Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Archangel's Shadows (Guildhunter Series #7) by Nalini Singh

Ashwini was badly injured in the recent war that hit New York, and her new assignment seems something of a soft-ball compared to her usual fare. Thankfully, Janvier, the intriguing, sexy and very playful vampire who has often being her foil is there to make things more interesting and tempt her to move closer to him – despite the cruel future that she knows makes it impossible.

Of course, the wake of the war has made even a soft-ball investigation fraught – with the possibility of covert agents, the need for discretion to avert panic and the constant tension that threaten the city. Tension that Elena, trying to navigate the tides of Archangel politics, is all too aware of.

In some ways this book was very distracted – but that worked. After all, while this is a book that focuses on Ashwini and Janvier, there is still a lot going on in the world – the aftermath of the war, Elena and Raphael juggling the city and the other Archangels, ongoing covert warfare. I really like that these things haven’t just stopped because we’re focused on another story. This world is rich and involved and there’s a whole lot going on – and we simply cannot ignore the epic happening completely even if Ashwini and Janvier, unlike the other protagonists, are not on a high enough level to be directly involved. I love the fact that it manages to tell the story of the world, how this manages to continue to be Elena and Raphael’s stories – the core characters – even while the protagonist shifts. This is a wonderful switch from other long running series with shifting protagonists as it sometimes feels like every book completely ignores what has passed before. This isn’t just a story of Ashwini and Janvier – this is the story of New York, of the Archangel Raphael and and his consort Elena and a world wide brewing event.

I like the juxtaposition of both the epic, worldwide war and the more local issue – because just as the world-wide brewing war can’t be ignored for the sake of Ashwini and Janvier’s story, nor can local issues of ruling Raphael’s territory be ignored because of political machinations. Murders need investigating, people need to be saved, vampires have to be kept in line. On top of that there’s the inherent link between the meta story and this book’s plot – and not just covert agents trying to destabilise the territory – but even things like the war dividing the vampires who fought and those who continue to indulge themselves, or the fear of panic among the uneasy population and even the vampire’s growing aggression having recently been in combat.

Then there’s Elena’s continued growth as Consort – not just her personal skills but the way she’s learning the necessary etiquette and hosting, finding her own level with the other Archangels as well as Raphael’s household and even changing the way things are done in the territory with her new insights.

There’s also some really cute moments like all the vampires now buying blood from the business Elena’s invested in because they want her first venture to succeed and Janvier’s kind of cutely embarrassed about it. There’s some other nice world building developments – like the idea that we only see the worst of vampires because those less given to destructive proclivities simply don’t come to the attention of the Hunters and some more development of other Archangels (especially Titus). Lots of little bits that just complete this world in richer colour.

Put all this together and it should be impossible to balance – but it isn’t, it works and it all works as a whole rather than lots of disparate elements thrown together. The pacing is excellent, the way the elements come together is excellent and it’s just an altogether excellent continuation of the whole story – not just Ashwini and Janvier

The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice

Flynn manages to win the philosopher's stone at an auction and in the process, loses his girlfriend Katie, who has become tired of always playing second fiddle to the Library.  This causes Flynn to have a little breakdown when he realises just how much he has given up for his job.  Fearing the worst, Judson and Charlene suggest that Flynn take a little vacation.  When Flynn decides to follow his dreams to New Orleans, he has no idea that rather than moving away from the mysteries he solves everyday, he is diving into an exciting search for the Judas Chalice.

I think of the movies to date, Cure of the Judas Chalice is easily the best.  The special effects are still very cheap and the movie is completely a camp rip off  of the Indiana Jones series but at least this installment is entertaining.  To have a chance of enjoying Curse of the Judas Chalice, you have to go into it with the right frame of mind and you simply cannot take it seriously.

Once again, Flynn is without an official Guardian but he is however partnered with a very sexy vampire named Simone Renoir.  Simone was turned against her well four hundred years ago and since then has determined to spend her undead life protecting the Judas chalice, sure in the knowledge that her sire would seek it out one day for the power it would provide.  Simone is smart, funny and extremely capable. Flynn and Simone even have pretty good chemistry with each other and this time, I actually believe his awkwardness.  Simone turned out to be an absolutely great foil to Flynn and was strong willed enough to walk away from him at the end.

The problem is that all of the female partners in this series have inevitably become love interests for Flynn.  Sometimes the relationships are subversive, in that they become the brawn to Flynn's brains; however, it's still rather limited for them to fitted neatly into the love interest role. It's a trope and it's far from original but then if you're looking for originality, this is not the series for you. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dragons & Dirigibles (Gaslight Chronicles #7) by Cindy Spencer Pape

Captain Victor Arrignton is forced to return to land, when his brother and sister in-law are killed in an accident.  As the second son, Victor never expected to become the Earl but with a firm sense of duty, Victor attempts to establish a life at Black Heath and raise his niece Emma.  Victor struggles with his new role, particularly trying to raise Emma to be a proper lady. as she seems for more interested in mathematics and science. than learning the traditional womanly skills of stitching, music. and dance.  This task becomes that much more difficult when dirigible pilot Melody McKay. falls from the sky. after being shot down.  Now. Victor finds himself struggling to bust up a smuggling ring and deal with the this difficult woman, who challenges the very idea of what it is to be a lady.

Dragons & Dirigibles is a novella, coming in at a scant 125 pages and is the story of Melody Mckay, sister to Connor of Cards & Caravans.    Like all of the female love interests in this series, Melody is a very strong character.  Melody knows her own mind and will not be told what to do.  When Melody is found in a compromising position with Victor by Tom, Melody is adamant that Tom not interfere.
Melody came around Victor and laid a hand on his wait.  "Thomas Aloysius Devere, never take that tone with me again.  I am an adult and I make my own decisions.  Does it look as if I'm here under duress?"  She gestured at Victor's unbuttoned waistcoat.

Tom flushed. "No, of course not, but -"

"Do I need to tell Wink about this?  Or Caro?" Melody tapped her foot.

Victor knew he should intervene, take control of the situation, but right now, he was too entranced by the fiery creature by his side who seemed to be handling things just fine on her own.

"Look, Mel.  I'm sorry.  But you know this is a bad idea."  Tom looked u at the ceiling, as if requesting divine assistance.  "Let's just all go upstairs and forget all about this."

Forget? Every second of this interlude would be branded into Victor's mind until the day he died.

"Just walk away, Tommy." Melody's voice lower instead of rising.  "You're out of line and you know it.  Leave now, if you place any value on my friendship."
Of course, Melody is another in a long line of gently used protagonists, while her love interest, Victor, is an experienced lover.  This is yet another trope that is all too common in paranormal romance. In some ways, it undermines some of the strength that Melody has been given in this novel.

The Librarians, Season 1, Episode 5: And the Apple of Discord

Opening drama – near Mount Fuji in Japan 2 people hiking through the woods at night are attacked by a mysterious huge scary thing

At the Annex everyone buzzes around because of magical Earthquake-type-thingies all around the world. Everyone rushes around researching (and Ezekiel orders pizza). Their research is interrupted by the return of Flynn, the Librarian, dramatically announcing “it’s the dragons!”

Reunion time (Jenkins happily telling Flynn that he keeps their bags packed if he wants rid of them, Flynn surprised no-one is dead yet and greeting his Guardian, Eve, by title). Eve also would quite like the desk she uses not to keep resetting itself to Flynn’s wishes

Flynn explains that dragons are largely asleep underground unless they’re annoyed then they wake up all cranky and havoc-causey (Very like me. They just need draconic coffee.) He and Jenkins also argue about the difference between western and eastern dragons who have a long standing feud. The extent of the havoc-ness is why Flynn has returned early and he presents a guess that the hoarding nature of dragons means there’s a good chance something has been stolen from them.

Flynn dishes out lots of orders as he prepares for the arrival of Mr. Drake, the Eastern Dragon’s representative but Eve takes him aside to have a quick interjection – she’s not happy with him coming to the Annex after so long away and just taking over and completely undermining her.

Discussion called because the doorbell rings, Mr. Drake shows up and Ezekiel, despite being a genius, assumes the old man in the expensive suit is the pizza delivery man. Also, arcane rules means that whoever speaks first now speaks for the Library forever more – so better make sure you don’t run into a cleaning lady or a receptionist on the way to the Librarians. Ezekiel continues to speak to the dragon as the pizza guy. But he still agrees to a draconic intercession in the name of pizza which is extra bad

Even by The Librarians standard, this is ludicrous.

Which means Ezekiel and his wisecracking is now the diplomat as Drake claims the western dragons stole a pearl from the eastern dragons. Also for REASONS Flynn cannot claim Library spokesman back off Ezekiel and Drake won’t speak to anyone by Ezekiel. If Drake doesn’t get his pearl back the Eastern Dragons will collectively lose their shit. Ezekiel is, slowly and surely as if he isn’t a genius, convinced to make Jenkins the Consigliore of the arbiter. Whatever that means.

So Ezekiel and Jenkins stay to play host while the rest of the group goes pearl hunting. Which means going to steal something from the western dragons in Rome without Ezekiel because Ezekiel now has the intelligence of semolina. Jenkins explains to him that Drake will be drawing up a list of things to complain about since the last meeting (in San Francisco during the 1906 Earthquake – the last time the dragons were not happy). Jenkins suggests that he take the lead and Ezekiel decides that, no, despite knowing nothing about dragons and just displayed a level of incompetence that means he should either never be trusted again or should pursue a career in politics, he will take the lead.

The rest of the gang arrive in the Vatican and Cassandra uses her special brain to solve a puzzle to the entrance (helped by Jake to keep her brain on track while Eve points this out to Flynn). They go down a tunnel, for some reason chased by the police, which seals behind them.

Eve leads as Guardian and takes the chance to check on Flynn’s progress in getting the Library back (slow). More traps and they claim a pearl – which makes Jake’s eyes glow purple which probably isn’t a good sign. He locks them in and goes wandering off to look at art.

The gang he leaves behind finds a western dragon who claims they never stole the pearl – and dragons can’t lie.

They catch up with Jake who is moving paintings around which really upsets the gallery owners – in the scuffle he drops his pearl which shatters to reveal an apple inside. Cassandra picks up the apple and she goes evil – running off after playing with Eve’s gun while Eve has to explain things to the Italian authorities. While she does so Flynn realises the apple is the Apple of Discord which turns people into the worst versions of themselves (so Jake because the extremely arrogant art critic). Eve is terrified of what will happen if Ezekiel touches the apple while Jake thinks Cassandra with the apple isn’t so bad

Back at the Annex a whole conclave is happening, bringing the Djinn and the fae and more – which Ezekiel is supposed to preside over. Jenkins berates Ezekiel as not a librarian and not knowing what he’s going but Ezekiel is happy to continue not knowing what he’s doing

Things seem to be going rather well until evil Dulaque of the bad guys shows up eating Ezekiel’s pizza. Evil Cassandra also returns to run into a knife wielding Lamia. Jenkins gets up and leaves the room. Dulaque’s organisation is recognised by the assembled supernatural beings and Dulaque calls a vote of no confidence for the library and wants it shut down

On the plus side, Evil Cassandra’s genius brain picks out all the patterns and formulas necessary to incapacitate Lamia very very quickly. One the downside, she wants to go use this new destructive formulas more dramatically. Mainly to make a Roman power plant blow up and take out most of Europe. They use mental tricks to bring Cassandra out of her evil brain loop (and everyone agrees, again, Ezekiel can’t hold the apple). Of course that leaves Flynn and Eve picking up the apple and doing flirty evil which quickly turns into a power battle over who is boss. In case we missed that subtlety.  Eve gets it, then Lamia (who is getting increasingly confused) jumps in and Flynn ends up with it – getting a huge dose of evil apple arrogance and fury (and more flirting with Eve)

Ezekiel catches up with the leaving Jenkins to curse him out for being a coward – for never choosing a side and never really committing to the Librarian team. Jenkins throws some criticism at Ezekiel being a thief. He also counters he has chosen over and over again over the years and achieved nothing except more blood and loss; which is why he came to the Annex to work alone – because nothing changes. Wow, didn’t expect that much of an epic speech.

Ezekiel goes back in and tries to stop Dulaque and fails terribly – but he seems to have moved Jenkins who uses his masterful knowledge of procedures to bog everything down. But Dulaque manages to get things back on track just as Evil Flynn returns to the Annex followed by the others; he chases out all the less librarians.

Alone with the council Flynn rants rather excessively all over everyone and everything with an added side of how awesome he is and how he could take all of them if he wanted to before musing on world domination. Jenkins charges out to distract Flynn while Ezekiel steals the apple off him. Apple-less, Flynn then changes his speech into why the Library is actually kind of a good thing and the motion to remove the library is cancelled

Oh and Ezekiel doesn’t turn evil because he’s already the worst version of himself, he can’t get eviller (I don’t know if this makes him super evil, or super good – because the worst version of Ezekiel is a thief, not a murderer who blows up power plants to watch them go boom). At least Jenkins likes him now.

And on the pearl theft, Ezekiel does a last minute attempt to justify his existence by… suggesting the dragons stole their own pearl? I don’t know and I don’t think anyone actually cares.

Back to the plot that actually matters – Jenkins confronts Dulaque for being secretly behind everything and how horrendous it was for him to wake the dragons. Dulaque suggests Jenkins join him and when he refuses things get cryptic – Dulaque says “our sides have always been chosen for us”. Jenkins counters “we choose – thousands of years ago when you and I stopped being… whatever we were.” What what what tell me mooore?! Jenkins has a big conflict face.

Flynn meets Eve with her transfer papers that would make her officially part of the Library – It also gives her the chance to back out because he recognises that he recruited her to the Library, dumped a job on her and then ran off – which didn’t give her a choice or treat her as an equal. He also praises the amazing things she’s achieved with the team. He also offers to stay if she does – she does agree to stay but also thinks he needs to go back out and continue his mission to bring the library back.

He kisses her before leaving

I love that Eve is asserting her leadership and making it clear that Flynn can’t just waltz in and take over without any acknowledgement of what has happened or how the group dynamic has developed especially after Eve has made the group work.

The flip side is, I wish she could make this point without demanding a time out in the middle of a clearly time sensitive crisis.

Ezekiel in this episode is appalling – they destroyed this character’s any pretence at intelligence to force him and Jenkins to be the ones in the library.  Especially since this character has been the least developed of the geniuses.

The whole plot line was kind of weak and ended without any real explanation – there was one shiny point:

Jenkins. That’s a lot of epic backstory hinted at right there – and some really powerful despair and sadness and the toll of a clearly ancient being. I want more Jenkins! And… less of everyone else, which is kind of sad. Or at least more silly fun to justify everyone else.

Lost Girl, Season 5, Episode 4: When God Opens a Window

Let’s open randomly in what I like to think is Bo and Tamsin’s daily life with Tamsin bringing home a hot guy and then sharing with Bo so she’ll share the Chinese take away. Poor Thad seems quite scared by the whole experience (probably because Tamsin just fed him to a Succubus without checking for a second whether he wanted that).

Time for the events of the week – a young man trying to buy a bus ticket with his grandfather’s watch. Despite being super nervous and desperate 5 minutes ago, the guy (Mark) still manages to make a girl on the bus (Maggie) super uncomfortable by sitting next to her (on the entirely empty bus) and asking personal questions that seem geared to finding out if she’s run away and is all alone (he also gets a pitch pipe her uncle gave her). Whatever creepy things he was planning is interrupted by someone shooting/throwing something through the window that hits and kills Maggie. Mark scrabbles away.

Mark manages to stagger his way to Bo and Tamsin’s (and Tamsin continues her snark). He tells Bo and Tamsin he is being followed and he’s done nothing and offers yet another grandfather’s watch to pay for their PI services (granddad was clearly a watch salesman).

Bo is sympathetic, Tamsin is suspicious. They have a little argument with Bo laying down the line of what she actually does in her PI business and how she and Tamsin need to make things work (communication, reliability and helping people). While they argue Mark hears everything and decides to leave – of course this may be due to him ransacking Bo’s room and stealing stuff.

They easily catch him but the menacing has to take a delay to Tamsin and Bo again arguing over how they work together (this time Tamsin objecting to Bo trying to tone down her intimidation). Argument on hole, Mark tries to explain himself (Bo finds multiple grandfather’s watches and a driver’s license in the name “Javier Delgado”) and Bo gets shot with an arrow. Mark runs.

Over to Lauren checking on the now-human Morrigan at her impressive estate and annoying her staff with fake British accents. The Morrigan is still a terrible person but she’s the one bankrolling Lauren’s mysterious medical centre thing which she’s funded to try and re-fae herself. She’s now bankrolling a security system.

Tamsin gets Bo back home and tries for some kiss-healing but the wound re-opens. Lauren shows up for emergency medical care – inside her wound are two living metal parasite thingies that were continually re-opening the wound. The nasty parasite things also are attracted to each other so work as a tracker. Follow this by Lauren being flirty and Tamsin getting jealous.

They track down Mark to the Dal where he’s trying to con people and finally get some answers from him – he’s been hunted since he was a boy and, as an orphan, he doesn’t even know what kind of fae he is. This turns into angst because the deaths he’s left in his wake give him the guilt-weasels.  Of course, guilt-weasels get Bo on side.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Diabolical Taste (Kenssie #2) by Ros Jackson

It’s hard for Kenssie to get any respect as the young thrall to Rakmanon, a demon who feeds on shame, especially since he relies on the smitten younger demon to be an emergency snack

But when circumstances force Rakmanon to move them to Lincolnshire and a deep secret from his past returns, Kenssie begins to see different viewpoints – and look twice at Rakmanon’s grip on her and just how much is she willing to lose and see destroyed at his say-so.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I liked the first book quite a lot because it was quirky, original and funny. The world setting was weird, the irreverence pretty hilarious and it was a wonderful, fluffy story of complete and utter weirdness made into a wonderful madlib of a book. It was fun, it wasn’t deep, it was quirky but I didn’t envisage it going anywhere. This was part of the reason why I understood it was so short – because, to quote myself:
 I think it would have collapsed under its own weight if it were too long, like a big sugary confection – sweet and light and tasty and fun but not intended to be substantial.

So when I received the second book, I worried. And there were problems as the story of the first book was hastily dragged into something more substantial. The setting changed abruptly without any real explanation why (except for plot convenience). Kenssie made some decisions that didn’t seem to make any sense at all (her rapid friendship of Otis for example and then deciding to keep it secret from Rakmanon). I think Kenssie herself also was a little inconsistent – at times a very immature 16 year old (in fact, much younger) which seemed to be the tone of the first half of the book to emphasise how naïve and vulnerable she is. But during the book she transforms into a much more mature, confident character – and there isn’t a natural progression there, it just seems to happen.

The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines

This time, Flynn is in search of King Solomon's mines.  The journey will lead him into Africa, with a legacy from his father that he only now begins to understand the importance of.  Flynn will learn the difference between a good librarian and great librarian, when he learns that the greater good sometimes means making sacrifices.

This series continues to feel camp and very much like a cheap Indiana Jones rip off.  All of the elements are there from a mysterious treasure, which the white male protagonist must retrieve from a country of colour, to the typical sidekick of colour, made to look backward or even savage next to the white male protagonist, and a female love interest.  It's a paint by numbers movie, without any surprises.  

Instead of having a guardian, this time Flynn is joined on his journey by Dr. Emily Davenport.  She may not have the same physical skills as a guardian but she actually possess more degrees than Flynn and isn't shy to point out each and every time Flynn gets something wrong.  This greatly gets on Flynn's nerves, as he used to being the smartest one in the room.  The two share an attraction which builds throughout the movie but never really feels authentic to me. I suppose that I should be thankful that they worked together as true partners and at the end of it all, Emily didn't even consider giving up her a career for a man she had just met.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays

Hello everyone, the Fangs for Fantasy crew would like to wish you and yours, a safe happy and prosperous holiday season.  We've had a rocky year at times in 2014 and we hope everyone will join us with a big drink and a bigger turkey

So long as you don't deep fry it.

And make sure your decorations are tasteful. Or Awesome.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gaia's Children by Eric Hutchinson

Ok I have to preface this by the fact that this is a very long book that I did not finish because of issues I will explain. I haven't included a synopsis because the blurb for the book doesn't resemble what I've read - I'm assuming that a lot more happens so I will say if you don't find the beginning 150-200 pages the same kind of road block that I did, there's probably a much meatier story lurking behind it.

But I was forcing myself to read long before I stopped and for the sake of an honest review, it doesn't matter if your book becomes awesome in the last 300 pages, if the first 300 pages are too much of a roadblock to meet it. But if you can get past that road block, you may love it. 

Now - onwards:

Recently we took part in the Book Smuggler’s holiday Smugglivus and one of the points we raised on our Inclusive Ingrid post was:

Sometimes Inclusive Ingrid wrote this book to tell us that racism/homophobia/sexism/ableism et al is bad, guys. Let me tell you how bad it is, because it’s really really bad. Have you not seen how bad it is? Don’t worry, this book makes it very very clear. Example after example, incident after incident all explained in detail. It’s a wonderful lecture on the damage and prevalence of prejudice! Unfortunately what it isn’t, is a story. Inclusive Ingrid has sat herself down and written one long PSA, shoe-horned in some downtrodden vampires and a werewolf who wants to expound on their women’s studies notes, and neglected to actually include a plot. Or characters we don’t want to cheerfully beat to death with their own sociology 101 texts.

That’s pretty much the very definition of this book. It is there to make a point and it does to at length and with great repetition. Some time ago I read the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind which was, basically, a great big love in to Ayn Rand and the joys of libertarianism. This book is Anarchism version – one long polemic on how anarchy, no government etc is such a wonderful thing conveyed through an alien living in a utopian society describing his world and showing us the way to fix our world.

Now, I’ll add another preface by saying I am a very liberal person – I am, in many ways, the commie-pinko-socialist the right wingers love to hate – so many of the points the author was trying to raise definitely resonated with me: environmental destruction, wealth inequality, lack of representation in democracy, the way politicians try to hold power – so, no I’m not putting this book down because it clashes with my political views because in some ways it doesn’t (until the libertarianism raises its ugly head).

But it is mind numbingly naïve and simplistic to a point where I’m not sure whether the author even believes what they’re writing or is trying to parody them

Most of this lecturing is delivered by having an alien, Albert, describe his society to many people, starting with married couple Tom and Samantha. After many many many many lectures (and shenanigans from a Completely Awful Journalist) a television interview happens which is very very very long and this, in turn, leads to a big societal uprising that Tom and Samantha lead

In some ways it was very useful that it was an alien that communicated their world and society because it required a completely alien world and an alien society for me to believe it was workable. The inherent practicality of it that even the book has to acknowledge is backed by a lot of special alien woo-woo to cover any of the inconveniences that putting humans in this system would bring (not least of which are the aliens not needing cooked food, food storage, medicine, sanitation, construction, recorded history, literature, written communication at all, transport, education – so much more). Basically, the alien physiology (and low resource nature of their world) renders any kind of collective undertaking unnecessary. They live as free-thinking individuals without leadership, hierarchy, government or laws because absolutely nothing in their society or world requires collective effort. And even this doesn’t follow through in their depiction – because this society with virtually stone age tool use (and even that is helped by an incredibly convenient ecology that produces easily customisable items) has still managed to produce chemical and biological weapons… somehow.

Lost Girl, Season 5, Episode 3: Big in Japan

Bo is decorating (well, kind of) with Dyson and it gets all sexy, inevitably when Bo suddenly pulls back. Dyson tries to assure Bo there’s no strings attached but she claims a headache (remembering she’s a succubus who can heal with sex and has previously used sex with Dyson to heal while half dead) she pulls back a second time and rushes off for a drink. Dyson is all confused. Bo is missing Kenzi

At the Dal it’s karaoke night. Because why not. A man (who definitely cannot sing) is throwing a huge amount of money around, 2 women with him make out for his enjoyment and someone puts a poisonous thing in his drink. This isn’t a particularly ill thought out recipe but a poisoning attempt the man notices when he freezes his drink with a wave of his hand.

Bo and Tamsin continue to miss Kenzi when Tamsin tries to make dinner and they miss Kenzi’s effortless ability to produce amazing meals out of the terrible food and awful kitchen. Instead they go out and when Tamsin suggests finding someone to feed on, Bo again dodges the issue. Ruich guy from the Dal propositions them on the street – Tamsin seems quite fine with this but Bo is reluctant – until Tamsin comes on to Bo and, again, Bo ducks out and decides they should go with rich Japanese guy. In case you missed the theme, Bo is avoiding sex.

The next morning Bo and Tamsin wake up in bed together, hung over – and they didn’t have sex. Bo tries to feed on Tamsin to cure her hang over but stops – she can’t, which Tamsin puts down to breath issues. The rich guy from last night is also there, playing with a knife. Tamsin is way too tired to deal with this and fun in her indifference. He wants them to play bodyguard

He takes them to dinner where Bo snarks about sushi and Tamsin and the man (can this guy get a name please) explain that Taco, the ones out to kill him are major bounty hunters. We learn he gets his icy powers from his grandmother, Yuki-Onna and we get the man’s name – Musashi who Tamsin fangirls all over since he’s a great warrior who fought in one of the fae’s greatest wars. To counter Tamsin’s fawning fan worship, Musashi is an arsehole to the woman serving him tea because she spills some (she snarks back, politely, that her servers can’t pour tea because they were with him the night before and are now hung over) – she’s also his sister and he introduces his three brothers hanging around as well.

Bo gets back on track and asks why someone wants to kill a great fae war hero and he hands Tamsin a scroll – Musashi is “ascending” which means he’s becoming a god.

They leave the restaurant, brainstorming who could be wanting to kill Musashi and are attacked by someone actually dressed as a television ninja, I kid you not. He knocks Tamsin and Bo aside and holds his sword to Mushashi’s neck (in TV land, you don’t kill someone without a dramatic pause to spare them first) and sees his tattoos – the assassin falls to his knees and kills himself for insulting the “exalted one” by stabbing himself in the stomach. No-one thinks to get medical attention so they can question the man, instead concerned with Bo who is injured and refuses to feed to heal herself.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: 2014, Episode 27

It's time for this week's episode of Fangs for the Fantasy podcast - this is the last podcast before the Holiday break. We will be back on the 5th January at our usual time (but full of much much more turkey)

We're looking at the season finales of the shows we follow as the end for the holidays including Originals, Vampire Diaries, Resurrection, Constantine and more

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 (technology willing)

15th December -  22nd December: Odin Ravens by  K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr
22nd December - 5th January: Hidden Legacy by Ilona Andrews
5th January - 12th January: Unbound by Jim C Hines
12th January - 19th January: The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
19th January - 26th January: A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin

Odin's Ravens (Blackwell Pages #2) by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

Baldwin is dead, avatar of the god Baldr in legend he stayed dead because Loki would not cry for him – but this time Loki’s descendants grieved for his loss. With the myth changed, Laurie, Fenn and Matt are willing to enter the underworld and bring Baldr home – even if it means facing the dead, giant dogs and the goddess of Hel.
Even then they’ve still got Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor to find and an apocalypse to stop… and Matt, a 13 year old boy, has to grow into the shoes of Thor.
Plot wise I think this book has a similar issue with the last book – it’s very linear. They have a step-by-step plan and are railroaded along it. They have to rescue Baldwin, they have to find Mjolnir and to do both they’re basically told how to do both. We then have all the necessary action scenes described (and they’re really good, don’t get me wrong) and they all flow very smoothly, there’s little in the way of down time or dead places in the book – but it’s still linear. They have a task, they know exactly where to go, they go there, they fight whatever gribbly thing they have to fight then either they succeed and fail and move on to the next step. There’s no real complexity there. And it isn’t written badly and it certainly doesn’t flow better and it’s generally fun to read – but it’s a classic quest story. A well written quest story, a nicely paced quest story with some great description – but still a linear quest story.
The research behind the book is excellent with a real nice inclusion of all kinds of Norse legends and not just the common ones (Thor, lord of goats doesn’t make its way into many stories). I do so love the legends
One thing that does set this book above the first book is the character development – there’s a lot more of it. It also had some nicely fun moments in between the action
I am torn over Fenn. On the one side he’s a pretty annoying character – he’s surly and moody and his cousin Laurie spends waaaaay too much time tip-toeing around his stompyness. I honestly spent most of the book a little tense waiting for him to do something unforgivably outrageous, turn to the dark side, or otherwise make me want to strangle him. In the end he was still a character I didn’t like – but he wasn’t unrealistic, excessive or aggravating – or any more aggravating that a bad tempered 13 year old with a chip on his shoulder should be. I think there’s a level of realism to him, he’s had a hard pretty neglected life, he’s always been second or overlooked and accused (which we also see from the general Thorsen way of treating him and the other Brekke’s) and the only person he has ever had he could rely on is Laurie – who now has other friends and is supporting them and not just following in his wake. His behaviour is understandable – annoying but understandable and realistic.

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

The next episode of our podcast will be starting tonight at 7:00pm EST (12:00am GMT). It's the last episode of the year and we continue to work through all the mid-season finales on the lead up to the Holidays

You will be able to listen to us on our youtube channel, or by the link in the sidebar or by the post here that will be posted. We hope to see you there

Like all  the Fangs for the Fantasy podcast(archives here) we read a book and discuss it on the show. 

To give people a chance to read along with us we 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.

We will be returning in 2015 on the 5th January

15th December -  22nd December: Odin Ravens by  K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr
22nd December - 5th January: Hidden Legacy by Ilona Andrews
5th January - 12th January: Unbound by Jim C Hines
12th January - 19th January: The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
19th January - 26th January: A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin

Atlantis, Season 2, Episode 6: The Grey Sisters

Medea runs through the woods, chased by Jason. She manages to hide among the trees and cower from him. He rants his promise of revenge for her stabbing Ariadne. Jason tries to sell menacing and enraged. It’s kind of like being menaced by a chinchilla. Mid rant he nearly stabs Hercules (who does a much better job of acting scared – but means he now looks terrified of the chinchilla). He’s there to call her back to Ariadne who needs him (Medea you had a knife to her throat and failed to murder her. The other assassins will now laugh at you) because they need to get her back to Atlantis – since Jason just apparently left her to run off after Medea. Medea shakes and cries.

They get Ariadne to the palace and she’s put in bed and the Oracle called in to work with Pythagoras on Ariadne’s wound. Sad faces all round. While the Oracle works her ritual to save Ariadne, Hercules comforts Jason who is beginning to lose his faith that all people are wonderful fluffy bunnies.

Having done what they can, Jason goes to her side. Hercules goes home to eat and where they’re hosting Orpheus. Hercules offers his condolences since he has also lost the woman he love (Medusa) but Orpheus believes love only dies if you give up on finding your loved one – he’s even willing to go to Hades for Eurydice. This sounds like a lead in to Hercules questing for Medusa (please! Medusa was awesome).

Jason spends the night laid next to Ariadne – still in his zombie-skeleton stained leather, this is not hygienic! Ariadne started bleeding again during the night. The Oracle makes a vaguely ominous statement about the wound not healing. Using a ritual she reveals that Medea put a death curse on the dagger – using Colchean magic that the Oracle can’t undo (do you know what would have worked better than a death curse? Stabbing Ariadne in the neck). After dramatically announcing that Ariadne’s going to die and Jason refusing to accept it, the Oracle decides enough drama has passed for her to dole out another tiny crumb of information – the Grey Sisters are super powerful seers who will know a cure. They will also tell you upsetting things – like Jason is going to listen to any warning.

Of course, being oracles, I predict they will say ominously vague things without much substance.

Jason and the gang set off on the quest and Pythagoras notices something is bugging Hercules – he teases him as is his wont and Hercules loses his temper and snaps at Pythagoras for always making a joke out of him. More prodding and Hercules reveals his Medusa angst – Orpheus and Jason are both going to extreme lengths for the women they love and he hasn’t done anything to help cure Medusa of her curse.

They make their way to the Grey Sisters cave and find the three – eyeless crones carrying one large eyeball between them in order to see (the Graiae). They ask what he has brought them and he has nothing but he begs them to help; as they pass the eye back and forth he grabs it. He threatens to destroy it if they don’t tell him the cure (Pythagoras and Hercules exchange startled looks) – the cure is to anoint the wound with Medea’s blood. She’s at the temple of Hecate in a forest but when Jason mentions how much he wants to kill Medea, the Gaiae tell him their fates are entwined and everything will fail without her (vague ominous premonitions! Ah the oracles never cease to not disappoint). Jason throws the eye at them and leaves

Friday, December 19, 2014

The 100, Season Two, Episode Eight: Spacewalker

Clarke returns to Camp Jaha in the company of a grounder escort.  She is met by Finn and immediately tells him that he cannot be outside.  Abby rushes forward and hugs Clarke and then Clarke announces that the only chance for truce, is to hand over Finn.  Raven is quick to say that this is not an offer of peace and Finn adds that it's a punishment - blood for blood.  The crowd surges forward, demanding that Finn be given to the grounders.  Clarke promises Raven that nothing will happen to Finn.  As the crowd gets rough, Raven ends up throwing a punch at Byrne and is restrained by the other guards. Someone calls out that spacewalker siphoned off three months of oxygen from the arc and should have been floated long ago.

Flashback time. On the Arc, Finn quizzes Raven for a test to become a spacewalker.  Raven is desperate not to spend her life trapped on the arc.  It's Raven's birthday and Finn gives her a present, a necklace with a raven pendant. The two kiss.

Back in the present, Finn is approached by Murphy, who says that Byrne actually gave him a gun.  Murphy tries to assure Finn that they will fight off the grounders like they did the last time and Finn points out that a lot of people died the last time.  Their little tête-à-tête is interrupted by Bellamy and Clarke,  who instruct Finn to head inside.  Finn is adamant that he is not going to hide but Clarke makes it clear that they have to think about keeping him safe.  Finn leaves with Bellamy and Murphy asks if Clarke has any orders for him.  Clarke tells Murphy to stay away from her, pointing out that Murphy was with Finn at the village.  Murphy tells Clarke that he tried to stop Finn and that if she wants to blame people, she should blame herself because Finn was looking for her.

Clarke and Abby head to see Lincoln, who is still restrained.  Abby asks if there is a way to make peace.  When Abby informs Lincoln that there are two riders just outside the gate, Lincoln says that they are waiting for Finn.  Raven questions if they are expected to hand over one of their own people and Lincoln makes it clear that Lexa wouldn't let her own people die to protect a murderer.  Abby asks if there is something else they can offer and Lincoln points out that Finn took 18 lives and Lexa is offering to take only one in return, making it clear that they should take the deal.  Clarke is shocked, reminding Lincoln that Finn was the first one to approach him for peace but Lincoln points out that Finn massacred his village and some of those people were his friends as well.  Clarke is quick to defend Finn, saying that it wasn't really Finn who killed those  people but Lincoln is not swayed, pointing out that people are all responsible for what the monster inside them does when it's let out.  Clarke asks what will happen to him and Lincoln describes a gruesome death involving dismemberment.

Abby heads into the holding area and Raven asks to be released.  Raven defends herself by pointing out that they were ready to throw Finn out of the gate.  Abby tells Raven that she is free to go but they have to trust each other.  Jaha warns Abby not to be too hard on Raven because she is a fighter and they are going to need all of their fighters.  Jaha then suggests considering handing Finn over but Abby is adamant that she is not sending a child to his death.  Jaha rightfully points out that they sent 100 children to die on the ground but Abby argues back that that decision was made by another chancellor at a different time. Way to run away from responsibility Abby.

Clarke finds Finn, who is packing his bag, saying that he is putting everyone in the camp in danger. Clarke reminds Finn that there are grounders everywhere and they will kill him but Finn says that this might be what he deserves.  Clarke argues that Finn was trying to find their people and to save them. Finn makes it clear that he was trying to save Clarke because he is in love with her.  Finn says that all that matters is that Clarke is okay and that she forgives him.  Clarke simply asks Finn not to leave. From outside, comes the chant of "Blood must have blood," from the Grounders.

Abby tells Clarke that they should pull back and go into the station but Clarke is adamant that they should prove that they are not afraid.  Abby heads to the gate and tells the Grounders that they are not giving up Finn and are ready to fight, if that is what it comes to.  The riders leave the gate.  Marcus makes his way out of the woods towards Camp Jaha holding his hands in the air.  Marcus tells them that it's safe for the moment and that he has bought them a bit of time.

Marcus and Abby return to the control area, where he says that in his time with the Grounders, he wasn't a prisoner but wasn't allowed outside either.  Jaha is brought in still wearing restraints and this shocks Marcus. Abby explains that Jaha has been detained for treason and tells Marcus that she is keeping the job of chancellor until this over.  Jaha snarks that Marcus shouldn't push Abby on this. Abby asks how Marcus bought them time and he says that he has gotten to know Lexa and now believes that she would open to the right proposal. Marcus believes that they should offer to put Finn on trial for war crimes.  Jaha says that if they put Finn on trial, they will have control over the entire process.  Abby realises that what Jaha and Marcus are really suggesting is that they kill Finn instead of the Grounders.  Marcus argues that they would certainly be more humane. Jaha snarkily asks Abby if she still wants the job.

Abby leaves the meeting and is immediately accosted by Bellamy and Raven.  She makes it clear that they are all trying to find a way out of this before walking off.  Bellamy tells Raven that it looks like Finn is going to be given up.

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 10: Orphans

We open with Elsa giving a poignant voice over of another of the Carnival performers dying (explaining also how not very unexpected it is), this time Salty, one of the two microcephalic performers. Pepper is very upset over Salty’s death and won’t leave his body.

Eve and Paul call in Elsa to encourage her to leave the body and Elsa reflects on the relatively short lives of microcephalics and that others expect too little of Pepper’s understanding – seeming to think she doesn’t understand death. We also see that Pepper was the one who found Salty’s body when he died in his sleep. Of course Elsa is far from a saint and when alone with Stanley she complains about how hard it was to communicate with Salty compared to Pepper

She also seems to be losing patience with Stanley but he’s quick to pull out a telegram allegedly from a studio network and urge her to rest more before the meeting – and be less stressed. Elsa wants to be there for Pepper but Stanley insists she rests and he’ll take care of everything; she resists his plans but he gets his own way

His own way being beheading Salty and sending the head to the museum where he’s already sent Ma Petite.

Desiree reads to pepper to comfort her when Dell comes in to praise her, admit his faults and ask for a second chance, but she denies he owes her anything (saying he saved her too – which I don’t remember – so the debt’s clear) and that she’s never going to be able to make him happy. He leaves to get ready for the show and Pepper has a tantrum about her not staying – Desiree is not amused and has a perfect not-impressed face before telling Pepper to clean up.

Desiree goes to see Elsa who explains that Pepper has major abandonment issues – Desiree archly questions what will happen when Elsa leaves, then – with Ma Petite, Salty and Elsa all leaving Pepper. Elsa decides to exposition her own history when she first came to the US to avoid Hitler – and whether she was pretty ruthless and nasty back then too. In between sabotaging her competition, Elsa realised that Freak Shows would be big during the war because “freaks” wouldn’t be called up to fight or work unlike other entertainers. Though even then she saw the “freaks” as bait to get an audience to watch her.

To find “freaks” she decided to go to an Orphanage where, as she puts it, people throw other people away since few people saw any worth in people like Pepper. There she found 18 year old Pepper, left by her loving but overwhelmed sister. Elsa both refers to Pepper with great affection – and as “her first monster.”

As her show grew she realised Pepper was feeling maternal and, adamantly refusing the possibility that Pepper could be a mother, that moves onto Ma Petite’s story and how she joined the troupe. Ma Petite was treated as a pet, and also faced prejudice as a Dalit caste, and her current “owner” wouldn’t part with her and cannot sell her in a way that would imply she is valuable. So she’s traded for Dr. Pepper

What? What is this? Beyond really clumsy product placement?

Virginal or Gently Used Heroines

One of the most prevailing and damaging tropes to follow women is the Madonna/Whore complex. An age old method of both putting women on high, restrictive pedestals, wrapped in gilded cages to be babied and sheltered and incredibly controlled while also debasing women as acceptable targets and victims of abuse and violence; the Madonna/Whore complex has always been a short cut for judging whether a woman is “good” or “bad”.

In the media, we often see this in villains with the pernicious trope of evil female sexuality. Whether the wicked temptress, the immoral slut, the lusty jezebel or the simply evil sexual deviant - one of the quickest and laziest way the media has to depict a female villain as a villain is to make her sexual. Only a villainous woman seeks out sex, only an evil woman initiates sex and only the most depraved of the depraved of women are actually sexually experienced. Being sexual is all too often the female equivalent of Kicking the Puppy - a simple coded way to depict a villain as evil without bothering with any development. Even when not actively villainous, she is likely to be a Femme Fatale - the same coding applies, a sexual woman is dangerous.

When we come to our heroic protagonists, of course, the Madonnas trot out.

A lot of the time we go full on old school - and our protagonist has never ever had sex before. She is a virgin and probably quite disdainful of sex (and especially other women who are sexual) right until her (usually much more experienced male love interest) opens her to the many splendored joys of True Love Sex. In some extreme cases she will have never even had an orgasm before

Sookie Stackhouse from Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Series is, of course, a classic example and she also introduces a common justification for deciding on a virginal protagonist - some kind of woo-woo that makes sex impossible, unpleasant or undesireable. Sookie’s ability to read her lovers’ minds makes her unwilling to be intimate (albeit something of a stretch) but her’s is not the only woo-woo barrier to sex. In Dark Lover, vampire biology makes Beth completely non-sexual - until her awakening when her true love turns up and leads to oceans of lust. Which is another element of this trope - their one true love will definitely have the correct mojo to unlock the woo-woo chastity belt. In a way, magic serves to preserve these women for their proper owners.

I’m far more intrigued at this point by a protagonist who has a woo-woo that makes their sex lives awkward - and works around it because they are sexual and are willing to take steps to realise their desires (even if those steps are not ideal), like Lire in the Clairvoyant’s Complicated Life Series.

Another excellent way to ensure properly intact good-girl hymens is, of course, historicals - Steampunk is full of virginal protagonists - such as The Gaslight Chronicles. We can have a world with magic, steam powered contrivances and weapons of all kinds - but sexual good women is apparently a step too far. Again, I appreciate when we have a subversion that actually explores the potential of speculative fiction - like the Immortal Empire Series.

Of course, while woo-woo makes a convenient justification (especially in Paranormal Romance), it’s not necessary and many protagonists just happen to be virginally pure for their true loves - Damali in the Vampire Huntress Legend Series, Clary in The Mortal Instruments and Mona from The Protector