Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner (Nightshade Chronicles #1) (DNF)

Title: Nightshade City.
Series Title: Nightshade Chronicles
Author: Hilary Wagner
Date Added: May 17, 2016
Date Started: June 23, 2017
Date DNF: June 30, 2017
Reading Duration: 7 days
Percentage Read: 28%
Genre: Fantasy, Mid-Grade/Young Adult (YA),

Nightshade City

Pages: 260
Publication Date: October 1, 2010
Publisher: Holiday House
Media: Hardback/Library

Shares Paradigms With: Redwall, Watership Down (both linked in the blurb below)


Deep beneath Trillium City, a modern metropolis, lies the Catacombs, a kingdom of rats of extraordinary intelligence and ability. The once peaceful and democratic colony has become a harsh dictatorship ruled by the High Minister Kildeer and his henchman, Billycan, who runs the Kill Army and collects weekly Stipend from the terrified subjects. The two of them rule with iron fists. With most of the adult rats wiped out in Killdeer’s Bloody Coup and the subsequent great flood, orphaned young male rats are forced into the army and the females into servitude or worse. But change is coming. . . .

Two orphan brothers, Vincent and Victor Nightshade, sons of a hero killed in the Bloody Coup, manage to escape from the Kill Army and meet up with Juniper Belancourt, leader of a rebel group seeking to overthrow their oppressors and restore peace and democracy in a new city. The brothers are quickly caught up in Juniper’s cause: “We survive by cover of night. We live in the shadows, waiting for our redemption! Our name must symbolize our burning spirit. . . . Tonight and forever, we are Nightshade City!”

Juniper’s plans are complicated by many factors. His lovely young niece Clover has been picked by Killdeer to be his next Chosen One, so the rebels and their allies the Earthworms must work fast to save her. Can the rebels locate their enemies’ War Room? Can Juniper’s former love, now holding a position in Killdeer’s Ministry, be trusted? Will the rebels be able to execute their plans without the aid of a young Topsider (human)? And how will Vincent and Victor fare in battle will they honor their father’s legacy of courage?

NIGHTSHADE CITY is rich with memorable characters: Vincent, who comes of age in this time of change; his worshipful younger brother, Victor; beautiful, intelligent Clover; Mother Gallo, a canny survivor who discovers her lost love only to risk losing him again; the charismatic Juniper, a kind and courageous leader whose vision carries the rebels into great danger; Killdeer, a decadent narcissist with surprising depth; and Billycan, a truly demented former lab rat, brilliant, vicious, and Juniper’s sworn enemy.

This enthralling animal fantasy, in the classic tradition of Redwall and Watership Down, encompasses timeless themes of honor and loyalty, family ties and lost love, alliances and betrayals. Readers will respond enthusiastically to this surefire page-turner, set in a brilliantly imagined world filled with easy-to-root-for heroes and villains they’ll love to hate.


This story was touted as sharing paradigms with both Redwall and Watership Down, two of my favorite series/novels of animal centered fantasy/fiction.  In Hilary Wagner’s work, they are anthropomorphic like the former and are forced to fight against a totalitarian regime like the latter.  Unlike Brian Jacques’ long running series though, the rats of Nightshade City have a human factor to contend with, and the fact that the protagonists are rats differentiates it from Redwall even more.  Mr. Jacques has an extremely strict system where certain species fall (and there’s a great deal I can say about that in terms to how it compares to social class, but that’s a subject for another post), and rats are almost always villainous except in a few cases, which are quite noteworthy.

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Top 5 Favorite Fictional Swords

I’ve been wanting to do this post for quite a while; the list has been sitting in my notes for several months now.  Oddly enough it came from a blogger I used to follow until they revealed in a post like this that they were not a fan of Final Fantasy (though they did have the Buster Sword from there…and some derisive comments grrr.  Well to each their own), and as they’d gotten the idea from yet another blog post, I don’t feel too bad doing my own especially since the five swords will be different.  They are presented in countdown order so #1 is my favorite fictional sword (three guesses what it is and what fandom it’s from.  If you’ve been following this blog for, oh, ten seconds, it should pretty plain to see).

I’m a fan of fantastic swords.  My paranormal romance novel The Serpent’s Tale features one with its name actually hidden in the title.  The sword, the Serpent’s Tail, is holy in nature and wielded by a dark angel/assassin.  All of the swords on the below list (save #2 since I wrote the story before I knew major details about that weapon) were great inspirations for this magical and slightly sentient weapon.

“We write by the light of every story we have ever read.”
-Richard Peck

I hope you enjoy the list and please feel free to comment what your favorite picks would be.  Also feel free to tag me if you do your own Top 5 (or Top 10 or Top 17.  I don’t judge) post as I’d love to see that, too!


5. Dyrnwyn

Sword Type: Long Sword
Origin: Welsh Legend
Story: The Chronicles of Prydain
Medium::Book, Film
Wielder:Rhydderch Hael (Welsh Legend), Taran (The Chronicles of Prydain), Gwydion (The Chronicles of Prydain), Princess Eilonwy (borne but not wielded) (The Chronicles of Prydain

Dyrnwyn is one of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain and is also was one of the first magical swords I came across.  I read The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander when I was quite young, and the idea of the sentient sword was still fresh and new in my adolescent head.  I absolutely loved the idea of a weapon that could tell what lay in your heart of hearts and would treat you accordingly.  It seemed a far finer system of justice than any concocted by humanity.

In the Chronicles Dyrnwyn is found by the Princess Eilonwy in the barrows of Spiral Castle when she, Taran, and the rest were escaping.  She took it due it being “the best sword” there, though at the time, she could not know how “best” it was.  Attempting to draw it seemed futile though the companions were able to discern there was an inscription upon the blade, and part of it had been scratched out.

It’s not until the short story The Sword from The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain that Drynwyn’s origin is discovered.  The sword was originally owned by King Rhitta whose own greed and avarice caused the weapon to kill its owner for written upon the blade are the words:

“Draw Dyrnwyn, only those of noble worth [sometimes mistranslated as “royal blood”], to rule with justice, to strike down evil.  Who wields it in good cause shall slay even the lord of death.”

There is such a dearth of justice in our world, and having a sword that would judge a king as equally as a cobbler is something very appealing indeed.  Dyrnwyn does indeed slay the lord of death, but that’s a tale you’ll have to read yourself.

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The State of the Reader: 6/22/16

<–The State of the Reader: 6/15/16          The State of the Reader: 6/29/16–>

A weekly post updated every Wednesday detailing my current reading projects and where I am with them in addition to what new titles I’ve added to my to-read list.  Title links go to Goodreads to make it easier for interested parties to add any books that might strike their fancy.  I attempt to use the covers for the edition I’m reading, and I’ll mention if this is not the case.  If you have a Goodreads account feel free to friend me!  I’d love to see what you’re reading and/or planning to read.

Books Currently Reading: 3
Change from Last Week: 0

Title: Windhaven
Authors: George R R Martin and Lisa Tuttle

WindhavenMedium: Paperback
Progress: 76%

I’m happy I stuck with this, because it did become interesting again in a bookendish fashion actually.  While I have my critiques that will be discussed during the review, I actually found myself tearing up at a critical and heartbreaking part.  I hope to finish this by next week’s update.

Title: Paradise Lost
Author
: John Milton

Paradise LostMedium: Paperback
Progress:
76%

Disclosure time.  I only stuck with this book in order to find that part where God allegedly takes one of Satan’s wings as per what a few people said on an FFVII forum in response to why Sephiroth only has one wing.  They insisted it was a Paradise Lost reference.  Well, I looked up the synopsis of the two final books, and Satan doesn’t seem to be in any of them.  He gets transformed into a giant serpent and the synopses only mention Adam, Eve,  God, and the angels, which is so freaking boring.  I know this is messed up, but Satan was 100% carrying that story.  I decided to google “Paradise Lost God takes one of Satan’s wings.”  Nothing directly about it came up, but there was a summary of Book VI, where Michael brutally slashes Satan’s right side.  Maybe there was an implication that that was the result?  I don’t know.  I’m going to see if I can find a review/analysis of it.  Even without that, FFVII still has plenty of PL references, and though I should’ve mentioned this in my paragraph about Windhaven, it was not the first narrative to have the “one-wing” motif.  GRRM may have been the modern progenitor of that, which is just adding more notes to my Song of VIIs comparison.

Title: The Mystical Qabalah
Author: Dion Fortune

Mystical Qabalah, TheMedium: Paperback
Progress: 62%

I thought I read more of it than this (at least enough to go up a percent), but I did at least start Chapter 8, which concerns Hod.  Very slowly I’m chipping away at this explanation of the esoteric, though I feel I should carry it around with me for reference even when I’m finished.  Though it is touted as the best and simplest volume on it, The MQ is still quite dense.  It has to for the weight of what it’s explaining.

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Taggerung by Brian Jacques (Redwall #14)

This post will be split into two parts, a review and an analysis.  The review part will be spoiler free where the analysis will give major plot points of the story away in examination.  In this way people who just wish to read a review of the novel can do so without being spoiled.  Please also not that this is the ONLY warning I will put in for spoilers so be advised for them in the “Analysis” section.

Title: Taggerung
Series: Redwall
Author: Brian Jacques
Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 448
Publication Date: January 1, 2001
Media Type: Paperback


Review


Years ago, the vermin clan of Sawney Rath kidnapped one of Redwall’s own-a baby otter, destined to become their “Taggerung,” a warrior hero of ancient legend. But as young Tagg grows, he rebels against his destiny. The young otter journeys in search of his birthplace, a member of Sawney’s clan always near, out to destroy the deserter. With the feisty mouse Nimbalo, Tagg fends off the avenging vermin, but can he find his way back to the Redwall family from whom he was separated so long ago?

Before delving into the review, you have to understand the Redwall universe, which the Great Wiki explains nicely here.  In a nutshell (which I’m sure the squirrels would love), it’s a world peopled, er, by anthropomorphic animals within an undetermined medieval setting.  The main location is Redwall Abbey, which is a place of prosperity and peace ruled over by a benevolent Abbott or Abbess.

Redwall Abbey

In the earlier novels, this was almost always a male mouse, but later ones made the position more equal opportunity in both gender and species.  Most of the animals are capable of speech, and the stories are fairly consistent.  The very first novel, which shares the same name as the series as a whole, has some inconsistencies compared to the rest.  For example, I believe it is the only one where a horse appears in addition to implying a human populated village/town.

There’s very little magic in the Redwall universe despite it being classified as a fantasy.  That status mostly comes from it existing in a sort of alternative reality without humans and having the fore mentioned anthropomorphic animals as characters.  They are able to build, cook , sew, and do all sorts of things with their paws, which while named that, probably have the function and form of hands.  The only potential magic comes in the form of seers (possibly) predicting the future and the spirit of Martin the Warrior coming to creatures in dreams and/or hallucinations.  Martin is one of the main founders of Redwall itself, and his sword is so important it could almost be a character on its own.

Taggerung varies from typical Redwall fare as the meat of the story doesn’t take place at the Abbey, but rather concerns the vermin clan that kidnapped the titular character near the beginning as a babe.  The point of view; however, does switch back and forth between the happenings at the Redwall and the more exciting adventures of Deyna as he tries to discover who he is and where he truly comes from as it’s decidedly clear that he doesn’t belong with a vermin clan.

Jacques does a good job at balancing between the more action packed Taggerung parts and the more tranquil Abbey happenings by giving the characters in the latter a mystery to unveil.  Eventually, the two sides of the story combine, which was always expected when a wayfarer is trying to return home and home is a shown location.

The author has a debatable habit of introducing characters waaaaaay later in the game than is normally acceptable, but there’s always been a precedence for that.  I did have a bit of an issue with it in this book as the character introduced about five chapters away from the end made a difference between life and death.  It was a bit of an “otter ex machina” that could’ve been resolved earlier in the novel by just a mention of their name.  I also wasn’t super happy with the way child abuse was brushed off, and while I could be accused of over-analyzing a book written for children, I don’t think especially children should be taught that that’s okay.

Taggerung stands as a counterpoint to Outcast of Redwall, which had a vermin character raised by good woodland creatures who could never change his “true colors.”  That book irritates me for many reasons I’ll elaborate on if I ever review.  Deyna/Tagg is of course. wholesome to the core.  He refuses to do something atrocious and is not only cast out by his “father,” but Sawney attempts to hunt him down to kill.  Redwall clearly leans towards “nature” in this debate (and in Outcast, too, ugh, really, really in Outcast).  The entirety  of the Redwall series does have a classist cast to it, unfortunately, with certain creatures being (almost always) good like mice, hares, badgers, moles (whose accents I love btw), squirrels, otters, etc. while other animals are (almost always) bad and collectively called vermin e.g. stoats, weasels, ferrets (I believe otters are actually related to all three), rats, foxes, and generally any other carnivorous creature (though again otters are carnivorous, badgers and mice or omnivorous, and I believe moles are insectivores).  There a few exceptions to this rule, but everyone expects certain creatures to align in a certain way.

Even among the woodland creatures there’s a hierarchy with mice usually being the leaders, moles being working class, hares being soldiers/military along with badgers who are considered the best of all warriors.  Badgers are also always the ruler of the mountain stronghold Salamandastron.  Vermin will usually just follow the strongest, and they’re constantly backstabbing and double-dealing.  I really, really wish Mr. Jacques had lived long enough to write more novels mixing up these paradigms a bit.  One of the reasons I stopped reading the series was because it was the same “vermin horde attempts to take over Redwall Abbey” all the time.  This was also another plus mark for Taggerung as it avoided this cliche in fact even lampshaded it a bit at the end by having such a situation be swiftly resolved, countering prior novels where it was the entirety of the plot.

Taggerung is a never dull adventure about an otter who though grown up is still a bit of a lost babe trying to find his way home.  I’ll discuss more of this in the Analysis section, but for those of you who  haven’t read it and don’t want to be spoiled, that’s the story at its core.

Rating: 4 stars

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The State of the Writer: 5/28/16

<–The State of the Writer: 5/21/16          The State of the Writer: 6/4/16–>

A weekly post updated every Saturday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include any and all work(s) in progress (WIP) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, or reviews of any type.

Project: Story
Title:
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Previous Word Count: 255,902
Current Word Count: 262,293
Words Written This Week: 6391
Status: WIP

Kitchen Collae

I needed visuals for luxurious kitchens, and these are two of the most.  This work even more than Northern Lights has let me live out such fanciful dreams.  The estate (whose name I’m still keeping hush) definitely has marble counters.  I like the left picture a bit more than the right as I also imagine marble floors.  I have a very clear idea in my head of how their living room appears along with the ornate stairs.  Maybe next week I’ll have a picture of that.  Maybe next week I’ll be finished.  Suffice it to say to her it’s a “palace,” and I want it to look the part.

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The State of the Writer: 5/21/16

<–The State of the Writer: 5/14/16          The State of the Writer: 5/28/16–>

A weekly post updated every Saturday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include any and all work(s) in progress (WIP) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, or reviews of any type.

Project: Story
Title:
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Previous Word Count: 250,755
Current Word Count: 255,902
Words Written This Week: 5147
Status: WIP

Pink Teardrop Necklace

One of the best things about this WIP is the fancy jewelry and clothing I describe throughout.  It’s a stark comparison between the horrific foundation that resonates in the narrative.  It doesn’t make up for that. At. All.  I am not the type to think that decent if not luxurious treatment in any way balances out abuse.  In fact, such a thought is repugnant as it borders on the idea that what people go through is somehow then “paid for” later by fair/equal treatment.  Just no.  This aligns with the “everything happens for a reason” crowd.  The entire time I work on this story, I make sure to in no way insinuate that Aeris’s wonderful treatment in the (majority of) the mise en scene is her “reward” for enduring worse than hell, because I don’t believe any victim/survivor of abuse deserves to be treated well or beyond well afterwards for that reason.  They should be treated well, but basic human decency or luxury is not a reward or payment for horrendous abuse.  I’ll leave this link here and move on with my post.

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The State of the Reader: 5/18/16

<–The State of the Reader: 5/11/16          The State of the Reader: 5/25/16–>

A weekly post updated every Wednesday detailing my current reading projects and where I am with them in addition to what new titles I’ve added to my to-read list.  Title links go to Goodreads to make it easier for interested parties to add any books that might strike their fancy.  I attempt to use the covers for the edition I’m reading, and I’ll mention if this is not the case.  If you have a Goodreads account feel free to friend me!  I’d love to see what you’re reading and/or planning to read.

Books Currently Reading: 4

Change from Last Week: -1


Title: Windhaven
Authors: George R R Martin and Lisa Tuttle

WindhavenMedium: Paperback
Progress: 28%

Title: Paradise Lost
Author
: John Milton

Paradise LostMedium: Paperback
Progress:
67%

I finished up Book IX last night. Only two more books to go before I write an extensive review/analysis.  This might take several months mind you, but finishing this will also fulfill one of my self-imposed prerequisites for numerous essays.

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