“But here, away from the great centres of population, where the Circle Sea meets the desert, there is a line of cold blue fire. Flames as chilly as the slopes of Hell roar towards the sky. Ghostly light flickers across the desert.
The pyramids in the ancient valley of the Djel are flaring their power into the night.
The energy streaming up from their paracosmic peaks may, in chapters to come, illuminate many mysteries: why tortoises hate philosophy, why too much religion is bad for goats, and what it is that handmaidens actually do.”
As the Discworld unfolds, the stories become more poignant. Yes, gags, plays on words, and downright bizarreness are plentiful. Except, this isn’t why Pratchett remains one of my alltime favourite authors. Real world people and events (even historical) are. Pyramids is sort of about Egyptian history, all boy boarding schools (particularly final examinations), family, coming…
Sometimes getting to know the author is as fun as getting to know the characters. Farrugia is probably as adrenaline addicted as Sophia but, thankfully, seems a ways off Denton’s brand of crazy. He is also funny as hell and a great writer.
This odd group of animals I belong to, seems hell-bent on destroying itself in one way or another. Often, I wonder who profits from the unrest going on. Seeing behind propaganda, to the Dentons, Hals and Sievers of this world, takes time and effort. What Farrugia manages to get across in Anomaly is how little the pawns, even at the level of Illarion, know. Just because two parties kill each-other, doesn’t mean they oppose each other. Unlike many of the real-world conspiracies I hear/read, Farrugia’s conspiracy thriller shows us a believable chess-game where the consequences to the players are small, but to their pawns, well.
Purity is clearly one of the pawns being played. We got an inkling of that in Interceptor. Anomaly‘s use of Hal, Denton and DC pushes me to think in one direction. Farrugia is probably just messing with my mind. Cults are terrifying creatures. Especially political cults. Nazism was one. We see another one tear its way through Europe, triggered by the 70-year-long battle between USA and Russia that is, at this part of the “game”, destroying the Middle-East. Purity has reached the point of the mob. “Burn the witches” is a chant at one of their rallies. Farrugia paints the mindlessness, hysterical anger, fear and violence present in such a mob perfectly.
We get to know Marina better. I find myself curious about her. “Will this hurt?” she asked. And it did. It takes a special kind of training to acquire the mind-set of the researchers in the various Columns, training most people would pass.
Eastern Europe is clearly in trouble and the only ones who might save it are Sophia and Olesya’s people. But only if the two groups cooperate. Both feel the need to talk but are afraid to trust the other. They know that no matter what they choose, the likelihood of their groups getting out intact is nil. However, both are the kind of leader who wants to get as much of her team out alive and as well as possible.
What on earth are Intron’s goals? They aren’t what Hélio says. Why are Fifth Column’s implants turning up in such strange people? Who are training these new, indestructible operatives? What is DC up to? How are Purity identifying the mutants? Can paranoia be taken too far?
As usual, I had fun. Lots of action, lots of conspiracy and one hell of a mystery. Definitely recommended.
The Bastard Cadre, episodes 1-14 is the first book of this ongoing serial written by Lee Carlon. I am not used to continually changing stories, but find the concept fascinating. Carlon describes the way he works:
… one thing to note about this serialization is that unlike traditional serializations where the author is bound to the words that have been committed to the page, publishing online allows me to treat The Bastard Cadre as a continuous work in progress. Each episode is complete at the time of publication, but I do update the text from time to time. (peakcity)
Change can be daunting when you are an aspie. Part of that has to do with the accompanying anxiety. I have to go through mental gymnastics to keep anxiety’s influence on my opinion as limited as possible while reviewing The Bastard Cadre.
Newterra is on a world with two suns. Its geography is loosely based on Australia’s. Some of the inhabitants on Newterra might be descended from Earth humans. Others, not so much. Dragons, dualists, descendants and gods are in the last category, although, I’m arguing with myself about the gods. Newterra’s gods are not very old, they fight each other, hold separate territories and 20 years ago they Cleansed the world with a type of fire. The Cleansing took biological lives but not electrical ones. There are still plenty of AIs around. Vehicles can be picked up in almost any city and cleaning bots are still doing their jobs in the larger cities. We enter the world 20 years after the Cleansing and meet a world that has lost numbers and a great deal of understanding of technology.
Our main characters, Avril Ethanson, Ethan Godkind and Ranora fi’Intar, all seem to be human. Avril and Ranora are both young and have unusual abilities. Avril can affect electrical impulses. Ranora can read people and cards. Ethan is Avril’s foster-father and has held that role since soon after Avril was born. These three characters give us insight into how Newterra works and what its people are like. Clues to their importance and backgrounds are doled out during the telling of this story. This way of learning about places and people in a story is my preferred one.
Avril and Ethan are scavengers who salvage old tech and barter it for essentials. When we meet them, the past is about to catch up with Ethan. Life has a tendency to mess up our plans and put our procrastinations to shame. There was so much Ethan had planned on telling Avril to prepare him for what might happen. When they meet Beads, the finder, it is almost too late and Avril is in for some gigantic surprises that involve his heritage and potential future.
We learn little about Ranora’s background. She is a talented painter who brings the past to life. Bringing the past to life in her art is probably connected to her ability to read people and objects to uncover “secrets”. Ranora seems to be on her own when we meet her. Being alone in Newterra tends to shorten your life-expectancy. When a bounty-hunter gang shows up, Ranora uses her ability to claim a spot in it. We all make choices in our lives. Some mess life up for us while others bring unexpected gifts our way. Joining the gang was a choice that brought both mess and gift to Ranora, such as bringing her into contact with both Ethan and Avril.
The Bastard Cadre’s intended audience is young adult and older. From the get go we get an action-filled story about fate, betrayal, family and different ways of handling the world. The Bastard Cadre was given to me to review. Recommended.
I had read one other story in the Amelia Peabody series before I read The Ape Who Guards the Balance (The Ape). The Ape occurs before my previous read. As each story solves its mystery, that was not a problem. Nor did I have difficulty jumping into the overarching story of the Emerson family.
Elizabeth Peters writes about the adventures of the Emerson family and their friends, servants and enemies. The family consists of Amelia Peabody Emerson (matriarch) and Radcliffe Emerson (patriarch). Both Amelia and Radcliffe have been with the series from the beginning. Walter (Ramses) is their son and Nefret their ward. In The Ape we also have Lia, the daughter of Radcliffe’s brother and sister-in-law and their ward, David. All six travel to Egypt for the 1906-07 excavation season.
Their adventures begin before leaving England. A mysterious man appears at a suffragette picket that Amalie and Ramses attend. This man later turns up in connection with a break-in and hauls away a large collection of Egyptian antiques. Shortly after, the stranger also seems to be involved in a kidnapping attempt of Amalie. The entire family suspects an old “enemy”, Sethos.
Once they arrive in Egypt, Ramses and David go on an adventure including a stolen papyrus, mysterious strangers and a blackmailing Nefret. The Professor is livid when he finds out what the threesome has done. But he is also intrigued. Then a mysterious bearded man turns up in Egypt as well, and it is not Sethos.
The Emerson family is egalitarian for the time it is written for (and for many families and places today). Nefret has just finished her clinical practice and Peters show us what a feat that was for a woman:
“Acquiring that training had been a struggle in itself. Over the violent objections of its (male) medical faculty, the University of London had, finally, opened its degrees to women, but the major universities continued to deny them, and the difficulty of obtaining clinical practice was almost as great as it had been a century earlier. Nefret had managed it, though, with the help of the dedicated ladies who had founded a woman’s medical college in London and forced some of the hospitals to admit women students to the wards and dissecting rooms.”
Lately, I have begun wondering whether I read male and female leads differently. Many of the comments on The Ape seem to be consistent with comments on strong women both in fiction and real life. A woman as strong as Amelia Peabody will be dissed for being strong but not perfect. In The Ape she certainly shows that she is far from perfect. Her own bias surprised her when David and Lia announced their engagement. She and Emerson are peas of a pod when it comes to stubbornness and a sense that their opinion is the only correct one, even if that opinion changes later on. Both see the other as emotional, adorable and hot. The words used to describe these qualities are different for each of them, further cementing both the standards of the time and the continued power language has today. We do get a taste of what it would be like if language was equal for both men and women in this thought from Amelia:
“… it was time for me to take charge of the discussion, which had degenerated into a series of emotional exchanges. This is often the case when men carry on a conversation.”
Gender is far from the only topic discussed in The Ape. Racism and classicism are very much present in the Victorian English who come to Egypt to loot the graves of ancient rulers and take their loot back to England. Peters points out the difference in the handling of this loot. Sometimes graves were completely vandalized by so-called archaeologists. Others, at least, tried to maintain both loot and their chambers as intact as possible. The Emersons’ are of the last category.
Issues and mystery are both weaved together in an enchanting story in the Agathaian (Agatha Christie) style. I definitely recommend The Ape Who Guards the Balance.
“So, let me get this straight, I pay 10% to you guys until I die, whenever that is, and after I die I’m resurrected in paradise, where I can live forever, free of charge?”
The salesman smiled. “Yes, that about covers it. You can join the program at any one of our weekly guidance meetings.”
Here’s the catch, Steve thought. “Meetings?”
“There’s a meeting you will need to attend every week, for an hour, maybe more some weeks.” Steve had visions of a clinic, some kind of brain scan to save a new backup copy for the promised virtual paradise. “Sounds reasonable.”
Having grown up Mormon, I found The Pitch a delight. The delight part of my reaction might have to do with my distance to my childhood religion. Or perhaps not. I have always enjoyed stories that poke fun at the way I think. Adriaan Brae’s satirical short-story of only 5 pages faces the issue of religious claims in a lighthearted and well-written manner.
Throughout Nyx’s exile, she didn’t think much about all the men and women she’d beheaded, or the mullahs she’d pissed off, or the mines she’d planted, or the battles she’d lost. She thought about the ring. A bad left hook. Poor footwork. Blood in her eyes. Hornets on the mat. Because everything that happens after you climb out of a boxing ring, one-half of your face ballooning into a waxy blue-black parody of death while you spit bile and blood and some fleshy bit of somebody’s ear on the mat, slowly losing sight in one leaky eye, dragging your shattered, roach-bitten leg behind you … is easy. Routine. Just another day breathing. (p. 2)
My copy of Daughter of Witches is the revised version. Daughter of Witches is Patricia C. Wrede’s second story.
Bond servants in Chaldon were servants with only one right: a half-day off every three weeks. Their masters could, in all other respects, treat their bond servants as they would. Ranira, our main character, is one such bond servant. She was bonded for nine years because her parents had been judged and killed for being witches. When we meet her, she has two more years of her bond to serve. She is somewhere in her teens.
When strangers come to Lykken’s inn at Festival time, they ignore the danger they place themselves in. Being foreigners in Drinn at Mid-Winter festival is enough to get you arrested. Hosting foreigners is also enough to get you arrested and sentenced as bond servant. In fact, all of your employees and family are placed in bond service for not having reported your crime. Earlier in the story, Ranira unintentionally offended the priest that is her “arresting officer”. It turns out she offended The High Priest of Chaldon. Her sentence is his way of getting revenge.
“For three days more I will be seated in the place of honor in the Temple, next to the High Priest, while he teaches the people the new rites and leads them in the old ones. Then the High Priest himself will perform the wedding ceremony. And consummate it. Publicly,” she added as an afterthought. She stared resolutely at the door of the cell. She was determined to finish, to make them understand, so that they would leave her to whatever little peace and sanity she could find and cling to. “When he is finished, the god will take me. For two days, Chaldon will walk in my body and speak with my voice, and there will be nothing left of me at all. On the last day of the Festival, when both moons are full and Chaldon has accepted the other sacrifices, the nine High Masters will kill me as well.”
Through history human sacrifice is not uncommon: Aztec, Japan, Serbia, Hawaii, India and Rome are only some places where ritualized human killings were/are practiced. Religion seems to make human sacrifice acceptable to the general populace once propaganda becomes common belief. But I wonder if religion is the only area of sacrifice in human society. What about the squandering of young lives in the fights we have with each other to enforce our own points of view? Or the death penalty?
Anyways. Ranira is not too happy about her future fate. Nor are the strangers once they realize what is going to happen to Ranira. What is about to happen to them as well. Although their fate is probably not the privilege of sacrifice to the god Chaldon, they will likely end up as sacrifices to Drinn’s version of justice. Getting away would seem hopeless yet highly desirable for all of them. Ranira and the strangers now set off on what are narrow escapes, much use of magic and new friendships.
I had an “aha” experience reading Melody of Demons. Asperger that I am, life apparently affects my ability to read a story. A recent family crisis brought out chaos in my head. To deal with that chaos, I unconsciously shut off certain cognitive processes, one of which was my ability to digest stories. Not until now, have I recognized doing this. What this meant with regards to Melody of Demons was that I had to keep on reading it until I could absorb what I was reading. Annoying as hell, yet an interesting observation for myself and possibly for others out there.
“Well, that was … a sermon. That’s certainly what it was. I think we all learned a valuable, no a lesson. That we already knew. Yes, one thing you can say for my father’s froth-mouthed rants, is they’re definitely spoken with words.”
Statements like this are in part why I enjoy Ms. Jackson’s writing so much. Her sense of humor fits my own. Yet that humor points to serious issues. In this instance, Ms. Jackson showed me how much certain people enjoy going on and on about their prejudices. Poor Aivee had to endure the rantings of a man who had it in for her kind of people, i.e. half krin/half human.
In this medieval world called Tazelinn, magic exists. For some people, only certain types of magic are acceptable. Krin aren’t human-looking at all (except maybe the bi-pedal part), but somehow they have an innate magic that enables them to shift to human and even interbreed. Aivee is the result of this ability. In all ways she seems human. But that shape must be maintained at all times. Her default shape is krin and her greatest fear is that others discover that she is different. I like the way Ms. Jackson shows us what a strain passing is for Aivee.
“She hadn’t noticed before how disconcerting the rhythm was, like the breath of a monstrous beast in her ear. Now everything was more solid, more real. She ran her fingers of the floorboards and felt the grain of them and their unyielding hardness, as though for the first time.”
Aivee’s innate magic appears to be based on sound or music. In Aivee’s case she uses music. As the story unfolds, we see her gain confidence in her abilities while she remains desperate in her need to hide her krinness.
Through misadventure, Aivee comes in contact with the Kaddon Keys. Finding a less qualified vigilante group would take some work. Yet the Kaddon Keys is the only thing The Missing have between themselves and being lost forever. Kaddon’s Guards (police) certainly aren’t looking for them.
Good intentions are a great place to start, but planning would make the difference between being beat almost to death and success. The Kaddon Keys tend to end up with a severe need for healing. Thankfully, they have their own healer. Duando uses crystal magic to help the Keys survive. Three other members are the owner of the Cross Keys, Fendo, and his two children Riko and Lendia. Riko is a prime example of a patriarchal society with his views on women and their abilities.
The only one of the three women in the group who fights to be seen as equal to the men is Niro. Niro’s sister has become one of the many missing in Kaddon. Not knowing where her sister is, drives Niro to demand a place in the group. Soon after she becomes possessed by a voice that fights for control of Niro’s brain. There is one advantage to this possession. Niro gains the ability to fight with and without weapons, but she must allow the voice control of her body while still remaining in charge herself. I do not envy her that challenge. This voice is the reason Aivee became a member of the Kaddon Keys.
Kaddon has its own gangs, and they each have a territory. Like all gangs, the Neffar are extremely territorial and they think the Keys are competitors. Their fearless and feared leader Leussan does her best to make the Keys history. The Neffar aren’t the only ones who end up wanting the Keys gone. They have angered the Guards, the corrupt nobles and whoever is behind the kidnappings as well. How they are going to do the missing any good is a mystery only Ms. Jackson knows how to solve. She will have to guide the Keys to the missing and save them from the above and several others who come their way.
Melody Demon was a fun adventure story to read. It can be read on its own, yet we are left in no doubt that there will be at least one more story. I look forward to it.
Nyx is a hero I have fallen in love with. As mentioned in my review for God’s War, I am drawn by her passion and love for the people she considers hers. Given the wrong kind of circumstances, my aspergers might have formed me into such a predator. Her emotions are easy to access, and her reasons are simple to understand.
She does her best to protect what is hers. Her ownership of both her people and her country enables Nyx to do what she considers the right thing for her country and her people.
Hurley’s Tirhani is in some ways like my Norway. Norway is a small country known for its apparent peaceful approach to life enabled by the safety of wealth. However, as exporters of arms and ammunition over whose end-location we have no control, we are also guilty of bringing war to other countries. All we have to do is look at the result of the US destruction of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Considering the US is one of our largest customers, this really isn’t something to be proud about. Yet we go about our peaceful lives without giving women and children whose men have been torn out of their lives a single thought. All weapon producing countries whose citizens live fairly peaceful lives share in this destruction.
Rhys and Inaya have settled in peaceful Tirhani hoping that Nyx will never turn up again. Understandable, really, as Nyx represents an excruciating time of both of their lives. But the Beldame rebellion brings them all together effecting a new period of needing to kill or be killed. Who needs enemies when they have a friend like Nyx. Perhaps this is the greatest difference between the three. Rhys and Inaya (and Khos) cling to the idea of not needing to involve themselves in keeping their families safe by keeping the world safe. It is the simplest path to choose in life. I venture in and out of it. Nyx dives head-on into her attempt to keep Umayma as safe as possible.
Once Rhys and Inaya seem to no longer have a choice, they to do their very best to stay alive. Most people seem to wish to live and they will go to great lengths to stay alive. Umayma can be both heaven and hell for its inhabitants. For Nyxnissia, Nasheen and Chenja it seems to be a never-ending hell.
Cover art by David Palumbo Cover design by Rebecca Silvers Interior layout and design by Ross E. Lockhart
God’s War, huh. On Religious Tolerance you will find recent religious conflicts around the world. I counted 25. While most of those wars are across religious lines, some of them (Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia) are, like the 3000 year long World War on Umayma, about interpretations of a faith. As far as we can tell, the people on Umayma had the same origins and values upon leaving Earth. If a time ever comes when humans are able to terraform and populate another planet, war will probably ensue as soon as people manage to settle down. Humans do seem to like their wars.
Terraforming (or engineering) a planet would be a long and complicated process. The time span required and the amount of genetic tinkering needed for humans to be able to live on a far flung planet has to be staggering. While every person needs some degree of engineering in some fashion to survive, there are inhabitants of Umayma who have changed more than others.
Bugs and their magicians are two. Something in their genetic make-up makes certain people able to communicate with bugs. Talking to bugs could be useful here on Earth. On Umayma, bug-talking is vital to existence as bugs are used in most arenas of life. From food, to fuel, to engines, to clothing, to lighting, and so the list goes on. Magicians are not equal. One of our main characters, Rhys, is less equal in the area of bug-control than others.
Shape-shifters is the other strange product of tinkering (possibly). There is a legend that they are a product of the union of Angels and humans. Hurley doesn’t tell us that shape-shifters have been made by genetic engineers, so my understanding is just a guess.
“The war still raged along the ever-changing border with Chenja. Nyx started up her storefront with the dancer and tech in Punjai, a border city at the heart of the bounty-hunting business. While she was in prison, Punjai had been swallowed by the Chenja for six months, the “liberated” by a couple of brillian Nesheenian magicians and an elite terrorist-removal unit. All of the city’s prayer wheels were burned and the old street signs were put back up. There had been air raids and rationing and a couple of more poisoned waterworks, but, as ever, the war was just life, just how things clicked along – one exhausting burst and bloated body at a time.”
Three thousand years of constant killing has to do something to a population and the environment. Umayma is certainly no paradise with areas of it contaminated by biological bombs, human disease carriers and the drafting of men to the front lines. Nasheen and Chenja have solved the dearth of male genetic availability in two different ways. In Nasheen they rely on artificial insemination and breeding tanks for new generations. In Chenja they use a more traditional method of one male to many females to get the job done. Rhys is from Chenja.
Nyx is the goddess of night, the daughter of Chaos, and also the name of our main character. Our Nyx is unpredictable, loyal to those she cares about, principled and passionate. However, values created by people in times of peace or the powerful are not hers. I truly adore Nyx. Hurley portrays her strength and vulnerability in a manner that I can believe and that appeals to me. Definitely my favorite character of the story, and maybe my all-time favorite character.
Rasheeda (shape-shifter) is one loony bird. Holy cow, that woman has sanity issues. No wonder Nyx is wary of her. Bel dames might be sanctioned by the queen, but some of them do messy wet-work with lust and gusto. Creepy lady.
This cover is stunning. Those green eyes and the light together. Wow.
I laugh a little when I see someone has picked up both Assured Destruction and 24 Bones because they are so different. And perhaps my apprenticeship is over and it’s time to choose a genre.
Nah! Take your time. Why ruin a good thing?
I arrived early at the Great Pyramid, and for a special few minutes I was the only one inside. Within the King’s Chamber I noticed that every sound reverberated strongly…soo powerfully. I had researched the resonance of the chamber but being there was entirely different. So, checking over my shoulder, looking down into the grand gallery to ensure I was alone, I then clambered inside the rose granite sarcophagus, and began to hum.
I really enjoyed 24 Bones. Not at first. Not when I was wondering if this was going to be a conversion attempt by Michael F. Stewart. Thankfully, Stewart wasn’t that kind of annoying author. What I had thought preaching was instead an in depth comparison between the Christian (Coptic) godhead and the Egyptian Osiris/Isis/Horus legends. I knew some of this stuff but hadn’t realized how many beliefs the two systems had in common.
24 Bones is kind of about good and bad, except not really. The person who apparently serves evil doesn’t really. The character who seems to serve good does but also faces his demons. Then we have the third person. I’m not really certain how to describe him. Maybe as some one who looks for the easy way out? In other words, regular people.
David, Sam and Faris are tools of a prophecy that comes to fruition every 500 years. All of them access something called Void or Fullness (a kind of magic). Fullness (order) is waning and Void (chaos) is on the rise. The ideal is a balance between the two.
Balance is something the world lacks. There is always some species threatening eco-systems around the world. We humans just happen to do so all over the place. Power is possibly one of the greatest motivators for making the world chaotic. Pharaoh has power as his main goal in 24 Bones, and with it he is going to do what all power-hungry maniacs have tried to do throughout history: topple existing power-systems and take over the world. History and today show just how power-hungry countries/leaders/people can be and what they are willing to do to achieve ultimate power.
There was plenty of action, strange people and strange animals. Egypt is an interesting country. I have only been there on a two-week holiday and there was never a sarcophagus around that I could climb into. I am thankful that there are people like Michael F. Stewart who will do that kind of thing so my reading experience can be more authentic.
The Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court in the USA has the potential of being a decision that will impact not only them but other countries as well. Dylan Greene’s essay on the subject is amazing.
Another reading aloud project is on its way. This time my son and I have had the honor of reading Jude Fisher‘s tale about the world of Elda.
Sorcery Rising was a pleasure to read out loud. Ms. Fisher’s words were a joy to pronounce and join together in rows and rows of images. Each time one of the old Norse words appeared was especially fun. Here in Norway we are still taught the meaning of some of the language. On Iceland old Norse is almost intact – enough that the Islanders can read the old texts. Anyways, old Norse is incredibly fun to speak. See sample at bottom of post.
Reading aloud is a strange experience. When the person I am reading to is one who appreciates both the snuggle time and relief from the hard work that comes with dyslexia, I feel as if what I am doing is making life better for at least one person. Jude Fisher made that job simpler for me by making her words flow.
Katla is a fun person. She is her father’s favorite and somewhat indulged. In a sense I guess she could be called a free soul, or at least a person who seems to be themselves fully. Climbing rocks, metal-working, teasing and being teased by her brothers, having her mother despair of Katla ever becoming lady-like, and prone to be impulsive. I can see why she would get into serious trouble. And she does. The kind that gets you burned if you are an Istrian.
Katla, herself, is Eyran. While less patriarchal than the Istrians (who hide their women from the public sphere), the Eyran fathers still have control over the lives of their daughters. Freedom goes only so far, and that length is decided by men. Physical strength matters. While Katla is strong from her smithy-work, she is easily taken down by the men around her. Her twin, Fent, is one who likes to pit himself against his sister.
Twins, yet so different of temperament. Where Katla is impulsive, Fent is volatile. Both seem to be touched by the super-natural. Their expressions of that power differs greatly. Fent fears and hates what challenges his beliefs of humanity. Katla seems to take life as it comes.
Halli, their older brother is the sibling that is set to inherit when their parents die. With that comes a sense of responsibility. Or perhaps Halli is naturally stable. He is going to need it in the times to come.
Their father, Aran, has been touched by magic and not in a positive way. Poor guy. Normally Aran is a man known for his common sense and stable nature. With the geas placed on him he becomes driven and irrational. His children do not understand what is going on and they fear and despise the changes in their father.
Saro Vingo is the younger brother in the Vingo family of the Istrian world. As a younger brother he is always being held up and found wanting against his older and extremely handsome brother, Tanto. Tanto is a douche-bag, a cruel user of people and animals.
Tycho Issian is an interesting character. The man is obsessed with Falla, the goddess of the Istrians. When his daughter, Selen, tries to stand up to her father, Tycho is willing to send her to the daughters of Falla if she does not obey his will. But his obsession is about to change.
Sorcery Rising is somewhat explicit, both sexually and violence wise, but not unduly so. I think its target audience is from older young adults and up.
You know, Ailric is a douchebag. He is about as power-starved as you can possibly get and Tanith is his way to the throne. Talk about being willing to do and say anything to get his way. Humans are less than dirt to him and his jealousy knows no bounds. As if he has anything to be jealous about. Tanith tells him over and over and over again that she is not interested and could he please stop touching her. Being the third in line for the throne of the “elves”, Tanith feels pressured by many of the folks at home to bind herself to Ailric as the joining of their two families is seen as a good match.
According to Psychology Today a person with a narcissistic personality disorder is one who is arrogant, lacks empathy for other people, needs a lot of admiration. Narcissists are cocky, self-centered, manipulative and demanding. They are focused on unlikely outcomes (I don’t know – like becoming consort to Tanith) and feel they deserve special treatment. For some reason they have a high self-esteem – which goes along with their arrogance. If their self-esteem is threatened they may become aggressive (like Ailric’s threats and actions toward both Gair and Tanith) even though their self-esteem is rooted in the bedrock of who they are.
Holy cow, this is soooo Ailric. He manages to match all of the qualities. Like I said: a complete and total douchebag.
Gair is your basic good guy. He’s not perfect, not by a long shot. In fact he is feeling pretty murderous when it comes to Savin. I get this need for vengeance. Not that anyone has ever effected the killing of one of my loved ones, but there have been people I would have liked to, at the very least, beat up. People who hurt my children in any way come to mind – even if mine are adult now. In real life I prefer the good guys (and women). I happen to be married to one of the most decent men on earth. Like Gair they are all flawed in some manner, but something shines through. This strange quality is what Ms. Cooper manages to catch in her writing. Someone like Gair is often presented in a manner that makes me wriggle uncomfortably due to their unbelievability. But Ms. Cooper stays far, far, far away from that trap. Gair is a guy I would like to hug just because he is huggable. I guess he could be good-looking but that is not what I am remembering – and I finished The Raven’s Shadowat 6 am this morning.
I kid you not. I am 49 years old in a few days and I read through the night. What’s an old woman doing with an all-night-read? Shame on you Ms. Cooper for keeping me up all night. That seldom happens any longer, but I just had to finish. Now I have to wait another year or two for the next installment. What I have just done is a basic case of hurry up and wait. Oh, well. Old age is no guarantee for learning from experience. I choose to blame it all on Ms. Cooper. No personal responsibility at all – oh no!
Teia is the other extremely interesting main character. Poor girl. Once it was discovered she had the talent, she has had to be extremely careful about letting on how strong she was/is. Not only has she needed to watch out for the clan speaker, but she has also had a less than ideal relationship with the clan chief. Well, relationship is a bit strong. Before she was 16 he abused and raped Teia until he had impregnated her. Good thing she ran away even if it did lead to her becoming banfaith of the Lost Ones. A banfaith is a prophetess or oracle. Understandably, Teia feels awfully young for the kind of responsibility she holds. In a sense she is considered next to Baer (their chief) in authority. The Lost Ones ask for her guidance on where to travel which is kind of natural as Teia sees where they need to go. Where the Lost Ones need to go is to the enemy to warn them of the pending invasion.
Ytha is Teia’s old teacher. She is the one who should have made certain that Teia received proper training for a Speaker. But Ytha is afraid of what would happen if someone has more power than she. Anything (including murdering people perceived as obstacles) is acceptable to achieve her goals. Ytha’s goal is to lead all of the Nimrothi clans into the old home-land – together with her chief Drwyn as chief of chiefs. I would not like to get into her way.
Elspeth Cooper’s writing has appealed to me from the beginning. She is one of those rare people who has a gift. In all likelihood Ms. Cooper works hard to provide us with a novel of this quality. But, you know, there is that extra indefinable something that gifted people have.
First of all I am going to talk about going off on tangents. My thing is words – Autism is part of me. That means that sometimes the sound of a word in my head or the way it feels in my mouth sets me off on a chase. One of the words in Earth’s Blood that set me off was Lemurian. The Lemurians are also called the Old Ones and are hated by both the Celtic gods, of which Fionn is one, and Aislinn. But the name Lemurian. It keeps on going round and round in my head. Part of it has to do with lemurs. Lemurs are soooo cute/adorable/sweet (maybe not) and all of those adjectives that we give animals that look like them. The other part was when I started looking for things to do with Lemurian on the net. Wow, there is actually a whole belief system centered around the concept (see links below). People are fascinating.
Sometimes when I read a novel one of the characters begins to annoy me. Once I realise what is happening I stop and ask myself why. This time it was Aislinn’s way of handling her situation that got to me. I was getting more and more frustrated with her until I finally stopped and looked at what it was I was projecting. Surprise, surprise. Thinking is problematic to my imagined self.
One of the things that bothered me was all of the sex between Aislinn and Fionn. This is coming from the woman who claims that she wishes there was as much sex (vanilla kind) in novels as there is action. In Earth’s Blood there is. But it bothered me and here is why: Conditioning. My child-hood religion is very orthodox. Sex is no exception to the rule. That in itself makes the whole concept of reading about it – even when it is as well written as Ms. Gimpel writes it – problematic. Oatmeal has a really great poster on the subject. It is funny and incredibly sad at the same time.
My other problem with descriptive sex was my childhood. I was sexually abused by some of my relatives and that scarred me and made sex less than fun for a long, long time (my poor husband). Once I realised what was going on in my head and emotions I could let go of the pain. Sex is good for me now. I got so turned on by some of the scenes that I dragged my husband upstairs and had some adult playtime.
The other thing that annoyed me was how volatile Aislinn was. Once again I had to stop myself from reacting and instead looked at what on earth was causing such a strong emotion in me. One of the things going on between Aislinn and Fionn was a whole lot of insecurity about their relationship from Aislinn’s side. No wonder, considering how it all came about and all of the challenges thrown their way (an understatement if there ever was one). I looked at my own insecurities when it comes to people and especially my husband. Being an autist is a challenge when it comes to a relationship – both for me and my non-autistic husband. My husband is the kind that shows his love through action and not through words. For me that is incredibly cryptic. My thinking muscles are severely challenged when trying to interpret what is going on in our relationship. We have been together 25 years, so I ought to have caught on by now, but you know – some people are just slow.
The other thing that caught me was what happened when Aislinn discovered she was pregnant and the following abortion. The myth about pregnant women being volatile is no myth. Sometimes our hormones take over completely and there isn’t much we can do about it. Add to that the new relationship between Aislinn and Finn and Aislinn just beginning to open her sealed chest of grief over her many losses in life thus far – and my feelings about Aislinn changed.
Is there action in Earth’s Blood. I realise that the above might have made you think otherwise, but there is plenty of action. Plenty, plenty, plenty. And like the sex it is detailed but not explicit (if that makes sense). The dark gods (another concept that sent me off on a tangent) and the old ones used to fight each other. But in their craving for control over the earth they have pooled their resources for the time being. Power is such a seductive thing and power is what both the Old Ones and the Dark Gods want. Power over the people and power to consume the earth’s resources.
By destroying anything to do with technology they have handicapped humans. And by killing off people without magic they have reduced the population and the potential number of people who could rise up against them. These are the creatures the Celtic gods and Aislinn and their bond animals have to fight. But when one of those Celtic gods is a dragon there is hope. Especially when that dragon does what she does best and goes off on a mission of rescue. I like Dewi. She is a cranky, self-important, stubborn, independent and insecure dragon who is terribly lonely as the only dragon left on earth. I believe she is my favorite character.
Anyways, Earth’s Blood affected me and helped me realise something about myself. That is probably one of the more important things an author can achieve. My imaginary hat off to Ann Gimpel.
I have to add one comment here. If you are one of those who struggles with talking to your teenagers about sexuality, I recommend letting them read this series. There is a lot of action and a whole lot of wholesome and fun sex in it. Sexuality is shown as something fragile in new relationships while also showing how turned on by each other people are at the beginning of a relationship.
I’ve reviewed an ARC copy, so Earth’s Blood is not out on the market yet. For a description: