Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Dave Gibbons
Publisher: DC

This series was written in 1986 and it changed superheroes to psychotic individuals. In this world, only one person has actual superpowers: Dr. Manhattan. Still, there has been a number of masked adventurers in this world. In fact, there has been so many heroes that in 1977 a law was created which made it illegal to be a costumed hero. Most heroes retired either then or earlier. Rorschach seems to be the only crime fighter still operating and the police is looking for him. US government employs Dr. Manhattan as a scientist and a living nuclear deterrent, and the Comedian as, basically, a hired killer.

The story starts when the Comedian is killed. He’s beaten and thrown out the window. The police investigate but don’t realize his identity as the Comedian. Rorschach is also investigating and deduces that someone is killing costumed heroes. He warns Dr. Manhattan and the former Nite Owl that they could be attacked, too. Then an assassin attacks the former hero Ozymandias and the press reveals that Dr. Manhattan’s powers might give the people around him cancer.

The world view in the story is pretty bleak and the world is on the brink of a nuclear war between US and the Soviet Union. The outlawed heroes are shown as very flawed. Rorschach is a psycho and his horrible childhood is revealed in one issue. Nite Owl seems to want to genuinely help people but he has his own psychological hang ups, too. Dr. Manhattan sees the past and the future at the same time, and has trouble distinguishing them. He also seems to care less and less about humans at all. The book has only two female heroes whose stories revolve around their relationships with men and sex. The aged Silk Spectre is reliving her glory days through her daughter Laurel, whose most distinguishing feature is that she’s Dr. Manhattan’s girlfriend. Ozymandias is a very successful businessman and his ads for various products are seen around the city on various panels.

The comic has also lots of interesting side stories. The most gruesome of them is a comic book about a man who was attacked by pirates and who tries to stay alive in a deserted island. Then he journeys home on a raft built from his dead crew mates. Apparently, that’s a children’s comic and one of the characters is reading it. The detectives who are investigating the Comedian’s death are also seen from time to time and so is a harassed Gazette editor and his bumbling assistant. Each issue also has extra material: chapters from the book ”Under the Hood”, various interviews, and articles.

This was a groundbreaking comic back then and I remember that I was hugely impressed then. It’s still a very impressive work that shows a coherent world and how masked vigilantes might be treated in the real world. Today there are a lot of comics which have been inspired by (or imitate) the gritty style of Watchmen.

FAERY REALMS: TEN MAGICAL TITLES (Multi-Author Boxed Set, novels & novellas)

Faery Realms-final fix

*Purchased individually, these books cost over $15 – List price $9.99 – Save 90% – Now on sale for only $0.99 cents!*

Download the bundle from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or Google Play.

Enter the magical realms of Faery with these ten award-winning, bestselling fantasy authors. Each title in this sampler collection offers a new and different world full of mystery, love, and most of all, fae enchantment!

Over 1400 pages of stories, with *exclusive* titles from Alexia Purdy, Tara Maya, and Anthea Sharp! Together, these books have over 250 5-star reviews on Amazon and 150 5-star reviews on B&N.

Best for ages 13 and up.

Faery Realms Final 3D

THE FAERIE GUARDIANRACHEL MORGAN

Kickbutt faerie Violet is about to graduate as the top guardian trainee of her class, but when an assignment goes wrong and the human boy she’s meant to be protecting follows her back into the fae realm, a dangerous plot is set in motion. (298 pages)

THE WITHERING PALACE (A Dark Faerie Tale 0.1)ALEXIA PURDY *Exclusive Content*

Untold darkness rules the Unseelie realm of the Land of Faerie. Hidden in this vast area, Aveta, the future queen of the Unseelie Army, perfects her gifts over lifetimes. Learning that magic isn’t the only way to manipulate the world around her, this naive girl grows into a woman of strength and cunning, ultimately becoming one of the most feared leaders in Faerie.

DARK PROMISEJULIA CRANE & TALIA JAGER

Rylie’s life is turned upside down when a stranger knocks on the door, claiming to be her real mother. Soon she will have to face the terrifying fact that not only is she a faery, but one that has been promised to the dark prince. (240 pages)

FEYLAND: THE FIRST ADVENTUREANTHEA SHARP

High-tech gaming and ancient magic collide when a computer game opens a gateway to the treacherous Realm of Faerie. Jennet Carter never thought hacking into her dad’s new epic-fantasy sim-game would be so exciting… or dangerous. But behind the interface, dark forces lie in wait, leading her toward a battle that will test her to her limits and cost her more than she ever imagined. (65 pages)

BLOOD FAERIEINDIA DRUMMOND

Unjustly sentenced to death, Eilidh ran—away from faerie lands to the streets of Perth, Scotland. When she discovers a human murdered by one of her own kind, she must choose: flee, or learn to tap into the forbidden magic that cost her everything. (264 pages)

HOOD & FAE (Daughters of Red Riding Hood)TARA MAYA *Exclusive Content*

Roxy Hood is just trying to make ends meet to pay her mom’s medical bills. Sure, Roxy takes on some jobs of, ahem, dubious integrity, like pretending that she can speak to the dead. But hey, that’s harmless. It’s not like a malignant ghoul is going to attack her. Or a sexy billionaire will show up trying to buy her red jacket. Or a werewolf will attack Granny Rose. Because that would be whacked.

THE DARK FAETERRY SPEAR

Alicia can recognize the mischievous fae when they show up to “play” with the humans. Only now she’s faced with one highly annoyed dark fae and she’s certain he knows the truth about her. She can see him, which means her life is forfeit. (184 pages)

EHRIADJENNA ELIZABETH JOHNSON

Cade MacRoich is Ehríad, an outcast of Eile. While hunting Otherworldly monsters in the mortal world, he discovers Meghan, a young woman whose magic seems very familiar … Three scenes from Faelorehn – Book One of the Otherworld Trilogy, told from Cade’s perspective. (84 pages)

ONCE (Gypsy Fairy Tale)DANA MICHELLE BURNETT

Harmony’s life will never be the same… Every day is just as normal, and just as boring, as the one before it… And then the Carnival comes to town. Suddenly, Harmony’s small town world is overtaken by the handsome Kieran and she discovers that not all fairy tales are pretend. (140 pages)

FAE HORSE: A Faery TaleANTHEA SHARP

Accused as witch, Eileen flees for her life. When a strange black horse appears, her only hope of escape, she mounts it—to discover the cost of her ride may be more than any mortal could bear. (20 pages)

Download the bundle from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or Google Play.

SELECT REVIEWS:
“It was fast paced, entertaining, witty, and even swoon-worthy at times. Rachel’s characters were fun to follow, and Violet is sarcastic and strong and a force to be reckoned with—everything I love in a female lead.” –Cover2CoverBlog review of The Faerie Guardian

“Turmoil, heartache and unexpected romance – all three are immersed into this tale of the Fae.”— Craving YA Reads review of Dark Promise

“The plot was fast paced and interesting … I can’t recommend the rest of the trilogy enough.” –The Mad Reviewer on Feyland: The First Adventure

“All in all, this is hands down one of the most unique Fae stories I have ever read before- India Drummond has truly created a beautiful world.” –Avery’s Book Nook review of Blood Faerie

“Enter the World of the Fae: Magical worlds aren’t just for young adults, I enjoyed this tale and look forward to reading the other books in this series.” –ParaNormal Romance Reviews of The Dark Fae

“I thought this was a great, quick summer read! Great story combined with bits of mythology and Irish folklore. I read the entire trilogy in a few days.” –Kristin David on Ehriad

“Once I started this book I could not put it down, I had to know what happened next.” ~ Amazing Book Come To Life review of Once (Gypsy Fairy Tale)

Download the bundle from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or Google Play.

I realized that I haven’t mentioned that awesome Kristen is hosting the third annual Women in SF&F month! There are already a lot of great posts at the Fantasy cafe and more to come.

My to-read-pile is reaching a new high this year.

The 10th book in the series.

Publication year: 2000
Format: Audio
Narrator: Grover Garnder
Running Time: 18 hours, 49 min

A Civil Campaign is sort of a culmination of several things in the books before it, most of them character based. Because of this, I heartily recommend starting the series from the beginning with ”Shards of Honor” and not with this book. I especially recommend reading Komarr before this one.

That said, I’m a huge fan of this series and enjoyed this book, too, although perhaps not as much as some of the others. It’s quite unlike from the previous books. For one thing, it has several POV characters: Miles, Mark, Ekaterin, Kareen, Ivan. Also, the main plot is a romance not an action-adventure and the whole book is set in Barrayar.

Emperor Gregor is marrying Laisa Toskane and that has turned everyone’s thoughts to romance. Including the Vorkosigan brothers. Miles met Ekaterin in the previous book, Komarr, and is still smitten with her and starts to court her. However, Ekaterin is still hurting from her first unhappy marriage and says firmly that she doesn’t want to marry again. Desperately, Miles decides to do it anyway – but secretly. That is, secretly from her. Unfortunately for him, he also asks advice from all sorts of other people and the result is that quite quickly, Ekaterin herself is the only one who doesn’t know it. Miles wants to keep her close so he arranges a job for her – as his gardener. Hilarity ensues!

Also, Miles’ clone brother Mark is back from the Beta Colony. He has brought with him an Escobaran doctor who has invented Butterbugs, bugs which eat almost anything and produce eatable substance. Mark, Kareen, and the doctor have started a company and are trying to make the bugs palatable enough to sell them. Also, Mark and Kareen have been lovers on Beta but now Kareen is uncomfortable continuing their relationship in front of her family and is feeling pressured by the Barrayaran customs for women. Mark is head over heels in love with Kareen and is unhappy. When Kareen’s parents find out that their daughter is in love with a clone who has assassin training, they are unhappy. Hilarity ensues!

Meanwhile, there’s trouble in the Council of Counts. Young count Rene Vorbretten and his wife want to have kids and have chosen to use the uterine replicator. That means a gene scan and to their horror, they find out that Rene is part Cetagandan. Therefore, it’s possible that he will lose the countship. Also, many of their former friends are shunning the couple. Also, the old Vorrutyer count has died without a direct heir. His closest male relative, Richards, is quite repulsive. His sister Lady Donna has been running the district for years but she can’t inherit. Although she has asked, and received, a delay before a Count has to be confirmed. She has left for Beta Colony and people speculate on what she intends to do.

A Civil Campaign in romantic comedy with lots and lots of delightful characters and great humor. There’s also a lot of politicking. Most of the POVs are very entertaining but sometimes I was a bit impatient with the angsting lovers (all four of them!).

It also has lot of lovely lines:

“You don’t pay back your parents. You can’t. The debt you owe them gets collected by your children, who hand it down in turn. It’s a sort of entailment. Or if you don’t have children of the body, it’s left as a debt to your common humanity. Or to your God, if you possess or are possessed by one.

The family economy evades calculation in the gross planetary product. It’s the only deal I know where, when you give more than you get, you aren’t bankrupted – but rather, vastly enriched.”

”Never… ever suggest they don’t have to pay you. What they pay for, they’ll value. What they get for free, they’ll take for granted, and then demand as a right. Hold them up for all the market will bear.”

First in an urban fantasy series starring a vampire thief.

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Narrator: Natalie Ross
Running Time: 11 hrs, 13 m

Raylene Pendle is a thief and a vampire. She’s also rich and takes on pilfering jobs purely out of need for excitement. And she gets even more than she wants when Ian Stott contacts her. Ian wants to hire her to steal some papers; he even knows where they are. Ian is a vampire, too, but he’s blind. He claims that the US government had kidnapped him and done experiments on him, especially on his eyes. He knows a doctor in Canada who might be able to help him, but he needs the papers to know what was done to him. Curious and disturbed Raylene agrees to take the case. She’s also (not surprisingly) attracted to Ian.

Then her warehouse is broken into. Even though Raylene thinks of herself as a loner, she has started to protect two homeless kids. Pepper who is eight years old and her older brother Domino. They ”live” in the warehouse. Pepper calls Raylene for help and she races to the warehouse. There she overpowers a ninjalike intruder and kills him. The intruder has a business card which points Raylene to a mysterious park our club run by a man known as ”Major”.

The book has a very chatty style, like Raylene is telling her tale to you over a drink, but there’s no framing story to support that. Raylene herself is around a hundred years old and thinks of herself as a loner; she doesn’t care for any of the vampire houses because of the internal politics. She claims to have some problems with modern technology but she uses phones and internet easily. Because of her job as a thief she also lives off the grid, so she doesn’t have any friends, just a few contacts and of course the two homeless kids. Raylene calls them her security system, which is cute. Pepper clearly adores Raylene while Domino shows nothing but scorn for her.

Raylene is a very human vampire, definitely of the kind where undead aren’t monsters but just different. She’s fast and strong and has minor ”paranormal” abilities. There are a couple of scenes were she feeds from a human and thinks that it’s better than sex, but she only needs to feed about once a month and she doesn’t think of humans as prey.

I thought that the most interesting character in the book was a former Navy SEAL who is also a drag queen. However, he appears around half-way of the book. Ian is the obvious love interest; cultured and intelligent but also vulnerable. Ian has also a ghoul; a human devoted to a vampire. Raylene calls him a seeing eye ghoul and doesn’t care for him at all.

Overall, this was entertaining enough but not as interesting to me as Priest’s Clockwork books.

Collects issues 1-28 and annuals 1-3 of the Marvel comics which ran originally 1977-1979.

Writers: Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont, and others
Artists: Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Dave Cockrum and various others
Publisher: Dark Horse

I’ve read about half of these comics before. The John Carter comics were also printed here in Finland and I managed to collect about half of them from various second-hand shops. For some reason, I never managed to get my hands on the comics which has the endings of the storylines, so it was great to finally read them all together.

It’s actually almost astonishing to me how long most the storylines ran: for example, the first one the Air-Pirates of Barsoom was 10 issues long and the final story, the Master Assassins was 12 issues. Today it seems that a writer can barely make a three issue arc.

Almost all of these stories happen during the 10 years John spent on Mars, during the first book, A Princess of Mars, and they use the familiar cast from that book: John, Dejah, Tar Tarkas, Sola, Kantos Kan. The villains are, of course, new.

The first storyline is the Air-pirates of Mars and it starts with Dejah kidnapped and John going to her rescue. Dejah is kidnapped several times during the story and John is even blackmailed to help her kidnappers, the air pirates, or she will be killed. The story focuses on John but there are some scenes in Helium, too, where the pirates are trying to turn the public opinion against John. Even though Dejah is kidnapped, she isn’t a total damsel in distress; in fact in she ends up rescuing herself. Also, Tars Tarkas is torn between his desire to live in Helium (and take part in all of the adventures :)) and being the leader that his people need.

The next is a one-shot called ”The origin of Dejah Thoris”. However, this is a shortened version of A Princess of Mars focusing on Dejah and John’s romance. I was expecting Dejah’s childhood, based on the headline.

Then we get a three issue story where John and Tars battle the undead! This was great fun.

After a couple of one-shots the majority of the rest of the collection is taken up with the massive The Master-Assassins of Mars story. This is perhaps the most unlike Burroughs’ books because it brings to us an additional human race: the orovars. They are light-skinned, like John, but the men have wings and they keep the red Barsoomians as slaves. They live a great canyon and their religion teaches that there’s nothing beyond it, so they don’t venture out and meet the other races. However, in spirit, this story is very fine pulp adventure and I enjoyed it throughly.

It’s interesting to note that during the Master-assassins storyline, Dejah is portrayed as not just a skilled warrior but equal to the assassins and she’s even capable of killing four trained opponents at the same time. Of course, the writer is Chris Claremont who brought us many capable X-women, so I’m not surprised.

The last three stories are from annuals and so somewhat longer. One of them seems to be an adaption of Burroughs’ short story and in one of the John meets the Kaldanes and Rykors (the all head race and the headless race) from the Chessmen of Mars.

Overall, I think that these stories keep to the pulp adventure spirit of the books and I think people who enjoyed the books will also enjoy this collection. However, there’s an awful lot of word boxes in all of the stories, sometimes even explaining in words what is happening in the pictures, like the writers’ didn’t believe the reader would understand the plot or setting just from the art. The writing mimics Burroughs’ pulp style.

The seventh book in the series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Page count: 325
Publisher: Del Ray

Laurence and his Celestial dragon Temeraire have been exiled in disgrace to Australia. After the events in the previous book, they are reconciled to live more or less peacefully there. However, the British government still needs them and Hammond is sent to Australia. It turns out that Napoleon has allied himself with the African Tswana tribe and has sent troops to South-America, too. The French are attacking Brazil (which is held by Britain’s ally Portugal) and there’s a concern that they are making inroads with the Inca. So, Britain sends Laurence and Temeraire to South-America because they have some experience the Tswana. Laurence guesses that the Tswana want to free the slaves which the Portuguese are keeping so he’s unhappy about the order.

Temeraire isn’t happy about following orders anymore but when Hammond reinstates Laurence as a Captain, Temeraire agrees to leave. So, Temeraire, Iskierka, and Kulingile are loaded into the familiar dragon transport ship Allegiance. Unfortunately, they are caught in a mighty storm and Allegiance sinks leaving the three dragons and some of their crews in the middle of sea.

This book is very similar in style to some of the other Temeraire books where we explore new areas of the world. Novik is very good at creating new cultures which have both dragons and humans in them, and I love to read about them. However, readers expecting some resolution with Napoleon’s forces, are going to be disappointed.

I adore the dragons and they are really the highlight this time, too. Temeraire and Iskierka have long been at odds with one another and more recently they’ve apparently developed some attraction to each other. I loved that Iskierka hasn’t become any softer because of it, if anything, she’s more obstinate and annoying than ever, especially to her poor Captain Granby. (I loved what Iskierka was scheming on behalf of her hapless captain!) Of course, both Iskierka and Temeraire are terribly young. In fact, Temeraire is only seven years old currently and Iskierka is a year younger!

I’m happy to continue with the series even though it seems that the next book centers on a trope I don’t much care for.

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