Naamah’s Curse Part IV

The read along continues with Naamah’s Curse, Book 2 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Allie at Tethyan Books is our host. We’re covering Chapters 48-64, so be prepared for spoilers below!

 

1) Moirin makes some new friends on the way to Rasa. What do you think will come of her decision to entrust them with the jade medallion? Do you see this as a betrayal of trust or do you think the Emperor would understand?

I think that any time the Emperor sends a traveler away with one of his jade medallions, he knows it could well end up in the hands of others. Perhaps this is a unique way to bring outsiders into Chi’in, providing them safe conduct. I bet he or his guards stationed around the country get to meet lots of random people this way.

I expect Moirin made the right choice in giving up the medallion to get one step closer to Bao and that these traders will do something worthy with it.

2) On her way to the Lady of Rats, Moirin ends up in a dangerous caravan. What are your thoughts on what happened, both with the assault and the illness?

Well, we all knew that the caravan leader was a shifty guy since everyone was concerned about Moirin traveling with his caravan, including herself. So the attempted assault doesn’t come as a surprise… tho I was a bit surprised that Moirin wasn’t really prepared for it. She did well and didn’t complain about losing all the little niceties she had become accustomed to. Later on, she seeks his counsel briefly but I felt that was quite awkward. Still, she needed as much info as she could get. And yet I feel the caravan leader deserved more punishment. He won’t try that again with Moirin but he will with the next woman who catches his eye and isn’t under someone else’s protection.

Sounds like she had some altitude sickness and that lead into some lung infection, perhaps pneumonia.

3) Is seems that caste/class is going to be a major point in this story. Even if Amrita agrees that the caste system may not be just, do you think there’s anything that she and Moirin can do about it? Do you see any path to happiness for Jagrati and/or do you think she deserves to be defeated?

I think Moirin is the spark to start the change of how the caste system is handled (and I suspect abused by some). I doubt the caste system will be done away with in Moirin’s lifetime. The caste system as presented here is too rigid and doesn’t allow for any mobility and keeps a chunk of the population locked into servitude of the lowest kind. It definitely needs reforming and in an ideal world, I would want it gone entirely. Moirin is right when she says that barring the lowest caste from their gods is cruel. I hope Amrita can come to see this and start to make some changes, setting the example herself.

Well, Jagrati was poorly treated, as so many are who are born into a low caste. That should be acknowledged but that doesn’t mean Jagrati gets away with all the naughty things she’s done. Her anger and frustration are a product of the caste system; what actions she took because of those emotions are her responsibility.

4) There is a lot of passion in Kushiel’s Legacy, but the sex scene in this section doesn’t involve much. Given all of the focus on “love as thou wilt”, what do you think about Amrita’s gift and it’s acceptance by Naamah? What do you think about the idea of sex without desire, but for compassionate purposes?

It’s interesting that we have a pity fuck thrown in here, isn’t it? It’s very nicely done, with both participants caring for each other even if Amrita has no passion for it. Compassion is a form of love and Amrita is compassion personified. That’s why she can be so accepting of Naamah’s presence even as she feels no true desire for Moirin. Carey does a great job of showing one more side to Naamah with this coupling.

5) Bao returns! I think we were all a little irritated with him for his Tatar adventures. Do his actions here change your opinion of him? Do you think he has escaped Jagrati’s diamond for good?

I think Moirin should have yelled at him in frustration and called him ‘Stupid Boy!’ during the first meeting. Even with Jagrati there, that stood a good chance of getting through to him. As it was, it was pretty amusing how he suddenly realizes it really is her and then passes out from illness.

Obviously, he went off seeking her and his heart was broken when he thought she died. So, yeah, I like the guy once again even if he’s still a bit thick skulled. He’s finally figured out what he wants and he wants Moirin.

No, I don’t think he’s fully free of Jagrati’s influence but the only way to test that is to put Bao in front of Jagrati and her diamond once again. For now, he has to shake off the opium, which will be a big enough challenge.

Other Tidbits:

Amrita’s son Javindra (spelling?) seems like a bright lad that will be able to lead his people one day.

Chess! Yay!

A temple full of rats. Hmm… so who cleans the temple if the lowest caste isn’t allowed in?

 

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah’s Curse Part III

The read along continues with Naamah’s Curse, Book 2 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, I am your host. We’re covering Chapters 33-47, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) What stood out to you for Moirin’s baptising ceremony? Have you ever been through such a religious ceremony and did it go as you expected?

At first, I thought this ceremony would go well and then Rostov or the Duke would decide to keep her captive anyway, like a trophy or something. In fact, I worried that Moirin would be married off directly afterwards just to keep her new chaste self safe from herself. I had totally forgotten how things went down. I agree with Moirin on not swearing that final vow and I don’t really know if there was anything she could have done at that moment to have changed Rostov’s mind about stoning her. Addressing the Duke concerning her royal lineage didn’t help. However, her anger also didn’t help. Still, I would have wept to have seen her beg.

I’ve never been through such a religious ceremony but I’m glad that I have the freedom to explore such things as I like.

2) Now Moirin and Alexsie (spelling?) are free. Alexsie has much to learn not just about Moirin but also about the larger world. What moment do you think challenged his ingrained believes the most? What do you think he will do ultimately with his life?

Alexsie and his idea that charms and enchantments lurk around every corner and are in everything that Moirin does! It gave me a laugh.

I believe that moment when Naamah bestows her blessing upon Alexsie and he knows it really challenged his ingrained beliefs, but in a good way. He now knows that the world, both mortal and godly, is so much bigger.

I’m not sure what Alexsie will go on to do with his life. I feel he’s a scholarly sort, so perhaps he will found a school of learning and religious tolerance. Hopefully, he will get some real traveling in before then so he can experience many new things before settling down.

3) There comes a moment when Moirin realizes that she did come to love Alexsie, in a way, and that’s the same moment she knows she will not see him again. Naamah’s curse indeed! Have you had such a moment yourself? Do you think this curse also applies now to Moirin’s love of the departed Jehane?

That was a little bitter sweet, wasn’t it? She’s done her best to be honest with Alexsie and hopefully he came to understand that there are many types of love in their short time together. No, I haven’t had such a moment yet though I expect if Naamah’s Curse ever does fall upon me, I will automatically think of Moirin.

As to the second question, perhaps. Moirin knows she loves Jehane but perhaps in that moment when she learned of her childbirth death, she realized the full weight of the love she bore for Jehane and also how she will no longer be able to revel in it with Jehane.

4) Falcons and spiders and rats, oh my! What stood out the most for you in Moirin meeting up again with Erdina, Bao’s wife? And what do you expect Moirin will find as she heads towards the Falconer with his Spider Queen?

It was such a gamble to approach Erdina in the first place, but then to hang around waiting to meet with her at an assigned time and place was really pushing her luck! Moirin is lucky that Erdina has more honor than her father. It was also extra lucky that Erdina gave Moirin back her personal belongings, though I half expected Moirin to turn around and give Erdina a small token, perhaps a bit of cloth scented with a few drops of Jehane’s perfume.

Falcons are cool, even spiders as long as they aren’t biting me. Same for rats, though the fleas they can carry could be a problem. Moirin is a forest-raised lass, so I expect she won’t have any trouble dealing with the beasties themselves, but this Spider Queen and her assassins could be a problem.

Other Tidbits:

While I like that Alexsie is still holding to such things like not stealing the horse from the church, he also takes a moment to weigh Moirin’s responses, like how they stole her first so she can right well borrow this horse now.

Moirin’s deep satisfaction at having the silver chains and manacles melted down was shared by me. Good riddance to them! While I think they were expecting a bit much to not be tracked by those chains, they definitely needed the money. Perhaps they should have fled first, and bedded later?

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah’s Curse Part II

The read along continues with Naamah’s Curse, Book 2 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Lynn is our host. We’re covering Chapters 16-32, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. Moirin takes part in the archery contest – what were your feelings of her and Bao’s plans up to this point and what did you think of the eventual outcome?

Well, I think they were a bit naive to think that winning a boon from Aram (who I keep confusing with Bao’s dad Asslan) would solve all their immediate problems. I know these two have been through the emotional ringer in the last book, but they should have stepped it up a bit here. Of course one or both of them were in danger since insulting and humiliating the Leader Aram wasn’t the route to go.

Still, it was awesome to see Moirin win and that some of the men were gracious about it.

2. I’m very puzzled about the direction the story has taken with this whole abduction theme – what do you make of this part of the story and in particular Pyotr Rostov?

I had completely forgotten about this part of the story, though it’s been some years since I last read this book. I think the abduction makes sense in that Rostov is trying to show his spiritual superiority by converting a heathen, but not just any heathen. No, he wanted a true challenge. What could be more challenging than a bear witch D’angeline?

Honestly, this isn’t my favorite part of the story only because I spend so much of it wanting to throttle Rostov. I really feel Moirin’s frustration with the situation and I really don’t care for religious superiority in people in real life.

3. I can’t help making comparisons as I read between Moirin and Phedre and the storyline here – are there any particular things that have drawn your eye or given you pause for thought?

I was thinking of Phedre too. For Phedre, she was able to accept and respect the gods of whatever land she was in. For Moirin, it’s a little different. She can respect any gods, but she can’t accept Rostov’s god without turning away from her Bear, as we saw in that vision Moirin had. Besides, I think that even had Moirin accepted him, Rostov would still have kept her captive and her final outcome could well have been being married off to a well-respected church man.

I do like that Alexi shared his mother’s hidden book that covered the adventures of Berlik in the area through the priest’s eyes. This allowed Moirin to move past much of her anger and find something good and bright in Rostov’s faith.

4. Any predictions about the next stage of the story?

Well, Bao got his wish to make his own choice about their relationship. With Moirin’s inner spirit quieted, I expect Bao has made his decision and I expect that decision will have him hunting her down. I hope he has really good tracking skills and isn’t fooled by whatever false story Aram gave him.

Other Tidbits:

I would not want to be scoured with lye soap. Ever.

I think Moirin was going about it wrong in her initial moves to seduce Alexi but I like that his mom gives her the clue she needs to get Alexi on her side: Tell him the truth.

All this talk about sins was both infuriating but also fascinating. Moirin has never been told that so many aspects of her life are shameful and I love seeing her question the logic of Rostov’s religion.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah’s Curse Part I

The read along continues with Naamah’s Curse, Book 2 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Allie is our host. We’re covering Chapters 1-15, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) A lot of this section involves recapping the adventures of Naamah’s Kiss. What do you think about the way this was incorporated into the story?

I really enjoy how J. Carey does this. In many ways, it makes each of her books in the Terre D’Ange Cycle stand alone to a great extent. For me with this particular book, it was useful as we group read Naamah’s Kiss when I was pretty sick and before my big surgery (which involved an intentional mini-coma) so I find that my memory is fuzzy on some things.

2) Moirin heads off alone toward the Tatar steppe in winter. Do you think this was the best course of action, or should she have traveled with some sort of escort or guide?

While she has a lot of outdoor skills, I think she over-estimated her survival skills a bit. Yet we all know how important it was to her (and later to Bao) that she do this without an escort. So I think she could have taken a little time to learn some essentials skills from the locals before heading out: where to find water, what rodents are edible, how to weave a grass mat for hauling stuff or making baskets, etc.

3) What stuck out to you the most about the Tatar tribe Moirin stays with and their way of life?

The short hairy cattle. I wonder if they are little yaks. Plus, burning dung may keep you warm, but I bet it scents everything…. clothing, the yurts, food….

Oh, and the grandmother. She said she was once an imperial princess, right? So I want her backstory and I wonder if Moirin got it out of her during those long, cold winter days.

3) Bao & Moirin reunite in kind of a difficult situation–he’s been married. Do you think they’re searching for a solution in the right way? What do you think of how Bao has handled things so far?

I’m pretty sure Bao has been sleeping with his wife regularly and so she may well be pregnant. So, no, I don’t think Bao and Moirin are considering everyone that will be affected by their current plans. Plus they haven’t really talked about what they want on a larger scale. I mean, if they plan to live in Chi’in versus Alba or Terre D’Ange (or anywhere in between) and how they each feel about that. If they plan to set up house relatively near the Tartars, then perhaps they need to be extra wary of making enemies.

Bao has known for months that Moirin was on her way and yet he hasn’t really prepared himself nor his wife for this. So, yeah, he’s made a mess of it. On the other hand, we haven’t heard yet his full thoughts on his father and what changed his mind about him. Is it just the Tartar royalty aspect or is it being accepted as a hero by his biological father or is there something more there?

4) Bao & Moirin might have been in love before, but now they’re forced together by divine magic. How do you think you would react to finding yourself trapped as they are? Would you initially react more like Moirin or Bao?

If I was initially in love with the person, I don’t think the divine magic part would bother me very much unless the love of my life started acting dickish…. glances sidewise at Bao.

I understand the importance of having choices, especially in regards to big things. I found out at age 23 and 5 months into my marriage that I wouldn’t be able to have kids and I was more upset about the choice not being mine than I was about the actual fact. So, I get Bao’s emotions even as I feel he hasn’t reacted the most maturely about it.

Other Tidbits:

So far, we’ve had no falconry and I was expecting some at these big games.

I think it was nice of Moirin to apologize to Edina but I also don’t feel it was necessarily her responsibility. Moirin had no clue that Bao was married. Still, I think it made it easier for Edina to see Moirin as a real person and perhaps, in the long run, to forgive Bao.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah’s Curse Read Along – The Schedule

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Naamah’s Curse is Book 2 of the third trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. You don’t have to have read the first two trilogies to enjoy this third one, as it occurs a few generations after the second trilogy.

Here is the current schedule:

Week 1: Chapters 1-15, post Monday June 5 Hosted by Allie
Week 2:  Chapters 16-32, post Monday June 12 Hosted by Lynn
Week 3: Chapters 33-47, post Monday June 19 Hosted by Susan
Week 4: Chapters 48-64, post Monday June 26 Hosted by Allie
Week 5: Chapters 65-END, Post Monday July 3 Hosted by Lynn

And here is the current list of participators:

Alli at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Book Blurb for Naamah’s Curse:

Alone and far from the land of her birth, young Moirin sets out across wild Tatar territory to find her beloved Bao, the proud Ch’in stick fighter who holds the missing half of her diadhanam, the divine soul-spark of her mother’s people. But the lovers’ reunion is short lived. Moirin is abducted, cast in chains that bind her magic, and betrayed into the hands of a fanatic Yeshuite priest. Fiercely zealous, he is determined to save Moirin’s soul and convert her to his faith…or see her stoned to death for her many sins. With her soul declared a battleground of the gods, Moirin will struggle to hold on to her humanity and survive – all the while wondering if the gift of love bestowed on her by the goddess Naamah is a blessing or a curse.

Wrestling with issues of faith and divine will, Naamah’s Curse explores what happens when mortal men seek to mold the gods in their own images.

As always, folks are welcome to jump in and join us. You don’t have to be a host or a blogger. You can always choose the easy route and tackle the weekly discussion in the comments of the hosting blog. We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: A. J. Spencer, Author of The Thol-ra

Join me in welcoming AJ Spencer back to the blog! He’s the author of The Thol-ra, a short tale of epic fantasyas well as the beloved SnowRaven ChroniclesCheck out his previous interview on Dab of Darkness. GIVEAWAY!!! Scroll to the bottom for the chance to win an audiobook copy of The Thol-ra.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

Grand Admiral Thrawn (from Timothy Zahn’s Trilogy of Star Wars Books from the early 1990’s). He was one cool cat who was playing for the wrong team…..I wish he was on our side!

Is there a genre or literary niche that you feel hasn’t gotten it’s deserved amount of attention? 

Sword & Sorcery – huge back in the day…..but has now faded away…..

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold? 

A book that has the meaning of life would be nice. The lost books from the library of Alexandria……I wonder what they were. One historian said civilization was set back 1000 years when all that ancient knowledge went up in smoke….I think he was right.

If you could pick a fictional character to officiate at your wedding or renewal vows, who would it be?

I always thought being married on a ship, by a sea captain was very romantic (and if you want to have a honeymoon on a cruise ship, two birds with one stone). How about Captain Picard onboard the Starship Enterprise…..The holodeck could create one hell of a theme wedding!

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

I’d have to say superhero (Is Batman available?) I think the supernatural creature and/or space alien would probably be causing the peril in question…….

What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?

I read somewhere that a ship was washed ashore during a big storm in the 1800’s, pushed right up on the beach and was just left there. People see the surreal image of an empty ship on a beach and say “Boy that was a bad storm…..or, isn’t that odd, kind of spooky”……Bram Stoker thought – vampire on board! This event became an inspiration for Dracula. That’s how inspiration works with a writer – could just be one little seed, one spark that can start a whole franchise. To answer your question – There are many, many mysteries I want to explore in my stories….but they are the BIG Mysteries of the universe (That run throughout all of Science Fiction, folklore and Mythology).

What decade from the last century would you pick to have been a teenager in?

Actually, I was a teenager in the 1990’s.…..I wouldn’t mind reliving that time knowing then what I know now (but doesn’t EVERYONE?)

What future invention would you like to see not only created during your life time, but readily available to the public? 

DEFINITELY the food replicator from Star Trek…..just ask for something, ANYTHING and it just appears on your plate, I like that. I like that A LOT!

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I’ve had good days and bad days….and many days somewhere in between on every job. This question reminds me of  an interview with Rod Serling – he said the hardest part of writing was being your own boss…..the discipline of writing a certain quota each day. I also heard a story about a writer who kept missing his deadlines, just had too many distractions in everyday life. So his agent (or publisher) set up an empty cubicle in his office building and had the writer come in 9-5 Monday through Friday and just write the rest of the book they had given the writer an advance for. The writer didn’t rebel – but thanked him for doing this! Saying he never would have finished without that structure!

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

One of my favorite authors – Robert E. Howard (The creator of Conan The Barbarian); JRR Tolkien – if anyone knows about magical quests, its Tolkien!; George RR Martin (THE expert on Fantasy intrigue, and machinations); and JK Rowling, to school our team on conjuring a little magic of our own!

Finally, what can we expect from you next? I adore SnowRaven! Any chance for more stories about her? 

Thank You – you are the SnowRaven’s biggest fan 😊I don’t have writer’s block, but more of a writer’s OVERLOAD. I have LOTS of ideas, but am having a hard time pinning the story down. Getting the look and feel just right, and fleshing out the characters into 3 dimensional people. I am currently working on a big Science Fiction Anthology style book – having a REALLY hard time with it……but it could be one of the BEST things I’ll ever write (If I can pull it together that is…..) Some stories veer more toward fantasy, some are futuristic….some could be another SnowRaven story (The Thol-Ra was going to be a SnowRaven story but went in a different direction. The same may happen with the new anthology). However, I do want to put the same poetic flare into this story as the SnowRaven stories (the same style) and the main character of my big Sci Fi opus is very SnowRaven like…..very much a cyber punk SnowRaven!

Places to Follow AJ Spencer

Facebook

Amazon

Audiible

Book Blurb for The Thol-ra:

A city under siege…. An ancient book of forbidden magic…. A power that will save or destroy all!

The ancient desert city of Al-zora is under siege by a swarm of man eating insects – unleashed by a deposed queen’s vengeful curse.

But on the eve of total destruction hope for salvation comes…. In the form of Princess E’feena – the renegade princess who enlists the help of the noble swordsman Alcar, her sworn protector, and Jzemlek the alchemist and thief. To claim an ancient book of forbidden magic.

A book hidden deep in the very heart of the city – a vile swamp haunted by man eating plants every bit as ravenous and deadly as the attacking swarm.

But to save her beloved city from total annihilation E’feena will risk anything – ignoring the warnings of the sages, defying her father, the king -whose word is law! Defying all who fear the uncontrollable magic will bring a far greater calamity!

For E’feena means to unleash the most powerful force locked within the mysterious tome….a force with the power to not only destroy the insatiable swarm….but also create a true nightmare….a fate far worse then the horde encircling the city walls -For princess E’feena means to unleash the dreaded Thol-ra itself!

Audible ~ Amazon

Book Blurb for The SnowRaven Chronicles: The Shafra-Copian

The lady Snowraven becomes entangled in a tempestuous industrial revolution that promises to liberate the bleak mountaintop kingdom of Arkel-nia from the dominance of the Vosharian – a race of cunning and cruel bio-luminescent insects who have drained the kingdom’s wealth for centuries. Nightmarish creatures whose taste for human flesh has decimated countless generations of Arkel-nian maidens – human sacrifices given in exchange for the glowing orbs that only the Vosharian can create. A vicious, unending cycle for the orbs, prized above all for the light and warmth they give. The only source of energy in the whole of the desolate snow covered mountains- until now…

Audible ~ Amazon

GIVEAWAY!!!

AJ Spencer is offering up 6 copies of his short epic fantasy, The Thol-ra. Yep, 6 winners! Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: Do you have an Audible.com account? What authors would you take on a fantasy quest? Optional: Follow AJ Spencer any way you want and tell me in the comments how you follow him and under what name. Giveaway ends June 22nd, 2017, midnight. Giveaway is limited to those that have an Audible.com account.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Publisher:  Tantor Audio (2009)

Length:  26 hours 57 minutes

Series: Book 1 Naamah Trilogy

Author’s Page

Note: This is the first book in the third trilogy set in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. However, this last trilogy is set a few generations later and stands on it’s own so don’t be afraid to start here if this book intrigues you.

The Bear Witches of Alba are all but extinct but for those few that remain, they do possess small magics and the Great Bear does look out for her own. Moirin grows up in a cave in the depths of a forest and from these humble beginnings she will be tasked by her divine Bear to fulfill a destiny that lies over seas. First she travels to Terre D’Ange to find her D’Angeline relatives, including her father. A D’Angeline lord and healer is intrigued by her small gifts and she’s soon wrapped up in a semi-secret demon summoning circle. She also meets a Chi’in Master and his student/body guard Bao. Perhaps her destiny lies even further than she could imagine.

I read this for the second time as part of a group read and there were weekly discussions which hold plenty of detail on what I think of the book. Once again, I was wrapped up in Carey’s world building. I fell in love with the D’Angelines when I read Kushiel’s Dart so many years ago. I recall my first time reading this book and how it didn’t wow me as much as the first 6 books. However, knowing this round that this is Moirin’s tale, I gave it a better chance. Indeed, I did like this book quite a bit more the second time through. I think with the first read through, I was constantly looking for reflections of the characters I had come to know and love from the first 2 trilogies. Now with the second reading I was focused on Moirin.

I loved Moirin’s small magics. She’s inherited a few from her D’Angeline side as well as her Alban side. Each individual one is rather small, but as we see Moirin grow from a child to a young lady to a woman, she learns to use her powers to great effect. Carey does a most excellent job of showing the reader this growth as the story unfolds.

Moirin is of the Maghuin Dhonn, the Bear Witch people, which we learned a little about in earlier books in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the Maghuin Dhonn directly through Moirin. While much of Maghuin Dhonn live in near isolation, they are still a connected people and will come together in larger groups for certain occasions, such as Moirin’s coming of age ceremony. Moirin has to work hard to be acknowledged by the Bear Witch herself, but that acknowledgement comes at a steep price, one that I think we won’t fully understand until the end of this trilogy.

As usual with this series, there are several lovely sex scenes. Carey doesn’t skimp but she also doesn’t toss in throwaway love scenes. These interactions always reveal something more about the characters involved. I found this especially true in the later part of the book where there is a princess and a dragon. I won’t say anything further as I don’t want to be spoilery. Just know that it’s worthy.

I do have one quibble for this book. At the end, there is some drama and death and I did feel there was some deus ex machina involved. It involves the ultimate bad guy and why he wasn’t properly trussed up. Even with this one small criticism, I did enjoy how the ending leaves our heroes in a complicated place, setting us up for the next adventure.

The Narration: Anne Flosnik is a joy to listen to. She does such an excellent job with the multitude of accents needed for this book. She’s also great with a voice for Moirin that ages as she comes of age throughout the story. Her male voices are quite believable.

What I Liked: The cover art; great narration; Moirin in her own right; the quest to find one’s heritage; the desire to fulfill the Great Bear’s wishes; Bao as the main love interest; the dragon; from humble beginnings to world traveler!

What I Disliked: There was a bit of deus ex machina at the end.

What Others Think:

Eyrie

Book Smugglers

Dear Author

Fantasy Book Critic

A. V. Club

Fantasy Cafe

Strange Horizons

The Bibliosanctum

Books Without Any Pictures

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

LiuTheGraceOfKingsNarrator: Michael Kramer

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2015)

Length: 21 hours 37 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dandelion Dynasty

Author’s Page

This epic fantasy spans decades, starting with a corrupt rulership that has much of the population enslaved one way or another, plenty of folks plot and scheme for a better life. Folks get their wish, sort of, as factions break away from the old regime. Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu become leaders of two of these factions and eventually good friends. However, the glory of battle after battle and the resultant peace will test their friendship.

This was a beautiful, sweeping story. The characters were fascinating and the cast was well balanced. At first, I thought the story would be a kind of alternate Japanese ancient history tale with some mythology tossed in. I was a bit off the mark. While this story has that indeed, there is so much more going on. Various ethnicities are represented and while the story centers around a series of islands, there is plenty of back and forth with the mainland. The characters, by and large, know the world is larger than their immediate settings. Also, there are deities gambling on their chosen favorites, finding sneaky little ways to affect the world they watch.

I especially loved the fighting kites. Yes, these are kites that a warrior straps to their back and they are lifted into the air to do either reconnaissance or battle. There are several scenes that make good use of these kites. There are also airships in play as well!

There are plenty of ladies in this novel and they are not trivial bits of pretty fluff either. Gia is skilled at herb lore and administering her household. She’s a fit mind to spar with one of our heroes, Kuni. Late to the show we get a female warrior, Jin, and I hope we see more of her in Book 2. There are other ladies with large and small roles, but these two really stood out to me.

Kuni wasn’t my favorite character in the beginning but he grew to be so. He starts off as a bit of a wastrel and layabout. He gambles and drinks too much and refuses to work. Yes, he still lives with his parents, so they have to put up with his self-centered uselessness even as they see that he’s clothed and fed. Then things start to change for him and he becomes something else by the middle of the book. He kind of stumbles into his calling.

Meanwhile, Mata struck me as a fascinating character right from the beginning. He’s from a royal family and was raised to be a ruler, if not the supreme ruler. He has refined manners and tastes. Plus he is simply physically imposing with his 8 foot stature and his double pupils. Yes, double pupils. Go look that up. There’s plenty of mesmerizing images even if there isn’t a scientifically documented occurrence.

There’s one drawback to this book and that is all the rather long info dumps. The author writes beautifully, so often I found myself in the middle of an interesting info dump before I knew it. However, there are so many of them that I felt that a good chunk of this book was written like a history novel instead of an action-packed epic fantasy. Perhaps that is exactly what the author intended. Even with all the info dumps, I still really enjoyed the tale.

The Narration: Michael Kramer is a long-time favorite narrator and he doesn’t disappoint with this performance. He has a matter-of-fact voice for the longer info dumps and a variety of voices and accents for the multitude of characters. He’s also great with emotions for the more poignant scenes. 

What I Liked: Fighting kites!; great cover art; The story arc for the two main characters; the ladies are not ignored in this epic story; it’s bigger than an alternate-world Japan; the gods are watching… and sometimes interfering; the ending was bitter sweet. 

What I Disliked: This is minor, since the author writes so elegantly, but there are many, many info dumps.

What Others Think:

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Naamah's Kiss Part VII

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

Here we are at the end of Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy!

This week, Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog is our host. We’re covering Chapters 75-END, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. Moirin has come a long way since we first met her. How do you think her adventures have changed her if at all – does anything stand out in particular?

Moirin went from an untutored wilderness buff to this somewhat well-travelled (for the time) linguistic royal companion. One of the things I really like about her story arc is that she started off not even concerned with her fate, then met the great Maghuin Dhonn Bear, and started searching for her fate, believing it was tied to love (and most likely a man), only to eventually set that idea aside and go for the adventure, and then finally, at the very end,to have her fate literally tied to a man as she shared her bear-soul to save him. I like that she was independent of the notion that her fate was tied to another person for a while, and grew comfortable with that thought, even if in the end of this book, she is clearly tied to another.

2. I was hit by how far Moirin’s magical abilities have come along, I don’t think I particularly expected it to be honest – why do you think that might be?

From my previous reading, I did recall that this book had more magic in it than the previous D’Angeline novels. I like that Moirin’s gifts are few but she makes the most of them, and thereby, does some pretty big important things. She can quicken plants, talk to plants, even sing flower bulbs to sleep, call the twilight and disappear and in the twilight talk to spirits including demons and dragons. Yet she doesn’t rely solely on them – there’s her archery skills and her horsemanship keeps improving. She never stops learning and that includes learning what more she can do with her few gifts.

3. Looking back through the story it feels like most aspects had a bearing on the final outcome, do you think Moirin’s path is really set in stone or does she have the ability to change things?

No. She’s been given several choices throughout the tale. Yet her own personality kind of has her trapped on a certain path. She’s a people pleaser. She wants to help people but she also desires their approval and (from some) their attention. The Great Bear gave her choices, never forcing her, but Moirin couldn’t bear to have her bear-soul thingy (sorry, I know the spelling is tricky on diathanam – haha! and there’s my attempt) fade out. Throughout the book we’ve seen her own personality trap her into making the same decision over and over again most of the time – with Cillian, with Raphael, with Jehanne, with Master Lo, with Bao. She is becoming more discerning and picking better allies and friends along the way. Her personality is her hidden strength but it is also makes her choices predictable most of the time. Her little note to Jehanne abut Raphael for that last summoning is a good example of when she does something unexpected.

4. Do you feel that Moirin’s actions will have an impact on the Maghuin Dhonn in any way?

Well, more people are getting to know them through her and she’s definitely made a favorable impression with nearly everyone and so many of those people have been influential leaders in their own countries. If nothing else, her adventures will make it a little easier for the Maghuin Dhonn to travel in Terre D’Ange.

5. Were you surprised by the final chapters with Lo and Bao and the overall reaction of Bao?

I had totally forgotten about this ending, so it caught me off guard…. again! It’s tough on Moirin but I can also see Bao’s point. Choice is really important to him. He had no choice in his heritage (nor do any of us) but that violent, brief union between his parents has had a lot of negative consequences for him. As he points out to Moirin, even when he was a peach bottom boy, it was his choice. And yet it wasn’t like Master Lo or Moirin could ask Bao his thoughts on the matter.

Also, I think the event made some things crystal to Bao and that’s why he set off to try to find his Tartar father. He died once without having known much about have his heritage. I’m not sure what he expects to find, but he might not be sure either.

6. We know that Moirin is about to set off an another journey as this book ends. Any predictions, hopes or fears for what is to come next?

I do recall bits and pieces of the next book. I won’t spoil anything but I will leave you with this one image: warm mare’s milk. Yum! or not…

Other Tidbts:

I really like how Moirin ended up using her gift to find a hidden thing.

The dragon is ever so magnificent!

I’m glad that Snow Tiger claimed her enjoyment of sex through Moirin’s patient tutoring.

Even if Ten Tigers Die (Dai?) never gets to show his love to Snow Tiger, I’m still very glad that he has found such a noble calling – royal body guard!

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well.

Naamah's Kiss Part VI

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

The read along continues with Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Allie at Tethyan Books is our host. We’re covering Chapters 61-74, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) We’ve finally met Snow Tiger! What do you make of her and her relationship with Moirin? Does anything stand out in particular?

Snow Tiger is pretty determined to do the right thing. She’s breaking so many ingrained customs – defying her husband, traveling in disguise with thugs and a bi-sexual D’Angeline/Alban/Maghuin Dhonn royal. She’s totally stepping out of her comfort zone as well.

And once again we see that Moirin makes a good, calming companion for our most noble Snow Tiger. She’s gently guiding Snow Tiger in how to behave outside of her servants and loyal followers. Snow Tiger will be a better person for this adventure.

2) The dragon is a surprising new addition to the cast. What do you think he’ll do when he is free? Will he really help in the civil war?

I honestly forget what happens with our dragon companion. I know very little about Chinese dragon mythology but if I recall correctly, they were often associated with natural phenomenon – both good and bad. If your water dragon was unhappy, lakes and streams would dry up. If your wind dragon was happy, you’d have smooth sailing. So I keep waiting to see what major natural disaster his freeing can rectify. We have civil unrest but no major drought, flooding, or hurricanes yet, right?

I think he must be key to the civil war in some way. This is a Jacqueline Carey novel, after all! Black Sleeve went to all the effort to ‘cage’ the dragon in a human body, so I bet he doesn’t want him free once again.

3) What do you think of the Path of Dharma, as described by Master Lo Feng? What path would you prefer to follow?

I’m seeing similarities in Moirin’s character and Phedre’s character in that strength can also come from knowing how and when to bend or sway or bow or breath deeply. Strength doesn’t always come from a sword ora staff, and as we’ve seen from the Snow Tiger/Dragon combo, it can be very destructive even when applied to the good.

I have to say that I’m most comfortable being direct. Sometimes I can soften it a bit and I usually refrain from being in someone’s face.

4) Moirin does not seem to mind Bao’s jealousy. What do you think of their possible future as a couple?

Well, as Bao pointed out, it’s like being jealous of the Moon’s beauty or some such thing he said. Moirin’s been a Queen’s companion and now she’s an Empress’s companion and, as someone could argue, she’s a dragon’s lover in an odd menage a troi. So, yeah, being jealous of that is wasted energy.

I don’t recall how long they last as a couple but I do think they will both be better for having had the relationship.

5) Do you think they acted wisely against Lord Jiang’s men at the temple? Can you see any other decision they should have taken?

Wisely? That’s tough to say. There were too many of them, armed and armored, to have a good chance of success without the dragon. Also, I like Moirin and Bao don’t think Jiang’s men would have left the monks alive if Snow Tiger had agreed to go with them quietly. They had no save retreat. I really feel they were forced into a corner. Was it wise? Perhaps not. However, it was necessary.

Other Tidbts:

I think Master Lo Feng is quite aware of Moirin’s role as Jehanne’s companion.

I love the animalistic qualities to the dragon’s personality – he’s really living in the moment most of the time, not thinking beyond it. His madness when he can’t see his reflection is an extreme of that, but we see it with his protectiveness/possessiveness of Moirin as well.

Bao meeting the kid he rejected! That was a tense scene! Though I am glad Ten Tigers Die decided to join the party to free Snow Tiger and save dragon and realm all in one magnificent adventure.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with NAAMAH’S KISS in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).