A classic epic fantasy with some excellent worldbuilding, striking art, and even more excellent crack, but characters whom I never quite warmed up to.

What was once one united vaguely medievaloid fantasy European kingdom split into three warring kingdoms long ago. In yet another war, both king and crown prince of one kingdom were killed, leaving no one to rule but bookish, war-hating, 13-year-old Prince Asta. Since he doesn’t want to rule and nobody else wants him to rule either, a contest is held to find the possibly mythical Key To The Kingdom.

Asta is one of the contenders. I forget why exactly. He’s accompanied by warrior “Badd” Baddorius, a heroic lecher. Leticia, an aristocrat girl Asta’s age, also sets out, as do Prince Fairheart (yes, really) and several people who will later prove unimportant.

It becomes apparent by the end of the first volume that the true history of the land, which involves dragons and dragon-tamers, is both key to the quest and much more complicated than everyone thinks. The unraveling of this is by far the most interesting part of the story, and one I won’t spoil here.

My big problem with the manga was that I didn’t much like or care about any of the characters. I kept reading because the plot was compelling, but I’m more of a character reader than a plot reader. Though I did enjoy the sorcerer who, since his lower body was burned off by dragons, surgically joined his upper body to an entire giant lizard. He later shows up, after his lizard drops dead, with dog AND dinosaur grafts. There was also this classic speech:

“Look at this... It's [Spoiler A’s] left arm. He cut off his own arm and gave it to me. [Spoiler B]... You have to eat it."

And so the two manga classic tokens of affection, the gift of a body part and “I love you! Here, feast upon my flesh!” are combined.

Key to the Kingdom, The - Volume 1
A classic epic fantasy with some excellent worldbuilding, striking art, and even more excellent crack, but characters whom I never quite warmed up to.

What was once one united vaguely medievaloid fantasy European kingdom split into three warring kingdoms long ago. In yet another war, both king and crown prince of one kingdom were killed, leaving no one to rule but bookish, war-hating, 13-year-old Prince Asta. Since he doesn’t want to rule and nobody else wants him to rule either, a contest is held to find the possibly mythical Key To The Kingdom.

Asta is one of the contenders. I forget why exactly. He’s accompanied by warrior “Badd” Baddorius, a heroic lecher. Leticia, an aristocrat girl Asta’s age, also sets out, as do Prince Fairheart (yes, really) and several people who will later prove unimportant.

It becomes apparent by the end of the first volume that the true history of the land, which involves dragons and dragon-tamers, is both key to the quest and much more complicated than everyone thinks. The unraveling of this is by far the most interesting part of the story, and one I won’t spoil here.

My big problem with the manga was that I didn’t much like or care about any of the characters. I kept reading because the plot was compelling, but I’m more of a character reader than a plot reader. Though I did enjoy the sorcerer who, since his lower body was burned off by dragons, surgically joined his upper body to an entire giant lizard. He later shows up, after his lizard drops dead, with dog AND dinosaur grafts. There was also this classic speech:

“Look at this... It's [Spoiler A’s] left arm. He cut off his own arm and gave it to me. [Spoiler B]... You have to eat it."

And so the two manga classic tokens of affection, the gift of a body part and “I love you! Here, feast upon my flesh!” are combined.

Key to the Kingdom, The - Volume 1
I report with sorrow that I have now finished all of Liu's Dirk & Steel series, and can't read any more till her new one coms out. Apparently that one's about a dragon prince! Too bad, I was hoping for one about Eddie, that little angst-muffin.

These two books, the first a stand-alone and the second a novella in the book Dark Dreamers edited by Christine Feehan, make an unintentionally good paired reading set. Both are about a non- or part-human man enchanted and enslaved by a witch, and rescued by a bi- or multi-racial human woman.

I loved "A Dream of Stone and Shadow." It might be my favorite Dirk & Steel yet. The short length kept the focus clean. D&S agent Aggie is a bad-ass pre-cog who rescues children from sexual abuse. She is contacted by a gargoyle who is imprisoned by a witch, along with his three brothers who have been turned to stone, and can only escape into the astral plane when the witch cuts out his heart and eats it with a nice Chianti. He and Aggie bond, rescue a little girl, and have psychic orgasms. Amiri guest-stars. And it's even more awesome than it sounds!

Dark and gruesome as a fairy tale, it's also full of black humor and action. Aggie is excellently tough and sweet, the gargoyle is charming, and while the finale was a borderline nonsensical deus ex machina, I didn't even care.

Click here to buy it from Amazon: Dark Dreamers

I knew Soul Song was "the one with the merman" but for some reason I thought that meant the hero was amphibious and/or could turn into a dolphin. No, he's a merman with the traditional fish tail! He's the abused slave of a witch who forces him to work as a prostitute and assassin, and who is ordered to kill Kit Bell, a biracial violinist who can see when people are about to die. There are bad cops, a vampire, a society of merpeople whose bones are too soft for them to live on land, and cameos by assorted D&S agents.

I liked Kit a lot. Alas, M'Cal, the merman, has lots of angst but little personality. There's a lot of running around and a storm at sea, but to little purpose. Enjoyable but not one of Liu's better works. Though it did have one truly excellent moment...

Read more... )
I report with sorrow that I have now finished all of Liu's Dirk & Steel series, and can't read any more till her new one coms out. Apparently that one's about a dragon prince! Too bad, I was hoping for one about Eddie, that little angst-muffin.

These two books, the first a stand-alone and the second a novella in the book Dark Dreamers edited by Christine Feehan, make an unintentionally good paired reading set. Both are about a non- or part-human man enchanted and enslaved by a witch, and rescued by a bi- or multi-racial human woman.

I loved "A Dream of Stone and Shadow." It might be my favorite Dirk & Steel yet. The short length kept the focus clean. D&S agent Aggie is a bad-ass pre-cog who rescues children from sexual abuse. She is contacted by a gargoyle who is imprisoned by a witch, along with his three brothers who have been turned to stone, and can only escape into the astral plane when the witch cuts out his heart and eats it with a nice Chianti. He and Aggie bond, rescue a little girl, and have psychic orgasms. Amiri guest-stars. And it's even more awesome than it sounds!

Dark and gruesome as a fairy tale, it's also full of black humor and action. Aggie is excellently tough and sweet, the gargoyle is charming, and while the finale was a borderline nonsensical deus ex machina, I didn't even care.

Click here to buy it from Amazon: Dark Dreamers

I knew Soul Song was "the one with the merman" but for some reason I thought that meant the hero was amphibious and/or could turn into a dolphin. No, he's a merman with the traditional fish tail! He's the abused slave of a witch who forces him to work as a prostitute and assassin, and who is ordered to kill Kit Bell, a biracial violinist who can see when people are about to die. There are bad cops, a vampire, a society of merpeople whose bones are too soft for them to live on land, and cameos by assorted D&S agents.

I liked Kit a lot. Alas, M'Cal, the merman, has lots of angst but little personality. There's a lot of running around and a storm at sea, but to little purpose. Enjoyable but not one of Liu's better works. Though it did have one truly excellent moment...

Read more... )
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