Of Musings and Wonderings

harlequinAnita Blake and her men are threatened by a very strong, powerful force, a group that are so scary their name cannot be spoken. They act as police in the vampire world, sent by the council to punish vampires who don’t follow the rules. When they are contacted by The Harlequin, Anita and her group are put under threat. They can manipulate the emotions of humans, vampires and were-animals alike, almost causing Jean-Claude and Richard to kill each other. Anita must save them using the power of, what else, sex.

Of course it’s sex. It’s always sex. At this point in the series, it always comes down to sex. To Anita’s power, to the ardeur, inherited from Jean-Claude. Admittedly, it feels like, by The Harlequin, there’s a sort of decent balance between sex and plot, and rather than it just being jammed in there, it’s actually used to advance things and makes sense with what’s going on. Although, to be honest, I miss the earlier books, where Anita was given some sort of case which she had to help solve, while also dealing with her personal life. Now, it’s more about the vampire/shape-shifter side than the police side, and I sort of miss those guys.

When I first started reading the series, I loved Anita as a character. She was strong and fiercely independent. She had her own opinions, but they always seemed suited to her and her situation, felt like it made her a better character. I’m not saying that her romantic situation has made her less independent, by the way, but as the series has gone on, it feels more and more like a lot of what was so likeable about her is going by the wayside.

Plus, she’s so damn hypocritical. Her best friend Ronnie has a few problems during the course of the last few books, mainly to do with her relationship, the rate it’s moving at, her fear of commitment. And Anita basically tears her up. Rather than being there for her, when she expects Ronnie to be completely there for Anita, Anita just seems to dismiss everything and get angry because Ronnie’s problems aren’t as big as her own. She jumps on Ronnie for not wanting commitment from one man, when Anita, to be fair, has a number of them living at her house and is sleeping with a lot more.

Which brings me to another point about Anita’s hypocrisy. In The Harlequin, in order to get enough power to save herself, Jean-Claude and Richard, Anita must feed off the shapeshifters. If she feeds off the head of each shapeshifter group, she can feed off them all. They come to her, and she sleeps with them. Now, there have been issues with the werelions. Another werelion was brought by a vampire master, and Anita found herself attracted to him, putting it down to having yet another beast inside her, seeking a mate. Haven is sent away, because the local werelion pack is weak and if he were to take them over, it’s likely he’d kill many of them.

Anita does not allow the men in her life to have other partners. Not the ones she is closest to, anyway. Despite the fact that she – obviously – has multiple partners. Right. Okay. But the head of the werelion pack, Joseph, refuses to come to her, as he is faithful to his wife. And yes, there are other issues surrounding this and the general weakness of the pack. But instead of trying to get them to fix that or just telling Joseph to get out, it’s hinted that Haven, after permission from Anita, kills the leader, his brother and his wife.

Yes, something needed to be done about the lions. But killing them? Seriously? Little bit harsh! And just because he wouldn’t sleep with Anita and betray his wife? Ugh!

So, The Harlequin isn’t the best book of the series, but it’s not the worst. Yes, Anita’s beginning to grate on me a little, but it feels like the balance between plot and other things is, at least, getting a bit better. The characters are pretty much the same as always, and the last scene between Anita and the Harlequin does feel like it was squeezed in there just to have some sort of conclusion to it. Honestly? With this one, I’m left feeling pretty much the same as I always do after I finish one of these books. I want to know what happens next, I want to see how it all turns out, yet there are parts that just really annoy me and make me wonder if I really should carry on with it. Well, we’ll see. Worth reading if you’ve stuck it out with the series so far. Actually, yeah, if anyone else is reading this, what are your thoughts on them? Think the earlier ones are better or think they’re improving as the series goes on?


imagesCASZ8RO8I love this series. Since I read the first book, I’ve fallen in love with Roland, the last gunslinger, and the world around him. The first book follows him as he tries to track down the man in black, meeting a young boy, Jake, on the way, who, it turns out, is from New York, but was killed by being pushed into the street. In the second book, Roland entices two people from very different times to join him on his quest. In the third book, The Waste Lands, they head towards a city that seems to have suffered from a nuclear war. But before that, Susannah and Eddie must take on board the lessons taught to them by Roland, and in New York, Jake struggles with conflicting identities, one which tells him he is alive and the other telling him he should be dead and in a totally different world.

The characters really come alive on the page, something I think King has always been good at. It’s clear that this is a world Roland knows a lot about, but doesn’t know everything. Then there’s Susannah and Eddie, both characters who are new to this world and trying to come to terms with how different it is from home. When Jake comes back, he slots in like he’s supposed to, and there’s the very real sense that they all belong to the world that Roland is from.

The settings, too, work brilliantly, with the contrast between nature and manmade robots that roam through the lands. King’s descriptions of everything, even the stuff that would be completely foreign to us, make it feel like we’re travelling through the world with the characters. And once they reach the city, we get drawn in even more, following them through mazes of booby-trapped trash and meeting a very strange, crazy train.

There are, of course, elements of horror too. It’s something King plays on very well, as he plunges the characters into situations they seemingly won’t be able to get out of. The ending leaves with the stakes high, and the possibility of all the characters heading towards their deaths. He uses it to mix in very well with the fantasy elements, letting us know that this isn’t a light and fluffy tale of people on a quest. There is a lot more at stake here, and it makes the book very engrossing.

So far, this is a brilliant series, and I would strongly recommend picking it up if you have any interest in King or quest type fantasies.

15779584London Falling starts towards the end of an undercover operation, in which Costain, after four years of playing the same role, is starting to lose himself. Paranoia and fear are setting in, wondering if the man he is working with – Sefton – is out to get him and if he will survive whatever Quill, his boss, has planned once the operation ends.

Things kick off right at the start, as we’re plunged into this underworld of London ruled by crime bosses. Straightaway we’re introduced to the same world Costain and Sefton have been living in, and although it’s seedy and dark, it has both feet planted firmly in reality.

Until Toshack, the crime boss they have been after for so long, is killed very strangely and mysteriously in the interview room, right in front of Quill.

Costain, Sefton, Quill and Ross, an intelligence analyst, are plunged into an even darker world as they attempt to unravel the mystery of Toshack’s death. They find themselves seeing things they shouldn’t be seeing, competing against darker forces than any of them have ever come up against before. Forming their own, small team, they begin to fight against the side of London none of them even knew existed.

London Falling is brilliant urban fantasy, set in the biggest urban setting in the UK. And there is a real London feel to it, from the different stories they unravel, to the football team West Ham playing a role and even the real history of the city. As the characters become used to this world, so do we, and we see it clearly through their eyes as they discover new aspects of their home and of themselves.

There is nothing about this novel that won’t draw you in. Each character stands brilliantly in their own right, and every moment spent with each individual makes you care about them all the more. You’re drawn into their minds as much as drawn into the world springing to life around them, and each of them has their own strengths – and weaknesses – that they utilize when exploring and fighting the forces at work. Each has their own conflict, their own desires and their own reasons for what they’re doing. And it all gels nicely together, as the novel moves seamlessly from one POV to another.

It all has the feel of a TV series, which is no surprise as it started life as a TV pitch, with Stephen Moffat. (Why is this not in existence?) It works well, and there is a kind of Torchwood feel to it all, just with less aliens. The paranormal aspects of the novel all have their own unique feels and unique twists; there’s nothing here, really, that has been seen before. Even the ghosts have a unique back story, rather than your run of the mill dead people come to life.

London Falling is a brilliantly unique novel, that drags you right in with the characters and doesn’t let go, even at the end of the novel. And, best part, there’s a sequel (The Severed Streets – brilliant title) coming out in the UK in December. Which makes yet another series I’m going to have to wait for.

{May 16, 2013}   Once Upon A Time

41Ts5b90YyL__SX500_It’s that time of the year again.

The time of year when all my favourite shows just stop. Of course, Game of Thrones is still on, True Blood is coming (soon, I hope) but there’s no more Glee, Supernatural, Doctor Who or Once Upon A Time. Which makes me sad.

But at least it means I get a couple of blog posts out of the ends of my favourite series, so today – because I watched the last episode last night – I’m going to talk about Once Upon A Time.

For those that don’t know, Once Upon A Time is set in the town of Storybrooke. The people who live there have been cursed – the first series shows how they got thrown from the Enchanted Forest into the real world, losing their memories and living fake lives. The second series (big spoilers from this point on) shows what happens when that curse is broken.

The second series introduced a lot of new characters outside of the main core. There’s Sleeping Beauty, Mulan and Hook, for starters. We see giants and wraiths and more of the worlds outside of the Enchanted Forest, including the world where Dr Frankenstein (very cleverly Dr Whale, in the ‘real’ world) is from, and glimpsing Neverland. The first half of the series sees Emma and Snow White trapped in the Enchanted Forest, trying to stop the Evil Queen’s mother from getting into the real world. Of course she follows them through, along with Hook (the sexiest reincarnation of Hook ever. Not that it’s hard. But he’s pretty awesome), bringing Tiny the giant. She seems like the big bad threat of this series, with even ‘The Dark One’ Rumple/Gold scared of her and what she could do.

Until we meet (drum roll please) Tamara and Greg. After big bad threat Cora is taken care of, it emerges that Tamara and Greg are in Storybrooke to destroy magic.

Evil Mother and Considerably Less Evil 'Evil Queen' Daughter

Evil Mother and Considerably Less Evil ‘Evil Queen’ Daughter

Are you following?

See, I love this show. I loved this series. But it felt…I don’t know. Jammed. Like you could barely move for everything being thrown out there. I had to keep reminding myself that this character or that had been introduced this series, not the last one. I had to keep reminding myself that something that felt like it should have been separate, happened only a few episodes before. There was a lot to take in on this one. A lot to keep remembering. But, surprisingly, it all tied together.

It worked. Jumping back and forth between the different characters worked, because they were all linked. Even if it didn’t seem it on the surface, even if it was hard to see why we were seeing Cora’s back story in one episode, or focusing on Tiny in another until the end of said episode, once you step back, you can see the threads and webs that bind these characters together.

Hint; it’s family.

And these people have some of the most complicated family trees in the history of family trees.

The good side of the family tree.

The good side of the family tree.

Each of the main characters seem bound by something more than coming from the same land. They are blood, and loyal, and will go to lengths to protect those they care for. They act for each other. Emma goes from being a woman determined not to have connections, to not love, to doing anything she can to protect her son Henry. Snow/Mary Margaret and Charming/David are determined to look out for daughter Emma, and even Mr Gold shows a softer side when it comes to family.

But it’s not just blood that matters. Instead, Once Upon A Time also shows the bonds that can be forged when two people are not related. Regina has no blood link to her adopted son, but she tries to fight her urge for power to protect him, and she will do anything she can for him (although sometimes she goes about this in the complete wrong way). The end of series two shows how much Hook cares for Baelfire, the son of the woman he loved and the son of his greatest enemy.

More of this guy, please?

More of this guy, please?

I love the way the story brings these characters together and apart, the way it flicks between different lands but remains smooth and coherent. Although to be fair, Emma’s love interests appear and disappear like flies. (Although turning one into a little boy is a…err…unique way of getting rid of one to make room for another…) Still, the cast is tight, and each actor feels like they fit their roles perfectly.

Plus, well, there’s the Disney element to it all.

People moan a lot about Disney, but I watched their films constantly as a kid, cried because I couldn’t dance with the Dwarves in Disneyland, and cheered up immensely when we found Snow White and Dopey nearby. (My favourite dwarf, by the way.) Disney is my childhood, and I turned out okay. The interesting thing about Once Upon A Time is the way it takes these princess characters – passive women who are always being rescued by the prince – and turn them into kick ass women who don’t need the men, but have them anyway. And yes, it is linked to Disney, as ABC is owned by that childhood staple. Which means, brilliantly, they can incorporate Disney references. The dwarves have the familiar names we know and love, and more than one the cast are seen in some of the iconic clothes worn by their cartoon counterparts. It adds a really nice touch to the show, especially when characters start whistling songs from those movies.

If you haven’t so already, I would definitely suggest checking it out. Like, now. You’re really missing out if you don’t.cast-promotional-photo-jennifer-morrison-as-emma-swan-once-upon-a-time-25200053-446-595

et cetera