Monthly Archives: December 2017

Thief of Time (Discworld #26)

Title: Thief of Time

Author: Terry Pratchett

Series: Discworld #26

Once, a man named Wen sought enlightenment, and found Time. Once, Time fell in love with a mortal.

Lobsang Ludd is an apprentice to the History Monks, the order founded by Wen to keep Time more or less in order. But the Monks are facing their biggest crisis yet. Someone is reconstructing a clock that can stop time itself. And it may be up to Lobsang and his eccentric mentor, the famous Lu-tze (who seems to be nothing more than a crazy old sweeper) to stop it.

This is my favorite Discworld book. There’s an order of warrior monks who mix old kung-fu movies with quantum physics. There’s the madness of someone like Jeremy, who is so sane he’s gone out the other side (with attendant Igor to help him build a most unusual doomsday device). There’s Death, preparing for the latest Apocalypse, and finding that his fellow Horsemen have rather lost their touch. And of course Death’s granddaughter Susan, a ruthlessly sensible grade school teacher who applies the skills gained battling elementary school students against forces that will end the world.

And it all WORKS. Beautifully.

This is Pratchett at his best—loaded with common sense as well as the humor, willing to say the obvious things no one says out loud, and pointing out that sometimes the most highest and secret wisdom was right in front of us all along. He’s got a way of peeling back the foibles of humanity, but underneath it all there’s a fierce love of what makes humans human. Like Lady Myria LeJean, who is discovering all the things that can’t be measured or explained.

It’s also interesting because Time had a son, we learn early on, but there are two strong candidates for who it might be: Lobsang Ludd, the apprentice with amazing skills slicing Time, or Jeremy Clockson, the only clockmaker attenuated to Time well enough to build a truly accurate clock. And the actual answer is a nice surprise.

Also, the climatic battle is basically a chocolate war, which is another thing I love about the book. Fine chocolates ARE deadly weapons.

Overall, this book works on so many different levels. I keep meaning to pull quotes for my file but I’d end up pulling most of the book, as it only seems to take a few sentences to get to something else that cracks me up.

If you’ve never read anything by Terry Pratchett, or just missed this one, give this book a try. The Discworld books are all basically standalone novels that loosely hook into the larger Discworld universe. I rate this Highly Recommended.

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The Ministry of S.U.I.T.S (Ministry of S.U.I.T.S #1)

Title: The Ministry of S.U.I.T.S

Author: Paul Gamble

Series: Ministry of S.U.I.T.S #1

Jack has too much curiosity and a tendency to think about the world around him. Unsurprisingly, that leads to him getting mixed up with an agency devoted to taking care of the unusual things that normal people think don’t exist (or don’t exist anymore, like dinosaurs and pirates). When the sinister Mr. Teach sponsors his school, he knows there’s got to be more going on. But it’s going to take all his wits, the power to slow down time, and the help of the scariest girl in school to get to the bottom of this . . .

This reminds me so much of Terry Pratchett’s work. From the abundant footnotes to the cheerfully logical absurdities, it was always throwing out something that made me laugh. Like the ongoing thread about the aspirations of scarecrows to become store mannequins. Or the various digressions on pirates, or the origin of ninjas, or why dolphins are the most educated aquatic mammals.

Overall this was a light but funny read, and I’m eager to see where the series goes from here. I rate this book Recommended.

Windsworn (Gryphon Riders #1)

Title: Windsworn

Author: Derek Alan Siddoway

Series: Gryphon Riders #1

Eva is the foster child of a blacksmith, but when a young boy delivers a gryphon egg to her, insisting that it’s for her, she ends up in the ranks of the Windsworn. Gryphon-riders, peacekeepers, practically legendary—and her gryphon is a rare red one, special even among the gryphons. Not many Windsworn are happy at Eva’s inclusion. She’s too old, untrained, and worst of all afraid of heights. Can she make a place for herself when she never wanted to be here at all?

More gryphons, please. I get why the story mostly focused on the more human elements, and it’s not like the gryphons have no role, but it feels like after Eva hatches the egg there’s only limited involvement with the gryphons, even though the red chick is basically living in her room. But I like the bits I do see. The gryphons are not just animals, although her chick being so young does mean he’s mostly acting like one for now. Despite the “destiny” that brought them together, Eva has a terrible relationship with her chick. She never wanted a gryphon, and hers is a lot of trouble. It isn’t until much later that she can approach this as more of a partnership, and one that requires both of them to contribute.

On the human side, it’s a bit hard to see Eva getting yelled at all the time. I’m curious that she doesn’t seem to have any actual friends from town, only her foster father and his golem, but those relationships are well-drawn. Wynn helps lighten up some of the darker spots in her new life, and I do appreciate that just because Eva had training as a blacksmith it doesn’t automatically make her great at swordsmanship.

I liked Ivan, too. The boy has a power no one understands, and although Eva thinks he’s more or less innocent, he’s certainly mixed up in enough strangeness that no one else trusts him. Hopefully future books highlight him even more.

All in all this was decent read. It’s hard to find books featuring gryphons, so this was something I jumped on when I saw it. I rate this book Recommended.

Ancient Magus Bride (Anime)

Title: Ancient Magus Bride

Episodes: 1-12

Chise Hatori has had enough of a life of being tossed from relative to relative, unwanted. But rather than commit suicide, she sells herself into slavery. Her buyer is an inhuman mage named Elias. And gradually, he introduces her to a world of magic and mystery, where creatures from the oldest folktales live. A world she was seeing all her life without knowing how to deal with any of it. But what are Elias’s true motives? And could this strange place be a true home?

This show wasn’t really on my radar until I started reading all the immensely positive reviews of the first few episodes. I’m not much of a romance fan, or slice-of-life, and those elements are present. But the story isn’t ever as simple as that. Chise’s possibly-romantic relationship with Elias is challenged a number of times, by people who point out this really isn’t a good place for her. And Chise herself is dealing with a lot of emotional issues and therefore finds it very hard to stand up for herself.

Chise and Elias’s relationship can’t really be boiled down to something as simple as a romance. Does she see him simply as a protector and provider, more of a father figure, or are there threads of love? And his point of view is even murkier—it’s impossible to tell if he’s growing into a friendship, a romance, or if he’s just too inhuman to have the same ability to bond.

Beyond that, though, the show’s main appeal is its magical world. I’ve read a fair number of myths and legends over the years, but this show digs so deeply into English folklore it was constantly finding something new to bring up. Every episode seems to introduce some new facet of magic or some new kind of creature.

Ruth is the best, though. I ended up reading the manga because the week delay between his two episodes was too long to figure out what happened next. I do wish the story had spelled out a little more that it’s aware Ruth is a girl’s name, and therefore the “mistake” is deliberate and a result of Chise’s imperfect English. But Ruth himself is just too much fun. His very simple way of seeing the world is a nice contrast to some of the murkier depths, and of course helps provide a lot of humor.

I previewed the dub, although I watched most of it in sub due to the delay in getting dubbed episodes out. Both versions were strong performances, although I could wish for more accents on the English speakers, since it’s kind of funny to have a show set in England and all the characters are speaking American-flavored English (perhaps this changes later; I mostly saw the beginning eps).

Overall, if you’re a fan of fairy tales and folklore, or just want something a lot different from the usual fantasies, this is a good watch. I rate this show Recommended.

Berserker

Title: Berserker

Author: Emmy Laybourne

Hanne’s family has the old Viking gifts, the Nytte, but to Hanne, they’re more of a curse. Especially hers. Being a Berserker means that any time someone she loves is in danger, she becomes a killer. And when that finally manifests the way she always feared it would, the siblings must flee their home village. In America, they hope to start over. But America isn’t far enough to flee something within their very blood. . .

Owen is a bastard son hoping to make a new life for himself as a cowboy. But a vengeful trail boss undermines him, and he soon finds himself desperate for work. Meeting Hanne and her family allows him a chance to earn enough to survive the winter, even though he’s sure they’re running away from something . . .

This was interesting, though it mostly played out how I expected from reading the jacket summary. Owen’s early bad decision to drink made me far less sympathetic towards him as a character (he’s never seen anyone get drunk?), so after that happened I mostly just wanted to read Hanne’s parts of the story.

The early American frontier is supposed to be about striking out to unexplored lands and making your own destiny. Hanne is hoping for that, as well as to connect with her uncle, who is also a Berserker. She desperately wants to learn how NOT to kill people when her Nytte takes over. Unfortunately, other people know about her, and some have plans for her gift regardless of what she thinks about it.

I did like the climax of the book. The final fight promised a lot of hope for Hanne, and also for her siblings. It could work either as a standalone or a lead to a future story, too. Also I am always happy when annoying characters get what’s coming to them.

Either way, this was a good read. It’s not my favorite novel about berserkers by a long shot, but it offers an interesting magic system that could definitely expand more if there are any future books. I rate this book Recommended.

Darkstalker (Wings of Fire: Legends #1)

Title: Darkstalker

Author: Tui T. Sutherland

Series: Wings of Fire: Legends #1

This is the story of Arctic and Foeslayer, and how they fell in love, and ended up starting a war. And it’s the story of their son, the first animus Nightwing, Darkstalker, who will leave his own legacy.

Clearsight is a seer much more accurate than any of the usual Nightwings. She knows all about Darkstalker’s ominous destiny. But can she save him, or will the future she tries for escape from her claws?

Fathom never asked to be an animus. It’s a rare power for a Seawing, and one he learns too late has its own price.

I’ve only read up through Escaping Peril, which gave plenty of context to the things that happen in this book. I don’t know that it’s strictly necessary to have started the second set of five books in Wings of Fire, but it certainly changes how you’d approach it, because Darkstalker’s fate gets some attention there.

Despite that, Darkstalker himself can command some sympathy. The romance between his parents didn’t end in a happily-ever-after, but something more like an unending nightmare. Especially for Darkstalker, who can read minds, or Whiteout, who is a bit different in the head. On the other hand, the only dragon who cares enough for Darkstalker to challenge his evil choices is Clearsight, and Darkstalker would rather look at how he benefits rather than how other dragons get hurt, and try to convince Clearsight she’s wrong.

Fathom’s story is also an interesting layer to the whole mess. Darkstalker thinks he’s being kind, trying to draw Fathom past the trauma, but Fathom can’t help but take what happened as a warning against animus magic. And Darkstalker’s profligate use can’t help but worry him.

Yet for all the tragedy, there’s still quite a lot of humor. Like the scavengers (humans), who the dragons view as interesting pets but never more than animals. Or Clearsight’s best friend, who absolutely refuses to let Clearsight tell her how things work out for the various dragons she wants to date.

Overall, this is a good addition to the lore, though possibly one better appreciated after seeing in the later series some of the reverberations of the decisions made here. I rate this book Recommended.

The Lone Dragon Knight (The Dragon Knight #1)

Title: The Lone Dragon Knight

Author: D. C. Clemens

Series: The Dragon Knight #1

Mercer has no memory of his past, and his present is a life lived on someone else’s terms: first as an experimental subject, then sold as a criminal enforcer. When he frees himself, he finds a blade that connects him to a dragon from another world and grants him some of that dragon’s powers. Now that he has the means, he aims to get revenge on those who stole everything from him.

This was decent, but it fell a little too flat for me. The action is brisk. Even when the plot winds through some side missions, Mercer is still active, learning, growing. And the magic system is interesting, although it does feel a bit one-sided for now (nobody ever said what the dragon gets out of all this, although there is the sense that he’s biding his time for some major wreckage to come).

Where I kept getting knocked out of the story was with the characters. Mercer isn’t very introspective when he’s under mind-control spells. That’s fine. He doesn’t have to be very introspective out of them, either, but I never really got why he wanted revenge so badly. He doesn’t seem like the cold and calculating type, and he’s not blazing with anger. It’s just kind of there as though it’s too obvious to have to show at all. With no past, he could just as easily have said “There’s no way I’m getting caught up in THAT again,” and gone somewhere remote to start over. There’s not much self-discovery, and he doesn’t feel like he’s remaking himself either, so with few exceptions I never felt like he had much of a personality.

Then there’s the female mercenary. Despite being a professional, despite knowing absolutely nothing about him outside his work on this one case, despite the fact that he’s got a fiend’s tail bound to his arm (which ought to indicate something, since corruption doesn’t appear to be a completely foreign concept), she offers to sleep with him as a way of topping off his pay, because she doesn’t think he’s being rewarded appropriately. I’m trying to figure out why this otherwise sensible woman wants to act like a whore. Especially since getting pregnant is likely to suspend her career.

I was somewhat impressed by Mercer refusing another character’s offer to bed him, though again, I find it very strange that women are so eager to offer sex to someone like him when he’s not charming or charismatic or going out of his way to encourage them.

Overall I might read the second book if I sign up for Kindle Unlimited, but this is more of a rental than a buy right now. I rate this book Neutral.

Content warning: rape scene near the beginning