Tag Archives: #ResistanceMovement

Jensen, Megg: Anathema (Cloud Prophet I) (2011)

Keeping slaves is generally not something people openly admit  today. Many countries continue this practice and my contention is that most states participate in this tradition while closing our minds and eyes to that fact. Traditionally, people have become slaves either through being conquered by another nation, power-hunger or through criminal acts.

Sometimes being conquered happens via false promises. Such is the case with the Serenian island in Anathema. Serenians were lured by promises of help from the Malborn. Once the Malborn were in force on the island, it took ten years for them to eradicate opposition. Criminals were those who would not obey the three “rules” Malborn leaders had set as a condition of harmony between the two people. “Trust, adore and obey” was what the Malborn required from the Serenians. Once you were deemed a criminal you would either be killed or enslaved along with your entire family. Add to that their military prowess, and the Malborn were bound to win.

Reychel remembers nothing but slavery. At fifteen slaves were branded with their master’s mark. This mark and their shaved heads clearly divided slaves from the rest of the population and it also make it extremely difficult for successful escapes to happen. Kandek, her master, is about to lose two of his slaves, one of whom is Reychel. The other is Ivy, Reychel’s best friend. First out is Ivy.  Fortunately for Reychel, her turn comes soon after. Her escape was public and unusual.

When slavery is all a person has known all sorts of things about being a free person had to be learned. There was a whole network set up to help escaped slaves deal with their new status. Blending in was vital. Both of them also had to come to terms with Reychel having magic powers of some sort. Ivy already knew about hers. Her ability to calm others, even to the point of forcing them to do things, becomes an important element of the story. Learning Reychel’s ability is also essential. The reader knows this long before Reychel does.

Another discovery Reychel ends up making is the value of her friendship with Ivy. Why did Ivy want her rescued, and why is Ivy acting so strange now that they are out of slave quarters? Sometimes people have different opinions of what friendship is and what friends are for.

Usually, slaves weren’t worth enough for a master to mount a search for too long. That was the case with Ivy. Reychel, however, was the exception to the rule. Kandek will not give up. If not for the friendship of one of the militia both girls would have been caught within the first weeks. There is a love interest with Marc, the militia guard. Another discovery about Ivy is the result of that interest.

Ivy is a fun character. Reychel is in line with a young adult hero type. So is Marc. All three are important to the story and the action-filled adventure Megg Jensen gives us.

Recommended.


Reviews:


Anathema can be found at Amazon

Ee, Susan: End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days III) (2015)

… “Hey, you! Dinnertime! I’m over here, you scabby rats! Come and get me!”

The Hyundai is rocking with hellions as they pile on. I’m about to screech out of the lot – or at least make donuts until all the hellions head my way and leave the rest of the people alone – when I feel a thump. The car drops on one side. Then I see the shredded rubber of a tire being flung over the hood.

That was the front tire.

I stare dumbly at the ripped-up tire as it flops and wobbles to a standstill in the parking lot.

Then so many hellions pile onto my car that I can’t see the tire anymore.

I stroke the fur of my teddy bear. It’s all I can think to do.

Pooky Bear can’t help me in a vehicle. Not a lot of room to slice and dice.

That means I need to exit the car if I want a chance at getting out of this.

I sit in the car.

I wonder how long a person can stay in a vehicle.

But then, of course, the hellions begin pounding on the windshield. (p. 105)

Susan Ee, End of Days

Jackson, Ros: Melody of Demons (Kaddon Keys I) (2015)

Melody of Demons

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.


Melody Demon was given to me by the author.

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

Farrugia, Nathan: The Chimera Vector (The Fifth Column) (2012)

The Chimera Vector
Cover design by Keerati Sarakun and Patrick Naoum
Cover typography by Andrei Stefan-Cosmin
Edited by Nicola O’Shea

The Chimera Vector portrait

The Chimera Vector set me into research mode. I started looking into “chimera vector” and discovered quite a few articles on the research into this type of transportation on the net. I have included four of them below. Chimera: a DNA molecule with sequences derived from two or more different organisms, formed by laboratory manipulation.

According to Psychology Today a psychopath is a person who exhibits a long list of character traits. One needs to show a lack of empathy (cold-heartedness, an inability to feel deeply); show a lack of shame, guilt, fear or embarrassment at ones actions; a tendency to blame others for their own failures, or no shame if confronted; show a strong ability to remain focused on a task; appear charming yet have a tendency toward pathological lying, and they seem comfortable even when found out; incredibly overconfident, as if they cannot fail; impulsive; incredibly selfish and parasitic; lack realistic long-term goals; and finally be prone to violence.

In The Chimera Vector we get to meet several people who fit the bill of a psychopath. The whole concept of psychopathy or sociopathy is extremely fascinating. It is one of those terms that we bandy about as if being a psychopath was a common thing. Looking at the list above, I see many of them that could fit myself and most other people I know. But when I take a closer look at the people I meet, I think I can say that there is probably only one one person that I could definitely call a psychopath. Long-term planning was no problem for him at all and holding power is something he has definitely been concerned with. Power behind the throne, not the apparent one that is more image than real.

Power is what The Chimera Vector is all about. The lengths people are willing to go in their hunger for power. We see people playing power games every day – within families, at work and at play. But seldom do we see power games taken to the extreme that The Chimera Vector shows. But we wouldn’t, would we. That is the whole point of The Fifth Column. People must not see the games the leaders of The Fifth Column play, for their real power lies in their secrecy. To them all the death and mayhem they deal is part of the games.

Programming soldiers like Sofia, Jay and Damien into becoming unquestioning killer robots is fun. Killing innocent people to keep the world going their way is fun. Watching countries erupt into cauldrons of fire is fun. Power is fun. Fun and addictive.

I see all this and I believe it. The Chimera Vector is believable. If some scientist manages to discover how to create weapons like The Fifth Column use, soldiers like this will be developed. Perhaps I have too cynical a view of the world, but this is what I believe. History has shown us time and again that once a power-hungry leader gains control of research and development gruesome consequences evolve. In fact, history has shown us (and shows us) that in their grasp for power the world itself becomes expendable to the power-players.

And yes, I did enjoy The Chimera Factor. A great deal, in fact.

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Reviews:

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I was given this novel by the author. Whether that affected my review is difficult to say. I’ve tried to be as objective as possible.

Francis, Diana Pharaoh: Path of Blood (Path of Fate III) (2006)

Path of Blood
Cover art by Alan Pollack
Religion, faith, beliefs seem to control so much of the world’s humans. We allow ourselves to be steered by goddesses and gods who promise all kinds of things in return for our unfailing loyalty. Political systems seem to have the same kind of hold on people. I see how soldiers willingly put their lives on the line in travelling to far-away countries on the say-so of their leaders. In both instances motivations seem to differ from anything from undying loyalty to simple greed (although greed might not be such a simple matter).

Path of Blood takes us into both these worlds. Yohuac and his absolute loyalty to the nahualli’s and the goddesses and gods of Cemanhuatl is disturbing in its completeness. Reisiltark is no different. Like heroes in a great many young adult sagas she will do anything to save her country from destruction. That she happens to be a more or less “good” person is a lucky thing for Kodu Riik. What if she had made the kind of choices that Upsakes had – who also believed that he was doing the Lady’s will.

In spite of seeing what a terrible person Aare is (and it would take a completely blind and deaf person to avoid that) the Lord Marshal of Kodu Riik is going to swear loyalty to the man the moment he takes the Iisand’s throne. To him it is the throne he is swearing himself to and not the man. But life is never like that. It is always the person we end up swearing ourselves to and the values that person emotes. That is if we are looking at tyrannies, monarchies or dictatorships. Whether we choose to follow that person out of our own free will or because we are forced does not really matter in the end. What matters is what price our loyalty ends up having. I doubt I would have the strength to gainsay a person like Aare. His way of ruling is much too brutal and frightening.

Fortunately there are sometimes alternatives. In the case of Path of Blood we have the followers of Reisiltark and the rest of the rebels. These are the ones that managed to escape the steel grip of Aare’s followers. They have set up camp by Mysane Kosk in the hope of helping Reisiltark heal their land. I think I consider people like these rebels brave. They are the ones who have the courage to stand up to a tyrant and have put their lives on the line for their freedom. Sadly that is the consequence of power-hungry people – one sometimes has to take up weapons to stop them maiming the place one lives in and the people one lives with.

I’m not certain how I feel about Reisiltark herself. I don’t know if I really believe in her. Perhaps she is too much the anguished hero. In that sense she and Yohuac are a perfect match. She fills her role as hero perfectly. Heroes are supposed to be larger than life, have amazing values and be able to make difficult decisions on who has to die when trouble arrives. This very good and very bad cast of people is part of what makes a young adult novel. In my head Path of Fate is very much a young adult novel. There is violence, gore and darkness, BUT very little of it is descriptive and the dark is interspersed with light.


Reviews:


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My review of: 

  1. Path of Fate
  2. Path of Honor

Canavan, Trudy: The High Lord (The Black Magician III) (2010)

The High Lord - 7 covers
Top left: French cover
Top 2 left: French cover
Top 2 right: Cover art by Matt Stawicki
Top right: Turkish cover
Bottom left: Indonesian cover
Bottom center: Cover art by Les Petersen
Bottom right: Russian cover

My son and I recently finished reading The Black Magician trilogy together. What he discovered is that sometimes favourite characters die. He felt that was kind of cruel of Canavan. It is one thing when the bad guys die, but good guys (especially ones you really like)? Oh, well. It is unlikely this is the last time he experiences this. Despite that, he really enjoyed himself during our adventure. As did I.

The High Lord answers all our questions about why Akkarin uses black magic. It also shows us that the powers that be sometimes make long-term decisions that are seemingly wise at the time but turn out to be bad for future generations. Accidental deaths can cause a lot of trouble down the road.

I’m still impressed with Sonea. I think that growing up rich and powerful blinds you to the reality that most people live under. Peggy McIntosh discusses this phenomenon in her White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. Sonea growing up in the slums has made her aware of the harsher sides of life and made her more open to the possibility that status quo must change. Even Rothen and Dannyl, who are open-minded for wizards, fail to understand exactly how privileged they are.

My dad grew up under extremely difficult conditions. His mom was a paranoid schizophrenic and his dad disappeared after he had enjoyed German hospitality in prison camp. Torture got the better of him and alcohol was used to self-medicate. That left my dad as the responsible person at home from a very young age. His mom did her best, but, you know, being a paranoid schizophrenic without access to medication does not help in creating stability for your children. My mom’s childhood sucked as well. Her dad was an alcoholic and her mom worked her tail off to provide for them. When my mom has told me what it was like to drag a drunk dad up three stairs to get him inside the apartment – after he had pretty much spent his earnings on booze – well, I wonder how she made it????

But that childhood made them into pretty awesome people who have always been concerned with the greater good. They turned what could have made them bitter into something that helps others each and every day (even when they are now ancient =) ). Like Sonea, not all of their decisions have been wise. But like Sonea, what they have done is try to be true to the motto of “not doing unto others what you would not like to have them do unto you”.

Sonea grew up without her parents but was fortunate enough to get to live with her aunt and uncle. This is probably what saved her (and the rest of the city). Her hunger, poverty, the Purge, being bullied by the other novices and being suspected of everything “bad” by the adult wizards did not stop her from being true to her own values. Sonea’s situation is in no way unique in the world (except for the magic that is). Poverty, war, captivity, orphanhood and homelessness are all part of the lives of a huge amount of children and adults. That people are actually able to rise above their experiences and make the world a better place is amazing. Yet people do it all the time – just like my parents have. Which is why I find Sonea utterly believable. Her decisions regarding Akkarin seem inevitable and sensible considering the kind of person she is.

Sonea and The High Lord_by_ceara_finn24-d27a8o2
Picture photoshopped by Lauren Kelly Small

Tayend is my other favorite person of this story. He is our lad from Elyne. While homosexuality was not accepted in Elyne, homosexuals were not persecuted. Unlike Dannyl’s experience in Kyralia. Being a fan of the underdog, I would have thought that Dannyl would be the one to appeal the most to me. But Tayend has an innocence about himself that seems true. When that innocence is challenged, as it is in The Novice, Tayend rises to the occasion. He is loyal to Dannyl, in love with Dannyl and willing to avoid meeting with Dannyl if that is what it takes to protect him from the wrath of the magician’s guild. I wish I could have gotten to know him better.

Cery is back and this time he finds himself with a mysterious customer who seems willing to help him find whatever Sachakans arrive at Imardin. She turns out to be different from what he had originally thought, and that causes friction. But Savara still manages to be of assistance to Cery when he needs her help most. Who to trust or who not to trust when you are a Thief, that is the question.

Reading The Black Magician trilogy with my son was my third time through the series and I still had fun and learned new things about myself and the world.

In The High Lord Trudy Canavan gifted me with really fun words to read. During part of the book she had used the words Sachaka, Akkarin and Takan a lot. My mouth was having so much fun saying those sounds. Sometimes it is really awesome to be an autist (aspergian).


Reviews:


  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 1841499625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841499628

My review of:

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice