Friday, December 28, 2012

Why are we neck deep in the Unseelie Court?

Oh yeah, because Dresden died two books ago and came back as the Winter Knight at the end of the last book.

Slowly progressing through Cold Days, book 13 in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Progress has been slow due to the holidays, work, and a distinct lack of free time recently.

However, it's becoming one of the better books in the very long running series. (I remember back in the day when they were short and paperback. I know, get off my lawn.)

As I mentioned in the opening, two books ago, Harry Dresden died at the end. Then his ghost ran around, only to be resurrected by Queen Mab to serve as her Winter Knight. Which is where this book starts off, treating us to a fairly amusing recovery montage of Mab trying to kill Harry once a day, every day, for 11 months while he goes through Physical Therapy. And, wow does she get creative. Even if not many details are given on every method, more than a few provide a chuckle, like a brief mention of a crocodile with a ticking noise in its stomach.

On the Eve of Harry's birthday (Halloween, natch), Mab throws a party in his honor at Arctis Tor, kind of the fey version of Superman's Fortress of Solitude. We get reintroduced to Maeve, Mab's errant daughter, the Redcap (interestingly, most of the named sidhe are usually treated as a "clan" in other novels involving fairies. For instance, in Cold Days, Cait Sidhe is one actual being. In the October Daye novels, the Cait Sidhe are a breed.), and several other assorted fey folks in the court of Winter..

During a dance with Mab, she offers her first command to her new knight: Kill Maeve. Harry returns to Chicago and starts getting back involved with the several supporting characters involved in the series, trying to figure out how to do just that. As well as figure out how to stop his own private island in the middle of Lake Michigan from blowing up and taking most of the midwest with it.

Add into this several fairies of all shapes and sizes trying to kill him, and you have a fairly fast paced novel filled with intrigue as Harry tries to figure out what the hell is actually going on.

In other series, a character like Harry would be like a sword cutting through a Gordian knot of intrigue. Thankfully, Butcher prefers to allow intrigue equal footing with action, making the reader think through the consequences of Harry's actions as much as Harry does. A tough row to hoe, but fairly deftly handled.

Whil my favorite in the series will probably always be Dead Beat, Cold Days is a welcome book in a fabulous series. For those who haven't read the series, start with Storm Front and keep going. It'll be like buttah.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

There's something about Albuquerque...

And it isn't the Weird Al song that goes on for 15 minutes live.

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet becomes the fourth book in Darynda Jones's Grave series. And oh boy.

I'll admit, the first book (First Grave on the Right) annoyed me, mainly because it wasn't until about a third of the way through the narrative did she give us any setting information. It was a bit like SE7EN, where we knew only we were in an urban area and something was amiss. It got better, obviously, since I'm reading book four, but first impressions tend to stick around.

Charley, who is THE Grim Reaper (unlike Maddy in the Black Wings novels, who is A Grim Reaper), spends most of the novels letting people "cross over" as they walk through her. She works as a P.I. with her partner/secretary Cookie; deals with her dad (a retired cop who now runs the bar her office was located over) and her uncle (still a cop, and uses Charley's leads to solve cases); hates her stepmother; oh, and she's in a very dysfunctional relationship with Reyes Farrow, who's parentage is pretty much the focus of the first book.

Now, given the last book involved Charley getting tortured and nearly killed towards the end, and Fourth starts with Charley becoming a recluse, spending her time ordering Home Shopping Channel junk and generally trying to ignore the world outside. Things get moving with a new client walking into her apartment and Reyes returning to her life.

The only problem with Reyes' return is that it seems to have derailed the plot. I'm interested in the mystery here; the client has been having stuff straight out of Fatal Attraction happening to her since she was 5. (For those of you not alive in the 80's, let's just say that Glenn Close did to a bunny what Cruella DeVille was trying to do to Dalmatians. Charley's client keeps finding broken necked bunnies and stuffed bunnies with stuffing missing from the neck in her house, usually on the bed.)

Of which, two thirds of the way through, Charley really hasn't done much but interview the client's shrew of a step mother. Instead, we've focused on Charley's slow return to normal, demonic possession (The demons want Charley, since she's a gate to the afterlife), and one whole hell of a lot of Reyes Farrow and her lust for him. While I enjoy the tension between the two characters, it's almost a less healthy relationship than that between Bella and Edward. It's saved by the fact that Charley can take care of herself, but still, she keeps getting in to trouble because she just can't quit him. (and given Reyes was in prison during the start of the series, we've already been through the people wanting to marry/love men on death row. It wasn't pretty.)

I dunno. I enjoy the series, the narrator is fairly funny. I just get annoyed when the plot becomes window dressing for the author's personal sex fantasies. I don't bear a grudge towards erotica, I just get annoyed when it becomes the focus of the narrative for the sake of being smut. Which, while this series is borderline, it hasn't crossed that line as of yet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Back to the London Wizard

Finishing Benedict Jacka's Cursed and trying to figure out which book comes out of the TBR pile next.

Cursed is the next book in his Alex Verus series that started in Fated, reviewed previously on here. Once again, we have Alex, our intrepid Divination mage, running around London and trying to figure out his feelings for his apprentice, Luna. (Luna is still dealing with her curse, that pretty much prevents her from coming to any harm, but instead pretty much kills off or maims anyone she gets in contact with physically.) Alex is, of course, fighting off feelings of attraction towards her, which are affecting how well he's teaching her. In the mean time, Luna has a new beau who Alex thinks is a dumbass. Quite understandably, particularly given that Martin manages to get himself a Monkey's Paw, which, for anyone who's ever read the short story, knows is a REALLY BAD THING.

Add to this that it would appear that someone has returned to a forbidden magic practice that drains a being of any potential magic and adds it to the caster. (Reason it's forbidden has to do with driving the caster insane.) Only someone has figured out a way to modify said process so it's draining magical creatures rather than humans or mages. Which of course means that Arachne, the rather large Tarantula living in the London Heaths is threatened by this. As the novel progresses, we also find out Miss Arachne has a few secrets of her own hidden in her lair, and I'm kind of interested/horrified by the erotic material that may appear at some point between what's living in her lair and the giant tarantula herself. *twitch*

We also have been introduced to Meredith the Enchantress, who more or less manipulates emotions as her main focus. She's also a cross between a femme fatale and a Bond Girl, who's working for the Ice Mage Belthas. Belthas being the one who contracted with Alex to investigate who's behind all the draining.

And of course the Dark Fire Mage Cinder is back, as is Alex's old foil/friend Deleo. Again, in this book, they're much more morally ambiguous, given their encounters in the last book, but by the same token, it's nice to not have stock characters that show up and chase Alex around like a bad D&D villain.

Really, having seen a few James Bond movies now, I can say that the series is playing in a similar trope. Minus M and Q, of course. But still, it's amusing, and it's distracting, and it reads fast. Which means I'll probably get the next book pretty soon.