{Book} Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
Trail of Lightning was the January pick for the occult detective literature group on Goodreads. I had heard good things about the book in the past and it sounded pretty good. I was especially interested in how this fit into the occult detective sub-genre.

Plot
I haven’t really solidified my thoughts on what might be considered occult detective fiction. Thus far, I think of it more on the detecting end than the action-adventure end, of which this book has a fair share. There was some time spent in a library as Kai sought clues amid oral tales that had been recorded on CD. I really wish these had played a bigger part in Maggie and Kai’s investigation. As it was, the characters felt led around rather than making their own decisions.

Characters
Maggie is a haunted character. She’s been through trauma and a toxic relationship. She not as hard as she lets on. Her relationship with Kai is fraught, and considering her suspicious nature, I’m surprised she couldn’t see what Kai’s true powers were earlier on.

Setting
I have very poor reading comprehension when it comes to book blurbs. I totally missed that the setting of this book was somewhat post-apocalyptic. I kind of wish it wouldn’t have been. I think I would have liked a contemporary fantasy set on the Navajo reservation. It’s is a world I’m not familiar with and I don’t think it needed an extra layer of strangeness. That said, though not a fan of the post-apocalyptic, I found the setting to be the most enjoyable part of this book because of its juxtaposition with the Navajo culture.

Overall
If I read the second book in this series, and I might, it will because of setting. It’s a world I wouldn’t mind spending more time in.

Original Publishing info: Saga Press, 2018
My Copy: Overdrive/Kindle editions from Tempe Public Library
Genre: fantasy

{Book} War for the Oaks

War for the Oaks

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Eddi McCandry sings rock and roll. But she’s breaking up with her boyfriend, her band just broke up, and life could hardly be worse. Then, walking home through downtown Minneapolis on a dark night, she finds herself drafted into an invisible war between the faerie folk. Now, more than her own survival is at risk—and her own preferences, musical and personal, are very much beside the point.

By turns tough and lyrical, fabulous and down-to-earth, War for the Oaks is a fantasy novel that’s as much about this world as about the other one. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
This is a re-read. I first read it in 2011-ish. I wanted to read it again because I’ve been in a “light” fantasy, or maybe even urban fantasy, kind of mood.

Programming Note
I’ve noticed that, especially in prose fiction but also in non-fiction and TV/movies, there are three basic things that keep me interested: plot, characters, and setting. A story doesn’t need all of these, but it can’t utterly fail in one of them either. I’ve decided I want to think about these three aspects in my “reviews.”

Plot
Machinations of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. There is something about faeries that make my eyes glaze over. In this book, in Paul Kidd’s otherwise excellent Greyhawk trilogy; there’s just something I’m missing in the subtleties of deception, I guess. So, I’m not super thrilled with the faeries bits of plot in War for the Oaks. Luckily, it’s all pretty murky to Eddi too. When the plot is boiled down to action-reaction, I’m totally okay with that.

Characters
Eddi is a good character. She’s unsure of herself, even after willingly stepping deeper and deeper into fae politics. While she’s maybe sort of fairy-touched, she’s often wrong, which is sort of refreshing. I like the moments of Eddi looking into the bathroom mirror and pulling herself together. It’s…relatable.

The phouka may be one of my favorite characters in literature. While I’m not a fan of Fairy Court stories, I have a weakness for eloquent, smart aleck fairies. The other characters—the band members—are also just good eggs. Carla, especially, is the best friend you’d want to have by your side.

Setting
One of the things I love about this book is it Minneapolis setting. Emma Bull knows Minneapolis and it shows. Places are almost important to this book as music, which is also part of the setting. Eddi and Fey are a rock and roll band, after all. (I hadn’t searched on Spotify while I was reading, but a War for the Oaks playlist exists.) During my first read of this book, I was annoyed by the fashion details that are included, but this time those details might have been one of my favorite things. What characters are wearing really evoked the late 1980s.

Overall
I liked War for the Oaks more on second read, and I enjoyed it quite a bit the first time! Half of me would really like to see it on the screen, either as a movie or TV series. The other half knows that, with all the music and performances involved, it would be so hard to do well. I feel like this book isn’t read much anymore, being 30-odd years-old. I definitely recommend it.

Original Publishing info: Ace, 1987
My Copy: mass market paperback, acquired via Book Mooch
Genre: urban fantasy

Deal Me In, Week 25 ~ “The Jack of Coins”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Jack of Coins” by Christopher Rowe

Card picked: 9
Found at: Tor.com

When the man came closer, we saw that he wasn’t a policeman at all. His uniform was something else altogether, something epauletted and braided and polished here and there to a high shine. He made us think of the illustrations from playing cards. The King of Clubs, some of us thought, or the Jack of Coins.

The story is set in a vaguely dystopian police state. Our narrator is one of a band of teenage punks, not yet actual rebels. And Jack, who doesn’t know his real name, does know of other places where things may not be better but are certainly different. The teens take in Jack and in exchange are given a shift in their perception of the world. We’re left wondering exactly where Jack came from—it certainly wasn’t just from across the forbidden park. And maybe he isn’t even *quite* human. He’s certainly unflappable as well as a little naive.

Rowe does a nice job of some quick and dirty world building for this fairly short story. Coins (as in the Jack of Coins) have been used as a card suit in the past and is still used in tarot. Funny thing, this story involves card throwing and it’s the second time this week that I’ve run into that in my reading. Therefore, you know I have to include a video of my favorite card thrower, Ricky Jay.

Deal Me In, Week 11 ~ “Retro Demonology”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Retro Demonology” by Jana Oliver

Card picked: A – Finally a club!
Found at: Amazon freebie

The Story
This is an introductory short story for Jana Oliver’s Demon Trappers series.

Riley is the seventeen year-old daughter of a prominent demon trapper, out on her first solo capture. The demon is a minor one, a biblio demon. Biblio demons like tearing up books and, uh, spraying green urine all over the place. It’s currently annoying a “retro” couple. Retros in this world are people who have decided to live as though they are still in another era—in this case the 1970s. The demon was attracted by a copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost, but is also menacing a collection of Doors albums. This being Riley’s first solo capture, she’s nervous, but things go rather well. That is until the demon gets loose during the car ride home. Actually, things don’t even work out too poorly then: Riley avoids a car accident, gets out of her traffic ticket, and even manages to easily recapture the demon.

While the story gives a taste of the Demon Trapper world, it doesn’t do a lot plot-wise. As concerned as Riley was about the assignment, the stakes were pretty low. Actually, I wish the details would have meshed together a little better. Seeing a biblio demon doing something really nasty at a bookshop, maybe, instead of spit-balling a page of Milton would have been more harrowing.

Standout Stories from the Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar-Apr 2017

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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January-February 2017

I set up a schedule to actually get an issue read in the two months before the next issue comes out. Genius! *cough*

There were two stories that I particularly enjoyed in this issue:

“The Man Who Put the Bomp” by Richard Chwedyk
According to the introduction to this novella, this is Richard Chwedyk’s fifth “saurs” story. I haven’t read the first four, but here’s what I gather to be the situation thus far: Saurs were genetically engineered to be playthings. Imagine if the plastic dinosaurs you played with as a kid moved around and could be your “Teddy Ruxpin”/”Furby”-like companions. But the saurs turn out to be more than just toys. They are alive. They have intelligence and autonomy. After a era of struggle, they have a kind of freedom, living in small enclaves, watched over by a few caretakers, and besieged by bio-tech corporations that wish to learn their secrets.

This story revolves around one such safe house. The cast of saur characters is confusingly large (really the only neagtive criticism I have about the story). Among them is Axel (an inventor theropod with a traumatic past*), Agnes (a stegosaur who wants to protect the community to a xenophobic degree), Tibor (who believes himself to be the ruler of Tiborea), Bronte (who has recently hatched an egg, even though saurs weren’t supposed to be able to procreate), Preston (author of bestselling thrillers), and the mysterious, mad-scientist sauropod, Geraldine. Geraldine may or may not be behind the appearance of the VOOM!, a bright pink kid-sized car.

“No good ever came from anything pink!”

Ambition is at the heart of this story. Scientists Nicholas Danner, who worked on the saur’s original genetic code, and an up-and-comer Christine Haig are sent to investigate the happens at the saur safe house. Danner must come to terms with what he helped create and Christine must decide whether the saurs are what they say they are. And in the meantime, Axel and Tibor endeavor to go on a tour of Tiborea in the VOOM!

There are shenanigans, hijinks, and a lot of humor.

* Have you seen the videos of things people do to Furbies?

“Daisy” by Eleanor Arnason

“I’m doing a job for Art.”
“He’s a nasty man, Emily. Don’t get mixed up wit him.”
“I’m trying to track down his pet octopus. Someone stole it.”
“His what?”
“His octopus.”

Art Pancakes is a mobster. Emily Olson is a private eye. And Daisy is a missing octopus.

Octopuses are weird critters. They seem to be more intelligent than most animals and they are quite alien, alien in the sense of otherness. This story is very lightly science fiction and probably just fantasy. I’ll be honest, I saw a few of the plot points from far out, but that didn’t make this story any less good.

Review ~ The Long Way Down

Cover via Goodreads

The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer

Nobody knows the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas like Daniel Faust, a sorcerer for hire and ex-gangster who uses black magic and bullets to solve his clients’ problems. When an old man comes seeking vengeance for his murdered granddaughter, what looks like a simple job quickly spirals out of control.

Soon Daniel stands in the crossfire between a murderous porn director; a corrupt cop with a quick trigger finger; and his own former employer, a racket boss who isn’t entirely human. Then there’s Caitlin: brilliant, beautiful, and the lethal right hand of a demon prince.

A man named Faust should know what happens when you rub shoulders with demons. Still Daniel can’t resist being drawn to Caitlin’s flame as they race to unlock the secret of the Etruscan Box, a relic that people all over town are dying — and killing — to get their hands on. As the bodies drop and the double-crosses pile up, Daniel will need every shred of his wits, courage and sheer ruthlessness just to survive.

Daniel Faust knew he was standing with one foot over the brink of hell. He’s about to find out just how far he can fall. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Urban fantasy in Las Vegas. Luck for Hire and its I-swear-I’ll-finish-it-one-day sequel In Need of Luck are set in Vegas and I’m interested in how other authors treat the setting. Daniel Faust also has a tinge of magician to him, using playing cards as his sorcerous focus and knowing some sleight of hand.

What Worked
I liked Schaefer’s Las Vegas. Early in the novel Faust investigates where the young woman’s body was found: in the flood channels under Las Vegas. These tunnels really exist and are haven for a number of otherwise homeless people. The glitzy Vegas is there too, though some of the casino names have been changed.

The story also really moves. Faust is an unlicensed PI and the story start with a pretty standard plea for help from a client. It then dives right into the investigation and keeps a good pace throughout. It was a fast read despite some set backs.

What Didn’t Work
My first worry was that the magic system for this world wasn’t completely worked out. It’s a tricky thing to lay down the rules while avoiding info dumps, but I was never comfortable that sorcery wasn’t being created on the fly as needed.

Regardless, I was with with book until about the 60% mark. Then, unneeded plot difficulties popped up. And a super cliché romance kicked into high gear. And by the ultimate show-down Daniel Faust seemed to forget about his magic cards. Overall, there wasn’t quite enough of Faust using his magic in his way. There is a bit at the end that is reliant on Faust using a palming techniques and it would have been nice to see that skill in used previous to that moment.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle, Demimonde Books, April 25th 2014
Acquired: January 20, 2016, Amazon
Genre: urban fantasy

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Generator Points Earned: 1
Generator Points Total: 2.5

Deal Me In, Week 51 ~ “The Invisibles”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Invisibles” by Charles de Lint

Card picked: Jack of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination  (This is the last story from this anthology.)

Thoughts: Some of the stories in these Copperfield anthologies have felt more like short vignettes: weird set up, character dealing with weird set up, no conclusion. And occasionally, some of those stories haven’t been short at all. (I’m looking at you, Jack Kirby/Janet Berliner.) With “The Invisibles,” Charles De Lint writes one of the most complete stories in either of the Copperfield books.

One evening while hanging out at his favorite coffee shop with his friends, our narrator, a painter, sees an invisible woman. Well, she’s invisible to his friends anyway, and to the barista who never takes her order, and to the people on the street who nearly walk into her. Our narrator*, intrigued by her, follows her home. On the street in front of her apartment building, he’s confronted by a kid with powers to disappear in his own way. Our narrator is led down a rabbit hole and inadvertently becomes the “spokesperson” for the invisibles.

My only complaint about this story is that there were a couple of sentences that were really heavy-handed about the “invisible” people–the homeless, service people, etc.–that we encounter all the time. In a story that was deft in so many other ways, I don’t think de Lint really needed to clobber the reader over the head with a message.

*I really need to start paying attention during first person narratives for use of the narrator’s name.