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the climatic ending of the previous book, where Kitty changed into a wolf in front of television cameras, Kitty has withdrawn to a mountain cabin.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.

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