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Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series has been one of my favorites for a couple of years now, and I leaped at a recent opportunity to check out Come Tumbling Down, the 5th novella. Warning: Some spoilers for earlier books in the series follow.

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Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a school for children who have ventured to other worlds and come back again. The school has three rules. No solicitation. No visitors. No quests.

Rule #3 gets broken a lot.

Some time ago, Jack Wolcott killed her twin sister, Jill, in order to protect the other students at Eleanor’s school. With Jill in her arms, Jack returned through their door to the Moors, where Jack intended to resurrect Jill and maintain the balance of power there. At the outset of Come Tumbling Down, Christopher (a fellow student, and a bit of a musical necromancer), has moved into Jack’s old room in the basement, and is suddenly interrupted by a lightning storm that generates a door from the Moors. Through the door steps Alexis, Jack’s beloved, bearing a Wolcott twin in her arms. Which Wolcott twin is slightly more complicated, and where our quest begins.

With the aid of Cora (a mermaid doomed to life ashore unless her own door returns for her), Christopher quickly rallies Kade (the Goblin Prince in waiting) and Sumi (the future savior of the world of Confection) to travel to the Moors. There, they plan to defeat Jill and her vampire Master, save Jack, and restore the now-disrupted balance of the world. That is, of course, if they all survive the many other monsters that dwell there.

Seanan McGuire continues to weave an incredible tale across the many worlds of the Wayward Children series. Come Tumbling Down is no exception to the brilliance. This latest novella is just as tightly paced, filled with a diverse cast and McGuire’s signature snarky humor. I loved this book just as much as I’ve loved the rest of the series to date, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

“New things are the best kind of magic there is.”

Thanks to NetGalley and Tor.com for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Neil Peart died this week, and so I grieve.

I had the tremendous privilege of seeing him perform live on two occasions (August 2nd, 2013, and July 11th, 2015). I can’t pinpoint the moment in my life when Rush became my favorite band, but I know that there was always something in the lyrics, frequently penned by Peart, that spoke to me. I remember being absolutely blown away when I found out that the band was comprised of only three people and still capable of such a sound.

He was, and always will be, a legendary drummer and lyricist. I am grateful for his music and his books. I send my most sincere condolences to his family and friends, as well as to my fellow fans.

Rest in peace, Neil. Thank you.

“A Farewell To Kings”

When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude and
Scoffing at the wise

The hypocrites are slandering
The sacred Halls of Truth
Ancient nobles showering
Their bitterness on youth
Can’t we find the minds that made us strong?
Can’t we learn to feel what’s right
And what’s wrong?
What’s wrong?

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude and
Scoffing at the wise
Can’t we raise our eyes and make a start?
Can’t we find the minds to lead us
Closer to the heart?

Steel Crow Saga is brilliant, y’all. I had the phenomenal happenstance of meeting Paul Krueger in person back at Denver Pop Culture Con, and knew almost instantly that I was going to love his newest book. I thought that Seven Blades in Black was going to be the most anime-esque fantasy novel that I read in 2019, and I was happily wrong. Steel Crow Saga hits on a lot of classic anime tropes while still managing to be wholly original.

Jimuro is the Iron Prince, heir to the throne of Tomoda. He’s a steelpacter, like many of his fellow Tomodanese. By bonding his soul with metal, he can sharpen/harden/heat the blade of a sword he wields, and fire bullets with unerring accuracy. He is, however, a peaceful man at heart, and longs to return from his exile in Sanbuna, even if it means serving as a puppet king in his late father’s place.

Tala is a Sanbuna soldier, a sergeant assigned to ensure Jimuro’s safe return to the capital of Tomoda. Through the Sanbuna tradition of shadepacting, she has an animal soul bonded to her own. Her companion, Beaky, can be summoned to fight alongside her, or to provide aerial reconnaissance. Tala harbors a deep grudge against Tomoda for the deaths of her parents and her brother, Dimangan.

Xiulan, like Jimuro, is royalty. As the 28th princess of Shang, however, she is nowhere near the top of the line of succession. With her own shade, a white rat named Kou, she operates as a detective of the Li-Quan. She hopes to find Iron Prince Jimuro and deliver him to her father, the Emperor of Shang, in order to raise her own standing.

Lee Yeon-Ji is a thief from the streets of Jeongson. Her chief rule of looking out for herself has gotten her through until now, but she’s on the verge of being executed before Xiulan arrives. The princess needs her help to track Jimuro. At the promise of a shade of her own, something no other Jeongsonese has ever had, she leaps to the detective’s aid.

En route to Tomoda, Sergeant Tala is forced to take drastic action to ensure Jimuro’s survival when a splintersoul attacks her. This man has done what was believed to be impossible, and bonded to more than one shade. Now a walking army unto himself, he seems set upon destroying Jimuro’s guard, and Tala and her team are quickly overwhelmed. Soon, she and Jimuro are left to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, Xiulan and Lee are attempting to intercept Jimuro so that they can turn him over to Shang.

This book was an utter joy to read. Brilliant action sequences, a Pokémon-esque summoning system, and heartbreakingly beautiful characters make Steel Crow Saga an absolute treasure. I can’t wait to see what Paul writes next, even if he never returns to the blend of Asian cultures that is this world. Check it out.

2010 was a terrifying year.

I was loving my life, the end of my senior year of college rushing at me. I had no idea where I was going to go. I had summer employment and housing lined up through my university, and I was throwing job applications at anything and everything I was remotely qualified for, but the dread of having to move back to my home town, even temporarily, was looming.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I finished my undergraduate career. I got through 7 years of underemployment, balancing part-time jobs and substitute shifts. I’ve had roommates come and go. I’ve struggled to make rent (and struggled to ask for help with rent). I’ve seen an employer file for bankruptcy. I’ve been in a car accident. I’ve attended the funerals of my father’s parents, and those of too many friends.

But there has been joy. I’ve reconnected with old friends, and made new ones. I’ve fallen in love. I’ve gotten married, had children, bought a house. I’ve found a career that is fulfilling. I’ve traveled around the world (Korea, Hawaii). I found a pirate crew. I’ve won trivia competitions. I’ve expanded my horizons beyond what 2010 me ever would’ve believed possible.

And now, in 2020, I’m going back to school. I’m a full-time library specialist, full-time dad, and full-time student. I’m reading, writing on the side (as, well, always), and running pretty much exclusively on caffeine. So really, not all that much has changed. But I have. I’m a better person than I was ten years ago, and I can only strive to continue the trend in the next ten years.

2020 is a terrifying year. But I’ll get through it, and so will you.

Look, it’s late, and I know

That you still have big plans

About everything you’re going

To accomplish tomorrow.

I want you to remember that

I believe in you, and your

Ability to take on life one new

Year and one new day at a

Time. I wish you health and

Happiness, and I wish you

Knowledge and acceptance.

I wish that you might find it

In your heart to see me again

On this night, when we welcome

The spirit of progress.

And then, as always, I’ll wish

You a Happy New Year.

You

are allowed

to write things

that are not

Profound

Today, I’m sitting in my recliner with my toddler, listening to his nonstop chatter about the Duplo car in his hands.

Tomorrow, I am hoping that the weather will cooperate enough for me to make a painfully short trip back to my home town.

Wednesday, they will bury my grandmother, my Oma, my father’s mother. Both of his parents are gone now, reunited in the afterlife they believed in. I do not want to miss her funeral. I was a pallbearer when my Opa died, and I will be honored to do the same for his wife.

Thursday, my wife and her parents will celebrate Thanksgiving, a rare occurrence that they get to spend that particular holiday together, though hopefully more frequent in the years to come. I hope to be there, again, if the weather cooperates, and my travel from home is not impeded.

On Friday, I will go back to work, putting in as many hours as I can to prepare things for the inevitable arrival of our second child together. I am hoping that he doesn’t attempt to make an appearance too early. Because right now, that’s my big fear. Not the impending blizzard, not being able to get to my parents’ house in between waves of storms. I’m afraid that if I go, I’ll get stuck, and new baby will decide that’s the time to show up.

So, yeah. I’m going to make the most out of today, because there’s a lot of joy and sorrow to be found in the days ahead.

“Hallowe’en”

 

In distant times, it is said,
People would gather to
Be near to one another on
A cold night, and reflect
On the warmth of those
They had said their final
Farewells to many years
Before.

And on that cold night,
Halfway through the fall,
We remember those no
Longer with us, and we
Bid them to come near,
That we might learn
From them even in
Absentia.

While I’m not sure if it will disprove foolishness, I am, in fact, headed back to school for the first time since 2010. I recently applied to and was accepted at Clarion University for their online Masters of Library Science program.

Registration for classes for the Spring 2020 semester starts on Hallowe’en, so I’m currently in the process of creating my “road map” to my degree. Clarion’s program requires 36 credit hours for graduation, and 9 hours per semester for full-time student status (in the grad school tracks).

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about tackling grad school, especially since V and I are expecting another baby in December. However, this is the best time for me to push a little harder for a better position with my library, and the MLS degree is really the only practical way to do that. Thankfully, Clarion allows me to pursue the degree from the comfort of home, without requiring travel (since the University of Denver is the only in-state option for the program).

I chose the path toward librarianship with my first work study job at UCCS when I was a freshman, and I continue walking it today. Thanks to everyone who has supported my work along the way.

So, over the last few months, I’ve been playing D&D again, and it’s been the best thing. Since 5th edition first released, I’ve only dabbled in it, occasionally running games for some of the local teens (though usually only a couple of days out of the year). I’d only gotten to play in a couple of one-off sessions, never really going beyond the basics.

Then my in-laws mentioned the possibility of a game. Between D&D Beyond and Skype, it’s workable for us to play together, despite being scattered around the world (though timing is a trick).

Now I’m playing a bard for the first time ever (I’ve been playing 3.5/Pathfinder since 2006, but never had the chance to play one), and I’m having an absolute blast. V and I are playing gnome twins, a bard and a warlock. It’s been a great way to connect with my brothers- & sisters-in-law, and get to share our mutual love of D&D.

I don’t usually play spellcasters or support characters unless I’m running the cleric, and that makes Valcryn a pretty new role. It’s fun learning how to best utilize his blend of inspiration and other buffs/debuffs. It has ended up especially hilarious since he’s not the face of the party, with that role somehow falling to my brother-in-law’s human fighter, who has both lower charisma and strength than the gnome bard.

It feels so good to be rolling dice as a player again, y’all. But of course, I’ll be getting back into being a Dungeon Master soon too. We’re going to be working on teaching the children to play 3.5, so that they can appreciate where we came from, and how we got to here.

“Grab your lucky d20, folks, because things are about to get dicey.”