Oct 202013
 

Ever After
Ever After by Kim Harrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Synopsis:

Re-united with the Demon collective, the witch turned day-walking demon, Rachel Morgan is in something of a pickle: The rip in reality she accidentally caused, in the book Black Magic Sanction (Book #8), is now eating way more of the ever-after than ever before. And she is finally revealed as the demon that caused the rip, making her responsible for the damage. As the ever-after slowly leaks out, shrinking, the rip threatens the very existence of the denizens of the ever-after. And demons have never been known for their patience or understanding.

Together with former enemy turned love interest, Trent Kalamack, Rachel Morgan must marshal her friends and skills against Ku’Sox, a ‘genetically and magically engineered’ demon with delusions of godhood. Ku’Sox’s actions against Rachel turn the pressure up and it’s a race against time for Rachel to save her adopted species, her friends and even magic itself.

Review:

The premise is a lot more attractive than the actual result. I would be very interested in knowing the readership demographic of this series– that is, are women drawn to this style of writing over that of say Jim Butcher’s Dresden File series? I’m shocked by the amount of time that Rachel spends having emotional fits, and not necessarily about what I would think of as ‘the right things.’

Take, for instance, when Ceri and Lucy, Al’s former familiar and Trent’s daughter, are taken hostage, Kim Harrison rarely writes about the emotional distress, focused more on the bigger picture. Maybe this is meant to convey to the reader that Rachel has great confidence in Ceri’s ability to survive as a hostage. Instead, combined with previous omissions… like the fact that Pierce was taken two books back and potentially killed (later we learn, in the last book, that he was in fact given to Newt instead– a fate maybe worse than death)– Rachel barely thinks about rescue, or anguishes over his plight: It’s much like the story arc about saving Ivy’s soul (and therefore all Vampire souls) from being lost upon death. It gets mentioned once or twice and only in one book did we really see that any work was being done. …The omissions make Rachel seem extremely self centered and cold. Good thing there’s theoretically only 2 books (at most) left in the series, if Rachel had started out this dislikable, I dunno that I would have finished the series.

This flaw of character is magnified when Ceri and Pierce are tricked into attempting to kill Ku’Sox, and are instead killed by Ku’Sox, at which point Rachel nearly falls apart. Again, I get the possible implications underlying the omission, but absence of a fact does not prove a fact. That Rachel comments maybe three times in 15 chapters that she feels guilty over the hostage situation, and there is even a comment about how she feels the hostages will make it through, but never is there a comment about how she’s holding it together only because she believes the hostages will make it through. The two facts seem disconnected by the lack of commentary.

Also, there are a number of niggling plot points that bother me: The Demons have a law against ‘uncommon stupidity’, yet are clearly extremely stupid in their handling of the Ku’Sox’s situation. Were I writing this story, there would be a whole flurry of charges brought against a lot of people.

There are problems with the loose ends, lots of “oh well, good enough” decisions. It’s believable, because most humans I know are really that lazy, but when it’s a life or death situation I expect a little more “attention to detail.” Especially from the survivors of this series.

Ever After is packed with action though, despite the emotional lows. (read: Rachel whining.)

Starting with Quen’s attempt to get Rachel to work with Trent again, the abduction of the Rosewood babies takes center stage moving the plot forward. Quen and Rachel meet Trent and Nina/Omeh/Felix at the clinic to learn more, Nick is seen fleeing the scene. Rachel confronts Nick by cell, discovers Ku’Sox’s involvement. Ceri and Lucy are abducted, Quen badly injured. Rachel is summoned to the ever-after to stand trial. Rachel gets a reprieve and with Algalierept’s help learns enough about the ley line tear to conclusively prove that Ku’Sox is behind it.

Rachel works her way into the ever after, visits Pierce at Newt’s place and rekindles a pair of “chastity rings”, similar to Al’s “wedding rings” and Trent’s “Promise rings” (which Rachel is wearing). She declines Pierce’s proposal that they go together to murder Ku’Sox. Using the ‘chastity rings’, she and Trent go out to try to move the concentrated imbalance from one ley to another as a test run for how to fix the problem. Ku’Sox naturally shows up during the attempt, nearly lays them both out flat and then abducts Bis to prevent Rachel from finishing the fix. This is where we learn that Ku’Sox must be afraid of Rachel if he is unwilling to finish her off.

Plot point: I quibble over this point of fear– it was not a clear cut situation to me that Rachel was standing her own– nor has it ever been said before that Ku’Sox was a war-trained demon. This feels revisionist. Certain Ku’Sox was bread to have the power to defeat Elven Warlords– but if that’s the case, and his power is only as great as that of the female demon, then how is it that the female demons were all, nearly, wiped out? Bit plot holes missing explanation. Something big had to have happened and it’s not explained. Is it possible? Yes. I suppose. But that comes grudgingly.

Plot point: When the imbalance is concentrated in “Rachel’s ley line” everyone is affected, but when distributed, the house of the person who has been ‘fixed’ is not affected and likewise if all of the imbalance is moved to that person’s line, then only they are affected… wait, what? This is purely deus ex machina and does not logically follow.

Trent then distracts Rachel with a plan but instead gives himself up to Ku’Sox in exchange for the safety of his child– we later learn that this is the direct result of Nick tricking Pierce and Ceri into joining forces against Ku’Sox so that he can have an excuse to kill them. Once Rachel learns that Trent has given himself up, she attempts to summon him using the promise rings. Instead of bringing Trent to her, she goes to him. She learns a lot of things, confronts Ku’Sox and ultimately strikes a deal to get Lucy out of his hands (but not Bis or Trent), in exchange for removing the curse that binds Ku’Sox to the ever after.

Plot point: Rachel is not allowed to kill Ku’Sox after being attacked by him? But Ku’Sox can kill Pierce and Ceri after being attacked by them? I’m missing something.

Point of presentation: Someone recently read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lots of rings of power and Tolkien references in this book. If you’re going to do it, do it subtle and early, that way it seems less sudden and dramatic. You know, like mention rings of power in the first or second book, then mention them once per book thereafter. Like the breadcrumbs on the story arc with Ivy’s soul. And don’t save all your Tolkien references for one book– unless you’re like Harry Dresden and milked on pop-culture, you just can’t get away with it.

Once back in the real world, Rachel plans to steal another set of ‘chastity rings’ from an elven exhibit, manages to steal ‘slave rings’ instead and nearly gets caught. Then, during her next attempt to reveal Ku’Sox’s plan to the demon collective to clear her name, things go horribly wrong again. (This part I actually like a lot.) There is a fight and Quan, wearing the master-ring, demonstrates he is really not suited to power (surprise surprise, he says sarcastically).

They end up back with Trent who, it is revealed, master-minded the complication that forced Rachel to use ‘slave rings’ instead of ‘chastity rings.’ He, however, regrets the decision and apologizes and strangely Rachel forgives this drug trafficking, murderous, deceitful man. (What?!) Trent, as part of his apology, removes the slave ring from Rachel (ok, now I’m more convinced of his sincerity. Couldn’t this have been written so that the apology acceptance came after the demonstration of sincerity?)

Then Trent takes the slave ring and gives Rachel the master ring and Ku’Sox arrives to resume the fight. They bounce around a bit, fixing a couple of lines, fighting off Ku’Sox, and then, in the ever after, they are joined by Algalierept. He’s in chains for his part in this uncommonly stupid farce, but Rachel frees him and then wears his wedding ring and together, Al, Trent and Rachel defeat Ku’Sox.

Ku’Sox dies. Nick, who was Ku’Sox’s familiar, is taken by Newt as a replacement for Pierce, the familiar that Nick helped Ku’Sox kill.

Plot point: Earlier on (I skipped over it because it was largely window dressing to the plot) Rachel met with Dali (a demon) and made a deal that if she could prove that Ku’Sox was responsible that all debt she incurred for this problem would be transferred to him– then this little tidbit is forgotten in the denouement.

Then, Trent takes Rachel to his shack in the woods and tries to make sweet sweet love to her. The scene is postponed, but the advance is not rejected.

Oh how the mighty have fallen: from refusing to accept Trent’s murdering ways and vowing to never work for or with him, Rachel Morgan must now work with Trent to protect and help raise the myriad number of Rosewood babies from the various forces that might harm them. All because one day those babies will grow up to be demons. And, to add whip crème to this tasty crap sandwich, Rachel is now falling for Trent.

This definitely seems like the stupid shit some women do, falling for the bad boy, no matter how bad he is for you. If it wasn’t for the fact that Kim Harrison has written Rachel Morgan that way since book one I would find it unbelievable– as it is, I find it distasteful. (Falling for Nick, bad. Falling for Kisten, better but not good and he died. Half-way falling for Ivy, unsafe but she swore off. Falling for Marshall, good but he left her because of the stuff she gets herself into. Falling for Pierce, very bad and now he’s dead.)

Conclusion: I liked it, but it has a lot more plot holes and unresolved issues than previous books. I wouldn’t have been able to continue the series if this had been the quality of the first couple of books, and I’m only continuing because I’m in the home stretch– only 2 books left, in theory.

View all my reviews

Jan 252012
 

My comments (I didn’t realize how lengthy they’d become until I hit submit. The blogspot comment box is ultra tiny) to Cupid’s Literary Connection: Love Triangle Entry #3.:

Your query could be tightened up.

Your hook is the fourth paragraph: “When Dodge enters the Gamescape”. Most of the first and second paragraph could be eliminated from the query. It’s necessary for your novel, but most isn’t necesssary for the query. I recommend that you replace it with a slimmed down version of the same information and move it after the hook.

The first paragraph could be summerized: “Disadvantaged, seventeen-year-old Dodge Tellman would do anything to win.” Second paragraph could be summerized: “Winning means an escape from the slums and poverty and sixty hour work shifts that are killing his parents. Winning means a trip to a distant colony, a chance to start over and build a better life.”

(and so on)

What is the game? Do people fight? Are there puzzles? Is it like the olympics? Do people die? What are the stakes? What happens in a normal game if you lose? (I don’t understand what the stakes are in a normal game, so I don’t know how much worse it is for Dodge to start feeling homicidal– on a personal level, I get how that’s horrible for Dodge, but what’s the alternative?#

Who are the team? Who are his friends? Why does he care? Why should I care? (The brief treatment in your query gives me the impression that the extras are going to receive “Hunger Games” treatment– that is, they’re going to die fairly quickly, so don’t get invested.)

You end with the proposition that the choice is to keep the Chancer (and the homicidal tendancies) in hopes of winning, but winning might be worse than losing. (If he wins by killing his friends, that’s not much of a win is it?) That’s a great conflict.

But back to the point about the normal stakes of the game: Why can’t he forfeit and re-enter the game later when he’s less of a homicidal Frankenstein?

Your Query seemed longer than your “First 250 words” so I word-counted them (pasted them in to a Word doc and got the word count). The word count for the Query 301 (not counting the final “about the author” paragraph). That probably fine by itself, but when measured against the “first 250 words” it seems a little long.

Your story opens:
The wall buzzes, a friend is calling. Why? To invite him out. What’s the initial conflict in the story?

As the story progresses, I don’t understand what you mean by “pitch”, it seems like a word that is supposed to have subtext, but all I can think of when I see it is baseball–and that’s not helpful. You give an example of Tag pitching extra arms, but the standard definition of the word doesn’t attach to the meaning you’re giving it. (When I reach the end of the first-250 I get that “pitch” means some kind of enhancement, but since I don’t know much about enhancements in your story I’m left confused.)

Your first-250 introduces a potential conflict, but it’s introduced in such a way that it doesn’t seem like much of a conflict. Dodge is poor and comes from the slums, but Tag is rich. Why are these two friends? (I’m not saying they can’t be, but they’d run in different socio-economic circles.) How’d they meet? What makes them compatible? If they’re really friends, and if Tag is really rich, why wouldn’t Tag be willing to help Dodge get what he needed?

The real conflict in your first-250 happens near the end of your 250 words: Tag doesn’t want to talk about what he’s “going to pitch.” He already knows what Tag is pitching (apparently extra arms.) I would recommend re-writing the scene and starting with Dodge emotionally reacting to Tag calling. Bring up the point about avoiding Tag to avoid revealing Dodge’s pitch earlier. Give us more details. Then get in to Tag’s persistance. Give (show) me a reason for why Dodge is avoiding Tag, and why Tag won’t leave Dodge alone. That’s your initial conflict in this scene.

It has the potential to entice me, but it needs work.

This entry made me think of another article I saw recently over at Forever Rewriting (Melodie Wright) where she presented the three essential elements presented in the opening scene are:

  1. Identification. Look for the MC to be in a situation that you’ve been in or can picture yourself in.
  2. Emotions. The MC will react to the situation in an understandable way, a way that illuminates their character and makes you like or pity them in a good way. You need to root for the MC.
  3. Situation foreshadowing. There are clouds on the MC’s horizon. She/he may not know what they are yet but they know change is coming.

Jan 222012
 


I found this query via Goodreads and thought it would be fun to read (i.e., the story idea is interesting but the query needs work). I’d post these comments to her site, except that there’s no formatting available via Blogger comments, so I’m writing this up here and will post a link to this post as a comment to her blog post.

via Hazel West’s Character Purgatory : And After Long Last, I Present….The Pitch!!

Kilroy Allen has been searching fifteen years for the man who sent his father to the scaffold. Executed under false pretenses of treachery against his king, Charles I, Kilroy’s father was betrayed by a man whose face he never saw. Now with the same man after him, Kilroy has no choice but to take on a false identity and lure this unknown man out of hiding so he can exact justice for his father’s murder all those years ago. Now he’s become the infamous highwayman, Emerald Sword, by night and the not so infamous merchant, Jeremy Glennon, by day. But no plan is without its complications. If Kilroy cannot catch the man soon, it could mean his true love, the formidable, yet beautiful, Sylvia Davies, may be forced to marry an insufferable dandy she has no feelings for.

With time running out, Kilroy seeks the sort of help that only his fellow highwaymen can give: Jeffcoat Mullins, his faithful partner in crime, Roster Scarcliff, a dashing rival he has dueled with for years, the famous Thomas Blood and Claude Du Val, and lastly, the Scarlet Blade, who is none other than Sylvia herself. With his band of comrades,* he sets out to honor the vow he made to his father as a boy—find the man who betrayed him and clear his family name once more.

With adventure, romance, humor, sword fighting, wrestling, treachery, and a cast of memorable characters, Ballad of the Highwayman, in the tradition of Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini, is a revival of the classic swashbuckler that is sadly hard to find in today’s “all the rage” paranormal novels. I wrote Kilroy’s story because I think it’s just what the world never knew they were missing but desperately needs.

Now with critique:

Kilroy Allen has been searching (Passive voice) searched for fifteen years for to find the man who sent his father to the scaffold. (While I like this opening, it’s history. It’s not the inciting event that starts your story, unless you’re starting with a scene from Kilroy’s childhood. And that just might be an awesome opening.)

Executed under false pretenses of for treachery against his king, Charles I, Kilroy’s father was betrayed by a man whose face he never saw.

Now with the same man is after him Kilroy, (How does Kilroy know this? What happened? How? Why?) and Kilroy he has no choice but to take on a false identity (Why does he have no choice? What happened?) and lure this unknown man out of hiding so he can exact justice for his father’s murder all those years ago. (We already know he’s seeking justice, it’s implied in the first sentence of your query. You reinforce the conflict between the mystery man and Kilroy in your second and third sentences. Your original wording introduces the antagonist by reference as “the bad guy is after the good guy”, which is vague, but you end the sentence with the “Kilroy wants to exact justice” which is awkward wording and sounds like you mean “wants to exact revenge.” It’s my opinion that you skipped the transition between bad-guy-tracking-good-guy and good-guy-seeking-justice, but the transition is pretty critical to your plot.)

Now he’s become the infamous highwayman, Emerald Sword, by night and the not so infamous merchant, Jeremy Glennon, by day. But no plan is without its complications. (Don’t overwrite this, too many alter egos in the first paragraph muddy your story. Which is more important? Play that one up, leave the other for the manuscript.)

If Kilroy cannot catch the man soon (We’re all over here. First the bad guy is after the good guy, then the good guy is seeking justice, now the good guy is trying to catch the bad guy.) bring his father’s killer to justice,  it could mean his true love, the formidable, yet beautiful (false dichotomy, are beautiful women never formidable?), Sylvia Davies (If she’s a major character, you should probably introduce her in the second sentence.), may be forced (passive voice, rewrite) to marry an insufferable dandy she has no feelings for. (Why?)

With time running out, Kilroy seeks the sort of help that only his fellow highwaymen can give: Jeffcoat Mullins, his faithful partner in crime, Roster Scarcliff, a dashing rival he has dueled with for years, the famous Thomas Blood and Claude Du Val, and lastly, the Scarlet Blade, who is none other than Sylvia herself. With his band of comrades,* he sets out to honor the vow he made to his father as a boy he sets out—find the man who betrayed him and clear his family name once more. (This is your plot, move this to the start of the query. Third sentence at latest.)

With adventure, romance, humor, sword fighting, wrestling, treachery, and a cast of memorable characters, (this is tell and won’t get you the attention you want) Ballad of the Highwayman, in the tradition of Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini (most of the time when I read query advice, agents and editors say don’t do this. It’s ok to change this wording to say that your work “will appeal” to readers of Alandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini. However, you need to ask yourself– how big is that market?), is a revival of the classic swashbuckler (this isn’t a genre, but it’s a fun description you could add to show your voice as a writer– just be sure to include a genre) at XX,000 words. that is sadly hard to find in today’s “all the rage” paranormal novels. I wrote Kilroy’s story because I think it’s just what the world never knew they were missing but desperately needs. (talking down paranormal novels may discourage someone from picking your book if they already enjoy (or make money from) paranormal novels.)

I break up the sentences in to different paragraphs to improve readability of my comments. Ignore my paragraph breaks for the purposes of reading the end result. Since this looks like an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest entry, I’m not sure that any changes can be made once the entry has been submitted. The book is available now from Amazon (self-published.)

Jan 162012
 

How First Page Shooter Works

First Page Shooter critiques the first 250 words of fiction manuscripts (middle grade to adult, all genres). You have to send the pages for them to be considered. There is a checklist on the post labeled “Directions!”

Keep in mind a critique on your pages might take several days, and if you haven’t followed the directions, your pages won’t be critiqued.

Your chance to be critiqued improves if you aren’t making the same mistakes the Shark has ranted about commented on previously.

First Page Shooter is entirely a volunteer activity. No first pages sent as part of a query will be posted. The only way your first 250 words will show up is if you email firstpageshooter@gmail.com and specifically ask to have your first page critiqued.

There are no rejections. If your first 250 words aren’t posted within about 120 days, they probably won’t be.

This can happen for several reasons: I didn’t get it, you didn’t really make any mistakes I could talk about; it was so bad I didn’t know where to start; I didn’t understand that foreign language. Pick the reason that makes you feel best, because that’s the real reason.

via How First Page Shooter Works | Confessions.

Looks like a great place to get your manuscript critiqued (at least the first 250 words of your manuscript.) Not that you should neglect building a critique group; these public critiques will never replace having someone read through your entire manuscript and tell you what they did and didn’t like. (And then you’ll have to decide what to do with what they tell you.)

Jan 132012
 

Why do I critique other people’s work?

I do so for a couple of reasons:

  1. To train my internal critic to quickly recognize the difference between good prose and bad prose, hopefully so that he’ll shut up about good prose and let me get on with writing.
  2. To establish a reflexive reaction to the use of bad prose. If I see something that doesn’t work often enough, then I hope not to have blinders on when I’m writing my own stories. (i.e., I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes. I’m sure I have enough of my own to make, as it is.)
  3. To build a platform. Building a platform requires taking risks, putting yourself out there. Rob Hart recently started a monthly journal covering his journey to becoming published through traditional channels. He’s putting himself out there, taking risks, and he’s going to receive rejection as he shops his story. (Maybe not, I just assume that rejection is the norm, even for great authors. I’ve never read his work, but I’ve seen rejection letters for some of the great authors in my genre.) Sharing his journey means sharing his vulnerability. Everyone gets the chance to be either an inspiration to others, or a cautionary tale. Often times, you get to be both. This blog, and my journey, is probably both. I’m OK with that.
  4. To improve my skills as an editor, so that I can better edit my own work. (I like the public critiques because I can see what other people think, which helps me see things I might not otherwise see.)