Book Review: Tales of Alvin Maker #4 – Alvin Journeyman

Title: Alvin Journeyman
Author: Orson Scott Card
Year of Publication: 1995
Series: Tales of Alvin Maker
#: 4
Goodreads Rating (Avg.): 3.72
Goodreads Rating (Mine): 1

Plot Description: After a brief period of time spent in Vigor Church, Alvin once again ends up back in Hatrack River. Unfortunately, Makepiece Smith, the man he was once apprenticed to, has brought charges of larceny against him, claiming he stole the golden plow. The rest of the book focuses on the trial and the ways in which the Unmaker continues to move against Alvin. Meanwhile, Alvin’s younger brother Calvin Smith meets Napoleon in France and tries to learn the secrets of leadership from him.

Spoilers

alvin journeyman.jpg

At this point I’m seriously groaning, wondering how I’m ever going to finish reviewing this series. Tales of Alvin Maker and Stephen King’s Dark Tower series are what prompted me to stop reviewing for almost a year and a half – simply because these two series are too big and too badly written for me to enjoy the process of reviewing them properly.

Between the white saviour nonsense, the white guilt, the fetishization of POC, the self importance of the plot, the super cheesy writing and unnecessary details (which make no sense anyway, I can no longer pick one aspect of this book to nominate as its worst.

It’s hard for me to explain why this series is no longer working. I think perhaps it’s because it’s fragmented and suffers from a lot of dissonance. Alvin is the star of the show, the most awesome person ever, blah blah blah. So one would be justified in expecting maturity from him, a balanced viewpoint that never comes. Alvin is a living conflict – on the one hand, he’s all calm and collected and compassionate all the time (like Jesus). On the other hand he whines about Peggy and how she won’t love him, and how can she be a good wife for him when she always knows better than him and keeps the important details of what she foresees from him. It’s utter nonsense.

“What kind of marriage is it, when my wife knows everything but she never tells me enough to make up my own mind! Instead she always makes up my mind for me. Or tells me exactly what she needs to tell me in order to get me to do what she thinks I ought to do.” – Alvin Maker

The folksy style of writing also gets on one’s nerves once it becomes clear that nothing of import is being said. Alvin Journeyman contains tons of long winded passages that mean nothing and go nowhere. Calvin’s adventures are slightly more interesting if only because of what a terrible character Calvin is, and how filled with his own self importance and self righteousness he is. At one point, having met White Murderer Harrison, Calvin tells him to take control of his own narrative, to claim that the bloody hands were an undeserved result of native american magic. Harrison does as Calvin suggests, his popularity surges and he’s elected President of the United States. Calvin returns from France just in time for Harrison’s inauguration, and promptly kills Harrison. For… fun? I don’t pretend to understand his motives.

“I’d rather be ignorant and sound educated than be educated and sound ignorant,” and I said, “Why?” and he says to me, “Because if you sound educated then nobody ever tests you to find out, but if you sound ignorant they never stop.” – Calvin and Taleswapper.

Verily Cooper’s jealousy and possessiveness over Calvin is an example of an unnecessarily cheesy detail that doesn’t belong anywhere. Except perhaps to show that no one has any semblance of life except that which is spent in blind adoration to Alvin. Once again, a dangerous narrative to write, especially considering this series is supposed to be an allegorical reference to an actual historical character.

Because once there was a woman by that name who freed her slaves and protected them all the way north, and then hired and looked after them until they learned the ways of free men and women and could stand on their own. It is a name of great honor. No one would know of the schoolteacher who came one day and gave open words to the secret longings of Jane’s heart. – More white saviour BS. Emphasis mine.

At some point Card seems to make the point that men are, in general, terrible to women. But considering how inconsequential all the female characters are in his book, I think he needs a good look in the mirror.

If good people weren’t so trusting of bad ones, the human race would have died out long ago—most women never would have let most men near them.

This example actually goes to the root of Card’s brand of sexism – he implies that most men are bad, while most women are good. And that’s some cultural feminist rubbish right there. Humans are humans. There is no inherent goodness that comes along with being female. There are no male roles and female roles – and yet, his female characters are all fulfilling supporting roles. Are they strong? Sure, strong in character. But that doesn’t make them strong characters. It’s really not the same thing, Mr. Card.

Another aspect of this book that I found hilarious was Alvin’s supporters – Peggy chief among them – attacking Marty Laws for doing his job as the counsel for the county in the process of Alvin’s trial.

“So you are Alvin’s enemy, and the enemy of truth.” Peggy hurled the words, meaning them to bite.

“Accuse me all you like,” said Marty, “but my job is to make the case that Alvin stole that gold. I don’t think your testimony, based entirely on your unverifiable claim as a torch that Makepeace is a liar, should be allowed to stand unchallenged. If it did stand that way, then every half-baked dreamspeaker and soothsayer in the country would be able to say whatever he pleased and juries would believe them, and then what would happen to justice in America?”

“Let me understand you,” said Peggy. “You plan to discredit me, destroy my reputation, and convict Alvin, all for the sake of justice in America?”

“As I said,” Marty repeated, “I hope your lawyer can do as good a job defending Alvin as I’m going to do prosecuting him. I hope he can find as much damning evidence against my witnesses as Mr. Webster and I have found concerning Alvin. Because, frankly, I don’t like my witnesses much, and I think Makepeace is a greedy lying bastard who should go to jail himself for perjury but I can’t prove it.”

“How can you live with yourself, then, working in the service of evil when you know so clearly what is good?”

“It’s also good for the public prosecutor to prosecute, instead of setting himself up as judge.”

Marty is a conscientious man, one that gives due respect to precedent and due process. I’m glad this passage found its way into the book. The case itself, however, isn’t resolved on the basis of legal arguments as much as through Alvin going magic in the courtroom to expose the Unmaker’s machinations.

What really annoys me is the “Crystal City,” because that’s where the series completely falls apart. Peggy sees that if Alvin were to be acquitted, then the witnesses and the jury will all be part of the Crystal City. Card sets up a lot of things like this, all leading to the Crystal City, in both this book and the next one. Unfortunately, he seems to have written the last book devoid of any connections to the rest of the series, and plenty of set up along the way is discarded or forgotten about.

Next, TV Review: American Gods S01E01 – The Bone Orchard

Next in this Series: Tales of Alvin Maker #5 – Heartfire

Advertisements

Book Review: Blackcoat Rebellion #3 – Queen

Title: Queen
Author: Aimee Carter
Year of Publication: 2015
Series: The Blackcoat Rebellion
#: 3
Goodreads Rating (Avg.): 3.97
Goodreads Rating (Mine): 2

I Spoil Everything

queen aimee carter

Plot Description: The Blackcoat Rebellion continues with its characteristic incompetence and worthlessness. Boredom, predictability and frustration ensues.

Previously on “The Blackcoat Rebellion…”

We saw a seventeen year old girl co-opted into two different sets of conspiracy and forced to help maintain as well as overthrow the existing government. Kitty Doe is put through cosmetic surgery to turn her into the doppelganger of Lila Hart, niece to Prime Minister Daxton Hart and member of the ruling Hart family. The real Lila Hart, it would appear, has been murdered by the Prime Minister and his mother to keep her from spreading further treason. Kitty meets the leaders of this treasonous revolution, the “Blackcoats” Celia Hart and Knox Creed – and agrees to continue Lila’s treasonous speeches. She also attempts to assassinate Daxton and fails – in the process discovering that Daxton was long dead, and an imposter named Victor Mercer had taken his place. As a result, Kitty is stripped of her rank and thrown into the vast and brutal prison known as Elsewhere. She then helps the inhabitants of Elsewhere revolt, joining forces with part of the Blackcoat rebels’ army. Oh, and they realize the original Lila Hart was alive and well.

In my reviews of Pawn and Captive, I felt that the childish mentality of whiny teenagers felt completely out of place in a revolution, and Queen is no different. This might actually have been a great premise for a spoof novel – a bunch of brats trying to revolt – but unfortunately, The Blackcoat Rebellion takes itself very seriously.

For instance, this paragraph from Queen

“You know what would be great?” I snapped. “If you could stop treating me like a problem for five minutes. I’m not completely useless, you know. You never would’ve taken over Elsewhere if I hadn’t helped.”
“Debatable,” he said coolly.

…sounds remarkably similar to this paragraph from Captive.

“Maybe if you stopped acting like I’m an untrained dog and started treating me like a person who’s as much a part of this as you are, I’d stop pulling against your invisible leash,” I said. “I have every right to be there, and you know it. If you keep acting like I’m a liability—”

“I wouldn’t if you stopped being a liability.”

“—then I’ll leave,” I finished, ignoring him. “If I can’t work with the Blackcoats, then I don’t have any reason to be here anymore.”

Kitty and Knox are each very good at pointing out that the other is being a terrible brat, but neither can recognize it within themselves. That being said, Knox is actually quite good at strategy – for someone so young. Leaders like Celia and Kitty are the wildcards of the rebellion. They are constantly at the mercy of their own knee jerk reactions, which is a terrible thing when they have the power to command armies. The only difference between the two is that Kitty’s decisions mostly come out positive, whereas Celia’s mostly have negative consequences. For instance, Celia takes a decision that pretty much derails the entire rebellion and results with hundreds of rebels publicly executed. The book decides to make up for this by turning her into a martyr at the end, but the fact remains that it could have been avoided.

Something that does ring true is Kitty’s feeling of being adrift. In the first two books, she claimed that Benjy was her “home,” her sense of belonging. In this book, it’s clear that the Kitty-Benjy relationship is fast crumbling.

“Yeah, but—” I hesitated, not knowing how to put the knot of frustration in my throat into words. “It’s not just that. I don’t know where I belong anymore. I’m a Hart. I’m a former prisoner. I’m a Blackcoat. But I’m not really any of those things, either. And I’m not who I look like. I’m not anything except that speech. And even that wasn’t good enough for Knox, not really.”

Benjy wasn’t always a sweetheart – he shows irrational jealousy at the very beginning of the book when Kitty is planning to become a sex worker. Even insists she sleep with him first. In Queen, jealous Benjy is back – and this time he may have a point. It seems that everyone but Kitty realizes that she and Knox have feelings for each other. Fortunately, both Kitty and Benjy also start to wonder whether their relationship with each other is based on familiarity rather than strong emotion. Their decision to stay best friends is one of the more mature points in this book.

Another point of maturity is the development of the Knox-Kitty relationship. There is no YA-mandatory ship kiss. Just a promise that things are on track for the two of them by the end of the book. And while a lot of reviews I looked through are distraught at this fact, I think that a book that’s drowning in this level of immaturity needed a few points that weren’t taken play-by-play from the Big Book of Cliche.

That being said, Aimee Carter’s love for faked deaths and pointless plot twists continues to burn unabated. I personally suspect that Knox faking his own death was a plot device to get Kitty to realize that she loved him (and make a big declaration of love which I completely skipped over).

The derailed rebellion and Knox (and everyone in Elsewhere) being fake killed was possibly the weakest part of the whole book. Because the story was nowhere near over, there were tons of pages left, so it was quite obvious that Knox wasn’t dead, that the major part of the rebellion was still going strong. I don’t know what sort of fake-out Carter thought she was going for. Maybe she figured that Kitty, Lila and Greyson’s terrible attempts at assassinating fake Daxton would hold the answers for the reader. Seriously, I lost count of the number of times they tried to kill Victor Mercer (the man who’s impersonating Daxton) in this book. Just another transparent plot device and stalling tactic.

I also wonder why Carter chose to keep calling this man “Daxton” even after it becomes clear to everyone that his name is something else entirely. Perhaps it was an effort to preserve the focal point of all the villainy under a single name. Daxton was certainly a ruthless dictator – he had Lila’s father executed in front of her and Celia after all – but he was also smarter and less blinded by arrogance, and might not have been as sadistic. In fact, certain characters in the book attempt to distinguish between Daxton and Victor by claiming that Daxton didn’t take pleasure in his cruelty. But there’s no need to make a child watch her father’s execution, and there’s certainly no need to go hunting human beings as if they were big game. Daxton was guilty of both. He was also Kitty’s father, and didn’t let her grow up in Elsewhere. (Yay?) It is important to note that he also never appears anywhere in the trilogy – he was dead by time Pawn began. The villains of this trilogy is – and always have been – Victor Mercer and Augusta Hart. In light of that, continuing to refer to Victor as Daxton seems silly.

As with so many other books, the heteronormativity is exhausting. Dumping heterosexual monogamous pairings by the truckload into your book is truly barf-worthy. If Benjy, Kitty and Knox had chosen a more polyamorous relationship, that might have been interesting. If any of them had been a different gender, that would have been great as well. A female version of Knox would have been awesome, I think. Much preferable to having a broody male order armies around and put the heroine down at every chance.

Which brings me to all the infantilization. Everyone, including the author and Kitty herself, treats Kitty like she’s a child. The Bella-syndrome is quite obvious here. You know the drill: plucky heroine dares to keep doing things that everyone tells her is foolish – like putting herself in danger without first receiving permission forms from Knox, Benjy, Sampson, Rivers and possibly Hannah, in triplicate. Plucky heroine gets into a teeny-weeny bit of trouble as a result, and everybody shouts at her. What’s worse is Kitty’s internal monologue, which is filled with guilt and shame for acting out. I want to shake Kitty and remind her that she’s the same age as the other idiots leading this rebellion, that they’re all being dumb, so she needs to stop beating herself up about it. None of the other characters do this. No other character infantilizes themselves. YA writers, please, stop convincing your protagonists that they’re in the wrong because they did something “plucky.” You’re sending a terrible message to teenage girls who identify with your protagonists. I know this because I used to be one of those teenage girls.

The over-protective boyfriend bullshit is an offshoot of this infantilization. The part where it’s so hot when a guy gets angry at you for putting yourself in danger. Because, you know, it would kill him if something happened to you. Newsflash, everybody. The girl doesn’t belong to the guy. She belongs to herself, and her right to put herself in danger is nobody’s business but hers. And as is par for the course for a YA novel, we’ve got this over-protective crap coming in from both Benjy and Knox.

Perhaps the most hilarious part of this novel is its take on socialism. While in Elsewhere, Kitty gets beaten up by two or three of its denizens because they’re resentful of her apparent comfort. After this incident, she starts wondering whether it’s fair that the leaders always get better amenities than the rest. But Benjy is having none of it. He is happy with his privilege, unwilling to go full socialist, and claims that leaders will always have privileges. Unfortunately, Kitty eventually accepts his perspective.

But here’s the thing. You guys are leaders because you were born with certain privileges, nitwits. Kitty – illegitimate daughter of a VII, only person to have escaped Elsewhere, brought into the Hart family because of her facial resemblance to Lila Hart (another VII, and her cousin), met the Blackcoats that way. Knox and Celia, leaders of the Blackcoats, VI and VII respectively. Benjy, a VI and enjoying the privileges of being Kitty’s boyfriend. You don’t get to deny those circumstances and then claim that you’re some sort of special snowflake who deserves privilege due to your leadership abilities.

The Blackcoat Rebellion could actually have been a good story if it weren’t quite so bloated. This is a one book story, or maximum two books. Perhaps YA writers like Carter can take a few pointers from that Jack Reacher author, you know, figure out how to pack the action tightly, keep it interesting.

TV Recap and Review: Daytime Divas – Pilot

Title: Pilot
Show: Daytime Divas
Season: 1
Episode: 1
Sidereel Rating (Average): 4.17
Sidereel Rating (Mine): 5

Based on: Satan’s Sisters by Star Jones

Notes: Series Premiere

Cast:

  1. Vanessa Williams – Maxine Robinson
  2. Camille Guaty – Nina Sandoval
  3. Tichina Arnold – Mo Evans
  4. Chloe Bridges – Kibbie Ainsley
  5. Fiona Gubelmann – Heather Flynn-Kellogg
  6. McKinley Freeman – Shawn Robinson

Series Description: In a spoof of The View, and with former The View co-host Star Jones as executive producer, comes Daytime Divas. The show is about The Lunch Hour, a daytime talk show led by Maxine Robinson, long time news anchor and journalist. Her co-hosts are Nina, a Pulitzer prize winning war correspondent with secrets in her past, Mo, a stand up comedian who can be unscrupulous when it comes to getting ahead, Kibbie, a former child star struggling with addiction and Heather, a former pageant queen and devout Christian. Maxine’s adoptive son (and biological nephew) Shawn works with as a producer on the show.

2017-06-07 (1).png
Vanessa Williams as Maxine Robinson

Plot Highlights: Maxine and Mo clash on air about a joke made at Maxine’s expense. Mo worries that Heather’s husband may be abusing her. Mo is having an affair with her PA, Leon. Maxine goes into a coma during a routine facelift procedure, something Shawn quickly spins as minor throat surgery. Leon the PA wants to take their relationship to the next level, but Mo dumps him. Nina and her husband Andrew find out that that they cannot have children. Nina and Shawn turn out to be having an affair. In Maxine’s absence, the other co-hosts vie for Maxine’s “left chair.” Brad and Heather argue about their daughter Ella (who is trans). Leon blackmails Mo, resuming their relationship and getting a promotion. Mo finds Maxine’s medical records and blackmails Shawn into giving her the “left chair.” Kibby falls off the wagon and is nearly arrested. Maxine wakes up during the airing of the show and decides to delay announcing the details of her recovery.

2017-06-07 (7).png
From L to R: Tichina Arnold, Chloe Briges, Camille Guaty and Fiona Gubelmann as Mo, Kibbie, Nina and Heather.

Phew. Who’d have thought that one episode would have so much happening in it?

The episode does a great job of introducing the characters and displaying their various quirks – as if the Lunch Hour introductory sequence alone wasn’t enough to do that. And while the drama falls neatly into the requisite spaces, plenty of space is also reserved for a WHOLE lot of depth. In essence, Daytime Divas is The Lunch Hour plus the dishy backstage deets.

The show opens with Maxine cancelling her appearance at a corporate retreat because: “It’s a boy’s club. I refuse to be paraded around as the token female in a leadership role.” There is no doubt that she’s a diva, through and through – as she walks from her office to the set, she’s seen telling a costume designer to take a jacket out of rotation because she’d already worn it once six months ago. She then goes on to tell the woman to have the jacket wrapped up so Maxine could give it to her cleaning lady as a birthday present. Maxine also seems to have an ongoing rivalry with Oprah that Oprah probably knows nothing about.

Full disclosure: I’ve already watched multiple episodes of this show. Yes, I know the pilot just aired, but I work in closed captioning and subtitling, and we often get new movies or TV shows before they begin airing. Interestingly, this is also how I ended up watching the currently airing final segment of Pretty Little Liars several months ago. (That’s right, I know who A is. No, I’m not telling – I’ll get sued.) But I digress. My point is, I already know this is a very good, very solid show. It’s the whole reason why I decided to start tracking it in my personal capacity as a fan. And while the pilot is a very good representation of what the rest of the show is going to be like, I assure you it gets even better from here.

Having watched other episodes in this season is a major reason why I’m already in love with Shawn Robinson. McKinley Freeman does a great job portraying a sensitive, yet professional young man who is in tune with the needs of a show like The Lunch Hour (especially considering the kind of co-hosts it has). Shawn loves his mom, he also puts his duty to her above everything else. When Heather (catchphrase: “Modest is hottest”) complains about the temperature being too cold, he matter-of-factly calls for nipple covers for her without missing a beat. After Maxine goes into a coma, Shawn is at the hospital dictating a press release when the doctor informs him that he can go in to see his mother. He gestures for the co-hosts to go ahead, and goes back to the press release. When the next episode airs, Shawn chooses to direct the episode from Maxine’s hospital room. With everyone else, Shawn is grounded, responsible and professional; in moments when he’s alone with his mother – or with Nina, he’s emotionally vulnerable.

The first scenes from The Lunch Hour depict a swimsuit segment because Maxine feels it an appropriate way to kick off swimsuit season. Kibbie feels that it will be empowering for women to feel comfortable in their own skin. Mo thinks that the sight of Kibbie in her swimsuit is going to jump start a generation of eating disorders.

2017-06-07 (2).png
“Hey, hey, careful. They’re real.”

Like with Mo and Kibby clashing over the swimsuits, on air, the co-hosts constantly interrupt each other as they argue their diverse perspectives. None of them can be said to be one-dimensional stereotypes. For instance, Heather worries about being modest and insists on praying all the time, finds it offensive when people take the Lord’s name in vain, and is promoting a book that Kibby sarcastically calls “The Subservient Wife.” [“It’s “The Fulfilled Wife,” Heather snaps back.] At the same time, she furiously defends her daughter Ella to her husband, insisting that the Lord made her the way she was, and the Lord doesn’t make mistakes.

2017-06-08.png
Heather with her children Savannah (L) and Ella (R).

Maxine has sort of taken Kibby under her wing, encouraging her to stay off the drugs and alcohol. Kibby is chirpy, cheerful and deeply sensitive, and Maxine’s coma affects her more than anyone else (with the obvious exception of Shawn.) In a hilarious scene, all the co-hosts end up at the hospital and claim they’re there to visit Maxine, when in reality Nina was visiting Shawn, and Mo and Heather came exclusively to make a play for the left chair. Only Kibby turns up because she actually wants to visit Maxine, and is visibly confused when Shawn asks her if she’s here for the chair too. An encounter with her mother also makes it clear that Kibby is still trying to escape a long standing abusive relationship.

2017-06-08 (1).png
Kibby and her girlfriend Nick.

Heather is a budding fashion designer, and models her own design in the swimsuit segment. When Maxine, while promoting it, mentions that the swimsuit is inexpensive as well as stylish, Nina jumps in with a comment about sweatshop manufacture and child labour, causing Heather to snap back about the unions having “ruined” manufacturing in the US. Nina is pretty standard fare, but she’s also the character I relate to the most on this show. It’s only her affair with Shawn and the news that her husband Andrew is infertile that begins to set her apart.

2017-06-08 (2).png
Nina and Shawn after Maxine’s accident

Mo Evans does the most to challenge Maxine’s authority and place her outside her comfort zone. She is the most confrontational and unapologetic of the show’s cast, and the opening scenes have Mo making a joke about Maxine’s age (she claims that she slipped on Maxine’s vagina, referencing pelvic organ prolapse). She’s been having a sexual relationship with Leon, her PA, but is disinterested in emotional connections, as is evidenced by the fact that she promptly dumps Leon when he asks to take their relationship to the next level.
Mo gains evidence of Maxine undergoing cosmetic surgery and blackmails Shawn with it to gain the “left chair” position, but loses out to network representative Jason Abel’s demand that Nina take that position. This does nothing to deter Mo, who takes the seat anyway, physically unseating Nina in the process. But her abrasive demeanour doesn’t prevent her from reaching out to those she cares about.
Her complete control over her sexuality is something else I love about Mo. “If you don’t know how to talk dirty, don’t talk at all,” she tells Leon while they’re in the midst of boning. “But don’t stop.” Mo sex is loud, raunchy, questionably ethical exhibitionist sex, and she does it while watching a video of herself going viral.

2017-06-08 (3).png
“Alright, y’all. Stay beautiful, stay black. Except for the white people. Please stop trying to be black.” – Mo doing stand up.

Body image is constantly referenced in Daytime Divas. Maxine Robinson’s “brand” includes the notion that she’s never had any cosmetic surgery done, but in the course of the pilot it becomes clear that this is patently untrue. Maxine’s lie, which could be seen as being hypocritical, is placed in context in the aftermath of Mo’s viral joke about her age, as she talks about how men at her age are referred to as “distinguished and wise,” while she’s going to be seen as “irrelevant, old and foolish.” But Maxine’s arguments do ring a bit hollow, and it is clear that she has internalized these ideas about appearance to a certain degree when she body shames Mo.

Daytime Divas also addresses race both explicitly as well as in the low key, subtle ways that matter more. A shot of the production team reveals a row of black women. Maxine calls out a man holding a roll of blue gel, reminding him that they have black ladies on camera, and that he should know better than that. (I had to do some research on this one: Color gel is explained here, and this article discusses the nuances of lighting with dark skinned subjects.) When Shawn tells Jason Abel that he wants to put Mo in the left chair, Jason tells him to put Nina instead, because Mo is too “urban.” The conversation is punctuated with a lot of awkward, forced laughter on part of both men, with Shawn attempting to disguise his distaste (“Oh, you did not just say that”), and Jason being obliviously entitled. (Reference: Stop Calling Black People Urban)

2017-06-08 (4).png
Shawn and Jason Abel

As far as comedy goes, Daytime Divas is gold. This show flawlessly combines the vapidity associated with being a diva with the immense depth and multidimensionality associated with being a human being. Whether it’s Heather and Nina arguing about the economics of textile manufacture while dressed in swimsuits, all the women arguing while standing over Maxine’s comatose body in the hospital, or the show ending in fisticuffs on air, the over the top nature of this show does not fail to elicit laughs.

Next Review: The Blackcoat Rebellion #3 – Queen

Book Review: The Man in Lower Ten

Title: The Man in Lower Ten
Author: Mary Roberts Rineheart
Year of Publication: 1909
Series: N/A
#: N/A
Goodreads Rating (Avg.): 3.58
Goodreads Rating (Mine): 2

Plot Description: A mystery novel involving a murder, a theft, two cases of switched berths, cases of mistaken identity, a train crash, multiple women that the protagonist cannot distinguish properly between due to a condition known as casual-sexistitis, dated English, and an idiot who thinks he’s in love.

[Insert Spoiler Alert here]

The man in lower ten.jpg

This book appeared in my collection of Agatha Christie novels, and I began to read it under the assumption it was by Christie herself. Being an old mystery novel by a female author, I suppose someone somewhere found it easy to confuse them. Even the title sounds like something Christie would have come up with.

Unfortunately for me, I carried forward my Agatha Christie mindset even after discovering my mistake. With Christie, the secret to solving the murder is to pin it on the least likely character. In this case, that character was Alice West. I now understand what a review of Christie that I read recently meant when it said that she showed no compassion for love interests. In this novel, the real twist would have been if Alice West was the murderer, but as the love interest for multiple characters (seriously, they’re all trying to get married to her) she was spared that dubious honour.

Having cut my teeth on my local library’s entire collection of Nancy Drew books, I have long been a fan of good mysteries. I even had a fanatic phase where I read only Agatha Christie. And to me, this was a very middling book. Poor, even, considering that it falls neatly into the classic format of too many crimes, confusion in the dark, person who was attempting to commit one crime finding a different crime already committed, and so forth. In the end, there was no real twist. The murderer is already dead, the beneficiary of the theft also already dead. Lots of dead people, no prosecution, and this is what passed for a “happy ending” in 1902. You know, so long as Whiny McWhiny gets to marry a girl ten years younger than he.

Indeed, romance is the weak point for many of the older novels I’ve read. Or perhaps it feels that way to me because of how different their patterns of courting were. Very little emotion is expressed, especially on the part of the women. They could all be replaced with walking, talking mannequins and I doubt anybody would notice the difference. Sex is barely ever even hinted at, except in the form of actual babies or pregnancies. What is mystifying to me, under such circumstances, is how these women managed to gain any semblance of a satisfactory sex life when they never actually talked about it, and pretended not to even think about it until the day they were married.

Against this backdrop, those rare expressions of emotion sound odd, forced and unnatural. Too much exposition is needed to explain it to the reader, because the author, the reader, and the characters themselves are all completely emotionally stunted.

Or so it seems to me, who am as outsider as it gets. Seriously, the only person in this book who is not white is Euphemia, Whiny McWhiny’s “colored” housemaid. I can’t imagine what character or role I’d fill, where I to have lived in the time and place this book is set in.

Perhaps the people living during that time had their own ways of knowing, their own little understandings. But as we all know, silence is how most forms of oppression thrive, and God forbid any of us return to such a time.

The writing was messy and scrambled, as though the author were piling misdirection upon misdirection. It made it hard to keep reading, and the casual sexism of the protagonist made it even harder. The coincidences that keep piling up – the idea that a girl, her fiance, fiance’s sister, fiance’s wife, fiance’s father in law, her boyfriend’s business partner (who is also her uncle’s lawyer), the accomplice of the forger that her uncle, boyfriend and boyfriend’s business partner are litigating against, forger’s girlfriend, and a random private detective should all be on the same goddamn train – well, that was the icing on the cake.

Told you it was hard to read.

That being said, this was apparently M.R.R’s debut novel, so a lot may be forgiven. I find the life of the author far more intriguing than her work itself – she wrote to support her family, singlehandedly renovating their house, among other things, with the money she received from her writing. She may have been fond of poking fun at traditional detective novels written from the masculine perspective, and spoke out about her radical mastectomy and cancer diagnosis more than a century before Angelina Jolie did. It says nothing positive about our society that Jolie’s decision to discuss her procedures caused as much of a stir as Rineheart’s did.

Next: Daytime Divas – Pilot

Book Review: Discworld #3 – Equal Rites

Title: Equal Rites
Author: Terry Pratchett
Year of Publication: 1987
Series: Discworld; Witches
#: 3; 1
Goodreads Rating (Avg.): 3.99
Goodreads Rating (Mine): 5

Spoilers for a whole bunch of Discworld books.

Equal_Rites.jpg

Plot Description: Drum Billet, a wizard who is about to die,  follows the wisdom of his staff, attempting to find his successor. Wizards are generally the eighth sons of an eighth son, and in the village of Bad Ass, up in the Ramtop mountains, an eighth child is being born to an eighth son. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, Drum Billet’s staff is of a particularly progressive bend of mind, and the child he leads Billet to is a daughter, not a son. It is thus that Eskarina Smith becomes destined to be a wizard.

“You’ve given the world its first female wizard,” said the midwife. “Whosa itsywitsy, den?”
“What?”
“I was talking to the baby.”

Terry P. started his Discworld series off in an extraordinarily ambitious fashion. After investigating the philosophy and mechanics of magic, creation, astral planes and Rincewind in The Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic, he now moves on to gender roles as they might pertain to magic.

The midwife’s name was Granny Weatherwax. She was a witch. That was quite acceptable in the Ramtops, and no one had a bad word to say about witches. At least, not if he wanted to wake up in the morning the same shape as he went to bed.

Witches and wizards, being as powerful as they are, generally do not have leaders. As far as the wizards are concerned, the Archchancellor of Unseen University is regarded as “first among equals.” And among the witches, Granny Weatherwax is the most highly regarded of the leaders they didn’t have. And in Equal Rites, both Granny Weatherwax and Archchancellor Cutangle agree on one thing: Women are witches, and men are wizards. It cannot be any other way.

“Female wizards aren’t right either! It’s the wrong kind of magic for women, is wizard magic, it’s all books and stars and jommetry. She’d never grasp it. Whoever heard of a female wizard?”

“There’s witches,” said the smith uncertainly. “And enchantresses too, I’ve heard.”

“Witches is a different thing altogether,” snapped Granny Weatherwax. “It’s magic out of the ground, not out of the sky, and men never could get the hang of it. As for enchantresses,” she added. “They’re no better than they should be. You take it from me, just burn the staff, bury the body and don’t let on it ever happened.”

Contemporary gender studies would probably discuss this in terms of gender roles and socialization. Boys are encouraged to grow up with a particular mindset, girls with another. Boys who may show inclinations classified as feminine are pushed – or punished – away from them. Likewise with girls who show masculine inclinations. Granny Weatherwax’s reference to “jommetry” echoes something my mother believes – that men have brains better suited to logic and mathematics, and that female brains are better suited to emotional or empathetic fields. Wizards’ magic is “out of the sky” – a parallel can be drawn here to physics; while witch magic is out of the ground. It’s no coincidence that more women gravitate towards biology. No coincidence that in my home state, more women are successful in becoming doctors, and more men in becoming engineers. [Those are the only two acceptable career options in my home state.]

This state of affairs puts Eskarina Smith in the position of having to challenge two sets of gender roles. Ultimately, it makes her better at both witch magic as well as wizard magic. Her unique position enables her to see both kinds of magic without the blind spots that inflict older witches and wizards, which is how her abilities eventually trump theirs.

That being said, Terry P. has no pretensions as to which side he’s on. There’s no “I’m a humanist” nonsense in Equal Rites, and he’s the first to claim that, yes, all men. “Sure,” he concedes, “maybe not all men are thundering idiots, but, yes, all men are idiots. Maybe not all men are toweringly worthless, but really, the universe and women are just tolerating them.”

She stood up. “Let’s find this Great Hall, then. No time to waste.”
“Um, women aren’t allowed in,” said Esk.
Granny stopped in the doorway. Her shoulders rose. She turned around very slowly.
“What did you say?” she said. “Did these old ears deceive me, and don’t say they did because they didn’t.”
“Sorry,” said Esk. “Force of habit.”
“I can see you’ve been getting ideas below your station,” said Granny coldly.

This may seem like a stretch or an exaggeration, but the comparisons of wizard and witch magic show that while wizards are capable of very flashy magic that can interfere with the very workings of the universe, their primary objective – and this is something that has been repeatedly emphasized throughout the Discworld series – is to refrain from using their magic. The magic of men, if allowed to progress in an unrestricted fashion, will result in complete destruction of the universe. They are therefore not allowed to use their magic except in cases of absolute necessity (like when another wizard or set of wizards have already set about destroying the universe, and need to be stopped.) The wisdom and greatness of wizardry lies in doing nothing, which is why the greatest, strongest wizards do nothing but eat a lot and nap a lot.

The magic of witches on the other hand is perpetually in use. For the most part, witch magic is nothing but knowledge of herbal medicine, gossipping around a pot of tea, and what Granny Weatherwax refers to as “headology.” The witches are perpetual servants of society – they are midwives and healers, dispensers of justice, veterinarians. They tend to the elderly, the ones who have no one else to look after them. They take up the jobs no one else want, precisely because they can be so much more, and their power requires constant reminders of why it’s important to stay grounded.

And yet, social work is only one aspect of their skillset. They understand that magic is not to be used except in necessity, but when that necessity arises, there is no magic seemingly beyond them. The witches in Discworld achieve more – far more – than the wizards ever do. Equal Rites introduces only Esmeralda Weatherwax, but the women from the rest of the Witches series are no less notable than she. Midwifing for Time herself (Nanny Ogg), dragging souls out of the clutches of Death (Granny and Tiffany Aching), ensuring the stability of a monarchy (Granny, Nanny and Magrat Garlick) – and actually ruling it (Magrat), defeating a clutch of evil vampires by possessing one’s own blood before they drank it (Granny), defeating the Queen of the Faeries by Borrowing the mind of an entire bee Hive (Granny again), defeating the Queen of the Faeries for good (Tiffany), complete mastery of time travel (Eskarina Smith)… Perhaps the greatest of all these achievements, however, is the endless coming of age stories – Magrat, Tiffany, Agnes Nitt, and more. These witches see countless young women through the confusion of adolescence, guiding them so they turn out to be strong, confident and independent – young women who are as wise and powerful as their mentors.

It is perhaps very telling that the books about the wizards are collectively titled under the name Rincewind. There could perhaps be no “wizzard” less incompetent than is Rincewind, and yet he is, without doubt, the greatest hero the wizards can have. The number of times he has used magic can be counted on the fingers of one hand. He is cowardly, comical, ridiculous. Yet he saves the day, literally every time.

In addition, it is seen that the wizards are incapable of doing anything close to witch magic – they are selfish, lazy and indulgent. This is not out of any innate or biological factor, but more due to the fact that women are, in general, willing to take on both the physical and emotional burdens of life. The witches shoulder the emotional burden of entire villages, while the wizards are completely incapable of even feeding their own selves. But the reverse does not hold true. The witches prefer to stick to non-magical methods…

A couple of wizards with a rather greater presence of mind had nipped smartly out of the door behind them, and now several college porters were advancing threateningly up the hall, to the cheers and catcalls of the students. Esk had never much liked the porters, who lived a private life in their lodge, but now she felt a pang of sympathy for them.
Two of them reached out hairy hands and grabbed Granny’s shoulders. Her arm disappeared behind her back and there was a brief flurry of movement that ended with the men hopping away, clutching bits of themselves and swearing.
“Hatpin,” said Granny.

…but if necessary, witches can do wizard magic, and do it exceptionally well, as is exemplified in Granny Weatherwax’s magical duel with the Archchancellor.

Cutangle stood with legs planted wide apart, arms akimbo and stomach giving an impression of a beginners’ ski slope, the whole of him therefore adopting a pose usually associated with Henry VIII but with an option on Henry IX and X as well.

“Well?” he said, “What is the meaning of this outrage?”

“Is he important?” said Granny to Esk.

“I, madam, am the Archchancellor! And I happen to run this University! And you, madam, are trespassing in very dangerous territory indeed! I warn you that – stop looking at me like that!”

Cutangle staggered backwards, his hands raised to ward off Granny’s gaze.

Granny’s eyes had changed.

Esk had never seen them like this before. They were perfectly silver, like little round mirrors, reflecting all they saw. Cutangle was a vanishingly small dot in their depths, his mouth open, his tiny matchstick arms waving in desperation.

The Archchancellor backed into a pillar, and the shock made him recover. He shook his head irritably, cupped a hand and sent a stream of white fire streaking towards the witch.

Without dropping her iridescent stare Granny raised a hand and deflected the flames towards the roof. There was an explosion and a shower of tile fragments.

Her eyes widened.

Cutangle vanished. Where he had been standing a huge snake coiled, poised to strike.

Granny vanished. Where she had been standing was a large wicker basket.

The snake became a giant reptile from the mists of time.

The basket became the snow wind of the Ice Giants, coating the struggling monster with ice.

The reptile became a sabre-toothed tiger, crouched to spring.

The gale became a bubbling tar pit.

The tiger managed to become an eagle, stooping.

The tar pits became a tufted hood.

Then the images began to flicker as shape replaced shape. Stroboscope shadows danced around the hall. A magical wind sprang up, thick and greasy, striking octarine sparks from beards and fingers. In the middle of it all, Esk, peering through streaming eyes, could just make out the two figures of Granny and Cutangle, glossy statues in the midst of the hurtling images.

Their duel is cut short by the fact that Esk and Simon, a young boy also newly admitted to Unseen University, are in danger. No victor could possibly announced under such circumstances. And yet…

One of the students had earned several awards for bravery by daring to tug at Cutangle’s cloak ….

And now they were crowded into the narrow room, looking at the two bodies.

Cutangle summoned doctors of the body and doctors of the mind, and the room buzzed with magic as they got to work.

Granny tapped him on the shoulder.

“A word in your ear, young man,” she said.

“Hardly young, madam,” sighed Cutangle, “hardly young.” He felt drained. It had been decades since he’d duelled in magic, although it was common enough among students. He had a nasty feeling that Granny would have won eventually. Fighting her was like swatting a fly on your own nose. He couldn’t think what had come over him to try it.

Simon, the other main character, is a brilliant boy with a terrible stutter and an inability to do anything right.

Simon did everything inexpertly. He was really good at it. He was one of those tall lads apparently made out of knees, thumbs and elbows. Watching him walk was a strain, you kept waiting for the strings to snap, and when he talked the spasm of agony on his face if he spotted an S or W looming ahead in the sentence made people instinctively say them for him. It was worth it for the grateful look which spread across his acned face like sunrise on the moon.

As an expert on theoretical magic, however, he far outstrips every fully qualified wizard at Unseen University. Esk and Simon share a mutual attraction that motivates her to save Simon’s life, also saving the entire universe in the process. Together they stare down the creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions and return.

Eskarina Smith never appears in the Discworld series again… until I Shall Wear Midnight, the fourth book in the Tiffany Aching series. [I seriously cannot wait to start talking about Tiffany Aching.] It is then explained that Simon’s brain was too much for his body to handle, that he became an invalid, his physical illness directly proportional to the brilliance of his theory. Esk’s training as a witch stands out in her decisions to take care of him until his death…

The young Eskarina had met at the University a young man called Simon who…had been cursed by the Gods with almost every possible ailment that mankind was prone to. But because the Gods have a sense of humour, even though it’s a rather strange one, they had granted him the power to understand – well – everything. He could barely walk without assistance, but was so brilliant that he managed to keep the whole universe in his head. Wizards…would flock to hear him talk about space and time and magic as if they were all part of the same thing. And young Eskarina had fed him and cleaned him and helped him get about and learned from him – well – everything.” – I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett.

Simon is apparently presumed dead in the Discworld universe, perhaps killed in a battle that takes place two books after Equal Rites. And by the time we meet Esk again, she has mastered the ability to travel through time, a secret she passes on to Tiffany Aching. After Eskarina, Tiffany is the only student witch to have equalled Granny’s level of skill in magic, and indeed to, have surpassed it, so perhaps it is very fitting that these two women should share a bond.

Next Review: The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rineheart

Next in this Series: Discworld #4 – Mort (Death #1)

Next in this Sub-series: Discworld #6 – Wyrd Sisters (Witches #2)

Book Review: Bloodlines #6 – The Ruby Circle

Title: The Ruby Circle
Author: Richelle Mead
Year of Publication: 2015
Series: Bloodlines
#: 6
Goodreads Rating (Avg.): 4.22
Goodreads Rating (Mine): 5

Business As Usual for Spoilers

The_Ruby_Cirle.jpg

I really dislike this cover art version of Sydney. Neither this Sydney, nor this Adrian match how I imagine they look.

Plot Description: A ten book saga winds to a close. Nearly all the pieces are in place, and this thing only needs a bit of basic ass-kicking to seal the deal. Simply put, Sydney, Ms. Terwilliger, Eddie Castile and Adrian go off on a magical scavenger hunt in an attempt to find Jill. And there’s a magical baby hogging plot space.

I began this blog with Mead’s VA universe. And now it’s finally coming to a conclusion. All of our favourite heroes have been in on the action for a while now, even though I haven’t been giving them any mention in the reviews. Now it’s time.

Lissa and Christian have appeared the least in Bloodlines, the latter even less than the former. And while they’ve given way to characters who are as engaging and amusing, it feels wrong to view Lissa through perspectives other than that of Rose’s. She behaves like one would expect a sweet monarch to – proud, regal, makes the right decisions, has to take tough calls… But there’s barely any sign of the Lissa we’ve come to know and love. Or perhaps Lissa was always this privileged (remember all those times Rose’s needs were ignored and Lissa barely noticed?) and we no longer have Rose’s POV to soften the blow.

Of the other old characters, Dimitri Belikov is perhaps the most hilarious, especially as seen from Adrian’s perspective. It is revealed in this book that Dimitri and Adrian are, in fact, cousins – their fathers are full brothers. I would honestly have loved to see this explored more, simply because of the enormity of this revelation, but it’s brushed aside in light of the more urgent plot developments.

The first bit of The Ruby Circle is basically a magical scavenger hunt. One that is almost laughable – it does nothing more than bring them full circle, back to Palm Springs. They do find out who’s responsible for Jill’s disappearance in the process, but Alicia’s re-emergence, her lame attacks, and Ms. Terwilliger’s explanation for the scavenger hunt (Alicia wanted Sydney to be suffering from magical fatigue before she fought her directly) are all pretty ham handed. Which is why it’s a good thing that the plot is still fast paced. Even the climactic showdown had involved battling Alicia, pretty much everyone would have fallen asleep reading.

Fortunately for us readers, we discover that Alicia doesn’t have Jill – she passed her over to another old enemy for imprisonment. Cue more infiltration of The Warriors of Light, who epitomize comically exaggerated villainy. Sydney pulls a gimmicky win during the trials of endurance set for new Warrior wannabes – one which, in my opinion, was wholly unnecessary. Rather than fight the other women in the field, Sydney attacks a male victor who was already done fighting, and therefore off his guard. It’s cheating, and that scene could have been written any number of ways to show that Sydney was strong and smart, and able to best any of them without resorting to roundabout ways.

Adrian’s use of spirit – and accompanying mental illness – continues unabated. As a result, the reader is treated to constant commentary from his pet hallucination, the deceased Queen Tatiana Ivashkov. The thing about writing mental illness is that such scenes are often a drag. But this is also because, newsflash, mental illness is a drag. It sucks to write about, but an honest and sincere portrayal cannot stay true to character if it chooses to skip such an aspect of a character just to make for easier reading.

Then there’s the magical baby. The discovery of the Strigoi vaccine two books ago also provided the foundation for a romance between the British dhampir, Neil, and Olive, the fifth known person to have been restored after having turned Strigoi. The presence of Spirit in Olive’s body appears to have somehow changed the fact that dhampirs cannot reproduce amongst themselves. The cynical part of me wonders whether this was a development engineered solely so the world could benefit from Romitri babies. It’s not such a stretch, but honestly, I would much prefer that child producing wasn’t made such a central part of every bloody relationship. The cis-het element is already so strong in the VA universe. It might have been better not to force us to swallow even more heteronormativity.

In the last chapter, Sydrian have adopted Neil and Olive’s baby, claiming he is biologically theirs. This is done to prevent baby Declan from having to live a life of scientific experimentation, as he was born with spirit infusing his blood – therefore granting him Strigoi immunity from birth. His mother, Olive, died to protect him from such a fate, and his father, Neil, decided to run away to prevent any connection being drawn between himself and the baby. “The risk is too great,” is a common refrain, but it honestly seems rather contrived to me. (Again.) The final chapter also reveals that Romitri are now engaged to be married, and that they have so far taken no decision on the whole having children question.

The Ruby Circle might not have stood the test of criticism on its own if it weren’t for the nostalgic value it carries as the final book set in this universe. In truth, I believe that Silver Shadows and The Ruby Circle could probably have been combined, with some of the more unnecessary plot elements cut out to make it less bloated.

Next Review: Discworld #3 – Equal Rites

Book Review: Bloodlines #5 – Silver Shadows

Title: Silver Shadows
Author: Richelle Mead
Year of Publication: 2014
Series: Bloodlines
#: 5
Goodreads Rating (Avg.): 4.37
Goodreads Rating (Mine): 4

I Don’t Do Spoiler Free Reviews

Silver_Shadows.jpg

Plot Description: Sydney has been kidnapped by the Alchemists, the human organization she works for. Their methods for dealing with rogue Alchemists involve imprisonment, torture and brainwashing designed to make their victims more pliable towards their objectives and methods. While she attempts to navigate the various pitfalls of “re-education,” Adrian, Jill, Eddie and the rest desperately search for her.

Silver Shadows is all action. The only scenes that seem to slow the pace down are – predictably – the ones that involve Adrian’s depression following Sydney’s kidnapping. Even as she spends months in the dark, resisting torture, Adrian falls off the wagon, spending his days depressed and disoriented. In order to contact Sydney via her dreams, he must go off his medication and access spirit again. His symptoms return in full force, along with the hallucination of his dead aunt, the former Moroi Queen Tatiana Ivashkov.

By the time Adrian shakes off his funk and manages to contact Sydney via a spirit dream, she has managed to disable the piping of sedative gas into her room at night, and is well on her way to staging a full-scale revolution in the re-education center. This is despite the fact that the authorities there did everything in their power to isolate her, ensure that she was seen as tainted by her fellow detainees. Here, of all places and situations in the Vampire Academy universe, the taboo against romantic or sexual interaction between humans and Moroi hold fastest.

After Baxter’s reaction to touching my hand, I tried to save the other detainees the trouble of being near me and kept a respectful distance apart. We bottlenecked in the narrow hall, however, and the maneuvers some of them did to avoid bumping into me would’ve been comical in any other circumstances. Those not near me went out of their way to avoid eye contact and pretend I didn’t exist. Those forced to avoid contact fixed me with icy glares, and I was shocked to hear one whisper, “Slut.”

I’d braced myself for a lot of things and expected to be called any number of names, but that one caught me off guard. I was surprised by how much it stung.

Gradually gaining first the trust, and then the respect of her fellow detainees, Sydney manages to use her magic to protect a number of them from the magical equivalent of extra-strength on-the-spot brainwashing. She is then recaptured while disabling the gas being piped to all the detainee’s rooms – a feat which enabled Adrian to bring two of her friends in re-education into a spirit dream, and therefore finalize the escape plan.

Adrian’s relationship with his mother, and his parents’ relationship with each other is one of the subplots of this book. Both Daniella and Nathan received enough coverage in Vampire Academy that their personalities come as no surprise. Nathan is a rude, pompous, shallow person who constantly insults his son. Daniella is shallow and selfish, but ultimately cares more about Adrian than does her husband. Her love is real, and she ultimately always comes back to it.

The final act of the book always struck me as slightly hilarious – it features a ridiculous chase through the roads and hotels of Las Vegas as they simultaneously plan and execute a wedding while evading the Alchemists that are in hot pursuit. Once they’ve made it to the royal Court, they demand sanctuary for Sydney, in her new capacity as a Moroi royal’s wife.

It’s hard to review this book without falling into what is essentially a recap, because as I noted above, this is a very action filled book. Evenly paced, it doesn’t stretch out the re-education scenes unnecessarily, and does a very good job of connecting threads that are far apart to sew together a plan that – mostly – runs smoothly.

captain cold flash sharkman.jpg
To quote Captain Cold, “Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan.”

As the series nears its conclusion, most of the original conflicts have been resolved, one by one. Adrian’s long past pining for Rose. Sydney and Adrian are in a happy relationship – one they no longer need to keep a secret. With the vote on the family quorum requirement all but passed, Jill no longer needs to stay in hiding very long. Most of the characters have met potential love interests and paired off with them – including a possible happy ending for Sydney’s elder sister, Carly.

But Lissa’s decision to provide Sydney with sanctuary has turned the Alchemists from ally to enemy of the Moroi. The radical splinter group of the Alchemists – the Warriors of Light – are still out there, plotting. And the final few paragraphs of Silver Shadows sets up the conflict for the last book – Jill is missing, and no one can figure out how she disappeared, or why.

From a series perspective, Silver Shadows may perhaps fulfil the role of a filler episode, but confronting the spectre of re-education once and for all, and trampling the human-Moroi relationship taboo were both monumental steps as far as plot – and indeed, world – development is concerned.

 Next Review: Bloodlines #6 – The Ruby Circle