The Woman on the Money

Queen Elizabeth II passed away yesterday.

I’m guessing pretty much everybody knows that at this point. It’s rather dominating the news.

Why am I writing about this, aside from the fact that it’s a significant world event?

Well, while most of the world thinks of Canada as little more than America Jr, it’s easy to forget that Canada is actually a Commonwealth country. Which means that in an albeit impractical way, Elizabeth was our Queen too.

What does being part of the Commonwealth mean? Eh, not a whole heck of a lot. It’s a holdover from colonial days, and it’s a commitment to similar progressive political values, but the UK itself seems to be heading in the direction of a very poor role model these days and isn’t always doing a great job of upholding those values itself. Plus it’s not like a country has to join the Commonwealth to have those same values. It’s a lot of “in name only” stuff, really.

But it does mean that in some way, Queen Elizabeth was a semi-regular part of my existence despite me not having lived in the UK since I was 5.

When I was in my early 20s, some friends and I were hanging out. I don’t know how the conversation turned this way, but we were talking about money, and Canada’s money has a picture of the reigning British monarch on it. I’d forgotten her name at the time, so in a painfully awkward manner, I’d said something about her and referred to her as “the woman on the money.”

Everybody laughed. I wished they hadn’t. I was very embarrassed. Why didn’t I call her the Queen? I didn’t know why I’d said it that way. I still don’t know. Maybe, in my anxiety-ridden youth, I was afraid to say that it was the Queen on the money, because I thought it was, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe the image was actually of some Canadian politician, or historical figure, and I didn’t want to seem like an ignorant little shit. So instead, I… sounded like an ignorant little shit.

Yesterday, while discussing the whole event, my partner said, “I guess our money will change now.”

And it hit me. She wouldn’t be the woman on the money anymore.

She’d been the woman on the money for my whole life up to this point.

She was the woman on the money for the entirety of my parents’ lives.

She was the woman on the money for most of my grandparents’ lives.

And that’s not nothing.

But my partner was right. Our money will very likely change in appearance. And that’s weirdly a good analogue for Elizabeth’s death for many people here.

It’s a big thing, that will mean almost nothing in the practicalities of life, but for a while there will be a huge reminder for people that something changed.

Our current paper money (okay, our plastic money, technically) will end up being kept by a lot of people as souvenirs. Our money has changed a few times over the course of my life. We switched from paper to plastic money many years ago, and our old paper money became souvenirs, a snapshot of a part of life that wasn’t really there anymore. When we switched from a $2 bill to a $2 coin, people kept the old bills as souvenirs too. The money we spend today is likely going to go into someone’s collection of random souvenirs.

“You’re too young to remember, but this is what money looked like when you were young.”

But that brings me to another point. For many people, changing the appearance of money is likely going to be their first time really grappling with Canada being part of the Commonwealth. Because for most people alive here, including all the folks who make the big decisions, she’s been the woman on their money for all their lives too. It was just… a thing that was. No need to think about it.

Until it comes time to think about it. Because change is going to happen.

Which might make people wonder if there’s any point in staying part of the Commonwealth at all.

Why should our money have the likeness of another country’s monarch?

Maybe that will happen, maybe it won’t. But whether it does or not, the changing money will be a reminder to everyone for a long while that something changed, even if it doesn’t make one bit of practical difference. Money will still get spent. Classes will be attended, jobs will be worked, food will be eaten, and life will go on.

But that change will be a little stab of reminder. Change happened.

I promise to do my best,
To do my duty
To God, the Queen, and my country.
To help other people every day
Especially those at home.

When I was a child, I was in Brownies. (If you’ve never heard of Brownies before, it was basically Girl Guides, but for younger girls. Get together, sing songs, make friends, play games, earn merit badges, the whole shebang. But the above quote was something we said at every meeting. The words didn’t mean a damn thing to me back then. I was 7 years old. They were just words. I didn’t understand the concept of God, or a Queen, or a country. I knew I was from England, and I lived in Canada, and those places were different, but that’s about as far as my real understanding went. I was a kid. Canada was a place that wasn’t England, where everyone had a different accent that I had to learn to speak with to avoid bullying, and I probably hadn’t even heard of it before finding out that I was moving there. But what makes a country? What makes a Queen?

Hell if I knew.

My parents were sure I was saying the pledge wrong, by the way. What I said didn’t make sense to them. No, the correct words must be, “To do my duty to guard the Queen and my country.” Why throw God in there? That’s just silliness.

I don’t know if they still say that pledge at Brownie meetings. But if they do, that’s going to change too. “To God, the King, and my country.” There will be some confused little girls wondering why they learned how to say the pledge but now it’s changing and they have to remember to change what they memorized so proudly.

It’s another of those little things that demonstrates just how much Elizabeth was part of peoples’ lives here. Small things, but a dozen little bits that sunk into our collective culture and just seemed like another of those “just how it is” things.

It doesn’t really matter whether you loved or hated Elizabeth, or monarchs, or politics in general. Our lives are steeped in these things, to the point where we don’t notice them anymore because they all just meld into a background of normality. Even people who aren’t mourning her specifically might end up mourning their normality when a lot of these small things change and they have to make a conscious effort to keep up.

Queen Elizabeth II passed away yesterday.

4 generations of people grew up with her as the woman on the money.

And that’s not nothing.

Crowbones, by Anne Bishop

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Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – March 8, 2022

Summary: Crowbones will gitcha if you don’t watch out!

Deep in the territory controlled by the Others—shape-shifters, vampires, and even deadlier paranormal beings—Vicki DeVine has made a new life for herself running The Jumble, a rustic resort. When she decides to host a gathering of friends and guests for Trickster Night, at first everything is going well between the humans and the Others.

But then someone arrives dressed as Crowbones, the Crowgard bogeyman. When the impostor is killed along with a shape-shifting Crow, and the deaths are clearly connected, everyone fears that the real Crowbones may have come to The Jumble—and that could mean serious trouble.

To “encourage” humans to help them find some answers, the Elders and Elementals close all the roads, locking in suspects and victims alike. Now Vicki, human police chief Grimshaw, vampire lawyer Ilya Sanguinati, and the rest of their friends have to figure out who is manipulating events designed to pit humans against Others—and who may have put Vicki DeVine in the crosshairs of a powerful hunter.

Thoughts: Starting very shortly after the end of Lake Silence, and with the same cast of characters, Crowbones starts out with Vicki DeVine getting her terra indigene friends interested in the tradition of Trickster Night, this world’s equivalent of Halloween. Seems like a fun harmless thing, a nice way to get the Others to understand human traditions and interact with them a little bit, especially with some new human guests staying at Vicki’s property on Lake Silence.

But it wouldn’t be an Others novel if this plan didn’t go terribly awry. The arrival of a figure dressed as the terrifying Crowbones, an Elder terra indigene who dispenses brutal justice to and on behalf of the Crowgard, arrives at the Jumble and scares the everloving crap out of everyone. Turns out that first sighting was someone dressed up as Crowbones, not the real thing, but that begs the question: how did a human know what Crowbones looks like?

And why does the real Crowbones arrive shortly after? Why are both humans and Crows being killed? How does it all connect to the humans staying at the Jumble? Or does it connect to the arrival of 4 young Sanguinati vampires who recently arrived at Lake Silence to learn how to interact with humans?

Crowbones is, at its heart, a murder mystery, which seems to be par for the course for things involving Vicki, since Lake Silence was also a murder mystery. Death seems to happen around her a distressing amount. But this time the stakes are higher, as the arrival of the actual Crowbones means that some sort of corruption has come to the town of Sproing and its surrounding area, and the Elementals respond by literally blocking off all the roads so that nobody can leave or enter until the mystery, and the corruption, have been dealt with. It was honestly interesting to see so many small mysteries and plot threads all stemmed from the same source. All the questions I asked in the previous paragraph? They are all connected, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.

And honestly, I think the reason I find this interesting is because it didn’t need to happen. I’ve said before that sometimes books are notable for what they don’t do rather than what they do do, and I think this is one of those cases. The young Sanguinati could have just been there because they were there, and to add a little tension by involving inexperienced teen-equivalents into an ongoing murder investigation… but that wasn’t the case. The professors visiting the Jumble in order to get a chance to meet some terra indigene and learn more about their folklore and mythology could have been an element solely there to explain the human perspective on what Crowbones might be, or to provide some amusing misunderstandings… but there was so much more to it than that. I’m no mystery writer, and I don’t have the greatest amount of experience in holding that many mysterious plot threads as I write, but it seems to me that a number of mysteries do have those little side-elements, things that add depth to the story and the world but aren’t necessarily directly related to the mystery at hand.

And that didn’t happen here.

And so I was hooked the whole way through, trying to piece together all the clues and figure out what fit and how it fit and maybe what was a red herring… It was a fun read, in that regard.

My biggest complaint is, weirdly, the character of Crowbones itself. Crowbones is an Elder terra indigene, known as the world’s “teeth and claws,” and Crowbones is a sort of bogeyman for the Crowgard. Its purpose (I’m deliberately obscuring Crowbones’s gender here, to avoid potential spoilers) is to kill bad Crows who have become a threat to their kind or who have become corrupted, and to avenge Crows who have lost their lives to that same sort of corruption. A very cool concept, something that will avenge you if you fall, but will punish the hell out of you if you transgress. Makes sense.

So… where was Crowbones when Crows were literally being targeted and killed in Murder of Crows? Crowbones is only one person, sure, and can’t be everywhere at once, but in that novel twisted humans were deliberately targeting Crows by luring them in with shiny things and then poisoning them or setting vicious drugged animals on them… and there was no rattle rattle rattle of Crowbones drawing near to seek revenge.

Or maybe that did happen, but it all happened off the page. Maybe Crowbones didn’t get there before other people handled the situation. I don’t know. But it was a plot hole that I noticed. Really, not an uncommon plot hole when one is dealing with a book series that’s approaching 10 novels at this point. Sooner or later, you’re bound to have an idea for a new story, and there’s an element or two that gets introduced that probably should have been mentioned in an earlier book, but you couldn’t do that because you didn’t think of it until now. It happens. I get that. But it’s still worth mentioning. When readers have to read between the lines and come up with their own theories as to why this didn’t happen sooner, it feels like an oversight, even when it’s just… chronology.

Anyway, on the whole, I really enjoyed Crowbones, and the expansion of lore that it provided for the series. I still relate a lot to Vicki, so I think I’ll forever enjoy reading the novels that involve her, and I’m definitely here for more of them if Anne Bishop decides to write them. (There were some hints at the end of the book that there’s something odd happening to the Sanguinati, so I suspect there’ll be at least one more spin-off novel in the future, and I’m absolutely here for it!) Bishop continues being able to tell a compelling story in an interesting world, and this series long ago became a comfort read for me, so I admit I’m a little biased, but still. If you enjoy the Others novels, then you’re also likely to enjoy Crowbones too, especially if you were a fan of Lake Silence. This isn’t really one you can read without having read Lake Silence already, so it’s not a good jumping-in point for the series, but if you’re already a fan, yeah, you’ll appreciate this one too.

And if you don’t… Well, Crowbones is gonna gitcha.

(Book received in exchange for an honest review.)

The Witness for the Dead, by Katherine Addison

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Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – June 22, 2021

Summary: When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin.

Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference. He lives modestly, but his decency and fundamental honesty will not permit him to live quietly. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered.

Celehar’s skills now lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.

Thoughts: Side-story to The Goblin Emperor, The Witness for the Dead centres around one of the previous novel’s secondary characters: Thara Celehar, a prelate of Ulis and Witness for the Dead, meaning he can experience the last moments of a person’s death if he touches their body. Celehar would rather be out of the spotlight than in it, which is why he makes for such an interesting protagonist in this short companion novel to The Goblin Emperor. Don’t get me wrong, protagonists who throw themselves headlong into adventure are fun and all, but it’s always interesting to me when a book centres on someone who would rather just be left alone.

Life, however, doesn’t want to leave Celehar alone. Poor bastard.

Taking place shortly after The Goblin Emperor, Celehar now lives in Amalo, still following his calling. This involves a variety of duties, including investigating murder. So when Arveneӓn Shelsin, an ambitious opera singer, is found dead, and Celehar confirms that she was indeed murdered, the race is on to not only find the murderer, but to uncover why they killed in the first place.

Celehar’s reluctance to engage with a lot of the world is, as I mentioned, an interesting move. It’s not something that could work for everyone, but Addison manages a good balance between showing Celehar’s introversion and actually putting him in positions where he can do some good in the world. Celehar is very relatable for me in that way. Except that I don’t have any abilities or callings that would make the world a better place, the way he does. It’s admirable, though, that even though Celehar would rather be left to his own devices, he doesn’t shirk the responsibilities that come with his calling. He might not be happy about things, but he’ll do what he feels drawn to do. More characters like this, please!

Addison’s detail-oriented writing style makes for an excellent murder mystery, that’s for damn sure. While The Goblin Emperor did have some mystery to it, at its heart it was about Maia settling into his new and unexpected role and the emperor, and all that entailed. The Witness for the Dead shifts the tone and setting away from political intrigue and a fish-out-of-water/coming-of-age story, and into a situation where a man must solve a murder in order to lay the victim’s spirit to rest and give them a proper funeral. Such a simple thing in theory, but it becomes so much more complicated when Celehar must risk offending some very powerful people, and sort through layers of potential motivation for the kill, in his mission to bring about justice for Arveneӓn.

Honestly, I think Addison has a knack for writing a good solid mystery, and I’m here for it. Her world-building is brilliant, rich and realistic, and it’s a wonderful setting for any number of mysteries. I’ve found in recent years that I have a bit of a soft spot for fantasy mysteries, so it’s no real surprise that I enjoyed The Witness for the Dead as much as I did. If you have similar weakness for fantasy mysteries, or you just enjoyed The Goblin Emperor, then I highly recommend giving this novella a go. It’s not very long, but it packs a punch, and is a wonderful companion and spin-off to the main book. Celehar is a character I absolutely love reading about, and will be quiet happy to do so more in the future.

(Book received in exchange for an honest review.)

Lake Silence, by Anne Bishop

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Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – March 6, 2018

Summary: Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others–vampires, shape-shifters, and even deadlier paranormal beings. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget…

After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns such as Vicki’s don’t have any distance from the Others, the dominant predators who rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what is out there watching you.

Vicki was hoping to find a new career and a new life. But when her lodger, Aggie Crowe–one of the shape-shifting Others–discovers a murdered man, Vicki finds trouble instead. The detectives want to pin the death on her, despite the evidence that nothing human could have killed the victim. As Vicki and her friends search for answers, ancient forces are roused by the disturbance in their domain. They have rules that must not be broken–and all the destructive powers of nature at their command.

Thoughts: It’s no surprise that I really enjoy Anne Bishop’s novels. I mean, for crying out loud, I was over the freaking moon when I got lucky enough to interview her last year! (Highlight of my blogging career!) And while the Others books do have some problematic implications at times, I still enjoy the absolute heck out of them, and the series is basically a comfort re-read at this point. So even when Lake Silence first released, I was primed to enjoy it.

But I didn’t expect to relate to the protagonist quite as much as I did.

So, the story centres around Vicki DeVine, which is a pretty cheesy name from the mind of an author who is somewhat known for cheesy names. Still. Vicki is recently divorced, and part of her divorce settlement from her abusive ex-husband is what he thought to be completely worthless property that had been in his family for a while. He passed that off to Vicki to avoid having to give her anything he thought of as valuable. The property comes with a pretty restrictive contract, however, which Vicki takes very seriously, and she works to start restoring the property as best she can.

Turns out that the reason for the strict contract is because the area is meant as a sort of testing ground for the local terra indigene, the shapeshifters and vampires who rule the vast majority of the world. In this safe space that’s right on the edge of the dangerous wild country, they can interact with humans and adjust to their presence, and the two groups can learn to cooperate as best they can. So when Vicki’s ex wants the land back to turn it into a luxury resort, naturally things get… tense.

And full of death. The Others don’t tolerate their rules being broken.

None of that description explained why I related to Vicki quite so hard, I admit, but the way her character develops through the story… First off, Vicki is literally how I used to spell my legal name for a while, and honestly, it still throws me off a little when I find characters that share my name. It’s like seeing a piece of myself on the page, even if that character is nothing like me. But Vicki is an awful lot like me. She’s prone to panic attacks after years of abuse, and while my abuse didn’t come from an ex-spouse, I still know what it’s like to have my anxiety triggered by any man who appears even a little bit threatening. Vicki is also a bit on the large side, and I can relate to that as well, along with having that be a bit of a sore spot after a lifetime of people making fun of my weight and treating me like I’m worth less because I weigh more.

Also she has a bit of a soft spot for one of the local vampires. So, uh, yes, very relatable!

Vicki’s journey to self-reliance is one that I honestly loved, and reinforced that yeah, I could probably get along with the terra indigene if I existed in that world. By simply being willing to try and follow through on the responsibilities she was handed when her ex-husband fobbed off that property on her, she marks herself as someone who’s willing to worth with the Others rather than taking the typical arrogant human approach of being antagonistic toward them. Seriously, in these books, the biggest cause of friction is humans deciding they shouldn’t have to play by the rules. And not because humans are so downtrodden and abused (though admittedly, risking death as a consequence for transgressions isn’t exactly a fun prospect), but there are a number of antagonists in the Others books who think that humans should be dominant and so attempt to commit genocide against the terra indigene. They’re not seeking coexistence, they’re not trying to be reasonable, they just want power.

And frankly, there’s enough of that in the real world, so it’s not hard to see where Bishop got her inspiration. There are a lot of people out there who are terrified of not being on top, and so take action to ensure that those their consider a threat to that power are subjugated.

So the fact that Vicki is willing to do what she can to cooperate with the terra indigene does actually set her apart, as even those who aren’t necessarily antagonistic still prefer to keep away from anything to do with the Others. Willingness to work together means a lot, and that’s how Vicki ends up with a strong support system to help her deal with the problems in her life. Whether those problems involve not being able to lift heavy things on the property, or whether they involve standing up to the people who seek to abuse her, she has people who are in her corner. I love that. I love reading about somebody I relate to ending up with wonderful companions and the ability to move forward in their life. Gives me hope for myself, you know?

If you’re a fan of the main 5 books of the Others series, then chances are high you’ll enjoy Lake Silence too. It’s a spin-off from the main series in that it doesn’t involve Meg or Simon, and in that it shows us a glimpse into other aspects of this urban fantasy world, other people who also have stories worth telling. Even if you don’t have the same personal connection to Vicki that I do, I still think there’s plenty to appreciate in her story, and the unlikely support structure a person can end up with if they’re willing to rise to a challenge and do the right thing.

(You’d think that doing the right thing would be the easy choice when doing the wrong thing might get you eaten, but, well…)

Covid freaking sucks.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might have heard already, but I’ve been battling covid for the past 2 weeks,. Despite all the care I’ve taken during the ongoing pandemic, it finally hit me.

I either got it while hanging out with a visiting friend (who my partner and I hung out with mostly outdoors and distanced, except for the car ride, when said friend wore a mask, who got it from family, who are also careful and who probably got it from someone who wasn’t masking or distancing in public), or while grocery shopping (we were wearing masks, but almost nobody else in the store was). The reason I’m not sure is that the day we were visiting with said friend, my partner and I both had a bit of a headache, which may have been the first symptom. We didn’t get hit with other symptoms until a few days later, but that’s not unreasonable for a viral infection.

Honestly, the odds are about 50/50 for either scenario.

And I’m still pissed off about it.

I’m not pissed off because maybe a friend got me sick. I’m pissed off because I personally know people who have been far less careful about covid than my partner and I have, and they haven’t caught covid. I don’t want them to! But I find it universally unfair that I ended up getting it despite all the care I take.

I know disease isn’t karma. It’s not like covid only infects people who deserve it. But still. The rotten luck of it all… I think I’m allowed to be a little bit angry over it.

Especially because the provincial government has done such a fantastic job of bungling the whole situation. They lifted restrictions long before they reached the metrics by which they said they’d lift restrictions, have slowly rolled back any lingering restrictions that might have been in place — our initial “green” phase involved having very very few cases but still requiring people to mask in public buildings, and especially if they’re sick, until a successful vaccine has been fully deployed to the population; now, there are no restrictions at all, save that they ask nicely for people to self-report if they test positive on rapid tests. No actually requirements, though. Someone could test positive for covid, not report it, not mask, and infect loads of other people as they go about their daily life.

The government has said they have no plans to reinstitute mask mandates, despite the province having well over a thousand new cases a week for the past month or so. They’ve just reached the point where their policy is, “Probably everyone will get covid at some point, so we can’t do anything to stop or slow the spread anymore. We’ll just monitor the overcrowded hospital system to make sure that doesn’t break down entirely while people keep getting sick.”

In fairness to them, freaking everywhere has mismanaged the handling of covid. And because everyone’s thrown in the towel in regard to controlling the situation (because they don’t want to deal with angry people who dislike doing what the government says for no reason beyond that the government said to do it), then yes, probably everybody will get covid. Unless they completely isolate themselves from society until this ends.

And it probably won’t ever end. Because people selfishly don’t want to wear a mask when they do out and desperately value concerts and restaurants over human lives.

Am I salty? You freaking bet I am!

The problem with the whole “personal choice” approach to masking and distancing is that while those things do protect you, their primary function is to protect others. You wearing a mask protects others from getting sick from you more than it protects you from getting sick. But if everyone wears a mask, everyone’s as protected as they can be. Personal choice is only a valid argument if you’re the only one at risk. People who refuse to wear masks when around others are saying, “It’s everyone else’s job to keep me from getting sick.”

Technically, I could have gone and infected a whole bunch of others. Guidelines only suggest I stay home and isolate for 5 days once I test positive. I’m probably not contagious anymore, but if I am, gosh, I could have spent this whole week going out without a mask and infecting other people, maybe making them thing oh, if only people had worn masks more, then maybe I wouldn’t be sick.

But I’m not an asshole. I don’t want people to get as sick as I was.

Because while my case wasn’t super serious or anything, it was still bad enough. I had 1 day where I had a fever, and I almost never get fevers. Seriously, last time I remember having a fever was when I was 12 and caught chicken pox. Fevers suck! But fever and chills are awful. My energy has been so sapped that there have been multiple days where sitting up for longer than 15 minutes was nearly impossible. I was so happy the first day I managed 2 half-hour chunks of sitting up!

My voice… I lost it and couldn’t speak above a whisper for days. Then it was tight and raspy, though my throat feels fine. My throat isn’t sore. I think my vocal chords were affected, though, which kind of worries me because it’s still not better, and one of my hobbies, the one that makes me feel like I’m actually useful and not a complete waste of space, is running my Youtube channel, and that means using my voice for narration. If my voice doesn’t really come back… I know there’s still plenty of time for it to recover and return, but I’m honestly scared that it might not, and I’ll have to come to grips with losing that part of myself.

And the cough! My gods, the cough. I have an oximetre here, so I know my O2 sats never dropped below 97% (which I’m bloody thankful for, since I have asthma and lung scarring from bouts of childhood pneumonia, and this could have gone so much worse for me…) but that didn’t change the fact that I was and still am coughing up crud from my lungs. And it’s difficult sometimes. It’s not just a couple of little coughs and then my lungs are clear. No, it’s hacking coughs that sometimes I have to rest in the middle of because if I keep coughing I’m going to throw up before I clear my lungs. It’s coughing so hard I tore the inside of my throat and spat out blood.

Ever coughed so hard you tore flesh? Yeah, I don’t recommend it. It felt like my esophagus was bruised for a day after that incident. Bruised insides are not comfortable things.

So no, I don’t want anyone to get sick like that. I don’t want anyone else to be going through lingering symptoms for weeks. I don’t want anyone else to cough until they bleed.

In short, please stay safe, friends. Mask and distance, please don’t assume you’ll get covid anyway so there’s no point in taking precautions. There’s always a point in taking precautions. Do what you can, even if other people can’t be arsed to do the same.

But I am slowly feeling better, so I should be able to return to making posts and writing reviews soon. When I have limited “sitting up” time, doing things other than blogging take priority, but it’s getting a little easier each day, so I should be able to get back to that probably next week. Hopefully. Fingers crossed, anyway!

Take care, friends! Happy reading!

Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard

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Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – February 9, 2021

SummaryFire burns bright and has a long memory….

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate–and her own?

Review: I love de Bodard’s writing a lot. It feels very… I know this may sound weird, but very elemental. In my mind, her writing feels like the heat of fire and the depths of the ocean, something that is very much its own thing. Nothing else is really like it. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me… The joy of trying to explain books when you’re neurodivergent and experience a lot of things through emotion and sensation, I guess!

Anyway, Fireheart Tiger is the story of Thanh, Imperial princess who finds herself caught between desire and duty, obligation and the self, and figuring out whether old flames are worth hanging onto or letting go.

Double meaning very much intended.

There’s a lot of evocative world-building in such a short novella. De Bodard has never really coddled readers when it comes to picking up cultural nuances in her writing, and I really like that. Some of the worldbuilding is absolutely secondary-world fantasy, but it gets a lot of inspiration from Vietnamese culture and mythology. I have a soft spot for fantasy with non-Western influence, frankly.

Thanh’s emotional abuse comes through so strongly in this. She’s under so much pressure from people she should, by all rights, be able to turn to for comfort and support, but instead she meets duty and obligation and outright shame. As someone who’s struggled with a similar sort of pressure leading to abysmally low self-esteem for most of their life… Thanh’s story was relatable in many ways. Can’t say I ended up with an adorable sapphic romance in the end, but still. Fireheart Tiger is, in many ways, the story of Thanh rising up, finding her feet and finding enough strength in herself to stand firm against those coercive pressures, of finding support in unexpected places, and having the opportunity to learn that she has the right to become who she wants to be. It resonated hard with me. Writing this review, I kind of just want to go back and read it all over again.

Really, I’d love to see more stories set in this world. It feels very much full of promise, full of stories, and Fireheart Tiger is a snapshot in a larger tale. There doesn’t need to be more, but it feels as though there easily could be, if de Bodard wanted.

Really enjoyed my time with this one, and I highly recommend it to fans of queer romance and non-Western fantasy!

(Book provided in exchange for an honest review.)

Wow, Did I Ever Fail at Posting Here Again

So my last post was back in December, where I said I wanted to post here more again.

And then I just didn’t.

Good job, me.

But I do want to start reviewing again. I’ve felt the itch. I’ve gotten dissatisfied with vaguely sharing book cover images and writing a couple of paragraphs on Instagram, because often I have way more to say about a book than I can fit in Instagram’s post limit, so you know, maybe it’s time to start blogging again.

(I mean, how else am I supposed to draw more attention to the fact that I still read loads of books and also offer copyediting services?)

So expect a glut of reviews coming soon, and more activity over on Twitter. I’ve missed this community, and I really need to reconnect with it again.

In personal news, anyone who’s been following my health drama might know that I finally received a diagnosis for what the heck is wrong with me. I have fibromyalgia. Fairly severe fibromyalgia, according to the neurologist who diagnosed me.  My ability to walk is still on the decline, and it’s extremely likely that I’m going to need a wheelchair. Not a manual one, either, which I could likely get fairly cheaply, but due to general muscle weakness, I’ll likely need one of the fancy expensive motorized chairs, or a scooter, or something that doesn’t need to be propelled by my weaksauce self. Oh joy oh bliss.

Fibro isn’t fun. Being disabled isn’t fun. Anyone who tells you they wish they were disabled so they could just sit around the house all day and not work deserves to be kicked in the ass until they becomes incapable of getting out of bed for a few weeks. See how much fun it is then.

Yes, I have feelings about comments like this.

I’m still learning to live with fibro. It’s a work in progress. Some days are easier than other days. But despite being disabled to the point of being unable to work for more than 2 years now, I still haven’t figured out my limits. I still have a lot of internalized ableism to learn. Bear with me, because I might make posts bitching about disability issues in the future.

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But hey, progress is being made. Just yesterday I used one of those motorized shopping carts for the first time, and holy hell was it ever freeing! I actually felt independent, like I could shop for groceries without ending up fatigued and in massive pain afterward!

Sounds silly, yeah, but it was a big step for me in terms of accepting my disability and my limits and taking steps to get the accommodations I need to overcome them.

And hey, maybe I ended up as the butt of some ignorant person’s joke when they saw me put the cart back when I was done shopping. “I saw a miracle at Walmart the other day when the battery died, lol!” (Hey genius, how do you think I got to the cart in the first place? I can still walk. It just hurts a lot and I need a cane to do it. If I was already in a wheelchair, I wouldn’t need the cart, ya fuckwad.)

(Yes, I have feelings about those comments too.)

I mentioned in my last post that we had to say goodbye to our beloved Jakob-cat, who was 18 years old at the time. A few months ago, we also had to say goodbye to his brother, Nick, who made it to his 19th birthday before he started a very fast decline. We’re pretty sure it was congestive heart failure. Nick and Jakob had been with us since we became adults, and it was a very difficult adjustment to living without them. Sounds silly, but when something has been a constant for your entire adult life, living without that thing can be really difficult. Some days, I miss them both so much I still cry. They were my first pets, and they meant so much to me. One of the things I agreed to, when becoming a pet parent, is that I’ll hurt in order to prevent them from hurting. Saying goodbye when they were suffering… It was agony, and still is agony, but it was the right decision. However hard it was to make.

But life isn’t all bad. We still have 3 other cats who are utter delights, and much loved, and who bring us so much joy. There are still good books, and video games, and lots of things to be happy about, even if some parts of life suck right now. Sometimes the way we get through dark times is to hold on to the pinpricks of light, the small things that bring us happiness.

Anyway, enough ranting. Time to start writing some of those backlogged reviews so I can return to the fun world of inundating people with my opinions of fantasy novels!

I hope you’re all doing well, and I hope to talk with you all more on Twitter and in the blog comments. Take care, everyone!

2021 Year-End Post (Personal)

Good freaking crap, this year has been a decade!

Come to think of it, it feels like last year was a decade too.

This decadism has to stop…

Honestly, though, 2021 has been a rough year on a personal level. Not just because of the ongoing pandemic and people’s reactions or non-reactions to it (though I won’t lie, that’s part of it) but just sort of in general. So I thought I’d update people on what has happened, since judging by WordPress’s stats, people still actually come here for some reason.

~ First off, I think I absolutely failed my blogging and reading goals. I initially intended to read 52 books, which is usually pretty achievable for me, but as the year went on it became clear that I just couldn’t. The funny thing about whatever the heck if going on with me is that it can play merry hell with my energy levels, and there were weeks and months where I didn’t really have the brain space to do much beyond mindlessly watching YouTube videos that I’d already seen before. Books? Hahaha, no, that requires effort, because I need to concentrate on making words make sense.

So yeah, I only ended up reading 35 books instead of 52. That’s the least I’ve ever read in a year. I feel pretty lousy about that.

~ I posted back in July that my partner for a new job, teaching medical lab science at the very college where they originally were taught medical lab science to begin with! I said in that post that we would likely be moving in a month, since the job was in another city.

Yeah, so, we didn’t end up moving until November…

The housing market here in wild right now, with people from richer provinces buying up the comparatively cheaper houses here, renting them out with ridiculous prices (sometimes jacking up the rent for existing tenants by 50% or more), which has in turn jacked up the rent for everywhere else. We were looking for a 2-bedroom place that had a bathtub and preferably a dishwasher, and one that had fewer stairs than where we’d been living before. That we could afford. It took us until November to find one that had 2 bedrooms and a bathtub, but the rest, nah, we didn’t get that. We live in a basement apartment, and no matter whether we use the front or back door, we have to walk up a flight and then down a flight of stairs.

Which isn’t great when I have days when sometimes it’s a struggle to walk to the kitchen.

I don’t go out much anymore…

But it’s what we could afford, and before that, my partner was living with family and driving back to me on weekends to help me take care of what I couldn’t handle on my own through the week. Which was a lot of things. It wasn’t a pleasant situation all around, so we really couldn’t afford to be super picky. We needed a place that would mostly work and that we could pay for and we’d just deal with the rest.

~ Also, our beloved cat Jakob, 18 years old, passed away. His health was declining, he wasn’t happy most of the time, and even though that was months ago, it still hurts like a kick to the chest.

~ And now it’s been almost a solid year since my dad disowned me. So, there’s that too.

~ So yeah, between all of that, and my continuing-to-decline health, 2021 has felt like a hell of a year. It’s not that no good things happened at all. But there was a lot of grief, a lot of struggle, and sometimes it feels like the bad vastly overshadowed the good…

But it’s not like there was no good at all.

~ I did still read 35 books, and even if I didn’t read 52, some is better than none. My YouTube channel, The Potato Witch, has grown significantly, even if I can’t make videos as often as I want to. (But you should all go subscribe right now because I aim to make more videos focusing on the amazing stories of fantastic RPGs, and stories are what we’re all about here, right?) I’ve gotten back into crafting in a big way. Life isn’t devoid of all happiness, even if sometimes it can feel like a struggle to keep going.

So, with that in mind, I kinda want to semi-revive my habits of posting here. I’ve been doing sort of mini-reviews of books over on Instagram, but sometimes I do miss longer reviews of the kind I used to do here. But I also want to use this blog to talk more about my life, what I’m doing, cool stuff I learned, things I’m proud of making, etc. I mean, what’s stopping me? It’s my damn blog. I can do what I want here!

Come for the book reviews, stay for photos of tapestry weaving and ramblings about how interesting the history of tea is.

I Binge-Read a Bunch of Lurlene McDaniel Novels

If you haven’t heard of Lurlene McDaniel before, then congratulations, you probably didn’t grow up in the 90s with a strange passion for morbid stories about teenagers dying from serious illnesses. Aaaand I just outed myself with that one sentence, didn’t I?

I used to love her novels. I read pretty much every one I could get my hands on. Couldn’t tell you why I found them so fascinating. I always had an interest in medicine, dating right back to childhood. When I was a kid, I would tell people I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist when I grew up, and I knew what those words meant. McDaniel’s novels about teens dealing with illnesses like cancer, HIV, cystic fibrosis, were thus right up my strange little alley.

McDaniel apparently started writing these sorts of books after her son was diagnosed with diabetes, as a way of coping with the implications of a young person dealing with a serious illness. After a while, though, I suspect that the books became less about a coping mechanism and more about capitalizing on tragedy, as so many of her novels involve the protagonist dying.

Now, I can’t say that for certain, because I’m not her. But a lot of the books I read as a kid featured death as the end-point. Not characters coping with the idea of mortality, but then dying beautifully and tragedy when their respective illnesses progress too far. There were some educational aspects to the stories, informing readers about what a lot of disabled and chronically ill people experience in their lives, but for the most part, it was pure tragedy/inspiration porn.

The first book of hers that I ever read was Sixteen and Dying, the story of a teenage girl who contracted HIV through an emergency blood transfusion as a child and who just learns of her diagnosis.It was published in 1992, when the odds of surviving and thriving with HIV or AIDS was significantly lower than it is today. As a kid, I thought it was an amazing story of a girl trying to overcome horrible odds but succumbing in the end because disease is just too powerful.

As an adult, I think, “Damn, that girl could have lived a much better life if she hadn’t been more concerned with completely denying her diagnosis for 3/4 of the novel.”

That was often a big theme with early McDaniel novels, when I think back on it. A lot of the protagonists ended up dying because they didn’t take care of themselves properly. Not freak accidents, not pure rotten luck, just… denial and poor health management. The characters were often pretty caught up in trying to appear “normal” that they would hide and deny the realities of their lives (especially from The New Cute Boy in Town) that it ended up biting them in the ass in a very fatal way. A lot of the characters were Quintessential American Teenage Girls, after all, so naturally it’s just perfectly understandable that they’d be more concerned with dating than staying healthy.

This wasn’t the case for all of them. But it was enough of a recurring theme, even in the books I read recently, that it got old very quickly.

Another theme I noticed while rereading a lot of these books was that all of the characters were from very comfortably well-off families. If there was a novel where the story’s tragic aspects came from someone getting diagnosed with a chronic illness that was easy to treat but they couldn’t afford the medication, I didn’t encounter it. No, the characters nearly always came from families who owned sizable houses, had parents with good solid well-paying jobs, where cost was never a real issue even when it very much should have been. There were some poorer characters in the books, but they were often side-characters. The struggle was never about the protagonist being able to afford necessities.

This was doubly true in the One Last Wish series, in which characters are given a huge financial gift by a mysterious benefactor, to allow them to have one great expensive hurrah and make their dreams come true before they die. Only a couple of times do I remember reading that some of that money went toward caring for their health. Most of the time, part of the story’s conflict was about how they should spend that very large amount of money.

Also… Okay, I know that in many ways, I am not the target audience for these books, and my priorities are not the same as everyone else’s. I also know that even when I was as old as most of the characters in these novels, my mindset toward fashion and attractiveness were not the average person’s mindset. But… There is a damaging mentality behind a lot of aspects of these books when it comes to appearance. In I’ll be Seeing You, the protagonist has a slight facial deformity, so when she start falling for a blind guy, she starts hoping he’ll never see her oh-so-ugly face, and part of the novel’s triumph is that her families agrees to get her cosmetic surgery to make those pesky imperfections disappear. In Goodbye Doesn’t Mean Forever, the rich character reflects that she was able to buy a real-hair wig for her best friend who was undergoing cancer treatment, and when her parents say that she probably ought to back off and focus more on her own life than that of her friend, she says, “At least I made her pretty again.”

I’m sorry, but that attitude is toxic as hell. Imagine being a kid or teen newly diagnosed with cancer, and coming across one of these books. You think to yourself, “Wow, there are books written about people like me. Maybe I’ll read this so that I don’t feel so alone and like nobody understands what I’m going through.” And then you come across crap that reinforces the idea that oh yeah, when chemo makes your hair fall out, you’re not going to be pretty anymore. Not until you have long luxurious locks again. And don’t get dare end up with any scars!

A Time to Die had a “delightful” line in it about the how when the main character, a girl with cystic fibrosis, breathed, it sounded like a kitten purring. This line was said by the dude she had a crush on (the crush was mutual, but I don’t think they actually got together in the book). This is supposed to be all sweet and sexy. Now, I don’t have CF, but my asthmatic lungs have harboured some nasty infections over the years, and lemme tell ya: the wheezy crackle of lungs filled with mucus? It ain’t sexy!

I’m going to be completely honest here: a lot of these books fed into young-me’s desire to grow up disabled. That sounds horrible. It is horrible. But between this stuff and some early disability activism, I got it into my head that the only way I would ever be special was to be sick. Look at those kids on the Easter Seals stamps! They might have cancer, but they’re smiling, and god knows my face will never be on a stamp. Look at the characters in Lurlene McDaniel’s novels. They’re pretty and tragic and people like them, and nobody’s ever going to write a book about my boring-ass life. Not unless I get terribly ill like them.

Maybe it’s universal payback that I ended up becoming disabled as an adult. “Oh, you think that makes you special, do ya? Well, enjoy pain so bad you sometimes can’t get out of bed, declining mobility, and the idea that it might take years and years of seeing multiple doctors to ever get a diagnosis or treatment plan. And still nobody’s going to write a book about your boring-ass life.”

I read a while ago that tuberculosis used to be used as a romantic plot point in old-timey novels because it gave female characters that breathy voice and retiring personality and was “a pretty death” that could be exploited for a tragic angle. McDaniel’s novels have that in spades. Not all of them… but the vast majority of them. And since they’re often fairly heavy on the romance (never fear, it’s “appropriate romance” where kissing is the most anyone does and rarely do people actually think about sex unless it’s to think about how they’re Not Ready For It), chronic illness and disability in her novels are used very much the same way tuberculosis used to be. AIDS lets you just slip gently away. Cancer lets you just slip gently away. Cystic fibrosis just lets you slip gently away. And aren’t those attractive boys just so good for loving girls who are so very sick, when any relationship is doomed to genteel tragedy?

I’m being very scathing in this post, and that’s entirely intentional. McDaniel’s novels may have been some groundbreaking representation back in the very early 90s, but once you read a few of them, the gloss really starts to rub off and you see so many of the problems underneath. I had hoped, upon doing this binge-read, that I might find something really positive to say about them, something to redeem the stories I once perversely enjoyed.

Really, the one I can speak most highly of is To Live Again, the 5th novel about Dawn Rochelle. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 13, she goes through chemo, a bone marrow transplant, worry about rejecting that bone marrow, enduring the loss of friends while she keeps living, and she does a whole lot of growing up over the course of the series. To Live Again actually addresses a less commonly-known side effect of her cancer treatment — in her final year of high school, she has a stroke that was caused by side effects from her medications, and she has to learn to deal with partial paralysis. I don’t see too many stories address the fact that just because you’re in remission, just because you might even be past that 5-year milestone and be considered cured, sometimes you’re going to have to deal with additional struggles brought on by the very thing that saved you.

When so many stories about cancer either end in death or, “Congratulations, you’re cured, now cancer is just this bad memory tucked firmly away in your past,” it was actually refreshing to encounter something that said, “You’d think that, but.”

So do these books hold up to my youthful memories? Not one freaking bit. They’re honestly quite bad, and not even just from the standpoint of being tragedy/inspiration porn. Where once I thought that the pure medical aspects of the story were fascinating and educational, the ones I read recently had so very many errors. In one, a lumbar puncture was confused with a bone marrow aspiration. One involves a needle stuck in your spine, the other involves a needle stuck in your hip. And I’d hand-wave this as a simple mistake if I hadn’t seen both procedures referred to correctly in multiple other novels. They are so terribly bad, filled with misinformation and toxic attitudes and characters that could be carbon copies of other characters, just with different names.

When Rachael Lippincott’s Five Feet Apart came out, I read it. It had its problems (contradictory medical info, a Bury Your Gays trope example, etc), but it was a lot better than McDaniel’s stuff. A lot of people in the disabled community liked it. I saw a lot of people with cystic fibrosis comment that it was good representation for the lives that they live. I had my reasons for not liking it, but I can appreciate that others do.

Then Lippincott wrote All This Time. And The Lucky List. And they’re getting the same kind of good reviews I still see Lurlene McDaniel’s books get. And I can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of a new wave of tragedy/inspiration porn in YA novels. Written better and with greater accuracy and representation, yes, and I’m not going to pretend those aren’t good things, but as someone who read a whole load of McDaniel’s novels, I can’t help but see loads of similarities, and it makes me anxious with the idea that someone (not necessarily Lippincott) will take the same road. Going from well-intentioned to capitalizing on the experienced pain of people who already find that most of their representation is, well, Lurlene McDaniel novels.

Here’s hoping that’s not what happens.

Beyond, by Mercedes Lackey

Buy from Amazon.com, Bookshop, or Barnes & Noble

Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – June 15, 2021

Summary: Within the Eastern Empire, Duke Kordas Valdemar rules a tiny, bucolic Duchy that focuses mostly on horse breeding. Anticipating the day when the Empire’s exploitative and militant leaders would not be content to leave them alone, Korda’s father set out to gather magicians in the hopes of one day finding a way to escape and protect the people of the Duchy from tyranny.

Kordas has lived his life looking over his shoulder. The signs in the Empire are increasingly dire. Under the direction of the Emperor, mages have begun to harness the power of dark magics, including blood magic, the powers of the Abyssal Planes, and the binding and “milking” of Elemental creatures.

But then one of the Duchy’s mages has a breakthrough. There is a way to place a Gate at a distance so far from the Empire that it is unlikely the Emperor can find or follow them as they evacuate everyone that is willing to leave.

But time is running out, and Kordas has been summoned to the Emperor’s Court.

Can his reputation as a country bumpkin and his acting skills buy him and his people the time they need to flee? Or will the Emperor lose patience, invade to strip Valdemar of everything of worth, and send its conscripted people into the front lines of the Imperial wars?

Thoughts: Valdemar’s founding has been something of a mythical thing ever since it was first mentioned in the very first Heralds of Valdemar novel, Arrow’s of the Queen. A Baron from a brutal imperial regime in the east sought to free his people from tyranny, and so took them on a long journey far away, beyond the reach of the Empire, where they settled in what eventually became the Kingdom of Valdemar. One of those situations where one man who cared people but was powerful to change an abusive system, so he left the system and created a new one. A different kind of heroism than the kind you see in fantasy stories where one man takes down an entire corrupt regime, but heroism none the less.

In Beyond, we start on Baron Valdemar’s journey to freedom, shedding light on the myth and making it real and relatable, at least within the confines of the world’s lore.

Now, I’ll grant you, this wasn’t quite the story I was expecting. It’s not that the description of Baron Valdemar’s journey away from the Empire was different than how it was briefly described in a few other novels and short stories, but as is often the case with more recent Valdemar novels, it’s all the stuff in between the story’s bones that make me raise an eyebrow in confusion. It seems lately like Lackey wants to tie everything together in neat packages, to have everything connect to everything else, to the point of creating weirdly complicated setups to explain things that didn’t really need an explanation in the first place.

Case in point, the vrondi. Now, vrondi are little air spirits that were largely introduced in the Last Herald-Mage novels and are a key reason why mages were driven insane if they tried to do magic in Valdemar for so long. They were sort of roped into a plan to have them keep an eye on any mages who weren’t also Herald-Mages, watching them until a Herald-Mage could come check them out. Then the Herald-Mages died off, and for a long time mages in Valdemar were just constantly watched by a growing number of invisible presences. Vrondi are also the reason why Heralds can do what they call Truth Spell, which can detect lies or even force someone to be honest. Okay. All makes sense. Nothing contradictory here.

Except that in Beyond, it’s established that vrondi weren’t just “we exist all over the world” natural spiritual creatures; they came with Baron Valdemar to these new unexplored lands after he freed them from a convoluted Imperial scheme that bound them to living dolls and forced them to become slaves. And while I can understand that they felt indebted to Valdemar for his actions in freeing them, it seems rather cruel to have bound them to the spell that made them watch for mages in the first place. They gave permission then, yes, but it begs the question of whether feeling indebted to someone’s legacy, hundreds of years later, would actually make them so willing to bind themselves to that task. It created a weird moral quandary when reading Beyond, and when this book’s story is added to the whole of Valdemar’s lore, it contained aspects that made me quite uncomfortable.

Which would have been find if it was something designed to make the reader uncomfortable, something done to provoke thought and consideration. Instead it felt more like Lackey didn’t think that journeying into unknown lands and trying to keep people safe from dangers on all sides would be an interesting enough story, and so tried to shoehorn in something for long-time readers to recognize, even when it didn’t need to be there and made later books on the timeline make less sense.

It wasn’t that Beyond was a bad book. It was pretty on par with a lot of Lackey’s recent work. But for me, the series peaked a while ago, I think, and each new foray back into the world leaves me increasingly disappointed. From stories complicated in ways that they don’t need to be, to her new strange habit of trying to make modern references that don’t really make any sense (this time it was characters calling a dog a “doggo” and a “pupper,” and yes, they were mages so old it could be argued this was just slang from another era, but really, it’s just a nod to modern real-world slang… which I guess is still better than commentary on the Quiverfull movement or the Scooby-Doo references…) The characters were interesting, the tyrannical debauchery of the Empire was honestly a fascinating setting, and I was interested in seeing how things would play out, but it didn’t hold my interest the way earlier books in the series have done in the past.

And yet, every time I say that I’m done with the series, a new book comes out and I’m dragged back in, out of sheer curiosity if nothing else.

If you’re of like mind to me, thinking that the Valdemar series peaked before the books with Mags started, then this is one I can safely say is easy to pass over without missing much. If you’re a fan of Lackey’s more recent entries into Valdemar, then this one will still be right up your alley, since it’s very much indicative of her modern writing. I can’t say it’s one I’d recommend, per se, but as I said, it isn’t bad, and I can still see it appealing to a certain subset of fans.

(Book received in exchange for an honest review.)