Dark Parables: The Final Cinderella

I love the art direction and interwoven stories of the Dark Parables games so much. I like how there’s more than one fairy tale being explore in each game, despite the title. The Final Cinderella has links to the other games and is about more than just a cinder girl. In fact, Cinderella is a technical term and tehere’s an awful lot of puppets in the menu screen…

There were bits I got very unhappy with– I don’t like missing content especially when clues on where to find the missed stuff are so hard to come by. But I did eventually find all of the optional content so I no longer remember my list of complaints.

The story is about as good as it can be given the structural limitations and the source material, which is to say: I could imagine a better story but I’ve also played far worse ones. I once again loved the visuals and wished I got to explore them even more. The Fragmented Object Puzzles were okay. A bit harder this time, more objects hidden in ways I considered cheating. The other kinds of puzzles were adequate: there was one sliding panel puzzle in the bonus content (which I skipped; it’s the only kind of puzzle I pretty much plan to skip) and some word-find puzzles except in a field of unfamiliar characters. There were a couple instances of a marble puzzle and I really liked the pipe/string puzzle (turn the squares with the pipes to connect two locations), all pretty general stuff and nothing that stood out.

All in all a solid but not superior entry in the sequence, with interesting lore expansions.

Dark Parables: Rise of the Snow Queen

Quick mini-review: The gameplay kind of annoyed me: one of the repeating puzzles I really disliked, and I spent a lot of time wandering around trying to figure out what to do next. Possibly my own fault for playing with some of the clue sparkles turned off. But still.

On the other hand, the Dark Parables sequence is really, really growing on me. They all link together! In the previous game about the Frog Prince, you learn one of his four wives, Snow White, divorced him. She went home with her sick child to the Mountain Kingdom and became the Snow Queen. The magic mirror from Snow White figures in, as well as Kai and Gerda, and I suspect her wicked stepmother is a significant antagonist in one or more future games. It’s a really neat weaving together of many fairy tales.

The art was gorgeous, the voice acting was minimal and functional. Overall I’m reasonably happy with it.

MATCHBOX GIRLS sale!

Hey there! Matchbox Girls is 99 cents at Amazon/Nook/Kobo. It’s also available for the same price and DRM-free at my publisher, Candlemark & Gleam.

Soon we’ll be doing a cover reveal (and hopefully a Goodreads entry) for WOLF INTERVAL, which is Book #3 of the SENYAZA SERIES. It’s due out in October!

For those new to this urban fantasy series, each of the three SENYAZA books follows a different heroine (two of them costar in #4, which is currently being written) as they face angels, faeries and monsters. This sale is a great time to give it a try, or if you’re already a reader, let a friend know!

This Crumbling Pageant

I pick up books primarily based on premise. Even my favorite authors have to catch my attention with the premise and if a beloved author wanders into territory that doesn’t excite me I may never pick up the books in question.

Luckily, my premise hooks are broad. I like angels and goddesses. I like Regencies and other interesting, non-contemporary settings. I like women with powerful magic. I like dark romances. I like stories about fighting destiny and I even like a bit of Arthuriana. And when This Crumbling Pageant was pitched to me, I knew that I had to read it.

It’s set in a shadow world that lies alongside the historical Regency-era England we know. The shadow world—Magi England– seems to be made up of bubbles of magical geography that rest on the foundation of Ordinary England, and likewise, the culture of Magi England and the story rest upon the foundations of a mundane world— although most of the time the foundations are so deeply buried you don’t notice them and the book might as well be in an entirely different world. But, as foundations do, the foundations matter.

In Magi England, the indigenous people are called the Earthborn, and their invaders and conquerors are the Fireborn. They worship Greco-Roman gods and take their names from Greco-Roman culture. The ancestor of the current Fury family is credited with creating Magi England as it now exists: enthroning its King, suggesting its laws and warding its ways. Once the Magi were safe from Ordinary England, the Fury family took up a retired life: focusing on elegancies and their enchanting music. At least until Our Story Begins, when a King is dying without a blood heir, and their eldest daughter marries the Duke Regent.

The story isn’t about her. This Crumbling Pageant is about her little sister, youngest daughter of the Fury family: born to dark rumors and uncomfortable, strange magic.

(One of my favorite parts of this book: This is a fantasy novel, right? Sort of pitched as an upper YA thing? You’d think the young lady’s dark birth and strange magic would make her family draw away. What’s a YA novel without a heroine estranged from her family, right? But Persephone’s family absolutely cherishes her despite her problems. She has a sister and three brothers (including a twin she supposedly stole the magic from) and she has a warm individual relationship with each of them. Even her parents, who supposedly travel abroad for years at a time, are _her parents_. The author doesn’t spend a ton of time detailing this but the warmth of her family ties infuses every scene with them and I love it.)

We meet Persephone Fury at age 13 as she goes on an adventure and is first introduced to her destiny. After introducing all of the major characters, we’re whisked forward a few years, to the point where Persephone is preparing for her social debut while drinking a tisane to suppress her magic, and the story really gets started.

While powerful and more educated than most of her peers, Persephone also carries the full weight of her entire culture’s flaws. She’s both sheltered and privileged: gossip and her strange magic are pretty much the worst she’s had to deal with by the time she’s seventeen, and she has never been given any reason to question anything about her world. She’s in love with a man who only wants to shelter and protect her, and if she had her way, she’d be happy with him for the rest of her life.

Unfortunately for her, the antagonist has other plans. She has both the power and skills he needs. She’s hated him her whole life, but he’s not exactly a stranger to hardship. Worse, he’s a master of the same strange magic she can only control through drugs and he has other secrets she craves. And sadly for both of them, they’re the chosen chew toys of a goddess with an agenda of her own.

For the reader, this isn’t as bad as it is for the poor characters: Vespasian Jones is as expertly drawn as Persephone Fury. He’s very much the protagonist of his own story; he is _interesting_ on the page in ways that I’m sure surprise some readers— and there’s a lot in-between the lines of his sections. I was not disappointed by the final convergence of their arcs (and I’d love to talk about them more with anybody who finishes the book!)

The story moves fast, with layers of hinted secrets, foreshadowing, setting development, character development and plot. Very little is laid out easily for us: some things referred to in the first third of the book aren’t fully explained until near the end and other things introduced halfway through are still unexplained at the end (because this is a trilogy). It doesn’t, claims a Barnes & Noble review, end on a cliffhanger, which I suppose is technically true: it has a strong plot arc that resolves in exciting and _mostly_ satisfying ways. It just leaves a lot of wild possibilities in the ‘pending’ queue and I’m feeling a bit intense about some of them still, two days later.

Patricia Burroughs is new to high fantasy (as far as I can tell), but not new to writing; she’s been a romance author and a screenwriter for over twenty years and it shows in her storytelling. The book is expertly crafted. She knows what she’s doing. It’s not _perfect_: sometimes the world building is a bit too in media res; sometimes explanations promised are interrupted or never come; occasionally small details are skimmed over where I would have liked to have seen them explained; sometimes (like me) you get a crazy idea and fly with it for too long.

The plot takes a few twists that — for me — meant I rushed through the second half quickly. Some really dreadful things were foreshadowed and I wanted to get them over with as quickly as possible. But dreadful events are never throwaway events. They matter. Because our heroine is going to change the world, one way or another, though perhaps not in the ways the entities steering her would like…

(Can you see why I like this book so much?)

And I hope if you’ve been reading this far, you’ll give the book a try so I’m not alone in anticipating the second volume.

THE HUGOS drama!

OK, friends who only know anything about the Hugos because I insist on sharing it with you. THE STORY SO FAR. IT IS HILARIOUS.

(Quick rules overview. The Hugos are chosen through ranked voting: you rank the final nominees in the order you prefer, and can include No Award in there if you like. Then through something complicated and Australian, a winner is chosen. In a tradition dating back at least five years, the Hugo voter’s packet contains all non-televised nominated works.)

So. Wheel of Time, in its entirety was nominated for Best Novel, due to a rules loophole. The same rules loophole that let entire seasons of TV shows win, I think! Tor confirms WoT will be available in the packet. There is brisk dialog over whether this is fair or right, with many people saying they think it’s totally wrong it was nominated, etc etc. Many more people declare They Will Not Vote For WoT Because They Can’t Possibly Read It All And Voting Without Reading It All Is Wrong. Well, it is apparently 3.3 million words long…

HOWEVER this dialog is barely anything compared to:
the ALSO NOMINATED set of works (including a Best Novel nom) associated with a set of politically conservative trolls and bigots– nominated as a trolling attempt, in fact. Some people got upset about this. “We Shall Not Vote For It Because We Have To Take A Stand,” or “Because Nominating A Whole Ticket Is Wrong,” or a number of other reasons. Fair enough, given the voters and the bigots in question.

(Here a humorous sideplot emerges, in which another Conservative Bigot Author– he’s too earnest in his fedora to be a troll– resigns from the SFWA over the unaffiliated Hugo nomination _reaction_ from fans. This is somebody who once wrote a serious post about how Strong Female Characters were ruining SFF.)

And now we come to today’s twist. There are three books remaining that don’t have some black mark against them against as a nominee yet. (Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross, Parasite by Mira Grant, Ancilliary Justice by Ann Leckie, fwiw.) These books are all published by Orbit.

Orbit has just announced that they’re going to buck tradition and NOT include the full books in the Voter’s Packet. The reason given in their statement is ludicrous doublespeak– you’d think a publishing company would be better at lying– but fine, as long as they include significant excerpts, right?

OH NO! No, now all three of these books are also stricken with the Black Mark. People are already declaring that because Orbit is being so stupid and greedy they’re going to put all three books below No Award. Because they can’t judge unless they read the FULL BOOK and they can’t be bothered to acquire the FULL BOOK if it isn’t handed to them on a platter. Oh, and they’ll NEVER buy Orbit books again!

This is better than reality TV, guys. And it doesn’t even have a producer and weird cuts!

Twitter Advertising, Prologue

I’ve come into possession of some Twitter advertising credits and I’m totally going to use them and report back. Stay tuned!

I’m poking at the configuration system right now and I’m really impressed at the targeting options. I could feed in a list of Twitter accounts/email addresses. I could target the users ‘like’ the followers of another Twitter account. This is in addition to the more general ‘target by interests/location/gender’ stuff I’ve found on Goodreads, Facebook and Project Wonderful.

I also have to decide if I want to target ‘get more followers’ or ‘get clicks/retweets’. Unless the pricing is insane, I’ll probably do both, but just running into that decision point is a little bit paralyzing. Obviously the long-term goal is growing my audience (which is directly related to selling books and eventually buying a new roof for my house) but what’s the best way to do that?

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