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The basic premise of Mona Lisa Darkening

The basic premise of Mona Lisa Darkening published on

is that there’s another Hell that is way worse than regular Hell and is called “NetherHell.”

I’m really trying hard here, but I think the book just beat me. I’d gotten over my cold, but it relapsed; and all my downloads keep aborting themselves; the milk has all curdled; and the sun set an hour earlier than usual, with a heavy sense of finality. This is what it’s like when the book wins.

Anyway, this concept has previously appeared pretty much verbatim in Penny Arcade.

Mona Lisa Awakening, by Sunny

Mona Lisa Awakening, by Sunny published on

I just read this book.

And you guys.

It is Anne Bishop fanfic. Unequivocally! Terms and social structures are duplicated!

Lisa is a nurse at a New York hospital who has magic diagnostic powers – she only needs to touch a patient to know what is wrong with him/her! Obviously we must first see her doing this to a cute child. But within two pages, a man checks into her ward and immediately uses his magical powers to “touch her like a lover’s invisible fingers, stirring foreign urges and feelings within her that she had never felt before!” He’s bleeding all over the place at the time, but it’s cool – one of those feelings within her is bloodlust.

His name is Gryphon (excellent.) and he is on the run from the evil Mona Sera, his Queen, whom he serves because it is the natural order of things for men to serve the women who are born with the magical powers that make them Queens. If you are descended from the moon people, which he is. Turns out, Lisa is three-quarters moon person herself! In fact, she is the very first half-breed Queen ever! And could she also be… the most powerful Queen ever?! (Obviously yes.) Gryphon vows to serve her, and she vows to fix his evil-rape-y society – if they can find a cure for the poison that will kill him within 30 days!

Please assume that I got all these exclamation points directly from the book.

Continue reading Mona Lisa Awakening, by Sunny

I have an unfortunate announcement to make.

I have an unfortunate announcement to make. published on

I regret to inform you that the Regency Buffy book – aka, The Rest Falls Away, by Colleen Gleason, #1 in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles series – just is not very good. At all. The prose is clunky, and there’s no pacing, and the love triangle has so little chemistry from any angle that I fear that in the vicinity of these three characters matter is actually continuous and not particulate in nature. The hilarious presence of magical protective Catholic navel piercing talismans does not make up for these problems.

With that understood, please go now about your business.

One-to-two sentence reviews again

One-to-two sentence reviews again published on

Neither Darkover Nor Manga

  • Fool Moon (Dresden Files 1), Jim Butcher

    I heard somewhere that Jim Butcher and the Ah! My Goddess guy can combine to form a bigger misogynist.

  • Dawn (Xenogenesis 1), Octavia Butler

    Octavia Butler punches you repeatedly in the stomach.

  • Adulthood Rites and Imago (Xenogenesis 2, 3), Octavia Butler

    Octavia Butler punches you in the stomach more lightly, provides gender-bendy but oddly heteronormative tentacle sex utopia, repeats.


  • The Spell Sword, Marion Zimmer Bradley

    Guy from earth lands on the planet of the red-haired sorceresses and goes native (he doesn’t turn into a red-haired sorceress, ’cause that would be, like, weird). Disney could make the movie of this without changing it too much.

  • The Forbidden Tower, Marion Zimmer Bradley

    Guy from earth’s adjustment to his new psychic family life is hampered by his wife’s psychic powers accidentally zapping his testicles and his attraction to his sister- and brother-in-law. Maybe orgies will solve these problems?

  • Heritage of Hastur, Marion Zimmer Bradley

    Being gay is wrong and bad, but Regis Hastur thinks he might be gay! Betraying the Comyn is wrong and bad, but Lew Alton thinks he might betray the Comyn! OH NOES

    (I would argue that “OH NOES” does not constitute a sentence.)

  • Stormqueen!, Marion Zimmer Bradley

    People have terrifying uncontrollable psychic powers that may destroy them and EVERYONE THEY LOVE, and pregnancy is TERRIFYING, and everyone’s family is trying to KILL THEM, and so is the WEATHER.


  • Yotsuba&!, volumes 1-3, Kiyohiko Azuma

    cannot form sentence dying of cute

  • Crimson Spell, volume 1, Ayano Yamane

    Ridiculous high fantasy comedy/porn. Why is it that transforming into your demon form always seems to involve stripes these days?



COMYN LORD: I am so angry and celibate! It has something to do with my psychic powers.

HIS DAD: Cry moar. You are going to be a warrior and awesome and give me millions of awesome grandchildren because I have inadequacy issues.

COMYN LORD: I hate you, father! I fantasize about killing you with such eerie vividness that I must flee the room to rest my burning forehead against the cool stones of the corridor wall, terrified by how near I have come to patricide this day.

HIS DAD: (That is normal on Darkover.)



One-to-two sentence reviews!

One-to-two sentence reviews! published on

Not Manga

  • Ash, by Malinda Lo

    Bisexual Cinderella undergoes uninteresting torments, solves the primary plot problem too easily, and selects the sensible corner of her love triangle.

  • Spin State, by Chris Moriarty

    Someone named Moriarty thought it would be a good idea to cross Crystal Singer over with The Continuing Time, and they were right.

    Also contains Cetagandans, physics, and a mostly non-white cast.

  • Does My Head Look Big In This?, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

    A funny and generally non-preachy YA novel about an Australian Muslim girl figuring out her cultural identity. There are a few clunky bits where the author’s desire to educate trumps her sense of how dialog works.

  • Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, and Calling on Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede

    Oh, Suck Fairy, why must you visit so much of my library? I used to love these books.


  • Angel Nest, by Erika Sakurazawa

    Sweet, slickly-drawn short story collection. The title story, about a recently-divorced woman who finds her empty apartment invaded first by an angel, then by her ex-husband’s teenaged mistress, is the best.

  • Between the Sheets, by Erika Sakurazawa

    Depressing, slickly-drawn story about dysfunctional people messing up each other and themselves, which Tokyopop shouldn’t really be marketing as gay-positive. None of the characters are particularly likable.

  • Ode to Kirihito, by Osamu Tezuka

    Osamu Tezuka punches you repeatedly in the stomach.

  • MÄR, by Nobuyuki Anzai

    This manga follows the Shounen Jump formula so closely that, during the three years of its publication, it is written that Yoshihiro Togashi would frequently look over his shoulder in puzzlement and fear, wondering what ghost it was that he felt stepping on his heels. (If Togashi ever got out of bed then, I mean.)

  • Flame of Recca, by Nobuyuki Anzai

    Anzai’s first major work, which strays from the formula occasionally, with some good results and some bad. Compulsively readable up to the end of the tournament arc, but Anzai has major issues with women, and there’s way more fetish stuff than you want to see in a kids’ story.

I just REALLY LIKE tournament arcs, okay?

I just REALLY LIKE tournament arcs, okay? published on

I just read On The Edge, and then reread the Kate Daniels books, and now I’m giving serious consideration to rereading that novella I didn’t really like again. These are just my ideal books for this moment in time, for some reason. They give me great joy.

The two individuals who comprise Andrews make clear in On The Edge that they read manga, but I’d already figured that out. Because Magic Burns is really obviously the result of the two of them sitting there watching Yu Yu Hakusho or something and going, “You know – we totally need to do a tournament arc.”

No, it is directly out of the Tournament Arc section of the shounen manga textbook.

And it’s a good tournament arc! Where it actually feels like people are in danger, and that it matters whether they win or lose! It’s glorious. There are all these scenes where they’re discussing their opponents and making strategy and describing what magical colors their opponents glow, and picking a name for their team, and talking about the tournament rules, and in general great stuff like that. There’s the apparently totally useless fighter who ends up laying waste to something terrifying, and is mildly puzzled when everyone else is shocked by this. There’s the self-absorbed coward who has to fight by him/herself.

Oh! And there’s one of those scenes where somebody gives away the identity of their martial arts master by using said master’s signature technique on one of his other students! (I love those.) This book is so awesome.

(On The Edge also references Girl Genius, incidentally! Girl Genius has not had a tournament arc; I kind of feel that this is something that needs remedied.)

In case you are in danger of not spending all your money,

In case you are in danger of not spending all your money, published on

I should let you know that Amazon has released a PC reader for Kindle-formatted books. They have also made it impossible to turn off the one-click order button. I accidentally read two vampire books.

I am not responsible for my actions! They contain certain specific tropes!

My books-read list for the past six weeks is like, half Rex Stout.

My books-read list for the past six weeks is like, half Rex Stout. published on

(But I’m only talking about the last two, because I’ve been going through them too fast and they’re running together.)

Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe 9) and Not Quite Dead Enough (Nero Wolfe 10), by Rex Stout

These books are both two novellas glued together, but they did not warn me that they were. So Not Quite Dead Enough started and Lily was the prime suspect for the murder, and then Archie framed himself for the murder, and I expected all these dramatic shenanigans between them over this, and then all of a sudden it was over and there was still half the book to go, and Lily wasn’t even in it. Curses upon this book.

And upon the other one, but less so, because it only really stood out to me as an entry in my directory of books containing an Eccentric Rich Woman Who Keeps A Pet Monkey.

Silent Blade, by Ilona Andrews

This is a novella which I guess I should describe as a paranormal romance, though it’s sci-fi, not fantasy. Meli is a mutant cyborg assassin with special martial arts powers! Celino is a mutant cyborg CEO with special hostile takeover powers! They were engaged in an arranged marriage as children, but Celino ruined Meli’s chances of marriage and independence by breaking the engagement in such a way that no one else would ever want to risk marrying her. She is ready to retire as an assassin, until her brother offers her one last job – killing Celino! Exclamation points.

This is okay for what it is – I mean, if Nalini Singh had written it I’d be overjoyed! It’s a romance where it’s the heroine who might kill the hero! But it suffers a lot by comparison to the Kate Daniels books. I appreciate the novelty of a romance in which both leads are, basically, crazy bastards, but would have been more convinced by the premise if we saw more of them being crazy bastards. The genre requirements, however, force Andrews to waste time on sex that could have been more productively spent on violence. I don’t think this is either Andrews’ natural length or her natural subject matter.

Here is the paragraph that shows us why Ilona Andrews should probably not write straight-out romances: “I know the details of every assassination you have ever done. […] I think the risks you took with Garcia were idiotic.” He knelt beside her. “I also kidnapped your father and your brothers. I would’ve tortured them if I thought they knew where you were.”

I just think this sort of relationship would have been more interesting in a story with a focus wider than the period of time surrounding the removal of garments.

Od Magic, by Patricia A. McKillip

This is definitely one of McKillip’s weaker books, if not her weakest. As is McKillip’s habit, particularly in her city books (this is one), there are several separate plotlines which come together in the end. Brenden is a shy young man with an uncanny ability with plants and animals, who, traumatized by the recent loss of his family, is invited to become gardener at a school of magic by its founder, a huge immortal woman named Od. Yar is a teacher at Od’s school who has recently begun to feel that the paranoid and joyless King’s iron grip over the school is irreversibly damaging its students, and perhaps the entire kingdom. Arneth is a member of the city guard who finds himself falling in love with Mistral, the daughter of and manager for a traveling performer he may have to arrest for illegally using magic without the King’s permission. Sulys is the King’s daughter, who is herself harboring illegal magic, and is being forced to marry Valoren, the humorless and socially awkward young wizard who is her father’s most loyal servant.

So, that’s four plotlines and five POV characters. In general McKillip’s very good about bringing together a lot of different plot strands in a way that feels organic to the story. The ending doesn’t really feel awkward or crowded here – but then it’s not entirely an ending, because one story is left unresolved. I think there just wasn’t any space left for it. It’s not a big enough issue to ruin the book, but for a McKillip book, it’s surprising. Sometimes writers leave threads hanging early on in a book without knowing whether they’re going to pick them up again, and presumably she does it just like everyone else, but she always seems to tidy up them all up before she finishes. This book has some visible loose ends. Example: Brenden repeatedly mistakes Mistral for his lost lover Meryd. Why? Do they have something to do with one another? It’s never explained.

I’m still probably unwarrantedly fond of this book, mainly because of Valoren. I just like dorky villains! McKillip doesn’t do many of them! He and Yar have a conversation in which Valoren can’t decide whether to threaten Yar for his seditious behavior, or ask him for advice about Sulys. “Why did she slam the door like that? What did I do to make her so angry?” Yar tries to explain!

Darkborn, by Alison Sinclair

Darkborn, by Alison Sinclair published on

Dr. Balthasar Hearne and his wife Telmaine Hearne are Darkborn, a blind people who are cursed to die if they come into contact with light, and navigate via sonar, which they call “sonning.” Their roughly Victorian-era world is populated half by their own people, and half by the Lightborn, who are vulnerable to darkness in the same way the Darkborn are to light. One night Tercelle Amberley, a woman Balthasar once knew, comes to him about to give birth – and her children, incredibly, are born sighted. Meanwhile, Telmaine meets the battle-scarred, traumatized wizard Ishmael de Studier, and finds for the first time that she may have met someone from whom she can’t hide her darkest secret – that she is a powerful wizard, something shunned in Darkborn society.

The setting of the book was interesting, particularly the strange ways the Darkborn and Lightborn find to communicate. I appreciated that Telmaine, who in this sort of story would usually end up staying at home cheerleading, was by far the most active of the main characters, and the driving force of the action for most of the last part of the book.

I liked the idea of a race of people who using sonar, but had a lot of issues with the execution, when Sinclair made it just a little bit too much like sight. For instance, there’s a scene where one character sonns another character’s face “framed in the open window.” …what, exactly, are all these blind people likely to be framing? It’s nitpicky, yeah, but little details like that make or break a book’s ability to convince you of its world’s reality. I was never convinced of this one.

The characterization suffers a similar problem with consistency – except for me, this one is much worse. Cut for a spoiler: Continue reading Darkborn, by Alison Sinclair

Fizzle fft

Fizzle fft published on

I played Yume Nikki for fifteen minutes before dinner, and I still feel weird.

In between then and now I reread Fire Logic. This book is very convinced of itself and its own aesthetic and moral completeness, so it’s usually good for the purpose of frightening off stubborn bits of other systems of internal logic. Unfortunately, Yume Nikki seems to be too tough for it. I had a few moments of panic around midnight upon glancing up and, noticing that my bedroom door was closed, realizing that I had no way of determining whether I was awake or asleep.

I got an invite for a Google Voice account a few minutes ago, which I think means I have voicemail for the first time since my answering machine in college. It’s an alarming prospect.

Heir to the Shadows, Anne Bishop

Heir to the Shadows, Anne Bishop published on

I’M READING ANNE BISHOP AGAIN apparently I suffer from masochistic tendencies.

So I’m about 3/4 through this book. And there’s this guy Lucivar, and he’s explaining evil magical roofies to his zombie-vampire father, Saetan SaDiablo, the High Lord of Hell. And this is the third time he’s talked about the evil magical roofies, and Saetan SaDiablo is shocked by the cruelty of mortals and has to sit down on his dark throne, and Saetan SaDiablo has been shocked by the cruelty of mortals and had to sit down in every single scene he’s been in. Except for the one where he was pretending to be a pedophile serial killer to trick the other pedophile serial killer into coming into his bedroom so he could kill him.

Not his bedroom in Hell, his bedroom in the Shadow Realm. The Shadow Realm’s someplace else.

Lucivar spent 2/3 of the book enslaved to a rapist, and his father Saetan SaDiablo (third-most powerful male wizard in the world) and his teenaged adopted sister Jaenelle Angelline (most powerful wizard in the world) know that, and stuff, but they kinda don’t do anything about it. I guess it’s not that important? So there are all these scenes where Lucivar’s being tortured, and then there’s a scene where Jaenelle shows up at Saetan SaDiablo’s grim palace with a unicorn or an adorable telepathic wolf cub and Saetan SaDiablo goes “OH MAN IT IS A UNICORN AND/OR TELEPATHIC WOLF CUB AND THAT IS NOT OKAY FOR MY IMAGE” and people smile and offer him a drink, and he’s sitting down in his dark throne again I mean I don’t know why he bothers to stand up. And then Lucivar escapes by himself and shows up, and they say, “Oh, hey! You made it!” And Lucivar hangs out with the unicorns and things are basically fine. He isn’t mad about how, you know, they didn’t rescue him! He knows they were real busy.

(I came up with a new way to describe Anne Bishop today: “Laurell K. Hamilton writes licensed Disney Princesses books.”)

It is because Anne Bishop is not good at remembering what the plot is. She also forgot how Lucivar has a brother named Daemon Sadi – alias, The Sadist, other alias, Hayll’s Whoreand Hayll is also a different place from Hell – who is a 1700-year-old Warlord Prince sex slave with the second-strongest magic powers in the world, and is impotent (and random people just up and start talking about his impotence because everyone knows – stuff gets around in 1700 years, it’s just a thing – even though people periodically forget that he generally kills the women he sleeps with), and who was the protagonist of the first book and spent half of it being sad that he was an impotent sex slave unworthy of the woman he loves (Jaenelle, his then-twelve-year-old adopted sister), and the other half being angry about the same issue, and killing people in many ways.

Anyway, she forgot Daemon was there. This book he went insane in a way that makes him weep all the time and occasionally refer to himself in the third person, mainly to keep him out of the way so we can get this big important The Unicorns And Telepathic Wolf Cubs Move In With Saetan And Wacky Antics Ensue thing established. There are also some scenes where Jaenelle goes clothes shopping and doesn’t get along with the other kids.

I totally forgot about how, in this book, there is an evil queen named Dorothea who wants Daemon to father her children. There’s also an evil priestess named Hekatah who used to be married to Saetan and wants to kill him. I think sometimes Bishop forgets which one of the two has which set of motivations.

I like how it’s possible to forget about things like that in this series.

Unrelated note to the internet: Nobody buy a Samsung Magnet, please. Dad bought one and I just spent three hours trying to get the drivers installed so I could sync up his address book. At least for Vista, there are no working drivers for this phone.

An Exchange of Hostages, Susan R. Matthews; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie

An Exchange of Hostages, Susan R. Matthews; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie published on

An Exchange of Hostages, Susan R. Matthews

Didn’t somebody want a Magical Sadist book, to go along with the Magical Masochist Kushiel books? Here you go!

Andrej Koscuisko, a brilliant young neurosurgeon fresh out of medical school, is ordered by his father to join the military and enter training to become a Ship’s Surgeon. But a Ship’s Surgeon’s primary occupation is not to heal the sick – it is to torture confessions out of prisoners. The idealistic Koscuisko is initially disgusted by this, as well as his discovery, upon entering training, that he has been assigned a slave, the stoic warrior Joslire, whose obedience to him is enforced via a cybernetic implant. However, as he gets deeper into his training, he discovers in himself a less-than-wholesome fascination for his work.

This book is an exercise in the clinical deconstruction of a fetish. While Koscuisko and Joslire’s relationship is a big ball of angsty UST, most of the book takes place in decidely non-sexy, and frequently worrying, debates about the ethics of the book’s government’s legal system. They’re worrying because the book wants there to be more moral gray here than there actually is.

The debates mostly take the form of conversations in the Torture Class classroom, between Koscuisko and his tutor Chonis and fellow student Mergau Noycannir, explaining the legal system’s justifications for what it does, and outside of it, in their internal monologues either accepting it (mostly Noycannir) or arguing against it (mostly Koscuisko and Joslire).

These aren’t simple shouty discussions. They’re very long, sometimes giving the sense that Matthews is trying to drown what’s actually happening in a sea of irrelevant detail. And they’re very serious, and pay a fair amount of attention to what kind of the social environment makes plausible an ethical system that permits torture and slavery. It’s kinda like The Brothers Karamazov, if The Brothers Karamazov was about BDSM spaceships.

I would say that the book doesn’t actually want to justify torture and slavery as a general practice. It’s funny how I can’t say that for sure! But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. What it does want to do, however, is justify Koscuisko’s use of torture and slavery. The narrative spends a lot of time establishing why he feels he has to do as his father tells him, and his motivations make sense psychologically.

But the fact that his personal system of honor requires that he hurt undeserving people does not make him a good person. The “Your right to swing your arm ends at my nose” rule is not difficult to apply here – it’s pretty clear where Koscuisko’s arm ends and his victims’ noses start.

The book seems to agree that a person who behaves the way Koscuisko does is not exactly a hero – but the story requires him to be a hero. So, it turns out that Koscuisko a Magical Special Torturer, the bestest Torturer ever, who never extracts false confessions and always uses the minimum force necessary, and whose victims love him after. What he does is okay, because if he didn’t do it, some other crappier Torturer would! And all the slaves on the ship are in love with him by the end of the book.

This is an well-written book, but also a very, very unpleasant one, both because of the material and because of the way it decides to deal with it.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie

This is only the second Agatha Christie book I’ve ever read – I’d heard of it before I read it, forgotten the title, and realized which one it was very quickly. (Shouldn’t have read the back cover blurbs.)

This is another book that feels a lot like an exercise to me. It’s a very tight book, with no real space to develop an emotional attachment to any of the characters. I don’t think my opinion matters here, but for what it is, I think it’s great – there are only a couple of places that don’t feel “fair” to me, and I don’t usually care whether a mystery’s “fair.”

I, uh, can’t talk about this book any more specifically without spoiling it, sorry.

I aspire to catalog all fiction in which some genius falls in love with Satan.

I aspire to catalog all fiction in which some genius falls in love with Satan. published on

Please, aid me in my endeavor, citizens of the internet!

That’s the literal Satan, now! It cannot be just a nickname for a bad dude – I am not putting the complete works of Georgette Heyer on my list! And Judeo-Christian-Islamic Satans only, please! Maohs and Enmas do not count.

  1. The Black Jewels Trilogy, by Anne Bishop. (duh)
  2. Angel Sanctuary, by Kaori Yuki. (duh)
  3. 666 Satan / O-Parts Hunter, by Seishi Kishimoto. (Seishi Kishimoto is Masashi Kishimoto the Naruto dude’s twin brother, and the plot and art of the two are pretty nearly identical at the beginning. Except that instead of the hero being a fox demon in the form of a little boy who gets in trouble a lot, the hero is Satan, in the form of a little boy who gets in trouble a lot. Shounen Satan Sample Dialog: “It’s… cold… What’s this intensity? Th…that kid… His hair and eyes have changed… And that forehead… The Number of the Beast, 666!”)
  4. Phantom-Thief Jeanne/Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, by Tanemura Arina. (Shoujo Satan Sample Dialog: “But then Satan pretended to save you and got you in his grasp. Do you want to be used by such a terrible person?!” “Don’t speak ill of Satan!”)
  5. Akuma no Eros, by Shinjo Mayu. (Shoujo Satan Sample Dialog: “I want to use these hands to ruin your pureness!” “Pure… pureness!? Me!? This childish face and childlike body!? If Kai wasn’t Satan… if I didn’t have an agreement with him, maybe I would had agreed with him…” (I can’t honestly encourage anyone to read this one, actually. It’s decidedly non-feminist Satanic romance.))
  6. Being A Green Mother and For Love of Evil, Piers Anthony. (via cerusee)

I’m convinced I’m missing an incredibly obvious one, but I’ve been sitting here trying to pin it down for like ten minutes now.

Magic Bites, Ilona Andrews

Magic Bites, Ilona Andrews published on

Kate Daniels is a grumpy, frequently broke mercenary wizard living in a world in which some days magic works and technology doesn’t, and some days vice-versa. The allegedly benevolent Order of Knights of Merciful Aid have been trying to recruit for years, something she’s resisted because she “can’t deal with hiearchy,” and because she thinks that they maybe kinda kill people too much. But when her closest friend, a Knight named Greg, is murdered, the only way she can investigate is to make a deal with the Order. And then also some necromancers, and werecreatures.

I’ve read so many urban fantasies over the past couple months that I find myself able to review them only in the Ticky Box format. (no spoilers)

Continue reading Magic Bites, Ilona Andrews

Moon Called, Briggs; The Godmother, Scarborough

Moon Called, Briggs; The Godmother, Scarborough published on

Moon Called, Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is an auto mechanic and a were-coyote. She is the only one of her kind (were-coyotes, not auto mechanics), and was raised by werewolves, who never fully accepted her and forced her out when she she was a teenager. One day a young werewolf shows up at her shop looking for a job; shortly after, bad guys come looking for him. Mercy has to call for the help of the local werewolf pack and their aenal-retentive leader Adam. Werewolf politics and UST ensue.

Kinda bland urban fantasy that falls apart pretty badly in the second half. I don’t think Briggs knew what she was going to do with all these people when she introduced them. The book is the first in a series, and some characters are pretty clearly meant to be developed more in later books, while some are one-offers. My suspicion is that she didn’t decide which were going to be which until around the half-way point of the book.

We literally know nothing about the villains until the very, very end of the book. (Spoilers: The main villain doesn’t show up in person until the very last scene, and was barely mentioned before then. He’s also stupid. I will call this a douche ex machina.) A lot of the climax consists of people we’ve never met or barely know explaining the motivations of other people we’ve never met or barely know. At one point the story kind of stops dead so Mercy can fix the nice gay couple’s problems, which end up having nothing to do with the plot. As much as I appreciate the presence of the nice gay couple, this was time that should have been spent on other stuff.

On the plus side, it’s an urban fantasy book that isn’t about tracking a serial killer! That’s a refreshing change of pace! And I appreciate that Mercy’s werewolf love interests spend most of the book getting incapacitated and needing her to rescue them.

But I don’t appreciate the love interests themselves. Or Mercy? All of these characters suffer from a marked lack of charisma. I kept forgetting which was which.

Also, Mercy belongs to that long and distinguished line of urban fantasy characters who get to have Special Native American powers without actually being culturally Native American. I’ll bet a hundred internet dollars she gets a wise old Native American mentor in the next book. He/she will either 1) get killed by vampires so Mercy can have angst and revenge, or 2) turn out to be evil so Mercy can have angst and kill him/her.

The Godmother, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Rose Samson is a social worker who doesn’t believe in fairy tales. Felicity Fortune is a fairy godmother. Together, they fight social injustice, in the form of modernized iterations of several fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella, etc), and also of homeless shelters that need their toilets cleaned.

Better urban fantasy that doesn’t fall apart! Felicity and Rose both have a lot of personality – the way Felicity bounces off people is cute, and Rose is, to me at least, pretty believable as a social worker. It’s a very sweet, busy book. My two really big caveats relate to the, ehh, cultural decisions it makes:

1) Felicity pretends to be Kuan Yin to get a Vietnamese kid who’s in a gang back on the right track. Hooray for Caucasian people substituting themselves for other cultures’ gods. You go, Felicity. (That plotline resolved itself in ways that were a little too pat, too.)

2) So, speaking as someone who might possibly consider voting for a Republican if shown clear scientific evidence that the Democrat in the race was, in fact, an Awakened Being from Claymore?*

This book may be slightly overly politically partisan.

Cut for spoilers: Continue reading Moon Called, Briggs; The Godmother, Scarborough

Naamah’s Kiss, Jacqueline Carey

Naamah’s Kiss, Jacqueline Carey published on

Why do I always forget how much I love Jacqueline Carey between books? Because I totally love Jacqueline Carey.

Moirin is a young Maghuin Donn (pesudo-ancient Welsh?) sorceress raised by her mother in the wilderness, who has spent most of her life largely apart from ordinary people. She discovers that her father, whom she never knew, was a man from Terre d’Ange (psuedo-medieval France), and that some of her magical gifts seem to have come from him. Following a personal tragedy that makes it impossible for her to remain at her home, she decides to travel to Terre d’Ange and seek him out. This being a Jacqueline Carey book, melodramatic bisexual antics ensue.

In this book Carey continues doing well most of the things she generally does well – great dialog and prose, strong female characters in roles of political power, and good sex scenes. It doesn’t, however, work as well for me as any of the earlier entries in the Kushiel series (bearing in mind I haven’t read the third Imriel book yet).

The problem is that I was never really convinced that Moirin was in any danger. I think this is because of the relative weakness of the villains. There are three of them: one is largely off-screen and has extremely shallowly explored motivations; another is largely off-screen, and possesses motivations which can be described accurately as “Muahaha!”; and the third is on-screen, but is only a threat because Moirin herself actively continues seeking him/her out after she’s realized he/she is dangerous. And there are moments where this is compelling – but then we get to the book’s half-way point, and Moirin leaves the country and thus the problem. I guess we’ll come back to this later in the series? Moirin keeps saying stuff like “I sensed that my destiny was still entangled with Villain’s. This would not be the last I heard of him/her.” So I guess we will.

This book doesn’t really stand alone as well as Carey’s series books usually do. In general, she closes some sort of emotional arc in each book. In this one, the emotional arc is a complete cliffhanger. I was not expecting that! It was kind of annoying.

In general, though, it’s by Jacqueline Carey, and thus is superior epic fantasy/comedy of manners/porn that you should read.