Converted is the second short-story of The Meantime Series. “Draghan and the shaman had been on the inside of the innermost circles of power since the previous regime” until “King Avlar met his premature death after a clumsy and unfortunate accident where he sat down on his sword”. Both Draghan and the shaman had an instantaneous conversion from the old god to the god of Avlar’s son. We follow the two of them in Converted.
While there are language and grammar issues, Svingen & Pedersen have solved many of the problems I saw in Flushed. I particularly like their take on the worth of people. Some places in the world are still like this.
“Great,” Reese said, losing what little energy she had. She imagined it bleeding into the ground beneath her tailbone and shoulders. “You were supposed to be in a jail cell we could get you out of for money, not underground in a place pirates hide people they want to make disappear.”
The Eldritch canted his head, hair hissing against one shoulder. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll send you a bill,” Reese said, trying to get a hand under herself so she could sit up.
Heide Goody & Iain Grant‘s collaboration began with Clovenhoof. They enjoyed it enough to continue collaborating on at least eleven more stories. I adored Clovenhoof. If you enjoy British humour, this is a must. Life right now needed Clovenhoof. When my Asperger struggles to deal with what life hands me, laughs are precious. Clovenhoof was fall over funny and relevant. Probably relevant for any person who has had siblings, parent issues or have struggled to fit into their local cultures and bureaucracies.
“We’re a little disappointed,” said Saint Peter. “Let’s take the measure of suffering. This was very straightforward. All suffering should be graded as good or higher.”
“And we’re certainly getting those grades in a lot of the suffering that we deliver,” said Satan.
“A lot. Not all.”
“Yes, but it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect it for everything,” Satan argued. “We got some clients who simply enjoy it too much, and then there are those who lie about the experience because they can’t help themselves.”
… “You give me no choice but to recommend your immediate removal from the post.”
Poor Satan. The guy can never catch a break. First he gets thrown out of Heaven. His punishment for wanting to save God’s children was being master of Hell, a hellish job. Then, he gets thrown out of Hell for trying to meet the demands of the assessment board. Fired by uptight Michael and conniving St. Peter (helped by, hmmm, not telling). Where does he end up? Earth. England. Birmingham. Sutton Coldfield.
“Having restocked the shelves of the Thriller section with a newly arrived box of Deightons and Le Carrés and settled down for a mid-morning cup of tea, Ben heard a muffled roll of thunder, looked up and saw that a naked man had appeared on the pavement outside the shop.”
Ben Kitchen is one of our main characters, the owner of the aforesaid used book-store (Books ‘n’ Bobs). He lives in the same building as Mr. Jeremy Clovenhoof (Michael’s sense of humour), and is painfully shy towards women he might be interested in. The two of them coincidentally end up on the same floor of an apartment building in Boldmere. They live in flats 2a and 2b.
We also get to know Nerys from the third floor of the same building. She works at Helping Hand Job Agency. One of her clients turns out to be Jeremy. And what a client he is. Both she and Ben try to figure out where Jeremy is from and why he is such an odd person.
Satan has no concept of money, credit cards, bills, rent, making food, what to wear, social rules, how to find a job or any of the other hellish things we are expected to magically understand upon reaching adulthood. Add in the fact that Satan is an Alien, and as one might expect of The Devil in such a situation, he makes a mess of things – both in his life and in others. However, Satan is an OK guy. He knows he did his best in Hell and wants to get a second opinion from God. Michael and he have not been on good terms since the War in Heaven, so Clovenhoof is not about to trust any decision made by him and St. Peter. Getting that second opinion is not a simple matter when the opposition refuses to cooperate. Because he is an Alien, Satan sees the world without the prejudices we grow up with. He also does not have the same moral compass humans like to imagine they have. In many ways Satan makes me think of the experiences many Aspergers have in trying to connect with their surroundings. So many rules and regulations make no sense and “morals and empathy” are just words people use to persecute others.
The story moves between the new and unusual experiences Satan has on Earth and the reason Satan got kicked out of Hell (it might not be what you think it is). I have learned several vital things about English society. Good thing there are search engines:
Satyr playing the aulos. Creusa Painter. ca. 400–390 BC.
Bacchanalia (Bakkheia) scene on sarcophagus (210-220)
Cover art by Alison Buck
Dionysus and Satyr by Karadin
I recommend reading The Janus Cycle before you continue with Dinnusos Rises. As the story moves along, we reconnect with the paranormal members of Sunset Haze: Patrick (violin+half-fey), Faye (flute+dream walker), Jack (acoustic guitar+half-fey), and Ellen/Jessica (voice+medium/ghost). Neal lets them practice in one of the club’s rooms in exchange for the occasional session downstairs. Their abilities draw people. We also reconnect with Tilly, Pandora and Frelia.Toward the end of The Janus Cycle, we read:
“… Janus was once this great place where nobody gave a fuck and you could just have fun, but then some bloody kids who don’t have a clue tried to steal your vibe.”…
“You just need to move on, he declared. “Look around you – this, what we have here tonight – isn’t it that feeling, that craziness you were looking for? You are Janus. Let those kids keep the empty shell. You can make a new one!” (The Janus Cycle, p. 217)
“… Victorian, with high ceilings and sash windows. It’s big, too. … If the main bar ever gets too rowdy and you fancy some quiet, there’s a whole labyrinth of rooms on the upper floors you can get lost in. One of the city’s old canal ways runs along the back of the building.” (Dinnusos, p. 14)
Neal and Tristan became a couple in The Janus Cycle. Dinnusos is owned by Neal. His partner painted magical murals, on most of the walls of the club, that appear to have prophetic value for some of the main characters. You can find Dinnusos in Yesterville:
“A place of urban decay and broken streetlamps. Vagrants and outcasts. Faded signposts and overgrown gardens. Thrifty means and humble dreams.” (Dinnusos, p. 14)
Tej Turner has used the same writing style he used in The Janus Cycle. There is an overarching story with chapters that get told from a different point of view, allowing us to catch up with the life of the individual and keeps the story going at the same time. Taxus Baccus (TB) is an environmental organization led by Jardair, Jack’s wuduwāsa father (Turner plays with the Greek and Roman pantheons throughout the story). Until TB arrived at Jack’s house (a squat), Jack and his pet squirrel, Nuttles, lived on their own. Their lives go from quiet to chaotic in a matter of hours. TB travels from town to town addressing, in their own way, environmental issues each town struggles with. Tej Turner uses Taxus Baccus to address the fragility of our supposed right to free speech and the right to live our lives as we wish.
“It seems to me that this country is run by sociopaths with gloating expressions and oily hair. They wander around Westminster with their leather briefcases, selling off public assets to their pals from boarding school and members of their extended family who have vested interests. All the while, class war is waged through an ever-encroaching succession of draconian legislations. They will not rest until they have rounded up everyone into the rat race because they, by fortune of birth, are the big cats. The the more rats there are, the more they have to dig their paws into.” (Dinnusos, p 62)
Dinnusos Rising contends that it we, the general populace, make such methods possible through our complacency and docility. The percentage of people who turn up for various elections certainly seem to support that contention. Westminster uses various media to pimp their message to the public
“… the news channels and tabloids were doing their utmost to demonise us. Footage and photos were being carefully selected, and it seemed their cameras only had spare film for the more outrageous members f the movements … They never told the public why were were doing the things we were doing. They made us seem like rebels without a cause.” … (Dinnusos, p. 72)
Through The National Conciliation Act (NCA), Westminster intends to cement the corporatocracy we see strengthening its hooks into various governments around the world.
“Later on we will be interviewing MP, Mr. Ben Fitzgerald, to see if he can shed any light upon rumours Westminster is considering bringing in new legislation which will grant authorities more power to dismantle anti-social behaviour.” (Dinnusos, p. 92)
The NCA bans political demonstrations and movements like Taxus Baccata. It would give Westminster the power to shut down any business charity or organisation which was perceived as having a “subversive agenda“. They could tighten restrictions on the internet. It would become illegal for employees to speak badly about the companies they work for and turn civil disobedience into a criminal – rather than civil – offence.
Pandora’s workplace, Fibertine Investment Bank (FIB), is a great example of a corporation that wants the NCA passed. FIB invests in corporations around the world and outwardly appear to be concerned about ethical corporation issues. They even have their own Ethical Practices Officer. However, when Pandora tries to bring ethical issues to the attention of her boss, Mr. Watts, he reminds her of FIB’s business motto:
“Business is blameless,” … there is no need to feel guilt, or worry about facing consequences. (Dinnusos, p. 92)
Corporatocracy is not the only topic Turner addresses. Friendship represented by Pandora and Frelia, Faye and Tilly, and Jack and Tilly is a complicated dance. Trust is betrayed, destructive and healthy decisions are made, and new beginnings are all part of the friendships in Dinnusos Rising. Turner also shows us individual experiences with self-harm, suicide ideation, drugs, abuse, sexuality, and gender. We see how falling in love may affect other relationships. Again, Tilly is the one who meets most of the challenges. She is also the youngest of our characters.
Dinnusos Rises is well-edited, well written, has fleshed out characters, and presents current issues in a package filled with action and adventure. Both Dinnusos Rises and The Janus Cycle are excellent contributions to discussions about the above topics. Dinnusos Rises has my whole-hearted recommendation.
On Fiaru Island, in the Kingdom of Greylandia, on the world Acu lives the Stone family. We first meet them at the Pairing ceremony of the youngest daughter. Meeting your canonipom and bonding with it is the most important day in the lives of Greylandians. As far as the people we meet know, Kaia Stone (16) is the only person who never did so. The Stones are humans. Canonipoms are not.
A canonipom is about a foot tall and humanoid in appearance, the same gender as its human and similar in nature and looks. Being a companion seems to be its sole purpose. Once a Pairing is complete, the two have a bond that allows telepathic communication.
Soon after the family returned from the bonding, a flird appeared with a message from the Speaker Council on Zavonia. A flird is a type of shape-changer. One form functions as a flying messenger capable of conversation and memorization. Its other form is flower-like. Travel for a flird must be instantaneous because the time it took to go back and forth between Zavonia and Fiaru was, at most, a couple of hours.
The Council invited the Stones to appear before them. Speakers are human magicians whose words, or Utterances, manifest. As with most magicians, talent and work ethics differ between Speakers. To get to the secretive island, the Stone family had travel overnight by ship. The Council of Speakers asked Kaia to go on a mission to the cursed Kingdom of Mar.
Ten years ago, Marians slaughtered the Tivmicians and, thereby, into conflict with one of the Speakers’ utterances:
“Should a group ever seek the extermination of another group, … let Acu’s skies cry blood on that day. Let the plagued realm know only misery, and let it offer escape to none.”
And so the Marians were cursed forever. Or so it seemed. Recently, the Utdrendans (one of the first three races) told the Speakers there was a chance the curse could be lifted. To do so, Kaia Stone of Greyland and Sir Pelliab Blackwell of Darlbent must go to Mar and report the Utdrendan message to King Richard of Mar and discover a cure. Kaia and Pelliab would not have to travel alone. The Council promised to send along two Speakers and five of King Robert’s (brother to Richard) sons. Mr. Stone refused outright to let his 16 year old daughter traipse off into unknown territory. Kaia felt this quest would, finally, give her life meaning and felt devastated by her father’s refusal. However, just as she was about to enter the return vessel, one of the Councillors pushed a flird bulb up her sleeve. If she chooses to go, it will have to be without her family knowing and that worries her.
Capering on Glass Bridges is a hero’s quest story, and that means we know what Kaia will decide. She is our main character and it would be strange if she stayed home. So. We get to meet five princes of King Robert’s 1000 children (busy man), two speakers and a kingsman along with the various people who are part of the adventure. Kaia and Pelliab’s challenge lies in getting to the Kingdom of Mar, then getting to King Richard, then finding out what they and the kingdom need to do to lift the curse. A solution is not found in book one of the duology.
Capering on Glass Bridges is Hernandez debut. It has a good story-line. Genre betas and/or editor would have improved it. Terminology is important and there were inconsistencies. However, there very few spelling/grammar problems, and the plot and creatures fit the “hero’s quest” genre.
Some characters hit me harder than others. In The Broken God that was the boy Zoshi. There really isn’t anything unique about Zoshi. He’s just another “street-rat” among many others. Like street-rats everywhere, hunger, homelessness and poverty are his companions.
“The street rat had survived eight years in the docks, and he knew what danger felt like. This was it. All prickling over his body, making his legs want to run.”
We first met Zoshi in King’s Folly. His plight broke my heart. Zoshi’s story in The Broken God is just as difficult for me to read.
“… The light wavered with his shaking. Zoshi gripped his own arm, trying to keep it still. He was falling, he was sure of it, and his stomach had been left at the cave wall.
Tears slipped down his cheeks and piss seeped down his leg – the smell of courage. It was strangely reassuring in the void of time and space. …”
Courage is like that, and I love that Flynn recognizes this. I also love that one of the bravest people in her story is this 8-year old boy who had just been through one terror and now tries to muddle through his another. All alone, except for the dog/mammoth/crow Crumpet.
Marsais is a mess. Being at least 2000 years old and a seer will do that to you. His mind travels all potential futures and “endless hallways of memory“. Keeping track of when he is has become almost impossible. His meddling left one of his stabilizers behind. Isiilde did not get on the ship with him. Marsais may come to regret that decision; but like all meddlers, he feels he has done what needed to be done. At least Oenghus is with him. Oen is a rock. Yet even stone can crack. Being without his daughter has also destabilized him. But both men have seriously underestimated Isiilde.
“Finally,” she said, “you’re treating me like an equal rather than a pet to be indulged. I will not become one of Syre’s pet nymphs and I am no longer yours.”
A nymph fighting for the humans who view her as an animal is a struggle for Isiilde. Lieutenant Rivan is probably the only one of the Sacred Order who does not. He is also the only man, other than her father, who is not distracted by her presence. Unless you count challenging his faith. Blind faith is a dangerous thing. It is easy to forget that knowledge must have precedence. Rivan viewing Isiilde as equal to humans makes him heretic in the eyes of his Order. He is not alone in questioning old beliefs. Captain Acacia Mael keeps on learning that what her Order claims does not add up with what she observes.
In the meantime, healer must become warrior again. Morigan, and the rest of the Isle of the Wise, are beset by betrayal and the Fey. The Fey are phantoms whose whispers invade a person’s mind and leave them incapable of fighting back. Most become mad or die. Morigan does neither. She and Brynhilde are amazing women who do their best for the people they are in charge of.
I think that what I liked most about The Broken God and The Legend of Fyrsta series was that while there were a huge number of endings, there were no happy endings. There were, however, new beginnings. Occasionally, death is postponed and, instead, another chance was given. Not to make things over or better than before, but to continue trying to make a go of it. We can’t really ask for more than that. Except maybe strawberries.
Some authors write horror too well for my own good. In the case of Mr. Black, this happened before the end of chapter 6. I could not go on. Not since beginning to read Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill have I been this frightened. The time before that was when I was 15 and tried to read Dracula. So, no very often.
It wasn’t the demon dogs who did it for me. They were just gross and gross can be fun, or at least interesting. But good old Elder God, Nyarlathotep, did me in.
Too bad, really, as Mr. Black’s writing was excellent. But, alas, so is my imagination.
The Red Right Hand was given to me to review by Tor Books
Wild Magic is the first book in The Immortals four book series. It can be read alone or with the other three. The setting is in Tortall. In the world of Tortall and its neighboring countries, magic is called the Gift.
Daine is our main character. She is 13-years-old and an orphan. Daine has an unusual ability to communicate with animals. In spite of this, her gift does not show the hallmarks of the Gift. It turns out that her magic is a more dangerous, unpredictable and unusual magic, Wild Magic. In fact, Daine seems to be brimming with it.
Daine’s father is unknown (unknown to her). Before her mother managed to get around to telling Daine who he was, bandits killed her and Daine’s grandda and tried to burn down the homestead. At the time, Daine and Cloud (her pony) were away helping a breech-birth lambing.
“Coming out of their place, I couldn’t see anything anywhere but fog, couldn’t smell, couldn’t hear. I was clear to our village before I knew.
“They hit around dawn. The mill was burned, the miller dead. They took the wheelwright’s oldest girl and the headman’s wife. Really, they mighta passed my house by, Ma having the Gift, but they remembered she was pretty too, see.
“They fought—all of them. Ma, Grandda, dogs, ponies, horses—even the stupid chickens. Even Ma’s geese. Not the rabbits. They left. Well, they never fight, and you can’t ask them to go against their nature. But the rest fought. They killed some of the bandits.
“The bandits went crazy. They killed everything on the farm and didn’t carry any of it away, Mammoth told me. Mammoth was my boss dog. He said they was too cared of animals who fought like that.
“Mammoth told me what happened, and died.
“So we buried them, me and Cloud, every last one of our family. Cloud’s dam and sire, her brothers are in those graves.
“I straightened up the house, what was left. The raiders had tried to burn it, but only the upper story and the roof were gone. Ma had a bunch of charms against fire in the kitchen, so most of the downstairs was saved.
“It was two days before anyone came to see. After Ma helped them birth their children, nursed when they was sick. Two days! She could’ve been alive and hurt all that time! If the bandits had passed us by, Ma would have been at the village with medicines and bandages, making me and Grandda help.
Daine brought what she could from her home and left. Onua is the first person we know about who encounters Daine’s unusual ability to converse with animals. It turns out Daine is also unusually good with the bow and arrow. Way better than natural ability would make her. But Daine does not acknowledge that her abilities have anything to do with magic. That would mean confronting an episode we do not find out about until we are well into the story.
The second person Daine meets after Onua, is Numair, shape-shifter and magician. He is the one who spots the degree of her magic and identifies it. Numair is also the person who helps Daine understand that she must learn to control her magic. Otherwise Daine might end up unintentionally killing herself or others. So Daine battens down and does her best to stuff information into her head while at the same time ending up as Onua’s assistant. Turns out Onua is head hostler of the horses that the Riders use. Riders are semi-cavalry who go out in small groups to route out bandits and try to keep Tortall out of trouble.
Strange creatures attack Tortallians. Immortals seem to have escaped the God’s dimension that magicians had imprisoned them in 400 years previously. They are back and making sure people know it. Some of the Immortals are cruel beings, some are indifferent and some are helpful. Like people everywhere, I suppose.
Daine and her friends are attacked by the scarier versions of the Immortals. These creatures are difficult, but not impossible, to kill. Daine faces many difficult choices during Wild Magic. Some of them involve placing others in danger and understanding the meaning of free will. Other choices involve killing other intelligent creature. Not a simple matter for a 13-year old girl.
Daine also has to face pirates and the royalty of Tortall. For those who have read The Lioness series, you know that they can be a bit unusual. For Daine, who has grown up in a hierarchical and patriarchal society, Tortall royalty comes as a shock. But face them, she must. We meet characters from The Lioness series (another great children/young adult series that Pierce has written. The Immortals falls into the same age category.
“Darling Annie!” He took her in his arms and kissed her. Annie wanted to should it from the rooftops. She had a sweetheart, and he was a toff to boot.
Poor little Annie Crook became involved with the wrong man. In Victorian times, whether they be in alternate or our history, the rabble risked much if they caught the attention of the upper class. Yet, sometimes, the rabble manages to surprise. Young Annie is one of the voices David Barnett introduces us to in Mechanical Girl.
At first, he thought the knocking was a gear slipping, or one of the spring wearing. He sat up in the chair, suddenly alert, and peered around. “Anybody else hear that?”
Arthur frowned. There it went again. He stood and walked to the port side. Probably a piece of driftwood or rubbish hauled over the side from one of the factory farms. He leaned over and looked at the black, oily water.
Lives of trawler-fishers are dangerous one. In the past, more so. Usually, lives are lost because of the ocean’s wiles, but for Arthur Smith the cause of death of was much more sinister. Left behind is 24-year-old Gideon Smith (our main protagonist). To him Sandsend seems like the end of the earth and he wants nothing more than to leave it behind and experience the adventures he reads about in World Marvels & Wonders.
To have his father’s death be the impetus for his investigation was not how Gideon thought his adventure would begin. Investigate he must, for there is something distinctly off about the disappearance of the crew of the Cold Drake. Anger can be a marvelous tool when we suspect something needs fixing. Anger at our gods, the fickleness of nature, people dying and leaving us behind and even at our own fears are all angers that can prompt action and change. Gideon is an angry man, and rightly so. Life in Victorian times (both alternate world and our) was unfair. It still is. Being wealthy makes life easier to navigate while poverty keeps people in their place. Annie was certainly kept in her place. Now Gideon has to find a way to leave his and investigate and explore.
Which is why he goes seeking Captain Trigger, that wonderful hero of the penny dreadfuls. Such a hero must see that Gideon’s cause is worth pursuing (taking Gideon with him). Getting hold of Captain Trigger proves difficult and Gideon must seek help. Who should turn up but Bram Stoker. Yes, that one. David Barnett throws conspiracies and magical names at us through the story. We just have to pay attention to where we are going.
Once Bram becomes involved, officials finally pay attention to Gideon’s worry about a smuggler’s cave. Stoker is just higher enough on the layers of society for him to be taken more seriously than Gideon. Let’s face it. That is the way the world works. I am taken more seriously than a homeless person. My husband is taken more seriously than I. Writing about inequality in a manner that is fun to read is something Barnett does well. Intended or unintended.
In the end, Gideon gets to meet Captain Trigger, a meeting that changes both men. Gideon also meets wonderful and strange Maria. As he and Maria get closer to an answer to both of their questions, stranger and stranger creatures turn up. Conspiracy indeed.
I had fun. Lots of fun reading Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. Definitely recommended.
Rosemary Edghill does her usual cracking job writing The Warslayer.
“A terrible power has been unleashed in the land of Erchanen. Long was it prisoned upon the peaks of Grey Arlinn, until foul mischance freed it once more. Now it stalks the plains of Serenthodial, and Great Drathil is no more than an abode of shadows. We are a simple gentle people, without the arts of war, and we knew that only the greatest warrior who ever lived could help our people in their hour of greatest need. You are she.”
Quite understandably, Gloria (Glory) McArdle is a bit skeptical to being approached by three apparently insane (like all conventioneers) fans who are taking fandom to the extreme. What she gets instead is a new world.
It isn’t often a stuffed elephant gets to have a major supporting role, but Gorden, the elephant, does. Glory depends on him for comfort in all the strangeness and he is also in an essential place when one of the Allimir needs him. Or at least Vixen thinks that when she and Belegir are seeking the will of the Oracle. Comfort objects are important tools in emergencies and daily life. I think it is safe to say that Vixen’s new life is traumatic.
Vixen also brings her highly impractical costume including a real and blunt sword. It was thought that, for the sake of realism, the role as Vixen required learning to fight with a real weapon. Well, kind of fight. She discovers that her choreographed moves are of little use and improvisation is a must. In fact, having been an Olympic gymnast is far more important to Glory’s survival.
“The terrace directly below was still clear. It was an eight-foot drop. Glory turned away from the stairs and jumped.
They hated having her do her own stunts on TITAoVtS, because if she got hurt, production stopped dead, but in fact she was damned good at it, and the stuntpeople had taught her a few helpful tricks. She held the sword well out from her body and threw herself into a forward somersault, landing on her feet, crouching to absorb the impact – just like the vaulting horse, that – and backing up quickly against the wall. …”
Getting back to Earth after her arrival on Erchane requires the help of the Oracle. Belegir, the head wizard, goes with her as a guide. When they get there, Glory discovers that the Alimir aren’t as peaceful as they had told her. The walls of the temple are full of paintings of Allimirs’ killing.
“You-told-me-you-didn’t-do-things-like-that-” she growled in a low husky feline rumble, leaning over until she was staring right into his eyes. “You said you didn’t know how!”
Well, once upon a time, the Allimir had been a murdering horde killing everything in their way. Kind of like humans. Then, somehow, the old hero, Cinnas, banished War from Erchanen. But that enchantment only lasted one thousand years. And this magic was what the Allimir wanted Vixen to repeat. Like many of us they wanted another to deal with the consequences of their actions. I guess that fits with how my generation seems to feel about the future of the Earth. NOT our problem! Please solve and fix our mistakes and intentional shit. Because that is how we humans are, isn’t it? But Gloria is fully aware of her limitations.
“Well, cheer up. You’ve got me, now. When She sees that, She oughtta wet herself laughing. C’mon.”
The style of story, sword and sorcerery, kind of gives the ending away. As with most adventure stories the odds seem impossibly stacked against Vixen.
The Warslayer is an odd, yet profoundly pleasing, adventure tale with lots of action, humour and food for thought. Definitely recommended.
His decision had shaken the “hound”. Craike bared teeth in a death’s-head grin. Now the mob would speed up. But their quarry had already chosen a part of the canyon wall where he might pull his tired and aching body up from one hold to another. He moved deliberately now, knowing that, having lost hope, he could throw aside the need for haste. He would be able to accomplish his purpose before they brought a gas rifle to bear on him.
At last he stood on a ledge, the sand and gravel some fifty feet below. For a long moment he rested, steadying himself with both hands braced on the stone. The weird beauty of the desert country was a pattern of violent color under the afternoon sun. Craike breathed slowly; he had regained a measure of control. There came shouts as they sighted him.
He leaned forward and, as if he were diving into the river which had once run there, he hurled himself outward to the clean death he sought.
Through the Needle’s Eye
“She’s a witch, you know!” She teetered back and forth on the boards of the small front porch. “She makes people disappear; maybe she’ll do that to you if you hang around there.”
“Ruthie!” Cousin Althea, her face flushed from baking, stood behind the patched screen. Her daughter was apprehensively quiet as she came out. But I was more interested in what Ruthie had said than any impending scolding.
“Makes people disappear – how?”
“That’s an untruth, Ruthie,” my cousin said firmly. True to her upbringing, Cousin Althea thought the word “lie” coarse. “Never let me hear you say a thing like that about Miss Ruthevan again. She has had a very sad life -“
By a Hair (1958)
Father Hansel had been one of the three Varoff shot out of hand, and there was no longer an open church in the valley. What went on in the oak glade was another matter. First our women drifted there, half ashamed, half defiant, and later they were followed by their men. I do not think the Countess Ana was their priestess. But she knew and condoned. For she had learned many things.
The wise women began to offer more than just comfort of body. It was a queer wild time when men in their despair turned from old beliefs to older ones, from a god of love and peace, to a god of wrath and vengeance. Old knowledge passed by word of mouth from mother to daughter was recalled by such as Mald, and keenly evaluated by the sharper and better-trained brain of the Countess Ana. I will not say that they called upon Odin and Freya (or those behind those Nordic spirits) or lighted the Beltane Fire. But there was a stirring, as if something long sleeping turned and stretched in its supposed grave.
Ully the Piper
There was only one among them who was not satisfied with things as they comfortably were, because for him there was no comfort. Ully of the hands was not the smallest, nor the youngest of the lads of Coomb Brackett – he was the different one. Longing to be as the rest filled him sometimes with pain he could hardly bear.
He sat on his small cart and watched the rest off to the feasting on May Day and Harvest home; and he watched them dance Rings Around following the smoking great roast at Yule – his clever hands folded in upon themselves until the nails bit sorely into the flesh of his palms.
Toys of Tamisan (1969)
“If you have any wish, tell it to Porpae.” Kas dropped his hold on her arm and turned to the door. “When Lord Starrex wishes to dream, he will send for you.”
“I am at his command,” she mumbled; it was the proper response.
She watched Kas leave and the looked at Porpae. Tamisan had cause to believe that the android was programmed to record her every move. But would anyone here believe that a dreamer had any desire to be free? A dreamer wished only to dream; it was her life, her entire life. To leave a place which did all to foster such a life – that would be akin to self-killing, something a certified dreamer could not think on.
Stories about strong female characters have always been important to me. In my younger days these stories were difficult to find. Usually the women depended on a man to be heroic and choices we laud in women were not acceptable in the so-called “weaker sex”. Female authors have been just as guilty as male authors in perpetrating this stereotype. But some authors dared break through unwritten rules and wrote about women who might still struggle to be accepted by readers. Rifkind is one such woman. Her author is Lynn Abbey.
Rifkind’s Challenge is about adventure taking place in a medieval type of society. There are necromancers, possessions, zombies, strange power and sword fighting. Rifkind is tiny and usually underestimated by her much larger opponents. The smart ones quickly learn no to. Other opponents cannot deal with a woman defeating them. Often they end up with their entrails hanging out due to that stupidity.
Rifkind’s Challenge is about difficult choices we make in life. Rifkind leaves the Ashereen because of her dreams. As eldest son to Chief Hamarach, Tyrokon is supposed to take over; but with his handicap, he would just be putting his clan into danger. Chief Hamarach asks Rifkind to go with Tyrokon part of the way. Cho considers himself Tyrokon’s second and goes along. He happens to be Rifkind’s son. Tyrokon ends up being a mediator between Cho and Rifkind. Their family skills are complicated by Rifkind’s fame, youthful appearance and abilities.
“Where does she come off fighting like that? She is a healer … a healer! Isn’t that enough? Does she have to have men’s honors, too? Who does she think she is?”
I have not read the previous two installments in this series, but Rifkind’s Challenge works well as a stand-alone novel and is a great sword and sourcery adventure.
Queen of Eventide kept me up until I had finished it. It was weird, fun and tense (sometimes all at once). Now that playtime is over, it is time for my review.
Maddie twisted around, wiping blood out of her eyes. She saw only mist, glowing and swirling in the moonlight, but this did nothing to stem her rising panic.
Maddie has reason to panic. She is being chased by several parties and does not know who is for her or who is against her. Keeping knowledge from me, the reader, is a great tool for an author. Mr. Ward wields it well although I do catch on to some things before he reveals them to me.
Nottingham supposedly flourishes with ghosts. Certain signs and portents must be present for some of them to show. In Queen of Eventide, some of these ghosts come from a place called Eventide, and they are of a particularly creepy/frightening nature. All of a sudden a person might find themselves being chased by a huntsman and his wolves. Maddie finds herself being chased several times and for reasons she does not understand. Each time William seems to appear to save her. Or is he really there to save her? Allegiances are an iffy matter in Queen of Eventide.
My favorite character was Charles King. Partly, that has to do with the sense of humor he brings to the story. When Maddie first meets him, he introduces himself as a fortune teller. Maddie tells him she thought fortune tellers were old women and Charles answers:
“Ah, there you have me,” Charles replied. “I am not, in fact, and old woman.” Maddie shot him a long-suffering look, and he pressed hurriedly on. “I do, however, possess a knack for peeking into the future.” He leaned forward, conspiratorially. “I inherited it from my grandmother – who was, you’ll be pleased to know, an old woman.”
Hollows are the strangest and possibly most disturbing creatures of the story. They aren’t creepy because of what they do, but due to what they are. We are talking bizarre. And that is all I can say about them without serious spoilers gotting in the way.
As an Asperger, metaphors can be a challenge. Mr. Ward excels in his use of them. Thankfully most of them are familiar ones. Some of them I use myself. The ones who aren’t add to the humor and fantastical aspect of the story.
Queen of Eventide was well worth the read – as my staying up well into the night is evidence of.
I had a grand time reading Street of Lost Gods. Mr. Lewis’ writing was a delightful combination of humor and mystery. Rax did the Mautheri eaters proud with his handling of Angel Arden.
The Thief-City is an idea I haven’t seen before. Thieves of all kinds of races, human and alien, are somehow brought to the city by the city. So too are gods who are losing their believers.
Other than that, Street of Lost Gods is a mystery. As the Thief-City is a city of thieves of all sorts, the citizens aren’t exactly upstanding people. Instead, they are a collection of the underbelly of the various societies of Mr. Lewis’ imagination.
Street of Lost Gods is a short-story with a whole lot of fun packed into it. Definitely recommended.
It’s not like you’ll find any gods of wisdom or thinking here. Not that there are many gods of thinking. It’s counter-intuitive. Plenty of gods of making noise and hitting things, but there’s plenty of mortals who do that. To be fair, I suppose the proportion of thinking gods to hitting gods probably matches the proportions among their worshippers.