Yotsuba&! Vol. 10 ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 10
Series: Yotsuba&! #10
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 224
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Playtime

Yotsuba & Pancakes

Yotsuba & Jumbo

Yotsuba & the Electronics Store

Yotsuba & Home Appliances

Yotsuba & Lies

Yotsuba & the Re-encounter

My Thoughts:

5 stars. Bravo. Fun, fun, fun. I’m tired. So you get a picture and that’s that.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 9 ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 9
Series: Yotsuba&! #9
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 208
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Schedules

Yotsuba & Juralumin

Yotsuba & Coffee

Yotsuba & Barbecue

Yotsuba & Visitors

Yotsuba & Hot Air Balloons

Yotsuba & The Sky

My Thoughts:

Delightful and whimsical aptly sum this volume up. Yotsuba’s dad buys a coffee maker and there is a running gag of Yotsuba trying to get a cup of coffee over to the neighbors house and spilling it each time before making it.

This picture is from the chapter Juralumin, where Yotsuba’s dad is going to buy her a teddy bear, which in other panels she misprounces as beddy tear. I chose this one because Mrs B absolutely loves funny faces in manga. It’s one of the reasons she started reading Skipbeat! and is why we continue to buy the books as they come out, to support the manga-ka. Sparkly eyes are a particular killer 🙂

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Retribution (Galaxy’s Edge #9) ★★★★✬


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Retribution
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #9
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 327
Words: 111.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

It’s been several months since the Legion fell. Chuun spent the down time working with Admiral Deynolds to consolidate the Intrepid and other ships loyal to the Legion into their own task force, the Legion Expeditionary Fleet. Legion Commander “Wash” Washam has been feeding Chhun information on the new Empire’s weak points.

Kill Team Victory is hiding out in cargo crates aboard the De Zuan, an Imperial corvette, preparing to take the vessel over in mid-flight while the Indelible VI shadows it. They arrive on the bridge and stun the passenger a Republic senator, only to learn the corvette is rigged with explosives. Chhun uses this information to bluff the commander of a nearby Imperial supply station Kappa-II into surrendering. Despite the station’s surrender, it’s also carrying a wing of Imperial tri-fighters which attack the Indelible VI as she attempts to pick up Kill Team Victory. Keel handles the fighters but the ship is cut off by an arriving Black Fleet Destroyer which launches its own fighters. Cut off, Chhun is unable to jump the corvette to hyperspace. They transfer the kill team and the senator to the Indelible and fight their way free with help from the just arrived Intrepid. Despite the help, the Indelible VI loses her shields and takes heavy damage. Garrett arranges for the suicide corvette to be drawn into the destroyer’s hangar bay and detonates it, destroying the capital ship but wrecking the Indelible’s drives.

While the freighter is repaired aboard Intrepid, Keel tells Chhun that the senator they retrieved is a Sinasian. The Sinasians hate the Republic and launched their own rebellion against it before the MCR was formed. In addition, the senator is dying. Keel wonders if they can use that to their advantage. Once the Senator is fully briefed on the politics and plans of the various factions he agrees to help the Legion despite his illness. The next battlefield is to be Sinasia, and David Lawrence, the sector commander, is loyal to the Legion. Deynolds doubts it will be a full frontal engagement considering the loses both sides took over Utopion and Tarrago’s still-limited production output. They need Keel to head to Sinasia to act as a local force liaison and intelligence source.

After Senator Van Cammack declares the Sinsasian Cluster’s independence from the Imperial Republic on One Republic News, Goth Sullus meets with his high council to plan the system’s destruction. Washam describes the appointee system, telling how it devolved into a market place where the rich and powerful could buy luxurious civilian posts or risk-free military appointments from political patrons. The Imperial Republic has no allies in Sinasia and there is disagreement over how easily any insurrection there can be put down by Imperial forces. Sullus decrees that the Sinasians may go for now, but if they don’t rejoin by the time the Empire repairs itself, they will be destroyed. Delegate Orrin Karr suggests giving the Zhee free reign to colonize the Sinasian Cluster. The Empire can intervene on a political pretense, to defend them from the Zhee. Sullus agrees.

On Taijing, Keel and Leenah contact Legion Major Giles Endiffron, a legion point who manages the local garrison and is eager to buy his way off world to avoid unpleasantness. Together they pump Endiffron for information about the legionnaires under his command who are loyal to the Imperial Legion as well as those who are plainly disloyal. Endiffron promises Wraith a contract to transport the supposed traitors off world. Leaving the meeting, an off-worlder tail tries to ambush Leenah and is ambushed by Keel. Keel kills the man after realizing he has no useful information.

Back aboard the ship, Leenah expresses disgust with Keel’s tactics but acknowledges their necessity, while she goes off to improve on the repairs the Intrepid’s crew made to the ship. Ravi informs Keel tha their contract has arrived. Keel contacts Chhun and lets him know that they have the names of the Tianjing legion garrison who are loyal to the Empire as well as those who are loyal to the real legion. They also have a copy of the House of Reason-approved forms used by Imperial legion points to secure assistance from non-military operators (smugglers, bounty hunters, etc). Only assassinations are out of bounds, as Nether Ops still specializes in those missions. The contract is worth 5 million credits and Keel is heading out to fulfill the agreement that night.

On En Shakar, Prisma is feeling lonely and out of sorts. Her powers seem to be dormant and while she has found some purpose in caring for the patients in Skyla Forster’s infirmary, she longs to hear songs from her childhood. She has not forgiven Hutch, the Nether Ops legionnaire who worked with Andien Broxin, for abducting her aboard the Indelible VI, even as she cares for his comatose body.

Bear leads KT Victory down to the Tianjing legion garrison and infiltrates the base, thereafter securing the appointed officers in the base mess hall. While that is going on, Keel in his Wraith persona, neutralizes the gate guards at Tianjing legion HQ and introduces himself to Legion Commander David Lawrence, with an offer to help him secure the planet.

Back on Intrepid, Chhun is learning to manage the work load of a general even as he wishes he were still running with KT Victory. A constant inflow of active and retired legionnaires has been helping him and Deynlods to build a proper Legion Navy out of surviving units and ships. To that end he promotes Bear to lieutenant and asks him to fold KT Victory in with KT Warbird. Bear agrees and asks to reactivate Sticks to fill a remaining hole in Victory, to which Chhun agrees. A call from Legion Commander Washam informs Chhun that Nether Ops has been pulled into serving as a secret police force, and that the Zhee are preparing to invade the Sinasia Cluster as a prelude to an Imperial response. Chhun’s best option is to prepare a trap for the Zhee and then move to work with the government on Cononga to support its independence

On En Shakar, Prisma works with Mrs. Renfree, an elderly patient in Skyla Forster’s infirmary. She is a kind lady who Dr. Forster diagnoses with dementia and delirium, but she has some lucid moments. During one of these moments, she tells Prisma about a horrific event that happened to her aboard a Savage warship when she was about Prisma’s age. Prisma has an emotional reaction to the story and finds that her powers work better under duress. Even Hutch seems to have shifted in his sleep.

Mrs. Renfree dies soon after. During her funeral a cargo ship arrives with refugees from Qadib, which is being attacked by the Zhee. Prisma takes advantage of the lull to sneak aboard the ship and contact Leenah on a comm and asks Lenah to sing to her. The song makes Prisma feel less alone. The ship’s crew returns and Prisma overhears the captain offering a crew position to a stranger. The stranger turns out to be Skrizz who has decided to leave. Captain Pereira and Mother Ree are adamant that Prisma remain behind and she storms off the ship. She has a hurried conversation with a spectral figure to find that Skrizz has chosen to stay with her after all.

Cononga is in the grip of a civil war as it has always been loyal to the legion over the Republic; Goth Sullus has sent MCR forces to quell the dissent. Chhun and Deynolds however are invited into the situation by the planet’s governor and the Legion is busy landing on the planet. During KT Victory’s drop, Sticks hits the ground too hard and suffers damage to his bionic legs. They breach into the presidential palace and encounter a team of shock troopers with the same apparent mission of recovering the president. Victory fights past the opposition and gets to the president first. The first floor of the building is still occupied by shock troopers as Bear calls for exfiltration. Task Force Grinder arrives and engages the hostiles.

Aboard the Zhee battlecruiser Bloody Horde, Captain Vampa is advising Zhee crews in their efforts against Sinasian forces. They are approached by the Intrepid and warned off. As they hold their ground the Intrepid engages and destroyed a Zhee battlecruiser, Divine Zephyr. Vampa threatens the Zhee admiral and is then attacked by the crew. Her bodyguards spirit her away in a shuttle (piloted by Kat Haladis) while the Zhee engage the Intrepid. Admiral Deynolds tricks the Zhee into following her through a mine field which destroys the ships Mad Demon’s Kankari, Call of Death, Brass Djinn, Rage and Fury, and Supreme Vengeance. The Zhee fleet is destroyed.

In the city of Kahl on Rawl Kima, X meets with reporter Steadron Pawoe. His plan is to use the desperate and disgraced journalist as a propaganda tool in to restart what he sees as a “cold” galactic conflict. When Pawoe reports the destruction of the Zhee fleet by Sinasian forces, Goth Sullus meets with X who expects to be elevated to Sullus’s high council. Sullus puts X in charge of Imperial Intelligence. X’s first instruction is to send the Imperial Legion to Ankalor to destroy the remaining Zhee for their failure at Sinasia. When Kaar objects, Sullus unleashes the powers of the Crux, killing him and dissolves both the House of Reason and Senate.

Paren Michale is managing his salvage empire on Ochnia when Sullus’s announcement of the new order comes through the news. As he tries to process the news, the Cybar titans re-activate and head toward a ship which takes them off the planet.

Since meeting the spectral stranger in the gardens, Prisma has shown vastly improved confidence and drive as she matures into womanhood. Her powers return with a vengeance and her abilities improve almost daily. While helping out in the infirmary, Hutch wakes up from his coma and, seemingly under Cybar control, attacks Prisma. Skyla keeps Hutch busy while she escapes, but Hutch is too strong and Skyla is killed. Hutch fights his way through a crowd of sanctuary residents as she runs off.

Hutch pursues Prisma deep into the ice caves, where she hides, biding her time. When Hutch finds her, the spectral figure demands that she choose whether she will live or die. She chooses to live. As she makes her choice, she extends her powers, nearly stopping time and freezes Hutch in place. The figure shows her what Hutch would have done had the Forresaw completed its mission: killed her and the crew of the Indelible VI as the Cybar fleet destroyed Utopion. She chooses to kill Hutch and his body falls into icy water taking her with it.

Wash and Chhun examine their options in the aftermath of the Republic’s dissolution. Wash’s imperial legion is not up to the task of maintaining order, and wiping out the Zhee world of Nidreem with nukes is next on the Empire’s plan. Wash plans to take the weapon stocks on Ankalor and deliver them to Chhun after taking the planet back.

Having rescued Prisma, Crash shows her an ancient ship he’s discovered in the ice caverns. Though old, the ship is operational and Prisma and Crash take it to travel to the planet Morghul, in order for her to learn how to destroy Goth Sullus from her spectral friend. The trip will take five years with Prisma in stasis and Crash piloting the craft.

Keel and crew meet up with the Intrepid in the Ponterran system. When they learn of the dissolution of the Republic government and Sullus’s plans to use the Cybar titans to execute all House of Reason delegates, they realize that without a House to purge, there is no Article 19 to enforce. Keel for one has had enough of the legion and the politics, but Chhun has a favor to ask: pick up a MARO the Legion purchased on Ponterra. Keel agrees as long as Leenah can head back to En Shakar aboard a shuttle.

Keel heads to Ponterra for the pickup and Ravi suggests he visit Doc, a former Dark Ops contact. They arrive to find trench coated thugs trying to break into the old man’s apartment. Keel blasts the attackers and escorts Doc back to the now-loaded ship. Despite the police’s intercession, Keel bluffs his way skyward and they head off world to deliver the weapon as Chhun decides on using the legionnaire resistance forces on Utopion to attack Sullus directly.

Meanwhile, X has been busy rebuilding his own spy network using trustworthy Nether Ops agents from the Carnivale. His intention is to support Goth Sullus as a benevolent dictator. As he gets the word that the reporter Steadron was killed by Nether Ops Team 5 which was under X’s orders, he spots Washam emerging from a legion bar. Knowing the distaste legionnaires have for points he decides that Washam needs to be watched.

Goth Sullus inspects the last two thousand Cybar titans and expects they will not be enough to conquer the rest of the galaxy. The entities in the ring note the death of the Zhee homeworld Nidreen and show him other forces at work as they solidify their hold on him, and he on them.

Chhun and Victory team take a civilian transport to Utopion to contact the resistance leaders. Their contact runs a combat sled blockade and splits up the team to avoid capture. Exo is captured by Nether Ops and interrogated.

News that the core world Spilursa has declared independence from the Empire spreads, along with news of riots on Utopion.

Goth Sullus, desperate to retain hold on his fragmenting empire, orders Admiral Crodus to annihilate the nine words that have announced their independence. Deep down he (as Casper) realizes this will unite the galaxy against him but he is determined to see his task through to the end.

The Indelible VI’s crew arrives on a pastoral world to hide the MARO and Keel and Doc get to talking. Doc’s opinion is that Wraith needs to be on Utopion when the push to kill Goth Sullus comes down, to finish the job that Rechs isn’t there to do.

Exo insists (under duress) on talking to Ordo (confusing X a bit) and Nether Ops abducts Washam from his Utopion office.

Leenah arrives on En Shakar too late to meet Prisma, and everyone at the sanctuary believes her to be dead at Hutch’s hands. Skrizz isn’t so sure, and hearing that Crash was with her gives Leenah hope they might still locate the girl. Keel reports that he’s heading to Utopion to deal with Goth Sullus while Ravi reports that the spectral figure that Prisma has been speaking to is the same force that turned Goth Sullus into a monster. Leenah and Skrizz get back in their shuttle and head to Utopion.

On Utopion, Chuun, Victory Squad, and a host of veteran legionnaires are preparing to make their move. Wash, under duress from X, contacts Chhun and gives the call sign for an emergency. Chhun understands the situation and plays along as Wash orders a 24 hour delay in the strike. When the call ends, X kills Wash then orders a clean-up crew to go over his apartment and engage all the legion forces they’ve identified.

The Nether Ops teams go in…and report massive losses against their targets. X orders all hands on deck and realizes too late that he’s out of hands. Goth Sullus demands that Adm. Crodus bring the Black Fleet to Utopion; he refuses, saying the fleet is not Sullus’s personal property. Crodus has in fact ceded command of the fleet to Admiral Deynolds. Casper makes a last attempt to make himself felt and throw away the ring but Goth Sullus is more powerful and retains it. The ring-bound entities return the Crux’s power to Sullus, who reaches out and kills Crodus from half way across the galaxy.

Chhun’s legion moves through Utopion’s Capitol District, heading to the Imperial Palace. They are especially concerned about attacks from Cybar warbots and cyborgs, but remain on mission. The fact that Utopion never installed a properly staffed or equipped military presence helps immensely as does the spotty response from Black Fleet shock troops. Goth Sullus find himself alone in the palace, his officers and staff having abandoned him in the face of overwhelming defeat. Even his otherworldly allies now threaten to leave. He heads down to the motor pool for one last stand. The legion Lt. Col OIC at the pool defies Sullus and is killed; his troops respond by attacking their emperor. Sullus destroys squads until the resistance peters out. He deploys the Cybar machines and the remaining combat vehicles from the motor pool.

Chhun spots the Cybar and responds by sending out snipers armed with N-18 rifles equipped with depleted uranium rounds. Squads armed with N-50 automatic blasters hold their lines against the onslaught. Between the specialized rounds and rotation of battlefield tactics, the legion troops wear the Cybar down.

Indelible VI arrives (having left Doc to watch the bolt hole) to see Chhun’s legion fully engaged and Goth Sullus on the battlefield, but an MCR blockade (a destroyer and a number of small ships) bars access to the planet. Keel dumps the MARO onto the destroyer, blowing it up, then heads to the surface and Goth Sullus.

X finally realizes the situation has spiraled out of his control and heads to the palace’s remaining corvettes for escape, just as the Legion Expeditionary Fleet arrives, causing the few remaining MCR ships to surrender instantly. X contacts Chhun using Exo as a hook to form an alliance. Chhun and Exo play along until Exo is released…and then kills X with the butt of a Nether Ops rifle.

Goth Sullus rides a main battle tank into the fray, smashing legionnaires with his powers and shots from its main gun. But the Legion advances just the same. The ring-entities offer him a chance to save everything by destroying everything…and he takes it.

Above the battlefield, Ravi alerts Keel that The End of Everything is near and the time to act is now or never. The ring-entities are the very ones that Ravi’s people—The Ancients—fled the galaxy to avoid. Keel hands the ship over to Garret and the IndelibleIV’s cheerful AI and jumps out of the ship, diving right for Sullus.

Exo climbs out of the Nether Ops dungeon beneath the palace, takes an aero-precision missile launcher and knocks out the tank that Sullus is standing on, which interrupts Sullus’s attempt to kill Masters. But Sullus is able to kill Exo, snapping his spine on the spot. Sullus releases the spectral entities from the ring and they settle across the battlefield, animating the corpses to attack the remaining legionnaires. Sulllus retreats to the imperial palace. Wraith lands near Exo’s body and heads after Sullus.

Masters manages to carry Bear to Leenah’s legion shuttle; they begin to load up wounded.

Sullus retreats to the palace courtyard, and opens a portal to the realm of spectral entities. More come into the world through the new gate. As he gathers his efforts to let them all in, Casper asserts his personality and fights for control, shrinking the gate but not closing it. The distraction is enough to let Wraith approach Sullus from behind and shoot him.

The gate closes.

The Empire is done.

The war is over.

My Thoughts:

The only reason I have included such a humongous synopsis is because it is easier to cut and paste it in its entirety from the Fandom page than to try to write up my own. If all my creative energies go toward writing the synopsis, that just doesn’t seem fair to the My Thoughts section. Especially considering how deep, indepth, detailed and generally totally kick ass this section tends to be. Besides, if I don’t do a good enough job, Future Me is going to look back and sneer and call me a lazy git. So you all have to suffer a 6 page synopsis (that is what it came out to in the OpenOffice doc I use to copy/paste).

This was a good ending to what is called Season One. The Republic is irreparably broken, Goth Sullus is destroyed, bigger threats are hinted at and Prisma goes off with what appears to be a real bad guy. Most of the storylines are wrapped up with just enough left open to give you a hint of what is to come. I like that.

I really liked just how much of a puppet Sullus turns out to be. Instead of being a strong man standing for his convictions, he’s shown as someone who time and again has done what is expedient and betrayed anyone who thought differently from him. It’s good to see him get his just desserts.

Prisma, the little girl with special powers, is starting to worry me. Her behavior is very similar to Anakin’s in Episode II: Attack of the Clones. That hasty, impatient, not listening to anyone else, do what they want attitude. While Redemption stories are right up my alley, I’d rather see a character fight against and resist the Fall. I guess we’ll see if Season 2 is about Prisma or not.

Overall, I couldn’t have been happier with this series. Besides the little hiccup between the first book and second (where the style drastically changes from an almost straight up MilSF to Space Opera), I have not had a bad read. While the first book of Season 2 is out, I think I’m going to wait until the whole thing is out before diving back in. Thankfully, there are several other series I can check out while waiting. Anspach and Cole have farmed out various sub-series and I plan on reading those. I will have to see if they keep creative and quality control or if they just rubberstamp it with their name. Michael Anderle did the rubberstamp option and made me pretty much abandon anything by him. I hope Anspach and Cole do a better job.

For the records, I have the Savage Wars (3 books), Tyrus Rechs (3 books), the Order of the Centurion (5 books) and the Dark Operator (5 books) to get through. I suspect that will be more than enough to let Anspach and Cole bust out Season 2 of Galaxy’s Edge!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 8 ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 8
Series: Yotsuba&! #8
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 208
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Opposites

Yotsuba & the Restaurant

Yotsuba & the Cultural Festival

Yotsuba & the Typhoon

Yotsuba & Watching the House

Yotsuba & the Festival

Yotsuba & Acorns

My Thoughts:

I read this sunday. I was feeling tired, stressed out and sick (probably from stressing out) and reading this was like taking a huge horse tranquilizer. By the end of the volume I was totally chill. I had been debating about whether I wanted to read this feeling the way I was but am I glad I did.

The picture I included this time was from the Festival Chapter. Yotsuba is helping pull a shrine and they take a break so she and her dad and some others are looking at the other portable shrines when Yotsuba sees the sumo wrestler. I remember laughing my head off the first time I saw this page and man, it hasn’t stopped being funny to me. The manga-ka has totally caught that innocent yet bold spirit of being a 5 year old.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

#Music Monday – ♪Dark Sky Island♪

I am not a big music fan. I do try to do a couple of #MusicMonday posts a year just to keep that “Music” category from collecting too much dust.

Dark Sky Island is Enya’s latest album, from back in 2015. All her fans have given up ever trying to get her to release anything even semi-quick, so considering there is still no news of a new album in ’21 comes as no surprise to any of us. We just keep on listening to what she has released.

This youtube embed has several of the “official” music vidoes. I recommend just listening though. Next to Amethystium, Enya is my favorite musical artist. And that should do it for 6 months for music and me.

[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 7 ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 7
Series: Yotsuba&! #7
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 208
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Telephones

Yotsuba & Respect for the Aged Day

Yotsuba & Fever

Yotsuba & Patissier

Yotsuba & Errands

Yotsuba & Taking Off

Yotsuba & The Ranch

My Thoughts:

Some of these chapters are longer than others. In Telephones, for example, Yotsuba spends the whole day playing string&cup telephone with the neighbors. It ends with a picture of Fuka (the 16/17 year old daughter) talking to Yotsuba’s dad through a window and her older college age sister walking in on her. The facial expressions are priceless and the manga-ka makes it crystal clear, without writing a word, that Asagi (the older sister) thinks shenanigans are going on. It’s just too funny.

Then you have chapters like Respect for the Aged Day where Yotsuba talks with her grandma on the phone for about 1 page.

The overarching theme for this book was visiting a farm. Yotsuba loves milk so much so her dad decides to take her to a farm. Jumbo is their transportation and Yotsuba’s Nemesis, Yando, invites himself along.

I’d like to talk about Yando for a minute. He doesn’t seem to get along with anybody so I’ve wondered how he’s stayed friends with Yotsuba’s dad. He and Jumbo definitely don’t get along and while Yotsuba’s dad is pretty laid back about him, Yando seems to try to push his buttons whenever he can. Maybe he’s just “one of those” friends? Whatever the case may be, and despite me not liking him, he does provide the necessary “edge” to this series.

The picture I’ve included this time was from the chapter where Fuka and her friend are practicing making cakes. They’re not happy with how it looks, so they let Yotsuba decorate it so they can tell their family it wasn’t them that decorated it. Yotsuba goes all out, hence her decision to include the last egg 😀

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Message for the Dead (Galaxy’s Edge #8) ★★★★✬


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Message for the Dead
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #8
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 319
Words: 115.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

Orbiting Porcha, Keel and Exo say farewell as Exo and Bombassa leave the Indelible VI, planning to return to their squad in the Dark Legion. Keel does his best to remind Exo that before he was Dark legion, he was Victory Company. Exo still has doubts about whether to trust the House of Reason or not, but does not trust Legion Commander Keller. Keel wagers his seamball card collection against Exo’s rifle scope to see who turns out to be right about which side to back. Exo agrees but before they part, a corvette with MCR markings drops out of hyperspace and launches Republic Lancer Starfighters. Bombassa convinces Keel to escort the imperial shuttle until it can jump out-system. Ravi reports that the fighters and shuttle are flying in formation and neither Exo nor Bombassa is able to raise their crew on S-comm. Ravi taps into the comm net to discover that Exo and Bombassa have orders to take control of the Indelible VI. If they don’t, the corvette has orders to destroy the ship. The corvette launches concussion warheads and the Indelible jumps to hyperspace.

The ship emerges near RX-17732 an abandoned mining station that Keel has visited before to take stock of the situation. The dark legionnaires admit they have no idea what’s going on and Keel admits that events they aren’t aware of seem to be in motion. That said, he is still heading to the Doomsday Fleet to get his crew back and he has Maydoon’s DNA while the Black Fleet does not. Re-assessing the situation, Exo decides to join Wraith.

Ravi scans the news feeds and mentions that Article 19 is in place and the Legion is being condemned for essentially invading Ankalor while the House of Reason has officially reconciled with the MCR, and both will seek alliance with Goth Sullus’s Empire. An image of Goth Sullus appearing wearing Tyrus Rechs’ armor convinces Bombassa to work with Keel as well. Ravi shows them the chaos erupting all over the galaxy and Keel orders him to locate Victory squad just in case events worsen. Ravi points out the asteroid where they find themselves is not RX-17732 after all but a private stash that Tyrus Rechs willed to Keel in his final affairs. Informing Keel of this (Ravi continues) is the reason that he stayed with Keel when the rest of his people (the Ancients) moved on beyond the galaxy, fleeing the chaotic forces encroaching at the edge of galactic space. Sullus’s tricks are the product of Ancient technology and tools. Ravi’s job was to find someone who could resist the approaching force and that seems to be Keel.

Entering the dead base, they find that the space inside populated by dead dog-like creatures which were apparently killed by Rechs’ legendary shooting skill (there are no missed shots in evidence). Keel discovers an inscription to an office-like room (“I didn’t leave nothing”) which he enters and examines. Inside, he finds one of Rechs’s old slug-thrower pistols and a box of depleted uranium rounds for it while Ravi checks the logs and Exo and Bombassa look at the armory. Keel activates an AI persona of Rechs, which displays a recording he apparently made for himself…and reviews his history from General Reeves, Savage War fighter to General Rex, legionnaire, to Tyrus Rechs, bounty hunter. Rechs has had many lives, many identities, and a life measured in centuries. Casper is named as someone who is attempting to harness Ancient power at the edge of the galaxy in order to enslave it. Keel surmises that Casper is actually the man they know as Goth Sullus. Unfortunately looting the armory frees more of the dog-like creatures who have been nesting in the base. The creatures attack and the crew escapes the base aboard the Indelible VI.

Keel takes the ship to the Ungmar system, last known location of the hidden Doomsday Fleet, the Cybar mother ship authorized by the House of Reason as a last ditch defense and sought by Goth Sullus as a bargaining chip in his war against the Republic. They pass the remains of Exo and Bombassa’s shuttle as they approach, destroyed for not having the correct DNA key aboard. The ship permits the Indelible VI to land but Ravi reports that the controlling AI will try to capture them once down. Bombassa for his part insists on carrying out Goth Sullus’s orders to capture the mother ship.

Debarking, the Indelible’s crew are met by CAT37 the Cybar admin bot who offers to take them to the confirmation terminal. Keel dispatches the bot with his blaster. Ravi links to the computer and shows them the route to the detention block and guides them to Prisma and Leenah’s cells. While they wonder what to do with the guard bot, Garret speaks from the intercom and reveals that he’s been hiding out aboard the ship along with Skrizz, Hutch, one of Andien Broxin’s Nether Ops legionnaires, and parts of Crash. Worse, if anyone but an interrogator (bot or replicant) releases the cell doors, a swarm of titan warbots will retaliate. Garret directs them to their hiding place but they find a butchered Moktaar on the way. They “capture” Hutch and Garret, who update them on the situation. Hutch and Keel figure out who is actually working for whom and Hutch describes the robotic components of the Cybar ship: the titans warbots, the spiders, and crawlers. There are also pilot bots, AI drones and battle bots. There are also stealthy bots that pick out high profile targets for execution. Worst of all, CRONUS, the AI that runs the ship, is fully independent and the equal of any super-destroyer. Hutch and Garret believe that it is fully capable of taking over the galaxy. Thanks to their description, Bombassa is willing to work with Keel on retrieving his crew and escaping from the ship.

Garret is sent back to the Indelible IV to wait with Ravi and remote control what gadgets needs tweaking for an escape. They release Leenah then head to Prisma’s cell, where they discover a replicant of Leenah asking Prisma about her ability to make objects move. Keel kills the replicant and Leenah take charge of Prisma who has learned that CRONUS is keeping her alive because deep down it fears her potential to destroy the Cybar machines.

Titans appear to block their escape and destroying even one of them takes all of Keel, Exo and Bombassa’s battlefield skill. Prisma discovers that her commands carry real weight, and she accidentally stuns Hutch and Leenah. Keel promises that if Prisma can get Leenah and the others to the Indelible VI he will stay behind to retrieve Skrizz and destroy the Cybar ship.

Spider-bots appear and attack the group, with Exo and Bombassa clearing a path for the others, dragging a badly wounded Hutch, only to be met by more Titans at the landing bay. They clamber aboard and man the Indelible’s burst turrets instructed by Ravi, who heads back to help Keel.

Skrizz saves Keel from a Titan patrol and they catch each other up on the situation. Keel urges Skrizz to head back to the ship while Keel sabotages the mother ship. Skrizz leads Keel to the main generator, but on the way they discover the hull of the republic corvette Deluvia, a deep space survey vessel. Skrizz points out the reactor is inside the dead ship, then vanishes from sight while Keel enters the hulk. He tells Garret to leave as soon as Skrizz arrives and picks his brain for information about the Deluvia while Ravi arrives and tries to talk Keel out of the suicide mission he’s undertaken. As the ship’s defenses activate Keel abandons his intention and he and Ravi fight past swarms of robots in their effort to escape to the Indelible VI while garret closes blast doors to help out. Leenah and Keel pull a clear the deck maneuver to wipe out the bots with the ship’s drives while Leenah swings the ship around to pick him, Ravi and Skrizz up.

Starfighters approach as the Indelible VI leaves the mother ship. Keel shows Bombassa how to manage the fake transponder collection in order to jump to hyperspace, on the way to En Shakar.

Meanwhile, at Bantaar Reef, the Republic Seventh Fleet is at rest. Admiral Landoo, who lost the only naval engagement between the Black Fleet and the Republic Navy, meets with X and his assistant. X reasons that even if Landoo succeeds vs. the Black Fleet she’ll still have to fight the Legion, since Article 19 is in effect and wants to know her plans. Landoo sees the Legion as criminals. X tries to convince her that the House of Reason is at odds with her navy oath. Landoo receives news that the Black Fleet has jumped into the Reef and the discussion is rendered moot as the fleet is ordered to battle stations. X introduces his assistant, Major Ellek Owens, who has an offer. Finally, X manages to convince Landoo not to throw her fleet into ruin against the Black Fleet battleships and instead jump her fleet to Utopion to link up with the Legion.

Aboard the newly renamed Audacity, a former Black Fleet corvette, Capt Desaix takes stock of his crew of rescued POWs and is alarmed about the impending battle. All three of Goth Sullus’s battleships arrive and position themselves to cut off all escape from the naval depot. Admiral Landoo contacts Desaix with a mission: transport Owens anywhere he wants to go and follow his orders.

Aboard the battleship Terror, Lt. Cmdr Kat Haladis watches the Black Fleet’s assault on Bantaar Reef, advises Capt. Vampa on how to cut that retreat off.

X and Owens board the Audacity and are ordered to Tarrago by X and engage fighters from the Terror as she battleship moves to cut her off. Atumna Fal pilots the ship as she would a fighter to avoid serious damage, and jumps to Tarrago.

At Tarrago, X delivers a diplomatic message for Goth Sullus. In it, Orrin Kaar suggests an alliance between the Republic and the fledgling Empire. The Audacity is permitted to land aboard the Imperial Dreadnought Overlord to discuss terms. That done, the crew is imprisoned while X and Owens are taken to meet Armiral Ordo, from Imperial Intelligence, who confirms their identities and after warning them allows them to meet Goth Sullus. Sullus uses his mind-mojo on X who spills everything he knows while Owen’s implants record the whole meeting.

Owens steals a shock trooper’s blaster and flees, relying on his escape and evasion skills to lead his pursuers further into the ship while backtracking to Desaix and informing him of X’s ploy (or treason depending on your POV). Escape requires that the ship’s docking tractor be disabled, which Owens will do while Desaix follows Casso back to Audacity with a message Owens recorded for Legion General Keller on Utopion.

Desaix leads his crew back to the Audacity with Jory taking a blaster hit and passing out, while Owens runs interference, heading for the tractor array control section. As the troopers close in, Owens overloads the tractor beam and dies as the crew of the Audacity escapes in their ship.

Landoo and Keller agree on a plan to defend Utopion: Landoo will command the Seventh fleet, Ubesk commands the Combined Fleets Task Force, and Capt. Durad will be a liaison aboard the carrier Freedom. The hope is that the Back Fleet jumps to Utopion, where it will see a Legion and Seventh Fleet ostensibly at war with other. As the Black Fleet attacks the Legion, the Seventh Fleet will attack the Black Fleet’s flank, knocking their battleships out, launch SSMs, and run for deep space, leaving the Legion to board the Black Fleet ships.

Goth Sullus boards the Imperator, as the Black Fleet rearms and jumps for Utopion, without the Overlord, months ahead of schedule. When the Black Fleet arrives, they are engaged by elements of the Republic defense. The Imperator destroys three corvettes with her ion cannon; two shots hit the destroyer Marathon which loses power, but Landoo denies the CO permission to abandon ship. The Republic corvette Simpkin is destroyed when it collides with a wrecked frigate. 15 SSMS survive the black fleet’s point defense cannon fire and strike the Imperator, crippling the battleship. The Republic destroyer Hidalgo takes critical volleys from the Terror and Revenge; the ship’s engineer scuttles her.

On the Imperator, Admiral Rommal takes a message from Capt. Vampa aboard the Terror and tells him the legion assault fleet is heading straight for their battle group. He denies her permission to launch interceptors to cover a retreat, and believes the battle is still manageable. On the Freedom, Landoo’s adjutant gives her a fleet status report: they’ve lost 8 hammerhead corvettes, 14 escort frigates and two destroyers. The Masstaar reports heavy casualties and a reactor leak. Landoo is ordered by Ubesk to concentrate fire on the Terror, and orders a launch of all fighters to cover the legion assault transports, which face fighter groups from the black fleet ships as they launch boarding actions against the Revenge. The legionnaires succeed in damaging the ship while taking heavy losses, leaving Terror as the only battleship able to fire its main guns. The fighting between boarding parties and defenders intensifies until a new contact appears in Utopion space: the Cybar mother ship. Goth Sullus orders his fleets to continue the fighting. He will deal with the newcomers personally.

Aboard the Cybar ship, CRONUS is anticipating the perfect opportunity to destroy both Republic and Black fleets and wipe out Utopion, and launches fighters against both fleets. Sullus prepares to head out to the mother ship but is delayed by heavy damage to the Imperator’s hangar deck and his shuttle’s destruction. Kat Haladis volunteers to fly a shuttle from the Terror to Imperator to pick Sullus up and transport him to the mother ship.

Aboard the Mercutio, Keller and Ubesk sort through plans to deal with the Cybar and ask Landoo her opinion. She decides to shift the fleet’s attack to the Cybar ship.

The Audacity jumps into Utopion space and dock with Mercutio. The Cybar interceptors carry out surgical strikes with advanced micro-missiles and effectively neutralize both the Revenge and the Freedom as the Cybar mother ship approaches the Seventh fleet and vaporizes it with its Mauler main gun.

After listening to Owens’s report, Keller instructs Desaix and his crew to transmit the message to Wraith, and records a message of his own to be transmitted as well. Desaix heads out with his new orders.

More legionnaires land on the Imperator to bolster the boarding parties’ attack as Goth Sullus lands aboard the Cybar ship. They meet resistance from Cybar titans but Sullus uses the power of the Crux to sweep them as side even as his guard takes casualties. As they penetrate further Sullus and Capt. Sturm realize the Cybar are testing them, learning their strengths.

Cybar Titans begin to land on the Imperator to hose down legionnaires and shock troopers alike. Goth Sullus loses most of his guard as they reach the center of the Cybar ship, and telepathically contacts Adm. Rommal, showing his exactly what part of the mother ship to attack with the Imperator’s main ion guns. Rommal obeys and Sullus uses the Crux to push his armor’s force bubble far enough to shield himself and his guard from the ion cannon damage. He confronts the intelligence at the center of the ship and learns that the aliens are utterly ancient, and willing to serve him. He slips on the ring of power just as the Imperator explodes, Rommal’s last act being to activate the self-destruct.

Ubesk orders the Republic fleet to retreat and the legion fleet is essentially destroyed, juts as an MCR fleet leaves hyperspace.

The Legion is no more.

Epilogue:

Owens and Chhun have a heart to heart aboard the Intrepid. Owens notes that Kill Team Victory has been taking consistent and heavy losses, and has decided to de-activate the team. He then offers Chhun the chance to take his place as Dark Ops commander for the teams stationed aboard Intrepid. An eventual promotion to Major goes with the assignment. Chhun accepts as long as he gets to re-assign Bear and Masters personally. He assigns Bear as TL of KT Outlaw, and gets to work.

While going over kill team after-action reports, Chhun is asked to consult on a transmission from Legion Commander Washam, who uses a security clearance (“Libre Shine 1611”) to inform Chhun as Dark Ops commander that a new clandestine prison for political prisoners has been set up on the planet Gallobren to replace the one lost on Herbeer. He recommends that a kill team be sent to disrupt the facility by facilitating an inmate uprising. Washam will do everything he can to stall the site’s re-supply for two weeks, and notes only planetary militia defend the facility while Delegate Nimh Arushi who oversees the site is on hand as well.

Chhun and Admiral Deynolds discuss the likelihood that the message from Washam is real. Deynolds promises her full support.

Chhun throws himself into the new role of Dark Ops Sector Commander, trying to verify the truth of Washam’s report. Washam himself is a veteran of the Psydon campaign, the first major battle to see points in action. One combat memoir speaks highly of Washam despite his appointed status, and speaks to the loyalty of the troops under Washam’s command. Convinced of Washam’s honest intent, Chhun creates an op for his kill teams. Some will recover Delegate Nimh Arushi and the rest will liberate the prisoners located on the clandestine prison on Gallobren. First Battalion from the 25th legion will be dropped by Intrepid for support.

Chhun and Task Force Granite drop to the surface of Gallobren and swim to Arushi’s yacht, then plant charges on the hull to prevent its escape. They track Arushi to her hotel while the rest of the task force prepares to assault the prison. Arushi is apprehended and led away. While Task Force Granite frees the prisoners, explosions are heard, but it’s not the Intrepid. Another ship has arrived and is bombarding the facility. Comm officer Lambert aboard the Intrepid informs Chhun that fighter-supported drop pods are on the way for exfiltration and support forces are on the way down. But a lot more pods are dropping than Intrepid can account for. Chhun commandeers a TT15 observation bot and determines that the opposing force is made entirely of warbots…the same Titans from the Cybar mother ship.

Chhun puts two and two together and begins giving orders to prepare for a counter-attack. But the Intrepid has its own problems fighting off the mother ship in orbit and plans for the legion’s exfiltration fall apart. The warbots encircle Task Force Granite and isolate it in the heart of the city, turning a city park into a battlefield. Intrepid sends down a squadron of fighter-bombers to support the legionnaires, but cannot aid them directly, nor would shuttles survive planetfall. Reaper Squadron leader Dax Danns rides herd on a command shuttle that attempts to make pickup for Chhun’s unit, but the shuttle is destroyed before landing. It dawns on Chhun that Intrepid is being forced to retreat and his unit is stranded. He sets up a looping distress call to Indelible VI, blows up his command post and swims for the shore.

Aboard the Indelible VI, Garret plays Chhun’s message for Keel. Exo, Bombassa, and Keel agree that they must help. Garret sends a text message that help is on the way. Travel time through hyperspace is three hours.

Chhun meets up with the surviving legionnaires of Granite who have decided to let Delegate Arushi go considering the circumstances. They are ambushed by a platoon of warbots who kill all but Bear, Masters, and Chuun. They head back to Granite’s original landing zone to wait for possible rescue, working their ways through the drain pipes to avoid being seen. The corpses of soldiers and civilians both impede their progress, while sanitation bots mindlessly work to clear the pipe. Up top, they see the city turned into a vast killing field, rampant destruction and death wrecking the pristine core world’s environment. As they scavenge for supplies, it occurs to them that a rogue AI bent on galactic destruction would be a horrific opponent. They hide and avoid capture by the warbots until Wraith can arrive, turning on their rescue transponder only when the ETA time is near.

When Wraith does arrive he has six Cybar fighters on his tail, which the legionnaires immediately attack with shoulder-fired AP rockets. Between the AP rounds and the ship’s guns they knock down the remaining fighters, but warbots appear around their position. Wraith hovers his ship as the leejes run for the ramp and Exo and Bombassa strafe the warbots with blasters. The three leejes jump aboard and Wraith climbs into the sky.

Wraith travels to Mother Ree’s Sanctuary on En Shakar to give his crew and passengers some rest and recovery time. Ree informs Chhun that the Cybar have been stopped but the “the galaxy has lost its last ember of freedom as a result.” The Indelible VI’s crew gathers at the ship to listen to the recording Owens made of X’s confession in front of Goth Sullus, and Keller’s final recorded orders to Ford are to do what he must with the information. Wraith confirms that the House of Reason is under Goth Sullus’s control. Wraith vows to kill X and Chhun acknowledges that Kill Team Victory is back at full strength. And, Chhun says, “We’re Victory Squad. And we’re gonna make ‘em pay.”

My Thoughts:

This was the most enjoyable Galaxy’s Edge book so far. I seriously thought about bumping it up to a 5star, but upon consideration, it’s just not “quite” there. At the same time, something about the story line grabbed me harder than the previous ones and just made me do the Manly Fist Pump and Macho Man Dance (said maneuvers are highly classified amongst the male part of the world’s population and should not be shown to just anyone). Goth Sullus having a larger part to play was definitely up there. I did have to laugh and laugh loud and uproariously, when the Ring of Power made it’s appearance. I bet Anspach and Cole (the authors) had a blast writing that Tolkien homage into their Star Wars’esque universe. One more nod to a fandom, a “we get you” kind of scene.

One thing that was hard was watching the Galactic Republic fall apart and Legionnaires be destroyed. Seeing how the damned politicians had been in league with Goth Sullus from the start and how Sullus was simply outmaneuvering almost everyone, that was hard. You want to think that the good guys have an ace in the hole, someone who can come out of no-where to save the day, like Luke Skywalker. The thing is, here? Luke Skywalker is a little girl with a temper and whose daddy was killed. Gotta admit, things aren’t looking too good. Plus, the destruction of the Legion as a galactic wide fighting force really cuts out the heart of those fighting against Sullus and his minions.

Of course, all this just means that things are going to get really awesome. With Sullus becoming an amalgam of Sith, Sauron and Cylon (oh, did I forget to mention that the One Ring was created by machine intelligence?), how can it not help but be awesome?

Anspach and Cole continue to impress me with their story telling acumen. It is exactly what I want and in turn makes me angry, has me chortling with glee, has me Macho Man dancing and then lying down wondering how everything is going to be ok. Just fantastic and I am loving this.

I have decided to give this series the “Favorite” tag. It has definitely earned it!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 6 ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookhype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 6
Series: Yotsuba&! #6
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 208
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Recycling

Yotsuba & The Bicycle

Yotsuba & Pottering Around

Yotsuba & Friday

Yotsuba & Milk

Yotsuba & Delivering

Yotsuba & The Bookshelf

My Thoughts:

My reading of Yotsuba has taken on a ritualistic aspect in my life. While these posts go up for Manga Monday, I read them the Saturday before. I wake up, peruse wordpress and deal with the various notifications and new posts. Then I start up Calibre, grab a Pina Colada Bang and sit down on the couch. I open my “Manga” review template in OpenOffice and begin reading.

I fill out each chapter heading in the template as I come to them in the manga and decide which picture I want to include. All the while I’m sipping on cold Bang and reading the antics of Yotsuba. It is soothing, relaxing and something I look forward too. Because I don’t do these every Monday the ritual doesn’t become over used and I can’t accidentally unleash Unspeakable Cosmic Horrors on an unsuspecting world. Of course, maybe a Yotsuba inspired Cosmic Horror wouldn’t be so bad?

Anyway, this volume centers around Yotsuba getting her first bicycle and her adventures. Some good, some bad. Yanda, the Arch Enemy, makes another appearance and Yotsuba enjoys eating her hamburger in his face while he has to make do with instant ramen.

One of the strengths of this manga are the supporting characters. I put this picture of her dad to show what kind of home life Yotsuba is growing up in. He’s super laid back and just is himself. At the same time he’s a very careful father. He’s one of the safety bungees that Yotsuba can bounce off of without ever knowing how close to danger she ever came. It is what you want in a parent.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Tale of Two Cities ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A Tale of Two Cities
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 368
Words: 136.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In 1775, a man flags down the nightly mail-coach on its route from London to Dover. The man is Jerry Cruncher, an employee of Tellson’s Bank in London; he carries a message for Jarvis Lorry, a passenger and one of the bank’s managers. Lorry sends Jerry back to deliver a cryptic response to the bank: “Recalled to Life.” The message refers to Alexandre Manette, a French physician who has been released from the Bastille after an 18-year imprisonment. Once Lorry arrives in Dover, he meets Dr. Manette’s daughter Lucie and her governess, Miss Pross. Lucie has believed her father to be dead, and faints at the news that he is alive; Lorry takes her to France to reunite with her father.

In the Paris neighbourhood of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Dr. Manette has been given lodgings by his former servant Ernest Defarge and his wife Therese, owners of a wine shop. Lorry and Lucie find him in a small garret, where he spends much of his time making shoes – a skill he learned in prison – which he uses to distract himself from his thoughts and which has become an obsession for him. He does not recognise Lucie at first but does eventually see the resemblance to her mother through her blue eyes and long golden hair, a strand of which he found on his sleeve when he was imprisoned. Lorry and Lucie take him back to England.

Book the Second: The Golden Thread

In 1780, French émigré Charles Darnay is on trial for treason against the British Crown. The key witnesses against him are two British spies, John Barsad and Roger Cly, who claim that Darnay gave information about British troops in North America to the French. Under cross-examination by Mr. Stryver, the barrister defending Darnay, Barsad claims that he would recognise Darnay anywhere. Stryver points out his colleague, Sydney Carton, who bears a strong resemblance to Darnay, and Barsad admits that the two men look nearly identical. With Barsad’s eyewitness testimony now discredited, Darnay is acquitted.

In Paris, the hated and abusive Marquis St. Evrémonde orders his carriage driven recklessly fast through the crowded streets, hitting and killing the child of Gaspard in Saint Antoine. The Marquis throws a coin to Gaspard to compensate him for his loss. Defarge, having observed the incident, comes forth to comfort the distraught father, saying the child would be worse off alive. This piece of wisdom pleases the Marquis, who throws a coin to Defarge also. As the Marquis departs, a coin is flung back into his carriage.

Arriving at his country château, the Marquis meets his nephew and heir, Darnay. Out of disgust with his aristocratic family, the nephew has shed his real surname (St. Evrémonde) and anglicised his mother’s maiden name, D’Aulnais, to Darnay.[6] The following passage records the Marquis’ principles of aristocratic superiority:

“Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend,” observed the Marquis, “will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof,” looking up to it, “shuts out the sky.”[7]

That night, Gaspard, who followed the Marquis to his château by riding on the underside of the carriage, stabs and kills him in his sleep. Gaspard leaves a note on the knife saying, “Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES.”[8] After nearly a year on the run, he is caught and hanged above the village well.

In London, Darnay asks for Dr. Manette’s permission to wed Lucie, but Carton confesses his love to Lucie as well. Knowing she will not love him in return, Carton promises to “embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you”.[9] Stryver considers proposing marriage to Lucie, but Lorry talks him out of the idea.

On the morning of the marriage, Darnay reveals his real name and family lineage to Dr. Manette, a detail he had been asked to withhold until that day. In consequence, Dr. Manette reverts to his obsessive shoemaking after the couple leave for their honeymoon. He returns to sanity before their return, and the whole incident is kept secret from Lucie. Lorry and Miss Pross destroy the shoemaking bench and tools, which Dr. Manette had brought with him from Paris.

As time passes in England, Lucie and Charles begin to raise a family, a son (who dies in childhood) and a daughter, little Lucie. Lorry finds a second home and a sort of family with the Darnays. Stryver marries a rich widow with three children and becomes even more insufferable as his ambitions begin to be realised. Carton, even though he seldom visits, is accepted as a close friend of the family and becomes a special favourite of little Lucie.

In July 1789, the Defarges help to lead the storming of the Bastille, a symbol of royal tyranny. Defarge enters Dr. Manette’s former cell, “One Hundred and Five, North Tower,”[10] and searches it thoroughly. Throughout the countryside, local officials and other representatives of the aristocracy are dragged from their homes to be killed, and the St. Evrémonde château is burned to the ground.

In 1792, Lorry decides to travel to Paris to collect important documents from the Tellson’s branch in that city and place them in safekeeping against the chaos of the French Revolution. Darnay intercepts a letter written by Gabelle, one of his uncle’s servants who has been imprisoned by the revolutionaries, pleading for the Marquis to help secure his release. Without telling his family or revealing his position as the new Marquis, Darnay sets out for Paris.

Book the Third: The Track of a Storm

Shortly after Darnay arrives in Paris, he is denounced for being an emigrated aristocrat from France and jailed in La Force Prison.[11] Dr. Manette, Lucie, little Lucie, Jerry, and Miss Pross travel to Paris and meet Lorry to try to free Darnay. A year and three months pass, and Darnay is finally tried.

Dr Manette, viewed as a hero for his imprisonment in the Bastille, testifies on Darnay’s behalf at his trial. Darnay is released, only to be arrested again later that day. A new trial begins the following day, under new charges brought by the Defarges and a third individual who is soon revealed as Dr Manette. He had written an account of his imprisonment at the hands of Darnay’s father and hidden it in his cell; Defarge found it while searching the cell during the storming of the Bastille.

While running errands with Jerry, Miss Pross is amazed to see her long-lost brother Solomon, but he does not want to be recognised in public. Carton suddenly steps forward from the shadows and identifies Solomon as Barsad, one of the spies who tried to frame Darnay for treason at his trial in 1780. Jerry remembers that he has seen Solomon with Cly, the other key witness at the trial, and that Cly had faked his death to escape England. By threatening to denounce Solomon to the revolutionary tribunal as a Briton, Carton blackmails him into helping with a plan.

At the tribunal, Defarge identifies Darnay as the nephew of the dead Marquis St. Evrémonde and reads Dr Manette’s letter. Defarge had learned Darnay’s lineage from Solomon during the latter’s visit to the wine shop several years earlier. The letter describes Dr Manette’s imprisonment at the hands of Darnay’s father and uncle for trying to report their crimes against a peasant family. Darnay’s uncle had become infatuated with a girl, whom he had kidnapped and raped; despite Dr. Manette’s attempt to save her, she died. The uncle killed her husband by working him to death, and her father died from a heart attack upon being informed of what had happened. Before he died defending the family honour, the brother of the raped peasant had hidden the last member of the family, his younger sister. The Evrémonde brothers imprisoned Dr. Manette after he refused their offer of a bribe to keep quiet. He concludes his letter by condemning the Evrémondes, “them and their descendants, to the last of their race.”[12] Dr. Manette is horrified, but he is not allowed to retract his statement. Darnay is sent to the Conciergerie and sentenced to be guillotined the next day.

Carton wanders into the Defarges’ wine shop, where he overhears Madame Defarge talking about her plans to have both Lucie and little Lucie condemned. Carton discovers that Madame Defarge was the surviving sister of the peasant family savaged by the Evrémondes.[13] At night, when Dr. Manette returns, shattered after spending the day in many failed attempts to save Darnay’s life, he falls into an obsessive search for his shoemaking implements. Carton urges Lorry to flee Paris with Lucie, her father, and Little Lucie, asking them to leave as soon as he joins.

Shortly before the executions are to begin, Solomon sneaks Carton into the prison for a visit with Darnay. The two men trade clothes, and Carton drugs Darnay and has Solomon carry him out. Carton has decided to be executed in his place, taking advantage of their similar appearances, and has given his own identification papers to Lorry to present on Darnay’s behalf. Following Carton’s earlier instructions, the family and Lorry flee to England with Darnay, who gradually regains consciousness during the journey.

Meanwhile, Madame Defarge, armed with a dagger and pistol, goes to the Manette residence, hoping to apprehend Lucie and little Lucie and bring them in for execution. However, the family is already gone and Miss Pross stays behind to confront and delay Madame Defarge. As the two women struggle, Madame Defarge’s pistol discharges, killing her and causing Miss Pross to go permanently deaf from noise and shock.

As Carton waits to board the tumbril that will take him to his execution, he is approached by another prisoner, a seamstress who had been incarcerated with Darnay. She mistakes Carton for him, but realises the truth upon seeing him at close range. Awed by his unselfish courage and sacrifice, she asks to stay close to him and he agrees. Upon their arrival at the guillotine, Carton comforts her, telling her that their ends will be quick and that the worries of their lives will not follow them into “the better land where … [they] will be mercifully sheltered.” He is guillotined immediately after the seamstress, a final prophetic thought running through his mind.

My Thoughts:

When I read this back in 2014, I was looking more at Sydney Carton and his story of redemption of a wasted life. I was impressed beyond words. This time around, I wanted to focus more on Charles Darnay, the french noble who renounced his family name and their degenerative lifestyle.

What a difference that made and sadly, not for the better. I’m still giving this 5 stars because it is a great story, but Darnay is no hero and really, if his part could have been even smaller it would have been better. He starts out with potential, defying his cruel uncle and giving up all of his inheritance and even his name to move to England to make an honest living working. Considering that the working man was below even a slave in the French Aristocracy’s view, Darnay was making a huge sacrifice.

Unfortunately, but true to form, Darnay still acts like an Aristocrat. When he receives the letter from the bailiff of his former estates, he takes it as his responsibility to free the man, even though Darnay had renounced his estates and had nothing to do with what was going on. He acted like an aristocrat when he chose to not talk about this to his wife or his father-in-law and skipped off to France. He acted like an aristocrat while in prison and just letting things happen. By the end, I was pretty disgusted with Ol’ Charley and if it weren’t for sympathy for his wife, I’d have told Sydney to let him die and scarper off to safer climes.

Lucie, Darnay’s wife IS a sympathetic character as is her father, the former Bastille prisoner. Dickens did an admirable job of painting them in a light that was gentle and soft but without making them weak and ineffectual.

Finally, we come to Madame Defarge. What a monstrously evil woman. Her bloodlust to kill Darnay and any that surround him was made all the more reprehensible by her backstory. While revenge against Darnay’s uncle is more than understandable, Madame Defarge perverts even that bit of possible sympathy by the audience by trying to kill Lucie and her daughter and Lucie’s father, all because they are associated with Darnay. Dickens shows in no uncertain terms that hatred cannot be reasoned with. You cannot talk someone out of hate, you cannot educate someone out of hate. Hate like that can only be changed supernaturally, by the power of God. It’s just not within us humans to be able to fix something so fundamentally broke within us.

This is exactly why I like Dickens so much. Every time I read his books I get something different. And I still enjoy the book too 🙂

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mairelon the Magician (Magic and Malice #1) ★★★★☆


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Title: Mairelon the Magician
Series: Magic and Malice #1
Author: Patricia Wrede
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 185
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

Kim, a 16 year old street rat is realizing she can no longer hide the fact that she’s a girl. She takes on a final job of spying on a market magician to earn enough money to give her time to figure out what she can do. She is caught but instead of being punished, Mairelon offers her a job of being his apprentice, as he is a real magician and not a street performer.

It becomes obvious to Kim that Mairelon is MUCH more than just a magician though. His references to his time abroad, his connections to various muckety-mucks make Kim aware that Mairelon has been working for the government on the highest levels. And he’s some sort of lord as well.

The story centers around the recovery of the Saltash dinner ware. A platter, a bowl and 4 balls, which when combined, give the user the ability to compel their victims to tell the absolute truth. The British government wants it but will settle for it not falling into French hands. Kim and Mairelon are chasing down the platter in this story and have lots of adventures.

In the end, it is revealed that Kim has a natural affinity for magic and Mairelon adopts her as his ward so he can live in the same house to teach her magic without scandalizing “Society”.

My Thoughts:

I originally read the Mairelon duology (I’ll be reading book 2 in a month or so) back in the 90’s when the Science Fiction Book Club released a hardcover omnibus edition. I still own that baby. I then re-read the duology in 2000 when I was beginning my record keeping. I won’t be bothering to include a link, as it consists of just naming what genre the book was in 😀

This is that elusive middle grade book that is written well enough to still be read and enjoyed by adults. Wrede seems to excel at that particular skill.

Fun, enjoyable, easy on the brain (well, except when Mairelon or somebody else starts monologuing and connecting all the dots) and a sure fire pleasure for fans of Regency Era England. My guess is that Wrede was aiming for “Jane Austen with Magic for Kids”. She hit the mark, that is for sure. Since I’m a big Austen fan, this worked fantastic.

Unfortunately, the one downside to this book, which isn’t really a big thing, is the cover. That is supposed to be Kim on the cover, in her “street urchin boy” disguise. While it is tough to see in the small picture I include here, when I look at it in a larger format, it becomes really horrible. Kim has this squinty, “something” look where her eyes are just messed up. It’s unpleasant to look at. Plus, the byline of “Is it possible? Could his magic …. be real?” is just so wrong. Magicians are a part of the fabric of society in this book, so it would surprise anyone that Mairelon was a real magician.

Those are just quibbles though, because I feel like complaining about something. If you’re a fan of Austen, Regency Era England or Middle Grade Fantasy, go try this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.