Friday, April 29, 2016

Shadow Rites by Faith Hunter

In synopsis form:
Jane's home and person are scanned by witches unknown, leaving behind a curse, of sorts.
Jane is attacked by Gee di Mercy, nearly getting killed, which ties back to the scan and an earlier spell cast by Gee.
Bruiser traces a brooch left behind to a location where a missing master vampire has been held captive for a couple of years.
The witches conclave is beginning soon, and Evan and Molly and the kids (Angie and Evan Jr) are coming to stay with Jane.
Jane is having troubles shifting.

Everything else logically follows from those issues, and there's nothing truly surprising in this installment of the Yellowrock saga. In fact, it's mostly more of the same old, same old.

Jane gathers more friends and allies about herself.

Jane has the obligatory sweat lodge session, complete with hallucinogens.

Jane and Bruiser grow closer.

Jane needs to protect the people around her, and they show her they don't always need to be protected.

Jane plays dominance games with the Master of the City of New Orleans.

Hope this series turns around soon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Burned by Benedict Jacka

The title of this book is just far too appropriate. We begin the story when Alex Verus finds out that a vote has been taken by the council to issue a writ of execution against him and all of his dependents, for reasons unknown. Upon confering with his friends, they determine that there are only two courses of action open to them; to get enough council votes from the members who weren't present when the writ was issued in order to counter it, and to make sure that Anne and Vari and Luna are not longer his dependents, but are either assigned to other mages, or have immunity through a change in their own status.

In the meantime, and entirely different group of mages have decided that Verus is a threat in some unknown manner, and are issuing threats and sending minions to first intimidate Alex and later to assassinate him. The Keepers have also become aware of an effort under way by Verus' old master, Richard Drakh, to acquire a powerful magical artifact, and he is recruited to accompany the team sent to keep Drakh from getting the object.

Burned...Alex's home and business are burned to the ground, Alex is "burned" by the council's death warrant, and a number of twisty betrayals in the latter half of the book, leave him "burned" in the classic sense.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs

This story begins when Mercy and the werewolves and Joel get called out to fight a bridge troll. What's not to like here? I mean bridge...troll...rollicking battle...good times.

After the smoke clears, it becomes apparent that a small group of the Fae are trying to reestablish their hold on the area, after years of peace.

Zee and Tad show up, having escaped from a Fae dungeon with a changeling child in tow, called Aiden. His stay in the Underhill has changed him, giving him a unique relationship with the element of Fire. Mercy offers him the sanctuary of the pack, which triggers a bit of a power struggle with Adam's people, and sets the pack up in opposition to the power hungry Fae.

But Mercy aligns herself with another faction, and they undertake a dangerous mission into the land of Faerie to recover an artifact which is the price of peace.

There's some good tie-ins here with some of the short stories in Shifting Shadows, and Mercy's powers are getting a bit stronger with every novel in the series. Fun to see where Briggs is going with this.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop

This book is, if not THE climax, at least a climactic point in Bishop's series about The Others. The most powerful of the natives, who are seldom seen by humans, or even some of the more public Others, have finally come to the conclusion that the human race must be culled, and removed from the lands they acquired by treaty and subsequently violated its terms. I'm sure that any parallels to the story of native Americans and early settlers in this country are merely coincidental, aren't you? The story seems to serve as one of those "what if?" parables, given the premise that the technology of the Europeans turned out to be less powerful than the magic of the natives, who in this world are not at all human, instead of the all too human Indians they encountered in reality.

The question is not whether the humans must be culled, but how deep the cuts should go. We are stuck with hoping that the humans who have been cooperating with the Others in places like The Courtyard will be granted reprieve from the general slaughter which is to come.

The only issue after the end of this novel is exactly where Bishop will take us next, whether to tales of rebuilding and survival, or into some utopic time of cooperation between the survivors and the Others.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Though this novel was actually published a number of years after The Warrior's Apprentice, where we meet Miles Vorkosigan for the first time, it precedes that book in the Vorkosiverse timeline. It picks up shortly after the end of Shards of Honor. Cordelia and Aral are married and living on Barrayar, expecting their first child. Emperor Ezar is dying, and needs Aral to act as Regent for the five year old boy, Gregor, until he reaches his majority. Aral definitely does not want the job, but Ezar points out to him the serious flaws in all of the other candidates for the position, and Aral is forced to do the task.

His appointment, followed shortly by the death of the Emperor, triggers plotting by those who wanted the power for themselves. One of those consequences is the soltoxin grenade attack on Aral's home, which leaves him and Cordelia briefly poisoned, while the antidote to the poison threatens to destroy the skeletal structure of the child in her womb. They take the drastic measure of placing their child in one of the recently acquired uterine replicators (which Aral fortuitously took charge of at the end of Shards), bombarding the baby with massive amounts of bone-enhancing therapies while he is growing.

When one of Aral's colleagues in the council of counts decides he must have the regency for himself, he takes Princess Kareen, Gregor's mother, hostage, claims that Aral has had the boy murdered, and begins to imprison and execute any of Aral's loyalists he can find. Ezar's old head of Security, Captain Negri, escapes the fighting with the boy emperor and in his last dying effort, delivers him to Aral for safekeeping. Aral's father and Cordelia and Sargent Bothari take the boy and escape into the mountains to hide, leading Vordarian's troops on a wild goose chase while they attempt to capture him.

When the man charged with fetus Miles' care shows up suddenly to tell Cordelia and Aral that Vordarian has seized the replicator and that it is being held hostage in the palace, Cordelia defies Aral and heads into the capitol to rescue her son.

This book is filled with ties to tons of the other events in the rest of the Vorkosigan series, and provides a number of in jokes later on for dedicated readers, as well as filling in some of the gaps in characters' backgrounds. Another one of the books that has grown on me with time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Emmaus Code by David Limbaugh

This turned out to be one of those books that I actually had to purchase a copy of  for my personal library, so that I can refer to it whenever I feel the need. Despite the title, there's no "code" involved, just a serious and thorough study of the Old Testament which reveals the promise and presence of Christ permeating the text far more than I, after years sitting in the pews, had ever realized.

Limbaugh gives us some good information summarizing the contents and purpose of each of the OT books right up front, covers the locations of a surprising number of recapitulations of the history of God's redemption plan for his people from Deuteronomy through Psalms, then continued in the New Testament, put there for both for the purpose of reminding the Israelites of the things he had done for them already and his plan for their future and for the disciples to demonstrate how that history set the scene for Christ's gospel.

One little tidbit that I hadn't understood before was concerning the origins of the Samaritans (remember the tales of the Good Samaritan, and of the woman Jesus met at the well?). When Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC, they removed a large portion of the population, and replaced them with forced settlement by other conquered people. When these settlers intermarried with the remnants of Israel, they eventually became the Samaritans.

There is a nice section on all of the biblical covenants (most Christians could probably only identify the Mosaic and New Covenants), from the Edenic to the Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic, Mosaic, Palestinian and Davidic, culminating in the New Covenant established by Christ. Like the repeated histories, the essence of the covenants is repeated many times throughout scripture, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. He also explains the difference between conditional covenants, where God promises to do certain things in response to Man's behavior, versus the unconditional covenants, where God's actions are not predicated upon Man's actions, but will be fulfilled by God without fail.

Limbaugh also clarifies one little doctrinal issue that I'm sure I've heard preached on before, but simply forgot - the difference between Dispensationalists and non-Dispensationalists. The Dispensationalists believe that the New Covenant promises are still applicable to Israel, while the other side believes that Israel has lost the favor of God.

Many biblical prophecies are a type of progressive revelation, wherein God reveals a bit of his plan at first, gives more information at a later date, and eventually fully reveals what he has in store for Israel and/or Christians.

In Chapter 8, Limbaugh begins to discuss the subject of Titles, Christophanies, Typology, Prophecy and Analogy in the OT. He explains the difference between the pre- and post-Incarnate appearances of Christ, and shows examples of the appearance of the triune godhead in the Old Testament.

All in all, I found this a very enlightening book, and will definitely return to it for reference in the future.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The first two thirds of this book were somewhat entertaining, though perhaps a bit of a ripoff or maybe a veiled sendup of Harry Potter and Hogwarts, written for the disaffected loner teen genius crowd. The hero, Quentin, arrives at an interview with an Ivy League alumni who can recommend him for his alma mater to find the man dead, and is given a mysterious package with his name on it by one of the paramedics. The package leads him to an entirely different interview and series of tests that end with him being admitted to Brakebills, a college for magicians in upstate New York.

His studies there are somewhat amusing and interesting, with a more R-Rated take on life in a school filled with very very bright teens.

Quentin has been obsessed for most of his life with a series of books about a land called Fillory - a slightly twisted version of the chronicles of Narnia - wherein a family of youngsters experiences adventures in a magical land, until they are too old to return.

The book turns much more serious and sadder when Quentin and his companions are finally given what they've dreamed of, entry into the land of Fillory to free the land from evil powers. The story goes through a number of unexpected twists from that point forward, and Quentin is, we hope, a much wiser magician at the end of it all.

There are sequels. I might pick them up on a slow reading day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Somewhere in my meanderings, I found glowing recommendations for the Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence, so I put them on my hold list at the library.

Finally picked up the first book in the series, Prince of Thorns, and unfortunately after about fifty pages, I gave up.

The writing is good, but the protagonist, Jorg Ancrath is such a hateful anti-hero that I quite simply could not bring myself to care about him and his horrid band of thieves.

If you love a hero who rapes, murders and pillages the guilty and innocent alike, in response to the way he was treated in the past, you'll love this one.

If not, give it a pass.