Star Wars: I Could Have Done It Better – The Fall of the Old Republic

The Trade Federation, invoking the vendetta rule of private war on the grounds of the oppression and disenfranchisement of the native Naboo….ians (the Ganga), attacks and invades. Their purpose is the acquisition of new genetic stock for their (clone-based) robot slaves. The human Naboo(ese?) population, which also has a high degree of Force sensitivity, is attractive to them, as are the Ganga themselves. Their ultimate purpose is the work of the Sith lords, who are searching for the Chosen One among the Force-sensitive races of every world, and considering breeding or cloning one themselves. An ambitious young Sith Lord may have started the process off already. But then again, if one Sith does something unethical secretly, it’s a cinch that everyone else has secretly done it, too, so perhaps not.

Naboo has no navy and few spacecraft; though their ground forces are strong—due to the perpetual war with the Ganga—and they are far outmatched against the Federation. The priest-rulers of that tiny, isolationist planet, in defiance of their child goddess-queen’s wishes, attempt to negotiate with the Federation leaders—and are captured and massacred. The invasion, though slowed by the ferocity of the savage Ganga, by default now the reluctant allies of their former human enemies, begins. The Federation Viceroys, hounded on one hand by their Sith overlords, and taking heavy casualties on the other, deeply regret their overreach, but are stuck.

The Queen details her ten handmaidens to flee the planet in ten ships and beg aid and arms from their allied powers, the petty planets of the Thousand Nations bloc. Of the ships, only Padme’s escapes the system: the Blue Guul transport. The ship has no choice but to fly into the teeth of danger—“free” space—pirate territory. And the pirates get them.

Slavery is regarded with a particular horror on Naboo; enslavement means complete loss of face and status; exile—inability to return with full caste status to their  home world. The Naboon crew are prepared to suicide rather than face the risk, but are ordered not to by Padme. Their mission is paramount.

Anakin Vatto is himself a slave—valued for his mechanical abilities and priviledged beyond the ordinary lot—but still bound with an exposive collar, marked with radio-transmitting brands. He is pilot of the ship that captures Padme. He also protects her while she is on the ship, rather than letting the (nonhuman) ship owners simply toss her into the holding vats with the others….who would probably have eaten her. They go to Tattooine. Tattooine is a free port, and the Trade Federation ship after them cannot simply throw its weight around, though they try both threats and bribes.

At the latter, the pirate lords of the planet merely laugh, and display to the Traders their own wealth: ships, warriors, nubile dancers, star-gems, treasures and dainties of a thousand worlds—wealth greater, in their own understanding than the intangible “credits” and even less tangible “favors” which they are promised.

Equal parts stung and amused by the imposition, it so pleases these overlords not to sell Padme, but offer her as prize in the gladiatorial games—wherein slaves may also win their freedom.

With such a prize as Padme, many—even free men—wager themselves. Three emerge from the melee: the smouldering Anakin, the calm Obi-wan, and the Federation’s sponsored champion, a local brute hired for the occasion. Anakin faces the champion and defeats him, in a hard but largely fair fight. He then faces Obi-wan. With no other option, Obi-wan is reluctantly prepared to kill him. Anakin, burning with rage and lust, refuses to die.

All, however, is for naught—the games are merely a front for a massacre (not only of the gangs, but of many spectators when the starving feral beasts are turned loose from their stalls) by one faction: the Hutts.

The Jedi (“The Senate ordered the Council, and the Council orders it done”) have secretly thrown their weight behind them in return for Padme’s freedom. Anakin is forced at sword’s-point to relinquish her, and left behind. He walks into the deserts where he was born, not knowing whether the sun or his slave collar will kill him first…and then it begins, as it has only once in living memory (at the hour of his birth) to rain. (Because the orbital bombardment by comet in the opposite hemisphere has disrupted the air currents.)

To Padme, meanwhile, a choice is offered: The Sith want Naboo; they also want her—her genetic material. The mark of destiny is on her and her children. In return, they promise to dissolve the Trade Federation’s Charter, and they swear that no war will come to Naboo again. The Nabooiteans will be called to fight, but their home will remain untouched. There is no time to be lost: Naboo is about to fall. (Incidentally, there are many volunteers and aid shipments who come purely on their own account to help: the Lafayette Escadrille.)

Padme agrees without hesitation, and with only the slight caveat that she intends to wipe out her shame and die honorably in battle before they can get her “genetic material.”

Obi-wan, who believes (along with most of the others) that their mission is entirely legitimate (and that the censure of the Federation is politically dictated by the Thousand Nations and Chancellor Palpatine), disregards orders to accompany Padme and returns to Tattooine to search for Anakin–the mysterious born warrior whose untrained power was sufficient to almost defeat him.

Anakin, saved from dying of thirst, makes his way across the sands to rejoin the now-diminished slaver fleet, driven to hard times with the loss of their captain-general, and the growing Huttese monopoly on crime, demonstrated when the Hutts stage a raid on the unaffiliated encampment (which also homes one or two from Padme’s original crew,  collared, shamed, and burning with hatred).

Obi-wan broadcasts as the “relief fleet”—is entirely welcome to the hard-pressed defenders.

The Ganga, finding that their fiercest efforts meet with little success, have retired from the field, and instead gone into hiding. With Obi-wan’s help, Padme convinces the Ganga warlords to try for one last, all-out push (which she and the goddess will personally lead), which will be coordinated with the pirate fleet’s attack on the Federation ships.

They are triumphant; victory is celebrated. In the battle, the Queen is indeed killed—executed—but the Federation finds no victory.

“Did you believe that you had triumphed? Did you believe that a god can die?” declares her handmaiden and new avatar—a battle-stained amazon—who ascends the throne in her place. The Trader command who do not escape off-world are slaughtered before that throne, under her eyes. When the shooting is over, Padme stalks forward. “And now, Viceroy. We will discuss a new treaty.”

Romantic resolution (such as is): Anakin is at his ship in the hangar, doing a last minute check before take-off; when Obi-wan wanders by, he claims that they’re over and done with, he’s going his own way as a free trader. Obi-wan agrees pleasantly; he knows that they’ll be meeting at the Jedi Temple soon.

Then Padme shows up to talk. She wants him to name his price: when he won her at the tournament, he won her soul/karma/social credit. She wants it back. What will it take?

Anakin gives it about two nanoseconds’ consideration. “Give me a kiss.”

And then our hero jets off into the binary sunset, music blazing, etc.

Love and Destiny – CDrama Recap – ep 34

A/N: It’s crunch time on the bug trap front, so canned posts it is for a while.

Lin Mo is still having no luck finding a job, and is being bullied. But, fortunately, a kind lady steps up to defend her. It’s the same lady from before, and she’s willing to put a good word in for Lin Mo to be an assistant with her….even being deaf, it’s ok. (It’s for Doctor Sun, so it should be OK.) Lol, he’s gotten his sense of taste back and is busy munching away….hah, ten plates’ worth.

Back at home, Antler Puppy is scared off by Jingxiu–he recognizes it as an elemental beast. Not good.

Lin Mo is working dilligently enough that Doctor Sun tells her to take a break. He inquires about Jingxiu’s eyes, but isn’t sure. Doctor Sun also sold some of the peaches she brought, so he gives her the money from them.
OK, so now we are introduced to someone new. He’s trying, hah, to capture Antler Puppy so they can cultivate their powers together. (Heh, his student thinks that they’ve just spent half a day talking to an actual dog, LOL.) Antler Puppy has an…unsophisticated…response to this…and runs away. To Ling Xi! / Lin Mo!

It’s just totally happy to see her. Lol, she scolds them for trying to eat it, and takes it home with her. Jingxiu is not nearly as happy to see it, especially since he chased it off once already.

So they’re very domestic. And, uh oh. Lin Mo is remembering Fortune Teller Si Ming’s prophecy, that her destined benefactor will come to her soon. She thinks it’s Jingxiu?!

And Jiu Chen isn’t able to come by, since Thunder is busy poking around and asking questions. But, meanwhile, there’s a red bird flying overhead? Everyone pauses to watch it…? What just happened? Si San is sitting on the stairs being miserable and missing Ling Xi. HuaYan also misses her. And, uh oh! Shi San has just had a bright idea–maybe Ling Xi is in the mortal world! But HuaYan doesn’t think that’s possible.

Anyhow, they all know the real culprit is Yuan Tong.

Speaking of the devil/bitch, she’s in the hall with her fiance guy. He asks her to just marry him and come away somewhere else. She asks if they even are still engaged? He says: of course they are, I always loved you. She says: just go.
And, meanwhile, Shi San is out there ready to make trouble in turn. She challenges Yuan Tong to a duel! But Yuan Tong just has to be a manipulative bitch who is going to twist this to her own advantage somehow. And the duel begins. GET HER SHI SAN.

Jiu Chen is having a bit of a solitary brood at the ice pool, and then HuaYan arrives with, guess which kind of news….?

Yuan Tong is injured (again), and the Yuan hall is destroyed. HEH, Si Ming says: how do we know that she wasn’t just doing some friendly sparring? I mean, this kid already just tried sparring with the god of thunder! (Shi San already confessed, though.) Jiu Chen, himself, just says that he’s there to observe. (Ten lashes.) Shi San says: is that all? Give me ten strokes for each time I hit her–that’ll keep me from actually going down and hitting her some more. So thirty lashes later, Si Ming helps her stagger back home…he tells her to use her brain next time.

Jiu Chen goes “What next time are we talking about?” and confines her to quarters. Shi San asks to be confined to Si Ming’s hall, lol.

Anyway, Lin Mo is about to climb the peach tree and asks Jingxiu to hold the ladder for her. Look, just eat a couple of the actual magical fruits this time, please??? Sheesh, girl doesn’t even get a few feet above ground before landing in Jingxiu’s arms. OH GOSH JUST GO EAT SOME PEACHES ALREADY YOUR BOYFRIEND GREW THEM FOR YOU SPECIALLY.

Back at the job, Lin Mo is putting her old skills to use, smelling the medical ingredients. The prescription was prepared wrongly. She appeals to Aunty to help her correct the issue…revealing to Doctor Sun that Lin Mo is good at medicine, and getting her perhaps a better job as a pharmacist instead of an odd-jobs person. Heh, the actual pharmacist guy has to go read books in the back room instead. I don’t know why this immediately translates to Aunty asking if she has someone she likes, but ok.

Back at a cave, somewhere: Jiu Chen’s teacher is asking how much longer he’s got with the Fire Essence. Teacher is not being helpful. AT ALL. Screw this guy, he’s about as helpful and insightful as the Jedi Council. Drop dead, Teacher, love is only a weakness if it’s someone like YOU dealing with it.

DROP DEAD TEACHER.

Well, OK. Teacher says he’ll back off if Ling Xi does survive the three trials. Teacher says: you have done your best, just sit back and watch, now. I suddenly think Jiu Chen should change his position of neutrality.

And then Yuan Tong pops up.

He keeps walking and ignores her. What is that girl’s freaking problem?
But she follows him. She’s wondering why everyone still dislikes her after she has admitted her mistakes and been punished for them. But she’s focused on her mistakes towards Jiu Chen…she just wants him to forgive her so she can stick around and be around him…in his heart.

OK, in the Psycho Sweepstakes, BaoQing isn’t even scoring anymore. Yuan Tong is winning by an indisputed mile, inelegant blubbering and unsuitably timed confessions of love and all.

AHAHA, he tells her he wasn’t hesitating out of concern for her, he was just fighting the temptation to push her into the Anti-Immortal Pool, too.
Back at the demon black hole portal: Rebel Rebel is reporting in. Demon King wants news of That Child. Demon King also wants to make very sure that Rebel hasn’t let recent successes go to his head re: who is actually in charge here, now, and…

…that’s it? Dangit!

Love and Destiny – CDrama Recap – ep 33!

So the warriors of heaven, with their usual competence, have investigated and found absolutely nothing wrong. Phoenix Queen says that she has personally executed Rebel Rebel…what, did they want his body to give it a proper burial? She gets mad(der) and throws them out….but Yun Feng points out, where is the Advisor? And, on learning that he’s under arrest, asks why? Phoenix Queen just tells him to get out.

She’s under a spell, isn’t she? Or are they blackmailing her?

Yun Feng reports: they didn’t get a chance to inspect well. Jiu Chen walks off and they follow. That was anticlimactic.

Back inside, Rebel Rebel and Student are planning to open the seal and release the demon army so they don’t have to hide anymore. Student points out that they have accomplished their revenge: they have Queen and Princess, and Advisor

Jingxiu is blind, crippled, and on Earth. There’s no need to keep working for the demons and/or destroying the world.

Rebel Rebel just goes full crazy-eyes on him, but points out that once they have decided to work for the demon king = working for the demon king. Trying to turn back will only bring harm on yourself. Keep that in mind…kid.
Lin Mo and Brother Jingxiu are having a moment…

So anyway, soon the peach tree will blossom and there will be fruits. (OOOOOOooooooo!)

And there are some of the usual troubles you would get when you have a blind person and a deaf person in the same house together. But Jingxiu tells her to take his State Advisor Ring and sell it for some money, because he’s just been a burden on her. Lin Mo tells him that he’s not a burden, and they might just both be kicked out of the house one day, because she doesn’t own it, either, heh. And, because she can’t hear and he can’t see, they should work together. Also, her hand is bleeding and the blind man bandages it for her.
Quite well, it turns out.

Lin Mo makes him promise that they’ll work together: she’ll be his eyes and he’ll be her ears. Jingxiu, erstwhile National Advisor and Grand Vizier, can’t help but crack a smile and tell her her eyes had better be good.
Meanwhile. Yuan Tong is back at the tablet hall. Her destiny is to protect her family, etc…but her strength is limited. Girl….

Oh boy. Junior Fox Bro is waiting outside the hall with a sword. And, worse, he’s not drunk. So there’s a fight. I can’t tell if Yuan Tong is throwing it on purpose or not.

Meanwhile, Yun Feng is trying to tell Jiu Chen to let matters rest. Jiu Chen, however, has some rather logical questions. If Phoenix Queen hates him that much, why not show up to try and kill him herself?–because Phoenix Queen is someone who dared to even overthrow her own father, she definitely would dare to attack, and if she ordered her entire tribe to attack him, he probably would die. Yun Feng says: she’s a queen, she wouldn’t destroy her tribe, would she? Yun Feng says he’ll keep an eye on it personally while Jiu Chen’s in the mortal world.

Lol, Shi San pipes up: is the boss going to the mortal world to fight monsters? Can I come, too?

And then Si Ming arrives in a flurry. Things have gone wrongish…

Oh, ok. The peach tree is bearing fruit, and Lin Mo is trying to beat off the birds. There are too many fruits, and she’s…oh boy. She’s going to be giving them away to people. Doctor Sun gets a bag…she is asking him what to do with the rest of them. He suggests wine and writes out a formula.

Oh boy. He has no sense of taste.

But then he takes a bite of the peach….and it’s a magical one….

Advisor, it seems, is making some strides in releasing his qi and doing some magic. Lin Mo calls him out to help carry the peaches in. She’s going to make the wine and sell it. Lol, he says that stuff like carrying heavy loads should be done by men…and look at him stagger off.

So has she actually eaten any of the magical peaches yet???

So…there aren’t any peaches left, it seems…? She didn’t save any. But there will be more later…

Lin Mo is meanwhile asking about jobs in the village, and getting no luck. She didn’t want to pawn Jingxiu’s ring, looks like. So where is it?

So meanwhile back in Peach Blossom Forest, Junior Fox Bro is getting swathed in bandages by Qing Yao. He got flogged and is under house arrest, with a probation officer to show up shortly. Seems like Yuan Tong is nearly half-dead. Heh, Qing Yao surprises the rest of the guys by sweetly remarking that if Junior was any good, it wouldn’t be half.

Jiu Chen tells her just to take care of her little brother, he’ll take care of Ling Xi. Yun Feng stays behind to curry favor…with about as much success as usual. But, aww. It’s really sweet how this family cares about each other and takes care of each other. Qing Yao tells him (he’s unconscious) to mind the rules and stop making her be always the one who is left behind, losing the ones she loves. Oooh. Uh oh. She’s going to tell him about Ling Xi when he wakes up. That’s not good.

Jiu Chen is taking a moody stroll through the Peach Forest and thinking about the one time he got to first base with his girlfriend. You know, the time he had to pretend he wasn’t into it. Oh! And Antler Puppy is there! He says he’ll take it to go see her!!!!

Lin Mo, meanwhile, is still looking for a job, while Jiu Chen shows up with Antler Puppy….but then Si Ming shows up.

Lol. Jiu Chen asks him why he keeps showing up with bad news…and, it’s bad news. Thunder god is trying to break into Demon Tower. They poof out, leaving Antler Puppy behind.

Shi San is holding off the god of thunder at the demon tower! Lol, Shi San says her power is increased and she wants to spar with a new oponent. (Hardly.) But, fortunately, the boys get there in time again. Jiu Chen asks if Thunder has an edict to enter the Tower? No. Thunder storms off to go get one. Lol, Shi San says she could have delayed him for at least four hours!

Heh, Shi San. Just, Shi San.

So the annoying thing about the Thunder god is that he actually always does follow through with his threats to complain to the higher-ups. But! The Emperor merely confirms that Jiu Chen was following his orders.

FLASHBACK! Back when the Emperor was visiting Jiu Chen during the trial, it was his idea to exchange the McGuffins and reincarnate Ling Xi! The Emperor wanted to spare her because she is innocent, too. But he needs it to stay discrete. If it gets out…

And if you have people as varied as Shi San and Thunder asking questions…

Meanwhile, Yuan Tong is getting treated by Yuli. She was genuinely badly hurt. Yuli tells her that spitting up blood will help her with the pain, but doing so will also remove one hundred years of her power. Yuli also tells her that it is possible to cure her in one go, but that she won’t do it because she dislikes Yuan Tong. And Yuli is the only option here. Oh, wait, except for Qing Yao! But, oh wait, you aren’t going to be able to ask her, are you?

Yuli, Yuli explains, had a high respect for Medicine Dad–and so did many other people. So, here’s a bit of free advice for you, Yuan Tong: don’t ever make a doctor mad.

Yuan Tong: glares.

Also, one of the pages who escorts her out: was related to one of the people she murdered. Here’s your medicine [drops it]. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out [swings door].

Well, it’s the future you chose, Yuan Tong.

Cool beans: new, *solo* Cannonball Run record

Someone just drove from California to New York in 25 hours. All right, 25:55, but that’s img-9501-jpg-1592577923still an average of 108 mph….with only one stop for gas and no cops. And he even claims to have used his CB to talk some truckers into moving for him. That’s awesome.

Quite a lot of people have been taking a whack at the Cannonball Run lately, possibly because lockdown has emptied the roads a little, probably because lockdown has scrambled their brains to the point where it seems like a good idea.

But while most of us were twiddling our thumbs at home during the COVID-19 closures (or mourning the loss of our jobs, or dying), a handful of scofflaw endurance drivers were busy making tracks from New York to L.A. Several of these were solo runs, and those of us in the know watched, amazed, as the time it took one person to drive 2800 miles nonstop plummeted from the low-to-mid-30s to just under 28 hours. Even those times, set only a few months ago, were blown out of the water recently when Fred Ashmore, 44, of Hancock, Maine, rented a Mustang GT, removed its passenger seats and other interior accessories, strapped in enough extra fuel tanks to bump the car’s capacity to around 130 gallons, and made the trip from the Red Ball garage in Manhattan to the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach with only one stop for fuel.

Oh yeah, and he did it in a rental car and barely spent any money on it.

Ashmore’s effort shines as an example of extreme frugality. He says he didn’t spend more than $3000 on his whole trip, including the car, its strapped-in, Facebook Marketplace-sourced fuel tanks (and fuel), and the electronic countermeasures that have become de rigueur for anyone wanting to drive at these speeds without landing in jail.

Mind you, some people aren’t that appreciative.

“There are so many of these runs now, it’s hard to think of anything to say,” he said. “What is this, like the 47th one this year? I don’t want to take anything away from Fred, but I just want six months with no records.”

Heh.

House of Assassins by Larry Correia – Repost Review

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This cover is stupid. This is a fantasy adventure. Stop it with the wannabe high-brow lichratchur covers. Give me scantily-clad swordsmen or give me death.

(I’m going to review Destroyer of Worlds, just as soon as I get the time. I promise! TLDR: It’s awesome. Also it’s available as an e-arc.)

House of Assassinson the other hand, is available as a full-on e-book, audio book, and paperback book, at this point. You can also try your local library and if they don’t have it, try raising hell, because they should.

This is actually just a compilation of thoughts rather than a strict review. As far as quality goes: if you liked Son of the Black Sword, then you will have to read this book. If you haven’t read Son of the Black Sword, then get it and read it; it’s Correia’s best work to date.
House of Assassins is the immediate continuation of it, and also the second book of a trilogy. While somewhat affected with Middle Of Trilogy Symptom, it still expands the world, the characters, the story, and the stakes. Now I really, really, really want Book 3.

The plot is mostly as summarized in the back blurb (NOTE, spoilers for SotBS): Thera, unwilling prophet of the Forgotten, has been stolen by the wizards of the Lost House–the titular House of Assassins. The maddened and ambitious master of the wizards, Sikasso, intends to gain her power for his own use–by teaching her how to master and use them. It’s an uphill battle, given that Thera has the magical ability of a frog rather than a princess; but Sikasso is, as the narrative dryly points out, an excellent motivator. If she doesn’t learn, they’ll give her to the Inquisition.

Meanwhile, Ashok and his new army–the Sons of the Black Sword–march to follow the command of a god they do not believe in and rescue their prophet, who also doesn’t believe. Meanwhile, the corrupt and evil (no, really evil. No. Genuinely without redeeming merit or value, evil and vile) head of the Inquisition, Omand, is putting his plan into motion…and the world may die because of it.

So, thoughts: [Some spoilers, be wary]

– If Correia extends this trilogy into an Umpteen-Part series, I’m going to be pissed. I want to know how THIS story finishes. There’s plenty of space to continue exploring Lok, righting wrongs, adventuring across continent and ocean…in ANOTHER story. Everything has been put in place for Book 3 (Destroyer of Worlds) to blow my socks off, and I am awaiting it. When is it going to be coming out…?
– As I mentioned, this book does have a slight case of fantasy-journeyitis. Chunks of the narrative is simply following characters from Point A (here) to Point B (over there, where the next plot event is scheduled to happen). On foot. Or on horseback. Or on boat. Or while being stalked by wizard assassins. Correia mostly uses the time for character development; but still. Now, this is a standard of the fantasy genre, and I really should overlook it…but a) someone who specializes in fast, pulp-fantasy, high-action pacing should know to minimize this; and b) it’s a trope I’m particularly sensitive to, so it annoyed me.
– The Point-A–>Point-B dilemma also pops up at the climax, and I’m unsatisfied with how it was handled. As it is, it makes Ashok look rather stupid, and wastes a certain amount of time and energy. Hopefully, it’s something that will be corrected with another round of beta reading and editorial feedback. Or perhaps I’m being too picky. But I was vaguely unsatisfied with the final battle, after the all-out, gloriously gory One Man Last Stand of book 1. Ah well, so I just have to wait for Book 3, huh?
– I was wanting a heck of a lot more information about the origins of Lok, the black steel, Ramrowan, etc. What is the deal with Angruvadal? If it’s still able to help, why doesn’t it? If it can’t, what is it waiting for? And now I’m going to have to wait for Book 3. Damnit.
– Random observation: what is it with the motif of women and damaging their hands with magical powers? It’s in The Invisible Library, and here again in House of Assassins; I vaguely remember something of the sort in Lioness Rampant, and there was a slight case again in The Aeronaut’s Windlass. Convergent tropism?

Oh, but the good stuff: [DEFINITELY SPOILERS]
– Thera actually does get rescued by the end of the book, so there is none of that infuriating “Your Princess Is In Another Castle” nonsense. THANK YOU. And by rescued, what I actually mean is, “Someone’s got to save all our skins. Into the garbage chute, flyboy!”
– There’s a really great action scene where Ashok and Jagdish have to infiltrate a brothel. In fact, the entire bit where Ashok is attempting to go undercover is really magnificent, mostly because he knows his limits and doesn’t actually try. (“I thirst. Bring me water. Now.”)
– There’s another really great scene where our heroes have detained and questioned an outsider. He’s given them the information they need, and now they need to know how to deal with him. Turn him loose in return for giving them accurate information? Honorable, but he’ll bring Protectors after them immediately. Or should they kill him–after having promised him mercy?
Ashok listens to both sides of the argument, and snaps the man’s neck with his bare hands without saying a word.
– There’s a lot more characterization. Thera, Jagdish, Sikasso, and the newcomer Inquisitor Javed (who is so casually psychopathic and also charming and amiable, even Omand is slightly put off). Omand himself gets some time in the spotlight…and it becomes very clear that whatever shreds of a chance at redeeming virtue might have been hinted at in the first book, aren’t actually there.
How bad is he?
He has a captive demon in the dungeons of the Inquisition.
It’s scared of him.
– There’s a good bit of dry humor (“and then Sikasso proved what an excellent teacher he really was”), such as the Historian-Librarian feud that almost gets Rada locked out of the Historian’s Museum, and other such moments.
– I think my favorite over the top action sequence is when Ashok gets hung on a hook…through his heart…and proceeds to lift himself up the chain and yank the hook free with his bare hands. That’s what I’m talking about.

Rated: Want Book 3 now….!

QuikReviews – Serpent & Dove, The Cruel Prince, Skyward, Starsight

mahurin_serpent-and-doveSerpent & Dove, Shelby Mahurin – puerile, juvenile, and terribly written.

This book reads like fanfiction from the heyday of insane Harry Potter fangirls who have just discovered social media. Not AO3 even. This is fanfic.net level stuff. And not any of the quality, either, where the author is some kind of intelligent adult amusing themselves by running an alternate scenario in their favorite playground. The other kind. That’s how bad this book is. I couldn’t get more than two chapters into this, and I deleted it with extreme prejudice from all devices.

Now, I know that “fantasy romance” isn’t a terribly demanding genre, let alone YA fantasy romance, which comparatively speaking is the fawning lackey of the romance genre and the resentful bootlicking toady of fantasy. The absolute best this story could aspire to is moderate charm and perhaps, maybe, if the author accidentally got a dash of testosterone in their Starbucks that day, a thrill or two.

I’m all in for charm. It was, in fact, what I was hoping for. I hoped that the vapid premise (witches, witch hunters, party A marries party B) would achieve some sort of balance, humor, or sweetness.

Boy was I disappointed. This is one author who deserves to be thrown into a pit and not let out until she swears never to touch a typewriter again. For that matter, we should also devise some kind of cunning punishment for whatever editor signed off on this book, too, because if ever anyone deserved to be hung by their toenails in a vat of octopus ink….

the2bcruel2bprinceThe Cruel Prince, Holly Black – puerile, juvenile, and poorly-written. Albeit, I will be honest here: this one is much better-written than S&D. I made it about five chapters. Holly Black does have a certain amount of talent: her prose is definitely readable and her characters, while they start out sketchy and conforming to cliche, have a tendency to shake themselves out into a more relaxed, interesting, colorful existence.*

Problem: this doesn’t happen to her main, viewpoint character.

The next problem: five chapters in, there is no plot and no momentum indicating what direction it will be moving in.

The other problem: The characters aren’t enough to carry the story until the plot does get started, because the ones we get a focus on are obnoxious, ugly, and lacking in redeeming values. See, Madac? The guy who I’m-sure-a-lawyer-could-classify-it-as-self-defence kills his ex-wife and then adopts and raises her children, who is a strong general to the King, a loyal advisor to the Prince? Who teaches and advises his children but also lets them get into and out of trouble on their own? That guy is interesting. Why isn’t the book following him?

Instead, we get Jude, and she’s an unattractive character. She’s a powerless mass of resentment and thwarted fury. That’s not the bad part. The bad part is that she’s weak. Not physically (although that’s up for debate as well, since although she insists she’s been trained in swordsmanship, it’s all been told us rather than shown…in any fashion)–Jude is weak where it matters: in principle. She has none. She has nothing she believes in, nothing she really wants to achieve–just a vague and generalized longing for power, to settle scores.

Here’s the other thing: Jude really comes off extremely poorly, because the next book I read had a very similar character, done well.

 

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Cover too arty, not enough explosions, energy lassos, or spacefighters.

Skyward, Brandon Sanderson – juvenile, yes, but this is superbly written.

 

And it’s not just that sci-fi is an innately superior genre to fantasy (it is, though). It’s the fact that Brandon Sanderson is apparently just a really, really good writer. I didn’t know that myself, to be honest; I’d only read Warbreaker before, and wasn’t impressed with that.

This one is, in fact, so good I’m going to try to write a full review of it later. Anything that starts off with a homage to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (humanity stays underground and keeps its populations small, or else alien bombers strike; outcast girl discovers powerful ancient weapon-ship and mysterious but cute critter sidekick) is OK in my book–and Sanderson makes his heroine, grandiose, bellicose, cocky, understandable, endearing…and completely heroic.

Starsight, Brandon Sanderson – Also very good, but its adherence to genre conventions (only the main character can do things, insanely compressed timelines, mecha-anime soft sci-fi instead of military hard SF), slightly hurts it.

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This is not a good sci-fi cover.

* Also, this post may or may not have been written under the influence of a mild fever. Serpent & Dove really is that bad, though.