Saturday, January 10, 2015

Resurrection, Season Two, Episode Ten: Prophecy

In the past, a young Lucille checks the calendar and heads outside looking for Jacob.  In the present, a storm is brewing outside while Lucille frantically calls out for Jacob. Henry and Lucille struggle to find a flashlight and when Henry looks out the window, he realises that their other car is gone.  Henry tells Lucille that Margaret took Jacob.   Lucille grabs the phone but discovers that it is not working, so Henry tells her to try the emergency radio.

Preacher James sits outside praying in the storm and it looks like he is hit by lightening.

Maggie and Fred tell Bellamy that Jacob is missing and explain about the people who showed up at Tom's vigil.  When Fred says that it seems as though Jacob disappeared, Maggie rushes to check Jacob's blood sample.  When Maggie finds Jacob's blood, she informs Fred that Jacob didn't really disappear, adding that they have to tell Lucille and Henry.   Fred tries his cellphone but does not get a signal.

Elaine is at the bar  and Preacher James stumbles in mumbling that he has to find the boy and save him.  When he doubles over in pain, Elaine questions if has been hurt.  Deciding to check on James, Elaine opens his shirt to find what looks like a tree burned into his body. Elaine grabs the first aid kit but when she returns to the bar, James has left the bar.  Elaine heads outside with a flashlight but James is nowhere to be seen.

Henry struggles but is unable to get the radio to work. Lucille announces that she cannot sit around there doing nothing and is headed out.  Henry reminds Lucille that Fred promised to meet them there if he couldn't contact them by phone.  Right on cue, Fred, Maggie and Bellamy show up. Lucille quickly tells them that Margaret took Jacob but when Bellamy asserts that this is a good thing because it means that Jacob is not alone, Henry informs them that the last time he saw Margaret, they had a horrible fight.  The power suddenly comes back on as Bellamy questions whether or not Margaret could hurt her own grandson.  Franks admits that he confronted Margret when Barbara disappeared and Margaret didn't deny having something to do with it. Lucille starts to gather her things and Henry tries to encourage her to stay behind in case Jacob comes back but Lucille screams that her son is missing.  After making eye contact with Maggie and Bellamy, Lucille asks them to call her if they hear anything.  Fred interrupts to inform them about Elaine meeting a stranger in the bar who said he had to save the missing boy.  Maggie volunteers to stay behind with Lucille and the men head out into the storm.

Margaret and Jacob are in some kind of barn. 

Frank and Henry are driving and he suggests checking the factory but Franks says that he has already checked every inch of that place.

We get a flashback to young Margaret sitting and crying in a wedding dress.  In the present, Jacob asks Margaret if it will hurt when they go away and if it will be like when they died.  Margaret says that she doesn't remember much of what happened when she died and that she imagines that it will be like a wonderful adventure, where all the people you've ever loved will think well of you.  Clearly, Margaret is still stinging from her fight with Henry. Jacob says that he will miss his parents and hopes to see them again after they die.  Jacob asks what Margaret was thinking about and Margaret admits that she was hiding here on her wedding day the last time she was here.  When Jacob asks for more information, Margaret suggests that Jacob should get a little more rest.

Frank and Henry continue to drive together through the storm and Henry admits that he was blind all this time about Margaret. Fred simply says that Margaret has a way of making people see what she wants them to see, causing Henry to add that Frank always understood that about her.  Fred tells Henry that he is a different person now than before Margaret died.

We get a flashback to young Lucille calling Henry to say that Jacob is missing and something is not right.  Lucille hangs up and agrees to wait for Henry's call.  In the present, a panicked Lucille stares into space while Maggie tries to assure Lucille that they will call as soon as they get any word on Jacob and that Margaret probably took Jacob somewhere to stay out of the storm.  Lucille says that she has to sleep or will be useless and Maggie assures Lucille that she will be there with her.  Maggie suggests they have some tea and try and relax.

Fred runs back into the car and reveals that another location is empty.  Henry says that Margaret wouldn't leave Arcadia because that is all she knew.  Henry then says that Jacob's death changed both him and Lucille and adds that he doesn't know if they can survive another blow like that.  Fred assures his brother that they are going to find Jacob.  A call comes through the radio, giving a lead to Preacher James.

In yet another flashback, Jacob comes across baby Maggie down by the lake.  In the present, Lucille tells Maggie that they never talked about the day that Margaret and Jacob died.  Lucille says that the evening of Jacob's death, she had a biology exam and was pursuing her masters degree. Lucille admits that Henry was worried about her because she would stay up all night studying.  The day that Jacob died, she feel asleep with a book on her chest and when she woke up, Jacob was not in the house.  Lucille feels guilty that she was sleeping while Jacob was drowning.

The sun is shining, as Jacob gets up to ask his grandmother about what happened on her wedding day.  Margaret says that it's a sad and scary story.  Margaret tells Jacob that her father was a foreman who was supposed to watch over the workers but he worked for a bad man, who made her father do bad things.

We get a flash to the past with the factory on fire and Margaret's father trying to free the men, only to be stopped by his employer. Then we get a flash to mobs killing the Returned repeatedly.  Margaret explains that in return for her father's loyalty, he was told that Margaret could have a better life by marrying into the Langston family.  On her wedding day, Margaret cries, begging not to be forced to do this.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Winter Long (October Daye #8) by Seanan McGuire

October has a long and difficult past – but at least she understood it. She’d also left a lot of it behind – she had a new life, new loves, new friends and was an honoured hero of the kingdom

But when old, long vanished people return, she quickly learns nothing was how she imagined it – and people close to her have been keeping vital secrets about her life, her past and her family

This book hit that wonderful sweet balance between EPIC and PERSONAL which is very hard to do.

We have a lot of epic because the antagonist is immensely powerful and threatens pretty much everything October knows – including the entirety of North America. She is vast and all consuming and not a power that October can reasonably match. More, this series is truly excellent at invoking the great forces of faerie, it really conveys the epic power of these beings as well as their truly alien, unknowable nature. When this series decides to bring out an epic power, there is absolutely not doubt at all how powerful it is – everyone one of the epic faerie forces has a sense of age and power that is really well conveyed even when showing their oh-so-human frailties as well. The book never really forgets what they are – epic, powerful, the stuff of legend. It’s what I’ve always loved about this series and this book doesn’t disappoint.

On the personal side – much of this book covers a lot of October’s past. Way back at the beginning of this series we knew October had recently been cursed by Simon and that this had seriously disrupted her life; Simon had also gone on to cause some trouble for Sylvester, October’s liege’s family as well. But his motives (and, relatedly, Oleander who also showed up to cause havoc) remained very opaque and in the later books we’d moved so far beyond that period in her life that it was rarely remembered. In fact, every now and then October would mention something like her fear of water and I’d suddenly remember. That isn’t a criticism – the October of The Winter Long is a very different person from the October of Rosemary and Rue, she has grown a lot and the things that once were such major issues for her have faded and been replaced by the far greater and more epic. But that growth and development makes it all the more important (and fascinating) to revisit October’s past with new perspective, knowledge and power, filling in all the gaps about her old friends, allies and enemies (and people who have moved from one category to another as well). I can’t say much more than that because I’m risking spoilers – but it is epic and fascinating and really adds to October’s backstory. And adds a whole lot more mystery to October as well – I really want to know who her grandmother is.

We also have some interesting world building on the Liudaeg who is definitely a favourite of mine – and also the interesting bindings that can restrain even the greatest and mightiest of the fae. It’s a really nice balance of surprising weakness in beings that are so incredibly powerful. There was other interesting world building elements, including what it means to be a child of Titania or Maeve (the two great fae matriarchs) with added elements of marriage in fae culture – and just what a faerie race’s First Born actually means to them.

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 11: Magical Thinking

A brief backtrack – Jimmy in prison and Stanley offering his terrible bargain: let him cut off his left hand and sell it in exchange for enough money to hire a lawyer. Desperate and reminded of what happened to Meep in prison, Jimmy struggles but finally agrees. Of course trusting Stanley is a bad idea:

Jimmy drinks something Stanley gets him which makes him violently sick – Stanley then has him sent to the hospital, having his co-hort/hookup/hustler pose as an ambulance driver.

Jimmy wakes up, chained to a bed with a very unsympathetic nurse (who thinks he’s a murderer, is absolutely terrible at her job and refuses pain medication) – and both his hands cut off. Stanley lied – how shocked are we not?

To the freak show with Bette and Dot using the diary for some internal musing – and praising their fellow “freaks” who are pressured to hide away - but instead celebrate themselves and they’re also all happy pleasure seekers, refusing the message that pleasure is wrong that is foisted on everyone else. Bette and Dot are focused on this – particularly sex – and they also burn their diary: they no longer want to keep secrets from each other. It’s a nicely symbolic moment for the twins’ relationship after so much resentment.

There’s a new visitor to the show – chameleon salesman (yes, really) and war veteran Chester. Chester sees Dot and Bette as totally different people which I suspect the show will link to the metal plate in his head. Bette and Dot are focused on him as their first sex partner. Chester also puts on a magic act

He tries that act – and creepy ventriloquist act – on Elsa who isn’t impressed. But she agrees to let him warm up the crowd in exchange for him also doing the book keeping. He’s fawningly grateful. And when he’s alone he argues with Marjorie, the creepy ventriloquist doll – she criticises him and he gets upset… oh… this is not going to go well.

He goes to the twins, giving them the gift of a music box and asking them to be his magicians assistant when he saws women in half (Dot and Bette are a little wary about being sawn in half given their history of attempted separation) – he explains the trick to them and also tells them how beautiful he thinks they are. They remind him of someone – that someone apparently being women he used to watch have sex with each other along with his creepy doll Marjorie.

The performance goes excellently – but there’s a man in the background watching all suspiciously (or with suspicious camera angles anyway).

Bette and Dot get all dressed up to seduce Chester that night – interrupting him arguing with Marjorie. They kiss him and grope him and he has a migraine and more flashbacks to Chester refusing to join his wife and her lesbian lover in bed. He comes back to the present and after another screaming headache looks like he’s going to have sex with Bette and Dot –but he wants Marjorie to be involved as well…

Super damsels - Strong Women in Peril

Urban Fantasy, as a genre, is no stranger to “strong female characters.” It’s not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination - we still have a lot of female characters who make us want to tear our hair out, and Spunky Agency is, alas, so common that we’ve run entire posts trying to decide which Spunky character takes the prize for the worst decision ever. We also have a lot of “strong female characters” who are little more than weapons with breasts - which often also comes with “strength” being misinterpreted as “anger management problems”.

So, yes, problems. However, putting these aside for a moment, this genre has no shortage of women who can kick arse, claw faces, chop off heads and, occasionally, throw various kinds of magical death. These women are dangerous. These women are lethal. These women can take on small armies and come out the other side with nothing more than a snarl on their face and a very big cleaning bill.

So, with all these kick arse female protagonists and main characters, why do so many of them end up in peril? Why are so many of them severely weakened, traumatised, rendered helpless and, in all too many cases, in need of rescue?

I’m using the word “peril” here for a reason. When I do a google image search for the word “peril” I get picture after picture of women largely tied up and helpless. (Even when removing deviant art from the equation). Peril, the way it is used in fiction, has very different connotations than “danger”. I would expect any Urban Fantasy protagonist to face danger on occasion, it’s an obvious part of many books with any kind of action in them. But “peril” conjures images of helpless damsels tied to train tracks while some mustachioed villain cackles over their helpless forms.

It is peril - weakness and helplessness - that differentiates this trope from the classic action-hero who gets terrible beaten up but keeps on going because they are just that tough and awesome. Or the action hero who is taken prisoner and cooly spits defiance at his captors even when they use torture and prepare the slow-killing-laser. We are not meant to be awed by these women’s ability to suffer incredible damage and still keep moving, we’re not meant to be impressed by the will of these women to keep fighting like Harry Dresden carrying on the fight while his hand is seared to the bone, or Atticus fighting on with terrible burns all over his body. Those are scenes that use danger to emphasise the protagonist’s strength - not peril to bring them low.

Kelley Armstrong’s extensive Otherworld Series is, perhaps, the poster child for this trope, so much so that her own characters even lampshade it - with Savannah commenting on how she’s starting to match Jamie in the number of times she’s been kidnapped (yes, the female protagonists in this book can have a kidnapping league. It’s almost unrealistic for them to be scared because it should be such a mundane occurrence). It’s especially vexing with Savannah because so much of the series emphasises her power (when it’s convenient to have her as a loose cannon) then we have two entire books where her power is stripped from her - and she is imperiled. Jaime sometimes manages to be captured and imprisoned several times a book but Hope could quite likely take the gold from her in the kidnap olympics. They’re truly impressive damsels. Elena is little better, despite her being one of the most lethal women in the series: being kidnapped in Bitten (where her plan involves running off alone to the bad guys to be captured because Spunky), the whole plot of Stolen revolves around Elena being captured and abused (after she drove off alone seconds after being warned of disappearing supernaturals because Spunky). Broken is another book that revolves around Elena’s peril (made more perilous by Elena being pregnant) exacerbated by her deciding to go see the bad guy alone (because Spunky).

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Misery Loves Company (Miss Misery #3) by Tracey Martin

Jess decided she was going to have nothing to do with the Gryphons any more, regardless of their blackmail, not after what she learned about her childhood

That’s until her best friend Steph’s cousin is turned into a ghoul by the Goblin who owns his soul. How can she refuse to be involved in the investigation and turn her back on her friend?

Of course, going back to the Gryphons isn’t helping her rocky relationship with her satyr boyfriend, Lucen, who wants her to accept the multiple sex partners that are necessary for satyrs. And that’s before she tackles her own conflicted feelings about her own Pred heritage.

Looming over all of this, several prophecies are aligning – and the end of the world may be nigh.

This book is moving the story to a whole new level – in some ways it’s a transition book; but usually that would mean a weaker novel but that’s far from the case here. It feels like Jess has reached the end of her journey of self-discovery and all the conflict there and it has been done excellently. I’ve loved every step of that.

On top of that we have an introduction of the next stage of the meta-plot – the ominous prophecies we’ve been hearing for a while. We can see this looming, it has been introduced and the series has some excellent deduction

And, among that, we have a decent mystery that is both personal to Jess and relevant to the meta-plot but still stands up sufficiently on its own to make sure the book isn’t all about setting up the next book. We have an investigation, a clear book-specific story arc as well.

All three of these elements are really well balanced, really well paced and work extremely well together – it made the book fun to read while still serving up plenty of hooks for the fourth book.

On top of all this, as I said in the previous books, the world building of this series – the Preds and their feeding on different emotions, their forming of circles of addicts – is really original. I love reading something so very different from everything else I’ve read

The cornerstone of this book is Jess’s identity issues and they’re complex and really well done, especially how it relates to the greater world building. Jess was raised as a human, raised, like most people, to hate and fear Preds and even aspired to join the Gryphons, a kind of magical police force that exists to control and, at one time, war against the Pred races. But she has learned that, no, she isn’t cursed, she’s a pred. She’s a kind of satyr. And she’s a satyr because a segment of the Gryphons experimented on her and others while they were children – which has definitely flipped the script she’d always lived by as to who the good and bad guys are.

Forever, Season 1, Episode 12: The Wolves of Deep Brooklyn

A rich CEO is having dinner and the waiter (and son of the restaurant owner) who wants a job with his company seems to think that a) CEOs are likely to make entry level hiring decisions in huge, powerful companies and b) that he wants to have impromptu interviews over dinner.

And it actually works (kids, don’t try this at home). 5 years later he’s not only hugely successful but the rich CEO is calling him “like a son” and giving him a fancy car as a gift in which he then has sex with a woman

The next day his waterlogged body is the centre of a crime scene. Cut to Lucas and Jo who are very bored and sad that the new medical examiner is not as insightful, interesting or kooky as Henry. He also actually does his job (examine bodies) rather than engage in amateur detective work.

Henry is being kookier than usual, dissecting rats. Abe tries to talk him into going back into work and not feeling guilty about killing someone in self-defence – but it’s not entirely guilt that has Henry hiding. Henry was manipulated into killing someone, Evil Immortal Guy Lewis, outsmarted him. Abe also gets news that one of his old friends has recently lost a son.

Back to the morgue where new-medical-examiner-who-does-his-job is being all stuffy and repressive and dismissing random litter as super-important evidence and being mean to Lucas which is kind of on par with kicking a puppy. Henry swoops in to save the day (the dead man, Jason, is that friend’s dead son) to point out all the evidence bad!pathologist missed and ask a whole lot more questions. Bad!pathologist gives Jo the choice between a quick, easy resolve or Henry’s random “insanity”. Jo chooses insanity

After a brief check in with Lt Reece who is wary about Henry coming back to work because of how killing someone can hurt you, they go out to investigate: first talking to Abe’s friend Marco, Jason’s father, who didn’t see as much of his son as he’d like and was upset that his ritzy, money-obsessed life consumed so much of Jason’s time.

Then to Jason’s girlfriend at his house (who went home while Jason drove around more) who tells them how much joy Jason had in the life he was living. Henry uses genius to find a stash of cash and a key (but his girlfriend, Abigail, points out that $100,000 stashed isn’t actually a huge amount with their assets).

To Jason’s employers, an investment company, where they find people who drink champagne at work and a man, Val, already hiring decorators for Jason’s office (yes, decorators) between disparaging references to Jason’s upbringing. They also find blood in the office. Followed by a big motivational speech by Oliver Klauston, the big boss who likes to make his employees chant “kill”. Interviewing him reveals lots of arrogance and a cocky sense of his own ruthlessness and generally not helpful

This Week in Book Covers 29th December - 2nd January

Diabolical Taste (Kenssie #2) by Ros Jackson

Ok this cover doesn’t really work for me. The cover conveys what is inside in that it is an excellent depiction of what the two main characters look like - and the facial expression on Kenessie’s face even gives a sense of how they feel. The teddy bear adds a little oddness to be intriguing

But, I don’t know, there’s not a lot of sense of what the book is actually about - and I just don’t like this cartoonish style. The book is for younger readers, but this feels far younger than that

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Zombie Fallout 3: The End (Zombie Fallout #3) by Mark Tufo

Pulled back from the brink of death, Michael Talbot is determined to protect his loved ones against not only the zombie plague, which has taken over the planet but the threat that Eliza, the vampire holds.  Even a reinforced military base may not be enough to keep her at bay.  The government may have Humvees,  heavy artillery and helicopters loaded with missiles, but Eliza has an ace up her sleeve.  Talbot depends on Tommy to give him the right information at the right time, but their pop tart loving guide, who hears Ryan Seacrest in his head, might not be as innocent as he seems.

I cannot believe I made it through all three hundred and fifty-five pages of this novel.  I am telling you right now Fangs readers, you owe me one.  Michael Talbot continues to be an epic Gary Stu.  Everyone around Talbot exists to constantly prop him up, and follow his lead.  Even Alex and Paul, who have decided to travel in a different direction than Talbot, in order to find their families and avoid Eliza's clutches, spend their time chastising themselves for leaving Talbot, while  talking about how amazing the trained marine is and alternately angsting about their disloyalty for abandoning Talbot in his hour of need. Brendan even pays for his abandonment of Talbot  and the questioning of Talbot's leadership with his life.  No one even bothers to try and think up any kind of plan on how to survive because they are all sure that somehow, Talbot will pull their asses out of the fire.  Of course, Talbot has to get up to some practically superhuman shenanigans (that is when he isn't being saved by the family dog) but he somehow constantly manages to save everyone because that's what a man does - save his family. I spent much of the book hoping that a zombie would eat Talbot.

There were quite a few female characters in this book but luckily, there really is no real need for them to be strong characters, when they can depend on Talbot.  Tracy, Talbot's wife, is still alive and kicking but she never really gets into the action.  Why would Michael bother to teach Tracy a practical skill like shooting a gun, when he can take his teenage sons out on missions against the zombies.  Surely, a teenage boy has to be competent than an adult woman and besides, it teaches the young men that their job is to protect the womenfolk, just like dear old dad. Mike constantly acts like he is afraid of his shrewish wife but at no point does he bother to consult her for advice.  Tracy exists to give Talbot something to save and is only humanized when dealing with her mother Carol, who has suddenly become frail and in need of Michael's protection, despite surviving by herself on a farm at the beginning of the apocalypse and her son Justin, who struggles to fight back against his link with Liza.  Carol however does end up earning her keep, by pushing Mike's sister Lyndsey out of the kitchen.  Everyone complains loudly about Lyndsey's cooking and none louder than Mike but since his job is saving the world, actually entering the kitchen and cooking for himself is inconceivable. Besides, it gives the women something to do while they are waiting to be saved.

Then we have Nicole, who from the sounds of it is about six weeks pregnant.  Nicole at this point is practically an invalid, who spends most of her time puking and expressing some kind of weakness. Nicole is in a sense nothing more than a walking womb but she's precious because she carries the future of the Talbot line. Nope, I couldn't make this shite up if I tried.  This is par for the course because daughters are trouble - something Mike knows all to well.

Sleepy Hollow, Season Two, Episode Twelve: Paradise Lost

The episode begins where the Christmas finale ended, with Ichabod waking first, followed by Abby.  Ichabod is excited that Moloch is dead and they have no signs of purgatory.  Abby runs for her sister and Ichabod rushes toward Katrina, who of course asks about Henry, pointing out that Henry did everything to save her.  Katrina is still in deep denial I see because Henry killed Moloch because he has daddy issues and not because he was trying to protect mommy dearest.  Ichabod reports that he hasn't seen Henry.

Fast forward to six weeks later and Crane and Abby are shopping.  Ichabod finds an apple with brimstone on it and when he opens it, it's filled with worms and rot.  They are told that a few trees were lost to blight.  Ichabod decides that evil is still at large but Abby points out that in six weeks they have not seen anything.  Later, at the archives, Crane makes his argument by pointing out that there were problems with the animals and fruit on Wilcox farm but Abby is still not convinced.  Abby suggests that if dark magic is at work, they are going to need to speak to Katrina but Ichabod doesn't feel that it is necessary because they are still early in their investigation.  Further, in the wake of Parish's death or disappearance, it seems that Katrina and Crane had quite the argument which resulted in them agreeing to take some time apart. Crane has been living at the archives while Katrina has been living at the cabin.  Crane is further not impressed that Katrina actually spends more time with Abraham than him, though he understands that Katrina pities Abraham. Abby does not feel Abraham is entitled to compassion because he is a monster but Ichabod says that behind the monster is a man.  Crane makes it clear that while Katrina agreed to help if needed, he would rather not involve her.

Abby and Ichabod head to Wilcox farm and though they spend an hour, they see nothing. They decide to head home and Abby points out that if the apocalypse is indeed over, they have to reinvent themselves.  Abby suggests that if a supernatural creature was hiding on the farm, Crane would be relieved.  Crane says that he will need a job and a permanent place to live and Abby adds to the list of things he will need.  Crane questions what his place is in the world is without the apocalypse.  They hear a demonic voice and decide to check it out.

Abby and Crane make their way into a cabin where demons say an incantation before the fire.    Abby and Crane announce themselves but before they can engage, an angel flies through the window and smites one of the demons and the two remaining demons flee.  The angel introduces himself as Orion and asks Abby and Crane if they are friend of foe. Ichabod introduces himself and Abby, though they still have weapons aimed at Orion.  The three finally agree to lower their weapons together.

At the cabin, Katrina is working on some kind of protection spell.  Abraham is still tied up in chains and Katrina explains that she has spent weeks trying to free him.  Abraham says that he is the horseman of death and that she cannot kill the unkillable. Katrina is convinced that she can help Abraham to convert to himself, causing Abraham to wonder why Katrina is even trying, considering all that he has done to her.  Katrina reveals that she has thought about the past and how they ended up on opposite  sides of the war.  Katrina believes that she is responsible for Abraham becoming the horseman because of Abraham's jealousy.  Abraham informs Katrina, that the last thing he wants is her pity.

Abby and Ichabod reveal that they have been fighting demons since the start of the apocalypse.  Orion explains that he is the only one of his kind who decided to meet the forces of evil head on. Orion adds that until six weeks ago, he was held in purgatory and when Moloch died, a great earthquake occurred allowed him to escape.  This causes Ichabod to wonder if others escaped as well and Orion explains that the creatures they were just hunting, were among those who had escaped. Orion declares that his first mission is to find anyone else who escaped from purgatory.

They are interrupted when Crane gets a text from Katrina saying that they have a matter to discuss.  Abby suggests that Crane go and see Katrina by himself, so that she can keep an eye on Orion and ensure that he is who he say that he is.  Crane points out that Lucifer was an angel, so Abby promises to stay on her guard.  Crane leaves and Abby gets a call from Jenny.  It seems that had plans to get together, so that Jenny wouldn't look obvious while she tried to get the attention of Mike the bartender. Abby then explains about the creatures who escaped from purgatory and Jenny promises to give Hawley a call, to see if he has something which can help.

Abby and Orion head outside and Orion explains that he was locked in purgatory for over two hundred years.  Abby questions how it is possible they are talking and if all angels speak English.  Orion explains that to him, all languages sound the same.  Abby then asks about what God is like and Orion explains that God doesn't have a name or a gender but just is.  Abby then asks if heaven exists, why are they here and if creation really took seven days. Orion simply says no and refuses to expand and so Abby asks if Orion ever saw a dinosaur.  Orion explains that dinosaurs were before his time and that he didn't always walk the earth because he served in the angelic host for a long time.  Orion says that he broke ranks, though it was not an easy decision.

Crane has arrived at the cottage to find Katrina waiting for him.  They exchange brief pleasantries and Katrina explains that she needs a favor.  Katrina says that she may have found a way to separate Abraham from the horseman of death.

Back at the farm, Abby questions what the demons are looking for and Orion explains that with Moloch gone, they are looking for a new master.  Orion believes that the demons are looking for one of the horsemen of apocalypse - specifically, the horseman of death.

At the cottage, Ichabod is incredulous at the idea of freeing Abraham but Katrina brings up the fact that at one time, Abraham was Ichabod's trusted ally and friend.  Crane rightfully calls Abraham an abomination.

Orion says that the horseman is immeasurably powerful and immortal. Orion then shows Abby his weapon explaining that with it, he can bring an end to Abraham.

At the cottage, Katrina tells Ichabod that this is as much about the two of them, as it is about Abraham. Katrina says that it was their love for each other that drove Abraham to become the horseman and that their love can bring  him back.  Katrina declares that if Ichabod won't help her, she will continue on her own.  Ichabod responds that this is not a decision to be made lightly.

The Leftovers, Season 1, Episode 3: Two Boats and a Helicopter

This episode we’re following Rev. Matt and his crusade to tell everyone what terrible people the Departed were. We begin with Matt’s sermon at church in which he asks people to pray for a girl called Emily in a coma. His prayers are interrupted by a man barging into the church, beating him up and making him eat one of his leaflets describing the crimes of one of the Departed, presumably a woman who meant something to the man.

Matt is checked out in hospital and Kevin arrives to confirm Matt doesn’t want to press charges – it’s not the first time this has happened. We also learn that Matt knew Kevin’s dad and there’s some big awkwardness they don’t want to talk about. On the good side, when Matt goes to check on Emily he finds she’s woken up and is totally ok now. Matt proudly tells the orderly there that his congregation prayed for her that morning, the orderly tells him that she woke up the night before.

Matt’s also being followed by a couple of Guilty Remnant, smoking away.

That night, a man sneaks in with his baby to get him baptised without his wife knowing (since she’s not a big fan of churches). Matt doesn’t accept payment but tries to get the man to bring his wife to church though he says it’s not going to happen with her. Instead he dishes dirt on another of the Departed gambling away his kids’ college fund.

Matt goes to the Casino and convinces an employee there to break confidentiality by showing a file on a child abuser who Departed – and, because he Departed, is now regarded as a hero. And just to add to the randomness, two pigeons decide to land on one of the tables in use – and stay there.

Back at the church he draws up another condemnatory leaflet and tries to give some clothes to the GR who are following him around, smoking at him. He tries to convince them they’re wasting their time with him – they just stare and smoke.

Matt also has money trouble – as we learn when he goes to the bank – someone has offered to buy the church which is owned by the bank since Matt couldn’t pay the bills. The only way he can save his church is by coughing up $135,000 by the next day.

He turns to Nora (the woman who lost her whole family), his sister (with an awkward “world’s greatest dad” mug). Like everyone else, Nora asks after Matt’s wife, Mary and he fobs off the question. He’s there to borrow the money from her. She refuses, she’s not invested in the church like him (I also like the byplay of her objecting to him telling her not to get upset – you don’t get to make her upset then not tell her to get upset). He wants her to lend him the compensation money she got for losing her whole family. She agrees – but only if he agrees to stop distributing the leaflets, thinking he has some other agenda behind it after an accident; she disagrees with his crusade. He objects to her invoking godly purpose when she doesn’t believe in god (then why are you hitting her up for money to save a church) and he asserts that it’s a test. She says he may be failing it and that his church isn’t helping

To which he tells her that her husband was having an affair. My gods man what are you thinking?! She reacts with hysterical laughter and he leaves.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Talon (Talon #1) by Julie Kagawa

Ember and her brother Dante are young dragons sheltering in the Talon, a world-wide organisation encompassing all dragons from the genocidal threat of the Order of St George. It’s a  threat that looms even as Ember chafes at the restrictions Talon places on her – and the future it has planned for her.

Out in the human world for the first time, they are being hunted by St. George – including the hunter Garrett who is trying to discover which human in town is a dragon; and in doing so gets far closer to Ember than he expected.

When I saw this book I thought it seemed very original – I mean, I haven’t read a lot of Urban Fantasy concerning dragons out there so dragons having to pass as human and avoid being hunted while still being quintessentially draconic seemed like an excellently different concept, one I’ve only read once before.

Except it isn’t – because it doesn’t matter that these creatures are dragons hunted by the Order of St. George. They could be vampires hunted by the Order of Van Helsing. They could be werewolves hunted by the Order of the Silver Bullet. They could be fae hunted by the Order of the Iron Cross. They could be Telemarketers hunted by the Order of Screamed Obscenities and Hanging Up. It’s irrelevant, the story would be identical. The actual kind of supernatural being makes no difference at all to the plot, the character development or anything else. It’s a tragic waste of world building, development and original idea.

Ember herself is a horrendously generic character for someone who is supposed to be non-human. She thinks like a teenaged girl (and not a particularly smart one at that) not a dragon hatchling. Her mindset is entirely human. The few tiny attempts to show that she isn’t human (her like of shiny things) are miniscule mentions that don’t relate to the story. This is not only a wasted opportunity but it makes little sense in the limited world building provided and leaves Ember feeling like an extremely clich├ęd, generic character which is terrible because she SHOULD be more alien than just about anything I’ve read. She’s a giant firebreathing reptile, she was hatched from an egg, she isn’t even a mammal. Her viewpoint should be so far from human (or vampire or werewolf which are at least partially human!) as it’s possible to be – but there is nothing different about her. Worse we have some weird elements that just don’t fit and feel cribbed from other books – why does Ember refer to her dragon wanting something? Why does she even use the lines “my dragon wants…”? Why does she argue with “her dragon”? She is a dragon – not a possessed or changed human, this makes no sense. It’d be like me saying “I tried to walk past the shop, but my human was craving coffee”. I may try that in future “I was going to finish that job, but my human was bored by it.” It’s bizarre and feels like someone lifting “my wolf” lines from werewolf stories without thinking whether they’re appropriate or not.

The Librarians, Season 1, Episode 6: And the Fables of Doom

A giant hand picks up a truck with a very impatient driver inside and dumps him in the water. An artefact that magically curses people with road rage to be attacked by giants? Sounds good, where can I get one?

Time for the gang to arrive at the scene of the crash and fumble to think of some kind of cover story (sure Eve keeps throwing around her counter-terrorism credentials, but there’s a limit to how often and where they can use that). Jake flails badly, Ezekiel insults the sheriff by calling his town boring and all of them fail basic social interaction and should really leave this to Eve.

To the truck that the sheriff lets them examine anyway and they see a giant fingerprint on the truck. Quick communication with Jenkins who is the most awesome thing about this show and they learn about trolls – big, dangerous and not very great in daylight. He vaguely offers more help if they can get a picture of the troll or a sample of it.

Eve and Ezekiel wander off looking for the troll and the snarky Ezekiel is snarky – mainly because that’s his motivation as he clearly tells Eve: he’s a Librarian because it’s fun, and if it stops being fun he’ll stop doing it. They find the troll as a statue and grab some rocks

Cassandra and Jake form their own team but Cassandra is still worried that Jake doesn’t trust her (which he doesn’t). They get CCTV of the truck crossing the bridge and Jake notes there was a small car, a medium car then the big truck. They’re interrupted by the mayor jogging by completely naked and oblivious to the fact, he believes he’s wearing a new jogging suit (if you’re going to blur out his backside then keep the camera above the waist, showing someone completely naked but blurred is just odd). They ask the sheriff if anything else odd has happened but he’s sure their quiet town is quite mundane. Of course, his definition of mundane includes a woman being stuck in a pizza oven, talking animals and a few more oddly fairy-taleish events.

The gang gets back together so Jake can tell Eve that there’s way more than a troll in town – when lots of people scream because a huge wolf the size of an elephant appears walking down the road. Wearing a granny’s nightcap and it menaces a woman wearing red. Jake kills it with a thrown axe (axes aren’t usually that aerodynamic). In case we haven’t been following, Eve tells us that someone has weaponised fairy tales. S

To the Annex where Jenkins draws up a big list of all the Artefacts that can bring fairy tales to life and then crosses off the ones it can’t be (which I kind of love – and not just because Jenkins is awesome). To narrow it down further he wants to autopsy the wolf and doesn’t see why this should be a problem.

Eve and Cassandra distract people (and everyone is oddly staring at Cassandra) while Ezekiel and Jake steal the wolf carcass. They get it back to the Annex, cut it open – and there’s a red clad woman inside. Still alive. Jenkins now knows the artefact – a book, the Libris something or other.

Cut to an old man reading that book to a sick kid in a hospital.

Lost Girl, Season 5, Episode 5: It's Your Lucky Fae

Bo is looking all pensive because she’s received a birthday present – from evil daddy. She calls Cassie the Oracle (we’ve seen her around a couple of times) for guidance but the Oracle is on a really boring date and also seems a little tired of being on call. Especially since she thinks her date may also be looking for a reading. The Oracle is not an upbeat person, I think I like her.

But she is pleasantly surprised when her date doesn’t want her oracle woo-woo like everyone else – and he’s super kind and romantic and she’s all happy; yes there’s a catch. He takes her home, kisses her goodnight, leaves – and then she collapses with an agonising migraine.

The next day and to the Dal, and it seems Mark the baby Dyson is now a regular character and now working at the Dal (and snarky Tamsin is definitely going to spill him and Bo sleeping together). Bo arrives (looking for Cassie) and gets a rather weird birthday present from granddad Trick. This reminds Tamsin that it’s Bo’s birthday

So it’s Tamsin and Lauren out for last second birthday gifts, parties et al. Bad friends! -10 points! Tamsin buys a taxidermy cat that brings luck – we’ve spent way too long talking about it so it’s bound to be cursed/possessed/turn into an actual cat.

Bo still frets about Cassie at the Dal but for reasons unknown decides not to tell Trick, her grandfather, the Blood King, with centuries of experience and vast power about her daddy concerns. Because Lost Girl. Lauren and Tamsin arrive with gifts and when Lauren drops hers she claims a part share of Tamsin’s – and suddenly a Tamsin/Lauren spin off just looks kind of awesome. They go back and forth so well – and after much of their excellent byplay, Tamsin goes with Bo to find Cassie while Lauren prepares the party. Poor Lauren. She is left to bake cake, feel underappreciated, and have lots of bad luck.

At Cassie’s Bo and Tamsin find the place ransacked and covered in blood (Tamsin also reminds us that she was actually a cop before she quit for REASONS and has some idea of crime scene procedures). Back to the Dal where they talk investigation and the worry of Cassie’s abilities in evil hands – and Cassie’s cousin Seymour (who we’ve also seen before – he’s a not very pleasant Soul Eater) shows up for questioning. Some back and forth later, we learn Cassie has pretty much ditched the rest of her clan which isn’t doing so well any more – and Seymour points them towards her “computer dates”. Yes the fae have an online dating site. More stunning is that Seymour just hands Bo and Tamsin a motive on a plate and they’ve already written him off. At least Tamsin is snarky.

They upload a dating profile for Bo, setting her up as an Oracle and having a little poignant moment as they learn Cassie’s profile listed her aspiration as “finding someone she could trust.” The guy who dated Cassie contacts Bo almost instantly. They also get a call from Cassie before her phone is destroyed – she doesn’t have chance to talk but we see she has a bloody bandage over her eyes and someone is chaining her up.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Podcast Moved

A brief interlude while we ensure everything is in order in the new year, we hope to return as soon as possible

In the meantime, all of our past archives are still up

And we will be ensuring we get to all of our books of the week:

22nd December - 5th January: Burn for Me 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
26th January - 2nd February: A Lady Integrity by Shelly Adina
2nd February - 9th February: The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews

When Nevada Baylor’s family were forced to mortgage the family detective business to the powerful mage family House Montgomery, they knew there was a risk (getting involved with the powerful Primes is always a risk). But they didn’t expect to be given a suicide mission.

Nevada has to find Adam Pierce, anarchist son of a powerful House, and bring him home. Before the police find him or kill him – because Adam is an immensely powerful Prime Pyrokinetic wanted for burning people to death. And he’s not likely to come quietly.
“Mad” Rogan also has his own reasons for hunting down Adam – which leaves Nevada with not just one immensely powerful Prime to work around – but two.

Yes, the names Nevada and Mad Rogan are ridiculous but ignore them because genre.

The first thing which strikes me about this book is the world setting. Of course, I had pretty high expectations having read the Kate Daniels series and I’m thrilled to say they were met.

The way magic is blended into the society is really nicely done and balanced well between giving us far too much information (this being a new book) and giving us enough information for us to follow what is happening and have lots of hints of future things to develop. We can see magical rituals and artifacts, we can see a lot of the different magical abilities, the power levels and how that works (in broad terms) and we have a lot of meat to chew on and a whole lot of hints for more to come
But more than that is the way that the world has been changed by magic – again, artfully hinted at. With magic becoming the ultimate source of wealth and power a magical aristocracy has developed, ruled by Primes (the most powerful magic users) and controlling corporations, a lot of wealth and a lot of government – in fact, to some degrees the magic Houses seem to be more important than nations (though, even then, with a whole new power resource in magic the political map has also changed, with Native American nations and Mexico both arising as major powers). In turn, since magic is the main and most important resource, then magical power – through selective breeding and magical skill both obsess the House’s; it’s an interesting adjustment when power is an inherent part of the family’s own bodies not just the resources and money the House commands.
I like that there is this depth – because you can’t change our world with such a dramatic addition of powerful magic and expect it to still look a lot like ours.
This also works for a whole lot of class features – as these hyper-able, super-powered and immensely wealthy Primes and Magical Houses have an immense sense of entitlement, can often act with little oversight and even have a (slightly condescending but also honest) sense of noblesse oblige which is another interesting class angle. They exploit, use and dispose of people they consider beneath them, but still have an obligation to the city as its rulers – but that obligation is as much a self-serving interest in the system as it is any sense of honour or compassion. It’s another interesting knot to the world.
Even more than the world setting, I really like the characters – especially Nevada. She isn’t a major power, her woo-woo is useful but not all powerful and certainly nothing compared to the Primes around her. For me she hits that perfect balance between standing up for herself in the face of the Primes trying to control her and being recklessly provocative, though I would understand if there were people who thought she went too far to the latter. She draws lines around her life, she’s sharply clear that there are ways she shouldn’t be treated and, even if they have power to treat her that way anyway, she makes it clear that she isn’t just accepting that treatment. And if that means hanging up on a Prime or telling him he’s a terrible person then so be it. Yes it’s risky but it’s never defiance for the sake of defiance – it isn’t Keille independence where the “strong female character” acts out with rage for no reason – in every instance she is provoked intolerably and responds as much as she is able within the constraints of the power divide.

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

The Winter holidays are now over - all the cake has been eaten, the turkey largely defeated and the hangovers somewhat recovered from!

That means it's time for our podcast to return - along with our usual shows and our books of the week

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. 

22nd December - 5th January: Burn for Me 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
26th January - 2nd February: A Lady Integrity by Shelly Adina
2nd February - 9th February: The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr

The Leftovers, Season 1, Episode 2: Penguin One, Us Zero

Government agents are discussing Wayne – Holy Wayne. Wayne lost a son during the Departure and now claims to be able to “hug the pain” out of people (which apparently worked on the congressman). For which he charges a lot of money – and also has sex with Asian girls, with accusations of statutory rape lurking over him but he managed to fall off the radar. Because he has been selling his hugs to politicians the agents think they can name him a security threat – and they assess his group as a dangerous cult.

They attack the compound, guns blazing. Many people are shot, several not appearing to be armed, and numerous young Asian women are roughly dragged out and cuffed – with guns pointed at anyone who runs (along with misogynist slurs). One of the police threatens to shoot Christine unless she tells him where Wayne is, despite her saying she doesn’t know where he is. As he continues to threaten her with death while she screams and cries, Tom shoots him in the back. Tom tells the dying cop that he’s sorry (I’m not) – but she’s important. Tom grabs Christine and they run as more gunfire sounds.

Tom and Christine go on the run to a petrol station where, from what Christine says, they’re supposed to meet Wayne. He isn’t there – and the petrol station attendant has been killed. Tom almost calls his dad when Wayne arrives (looks like he was sneaked out of the compound by one of the initial agents).

Wayne kisses the murdered man, noting the dead man wouldn’t have let him do that while he was alive (what? What? What?) Wayne notes that the agents arrived to kill them all and that they opened fire without even trying to talk to them. He remarks on Tom having killed someone and offers him one of his magic healing hugs; he refuses which Wayne remarks isn’t the first time and that he can’t figure Tom out, why he’s all suffering and no salvation. He plans for Christine to leave with Tom, and neither of them with him.

Instead he gives them a wadge of cash, tells them to keep moving and hiding – and destroys their phones and replaces it with a burner phone he’ll call Tom on. Wayne tenderly kisses Christine goodbye, tells Tom that she’s everything before leaving. Which leaves Tom to have an epic meltdown in their truck. Christine isn’t upset – Wayne told her it’d be ok.

Over to Chief Kevin who has a weirdly inappropriate dream involving his daughter’s friend Aimee, the dog killer guy and shooting at a member of the Guilty Remnant. He’s woken up by his neighbour setting fire to the fence.

From there it’s off to see a therapist, which given the pilot, is probably not a bad idea for Kevin, except the therapist doesn’t sound very reassuring especially since he seems to think the dog-shooting-guy is a figment of Kevin’s imagination. At work Kevin takes out a lot of his frustration by being curt with poor officer Dennis who really doesn’t deserve that, but Kevin’s therapist isn’t the only one with a suspicion that Kevin completely invented the dog killer.