Tag Archives: #Prejudice

Yates, A.M.: Stealer (2016)

Cover by Clarissa Yeo

As the bus-doors squealed shut, she fantasized about stealing the rainbow-striped balloon and drifting away to wherever the wind blew. Maybe to wherever her father was.

Victim mentality is difficult to let go. A person gets so wrapped up in what has been that they forget the future does not have to look the same. There are choices. However, getting to that point when one’s self-image seems shot to pieces and one’s position as underdog appears set in stone, is nigh to impossible.

Dee is 17 years old and considered an odd-ball. She is taller than most, has unusual hair and a scarred back. Her position on the social status totem pole is low. Laura, her only, and now ex-, friend, left her for a higher place. Predatory kids consider her easy bait.

“Don’t feed the wolves. Never feed the wolves.”

To top it all Dee thinks she is probably insane. She hears and sees stuff that the other kids apparently do not. Take Danny’s broken pencil:

Every tooth mark incised the instrument with Danny’s belief in magic – belief in gods who used magic.

And, the pencil…… It glowed and floated.

Her way out of victim mentality and hiding from the wolves slowly begins when the Vasquez brothers go after Danny. Dee ends up with dog shit in her hair, but facing her fears is slowly becoming possible.

Dee has a strange collection. A broken pencil, broken key-chain, broken glasses, broken lighter, broken needle and broken guitar pick probably do not seem like much to most of us. But Dee senses that these objects represent something more, and the only person with whom Dee dares talk about what she sees and hears is her grand-father. He is also the person who reveals who her father is, a man called River who turned up and disappeared right before his eyes. As it turns out, Dee’s heritage becomes essential to her survival. One day, a guy disappears with her collection. Dee desperately wants her things back but has no idea how to go about that.

Then, she sees a speaking glow bug that calls itself Nid. A a deal is made. Nid’s freedom pays for travelling to the place where the box has gone and making sure Dee gets back, safe and sound, to her family.

Yates has done a great job on her new world. Crescent is both similar and dissimilar to our own world. Society is highly stratified into different Breeds. At top are the “Leaders” and near the bottom are “Stealers”. Guess which one Dee belongs to. The right to naming and defining is a right we fight wars over. Stealers are a perfect example of what happens when the powers that be use their power to re-name. Stealers used to be called “Scouts”.

A scout is a person who seeks information about the unknown, one who goes in front, one who acts as a buffer for those behind while a stealer is a person who takes what does not belong to them. Instead of being part of a team, Stealers are now enslaved by those who can afford to own them. Propaganda has it that the only thing Stealers do well is run from trouble and steal your things. Propaganda also has it that as long as people fulfil the duties Leaders claim each breed must, all needs will be taken care of. As Stealer shows, propaganda in Crescent is as true as propaganda anywhere.

Some of the foreshadowing is obvious and trendy. For instance, Dee and Hunter. If two people meet, and that meeting is hostile, it is likely they will become lovers. Yates copies what has been urban fantasy fashion for a few years by throwing in a competitor for the main character’s affections.

Dee follows in the tradition of mystery parent giving the child great powers. Then something happens and those powers become immense. Although Dee does use her unexpected powers to get out of sticky situations, Yates usually manages to avoid the trap of overdoing it. Yates also writes Dee as a believable confused and surprised young woman in a confusing and surprising situation. Moving to a new culture is difficult. Language, traditions and presentation in Crescent are different to the ones of her own home town somewhere in the US.

Stealer is the first book in a Young Adult trilogy. It is 292 pages. Yates tells a story full of action and adventure with interesting characters, both the main- and the side-characters. I could identify with some of them. Crescent is a fun world with solutions I do think I have seen before. I really liked Stealer and definitely recommend it.


Reviews:


Stealer is available at: AMAZON, SMASHWORDS, Amazon UK, NOOK, APPLE, KOBO

Wolfe, Anna: Liar’s Game (The One Rises V) (2015)

Liar's Game; 2016
Illustration by Kip Ayers

After reviewing books for four years (April), I have come to realize that great stories (regardless of category) come about through bloody hard work and zing. Any one of us can get to a point of writing good books. Only some of us manage zing. Anna Wolfe is one of them. I have had the privilege following Wolfe’s journey through The One Rises and have watched her mastery and self-confidence grow. By now you must realize that I am going to say that Liar’s Game is the best of the lot.

In her preface Wolfe makes certain no technical difficulties will arise in reading her story. She then gives a brief intro of the previous books. It is, as she states, possible to read Liar’s Game without having read the earlier four stories, but your enjoyment will be much higher if you have gotten to know the main characters Carrie, Silas, Mark, Edie and the Hatter ahead of time. In Liar’s Game we get to know more about Jiye, Mimi, Hyacinth and the Seer.

Up til now, the Seer has been shown as hated and implacable. Liar’s Game demonstrates that life is too complicated for such simplistic interpretations of the Seer:

“We care only about guiding our little globe down the right path. We care about the many, more than the one. And the two of you are necessary to preserve the best futures. But you must find the truth for yourselves or important possibilities become nothing more than frozen darkness.” They do not understand. How can they? They are both so young.

Finally, Dokuz asked a question he should have asked a hundred years ago. “How far can you See?”

At last. “Millenia.” And we won’t be able to help you surf the challenges that are coming. Not if you won’t let us help you.

Imagine what it must be like to see into the future for millennia and to know that quite a few of those paths lead to the annihilation of your species, humans. I know I would go crazy, and my guess is that the Seer most likely was insane during her early incarnations. At least until she became we. Wolfe does not explain the Seer’s we, but she has let us see how Carrie communicates with her memory sets. Once again, I am guessing and believe that the Seer chose at some time in the past to magically retain the memories of every incarnation. That would take courage, resilience and a whole lot of stubborn. Mark, Callie and Silas learn this side of her, and that changes them. How could it not?

Mark is frustrated. His demon-infection demands anger to sate its hunger, and Mark is a master at making people angry. Somehow, his ability recognizes what will hurt the most and tries to force words to bring hurt and anger out in all he meets. Being able to sense lies also aids his ability a great deal. Liar’s Game shows us how painful controlling his ability is.

The sensation in his mouth morphed into a ball of needles that was trying to escape his skull in every direction.

For some reason Callie can feed him without anger, but Callie is an extremely dangerous person to feed from. She has almost killed him once, and neither of them wishes to repeat that experience. So Mark starves rather than inflect unnecessary anger on people.

Silas winced and then a sick ball of dread opened up in his stomach. And now she dies. I’ll have to pass it off as a suicide, but after the events in San Fran, Edie and Mark will be at risk. They will both have to leave. And soon. Only Callie didn’t die. One moment turned into ten and still Callie stood there glaring at him. Shock rippled through him, and for a moment, he couldn’t hear anything. The room wavered under his feet, and he stumbled forward until he could sit on the end of the bed.

Why does Callie not die? Wolfe has hinted at the truth in the previous books. This should knock the final nail into your chest of understanding. No worries, though. All is revealed in Liar’s Game. Fair is fair, so Callie finds out about Silas. Gaining knowledge about each other tears down preconceptions and barriers and matures Silas and Callie for the Seer.

Anna Wolfe states that The One Rises series is intended for adults. Most likely that is because of the sex. It is certainly explicit but no more than the violence in many Young Adult stories. There is plenty of ACTION and some violence.

Highly recommended.

Liar’s Game was given to me by the author.


Liar’s Game is available at Smashwords from Feb 1, 2016


My review of: 1) Bitten, 2) Addicted, 3) Ensnared by magic, 4) Poisoned by deceit

Lynn, Elizabeth A.: Watchtower (Chronicles of Tornor I) (1979)

“Tornor Keep was dead and burning.

Ryke’s face was soot-stained, and his wrists were skinned raw where he had torn them twisting in his chains. His head ached.”

From this moment we are in the company of Ryke, a man who remains in a state of shock through the story. All of his friends, his leaders and his place in the world and loyalties have been torn from him. He thought he understood war, but he had never seen it from the side of the loser. War is much more brutal and bloody when you are not the winner. Why he has been kept alive when the rest of the Keep (excluding the women who were raped and kept on as chattel) was killed is a mystery to Ryke.

Then Col Istor (master of the invaders) shows him why. Errel, Prince of Tornor until the invaders took the keep, is still alive. Given a beating, but still alive. In return for keeping him that way, Ryke must pledge his service to Istor. Ryke gives the only pledge he feels capable of keeping. It is accepted.

“I’ll serve you,” he said, “with loyalty, as long as Errel’s left alone and unharmed.”

The Northern border is a land where the gap between male and female is immense. As is usual in such societies, women are meant for marriage, childbirth and possibly healing of the kind wise women did. Men, well, men. I am glad Elizabeth A Lynn wrote this book the way she did. Ryke’s prejudices are challenged. Lynn shows us that  prejudices do not necessarily change even when confronted with evidence and anecdotes. This has been my experience as well, and I find it just as frustrating as Sorren and Norres expressed.

“The other was unimportant. It happened to all women. In war you could not even call it rape.”

Ryke is used to being in “middle management”. He likes leadership, but only to a certain extent. Beyond that, he prefers having another person tell him what to do and, to a certain extent, what to think. Errel (Prince to Ryke) is supposed to fill that spot, but Errel is not willing to play along. He challenges Ryke to think for himself and to make his own choices. Ryke hates that. At times I have wanted people to choose for me. Often I wonder if that is the way most of us want the world to be. If others choose for us, perhaps we have less responsibility? But I would not choose to have Ryke’s fear of choice. In the end, neither would he.

Definitely recommended.

P.S: I have not been able to find a link to Elizabeth A. Lynn anywhere.

P.P.S: “The art of the chearis, as it is described, resembles in some aspects the Japanese martial art aikido, created by Master Morihei Uyeshiba. This imitation is deliberate. Writers must write what they know. In gratitude for that knowledge, the author respectfully wishes to thank her teachers.” (Dedication page)


1980 World Fantasy Award


Reviews:


Watchtower is available on scribd.com


Translations:

Green, Dominic: Saucerers and Gondoliers (Ant & Cleo 1) (2008)

Saucerers and Gondoliers cover
Cover by Dominic Green

It was the cover that lured me in. Sometimes I am lucky and the cover actually presages the contents.

Dominic Green‘s Ant & Cleo series is as well-written and ridiculous as only British humor can be. These two young (12 years old) people go through experiences that are disconnected to reality as we prefer to believe it. Unless, of course, Britain, Russia (USSR) and the US have actually managed to get colonies into space. I suppose it is possible?

First, Antony and Cleopatra, the main characters. Their characters have little to do with the portrayal by Shakespeare but more in common with the originals. Ant seems to be bluff, passionate and a little simple-minded (and highly underestimated by Cleo), while Cleo is fairly intelligent and practical.

It all begins with a trip to the woods with Ant’s father. Forests are great places for adventure, though I doubt many people get to go into space with an alien from Lalande 21185. Strangely enough, this alien looks like a human:

“The new man looked tired and thin, and had a haircut that suggested he spent a lot of his time in prison. He was wearing neither a suit nor combat fatigues, but a pair of Levi’s which still had the label dangling from the back of them, and a maroon T shirt. The T shirt had aliens in flying saucers on it, along with the words SPACE RASTA.”

Mr. Green throws Ant & Cleo into situations that keep them wondering about the things they have learned in school. The spaceship they leave Earth in is their first clue to their ignorance. “Made in Britain by Hawker Siddeley Aviation” seems a bit far-fetched to them. But that is what the maker’s plate says.

Then they meet Americans (US) in space. What a parody of every prejudice non-US citizens have had of them. White-supremacy, a confederate flag and deep southern accents along with names like Billy-Bob, Billy-Hank and Wayne-Bob. A whole sleuth of movies go through my memories as I write this. The funniest thing about these stereotypes is that Hollywood is the worst perpetrator of the image (and early James Bond). Their new compatriots join them on that planet. Glenn Bob and Truman make an odd couple. One very curious and the other diligent in carrying out assigned jobs.

After the US, Ant & Cleo get to meet members of the Soviet Union. Yes. In space the USSR still rules and feelings between the US and Russians continue to be very cold (I guess a bit like today).  Here, too, accents and behavior copies movie and television stereotypes. Mr. Green nails these stereotypes.

“Glorious Soviet Yutopia does not kyill wyomen and chyildren”

OMG, non-russians speaking English with Russian accents drive me crazy. Finally, Ant & Cleo get to meet and talk with the British. Their poor kidnapper has been unconscious ever since their spaceship broke Earth’s orbit, so they do not know who he is and where he is from. He is British. Here again, Green nails every stereotype. These are the British who shake their head and carry on with the job even when they are severely wounded, wring sweat out of their long underwear to make water and express strong feelings by saying things like “Golly”, “Gosh” and “Bally good”.

Nothing is realistic. Well, except that quite a lot of it is. Tension between countries, secretive and lying governments and people who try to follow the propaganda they have been brought up are all things Green portrays as is. Propaganda, my goodness, what a great examples of propaganda and the brainwashing citizens are put through and accept.

I enjoyed this book immensely and think it would be appropriate for people from around 10 years old and up. Adults might have to explain some of the references, but with the I-net available to many, they might not.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Reading order:

Norton, Andre: High Sorcery (1970)

Wizard’s World (1967)

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.

Goodreads


Translations:

  • Italian: Le terre degli incantesimi (1979)

Gilman, Laura Anne: Hard Magic (Paranormal Scene Investigations I) (2010)

Sharon looked at him as thought he’s just suggested she take up pole dancing. “You think the five of us, here in an unmarked office, with no reason to be here except a mysterious phone message, and a dead body just happens to be in the other office, aren’t going to become the immediate persons of interest to the cops, no matter how he died? You think they’re going to believe how we all ended up here on the basis of some strange phone message from god knows who, for an unspecified interview for an unnamed, unknown company none of us sent a résume to? I don’t know about you, but I don’t need that shit in my life.” (p. 61)

Gee, Emily: The Sentinel Mage (Cursed Kingdoms I) (2011)

Jáume was in his father’s barn when the curse broke free of its dormancy on the easternmost rim of the Seven Kingdoms.

The story of the Sentinel Mage begins with Jáume, eight years old. Ancient magic turns his father into a monster and the boy has to flee to save his life. Reading up on orphaned children showed me that homeless, orphaned pre-teens looking to survive are more common than I thought. That type of homelessness made Jáume’s tale more believable. Where a lot of children would have died from helplessness, Jáume is crafty and cunning. Sometimes he is not proud of what he has to do to live, but he still does them. Choices we seem to be left with, may not be real choices after all. Do or die?

Magic, like the terrible curse, is the reason witches were hunted until thought extinct on the mainland. But complete extinction of a genetic trait when prophecy is around would never be possible for a fantasy trilogy. In life the complete extinction of a genetic trait seems unlikely. Eventually it might turn up again. In the Sentinel Mage that is even more so the case, as Prince Harkeld is about to discover.

Every prophecy needs its tool and these tools are people who vary from the young and innocent to the old and unwilling. Prince Harkeld starts off with power, wealth and a sense of entitlement. He is 22 years old when he meets the feared witches at his father’s court in Osgaard. King Esgar has called him to meet the diplomatic convoy from Rosny in the Allied Lands. When Prince Harkeld hears what the witches (or “mages” as they prefer) have to say about his destiny and his background he is shocked. It turns out the blood of monsters is in him and he needs to choose between honor and his father’s approval. Fortunately for Prince Harkeld, he choses honor. He is not aware of the personal consequences of doing what his father wishes.

Monsters or not, Harkeld is stuck with the mages (or witches as he curses them). A solution to his distrust is found by the mages. However, this solution requires distraction and a certain amount of naivete on Harkeld’s side. Perhaps the mages figure he is distraught enough that he will not discover the discrepancies that occur when Justen appears.

I understood why Harkeld would act like the distrustful, arrogant and annoying person that he was with the mages. His background, the suddenness of his leaving and the shock of his discovery along with the constant fear of discovery and being on the run would all play a part in leaving him a somewhat unlikable person. I’m not certain I cared much for the mages either. They were dishonest toward Harkeld and very open about the possibility of needing only his hands and blood for the fulfillment of the prophecy. Only as a last resort, of course ….

In leaving the castle behind he also leaves his beloved younger sister and two younger brothers behind. Princess Brigitta wants to come with him but Harkeld feels she will be safer with her father. Hmmmm. Time will show. But Harkeld worries. And with cause. Princess Brigitta and her two helpers, armsman Karel and handmaid Yasma were all that were left to protect her brothers, six-year old Rutgar and four-year old Lukas. But eighteen-year old Brigitta is about to encounter her own set of terrible problems leaving her with little will or ability to look after her brothers. She is also all that stands between Yasma and constant abuse. Being a bondservant in Osgaard equates to slavery and terror. At least with the Princess Yasma had escaped daily rape and beatings.

Gee’s writing is what drove the story on. There were some hiccups but for the main part she kept me caught in her words. Recommended.


Reviews:


The Sentinel Mage is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository