Monday, September 24, 2018

Salt and moonlight

I'm happy Seanan McGuire hasn't retired October Daye yet, and Night and Silence is more evidence that the series still has legs 12 volumes in.

We pick up not long after the events of the last volume, with Tybalt and Jazz (October's fiance and her fetch's girlfriend, respectively), unable to process being kidnapped and locked into their animal forms at the hands of October's mother. Her Liege, Sylvester, is still unhappy about his brother Simon. And, as we open this volume, October's estranged daughter has been kidnapped again.

We find out about Gillian's kidnapping when October's ex husband and his new wife Miranda show up on her doorstep not long past dawn. What we have is a blood filled car, vandalism of both Gillian's car and her residence, and a really intrusive roommate. Oh, and all of Gillian's stuff at Berkeley has sachets of anti-fae herbs, making everyone in the party sick.

Along the path of tracking down Gillian, we meet a Baobhan Sith who had been trapped as a booby trap, and find a place that shouldn't exist that features a house on chicken legs.

Oh yes, and we get more on how the Roane became Selkies and Maeve's Last Ride.

All in all, othe rthan the villains being from out of left field, it's an excellent addition to a fabulous series.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Prophecy of the Phoenix

And at last, the Tribe novels wind down with Black Spiral Dancers by Eric Griffin and Wendigo by Bill Bridges, the last double Werewolf feature in the series.

For The Spirals, we focus on Arkady, the long disgraced Silver Fang long rumored to have become a traitor to the Gaians.  We spend much of the first part retracing his steps on the Silver Spiral as he tries to confront the Wyrm in the heart of its realm. This has a few odd consequences, such as his decent into Malfeas and eventually redeeming the White Howler's totem.

By far the biggest part of this is Arkady's eventual redemption by Falcon, and the gift or a duplicate Silver Crown. In the end, Arkady rallies the ghosts of long dead Silver Fangs at the lair of Jo'Cllath'Mattric and leads them into battle.

Then comes Wendigo, as John North Wind's Son meets his daddy before the North American moot to figure out what to do about the Lore Banes.

Essentially, King Alberecht leads the Silver River Pack and a large number of North American werewolves into the Umbra to the lair of the memory eating dragon. While several folks die, none of the major names do, and we're left with the lore at the heart of the dragon, one that states that the Apocalypse is nigh, and the Gaians will die in short amounts of time.

The Tribe Novels thankfully have been much less disjointed than the Clan Novels, but they've still had their issues here and there. on the bright side, props for the downer ending.

The Bloodsucking Brady Bunch

So, I'm running behind, because last week was a little...off kilter. I technically finished Clan Novel: Anthology edited by Stewart Wieck over a week ago.

Anyway, this closes out the now 14 volume Clan Novel Saga, mostly checking in on characters after the Camarilla takeover of New York city, with a brief moment or two to talk about the fall of hour Goratrix in the Sabbat, as well as a brief reminder that [Tzimisce] is now fitfully dozing under Manhattan, instead of being fully asleep. Also shows that while Anatole might have undergone Final Death, it hasn't slowed him down much.

Most is it is about what you'd expect, with a few of the stories following an artist beloved by both Toreador and Tremere clans, who's final masterpiece is carved into the back of a Nosferatu. Said Nosferatu meets his end in the last story, encouraged by Anatole to fly through the gates of hell and feed the thing under the city in hopes of putting off its awakening. 

Some of it, like Fatima's entry, show how the characters have grown since their novel. (In this case, The path of Allah takes precedence over the path of Ur Shugli, who speaks for Haqim.) Or showing Ramona whine more about not being able to save her Sire and the Buffalo Gangrel.

While it really doesn't do much beyond tie up a few loose ends, it's a fitting conclusion to the occasional disjointed saga.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Signs and Portents

Robert Jackson Bennett's new trilogy starter, Foundryside, again shows his love of world buildingand giving readers delicate morsels of that world, whetting the appetite for more answers. In this particular case, though, the major protagonists are just as in the dark as the reader.

Given the characters all refer to the world as Earth, we'll assume we're in a much altered timeline. The action, however, centers on the city of Tevanne, and the four major corporations that run the city and its colonies. Our main character, Sancia, live between the Corporate campos in the foundryside, where laws don't particularly matter. Indeed, Sancia makes her money thieving,  and we meet her as she's trying to break into a warehouse on the docks to steal something from a safe.

Her rather improvised methodology for the break in introduces us to the concept of Sigils and the Scriveners who write them. Essentially, with the right signs, one can rewrite reality around objects. Things like making a arrow be convinced it's much more dense than it really is, and has been falling for several more feet than it actually has. (They get deeper into the physics later in the book, but for the sake of ease, we'll define the system here as symbols convince objects to be something they aren't.)

Eventually, and with a small bit of unexpected issues, Sancia gets the box and makes her way back to her safe house. Curiosity gets the best of her, which is when we meet Clef, the talking key that can open just about anything. Having a talking key can be a bit challenging, however, Clef does manage to drag Sancia out of her shell a bit, showing us her upbringing on one of the colonial islands and the forbidden act that frees her. (Briefly put, in a normally fatal proceedure, they insert a scrivened plate in Sancia's head that mostly lets her hear scrivenings.)

Investigating her break in, is Gregor Dandolo, son of the Founder of House Dandolo. Gregor is a former soldier, hero of the Enlightenment Wars, and called revenant for surviving a siege that killed off all of his men. Gregor has a thirst for justice, regardless of whom is guilty. Almost getting killed while trying to arrest Sancia gets him more wrapped into this adventure, that eventually leads to Orso and Berenice, the Master Scriviner of House Dandolo and his assistant. Who eventually all wind up with the Scrappers, folks who are scriviners not affiliated with a Corporate House for whatever reason.

There's a lot going on here.

We hear legends of the Hierophants, giants from prehistory who used the sigils (those which God used to create the world) to recreate the world in their image, and how the wars of the Hierophants left deserts and destroyed parts of the world. We hear of a God in a box used by one of the Hierophants. We even get inklings about certain Founders who are trying to regain the powers of the Hierophants through their artifacts.

By the end, we have an inkling of two sides of the forthcoming conflict promised in subsequent volumes.

It's very interesting, and thankfully, there really isn't any long Jurassic Park style passage were we get told the principles of the concepts involved. I mean, yes we get a few explanations here and there, but there's not a 10 page treatise on how all of this works. Much like his last series, most of the themes involved here deal with the nature of the freedom of man, and thinking of one's self as an item rather than as a human. I look forward to the next book, and hope it's more of a direct continuation than the Divine Cities trilogy gave us.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Wow, that's an ugly way to wrap things up.

So, the Clan Novels proper end in Gherbod Fleming's Nosferatu, the ugliest clan in the Final Nights. (Technically, there are a couple of blood lines that are just as ugly, but Nosferatu remain the undisputed champions of beasts under the bed.) According to clan legend, the clan's Antediluvian was beautiful and vain, so when Caine cursed his grandchildren, he got cursed with with uglies. Mind you, he had one child he couldn't destroy, so he created more to go hunt them down and destroy those he couldn't find. Thus why half the characters in here are convinced there's a Niktuku living under Manhattan. They're incorrect, and what's under Manhattan is just a teensy bit worse, although we don't find out what's under the city quite yet. (I think that particular reveal is in the Anthology that serves as the last volume.)

So, our signature character here is Calabros, the leader of the Camarilla Nosferatu of New York. (Sabbat aligned Nosferatu aren't generally enemies of the main clan, clan generally takes precedence over sect affiliation.) We've met Calabros a few times in previous volumes, as he directs his clan mates and collects information to type out on an old typewriter in the NYC sewers.

As such, we spend much of the book flashing back through the 12 preceding volumes, filling in gaps in the narrative as to what's actually been going on. Such as Benito's kidnapping back in Toreador. Seems old Benito was one of those involved in the death of the Nosferatu Justicar Petrodon a few years prior, and the original intent had been to kidnap him in Atlanta for information. When he cancelled, they were forced to kidnap him in Boston.

As events proceed, we find that Nikolai, one of the very few Sabbat Tremere (technically House Goratrix) to survive the ritual in Mexico City, is actually Leopold's sire, embraced for his part in the death of Petrodon. Given Leo was a sculptor, is wasn't that hard to brainwash him into thinking he was a Toreador and send him away, particularly since he had to talent for Thaumaturgy.

We wind up in November of 1999, in the middle of the Camarilla coup of New York, as Lucinde and Pascek are found to not be the only Justicars in the city. Indeed, Cock Robin, the Nosferatu Justicar is in town after Calabros solves the riddle of Petrodon's death.

So, let's see, Leo killed Bentio in Vegas a few books back, a really odd fight occurs in this volume involving Theo, Hesha, Ramona, and Victoria ends with the death of Leopold, and Nikolai gets burned out of his haven by Aisling, and then found in the deepest sewers by Cock Robin and Calabros, after Calabros solves one of Anatole's riddles. His death, which is almost right out of the last segment of the old movie Creepshow, is one of the more disturbing things in this book. (Frankly, there's a lot of disturbing stuff in this book, like the kennels and the thing under the city.)

End result, Victoria gets offered the title of Prince, the role she was seeking in Atlanta when this started. However, Paseck's nomination has 6 paragraphs, so she turns it down in her attempt to thwart fate. As such, Calabros becomes Prince of New York, unaware of what lurks in his home.

A good ending to the series, and probably the best entry over all. One only wishes the plot unveiled within would have been better hinted at in earlier volumes, since half of the overall plot in the series feels like they added it in after the series was already being published.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

I see a bad moon a rising.

So, as we near the end of the Tribe novels, the steam really picks up, as does the writing.

We start with Carl Bowen's Silver Fangs, which focuses on long time center of the Werewolf universe, Jonas Albrecht. Jonas, who bears the Silver Crown, is theoretically King of the Werewolves. Not that this particularly earns him respect among the other tribes, particularly those not from his North American protectorate. As such, his decision to leave his packmate's (Mari Cabrah, still in a coma after the events in Black Furies), side to join the fight in Eastern Europe, which means dealing with Margrave Konietzko and his European factions. Most of whom hate him. On the other hand, this does introduce Queen Tamara Tvarivich, the Russian Silver Fang who takes Arkady's word over Albrecht.

What ends up happening is Albrecht challenges the European leaders and winds up leading the faction leaders into battle in the Balkans where the Black Spiral Dancers are having a ritual to free Jo'cllath'mattric from the bonds that hold him. A lot of dead werewolves later, the rite is stopped with only a few bonds broken, the Europeans mostly respecting Albrect, and a worried phone call from Evan leaving us on a cliffhanger about Mari.

Then we start into Tim Dedopulos's Glass Walkers, which centers around Julia of the Silver River Pack, and picks up right after they recovered Cries Havoc's memories. The pack winds up traveling back to London (through a Moon Bridge this time, since Storm Eye has no desire to travel in a metal tube ever again) where we get to see the inner workings of an urban caern. It also allows us to see how far Julia has come, since she's now much more a pack member than a Glass Walker. However, she's still a technoshaman, which helps them track down a pack of Lore Banes hiding out in London, since they contain information on Jo'cllath'mattric. Mind you, Julia does a summoning that winds up with her meeting her Tribe's totem, Cockroach.

The fight with the Lore Banes doesn't go well until Julia invokes the trapped Story Spirits within them. (This is likely why I love this series. The idea of stories being spirits that grow in power as they're told makes me happy on some level.) This stuns the Banes, and they're defeated, releasing a bunch of stories across the universe.

Including on that gives them an idea on how to help Mari. So, we go back to the Finger Lakes, where Evan and Julia do the ritual, where the Black Spiral whom the pack dealt with back in Bone Gnawers comes back and tries to kill them all. He doesn't succeed, but Mari is now recovering. Jo'cllath'mattric is now mostly awake and thrashing at his weakened bonds, this setting up the final books in the series.

While some of these have been mediocre  at best, both of these are well written and well plotted.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Pinky swears and and dead people

I for the life of me can't remember how Shawn Sarles's Campfire got recommended to me. I normally wouldn't have read it, since it has James Patterson's name attached to it and it's theoretically Young Adult, but it was there and I read it.

We basically have 3 families on a camping trip in the Colorado Rockies, even though they're all from California. Maddie is our protagonist, along with her former enemy now bestie Chelsea. Maddie's mom died in a fire prior to the start of the book.

Maddie has a crush on Caleb, their guide for the week. Chelsea has a crush on Maddie's older brother Charlie.

Under the light of the full moon, three stories get told around the campfire, one involving a trained bar that eats people, one involving a mental patient that kills people, and one involving the Mountain Men, who also kill people.

Then people in real life strt dying in a manner similar to the tales, leading to a chase down the mountain to safety, with everyone trying to figure out who's trying to kill them.

The relationships are ill defined, and trying to figure out who's actually involved with whom isn't particularly easy. The adults are really unsympathetic, and indeed, the children are just as bad. For that matter, the ending and the identity of the killers is straight out of the original Scream.

When I originally picked it up, I was expecting something more akin to a book I remember reading back in high school with a similar set up. (I don't remember the name; I do remember it was published under the Zebra imprint and the cover featured a campfire with a wolf rising from the smoke. That one concerned a group of campfire tales told by boy scouts that started coming true, and it turned out the weird kid had been promised to Satan by his mother in a book club meeting. I still think the book would have been better if it had focused on the bowling ball that had been promised to Satan at the same meeting.)

It's readable, but forgettable. One wishes the author had gone for an adult novel and had more of a chance to develop the characters and maybe better plotted out the relationships so that it had more depth than cardboard cut outs on popsicle sticks doing pantomime.

20 years on, and it's still a mess

So, I hit one of the volumes in the Clan Novels I remember being problematic, and unlike some of the other ones, Eric Griffin's Tremere remains a train wreck from start to finish. This is not to say that Aisling Strurbridge, Regent of the Chantry of Five Boroughs in New York is a boring character or that her arc is is silly, it's more that the plotting that ensnares her makes no sense and is never particularly explained. Also, more than a few passages appear to be lifted directly from prior volumes, and the entire thing ends before the time frames previous volumes did. Which means it really doesn't progress the timeline at all. Indeed, it's almost as if it should have been an earlier release.

Aisling runs the under siege Chantry of Five Bouroughs, complete with a Regent Secundus who's been investigating Hazimel's other eye. Said Secundus gets killed by an Assamite in the chantry during a ritual gone wrong. (A brief history of the Tremere clan. The clan got its start in a system that predated the modern World of Darkness as a human Hermetic magical order. As the system expanded, they became a House of the Order of Hermes, who were losing access to magick during the early medieval period. As such, Tremere's disciple Goratrix found a way to turn eight of the disciples into vampires. Which was all well and good, until they realized that they lost access to true magick, the Order now hated them, and the rest of vampire society hated them. The seven disciples diablerized themselves up to Fourth generation, while Tremere himself ended up eating an Antediluvian, Saulot, who at the time was Vampire Jesus. [Saulot got revamped a lot the longer the game went on. Indeed, he started becoming much less the Enlightened One, and much more sinister.] Of the Originla Seven, about 4 are still active at this point in the Novels. Goratrix joined the Sabbat in the Victorian Era, Meerlinda runs North America, Etrius runs the Clan from Vienna.)

Anyway, we do fill in gaps as to how Sturbridge got the sketch of Leopold that she presented in Baltimore. But that's really about it in the greater scheme of the plot. For the most part, she (and just about everyone else at the chantry) is dealing with Tremere internal politics and one poorly defined Acolyte who evidently has connections in Vienna.

So yeah. It's readable, but that's about the best I can say about it.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Set, hut, kick em in the butt!

So, I technically finished Gherbod Fleming's Brujah earlier this weekend, but a birthday celebration in Cincinnati left me with few options to update on here.

Anyway, we're mostly concerned with Theo Bell, loyal Brujah archon under Jaroslav Pascek, and his defense of Baltimore from the ravaging hordes of Sabbat. Which goes better than expected, once he and Jan Pieterzoon find and kill the traitor in their midst, deal with Hesha's interrogation of Malkavians about Anatole's last prophecy, and invade New York City. That would be the big surprise in this one, along with Vykos using her Assamite turned fake ghoul to take out Cardinal Polonia, former archbishop of New York.

So, yeah, as one would expect from the rage filled clan of philosophers and iconoclasts, it's fairly action packed, with Theo trying to get around politics to get stuff done. that his boss is in town, as is Lucinde, the Justicar of Clan Ventrue, and one gets an idea Theo's in a bit over his head, particularly when Jan and Theo find out their plot was already in motion under different auspices when they arrive in New York.

At the end, they let slip that there's a third Justicar in New York, acting independently.

Fun read, and a welcome relief from some of the awkward plotting in previous volumes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ha *glub* Ha *glub*

River of Bones by Taylor Anderson came in at the library, so I've been back on antiquated ships for the past week as the United Alliance of Homes and Allies has been busy fighting with Task Force Bottle Cap and hopefully soon, the Battle of Paso del Fuego. (Which has been previewed for about 3 books now. With the Army of the Sisters approaching Corazon, one hopes next book will detail this.)

Anyway, we're mostly concerned with the Zambezi River and the armored freighter Santa Catalina, who's entire goal is to head off the Final Swarm at a choke point in the river with support from the carrier Arracca. (This is not to say we don't get updates from around the world, but...) Santy Cat, as she's affectionately called, does her job admirably, particularly when Chak-At-Saab and Dennis Silva show up to relieve her crew.

In the mean time, Bradford, Bekiaa, and the Republic are busy trying to cross a river, dealing with Grik who've figured out breastworks. While they eventually succeed, it comes a bit late, after Bottle Cap grounds itself on the shores of the river.

In the meantime, evil Gravois is in the Caribbean, trying to cement an alliance between the fascist League and the Aztec meets Catholicism Dominion. Given boith parties involved (Gravois and Don Hernan) are fairly evil, one expects that alliance to last until the backstabbing begins.

While the evolution of the Grik remains fascinating to read, they're quickly hitting a point where they're going to end up retiring the field, since at this point, their offensive is ground into dust, and their goal becomes to hold the homeland.

Also, we have a German Uboat and Kurokawa's second defecting at the end, joining the allies. We also lose a few major characters, as is usual.

It's a good read, but once again, I kind of wish he'd get to George R.R. Martin levels of character control.