Saturday, March 15, 2014

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: Season 1, Episode 10: Dirty Little Secrets

Flash back! Many many years ago in Agrabah when Cyrus is playing cards and gambling, including with his mother’s compass while his brother, Taj, advises him to stop. Cyrus wins – and the sore loser is both not happy and planning revenge. Cyrus seems pretty happy with all of this while his brothers are much more suspicious.

As they walk home through the countryside his more careful brothers warn him of his cheating and pushing his luck. When they reach their home they see men leaving their home – which catches fire with their mother inside.

To the present and Anastasia and Alice comfort Cyrus for not knowing about his brothers being Jafar’s prisoner. Alice suggests breaking into the palace but Anastasia fears Jafar’s magic – she needs her army, though they point out her former subjects don’t exactly remember her fondly.

Cyrus has a different plan – since he and his brothers were human, not genies, he suggests breaking the curse that enslaved them. A curse laid on them by the guardian of the Well of Wonders in Agrabah. Getting to Agrabah is not easy – but Anastasia tells them the Well of Wonders is in every realm and she knows where it (and the guardian) is in Wonderland. Anastasia still isn’t convinced on the solution and goes back to her army – so they split up

The Jabberwock is on their trail, in the village where Will and Elizabeth had their little party (despite the odd makeup, she does manage to be awfully menacing). Elizabeth’s death is a little annoying, but she cuts out her eyes and brings them to a confused Jafar. He uses his magic to reveal that Anastasia has the genie.

Flashback again: the brothers’ mother is badly injured by the fire and Cyrus suggests they go to the Well of Wonders since its waters may cure her (his brother tries to convince him he’s not to blame but he clearly feels guilty).

In the present Cyrus is very assiduously dodging questions from Alice about how he was cursed and she wouldn’t recognise a hint if it were dropped on her from a very great height.

 Meanwhile Will the Knave and Anastasia go to see the White Rabbit who is very very very afraid and unhappy to see the Red Queen on his doorstep – and shocked when she asks for forgiveness. Which would work better if she had more than an apology to offer and if she didn’t come begging favours. She wants him to convince everyone she’s a friendly Queen now. Yeah, even Will is cynical about that – but the White Rabbit reveals the Jabberwock has been released which gives Anastasia another reason to stay and fight for the people (and Will a reason to run like hell).

Anastasia recruits the Rabbit to spread the word of her battle to the people while she and Will hurry to warn Alice and Cyrus about the Jabberwock (will is still questioning why they’re not running and hiding). He doubts her motivations, believing her motivated entirely by her own comfort – but she says she can never be comfortable without him, her whole plot with Jafar was about getting him back and if that’s never going to happen at least she can help others.

She hears something and puts Will back in his bottle and hides it. The Jabberwock appears, teleporting around and building the fear she feeds upon. The Jabberwock mocks her fear (not for herself, but for her finding the bottle) and Anastasia rather niftily turns a branch into a sword and impales the Jabberwock with it. Of course, a normal sword doesn’t do much but it’s still nifty. The Jabberwock then headbuts Anastasia, I have to say I didn’t see that coming.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The High Druid's Blade (The Defenders of Shannara #1) by Terry Brooks

Paxon Leah is a young man trapped in a job he neither loves, nor truly disdains, to help his mother and sister survive.  He knows that there must be more to life but is unable to decide on a direction, until his sister Chrysallin, is kidnapped by the evil wizard Arcannan. On his way to save his sister, he picks up the Leah family sword and discovers in battle that it is imbued by magic.  Determined to learn to wield that magic, Paxon joins the druid order to train as a  protector.  Having seen the mythical sword of Leah in action however, Arcannan is determined to go to any length to possess it.  This brings Paxon on a collusion course with Arcannan, even as the Druid order struggles to discover the saboteur in their ranks.

Normally speaking, I am not a fan of high fantasy but I decided to give The High Druid's Blade a chance given the fact that Terry Brooks is a New York Times bestselling author.  Unfortunately, I found myself struggling to finish this book because I did not find the story or the characters engaging.  Paxon, the protagonist, fell completely flat and I felt like we were never offered anything substantive about him, beyond the fact that his blood allows him to wield the sword of Leah.  

Every hero needs motivation to act but I am tired of it always being the case of a damsel in distress. First, Chrysallin is kidnapped because she gets herself into a situation way over her head.  We are told that this is an example of her impulsive behaviour. Paxon acts to save her and then she is kidnapped again.  Each time, she warns that her brother will come to her rescue.  We were given a small respite when Chrysallin seeks to escape but of course, this only makes her situation worse. Ultimately, Chrysallin  is little more than the sassy victim incapable of defending herself.  We have the Ard Rhys who is the head of the druid order.  We are told that Ard Rhys is very strong but it's the kind of strength that promotes her into a position of power without us getting a true sense of her. We are told that the Ard Rhys is alone because she has lived so long and we get a vague sense of sadness about her but never really get to know her in any real sense.  The same is true of Leofur and Jayet.  These women seem to just pass through the story to help Paxon on his journey.

The Originals, Season 1, Episode 16: Farewell to Storyville

Last week Klaus, an immortal, all powerful being was manipulated like a small child and now is on the warpath after his siblings while Celeste, who forgot that while her revenge is important, so are the people she’s supposed to be working for, ended up dead at Elijah’s hands

So this week we start with a flashback – waaaaaaaaay back to when the Originals were teeny tiny children (but no less mature) with little Rebekah afraid of thunder and little Klaus comforting her (British accented Vikings – now the adults you could claim developed the accent, not these). The little Viking boy gives her sister a little carving of a brave knight to give her courage (would it be cruel of me to pick at “American Viking knights”? Yes? Going to do it anyway!) Klaus promises always to stay with her

To the present and everyone is not happy and Elijah tells Rebekah to run so the Big Boys can Fight – and Rebekah, yet again forgetting she is as old and powerful as her brother, does so. Because the show never remembers her power. Elijah draws the evil witch torture dagger and begs for peace. They begin a game of cat and mouse to find the precious price!

Rebekah, you are now reduced to a McGuffin.

Rebekah calls Marcel (ughhh and now she’s crying for help from someone centuries her junior) and reminding us all that they’re trapped in the cemetery until moonrise (Elijah and Klaus have already been circling since dawn). Marcel is hopeful Davina can break down the spell though Rebekah isn’t eager to go back on the run. Of course he’s making promises that Davina may not be able to keep – she’s traumatised. While the other returned sacrifices apparently had a powerful and educational time while dead, she only had oblivion.

When Camille comes to visit Davina tells more – apparently it wasn’t entirely oblivion. The Ancestors were hellaciously pissed at Davina for using her magic against the witches and promise dire retribution if she does it again.

Marcel meanwhile is dropping in on Rev What-his-face who was hexed with the same hex that hexed his nephew (Camille’s brother) and sent him on that killing spree. Anyway, this excess character who will eventually be eaten is here to exposition Marcel’s fairly obvious plan in case you missed it: psycho-analyst Camille will help Davina with her issues (which, in TV land, always takes, at most, a couple of hours) and then she will use her magic to save Rebekah. Marcel also thinks Davina can save Marcel from Klaus (have we not covered this? Even if Davina can, that will last her life time. After which the immortal vampire will be free to seek his revenge which is why grudge-matches against Originals are a Bad Idea). Rev Whats-his-face agrees with me that everyone is doomed

Back to the brothers bickering away and Elijah says Klaus looks like their dad which outrages Klaus since he was Mikael’s victim, not Elijah and he considers himself much better motivated. Random flashback to Mikheals cruelty before back to the present and more moping sad eyes. More bickering and Rebekah reveals herself to demand – finally – that Klaus own up to his own actions that drove her. Which Klaus turns into a trial for her but at least it’s recognised as egotistical posturing.

The Walking Dead Volume 20: All Out War Part One

This Volume Rick finally leads the forces of Alexandria, Hilltop and the Kingdom against Negan and his Saviours

The battle is epic and the casualties high.

Spoilers ahead!

Alternate title for this volume:

All Hail Rick our Saviour! Praise the Rick! Praise the Rick, god among men!

Seriously, that was the overwhelming theme of this volume - Rick as the saviour, Rick as the hope, Rick as someone deserving of awe and near worship. Especially after last volume when Rick epicly screwed up - and was still praised by Paul as being the supreme leader.

This volume opens with Rick lamenting the pressure of being everyone’s saviour - oh heavy is the head that wears the crown! Andrea is, of course, there to tell him what a wonderful, amazing awesome person he is. Which is something we see repeated over and over - how super special Rick is, especially compared to the other leaders.

Look at Gregory - he’s not just a bad leader of Hilltop, he is a comically bad leader. In fact, I outright don’t believe Gregory could have become a leader of Hilltop - especially since they have competent members (like Paul/Jesus). Gregory is there simply to contrast with Rick and make Rick look good.

The same with Ezekiel - even though not a bad leader, his whole leadership is based on play acting, on faking and on extreme eccentricity. Again, his almost comic style of leadership makes Rick look extremely good in comparison.

If that weren’t enough, both of these leaders fail in this book. Gregory is obvious in his weakness - but he is deposed by Maggie who doesn’t take over for herself or because of her own competence, she takes over in the name of the Precious Rick! She is his disciple bringing the word of Rick to Hilltop, the whole scene is about how much a better leader Rick is than Gregory - not Maggie.

And Ezekiel - like Gregory he also fails in his attack. An attack against an easier target than Rick’s group, but Rick had not just success, but overwhelming success with few casualties, while Ezekiel’s people are slaughtered including his beloved Shiva. In his defeat, Ezekiel openly says how much of a superior leader Rick is, how much better Rick is than him, how much more experience Rick has than him and then he Takes to His Bed rather than face the aftermath.

There is also a sense that Rick earned his leadership, fighting and suffering through their experiences in the last 20 volumes while both Gregory and Ezekiel “inherited” their positions - they assumed them through trickery or appeasement. Rick earned his leadership in blood.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Shadow Rising (Otherworld Series #12) by Yasmine Galenorn

Menolly and her sisters continue their epic battle against Shadow Wing and his quest to bring the demons to Earth and the Otherworld. A new front has opened up in Otherworld, the sorcerers rising up from the Southern Wastes to bring the world to war again.

While on Earth, the Lord of Ghosts has unleashed a torrent of spectral monsters preying on any with sufficient magic to be tasty – but their goal may be far more insidious than that.

And through all this, Menolly has a wedding to plan – and to find out exactly where she stands with Roman, and, through him, where she stands with the vampires as a whole.

Reviewing this series is becoming increasingly more difficult – because I often find myself without anything original to say that I haven’t said about the previous 11 books; they’re all strong in the same way, they’re all weak in the same way, all that changes is the details of how those strengths and weaknesses are expressed

On the plus side we have an incredible rich, broad world. I honestly don’t think I’ve read an Urban Fantasy series that has even close to the varied world that this has. And it’s more than just the standard grabbing an encyclopaedia of world myths and legends and just copying down every name. Every group, every faction has its own history and politics and goals and depths – they’re more than just a word or a brief thumbnail: they’re cultures and peoples and realised characters

The same applies to side characters, very few of the named characters in this book are just names. They have histories and lives and goals and personalities – there’s a lot of fully fleshed out people in this series – not just names and place holders

Together this increases the epicness of this book: there is a real cost to battles lost because people will be lost, people who have been established as having meaning and a presence. There’s also a great sense of the epic brewing because of all of these cultures and forces coming together – either as allies or enemies – each of them throwing their force to the war – but also their history and culture to the battle.

The downside to all this is the books are really stuffed, there’s a lot of exposition, a lot of distraction and this can leave the whole series feeling unbearably overloaded and awfully slow because there’s so much to dredge through before we can even come close to reaching the meta. Especially since so much of the books are unnecessary side plots, recaps or exposition.

Take this book – we had some excellent development of the world building of the vampires, what it means to be a vampire, their origins and their culture. We had some good look into Otherworld History with the southern wars against the Sorcerers and how that relates to them being a current threat and some world building on the nature of magic. This lead to some foreshadowing for the future as well as another front in the battle. The main plot was against battling against Shadow Wing’s chief evil lieutenant in the world and it actually took up a fair amount of the book making it at least a somewhat dominant focus of the characters that is better than in previous books where it felt like an afterthought

Revolution, Season Two, Episode Sixteen: Exposition Boulevard

This episode opens with Jason, Neville, Rachel and Miles still in a standoff over Monroe. Neville threatens to shoot Rachel, so Miles calls his bluff causing Neville to be surprised at how willing Miles is to sacrifice for Monroe.  Doyle comes out of the bushes with patriot soldiers, so Miles and Rachel take off after killing a few Patriots.

The next day, Neville sits with Doyle and asks for more men to continue his search for Monroe.  When Doyle balks, Neville reminds him that no one asked him to come rushing out of the bushes with soldiers last night.  Neville asserts that he needs to do this his way and reminds Doyle that finding Monroe is important to the president as well.  Doyle dismisses Truman, who is not at all pleased and reminds Doyle that he is sitting in his office.  Doyle talks about how he wanted Rachel and Neville's executied and that when he finds Monroe, he is going to ask the president for their deaths.  Doyle declares that he is not going to help Neville, though he cannot stop them.

A week later, Bass and Charlie are making their way to Willoughby.  Bass questions how Charlie finds the time to have sex with Connor and comments that her choice of lovers is interesting.  They stop when they hear sounds and it turns out to be Rachel and Miles.  Miles says that they could use twice as many guys and Bass says that they were lucky to get them.  Miles expresses surprise that Bass didn't screw them over.

They all head to camp and Gene tells Rachel that Charlie and Conner are sleeping together after watching them together.  Rachel of course quickly denies this but Gene points out that he knows something about having a wild daughter.  Really? They're doing the apple and tree bullshit over the choice of sexual partners and implying slutshaming. Umm no Revolution this is not cool.

Miles and Bass talk about Neville's alliance with the Patriots.  Miles reminds Bass that the Patriots have Neville's wife Julia.  Bass suggests that they put Neville out of his misery because Neville is apparently shadier than Miles.  Mile says that they have other things to take care of.  Miles takes Bass to see a Patriot training camp and Bass realises that all of the new recruits are kids.  Bass points out that most of the kids are from Willoughby.  Miles then points out all of the firepower that the Patriots have stockpiled, saying how much they could use it.  As they leave the area, Miles boasts about how his son behaved in New Vegas.  When Bass. heads in the bushes to use the bathroom, he finds two Patriot soldiers.  Bass of course wants to kill the two prisoners.

That night, two hundred miles away, Aaron and Priscilla have made camp for the night.  Aaron says that they will reach Willoughby in a week or so.  They sit eating apples and when Priscilla enthuses about the apple, Aaron wonders why Priscilla has been so happy since Lubbock. Priscilla points out that they have been through hell and not only did they survive, they're together. Priscilla suggests that this is a good thing and they smile.

In the oval office, the president stands over Ron, who is drawing, when Roger enters to give his report.  The President asks how things are going in Willoughby and how General Carter is doing. Roger calls Carter a silly man but the president reminds him that Carter is the commander of Texas and is not to be underestimated.  The president issues an order for the cadets to be activated by the end of the month.  When Roger assures the president that their plans are moving along well, the president reminds Roger that their plans to take Texas depends on those cadets and from there the rest of the continent.  The president say that Monroe and Miles are still at large around this pivotal camp and questions if he should trust Roger.  The president threatens to shoot Doyle, and Roger, as well as their families, if the cadets don't get onto the field. Well, talk about an imperial presidency.  Things have certainly changed.  I wonder how he gets his mandate to wield so much power.  Roger leaves and the president goes back to watching Ron.

Rachel heads to see Charlie, as Miles and Bass walk their prisoners back to camp.  Gene meets them and says that he delivered those kids.  Gene asks if Kim is okay and neither prisoner answers. Bass assures Gene that the kids are alright, as Charlie and Conner tie the kids up. Charlie asks Kim if she has seen her around town, but Kim does not answer.  Miles points out to Gene that if they hit the munitions pile that it will cause a lot of damage and give them a window to get in. Gene wonders what will happen to the town's kids. Miles says that the boot camp is bad for them but Gene points out that he practically raised those kids.  Rachel asks what the point is of saving Wiloughby, if they have to murder its children.  Bass answers that he is there to win, not save anyone.  Bass walks away and Rachel and Miles share an intense moment.

From Dusk Till Dawn: Season 1, Episode 1

Beautiful creepy opening, a woman talks about “rising again” as we pan over a beautiful golden Aztec carving.

From which we cut to a woman running at night, during a storm, through a heavily forested, tropical place wearing very inappropriate clothes for doing so. She is chased by men in loin clothes until she runs into a man in an elaborate ceremonial costumes. I’m going to assume this is the past and these are Aztecs. He makes another reference to “dusk till dawn” because they’re really hammering the title and his two men drag the woman to a pit filled with snakes. They throw her in and she is bitten repeatedly – until one snake slithers into her open mouth and down her throat.

Cut to a more modern scene with two police (rangers apparently) in a car, the younger, Freddie, looking through crime scene photos of a series of dead women, all of which have had their eyes removed and at least one has had their eye placed in a wound  in the palm of her hand. Nasty. I think the Freddie has invited the older man, Earl to a Christening but it could just as easily be an excuse to explain how holy water works (which I’m sure will be relevant later, given the givens).

They stop at a shop in the middle of nowhere where they’re regulars for Earl to buy some booze and to ask after the Gecko brothers who just robbed a bank, killing a lot of police and taking a bank teller hostage. A bank robbery? How very retro of them. Earl pockets a nifty knife from the bathroom and goes back into the shop where he is shot, presumably by one of the Gecko brothers. Damn, the character was beginning to grow on me. But we have confirmation this show is not afraid of gore (which should shock no-one).

Either we go back in time or the man heals well – because we cut to Earl waking up in a morning going out, meeting Freddie and talking about how his dedication to the job left with him hardly any time to spend with his daughter before she went to boarding school. He’s not a very positive person and he says no when Freddie asks him to baptise his child (time travel backwards. Have I mentioned how much I hate shows that like to mix up the chronology?) and continues to be really kind of depressing – but also giving sage, fatherly advice to Jessie about making sure he spends lots of time with his family.

All this talk about not having much time just before he was shot. Poetic – lacking in any kind of subtlety, but poetic. As they get in the car the radio announces the Gecko’s bank robbery and kidnapping.

Cut to said brothers bickering, they’re heading to Mexico and Seth is not impressed by brother Richie’s itchy trigger finger. Seth keeps the peace and they go into the shop in the middle of nowhere, Seth reviewing the crime in his mind in the bathroom (apparently bothered at least somewhat).

In the shop Richie flirts awkwardly with another customer, Jessie, and hallucinates her coming on to him. As he gets creepier she calls him crazy which he is very very touchie about. She and her friend Libby try to leave – but Richie is blocking the door and holding a gun. While Seth, in the bathroom, tries to convince himself his brother is totally ok. He goes out, leaving his fancy knife behind.

To find Richie holding the store hostage and claiming they recognised him and threatened to kill him. Seth doesn’t believe him and is very not amused. Seth starts to talk things down when the cops arrive – he and Richie take the girls hostage to the back of the store, taking the time to threaten the clerk while Earl is in the bathroom and Richie has another moment resulting in the dead Earl

And Freddie, outside, hearing the gunshot. Seth barricades and fires at Freddie to get him in cover while Richie shoots the clerk as well. Just because. Firefight while Seth reminds Freddie that they have nothing to lose

Earl is a tough old guy and isn’t dead – still gasping threats at Seth and wise mentor advise to Freddie. I think I might like this guy.

Beauty and the Beast, Season 2, Episode 16: About Last Night

So, last episode Vincent and Cat slept together. This, no doubt, means the plot (what plot there is) is going to disappear while we deal with relationship drama.

It bodes no good with an opening recap/dream sequence of all the times Cat and Vincent have been together. She wakes up, has an “oh god no!” moment and sneaks out (so much for Beast senses).

Cue Cat talking to Tess and Vincent talking to JT (the gist of which is that Cat thinks it meant nothing while Vincent disagrees and that both Tess and JT need lives of their own and that everyone thinks Cat clearly hasn’t made up her mind about Gabe).

Meanwhile, in prison, Sam is continuing his nefarious plan by Beasting one of the other inmates and escaping. His escape at least interrupts Cat talking to Gabe about not having second thoughts, honest and they head off to the prison with Gabe reminding us, again, that Sam is out for revenge against a nebulous someone for the sake of his son (and this involves randomly beasting people and stealing highly encrypted data).

Plot move over, it’s time for angst – Vincent calls Cat and is all “we had sex, TWU LUV FOR EVAH!” and she’s all “UH-UH BOOTY CALL ONLY! I’m totally with Gabe who needs to get naked in bed more often.” He counters with “nope, beasty lie detector, even over the phone because my random super powers are random!” “Hey no fair, no super powers in the relationship”. Which is very true because absolutely no relationship is going to last the application of a constant, infallible lie detector. Anyway he’s “true love, destiny!” and she’s “no going backwards!” which is the worst non-reason for anything ever.

The sidekicks meet up to obsess about their other halves and to break the privacy of every citizen in New York to say nothing of the law by hacking Homeland security (again). Of course, breaking major laws and/or tracking down a guy who has a habit of leaving murderous mutants in his wake is definitely not as important as Cat and Vincent sleeping together. Then Vincent shows up, Tess leaves and we can have another round of “my sex life is more important than the serial killer” but they agree that “not going backwards” is the weirdest non-excuse ever invented in the history of convoluted love affairs.

Sam goes to confront a judge at gun point (in a building with really expensive offices and really shitty security), apparently the judge is part of a secret group with nefarious communications who Sam has tracked down (presumably through the encrypted CIA data he hasn’t actually had a chance to de-encrypt or read yet). He wants to know where “the pen” is, but judge won’t talk since the people he hangs around with will kill his family. This gives Sam a lot of Sadness because he lost his son so totally can’t kill the judge (better hope none of the other people he’s sent to their deaths have families). He knocks him out and takes his nifty badge instead.

Cat and Gabe have more relationship talk while JT uses his Matrix computer to find Sam – Vincent rushes off and the three of them find the judge with a big headache. Gabe whines about them using beast senses and hacking homeland security because these are now bad until he needs them and they’re good; standard Beauty and the Beast style. The judge doesn’t want to talk though Vincent can sense he’s hiding big secrets and can now tell what someone is terrified by not just that they are. Vincent and Gabe continue to lock horns in a very very tiresome manner. To make the judge talk, Vincent roars at him – Gabe disapproves. But it does reveal the secret society (and someone finally realising that revealing the beast isn’t that bad because no-one will believe him) one member of which, presumably, experimented on Sam’s son to make a beast which is why Sam is seeking vengeance.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Being Human, Season Four, Episode Nine: Too Far, Fast-Forward!

Aidan is holding Sally's dead body, as ghost Sally watches saying that she was meant to die with her head bashed in. Sally tells Aidan to let her go because it's not her anymore and Aidan replies that he cannot. Aidan lays Sally down and then covers her with his leather jacket.  Aidan asks if she is going to go through her door now and Sally replies that she doesn't get a door.  Aidan questions what Sally was doing there and Sally replies that she was trying to stop him from venting. Sally tells Aidan that she wishes she could hold him.  A cop car appears and Aidan tells Sally to go because she is not going to want to see what happens next. Sally resists at first but disappears when Aidan yells go.

Bishop gets out of the car saying that this is very West Side Story.  Aidan assures Bishop that he is not coming back but Bishop counters that Aidan is blood drunk with a dead wolf at his feet.  Bishop declares that he is not animal control and turns to leave and Aidan screams that Sally is not an animal  and tells Bishop that he is going to do this for him as a favor.  Bishop points out that Aidan hasn't talked to him for over a year and now intends to treat him like his foul weather friend.  Aidan argues that he has cleaned up far worse messes for him.  Bishop asks who killed his girlfriend and Aidan replies wolves.  Aidan starts to walk away and Bishop promises to make it right but adds that the friends Aidan can call at 2AM are golden.

Ray is trying to make escape plans for him and Josh but Josh is adamant that he has to go back. Ray points out that Aidan didn't lift a finger to stop it because he was drunk off his ass draining live girls.  Ray asks how many people Josh thinks that Aidan has killed.  Aidan and Bishop enter and Aidan says that Ray is the only one who has killed tonight.  Ray tells Josh that they can take Aidan and Bishop because for once it's a fair fight.  Josh yells for Ray to shut up.  Bishop calls dibs and Sally shows up begging Aidan not to do this because Josh is his friend.  Aidan reminds Sally that Josh murdered her, so Sally counters that Aidan cannot go back to being like Bishop and that if he does, everything they have together is over.  Bishop tells Aidan that the friendship was over when the wolves opened Sally's head on the pavement. Josh says that it was an accident and a mistake and that it was never meant to be like this.  Aidan grabs Ray and kills him as Josh begs for him to stop.  Sally calls Aidan a monster and Bishop dispels her.  Aidan tells Josh that when they first met, he should have let Marcus finish him off.  Josh begs for Aidan to stop but Aidan warns Josh that if he ever sees him again that he will kill him. Aidan walks away and Bishop asks if this is what Josh call justice and avenging the one he loves.  Aidan tells Bishop that he doesn't understand how much Josh hates himself and that killing him would be a mercy. Aidan taunts Josh about Nora and then says that he took his one chance to lift his curse because he killed Ray. Josh yells that living together and trying to be human was all Aidan's idea.  Bishop moves forward to kill Josh but Aidan holds him back saying that they should let Josh suffer.  Aidan walks away laughing and Josh falls to his knees crying. Bishop tells Aidan that there is no place  like home and Aidan says that he needs a drink.

One year later, Aidan is pushing a gurney and he delivers the body to Bishop.  When Aidan opens the body bag, it's filled with blood.  Neither Bishop or Aidan realise that Nora is watching.  Aidan comments that blood is getting harder to come by and Bishop suggests that they are going to have to raise the price of healthy blood.  Aidan comments that this reminds him of prohibition but Bishop argues that this is food and that people can go without whiskey but they cannot go without their bread.  Aidan says that the virus is going to make them kings.

Shadow Boxer (Alterations #2,) Jen Greyson

Evy Rivera is trying to embrace her fate as a lightening rider.  Evy knows that there is so much that she has to figure out about her power and even more importantly, Evy must figure out the motives behind the two guides who are sending her conflicting messages because the fate of the world is depending on it. Tesla is a figure that history has chosen to largely ignore, though much of what we use on an every day basis is based on his designs.  As brilliant as Tesla was, there is so much we don't know about what he created.  Evy is tasked to find Tesla and protect his free energy designs.  Imagine how the world would change is free energy was available to everyone.  Even when power is free though, it just might come at a terrible cost.  

Evy is still very new to the time travel business.  After  saving Aurelia, so that her line can produce a very important scientist, it's time for Evy to move on but she finds herself continually drawn back to ancient Rome to visit with Constantine.  This is the ultimate in long distance relationships because not only are they separated by an ocean but centuries in time.  Evy cannot put this ancient warrior behind her, yet chafes at  his suggestion that she needs to be protected.  Can their love affair manage the impossible?

Shadow Boxer at times felt very rush and confused.  Evy didn't so much really investigate, as fall into situation after situation.  In Lightning Rider, Evy chose to trust Penya over Illya based on his obvious sexism without really learning anything about either of them.  In Shadow Boxer, Evy is even more lost and though she knows Penya is withholding information, she chooses to trust her.  Evy essentially goes along without questioning, even when it becomes patently obvious that she should and I don't understand that at all.  Evy spends much of her time trying to outwit Illya and truth be told, though this was meant to make her seem calculating, it was completely undermined by her absolute trust of Penya.

Even though it is essential that Evy travel through time, this element of the book helped to make it feel as though it had no real cohesion.  Evy was absolutely directionless for much of Shadow Boxer and this made it hard to invest in the story.  As a reader, I was very well aware of the historical characters in this novel but Evy was largely in ignorance because she didn't take the time to research.  This is ridiculous when she had the internet at her fingertips.  Why wouldn't she spend more than a few cursory moments on google researching Tesla and his contemporaries?  This is especially troubling after Evy realises exactly what is at stake.

Evy's relationship with Constantine continued to grow.  Much of the interactions between Constantine and Evy were on her terms, which is good, given that female protagonists too often get swept in love to think clearly.  Evy called all of the shots and kept Constantine waiting and her chafing at the idea of needing protection was a good thing.  With all of Evy's power, she actively realised that if she learned to use it properly, she was a real threat.  I must say that in the end, I was irked that somehow Evy decided that what Constantine meant by protection is that she needed a partner, to justify changing the terms of their relationship.  He didn't mention equality; he repeatedly said protection.  Realistically, for a partnership, Evy had her father and her sister, who would be far more capable because they are lightening riders themselves.  

Teen Wolf, Season 3, Episode 22: De-Void

At the Wolf Loft, in one of those epic emotional confrontations that Teen Wolf specialises in, Sherriff I-don’t-need-a-first-name-because-I-like-making-Sparky-type-out-sherriff-every-damn-time Stilinski draws his handcuffs and expects Evil Stiles to put them on if there’s any shred of Good Stiles left in him. Evil Stiles accepts – but he’s Evil Stiles and isn’t to be stopped by petty little handcuffs, which he breaks with utter ease.

In comes the Stiles intervention squad from last week. Alison’s taser does nothing and Derek gets his arse rather awesomely handed to himV when he tries to attack Stiles.

Chris Argent cheats and pulls a gun, bragging about his murdering cred. Sherriff Stilinski pulls a gun and points it at Chris (I’m guessing this is all the Sherriff’s ploy). Lots of shouting show down complete with Stiles just encouraging every side; Allison whispers “strife” she’s realised the nogitsune is feeding on the chaos. Awww, Allison, ruining Evil Stiles’s fun; but he has an even more ulterior motive. He’s going to use them to protect him from the 4 super-Oni that Noshiko summoned.

Ok, why is Chris fighting the Oni to protect Stiles who he was ready to shoot? The Sherriff’s secret plan?

Scott and Kira arrive late to the party to find them tired and wounded Intervention Squad – but the Oni and Stiles have disappeared.

Noshiko goes to the basement of the mental hospital to see her old lover’s body behind the shattered Kanji for self. Evil Stiles is there and wants to know why “self”? Apparently because Reese died as himself, not a monster like Evil Stiles; who reminds her that she was the one who summoned him. She’s also brought her kaiken, her last tail (she intended to hide it in the mental hospital it seems) which he takes off her and stabs himself with, slashing across his stomach with it. Ok that was unexpected… He gasps “chaos has come again” (which is awesome and creepy and awesomely creepy but probably not good) and a swarm of flies bursts from the wound. When they all buzz off, Stiles has disappeared

That sound was my creepy meter breaking

We get a fly’s eye view of the hospital where Melissa is handling Isaac’s chart (because, of course, there are no other medical professionals in this place) and the fly crawls into Isaac’s IV wound (ew ew ew ew that has got to be a lawsuit against the hospital “allowed demonic flies to enter wounds”). It wakes Isaac up – and sets his eyes all golden and glowy.

Kira is having a sleepover at Scott’s (behold Melissa’s Hostel for Lost Teenaged Supernaturals) since her parents have dumped a whole load of revelations on her and she needs time to process. Or she fears her mother unleashing another day-long recap. He wants to gentlemanly sleep in the chair while she gets the bed while she quietly despairs of Scott every taking the hint and tells him to get in the bed (not quite in those words). Well, on the bed anyway. As they kiss and settle in, a Nogifly crawls over the window outside. Curses! Demonic evil foiled by glass and malaria nets!

The Argents return home with Chris apparently unsure whether he would have really shot Stiles or not; but Alison made sure he wouldn’t and sabotaged the gun. Chris makes another laughable comment about the “matriarchy” of the Argents. In her bedroom the possibly-evil Isaac is waiting for her. More touching kissing and Allison presumably not realising his possessed state because of the whole nearly-dead-by-electricity thing

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Silver Bullet (Preternatural Affairs #2) by S.M. Reine

Cesar and Suzume are on their first mission – an investigation to discover what’s behind a sudden demonic power spike. But with few resources in the Union, both of them are being thrown in the deep end, forced to question and face off against demonic powers they barely understand with so little experience

And then the werewolf shows up, and is further complicated by a cult that may have infiltrated the highest levels. If that weren’t dangerous enough, they all pale next to what happens when the Bosses suspect there has been an information breach.

Facing angry werewolves, fanatical cultists and insidious demons are bad enough – but your boss trying to take you down as well…

I like Cesar as a character – he is so perfectly balanced. He is out of his depth – grossly out of his depth – he has no experience with demons, he’s a middlingly powerful witch at best. He has no experience with demons and is a long way from ever being comfortable around them. He’s floundering, he’s more than a little lost and he’s desperately doing his best which isn’t quite good enough.

But he’s also capable, competent, intelligent and with a basic skill set and determination that means we can see his potential. After all he has been chosen for this roles – and it would be ridiculous if he was utterly incapable. He’s been thrown in early, he certainly needs more training but he isn’t inept. That’s an important difference in making the character fit the story; an out of his depth character works, but if he’s drowning then it wouldn’t make sense for him to be there at all.

It also fits with this very broad and varied world – we have a vast array of creatures in it and there’s rarely, if ever, a chance to just charge in and kill it ‘cos they’re evil. Including a plethora of demons and halfdemons – who don’t all need killing – and some angels who may certainly need avoiding. There’s a lot to learn here.

It also helps deal with the story being inherently reactive. Cesar, Suzume and Isobel are pretty lost in this book, reacting to events, trying to catch up, losing the thread and constantly in salvage mode. It says a lot that their original mission gets completely lost in the rush to try and deal with events that rapidly spiral out of their control. And it works – because they are new at this, because this mission their first and perhaps the protagonist shouldn’t win every one.

Resurrection, Season One, Episode One: Resurrection

The pilot opens with a little boy who appears to be dead floating in a rice field.  He sits up suddenly grasping for breath.  In the distance, there is a bison, which  looks incongruous given the setting. He stands and starts walking and makes his way to a dirt road, which leads him to what looks like a makeshift market. The market is filled with Chinese people who try and talk to him but the boy does not understand. The boy suddenly collapses and the people surround him.

Martin bounce a tennis ball against the wall of his office door and accidentally breaks a framed photograph then Dr. Catherine Willis walks in.  In a pause for a geek moment, fans of Teen Wolf will recognize the good doctor as Tamlyn Tomita, who plays Mrs. Yukimura.  Catherine comments about another love affair ending for Martin and he replies that she wanted someone with more ambition.  Catherine clarifies and says money. Catherine asks for Kessler and Martin points out that normal people don't work on Sundays.  It seems that Catherine has a subject over at the airport who needs a ride and Martin agrees to do it.  Catherine points out that it's a child but Martin is fine with this.

At the airport, the boy the child from the rice fields waits watching the planes come in. In the background we hear that the child was found in China with no idea or passport. The attache tells Martin that the kid must be traumatized because he hasn't spoken a word.  The attache suggests that something violent must have happened to him. The attache says that the name Jacob is written on the inside of his shirt and that he appears to be American but there are no missing person's cases which match him.   Martin wonders if the child has parents who care for him. The attache reports that they checked visas going into China for a year and there is no record of the boy.

Martin introduces himself to Jacob but he still does not say a word.  Martin asks if Jacob is hungry but the child does not respond.  He takes Jacob for burgers and fries and tries to engage the child with games on his cell phone.  Martin hands over his phone and watches as Jason plays still not saying a word.  Martin asks how Jacob ended up in China and Jacob has the phone write the word Arcadia.  Martin takes the phone and asks if Jacob means Arcadia Missouri, and Jacob nods his head.  Back in the office, Martin calls the sheriff's office looking for information on Jacob and is informed that there are no missing kids named Jacob who belong there.  The sheriff is quick to hang up on Martin.

In the car, Martin calls adoption services and puts his gun in the glove box. The adoption services offices are closed.  Martin asks Jacob if he has a home and people who look after him and Jacob nods his head yes. Adoption Services finally answers and Martin disconnects the phone. Martin asks if he took Jacob to Arcadia, if he could show him the way to get to his house and Jacob nods yes.  Martin starts driving telling Jacob that he owes him.

Harold and his wife seem to spending a lazy Sunday working on word definitions.  Martin and Jacob pull into the Langston driveway and Martin tells him to stay in the car.  Harold answers the door and asks if he is the only Mr. Langston who lives there.  Martin asks if he is the father of Jacob and if his son went missing. Langston says that his son died 32 years ago.  Martin apologises saying that there has obviously been a mistake.  Jacob gets out of the car and runs and hugs Harold calling him daddy.  His wife comes to the door and his shocked to see Jacob.

Later, on the porch, Harold tells Martin that his son was eight when he died and fell into the river while playing down by the woods.  His Aunt Barbara tried to save him but neither made it.  Martin asks what all of this has to do with the boy inside and Harold concedes that he doesn't know.  In the house, Jacob is playing Donkey Kong on Martin's phone.  Jacob's mother approaches him slowly afraid to touch him.  Jacob tells Lucille that she looks different and she finally touches his face.  Mother and son hug and she cries.

Martin calls Catherine to report that he is in Missouri and that State had no idea what they were dealing with. Catherine says that he needs to bring the kid back before he is arrested for kidnapping because Jacob doesn't belong to the Langston's who are in their sixties. Martin says that they are suffering a mutual delusion or, but he ends the call when he sees an older photo of Jacob and his family. Sheriff  Fred Garland approaches the house in a rage and demands to know why Martin is harassing his brother's family.  Harold intervenes and begs his brother to listen to him.  Fred asks why a federal agency would issue a report for a boy who died 32 years ago and asks if it's a sick joke.  Jacob comes to the doorway and says, "hi uncle Fred."  Jacob then falls to the ground and has a seizure.

Once Upon a Time: Season 3, Episode 12: New York City Serenade

This is Once Upon a Time so confusing timings are a must! Starting one year ago with Phillip and Aurora (who is pregnant with his child) having a picnic when dark curse clouds roll in. When it passes all the people from Storybrooke (actually I expected a whole lot more) are transported back to the Enchanted Forest. Aurora looks positively horrified by the return of the Charmings – I can’t say I blame her.

Regina wants to go her own way, her tolerance for enduring the Charmings having reached its end – and there is a limit to how much Charming anyone should have to put up with. But Snow wants her to come back to the palace with her to be all united in restoring the kingdom. As they set off, Aurora and Phillip talk about having to tell someone the Charmings have returned – someone big and bad who threatened their child if they don’t. Aurora is clear – it’s not their job to save the Charmings & co.

Everyone is restored to their original forms – the dwarfs are dwarfs, Jiminey is a cricket – and there more people they’re just scattered around by the curse. And Hook plans to leave – he’s a pirate, he wants to return to his ship not the Charming’s Castle (much to their disapproval). Neal wants to drop in on his dad’s old place to see if he may be magically alive and able to return him to Emma (no Emma, ruuuuun they’re trying to saddle you with the boring one and not the sexy pirate!) which gives the Charmings chance to recap the whole erased memory, no going back thing.

Belle is with Neal though, she’s sure Rumple is still alive. And Snow finds Regina burying her heart in the woods – trying to bury the pain of living without Henry and that he doesn’t even remember who she is, allowing her to feel nothing. Snow commiserates because she feels the same about Emma (Regina raised Henry from a small baby, years of interaction – it’s not really comparable Snow). Snow adds lots of hope and fluffiness and promise of future happiness to convince a deeply grieving Regina to take her heart back.

All of this is watched by a monstrous spy that flies when Snow spots it. Snow wants to run – Regina doesn’t run from monsters and throws a fireball at it – which misses. But Robin Hood appears to save the day with his bow and arrow (arrows are faster than fireballs? Can we have Regina’s magic work a little more often?). Who is Regina’s secret One True Love, as we recall. Regina snarks mightily at them.

Lots of reminisces from Belle and Neal who have met Robin before – and the party finds a line of black char separating them from the castle. It’s a magical barrier (“undo it then” “if I could I’d be halfway home by now” Regina brings the snark) and someone has stolen it from Regina. Bonus lines are “I’m going to find out who’s eating my porridge” “no-one sits in my chair.” Regina wants instant revenge but the Charmings insist they get their people to safety at Robin’s camp first.

Fastforward to the present day and our world – and Emma on a happy date with an apparent boyfriend she has been seeing for some time. But when he ducks out to the bathroom, Hook takes his seat. Since he pushed a kiss on her last episode – and Emma has completely forgotten everything about the Enchanted Forest – she’s not happy to see him and considering gutting him with her knife. He tries to convince her she has parents and everything is a lie and gives her an address to visit; she continues to think about doing violence to him (even if he is a “dashing rapsaclion”). He gets her to use her bizarre lie detector power (is that ever going to be explained) but she rightly points out that just because he believes it’s true doesn’t mean it is.

This Week in Book Covers (3rd March - 7th March)

We continue our weekly review of the covers from the books we read last week - the good, the bad and the lethal cleavage!

Apparently Trent looks like Matthew Davis. I cannot unsee what has been seen and my mental image of the whole relationship is now twisted irreparably.

As for Rachel - well, obviously the hair is wrong (Rachel is renowned for her uncontrollable mane of curly, frizzy hair) but let’s look at the clothes. Yes, Rachel likes her leather trousers and is not well known for her appropriate dress sense. But… a leather corset? I can’t even begin to imagine why she would wear those clothes at any point in the series - let alone this book. A definite case of unnecessarily sexy leather with a minor element of hip thrust

This is the first book in this series that actually gives a greater idea of the setting on the cover - which is something rather missing in the previous books; especially for a dystopian series, some sign of that dystopia was really necessary, so I appreciate the wrecked Golden Gate bridge. But that’s where my praise ends - while it’s different from the very common Mantitteh fare, the man looking over his shoulder is cute enough I guess, but it’s neither sexy nor especially intriguing. Nice background… but pretty blah foreground

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: 2014, Episode 9

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 those with odd fish fixations will continue to be disappointed).

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 look at The After pilot that was a little chaotic and full but intriguing. Once Upon a Time returns and we love Regina. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland with the awesome background characters overwhelming the bland protagonists. The Walking Dead and some excellent development of Bob. Grimm and I hope we will actually develop Wu. The Originals and the treatment of Rebekah.

3rd March - 10th March: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
17th March - 24th March: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
10th March - 17th March: Fall of the Governor Part 2
24th March - 31st March: Blood Passage by Connie Suttle
31st March - 7th April: Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein
7th April - 14th April: Night Season by Eileen Wilks

A Murder of Crows (The Others #2) by Anne Bishop

Meg has built a life for herself among the Others and with Simon – and even has her own human pack. Not that it’s going particularly smoothly, the Others don’t understand the humans, the humans don’t understand the Others and the werewolf Simon has no idea why he can sleep in her bed while wearing fur but not as a naked man. They’re all confused – but they’re learning and they’re trying.

The rest of the country, not so much. Tensions between the Others and the humans are reaching new peaks, especially with the new drugs on the market that seem almost designed to help humans kill the Others. Bodies are piling up, human rhetoric is getting more and more extreme – and the Others are becoming more and more impatient.

The tensions need to be defused before the Others finally snap – and more human cities are reduced to body-littered wastelands.

To me, what really makes this book beyond it’s excellent and well developed world and it’s exciting and engaging story is the characterisation. The way these characters interact and engage with each other is what truly makes the books. Simon’s constant confusion around Meg and her new developed human pack (the Exploding Fluffballs) and the whole community of Others all trying to understand these Humans-Who-Are-Not-Food is delightful to see and adds so much to the world. I have an incredible sense of how the Other culture works, how the different creatures work from the alien Elementals to the fun Crows to the Savage Wolves and the enigmatic Sanguinati  by watching how they navigate around these confusing humans. This book also takes a step in showing how really weird Lakeside is, with the close relationship between humans and Others and adds another sense of how even these confused Others are super-well informed compared to most

But we also see Meg and her own confusion not just with the Others but humanity in general. The more we learn of her story, how the Blood Prophets are abused and kept in captivity, how insulated they are, the stranger and more incredible Meg seems. Not because of her super powers or fighting skills – but because she has endured and learned and grown and built her own life despite overwhelming odds. And, if anything, Meg’s incredible achievement pales next to Jean – defiant while helpless, determined to engineer the downfall of her enemies with a willpower that is awe inspiring. On a much lesser scale, we see the Exploding Fluffballs proving their worth and determination and intelligence over and over again (even if we do have the Others calling periods “female craziness” which does Not Amuse them).

And we have female Others being dangerous and powerful – just so that all this female strength isn’t just the ability to endure and be crafty; in fact Tess is probably the most powerful Other there, excepting the Elementals who, again, are female and terrifying.

And this is definitely a romance I’m enjoying – long, slow burn, full of denial and cluelessness on both parts with lots of very reasonable confusion and cuteness. It really works.