Sovadron Pages 1-3
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By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis
Note: By Fire Above is the second book of the Signal Airship series. This blog post--including the description of the book itself copied from Amazon--contains spoilers for the first novel, The Guns Above. If you haven’t read that yet, and want to, then read my review of that book here.
You can also check out the interview I had with the author Robyn Bennis here. We had a little too much fun with that one.
Anyway, one final warning: spoilers for book one of the Signal Airship novels, The Guns Above! (But none for By Fire Above. Promise.)
"All's fair in love and war," according to airship captain Josette Dupre, until her hometown of Durum becomes occupied by the enemy and her mother a prisoner of war. Then it becomes, "Nothing's fair except bombing those Vins to high hell."
Before she can rescue her town, however, Josette must maneuver her way through the nest of overstuffed vipers that make up Garnia's military and royal leaders in order to drum up support. The foppish and mostly tolerated Mistral crew member Lord Bernat steps in to advise her, along with his very attractive older brother.
Between noble scheming, under-trained recruits, and supply shortages, Josette and the crew of the Mistral figure out a way to return to Durum―only to discover that when the homefront turns into the frontlines, things are more dangerous than they seem.
I was extremely excited to get my hands on the sequel of The Guns Above, though I was a little worried when I read that bit about Bernat’s “very attractive older brother,” because that means there’s a romantic subplot centered on Josette. If you read my review of The Guns Above, the fact that Josette doesn’t have a love interest is one of the things I really like about that book. But I thought, You know what, this is Robyn Bennis. If she adds a romantic subplot, it’ll be hilarious and won’t detract from the main story.
And what do you know? I was right!
Well, sort of. The funniest thing about it is Roland’s (the love interest) bickering with his younger brother Bernat. Honestly, Josette’s relationship with Roland is born of their mutual desire to troll the hell out of Bernie. Which, speaking as an older sister and a woman with several guy friends...yup! Accurate.
The romance itself is really only present for the first third of the book. Then Josette hops back on her airship and resumes blowing things up, occasionally thinking about Roland and wondering what the heck she’s going to do with this thing between them. But mostly, he exists to act as her guide to the world of Garnia’s messed-up court.
Josette may have ended The Guns Above as a hero, but she’s still a woman with a unique ship, so getting the right supplies to repair all the damage is extremely difficult for her. It’s a common theme in Bennis’s writing, the realization that, “Oh, yeah, these seemingly insignificant details that most other stories would just skip over are really freaking important and will cause a fiery death for everyone if not addressed properly.”
So basically, Josette spends her time in the first half of the book trying to find a rich guy at court to pay for her repairs, trolling Bernie with Roland, while simultaneously trying to convince the military higher-ups to reclaim her hometown of Durum, which was taken by the Vins in battle The Guns Above.
Like all good sequels, By Fire Above did a great job of expanding on an intriguing world and cast of characters without overdoing it. We got to see a little more of who these Vins really are, especially when a majority of the fighting is actually up close and personal on the ground. While most of book one was split between Bernie and Josette in terms of POV, By Fire Above adds Ensign Kember, a somewhat minor character in the first book who finds herself with some very big shoes to fill and tough decisions to make.
Bennis gets bonus points for adding an LGBT+ angle, without making it a big freakin’ deal or the sole focus of the characters it affects. (Though, given some of the other characters’ reactions, this is going to cause some excellent conflict in book three.)
All total, By Fire Above is an excellent sequel to The Guns Above. Both books should be read by anyone with a passing interest in steampunk, military fiction, or SFF feminism.
Monday Movie! Deadpool 2
While it has its flaws, Deadpool 2 is a good movie, and probably better than the first one. No, scratch that, it's definitely better than the first one, thanks to Domino and Cable.
Domino is a member of Deadpool's new team, the black woman with the pale birthmark whose power is supernatural good luck. She has some excellent fight scenes, is a total badass, and is actually helpful. She doesn't even need rescuing! Yet she still stinks of Strong Female Character syndrome, in that she's not a fully-fleshed character. We have no idea what her motivations are, how she got her powers, or what her goals in life are. Why did she sign up to join Deadpool's team? Why does she stick around when things turn sour? If it's just for money--we don't even know if Deadpool's paying her--then that needs to be said.
In fact, the writers missed a beautiful opportunity to give her a moment with Russell, a.k.a. Firefist, the fiery mutant Deadpool is trying to save from the time-traveling Winter Soldier knock-off Cable. She and Russell are from the same horrible orphanage that tortures young mutants because...I don't know. Jesus?
Anyway, Team Deadpool is trying to stop Russell from killing the headmaster of this orphanage, because if he does that Very Bad Things will happen, while also protecting him from Cable, who wants to put a bullet in his brain. It would then only seem natural that, once Deadpool finds out that Domino shares these origins with the boy he's trying to help, that he would at least ask her to help him talk Russell down.
No, of course not. That makes too much sense.
So the movie gets points for having Domino in the film. It loses points for underutilizing her.
Moving on to Cable. We all know Marvel has a bit of a villain problem, in that they're often extremely forgettable. Other than Thanos and Killmonger, no Marvel villain really sticks out.
Cable, on the other hand, is a lot more memorable than the likes of Vanko or Ronan. (I'll save you the trouble of googling those two: they're from Iron Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively.) Maybe it's because he's played by the same actor who nailed Thanos. Maybe it's because he's actually not really a bad guy, filled with nuance and layers. Either way, he's excellent.
My only issue with him is his stereotypical backstory. We've got a serious case of Women in the Refrigerator trope.
For a full analysis of what this trope is, how it originated, and why it's a problem, check out this YouTube video by Feminist Frequency. But for the quick and dirty definition, the Woman in the Fridge trope is when a female character is brutalized, raped, and/or murdered as a way to enhance the man's story arc. Usually it's the kick-off to a revenge story.
Perfect example: Cable.
Cable's wife and daughter are killed by an adult, supervillain Russell. It's the whole reason he goes back in time to kill Russell, thus setting our story into motion.
This trope is used not just once, but twice in this movie! For a franchise that loves to make fun of itself, even cracking a joke about lazy writing when Deadpool points out the limitations of Cable's time-travel abilities, this double-whammy fridge trope is left unchecked.
"But Christina!" you may wail, "If we don't kill off the women, how could we possibly motivate the men into being heroes and villains?"
Here's an idea: Cable points out that the future is a horrible, grim place, and we see a glimpse of this through the ruins of his home. What if instead of sacrificing his wife and daughter, the writers had Cable go back to try to save the future as a whole? You could then also replace the tragedy of the other woman's death with, say, a breakup, and voila! No more fridges.
As I said, despite its shortcomings, this was a good movie. It was funny, action-packed, and even managed a minor grapple of the issue of right-and-wrong. It's a worthy sequel, and a hopeful kick-off for another Deadpool or X-Force movie.
But if you're going to use already dried up tropes like SFCs and Women in the Fridge, at least make fun of yourself for that like you do for everything else.
On April 30th, I started a crowdfund campaign for my upcoming graphic novel Sovadron. It's already written and edited; I just need to hire the illustrator, John Hawkins. It'll cost at least $10K to illustrate the entire thing, and so far we have enough for maybe one chapter.
We're halfway through the campaign, which ends on May 31st. To commemorate, I'm releasing a new perk! Originally, if you donated enough to receive a poster illustrated and signed by John Hawkins, you had to choose one: either Shakairra in the Field (right) or Sovadron Plays with Fire (left).
But now, when you donate $125 or more, you get BOTH, as well as a signed physical copy of the graphic novel, sneak peaks into its creation, and a minor character named after you in book two.
Can't afford to drop over a hundred bucks? Don't sweat it. There are a bunch of other perks to choose from: a free electronic copy of Sovadron, copies of some of my other works, sneak peaks, and more.
If you want Sovadron to become a reality, I need more than just well wishes and Facebook likes! Donate today and get a mountain of perks.
Lt. Shakairra Romazi isn’t sure who will kill her first: the enemy’s soldiers, or her own.
Her money is on the latter.
After barely surviving their country’s last war, Shakairra and her soldiers are pulled into another. Goblins have been kidnapping citizens and selling them into slavery. But when a foreign noble arrives to investigate the death of his sister, Shakairra learns that the greater threat is within her own ranks.
As the body count climbs and her allies diminish, Shakairra must place her trust--never in abundant supply--into four strangers to save her country. But they soon realize this conflict is greater than that. And before this is over, even the blood of gods will be spilled.
Dawn of War is the first book of an epic fantasy graphic novel series. If you like cover-to-cover action, diverse characters, and sword & sorcery with a twist, you’ll love the first installment of Christina “DZA” Marie’s new series.
Support Dawn of War to start the adventure today!
Oh, you thought this was a trilogy? It's not.
Yes, the Trials of Apollo series is scheduled for five books, not three. Because there are five oracles our lovely god of pimples and flab has to free. In true Rick Riordan fashion, The Burning Maze leaves you on a cliffhanger. Like, "Jump you'll break every bone in your body when you hit the bottom" type of cliff. After emotionally gutting you, of course. Because he kills off one of the fandom's most beloved characters.
I won't name names. (And for those of you who want to make comments, try to avoid spoilers for the sake of those who haven't read the book yet. It literally came out last week, so most people haven't had a chance to read it yet.) Suffice to say, it's suitably heroic and horrible.
Ironically, that's also the point where Apollo starts to become more likable as a character. He's been getting there. At the start of the series, he was insufferable, and we enjoyed it whenever he suffered because he deserved every minute of it. The end of The Hidden Oracle (book one), when he risks his life to save Meg and realizes this quest is serious, marks the first big change. But he was still uncomfortably self-centered throughout book two, The Dark Prophecy, even as he is now able to sympathize with the mortals and demigods around him. He certainly cares a lot more about Meg, given that he risks his life again to save her and does everything in his power to help her heal and avoid going back to Nero.
But while Apollo has obviously suffered, he had yet to experience a serious loss before The Burning Maze. We writers call this "The Ordeal," or even "the Death." This can be the metaphorical or, in many cases, literal death of the main character. It's their lowest point, because you can't change as a person until a part of you dies.
Suffice to say, this book sees the death of the worst of Apollo's narcissism. The urge to punch him in the teeth has decreased drastically. It sucks that it comes as such a high price, but that's life. And that's what makes this story so good.
On a brighter note, the next book will take place in New Rome, which means we'll be seeing Reyna, Frank, and Hazel in the fall of 2019. I have a sneaking suspicion that book five will include a proper reunion of all (surviving) members of the Seven Heroes of Olympus, plus Nico and Reyna. And hopefully Will, because Solangelo is my life.
Of course, that's assuming no one else dies a horrible, horrible death that leaves us in tears.
A girl can dream, right?
The Crowdfund Campaign for the Graphic Novel Sovadron is Up and Running!
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!