The Gathering Storm, Part III

JordanGatheringStormBannerWelcome everyone to Book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to The Gathering Storm over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week, I am your host. Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, can be found in the comments. Make sure to swing by Sue’s at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers for logic and tiny, tiny violins (on occasion). Stop by Liesel’s at Musings on Fantasia. There’s plenty of cool non-spoilery fan art.

This week, we covered the Chapters 14-21. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1) When get a little more quality time with Semirhage. Cadsuane seems to have come up with a way to get under her skin. Do you think it will be enough to get answers from Semirhage? Cadsuane believes it is important to keep Semirhage alive in order to learn useful weaves from her. Do you agree with this logic? Or are you all for killing her?

I think that Cadsuane’s first victory with Semirhage was partly due to the surprise factor. It has probably been millennia since someone spanked Semirhage (there is a lot of spanking in this series, don’t you think?). But I expect Semirhage will get over this initial shock and the ladies will have to come up with more insidious ways to disrespect Semirhage. What could be worse than being spanked in front of servants and eating your green beans off the floor? Well, the Aiel are pretty good at degrading people, so I expect Sorilea will play a part in breaking Semirhage.

I don’t agree with Cadsuane about keeping Semirhage alive in order to learn weaves from her. We have some Aes Sedai who are 1) very strong in the power and 2) have been developing new weaves and rediscovering old forgotten weaves. I would sleep easier knowing Semirhage was dead.

2) Moridin and Rand have a heart to heart. Rand seems to understand the two of them are connected somehow. Do you think he will make use of this information? Upon waking from this chat, Rand confesses to Min about Lews Therin. Will Min tell others as she told others about Rand’s time in the box? And would that be a good or bad thing?

Rand has a lot on his plate right now and I don’t think he will put too much thought into the fact that he is tied to Moridin. I expect that this little fact won’t occur to him again until some critical moment where either someone damages/kills Moridin and it sends Rand into shock or Rand needs Moridin taken out and decides to put a sword through his own foot to distract Moridin.

I expect that Min will tell someone at some point. Perhaps Cadsuane real soon in order to explain to her why Rand is snappish. Perhaps she will tell Elayne or even Aviendha later in order to explain why Rand is trying so hard to keep them all at arm’s length. In this particular case, I don’t think it would be a bad thing, though if Rand were to feel a little betrayed by Min being chatty, I couldn’t blame him either. This struggle with Lews Therin has been very private and very personnel for several long months.

3) Egwene matches wits with three White Sisters (Ferane, Miyasi, & Tesan). And then she is forced to match wits wits with Elaida in front of the Sitters. Will there be harsh punishment for Egwene, beyond the beating Elaida gave her? How will the Sitters react to this? Or will we still have to wait for the Seanchan to invade before the Aes Sedai get their act together?

Oh yeah. I expect that Elaida may even order Egwene Stilled. I think this is my greatest concern for Egwene right now. If Elaida ordered her killed, I believe too many of the Tower Aes Sedai would object or even outright smuggle Egwene out. Of course, Egwene can show others Sisters Traveling and be out of the Tower that way too. But Elaida could order her Stilled and Egwene might not have the time to escape that punishment.

I really, really want the Sitters and the rest of the Aes Sedai to rise up against Elaida but I expect we will need the Seanchan to come boiling over the Tower walls before the Aes Sedai decide Elaida is too stupid and arrogant to lead a paper doll making class. So I expect the Sitters will talk amongst themselves, maybe even among the strongest of each of their Ajahs. Perhaps they might even start making plans, drawing up draft letters to Elaida asking her to step down, etc. But I wouldn’t expect any of them to take action right away.

4) The rebel Aes Sedai have word that the White Tower now has the art of Traveling. Do you believe Elaida is aware of this weave? Or is it just a handful of Red Aes Sedai testing it out? And what do you make of Lelaine’s latest actions? What can Siuan do from this point on in holding the Aes Sedai together?

I don’t think Elaida is aware of this weave, nor does she know how to do it herself. If she did, she wouldn’t be able to hold back from throwing that fact in Egwene’s face. I this it is the Black Ajah that has finally learned it and is testing it out while gathering tribute. The rebel Aes Sedai would be wise to check with their folks on the inside of the Tower to see if any gates have opened behind the walls or if there is talk about this new miraculous weave.

Lelaine is an idiot. She won’t be seen as the hero of this mess that she helped create. Of course she thinks by encouraging chaos and panic that she will be able to step in and be the voice of reason. But things won’t go down that way. Of course, I have a bit more knowledge than she does – like Egwene’s current conflict inside the Tower and also the Seanchan plans to invade the area.

Siuan is taking the correct actions- making sure the camp is as secure as possible. Of course, when the Seanchan show up she will still be surprised, but at least the camp is already on full alert. As to holding the camp together, I expect more Novices will be coming to her to help carry her laundry, bringing her info and listening to her advice. But Egwene needs to hurry up!

5) Tuon holds court in Ebou Dar. Did you find her offer to Beslan fair? Now that she has seen the heads of trollocs, creatures she believed to be of myth, do you think she will be more open to listening to Randlanders?

OK, I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of the Seanchan when they first appeared and it has taken like 10 books for me to start to like them as individuals. Tuon’s high-handed take with Beslan just ticked me off once again. Beslan was given 2 choices – swear fealty or be executed (with honor). That’s it. And Tuon made it sound like both were favors. The Seanchan don’t understand why the Randlanders resist them so, continue to uprise, don’t take the Seanchan oaths seriously and it is because of this kind of thing. Tuon did not show respect for Beslan’s culture nor for his sovereignty. Leaving him in place to rule under the Seanchan is a convenience for them. I think Tuon needs a spanking.

I really hope that she takes on a Randlander as a consultant, even if it is Mat. Having trolloc bodies and heads as examples should give her pause the next time a Randlander says something about ta’verens or bubbles of evil, etc. It might be easier to convince her Truthsayer/Speaker and then have her convince Tuon that she needs to put weight behind reports of such things.

6) Mat opens by comparing women to goats. Did you find his behavior to be ‘husbandly’? Was his own ta’veren-ness working against him in keeping the Aes Sedai with him or was it his own goat-like behavior?

Ha! Well, for Mat, yeah, he was acting a bit protective of Tuon. I guess I need to see him in a tavern, a little toasted, with plenty of flirtatious young ladies around to see if he is truly acting husbandly.

I am guessing that Mat will run into some trouble soon and that the Aes Sedai will come in handy. Therefore, I think his own ta’veren-ness kept him from sending them off with 20 horses and being free of them. Perhaps he will need their help getting off to his super secret mission to rescue Moiraine.

7) Perrin returns to the dream-wolf world, promptly insults the wolves, and is tossed out. Will he be able to conquer his own fears? And if he does, what will he do with the wolves then? Faile has yet more secrets from Perrin. Do you find this good or bad?

Perrin has set his mind to conquering his fear of his inner wolf and I expect he will do just that. Perrin takes a while to consider and decide his course of action. but once he has made that decision, that is what he does.

I expect that we will see Perrin using his inner wolf and the willing wolves around him as scouts at first, but then as soldiers. In the end, I am pretty sure they will be at the last battle and once that is all done, I expect Perrin will have to howl in grief as he buries their numerous bodies. sniffle

I think Faile is silly to keep the secret of Masema’s death from Perrin. But I can see why she would find it difficult to tell Perrin about Rolan, how it protected her even as he flirted with her, how Perrin killed him. For now, I say let her have her privacy in this matter but I expect their relationship would be the stronger if she shared this tale later, perhaps after Tarmon gaidon.

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

You know how some movies and books do body counts – the total number of dead by the end of the story? Well, WoT needs a spanking count – total number of characters spanked, and yes, if a character gets spanked more than once, we can count each individual spanking. Swats to the bottom while being carried through snow by an Aiel counts too.

We have several arrogant groups who all try very hard to hold to their ideas of honor and justice; the Aiel, the Aes Sedai, and the Seanchan. I could toss in the Sea Folk but we haven’t heard much from them this book yet. I sometimes find myself wanting to smack all their heads together. Each seems convinced their way is the best way and to hell with learning about the others.

Everyone wants the Dragon Reborn to kneel at their feet – the White Tower (even Egwene!) and the Seanchan in particular. I find this notion very amusing. Rand, kneel. Ha!

The Seanchan still want to enslave all the women who can channel! Argh! I can’t root for these folks no matter how organized they are, no matter how likely they would be the ones to actually get the job done of uniting Randland.

The Gathering Storm, Part II

JordanGatheringStormBannerWelcome everyone to Book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to The Gathering Storm over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week, Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, is our host and can be found in the comments. Make sure to swing by Sue’s at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers for logic and tiny, tiny violins (on occasion). Stop by Liese’sl at Musings on Fantasia. There’s plenty of cool non-spoilery fan art.

This week, we covered the Chapters 7-13. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1. Questions are being raised about the loyalty of the Aiel, and that Rand keeps misusing them. What are your thoughts? Could we really see another Shaido-like uprising?

Once again, we have culture clash. While the Aiel feel they have worked hard to teach Rand proper Aiel etiquette, few have tried to learn wetlander ways. And, really, they have only had several months, not several years, to get to know each other, and under stressful circumstances. Normally, I would say slap them all upside the head and tell each of them they each have to meet the other partway. But in this instance, Rand really does need their backing and he has been rather callous in several ways. But Rand probably doesn’t need yet another slap upside the head. He needs a life assistant with some political finesse.

I don’t think we will have another Shaido uprising. After all, can there possibly be two Aiel as stupid as Sevanna in a role of power? I think, if anything does happen other than Tarmon Gaidon, it will be that some Aiel choose to quietly leave, melting off into the night, returning to their land of sand.

2. Siuan and Bryne have a heart to heart. Do you see this relationship finally blossoming? Everyone still thinks Moiraine is dead. What impact do you think she could have on the story when she returns?

Well, as slow paced as this relationship has been, I think they might not actually get around to kissing until after Tarmon Gaidon. But, yes, I think they will make quite the formidable team, whether in a time of war or in a time of peace. And I was a little surprised that Bryne had not put together at least the underlying reason Siuan and the rest  put their oaths on pause and ran away. He has known Siuan for some months now and can clearly see she is a serious person, with all her swearing about fish guts, etc.

While I believe Siuan and Moiraine were once upon a time lovers, I don’t think Moiraine’s return to the land of the living will endanger Bryne’s chances with Siuan. I do think that plenty of people will be astounded, maybe to the point of turning into quivering jelly (like Lan) and then the hunt for Lanfear will begin anew.

3. Perrin is belabored by refugees, but is still reluctant  to take on his lordly duties. Will something more have to happen here, before Perrin achieves his “final form” before the Last Battle?

Maybe someone needs to tell Perrin a little white lie, like Faile. And that lie is that Perrin only has to be Lordly until the final battle is said and done and then he can go back to forging, sheep, and carrots. Now, us world savvy people know that is highly unlikely to be the case, but I think if someone with an honest face lied to Perrin he would believe them and get on with being lordly for a bit.

Though I do like his style of holding court. At least he is getting something worthwhile done while telling everyone ‘No, are you an idiot?’

4. Ituralde is delivered from his death trap and is sent to Bashere’s homeland, while Bashere is in Ituralde’s. Would it perhaps have been prudent to switch places? If a shadow invasion of the Borderlands really is imminent, wouldn’t it be good to actually approach the Borderlanders instead?

Once again, I think Rand is just trying to juggle a lot of things and some of them, he doesn’t juggle well. He is rather handicapped in some ways, and I am not talking about his missing hand. He has very little experience dealing with world leaders, and most of that has been under less than pleasant circumstances. He doesn’t know what the final game board will look like. He has all these independent thinking and acting entities, some actively working against him some accidentally acting against him. So, I think he grabs a friendly, usable piece and puts them where they are immediately needed, and then doesn’t bother to switch things around later.

Besides, If either Bashere or Ituralde had to stay behind to keep their country safe instead of honoring a call from Rand, I think that is exactly what they would do in their homeland. And Elayne might very well be pissed at Rand for scooping up the Borderlanders and putting them back in the Borderlands, since she is using them to shore up her own crown.

5. Egwene’s infiltration is gathering momentum. She’s talking to sitters as a near equal and has even been in contact with the Black Ajah hunters. Meanwhile, Lelaine is winning the political war on the outside. Should Egwene start hurrying? Having earned the respect of these sisters, what would be her next step?

Of course I want Egwene to hurry, but these are big reptile squashing tomes for the final 3 books. Really, as much credit as she has garnered from the Tower Sisters, I still think that Elaida will have to do something stupid before they really take Egwene’s side. And then there is that prophetic dream Egwene had back in Book 11 or Book 12 – about the Seanchan washing over the Tower. It would be funny if Rand asked the Seanchan to give Egwene an assist…..

As for what Egwene should do next….Well, I think she needs to start a knitting or sewing circle where novices, Accepted, Sisters of any Ajah are welcomed. There would be biscuits and forkroot tea, of course. She does want to start breaking down all these barriers between Ajahs and this seems like something simple that she would be able to do quietly.

6. Gawyn is finally on the move, but where? Egwene does not want a rescue… do you expect him to listen or will he just make a mess of things?

In many respects, Gawyn isn’t an idiot so I expect he will get clear of the Younglings and the White Tower Aes Sedai before he tries to head for Tar Valon. And, yes, I expect him to bollucks up his ‘rescue’ of Egwene.

I need to consult a map. Is there the slightest chance that while he is dodging the Younglings, he will run into Perrin and Faile, and hence his mom? Because that would take one major task off his list (Kill Rand for killing Morgase). Of course, if Egwene doesn’t get off her high horse about Asha’men bonding Aes Sedai, she may send Gawyn after Rand’s head herself. Egwene will at least have sense to wait until after Tarmon Gaidon, right?

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

It was fun to watch Cadsuane bring Rand up short in that meeting with the Aiel and have Nynaeve thinking she was just about to do the same thing. Though I don’t think it would have had quite the same effect since Nynaeve has been bossing Rand around for years, whereas Cadsuane just does it when he needs it.

I know Lelaine and Romanda think they are the only two vying for power, but they really have over looked Siuan. She is playing them off each other, buying Egwene time, and holding the ‘rebels’ together. Oh, and has time to do laundry, and do it well.

I think Ituralde took it pretty well, having the Dragon Reborn swing by for tea, a chat, and a magical gate opening to relative safety.

As with so many drugs, can you build up a tolerance to forkroot? The imp in me is hoping that Egwene will be the first one to notice this and put it to good use.

Gawyn’s final chat with the older Warder was chilling. I wasn’t sure Gawyn had a friend there or not until he turned and left Gawyn to saddle his horse.

Interview: James Maxey, Author of Bad Wizard

MaxeyGreatshadowHeldigFolks, it is with great pleasure that I have James Maxey visiting today. I have enjoyed several of his books such as Nobody Gets the Girl, Hush, and Greatshadow. His latest book, Bad Wizard, is also pretty freaking awesome. Interviewing him was truly entertaining for me and I expect you shall be entertained as well. Enjoy!

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for  unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting  human cultures today and how?

You only have to turn on the TV to see that fantasy is permeating our culture. I mean, ABC has an oxymoronic “fantasy reality” show called The Quest. It’s jocks and models running around pretending to be paladins and talking about how to fight dragons. High fantasy has definitely moved out of the geeky, nerdy niche it used to occupy into the mainstream. That said, I think there’s a distinction between fantasy fiction shaping popular culture and enduring fantasy beliefs still deeply rooted in our core culture. The elves and goblins and witches of past eras have morphed into the Men-in-Black and ETs and psychic advisers of the modern age.

MaxeyBadWizardIf you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

This is a terrific question because, as it happens, I’ve been going back in recent years and reading a lot of classic novels that I first experienced as a child or teenager. Sometimes, my differing perspective now that I’m 50 years old lets me see the true power of a work that was perhaps lost on me when I was younger. Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea meant nothing to me when I was 15. Now, I get it.

That said, I sometimes wish I could travel back in time and regain the sense of wonder I had when I first experienced some of my favorite works. For instance, in my late teens/early 20s, when I first read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, I thought it was the best comic book ever written. When I reread it recently, though, I was surprised at how simplistic and one dimensional it seemed. The reliance on talking heads on TVs to deliver page after page of backstory was kind of grating. This isn’t to say that The Dark Knight Returns wasn’t an absolutely amazing and groundbreaking comic in it’s time. It’s just that part of the power was it’s freshness, the fact it hadn’t been done before. But after three decades of people imitating it, it’s lost it’s power to amaze me on a reread.

MaxeyNobodyGetsTheGirlOver the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

There are obviously traits a hero might have possessed at one time that would render him creepy now. Randal McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was an idealized free spirit who couldn’t be made to conform to a corrupt society. But, reading the book today, the horrible misogyny of the character makes it difficult to root for him. And if you ever go back and read the original Tarzan books, the underlying racism will leave you cringing. On the flip side, at one point it was acceptable to hint that a character was homosexual if you wanted to make him seem villainous. Now, you’d be more likely to see homosexuality presented as a sympathetic trait.

Of course, the biggest change is probably in the proportion of male and female protagonists. Female protagonists were once restricted to romances and children’s books. Today, a book like The Hunger Games can give us a complex female action hero who has a role to play in the world other than falling in love.

MaxeyHushWafflesWhat biographies of the creators of your favorite genres do you want to  read? Are there lesser known creators that still need a biography?

Hmm… I honestly don’t read that much about other writers and creators. Until this moment, I don’t think I’ve even noticed it as a gap in my education. I’ve always engaged with authors through their books. Their personal histories, politics, etc., don’t hold much interest for me.

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

Bill collector. Ug, that was just horrible, hounding people for money. It doesn’t compare well with writing. It doesn’t compare well with anything. Back when I was a bill collector, I stopped at a fast food restaurant and as I was leaving an old man in dirty clothes came up to me carrying bags of fast food and asked if he could get a ride back to his house, since he’d just picked up dinner for his kids. I said sure. When he got in my car, he said he was happy to be in air conditioning, that the sun had been killing him all day. I asked what he did for a living and he said he swept parking lots. He asked me my job, and I told him I was a bill collector. He wrinkled his nose, shook his head, and said, “I would never do that.”

MaxeyBitterwoodWho/what are your non-writer influences?

Music plays a huge part in fueling my creativity. The Mountain Goats, Rasputina, The Dresden Dolls, The Decemberists… I’ve always got a soundtrack running through my head. Keen readers will be able to spot song titles and other references woven into my books and stories.

My biggest non-writer influence, if I may be a bit pretentious, is reality. Seriously, I absorb every odd little fact I can find about biology, geology, archeology, history, politics, food, art… you name it. I’ve read books devoted to the history of salt, and came away with a greater understanding of the world. For me, all good fiction–especially fantasy fiction–has to be built on a foundation of knowing as much as possible about the real world.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

I have the same answer for both! The greatest example ever of classics adapted and given new life has to be Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The worst example ever of something adapted and utterly mangled has to be the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

MaxeyWitchbreakerIf you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?

Easy! I’d go to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and nibble on whatever food came by to offer a taste.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required  reading? As passing discussion?

I could do an entire semester on H. G. Wells. The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Island of Dr. Moreau are amazing books that stand up well to modern literary tastes. Wells was an amazing visionary, and even though he was working from a lot of flawed assumptions (for instance, thinking that Mars could support life), you still see his fundamental grasp of how the world works. It’s not a cop-out that microbes defeat the Martians in The War of the Worlds. He understood that humans weren’t the true pinnacle of earthly life–single celled organisms are the earth’s true dominant life form.

MaxeyDragonforgeCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either  one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were  gushing over another author’s work?

So, back in 2012, I was invited by Orson Scott Card to help teach one of his writing classes. Of course I said yes. As it happened, my novel Greatshadow had just come out, and I thought, hmm, I’ll take him a copy and maybe he’ll read it and say something nice about it eventually. But, when we got together, he’d not only already read the book, he’d already given it a glowing review online! That was a big thrill.

I would say that one of by biggest geek out fanboy moments came when I met John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. He’d just done a concert and I was leaving the venue and, suddenly, there he was, just standing on the sidewalk out front. I went up and told him how much I’d enjoyed the show, asked him a few questions about some of his older albums, and left feeling a bit magical. I felt as if I’d just run into a unicorn or something.

MaxeyDragonseedWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Oh lord. From the age of 11 to sometime last week, my cousin Tony and I could argue endless about who was stronger, Thor or the Hulk, and sometimes take the argument to another level by bringing in Superman.

But, by far, the geekiest thing I’d ever heard discussed was in the hall at ConCarolina’s. A group of geeks were discussing their favorite podcasts, and one of the guys said that such and such show was his favorite World of Warcraft podcast. This caught my attention and I said, “Favorite implies you listen to more than one. Just how many World of Warcraft podcasts can there be?” Dozens, I was informed. But most weeks he only listened to three. I consider myself a pretty big geek, but, damn, that’s hardcore.

Places to Stalk James Maxey

Goodreads

The Prophet and The Dragon blog

Jawbone of an Ass blog

Amazon

 

Return of the Dragon Riders by Kristian Alva

AlvaRetunOfTheDragonRidersWhy I Read It: Book 1 was good and I wanted to see how the story continued.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy adventures fans who like a note of seriousness in their fiction.

Narrator: Adam Chase

Publisher: Passkey Publications DBA Defiant Press (2013)

Length: 7 hours 44 minutes

Series: Book 2 Dragon Stone Saga

Author’s Page

Book 2 picks up right where Book 1 left off. Elias is pulled up into a new world. one where great things are expected of him because of this prophesy. Pf course, this makes him a major target for the evil Vosper and his allies. The few remaining dragon riders have one last refuge, the city of Parthos. Elias and his new friends face many foes in this book and sometimes Elias isn’t too sure who his friends are.

While we have yet to meet the evil Vosper, we do get to see plenty of his badguy handy work, from the past, and in Elias’s present. More info about Elias’s parentage is revealed to the readers. Thorin, Elias’s halfling friend from Book 1, is still around providing advice, support, and the occasional comedic relief. The dragon riders themselves area mixed bag, some being extremely serious all the time. Others have a little fun. Some new magic users are recruited and some young dragons are looking to make a match with human riders.

There’s plenty of action in this novel and it is well-paced with comedic moments and serious moments. I like that the point of view shifts around and we get to spend time in different heads. Elias is a well-meaning teen who wants to think the best of nearly everyone. Many of the other characters are not so trusting. In fact, there is a hidden traitor among them, which added suspense to the story.

Overall, this was a very good follow up to Book 1. I am very much looking forward to Book 3.

Narration:  Chase did a great job once again. He has distinct male and female voices and does accents. He also had several opportunities to portray strong emotions in this book, which he did very well.

What I Liked:  Elias is growing up; plenty of action; Thorin is a true friend; the suspense of the hidden traitor; their task is not done and we are set up perfectly for the next book.

What I Disliked:  I wasn’t so keen about the cover to the paperbook, but I LOVE the cover to the audiobook.

What Others Think:

Peace Love Books

Bookworm Family

Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole

ColeDreamsOfDarkWarriorWhy I Read It: Valkyries, Berserkers, & vampires – how could I turn that down?

Where I Got It: Review copy via the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy the possessive streak in your lover, you might be OK with this.

Narrator: Robert Petkoff

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 14 hours 53 minutes

Series: Book 11 Immortals After Dark

Author’s Page

Note: This book works fine as a stand alone even though it is Book 11 in the series.

The book started with a young Valkyrie, Regin the Radiant, beating up some viking Berserkers.  That was pretty amusing and I was enjoying the give and take (both verbal and with blades). The lead Berserker, Aidan, recognizes she is an Immortal, but a rather young one who is still frail and can be injured. He take her under his wing and then proclaims that she will be his wife once she is full grown. In the meantime, she is to wait out her days at his mom’s house while he fights 200 battles in Odin’s name to earn the right to immortality himself. Regin, while young, isn’t really down with that.

So, 9 years later, they meet up again. She’s full immortal, totally able to take care of herself, and busy kicking vampire ass in the Dark Ages of northern Europe. Aidan hasn’t been victorious in 200 battles yet, but he is racking up the points. Regin has to admit that she is plenty curious about coupling in general and in specific, coupling with Aidan. Aidan is all good with this since he claimed Regin for his bride 9 years ago and hasn’t changed his mind on that one bit. In fact, his possessiveness towards Regin came on really strong.

Too strong.

And I had to start this book twice because the main masculine love interest was creeping me out in a rapey sort of way. His possessiveness leaves no room for Regin’s say in the matter and she’s a big part of the equation. This possessive streak is a main theme throughout the book, even with Aidan reincarnated into the modern covert ops soldier we come to know as Declan Chase. I want to believe that the author was setting us up early with a character flaw that Aidan/Declan has to overcome in order to be triumphant, but it didn’t work for me.

First, let me tell you about the characters, the plot, the action, the sex. Then I will come back to this creepy possessive trait. Regin is a lot of fun, always ready with the quip, and a blade if necessary. She starts off strong with plenty of punches, claw marks, and tossing of men twice her size. While she keeps a lot of her spunk throughout the book, she diminishes in her ability to fight and I think this was done to show how strong Aidan/Declan the Berserker is. Declan himself is a troubled man. Unknown to him, his violent dreams are memories of his past lives and past fights and past deaths. He gets lost in it all as a teen and takes up drugs. But then one night a horrible fate falls upon his family and himself, from which he barely survives. And that is where he takes up with this super secret underground military-like organization that hunts down, captures, interrogates, experiments on, and kills any and all immortals. I really enjoyed Declan’s backstory and got into his character, mostly.

The book is fast-paced with plenty of interesting side characters. My favorite was Nix, a Valkyrie gifted with foresight. But that gift also makes her a little crazy. She has a pet bat named Bertie. Then there are several characters we meet in the immortal prison such as the good farm boy Thad, a wicked ancient vampire, a London faerie, and more. They were all enjoyable. Several of the sex scenes were very hot and involved full consent. The partners were into each other and giving and taking equally.

But then we have the love story between Declan and Regin. Declan has a violent streak. At first, he just sees Regin as another immortal, like all the other immortals he has hunted, captured, tortured, and killed. So his initial violence towards Regin didn’t bother me. It was part of the story. And Regin is faced with this horrible decision to either awaken his memories of his past and trigger the curse that has killed each of his reincarnations upon full memory retrieval, or ride it out, try to escape, and hopefully never run into Declan again.

This is my biggest issue with the book. Aidan/Declan has a big possessive streak that goes way beyond being tolerable. It’s not sexy. There are multiple times in this book where Regin flat out refuses sexual contact and Aidan/Declan presses on anyway, once with full penetration. Now Regin does get around to enjoying herself and whatever sexual act is forced upon her, but there is this whole initial lack of consent. Folks, full consent is sexy. Aidan/Declan can declare all he wants how wonderful Regin is, how he will always protect her and cherish her, but the forced sex really negates all that sexy male protectiveness.

So, for me, while this book had a lot going for it, but the overly possessive nature of the main male love interest killed this book for me.

The Narration: Robert Petkoff did an excellent job. He had a variety of accents to pull off as well as male and female voices. He didn’t hesitate with the sex scenes either. In fact, he may very well have orgasmed once or twice while narrating the steamiest scenes. His male and female voices were distinct. Oh, and there was this one character, La Dorada, for which he had to pull off this awful creepy witch sound – he raised the hairs on the back of my neck!

What I Liked: Plenty of action; lots of fight scenes; Regin is full of flippant remarks; Nix and Bertie the bat; some of the sex scenes were quite good; lots of supernatural beings shoved into close contact and forced to play nice.

What I Disliked: Some of the sex scenes initially start out with forced sexual contact; Aidan/Declan’s super possessive nature really wore on me; I never fully grasped the title for the book and how it relates to the story.

What Others Think:

Love Vampires

All About Romance

Fiction Vixen

Lilith’s Paranormal Romance Blog

I’m Lovin’ Books

A Bookworm’s Haven

The Gathering Storm, Part I

JordanGatheringStormBannerWelcome everyone to Book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to The Gathering Storm over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week,  Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers is the host. You can catch Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, in the comments.  Stop by Liese’sl at Musings on Fantasia. There’s plenty of cool non-spoilery fan art.

Once again, sorry for posting late. The last four weeks have been super intense for me and I was a vendor at this big weekend show and just simply came back exhausted physically and socially.

This week, we covered the Prologue-Chapter 6. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1) Rand has sent a message to Tuon via a released damane, but it seems that it might be some time before she hears of his invitation. Do you think that this delay will make a difference? Will the Seanchan be too distracted by the newly arrived Trolloc hordes and Rodel Ituralde’s army?

No matter how Rand sends a message to Tuon, I still think her connection to Mat will be key in making the much-needed peace. And Rand was an idiot for not taking the Seanchan hierarchy into account. I know he doesn’t have much experience with it, but he does have a lot of experience with various countries/races/beings at this point and could heeded the damane’s words about propriety, etc.

And, yes, I expect the trolocs and Ituralde’s army will slow the Seanchan down a bit. Already, the Seanchan are showing respect for Ituralde’s battlefield prowess.

2) We had only a short glimpse of the Forsaken in this section, but there were some tantalizing hints. Given Graendal’s thoughts about Demandred, where do you think he has made his base of operations? What do you make of Moridin’s issues with his left hand?

I keep looking at Mazrim Taim. I always picture him in black, rubbing his hands together, and snickering quietly to himself. He has an army, of sorts. But I also stumbled across an unmarked spoiler months ago that makes me think that Taim is not Demandred. My brain dead cells aren’t coming up with another possbility, though knowing the Forsaken, it will be someone incompetent and lacking team player skills.

In Book 12, we had some hints that Moridin and Rand were some how connected. Now they each have fidgety left hands. I fear we may be up for a Harry Potter moment at the end of the book, where Rand has to actually die in order to kill the last vestiges of the evil Moridin/Dark One. But then Rand will be resurrected for that happy ending.

3) The Prophet finally met his end, but not before we got to spend a little time inside his highly disturbing mind. What do you make of his vision of the Dragon? Do you think that his death will remove the Dragonsworn as an organized force?

Oh, I forget what Masema was rambling on about before Faile shoved something pointy into him. I was a little surprised that Masema was taken out so easily, with very little lead up to it. I was not surprised that he believed that Perrin had to be taken out.

Since the majority of the Dragonsworn were forced into this mad army, I expect we won’t see a major force of them again. There may be a few that feel the need to keep the ‘dream’ alive and try to build some messed up church with very strict rules in Rand’s name later. And there may also be several thousand folks who feel Rand owes them something for the evil done in his name. I would be more worried about those folks.

4) We see Egwene go through some serious changes this week, as she realizes why the Aiel laugh at pain. Do you think that she is correct to think that Elaida’s rule would come to an end soon even without her own efforts? What do you make of the severe disruptions that are occurring in Tar Valon: are they worse than the ones we are seeing elsewhere?

I think Egwene’s demeanor and thoughtful comments are pushing things along. Yes, given time, Elaida would dig her own grave. But there is this looming time limit with the end of the world scheduled to happen in a few months. So someone has to move things along in order to have time to tack the Tower back together long enough to do some badassery fighting against evil…instead of innocents and other well-meaning folks.

That whole scene with the dungeon cell going all gooey was extremely disturbing! Still, I don’t think this is any worse than the ghost city that swallowed part of the caravan that was with the circus party a few books back.

5) Poor Aviendha is off counting tiny seeds whilst running across country. Can you offer any suggestions about what she has done wrong in the eyes of the Wise Ones?

I think this IS the final test. Yes, I believe it is fuckery by the Wise Ones to test Aviendha’s patience, mettle, and problem solving skills. Have you ever done that blanket test with your dogs? You take a blanket or towel, toss it over your standing dog, covering their head and see how long it takes them to get out of it. It’s suppose to be an intelligence test. Most of my dogs can toss it off within 5-20 seconds. But I did have one dog who would simply lie down and go to sleep.

I think all this BS from the Wise Ones is the blanket and they are counting to see how long it takes Aviendha to get out from under it.

6) We finally touch base with Gawyn in his efforts to disrupt the rebel siege. Can you think of anything that might make him finally see sense and join the rebel cause?

Well, I think if Gawyn saw Egwene’s breasts while she ordered him to join her side, he would do just that. ;)

But that isn’t likely to happen in the waking world any time soon. So I think he needs to see the bad guys do some truly bad guy things, like killing kids, squelching puppies, peeing in churches, etc. Gawyn has a head on his shoulders, but he also has a very loyal heart. So he needs something to slap him upside the head to break that loyalty.

7) Cadsuane and a few other Sisters are trying to get information out of Semirhage. Do you think they have any hope at all of succeeding, or will we have to endure many more creepy stories about how she can do truly diabolical things to peoples’ bodies?

I believe Cadsuane is correct. Physical torture would not undo Semirhage. She would just catalog her own reactions, noting what was of interest. And the silly psychological torture they are running isn’t going to do it either. So I look forward to seeing what Cadsuane comes up with to break Semirhage. What would break Cadsuane? Perhaps the threat of infinite boredom. I wonder if there is some large ter’angreal that would hold someone in stasis with no input from the world and yet leave their mind to spin in circles? Hmmm…Stasis Box anyone?

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

Did I hear that right? Ituralde’s first love was a soft-handed prince with a jeweled sword grip? Ituralde is turning out to be one of my favorite side characters. I could go kick this bejeweled prince in the arse for him.

Can’t Rand use the Power to make a flaming left hand, or one out of glass or mist? Perhaps that takes more concentration than the poor lad has at the moment.

Faile swears her folks to secrecy over killing Masema. Oh, yeah, right. Like keeping secrets from Perrin has worked out so great so far!

May I slap Rand? He doesn’t want Semirhage tortured because she has a vagina? If the Dark One can pull the gender swap, surely the most powerful Aes Sedai can come up with something along the same lines!

Interview & Giveaway: Anika Arrington, Author of The Accidental Apprentice

ArringtonAccidentalApprenticeFolks, please give Anika Arrington a warm welcome. She’s here to chat about her book, The Accidental Apprentice, and plenty of amusing things, such as Firefly, great food, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, and the need for sleep.If you’re interested in the giveaway, scroll to the bottom.

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay?

Madame Falstead would be fun, with her wicked cane and crazy red hair. I’m even the perfect build if a bit taller than she is. There are aspects of her character that are slightly autobiographical as well, so I think slipping into her shoes for a day would be rather comfortable.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

Well, I’ve loved both of the Sherlock Holmes reboots. Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch both do incredible things with the character, and their Watsons are equally brilliant. Honestly, I now want to go watch the first episode of Sherlock season 3 just thinking about it. So stinking hilarious!

As far as remixes not working, while nothing specific jumps to mind besides Disney’s Maleficent (which wasn’t awful or anything), I’m not thrilled with the modern trend of bringing a story back around to make the bad guys merely misunderstood. I think every writer who has studied at least a little understands the value of having an antagonist that people relate to or sympathize with, but that doesn’t make them the good guy. If you are willing/capable of killing people or destroying civilizations to get what you want, then you are a bad person. And I like stories where the good guys win. Maybe not in the way you expect and not without loss and sacrifice, but the bad guy is the bad guy and the good guys (while not necessarily perfect) need to win in the end.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I am a mom of 6, so if I wasn’t writing I know my time would fill up quickly, and that would be just fine with me. I toyed with the idea of going to culinary school to become a pastry chef, but I don’t think the hectic world of the professional kitchen is for me. And I love physics, but my brain doesn’t hold onto formulae in the way that’s required to play with the cosmos. My list of interests goes on for miles, actually, but the only thing I have ever been able to stick with and play with is the written word. Although I was rather good at charcoal drawing. . . .

As a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

That is a trick question as all activity relates to writing or reading in some way. But in the spirit of the question: Cook!! Or at the very least, Eat!! Make it a truly visceral experience every time you sit down to a meal. Take in the scents and pick them apart in your head. Savor the mouth-feel of every bite. Let the flavors move you. And then when you sit down to the page let that same act of observation permeate every scene. A huge part of the “show-don’t-tell” aspect of writing is just taking observation to the next level. I am still learning and struggling to apply the concept, but all close observation feeds creative endeavors. Walk in a natural setting, and notice the smallest details of the life around you. Watching cloud shapes. Go to museums: art, historical, natural history, science. Listen to music., with a careful ear for melody, harmony, and lyrics. And love people. Engage with your family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends as often as possible, and I don’t mean on social media. Listen to people. Listen to the way they talk as well as what they say. Learn how to read between the lines so that your characters will never have to say insipid things.

FreemanMechanizedWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

Ha, if anything my kid self knew it better than my adolescent and early adult self did. I memorized stories at the age of three and one of my parents favorite party tricks was to hand me a book and let their friends stare in awe as their three year old “read” herself a story. I would draw pictures and make up the stories that went with them. And I have always told myself stories in my head at night to put myself to sleep. I was pretty nerdy from the get go, but in a fairly out-going way. I was 6th grade student council president, lead (or at least I tended to have the most lines) in the school plays, and I spent my recesses in the library’s non-fiction section reading books about sharks, spiders, how to draw horses, whatever struck my fancy. And my kid self really wanted to be a doctor until I realized I am one of those people that can’t handle blood.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Root beers and hot chocolate all around for Samwise Gamgee, Charlotte Doyle, Meg and Jo March, Neville Longbottom and The Weasleys, and Anne Elliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. (Hey, I’m a writer. I never said I could count.)

What do you do when you are not writing?

Did I mention my six children? The oldest is 8 years old this month, so yeah. . . . I love to be in the kitchen if my previous response didn’t make that evident. I love listening to baseball on the radio during the season (Go D-backs!). Watching it on tv makes me mad, no idea why. And I do like going to the movies. I don’t get to the theater as often as I would like, but that’s what Redbox is for, right? There are even things that I don’t do with my time that I miss, like going to art museums, concerts, practicing the piano and Japanese. As a parent (mom or dad) you give up things to make sure the family runs smooth. Oh and sleep, I miss sleep.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

I’ve always been of the mind that the side characters are where it’s at. Wash from Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” series was my favorite. In fact, nearly every time Alan Tudyk appears on screen his character ends up stealing the show for me. Neville Longbottom is my favorite character from the Harry Potter series, particularly the way Matthew Lewis played him in the films. He grows so much and develops as a character in really great ways, you just can’t help cheering for him in the end.

As far as The Accidental Apprentice goes, Crispin stands out as a sneaky B-character who runs off with most of the scenes he’s in. He’s so funny and tenacious and I just want to ruffle his blonde curls. I’m looking forward to making him a point of view character in the sequel.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Barring anything unforeseen, I will be at the Chandler Author Walk in Chandler, Arizona on November 21st. I’ll be selling and signing copies of The Accidental Apprentice and Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology. I’d like to add a few more, but we’ll see. I’m hoping to start work on Accidental’s sequel in January. And of course, any events I am attending can be found on my website, www.anikasantics.com.

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

Find Arrington on the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

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