Friday, May 23, 2014

Skin Deep by Neal. F Litherland

When Roxy comes to Mal, she brings trouble. That’s ok – trouble, fighting of evil and protecting the innocent is what Mal does

There may be demons in this terrible, corrupt world – but there are also rules.

This could make a fascinating chapter in an excellent book.

We have angels and demons, monsters and corruption all displayed in really excellently artistic terms. We have hints of a world full of possibilities of redemption and damnation, temptation, fallen angels and suggestions of epic conflict. We’ve also got some other traditions peaking round the side suggesting a world that is much wider and broader than first appears.

The main character, Mal, is an excellently grizzled, hard, crusty hard boiled protagonist. It’s obvious what he is from the very beginning, but part of me always appreciates angelic forces in the guise of hard bitten, cynical, rough veterans with a huge grumpy grudge against everything (even if I do kind of picture a winged figure shaking his fist out the window yelling at demons to get off his lawn).

It’s all written in a style that you’ll either love or hate. A classic film noir, dark and full of hard boiled monologue and gloriously over the top elaborate descriptions starring some of the most dramatic metaphors possible. It’s gritty and dark and grim displaying these broken neighbourhoods and dark establishments with excellent detail and atmosphere

Is it overdone? Well the whole style is overdone. It’s meant to be overdone. It’s meant to be dark and awful and dramatic and slightly cheesy. Maybe more than slightly. And yes, maybe it does go a trifle over the top in places, but it is a style I like.

And the basic plot is a decent one, it lets a lot of the world be seen – the seeking redemption, evil not wanting to let go and the various powers in play in the battle between good and evil.

It’s a pretty excellent chapter

It is not a book. Or even a short story. Especially when you consider that the highly descriptive style uses a lot of word count and that this included a sex scene and a fight scene – both word devourers. My app puts this book at 23 pages (included usual preamble cover page). There’s less than 30 minutes reading here. I've read longer menus.

Revolution Season Two, Episode Twenty-Two: Declaration of Independence

Priscilla is still in her little dream world with her children.  Outside, a lightening storm flashes because she is being electrocuted.  Aaron begs Priscilla to fight this and wake up and right on cue, Priscilla's eyes open. Aaron and Rachel don't get the result they want because nano Priscilla stands up saying that she is really angry.  Nano Priscilla begins destroying the room and Aaron begs Priscilla to wake up.  In her head, Priscilla hears Aaron calling for her to wake up, as the nano taunts him. Aaron professes that Priscilla is the love of his life, as in her head, Priscilla realizes that her children aren't real.  Nano Priscilla falls to the ground and this time, when Priscila opens her eyes, the Nano has left her.  Priscilla begins to cry about what she went through and how real her children felt to her

President Jack Davis and General Bill Carver shake hands in front of an American flag and wave to a happy crowd. Truman leads Davis away and they lock the doors with the residents inside, as the children sing. Miles et al arrive and break into the room.  Miles fires into the air and screams for the people to run, as Bass secures the gas. Gene finds a dead Marion next to the gas and pauses to mourn but Charlie informs him that it's time to go.

Davis wants to know what is going on and points out that Ed was supposed to handle Miles and Bass. Davis tells Ed that they are going to have a short conversation about Ed's future, so Ed pulls out his weapon, and shoots Carver along with all of the other patriots.  Ed then shoots himself in the arm. Later Davis announces that Carver is dead and that Miles and Bass attacked at the behest of California  It seems that war has been declared.

Miles, Charlie, Gene and Rachel are gathered.  Charlie offers her condolences about Marion and Gene cries about making Marion go back to Truman. Aaron checks on Priscilla, who is still unconscious and running a high fever. Bass returns and is worried about his son who is with Neville.  Bass says that what they did was for nothing because the war is still going to happen. Bass adds that Texas and California are going to war, thus leaving the Patriots to clean up the mess.  Bass declares that he is going to kill Davis, since he is still in Willoughby but Miles has other plans. Miles wants to kidnap Davis instead.

Conner is with Neville and they also plan on killing Davis. Neville snarks on Bass needing approval from Miles to act. Neville declares that Davis is his to kill because he killed his entire family.  Back at camp, Miles tells Gene to get to Austin because the President is coming with a confession. Miles says that they are doing this for everyone the Patriots have killed.

Neville and Conner are up on a roof waiting for Davis to appear because he has to go that way to catch his train. Davis waves to a crowd and gets into an armored wagon. Conner begins to wonder if Davis is coming because it's been two hours.  Conner and Neville hear gun shots and when they investigate, they find dead men and an empty armored car. What they don't know is that Miles et al have already kidnapped Davis.

Davis is gagged and is being marched by Miles and company, and Miles wonders why Davis keeps looking back at Rachel.  Rachel admits that Davis knows her.  Patriot soldiers arrive and the shooting begins.  Miles and company are clearly outnumbered, so Miles orders Bass to take Davis and run, promising to meet him at the rendezvous. As more soldiers arrive on foot, Miles calls that it is time to go.

In Austin Texas, the general is in the hospital and Gene walks into his room saying that he is a friend of Miles.Gene  says that Miles wants to stop the war but the General doesn't think this is possible.

As they head to the rendezvous site, Rachel and Charlie doubt that Bass will be there and Miles points out that Bass followed him into a pile of mustard gas.  Miles says that he is choosing to have faith in Bass.

Bass has Davis all tied up and is about to leave to get water when Davis asks for a moment. Davis tells Bass that he impresses him but his current action is ridiculous because he has already lost.  Bass admits to admiring Davis as well, saying his God Bless America routine is genius. Bass says that he still gets to cut Davis's throat and watch him bleed to death as a consolation prize and re-gags Davis.

The 100, Season One, Episode Ten: I Am Become Death

Clarke survey's the wreckage of the Exodus and it is littered with burned bodies.  The 100 bicker about the Grounders.  Later, they gather around and Jasper tells the story of what happened when he shot the Grounders and he is reveling in the attention. Octavia is not in the least bit impressed.  The gathering is broken up when the trip wire around the camp is triggered and the 100 discover a very beaten up Murphy. Murphy is quickly surrounded and he says that he was being chased by the Grounders.  Bellamy wants to kill Murphy on sight but Clarke and Finn want to use Murphy for information. Clarke says that as soon as they find out what Murphy knows, they will force him to leave and if Murphy refuses, then they kill him.

Jasper is now such a folk hero that he has women coming on to him but he rejects them. Jasper believes that Monty is jealous because now people think he is cool. Jasper even suggests that Monty should find somewhere else to sleep.  Ooops, trouble in nerd land.

Raven is trying to get in contact with the Arc and says that she has a bad feeling. Suddenly, Clarke's eyes start to trail blood.  All around camp, people are getting sick and coughing up blood.  In his tent, Murphy is coughing up blood and Clarke demands to know how Murphy escaped.  Clarke realizes that Murphy was released because he carried a virus. Yep, they turned Murphy into a typhoid Mary.  Bellamy believes that Murphy knew about this. Clarke quickly organizes a quarantine.  Conner reveals that the first one to find Murphy was Octavia, so Bellamy rushes to his sister's tent to find out if she touched Murphy. Clarke declares Octavia clean for now but says that she needs to stay there just in case. When Bellamy leaves, Clarke asks Octavia to sneak out.

Octavia heads to the love den she shares with Lincoln and he quickly examines her.  Octavia makes it clear that people are dying and asks for the cure.  Lincoln says that there is no cure and Octavia gets upset that Lincoln was going to let people die.  Lincoln then reveals that his people are going to attack at first light and that his people think that he is a traitor now.  Lincoln adds that he is leaving and asks Octavia to come with him to join a new clan..  Octavia says that she won't let her brother get killed but adds that she will meet with him at dawn.

At camp, Bellamy calls out for Octavia and Clarke is forced to admit that she sent Octavia to see Lincoln about a cure.  Bellamy threatens that if anything happens to Octavia that he will have a problem with Clarke. Chaos begins to reign in camp, with the healthy now pointing weapons at the sick.  Clarke fires a weapon in the air saying that this is what the Grounders want. Clarke collapses and Finn picks her up.  Octavia rushes into camp saying that there is no cure but the Grounders don't use the sickness to kill.  Octavia announces  that the Grounders are attacking at first light.  Of course, a pained Raven looks on as Finn carries Clarke back to the drop ship.  Octavia says that if Finn is not sick by now, he is probably immune.  Murphy is back on his feet and Clarke tells Finn that he needs to save himself and take anyone healthy enough with him.

The 100 are busy loading weapons and bickering.  Finn suggests building a bomb to blow up a bridge because it will delay the Grounders.  Raven heads to the Exodus and starts collecting fuel. Raven assembles the bomb and Bellamy is concerned that this involves the last of the gun powder. Finn volunteers to blow up the bomb and this shocks Bellamy.  Suddenly, Bellamy starts to bleed from his nose.  Bellamy stumbles out into camp and tells Jasper that he wants him to take the shot and warns that if Jasper misses, they are all dead. Bellamy then collapses to the ground and warns Jasper to stay away.

Murphy is brought into the drop ship vomiting blood and Murphy is busy playing nursemaid now that he is feeling better.  Octavia promises that she won't let anything happen to Bellamy, when he says that he is scared.

Finn heads to get the bomb and finds that it's gone.  They decide to go after it and Jasper asks Monty to come but Monty tells him to ask his new friends.  Raven is making her way to the bridge with the bomb and she starts to bleed from the nose.

At camp, Murphy tries to help Bellamy but Bellamy wants to know part of it.  Bellamy promises Murphy that when he gets better, if Murphy is still here, there is going to be a problem.  Clarke is back up on her feet, so she starts to take care of Bellamy. They discuss whether or not to trust Murphy and Clarke says that she believes in second chances.  Bellamy expresses doubt as to whether Finn and Jasper are going to be able to blow up the bridge.

Game of Thrones: The Complexities of Tyrion

Tyrion Lannister is the third child of Tywin of the prestigious house Lannister. He is a Little Person whose mother died shortly after giving birth to him. For much of his life, he has been viewed as a monster, something to tolerate by Tywin because he cannot prove that Tyrion is not his son. These facts have influenced everyday of Tyrion’s life. Tyrion knew that due to his disability he could never fight like his brother or birth the next generation the way that Cersei could. All Tyrion could ever rely on is his intellect and the class advantages that being a Lannister provided him. As much as he despises being a Lannister, even Tyrion could not be aware of what it would mean to be stripped of the power of that name.

For us, Tyrion is one of the most fascinating characters on Game of Thrones. This is in part possible simply because of who he is. Tyrion being a Little Person means that the authors are able to write situations for him which they could not possibly write for an average sized person. Take for instance the scene at Joffery’s wedding where Little People were payed to perform for the express purpose of humiliating Tyrion or the guffaws when Tyion has to negotiate furniture which is too large for him. Each moment Tyrion is made aware that he is different, that he does not fit. These are the slights that Little People face and they are made real each episode.  

It is always going to be important to include biases against marginalised people in any script which includes them. What makes Tyrion special is not only do these slights occur, but he is so much more than an avatar for his particular disability. When Tyion loves, he loves deeply and at least twice to his own detriment. He loves women and is more than happy to spend his time in a brothel. The kind of man who thinks he has the right to buy access to a woman’s body should not be deemed a good character per say, but relative to the other men who do so (read: Joffery, Little Finger etc), Tyrion seems almost benign. He has a set of morals quite different from the world around him, yet he revels in the game or the intrigue of Kings Landing. In short Tyrion is a man of many passions and it is these passions which humanise him, not his disability. This is why in each instance in which Tyrion is brought low, we, as an audience, can empathise with his pain.  We have been drawn into his world even though it so completely different from our experiences.

Tyrion has had many awesome moments in show, but also some extremely nuanced and complex ones especially in the episodes The Laws of Gods and Men and Mocking Bird in relation to Shae and Bronn.

Tyrion, on trial for murder, sees both of these characters turn on him, to a degree. Shae stands in the witness box and tells incriminating lies about him as well as characterising their relationship in brutal, harsh terms - that she is a prostitute who was bought by Tyrion and who served him as he wished, as he demanded with no affection or desire - just a woman forced by circumstance. While Bronn has accepted Cersei’s bribe for a comfortable, privileged life and also refused to stand for Tyrion in his trial by combat against Ser Gregor, one of the most feared knights in the realm.

In both cases these are seen as a betrayal, especially Shae, but these powerful scenes allow us to pull back the lens and see Tyrion through other people’s eyes - especially those who do not share his noble class. While Shae’s testimony seems cruel, how much of it is inaccurate? She is a prostitute, a vulnerable foreigner with no protection beyond that largesse of her employer. She was “acquired” for Tyrion and she did serve him in bed - did she care for him? We thought so, but then, since her safety, security and prosperity is reliant on him being pleased with her, isn’t it equally likely that she would put on an act to please him? To assume that Shae is able to be fully forthcoming with her feelings for Tyrion in this relationship is to ignore the vast power Tyrion has over her; not only does her income rely on him, but he would be quite capable of having her killed with impunity. We have seen Joffrey do exactly the same thing to Ros, another prostitute - and there are no dramatic trial scenes in Westeros for the death of sex workers.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Kraken King Part 3 (Iron Seas 4.3) by Meljean Brook

Zenobia, Ariq and company arrive in the dangerous Smuggler’s dens, looking for someone who can repair Connor’s legs and more news on the Marauders whose attacks risk enflaming the wrath of the Nipponese Empress

Ariq has to navigate the treacherous politics of the town to find the information he needs, while Zenobia is pulled by divided loyalties; and her carefully hidden identity is close to being revealed.

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to “episodic” novels – teeny tiny books each telling a few chapters. Books released as soap episodes or comics; frankly, they leave me frustrated every time I reach the end of them because I want more, I want the story to continue, I want the story to get going and not have these unnecessary breaks that just derail the plot and the development and stops me getting the full epic feel

It’s especially bad when we have a series as good as this one. I love Zenobia, she has such an excellent combination of strength and vulnerability – determination and fear. She constantly lives under threat of kidnap because of her brother’s antics and success but at the same time craves adventure and freedom. She’s practical enough to seek protection but frustrated by the intrusion it involves into her life. She’s sensible, snarky, strong willed and not willing to let even her growing feelings for Ariq, the Kraken King, overwhelm her responsibilities to her people. I like that she’s more torn about leaving Mara and Connor than she is about leaving him behind

The same applies to Ariq, while he is definitely growing to care passionately about Zenobia, she is not – cannot – be his main priority. He’s a leader of a people under threat, he has responsibilities to them. Even beyond that, Australia is facing a major threat and he’s not going to check out of that just because he has fallen in love.

This is so rare in any books with romance – for love to be meaningful there’s a prevailing idea that it must be overwhelming and everything else cease to be a priority. I love this subversion of that – that Ariq and Zenobia can feel lust and love but still say “no, I have responsibilities, I have other priorities, I refuse to drop everything for this.”

The 100, Season One, Episode Nine: Unity Day

It's Unity Day - the day the 12 remaining stations orbiting the earth after the nuclear devastation came together to form the Arc.  As in all things, the story has been reinvented to tell a specific version of events. The castaways are celebrating with some home made hooch, as Octavia makes her escape.  In all of the festivities, Finn is the only one to notice.  Jaha gives a speech which is being played on the ground but none of the castaways are paying attention.  Jaha announces that the first drop ship will arrive soon, carrying the reinforcements that will be needed. The people on the Arc applaud this announcement.  Diana asks Abby if there are hard feelings about her taking the council seat but Abby assures the Diana that there are no hard feelings today.  Diana notices that Jaha is cutting his remarks short and says that she helped Jaha with his speech. Kane's mother asks him to take the tree down to the earth for her because he will be on the first drop ship, but he says  that he has a job to do.  Kane is quick to excuse himself, as the children perform a little pageant, which is interrupted by an explosion. Jaha charges Kane with the responsibility of finding out who has done this, as chaos reigns over the Arc.  Kane holds his mother in his arms as she dies.  Jaha pauses with Kane to offer his condolences and Kane realises that this is a coup.  Jaha looks around for the other counselors and realises that counselor Sydney is missing.  Abby informs him that Diana left before the blast. Jaha puts the Arc on lock down and demands that Sydney be found.

One of Diana's men rushes to tell her that she is the prime suspect and that they have two choices - stay and fight or take the Exodus ship now.  The ship is not ready and it is impossible to get it ready without causing people on the Arc to die. Diana orders the ship to be made ready.

On earth, the survivors are in full party mode.  Clarke questions if now is a good time to have a party given that the Grounder is out there.  Bellamy reminds Clarke that it is Grounders, as in plural and that they have security covered now that they have weapons.  Bellamy tells Clarke that she could use a drink and that Exodus ship will arrive in two days, ending the party.  Clarke agrees but tells Bellamy that he deserves a break as well.

Finn heads to see Raven, who is making bullets. Finn questions how Bellamy got her to help and Raven replies that she volunteered.  Finn suggests that they should try talking to the Grounders. Raven however believes that violence is the only thing the Grounders understand but Finn argues back that if they keep going this way they will never stop digging graves. Raven points out that Finn didn't see the Grounder and that the Grounder was ready to let Finn die.  Finn points out that the Grounder was protecting himself.  Raven is astounded that Finn is defending the Grounder, so Finn takes his leave of her.

Octavia rushes into the forest and begins to follow a trail of  flowers which leads her to her a hatch where Lincoln is waiting.  The two kiss and begin taking off their clothing.  They make love on the floor. When they are finished, Octavia and Lincoln climb out of the hatch only to see Finn.  Lincoln grabs his knife and Finn brandishes his knife, leaving Octavia to ask for both men to stop.  Finn heads into the hatch with Lincoln and Octavia and finds the horn Lincoln blew when the other Grounders were hunting them.  Finn points out that if he and Lincoln can get along, maybe there is hope for peace.  Octavia asks how this is possible and Finn suggests that the killing should end. Lincoln says that he doesn't have the power to call a truce, so Finn asks to be taken to someone who does because the rest of their people are coming and the first ship lands in two days.  Finn adds that because of the attacks, mostly soldiers are being sent and that the Arc is about survival at any cost. Finn adds that he does not want a war and that once the soldiers get here, it will be too late. Lincoln agrees and says that Finn is to bring his leader and they agree that Clarke is the one who should be chosen.

On board the ship, Kane is informed that the drop ship is clear. Abby tells Kane that she is sorry and that his mother was an amazing woman.  Diana makes an appearance claiming that after talking to her people, she has discovered that the terrorist is Ridley, a mechanic who lost his wife in the culling. Abby asks what makes Diana think he did it and Diana says that Ridley confessed.  Kane questions why Diana left the pageant early and Diana says that it was just lucky.  Kane orders Diana to stay where he can find her and Diana tells Kane to be careful because Ridley is dangerous.

The survivors are busy playing drinking games and Clarke is interrupted by Finn.  Finn tells Clarke that he set up a meeting with the Grounders and Clarke is confused.  Finn explains his meeting with Lincoln. Clarke is shocked that Lincoln spoke and says that they cannot live in peace with people who have killed them. Finn asks Clarke if she really wants a war because at the rate things are going, this is where they are headed. Finn points out that this is their world now and that they can do better than the first time.  Finn assures Clarke that he trusts Lincoln.  Clarke agrees to go if they can bring backup but Finn argues that those weren't the terms and that they have to give this a fair shot.  Clarke consents and leaves to go and get her pack. Clarke meets up with Bellamy and informs him of the meeting with the Grounders.  Bellamy is concerned and Clarke argues that they have to live with the Grounders.  Clarke asks Bellamy to follow them and be her back up and adds that Finn doesn't need to know what is going on.  Clarke asks Bellamy to bring guns.

Jasper stops by to offer Raven some of his homemade hooch. Jasper says that when his parents get there, they can mix up some new gunpowder.  Raven says that the only family she has is Finn.  They are interrupted by Bellamy, who orders Jasper to come with him.  Bellamy tries to grab some ammunition and Raven questions why he needs it, so Bellamy says that Finn is being an idiot.  Raven realizes that Clarke is with Finn and grabs a pack, saying that she is coming with them.

In the woods, Clarke questions if this might be a trap and Finn says that he has hope.  Finn pauses because of the pain in his wound and Clarke stops to have a look at it.  Clarke then drops nuts on the ground to leave a trail for Bellamy to follow.

From Dusk Till Dawn: Season 1, Episode 10: The Take

In the middle of a mystical labyrinth trying to find the prize which will probably free Santanico, surrounded by people who want to kill them, Seth decides to confront Richie about killing their father. Because Priorities. Richie admits it and they get back to things while the Mob boss continues to be “colourful.” And, yes, Seth it is very very annoying. They shoot him – it’s very very satisfying

Going into the vault takes them into the tunnels under Santanico’s temple where they find a pot. Inside which is a snake which Richie swallows – the snake is full of Santanico’s blood and this is apparently a good thing

Seth is just lost and confused and has no idea what happened to his brother.

With the rest of the humans, Pastor Jacob faces off against his hissing, vampiric son while Freddie goes to find Katie – who is tied to an altar by Professor Sex Machine who intends to sacrifice her. She manages to free a hand and hit him when he gets even creepier over her – and Freddie jumps in. Sex Machine recognises him as a Tomi, a descendent of some really powerful warriors, hence his immunity to Santanico’s bite. Even when fighting for his life he has to dish out the exposition. Both Freddie and Katie stab Sex Machine at the same time; Katie saving Freddie.

Jacob talks to Scott – but it seems less about calming him down and more about making him accept that he’s evil and needing of death which isn’t very reassuring. He throws Scott onto an altar and prepares to stake him – when Scott says he was never really accepted as part of the family. Jacob is shocked and protests he just wants him to find peace in heaven – stabby time! But he can’t do it.

Scott wants them to be a family again – and bites Jacob. There’s one way of family togetherness!

Scott blames Jacob for his mother’s death – she was ill and Jacob just decided to leave it to god. Katie arrives then to dispute – he suffered for them and was a good dad (still not seeing how that changes what Scott said). He tries his recruitment pitch on Kate but she just screams at him and calls him a monster – Scott storms off. Jacob tells Katie that she and Scott need each other while still saying ominous things about “how it has to end”.

Either Jacob has to die for being a vampire – and so does Scott. Or Katie and Scott need each other. I think they’re mutually exclusive.

In the temple, Carlos brings out a chained up Narciso who taunts Santanico (who is still dressed!) and Seth and Richie arrive. Seth has decided to negotiate despite being the only human in the room; while vampires et al aren’t his thing, he does think he’s been cheated by the goal posts of his job moving quite excessively. He has a point. He wants a higher cut of the money, which is a problem because Santanico and Carlos are both very eager for the cash. It may even have worked – if Carlos hadn’t betrayed Santanico to Narciso and snuck his men into the room.

Seth changes sides again to side with Richie and Carlos makes a dramatic speech about loving Santanico and hits her when she claims she always loved him and he hates himself (really? She is the oldest vampire, she is the one who made him, but he can still slap her and she just clutches her cheek?)

He’s super jealous and Narciso’s minion injects venom into Richie’s neck while Carlos considers making Santanico his slave. Richie attacks – the venom doesn’t seem to do much. Santanico is hella pissed at being called a slave in her own temple – and grows giant wings as more minions of hers appear – women (just as Richie collapses from the venom – delayed reaction). Santanico chases Carlos as he drags Richie away – but she cannot leave the temple.#

That leaves Seth and Santanico to moan at each other good points from that is that while she has been imprisoned her whole life, she refuses to be called a victim. There’s also some about Seth not forgiving Richie over their father’s death and Santanico setting up Seth to compete with Carlos in between saying how scary the 9 lords are.

Supernatural Season 9, Episode 23: Do You Believe in Miracles

Carry On My Wayward Son!

Yes, I get a big happy grin on my face as soon as the music starts – something epic this way comes!

In fact, pause the recap, I’m going to listen to the song a few times.

Anyway to the episode – Sam and Castiel are desperately restraining Dean from slicing Gadreel into itty bitty pieces (I’m sure Angels used to be stronger than this) with the First Blade. They decide that the guy with anger issues and the most powerful melee weapon ever to exist needs to hang around in the dungeon until they’re sure what to do about his rage, urge to kill and ability to do so to just about everything. Dean is not amused. And when they leave he starts coughing up blood – not a good sign.

Castiel has his own doubts – with his army gone is it really the time to lock away one of their assets?

Over to Metatron who is still writing his little story and has a new lackey, Neal, who calls him God. Metatron addresses the collective angels with a speech on Angel Radio (Neal loves his reverb); in between saying that he’s god, he tells them all that he’s going on a trip which will be “glorious.”

Castiel heals Gadreel, despite his protests that Castiel can’t spare his dwindling Grace. Of course both of them heard Metatron’s message – and Gadreel apparently fears for humanity.

Crowley, meanwhile, is enjoying his victory over Abaddon but is interrupted by a summons – from Dean. Dean wants to know what happened – because since he killed Abaddon he has been craving killing, really really really need to kill or he coughs up blood until he does. It’s the Mark – it drives him to kill, or it kills him if he doesn’t. He could get rid of the Mark – or Crowley could help him escape and get the Blade back

They go for the second option – Sam & co come back and are really upset by this (Sam looks like he may have just burst a blood vessel). While Sam panics over this, Gadreel and Castiel actually think a First-Blade equipped Dean would be an awesome weapon against Metatron. Putting that aside, they also have to break Metatron’s connection to the Angel Tablet which is giving him god-like powers; without it he’s just an Angel.

Crowley and Dean are doing their sniping double act, with Crowley lecturing Dean on his terrible wait staff etiquette (hey, he may be the King of Hell, but he’s a classy King of Hell) and lots of sniping at each other. They do get a viral video of Metatron’s latest ploy – healing an apparently dead woman; in front of witnesses with camera-phones

And if there’s any more proof how badly off Dean is – he just walked away from a hamburger.

Gadreel and Castiel head to the Gates of Heaven to grab the tablet – and they’re an even weirder team. And while Castiel could ruin a good pop culture reference, it’s nothing to the mauling it gets when Castiel tries to explain Star Wars to Gadreel. The doorway is in a playground guarded by Azrael and Pura – angels disguised as a mother and daughter. Gadreel gets access by pretending Castiel is his prisoner.

Which turns into reality when the angels rumble what Gadreel is planning and lead him into a trap and a stay in Heaven’s gaol. They try to convince their guard, angel Hannah about the evil things Metatron has done she’s not convinced

But Gadreel has had a revelation – his constant obsession with his own redemption is selfish, their main mission must be to protect the humans who Metatron is now targeting – and he’s carved the suicide-bomb runes into his own chest. He destroys himself to destroy the cells – telling Hannah and Castiel to stand back. He makes a convincing argument for Hannah

Dean and Sam meet up checking in on the miracle-healing in which Sam rants a bit at Dean, part of it justified and part of it just bewildering (since when is Gadreel a “real friend”?) they argue back and forth, dragging up Dean letting Gadreel posses Sam but both agree Dean may be their best shot to kill Metatron which Dean will take “for better or worse” which is ominous – especially with Crowley listening in.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ensnared by Magic (The One Rises #3) by Anna Wolfe

Mark has to spend some time with the witches as a consequence of a very unwise deal he made. Of course, he never expected a flirtatious witch – witches generally hold Bitten, humans bitten by Demon Ridden – in the highest contempt

Nor did he expect sleeping with Mimi to have such extreme consequences

Now, with a badly misaligned spell and witch politics feuding between the High Priestess and the Seer, it falls to Silas and his band to try and cover up this disaster and restore some sense of order.

I love this series of books, the first two were excellent and introduced me to this fascinating world that has well and truly hooked me in. I love the characters and I love how the shifting points of view lets me see all of the world, each other and the story through shifting lenses that expands everything with an extra level of richness. The writing hits that perfect balance being descriptive and emotive while still keeping the plot and story moving with any info-dumping nicely integrated into the text

I loved the first book, really loved the second book – and really looked forward to this one

And was a little disappointed. Not, I hasten to add, because it was a bad book! No no, not at all, not even remotely! But because my expectations are high and this book didn’t reach the heights of the previous two.

There wasn’t a lot of plot to this book. The witches are up to something that involves the One, but I’m not sure what nor is it completed in this book to add any clarity. Both the mysterious Seer and the, apparently malicious, High Priestess can see the future, so the events they manipulate are all about some long running plan we don’t know about. The witch shenanigans go wrong and we spend most of the rest of the book containing the wrongness.

It’s not bad – but it’s a middle of a longer plot. The beginning – why they’re doing this etc – is missing as is the ending of this actually achieving, so instead the characters I’m familiar with just drop in in the middle of an Event which hooks them in without any real explanation, resolution or depth.

This jumping in the middle also makes it really hard for me to connect to Mimi, a character we’ve only seen briefly in the past. Now there’s a lot from her point of view and I can’t connect with her – I don’t understand her motives, I am not invested in her in a character sufficiently to follow her this closely and, perhaps worst of all, we’re seeing her on her worst day. It’s not that I don’t care about her – I do, I care about her facing consequences, I care about her facing comeuppance. I read from her pov and wait for her to fail out of some kind of vicious schadenfreude – I want her to fail, I think she deserves to fail I look forward to her failing and when she faces pain and difficulty, I don’t empathise with her, I rather cruelly think “this is richly deserved”. Which probably says terrible things about me.

This also extends somewhat to Jiye, Mimi’s girlfriend. Do I think Jiye has every reason to be ragingly pissed? Definitely! Mimi’s treatment of her is outrageous, Mimi is grossly disrespecting her love, their relationship, her loyalty and making Jiye and her pain a very low priority in her life; if I were Jiye I’d be ragingly furious – with Mimi. But Mark, seduced into Mimi’s bed under a false agenda, drugged and then used for magic, is another of Mimi’s victims – and Jiye’s victim – and Jiye’s rage at him is repugnant.

This meant while I absolutely loved the revelations of Silas’s past (and there was so much awesome Silas growth this book and some really excellent history of the world and world building that I just wanted to dive into it all and tell the witches to take a hike) and the difficult choices he has to make, and I loved Edie and her battle to carve out of her own life and the difficulties she has with Hatter and I even liked mark and learning more about him, I ended up wanting way way way more Callie (who was not very present) and spent way too much time glaring daggers at the book when Mimi appeared.

One element that keeps coming up in the series in general and definitely in this book is consent – especially sexual consent. Many of the demons have the ability to feed from sex – and by “ability” that means they have to. Usually when we get some kind of woo-woo that forces characters to have sex I cringe because it’s usually presented as sexy in some way: even if the protagonist resents it, it’s still all kinds of sexy and even used as a chance for personal growth (or for the character to have lots of sex while still being “pure” because they “didn’t want it.”)

Salem, Season One, Episode Five: Lies

Rose leaves the brothel and heads into the woods where she is met by Hale and the elders. It seems that the elders believe that John is a distraction to Mary. They reveal to Hale that Alden killed Hooke to protect a secret - a secret they believe that Alden wouldn't want Mary to know. It seems the plan is to use necromancy to force Hooke to reveal Alden's secret and then blackmail Alden into leaving town.

At the Sibley residence, Mary and Tituba consider whether or not it is time to kill Mercy because Mercy has revealed that she is aware that Mary is a witch.  Mary however believes that Mercy is worth more alive than dead and so she heads to confront her. Mary puts her cards on the table and questions what Mercy is going to do with what she has learned and what she wants.  Mercy says that she wants the torture, torment and suffering to stop, or she will reveal Mary to the citizens of Salem.  Mary tells Mercy to give in and that she will know only pleasure but Mercy cries that Mary tortured her.  Mary makes it clear that Mercy is only alive because she allows it and this shockingly surprises Mercy. Mercy may be angry about what has happened to her but she is still clearly an innocent.

After a struggle, Alden manages to open the box he took of the ship and inside he finds a carved apple. When John embraces the apple, he sees scores of dead people and drops it in shock.

Gloriana arrives at Cotton's after being summoned and Cotton suggests that he will pay Glorianna double what she makes if she will agree to stop being with other men.  Tears run down Glorianna's face and she says that this is as close as man like Cotton comes to an apology. Cotton admits that it was painful to see Gloriana with another man and in response, Gloriana rightfully slaps him across the face. Cotton again asks Glorianna if she will be his and this time Gloriana initiates and kiss and the two begin to have sex. They are interrupted by Alden who shows them the box.

A group of young women knock on Mercy's door and she invites them in.  Oh this is so not going to end well. They question when Mercy sees witches, what it's like and if it hurts.  It seems that the girls believe that this is a game and they point out that no one in Salem has ever had that kind of power.

Mary is now at the port and is informed that Hooke has not picked up his parcels.  As Mary strolls with Tituba, Tituba makes it clear that no on will ever find Hooke and Mary demands that the situation be contained. Hale approaches them and asks to borrow (cause she is not a person) Tituba claiming that his wife has food poisoning and is in need of aid.  Hale leaves with Tituba and Mary asks Richard for a list of items left behind by Hooke.

Tituba tells Hale that his lie is obvious and demands to know what he wants.  Hale tells Tituba that he wants to get Alden out of Salem forever.

Glorianna is now gone and Cotton examines the box with Alden.  John points out that Glorianna is the girl  Cotton punched Hooke over.  Cotton deflects by asking about the visions and John explains about the mass death he saw.  Cotton starts looking the box up in a book and learns that it is part of the grand right.  Cotton says that the object is evil and that it consecrates the earth. Cotton wants to inform the selectmen but Alden points out that they have something the witches want.

Hale is making his way through a field of rotting bodies to find Hooke, with some sort of creature. The creature takes a knife and cuts off what is left of Hooke's face.

Tituba is about to leave the Sibley residence when she is confronted by Mary about what Hale really wanted. Tituba follows the script and confirms that Mrs. Hale is sick and so Mary questions where Tituba is headed now. Tituba again lies to Mary.

Mercy is gathered with the girls and she shows them iron casings she was forced to wear when Cotton dragged her through the market like a dog.  Instead of being repelled the girls fantasize about being lead about in chains by Cotton.  Okay, these girls are truly weird. Again they cackle about Mercy pointing her finger and Elizabeth that her father should be accused because he makes her beg in the streets and then takes the money and drinks it away. Elizabeth then reveals that her father plans to sell her to the whore house in a month.

Alden and Ann meet in the square and she tries to leave quickly but Alden follows. Finally, Alden is forced to ask if he has offended Anne in some way.  Ann suggests that Alden had lead her on because the whole time, he has been in love with Mary. They are interrupted by Mary and so Ann leaves in a huff.  Mark snarks about Ann having a tantrum and adds that she was never that young.

Tituba is in the woods and she makes her way to Hale and is handed Hooke's face. Hale announces that Tituba is to report to him the moment her task is done before leaving.

In the Flesh, Season 2, Episode 3

We open with what looks like a different drama – a man, Freddie watching his wedding home video, him and his wife so happy, when said wife comes down to check if he’s had his meds. She doesn’t think he should watch the video and turns it off when another man calls her up to bed – it looks like he Freddie died and his wife, Haley remarried Amir. Awkward.

Gary takes Jem home – his plan is to cover up killing Henry and pretend nothing has happened, despite her protests. Rubbing salt in the wound is Kieren coming home telling Jem about his party and how Henry totally has a ting for Jem. She goes upstairs, hides the gun and goes to bed fully clothed.

MP Maxine is staying at the nosiest B&B with her landlady, Sandra, snooping through keyholes and hearing Maxine say things like “just you wait” “I will make it right”. Over breakfast, Maxine is subject to a whole ramble from Sandra on the various evils of the PDS but Maxine is more interested in what Sandra saw during the Rising – which Sandra quickly avoids answering

Amir and Haley have a cute, romantic moment on Haley’s birthday – and it’s pretty clear that Freddie is a not-entirely-welcome third wheel. Haley tries to keep the peace – and Freddie, despite being PDS, makes disparaging remarks about “Rotters”, putting him in a different class, that Amir finds dubious. It is unbelievably awkward, especially when Freddie brings up all the memories of awesome birthdays past and Amir is sick of it – Freddie cannot stay with them any longer, since it was only supposed to be a temporary arrangement and Freddie has made no real effort to move. But Haley can’t bring herself to kick him out

Freddie goes to the forced labour scheme all grumpy and certainly not in the mood for his fellow PDS to tell him what a wonderful gift it is to die and come back to find your old life lost. He wants to build up his own life again – but instead he’s being forced to work for free.

At the Walker house it’s breakfast with Steve trying to encourage Kieren that the “give back” scheme is all fine and everything will work – and Jem clearly upset. She skips breakfast and tells everyone she loves them before leaving. Amy then breezes in in her random fashion to take Kieren to their forced labour scheme and talk to Kieren about Simon saying nice things about her. Meanwhile Simon is praying with ominous music in the background – he and the Undead Prophet have turned PDS into a religion (which is not exactly unexpected given the whole “prophet” thing).

When they arrive at the centre, Amy envelopes Simon in a really awkwardly long hug. Everyone’s given their work jobs – except Amy who is asked to stay behind by Phillip who has his super crush on her. Freddie tries to get out of the work by paying off Dean who is supervising them, but Dean is still bitter about him cleaning windows without him – besides, the forced labour has ruined his business anyway. How can he get people to pay him for labour when the PDS are forced to do it for free?

Kieren and Simon go to work in the doctor’s office and Kieren takes the chance to ask Simon about Amy – because it’s not fair that Amy thinks they’re a couple while Simon clearly doesn’t agree. Simon says he loves her – but not like that and Amy needs to see she’s loved. Uh-huh she also needs some truth. At least Dr. Russo is sympathetic – but Simon is horrified to see unmedicated PDS just locked in a cage; there’s a delay in having PDS picked up for the centres. Simon is disgusted to see Denise, the receptionist, handle the PDS like animals without a shred of respect. Simon wants to take them to his cottage where he can medicate them – he thinks Kieren’s naïve to trust the doctor just because he smiles.

Warehouse 13, Season 5, Episode 6: Endless

London, 1889 and Helena (H.G. Wells) being the awesome Warehouse 12 agent she was and taking down Jack the Ripper. (Kipling is also a Warehouse agent, I am most amused). Her mentor tells her all about the Warehouse but also puts a little puncture in her idea that the Warehouse is inherently linked to the British empire – though she does think there will never be a Warehouse 13.

The current team are watching this on the Round Table (and also learning that Helena has broken up with her current guy and is now dating a woman which finally sets in stone the often referenced bisexuality of Helena). The Table stores the memories of agents defining moments with the Warehouse and she wants them to add to it. Which means Warehouse 13 is reaching the end of its life. And if the Warehouse moves to a new country, the new country provides new agents.

Pete is highly stressed by this and demands Mrs. Frederick stop it, accusing her of failing as a Caretaker – but this is not a crisis to solve, it’s what the Warehouse does. So Claudia decides to give everyone time to calm down by sharing her first memory

Which involves showgirls and Pete and Myka tap dancing because of an Artefact Pete played with. The whole gang tries to battle showgirls while tap dancing – and Claudia has to put on a major performance (thankfully tap dancing) to charge another Artefact to fix it all.

It’s whacky, silly and immensely fun after which everyone announces “best job ever.” It was also the day when Claudia realised she didn’t want to be a Caretaker because she loves being an agent so much. Which leads to Pete freaking out about not being an agent any more. While he storms off, the gang talk to Claudia about whether she wants to be Caretaker and how she shouldn’t feel forced to become one.

On that subject, Artie’s turn to share a memory: a memory Mrs. Frederick thinks will backfire on him.  Artie and a past agent investigate a time bubble from the 1940s with someone using an Artefact to make a party last forever and avoid going to war; it’s a bubble that can only be entered once a year, the date of the party. They have 25 minutes to investigate and Artie’s junior Agent, Scott, is pretty good. Scott’s insight helps them solve it though Scott is briefly emotional at the woman with the Artefact’s plea – worried that her baby will grow up without a dad. Which Artie feels guilty about – because Scott is his son.

Intermission while Claudia demands an explanation. Artie never knew Scott existed for years; and Artie fought the Regents for the right of a “one”, the right Regents have to have one person who knows about the Warehouse. He meant this as a lesson that you have to fight for your happiness, but Claudia is still reeling and she walks off.

Artie follows her and after talking Artie reveals that Scott is still alive but not an agent, he has a normal life. He didn’t introduced Claudia because she would have wanted him to be an Agent – which defeats the whole point of the One – someone in the normal world to keep balance. The lesson is sometimes you have to be a little selfish to be happy – and that “do as I say not as I do” is totally the prerogative of a father figure. And a lovely bonding parent moment.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mountain Echoes (Walker Papers #8) by C.E. Murphy

Joanne has barely had time to process what happened in Ireland when she receives news her father is missing. She quickly returns to North Carolina, to a place she hasn’t been since a child, to discover not only is her father missing, but so is the man who fathered her child.

He Master is there, seeking to tap into the devastating pain and loss suffered by the Native Americans to power evil beyond imagining; unless they can stop it.

But also there are the people Joanne long left behind, not all of whom are that willing to welcome her back, even if she has finally embraced her legacy of a shaman. There’s also Aida, the son she gave up at birth and a powerful shaman in his own right – and a source of both emotional and mystical turmoil.

Joanne has, in many ways, completely her journey of development in this book and the last book. Last book she confronted so many of the issues she had with her mother – and this book she does the same with her father and with Aidan, the son she gave up for adoption. It’s not easy, there’s some heavy emotional content there, but it’s handled in a very reasonable and mature level – no dramatic angst, not seething rage, no losing their sense of priorities or avoiding the actual plot and disaster they are facing. It also reflects Joanne’s personal growth – she has finally decided to put away her desire for an instruction manual – because she has been doing this for some time now and she’s been managing and achieving great things. Joanne acknowledges her own skill – her own mastery. When her dad does things differently, she accepts that they do things differently, not better or worse. When she does something her dad says is impossible, she doesn’t think she’s doing something wrong, she just knows she does something different from her dad.

Joanne has reached an excellent point where she is willing to learn from others, but not feel inferior for it and not feel like she has to do anything their way – while still being confident in her skills and her achievements and finally settling on the idea that she is strong, she can do things others cannot and there’s no problem with her doing just that. Even if it is unwise at times. It’s a wonderful development after books of denial, books of panic, books of her messing things up epicly through ignorance and confusion and now her finally reaching the end of that path. I love her growth

Not just with magic – but relationships as well, recognising her old problems, her old grudges, when she was often unfair or unthinking or how her perception was skewed. Through a more mature, wiser eye, Joanne looks back at herself and her old home and a fair whack of complex feelings about it

Penny Dreadful, Season 1, Episode 2: Seance

In a dark, terrifying and foggy night, a sex worker takes a lunch break, nervous and afraid with the news of a body ripped up from last episode – when the lamp lighter disappears and something attacks her. Blood spatters

Ethan wakes up, somewhat worse for wear, under a pier. There appear to be cuts and blood on his hand. He staggers to an inn to order a hair of the dog. Where’s joined by a fun Irish woman called Brona who happily drinks some of his whiskey. She came over to London to look for work – and saw more and more jobs taken over by the machines of the Industrial Revolution. She’s a sex worker, thanks him for the breakfast and is off to do work machines can’t do – yet.

Frankenstein teaches his new creation to eat, marvelling over him and randomly selecting a name for him from Shakespeare – Proteus. But he has to go out and make money – convincing Proteus to stay and wait; leaving him scared and alone.

He’s calling on Sir Malcolm and Vanessa – Vanessa carefully locks away her writing when Malcolm calls her. He also tells her to unbutton the top of her dress – instructions that don’t phase her. (And Frankenstein’s eyes do blink down to her exposed… neck. Well it is a very high necked Victorian dress).

They take him down to the basement where the vampire lurks, stripped of all flesh, hieroglyphic covered exoskeleton exposed. While Frankenstein studies the body, he talks about his (unsurprising) fascination with Egyptian religion and Vanessa is surprised to discover he has Romantic Poetry in his bag. For all his obsession with science, it is the “ephemeral” that makes life worth living. Vanessa seizes upon it, reciting a poem about man transforming nature. Because she’s cunning like that and later tells Malcolm the doctor has a secret.

Sir Malcolm and Sembene go to see the police about the gruesome murder, and after a token effort to keep the investigation private, he reveals everything. Body parts and organs are missing, but they were not drained of blood – he rules out the Ripper since the Ripper targeted sex workers and neither mother nor her 7 year old daughter were. Malcolm insists on being called into the next crime scene – and he’s sure there will be one.

Brona goes to a very very expensive address to meet with a Dorian Gray. For the purpose of taking risqué pictures – and he seems even more interested in proceedings when he discovers she has consumption and is coughing blood. She warns him against kissing her, for fear he may catch it, and he licks her lip. They have sex while the photographer takes pictures and Dorian gets a special thrill from having sex with a “dying creature”. Which is the least sexy pillow talk, ever.

Ethan gets a message from home – his dad instructs him to return to America since his legal problems have been “taken care of”. This apparently includes paying a federal marshal.

Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 7: Mocking Bird

Kings Landing: The Usual nest of vipers

Jaime is very very annoyed with his brother for ungratefully throwing his life away. Tyrion, being much more astute, doesn’t see any reason to be grateful for being sent to the wall for a crime he didn’t commit – and yes, the whole farce is a joke. Tyrion also throws some hard truth at Jaime – Tyrion is always going to be disposable to Tywin. More, Tywin wants to dispose of him; Jaime protests that Tywin would sacrifice any of them and Tyrion calls bullshit – Jaime could (quite literally) “kill a king, lose your hand, fuck your sister” and still be the golden son.

Jaime can’t fight for Tyrion in his trial by combat – without his hand he isn’t ready yet (though the idea of Tyrion and Tywin both dying because of the trial is faintly amusing to Tyrion). Tyrion asks Jaime to find Bronn.

And Cersei chooses her champion – Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain. Who is happily butchering some prisoners for funsies.

Unfortunate for Tyrion, Bronn has been nobbled. He has been married off to a wealthy lady through Cersei’s influence giving him much more luxury and a considerable lack of need to be chopped into itty bitty pieces by the Mountain. It’s Bronn’s turn to lay on some hard truths, Tyrion no longer has wealth to offer him and while he is Tyrion’s friend, that doesn’t extend to risking his life for Tyrion – after all, Tyrion has never done the same. They part as friends.

Tyrion gets a visit from Oberyn who, in between making it clear he knew Cersei was trying to turn him against Tyrion and he tells of his first visit to Castlery rock when Tyrion was a newborn baby and how rumour had painted him as so monstrous. But when a young Oberyn was so eager to see this monstrous baby, he was surprised when Cersei showed him Tyrion – a pretty normal baby without any of the claws and tails Oberyn had pictured. But Cersei hated him and blamed him for the death of their mother.

And Oberyn wants revenge on the killers of his sister – the Mountain, Gregor Clegane, who raped and killed his sister and killed her children. Being Tyrion’s champion gives him that chance. I feel this scene would have been far more powerful without Oberyn mentioning cocks every 5 seconds.

The Riverlands: Arya and the Hound

They find a man, injured from an attack, a wound in his stomach killing him slowly. The Hound and Arya both wonder why he doesn’t commit suicide since he is suffering and cannot possibly heal from the wound. He thinks nothing – death - could be worse but Arya creepily refutes: nothing can be neither better, nor worse. It’s nothing. The Hound gives him a last drink before finishing him off, showing Arya a heart blow

And some fool attacks the Hound by biting him. He gets his neck broken – but that leaves his companion free to tell them there’s a price on the Hound’s head and that Joffrey is dead. Arya recognises the man as a prisoner heading to the wall who threatened her. The Hound asks if he’s on Arya’s death list but alas it cannot be – she doesn’t know his name. So The Hound asks, the bounty hunter rather foolishly tells them – and Arya stabs him through the heart. Even the Hound is a little impressed.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast

Unfortunately, we seem to be suffering some difficulties. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to vanquish weremoose - or the mess they leave behind afterwards! See, at least Moospires turn to dust when you stake them with a maple branch.

Alas, this means we're not able to do the podcast today folks, we will try to be back next week, once all the supernatural moose scourages have been cleared from our path. And possibly after a drink

Or three.

Deep Blue (Waterfire Saga #1) by Jennifer Donnelly

Serfina is a mermaid, the heir to the throne of one of the 6 merfolk nations and ready to complete her coming of age ceremony and meet her new husband

Until all out war breaks out in the middle of it. With her life, her city and her nation in ruins, hunted by barely understood, relentless enemies, Serfina flees with her best friend relying on very dubious and worrisome allies.

In the end, they have one hope – chasing an answer that spoke to them in a dream, speaking of 6 mermaids who have to come together to fight the threat.

The world setting for this book is really rich and deep setting. We have a long, detailed history, an origin story and a wide, varied political landscape that creates a very large, rich and diverse feeling society. This world is one of those worlds where a lot of effort has gone into the full creation, making it very plausible and very internally consistent. There are also a lot of hints that all of this world is going to be called upon and be relevant in the story – including the history and the politics – and it’s not just exposition for exposition’s sake. I think it may be the best underwater world I’ve ever seen in the genre – from the magic setting to the different political entities, it’s very promising.

Of course, while all this history and politics is fascinating and rich and well designed and mostly pertinent to the story, it is a lot of information that is expositioned at us a lot. I didn’t find it boring, but a lot of it I found excessive and unnecessary – especially in the first part of the book; lots of info-dump, little reason for it.

The story remembers it’s underwater most of the time – but not all the time – we still get moments where merfolk pour drinks from teapots and the like underwater (which I can only imagine would be messy – really, if your creatures are aquatic you can skip the whole drinking thing) or sweat, or things pouring or falling which probably shouldn’t happen.

The main character, Serafina, also breaks a lot of moulds. She’s a princess and knows to act it and is very aware of her responsibilities – even though she’s 16 and often feels overwhelmed. It’s also interesting how she works with other women. When the book began, she had a rival at court that was an almost classic Mean Girl and I rolled my eyes because we’d seen this play out so many times – and even a princess and heir to the throne has to be the unpopular bullied one… but this elements of the story was quickly left behind (which made me think it was rather unnecessary to be honest) and we got to the meat.

And in the meat she’s one of 6 young women working together all with their own talents and skills. 6 young women who respect and like one another, regard each other as peers and work well as a team – yes there’s conflict between Serafina and another but it has a strong basis in the story and even then she tries to work through it. Is she special? Yes, but they all are – each in their own way. It’s even emphasised that she’s not the most powerful of them – in fact “most powerful” doesn’t even apply in any logical sense since each of them have powers and abilities and talents that are very different from each other. And if Serafina may, possibly, be the most specialist of them all, it’s a slim claim – and it pales next to the true strength of the 6 is how they work together. This is a really strong emphasis on them being much much stronger together than apart and that co-operation is the key to victor. Each mermaid also has a chance to shine, a moment when they are the hero, when they save the others – just as each mermaid is equally in need of the help and support of the others. This isn’t the story of one mermaid and her sidekicks, nor 6 women who are fighting and snarling and competing with each other.

If anything, the lack of conflict between them is poorly done because these 6 women meet, understand and bond almost ridiculously quickly. They go from complete strangers to knowing each other incredibly well astonishingly quickly with little development or depth.

Da Vinci's Demons, Season 2, Episode 9: The Enemies of Man

Leo and Riario are on the ship back to Italy, Leo still obsessed and Riario thinking they need to pack it all in – he even intends to throw himself on the pope’s mercy. Good luck with that. They also acknowledge that while they’ve liked working together the whole alliance thing is now other

In Florence, Leo notices something amiss – the streets are empty. He and Nico return to his old workshop where Verrocchio meets them and warns them Florence is no longer home, shortly before the guards arrive. A new guard captain drags them to the palace which is full of men and bare breasted women (some seemingly enjoying proceedings, others definitely abused). The palace is in a shambles – and Clarice is chained on a throne wearing very scanty clothing. All of this is forced by Duke Federico of Urbino – who took the city by force at the Pope’s urging. Both Clarice and Leo cling to the hope that Lorenzo will return.

In Naples, the Pope is trying to make Lorenzo tell him where the vast sums of Medici gold got to, since neither he nor Urbino can find them, in exchange for exile for Lorenzo and his family. He reveals that Florence has fallen – and Lorenzo punches him. How many Hail Marys for punching a pope? The Pope calls him no matter than usurers, heathens or jews, which pretty much sums up a fair chunk of the Pope’s prejudice. Lorenzo does promise to give up all of the money - to king Ferrante of Naples if he can free Florence. The pope smugly points out he and Naples are allies, this isn’t a negotiation – Ferrante, considering the vast sum of money would beg to differ – it is a negotiation now.

Lorenzo and Ipolita flirt and kiss and are seen by the pope.

Back in Florence, after a brief reunion with Vanessa, Leo is taken for some special torture (with some side references to him being a “sodomite” so he might enjoy the torture. Da Vinci’s Demons you’re on far too thin ice to pull this shit). He’s fastened in stocks opposite Carlo, also in stocks; but at least Carlo is eager to meet Leo. The torturers arrive (with background scenes of rape) and knock out the guards – it’s Zoroaster and Amerigo in disguise.

They take Leo and Carlo to a tavern where the loyalists are hiding (including Captain Dragonetti) – while Frederico’s men attack random men in the street. Of course Leo intends to take the palace back and with Carlo’s knowledge of the palace he comes up with a plan.

Which is foiled when Dragonetti et al are captured obtaining supplies, interrupting Leo and Carlo bonding over being bastards and Cosimo’s obsession with the Book of Leaves. Instead they take a riskier route into the palace, past the furnace

Inside the palace, a guard tries to take Vanessa to be raped by Nico stands in his way. In response to Nico’s defiance, the other prisoners stand as well. Faced with all the prisoners ready to attack him, he backs out.

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast

We are battle against the weremoose continues - watch this space to see if Fangs for the Fantasy podcast is back on tonight. If it is it'll be on at 7:00pm EST

You can catch us here, through google+ or on our youtube channel

If you had missed any of our previous podcasts you can find them here.

12th May - 19th May: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
19th May - 26th May: Banishing the Dark by Jenn Bennet
26th May - 2nd June: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
2nd June - 9th June: The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice
9th June - 16th June: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
16th June - 23rd June: Shattered by Kevin Hearne
23rd June - 30th June: Ocean at the End of Lane by Neil Gaiman