Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Who knew demons cure lice and fleas?

Recently I found out the lirbary finally got hard copies of Lois McMaster Bujold's Penric novellas, and I was quite ecstatic to be able to read more of the series set in her World of the Five Gods.

So, here we have Penric and the Shaman, in which Penric and his demon, Desdemona, get tapped to go help a Temple Locator to find a rogue shaman suspected of murdering a friend of the shaman. Penric has advanced since the first story, now a Learned in the Bastard's Order. The Father's Locator, Orwyl, doesn't quite know what to make of him, since Penric and Desdemona's conversations tend to be....odd to listen to.

The rogue shaman, Inglis, on the other hand, has run aground in the mountain valleys and damaged his leg. He does find himself among dogs that are on their way to becoming Great Beasts. The shaman who had been breeding the dogs died in a rock slide a few weeks prior.

Eventually, the plots meet up, and we get the full story of why Inglis is bleeding himself and why everyone was called together by the parsimonious Gods.

Given this is a novella, it's a short read, but I love this setting, and I love Ms. Bujold's writing. I also love the reconciliation between the dead mountaineer and his God. May we all be so blessed as to be able to greet divinity with a smile and a sense of humor.

Much love.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Torak's Wife

So, it took me a bit logner to get through Polgara the Sorceress than previous volumes in the David Eddings series, but she's also a longer read and I was on vacation for five days in there. (DC. There were Pandas.)

As Ce'Nedra complained at the end of Belgarath, the preseries story was unfinished, since Polgara has a story of her own. The Riven Queen and Garion go east to the vale and enlist Poledra to get Polgara to write out her story. Which she does eventually.

Much like Belgarath, Polgara tends to litter her narrative with the occasional aside poking fun at fictional readers of her manuscript. Which helps to lighten up the occasionally dark narrative.

By far the biggest change with Pol is that Polgara is aware that Poledra lived past her birth, as Poledra remains in contact with her throughout her life. Polgara, being a twin, loses her other half at 16 when Beldara marries Riva. Beldara manages to get Polgara out of her awkward and unkempt stage prior to marriage, although Beldaran's eventual death marks the start of deaths that will haunt her through the narrative.

We see much of her learning through her eyes and get the other half of the story told in her father's book, including that her mother was also instructing her. Until she eventually winds up in war torn Arendia to end the civil war, however temporarily. Mind you, she more or less bullies the three Duchies into behaving themselves and gets given her own Duchy, Erat, as a reward. Vo Wacune falls and so does her almost lover Ontrose with it. While Ontrose's death is very hard on her, it doesn't stop her from her duty as Duchess, helping the refugee Wacites settle in to Erat as it becomes Sendaria and destroying the Asturian raiders. She convinces one of the Tonedran Emporers to get a king in Sendaria, and thus her land becomes an independent nation.

After that adventure, she becomes the guardian of the Rivan line, as she fishes the heir, Geran, out of the bay and takes him back to her estate in Sendaria. We hear of her moving around with the heirs and making them vanish into obscurity until Torak's invasion of the West. The heir at the time goes into hiding in Algaria, while Pol and Belgarath get the forces running at Vo Mimbre. We hear of how she and Poledra combine into one particular owl to spy on Torak and Zedar during the siege. And how it was Poledra who helped her resist Torak's proposal on the third day.

We hear of the heir's mental subjugation to Chamdar and subsequent exposure to Chamdar's thoughts, and the later move into Cherek. Finally, the century of the Godslayer arrives and Polgara can finally move back to Sendaria. Which is probably the saddest chapter in the entire book as we learn of the fates of Garion's grandparents and the eventual fire that takes out his parents. And we hear of the move to Faldor's farm and Polgara's eventual acknowledgement of her love for her father.

Polgara is quite a bit more intimate than Belgarath. This is likely because Polgara is younger than Belgarath, and she's much more involved in the day to day history of the world than Belgarath is. It's a wonderful ending to the series, and a reminder of sacrifices made to bring about the changes we need in the world.

Friday, February 9, 2018

I knew Oregon was bad....

I found out a while back that Seanan McGuire had written a novel based on an RPG game and my interest was piqued. While I've never played DeadLands, I know enough people who have to have a very general idea of the setting, and hey, it's Ms. McGuire, who's writing I enjoy.

My lack of familiarity of with the setting was a bit of an issue for a few bits in Boneyard, although I caught the gist of the timeline changes. (The biggest one was that in this setting Deseret never became Utah and became a sovereign nation.)

Anyway, the plot mainly concerns Annie Pearl, Mistress of Oddities at the Blackstone Family Circus. Her daughter, Adelaide, is mute, but learned to sign from a Sioux who traveled with the circus. Annie has a past hidden in the City of Salt Lake, but no one in the circus is aware of it. Indeed, when we join the circus, they're traveling from Idaho to Oregon for what promises to be the last show of the season in a settlement known as The Clearing. Set into a bowl, The Clearing has a bit of a reputation, as most acts come out with full coffers, but rumor holds that about one in four acts that go through have problems.

And this being a novel, Blackstone is one of the tours that has issues.

Chief among those issues are the monsters that sweep out of the woods and kidnap several members of the circus. Not that Annie is there for this, since Adelaide wandered off into the woods on her own earlier. However, Annie gets joined in her search for her daughter by one of the circus roustabouts, Martin, who's girlfriend Sophia wound up being kidnapped by the monsters. Out in the woods, Annie's pet Lynx, Tranquility (a gift from her ex husband), protects them during an attack long enough to get Martin and Annie to the door of Hal, once one of The Clearing, now a hermit in the woods. And his story is a doozy.

Seems that the woods are filled with spirits of hunger that possess people and fill them with the urge to eat people. (Because People who eat people are the loneliest people...) AKA they become Wendigo. Hal's wife and daughter became Wendigo after he got hurt in the woods.

Adelaide, on the other hand, a few adventures later, is found amongst the wolf like things that also haunt the woods.

And then there's Annie's still current husband, Michael, who comes to Oregon from Deseret to take back his daughter for the benefit of their other daughter. (This is another place the setting needed a bit. Seems there's a bit of Steampunk in the world, since the wagons are steam powered.) His employer, Dr. Hellestromme, seems to like Michael's work.

In the end, one of the scenes I expected is played out, although not in a way I predicted it, and we again deal with one of the themes of golem creation: sometimes, man is the monster, particularly when the monsters are just filling their role in the world.

While the book is really readable, there are a few bits where you can hear the dice rolling in the background. And a bit more exposition on setting would have helped. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Torak's Teeth

As I had stated previously, I came back and finished Belgarath the Sorcerer by David Eddings, having had a small break in the TBR pile.

We start with a very short prologue picking up right after The Seeress of Kell, with the Gods leaving after Polgara's motherhood became official. A conversation between Garion, Durnik, and Belgarath begins a plot to get Belgarath to write down his story, which covers most of the history of the world until Garion's birth.

And what a story it is. This volume clocks in longer than any of the other installments in the series, but it also covers a heck of a lot of ground. We hear about Torak taking Aldur's Orb, then using it to crack the world and the punishment he gets for using it so. We hear of the journey to Mallorea to retrieve the orb, and the split that turns Aloria into Cherek, Drasnia, Algaria, and Riva. We hear of Belgarath's descent into grief and madness following the supposed death of Poledra while he was getting the Orb and setting up Riva.

We have the birth of Polgara and Beldaran, and Pol's hatred of her father. We see Beldaran get married to Riva and start the line that would produce Garion in time. Then comes the writing of the prophecies.

Along the way, we find Belgarath getting directions from his Necessity and Polgara getting her own instruction and usually not telling Belgarath. Eventually Pol winds up in Arendia and gains a Duchy in Vo Wacune. Her father gets quite annoyed with her. Eventually Vo Wacune falls and Pol spends a few centuries being annoyed with her father. Then comes the murder of the Riven King, and Polgara's caretaking of the Riven line.

That falls apart a few times, although none so long as when Torak wakes up and invades Drasnia on his was to the Battle of Vo Mimbre, leaving the Heir at the Algarian Stronghold while Torak invades and decimates the West. That eventually gets settled by Brand exposing Torak to the Orb and poking a stick through his eye....

And then we wait for the birth of the Godslayer, and the sadness that is the deaths of Garion's Grandparents and parents.

We see the companions in their early years, and we end with Ce'Nedra deciding she needs to hear Polgara's story. Which will be later, since I had a few books show up.

It's a good, if involved read, filling in many of the gaps from the first two pentads.