“City of Ashes” by Cassandra Clare

So, I realized recently that I have a terrible track record when it comes to talking about book series. I always have the best intentions, I start off with the first one, promise to talk about the others and then I forget or get distracted by something shiny and then never come back to it. I’m gonna try to be better. So, in the spirit of that, here is my considered opinion of the second book in the Mortal Instruments series- it’s awesome. This should come as no surprise.
So, it picks up not long after the first book ends and everyone is still trying to come to grips with the fact that Valentine, not- Voldemort, has returned and Clary and Jace are trying to cope with the fact that they are brother and sister, which I cannot stress enough isn’t true, but they don’t know that yet. So, they’re still Luke-and-Leia-ing it up, which honestly is really sad. Like, I enjoy a good romance as much as the next girl, maybe more, but this is still just kinda sad. And weird. Definitely weird. Because, I mean, what are you supposed to say? “Oh I wish they could be together”? “Those siblings would be such a cute couple”? Because at this point the reader isn’t supposed to know it either. I just cheated and peeked at a later book. I’m really not sure the author thought this thing all the way through, to be honest.
Anyhow, so the whole Shadowhunter world is in chaos as everyone tries to figure out what Valentine will do next, and what he does next is kill a bunch of people, rather predictably, to be honest. But still, it all is very cool and fairly cinematic the way it is written, it’s very easy to imagine it and the way it will look on screen, whenever it is the second movie comes out. The part on the boat in particular is very, very cool and how Magnus spells Luke’s truck so that it can just drive across the water? Awesome. I want my car to be able to do that. And how Clary uses that rune to completely destroy the boat? Girlfriend packs a mean punch. Oh, yeah, uh, in case you haven’t read the books, or don’t intend to, there are these runes that the Shadowhunters can draw, mostly on themselves, for things like healing, balance, strength or endurance and they’re basically magic. Well, Clary, because she’s awesome and the main character, can pack a whole lot more juice into your average rune than anyone else. She can also create new runes, which no one thought was possible before she started doing it. So, to destroy the boat, she carved the one for “open” into the hull and poured as much as she had into it. The boat was torn apart. Even the rivets flew out, that’s how big of a wallop she has. So, very cool. Makes up for the fact that she still doesn’t really do much fighting and in battle she mostly gets kidnapped and hit upside the head. But, that’s not really her fault, she wasn’t raised as a Shadowhunter, she didn’t even know she was one until recently, so she’s never been trained. You can’t blame someone for not knowing something they never thought they’d need to know.
And then there’s Simon, Clary’s best friend. This is where things get a bit tricky for me. See, this is where the series has me on shaky ground, as there is definite shades of Twilight in that particular storyline. That whole “love triangle, one of whom is her best friend and loves her deeply and faithfully from afar” thing. That is always super annoying. Especially since they’re following the Twilight tradition of the best friend being the one who loses out. Though, I will grant you, watching her genuinely try to be with him was a nice change of pace. You can’t really blame the poor girl- her mom is in a coma, the guy she’s in love with is apparently her brother, her home and everything she owns is destroyed, she’s found out her life is based on a lie and then her best friend leans over and kisses her. What’s she supposed to do? Shove him away? So she tries and it’s sweet and sad that she just can’t be that for him, that all she can think about and all she wants is Jace. And poor Jace, he just fell so hard and so fast. She’s the whole world for him and he can’t have her, and now she’s with this other guy. It just kills him. Honestly, it’s crazy how much he cares about her and worries about her- at one point he runs into the demon of fear, which kills by showing a person what they fear most in all the world. Apparently that much mind- bending terror, magically amplified no doubt, will kill a person pretty quickly. Anyway, what he sees when he sees the demon is Clary dying. Seriously, that is the thing that he is more afraid of than anything else in the world. Well, that and his father, since that’s what he sees the second time he runs into the demon.
Anyway, there’s a nice change of pace from that stupid trope when Simon breaks up with Clary, instead of the other way around. And there really aren’t any bad feelings, he just tells her that he knows it’s not working, he knows she doesn’t feel that way about him and that he would rather have what they’ve always had, a true friendship, than pretend at anything else. He would rather have that truth than a lie that would twist everything about them. So that was nice. Oh, and Simon is turned into a vampire, which I’m not sure how I feel about. I mean, cool, he’s now fully a part of that world, yay awesome, but I’m not a huge fan of vampires. And I don’t really understand those who are. So… neutral. Neutral I suppose.
As I said, I think this book was awesome and it ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger, as someone announces to Clary that they know how to get her mother out of her magically induced coma, so that leads quite nicely into the third book.

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Joss Whedon and Shakespeare Get Together

Well, I’m not entirely sure how well this will go, but it’s one of my favorite plays, if not my favorite play, by Shakespeare and I do love Joss Whedon. I guess we just have to trust him. I just have two reservations about this movie- 1) I really, really loved the earlier one (no idea when it came out and I don’t feel like looking it up but it starred Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, and the dude who played Wilson on “House”) and 2) I really don’t care for Alexis Denisof, which I realize is prejudiced of me, since he’s done plenty of good things since annoying the crap out of me on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, but that was my first impression of him and I can’t shake it. “Angel” didn’t help the situation either, as the show took a serious turn for the worst once the Irish guy was killed and he showed up. But I did like him “Dollhouse”, the few episodes he was on. And yes, I am a Whedonite. I said I was a nerd.

“Doctor Who” Question

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Okay, I’m sorry, I have to continue my current “Doctor Who” rant, because there’s something I’ve been thinking about and I can’t figure it out and it’s bothering me. Does the Doctor love River? Does he? I can’t figure out if he does or not. I really can’t. I mean, I get what Moffet was trying for with this storyline, I really do. I’m picking up what he’s putting down. He’s trying for a retelling, or maybe reimagining is more accurate, of “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, which I haven’t read, but I quite enjoyed the movie. So, fine, cool, whatever. Meeting in the wrong order? Fine. It’s a weird and cool way to tell a story, if it’s done in the right way. She knows him more as he knows her less, and vice versa? Really a very cool way to tell a story and show just what it is that makes each of them fall in love with the other, showcasing what each of them finds most attractive in the other, what draws them in, despite everything. It can’t help but be tragic, as there is that short, so short, period of time, where each really knows the other, truly loves the other for all that they are, before they each start to move in opposite directions, each destined for that day when they look into the other’s eyes and see no recognition looking back. Awesome, epic idea- if done right. See, that’s the problem I think. It hasn’t been done right. For that kind of story, you need possibly a stand alone kind of character in a stand alone novel or movie, not something that is so decade- sprawling as “Doctor Who”. This needs to be something where it’s just those two, it will always be those two, with their love blazing away, in defiance of time and space.

I don’t feel like that’s happening here. For starters, I’m not even entirely sure if the Doctor really loves her. She loves him, very clearly, and has, very clearly, from the beginning. Even from her beginning, when you watch her grow up obsessed with the Doctor. Quite rightly obsessed, since she had been brainwashed to kill him. She probably thought about him a lot for most of her life, what with the brainwashing and being best friends with Amy, the girl who waited. So, you put her face to face with him, of course she’s gonna go a bit bonkers, which she did. And then she blew past “a bit” into I don’t even know what. She wants to marry him, then she kills him, then she sacrifices all the rest of her regenerations to save him. That’s… that’s a bit extreme. But, again, to be fair, she was raised to be a psychopath. Then, she crafts the rest of her life around the Doctor. She becomes an archaeologist in order to find him again, she tracks him down, again and again, she breaks Time itself, shatters it, in order to save him. She says that her suffering at having to kill him would be worse than all the suffering of all the billions of people in all the universe. Which is kind of sweet and kind of creepy. I mean, if she had said something like what Rory said way back in the Pandorica episodes, that, to paraphrase, the Doctor was more important than the rest of the universe to her, then I wouldn’t have a problem. But the way she put it? That’s pretty extreme. Like, really extreme. And being more afraid of the day when he wouldn’t recognize her than of his death or hers? We’re entering into fatal attraction territory here. But whatever, I get it, they’re going for a great, epic love. And God knows she has the pedigree for it, it’s in her blood. Her father guarded the Pandorica for about two thousand years, just to keep Amy safe. He would do absolutely anything for her, protect her from anything, fight through anything, do whatever it took, even if it meant giving her up for someone she wanted more. And Amy was willing to die several times to either get back to Rory or stay with him. That is deep, true, epic love. So it’s in her blood. But, I don’t know, it just seems a bit much to me. But I’m a cynic, I’m probably the wrong person to ask.

Then, we have the Doctor. What proof of love do we have on his side? He married her, that’s true. But why did he marry her? See, that’s where the problem comes in for me, because he flat out says “I don’t want to marry you.” And yes, marrying her wasn’t really presented as a condition of her touching him and going back to the beach, so they could fix Time, but I look at it this way: they say earlier in the episode that no one is sure if she is the woman that marries him or the woman that murders him. So, what if he saw it as he had two timelines to choose from? Or if that’s what he thought she thought? What if he thought he had to choose one, marriage or murder, and she wouldn’t accept the second option without shattering the universe. So that left him with one option. He had to marry her. I mean, they argue on top of that pyramid for several minutes before he busts out the bow tie. And the whole thing, to me, didn’t feel very romantic. It was more “end- of- the- worldy” than romantic. But, hell, when you’re over a thousand years old, you can certainly do things for more than one reason. So, maybe he does- a little. Because, recently, when I was spelunking in the internet, to try and figure this out, I read a quote from Stephen Moffet, that said that the Doctor feels very responsible for River (incidentally I would cite that quote but I have no idea now where I read it. But I promise that, unless the website I was reading lied to me, it is true). Responsible. He looks at this woman, crying and loving him with all her heart, just as she has the entire time he’s known her, destroying the entire fabric of the universe in order to save him, and how can he not give her something in return? How can he not give her this thing that she clearly wants, and what he probably knows she had to begin with. What is a Timelord to do? Save the universe and all of time, as well as give her what she wants/needs, not to mention keep him promise to Amy (to take care of her daughter) or to not?

Also, there’s this: in the killing Hitler episode, when he’s in the Tardis talking to the visual interface he asks it to show him someone he actually liked instead of an image of himself. So, let’s examine who it shows him: Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble and then little Amelia Pond. At no point does it show him River. I mean, even if it was working chronologically, wouldn’t River be between Donna and little Amelia? (Incidentally, when I googled this earlier, “Does the Doctor love River”, all I got was people arguing about was who was a better match for him: Rose or River? Not only does this not answer my question, thank you Google, but I maintain that the question doesn’t matter. Not only is Rose in another universe, hopefully living happily ever after with 10A, but he let her go. When 10 is dying he goes back and basically says good- bye to everyone who had been important to him, leaving Rose for last and then he walks away. He is letting her go. He accepts that they can’t be together, he’s accepted that for a while, and no matter how much he loved her, and he loved her a lot, he has to let her go. So he does. And then he regenerated, which really helped that process along. He told everyone goodbye and now he pretty much never references them. So, the whole Rose or River thing isn’t even really a question. He probably still loves Rose, but in that way where you’ll always have feelings for that person, you’ll always care for them and they’ll always be very important to you, but it fades, so that they’re simply special to you, and no longer the sun and the moon. But that’s just my opinion, we’ll find out for sure on the 50th anniversary special, when David Tennant and Billie Piper guest star, which I’m really looking forward to. Ten bucks says he stammers a lot and knocks something over.)

Anyway, there are all sorts of little things they show that says he cares about her, is attracted to her, worries about her and values her, but I can’t say as any of that adds up to “love”. They flirt constantly, he calls her a “bad, bad girl”, and every now and then they kiss but I don’t know if he loves her. Admittedly, the Doctor is pretty famous for playing it close to the chest, in any incarnation. He is a man with secrets and is very reluctant to give any of them up. Nor does he strike me as particularly emotionally aware. He isn’t given to much introspection, unless he’s yelling at himself for something. So, maybe he does love he and just doesn’t show it for some reason. Or maybe he loves her and doesn’t realize it. But then, why would he flirt so much with Clara? The one from the Christmas episode, not modern Clara, though I’m sure that’s coming. More to the point, why would he react like that when she kissed him? At this point, he is in fact a married man, yet when Clara kisses him he looks astonished and confused and maybe a little thrilled, like something confusing but awesome just happened, such as a pretty, smart, fun girl grabbed him and kissed him. Not the look of a man who has been kissed by someone who is not his wife and lady love.

Then there’s a separate question: in the “The Angels Take Manhattan”, at the end, after Rory and Amy went back in time and essentially died, the Doctor asks River to travel with him and she says no. She says she’ll have adventures with him, but she won’t be his companion, after having a pained look on her face. And she comes from his future. And, at some point after that, he finds modern Clara and they start traveling together. So, after they have such great chemistry together and the kissing and the attraction, does something cook up with Clara and River knows it? Is that why she wouldn’t travel with him? Because the reason she gave is just bullshit. “There should only be one psychopath per TARDIS?” What kind of excuse is that? Not any kind. It’s the kind of thing you say when you’re trying to avoid saying the real reason. And since she comes from his future, she would have seen that he has Clara later and, based on the kiss and attraction and her look of pain, there’s something there.

All of this brings me to one very unfortunate conclusion, which I really wish was the opposite: I don’t think the Doctor loves River. I think he cares for her, a lot, that she’s special to him and that he feels a great deal of responsibility for her, not only because she’s his dead best friend’s daughter but because when they first met she sacrificed her life for his and then tried to do it again later. And then again, when she used up all her regeneration for him. Of course he feels responsible for her. She pours so much of herself into him and this relationship that she insists is there and we have seen no real evidence of. He’s not the kind of man to just walk away from that kind of responsibility, that weight. He’ll carry it and take care of her, but I have yet to see real evidence that he loves her. Which, btw, makes this whole story arc they have going, officially one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen. Here’s hoping that I’m really, really wrong.

“City Of Bones” by Cassandra Clare

So I’m gonna be honest- I tore through this series like I haven’t in a while. I very quickly developed a fangirl reaction to not only this series but the trailers for the movie that comes out in August, which btw looks epic. But, first things first, let’s talk about “City of Bones”.
So, it’s another of those “there’s a whole other world beneath our noses” books, which isn’t quite played out, but I feel like it might be getting close to it. I mean, I know it’s a classic way to enter a brand new world, you can’t beat it, it’s the perfect way to introduce the audience to this new world and all it’s weird rules and creatures. But still, do you know how many times I’ve read it? I can’t tell you, because I’ve lost track. But that little quibble aside, and one other that I’ll get to in a minute, I really loved this book. Clary was awesome and brave, and not in the usual way you’d expect in a book about demon- hunting. She wasn’t much for flying sidekicks or whatever, and wouldn’t be for several books, but she’s a fighter and she refused to give up. Her mom was missing, her world was in chaos and she was in danger and there was very little she could do about it, but she didn’t give up and she didn’t even consider giving up. She just kept fighting and trying to protect the people that were important to her.

The whole Shadowhunter thing is pretty cool too. Apparently they’re the Nephilim, the offspring of humans and angels, a thing that I first heard of in an X- Files episode years and years ago. (You can’t say my nerd pedigree isn’t spotless, heh- heh.) There’s also something about Seraphim blades and stuff that I’m honestly a bit fuzzy on because they have to, like, name the Seraphim blade before they can use and that’s never really explained. Does each name confer a certain power on each blade? Are they power levels? Why? How? It’s never explained, and I would really like an explanation. But other than that, I quite liked the world she made. It seems pretty realistic and well- crafted.

The weird thing about these books, among the other thing that I still haven’t mentioned, is that there’s this guy, the bad guy, Valentine, which is a stupid ass name for a bad guy, everything else aside (why name you’re villian after the holiday for love?), and he is basically Voldemort. Seriously, before anyone who’s read these books argues with me, think about it- he’s all about how his hidden kind of human is the best, mundanes/ muggles are terrible, and those with power are the very best. There’s even this thing he says about how the Downworlders, vampires, werewolves and warlocks, aren’t as good as the Shadowhunters because they’re tainted, have dirty blood, mudbloods if you will. It’s crazytown. Did she realize she was doing it when she did it? But that’s not even the weirdest part. The weirdest part is that all of the adults in the book are ex- members of his little gang of not- Deatheaters, called the Circle. And pretty much all of the main characters are the children of ex- Circle members. Not only that, but- spoilers- Clary is the biological daughter of Valentine, not- Voldemort himself. Can you imagine if that had popped up in Harry Potter? It certainly would have livened things up a bit, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, then there’s Jace, the love interest, and he is bad- freaking- ass. Like, seriously, he is a badass. He is an ass- kicker of the first order, great warrior, great demon hunter. Not only that, but the boy is really funny. These are character traits that I really look for in a fictional man. You can’t lose with a funny ass- kicker. Especially when you have one that is so clearly gone over the heroine. It’s really, really sweet. I loved their romance and just watching those two. They are very, very cute together and for once I wasn’t too irritated by the obvious setting up of a love triangle/ forbidden love thing, mostly because of how she did it, which was… weird. And not in a good way, weird. Yeah, this is the thing I was going to get to, spoilers by the way, see the thing is, is that at the end of the book, there’s this big confrontation with Valentine and he tells Clary and Jace, after they have spent the entire book falling in love with each other, that they are brother and sister. That Clary’s older brother did not in fact die all those years ago, like Clary’s mother thought, right before her mother left Valentine forever, barely two months pregnant with Clary. That her brother had survived the fire and that they, Clary and Jace, are in fact, full blooded brother and sister. So, yeah. She went to a weird place. Now, I want it fully understood, that it is not in fact true. Sorry, spoilers. I mean, I knew that ahead of time, because I picked up the first book after browsing through a display of all the ones that have come out already, including the new one that talks about Jace and Clary’s brother Sebastian, so I knew it wasn’t true, that it was all a horrible lie from her horrible father, but still. Yech. Why would she go there? Seriously. Wha- why? I mean, I get the point. Beyond eventually introducing her real brother later on and it also proves what a dick her father is, because he could see they loved each other, he even commented on it, there’s the whole “doomed romance” thing, which is like half the point of the book I think. And this way you don’t have to question either one’s character or strength, or the strength of their love, but still. Couldn’t she have found a less… icky way? The whole thing is weird. But again, it’s all a horrible lie from her dick of a father. So, there’s that.

Anyway, bizarre storytelling choice aside, and how they’ll spin that in the movie I have no freaking clue, it was a really, really good book. I seriously did tear my way through the entire series in no time flat. It was even one of those that, if I had to walk away I spent the entire time thinking about it. One of those where you’re like “You don’t understand! There’s this book!” anytime someone wants to talk to you. It’s one of those. So, really, I can’t recommend it enough and I will totally be in line to see it opening day when the movie finally comes out.

P.S. I figured out how to embed videos! Finally! Yay!

“Mr. Real” by Carolyn Crane

Okay, so I recently sort of discovered a new author, Carolyn Crane. I say “sort of” because of this book. It was… to say “bad” would be a misnomer. “Unreadable” comes closer. I literally could not read this book. It was too stupid. I originally thought, Hey, I like her other books, the Disillusionist Trilogy, I’ll probably like this one. Sure, the premise is retarded but it sounds retarded in a fun way. Wrong! It was just straight up retarded. Like, horrifyingly bad.

So, the premise is that the main character, Alix (my first hint that it was a bad book. Who spells that with an i?) inherits a house and a bunch of other stuff from her cooky, old aunt when she dies. I say “cooky” because it turns out the lady was a witch, like an actual magic using witch, and not one of the wiccan types who are mostly about being in balance with nature, but who used actual magic and, get this, managed to transfer that magic to a computer somehow. So that anything you click on, using a computer that has that code in it, will magically appear a day later on your front porch. Like I said, the premise sounded really, really stupid, but whatever I was willing to roll with it. Where she really lost me was the heroine, Alix. With an i. Instead of treating this ludicrous macguffin with kid gloves and a healthy dose of suspicion, since it’s a magical freaking computer and last I checked, magic comes with a price, she decides to use it to go shopping. She “orders” a supposedly great outfit, though based on the description you couldn’t pay me to wear it, and an insanely expensive necklace before it comes to her- she should use it to order a man! And not just any man, no no. She should use it to order a tv commercial character who is played by a guy that she met years ago, for a few weeks that she is somehow still half in love with. No, it didn’t make sense to me either. Any of it. Nothing in that previous sentence made any sense to me, but whatever because she goes for it.

The explanation why she should do such a thing is really, really stupid too. It’s not that she’s smart and just did a dumb thing, or just got caught up in the whole, “Hey, I can have whatever I want!” after years of poverty or whatever. No, no. She’s just that kind of person. She’s crazy, she’s wacky, isn’t that just so much fun! She randomly used magical objects that she doesn’t understand for completely selfish reasons! Isn’t she just so wacky and fun? Honestly, in any other book, she would be the first casualty. She’d be the smoking puddle of ooze on the floor that everyone looks at and goes “So now we know not to do that. Thank you, Alix with an i, for that object lesson.” Instead, no no. She’s just so crazy and fun, and so deeply misunderstood. What part of any of what she does make sense, or is in any way a good idea? None of it! Does the book care? No!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really read the rest of it after that. I flipped around a lot, trying to see if it redeemed itself at some point and it most assuredly did not. The guy shows up and since he’s supposed to be some sort of secret agent in the commercials, he thinks he’s a secret agent there and he seriously wonders whether he should kill her, and then the guy she is inexplicably still half in love with after all this time, after minimal contact, I cannot stress enough how minimal the contact was, they never even met socially, shows up and stuff happens and… I don’t know. I think the fake guy goes crazy or something. There seemed to be some sort of standoff or something. Anyway, yeah, amazingly stupid. I’m actually really put off Carolyn Crane right now. Which is a shame because her Disillusionist Trilogy was actually really good. It had this superhero vibe that I seriously dug. But now I don’t even know if I can read her stuff again. It was that bad. I feel dumber for having read it. I spent actual money on this book. Like actual, factual money. And I ordered it online, so it had to be shipped to me. So that’s even more money and some poor package deliverer’s time. Oh god.

Terry Pratchett Quote

Okay, so if you’ve read my previous post you’ll know that I mentioned a Terry Pratchett idea that is mentioned several times in his books and can be boiled down simply to- “Be yourself. As hard as you can.” Well, I decided I might as well be thorough and tracked one down. It’s a bit lengthy, but I like it and I feel like it says pretty much everything that needs to be said. It’s from Good Omens, which was cowritten by him and Neil Gaiman.

“Then something very strange happened to (Mary)… She discovered, under layers of silliness and eagerness to please, Mary Hodges. She found it quite easy to interpret builders’ estimates and do VAT calculations. She’d got some books from the library, and found finance to be both interesting and uncomplicated. She’d stopped reading the kind of women’s magazine that talks about romance and knitting and started reading the kind of women’s magazine that talked about orgasms, but apart from making a mental note to have one if ever the occasion presented itself she dismissed them as only romance and knitting in a new form. So she’d started reading the kind of magazine that talked about mergers.

After much thought, she’d bought a small home computer from an amused and condescending young dealer in Norton. After a crowded weekend, she took it back. Not, as he thought when she walked back into the shop, to have a plug put on it, but because it didn’t have a 387 co-processor. That bit he understood- he was a dealer, after all,  and could understand quite long words- but after that the conversation rapidly went downhill from his point of view. Mary Hodges produced yet more magazines. most of them had the term “PC” somewhere in their title, and many of them had articles and reviews that she had circled carefully in red ink.

She read about New Women. She hadn’t ever realized that she was an Old Woman, but after some though she decided that titles like that were all one with the romance and the knitting and the orgasms, and the really important thing to be was yourself, just as hard as you could.”

The “Hunter Kiss” series by Marjorie M. Liu

the mortal bone

I have recently added Marjorie M. Liu to my list of favorite authors. I edged around her for years, noting her books in the store, occasionally picking one up but never reading one. They just seemed… not uninteresting but maybe the sort of thing that I wouldn’t really get into. It just didn’t really seem like my kind of thing. But, one day I decided, what the hell? What can it hurt to try? And, obviously, I have not regretted that decision. It also helped that I had read a short story of hers in an anthology, which if you’ll remember one of my earliest posts, is a great way to discover new authors. It’s also a great way to lose valuable brain cells and six or so dollars of your hard earned money, but you roll the dice. Anyway, so I tried Liu out and, amazingly, actually picked up her first book, purely by accident. What are the odds? But that’s not the focus of this, because that’s part of a different series. Here I am talking about her Hunter Kiss series, which starts with a short story and thus far has four books in it. It’s really, really cool. I think I know where she’s going with it, but I cannot imagine how she’ll manage it and that’s always a plus in a series. If you see every twist and turn coming a mile away, what’s the point? Where’s the fun? Where’s the joy, the experience of seeing it all through the character’s eyes as it happens?

Okay, so- Hunter Kiss. Let’s start with this- the world as we know it, is not really the world.  A lot of books start that way and it’s a pretty classic way to start. The world we know is not all there is to know and the author draws back the curtain to include us in this special new view of reality. So far, nothing new in that. And when this curtain is drawn back, it is revealed that demons are real. Also, so far nothing new. Things as far reaching as Buffy the Vampire Slayer have used that. But this one is a bit different, and I’ll tell you why. The person, the one person capable of defending us from the demon hordes is Maxine Kiss, the last Hunter, the last Warden of a dying prison. That prison is here, that prison is Earth. It turns out, humans are so vulnerable to demons, so deeply incapable of defending themselves against them, that our world was turned into a prison just to protect us. And beyond the boundary of our dimension, our world, there are rings of other prisons, holding the demons, with the most harmless closest to us. The “most harmless” being the ones who only possess us, force us to do terrible things and feed off of our pain, just to give you a sense of perspective here. Not that this series is one of those that lovingly dwells on the horror, like some do. Mostly it focuses on Maxine as she tries to protect our world, us, from these creatures as the cracks in the prison walls get larger and start to come crumbling down. She comes from a ten- thousand year old line of hunters, blood bound to five demons who help them, protect them, and fight for them. During the day, these demons live on her skin as tattoos, making her virtually immortal. Like, literally, immortal. You could drop an atomic bomb on her head, bury her alive, set her on fire, push her in front of a bus, and nothing would happen. These are not examples I pulled out of thin air, btw, these are all things that have either happened to her or to women in her bloodline. And when night falls, the demons are free and fight for her. It’s an apocalyptic story, obviously, but it’s also a story of heroics and sacrifice, as well as a love story because obviously she has a love interest and he is also very, very cool and totally worthy to stand by her side.

I do wish that Liu had more of a knack for making things seem epic, but I get that that is a rare gift, I’ve really only read a few authors who could truly pull that off, so I’m trying not to dwell on it too much although it would add so much to the story if she could get just a little of that. As it is, it feels very intimate, obviously, and there’s the sense of one small person against overwhelming odds and you do wonder how she’ll do it, since Maxine is not the bloodthirsty warrior type, and you do truly love all the characters. I just wish that it had more of that epic struggle, grand scale thing going, where you’re reading it going “Holy crap, this is unbelievable” and it just takes your breath away. That said, I still really love this series, and totally recommend it to any and all who are into those kinds of books. I promise, there is no Mary- Sue-ing, a la Laurell K. Hamilton for whom there is just no excuse. Ahem, unless you like Laurell K. Hamilton, in which case I said nothing.

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