Tag Archives: #Istonnia

Rust, Angelika: Once a Rat (Istonnia III) (2014)

once-a-rat - Angelika Rust

Angelika Rust displays one of my favorite traits in an author. She evolves and improves over time. Once a Rat shows just how far Rust has come in her writing. The only thing she continues to do that annoys me is to overuse the word “whom”.

“It’s worse than I thought,” she groaned, rolling onto her back. “It isn’t innocence, it’s honor. You’re the son of a rich bastard of a trader and a madwoman. Whom, for fire’s sake did you inherit your honor from?”

Honor is a strange concept. For one thing, honor varies from person to person. There does seem to be a common denominator across nations, namely that to be considered honorable, one must keep promises/oaths made. Nivvo seems to have honor as an in-born character trait. Such a trait makes Nivvo perfect for some roles but disqualifies him when breaking promises might be needed. There are several high-status professions, in real life and in Istonnia, involving deception and deceit, that Nivvo could not fill.

In Once a Rat Nivvo is sent on a joint mission for the Regent and Underlord of Istonnia in the hopes that Istonnia might be saved from more fighting. Being the kind of story that Once a Rat is, the likelihood of Nivvo surviving that mission is in doubt. But Nivvo accepts that as his duty. Part of that duty has to do with his promises to obey Vicco, but Nivvo also seems to feel that his relationship with the Regent obliges him to serve Istonnia as best he can.

Part of his mission terrifies him. Practical experience of slavery turns out to be completely different from the theoretical understanding of its nature.

“…, he knew they’d come back to haunt him for the rest of his life … a child, little more than a toddler, on his hands and knees, and a soldier stomping on the tiny fingers till they broke with a sickening crunch … a woman his own age, tears streaming from her closed eyes as a slave handler cut her clothes away to reveal her body to a customer … a man hugging the pole he was tied to, screaming relentlessly as a lash opened up gash after gash on his already scarred back …”

Slavery, the objectification of people taken to extremes. The real world still embraces slavery and most of us are quietly complicit in letting it carry on. Nivvo’s mission is to get to the person trying to work against slavery in Baredi and help that person succeed. But the odds are against the abolitionists.

There are some very angry people left in Istonnia. Choosing to smother his loved ones in protectiveness happens to be one of Nivvo’s greatest failings. Even Vilores is kept in the dark. Shame on Nivvo and his father for breaking that law once again.

While Nivvo is gone Cambrosi is having fun trying to stay alive. Fedoro is helping him. Someone in his organization is trying to overthrow the Underlord. If it works, then Istonnia seems doomed to enter what might become a civil war.

Plenty of action, some violence, some sex – neither very explicit.

Definitely recommended.

Once a Rat available at Amazon US

Rust, Angelika: A Rat for a Rat (Istonnia II) (2014)

A Rat for a Rat - Angelika Rust

Everyone self-harms in one way or another. Calling ourselves names or making ourselves less is one way we love to harm our self-confidence. Others self-harm through physical means. In the there and then, self-harming usually relieves some kind of pressure or stress. Long-term, though, we damage ourselves. Taken to extremes we might even lose body parts or become permanently damaged in other ways. Autistic people know about self-harming that may come a part of a stim.

The Baredians see women as doormats. To them, women are to be used without regard for their feelings, growth or well-being. In A Rat for a Rat we meet Miniri, a seriously troubled girl. She is addicted to self-harm, even if that self-harm means putting herself in the way of being trampled on and sexually abused by the Baredi. Imagine what a person like that could get up to in striving to fill the void inside of her.

Healers are revered people in Istonnia. They may go where no other person may and expect no harm to come to them. Like all work groups, some healers are more popular than others. Inna Malduri is definitely lowest on the totem pole and only the worst students get sent to her. Which is why Anniscia is shocked when she is sent to be Malduri’s  apprentice. You see, Anniscia happens to be at the top of her class and feels she is much to good to serve the poorer part of town. She is about to be exposed to a side of life of life she is unused to.

The Regent, being used to living out in the desert with his group of followers, is having trouble adjusting to politics and people who have different goals. He forgets that in politics revealing the identity of people you love is dangerous to yourself and the one you care for, at least if that person is to be a secret. The world is not supposed to know that Nivvo is his son, but the Regent is not able to avoid reaching out to him.

Nivvo tries to protect his father and brother by being absent. He knows the way the city works and what a wonderful weapon Vicco Cambrosi gains in knowing how much the Regent cares about his long-lost son. Both father and son suffer from a need to over-protect, a trait that exasperates the people around them.

Reka is the one who is most annoyed by this father and son interaction. If she could beat some sense into their heads, she would. Instead she treats both like the brats they are. Nivvo is used to her way of showing anger. The Regent, however, is used to getting his own way, and is at a loss about what to do when Reka treats him the way she does.

A Rat for a Rat was an action-filled and fun story that also dealt with consequences that may arise from our actions.

Definitely recommended.


A Rat for a Rat available at Amazon US

Rust, Angelika: Ratpaths (Istonnia I) (2013)

Yes, I went looking for ratpaths and the history of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. There really was no choice after reading what Ms. Rust had to say about her inspiration for the story.

Poverty is something I think about a lot. Not because I am poor, but because I have escaped it. My dad could have been Nivvo. When his father was arrested for underground work during WWII, my grandmother slowly but surely went mad with paranoia. My dad would have been six at the time his father was arrested and his little sister four. They went from getting by to being hungry a lot. But things never became as dire as they did for Nivvo and his mom (and soon after his sister).

I suppose this is one reason why I like Nivvo so much. There is no doubt in my mind that given the right/wrong people in his life, my dad could have become a Nivvo. Whether his sister would have been a Reka I do not know. Both characters are survivors and very likeable. Both love each other and do their best to take care of each other – and others in need. Again this is very much like my father and his sister.

Reka has grown up without her mother and was taken care of by a poor fire priest. At the beginning of the story, Bappo Andori had died not many months previously. At this point Reka is thirteen years old. In many places today being thirteen and poor grows you up awfully fast. With the help of Nivvo’s contractor, she gains control of the estate and keeps up the good work for the homeless.

Nivvo is a thief and a good one. The underworld’s boss, Vicco Cambrosi, wants Nivvo as part of his organization, but that would mean loss of freedom to choose assignments. Nivvo does not want this, but fears a point may be reached when he no longer has a choice.

Ratpaths is for the most part about Nivvo stealing a person, and the mess that makes of life in Istonnia and Nivvo’s life. Ratpaths also gives us a look at Nivvo’s past and gently prods us toward realizing a vital thing about him. Ratpaths was a fun and flowing story.

Definitely recommended.


Ratpaths available on Amazon

The Daily Mail: The secret world of Italy’s other Mafia. Jim Shelley goes underground to uncover the organisation that is scarier than La Cosa Nostra

The Seattle Times: Going underground: In Vienna, a maze of tunnels and cellars beneath the city contains variety of treasures

Wikipedia: Sicilian Mafia