“It’s not that easy being a werewolf in London.”

2014-01-21 17.04.29If you’ll cast your memories back to last Spring (I know, it seems like forever ago to me, too), you might remember when I fell head over heels for the work of Martin Millar.  I started with The Good Fairies of New York and moved on to Lonely Werewolf Girl.  Both were FABULOUS.  I then read Curse of the Wolf Girl and loved the shit out of that one, too – even if I didn’t review it here.  I did however recommend both over at Insatiable Booksluts for the January Booksluts Recommend feature.

That whole first paragraph is my rambly way of saying that when I got in contact with Soft Skull Press to see about getting an early review copy of The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf (Piatkus released the book in the UK last fall, but it’ll be out in the US on the 11th), there was a very audible SQUEE when it arrived in my mailbox.

I didn’t even wait to finish what I was already reading, I dove straight in, eager to be back in Millar’s London with berserker Kalix, her sorceress sister fashion designer Thrix, Fire Elemental fashion obsessed Queen Malveria, HER dismal niece Agrivex and lowly human roommates Daniel and Moonglow.

It’s difficult to explain Millar’s style if you haven’t read him.  I guess the best way to describe it would be that the whole tone of these books is conversational.  That friend you have that regales you with wild stories that seem to go on and on, that should be annoying but are somehow still highly entertaining?  That friend that talks just a TEENY BIT too fast, so that you end a conversation feeling as if you’ve got a bit of mental whiplash?  Like that.

So.  Now comes the difficult part.  What did I think of the new Kalix MacRinnalch book?

I loved…parts of it?  I read another review that said it felt like Millar was writing fanfic of his own work, and that’s actually pretty accurate.  That’s not entirely a bad thing (I love me some fanfic), but it reads like that fanfic that’s been being updated monthly since 2002, where the author no longer bothers to read what they’ve already written so when you come into it late in the game it feels really obvious it was written serially.

I honestly don’t even know where to go from here.  I enjoyed being back in this world (I love the characters and the tone), but after more than 600 pages, not a whole lot happened.  It’s decent, but not the best.  It’s fun, but ultimately unsatisfying.  I’ll still tell people I think will appreciate them to read the first two books, but hesitate to recommend this one.  The door is left open for book 4, but…

Have any of you read recent series continuations that left you feeling meh?  What were they?  Will you continue reading?

Yum Yum Sugary Snacks

Lonely Werewolf GirlKalix MacRinnalch is a 17 year old runaway (who happens to LOVE the Runaways and wishes Joan Jett were her mom).  She’s clinically depressed, she’s addicted to opiates (laudanum, really), she cuts herself…and she’s a werewolf princess.

Really, Martin Millar’s Lonely Werewolf Girl shouldn’t work.  It has an unwieldy cast numbering in the dozens (with almost as many PoVs), the main character is sort of an emo-Mary Sue – she’s got this long gorgeous hair, when she’s not starving herself everyone notices how beautiful she is, she’s the daughter of the Thane [think werewolf king], she was born in wolf form on the night of the full moon while her mother was in wolf form which has given her more-than-average-wolf-strength…you kind of hate her, but can’t help loving her at the same time.

Millar pulled off the cast of eleventy billion quite well in Good Fairies of New York, but I think it’s done even better here.  You don’t get a chance to miss anyone because as soon as you think of them, it’s time for them to have another turn.  The chapters are short.  Ridiculously short (this book is ~500 pages and has over 200 chapters), but having such short chapters causes the book to move incredibly quickly.  Think of it as a Guy Ritchie film with werewolves, and you’ll understand what I mean.

[Reading that last sentence, I realize that maybe it won't make sense to some of you.  A typical feature of Guy Ritchie films would be several points of view, all of which move at a very fast pace but  leave you scratching your head as to how they're all connected until the very end.]

Lonely Werewolf Girl is one of those books that I fall into and end up reading slowly because I just don’t want it to be over.  I spent almost a week with this one (which is really slow for me, okay?), and I turned the last page sad that it was over, but happy knowing there was another book waiting for me.  I’m reading that one slowly as well, because…

Well, because Millar’s world of Scottish werewolves, fashion espionage, political treason and college relationship drama – all of which are subjects I’d normally avoid like the plague – is so well drawn that it just feels real.

I shouldn’t care about wannabe goth Moonglow and her romantic entanglements.

I shouldn’t care about whether Malveria, Queen of the Hiyasta, will succeed in her quest of being the most fashionable woman in the entire Fire Elemental realm, or if her nemesis Princess Kabachetka will prove successful at stealing Thrix’s (Kalix’s sister – a sorceress and up and coming fashion designer) designs.

I shouldn’t care what will happen between Sarapen (Kalix’s oldest brother, first in line for Thaneship) and Markus (the younger of the elder MacRinnalch brothers, incredibly handsome werewolf crossdresser).

I shouldn’t care whether Dominil will manage to get Butix and Delix (aka Beauty and Delicious) and their band on stage.

But I do.

I can see myself coming back to Lonely Werewolf Girl again and again.  Dipping in and taking small sips when I need to laugh or to cry.  I can read a few pages and come away with my thirst quenched.  A book like this is rare.

For me, anyway.

I hope it’ll be the same for you.

Mythical Creatures We’re Happy Aren’t Real

So, the last few days we’ve been pretty nice and talking about things we like/love, which I know none of you are used to seeing from us.  Today we’re going to fill you all in on some things from fiction that we are decidedly against, and quite thrilled that they don’t actually exist.

  • Nazgûl – Dude.  Seriously.  In case you’re the only other person in the world besides Amy that hasn’t read The Lord of the Rings (or at least seen the movies), these guys are bad.  They’re totally invisible to our poor mortal eyes, unless they’re wearing their special cloaks given to them by their master, Sauron.  They inspire fear just by being, and their Black Breath is poisonous.  Scary, scary stuff.

The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy’s most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.

  • Werewolves – Sorry, Remus!

  • Hydra - I’m not Heracles, so I’m pretty sure I’d have ZERO chance against one of these.

  • Minotaur – Look.  I’m pretty rubbish at mazes, unless I can start at the finish (with my pink crayon, of course).  Plus, not a fan of bulls…or septum piercings.

  • Rush Limbaugh – Oh.  Wait.  Well, maybe we just wish he weren’t real.

Trashy Tuesday – City of Fallen Angels

I’m seriously super glad this is the last one in this series for now.  I know most of you have enjoyed reading why I hated these books so much, but I’m really glad to be able to stop talking about them.  While this one wasn’t as obviously derivative as the rest, it was still very bad.  I get frustrated and depressed while reading because I can’t believe this crap is popular when I know so many authors that deserve the recognition much more, for writing actual characters with depth and original voices.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, it’s a good thing we’re constantly told who’s speaking in these books because every character has the same voice.  EVERY.  CHARACTER.  God, if you’re going to rip off every popular thing in the history of pop culture, at least please work on your dialogue.  Anyway, this one was the worst.  The majority of the book was stuff like “oh, you have two girlfriends, you should stop doing that.”  “I know I should stop doing that, but how do I pick one?” and “I really really love you, are we going to do it?”  “I don’t know, do you think we should do it?  Maybe we should, I’m just going to stab you first, ‘kay?”  It was beyond tiring, but I guess you’ll see that now, won’t you?

So we left off with Valentine killed by an angel, Jace killed by Valentine, but resurrected by the aforementioned angel and Jace and Clary making out because they weren’t brother and sister.  Blech.  Simon has the Mark of Cain on his forehead and hasn’t been killed by the Vamp Coven of NYC yet because of it.

Image courtesy of goodreads.

Jace is having disturbing dreams about Clary.  Like, start out sexy dreams, but turn into him stabbing her repeatedly and ish.  Clary’s trying to snuggle up now that they’re no longer related, but he keeps pushing her away.  He’s afraid something is wrong with him, and doesn’t want to hurt her.

Oh, and Sebastian?  The one that is actually Clary’s older brother that Jace left for dead in Idris?  Yeah, someone is trying to make other babies like him by feeding the mothers demon blood, but the experiment is failing and only these deformed, clawed babies are being born.  Yuck.

Simon is still living at home, trying to convince his mom he’s just a normal boy.  This becomes difficult as she wonders why he’s not eating and is acting even angstier than most 16 year old boys.  She finds his refrigerator full of blood and freaks out so he puts her under a glamour and runs away.  While on the street (hiding his forehead with his emo bangs and being a babealicious vampire stud), he’s attacked by some thugs in grey tracksuits that try to force him into a van, but before he can even properly defend himself, they turn into pillars of salt.  Mark of Cain in action, baby.

He’s forced into some meeting with the ACTUAL head of the vampires in the area and she asks for his help taking down Raphael, because he’s just a little upstart usurper.  Since he’s got the Mark, the two of them together would be virtually unstoppable.  Simon says he needs some time to think about it.

I know we haven’t mentioned it in a while, but Simon’s got this band.  They’re a typical band of teenage boys that can’t make up their minds what they want to be called, but they somehow manage to get a few gigs now and then.  He’s been kinda sorta dating both Maia (werewolf) and Isabelle (Shadowhunter) for the last few weeks and has to stagger which performances they can come to so that they don’t run into each other.  Not only that, but there’s this little girl Maureen.  She’s, like, 14 and his BIGGEST FAN.  Not in an Annie Wilkes kind of way, but in a “ZOMG, SIMON I LOVE YOU, YOUR BAND RULES!” way.

So, Simon’s band is playing and he hasn’t been feeling too well since his mother destroyed his blood stash.  He starts to get sick on stage and rushes outside.  Maureen follows him out and he bites her and drinks her blood.  He’s interrupted by his newest bandmate, Jordan.  (Jordan turns out to be Maia’s ex-boyfriend, the one that turned her into a werewolf in the first place.  He claims that he didn’t mean to attack her, and that he wanted to apologize, but that after, he was taken in by this Werewolf Secret Service type group that goes around teaching new wolves to control themselves.  Um…okay.)  They decide that Maureen will be okay if they just leave her there in the alley and let her forget about what happened.

The next day, Simon gets a note telling him that his girlfriend has been kidnapped and that if he hopes to rescue her, he needs to show up at XXXX Address by –:– o’clock.  He is calling around to the three girls he thinks it could be…Maia, Isabelle and Clary – but they’re all safe and decidedly not kidnapped, so he thinks maybe it was just a joke.

Meanwhile, Jace and Clary are this close to their FIRST TIME.  They’re hanging out in Jace’s room and down to their undies kissing and junk when Jace pulls a knife out and cuts her.  Say what?  Wow, dude.  Way to ruin sex for her for life.  Good job!  She doesn’t run away screaming, though, she sits and makes him talk to her.  Seriously, I think the hardest part of this book to get through were the endless conversations.  The first 80% of the book was talk about feelings, and Simon’s two girlfriends, and then more feelings.  Blah.  Anyway, so Clary convinces Jace that he needs to talk to one of the Silent Brothers.

I know, right?  They were all killed in the second book?  That’s totally what I thought.  I guess there were a few (like Yoda and Obi Wan) that escaped the massacre, and they’re back in business at the City of Bones.  There, we learn that Jace is – I’m trying to remember how it was put and I’m failing.  When he was killed by Valentine on the shores of Lake Lyn, then brought back by the angel Raziel, his soul was gone from his body for a few minutes.  When it came back, they never told anyone what had happened (I think it’s because Clary didn’t want anyone to know that she’d wasted her one wish on a selfish jerk, but whatever).  All Shadowhunter babies have this ceremony performed when they’re young because for some reason they’re especially susceptible to demonic influence.  Since Jace didn’t have this ceremony performed when he was reborn, he’s being controlled by a greater demon in his dreams.  GET THIS BOY BAPTIZED, PRONTO!

Jocelyn and Luke are having an engagement party thrown by Luke’s pack.  Jace shows up and somehow convinces Clary that the Silent Brothers cured him already and starts talking about how he wants to be bound to her.  The Shadowhunters don’t have weddings, they draw runes of commitment and binding on each other to signify that they’re all soul-matey and stuff.  Stupid Clary for some reason agrees EVEN THOUGH SHE’S ONLY SIXTEEN, but then starts freaking out when she realizes that the rune Jace is drawing on her isn’t the one for marriage.  She gets knocked out and he kidnaps her.

Maureen shows up to taunt Simon about killing her.  After he drank most of her blood, she was picked up and turned into a vampire.  He follows her, realizing that she was the girlfriend the note was referring to.  Isabelle, Alec, Jordan and Maia follow because of this business card that Simon left behind conveniently, that has the address of the building where everything’s about to hit the fan.  They get to the building and start checking out each floor, looking for their friends.  On one floor, they find a room full of cribs, each with its own dead, deformed baby.  The person trying to create more Li’l Sebastians can’t seem to get it right, and this room is evidence of that failure.

Jace is up on the roof with Clary, along with a strange glass coffin-like object filled with some type of suspension fluid…and Sebastian’s body.  Maureen brings Simon up there, and we finally learn the identity of our big-baddie.  It’s Lilith, the first wife of Adam, who was mother to all demons and the biggest, most powerful demon of them all.  She’s the one that’s been possessing Jace in his sleep, and forced him to draw another commitment rune on his chest that allows her to control his actions when he’s awake.

She reveals her terrible plan, which is that since Simon is a daywalker, his powerful blood (which contains Jace’s powerful blood) will be able to revive the demon-blooded Sebastian and help her create a new Master Race.  It sounded kind of stupid when she was telling it, but that could just be my prejudice against this series speaking.  Simon is forced to drain Sebastian (because Jace is under orders to kill Clary if he doesn’t), but since Sebastian is all demon-y, his blood is like poison to Simon.  Clary does something smart for once, by turning to Jace and saying something stupid and girly like “ew, gross, I can’t bear to watch!” but when he puts his arm around her, she steals his knife and slashes at the rune on his chest.  The power of the rune is broken and Jace comes back to himself, horrified at what he’s done to his supposed One True Love.  He yells at Clary to run away, and she does, but she hides behind some plants or something because she’s a stupid gawker that has to see how everything turns out.  She’s back to being an idiot again.

Since Jace and Simon think Clary’s gone, Simon stops drinking and Jace decides to stand up to Lilith.  She reveals that she knows where Clary is hiding and goes all Evil Indiana Jones on her, repeatedly whipping her out of her hiding place.  Simon throws himself in front of the whip, and the Mark of Cain acts once again.  Now it’s Lilith that’s turned into a pillar of salt.

The Shadowhunters all arrive at the scene and Simon heads down to fill them in on what happened on the roof while the rest of the kids were battling the mothers of the demon babies downstairs.  Jace and Clary have a tender moment, once again professing undying love for one another, then Clary goes down to assure her mother that she’s okay.

Once he’s alone, the cut rune on Jace’s chest begins to heal, and even though Lilith is dead…Sebastian isn’t.  Jace starts hearing Sebastian’s voice in his head, and is compelled to finish the resurrection ritual.  CLIFFHANGER ENDING!

I know, right?  So, I guess the next one is coming out in May.  You’ll be hearing about it then, for suresies.  I have yet to decide what to read/write about for next Tuesday.  If you have any ideas/suggestions, leave them on the What is Trashy Tuesday page.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the song I had running through my head while I was reading this, it’s better than anything that happened in the book:

Trashy Tuesday – City of Glass

Oy.  Book Three of the Mortal Instruments series.  Only one more after this (but I suppose I’ll have to read the others when they come out, if only so I can continue to bag on them) but this one is a doozy, guys.  We have fighting and torture and murder and PLOT TWISTS!  But, you’ll probably see most of them coming from eleventy billion miles away.  Since I’ve already wasted a bunch of words bitching, I should get started, yeah?

Okay, Clary is supposed to be heading to Idris with the Lightwoods (Alec, Isabelle, their parents and their little brother Max) and Jace.  Jace tells Clary they’re not leaving until later because he thinks she needs to stay put, and asks Simon (the daywalking sparkly vampire) over to back up the lie he tells his foster family about Clary changing her mind about going.  Simon arrives at the Institute just as they’re attacked by Valentine’s minions.  Magnus Bane holds the portal open for them, and Jace has no choice but to pull Simon through with him.  Clary (of course) is furious and acts a twit, deciding to just open her own damn portal.  Luke knows she’ll manage to mess it up somehow, so tags along with her.  Werewolves aren’t exactly welcome in Alicante (the capitol city of Idris), so he realizes that going is a bad idea.  He knows she’ll end up getting herself killed if she doesn’t have someone with her that knows the ropes, though.

This proves correct immediately, as Clary’s portal doesn’t open in Alicante.  Rather, it opens over Lake Lyn, this cursed lake that the angel Raziel supposedly rose from to create the Shadowhunter race.  Clary swallows the water and starts hallucinating.  Luke drags her over hill and dale to his sister’s home in the city.  His sister was once married to the son of Umbridge the Inquisitor (his name was Stephen Herondale), but when Luke was attacked by a werewolf, Valentine demanded that Stephen divorce Amatis, as her family line was no longer pure.  I know.  It’s not like Luke and Stephen were going to be having babies together so the logic is specious at best, but…whatever.  Anyway, Luke has pack business to take care of, so he leaves Clary with his sister.

The Lightwoods are staying with some friends in the city.  We’re introduced to Aline and her cousin Sebastian.  Jace gets all flirty with Aline (which pisses Simon off for some reason) and everyone thinks Sebastian is kind of a creep, even if he is super handsome.  The new Inquisitor demands that Alec bring Simon to HQ, and Alec assures him that they’re just going to use the main portal to send Simon back to New York, since his kind aren’t really welcome there.

WRONG!  The Inquisitor locks Simon up after he refuses to implicate the Lightwoods as current Deatheaters members of the Circle.  It’s not just any cell, no!  (Actually, I’m going to go on a bit of a language rant here.  The guy in the cell next to Simon tells him that they’re being held in an oubliette.  Now, [and I just looked it up to make sure] an oubliette is usually a dungeon in a castle [which is kind of appropriate here] BUT it is accessible ONLY from a hatch in the ceiling.  This cell that they’re being held in has barred windows AND a door.  I’m sorry Ms Clare, but what you’ve described is most certainly NOT an oubliette.  Moving on.)

Back with Clary, she sneaks out of Amatis’ house to go find her friends.  She gets directions to where they’re staying and walks in on Jace making out with Aline.  Clary gets all pissy and they have this huge fight that leads to her storming off.  Sebastian follows her, and Clary tells him all about her mother in the coma and how she has to find this one warlock (Ragnor Fell, jeez warlock names are stupid) because he might know how to wake her.  Alec and Jace fight about something stupid, and Jace yells at him, telling Alec that he knows Alec thinks he loves him, but it’s just because Jace is the safe choice.

Sebastian shows up to take Clary out to see Ragnor Fell the next day.  Somehow, this kid that just showed up knows all the happening places, I guess.  They get there, and Magnus walks out of the house.  Sebastian is frozen in place (because Magnus thinks he’s skeezy) and he tells Clary about how Ragnor was dead when he got there, but the information he has for her indicates that she needs to head to Wayland Manor and look for a cookbook.  The cookbook is a lie, it’s really a soopersekrit spell book that Magnus wants, and it will also help him wake her mother up.  Sebastian kisses Clary, but she pushes him away (because he’s a creep).

Simon is visited by Raphael’s projected self.  He’s told that he needs to run far far away, because as a sparkly vamp, he’s too dangerous to let live.  He tries to escape from his cell, but  since Simon’s got all this daywalker strength, they’ve taken the added precaution of inscribing the bars and and the door knob with Stars of David.  Cos…you know, Jewish vampire and all.

Jace is at Amatis’ when Clary gets home.  He goes with her to Wayland Manor (since he grew up there and knows where the cookbook is) and while there, they find an honest-to-goodness angel imprisoned in the basement.  The angel shows them its memories, and they learn that Voldemort Valentine was experimenting with Angel and Demon blood, feeding them both to Jocelyn during her pregnancies.  This is apparently why Jace and Clary have super powers.  She was fed dried Demon blood during her first pregnancy (Jace) and dried Angel blood during her second pregnancy (Clary).  The angel uses Jace’s knife to kill himself and the manor implodes, but not before they escape.  As they’re laying in the grass, recovering, there’s another (icky) make out session, but Clary finally stops him to tell him that she won’t allow herself to be used like that.  Yay, she acts like she has a brain!

They get back to Alicante to find the city in flames.  The wards that protect the city are no longer functioning and Max, the youngest Lightwood, is killed by Sebastian.  We didn’t hear much about Max anyway, so there was little emotional impact, but this is where we learn that Sebastian is working with Valentine.  They break Simon out of the prison, and discover that his cell-mate was Hodge.  Hodge tells them that the third Mortal Instrument that Valentine seeks is the Mirror and that the Mirror is actually the cursed lake that Clary took a dunk in a few days ago.  Sebastian kills Hodge, then runs off.

Valentine projects himself into the middle of the survivors and tells them that he will resume the attack on Hogwarts at midnight if they don’t send him Harry Potter.  Wait.  No, he will resume the attack on the CITY at midnight (the following day) if they don’t surrender.  Some of the older members of the Clave are all “hell, yes, we’ll surrender, we don’t want to die!” but others agree to work with the Downworlders (an unprecedented move) in order to save themselves from Valentine and his demon hordes.

Clary and Jace spend the night together (nothing dirty, but they do hold hands all night) and she wakes up to find him gone.  There’s a stupid sappy note left behind.  She goes downstairs, and her mother walks in, because Magnus made good on his word to heal her once he had the book.  We learn that the reason Simon can walk in the daylight is because he drank Jace’s super-enhanced blood, AND that Jace is actually the son of Stephen Herondale (grandson of the previous Inquisitor) and his second wife AND that SEBASTIAN is actually her brother.  YOU STILL KISSED YOUR BROTHER YOU STUPID GIRL!  UGH.  So, to sum up:  Sebastian was the one given demon blood in vitro, Jace got the angel blood.  Clary also got the angel blood, but it was by accident as Valentine wasn’t aware Jocelyn was pregnant a second time.  Clary comes up with a way to bind Shadowhunters and Downworlders together, giving each the fighting prowess of the other.  She also puts the Mark of Cain on Simon’s forehead, so that he can’t be killed by the vampires who despise and envy his abilities.

Jace has run off to kill Sebastian and Valentine.  Valentine leaves his little cave hideout to summon the Angel Raziel.  The one who summons the angel gets one wish.  His wish is to kill all of the Shadowhunters he doesn’t already have on his side, so he can start anew with his little master race.  Sebastian and Jace fight, Jace wins and runs off to stop Valentine.  Clary ‘ports herself to the lake to stop her father, but he binds her with spells to keep her silent and immobile.  Jace shows up and Valentine kills him.  Somehow Clary manages to change the runes on his summoning circle, so when the angel rises from the lake, he ends up getting pissed off at Valentine and kills him.

Clary is given the one wish, since she changed the runes to her name…and she wishes for Jace to be brought back to life.  [sigh]  Really?  You get one wish.  FOR ANYTHING!  Bah.

The book ends at a big party with fireworks and whatnot…and Jace and Clary kissing, only this time we don’t have to be squicked out cos they’re not actually related.