Categories
Fantasy Romance

Read For the Throne

Read For the Throne by Hannah Whitten

Red and the Wolf have finally contained the threat of the Old Kings but at a steep cost. Red’s beloved sister Neve, the First Daughter is lost in the Shadowlands, an inverted kingdom where the vicious gods of legend have been trapped for centuries and the Old Kings have slowly been gaining control. But Neve has an ally–though it’s one she’d rather never have to speak to again–the rogue king Solmir.

Solmir wants to bring an end to the Shadowlands and he believes helping Neve may be the key to its destruction. But to do that, they will both have to journey across a dangerous landscape in order to find a mysterious Heart Tree, and finally to claim the gods’ dark, twisted powers for themselves.

This was a very frustrating read, and I don’t think it stuck the landing. The solution didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I didn’t believe the heroine would choose what she did. The resolution between her and the antihero was weak.

There was no need for this to be 500 pages. There were seriously like five dream sequences. At least one other POV could have been cut. I would frankly have cut all the other viewpoints besides Neve. I thought it very odd to have one chapter each from the sisters’ love interests.

Honestly the story just didn’t quite work. It wanted to be the story of two sisters, and it wanted to be a romance, and it wanted to be epic fantasy. Unfortunately, by not choosing one it did all three poorly. It probably should have focused on the sisters instead of the romance, based on the ending.

At the halfway point, I started skipping all the other viewpoint scenes until the climax. They telegraphed too much, without adding value. Knowing the end, I don’t think they paid off. The author used them to create tension by keeping you away from getting resolution from the main storyline, which I feel is a bad sign when the tension isn’t enough on its own and you have to stall.

Categories
Fantasy

Read For the Wolf

Read For the Wolf (Wilderwood, #1)

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Gnarly ending, but fitting. Parts felt YAish, probably because the heroine and her sister are twenty and blindingly dumb sometimes. I had to roll my eyes at the sister a lot — for someone trained to be queen, she is pretty oblivious. The magic system is cool and creepy and very bloody. I like the way the forest itself gets an arc. It’s a good Beauty and the beast retelling, though a weird choice to put so much weight in story on the red cloak, and to put it on the cover, so you expect it to be riding hood 🤷‍♀️

Categories
Fantasy Romance

Re-watched Tangled

Watched Tangled from m.imdb.com

The magically long-haired Rapunzel has spent her entire life in a tower, but now that a runaway thief has stumbled upon her, she is about to discover the world for the first time, and who she really is.

Disney does story structure well. Quite a lengthy introduction to the two love interests before their meetcute around 20 minutes in, but does a good job setting up their external quests. The 50% everything changes beat ties the plot and emotional journey together nicely, his admission of a secret prompting her to share one that then offers a solution to their conundrum. Talk about an all is lost moment SPOILERS he legit *dies* and she thinks she’s lost her powers and her abusive kidnapper who she nevertheless has feelings for has just died also — and then she magically mysteriously brings him back to life (with love?).

(Ugh I can see when this stuff works in other people’s stories, why is it so hard to reverse engineer and apply to mine? 😂😭)

Disney can also be good at humor, when they don’t fall back on body shaming — mime interrupting a chase scene good, mocking a guy who wants true love for his appearance bad. Also they cannot handle not vibing the villain as an oversexualized contrast to the pure innocent heroine, with heavy eye makeup and low cut top in a rich red on the mother and no makeup and a lavender dress on the golden haired princess. Is it just me or is the villain also coded Jewish? 😬 (OK not just me 😬😬😬)

The abusive mother is almost too painful to watch, I fast forwarded through her where I could.

Sigh, they cannot resist those traditional gender roles — irritates me every time that it ends with him teasing her that she asked him to marry her, but then admits he asked her after she complains. Maybe they wouldn’t put that in today? 😒

I bought this a while back digitally on Amazon and hot damn that video quality is bad. Did I not spring for hi def or are they cheaping out on their hosting, because that was dithered and fuzzy.

Categories
Art and Design Society

A Magic Wand

Replied to We’re on the cusp of another revolution by Ray (alongtheray.com)

💬 Replied to Will “good enough” AI beat human artists? — Tracy Durnell → “I’d say AI is not good enough yet for most use cases, but it will get

I love this way of thinking about the new AI art tools: magic. I am excited to see how people without art training use them, plus how artists will use renderings as tools (to iterate ideas quickly, to storyboard, to create mood / conceptual art, etc.). There’s a lot of good that can come from tools like this, and they seem like fun!

I’m just wary of the impact of tools like this in our corporatist society that values people only for the paid work they produce, and doesn’t support providing a social safety net. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become much more sympathetic to the Luddites, whose skilled labor had given them a good lifestyle since they were paid by the piece and could work as much or little as they wanted; mechanized looms stole their power and lifestyle by replacing skilled work with drudge work in poor conditions for low pay. Mechanized weaving made cloth more affordable and more widely available, so I can’t say it was a bad tool, but we’re still suffering the social fallout from the way mechanization was used and who controlled it. I still hope as a society we can work through some of these issues and grow into a culture where a cool new tool doesn’t spell possible financial disaster for a whole profession.

Categories
Comics Fantasy

Read The Remarried Empress S2

Read The Remarried Empress

Navier Ellie Trovi was an empress perfect in every way — intelligent, courageous, and socially adept. She was kind to her subjects and devoted to her husband. Navier was perfectly content to live the rest of her days as the wise empress of the Eastern Empire. That is, until her husband brought home a mistress and demanded a divorce. “I accept this divorce… And I request an approval of my remarriage.” In a shocking twist, Navier remarries another emperor and retains her title and childhood dream as empress. But just how did everything unfold?

This was a building season, looking forward to the payoff next season.

Heartening to see the supportive comments for the illustrator taking a break to recover! I feel like there’s been a shift in the years since Neil Gaiman wrote his “GRRM is not your bitch” post and people have gotten better about separating their enthusiasm for a work from entitlement — more understanding about creators protecting their health (or maybe just Webtoons readers are an especially kind corner of fandom). Makes sense that could be connected to the greater support we’re seeing for unions and worker’s rights? (Though it seems weird to see this wellspring of labor support at the same time the public as a whole has said FU to at-risk and immunocompromised people and kids on the pandemic. Guess we haven’t hit disability solidarity yet.)

Categories
Fantasy

Read Iron Widow

Read Iron Widow

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

This main character was intense and unpredictable, which made for exciting reading. Didn’t bother me that it was YA, though that did mean there “had” to be a love triangle… which she subverted beautifully. Cliffhanger ending. Will be interested to see where this goes in the next couple books (I assume it’ll be a trilogy).

Beautiful cover 😍

Categories
Fantasy

Read The Black Tides of Heaven

Read The Black Tides of Heaven

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

Got stuck at 30% for a bit but when I picked it back up I read the rest at once. Interesting world building. I have the feeling there are layers I’m missing with the twins. Mokoya I didn’t especially like, I doubt I’ll read her novella. The love interests don’t get much time on page but that’s fine. Novella length worked well. I’ll probably try the sequel.

Categories
Fantasy Romance

Read Steal the Wind

Read Steal the Wind

Everything Caelan knows about his world is a lie.

A war is brewing. As the crown prince of Erya, it’s only natural that Caelan is sent on a secret diplomatic mission to support one of the kingdom’s allies. With his advisor, his bodyguard, and his best friend as traveling companions, what could go wrong?

Everything.

Everything goes wrong.

Now they are on the run, dodging assassins, setting secret meetings, and even making deals with a sleeping god.

So, this is probably a really bad time to cave to feelings he’s been fighting for his best friend. But Drayce has owned his heart for more years than he can count and if he’s going to die, shouldn’t he have just one kiss?

More fantasy than romance, but probably more romance than many fantasy readers want, like T. Kingfisher’s White Rat universe books. Thank goodness for self-pub bringing us books that don’t neatly fit one category! And it seems there are enough fantasy romance readers to warrant writing.

Two pairings are set up, with one drawing the focus. Appropriately for my Pride Month reading, seems like most of the main characters in the book are gay.

Very odd world building in which there are baseball hats and guns, but it’s also a legitimate choice to use a sword or spear? 🤔 Whatever, I don’t care that it doesn’t make sense since it’s for fun. Although I personally find it unsettling to have a modernish setting with a monarchy – even though that does still exist in many countries. (Is my aversion to royalty the American in me? Or just the progressive? 🤷‍♀️) So it’s not sure if it wants to be urban fantasy or high fantasy.

I’ll check out the second book. Ended on a bit of a cliffhanger which is a little irritating.

Categories
Comics Fantasy

Read Witchy Vol. 2

Read Witchy, Volume 2 (Witchy, #2)

Low on magic and on the run after committing the ultimate heresy of cutting one’s hair, Nyneve and her raven companion, Banana, head into an ancient forest in search of safe transport. However, when Nynever butts heads with the gruff and overbearing broom-maker Kaveh, she starts to wonder if she wouldn’t be better off in the hands of the Witch Guard.

Didn’t remember everything about the first volume but enough to follow along. We learn a little bit more about how magic works. There’s a bit of travel at the start, and a confrontation with some old friends, but most of the story is training, where the m.c.’s forced to persevere through failure and embarrassment. The fight with her old friends pushes her to change.

I like the bird friend. I appreciate that even the guards and “bad guys” are shown to be human, with weird friends you cover for. It’s cool this world is explicitly full of queer people of all stripes.

Categories
Fantasy Romance

Read The Sumage Solution

Read The Sumage Solution (San Andreas Shifters, #1)

Max fails at magic, relationships, and life. So he works as a sumage, cleaning up other mages’ messes. The job sucks and he’s in no mood to cope with redneck biker werewolves. Unfortunately, there’s something irresistible about the sexy muscled Beta visiting his office for processing.

Bryan is gay but he’s not out. There’s a good chance Max might be reason enough to leave the closet, if he can only get the man to go on a date.

Everyone knows werewolves hate mages, but Bryan is determined to prove everyone wrong, even the mage in question.

I was tickled that this was set in Marin, with a scene at the Civic Center. Turns out Gail Carriger was originally from Bolinas!

Interesting setup. It feels almost as if it’s the second book in the series because a recent new relationship is mentioned so prominently, but apparently that was covered in a prequel novella.

I was frustrated by the mage’s self loathing attitude and at the end wasn’t convinced the conversation he had would be enough to bring about a change of heart.

The bigger picture had a tie-in explanation to a steampunk history, which was intriguing but not explained very much — I presume that’ll be explained more in future books.

I don’t really read much urban fantasy / paranormal romance but these guys get after it pretty quick 😂

I do want to read more about the drag queen kitsune 🦊 so I may check out her novella — though the author recommends reading all the other books first so 🤷‍♀️