Book Review: Fluffy’s Revolution

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Synopsis

The fate of the world rests on the haunches of one small cat.

It’s 2135. Fluffy is a super-intelligent GAB (Genetically Altered Brain) cat. Like many dogs, cats, mice, and the occasional pig, her brain is the product of genetic tinkering by humans that started more than a century ago. With their powers of telekinesis, the animals can manipulate physical objects without being able to grasp them. They can speak to each other telepathically without audible voices. Now, people have begun to fear them and to systematically capture and exterminate them. Fluffy leaves the safety of her home to look for her lost brother and joins a band of animal revolutionaries. After a series of brushes with death, Fluffy and her friends find a secret university for GAB animals. There, they work with enlightened humans to save Earth from certain destruction.

Review

Read: October 2019

Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

Spoiler warning!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m a sucker for animals – especially cats. I’ve read Erin Hunter’s Warriors for the last ten years; I’ve fostered numerous cats over the last fifteen; my current shirt has a screen-printed image of a cat on it (perfect for Halloween!).

I began reading Ted Myers’s Fluffy’s Revolution fully anticipating a completely corny yet genuinely entertaining story. The reality is disappointing: Fluffy’s Revolution only fulfills half of those expectations.

Myers’s tale is one about a world where some animals, called genetically altered brain animals, have rapidly evolved to have superhuman abilities and humanoid intelligence. Because people are people, an anti-GAB campaign has arisen: animals both normal and mutant are being targeted and killed. That premise definitely has some potential. Unfortunately, Myers neuters it by cramming everything into just one hundred forty pages. With so much to explore and so few pages, the storyline is simultaneously hectic and underdeveloped. Rising action leading to important events is severely diminished, resulting in the impression that stuff just… happens in this book.

There’s scant buildup to the action points and climaxes of the story, and the various conflicts are solved with far too much ease. For example, a jaundiced classmate at Animals U (a university for GABs) traps Fluffy somewhere so she can show off by taking point on a world-saving endeavor, thus endangering the entire planet with her petty jealousy. Fluffy defeats this obstacle in like three pages – and a good deal of that text focuses on everybody else going “Where’s Fluffy?” and Pandora doing her best impression of a shrug emoji. All in all, fewer than five pages are expended on the entire arc involving Pandora. The raids on numerous places are trite and hurried. And the solution to the potentially planet-demolishing meteor hurtling toward Earth?

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Likewise, Myers fails to adequately explore his characters. Almost everyone in this story suffers from second-dimensionality. Fluffy herself is just too perfect – and does way too well on the streets after not leaving her condo for five years (basically all of her life). All the “good guys” seem to be there simply to help Fluffy out, rather than being characters in their own right. Professor Riordan, her owner, is a drunken middle-aged mess of a bloke whose wife passed away around the same time he adopted Fluffy. The guy manages to pull through for his beloved cat and get his ducks sort of in a row, but Myers doesn’t spend a great deal of time discussing Riordan’s grief for his deceased wife or his recovery from alcoholism. Indira, an assistant for the professor who spotted a gargantuan meteor careening towards Earth, seems to function only as a plot device and a love interest for Riordan. As for the first three humans that Fluffy meets in the resistance, two of them have backgrounds that are barely touched upon, and the other has a tale that, while interesting, is sloppily presented in a rushed manner. By the time these three die, the reader doesn’t really know enough about these folks to be truly upset. Even the villain, Epps, lacks a compelling motive for his atrocious behavior – which in turn makes for a feeble redemption arc. And no, I don’t want a Trump descendant to be a villain – not because I love Donald Trump (he’s fucking terrible), but because he’s already the antagonist of today’s world so I want to read about someone else.

The romances are also worth mentioning for how… weird they all are. Even the one between two humans – Riordan and Indira – is kinda odd. While an age gap within legal constraints isn’t always a bad thing – think Tom Branson and Sybil Crawley – it’s worth noting that Riordan is probably two decades older than Indira. Also, their relationship is expressed in the story in eloquent sentences such as “She kisses him, and they start making out.” Fun fact: This occurs in a scene where the two of them are executing a mission to extract from the bad guy’s lair an important astronomer who knows about the apocalyptic meteor. Another human pairing is introduced in one sentence (“Rudy has more than a little compassion for Janet; everyone knows there was chemistry going on between them, although it was never spoken of”) and then is never touched on again. The animal romances are leagues more bizarre. Again, I will hark back to Erin Hunter’s Warriors to emphasize that animal romances in fantasy series can be handled with grace – or at least absence of cringe. Myers does neither of those things. For instance, a cat named Tigger flirts with Fluffy like this: “Wow, you’re a looker! Do you have reproductive organs?” I’m assuming that the bit about gonads is a reference to spaying/neutering, but it still seems like an invasive question to ask anybody within five seconds of meeting them. Finally, in the weirdest, most cringe-inducing example, Fluffy’s friend Sally goes into heat for the first time in the middle of a school dance; several toms surround the poor thing, who doesn’t even know what’s happening; and school authorities step in and explain that the animals at the university have a sort of marriage and practice monogamy. Fluffy’s brother, Jack, professes his eternal love to Sally, who reciprocates; they then sneak off to fuck, thus consummating their partnership. Yyyyyup. That’s how it happened. Like, congratulations on practicing marital fidelity, but seriously, what the FUCK???

Overall, this story is a complete train wreck of craziness. I did manage to get a couple of laughs out of it and to finish it, but those positives don’t outweigh the stultifying writing style; grammatical inconsistencies; the hustled, muddled plot; and overall random weirdness. At least it’s short.

Synopsis and cover image from BarnesandNoble.com.

GIF from http://thatsridicarus.soup.io/tag/patrick.

Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the free digital ARC!

Book Review: The Seventh Sun

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Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading—and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

Rich in imagination and romance, and based on the legends and history of the Aztec and Maya people, The Seventh Sun brings to vivid life a world on the edge of apocalyptic disaster.

Review

Rating: 2.25 stars out of 5
Read: October 2019

It’s so satisfying to see a fantasy novel with a non-European setting. The representation isn’t the only thing to cheer about, though: There is a bevy of fantasy books written about medieval white people, so a novel focusing on people of color often speaks to some creativity on the part of the author. Lani Forbes’s The Seventh Sun centers on the fictitious Chicome people, whose culture is based on those of indigenous Mesoamericans. While I can’t speak to the Forbes’s historical or cultural accuracy, I can say that I appreciate the change of pace.

For the most part, though, this book is lackluster. The characters are mediocre at best and obnoxiously dull at worst. Mayana struggles with her moral objections to ritual sacrifices, which the religious leaders of the Chicome empire have essentially enshrined as dogma. This powerful internal conflict could have propelled a very interesting narrative had it been paired with a well-constructed character. I don’t despise Mayana – I even connect to her on some level – but she is just kinda bland. Prince Ahkin, the fantastically handsome and high-status love interest, is even emptier. For all of Forbes’s insistence that Ahkin is an intelligent man governed by logic, his behavior doesn’t match her claim. Not only is he apparently prone to tantrum-like outbursts and impetuous behavior, but he also overlooks critical information an alarming number of times, all while sporting the naivety of a child. He literally decides to kill himself immediately after hearing from a captured enemy solider that the sacrifice of his life is what will bring the sun back. He doesn’t bother to even consider this for a day or think about who might have ulterior motives; he just asks the high priest for his opinion and promptly marches off to the pit entrance to Xibalba, the underworld, to stab himself in the gut. The guy is repeatedly played like a fiddle – which is fair to say even if you factor out reasonable trust in the perpetrators. It’s no wonder Ahkin can’t swim: he’s got a head full of rocks. The supporting characters are way more interesting than the main characters. I would much rather hear how Yoli or Zorrah became who they are, or how Yemania has struggled with her father’s mistreatment, or Teniza’s story – a far more intriguing love story than the rushed romance in this book.

The plotlines – both romantic and not – are too foreseeable for my liking. While I enjoy the satisfaction of finding that my inferences are correct, it’s no fun if there’s no challenge to it. I smelled Coatl and Metzi’s game miles away. Maybe I just watch too much Dateline, but when a politically powerful, perfectly healthy man drops dead for no apparent reason, chances are there’s perfidy; who better to execute the crime than the palace healer? And Coatl’s potential motives are quickly elucidated when his sister Yemania arrives in the capital to be a bride/sacrifice and Princess Metzi requests to sit next to Coatl. Once Metzi is introduced, her shady, manipulative behavior promptly singles her out as a suspect. The whole scheme is so transparent that the “big reveal” lacks the wonderful coalescent effect in which the reader sees all of the details that they’ve overlooked crystallizing in one epiphanic moment. Instead, the moment of truth comes as absolutely no shock to anybody who’s been paying attention. Even the battles are unexciting. Honestly, I found the four-way catfight more interesting than the actual skirmish with death-worshippers that Ahkin takes part in.

Neither is Ahkin and Mayana’s romance in any way surprising. It seems crazy that Ahkin and Mayana have fallen madly and irrevocably in love in the course of like six seconds. It’s easy enough to figure out that Ahkin and Mayana end up together, which would be fine – except that the progression of their romance is just as trite and stupid as its beginning. A few tests and couple of illicit makeout sessions later and the deal is sealed: Ahkin and gorgeous, sweet Mayana are meant to be. The bummer is that Forbes could have explored one of a few other romances instead, one of which she herself actually mentions in the book. Instead of focusing on Mayana and Prince Hissyfit the Dumbfuck, Forbes could have written a new version of Stockton’s “The Lady, or the Tiger?” by delving into Teniza’s tragic love story. In my opinion, another more interesting romance would have been Ahkin (if he wasn’t such a mega clotpole) and Yemania, who is the plainest and shyest of the princesses but truly a diamond in the rough. Sadly, she opted for the cliche.

The long and short of it is that a lush jungle setting can’t compensate for a dull plot and equally dreary characters. If you’re a fan of The Bachelor, you’ll probably love this book, since that’s essentially what it is. Otherwise, stay away.

Synopsis and image are from BarnesandNoble.com.

Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the free digital ARC!

Book Review: The Blue Road

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Synopsis

In this stunning graphic novel, Lacuna is a girl without a family, a past, or a proper home. She lives alone in a swamp made of ink, but with the help of Polaris, a will-o’-the-wisp, she embarks for the fabled Northern Kingdom, where she might find people like her. The only way to get there, though, is to travel the strange and dangerous Blue Road that stretches to the horizon like a mark upon a page. Along the way, Lacuna must overcome trials such as the twisted briars of the Thicket of Tickets and the intractable guard at the Rainbow Border. At the end of her treacherous journey, she reaches a city where memory and vision can be turned against you, in a world of dazzling beauty, divisive magic, and unlikely deliverance. Finally, Lacuna learns that leaving, arriving, returning — they’re all just different words for the same thing: starting all over again.

Review

Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the free digital ARC!

Read: September 2019

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This book definitely feels like it’s written for a younger demographic. Think elementary and middle school kids. But that doesn’t preclude adults from appreciating it – particularly if they’re like me and follow politics.

Art style can really screw up a graphic novel. Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist is one of my all-time favorite series – not just for the plot, but also for the gorgeous yet realistic (for manga, anyway) line art. On the other hand, while I comprehended the purpose of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, my enjoyment of the graphic novel (adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings) was seriously hampered by the art style. De la Noche Milne’s art does not follow the refined, crystalline style you might see in a museum or the starkly inked fashions typical of manga. Her illustrations have a smudgy, myopic quality that meshes with the fable genre of the book. Fables tend to be vague things: their details are minimal. Their audiences are given just enough information to follow the story, with elaborations forgone in the interest of creating concise stories that can be traded easily and often without muddling the central idea. In choosing a style that does not rely on details, de la Noche Milne bolsters the “fable” theme of the tale without making the background seem barren.

Immigration has been a major subject of debate for as long as I can remember. In particular, the firestorm has grown hotter since 2015, when a witless, bigoted motherfucking Oompa Loompa Donald Trump entered the presidential race. Trump and his immigration adviser Stephen Miller have been wreaking havoc upon immigrant families, whether they’ve been long established here in America or come to our border seeking protection and better lives. So many people write off crossing the border legally as “easy”. “Just come to the border like you’re supposed to,” these folks will argue. But even the slightest bit of research unveils a hellscape for people seeking entry into the U.S. – and a continuing looming threat over the heads of those who do gain legal entry.

Compton has clearly kept all of this in mind as he crafted his various allegories for the struggles facing immigrants. Despite their symbolic nature, Lacuna’s trials aren’t difficult to connect to real-world obstacles. The thicket of tickets through which Lacuna must travel represents the bureaucratic nightmare of obtaining the proper documentation to enter the country. The mirrors allude to the constant worry that surrounds temporary statuses and the plight of Dreamers: the so-called “mirror people” must constantly look over their shoulders in order to partake in the world. Perhaps the most poignant allegory is that of the faceless people, who sometimes would escape the regime of the northern kingdom and then bear children who were not faceless themselves but to whom their parents were faceless. This could apply to a number of scenarios, chief among them the tragic tales of forced family separations by the Trump administration and the suffering of the unaccompanied minor.

Don’t think, however, that simply because these ordeals are encapsulated in allegory means that the story is devoid of some harsh elements: In one scene, the border guard quite literally slices a bird in half because it flew across the border. The slaughtering of the bird is depicted on-page, and its corpse is shown lying broken on the blue road. In refusing to shy away from this draconian act, Compton and de la Noche strengthen the narrative of the brutal tribulations endured by the immigrant.

It’s also worth noting that the main character is a woman of color. Opting to portray the main character as a white person might have been the obvious choice to some because -let’s be honest – this story is aimed at folks with anti-immigrant stances, particularly white people, and children who might lack exposure to other cultures and races. Perhaps it would be easier for these particular audiences to identify with a white person, but that kind of pandering would do the real-world component of the story no justice. One aim of The Blue Road is to evoke the audience’s sympathy for Lacuna, even if she does not look like they do. Her skin is brown, she is a young woman, and she’s an immigrant, but Compton and de la Noche impress upon the audience that none of that renders her any less human or less capable than someone who is white, male, and a “natural-born” citizen.

Overall, The Blue Road is a powerful story about a strong young woman who fights against the odds to make a life for herself and ultimately succeeds. The Blue Road is more than just some graphic novel though: It’s life for numerous people. Immigrants might not literally have to drink ink or keep their eyes glued to mirrors at every waking hour, but they are forced to grapple with even worse realities. We can do something about that, though, Compton argues. This book is perhaps his way of encouraging us to take that first step to speak up for immigrants: to both look beyond our border to understand others, and to look within the border to correct the wrongs that persist here.

Synopsis and cover image are from BarnesandNoble.com.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Kaerling

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Synopsis

When Otta and Erl are banished from their village for angering the gods, they embark on a peculiar quest.

Commanded by a wandering god, Otta is obliged to follow the strange, elusive “unicorn’s trail.” Her twin brother, Erl, has lost his memory and is struggling to discover who he is and where he is.

As they travel further from the shelter of the Homestead, the siblings discover unpleasant traits in their personalities. They must learn to adapt and change before they are driven apart.

Who is the wandering god? Just what is the “unicorn’s trail” and where will it lead? What are the kaerlings? And who are the brown-robed travellers that trespass in Otta’s dreams?

Review

Read: Summer 2019

Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

A few months ago, I received an email from Freya Pickard asking me to review the first book of her Kaerling series. I’m ashamed that I didn’t complete this review much sooner, but ya know how life happens and ya get really busy. Anyway, I’m flattered that Ms. Pickard reached out to me to request a review.

In my reviews, I strive to adhere to the policy of honesty, and the honest truth is that I am unimpressed – and often befuddled – by Silver Fire. The story itself could be interesting, but it’s weighted down by a variety of issues. For one thing, the writing is choppy. Not only are the sentences often stilted-sounding; Pickard also has a tendency to throw in details where they aren’t really pertinent. In fact, those randomly placed details don’t shape the setting enough to prevent the reader from feeling like they’re just… watching a flipbook. There isn’t much buildup to plot events, either. Stuff simply happens very suddenly. My biggest beef, however, is with Erl’s amnesia. I get that amnesia is not always a blanket blackout, but I don’t get why Erl remembers one thing but forgets something else even though the thing he forgets is related to the thing he remembers. The best example: His concept of human decency is intact enough for him to sympathize with an ethnic minority and defend their right to live in their native land, but not enough for him to remember that attempting to rape anyone – especially the girl who insists that she is his twin sister – is a mega no-no. His priorities when he apologizes to her later are completely out of whack too. “This incest thing seems important to you so I’ll stop” doesn’t strike me as the first thing someone who has committed sexual assault against their sibling should say to said sibling; what they should say is more along the lines of “oh my god, I’m sorry I tried to rape you and I understand this not-being-raped thing is important to every human being so I’ll stop”. This whole incest/sexual assault ordeal adds nothing to the plot of the story; instead, it serves as just a giant what-the-fuck dead-end subplot. 

What I can say for Silver Fire is that I wasn’t bored while reading it. Whether that was because of the fast-paced plot, sheer curiosity, or the potential of the story itself, I really couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was all of the above. In any case, I’ll probably try reading the next installment of The Kaerling, just for kicks. 

Image and synopsis are from BarnesandNoble.com.

Flash Review: Two Dark Reigns

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Read: April 2019

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

*Spoiler alert!*

This series gets better with each book.

This installment of Three Dark Crowns really highlights the amazing character arcs Blake writes. Arsinoe is as strong-willed as ever, much to the annoyance of her mainland host (boyfriend Billy’s mother), and once again that obstinate determination propels Arsinoe’s storyline. This time she’s headed back to Fennbirn, with a series of mysterious dreams as her sole lead. Mirabella and Billy love her too much to just let her do that on her own, though, so they’re coming whether she likes it or not. Meanwhile, Katharine is finally regaining some of her own personality, but the dead queens still lurk beneath her skin and stir up trouble. When the mist that enshrouds the island turns on the people of Fennbirn, Pietyr can only deduce that the dead queens are to blame. Fearing for the safeties of both Kat and the island, Pietyr steps well outside of his comfort zone to find a solution. All this occurs against the backdrop of an incipient yet powerful insurgency gaining steam throughout the island – an insurgency centered around Jules Milone, the Legion Queen, who is still trying to come to terms with her dual gifts and the yoke of leadership that’s being foisted upon her.

A number of times throughout this book I found myself beginning to like a character that I was once mostly indifferent to or previously hated. Mirabella started out as just “okay” in Three Dark Crowns because I viewed her as a sap and a source of drama. By this point, however, she has more than proven herself to be a strong young woman and probably one of the nicest and most loyal people in the series. Her friend Bree Westwood has evolved from superficially boy-crazy rich girl to burgeoning politician who definitely knows how to drive a bargain. And while Pietyr started out as an unctuous asshole, he’s shown that he truly loves Kat and wants what’s best for her, and that like his aunt Natalia, he possesses a great deal of political finesse. Multiple times he endangers himself for Kat’s well-being, even though that eventually costs him his life. By the end of Two Dark Reigns, even Madrigal had grown on me. As she tries to make amends with those she has wronged, Madrigal demonstrates that she’s not just a shallow, vain woman, that she actually has a heart. It’s quite fitting that Pietyr turns to Madrigal for aid in exorcising the dead queens from Katharine, because like Pietyr, Madrigal pays for her love with her own blood. In the end, she really steps up to her chance to shine as a mother, even if she’s not a maternal person.

Although the book is slow at times, most events are interesting enough to compensate for any dragging of the pace. Even though much of Two Dark Reigns centers on Jules’s rebellion, the action isn’t so much physical combat as it is traveling, discovery, and emotional development; the biggest enemy in this book – the mist – isn’t something that can simply be chopped, punched, or poisoned away. Like Game of Thrones, the conflicts that arise in the Three Dark Crowns series are often better solved via political or intellectual means as opposed to brute force – something I absolutely love. The twist at the end of the book is completely shocking, and I was not prepared to hear that Mirabella has to die to save Fennbirn from the mist. I’m really hoping that clever Arsinoe finds a way to save both Mirabella and Jules, but how often do we readers actually have wishes like that granted?

I’ll be preordering Five Dark Fates for sure. September can’t come soon enough!

Book Review: The Living God

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The Blurb

Saran and Keiler are elemental mages bound by love and sorcery: one destined to rule a kingdom, the other to destroy it. Five years ago, Saran reached into Keleir Ahriman’s heart and imprisoned the demon within him, tying her soul to his. Together, they’ve conspired against Saran’s father—a fanatical king who worships that world-ending demon inside Keleir, a being known as the Vel d’Ekaru. When Saran risks everything to save a village of innocent people, the king rips her magic away, splintering the wall she built around Keleir’s heart. Powerless and desperate, Saran struggles to see her rebellion finished and stop Keleir from becoming the Vel d’Ekaru – the Living God.

In a world that is equal parts magic and political intrigue, heroine and hero must now battle their way back to each other if they are to overcome their doomed destinies.

Review

Read: April 2019

Rating: 1 star out of 5

*Thank you to NetGalley for the free digital ARC!*

I probably should have known this book would be awful just by the first sentence of the blurb. Instead, I tried to be optimistic. Sometimes, hoping for the best pays off, but this time I was just disappointed. The Living God is just another book to add to my “Did Not Finish” shelf on Goodreads.

Chief amongst this book’s problems are its sucky characters. Saran is a gorgeous Time Mage who is engaged in a supposedly consequential rebellion against her father, the despotic yet sickly King Yarin D’Mor of Adrid. While Saran is strong-willed, just being involved in a rebellion against her dad isn’t enough to convince me she’s a badass. Her lover, Keleir Ahriman, is a Fire Mage who is esteemed by King Yarin. Since birth, Keleir hosted a demon called the Oruke, which is apparently also called the Vel d’Ekaru. Prior to the demon’s containtment – courtesy of the lovely Saran – Keleir committed terrible things with the demon. As a result, he bears the heavy yoke of guilt, and that makes him broody to an obnoxious extent. Between the fire affinity, the tenebrific disposition, and the stupid overprotective shit he does, he’s basically the bastard child of Edward Cullen and a garbage version of Prince Zuko. Rowe Blackwell is Keleir’s less interesting brother who somehow escaped the curse of the Oruke, despite the fact that Keleir was born with the curse. How this happened is unclear to me – either because the author never explains it or because I gave up before she did. And finally there’s Odan Marki. A commander or some shit in the Adridian army, he serves as the sexual predator antagonist who makes completely inappropriate advances on Saran, such as skulking around on her balcony to peep at her through the windows or attempting to extort her into sex. In contrast to Saran’s Fire Mage lover, Marki is an Ice Mage. Because that’s not at all cliché.

The beginning of the book is decent: It opens with an action-packed scene playing out in reverse as Time Mage Saran – who also happens to be the princess of Adrid – uses her powers to save a village of innocent people from slaughter at the hands of her father’s army. But an adequate start does little for a book if it’s the high point. By page forty-five, I thought of sloughing through all three hundred sixty-eight ass-damned pages with the consternation I usually reserve for large homework projects. The excitement of the opening scene fizzles out by Chapter Two, and it doesn’t return. Despite the rebellion’s status as a purportedly high-stakes conspiracy, nothing interesting really happens with it. In the portion I read, the most intriguing thing that happens involving it is Odan Marki discovering a rebellion-related letter in Saran’s room and then using it in an attempt to coerce Saran into fucking him. Yuck. I find it problematic that the attempted sexual assault is one of the more riveting (albeit one of the most horrific) points of the book. That’s just a low bar to set on so many levels. And all the fascinating potential of time/dimensional travel is wasted when Platt spends an entire fucking chapter on Saran and Keleir just… riding carnival rides. Yeah.

Platt’s writing is long-winded, but not in the charming way that J.R.R. Tolkien’s is. While Tolkien actually establishes his characters and universe in his monologues, Platt does not. Instead all I get out of her ramblings are tidbits about what color the curtains are. The details you do get are the details you do not care about or want to know at all. Consider, for instance, this sentence: “The full dining hall had long tables with men and women seated at them, eating the morning meal.” This detail is not presented in a manner that fleshes out the scene of a story; it’s just thrown in and sits awkwardly in the paragraph. If there is anything I want to know about the story, it’s nothing to do with the dining hall. I’d much rather know the name of this demon inhabiting Keleir – something that isn’t mentioned until well past where I called it quits. Then there’s this bit:

The wrestling ended with Saran mounted atop him, riding along a wave of ecstasy, while Keleir withered beneath her. He sought handfuls of flesh, and his mouth traced wet lines across her chest.”

Um, ew. Do I want to break this down? Of course I do. First off, if a lover ever told me that he wanted to grab “handfuls of flesh”, I’d immediately dump him and promptly alert the FBI of a potential serial killer. Also, don’t just say stuff like “his mouth traced wet lines across her chest” and then say pretty much nothing else before the simultaneous orgasms. That information floating on its own is plain gross. And is Keleir’s “withering” a recurring problem? Are you telling me that these people can contain parasitic world-eating horrors and travel between dimensions but can’t treat erectile dysfunction?

Just save yourselves some time and boredom, folks. Don’t read it. Just don’t.

Cover image and blurb are from BarnesandNoble.com.

Book Review: Blackbird, Volume 1

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The Blurb

Nina Rodriguez knows there’s a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals hiding in Los Angeles. And when a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past (and her demons) to get her sister back and reclaim her life. Perfect for fans of SYFY’s The Magicians, CW’s Riverdale, and THE
WICKED + THE DIVINE
, don’t miss the first collection of the smash-hit neo-noir fantasy series from fan-favorite writer SAM HUMPHRIES (Harley
Quinn, Nightwing) and red-hot artist JEN BARTEL (Black Panther, Mighty
Thor)!

Review

Read: April 2019

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

*Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the free digital ARC!*

*Spoiler warning!*

It’s worth noting that this is an ARC in the sense that it’s not yet been released in this bind-up format. (The content of Blackbird, Volume 1 has already been released.) Still, this is my first time reviewing a graphic novel ARC, so it’s nevertheless a cool experience. Blackbird isn’t the best graphic novel I’ve read (I’m trash, the ATLA graphic novels hold a special place in my heart), but it’s certainly enjoyable.

Art style heavily influences my opinions of graphic novels. Earlier this year I read a graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and although I understood the purpose of the story, the art style prevented me from truly appreciating it. Blackbird circumvents that problem with its skillfully rendered art. Its art isn’t just not so terrible or weird that it detracts from the storyline; it’s actually good. If I’d known who the artist was before I read this, my expectations would have been higher and I’d have been moderately less surprised by the quality of the illustrations. Best of all, the illustrations are in color – something that, after reading black-and-white manga for so long, I didn’t realize I missed until I started reading Blackbird.

Blackbird chronicles the adventures of some interesting characters. I’m a sucker for cats, so I of course adore Sharpie and care about him more than any of the human or Paragon characters. Clint is pretty much the stereotypical flirt with a golden heart and a scheming father. I’m curious to see how he’ll decide to play his cards in the next installment. Despite her tendency to be a little petulant, Nina is nonetheless portrayed as a complex character with a pregnant development arc. As she grapples with poverty, addiction to painkillers, and a broken family, Nina sets off on a journey to seize back control of her life as much as to rescue her sister, Marisa, with whom she has a complicated relationship. If I’m being honest, Nina’s character arc intrigues me more than any aspect of the Paragon world – excepting Sharpie, obviously.

The world the authors have constructed is fluorescently dazzling, but on some level it feels shallow. Occasionally it felt like they skimped on important events, causing those events to feel anticlimactic. Even when details are plentiful, the solutions to problems are often too simple given the storyline and what is known about the universe. In particular, Nina’s initiation as a Paragon is way too… comfortable, considering the horrific deaths that most of the other Paragons had to undergo. I mean, yeah, she was already sort of initiated partially after she died in the earthquake, but still, her full initiation is, perhaps fortunately dull.

All in all, Blackbird is an amusing read, even if it sometimes errs on the side of superficial. If you’re into urban fantasy like Shadowhunters, this might be a good graphic novel to try.

Cover image and blurb are from BarnesandNoble.com.