Book Review: City of Light

When it comes to Keri Arthur’s City of Light, two words: Brain Bleach.

I’m going to be up front and say I could not read the whole thing. I read part of the start, blinked, read the end, cringed, and skipped around some middle bits to see if there was anything worth salvaging out of what had seemed like an interesting world setup.

Aaaaand then I hit the seduction-drugged interrogation-and-murder scene (mind, this is being done by the Designated Protagonist), and walled the book.


Here’s the interesting bits: Vampire vs. humans vs. shifters war, apparently shifters won. Humans created hybrid monsters to fight for them, and the shifters have been hunting them down ever since. Guess what the protagonist is, and who she ends up helping?

Okay, those were promising. Especially given the plot bit about the war set loose other things, that are only held at bay by a constant artificial daylight.

And then we hit how the other main characters in the book treat the protagonist, and that… makes me want to break something.

I don’t care how much angst Urban Fantasies are supposed to pile on their protagonists. I don’t care how many enemies they’re supposed to have. You cannot have other main characters constantly mistreating/backstabbing/trying to kill the protagonist and the entities she cares about, and not have consequences.

And when you have other main characters excusing their behavior with, “well, he suffered a lot in the War,” and “well, we’re not bad people if we destroy your helper-ghosts if you don’t rescue our children, because our children are still alive”….

Yes. Wall time.

There’s a difference between being a long-suffering hero and being a doormat.

I will give the book this much credit. At the end, Tiger tells them to go to hell, she’s not helping them anymore. While not telling them she still plans to rescue the other kids, just without their “help”. That’s good. That’s heroic.

It’s just, to save the book, she should have done that at least a hundred or so pages before, while I still cared.

But what gets to me is that this is at least the 3rd or 4th book I’ve picked up in the past few months that had the same problem: build an interesting world, then make the main character’s life pure hell with no allies.

Making the main character’s life hell is kind of a given for Evil Writers. But a world with no friends and allies, and other supposed “good” guys just using the hero, backstabbing her, and excusing their behavior because she’s “just an X”? Who wants to live in that world? And if we wouldn’t want to live there, why would we want to read it?

I can’t figure out why this stuff is getting published. What are the editors thinking? Do they just have no “ewww!” buttons? Or comprehension of what a sane person can take and still keep living?

It bewilders me. And it makes me very reluctant to go back into a bookstore, except for manga. Sheesh.

Any thoughts on why this keeps happening?


85 thoughts on “Book Review: City of Light

  1. Ooof. Very good question. And I honestly don’t know. Maybe it’s the idea of the Lone Hero Against All The Odds coming forward – or possibly people just don’t realize that everyone has limits to what they can take, and being in that sort of situation is pushing way past those limits?

    *shrugs a bit helplessly* I know I’d never do that to one of my characters, because there is a limit, and I know where it lies (and because I write character-driven stuff), but…. I really don’t know. Will be interesting to read the other responses to this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think we’re in a Gritty Age of Publishing. My favorite newish series RWBY had two seasons of happy Final Fantasyish slice-of-life. Then season 3 came around and 2 major characters at minimum fell and the team was split.

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    1. My take on that bit in RWBY is that a character named after Achilles is thematically appropriate to have die to arrows. Which isn’t to say I don’t have a fix fic outlined. (See, that character doesn’t really fit the description of Achilles from Art of Poetry. That can be changed.)

      I’ve listened to the RWBY soundtrack. The first character’s complete ‘image song’ is a duet between a mother and daughter about the daughter finding the mother’s dead body. (Sung by an actual mother and daughter no less.) The red trailer, first trailer to advertise the series, is the daughter at the mother’s grave.

      Other lines that come to mind “It’s time to say good bye to the innocence of youth”. Something something are we heroes something or are we weapons.

      I really need to watch that show.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I love RWBY, you should check it out! One of the things that makes it good is that it’s *not* a constant horrorfest (and it could have been. Easily. The main monsters, the Grimm, are murderous eldrich abominations that are attracted to negative human emotions, like fear and despair) Yes, it has its dark moments, but it’s very much about the heroes coming together and fighting the darkness. Plus, the action choreography is stunning and the music is awesome – the animation is a little rough in season one, but with every new season it gets cleaner and sharper. Definitely feels like watching a video game 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

      2. To be fair, even though that character was named after Achilles, their teammate was named after Joan D’Arc, and they didn’t die. And not only was death to arrows appropriate to Achilles, but that death could also be read as death by fire – appropriate to Joan D’Arc…

        (Though really the joke behind that whole team is that they’re all modeled off historical/mythological crossdressers.)


    1. Pathological Altruism as a character trait of the Lone Hero? Why else would one help people who are so ungrateful as to threaten you before, during, and after you help them?

      Or the authors working out their own psychic trauma and desperation for acceptance?

      The unfounded speculation is endless!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. They think that stories that can summed as “And then it got worse” or “And then my supposed ally stabbed me in the back. Again. For the fifth time.” is what people want? Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire is very popular . . . and I don’t understand why. I tried to read the first book and hit my “Nope” before the end of the first quarter . . . and spoiling myself online convinced that I was sensible for putting the book down. I don’t like stories where the characters are either killed off constantly, maimed horribly, and only the worst a$$holes seem to survive and thrive . . . and the sexuality described to often happen in GOT / ASOIAF also hits my ick buttons.

    As mentioned before, I hate stories that should have a sticker reading “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”

    I have also noticed a lot of media seems to think that being an a$$hole is a good thing rather than a bad thing. Even characters who start off good or perfectly acceptable seem to get either the full a$$hat make-over or get sprinkled with a overwhelming dash of a$$hat in the sequels.

    Now some of those characters I think are became a$$hats because of stuff like PTSD that everyone is ignoring that they have and making worse* because apparently in Fiction Land there are either no therapists, they are utterly incompetent, or actively evil. Also no one in Fiction Land seems to realize that turbo is a button you press down and release, not tape down. And that no one can be on duty, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Which means that everyone needs back-up, allies who can take up the slack when you are too tired, too hurt, too something to save the world that day. And they have to people you can trust.

    Being in a situation where you cannot trust anyone and have to be constantly on your guard is bad for mental health. Having no one you can relax around or anywhere you can where you can be safe and not have to watch out for threats does damage. Having people who are supposed to be your side constantly betray your trust is bad. Ally should not mean “people who decided not to kill me this particular moment but can and will change their minds about that any minute now or the moment I am no longer useful to them.” That is not an ally. That is a enemy with whom you happen to share an overlapping goal that requires both of you to be achieved.

    *And before anyone asks, no, having PTSD or other trauma is not a get out of jail free card for being an a$$hole. It might explain it but it does not excuse it. And while the people around them aren’t responsible for anyone’s behavior but their own, a good friend should be trying to help. And actually help. Telling them “get it over it, it was ages ago” is not help.

    Sorry about the wall of text but this trend really burns my bacon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If you ever come across the Seafort Saga by David Feintuch? DON’T WALK AWAY – RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. They all have ‘Hope’ in the title, and it’s the most outrageous contradiction in titles I’ve ever come across in fiction. They’re exceedingly well written – all the better to rip your heart out. It’s military SF/space opera… as a retelling of the Book of Job; y’know, that one when God’s an asshole who makes a bet that Job won’t lose faith in God no matter what kind of bad day God gives him?

      Seriously – I read them back in the early nineties, and I still shudder at the memories. I think I kept reading from a watching-the-trainwreck addiction, and holding out the hope (see, there’s that word again) that somehow, poor Seafort will actually come through the next shipwreck in his life, and he’ll actually gain something resembling happiness, which frankly, he earned by halfway through the second book. It sort of happens… in the epilogue of the fourth book; the fifth and last is about his son (the one that doesn’t die in infancy – you see what I mean?).

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      1. Semi-OT: I’ve convinced myself that the Book of Job is the script to a play.

        (Which doesn’t make it any less divinely inspired, for those who would object to that characterization)

        It follows a format very similar to the plays of Euripides and other Greek playwrights. A chorus could do the narration. With masks, I think you’d only need two actors.

        Not exactly action-packed – it’s kind of the archetype of the “Characters sit and talk to each other” scenes we were discussing downthread. But it’s got the right dramatic elements, minus the hubris that usually takes down the Greek protagonists.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Minor thought: Am I the only one who finds the parts in the superhero movies and the like where the good guys get into a fist fight and/or petty arguments to be the incredibly dull parts?

    Because sometimes I think I’m the only one who thinks the penis measuring contest between our heroes needs to hit the cutting room floor.

    I don’t mind there being some tension and argument between the characters. After all, they don’t know each other and might have very different world views. But it seems the arguments are less about said conflicting world views and understandable need to develop trust but as I said above part of the penis measuring contest.

    It annoys me because it takes away from the main plot. Because a lot of those type of scenes are pretty pointless and as soon it has gone on as long as the film makers think it needs to, it’s like the characters go “Oh yeah, there was a some bad guy trying to destroy the city / the world, maybe we should go do something about that.”

    And that they never spent any time giving the characters time to become an actual team. Because saving the world doesn’t make you a team. It makes an collection of individuals who managed not to kill each other while saving the world. You have to trust people to be team. And trust takes time and work. It requires sitting down and talking to each other. You can only have playful banter with a teammate when you know what is banter and what is painful insult to them.

    Also it seems that Hollywood’s idea of two adults discussing a difference in world view or how this problem should be solved is that one party is very clearly wrong and is stupid for not realizing that, and that reasoned debate means you don’t start calling them poopy-head from the start.

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    1. I think this has to do with the format of a movie in general. Movies are very good at showing physical action and what people say. They get a lot more boring when characters just talk things out and most of the time, that’s not what movie-goers are there for anyway. As for what characters think? Forget it. For better or for worse we don’t get character’s monologuing about what’s going on inside their heads in movies very much. It’s a lot easier to do that type of thing in written works.

      If you look at stuff by Shakespeare, part of the reason why his stuff is so good is becasue characters monologue about why they’re doing what they’re doing and there’s not a lot of combat action on-scene. Granted, most of that has to do with it being a stage production, but I get the feeling if an actual modern movie was made out of his works (as opposed to repeating it verbatim), all the monologues would get cut in favor of more elaborate action. Imagine Hamlet without the “To be or not to be” monologue and how his character would come across then.

      In this sense, I think TV shows do a lot better job with the slice-of-life stuff that shows how teamwork is an ongoing process. Movies are just too short to deal with anything more then the big “lets save the world” event. At least, the current approach to making movies is this way.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, some of it it is format. Movies have a limited run time and every minute is precious . . . . through sometimes I think one is justified in what to ask the film maker why this particular bit was seen as so vitally important that it could not be cut because it kinda seems like useless filler or something.

        Any dialogue heavy scene in a film can get boring if done poorly. This is why exposition scenes are tricky. Just think there has got to be a way of communicating some of this stuff without boring your audience to tears. Just like have to you have to other exposition and such vital in without boring them.

        TV series format is better for doing character development due to the longer run time . . . too bad the only thing that seems to have movies and televisions series featuring the same characters played by the same actors seems to be stuff like Star Trek.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Movies are very good at showing physical action and what people say. They get a lot more boring when characters just talk things out

        That’s where the practice of “stage business” comes in. You don’t just have your characters sitting in the drawing room talking to each other, you have them in the drawing room, one arranging flowers on the mantle, and the other reading a paper and smoking a pipe – like real people in a drawing room would.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. On the topic of cutting scenes, The 5th Wave is an awful movie. In part because it cut too many scenes and not enough all at the same time.

        I picked it up from Redbox expecting something mediocre at best for some cheap entertainment, was in the mood for watching aliens blow something up and thought the idea of the alien invasion coming in waves was an interesting concept. It was less mediocre and more everyone involved in making this was an idiot.

        One of the scenes that got cut was the part where they introduced all the new characters that appeared halfway through the movie. All these people are running around and I only have a vague idea who any of them are. The character development was so lackluster I forgot most of the names (of main characters, since they didn’t even introduce the secondary characters) part way through the movie. Twice. Someone died and I still have no idea who it was.

        There weren’t even any alien explosions. The entire thing turned out to be some bizarre romance plot thing that really should have been left on the cutting room floor instead of the scene explaining who all these people are and why it is significant that they are all using code names. Because other things in the movie indicate this is significant to the plot, somehow, but all we’re given is it might have something to do with this one character being called ‘zombie’. I’ve read Mary Sue fanfics with better plot progression than this!

        Fair’s fair, the plot twist was a genuine surprise. I did not think the writer had the talent necessary to recognize those plot holes for what they were. Or the ability to attempt to fix them. It raised the story out of ‘just plain stupid’ into ‘obvious’.

        Still had fun with it. Me and my dad spent the entire time mocking everything about the movie. It was a great bonding moment.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Needs to be paid attention to in books

        The nice thing about “stage business” is that it can help a writer avoid boring dialogue tags ^_^

        Liked by 2 people

  5. My theory is twofold, and both involve NYC cultural domination of publishing.

    First, cult of the victim.

    Second, fiction depicting friendship as impossible may convince people that friendship does not exist. Some persons would like to convince people of this.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. New!Avengers Movies started out hopeful/thousand man team. Last one BROKE team maybe permanently on the eve of possible alien invasion.Great going stupid. Captain America no less. Hit every weak point on a guy I’d say has ptsd from the movies alone.No Sacrifice No Victory for Tony, Nothing is unforgivable for Winter-Nice double standard. Transformers has idiot ball Overload too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmmm… the latest Avengers movie was what happens when you have friends who want to achieve a goal, but choose completely incompatible ways to do it. (The different assumption on the parts of Iron Man and Captain America Vis-a-vis “the proper place of government and the individual in relation to each other” would have caused a team split at some point anyway.)

      Stark’s desperate need to displace his guilt over Sokovia by taking away everyone else’s self-determination is…. typical …. of certain personality types, and is completely contrary to Cap’s “people are people whether they have powers or not/Don’t punish people for what you fear they could do” attitude

      As far as Transformers? Michael Bay has no idea how to treat or develop the ‘Bots as characters, and doesn’t seem to realize that most fans don’t care that much about the human characters. So what he ends up with are the Cybertonians – good guys and bad guys both – being utterly alien in a “monster of the week” kind of way (so the audience can’t empathize with them) and human characters (especially the “human POV” character) who never show evidence of adapting to the reality of having giant sapient Mecha around.

      I could watch a movie about the Army group and Ironhide hunting Decepticons. But two movies of Shia leBoeuf screaming in panic every time he saw a new Cybertronian? Just… no.

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      1. Think Iron Man / Tony Stark’s position in Civil War also annoyed people because this is the same guy who told the US government to get bent when they wanted the Iron Man Suit.

        Besides, wanting someone to agree to something when they don’t know what, exactly, they are agreeing to because no one has set what exactly the rules are? Other than there needs to be rules. And apparently if you have super powers, than due process and equal protection doesn’t matter. You can be deprived of your life and/or liberty because of what you might do based on what you can do. Basically punishing someone for who they are rather what they actually did.

        I don’t think Capt handled it well – I don’t think anyone of them really handled it well – but I can understand going “Nope!” on anything that reeks of concentration camp . . . or internment camp as the US government liked to call it when they did it to Japanese people in WW2 . . . or ask a Native American about the reservations and how their people ended living in them . . . (World History has even more examples of why that Negative Zone-type prison thing they had going on is wrong on so many levels).

        I can understand Tony freaking out – he’s got the right to be freaked out by the events. He got PTSD and everyone in-universe seems to be ignoring it, making it worse, or not trying to actually help him cope with it. He’s right that superheroes do need some kind of oversight. After all, there is a reason police departments have Internal Affairs departments and why more than one city has an outside review board not compromising of police officers. These checks don’t always stop or prevent the problems they are supposed to do but that’s better than pretending that they aren’t necessary at all.

        With all that, it is no wonder it got ugly for everyone involved.

        Part of my distaste with the whole thing, to be fair, might be that fact that I don’t like the Civil War storyline very much. It had potential but there was a little too much Conflict Ball, Idiot Ball, and A$$hat Ball being passed around for my tastes. And while I can see the appeal of wanting your favorite thing on page brought to life (and I know that there are people who like Civil War – good for them, I’m just not one of them), why bother making the cinematic universe it’s own separate entity from the comic universe if you are just going to do the exact same stories? There should be a balancing act between respecting the original source material and making the new universe be it’s own thing. (There is also the wrinkle that the comic books, like a television show or novel, can cover a lot more ground and nuance than a film simply because they don’t have only 2 hours to cram in the entire story).

        Jeez I’m feeling wordy today it seems.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Heh. If you want some really interesting bits of small-scale history, check out the Eastern Band of Cherokees. Those are the ones who managed to avoid getting moved, by various legal and other shenanigans.

        But yeah. One set of rules, as yet undetermined, for everyone who happens to have powers? I can only imagine what Dr. Strange would say if they showed up at his sanctum….

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I can’t see why folks think Tony’s actions are in any way similar to Bucky as Winter Soldier.

      Compare and contrast:

      Bucky: Knew the stuff was evil, didn’t get an option– dragged along as a spectator in his own body.

      Tony; Knew his teammates didn’t approve, bullied/tempted the vulnerable one into helping, did it in secret.

      Bucky: tried to make sure that HE would never do it again, did some damage to himself trying to stop the guy putting him under mind-control when he figured out what was going on.

      Tony: ignored his team mates AGAIN to try to fix it, then when he figured out that his free choice had resulted in a huge number of dead…jumped at the chance to externalize that blame, and stop EVERYONE ELSE from doing what only he was guilty of.


      We don’t force big strong guys to register for special control, even though they are WAY more likely to hurt someone. We make it so that there are consequences to doing it– and we punish the tool user, not the tool. Bucky was, morally, a tool.


      Yeah, Tony does most likely have PTSD; that means you pick up the pieces after stopping him, not that you don’t try to stop him.

      Captain America? No way in heck did he get the required yearly stuff on mental health, and that’s ignoring his survivor guilt for his entire generation in addition to his best friend.

      All the other ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY guys, though? Oh, my, yes. In spades. Someone needs to get a serious smackdown.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think people like to blame Bucky because blamming the victim is a common past time. Basically saying “Don’t get brainwashed” instead of “Hey, don’t brainwash people.” It’s pretty similar to how a lot of victims of violent crime are treated. Bucky gets a double-hit in some ways because there will be people who consider him less of a man simply because someone took advantage of him being very badly hurt to turn him into the Winter Soldier.

        Not saving that they shouldn’t try to stop Tony because of his PTSD. Just that it would be good if they acknowledged that he has it and start giving him some healthy coping methods. Because it seems like they expect to magically get over almost dying, being kidnapped, being betrayed by someone he trusted, etc. Having PTSD doesn’t excuse his behavior, doesn’t mean you don’t stop him when he is hurting others, but ignoring it and making it worse is not helping. And maybe the situation in Civil War would have gone better or differently if his PTSD hadn’t been ignored since Iron Man 1. Maybe it wouldn’t have helped.

        Steve, likewise, needs to have his mental health issues addressed. Because as with Tony, ignoring them or making them worse is not helping. (Yes, it is shocking that the man who lost everyone he knew in what feels like to him in a day does not want to lose one more person. *sarcasm*)

        Most, if not all, of the Avengers need therapy of some kind.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I think it may be more a matter of covering for approved behavior than blaming the victim– there is literally NOTHING Bucky could do to avoid what happened to him that he did not do.

        Meanwhile, Tony bent over backwards to 1) avoid justifying his actions, but 2) still take the actions, and 3) repeat the action. (Although it turned out much better the second time.)

        In his defense, he didn’t try to take credit for fixing it– I think he just really, really wanted to save his dear friend, Jarvis. But that flips back around to Cap saving his friend, Bucky, who was equally innocent, and the Winter Soldier “only” destroyed STARK’S world, not the entire world as known to humanity.
        End digression:

        About the only member of the Avengers who has solid mental health is the guy who fights an army of robots in a flying city with a bow and arrow.
        Says it all….

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Because people have forgotten that ‘strong’ doesn’t equal ‘pregorative.’ That people in stable, healthy, equal relationships are actually happier over all. That just because you have a differing set of responsibility in that relationship to the other person doesn’t mean one of you is subordinate to the other.

    That evil is evil no matter how pretty the packaging. Being accepting doesn’t mean you wholeheartedly embrace and support the popular opinions of society. (Just once, once I’d like to see a plot/story/setting where humanity isn’t depicted as horribly behind and uncivilized because we have a disagreement over gender/orientation/feminism. I want to see one where humans are the progressive race, and the aliens consider us utterly bizarre and somewhat disquieting. But they’re still our allies and nice enough in spite of the fact they are gender segregated, or are heteronormative. Basically, I’d like it to be shown that neither side of the spectrum are inherently assholes, but the extremes of either end are the ones screwing it up for everyone.)

    Feh, maybe that’s why I stick to fan fic. Because then I have access to all the fixes. Gah.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. *Nod!* Fixit fic rocks.

      And yes. The ability to just be left alone in modern society has dwindled precipitously. Annoying. People need to look up the real definition of “tolerance” in the dictionary. It does not mean “I wholeheartedly approve of what you do.” More, “eh, you squick me out, but you’re not breaking the law….”

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Its a fixit fic for Game of thrones that diverts the Target of the conflict.Also gives a reason for a minor faction to be minor.


  8. They took “kill your darlings” to heart, and didn’t remember the clarification that ‘your darlings’ are those beautiful, intricate scenes, the one you read over and over and over… and don’t do anything to forward plot, characterization, or… anything. Except look good. You’re supposed to kill those darlings, or at least move them to a separate folder out of the actual story, so you can go back and re-read, and your readers don’t have to sit through three pages of What Actual Cavemen Ate And How They Ate It. (If that book series hadn’t been so good… Alas, last book wasn’t. And I wish the author had killed a few of the info-dump darlings…)

    Also, they might be trying to avoid the dreaded Sue and her brother, Stue. You know, perfect, everyone loves them, things are only a challenge the first time and then they get it exactly right… never realizing that having everyone hate them is just as annoying as having everyone love them (for no good reason. If the character is a movie star/super spy, of course people are going to love the movie star. Especially if they’re a good one. But details.)

    And, of course, Gritty Realism. You have to have a terrible life and be really messed up to care that much about other people. Putting your life on the line for strangers, or even friends? What’s up with that? /sarcasm

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  9. I’m a fan of the a$$hole-but-really characters, the ones who seem like they should be villains but then you learn they have one or two people that they genuinely CARE about, namely the Tiny Useless who tries to protect Big Scary. That really hits me in the feels. 🙂 Lone Wolf Hero taken to extremes though? Letting people who should be allies walk all over/backstab/insult/degrade them? No. I did not pay 10+ dollars to read about a doormat. And speak to me not of the travesties that are the last two Avengers movies and pretty much every Transformers sequel! D: In the immortal words: “The series you are watching/reading is experiencing epic fail. Would you like to apply fanfic?” yes, yes I would.

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  10. For character development done right I would recommend ‘Kim’ by Rudyard Kipling or literally anything by Lloyd Alexander. His Prydain Chronicles are really good. That series and ‘Kim’ are my go-to examples for good character development/coming of age stories. If you’re looking for something shorter, a ‘quick fix’ as it were, ‘The Arkadians’, ‘The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen’ and ‘The Iron Ring’ are all excellent variations of essentially the same story. You simply have to decide if you want your story to be based in Greek, Chinese, or Indian (the actual country, not Native American) mythology. For an even shorter pick me up, try ‘A Year Down Yonder’ by Richard Peck. It’s a collection of short stories continuing after his book ‘A Long Way from Chicago’ (does not need to be read beforehand). Also, never make reading recommendations while standing in front of your bookcase. It’s like grocery shopping while hungry.

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  11. Some of the people that commented above mentioned Game of Thrones, and even though I am a fan of the series, I do wonder if its popularity isn’t at least partially responsible for the recent ultra dark trend in fantasy literature that I’ve noticed lately. The problem is, it’s pretty darned hard to execute that sort of thing well, and in a manner that doesn’t veer into Darkness Induced Apathy Syndrome, to steal a phrase from TvTropes.
    What I think some publishers and writers have forgotten is that, even though we might sit through the Red Wedding and Tyrion’s joke of a trial, we’re not there to watch our heroes suffer. We’re here to watch the *villains* suffer (and it is so glorious when they get their comeuppance). We’re coming back to see Dany ride dragonback, and the Starks take back the North. The bad guys can be intimidating, and sometimes they can win – but the heroes have to win too, because if they don’t even have a shot, why bother coming back?
    (Also, the glories of having multiple protagonists. Someone might be really down in the dumps, but it’s pretty rare for EVERY sympathetic character to be in desperate straights at the same time.)

    *considers doing the Final Fantasy XIII rant*
    *decides not to put up another wall of text*

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  12. Honestly with the way Martin started the series I don’t want to know what he considers a ‘good’ ending and for me epic payoff is not enough to balance the hours slogging through grit, rape, depression, sex, more grit etc. Eh long story short I dislike that series intensely, but personal preference and all that.

    I swear most urban fantasy series can be summed up with “And then it got worse” which after the fourth book of the heroine being in serious danger of losing her life due to ‘superiors’ debating about executing her leaves one a bit…unimpressed about yet another threat to her life and bored of the same d–n plot.

    People just seem to like stories with “Abandon Hope All he Who Enter Here” maybe because if their life sucks at least someone else’s sucks worse? I really don’t get it at all. I need a hope spot at minimum and not one to make the tearing away of it even more painful, likable characters are also a necessity. I’ve quit multiple books because the main character was an a– even to people trying to help and not in the breaking-their-heart-to-save-them sorta way. Robin Hobb does gorgeous worldbuilding but I’ve yet to like a single protagonist and have subsequently given up. The Liaden Universe on the other hand…I love nearly every character the authors introduce and they don’t believe in no win scenarios.

    Just my 2 cents, well cent and a half really.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “And then it got worse” is literally part of the instructions that people are handed for not us UF but a lot of books.

      If only they’d start handing out ones on conservation of ninjitsu, and how to make it work.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Anyone here read ‘The Rising of the Shield Hero’, by Aneko Usagi? I actually prefer the manga companion(by Aiya Kyu) to the light novels; maybe it’s because the LN were re-written from the web novel, but I find the manga to be more expressive of the various personalities. Problem is, the novels move further along in the story arc faster, if you want to know what happens next! The trailer for the anime got shown at AnimeExpo, and it looks fabulous!
    Anyway, it actually starts with the main character, Naofumi, in just this kind of situation – he’s been summoned from another world (without being asked, mind you, not like SAO) to be a ‘legendary hero’ with three others – at first he’s ecstatic, but within 24 hours, he’s been framed for rape, declared a public criminal or similar, and had his funding from the crown taken – basically, screwed over in almost every possible way. And it turns out there really IS a conspiracy against him, direct from the royal throne. The over-arcing storyline’s about how he climbs out of the hole, and yes, he does gain allies, and people to watch his back… he’s just so broken and cynical that he has a lot of trouble trusting them, which he later acknowledges himself is an issue he needs to work past!
    There’s a lot of really interesting Reality Ensues moments in this – Naofumi’s best ally is actually his demi-human slave girl, because the slave brand is the only way he can trust her enough to sleep in the same room; when the other three heroes (and the king) call him a ‘monster’ for this, he points out that slavery’s legal in the kingdom, so why haven’t they done something about it? Raphtalia (the girl) asks point blank ‘And how many slaves have YOU freed?’ (the answer they don’t actually say aloud being ‘we’re too busy going around being heroic!’) All his not-a-harem are either monster girls under a slave brand, or semi-hostage due to political shenanigans.
    To make things better (or worse) he’s clearly the most competent of the four heroes; partly because he’s the only one who’s bothering to learn practical life skills, and partly because the others all got sucked into a game of some kind, and act like they’re still playing it. Naofumi seems to be the only one who’s even figured out that they’re from four different worlds, and thus the others aren’t even playing the same game! Several of Naofumi’s adventures come about from cleaning up after the other Heroes, because when they do things like kill dragons, they forget that the dragon carcass will rot.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. well, like I said, it pretty much starts at the worst case scenario – most of it’s a slow buy steady Nowhere To Go But Up! It is worth checking out, at least the first two manga volumes, which cover the first novel, I think – and end on a small but very bright Hope Spot that never goes out (to misquote The Smiths).

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I think people have spent too much time under the influence of movie-, comic- and videogame characters being put through the wringer and coming out sane and/or healthy on the other side. This leads to a subconscious attitude that Event xy cannot possibly make this character crack, because other fictional heroes suffer the same.

    An abused and unloved kid with a shitty home life has IRL frighteningly high odds of cracking, instead of repeatedly saving an entire society from themselves (Power of Love? I’d really like to know where from, JKR!!).

    Writers (usually) don’t bother to research how much a human being can reasonably endure, editors blow stuff out of proportion (“you know, it’s just for a bit more drama. Just a bit.”), people see the result, and the assumption that this is ‘realistic’ takes hold. And somebody who has seen the result… writes something new. Cue the downward spiral.

    You project what you perceive, and that in turn shapes your reality, whether in fiction (or art or whatever) or in Real Life. (Yes, I do believe that what we look at has an influence on us. But that is another wall of text.)

    This is one reason I steer clear of GOT/ASOIAF, the MCU or W40K, just to name a few. RL can be… nasty, and I do NOT need this Turned up to Eleven in the games I play, the movies I watch or the books I read.

    I believe that having true friends and an intact and loving family / environment are very important factors to weather hard times in Real Life. We need love, hope and the occasional break to really live, much less pull off heroics.

    The same applies to realistic fictional characters. Sam Gamgee’s speech in The Two Towers (movieverse, in Osgiliath) pretty much nails it. So does Puddleglum’s reply to the Lady of the Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair (by C.S. Lewis).

    You project what you perceive. What do you, as a writer or creative artist, want to show your audience?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hope. I want to show hope, and True Companions.

      Which takes a lot more work than just reflecting the world around the writer, believe me.

      Though for W40K, the Ciaphas Cain books are actually very hopeful. Cain thinks he’s a rotten coward, but he’s always put himself on the line for people, and no few of them care back.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hope. I want to show hope, and True Companions.

        I really appreciate that about your writing, by the way.

        A Net of Dawn and Bones is like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s night.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. *nods* You bring both points very well across, from early Urban Legends all the way to your current SAO fics.

        Regarding W40k – the Ciaphas Cain books may be hopeful, and have True Companions. That’s what, three to six books out of a universe?
        Whose tagline is “no peace among the stars, only carnage, slaughter and the laughter of thisting gods”?

        Ummmm… no. The Wikia and TVTrope entries are more than enough. Brrrr.

        (… but I will admit to a plot bunny about Traitor Legion Space Marines who didn’t fall to Chaos, and a bunch of Adepta Sororitas forced to work together. Just thinking about the Imperial reaction to that tends to kill the poor thing dead, though.)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. There’s a strain of thought in our culture that a friend ran into with people he knew: only the bad stuff is real. His girlfriend thought he didn’t understand anything about Life because he had grown up in an intact family and was a nice guy. The good things are just as real, but this isn’t credited by those who think like she does, and a lot of the cultural establishment seems to be in that category. i can’t otherwise explain the praise for implausibly ‘gritty’tales being realistic.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. …that does explain a lot.

        And it’s slightly terrifying.

        If one thinks that only bad stuff is real, one would never be able to find satisfaction in making things better, because that would be the equivalent of making them unreal.

        …even something so simple as pulling weeds from your garden and planting nice flowers instead, or keeping your yard tidy, or painting your house so it wasn’t peeling, or picking up the trash in your street….

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yikes!

        It’s sad how often people are shocked by undeserved kindness and generosity.
        …which makes me want to tip outrageously generous, just to see their face 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    3. I think the thing is, it is important to have characters that people can relate to and believe that they can get out of those situations to something better. I don’t want glum and doom anymore then most people(though what I consider it changes), but something like Lilo and Stitch “This is my family, it may be small and broken, but it’s mine.” has at times been the sort of thing I needed. Or, to give another example, Mercedes Lackey’s elf books helped me get through the murder of a friend when I was a teenager. Then again, finding out it wasn’t normal to know three people who got murdered before the age of 18 in a small rural town helped me read a lot more fiction more generously.

      Doom and Gloom isn’t more realistic(especially all the time, people just aren’t like that), but I can see it as part of the backlash as we grow to include more people. I just wish that it would get to the awesome fantasy books that will come after this. I also have to admit, reading Love is for Children sometimes strikes a little close to home about some people I know, I appreciate her links.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I think part of it is that people don’t realize how much help they get– so a character that is way awesome must get as little or less help than they recognize, while also getting assaulted.

    If they’ve been taught that even basic little polite things– like saying “you guys” to a mixed group– are actually insults, then there’s going to be a lot of put-upon going on before it’s even unusual in their mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I think it’s part of the cycle, look up comics in the late 90s/early 00’s and the “Rusty Sewer Grate Age” sort of stuff.

    Though yes, Game of Thrones had a huge impact on what got published(along with later Anita Blake, which made massive money despite it’s punishment conga line.) Every genre seems to hit this “Build up new stuff, play with older stuff with a twist, fans who only read this come in, deconstruction, reconstruction to something better and new, repeat ad nausium.” And George Martin is a huge fan of deconstruction in general(Wild Cards was enough of a warning to never try GoT, though amusingly his short fiction is usually more hopeful, and Fevre Dream has some really cool bits.)

    Also another part of it is, for any time but the early 1800s, we actually have a lot of different channels for all sorts of fiction that it kind of gets lost in what people are really reading versus what they’re buying officially.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep. I did like Fevre Dream, and a few of his short stories, and he was really good as an editor for short story collections for a while in the late 80s/early 90s, so his name is on more books then he actually wrote. But Wild Cards was pretty much aimed at “How much can we make all the heroes jerks and everyone suffer” demographic.

        And I’ve read more then a few books based off of East of the Sun, it’s a pretty cool tale(I like McKieran’s version, Lackey’s version didn’t quite click for me.)

        Liked by 2 people

  17. I also blame Game of Thrones of which I read #1 and stopped. And the YA genre has been pushing dystopia for years, too.

    There is still good hopeful stuff out there. I’ve mentioned Neumeier’s UF before – it has family, and supportive friends even when main characters screw up. Liaden… I stil like the voice they write in but I’ve never been interested in Theo, and in general the books don’t seem to be moving the story along. I’ve swtiched from buy on sight to get from library.

    The Teen has been watching the anime Princess Tutu and says it’s really good. The characters, except the villains, are all nice. And even one of the villains may turn out not to be all that bad in the end. It’s ballet-based.

    Which reminds me of J.M. Ney-Grimm remarking on a review of Troll-Magic : it complained all the characters were nice, even the villains weren’t all that villainous. i’ve read and enjoyed it – it’s novelization of the tale East o’the Sun, West o’the Moon. Gives a lot of attention to the enchanted prince, which is rare.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Princess Tutu!!! Fabulous series! I’d recommend it to anyone who likes interesting stories and layered characters (which would be everyone here???). I’d actually recommend the DVD’s, though; there’s some really interesting extras about the classical music they use on the soundtrack, and even some of the ballet moves. It’s downright educational.
      I heard that the developers worked on the story for ten years before they made the anime – it shows.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’d second Princess Tutu as a fantastic series. Only show I’ve seen where differences are resolved via dance offs and talking things out.
        …of course I’m usually watching shows like Nanoha where differences are resolved via increasingly high powered laser battles…

        If you don’t mind spoilers, the Hold me Now AMV for Princess Tutu is quality and has a decent overview of the show.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Foxfier, I don’t know, I really don’t. My kid once – at about 6/7 yrs old – was upset for weeks from an apparently innocuous Eva Ibbotson book, Island of the Aunts . Some of the imagery may be frightening. The character who may not be quite a villain has had an emotionally abusive upbringing and thus has some very wrong ideas about love which are dramatized. But those scenes read to me as showing that this is wrong. … There’re a couple typical teenage twits obsessed with boys. hmmm…

    the assumptions in the story telling seem heatlhy – that that one character is wrong, that if someone wants something (in this case shards of his heart back) it isn’t right to stop him once he’s got enough back to have the wherewithal to make that decision. The assumptions respect personal autonomy, which is good.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, there’s a running gag where the ballet teacher threatens to make students marry him as punishment for lateness or talking in class… but he’s also a human-sized cat. There’s nothing Lolita-esque about the show itself, unless you count tween girls running around in leotards and tights, which is sort of inevitable when they’re all ballet students! However, I don’t think I’d recommend it for seven and under, honestly, because there’s some genuinely scary stuff in the second half. I mean, my nine year old niece couldn’t watch the live action Beauty and the Beast the other day, because the early scenes scared her too much. Ten and up should be fine, though.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. My kids are strange.

        The five year old got hooked on watching Bones with granddad, and the most easily frightened one thinks NCIS is wonderful.

        But running her character into WATER?!?! that is terrifying.

        I think it has to do with the idea of being able to do anything about it.

        Liked by 1 person

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