Author Archives: Rebecca M. Horner

About Rebecca M. Horner

A spinner of yarns (of the story sort, though I do crochet...and sew, and learning to make armor...)

Review: Closer to Home

(Forgive me if this is even more rambly than normal, I’m getting over one hell of a cold followed immediately by getting the flu. I delayed posting just to make sure I was in a quasi-decent head-space.)

Probably because the story about Mags’ continued to wind much longer than her normal books, or possibly as a marketing ploy, or maybe even because of a massive time-skip (like more than normal), but either way, Mercedes Lackey actually continued into multiple series with the same character, rather than others dropping in on new protagonists. I love the first series, and since I got all of the others together in a bundle, I thought I would review the second half for the blog, with a possibility of coming back to the others. (Not sure on that, they were pretty tight and I can only gush so much.)

Closer to Home picks up as Mags and the others are returning to Haven. Lena and Bear have settled somewhere with positions, and he and Amily are trying to establish themselves back into their new lives. But to their surprise, an accident that almost costs the King’s Own Herald, Nickolas, his life gets Amily Chosen as the new King’s Own…except her father, also Nickolas, doesn’t actually die! Mags managed to keep common sense among everyone, pointing out that this means there now allows Nickolas a lot of freedom, as well as providing training so that when the prince inherits, his Own is already up to speed and prepared to work with him. And they get at least partially settled quickly, because there’s a massive feud among the nobility that is threatening to send all of Haven up with it.

I was relieved that the cast of characters was changed up a bit with this book. As much as I loved Lena and Bear, the case was getting very blotted by the end of the last series. She weeded out the cast to its main core needed in Haven now as adults, and that let her add new players as needed. (Also, Lena about drove me nuts and I wanted better girl representation.) This story really gave us a chance to see a working couple who weren’t lifebonded, who weren’t well established in that relationship, and they are having to figure out how to make it work through life changes. That’s a huge thing!

I also felt like Misty did something really brave and important with this series, which is addressed the female nobility characters. Every time she’s used them before, it was either part of being life-bonded, or as part of exceptions to how everyone else behaved. This time, she was right in our faces about how the female nobility were supposed to act, and how if you didn’t have the power to do otherwise, acting against it was going to get you slapped down. I felt awful for Violetta, but with the clear explanations of the other women, you could see how she got herself in trouble and while it was unfair as hell, I couldn’t argue against it within the context of the world. And members of the world acknowledge it sucks and it’s wrong, which… since the nobility lasts for a while longer in the timeline, that’s about all it can do.

The plot….ugh, the plot. I felt like she had this one event that she needed to make happen, and then went, “Well, now what? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, with a twist!”…sorta. Like it stopped even being a nod to the plot and went full-on-commitment about halfway through and I’m sitting there going, “I know how this ends, everyone dies, why am I still reading?” She gave it like a half-twist, but it wasn’t enough to save it for me. On one hand, I’m glad she kept it to something besides wars and assassins, that is a welcome change and I applaud her for trying to branch out. I just wish she hadn’t borrowed a very tired and often repetitive plot to do it with. Even the twist was just making “Romeo” even more of a jerk than he is in the original, that isn’t a whole lot of work!

Worldbuilding wise, not a lot got added to here besides like I said, the female nobility finally being touched on as far as what is considered normal. There being “two” King’s Own Heralds is different, but I don’t think it was touched on very much. I think that probably has to do with the shoe-horned feud plot, since she usually does better with a little more original work. I do find Amily’s Gift to be a cop-out. I want to read the one-shot with Lan and see if she mentions it with Pol, who reportedly has a little bit of every Gift. Otherwise, yeah, I’m not horribly impressed with it. I’d have preferred to see real Animal Mindspeech. It’s come up I think once with a character we’ve met for any period of time? But it gets mentioned all the time.

Overall, I wouldn’t call it a disappointing read. I like the characters, and I like some of the world building elements. Considering I’m planning a similar series-split with the same character, it’s almost a study for me on what to do and what not to do. My annoyance over Shakespeare being reproduced is probably a mostly me thing (I see it….a lot…and I’m probably overly salty), so I definitely still recommend this book to others. But definitely read the prior series so you have the attachment to the characters, otherwise this may seem unnecessarily harsh.

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Review: Tempests and Slaughter

I approached Tempests and Slaughter with a healthy amount of both caution and interest. On one hand, it was more of Numair and that always makes me happy. He and Daine are my OTP in Tortall. On the other hand, this is a prequel. I was going to have to put up with Valarie, guaranteed, and with one of the worst villains in Tortall history being viewed as an okay guy. Blegh. But I finally knuckled down and read it. While I don’t regret it, it definitely wasn’t what I expected either.

Not yet Numair Salmalin, Arram Draper is a young boy at the College of Mages in Carthak. Tempests and Slaughter tells of his late childhood/early adolescence, as he rises with the ranks of powerful mages with the growth of his Gift. As he grows farther away from his family and home in Tyra, he has to learn not only who he is and what he can tolerate, but also who his friends are becoming. In the end, plague hospitals and arenas decide for him where his limits are. Now if only he can bring his only two friends, Valarie and Ozorne, along with him.

So, let’s get it out of the way. I love Tamora Pierce’s writing. I’ve had my style compared to her a couple of times, and it always makes me squee because she has such a way with prose that it just flows, smooth and clear. Thankfully, she spared my overly imaginative butt too much medical in the hospitals, but the way she did it is very real to how people who are in those professions describe how they feel after it is over. I really valued her return to third person and in normal chapter format. It wasn’t so heavily cluttered with slang that I needed the dictionary in the back just to wade through until I adjusted to the dialect, but it was there enough to carry the culture of the world across. It was a little different, because the narrator is a boy for the first time for an entire book rather than a short story, but after a couple of chapters, I managed to fall in with it. I think it’s interesting how she keeps exploring new formats and narrators, rather than sticking to formula.

World building wise, she had some room to play and it shows. Carthak was barely hinted at beyond the capital during the Immortals quartet, and while some of the short stories have touched on other countries as part of the empire, we haven’t seen all of it. There’s a curious mixture of African cultures, and I use that term in relation the continent as a whole. At times, I see the south and the tribal influences, but further north it is reminiscent of Egypt and it’s interactions with Europe. I also saw bits of South Africa, if only because of the way the ruling class appears to be of light skin versus…everyone else. This is also the first time we saw how a mage was trained, from the ground up and without pesky fighting training to overlap, and while at times I felt a little like the magic systems were too muddled, that is more personal taste than anything, and it was interesting to see how magecraft is taught for the Gift when there aren’t deities involved.

Characters is really where this book could have made or break for me. I knew I was going to like Arram, because I liked him as an adult. It was curious to see how clumsy and unsure of himself he was as a boy, though, and how easily swayed he was by others around him until he found his backbone. I also wasn’t suspecting his healing magic to be at the forefront, but then, his entire history is so secretive, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Valarie… Ugh. All of my problems with Valarie still exist. I mean, her “kitchen witch” label aside, she really just irks me. I don’t think that will ever change. I don’t like manipulation like I see her doing, even when it is for the sake of those she considers friends, at least without some sort of moral code behind it, which I know she’s lacking in. And then there was Ozorne. He could have gone wrong very quickly, but thankfully Tamora never forgot what he was going to become. The brief flashes alone were enough to sooth me, and then she dropped his ambitions, his goal to unite everything under one Empire, and at that point I knew he was the same person we knew, it was Arram who hadn’t realized it yet. That is going to be fascinating to see continue, and I’m beyond curious to see what the tipping point will be.

As for other characters, the teachers rotated around so much, I had a hard time nailing down a favorite. I did like Yaven and how he applied something most people would consider silly to help Arram concentrate, and how that evolved into other lessons. Sebo and her ties to the crocodile god were also interesting. Oh god, the crocodile god was hilarious, I was very amused by him and his interactions. My only complaint, if you could call it one, was Preet, if only because she seemed like a plot device more than a character. The lack of mention of her to Daine in prior books also makes no sense. But then, we don’t know how Preet’s plot is going to end, so I could end up being placated.

This definitely reads to me like there’s one more book, possibly two, in this series, but I don’t think it’s going to be a quartet and I’m leaning towards just one more like the Aly Cooper books. That seems about right to me, because really this is mostly bringing some light to a mysterious back story that I’m sure fans like me have been wondering about since the first books with Daine. I can’t wait for the next book and to see where this story is going and how it will dove-tail with where we first met Numair.


Tabletop RP: My Top 10 Spells

Everyone has favorite spells that they use, and thankfully most of them transition between editions without losing too much of the fun. Some spells are good for causing shenanigans, like Grease, others just do an insane level of damage that is always fun to inflict on enemies. I decided to list my favorite spells, at least one for each level (sorta), and why I enjoy them so much, therefore why you might like them for your character.

Please note that this list is for arcane casters only, such as wizards, sorcerers, warmages, etc. I’ll do another list of my favorite divine spells later, since I do enjoy playing oracles mixed in with my rogues and sorcerer types. I am also a bit of a blaster-type mage when I have magic (thus why I like warmages so much). My lists rarely have things that just entangle somebody or create alarms, and are more likely to cause maximum amount of damage that fits within the character’s particular theme (because sometimes, you gotta pick something besides fireball because it offends the ice mage).

Zero Level Spells/Cantrips
….No one likes these, why would I pick one here…? These are little spells that really, I pick based on the campaign.

1st Level Spells
Magic Missile is a must have. It’s a guaranteed hit whenever any enemy is annoying as hell, and you can shape them to reflect your character. I always approve of customization options.
Snowball is a Pathfinder spell of this level that has been a go-to for one of my characters too, it does some decent damage and has additional affects that can go in hand. Perfect for the ice mage, lol.

2nd Level Spells
In your early levels, you are working to maximize your spell selection so not only are you strong in your specialty, but you aren’t completely screwed if your DM throws something your way. Now, Jadzia didn’t bother learning Shatter because one of my party members already had it, but as Psyche, it was one of the first things I picked because if we met a golem, I wanted to be able to fight it. So definitely my first pick for 2nd Level.

3rd Level Spells
…Sadly, my favorite spell is a homebrew creation because I am playing an ice specialist and the DM thought it hysterical to create “Iceball” which functions exactly like Fireball, just with ice. That being said, Fireball is also a great spell, so if your DM won’t go for the giant snow/ice ball of doom, it is your first chance to really start slinging damage around.

4th Level Spells
There’s a series of spells that I used with Psyche that were by far my favorite spells. Different spells, there was one for each element, including Force and Sound, and they had additional affects depending on the element. I loved those damn things, plus I always knew how much damage I was dealing, I just had to look up the effect, and I could cater it to sensitives if the enemy had any.

5th Level Spells
Oddly enough, my favorite 5th level spell is defensive. At this point, I usually have a solid base of offensive spells, and I’m ready for something that not only defends my squish mage butt, but will also help my fellow players. Fire Shield, Mass, gives the entire party a line of defense, as well as attacking enemies.

6th Level Spells
Dude, Chain Lightning all the way. It does lots of damage, it continues to do more damage as you level, and can attack more targets or the same target multiple times. And if you are facing foes in metal armor, it does even more damage. I love it.

7th Level Spells
Here is where it really starts to depend on what problems my mage has run into when fighting. Do we keep getting hoards that attack us and we are way out numbered? Or is it something really big that we have to hammer through? Usually, this is why I take a mass-area spell, because I have enough one-on-one spells and could use a wide-coverage. So go with Fire Storm or something similar.

8th Level Spells
For 8th Level, your spell options really start to narrow down. You don’t learn as many of them, and you don’t get to cast as many times per day for spontaneous casters. For my favorite, gotta go with the multi-tasker and use Great Shout. It’ll damage golems, traps, and other objects, as well as doing a good chunk of damage to enemies even before you apply meta-magic to it.

9th Level Spells
Really, I have only gotten here once before, so it’s harder for me to pick a favorite or one that I am most likely to use. (Jadzia may yet get there and I’ll change my mind, but eh, we’ll see.) Considering the celestial theme that Psyche had going on… Gotta go with Meteor Swarm as my go-to final spell for this list.


News: Self-Publishing and Mystic Riders!

Thought I’d give you all an update this week to start off the new year with my plans! Thus why the delay till the 1st. (And then this time next year I can wonder what happened, right? lol)

So first bit of exciting news: GinnyZero and I have launched a blog for our MMORPG! Mystic Riders MMO is our baby project, a non-combative P vs E RPG that we are approaching from a narrative-first direction. It is a game for girls, with lots of options for customization and story paths (okay, not Detroit: Become Human levels, but paths!) that is for horse lovers and adventurers who may or may not have secretly creative/girly sides…or not, the choice is literally yours. All you have to have is a love of horses and exploring an open world and ranging series of stories that will all make sense in the end. (I hope, I will have a lot of pans in that fire!)

We’ve gotten a large chunk of the story concept and mechanics figured out, so while we are in the middle of writing everything and getting an organized list what’s left that we can’t do on our own, we can be stirring up interest! Right now it’s just the blog, I’m hoping in the next couple of months to get us set up with a bank account so we can do a tip-jar sort of thing so if you all want to throw us five bucks here or there, we can commission concept art. There’s also a twitter, @MysticRidersMMO, that is retweeting all of the various game thoughts in one place (because that is required, jeebus), tweeting whenever the blog updates, and (yes, AND) will be participating in writer games once they get out of the holiday slush because…well, we keep learning new things about our characters while doing it, and isn’t it fun to learn that with us?

Unlike here, where it is basically me babbling at you once a week, there’s a little bit more going on over at Mystic Riders MMO because Ginny and I aren’t just writing for writers and readers, we’re appealing to players and developers and parents. (Apparently I have good instinct for informative carrot talks to parents…? Who knew?) So while my awkward self is providing blog posts on Saturdays, with editing and additions from Ginny, Ginny is posting on random Tuesdays with quotes, pictures of what is inspiring us, and maybe some links to music or videos as needed. We have lists and piles of inspiration stuff, we want you all to see it and get an image of what we want this game to be so hopefully we can convince others to help us make it a reality.

Another plan is for Sun’s Guard: Ten. I am out of people to query, and honestly, I’m rather annoyed at the whole agency view anyway. So I am withdrawing my last one (because lack of communication is my biggest pet peeve ever) tomorrow morning, because I’m taking the holiday at least halfway off. As for self-publishing, I have a coworker who has very generously volunteered to do my book covers, and he is honestly very good, I’m ecstatic to have him helping. If I can get his work back on my personal time track, what I will probably do is release Sun’s Guard: Ten on Amazon on either the rough-date I have the book taking place at, or on Caley’s birthday, whichever lines up best with his own schedule.

I really just need a week before the release to run it through spell check and reread for typo purposes again, as well as edit one section for questionable copyright purposes, and it is ready to go without someone giving me a concrete critique of the current draft. (And I have tried.) Once we’ve got the book cover done and I figure out how I want the summary to go, we should be in good standings. I am planning doing a digital release AND a printed release through Amazon…I’ll probably buy it and Ginny’s books to sit on my self at the same time, not gonna lie. Though lordy do the shelves need organized at some point this year… My twitter will be a few weeks of promoting the book, and then the blog will have a few writing posts that are as non-spoilery as possible (definitely for later books….questionable for the first book) about my process with Ten that I haven’t already talked about. Then it’ll return to normal until the next book, lol.

Speaking of next books, Ginny has given me a side project by accident via me getting a writer’s block on Caley’s next book, probably caused due to the stress of querying, so until I’m unstuck later and not drowning in getting other stuff for Mystic Riders set up so going back to my list of things to do for it, I am poking at a stand-alone book. My monsters-of-the-world book idea fell apart on me, showing that not all fanfic can make the leap to original pretty obviously, but this one is a lot more self contained. It might actually be pretty short, even for me, so more of a novella, but I am hoping to get it out to you all at some point too, because I’m pretty excited about it.

(Ginny says she can see one of my DnD characters and her current love interest in it, I am arguing back that there is only so much fluff the DM can give me before it gets awkward for both of us, this is how I get my fluff! And then there was digging for play-bys to use as my models, which was harder than I expected for my knight…)

So besides an MMORPG, Sun’s Guard: Ten, and possible future novella shenanigans, the blog is going to continue the same. I have a stack of new books to read, though I don’t think I’ll be reviewing all of them, I FOUND THE GINNY BOX by unpacking the closet so I have plenty of fodder that way though, and I have thoughts and feelings on several RPG characters to continue to talk about. It’s going to be a great year, if a busy one!


Writing: Teenage Characters and Aesthetics

Sponsored by last night’s DnD session and poor Jadzia, who gained two items. Now, for beginning reference, Jadzia is a juvenile silver dragon whose favorite form when she’s shape changed is a late-adolescent human with silver dragon bloodline traits. An elegant goth late-adolescent human. She actually hoards gem stones of a very specific series of colors (no yellows, oranges, bright or true greens although super dark or milky and pale greens are fine, or reds, unless they are the deepest, darkest shades of red like her lipstick), and rejects anything with gold metal work. Her primary hoard items feature star sapphires (her favorite) and are a belt of magical gem stones that fit these rules. She dresses in a flowy pretty dress with vest and corset work to add structure all in black and charcoal grey.

Her first newly gained item last night I tweeted about, a lesser ironward diamond. It basically is a different type of magical gem stone, and being a smokey grey diamond, it fits just fine. The problem is that second item, which as a player, I wanted. I wanted badly. It was a rod of Piercing Cold. This lets me ignore or at least help combat with benefits Jadzia herself has so if we’re ever in a fight against her brothers or other family who we haven’t met yet, I’m not screwed with her being specialized in cold/ice themed spells to a high extent.

The staff part was fine–it was ice blue. The topper, though… The topper was deliberately made to rub her the wrong way. It’s an angry snowman with a knife.

Jadzia was balking so bad, ya’ll. I wanted it, but she was going, “SNOWMAN! NO!” and ugh. It was a long few minutes and we had to poke at dragon greed to get her to take it. Thankfully, her trying to change it to match her aesthetic is actually planned into the DM’s goal for the thing, so no hurt feelings. But there was some confusion when I mentioned the twelve year old was THAT attached to her aesthetic. Some of it was fellow players forgetting, which considering how she normally looks and her usual maturity, it’s hard to remember that she’s only 48 and that’s barely entering puberty by dragon standards. But I think a little bit of it is that for male writers, even the best ones, they don’t quite understand it.

I’m not saying aesthetic isn’t important to pre-teens and teenagers in general. I know for some boys, it’s just as important as breathing. But then I also know that there are people like my brother, who can and will wear warm colors with cool in such a way that if he was doing it with super nice clothes, I’d cringe. Even I can get pretty lax when I’m in casual mode. But for some people, it is life, and the truth is, many of those people are preteen and teenage girls.

Some of that is cultural. We have most of our societal pressure about our appearance pushed onto us as girls between the ages of 11 and 19…which is cruel and unusual, because that is when your hormones and body are doing weird things and you have very little control over anything, yet have to start planning for the rest of your life. Fretting over how you dress and what colors you can’t stand anymore is an easy way to re-establish that control. Some of it is personality. I am naturally an extremely fussy person about color because I can tell dye lots apart even with the smallest of differences, and that’s about the age that people really start taking an interest in fashion, and apply themselves to a very specific look.

As a juvenile dragon, Jadzia is not only in that mindset, she is stuck in it for the next several decades…if not centuries, I’ve not looked at the higher dragon age categories. So for me, I really have to keep it in mind that she is very concerned with appearances and how she is perceived. Particularly with her high level of responsibility, since she’s the most powerful of her clutch and the only female on top of it. She has decided for whatever reason that the gothic look is how she wants to be seen–possibly because she wants to be seen as serious and grown-up, overcompensating for her real place in development. To her, this is just as important as any moral or ethical question she could be put in, because at her age, it is just as important.

In case people still don’t get it, let me explain it in terms of an appropriate holiday metaphor. Intellectually, I can acknowledge that a green, gold, and red Christmas tree is pretty and festive. I will compliment it and may even investigate for reference for a character who might like it. I still want it no where in my home. My Christmas colors are silver and blue and I decorate more with snowflakes and plain deer than Santa Claus or snowmen. (An occasional penguin might sneak by, but shhhh.) Am I so set in my ways that I won’t accept a pretty gift? No. But will that gift actually get hung up in the house? I’ll wait and see if I change my mind, but it’s a no promises situation. I’m also double the maturity level of a teenager.

A lot of male writers do a good job of understanding that this is a thing for young girls, including the guys that I play DnD with. Even some girls don’t experience it and can be confused, depending on how they grew up and their personalities, and then have to try and write it correctly. But sometimes I don’t think writers completely understand it, and that’s what I hoped to try and explain better.

Happy holidays, everyone, and I’ll see you on the cusps of the New Year.


Review: Thoughts on PreCure

Yeah, we’re going down an anime rabbit hole this week, partly because I splurged on hardbacks that won’t be here for a couple more days, mostly because I’m binge watching and have feelings…and a small part because of an upcoming surprise in roughly two weeks that makes me want to touch on my girly obsessions a little more publicly so no one is necessarily surprised out of liking me.

So I am a magical girl genre fiend…provided the story isn’t stupid and the transformation sequences aren’t sexualizing the characters. That means my options are extremely limited. Sometimes something really cool will happen, like Madoka, that break the genre, but usually you have three options: the classics (Card Captor Sakura, Sailor Moon–I can’t speak on Crystal yet, I hated the animation quality of the first season too badly and I hate Rini as a character and she seems to have an even bigger part in Crystal, soooo I’m dragging my feet, etc.), those gross animes that use a genre meant for young girl viewers as a chance to cater to the lowest denominator, or the one magical girl series that is always putting out new content–PreCure, which is short for Pretty Cure and is a bit like sentai shows, just with magical girls.

Now, PreCure feels like it has been around for ages, but it actually only came out in 2004. It just churns out a new team (with two early exceptions) every year, each with a different theme, and the main focus is supposed to be on these girls figuring themselves out and female positivity. The year actually surprises me because the first team, a pair actually, have such 80’s designs…and actually some of the others end up that way too. I’m not sure if it’s because the character designers for those seasons are older and don’t know what girls actually wear or if Japanese fashion during those years has gone weird, retro directions, or what.

The idea of PreCure is that the main characters are supposed to be in middle school, and the early seasons kept with that–the characters looked their actual ages. And sometimes, the newer seasons fall back on that. But PreCure 5 actually pushed up the physical or appearance ages of their team a little, and then Fresh! took it even further. While Heartcatch (which is what I saw a couple of years ago) tried to go backwards with three of the four members reflecting more childish bodies, Suite went right back to high schoolers…which sort of defeats PreCure’s purpose in my opinion and plus I just couldn’t fall in to Suite.

Now what caught my attention to PreCure in the first place? …Oh, I got suckered in, badly. They threw a cold, elegant girl associated with moonlight and roses into Heartcatch, I felt obligated to watch because that is my jam to the utmost. (My favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! character is Seto Kaiba and in Yu Yu Hakusho it is Kurama, I have tropes and aesthetics that you are guaranteed to get my attention with.)

Cure Moonlight

Admittedly, Cure Moonlight is a bad one to use as a measuring stick, she’s overpowered as hell, but I digress. I stayed not because there was one character who matched my preferred aesthetic, but because the writing of Heartcatch was absolutely to die for. I bawled at one episode, it was that intense.

The problem is, it seems like PreCure has one writer who is capable of taking the tropey, overly saturated parts of the genre and making them into something that is enjoyable not only for young children, but also for us old fossils who refuse to stay out of the genre. Yes, Heartcatch is fashion and flower centric, which should be too sweet to stand. But then you add that it also addresses familial commitments and pressure, parental abandonment or feelings of it, grief for passed friends, failing and having to figure out what happens next. It’s so hard to balance without going doom and gloom, but God did Heartcatch manage it.

I couldn’t find another one that caught my attention in the same way (I tried Princess, it made me cringe), though now I’m wondering if I was too hasty with some of the more in-between seasons. Why? Because I finally saw all the transformation sequences for the main team of Kirakira, which I initially dismissed as too stupid. Sweets, okay, animals, sure, together? To paraphrase Ginny, “WHY?! Why not one or the other?!” And then I heard the reasoning behind it and that just made it worse. Too stupid for words, hard pass, thank you. But see, it already had a crumb of my attention because the front three were in the same, more childish designs as Cures Blossom, Marine, and Sunshine had been. And the original clips I saw sped past the older two girls. So when I finally saw Macaron, I knew I was sunk.

Cure Macaron

I knew just from how her face was drawn, this character was too interesting to ignore because that face reflects a lot more personality than usual tropes. A little bit of digging, and I had suspicions that whoever wrote Heartcatch was involved with Kirakira. I am only 17 episodes into it, and I can guarantee that, or at the very least someone there took a few pages out of her book because it is hitting on deeper themes already, and it is also doing it in ways that are different than Heartcatch had previously done (or really, that I had seen everywhere). Cure Macaron being a prime example, who is also smart, finally someone who is as smart as the villains!!! I am also admittedly eating up the Macaron and Chocolat interactions with a spoon…

So, what does that mean about PreCure? Well, it’s like any other sentai show (or the U.S. equivalent which is Power Rangers). Sometimes, everything from story to character designs is on point and something that not only young children, but also older viewers. Other times, the character designs are awful or at least illogical, but the story might be salvageable. Sometimes the character designs are great, and then you are left with superficial garbage for story. And then there are times it’s a total wash. It’s sort of a round robin coin toss on what is going to work, what isn’t, and what is going to survive. But you know what? At least PreCure tries new things with each team, and tries to go, “Okay, you didn’t like this years PreCure, next year is different so maybe it’ll be more your speed.” I can get behind that.


Review: Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal

And I’m back! This time with a continuation of a series that I enjoy, particularly when it continues a one-shot fanfic that I adored and was so excited to see continued.

Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal picks up a a few years after Tsumiko, following a new reaver. This time, it’s the daughter of modest shrine keepers, with some of the women having big ambitions…except Kimiko, who is content with her lot and finds her happiness in the little things. That is all turned on its head due to a series of circumstances that lead to her courting the Starmark Clan’s youngest tribute, Eloquence, as both of them attend a trial school that is meant to bridge the divides between reavers, Amaranthine, and the rest of us. But more is going on under the surface, particularly some familiar characters, and it looks like there is more trouble on the horizon.

According to one of my professors, the hardest thing you can do is write a sequel. I can usually see where she is coming from. You have to have an overarching story for your main characters, or cause new problems without making your first book pointless. One way to get around that problem is to completely skip around and have new protagonists and antagonists, just set in the same world. That is sort of what forthright did. The focus is definitely on the Starmark clan and the school in this book, but there is such a heavy callback to the earlier book, it isn’t as cleanly divorced as the idea would imply. So this is sort of almost a third way of handling it, because it isn’t following the exact same set of characters, though they make appearances and in some cases feature heavily in subplots, but they aren’t all brand new either.

There are pros and cons to this. On one hand, it’s great for characters who barely got a few chapters to get a little more attention, and Argent’s reappearance and the outside perception of him was fascinating, I always love those sorts of things. (True fact, best Christmas present to me from RP partners is points of view from other characters besides mine in key scenes.) It also gave us an idea of how tightly protected characters like Tsumiko are protected, versus Kimiko who is on the opposite end of the spectrum. But at the same time, it felt like there was a split focus between what was supposed to be our main story, which is that of Kimiko and Eloquence, and instead a lot of focus on what was going on with the side characters, such as Akira and Suuzu. This is what is called “ensemble writing,” and this is definitely more Ginny O.’s specialty than mine, so it’s hard for me to say if it was done well or not. It sometimes annoyed me, having to dig for Kimiko or Eloquence, but it never pushed me so far that I no longer enjoyed the book, so in that regard, it was a success.

Ugh, the characters though. I loved them. Like, as attached as I was to the first group, I love these even more. Kimiko in particular is my precious baby and I want to hug Eloquence. More than anything, I like that even if they find their families are embarrassing, none of the family groupings have been the “evil step-family” sort of situations yet. I feel like that sort of trope is a crutch that a lot of YA clings to, and so I’m excited that instead we’re seeing good examples in these stories without them all being nuclear families. Even the more “comedic” character, or at least more than we’d previously had, of the monkey half-Amaranthine, half-human hybrid just made me snicker and snort in amusement, especially his line drop at the end.

Also, FUCKING MIDORI. AHHHHHHHH!!! (I screamed in person too while reading. I want THAT story.)

World building, I felt like this helped explain a lot of the gaps that I had in the first book, which was excellent, while also adding elements that I hadn’t even thought about. That’s always a huge thing to do, especially as another writer reading it. It also created some cool layers and dimension, and I love how the information sometimes came from unexpected sources. (Like….Kimiko, she was really good at it, actually.) Nothing seemed overly contradictory to me, so that was thankfully balanced out to where if something did contradict the first book, it was so minor I missed it during multiple re-reads. There are also just enough gaps left that I am still left wanting more of this world.

So, out of all of this, what problems do I have? It comes down to Akira and Suuzu. I feel like they horned in big time on the story, taking a lot of the focus away from the “main” pairing, which is ironic since part of the point of this story is Kimiko coming under scrutiny and attention where she was previously considered unremarkable, and look what is happening to her in her own book! This is probably series set up, big time, which I totally respect. It just felt like the subplot started to take over, and I’m worried that this is going to be a reoccurring problem until Akira and Suuzu are resolved. Maybe it was because of the added subplot of the wolves and the dragon representative that just threw the balance off. I don’t know…

Overall, I loved this book even more than I did the first in the series. The first had the challenge of establishing a world and altering a story I already knew, which is hard, but because this second wasn’t hampered by more than a one-shot, it had a lot more breathing room. There was a little bit of a balance issue between the main plot, the subplots, and what was supposed to be our center focus, but overall, I think this is an excellent read, even without having read the prior book. (Which is about the highest praise you can give a sequel.)


Early Close to NaNo ’18

Well, this is not how I intended my try at this year to go.

Admittedly, 2018 has been a hard year for me. Lost my dog, lost my older cat. And while I am going to keep out details for privacy reasons, I have a relative that it is past the point of dreading a call if it will be bad…and knowing that the next could be the call saying it’s over. My mother had surgery around her throat, which is terrifying. I am going through a rather painful part in your late twenties that no one tells you about, where you no longer have the energy to maintain ALL THE THINGS, especially with difficult relationships. Basically the last, oh, six months or so have either been me being an emotional wreck, or me trying to be emotional support. Sometimes within a week of each other!

But despite all of that, I thought that NaNo would actually help me recharge my batteries. My goals for NaNo are never about the word count. For me, it’s about writing everyday, even if it’s just a few words. It’s about focusing on one project primarily over others. It’s basically calibrating my writing habits so for the next year or so, I am in a better place than I was.

Here is where things went wrong this year. For me, writing is emotional work. You have to have something to start with. And I’m running on empty, between all the sheer crap that has happened in the last six months, in addition to work and all my projects in the fire. I just don’t have the energy. I went through what I had in stores…and ran out. Which now leaves me in a problem of not wanting to write at all, and I have too many projects on the burner to let that happen.

So what’s the solution? Well, I’m calling this year early. I’d rather revert back to posting reviews and commentary once a week than leaving you all with no content for another few weeks. (Plus I have a new Amaranthine Saga book burning in my pocket for a review.) I should know what is going on with Sun’s Guard sometime before the end of the New Year (or so I HOPE, jeebus), and can get a plan/timeline set up accordingly–that dragging out as long as it has is not helping with my stress level. And I can start pulling some irons out of the fire so I’m not so exhausted emotionally that I have no stores.

One thing I’m definitely doing is finishing playing the game and getting graphics for the posts built. I’ve hit the point where I really need to start adding my own side-flavor and arcs to the characters, and until I finish the game, I don’t know where to put them. And with the graphics done, that’s less busywork for me to get distracted with. Also, I can return the game I borrowed, because I’ve had it way too long as it is. That’ll aid my ability to succeed at this whole thing I’m doing.

I hate admitting to something like this. I’m your stereotypical Capricorn–perfectionist, wants to succeed, will push and push and push until the job is done. But that isn’t going to work this time. I’ll stop writing for a huge stretch afterwards if I push to work on Evangeline despite not being a place creatively to do so. (Look at that, we’ve learned since grad school!) But as much as I want to put that story out for you all, it isn’t original work, and as a result, the MMO project with Ginny and (more importantly) my books have to take priority.

There is some sort of Camp NaNo, which I think is like NaNo just in April? Oh well, I can make it work like that, or at least dedicate the month to the Nuzlocke if the timing is right. I’ll keep you all informed if it looks like I’m in any condition to continue then. Hopefully before then I’ll have news on Sun’s Guard: Ten, have finished the first draft and possible edit of Sun’s Guard: Page, and have made some decent progress on the MMO. Come back next weekend for a review!


NaNo 18 Day 11 & 13: Reflection Cave

Caves weren’t nearly as bad as forests in Evangeline’s opinion. While it was more dangerous in terms of cave-ins and potential Pokemon encounters, it was less dangerous in terms of her mental health. Of course, she was thinking of the pictures she had seen of the inside of Mt. Moon, or even the small caverns she had walked through to get to Ambrette town or to hunt for fossils. These connecting caves (albeit lacking in a clever name) were of a completely different cut, and she was being literal.

Unlike the brown, dark stone of other caves, this was nearly blue, with more of the same crystals she’d seen on Route 11 emerging from cracks and crevices. As she walked down the path, she almost let her bike fall in shock. She grabbed it just in time, and tilted her head at what she was seeing in the glow of the crystals. Was that a mirror, in a cave…?

No, it was the wall.

In quiet disbelief, Evangeline walked over and pressed her fingertips lightly to the rock surface. It really was like a natural mirror, the inside of the stone smooth and polished. Maybe every stone in here was a proto-crystal that hadn’t had a chance to find the inner glow? She wasn’t a scientist, so she had no way of knowing. Either way, it reminded Evangeline of something she’d heard about–mirror mazes, where it was hard to know where there was a legitimate doorway and where it was just another wall.

Suddenly, she wished she was in Mt. Moon.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” a voice asked, and she turned. A backpacker, he had a huge yellow pack that was almost as big as him, and he was staring at the wall with an amazed smile. “The whole cave system is this way! I’ve traveled all over Kalos, and it still is just as inspiring as it was the first time.”

She nodded silently, letting her hand fall.

He turned to look at her, and his eyes gleamed when he noticed her gear. “How about a battle? Let you get used to the reflection in your battles now before you get so deep in the system that you can’t get back out.”

That sounded more than fair to Evangeline. Reaching for a Pokeball, she said, “Etienne, let’s give it a shot.”

The big blue dinosaur type came out with a trill. Only he also quickly got distracted. Walking over to the wall, he cooed, flipping his ear frills at his own reflection. Evangeline clapped her hands over mouth to muffle her giggles. “Etienne, focus, sweetie,” she chided once she had control over herself. Shaking her head, he gave her a sheepish smile and looked towards the backpacker, who was letting out his Linoone.

It wasn’t necessarily a hard battle, just a tricky one. Much like her own Ella, this Linoone was a fast bugger, and Etienne had trouble keeping an eye on him so he could use any attacks. Finally, though, one placed Aurora Beam attack knocked the Linoone out.

“Easy now,” she murmured to Etienne, coming to stand beside him as the backpacker checked his Pokemon. He smiled at her and recalled the Pokemon, confirming that it was just a knock-out, nothing serious. Evangeline returned the smile and recalled Etienne. He gave her the required payout, and with a wave, went to go heal up his Linoone.

The caves gave ways to levels…and wild Pokemon. It didn’t take much for her to turn up a new friend–a Fairy type mixed with rocks that reminded Evangeline of a rabbit. Due to the rock, she thought of the pun of the rabbit in the moon and decided to nickname it Usagi. It didn’t appear to have a gender–it didn’t even have a mouth, so she used the French gender-neutral pronoun of “on,” or one in reference to a person, when referring to it out of respect. It seemed thrilled at the acknowledgement.

Usagi

It was the last bit of peace that they had. There were levels to the cave that had to be navigated, and sometimes the way up was actually to go down. In addition, the wild Pokemon were absolutely relentless, and the trainers were down here as a tourist attraction or for practice even more so. Evangeline tried very hard not to cry in relief when one woman offered her healing services rather than asking for another battle.

Bless her heart, she noticed. “That’s why I’ve stationed myself here,” she said sympathetically. “I wish the Elite Four would send a more official nurse station put in. The wild Pokemon and all the trainers can be overwhelming for someone who isn’t prepared for it. Even for some who are!”

“I’ll mention something to Korrina when I get to Shalour City,” she promised. “With my personal experience attached to it. I don’t know what I would have done without you to heal my team.” There was a donation box, and Evangline didn’t hesitate to put some money in it to help this kind girl replenish her Potion supplies.

She hadn’t walked too far past her (and had yet another set of battles) when a familiar voice called her name from down the hallway.

“Hey Ladybird!” Tierno called, running up. “How are you doing in the Reflection Cave?”

Evangeline made a face.

He laughed. “Yeah, I get yah. Maybe I can help you out a little.” He reached into his pocket and held out a TM. “If you use the move Flash, not as many wild Pokemon will turn up,” he explained.

She took the TM, twisting it in her fingers. “Really? That’s handy.”

He grinned, rubbing the back of his head. “I kinda depend on Flash. I’m still not very good at battling, so I keep running into trouble. I sure wish I could be as good as you.”

“Yeah, well, I needed to get some help, so don’t judge yourself too hard,” Evangeline tried to reassure him with a smile. “This cave is hard on us Trainers!”

He smiled back at her, and if she were to guess, he did look a little brighter. “You’re right, I shouldn’t beat myself up too much. Especially with all the trainers around here.”

“Exactly.” She gave a firm nod, glad she wasn’t going to have to argue with him about it. “Have you had a chance to look into the Coordinators like I told you about?” she asked, changing the subject.

“Oh yeah!” he said, and he was eager to talk to her about what he found out as they walked. He paused though when he saw a group of wild Pokemon who were in a weaker level. “Hey, I’m going to see if those Mime Jr have any dance moves I can use.”

Considering they were the baby form of the miming Pokemon, Evangeline was going to say that was a safe bet. She waved him on and decided to keep going to try and get out of these caves sometime today.

Of course, the other trainers seemed to have something else in mind. She sighed when a man in a white gi came running up, bouncing on his toes as he flexed. “Battle?” she guessed.

“Yah,” he agreed. His accent was thick, and neither French or like Evangeline’s. It made understanding him difficult, and he seemed to struggle with her accent in return, but they managed.

Or rather, she managed survival. He had only the one Pokemon, but it took her rotating out her entire team and applying potions in order to get through the fight. She recalled Kakashi as the last one, rubbing her forehead and feeling the cool sweat that had gathered there. “You did great,” she told him, speaking a little slower to help him understand. “Hard battle.”

He laughed, boisterous and loud. Not the least put out that he’d lost, probably because it used her entire team to do it. “Good battle,” he agreed and pointed at her. “Hard opponent.”

She waved her hand sheepishly, making him laugh again. Igor patted her on the back so hard that she stumbled forward to keep on her feet, and went back to his training. And left Evangeline with a dilemma. She didn’t have enough Potions to get everyone to full health, but if she backtracked through the tunnel, it would mean longer in the caves and more battles due to the distance, even with Flash.

Time and battles weren’t worth the risk to her team. She healed up one member enough to face anything she met along the way and went back to the woman from before.

“Let me guess,” she said dryly as Evangeline handed over the team’s Pokeballs. “Igor.”

“At least I won?” Evangeline said with a tentative smile.

“Well, you’re the first this week,” the woman said with a scowl, puttering about her clinic. Rei’s ears laid back and he puffed up when she slammed a box down–this was no Nurse Joy with her easy way about taking care of her patients. But Evangeline wasn’t going to argue with free care in this out of the way spot, and just ran her hand soothingly down the back of Rei’s head to help him calm down. “I swear, that man has caused more incidents than any of the wild Pokemon, and his French is so poor that I can’t tell if he understands me when I tell him to knock it off and go somewhere else for his training.”

“What is his native language?” Evangeline asked curiously.

“Russian,” the woman said blandly. Evangeline could only shake her head, since that was way out of her wheelhouse in being able to help. She took back her team, and went back into the tunnels. There was no sign of Tierno, so he must have already gotten out of the cave. With a deep breath, she tried to push through too, though she did have a pause between battles to eat her lunch and share with her team. With all of the fighting, she was sure they needed the energy!

At last, there was an opening up ahead, and it took all of Evangeline’s will not to run towards. Finally, freedom from the Reflection Cave! Inwardly, she swore that she would not be revisiting, at least in the form of using it as a path between Cyllage City and Shalour City. There had to be an easier way.


NaNo 18, Day 10 & 11: Geosenge Town and Route 11

The stone arch gave way to perhaps the oddest town layout that Evangeline had ever seen. Oh, it was filled with a rustic charm, with log cabin homes and stone lined paths, but it was also laid out in a circle of all things, no signs of a grid. And it was a circle around tall tower-stones in grey that chilled Evangeline to even look at them. The Pokemon Center was thankfully nearby, letting her check in. It wasn’t even close to being done for the day–she wasn’t even ready for lunch–but she knew the Centers at home kept bento boxes for Trainers on the go.

She lucked out. Nurse Joy had bagged lunches that didn’t need refrigeration–apples, hard smoked cheeses and meats, and a flaky croissant. Evangeline had a knife so cutting it all up later wouldn’t be a problem, and her water bottle was refillable. Theo was definitely not coming with her, so a few baggies of food were enough to keep her friends fed while she ate too, even if she ended up spending the night in a cave or wood grove somewhere and had to dip into her emergency rations.

There was no reason to stick around, but Evangeline decided to poke her nose around. Especially after meeting all those Team Flare grunts on her way here. That had been a red flag back at the mines, and she felt like it was probably applicable to them in general.  They were immediately around, and no one she talked to seemed to realize they were around, but that didn’t mean they weren’t!

There was a path that led around the village that she decided to follow. It was almost like a shared yard between the houses. A very…strange…shared yard, but it at least gave her an idea of why it was set up that way. Hitting the north end of the path, she considered turning around. But a flash of orange caught her attention, and she ran forward to confirm it.

Unfortunately, she had failed basically every stealth class she’d ever sat in during her visits to the academy with Mother. She was spotted almost instantly. He twisted around to see her clearly, scowling. “Not you again!”

She prepared for more trouble herself, reflexively grabbing Kakashi’s Pokeball. “I could say the same thing.”

“Hear this, pipsqueak! Team Flare is gonna use the stones on Route 10 and a fantastic treasure to make everyone on our team happy!” he said authoriatively. “In this world, the ones who have power are the ones who win with flare!”

“So that rules you out, doesn’t it?” she pointed out.

He threw a smoke bomb at her in answer, making her cover her mouth and cough to wait for it to clear the air. Jerk.

A series of steps came running up behind her, resting his hand on her shoulder. The smell of powder in her nose had her reflexively reaching for the kunai that should have been strapped to her thigh… Only nothing was there. Because she wasn’t at the academy. She was in Kalos, and the person behind her was a friend.

Sort of.

Xavier made sure she was standing up on her own and breathing properly before he relaxed. “Evangeline, are you okay?” When she nodded, he looked over head in the direction she had been talking to the moron. “Was someone from Team Flare here just now?”

“Yes,” she managed to cough out, straightening up as her lungs finally cleared.

His expression was…skeptical, to say the least. “You said he was here, but he isn’t anymore, is he? There’s only a dead end up ahead…” he pointed out.

“He was there!” she insisted, glaring up at him, annoyed at the insinuation. She wasn’t crazy! There had been a Team Flare member here, and now he was gone. Evangeline may not know where he went, but as much as she was awful at being sneaky, the academy had taught her all about secret passageways and entrances. Just because they couldn’t see something, didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

Wisely, Xavier held up his hands. “I believe you!” he quickly corrected his tone by assuring her. She humphed, making it clear that was the right answer or they were about to have a real problem. He shifted the bill of his hat up so he could look over the area more. “I wonder where that Team Flare guy went…” he mused.

“I don’t know, but I’m content to tell the nearest Officer Jenny and her police force, and stay the hell out of it unless forced,” she said, crossing her arms to hug herself. “We’ve been lucky, Xavier. These are grunt level in a terrorist organization, they barely know what they are doing and they aren’t the strongest trainers. Their more elite members, much less their boss? There’s no telling what would have happened.”

“Speaking from experience?” he asked, raising his brows at her.

She shrugged awkwardly. “My parents dealt with a similar organization in their youth,” she said. “The local champion managed to step in at the time, but it was dicey for a while.”

“The Kalos Champion isn’t well known, but I imagine whoever they are, they are keeping an eye on the Team Flare situation,” he said soothingly. “I’m going to push on, I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”

Evangeline hadn’t expected him to even be here considering the time advantage he’d had, so she nodded in agreement. He scurried away, and she walked over to where she had last seen the Team Flare member. There was nothing here that stood out to her as being a secret entrance, but it may be further on ahead too… She shook her head. Nope, she was leaving this to Officer Jenny, as soon as she found one.

Walking back out of the circling path thankfully spat her out close to the road leading out of town. She was just walking under another stone arch when the cry came behind her.

“Lucario! What are you doing?”

Turning around, Evangeline grinned as a familiar Lucario came running over, his trainer and fellow Lucario just behind him. “Running away again?” she asked. He scuffed at the dirt of the road, his head ducked bashfully.

Korrina skid to a stop in her roller blades, looking at Evangeline with wide eyes. “Hey! You’re that trainer from Route 5!” she realized, looking at her Lucario who kept seeking Evangeline out. He wasn’t a lot of help, twisting to look up at the sky as he grumbled under his breath, too faint for Evangeline to hear and understand him.

Not that it stopped Korrina. “I’m not exactly sure, but I think Lucario says he wants to battle with you,” she said slowly, and then looked at Evangeline with bright eyes. “Would you battle with us?”

Oh, why not? It wasn’t like her journey had to be measured in terms of time rather than accomplishments. “Sure,” she agreed, reaching for one of her team’s Pokeballs.

“So, I have two Lucario… But do you know which is the one that has taken a shine to you?” Korrina asked with a teasing glint.

Evangeline managed not to roll her eyes. It was a little obvious. But she wasn’t going to start a verbal argument. Instead, she called out Hikari.

“A fairy?” Korrina said skeptically.

“What is it with people judging by appearances?” Evangeline muttered, and the battle was on. Perhaps because of Korrina’s dismissal, Hikari threw herself into the fight with abandon, making Evangeline have to hold her back more than anything else, as she set about destroying both Lucario. Grabbing the fairy before she could turn on Korrina, Evangeline laughed. “You know, you didn’t have to beat them that badly,” she said.

“They made fun of us!” she argued in a squeaky voice. Still laughing, Evangeline patted her consolingly on the head and let her return to her Pokeball to stew in silence.

Or well, near silence. Korrina clapped her hands as she reached an epiphany. “Okay, now I get it!”

“Get what?” Evangeline asked, clueless as to what Korrina had actually figured out. Maybe that Evangeline understood what the Pokemon were saying?

“I see why Lucario likes you so much!” she said with a sunny smile. Well, that made one of them. Evangeline still wasn’t sure why someone else’s Pokemon kept seeking her out. “So, do you remember that I’m the Gym Leader in Shalour City?”

Evangeline nodded, deciding that was the best answer she could give to the question.

“Once you get past the cave just beyond here, you’ll be there, so stop by and say hello!” Korrina demanded, reaching out and taking Evangeline’s hands in hers. She didn’t let go until Evangeline quietly agreed, and then skated off.

Shaking her head, Evangeline reached up and scratched under the brim of her hat. Was the newspaper in Cyllage just an anomaly? Or did Korrina pay as much attention to the news as her father did to Johto? (Which unless it dealt with certain topics, was not at all.) Either way, she figured it couldn’t hurt to let Korrina maintain her current beliefs. She could break it to her later.

Route 11 had postings also calling it Miroir Way, describing how people could feel the power of the earth’s interior thanks to the crystals that had poked out of the ground, exposed to the surface by time. It was climbing back up the mountains, basically, amusing Evangeline at how she came all the way down, only to have to go back up. It really highlighted to her why the different Pokedex classification systems existed here, with how the region was divided geographically.

There were a handful of trainers along the route, though thankfully not as many as there had been leading up to Geosenge Town. She’d barely been walking through the tall grass at all when she stirred up a wild Pokemon–a Chingling that she caught and nicknamed Yvette.

Yvette (Chingling)

Flipping through her Pokedex as she pushed her bike up the steps, Evangeline was shocked when a beep came from her Holo Caster alerting her to an incoming message.

It was too early to be Aunt Aya, and a part of her dreaded that it was that creepy Lysandre. To her relief, the call actually shaped up to be from Professor Sycamore. “Hello there!” he greeted with a casual wave.

“Hello, Professor,” she returned with a shy smile, glad to hear from him. “How are you?”

“Doing well. According to your Caster, it looks like you’ve almost made it to Shalour City. That’s fantastic!” he congratulated her. She flushed, thankful that the hologram wouldn’t be able to translate the change in her complexion over. “You look happy,” he added with a softer expression. “It looks like your journey with your Pokemon around the Kalos region is going swimmingly.”

“I’m glad I came to Kalos too,” she agreed, wishing she could explain more. But she was too flustered with competing emotions, most of them ones she was unfamiliar with. It almost made her feel dizzy.

He nodded, and then got to his point. “I wanted to tell you about a person in Shalour who knows a great deal about Mega Evolution. People call him the Mega Evolution guru.”

That got her attention out of her emotional wallowing. “Then why did you bother sending us to Camphier Town?” she asked sharply.

“You needed to go through anyway, and I may have known about a certain reoccurring problem in the area that I thought you could handle.” He winked at her. She huffed in mild annoyance. Evangeline should have known Sycamore was meddling–professors were notoriously nosy. “Anyway, I’ve told everyone else about him, so if you have a second, you should give him a visit!”

“I’ll add it to my list of things to do,” she said with a sigh, but she nodded.

He grinned at her, and the call ended. She looked at the looming cave entrance, and wondered if she should have warned the professor she was about to enter a set of caves, so he wouldn’t have gotten so excited. But steeling herself, she walked her bike inside to navigate her way to Shalour City.