Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The pitcher now lies empty

So, as I have now finished Sharon Green's Prophecy, the last book in The Blending quintet, I can put in a few reserves at the library. Which I have, they just haven't come in yet.

Anyway, We're again dealing with the heroic 5 (Jovvi, Lorand, Rion, Vallant, and Tamrissa) and their friend Naran as they return to Gan Garee from the Western edges of the Empire, and the Evil 5, (Bron, Selendi, Delin, Homin, and Kambil) as they struggle to maintain a grip on running the Empire.

Starting with the bad 5, the power struggle between Kambil and Delin is much at the forefront again, particularly after al of them but Delin get poisoned as part of a Nobility blackmail scheme. Which allows Delin to show that he's shaken off the control Kambil had him under. Both use heavy handed techniques that continue to destroy any chance they had at keeping the five fold throne.

The Heroic 5, on the other hand, start off in Lorand's hometown of Widdertown, explaining about the pursuing Astindian army, coming to raze Gan Garee in their wake. Along the way, Lorand makes peace with his father, the guild of the talentless lets us know more about who they are and what they do, and Naran finally reveals HER heretofore unknown talent of Sight. Which means she's now able to make it a sixfold blending.

The guild members have no magic of their own, but can tell range and power levels on others. They've also been mostly plotting to bring the Heroic 5 to the throne, since they match the description in The Prophecies. For the most part. A minority think keeping the Nobles in power would be a grand idea, but we really don't get much about them here. (They get more of a role in the follow up trilogy.)

By the time the confrontation with the Evil 5 comes around, it's actually quite anti-climactic The 5 confront the 5 and various hostages. It's not until after that (as Rion takes over narration duties temporarily) that the real climax plays out, as the Astindian Blending come within reach of Gan Garee and the Heroic 6 must make their stand. The resolution they come up with is both proper and Draconian, ultimately setting the stage for the follow up trilogy, particular since this ends with some contradictory information about the 300 year old prophecies.

It's been fun re-reading this series, and I have the follow ups coming eventually. (The problem with buying used via Amazon is that shipping can be anywhere between 7-21 days.)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Necessity and Nemesis

Here at the end of WebMage, we have SpellCrash, and what, the first time around, I was surprised to see as an ending to the story.

We start with Ravirn returning from his sojourn into the Norse MythOS (aka MimnirNet) minus Tisiphone but bearing Fenris. Necessity, on the other hand, is still having serious issues, having basically had the Goddess Computer's version of a stroke with aphasia issues. As such, Shara, the little WebGoblin who took over Persephone's role in the Olympian OS has become the voice of Necessity, doing her best to run things until a reboot can be arranged. To help in this, Tisiphone is replaced by the Fury of Ice, Cerice. Whom neither Megara nor Alecto is very happy with.

In fact, Megara is busy being lead around by what she feels is the TRUE Voice of Necessity and a spinerette named Delé. Which puts her at odds with Alecto, who, while not liking Cerice, still listens to Shara.

Whatever voice is leading Megara is also quite interested in killing Ravirn, which leads to quite a few notable chases throughout.

However, most of the plot revolves around the idea of Necessity's power as Fate of the Gods being up for grabs when the reboot happens, thus leaving the 4 major pole powers in the pantheoverse doing what they can to get in line to take over. (Thus Zeus, Hades, Fate, and Eris become major players in the stakes, not to mention the "Voice of Necessity".)

It's a very dense book for being only about 300 pages. One almost wishes he had spread this over 2 books to further develop some of the plots that get the short shrift by the end. I mean, there's a lot going on in this Greek Ragnarok, and not everything gets fully explored by the end. But, he didn't. Which doesn't make it any less a fabulous read, just a rougher one that what could have been.

Unrelated, the main library re-opens tomorrow, which means I can start reserving books again. Shoudl the last book of the Blending not take as long as it takes for reserves to show up, there are a few one offs I can add in to keep occupied.

Monday, June 20, 2016

I'm running out of blended drinks

In good news, Saturday sees the reopening of the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Main Branch, which means I'll actually be able to start looking for volumes I'm not plucking off my personal shelf again. (Well, except I'll likely be picking up the 3 volume continuance of The Blending from Amazon before too long. My last copies went out when I was still using paperbackswap.com. Which is a great service that people with an interest should totally check out.)

However, since that day of glory and renewal hasn't occurred yet, Let me tell you about Betrayals by Sharon Green,  book four of The Blending. 

At the outset, Tamrissa is being held by the current seated High in Fire, who wishes to hopefully breed powerful children from her womb. Rion is in the tender care of his mother. Vallant, who'd due to be shipped off with Jovvi and Lorand, is instead side tracked as a love slave to Lady Eltrina for a few days.

In the mean time, the new Seated Five (who haven't yet been seated due to the Advisors rightfully being convinced that they had something to do with a bunch of murders), again begin murdering those who get in the way of their rise to power. Mind you, Delin is supposedly under control, thanks to Kambil's spirit magic and some Puredan later on, but there's still quite a bit of murdering people in the process. Delin, who's figuring out ways around his enforced conditioning, blames Kambil for most of their problems. Kambil, unsurprisingly, blames Delin. What the murders do manage to accomplish is much of the day to day running of the empire falling apart, since the people who actually do things or knew who was doing them, are dead.

In the meantime, Naran, Rion's girl, manages to meet up with Tamrissa as she breaks free of her captivity. Tamrissa's captor lets slip a few plot points that clear up the end of the last book, namely that the Advisors slipped Hilsom Powder (which cuts off access to elemental magic) into the blending's undergarments to ensure the win on the part of the noble blending.

Tamrissa and Naran break out Rion and Vallant, who in turn meet up with Alsin. Alsin had been keeping an eye out for Lorand's friend Hat, who vanished off the face of the planet. Alsin runs an underground organization devoted to proving the Nobility is breaking the law and using that information to wrest the power from them. Alsin is able to get information to help find out where Jovvi and Lorand vanished off to.

Very long story short, by the end of this one, we have a much better idea of how corrupt the Nobility actually is and what it is they've been doing. We find out what's happened to the Highs shipped out of Gan Garee following the testing. And we know that one of the countries the Empire has been trying to annex is suddenly fighting back.

This particular volume is probably one of the strongest in the series, even if the fighting between Vallant and Tamrissa has become a central plot point for a LOOOONG time. There's also a heck of a lot of rape going on in here, both figurative and literal.

Looking forward to finishing the series here in the near future.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

More consonants than Wheel of Fortune

So, as we begin Kelly McCullough's MythOS, our favorite trickster Ravirn is busy trying to break into the central mainframe of Necessity again, trying to fix the universe's mainframe. When he ends up stuck in a room full of abacuses, along  with his sort of girlfriend Tisiphone (who's still quite irked with him), something happens, landing Ravirn, Melchior, and Tisiphone in Prince Edward Island. Well, PEI, but not in a universe ruled by the Greek Pantheon. On the other hand, we also find out where Allhan wound up when Shara's clone in Necessity moved her someplace safe.

Mainly because she manages to save Melchior and Ravirn from a rather tense encounter with a guy named Loki. (Tisiphone gets really mad after arrival, flies off, and gets attacked by a large wolf chasing the moon.) Loki is walking a large poodle who spits up a hand. Said hand becomes Laginn, sort of a Norse Thing. Said hand is also remarkably annoyed with its previous owner, Tyr.

Through the course of the book, we meet Odin, but before we get that far, we meet Odin's birds, Huginn and Muginn (Thought and Memory). These two summon Ravirn to Odin in Valhalla, whereupon Ravirn gets named "Intuition/Impulse". Through heavy use of the Skuld (who also does a bit of foreshadowing for the last book), we learn about the Norse MythOS, forever trapped in one march toward Ragnarok. Seems the entire OS's main processor is the Head of Mimir, and Odin's eye in Mimir's Well lets him know everything. Except for what is up with Ravirn. Ravirn can't be seen by Odin's other eye, the one sacrificed for knowledge.

There's a rather large amount of things going on throughout this, including some wonderful asides on every character's part. We have Fenrir, who seems to be the only honest character; Hati, who appears as a rather absentminded fox at one point; Loki, trying to save his family from Odin's tyranny; and Odin, who's trying to find a way to stop Ragnarok. Oh yes, and at one point, we even meet Jormungand, who spends most of his time reading at the bottom of the sea.

Add to this Allhan dying due to the difference in the quality of Primal chaos in the Norse realms and Tisiphone getting might annoyed to find bits of a Fury that didn't exist coming through from teh Greek MythOS, and you have quite a tale.

While I love the Iron Druid Chronicles, Kevin Hearne's depictions of some of the Norse pantheon don't quite jibe with how they're normally presented. To his credit, McCullough does stick closer to the Eddas, and even gives a better idea of WHY the gods act the way they do. (On the other hand, Thor comes across as semi-nice in this book, which generally isn't normal.) Still not quite as much fun as Neil Gaimen's veersion of the Norse, but hey...

Even if I'm not a huge fan of Norse mythology, that didn't particularly affect my love of this particular volume. That, and now, on re-reading, can see how much this sets up the fifth and final volume, I remain in love.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Oh wow, now we know where the series title came from!

Been on a reading roll recently, mainly thanks to nice weather and some medicine that I can't take for a few hours after getting home. As such, I managed to cruise through Challenges, the third book in Sharon Green's The Blending, in record time.

Basically, as the middle book in the quintet, we hit some of the meat of the plot here. Our heroic 5 and the Nobility 5 learn to Blend and eventually face off in the Competitions to determine the Ruling 5 of the Empire.

On the Heroic side, this five walk a tightrope figuring out how to keep the Testing Authority from breaking them up, while also facing down personal issues. Again, everyone gets a lesson in how rigged the system is, as Lorand watched his friend Hat compete for the Seated High position in Earth Magic and as a mysterious source reveals to them the key to freeing themselves from the control drug the Nobility used to prevent them from winning.

On the Nobility side, lots of murder, as Delin, the Earth Magic user, keeps seeing himself prepare to murder people he hates, only to pass out as the event happens. Not that the people he thinks he killed aren't killed, he just doesn't remember doing it. The Noble 5 are now under suspicion for a few murders plus a suicide of their former advisor. As such, they provide the keying phrase to out main 5, knowing they'd pass it on to the other 4 Common Blendings, with the idea that the Commoners can take out the other Noble Blendings, leaving them to gain the support of the Advisors.

Speaking of the Commoners, they get trained to Blend twice. The first is supposedly a Noble, the second truly is Nobility.

Most of it goes the way you'd expect, until the very end, which leaves us hanging, waiting for Book 4.

Blending, by the way, links all 5 aspects, and can then become one entity that's a nonphysical entity that's an amalgam of the 5.

Fun book, and very good at planting the hooks to get the story moving again.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wrong universe, Ghost Rider

I managed to finish off Kelly McCullough's CodeSpell a bit quicker than I had ioriginally anticipated, but on the other hand, it's the only one in the series I couldn't remember any details about. It was almost like reading it for the first time.

Again, we're following around Ravirn/Raven as he's navigating some rather fractious politics among the Greek Pantheon. In this case, we start on Olympus at a party hosted by Zeus celebrating the return of eternal summer thanks to the hard won freedom of Persephone at the end of the last book. Mind you, no one knows what happened to Shara or the Web Troll Ahllan. That Necessity is also working rather spasmodically recovering from Persephone's virus isn't helping much either.

However, the real shock happens at Zeus's garden party, where Ravirn runs into his dear friend Dairn, whom we last saw dying while being shoved into a fairie ring. It seems that Dairn has merged with everyone's favorite spirit of vengeance, Nemesis. Nemesis has been missing in action for a few millennia after Necessity got annoyed that she had her own ideas on how to perform her job. which lead to the creation of Tisiphone, Alecto, and Meagara, the Furies.

Clotho reclaims Cerise at the party to work on Fate's attempts to repair the mWeb, which leads to more than a few relationship kinks with Ravirn. That Tisiphone, who hasn't known a man in about 1,600 years or so has taken an interest in Ravirn, doesn't really help this situation. (To be frank, Alecto isn't all that pleased either.)

Most of the plot revolves around Nemesis trying to kill Ravirn, or later on, kill her mother, Necessity.

We also get to finally meet Zeus and Athena, as well as the muse Thalia, who's actually Ravirn's paternal grandmother. We also find out fairly quickly that Cerberus cheats at Poker.

Really, this is quite possibly the breeziest read in the entire series, since it's honestly one really big race to figure out how to reconnect everything with Necessity, something not even the Furies can do. There's also the question of where the heck Nemesis has been for several millennia and why she's suddenly back in the picture. Ravirn also begins an affair with Tisiphone, she of the flames, which also gives a rather strange vibe to the proceedings.

It's a wonderful entry, and the overall presentations of both Zeus and Athena are fairly true to the myths.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Burning Times

So, as I was finishing up my last book, one of my coworkers handed me a paperback she'd just finished, insisting I read it. That wound up being Silent Killer by Beverly Barton, which bills itself as a romantic thriller. Which is to say it's a soapy romance novel with a very good mystery going on between the romances.

We start with one Cathy Cantrell enjoying a lazy afternoon with her pastor husband when the doorbell rings. Mark, the husband, answers, and promptly gets covered in gasoline and set on fire. Which is really one heck of a way to start a book off.

And since this is a mystery, Mark isn't the only man of the cloth to get lit throughout the narrative by whom the Police in northern Alabama refer to as the Fire and Brimstone Killer.

Into this mix we add Jackson Perdue, a former Dunmore resident moving home to take care of his parents' house, which is sister can't sell. Jack, a retired Army Ranger with scarring from being both a POW and being near an explosion has a bit of a past with the widow Cantrell, who herself is returning to Dunmore following a year of intensive therapy following a nervous breakdown.

Let's see. We get a few insights into the killer's motives, as occasionally they narrate what they plan to do next. Mostly it's some of the more violent bible verses, punishing the hypocritical men of God with God's fire, etc.

By far the biggest issue I had here was the sheer number of characters floating around. Cathy has a son, Seth. Seth has several friends, some from different families. Half the small town seems to be involved in running a church of some kind of another. Everyone is drinking decaf coffee and sweet tea. There's also a subplot involving Jack's sister Maleah, who evidently is the focus of the previous 9 books in this series, that has absolutely nothing to do with preachers spontaneously combusting. 

On the other hand, the mystery is well written, the clues add up in the end, and there are enough Red Herrings to fill a season of Scooby Doo. Kind of sad, when the killer is at last revealled, I was in the right family, but had pegged the wrong member. I also had guessed at one of the major plot twists in the romance, although that reveal actually was quite emotional.

It was a good read, but I feel as though I missed something in not reading any of the previous 9 novels.