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The Fire's Stone

3/5. The one where the alcoholic prince, the suicidal thief, and the young lady wizard go on a mission to retrieve the stolen gem that keeps the volcano from erupting under their city.

Ahaha, bless. This is some kwality 1990 fantasy, this is. Written back when Tanya Huff was not, uh. Well, she wasn't very good, you guys. Points for queer romance, though they get taken away again for the way this book is about a poly relationship, but just can't ever, you know, come out and say that.

But the M/M/F triad is sweet, and clearly the heart of this otherwise kind of boring story. Which makes up for the wild overabundance of daddy issues, and the consistent erasure/irrelevance of mothers, and that terrible thing where a book signals to you that one of the heroes is a good guy because he decides not to have sex with a thirteen-year-old, what a good guy, you guys, applause. So all the things you'd expect, really.

Uh, the triad really is cute? And the book is currently $2.99, if any of this is speaking to you.
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The Silvered

3/5. Tanya Huff in her taking self seriously mode, as opposed to my personal preference, her oh fuck it all, let's have fun shame is for the weak mode. Which is annoying, because as usual with Huff, I read this while sick, and let's just say that taking self seriously Huff is not what I'm looking for at that juncture.

This is some standard magic and werewolves in fantasy war scenario, with some bonus torture porn that I really did not appreciate, and, well. It's funny how, even when she is not writing about bestiality, Huff manages to write about bestiality, y'know? Y'know. Like, no bestiality appears on these pages! And yet you are clearly supposed to be going there in your head every ten seconds. I'd much rather she'd just written it herself, as she clearly likes to do.

I guess what I'm circling around saying here is that taking self seriously Huff doesn't think shame is for the weak, and it shows. Her taking self seriously books are always kind of flat to me, weirdly constrained, weirdly stiff. Like those boring space marines books. None of the joy or kinky don't give a fuckness of her not taking self seriously books.

I know which I prefer.
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Smoke and Shadows (Tony Foster #1)Smoke and Shadows by Tanya Huff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Trilogy about a gay production assistant on a, by all appearances quite terrible, Canadian vampire detective show.

Hey, check it out, these are books I actually finished!

So, I could just say 'too much boyfriend: not enough production assistanting,' and leave it at that. But actually I don't think that really gets at the problem.

These are quirky, well-intentioned, fun little books about a former street hustler turned PA turned wizard. I remember people talking excitedly about them ten years ago, the way we did when we had so little commercial LGBT fiction to read, let alone genre fiction. But the thing is, even if I hadn't checked the copyright dates, I could have accurately dated these books by the shape of the romance.

See, this is one of those 'gay guy falls for beautiful unattainable straight guy' stories, except oh wait maybe he's not so straight – oh wait he totally is – touch me – touch me not, where the allegedly straight dude plays mind games and is generally an all-around dick, but hey it's cool guys, finding out you like guys is really hard okay. And you just don't see that much in LGBT fiction anymore. At least not played for romance, as it is here.

I'm tempted to make some sweeping statements about cultural esthetics of queerness, and how allegedly straight dude's convulsions and reversals and spewings of internalized homophobia are actually a larger commentary on the place of queerness in the general psyche, or in genre fiction. And I think that's pointed in the right direction, though it's painting with too broad strokes. I mean, there's a reason the esthetics of queer romance shift over time – when's the last time you read an actual we're not gay we just love each other story written in 2014? But that was, like, the narrative of the 90's – the trappings of queerness without ever having to use the word. The shifts over time reflect the cultural reckoning that a lot of straight writers were doing with queerness, and it's not as if queer writers like Huff are immune to the tides.

Anyway, my point being that the particular esthetic of queer romance in these books is pretty uncomfortable to read now. It was better when I flipped gears to read as historical document, but still. Yikes.




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The Wild Ways (Gale Women, #2)The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


More cheerfully queer poly incestuous Canadian capers, this time with bonus seal people.

So this book helped me identify a squick I didn't know I had. See, the prequel freaked me out. Which was weird, because I also quite enjoyed it. It wasn't the mind control that got me, and it wasn't the deer semi-beastiality (though, for the record, ….??????), and it wasn't the incest. Actually, it was all the family. Which is weird, because I love stories about intense, close-knit groups of people, and that's exactly what this series is about.

Except this book follows one of the family's oddball misfits who enjoys life on her own, so there was way less family by volume. And I realized that if I just pretended all the background family stuff was an extensive network of interlocking polyamorous and friend arrangements, I was cool. But the minute I started processing the way this book defines family, how they all knew everything about each other, and would always know everything about each other, and everybody was everybody else's business by definition, and all the important things about you were determined by the fact you belong to the family, and no one would ever leave, and no one would ever want to – I'm kinda freaking myself out just talking about it.

Basically, I'm okay with intense claustrophobic relationships as long as there's no family involved. My issues. They are not subtle.

Um. It's a fun lightweight adventure about seals and music and going your own way?




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Valor's Choice (Confederation, #1)Valor's Choice by Tanya Huff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


One of these years, I'm going to get my regularly scheduled respiratory infection (how else would I know it's October?) and I'm going to be out of Tanya Huff books. And that's going to be really freaking sad.

Yeah, my enjoyment of this was in inverse correlation with my health. They're fluffy multi-planetary marine adventures with maybe two or three emotional notes to play -- hoo-rah marines are cool! But sometimes they die and that's sad! But they're also multi-species marines so there's wacky alien sex hijinx! And there's basically only one story here that gets recycled every time.

That was all great when I had a fever, and progressively less great as I got better and started wanting more than the book equivalent of white noise. Cute and fluffy space marines, sustained and unvarying emotional note until my ears rang, nice enough but now I feel better so yeah, kind of done.




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The Enchantment EmporiumThe Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Yeah, stoned on painkillers is totally the best way to review this one.



If you tilt your head to the right, this is a cozily hijinxical* Canadian urban fantasy with a magical junk shop and a leprechaun and a snuggly extended family who express their feelings by baking a lot, also dragons.



But if you tilt your head to the left, it’s seriously fucked up slice-of-life about a family of creepy mind-controlling witches who have a consent-optional incestuous breeding program RUN AWAY RUN AWAY.



So I mostly kept my head tilted to the right. Advise doing the same.



*Vicodin. shuddup.





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Claire and her sister are Keepers. It’s their job to maintain the balance, in the cloasing holes to hell sense.

Because sometimes you just need books with a talking cat. And an adorable Canadian baby lesbian co-protagonist. And the texture of warm cotton candy, with no painfully misguided aspirations for more. Really, fluffy doesn’t even begin to cover it, and post flu of doom, that’s about all I could handle. I suggest waiting for similarly dire straits so as to avoid inadvertent diabetic coma.
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An urban fantasy series featuring Vicki Nelson, former cop turned PI due to Retinitis Pigmentosa and failing vision. She becomes entangled with the supernatural world and Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII, vampire, romance writer. Blood Price deals with a murderous demon stalking Toronto. Blood Trail sees Vicki hunting a werewolf killer (why do the second books in urban fantasy series always seem to be the werewolf books? Jim Butcher, I’m looking at you) as Vicki’s human sort of boyfriend Mike Celluci becomes suspicious about Henry. Bloodlines pits them all against an ancient mummy wizard, Blood Pact is a creepy scifi riff on raising zombies from corpses, and Blood Debt involves a haunting and an illegal organ donor operation.

You know, this is a perfect case in point for the importance of context. I bet if I’d read these books ten years ago I would have gotten a lot more out of them. As it is, post-Buffy and just emerging from the massive vampire lit explosion of the past five years, I’m getting pretty tired of the prince of darkness creature of the night shtick. Which is too bad, because these books laid the groundwork for a lot of the more recent material, and I wish I could have read them fresh. (Though it is pretty strange to observe the changes in style evident just over the past fifteen years – urban fantasy has recently discovered explicit sex, and it’s funny now to read vampire books which, for all their gore and omnipresent sexuality, are remarkably non-explicit).

It’s a shame about the timing, because I really did like these books. I liked the quick dialogue, the easy, nearly invisible writing, Henry’s unremarkable bisexuality. I really liked the prickly but no less functional non-monogamy that all the characters seem to take for granted. It’s damn refreshing, and it gives me some hope.

I tolerated the occasional plot contrivance, and my only serious complaint is the general shoddiness of the vision loss plotline. There’s a certain depthless presentation which is nearly indistinguishable from inaccuracy, and I shook my head a lot over spoiler )

Anyway. They’re fun books, really. Rather cheesy (vampires, yo), lacking any pretense at thematic depth that would just get in the way. I read them mostly so I can watch the new TV adaptation – I have a hard-and-fast book before adaptation rule – and I’m glad I did. Distracting, bemusing, undemanding. Just keep in mind that a decade ago they weren’t nearly as clichéd as they are now.

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