2012 Immortals reading challenge

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.

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

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook, pdf
Page count: 173
Publisher: Misque Press

The book starts soon after the ending of the previous book, Taboo.

The peace party is returning back to the Yellow Bear tribe, defeated. Kavio was the leader and the organizer of the party but he was betrayed almost at every turn. High ranking warrior and an obnoxious bully Vultho, who had been a part of the peace party, had ordered his warriors to attack an enemy clan hold and so in effect ended any chance for peace. The rest of party had been captured and tortured but managed to escape. Kavio has been told that if the peace party isn’t a success, he will die.

When they are near Yellow Bear clan hold, they are warned that Vultho is the new War Chief. Kavio is able to bluff his and his party’s way back into the tribe. However, Vultho doesn’t make his life easy. The clan prepares for war.

Meanwhile Dindi, the clumsy and magickless maiden, has her own troubles. She is still determined to learn the magical dances and Kavio is willing to teach her, in secret. However, this means that Dindi spends pretty much all of her time away from other people and her age mates resent that. Dindi has a hexed corn cob doll which sends her visions, sometimes in very unfortunate times. She’s trying to destroy it but hasn’t succeeded.

Dindi’s friend Gwenika also isn’t very popular and she finds out that the young Initiates have a cruel tradition: they choose from among them one hapless person, who is called the Duck and torment him or her until the Duck kills himself or herself. To her horror, Gwenika finds out that she is one of the candidates this year. However, her sister Gwena has missed Gwenika and stands up for her. Unfortunately, Dindi is chosen as the Duck.

Brena, the adult magic dancer, gets back to teaching the Initiates. But she can’t stop worrying about the coming war and she doesn’t have any patience for the youngsters anymore. When she confesses this, she’s sent to the other tribes as an envoy to gather allies against the Blue Waters tribe.

Even though Kavio is quite young, he has already a lot of enemies. Yellow Bear’s former War Chief Hertio is an old friend but even Hertio is trying to use Kavio to his own advantage. Kavio has to keep alert against any ploy the current War Chief would use against him and train a group of warriors in secret, because Vultho would never allow him to train them.

This third book has more romance than the previous books. Brena and Rthan became lovers in the previous book, Taboo, despite the fact that they come from warring tribes and that Rthan was Brena’s slave. At the end of the book, Rthan decided to stay (and fight) with his own tribe and they separated. Now, they are set directly against each other. Brena is the champion of a fae known as the Golden Lady. The Golden Lady is dying from a wound from the Black Arrow. Only if the Black Arrow takes another’s life, can the Golden Lady be healed. The fae hinted that there are only a few people who can be this victim but Brena is looking for a way to kill someone else than people whom she considers innocents. Rthan is a warrior of the Blue Waters tribe but he’s also a champion of the fae Blue Lady who wants to kill the Golden Lady because they are ancient enemies. The Blue Lady has taken on the form of Rthan’s eight year old daughter who was killed by the Yellow Bear tribe’s current war leader. In addition, the chiefs of their respective tribes have sent Rhtan and Brena to other tribes as envoys to try to persuade the other tribes to join them.

Dindi and Kavio are another romantic couple with romance troupes. They both struggle against their attraction to each other, thinking that the other can’t be attracted to her/him or even if he/she is, they can’t be together because Dindi doesn’t have any magic and Kavio is a powerful magic user. Still, Kavio is teaching Dindi the forbidden magical dances and they have to spend a lot of time together. Fortunately, they don’t dwell on their feelings too much.

There’s a new POV character, Tamio. However, he’s seen only a few times when the plot demands it. He’s a young Yellow Bear Initiate, ambitious and not too picky about whom he serves. He’s in the group Kavio is training to fight in water but later he doesn’t mind siding with Vultho when it seems advantageous. He’s also handsome and uses that to get girls.

Unfortunately, I found Vultho to be almost a caricature as a villain. He’s crude, arrogant, and quick to anger. He has celebrations which wastes valuable food. He also doesn’t seem to be able to plan much. This is somewhat explained with his background; apparently he used to be bullied a lot and when he now has power, he uses it to his own satisfaction.

However, I can believe that the teenagers would choose one hapless person amongst themselves and hound him or her to death. That’s just the sort of cruelty and malice teens are capable of and don’t necessarily even think much about. It’s said that all Initiates know about this, which means that all of the adults know about it, too, and yet nobody interfered. Tacitly, all the adults seems to think that this is just ok which makes them pretty awful.

The rest of the cast are more complex. Gwenika turning on her (former) friend is something that some people do when there’s a right reason. Dindi struggles to fulfill her life long dream against all the odds and Kavio tries to keep the peace.

The faeries have a much larger role in Sacrifice than in either of the previous books. They aren’t just manipulating humans but fight themselves. We also get to meet all six types of High Fae and get to know a little about their relations, and about their physical forms. The faeries have six types, the same as there are six magical colors.

The plot is again very fast paced and full of twists. Several of the plot lines and questions from the previous books are answered here but a couple of new plot lines are introduced with high stakes. This was a great and surprising continuation to the series, and I have a feeling that some of the cast is going to change.

I couldn’t resist this challenge, either: 2012 Immortal Reading Challenge.

The rules:
1. The Immortals Reading Challenge runs from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012. You can join at anytime from now and throughout the year. This is a 2012 challenge, so books read before January 1 will not count to your progress.
2. You pick your goal! Read as many books as you’d like for each species. This means that you can do just one category or all five or a combination of. The choice depends on you and your reading pace.
*We have chosen to have a three book per species standard. However, if this is a breeze for you, then feel free to tackle on the additional bonus entries of two more books of the same level.
3. Re-reads are acceptable.
4. Books chosen can be of any genre.
5. To participate, copy and paste this post on your blog along with the challenge button. We ask that you provide a link back to the sign-up page in case others wish to participate.
6. Readers without blogs can still participate! Keep track of your progress with Goodreads, Shelfari or LibraryThing.

These are the books I’m planning to read:
Category 1: Vampires 3 books
Tanya Huff: Blood Price
Tanya Huff: Blood Trail
Sarah Jane Stratford: The Moonlight Brigade
Jocelynn Drake: Pray for Dawn

Category 2: Angels and Demons 3 books
Liz Williams: The Iron Khan
Lilith Saintcrow: Hunter’s Prayer
Roger Zelazny and Robert Sheckley: Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming

Category 3: Fae 3 books
Tara Maya: Sacrifice
Tara Maya: Root
Terry Pratchett: Lords and Ladies

Category 4: Shifters/Werewolves 1 book
Carrie Vaughn: Kitty Take a Holiday

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