Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Babblings *contains spoilers*

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris 

**Contains Spoilers**

The Nitty Gritty:  Never a dull moment if you happen to be a telepathic barmaid in Bon Temps. Sookie has to deal with the vampire fallout after using her fairy grant a wish to save her friend and boss/partner Sam Merlotte.

You would think life would slow down for Sookie, but Arlene turns up strangled on the dumpster outside of Merlottes and Sookie is suspect #1.

Opening Line: "The New Orleans businessman, whose gray hair put him in his fifties, was accompanied by his much younger and taller bodyguard/chauffeur on the night he met the devil in the French Quarter." 

What's the 411: We finally say good-bye to Sookie Stackhouse. though for me its been more like a beloved family member that has been in and out of hospice and I've just been waiting for the call informing me about the funeral arrangements. Sookie has been dying since Dead in the Family.

Is it just me or was she grasping at straws dragging up Amelie's dad? I mean who the hell even remembered the man!? I envisioned some Eric swiftness and a hostil takeover of Oklahoma and Nevada to kill two birds with one stone. Getting rid of Freya and Felipe. I mean I can't be the only one who that would have made for a blockbuster ending to this series. Instead we get Arlene's murder, as if anyone cared about her in the first place, even when he was just a dizzy barmaid at Merlottes.

I mean I was picturing Eric calling in all his chips, his favors, his children and staging a complete vampire/supe shakeup. Then I open up the book and I get Steve Newline (didn't give a damn about him during Living Dead in Dallas) so I certainly did not want to see him again. If she wanted to really bring the fairies back into play that would have been awesome I mean the little scuff up with Sookie's kidnapping it wasn't a successful resolution if you asked me in the first place. So there could have been some spillover with Eric's takeover as well. And Sookie still could have ended up with Sam at the end.

This plot was just so amateurish! It might have worked eight books ago, but not now. Not after everything we've been through with Sookie.

I mean she picked several characters that no one cared about in the first place and she chose to put them in the last book. The last Sookie novel that will be written, and after this I hope its the last. Harris lost Sookie in the shuffle of True Blood and fame and its a shame.

The Good: I can't believe that its hard for me to find something good to say about this book, but I am struggling for sure. Ok well the relationship between Sookie and Bill has gone into the friend zone comfortable. Yeah I know that's pretty lame but there isn't much I liked about this book and frankly I only read it because I couldn't not read it. I haven't bought the last two books in the series because they had been so bad.

So I guess another good thing could be that it has ended.

The Bad: Shepherd of Judah where should I start. I've got a bone to pick with Harris and her portrayal of black people in her books. I'm sorry but I'm a southern black woman and I find it a tad offensive how she writes black people. You got the singing chef at Merlottes, you got the angry at Sookie, Alcee who happens to be a dirty cop, then you got the Blade wanna-be and then the lesbian barmaid, then you gor the silent menace, but I dig skinny white boys Kenya. Oh and let's not forger the gay whore by nature first fry cook, Lafayette (who happens to be my favorite on True Blood).

Its like instead of asking questions or observing black people she took every negative stereotype she could think of and threw it into her books. Alcee is a cop that;s great, but he's a dirty cop. Well damn but wait a minute he only harasses other black people so we are supposed to forgive him for that, but then he hates Sookie because he know's she has dirty on her and the fact that she almost got his wife shot, but still we have to dislike him because he dislikes Sookie for no good reason.

People have been applauding Harris for her Rockwellesque southern towns that she had been able to create in all of her novels, but I say she does the black community a gave injustice and we make up nearly 50% of the southern population. We deserved better than what she gave us.

Ok *climbs off soapvox* Well first off let's start with the damn plot! Of all the people that Sookie has actually killed or hand a hand in their killing she gets arrested for a murder she didn't commit and the only reason being because Alcee was betwitched. Are you fricking kidding me?! Was that seriously the best she could come up with?! That is your whole plot for the last book of a series that launched paranormal romance back into mainstream and sparked a nerdgasm of a TV show with sexier than should be allowed vampires and enough sex to make the Pope salivate.

Next let's talk about the resolution of Sookie's love life. Well scratch that, her bed hopping. Now don't get me wrong I understand that in this sexual revolution we are going through that I should be celebrating Sookie screwing anything that smiles at her but I just can't get with that party. Sam even alludes to the fact that Sookie is selective in whom she takes to bed....where the hell did he get that from? I stopped being a Sookie shipper after Quinn. I mean seriously how many men was she going to go through? I frankly didn't want to see her end up with anyone. One minute she was upset that Bill had acted high handed by trying to buy things for her and take care of her, but then she gets pissed when he started lavishing money onto his family and buying them things without offering to take care of her. Are you serious? You're a barmaid and the man that you loved wanted to do something nice for you and you turned your nose up at him. Excuse me while I check back into reality.

Shippers wanted to see her end up with Eric and I ask why? When has Eric ever done or said anything that didn't first benefit Eric? Does Eric understand what love truly is? I serious doubt it. Yes he understand the mechanics of love. He;s has centuries to watch humans fall in and out of love, but I think in the end Eric only really loves Eric. Everyone else is just a prop on his stage. Eric wanted her to use the fairy Make A Wish because he didn't like being ordered about like he was a common vampire, not because he wanted to be with Sookie forever. He was going to change her against her will just as he had doen to Pam. That is not love. That is control.

The Bill ship had sailed a long time ago. Bill was just her introduction to the supe world. He was never going to be more than that and I actually liked his exit from her love life. It closed the door forever and he turned out to be a really good friend when she needed one.

I'm so glad Quinn had better things to think about than Sookie's honeypot. I didn't like how she thought Quinn should have chosen her over his family. If you love the man you take his family and you can't expect someone to just cut themselves out of their families lives because you are feeling possessive  Let's not forget that she was sucking on Eric in  a back hallway of a hotel and she expected Quinn to be alright with that. Harris never gave Quinn the proper chance to be the awesome character that he is and I hate that in the end she made him another background. I mean he snooped around her yard for a night before rushing off to do Eric wedding. Further reminding us that Eric is the star or the show.

And Alcide was another throwaway as well. Which was a shame, he was just a central figure in the earlier books that you would have that Harris would have spared him at least a whole chapter, but again he got to get naked in front of Sookie, whoopie, then he gets to sniff around her bedroom before leaving. What the hell was that! Was this not the man that hosted Sookie at his apartment, invited her to a packmaster selection, introduced her to his sister, took her to a werebar and protected her and all he gets is a snoop at her rug!

Now I am not saying that Sookie should have ended up with all of them, but what I am saying is that Harris could have done better by these characters.

Hell I forget all about Arlene and I'm upset that she got more screen time than Quinn and Alicide.

And though the sexual tention between Sam and Sookie has been building since Dead Until Dark their first sex scene was fade to black!!! Again what the holy hell!!! Really after all the sex scenes we've been through you can't even give Sam a proper sex scene? He's been there since day one. through the crazy girlfriends, grandma's murder, deaths, hospital visits, breakups and he gets a bikini and an orgasm with nothing in between?

Harris simply dialed in this book.

Final thoughts: I wish Harris had resisted when the publishers pushed her for more books than she had been planning. It through her off and made her scramble for things to write about, and it shows. I didn't expect this to knock my socks off but I did expect better....gotta give this

Monday, May 13, 2013

Fiction Idea #3

Title: Border Wars

Genre: fantasy

Protagonist: Cuba Grace, a boarder patrol dwarf. She is a small town dwarf working in the ruby mines. She dreams of life in the big city working on the border patrol. Her cousin works as a border dwarf and his tales are all that keep her going. When she finally get reassigned she is overjoyed.

Other Main Character: Darius Jones, treasure hunter looking for the Goose that laid the golden egg. He stumbles in Faerie. After he returns to the human world he blabs about what he saw prompting

Antagonist: Nixon Crane, billionaire industrilist wanting to take over Faerie.  

Setting: Most of the story is going to take place in Bordertowne. The city at the edge of Faerie that butts up against the human world. Bordertowne is all magical all the time. Its the only city in the realm where human contraptions work right along side magic. Not sure what the actual city is going to look like just yet, but its a work in progress

Plot: Cuba Grace has her dream job. It got her out of the mines and into the fresh air. She is a border patrol dwarf. Life is grand and she enjoys working the border. Fae are allowed to travel between the worlds with a passport, but humans are not allowed in at all. Until Cuba meets Darius. A dashing adventurer that stumbles into Faerie looking for the fabled goose that laid the golden egg. He doesn't find the egg, but he returns to the human world with tales of what he found in Faerie. This piques the interest of a certain Nixon Crane who wants to fund Darius going back to Faerie and exploring. He brings in his own private army in an attempt to overthrow the Fairy Godmother. Its a battle for freedom and her very life for Cuba. Will she sacrifice her heart for her godmother?

Point of View: Third person from a variety of people but Cuba is the main character so the majority of the book will be from her point of view.

Story Notes: I just can't remember where I got this idea from. I think I was watching or reading something and the idea popped up into my head. Not sure where this is going to go. Might have to sit down and plot this out. The idea seems a little one dimensional right now.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Throwback Babbles

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan 

The Nitty Gritty: Will is a young ward of Baron Arald, has dreams of being a knight. Just like ever other boy of the realm. Unfortunately for Will he is the smallest thing running around the castle. His chances of becoming a knight couldn't be worse if he were blind and lame.

With his hopes dashed he agrees to undergo the training to become a King's Ranger. He agrees to become a part of a group that the populace swears practices black magic with uncanny ability to step out of trees and slip out of any situation.

Will will learn how to track, hunt, shoot and strategist with the best of them, but his idilic training is cut short when news of Morgarath's schemes reach the ears of the Ranger's Corp. Being nothing more than an apprentice Will has to step into the role of a seasoned Ranger if he is to survive until he get's his silver oakleaf.

Opening Line: "Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, former Baron of Gorlan in the Kingdom of Araluen, looked over over his bleak, rainswept doman and, for perhaps the thousandth time, cursed."

What's the 411: I picked up this book during a stroll through Barnes and Noble. I like to hang out in the kid's section because they seem to have the best fantasy books. Now this isn't strictly a fantasy book, but it is set in a alternate world as such as any fantasy book can be.

I picked up this book because of the cover and truth be told. This isn't the sort of book I would normally read, but I read it anyways and I am glad that I did. I instantly fell in love with Will and the entire gang.

Though this book series has ten books and they all tie in together the first four books thread together better than the other books do. Well the series is more of a grouping of books in a collection.

This is the build up of the great story arch of the first three books. So Morgarath used to be the Baron or Gorlan until he thought he should be King. He lead a revolt and was outsmarted by Halt and the Ranger corp. Running with his tail between his legs he sought refuge in the Mountains of Rain and Night. There he began to plot his revenge. The start of his takeover involved the killing of key members of the King's army and his inner circle. Instead of getting his hands dirty he sends monsters of legend after his victims.

Creatures so fearsome not even the ranger Halt can fell them alone. Will is thrust into a man's world well before his time, but he rises to the occasion. He saves the entire fiefdom and his mentor.

The Good: With all the female dominated fantasy its nice to see a fantasy book written from the point of view of a boy. The later books focus on the female characters, but in the beginning its all about Will and I love that.

I love Halt. I really do. Don't know if I could be his apprentice  but I love him. He is a no-nonsense mentor that you want. He is going to teach you how to do things right and expect that from you each and every time. He appreciates the things in Will that Will thought were stumbling blocks. Though he is cold and distant at first he soon warms up to the young ward and starts to think of him as a son. He doesn't coddle him in the least, but he is still protective of him just the same.

I love that we got to see another side of Horace. We all know a bully when we see one and at first glance Horace is a horrible bully that made life hell for Will. So much so that Will had to have escape routes mapped out all over the castle so he could avoid a beating. Like you I wrote Horace off as a stupid jock bully that would go on to do nothing amazing save father a few dimwitted babies and drink himself into a stupir every night at the pub. Wait for it...Horace actually becomes the victim once he starts Battleschool. He suffers torment at the hands on three older cadets. Horace thinking that it the bullying is all part of Battleschool and some insane hazing ritual keeps his mouth shut and suffers in silence. My estimation of Horace rose at that point. It wasn't until his reconciliation with Will did I finally grow to like Horace. He turned out to be a pretty decent guy. By the end of the series Horace turns out to be one of my favorite characters. He just grows into a strapping young man that I wouldn't mind marrying myself.

I love the idea of the Ranger's Corp. They are more than police and more than spies. They are fiercely loyal to King Duncan and they put the safety of the kingdom above all else. They take the small and the apparently weak and turn them into well honed machines of justice. Several kingdoms are only still standing because of them. They are a sneaky bunch of fellas that do more for the kingdom than anyone realizes.

During the boar hunt Will is put into mortal danger and after he is rescued he cries. I'm not a crier myself so I don;t really understand the emotions that spark such an outpouring, but I know enough about the act to know that men are not supposed to cry. Maybe when they get shot in the face its ok for them to cry a little, but they better suck it up before someone sees, but Flanagan allows Will to cry and he allows Halt to comfort him. He doesn't tell him to suck it up and be a man, he holds him and tells him the tears are ok.

The Bad: I can't find too much wrong with this book. I do wish there were more female characters in the book, but that is purely personal and didn't effect the book in shape or form. I really loved it and I am hoping there is a movie forth coming.

My Final Say: If big things coming in little packages is your idea of a fun ride then the Ruins of Gorlan is your ticket to funky town. Love every single book in this series. And you always remember your first.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Book Babblings

The Janus Affair (A Ministry of Peculiar Affairs) by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris 

The Nitty Gritty: A snappy gent with spectacles and a Colonial Pepperpot are playing the heros again in this second installment of the Ministry of Peculiar Affairs series. This time their adventure starts when a fellow suffragist is snatched off a hypersteam train by a lightening storm.

Someone in London is kidnapping the country's leading suffragist  and Eliza, never a girl to be held back by a simple demotion jumps on the case whether her partner Wellington is willing to come along for the ride of not.

A blast from Eliza's past threatens to derail her investigation however, and if Wellington has anything to say about it he will send the chap packing. London is hardly ready for the full force of Eliza's gunslinging and Wellington's tinkering.

Opening Line: "It was the smell-the smell of metal baking under a summer sun-that alerted Lena to the terrible fact that her getaway had been a failure." 

What's the 411: At first glance I didn't really get into this series. I picked it up Phoenix Rising at the library and returned it without reading it. Now before you tar and feather me understand that I have on an average 30 books checked out at a time, and I read three to four books at the same time. Occasionally to my dismay I return books without reading them.

So I read Phoenix and liked it. I had misgivings about continuing the series though. I'm not a sci-fi reader myself though I am a sci-fi watcher. I mean I'm a Whovian (though I would call Doctor Who fantasy somehow its been tagged a sci-fo show) and aTrekkie after all.

Well a long business trip to Chicago convinced me I didn't have anything better to do than sit and read. I put on my big girl panties and picked up The Janus Affair and I am so glad that I did. Thank you Windy City and Lou Mal Nauties deep dish pizza. The Janus Affair has sealed with the deal with me.

And I have to say that I think I like Wellington a little more than Eliza. Don;t get me wrong Eliza is my sort of woman. Tough, independent and altogether badass for no other reason than she can me. But sometimes she just tries a little too hard to be strong. Sometimes its ok to be rescued, and I;m not just saying that because she is a woman. I would say the same thing about a man, and that is what I really like about Wellington. He has no problem whatsoever letting someone else do the heavy lifting though he is more than capable of taking care of himself and his fellow agent. Wellington is like ever nerd girl's wet dream. He is a geek through and through, but he knows his way around a fight. Its like the jock and the captain of the debate team had a baby and Wellington was the result, and to top it off he's a gentlemen and totally hot.

I am in nerdvana with Wellington Thornhill Books.

The first tale had Braun and Books on the tail of a secret society who dabbled in the dark sexual arts when it tickled their fancy. I always find it comical that men that are on just the right side of ugly are the ones that always want to play those sexual swapping games. I'm not making a judgement on anyone in that lifestyle nor the lifestyle itself. I am just making an observation on fiction. I loved the clandestine nature of the case they worked on in the first book but I loved the lightening kidnapping aspect of the Janus Affair.

We got to peek into Eliza's past this go around, and I for one wasn't shocked that it centered around a man. Not that I think Eliza's is promiscuous or anything, but she is a beautiful woman and you know she has left a few broken hearted men scattered around the globe. I was questioning whether Douglas was in on the caper or not. His behavior was suspect from the word go for me. It was odd little things. Like giving the Ministry Seven a bag of lollies, which meant that he was watching Eliza's house, then giving Chris that Crocodile Dundee knife, making Welly feel bad about Serena getting hurt as if Books wasn't feeling bad already, showing up at Diamond Dotties house to rescue Eliza, as if she needed the help. I couldn't figure out if he was honestly trying to help Eliza because he was confusing her with the young whelp she had been in New Zealand or if he was trying to be a monkey wrench in the works to keep the kidnappings going. After getting to the end of the book I can say that I am glad he is gone. Not gone in the six feet under sense, but just gone as in his story has ended, gone.

Without a doubt I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The Good: The dance between Eliza and Wellington. We could see the budding romance between the Ministry agents. We even rooted for them, but I like that it wasn't a spontaneous occurrence. There was a build up. A seductive dance that held my attention from page one. I blush here, a stolen glance there. It was a real life progression of a love affair in a fictional novel. I like my fantasy to be fantasy but I really want my romance to be more real life and less Twilight porn. If you're a Twilight fan please don't bother trying to defend that garbage to me. Finally getting to that kiss was the best sort of foreplay. I;m on the edge of my seat to see how they get on in America after the kiss heard round the Archives.

I like that the author is exploring different characters. I mean they are characters that are feasible for the United Kingdom at that time, but it would have been easy for them to just overlook the Indian population and just keep it strictly white. I hope they keep up the trend. As a minority myself I always root for the minorities in books. Even if they are the villainess.

The bursts of action are spaced at a pace that makes for a great read. Not that fast paced books aren;t just as good, but I feel like sometimes its hard to catch your breath as you leap from one action scene to another. I mean I know I miss things when I am just going non-stop through the action. I feel like I'm in a sugar induced coma while sitting in a sensory tank and my brain is going to explode. I guess it doesn't help that I read three or four books at a time.

The Maestro is really starting to get under my skin. His end game is still a murky lake and I don't like being in the dark. Don't get me wrong being in the dark with a book series is where I want to be. It means the author is good at teasing and keeping me interested for eleven or twelve books, but it means I'm in the dark for about 4 or 5 years lol. That is a tough place to be for someone who likes all her cards front and center where she can see them.

At this point I am of the opinion that Wellington's father needs to be a character in his own right. His voice is getting more and more forceful and frequent. I don't know how Welly stands it I'm going mad hearing his voice in my own head. Which maybe more telling about my frame of mind that Wellington's.

I often find that a lot of female writers fall under the Badass chick Spell. Every female character in their book is either completely badass or completely frail. There are plenty of male writers that do the same thing, but since I fancy myself a lady I am only going to speak about female authors right now lol. I love that Ballantine's females run the total gambit.

Sophie del Morte is a world class assassin who has taken the lives of men and women in all corners of the world, but she quickly bows and scraps before the almighty Maestro without question. Chanda is a properly bred Indian Brit with the style and grace to make Miranda Priestly stand up and pay attention, but the chick is beyond wickedly smart and a right nutter.

Kate Sheppard is part Barack Obama, JFK and Muhammad Ali all rolled into one, but she acknowledges that even she needs a bodyguard every once and awhile. Mrs. Shillingworth is a beautiful woman who isn't easily swayed by honeyed words for a cute guy, she loves her job and the perks of carrying a machine gun with the situation calls for it aren't too shabby either.

I love that Ballantine's female characters are fully realized and fleshed out, but there is still room for them to grow if the situation calls for it.

The Bad: As a feminist and a minority some of the sexiest and separatists themes in the book irritate me, but not to the point where they make the book less enjoyable. I guess it is a sign of the times. this book is set in the United Kingdom in 1899.

Eliza's teasing is borderline bullying. Now, now I know what you are saying. Its just harmless fun and no one is getting hurt, but as someone who was bullied from elementary school till I was in college bullying starts off innocent enough. However Eliza's remorse at her ribbing of Wellington does give me hope.

My Hopes for the Series: I hope the next book isn't all about Eliza and Welly snogging by the Thames. I don't think Eliza is that sort of girl and I don't want them to make her one. I want the Ministry Seven to be taken in by the couple and Serena to become their daughter.

My Final Say: If lightening and explosions and Italian assassins get your juices going then get ready to slip and slide!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Creative Writing Program or Bust....

So we have come to the part of our journey where I am embarking on the road less traveled. Yes I know a lot of people want to be writers and authors, I couldn't be more happy to see people devoting their live to the written word. As a self proclaimed bibliophile that feels me with endless glee.

However like most things a lot of people say they want to be this and they want to be that, but few actually take the time to prefect their crafts. Not that you can't sit down and just pen the next great novel. now more than ever it seems like we have the fly by night authors that end up with several book deals and movie deals, but I feel like it you want to work on something you should try and be the best at it.

There is nothing that says you have to have a masters degree in creative writing to be an author. It might even be a sill pursuit. I've never been accused of not being silly ever now and then. I' single and I don't have any children. I can afford to still entertain flights of fancy.

With that revelation I am in the process of applying to a MFA program. Well not a MFA in the american sense. I am applying to the postgraduate taught program at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom. I have to say that this has been one of the scariest things I have ever done. You would think that as a writer I would have people reading my work all the time and  like I've previously said I've got tons of fantiction stories out there, but I've never had anyone read my own work for the purposes of critiquing it. After all the MFA selection committee will critique me and based on what they think I will either get into the program or I won't.

That terrified for me.

I'm not usually one to get riled up about anything. I mean I could stand in front of a pack out crowd at Madison Square Garden and not get nervous. I'm just that sort of person that loves public speaking or just talking to random people in the park. The thought of a group of strangers reading something that I;ve poured my heart into is like getting a bucket of ice water dumped on my head. And if you have any black friends that happen to be girls you will understand how we are about our hair getting wet.

It ain't pretty.

I poked around the internet looking for personal statement examples and I was surprised to find that there weren't any. I mean I found one or two but that was it. I mean come on people we are applying for a program based on writing! So I thought I would add to that two example count and post mine. In hopes that my example could help someone else chase away the angry birds of anxiety.

My personal statement for MMU

My literary journey began as a reaction to a hostile environment, and at its best retains the defiant posture of whimsy. I was born in Ft. Story, Virginia but dragged through a progression of increasingly strange, and fantastical countries by my parents, who were both serving their county in the United States Army.

I moved back to the United States in 1996 for my sophomore year of high school, expecting to become a combination scientist, researcher and weight lost guru. Our last post was Copperas Cove, Texas, a rustic sleepy hollow teeming with mom and pop complexes, sleek five star fast food dives whose clattering silverware and condensation-streaked windows conceal gap toothed gun nuts and tumbleweed farms that looked like scorched earth test sites behind the tinted glass of supped up Ford F-150.

After escaping from my personal version of Lord of the Flies, Copperas Cove High School style, I drifted in and out of several colleges, moved to Florida to learn drag queen couture from Mickey Mouse, finally crash landing in North Carolina to focus on rebuilding my shattered self esteem. I moved to North Carolina in 2001 and completed my undergraduate education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, after a quick layover in the United Kingdom to study abroad at MMU.

I held jobs at fast food joints, in pharmacies, pounding the pavement with the United States Census Bureau in Guilford county, reading copious amounts of fantasy and writing throughout. At various moments J.K Rowling, James Patterson, Rick Riodan, John Flannagan, DJ MacHale, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin all fundamentally re-wired the way I thought about literature.

Early on my “real” writing was sporadic, more garish Dexter Morgan inspired blood splatter than writing, but gradually it began to take shape, particularly after stumbling across the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have learned to discipline myself, my writing, pin down ideas, build the story-making machinery, and churn memories and flights of fancy into fiction.

Throughout my 32 years roaming the globe, I have crafted stories and spun yarns as they would say back home. Writing remains my most enduring passion and defines my sense of purpose. I completed my first novel in May, a rough hewn tome fashioned in an attempt to harness that candy coated sense of magic I like dabble in; though the story veered off into murder mystery territory in the latter third. At this juncture, I feel I have reached the fork in the road where I am confident enough to turn left and receive informed feedback. That, above all else, is what I am really looking for.

I have proven to myself that my commitment to the craft demands a higher level of instruction and direction. It is my desire that I have the opportunity to prove the same to you, and thank you so very much for your consideration.

Book Babblings

Dark Triumph by R.L. LaFevers

The Nitty Gritty: Dark Triumph lives up to its name. This second installment takes us down a dark and treacherous path from the sweet love story that Grave Mercy gave us.

Finally we get to hear Sybella's side of the story. She was a mysterious figure in Grave Mercy. A wise choice on LaFevers part because I believe she is a better character than Ismae could ever hope to be.

Anywho, Sybella is undercover in the d'Albret household. The place that almost drove her insane. Between her father's savagery and her brother's unholy love obsession she is dancing on the knife's edge every day of her life.
Sybella is asked to risk everything to save a prized prisoner in her father's dungeon. The journey she embarks after the jail break will redefine her life and her reason for living. If she survives that long.

Opening Line: "I did not arrive at the convent of Saint Mortain some green stippling."

What's the 411: Dark Triumph, the second novel in the His Fair Assassin series, is the book Grave Mercy should have been. In Grave Mercy, as the reader you are dismayed to learn that the assassin convent of nuns isn’t the wielders of espionage, murder, and mayhem as much as purveyors of forbidden romance and courtesan intrigue. I wanted more murder and mayhem to be quite honest. Maybe that is just me though.

Baring that the backdrop of Anne of Brittany’s attempts to keep her duchy independent and out of French hands resonated with this admitted neophyte to historical fiction genre. Frankly I only picked up Grave Mercy because of one the cover and two the aspect of learning about the spawn of Death. It was a intriguing concept.

In Dark Triumph, we find Sybella trapped in the household of Count d.Albret, the brute of a man that threatened the virtue of young Anne in Grave Mercy. In disgrace and anger he lays siege to her home and the surrounding town. After his thirst for blood is sated with the slaughter of the palace attendants of loyal to Duchess Ann he begins to plot against the young monarch. Sybella thwarts him at every turn, going as far as to rescue his prize prisoner, the Beast of Waroch, from his very dungeons. It is in the darkest places that we are finally introduced to a protagonist we can love and begin to root for. All the while d’Albret looms large as this brutal, yet untouchable, villain.

The Good: Sybella is a very different character from predecessor. Not only does Sybella not have any qualms or hesitation about killing, she revels in it. She finds a kindred spirit in the Beast in this aspect. Though Sybella is extremely good at her job, rather than mindless violence, Sybella going up against the French and d’Albret’s men serves two purposes; one, it shows how Sybella, and her entire family, have been tainted by d’Albret’s cruelty, and it strikes us with a question of theology and faith. We are left trying to ascertain the true purpose of Saint Mortain, his marks, his children, and whether the Abbess is truly serving him or her own agenda. For it seems the Abbess is utterly ignorant on the divine purpose and ways of the old god.

Grave Mercy tried to explore these issues as well, but d’Albret as seen through Ismae’s eyes, is at most, the mustache twirling villain tying young damsels to train tracks. Nothing like the terrifying and vile d’Albret we are shown in Dark Triumph, and Ismae’s realizations about Mortain seem almost trite in comparison to what Sybella discovers, and how that finally puts her and her relationship with her surrogate family in perspective.

It’s the perspective on Sybella and her family that really forms my appreciation for Dark Triumph. Julian was always a hard character to connect with. Especially since his motives from the beginning of the book were quite ambiguous. The incest notwithstanding, in the end I’m impressed LaFevers allowed Julian to be the tragic hero who showed the depths of d’Albret’s depravity. I think all of the d'Albret children were extensions of their father. Sybella was just able to see the good in the evil that her adoptive father had tainted her with.

Overall though, Dark Triumph is a book that, as its title suggests, is far darker than its predecessor, but in a way that uses that darkness to create some incredibly compelling characters. It’s not a book without flaws, and probably requires a degree of patience, but it certainly delivers, both in terms of action and character arcs.

I am seriously digging the fact that these girls are really starting to question the Abbess. I never trusted her from day one. She is too secretive and manipulative for my tastes. Yes she is a dealer of death, but she shouldn't be that way with her people and her girls. If you can't trust the ones you go to sleep with then who can you trust. Its not like she has a reason to hide things from them if they are working in the god's will. I feel the Abbess is going to be unveiled as the viper she really is.
Sybella has a strong, clear voice in this novel. She doesn't quiffle over every little thing. On the outside she is a hardened courtier playing with the emotions of men for political gain for her father. Her wit and tongue are sharper than the knives up her sleeves. Girls want to be her and men would die to be with her (pun intended). She is a woman that knows what she is. We may not think of her as a good person, but she is a great characters. Her development from Grave Mercy and then from the beginning of Dark Triumph to the end of the book is a fabulous read. She almost threatened to tear my attention away from Ismae in Grave Mercy.

Sybella's and Beast's relationship is more believable in this tale. The natural progression for rescuer to lover makes sense to me. It isn't a love at first sight or even a love after we fight for no reason but just to fight. Its a real life love that is built on a mutual love of blood and carnage. Both Sybell and Beast are people that excel and revival in killing, its the first thing they notice about each other and I dare say the first thing they fall in love with. Its unconventional and I love it. Love stories are so trite and overdone that I avoid them like turkey bacon, but this is a love story that I can read over and over again.

The Bad: There weren't a lot of things that I could find wrong with this book. I went into it knowing I wasn't a huge fan of Grave Mercy, but I read it because it was Sybella's story. I will say that I sort of feel that if you have characters that are so defined by their past that we need at least a few flashbacks. Granted d'Albret is cruel enough in the present for us to get a feel for how disgusting he was in his younger years, but I feel that we could delve deeper into Sybella's mind if we could see a little more of her before she was taken in by the god of Death.

My Hopes for the Series: I really hope that LaFevers puts the development she put in Sybella into Annith. I think LaFevers has worked out her author jitters and the third book should be her best if this trend keeps up. I hope the Abbess gets her comeuppance

My Final Say: Dark Triumph erases the bad taste of Grave Mercy from your mouth.