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Sunday Scribble – “Blight Part Two”

Blight – Part Two
Previous Part

The Blight was not a friendly part of the castle city, not even to someone in a respectable uniform of one of the noble houses. The alleys stank of piss and sex, the natural musk of those who cared only enough to live in order to survive.

Emery did his best to move out of there as quickly as his dignity could manage.

“There you are.” Ridge let Emery back in through the servants’ entrance of the Harding estate. “You’re in one piece, to boot. How did it go?”

Emery shook his head. “Not too well. Thieves apparently are only interested in their own pockets. They want to be certain they get rewarded no matter what they do.”

“Well, it was a long-shot,” Ridge said, helping Emery shuck off the soldier’s uniform and change into his fitted tunic and breeches. “After all, what could a common foot soldier offer to the scourges of the Blight? They have no idea who you are, right?”

“I used the name Dax Cabot whenever I had been asked,” Emery said. Ridge gave him a quick glance over to ensure Emery hadn’t been looking as if he crawled through the dirtiest part of the city, then led him out of the servants’ area.

“Wasn’t that the name of your old tutor?” Ridge asked.

Emery shushed him, but nodded. Talk of Emery’s trip to the Blight ceased between the two friends as they made their way through the manor. Gods knew Emery didn’t want any gossipy maids overhearing that their prince had tried to make deals with thieves.

Ridge changed the topic to a teasing, “My parents are seating you next to Leandra again at dinner tonight.”

Emery gave Ridge a sidelong glance. “You know nothing is going to come of this.”

“Of course,” Ridge said. “You would never be able to handle my sister. It’s why it’s such fun to tease you about my parents trying to set you up. You can’t blame them for wanting the match, though. I heard they had to petition hard to have the crown prince himself go through his squire years at their estate.”

Emery gave his head a soft shake, finding no words. He had no doubt that once he did return to court there would be women lined up as potential brides, both from his parents and from the other noble houses alike.

“There are times when I wish Leandra and I cared enough about each other to go through that,” Emery admitted quietly. “She would never want to be queen, though, and I wouldn’t want to force her to play the part.”

“As her brother, I suppose I’m thankful you care enough about her to think of her feelings like that,” Ridge said. “That and, let’s be real, she’s not delicate enough to be a queen.”

“I’ve no idea where you’ve come up with that thought,” Emery said. “Queens are anything but delicate.”

“Well, yes, I’m sure,” Ridge said, waving off Emery’s words, “but they need to play that part, don’t they? Your mother is the gentle hand compared to your father’s iron fist. Leandra would end up insulting most of the court. Under her, a rebellion would have happened long ago—”

Emery gave Ridge a hard jab in the ribs with an elbow. Ridge glared at Emery but said nothing, grudgingly accepting the admonishment.

“Come on,” Emery said, quickening their pace through the estate’s hallways. “We’ll be late for sparring practice.”

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Posted by on August 13, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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“The Thief” Review

“A little danger adds spice to life.” — Megan Whalen Turner, The Thief

“The Thief” Review

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This post may contain spoilers.

I picked up this book during one of my “Let’s buy everything!” moods at Barnes and Noble with Rachel. The title and cover intrigued me. Fantasies with thieves and journeys are one of my book weaknesses.

The story itself stars Gen, a thief that has found himself in the king’s prison for boasting about stealing the king’s seal from the king’s magus. While his boasts may have landed him into trouble, the magus decides that Gen — who claims he can steal anything — will be the perfect thief to bring on a quest to find an object straight out of a legend. The object in question is a stone that indicates who is the rightful ruler of one of the land’s kingdoms.

Told in first-person, we follow Gen along on the quest. Being a thief, he’s not held in high regard among the party of travelers and is constantly monitored by the magus, the group’s soldier Pol, and the magus’s two apprentices, Ambiades and Sophos. For the most part, Gen seems fairly laid-back, figuring that attempting to steal a legendary object is better than being in jail. His narration voice does have a few quips and sarcastic remarks, but for the most part, he seems to be an observer and was easy enough to keep up with as one reads the story.

With that said, none of the characters really stood out in this story. The magus didn’t even have a name other than “the magus,” even if he was the one who orchestrated the entire quest and was, arguably, the second most important character after Gen. Pol was the competent soldier, there at Sophos’s father’s request to keep an eye on his son, and played the strong and silent type a little too well to really keep me invested in his well-being.

Sophos, on his part, was curious and easy-going, eager to learn and seemed to be a better apprentice to the magus than Ambiades. Ambiades resembled a spoiled child more often than not, despite being the elder of the two, but he seemed to get a little more development near the middle of the book… until he stayed behind from the rest of the party at one point, nearly erasing him from the rest of the story. While I had it in my head the apprentices were young — perhaps older teens, getting close to their twenties if not just reaching them — there was a comment regarding a certain someone who Sophos may marry, completely throwing off my mental picture of the character and making me question whether or not their actions throughout the story was justified for their ages or not.

The entire first half of the novel was the journey to the temple that supposedly held the legendary object. History lessons about the lands and the legend itself — with scenes of the group eating, washing, or camping peppered in — was all I read for that first half, feeling as if I were a student along with Ambiades and Sophos. Instead of being interested like Sophos, I was bored along with Ambiades.

The book’s mythology and history is actually interesting, and definite kudos to the author for creating this beautiful world for her characters to live in. However, the first half of the book read more like info-dumping than an actual story. The history was necessary for the legendary object, yes, but I feel as if the author could have done a much better job passing along the needed information. Stories around the campfire are fine, but give me more of a journey rather than a textbook while they head toward the temple.

Once the story hit the midway point, I became much more invested in it. We had reached the temple, Gen had ventured through it, the object was found, then lost. Danger found the party and motives were revealed, as well as Gen’s true plan regarding the quest. He was a bit of an unreliable narrator throughout the story, and reading how everything fell into place almost made up for the textbook half of the story.

To me, The Thief was okay. While the myths and history of the lands were interesting, I didn’t like the way it was all presented, and the characters weren’t as intriguing as I had hoped they would be. Still, I will not rule out the rest of the series. Perhaps I’ll find them in the library when I’m ready to try again to dive into the author’s world.

“The Thief” gets a 3 out of 5 stars.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Break the Tropes: Fantasy Edition

Back in April, I did a more general Break the Tropes post. This time around, I wanted to focus more on tropes that are found more in fantasy novels. Feel free to comment what you’d add to the list!

  • Instead of the Legendary Artifact being found safe and sound, have it be a dud.
  • You know that magical sword that will cleave through the darkness? Have it break on the first swing.
  • Have the wise old wizard be a laid-back young necromancer.
  • Heck, instead of having the necromancer be an intimidating character shrouded in darkness and death, have them use their powers to bring back to life their old pets.
  • Seriously, have the “Cat Lady” of the story be the “Cat Necromancer.”
  • Mistake who is actually the Long Lost Heir to the Throne.
  • Make the Chosen One actually be the antagonist of the story.
  • Make the elves buff instead of lean and limber. If they’re still in their natural forest habitat wielding bows, they should be some of the most muscular characters in the book. Climbing trees and using bows takes much more strength than swinging around a sword!
  • Imagine underground elves.
  • Imagine forest-dwelling or even seafaring dwarves. Get the bearded guys out of their caves and mines to see how they react.
  • Have the kingdom of the Dark Lord or Bad Guy be the place with the happiest citizens or the area of the land that gets the most sunlight.
  • Instead of having mages use elemental magic compatible with their personalities, give them magic that goes against their nature. Have the calmest mage use Fire abilities, making it difficult to stir up enough passion to start a flame, or the energetic Earth mage having a hard time settling down enough to persuade a plant to grow.
  • Those stories about characters being the Descendant One of a powerful, magical being that lived eons ago? Yeah, genetically speaking, there’s probably a good couple of dozen Descendant Ones now.
  • Let a princess rescue the prince.
  • Let a princess rescue the princess.
  • Or a prince rescue a prince.
  • Have the dragon rescue whoever is trapped in the tower.
  • Have the dragon be whoever was supposedly trapped in the tower after learning magic from the witch that had trapped them in the first place.
 
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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Home

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Blight”

Blight

While he had no doubt been raised prim and proper, the foot soldier before her looked ready to wet himself. Clad in the scarlet and goldenrod livery of the Harding family, the young man was shaking so much the helmet he held rattled. He was either extremely desperate or extremely stupid to seek her out and leave his skull unprotected.

“Did you say your name?” Kora asked, her sudden question making him jump.

“Dax Cabot,” he answered immediately.

A common enough name.

“How long have you been with them?” She gestured vaguely to the uniform.

“Since I was about seven,” he said. After a beat, he added, “Ma’am.”

“Not what I asked.”

“About ten years.”

“Now why,” she leaned closer to him, speaking slowly, “would you toss all those years of loyalty to one of the houses closest to the king to come to the Blight?”

Dax straightened his spine, but his Adam’s apple bobbed with a hard swallow. “I heard the rumors of a rebellion against the crown—”

“Yes. So?”

He faltered, but pressed on. “It’s not the usual rabble of talk from those here in the Blight. The rumors are coursing from the noble houses, Harding included.”

Kora raised a thin eyebrow. “Again, so?” I have no interest in noble arguments. Why not tell the king’s advisors of this?”

Dax paled even more, had it been possible. “I don’t know how deep the rebellion has gotten,” he said. “And I… I thought you’d stop it. You’ve the royal family in your pockets, don’t you?”

“Curious.” Kora tilted her head to the side, her gaze narrowing. “Why would a little foot soldier like yourself figure that?”

“Rumors,” was the weak reply.

Silence stretched between the two, Kora staring at Dax and Dax looking anywhere but at her.

Eventually Kora said, “If I was to get involved in this squabble, what would be my reward?”

“The royal family stays neatly in your pocket?” Dax winced at his own answer and looked more frightened than relieved when Kora laughed.

“Keep honing your wit,” Kora said. “Your tongue may be able to save you just as much as your sword. Brogan.” One of her guards – a squinty-eyed man with arm muscles as thick as his neck – stepped forward. In one movement, Brogan put a sack over Dax’s head and pinned the soldier’s arms to his side. “Mr. Cabot, should you wish to really pursue our help in this matter, you’d do well to bring leverage to persuade me to the cause. The Blight works with tangible rewards and goods, not pretty words and promises. Brogan will kindly escort you back to the streets.”

Dax began to stutter a protest, but he fell silent when Brogan nearly lifted him off his feet and out of the office. Graham came in almost immediately after, his gaze lingering on the retreating pair.

“His ass doesn’t look broken,” Graham commented lightly. “Did you go straight for the face? That what the sack was for?”

Kora shook her head, her fingers steepled in front of her face as she wondered how the supposed foot soldier found his way around the Blight enough to reach an audience with her. “He’s still in one piece.”

“Feeling generous today, are we?”

“I would hardly think it appropriate,” Kora drawled, “to maim the kingdom’s prince.”

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Favorite Author Quotes – J. R. R. Tolkien

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“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”

“Courage is found in unlikely places.”

“A pen is to me as a beak is to a hen.”

“If you really want to know what Middle-earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as it is, particularly the natural earth.”

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.”

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2017 in Home

 

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“The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” Review

“We are not broken things, neither of us. We are cracked pottery mended with laquer and flakes of gold, whole as we are, complete unto each other. Complete and worthy and so very loved.” — Mackenzi Lee, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

“The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” Review

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This post may contain spoilers.

 

This book was one of my favorite spur-of-the-moment-buys-due-to-a-Tumblr-post that I’ve had in a while. The Tumblr post in question listed various reasons as to why one should buy this book, including race diversity, sexual diversity, pirates, and a journey around Europe for precious treasure. Mackenzi Lee certainly delivered with this fresh and lively story.

The story stars a young lord by the name of Henry Montague, who prefers to be called Monty because Henry reminds him too much of his father. Monty is a bit of a rascal, falling into beds of men and women alike while squandering away his inheritance as his way of rebelling against his parents. While he’s not anxious to become the next lord of the estate and learn under his father, Monty believes that it’s the only course for his future.

His solution is to gallivant on one last Tour of Europe with his best friend Percy, whom he is utterly in love with. It is Monty’s wish to have one last year having as much fun as possible flirting with Percy, gambling, drinking, and trouble alike. Yet, when Monty’s penchant for mischief causes more trouble than he would like, the Tour turns into a manhunt across Europe with Monty, Percy, and Monty’s sister Felicity as the targets.

This book was a brilliant page-turner. The action of the adventure that Lee conjures for the reader never stop — even if the starring trio seem to get a chance to catch their breath while on the run, something troublesome is always lurking around the corner. The dynamic between the three main characters is absolutely wonderful, with them representing strong ties in platonic, romantic, and sibling relationships, and each of them are strong enough to develop and grow amidst exterior and interior troubles. Side and minor characters are even fully developed, each getting his or her own voice that are easily recognizable.

As if the characters and the adventure aren’t enough to keep you reading, the sheer wit and, at times, delicious sarcasm of Monty as the narrator will keep you invested. Monty has no filter, not as a narrator nor as part of conversations with the other characters, and it is wonderfully refreshing with plenty of comedic quips. Aside from adoring Monty and Percy together (even if there were times when I wanted to shake the two by the shoulders as I want to do with most pining teenage and young adult characters), the sibling relationship between Monty and Felicity was a delight. Reading their interactions and how they grow together in the story was amazing.

If you’re interested in a period story about high-stakes adventure, witty description and dialogue, sibling banter, pining love, diversity in race and sexuality, and pirates that haven’t quite figured out how to be good pirates yet, then I highly recommend Lee’s “A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.”

“The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” gets a 5 out of 5 stars.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Scribble Sunday – “Static”

Continuation of last week.

Static

The machines were talking to me again. Hooked up to them, I couldn’t get away. Instead, I curled into a ball on the hospital table and closed my eyes tightly, imagining my normal life from before the fire. I was alone in the room, but the doors were not as thick as the staff thought.

“…the trauma awakened some mutation in her genome,” some doctor was telling the Fosters outside of the exam room. “I have a theory that many genomes have the ability to be mutated, granting people with extraordinary talents, such as Ms. Parker’s ability to hear electronics.”

“How did the trauma of a fire mutate her?” Mr. Foster asked.

“The fire was started from the lightning storm that night,” the doctor said. “Perhaps the electricity is what links Ms. Parker to the electronics, not the fire.”

“How can we help her?” Mrs. Foster asked.

“I don’t believe there is a cure,” the doctor said. “It’s quite a scientific breakthrough, actually. Imagine others with the ability to communicate with electronics. We could send robots to join the army with soldiers controlling them from a safe point–”

“We’re talking about a young girl, not a robot,” Mrs. Foster interrupted. “She just lost her parents–”

“Yes, yes, I apologize.” The doctor’s tone didn’t sound that sorry. “You may be doing all you can to help her now. Giving her a roof over her head, people she can rely on…”

But they’re not my family.

“…However, we would like you to continue bringing her here for testing,” the doctor continued. “We’ll do our best to find a way to alleviate these… uncomfortable sensations that she’s going through, perhaps learn more about it.”

“What about school?” Mr. Foster asked. “We’re still giving her some time off, but eventually she will have to go back. Will she be safe enough to continue at the high school?”

“That is to be determined, unfortunately,” the doctor said. “She’ll have to practice shutting out the electronics in order to function properly.”

Never thought I would want to go back to school, but if it meant getting rid of this damned mutation, then I’d do anything.

“Any suggestions on how she should practice?” Mrs. Foster asked.

The doctor paused before saying, “Just try to ignore them? Meditate? I’m sorry, but this is new to us as well.”

Thanks for nothing, Doc.

The door swung open again and I looked up at Mrs. Foster’s smiling face. I sat up without a word and let her pat my shoulder, resting her hand there while guiding me out of the hospital. My head was low, avoiding the other patrons of the place as we left.

Willow greeted me with homework once we returned to their house.

“I told the teachers you really weren’t up for it,” she said, “but they insisted that I bring this to you so you won’t fall too far behind. Mrs. Davis was pretty nice about it, actually, she said if you could just skim over this stuff, maybe read a bit of A Tale of Two Cities if you’re bored, then that’d be great. If not, don’t worry about it, she’ll get you caught up whenever you get back to school.”

“Thanks,” I said, and abandoned the pile of homework beside my desk and flopped onto my bed.

The mattress dipped down as Willow took a seat. “How are you feeling?”

“Like shit,” I said. I rolled over to look at her. “It’s just… It’s all so weird. At first, being back here, it was like the sleepovers we used to have during middle school. Now, though…” Hot tears prickled at the corner of my eyes. “I’ll never see them again… God, Will, my parents are–!”

My words crumbled with the hiccups and ragged breaths I took while trying to control my crying. Willow moved around the bed, coming closer.

“I’m sorry, Si,” she murmured. “I know that we can’t replace your family… but we’re here for you. You are one of us, okay? We won’t let you go–”

Willow’s hands touched my shoulders and she screamed. I shrieked as static sizzled between my friend and I, and she collapsed off of the bed, electricity dancing in her thick hair.

“What happened—Willow?” Basil was suddenly there, kneeling down by his baby sister. He looked up at me.

“I don’t know!” I had retreated to the very corner of my room, my face soaked with tears. “I don’t know, she tried to put her arm around me, and there was lightning, and I didn’t mean to…!”

My babbling became incoherent as their parents came into the room, and we rushed to the hospital for the second time that day.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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