Love and Destiny – CDrama Recap – ep 25

(“Hey Riders, wanna start Avatar?”
“Um, so the heroine got reincarnated as a baby but her mother’s not happy she’s deaf–because for some reason the mother was pretending to have a baby to get the mother in law off her back so the husband had to smuggle the baby in. But she wasn’t happy the baby was a girl, or that she was deaf, so she’s about to try and smother the heroine. So I’m gonna have to watch just a few minutes of episode 25.”
“……go for it.”)

Fortunately, Qing Yao arrives in a poof of light, and tells the mother that good karma is much better than bad….right? Also fortunately, Dad really likes his baby, so…name time!

She’s going to be Mo. Because Mo is better than less. Aheh, aheh, aheh.

Meanwhile, back at the black hole: Rebel has sussed out that, yeah, she’s still alive. And thus must be captured.

Meanwhile, back at home: Old Lady Lin is interrogating the parental units. Grandma is NOT HAPPY that her grandbaby is NOT PERFECT IN EVERY WAY, histrionic sobbing, WHY ARE YOU SUCH DISAPPOINTMENTS UNTO ME….oh shit, she wants him to take a second wife, lol. Poor Mom Lady.

Meanwhile, back at the south pole, Qing Yao is reporting in that Ling Xi is deaf. No one is happy with this, but Yun Feng points out the silver lining…aka, sticks his foot in his mouth: life will be much harder for the kid! Jiu Chen wants to go help, but Si Ming warns him that that will be a bad idea. Jiu Chen rather haughtily replies that he knows his limits and is willing to bet that this wasn’t part of Ling Xi’s actual fate.

Lol, Qing Yao and Yun Feng get into a squabble. LOL Si Ming has to keep out of it to the best of his ability.

Meanwhile, the orc ninja people are…oh. They found her. OK, thankfully Jiu Chen and company are already also on the way.  So Jiu Chen arrives, but he gets distracted by the memory of Ling Xi and–what else–food. Aaaaaand man’s gotta admit, street food’s pretty tasty…

So Rebel and Orc get chased off, and he also blocks their ability to trace her. Somewhere else, they exchange insults. Fight? YEAH FIGHT! Dude, kill them, please, this time? WOOF, WOAH, Jiu Chen slices a GIANT EFFING HOLE IN THE MOUNTAIN. And, lol, some old guy pops out to ask him to stop fighting, he surrenders, it was sufficient to destroy his cave….

AND, LOOOOOOOOL HE NAMEDROPS “SOUTH POLAR MANSION” is where he’ll go to recouperate.

Back at the home, Jiu Chen goes to directly check on Ling Xi/Lin Mo. Dude, do not hang around your girlfriend when she is a baby, it’s creepy. D’awww, he wishes her peace and happiness like he did when she was a real adult who had conned a kiss out of him.

AND LOL THE OLD GUY WENT THROUGH WITH COMPLAINING ABOUT JIU CHEN TO THE EMPEROR OF HEAVEN. Thunder god, naturally, has to throw his two cents in, since there’s a chance Jiu Chen can get in trouble in the process.

So the Emperor agrees to go seek justice for the old random immortal…wait WHAT THE HELL he didn’t even manage to kill Rebel with all that? Anyhow, the emperor orders him to a) keep up the military endeavors, b) apologize to the old guy.

Thunder meanwhile: thinks the situation is rather weird.

(“Riders, whatcha doing?”
“The hero just went down and cured the heroine of being deaf, which he wasn’t supposed to because it’s going to help her suffer more and she can go reincarnate quicker but I think he’s going to get away with it because she wasn’t supposed to be deaf in the first place. Oh, and then he was fighting and blew a hole in the mountain and this random guy in a cave came out to complain, but he hasn’t actually killed any of the enemies YET. It’s very annoying.”
“…I had no context for any of that, but OK.”)

The guys discuss. Rebel is still on the loose, and the Phoenix kingdom is at risk. Yun Feng thinks that they’ll be OK since Advisor is there (hm, uh oh). Yun Feng himself is mostly concerned with the fact that Jiu Chen BLEW A FREAKING HOLE IN A FREAKING MOUNTAIN, is he genuinely losing control of his powers? And how long can he wait to switch his heart back out–until Ling Xi gets back? Yun Feng warns his friend that if the day comes, he will make the switch himself and won’t let anyone stop him.

So.

Outside….there’s Yuan Tong. Yuan Tong is at the punishment platform. She’s been whipped, looks like, and in bad shape. And she’s still blaming Qing Yao and Ling Xi. Yuan Tong, I don’t have very much sympathy for you to begin with, and you are not helping matters. Jiu Chen spells out for her exactly how dumb she is and how much rope he’s already given her. And how she’s hanged herself on it, damn. Cold, and also COMPLETELY JUSTIFIED, because she is COMPLETELY unrepentant and also continues to blame Ling Xi.

OK, girl. Shut up and have some dignity. Stop blubbering and stop feeling sorry for yourself, and especially, stop blaming other people for your mistakes.

Jiu Chen slaps back again: Even if it wasn’t Ling Xi–it still never would have been you. Damn.

Turns out, Yuan Tong isn’t going to be executed. But she is going to be stuck in Demon Tower, guarding it along with Blue Guy for the rest of her life. She has the same expression at hearing this as she did when Jiu Chen stripped her of her rank and position, earlier. Poor, dumbass, stupid Yuan Tong! Die horribly (and redeem yourself.)

Meanwhile! In the Phoenix Realm: Advisor is still in his cage, remembering the past. He was just a kid and being tortured in a cage like that before…so was that Phoenix Queen’s father who was torturing him?–he’s forcing the kid to “admit” that his father was a demon collaborator and a rebel. You know, it’s not fair to do that to a kid, and it’s also not fair to blame the kid for buckling under the pressure. It just really isn’t.

Another flashback: Evil Phoenix King was killing other kids in front of the young Advisor, forced him to write out a confession/accusation, revealed it in front of the entire tribe (making them start calling their own kid names, damn people show some dignity), and then killed them all. WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THIS GUY? He might be the evillest person I’ve seen so far.

And at this point, Phoenix Princess arrives, having noticed that her crush is in prison. She barges in to see her mom…well, this is going to be an interesting conversation. Except not. Phoenix Queen is definitely about to abandon this daughter now that she has learned she has another one. Poor lil’ Princess Psycho…!

Back at the cage: someone has come to inquire how Advisor is doing. Advisor wonders: is everyone worried about how he’s doing–or what he’s going to do? Lol, Advisor says that even he believes he’s guilty after hearing the list of charges…and then segues smoothly into pointing out that he’s been the power behind the throne for 50,000 years and is the real reason that they are powerful, wealthy, and respected.

The other guy: points out that he’s been…I’m not sure. Overstepping the bounds? Basically, he was doing the queen’s job and forgetting that it was her job and her position. Also, it was disrespectful of him to do her job for her. WELL THE FACT THAT HE WAS HAVING TO DO IT MEANS SHE WASN’T GETTING IT DONE, wasn’t good at it, and didn’t want to do it. It doesn’t matter one bit whether or not she’s royal blood or not, HE WAS DOING THE GODDAMNED JOB AND DOING IT WELL. Screw you, you sanctimonious bastard.

Advisor freely admits, he does have a motive–he wants vengeance. And Phoenix Queen denied it to him. Fair! But. He also points out that he’s been COMPLETELY LOYAL AND OBEDIENT this whole time, even landing in prison–and he has never wronged the Queen or the people. I believe him, you know. And he ends by thanking Random Person for coming to visit and asking him not to come back to this troubled place again.

Random Person says: Sir, I’ll do my best for you. See, this is how you act when you’re an antihero who is clawing their way toward being a real hero; a statesman who commands loyalty and respect. Man, I like this guy.

Advisor says: The Queen has disbanded and arrested all my people. My people happened to be running the government and military, and she, let me repeat, HAS NO CLUE OF HOW TO RULE. AND WE HAVE ENEMIES WHO WON’T WAIT AROUND WHILE SHE FIGURES IT OUT.

Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Do you know what this person says to that?

He says, “if that’s the case, then, well, whoops, looks like we’re all just fated to die, then.” What. The. Hell. What the hell kind of attitude is that, I MEAN SERIOUSLY! That…that…DAMN. I’m speechless.

So is Advisor. He: rightly feels that his real crime is letting people like Random Guy take over (BUUUUUURN). But, meanwhile: go tell the Queen to focus on the military and yell for help from Heaven when they need it. Random Guy nods and salutes.

Back on Earth, Lin Mo is a young girl who is playing with the other children, though there is another kid (the younger sister by the second wife?) who is frowning and spoiled. Well…end episode. Dangit why can’t I binge this all the way through?!

Repost: Kate Daniels Series Review

magic_bites1TLDR: The Kate Daniels series is an 8 out of 10 when it could have been a 10/10….and that’s an objective number: after bingeing books 2-7 over three days of uninterrupted reading, I finished book 8, read three pages of book 9, said “screw it,” shut off my computer and went out for some fresh air.

There’s two main problems: a lack of good antagonists, and a steadfast refusal to play to its own strengths. The second one is an annoyance. The first one is a killer.

There’s enough good writing, interesting characters, clever post-apocalypse-but-with-magic scenarios, and smartly-written action to keep my attention for eight books…but when it all adds up, it’s pointless.

So, book 1, I reviewed already. I really liked it.

Book 2 – Magic Burns. Kate must protect a young girl, assist the Pack with a security breach by a teleporting Irishman, and endeavor to keep her butt ungrabbed by said Irishman, or by the sexy, sexy Alpha Male Curran. Yeah.
Pros: Kate is a really good heroine. How so? She has an actual personality. She is able to form actual friendships with people. She empathizes, sympathizes, puts herself in harm’s way, endeavors to help. She also is far from infallible. She gets her ass grabbed, loses a contract, has to deal with embarrassing or difficult, or puzzling situations (how, oh how to get this large, cumbersome body into that small, narrow fridge….) and has her failings gleefully pointed out to her. In a word, despite her powers, she is nowhere near being a Mary Sue.
All the same, she’s believably physically dangerous, has deep reserves of power, and a magical sword that she’s really good at using. Kate kicks ass.
– Characters other than Kate are interesting. This book benefits from not being written by or about teenagers, by someone instead who has put more than a few seconds’ of thought into their work. Thus you can get a scene about how weirded out Bran–an medieval Irishman who has spent most of the last millennium in the fantasy worlds–is by the oddity of having a conversation with a woman, on equal terms, with no expectation of putting out.
– I liked The Order. The Order of Merciful Aid is some kind of paramilitary/police-adjacent organization that deals with threats to humanity. On a sliding scale fee basis. While a lot of my good will was built up in the previous book with the character of Nick–knight-crusader and fanatic badass–Kate coaxing an elderly woman (“secretly” a banshee) down from a telephone pole with a ladder, but also relating a story of how one other time, the knights found that grandma was secretly a flesh-eating harpy and executed her–gives it ambiguity and also, hey, I’m all for some knight templar heroes.
– The romance isn’t too bad. While Curran is kind of an asshole, he’s well-written enough that I can actually *get* his character. Being absolute ruler to a pack of five hundred shapeshifters of different stripes, in a world where shapeshifters are disliked, second class citizens, tempermental, clannish, and have the possibility of turning into mindless cannibal killing machines at a moment’s notice–would tend to give a man an attitude problem.
Mostly, I appreciate Kate not going weak at the knees automatically, the way some (Anita Blake, cough) would. Yeah, we know they’ll be together by book five or so, but in the meanwhile she’s a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man….oooh, you broke into my house and made me coffee? How sweet–wait…

Book 3 – Magic Strikes. Friends calling in favors and friendly enemies collecting on debts leads to Kate participating in a highly illegal underground gladiator tournament. For the sake of…oh yeah, saving The Pack from attacks by brutal but quite dumb invading Rakasha.
– This book introduces some quite cool characters: Dali, the white-tiger shapeshifter sorceress (she’s also vegetarian. And legally blind. And has amnesia after shifting. And won’t bite anything alive because she hates the taste of blood.–don’t ever get in a car with her, because she doesn’t have a license. Oh, and when she volunteers to be the Mage part of the gladiator team, the strategist almost gives up in tears: her magic is calligraphy based…I really like Dali.) and, um, where was I, Hugh d’Ambray, Kate’s short-term nemesis. d’Ambray is a fairly good character, although he does suffer from the major, major shortcoming of this series–he isn’t that good a villain. (In fact, he’s the hero of his own series, review for book 1 of *that* upcoming as well.)
– The romance, in this one, is actually…good? Romance A follows the courtship of Kate’s friend Andrea and Rafael (a werehyena). Romance B is Kate and Curran, but what makes it interesting is (worldbuilding! trope deconstruction!): skewering the usual paranormal romance tropes. To be exact: “spying on you because I love you.” Kate is freaked out when she finds that Curran has been regularly entering her house to check on her while she sleeps (TAKE THAT, Twilight)…and then it’s revealed that this is normal shapeshifter courtship practice.
You see, it’s a test of fitness for the prospective mate! Cunning! And skill! And, and, physical ability, or something! So the wolf clan alphas got married when the wolf male committed breaking and entering and repairs. The hyena alphas got together when he superglued all her furniture to the ceiling. Including the piano.
Kate? Welds Curran’s press bar to his weight bench. Rafael? Christmas tree decorated with romance novels and sexy underwear. Lets just say that both love interests were left…speechless.

Book 4 – Magic Bleeds. Kate meets her aunt–Mesopotamian goddess Erra the City Eater.
– The opening scene–Kate is out on a routine call, to investigate a barfight turned murder that turns swiftly non-routine as a contagious fungus starts to grow off the body and the magical Biohazard team is still on the way–is brilliant.
– The romance: I suppose the fact that once Kate and Curran do get together, they have a stable and happy dynamic without much internal drama is a boon to be appreciated.
– The culture clash: The shapeshifters very much have their own culture, mores and values; Kate is an outsider, and there is friction. She isn’t accepted automatically because she’s sleeping with their leader (much, and violently, the opposite, in fact); and she doesn’t automatically accept their customs and ways. Because a lot of the shapeshifter customs are bull anyway, and Kate Daniels does not put up with that.

Book 5 – Magic Slays. Kate investigates the disappearance of a mad scientist.
I didn’t like this one so much:
– Anti-magic bigots and a bomb that will blow up. How….lazy.
– Damnit, I really wanted the Order to be a badass organization of humans who hunt monsters and occasionally become monstrous themselves in the process. I did not appreciate them being incompetent.
– The scientist with the anti-magic gizmo had a damn point. If you can create an area where technology functions permanently, then that is a very useful thing once it’s under control.
– The scientist was innocent of malice or of crime, and they knew it. Cutting off his thumbs and killing him just as soon as he finishes talking makes you magical bigots, and just as bad as the people you are against. That did not sit well with me at all.

Book 6 – Magic Rises. This is where the series plot starts to overtake the individual casefile books in importance….and the cracks start to show. Kate and company, in order to secure the vital Panacea–anti-loupism medication–for the Pack, accept a contract in Europe to protect a pregnant werewolf heiress. They’re needed: ancient Mesopotamian winged monsters start attacking the day after they show up.
– This is where it screwed up. The book ties into the series arc: Hugh d’Ambray, Roland’s right hand, is actually the one running the show, and the entire plot is an effort for him to get at Kate. Hugh is central to the plot and should have gotten his day to shine.
What does he want? To work out his daddy issues (they were raised by the same man) with Kate? To see if he’s a better swordsman than Kate? To make out with Kate? To annoy Kate? To kill Kate? To harass Kate? To ally himself with Kate? To convince Kate to meeting her father willingly? To coerce Kate into meeting Roland via blackmail? To drag Kate before Roland in handcuffs? Why? In the end, it doesn’t matter, because not only does he fail at all of these, he also gets his ass kicked, his legs broken, his castle destroyed, and his powerbase demolished.
A hero is only as strong as the villains they are up against. So far, Roland’s side is: Dumb Rakasha (Kate, Curran, and a legally blind sorceress rip to shreds), Auntie City Eater (Kate stabs); and Hugh (Curran breaks legs). Hugh losing like this means that when he comes back again, he’s not a threat–he’s an annoyance. It means that the rest of the series’ arc can’t be taken seriously, because why bother being apprehensive or anxious about, or excited for, future confrontations with Roland?
– The good stuff….I liked Desandra, the werewolf heiress who, it slowly emerges, isn’t nearly as stupid, hedonistic, or docile as she appears.
– Curran explaining that he doesn’t normally hunt, because he’s a 600-lb werelion, and prefers to just find a nice sunny rock and take a nap while everyone else is running around having fun…

Book 7 – Magic Breaks. Kate fights with Hugh until Hugh goes away and stops trying to make her come home and talk to Dad.
– I’m not interested in anything Hugh does, or tries to do, because he’s a failure who does nothing right. Hugh is an annoyance. He is boring.
– I actually liked Roland…but he’s not in the remotest sense of the word, scary.
– This book ends leaving the series with no villain whose presence is going to make the next conflict interesting.

Book 8 – Magic Shifts. Kate and Curran search for a missing person. A werebuffalo mercenary, to be precise.
The good:
– Kate’s voice has matured since the earlier books. This is a good thing: we can’t always stay being a cocky, quippy, chip-on-her-shoulder heroine. She is now an adoptive mother of three teenagers, business-owner, happily cohabitating, quippy, cocky, heroine.
– The Biohazard team being made of amiable, crazed, intelligent screwups obsessed with their jobs, was awesomely funny. There’s even a real sense of history between them and Kate; and it’s pretty touching that they kept their ghoul-infected former comrade safe and contained.
– Roland’s one scene is pretty darned funny.
– Putting the Mercenary Guild back together is good stuff. Again, this series shines when it can do character moments and worldbuilding. How does a guild of monster hunting mercenaries function? Well, you need staff…. janitors… accountants… administrators… records… And Curran–relieved of his Alpha Jackass mantle–still gets to show how he became the leader of the largest pack of shapeshifters in America. Because he is a leader and can make me believe it.

The bad:
– After building up Roland, introducing Roland, and bringing Roland to the forefront of the action….Roland is only in this book to complain about Kate living in sin without the benefit of wedlock, and nag her for grandchildren. Not even kidding. It’s a funny scene…and Roland is not, ever, going to be a threat to Kate or her family, or her city, or her army, or her allies.
– Lack of consequences. Kate has an aneurysm about half-way through the book and nearly dies. She is told that she a) mustn’t use blood magic and b) mustn’t use magic Words for a while, or else she will die. Now, “a while” could mean “until the climax of the book,” but it generally means, “until the next book.” Here…it means “for about two chapters.”
– In fact, Kate bounces back from having her brain exploded really annoyingly fast.  I actually quite liked her family reacting to her amnesia and taking care of her; letting the best combatant of her group be benched for a while might have been an interesting twist. It might even have added a bit of tension and doubt to the outcome of the final battles. Ah well.
– Bringing Nick back–Nick, the crusader fanatic; Nick the undercover, iron-willed badass –and making him boring, incomptent, weak-willed, and small-minded…was the death of my good will for this series. What a complete waste of a character arc.
I’ll admit this is subjective. But I really liked Nick.

So: you might notice now what I’ve said about the lack of villains. There are no real threats to Kate or her allies–none whatsoever. And that’s a problem, because for a story to be interesting your heroes have to win, but your heroes also have to lose. Kate never loses, not even once, not even when it would raise the stakes for the next battle, not even when it would let her be the underdog when the confrontation reoccurs next time. And…the conflict ceases to be interesting. When I finally read Magic Triumphs, my sympathies were all for the courageous team of dedicated lone assassins–not for Kate, who had the power of her city, three separate genuine armies, and her husband turned into a minor god, to back her up. In my view, there was a way to redeem Kate–letting her return to the person she used to be, a heroic loner with only herself to depend on, having her, at the very end walk away from everyone who is trying to build her up into someone else, someone like Roland–but the books didn’t take it so never mind.

All in all, these books had serious potential–but it was all in the execution. Everything about the plots and characters was pretty darned formulaic. How it was all put together, how those tropes interacted with each other, were examined, deconstructed, and then put back together; how the characters gained personality and color; how well the action scenes were written; worldbuilding in the twisted After-The-Magic setting–is what carried the series, in my eyes, for those seven books.

Rated: 8 out of 10