Overview: The Discworld

Having discovered a treasure trove of books (including an almost complete set of the Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett) recently, I dove in and settled down for uninterrupted reading of around 35 books. I’m happy to say I’ve finished them, and are even now engaged in the process of finding the ones not included in my original discovery.

The first Terry P. book I read may well have been Lords and Ladies, almost five years ago. I’ve also read Wintersmith at some point, but now I no longer recall when that was. I was so enchanted by Lords and Ladies and by Esme Weatherwax that I immediately set about finding the rest of Sir P’s books. Being someone with a bit of OCD, I tried to start by reading Colour of Magic. Don’t do that. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll spend another five years being deprived of these wonderful works of art before you can work up the courage to start again.

I restarted my Discworld attempt with Monstrous Regiment. It was lovely. It was hilarious. It was followed in quick succession by Unseen Academicals, Making Money, Going Postal and a good many other highlights of Terry P.’s work.

Then I tried reading Colour of Magic again, and to my amazement, this time it actually made sense. Fair warning though: Colour of Magic and it’s immediate sequel – The Light Fantastic – are both Rincewind novels, and those are invariably the most boring and annoying of the Discworld books.

Within themselves, the Discworld books have separate plot lines that you can use to follow your favourite characters on their adventures. If every Terry P. fan followed this method, all the Rincewind stories would be thoroughly neglected. Interestingly, however, it’s also in many of Rincewind’s novels that very important things happen to occur, and all of the books reference each other a lot, so you might as well read them in order if you can.

Along with Rincewind, there are also the Wizards, the Witches, The Night Watch of Ankh Mopork, Tiffany Aching (who’s a witch), DEATH (who’s Death) and the progress of the Industrial Revolution in the great city of Ankh Mopork.

In addition to his incessant parodying of everything under the sun, Sir Terry’s writing reveals an excellent knowledge of humanity which is passed down in perfectly acerbic sarcasm. He tackles various political issues without ever seeming to have tackled them, and leaves racism, sexism and general elitism looking a little shamefaced and confused. In this sense, he’s a little bit like Lord Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh Mopork, who seems to get everything done his way despite never seeming to lift a goddamn finger.

Advertisements

Overview: Michael Buckley and The Sisters Grimm

Series Name: The Sisters Grimm 

Book Name: The Fairy Tale Detectives

Author: Buckley, Michael

Genre: Fantasy; Fairy Tales; Middle School Level Stuff

The Universe: This series is set in present day United States of America and focuses on a small town near New York called Ferryport Landing, where the Everafters – aka all the fairy tale creatures you’ve ever known or read about – live together. A spell placed on the town mean that none of the Everafters can leave Ferryport, and the spell is tied to the presence of the human family of Grimm – the descendants of the famous brothers Grimm – in the town. The original point of the spell was to keep the existence of the Everafters a secret from humans – and to protect the humans from the magic of the Everafters. Other communities of Everafters, it turns out, also exist outside of Ferryport – such as the Faerie kingdom in New York City. The Everafters in the town coexist with humans, hiding their identities an appearances with magical disguises and liberal amounts of forgetful dust (much like the Obliviator Squad in Harry Potter).

Summary by List

Primary Organizations, Groups and Alliances:

  1. The Grimms:
    The Grimm family is bound by the magical spell, and at least one of them should always live in the town. In The Fairy Tale Detectives, the only known and active members of the family are eleven year old Sabrina Grimm, her seven year old sister Daphne, and their grandmother, Relda Grimm, who fancies herself a private eye for fairy tale mysteries. Their motley crew is rounded off by Elvis the Great Dane (best tracking dog in the world), Mr. Canis the meditating old man with multiple personality disorder (the Big Bad Wolf), and Puck, the Trickster King .
  2. The Ferryport Government:
    On their very first day in Ferryport, Relda takes the girls out to inspect a farmhouse that was stomped on by a giant – not that this was obvious to them at the outset – where they run into the Mayor of Ferryport (Prince Charming) and his loyal and long suffering lackey Seven (one of the seven dwarves). They’re also introduced to the four man strong police force (consisting of the Three Little Pigs and Ichabod Crane, who figured he’d be safer from the headless huntsman if he was a cop).
  3. The Everafters:
    The Everafters hate the Grimms (and with good reason, considering they’re locked in a tiny, non – happening town because of the very existence of the Grimms). They blend in with the rest of the populace as much as they can, taking on ordinary jobs – the trolls deliver the mail, and Snow White teaches elementary school. In keeping with the spirit of the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales, these Everafters are decidedly un-Disneyfied. The Beast doesn’t look like a handsome prince, Red Riding Hood is a homicidal maniac who ‘suffered a break from reality’, and the Queen of Hearts – well, she’s pretty much the same. For the most part, they’re an unpleasant lot, although that’s an unkind generalization, as Snow White reminds Sabrina at one point.
  4. The Scarlet Hand:
    A shadowy group of rebel Everafters who’re trying to – as far as I can tell – assassinate the Grimms so they can get the hell out of dodge.

Main Characters:

  1. Sabrina Grimm:
    Eleven and on the cusp of puberty, forced to singlehandedly protect her younger sister for almost a year, and a die hard cynic to boot – Sabrina’s life sucks. She scoffs at her grandmother’s tales (and indeed, refuses to believe that the old woman is her grandmother) until she comes face to face with a two hundred foot giant (the giants in Harry Potter were tiny in comparison). The giant promptly kidnaps Relda and Mr. Canis, leaving it to the sisters Grimm to solve the mystery of who brought the giant here, and why, and to ultimately save their grandmother.
  2. Daphne Grimm:
    Seven, gullible and naively loving to a fault, Daphne is willing to see the good in anything. Despite her age and Sabrina’s protectiveness, it’s obvious that Daphne is more than capable of taking care of herself. She exhibits maturity and wisdom well beyond her years in how well she reads people and she’s not above manipulating them into doing whatever needed to be done. To top it all off, her appetite resembles something that’s a cross between a T-Rex and a Percy Jackson satyr – she’ll eat anything, and she’ll eat all day.
  3. Relda Grimm:
    Relda exemplifies the physical stereotype of a kindly grandmother, and has the energy and enthusiasm of a Daphne Grimm. She’s pleasant and non confrontational, which makes it so much worse when she actually loses her temper. She also shows an excellent knack in handling children – particularly the volatile Sabrina – perfectly.
  4. Mr. Canis:
    The Big Bad Wolf has mended his ways – sort of, and is now the Grimms’ full time bodyguard. He’s silent and seems to always be on the edge of a foul temper, but Daphne’s hugs always manage to catch him off guard enough to make him smile briefly.
  5. Puck:
    Puck is your average, stereotypical, boisterous eleven year old boy on steroids. He’s arrogant, ego maniacal, and an irrepressible prankster. He’s convinced that he needs to safeguard his reputation as a villain, but his soft heart means he ends up helping to save the day every time.
  6. Mayor Charming:
    The arrogant and power hungry Mayor of Ferryport is a far cry from Prince Charming – who, if stories are to be believed, was the saviour of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty… and any other princesses not already spoken for by, say, a frog or a beast, no doubt.
    I mean, is charming really the most important attribute you’d look for in a prospective husband or partner? Really? It kind of goes to show that these girls aren’t meant to be thinking for themselves – they’re meant to be blinded by the riches, beauty and charm of the princes, and marry them without any further thought given to the matter. Ugh.
  7. Ernest Hamstead:
    The sheriff of Ferryport, and the first of the Three Little Pigs (the one who got huffed and puffed out of his straw house). He’s kindly and sweet, and always happy to help the Grimms, despite the fact that all the other Everafters hate them.
  8. Mirror:
    The magic mirror who safeguards a walk in closet filled with magical items, and is oddly fixated on beauty products and fitness regimes.
  9. Henry and Veronica Grimm:
    The children’s parents, who they had believed had abandoned them, but were later revealed to have been kidnapped and put in a deep magical sleep. I’m on Book # 5, and these two are still asleep.

Vampire Academy and Bloodlines: Main Character Overview

Be Warned: Here Be SPOILERS!!!

Characters:

  1. Rosemarie Hathaway:
    The dhampir protagonist of the Vampire Academy series, which is told entirely from her perspective. Rose is 17, intelligent, sexy, training to be a guardian for Moroi, and everything you could wish for in a YA heroine. Bella Swan could learn A LOT from Rose – like how to grow a spine, for example. And she isn’t just the best fighter in a class dominated by males – she has also proved herself to be a total match for her older mentor Dimitri. And that’s saying a lot, because Dimitri is considered hands down the best guardian and Strigoi fighter anywhere in the world.
  2. Vasilisa Dragomir:
    Lissa is Rose’s best friend, as well as the Moroi that Rose hopes to be assigned to when she finally graduates from St. Vladimir’s Academy. The two of them share a spirit bond that allows Rose to see into Lissa’s thoughts – a side effect from that one time Lissa brought Rose back from the dead. (I’m not joking. YA Fantasy, remember?) Lissa is a nerd, stunningly beautiful and a natural leader. After having lost her entire family to an accident, Lissa is now the last remaining member of the Dragomirs – a unique position that makes everyone extremely protective of her.
    Lissa wields the rare elemental magic called Spirit, which gives her powers including strong compulsion and the power to heal, at the heavy price of depression and mental instability.
  3. Dimitri Belikov:
    A 24 year old Russian dhampir who is a new guardian at St. Vlad’s, Dimitri already has a reputation as a fearsome fighter and is considered practically godlike by his students. He unwillingly volunteers to give Rose Hathaway extra coaching, leading to the sparking of an attraction between the two of them. Their relationship is one of the main plot driving forces in the story, as they struggle to choose between their personal wishes and their duty to always put guarding the Moroi first. (And yeah, the 7 year age gap thing).
  4. Christian Ozera:
    One of Rose and Lissa’s classmates, Christian has always been a social outsider at the school owing to a tragic past involving his parents which has left its mark on him and his family. He falls for Lissa Dragomir, but tries to stay away from her, reasoning that the last Dragomir should ideally move in royal social circles that aren’t very welcoming of him.
    Christian is a fire user, and one of the first to push the progressive thought that the moroi learn to defend themselves using their magic, as opposed to relying so heavily on dwindling dhampir numbers to protect them.
  5. Adrian Ivashkov:
    First introduced in Frostbite, Adrian is moody, an alcoholic and a chain smoking party boy. He falls in love for the first time when he meets Rose Hathaway, but she dismisses his advances as careless flirtation, or an attempt to get her into bed. Adrian is also a Spirit user, and he and Lissa develop a strong friendship while working together to try and figure out the extents of their powers. The Bloodlines series focuses on Adrian’s life and his relationship with the Alchemist Sydney Sage, with both of them getting alternating POV chapters in the series.
  6. Sydney Sage:
    A human girl raised in an Alchemist family, Sydney views vampires and dhampirs as unnatural and evil. She is an automobile, architecture and caffeine afficionado, and eventually also realizes that she has the potential to practice human magic. In the course of her work with the Alchemists, she finds herself re-evaluating her beliefs about vampires, and eventually falls in love with Adrian Ivashkov.
  7. Edison Castile:
    Eddie is one of Rose’s best friends in school, and eventually grows up to be one of the best guardians around. In addition to being a brilliant fighter, Eddie is also unswervingly loyal and painfully dutiful. When assigned for the protection of Jill Mastrano, Eddie falls in love with her, but holds off on hopes of a relationship with her because of the differences in their races and social status. He is often referred to as “mini-Dimitri” by Adrian.
  8. Sonya Karp:
    Sonya was one of Rose and Lissa’s teachers in school, and the first Spirit user they knew about. She recognized Lissa’s abilities and tried to warn Rose about the negative effects of practising Spirit. She herself was unable to cope well with the mental instability that came along with her powers, and eventually chose to turn Strigoi in order to retain her sanity.
  9. Abe Mazur:
    Rose comes across Abe Mazur in Russia, and thinks of him as the Moroi version of a mobster. While not royal, Mazur is a highly savvy – and therefore rich – businessman and it is often implied that he is involved in a number of illegal activities. Mazur is notable for his outlandish fashion sense, his way with the ladies, and his ability to easily procure C4 explosives.
  10. Jaclyn Terwilliger:
    Jacky Terwilliger is Sydney’s history teacher and an extremely powerful witch. She notices Sydney’s potential and encourages her to practice magic. As a result, Sydney eventually joins Jacky’s coven – the Stelle.

Richelle Mead, The Vampire Academy and Bloodlines

The Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead have been a favourite of mine since I picked up Shadow Kiss from my local bookstore – completely at random – back in 2010. I was intrigued by the book, but it took me a few more years to start tracking down all the titles in the series. It was part of a voracious (and sadly, depression fuelled) readathon I was engaging in at the time – I also read through the Beautiful Creatures series and the entire Vampire Diaries lot around the same time, to name a few.

This series is also what prompted this new blog. I (started and) finished reading The Ruby Circle, #6 in the Bloodlines series today, presumably bringing the entire saga to an end. A five year long journey, more or less to the date.

Here’s a brief overview of the two series, which will be followed by a more detailed book by book review. I’ll try to stay as discreet as possible, but just in case, here’s a

SPOILER WARNING!!!

Series Name: Vampire Academy and Bloodlines

Author: Mead, Richelle

Publication Info: GIY

Genre: YA Fantasy

The Universe: The books follow a secret vampire underworld, wherein one finds three distinct races – the Moroi, the Strigoi and the Dhampirs. The Moroi are what are supposed to be the ‘good vampires’ – elemental magic users living in their own civilization complete with an elected monarchy and twelve noble families to choose the monarch from. Moroi are born naturally, and used to intermingle with humans once upon a time. The Strigoi are the ‘bad vampires’ – the stereotypical undead creatures of the night, bloodthirsty and incapable of emotion or sentiment. They have no access to magic, but unlike the Moroi, they’re immortal. Said immortality comes, of course, with superhuman strength, senses and reflexes. The Dhampirs originated as the offspring of Moroi and human pairings, but in modern times, the Moroi have retreated from human contact and keep to themselves.

Summary by List

Easy Access Reproduction Chart: [Yup, this stuff is kind of important]

  • Moroi + Moroi = Moroi
  • Moroi + Human = Dhampir
  • Moroi + Dhampir = Dhampir
  • Dhampir + Dhampir = No Offspring (Sterile Pairing)
  • Dhampir + Human = ?? (Never addressed in the books, as far as I can recall. I’m assuming the result is the same as a Dhampir – Dhampir pairing).

Types of Strigoi:

  1. The Forcibly Awakened – Applicable to humans, dhampirs and moroi. Where someone is completely drained by a Strigoi, and then in turn fed some of that Strigoi’s blood.
  2. The Voluntarily Awakened – Applicable only to Moroi, as humans and dhampirs aren’t capable of blood drinking – where a Moroi chooses to take the life of someone they’re feeding off by draining them completely.

 Primary Organizations and Groups:

  1. The Moroi Government:
    The Government consists of a council of royals headed by a monarch – King or Queen. The sitting members of the council are the eldest members of the twelve royal families, and the King or Queen is elected from one of these families by said Council. The moroi living all over the world submit to the laws of the Moroi government along with those of their respective nations.
  2. The Guardians:
    Dhampirs who train to fight Strigoi and protect Moroi from their menace.
  3. Dhampir Communities:
    Towns and settlements where dhampirs who aren’t interested in being guardians live. These communities are primarily made up of women and children, and generally have a bad reputation due to the Moroi men who tend to visit looking for easy sex. Women from these communities are often derogatorily referred to as ‘blood whores’ due to the willingness of some to allow the moroi to drink from them during sex, thus breaking one of the greatest taboos of vampire – dhampir society.
  4. The Strigoi:
    By nature solitary, the Strigoi on occasion form loose organizations, usually crime rings and attack forces. They have also been known to consort with humans who are willing to serve them in exchange for the promise of being turned. Their relationships are always based on primal dominance and physical strength.
  5. The Keepers:
    Since the majority of Moroi take great pains to hide their existence from humans, human-Moroi relationships have become taboo. The Keepers are a group of Moroi, dhampirs and humans who live far away from any semblence of civilization, and follow no such taboo. They refer to civilized Moroi as Tainted, and to Strigoi as the Lost.
  6. The Alchemists:
    An organization of humans who used to be – you guessed it – alchemists in the Middle Ages before they discovered vampires and magic. Deeply religious, they take it to be their holy duty to keep the existence of vampires – unnatural creatures of the night – secret from the rest of humanity.
  7. The Warriors of Light:
    An offshoot of the Alchemists who believe that all vampires should be destroyed. These guys pretty much give the Strigoi a run for their money.
  8. Witches:
    Female human magic users. It is unknown whether there are any male witches.

Magic: The Moroi have access to elemental magic, with each Moroi specializing in either fire, water, air or earth. A fifth – and much rarer – elemental magic called Spirit shows resurgence at the beginning of the series.

Main Characters: [Just a list to help me figure out who features on the main ‘Characters’ post that I’ll be doing.]

  1. Rose Hathaway
  2. Vasilisa Dragomir
  3. Dimitri Belikov
  4. Christian Ozera
  5. Adrian Ivashkov
  6. Sydney Sage
  7. Eddie Castile
  8. Sonya Karp
  9. Abe Mazur
  10. Jaclyn Terwilliger