The third book in her epic Aztec fantasy series.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Page count: 446
Publisher: Angry Robot

The book starts about three months after the end of the previous one. The Mexica Empire has a new ruler, the Revered Speaker, but he hasn’t yet consolidated his rule with the gods. In order to do that, he needs to get lots of war captives and sacrifice them. However, when he gets back from the Coronation War, his warriors have captured only a small amount of enemies and during the welcome ceremony one of the Mexica warriors falls down, dead. Acatl suspects that he died of magic and wants to see Eptli’s body but the new Revered Speaker is a paranoid and arrogant man who seems to care more for ceremony than the health of his warriors.

It turns out that Eptli isn’t well-liked at all and Acatl has more suspects than he really needs. Soon, he finds out that Eptli was indeed slain with a spell. And the magic used is contagious. The city is facing an epidemic. Also, consequences from the decisions done in the previous book comes to haunt Acatl.

Acatl is the same humble man he was in the previous books but he has learned somethings. The rift between him and his former student Teomitl is growing because Teomitl is a royal born warrior who has now taken on the responsibilities of his station. He is also far more liked among the warriors than the current Revered Speaker who doesn’t like that.

This is a great ending to the series. However, the ending leaves possibilities for continuing the series. De Bodard has written some short stories in the same setting.

Collects Storm 6-11

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Al Barrionuevo, Tom Palmer, Neil Edwards, Ed Tadeo, Victor Ibanez

The stories continue from the previous collection.
In her adventure in Las Vegas, Storm’s ankle broke and so she takes a flight in an airplane back to New York. At the start of the flight, people recognize her and one of them doesn’t want to fly with her. However, the plane gets off with Storm in it. She just has the time to chat with a woman who is taking a donated organ to the recipient, when the plane is attacked. A senator is onboard and his guards assume that Storm is responsible and threaten her. However, Storm ends up protecting the plane from the attacker. Yet, when the plane finally lands, after a hard flight, Storm is arrested.

The next two issues delve into the consequences of the plane incident and of the previous collection. Some really powerful people are unhappy that Storm has dared to meddle in their affairs. This gives the previous stories some continuity.

Then Gambit! He’s now the boss of Thieves’ guild but he has a problem and wants Storm’s help. Apparently, some of his underlings have turned against him. Also, Gambit wants to rob a treasure which is guarded by none of other than Hermes himself. This is a light romp, but a really thin excuse to get a Gambit appearance.

In the final two issues, Storm returns to the school and a subplot kicks into high gear. Subplot involving… mold! Of course, when the X-Men are involved, it means deadly, cybernetic mold done by a former student. The student has a big chip on his shoulder and he believes that Storm’s (or rather Xavier’s) inclusive dream is only for the pretty people.

These issues apparently tie up some X-Men related stuff. A student named Marisol is a significant secondary character. Even though I’m not familiar with those stories, this collection mostly worked for me. It’s was a bit better than the previous volume, too. Still, these stories turn out to be average.

Well, it turned out that the title was cancelled after this. Too bad, it was just getting started.

One of my favorite X-Men has gotten her own comic! Collects Storm 1-5.

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Victor Ibanez, Matteo Buffagini, Scott Hepburn, David Baldeon, Jordi Tarragona, Roland Paris, Craig Yeung

I was very excited when I noticed (on Marvel Unlimited) that Storm has now her own comic. However, I thought that writing her as a lone character might be challenging. And I was right.

Storm is an integral part of the X-Men and doesn’t have her own rogue’s gallery or supporting characters. (Yes, she was the sidekick of Black Panther for a while but that doesn’t seem to have changed her at all – after the divorce she slipped right back into the X-Men as nothing had happened. Disclaimer: I haven’t read the Black Panther comics but that’s the impression I’ve gotten from others.) Interestingly enough, even though we have loads of X-Men, very few of them have had on-going spin-offs focusing on just one character, although some have had one-shots and limited series. Of course, a one-off or a limited series has a focus written in: such as the Wolverine/Kitty Pryde limited series decades ago. Storm actually had a limited series, before the wedding, which focused on her youth. However, over the years there have been significant storylines focusing on Storm, such as her second youth with Gambit, her fight with Callisto and Morlocks, and her romance with Forge. Callisto makes an appearance in this collection, too.

This collection feels somewhat disjointed at first. The first issue has Storm rushing to help people living under dictatorship in Santo Marco where the officials want her to leave. But the people want her to stay and she does. In the second issue, she deals with the consequences of that and looks for some missing orphan kids in New York. She also has lunch with Wolverine (whom she’s now apparently dating). In the third issue she confronts Forge which was inevitable, considering their past relationship. However, Forge has been portrayed as pretty nutty in recent years and Storm acknowledged that by not trusting him.

Then we get a two-parter centering on Yukio. She’s Storm’s and Logan’s friend and in part inspired Storm’s first Mohawk style and change into a harder person and a leader from the original gentle goddess. But first, we’re supposed to believe that Wolverine is really dead and Storm grieves him. But then she pulls herself together and rushes to Las Vegas to help Yukio. She’s in a wheelchair – and the boss of a large criminal organization. Needless to say, this doesn’t sit well with our heroine.

It seems that these are part of a larger plot which gets into high gear in the next collection.

The writing is somewhat different from the average loner hero because Storm has a lot of responsibilities at the school and with her friends. But she also gets help when she needs it. Overall, I liked this beginning and I’m eager to see where it will go.

Booking Through Thursday

Last week’s question was: What do you do with books you weed out of your library? If you’re like me, you find this VERY hard to do, but you want your old books to have a good, happy life somewhere … so where do you send them? What do you do with them?

Most of the time I take them to a second-hand bookstore… and get more books from them. Or DVDs. Some I’ve donated to the library and some given to people I know. I also use BookMooch.

When I love a book (or series) I get it from Audible as an audio book (when its available) and put the book on BookMooch or take it to a second hand bookstore.

And today: How often (if ever) do you weed out your library?

I used to weed my printed books and comics before moving. However, now I live in a smaller place so in order to buy more I should get rid of others. (But I’m terrible at weeding.) I haven’t yet weeded ebooks or comics.

The fourth in the Smokey Dalton historical mystery series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 41 minutes
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Mirron Willis

Smokey is a black man in 1969 Chicago and a private detective. He has continued his romance with Laura Hathaway, a rich white woman, and it brings some problems with it. The story starts with Laura and Smokey taking part in a charity fundraiser for orphaned black children. Laura’s suggestion of white families adopting them isn’t received well, to say the least.

On their way to Smokey’s apartment, Smokey hears a woman calling for help from his neighbor’s apartment. He and Laura investigate and find an unknown black woman bleeding heavily. They get her to a hospital where the doctors refuse to help her because they suspect that she’d done an abortion, which is illegal. Laura won’t stand for that, though. Smokey tries to find out the strange woman’s identity and ends up investigating on who is responsible for the botched abortion the stranger suffered through. In another plot thread, Smokey works for Laura inspecting the buildings her company owns. When he finds the remains of a baby, he just has to find out who is responsible.

Also, Black Stone Rangers and the Panthers play a significant role in the story.

Several plot threats make this book is bit more sprawling that the previous ones but no less enjoyable. Many familiar characters return and Smokey’s adoptive son Jimmy starts to act out on his teenaged impulses. Jimmy feels left out of Smokey’s life when Smokey deals with problems he doesn’t want Jimmy to know about. The boy’s also afraid that Smokey will be injured or even killed. Even though Smokey’s friends would no doubt take care of the boy if that happened, it’s not enough for the boy.

Nelscott describes Chicago wonderfully even though the racism is hard to read about. And racism does worm its way into pretty much everything. As far as I can tell, the characters are realistic for their time.

The story is a chilling reminder that women’s current rights haven’t existed for long and people are again, or still, working to diminish or destroy them altogether. Even here in Finland.

Another excellent book in the series.

The second book in her epic Aztec fantasy series.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Page count: 416
Publisher: Angry Robot

Acatl-tzin is the High Priest of the Dead, but in the Aztec society where warriors and the glory of warfare is the most valued, he’s not actually in a powerful position. After all, Mitctlantecuhtli governs over people who have not died in battle or as a sacrifice. Even his two fellow high priests look down on Acatl because the Lord of the Dead doesn’t have much influence and Acatl’s parents were peasants. In addition to doing the rites for the dead, Acatl investigates murders.

When the story starts, the ruler of the Mexica empire, the Revered Speaker Axayacatl-tzin, has just died from wounds in battle. The Reverend Speaker is also the representative of his god on Earth which means that his death weakens the magical protections of the capital and in time star-demons can break through to travel to Earth and start killing people.

But the politically (and religiously) powerful people are far more interested in fighting for earthly power than appointing the next ruler before the protections fail. The just dead ruler had been a respected warrior but his chosen heir, his older brother, is a weak man who has wanted the throne his whole life and schemed to get it. Other men desire the throne, too, and poor Acatl is caught in the middle, trying to warn people about the magical consequences if the next ruler isn’t appointed quickly.

Also, the same day when the Revered Speaker dies, another man is found dead, brutally torn to pieces, right in the royal palace. Acatl is convinced that it’s the work of the star-demons which means that someone is summoning these enemies of humanity right inside the palace. The summonings weaken the buckling protections so Acatl wants to find the sorcerer as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have political clout or diplomatic skills so questioning the most powerful men in the Empire is rather difficult. However, he has a couple of trusted friend he can rely on. One of them is his student Teomitl, the younger brother of the former Revered Speaker.

This is a setting where the gods are very much alive and sometimes even walk among humans. Almost all of them are cruel and hungry for blood; they require blood sacrifices to work magic. I found the explanation for this (near the end) fascinating.

This time we meet the people at the very top of Aztec society – and they’re not nice men. Pretty much all of them scheme and backstab to their heart’s content. (In fact, I felt rather sorry for Axayacatl who seemed like a decent person and had to deal with this lot on a daily basis. Or maybe he fought in wars so often to get away from them?) Also, magical, religious, and political power is intertwined and inseparable. This is quite a dark society and the storyline is also very dark, punctuated by human and animal sacrifice. The Lord of the Dead doesn’t require human sacrifices, though, but Acatl does have to use his own blood for spells and worship.

The Aztec society in this book has just as strong a division between the worlds of men and women as the Greeks did; women don’t participate in public life. I find this curious because I didn’t see similar division between the male and female deities; all seem equally aggressive, cruel, and bloody. But the book has only three named mortal women and I strongly suspect that only one of them (if any) is going to be seen again.

De Bodard has created a fascinating culture. Interesting enough, the book doesn’t have much violence at all but blood rituals are used often. Unfortunately, the omnibus version I’m reading doesn’t have her notes but her website has some background stuff. The mystery is pretty convoluted and because of the unfamiliar setting I don’t think the reader has a chance to solve it before Acatl.

Acatl is mostly comfortable with his life and his position as a humble priest. But now he’s taken far out of his comfort zone and forced to deal with people he comes to despise and distrust. He’s determined to do what he feels is right and to protect the people near him, and also the whole Empire. Teomitl is another honorable character trying to do the right thing, but he can also be arrogant and overconfident. After all, he is a warrior and also part of the emperor’s family. Most of the other characters have their own agendas but because of their high positions they also tend to be rather arrogant.

This is a great continuation to the series. It doesn’t end in a cliffhanger but it’s clear that the solutions are only temporary. I recommend reading the first book, Servant of the Underworld, first because it introduces the characters and the setting.

A retelling of the Norse Edda sagas from Loki’s point of view.

Publication year: 2014
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours and 7 minutes
Publisher: Audible
Narrators: Allan Corduner

“Loki, that’s me. Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies.”

Apparently, this is a prequel to a YA series which I haven’t read. So it stands alone.

Loki is clearly telling his story to a modern audience because the book is full of modern, USAian sayings which have sometimes been twisted lightly to fit into Loki’s mouth (nobody in Nine Worlds rather than nobody in the world). While the adventures the gods have are from the Eddas, the voice, the motivations, and sometimes the consequences have been changed to a modern view. The stories start with the forming of the world, before Loki’s time, and end with Raknarök.

Some details have been changed, as well. For example, in the Eddas, Loki is the son of a chaos goddess and the god of the frost giants. But here, Loki forms himself from pure chaos and his true form is wildfire. In the Eddas, Loki was married and divorced several times but here he’s married against his will to a goddess he loathes and then he cheats on her repeatedly. The other deities don’t fare much better. Loki insults them as often as he can and goes out of his way to show how stupid they all are. And everything, in the end, is the fault of Loki’s blood brother, Odin.

The voice Harris gives to her Loki is pretty much flawless: arrogant, sly, devious, innocent of almost everything. Wonderful. He thinks of himself as an outsider, a scapegoat for the deities. This makes him feel lonely and justifies his actions, to himself at least.

Some of the stories are very funny, some less so. But our humble narrator is always entertaining.

The reader is also great. He has a conversational style which suits the story very well. Unfortunately, he has the habit of lowering his voice every once in a while which made it sometimes hard to hear those parts when I was driving.

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