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16th-Jul-2014 08:52 pm - Above, the stars were coming out.
monkey, ranting
 So I finished the last book in Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadow's of the Apt series. 

It's been a long ride (ten modestly-sized novels) and a hell of a fun one. Few series manage to blend an Tchaikovsky's grasp of character with the series' epic feel.  The character list runs to several pages and by the end of the series I cared for every single one. Every good guy has a dark side, and every bad guy is given their moment to shine (of course, not all of them take the opportunity). The plot is resolved neatly with without a deus ex machina, there are very few kings, lords or princes, and the whole is brought to a very satisfying conclusion.  

My favorite book in the series will always be The Scarab Path (Che/Thalric forever!) but those last two books found me biting my nails and wondering just how the hell Tchaikovsky would manage to pull the story off. There's some real tear-jerking moments-the siege of Collegium and the final scene between Tisamon and Stenwold come to mind, but the mood is one of cautious optimism, as the kinden take their first steps into a brave new world. 

Tchaikovsky's posted casting for the main characters in the series here on the author's blog and there's a bunch of world-building and short stories that are more than worth a read on his website, shadowsoftheapt.com.

As famous last words go, "You didn't think I'd go on without you, did you?" takes some beating.
monkey, ranting

I once read a critique of Mieville's work where the critic complained that he appreciated Mieville's novels for their lyrical prose but couldn't get past the fact that his characters were either bastards or had features that were profoundly unsympathetic and/or terrible fates*. This is an aspect of Mieville's work that's always prevented me from enjoying his adult novels as much as I feel I should.

Those readers who share my sentiments would probably enjoy Railsea, a young adult novel and affectionate deconstruction of Moby Dick. Railsea takes place in an alternate world where the plains between cities are populated by man-eating subterranean monsters. Trains manned by fearless adventurers travel the great railsea searching for the salvage of lost civilizations and hunting the moldywarpe, or giant mole.

The hero, Sham, is apprenticed to a train whose one-armed captain, Abacat Naphi, is obsessed with a great white moldywarpe called Mocker-Jack. Like most of Mievielle's novels, nothing is quite what it seems. Naturally no seafaring cliché is left subverted (at one point Sham is marooned upon an island of higher ground but escapes by repairing an abandoned handcar and setting out alone along the rails), there are pirates and peg legs aplenty and people are forced to walk the plank.  

Railsea's very readable and the world building is entertaining. It's short but sweet and although you suspect that Mieville at times is a touch too pleased with himself it's just so much damn fun you don't much care. The book's only classed as young adult because nobody has sex (plenty of people die) or curses too much and not everyone is a complete cockweasel.  It's definitely worth a voyage into the murky depths of the young adult section of your library.

*Lin in Perdido Street Station has a giant scarab beetle for a head and is turned into a zombie by a giant moth who likes to feed on people's brains. 
10th-Jul-2014 09:05 pm - fic: we are all earth
lion, pride of baghdad, fic
 Just when I thought I'd finally shaken off the fandom-here's a novella-length AC AU. Link to AO3, because it's late and I'm tired. Feel free to comment there or here. 

Title: We Are All Earth
Fandom: Assassin's Creed
Rating: PG13, for implied relationships and some violence
Spoilers: Yes, but come on.
Warnings: Heavily implied homosexual relationship, but it's far from the fic's focus 
Summary: Kadar survives, and joins the Templars.To prove his loyalty he must locate the Jerusalem Assassin's Bureau-and confront its rafiq.Mild Kadar/de Sable. 

When the knife reaches bone, your life must change...
21st-Jun-2014 04:16 pm - woohoo!
lion, pride of baghdad, fic
 I love Marie's Brennan's books and am delighted to announce that one of my entries won her Design Your Own Dragon competition. The 'Mrtyahaiman mew' a dragon whose behaviour was partly based upon the New Zealand Kea (insert obligatory wikipedia entry here) will be mentioned in the next book in her series, the Natural History of Dragons!

Mrtyahaiman Mew

A small drake measuring no more than thirty centimetres at the shoulder, this species is called the 'noisy trickster' by locals, as well as epithets not appropriate to repeat. Although they meet all other criteria, mews do not have any special property to their breath and are thus classified as draconic cousins rather than true drakes. Their name derives from their distinctive call which resembles the mew of a cat.

Mews are typically black with bronze tones to their scales, although brown and even albino specimens have been noted. Flocks of up to thirty individuals have been sighted but they are most often seen in groups of three or four.  They are intelligent and resourceful creatures and are often attracted to human settlements, where they pillage shiny objects and scavenge through rubbish pits and middens. This behaviour has sometimes led to them becoming unpopular with humans. 

Mews love fatty foods and have been known to land on the back of sheep to pick out pieces of flesh. There are legends of mews stampeding flocks of sheep or goats over cliffs to feast upon the remains, though this has never been reliably documented.

A gathering of mews is called a festival.

You could enter the competition three times-so I did. These are the other entries I submitted who didn't make it into the book.

Eiversch sea-drake (inspired by the New Zealand fiords and the nocturnal kakapo)

This striking dragon inhabits the steep forested fiords of far northern Eiverheim. Slate-grey in colour, with white belly and ventral wing membrane, the hill-drake is notable for its unusual mating behaviour. Males and females live separately except during the mating season, when the male climbs to the top of a mountain and builds a curved structure which resembles a small amphitheatre from loose stones. Once the structure has been completed the male drake positions himself in the centre of the amphitheatre and emits a loud booming roar to attract a female. Mature males can be easily distinguished by their throat-pouch and exceptionally large ruff, both used to amplify the call. Their mating cries can be heard for several kilometres downwind.

 It is said that in times long past sailors visiting the fiords would often be kept awake by the constant roaring of the beasts, which alas are now quite rare. They feed mainly on fish and sea-mammals such as seals or small whales and are most accomplished hunters; the sight of a full grown male hill-drake swooping across the mirrored waters of the fiords to seize a porpoise in its claws is not easily forgotten.

Mrtyahaiman shadow-serpent, or Lesser Penumbra. (inspired by the Stewart Island kiwi)

A draconic cousin, this nocturnal species is small in size, measuring less than a metre in length from nose to tail. Despite this, its bones are the densest of any dragon and even small specimens can weigh upwards of a hundred kilos.

The shadow-serpent's short, squat form, with vestigial wings, a long muzzle and very short tail, is perfectly adapted to foraging through the dense forests of the Mrtyahaima lowlands. Their colouration is dark brown, though they are variably silver-grey on head and wings. This pigment is not natural to the serpent, and is thought to originate from dust-bathing. They breathe large quantities of dense smoke which assists concealment while hunting for nocturnal rodents, insects, and small birds. Like many nocturnal creatures, they have small eyes, an excellent sense of smell and superior hearing. Rarely seen, they are extremely difficult to capture due to their keen senses.

The Lesser Penumbra has the largest egg to body ratio of any dragon.

15th-Jun-2014 11:25 am - the idol would drown that night
monkey, ranting

Review:

Three Parts Dead/Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone.

Let me start by saying that you should definitely read these books. The writing is beautiful, the covers are awesome and the worldbuilding makes me want to swallow my tongue with jealousy.

Both novels take place in the same world at different times with different characters (the second book in the series, Two Serpents Rise, takes place before Three Parts Dead) and similar themes. The big idea behind Max Gladstone's works is lawyers. More precisely, contracts. Gods exist, and sufficiently skilled and trained persons (wizards, or Craftsmen and women as Gladstone calls them) can negotiate with them for an exchange of their power. The conceit sounds boring, but isn't by any means.

Three Parts Dead's heroine, Tara Reid graduates and is, quite literally, kicked out of her floating wizard school on the same day. She survives, winds up with a job offer from a prestigious but not-quite-trustworthy firm, and is sent to investigate the death of the god Kos Everburning with the help of a gargoyle, a vampire and a chain-smoking priest. In Two Serpents Rise, gambler and professional risk manager Caleb Altemoc is tasked with discovering the source of the demons that have suddenly begun to appear in his city's water supply.

Caleb and Tara are both normal people but the situations they find themselves and the obstacles they face are both extraordinary and beautifully described.    Fans of thoughtful, character-driven and well written fantasy should check Max Gladstone out.

The third book in what I'm calling the Three Word Title series, Full Fathom Five, is planned for later this year and I can't wait to read it.

monkey, ranting
 The Toast writes a glorious mashup of Redwall and Game of Thrones here

 A sample: "Even the strongest and bravest must sometimes weep. It shows they have a great heart, one that can feel compassion for others. You are brave, Matthias. Already you have done great things for one so young. I am only a simple country-bred fieldmouse, but even I can see the courage and leadership in you. A burning brand shows the way, and each day your flame grows brighter. There is none like you, Matthias. You have the sign of greatness upon you. One day Redwall and all the land will be indebted to you. Matthias, you are a true Warrior.
Matthias, your entire family is dead and your lands have been burned and salted by Northern bannerman and also I’m betraying you and I’m going to use your skin to make a bagpipe and I’m going to play rude songs about your dead father on that bagpipe and then I’m going to set you and your pregnant wife on fire, Matthias."

lion, pride of baghdad, fic
 So I saw X men: First Class last week.

It wasn't perfect. I did enjoy it a lot, but not as much as I enjoyed Graham Norton * with Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Hugh Jackman sitting on the same couch (with the English Eurovision Song Contest entry, Molly) teasing each other about fanart of Fassbender and McAvoy baking cookies.

While I'm on the X-men wagon, here's a link to my very favourite X-men comic ever, Faith Erin Hicks' 11-page Wolverine comic pitch. Wolverine fights ninjas and bitches about the kids stealing his Canadian eggs.   

I don't care what anyone else says, I can taste the difference...

*English chat-show 
lion, pride of baghdad, fic
So the remix fics have finally been revealed for Remix _Redux 11! My story Paragons Prefer Blondes (a retelling of silentstephi's fic charming not-quite -romance Wrong Blonde) is up over at AO3. It's the first time I've participated, and it was lots of fun! The idea is that you take someone's story and retell it in a different style. I must add that silentstephi was incredibly gracious about my retelling of her story as a bad romance novel.    

Title: Paragons Prefer Blondes 
Fandom: Dragon Age: Origins 
Pairing: Warden/Anders, Warden/Alistair, Warden/Everyone
Rating: 15, for bad sex jokes rather than actual content
Spoilers: Yes  
Warnings: Bad writing, bad romance, bad sex, bad puns, and bad decisions. You have been warned.
Summary: Varric's newest romance novel isn't going down well with his editor. A rewrite of silentstephi's fic Wrong Blonde.

I don't use a pseudonym...
12th-May-2014 11:06 pm - remix fics
lion, pride of baghdad, fic
 The Remix Redux is up at AO3! This remix was a blast and I'll definitely be participating in the future. All the stories are over here on Archive of One's Own.

I was lucky enough to receive an fantastic story: Vows and Honor (The Freedom's Just Another Word Remix), a remix of my Dragon Age fic Heirs of All Eternity by some awesome anonymous author. Go and check it out at AO3 here!  

I wrote a story for the remix as well, and I'll link to it when reveals come through.
monkey, ranting
 Medieval merriment from the wonderful Toast. A critique of medieval maps, this article is part of the excellent Two Monks series. One monk is supremely confident about all things despite never travelling further than his own closet. His colleague is an incredibly gullible artist. Together, they invent various styles of crazy historical art. 

Because how do you know the lions there aren't giants? Really?

And all of Asia is mostly just one enormous castle...
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