Tuesday, September 27, 2016

When did Dick York join Sea Witch?

So, my cunning plan to switch between trilogies got interrupted by the arrival of Seanan McGuire's Once Broken Faith. Which is fine, because there's always room in my life for the Changeling from Hell. Add into it a novella tacked on the end, centered around the Current Queen of the Kingdom of Mists, Arden Windermere, and you have a happy James.

Anyway, having been present for the discovery of the cure for Elfshot at the end of the previous novel (thus sparing Purebloods from 100 years of sleep and outright killing Changelings), October (Toby for short) is dragged in to a Conclave as High King Sollys arrives in San Francisco to oversee the debate on whether or not the cure should be available or not.

Because this is the Nobility, and because this is Pureblood, everything gets tied up in politics. Which does make life interesting. This being October Daye, though, things go haywire when the King of Angels (a Candela) winds up dead, with his merry dancers broken on the floor of the dining room. Not long after, Dianda, Mermaid Queen of Saltmist, winds up getting elfshot. Given everyone is locked in the know, it becomes almost like Agatha Christie, as Toby tries to figure out who murdered whom.

There's a lot going on in here, and the mystery's solution is almost a deus ex machina. However, the side drama gets really interesting, particularly given The Luidaeg giving Toby some of her blood, allowing a brief glimpse of Maeve. This is also the first book in the series to really mention unseelie vs seelie courts, back when the Divided Courts particularly were divided by seasons. Mind you, Titania's children almost always seem to wind up being villains, while one of Maeve's is by far the most interesting support character in the entire series. We also find out that Quentin (aka Sollys's son) is now dating Dianda's son Dean, adding another layer of fun to the proceedings.

The novella that follows involves Arden waking her long sleeping brother, only to find that the False Queen added a little something to the Elfshot that makes her seek out The Luidaeg. This also gives us a bigger glimpse at the burden the Sea Witch bears courtesy of Titania.

It's a good read, as usual. And McGuire gets props for not following other Urban Fantasyists' paths that wind up either repeating plot lines or descending into supernatural smut. (Not that this is a problem, but one series in particular occasionally gets unreadable since the smut distracts from the narrative.)

So yeah. Looking forward to the next one. As usual.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Back to the Blender

So, the original goal was to do what I did previously with The Blending and WebMage, only with The Blending Enthroned and Age of Misrule, as both are trilogies. This will still be happening, even if the next October Daye showed up.

Anyway,  Intrigues by Sharon Green starts not long after The Blending ended, with the Chosen Six (Tamrissa, Lorand, Jovvi, Vallant, Rion, and Naran) awaiting the seating ceremony.

After much ado, including finding out about a faction of the Guild that wants to bring back the Nobility, people wanting to become the NEW Nobility, and just about everyone hates Naran, since her ability to see the future in glimpses makes people uncomfortable.

However, once they do get seated, we start into the subplots.

First, we meet the Nobility headed West into Astinda, as part of the reparations the Cshosen Six paid to keep the invading army from destroying the Empire. Some of the former nobles get it faster than others, as they see the destruction their poor life choices brought to Astinda. Others remain just as convinced of their inherent rightness by virtue of birth and don't get the point.

Then we meet the Nolls and what's left of the Ruhls, former nobility hiding in the countryside. Both have their own plots to take back the Empire, some of which falls apart as they head back to Gan Garee. The female Ruhl, a Spirit magic user, is busy manipulating everyone.

Then we have the training classes, which introduce people learning to live under the new system.

And of course, as the book progresses, and the army coming West from the invasion of Gracely comes into the picture, we meet Antri Lorimon, who is the fairly virtuous and noble woman in Gracely's assembly as she navigates several plots to take control of the assembly. Given the Six wind up in Gracely (which had more or less used magic to convince the army that they were succeeding in overrunning the country), it's going to be an interesting series.

Having read this before, I know how everything comes out, but I'd forgotten how much better the writing was this time around, other than GRRM levels of subplots.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Widdershins and widdershins

I actually finished Mark Chadbourn's World's End (book one in the Age of Misrule trilogy) a few days ago, but as I was out in the wilderness and not inclined to try to post a review from a phone....

We start, as with most heroic yarns, with the oblivious Church out for a walk while he laments the much earlier death of his love. Which takes up a few pages before he sees a pale woman washing an object in the Thames. Upon closer inspection, it would appear that said woman was washing Church's severed head. We then meet ruth, a lawyer, who winds up meeting church not long after, as they both confront a larger than average man busy killing another man under a bridge.

What follows from here is much like an RPG campaign, as they get thrown into a quest by a woman who evidently lives under the hills to use a lantern called the wayfinder to find a stone, a spear, a sword, and a cauldron.

This also includes no one seemingly knowing that strange things are afoot until a dragon attacks the M4, the Erl King leads the Wild Hunt through Southern England, and suddenly witch magick starts working better than normal.

We meet Veitch, who killed a man; Laura, a cynic; Shavi, the pansexual Easterner; and Tom, who can never lie and seems to have a much better idea than everyone else as to what's actually going on.

I was quite fortunate in my place of camping to have people more familiar with Celtic lore to help me make sense of some of the things going on, since honestly, I'm more familiar with the Christianized stories being discussed here, like Excalibur and the Holy Grail. Which do come up, since the overall theme seems to be one of the objects being something that no story could ever hold the whole truth of.

Another thing I learned in this book was what Formori actually are. (For those of you who have played in the Classic World of Darkness setting, you likely know the word from there. I didn't realize the root was in beings of darkness in Celtic lore.)

While it ends on a kind of down note, the first quest being completed but not in a happy way, I look forward to finishing the series over time as the books come in.

(I'm still recovering from camping, this review is not up to my usual snuff.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lock the doors, turn out the lights

So, I finished Simon R. Green's newest Ishmael Jones today, Dead Man Walking, while on lunch.

Much like the first one, there's no real connection to the bigger shared world he's created in his other series, just a maybe alien working for a nebulous organization known as "The Organization", and once again, said alien, Ishmael Jones, is solving a cozy.

In this case, Ishmael and his new girlfriend/partner Penny, are sent to the remote Ringstone Lodge, just south of Hadrian's Wall. The lodge is mostly a fortress, designed for off the record interrogations and the like.

The current guest of honor at the Lodge is one Frank Parker, someone who left the origanization to work for the opposition, and now wants to come back. Ishmael's job is to determine if Parker is who he says he is before a deal can be made. (Parker has had extensive identity corrections.)

The lodge is full of mostly unscrupulous characters, from the hired outside security to the dating interrogaters. Only two folks seem above reproach, MacKay, on loan from the ministry of defense and the only one with a master key, and the chief of electronic surveillance, Martin. 

Strange things are afoot at Ringstone Lodge. About half the characters, except for Ishmael, are convinced the place is haunted, likely by the witch buried in the family plot on the grounds. Hauntings straight of of Shirley Jackson abound, with phantom knocking and footsteps echoing down the halls at various intervals.

And then Parker winds up dead inside his locked cell.

From there is goes on in typical cozy fashion, as bodies appear then disappear, and the suspect get narrowed down.

While it is an engaging read, the identity of the murderer is fairly obvious although the motive isn't. Not quite sure his solution on how to murder someone in a locked room is an improvement over the old "use a rope to do and undo the latch", but it is what it is. And it does provide a pleasant change of pace from his usual chutzpah.