April 2013

A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publication year: 2012
Format: ebook
Page count: 229 in .pdf
Publisher: Tyche Books Ltd.

Loch and Kail are soldiers of the Imperium but they’ve been caught and are in the Republic’s maximum security prison. The prisoners work on the underside of the floating city of Heaven’s Spire where they have to keep the magical lapiscaela in working order. The place is almost impossible to escape from except by falling into you death. However, Loch and Kail have a plan and Loch has to get away from the prison because she has bigger things to do. The pair escape but of course they become the most wanted villains in the Republic and the prison warden, Orris, becomes their implacable enemy. Justiciar Pyvic is sent after them, too.

While Loch has been in prison, a high-ranking Imperial officer has taken her family’s property and Loch wants them back. In order to do so, she has to break into the most heavily guarded areas of Heaven’s Spire. They are guarded by magic as well as people.

The Place Job is a heist story with an engaging cast. Loch herself is a very moral soldier; she repeats ”Fight the enemy, not their people” and expects others to follow that saying, too. She’s confident and very intelligent and at least one step ahead of her enemies. Oh, and she’s a black woman. Kail is her most trusted friend who will go through fire for her. He’s also more a rogue than a fighter and his favorite tactic is to insult the enemy’s mother until the enemy looses their cool and attacks him. Together Kail and Loch gather a group of people to help them. Loch knows some of them already.

Ululenia is a shapeshifting nature spirit. She’s in it for the money because with the money she can buy land away from greedy humans. She’s very attracted to virgins and her natural form is a unicorn. She’s not really a combatant and instead uses mind control.

Icy Fist is an acrobat and a martial arts expert. He’s sworn an oath not to hurt living beings. He’s an Imperial by birth and is very courteous towards the local, Republic’s, people. He usually works with Tern who is an expert lockpicker and tinker. She’s also an actor and skilled in con jobs.

Loch is looking for an old and reliable magic user she knows. Unfortunately, he has died so instead Loch has to settle for Hessler who has just been thrown out of the university. Then he was accused of cheating at cards and promptly thrown into jail. A young and naive man tried to defend Hessler and ended up in chains next to him. Hessler doesn’t want to leave the boy so Loch agrees to take in Dairy as well. That’s the boy’s nickname. Hessler’s expertise are illusions and magical objects.

Last but possible the most interesting person in the group is Desidora, a death priestess who has an interesting history. She’s working on magic defenses along with Hessler. She also has a talking, ancient warhammer Ghylspwr which can do a lot of damage. Ghylspwer talks in a made-up language.

On the other side of the legal fence is the hard-working ex-solder Pyvic who is doing is best to get the prisoners so that he can get on with the important work. However, politics gets into his way. The former warden Orris is assigned to Pyvic because Orris needs a chance to clear his name. Unfortunately for Pyvic, Orris doesn’t know anything at all about catching criminals. Of course, the story has also a mystery villain who is behind it all and has lots of political power.

All of these people have personalities and they all have their moment to shine, so the book doesn’t feel too crowded.

I was a bit surprised by how much I liked this book. I love Ocean’s eleven and the TV series Hustle but I haven’t read many heist stories so I was a bit skeptical about how well it could work. This one worked really well and I enjoyed it throughly. In fact, I wouldn’t mind reading more about Loch and her friends. (The other heist story I remember reading was Sanderson’s Mistborn which I also loved. Hmm. Any recommendations of other heist books?)

The world is a bit different from usual fantasy worlds. For one thing, the Republic is really a republic with people voted into office. It requires some way to tell people about what’s happening and here they use a puppet show! I loved that! The Republic has a two-party system, the Skilled and the Learned, who are constantly at odds with each other. The magic system isn’t really explained but I didn’t mind that. It felt more like technology than magic, to me.

The narration doesn’t tone down the danger but it’s not really gory or gritty (thankfully). In fact, the book has a lot of humor.

Yesterday, the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life was Favorite female TV characters.

This was incredibly hard. I love a lot of shows with awesome females.

1, Xena from Xena the Warrior Princess

2, Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
As well as Willow, Anya, Buffy…

3, Kaylee from Firefly
This show is just full of awesome characters, both male and female.

4, Pau’u Zotoh Zaan from Farscape
Another show were I love all of the major characters.

5, Susan Ivanova from Babylon 5

Special mentions go to Starbuck and Boomer from Battlestar Glactica, all of the major women in Bones, Dax and Kira from Star Trek: DS9, Sam Carter and Dr. Fraser from Stargate, Olivia Dunham from Fringe…

Collects Uncanny X-Men #540-544.

I read the issues when they were published in the monthly Finnish edition of the X-Men. These are the only issues we saw of the whole Fear Itself storyline.

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Greg Land, Jay Leisten
Publication year: 2012
Publisher: Marvel

Apparently, this is a part of much larger cross-over event at Marvel but I think it stands pretty well on its own, once we’re told what changed Juggernaut. I don’t like this collection as much as the previous one but it has potential for something which haven’t really been seen much in the X-Men comics in recent years: character development, especially for Peter, Kitty, and Illyana. (Actually, there might have been character development in the Schism storyline but that wasn’t published here.)

The first four issues focus on X-Men vs. Juggernaut and the last issue is Mr. Sinister talking (to himself) about X-Men’s history and especially recent events.

Juggernaut has gotten even more invincible because he got magical powers on top of his Juggernaut powers and he’s walking to San Francisco. The X-Men try to stop him. For some reason, Juggernaut speaks only gibberish and needs a henchman to speak for him.

Some of the people of SF are holding a rally against mutants saying that the mutants should leave SF and that they aren’t humans. However, the (young) mayor disagrees and says that the X-Men are welcome to stay. When Juggernaut is spotted, Scott and Emma let the mayor see what they are planning. Scott sends small teams against the Juggernaut, wanting to slow him down and get rid of his helmet so that Emma can zap him. Unfortunately, instead of she zapping him, Juggernaut zaps Emma, and the X-Men have an epic fight in their hands.

Meanwhile, Illyana has apparently endangered her friends to get revenge and now she’s considered a renegade. She’s imprisoned in a special X-Men prison. Her brother Peter is, of course, very concerned for her but she doesn’t appear to regret anything. Even her former best friend Kitty says that Illyana has changed so much she’s not really the same person anymore. However, when it becomes clear that Juggernaut can’t be stopped with mutant powers, the X-Men really have only one expert in magic, so Scott has to turn to Illyana.

Also, Namor is trying to take Emma away to be his queen. Sadly, he doesn’t succeed. Emma also sees a dream of a fiery bird returning and tries to kill Hope.

The story starts in a pretty usual way for the X-Men: intolerance and a huge enemy to fight. Scott is the central character; he’s very cold and calculating and convinced that he needs to be that way in order to protect the mutant race. Sadly, the world agrees with him. He says to the mayor that he doesn’t want to send the mutant kids into battle but he will if it becomes necessary. That’s essentially what he does: what is necessary to survive. He feels that he’s responsible for every hurt and death, and the others seem to blame him, too.

The fight against Juggernaut is shown in brief glimpses of various tactics which the mutants try against him. Otherwise, the fights would have take a lot of issues. Now, it’s almost a side story for everything else. One X-Men is changed a lot and I hope he won’t be just promptly changed back but the writers get to explore his new status more.

It’s a pretty average X-Men story and nothing fundamental happens here. Unless, of course, one X-Man’s transformation lasts long.

Booking Through Thursday

What’s the last book that made you spring to your feet, eager to spread the word and tell everyone how much you enjoyed it?

The Planetary graphic novels by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday. There are four of them. I read the comic when it first came out in monthly issues, but I wasn’t able to get the whole run. Last month, I finally reread the series as a whole. I loved the series when I first read it and I got a whole new appreciation for it when I reread them quickly and in order.

Planetary is an organization dedicated to unearthing the secret history of Earth. It has parallel universes, secret histories, twisted versions of beloved super heroes, and mysteries. The central character, Elijah Snow, has gaps in his memory and recovering them is a big part of the mysteries. If you’re interested in any of the above, I think you’ll like Planetary.

A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publication year: 1991
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Gildart Jackson
Running Time: 9 hrs and 38 minutes

I’m a fan of Rusch’s SF books but this is the first fantasy I’ve read from her. It’s also her first published book.

Alaric is the King’s eldest son and heir. Even though he’s still very young, ten, he’s already trying to know how to do his future job properly. At the start of the book, he’s gone to see a mysterious Enos who can see his future. The Enos prophesies that Alaric will wise and feared but that he will be threatened with death.

Alaric is constantly asking his father about the ways to rule. However, his questions annoy the King and alarm the high nobles. Alaric wants to go the nearby big city Anda and Lord Boton promises to take him there. However, it’s Lord Ewehl who shows up to escort the young prince to the city. The Lord gives the boy some money and sends him off to explore Anda on his own. Unfortunately, Alaric is soon beaten and robbed. To his shock he finds out that Lord Ewehl hasn’t waited for him and nobody believes that he’s actually the prince.

Seymour is a son of a famous magician. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have his father’s talents and so he wasn’t properly trained. He lives on the lands of lord Dakin who has a dark reputation for hunting his enemies with dogs and Seymour is one of the few who has escaped such a hunt alive. When he hears that another man is being hunted, he helps the man. The man turns out to be Byron, a bard. Byron is rumored to have killed a lady and that’s why he’s in trouble. He’s, of course, innocent. He needs a powerful protector and to get that he heads to the King’s court. But getting to the King isn’t easy and lord Dakin is still after them.

The world has a few unique features even though the social system is a common feudal system. The Enos seem to be some sort of earth spirits but in physical bodies. They are attuned to the land and can sense if the land is in turmoil or “wants blood”. The Enos make prophesies and are forbidden to help humans.

Magic is real and magicians are accepted as another profession. Herbal healers help people and powerful wizards are in the Lords’ employ. Byron ends up leading a bardic troupe so we get to know more about them.

Alaric is an idealistic ten year old but he feels older to me. However, he has to quickly learn to live in his new life. Luckily, he makes friends who will prevent him from dying of hunger on the streets. He learns harsh lessons.

Seymour is in his mid-thirties and he’s lost his idealism long ago. He’s bitter at his father and unsure about his own abilities. He develops a quick attachment to Byron and the two travel together. Byron has ideas about how to get into the King’s palace and how to leave their pursuers behind.

The book has many other point-of-view character. Some of them are seen only briefly and some of them are the story’s bad guys. One of them is a starving street urchin.

I enjoyed the book but I don’t think it’s quite as good as Rusch’s later books. Still, it’s nice to read a stand-alone fantasy for a change.

Illustrated by Jacqueline East

A retelling of six Irish folktales about the Little People.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Page count: 64
Publisher: Gill & Macmillan

This is a charming little book for kids. Each page has illustrations which match the story on that page. The book has six stories where people encounter Leprechauns in various ways. In a couple of them, greedy humans are trying to get the Leprechaun’s gold but there are other classic tales, too. The stories are pretty short.

The stories: The Crock of Gold, Niamh, The Sidhe, The Fairy Lios, The Magic Cloak, and The New House.

To me the illustrations look similar to children’s book illustrations and they fit the stories well.

The second book in an urban fantasy series where the main character is a modern day samurai.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Page count: 306
Publisher: Roc

Jesse Dawson is a champion. When someone has made a deal with a demon and contacts Jesse, he can make another deal, with his own soul as the collateral. The demons’ physical bodies don’t have vital points, like a human body, so Jesse needs a bladed weapon to fight them. However, Jesse’s not alone: he’s part of a network of Champions who share information when it’s needed. Old Ukrainian Champion Ivan Zelenko has brought the Champions together even though they work alone and in different parts of the world.

Jesse is happily married to Mira and they have a daughter which is quite a departure from other UF books and I liked that. Even though Jesse hates demons, he’s on speaking terms with one of them. Axel appears when he wants to and sometimes gives Jesse information. He has quite a big role in this book.

A Shot in the Dark is quite different in tone and structure than the first one, A Devil in the Details. While the first one was solidly an urban fantasy, this one has more horror elements.

The males of the Dawson family and their friends have a yearly retreat in a mountain cabin in Colorado. Jesse, his brother Cole, his best friend Will, his friend Marty, the cabin owner Oscar, and Oscar’s teenaged son are going to the cabin to get away from the world and to shoot paint balls at each other. But this time, they have an addition to the group. Jesse’s doctor and good friend has a new boyfriend Cameron and the good doctor pressures Jesse into taking Cameron to the retreat. They also have to take Marty’s mastiff Duke who turns out to be extremely useful.

However, once the group gets to the mountain, Axel warns Jesse to leave immediately. But Jesse can’t just leave his friends and soon they are all trapped into the cabin with bloodthirsty monsters all around.

The start of the book is quite slow with the Dawson family barbecue and then the long car trip to the mountains. The action doesn’t really start until about 100 pages in but then it’s very intense and the book’s mood changes abruptly from light-hearted to horror. Even though Jesse’s friends know intellectually that demons exist, they haven’t ever met one. Still, when they are threatened, they quickly accept that demons are real and concentrate on staying alive. There’s some tension between the characters, too, so it’s not all “us vs. them” mentality.

I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters and Duke was a real delight. We find out that there’s a far larger plot moving beneath.

The mighty Kristen from Fantasy Cafe has just launched the second annual Women in SF&F month:

The entire month of April will be dedicated to highlighting the contributions of women to speculative fiction. There will be guest posts by women who write speculative fiction and women who share their love for the genre with others on their blogs throughout the month. Like last year’s series, some guests will be discussing the subject of women writing speculative fiction, but not necessarily, since the goal is to get some interesting people, thoughts, and books all in one place—and perhaps find some new books or blogs to read! (I have already madly been adding books to my wish list from reading the guests posts that will be going up this month.)

Last year’s event was great and this looks like it will be lots of fun!

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