Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Next on Iron Druid, STEAK!

So, after quite a bit of a wait while he pursued other projects, Kevin Hearne finally released book 8 of the Iron Druid Chronicles. (well, book 8, if you don't include 2 novellas that take place between books. And to be fair, he's still writing faster than George R.R. Martin.)

Staked improves on a few problems that happened in the last volume, namely, by the climax of the book, all three druids are in the same place and working together. While this takes a while, it's well worth the wait.

We'll start with Atticus, who's busy trying to fulfill his job of ridding Poland of vampires for the Zorya coven while also trying to get rid of the oldest vampire, who was one of the progenitors of the Druidic purge by the Romans. Atticus's travels take him to Toronto for another fight with the arcane life leech, Svartleheim (accompanied by Bhrigid) to deal with the Aesir's war with the Dark Elves, and finally Rome for the climax. Along the way, Oberon gets introduced to poutine.

Granuaile starts off in Asgard, removing Loki's brand, moves to Poland to get a cloak to prevent her from being scryed upon, grabs Perun to find a Slavic horse that can predict the outcomes of battle, starts a private war with her stepfather, then winds up in Rome for the climax.

Owen...Gah. Owen gets asked by the Werewolves of Arizona to turn their non-lycanthropic children into druids. He also is the one to find out Fand has escaped from her imprisonment with help from Mannan Mac Lir. He too winds up in Rome for the climax.

And in Rome, we get a rather fun climax, involving Jewish Kabbalists verses Hermetic Kabbalists (wherein animated beards take on animated tonsures), pretty much most of the elder vampire population on Earth, and more than a little heresy against several ancient mythologies.

Mr. Hearne has stated there's one more book in the series, which will hopefully wrap up the prophecy of the sirens and Ragnarok. And not require tracking down another novella to fill in gaps between books.

As I've stated before, I rather enjoy this series. Yes, it gets a little silly, as the battle of the follicles suggests, but much like Simon R. Green, I'm having so much fun reading it that I don't notice the issues.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Who are the real monsters?

As sad as I am that Jim C. Hines' Magic ex Libris series is ending, Revisionary is actually a fun ending to what's been a great series. This is not to say it's exploring new ground, but it does so in a fun and inventive way.

At the end of the last book, Unbound, Isaac Vainio revealed the existence of of magic, libriomancy, and the Porters to the world at large. We pick up, as should be expected, with congressional hearings.

Whole Isaac's real intention was to provide the good things to the world, like draughts of Lucy's healing cordial from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to kids with terminal diseases, certain governments are much more interested in weaponry and military applications, as well as making sure magic isn't going to unbalance the current state of affairs.

Of course, the realization that magical creatures exist isn't helping things all that much either, since find out early on about Michigan's solution for taking out the vampire nest under Detroit in the abandoned salt mines. Which mainly involved sealing, collapsing, and setting fire to the nest.

Isaac and the Porters in the US have developed a compound outside Las Vegas in order to work on peaceful application of magic named New Millennium, all while being supervised by various government agencies.

Which is good for his niece, who's part of the clinical trials to get her amputated leg back.

The plot really gets rolling though, when four separate but simultaneous assassinations play out across the US, including the death of the Governor of Michigan by angry Werewolves. An organization of supernatural creatures appears to be behind the attacks, thus leading Isaac and Lena to chase down Vanguard with the help of former libriomancer now Renfield vampire Deb. This chase leads several different directions, including to off shore Atlantic area as the Coast Guard tries to get rid of a Siren colony.

We delve deeper into off the record detention facilities for non-humans, where any semblance of rights are suspended. We find out Vanguard's basic principle is one of getting non -human entities to safety via Underground Railroad style techniques.

(I'm glazing over quite a bit, including several supporting characters, but I really can't talk about them without hitting serious spoiler territory.)

As the threads of the conspiracy start unraveling and we finally get a good look at what's actually going on, the true ugliness of the plot comes across and we, like in a quite a few other stories, begin to wonder who the REAL monsters are.

As I said, I'm sorry to see such a fun series end, but it's not as though the author is planning on retiring any time in the near future, so....

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Opening the 19th Aethyr

So, we return to new material with Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Blades. Which, honestly, wound up being a very heavy road to plod through, but the effort was well rewarded by the journey.

We open with General Turyin Mulaghesh, last seen during the battle of Bulikov,  enjoying a rather depressing retirement in Saypur, spending her days drunk on fish wine and generally trying to forget everything. As it happens, Shara, whom we met last time around, who is now Prime Minister, manages to convince Mulaghesh to go back out on an errand on the Continent again to investigate mysterious goings on. That she uses blackmail to get the General off her island shouldn't matter that much. (Something about not having the time in for a General's pension, therefore she must go "tour" Voortyashtan until her term of service is up.)

Of course, while she's in Voortyashtan, if she can check up on what's going on with a missing operative and figure out whether or not the miraculous thinadeskite has some sort of Divine nature to it... Well that would just be swell, wouldn't it?

Upon arrival in Voortyashtan, Mulaghesh winds up staying with the Dreylings rebuilding the harbor, since the fortress built by Saypuri forces isn't considered particularly safe. The Dreyling construction site is overseen by Signe, the rather estranged daughter of Sigurd, also last seen in the Battle of Bulikov. The Saypuri are overseen by General Biswal, whom Mulaghesh served under suring the battle of the Yellow River. The Continental overseer, Rada, also has connections with Mulaghesh, since Rada was buried in rubble after the battle of Bulikov and Mulaghesh's soldiers saved her from the rubble. Rada dies healing work as well as taxidermy in her spare time.

Thinadeskite, it seems, is a wonderful conductor of electricity, not losing charge as electrons travel it. Indeed, it seems to gain extra power when electricity travels its path. So what if those who have killed get visions of Voorta's soldiers doing her work while in the mines? For that matter, when Mulaghesh has a vision of Voorta herself using Her sword to destroy the mine, who cares?

All of this leads Mulaghesh digging deeper into Voorta's mythos, made more difficult by the fact that unlike Bulikov, the Voortyashanis don't particularly miss their Divinity. Voorta was the first killed by the Kaj many years ago, so how is she reappearing?

Oh so much to go through here! Voorta was the first Divinity to create an afterlife, mainly to encourage her followers to fight on her behalf. To do so, she became lovers with the Goddess of life, and then split apart from her. (I kind of wish there was more than fragmentary information on that myth in here, since the story is one of the best in here.) The Voortyashanis warriors believed that they would go to the City of Blades upon death, awaiting the night when they shall return and destroy the world.

In the mean time, we get more information on the Battle of the Yellow River, wherein Mulaghesh's company got separated from the army, wound up behind enemy lines, and wound up burning the supply lines to win the war. As Mulaghesh remembers more, we begin to see the atrocities committed by said company.

And we get a really stunning dichotomy of what it means to be a soldier from Mulaghesh and Biswal. I'm sure older readers will read it as allegory to Vietnam, where as some of us younger folks will undoubtedly see Afganistan and Iraq reflected here. Even though in the end, the location matters little.

This volume is less heavy on the spy craft than the progenitor, but it honestly has much more things to say about humanity than Divinity than the first.

Really, I almost feel like digging up Piers Anthony's Wielding a Red Sword now as another vision of the meaning of war, but that would inevitably wind up with me reading all 8 Incarnations of Immortality again.

As a side note unrelated to this particular book, I have two more new books in my TBR pile. The issue I'm now running in to deals with the Main library being closed for a large remodel (they re-open in June) and the branch I've been frequenting in the interim getting ready to close next week to build a new location. (That branch has needed it for quite some time.) The problem being that this leaves me without really ready access to a library where I can wander the stacks looking for something to catch my eye. Also, the library's recommended lists that I used to get monthly no longer seem to be appearing at the same rate, and indeed, certain newsletters have stopped appearing at all. This does mean that re-reads will get reviewed on here more often as I try to catch up on stuff on the shelf.

Monday, February 1, 2016

January re-read V: Last one, I swear!

OK, much like the Vampire one I wrote last, explaining the plot behind The Last Battle by Bill Bridges requires a bit of a recap of everything that came before. (Also, I promised that Gehenna would be the last re-read for a while, but I started this one on the way to the library and decided to finish it.)

Much like Vampires, Werewolves are real. Werewolf introduced the Triat, Wyld, Weaver, and Wyrm. Wyld was chaos, Weaver was order, Wyrm was balance. Somewhere way back, Weaver spun Wyrm into her webs to prevent it from destroying her beautiful creations. This drove Wyrm mad. Wyrm is less balance and now "I WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING SO I CAN GET FREE OF THESE WEBS!"

Werewolves are dying off. While not the only changing breed, they really don't get along well with others, which may have to do with them pretty much trying to kill off the rest of them back in prehistory. Werewolves divide themselves by tribes and Auspices, based on parentage and what aspect the moon was in at birth.

One whole long lot of really fun fiction later, we come to this, the time when the Prophecies play out, and the world of Werewolf: the Apocalypse ends.

We mainly center on Albrecht, Mary, and Evan, who were first introduced in the original rule book. Over time (and in the old RAGE CCG), Albrecht became Gaian King, wearing the Silver Crown of leadership of the non-Wyrm aligned tribes. Not that he doesn't have competition for this, but...

We also check in with the Silver River Pack, who's journey was the focus of the Tribe Novels; Zhyzach, the crazy wyrm aligned werewolf prophesied to kill the last Gaian King; and Antoinin Teardrop, who's following Zhyzach on her way to free the Wyrm.

Much of the werewolf population winds up in battle in the Umbra, the spiritual reflection of the universe.

The rest of the make their stand in the Womb of the World. Given this is the end, there's much noble sacrifice and death, and not really a lot of happy endings.

While I never liked playing Werewolf overly much (the mechanics were often unwieldy) the much more detailed world building behind the game was very good and quite fun to get sucked in to. Thankfully, Werewolf also made for some really engaging fiction. (The Tribe Novels made more sense than the Clan Novels, and Albrecht's pack's first novel, The Silver Crown, was wonderfully action packed.) While I wouldn't recommend this particular novel to anyone not familiar with the setting, it is a heck of a lot better than it had any right to be. It also well outdoes the game supplement that covered this same time period, that really didn't offer any satisfying conclusions.