Naamah's Kiss Part V

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, I am your host. Sorry for posting late – I started the New Year off with a cold and my blogging has been off and on this past week. We’re covering Chapters 49-60, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) Moirin and the Circle do one final summoning. What did you think of Folkolor’s choices in who to spare or not? King Daniel also has to make some choices in who to punish or not – do you think he was fair? Is he correct in that he should have given his people something greater to strive for?

It was very interesting that Folkolor spared those who were in it for love of one kind or another – love of the art or metallurgy, etc. I think Elua’s grace must have been holding Folkolor back… or perhaps that demon of so long ago that Imri & Sidonie freed must have warned the spirit realm of meddling with D’Angelines when it comes to love.

I think King Daniel had his hands tied by the law. He admitted that they broke no law so really he could only punish the poet by relieving her of her royal job. I do think Raphael needs some punishing but I’m not sure whose role it is to do so.

And, yes, I do think King Daniel could be giving his people something bigger to look up to or out towards. They could be exploring Terra Nova or the night skies or archaeological digs in distant deserts. It’s not too late for him to set that in motion.

2) Master Lo is summoned home to Ch’in to do what he can for the Emperor’s daughter Snow Tiger. What do you think of her ailment? What role, if any, do you expect Moirin to play in healing her?

I really don’t recall how this plays out. Perhaps Moirin is just there to learn for future dealings with the possessed (as there have been a few hints now that perhaps Raphael is possessed by Folkolor). Perhaps the D’Angeline snow drops can be made into a demon-battling tonic and not just an aphrodisiac. Perhaps Moirin will be able to call the twilight and see what kind of demon possesses Snow Tiger (since she saw all the Circle’s demons differently than they did) and that info will be of great use to Master Lo.

3) We learn more about Bao’s past. Do you like him any more or any less now? We also hear some amazing things about Master Lo. Do you think any of them are true?

Bao is definitely a more complex character. He did walk away from committing a horrible crime against a kid but he also didn’t do anything to protect that kid from the next asshole to come along who would take advantage of the situation. I love how he sees to Master Lo’s needs and I like how attentive he is to the ladies.

Master Lo is certainly old but I don’t think he’s 170 years old. It will be interesting to see him at the Ch’in court and see what others have to say about him.

4) During the lengthy voyage, Moirin has language lessons, learns a bit about the Ch’in religions, and enjoys Bao’s attentions. What stood out for you?

I loved the bit about how to properly pronounce Bao’s name. I can only imagine how it must sound in his head when some D’Angeline used his name and yet had it just a smidge off so they were addressing him as Womb.

I thought it was amusing how the other ladies wanted to give Moirin a make over and also how Bao approved her politely turning them down.

The story of the Yama Kings was intriguing. It makes me want to go learn more about Ch’in afterlives.

5) They finally make land right into the middle of a civil war. What do you think about Black Sleeve? What do you think his relationship to Master Lo is?

It was all very exciting and rushed, wasn’t it? I loved the Bag of Wind and the beautiful cloudy fabric they unfurled. I’m not sure yet what to make of Black Sleeve. On one hand, he sounds pretty ruthless and Bao and Master Lo definitely fear him and respect the power of his canon. But on the other hand, their own Emperor’s guards were rather ruthless in abandoning the ships and all those who didn’t have horses to flee with them. Still, perhaps there really wasn’t anything else that could have been done there.

Master Lo said Black Sleeve wasn’t his pupil so perhaps a relative? Perhaps they both trained under the same master at one point (Lo when he was younger and Black Sleeve more recently)? I really forget what their connection is.

Other Tidbts:

The Lady of Marsilikos wasn’t very nice or fair, now was she? Now that we’ve left D’Angeline shores, I really feel this Terre D’Ange is different from the gracious one that existed during Phedre’s time. It had it’s flaws, but I feel this current D’Angeline culture is a little high and mighty, a little in love with gossip, and a bit self-absorbed.

I love that Moirin is hesitant to pray to a deity not her own. Phedre was always willing to pay respects to any deity she may have come across but I like that Moirin is different in this regard. Also, her hesitancy isn’t out of some vain idea that her deities are better, but simply because they have claimed her as their own and she doesn’t want to offend anyone, her deities or someone else’s.

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).

A Time of Demons: Before the End by Kathryn Meyer Griffith

GriffithATimeOfDemonsWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Wendy Tremont King

Publisher: Self published (2014)

Length: 18 hours 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Time of Demons

Author’s Page

In St. Louis, MO, the Graystones are musicians playing at a local bar and taking care of their elderly aunt and uncle. Cassandra and Johnny lost their parents and siblings in a fire when they were kids and ever since then, Cassandra has been plagued with a few supernatural powers: she can sense when someone is about to die, and (more recently) she can see demons (often disguised as humans). But now things are getting scary with more and more demons about and freak storms and accidents that force the Graystones and their friends on the road.

This book starts off pretty slow and stays that way for much of the story. On one hand, we get to know the main characters, especially Cassandra, pretty well. On the other hand, the long spaces between the bits of action were a bit tiring to get through as the characters are simply rehashing events and feelings we have already heard about. I place this book firmly in Christian Fiction first and paranormal fantasy fiction second. The only non-Christians in this book are the demons. While I understand this is a fiction based on the idea of Revelation, I was surprised that none of our non-demon characters were of a different religion, nor did any of our characters discuss any friends or family that were of another religious persuasion. I found this odd since our characters are musicians, fortune tellers, and circus clowns, all professions that at least rub elbows with a variety of folks. Plus St. Louis is a fairly large city with plenty happening.

Since there was lack of variety in religious backgrounds, all of our good guys were on the same page. This meant that the only conflict was between our heroes and the demons and that was pretty straight forward. This lack of differences meant no real conflict among our characters and this added to the dullness of the book; they were all on the same page. This also means that the character growth is limited to their religious take on the events they live through. The most interesting character was the blood demon Rayner and he is interesting because he has both internal conflict and conflict with his fellow demons as well as the humans going on. Unfortunately, his page time with readers is limited.

In short, if you enjoy Revelation or Christian fiction stories, then this might be right up your alley. There is some character development for our heroes and they do have to go through one travesty after another as the world approaches Revelation. However, for me, this book didn’t work. I like more diversity, which leads to situations where the characters face not only conflict with the forces of evil, but internal conflict and conflict with their friends and allies.

The Narration: Wendy King did a great job narrating this book. It is a quality performance with plenty of individual, distinct voices for the characters. She also has some great creepy voices for the demons. 

What I Liked: Cover art; great narration; the demon Rayner was the most interesting character.

What I Disliked: This is a pretty slow book; not much diversity; the conflict is simple and one-dimensional.

What Others Think:

Book Lover’s Life

Damnation Books

She Never Slept

The Broken Kingdoms Read Along Part IV

Chupacabra sacked out on the bed.
Chupacabra sacked out on the bed.

Welcome Everyone! this week begins the read along for Book 2 in N. K. Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy. Anyone is welcome to join us and this trilogy lends easily to popping in when you like as each book is a stand alone story set in the same world, a mosaic trilogy I think is the term. So here is the Schedule if you want to play!

Grace from Books Without Any Pictures  is our host this week, so make sure to swing by her place to see what everyone else thought. This week we covered Chapter 17 to the End.

The End! I so enjoyed this book and the read along. A big thanks to all those who joined it. I loved revisiting this book and am looking forward to Book 3.

Spoilers run free below!

1.  We finally meet T’vril in his new role as Lord Arameri.  Is he what you expected?

I expected T’vril to be a strong ruler. How could he not be and still be in power all these years later, even with the Grey Lady’s blessing on him? I was hoping he would be fair. And I guess he was, brutally. He came up with a solution to the demon quandary he was handed, even though the solution was not an agreeable one to Oree. He was also brutal, but fair, to Lady Serymn.

The only thing that struck me as sneaky was not being up front about the demon blood they recovered from tearing about the House of the Risen Sun. Still, he might have felt he was under no obligation to tell Oree this if it wasn’t very apparent whose blood (Dateh’s or Oree’s) it was originally. Every ruler needs their secrets.

2.  Oree is given a choice, to live as the Arameri’s weapon, or to die.  What would you do in that position?

While there is life, there is still hope. If she died, she could not affect the Arameri or godlings any more. Alive, she could influence one or both, maybe find a way to taint her own blood so it was no longer usable. Perhaps destroy the cache of blood the Arameri held, counter the sigil, and disappear forever. So, yeah, I would go for life at that point.

3.  Do you think that Oree made the right decision by sending Shiny away?  How do you feel about Yeine’s role here?

Yes, Oree made the tough, right decision. This way, all 3 get to live (Oree, her little surprise, and Shiny). If she had chosen to die, it would have been 2 deaths and Shiny would have known that Nahadoth and Yeine had killed not only his lover, but his child. I think that might have broken open another Gods’ War.

But Yeine had to keep Nahadoth in check, and I think that was tough. Nahadoth went there for blood. Yeine had to change Nahadoth’s mind in small degrees instead of just giving him a slap and saying, ‘No, we aren’t killing Shiny’s lover today. go find your chew toy!’. So I think Yeine did a great job of keeping that all balanced and everyone alive.

And Shiny knows. He knows Yeine and Nahadoth were there and that he has to leave to keep Oree and her little bun alive. He’s protecting them by leaving and walking the Earth, usually alone, occasionally not.

4.  What did you think of the ending of the book?  Were you satisfied?

Yes, I was happy with the ending. Dateh was defeated. Lady Serymn made a God’s chew toy. T’vril still in power. The godlings freed to wander the Earth, not just Shadow. Oree and Shiny had their year together and a night of love. Nice, hot love. 🙂

So, yeah, I liked the ending and what it may portend for Book 3.

5.  How did The Broken Kingdoms compare to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms?  Which did you like better?

Such a tough question! I think I will go with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, because it introduced me to the world. I have strong feelings for it because it wowed me. Book 2, I already know the world so I have to rely on the characters and plot to wow me (which they did). But Book1 wowed me with all 3 (plot, characters, & setting).

Don’t get me wrong, I love Book 2 also. Both books (and I suspect Book 3 will too) have a permanent place on my book shelf.

I really like that such an in-depth story was told by a blind character. With so many of the characters, their features can be imagined any way I wish, which I think let’s the reader have a more personal relationship with the book. How do you picture the features of Oree’s friends? Do they look a little like some of your friends? And how did you picture the features of the Dateh? Lady Serymn? Do they look a little like your enemies?

Oree’s ‘handicap’ wasn’t the only handicap in the story. Shiny’s lack of compassion handicapped him. Book 2 was clever in that way and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Other Tidbits:

Wow! Hado is more power-hungry than I thought. On the other hand, he spent the first 2000 years of his life (it was 2000 right?) without any control of his life, his body. So, I can see how he has a deep need for power ever since Yeine set him free.

Shiny had an opportunity to kill Oree, to remove her demon blood threat. Instead, he held onto her and told her one of his deepest shames. That was a very moving scenes.

Dateh! I think we finally know why Oree always saw the extra arms on him when he moved. They were shadows of the godlings’ souls he had ingested. So glad Oree and Itempas could put an end to him.

The Broken Kingdoms Read Along Part III

Chupacabra sacked out on the bed.
Chupacabra sacked out on the bed.

Welcome Everyone! this week begins the read along for Book 2 in N. K. Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy. Anyone is welcome to join us and this trilogy lends easily to popping in when you like as each book is a stand alone story set in the same world, a mosaic trilogy I think is the term. So here is the Schedule if you want to play!

Lauren from Violin in a Void is our host this week, so make sure to swing by her place to see what everyone else thought. This week we covered Chapters 11-16.

Spoilers run free below!

1. Oree chooses not to reveal Shiny’s identity to Dateh. Did you agree with her decision? What might have happened if she’d chosen otherwise? 

I think she was right to withhold this info. Even though it was a big unknown whether Shiny could and would help her, she needed every possible out available. And there is also the fact that Dateh and crew would have demanded proof. How would they get that proof? Would Oree have shared that he can only act up for save a mortal? If Dateh wanted to test that, would he have had Oree tortured to observe Shiny and see if glowed? Also, would Dateh hold to the scripture, the scripture that says Itempas cannot lie…..and we know that Shiny can. So, too many unknowns. I don’t think Dateh would have believed Oree but he might have enjoyed testing the ‘delusion’ just to break Oree’s spirit a little more.

 

2. Madding’s dead 🙁 How do you feel about his death? What do you make of his last words to Oree?

Ah! NK Jemisin pulled at my heart strings with this one. Madding had pushed Oree away int he past because he didn’t want to experience the pain of her aging and dying. Now he is the one to die in her arms…..by her poisonous blood. I think his last words, said without hate and with love, became a source of strength to Oree. He did not blame her for his ending. I hope he got to take out a few Lights before he passed, though since Oree cannot see, it was unclear if he did or not.

 

3. Itempas has seen what terrible things people do in his name. What do you make of Dateh’s interpretation of Itempan faith? Could this help rehabilitate Itempas or will he simply see the New Lights as a delusional sect?

Dateh compares the choice of the Gods to kill off some of their offspring (the demons) in order to secure their lives to his own plans. I think he wants a godhood and he sees this as the closest thing he’ll ever get to it. He also chatted about how Itempas himself banished the godlings from this realm and now that Itempas is ‘indisposed’ the godlings has acted up like naughty children and encroached on this realm. Of course, Dateh wants to punish them by banishing them or killing them off. Once again comparing himself to a god and making god-like decisions that affect a whole world.

I think Shiny paying witness to that discussion, especially after his lengthy stay in the Empty, definitely gave him something to think about. He has been one of those parents to the world that says, do as I tell you, not as I do. Now he is seeing that people see him as the most efficient killer and they want to emulate him, not merely serve him.

 

4. After Madding’s death, Oree loses the will to live, except to stop the New Lights. Shiny wants to kill her because she’s a demon. Do you think she’ll survive the events of the novel? Is it safer to wipe out the demons?

Well, I remember the ending, so I won’t give away how it does end. I will say that Oree has a pair of brass balls. Not only is she willing to die if it reduces the forthcoming destruction by the Lights, but she was also willing to give up an arm to Lil just to get word to the Grey Lady. That takes guts. But it also means that Oree may sooner or later give up her life to end the Lights.

Well, the Big Three tried to wipe out all the demons ages ago and obviously that didn’t last. Hopefully, they will see that and try something else this time. Also, even if they got every single demon, who’s to say the godlings wouldn’t make more? No, the Big 3, Godlings, and Demons all need to sit down over raspberry tea and chat this all out and hammer out some simple rules, like not making blood popsicles and leaving them in the freezer without proper markings to indicate Demon’s Blood or Godling’s Blood, etc.

 

5. Itempas shares his feelings about his actions in the God’s War. Have your feelings about him changed at all?

Itempas says that he is incapable of change, but in just the 3/4 of the book we have seen him, he has changed a little. He’s taken on menial chores like cooking for Oree, lived in a crate from time to time, asked Oree for her company, and also helped with her little suicidal nose-dive plan even when he didn’t like it because it was running away from combat instead of starting it.

If Itempas can change, then I guess my feelings can change too. These little things do not make up for all the thousands of years of torment he put others through, all the hundreds (thousands?) of demons he destroyed. But perhaps his regret, coupled with long-term change and effort will earn him a place back in the pantheon eventually.

6. There’s something odd about Hado. Shiny says to him “You are not quite yourself. […] Something of him lingers.” Oree notes that Hado’s shadow is darker than the non-magical things around him. Could he be more than just a spy, and if so, what?

‘Something of him lingers’ and Oree sees him as a dark shape. I think this is Naha, the Naha who was separated by Yeine and given a real life, free of Nahadoth. Very interesting that he chooses to spy for T’vril Arameri. I forget how things turn out in this, as it’s been too long since I read the book last, but I think Oree and Shiny are going to be OK with Hado and T’vril.

Other Tidbits:

Painting on the wood floor with cheese….It’s something you can do when you are a little kid and when you are a delinquent oldster. But try it when you are fully functioning grownup and all hell breaks loose!

Dateh and his little sneaky listening holes of Empty! That asshole!

Did anyone else have to ponder that scene where Shiny is finally returned to Oree and he wakes up. He needs her, first ordering her to stay, and then asking? I think the Empty was incredibly hard on him and perhaps he realized just how much even he needs some sort of daily contact with people and the world.

I love Lil! Daughter of Nahadoth and Itempas. Complete badass!

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp

KempHammerAndBladeWhy I Read It: Honestly? It was the cover that attracted me.

Where I Got It:  Own it via paperbackswap.com.

Who I Recommend This To: D&D adventure fans will probably like this.

Narrator: Nick Podehl

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2012)

Length: 10 hours 42 minutes

Series: Book 1 Egil & Nix

Author’s Page

The tale starts out with Egil and Nix doing a dungeon crawl, set on killing a demon and gaining treasure. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned and they slump off to their newly acquired bar & brothel in a rough part of the neighborhood. Lo and behold, their efforts have gained them stalkers and the kind of fans with demands. They are tasked by a sorcerer to travel with him and his drugged, unconscious sisters to a long-lost temple where the sorcerer plans to free a demon. Egil and Nix weren’t given a choice in the matter and reluctantly go on the quest. Meanwhile, they each start receiving psychic messages from at least one of the sisters, pleas for help.

For 3/4 of this book, I was hooked. I enjoyed the bantering, the adventure, the ridiculous situations the lads ended up in. I even enjoyed despising the bad guy. While the only females in the tale tended to be unconscious maidens in distress, mother figures, or brothel workers, I had hopes the sisters would rise at the end and take some much deserved vengeance into their own hands. After all, they are mindmages. I enjoyed the magic, the near-impossible situation, the backstory that explained what the sorcerer was up to and why.

But then I got to the end. I am still pondering if the author was trying to acknowledge the male-centric world that has dominated Fantasy Fiction for generations by having the main characters acknowledge their own rude & crude behavior towards women; Or was the author finding a new way to be condescending to women?

The sorcerer’s family has for generations had an evil pact with a certain line of demons. Once every 10 years or so, a portal is opened and for one night the demon is allowed to bed (mostly rape) all the child-bearing age females of the family. 9 months later, the demons get the demonic children and the ones that pass for human stay with the sorcerer’s family. The men of the family are also granted ever increasing dark arcane knowledge. I’m OK with all that. Dark, twisted – definitely my thing.

SPOILER ALERT But at the end, Egil and Nix manage to rescue the sisters from being demon raped by knocking out their evil brother sorcerer and, through a magic talisman, changing him into a woman. They then allow the demon to carry off the newly feminized brother to be demon raped and probably impregnated. The ladies are then swept off their feet and carried into a new life by our heroes. My issues? 1) If you have an orifice that can be forcibly penetrated, you can be raped. By changing the brother to a female, the message was that only women can be raped. Dare I say that the message is that men are too strong to be demon raped? 2) Once converted to a female, all his brains fled. Surely he had various traps for an escaped demon in his own stronghold? Where did all his arcane knowledge go? Was his female brain too small to hold it all? 3) Egil and Nix didn’t stop the cycle of violence. In fact, they perpetuated it by giving the demon a viable female to impregnate. 4) The sisters didn’t have any say in their brother’s fate and were then oh so graciously given new lives by the heroes. END SPOILER

So I am not sure I will pick up another Paul Kemp novel. Even several weeks after finishing this book, I am still drawn to Egil and Nix but strongly put off by how Book 1 ended. Maybe with time I will forget and can check out his other books without prejudice.

The Narration: Nick Podehl was a great voice for Nix and Egil. He had this carefree, teasing voice for Nix and this gruff voice for Egil. It was a very good narration.

What I Liked: Adventure in the style of D&D; Egil’s tattoos; starts with a demon crawl; plenty of bantering; the cover.

What I Disliked: Damsels need rescuing; the other ladies are brothel workers; the ending really turned me off (new way to be condescending to females?).

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Critic

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