Monday, July 28, 2014

Haven't been here in a while...

Here recently, I went through this blog and goodreads and found out new books had come out in series that I completely missed. Kelly McCullough's Bared Blade happens to be the first one to come in at the library.

I started the series waaaaay back here, so here's a quick refresher on setting. Aral lives in the city of Tien, doing work in the underworld. He started life as a Blade, a servant of the goddess of justice, Namara. Namara got killed by the new gods and her temple razed; he servants were mostly destroyed, although a few remain, working clandestinely for the new King. (Aral killed the old one.) Aral has a shadow familiar, Triss, who provides much of the comic relief.

Aral ended the last book crawling his way out of the bottle and getting a new lease on life, which is why it's kind of amusing that he's in a bar at the start of this one. (His struggles with drinking provide an undercurrent of conflict throughout.) However, like any good noir (even fantasy noir), trouble walks in wearing the form of two beautiful women, one of whom resembles Aral's old flame.

The fact that both women share a mind with a meld has kind of an effect on their relationship with Aral. (They're the visible parts of a Dyad, two bonded mages who also share a third mind, in this case named Valor of Steel.) The Dyad also happen to be targets of the local Elite Kingsguard, who break in and tear up the bar where Vos is talking with Aral. Upon escaping, Aral runs afoul of Qethar, a Durkoth seeking the Kothmerk. (That's a lot of gobbledegook. Durkoth and an Other race, beings purely of the Earth. As such, he's kind of a moving Greek statue. that can make the Earth move under his feet. And more.) Qethar and Aral enter an uneasy truce to find the Ruby ring that confers rulership of the Durkoth that was last seen in the slaughtered parter the Dyad was part of.

There's a lot of crossing and double crossing, plus more revelations from Fei, the shadowside Police officer who knows exactly who Aral is. And ongoing revelations from Aral as he tries to figure out what justice actually is without a goddess providing it.

Once again, McCullough writes an excellent yarn, and I'm kind of curious as to what the next book in the series (that cam out last December) has in store, given some of the plot development in this one. As I said last time, everything of his that I've read has been worth the time investment.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reptile WINS!

So, I actually finished Seanan McGuire's Half-Off Ragnarok a few days ago, but I've been lazy on updating. (Hey, I leave for Vegas tomorrow. I have other things on my mind.)

While technically part of her InCryptid series, this one switches narrators from Verity Price to her brother Alex Price, currently working as a visiting herpetologist at the Columbus Zoo. Alex is staying with his grandmother (another cuckoo, like his cousin Sarah, who played a major role in the first two books) and grandfather (a revenant, sort of like Frankenstein's monster) in Bexley Ohio. (McGuire's geography is a bit off, but given the nightmare Steven King made of NYC in the Dark Tower series, the few minor errors in Ohio geography can be forgiven.)

Alex has a thing going on with the visiting Australian big cat keeper, Hannah. However, due to his hidden life (living with two cuckoos and a revenant, running a basilisk breeding program, figuring out that the fricken are replacing frogs in the local ecosystem...), going on dates with Hannah gets a bit... complicated. This relationship gets further vexed when during a lunch date in the tiger garden, they find a coworker stoned in the bushes. And not on reefer. No, the coworker matched gazes with one of my biggest Nemesis-es in the original Final Fantasy, a cockatrice. At first he was afraid, he was petrified... well, the coworker stayed that way.

For those not versed in such esoterica, a cockatrice is a chicken with a lizard tail and the ability to turn creatures to stone. (Or at least partially turn them to stone.... there's a long conversation on the eating habits of petrifiers.) Given that Alex's assistant, Dee, is a Pliny's Gorgon (middle powered, between Lesser and Greater), she and her Gorgon enclave get dragged into the investigation, particularly after the cockatrice shows up at Alex's house, nearly stoning him for saying "This fish is so good, it's fit for Jehova!" (Ok, I'll quit with the stone jokes before I hit Steve Austin.) As it turns out, Hard-Hearted Hannah, the vamp of Savannah (There's a Savannah in Australia, right?), has her own secret, which comes out right after the chicken attacks. Which, admittedly, isn't nearly as West Side Story as Verity's romance with the Covenant of St. George scout, but it does introduce a new dimension into the world.

I'll admit, changing setting and narrators really helped me like this series, since the last book went a bit off kilter towards the end. As stated above, the geography is a bit off, but while I assume the Gorgon enclave is probably more towards Amish country or further into Appalachia on the Eastern end of Ohio, but given it's near a swamp, I can't help but think that maybe it's really in southern Champaign county, near where I grew up. (Cedar Bog Fen, home to many Eagle Projects I worked on, is a swamp with a lot of area for the Gorgon enclave nearby.)

According to the end notes, The next book will also follow Alex, before switching back to Verity in book 5. Which is cool, since I rather like Alex. I kind of wish Book 5 would do more to introduce us to the third Price sibling, the often mentioned Antimony.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just what we need, a Druish Princess.

When last we saw Atticus O'Sullivan, he was getting an old friend off an island in Tir Na Nog where time runs slower than it does for the rest of the world. Thus why Owen Kennedy, who should have died a few millennia ago, is still alive and berating Atticus. (Owen, who's real name involves symbols I can't find on my character map, is Atticus's Archdruid from back when Atticus became a druid.)

Owen has much catching up to do, particularly since he doesn't speak English or any modern language. which leads to much fish out of water comedy in the first part of then book. This improves after Owen hooks up with a werewolf and goes to Tir NaNog to present himself to Brighid, where he also delivers a message for Brighid that came from the Morrigan as he was put onto his time island.

Granuaile, in the meantime, is dealing with the witch who had possessed her earlier in the series. Laksha calls Granuaile with news of Gran's father. Seems Daddy has been taken over by a raksoyuj, and said possessor is summoning as many rakshasas as he can, creating a very strange plague in the area of India that Gran's father had been digging in. (i.e. people getting possessed by rakshasas and appearing to be very sick.) This plot line eventually leads Gran to the Himalayas to get a weapon of water magic, from one of the other supernatural races making minor appearances in this book.

Atticus's plot takes him through both Gran and Owen's plot, but detours into Japan for a meeting with Inara and her kitsune helpers. It's here that Atticus finds out about the 9 gods who are intervening with him to stop Ragnarok.

By the end of the book, not only have we met Durga on the Indian subcontinent, Hearne has redeemed his portrayal of Loki (in previous books, the freaking trickster archetype has been going full steam ahead with direct confrontation and blowing stuff up like a Die Hard movie. Which was annoying, particularly after his fabulous portrayals of Coyote earlier on in the series. In this book, we get some exposition that redeems to portrayal.), and we have a much better idea of what set the current story arc in motion and why. We also learn that have Bane sidhe written into a battle tends to create spoilers, since they wail out the doom of the fallen.

Something I'm noticing here that's becoming the formula for series urban fantasy is that it's like reading a long running D&D campaign after a while. We start with small confrontations that lead to boss fights. Then, as things progress and the characters become more knowledgeable, we begin to see a larger plot spread across the campaign, and may journeys to reach a finishing point. Perhaps this is a modern take on Campbell and his Hero of 1,000 Faces. But once you see the monomyth appearing, it becomes a case of how entertaining the telling of tail is.  In this case, Hearne is telling his version of the myth in a compelling and fun way. I look forward to seeing what the next volume brings.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Over the moon....

Once again, Simon R. Green has written the literary equivalent of jumping iover the moon to avoid the shark.

This time, Eddie Drood and Molly Metcalf have to solve who killed off all of the Department of the Uncanny (including his grandfather, the Regent of Shadows) and find the mysterious Lazarus stone that's currently Property of a Lady Faire. (Yeah, not sure what Bond title that's a play on.)

The Lady Faire in question is more or less Dr. Frankenstein's version of an incubus/succubus; s/he is a combination of genders and more or less exists as the ultimate honey trap. Seems that Eddie's Uncle, the Grey Fox, gave the Lady the Lazarus stone, which the person who killed everyone at the Uncanny wants back.

So, Eddie, (who was given another chance at becoming the Drood Patriarch if he gave up Molly) goes on a quest to find the Lady Faire, who's hosting a party for all her lovers past in Ultima Thule. Mind you, it takes 3/4 of the book to get there, including a detour in a place off of the Nightside to meet the Doormouse.


Like almost all of the books in Green's shared world, this is a quick read with lightning pacing. His cast of characters remain almost comical in their exaggeration, and his mythology is vastly entertaining.