Monday, April 20, 2020

A Silver Dragon Empire

Once again, the Dragons are upon us.

You know why I like Awards season so much? Because it gives me an excuse to talk about books for months. In fact, it gives me an excuse to talk about the same once over and over again if I want..

And this year, I have thoughts. Quite a few, really. 

Best Sci Fi

Overlook by Jon Mollison.

I enjoyed that one so much, I may have underplayed my review.

Best Fantasy (/ Paranormal)

Brand of the Warlock, by Robert Kroese.

Best YA

The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering by L. Jagi Lamplighter.

I literally reviewed this one last week. I don't have to explain it again, do I?

Best Mi-SF

That's going to go to Chris Ruocchio's Howling Dark (Sun Eater #2). If Chris doesn't like it, well, he doesn't get a choice in the matter, since I don't have other slots open. 

Best Alt History

This Deadly Engine by Matt Ligon

I swear, one day I'm just going to say to heck with it and get around to reviewing all of Ligon's books. 

Best Horror 

Deus Vult by, well, me

Why this one and not Coven, which even Jagi says is better? 

Because this one scared reviewers. So, it's better for Horror.

Also, the name. Can you get better than that? Heh.

Though if you wanted to put Coven on the list for best fantasy, I'm not going to kvetch. :)

Best Media Tie-In

Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason.

I will only pimp this one Disney-related product for one reason.

It's Zahn writing Thrawn. Full stop. Thanks.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy 
TV Series, TV or Internet

We're going to need something in here before some dickhead puts in Star Trek: Picard, which may be the worst thing I've seen since, well, Star Trek Discovery.

So, does this slot go to The Mandalorian or to The Witcher? Those are pretty much the only two shows no one on the internet will shut up about. 

But I'd rather not hand Disney the win, and I like The Witcher books that I've read. 

Someone hand it to Henry Caville and he can put it on the shelf next to his 40K minis.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Any thoughts? 

Again, this is a situation where we need something, otherwise a collection of mouth breathing jerks will insist on a terrible Disney product. 

Because if we don't come up with something, The Rise of Skywalker is going to end up with it by default

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy 

PC / Console Game

I'm just assuming that the FF 7 Remake is going to make it here. 

However, I'm not up on current games, since the patching in 90% of them makes it freaking impossible to play them at release without an hour of patching. Trust me, I made it a point to stick in multiple games to my PS4 so they could be patched overnight.

Then again, I've also heard a LOT of good things about Greedfall, which might have more momentum, as it's come out earlier than FF7. And I've noticed that the win goes to what has been out the longest.

Again, I've heard some good things about the latest Star Wars game. Jedi: Fallen Order, I think the name is. I'm still waiting for the price to come down.

No Contenders

500x500_book_bannerThis is a collection of categories for which I got nothing. Or almost nothing. 

Best Comic Book (the series)

The Immortal Hulk was on this list to start with. Why? Because it's dark and atmospheric, and feels a lot like if Marvel tried doing HP Lovecraft. But, they've decided to make a character suddenly trans, out of nowhere, for no real reason that fit in the story. And it was so jarring, it's really thrown my interest in the story. It took me out of the comic. 

Though if you want to give Immortal Hulk a quick read through at a Barnes and Noble, maybe you'll see more of what I did when I first read it.

Best Graphic Novel

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game 

You can nominate for the Dragons right here. Enjoy. And please remember to tell your friends. And share this list around the internet.


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Review of The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering (Books of Unexpected Enlightenment Book 5), by L. Jagi Lamlighter

Here we go again. 

If you haven't seen the other books of Rachel Griffin ... this is a very long story. And I have other reviews that you're going to want to look at.

Book 1: The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin

Book 2: The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel

Book 3: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dream Land

Book 4: Awful Truth about Forgetting

By this point, we should all realize that I'm still reading them at book five, so it's a good assumption that this book, too, was awesome, and you should read it. And if you don't read it, you are a bad person. 

For those of you who are not up to speed on this series: we have a magical girl from a magical family at a magical boarding school with her magical friends. Her best friends include how a Dickens character should look after going through the foster care system (less like Oliver Twist, more like the Artful Dodger), a magical Australian with a magical stick up her ass, and Victor von Doom -- I mean Vladimir von Dread.

Imagine if JK Rowling had done a deep dive and actually built a world from the ground up, and every character had a full range of emotions and conflicting thoughts and agendas, while there are actual stakes that amounted to more than just the existence of the school, but existence itself.

That's the Rachel Griffin novels. 

Also, it's so nice to find a fantasy novel that includes other magic traditions and mythology outside of the UK and continental Europe. If there's a myth or lore or type of fantasy magic that Jagi hasn't thrown in yet, I haven't heard of them. 

I'm going to avoid posting the description of the book here for one simple reason: It spoils events in the second half of the book, something I've found jarring since as long as I can recall.

When Book 5 opens, Rachel's school, Roanoke Academy, has a problem: the local wild fey are loose. The wizards were supposed to keep the local wild fey psychopath under lock and key. But now it's loose, and the local fey no longer need to adhere to their bargain. If the Heer is not imprisoned again, and the fey put back in their place, Roanoke Academy will close.

One must admire Jagi's restraint with book five. It opens a whole two days after the end of book 4 -- usually the next book will open the same say as the last book ended, giving Terry Goodkind a run for his money on "the morning after" opening of The Sword of Truth. And there is so much blowback here, yikes.

What can one say about the book that I haven't already in prior reviews? Her brother is Lord Peter, her family estate is in Dartmoor -- they have a local beast that is not specifically referred to as a dog, a hound, or even a Great Dane. Rachel's family use microexpressions both to read people and to mislead them. 

The pace is only slightly more relaxed than usual. The opening threat wasn't lethal, which is about as relaxed as the book gets. The rest of the novel has an undercurrent of multiple threats, spread out along the length of the book. The pacing hurries along at a quick gallop, slowing here and there for world and character building. And then get out of a way before being run over. As I've said in previous reviews, if Rachel's days go any faster, she'll have to change her name to Jack Bauer. Hunting fey on the Roanoke Academy grounds makes for a wonderful subplot. It ties in nicely to the second subplot later on.

No, I'm not sure if there is a main plot anywhere along here. There are basically two major subplots jammed together, but they fit so well you don't care that the only main thread is the series plot, not a main plot for the novel.

We have Ankh-Morpork style football, a magical government that makes sense, sports team names that don't (show of hands: who wants your sports team to be named The Maenads?), Jim Butcher Scooby-Doo jokes, and students armed with a Bowie knife... which is an odd complaint given that they're all armed with wands, but seriously, who let that guy have a Bowie knife? Heck, Jagi even spells out the difference between the Seelie and the Unseelie... which I don't even think Harry Dresden explained.

It's so nice to see that in a world of magic, hydrogen peroxide is still used to remove blood from clothing. 


There are problems, of course. Mostly with some of the characters being ... themselves. At least one magical princess needs to be smothered with a magical pillow; then they issue her a bodyguard with Omega beams. Rachel's best friend (of her own age) might be one kid who needs mild sedatives for everyone else's safety ... or he need to learn restraint, perhaps with a butterfly net. 

I think the problems of the book can all be summed up as, well, high school is one big problem. 

Rachel also has flaws ... largely in that she has to stop reading classic romance novels; when she starts thinking romance, the narrative voice goes into prose so purple, I swear the text color changes. And she is such a kid. Despite saving the world enough times that even the adults listen to her when she says there is a problem, Rachel has very definite ideas of what should happen. She has this idea that she should have a womanly figure ... at 14. (pardon me while I head desk).

And then her PTSD kicks in, because really, after the skeleton baby incident, we should be worried if she didn't have PTSD.

Also, seriously, in a world where magic is a day to day thing, you'd think someone would have taught them to be really REALLY careful, and very specific, about the wishes one makes.

But you can say one thing about their characters flaws -- these people characters have characters to actually develop, which is more than I can say for certain other books. Heck, there are some characters in this series who I didn't know they had characters to develop.

Anyway, 5/5 stars. Go buy the book now. Thanks.

Paperback here

Amazon Kindle link here

Friday, April 3, 2020