Tag Archives: soul

Review: Charming

I always was more of a Prince Adam girl rather than Prince Charming, which ironically is perfect for this book, Charming by Elliot James. It takes the conventional role of Prince Charming (this time referring to just a general prince-hero type in fairy tales, rather than the Disney reference), and tries to throw a spin on them. Is it all that original? Not really, but A for effort.

The novel follows John Charming, who is the black sheep of the family…or should I be punny and say the wolf of the family? But everything has gone to hell, so he’s living under a false identity, tending bar in a small town. Or at least, he is…until a valkyrie and a vampire walk into the bar. John is being dragged back into the world he thought he’d left behind. The question is, will he make it back out again unchanged?

I think I’ll start with world building this time. I actually thought there were some things to it that were really well done…and others that came across misogynistic…and then a couple that could have used some fleshing out. For example, the Knights Templar and the idea of the Pax Arcana I thought worked well. The Knights weren’t made into this blanket of sameness that covered the whole world, the geas made it clear that there were going to be Knights whether they wanted to be or not, and the other elements just flowed together well. There were degrees and layers to it. Similarly, it touched on other orders founded by different cultures where the idea of feudalism hadn’t taken root yet, which helped give dimension.

But for our particular Knight, I find his existence as the only one of his kind to ever exist really illogical. The odds just don’t seem right to me. Rare, sure, but I feel like there should be history there. Similarly, even though a ghost ended up being kind of a big deal for subplots and others for red herrings, they really weren’t touched on beyond Sig’s “I see dead people” shtick and what little she mentions. John should know at least enough about this, and the book has enough info dumps in it, one more really couldn’t have hurt. (More on this later.) Without the explanation, it left the ghost elements feeling like an after-thought to try and make Sig work in the story and be vital to it.

Similarly, I have some issues with how he decided to interpret the Valkyrie myth. Obviously, I’ve done my own dabbling in this, so I’m a little biased. I think I’m capable of keeping my distance and respecting other people’s vision…but this one just irks me. I know someone out there is going, “As long as she doesn’t have a kid, it’s fine, right? You’re over-reacting.” And maybe I am. But for a Valkyrie to lose their immortality, and if I inferred correctly a good chunk of their power, just by having a daughter seems like a really messed up weakness, and a way of removing agency from this particular kind of creature. You don’t see gender or physical sex factoring into other creatures’ weaknesses. I understand how it can seem like I’m splitting hairs–my swan maidens are vulnerable by their swan skins being stolen, which are taken by human men to capture them for wives. But I make it clear that this is an assault in all meanings of the word, no matter how “nice” the man is. This has the overtones of it being a choice and responsibility of the woman, when it isn’t.

Okay, moving on. Plot. It actually wasn’t that bad. It definitely lagged at places and could have used some tightening up. I get that there was some play going on with the full moon, and that’s why he had the number of days leading up to everything, but it was a bit too much, meaning there was a lot of dead space. And when writers have dead space…they info dump. I do it, other writers do it. It’s a fact. And sometimes editors let us get away with it. In this case some of the information was helpful. In others…not so much. I could have done without it, or done with some more information on the parts that were left gaping (see ghosts and such). I did like the fake out before the big confrontation in the white room of pain. Weaknesses was the relative doppelganger (really, really lame), and the romance as a whole.

Which brings me to characters. John on his own was a strong voice. Not a unique voice, but a strong one. His sudden glee over his soul felt like it came out of nowhere. I mean, I get that he was raised to believe that he was a monster, but I guess there just wasn’t enough of this worry conveyed before his revelation. Side characters were about as strong as I expect from side characters. The priest in particular had a wonderful freshness to her that I wish John had, it would have helped him stand out more among the crowd of werewolf (or almost werewolf) male protagonists out there. There was a distinct lack of a villain voice. The antagonist feelings were split between a member of the group and hunting for an enemy vampire…who we didn’t really see until the end. We learned about her, never actually saw her. The plot survived, but it left us lacking a secondary strong voice to combat with John and bring balance to the book.

I think James realized he needed a second strong voice, which is why the romance subplot got introduced and Sig got pushed more to the front. It was a strong-arm attempt, and it was an awkward situation to read. I like Sig, I just don’t know if this was the best way to write her into John’s life. Heck, I’m not sure I even like her and John as a thing. Was there chemistry there? Yes. But even with how drawn out the timeline was, it felt rushed. Surprisingly, I wish she had been pushed back a little bit more until a later book, and let things progress more naturally.

For all my nitpicking, I actually loved this book. Ginny wasn’t sure enough of where it was going for sequels, which I can understand, so I might try the second and see how it goes on my own. But even if you are just reading the first as a stand alone, I recommend it. Yay for starting the New Year off on a good foot! Hopefully the rest of 2016 goes just as well.


Day 3: What is this feeling…? (Part 1)

April 5, 20xx

Dear Diary,

You know, I don’t know much about summer camps, but there is very little about this place that seems normal.

Except maybe how the morning started. I woke up before the alarm (I am ready for that time adjustment, please), so I went ahead and rolled (figuratively, I’m not crazy) out of bed. I was just sore enough from the mining adventure of yesterday that I did a few stretches to limber up my muscles, though they weren’t too bad. I’m sure they will be worse tomorrow.

Thankfully, my hair just needed a little bit of curling with the iron to tame the fly aways rather than a complete wash today. I put on my eyeliner and tinted lip balm, and realized that I would probably want to help Savvy wake up. So I pulled up “Icarus” by Bastille on my phone. It’s got that heavy drum and almost chamber music like singing in the beginning, I thought that would help ease her awake than it being a sudden shock.

She threw a pillow at me! Missed entirely, but still! I clutched at my robe, grabbed the nearest pile of clothes, and ducked into the bathroom with a squeal to get dressed. If she was going to be throwing things, I didn’t want to stay in the room!

I didn’t realize I’d left my phone in there until I was pulling those new pants and it switched from “Icarus” to the Audien remix of “Pompeii.” I scrambled into the green t-shirt and ran out, but Savvy was already up and had my phone in hand. I flushed and scuffed my feet on the floor, feeling like I had just been called into Daddy’s office. She didn’t say anything, though, other than to grumble and start getting ready herself. Today, I finished before her and took the time to unpack a little more. Honestly, there is hardly anything in that trunk! Shopping is about to become a necessity, as much as I am loath to admit it.

Rather than rely on Justin for food again, I dragged Savvy to the food hall again. Breakfast was come and go as you please, so I was able to have a cup of strong tea and milk and some toast. Savvy woke up enough and insisted I eat some protein. I managed to mollify her by having a bite of eggs, but I just don’t feel like eating much for breakfast most days.

Evening was just as cranky this morning as he was yesterday, and I’m afraid I lost my temper a little. He managed to get a mouthful of my hair, and I reached up and slapped his neck (loudly rather than forcefully) in reprimand. At least he had the decency to look ashamed of himself. I wagged a finger at him anyway, and took no nonsense with the cinch today, while you know I normally like to let the horse breath a little and then tighten it up. Honestly, my hair is the one thing about my appearance I actually like and people compliment. I know I shouldn’t be so sensitive, but… Oh, what am I saying. He’s a horse testing his boundaries, that’s all. Savvy’s Heart, of course, was the epitome of good manners. Couldn’t he learn a little from her?

We had just left the stable when May had need of us. Apparently the camp cow, Daisy, was sad and off her feed, poor thing. And since unlike the other campers, we actually knew Mrs. Holdsworth, she wanted us to speak with the woman since the vet couldn’t find anything wrong. Apparently despite being a retired accountant, she grew up around cattle, used to tell stories about them and anything. I know that there were cattle on the estate back home, but I’d never really been allowed near them. I don’t think Savvy was quite as enthusiastic about it as I was. I heard her muttering to Heart, though I couldn’t understand what was being said. But I thought it was an excellent learning opportunity.

Mrs. Holdsworth had a story about a cow named Wendy. I refrained from asking if it was a Peter Pan reference. But Savvy snorted, and I had to give her a curious look. Wendy seemed like a perfectly fine name to me… We had to gather some dandelions–easy enough this time of year–and she made us a brew for Daisy. She also suggested talking to her. Savvy was reluctant to leave Heart’s side, but I dismounted and chattered at her in complete sympathy. I understood having bad days.

When I pulled my hand back, though, there was this strange…spark. I would normally pass it off as just static electricity, but…

Well, I had just gotten back up on Evening’s back when there was a great kerfuffle. Thomas Moorland was shouting, and when we ran up to him, we found out that someone had taken that deed we had just recovered from Mr. Holbrook! Oh no, we had gone through too much fuss for us to let it go to pot that quickly. Not when he had been as tetchy as Great-Aunt Carolynn. So we went tearing after the rider.

And oh, dear, goodness. The rider. For a moment, I thought this was some specter from that tomb who had come to haunt us. The horse was dark with a white mane and tail, and his hoof prints were aflame. His rider was hooded in black and red. Evening and I forced them to turn, letting Savvy snatch the documents. And as soon as that happened, they just…faded from sight.

I had to grab Evening’s mane to keep from falling right off. He snorted, and side-stepped to help us both stay balanced, I was listing so badly as fear made all the blood drain out of my face. The blacksmith’s words from yesterday and my scoffing almost rang in my ears. Were magic and…and ghosts…real here? Evening managed to shift and shake me back into the center of balance of the saddle and we walked back to Moorland. (I would have fallen for sure if we had tried to go any faster.)

Mr. Moorland tried to dismiss our concerns, much like I did yesterday. It would certainly be easier. But I couldn’t help thinking of that spark with the cow and how she perked back up so quickly… it all seems so strange. Too strange. I didn’t want to think about it anymore, and still don’t.

So where did we go next? Of course, to check back in with the blacksmith. Now he needed spikes for the shoes, ones that could only be found on the beach. I beg pardon? Why are ancient artifacts being left out in the beach to be stepped on or picked up by campers? Ugh. But the beach itself was lovely. There was something going on with a barge and crates, at least on this side, but it gave me hope that maybe there would be something more hospitable around the fort.

Well, as much as it irked both Savvy and I, we had to take back what we found rather than clean the whole beach, since that would easily take the rest of the day, if not the next several. Evening dragged his feet back though, and kept looking back to snort at the beach’s direction. Conrad was happy with the spikes, and said to come back tomorrow. Sigh. It’s going to be one of those summers, isn’t it? But he gave us a jacket…even though the two greens of the shirt that came with and the jacket do not go together. At all. Even I can tell that.

Savvy wanted to go check out Fort Pinta next…or, I suspect, to do whatever her variation of Mummy’s shopping she had. I’m not quite full in the pocket enough to really consider shopping, but I thought poking around couldn’t be a bad idea. So I went along without needing too much coaxing.

But we hadn’t made it farther than the path to the abbey we were being interrupted again with another so called emergency.

Continue to Part 2…


Tabletop RP: Favorite Classes

Anyone who has played any kind of tabletop RP knows that there are a plethora of classes (or types, for those non-versed) of characters to play. You can sometimes mix and match, take on a more specialized class, or completely wreck anything that class is actually intended for, but some are more fun for others. For example, I am AWFUL at any kind of spellcaster that requires me to prepare my spells the night before. I just feel cranky having to pick spells, or needing a spell at a particular moment, but derp, didn’t pick it “last night,” so now we have to wait for me to rest 8 hours. I also haven’t ever played a straight fighter, so I don’t know how well I’ll like playing one. I’ve also been dabbling in the d20 Future stuff (no matter how derpy it is at times), and have an idea on my favorites there too.

To begin with, my baby. The girl who started it all. The one who had two wanted posters out for her at the same time, one labeling her human and female, the other half-elf and male. I’m sort of an archer-fanatic, so I guess it isn’t a surprise that my first character was a ranged Ranger (yeah, it’s a thing), who eventually became a modified-from-3.0-into-3.5 Deep Wood Sniper. I really liked my near invisibility status and the ability to almost take down a minotaur single-handedly with two arrows fired at the same time, thanks to their tips being poisoned and him failing most of the Fortitude checks. The animal companion aspect didn’t come into play much, but that’s another story. I also never really had a use for my spells, but then, we had a cleric in the party most of the time, and the rest of the time I couldn’t be hit so I didn’t care. The only real downside was when I was hit, I was nearly killed far too easily. And then don’t get me started on how low the will saves for rangers/deep wood snipers are. It’s sad, and led to much brain washing on my part.

Another sort of mixed feeling class is my Favored Soul. On one hand, I love playing Anna, and when I came into this campaign, I sort of accepted I was going to be like 60%-75% health battery. I discovered I much more liked the way I can just cast any spell I know, and her stats, at least in the early days, weren’t completely sucky. But for those of you who haven’t looked at Favored Souls, about level six (if I’m recalling right), things get ugly. You stop getting almost any bonuses for leveling up. Now, this is done on purpose. Those are really the levels where your DM gets to step in and start doing things to your character involving your deity that’s favoring the character, giving them the power boost that way. Only, my DM wasn’t. And he was doing a “I level you when it’s time for you to level for story reasons, rather than by experience,” way of things, so I was stuck in one of those sucky levels for what felt like forever. So there is my word of warning. I would take Favored Soul over Cleric, and I think it can be a fun class. But make sure you have a DM who knows where your levels of suck are and how to help your character not get vastly over powered by the others in the process.

My favorite class so far has got to be War Mage, but that might be because of how pseudo-overpowered it feels to me. You get all of the offensive spells, you auto-know them when you level, so no worries about picking out huge lists of spells, and then every few levels you get to pick out a new spell to add to your repitoire. You also get to do more damage based off of your Intelligence score, and then, as if that isn’t enough, you can add more with feats. Best part though? No squishy wizard affect! That’s right, war mages get to wear light and then later medium armor, and can go all the way up to heavy with another feat. Or you can do what I’m doing and get a heavy armor made out of mithril so it only counts as medium and just say, “Screw ALL ya’ll!” The saves aren’t great, but they aren’t awful either, and while you don’t get a lot of skills or skill points, what skills you do get are relevant to the character, and it’s still easy to really make your character your own. Yun has been a ball to play so far, and I don’t see that changing.

As I said at the beginning, I’ve been dabbling in the d20 Future. And while the first campaign crashed and burned, the second is setting itself up well enough that I think I’m going to like what I’m doing. The key I’m thinking is that while I have technically picked one particular type of Hero Class, I was able to toggle with both my ability scores and my starting occupation (and take some cross-class skills) to give my character traits from a different one without taking multi-class levels. And really, I think that might be the best way to play this version of tabletop RP. Yes, pick a class and take everything it offers to you, but also take bits and pieces that lets you round out so you aren’t so heavily specialized that all it takes is one situation and you are screwed. I’m so excited to play Birdie, and I know some of that is me getting to surprise my fellow RPers and the fact I get to be more than just my starting class.

Now for the bad side of the coin. One of my least favorites was actually a gestalt character, a combination of Ninja and Wu Jen that was oh-so-fondly dubbed, the Wu Jinja. While the character herself was both a pot of crazy and a lot of fun, I gotta say, I hated the classes. By themselves, the ninja was like playing a low-level wizard after he ran out of spells, and the wu jen WAS a low-level wizard, and we’ve already talked about my feelings on that kind of spell caster. They sort of saved each other enough that I no longer hated them, but I definitely wouldn’t pick them again unless I knew there was going to be a large party to help protect my character’s scrawny butt until she got more powerful spells/abilities.

So, let me throw this out there. What are some of you guys’ favorite classes, or least favorite? What do you like about them?