Friday, December 20, 2013

Goblin Quest (Jig the Goblin #1) by Jim C Hines

Jig is a goblin. That means cannon fodder. That means pest. That means nuisance. It means creature that wandering adventurers repeatedly stamp into the dust on their way to bigger and more dangerous things.

Not only that, but Jig is the runt of his people. Small, frail, poorly equipped even for a goblin and short sighted. When a bully forces Jig out on patrol and he runs into adventurers looking for loot, Jig’s death looks certain

Through wit and common sense (both of which sorely lacking from the “heroes”), Jig manages to live – but is dragged along to play guide as the adventurers rampage through his mountain home looking for their great prize; while Jig desperately hopes to stay alive in the face of hobgoblins, poisonous lizard-fish, the undead and, of course, a dragon.

He’d also quite like it if his people weren’t massacred. Again.

This book is, I think, specifically aimed at a certain class of reader. If you have read a lot of high fantasy books, if you have played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, if you are saturated in the tropes that come with that genre and that game and all the stuff that goes with classic sword and sorcery fiction – then this book is aimed at you and you will enjoy it.

It has numerable instances of calling out and poking fun at the tropes in the genre – some of them are tiny references (like poking the improbably-melon-breasted-depictions of women) or the basis of several characters (like Riana, the elf – who isn’t tall and elegant, isn’t classy aristocratic or anything else we assume about elves. And yes, she’s a thief – but why should a thief know how to find traps anyway? Since when do merchants trap their coin purses?) or even poking fun at player habits of the way these games/books are written (Darnak having to carry a massive pack to hold all of his gear – and his obsessive cartography to even navigate the dungeons). There’s a lot of these excellent tropes being poked

But above all there’s the very premise – our protagonist is a goblin. A creature, in this genre, that exists to die. Not even die in a heroic encounter, they barely count as monsters, they’re a nuisance, trash, something to grind through. Inept and incompetent and thoroughly bullied and exploited by everything around them – they would be pitiable if they weren’t so unpleasant. And through their lens you get to see the heroes – the bickering, the arrogance, the contempt, their greed and just how hard it is for a poor goblin to even live with this rampaging heroes attacking his home and stealing anything that isn’t nailed down. It’s a fun reversal and, for me as a player of the games and lover of the genre, it makes me smile to see so many of the staples being challenged –and realising how often my heroes have been these arseholes, albeit seen through a different lens.

The Walking Dead Volume 19: March to War

This volume really highlighted the weakness of Rick’s leadership.  He doesn’t trust the people he should.  Let’s be clear, Andrea and Michonne have been with the group from essentially the beginning.  They have fought by his side and followed his orders without question yet suddenly Rick believes that Michonne is some uncontrollable blood thirsty savage?  It’s ironic that despite all of his so called skills as a master planner that he engaged in the exact same behaviour he was worried that Michonne would commit.  Rick is so incompetent at this point that he doesn’t think he is infallible - he believes his own hype and that is the worst trait in a leader. A seasoned veteran does not necessarily make one a military strategist.

Also we need to examine further this problem of Rick treating Michonne like some kind of uncontrolled berserker is getting annoying. On the plus side, Michonne challenges this and explains, yet again, that she doesn’t like the fight, she doesn’t want to fight and if she can avoid fighting then she will - she’s not some loose cannon read to explode at the slightest provocation. This is good. But Rick should know this. He’s already been told this by her - and even if he hadn’t, they’ve been together for a very long time now. He should know her better than this. She should have been developed better than this - it’s a mix of her character growing and being revealed but that growth and revelation also exposing just how much she has just been a walking weapon until now.

Also, it’s not escaped our notice that Michonne and Ezekiel are homing in on romance. If there’s a Black guy around, Michonne makes her moves all the time.  Why is it that she is only a viable love interest for Black men?  Considering that this comic is written by two White men, it really is rather telling on their views of Black women.  I know it’s not interracial relationships because they had no problem putting Maggie and Glen together.

We did have some POC characters being awesome in this episode - Michonne (of course), but also Jesus and Ezekiel. Ezekiel’s back story did a great job in cutting through the whole ridiculous eccentric persona he had adopted and showed him to be far more aware (and capable) than that. In fact, he displayed decision making skills and leadership that completely eclipsed Rick.

Andrea also stepped up pretty awesomely - showing she was more than just a sniper (even while we saw the difference between a good shot and a professional sniper) and her epic “We don’t die” was an excellently powerful moment for her.

And there’s a problem with all of these characters being so competent and awesome. Rick still leads (and doesn’t treat them as the competent people they are) and I have no damn clue why. In fact, I think the writers got insecure at Rick not being in the lime light this episode and threw in the whole speech from Jesus about why Rick is the super leader, better than all the others. Why is he? Oh yes… Even Negan respects Rick (in fact, the whole scene was Spencer seemed to be another attempt to keep him on his pedestal, no matter how it wobbles)!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I am Satan (Hellbound Trilogy #2) by Tim Hawken

Now ruling Hell, Michael has a lot to handle and little time in which to acclimatise to his new role. He has to consolidate his rule to ensure that Hell doesn’t fall into complete chaos without Satan at the helm and start making plans for his ultimate goal

But that also means pinning down exactly what his ultimate goal is – revenge against Asmodius, or rescuing Charlotte, his true love, from Purgatory. Which is more important to him and does it matter which path he chooses?

And can he become powerful enough to do either?

The more he learns and prepares the more he learns about the entire world around him and how sorely in need of reform it is – but how can one man manage that in the face of the will of god? And what would he reform it to?

There is a change of focus in this book, as Hellbound was a very personal book, focused almost entirely on Michael, on him learning who he is, learning the nature of Hell and, ultimately, the big reveal. This was an excellent way to firmly establish the character and his viewpoints as well as to explore the world through his lens – a limit that was necessary to make the end reveal all the more powerful.

I Am Satan expands the world a lot more, we see a lot more of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven through the eyes of many inhabitants (even if told from Michael’s point of view) and, therefore, more of the nature of the world without Michael’s views, Asmodius’s hate or God’s propaganda. It took things that were hinted at before and widened the lens to show how deeply flawed the creation is in so many different ways. Even elements that looked so possible on paper in the first book, like the redemption from Hell when souls have confronted their sins, fades with this wider lens and we see how conditions in Hell are such that most souls will inevitably end up further corrupted more than they will ever face redemption as they’re put into a rule-less, brutal world where the strong and ruthless are rewarded and the weak suffer and are preyed upon (this also, as a side note, also makes for an excellent comparative metaphor to our own prison system).

The book also makes an excellent job of not just demonising god as evil – that would be easy and simplistic, and this book is anything but simplistic. There’s even parts of the book where it’s expressly said that the world suffers when god is inattentive. It’s more that god is incapable or unwilling to see things outside of his own lens of experience – it’s a classic case of ignorance and lack of empathy more than active malice (at least before the end of the last book) as well as a complete lack of understanding the human experience. This leads to suicides being harshly judged, being unable to see the burdens placed . God sees the forest and ignores the trees – and sees no problem in cutting huge swathes out of them to improve his view and make everything prettier.

Grimm, Season 3, Episode 8: The 12 Days of Krampus

“Oh Christmas Tree,
Oh Christmas Tree,
How Steadfast are your branches…”

‘Tis the holiday season and it’s time for festive Grimm! Starting with some naughty teenaged boys stealing Christmas presents from a car and a very very angry Father Christmas (with horns and a long tongue) catching up with them, viciously wielding a switch and stuffing one of them into his sack, while the other cowers under a car, managing to escape more than claw marks to his face.

He leaves behind a lump of coal

Ho Ho Ho

Nick and Hank are called to the scene of the crime, assuming that two people fought over what they stole; they find a jacket with “QB” written in it, the coal, a blood stained switch and, they assume, the body of a teenaged boy. But when Wu climbs into the car to check, he wakes up – he’s not dead.

They get him to the hospital and find his father, who has pretty much written his son, Derek off, it seems. The jacket belongs to his friend Quinn though. They interview Derek who tells them Quinn was kidnapped but he’s panicky and scared – and has a full blown panic attack when he sees a mn in a Father Christmas suit.

Hank and Nick get the full name of Quinn Baxter, the missing boy and across town at a market another teenaged boy steals some Christmas presents and runs away – only to be caught by an angry horned Father Christmas with a switch. A passer-by witnesses him putting the boy in his sack and walking away with him. Again, he leaves coal behind.

Hank and Nick go to Quinn’s address and find Bud there – he knows Quinn’s father and they confirm that Quinn is missing – before they’re called to the next crime scene. Another witness description, another missing boy – which means questioning people dressed as Father Christmas, yeah there’s a lot of them. They find one with a record who is a Wesen and it escalates terribly – end result; Hank and Nick on the news arresting Father Christmas in front of a lot of kids. HO HO HO!

Bud sees this on TV and checks to see if Nick has found Quinn – Nick has to hurry but tells Bud all they found were lumps of coal – which causes Bud to have a minor freak out, as is his wont. Speaking of the coal, Wu (after snark about arresting Father Christmas) tells Nick that the coal is from the northern most tip of the arctic.

Nick and Hank check with Monroe about a Wesen he mentioned in the past associated with Christmas, but Monroe denies it can be them because they’re generally benevolent. But he does recognise what they’re talking about – Krampus, who punishes naughty children by beating them with a switch, kidnapping them, hanging them from a tall tree and then eating them on the night of the solstice (cut to Krampus loading up a teenager into a basket to hang from his tree). That solstice would be that night – and they’re in Portland so finding a tall tree in the highest spot is just… not easy. They argue about which park or forest is appropriate when Bud arrives and instantly says one location. They decide to trust the beaver man to know his trees and head out (including a very very nervous Bud).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Haunted (Anna Strong Chronicles #8) by Jeanne C. Stein

Anna is drawn to Beso de la Muerte when an old acquaintance of Culebra's suddenly appears to cash in on a blood debt.  Anna, Culebra and Max the DEA agent, soon find themselves in Mexico trying to thwart a drug king pin and in the process, exact revenge for the murder of Culebra's family.  Anna has wondered for a very long time about Culebra's background because his mind has never been fully open to her and now she is going to realise that sometimes one should be careful what they wish for.

For the first time in this series, Culebra becomes someone more than a servant (a role which always irritated me) at Anna's beck and call.  We learn that Culebra is an outcast amongst his family because he is he first one in generations to touched by the curse (shapeshifting), as a result, they don't invest in him and he becomes a poor youth with very little options.  When he is approached by the cartel, for the first time he has hope of becoming more than what he is. What he does not know, is that this choice will alter the path of his life forever.  I found this part of the story extremely compelling and found myself sympathizing with Culebra and irritated with the overly privileged Anna, who decided to sit in judgement of him. This is not to say that becoming an assassin is a good moral choice, just that it irritated me that Anna couldn't see past her own privilege empathize with his story.

As you might well have guessed, much of this book involves the ongoing criminal activity of the Mexican drug lords.  Stein took great care to point out how innocent women and children quickly become their victims through no fault of their own.  She writes about the silence of communities who regularly hand over their daughters and the pain which results.  Though this is clearly a work of fiction, it is a story that needs to be told.  I liked that even in their powerless state, Stein still found a way to make these young women strong, brave and hopeful.  That was an extremely tall order given the tenor of the story. Yes, Anna did in the end rescue them but they were active participants in their own emancipation. 

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 6: Arrythmia

In a very busy and overwhelmed hospital, complete with holographic, malfunctioning doctors, a man pulls a gun and holds one of the staff hostage. He burst into the back room and demands a surgeon – he says he’s going to have a heart attack. He reads from a list the exact machine he needs. The doctor tries to calm him down – and the man has a heart attack and collapses. The doctor rushes to him and the man gasps an apology and that “they killed me.” And he dies.

Over to John and Dorian in the car – which means lots and lots of Dorian tormenting John because it always does. John complains that Dorian needs to break the rules occasionally (what?! NO! No this murderer should not tell Dorian who is already happy with torture to break the rules more! NO NO NO! More rules please! More!)

They head to the hospital, responding to the call, and find another DRN android repairing the broken machine – he looks exactly like Dorian. John thinks it must be weird to see a copy of yourself but Dorian finds it weird to see a DRN on repair duty – DRNs were made to be police.

On to the body of Leonard Lee who had terminal heart failure – 3 years ago. Yes, it should have killed him 3 years ago and yes he was still walking around. He apparently had a biomech heart – expensive and nifty (not as good as a stem-cell regrow which is implied is more expensive), but he’s not on any transplant list (would you really need a transplant list if you weren’t transplanting actual human organs?). They show them a record of how the dead man acted and Dorian translates what he says in Cantonese “it’s almost 9:18” – his time of death.

As they leave, Dorian brings DRN 494 with him… much to John’s bemusement – he insists that Dorian take him back since he’s hospital property though 494 says his shift is over. John objects to 494 calling him “man” which shows that he may see Dorian as human, but his general attitudes towards androids haven’t changed (Actually this episode was filmed before earlier ones for reasons unknown which may be why his attitudes have changed). John refuses to drive with 494 in it, so Dorian starts remotely moving the car forwards while John splutters. Yes he’s breaking some rules.

Dorian gets his way and pokes John with extra taunting because you have to and 494 keeps up the annoying noises that John stopped Dorian making. John stops the care and demands he gets out – and he does, running to tackle and arrest someone much to their shock. This causes a car to roll into a fire hydrant, the hydrant to fly off and hit a hover drone which then crashes into a police android. Oops.

The man 494 has tackled? Was wanted for armed robbery – years ago. But he’s been released since then. Dorian gave 494 his case files back that are badly in need of updating. Oopsie again.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Wolf Gift (The Wolf Gift Chronicles #1) by Anne Rice

Reuben didn't know that when he went to see the house on the cliff  to write a story for the paper that it would be a definitive moment in his life.  At 23, he was still a young story teller but innocent to many things.  In a matter of hours that would all change in a vicious attack by a beast. With his life in the balance, Reuben was transported to the hospital, only to discover that he was changing.  This metamorphosis led to things like increased strength and vigor, as well as an acute sense of hearing.  Before he knew it, the change was upon him and Reuben found that he was no longer simply a human male but a wolf creature whose nature was to hunt the evil dooer.  In a previous time when man had not advanced far scientifically, this might not have been so bad but in the age of secret government labs, and DNA testing, his new talents could potentially be more danger than gift.

I have read just about everything that Anne Rice has ever written and I went into this novel with a great deal of excitement, only to find myself struggling to finish by the time I reached 1/3 of the way through.  The Wolf Gift is absolutely ponderous and filled with ridiculous purple prose.  Throughout the novel, Rice continually uses three or even four words when one will suffice.   It further didn't help that The Wolf Gift was filled with info dumps and I must say that this completely surprised me.  Rice has always been a master of showing rather than telling. We didn't need continual descriptions of the house or what people were wearing and at times I resorted to skimming for the sake of my sanity.

Much of the novel felt like a cheap philosophy class. There have to be better ways to explore the nature of good and evil than this trite book.  At times I felt like she was testifying, despite the fact that many of her characters were atheists.  Evil, despite what Rice believes, is not always about perspective.  If someone is harming or abusing a child for instance, they are simply an evil fucker. There is no grey and there is no nuance; some things are simply irredeemable.

Lost Girl, Season Four, Episode Six: Of All the Gin Joints

This episode opens at a opera with only one attendee.  When her performance is finished, the diva is almost stopped from escape by a whistle but manages to get away.  Kenzi and Bo are at the Dahl and Kenzi reads a letter from Tamsin about the fact that she has struck out on her own.  Bo wonders if Tamsin can know herself because she has no memory.  The opera diva rushes into the Dahl and almost collapses.  When she sees Bo, the diva starts to speak excitedly about finding Bo and Kenzi translates because the diva is speaking in Russian.  Bo says that she has never seen the singer in her life and the singer protests that she was told to come to the Dahl by Bo.

The diva is now asleep with Trick looking over her.  When Bo enters the cellar to see how she is doing, Trick says that Ianka needs to rest. Bo says that she needs to speak to Ianka because apparently, Ianka said that Bo instructed her to come there.  Trick gets insistent because Ianka is some kind of bird fae and running in the cold might have strained her very delicate vocal chords.  Bo surmises that singing is how Ianka feeds.  Trick reveals that Ianka's song can even take life and evoke powerful memories.  Bo leaves asking to be informed when Ianka wakes up.

Lauren is getting her party on when she interrupted by The Morrigan.  It seems that The Morrigan is there to help her move and has brought beer and pizza.  The Morrigan asks to be called Ebony since they are going to be working together. Lauren has a bit of geek moment over her Star Trek collectibles and The Morrigan declares that she arrived in time.  The Morrigan then presents Lauren with several books.

Dyson is back at the Dahl after a ten day stretch. He reports that Lauren has gone with the Dark and Bo reveals that she is also Dark fae.  Bo says that her hand was forced by The Wanderer and Dyson promises to fix this.  The two exchange a kiss and Dyson says that it is forbidden for them to be together.  Bo grabs Dyson and takes him to the back and the two begin to engage in sex when Trick interrupts them.  Trick says that Light and Dark cannot fraternize and warns that the Onamenz are everywhere.  When Bo suggests Trick turn a blind eye, Trick makes it clear that they are to get their brains out of each others pants and get out of his bar.  Trick then reveals that Ianka is awake and asks Bo not to aggravate her.

Bo heads to see Ianka and Ianka embraces her as a hero.  Bo questions what she is talking about and Ianka reveals that Bo visited after she sang for her.  Ianka is a bit blank on the details of where they met but is sure that Bo encouraged her.  Ianka begins to sing and tells Bo to listen.  Bo flashes to herself running through a field and then she is back on the train.  Ianka asks if it was a good memory and Bo calls it a vague memory, then asks her to sing more. Ianka refuses and says that Bo promised to get her what she wants most in the world - freedom.  Bo demands that Ianka not hold her memories hostage and Ianka says that she only has the key.  When Bo asks for the key, Ianka claims that Bo is just like the others.  Ianka reveals that she is starving and cannot feed and needs to sing for an audience.  Ianka then reveals that Bo said she would not remember and asks her to look in the handle of her knife.  Bo pulls out a message which says, "Ianka you will sing for me and I will bring you freedom." Bo recognizes the hand writing as her own.

Suddenly, a man starts screaming for Ianka. Bo goes upstairs and says that Ianka is not a thing. Dambers replies that Ianka has been in his family for centuries.  Bo asks for Ianka to be let go but Dambers demands that Ianka be brought to him.  Bo tries to lie and say that Ianka is gone but Dambers has a GPS in the necklace around Ianka's throat.  Bo says that Ianka wants to sing her famous aria but Dambers counters that it is wasted on the masses.  Bo counters saying that when the public finds out that Dambers said no, they will see who he really is.  Dambers than starts making demands for a performance of Ianka.

Witches of East End, Season 1, Episode 10: Oh What a World.

We pick up, alas, where we left off – with Killian professing his love for Freya. She kicks him out, repeating that she has made her choice.

Wendy, in cat form, goes into the mansion to check the wall of silver poison goo. She returns to Joanna and Victor to report that there’s now Argentium leaking through the portal and they all conclude someone is definitely trying to open it. Or trying to get a poison that would actually kill the immortal Joanna. Victor suspects the Gardiners but Joanna and Wendy have tested Penelope and Dash and they’ve come up mortal – and Victor is staying around to help.

And Mike still wants Ingrid to open the door to Asgard since she’s the key. She says no and no and no and no and he finally appeals to her desire to know where she came from.

Cut to Penelope to remind us all that she’s evil (the show does worry so about us forgetting) creating a potion full of crows.

It’s the wedding day, and everyone wakes up with different levels of angst and hope (Victor and Joanna in the same bed). Joanna accidentally rips Freya’s veil (bad omen! Declared by Freya and Wendy). And it’s raining (bad omen! Declared by Wendy). And dead crows (that’s definitely a bad omen). Wendy considers calling the whole thing off but Joanna won’t hear of it – in all their lives, Freya has never lived long enough to get married, she’s not going to rob her of it now. They just need to use good magic whenever there’s a bad omen.

Ingrid magically breaks into Mike’s hotel room and takes some of his notes – and finds he has a whole wall of creepy notes, maps, diagrams et al. And Mike catches her, wanting his map back and for her to open the portal. He’s not afraid of her because she’s too sweet and lunges at her – she uses magic to force him down on his knees, rejecting the whole “sweet” label (you should have let him bleed to death, Ingrid).

Freya asks her dad to walk her down the aisle and she talks about the tarot her mother dealt with the good boyfriend/bad boyfriend choice – again putting Killian as bad, even though Victor thinks she’s made a big assumption. They’re joined by Ingrid who isn’t impressed by the idea of Victor being in the wedding. But she doesn’t question Freya’s right to make the choice and they have a whole sister moment

Wendy and Joanna both use magic to counter the omens and Freya asks Joanna what she thinks of asking Victor to be in the wedding and Joanna wants it all to be Freya’s choice – she can make her own decisions. Killian has left a present for Freya, it’s a music box that plays the special music he wrote and they both dreamed about – which sends Freya off all depressed. Then she goes off to see Dash (he tricked her into seeing him before the wedding with a false text – and I thought it was seeing her in the dress?) so he can give her a stunning piece of jewellery (which is both new and blue).

Once Upon a Time, Season 3, Episode 11: Going Home

Panry and Felix go to the well which is like a nexus of magical shenanigans in Storybrooke, preparing to cast the curse which will turn everyone into memory-less slaves of the new Neverland Panry wants to make.

The good guy cast gathers to consult on the terrible Curse and Rumple reveals you can stop the curse using the scroll it’s written on – but only by the person who has used the scroll – that would be Regina. They need to destroy the scroll, ending both curses (but there’s a big, ominous cost to that). Rumple thinks the best way to do that is to simple reswap the bodies then Panry will become Henry and he can just bring them the scroll. But, as Regina points out, that spell is beyond even Rumple – so he needs a magical boost of the Black Fairy’s wand. Super-evil fairy was banished by Blue Fairy who also stole her wand. Blue Fairy was a kill joy.

Meanwhile at the well, it’s time for the most important ingredient to really make that curse zing – the heart of the thing Panry loves most. And no, that’s not Rumple. That would be Felix, his bestest friend.

Let’s have a Flashback! To pregnant Snow White who is all kinds of worried that their big plan relies on a magic wardrobe and a new born breaking the curse. The Blue Fairy reassures her with good-guy logic: that means no actual plan or concrete thought but lots of “hope” and “faith” and good wishes.

Which leads to the present, Mary Margaret’s dubious choice of cut-glass ornaments for a toddler and angst about giving Emma up. Emma then shares her angst about giving Henry up. Everyone angsts together (I think this is clumsily setting up some kind of moral for this story – probably something very irritating like “have faith everything will turn out ok in the end, even if you have brains of tapioca”.).

Tink and Neal go to the nunnery where several nuns are gathered around the dead Blue Fairy/Mother Superior. They’re not thrilled at the idea of giving Tink the Black Fairy wand but Tink rather sarcastically passes over their worries; alas, Pan’s shadow swoops in.

Time for a random flashback: Hook and Smee in Neverland being ambushed by Tink so Hook and she can have some pretty intense chemistry in which Hook says he will only risk his life for love or revenge

Which means we return to the church in the present and Hook risking his life adding a third one to that list: “me”. Which makes zero sense, but hey. The shadow kind of flies back and forth not doing a whole lot so everyone can have a conversation and plan their next move and they resort to Tink using pixie dust so she can use the coconut candle to catch the shadow – of course that means Tink gaining belief in herself again, which she manages to do quite easily (emotional crisis of self-worth? Totes over that!) She flies up and the shadow is trapped, she burns it in a brazier hopefully killing it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: Autumn 2013, Episode 11

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

9th December - 16th December: Blood Wager by Connie Stuttle
16th December - 22nd December: Goblin Quest by Jim C Hines
22nd December - 6th January: Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs
6th January - 13th January: Fury of the Demon by Diana Rowland
13th January - 20th January: Bloodlines by Eileen Wilks

Blood Wager (Blood Destiny #1) by Connie Suttle

Lissa was an ordinary, late middle aged woman reeling from the grief of losing her husband and trying to find some solace in the bottom of a glass.

Which is when the vampires notice her – not for any good reasons, but for a cruel bet on whether someone they regarded so pathetic would turn into a vampire and how soon, to be disposed of as soon as they had their answers

But the newly vampiric Lissa escapes. She builds a new life for herself, far away from her erstwhile creator, getting  a new job and becoming embroiled in a werewolf pack

She hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Vampire Council, however; she is technically a rogue, a vampire created without their knowledge and one who has not been properly educated. Rogues are usually killed and Gavin, an assassin, is dispatched to do just that

This book starts pretty poorly, I have to say. It’s slow, it’s clunky and the whole set up of the story requires some vast leaps of coincidence that stretches any attempt to maintain a willing suspension of disbelief.

Lissa becomes a vampire in dubious circumstances – but I was fine with that. I was less fine with how extremely quickly she became a vampire, how extremely quickly she learned the ins and outs of being a vampire. I felt that whole section was somewhat fast forwarded through when it should have been a compelling part of Lissa’s story. I think we get some good scenes of her frustration about being a vampire without an instruction manual – but she does so extremely well without it! We also had some good scenes of her grief and regret of leaving her old life – but they’re brief scenes, especially considering her grief over her recently deceased husband, the family and friends she left behind, her job et al. She has some nice grief scenes but they feel limited.

So… we’re stretching. Then she decides to become a bodyguard – she has zero experience in this field, no idea of the technology or laws or regulations involved and is completely incapable of working anything but the night shift – but she applies anyway and gets the job because she can use her vampire wiles to beat up another bodyguard. She’s hired as a full time body guard because she can fight, that’s it (at least they do eventually hand wave the lack of background check, etc).

And, chance of chances, she ends up being a bodyguard to werewolves. Pure random chance after answering an ad in the paper. There follows a series of events that just occasionally throw me – like her forgiving William for something he did and I didn’t see why she would – it just seems to be silent treatment then reconciliation (though it does take time, I have to concede that, she doesn’t instaforgive). Or why she’s farmed out to another pack as bodyguard – are vampires that much more dangerous than werewolves? If so, how does it follow that vampires and werewolves have nearly driven each other to extinction in their war?

Also, are we supposed to regard the sale of the super powerful facial recognition software to the NSA as a good thing?

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 

9th December - 16th December: Blood Wager by Connie Stuttle
16th December - 22nd December: Goblin Quest by Jim C Hines
22nd December - 6th January: Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs
6th January - 13th January: Fury of the Demon by Diana Rowland
13th January - 20th January: Bloodlines by Eileen Wilks

Atlantis, Season 1, Episode 11: Hunger Pangs

Jason wanders around the market, hungry and virtually penniless. And he can’t get credit because, as a friend of Hercules, he’s not trusted for a loan. He resorts to stealing a loaf of bread, which he does rather ineptly, dunking it in the waters of the fountain followed by the bread seller as well. He escapes by hiding in n unoccupied building

An unoccupied people with incense, lots of dead animals, skulls and spooky, idol-like statues. An unoccupied building with an altar. An unoccupied building with an altar that has a bloody knife on it and a cut of meat.

And he takes the meat. I would say “he’s starving, that could make him silly” but this is Jason and Atlantis, let us be honest and say that he would always do something this foolish.

He takes it home but finds Pythagoras and Hercules are out – and he eats the meat. All of it. Hiding the bone and plate when Pythagoras returns (he’s been at the tavern with Hercules trying to shake him out of his depression over Medusa before being driven off by Hercules’s surliness). Pythagoras almost catches him before Hercules staggers in, drunk and incapable. Well, even more drunk and incapable than usual.

A man enters the altar room Jason stole the meat from, sniffing like an animal. When he finds the meat missing, he roars showing animalistic fangs.

And Jason wakes up the next day curled up on the floor, much to Pythagoras’s bemusement. Finding no breakfast again, they join Pythagoras on a job he’s got for them – killing rats in a warehouse. At the job Jason tracks a rat, by smell, crawling on all fours and destroying half the warehouse in his hunt. When the owner arrives and is a little miffed, Jason knocks him down – Pythagoras and Hercules quickly hurry him out.

During the night Jason disappears. Pythagoras is woken by the sound of something moving in the house and goes to look, following the sound outside – and briefly seeing a wolf. He hurries back into the house, locks the door and finds Jason missing.

The next day, Jason wakes up filthy, bruised, covered in feathers in a chicken coop. He makes his way home, awkwardly given the nakedness, to find both Pythagoras and Hercules up and waiting for him. He doesn’t remember anything, he just woke up naked in an animal pen (something both Hercules and Pythagoras consider a something that happens now and then). Pythagoras puts in the behaviour changes and presses Jason to think about what he’s done or where he’s been. He describes the shrine

Pythagoras checks it out and comes back with the joyful news – it’s a temple to Hecate. Goddess of Witchcraft; Hercules again marvels at Jason’s ignorance and they both marvel at the sheer foolishness of eating sacrificial food to the gods.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Grimm, Season 3, Episode 7: Cold Blooded

“But for the pit confounders, let them go, and find as little mercy as they show!”

We see someone loading up lots of shiny loot in some place underground.  He has quite a horde. We see him go to add to his collection, breaking into a house and taking, well, everything and anything of value (especially shiny silver). He’s interrupted by the son of the home owners and attacks him – wogeing into a whole new ugly wesen to kill the guy.

Nick and Hank to the crime scene and the guy has had his arm ripped off, it’s very very messy. And had size 15+ footprints – Nick thinks they’re dealing with another Siegbast. At the police station they confirm there has been a whole string of burglaries but never before with someone home. The medical examiner – who has been too long absent from this show – confirms that something big and strong shook the man to death and broke his neck.

Elsewhere in the city a worker is clearing blockages in the tunnels under the city – and runs into the Wesen. They other workers pull his mangled body back out of the hole.

Nick, Hank and Wu to the crime scene – the deputy ME calls the injuries similar to a bear attack (Wu goes with alligators, they being tunnels underground and all). The city worker leads the three underground to where the man was attacked (Wu doesn’t like the close spaces). They find blood where the man was attacked and a backpack, leaving a very nervous Wu with the backpack while they follow the blood trail. Nick tries to use his Grimmy senses but the subway trains are too loud to hear anything past. They leave after Wu finds the ripped off leg.

At the station they connect the various items found to several robberies and plotting them on the map, forming definite patterns in the city. The burglar hits the same neighbourhood several times in rapid succession before moving on. They do get a call from the ME on the bite mark on the victims – it’s alligator like

Time to talk to Monroe the Grimmopedia. It’s not a gator – and no, not a Siegbast either since they don’t’ like close spaces. It’s a Gelumcaedus  - Hank and Nick are very cute playing helpless and not knowing how to even spell the creature until Monroe invites them – and Juliette – to dinner and research.

Research party! Gelumcaedus are ancient Wesen (known in Roman times) who often go dormant and “live off their plunder” with an inescapable grip which caused one of Nick’s ancestors to make a shiny vambrace to fight one again. They need to confront him in the tunnels as a Grimm

Nick and Hank speak to someone about the storm tunnel outlets and she gives them a map – but warns them how hard it is to find anyone along the long tunnels but Nick and Hank track the intersections with the burglaries to see the likely source of the lair.

Haven, Season 4, Episode 13: The Lighthouse

Continuing right on from last week’s cliffhanger, Audrey puts her hand on Duke’s chest. There’s a flash of power – and she has a flashback of her and William together. She smiles, and it’s not a very nice smile. She snaps back to herself – but William has sensed her change

Nathan cuts his finger so Duke can test that his Trouble is back – his eyes turn, Duke is fully Troubled again. While this is a source of angst, Duke is more worried about Audrey and how giving Troubles is changing her.

Ben says goodbye to his baby and goes to get a blanket. Gloria, struggling with grief, tells Audrey why she is so very very sure there’s an afterlife – and they hear a gunshot. Duke comes out carrying the blanket Ben went for and gives it to Gloria. He tells her the baby can cry now. He doesn’t expect Gloria to forgive him – and she hugs him while crying. Gloria takes the baby and Duke walks off – but Jennifer hurries after him to hug him and reassure him about the lives he saved.

It’s a very touching, moving beautiful scene – and then Duke focuses on how he saw Audrey changed and is worried about what she’d become (I don’t like this. Yes this is a worry, return to that worry – but let that grief stricken, painful scene settle in before orbiting back to Audrey).

So back to kicking William out of Haven, which means focusing on the four people who need to go to the Lighthouse and open the portal. And it can’t be any four people it has to be the right four. And, of course, it’s vague about who they are only referring to where they’re from: basically, they have to have been born in another world.

Jennifer assumes she’s one – she can hear the barn, see the book and was left by Agent Howard. William came through the portal so he’s obvious – which makes Audrey obvious as well. They need the fourth (hey, Dave revealed he was adopted last episode…)

Everyone heads off to research (Dave still thinks it’s a bad idea to open the portal, Dwight and Duke consider William’s goons as good candidates while Vince and Dave look into adoptions) and Audrey talks to Nathan – she remembers her original self - Mara. And the memory is much deeper and stronger than any of the previous personalities she remembers. Also Mara is not a nice person – and Audrey can sense William now. So master plan, she pretend to be super eager and curious to know about Mara and when she distracts William, Nathan tranqs him.

Audrey goes to William and plays nice, he seems to fall for it and is really happy – but he leads her in the wrong direction for Nathan to get a good shot. Nathan has to try and follow them and set up elsewhere. William talks about how the barn hid her from him and Audrey tells him that Agent Howard called the barn Audrey’s punishment; William remembers her being dragged in. William is vague about who the person doing the punishing was

Duke and Dwight follow up on the goons, Dwight giving Duke more reassurance about killing Ben – and Dwight hiding the fact he’s coughing up blood which is then absorbed by his skin. That’s not good. They draw tasers and shoot the goons – and it doesn’t work. Not one iota… problem. But the goons sense something and leave – turning into the black goo and floating away. Just like the Rougarou – which means William made them, they’re not born on another world.