jeriendhal: (Default)
I know I said I was going to try to rewrite this in order, but I go distracted when this scene popped into my head. Continuing from Questions of Jurisdiction  


* * *

The argument between the barbarian and the knight seemed to finally reach a conclusion, with the barbarian walking off grumpily, his paperwork balled up in his first. The knight in the white enameled armor nodded in satisfaction, walking up towards the mouth of the cave, halting about halfway up the slope leading to the entrance. He doffed his helm and Miriam saw that he appeared to be an older man, perhaps in his early sixties, with neatly trimmed grey beard framing a round, grandfatherly face.


“Oh, Great Dragon of the Green Hills,” he bellowed in an impressive baritone, one hand resting on the butt of his sword. “I, Sir Simon of the Broken Lands, call you forth to engage me in single combat, for the life of the innocent maiden you hold in your clutches.”


“Is he serious?” Miriam asked the dragon, finishing the last of her popcorn.


“Yes, but don’t worry. He means well,” the dragon reassured her. She stood up from her relaxed sitting position, stepping out of the cave, unfurling her wings and letting loose a roar that rattled Miriam’s teeth and set the baby wailing, before shouting, “You dare come before me, insignificant mortal, to challenge my strength?


Sir Simon winced, covering his ears with his palms as she bellowed her challenge, before answering calmly. “Have a care, dear. You’re going to make me deaf in my old age.”


The dragon smiled, coming down the slope to meet him. “I’m sorry, Simon. It’s been a rough few days, and I haven’t had a chance to be properly shouty in ages.”


“Believe me, I understand,” he started to say, before looking past the dragon to Miriam, “Has she got a baby?”


“Yes, it’s all very complicated,” the dragon said. She turned her head back towards the cave, “Come on down, Miriam. It’s all right.”


Mariam made her way carefully down the slope, the wailing baby clutched tight in one arm as she tried to balance with the other. “Hello, Sir Simon,” she said rather breathlessly as she stopped her half-slide down the rocks.


“Just Simon, dear. The Sir is for when I have to be official.” Simon looked at the still wailing baby in her arms. “And who are you? Was the dragon’s roar too loud?” he cooed, wiggling one gauntleted finger in front of the baby’s face, to be grabbed by two tiny hands. In the same tone he continued. “Don’t be scared, she’s a nice dragon. She truly is. We’ll just finish this up and get you something nummy to eat, would you like that?”


He had to be a grandfather, Miriam quickly realized, as the wailing baby hiccuped, looked surprised for a moment, then giggled happily. “Are you and the dragon going to fight?” she asked.


“Well, I was hired to rescue you,” Simon replied, retrieving his finger from the baby’s grip.


“I”m sorry, ‘hired’?”


“Exactly.” He held out his hand to her. “Sir Simon of the Broken Lands, professional monster duelist. I’ve battled wyverns, outsmarted sphinxes, dealt with occasional bridge troll, and fought dragons. Mostly dragons as a matter of fact. I’m the one they send in when some poor maiden is kidnapped and unransmoed, and no younger, unmarried knight wants the job.”


“I see.” Miriam shook his hand automatically, then blinked, thinking about what he’d just said. “So no one else wants to rescue me? Should I be insulted by that or not?”


“I shouldn’t think so,” he said amiably. “Honestly, it’s become quite unfashionable for women to find a husband this way. Though I’ll admit it’s a bit cheaper nowadays as well. Repairing the dings in one’s armor can be quite expensive, never mind the stabling costs for a warhorse.”


“I know,” the dragon said, her tone growing melancholy. “It used to be I’d have a waiting list of princesses wanting to be kidnapped each season. Took me seven years to find this one.”


“I’m not really a princess,” Miriam corrected.


“It says you are here,” Simon said, showing her his paperwork. “I saw the king sign it himself.” He glanced at the glowing runes encircling her neck, eyes narrowing. “Though I’m beginning to believe there’s more to it than that.”


“She’s a wild mage, completely untrained,” the dragon explained. “By the time I found her she was convinced that she was possessed by a demon, and her own family had staked her out hoping I’d just eat her.”


“Ugh, peasants,” Simon declared. Then he frowned deeply. “Wait, if she’s the daughter of peasants, why would the king get himself involved?”


“Because he’s concerned about his people?” Miriam ventured. At the dragon and Simon’s mutually dumbfounded expressions, she added, “No?”


“No,” Simon confirmed. “Well, unlikely at least.”


“It’s a mystery,” the dragon agreed.


Simon looked cheered. “Oh, you know what that means, don’t you?”


“What?” Miriam asked.


“You get to go on a quest,” the dragon and knight both exclaimed.


jeriendhal: (Default)
 

She didn’t actually have a name. Indeed, she would have been insulted if she’d been told she needed one. “The Dragon of the Green Hills” was a lovely title, and it fit her perfectly. Well, if you wanted to get really technical about she was A Dragon of the Green Hills, but her son would earn his own title in time, assuming he didn’t accidentally spear himself on the end of some poor knight’s lance before he grew old enough for his own cave.

Her opinion of her son is ENTIRELY justified. )
jeriendhal: (Default)
 In an attempt to write a more coherent, and more to th point publishable, story, I'm giving the old Dragon Mom snippets a Page One rewrite. Comments are welcome


* * *

It was getting awfully cold, Gilly thought. Here she was, wearing her best party dress and tiara, standing in the middle of the front lawn, at midnight, chained to a post, and the blasted dragon was
late.

She gave the chains desultory tug, then unlatched her right wrist and scratched her nose before resecuring herself. It was midnight under a full moon, and she was a princess. The dragon had to show up, those were the rules.

I’ll give it ten more minutes and then I’m calling it a night, Gilly thought irritably, feeling the chill wind blow against her dress, her silk slippers growing damp and cold in the dew covered grass. She should have brought a shawl just in case, but it had seemed to clash with the whole “Princess Waiting to Be Devoured” thing. It had been hard enough to convince Daddy to mount this ugly pole in the middle of their nice, manicured lawn. She wasn’t exactly looking forward to the Look he’d give her if the dragon didn’t even show up.

A shadow fell across the moon, darkening the sky. Clouds, that tears it. I’m going back inside before it starts raining, she thought. Gilly was just reaching up to undo the latches on the cuffs again when she was nearly blown blown off her feet, a hot wind blasting her back as a dark shape passed over her head.

A dragon's gotta have standards )
jeriendhal: (Default)
Just some quick, slightly spoilery reviews on three novels by Ryk E. Spoor that I’ve been delaying writing while I Dealt With Things.

Spheres of Influence: The second book in Spoor’s Grand Central Arena series finds our heroine Ariane Austin facing with an enemy she is ill equipped to deal with, government bureaucrats. This book expands on the GCA universe quite a bit, showing the reaction back in Earth’s solar system as humanity finds itself in a first contact situation with the Arena’s many races, which range from hostile to nominally friendly, but all with their own agendas. We also get more details on the Hyperion Project, which produced the series’ literally designated antihero Dr. Marc Duquesne. In this novel we’re also introduced to Sun WuKong, another of Hyperion’s attempts to recreate the heroes of literature and other media, plus one Hyperion’s great failures, Maryanne Suzanna. Yes, “Mary Sue”. Designed to fit that stereotype and… er… less than happy about it.

Actually Suzanna is one of few weaknesses of the book. She’s built up as a major threat by Duquesne and other characters, but when we finally meet her she basically says “Hi” and heads off again. Admittedly this can be put off as Middle Book syndrome, but it was a little disappointing.

Ignoring that, SoI is a pretty fun book, keeping with series’ dedication to high adventure, high stakes, and Sensawunda. I’m looking forward to finally reading the next one.

Phoenix Ascendant: The third and likely final book in Spoor’s Balanced Sword trilogy, sees Kyri Vantage, last true Justiciar of the dying god of Justice and Vengeance, returning to her homeland with her friends to finally clean house of the remaining false Justiciars and defeat the forces evil that threaten to destroy the world.

With one caveat, I’ll say that I enjoyed the book and was satisfied with the ending, since it keeps with the trilogy’s philosophy of forgiveness towards truly repentant enemies. Unfortunately that caveat has to do with the final battle against the true power behind all of Kyri’s enemies, the evil shapeshifting god, Virigar.

Yep, same Virigar from Spoor’s early novel Paradigms Lost, whom Jason Wood nearly took out with a bucket of silver nitrate.

I suppose my problem was that I was listening to this as an audiobook rather than reading it. Throughout the trilogy Spoor made it clear the nominally AD&D based world owed a lot to such anime as DragonBall Z and Saint Seiya, so when the final battle with Virigar begins, it lasts at least five chapters that I recall, with many twists and turns and changes in the tide of battle. Unfortunately as it went on, I was less amazed than shouting “Oh, come ON!” as our heroes lost all of their previous Genre Savvy knowledge and assumed at least three or four times that surely he had to be dead this time. Suffice to say a fight against someone with instantaneous healing abilities and a tendency to gloat gets really, really annoying as it goes on, especially since I couldn’t skim pages.

That said, if you’re into those sort of tremendous battles I suppose you might find it fun, and aside from that the rest of the book was really good.

Boundary: Written with Eric Flint, this novel follows a disparate team of people, coming together to investigate evidence of the remains of an advanced alien base hidden on Mars’ moon Phobos, which is connected to a bizarre fossil find in the American Southwest.

Ugh. This one just left me cold. Nominally it’s a hard science fiction novel, and some bits such as the deciphering of the Bemmy language were well done, but none of the characters grabbed me and the endless Tom Clancy-ish infodumps were tedious to get through.
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Summary: Penric, Sorcerer of the Bastard, though only tangentially of the Bastard’s Order, has been in possession of his demon, Desdemona, for eleven years since the events of this series’ first novella, “Penric’s Demon”. Older, wiser, and wanting to be well away from his old post at Martensbridge, his new duty as a courier turns out not to be all that it could, seeing as it lands him in an oubliette as soon as he arrives distant, sunny Cedonia.

Cut for very minor spoilers )
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Summary: Four years after the events of Penric’s Demon, Penric, Temple Sorcerer of the Bastard, has grown from a somewhat directionless youth to a dedicated servant of the White God. With aid of his demon, Desdemona, he’s advanced in his studies and has settled into a comfortable existence serving the Princess-Archdevine of Martensbridge. This grows slightly less comfortable when he’s assigned to aid Senior Locator Oswyl, agent of the Father of Winter, who is on the hunt for a man who is both a suspected murderer, and a shaman, dedicated to the old ways of magic that existed in the world before the Five Gods became ascendant.

Review: It’s a measure of Bujold’s considerable talent at writing characters that a story so dedicated to people listening to each other can still be compelling. Penric appears amiable, but he’s got a mind sharp as a tack. Oswyl starts as a somewhat harried investigator, but he takes pains to point out that he’s searching for a suspected murderer. He’s on the hunt, but not blind to the truth.

Meanwhile, Inglis, the suspect in question, is less a desperate murderer than just plain desperate, appalled at his own actions and searching for solution. He’s a shaman, but as much a scholar as Penric, previously using his abilities to try and rediscover ancient shamanistic methods of healing, in order to record and reproduce them (a lovely nod to scientific investigation, typical of Bujold even in her fantasy series)

When they all finally come together, the solution to the conundrum presented relies not on violence but on listening, something which Penric excels at, and on Inglis regaining his shaman’s balance.

Readers of the previous Penric novella might be disappointed that there isn’t more interaction between Pen and Des this time around, but on the other hand the narrative opens up to multiple viewpoints, allowing readers to get an “outside” view of Penric from Oswyl and Inglis, which I found more satisfying.

As always, Bujold delivers a lovely story with characters you’d like to spend an evening with. Here’s hoping this won’t be the last Pen and Des tale in the Five Gods universe.

Highly Recommended.
jeriendhal: (Dies!)
I have come to praise, Bujold, not to bury her.

Okay, almost every sci-fi fan loves Lois McMaster Bujold, but with a publishing history going back thirty years there's going to be some clunkers even in her bibliography. And I'll admit some of her books just didn't grab me. In publishing order, not order of annoyance, here are the ones that you'd have to pay me to re-read at this point (and I'm no James Nicoll, so it's unlikely to happen).


1. Shards of Honor: Yeah, this is the entry point to the Vorkosiverse. Yes, this introduces Aral and Cordelia. Yes, it's a good character study. But Lois's famous skill at tight plotting has yet to develop. The initial trek of Aral and Cordelia from the burned out remains of her survey camp back to his regaining his command is enjoyable, but then it switches to an episodic series of events as Cordelia becomes a hero, falls from grace, and then flees to Barrayar, Further, Beta Colony is portrayed as a questionably democratic dystopia, with Soviet style psychotherapy, in sharp contrast to it's distant idealized portrayal in later books.

2. The Warriors Apprentice: Again, this is probably a controversial choice, given it's Miles' introduction to the series. But again the plotting is crap, Miles is notably unsympathetic as his Wacky Scheme snowballs into torture/murder and he lies his way into command, and Bothari is killed abruptly and without much lead up.

3. Ethan of Athos: Actually there isn't that much wrong with this book, but it's problematical in the series given the 25-year old time bomb of Ethan introducing the telepath gene to Athos' population, and Barrayar also gaining it for study. Niether of which have really been followed up since, in a series well known for distantly placed Chekhov's Guns. Also the Cetas are notably underdeveloped compared to later in the series. I could read it again if I wanted to without much pain. I just don't want to.

4. Mirror Dance: Or more accurately, the first third of Mirror Dance. It's not that it isn't well written, it's just too painful watch as Mark self-destructs, Miles dies, and there's the squicky bit with Mark and the female clone. I usually skip ahead to Mark starting on his eating disorder and go from there.

5. Komarr: Again, nothing actually bad here, but the painfully rendered relationship between Tien and Ekaterine is too difficult to re-read, especially given it's there mostly to establish that Tien needs to die.

Hmm, if Tien hadn't died, and Ekaterine had just divorced the bastard, A Civil Campaign would have been a very different book.

6. Diplomatic Immunity: After the comic heights of ACC, this is a severe letdown. If it had been done from both Miles and Ekaterine's points of view it might have been better, especially in the rushed denouement, but it wasn't, so we have an ending where Stuff Happens that has to be explained to Miles in a painful infodump.

7. Cryoburn: Ugh. There would have been a fasciniating book here if Aral had died earlier, and Miles, Ekaterine and Cordelia had to deal with the immediate fallout. Instead we get a shock ending after following Miles in a bog standard, not terribly interesting sci-fi plot. Probably the low point of the series so far.

8. The Hallowed Hunt: If this had been a standalone novel from a different author it might have been a minor classic. But as it was it, it was the third book in the Five Gods universe, which abandoned the characters from Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls for a nearly completely different setting, and a pair of leads who honestly don't have much chemistry together.

Comments? Commiserations? Brickbats?
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
With the e-arc release of [livejournal.com profile] seawasp's next Phoenix book, it was time I got off my ass and review the last one. :)

* * *

Summary: Kyri Vantage, sole remaining true Justiciar of the god Myrionar, having driven out the false Justiciars from her home nation, sets out help her friend the exiled prince of Skysand Tobimar and his Intelligent Toad companion Poplock, to find the vanished homeland of the young prince and end his quest and exile.

To their surprise, they find it rather easily based on previously gathered clues. To their greater surprise, it's a veritable paradise surrounded by a jungle of deadly magic-mutated creatures. But despite the warm welcome they receive, there are snakes waiting below the surface. Snakes that have been waiting for a Prince of Skysand to return for a long time.


Review: I liked this story a bit better than the first novel Phoenix Rising. The previous book was very much in Epic Fantasy mode, full of travel to distant and exotic lands, with a large cast of characters. All well and good, but the piling on of details (particularly the stuff about the stranded Earth kids) got a little difficult to swallow after a bit. This time around Kyri and company have to deal with a single nation-state and the mysteries within it, which allows for a more focused plot and a somewhat smaller cast. [1]

All in all it's good fun, continuing an ongoing theme of forgiving one's enemies and the power of Good Feels Good to turn one's soul on the path of Light. Though I'll admit there were a couple of characters willing to dump a thousands of years old plan really quickly once Kyri showed up. [2]

Also there's a Kaiju. Because Ryk.

Recommended.


[1] Which fortunately also leaves out this universe's resident Mysterious Wizard ™, whom I grew to loathe in the previous book.

[2] It was rather odd that no commented (IRCC) on Kyri's rather unusual hair coloring. Then again, given some of the weirdness to be found in Zarathan, it might simply not have be worth mentioning. :)
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Scripted opening to a mini-series I'd produce after becoming a billionaire. Also slightly relevant to your interests, [livejournal.com profile] seawasp. :)

* * *

Scene: Open on a wide shot of a somewhat grim looking re-purposed cinder block elementary school. Visible at the entrance is a sign reading Happy Fields Nursing Care Center.

INTERIOR, HAPPY FIELDS: A group of seniors are gathered in the common room. Several are staring blankly in space, a small group are gathered around a card table playing a desultory game of Scrabble. And in one corner of the room MRS. MCKINNON, a plump, cheerful looking woman appearing to be in her 80's, wearing a sweater with “Forever Young!” hand-embroidered on it, is happily watching cat videos on a large i-Pad.

At the entrance, a middle-aged nursing AIDE [1] and BILL WILEY, a lawyer in his early 30's, are looking over the scene.



AIDE: Just take it easy on her, okay? She can get confused sometimes, but she's really a dear. (leading Bill over): Mrs. McKinnon? You have a visitor.

MRS. MCKINNON (looking up): Oh, hello! Forgive me, I get so distracted. This thing is like my very own Magic Mirror.

BILL (holding out her hand as the aide withdraws): Mrs. McKinnion, I'm Bill Wylie. I'm a lawyer with the Kansas State Attorney's office.

MRS. MCKINNON (shaking it): How do you do? Please, sit down.

(Bill sits, pulling out some papers from his briefcase)

BILL: Ma'am, if it's all right, I'd like to discuss some things with you.

MRS. MCKINNON (smile fades a bit): Oh, I have nothing but time in this place.

BILL: To start with, state census board was going over the records from the last survey, and they found some anomalies, mistakes, with your census form.

MRS. MCKINNON: What sort of mistakes?

BILL: Well for starters, it says you were born in 1890. Why is that?

MRS. MCKINNON (smiles impishly): Because I was born in 1890.

BILL: Mrs. McKinnon, that's impossible. That would mean you were a hundred and twenty-five years old.

MRS. MCKINNON: Well, not exactly. I was about ten years old for oh, forty years or so.

BILL (incredulous): Forty years you say?

MRS. MCKINNON (blandly): I was out of the country. Missed out on the Great War entirely, which was just as well. There was that terrible influenza epidemic at the time, you know.

BILL: Okay, um, all right. Anyway, the real problem is that the State Historical Society dug up a time capsule recently, buried in 1920. Most the objects were merely of historical value as you can imagine, but there was one rather extraordinary item there. A piece of jewelry, quite a valuable one. And the tag attached to it identified it as belonging to you.

MRS. MCKINNON: I don't recall owning any truly valuable jewelry, or at least anything I would donate to the Historical Society.

BILL (pulling out a photo from a folder and showing it to her): So you don't recognize this?

(Close up a color photo a belt made of some sort of golden weave, with what appears to be hundreds of jewels sewn into it.)

MRS. MCKINNON (shocked): What? What is that doing here? My God, please tell me it's somewhere safe!

BILL (growing alarmed): Ma'am, it's all right. It's sitting in a bank vault right here in Topeka.

MRS. MCKINNON (starting to cry): Here. Here! The Nome King's belt here, all this time! Oh, Princess, why didn't you tell me!

BILL: Nome King? What are you talking about?

AIDE (approaching Bill): What did you say to say to her? Mrs. McKinnon, is this guy bothering you?

MRS. MCKINNON: Yes, I mean no. I mean, everything is all right, will be all right now. I'm going to have a happy ending again, at last!

BILL: Mrs. McKinnon... Dorothy, what are you talking about it?

DOROTHY GALE-MCKINNON: Oh, but you don't know the story do you? Not all of it. So few people do nowadays. Let me tell it to you. The true story.



[1] Say hello to your cameo, Ryk...
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Phoenix Rising, Ryk Spoor

Summary: In this sprawling fantasy novel by [livejournal.com profile] seawasp, young noblewoman Kyri Vantage must take on dark forces as she investigates and seeks justice for her murdered family, enlisting the aid of a variety of unusual allies.

Review: This is Ryk Spoor's big arsed, doorstop sized fantasy series, which very deliberately combines Western fantasy with a generous helping from Japanese anime and manga (there's even a group of armored knights that bare more than a passing resemblance to the cast of Saint Seiya crossed with Gatchaman). Mostly it's a lot of fun, with a strong female lead and great action. I do have some problems with a couple of secondary characters, one of whom is a major crossover from his other series Digital Knight, which might confuse people not familiar with the series. And there's an immortal wizardly mentor character whose deliberate cloak of mysteriousness is just damned annoying (though to Ryk's credit, most of the other characters don't like him either. But aside from those nits it's great fun.

Recommended.
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Summary: Penric, a young, very much lower lording, is on his way to be dutifully married when his wedding day is turned upside down. Finding a dying sorceress of the Bastard's Order by the side of the road, he's unexpectedly infested with the demon she carried when she passes. So the wedding is off, Penric has a demon carrying the lives of ten women (plus a lioness and a mare) in his head, and he's got a very uncertain future ahead of him.

Well, at least his no-longer-bride-to-be gave him a nice cheese wheel as a going away present.


Review: I think the best way to describe this story is "Amiable". It's a self-published novella that Lois points out is the longest such thing she's ever written. That said there's less plot in it than say "Borders of Infinity", "The Mountains of Mourning", or "Labyrinth". It's actually a sly commentary about the two halves that make up a marriage (it's no coincidence Pen got his demon on his supposed wedding day), not a great pile of storm and thunder. Much of the bulk of the story is just Penric talking to the demon, which he names "Desdemona" out of discomfort of the idea of just calling it "Demon" as it had been in its previous ten lives. There's a very minor conflict at the end, but it's dealt with handily by Pen and Des, and has the feel of being tacked on just because Lois figured she needed something to actually threaten Penric before the story finished.

Honestly, as a Bujold story it's minor at best. But it's a pleasant read to help pass an hour or two, and there's quite a bit of worldbuilding (as Lois is wont to do) about how the Bastard's Order uses sorcerers and their demons, which would be useful for anyone writing Five Gods 'Verse fanfics.
jeriendhal: (Muppets)
Summary: The magical land of Oz has fallen, destroyed by two evil wizards who escaped their punishments inflicted on them by Princess Ozma, combining forces in an uneasy alliance to conquer all. Only the sky kingdom of King Iris Mirabillis, Lord of Rainbows, remains free. And from there he sends his daughter, Polychrome Glory, to the Mortal World to find the champion they need to free the Land of Oz.

What they get is Erik Medon, an asthmatic, overweight fan of L. Frank Baum's famous series, who just found his dreams have come true. And is willing to fight for those dreams even at the cost of his own life.


Review: Okay, this book is unabashed wish fulfillment by Ryk Spoor. It's a Portal Fantasy with a stereotypical fannish geek who gets to live out an adventure in the Magical Land of Oz (at least the portions that are out of copyright). Nevertheless it's well-written wish fulfillment. Erik is painfully aware of his limitations as a Hero, even though he gets a fair set of Mighty Thews (not to mention 20-20 eyesight) after a year of intense training up in the Rainbow Kingdom. And Oz is not entirely the happy-go-lucky land of adventure from the books. Wisely, Spoor makes the assumption that Baum simplified and softened the retelling of Dorothy and her companion's adventures when he published them. This allows Spoor to attach more complex motivations and characterizations to both the heroes and villains in his tale, and enriches the narrative.

If I have an objection to this story, it's that Ozma had to be very deliberately and specifically Nerfed to allow Erik his moment to shine at the end. But “Ozma wakes up and makes everything instantly better” doesn't work in a modern narrative, so I'll give Spoor a pass on that one, and the active female characters are strong enough to make up for the loss.

The final battle does get marvelously loony though, as Erik uses his knowledge of sci-fi, fantasy and Japanese anime to fight the villians. It reminded me strongly of Jim Hine's Libromancer books, and that's not a bad thing.

Strongly Recommended.
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Summary: It's 1999 and Jason Wood is a private information analyst, working through the Internet and with advanced photography enhancement software to aid private clients and the police. One of his police assignments gets rather weird though, as a corruption case against a politician hinges on a photograph of him taking a bribe from a man who can't show up on film...

Shortly thereafter Jason and his love interest (and minor psychic) Sylvia Stake [1] find themselves, er, neck deep in the supernatural, as they uncover ancient vampiric drug dealers, a werewolf infested resort town, a boogeyman, and the return of magic to the world...

Cut for Length )
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
I'm not sure, but I strongly suspect this is part of my Dragon Mom universe.

* * *

It was the day of Choosing. Banners snapped above the walls of the great palace, as the Emperor sat on his throne, an smile on his face as he watched his son be guided away by the priests to the Choosing Ceremony. Soon, his boy would be chosen by one of the Gods. Perhaps by Bloody War, to slay the Empire's enemies, or Righteous Moon, to hunt the cowardly or criminal, or by Blue Sea, to burn the pirate vessels that haunted the ocean and dared to steal from the Empire's coffers.

Soon. Soon his boy would be a man, to take his proper place as Heir. To wear his grandfather's golden war armor, ready to raise his sword and bring the vermin that snapped at the Empire's heels to their knees.

An hour passed. Then two. Then three. The Emperor sat on his throne, his frown deepening, not daring to move, not showing any sign of weakness by demanding a report of how the Choosing progressed. His own Choosing had taken but a quarter hour, but he had been set and sure on his path. His son, the Gods be praised, was a more subtle and clever soul, and would go far. No doubt the priests were confounded by his many skills, not knowing quite where to place him.

Then, at the end of the fourth hour, the trumpets sounded. Their golden notes echoed over the palace walls, bring a smile to the Emperor's face. His son had been Chosen, and all was right in the world.

The doors opened, and his son entered, flanked by a pair of priests. They all wore dark tabards, bright flames embroidered upon them. Ah, Burning Fire had chosen him, to cleanse the Unclean and Unworthy...

No...

Not Burning Fire, for the flames were surrounded by a brick oven, outlined in golden thread.

Warm Hearth?

"What is this?" the Emperor demanded, rising to his feet even as his son knelt before him. "Warm Hearth is the god of the home, of the women! Its priests fight no battles, shed no blood! What use is a champion of this god to the Empire?"

"What use are champions of war, if there is no Empire to return to once the war is done?" his son asked, rising to his feet again. His face was as set and determined as any of the Emperor's generals. "The Gods love their great souled men, Father, that I know. But their love extends to all men, even those whose souls are not so great. Those whose idea of triumph is providing a full meal to their family, and a warm roof to sleep under. Do they not deserve a champion as well? For without them, the Empire is nothing more than a hollow shell, empty of substance, ready to collapse."

Clever boy. He had always been a clever boy, the Emperor reminded himself.Far more clever than I. He stood up from his bejeweled throne, to clasp his son's shoulders.

"Live long and rule well, my Heir."
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Summary: Isaac Vainio, small town librarian and libromancer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with the ability to pull magic and even objects from the printed page, finds himself in trouble again when magical mechanical bugs attack the tree of his dryad lover Lena Greenwood, which drags him into a crisis involving half-wendigos, laid back Yooper werewolves, Chinese book ghosts, and the Destroyers, dark beings that seem to exist inside magic, ready to take over the minds of unwary magicians who overuse their abilities.

Oh yeah, and his boss, Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press and immortal magician, is still kind of a dick.

Review: This is another fun entry in [livejournal.com profile] jimhines’s Libromancer series, though it does suffer a bit from Middle Book Syndrome, as we move past the world set up from the first book to the introduction of a major crisis in this one, which is left for the most part unresolved. Particularly, a new character is introduced seemingly to resolve the question as to whether you can pull magic from e-readers as well as the printed page (Answer: Yes. Assuming your mind is a bit more flexible than Isaac’s), and she looks like she’s going to form a major portion of the plot, but in the end is shuffled off to the side only to appear in the epilog to set up the next book.

Aside from that, things move along briskly, with the threats to Isaac and Lena being ratcheted up steadily, as Isaac has to deal with both enemies that are hissable, and others that are sympathetic, and his nominal boss whom Isaac is growing a lot more uncomfortable working for.

My only major beef with the story is that I listened to the audiobook edition, and while narrator David DeVries does a competent job with most of the female characters, his take on Lena is, er, subpar. In the story she’s a sexy, Rubenesque dryad warrior pulled from a pulp science fantasy novel of the sort that would make John Norman wince at the bad writing. To portray her, DeVries using a voice that in theory should sound sexy, but generally comes across as a guy with a cold doing a bad Marilyn Monroe imitation. In the story proper I could mostly ignore it, but in the chapter openings narrated by Lena as she tells her life story it gets mighty painful.

Other than those points, this book is Recommended.
jeriendhal: (Sporfle)
And I was impressed that [livejournal.com profile] jimhines took the time to mention that yes, libriomancers can pull items from RPG supplements like they can from novels. And that Gutenberg locks them down as fast as he can.

Which is a real pity because GURPS Ultra Tech would be damned useful to have around.

Now I wonder if you can do the same thing for comic books....
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Recently managed to find a couple of public links to a few of my old Pyramid Online articles that I managed to get published before it transformed into a PDF only publication.

Update: Fixed a bad link and added two more, plus some stubs.

Scrapyard Battles. : The old BBC/TLC program Scrapyard Challenge/Junkyard Wars translated into GURPS Discworld terms.

Supporting Cast: Deacon Paul, Bioroid Rights Activist: An artificial person rights activist for Transhuman Space.

Characters and Campaigns on Colony Worlds for GURPS Space: My very first published article.

Mog the Half-Orc's Fighting Pit: A pit fighting ring in the GURPS Banestorm setting.

The Dustmaster, Road Trains for Transhuman Space: Article stub for Martian road trains.

Weird Prisons as Campaign Settings: Article stub, exactly what it says on the tin.
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Note: I think I may have an overarching plot for both these stories.

Note 2: And the Princess finally has a name.

* * *

“Wait, so Miriam is the True Heir?” Princess Neffry said.

“So it would seem,” the dragon agreed. “Stolen from the previous queen’s beside after the birth of your father-in-law, kept Underhill where time passes more slowly, and released into the care of some not so loving foster parents.”

Neffry rubbed her nose, trying to think. “All right. So she’s the Queen, and the Sorceress. That’s never a good combination.”

“Can’t I be the Hero again, or maybe the Good Witch?” Miriam said, looking miserable.

“It’s all right dear,” the dragon said comfortingly. “No one thinks you’re evil.”

“Not yet.”

“Okay, so who stole Baby Miriam?” Neffry demanded. “It can’t be the King, he’d have to have been one Machiavellian infant.”

The dragon’s son raised a claw cautiously. “Mom?”

“What, dearheart?”

“When the Fairy of the Old Tree had me, she said that some bits of Underhill work, uh, differently.”

“’Working differently’ is what Underhill is all about,” Neffry said.

“I know, but I mean… ugh!” the little dragon turned around, chasing own tail briefly. “I mean, sometimes it doesn’t just go slowly. Some places in it, it goes all the way backwards.”

“Sooo….” The dragon mother looked thoughtful. “Fellow grows up the Spare instead of the Heir, goes to Underhill to move back in time, steals his big sister before she grows up, then moves to a different part of Underhill to wait until he’s the Heir.”

“Wait, wait, that doesn’t work!” Neffry said. “Wouldn’t you end up with two men, one the King and one still a prince?”

“It’s magic, dear. Trying to figure out causality is just going to give you a headache.”
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Trying to catch up...

For [livejournal.com profile] mmegaera: “Happily Ever After.”

* * *

“Son, think this through,” the King begged. “She's a commoner.”

“She's a beautiful commoner,” the Prince countered. “Beautiful enough to have the Witch of the Mills steal her face.”

“Granted, but she's still a commoner. She's going to have to bear an heir.”

“If you're going to make me argue for her hip size, I'm moving out. Look, she's clever, quick of tongue, and I love her. That's enough.”

“Yes, but any child she bears will not be of noble blood.”

You married a tree.”

“She was a dryad. Don't change the subject.”
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
For [livejournal.com profile] mmegaera: “Rabbits”

* * *

He looked at the rabbit roasting on the spit over the fire. “Somehow this doesn't seem like Thanksgiving.”

“Well there are a certain lack of wild turkeys in the Australian outback.”

“Or cranberries.”

“Very true.”

“Mashed potatoes?”

“We've got desert yams.”

“Not quite the same thing.”

“Stuffing?”

There was a distant crumpscreeee. They turned in that direction, to see the moon rising over the mesa.

“I think stuffing is be avoided.”

“Especially if it turns out to be us?”

“Exactly.”

Thanksgiving dinner turned out to be a short affair that year.

July 2017

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