Friday, December 19, 2014

The 100, Season Two, Episode Eight: Spacewalker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 10: Orphans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginal or Gently Used Heroines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sacrificed in Shadow (Ascension Series #1) by S.M. Reine

A lot has changed in Elise’s life and she still has a lot to learn about exactly what she is – but one thing there’s no doubt about id how powerful and dangerous she has become. Certainly she’s more than a match for a rogue werewolf which small-town deputy Lincoln Marshall believes is plaguing his home

But when she hears the list of victims she’s intrigued – because one is a girl from several years ago she failed to save. Someone is trying to lure her to this town and she means to find out who and why. And why they’re trying to frame the country’s last werewolf pack for murder.

This book had an impossible task. This is a brand new series but is taking the existing vast and rich world that all of S.M. Reine’s books take place in and it’s taking Elise as the protagonist – a character who has already been the centre of the Descent Series. Over the course of that series, a lot has happened to Elise – and that’s a massive understatement. Her experiences with angels, demons, in Hell and Heaven, with Adam and Eve and God and her best friend/ally/lover/guardian James and so much else are deep, complicated and incredibly involved. Elise has been through a lot that has created an extremely full and complicated character – especially in terms of her magic and just what she is; there’s such a lot there. On top of that there’s her complicated history with the multiple people in her life she has a lot of history with – and all that history is shown in their interactions.

So this highly developed character with this incredibly epic history had to be introduced/recapped along with a rich and huge world that had already been explored by multiple series all had to be fit into this one book along with a story… it was such a tall order that I put off reading this book, thinking I couldn’t tackle it until I’d finished the Descent Series and maybe some of the other series set in the same world. Yet it worked. This book is genuinely stand alone. I’m sure the other series will add to Elise’s backstory – but I haven’t finished the Descent Series and could still follow her rich backstory and understand all the complexities that go into making her her.

All of this world building and character development was fit into the book in a very natural and flowing fashion. I never felt there was a lot of convoluted infodumping, nor a lot of clumsy exposition, the pacing wasn’t bogged down by conveying all of this vast information but nor where there any holes that made it impossible to follow the story or Elise’s nature or the huge world we have here. And considering how much there is to squeeze in there, that is really really impressive; I’ve seen authors badly fail having to convey a tenth of the information.

On top of that the story is surprisingly involved. Again, it wouldn’t surprise me if the first book in a series was relatively simple in terms of plot in order to introduce the world and characters, but this plot was wonderfully twisty. We had a lot of action, a number of suspects a nice number of red herrings without getting convoluted and a completely surprise ending I didn’t see coming even though, as Elise pointed out, there are definitely more than enough clues there to follow it. All of this is told with pretty excellent pacing (perhaps the number of side plots at times makes me feel like Elise has somehow wandered off from what she’s actually supposed to be doing, but the side plots are still relevant, useful and interesting).

The Librarian Quest for the Spear

Flynn is a geeks geek.  Still in his 30's and in college, as well as living with his mother, it would be fair to say that Flynn is a classic case of failure to launch.  It is only when Flynn's professor looks up his records and discovers he has 22 degrees and decides to boot him from the class, that Flynn is faced to acknowledge that there is a life outside of academia.  Flynn finds an invitation to apply for the role of a librarian and after proving that he can read people as well as Sherlock Holmes, Flynn is given the job. Flynn quickly realises that at this library, he will be forced to do more than catalog books because within its archives, the library contains singular wonders like Pandora's Box, Excalibur and the Arc of the Covenant.  

Flynn doesn't get to settle into his new role, as on his first day, the library is robbed of part of the Speak of Destiny.  Flynn is tasked to retrieve the last two pieces to ensure that spear is not made whole again, to avoid a disaster.  Having never done anything beyond study, Flynn knows that he's over his head but since the world is at stake and he is now the librarian, he has no choice but to attempt, even if trying may well mean his death.

The Librarian Quest for the Spear is a typical White man saves the world, semi action flick.  The small shift in this movie is the character of Nicole Noone, who partners with Flynn on this journey.  Flynn is without doubt the brains of the operation, being able to quickly decipher cryptic clues; however, Nicole is without doubt the brawn.  Nicole saves Flynn's life on several occasions.  She is a woman of action and though extremely guarded, is unafraid to face danger.  This was quite subversive, given that movies in this genre, like The Indiana Jones series, not only casts Jones as the expert, there is always a damsel in distress that needs saving.  We learn very little about Nicole, beyond what Flynn is able to surmise, making her in many ways little more than a female weapon.  

Other female characters include Margie Carsen, Flynn's mother, Charlene, the caretaker of the library, and finally,  Lana.  Margie spends much of her on screen time obsessing about the fact that Flynn does not have a girlfriend.  Margie invites a young woman to the house to meet Flynn and even resorts to imploring strange women at a café to give her nerdy son a second look.  Margie is the concerned mother to the T and beyond that, we learn nothing else about her.  Charlene is the stern caretaker of the library and she is not in the least bit impressed by Flynn. We learn nothing about Charlene as a person, beyond the fact that she does not like to be touched, though there is a hint of sarcasm blending with her salty demeanor. Finally, we come to Lana, one of only two women of colour in the movie.  Lana is an ass kicking woman, who essentially is the sidekick to the evil librarian Edward Wilde.  We don't learn anything about Lana's motivations and just as Nicole is the heavy for team good guy, Lana is the heavy for team bad guy. Quite preposterously, Lana ends up with a crush on Flynn, so of course the two women have to fight it out.  Heaven forbid each of them remember that the fate of the world is at stake. 

This Week in Book Covers 8th December - 12th December

Death's Mistress (Midnight Daughter #2) by Karen Chance

Why why why Dorina Basarab why have you been afflicted by unnecessarily sexy leather? And why would you go through all the drama of this book - the hectic chases, the constant fights, the investigation - wearing so little clothing? Why is the navel and cleavage on display? Has Dorina ever been that concerned with looking so sexy?

This is such a classic Urban Fantasy cover - a kick arse lethal woman must be allergic to clothing

Deceiver's Bond (A Clairvoyant's Complicated Life #2) by Katherine Bayless

I like this one. It’s a really good representation of the character, even if we can’t see her head. It’s a nice touch to include her gloves - and I love that nearly all of her skin is covered which is especially important given her powers. She isn’t sexualised and looks awfully tough and has nice little touches like the teddy bear to ensure we know this cover was expressly made for this book and truly represents this particular book. I love it

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Shining in Crimson (Empire of Blood #1) by Robert S. Wilson

In Wilson's dystopian world, the United States is no more and its place the American Empire rules the people.  It is a theocracy ruled over by an emperor.  The people are forced to live under strict morality laws and those who refuse to conform are sent to Necropolis the former Las Vegas and now home to a population of vampires.  Hank Evan is sent to Necropolis as punishment for procuring a prostitute and he is determined to survive somehow because he is all that his son Toby has yet.  What Hank does not realise is that surviving this night will cost him so much more than he ever imagined.

As an introduction to a trilogy, Shining in Crimson was not bad.  Wilson gave us a sense of the dystopian world and its divisions.  I would have liked to know more about how the American Empire came to be and more specifically how the truce with the vampires came into existence.  We start the novel learning that the war has now been over for 20 years and that the government uses religious propaganda to prop up its rules, along with a fear that the alternative is to become prey to the sinning vampires. 

The POV constantly changes throughout the book and though I normally find this irritating, it helped to bring the different elements of the story together.  I found it interesting to see vampires who based on their long lives understand better than the humans, exactly what the American Empire is all about.  For safety, the humans have traded their liberty.  Hank has vague memories of a time when the world was different and a father who fought and died for the United States.  He is tormented by the horrible bargain he is forced to make.  Then we have Simon a devout member of the Empire, to the point that he even thinks of his own mother as a whore, finally coming to grips with the fact that he has been sold a book of lies and finally, Ishan who is determined to hold his vampire council together and bring down the empire.

The majority of the characters in this book are male.  The only three female characters of note are Simon's mother, who viscously slut shamed.  When she is raped by Peter, Simon is horrified and yet when Peter says that you cannot rape the willing, Simon is quick to agree.  It is because of her dress and the fact that she didn't physically fight back and instead begged for her son's safety that Simon refuses to see her as the victim that she is.  It is only after gaining empathy from Ishan, that Peter begins to understand he may have potentially wronged his mother.  The second female character is the human vampire Rachel.  As with Simon's mother, she is also a rape victim.  Each day she is subject to rape and beatings by her father and her brothers, which she endures until Peter kills them.  In turn, after being judged worthy, Rachel becomes a vampire, only to rape Hank in a bid to help Peter become the leader of the vampires.  There is also Grace, the dead wife of Hank.  Years later he is still mourning her loss.  Grace is really little more than a footnote in this story. Finally, we have the Queen of the Ancients, the only ancient vampire to be sentient.  We don't really learn much about her beyond this.

Review: Dracula Untold

"Sometimes the world doesn't need another hero.  Sometimes what it needs is a monster."

As the title suggests, Dracula Untold, is essentially an origin story of the world's most famous vampire tale.  The movie begins with the narration of Dracula's son, telling the audience that his father, Vlad Tepes, despite all accounts is a hero.  This is quite the opposite of Dracula's treatment in Stoker's version but is however far more accurate to how he is perceived by his own people.  The real Vlad Tepes, fought off Turkish invaders and was inducted into The Order of the Dragons, to protect Christendom from the Ottoman threat.  Being a movie, there is much creative license taken with what we know of Vlad's life; however, it is a somewhat interesting, if not wholly accurate story.

After having been given to the Turks as part of a tribute and inscription order, Dracula is taught to fight, and indeed seek blood.  It is while a Turk captive that Dracula gains the famous moniker, Vlad the Impaler (a title btw given to the real Vlad Tepes posthumously)  Vlad is tortured by memories of his time under Turkish rule but under the reassurances of his cloyingly sweet wife Mirena and his son Ingeras, Vlad settles into peace but is ever watchful for a day when this fragile peace will end.

Believing that he has stumbled upon an invading force of Turks, Vlad and his men make their way to Broken Tooth Mountain, only to meet a vampire.  Vlad alone escapes this encounter, leaving him with one more horrific memory to add to his painful trauma.  When Ottoman sultan Mehmed, demands a tribute of 1000 of  Wallachia's young boys, including Vlad's son Inegras, be conscripted into his army, Vlad is unwilling to sacrifice his child, as his father before him did, even if it means dooming his country to a war they are ill equipped to fight.  Our Anti-hero returns to Broken Tooth Mountain, and there he strikes a deal that will change his world. Vlad drinks the blood of the vampire and is told that he will have a fraction of the power of his powerful sire for three days, but retain his mortality, if he can manage to resist the temptation to drink human blood.  And thus, the game is afoot.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Archangel's Legion (Guildhunter #6) by Nalini Singh

The Cascade is coming, ominous portents rock the world and Archangels are gifted with new powers – and like in previous Cascades, they’re ready to use them in war

In New York, angels fall from the sky, their population decimated by the wounded, the river runs red and it starts raining blood. A new plague impossibly targets vampires and just when Raphael and Elena need their forces to be at their strongest, they are being devastated.

War is coming – and they are not ready.

One of the things this series does well is pacing over the arc of the whole story. In the early books we began with a lot of epic – Uram and Elena becoming an angel and Lijuan destroying Beijing, it was a lot to suddenly be in the middle of it. Then we had a few books that were less epic – introducing some of Raphael’s 7 and their partners in a more low key level while still slowly developing the idea of the Cascade and how everything was brewing – and now we’re getting back into the epic, world-destroying action again. I think that makes the overall arc work really well, keeping things personal as well as epic and avoiding the presentation that this is a world in which the extreme happens all the time and leaving the series in a situation where it constantly has to out-epic itself each book.

This continues with this book – a lot of it is spent on budding ominous action. The Cascade means lots of ominous portents coupled with the Archangels finally marshalling their forces and preparing for war – starting with lots of ominous sneak attacks with their newly gained powers. In response, Raphael is not only preparing his own defences, but martialling whatever alliances he can muster. The book does have some major action moments, but that’s not the core – the core is the preparation, the growing, looming, ominous feeling of menace and the general sense that everything is going to fall apart very soon. It’s a really well maintained theme as Elena runs among all these dramatic actions and preparations while also maintaining her relationships and continuing her character growth.

Of course, when we get to the end of the book we have an awesome epic battle that is, indeed, awesome and epic

There’s also some excellent world building that comes from this – just lots of little indications as to how this world differs from ours – like actual heavy weapons are much less common than in our world because they’re useless against Archangels and wars in their world is pretty much all about the Archangels. Their rules and disdain dictate what military technology is actually useful.

The Librarians, Season One, Episode Three: And the Horns of a Dilemma

A man rushes though a building panicked and is screaming for help.  He runs into Karen and Franklin dressed in a black hooded garments.  Karen says a spell and the man who screamed for help gets dragged away by his heels.  Frank and Karen then enter the elevator and start talking about food.

The Librarians make their way through some sort of factory.  Ezekiel attempts to attack Eve, who is following them and is quickly dealt with.  When Cassandra stands to help, she knocks herself unconscious and a frustrated Eve lifts the hood of her shirt.  Later, outside, Eve chastises Stone for not realising that the Librarians cannot fight everything with brute strength alone. Both Eve and Ezekiel make excuses for their failure and Eve asserts that they are going to run drills everyday until she is certain that she can trust them out in the field.  When they return to the library, Jenkins informs them that a new case has shown up in his book.  Eve is quick to say that the Librarians are not ready but they are not all pleased by this determination.  They argue that Flynn left them to help people, not sit around. 

Eve finds Jenkins in his lab experimenting on artifacts and makes it clear that it is hard enough to control the Librarians, without Jenkins dangling the book in front of them.  Jenkins argues that the Librarians have to enter the field at some point but Eve brings up the failures she has had with soldiers on missions who have been trained, adding that the three librarians aren't even close to ready.

While Eve is talking to Jenkins, the Librarians decide to check out the book.

Jenkins points out to Eve that the job of Librarians is to protect people from harm, thereby putting themselves in danger.  Eve counters by saying that she cannot protect three Librarians without more training.  Jenkins argues that there have been a lot of Librarians with no training at all and that the best ones came back.

Eve returns to the Librarians, to find them looking through the book.  Cassandra brings up the missing Henry Birch and Stone adds that there are seven other clippings of missing people, who all went missing this year.  Eve says that with that many missing, the police must be looking into it.  Ezekiel corrects the assertion by pointing out that the disappearances are from all over the country and the only reason they are connected is because they all showed up in the book. Stone points out that though the missing were from all over, they all lived in Boston.  Cassandra says that they were also all interns At Golden X Foods. Stone asks how many more will go missing before they step in.  Eve questions if the group is willing to risk their lives for Henry and Ezekiel makes it clear that he won't risk his life but can outrun everything.  Eve agrees to work the case and demands that the team go in fully prepared.

Jenkins interrupts the meeting and tells them that he is sending them to Boston.  Jenkins then explains how magic works, before hooking  a globe up to the broom closet door. When the team opens the door, it leads to Boston.  Cassandra realises that Jenkins has created a worm hole and rushes back into the Annex with the Librarians following her, to discover that they other side of the Annex is still connected to the west coast.  Jenkins warns that the door doesn't stay open long and of course, Ezekiel wants to know if Jenkins can create a door to a bank vault.  Eve cuts Ezekiel off and makes it clear to the Librarians that if they are going to do this, they need to do what she says, when she says.

Lost Girl, Season 5, Episode 2: Like Hell Part 2

Kenzi is pretty panicked about being buried alive (which I really don’t blame her for) and, thankfully, Dyson and Lauren dig her up and get her medical help. Some necessary snark follows before Kenzi tells them what happened to Bo.

She has traded herself to a mystery person, probably her father, and was dumped in the lift and has now arrived on her floor – dimly lit stone tunnels with a fancy fountain and a rather out of place bouquet. It’s a maze. She walks through it chasing echoes and blurs – when one of those blurs cuts her leg; it’s a woman with pointy ears, teeth and claws and a skill for voice imitation (called Puca). Seeming to be on Bo’s side comes a bird that turns into another woman, lacking the pointy bits. Like any good guide, she is completely vague but talks about “defeating your doubts” and “Puca’s true voice” which is cryptic speak for “give Puca a kick” because that defeats the maze. That’s a pretty crappy maze you’ve got there.

They’re in Tartarus, that hidden hell realm Trick mentioned, and Bo has déjà vu about it (probably because it’s just the Valhalla set with the lights turned off. C’mon Lost Girl that’s just cheap). The woman warns Bo that Tartarus will look for a way to keep her but Bo wants to see daddy dearest.

Lauren gives Kenzi a full check up (or tries to, Kenzi is a very very very annoying patient) which turns to vodka – and something moving a beaker and breaking it without apparently touching it. Poltergeist? Telekinesis? Heavy lorry driving past? Apparently a ghost – which writes “Help” in the condensation on glass; naturally they assume Bo. But we didn’t see Bo doing any ghostly writing

Perhaps confirming that, when Kenzi reunites with Trick at the Dal, he warns her that it could be any number of things, but gets her a spirit board anyway. Because Kenzi conjuring the spirit world won’t backfire at all.

In Tartarus the woman tries to treat Bo’s bleeding leg and Bo decides to go for her own healing instead – kissing her to drain chi to heal, then having sex with the woman (as much as one can while fully clothed. So, less sex and more kissing and light massage). While she does, in the real world Lauren is sleeping on a bed and the ghostly spirit parts her clothes (to reveal the bra she, presumably, wore in the shower)

The stripping does convince Lauren that the ghost is Bo. In Tartarus, Bo learns her lover is Persephone of Greek Myth, Bo’s step mother. Which means Bo is the daughter of Hades. More importantly, it means she just got it on with her step-mother which is just icky except it’s pretty tame as far as the Hellenic gods go. Bo definitely wants to talk to daddy now, despite Persephone’s protests about what a bad man he is. Bo doesn’t exactly trust Persephone either.

She enters her old nursery, remembering from a past vision. There she sees the cage where her mother was kept and Persephone explains the terrible way she was treated. Bo feels terrible for her mother especially as she learns that she sacrificed herself to free Bo and while she is sad, Persephone talks about Hades’s plan for Bo to be uber powerful and that his own power was weakening.

Once Upon a Time, Season 4, Episode 12: Heroes and Villains

With Ingrid easily killed off last episode, Elsa can bring down the ice wall – but it doesn’t change that Storybrooke is still sealed off. They’re trying to leave because Anna & co want to go home (and I want rid of them) but they’d need some kind of realm hopping magic for that anyway. Anna realises they failed to tell Elsa about Hans taking over Arendelle because ANYONE can be king of that place! This means they have to get back asap so they can take the kingdom back

I feel deeply sorry for the people of Arendelle, their choices of monarch aren’t exactly great.

Killian hears all this and passes it on to Gold who is a little irritated by Ingrid spoiling all his plans by having a huge character change at the last minute. He now has no cover or reason for getting his family out of town – also, Anna knows he’s evil so he can’t have her hanging around. Still the stars are aligning so Gold intends to go ahead (and when Killian is no longer useful there will be a heart squishing).

Flashback time! To olde timey Belle and Rumplestiltskin before they were in a relationship and when she was his servant. She complains that he never talks about all the shiny things lying around to which he responds “you’re the help”. She isn’t taking that and continues to press him. Rumple has just been on a trip to Camelot (which was apparently not great for Camelot) and brought back a magic gauntlet that seeks out a person’s greatest weakness. This will be relevant to the plot, I guess. Rumple intends to use it for manipulation because a person’s weakness is usually the thing they love most.

Moving on, Belle decides that Rumple’s hoarding is a sign of a hole in his heart (that’s a terrible medical diagnosis) and he banishes her to do laundry – but she keeps on talking because she knows he can magically hear her. She sees a Dalmatian and like a small child she decides to run after it and get grabbed by a figure in a cloak.

Rumple comes looking for her and receives a magical ransom demand that makes him very upset. He follows a raven to the rendezvous point carrying what they demanded – the Gauntlet of Weakness (told you it’d be relevant. This is less “Chekov’s gun” and more “Chekov’s glowing neon sign with added whistles”). The ravens come together to form… Maleficent. Rumple isn’t impressed – he’s the Dark One, way more powerful than Maleficient; but she gasps that she’s not alone. Along comes the Sea Witch, holding Belle in her tentacles, and Cruella Deville (“desperation and gin” Rumple does snark nicely). Rumple talks a good game – but to save Belle he gives up the Gauntlet

Their plan is to use the Gauntlet to stop the heroes winning all the time. Belle, of course, realises that Rumple cares for her; of course he denies it.

In the present, Gold wakes Belle with plans for a wonderful Honeymoon in New York. Henry finds her mid-packing (and he calls Belle “grandma” which is cute and Belle finds all kinds of awkward) to tell her about Ingrid’s remaining spell preventing anyone who leaves from returning; Belle is sure that Gold will have a way round that. He’s also worried about his Fairy Tale Book because it predicts so much badness for Regina, but Belle offers vague reassurance. While grabbing things for packing, they find the Gaunlet of Weakness

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: 2014, Episode 26

It's time for this week's episode of Fangs for the Fantasy podcast

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)

8th December - 15th December: Staked by J.F. Lewis
15th December -  22nd December: Odin Ravens by  K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr
22nd December - 5th January: Hidden Legacy by Ilona Andrews
5th January - 12th January: Unbound by Jim C Hines
12th January - 19th January: The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
19th January - 26th January: A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin

Staked (Void City #1) by J.F. Lewis

Eric isn’t the most competent vampire around. Because he was embalmed, he has issues with his memory and forgets little things – like when the sun is coming up. He also has his temper black-outs which has led to the odd unfortunate massacre that’s always awkward. He also has pretty bad impulse control issues

Hence him turning new girlfriend Tabitha into a vampire. Something he’s done before and it never ever ever works out.

And he’s annoyed the werewolves. He’s not even entirely sure why, but his constant attempts to mollify them keep going rather awry and escalating the problem and he can’t even be sure if someone is acting against him or if he’s just completing his streak of colossal screw ups

I really like the world setting here – it’s one of the best depictions of grittiness I’ve seen, because it doesn’t come with the over-the-top grimdark that is usually so common. It’s gritty, yet light hearted, there’s a strong sense of darkness but characters who are still just a bit silly.

I like the world building, l we’re taking some of the very common elements of Urban fantasy – werewolves and vampires but there’s such an original twist on these so very well established themes. The degrees of the vampire power, they way they run the city, the different routes to becoming a vampire and also the very biology of vampires. A lot of books talk about vampires being dead and even bloody tears, but this takes it to the obvious conclusion – and it’s really not all that sexy (unless you have a thing for cold bodies with blood for every bodily fluid). I have to say I love this true analysis. Even more we have some actual attention paid to age gaps, I loved Marilyn outright telling someone that they’re treating Eric like a lovesick teenager when he’s an 80-odd year old man.

But it’s not just the vampires – the whole holy werewolves is definitely an original twist which I didn’t expect. I’ve read a lot of this genre and seeing these old staples spun in entirely new ways is excellent to see.

Then plot was also nicely twisty – Eric finds himself in a war with the werewolves and we’re not entirely sure why. I mean, there’s a very good chance it could be from his own incompetence (Eric being Eric) but we find more and more levels beyond that, and lots of little hints that turn into more as the story develops. It had a few tangents, but in general the book kept me hooked throughout

In terms of plot and world building, this book is a winner. Almost. I still think the main antagonist hasn’t quite thought out his plot or how he’s going to get away with all this without consequences, but compared to everyone else in this book he’s a positive mastermind

I’m not as much of a fan of Eric, the main character, especially early in the book despite generally liking his tone (as a Vlad, an upper-echelon vampire, he’s pretty unkillable and can be pretty blasé as a result). In fact, I dislike him sufficiently to derail a lot of my enjoyment. Eric is a screw up, he knows this, he almost openly embraces it and he frequently castigates himself for screwing things up. And some of the screw ups I wouldn’t mind because they’re natural parts of his odd vampiric biology – he has constant memory lapses and rage-based black outs (which are very very bad because Eric is a very very powerful vampire indeed. It’s quite hard to be as mellow and generally inoffensive as Eric when you keep waking from black outs surrounded by torn up corpses). I could get by with a character with these traits as his frustration with them and attempts to work around them can be endearing elements. But that is compounded by some truly appalling decision making. He turns Tabitha into a vampire for the utterly worst of reasons and then makes no real effort to help her transition. She has sex with another character and it’s such an utterly bad idea that I was literally fighting not to yell at the book. He ignores his problems, he very much has to be forced to act and there are far too many times when he just seems to ignored the various things boiling around him.

Fangs for the Fantasy book of the week

The next episode of our podcast will be starting tonight at 7:00pm EST (12:00am GMT). You will be able to listen to us on our youtube channel, or by the link in the sidebar or by the post here that will be posted. We hope to see you there

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

To give people a chance to read along with us we include a list of our planned books of the week for the next few shows, so people can get the books, read them and join in the conversation.

8th December - 15th December: Staked by J.F. Lewis
15th December -  22nd December: Odin Ravens by  K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr
22nd December - 5th January: Hidden Legacy by Ilona Andrews
5th January - 12th January: Unbound by Jim C Hines
12th January - 19th January: The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
19th January - 26th January: A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin

Atlantis, Season 2, Episode 5: The Day of the Dead

Pasiphae isn’t dead, though the arrow in her is far from pleasant. She pulls it out (which is probably the absolute worst thing she could have done). She drags herself to a nearby tomb (they’re in a necropolis) and carves a spell into the lid before collapsing – a really gribbly undead hand hammers through the stone wall of the tomb.

Pythagoras, Hercules and Ariadne along with the pilgrims are looking for a way down to save Jason (after dropping their torches to see how deep the crevasse is, they pull out more from their bag of holding. What? They were travelling across a desert, like cave exploring supplies were high on the pilgrims’ list). Dion really did die last episode so I guess he’s just going to rot a little. Ominously, blind Orpheus hears something (in true genre savy-ness, Pythagoras suggests bats and Hercules mocks that it is never ever bats). Ariadne is convinced it’s Jason and proof he’s alive because when you’re Queen no-one can tell you you’re being a little too hopeful.

Instead they find zombie Dion (which also means they’ve been walking in circles or they really can’t outrun a staggering zombie). Random pilgrim Redshirticus praises the dead rising and gets bitten for it. They see Dion’s black-from-edge-to-edge eyes and realise this isn’t good. Hercules repeatedly stabs Dion in the stomach though we all know that’s a shoddy way to kill a zombie. More zombies arrive so it’s a fighting withdrawal.

In case we haven’t been paying attention. Pythagoras explains the zombies are undead. Oh TV producers, so little respect you have for your viewer’s intelligence. They realise Pasiphae is alive, Orpheus throws in some history about why so many soldiers would be buried in full arms and armour and Redshirticus reminds us he’s been bitten.

The next encounter shows that they can kill the zombies by stabbing them in the heart – aha, not the brain, these zombies are different. More fighting and Ariadne kills Dion. They wander on and Redshirticus isn’t feeling so good so they have to wait to try and treat his wound rather than wandering around looking for Jason.

Ariadne has a romance discussion about how much she loves Jason with    Eurydice before angsting with Hercules because her decisions are what caused all this (sort of) and it’s all her fault if Jason dies (and Dion and the hundred or so soldiers who died in the ambush. And your maid. What? If she’s going to angst she might as well do it properly). Hercules assures her that Jason is awesome (and no-one cares about the extras). This is all brushed aside by some good, affectionate Pythagoras and Hercules banter.

Everyone is completely shocked when Redshirticus wakes up as a zombie. Pythagoras and Orpheus kill him – Pythagoras holding him while he guides the blind Orpheus to stab the zombie in the heart. Bye Redshirticus. Hercules was supposed to be on watch, Pythagoras is not amused and he explains the whole biting infection thing. There’s a brief worry when they realise Ariadne is wounded but she’s a main character so there’s no way she’s bitten.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Grimm, Season Four, Episode Eight: Chupacabra

"Cuido su rebaño  , nunca deje
su lado.  Cuide su sangre,
el Chupacarbra tiene hambre."

This episode opens in the Dominican Republican with two doctors examining a patient whose fever is down and doing better. Diego wants to stay longer but is told by Gabe that they cannot rid the entire world of disease in just one trip. 

The doctors return to Portland and Diego kisses his wife hello. Diego is tired from his trip and the place where the mosquito has bitten him has become swollen on his neck.

Monroe and Rosalie are packing for their honeymoon.  Monroe says that he wishes they could leave on the trip without worrying something is going to go wrong.  Rosalie points out that if they don't make time to go on the honeymoon, they will always find a reason not to. Monroe points out that other people don't have reasons like a zombie apocalypse or the unkipin. Rosalie assures Monroe that they have to trust that everyone has this under control without them.

At Nick's, he and Juliet marvel at how amazing it is to spend a night alone together, enjoying the simple pleasure of take out.  Juliet says that she is going to miss Trubel and worries that if Trubel will be okay. Nick assures Juliet that Trubel will be okay and the two kiss. I already miss Trubel and she is by far and away the most interesting female character on Grimm in a long time.

Diego wakes in a cold sweat and in pain.  Diego then heads outside to get some fresh air but doubles over in pain on his front porch.  Diego then collapses to the ground and begins a transition.  A man is walking his dog down the street and the dog runs away from him barking.  The man follows his dog only to find the leash and no dog.  When he bends over to pick up the leash, he is attacked by Diego,who has transitioned into a Chupacabra.

In Austria, Marcus reports to Hans that Kelly is officially dead, though dental records could not be checked because the head of the body was removed.  Adalind asserts that the woman who took her to Nick's house was Kelly.  Hans says that this means that Kelly is excellent at covering her tracts and Marcus adds that anyone who has had any interactions with Kelly hasn't lived to tell about it.  Adalind points out that she wasn't trying to kill Kelly and Hans suggests that perhaps she should have.  Adalind asks how to find her daughter and Marcus points out that the last time they saw Kelly, she was in Portland.  While I think Adalind deserves to get her daughter back, if she runs up against Kelly,she is going to open up a world of hurt she is not even remotely prepared for.

Diego awakes at the side of the road covered in blood.  The mosquito bite is even more swollen then last night.  Diego stumbles across some water and frantically washes off his face.

Wu leads Nick and Hank to the crime scene, informing them that there were multiple victims last night. Wu adds that the neighbours described hearing howling and screaming.  They look at one of the bodies and Nick comments that it looks like something bit into the victims neck.  Wu snarks that that given the recent criminal activity in this city, he is willing to think about vampires or wolf men.  Nick and Hank talk to Manuel - the person who found the bodies, as Diego makes his way home to see the crime scene.  Hank offers Manuel his card and Manual says that he knows what killed the people.  Manual declares like a chupacabra is responsible.

The 100, Season Two, Episode Seven: Long Into an Abyss

A young girl wakes up and finds herself in a field of flowers outside of Mt. Weather.  Dr. Tsing and Cage watch on the video camera.  She is fine for awhile but four minutes later, her body becomes covered in radiation burns.  Cage decides to bring the girl back inside, after he notes her pain but Dr. Tsing questions if the girl can be trusted to keep their secret, adding that they might as well get a full reading.  Cage says that Dr. Tsing needs to be concentrating on the blood of the 47 but Tsing says that science takes time and that there are dead ends on the path to every breakthrough.  The girl continues to scream and the two studiously ignore what is happening to her.  The girl collapses to the ground writhing in in pain and finally dies. 

Abby and Jaha talk about their options given the message Lexa sent Jaha to deliver.  Jaha believes that they need to leave and points out that this is not their home and because Cain tried to achieve peace, he gave them a chance to move on without bloodshed.  Abby points out that Cain could very well still be in prison and questions if they are to leave him there, just like the kids on Mt. Weather. Why oh why does she give a shit about what happens to Marcus?  Jaha is adamant that the Grounders are marching towards this camp, adding that the right choice is to live and fight another day.  Major Bryne interrupts the conversation to say that the people are on edge and could use some words of comfort from their Chancellor.  Jaha steps forward, only to be told that Abby is the Chancellor until another vote can be taken, or Abby willingly transfers her authority.  Abby pauses but tells Jaha that she is unwilling to march their people into the desert until she finds another way, adding that she and Jaha can talk to the people together.  Despite everything they have been through, Jaha is still a feckless leader.

Abby and Jaha head outside and Abby confirms that the Grounders are indeed coming and that she and Jaha are discussing all options.  Jaha tells the people to pack now to be safe because they may need to leave at a moment's notice.  Jaha tells them that he has heard of a place called the city of light across the dead zone and that he has faith.  Clarke steps forward to ask what happens to their people in Mt. Weather if they leave and Jaha replies that it is a difficult decision to make.  Jaha asks if they came all of this way to die tomorrow, adding that if they are not gone by the time the sunrises tomorrow, that is exactly what happens.  Jaha is really great at supporting Abby isn't he?  How can this man who is never capable of making the hard choices actually be a leader?  Abby assures everyone that no decisions have been made and orders the people to gather emergency supplies before heading back inside.

Clarke moves to follow her mother but she is grabbed by Bellamy and told to bring her med kit and meet him at the drop ship.  Finn says that this is his fault and that the Grounders are attacking because of him. Um yeah, you think?  Clarke assures Finn that the Grounders are attacking because that is what they do.  I guess we should just ignore the slaughtering of an entire village then. Finn tells Clarke to go with Bellamy, promising to inform her when Jaha and Abby make a decision.