Always Notice the Art

I have to say, I think Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has the most stunning new cover art thus far.  The others have all been nice, yes, but this is the book that I couldn’t stop staring at.  The front cover, specifically.  It’s interesting to note that the back of each book has the synopsis on the bottom half, and a separate image from the front on the top half, along with the in-character quote.  The back images all feature the back of Harry Potter, as he faces whatever challenge the book holds.  Book one was the Mirror of Erised, book two the Chamber of Secrets, etc.


d7515dd1825817416266763981f95f0fAll images in this post found via google.

harry_potter_and_the_goblet_of_fire_us_coverI have to say, it’s very exciting to be reading these books with the brand new covers to look at.  I’ll always remember and love the old ones, but there’s something to be said for new and updates.  Seriously, I have always looked at the old cover for this book in particular and wondered why Harry looks like a girl all of a sudden.  Is it just me?  Am I projecting my own gender identity issues on this art or is it as androgynous as I seem to think it is?

I’m over halfway through the series now, which means each book is now likely to take me two days, less if I have nothing to do, more if I’m busy.  Considering that there are flights in my near future, I expect to finish Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tomorrow, but not Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as well.  My little box that the set came in looks kind of lonely and empty now, but since I won’t be here to see it, I don’t mind that much.

A lot of the reviews I read before buying the set complained that they don’t fit in the box very well.  I haven’t had all seven in since I started this reread, but based on how things have gone, I’m inclined to be a bit suspicious of these people.  After all, who doesn’t know the trick of making sure you have books on both ends (regardless of which you finished most recently) and then pushing the rest in via the middle?  Regardless, it’ll be Sunday at the very earliest that I get to attempt fitting all the books back into their box, so it’s no use worrying about that now.  If I have to recycle the box, well, that’s life.  The books can sit on the bunny anyway.  Sorry no photo of the bunny tonight, it’s way too late to take a picture of something that’s just positioned wrong for the artificial lighting.  Besides, it’ll be nicest if I wait until all the books are back.  I only like to show gaping holes on my shelves for a purpose!

Best in Series

“You haven’t got a godfather!”
“Yes I have.  He was my mum and dad’s best friend.  He’s a convicted murderer, but he’s broken out of Wizard prison and he’s on the run.  He likes to keep in touch with me, though . . . keep up with my news . . . check if I’m happy . . .”

I do love it when people say such ridiculous things with a straight face.

Today was, obviously, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the last of the books I’m likely to finish in a single day.  I’m not saying the rest are impossible to read in one work day, but it’s significantly less likely.  Not to mention, none of them are my favorite.

This volume happens to be my favorite in the series.  Even if time travel hurts my head in nearly every incarnation.  I think part of the reason is because after this, there is a LOT of teen angst.  Which just pisses me off.  Yes, I understand it’s a normal part of growing up.  That doesn’t mean I don’t want to grab Harry’s shoulders and shake him until his teeth clack sometimes.  The fifth book is the worst for that, but it’s in all four of the latter half of the series.

What makes Azkaban so good?  Well, we have an expansion of Harry’s world in three ways.  Firstly, he gets to be independent for a short time: catching the Knight Bus and staying at the Leaky Cauldron until school starts.  Secondly, he starts taking new classes as the third years no longer have every single class with every other person in their year and house.  Thirdly, we add Hogsmeade to our Hogwarts geography and all that’s involved therein.

(I’m trying to remember which was built first at Universal: Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, and failing miserably.  For the record, both are FANTASTIC and it was such a great trip.  Be sure to get some ice cream from Florian Fortescue’s.)

So we have the expansion of Harry’s world.  We also have Hagrid promoted to faculty from mere staff, we have one of the best Defense Against the Dark Arts professors in the series, we learn about James Potter and his school friends, and we screw with time a bit.  At least this time travel is handled fairly well in comparison to others.  (Looking at you, Acorna series.)  There’s a lot of danger and excitement, fascinating creatures and interesting lessons, and generally there’s no point in the book where you get tired or bored.  There is some teen angst in it, but it’s generally not noticeable in comparison to what will come later.

So much angst in the future.  I’m almost dreading starting Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Then I remember how much of the angst is actually in the fifth book.

On an unrelated note, we all know that most books are released in hardcover and then, at a later point, rereleased in paperback.  By the time the book makes it to paperback, if it’s in a series, the author has usually made significant progress on the next volume, and so a preview is included at the end to entice readers to buy the next book.  This is normal.

However, Harry Potter has been out nearly twenty years, is a household name, and a pop culture phenomenon.  And these books came out of a box set.  WHY ARE THERE PREVIEWS IN THE BACK.  Also why are they numbered on the spine.  My Laura Ingalls Wilder books were never numbered!  In fact, most novel series don’t use numbering even when they don’t jump around the timeline.  True, when I’m tracking down an older series in bits in and pieces this can lead to me reading books out of order by accident.  But I just shrug it off; it hasn’t truly ruined any series for me yet.

It’s Mom’s Fault

As you may have noticed, my mom had a tendency to pick up books for me as a kid.  Just because she thought I’d like them.  Sometimes she just up and bought them for me, other times she asked first.  And there came a time when she asked me if I wanted her to get this book that they’d been talking about on the radio.  It sounded really good, she said.  But I have never been one to follow the crowd, and I turned her down.  What did I care that they talked about some book on the radio?

A few months later, she asked me again.  Was I sure I didn’t want to read this book?  Its popularity hadn’t gone down.  It was really getting big.  But no, I was fine.  I promised.

Summer came, and I prepared to go to camp for four weeks.  I chose my own books to bring – nice, long ones, so I wouldn’t have to bring too many, and packed up my backpack and my two duffels.  That afternoon, when I was unpacking in the cabin and arranging my bunk, I found two additional books in one of my bags.  “Mom!” was all I said as I stared at the two hardcovers.  She’d gotten them anyway.  But I didn’t have to read them, just because they were there!  Instead I read the books I’d brought, every single one of them.  Only when I’d finished them all did I look at the two unexpected additions.

That’s when I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Needless to say, I forgave my mom for getting the things for me.  I may not have become a raging fangirl like so many others, but you can bet that I got the rest of those books as soon as they came out, even preordering them from amazon, and absconding with them as soon as they arrived, deserting the internet until I had devoured them in later years.  (You can figure that even the fourth book only took me five hours that first day.)

It’s been some five years since I last reread these books.  After all, I clearly had to reread them all before seeing each of the movies.  But because of the movies, and how mainstream the fandom is, I don’t often feel the need to reread them.  The world reminds me of all the salient points, even many of the ones that didn’t make it into the movies.  Rereading these conjures up memories of the movies, of last year’s trip to Universal, and of the original cover art.

That’s right, I have new copies of the books.  My sister asked me to get her the series for her birthday this year.  She didn’t even care if I gave her my old ones and got myself new ones, just as long as she had her own set that she didn’t have to drive an hour to read.  Coincidentally, I had been lusting over Barnes & Noble’s lovely box set, the one with the castle splashed across the spines.  Not only that, but the new cover art was in a similar style, though much more general.  I wouldn’t stare at the fourth book and wonder if Harry had suddenly become female.  And then, in addition to a secondary image and a synopsis of the book on the back, there’s also a quote from one of the characters, rather than some rave review from Booklist or wherever.

So here I am, rereading these seven books for the umpteenth time, but each copy is crisp and new and the very thought makes me so incredibly happy.  Here’s to hoping that I don’t run into the errors in the fourth book that clearly showed how rushed Rowling was to get it out.  But I won’t find that out for at least another day, as I only finished Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets today.  Well, only those two in the Harry Potter series…

…after all, I also read the first Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Annual.  This was longer than a normal issue and contained six separate stories featuring different characters, situations, and art styles.  They ranged from ridiculous to normal.  I think my favorite is the first one, featuring Jason, followed by the fourth about Goldar and then the third about Trini.  The other three are, well, I read them.  Part of my disinterest is the art style – these three have more cartoony styles that just don’t mesh with what I like to look at.  The other part is that the stories are on the dumber side, and I’m not great with dumb.  Since I’ve never actually kept up with a comic series while it was still being serialized, I can’t honestly say if this was a good annual or not, just that it was hit and miss for me personally.

I’ll also mention that, as I said was likely in an earlier post, I did take the time to reread “See Me” before shelving Those Who Fight Monsters.  This was the short story featuring Tony Foster from Tanya Huff’s Smoke series.  It may be a few days late, but it was still a fitting conclusion to that reread.

Anyway, I’ll be back when I’ve finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Once Upon a Time…

…I had never heard of Mercedes Lackey.  My favorite author was probably Brian Jacques and I was slowly coming around to Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton.  Then one day my mom gave me a book she thought I would like by some author I’d never heard of.  It was The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey.

The rest is history.

Seriously, where do I begin?

The Black Swan is a retelling of the story of the Swan Princess , which at the time was mostly familiar to me in terms of a VHS tape much beloved of my sister.  (I’ll even point out that I’m the one who got her the DVD of it and Thumbelina just a few years back…and she was thrilled.)  Unlike much of Lackey’s later work, such as the 500 Kingdoms series, this story is told in a more traditional setting.  Sure there’s magic, but it’s definitely Europe, definitely an area that speaks German, and fairly strongly based in our world.  Aside, again, from the magic.

Now, I love fairy tales.  I have mentioned that my favorite is the Snow Queen, and I have a beautifully illustrated copy that I can’t even tell you when I got it, its that old.  I may have been seven or younger.  So for me to find a fairy tale that had been expanded into a novel?  My young little mind was blown.

Not to mention that it was a thoroughly engaging read.  You have your basic story of course, with the princess being captured by a sorcerer and transformed into a swan by day (or whenever the moon isn’t up, or if she’s not on a lake where the moon reflects, or whatever the variant ends up being) and the prince who must swear to be true to her in order to break the curse, but the sorcerer tricks him and so on and so forth.  But Lackey’s story goes into much more depth, creates a whole host of additional characters, and keeps you thoroughly engaged for some 400 pages.  It’s not her only book like this either – Firebird does the same with the Russian tale.  And I’ve mentioned the 500 Kingdoms series, but those tend to be a bite more on the fractured side and far fluffier.

The Black Swan is on the fluffy side, like most of Lackey’s books, but it’s not nearly as light a read as anything in the 500 Kingdoms.  I’m not saying fluff is bad, I’m just saying that I will probably never reread any 500 Kingdoms novel as many times as I’ve read this book.  The book was brand new when my mom got it for me, and today I had a fear that some of the pages might start coming free from the binding in one section.  That’s not damage that comes from age, the thing’s only from 2000.  That’s the sort of damage that only comes from being read repeatedly for all of those sixteen years.  I can’t honestly tell you that this is one of my favorite books because, to be honest, it’s not really exceptional in any way.  But it is a book that I never mind going back to.  It has the advantage of being a standalone with no sequels of any kind, but as a reread it takes less thought and effort than a new book.  So it’s a good choice for a palate cleanser.

I’m not sure what I’ll be reading next.  The Pile is eleven books tall and contains a wide variety of choices, though two I’m likely to hold off on because there’s four books out in the series, and the third is also available in paperback.  On the other hand, it’s been a bit since I really read a series of more than two books.  Plus my friend will be returning my Green Lantern trades, the latest book in the House War series (by Michelle West), and a pair of anthologies.  One of which I’ll probably snag long enough to reread the latest Tony Foster story.  (I probably would’ve done this when I finished Smoke and Ashes but it was an hour away at the time.)  So, we’ll see what I decide on next time!

Above Expectations and Fears

Today’s book is The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce.  And yes, you’re probably imagining it correctly: dark, moody, romantic, and attractive to teenyboppers.  In fact, it’s everything that The Queen of the Tearling wishes it could be.  It’s not quite paranormal romance, the heroine’s not quite a Mary Sue, and I have some questions for the editor regarding some grammatical errors that may have happened in transcription.

The fact that this story is over 30 years old probably helps explain the differences between the two.  Also the fact that this particular copy is from a 2007 printing.  When I got the book, I did so knowing that it could very easily fall into far too many traps and stereotypes.  Instead I found an engaging story that is told in a contemporary fashion, but has many elements of a classic fairy tale.  Why do “animals” talk?  Because.  How can you spin thread made of emotions?  You just do, if you have the right spindle.  What world is this even?

Okay, that’s a little different.  This book reads like a fantasy, but there’s a couple science fiction elements lurking here and there.  I am pretty sure that the story takes place on a colonized moon.  There is a Planet hanging in their heavens, there are stories about Ancient Ones who came through the dark between the stars, and they once lived in domed cities.  But, for the most part, I’m classing this as a fantasy.  This is in contrast to the Dragonriders of Pern which I read as a fantasy until they dug up Landing and then I realized that the series was, and always had been, science fiction.  But, to be fair, Pern was started in an age when the two were classed together as science fiction.

Now, those of you who’ve read all the way back to when I started this blog seven weeks ago (was it really only seven?  I really read a lot) might think that The Darkangel sounds familiar.  You’d be completely right too, because it’s mentioned in my very first post.  Meredith Ann Pierce was one of the contributing authors in the Moonsinger’s Friends anthology, and the editor dropped just enough information about her book to intrigue me.  So when I needed a bit more to get free shipping from amazon, I dropped The Darkangel into my cart.

I in no way regret this decision.  In fact, I’ve added the other two books in this trilogy to my wish list.  I was so afraid that The Darkangel would be as disappointing as The Queen of the Tearling, so I’m quite relieved to find that this book is so much more, despite being half as long.  A book should be as long as is necessary to tell your story.  Some books, like those in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, will be 1200 pages long.  Others, like The Darkangel, are a mere 238 pages.  It all depends on the story.  Both books are good, just don’t expect to see me finishing a Stormlight book in a day or less unless if I literally did nothing else that day.

Fun Facts

Anthologies follow a general format.  They start with a story meant to intrigue – sometimes a heavy hitter, sometimes just easing you in.  The second story tends to be strong.  Then you’ve got your ups and downs as you progress through the bulk of the book.  The penultimate story is on the stronger side, and then the final tale tends to be one of the strongest in the entire volume.  It is, after all, the book’s last chance to make an impression on the reader, so the editors want it to be a positive one.

Which makes it interesting that the two stories I’ve read before are in the middle of the book.  It’s also intersting that in an anthology she co-edited, Tanya Huff’s story is in the middle, starring Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr.  Yes, it’s one of the two I’ve read before.  Nobody’s surprised by that.  The other is by Michelle West and is from her Essalieyan universe.  (Theoretically the day will come when I no longer have to look up that series name every time I want to spell it.)  It also amuses me that the story immediately following Huff’s is by Fiona Patton, her wife.  Nice touch.

The problem of anthologies is that most of the stories quickly fade into a blur of whatever the theme was and you only remember bits and pieces about the few that are stronger than the rest, that you’ve read before, or that connect to other stories or books you’ve read previously.  So I can tell you that this is not the strongest anthology I’ve ever read, but it is far from the weakest.

Oh right.  The book is titled Women of War and it’s edited by Tanya Huff and Alexander Potter.  I honestly have no idea who he is.  He doesn’t have a story of his own in here, just his part in the introduction.  You can figure I bought the book on the strength of Huff’s name – a decision I do not and will not regret.  A few of the other authors’ names are familiar for one reason or another, but that’s not saying much given how much I read.

Let’s look at some numbers.  I have 857 different short stories contained in 78 different anthologies.  We’re not including books like C.J. Cherryh’s Sunfall or Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version whose contained stories really aren’t suited to being published outside the whole.  Some authors show up more than others – the most frequently seen are those whose collected works I’ve acquired.  So I have 59 short stories by Mercedes Lackey, 64 by Tanya Huff, and Andre Norton is the clear winner with 71.  The only story I have three copies of is “Falcon Blood”, by Andre Norton, appearing in Amazons!Lore of the Witch World, and Tales from High Hallack: Volume 1, making it the most recurring tale.

So, overall, Women of War is a pretty good anthology and I’m sure I’ll revisit it in the future.

I’m Smiling Now

Some books get downright strange.  That doesn’t detract from their quality, it just means that I finish reading and pause and wonder what on earth I just read.  But I’m smiling as I do so.  That’s one way to tell a good book: regardless of what you’re thinking after you read it, you’re smiling.

The Madness Season by C.S. Friedman is one of those books.  It wasn’t the first book I read by her, but it is one that I won’t be getting rid of.  As interesting as I found several of the concepts in the Coldfire Trilogy, there’s just something about how those books are written that I can’t work with.  And I tried so hard to reread them, but I just got stuck in prose.

Not so The Madness Season.

This book brings us to Earth some three hundred years after an alien invasion.  A successful one by a species which prefers unity to diversity.  A hive mind.  Stop thinking about Ender’s Game, because this is quite different.  Oh yes, and our main character has secrets that he’s been keeping for years, and some he’s been trying to keep from himself.

I can’t really say more than that about the story because I hate spoiling things that I feel are truly worth experiencing, and this book is definitely one of those.  I find people’s recommendations to me tend to be rather hit or miss, but this one hit hard.  Let’s just say that C.S. Friedman takes the time to explore thought processes, cultures, and how biological structures and instincts shape them.  With three alien species explored in some depth, plus our own to compare and contrast with, it’s certainly a fascinating read.

This was only the second time I’ve read The Madness Season, but it should say something that the first was June of this year.  I do not often read books multiple times within a calendar year, and when it does happen, it’s usually for one of two reasons.  Firstly, a new book in the series came out.  Secondly, it is just that good that I simply couldn’t wait any longer to reread it.  Yes, this book is that good and it’s a shame that I have such trouble with the Coldfire Trilogy, otherwise I might have found it years earlier.  The friend who recommended it did mention that she believes C.S. Friedman’s strength lies in standalone novels, and that anything more drawn out is better left untouched.  Having only read five of Friedman’s books (the trilogy, The Madness Season, and In Conquest Born) and one short story (“The Dreaming Kind”, found in Catfantastic) I honestly couldn’t say if I agree or not.  Only that I have no intention of purging either book (or the aforementioned anthology) from my collection.

My final thoughts on The Madness Season (for this reread at least) are that I am always left with the impression that it’s more twisted than it seems.  I mean, the plot isn’t strange at all, fairly standard sci-fi in that there’s an alien invasion of Earth.  We’re just a bit further down the timeline than most tellings.  And exploring alien mindsets isn’t that unusual either.  One of my favorite books is wholly about that.

I guess my impression comes from the climax and ending of the book.  But, like I said, no spoilers.  You’ll have to read it for yourself and decide whether or not you think it’s twisted.

Nonstandard Characters

Given how quickly Smoke and Shadows and Smoke and Mirrors went, it can’t possibly be surprising that I’ve finished Smoke and Ashes.  This is the third and final novel featuring Tony Foster, though there’s some short stories around as previously mentioned.  Also mentioned is that I think Smoke and Mirrors has the best lines, though this book has some good ones of course.

I suppose it’s worth discussing that Tony is gay.  And the main character.  It’s not uncommon to find non-heterosexual characters in books nowadays, but I haven’t read very many with gay main characters.  I’ve seen quite a number with gay characters on the sidelines though, ranging all the way back to Dragonriders of Pern.  But I think I have maybe eleven novels where the protagonist is of a nonstandard sexual orientation.  Ignoring fetishes and other twisted stuff like that.

That would be the Smoke books, The Fire’s Stone , The Last Herald-Mage trilogy, and The Shape-Shifter Chronicles.  I promise, we’ll go into more detail on the other books at some point in the future.  I know for a fact the fifth Shape-Shifter book is in progress, so I will have to reread the other four at that point.  The others will just have to wait until I get around to rereading them for no good reason.

Anyway, I’d probably say that Dragonriders of Pern is the first series I ever read with non-heterosexual characters in it, though Anne McCaffrey never made a big deal about it.  You’ve got your green, blue, and brown dragonriders getting it off after the greens’ mating flights.  And Ruth, the white dragon, who is asexual.  There’s no big deal made about any of this though, it’s just facts.

The Last Herald-Mage, on the other hand, was the first time I read a book with a gay main character.  Well, three books.  Vanyel had to deal with a bit more prejudice than the dragonriders, but that’s not surprising given that the Weyrs are fairly tight-knit communities and he was out there in the big world.  His orientation didn’t make any difference in how well the book was written, how the story was told, or anything.  Sure it affected things, but that’s like saying growing up Jewish in a Christian community affected me.  It’s just a part of who and what I am, just like it’s a part of who and what he is.

Back to Tony, who lives in modern-day Canada instead of on another planet or in another universe.  Unlike the characters above, “gay” is probably one of the first descriptors people would use for him, instead of being farther down the list.  It’s no secret, but he doesn’t usually have to deal with homophobes.  He works in television, and there’s so much crap in that industry that is far more important than his orientation or his crush on the costar of the show.  Not to mention the crazy events that are actually the plot of the books.  Tony has the freedom to be himself in a way the other characters I’ve mentioned don’t.  The dragonriders’ relationships are generally not discussed, Vanyel doesn’t get close to many people for multiple reasons and certainly doesn’t discuss his love life (or lack thereof) with most, but everyone at CB Productions knows and accepts him for what he is.  And they frequently make fun and tease him about it, especially his crush on Lee Nicholas.  Just part of Tony’s everyday life.

Having finished this trilogy, I think I’ll be going in a sci-fi direction next.  There may or may not be something in common with Smoke and Ashes, but if there is, I won’t spoil it.

Waxy Buildup of Evil

…is probably the best phrase in the entirety of Smoke and Shadows.  Not going to lie, I think that this is probably my favorite book set in this world.  It’s got so many great lines, all the secrets coming out, and it’s creepy enough that I usually have a few anxious moments going to bed after I finish rereading it.

Yes, this is the second book Tanya Huff wrote focused on Tony Foster.  Hence I usually refer to these books as Smoke while the Vicki Nelson books are Blood.  At some point I’ll reread those six, but that’s not tonight.  Or even next.  Since the Blood books happen before the Smoke books, I don’t usually care to reverse the order, even if I choose to skip ahead to Tony’s books.  I can be weird like that.

Anyway, last post I didn’t have a lot of good quotes from the book, which is disappointing for books that I remember as having great lines.  So this time I’ve made more notes.  Also because I like sharing them with friends, especially the ones that are almost as funny out of context as they are in.  Some text is omitted on a few of these.

“I know what to do when older girls stare at me like that, but she’s eleven!”

“Peter knows my snicker?”

“He’s the inconsequential character who dies in the first act so we all know the situation is serious.”

“You worked in tuxedos?”
“Only if we got a formal complaint.”

“‘My dad fires dead people all the time!’
News to Tony but, given CB, not completely unbelievable.”

“We watch Law and Order you know.”
“How can you avoid it?”

“You speak to the dead.”
“Yeah, but I don’t suck blood.”
“I have only your word for that.”

“Yeah, well, his Beckhams are a little bent, let me tell you.”

“Is this a real stick or a metaphorical stick?”

“He’d never imagined dismemberment in waltz time before.”

“‘She once rode a polar bear at the zoo.’
No one in the room assumed it was a scheduled ride.”

“It’s an arm.  I don’t think it’s that smart.”
“It’s an arm.  We shouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

“Forty-year-old straight women were into the damnedest things.”

“You’re one to talk; you’re a thing in a basement!”

“Waxy buildup of evil.”

“Damn.  That just might work.”
“Don’t tell the writers.”

“You die and I spend eternity as part of a three for one that even our writers would consider over the top.”

“You never said anything about perversions.”
“I didn’t want to get your hopes up.”

I hope that these quotes from various points throughout the book show some of why I love Tanya Huff about as much as I love Mercedes Lackey.  Not only do I find her writing style meshes quite well with how I read, I just love her phrasing.  These are only a few quotes, as I mentioned, and I’ve omitted some text not only because it would clutter them up but also because it contains spoilers.  Suffice to say, I’m always happy to reread Smoke and Shadows and see no problem in staying up late just to devour it in a single sitting.

I honestly didn’t expect to finish the book tonight, especially given that I was ready to sleep a couple hours ago.  Hence two posts today.  But I did finish it, and I expect to be done with Smoke and Ashes while the sun’s still up tomorrow.  That’s the nice thing about lighter books – they go much more quickly than the heavier stuff.  Both are good though.  Just in different ways.

Snappy Dialogue

If Bride of the Rat God was a logical follow-up to As You Wish, then that makes Smoke and Shadows an obvious next selection.  It’s the television industry instead of the film industry, but there’s enough similarities.  Going from England with Cary Elwes to Hollywood with Norah Blackstone, now it’s Vancouver with Tony Foster.  Yes, the same Tony Foster I mentioned back in this blog post.

Tony first appears in Tanya Huff’s Blood series as the cocky street kid who occasionally gets involved in Vicki Nelson’s cases.  By the end of the series, he’s moved to Vancouver with Henry Fitzroy and has started building a life for himself.  Smoke and Shadows is the first book in a set of three featuring Tony as the main character.  There are also, as is made clear, a few short stories that take place after the books.  I bought Those Who Fight Monsters specifically for the Tony Foster story I’d never read before (and oh my was it worth it).

What I like about Tanya Huff as an author, among other things, is her skill with phrasing.  And Tony gets a lot of great dialogue.  “It’s a show about a vampire detective. Subtle isn’t exactly the selling point,” he says at one point, and that’s not one of the great ones.  (Sorry, I can’t seem to find a really good one right now, so you get to settle for a vague description of what he does for a living.)

How I first discovered this series is a strange and rambling story.  When I was in gradeschool, my language arts teacher had the class get on amazon and rate books, so that the website would recommend some things for us to read over the summer.  It might’ve been the summer before highschool.  Anyway, one of the books that came up for me involved a television production assistant and Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of King Henry VIII, as a vampire.  I didn’t do anything with it at the time, but the synopsis stuck in my head.  Fast forward about six years when I was looking for something new to read and I thought I’d see if I could find that book again.  The rest is history, and a good-sized collection of Tanya Huff books.