Book Review: Retribution Falls

So, a daemonologist, a smuggler, and an Archduke’s heir walk into an airship—oh dear, you haven’t heard this one before, have you?

Retribution Falls is, like much of its steampunky brethren, strange above all else. The good sort of strange, mind you, but strange none the less. No lizard people, but airships abound (because how else would we know it was Steampunk? The goggles would make no sense!), magic and daemons are in the air, and money is the name of the game. Money is, after all, the driving focus of this novel, given that it’s a tale of a crew of smugglers.

Enter Darien Frey, captain of the Ketty Jay—a ship he loves above all else. Even his crew. Or his passengers. Even…well, alright, money would probably give it a run for it. He’s a man that would look a thief in the eye and tell him to go screw himself rather than turn over his precious ship—even if it meant getting some of the (expendable) souls around him iced. His crew? Much the same in temperament. But what do you expect? They’re a crew of bandits, smugglers, and lowlifes of the lowest rate.

No, I mean it, the lowest rate. They lack success, luck, and the money that goes with it. They barely have the money to keep flying but—you guessed it—with the dawning of the book, is the dawning of an opportunity: the job to end all jobs. Like any “job”, though, a hero (alright, anti-hero) isn’t about to get off without a hitch—and in this case, the hitch involves explosions and false charges of murder. Whoops. Welcome to fame (sans fortune) and a top spot on the number one most wanted list! Toss in a fugitive daemonologist for flavor, a desperate need to prove innocence, not to mention a seasoning of dark humor, and what you’ve got here is a real winner.

Does it have the depth you know I love? Alright, well, not in its entirety, but it strikes a decent enough balance for a book as outright fun as this one. Character development does abound, characters learn from past mistakes, and as quick as you can swallow this bit of literature, it’s rare that you actually feel left wanting over its course. No info-dumps will weigh you down, so it’s a speedy read.

Also: there is daemonism. Daemonism magic, to be exact, which is a sort of outright fantasy mixed with pseudoscience, and used just enough to tease one’s interest without giving enough away to truly pick apart. What’s more: it’s magic with a downside! Not all powerful—and that’s just the sort of magic I like.

Basically, Retribution Falls is an amusing package that fires on almost every cylinder: fast-paced action (including airship action, which is always glorious), rampant piracy, and characters with humor—and, well, character. In the words of a terrible song? I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. This is how you steampunk.

A Momentary Interlude to Discuss Violence in America

“Hands up, don’t shoot,”—a modern mantra.

Before the events of Aug. 9, it was a phrase that we all knew, a classic plea of self-defense. It shows surrender, peaceful surrender. Yet in Ferguson, that phrase has become a rallying cry, precisely because of how it did not work.

When you look at pictures on the news, it’s everywhere. On t-shirts. On posters. It is a jab at the police force there where, according to witness reports, Michael Brown, who raised his hands in surrender, was shot regardless by a white officer.

The end result hasn’t just been a slogan, though. Protests, riots, and an indefensible police response have been at the heart of news circuits over the course of the last week. Some outlets have come to refer to this St. Louis suburb as “Fergustan,” a not-so-veiled reference to the fact that we expect this sort of behavior more overseas—we just don’t expect to see it on the streets of what our leaders regularly proclaim, “The Greatest Nation on Earth.”

I write this message not because it’s not being covered. Lord knows, there’s round the clock coverage of this mess, both at home and abroad. Amnesty International is sending a team to its first ever American investigation for goodness sake, and it’s no longer unusual to see war correspondents on the scene. People are tense. People are watching. I’m writing this message as an appeal, and as an airing of details.

Last night, after the Missouri State Police finally relieved the Ferguson Police Department of their duties—following endless criticism of their overhanded efforts to dissolve protests—and hopeful speeches throughout the day, things took their darkest turn yet. Hours before a governor-imposed curfew, things turns violent when police attempted to disperse the crowds and “restore calm.”

The stated reasons: reports of gunfire, a protest a little too near to a police command center for their liking. The end result? Molotov cocktails, lines of riot police, tear gas, and as of this morning, a call for the National Guard.

Yes, that’s right, the National Guard. The people that are deployed against disasters have now found themselves in a situation they haven’t had to deal with since the 1960s—a need to quell raw, simmering rage, and restore order for those whose sole job should be to do so. Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order this morning deploying the U.S. state militia to the area, effectively dubbing Ferguson a disaster zone.

“Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk,” Nixon said in a statement on his website.

In contradiction, you have residents saying things like, “The smoke bombs were completely unprovoked,” said Anthony Ellis, 45. “It (the protest) was led by kids on bikes. Next you know they’re saying, ‘Go home, Go home!’” (Reuters)

State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson explained, in turn, that while most protesters were peaceful, the trouble came from “a few people bent on violence and destruction.” Elevating the level of the police response was, in his opinion, simply par for the course. Following that example, the state has now raised theirs, even as the Federal government steps in to autopsy Brown’s body (a third time it’s had to go through this, mind you), and supporting protests spring up in other cities.

In Ferguson, they’ve even closed schools today.

It’s out of control

So let’s break this down:

A week of protests.

Brutal police tactics, from start to finish, including the shooting of a man they later released criminal details on, but which they knew nothing of at the time. Journalists have been arrested for nothing more than reporting on the details, and there has been a determined effort to keep the information gatherers out.

Local, state and federal agencies scrambling for a response.

Autopsy after autopsy after autopsy.

Those people taking the streets say there often is no other outlet for their objections, that they have no alternative but to protest until they are listened to. It’s a sad state to find oneself in, not just as an individual, but as a community. Young and old alike, they’ve put up with a lot, for a very long time—the thing breaking here in Ferguson is not a single man’s poor decision, but the latest in a long-running sense of one versus the other, of an outlook on a community that does no one any favors.

It wasn’t even until a few days ago that the police finally caved to Civil rights activists’ demands for the name of the officer who shot and killed Mr. Brown—ostensibly out of concern for his safety, and probably logically so, but nonetheless, a poor move which only served to fan the flames in the community.

Conclusion?

Police, Politicians, and fellow Citizens, we need to rethink how this whole society thing is working. Because if this is how things turn out, it’s not. We don’t want the United States of America to be the land of freedom under which terms and conditions may apply. None of us signed a terms and licensing agreement.

What’s more, this should be a wake up call. With the militarization of police forces across the USA, the buying of surplus military arms, and, if a concerted effort is not made to rein in what exactly is “the law,” what exactly is “right and wrong,” the capacity for what is happening in Ferguson could happen anywhere, and that’s a truly dark thought.

Communication, people. It makes the world go round. Let’s engage before we disintegrate.

A Fairy Tale from Celtic Hearts

Burrowed into the emerald hills

I have found the ghosts of waves resonant

in every whistle of the reflection—

it lay beneath a stream dark as indigo.

 

I found the horse that would carry me back

across grey scale and falling sand

hoary as the one that held its hours

as a cloud its gift of rain.

 

There we rode across the moon

under baths of silver light youth made

sparkle in that distant sky, eternal

save for the need to breathe, and live, and love—

 

It touched my palms, this dream of mine

without cause or grace or end to mystery;

yet it fell, as perfection always does

until the next promise of a nightly love.

The Grand Unveiling: Introducing Unfettered Books

Time to cease the vague social media hints and grab the megaphone. Roll out the red carpet, gentle readers! I proudly present to you a shining new self-pub indie author book site:

Unfetteredbooks.com

Unfettered Books is a site that currently features myself and Nathan Hartley, whom some of you will doubtless recognize as my editor, though others might know him as the poet who brought The Vultures and I to the world. Both his book and my own are available on our site as well as links to his Facebook author page and more. The most exciting part of this is what Unfettered Books has to offer you all, our intelligent and engaging readers!

As a team, Hartley and I are very excited to offer a promise of quality, imagination and open dialogue that will guarantee a worry free reading experience. We are both avid readers of self-published and indie published books, and know the uncertainty that comes with the undertaking. Will this new, unknown author’s books be worth the time and money? Will the books be filled with errors, from plot-based loopholes to grammatical madness? Will the author walk away, leaving the series half finished?

With the Unfettered Books stamp of approval you can buy and read our books unbound and without worry, knowing there are little to no errors, complete chapters, satisfying endings (as well as guaranteed endings to any series under the guidance of our fingertips, mind you), and an honest, open dialogue with the authors.

You can find the whole of our Unfettered Books Collection on our website. You can also join our Reader’s List to access our free monthly newsletter!

May Means Binary Explosions

Don’t mind the O

it’s just the last stop before the crow

spring-topped shower in all its finery

coded delicately for its binary

debut, in the showers and flowers

rising up like sandy towers

no blood where they lay,

just another seedling for the play

of petals on the fettered den

the nightly contrition of the zen

tools trailblazing incisions

into springtime’s timeless revisions—

they’d say we’re all within a trance

if our bulbous natures didn’t love to dance.

Book Review: Baptism of Fire

baptism-of-fireSimply delightful, though I dare say it was a painful wait for it! I should also add that it might be my favorite of the English translated Witcher novels so far—a beautiful blend of character, political deviance, and magical shenanigans (which is my way of saying action of many kinds). Though the forward progress can drag its heels a bit at times, feeling as though the wheels are turning (and, admittedly, a lot being learned) without actually progressing, there is not a single of these moments that will linger too long on the conscious mind of the reader. Neither Geralt, nor those around him, ever sit in one place long enough for that to be the case.

The sorceresses are the primary force for political momentum herein, though Nilfgaard and its naughty streak remain at the edge of every action and reaction. It dwells heavily on the symbol of the Baptism of Fire—a journey a great many of the characters seems to be walking here, above and beyond merely Geralt of Rivia. A new friend herein, one whom you can’t take but take quickly to, a Mr. Regis, is quick enough to point that little detail out.

Sapkowski has this delightful gift for balancing the dark grit and clever wit together atop the pin needle of high fantasy that is difficult to be equaled. Elves, Dwarves, and magic abound—yet somehow you cannot read his books without using the word “human” significantly. The interactions, the personality he breathes into his creations—it’s at the same time both complex and yet soothingly natural.

One must always worry when a translation is set before them—worry that something will be lost in the translation, that something of the beauty of the work will not hold up to the editor’s keen axe. Not so, here. If the book has lost anything in the translation, yet remains of such rich delight, then the original must be truly breathtaking. Sapkowski is a storyteller I would highly recommend—and Baptism of Fire is another notch on that belt.

A little geography lesson…

Interested in learning more about the geography of The Hollow March and At Faith’s End? Like any bit of fantasy, it can sometimes seem like there’s a lot of names being tossed around therein, so it never hurts to provide a little point of reference for the undertaking. Here are some of the more important names to remember from around the world of Lecura:

A (*) next to a name indicates a capital city.

Those figures listed next to the provinces are the leading figures of those provinces.

Geography

Idasia; Anscharde*, and its provinces: (The Main Focus of the Novels, located on the continent Marindis.)

  1. Dexet—Duke Urtz
  2. Varstein—Count Palatine Veldhart (The Sheep) [As of At Faith's End, Bishop Hargrove of Tennesburg]
  3. Karinth—Baron Yohan Wendoc
  4. Sorbia—Duke Burkhard Rusthöffen (Lord Steer)
  5. Baharia—Count Haisher Hendensleuce
  6. Thorinde—Count Corwick Ibin
  7. Usteroy—Count Palatine Walthere Cullick (The Lion); Fürlangen*
  8. Jaritz—Count Witold; and Verdan, with Lord Matair; Gölingen*
  9. Berundy—Count Palatine Diedrich Kurste
  10. Lucretsia—Baron Erim Pordill (The Black Goat)
  11. Momeny—Margrave Dustan Scheyer; Ungerührt Tor*
  12. Turgal—Count Herbst Irkaller
  13. Dornitz—Baron Milbard Bresche
  14. Fritensia—Count Palatine Hewlitt Mayse
  15. Brabeck—Baron Kraste Uschent
  16. Khetzen—Baron Othmann Joher
  17. Waibar—Baron Perstin Osich
  18. Wassein—Duke Turgitz
  19. Arlaine—Margrave Kasch Hiris
  20. Corvaden—Crown Land

Kingdom of Effise; Mankałd* (Located to the east of Idasia, sharing a border with its provinces of Arlaine and Momeny. It is presently in a state of war with Idasia.)

Kingdom of Surin (A chaotic, utterly decentralized nation to the east of the Idasian provinces of Jaritz and Baharia, beyond the River Jurree. Following a previous war with Idasia, a loose confederation of barons has seized control, with its king being little more than a figurehead)

Principalities of Ravonno; Turnina*; Palace of the Holy Seal (Located to the south of Idasia, separated from the Empire by a chain of mountains. It is the religious heartland of the Visaji faith, and dominated by four principalities united under the Patriarch of the Church.)

Frmr Kingdom of Narana (The westernmost nation of the Marindi continent. A broken nation now, reduced to a mere province of the invading Zutam Empire.)

Kingdom of Asantil; Calvijon* (Borders Idasia’s western provinces. A devout nation nevertheless viewed as responsible for the rise of the Farren heretics. Widely regarded at the last true check of Idasian power on the continent.)

Kingdom of Banur; Sayerne* (Located to the southeast of Idasia, this rugged land is an ally of Idasia, through marriage to the Imperial family and the Count Palatine Walthere Cullick.)

Dutchies and Baronies of Lorace (Once a collection of tribes, and now a collection of interlaced city-state-like baronies and dutchies, Lorace is located south of Asantil, along the sea. Regarded as vicious fighters, their independence is their own great issue.)

Grand Duchy of Walim (Often regarded as independent in name only, this erstwhile ally of Idasia sits on the Empire’s western border, serving as a sort of buffer state between it and Asantil.)

Island Nations of Karnush (Northwest of the continent lies the isles of Karnush–a smattering of atolls, sandbars, and large islands in their own right, regarded as some of the finest traders of the modern era. A fierce navy and savvy knowledge of the seas is their greatest shield.)

Confederacy of Forlia (Adjoining Banur in the east, this confederacy of states is a sort of half-effort in democracy, with an elected tyrant sitting over the citizens in question)

Holy Empire of Zutam (Zutam the Holy. Zutam the Mighty. Zutam the Terror. A continent and an Empire in its own right. Its origins lie in a continent south of these others’ landlocked existences–but since it crossed the sea and smashed Narana, its presence has become very real for all.)

Talimphate of Tajalik (The easternmost state known to most residents of the Marindi continent–a land of silks and spice, hard men and women, and a rugged landscape dotted at least as much by tribes as civilization–it is the subject of many tales among the Marindi nations, and few of them true. Its size is of some dispute, but its power and elegance is not.)