Tuesday, June 7, 2022

How sweet the sorrow

 I actually finished Music to My Sorrow by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill a few days ago, but...

Anyway, here ends the story of Eric the Bard, unless he's going to show up in the new reboot that he hasn't in 2 books. 

This one basically finishes connecting the lines between Jaycie, Magnus, and Ace, as all of their parents get involved in a really complex revenge plan that winds up with just about everyone suffering eternally and deserving it. 

In the process, we find out the Elf Jaycie's dad is working with Ace's Dad, a White Nationalist preacher, who's side ministry for rebellious youth sucks in Eric and Magnus's parents. 

It's very convoluted, but eventually resolves itself quite nicely.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Coming back around

 Finished my reread of Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill's Mad Maudlin, in which Bedlam's Bard, Eric Banyon finds out about his younger brother. 

Of the series, this is probably the one I remember the best, mainly because one of the plot threads overlapped with some digging I was doing when I read it. 

So, as we open, Eric has been seeing a psychologist who treats folks with magical ability, and dealing with trauma related to having parents who thought of him as a commodity more than a child. As such, he resolves to go see his parents in Boston. Which has the side effect of him learning of his younger brother Magnus, who evidently also has a degree of Bardic Gift. Magnus ran away from home for much the same reason Eric left Julliard at 18 to get the heck away. 

Magnus, in the meantime, is living on the streets of NYC with two close friends: Ace, aka Heavenly Grace, who is on the run from her father who was using her Talent to get more cash; and Jaycie, who's on the run from something else entirely.

Hosea, the banjo Bard/Guardian has his hands full with the Secret Stories going around the children in the homeless shelter he volunteers in (Bloody Mary, who lead the demons to heaven and took over) and his romantic interest, who's managed to get sucked into a cult based around Master Fafnir, who wants to supplant the Guardians with himself. 

As the book progresses, all the plots converge, as Ace's father's helper (an unseeleigh Magus Major) manages to target Eric with a spell, Fafnir manages to summon up Bloody Mary, and Jaycie and Bloody Mary's true identities are revealed

A few things struck me both last time and this time. The Bloody Mary thing being the first. There was a whole thing very similar to this that I found out about after reading involving children in Miami, if I recall correctly. One can't ignore the power of folklore among the youth. The other was the whol False Guardians plot with Master Fafnir, which seems to be echoing back on real life crap that happened long before I read any of her work. (There was a whole thing that you can google and decide for yourself on involving people making a myth cycle out of her Diana Tregard Investigations. Search for The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back.)

By far, this is probably the best of the series that these two collaborated on.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Slitter and Slither

 So, Morgan Brice's BadLands series continues with No Surrender, as we rejoin Vic and Simon in Myrtle Beach, dealing with a cocktail of wedding planning, the trial of the killer from books 1, the discovery of a serial killer on the Grand Strand from the 1980's, and the Slitter's fan boy sending cursed objects to people involved in the trial...

Which somehow all pulls together very nicely. 

Brice's M/M paranormal romance books have a really good tendency to be able to juggle multiple plots and weave them together fairly well, which is on full display here. I'm hoping that in a few volumes, when Vic and Simon do actually get around to getting married, all of the invited characters (from both the Morgan Brice series and the Gail Martin series manage to fit in the volume.

Flute and Banjo Duets

 Running behind on updates again due to personal issues.

Spirits White as Lightning continues Eric the Bard's story in NYC, as his relationship with Ria expands, Kory and Beth try to find a way to conceive a baby of their own (Maeve is technically Eric's daughter), and Aerune tries to get his hands on the drug that awakens latent powers. In the process, we meet the Appalachian Bard, Josiah, who plays banjo and becomes both Guardian and pupil to Eric. 

While this continues and finishes off the story from Beyond World's End, it leaves the door open for the next two books, as the Healer Kayla winds up living in Guardian House by the end as well. 

Really, it's a fun read, even as we have to adjust to some rather big adjustments in the makeup of the characters, although we also get to see Tannim and Chinthliss again, as the Dragon will give access to his library if Kory and Beth can build a computer that will work underhill. When I originally read this, I thought the plot was padding out the story, now I see where it's building a story that will expand in the next volume, as the Green Government people show up at one point. 

It's a fun and soapy read.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Threefer

 I'm a lot behind on catching up on these, so I'm reviewing an omnibus and a single volume as one big review. 

We'll start with Bedlam's Bard by Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon, which is an Omnibus of Knight of Ghosts and Shadows and Summoned to Tourney. We meet Renaissance Fair actor and flutist, Eric, who is having a loud breakup with his girlfriend at the outset. In his depression and drunkenness, Eric composes a song on his flute that winds up waking up Korendil, an elf trapped in The Dreaming by the exiled elf Perenor. 

Eric, Kory, and Eric's friend Beth wind up working together to stop Perenor from destroying the Nexus that is in Los Angeles by moving it by the Observatory, which manages to annoy both Perenor AND his daughter Ria. 

The second part picks up with Eric, Kory, and Beth living in San Francisco as a Throuple. In this one, a shadowy government agency is kidnapping psychics and using them for nebulous purposes. Eric breaks a few of the kidnapped psychics out using Nightflyers, which in turn lets the Nightflyers try to set off THE BIG ONE using equipment designed to prevent earthquakes. 

Then we come into Beyond World's End, in which Eric has become a full Bard, moves to New York, and restarts like at Julliard. Beth, being pregnant and more in a couple with Kory than Eric, stays in Underhill. There's a certain amount of humor in here, since Eric now lives in Diane Tregarde's apartment complex, and has a talking gargoyle dropping by for conversation. 

In this, Eric gets dragged into a mystery that also involves the Guardians, in which an Unseeleigh Lord is trying to find a Bard, but runs afoul of a shadowy group trying to awaken people's psychic gifts with drugs. 

While I still find myself loving the series, I found the transition to Eric going from nominally bisexual to hopelessly straight a bit jarring. In the transition, Eric's fluidity gets erased for the most part. Plus the redemption arc of Ria Llewellen is a bit rushed, since she was a secondary antagonist in the first book, now suddenly trying to make amends with Eric. 

I mean, it remains good reading, even as we again get dragged into the streets with the characters, a theme that tends to happen in any of Mercedes Lackey's Urban Fantasy series.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Achilles did not fight alone.

 So, once again, another title showed up on my radar, and I wound up finding a copy. 

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes opens with narration by the muse Calliope, who's complaining a bit about the poet telling her to "Sing, Muse!" She has several interstitial passages in a similar vein, discussing how the poet is upset that she won't give him details he wants, even as she sings the stories of the women involved in or left behind during The Trojan War, or in Penelope's case, the Odyssey. 

For the most part, this mainly concerns the women of Troy and their various fates at the hands of the victorious Greeks, although we do hear of Penelope, Clytemnestra, Iphigenia. and Electra. 

We hear of Polyxena, who goes to her sacrifice  at Neoptolemus to be his father's bride, we sit with Andromache as she cries over her youngest son being thrown from the walls of destroyed Troy. We feel Hecabe's anger, at the Greeks for killing her husband as he clings to a statue of Zeus, as she blames Helen for bringing war to Troy, as Odysseus grants her a chance for revenge on the man who killed the son she managed to get out of Troy. We get Cassandra's story and Clytemnestra's story entwined, even as we hear how the Furies left her after killing Agamemnon only to find her daughter Electra ready to take vengeance on her mother. 

We also get deep into the start of the war, going backwards from the three goddesses arguing over an apple to Eris finding the apple to throw in the first place, to Zeus asking Themis to step in to help lower the population, to Gaia telling Zeus the humans weigh too much and the population needs culled. 

By far the most heartbreaking story in here are Penelope's letters to her Husband, that chart is journey back from Troy. She tells him tales the Bards sing of him in his court, and how annoyed she is at him if any of them are true. Towards the end, when he sleeps in their bed, she prays to Athene, and a side unseen in Homer comes out where she wonders if the man who came home is still the same man that left. 

 Of all the women, poor Andromache winds up with the best lot, living in Greece and married to a former Trojan prince in a place that isn't quite Troy. (Ok, Helen did better, but her defense of being enraptured by Aphrodite really doesn't seem to be expected to be believed.)

While this didn't hit me with quite the same emotional impact as say Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles or Circe, more than a few of the stories in here did have me feeling lots of empathy for the women. Frankly, any of our various focus characters in here could use a novel just on them, telling their story more fully for a modern audience not looking to dig through poetic fragments for hints of what they missed. Or in Cassandra's case, something better than The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradly, one of the few books I've ever been tempted to throw across a room when reading. Heck, I'd be interested in reading her take on Dido, who she mentions she couldn't find a way to fit in the book. 

I know several people with interests in Greek Mythology, and this book would likely be a good addition to their libraries as well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Grandma Alice Kicks Some Butt

 Seanan McGuire returns to InCryptid with Spelunking Through Hell, this time focusing on dimension hopping Grandma Alice Healy. 

Grandma Alice has been seeking her husband, taken by the Crossroads, going on 50 years. Her Snake guy mentor keeps sending her in particular directions, and hunting bounties, but with the Crossroads dead, Alice ends up going another way with a chart she finds in another dimension (with voyeuristic intentions). 

What she finds is fascinating, and winds up with a happy reunion in a bottle world. You know, a roach motel dimension, where you get in, but can't get out. 

It's all very exciting, and that elderly people with some kind of magic can appear to be much younger. 

It's again, well written, and I look forward to the next book.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Burn away mortality

 Finished Electric Idol yesterday, the second book in Katee Robert's Dark Olympus series. While not quite as smutty as the first one, it's in there, but we also get a better look at the setting than we did in the first book. 

This one starts similarly to the first one, as Demeter is trying to marry off another of her daughters to Zeus, recently promoted to the position. (Seems Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades are legacy positions; with the previous Zeus dying off last book, his son Perseus has now become Zeus.) In this case, Demeter is negotiating to get Psyche to marry Zeus, which is annoying Aphrodite, who traditionally finds Zeus's wife. As such, Aphrodite tells her son to bring her Psyche's heart. 

Psyche isn't exactly thrilled with this prospect; besides the fact he's mildly attracted to Psyche, she's been very nice to him, despite his reputation, not undeserved, of being Aphrodite's button man. 

As such, when he arranges a meeting with her to poison her and take her heart, his heart changes, and they start a game to stave of both power hungry mothers. They start a fake romance, complete with social media posts building off a rather suggestive picture taken by the paparazzi at the start. They get married with Hermes presiding, and Zeus's sister Helen and Eris as witnesses. 

None of which particularly appeases Demeter or Aphrodite. 

At any rate, they do have their romance, and the resolution involves Psyche using her particular gifts to take acre of the situation. 

Honestly, I liked it better than I thought I would. While the original myth is not among my favorites (in one version, Eros leaves Psyche when she figures out who she is, in another Aphrodite tortures her until her mortality burns away), this was a satisfying take on the entire affair. I'll also add I'm a bit less worried about the next book involving a love triangle involving Achilles, Helen, and Patrocles... here, at least, the rather sexually fluid nature of the Greek myths, while not explored in smutty detail, is at least discussed, as Psyche discusses affairs with women and men, while Eros admits to sleeping with several people of both genders. Or Aphrodite trying to set Zeus up with Ganymede at the outset. While I doubt the next book will include explicit content beyond what's standard in dark erotica, I think the relationships will be. 

But yeah, if you enjoy mythology and like erotica, this series will likely entertain you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

I'm your huckleberry

 Several store across my platform are selling the paperback of Tom Clavin's Tombstone: The Earp Brother, Doc Holliday, and the Vendetta Ride From Hell, and since I really enjoyed the Kurt Russel movie, I wound up checking the book out of the library. 

What I found was a well researched book that goes into a much deeper depth than many tellings of the tale. 

I mean, the first section of the book, before we even get into the Earp brothers getting to Arizona, centers on a bit of the history of the territory, the silver mines in the SE part of the territory, the natives of the area fighting for their territory vs being shipped off the the reservation, and the strangely hand off politicians of the era. 

By the time we get into the arrival of the Earps, we have a good idea of how the stage was set for catastrophe before they even got there. We also know quite a bit about the ranches in the area, many of whom were raiding nearby Mexican ranches for cattle to rebrand and sell, as well as the Cowboy gangs who were doing the rustling. 

My basis for comparison here is mostly the aforementioned movie, which, using this book as a yardstick had the events mostly correct, but not in the correct order. 

One of Clavin's main contentions in here is that many of the issues between the Earps and the Clantons had to do with a deal between Virgil and Ike to arrest other Cowboys with a fake stagecoach with the Clantons getting the reward money and Virgil getting the recognition. Since that deal, if discovered would have lost a lot of face for everyone involved...

Also, Bat Masterson's role, although he wasn't around for the gunfight and the vendetta, was new to me. (He was in Tombstone, but wound up returning to Dodge City to help his brother before the feud got ugly.) 

It would also seem that the big confrontation that everyone loves between Doc and Johnny Ringo happened long after the Shootout at the OK Corral, and some of the had to do with Doc's girlfriend, Big Nose Kate, getting romanced by Johnny, or at least being encouraged to get out of Tombstone. Also, given Doc was in Colorado when Ringo died, it's highly unlikely he shot him. Most likely, according to Clavin, Ringo died by his own hand. 

On the other hand, Mattie, Wyatt's commonlaw wife, does seem to love her laudanum, in every story, including real life. 

One thing I really enjoyed here was quotations from records of people not directly involved in the feud writing diaries or articles for the society pages in San Francisco. 

While the author does let his personal prejudices show a bit in his recounting, he does manage to point out how morally gray the entire affair was for all parties, and how it wasn't just the criminal element who didn't think the Earps Vendetta Ride was justified. 

Fun read, although like many things, sometimes the legend is more interesting than the truth.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

And back to Elves on Wheels

 Finished up the other omnibus volume of SERRAted Edge a few days ago, but have been lacking in free time to update here.

Anyway. 

The Other World collects Wheels of Fire by Mercedes Lackey and Mark Shepherd as well as When the Bough Breaks by Mercedes Lackey and Holly Lisle. 

The first part concerns a young medium being kidnapped by a white supremacist Christian cult and being exploited to become a vessel for Salamander. Thanks to the continuation of this being in the previous omnibus, I already knew how this played out. 

The second concerns a young magician who's been abused by her father, who in turn was abused by his father. As such, she has 3 or 4 separate personalities running around, including a separate entity (a Celtic witch) who somehow wound up sharing the body with everyone else. 

One of the things I'd forgotten about this series is how many plots revolve around children in danger. Which is good and bad. Problem being, the latter book draws much from When Rabbit Howls, which was a much more interesting read. 

Still, it's engaging urban fantasy.