Fire & Ice by Patty Jansen

Fire & Ice by Patty Jansen

I’ve read other books by Patty Jansen, and like her science fiction, so I picked up one of her fantasies to try. This world is complex with many layers running through it. There are few simple answers or clear villains and heroes. The one constant is power, or more specifically control, but what that means for each character is different.

Tandor is a mix of hero trying to overthrow an illegitimate government and villain willing to do whatever necessary to achieve his aims. But that is far from the whole of his nature as his care for the imperfects he has rescued fights with his need to use them in his plan. As an imperfect himself, he sees the benefits in what he offers them as much as the loss, but doesn’t understand the rage that drives his servitor to fight his control absolute.

Isandor, an imperfect Tandor rescued a long time ago and placed with the woman he loves, has grown up in the capital city with an instinctive command of icefire. He also sought forbidden books that speak of icefire to learn more. Still, he joined the Knighthood when being an imperfect means abandonment on the ice floes when newborn. This is a policy the Knights brought into practice when they overthrew the old king because imperfects can use icefire, and yet they have not noticed Isandor’s wooden leg.

Then we get to Carro, Isandor’s childhood friend. His father mentally tortured him as a child, a practice the Apprentice Knights are all too happy to continue when he follows his friend into their ranks. With Carro we see the darker side as much as with Tandor, though I can’t say more without spoiling. His situation is complicated, and fair warning, involves on-screen male-male rape. However, there are hints of healthy gay relationships, so the two are not considered equivalent but rather one of power and the other of pleasure.

The complexity of the world comes to play in Loraine role, Isandor’s foster mother and Tandor’s love. She’s a breeder, one of the rare women able to bring a child to term. For this she is offered contracts to continue other family lines in return for her children being ripped from her. Economic imbalance also plays a part with the City of Glass much less prosperous since the overthrow. Most of the remaining wealth is funneled to the higher levels and away from the outer city. Which isn’t even covering the secret society, a black market in loot from the old palace, and many other aspects that make the world multilayered and fascinating.

There are many characters who have a crucial role and the point of view. I haven’t listed them all (some for spoiler reasons), but once I realized Carro’s friend Isandor did not grow up to be Tandor, I had no trouble keeping track. They have different parts to play, different skills, and distinct personalities. The imperfects are born with visible birth defects, meaning a good number of the characters are disabled, including two of the leads.

Bloodline is also critical because imperfects tend to come from the older, Thillei, bloodline while the bloodline that dominates the senior Knights can sense, if not see, icefire. This ability means illusions are harder to hold.

The world is not a bright and happy one. It has its moments, but there are as many if not more where the characters suffer or do something that turns my stomach. There is violence and hate, for sure, and yet there are moments of connection and love even in unexpected characters. It’s a harsh place with rules designed to keep the old bloodlines from returning. The costs are high. You won’t find straightforward characters that fall into place. Instead, the characters are as multi-faceted as the world and make as many bad choices as good. This is the strength of Fire & Ice. You will not find simplicity or easy answers, but there are many deep questions to consider, something I appreciate.

This is the first of a trilogy, and yet several storylines come to a satisfying conclusion. In some cases, that is a “for now” answer with more needing to be resolved and in others one situation resolves but with hints at more to follow. I’m not sure where the next book will take me, but I’m curious to find out.

P.S. I purchased this in the Icefire Trilogy The Complete Series box set for those who want the series written before they start.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 208: Music

My husband sent me this video last week, and it seems like an appropriate song as I recover from my hospital trip. The song speaks to me on many levels.

These smiles are just one way I have led my life always looking for the silver lining and moving forward however I can. I hope you find as much meaning as I did in First Aid Kit’s My Silver Lining.

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My Apologies for the Unexpected Blog Blackout

Watercolor leaves by Octopus Artis
Watercolor leaves by Octopus Artis

I’ve skipped a post here or there, but it’s rare that a whole week goes missing. I know some of you check in on me based on that consistency, and there’s enough to worry about without adding to the pile.

At least I think so, but apparently my appendix disagreed. What better time than a pandemic to start making noise, after all? I certainly wasn’t giving it a single thought, poor, neglected thing whose purpose ended after it helped put my overactive immune system into play at the start of my life. That little green monster rose its head and my appendix answered the call.

So, the long and short of it is four days of weird pain ending in laparoscopic surgery. I’m still recovering, so we’ll see about next week’s blog, but I’m doing fine. Better than I was, actually.

The staff at Renown South Meadows was wonderful. They took every precaution to keep me safe in their care. The Emergency Room doctors, nurses, and other staff made me comfortable, accepted my requests to stay off loopy meds, and even broke into song on occasion to help pass the time. How they found the energy to smile and be kind is nothing short of a miracle. It made a huge difference when I couldn’t have a family member with me in an effort to reduce potential exposure.

The hospital staff were just as helpful and kind even as they continued a critical job under long hours and complicated conditions. They combined admonishments to get some sleep and call for help whenever I needed it with treats of cranberry juice (my choice) and chocolate pudding. My surgeon explained everything well enough for me to understand even given my state, enabling me to pass the explanation on to my husband, who was far more stressed than I was.

While I wish the organ waited a bit longer, if it had to be now, this was the best it could go. A big thank you to everyone who is working to take care of us in these difficult times. May the good Karma serve you well in times to come.

To end on a proper “me” note, my son had the perfect explanation for why I did this. He said I needed to clear out space for the cooling system necessary to support my future cybernetic replacement parts. Guess I’m getting ready early. I wonder what I’ll have enhanced first.

Hope your quarantine is going a little better than mine. Stay safe and healthy. See you on the other side.

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5 Interesting Links for 04-17-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Household Objects (History)

Household objects we now take for granted often have curious or even checkered pasts. Here are some glimpses of how they came to be in our lives.

Publishing (Markets)

Authors might be limited to online venues right now, but this article suggests places to sell your books once the restrictions lift. When I first started publishing, I made more handselling at craft fairs and the like than I did in eBook. That changed, but those early fans are still with me. Science fiction conventions (including online ones) can be a good opportunity if your work falls in those genres, whether you give out bookmarks or purchase a vendor table. The same is true for speculative fiction artworks. Whether it’s a big earner initially almost doesn’t matter as you tend to make faithful fans.

Health (Nutrition)

Tips for healthy eating on a budget with everything from purchasing to how to get the most from what’s in your kitchen.

Short Stories (Steampunk)

Normally, I link to stories available to read on the Web, but I enjoyed the first book of the Magnificent Devices series. The offered story is a lovely prequel that reveals a hidden history behind one character. It introduces a new intrigue into the world that the characters will have to resolve. I think the prize is worth taking the extra step of subscribing to Shelley Adina’s newsletter.

Music (Video)

I’ll admit I didn’t know about Grimes until I discovered her shared music video project through Daz3D, but I find her music interesting, her YouTube bio fascinating, and the project something I may try. Who knows? It might give me the skills I need to create book videos, or maybe it’ll just be fun. The project, where she supplies the pieces and you craft your own version of a video for the song, is her way of helping those with a creative bent keep busy and learn something new in this time of isolation. So how about it? Will you try? Daz3D is offering supplemental 3D artwork for free to assist your imagination as well. (Via Daz3D)

An Innocent Secret (Book 3 of Uncommon Lords and Ladies)

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Ready for Love by Marie Force

Ready for Love by Marie Force

For a small place, there sure are a lot of love stories on Gansett Island, and each with a different path. Ready for Love picks up a year after Joe and Janey found their much-delayed happiness, but though Luke and Sydney had even longer to come back to this moment, their tale has little in common with the previous book.

Sydney has been coming to the island since her teenage years, but though she met, and loved, Luke back then, she wasn’t mature enough to see beyond her parents’ prejudices. Instead, she married someone else, had two wonderful kids, and lived a full life with summers on the island as a minor part of that. Still, she never forgot Luke or got over her regret at how she’d left one summer and returned the next time married to someone else, never giving Luke the breakup he deserved.

Then fate deals an awful blow as a drunk driver kills her family and injures her, leaving Sydney devastated.

All this happens in the backstory. We join the present when, a year after the first time Luke came to check on Sydney in secret, he’s back pulling his boat onto her beach so he can stand guard over her grief. Only Sydney hasn’t been ignorant of his visits as he supposed, something he learns when she calls him on it, finally ready to recognize his presence.

Their story is complicated with trust issues, grief, and expectations, but it’s a beautiful one as Luke tries to move forward while everyone helpfully reminds him how destroyed he was the last time she left him. Sydney is no better as she tries to make her way back to her first love without feeling guilty about finding happiness a second time despite the deaths of her children and husband. The guilt is also because her ties to Luke in memory stayed true throughout her marriage. She was never unfaithful in thought or word, so did not betray her husband, but neither did the past fade as it might have.

Nor does all this happen in isolation as the community of friends we’ve come to know meet to tease, support, and challenge each other, especially since Janey and Joe’s wedding is only two weeks away.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I like all the different paths to love these stories tell, and Ready for Love both has a complete story and several others running in parallel. Even in Luke and Sydney’s story alone, though, there are many threads I appreciated.

Doubt is an aspect, but when it would have been easy for doubt to overwhelm trust, I very much enjoyed how their understanding of each other wins out. Which is not to say doubt plays no part, because it absolutely does, but it’s not the simple things where it shows, but in multilayered ones where some level of mistrust makes sense even without considering their past.

This is a powerful, complex, supportive love story that swept me in. It has open-door intimate scenes, tragedy, and a faithful dog. Buddy is both an emotional crutch for Sydney, and a proper dog who scratches and whines at a closed door rather than a caricature. As much as the book’s about two people renewing a lost love, there’s love of family, found and blood, and active change in more than just the main characters. It was what I wanted to read at this moment, and Marie Force delivered.

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