I finally figured out what this series reminds me of: P. C. Hodgell's Godstalk series. Hodgell has more black comedy and flamboyant worldbuilding, and Hale concentrates much more on weaving a highly intricate story. But both series seem to have evolved from the same roots: bypassing Tolkien's high fantasy tradition in favor of the swords and sorcery of Fritz Lieber, Jack Vance, C. L. Moore, even Robert E. Howard.

It's interesting that while the overall plots and details of the two series have very few points of similarity - the kinship is more one of tone and atmosphere - both have heroes who are avatars of the destructive aspect of a God.

Beyond that, all I can say without spoilers is that this series just gets better and better as it goes along. Book five was particularly packed with holy shit! moments.

Marie, if you're reading this, you would appreciate that the only characters who do stupid things based on sexual desire are reckless, desperate teenagers. The adults generally manage to sensibly resist doing stupid things out of sexual desire, despite extreme temptation. (Homosexuality is banned in large parts of this world.)

Book five is the one where a depressed and desperate Ravisham goes to have grungy gay sex in an alley, pursued by John and a homophobic priest, which ends with the priest dead at John's hands and Ravisham's face cut... but nowhere near as badly as it was in the timeline in which he became our Kahlil. (I will go on calling them Ravisham and Kahlil, for the sake of my own sanity.)

I was expecting a giant cover-up, and was amazed when that totally failed. The truth serum scene was great, especially when the drugged John accidentally managed to cover up Laurie's witchcraft by taking questions about his "sister" to literally mean his actual sister. Shades of fast-penta!

...and then it didn't matter in the long run, because Bill got killed and Laurie blew up several square blocks. Alas, poor Bill. You were never well-characterized, you had a really crappy experience in Basawar, and then you got shot off-page to motivate Laurie.

The entire volume, from Ravisham's poorly timed tryst to the heartbreaking attempt to give John a painless death that only ended up making things a million times worse, was beautifully orchestrated and emotionally gripping. Not to mention ending on a giant cliffhanger. I was really frustrated when the next volume went back to Kahlil.

Oh yeah: this was also the one where John and Ravisham finally had sex. I liked that they waited until they could actually do so safely, like sensible adults. I just wish Hale didn't fade to black so quickly. Even more foreplay would have been nice. It would have been a great opportunity to weave character exploration into the sex, especially since there's so much focus on both men's physicality: Ravisham's scars, John's senses.

The next volume finally did something with John's ecology degree! I must say that I loved all that. I also enjoyed Kahlil and Jath'ibaye negotiating their relationship rather than randomly refusing to explain stuff to each other. Though, again, seriously: a longer sex scene would have been nice.

I also loved Kahlil teaching the girl to teleport. And the dog-witch! Love the dog-witch. The supporting characters have gotten much more interesting as the story goes on.

I had been wondering if Laurie had gone to the dark side. Yep.

So, it's now clearly established that John changed the past, so that Kahlil is from a sort of orphaned timeline, with confusing dual memories, and the Jath'ibaye timeline is the current one - in which Ravisham died. I felt so bad for Kahlil in this, realizing that everyone loved the version of him that he never was. I have to say, though... I like Kahlil better than Ravisham. I have a soft spot for characters who grew up with no one in their corner, and make their work their life.

The Holy Road (The Rifter)

Broken Fortress (The Rifter)
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)

From: [personal profile] cyphomandra

Samsango poisoning himself and John was just tragic. Arrgh. And I love all the little details - the egg-laying weasels! Dan the Milkman! - although I totally agree with you about wanting longer sex scenes. Having just checked her short in The Irregulars, it is more explicit, so am not sure why she's gone for all the fading to black here.

I am currently at the end of book 7 and making a lot more arrgh type noises for Kahlil. No!!!

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

Not looking at spoilers, but I just hope this doesn't bog down the way Hodgell's series did. I gave up after the third or fourth book, I forget.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

So far, it's very tightly plotted and has a lot of stuff happening. It's getting less meandery as it goes along, not more.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

Excellent! So far it sounds like something I would enjoy.

(Speaking of which, after you reviewed Quicksilver I finally got around to reading Ultraviolet and it, but I forgot to say so.)

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

I liked them quite a bit, although the second somewhat more than the first (of course I do not have your keen interest in mental hospital stories). I kind of wish she had dropped the Alison/Sebastian thing in the second book, but hey.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

Me neither, and I'm not 100% sure why. I mean, the age difference is a big turn-off for a lot of people, but Fawn/Dag in the Sharing Knife books didn't bother me as much despite a greater age difference. I think it's a combination of a)Alison seems awfully young, younger than Fawn does (she is actually somewhat younger and there are cultural differences as well), b)even though Sebastian is not actually a therapist there are some ethical issues anyway (IMHO), and c)Anderson didn't convince me that they really love each other; it feels a bit forced.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Yes, this.

Fawn and Dag are both adults, culturally and emotionally. Culturally and emotionally, Alison is an adolescent and Sebastian is an adult. Having Sebastian be sort of/kind of her therapist is also huge. So there's two entirely separate issues, both of which suggest that Sebastian is acting unethically and Alison's ability to consent is impaired due to the gigantic power differential.

Okay, so he's not technically her therapist, but he acts as her therapist. The ethical issues are similar, though the legal ones are different.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

That's much more clearly stated than my fumbling, as usual. :)

If I had realized how long this discussion would get I would have started it under a more relevant post - sorry.

From: [identity profile] marzipan-pig.livejournal.com

I love how you're all like 'OK so we could have had more boy-boy sex'. I mean, what novels *wouldn't* be improved by same?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Very true! But especially so in this case. With literally 500 pages of build-up, I would like more than one paragraph of kissing, and a brief, non-descriptive paragraph saying that the sex was awesome.

ext_7025: (everyone's a critic)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com

Seriously. I mean, I admire the restraint! I would not have been happy if it had gone too far in the other direction, which seemed very possible! But seriously.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

If there's 500 pages of sexual tension, I want at least 3 pages of sex. It doesn't have to be explicit! 3 pages of light foreplay and emotions would be fine. But it went to black way too quickly.

From: [identity profile] jorrie-spencer.livejournal.com

I agree. Even if m/m often goes way too far the other way, and I actually found it a bit refreshing. Even if I'll forgive a lot if the sexual tension is working for me.
ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com

From your lips to Hale's ears, through some sort of weird time-shift. Four books left! C'mon!

PS They can't possibly go back to Nayeshi, can they?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Very unusually for fantasy, I have no idea how this will end. I mean, I think the apocalypse will be averted and (some version of) the lovers will end up together, but I have no idea of how or where or the details.

Ironically, I now feel like Jath'ibaye would have a hard time fitting into Nayeshi, while Kahlil would probably be happier there.
ext_7025: (everyone's a critic)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com

Oh, good, I'm caught up!

I have really been enjoying this. Was a little ambivalent for the first book or two. As commented, I found it very engaging! But also rough-hewn in the characterization -- it all felt a little stiff and trying too hard and had that tic that makes me crazy where the friend characters are way too exclusively interested in the main character's love life -- and I wasn't convinced the author had much sense of or control over the plot happenings...I spent a while wondering if maybe this was actually an earlier work than the one that I'd read. In retrospect, it feels like the early stages were all a rush to get to the stuff that the story was actually interested in -- the interweaving arcs and results thereof -- because yeah, once we were into the magic school and the meat of the thing, I was sold.

I liked Ravishan a lot more than it sounds like you did; that character was the first that read as really organic to me (though not at all my usual in-story type!) and I was so glad of that that I glommed onto him and was really worried about the inevitable return to a Kyle who I'd found not very distinct or interesting...but by the time we got there, both current(?) versions of our main dudes had so much more _there_ there compared to the early going that I am happy to spend time with them (and, yes, happy to see the awkwardness of Khalil's position in a world that knew Ravishan dealt with explicitly, and much as I enjoyed him, I don't actually think a surviving Ravishan would be a pretty thing, at this point in the timeline...)

I am glad to see Pesha! And hope we get much more of her and Laurie, stat. I am feeling a little awkward about the part where there are lots of female characters floating around, yes, but the major actors are all dudes plus one literal bitch...

(I am convinced that Ji is not actually Ji. But my front-runners get creepy when the dog-witch shoves Khalil into Jath'ibaye's bed, so I am less committed to them than I was a book or two back!)

I really like the Grey Space, and the interaction of all John's ecology stuff with his Rifter powers. I was disappointed that he was not more proud of his scale model of Besawar!

I don't usually have as much patience as I would like for this kind of intricacy of timeline and plotting, so while I have skimmy moments, I am overall really impressed that Hale is managing to keep me engaged in all of that.

Hungry bones: super creepy!

Did I miss Laurie's kid all grown up or have we not seen him/her yet?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I also thought the characterization was a bit lacking in the earliest books - the yenta thing, yeah, but also John was weirdly lacking in a past and current connections. (Possibly because I'm in grad school now, I kept thinking, "But what about grad school? Why isn't he thinking about that at all?) It does get remedied later on, especially when you learn that he doesn't have a family because they cut him off for being gay.

I do like Ravishan! I just like Kahlil more. I sympathize a lot with his whole, "so that other version of me got the lover and the mentor and the friends, and I got to lurk under a bed... Is there someone you'd like me to assassinate? Come on, give me someone to assassinate!"

I'm resigned to the story being male-centric (plus a - ha! - bitch and a semi-villain), though I'm hoping Pesha gets more page time.

I have wondered if "Ji" is actually Ravishan/Kahlil's sister. She speaks completely differently, though. I now can't remember what happened to the sister-in-a-yellow-dog in the Kahlil timeline - do you remember?

I initially thought Laurie's kid was one of Jath'ibaye's soldiers, but I think my candidates are too young - early 20s rather than mid/late 20s. I had first thought only about ten years had passed, but it's nearly thirty. Jath'ibaye is in his fifties (though presumably magically not aged much), Fikiri is in his forties, and Laurie's kid would be about 27.
ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com

It took me forever to realize he was still in grad school! I had just assumed based on the disconnection that he was out and, I dunno, delivering pizzas while he looked for a post-doc or something.

I sympathize a lot with his whole, "so that other version of me got the lover and the mentor and the friends, and I got to lurk under a bed... Is there someone you'd like me to assassinate? Come on, give me someone to assassinate!"

Nodnodnod, that makes sense. I liked him way better once he got to be that guy instead of just The Mysterious Roommate Who Was Kind Of Entertaining When He Had That Skeleton Along. I wish the early scenes had reflected a bit more of his actual personality -- I would have liked/been interested in him right off the bat, if so.

The sister was my leading candidate for Ji for most of the book thus far because yeah, we know she goes into the dog and then I don't remember her ever coming back out, and with Khalil stuck in Nayeshi there was no one there to recognize her. But then he came back and didn't twig -- but also didn't seem to think about the possibility at all, which also seems weird. So maybe I just missed where something conclusive happened to the sister or she was replaced in the dog? I did love Ji's explanation of why she likes the dog body; that felt really clever and touching both at once.

My current thought is that Ji is Khalil's mother, based on the bit about, "I took care of you when you were small...but totally just when I stopped by randomly which you don't remember but I am telling you it happened!" and on account of do we know for sure that burning means you can't use the bones? But then we hit the, "You should MAKE him go to BED" eyebrow waggle, and: ick. So maybe she is just Ji, after all.

I feel bad for Fikiri, I can't lie.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I feel bad for Fikiri too. He has a very legitimate grievance, though killing talented kids and raising an army of giant monster vampire skeletons is not the best way to deal with it. Ditto Laurie.

Sister playing matchmaker is way less creepy than mom playing matchmaker. His sister could have taken care of him when he was little. If so, I think he doesn't think of it because his memories are still partially scrambled. I too found that "Oh yeah I kind of knew you, we were... neighbors, that's it, neighbors!" suspicious.
ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com

Ooh, good rationalization! I am back on board the sister-train.

Your first paragraph made me LOL.

From: [identity profile] jorrie-spencer.livejournal.com

Well, you certainly understand fantasy history better than I do. I haven't read any of those authors mentioned except Tolkien.

I'm so glad you find the series getting better and better!

And, yeah, Hale does not explore characterization through sex, at all. And there was one point with Kahlil when I really, really wanted it, because I felt there would be interesting nuances to explore given his life experiences vs Ravishan's. Fortunately I found the characterization rich enough to not be too frustrated by this.

That scene where John acts like an adult and Ravishan disappears, feeling rejected, rather broke my heart. For R, but also John who is determined to do the right thing. Though I loved it when John found him.

I thought of fast-penta too!

I could barely breathe at the end of that cliffhanger, though I'll admit that when we returned to that timeline, I had a tough time knowing what I knew about the characters. Of course, I was rewarded by pushing through. (I'm being a bit vague, because I'm not quite sure what all information you have and want to avoid all spoilers.)

I guess I felt equally bad for Kahlil and Ravishan, although it's true that Kahlil didn't have Jahn. But having Jahn wasn't always easy.

I'm about to finish book 1! I'm going to try to write something up this read through.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Yes, do write it up. I'd love to see this reach a larger audience.

You should read P. C. Hodgell. The first book stands on its own: The God Stalker Chronicles

I felt bad for Ravishan, getting what felt like a rejection. But I did love to see something pretty unusual in fantasy (not to mention romance) which was a character refusing to have insanely risky sex because they didn't want to get themselves and their lover killed. I can't tell you how many books I've read where the opposite happens.

Poor Ravishan. Clearly the Rifter is unleashed and Ravishan is killed, but I don't yet know the details - but obviously things go incredibly, catastrophically, tragically wrong.

Still, whatever happened to him was at least over relatively quickly, as opposed to John having to live with, at best, being accidentally responsible for the events leading to his death. I'm betting it went something like John watching in horror as his lover is swallowed up in an earthquake he started and couldn't stop.

(Don't tell me, I'll find out. I just finished the part where Kahlil and Jath'ibaye have sex for the first time.)

From: [identity profile] jorrie-spencer.livejournal.com

Yes, that was great, that John forcibly repelled Ravishan because they were so at risk, not because he didn't care for him. (And to a lesser degree that John didn't want to see how Ravishan felt for him because they were so at risk.)

I was keeping my head in the sand till I could no longer ignore the fact that Ravishan must have been killed. (I won't give away anything!) But once I could no longer ignore that fact, I found it a little hard to go back to read his section. At least Kahlil has dual memories. That seemed to help me.

John has been through a hell of a lot.

Will look for The God Stalker Chronicles.
chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

From: [personal profile] chomiji

I love Hodgell. The books are very un-Tolkien-ish, and the lead character is a walking disaster area who has a darkly humorous appreciation of the absurdities of her own existence.

From: [identity profile] jinian.livejournal.com

I am interested in this, but the pricing is too annoying for me to have tried it yet.
ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com

I winced when I did the math, but when I ask myself, "Am I getting a Starbucks coffee-style sugar drink amount of enjoyment out of each chunk?" the answer keeps being yes.
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Yaki - knife)

From: [personal profile] chomiji

>> I finally figured out what this series reminds me of: P. C. Hodgell's Godstalk series <<


Seriously, I had already added the first volume to my wishlist on the basis of your earlier writeups, but that really cemented my desire to get hold of these.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I think you'd really like this. It gets better and better as it goes along. I've gotten completely sucked in.

From: [identity profile] jorrie-spencer.livejournal.com

If you don't mind (and it's of course perfectly fine if you do), can you add me so I can read your thoughts on The Rifter?
ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com

Done and done!


And ha, I almost asked if I could add you based on your commenting but then I was shy! Pleased ta meetcha.

From: [identity profile] jorrie-spencer.livejournal.com

Thank you! I felt shy too, but The Rifter convo was too much to resist :)

I wrote up my book 1 reread, but it's kinda dry. Will post anyway, at some point.

From: [identity profile] swan-tower.livejournal.com

Just skimmed past the spoiler stuff to say that I appreciate the heads-up. :-)

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