Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddlemaster #2) ★★★★☆

heirofseaandfire (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Heir of Sea and Fire
Series: Riddlemaster #2
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 215
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Raederle, the woman betrothed to Morgan, sets out to find him as he has gone missing. She hooks up with some others, one of them being Morgan’s younger sister and sails all over. Morgan has thoroughly disappeared though and the landheir power has been passed on to his brother. This usually means the original holder of said power is dead and almost everyone but Raederle believes Morgan to be dead.

Part way through Morgan is revealed to be alive and chasing after the Bard who betrayed him AND that the wizard Ohm has been masquerading as The One (the magical master of the whole land). Raederle must convince Morgan to not take his vengeance against the Bard as it will destroy who Morgan is.

Raederle also comes into powers of her own. She finds out that one of her ancestors was a shapeshifter from the sea and this blood has bestowed peculiar power to her. Considering that the shapeshifters were doing their best to kill Morgan in the previous book, Raederle isn’t sure how Morgan is going to act when he finds out his betrothed belongs to those who wanted him dead.

The book ends with a showdown between the dead of Hel, controlled by Raederle and the Bard and Morgan. Morgan is convinced to show mercy and then he and Raederle set out to track down Ohm and get some answers for all the mysteries going on.

 

My Thoughts:

While I am giving this 4stars this time, I completely understand myself for giving it 2 stars back in ’07. This was trying to tell a fantasy story that needed a trilogy and McKillip kept going between fantasy writerstyle of the day and her own style of lyrical prose. It makes for an unsettling read as at one point you’ll have everything spelled out for you and then 10 pages later some monumental revelation is made as an aside in some oblique reference to some myth.

That was the weakness of this book and I am not sure that it can truly overcome that weakness. It’s the same problem I had with Riddlemaster of Hed and the main reason I wouldn’t recommend these as starter books for someone looking to get into McKillip.

Now that being said, since I have already read almost everything of McKillip’s and am currently re-reading everything, I can appreciate this book for its strengths.

This borrows heavily from Welsh/Welch (love that grapejuice by the way!) myth with the lands of Hel, Awn, etc and the unsettled dead and magic held by the lands rulers. If you’ve ever read The Prydain Chronicles by Llloyd Alexander, you’ll recognize a lot of the places and situations McKillip uses in this book. I think having that pre-existing knowledge will help a lot in understanding just what is going on, since there is so much happening without being spelled out. McKillip was writing for a well-read audience and I think a more modern audience will miss out on a lot of references, references that make this a much fuller, richer story.

Raederle was a great character. She wasn’t pie in the eye in love with Morgan, since she had only known him as a friend growing up. But since he was her betrothed, she was going to find out what happened to him. It showed a core of steel in her character. That showed her as strong but not some kickass heroine where her femininity was completely overshadowed by her being a man with breasts. She wasn’t a warrior, she couldn’t sail the ship she was on but there was NEVER any doubt that it was Raederle driving and leading everyone else on. When she confronts Morgon about his quest for vengeance, she doesn’t kick his legs out from under him and pin him down until he submits. She supports the parts of him that she does admire and lets him see that and lets that support decide him.

The supporting characters, from Morgon’s younger sister to the ghost of the King of Hel (that is him on the cover, lusting after his skull, which had been nailed to a midden pile and that Raederle used as a bargaining chip in obtaining his help) to Morgon himself were just as good.

To end, I once again thoroughly enjoyed another McKillip story while definitely not recommending this as a starting place for anyone thinking about a McKillip journey. Get some “experience” with her as an author and then come back to this.

★★★★☆

 

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The Air War (Shadows of the Apt #8) ★★★★☆

airwar (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Air War
Series: Shadows of the Apt #8
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 672
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Empire has begun its expansion once again. Under the guise of defending themselves, they begin taking back the Low Land cities that escaped them the last time.

The war has moved into the air and airplanes and pilots are the new masters. Even the Air War evolves as it progresses, moving from one on one duels to a new way of communication among the wasps to fly kinden and wasp women being in the airforce.

The Empire, with the help of the Iron Glove Cartel, are now using Greatshotters to make walled cities pointless. They move on Collegium and it is only because the Empress has discovered a new source of power that the Imperial Army is pulled back, once again.

Empress Seda tidies up the Empire and allows plotters to gather so she can use her magic to wrap them all up.She continues to search for pockets of old power but all the old secrets have either already been used or decayed. There are less than vague hints about the Seal of the Worm but none of the Inapt slaves are willing to tell Seda about it. This only fuels Seda’s curiosity and she begins to dig.

 

My Thoughts:

When I read this for the first time back in 2014, I gave it 3 Stars. Storywise, I still stand by that. This was depressing, as the colossus that is the Empire just rolls over almost everything in this book. Collegium is the only city that successfully fights back and even that was not a “win” but more of a stay of execution. Almost 700 pages of the good guys staving off complete disaster and calling regular disaster a win. How are you supposed to get excited about that?

This time around, since I knew that was coming, I was able to focus more on the writing itself and I must say, this deserves that 4stars completely. Tchaikovsky is a Wordsmith and even when he was going on about air fighting stuff, which I didn’t care 2 whits for, I was able to focus on the words themselves and what they were trying to convey. It was worth it.

What I don’t understand and I can’t remember if this is EVER addressed in this series, is why the whole “kinden” gifts aren’t considered magic? Why doesn’t Seda try to tap into that as a source? I mean, she’d have the whole worlds population to exploit. Because of the lack of magic in this book and the focus on airplanes and how they change the war, I had to find something magical to think about for goodness sake! If a wasp can make some sort of energy appear and shoot from his hand, if a fly can make “wings” appear from her back and fly through the air, etc, etc, then what is the force behind that? It is presented as something that “just is” and with so much going on, it is easy to sit back and let it slide. But I had to pick at something since I don’t care for WWI style of fighting and this idea was it. If the Darakyon, a whole magical forest, can be put into the Shadow Box, why can’t Seda begin draining the magical force of the kinden gifts into her own container? See, I’d much rather read about something like that than flipping airplanes and coils and springs and crap that has no place in fantasy.

Ok, it’s not completely magicless, as anything to do with Empress Seda revolves around magic, but it is such a SMALL part that I wept for its short stature.

The characters were top notch. We get a lot of small characters from previous books playing bigger roles and some new characters and a very few of the old. Taki is one of the pilots and it is through her that we see the majority of the air war. You can feel how the war changes the one on one aerial duels to mass bombings and how it affects the pilots. It is almost the same change going from warriors like Tisamon, who were exquisite artists of death, to the massed clumps of beetle soldiers armed with snapbows who are able to deal out so much more death than Tisamon ever could. War has gone from a hobby for the rich individual to something of mass death waged by cities. And Taki lets us feel that change every step of the way. She is heroic, she is brave and she is talented and in the end, it’s not enough and she knows it. And we the readers know it as well.

I am also adding the “Favorite” tag because even though I didn’t particularly care for the planes (have I mentioned that enough yet do you think?), this series as a whole is even better this second time around. I can take the time to examine the underpinnings and they are as solid and artful as the building as a whole. I continue to be thoroughly impressed.

★★★★☆

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Gattling’s Big Guns Part I & II (Silver Sable & the Wildpack #2 & 3) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Gattling’s Big Guns Part I & II
Series: Silver Sable & the Wildpack #2 & 3
Author: Gregory Wright
Artist: Steven Butler
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 64
Format: Paper Edition

 

Synopsis:

Silver and Co are hired to protect a televangelist who has been targeted after publicly saying he was pro-choice. We are introduced to 2 new members of the Wildpack, Crippler and Battlestar. The Wildpack also get new uniforms (thank goodnes for that!!!).

Silver runs into the assassin, name of Gattling, who can turn invisible, fly with a jetpack and has 2 huge gattling guns. She also runs into her ex-husband, the mercenary/assassin The Foriegner and he reveals that the Evangelist is in cahoots with a druglord and that that is what eveything is about. The Foriegner kills off another televangelist who is also in the drug trade and Silver and the Wildpack take down Gattling. Silver then turns her client in to the FBI as he was the one who hired the Foriegner to kill off the other televangelist.

 

My Thoughts:

Ok, several things really stood out with this. First, comic book writers are as preachy, ham-handed and obvious as any social justice warrior today. Christianity, rascism and sexism, all dealt with in this book, with all the finesse of a lumberjack using a sledgehammer to knock a tree down. I don’t have a highly developed sense of tastefulness but this just hurt! Second was the ads. Targeted to the 12-16 age group for sure.

The only really good thing about these 2 comics was the expansion of the Wildpack (we see more besides just Sandman and Powell) and the uniform change.

SS02-12

We get the addition of Crippler, some badass hydra bounty-hunter to Battlestar, a black Captain America knockoff who is augmented in some way or another. We also see Chen (that is her name I believe) for the first time and we hear some other “names” that I’m sure will be part of the main team.

Silver is just an incredibly bitchy jackass. She is also drawn in some of the most outlandish dinnerware styles that are so revealing that I had to roll my eyes. Once again, subtly was not aimed for.

The artwork is pretty rough too, with Silver being more identified by her white hair and white/silver outfit (whether dinner dress or battle uniform) than in any uniformity of face or form. This was done quick and dirty and it shows.

Overall, this is the quintessential 90’s comic that shows every trope and stereotype possible in its effort to sell another magazine. And I can remember thinking how awesome this comic was. Awww, the sweet innocent naivete of youth 😉

★★★☆☆

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Silver Sable & the Wildpack (Silver Sable & the Wildpack #1) ★★★☆☆

silversable1 (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Silver Sable & the Wildpack
Series: Silver Sable & the Wildpack #1
Author: Gregory Wright
Artist: Steven Butler
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 32
Format: Paper Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Silver is testing out a bunch of recruits and only 1 makes the cut. That night she learns that the school where her niece Anna is attending has been taken over by Hydra.

Since it is not a paying mission, Silver goes on her own to rescue Anna. Sandman, now apparently a good guy (?) is concerned and puts together a Wildpack team and goes after her. Spiderman is also on the scene and between him, Silver and the Wildpack, Anna is rescued and the Hydra agents taken down.

Silver tells off Sandman and docks everyone’s pay and fines them as well.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, the Spiderman 2099 comics really weren’t working for me, so I decided to try something else. And after Oh My Goddess failed as well, I wanted something I could bail on easily. Silver Sable ran for 35 issues, approximately 3 years. She had one or two crossover events with other small time comic characters and like many of the small characters in the 90’s was eventually folded back into a big time character’s book as a side character.

I was 14 when I picked this up. I picked it up because it was a Number 1 and comic collecting was really starting to take off. It also didn’t hurt that I was beginning to work and had some money in my pocket. I figured with that shiny cover and being a number 1, that in a couple of years it would be worth so much money. I practically shook my own hand at just how clever I was being. Of course, since you can still buy it for less than the cover price over 25 years later, I guess I wasn’t as clever as I thought.

First off, let’s talk quality, eyes, colors etc. This is the very definition of pulp paper. I read one of the copies I own and my goodness, the paper is so rough and yet so thin. The whole book is so thin. It is really easy to forget that these were made as cheaply as possible. The second thing that struck me was just how hard it was to see things. My being 40 might have something to do with that, but the color schemes and the font types, it was meant for maximum wowey zowey’ness, not old eyes. The colors, oh my goodness. Hydra goons were dressed up in bright green and yellow hazmat suits with bug goggles and the Wildpack had purple jumpsuits with orange armor stuff. Garish doesn’t even begin to describe it!

SS1-17

Green & Yellow, Purple & Orange? My eyes, MY EYES!!!

This was meant to introduce Sable on her own, as previously she’d been a minor character in various Spiderman comics. You get a little about her history and what drives her and are introduced to 2 of the Wildpack, Sandman and the new recruit Powell.

For 32 pages, with maybe ¼ of that being ads, this does it’s job of introducing her very well. I don’t have high hopes for this, but really, it’s not meant for that kind of expectation. This was meant for a 14 year old boy.

★★★☆☆

 

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The Riddlemaster of Hed (Riddlemaster #1) ★★★★☆

riddlemasterofhed (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Riddlemaster of Hed
Series: Riddlemaster #1
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 229
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Morgan, King of Hed, reveals, unwittingly, that he has beaten a ghost hundreds of years old at a game of Riddles and won a legendary crown, and possibly the hand of a princess. Unfortunately, this sets him on the trail of a riddle of himself and the 3 stars that adorn his head. He plans on ignoring the riddle and to settling down and ruling Hed, an island of farmers, but when his life and the lives of those he knows and loves are put in danger, Morgan realizes that he has to find the answer to the riddle.

His journey takes him to many a land and he learns how to shapeshift, to become as the trees and he finds a harp and a sword, both with the same 3 stars and all prophesied about millenia before. He finds that a threat that destroyed the Earthmasters is rising anew and now threatens all the lands again.

Morgan makes his way to Erlenstar Mountain, seat of the High One, the last of the Earthmasters. The book ends with him finding out that the High One is the High Wizard that destroyed all the other wizards and is also one of the Masters of Cathnard, the school of Riddling.

 

My Thoughts:

I can completely understand why I gave this 3 stars back in 2007. Morgan is one of those characters who fights against destiny more out of a mulish desire to be left alone and will make choices, no matter how bad, based on that mulish side of him. I still had issues with him this time around but it wasn’t nearly so bad, as I had a LOT of sympathy for the poor guy. I know I’d be the same way now.

The other reason is that this has touches of McKillip’s lyrical writing style but is trying to tell a straight on fantasy story and it can be hard to do that. Much more prose’y and so where I don’t mind the slow pace and hiding of information because of the poetry of her later writings, this didn’t have that advantage. I was frustrated at times where a character wouldn’t reveal info for no apparent reason. Since this was a re-read though, I know there is a reason and I just haven’t gotten to it yet. It is amazing how my attitude can change when I know that an apparent mystery isn’t just arbitrarily set forth but has a point by the author.

While the writing is more prosaical than her later stuff, I did not find that a strong point for this book. I’d also be hesitant to recommend this trilogy as a first try for someone new to McKillip. Let them taste the beauty of her writing from when she is more accomplished and then they’ll be able to appreciate what she has set forth to accomplish in this Riddlemaster trilogy.

Overall, I really enjoyed this with the occasional bout of frustration. I think I’m making the correct decision to not immediately dive into the second book but to wait until this trilogy comes back to its turn in the reading cycle. Time is a great ameliorator.

★★★★☆

 

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The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964 ★★★★★

sfhalloffame (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964
Series: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame #1
Editor: Robert Silverberg
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 576
Format: Trade paperback

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories voted by members of the Science Fiction Authors Guild (or something or other like that) as the best of. A popularity contest of stories from the 30’s to the 60’s. No author had more than one story and the book was presented chronologically, so we as the readers could see how things progressed storywise in 30 years.

 

My Thoughts:

Danielle from Books, Vertigo and Tea reviewed this recently and brought it to my attention. What a fantastic read.

First off, this was originally published back in 1970, I believe. It was released again in 2005 and then just released digitally in 2018. Obviously not a new book. I read this at lunch beginning sometime in March and just finished it this past week. Short stories really lend themselves to no pressure reading and going at a slow pace. Sometimes you need that in a busy, hectic book life like mine.

I had read over ½ of these 26 stories, as growing up in the 80’s and addicted to SF meant I was familiar with almost all of these authors, even if just by name. This was good stuff! If you’ve never read Vintage SF, this is a good place to start. Even if you don’t like every story (and I didn’t like every one either), you’ll get the flavor of what those years produced and if an author strikes your fancy, you can then go on and investigate on your own.

In many ways, I think that Science Fiction shines through the short story medium. Ideas are presented and there is no extraneous fluff or junk to ruin it. And if your imagination isn’t up to snuff to get you excited about ideas, then you probably shouldn’t be reading SF in the first place.

I bought this used in trade paperback through Amazon but I think the stories are good enough that I’m going to have to put the hardcover on my wishlist. In terms of Short Story Collections, this falls squarely between Asimov’s Complete Stories Vol 1 and Asimov’s Complete Stories Vol 2. I do plan on buying, in used trade paperback again, Volumes 2 & 3, which are the best novella’s of that time period. Hopefully they are as good as these stories.

★★★★★

 

 

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The Devil in Miss Urd (Oh My Goddess! #11) ★★☆☆☆ (Manga Monday)

devilinmissurd (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Devil in Miss Urd
Series: Oh My Goddess! #11
Author: Kosuke Fujishima
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Kei, Bell and the gang all “win” a trip to a hotsprings. There, they run across Mara and they all decide to call a truce while on vacation. Of course, it is all a ruse by Mara to gain a strand of Urd’s hair, which she uses to make a clone of Urd. The clone is empty and needs a soul.

Mara kidnapps Urd and using junkstore equipment, separates her goddess half from her demon half. The demon half Mara sends into the clone and lets it loose. Belldandy realizes what is going on and knows that if one half of Urd’s soul perishes, the other will as well. So they can’t destroy Demon Urd, just try to subdue her. Goddess Urd gets free and with the help of Belldandy and Skuld, Urd is put back together again. Of course, there is an empty “Urd skin” lying around.

The book ends with a one shot story of Banpei the robot putting on the Urd skin and going around helping people.

 

My Thoughts:

This was amusing. Convoluted, silly and not well thought out, but amusing nonetheless.

I think my biggest problem with this series is that I constantly see the manga-ka undercutting himself in the longterm to get what he wants in the short term. Take Urd. She’s supposedly half-goddess and half-demon. Gods and Demons are supposedly the antithesis of each other, so how did she come about? And then it is revealed that even the Almighty couldn’t separate Urd’s two natures but we’re supposed to believe that imbecilic Mara can do it? It is just too evident that Fujishima is making things up as he goes and the inconsistancies are glaring.

Going to be talking to myself for a minute, so bear with it. This series is making me not want to read manga at all. I dread having to read this because it is so blah and this re-read has destroyed all my good memories of what I read before. The romance and humor that appealed to me when I was 24 has not matured along with me. I’ve outgrown this and cannot overlook the faults. And yet I paid for the whole 48 volumes. I feel like I’ve got a ball and chain wrapped around my neck and I’ve been tossed off the dock.

And when I put it as bluntly as that, I realize something. I don’t like this manga anymore and while I spent some good money on it, spending TIME on it will not justify the money. I need to cut my losses and just let it go. I am done with this series. Hopefully I can at least sell it on Craigslist and not lose all my money.

I think this final picture is appropriate. Goodbye Oh My Goddess! Only the anime ova shall live on in my memory. This manga has punished me enough.

domg1_15

Sweet Belldandy. It wasn’t only Kei who was in love with you back then

★★☆☆☆

bookstooge (Custom)