Tag Archives: valkyrie

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.


News Since…October?!

Yeesh, I sort of died over here, didn’t I? I deeply apologize, everybody, but hopefully my explanation will make up for it.

This last semester, I was taking a class similar to Independent Study, in the sense that it was me working on a story one-on-one with a professor. In this case, I chose to start revising the first book in the Shadow Day Quartet. There were problems with the plot that I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and I definitely needed some advice. Right before I met with the professor, I did an exercise that made me realize that I had twice, if not three times, the amount of characters I needed, and then Prof. Chester pointed out I was lacking a direct antagonist for the main character, then helped me with setting Mari and Natile apart, which gave me a huge plot hole in the newly revised plot line…which is where I’m stuck at now. I need to fix the plot, but I’m roughly a third of the way through the rewrite, with only the first four chapters needing a severe overhaul due to me relearning the important parts of my craft. I brought either a revised plot (it took me a few times to get something solid) or a chapter every week to my meeting with Chester, leading to an average of about 2,250 to 2,750 words a week.

Another class I was taking was Commercial Non-Fiction. These are books like The Diary of Anne-Frank, Longitude, etc. They deal with real events/information, but tell the story like a novel. I had the option of working on my idea to do a study on the various different stories about Anastasia Romanov, but in the end realized I would not have the time to do the research I needed. So I defaulted and wrote about jousting, both in medieval times and in modern medieval fairs/shows. Most of the stuff currently written is everything I don’t need research for thanks to my AOA, aside from the one interview I did manage to get in and the necessary little bit of intell I got on different horse breeds beyond my own handfuls of knowledge… I got most of my part done with it, and the book really just needs me to finish doing interviews to add other people’s opinion/knowledge. That said, I wrote 25,000 words in a very condensed time frame and was quite ready to kill things by the end of it. Each week once the writing started was 4,000 words, required, and then the last one was 5,000.

The final class I was taking was the first half of my graduate project, the second book in the Shadow Day Quartet. It took us quite a while to get my plot beaten down into something that made sense, and the first two chapters are rough. Really rough. I’m used to getting a first draft to get the kinks out before a professor reads it, and it showed. But I finally got my stuff together, and managed to get the first four chapters written. Out of seventeen plus epilogue. The format to this class worked the exact same as the sort-of Independent Study, even with the same professor, only I didn’t necessarily have to turn anything in during a given week (something I found out at the end of the semester, and it saved my bacon). My chapters were also longer, usually from 2,750 to 3,250.

This is all on top of trying to keep my forum RPs alive and weekly prompts, which the prompts alone varied from around 1,200 words to 4,000 words. So lots and lots of writing happened, and something just had to give. Sadly, it was the blog. I had planned though to pick up the blog after my family vacation. Immediately after Dead Week (and my poor advertising students’ early final), I went off to Las Vegas, Nevada for the National Finals Rodeo with my family. Even better, I got to go see Tournament of Kings over at the Excaliber (and make fun of them a little. Great show, but their Arthur story needs help). It was fun, and I even got to leave with more money than I arrived with, thanks to a lot of luck.

Everything seemed to be going alright… And then somebody got on to the return flight from Vegas to Amarillo sick. Guess who got whatever congestion nightmare that was? At first, I thought it was from my ears popping like six times a day from riding the elevator (we were on the 22nd floor of the hotel), but by Sunday I couldn’t breath through my nose, and breathing through my mouth led to coughing. I was still really tired/coughy all the way up to Christmas, when I carpooled back to the Oklahoma Panhandle with my older brother. He asked me to drive up to Tulsa, and we left from there. Along the way, I lost my cruise control on my car (still need to get that looked at, actually…), but thankfully he was driving his up to the panhandle and I got to sleep most of the way thanks to my meds knocking me out like a light.

Now, my wrist has been doing this popping thing whenever I bent it back, and then popping again when I bent it forward, usually only after I’d had a really, REALLY long day of writing. My family informed me in Vegas that this was carpel tunnel, and I needed to start wearing a brace before it got worse. I heard, but since I was having trouble with even the concept of getting oxygen into my body, I hadn’t managed to buy a brace yet. Big. Mistake. Driving back from my brother’s place in Tulsa to my place in Norman without cruise control messed with my wrist sooooo bad… Yeah, writing has become a little bit of a hassle. Thankfully, it has slowly been getting better.

So what has gotten done around here? Well, for one, I’m going to come out and admit to being Eva-Emaria on deviantart.com, as well as in the comment section of webcomics, including Hurrocks Fardel. Now, how the heck is this relevant? For those of you who follow this comic (which should be everyone, its actually really clever and well-paced), there was a contest a few months ago to create characters to be featured in the comic. Since my character, a swan maiden/valkyrie named Eira, won, I’ve been working on her Guard, getting them drawn, bios written, and all posted on my deviantart page. It has taken me almost a year now, but it is finished at last. Very tentatively, I want to someday do a webcomic involving these characters, but I need a few things to happen in Hurrocks Fardel before I attempt to do that, since I need to know more about the world. I also got over the severe burnout that the crazy semester had given me, partially thanks to a new story idea that I’ve added to my list of projects. It’s planned just enough that I won’t go crazy thinking about it.

What are the goals for this semester? Well, one of my classes has me reading basically a book a week, and doing short reports over most of them, four presentations over the others, plus a decent sized final paper. My only other class is finishing my grad novel. In an ideal world, I’m done way early with my second book, like before Spring Break early, so I can be defended and done with it. I have Medieval Fair coming up on April 5, and I need to have my costume and armor (yeah, I’m making armor, be afraid) finished by February 15. And then, provided I’ve done what I need to do to get the grad project done and over with, I’d like to get the first book’s rewrite finished by May.

Outside of writing, I am on the permanent-job hunt for post-graduation, ideally starting June 2 and giving me time to take a two week vacation/work trip up to New Orleans before hand. I’d like to be in an associate professor job, but since I can’t leave Oklahoma for family reasons, I’d be willing to accept just about anything that lets me stay in the rough area where I am. Once I get the job lined up, I get to go house hunting. *rubs hands and cackles* Yep, I’m sick of apartments and am quite ready to be somewhere where there is at LEAST three feet between me and the next house. Plus, I need a fenced in back yard for my poor dog to be moved down here with me.

Now, to the point. What does all this mean for the blog? Basically, I’m ideally going to have the time to start posting on here more regularly, thanks to me finally going, “Rebecca, you DERP, write the post over the week and just schedule it to go up on Thursdays!” I’ll let you all know also when I finish the different books, as well as when my new job/house are lined up. I will definitely want some advice on places to see in New Orleans outside of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. And with that, I’ll see you all next Thursday!