Saturday, February 22, 2014

Daysider (Nightsider #1) by Susan Krinard

Alexia is a dhampire – half human and half vampire, born in the savage times when the vampires first rose from their long hiding places and made war on the world

It’s now a very different world. The treaty has established human Enclaves and vampire Citadels – with clear Zones between them in a desperate attempt to prevent another war breaking out between them. But there are factions in both governments waiting for a chance to march again and desperate to do what they can to bring about the complex.

Both sides hear of an illegal vampire colony in the zone – both sides have to investigate to see who is responsible and how badly the treaty has been breached.

Alexia works for Aegis, the human defence agency as a spy and agent, her job is to enter the Zone and combat covert actions from Erebus, the Vampire Citadel. Damon is a Daysider, a rare daywalking vampire hybrid who works as an agent for the vampires. Forced to work together, they investigate just who is behind this colony and try to find a way to stop a seeming inevitable war.

The main thing I liked about this book was the world setting – a post war dystopian vampire setting? Two hostile powers, humanity and the vampires, both controlling their own nations and glaring at each other? A delicate balance of politics and agents to try and prevent another mutually destructive war while extremist factions on both sides are just dying to bring on round 2? Different varieties and mutations of vampire and dhampire acting as agents for both sides, trying to prove their worth and loyalty in societies that barely trust them and will never fully accept them? Both factions have also had to make major compromises that, on some level, makes their societies thoroughly unsatisfactory as well – creating even more pressure for change, even if change could bring everything down in ruins.

Yes, sign me up. This is designed to intrigue me

The plot isn’t entirely original per se – though it’s not overdone either.  It combines with the world and a series of twists and plots to really really work. The plotting of both sides is complicated and nuanced, there are some excellently placed red herrings, lots of confusions and distractions and a constant pressure on who to trust and why. This couples with the really unique and fascinating world setting, drastically different view points and societies that have, at best, made some very severe concessions which neither are happy about and certainly are questionably moral or suitable for their people to make for a very compelling story.  Except for the romance (which I will get to) the pacing is good – well run with a nice

I think I would have been happier with Alexia being conscious a little longer at the beginning of the book – she was rendered helpless and defenceless, in need of aid and protection far too quickly for her to develop as competent in her own right.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Blood Descent (Blood Hunters #3) by Marie Treanor

It is finally time for Elizabeth Silk to give birth to her baby.  The vampire and hunter world is on full alert because this is the first child to be born of a human and a vampire.  For Konrad, this is a day he has been dreading.  Though the other hunters have managed to strike an accord with the vampires, he is convinced that despite Saloman's promises, the vampires represent a huge threat to humanity.  With that in mind, Konrad travels across Europe in an attempt to find hunters who will rally behind him.  What Konrad does not expect is to ally with a vampire named Maggie  but when her goals seem to be the same as his and he finds himself lacking the hunter back up he would like, Konrad decides that he has no choice. It's a race against time but Konrad keeps finding himself distracted by Maggie.

Once again, Treanor starts subverting gender norms for this genre by having a female vampire and a human male.  Konrad is also incredibly damaged having been tortured nearly to death by vampires and witnessing the death of his parents at the hands of vampires.  Woman as victim, in need of saving, is often the theme in paranormal romance which makes Konrads back story really challenging to the ridiculous gender tropes too often normalized in paranormal fantasy.  Unfortunately, this is were subversive plot ends.  It quickly becomes clear that despite being a vampire, Konrad is stronger than Maggie.  Maggie's only real strength lies in her telepathic ability. To make matters worse, Maggie's mission for almost the entirety of this novel is to save Konrad, who is supposedly a good man gone bad.  Could it be any more trope laden?  The idea that a woman should fix a damaged man is extremely problematic and leads far too many women to abusive relationships.  

We do get the requisite declaration of love at the end of Blood Descent but it is highly problematic given the abusive nature of the interactions between Maggie and Konrad.  For the majority of the book, Konrad repeatedly threatens to kill Maggie and when he is not holding a weapon to her heart, he is verbally abusive. Maggie spends her time being passive, sure in her conviction that her goodness will cause Konrad to change his mind about vampires.  Where do I even begin with how problematic this message is?  The very idea that if a woman is good enough that a man will stop abusing her is victim blaming and sick.  The relationship between Konrad and Maggie is not a whirlwind romance but the story of a woman being abused over a lengthy period of time supposedly in the name of love.  Konrad gives a weak apology and is of course forgiven because Maggie loves him.  There is no discussion of counselling to deal with his abusive tendencies; it's a ridiculous narrative about  the love of a good woman saving  damaged man.

Urban Fantasy: Good Girls, Bad Girls and Problems with Both

'[Angel&Devil @ Tijuana restaurant] Fan stuff #fmsphotoaday' photo (c) 2014, Julia - license:
With the increasing popularity of urban fantasy, the genre has reached the point that there are now not only several recurring tropes but characters written to fit specific models which infer how the reader is to interpret them. Because this is a genre filled with largely female characters these defining characteristics come to take on specific meaning. These narrow understandings of gender tend to be restrictive even though they are cast as forward thinking and reinforce both a binary understanding of gender and upholding some time old stereotypes even as the archetype claims to be flaunting gender norms.

The idea of female purity or innocence as a desired trait in women is certainly not new. What I don’t understand is what it is doing in a genre where women are continually fighting, maiming and outright slaughtering all manner of supernatural creatures. There is also often a pairing of purity with outright ignorance of the world they inhabit and usually this ignorance stems from a desire to protect the female protagonist or act as outright abdication of responsibility on the part of her parents. In many ways it reminds of the excuses employed to deny education for women. If women are not expected to go out and kick  asses and take names, why would they need any real information on how the world really works?

In the Lila series by Sarah Alderson we get a young female protagonist who though young, is shielded from the reality of the world by her brother and the man she loves. Of course he pulls back from sex she initiates because, being older and wiser, he is more fit to decide when she can lose her virginity. It’s fine for her to be on the run for her life, but sex is most certainly  a no no, no matter that she has talents which make her extremely powerful. In Daniel l. Jensen’s Malediction series, Cécile is originally prized for her red hair and, of course, her virginity. She is yet another female character who ends up having to justify her decision to engage in sex. This is compounded by the fact that Cécile doesn’t defend her decision by saying that sex is what she desires because well, she wants some, but because she is now married to Tristan. Intercourse can now take place and not tarnish her sweet pureness because the marriage vows have been said; how pedestrian and reductive. Then we have the ever popular Bella from Twilight who must retain her virginity until marriage because according to her eternal love (yes I am rolling my eyes) this is the only way she can avoid burning in hell. 

It’s not just through sex (or lack thereof) that this sense of “purity” is reached for; many protagonists are outright reduced to children to achieve that naive innocence which seems to be the benchmark for female goodness. Of course, these same traits in a man would be markers of weakness or someone we’re supposed to regard as pathetic or incapable; it’s notable that the benchmark or epitome of female goodness are all markers of male weakness.

In Lindsey Progues After The Ending Series, all other women are sluts and bitches. Though Zoe and Dani are both 26 years old they read like 13 year old girls on a perpetual hormonal fit. It’s purposeful infantantisation which suggests that to be good, i.e. pure women cannot act like women but have to be children. They are separated from the other women simply because they have determined that they are the “good girls”.  Hereafter by Terri Bruce is yet another example of infantalisation being employed. In this case, you have Irene, who is cruel and uses the people around her. Irene even dies while drinking and driving but since she has the emotional maturity of a 12, year old, though she is 36, she cannot be all bad right?

Karen Marie Moning’s Mackayla Lane’s series gives us an absolutely vapid protagonist who I am surprised can walk and chew gum. Mackayla is so sweet and innocent she will not swear because that is just how a good lady behaves (as she lectures another character pointedly - never mind that they’re fighting for their lives against evil fae - that’s no excuse for cussing young lady!). She desperately wants to wear bright colours with pink being her most common choice.  All good girls,sweet girls, do after all love pink. Are your eyes rolling yet?  So remember ladies, swearing is bad okay? The infamous Sookie Stackhouse is another woman driven by purity and ridiculous gender roles. The world may be falling down around her and vampires fighting in the kitchen but being the perfect hostess she knows just what to serve in such an occasion.  Performing a gentile version of femininity and a feeling of superiority where any other woman is concerned makes Sookie the precious innocent we have all come to be annoyed by.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy #1) by Danielle L. Jensen

Cécile has been waiting all her life to leave home and follow her dream of becoming a singer on stage.  All her plans have been made but on her way to the goodbye party, Cécile is kidnapped and sold into slavery.  Never one to give up, Cécile vows that she will find a way to escape and see her family again but it is hard to fight a battle when one is unfamiliar with all of the players. Cécile has been kidnapped by trolls and married off to the heir, who seems to have little to no interest in her, despite the order that he is to impregnate her.  Cécile finds herself embroiled in troll politics and her desire for personal freedom quickly becomes a fight to help the half breeds, who are disposable to full born trolls. Against her better judgement Cécile starts to have feelings for Tristan.  Could it be that there are more trolls than the legends say?

Stolen Songbird is an extremely compelling novel.  I found myself unwilling to put it down and I raced through it quickly.  For a Y.A. novel, Jensen weaved many political themes throughout Stolen Stongbird.  What is the value of freedom and can it be justified at any means for instance.  Once free, should there be limitations and if so, what are they to be? Stolen Songbird was filled with political intrigue leaving the reader guessing until the very end where each of the characters stood.

I was confused when I first started Stolen Songbird because it didn't seem to match the description of the book.  It quickly shifted and I found myself embroiled in Jensen's world.  Cécile is a fascinating protagonist who is not prone to spunky agency. Though she is clearly in over head, Cécile takes the time to learn about the history of her new world and her role in it because she realises that knowledge is power.  This was quite refreshing because Cécile started off as the typical chosen one and that line of plot quickly failed.  Stolen Songbird also easily passed the bechdel test, in that women most often interacted about the state of the half bloods or political intrigue.  There were several strong female characters, chief among them Anais and Elise.  

Beauty and the Beast, Season 2, Episode 14: Redemption

Opening eye candy! And why not, it’s not like they hired the actor for his amazing thespian talents. Alas, it’s a very brief montage of Vincent working out which is interrupted by Cat who brings the relationship drama - does Vincent want there to be an “us”. A kiss follows…

And Vincent wakes up (kisses from Cat are apparently like being pinched). At least it’s just a dream and Cat has some class and isn’t rekindling her romance with Vincent while Tori isn’t even cold and Gabe is in hiding. That would be tacky.

To ~Cat and Tess! Who are talking about men – how shocked are we with this discovery? Anyway it seems Cat called Gabe “Vincent” over dinner while on a romantic holiday in Mexico and he was so gracious over it while Tess would have totally eaten Cat’s liver. Cat has decided to avoid Vincent for a while so we can really ramp up the angst

To Gabe’s fake funeral! Tess isn’t exactly reverent since Gabe isn’t actually dead and they make a note not to tell Gabe how poorly attended his funeral was. Vincent and JT arrive and there’s more whispered small talk while the priest drones on in a rather melodramatic fashion. Tess and Cat make nice with the evil Sam (since Dana is also faking her own death) and Vincent and JT talk about getting Cat back, which includes Vincent convincing her that he won’t choose Beast over her again (ugh, are we really going to say Cat was right about all that?)

Cat goes to see Gabe and tries to sugar-coat his poorly attended funeral (personally I think they booked too large a venue for a man with no living family and a very small social circle) and discuss what they know about the mysterious and menacing Barnes – mainly that he liquidated his fortune and is now playing hidden paymaster to secret evil plotz. As you do, everyone needs a hobby

Tess is stalking Sam and has followed him to a hospital where he’s visiting someone in quarantine. Doesn’t that defeat the point of quarantine? Gabe says “quarantine what does that mean?” and I don’t know whether to despair or call in the cast of Helix to explain it in agonisingly painful detail. Which would serve him right.

Cat wants to check it out but Gave is horrified that she’s going to go alone. To a hospital. A public hospital. That Tess has already been to.  Of course, this ridiculous turn of events is just an excuse to make Cat take Vincent with her.

In the hospital, someone dumps a kid on a gurney and Vincent flies into doctor mode, not approving of the neglectful treatment and deciding his several-years-out-date-medical-skills and completely unsterile-street-clothes are exactly what is needed. Cat, of course, loves seeing the “old you”.

He did, apparently, save a kid from a ruptured spleen while Cat, alas, couldn’t get into quarantine. Because it’s quarantine. If you could get in, it wouldn’t be quarantine. The CDC has taken over and the patient has memory loss, fever and psychotic rage and for some reason she mooted the possibility of a designer drug (which the CDC decided to… quarantine?) and apparently he’s the second victim of the same ailment – the last one is dead. Interestingly, they both were the same age and had the same name – Jacob Sutter. They also have a brief meeting with Vincent’s old mentor who wants Vincent to become a doctor again.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blake 187: A Zombie Revolution By Aiden James & Michelle Wright

Blake is a zombie – assigned the number 187 when he rose from the dead after he tried to kill himself to be with his long dead girlfriend, killed in one of the plagues that ravages this broken, dystopian society

Zombies are brought back for one reason – to work for an ever dwindling human population. Kept rational by medication, they exist to serve as a slave class to the living who regard them with disgust and revulsion.

Once they have finished rehabilitation into becoming good little followers of the revered god-like leader of their society (and failing to revere him is not… healthy). Blake is more stubborn and rebellious than most –and less able to guard his tongue as they slowly grind him down. His choices, such that they are, are to be finally broken and become the model zombie they want…

…or find a way to escape, should that ever be possible, if he can exist without the meds and if the horrors that exist in the waste do not get him instead.

This is a book of two halves. The first half of the book I nearly put it down – it was so very close to being a DNF review.

The concept was interesting – a dystopian world ravaged by plague and disasters told from the point of view of a zombie who had basically been raised as slave labour – was an interesting one. But the way it was presented was really rather terrible. We followed the protagonist, Blake, as he was returned from the dead and rehabilitated.

And by “followed” I mean he goes from place to place being randomly abused while we were treated to epic info dump after info dump after info dump. Everything about this book is told there is virtually no show at all. We’re told about the witches and how they’re oppressed and treated. We’re told about the reanimation process. We’re told in incredible depth about the nature of this dystopian world – and it is a really good world. From how breeding is controlled, to the manufactory sterilisations and the control by fear and propaganda and shortages and the environmental destruction and a thousand things more – this world is incredibly detailed with so many different elements that make up this deeply repressive society. A huge amount of work has gone into this world building to such a degree that it feels almost like the setting for an RPG because there is such a focus on every last detail of the world and how it works. It’s very very well made

But not well presented, because all of this is told to us in a series of repeated lectures. And no matter how fascinating the subject matter is, info-dumping is a clumsy way to convey your world setting – it also includes a whole lot of information that isn’t strictly necessary. Sure it’s fascinating to learn the minutiae of the society, but a lot of this isn’t relevant – or isn’t relevant ion the detail that was reached – to actually tell the story.

Blake makes his way through various stages of rehabilitation, imprisonment and eventual slave labour and in doing so we rarely get shown the things he talks about. We see abuse from his controller, but very little in the way of societal oppression against the zombies because we don’t have chance to see society. The guards could be abusive prison guards and the zombies just other people rather than an abused class in the society for all the substantive difference it makes, for example. Again – lot of tell not a lot of show.

In between the ocean of exposition we do get brief introductions to Pete, Zinda and Helena, the other principle characters and some half-decent attempts at character establishment on Zinda. But not much, not even on Blake (beyond a basic decent guy magically escaping most of the prejudice of his society, Blake doesn’t really have a lot of identifiers to establish him as a character).

Being Human, Season Four, Episode Six: Cheater of the Pack

Josh and Wendy wake up naked in a field together and Josh wonders where everyone is and what happened last night.  Wendy explains that their animals must have taken over and that she doesn't remember everything. When Wendy moves to touch Josh, he quickly backs away, jumps up and covers himself.  Wendy says that wolves are wolves.  Josh gets up saying that they have to find everyone else, as Wendy lies down contentedly.  The wolves are gathered together in a field when Josh finds Nora.  Josh says that his wolf was tracking something to explain his earlier absence to Nora.  Nora questions this because she thought that Josh was more aware of his wolf.  The wolves chat about breakfast and Josh makes an excuse saying that he and Nora have a thing today.

Aidan is looking for blood and is shocked to find out that he is all out.  Sally questions if Aidan is okay and points out that he doesn't really need that much blood.  Sally suggests that Aidan should just look at this as a detox.  I really cannot stand the constant comparison of a vampire's need for blood to substance addiction. The two are not even closely related. Aidan says that he will think of something and Sally is concerned that it be something safe.  Nora and Aidan arrive and Nora is trying to understand how it is that Josh can change with the other wolves but refuses to share a meal with them.  Josh says that he just wanted to come home.

The doorbell rings and it's Robbie, Sally's brother.  Sally is shocked to see her brother.  Robbie says that he is helping his father out with the house and informs them that they have 30 days to either buy it or vacate. Robbie points out that 30 days is the law, when Aidan complains about how little time they are being given. In the background, Sally says that she doesn't believe that her father would actually want to sell the house now and wonders if this sudden change had to do with drugs. Robbie admits that he has advised his father to sell the house and that the place is depressing for his father. Robbie asks Aidan, Nora and Josh to tells Sally what is going on and adds that he would like them to clean up the house. When Aidan points out that plumbing is sub par, Robbie says that he will be fixing the house up over the next couple of days and leaves adding that he will take 300,000$ for the house as is.

Josh and Nora are at a takeaway and Nora tells Josh she knows he is not ready to leave the house.  Josh admits he wants to stay but adds that none of them can actually afford to buy it.  Nora says that part of her isn't ready to leave either. Nora tells Josh that she wishes he didn't have to deal with so much change right now and Josh questions if they do indeed have a choice.  Nora is quick to say that they are not ready and assures Josh that Sally and Aidan are their family but she has seen couples in the pack who are making it work and she wants that for them someday.  Josh questions if they should move out on their own and adds that they shouldn't have to put their lives on hold after everything he has put Nora through.

Back at the house, Sally suggests that Aidan eat everyone who comes to see the house, which causes Aidan to tell Sally that suggesting he eat people is not a good diea.  Sally then says that she could bust all of the pipes.  When Nora and Josh return, Sally explains her plans to make the house appear haunted.  Aidan brings up the fact that there have been a couple of fires in the house they can tell the realtor about and asks what plans Josh and Nora have come up with.  Josh admits that there might not be a plan that works for all of them and says  that the reason he and Aidan moved into the house was to find a place where they could be normal. Josh adds that he has done that and is now a married man thus making it a logical step for him and Nora to move and find a place of their own.

Aidan follows arrows and Suzanna stops him saying that he is better than black market blood.  Aidan reminds Suzanna that he told her to get the hell out of town and Suzanna snarks that he is no longer her lord and master. Aidan reminds Suzanna that she is not safe but Suzanna is not ready to leave Boston yet. They bicker lightly for a few minutes about Aidan's heartbreak and Aidan wonders how Suzanna knows about Cat.

Robbie is brings a couple to see the house and Sally gets up and throws something on the ground.  Robbie picks it up, as the couple start to wonder if the seller would be flexible on his thirty day waiting period for possession of the house. Robbie promises the couple that he is sure he can work something out and suggests they should talk numbers.  Sally starts to do a spell which causes the house to stink and the couple rushes out of the house.  Sally follows the couple out of the house and finds herself in 2009 with Robbie and Danny talking about the house.  Danny asks Robbie if he wants Sally to mooch off their family the way he does.  A live Sally pops outside and Danny heads in the house.  Robbie asserts that Danny is a creep and Sally tells him not to piss on her excitement.

Suzanna and Aidan are walking and she says that she is sorry about Cat.  Aidan tells Suzanna about Josh and Nora moving out and that living with them helped him want to be something better.  Suzanna suggests that Aidan is afraid to be alone.  Aidan bends over in pain and says that he needs to eat something.

Josh meets with Wendy and mentions that he and Nora are moving.  Wendy tells Josh that he made her feel like a whore in a Russian spy love and that she doesn't understand why he is upset because they didn't do anything wrong.  Josh points out that they're both married to other people and Wendy argues back that they're animals.  Wendy says that during the change she feels more connected with herself and that it is a sensual experience.  Wendy wonders if Josh is open to new possibilities and Josh asks if she and Mark are swingers. Wendy reveals that she hasn't told Mark yet and adds that they are a new kind kind of pack - forward thinkers.  Josh argues that they are accountable for what their wolves do and adds that what happened was wrong.  Wendy says that her relationship with Mark is built on honesty.  Josh begs Wendy not to say anything and Wendy suggests that Mark and Nora could find out from their wolves.  Wendy tells Josh that he has to make peace with what his wolf wants before it eats him alive.

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 11: Disrupt

Rudy is doing some technical stuff – some nefarious technical stuff that apparent involves Dorian. Until Dorian wakes up and isn’t impressed to see Rudy messing with him; Rudy tries to downplay it but Dorian isn’t buying it – messing with his body and head while he’s unconscious is not ok. John arrives and thinks Dorian is overreacting but Dorian questions whether John would really be happy with someone, for example, shaving him while he was unconscious.

The question goes unanswered because they have to go cover Detective Richard Paul’s shift who is off work due to… an infected intimate piercing. Ok, the less we dwell on that the better. Rudy returns to his nefarious work and gets an error message – unknown foreign batch file. That’s not good.

Cut to the likely future case. A man returns home (a wonderful hi-tech home showing a lot of the shinies future technology can bring) with a very secure security system which seems to have caused him problems. The implication is that it “did its job” and killed a teenager and the man and his wife are now getting death threats.

She goes for a swim and he sits to watch the TV while their house computer, Sam does everything for them… until he goes all HAL on them and closes the pool over the woman, Linda while making her husband watch footage of the dead teenager and locking him in the house. He is forced to break his own windows to go out to try and rescue his wife from drowning – and the security system shoots him. She then drowns.

In come the police, Maldonado handling the press and John telling someone else that Richard is out for explosive haemorrhoids – methinks trusting John to give an accurate account of Richard’s diagnosis is not a good idea. Officially the cause of death is the house security malfunctioning – exactly one year at about the same time as it “malfunctioned” and killed the teenaged boy. Statistically unlikely, as Dorian points out.

They talk to the house computer, Sam, who confirms that he was remote accessed but all security files have been deleted. He does give them the literally thousands of threats the family received.             

Dorian takes a moment to criticise John for making up stories about Richard – though he does it under the rather dubious excuse of respecting Richard’s privacy, but he’s only using it to try and bring up what Rudy was doing to him. John puts it down to part of what it’s like to live with other people – you lose your privacy.

They visit the company that creates the Sam computers, Centurion, – their new models use Sam androids, not Sam holograms – which also doubles as a bodyguard/security bot. They go to see the head of the company, Kay Stenson and her lawyer Peter Newsome who both assure John of their eagerness to co-operate (and Dorian has a little moment where he freezes due to the weird files Rudy put in his head). Anyone who tells you how eager they are to co-operate is just stalling you while the shredder works at light speed. They’re especially eager because the Sam androids (I will not call them Samdroids, I will not!) are just being released and the bad press would be… unfortunate.

Despite their eager co-operation, they’re very defensive when Dorian questions whether an employee or ex-employee may be behind the hack. And John makes a sharp comment on how when a kid jumped into your back garden you used to yell at him, not kill him with laser guided gunfire. Kay hits back – she joined the company and the industry because she was assaulted by 3 men who broken into her home when she was 15 – and the police didn’t get to her in time. They mention the group Disrupt, which has been launching cyber attacks against the company after the death of the teenager

Teen Wolf, Season 3, Episode 19: Letharia Vulpira

In a rather different setting, we appear to be in a Japanese home with a very very very upset man brandishing a gun who is very very very upset about his dog who looks very very sick. He has called for a doctor and it close to shooting people if the doc doesn’t arrive in time – my some people love their pets

The doctor arrives – Dr. Deaton. Who apologises for being late in Japenese before getting to work – the dog is apparently a wolf but that’s ok, Deaton has a little experience with wolves (snerk. Though I still hold that the “wolf” part of the Teen wolf is pretty questionable). After touching the wolf’s forehead and looking at his teeth, Deaton decides the wolf has eaten poisonous lichen (damn he’s good) and needs to see the garden. Man with gun orders one of his lackies to show Deaton the way… and he hesitates

When an angry man with a gun is considered less threatening than the shrubbery, there’s something going on. The man with the gun rants at them but they all avoid his eye – that’s some fierce shrubbery. He takes Deaton himself to an incredible walled garden including a fountain covered in the lichen – but even he seems nervous. Looking at the fountain we have a flashback to when it wasn’t lichen covered and when the yakuza nogitsune confronted the oni – and he bled into the water.  Which may be why the henchmen want nothing to do with the place

Deaton doesn’t actually think the wolf ate the lichen – the wolf probably sensed what happened to the dead man (apparently the current angry man’s father) and won’t go near the place; the angry man pulls a gun on Deaton who doesn’t batter an eyelid. Excuse you yakuza man, Deaton is mid exposition, that does not get interrupted. The lichen is letheria vulpira, a wolf poison apparently. The wolf is sick because Deaton used a paralytic agent on him – and on the yakuza blokey when he helpfully held a jar Deaton handed him (because Deaton’s kind of awesome like that). He drops… but did he just say “kanima” before he fell?

The lichen is born from nogitsune blood and is quite quite special and very very powerful because of it. And Deaton is going to use it to poison “a fox hiding inside a teenaged boy”.

Well Deaton, we missed you, but you came out of the plot box trailing awesomeness.

Meanwhile, when we last left Kira she was outside the hospital, in the path of a broken, live powerline that’s thrashing around quite dangerously. She dodged – but the line causes an ambulance to swerve off the road and hit fire hydrant. Lots of water + live powerline = fun for all the family! The ambulance driver steps in the water and is electrocuted. Newly arrived on the scene Isaac and Allison nearly get wet – but Isaac throws Allison clear, but doesn’t jump free himself.

More people step into the lethal water until Kira leaps over a car and incredibly awesomely (there’s already a lot of awesome on this episode) flips into the water (quite why the flip was necessary I don’t know but it did look cool). She isn’t shocked – and she grabs the powerline DAY IS SAVED. Actually not quite – she then puts her free hand over the sparking end and absorbs the power of the hospital, her eyes glowing golden. She’s watched by Scott – and in the screaming crowd leaving the hospital – her mother.

But Isaac isn’t breathing. Lots of flashes – Isaac is taken to hospital, Agent STILL-isn’t-dead McCall realises sabotage is going on, Stiles has driven off in his jeep and Kira’s mother hurries Kira away before anyone sees

Scott gets up faced with the problem of telling the sheriff what’s happening with Stiles who is still missing; he and Melissa go to the hospital where Allison is keeping vigil waiting to see how Isaac is but they won’t let her in because she isn’t family – because Isaac has no family. Melissa’s not having that – announcing that Isaac has them and adding that she has a keycard she lets them in. Isaac has several severe burns, his werewolf healing apparently not kicking in. Scott can’t help him heal but he does use his werewolf power to help take away his pain

At the police station the sheriff gets a message from Stiles – saying he’s ok and not to look for him. Like that’s going to happen. And Agent McCall (who isn’t dead) wants to know if there’s any yakuza problems in the area, mentioning Katashi specifically, much to the Sherriff’s bemusement.

To school with a quick check in with Kira who tells Scott that Kitsune are tricksters not necessarily good nor evil but probably not understanding either. But for a Nogikitsune to be acting like this, something has probably offended it really really badly.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Grim Anthology

The Key by Rachel Hawkins; Figment by Jeri Smith Ready; Twelfth Girl by Malinda Lo; Raven Princess by Jon Skrovan; Thinner Than Water by Saundra Mitchell; Before the Rose Blooms by Ellen Hopkins; Beast/Beast by Tessa Gratton; Brothers Pigget by Julie Kagawa; Untethered by Sonia Gensler; Better by Shaun David Hutchinson; Light it Up by Kimberly Derting; Serpent’s Tongue by Christine Johnson; Real Boy by Claudia Gray; Skin Trade by Myra McEntire; Beauty and Chad by Sarah Rees-Brennan; The Pink by Amanda Hocking; Sell Out by Jackson Pearce 

Reviewing anthologies is always a balance between reviewing the individual stories and reviewing the book as a whole; and I think a lot of Anthologies rely on the former (having some recognisable names and making sure at least half the stories are good quality) without any real consideration of how those stories come together

Grim is an anthology that got it right in terms of cohesion. The stories are all re-imagined fairy tales  with a twist – and they do all have an interesting twist. Contrary to the hinted blurb, the endings are not all grim and dark – far from it, happily ever after predominates them all. But they’re not necessarily the Happily Ever After that Disney would generally accept as ideal.

In terms of twists I particularly like the Princess and her novel view of a curse in Raven Princess - I really like how the curse came about, the natural frustration and regret that would cause it and then lead to the mother’s desperate amends (it’s also nice to see a mother in fairy tales who isn’t evil). I also love that the hero is a hero due to his kindness and utter failure to be violent – he is kind to strangers, he is generous with what he has, at no point does he hurt anyone or even try to do so. He is a hero who a Princess can be sure she wants to be with – not just the guy who slices and dices things really well. In all, this was my favourite book in all the series

Figment is perhaps the most surreal of the stories, not my favourite but definitely the most unusual with its peculiar protagonist and the very nature of fame and fortune and talent – and the question raised of how much have you truly achieved if you have it delivered to you by another? Untethered also had an excellent twist with a wonderful look at grief and haunting in this deeply sad, slightly unsettling story.

In fact, this book has some very good stories for excellent thinking – I mentioned the pacifist hero of Raven Princess, but Sell Out, a truly weird retelling of Snow White with a protagonist who has the power to resurrect the dead with a kiss – which is sold out to rich people, of course, has an excellent message about judging people by who they were rather than who they are.

There weren’t any stories in this book I didn’t like which is really rare for an anthology; Skin Trade was probably the closest to a story I was tempted to skim. I would say that The Key felt too much like an out of place snippet and Twelfth Girl was too predictable and lacking in any real twists to be meaningful alongside all of the other really surreal and powerful stories. Similarly, The Pink felt lacking in any real depth with a whole lot of blah characters and plot line. Beauty and Chad has considerable comedy points for its Frat-boy-turned-Beast Beauty and the Beast retelling (no Beast should ever say “dude” and the idea of the local village turning the Beast into a tourist attraction is hilarious) but was a little lacking in style – I think if anything was jarring in this book then it was this story – light and comic, most of the rest of the stories are dark – I think it would have been a better story to end on, to lighten the feel. Before the Rose Blooms was beautiful and artistically written in its way, but despite the rich world building and the excellent style, lacked any meaningful substance.

In terms of racial inclusion, the anthology does pretty damn poorly. Out of all the stories only Real Boy has an unambiguous POC protagonist. There’s even a terrible lack of side characters who are POC as well. We do, surprisingly, have more GBLT with Raven Princess having an excellent side character of a gay giant couple (continuing that story’s mission to subvert all the things!) and Twelfth Girl including a bisexual protagonist (there is a suggestion that the woo-woo in the story makes the female object of her affections specially compelling but no indication that she isn’t naturally attracted to women: in fact, it’s possible that the man she’s attracted to was entirely woo-woo based).

There were a lot of class analysis in the book – The Key has a protagonist living in very humble circumstances, yet stubbornly refusing to be ashamed even while her boyfriend hides her. Sell Out places the powers of life and death in the hands of the rich – with the added irony of the man with this incredible gift drowning in debt due to medical expenses. Twelfth Girl has a take down of the privileges of wealth – and how even extending those conditionally to employees can be another fetter and a trap that can so easily spring. Serpent’s Tongue was probably the best though – with its characters trapped in poverty and addiction – with the blessing just another way to trap you, and a curse a final key to freedom.

On top of that we have some other nice subversions – Figment has a male protagonist who plays with dolls, Beauty and Chad plays with a cross-dressing Beauty, Thinner Than Water is an extremely dark, powerful story of familial abuse and a daughter’s fierce vengeance against the father – and the kingdom – who betrayed. Beast/Beast has an awesome retelling of Beauty and the Beast that massively challenges the inherent problem of having a CAPTIVE Beauty fall for her kidnapper in the original fairy tale – with love being impossible between them until she has a free and unmanipulated choice.

Even what I think of as the middling stories have questions and wonderful subversions of their original source material – like The Brothers Pigget taking down love and entitlement while turning The 3 Little Pigs on its head, and Better challenging the nature of humanity and how unreasoning bigotry is mutually destructive while turning Pinocchio into something with completely different messages – as did Real Boy discussing the selfishness of love in another Pinocchio setting or Light it Up with a modern – and even darker – retelling of Hansel and Gretel with no sugar coating on the cannibalism.

I’ve said before that I think short stories often fail because the authors don’t know how to treat them – how to make a fully enclosed story that isn’t sparse and doesn’t beg for more – while at the same time not being overwritten for the small space – but this format works excellently with fairy tales, tales that aren’t meant to be long and come with a context that doesn’t need to much explaining. While there are a couple of stories I wasn’t a huge fan of, there were none that were duds; if it weren’t for the lack of inclusion this would be an awesome book – as it is, it’s one of the best, maybe even the best, anthologies I’ve read.

Lost Girl, Season Four, Episode 13: Dark Horse

Rainer and Bo argue and he declares that his intentions were true but that centuries of imprisonment weakened his judgement.  Bo is not impressed and reminds Rainer that she chose her friends over him.  I am glad that she could at least acknowledge that what she did was truly shitty but unfortunately, it took something bad to happen for her to acknowledge this.  Bo says that her father manipulated all of them and Rainer reminds her that they have an advantage because they share something real.  A mark appears on Bo and she realises that this is her father's mark.

Back at the Dahl, Trick finds Rainer standing over a weakened Bo and calls him poisoned.  Rainer snarks back, reminding Trick that as Blood King, he is far from a saint.  Bo says that it's the parapice and she tells Trick about the horse God, who the fighting nuns believe to be Bo's father.  Rainer and Trick go back to arguing about whose responsibility this latest mess is.  Bo tells them to stop because she can feel her father trying to cross the bridge.  Bo says that her father needs the dark queen - her.  Bo asks Trick to tell her everything he knows about her blood.

Lauren is tied to a fence as Massimo digs a whole.  Massimo declares himself a God and Lauren reminds him that his strength is diminishing because he killed Hale, who was the last heir.  Lauren taunts that the only chance that Massimo has of being immortal, is for someone to write a shitty pop song about a villain who cries about his mommy.  Lauren warns that it took a council of 6 fae to control the Unamenz power and that the human brain can only take so much. Massimo declares Lauren wrong and says that he is a man who will make his mother proud.  Massimo decides that he is going to bring Lauren's head to Ebony.

Back at The Dahl, Trick swears that he has no idea who Bo's father is.  Trick does say that the Blood King had no choice but to hand over Aife over to the dark, praying that she would be executed when she broke his laws.  It's interesting that much of the time when Trick brings up the Blood King, he slips into the third person, as though he is not talking about himself. Bo says that Aife was used all of the centuries that she spent in a dark dungeon.  Trick argues back that Aife has his light blood, the blood that drains life for nourishment for self survival but the blood of Bo`s father, allows Bo to draw life from many victims and transfer that life force to someone else.  This means that Bo has inherited her abilities from both her mother and her father. Bo calls it hybrid blood and Trick worries that this blood will help her father escape.  Rainer starts to talk about the potential that Bo's blood holds and Trick points out that Bo can enslave people if coerced by the wrong hand.  Bo suggests that they check out the portal but Trick argues that this is exactly what Bo's father wants her to do.  Massimo makes an appearance and suggests that Bo swing by his place because that is where he has Lauren. Massimo claims that what he really wants is Bo dead at The Morrigan's feet.

Dyson finds Kenzi going through Lauren's things and Kenzi says that not only is Lauren's blood everywhere, she was looking for something in the dark archives.  Ebony walks in and announces that she slept with Lauren and asks how she controls the temperature in the apartment.  Kenzi snarks that Ebony is going through fae menopause and Dyson reveals that Ebony is now human.  Kenzi steps forward and punches Ebony across the face.  Dyson asks how Ebony became human and Ebony snarks about Lauren and her miracle snatch.  Ebony says that she needs Lauren alive to fix this and that Massimo has her.  Kenzi moves to attack again  and Dyson holds her back.  Kenzi tells Dyson that Vex let Massimo out and so Dyson asks where Vex would have taken Massimo. Ebony talks about how Massimo wanted to be a fae when he was a child and that now he wants her.

At the Dahl, Bo tells Massimo that as much as she wants to tear him apart, she is busy dealing with a rising army of the dead.  Massimo asks if Bo has heard of a thunder beast and then sends a blast of power at her.  Bo strikes Massimo but it has no effect, so Massimo grabs her and starts tossing her around the bar.  Massimo grabs Trick next. and Trick realises that Massimo swallowed the seed from his vault.  Rainer attacks next and fails, so Rainer tells Trick to convey to Tamsin that his soul is hers again.  Bo watches in horror as Massimo snaps Rainer's neck.  Now that Massimo has killed someone who Bo loves, let's see if she gets around to actually giving a shit.  Massimo falls to the ground in pain from the backlash and stumbles out of the bar.  Trick declares that Rainer  gone, as Bo cries.

Bo wakes and finds herself back home with Tamsin watching her.  Tamsin says that Trick went to the light fae library to get a text which might contain information on the soldiers.  Bo sits up and says Rainer's name. Tamsin tells Bo that she is pretty beat up with a few broken ribs.  Bo tells Tamsin that Lauren has been taken and Rainer and Hale are now dead.  Bo thinks that she let everyone down (which she most certainly did) and now doesn't know what to do.  Tamsin tells Bo to suck it up and get her shit together and demands that Bo act like the supposed chosen one she is.  Bo draws chi from Tamsin and says that not only does she taste different, she tastes happy.  Bo says that she is not strong enough to defeat Massimo and that he basically won't die.  Dyson and Kenzi enter the room to check on Bo. Yeah, it's awkward because Kenzi has clearly not forgiven Bo.

Tamsin sits down with Kenzi and tells her that she has to forgive Bo.  Kenzi points out that Hale is dead and Tamsin argues back that Rainer is also dead (and why Kenzi should give a shit about that is beyond me). Tamsin says that she has a second chance to deliver Rainer's soul and that this could end her exile from Valhalla. Kenzi looks through Rosette`s notebook and asks Tamsin to translate a part.  It says that the daughter's heart will close the portal and they wonder if this means Bo has to rip her heart out.  Kenzi decides that their first priority should be to get Lauren back.

Bo and Dyson plan and she declares that Lauren come first.  When Dyson asks about her father, Bo says that her father waited 30 years to show up and that he can wait another hour. Bo asks Dyson to help her to get back to herself and she needs a witness.  Bo holds out her dark fae contract and rips it apart claiming that her ties to the dark are now over.  Dyson asks if she is okay and Bo declares that Rainer was a good man who wanted to end the tyranny between the light and the dark.  Dyson says that Hale had a purpose and that all his life he was searching for a king, when he should have been searching for a queen.  Dyson kneels at Bo's feet and declares his blood and body to be hers. Dyson swears fealty and claims that by Bo's side is where he wants to be forever.  Dyson and Bo hug it out and he declares his love for her.  Bo says that is why she needs him to serve with her and not for her.  They are interrupted by Tamsin, who declares that they found more stuff about the portal.  They decide to head back to the spiritual center.

At the center, Bo and Dyson look at the portal and she wonders what is going to come out of it.  Three men in uniform appear and Bo sucks their chi, turning her eyes blue and she declares herself the queen with her true army coming.  Dyson begs Bo to come back, as Bo declares that she will break the power of the precipice.  Dyson kisses Bo and she comes back to herself. Bo tells Dyson that he needs some new moves and they face the uniformed men.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: 2014, Episode 6

It's Monday! Time for another episode of Fangs for the Fantasy, the podcast where we examine many of the shows we've been following this week, along with our book of the week and dissect them all from a social justice lens (though, alas, still no mermaids.).

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)

This week we discuss the hot mess of Lost Girl and how Kyle Schmidt deserves better, the totally broken, random plot line and the terrible treatment of Kenzi. The Walking Dead and the return of Carol and her fascinating scary kids. Bitten and Helix both managing to turn their shows around.

10th February - 17th February: Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
17th February - 24th February: The Chopping Block (Grimm)
24th February - 3rd March: Undead Pool by Kim Harrison
3rd March - 10th March: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
10th March - 17th March: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
17th March - 24th March: Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein

Faefever (Mackayla Lane Series #3) by Karen Marie Moning

Mac continues her quest for the Sinsar Dubh – but also has to figure out what to do with it if she finds it. When she comes near the book she is unable to act due to the pain – and can she trust Barrons or V’lane, either one, with an artefact of such power?

And things are getting worse, more of Dublin is falling to the Dark Zones and the walls of the Unseeling prison are beginning to crack. If they cannot find a way to patch them before Samhain, then all hell will break loose.

At one point in this book Barrons complains at Mac that she is too passive. Well, I have to give the book one thing, they managed to lampshade what is probably her worst character trait (and it says a lot that this, out of all the other problems, is the worst character trait). Mac does nothing. If left to her own devices she would spend her entire time twiddling her thumbs in the book shop hoping that the Sinsar Dubh comes to her, that her sisters murderer decides to give himself up and that all the fae go away. She spends her entire time moping and reacting. That doesn’t mean she does nothing – but the only reason she ever acts is because someone has forced her – Barrons, V’lane, the Sidhe Seers, Christian – someone pushes her and she reacts. That’s it. And because she’s the protagonist that’s what we get for the whole book – her moping and occasionally doing stuff to react to the random events the various people force her into before going back to moping again.

Which means the book has no overarching plot. What is the book about? Finding the Sinsar Dubh – same as the last 2 books – except she doesn’t actually do anything to find it. So it’s just mope mope mope FORCED EVENT more moping and then all the action (which, to be fair, is pretty damn good) is kind of clinging in the last 8% of the book and ending with a cliffhanger.

Mac’s passivity manages to be even more annoying because the one “active” thing she can bring herself to do is to keep secrets. A large part of this book involves Mac deciding who to trust – V’lane, Barrons or whoever. These are reasonable concerns considering that neither of them are trustworthy and they both have zero respect for Mac. This would be fine if she did something with the knowledge she had beyond actively sabotaging their efforts to find the book. The Unseelie have to be stopped, the book has to be found but she’s not sure who she can trust with the book – fine; but how is it sensible to have the alternate plan “well no-one’s going to get it then!” and promptly stick your head in the sand. Which is basically how she ends the book with all this action – waiting for the worst to come and hoping others can fix it.

Her keeping secrets would also be better if she ever could actually manage it – but she fails completely to do the one thing she’s actually trying to do. Both V’Lane and Barrons easily learn everything she tries to keep hidden, making her one, tiny piece of agency collapse horribly. In fact, that pretty much sums up their treatment of her in general – she’s less than a tool to both of them, neither have any compunction about forcing her, marking her against her will, using their supernatural abilities on her to make her do what she wants which causes her to… mope. She is a passive, helpless, disrespected, badly used and often abused tool. On the plus side, she’s at least aware of this (hence her wariness of both of them), on the minus side, she definitely appears to be melting to both of them despite their abuses – and her main reason for that simply seems to be “they could abuse me even more than they are doing”.

This is perhaps Mac’s worst trait – because it breaks the entire story. It makes the entire book one long mope with endless internal monologues and no real advancement. It doesn’t help that the writing is some of the most painfully drawn out, over-descriptive, repetitive, distracted text I’ve read in a long time – and I’ve read a LOT of drawn out, over-descriptive, repetitive, distracted text. It’s also clogged with completely unnecessary recapping just for bonus funsies.

The Walking Dead, Season Four, Episode 10: Inmates

The introduction starts off with Beth in a forest talking about finding the prison and how Hershel thought they could make it into a home.  We see Daryl and Beth running through the woods trying to stay ahead of the zombies. Beth tries to shoot her gun but it is out of bullets and so Daryl saves her with his arrows.  She continues to talk about life in the prison and the delight of waking in her bed and how she is afraid to get her hopes up.  Beth says that she worries that it is easier to be afraid. Beth and Daryl dive into a ditch after having escaped the zombies.  We learn that she wished that the prison was her home for the rest of her life.

Daryl and Beth sit by the fire and Beth says that they should do something because they aren't the only survivors. Beth suggests that the residents of the prison could have made it out. Beth tells Daryl that he should track because he is a tracker but Daryl sits there silently. Beth stands in frustration and says that if Daryl won't track, she will.  Daryl stands, puts out the fire and follows Beth.  The next day, Daryl searches the ground for tracks and when he stops, Beth suggests that this means that someone is alive.  They continue to walk with Beth in the lead and Daryl finds more tracks.  Beth encourages Daryl to have faith but Daryl points out that faith hasn't done anything for them.  Beth starts to gather fruit saying that people will be hungry when they find them.  They come across two dead zombies and Daryl finds blood which is not walker blood.  Beth says they must have fought off the walkers but Daryl once again is not optimistic.  A walker jumps out and grabs Beth and Daryl beats its head in with a rock. They continue walking and now Daryl is in the lead. They come to a set of train tracks and find a group of walkers feasting.  Daryl makes short work of them with an arrow and Beth is shocked at the disgusting remains of the walkers feast.  Beth starts to cry, overwhelmed with what she has been through and seen but Daryl just keeps walking.

That night at a camp fire, Beth tells Daryl that they are not going to die and that she is believing for the sake of her father.

The kids make their way through the forest on their own. Mica says that she wants Carol and Lizzie points out that Carol isn't here.  Mica and Lizzie are with Tyreese, who is holding onto Judith.  That night, Lizzie kills a rabbit. Judith starts to cry, which causes Amy to panic. Tyrese promises that they will find a safe place soon. When Mica realises that there are walkers all around them, they get up and start moving again. The next day, the girls come across a grape tree and Lizzie and Amy stop eat, as Tyreese tries to calm down Judith, who is screaming.  Tyreese pauses to change Judith's diaper and Amy panics that the walkers will hear the crying baby.  Tyreese hears walkers in the woods and leaves the girls to watch the baby and heads towards the woods. Mica takes off running in fear and Tyreese and Lizzie chase her until they finally catch up.  Tyrese assures Mica that she did the right thing by running.  Tyreese hears screams and decides he has to help in case its people from the prison.  Tyreese hands them his guns, as Mica begs him not to go. Tyreese assures her that she can handle this and then takes off following the sound of the screams.

Tyreese makes it to the railroad tracks where he sees a group of people fighting off zombies, so he decides to help out.  Judith is still crying and Mica begs Lizzie to do something because she is scared someone is going to hear them.  Lizzie puts her hand over Judiths mouth, cutting off her oxygen, as Mica again points out the zombies.  Mica fires her gun at the approaching zombies and though Tyreese hears, he cannot leave because he is in the middle of killing off a small herd himself. Carol shows up with the girls and Tyreese runs and hugs Carol.   One of the men that Tyreese tried to save tells them to stay on the tracks because there is a place up the tracks that will be safe for the children. Since he has been bitten, Tyreese and Carol leave with the children.  Mica tells Tyreese that she didn't run or leave Lizzie.  Tyreese tells Carol that he didn't see her get out and Carol admits that she wasn't there but does not admit that she had been banished by Rick. Carol says that she saw the prison fall. They continue to follow the tracks and stop at sign that talks about a sanctuary and community for all. The community is named Terminus.

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

It's another Monday which means it's time for our next podcast - episode 6 of 2014 where we will talk about all of the shows we've been following this week (or as many as we can get to), our book of the week and whether Renee manages to carve through the permafrost to her home or not - all through our social justice lens. Feel free to join us, listen, ask questions or make suggestions

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

To give people a chance to read along with us, especially over the holidays, 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.

 Our podcast will be at 7:00pm EST tonight

10th February - 17th February: Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
17th February - 24th February: The Chopping Block (Grimm)
24th February - 3rd March: Undead Pool by Kim Harrison
3rd March - 10th March: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
10th March - 17th March: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

17th March - 24th March: Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein

Bitten, Season One, Episode Six: Committed

Philip and Elena are in bed and he points out that they have not left the house in two days and that it will be her responsibility to explain to Becky why they showed up at her wedding empty handed.  Philip does however say that Elena has enough going on with her family.  Elena gets out of bed saying that she is starving and Philip suggests that she order some more and points out that Elena has moved into the apartment by stealth.  Elena says that she doesn't cook or clean and Philip points out that cleaning services do exist.

Back at Stonehaven, Jeremy receives a call from Antonio, who he sent to reach out to the other North American families.  Jeremy tells Clay that Antonio found out that they are the only ones being targeted by the mutts.  Clay believes that the mutts are striking because Stonehaven is the strongest pack.  They talk about another family that Jeremy has arranged for Nick to talk to.  Clay gets upset and Jeremy asks what is really bothering him.  Clay wonders if Elena will come home and if Elena will turn her back on them for good. Jeremy says that they will deal with it but Clay argues that he will have to deal with it because if Elena goes rogue, as a mutt, it will be his job to make her life miserable. Clay says that he won't be able to force Elena to keep moving. Jeremy assures Clay that he won't have to do that.  They are interrupted by a knock on the door. Samuel introduces himself and Jeremy points out that he knew his father.  Samuel brings up the fact that only the pack gets to set up roots and that he wants what they have.  Clay grabs Samuel and drags him in house and tells him that he has one chance to make the right decision as he beats him. Clay then throws Samuel out and he quickly hops on his bike and rides away.

Philip and Elena are walking and she complains about Becky's bridal registry.  Elena suddenly stops and pauses and looks through the crowd when she thinks she spies Santos.  Elena quickly covers for Philip.  Back at the apartment, they sit together and Philip brings up how quiet Elena has been since they came home.  Elena reveals that she thought she saw someone - a neighbour of one her foster families.  She names Victor Olsen and says that he used the rabbits as a lore. Elena says that Victor is locked up but she still thinks she sees him sometimes.  Elena asks Philip to promise not to see her as damaged goods and they hug.

Later, alone with Logan, Elena reveals that she thinks she saw Santos.  Logan points out that Santos loves to play games and Elena adds that Santos had no real interest in rejoining the pack and simply wanted to stir the pot. Logan asks if Elena told Jeremy and Elena reveals that she asked Jeremy not to call her and that she would like to maintain the silence.  Logan advises Elena to keep her eyes open.  Elena then reveals that she lied about Santos to Philip and that she told him about Victor.  Logan believes that this is great progress for Elena because the truth she told Philip levelled a wall.  Elena then tells Logan that Philip asked her to move in with him. Elena asks Logan how he manages so well and asks how long he can keep the news from his girlfriend. Logan reveals that he has shared everything but the fact that he is a werewolf. Logan advises that Elena not allow her past with Clay to colour her future with Philip.

Elena returns home with bottles of booze and tells Philip that she will move in with him. Philip suggests that they go and pack up her stuff.

At Stonehaven, Nick calls and reports to Jeremy and Clay that Dennis Stillwell has been dead for two days.  Clay asks about Joey and Nick says that there is only one body and that Dennis was tortured.  Jeremy orders Nick to clean up the place and make sure that nothing goes back to them.  Clay asks who did it and Nick says that from the smell it seems that it was Cain and the mutt from the motel were there.  Jeremy asks about Marsten and Nick says that his smell is absent.

Becky thanks Elena for hosting the shower.  Olivia snarks about Becky's choice of flowers and she storms out.

Back at Stonehaven, Antonio says that it is only a matter of time until the other families find out about the Stillwills and suggests a truce with the mutts. Clay points out that mutts already think that Jeremy is weak and wonders how long it will be until the next mutt shows up thinking that he can challenge for Alpha. Clay says that they should reinstate the mutt hunts to teach the mutts that Jeremy cannot be pushed around.  Jeremy is not pleased with the suggestion that he is being pushed around and heads to the door when he hears the doorbell  It's Samuel again and he demands the right to challenge for Alpha and Jeremy invites him in.  They begin to fight and Samuel is shocked because he was told that  Jeremy wouldn't fight. Jeremy quickly pins Samuel and he begs to be let go.  Jeremy demands that Clay take Samuel downstairs and learn who sent him and who said the pack was weak.

Becky has locked herself in a room and Elena asks to be allowed to talk to her.  Elena assures Becky that her mother and sister are in the kitchen, so Becky opens the door.  Becky says that she takes antidepressants and that she stopped taking them because she was worried about her emotions bottoming out.  Becky has been stressed out about the wedding and the fact that Olivia does not like her fiancé.  Elena assures Becky that love is messy and that who people fall in love with doesn't always make sense.