Saturday, March 31, 2012

Read Along of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch Part 4

I saw the details for this Read Along on the Little Red Reviewers blog, here, though I know that several other blogs are involved as well. I thought it looked like fun and signed up to make posts on my blog every week.

You can see Redhead’s Part 4 post here.

If you haven't read the book, or even if you have, why not join in and read along with the rest of us?

This week we have read up to the end of the Interlude: Orchids and Assassins, which ends on p. 402 of my kindle edition.

1. In the chapter “A Curious Tale for Countess Amberglass” we learn of the tradition of the night tea in Camorr. I found that not so much fantastical as realistic – how about you?

We have already spent quite some time reading about the Gentleman Bastards’ eating and drinking habits, showing how food and drink play an important role in Camorr’s life. These aspects of everyday life add to the realism of the world and demonstrate Mr Lynch’s eye for detail. Here, the night tea is part of the Countess’ disguise as a gossipy old lady and it gives people a very good excuse for wanting to call upon her. I am intrigued by the tower shape cake, but I agree with the Countess: I would love to spit the little glow beads down onto the sleeping city! :D

2. When Jean meets with what will become the Wicked Sisters for the first time, the meeting is described very much like how people feel when they find their true work or home. Agree? Disagree? Some of both?

Agree. He seems to have an instinctive connection with them and they fit well with his fighting style. This is not an experience I have had myself, because I’m not a trained fighter, but it makes sense that different people fight in different ways.

3. Salt devils. Bug. Jean. The description is intense. Do you find that description a help in visualizing the scene? Do you find yourself wishing the description was occasionally – well – a little less descriptive?

Yikes: it is a good thing that I am not afraid of spiders! They certainly added to the desperation of the scene, but allowed Jean and Bug to shine in their determination to save Locke. It was good to see them working in an unknown situation, with no planning at all, and still working as a team. It also showed us that they are not just puppets in Locke’s plans: they are dangerous individuals in their own rights. This, and their obvious love of Locke, show how powerful and talented the Bastards are as a unit.

4. This section has so much action in it, it’s hard to find a place to pause. But…but.. oh, Locke. Oh, Jean. On their return to the House of Perelandro, their world is turned upside down. Did you see it coming?

Nope: Mr Lynch is very good at keeping us in the dark. I was so sure that the Bastard’s hideout was hidden, even from the Gray King, that I didn’t expect the carnage that occurred. Trying to kill Locke is one thing, but totally destroying the whole gang is quite another. It suggests that they were all seen as a grave threat to the rule of the new Capa. Of course, we are now left to wonder how their secret was uncovered . . .

5. Tavrin Callas’s service to the House of Aza Guilla is recalled at an opportune moment, and may have something to do with saving a life or three. Do you believe Chains knew what he set in motion? Why or why not?

I think Chains saw the potential for killing in Jean, and knew something of the training of the initiates of Aza Guilla, so it made sense that he should be the one sent to infiltrate the House. We have already seen that Chain was a master of psychology and assessing the characters of his apprentices: his foresight in sending Jean only emphasizes this.

6. As Locke and Jean prepare for Capa Raza, Dona Vorchenza’s remark that the Thorn of Camorr has never been violent – only greedy and resorting to trickery – comes to mind again. Will this pattern continue?

Locke is a master at bloodless thefts, and it is very likely that he will continue to use these skills with most people. However, I think Capa Raza and The Falconer will find that his methods can be altered: he has sworn vengeance and will do anything required to fulfill his oath.

7. Does Locke Lamora or the Thorn of Camorr enter Meraggio’s Countinghouse that day? Is there a difference?

If we assume that the Thorn is the aspect of Locke that avoids violent solutions to his problems, then I would say that the Thorn was in action in Meraggio’s. I think that before the Bastards’ destruction Locke and the Thorn were one and the same, but now Locke is willing to go beyond the Thorne’s bloodless mode of operation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What to write when you REALLY hate a book?

Every now and then we all come across a book that we really, REALLY hate. This is a shame, but not unexpected.

However, it does create a problem for those of us who enjoy reviewing books. To review or not to review: that is the question. There seems to be three possible answers:

  • Ignore the offending title and quietly forget that we ever heard of it. Perhaps give it a one star rating on Goodreads, but move on without wasting any further time on it.
  • Write a review that is brief, and therefore doesn't involve a lot of time or energy, which you don't feel the title deserves, but makes a few points about what you didn't like. This allows you to feel justified about that one star review and that you have warned your friends to avoid a bad read.
  • Spend a great deal of time and energy writing a full-blown diatribe, itemizing in excruciating detail exactly what you hated about the book, giving vent to the overwhelming flood of negative emotion that the author has stirred within you and pouring out all the venom, hurt and rage that you can muster.

I am not sure which of these is the best option to take. However, I do know which one gives the funniest product, and I came across one example this week. 

Enjoy, but please note that this review, the top rated review on Goodreads this week, contains strong language. :D

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Read Along of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: Part 3

I saw the details for this Read Along on the Little Red Reviewers blog, here, though I know that several other blogs are involved as well. I thought it looked like fun and signed up to make posts on my blog every week.

You can see Redhead’s Part 3 post here and My Awful Reviews' here.

If you haven't read the book, or even if you have, why not join in and read along with the rest of us?

This week we have read up to the end of the Interlude: The Half Crown War, which ends on p. 294 of my kindle edition.

1. This section is where we finally get to sneak a peek at the magic in The Gentleman Bastards books. From what we read, what are your initial impressions of the magic Lynch is using? Is there any way that Locke and Company would be able to get around the Bondsmage's powers?

The Bondsmage’s magic seems to be very powerful, though unfortunately specific: though the weakness in Locke’s protection could all be part of a cunning plan, so I am taking nothing for granted at this point. It is interesting that the magic is so difficult to use and I enjoyed Chains’ description of the creation of the Bondsmages “union”. What I don’t understand is why these guys haven’t enslaved the entire world under their “protection” – this leads to believe that there IS some limit to their power or weakness that can be exploited. However, I’m not sure if the Bastards will discover it.

2. Not a question, but an area for rampant speculation: If you want to take a stab at who you think the Grey King might be, feel free to do it here.

These are the hints I picked up: a) Lamora means ‘shadow’; b) Locke thinks he looks familiar; c) Locke’s Daddy had to *ahem* ‘go away on business’.

So, it looks like he is Locke’s Dad. But, of course, that might be what we are supposed to think at this point: I am rapidly coming to distrust Mr Lynch’s hints.

2.5 (since 2 wasn't really a question) Anyone see the Nazca thing coming? Anyone? Do you think there are more crazy turns like this in store for the book? Would you like to speculate about them here? (yes, yes you would)

Not at all: I thought we were going to follow a wicked wheeze to disengage them whilst keeping the Capa happy. Unless Nazca is going to miraculously return from the dead, I can’t imagine what other bizarreness will occur, but here goes: Jean is actually a woman, the Sansas aren’t actually twins, Bug is Sabetha in disguise. Totally absurd? Who knows: anything could happen.

3. When Locke says "Nice bird, arsehole," I lose it. EVERY TIME. And not just because I have the UK version of the book and the word arsehole is funnier than asshole. Have there been any other places in the books so far where you found yourself laughing out loud, or giggling like a crazy person on the subway?

The whole bit with the corpse and the candle maker had me giggling away in delight. Plus, many of the things Chains comes out with: my favorite is still “Bugger me bloody with a boathook!”

4. By the end of this reading section, have your opinions changed about how clever the Bastards are? Do you still feel like they're "cleverer than all the rest?" Or have they been decidedly outplayed by the Grey King and his Bondsmage?

I still think they are cleverer than the other Right People, but the Gray King is playing in a whole different league that they can only aspire to. His immense wealth, needed to hire the Falconer, suggests that his cons make theirs look petty and inconsequential. I don’t discount Locke’s desire for vengeance though, so he might have the last laugh yet.

5. I imagine that you've probably read ahead, since this was a huge cliffhanger of an ending for the "present" storyline, but I'll ask this anyway: Where do you see the story going from here, now that the Grey King is thought to be dead?

I have been very good and have NOT read ahead. I am totally confused as to why the Gray King has staged his own death: I can’t imagine how that meshes with his intimidation of the Capa. It will now lull the Capa into a false sense of safety, but I have no idea why he didn’t simply take out the Capa right at the beginning if that was his eventual goal. My head hurts!

6. What do you think of the characters Scott Lynch has given us so far? Are they believable? Real? Fleshed out? If not, what are they lacking?

The characters are very believable and real. They are fleshed out in glorious detail and I can almost smell the places they go.

7. Now that you've seen how clever Chains is about his "apprenticeships," why do you think he's doing all of this? Does he have an endgame in sight? Is there a goal he wants them to achieve, or is it something more emotional like revenge?

Chains’ motivations are no doubt very complex. We have just learnt that he was originally a soldier from a farming village: this provides plenty of opportunity for him to acquire grudges, but against whom? As a good employer he knows that you have to invest in your employees for them to maximize their potential, but he does seem to have a goal in mind, but what it is I have no idea.

Summary of part three: I am now delightfully confused and can’t wait to see what happens next, because I can’t predict anything, except that Locke will survive.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

My Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Amazon Rating: 3.80 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 3.96 / 5.00

Gabrielle Maxwell is an orphan. Her mother abandoned her when she was a newborn and then committed suicide in a mental institution, after raving about vampires trying to kill her. Now twenty-seven, Gabrielle is an emerging photographer with a small circle of good friends and is making quite a nice life for herself in Boston. Everything seems to be going well until she sees a dark stranger across a dance club. Feeling very uneasy about some of the other people in the club she tries to leave, only to witness them killing, and apparently eating, a man just outside. When they turn on her she uses the flashes of her phone’s camera to keep them at bay as she makes her escape. The police are unwilling to believe her account of the murder, especially as there is no body or evidence that it occurred. Then Lucan Thorne, a detective, arrives at her apartment and claims to believe her entirely.

Lucan is not really a member of the police department: he is the leader of the warriors that protect the vampires of the Breed from the Rogues who have given way to mindless Bloodlust. The Breed mostly live quietly in Darkhavens around the world, but the Rogues are greedy and indiscriminate in their attacks on humans, and they are growing in numbers. Indeed, it seems that a dark intelligence is now marshaling them in a war against Lucan and his brother warriors, and Gabrielle has just become an important player in that war. She is a Breedmate, one of the rare human females born with the right genetic makeup to mate with one of the Breed, who are all male. Lucan cannot keep his mind, or hands off her, but he refuses to bind himself to her, even when he has to bring her into his command center in order to keep her safe.

This book falls very clearly into the Vampire Romance genre, but there are no fey, sparkly Edwards in evidence. In fact, these are not your typical undead vampires at all: they are the descendants of eight aliens that crashed on Earth thousand of years ago and the human females that they impregnated. These original aliens were vicious bloodsuckers, but their offspring were much more human-friendly and killed their fathers to stop the violence and bloodshed. However, all members of the Breed can fall prey to the Bloodlust if they allow their self-control to waver. I agree with Cathy Sova at The Romance Reader, all of this is different enough from the usual fare to be interesting and a nice change from the normal fare. The world that Ms Adrian creates is believable and detailed, with a minimum of dull exposition.

The lead characters, Gabrielle and Lucan, are both three-dimensional, well drawn characters, although they both could do with a slap about the face to awaken them to the obvious attraction between them. It seems that relentless sexual desire and numerous very amorous bedroom encounters do not translate into a possible relationship, not for these two dunces. This goes on a little too long for my liking, though I guess Lucan has had a very, very long time being broodingly macho and alone, so it does make sense that he would be resistant to change, and I believe it is also a convention of the Romance genre. The secondary characters are also quite believable, especially the other warriors and their Breedmates. Although they fall into several stereotypes, they are still individual enough to be satisfying. It will be interesting to see how these characters are expanded later in the series: will we continue to focus of Lucan and Gabrielle, or will the focus shift, as it does in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series? I am also intrigued to see how Lucan reacts to being in a relationship, though I guess it will involve lots of anger, brooding and broken objetcs.

As Amanda notes at Love Vampires, the action, both in and out of bed, is hot and fast-paced, which might be a problem for some people, especially those who prefer their romance a little less gory, but I thought it hit a nice balance. Holjo at Pedantic Phooka draws parallels between this book and the BDB series, although she doesn’t believe that Ms Adrian set up plot lines and characters for the rest of her titles as well as Ms Ward. However, this is a debut novel, so I think we cannot blame Ms Adrian for trying to tie up all the plot lines at the end of the book. I can see the similarities to Dark Lover, the first BDB title, but I would need to read further into both series to make more comparisons.

This was an enjoyable read, with an intriguing world inhabited by interesting characters and I look forward to reading more in the series.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Once Upon A Time VI Challenge

I am thoroughly enjoying the Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along, so when I saw this Challenge I decided to join in.

The Challenge is being hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings and runs from March 21st to June 19th.

I am going to try to complete Quest the Second:
"Read at least one book from each of the four categories. In this quest you will be reading 4 books total: one fantasy, one folklore, one fairy tale, and one mythology." 
During the Challenge, he will also be hosting Group Reads of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Of course, now I have to find books that fit into each category . . .

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson

My Rating: 3.5 / 5.0

Amazon Rating: 3.80 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 3.58 / 5.00

Joanna Archer’s life was perfectly happy until she was sixteen. Then she was attacked in the desert not far from her home in Las Vegas, raped and beaten. The attacker assumed she would die, but miraculously she didn’t: she survived, though her life was never the same again. Her mother disappeared and left her with her father, Xavier, who despises her, and her sister, Olivia, who loves her unconditionally. Now she is an edgy photographer, seeking out the seedier side of Sin City but constantly on her guard.

Then, just before her twenty-fifth birthday, her life is turned on its head again. She encounters Ajax Sand on a blind date, which rapidly moves from dull to terrifying as he reveals that she is a warrior in a battle between the forces of Light and Shadow. He is a Shadow warrior and has been hunting her for years, with the sole intention of killing her, slowly and painfully. She escapes from him, but over the next twenty-four hours her life goes from bad to worse. She discovers that Xavier is not her real father, she encounters a weird homeless man who can heal after being run over and her childhood sweetheart tries to reconnect with her. Then she heads to Olivia’s apartment to celebrate her birthday and they are attacked by yet another Shadow warrior . . .

Joanna learns that she is a pivotal figure in prophecies that the Light will finally defeat the Shadows: she is the Kairos, born of both Light and Shadow. The warriors on both sides are designated by the signs of the zodiac, and have some characteristics associated with their sign. For example, Joanna is the Light Sagittarius, and so is gifted with a magical crossbow. The appearance of the Kairos is the First Sign of the Zodiac, suggesting that the prophecy is being fulfilled.

The cover of the book cites endorsements by Diana Gabaldon, Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris, so I anticipated a good read here. Certainly, there are many good things to say about this book, but it does have some significant problems, as least as far as I am concerned.

The central character, Joanna, is a strong female, who has survived a terrible assault to become a reasonably normal adult. The book is written in the first person, so we get a great insight into her thoughts and feelings, and she is a generally sympathetic character, so I was invested in finding out more about her and her past. The other characters are mostly well drawn and there are some nice relationships: I especially liked her barbed sparring with Olivia’s BFF, Cher. However, I felt like Chandra, as “the angry competitor for her role who hates her at first but then has to grudgingly admit that she’s quite good” was more than a little generic, even down to the fact that Rachel mistook her for a man at first. Unlike Renee at Fangs For the Fantasy, I didn’t get a sense that Chandra was actually intersexual: I thought she was female, but looked very masculine, so I didn’t find Joanna’s ‘hermaphrodite’ digs as offensive. We shall see if this is resolved in later books, but I will now pay special attention to Chandra in light of Renee’s analysis.

The world that Ms Pettersson builds is mostly believable, and quite well detailed. The zodiac theme feels a little forced and I would have liked some reason why the warriors are identified by the signs. There is talk of them being a separate race from humans, but some more details would have helped this to seem less random. I was also confused as to the true number of the warriors: it sometimes reads as if there is a set in each town or city, but then that makes Joanna’s role as the Kairos seem a bit strange. Also, I really struggled with the instruction manuals for being an agent for either side being produced and kept in a comic store: this made very little sense and was almost reason for me to stop reading. I agree with Shara at Calico Reactions that this was just silly and was a major stumbling block. Hopefully, these problems will be addressed in the later books. One aspect that I really did like is the Light’s use of cats as guardians because they can identify Shadow warriors: this is a nice way to incorporate our perception of cats and their supposedly supernatural powers . . . little Tiddles doesn’t like that guy down the street because he is an agent of the Shadows!

My biggest issue with this book was the pacing. I almost gave up with it several times during the first two thirds because it was so heavy with exposition and so slowly plotted. Fortunately, the plot reaches a turning point, after which Joanna starts to kick some ass and the pace picks up nicely. I understand the need to establish the world, the characters, etc., but this was very hard going, and I spoke to several people who had given up before getting to the turning point. I hope, again, that this is not an issue in the later books. Having looked at a few reviews, I was relieved to see that Thea at The Book Smugglers had similar reservations about this title. 

This is not your traditional vamp-ridden urban fantasy, and that is refreshing. Plus, it is nice to have a heroine who is grumpy and paranoid, but has a really good reason to be like that: the assault robs her of her innocence, her mother and her boyfriend, so we can forgive her for being very defensive. It is a little rough around the edges, however, I am glad that I stuck with the book as it has great promise and it seems that this is her first published novel, so I can cut the author some slack: I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

My Rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Rachel Morgan lives in Cincinnati, or, more specifically, “The Hollows”: the area of the city inhabited mostly by the non-human parts of society. It is now forty years since a genetically modified tomatoes transmitted a virus around the world, bringing death to most of the human population, plus the Elves. However, the other Inderland species were unaffected and their previous infiltration of human society proved invaluable in maintaining some form of normalcy. Not long after the ‘Turn’, when humans had to accept that they were not alone on the Earth, two new Security Services were formed: the Federal Inderland Bureau, run by humans, and Inderland Security, staffed by a wide assortment of Witches, Vampires, Pixies and other species. Rachel is a Witch and works for the IS as a runner, bringing in those Inderlanders who persist in pushing brimstone, using black magic or eating the human population too publically.

Unfortunately, Rachel has been having a streak of bad luck, with felons escaping and spells back-firing, and her boss is gunning for her. So, when she captures a leprechaun who offers her three wishes as a bribe, she decides that it is time to quit the IS and strike out on her own. Well, not quite on her own: she has Ivy, her Vampire runner friend and Jenks, her Pixie backup, to help out. They all move to Ivy’s rented home, a converted church, and Rachel tries to dodge the attempts on her life whilst trying to prove that city councilman, Trent Kalamack, is not only responsible for the sudden death of his secretary, but also for other illegal activity, because there is something very mysterious about Trent: no one knows what he is . . . As she investigates him she uncovers evidence that he supplies highly illegal biomedical drugs, outlawed since the Turn. Along the way she disguises herself as a mink, dodges more hit men and encounters a very scary demon.

Amazon suggested this book to me not long after I bought some of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse titles, and there are some similarities. Both series deal with a human world coming to terms with the other species living amongst them and both have a strong, feisty heroine. However, Ms Harrison’s Vampires are even further removed from the traditional garlic-fearing undead: Ivy is a living Vampire, born that way and destined to rise again after her death. Humans can be bitten and infected with the virus, but they must depend upon an undead vampire to raise them to undeath. One other significant difference is the exploration of the magic that Rachel wields. This is an interestingly practical form of magic that involves a lot of preparation to cook up potions that can be impregnated into wooden charms and which must be activated by a drop of blood. It makes a very nice change for magic to be slightly more than just shouting and pointing. But perhaps the greatest addition to the supernatural universe is that of the Pixies. Jenks and his family are amazingly well drawn and amongst my favorite characters of all time, and it seems that Shara at Calico Reaction fell in love with him as well. Jenks may be only four inches tall, but his personality is massive and his hyperactivity fills any scene that he is in. He is funny, witty, sarcastic, brave, protective . . . and looks like a blond sex-god: no wonder he has so many children! 

Rachel is a strong character and given some depth, which is fortunate as the book is written in the first person from her perspective. She is fully realized and stands out against the backdrop of world building that is always necessary in the first book in a series. Not that the exposition is overt and distracting: Ms Harrison deals with the differences between our world and hers in such a subtle way that I was never jarred out of the story. I agree with Sparky at Fangs For The Fantasy: this is a wonderfully detailed world, which has an interesting, and believable, history. This makes it so much easier to make the leap of faith needed to accept the presence of the supernatural in ‘normal’ human society. However, I have to agree with Chelsea at Vampire Book Club, that the first two-thirds of the book are a little slow, though the action kicks off after that and the last third moves at a more satisfying pace.

One thing I especially like about Rachel is that she is not perfect: she worries about her looks, sometimes makes dumb decisions and is often clumsy. As Thea at The Book Smugglers notes, it is nice to have a strong woman who isn’t a total bitch or jaded and who needs to be rescued by her friends now and then. Rachel is always her own person and is willing to stand by her poor choices without too much whining. Also, she values her relationships and the friends that support her, although this can make life uncomfortable for her. The biggest example of this is Ivy, who is obviously very attracted to Rachel and who has a great deal of difficulty controlling her desire to take their relationship further. For Harrison’s Vampires, sexual relationships are closely tied to feeding because they produce a neurotoxin in their saliva that turns the pain of their bite into erotic pleasure. Ivy is a real threat to Rachel’s safety, but there is such a deep trust between them that they both struggle to make their relationship work. It is also encouraging to see a LGBT character treated as perfectly normal.

The bad guy, Trent, is nicely ambiguous: is he really evil, or not? There is a twist right at the end of the book that shakes Rachel’s belief that he is rotten to the core, so who knows? He is certainly capable of great cruelty, and has little regard for the lives of the humans and Witches that he manipulates ruthlessly. Even some the supporting characters are ambiguous: only Rachel and Jenks’ family to seem to be totally good. Ivy is more than capable of killing or enslaving Rachel, whilst Nick, the nominal love interest, seems to have a dodgy past, because he is known to the FIB, and knows how to handle demons. As Kristen points out in her guest review for The Book Smugglers, the book does tie up the plot quite neatly at the end, but we are left with many questions about secrets and motivations that I hope will be explored later in the series. 

I do have one criticism, though this is more of a personal reaction than one that will be shared by many other readers: it certainly made the NYOBG members laugh. I’m sorry, Ms Harrison, but I have to stay true to my training as a Biology graduate: mink are NOT rodents . . . check the Wikipedia entries here and here, if you don’t believe me!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Read Along of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: Part 2

I saw the details for this Read Along on the Little Red Reviewers blog, here, though I know that several other blogs are involved as well. I thought it looked like fun and signed up to make posts on my blog every week.

You can see Redhead’s Part 2 post here and Dark Cargo's here.

If you haven't read the book, or even if you have, why not join in and read along with the rest of us?

This week we have read up to the end of the Interlude: The Boy Who Cried for a Corpse, which ends on p. 190 of my kindle edition.

1. Do you think Locke can pull off his scheme of playing a Midnighter who is working with Don Salvara to capture the Thorn of Camorr? I mean, he is now playing two roles in this game - and thank goodness for that costume room the Gentlemen Bastards have!

I have little doubt that Locke can do pretty much anything he wants and get away with it. The decision to add the Midnighters to the scam is such total genius that I cannot imagine that anyone other than the Gray King can foil his schemes. I really loved the way that these were scenes were presented in a 'saw-toothed' pattern of time progression, so that we were led to believe that Locke was in grave danger, only to be let in on the 'joke'. Seeing the scene a second time, now knowing that Locke was almost unconscious because of his injured 'bits' made his talents for disguise even more impressive. 

2. Are you digging the detail the author has put into the alcoholic drinks in this story?

Alcohol does seem to be an important part of life in Camorr: this could reflect Scott's own interests . . . or it could show that he did his research into late medieval life, when alcoholic drinks were much safer to drink than the water, which was full of disease-carrying bugs, and also provided the poor with a large proportion of their daily calories. Of course, he could simply be reflecting the young male's obsession with this particular past time . . . I seem to recall quite a few mentions of prostitutes as well . . . but it does add to the richness of the world in a wonderful way, as does the attention given to food.

3. Who is this mysterious lady Gentlemen Bastard Sabetha and what does she mean to Locke?

Sabetha seems to be a fellow orphan taken in and trained by Chains, and she obviously broke Locke's heart before leaving. I am not sure if we will ever meet her, though I suspect that she will be with Locke forever.

4. Are you as creeped out over the use of Wraithstone to create Gentled animals as I am?

Completely! This is truly horrible and the description of how and why it is used was horrifying. However, this fits with the cruel way in which people are treated in the Revel and how the Palace of Patience operates. Life in general is short and brutal for many of the people, so their compassion towards animals is much less than ours, and in one way they are trying to be kind to animals that could get stressed by their living and working conditions. Even more horrific is the hint that they use it on people occasionally . . .

5. I got a kick out of child Locke's first meeting with Capa Barsavi and his daughter Nazca, which was shortly followed up in the story by Barsavi granting adult Locke permission to court his daughter! Where do you think that will lead? Can you see these two together?

I think the shadow of Sabetha will be a problem here, plus they both seem to be openly uninterested in each other. However, Romance novels are littered by people who 'suddenly realize that they are madly in love with someone they hate' . . . though that would be a lot less interesting than having them maintain the appearance of a loving relationship. I can see them together: I think they could rule the world given half a chance . . .

6. Capa Barsavi is freaked out over rumors of The Gray King and, in fact, us readers are privy to a gruesome torture scene. The Gray King is knocking garristas off left and right. What do you think that means?

I can only think of two possibilities: a) someone is trying to replace the Capa as head of the Right People; or b) the Duke is re-exerting control over his city covertly. I am assuming that the small bird-like thing that has been mentioned a couple of times, during Bug's acrobatics at the Temple and the 'Midnighters' entry into the Don's house, is connected to The Gray King, but I cannot think of any hints as to who the King might be.

7. In the Interlude: The Boy Who Cried for a Corpse, we learn that Father Chains owes an alchemist a favor, and that favor is a fresh corpse. He sets the boys to figuring out how to provide one, and they can't 'create' the corpse themselves. How did you like Locke's solution to this conundrum? 

I thought it was elegantly simple, playing on people's expectations and perceptions beautifully. I knew that the acquisition of the body was far too simple, so Locke's solution to recouping their expenses had me laughing in delight. Again, it was elegant, but it showed such an extraordinary understanding of psychology and human behavior that it was a thing of beauty. Plus I loved Chains response: "Bugger me bloody with a boathook".

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