2012 Immortals reading challenge

Publication year: 1992
Page count: 310 + an excerpt of If Faust You Don’t Succeed
Format: print
Publisher: Bantam Spectra

The demon Azzie Elbub works in one of the oldest pits in Hell but he has other ambitions. He gets his chance when one of the souls in his pit turns out to have been taken mistakenly before his time. Azzie is ordered to take the man’s soul back to Earth and when he gets there, he stays on Earth.

It’s the year 1000 and the millennial contest between Good and Evil is rapidly approaching. Azzie meets the old god Hermes and he encourages Azzie to make an entrance to the contest. Azzie flies around getting money he needs to get started and even has to bodily burst into a meeting between the demon lords who are deciding Hell’s entrant. His suggestion is a twisted fairy tale: the Sleeping Beauty. He will build the Princess and her Prince Charming from body parts which will have belonged to cowards and other similar people. He will also coach the two from the start so that tale will have a really unhappy ending, thus proving that people are evil. This seems to be the best idea so far and the lords agree. They give Azzie an unlimited credit card and he flies to work.

Unfortunately, the demons in Supply don’t seem to know how important Azzie’s work is and at every turn he has to bribe and threaten the demons to get the required stuff, like an Enchanted Castle and an Enchanted Forest. Indeed, Azzie’s biggest foe in the book is Supply.

Azzie manages to get help from Ylith, his old witch girlfriend. He also gets a vile servant Frike. The little man with the hump wants the henchman job so much that he kills his two rivals.

Writing humor is hard. For some reason, I didn’t click with this book. I know intellectually that some of the stuff was funny, especially the demonic bureaucracy and the other Supply demons, but they just didn’t make me laugh. Hermes also seemed inexplicably helpful to Azzie, for no other reason that he’s the main character. I mean Hermes didn’t even ask anything in return for his help and advice.

The third book in the series.

Publication year: 2007
Page count: 318 + an excerpt of Kitty and the Silver Bullet
Format: print
Publisher: Warner Books

After the climatic ending of the previous book, where Kitty changed into a wolf in front of television cameras, Kitty has withdrawn to a mountain cabin. Supposedly, she’s taking a break from publicity and writing a book. Instead, she’s fighting her inner wolf who wants to just run away from civilization.

Then, someone leaves a slaughtered rabbit on her doorstep and paints a cross on her door with blood. Kitty calls in the local sheriff but to her dismay the local police officers aren’t very efficient. She’s also concerned because she didn’t hear or smell anyone, even with her werewolf senses.

The werewolf hunter Cormac appears. He brings with him Ben O’Farrell, Kitty’s friend and lawyer. A werewolf has bitten Ben and he’s now transforming into a werewolf, too. It’s not going to be easy; some people go crazy. Cormac wants Kitty to help Ben.

Then someone leaves many slaughtered dog carcasses outside the cabin door and makes a circle around the cabin with crosses made of barbed wire and silver. The sheriff is starting to believe that Kitty is doing this herself to get attention. This makes Kitty, of course, angry.

The book has a quite isolated environment and a limited cast. Cormac is his usual dour self and we get to know his background. Apparently, he and Ben made a vow when they were a lot younger that if either of them gets infected with lycantrophy, the other one would kill him. However, in the end, Cormac couldn’t kill Ben but brought him to Kitty thinking that she can help him. Ben seriously thinks about killing himself. Kitty is, of course, furious. She takes Ben into her pack, of two wolves, and becomes very protective of him. This is quite a change for her; when we first met her, she was the omega of her pack, in the next book she doesn’t have a pack, and now she’s the leader. She’s pretty unsure about it herself except that she wants to keep her small pack alive and thriving.

Cormac is now rather protective of Kitty. When the police fail to found out who has been bringing the carcasses outside the cabin, he starts to look into it. Ben is pretty much a mess. As a lawyer, he’s used to being in control and having rules to follow, or bend. Now, he doesn’t have them. His whole self has changed and now has a stranger in his mind. Kitty remembers how her best friend T. J. helped her when she changed and tries to do the same thing for Ben. Also, there’s a lot of tension between Cormac and Ben; neither of them knows how to deal with the change.

There’s a town near the cabin. Now that people know that Kitty is a werewolf, the owner of the convenience store trains a shotgun on Kitty every time she shops there. Also, Ariel, the Priestess of the Night, has started her radio show about all things supernatural and Kitty is convinced that she’s a hack who is trying to ride on Kitty’s fame. Kitty even calls in to the show. This was very, very human and funny.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the book. Kitty has grown quite a bit and I like her better when she isn’t in an abusive relationship with her pack leader.

The ending, or rather the last 1/3 of the book were really surprising in a good way. It was quite different from the videogame like endings a lot of fantasy books have.

The second book in the series about Jill Kismet, a demon hunter.

Publication year: 2008
Page count: 329
Format: ebook
Publisher: Orbit

I haven’t read the first book in this series but I had no problem following the story.

Jill Kismet is a demon hunter, working together with the police of the city of Santa Luz and the Catholic Church. However, most of the humans don’t know that powerful demons hunt them. Even some of the Church officials don’t really believe that Jill is on their side. After all, the official Church doctrine is that even though they train hunters, the hunters are damned because they deal with demons.

Someone is murdering prostitutes in a gruesome manner and Jill is called on the case. The prostitutes’ eyes and most of their intestines have been carved out. Jill and the police believe that the demon responsible eats them. At the same time, Jill finds out that the local Church has been withholding information from her. One of their seminary students has been infected with a demon and Jill has to exorcise it. Demons shouldn’t be able to get near the seminary students, so Jill is very unhappy with that.

Earlier, in the first book I think, Jill was forced to make a bargain with a powerful hellbreed named Perry. He looks like a human but is not. He runs a local underworld cafe, the Monde Nuit, and makes deals with humans. Apparently, Jill got supernatural strength, speed, and healing ability from the deal. She has a scar on her wrist as a mark of the deal and that scar seems to pulse with sex magic pretty much all the time. She also makes smaller deals with Perry for information and she pays them with hours spent alone with him. She’s very nervous about them beforehand because Perry forces her to do things that she enjoys and yet hates herself for enjoying.

The world is pretty grim, full of prostitutes, pimps, drug users, people who make deals with demons to get a slightly better life. The police are often swamped with cases and faced with supernatural horrors they can’t deal with. Jill and her fellow hunters are their only hope of destroying the monsters. The murder scenes are very gory. The story is told in first person POV.

Before Jill became a demon hunter, she was a street prostitute. Her demon hunter mentor saved her and took her as a lover, too. But that mentor, Mikhail, is dead and Jill has to rely on her own wits and skills to survive. She has a new lover, Saul, who is a were, who can transform into a cougar. He’s very possessive and a good working partner because he already knows a lot about the supernatural world. Their relationship seems solid to me but sometimes Jill wonders why Saul is attracted to her in the first place. Apparently, weres are usually repulsed by hellbreed and the people they make deals with.

All characters curse a lot which actually feels pretty adolescent to me, especially when they’re cursing to terrified victims. Even though Jill acts all tough outside, on the inside, she’s sometimes insecure. While she doesn’t doubt her abilities, she doubts her intellect and her decisions and Saul’s feelings for her. She hates Perry, especially when he shows up to save her in fights.

In addition to Perry and Saul, the secondary characters are police officers, who actually appreciate Jill for doing her work, and pimps and their victims.

I’ve read Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine books before and unfortunately, the main characters seem pretty similar: they’ve both been horribly wounded in the past, both physically and mentally, and seem to be stronger because of that. However, Dante has far more trust issues than Jill.

The fourth book in the Dark Days urban fantasy series. In audio!

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Todd McLaren
Running Time: 13 hrs and 22 minutes

The fourth book is from Danaus’ point-of-view, for the first time. Danaus is 1,800 years old, because his soul is linked to a Bori, a demon of sorts. Before Danaus was born, his mother gave his soul to a Bori in exchange for power. Danaus got a long life and supernatural abilities. He’s convinced that his soul is already damned. For a long time, he has been looking for a purpose to his life. For a while, Danaus got his purpose from hunting vampires and protecting humans. However, since Danaus has had to ally himself with Mira, he’s started to think that he could have been wrong, to an extent. For a couple of hundred years, Danaus has been working for Themus, a secret organization devoted to destroying vampires. But now he’s started to suspect Themus’ leader, the warlock Ryan, is only using the organization for his own ends. Danaus doesn’t like to be used.

Once again, Danaus is drawn to Mira’s home town of Savannah. A senator’s daughter has been killed and it’s likely that the murderer was a supernatural being. Her parents are influential and they want to investigate her murder. If they find a supernatural link, they could expose it to the whole world.

While Danaus is hunting a vampire, he sees that something takes the monster over and the vampire is able to kill several naturi. He finds out that the Bori who owns Danaus’ soul has returned and wants Danaus to work for him. Of course, Danaus refuses. Also, Danaus’ assistant James has his own problems.

The previous books have given hints about Danaus’ past and they are now confirmed. He was born as a Roman citizen and for a while he was part of the Roman army. Then he spent a while with monks. It seems to me that Danaus was one of the earliest Christians, or perhaps a Jewish man, because his concepts of divinity, souls, and damnation seem to be Christian rather than Roman. He also has trouble with current technology which is understandable.

We are introduced to a new character and the book revolved a bit too much around her. Also, there’s a lot of repetition; Danaus goes back and forth that he needs Mira to destroy their mutual enemy, the naturi, and that he’s very attracted to her, but she’s a vampire. Sometimes Danaus thinks of her only as a prey, especially when they haven’t met for a while. Mira has spent some time with Themus and has apparently gaind some new powers during that time. Danaus is surprised by the same new powers several times.

This time, the book is set in Savannah instead of the more international settings in the previous books. So, the established cast in Savannah are also seen a lot; Tristan, Lox, and the werewolves. A surprising number of ordinary people seem to know about the supernatural creatures; they seem to be an open secret, especially among the homeless.

The overall plot is developed a bit and the book ends in a cliffhanger. It’s entertaining but I don’t think this book was as good as the previous ones.

Publication year: 1992
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2007
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Kivimäki
Page count: 314
Finnish Publisher: Karisto

Lords and Ladies features many returning characters but it can be read without any prior knowledge about them. The three witches and the people of Lancre have been seen before in Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, and Witches Abroad. In fact, the book starts with the witches returning from Witches Abroad. Also, wizards from previous wizards books appear. And Death makes a brief cameo.

While the witches were away, a group of young women wanted to become the witches of the tiny kingdom of Lancre and they started doing what they thought they should do: painting their nails black and dancing nude in the middle of the forest. Unfortunately, they danced in the wrong place and unleashed an old danger which everyone had forgotten. The real witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick, are in a fight of their lives.

Magrat and Verence have been dating for a while, and when Magrat returns to Lance, Verence announces that they are going to get married. Magrat is a little taken aback and a bit sorry that there wasn’t a romantic proposal. Verence has been the king of Lancre for only a short time and he’s determined that everything will be done the Proper Way, for royalty. Apparently, that means that the king just decides everything and everyone else just have to accept it. It doesn’t help that Verence seems to be more interested in agriculture and pig raising than their wedding. However, the invitations have been sent and even the Unseen University is sending four representatives: the Archcancellor himself, the Librarian, Ponder Stibbons, and the Burser. On the way, they stumble upon the dwarf Casanunda, the second greatest lover in Discworld.

The wedding is going to take place in the Midsummer day and Verence has orderd a play just for the occasion. The local Morris dancers are busy trying to memorize it and practice it but aren’t doing too well.

The book features no less than three possible romances, lots of misunderstandings, and people not talking to each other even though just five minutes honest talk would probably clear up most of the misunderstandings. I generally don’t care for such misunderstandings but Pratchett manages to write them well, just for comedic effect but in-character, too.

As usual, underneath the comedy, Prachett discusses about serious issues. This time it’s the way that what people believe makes them almost blind to how things are; the nature of reality and thought/belief and how they affect each other.

Inspired by the Midsummer Night’s Dream and probably various glittering versions of elves.

My newest review: Sarah Jane Stratford’s Moonlight Brigade.
It’s a vampire novel set during the Second World War and just loads of fun.

I gave it four stars of five.

The second book in the Blood series.

Publication year: 1992
Format: print
Page count: 281 in the Blood Books, volume 1
Publisher: DAW

Vampire Henry Fitzroy asks Vicki Nelson to help him in a professional capacity. Two members of the Heerkens family in London (Canada) have been shot dead and they can’t go to the police because they have a secret: they are werewolves. The members have been shot in wolf form. Vicki is astonished at first but accepts the situation quickly and agrees to help the family. She and Henry drive to the small town and to the Heerkens’ sheep farm where they meet the rest of the family. The two wers had been killed at night from a long range so the shooter has to be extremely good.

Vicki starts to investigate the neighbors and everyone else who lives nearby and has the skills and the chance to make the shots. One of them is a cop. The pack’s leader has an adult son who is the only one of the pack who works among humans. Colin is a cop in the London police department and his partner Barry Wu is an Olympic shooter. There are also birdwatchers and other people running around in the woods near the farm. The closest neighbor is a religious vegetarian. Vicki doesn’t have much to go on but she’s determined to find the murderer.

Vicki and Henry start the book dancing around each other. They’re attracted to each other but haven’t yet slept together. Then, Vicki’s long-time lover Michael Celluci shows up. He’s almost burning with jealousy and has run background checks on Henry. He found suspicious gaps in Henry’s life and decides to drive to London and confront Vicki with them. What follows is a lot of alpha male posturing. Unfortunately, I don’t care for that and Mike comes across as a possessive asshole. He and Vicki also snarl at each other instead of talking so Vicki almost as much a jackass. Henry is his charming self but most of the book is set during the day, so he doesn’t appear much.

I really enjoyed the wer. For Huff’s wer, shape changing is as natural as breathing and they do it almost as often and whenever they please. This results in a six-year-old running around first in boy form and then in his fur form which was amusing. The wers also say that humans smell weird so they aren’t attracted to humans. The wer keep to themselves as much as possible. Clothing restricts the change to they try to keep as little of it as possible but have to learn to keep them on for school. Some neighbors think that they are nudists. The females also come to heat instead of following the human mating pattern. Huff has modeled the pack closely to wolf packs; there are both a male and a female alpha who run the pack, and they are the only breeding pair. It seems that many births are twins and even triplets are mentioned. The wers also follow their instincts more than humans usually do. I found their pack dynamics interesting and more wolf like than is usual for urban fantasy.

The first book had several horror elements in it, but this one is clearly a mystery, not a horror book. A great second book for the series and to me it was better than the first book.

The first book in the Blood series.

Publication year: 1991
Format: print
Page count: 272 in the Blood Books, volume 1
Publisher: DAW

Victoria “Vicky” Nelson is a former cop and now a private investigator. She loved her job as a homicide detective and was in a tumultuous relationship with her fellow cop Mike Celluci. However, she has an eye disease called reginitis pigmentosa which has already destroyed her night vision and peripheral vision, and caused nearsightedness. In time, she might go blind. The disease forced her to leave her job. She still knows people in the force, though, which comes in handy.

A murderer is stalking Toronto and the papers have dubbed him (or her) a vampire because the victims have been found with their throats torn and blood drained. Vicky stumbles into the latest killing in a subway but manages only to catch a glimpse of the killer, and she doesn’t trust her failing eyes. Later, the first victim’s young girlfriend, Coreen, wants to hire Vicky to catch the murderer. Coreen is convinced that the killer is a real vampire. Vicky hesitates but takes the case.

Henry Fitzroy is a vampire hiding among humanity. He’s convinced that the killer is a newly made vampire who isn’t being taught properly and he wants to find both the new vampire and his (or her) maker. Of course, his detective work is limited to nights.

Henry is the bastard son of Henry VIII, over 450 years old, and we get see flashback from his long life. I really enjoyed them. Henry remembers most of them because something in the present reminds him about the past (similar to the Highlander series). He’s a romance writer and there are brief snatches of his current work.

The Blood books were written twenty years ago, before the big surge in the vampire paranormal romance books. Huff manages to make Henry a sympathetic protagonist but not a glittering romance hero. While Henry requires human blood to survive, he doesn’t have to kill to get it. In fact, he seems to enjoy gently biting his partner in the middle of sex and drinking a little so that she (or he as it’s hinted in a small scene that Henry’s bisexual, though he seems to prefer women) doesn’t even notice. Also, Henry is a Catholic and religious items and places don’t bother him.

Vicki is an independent woman who isn’t afraid to use violence when she has to. She’s also a skilled investigator and uses her connections to the police. She feels like she has to prove to herself and everyone else that she can still do her job. This makes her forceful, angry, and driven.

The third major POV character is Norman Birdwell, a student at the local York University. He doesn’t have any friends and feels that the others just laugh at him (which they do). He’s out to get respect for himself. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very interesting character but of course he’s very realistic.

The plot is a pretty basic mystery with engaging characters. I enjoyed Vicki and Henry, and the fact that they both already had lovers and weren’t just waiting to meet each other. I was less impressed by the relationship Vicki and Mike had; they screamed at each other and then fell to bed.

A fun, quick read.

The fifth book in the Detective Inspector Chen series set in Singapore Three.

Publication year: 2010
Format: print
Page count: 317 plus a short story The Lesson
Publisher: Morrigan Books

Omi is a young Japanese warrior who comes from a line of warriors. He has been charged with the slaying of the Iron Khan, a cruel and bloodthirsty warrior and a magican who plans to rule the world with his ifriits. He’s also immortal and ancient. Omi is just one man but he’s doing his best with the help of his grandfather’s ghost.

The new Emperor of Heaven, Mhara, has called Detective Inspector Chen to Heaven. The Book of Heaven, one of the most ancient sentient beings in the universe and its creator, is missing. The Book is capable of rewriting the world, so Mhara wants it back and wants to know how it could have gone. The only way seems to be that the Book itself wanted to leave which isn’t reassuring.

Meanwhile, Chen’s demon wife Inari and her familiar the Earth spirit badger are entertaining the Celestial Warrior Miss Qi in Chen’s house boat. Unfortunately, the trio is caught up in a strange typhoon that whisks them away from Earth and to the Sea of Night which is between Heaven and Earth. And the former Empress of Heaven, who is now quite insane and very powerful, is imprisoned there.

Zhu Irzh and his fiancée Jhai Tserai are visiting Vrumchi and then later the Gobi Desert. Zhu Irzh is a demon from the Chinese Hell and Jhai is a tiger demoness from an Indian Hell. Jhai is also extremely rich and the head of her own company. She’s come to scout locations for her new chemical plant. The plant will likely poison the earth around it but when it’s built in a desert, it won’t bother anyone, right? Their evening at the hotel is interrupted when a reanimated mummy attacks. Later, Zhu Irzh wanders out to the desert and stumbles upon a village. There he meets a ghost of a Russian philopher, magican, and painter, Nicholas Roerich.

The plot takes our heroes to an epic journey though time and alternate history.

Like the other Chen books, the Iron Khan has several plot lines and point-of-view characters. Many of the secondary characters are quite quirky. Roerich is a calm and rational man who reminds Zhu Irzh of Chen. Roerich acts as a sort of quide to the demon. Zhu Irzh himself muses about how much he has changed recentely; developing a conscience and wanting to stay loyal to Jhai. He thinks it’s part of growing up. Inari has also grown less timid over time. She and Miss Qi make up quite an effective team in this book. Even though they are kidnapped several times, they don’t wait for anyone else to rescue them. The cast of characters has grown to very large but the book doesn’t feel crowded to me and the new characters fit in well.

This time the main villain, the Khan, isn’t a point-of-view character and that’s probably a good thing because he seems to be quite psychotic. However, he also remains a rather distant character.

The universe went through a major change in the previous book, the Shadow Pavilion, and it’s still changing. Mhara, the new Emperor of Heaven, wants Heaven to have more contact with Earth and to help people. Mhara’s father decreed that everyone in Heaven must agree with his opinions and Mhara reversed that command. Some of Heaven’s denizens aren’t happy about either of these changes; now they have to have their own opinion and make their own decisions. This can be quite a chore for those who aren’t used to it. It’s likely that we will see more about this in the next book.

This book also expands the universe, again. The plot sends the characters through space and time, and into the steppes. I really enjoy this expansions and changes in both the characters and the world. It’s a very good continuation to the series. A few historical people show up in the book. And a floating mythical city!

Oh and Inari is pregnant. Human/demon pregnancies are apparently not common at all and can be dangerous, too. There are a few tantalizing clues about their child-to-be. Apparently, it will be a warrior in a great war and possibly a reincarnation of a former foe. Inari isn’t happy about it.

The fourth book in the fantasy series Unfinished Song which is set in a fantastical Stone Age.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook, pdf
Page count: 150
Publisher: Misque Press

Some time seems to have gone by after then end of the previous book, Sacrifice. The group of Initiate Tavaedis, magical dancers, have been formed into a performance troop under their teacher Abiono and they have traveled away from the Yellow Bear clan. Unfortunately, Abiono is an old man and unable to control the young dancers. Dindi is working as the Tavaedi’s serving maiden and has been given permission to learn the dances openly. However, a spoiled girl from the previous book, Kemla, is part of the group and as the most popular girl is apparently leading the women of the group. She seems to hate Dindi because the red fae, whom only Kemla and Dindi can see, constantly tease Kemla that Dindi is a better dancer than Kemla and that Dindi should take Kemla’s place as the star performer. Since Kemla can’t punish the fae or make them silent, she takes her rage out on poor Dindi, treating her as a slave. She takes things so far that she urges Tamio to sleep with Dindi so that Kemla can reveal it publicly and Dindi will be thrown out of the party. Apparently, there are no consequences for Tamio?

Now Dindi she can practice as much as she wants even though the others are pretty cruel to her (and once again the adults just stand by and let this happen). However, she was forced into a bargain with the fae in the previous book; she will have to find a way to lift the Curse from the Aelfae and bring them back from the dead. Dindi is using her corncob doll to find a way to do that. However, Tamio is hounding her so there’s not much time to do it. She also found out that there’s a hex on her family and she’d like to find a way to undo that, as well.

Meanwhile Kavio’s fae mother Vessia, known as the fae White Lady, is determined to help her son by finding women who could become the next Vaedi, the wife of the war chief. However, she’s being held captive by her own nephew. She manages to escape with the help of a young warrior and they set out to flee Vessia’s own tribe. They come across the Lost Swan tribe looking like a pair of beggars. Kemla denies them hospitality but Dindi shares her meager food and shelter with them.

Then, a group of warriors attack. They ride on big birds and kill some of the people before the nearby tribes come on horseback to aid them.

Umbral is a new characters and so is his group. He is a leader of a group of Deathsworn; those who serve the Lady Death. They all seem to have some sort of physical deformity and so they have been sent to the Deathsworn. Even the women have physical deformities and this was a refreshing change form the “flawless skin” princesses of fantasy. They are eager to kill people and are investigating a magical plague which devours people’s spirits. They also want to kill Vessia and the next Vaedi. Umbral comes across traces of a magic both ancient and fresh. Quickly, he becomes obsessed with the maiden who has left such traces behind her.

Dindi’s visions with the Corn Maiden seem to be over and she now sees into the life of Mayara, who is the last survivor of an Aelfae settlement. As a little girl, Mayara suffers horrible things: her mother cuts off her wings so that the humans wouldn’t kill her. Then her mother hides her just before the humans come and little Mayara sees her people slaughtered. Later, she wanders alone in the woods until a human finds her and takes her home, to live among his family.

Even though the group is performing and working magic in the Lost Swan tribe, Dindi’s tribe, she’s treated poorly. She is sent to sleep in a very cold hut and given only a small amount of food. However, this doesn’t seem to be her home tribe because we don’t see her parents or other close family.

There are some differences in the setting. Specifically, riding mounts. The Raptor Riders have large predatory birds which they use to ride on and the Broken Basket and Full Basket clans have horses. Unfortunately, the inclusion of horse made the setting less unique to me. Part of my enjoyment of the books have been their setting which is rather different from all the pseudo-medieval settings which are very common in fantasy. The use of horses makes the setting more familiar and less unique. In the previous book, there was a mention of gold and jewelry so the people have the means to smelt metals and work them quite intricately.

Two of the point-of-view characters are unfortunately pretty insufferable to me: Kemla and Tamio. They both start as arrogant and self absorbed to the point that they have no compassion or empathy to anyone else. We get to know more about them but they never really reform. Tamio is a unabashed womanizer and the best thing that can be said about him is that he isn’t a rapist. The Deathsworn are interesting and I hope we get see more of them.

I also found it a bit weird that while there are lots of talk about sexual conquests, none of the women worry about getting pregnant. However, in the previous book there was a brief mention that illegitimate kids are “unwelcome” and that a man will have to either marry a girl he gets pregnant or pay with foods and other stuff. The latter seems to be more common. Yet, the woman is expected to care for the kid and surely a poor woman without much kin, such as Dindi, or an ambitious Tavaedi such as Kemla, should be worried about being able to rise a kid. Of course, dwelling over such things would slow down the pace and possibly bore the reader. Unfortunately, this society too has the sexual double standard for women and men.

There are two new tribes in the book, the Green Woods tribe and Raptor Riders. Both are warrior clans which have quite different customs than the tribes we’ve seen so far. For example, both men and women can be warriors in both clans. They also have shape shifters. The Raptor Riders use huge birds and enslave them while some of the Green Woods people can turn into wolves. However, these wolflings aren’t tolerated until they can control themselves. They are banished into the woods to presumably learn control but, not surprisingly, most seem to live in the woods all their lives, and attack people occasionally. A bit disappointingly, at least in the Green Woods tribe the women have to tend to their chores in addition to being warriors while the men sit and talk.

The plot is again fast paced and full of twists, some of them unexpected. The book ends in a cliffhanger. More things happen in every short book than some established writers manage to put into 600 page books.

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