Ongoing Comics

Yesterday I got a call while at work saying my comics were in.  Last weekend I’d gone to pick up a copy of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #14, only to find there were none in stock.  Still, my favorite shop was happy to order one for me, and with #15 due out this past Wednesday, it worked out well.  So I stopped by to grab them as they’ll only hold ’em for a week and I had a busy weekend ahead.  I also reread #13 just to remind myself where we stood.  And oh my, does issue 14 pick up and deliver and then that cliffhanger!  Ugh, why isn’t it June yet?

I say that because issue 15 is another that takes a step back and reflects through the eyes of a different character, without actually telling us what will happen next.  And it’s rather interesting because, for the first time, we get a look through Zordon’s eyes.  Which is somewhat interesting.  We don’t really learn much about him, but through him we get a look at the past of this alternate world.  It fills in the gaps, but I don’t know that it really introduces anything new that we couldn’t have guessed at.

The Squatt and Baboo comics are…well…I prefer Bulk and Skull.  I guess I relate to a pair of humans more than a pair of monsters?  They’re still amuse, just not as much as Bulk and Skull.

Whoops, I meant to post this earlier since I finished these things on Saturday, but enough of the day was left that I might’ve read something else…

Cover Art

A single solitary sunbeam that Caravaggio would be proud of falls through an offscreen window, partially illuminating a young woman in the remains of a nice red dress.  The line of her leg draws you down to a cruel shackle clasped around her ankle, the chain running off into the darkness.  Most of the image is in shades of darkness, allowing you to only focus on the woman.  At the top, gold lettering proclaims that Robin McKinley is responsible for the work within.  Below, hovering just above the woman, the word Sunshine is scrawled in metallic red.

I think we all know that this is a vampire book, even if I don’t want to photograph the poor, abused, library book.

There’s a “type” of covers that signify vampire books.  They are often very dark, or dark with a small amount of light.  The settings tend to be baroque or gothic, and characters tend to be well-dressed if they appear.  Red is a dominant color, or a common choice for the title text.  If a vampire appears in the image, it’s not in a way that shows their fangs or inhumanity.  The book’s appearance is just on the tasteful side…where romances tend to be just a bit beyond.

I knew nothing about Sunshine when I picked it up off the library shelf three weeks ago.  Really, I saw the name Robin McKinley, and that was enough.  I paused long enough to take in the cover, recognize that this was almost certainly a vampire book, and continued on my way to check out.  I am still glad that my first McKinley novel was Beauty, because it made a favorable imprssion on me in every way from the title to the rose motif, to the first line of the synopsis. If it had been Sunshine, I’m not sure I would have become so inclined to pick up anything and everything with McKinley’s name on it.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a great book and I need my own copy.  I just went online to slap it on my amazon wishlist against a future purchase and I saw a couple different cover variants.  Neither of which is anywhere as evocative as the library’s copy.  That’s one for the library and oversized paperbacks.  We all know that I prefer mass market paperbacks, but in this case the cover is just…ugh, it’s great.

Like the other McKinley books I’ve read, Sunshine is told in the first person.  However, it’s some time before we actually learn the protagonist’s name.  We learn first about the world as she’s defined it through Charlie’s Coffeehouse where she works.  Charlie is her stepfather, and he and her mom have two boys together who are a teenager and a bit younger than that.  The protagonist is their big sister and twenty-five.  Her parents split up when she was six.  Oh and there’s magic and stuff in this world.

All of the McKinley books I’ve read have been set in some other version of the world that has magic and fantastical creatures.  However, Dragonhaven and Sunshine are such that you can be fooled into thinking it’s the real world if you’re not paying attention.  Especially Sunshine.  Yes, a lot of terminiology and especially locations have different names.  “Combox” instead of “computer” is an easy one, but for the most part, you can easily imagine your local hipster coffee shop in Charlie’s stead.

But there is magic and stuff here.  Our protagonist (Rae Seddon)’s mom tends to buy wards for her when she’s concerned, though Rae tends to stick them in her glove compartment and forget about them.  There are three main kinds of Others that people are concerned with and might want to ward themselves against.  Vampires are the biggest, and it’s rumored that they control a fifth of the world’s total wealth.  They were once human but are no longer and you cannot ever think of them as being human.  Weres are were-any animal, but there are drugs that can prevent the change and many of them hide in ordinary human society.  They can also have kids the normal way, same as demons.  Demons are the last category of Other and they’re really a catch-all.  If it’s not a vampire and it’s not a Were, it’s a demon.  Oh and apparently about ten years ago was something called the Voodoo Wars wherein humans fought Others and won…breathing space.

Anyway, the story really starts when Rae goes off by herself and is kidnapped by vampires.  Which is where the story would end if this was the normal course of things for this world.  But then there wouldn’t be a book.  And things get much more convoluted and intense the longer it goes on.  There are four sections to the book, and I’m only briefly touching on the first.

It’s a hero’s journey all right, but more in the sense of personal advancement and understanding than anything else.  Rae needs to understand and come to terms with who and what she is, which is more than she’d let herself believe for so many years.  But also to get up at 4am to make cinnamon rolls.  Because that’s her job.  Well, she runs the bakery in the coffeehouse.  So she makes more than just cinnamon rolls the size of your head.  But man do they sound good!

Okay so, Rae’s birth name is not Rae Seddon, especially since Seddon is Charlie’s last name, and he’s just her stepdad.  No, her real name is Raven Blaise, and you better believe that the Blaise family is full of sorcerors of some kind.  Her father is (was? never confirmed dead or alive) Onyx Blaise who was seemingly the best of the best or something like that.  We never get a huge amount of detail on that, just that the families of this sort tend to be rather inbred by this point, but Rae’s mom is an outsider with no magic whatsoever, hence there was a lot of fallout from both families about that marriage.

Rae herself is a mage, and was taught how to use her power to transmute (a “stuff-changer”) by her grandmother.  It was just a brief lessoning when she was ten.  The most interesting part of Rae’s magic is her element: sunlight.  She literally draws strength from sunlight.  This also gives her an affinity for her element’s opposite.  So while a water mage can cross a desert more easily, an air mage hold their breath longest…a sunlight mage could very well have an affinity for vampires.

This is fascinating to me, and a great concept.  Not to mention the story itself.  But I think asking a vampire what orange juice tastes like to them and getting the answer “It tastes like orange juice” is one of the funniest lines in the entire book.

There’s That Dated Sexism

I think I’ll reorganize my James H. Schmitz books slightly and stick Legacy in front of the Telzey Amberdon books.  It definitely takes place before those.  Agent of Vega and The Demon Breed will probably stay tacked onto the end, as they doesn’t actually share intersection points with the rest.  Legacy is the story of Trigger Argee, who makes an appearance in one of the Telzey tales found in The Telzey Toy.  I find it interesting that Trigger gets a full novel while Telzey has a series of shorter stories.

Trigger is a great name for the character, for while she is likely to think things through, when she does move, it’s as fast as she can pull the trigger.  There’s also a lot more focus on Trigger as female than I’ve really seen with any of Schmitz’s heroines before.  And let me tell you, it’s been rather enjoyable to read these works from the sixties and seventies featuring strong female protagonists.  In many of the stories, gender is almost an afterthought, for all it impacts things.  In Legacy…not so much.

There have been some hints of the sexism that was more common in those days in previous stories, but it becomes much more blatant in this book.  There’s a lot of discussion of fashion and some disappointingly common tropes and reactions concerning gender.  It’s not nearly as bad as some other books, but Legacy is by far the worst of Schmitz’s books for sexism.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a good book and fairly enjoyable, but Trigger is much girlier than the rest and the sexism makes it a harder read for me.  I’ve had a good time discovering James Schmitz, but I’m going to hold off on reading the last book for now.  That is, of course, The Witches of Karres, the book that got me to grab the lot.  I figure I’ll read it once I get my hands on the sequel, though I’m in no rush.  I figure I can probably find The Wizard of Karres at the library or a used bookstore when I’m ready.  Speaking of libraries, I do have the second book to read, so that’s likely where I’ll go tomorrow.

Your Myth, Our Laughter

If I wasn’t sure before, I am now.  The Telzey books, Agent of VegaThe Demon Breed and probably at least one more book I have not yet read are all part of the same universe.  This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, just something that I like to know for a fact, instead of a feeling or suspicion.  Actually, it’s probably far more a good thing than a bad, because this is a great way for the author to explore different aspects of the same universe while not having to reinvent the wheel every time.  A lot of my favorite series use this approach, and it is a classic.

The Demon Breed was today’s book and I think this is the first James Schmitz book I’ve read that was written as a complete novel and not as shorter stories that were later combined into a single book.  Even the publication dates only say that it was originally published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact magazine, not that it was serialized as with previous books.

We have yet another alien species encroaching on human space here, and yet they almost seem afraid.  At least, of specific humans known as Tuvelas.  They appear to be secretive superheroes in some ways, and are obviously the only true threat humans pose to this alien race.

The aliens also have a human captive, Dr. Ticos Cay who is desperately hoping for a rescue from his friend Nile Etland.  He’s hinted to the aliens that Etland is one of the mythical Tuvelas and will wreck their shit for them when she arrives…but he hasn’t had a chance to get a message to her and tell her that.  What are her chances of survival when the aliens have decided to test the validity of Cay’s claim?  Well…that’s the rest of the book you see.

The few spots of darkness in The Demon Breed are all easily explained away.  Typos…well…those happen, though not usually more than once, but there’s very little that can be done about a book nearly fifty years old.  There were a couple little twinges due to concepts that have fallen out of favor since the sixties, but that’s very rare in these books.  Schmitz has done a great job of writing about a future that isn’t dated, and I appreciate it.

Overall, this was a great adventure story.  Most of Schmitz’s books have been science fiction thrillers, with lots of spies and intrigue.  This one was an adventure in trickery and rather enjoyable.

I See What You Did There

So it seems I ran out of Telzey Amberdon books last week and these other books do not feature her at all.  However, James H. Schmitz is still a talented author and these books may take place in the same universe – I haven’t decided yet.

Today’s book was Agent of Vega, a collection of novellas and short stories about the Galactic Zone Agents of Vega.  These highly skilled and trained individuals are high level spies with all the government equipment and budget anyone could desire who work independently to surgically solve problems throughout the galaxy.  Each story stands alone, but they are linked through momentary mentions and asides.

The stories are “Agent of Vega,” “The Illusionists,” “The Truth About Cushgar,” and “The Second Night of Summer.”  The threats in each story are very different, and sometimes there’s more than one to overcome.  Still, the Zone Agents are the best of the best, which is why there aren’t nearly enough of them, and, when they have the time, they try to note individuals who may have the mettle to join the team.

Of the four tales, I would say that “The Truth About Cushgar” made the biggest impact on me.  I didn’t think it would be the strongest as I began to read.  It’s formatted as a bar story.  Two old friends, reminiscing about lost comrades.  There’s a tragic story, there’s a heroic rescue, there’s someone staring into the abyss, etc.  And yet…the ending.  As the story moves into the climax I could feel my jaw dropping open…and not just because of the house spaceship.  Whatever else he may have been, James H. Schmitz was a masterful author who took my expectations and turned them upside down and gave me a very rewarding experience out of it.  I retained this state of awe all through the fourth and final story which was perfectly acceptable, but still nowhere near as shocking.

I’ve got one more short book by Schmitz, but I checked ahead and the larger book next to it stars a character that was a main character in one of the Telzey stories.  Combine that with the library book sitting on my shelf, and you’ve got a conflict of interests.  Still, I should be able to renew the book if I need to (though I better return the other at some point), so I suppose I’ll continue with Schmitz tomorrow for now.  Of course, who knows how much reading I’ll be able to do outside of work this week.  There was Mother’s Day yesterday, then there’s adulting and social life things in my immediate future.  Still, no one knows what the future holds.

Gotta Get Back

Those who saw my Free Comic Book Day haul may have observed that I bought Samurai Jack: Classics Volume 1.  However, I also have issues #1-20 of Samurai Jack, the comic series.  So I figured I’d reread those before getting to the trade paperback.  And yes, I did check before I bought it and saw images that I had no memory of whatosever.

It took me a while to find the time to go through twenty issues of comics because I don’t care to bring serializations to work.  Also because I’d rather go through it all in one fell swoop, instead of reading a few every night and something completely different during the day.  It’s less going on.

Now, in the twenty issue run are a few major storylines that encompass two or more issues.  These include “The Threads of Time,” “The Scotsman’s Curse,” and “The Quest of the Broken Blade” among others.  Back when I first read the Samurai Jack comics, the new television season was a hope and a promise growing stronger, and finishing these gave me some thoughts as to where they might take the final season.

Given what I’ve seen on tv thus far, I suspect that the comics are not completely canon with the cartoon.  There are elements that were introduced in the comics that have been shown and adapted and changed in the tv series.  However, the season isn’t concluded yet, so it will be very interesting to see how the entire thing ends, something which was intentionally left out of the comics.  One thing both do well is, of course, bringing back classic characters from the original four seasons as cameos and quick shots.

Having finished the reread, I moved onto the Classics.  Unfortunately, almost half of the book is Samurai Jack #1, a longer than normal issue retelling the origin of Jack.  It’s essentially the first two episodes of the series, which was originally shown as a mini made-for-tv-movie and even got a DVD release as such.  I guess it makes sense, since not everyone is even aware of the older comic series, but that doesn’t make it less annoying for me.

Thankfully the rest of the book is brand-new to me.  It’s a bunch of shorts, some as brief as four pages total, of various adventures Jack’s had.  Some are sillier than others.  There is a goat doing stand-up.  Not one of them has appeared in the earlier comic series nor in the tv series, which is great.  That is one of the greatest advantages Samurai Jack has enjoyed: the fact that while there is a story, the episodes are mostly independent one-shots and can be watched in almost any order. The same then applies to these shorts.

And yes, I have been watching season five, so I am fully aware that this final season is a continuous story in contrast to the four preceeding seasons.  I am enjoying it, but it doesn’t change the fact that the episodic nature of the earlier episodes is a strength for the casual viewer.  The one-shots of the comics capture the feel of those episodes and keep the Samurai Jack universe unified.

Series Organization

When starting in on The Lion Game, the next Telzey Amberdon book, I took a closer look at the publication date based on the fact that book two had been short stories and novellas.  It was worth noting that while the book was released in 1973, the story had been serialized in Analog magazine back in 1971.  Which, if it also applied to The Universe Against Her, might explain why the story could easily be broken into two main parts.  In the first book, that would be the entire vacation where Telzey discovers her psionic abilities.  In this book, it’s the camping trip with her classmates.

Before I dive into content for The Lion Game, I have to say that I’m even more annoyed by The Telzey Toy now.  The cover on that book specifically states that it’s the second Telzey Amberdon novel, wherein this one merely says “A Telzey Amberdon Novel.”  However, it is very clear to me that The Lion Game is the direct sequel to The Universe Against Her and takes place before any of the stories in The Telzey Toy.  This is why, in series made up of both novels and short stories, the latter are usually collected together as a final volume, not just shoved somewhere in the middle.  In this case I suspect that the stories were written before The Lion Game…but then you have to remember that these Ace printings are a decade or more newer than the actual text.  My Telzey books were published as a set, so this is something that could easily have been taken care of before they went on sale.  It’s just so…infuriating!  I mean, I totally understand that timeline order and publication date do not at all have to match.  I keep my series sorted by timeline, which means that Dragonflight (copyright 1967) ends up in the middle of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern while First Fall (copyright 1993) is way over at the beginning.  To my mind, time (should) go in a straight line.

So you can see why I’m finding the haphazard arrangement of the Telzey Amberdon books a bit…frustrating.

Anyway.  Something that James H. Schmitz does well is to create alien species that are distinctly different and still compelling.  Sometimes they’re sympathetic, other times they’re wholly abhorrent, but each is still gripping and keeps the reader engaged in Telzey’s discoveries.  In the first section, Telzey has a random encounter with an unknown alien and a mystery psi.  And while I could imagine various scenarios for figuring out what these were and where they came from, I could never have guessed the amazingly detailed scenario that Schmitz slowly revealed.

Also, Telzey gets knocked unconscious and kidnapped a LOT.  I kind of wonder if I should be reaching my believability limit for how likely it is that these things keep happening to her, but then I stop and reconsider.  Telzey is a very curious person.  She likes to know what’s going on, and being psi means it’s quite difficult to keep secrets from her.  She’s very confident in herself and her abilities, to the point of overconfidence, especially if she hasn’t considered that her curiosity has already been noticed.  So she’s unprepared for whatever they do to knock her out…but once she wakes up she refuses to give her captors a second chance to get the better of her. It would be so very easy for Telzey to be an overpowered character, but Schmitz is quite a skilled author.  He gives a lot of advantages to Telzey’s opponents and puts a ton of obstacles in her way.  Sure, many things come easily to her, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have to work to come out on top.  And that’s why these books are the ideal that today’s teen fiction doesn’t even realize it wishes it could be.

To be honest, if my dad hadn’t continually brought up Telzey and pointed out the books, I would never have known they existed, much less picked them up.  When I’m looking for something new to read, I almost never pick up the old 170-230 page science fiction.  It’s short, it’s old enough that it’s hard for me to judge the likelihood of my enjoyment, and if it’s a series, it’s almost impossible to find the right volumes (or all the volumes) at the used bookstore.  Seriously, they almost never have book one unless if it’s something like A Song of Ice and Fire where they always have at least ten copies of each book in the series.  Point being, Telzey Amberdon is nearly unknown to most of the people who weren’t alive or buying books when it was actively published.  It’s not like Witch World which was at least written by an author they may have heard of.  I didn’t know, and still don’t really know, who James H. Schmitz was (is? probably dead since the biography says he was born in 1911), but I’ve realized that I should’ve done some research sooner.  You see, Mercedes Lackey has a book I’ve been aware of for quite some time but never picked up, entitled The Wizard of Karres.  I knew it was a sequel to The Witches of Karres, but since she hadn’t written the first and I was lazy, I never knew who had written it.  Until I was going through Schmitz’s books in the basement and found a perfectly acceptable copy of the mythical book.  So, the next time I see The Wizard of Karres for a reasonable price, I’ll have to add it to my Pile and take another dip into the world of James H. Schmitz.  Given the three books I’ve read so far, I don’t think this will be a bad thing.

However, that’s some time in the future.  For the time being, I have more Telzey Amberdon books to read and enjoy.

Alliteration and Adventures

The second Telzey Amberdon book is not actually a novel as such.  Entitled The Telzey Toy and Other Stories, it explains in brief that we have here a set of four stories of varying lengths featuring a certain psionic teenager.  Most of these continue the impression I received in The Universe Against Her; that this world is not fluffy bunnies and unicorns, but that Schmitz doesn’t take things to such a deep level that you question giving anyone outside of Telzey absolute trust.  And really, if he were to create such an aura of paranoia, the title story would have been the place to do so.

The four tales within are “The Telzey Toy,” “Resident Witch,” “Compulsion,” and “Company Planet.”  And here’s where I get a real sense of the author’s strengths.  One of my problems with the first book was how disconnected the two parts felt.  There’s the first portion wherein Telzey is vacationing and discovers she’s psi.  Then there’s the second portion where someone’s out to kill her friend for her inheritance and Telzey, with her newly awakened powers, is determined to stop them.  Really, they work better as a short story and a novella or short book, and probably might be better received if they were divided up that way within the actual book.  I know it’s unusual for a setup like that, but I have one or two Bolo anthologies that do something very similar with 1-3 short stories followed by a long novella that takes up the entire rest of the average-sized book.  Whatever works, you know?

Of the stories, I think that “Compulsion” is my favorite for being so out there and different from the rest.  When you’re dealing with humans, you’re creating situations that I, as a human, will find much more predictable.  But aliens, ah, therein lies the key to innovation, when handled properly.  And “Compulsion” is definitely well-written.  In fact, one could argue that Telzey isn’t the star of the story, merely the familiar vehicle to carry the reader to the main attraction.

Not to discount the title tale of course, “The Telzey Toy” is definitely noteworthy and brain-breaking.  It’s also the only story that didn’t specifically mention Telzey’s age, which leads me to believe that it takes place later than the rest, despite its position as first in the book.  I suspect this placement was more about the strength of the stories than about the timeline, which is fine.  This is also the story with the creepiest implications and ramifications when you get to thinking about it, and I can see why they chose to make it the featured tale.  Not to mention that “The Telzey Toy” just rolls off the tongue.

For those stories that do mention Telzey’s age, we see her finishing up school and taking her exams, establishing that, generally speaking, most subsequent books will see her as an independent adult.  Not that she hasn’t acted that way the entire time, but adults are unrestrained by the need to be at school or at home or wherever.  Adults do have places to be too, but since Telzey’s already established as being the child of very wealthy parents with access to all she needs, she pretty much has the freedom to go wherever she chooses.

It remains to be seen what the other books have in store – whether they’re all novels, whether some are anthologies like this one, or a mix of both.  Either way, I’m interested to see what other adventures Telzey Amberdon embarks upon.

From the Basement

There’s new books and old books, but there’s also new old books such as The Universe Against Her by James H. Schmitz.  It’s the first of the Telzey Amberdon books, originally published in 1964.  My copy, yet another book I’ve acquired from my father, happens to be an Ace reprint from 1979, which still makes it far older than I am.

It reminds me of several other books with similar concepts that I found in the basement, such as Acorna and In Conquest Born.  There’s a lot of science fiction out there – stuff that would still be classed as science fiction today – that involves telepathy.  Because yes, Telzey is a telepath, though she didn’t know that before her abilities started to unfold.

I’ve been reflecting on the general trends of teen books lately and if ever there was a book that could be repackaged for teens today, The Universe Against Her is a prime candidate, starting with the title alone.  After all, what better way to attract moody youths than with a title that says “you think your life sucks?  Her life sucks in every conceivable way!”  Then there’s her age – Telzey Amberdon is only fifteen years old.  She’s precocious too, in college as a law student and her best friend is mere months shy of being 19 – the age of majority for her planet.  Telzey’s also the privileged daughter of two important parents and so has all the money she could ever want in addition to the love and support of her parents.  And, wonder of wonders, when she tells them something, they listen to her, and act on what she says as if she was an adult in her own right!

I guess what I’m saying is that the title is something of a lie.  At least, if you assume that the “her” is Telzey.  Regardless, does this not sound like perfect teen-bait?  Essentially, this is what today’s teen books wish they could be.  With all that taken into consideration, it’s surprising that I’ve never seen this series in a store.  It’s definitely better than some of the crap that makes it onto store shelves.

As far as content goes, it’s a surprisingly dense book for all it’s only 181 pages long.  There is a lot that happens over the course of the novel and sometimes I felt the need to slow down and reread what I’d just read to make sure I could follow the action.  The book as a whole doesn’t stand out to me as being something absolutely amazing that no one should miss, but it’s definitely a solid beginning to the series and I enjoyed myself.

When I Reread

There are no rules about how much time I have to leave between reading a book and rereading it.  It can be as short as the length of time it takes me to turn the book over and start again, or so long that only a guesstimate of years can encompass it.  I’ll admit, having this blog makes me feel a little guilty for rereading something that I’ve already covered in the past ten months.  But should that really matter when I just want to reread that book?

Some books I will reread on a schedule of sorts; these are series, and you know how I’ll reread the previous entries before getting to the brand-new volume.  So these are usually read once a year.  Others will be like Deep Secret, my current favorite novel to read at a convention, given that it takes place at one.

Then there’s books that I consider and know I’m not yet ready to reread it, for one reason or another.  Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive has been on my mind now and then over the past few months, but I know better than to reread it now.  Those books are very long and fairly intense…and the third will be out later this year.  I am not certain I could reread them twice in one year, so I’ll continue putting them off until I get the third from the library.  (Please note, this is not just because I have the other two in paperback already.  I’m willing to read from the massive 1200+ page hardcover in order to read it ASAP, but I am not willing to lug such a thing around every successive time I revisit it.)

Rereading some books or series is truly an undertaking, so it takes longer to get myself into the correct mental space for it.  I may have read the unabridged Les Miserables twice now, but that’s been over the course of ten years or more.  Fourteen hundred pages is daunting, no matter how wonderfully snarky it gets.  And anyone who’s been reading this blog since November will recall that it took me an entire month to get through all of David Weber’s Safehold.

Sometimes I put books off because I can still recall most of the details quite clearly, and there’s no fun in revisiting it yet.  Other times it doesn’t matter how recently I last read it, I just want to be enfolded in that world once more.  It’s this last emotion that drove me to reread Uprooted, even though it’s been less than five months.

Naomi Novik can really hit me right where it hurts when she wants to.  It helps that Uprooted comes from Russian fairy tales and folklore as opposed to the very dryly English manner that her Temeraire series possesses.  I’m not saying that the Russians are always down to earth, but it’s a notable trait in Agnieszka, the protagonist of the story.  The world of courts and kings is beyond her interest.  She could understand it, if she chose, but she’d rather stick with the familiar.

It’s a book that starts out similar to Beauty and the Beast, but only enough to give you the subliminal message that this too is a fairy tale, and not one you already know.  Even when Agnieszka does make it to the capital and meets the king, it’s not for any of the reasons you might expect at the beginning of the book.  And that’s not where the story ends, either.  It’s a tale of bravery, recognition, acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption.  It is bloody and peaceful, languid and intense, a wonderful blend of contrasts.  Given all that, is it any wonder that I’ve been wanting to reread it for weeks?

I also managed to get to Power Rangers: Aftershock today.  This is the follow up graphic novel to the new movie which means, among other things, that I finally got to sit down and study the new suits in detail.  Oh sure, I could probably have googled them long before, but that takes the fun out of it.  First thing I noticed looking at this cover is that the girls appear to be wearing high heels in their suits?  Thanks gender roles.  The most recognizable helmets are still the red ranger and the pink ranger, with the rest appearing to be more “inspired by” their respective animals instead of depicting them.  Not a bad thing, just not what I’m accustomed to with the original costumes.

And if you were complaining about the lack of suits throughout most of the movie, never fear.  We rarely see the teens outside of them in this particular story.  It seems that there’s still cleanup going on after the defeat of Goldar and Rita, so the Power Rangers are busy with that.  At least they don’t have trouble morphing anymore.  There’s also a little subplot with a shadowy government organization, ala DC’s Amanda Waller from A.R.G.U.S.  The organization, known as APEX, hasn’t done much yet, but they are there and they are watching.  They don’t trust the Power Rangers, and they’ll be waiting as soon as they have proof that the rangers aren’t the heroes they appear to be.  Kind of like J. Jonah Jameson in Spiderman.  (Yes, I have comics on my mind today.)

It’s a perfectly good little story.  My only complaint is that the last third is a chapter out of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers comic series that I’ve been collecting.  I didn’t need another copy of it, and it’s specifically stated that the excerpt is here to advertise the comics and get people to pick them up (or the trades).  So for me, it’s unnecessary and wasteful, a way to bump the price of this trade up a bit.

I think I should pull out something a little longer for tomorrow, given that I have plans which may involve sitting in a coffee shop for hours.  We shall see!