It used to be common wisdom that marketing to women was financial suicide, and that if you had two women passing the Betchdel then the testes of all the men in the audience would shrivel and die as they wept in the corner, disgusted and horrified by the revelation that women might be people.
But who knew? Apparently men (well the majority, anyway) aren’t crazed mysogynists, and appealing to the other 50% of the population is profitable. Look at the explosive success of both Frozen and Beauty and The Beast. It should have been obvious that if you’ve got a female lead film with a popular actress, then female audiences should be part of your target demographic. But they alienated them with that stupid naked, fetishistic suit which made no sense whatsoever.
The original Ghost In The Shell movies is a classic, but that naked suit was ridiculous then and the one thing that SHOULD have been thrown to the wayside.
2. IT FORGOT TO TELL A COMPELLING STORY
I’ve read a lot of reviews for this film.While there are plenty of fans upset by the arse f@cking alterisations this classic recieved, and plenty of others upset by the white washing, there are lots of new viewers who care about neither issue that were just bored.
If you a film’s got an inheritely crowd pleasing idea like sexy vampires or superheroes pummeling each other, then it can get away with lackluster storytelling with the right marketing. GITS didn’t have that luxury, so bottom line is that it needed to be a good movie to make an impression, and this just didn’t cut it.
3. IT KICKED FANS OF THE ORIGINAL IN THE FACE
This was a big problem. It transformed a thoughtful, philosophical sci fi film which asked a lot of deep questions about identity, what makes a person ‘them’, or even ‘male’ or ‘female’ if the physical form is easily discarded- into a generic revenge flick against a Big Mean corporation. It bears more in common with Neuromancer and its heroine Molly Millions than it did to GITS and the goddamned Major.
The only things thing they did to make it connect to the franchise is to include a few cyberpunk elements, recreate a few scenes devoid of the meaning or context of the original, and kept the stupid naked suit. It bore so little resemblence to the spirit of the original, that there was no reason to even make it part of the franchise in the first place.
4. IT MARKED A CYBERPUNK FILM IN 2016
Yeah, timeliness and marketing are everything. Look at Princess and The Frog for instance. Although it had a good story (albeit not an excellent one), it didn’t do as well because it was released at a time when computer animation was in and handrawn animation was being relegated to the small screen. Sure, it cashed in on nostalgia for older viewers, but a nostalgic Disney film isn’t going to appeal to the kids.
This film makes the same error; it looks and feels like Blade Runner. But cyberpunk is a very 90s genre, when we still had no clue what cyberspace was or what the internet were going to turn out like. Giving a film an aesthetic that had its heydey decades ago while bringing nothing new to the table is not a good marketing move.
5. DID YOU NOT SEE THE #OSCARSSOWHITE?
Look, whitewashing has been an extremely contentious issue recently. While most audiences genuinely don’t care that much about whitewashing, the fact is that it is a big hot button issue. So of course, when media outlets that would usually provide free publicity ask questions, they’re all going to centre around that issue . As a result, the only thing people were hearing about the film was its white washing, and that certainly isn’t endearing.
Writers, if you REALLY believed that a non white actress doesn’t hold ‘mass market appeal’, then you could have avoided all this by just creating your own robot film– or derived it from a Western franchise like The Bionic Woman or Terminator.If you did that you could even pretend to be progressive without putting in any work. You’d already get points for having a female action lead.
All you’d need to do from there is include a token Asian and have someone like your now Not!Batou make a very ambiguous statement about his sexuality and voila! You’re now progressive! (actually, he’s tool masculine, that tends to upset people because there has never been a manly gay man ever. Make that Not!Togusa)
But speaking of existing franchises, we also have this problem.
6. PEOPLE ARE GETTING EXHAUSTED WITH ENDLESS SEQUELS AND REBOOTS
Disney are getting away with it (for now) because their reboots are a visually interesting and manage to at least be passable. But overall, the audience is getting tired of reboots. So releasing a film that is (a) mediocre in terms of storytelling (b) unfaithful to the spirit of the source material (c) manages to repel women in spite of being female lead and (d) has a controversy that dominates the talk of the film… you’ve got a box office bomb on your hands.
2062- and we were running for our lives. Running from the men in anti radiation suits. We turned the corner- but there were more men out to kill us. They weren’t government or enforcers. They were ordinary men from our rival tribe; they were worse than enforcers. For them this was personal.
“You can’t do this!” screamed my sister.
“Like hell we can’t, you little vermin!” cried a woman.
“We didn’t do anything!” screamed my sister.
“You’re taking our food!” screamed man, “It’s thanks to people like you, that our supplies are dwindling! It’s your fault this happened in the first place!”
He handed us to the men in radiation suits. My sister screamed as they dragged us away. Towards the entrance. Towards the end. My heart pounded in my chest. This was more like a dream. I heard the door slam. I felt earth beneath my feet for the first time. Exposed on the surface. We were going to die. We were really going to die.
My sister banged on the door for what seemed like an hour. No one listened; of course they didn’t. If I learned one thing from the underground Haven, it’s that people never listen. Eventually my sister learned that too. Her screams grew silent. She fell to her knees and was silent for a long time. Then she began to speak again.
“There’s no way out.” she said.
My answer was silence. I looked up at the sky, at the grey snowflakes falling on my cheek. My sister looked up too, lost in thought.
“Hey sis, can you tell me about the sky again?” she said, “Before the great war.”
I smiled, sad. I looked into the big black sky; at the endless wasteland of fallen buildings, burnt to the ground and covered in grey snow.
“I’ve never seen it before. “
“Tell me anyway.” she said, “I…I need something…something to stop me thinking about this…”
I sighed and looked to the sky, at the grey flakes falling down.
“Grandma always said back then, snow used to be different than it is now. Before the surface was scorched.” I said, “It didn’t fall apart when you touched it- not like this.” I said, holding another ashy flake in my palm as it disintergrated, “It was cool and wet. It used to cover all the earth, all the trees with beautiful white sheets. And people used to build snow men. Or make little balls and throw it at each other.”
We stare out, into the ashen wasteland.
“There wasn’t the war back then.” I said, my voice small, “There was… but not like this. Not like the one that did this- not like the purges.”
“Sis…” my sister’s voice choked. “How long… do you think we have… before the radiation kills us?”
“I don’t know, four hours maybe?”
We were both silent. We looked back at the cave lead door of the underground city we came from.
“Four hours.” she choked, “…I don’t want to die.”
“I know you don’t.”
“I know you are.”
I didn’t know what to tell her. In a few hours, we’d be nothing. We’d be dead. All I could do was hold her hand.
“The sky,” she spoke softly “It’s beautiful. Funny, all that time underground… I never thought I’d see it.”
I looked up at the endless void, filled with beautiful stars. I’d never seen a star before, but I’d assumed it was like one of our strobe lights. I never knew its life could be so…pure.
” Do you think it’s true- what they say?” she said, “That… maybe there is a paradise-somewhere here?”
The lost land sealed by the stone door. The story every child in the underground city knew by heart.
“Maybe.” i lied
“Hey, sis. I don’t want to die doing nothing.Do you think… maybe if we look, we might find it before the radiation kills us?”
“I think we should try.” I said.
We walked together, into the scorched wasteland, looking at the remains of humanity. At the piles of rubble that was once our greatest achievements that meant nothing now. In search of what man had been searching for since the dawn of time. Paradise. A place better than this one.
Hey, thanks for reading. This was done in response to the daily prompt challenge which is here: Scorched . Follow the link to find out about taking part.
If you’re interested in another piece of flash fiction set in this world, please click here for more on their paradise.
When I picked up this title, I was wary of what this new series would bring. I was worried about this story being taken from Gale Simone’s capable hands and put into the hands of some misogynist who doesn’t care about her character. However, I need not have worried, because not only does this series treat Barbara with respect, it also gives it a very unique identity distinct from the Big Man himself and helps put a bit of distance between Barbara and the Killing joke.
You don’t need to know anything about Barbara’s history or Gail Simone’s run to enjoy this comic, and it’s a great place to start if you’re interested in checking out a Batgirl comic for the first time.
However, here’s a quick run down of her history. If you’re not that interested, then skip straight to the section marked The Batgirl Of Burnside, where I begin the review of this book.
BARBARA GORDON: THE ADAM WEST YEARS
The Barbara Gordon incarnation of Batgirl was created during the sixties for the Adam West television show in order to increase female viewership. The character they created was Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, a strong 25 year old with a doctorate in Library sciences and was basically a genius and the picture of what the women’s rights movement looked like at the time. DC incorporated her into the comics shortly afterwards as part of the bat family.
She solved crime alongside Batman and Robin, appearing in the comics but never taking center stage except for years later in Batgirl and Robin year One, where we got to see her backstory, which involved her becoming Batgirl after she was denied the chance to become a detective due to sexism in the force .All throughout she was a popular character, but eventually her character became less prominent and she was gradually phased out, ending in her retiring as Batgirl to join congress… at least a dignified end to a prominent character. And then came this….
THE KILLING JOKE
The Killing Joke. If you know anything at all about Batgirl, you’ve heard of Alan Moore’s (V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) ‘The Killing Joke’. Yeah, it was a psychological piece that was not meant to be cannon and it reduced Barbara to a pawn who was humiliated, paralyzed and victimized in a power game between three men. Moore himself said that he regretted what happened, and that the editors should have reigned him more, but they were like ‘cripple the bitch.’
BARBARA GORDON: ORACLE- DOWN BUT NOT OUT
Barbara was reduced to the wheelchair permanently (even though this takes place in a universe with magic, space aliens and characters who have come back from the dead), but fortunately, Kim Yale and John Ostrander did not agree with her treatment, and decided to make sure her character wasn’t sidelined. Thus the Oracle was born- a genius detective in a wheelchair who provided intel to other superheroes. During that time, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain took up the mantle of Batgirl with varying success (Cassandra Cain’s run beginning in Silent Knight is really worth checking out).
THE NEW 52 REBOOT
But when the New 52, the reboot of the DC Universe created to appeal to new fans, they took Barbara Gordon out of the wheelchair and gave her back the Batgirl mantle. Yeah, this caused controversy as it miraculously cured one of DC’s only disabled superheroes, and (initially) removed Stephanie Brown and Asian Batgirl Cassandra Cain from the role. After Daredevil, Professor X and Hawkeye (he’s lost a lot of his hearing in the comics), Oracle is one of the most prominent disabled superheroes about- and one who doesn’t have superpowers that specifically make her disability almost irrelevant (a la Toph Bei Fong who sees with earthbending), so a lot of people were understandably upset.
Me personally, I totally understand why people are upset about this, but I’m glad to have Barbara back. In a world where people have come back from the dead, radiation is basically magic that does anything you want, we have magical cures left right and center, I don’t see why Barbara had to be permanently in the chair. I don’t see why The Killing Joke was ever cannon, as it worked better as an imaginary, psychological study of the two adversaries. Her history should never have been influenced so heavily by a comic that was never even about her, and doesn’t make Batman look great after if the last few panels of him laughing with The Joker, the man who damaged the lives of two of his most loyal crime fighting allies, and Batgirl of Burnside is a step in the right direction.
I am sad that Cass Cain almost got retconned out of history and I think it would have been good if someone else could have taken up the Oracle mantle (like how Kamala took up the Ms Marvel mantle after Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel). But I digress, and shall move on to Gail Simone’s run on the new 52.
In Gail Simone’s run, The Killing Joke is still canon (although Bab’s Oracle years happened in a very compressed timeline), and she took her out of the chair and had her finding her feet again as a superheroine, dealing with PTSD thanks to the Joker’s attack. It was a decent run- but was held back by its links to tie in events, which made it extremely confusing for new readers, and the fact that it kept on bringing the Joker into it, but wouldn’t let her defeat him, so it felt like a weak and somewhat unsatisfying arc that was chasing its own tail.
NOW, ONTO BATGIRL OF BURNSIDE
Now finally, the Batgirl Of Burnside continues from Gail’s run and begins the process of distancing Batgirl from the Killing Joke and bringing her into her own. Ironically, this story achieves what The New 52 was trying to achieve… it keeps her vital traits, while beginning a new story which requires no prior knowledge of Barbara’s history. One of the pivotal events is Barbara Gordon losing her old costume in a fire and having to create a new one and it’s absolutely amazing. Far from the sexualized boob socks, and revealing clothes we’re used to seeing, this costume looks fantastic, practical, and also doesn’t stray too far from its iconic routes- which is where I think the attempts to redesign Wonderwoman’s outfits run into trouble. This is recognizably Batgirl, but her already great costume looks so much better.
In fact, the whole story is stronger for the way Babs is portrayed. She’s still every bit as beautiful as she was- but she’s clearly not sexualised. She doesn’t wear clothes that no real woman wouldn’t wear, doesn’t possess those bizarre gravity defying boobs that confuse me more than some of Batman’s Silver Age plotlines; she dresses like a normal 21 year old and she doesn’t stand in any ridiculous hip cocked boobs out pose. She has an expressive face, and all her poses convey her emotions and personality. In short, she feels more like a real person than just some bizarre sex doll.
This story is just so, so much fun. It’s drawn in a gorgeous bright, eyepopping style that helps give this world its own identity. I really think they utilized the lettering well throughout the comic- social media is a big part of Babsy’s world, and this is shown through speech bubbles; we’ll see the text pop up like an iPhone message when they’re reading a text, or we’ll see what looks like an iPhone play screen showing a song that’s playing during a car ride. All this really helps show that this world is immersed in social media and to great effect, and it really helps modernise Batgirl’s world.
And the colouring is great too. I mean, look at that sunset below, and how bright everything is. I also love how a lot of the background panels are blank with bold colours during action scenes- it makes it look bright and energetic and kind of reminds me of the old school comics while still feeling really modern.
The style is a lot more cartoony than in most comics, and in this case it allows for more exaggerated facial expressions which really helps get character across. It’s a world apart from the dark, broody world of Batman, which some fans have criticized but I think works really well in this case. I mean, Batgirl isn’t Bruce Wayne. She’s an ordinary young woman who fights crime and who achieves incredible feats thanks to her determination, resourcefulness and a desire to help people regardless of the obstacles against her- not a brooding millionaire who saw his parents murdered before his eyes. She’s meant to appeal to a new audience- a young female audience- so making her adventures fun and having her deal with things like Uni, friendships, and using social media makes perfect sense.
This is what you want from comics- fun, and every moment of this comic is a riot- whether its seeing her struggle with school work, partying with her friends or fighting Anime inspired robot motorcycle riding twins. Come on, a part of everyone wants to see that, and this kind of fan, insanity is what comics can do which live action television and other mediums can’t do so easily. The brighter art style also gives it a lighter more cartoonish aesthetic, which makes all the silliness easier to swallow.
Some of it is silly- and I don’t fully buy some of it (I have a few questions about the ending, which I won’t go into due to spoilers), but its tone makes it something I can swallow more.
The one problem I- as well as a whole host of other people- ran into was Dagger Type. Oh dear, Dagger Type. There was a pretty fun storyline about a fake sparkly batgirl imitating the real one and taking selfies, becoming an internet celebrity, and basically causing trouble. It was fun… and then we got to the reveal, and it turned out that the fake Batgirl was a man… a psychotic, melodramatic Drag Queen/ cross dresser (it doesn’t specify which) who is the unholy union of the sissy villain and the psychotic gender bender ( think Silence Of The Lambs). Yeah, kind of a disaster and quite a slap in the face to people who are trans/ gender fluid or who are not gender conforming in some way. Especially since with Barbara’s trans lady roomie Alysia, Renee Montoya, Batwoman and Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy now confirmed to be an item, the Bat Universe is one that has been pretty LGBT friendly. Not a great move. Notice how he suddenly looks extremely deranged as soon as his gender’s revealed and goes crazy? Yeah, very Buffalo Bill.
HOWEVER– what is the most incredible part of this story is how the creators responded to this problem. They didn’t give a ‘I’m sorry you were offended this was not how this was meant to be read’ non apology, but they listened to the critique and admitted their errors in a highly sincere apology. That shows a lot of maturity and respect for their fans, and makes them a team whose work I’d still want to follow. Afterall, even the most well meaning and liberal of us can make mistakes.
The rest of the issue recovered, however. I liked the inclusion of Black Canary, and I loved the good solid fun everyone was having. Barbara has so many positive female friendships- from Black Canary, to Alysia Yeoh, to her new roommate Frankie and her Muslim colleague- that felt so natural, warm and fun, that it was enjoyable. Not only that, but the cast is so naturally diverse- from the bisexual and gay black characters, to Barbara’s Muslim coworker, who were all smart, likeable young people living their lives.
I liked how social media was incorporated- Batgirl goes on ‘Hooq’ (a form of Tinder) and there’s also a storyline about her positing her antics on social media. This is a perfect way to make her life more relatable to the younger fans its trying to appeal to, and it feels genuine and not written by some old guy trying to be ‘down wit da kidz’.
I was also pleased that Alysia remained a character. Alysia was Barbara’s transgender roomate that appeared in the New 52, and regardless of whether fans loved or hated Gail Simone’s run, the one thing everyone could agree on was that Alysia was great. A spunky liberal activist, she was kind, capable of helping even Batgirl out of a scrape and she had the kind of genuine friendship with Barbara that is unusual in comics- not only that, but she was one of comics rare transgender characters and her transgender status wasn’t what defined her. She’s not especially prominent here, but she hasn’t been canned and that’s a relief.
It also teased the idea of her new roomate, Frankie, becoming the new Oracle- which would be amazing: it would allow Barbara to return to the cowl, and we could keep a strong role model for disabled reader. This time one who isn’t defined by a mysogynistic misstep by editors who don’t give a damn about the character.
VERDICT: Batgirl is great fun and what the New 52 run should have been: new, with a distinct identity and no comic history knowledge required for new readers.
Ah, before the series devolved into badly written polyamory reverse harem porn (while having little idea what polyamory really looks like), there . Written in the early 90s, and taking strong The Vampire Chronicles, and being highly reminiscent of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (which it preceded) Anita Blake is one of the grandparents of Urban Fantasy genre. Not only that, but it really stands up well today and is extremely enjoyable, offering one of the few urban fantasy novels that has a heroine take centre of her own adventure, which centers around action and not romance.
The story is a sort of a film noir paranormal fantasy where the supernatural is known to the world (which is quite refreshing). Anita, known as ‘The Executioner’ to vampires (because Hamilton couldn’t call her The Slayer- although this book predates the tv series but not the movie), has a licence to Slay and is the paranormal expert that works with the police. What’s cool is that Anita has a job (shockers) that relates to the supernatural, which is being paid to raise the dead for various reasons- like to settle disputes over wills. This in itself is a really interesting concept, and it’s really great seeing Anita live a daily life- with work, friendships, gym routines, bills to pay- that doesn’t just stop when supernatural problems come a knocking.
In this novel, her central objective is to track down a serial killer who’s targeting vampires, but lets face it, Anita Blake is no Sherlock. She is a really terrible investigator and one of the clues she only happened to find because a plot important event just coincidentally was taking place on the same night and the same time as Anita was investigating a nearby location. She wouldn’t have found out who killed the vampires basically announced themselves with an evil laugh and then did basically the urban fantasy version of leaving Anita dangling above a shark pit instead of shooting her with a sniper rifle. Yeah, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo this book is not, but fortunately it doesn’t matter. There are so many interesting things happening that the central mystery- who is the serial killer who targets vampires- was really the least interesting part of this book. This book was interesting for all its multiple sub plots that come together perfectly in the end (although there are a couple of threads that will remain unsolved for later books).
The vampire serial killer is really small potatoes compared with the menace that is Nikolaos, an insanely powerful immortal child vampire (Claudia expy), or this whole ‘human servant’ thing with Jean Claude (super sexy kind of pansexual french vampire? definately Lestat inspired). Now, she really is a fantastic big bad. She’s devastatingly powerful, and commands fear of everyone around her- including Anita herself and even Jean-Claude- who himself is insanely powerful. Nikolaos was brilliantly built up, and like Dominga and The Travaller to name a few, she stands out as one of the most compelling villains in the genre.
I also like the way that the ‘discrimination’ against vampires is handled. At the beginning, having not read this book in a long time, I rolled my eyes when it went into vampire rights movement. As I mentioned in my list of top 7 gripes against the genre, I hate the way that discrimination against vampire is used as an analogy for homophobia or racism . But Guilty Pleasures avoids this. A vampire tries to use this logic against Anita, he tries to play the victim and claims that she treats his life as nothing, but she strikes back with ‘you killed 23 people’. Go Anita. It does not use this as any kind of analogy for existing prejudice, but treats it as its own unique issue. Dehumanizing them and treating vampires as vermin regardless of their actions is wrong (like hate group Humans Against Vampires did), but they are far from some helpless minority. I liked the way that HAV wasn’t a direct analogue to NOM or the KKK- they went too far in their venom, but because vampires are super powered monsters who seem to operate above the law, a lot of people have very legitimate reasons to hate them.
Of course, they’re still sentient creatures with free will, so it’s not as simple as them being evil hell beasts either. Anita’s Catholic background is also interestingly utilised in this as she hates the idea of vampirism because she believes in the Christian afterlife, and she doesn’t know if a vampire’s soul will go to heaven.
An speaking of Anita, as a protagonist, Anita Blake really is something terrific. At this point (before the Ardeur dragged this series to hell), she isn’t the chosen one and nor is she some super powerful Goddess. She mainly relies on her wits, ferocity and her ability with guns to get out of tough spots. She’s capable, but more so she’s not just ‘grrl power with attitude.’ Her dialogue’s snarky, sure, and I enjoy her remarks, but she’s also compassionate and struggles with moral dilemnas. She struggles with how black her soul is after killing, and she genuinely cares about protecting the lives of innocents, and when innocents are hurt she grieves them.
I also have to mention the side characters who were generally great. Edward – the hitman turned vampire hunter- called Death was a terrifying and brilliant lancer to Anita’s hero, and it’s fascinating how he also represents what Anita fears she’ll become. Then we have Jean Claude, sexy vampire love interest (although he’s so much more than this). We also have Anita’s best friend, Ronnie.
And thank God for Ronnie- Ronnie is Anita’s female friend ( a depressing rarity in this genre) and a private investigator who’s skilled in her own right. Though Anita will eventually become the exceptional woman- the One Strong Woman while all other women are are either weak or evil- Ronnie holds the line of defence against this trope in Guilty Pleasures. Strong, capable, and though still definitely one step behind Anita and her male allies,her role is primarily that of ally and partner instead of victim. I also liked Beverly Chin, an un trope laden Asian woman who’s an ordinary non action woman who was still able to step up and save Anita’s life . They both help to negate the characterization of Catherine, a girly girl who’s into weddings and partying, who only exists to be a victim and to show how uninterested in those feminine pursuits Anita is; and worse still Monica, a woman Anita hates before she’s even done anything contemptible, a girl who’s even sillier and girlier than Catherine and who’s evil and foolish.
It’s sadly rare for an urban fantasy heroine to have important friendships equal to or more important than their relationship to the main love interest, especially if that friend is a female, so seeing Ronnie and Anita hang out was a breath of fresh air.
Also, I liked the portrayal of Rafael, the Rat King of Mexican ancestry. He doesn’t play a large role in this novel, but he is compelling enough. He commands authority, and although he helps Anita, he does so out of both his sense of right and wrong and in the interests of his own people, so he doesn’t fall into the ‘helpful minority’ role. And speaking of POC, Anita is half Latina- but really, all her Latina heritage does for her is give her cool gothic dark hair to go with her pale skin (it’s so conveniently when your non white mother only passes on the sexy traits), so I really don’t think she counts.
VERDICT: Even though this book was written in the early 90s, it still holds up well today. Anita is a total badass, who kicks ass and is front and centre of her own story, which is not just a romance. The world is fun and enjoyable, the action sequences were great and it had a fun cast of characters that are definately ones you want to spend more time with.
BLURB: As a half-demon master of the dark arts, Eve Levine isn’t what anyone would call angelic. That’s exactly why the Fates chose her for the job. She’s their secret weapon against the forces of evil.
However after five years, Eve is tired of being the designated rebel of the angel corps, expected to break the rules, then penalized for it. When the leaderless djinn stage an uprising, Eve sees the perfect chance to get herself fired. As she plunges deeper into the demon world, though, she realizes she’s in danger of losing a lot more than her job.- Kelleyarmstrong.com
REVIEW: Eve has always been my favorite character from Women of The Otherworld , and ever since Haunted, I’ve been dying to read another Eve book which never came. When I found out about this short story, I was ecstatic and downloaded it instantly. I couldn’t wait to read about another mission with Eve kicking ass as an angel of justice with a giant sword. I liked Angelic, it was an enjoyable read, but it was essentially Haunted Abridged, as it follows a similar formula and doesn’t really progress the meta story, change the characters particularly or give us any new information.
Eve is summoned by the fates, she’s sent on a mission after a rogue supernatural, she reluctantly agrees, is assisted by Kris, meets Dantalion, figures out how to stop the threat and is back to her starting position. We have the fates, some old friends, the library (I love the concept of that library and the cerberus- but they were mostly the same people and places that were featured in Haunted.
But that’s not to say that this book was bad by any means. It still had all the heart and passion of the other books that Armstrong’s written; it was fast paced, had the classic Armstrong wit that makes all her books great reads . I loved Eve’s arguments with the Fates, I loved how she got one over them in the end, and I found it amusing how she was planning to (mis)use her epically cool magic angel sword as a cosplaying accessory for her pirate costume.
Her relationship with Kris was nice as well- my favourite in the entire Otherworld series- and there is a genuine sense of warmth and camaraderie that makes it feel like a great long term relationship.
It had a great structure, and it was good, I just don’t think Armstrong has anywhere left to go with Eve and the ghost world.
The story only really struggled from the length when we got to the action sequences. Kelley Armstrong is the master of action, and in Haunted some of the action sequences had me gripping the edge of the book and rushing to see what happened. Here, a fight or conflict would be set up, and we would get what felt like the wikipedia summary of the fight. One of the most intense, heart wrenching conflicts was… kind of conveniently dropped thanks to deus ex machina.
I don’t know if Armstrong’s word limit was set in stone, but I’d have been up for it being a few thousand words longer in exchange for a few of her characteristically awesome fight sequences. Hell, I’d have gotten rid of the plot twist, gone for a more simple but intense plot that focused on the action. But alas, for what we got, we had a very well paced story with a satisfying conclusion that possessed all the charm of the main series.
Sadly, this is still a very white series with no LGBT people and no POC except the Djinn (who briefly appear, get defeated and are very briefly are described as being copper skinned), Jeremy is half Japanese, which you’d only know if you read Men Of The Otherworld- (and how that was handled is a whole other can of worms), and Katsuo. Katsuo is an angel who was a Samurai in life. Though he barely had a role in this story at all, he was handled pretty decently. One mercy was that Armstrong avoided the exotic Asian stereotype by having him appear in modern dress, as opposed to Marius who wore the clothes of a gladiator. However, Eve does use his Samurai nature to handwave and explain his motivations- relying on a shallow Asian stereotype to characterise him isn’t great. But still, compared to what we got in Men Of The Otherworld, its a definite step up.
It’s a shame, because with all the interesting characters and supernaturals Kelley Armstrong creates, she isn’t too hot when it comes to including any kind of human diversity, and most of the characters feel very samey when it comes to their social/ cultural background and a lot of the leading ladies have a very similar voice.
Verdict: Because Kelley Armstrong is such a strong writer, for the flaws of the novella, its still better than 90% of what you would find out there. It doesn’t really add anything to the main series, and if you’re not a great Eve fan, there’s no reason why you have to read it. If you are an Eve fan, and would like a quick enjoyable read to kill a couple of hours, I’d definately give this a shot.