the injured officer and the second android scans him and tells them that down police officer is basically bleeding to death – and there’s no point in trying to carry him out. Detective John has no patience with such a cold assessment and insists on carrying. The android refuses to stay and protect them when there are others who aren’t ignoring his advice and actually have a chance in hell of getting out of this alive (paraphrasing here).

They stand up to stagger away – and someone shoots John in the leg – well shoots his leg off below the knee. The man he tried to save is dead.

The moral of this story? Listen to the emotionless automatons! And that battle strategy shouldn’t be dictated by a man’s feeeeeeeels!

Shadowy figures converge on John and one throws a grenade (you’re going to use a grenade on him? Isn’t that overkill?). John puts on his angry determined face (this show isn’t 3 minutes in and he’s used that face 4 time or more) and tries to drag himself away before the big boom.

It’s apparently a grenade of making-out-with-a-hot-woman (amazing what technology can do in the future) because he is suddenly surrounded by white light and staring at the face of a beautiful smiling woman. Also, possibly, a hallucination, his life flashing before his eyes or desperate regrets of what might have been; since he wakes up considerably less pleasantly in a machine.

A man heads over to unhook him and apparently all of that action was a memory which the machine is helping him extract after his 17 month long coma. John shouldn’t be having these treatments yet since he hasn’t been conscious a year, but then his doctor is blackmarket from “sub Asia”. John wants to remember the people who ambushed him - and the doctor is a “recollectionist” who thinks he should let it go. John pulls out a clichéd angsty straight white male lead line in a voice that yells “tortured anti-hero”.  The woman was apparently his ex-girlfriend, Anna.

He heads back to his car, taking a pill and staring woefully at a necklace before an android police officer talks to him – with a strong suggestion of John not being the biggest fan

In case you haven’t got the hint yet, the next scene is John staring wistfully at a picture of Anna. Honestly, we get it, can we move on please? Apparently not, because he then uses the nifty future phone/computer thing to listen to a message from Anna which he’s kept for several hundred days (ok, this isn’t tortured and romantic – it’s creepy, obsessive and stalkerish). His angst is interrupted by Captain Sandra Maldonado who wants him to come in and is unwilling to accept that he needs more time – she convinces him by telling him there’s an armed robbery committed by Insyndicate (the gang that he fought in the opening credits). John spends a brief moment with angsty distant staring to properly express his deep and abiding pain before agreeing to come in.

He gets up and we see he has a bionic leg but when he takes a little box off it, it looks just like his other leg – though the box complains that his “synthetic calibration” is incomplete. Which is probably bad.

We get some nice aerial visuals of a nifty looking future city complete with hover discs as John arrives at the station. We get to see Detective Richard Paul – the arsehole who hates/envies/otherwise unpleasant person can’t bring himself to behave like a civilised human being over the return of a colleague after 2 years in a coma and detectives Vogal and Valerie Stahl. Richard blames John for the raid that went so badly wrong since he was in charge.

Beauty and the Beast, Season 2, Episode 7: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Reynolds is up to no good – or so it seems since he’s contacting someone to plant a big bomb to remove a threat of exposure by killing someone.

Vincent and Cat are enjoying some intimate time together before Cat brings up Vincent ripping someone’s heart out of their chest. That really does kill the mood. Which is probably a good thing – I mean, if talk of heart ripping doesn’t kill the mood then there could be a problem. Vincent assures her that his beastiside won’t be released again – that it’s probably just a reaction to him killing so many people on assassination missions (which are totally ok and no-one is even slightly concerned about the morality of them). Next topic – his handler; Vincent is absolutely sure his handler (Reynolds) who disguises their voice and could be absolutely anyone is completely trustworthy and totally won’t kill him like all the other beasts he’s wanted murdered because… REASONS!

Then Reynolds complicates matters by calling and inviting Cat to Thanksgiving (isn’t that awfully… soon?) which has a brief angst with Vincent because he can’t be invited to meet the parent which has a backlash angst of Cat so not being ready to call Reynolds a parent yet. Also Vincent, the assassin, thinks it’s a bad idea to spend quality time with an FBI agent (or a cop – but we’re not talking about that and when was the last time Cat worked a case?). Cat tells Reynolds she and her boyfriend have plans – and she and Vincent plan to cook a full on traditional Thanksgiving.

At work (my gods, she does work!) Tess snarks all the holiday supplies and stomps on Cat’s buzz by telling Cat Gabe’s suspicions about what Vincent’s last mission may actually be – he may be the last name on the list. Cat clings to Vincent’s trust and the fact that Vincent is different from the other beasts – Tess isn’t all that convinced, the whole heart ripping thing is a pretty hard sell.

Gabe is trying to sell the whole “Vincent isn’t a monster” to Tori, the daughter of the heart ripee and she’s not buying either. She doesn’t intend to tell the world but she’s not happy – and also wants to know if their plan to revive her dad really just included a normal defibrillator. He’s interrupted by Cat and Tess barging in with Cat quickly focusing attention on her and Tori being quickly shuffled out of the room.

Gabe’s been trying to identify Vincent’s handler (it’s about time someone tried to do that) – but someone has wiped all of Gabe’s files. Which looks suspiciously like what Muirfield managed to pull off in season 1 (before they were retconned from being all powerful organisation to a single factory whose existence was dependent on the continued breathing of one, not very skilled, man).

Vincent, meanwhile, has been sent to a warehouse to find his target which all his Beastisenses insists is abandoned. He calls Reynolds who orders him to keep going (and what, kill an empty warehouse?) and follow orders soldier – no thinking for you! Vincent sees a light blinking in the window and throws a metal pipe through it – triggering the bomb we saw Reynolds’s lacky set up in the beginning of the episode. The whole warehouse explodes in a huge, completely over the top explosion. Staggering to his feet Vincent breathes into his phone and Reynolds says his codename – Vincent doesn’t answer and hangs up.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mocking Bird (Miriam Black #2) by Chuck Wendig

Miriam’s life is turning around. She has a home, after a fashion, a job and a long term relationship with Louis.

And she hates it. She hates her job, she hates her boss, she hates being trapped in the trailer, she hates not moving around and, as much as she hates to say it, she hates not seeing people’s death any more – she needs to see those images.

Unable to live in this little box she hits the road again, only to be derailed by the seemingly infinitely patient Louis who has a job for her – a friend who thinks she’s dying and needs it confirming. Seems simple enough for Miriam, albeit odd, but when visiting a reform school for troubled teenaged girls to see this woman she touches one of the students – and sees her horrific death at the hands of a serial killer.

This is a death that Miriam has to stop – and there’s only one way to cheat death; to balance the scales with another death.

Grim and dark and grim and dark. Am I sounding like a broken record? That’s right it’s the problem with reviewing sequels again! How do you review a second book in a series that has many of the same strengths as the previous book without sounding repetitive?

The answer is, of course, that you do sound repetitive – but if it’s repeating the same comments that still apply, then is that a bad thing? This book continues the darkness that the first book established. Miriam lives in a very dark, gritty, unpleasant world only exacerbated by her own self-destructive impulses. Her outlook is bleak, she has no time or patience for sugar coating everything – she knows she’s odd, she knows everything around her is pretty awful and she won’t pretend it is otherwise. She has little time for hope and largely dismisses it – things are bleak, when she has a good thing she screws it up and, due to her extremely broken self-esteem, if things were good then she wouldn’t deserve them. And probably drive them off.

But, despite those same opinions being prevalent, we still see a glimmer of Miriam’s hope. The fatalism that so characterised Blackbirds isn’t gone – but it’s reduced because she does have a way to change things – fate isn’t written. But that method of change involves killing people which means it’s not something she can use casually – but also flows into her own self-loathing and moral crisis. Her spending most of the book trying to save the victims of a serial killer means she has embraced the power of change – she doesn’t accept the inevitable fatalism of the deaths she sees – but she has to balance the cost of stopping those deaths. But this, in turn, leads to her moral crisis and further self-loathing: she is a killer. She may be a killer with the purest possible motives, but she remains a killer which is something else to beat herself up over. Especially when she realises that the killer themselves are actually approaching their kills from exactly the same viewpoint – they’re killing for what is, in their eyes, a pure motive. We’re left with the very difficult question of what separates Miriam from the killer? Where is Miriam’s moral high ground – and does she actually have any at all?

Witches of East End, Season 1, Episode 7: Unburied

Wendy is tied to a chair in a magic circle – and Ingrid is not happy with her, appears to be torturing her – and uses magic to stick her hand in Wendy’s chest. I’m assuming this is evil Ingrid from the past life who was resurrected.

At the bar Freya and Killian are continuing their endless pattern of him flirting and her telling him not to – which this time leads to passionate kissing – and she wakes up next to Dash. And has a moment of terror when he reveals she talks in her sleep though he didn’t understand her.

Freya runs home looking for a spell and looks in the grimoire with Ingrid (who assures Freya she’s not judging because her own judgement has been flawed lately) to control dreams – until Wendy arrives and Ingrid runs out the door – tension still thick with the whole “you murdered my past self” thing going on. Freya decides she wants to have her cards read though Wendy is all wary because the cards show what they want to show, you don’t just ask them questions and get answers.

Ingrid goes to work and rambles about her dark side to her character-less GBF when a customer arrives with a list of books he wants her to bring him and a bad attitude, she laces into him, they argue and generally assure us all that they will definitely be sleeping together by the end of the season (it’s Lifetime, I know that trope).

Freya needs hair to complete her dream spell so offers to cut Killian’s hair in time for his mother’s library party thing – because there’s no way this could be misconstrued. But he starts repeating what he said in the dream and more flirting and sexual tension follows until they’re interrupted by another staff member before anything can happen. She makes and drinks her potion.

Ingrid is still moping and Joanna drops in thinking Ingrid will be confused. She quickly summarises her past life as major reasons why she should be confused but she also has done some detective work (Ingrid is the smart one) – she’s looked through all the old photos and realised there are none of her and Freya as older women. They always die young – about the ages they are now. Joanna confirms that and tries to be reassuring (insofar as you can be) but Ingrid has already left.

Joanna and Wendy catch up in the garden so everyone can recap everyone else.

Once Upon a Time, Season 3, Episode 8: Think Lovely Thoughts

We open with a flashback – and a crooked find the lady game (is there such a thing as an honest find the lady game?) The man, Malcolm, gets himself beaten and robbed by a mark who is not amused, despite his son trying to intervene on his behalf. And the innocent young boy? That would be Rumplestiltskin.

To the present and Neverland and Pan maintaining the charade that Wendy is sick and dying to Henry unless he uses his special belief power to save them all. Naturally Henry continues to fall for it hook, line and sinker and is just eager to do whatever Pan needs him to.

Regina vents to Gold about how very very annoying it is working with the Charmings and how very naïve and silly they are – though Gold does confirm that Neal is alive and on the island (so the distraction of rescuing him wasn’t a lying distraction, just a distraction). Regina smells more to the story but Gold is tight lipped – and leads us into a flashback to Kid!Rumple and his dad leaving him with 2 spinning women while he wanders off on some scheme – but when Kid!Rumple gets upset Malcolm gives him the doll we’ve seen Rumple angsting about.

Back to the present and the Charmings (and Hook) are moving on Pan’s camp while Emma and Mary Margaret discuss Mary Margaret staying on the island with David. Emma tells Mary Margaret that she’s giving up and there’s always a way (I know the story doesn’t intend this, but in my mind Emma is saying “see, all this hopey wish on rainbows crap is REALLY ANNOYING when it’s your life up the shit, isn’t it Snowy?”) The group runs into Rumple and Regina and Regina shows them Pandora’s box. Unfortunately Neal also spills about Henry being Rumple’s undoing and the Charmings (and Hook) all draw weapons assuming he’s hunting down Henry because it’s not like Rumple didn’t already have multiple opportunities to kill Henry over and over again, right?

The whole cast turns on Rumple which prompts a flashback to Kid!Rumple. Having spent some time with the spinning ladies they declare that Rumple is a spinning prodigy! He thinks he can make lots of money so he and his dad can live together – alas, no. The spinning ladies warn him that Malcolm is well known as a liar and a cheat, for Rumple to be a success he needs to go away, alone, where his father’s reputation won’t follow - and they give him a magic bean. They also shatter his illusion – Malcolm is at the pub, indifferent about his child

Back to the present and Rumple protests his innocence (which no-one believes) and that they need him because he’s the most powerful (which Neal, perhaps sensibly for the first time ever, points out makes them more wary not less) so to prove his good intent Rumple gives Neal Pandora’s box, since he doesn’t have the dagger. Just as the box can stop Pan, it can also stop Rumple. Neal warns Rumple against using magic – yay, depowered again! Regina was right Rumple, you should have kept away from these people.

Rumple warns Neal that Pan destroyed his father and we have another flashback – Kid!Rumple finds his dad in the pub and the remaining confidence he has in him is badly damaged. His dad blames his bad reputation and Kid!Rumple shows him the bean – how they can use it to go somewhere and have a fresh start. He suggests they go to a place he used to dream of – Neverland.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: Autumn 2013, Episode 7

It's time for another episode of our podcast, back again for the Autumn where we discuss our book of the week and some of the shows we've been following all through our social justice analysis.

You can join us here and you can listen live on our youtube channel, here, or in our sidebar. All will also carry a recording after the show is finished. As ever all our previous podcasts can be found in the archive

The podcast begins at 7:00pm EST

18th November - 25th November: The Snow Queen’s Shadow by Jim C Hines
25th November - 2nd December: The Fall of the Governor by Robert Kirkman
2nd December - 9th December: Deadshifted by Cassie Alexander
9th December - 16th December: Blood Wager by Connie Stuttle
16th December - 22nd December: Goblin Quest by Jim C Hines

Atlantis, Season 1, Episode 8: The Furies

The team has a job – to escort treasure to the city of Heliopolis across the desert (the chest of wealth is the brideprice for his son, Philamon) – something Hercules considers completely and utterly suicidal. Until a vast sum of money is dumped in front of him, Hercules agrees to the job. Even if it does come with a failure clause of having fingers removed.

Of course Pythagoras isn’t overjoyed by this – and as they travel down the streets (they’re sneaking around Atlantis again? Is this a requirement or something? They’re not even doing anything nefarious this time!) Hercules having to undermine is previous, apparent, courage by having him scared by a goat. Along the way home, Jason catches and nearly stabs Pythagoras’s brother – Arcas.

He comes home with them, parties much more than Pythagoras and he and Hercules gamble into the night – also getting Hercules to agree to bring Arcas with them to Helios. Pythagoras doesn’t seem to be his brother’s biggest fan.

So concerned is Pythagoras that he goes to see the Oracle. He asks pretty clear questions, she responds with cryptic rambling. I’m pretty sure the show wants me to believe the Oracle is actually magical or psychic in some way, but she talks like a fairground card reader and Mystic Meg is more clear with her predictions.

The caravan they’re supposed to join with this chest leaving at dawn and they’ve all wandering around in bright sunlight for some time now so they finally drag themselves to the horses. They load up, meet the soon-to-be-groom Philemon and Arcas starts a fight with a man carrying a murderer’s brand before the caravan master breaks it up and lays down the law – he decides who travels with them and in the desert they do what he says. There’s a woman on the caravan who asks Jason to place the saddle blanket on her horse either because she’s woefully inept or because she’s flirting with him – I suspect the latter.

Jason is bemused by Arcas’s anti-murderer prejudice because he’s Jason and he makes good use of his bemused look. Pythagoras expositions that their father was murdered, Arcas was very young and it affected him badly. As they leave the city the caravan master explains the murderer – he’s Otus, was a slave (on the same island Pythagoras grew up) and had his tongue cut out for being outspoken – and then got his revenge.

At the first stop, the brothers show they actually like each other, the soon-to-be-groom thinks it’s unlucky to have a woman with them and she and Jason flirt some more. But Hercules notices something off about her – he dresses as a highborn lady but her table manners are not refined.

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

Every week on the Fangs for the Fantasy podcast (archives here) we read a book and discuss it on the show. The review for the book of the week always goes up on a Monday.

To give people a chance to read along with us, every Monday we’re also going to include a list of our planned books of the week for the next few shows, so people can get the books, read them and join in the conversation.

 Our podcast will be at 7:00pm EST tonight 

11th November - 18th November: Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

18th November - 25th November: The Snow Queen’s Shadow by Jim C Hines
25th November - 2nd December: Under Wraps by Hannah Jane

2nd December - 9th December: The Fall of the Governor by Robert Kirkman
9th December - 16th December: Blood Wager by Connie Stuttle

Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger

Sophronia continues her education at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality learning vital lessons in fashion, etiquette, deportment, information gathering, poison and other essential arts of the budding secret agent.

And there are definitely plots afoot, the airship school is moving to London to examine a new technology which seems surprising – and suspicious. There is definitely something covert going on – something that Sophronia would investigate anyway, but has all the more reason to do so when her best friend seems to be threatened by it. She has a full array of skills given to her by the spy school and she’s more than willing to put them to the test.

With sequels, it’s always hard not to seem repetitive in a review, especially if everything a book got right in the first book, it continues to get right in this book. We still have that wonderful contrast between the elaborate, stifling trappings of idealised Victorian femininity with the deadly, artful skill of the espionage agent. We still have them USING the trappings of idealised femininity as espionage tools – and this is even further emphasised with the boys from Bunson being so very clueless and incapable because they have not been trained. The blending of these seemingly completely alien elements is such massive fun while, at the same time, continuing that refreshing challenge to the idea that a woman cannot be both stereotypically feminine AND powerful (even dangerous) at the same time.

The world is the same as the Parasol Protectorate Series but doesn’t just rest on it but expands it. We don’t just have the collection of werewolves and vampires in Victorian England with a fun dash of steampunk elements – there’s much more emphasis on the devices and gizmos that so epitomise steampunk and these in turn are interwoven with the supernatural elements. What does it mean to travel at great distances with advancing technology when vampires are bound to their territories? What will they do to escape their tethers? How does it disadvantage them when technology evolves to make humans more and more mobile while their Queens cannot leave the Hive house? It sets up a whole new angle on the world for more fascinating discovery and exploration.

This book did a good job of developing beyond its original excellent (and hilarious) premise and putting some meat on the bones. Firstly we have an extended storyline, the beginning of a meta-plot, with the rivalry between the Picklemen and the Supernaturals; and even between the werewolves and the vampires. This plot promises for lots of ongoing hooks for Sophronia to be involved in more than just random school hijinks. What particularly makes these plotlines – and the world and concepts revealed through them – so fascinating is having read the Parasol Protectorate Series, this book brings a different angle. There was never any real question of Alexia’s position on the pro/anti supernatural side with both her love interest and her own abilities so the whole question never really arose and her loyalties were obvious from a very early juncture. Seeing the same world through Sophronia’s eyes adds more levels because Sophronia isn’t inherently affiliated with any faction – and has members of the different factions all with some influence on her.