Tag Archives: humor

Archer’s Goon

Title: Archer’s Goon

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Howard’s ordinary life is turned upside-down when he comes home from school one day to find the Goon sitting in his kitchen. The Goon claims he’s from Archer and wants Howard’s father to give him two thousand words. But the words are only the beginning. Howard’s town is ruled by seven siblings who want nothing more than to be released from their confinement here so they can take over the world . . .

This is probably my favorite Diana Wynne Jones book (tied with Dark Lord of Derkholm). I love the way she can take the ordinary bits of life and twist them around into a hysterical adventure. Howard’s home is under siege by marching bands. Road construction crews are sent to pester his family specifically. Buses are run by someone who lives 400 years ago and that’s why they’re frequently off-schedule.

And interwoven in all that, the sheer humanity. Howard’s father, Quentin, is passive until he gets his hackles up, and then nothing in heaven or earth can shake him (although many people try). Howard has a little sister Awful, who earned her nickname, yet somehow avoids being completely unlikable. And Howard himself is caught in the middle of all this drama and tries to uncover the truth—and discovers way more than he bargained for.

Basically, it’s nonstop fun. My favorite part is the chase near the end where the various siblings are being called upon to work against each other. Howard is trying desperately to figure things out, but he’s starting to see where this is going to lead, and it’s something he doesn’t want to be true, even if it were somehow possible.

Overall, this is a great introduction to Diana Wynne Jones if you’ve never read her before. It stands alone and isn’t very long, but it’s packed full of laughs. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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The Forever Court (Knights of the Borrowed Dark #2)

Title: The Forever Court

Author: Dave Rudden

Series: Knights of the Borrowed Dark #2

Uriel Croit has spent his entire life waiting for the Redemptress to awaken. The Croits train and prepare for the War that will come when they will take over the world. But when Uriel’s fondest dreams are realized, he finds the world isn’t as simple as he thought . . .

Denizen Hardwick is in training to become a Knight who kills the Tenebrous who invade the world from some outer dimension. Too bad he’s absolutely fascinated by Mercy, the Tenebrous he saved, the Tenebrous who granted him knowledge of ALL of the Cants the Knights use to control their magic. And when a message comes from the Tenebrous asking for Denizen by name, no one knows what to think. Could peace even be possible, or is this some elaborate scheme? And even if it is a genuine offer from the Tenebrae, will the Knights risk it, or try to sabotage it themselves?

I adored the first book, and was happy to find this one was just as good. Uriel’s sections are important, but Uriel isn’t as funny as Denizen, so I tended to prefer Denizen’s commentary about basically everything.

Like the first, this has a good dose of horror, humor, and fantasy. Denizen is exploring his first crush—and amusingly enough it’s Mercy. Which gets him into no end of trouble with everyone.

We will see each other again, Denizen Hardwick.

Denizen had assumed that was the kind of thing magical glowing girls said all the time, to promote an air of mystery. He hadn’t realized it was something she was going to go and organize.

And:

He’d read enough fantasy books to know that diplomacy didn’t mean honesty and conversation. It meant fancy dinners, watching betrayal flash behind people’s eyes, and not trusting Grand Viziers.

Naturally, the situation is way more complicated than anyone realizes. I liked the rough relationship between Denizen and his newly-discovered mother. He thought of himself as an orphan for so long he’s not sure what to do with family. And honestly, he almost feels like an orphan still, because the way Vivian runs the Sanctuary is more like a barracks and less like a home. He’s much more a novice Knight to her than her son.

It was an occupational hazard of being a bookworm. You stopped thinking in terms of reality and started thinking of nick-of-time rescues and the power of a dramatic speech. It couldn’t be over because it shouldn’t be over.

And I liked how Denizen is an absolute wildcard in this whole mess. His knowledge of the Cants makes him extremely dangerous—but he doesn’t have the training to use them properly, or the physical ability to back them up. Cants are supposed to be a last resort, because of the Cost. He’s the only one who believes Mercy is telling the truth and that peace between the Knights and the Tenebrous is even possible. But is he right about her heart, or have those older and wiser Knights who see only monsters spotted something he missed? Just because a happy ending would be a nice story doesn’t mean it’s actually the truth.

Overall, I was thrilled to finally get a copy of this in my hands, and I can’t wait for the next installment. I really need to start a quote file to save off my favorites—the above are only about half the places that had me laughing so hard I had to put the book down. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

More quotes because I can and I want to remember these:

Mercy gave a passable approximation of Frown No. 12—Here Is Some Sympathy I Am Not Sure You Deserve.

And:

Jack shrugged. “There’s no point to revenge. You either don’t get it, in which case the want grows until it collapses your world around you, or you do get it. And then you have it. Great. Show me something you can build from revenge that you can’t build from acceptance.”

And:

I want a form, Denizen thought. I want everyone to have a form, and you have to fill out your intentions and list why you’re doing what you’re doing. And you’re not allowed to lie.

And:

He’d feel like a right idiot if all this was happening and he died from smoke inhalation.

And:

Denizen didn’t think he was claustrophobic, though he had avoided small spaces up until now precisely because he didn’t want to find out. He had the sneaking suspicion he was home to a whole plethora of phobias he hadn’t discovered, simply because he hadn’t been exposed to them yet.

And:

She gave Denizen a half-smile. “Hardwicks aren’t great with emotion. We’re our own worst enemies, really.” She paused. “Which, considering our vocation, is actually rather impressive.”

Frogkisser!

Title: Frogkisser!

Author: Garth Nix

Princess Anya wishes she could simply be left alone to read. She’d like to study sorcery, but her stepstepfather, who is probably an evil sorcerer, keeps interfering. Between rescuing her sister’s suitors after they’ve been transformed into frogs to keeping the castle running, Anya has to do most of the odd jobs herself. Then she finds herself quite unwillingly going on a Quest, because if she can’t get away from her stepstepfather, he’ll do away with her.

This is a light and fast story that parodies quite a lot about ordinary fantasy stories. The basic structure, of course, is highly traditional: evil stepparent (or in this case, stepstep parent) is planning to take over the kingdom, which means getting rid of the legitimate heirs. But the story likes to play around, with associations for robbers, and the perpetual threat of a sorcerer turning you into something (almost always a frog).

I did love the dogs. Ardent is such a puppy: eager, energetic, clumsy, hungry. And good at making himself cute when he wants something or is in trouble. He wants to be heroic, but at the same time he keeps getting distracted on the Quest by conveniently placed bushes and such. He was easily my favorite part.

I suppose the rest of the parody fell flatter than it should because even though the tropes it’s parodying do exist, the parodies themselves have become tropes too. The Robin Hood-esque robbers. The female wizard who gets offended that Anya expected a male with a big white beard (honestly, these days I see so many female magic-users in fiction it’s hard to argue there’s a bias at all). Even taking a familiar story and explaining it’s something completely different. None of it is bad, but I didn’t find it more than mildly amusing at best.

Overall, this is still a pretty good read, though not one I see myself revisiting. I rate this book Recommended.

Vallista (Vlad Taltos #15)

Title: Vallista

Author: Steven Brust

Series: Vlad Taltos #15

Vlad Taltos is just trying to stay out of trouble. He’s wanted by the Jhereg, hiding in the Easterner’s quarter, and in no mood for any adventures. But then Devera shows up asking for help. She’s trapped in a strange house, and wants Vlad to get her out. She neglected to mention that simply entering the house would trap him too. Now Vlad has to figure out the secrets behind a house whose interior twists through space and time and whose occupants are less than friendly. At least, if he ever wants to leave . . .

This was a solid book, although since Vlad spends most of it figuring things out on his own and not really interacting with others, there’s less opportunity for the humor that’s so defined this series. It is funny to watch Vlad struggle through puzzling out the way the magic was set up. He’s always hated Daymar, but in this case he could use the Hawklord’s help. Vlad is more used to solving problems by putting knives in them, or threatening to put knives in them, or running away from other people’s knives.

It is a fascinating look at what necromancy actually encompasses in this world, though. Despite being friends with THE Necromancer, Vlad only has the faintest ideas of what it actually does. I really liked following him as he struggles to comprehend a magical discipline he’s never used.

I was a bit sad that since this is set chronologically before the events of Hawk, we’ll be waiting a bit longer to see the outcome of everything Vlad did there. This story stands alone pretty well, as Vlad has never been very chatty about his past, and therefore the backstory is both minimal and largely irrelevant.

This isn’t going to be one of my favorite books in the series, but it is something I would read again. I rate this book Recommended.

Subjugation (Subjugation #1)

Title: Subjugation

Author: James Galloway

Series: Subjugation #1

Humans had dreamed of alien contact, but nobody expected the Faey to show up one day in a gigantic battleship, demanding Earth surrender or be annihilated. These blue-skinned humanoids then solidified the subjugation by using their telepathy to root out and crush any resistance. But Jason Fox refuses to surrender. His plan to do just well enough in school to avoid forced labor on the farms and then wash out to a quiet career comes to a screeching halt when he captures the interest of one of the Faey Marines stationed in his town. She wants him, and she won’t take no for an answer. Soon his little resistance snowballs into a far bigger fight than he ever imagined.

I’m really torn on this book. On the one hand, I love the detailed descriptions of alien tech. The ideas behind it, how it fits together, and how Jason scrapes by with obsolete components built to do something outside the original specs is a lot of fun. The plasma-based technology is interesting, and some of my favorite parts are where the story spends a page or more simply breaking down how the newest gadget works. Add to that the challenge of building a habitable base in an urban wilderness of abandoned towns, or the various prank wars Jason initiates, or the eventual real war that happens despite everything, and there’s a lot of fun to be had.

And the twist about human telepaths was really good.

On the other hand, there’s just no way I buy the “romantic” relationships. The Faey are a female-dominated society whose women are a teenage boy’s wildest dream come true: girls whose thoughts are dominated by sex, all have great bodies, and don’t mind sleeping around. All. The. Time. In fact the book gets pretty fervent in its defense of why it’s totally okay for Jason to be true loves with one Faey female but bedding anyone else he finds attractive. And his partner equally expects to be able to sleep around herself.

I don’t buy the lack of jealousy (he rationalizes the situation over and over to himself, but since when was jealousy rational?), or on the flip side, the way his roaming eye isn’t degrading his bond with his true love. I don’t see anything deep in his relationship with the woman he gets involved with. It’s a relationship that starts with her not honoring his “no,” and even though that drives him wild, once he ends up sleeping with her they’re golden. I could go on, but it boils down to Sex Makes Everything Better just being something that ought to work out better in theory than in practice.

(For a great counter-example, see Teckla by Steven Brust, where Vlad and his wife love each other but have irreconcilable political differences. And this is not because I think everything ought to end unhappily, but because it highlights the hard truth that holding to convictions can cost you, and which ones you choose to hold on to determine what has to be sacrificed).

Overall, whether or not you like this is going to depend on two things: if you like getting a lot of details about pretty much everything, and if you don’t mind or enjoy the way all the sex gets presented. I rate this book Neutral.

Angel Unaware (Threshold, prequel)

Title: Angel Unaware

Author: Christa Kinde

Series: Threshold (prequel to books 1-4)

Although Marcus is a cherub, he hasn’t had a typical life so far. Grafted from practically the moment he was found by a Caretaker, he’s lived for so long among humans he can think and act much more like one of them. He wants to be a warrior. He never expected to gain a human friend . . .

This is a prequel novel for the Threshold series, but is probably better to read after those four books (or at least, don’t read the epilogue until after, or most of it won’t make sense). It’s the story of how Marcus and Ransom met and became friends.

I always liked Ransom, and seeing him here, younger and less inhibited, is a real treat. It’s funny how his friendship with Marcus is almost more of Ransom deciding they were friends and Marcus not having the heart to push him away, because Ransom is as up in your face as ever. (Continuing a trend, Ransom’s guardian angel has a few of those same traits, which is also really funny.)

Which is not to say Marcus dislikes Ransom. He just has no idea why a non-Christian and an angel would be friends. And Marcus has no specific Sending one way or the other, so he has no direction for where to go with this.

I absolutely loved getting Marcus’s perspective on life. He’s not very verbal in his human disguise, and only somewhat more talkative around his mentor and his Flight, but he’s got a world of things going on inside. He’s at once completely relatable yet wonderful—embarrassed at his own shortcomings, wholehearted in his struggle to learn and improve, and above all driven by pure love to do what he can for those around him. And sometimes the hardest thing to do is trust that God’s plans for Ransom are good, even when Marcus has no indication things will ever work out.

And the book, like all of the Threshold books, is so funny. Some samples:

“He’s a cherub, Jedrick.” Aleff drummed his fingers on the motorcycle helmet. “Marcus was made for war. He wants to dress up in armor and bash at things with pointy sticks.”

Or:

“Your jacket?”
“Not as snazzy as, ‘Lo, I am with you always,’ but it has pockets.”

Overall . . . well, I read this book six times online before I managed to get a paper copy (and read it again). It’s a cute story with a lot of laughs, but also a lot of things that really pushed me to think more about why I believe what I believe, what that ought to mean, and what kind of impact it can have (or not have). And I adore stories about real life and faith that still have swords and flying and impossible surprises around every corner. Highly Recommended.

(If you want to read this online, the main text of the book can be found here: https://christakinde.wordpress.com/thresholds/angel-unaware/

However, the epilogue is exclusive to the print book, and provides answers to a lot of questions about where Marcus was during various moments in the Threshold books, and also provides a bit of new material.)

Knights of the Borrowed Dark (Knights of the Borrowed Dark #1)

Title: Knights of the Borrowed Dark

Author: Dave Rudden

Series: Knights of the Borrowed Dark #1

Denizen Hardwick is an orphan. Unlike the stories, he’s not expecting a grand destiny or secret power to claim him. He knows where he is, who he is, and what his future is likely to hold. Then an aunt he never suspected he had shows up to claim him—and he encounters creatures of a darkness beyond this world who would destroy him . . .

This was fun on so many levels.

First, it’s incredibly self-aware of the various genre tropes that tend to crop up in books like these, and there are often little winks skewering concepts even while embracing some of them. Orphaned children discovering secret societies and great power—where have we heard that before? Right. But the fact that the story knows well enough where it’s going, and where others have gone, to poke fun at things lends an air of amusement to the whole thing. Even when it’s uncovering the fact that most of the secret world is really nasty and populated with extremely competent and deadly people who exist to stamp out the really nasty bits.

“Right,” Denizen said. “I thought this place was actually haunted or something.”
“Oh, not at all,” Darcie said brightly. “It’s just in constant danger of falling into the dark end of the universe.”
She frowned. “That’s not better, is it?”

Or bits like:

Three. Three near-death experiences. Was that a lot? How did they ever get anything done?

The horror and the humor work really well together. I can’t really read horror unless it’s screamingly funny, because something about the darkness sharpens the jokes. I loved the Tenebrae and the various bits of it that Denizen encounters. I loved the power and the Cost, and the deeper implications of it may be unstated for now but like Denizen is warned early on, there’s clearly a limit to what they can do.

“Rescue you,” Denizen said again in the same annoyed tone. “I’m here to save you from the Clockwork Three. Not”—he kicked some files out of the way—“that I’m expecting a thank-you or anything. With the kind of day I’ve been having, I expect you’ll try to kill me when I free you. Everyone else has. It won’t even be difficult. I’ve had about”—he half slid down another drift of folders, barely catching himself from pitching headlong into the circle—“ten minutes’ training since this whole debacle started.”


And the characters are so good. I liked Simon a lot, and how he proves so unexpectedly resourceful. I like his friendship with Denizen and how the two of them compliment each other. I loved Denizen’s caution, skepticism, sarcasm, and attachment to having things familiar and predictable. All of the Order that he meets is awesome in his or her own way.

It’s also well-written at a sentence level. The language is often playful, often beautiful. But the book isn’t so in love with turning a phrase that it doesn’t read swiftly. I chewed through it in one day but I think I’m going to read it again, to better appreciate the little details.

Overall this was a lot of fun, and I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series. I can’t wait to see how Denizen’s last choices change things going forward, and what happens with certain other characters I liked quite a bit. I rate this book Highly Recommended.