Saturday, December 30, 2017

Three books in and we finally hit the titled continent.

It's snowing, and lying in bed finishing book 3 of The Mallorean sounded like a great idea this morning. Mind you, I should be shoveling the front walk instead of dealing with Demon Lord of Karanda, but...

Any rate, we pick up right where we left off, with the current party being captured by the Mallorean Army and being taken to Zakath.

Who turns out not to be a bad sort, if you like mildly tyrannical rulers with a human side.

Seems his entire motivation for being in Cthol Murgos is to wipe the line of Taur Urgas from the face of the planet. Given Urgit, the current king, is only half Murgo, and Urgas was not the father, this complicates Zakath's plans a bit. However, the Mallorean Gromlims are in revolt and raising demons in the middle eastern part of the continent, Zakath is forced to return to Mal Zeth to try to retain control of the Empire. Which is composed of the Mallorean Agnaraks, the Melcene Empire, the Dals, and the Karands. The Melcenes are bureaucrats, the Karands are converted demon worshipers, the Dals are mystics, and the Agnaraks are Agnaraks.


Zandramas tries to possess Ce'Nedra, and that doesn't end well. Someone tries to poison Zakath, and they save him. Zakath won't let the party leave until his army returns, prompting an escape amidst a plague that overtakes Mal Zeth.

From there, it's off to Ashaba with the jester Feldegast joining the procession. We find out the identity of the demon lord Mengha, who's actually an old friend of the party. We find out what role Margravine Liselle (aka Velvet) is to play in the proceedings.

We also find out more about who Nahaz is, why he's protecting Urvon, and why he wants the Sardion. And then the voyage East, where we leave off with the discovery of an underwater grotto where the Sardion once rested.

As silly and drawn out as the first two books were, this one gets the plot rolling quickly and gets us headed faster to The Place That Is No More.

What we know at the end:

-Nahaz the Demon Lord is driving the Disciple Urvon insane so he can be the bearer of the Sardion and Master of the Universe.

-Velvet hasn't been quite honest in why she joined up with the party, regardless of the role of prophecy.

-Beldin the dwarf likes resurrecting antique dialects just to annoy Belgarath.

-Cyradis the seer now travels in the flesh with the party.

-Poledra is evidently a bigger part of this.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Once and Future King

It seems fitting that as 2017 sputters out its last days, I finally finished the Battle of Existence versus The Void contained within Destroyer of Worlds, the last book of Kingdom of the Serpent and finale of the 9 book cycle that started back in The Age of Misrule.

Which means we're back with Jack Church and his 5 Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, as well as what remains of the 5 from The Dark Age trilogy. The Void is starting to fill its essence into The Burning Man in the Far Lands. The Army of 10 Billion Spiders gathers around it. The Tuatha de Dannon and gods of several pantheons gather to appose, joined with The Army of Dragons.

In the meantime, Church is dealing with the revelation that at some point, he will become The Libertarian and everyone is dealing with Niamh's betrayal.

At the outset, Mallory and Caitlin undergo a ritual to enter the Grim Lands to find the Extinction Shears (with Hal in the Pathfinder Lantern), while Virginia Dare leads Church's group to the enemy's fortress along with the two keys, Jack (not Church, the one with the Wish Hex in his chest from Queen of Sinister) and Miller (Mallory's friend from the Knights Templar)

There's a heck of a lot of betrayal, angst and redemption leading up to the final battle, including a trip through the Winterlands where the remains of the Drakusa once existed before the human pantheons came about. Callow, from The Age of Misrule, makes an appearance again.

We find out what the caraprix actually are.

And we get several answers to questions from throughout the entire sequence.

But as for the Ragnarok itself, we do get chapters of the Gods fighting against the Void's army in their own colorful Charge of the Light Brigade.

And in the end, the question of whether or not this very long form fairy tale has a happy ending is really in the eyes of the reader.

While I have enjoyed this series immensely, I must say that the epilogue seems to suggest that the finale we've just read doesn't matter in the end.

I will also say the I understand probably more than I want to some of the conversations about the call of the void  and the lure of the mundane spell, wherein contentment replaces joy and the desire to become more.

Honestly, when I set out to read these last year, I was expecting something else. What I got was something different but well worth the time investment.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Two books in and we're still on the same continent

So, I managed to finish David Eddings's King of the Murgos before taking mom to see Star Wars this evening.

Now as I mentioned in the review of book 1, this series has a darker tone than the original, as well as a few moments wherein Ce'Nedra, the girl who raised an army and invaded Mishrak ac Thull, turns into a bigger ninny than Laurana in Dragons of the Spring Dawning. Which is to say, grief excuses so much. Letting her become a shrinking violet is not among them.

We jump in not long after the end of the first book, with Garion, Belgarath, Polgara, Ce'Nedra, Errand, and Silk heading south towards Nyssia on the trail of Zandramas, with a stop in Proglu to meet with UL. UL reveals Errand's real name is Eriond. Literally, this is the only reason they stopped in Ulgoland.

A stop in Tolnedra reveals Bethra, a mercenary spy currently working for Drasnian intelligence is found murdered. This sends Silk a little over the edge and gets Velvet into the party.

In Nyssia, they gain Sadi, the former Chief Eunuch of Salmissra, who;s currently on the outs with the serpent queen. Sadi disguises everyone as slavers to cross into Cthol Murgos. They get hired by the Dagashi to escort an assassin to kill off Kal Zakath. And wine up in palace intrigue with the current king of the Murgos, Urgit, as well as Asharak, the head of the western church of Torak.

Any rate, by the end of the book, we're still not to Mallorea.

What we know by the end:
-Eriond is a lot more than he seems, although we still don't know the extent of it.
-Zandramas's next stop is Torak's house in Ashaba.
-The Dals end up betraying the party to the Malloreans.
-It would seem Silk's father had kids no one knew about.

Gah. I know the last 3 books are more fun, but I'd forgotten how badly the first two drag.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Death be not proud

I forget what drew me to check out Seanan McGuire's Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, but it wound up being pretty good for being a particularly slim volume.

So, the story concerns Jenna, who died in the 70's, not long after her sister Patty died. As a ghost, Jenna ran off to New York City from Mill Hollow, Kentucky, to try to find her sister. Now in the modern age, Jenna works as both a barista and a suicide prevention councilor on a phone line. She has a rent controlled apartment owned by a long dead Jewish landlady and a collection of elderly cats.

Ghosts in this setting have the ability to give and take time. The terminology gets a bit confusing, but essentially amounts to say, taking a few years off of one person making them younger then giving them to another person, making them older. When a ghost starts approaching the age they should have died at, a red flag appears to them and they have the choice of stealing time or going on to what awaits. (Ghosts are just as clueless about the afterlife as the living.)

Jenna tends to give youth in increments of how much time she gave to people on the suicide line. (Like a waitress whom she takes 47 minutes from after keeping a caller on the line for 47 minutes.)

Jenna tends to hang out at a cafeteria after work, which is how she knows Brenda, a Corn Witch; and Sophie, a Rat Witch.

Eventually this leads to the realization that Jenna and her landlady are the only two ghosts left in New York City, and her one ghost friend Danny (who like me if I were a ghost in New York City, works at Midtown comics) has fled.

This leads to a road trip to find out what's going on, and an exploration of some of the other ghost myths floating around. (Mainly one about covering mirrors to keep the dead from getting trapped when they die.)

It's really a bittersweet read, with the theme being one of homecoming. It may be short, but it packs a mean left hook.

Friday, December 15, 2017

To there and back again

I hadn't intended on starting David Eddings's The Mallorean quite so soon, but at the end of the last book, I grabbed Guardians of the West off the shelf as insurance of having something to read at work.

Any rate, it's done begun now, and I'll have to work in the subsequent volumes around the stuff I have from the library.

So, we begin not long after the ending of Enchanter's End Game with Belgarath, Polgara, Durnik, and Errand returning to Aldur's Vale to begin life anew after the death of Torak. We find that Errand is a bit more than he appears, although we really don't get clues beyond his seeming omniscience about some things. Much like Garion as a child, he gets to meet projections of people who will later on become important in the story. In this case, Cyradis, the Seeress of Kell; and Zandramas, the new Child of Dark.

Then we return to Garion, adjusting to life as King of Riva. Which is really dull for a while, even with the Deus ex machina plot hook tucked in here, wherein Errand and Garion wake in the night and walk in to th ethrone room to see the Orb of Aldur turn red and a voice cry out "Beware Zandramas!"

Followed by another hundred pages of nothing happening beyond an overly long epilogue  to the first series.

Finally, though, C'Nedra gets knocked up, has an heir, and then the plot actually starts moving. Let's see, we have someone trying to get Ce'Nedra to kill Prince Geran while she's asleep. Which brings Poledra back in the picture, even if she's not really there. Then we have the killing of the Rivan Warder, which almost starts a war between Cherek and Riva. While they mop up that, Geran gets kidnapped, leading to another cleaning up of the Alorn Bear Cult, this time in North Eastern Drasnia. Garion finds out how to read a hidden passage in the Mrin Codex, and hey, we're questing again.

By far, the fact that nothing of major interest happening for a few hundred pages is the biggest problem with this introduction. Once it gets going, it takes on a much darker tone than the Belgariad, which hopefully bodes well for the rest of the series. (It does, although we'll return to issues present in The Mallorean as we get through the next volumes eventually.)

So, What we know so far:

-Garion is now a man, and so are his old compatriots.
-Dryads have strange reproductive practices.
-One of Torak's old Acolytes is still alive and living in Mallorea somewhere.
-One of the companions in this series will die by the end.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


So, it seems I missed a book in Simon R. Green's Ishmael Jones series, but given these are stand alones much like Agatha Christie, not a big deal.

Any rate, Death Shall Come involves Ishmael and Penny joining the Colonel (also known as Stuart) at his in-laws estate where George Cardavan is unveiling his latest acquisition, the mummy of Cleopatra the First. The entire family will be there, from George's mother and in dementia father, his trophy wife, his kids and their spouses. And his resident Egyptologist, Dr. Rose. 

The mummy, of course, comes with a curse.

So when George shows up dead in a locked room with a missing mummy, you can bet everyone is thinking Boris Karloff walks among them.

And indeed, there are more than a few bodies that show up along the way, but, as is common for this series, The curse of the mummy has nothing to do with a supernatural curse. But we do get a glimpse at who Ishmael may have been before he became Ishmael. Which is in and of itself interesting.

Good locked room mystery, with an unusual solution.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

If you're Gnostic and you know it, flare your Chi!

I've finally returned to Mark Chadbourn and his Kingdom of the Serpent trilogy with the middle volume The Burning Man. Or Book 8 in the 9 book cycle, depending on how you want to look at it.

There's quite a bit to unpack here, so bear with me.

We start with the rescue of the folks from the middle trilogy being saved from the grand illusion cast by the void by the heroes of the first trilogy. Which means we have Church, Ruth, Laura and Shavi jailbreaking Mallory, Caitlyn, Hunter, and Sophie. Hal, who is now part of the Blue Fire (or the Pendragon Spirit) is back giving cryptic clues to everyone. Ryan, who impaled himself on Church's magical sword at the end of the last book in this series, comes back to lead the Brothers and Sisters of Spiders, who's ranks include 4 former compatriots of Church during his sojourn in time. Representing the Void again is The Libertarian. And Puck is running around again as well in the background, being suitably inscrutable.

The problem being that since the human characters (other than Church) are slowly recovering memories lost to the illusion of the Void, more and more misunderstandings keep cropping up. This becomes more important as the group splits, with Mallory, Sophie, and Caitlyn going to Far Lands looking for Niamh and the Extinction Shears. Ruth, Church, Laura, and Shavi, in the mean time are off to Norway looking for one of the two keys that can stop the void. Hunter, who decided against joining up with the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, instead meets a really crotchety Tom the Riddler (to be fair, having reality rearranged to undo your death and rob you of the Odin like power to know every detail of what's coming might make anyone a little cranky), who ends up dragging him back to Church's party. In the Far Lands,  Mallory's group runs across Jerzy the minstrel.

Speaking of Odin like powers, early on, Shavi contacts the spirits for information and ends up taking a being's eye to replace his missing one.

Niamh is free from her spider companion when the one group finds her. (She's another who's dealing with the crankiness that comes with having reality rearranged to bring you back from the dead.) Rhiannon and the saved Brothers and Sisters of Dragons are missing.

In Norway, Church's party finds out that the presence of the Brothers and Sisters tends to disturb the Void's illusion, and therefore wakes up the local Great Dominion. In this case, we meet Tyr and Freyja, neither of whom are particularly happy to help or thrilled that Ragnarok is set to begin. Indeed, when Laura picks one of the golden apples, the blood of the Gods starts flowing and causing major issues. In the ensuing chaos, Ryan pops up and kidnaps Ruth as well as grabbing the personification of the first key.

Mallory and party find Rhiannon and free her, but her freedom puts her in a Sleep Like Death, forcing them to seek Math.

Church's party winds up in Egypt. Puck gives Ryan the Anubis Box. Laura nearly gets mummified. We find out the Egyptian Gods have sided with the Void. (Osiris and Anubis are both rather terrifying in this presentation.)  Hunter takes Laura to the Far Lands, seeking to heal her in the court of the final Word. Ruth winds up in Greece, where she and a group of abused women end up becoming Maenads  under the sights of Dionysus.

Church has a confrontation with the Libertarian, who reveals an interesting secret, if it's true.

Mallory's party meet Ogma, and eventually find the missing Tuatha de Dannan, although conflict arises between Sophie and Caitlyn. 

Church's group first winds up in China, then in New York. Along the way, the Blue Fire is awakened at the source again, and we find out what happens when a Wendigo gets loose in Manhattan.

As I stated at the outset, there's a lot to unpack in this, between the Gnostic thought that guides much of the philosophy along with the different faces of syncretic deities. There's also several Burning Men in here, from visions in the Far Lands, to a title Church ends up wearing, and a literal Burning Man in Nevada with Ryan and Ruth at the festival. We also have the whole concept of the serpent equating with wisdom, and therefore the Garden of Eden creation story taking on a whole new slant.

In the end, we have a set up for the final book in the sequence, which will get read eventually, although the amount of foreshadowing in this volume suggests not everyone is going to have a happy ending. On the other hand, I'm curious as to whether or not my current working theory that we're going to wind up in Transcendentalism with everyone belong to the same oversoul holds true. I'm likely wrong, but one of the reveals in here suggests it.

Good read. Was interesting seeing presentations of Pantheons outside of the Celtic.

Friday, December 1, 2017

He's the man, the man with the spider's touch

So, Moonbreaker by Simon R. Green is pretty much exactly what I expect out of a paranormal James Bond novel, particularly one in his Secret Histories series.

Which is to say, over the top, cheeky, and really entertaining.


So, at the end of the last one, we found Eddie Drood poisoned by Dr. DOA, who was actually an alternate reality version of Eddie from a reality where the Drood were exterminated. Eddie wound up trapped with Molly Metcalf in said alternate reality while his alternate self went to Eddie's normal reality.

Several things happen here. We find out the alternate Droods worshiped Kali, in the sense that the Thugees in Temple of Doom worshiped Kali. We also find the alternate hall has an alien Grey who's actually a robot from the future trapped in that version of the Old Library.

They eventually get back to Eddie's original relaity, and the chase is on for Bad Eddie. Well, after dealing with the Hall releasing parts that have been cut off from reality for a while. Like the parts with the alchemically married to demons Droods. And the alchemically married to angels Droods.

Then it's off to Scotland and the Museum of Unattached Oddities, Siberia, and THE MOON!

There's quite a bit going on here, and the fur keeps on flying from start to finish, with occasional meditations on family obligations and how much one should acknowledge bad things done in the past. As an added bonus, the teaser for the next book reveals that it will be narrated by both Eddie and John Taylor (narrator of the Nightside series). That should be interesting.

So yeah. One of the better entries in the Histories.