May 24th, 2013
|09:41 pm - You gotta be Kidd-ing me|
These past coupla weeks I've been reading a book I picked up at the doctor's office last year: The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd, by Richard Zacks.
Captain Kidd, as you may have heard, has become a rather legendary pirate; known for making one of the biggest pirate hauls in history (a ship spelled variously as the Whydah or Quedagh Merchant) and burying treasure all up 'n' down the eastern coast of the Americas, which nobody has yet found, but a hell of a lot of people have looked for.
This picture is almost entirely false. For starters--and this is gonna blow your mind, until you remember that money is the root of all evil--Captain Kidd wasn't even a pirate.
There is totally a pirate involved in this story, a clever, charismatic douchebag named Robert Culliford, whom history has mostly forgotten. (Note to self: Write movie about Robert Culliford.)
The situation was more or less like this: Captain Kidd was hired by a bunch of très riche Lords (plus one very bad-tempered, gouty, perennially broke Lord named Lord Bellomont, who would later be Governor of Massachusetts) to hunt pirates and French ships. His mission was (a) secret and (b) a bit shady, because it contained legally iffy clauses that any goods recovered from pirates would *not* be returned to their owners, but be considered revenue for the mission (ie, it would go to the Crown, the investors, and some would become shares for the crew, etc.). Kidd hired on a crew in what was then the very small walled city of New York, most of them pirates or former pirates. The first, like, two years of the mission were fantastically unsuccessful, and involved Kidd pissing off a lot of East India Company representatives and other hotshots who snottily decided that he must be a pirate because he was insufficiently deferential. His crew mutinied or threatened to mutiny several times. They did not meet a single pirate or French ship.
Near the end, Kidd made some great hauls, including the capture of the Quedagh Merchant, and so did Robert Culliford, now not on Kidd's crew anymore, due to all sorts of complicated logistical shenanigans that I will not recount for you now because I do not remember them properly.
By the time Kidd got back to the Americas with his booty, he was Wanted with a capital W as a Notorious Pirate (or Pyrate, or Pyratt, or pirouette... they hadn't really got the hang of inventing spelling yet), his secretive lordly backers pretty much hung him out to dry, Lord Bellomont was super cranky that Kidd did not end up bringing back quite as much treasure as he'd hoped (because he'd hidden some of it, but also because he'd traded quite a bit of it away), and he was shipped off to Newgate and eventually (he was held without being charged for a VERY long time, like two years) tried and convicted as a pirate and murderer in an absolute farce of a trial, which was pretty much the standard sort of trial.
ANYWAY. The best bits of this book are all the Wacky Historical Tidbits, as far as I'm concerned. I learned about why Wall Street is called Wall Street (it used to be along the city wall at the outskirts of NYC, when NYC was a tacky pirate haven with a populaton of 5,000), and that it was already the investment hot spot in New York, because it was full of taverns where ship captains would hire crews/pirates/smugglers and trade shares of voyages. I learned some really gross stuff about Newgate Prison and the church-going fashions of late seventeenth century Dutch New Yorker women. I learned that the first citywide shutdown-and-manhunt in Boston's history was in November of 1699, for the pirate James Gilliam, who had sailed under Kidd. (The shutdown was because it was the Sabbath and Boston used to always shut down on the Sabbath. Also, the city was a lot smaller then.) I learned that some ships used to use logs painted black to appear more heavily armed than they were, and these dummy cannon were known as Quakers. I learned so many things!
Also, all the old-timey spelling is hilarious, particularly from less-educated people, or people who were in a big hurry. Some of it is nigh incomprehensible! It is like a little game, trying to figure out what in the blazes they were on about. (Turns out, usually death and money.)
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in pirates; it's very well-researched and very readable, and it's one of those cases where the truth turns out to be a better story than the legend.
Current Mood: sick
Current Music: Nightwish
May 18th, 2013
|05:39 pm - In Which the Nazca Lines Are Vomited Upon|
I have been unsure of whether or not I should blog What Really Happened in Peru has a whole book or not; it is a short story, possibly flirting with novella length (being about fifty pages); it will eventually be but one entry in a book entitled The Bane Chronicles, but right now it lives as its own ebook.
Anyway, it is by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. It concerns Magnus Bane, the most awesome character in Clare's Shadowhunter books, and also the only one who shows up in all of the books, because I think if there were a Shadowhunter book with no Magnus Bane in it all the fans would pine away and die. He is to be played by Godfrey Gao in the movie.
Godfrey Gao with a kitten, because all pretty boys are even prettier when holding kittens. Cue Sarah Rees Brennan saying "MORE LIKE MAGNUS BABE, AMIRITE LADIES?"
So... is this Cassandra Clare and her friends basically writing fanfiction of her own character? YES. Yes, it definitely is.
Do I give a shit? NO. NO I DO NOT.
This utterly lolarious little novella gives us a series of vignettes about Magnus' adventures in Peru with his cranky green warlock buddy Ragnor Fell and, in some cases, charming blue warlock friend Catarina Loss.
The writing style can mostly be described as "Identical to Sarah Rees Brennan's tumblr," which I am quite okay with, because SRB's tumblr is a great frickin' read. Even if she does use the word "beam" a lot.
The editing is not very tight and the amount of drinking that happens is reminiscent of nothing so much as a D&D game among people who are too young to actually drink. Again, I end up not really caring, because the things Magnus does while drunk are too funny, and more importantly, they're not portrayed en-scene; they are recounted to Magnus as he is dying of hangover as a means to embarrass him, which is amusing. Although not as amusing as the hangover cure they attempt.
The vignettes involve such wacky hijinks as Magnus almost getting attacked by an angry monkey in the rainforest, Magnus attempting to learn an instrument to impress a cute boy and failing utterly miserably, and Magnus being hired to guard an export ship filled with guano while wearing a jaunty hat. (While composing that sentence, I originally typed "guard an export shit".)
Most of all, this story is just full of lots of hilarious jokes. I first read it while eating ice cream and quickly learned that this was not going to work because ice cream is very painful when it winds up in your nose.
This story does not actually tell us why Magnus Bane was banned from Peru. Apparently a lot of people on Amazon are really upset about this. Too bad for them; it's not good to go into a story with too many expectations. Story is still funny and features lots of jaunty hats.
April 26th, 2013
|08:19 pm - Tropic of OMG|
I think my brain is rotting from not being in school for years because I have no damn idea what to say about Tropic of Orange.
Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita was assigned reading in my Ethic America literature course senior year, which had to be dropped from the syllabus due to some cancelled classes. It then languished for three years in my Ye Olde Stack Of Books What Were Dropped From Syllabi Due To Cancelled Classes But Which I Am Totally Going to Read One Of These Days.
Tropic of Orange is about a whole lot of things. A lot of it is about two big fiery truck crashes that happen at either end of a mile-long stretch of freeway in Los Angeles, The Other City That Americans Tell Stories About. The car owners all get out of their cars and run off the freeway, and then the homeless people the weird no-man's land the freeway cuts through (I cannot visualize if this is space under the freeway or if there's a strip of land between the northbound and southbound sides of the road or what; I don't know how the roads in LA are set up) move into the abandoned cars in between the two on-fire trucks and it becomes a big thing. The other major plotline involves oranges; there seems to be a shipment of drugged or poisoned oranges coming into LA and people who eat the oranges are dying mysteriously, and so oranges quickly become banned and the juice companies desperately start trying to hype passionfruit juice, like, mid-infomercial (it's very 1984), but there is one orange making its way up to LA from Mexico that seems to be dragging some sort of magical thin line through it that is apparently supposed to be the Tropic of Cancer, except that it's an actual line and not imaginary. There is also a third plotline involving illegally harvested infant organs, which I am a bit sad didn't get gone into in more depth.
There are at least five perspective characters here, including Gabriel, an LA reporter with a house in Mexico; Rafaela, who housekeeps Gabriel's Mexico house after leaving her husband and LA; Bobby, Rafaela's husband, a Chinese immigrant who moved to LA from Singapore by pretending to be a Vietnamese refugee; Buzzworm, a guy who always seems to know how to help people and who is working with Gabriel to try and get some reporting done on what's going on in the less glamorous parts of LA; Manzanar, a homeless guy who used to be a surgeon but now spends his time conducting traffic like it's an orchestra; and Emi, a hilariously inappropriate TV news producer and Gabriel's sometimes-girlfriend. There is also a man who is five hundred years old and performs odd feats of strength, who is known by a bunch of names, and whose story makes up the most postmodernist/magical realist part of the book, except possibly the bit where Rafaela eats somebody (I think that's what happened, at any rate). He is traveling North to wrestle Supernafta, which is apparently NAFTA incarnated as a Terminator pro wrestler.
Race and class--and particularly issues of globalization--are major, major themes in this novel. Wrestling NAFTA and the homeless taking over LA's busiest freeway are just the beginning. The novel has a lot to say about ethnic identity, multiculturalism, immigration, eminent domain, gangs, the news media, materialism, and pretty much everything else that relates to access and distribution issues. It doesn't give any pat answers that I can tell you about right here in a sentence or two; Yamashita definitely is very well-informed and has pretty clear opinions on these topics but they're dealt with in the novel in more of an exploratory kind of way--it's not the kind of book where stuff wraps up neatly; more the kind of book where everyone thinks a lot about things and that makes you think about them too.
Overall I think that this book is extremely good, and I really wish I'd had the opportunity to read it in class, with a bunch of related criticism to read and the ability to discuss it with a bunch of very smart people. There's a hell of a lot going on here.
April 6th, 2013
|04:19 pm - Clockwork Storytelling|
I have been meaning to write about Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Princess for about a week now and I have been having the biggest brain block about it. I don't know what I think about it! And I don't feel like recapping it!
Clockwork Princess very much continues to be the sort of thing that people will like if they like that sort of thing, and I happen to like most of that sort of thing--Tessa is still a strong, flawed, clever female protagonist who reads awesome nineteenth century novels (and reads them PROPERLY, not all Mormon-school-like; I'm looking at you, Bella Swann) including the ones that only crazy people read, like The Castle of Otranto. There are still major characters who are not perfectly healthy able-bodied straight white people (of course, the protagonist and her #1 love interest are, but I guess you can only expect so much from any novel that's become quite this popular. Sigh, people). There's all kindsa magic and demons 'n' shit. The Council is still a bunch of denialists who insist that nothing is wrong and try to scold our cast of intrepid heroes out of actually fighting evil because of politics, because this is still a Shadowhunter book and the Shadowhunter books apparently began life as a (plagiarism-ridden) Harry Potter fanfic which means the Council is basically the Ministry of Magic. But hey, I like Harry Potter and I used to quite like Harry Potter fanfiction, so whatever.
The love triangle in this book is LOLARIOUSLY overwrought, although nobody in it is quite as dumb as is usual for love triangles since they all actually like each other. Now that Will is no longer being deliberately ass-tastic to everyone, having abandoned his futile quest to make sure nobody ever loves him, my main issue with the love triangle is that it just goes on for frickin' forever and I much prefer reading about Charlotte kicking ass and everybody trying to defeat Mortmain and about Will's little sister being awesome. The dialogue is still hilarious, although many of the jokes seem to be inspired by other jokes (there is a line about girls stamping their feet, that sort of thing), but I did not catch Ms Clare outright plagiarizing anyone but herself. Tessa's shape-shifter power ends up saving the day, as one would hope and expect, and it does it in a way that I didn't quite predict, which is always good.
There was also a good amount of Magnus Bane, which was excellent, but I think there should have been MORE Magnus Bane because that would have been even MORE excellent.
So one thing I kind of appreciated about this book (although not as much as I would have if I were emotionally invested in any of the romances, which did not happen) is that, while Tessa marries Will and lives a long and happy marriage with him full of babies and grandbabies... she then ALSO goes on to marry Jem and, presumably, have a long happy life with him! (Tessa is immortal due to backstory. Jem... well, I'm not going to spoil how it is that Jem winds up young and human a hundred years after Tessa marries Will.) I still think they should have ended up a happy polyamorous triad, but (a) it was the Victorian era and (b) Jem was dying of demon opium, so I guess that wasn't an option.
Overall I enjoyed it but it did not kill me with feels, although it seems to have killed a lot of other people with feels and it was definitely designed with a blatant intention of inducing massive feels in the reader. I just... enjoyed it a lot. Cassandra Clare is not quite Sarah Rees Brennan or Holly Black when it comes to killing me with feels, it seems, for all that apparently the lot of them are best buddies.
March 24th, 2013
|06:02 pm - Creepy Crawlies again|
I reread The Diviners! Everything I had to say about it six months ago still stands.
March 13th, 2013
|09:57 pm - Beka Cooper: Is Three Different Dogs|
Hey y'all, it is time for me to talk about the Beka Cooper trilogy! These three books, collectively known as the Provost's Dog series, are entitled Terrier, Bloodhound, and Mastiff. I have already reviewed Mastiff on this blog when I first read it, which just coincidentally happened to be when Occupy Wall Street was kicking off, which you can tell in the review.
Anyway. The Provost's Dog books take place about two hundred years BEFORE the beginning of the Song of the Lioness quartet, and Beka is George Cooper's something-great-grandmother (there are some interesting bits of character backstory that we learn to explain why George still has Beka's last name even though he's descended from her in the maternal line). Tamora Pierce definitely made Beka Cooper's Corus seem like a different time period than Alanna's Corus, including being less socially progressive in a lot of ways (there is still slavery, for instance) although there is less Women Are Super Delicate stuff going on--the Cult of the Gentle Mother is a social influence that is pretty new and gaining power during this series, which I think is awesome, because backlashes/regression, they really do happen. There is also lots of fun with medieval slang! This takes some getting used to, but overall I think it ends up being a lot of fun, particularly the swearing. The swearing is wonderful.
These books are big compared to the earlier ones, clocking it at around five or six hundred pages apiece. This is good, as it allows a lot of room for elements of Literary Fantasy, such as listing delicious-sounding foods, describing what everyone is wearing, and talking about going to the bathroom. Also the aforementioned swearing.
On a more serious note, there are also BIG CRIMINAL CONSPIRACIES that Beka and her partners have to unravel because they are AWESOME MEDIEVAL COPS. And many of them are ladies! I cannot even deal with how many awesome lady cops there are in this series, from bit characters like Desk Sargeant Kebibi Ahuda to Beka and one of her partners, a veteran Dog named Clary Goodwin, who is just awesomely cranky and completely zero-bullshit. Goodwin especially shines in the second book, where she and Beka go to Port Caynn to try and unravel a counterfeiting conspiracy. (Tunstall is sadly at home in Corus with broken legs in this one.) There is also another lady knight, Lady Sabine of Macayhill, because it would be cruel for Tamora Pierce to give us a whole series without any awesome lady knights. There are some pretty cool nonmilitary women as well, like Beka's friend Kora the hedgewitch, and Serenity, who runs a lodging house in Port Caynn and just keeps randomly being awesome.
Beka, in addition to being a policewoman, is also a sort-of mage; she doesn't have the Gift, but she has the ability to hear the spirits of the dead when they ride on the backs of pigeons (pigeons are the messengers of the Black God, apparently), and she can also listen to dust spinners, which apparently hold bits of conversation and want to dump them off on somebody else (it makes more sense in the book).
I don't want to go into the plots because it'd be hard to say much of anything without giving it all away, but the basic premises are: In the first book, there's a possible serial killer who kidnaps small children for ransom and kills them if the parents don't hand over their prized possessions, plus someone is hiring crews of diggers who then mysteriously disappear; in the second book, somebody is producing large quantities of counterfeit silver coins and they seem to be coming out of Port Caynn; in the third book, somebody has kidnapped the heir to the throne and hidden him as a slave, plus the realm's mages are in a big snit.
I really do have a lot to say about these books but I don't really want to end up writing another 8-page review. Maybe someday I will go back to school and do a paper on Pierce! That would be the best paper-writing experience I think I could ever have.
February 22nd, 2013
|02:31 pm - Trickster's trickiness|
We're on to the part of the journey were things get weird--Queen Tammy here stops writing in quartets. Fetch my smelling salts!
In this case I think it works because you can really only let spy stories get so big before they become either slow and unsurprising or too complicated to follow. So two books works well for the Trickster series, otherwise known as The One About Spies.
Our heroine in this series is Alianne of Pirate's Swoop, only daughter of legendary Alanna the Lioness, who is now crabby and middle-aged, and former Rogue King of Corus George Cooper, now Baron of Pirate's Swoop. Aly is clever and very into games and puzzles and winning and that sort of thing, and since her daddy is King Jonathan's chief undercover agent and her granddaddy Miles of Olau is his chief spymaster, this means that Aly has been learning to break codes and other fun spy stuff since she was in the cradle. Aly basically enjoys spy stuff and goofing off and that is it, leading to many family conversations like this;
ALY'S PARENTS: You're a grown-up now and you should pick a career.
ALY: I want to be a spy!
ALANNA THE KING'S CHAMPION, PROFESSIONAL HAVE-PEOPLE-TRY-TO-KILL-YOU-ER: No! That is dangerous.
ALY: Fine then, I my career is to goof off and have fun.
GEORGE AND ALANNA: No really please pick a profession, any goddamn profession at all EXCEPT SPY.
After one too many of these conversations, Aly goes sailing until she feels better, and is promptly captured by pirates and sold into slavery in the Copper Isles. The Copper Isles is a massive political clusterfuck of a country, with serious tensions between the raka (native Islanders) and the luarin (descendents of the white people who conquered the Isles three hundred years ago), and a lot of laws designed to disempower and punish the raka for pretty much everything, a highly unstable monarchy (there's insanity in the royal line but it's an absolute monarchy so when the monarch has a breakdown there's nobody who can make them get treatment... this is not even their main problem), a large slave economy (slaves can be of any race, which makes things even more complicated), a large mixed-heritage population (which does nothing to ease the tensions between the raka and the luarin), and a bunch of other stuff. To top it all off, there is a divine element in the conflict, with the original patron god of the Isles, the Trickster god Kyprioth, planning to take the Isles back from the luarin gods Mithros and the Great Mother. Aly is one of his chosen tools to accomplish this.
This is where things get a little awkward as it is kiiiiind of a Special White Person Rides In And Saves All The Brown People From The Bad White People story, although it does deviate from your basic white-guilt-assuaging Pocahontas or Avatar storyline in a couple of important ways. Aly is not the general/leader of the raka rebellion, nor is she their candidate for queen--she has a specific set of skills, in this case her extensive spy training, and she becomes part of the rebellion strictly as its spymaster. The rebellion has several raka leaders and their candidates for Queen are half-raka and half-luarin, descended from royal lines on both sides, in accordance with an old prophecy. Aly also doesn't really do the "switching sides because she's so enlightened that she realizes she's on the side of the Bad Guys"--she's not connected with the Island luarin ruling classes; Kyprioth pretty much just yoinked her out of a totally different country and gave her an assignment. She also doesn't marry the mysterious-brown-people's chief's beautiful daughter or whatever; she instead hooks up with A DUDE WHO USED TO BE CROW. Which means he looks like a grown-up guy but HE IS ACTUALLY THREE. I think Tamora Pierce wrote up this romance to shut up everyone who was complaining about how Alanna and Daine each ended up with dudes several years older than themselves. That said, Nawat really is kind of adorable, because he is a Tamora Pierce Sassy Animal, and they are the best.
I think I would feel more comfortable with this series if there were more viewpoint switches and it didn't use Aly as Our Viewpoint/Bridge Character. Even though that actually kind of makes sense on this one, because readers, regardless of our real-life ethnicities, will probably be more familiar with Tortall and with Aly's fabled parentage than we will with the Copper Isles, since they are made-up places and Tortall is the one that there are other books about. But I still think that a more ensemble-cast approach might have benefited this story just to make it smell a bit less Great-White-Savior-y.
That complaint aside, YAY SPY REVOLUTION! I do love me a well-done spy story. And this one is well-done indeed! There are badass teenage girls and multiple conspiracies in varying degrees of seriousness and all sorts of politics and there is lots of Women Being Friends And Allies With Each Other and there is even An Awesome Stepmother, which I appreciate, because stepmothers are not always evil and this is rarely acknowledged in stories. Also there are Sassy Animals and lots of clever dialogue, as usual. I think I have been insufficiently appreciative of Pierce's clever dialogue in my past, and I will seek to incorporate more of her lines into my life.
February 17th, 2013
|05:10 pm - In Which We Get Political Again|
For me, rereading the Protector of the Small quartet was a whole different kind of exciting from the first two quartets, because now we're into the books that came out when I was aging out of my reread-everything-I-like-a-billion-times phase (plus I had more things to read now that I was a big girl and could start reading books for adults), so I've only read these a few times before. I think Lady Knight I may have even only read once! So I'd forgotten a lot of things and frequently had only the vaguest idea of where the plot was going.
PotS is the story of Keladry of Mindelan, the first girl to openly train to become a knight in over a century, after Lady Alanna happening caused King Jonathan to change the laws. (It seems that there had certainly been an uptick in girls becoming fighters in the fifteen or twenty years since then, but most of them joined the Queen's Riders rather than becoming knights.) When I first heard this series was coming out, I was afraid it would be too similar to Song of the Lioness to really be fun, but luckily, I was wrong. As a character, Kel is way different from Alanna--she's tall, she doesn't have magic, her preferred weapon is polearms, her family were diplomats to the Yamani Isles (a fictional land totally not at all based on Japan) and she lived there for six years so she's a third-culture kid. Kel is very serious and stoic and has no temper at all, unlike Alanna, and (despite her skepticism about how useful it will be) she ends up being trained largely for command rather than for individual knight-erranting around.
One of the things I love about this series is that it really gets into the political tension within Tortall. King Jonathan and Queen Thayet have implemented all sorts of awesome progressive social changes, because they are so awesome, and... not everyone is happy with it! People are having all sorts of Political Opinions about stuff, and have started identifying as either progressives or conservatives. The monarchs are progressives, but monarchs do not, in practice, unilaterally control everything. Unfortunately for Kel, the training master for the would-be knights, Lord Wyldon of Cavall, is a conservative, and is very anti-lady-warriors. Even though the law says girls can become knights, Wyldon threatens to quit if he has to train her, unless certain conditions are met, and King Jonathan can't afford to have him quit because Politics, so he gives in to Wyldon's demands that Lady Alanna not have any contact with her at all (which was actually pretty sensible, if crappy) and that Kel have a year of probation before being allowed to be a proper page (not fair or sensible!). Most of the boys in her program avoid her at first but come around to being friends once they realize she's not an alien, but there are a handful of exceptions--the Crown Prince and a wacky guy named Nealan of Queenscove are nice to her right off the bat; and a small clique of hyper-conservative young men make it their life's mission to be maximally nasty to her and everyone else they see as "beneath" them, for years. (They eventually get a satisfying, if sadly inapplicable-to-real-life, comeuppance.)
The series continues as Kel becomes a proper page, conquers her fear of heights, becomes awesome at tilting, becomes Raoul of Goldenlake's squire (RAOUL IS SO GREAT I LOVE HOW MUCH RAOUL THERE IS IN THIS SERIES. YES THAT NEEDED TO BE IN ALL CAPS), temporarily adopts a baby griffin, fights big mechanical killing devices in Scanra (there's a war with Scanra), and gets a mission-quest-thing from the Chamber of the Ordeal to hunt down the elusive mage who is creating the big mechanical killing devices (and powering them with the souls of dead children omg). She also manages to earn the respect of the intractable Lord Wyldon, which I think are the emotional high points of the series in that they made me cry, which I'm pretty sure Lord Wyldon would have disapproved of.
While this series does not have the nostalgic place in my heart that the earlier ones do, I really think this is just one of the most perfectly crafted book series I have read, possibly ever. It is masterfully plotted, deeply political, never boring, and tackles a lot of series issues without being remotely preachy. The serious plot bits are absolutely terrifying. The new perspectives we get on Tortall are fascinating, particularly in the treatment of the characters that we've met when they were younger in the other series. The side characters are fabulous as always and the clever dialogue lightens the heavy subject matter without cheapening it.
I basically just really love the shit out of this series, is what I'm saying.
February 12th, 2013
|06:00 pm - Spidrens and Stormwings and sass, oh my!|
Over the course of Nemo (hi Nemo! You found us! *ducks tomatoes*), I reread the second of Tamora Pierce's Tortall quartets, The Immortals. The Immortals consists of Wild Magic, Wolf-Speaker, Emperor Mage, and The Realms of the Gods.
The Immortals was the first Tamora Pierce series I read (or at least, the first three volumes are) and I have weirdly vivid memories of being ten years old, at dinner with my family at Empire Szechuan, and just being totally unable to put Wild Magic down for more than about five seconds.
The Immortals follows teenage Daine Sarrasri as she builds a new life for herself after her family is killed by bandits. "Building a new life for herself", in this case, involves leaving rural Galla to take a job with the horsemistress of the Queen's Riders of Tortall, moving to Tortall, discovering that her "knack" for animals is actually "wild magic," and embarking on a course of studies and series of adventures that allow her to become a ridiculously powerful wildmage who can talk to animals and heal them and shape-shift into them and all sorts of crazy stuff. Disney princess powers this ain't. Meanwhile, mages from Carthak have breached the barrier between the Mortal and Divine realms, allowing all sorts of immortal creatures into the human realms that haven't been seen in four hundred years. Daine has to help her shiny new Tortallan friends defeat (a) Carthak and (b) HORDES OF BIG SCARY MAGICAL CREATURES THAT AREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE THERE AAAAAHHHHHHHH.
The Immortals tends to be either people's most favorite or least favorite Tortall quartet, usually depending on how obsessed with animals (particularly horses) they are. I am not particularly obsessed with animals, and I'm pretty unfamiliar with horses, but I still think The Immortals is a joy to read. It's basically the... happiest Tortall series? It deals a little bit less with dealing with small-minded bigots than the other serieses and a little bit more with ridiculously high-powered magic and gods and fighting big scary monsters. The series takes place during the reign of Jonathan and Thayet, and it's clear that Tortall has gone through a lot of Enlightenment-style changes since the end of the Song of the Lioness series. Since Daine pretty immediately falls in with the Queen's Riders (Thayet's pet project, a mixed-gender guerilla-group-style branch of the military) and other awesome people like the monarchs and Alanna and the adorkable-but-super-powerful mage Numair Salmalín, we mostly see just the progressive cool people who are running the show--the inevitable backlash isn't really portrayed until the Protector of the Small series. This isn't to say that The Immortals doesn't deal with serious stuff--it has a lot of well-done, thought-provoking material about family and identity and the responsibilities that come with power and the relationship between humans and the environment and a whole host of other awesome things--but Daine really spends much less time fighting patriarchy and much more time fighting magical goddamn fucking scary things, like spidrens (big huge spiders with human heads who eat people) and Stormwings (half-human, half-metal-bird creatures that desecrate the dead and make nasty comments to everybody) and arrogant emperor-mages. Daine often fights with a bow, because she's an awesome archer (there are backstory reasons for this), but mostly she fights with the help of her sassy animal friends. And I'm not kidding about the sassy. Her pony Cloud is like, The World's Sassiest Pony, and the baby dragon she adopts can't even talk but is sassy anyway, and we meet all sorts of creatures like the male badger god, her divine guardian, who is super grumpy and hilarious; Quickmuch, the sass-tastic marmot who basically moons the world's most powerful mage (and cusses him out using language she "must have learned from squirrels"); Flicker, the squirrel who tells Daine she makes a crappy squirrel; Zek, the pygmy marmoset who figures out how to use keys; sassy bats; sassy cats... the world's most charmingly clever wolf-pack... Tamora Pierce basically writes the best animals and they are all in this series. (Faithful even makes a silent, but STILL SASSY, appearance in Book 4.) If you like books where the secondary characters are awesome (which I do), you will probably adore the everloving shit out of The Immortals, because there are just so many awesome side characters, human, animal, and immortal. The only issue with this series is that you might die, because if the scary things (which are very, very scary) don't scare you to death, the cuteness will.
Also: There are zombie dinosaurs. How could you not like a book series with zombie dinosaurs?
February 6th, 2013
|06:07 pm - Revisiting the Lioness|
So, I have embarked on a, um, "project" to reread all of Tamora Pierce's Tortall books. Or at least all the ones I own. Which I think is all of the novels. Currently, this is seventeen books, split into five series of two to four books each.
The first and oldest series is the quartet known as The Song of the Lioness. This consists of Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant.
The Song of the Lioness tells the story of Alanna of Trebond as she trains to become a knight while disguised as a boy, earns her shield, and makes a name for herself having adventures as the first lady knight-errant in over a century. Throughout all of this, she has to develop and use both her fighting skill and her magical Gift to save Tortall and her best friend, Prince Jonathan, from a power-hungry Duke (who just happens to be an incredibly powerful sorcerer) who is plotting to murder his way to becoming King, in time-honored fourth-in-line-to-the-throne style. Along the way, Alanna defeats a bully, acquires a magical cat, fulfills a prophecy that saves the southern desert from a bunch of evil demigods, gets adopted by some desert tribesmen and accidentally becomes their shaman, acquires not one but two magical swords, saves a princess, goes on a quest for a mythical jewel, and is generally badass.
This series (a) was written in the mid-eighties and (b) is one I read a million times as an older child/early adolescent and haven't actually read again since I was... eh, thirteen, fourteen, maybe? So I was afraid that since 2013 grown-up me is older and wiser and better read than late-nineties nine-to-fourteen-year-old me, I wouldn't like it very much and it would turn out to be full of all sorts of things are terribly problematic or have since become tedious cliches and I wouldn't like it as much and then I would be terribly sad, especially since I never stopped actually recommending this series to people on a regular basis.
I needn't have feared! While there are some Issues that I think could use further Discussion (because yes, there are some problematic elements, there usually are--and I believe at least some of them have been/are being discussed over at Mark Reads Stuff), overall, the story is still awesome. I was totally engrossed, even though I knew pretty much everything that was going to happen. Pierce's writing is still heartfelt, fresh, vivid, and clever. She does an awesome job of viscerally showing how hard it is to be heroic and a great fighter and all that fun stuff. There is birth control (magical birth control! ...I want!) and general non-shaming of female sexuality. The secondary characters are endearing and well-developed, There are lots of awesome female characters besides Alanna, which is something that I think is super important and is a particular spot where so many stories claiming to be about A Strong Female Character, Therefore Feminism fail miserably. So, really, not bad for the eighties! Not bad AT ALL.
I am now EITHER going to go keep reading the Daine books OR catch up on all of the Mark Reads Stuff for Song of the Lioness. Decisions, decisions!
Current Mood: nostalgic
|04:50 pm - Regressing even further...|
Man, I can't believe I'm writing this. But I did say I was going to blog every book I read, and I already make exceptions for ones read during work.
Anyway, my mom has a friend who has a seven-year-old son, and we were going through our small-child books in the basement so we could give some of them to him, and over the course of this I got distracted for about four minutes and read all of Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.
Basically: It is still super cute! However, I am clearly too old for it, because I was very dissatisfied with the ending, and kept wondering how easy it would be to convert a steam shovel to a functional furnace anyway, and wouldn't building the town hall on top of Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne mean that they wouldn't be able to pour a proper foundation and wouldn't that be structurally unsound, and anyway maybe they didn't have a way to get the steam shovel out of the hole in the ground but couldn't they have gotten the guy up with a ladder?
I suppose this is why the book is for first graders.
January 31st, 2013
|03:06 pm - I will never stop posting about fairies!|
I'm still too scarred from Les Mis to read any grown-up books, so instead I read a children's book that seemed vaguely like The Sort of Thing I Like: Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland, it turns out, is a lot of the sorts of things I like, and it is things I like to such a degree that it was occasionally a bit much, but overall I had a very good time reading it. It's written in a very deliberately cute and faux-Victorian style, mimicking the tone of classic children's lit books like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, which is a little bit odd since it takes place in the World War II era and was written, y'know... two years ago. But I like a little bit of faux-Victorian whimsy and so I decided to just roll with it, which I think was a good choice, because it really is a charming story.
The book is about a twelve-year-old girl named September, who lives in Omaha with her mother, a mechanic, while her father is in the Army. One day the Green Wind comes and takes September off to Fairyland to have adventures. After going through a lot of whimsical bureaucracy, September finds herself on a quest to recover a witch's magical Spoon, which had been stolen by the evil Marquess who rules Fairyland. The Marquess is a little girl who has been introducing all sorts of real-world no-fun things like laws and taxes and bureaucracy and order to Fairyland, after having killed the beloved old Queen, Good Queen Mallow. September picks up a few traveling companions, including a Wyverary (half Wyvern, half Library) named A-through-L and a Marid (a sort of mermaidy creature with an odd relationship with Time, who can grant wishes when bested in a battle) named Saturday. After obtaining the Spoon from the Marquess, the Marquess badgers September into going on another Quest, this time for Good Queen Mallow's magic sword, which is not always in the shape of a sword, but is a powerful weapon nonetheless. We're pretty sure something nefarious is going on here and that this particular Quest is not a good idea, and September's adventures get a bit grittier as she both tries to complete the quest and tries to figure out what precisely she's doing and why precisely it's a bad idea for her to be doing it and, of course, how to get out of it without the Marquess cutting off her head.
While the style of the book is almost painfully small-children-y and old-fashioned, the story itself deals with some more modern and more advanced themes than Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland do. September is a pretty awesome heroine, and her adventures make her wrestle with all sorts of ideas about home and family and government and friendship and belonging, and the twist at the end brings up some serious questions about goodness and evil and blame--the Marquess' backstory, there are some serious twists there, and it is basically THE MOST sympathetic villain backstory--and also many of the most important characters are ladies, which I like. (There are some pretty awesome secondary characters who are ladies too, like the Faerie woman who wrangles wild velocipedes for a living.) (They say "velocipede" instead of "bicycle" because it's cute and fancy that way.) In the second half of the book, her adventures get a little darker and grittier than in Victorian novels--she really does have to build a ship herself and circumnavigate Fairyland in it, and it ain't pretty.
Apparently some people have compared this book to The Phantom Tollbooth, which I think is probably a pretty apt in a "If you like X, you may like Y" kind of way.
January 29th, 2013
|04:36 pm - More about fairies 'n' stuff|
I reread Tithe, just like I said I was going to! I'm surprisingly proud of myself for this, which just goes to show how much my head has gone to pieces after reading Les Mis.
I still don't think this series is as good as the Curse Workers series, but this is just because I think the Curse Workers series is one of the most brilliant things in YA fantasy. Tithe is extremely good, and I'm pretty sure that some of my earlier negative response to it was that Kaye's life is so utterly different from my own at that age and her personality is so different from mine that I had a hard time relating to her. Now that I'm slightly better at not reading books through the lens of It's All About Me (unless the character actually is a pale upper-middle-class bookish brunette, because there are specific things that are almost always done with that particular archetype...), I like it a lot better.
I also forgot that I actually really like Roiben as a character. He's a knight with a lot of pain and violence in his past and he's pretty grim a lot of the time but he doesn't really fit into the Tough Guy on the Outside/Wounded Bunny on the Inside jackass archetype that infests so much romance. He's just a dude trying to be the best person he can be even though his will essentially belongs to crazy people, and he resents the fuck out of it.
I don't know if I remembered them from last time or if they were just really easy, but I guessed all the riddles pretty quickly. :( I tend to feel this means they are easy riddles, because I'm pretty sure I actually kind of suck at riddles! But maybe I'm getting better.
This here be the end of my utterly disjointed thinky-thoughts on this series.
January 24th, 2013
|10:52 pm - Hopefully, the longest review I'll ever write|
( Eight pages of FEELINGSCollapse )
Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Les Miserables--Original French Concept Album
January 5th, 2013
|09:55 pm - Fairies are terrific; they inspire terror|
That was a Terry Pratchett quote. I am not, however, reviewing Pratchett books (note to self: Catch up on Pratchett books). I am reviewing books about fairies!
I read Holly Black's Valiant and Ironside, having read Tithe in high school. I should probably have reread Tithe before reading these, particularly since I have a (signed!) copy, but I didn't.
Valiant made sense without remembering much about Tithe, since very few of the characters overlap--Roiben makes a brief appearance at one point, but most of it's about a different set of people. The main character, Val, runs away from home after she finds out that her boyfriend is having an affair with her mother (GROSS). Val runs away to New York and falls in with some homeless kids who are squatting somewhere in the subway system. One of the kids, Luis, has the Sight, and so the group of them are now all involves with what is basically the faerie exile community. NYC is not really faerie territory because there's too much iron, so it's where all the exiles have to go, until they die of iron-sickness. Luis (and occasionally his fucked-up brother, David) mostly run favors for a troll dude who makes potions that help keep iron-sickness at bay. David and the girl in the group, Lolli, also have an odd habit of skimming bits of faerie potion and then using it as a drug, which they call Never, which basically gives them glamour powers. Val starts running errands too when she runs up a debt with the troll, Ravus. When the faeries Ravus delivers too start dying, Ravus is the prime suspect--but Val has her doubts (partly because she is in love with Ravus, and I'm like, awesomesauce, a romance with a troll, that one is new!), and has to get deeper into the world of Faerie intrigue and craziness to find out who the murderer really is and prove it to the Faerie courts.
Ironside contains characters from both Tithe and Valiant, and was a bit confusing for me, because I had basically forgotten everything about Tithe except that Kaye was really a pixie and Roiben was her love interest and now some sort of Faerie king. But anyway, so it turns out Roiben is getting coronated as King of the Night Court, which is the creepier one, and Silarial, the Queen of the Bright Court, which is still pretty creepy, is planning to declare war on them. Roiben is originally from the Bright Court and used to be in love with the Queen until he realized what a totally terrible person she is. Kaye ill-advisedly engages in a fairy ritual where she declares her love for Roiben publicly and he has to send her on a quest, and he sends her on an impossible one (to find a fairy who can tell an untruth). Kaye and her friend Cornelius (who is secretly trying to avenge his sister who was murdered by a kelpie) and Luis from Valiant all team up to deliver the real (human) Kaye back to her mother, and wind up entangled in the Bright Queen's weird game to defeat Roiben. Kaye and her friends have to figure out Silarial's plan and warn Roiben, in addition to completing the impossible quest and a bunch of other twisty things.
I really liked both of these books; I like them more than I remember liking Tithe, even, so maybe I will have to go give Tithe a reread sometime soon, and see if it really is weaker or if I was just being put off by the characters being not enough like me or something stupid. (I have a feeling it may well have been that.)
Thus concludes my booklogging for 2012! Yes, I know we're almost a week into 2013; shut up. Next up will be dithering about Les Misérables.
Current Mood: sad
Current Music: Les Mis, "On My Own"
January 1st, 2013
|01:10 pm - In Which We Learn Not To Be Racist Against Vampires|
In my efforts to read everything by Sarah Rees Brennan, I finally got around to the book she co-wrote with Justine Larbaleister, entitled Team Human. It is basically a satire on Twilight and similar vampire romances, particularly of the kind where the vampires inexplicably decide to attend high school.
One of the things I like particularly about this book is that vampires aren't secret in it--everyone knows they exist, and the story takes place in a city called New Whitby, which is basically a vampire city, although there are humans too, and the vampires and humans pretty much don't mingle. They each stay in their own neighborhoods. This means we do not have to suffer through long tedious scenes of "OMG WHAT IS HE" "I WILL LOOK SHIT UP ON GOOGLE" "HERE IS A LONG LIST OF VAMPIRE MYTHS THAT DO AND DO NOT FIT" "OMG IT'S A VAMPIRE" "THAT CAN'T BE REAL" "PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME HOW YOUR VAMPIRES WORK IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL IN ONE ENORMOUSLY LONG SCENE" type of thing. We are also treated to hilarious visuals of vampires in Hazmat suits on the few occasions they have to go out during the day.
Our main character is Mel, who is friendly (mostly) and active and makes a lot of jokes and is not a terribly big nerd, and is otherwise basically not the average heroine of a vampire romance. Mel's best friend Cathy, on the other hand, is a pale bookish brunette with a tendency towards classic novels and taking shit too seriously(1), who, having ridiculously Disney views on romance (because in books, the girls who read awesome well-characterized proto-feminist romances like Jane Austen novels and Jane Eyre always have Disney princess views of romance? For some reason, the love-at-first-sight thing is always for characters who are shown reading a lot of Pride and Prejudice, which has THE EXACT OPPOSITE of a love-at-first-sight plot, and never for characters shown reading anything by, say, Victor Hugo), believes she will meet The One and then know him on sight, because that's not ridiculous at all. One day, a handsome but irritatingly pompous vampire shows up at the high school (in a sexy sexy Hazmat suit, because that is hilarious), and Cathy promptly falls head-over-heels, personality-alteringly, saccharinely, prepared-to-turn-into-another-species-which-might-end-up-being-"zombie" in love with him. Pompous vampire has a pompous name, which is Francis Havelock Maurice Duvarney (I am pretty sure that is a deliberate shout-out to Varney the Vampire).
The great thing that sets Team Human apart from both Twilight and a lot of things making fun of Twilight is that it has plot! Francis has a not-entirely-stupid cover story for why he is attending a human high school, which is that he is writing a book--sorry, a "magnum opus"--on human adolescent emotions. While he really is writing this "magnum opus" and spends a lot of time taking notes and playing Occasionally Racist Vampire Anthropologist, it turns out that he is ACTUALLY secretly doing undercover investigating stuff to help out his mom, who is a VAMPIRE COP who is SECRETLY INVESTIGATING the disappearance of the principal's husband and his vampire mistress. The princpal's husband was a vampire therapist, who ran off with one of his clients. Since the principal is also the mom of one of Mel and Cathy's best friends, Mel ALSO ends unofficially secretly amateur investigating this, and all sorts of weird stuff ensues. There is some creepy shit about zombies (apparently zombies happen when someone tries to turn into a vampire and it goes wrong), and Mel strikes up a romance with a human foundling that was raised by Francis and his vampire cop mom and the rest of his "shade". Human kid is a little fucked up, but he also tells jokes, many of which are about what a pompous ass Francis is.
Overall, this is a fun, quick read that interrogates a lot of the most overdone, infuriating, and/or just plain nonsensical tropes that crop up in paranormal romances, without being all mean-spirited about it. It also examines some of the more common knee-jerk anti-vampire sentiments sometimes put forth by self-styled Smarter Than The Silly Masses types, in the form of Mel's anti-vampire racism getting constantly challenged until she admits things are more complicated than that. And, as always when Sarah Rees Brennan is involved, lots of great jokes!
(1) As a pale bookish brunette with a tendency towards classic novels and taking shit too seriously, can I just say: FUCK YOU, ENTIRE GENRE OF VAMPIRE ROMANCE NOVELS, NOT EVERYONE WHO LIKES NINETEENTH-CENTURY LITERATURE IS A WEAK-WILLED DOORMAT WHO LIKES GETTING PUSHED AROUND BY POMPOUS ASSHOLES AND DYING YOUNG.
December 31st, 2012
December 30th, 2012
|09:55 pm - Clockwork Awesome|
So, when I heard that there was a steampunk prequel trilogy to the Mortal Instruments series, my initial reaction was roughly what any sane person's reaction is to the phrase "prequel trilogy"--"AHAHAHAHA THAT'S GOING TO SUCK." Then I heard that it was actually quite good, and I was curious. So then I decided to actually read what is known as the Infernal Devices series, which is going to be a trilogy but is currently only two books, Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince.
Verdict: So far, not sucky! Series successfully combines all our favorite stuff about Shadowhunters with Victorian period goodness and some funky robots. Plus, lots of references to awesome Victorian novels, including ones that were super popular in the day but are not necessarily still household names to anybody except English students with a particular interest in Gothic novels and/or Victorian literature! (Yet another way that pretty much every other YA fantasy novel currently available is superior to Twilight. But I digress.)
My biggest complaint about this series is that it parallels The Mortal Instruments a little too closely. ...Okay, at times, way too closely. There are reasons that many of the less original tropes used in this series are classics, but still.
Our main character is Tessa Gray, the Unlikely Hero Who Thinks She Is Normal But Turns Out Not To Be. Tessa's parents are tragically dead (duh). When Tessa migrates to England to live with her brother Nathaniel, she is instead kidnapped by two warlocks called the Dark Sisters and mercilessly trained in the use of a power she didn't know she had--when she touches people's personal objects, she can shape-shift into them, and has access to their thoughts and memories. She escapes from the Dark Sisters with the help of two teenage Shadowhunters named Jem and Will. Jem and Will are parabatai, which of course means that they are Pretty Much Opposites In Every Way. Jem is the nice one. Will is a classic "Jackass on the Outside, Pile of Miserable Feelings Due To Tragic Backstory on the Inside" epic-romance love interest. Jem and Will actually both have tragic backstories, and I will say that at least their tragic backstories are pretty non-cliche! (In fact, Will's rather weird Tragic Backstory is as such that I think he will not end up with Tessa until he actually stops being an asshole, even on the outside. So that may be a plus.) Shortly after we meet Will he makes an awesome joke about Lady Audley's Secret and for that alone I like him slightly better than Jace.
Tessa hides out with the London Institute of Shadowhunters, which is run by an awesome lady named Charlotte and her goofy inventor husband Henry, although mostly Charlotte. There is a buttload of Shadowhunter politicking, this time with extra Victorian sexism. Poor Charlotte. They keep getting attacked by robots that are apparently being made by someone called The Magister who we don't know anything about except that he runs a sketchy club for Downworlders and stupid rich mundanes called The Pandemonium Club, and also that he wants to marry Tessa, presumably so that he can control her power. Tessa wants to find out what the hell her Tragic Backstory really is and if she is a human or a warlock or what, and also rescue her useless brother. There is an obligatory love triangle between Tessa and Jem and Will. Tessa makes fun of The Castle of Otranto. Magnus Bane shows up again, which is pretty much the best thing in the series, because Magnus Bane is more awesome than everything.
PS Magnus Bane is getting his own stories soon, yay! Sarah Rees Brennan will be helping write them, DOUBLE YAY!
December 26th, 2012
|04:33 pm - Good morning!|
So, unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard that Peter Jackson has made a movie adaptation of the first third or so of The Hobbit, which I did see, and I do have Thoughts about it, but that's not what I'm writing here today. This here blog is primarily about books, and since I am a big ole nerd, I decided it was imperative that I reread The Hobbit so that I could nitpick with maximum accuracy, and I did so.
My main two impressions are as follows:
1: I still adore The Hobbit and think it is awesome.
2: This is so obviously not the kind of story Tolkien is comfortable writing, like, at all.
Tolkien is very lucky that Britishness in general reads as being totally adorable all the time, because the writing in The Hobbit is wicked stilted. Tolkien's attempts at being funny are always a little stiff, and frequently a bit obscure (does anyone know what "attercop" means and why it is insulting? Did you know WHEN YOU WERE EIGHT?). Thirteen dwarves is way the hell too many, and there isn't enough time to even begin characterizing half of them, so at the end the only ones I feel I have any idea who the hell they might be are Thorin, Fili, Kili, Bombur, Balin, and Dwalin, and even then Fili and Kili are basically a single unit. The elves in The Hobbit are way goofier than the ones in The Lord of the Rings, even when they are the same elves. I had forgotten that the trolls had silly alliterative common names--they are like Bert and Bill and Bob, or something--and that nearly every time our intrepid heroes are in mortal danger, SOMEBODY starts singing. The structure of the plot is actually fairly weak, which I never noticed before--the quest is full of random dangerous detours and getting-attacked-by-thingies and about 80% of them are resolved Gandalf ex machina. Thorin is frequently described as "basically decent" and as being on the side of Good rather than of Evil, but his actual shown-not-told characterization could charitably be described as "a complete dickbag."
All that said, The Hobbit is still cute and epic at the same time, and Bilbo Baggins is still one of the greatest Unlikely Heroes ever written. And I still think that joke about the invention of golf is hilarious.
December 17th, 2012
|08:47 pm - The Demon's Sexiness, I mean Dyslexia, I mean Lexicon|
So, Sarah Rees Brennan continues to be one of my favorite new people, and I went back and read her Demon's Lexicon trilogy, and it was pretty awesome! I'm not sure I liked it quite as much as Unspoken but I definitely ate through all three books in a very short amount of time and feel like my life is greatly enriched by it, at the very least because I am trying to hoard witty quips so that I can be funnier, and SRB both talks and writes largely in witty quips. Remarkably, all of her characters still manage to have their own distinct voices, so Nick's sarcastic smart-mouth is totally different from Jamie's babbling "helpless act," both of which are different from everyone else's ways of speaking even though pretty much everyone is funny.
This series contains many of what I am beginning to suspect are SRB's particular obsessions, these being: close relations where you don't know which one is evil; kids taking care of other kids; all the makeouts; magic with babies; deep dark family secrets; and possibly some other things I can't remember off the top of my head.
At any rate, there are three books, and they are all from different characters' points of view, which is pretty cool. Book 1, The Demon's Lexicon, is told by Nick Ryves, which is quite interesting, because Nick has some issues with language, namely that it is composed of words, and particularly all sorts of words that refer to things he doesn't quite understand, like feelings. Nick, as far as we can tell, is dyslexic to the point of functional illiteracy and also possibly schizoid. Eventually we find out why but I will not tell you, except for the possibly-obvious hint that it made the title of the series make sense. Nick enjoys killing things, edit:
wearing leather jackets knives and other pointy objects(1), and being sarcastic. He lives with his batshit crazy mother, who hates him, and his older brother Alan, who is sweet and nerdy and also a world-class liar. They never live in one place for too long because magicians keep showing up and trying to kill them.
Magicians, in this universe, are pretty much evil; while someone may be able to do small amounts of magic on their own, magicians tend to end up wanting more and more magic power and get it by feeding people to demons. Demons live in another dimension which is apparently so cold and miserable they will do pretty much anything to get out of it and have some other experiences. Demons occasionally leave marks on people so they can possess them; this tends to zombify the person pretty quickly. Nick and Alan are living temporarily in Exeter or somewhere when a kid from their school called Jamie shows up with a demon's mark on his leg--a third-stage one, which is the most severe and lets you get possessed (the demons kind of have to mark people in stages). Alan decides to help them because he is all nice like that and also because he has a crush on Jamie's sister Mae, who is awesome and has pink hair. Alan's help involves Alan getting temporarily demon-marked so Jamie's can go down to a less severe stage (or something) and Nick is all like URGH ALAN WHY DO YOU INSIST ON HELPING PEOPLE THIS IS A PAIN IN THE ASS.
So book one is mostly Nick being totally cranky about how do we get these damn demon's marks off of Alan and Jamie, plus a plot with an evil circle of magicians that are all relevant to the family backstory and we find out lots of deep dark family secrets, which are deep and dark like whoa. Book Two is from the POV of awesome tiny pink-haired Mae, and largely recounts The Gang's attempt to defeat the next incarnation of the evil circle of magicians, plus dealing with the fallout from various secrets being discovered about Nick's and Jamie's identities. Book Three is from the POV of Sin, a dancer at the Goblin Market who is a fairly minor character in the first two books, and this book is partly about the third evil circle of magicians (the one that absorbed the last evil circle of magicians) but also largely about who will lead the Goblin Market in the future, and I'm not going to bother telling you anything about the Goblin Market right now because honestly, it is the Goblin Market, you KNOW it has to be awesome.
There are also Demon's Lexicon short stories on SRB's website, my favorite of which, so far, is Nick and Jamie Go to the Movies, which is just as adorbs as it sounds.
1 - Look, in my head, it's easy to get these two things mixed up. Nick pretty much is always armed, and I feel like if you're going to be always armed you need a leather jacket to hide all your weapons under, but as SRB kindly pointed out on Twitter, Nick actually managed to lose his shirt like all the time. These are the perils of being a procrastinatory lazybutt and not reviewing books until like a month after you've read them. At any rate, I'm pretty sure I'm right about the knives, because Nick often throws them at Jamie who then wibbles about it very memorably.
Current Mood: accomplished