Today I Read…Hollow Earth

Hollow EarthToday I read Hollow Earth by John and Carole E. Barrowman.

Twelve-year-old twins Matt and Em Calder love to draw, and they have a special gift–when they draw together, their drawings come to life. Their mother Sandie has told them never to reveal what they can do, and they understand that it’s dangerous to be different. But one hot and boring day they draw themselves into a picture of a river at The National Gallery, and Sandie panics and tells them to grab their emergency bags–they’re leaving London. They leave out the skylight as three mysterious people try to break down their front door.

Sandie takes the twins to the island of Auchinmurn in Scotland, where they finally meet their grandfather and learn the secret of their gift. The twins are Animares, people born with the ability to bring their artwork to life using their imaginations. But they are also the offspring of an Animare and her Guardian, her telepathically bonded protector–something that has never happened before, and that some people believe should never have been allowed to happen. The twins are learning more about their abilities every day, but they may not be learning fast enough. There are dangerous people who want to use the twins to open the way to Hollow Earth, the legendary place that holds all of the monsters and beasties and things that go bump in the night that have ever been created by Animares, and they’ll stop at nothing to do so. And one of them may be the twins’ long-lost father…

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I’ll admit it, I’m a fangirl. I discovered John Barrowman through his acting work, as Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and Torchwood, and I’ve been following his career ever since. I’ve read and highly enjoyed his two autobiographies, Anything Goes and I Am What I Am, both co-written with his sister Carole. They tell lively and entertaining anecdotes from Barrowman’s life, though not always ones that show him in the most dignified light, but they feel honest. I was excited to read their first fiction work together. Since the publication of Hollow Earth they’ve also written a Torchwood novel, Exodus Code, and a sequel to Hollow Earth named Bone Quill, both of which are on my to-read list.

That aside, this is a lively adventure story, with enough mystery to keep it interesting and set up the next book nicely. Every time the twins learn something about their powers and their family, there is something more to discover. Their gifts, the others like them, the council that oversees the Animares, their missing father who abandoned them as infants, their grandfather, the history of Auchinmurn island, the Hollow Earth Society, the existence of Hollow Earth…

The book has loyal friends, dastardly villains willing to use children to accomplish their probably dastardly plans (they’re mysterious plans, we’re not quite sure, but what other plans would dastardly villains have?), mythical beasts, long-forgotten history, and art and imagination that can change reality. You can see the authors’ interest in the imaginations of creative people and what they create using those imaginations. This book will appeal to anyone who still wishes that they will one day stumble across a silk-bound book named The Neverending Story.

The chapters are fairly short, and the language isn’t too complicated. Matt and Em are twelve, turning thirteen at the end of the book, and the violence isn’t terribly graphic- they find people injured but rarely see actual violence. I’d probably recommend this for about a grade 6-8 reading level.

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Twelve-year-old twins Matt and Em Calder were sitting on a hard, wooden bench. The gallery was quiet and not yet open to the public, but they were not happy. Their mum had made promises that morning about their plans for this sweltering day, and they didn’t remember having to stop to look at paintings being one of them.

Setting their backpacks on the floor in front of them, the twins glared at their mother.

‘Behave yourselves,’ Sandie warned. ‘Do not leave this bench. Do not even think about it. I mean it. I’ll only be gone ten minutes at the most. I’ll be right over there.’

She pointed to the tall, yellow-haired man in a dark suit, holding a stack of books in his arms. The man dipped his head towards them in his usual acknowledgment. Em smiled politely, but Matt turned away, more interested in a woman wheeling a trolley with a wooden crate, the size and shape of a painting, strapped to it through the next gallery. A museum guard followed close behind her. At the lift, the guard swiped a key-card across the security pad. The doors opened. Dismissing the guard’s help with a wave of her hand, the woman eased the trolley into the lift. The guard backed away, but as the doors were closing, he changed his mind, shoved his foot between them, and ducked into the lift with the woman and the painting.

‘Matt! Are you even listening to me?’

Matt slumped on the bench, shoving his sister to the edge as he did so.

‘This is a lovely painting to look at while you wait,’ Sandie went on. ‘It’s by Georges Seurat. He often painted using tiny dots instead of brush strokes.’

The twins frowned at her. In unison.

‘We know,’ said Em.

Sandie soldiered on. ‘I appreciate this isn’t what we’d got planned, but I need to take care of some business with—’ She cut herself off mid-sentence and changed tack. ‘How about when I’m finished with this meeting, we go swimming just like the boy in the painting?’ She put her leather messenger bag over her shoulder. ‘What do you say? Deal?’

‘Deal,’ said Em, who, in these situations at least, was always the first to agree.

Matt shrugged. ‘Whatever.’

They watched their mum walk over to the yellow-haired man and settle on a similar bench in the next gallery. The man leaned close to their mother as if about to share a secret with her; in response, Sandie flipped open the sketchbook she always carried, handing the man a sheet of paper she had tucked into one of the pages.

Boring.

Turning her attention back to the painting, Em leaned forward and squinted hard, trying to see all the dots without her bottom leaving the bench, while Matt emptied his backpack into the space between them – the pens, chalk and charcoal he always carried in a bashed biscuit tin, his iPod, headphones, two Captain America comics, assorted sweet wrappers, a pack of bubble gum, an empty Coke can and a sketchpad. Tearing a sheet of paper from the pad, he handed Em a pen.

She shook her head.

‘Swimming would be a lot of fun,’ he said. ‘No one’s paying any attention to us.’

Em accepted the pen, and they began to draw.

The next thing the twins knew, they were in the painting, splashing in the cool, blue water of the River Seine with a boy in a red hat. He said his name was Pierre and spoke to them in French. The twins understood. He said he had only a few minutes to bathe before he had to get back to his work.

‘Is that your dog?’ Matt asked Pierre, worried that the dog would have nowhere to go when Pierre returned to his job. But Pierre didn’t answer the question, so Matt gave up and began splashing water on to the other men lounging on the bank. They ignored him.

Matt floated on his back for a while. He could feel Em splashing next to him. He looked up at the sky, but it wasn’t there, and he thought he knew why – and then they were suddenly both sopping wet and lying in a big puddle on the floor in front of the painting in the National Gallery. Two very angry guards were rushing towards them with Sandie close on their heels. The yellow-haired man was gone.

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Today I Read…Battle Magic

Battle MagicToday I read Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce, the third book in the Circle Reforged series. It follows The Will of the Empress and to a greater degree Melting Stones. This series follows Pierce’s Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens quartets.

Plant mage Briar Moss, his teacher Dedicate Rosethorn, and his student Evumeimei Dingzai are still traveling the world, learning about exotic plants and seeing far-off gardens. While in the peaceful land of Gyongxe, they receive a personal invitation from the warlike Emperor of nearby Yanjing to see his gardens. They dare not refuse and offend so powerful a monarch, and his gardens are known throughout the civilized world. While there, they soon learn that perfection comes at a price- the eradication of everything and everyone who dares to defy his slightest whim, even a diseased plant that Briar and Rosethorn cure.

Soon Briar and his family are caught up in a terrible war, trying to stop Emperor Weishu from invading Gyongxe, where the gods are closer to the world than anywhere else. They will all suffer much in the name of protecting the innocent.

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Tamora Pierce is one of my favourite authors, and has been for about two decades. I remember being in elementary school and walking to the bookmobile to ask for her Song of the Lioness books starting with Alanna: The First Adventure. I’ve met her twice at book signings and she’s been lovely. Which is why it disappoints me to say that this is my least favourite book by her. It feels rushed and crowded, like she’s trying to cram two books into one.

I’ve read her wars before, and she’s always built it up, let you spend time with the characters and learn to care about them, and even with the characters you know you spend time learning how they react in a war situation. You reach the climax and spend the time on that, and then learn about the aftermath. It was always satisfying before. Now, Briar and Rosethorn and Evvy spend all their time rushing around and things happen and then more things happen and then more things happen and there’s never time to process for the reader, and we skim through the character processing. It doesn’t help that at one point they go on different quests and we keep switching between the three different points of view too rapidly.

Another big problem is the character of Parahan, a long-lost prince who is the slave of Emperor Weishu when we meet him. Parahan is a complete Marty Sue. We rush straight over Briar et al. getting to know him and we the reader are just told that he’s a great guy and that they’re all the best of friends. He’s a great warrior, betrayed by his uncle and sold into slavery so the wicked uncle can take power; has a beautiful warrior princess of a twin sister who flirts with Briar; he’s smart, strong, kind; and he needs to be rescued by Evvy and Briar to kick-start the Emperor being furious with them. It’s annoying and unlike any other character that Pierce has written before. Even Liam the Shang Dragon in Lioness Rampant, introduced as a great warrior to help save the kingdom, instruct Alanna in a new fighting art, and give her a third romantic prospect was a better-rounded character than Parahan. Frankly, he’s annoying, and he keeps. showing. up.

I’m disappointed because I love Tamora Pierce’s work, and she’s a brilliant writer, and this just isn’t her best work. I expect more from her, because she’s carefully trained me as a reader over many years and many books to expect something wonderful, and this time I just don’t think I got it. But I’ll keep the faith and wait for her next book, but I’ll probably read the others in the meantime instead of reading Battle Magic again.

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“Eons ago all the Gyongxin flatland was a sea,” murmured the God-King. Slowly he straightened. His pen fell from his hand. “Then the Drimbakang mountain gods were born. They shoved their molten bodies up against the shore and dragged the Realms of the Sun with them.” He said it as if chanting an ancient tale, half awake, half sleeping.

Briar tried not to shiver. It felt as if every hair on his body were standing.

The God-King continued in that unearthly voice. “Higher they drove the shores and the sea. Greater they grew, the youngest gods, clawing at the sky, rising toward the Sun and the Moon and the Stars. When they could grow no more, when they stood taller than any other mountain gods, the sea drained away between them, seeking its ocean mother. The immense shoreline forests of palm, cactus, and fern withered. Only firs, spruces, larches, junipers, and hemlocks thrive here, and rarely on the open plateau. Here the gods see everything. Gyongxe has nowhere to hide from the gods of this world.” He slumped. Briar was almost afraid to breathe until the younger boy blinked and straightened. Rubbing the back of his neck he looked at Briar sheepishly. “Did I go off? They never give me any warning, you know. I’ve told them and told them that it frightens people when they grab me, but gods and spirits don’t really understand fear.”

“Do they do that to you often?” Briar whispered, goose bumps rippling all across his skin.

“Often enough. The land is crowded with them, what with one thing and another, and I can never tell when one of them will work through me.”

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Parahan released him with a sigh. “I am only envious,” he confessed. “Had I been a mage of your skills, instead of a spoiled warrior prince, I might have stopped my uncle from selling me to the emperor. You were wondering about my attire.” He shook his wrists, making his chains jingle.

This interested Rosethorn. “Your uncle sold you?”

Parahan grinned, displaying strong white teeth. “You should pity him. I know he would much rather have killed me so he would be sure to inherit my father’s throne someday. Sadly my uncle did not dare to do so.” Parahan looked out over the field. The horsemen were forming in brigades to either side of the great field. “In Kombanpur — where I come from, one of the Realms of the Sun — it is very bad luck to kill a twin. I have the good fortune to be one such, with my sister Soudamini. Actually I am not certain if my uncle believes in bad luck in general, or if he simply knows what would happen if Souda learned I was dead by his hand.” He winked one large brown eye at Evvy. “I’m the easygoing one. Souda is the battle cat.”

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She felt the ailing rosebush before she saw it. Immediately she and Briar stepped off the path. They’d just reached it — only a single branch showed brown and wilted blooms — when they heard Weishu thunder, “What is this?”

They stared at him as courtiers and mages fell to their knees and bowed until their foreheads touched the stone flags of the path. Six gardeners, who had been hanging back among the roses, ran forward to drop to the ground before Weishu and do the same. Briar looked at Rosethorn, waiting for instructions. She clasped her hands and watched the emperor, letting her power trickle gently into the ailing plant all the while. She could feel the touch of the wetlands fungus that had gotten into the roots and was eating it.

“What manner of care do you give our roses?” the emperor demanded. “How is it that we find an imperfect one on the very day we bring important nanshurs, greatnanshurs who know much about plants, to view them? You will be beaten until your backs run red! Head gardener!”

One of them looked up from the ground. He was trembling.

“Remove this wretched bush and burn it. Replace it with another that does not offend our eye,” Weishu ordered.

Rosethorn had heard enough. When the poor head gardener touched his forehead to the ground once more, she gave a slight bow. “If I may, Your Imperial Majesty?” she asked. The emperor nodded and she said, “There is no need to uproot this plant. It’s been attacked by a mold native to these lands, a fast-growing one. I can tell this damage happened overnight, and we are here quite early. How could your gardeners have known?”

Weishu looked down his nose at her. “It was their duty to know.”

Rosethorn tucked her hands inside the sleeves of her robe so he would not see she had clenched them into fists. Of all the silly replies! “Your Imperial Majesty, as a gardener you know how delicate roses can be, particularly out of their native climate. This province is lush and green most of the year, I am told, and very damp. The homelands of the rose are in the southern and eastern parts of the Pebbled Sea — dry lands. And like most things that are transplanted here, they grow ferociously fast. In growing fast, this rose helped the fungus grow.”

“The bush is fine now, Your Imperial Majesty,” Briar said, taking over smoothly. Rosethorn knew he must have seen she was struggling with her temper. She should not have to explain this to someone like the emperor, who claimed to know about gardening.

Briar gestured to the plant like a showman. It was green and glossy everywhere, the blooms a perfect red. “Healthy as ever. Healthier, because Rosethorn made it resistant to your local molds, Your Imperial Majesty,” Briar announced. Rosethorn wound threads of her own power throughout the roots of all the plants in the garden to ensure just that as Briar added, “I’ll wager your gardeners must run mad, fighting mold.”

Without raising their heads, the gardeners nodded rapidly.

“Rosethorn and I can fix that while we’re here, Most Charitable and Wise Majesty,” Briar said.

Rosethorn refused to give him the fish-eye as she usually did when her boy laid things on too thick. No one else would notice; this was the way they normally addressed the emperor. To her Briar sounded like the flattering, thieving imp who had stolen his way into her garden and workroom five years ago.

Briar told the emperor, “We’ve got advantages these poor fellows don’t. It would be our pleasure to do this for you.”

He looks like he swallowed sour milk, Rosethorn thought, watching the emperor. Then he was the smooth, unreadable emperor again.

“You cannot fight these illnesses?” he asked the gardeners.

The head gardener did not look up. “No, Glorious Son of the Gods, Protector of the Empire, Imperial Majesty. It is as they say. The heat and the wet of these southern lands, that make so many things grow so fast, also produce much that preys upon the roots and leaves.”

The emperor looked at his mages. “And you? You cannot stop this?”

They looked at one another with alarm. “We do not know, Great Son of the Gods,” said one, many of whose thin beads were colored green. “I would have to make a study of such things for the space of months, perhaps years. My field of expertise, as you know, is that of medicines and potions that may benefit Your August Majesty. It is well known that when something causes a plant in the gardens to sicken, that plant is simply destroyed.”

“Your Imperial Majesty, I don’t understand,” Rosethorn said, forcing herself not to sound as impatient as she felt. “There are many Living Circle Earth dedicates here in Yanjing, mages and non-mages, who have studied plant diseases all their lives. You have only to summon them.” She had been surprised at first that none of the local dedicates had come to visit her, but the maids in their pavilion had explained it was considered rude to meet guests before the emperor had done so.

Weishu smiled. “We shall have our people make appropriate inquiries,” he replied. “The truth of the matter is that the priests of the Living Circle and the priests of the gods of Yanjing, of our state religion, do not fare well together. We fear that, should we invite priests of the Living Circle into our palace, the priests of our state religion would make trouble. It is better for our subjects to be peacefully guided by our priests, keeping harmony in our palace.”

Rosethorn gazed up at the emperor’s unreadably smooth face. His explanation was believable, but she did not trust it. She suggested politely, “Then, Your Imperial Majesty, for the sake of your gardeners and your plants, I recommend they speak to local farmers. They will know all about this sort of thing. Crossing them with local plants might strengthen the roots of your roses against common molds and funguses. It is something everyone could work on at your pleasure.”

“We could make a study of it ourself, given time,” Weishu replied with a smile. He looked at the gardeners. “Until Dedicate Initiate Rosethorn and Nanshur Briar find the leisure to return and see to the health of my roses, uproot that one and burn it.” He pointed to the bush that Rosethorn had saved.

She threw herself in front of it as the gardeners scrambled to their feet. “Imperial Majesty, why?” she demanded, shocked. “It’s healthy now — healthier than ever! There’s no reason to kill it!”

“There is every reason,” he told her. “It failed us at the moment of a test, when we came to show the splendor of our works to a foreign guest. Anything that does not present itself in glory and perfection betrays us and must be destroyed.”

“But you weren’t betrayed!” Rosethorn argued, thinking fast. What would satisfy this absolute ruler? “We have never seen such splendid gardens — have we, Briar?” He shook his head. He’d gone to her side and was keeping an eye on the gardeners. They had yet to notice the tiny green shoots sprouting through the dirt at their feet. She glanced hurriedly at Briar and then at the bits of green.

He closed his eyes briefly. The green sprouts shrank into the earth, seemingly before anyone noticed they were there.

“We’d like your permission to sketch the roses, because we won’t be able to describe them,” Rosethorn told Weishu quickly. “The king of Bihan will weep with envy when we tell him about your rose gardens and lily ponds. This plant didn’t fail you. If you approve, we can create a new color for you from its blooms. One that will breed true, that will be only yours forever.”

He hesitated. She had tempted him. “We would take it as a great favor indeed if you were to give us such a gift,” Weishu said with a broad smile. Then the smile vanished. Rosethorn hated the way these people had schooled themselves to hide their true feelings behind a blank face. “But the plant dies,” Weishu said. “A flaw is not to be tolerated.”

A gardener must have laid a gloved hand on the bush when Briar was distracted: Rosethorn heard the plant’s cry when the man gripped it hard. She couldn’t bear it. She would have felt the rosebush’s pain as she walked away. Throwing herself to her hands and knees, she did as the Yanjing people did and touched her forehead to the earth. All around her the ground quivered as roots and sprouts strained to break through.

“A favor, Imperial Majesty!” Rosethorn cried. The bushes trembled as Briar’s temper flared. She wrapped her power around him for a moment, squeezing his magic gently in hers as a reminder to Briar to exercise control. Slowly, reluctantly, she felt him relax. As he calmed, so did the roses, sprouts, and roots.

To the emperor Rosethorn said, “It is flawed and an embarrassment to you, with your eagle’s eye. But to a humble dedicate from a temple far away it would be an incredible gift. I beg of you, will you let me have it, in memory of my audiences with the great emperor of all Yanjing? It would be an honor beyond all words.”

Nothing seemed to move, not even the air. Finally the emperor said, “You truly believe this.”

“I truly believe this,” Rosethorn said in agreement.

After a long moment’s consideration, Weishu told Rosethorn, “This plant will be in your pavilion, with a suitable container, when you return there today. You will carry this thing all those miles home with you?”

Rosethorn straightened to her knees. “It would be my honor,” she replied. Her back had gone stiff on the ground; she struggled to get one leg up so she could stand. Briar lunged to help her. To the boy’s surprise and Rosethorn’s, the emperor himself grasped the arm that Briar did not. Gently they helped her to rise. Once she was on her feet, Briar let her go.

The emperor threaded Rosethorn’s arm through his. “Have you a thought as to the color and shape for our rose?” he asked. “Or is it too soon to inquire?”

Today I Read…High Wizardry, the New Millennium Edition

HIgh Wizardry NMEToday I read High Wizardry, the new Millennium Edition, by Diane Duane, the third book in the Young Wizards series. You can buy it from her ebookstore here.

Dairine has been jealous that her big sister Nita and Nita’s friend Kit are wizards–after all, Dairine is the huge Star Wars fan! She should get to be a Jedi! But the new computer arrives today, so she’ll forgive Nita for now, because new computer!

But it’s got some kind of weird program on it–something that looks an awful lot like Nita’s wizardry manual. Suddenly Dairine has magic, and a whole universe to explore. So what’s a wannabe-Jedi to do but go hunting for Darth Vader? The problem is, when you go hunting for evil, you’re sure to find it…

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This was the book that I thought would need the most updating, since it contains so much technology that has changed over the last 20+ years. However, on reading it the book doesn’t really require as many changes as I thought. The technology functions the same way–it’s more the names and details. For example, instead of listening to a Walkman Nita now uses her mp3 player on the moon. She still listens to Steve Perry, but she adds Coldplay and Pink CDs to her room instead of records. The new computer no longer uses DOS, but it still runs the same programs, just with more familiar names to this generation of readers (most of whom are probably going “what’s DOS?” Be glad you don’t know).

Dairine really becomes a fully fleshed character in this book. In the previous ones, she was the annoyingly smart little sister–here, she is still the annoyingly smart little sister, but she gets to explain why it’s so important for her to be smart. Dairine knows that knowing things can help you understand the universe, and help protect you from getting hurt. Knowledge is power, and Dairine needs to know–reading and computers are her ways to help her know. Fiction, nonfiction, science, mythology, computer science, martial arts–she wants to know, and she wants to know now. And this need gives her a way to connect with the race of computer wizards that she helps to be born–they want to know too, and Dairine gives them everything she has and everything she is, because she understands that need. I think every reader knows that need–just one more chapter, because I need to know what happens next.

Maybe that was the Lone Power’s problem all along–It didn’t like the chapter It was reading, when the other Powers refused to listen to It’s ideas, so It stopped reading the book. It kept peddling It’s ideas about death and pain and loss to all of the species, and It tries to convince the computer wizards to stop all life everywhere instead of letting them change as they will. It’s not until Dairine comes along and convinces them that different life is still life that It is defeated and redeemed and begins to change. I love the Lone Power’s sister–Athena was always my favourite Olympian. She ties together various archetypes and mythologies, and makes it clear that they are the same story, and that the story has been going on for a very long time, and that now it is time for the arc to end–time for the devil to return to heaven and help unmake his work. But the story still isn’t over, because there is a lot of cleaning up to do. It’s a nice idea–that evil can always be redeemed, if good is willing to offer it a chance, and if evil is willing to take that chance.

I’ve been reading and rereading this series for more than 20 years, since I first found So You Want to Be a Wizard in my public library in elementary school. (Yes, I read the Oath out loud. No, I never became a wizard. Yes, I still read it out loud every so often and hope this time it works.) It’s still my favourite, and every time I read the books I think of something new–something I never thought of before, because I am different than the last time I read it. Duane is working on book 10 right now Games Wizards Play, according to the Young Wizards website. There’s no estimated publication date yet, but I can’t wait–but I will, because I know that it will be worth waiting for.

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Like so many other human beings, Dairine made her first major decision about life and the world quite early; at the age of three, in fact. She’d seen Nita (then six years old) go away to kindergarten for the first time, and at the end of the day come back crying because she hadn’t known the answers to some of the questions the teacher asked her.

Nita’s crying had upset Dairine more than anything else in her short life. It had instantly become plain to Dairine’s three-year-old mind that the world was a dangerous place if you didn’t know things, a place that would make you unhappy if it could. Right there she decided that she was not going to be one of the unhappy ones.

So she got smart. She started out by working to keep her ears and eyes open, noticing everything. Not surprisingly, Dairine’s senses became abnormally sharp, and stayed that way. She found out how to read by the time she was four… just how, she never remembered: but at five she was already working her way through the encyclopedias her parents had bought for Nita. The first time they caught her at it—reading aloud to herself from a Britannica article on taxonomy, and sounding out the longer words—her mom and dad were shocked, though for a long time Dairine couldn’t understand why. It had never occurred to her that you could use what you knew, use even the knowing itself, to make people feel things… perhaps even to make themdo things.

For fear of her parents getting upset and maybe stopping her, until she was five or so Dairine kept her reading out of their sight as much as she could; for the thought of being kept away from books terrified her. Most of what moved Dairine was sheer delight of learning, the great openness of the world that reading offered her, even though she herself wasn’t free to explore the world yet. But there was also that obscure certainty, buried under the months and years since the decision, that the sure way to make the world work for you was to know everything. Dairine sat home and busied herself with conquering the world.

Eventually it came time for her to go off to kindergarten. Remembering Nita, her parents were braced for the worst, but not at all for Dairine’s scowling, annoyed response when she came home. “They won’t pay attention to what I tell them,” Dairine said. “Yet.” And off she went to read, leaving her mother and father staring at each other.

School went on, and time; and after Dairine sailed her way effortlessly through the first couple of grades, she was put into an advanced track. She knew (having heard a couple of her mother’s phone conversations with the school’s psychiatrist) that her mom and dad were concerned about this. But Dairine had gone out of her way to charm the poor guy, as well as taking time to impress upon him that he wasn’t dealing with some fragile flower, but a strongminded kid who had no intention of letting the older ones in the same track steamroll her. Once the new track placement took effect in third grade, she started to relax a little: having (as it were) received her school’s stamp of approval—as if she needed it—nobody would now find her reading habits unusual.

Then Dairine was able to really let her reading cut loose. Every day after school, she would hit the little local library (right across the street) and soon enough had read everything in the kids’ library downstairs at the rate of about six books a day. Then—after the concerned librarian got permission from Dairine’s parents—she read through the whole adult collection, a touch more slowly. Her mom and dad thought it would be a shame to stifle such an active curiosity. Dairine considered this opinion wise, and kept reading, trying not to think of the time, not too far away, when she would exhaust the adult books (for she wasn’t yet allowed to go to the big township library by herself).Still, you could always order them in by interlibrary loan, and from much further afield… even from the New York Public Library, where there were eight million volumes on tap. Dairine admitted that it might take even her a while to work through all of those.

Then, though, things changed seriously in two very different ways. First, the little local library finally got its computers installed—simple downmarket machines though they were—and its Internet connection going: and her life shifted dramatically as she was released into whole new realms of knowledge, fresh and immediate, that gave even the books a run for their money. And second, Dairine started to notice mass media, and a whole new sheaf of dreams abruptly came alive.

In reading straight through the children’s library she’d ingested a huge number of folk tales and fairy tales. They hadn’t had that much effect on her. But when she first got a taste of the new trilogy of Star Wars movies, a peculiar upheaval took place in her heart; one that made her half crazy until she’d seen all the old ones, and left her desperately excited for the new, even the animated “Clone Wars” film that had just come out. Magic, great power for good and evil, she’d naturally read about in many other places. But the Star Wars movies somehow hit her with a terrible immediacy that the books had not; with a clear picture of power available even to the young sons of slaves or untrained farmboys on distant planets in the future, and therefore surely available to someone who knew things in the present. And if you could learn that supreme knowledge, and master the power that filled and shaped the universe, how could the world ever hurt you? For a good while Dairine’s reading suffered, and her daydreams were full of the singing blaze of lightsabers, the electric smell of blasterfire, and the shadow of ultimate evil in a black cloak, which after terrible combat she always defeated. Her sister teased her a lot less about it than Dairine expected.

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She never found out anything about the man who helped her. Nor did he ever find out anything more about her. Pausing by the door of the pay toilet, after being released from station security some hours later, and being telepathically sensitive (as so many hominids are), he could sense only that some considerable power had been successfully exercised there. Satisfied with that, he smiled to himself and went on about his travels, just one more of the billions of hominids moving about the worlds.

But many millions of light-years later, in some baking wilderness under a barren, brilliant sky, a bitterly weary Dairine sat down on a stone and cried for a while in shock at the utter strangeness of the universe, where unexpected evil lives side by side with unexpected kindness, and neither ever seems quite overcome by the other….

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Somewhere someone struck a bass gong: the sound of it went on and on, and in the immense sound Dairine fell over, slowly, watching the universe tilt past her with preternatural slowness. Only that brief flicker of her own senses was left her, and the bass note of one of her heartbeats sounding and sounding in her ears. Other senses awakened, filled her full. The feeling of living in a single second that stretched into years came back to her again; but this time she could perceive the life behind the stretched-out time as more than a frantic, penned, crippled intelligence screaming for contact. The manual software had educated the motherboard in seconds as it would have educated Dairine in hours or months; the motherboard had vast knowledge now, endless riches of data about wizardry and the worlds. What it did not have was first-hand experience of emotion, or the effects of entropy… or the way the world looked to slowlife.

Take it. Take it all. Please take it! They have to choose, and they don’t have the data, and I don’t know how else to give it to them, and if they make the wrong choice they’ll all die! Take it!

And the motherboard took: reached into what she considered the memory areas of Dairine’s data processor, and read her total life memory as it had read the manual.

Dairine lay there helpless and watched her life—watched it as people are supposed to see it pass before they die—and came to understand why such things should happen only once. There are reasons, the manual says, for the selectiveness of human memory; the mercy of the Powers aside, experiencing again and again the emotions coupled with memory would leave an entity no time for the emotions of the present moment. And then there is also the matter of pain.

But Dairine was caught in a situation the manual had never envisioned—a human being having her life totally experienced and analyzed by another form of life quite able to examine and sustain every moment of that life, in perfect recall. With the motherboard Dairine fell down into the dim twilight before her birth, heard echoes of voices, tasted for the first time the thumb it took her parents five years to get out of her mouth; lay blinking at a bright world, came to understand light and form; fought with gravity, and won, walking for the first time; smiled on purpose for the first time at the tall warm shape that held her close and said loving things to her without using sound: found out about words, especially No!; ecstatic, delighted, read words for the first time; saw her sister in tears, and felt for the first time a kind of pain that didn’t involve falling down and skinning your knees….

Pain. There was enough of it. Frustration, rage at the world that wouldn’t do what she wanted, fear of all kinds of things that she didn’t understand: fear of things she heard on the news at night, a world full of bombs that can kill everything, full of people hungry, people shooting at each other and hating each other; hearing her parents shouting downstairs while she huddled under the covers, feeling like the world was going to end—will they shoot each other now? Will they have a divorce? Finding out that her best friend is telling other kids stories about how she’s weird, and laughing at her behind her back; finding that she’s actually alone in the world when she thought she had at least a couple of people to stand beside; making new friends, but by force, by cleverness and doing things to make her popular, not because friends come to her naturally; making herself slightly feared, so that people would leave her alone to do the things she wants to without being hassled. Beating her fists against the walls of life, knowing that there’s more, more, but she can’t figure out what it is: then finding out that someone knows the secret.Wizardry. And it doesn’t come fast enough, it never comes fast enough, nothing ever does…. and now the price is going to be paid for that, because she doesn’t know enough to save these lovely glassy creature, her buddies, that she watched be born… helped be born… her children, sort of. She doesn’t know how to save them, and they’re going to be dead, everything’s going to be dead: pain!

It hurts too much, Dairine thought, lying there listening to her heartbeat slowly begin to die away. It hurts, I didn’t want them to get hurt! But it was part of the data, and it was too late now: the motherboard had it, and all the mobiles would have it too, the second she released Dairine. Why should they care about slowlife now? she thought in anguish and shame at the bitter outrush of what her life had been. Cruelty, pettiness, selfishness almost incredible— But too late now. The motherboard was saving the last and newest of the data to permanent memory. Any minute now the mobiles would start the program running and entropy would freeze, and life would stop being a word that had a meaning. The last nanosecond crawled by, echoes of the save rolled in the link. Nothing ever comes fast enough: end of file…

Dairine lay still and waited for it all to end.

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Kit sighed. “I wish Peach were here, we could have asked her.”

There was a brief silence. “Oh,” said a voice, “I’m not that easy to get rid of.”

And she was in the midst of them. Not Picchu. Or—was it not? The presence among them now might look human, though very tall, and she might not be winged… but there was still a sense of swiftness about her, rather like the sense you got about Picchu when you realized she was going to make a grab at your sandwich and either get a piece of it, or a piece of you. Swiftness, and power, and extreme beauty, so that Dairine and Nita were abashed, and both they and Kit stared at the new apparition with all their eyes. All this in a person burning even brighter than the light around them, and about nine feet tall; a person wearing a sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up, and blue jeans and sneakers, a person with long dark hair, and a sword naked in her hand, and the sword burning; and the fire of the sword and the fire of the sky were the same.

“You’re kidding,” Dairine said.

The woman laughed. “Often. But not at the moment.”

“You were Picchu?” Kit said.

“I’ve been a lot of people. You’d be surprised at the names.” She looked down with concern at the Lone One, who lay like a shadow on the burning ground. “But rarely have those namings turned out so well.”

This was a bit much for Nita. “You’re one of the Powers, aren’t you? We dragged You halfway across the Universe and busted our guts when You could have— Why didn’t You do something sooner?”

“We have been, for billions of years,” She said. “But We couldn’t do anything really permanent until Dairine got here.”

Dairine’s jaw dropped.

“And now,” She said, “if My brother here is amenable, We can start getting work done at last.”

Kit stared at her. “Your brother? Not much of a resemblance.”

“I told you I’ve been called by a lot of names.” She knelt down by the shadowy form that lay collapsed on the brightness. “Nearly as many as he’s been. Athene was one of mine. And Thor. And Prometheus. And Michael.”

“But you’re a girl!”

Nita threw Kit a wry look. The Power grinned. “These things are relative,” she said. “But even in your world it’s a byword. Men will fight bravely and be heroes, but for last-ditch defense against any odds… get a Mother.” She smiled. “Ask Dairine.”

Dairine, wiping her eyes, grinned back.

“I was the Winged Defender,” She said. “He was my twin brother, the beautiful one. Then… the disagreement happened, and there was war in Heaven, and all the roles changed. I led the others in casting Him out.” She shook her head sadly. “But I always wanted Him back… as did all the other Powers as well. So my role changed again. I became Prometheus, and many another. I was sent to you again and again, to put the Power in your hands: wizardry, and other powers. I never had to steal it: it was given me—from what Source, you well know. I had to help undo the evils my brother was doing, and again and again I intervened, in many worlds. But We had a plan: that one day, someone else would intervene, and He would stop doing them himself. All it took was the entropy He himself had invented….”

She looked at Dairine. “Billions of years, it took. All the redemptions there have ever been went toward this; from the greatest to the least. And finally in the fullness of time you came along, and took my role, of your own will, and woke up a race powerful enough to change the whole Universe, and gave them the fire.” She glanced up at the mobiles and smiled. “How could he resist such a bait? He took the gamble: he always does. And losing, he won.”

“He killed you, though,” Kit said.

“I struck him down once. I had to come where he could do the same to me, without my doing anything to stop him. Now the balance is even.”

The Defender reached down and put a hand into the shadow. “And we are going where such matters are transcended… where all his old pains will shift. Not forgotten, but transformed. Life in this universe will never have such a friend. And as for His inventions… look closely at Death, and see what it can become.”

The long, prone darkness began to burn, from inside, the way a mountain seems to do with sunset. “Brother,” the Defender said. “Come on. They’re waiting.”

The light began to shift. Nita looked up and around in wonder. The planet seemed to be going transparent around them. Or not specifically transparent: it was as if, one by one, other vistas were being added to it; seacoasts, forests, landscapes she couldn’t understand, cities, empty spaces that were dark and yet burned; ten other worlds, twenty, a hundred, in an ever deepening overlay that enriched without confusing. Alternate universes? Nita thought, and then thought perhaps not: it was too simple an explanation….

She looked at the Defender and found the same change and enriching in Her, and in the steadily brighter-burning form She bent over. Nita felt inclined to squeeze her eyes shut, not from pain but from a feeling of sheer insufficiency, of being involved in matters too high for her. “Never think it,” said the Defender, beneficent lightnings flickering about Her as other forms and other attributes came and went in glory; “never think We were made to be less than equals in the One. Someday you’ll surpass Us, and still be Our equals, and both You and We will rejoice at it. But later for that. Brother, get up now and see the way home. Let them see what they have triumphed over.”

The Lone Power rose up, slowly, like one discovering walking after a life of lameness. And Kit and Nita and Dairine all gazed, and speech left them. Nita’s eyes filled with tears as she wondered how darkness could be so bright. Lightbringer He was, and star of the morning; and like the morning star, He needed the darkness, and shone brighter for it.

Today I Read…City of Fallen Angels

Today I read City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare, the fourth book in The Mortal Instruments series. city-of-fallen-angels

Valentine and his son Jonathan are dead, the Clave is finally working together with the Downworlders, Clary is learning how to be a Shadowhunter, and Clary and Jace are free to be together. Everything should be perfect.

Only Jace has been having nightmares about hurting Clary and pushes her away, to protect her. Simon is being followed by agents of Camille, the ancient vampire queen who has been absent from the city and the clan for years. Simon’s new roommate Kyle is a werewolf, who is charged to protect Simon, except Kyle has secrets of his own. And someone is murdering babies in New York.

Looks like evil never really dies…

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Simon’s story really starts to take over from Clary and Jace in this book, which starts a new trilogy in the series. His powers as a Daylighter, a vampire who can walk in the sunlight, become more than a simple plot device in this book. Raphael and Camille both want to use him and his powers to their own ends, to support their power. Simon also has the Mark of Cain, which Clary put on him in the last book, but it is more fully explained what the consequences are. He has to deal with his mother thinking he is a monster and throwing him out of his house. He is dating two girls at once, Maia the werewolf and Isabelle the Shadowhunter, and neither of them knows about each other–until they find out. And his roommate Kyle is actually Jordan Kyle, the ex-boyfriend of Maia, who attacked her and turned her into a werewolf.

Clary and Jace’s epically angst-ridden relationship continues, even though Jace is pulling the macho stay-away-from-me-for-your-own-good-while-never-actually-explaining-what’s-wrong thing. The good thing is that Clary refuses to put up with his nonsense, even though she is going through training, investigating the babies’ murders, and preparing for her mother’s wedding to Luke at the same time.

The series is as complicated as a soap opera, with twists and turns and secrets and lies around every corner. However, it never gets so complicated that the reader loses interest.

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“So, did you have fun with Isabelle tonight?” Clary, her phone jammed against her ear, maneuvered herself carefully from one long beam to another. The beams were set twenty feet up in the rafters of the Institute’s attic, where the training room was located. Walking the beams was meant to teach you how to balance. Clary hated them. Her fear of heights made the whole business sickening, despite the flexible cord tied around her waist that was supposed to keep her from hitting the floor if she fell. “Have you told her about Maia yet?”

Simon made a faint, noncommittal noise that Clary knew meant “no.” She could hear music in the background; she could picture him lying on his bed, the stereo playing softly as he talked to her. He sounded tired, that sort of bone-deep tired she knew meant that his light tone didn’t reflect his mood. She’d asked him if he was all right several times at the beginning of the conversation, but he’d brushed away her concern. She snorted. “You’re playing with fire, Simon. I hope you know that.”

“I don’t know. Do you real y think it’s such a big deal?” Simon sounded plaintive. “I haven’t had a single conversation with Isabelle—or Maia—about dating exclusively.”

“Let me tell you something about girls.” Clary sat down on a beam, letting her legs dangle out into the air. The attic’s half-moon windows were open, and cool night air spilled in, chilling her sweaty skin. She had always thought the Shadowhunters trained in their tough, leatherlike gear, but as it turned out, that was for later training, which involved weapons. For the sort of training she was doing—exercises meant to increase her flexibility, speed, and sense of balance—she wore a light tank top and drawstring pants that reminded her of medical scrubs. “Even if you haven’t had the exclusivity conversation, they’re stil going to be mad if they find out you’re dating someone they know and you haven’t mentioned it. It’s a dating rule.”

“Well, how am I supposed to know that rule?”

“Everyone knows that rule.”

“I thought you were supposed to be on my side.”

“I am on your side!”

“So why aren’t you being more sympathetic?”

Clary switched the phone to her other ear and peered down into the shadows below her. Where was Jace? He’d gone to get another rope and said he’d be back in five minutes. Of course, if he caught her on the phone up here, he’d probably kill her. He was rarely in charge of her training—that was usually Maryse, Kadir, or various other members of the New York Conclave pinch-hitting until a replacement for the Institute’s previous tutor, Hodge, could be found—but when he was, he took it very seriously. “Because,” she said, “your problems are not real problems. You’re dating two beautiful girls at once. Think about it. That’s like . . . rock-star problems.”

“Having rock-star problems may be the closest I ever get to being an actual rock star.”

“No one told you to cal your band Salacious Mold, my friend.”

“We’re Millennium Lint now,” Simon protested.

“Look, just figure this out before the wedding. If they both think they’re going to it with you and they find out at the wedding that you’re dating them both, they’ll kill you.” She stood up. “And then my mom’s wedding will be ruined, and she’ll kill you. So you’ll be dead twice. Well, three times, technically . . .”

“I never told either of them I was going to the wedding with them!” Simon sounded panicked.

“Yes, but they’re going to expect you to. That’s why girls have boyfriends. So you have someone to take you to boring functions.” Clary moved out to the edge of the beam, looking down into the witchlight-illuminated shadows below. There was an old training circle chalked on the floor; it looked like a bull’s-eye. “Anyway, I have to jump off this beam now and possibly hurdle to my horrible death. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

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The moment Simon opened the door, he knew he’d miscalculated. He’d thought his mother would be asleep by now, but she wasn’t. She was awake, sitting in an armchair facing the front door, her phone on the table next to her, and she saw the blood on his jacket immediately. To his surprise she didn’t scream, but her hand flew to her mouth. “Simon.”

“It’s not my blood,” he said quickly. “I was over at Eric’s, and Matt had a nosebleed—”

“I don’t want to hear it.” That sharp tone was one she rarely used; it reminded him of the way she’d talked during those last months when his father had been sick, anxiety like a knife in her voice. “I don’t want to hear any more lies.”

Simon dropped his keys onto the table next to the door. “Mom—”

“All you do is tell me lies. I’m tired of it.”

“That’s not true,” he said, but he felt sick, knowing it was. “I just have a lot going on in my life right now.”

“I know you do.” His mother got to her feet; she had always been a skinny woman, and she looked bony now, her dark hair, the same color as his, streaked with more gray than he had remembered where it fell around her face.

“Come with me, young man. Now.”

Puzzled, Simon followed her into the small bright-yellow kitchen. His mother stopped and pointed toward the counter. “Care to explain those?”

Simon’s mouth went dry. Lined up along the counter like a row of toy soldiers were the bottles of blood that had been in the mini-fridge inside his closet. One was half-full, the others entirely full, the red liquid inside them shining like an accusation. She had also found the empty blood bags he had washed out and carefully stuffed inside a shopping bag before dumping them into his trash can. They were spread out over the counter too, like a grotesque decoration.

“I thought at first the bottles were wine,” Elaine Lewis said in a shaking voice. “Then I found the bags. So I opened one of the bottles. It’s blood. Isn’t it?”

Simon said nothing. His voice seemed to have fled.

“You’ve been acting so strangely lately,” his mother went on. “Out at all hours, you never eat, you barely sleep, you have friends I’ve never met, never heard of. You think I can’t tell when you’re lying to me? I can tell, Simon. I thought maybe you were on drugs.”

Simon found his voice. “So you searched my room?”

His mother flushed. “I had to! I thought—I thought if I found drugs there, I could help you, get you into a rehab program, but this?” She gestured wildly at the bottles. “I don’t even know what to think about this. What’s going on, Simon? Have you joined some kind of cult?”

Simon shook his head.

“Then, tell me,” his mother said, her lips trembling. “Because the only explanations I can think of are horrible and sick. Simon, please—”

“I’m a vampire,” Simon said. He had no idea how he had said it, or even why. But there it was. The words hung in the air between them like poisonous gas.

His mother’s knees seemed to give out, and she sank into a kitchen chair. “What did you say?” she breathed.

“I’m a vampire,” Simon said. “I’ve been one for about two months now. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. I didn’t know how.”

Elaine Lewis’s face was chalk white. “Vampires don’t exist, Simon.”

“Yes,” he said. “They do. Look, I didn’t ask to be a vampire. I was attacked. I didn’t have a choice. I’d change it if I could.” He thought wildly back to the pamphlet Clary had given him so long ago, the one about coming out to your parents. It had seemed like a funny analogy then; now it didn’t.

“You think you’re a vampire,” Simon’s mother said numbly. “You think you drink blood.”

“I do drink blood,” Simon said. “I drink animal blood.”

“But you’re a vegetarian.” His mother looked to be on the verge of tears.

“I was. I’m not now. I can’t be. Blood is what I live on.” Simon’s throat felt tight. “I’ve never hurt a person. I’d never drink someone’s blood. I’m still the same person. I’m still me.”

His mother seemed to be fighting for control. “Your new friends—are they vampires too?”

Simon thought of Isabelle, Maia, Jace. He couldn’t explain Shadowhunters and werewolves, too. It was too much. “No. But—they know I am one.”

“Did—did they give you drugs? Make you take something? Something that would make you hallucinate?” She seemed to have barely heard his answer.

“No. Mom, this is real.”

“It’s not real,” she whispered. “You think it’s real. Oh, God. Simon. I’m so sorry. I should have noticed. We’ll get you help. We’ll find someone.A doctor. Whatever it costs—”

“I can’t go to a doctor, Mom.”

“Yes, you can. You need to be somewhere. A hospital, maybe—”

He held out his wrist to her. “Feel my pulse,” he said.

She looked at him, bewildered. “What?”

“My pulse,” he said. “Take it. If I have one, okay. I’ll go to the hospital with you. If not, you have to believe me.”

She wiped the tears from her eyes and slowly reached to take his wrist. After so long taking care of Simon’s father when he’d been sick, she knew how to take a pulse as well as any nurse. She pressed her index fingertip to the inside of his wrist, and waited.

He watched as her face changed, from misery and upset to confusion, and then to terror. She stood up, dropping his hand, backing away from him. Her eyes were huge and dark in her white face. “What are you?”

Simon felt sick. “I told you. I’m a vampire.”

“You’re not my son. You’re not Simon.” She was shuddering. “What kind of living thing doesn’t have a pulse? What kind of monster are you? What have you done with my child?”

“I am Simon—” He took a step toward his mother.

She screamed. He had never heard her scream like that, and he never wanted to again. It was a horrible noise.

“Get away from me.” Her voice broke. “Don’t come any closer.” She began to whisper.

“Barukh ata Adonai sho’me’a t’fila . . .”

She was praying, Simon realized with a jolt. She was so terrified of him that she was praying that he would go away, be banished. And what was worse was that he could feel it. The name of God tightened his stomach and made his throat ache. She was right to pray, he thought, sick to his soul. He was cursed. He didn’t belong in the world. What kind of living thing doesn’t have a pulse?

Today I Read…Deep Wizardry, the New Millennium edition

deep wizardry nmeToday I read Deep Wizardry, the New Millennium edition by Diane Duane, the second in the Young Wizards series. You can find her ebooks for sale here.

After everything that happened in Manhattan the day the sun went out, Nita and Kit are looking forwards to a nice, quiet summer on the seaside. Until they rescue a whale from a pack of hungry sharks. S’reee is responsible for organizing a performance of the Song of Twelve- a re-enactment of the wizardry that bound the Lone One under the waters long ago, which must occasionally be renewed to keep it strong. Nita and Kit agree to participate, before they find out it’s not just a play. The spell must be sealed in blood, specifically the blood of the one playing the role of the Silent Lord–Nita. But if Nita doesn’t get eaten by the Master Shark, the Lone One will escape and millions of people, on the land and in the sea, will die. What’s a thirteen-year-old wizard to do?

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I’m finding it really interesting to read the New Millennium Editions. I’ve read all of the original editions, and the earlier ones have always felt a bit out of sync with the later books, since the nine that are currently out were written and published over 20 years. Technology has changed a great deal, and there are some details that get forgotten in between the books that Duane has fixed. For example, Nita wore glasses in the first book, but not in the rest of the series. Deep Wizardry clears it up by explaining that Nita is using wizardry to fix her eyes. A minor point, but it’s nice to tie the books more closely together, especially when you are reading them as a series and not as stand-alone novels. It also explains why Nita and Kit don’t just use cell phones (the beach is a no-signal area), which would be today’s reader’s first question when someone is looking for the pair.

This whole series really examines the idea of choice and personal responsibility. Nita is warned to read the fine print, but she agrees to participate in the Song of Twelve and to play the role of the Silent Lord without realizing that it is not a play, it is a re-enactment, and that whoever plays the Silent Lord really does die. Nita is 13–she doesn’t want to die, she is frantic to find a way to live, but if she doesn’t do what she promised she would do, millions of people will die. Is her life worth millions of other lives? Maybe she didn’t understand the promise that she made at the time, but she still promised. She was old enough to take the Oath of wizardry, to take the Oath of the Song of Twelve–she is old enough to face the consequences.

And sometimes people die. They do it all the time, as Carl points out. Dying is easy. And it’s not fair. But that’s what wizards are supposed to fight against–the death that isn’t fair, the fear and pain and anger and loneliness that the Lone Power created and forced upon the worlds. Taking his weapon and making it your own–that’s what the Silent Lord did, and it bound Him for thousands of years. Doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid.

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“I won’t take quite that long,” S’reee said. “You know about the Great War of the Powers, at the beginning of everything; and how the Lone Power invented death and pain, and tried to impose them on the whole universe, and the other Powers wouldn’t let It, and threw It out.”

“Even regular human beings have stories about it,” Kit said. He took off his windbreaker and shook it out, mostly on Nita.

“Hardly surprising,” S’reee said. “Everything that lives and tells stories has this story in one form or another. Well, after that war in the Above and Beyond, the Lone Power spent a long while in untraveled barren universes, recouping Its strength. Then It came back to our native universe, looking for some quiet, out-of-the-way place to try out Its new inventions. If there is such a thing, chance brought it here, where because thinking life was very new, this world was vulnerable. And the only place thinking life existed yet was the Sea. So the Lone One thought to come here and trick the Sea into accepting Death. Its sort of death, anyway—where all power and love are wasted into an endless darkness, lost forever.”

“Entropy,” Nita said.

“Yes. And any sea people It succeeded in tricking would be stuck with the death, the Great Death, forever. Now there was already a sort of death in the Sea, but only the kind where your body stops. Everyone knew it wasn’t permanent, and it didn’t hurt much; you might get eaten, but you would go on as part of someone else. No one was afraid of not being his own self anymore—I guess that’s the simplest way of putting it. That calm way of life drove the Lone Power wild with hate, and It swore to attach fear and pain to it and make it a lot more interesting.”

S’reee sighed. “The whales’ job then was what it is now: to be masters and caretakers for the fish and other sea life, the way you bipeds are supposed to be for dry-land life. The world being quite young then, the only wizards in the Sea as yet were whales. In fact it was so early on that there were only ten whale-wizards, all Seniors. Ni’hwinyii, they were called, the Lords of the Humors—”

“Oh, like in the old word for emotions,” Kit said. “Not ‘funny’ humor.”

“Exactly. Those ten whales ruled the Sea, under the Powers,” S’reee said. “If the Lone Power wanted to trick the Sea into the Great Death, It had to trick the Ten; then all the life they ruled would be stuck with the Great Death too. So the Lone One went to the Ni’hwinyii in disguise, pretending to be a stranger, a new whale sent to them so that they could decide under which of their Masteries it fell. And as each one questioned the Lone Power, the Stranger-whale offered each of them the thing he wanted most, if he would only accept the ‘Gift’ the Stranger would give him. And he showed them just enough of his power to prove he could do it.”

“Uh-oh,” Kit said softly. “I’ve heard this one before.”

“Apples and snakes…” Nita said.

“Yes. The pattern repeats. One after another, the Lone One tempted the Ten. The Sea was silent then and gave them no advice—some people say that the Powers wanted the Ten to make up their own minds. But however that might have been, three of the Ten took the Gift, and fell. Three of them were undecided. Three of them rejected the Gift. And the Lone Power needed a majority of the Lords to accept Death, or Its victory would only be partial.”

“Those were only nine Lords, though,” Kit said.

‘Yes, and here the Tenth comes in: the Silent Lord, they called her. She was the youngest of them, and each of the other Nine tried to bring her around to his own way of thinking. The Lone One came to her too and tempted her as It had tempted the others. You know, though, that it’s the youngest wizard who has the most power, and where the other Lords were deceived, the Silent Lord wasn’t. She realized what the Stranger was and what It was trying to do.

“She was faced with a difficult choice. She knew that even if she rejected the Stranger, the fighting would only continue among the other Nine. Sooner or later they or their successors would accept the Gift and doom the whole Sea to the Great Death. But she also knew something else that the Sea had told her long before, and that others have found out since. If one knows death is coming—any death, from the small ones to the Great one—and is willing to accept it fully, and experience it fully, then the death becomes something else—a passage, not an ending: not only for oneself, but for others.”

S’reee’s voice got very soft. “So the Silent Lord did that,” she said. “Luck, or the Powers, brought one more creature into the singing, uninvited. It was the one fish over whom no mastery was ever given—the Pale Slayer, whom we call the Master-Shark. The Silent Lord decided to accept the ‘Gift’ that the Stranger offered her—and then, to transform the Gift and make it safe, she gave herself up willingly to die. She dived into a stand of razor coral; and the Master-Shark smelled her blood in the water, and… well.” S’reee blew. “He accepted the sacrifice.”

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Must I accept the barren Gift?
Learn death, and lose my Mastery?
Then let them know whose blood and breath
will take the Gift and set them free:

whose is the voice and whose the mind
to set at naught the well-sung Game
when finned Finality arrives
and calls me by my secret Name.

Not old enough to love as yet,
but old enough to die, indeed—
the death-fear bites my throat and heart,
fanged cousin to the Pale One’s breed.

But past the fear lies life for all—
perhaps for me; and, past my dread,
past loss of Mastery and life,
the Sea shall yet give up Her dead!

Glad that wasn’t me back then! Nita thought. I could never have pulled that off… She read down through the next section, the “stage directions” for this sequence of the Song. “The whale singing the Silent One then enacts the Sacrifice in a manner as close to the original enactment as possible, depending on the site where the Song is being celebrated…”

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“Nita,” her father said at last, “what are the chances that you could get hurt doing this ‘Song’ business? The truth.”

She looked at him unhappily. “Pretty good,” she said.

“And the same for Kit?” her mother said.

“Just about,” Kit said.

Nita’s father shook his head. “Nita. Look. I understand… no. I sort of understand how you and Kit feel about this. Magic…” He raised his hands, dropped them again, in a helpless gesture. “If someone offered me the chance to be a magician, I’d jump at it…”

“A wizard,” Nita said. And, No, you wouldn’t, she thought. Because if you would have, really, you’d have been offered it! There are never enough wizards.

But her father was still talking. “But this business. Endangering yourself, or endangering Kit— Your mother and I can’t permit it. You’re going to have to bow out.”

For just a moment, as far as Nita was concerned, everything faded out, drowned in a great wash of relief and hope. The perfect excuse. Perfect. My mom and dad won’t let me. Sorry, S’reee, Hotshot, Ed…

Opaque black eyes looked at Nita out of the scene her eager mind was already constructing for her—and hope died. The hair stood up all over Nita—not from fear, but from something more terrible. Without any warning, and for the first time, she understood in her own person what had only been a word to her before: honor. I can’t, she thought. For me—for me—it’s not right.

“Dad,” she said unhappily, “you didn’t get it. I’m sworn to the Song. If I back out now, the whole thing will be sabotaged.”

Her father got up, a sign that he intended this argument to be over shortly. “Come on, Neets. Surely someone else could do it—”

“No.”

“Nita,” said her mother, looking stern, “you don’t understand. We’re not letting you do this. Or Kit either, while he’s under our roof. You’re going to have to find a replacement. Or the—the whales will. Whoever. You’re not going.”

I must not have said it right, they’re not understanding!“Mom—” Nita said, searching frantically for words. “This isn’t just some cute thing that Kit and I are doing because it’s fun! If we don’t stop the forces that are beginning to move, there are going to be massive earthquakes all up and down the East Coast. That’s not a maybe. It’s a will! You think the Island would survive something like that? The whole place is nothing but rocks and trash the glaciers dumped in the ocean; it’ll break up and wash away like a sandcastle at high tide! And what about Manhattan? It’s got four unstable geological faults of its own, right through the bedrock! And none of the buildings there are earthquake-proof. One quake’ll leave the place looking like somebody kicked over a pile of blocks!” Nita was waving her arms in the air now, so upset that she was beyond caring whether she looked silly or not. “Millions of people could die—”

“Could,” her father said, seizing on the word. He was pacing now.

Kit shook his head. “Will,” he said. There was such a weight of certainty and misery on the word that Nita’s father stopped pacing, and her mother closed her mouth, and they both stared at Kit in amazement.

“You’re saying,” Kit said, gazing at them out of eyes suddenly gone dark and fierce, “that you don’t care whether ten million people, more than ten million people, would die, just so long as we two don’t get hurt.”

Nita’s mother spluttered, to Nita’s great satisfaction. That one had sunk in. “No, we aren’t, we just—”

“You don’t even care that ten million people might die,” Nita said. “Just so Kit and I are okay, you’re willing to run that risk.”

“No, I—” Nita’s father saw what was being done to him. “Young lady, no more out of you! Just the quakes going on off the coast now, by the reports we’ve heard, are too dangerous for you to be down there.”

“Daddy, believe me, we’ve survived a lot worse!”

“Yes—and your mother and I didn’t know about it then! Now we do.” Her father turned away. “The answer is no,and that’s final!”

From many fights Nita had overheard between her folks, Nita knew that when her dad said that, it never was. “Daddy,” she said. “I’m sorry. I really am. I love you, and I wish like anything I could do what you want. But Ican’t.”

“Nita!” There was that rage again, full-blown, worse than before. Her father was on his feet, standing right over her, glaring at her. “You will do as I tell you!”

Hot all over, Nita shot to her feet—standing on the chair—and in sheer desperation shouted right back in his face.“Don’t you get it? There are some things in the world more important than doing what you tell me!”

Her father and mother stared at her, absolutely stunned. Nita stood there gasping, stunned herself.

“Besides,” Kit said quietly from out of her range of vision, “how would you stop us?”

Nita’s father turned away to stare at Kit now.

“Look,” Kit said. “Mr. Callahan, Mrs. Callahan—we gave our word that we’d do this.” What is this ‘we’? Nita thought, bemused. “And the wizardry we’re doing is mainly directed against the One who invented the broken promise. Breaking our word will play right into Its hands and cause a lot of people to die, at best. Maybe destroy this world, sooner or later, at worst.”

“But we have only your word on that!” Nita’s mother said.

“Yeah. But isn’t our word any good? And why would we lie to you about this? Considering that we’re going through all this crap for the sake of telling you the truth.”

Nita’s mother closed her mouth.

“She didn’t have to tell you,” Kit said, sounding angry for the first time. “But it would’ve been lying, in a way—and Nita thinks you’re worth not lying to.” He paused, then said, “I do too. We may just be kids, but we’re old enough to tell the truth. And to take it. Are you?”

Today I Read…Not On My Patch

Today I read Not On My Patch, a Young Wizards short story written by Diane Duane for UNICEF for Hallowe’en 2011. not on my patch

Nita, Kit, Dairine, and Ronan were just planning a fun night out trick-or-treating and checking out the town’s haunted house. After all, it was set up this year by Tom and Carl, their good friends and local Senior Advisory wizards, so it’s sure to be magical. The Nita’s jack-o-lantern tells her that something’s wrong in the field he was picked from. They wanted a night off–instead they got zombies. Sometimes a wizard just can’t catch a break.

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Diane Duane is one of my favourite authors, and this is a great addition to her Young Wizards universe. Even on a holiday, wizards can’t have a day off from fighting evil.All they can do is defeat it as quickly as they can and go back to their candy. Told with Duane’s characteristic quick wit, this story really emphasizes that saving the world is all in a night’s work for these young wizards, even though it is a job that they will never take lightly or for granted. And remember, pumpkins are people too. Well, they are if you’re a wizard with a specialty in talking to plants. You know what I mean.

**************************************************************************************************

Nita snickered very softly, but then turned her attention back to the pumpkin. Better get on with this… she thought. She picked up the knife, and then hesitated yet again.

“What’s with you?” Ronan said as he emptied the trick-or-treat bag out on the table and began going through the contents. “You look like the reluctant axe murderer.”

Nita groaned under her breath and sat down in the chair at the end of the table. “I just don’t know if this is … strictly ethical.”

Kit pulled out a chair too and fiddled with his frock coat for a moment so that he could avoid sitting on it and messing it up. “You know,” he said, “you could always ask the pumpkin how it feels.”

She had in fact been avoiding this, nervous about what answer she might get. But there’s no avoiding it, I guess; pretty soon we’re going to have to get moving… Nita put out a hand and ran it once more over the scratchy veiny skin around the pumpkin’s stem. “Excuse me,” she said in the Speech, “but… exactly how are you about this?”

There was a brief pause while the pumpkin got its vegetable consciousness wrapped around the idea that someone was speaking to it, let alone someone who would be able to understand the response. This what? the pumpkin said.

Nita hesitated. “I’m about to stick a knife in you,” Nita she said after a moment, “cut off your top, and scoop out your insides with a spoon.”

There was another pause. Your point being? said the pumpkin.

Nita blinked, as she was generally used to more energetic responses from plant life. But then, those are mostly still growing in the ground… “Well, isn’t there some chance this might hurt you?”

Haven’t felt a thing since I got pulled off the vine, said the pumpkin. Just been taking it easy since then. It paused, for a bit longer this time. Besides, it said after a few moments more, it’s autumn, isn’t it? I’m supposed to die now. It’s all about the seeds, after all. I rot… but the seeds don’t. Some of them will come up. Then I’ll wake up in one of them, maybe more.

“So you really don’t mind if I cut off your top and pull your insides out and carve a face in you,” Nita said, still just slightly incredulous.

Well, what’s it all for?

“Celebrating the time of year,” Nita said. “The autumn. The year’s end … and the new beginning, I guess.”

Ronan nodded. “That’s what it meant when we invented it,” he said.

If a pumpkin could have shrugged, this one would have.Then do it. I don’t mind being part of a celebration, and maybe it’ll be fun to have a face.

**************************************************************************************************

After a little while a tall shape came out the back door and made its way over to her through the shadows. “So tell me,” Carl said, “how’s it look?”

“Really great,” Nita said. “I didn’t know you two were so into this.”

“Well, why not?” Carl said. “If you spend all the rest of the year fighting the serious Powers of Eeeeevil, then sometimes you just want to spend a little time enjoying the harmless kind of spooky stuff. Keeping the old traditions alive…while making it plain that fewer and fewer of the old ploys the Lone Power used have so much fun scaring us with will work any more: not for anything serious. Sure, it comes up with new ones all the time…”

“But laughing at the old ones still gets under Its skin.”

“Way under,” Carl said, “since it really, really hates not being taken seriously…” He looked back at the house. “But who doesn’t like being safely scared, occasionally? Pleasantly scared, by something that can’t really hurt you?” He grinned as an eldritch howl came floating out one of the upstairs windows, accompanied by the shrieks and then the laughter of small children. “It starts getting you used to fear… so when you come up against something really scary, you can cope a little better.”

“Like being vaccinated,” Nita said. “The weakened bugs make you immune…”

“A useful metaphor,” Carl said, over more of the upstairs screaming. He grinned in the dark. “I should get back in there: some of those spells have to be reset after they fire a few times.” He patted Nita on the shoulder, vanished into the dark again.

*************************************************************************************************

She turned her attention back to the tattered, rotted-looking shapes lurching toward them. “Willing followers of the Fallen,” she said, pulling up one of the shortest of the formal demon-management notifications, “be warned by me! We are on the business of the Powers that Be, and by Their power vested in us, unless you disperse forthwith to your own places, we will utterly undo and abolish you!”

The zombies paused—

And kept coming.

“Last warning, you guys!” Nita said, holding Jackie up. “I’ve got a pumpkin, and I’m not afraid to use it!”

Today I Read…City of Glass

city of glassToday I read City of Glass by Cassandra Clare, the third book in The Mortal Instruments series.

The Clave, the governing body of the Shadowhunters who rule from the city of Alicante in the land of Idris, wants to meet Clary Fray. Which is just fine with her, since she wants to go to Idris to find the warlock Ragnor Fell, who might be able to wake her mother, still in a coma after being rescued from the evil Valentine–Clary’s father. Jace, on the other hand, wants Clary to stay home where it’s safe–he says he doesn’t have any feelings for her anymore, but she is still his little sister. But when the group is attacked as they are about to travel to Alicante, Simon the newly-made vampire goes through the portal instead of Clary. Too bad vampires are forbidden from Idris, and have been for centuries.

Using her special abilities to make new Marks, Clary opens a Portal to Idris, where she finds Jace awfully close to the beautiful Shadowhunter Aline. And she meets Sebastian, handsome, accomplished, and flirtatious–except she tastes ashes when he kisses her.

With Valentine’s final attack on the Shadowhunters, old secrets come to light, including why Jace and Clary have their special abilities, and exactly who they are to each other. Someone will return. Someone will betray them. And someone will die.

*********************************************************************************************

This is the end of the first trilogy in the series-the 4th book starts a new story arc. We finally get all the answers about what Valentine was doing back during his first rebellion against the Clave, what he did to Jace and Clary, and all of the people who were hurt back then and are still affected now. We finally find out who Jace is. It’s nice to get a happy ending–at least until City of Fallen Angels begins. I don’t want to say too much here, because I hate it when people ruin the end of the book.

I will say that Luke makes a much better leader than most of the Clave. And I still really like Magnus Bane. Seven hundred years old (ok, eight hundred, but he doesn’t look it), but he’s still a fool for love. At least he’s a fool on his own terms, and he does it with style.

**********************************************************************************************

“But you just got here!” Clary protested. “I thought we could hang out, watch a movie or something—”

You need to pack.” Simon smiled, bright as sunshine after rain. She could almost believe there was nothing bothering him. “I’ll come by later to say good-bye before you go.”

“Oh, come on,” Clary protested. “Stay—”

“I can’t.” His tone was final. “I’m meeting Maia.”

“Oh. Great,” Clary said. Maia, she told herself, was nice. She was smart. She was pretty. She was also a werewolf. A werewolf with a crush on Simon. But maybe that was as it should be. Maybe his new friend should be a Downworlder. After all, he was a Downworlder himself now. Technically, he shouldn’t even be spending time with Shadowhunters like Clary. “I guess you’d better go, then.”

“I guess I’d better.” Simon’s dark eyes were unreadable. This was new—she’d always been able to read Simon before. She wondered if it was a side effect of the vampirism, or something else entirely. “Good-bye,” he said, and bent as if to kiss her on the cheek, sweeping her hair back with one of his hands. Then he paused and drew back, his expression uncertain. She frowned in surprise, but he was already gone, brushing past Luke in the doorway. She heard the front door bang in the distance.

“He’s acting so weird,” she exclaimed, hugging the velvet coat against herself for reassurance. “Do you think it’s the whole vampire thing?”

“Probably not.” Luke looked faintly amused. “Becoming a Downworlder doesn’t change the way you feel about things. Or people. Give him time. You did break up with him.”

“I did not. He broke up with me.”

“Because you weren’t in love with him. That’s an iffy proposition, and I think he’s handling it with grace. A lot of teenage boys would sulk, or lurk around under your window with a boom box.”

“No one has a boom box anymore. That was the eighties.” Clary scrambled off the bed, pulling the coat on. She buttoned it up to the neck, luxuriating in the soft feel of the velvet. “I just want Simon to go back to normal.”

********************************************************************************************

“Because,” Simon said. “If you want me to lie—not to Clary, but to all your Shadowhunter friends—if you want me to pretend that it was Clary’s own decision not to come here, and if you want me to pretend that I don’t know about her powers, or what she can really do, then you have to do something for me.”

“Fine,” Jace said. “What is it you want?”

Simon was silent for a moment, looking past Jace at the line of stone houses fronting the sparkling canal. Past their crenellated roofs he could see the gleaming tops of the demon towers. “I want you to do whatever you need to do to convince Clary that you don’t have feelings for her. And don’t—don’t tell me you’re her brother; I already know that. Stop stringing her along when you know that whatever you two have has no future. And I’m not saying this because I want her for myself. I’m saying it because I’m her friend and I don’t want her hurt.”

Jace looked down at his hands for a long moment without answering. They were thin hands, the fingers and knuckles scuffed with old calluses. The backs of them were laced with the thin white lines of old Marks. They were a soldier’s hands, not a teenage boy’s. “I’ve already done that,” he said. “I told her I was only interested in being her brother.”

“Oh.” Simon had expected Jace to fight him on this, to argue, not to just give up. A Jace who just gave up was new—and left Simon feeling almost ashamed for having asked. Clary never mentioned it to me, he wanted to say, but then why would she have? Come to think of it, she had seemed unusually quiet and withdrawn lately whenever Jace’s name had come up. “Well, that takes care of that, I guess. There’s one last thing.”

“Oh?” Jace spoke without much apparent interest. “And what’s that?”

“What was it Valentine said when Clary drew that rune on the ship? It sounded like a foreign language. Memesomething—?”

“Mene mene tekel upharsin,” Jace said with a faint smile. “You don’t recognize it? It’s from the Bible, vampire. The old one.

That’s your book, isn’t it?”

“Just because I’m Jewish doesn’t mean I’ve memorized the Old Testament.”

“It’s the Writing on the Wall. ‘God hath numbered thy kingdom, and brought it to an end; thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.’ It’s a portent of doom—it means the end of an empire.”

“But what does that have to do with Valentine?”

“Not just Valentine,” said Jace. “All of us. The Clave and the Law—what Clary can do overturns everything they know to be true. No human being can create new runes, or draw the sort of runes Clary can. Only angels have that power. And since Clary can do that—well, it seems like a portent. Things are changing. The Laws are changing. The old ways may never be the right ways again. Just as the rebellion of the angels ended the world as it was—it split heaven in half and created hell—this could mean the end of the Nephilim as they currently exist. This is our war in heaven, vampire, and only one side can win it. And my father means it to be his.”

*************************************************************************************************

The scene showed a cellar, the same cellar that Clary knew she was standing in right now. The same scrawled pentagram scarred the floor, and within the center of the star lay the angel. Valentine stood by, once again with a burning seraph blade in his hand. He looked years older now, no longer a young man. “Ithuriel,” he said. “We are old friends now, aren’t we? I could have left you buried alive under those ruins, but no, I brought you here with me. All these years I’ve kept you close, hoping one day you would tell me what I wanted—needed—to know.” He came closer, holding the blade out, its blaze lighting the runic barrier to a shimmer. “When I summoned you, I dreamed that you would tell me why. Why Raziel created us, his race of Shadowhunters, yet did not give us the powers Downworlders have—the speed of the wolves, the immortality of the Fair Folk, the magic of warlocks, even the endurance of vampires. He left us naked before the hosts of hell but for these painted lines on our skin. Why should their powers be greater than ours? Why can’t we share in what they have? How is that just?”

Within its imprisoning star the angel sat silent as a marble statue, unmoving, its wings folded. Its eyes expressed nothing beyond a terrible silent sorrow. Valentine’s mouth twisted.

“Very well. Keep your silence. I will have my chance.” Valentine lifted the blade. “I have the Mortal Cup, Ithuriel, and soon I shall have the Sword—but without the Mirror I cannot begin the summoning. The Mirror is all I need. Tell me where it is. Tell me where it is, Ithuriel, and I will let you die.”

Today I Read…City of Ashes

Today I read City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare, the second book in The Mortal Instruments series. city of ashes

Everything has changed since Jace Wayland and Clary Fray learned that they are the children of the evil Valentine. Jace’s foster mother, the one who has raised him for the last seven years, has accused him of being a spy for Valentine and thrown him out of his home. So naturally he decides to go out and start picking fights in a werewolf bar. Clary is waiting for her mother to wake up from the coma Valentine left her in. Simon, Clary’s best friend, has been turned into a vampire, as well as Clary’s new boyfriend. And Maia is trying to adjust to life as a werewolf after she was attacked by her ex-boyfriend Jordan.

And now the Inquisitor is coming to question Jace and prove his loyalty–or his treachery. Valentine has killed the Brothers of the Silent City to steal the Mortal Sword. And Clary and Jace are still trying to fight their attraction to each other. Faeries and demons and warlocks, oh my…

Things are changing. And they will never be the same again.

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Clary and Jace keep meeting more people, and their lives keep getting more complicated. In City of Ashes we learn more about how Valentine affected people during the last war, and more about his current plots. Valentine is the master of the subtle knife- you don’t even know that he has it until you’re already lying on the ground bleeding. Is he lying, when he tells Jace that he loves him and wants him to join Valentine’s cause? Or is he telling the truth, knowing that it will hurt more? Or is he telling the truth in the way that will make people believe whatever he wants them to believe? We learn that there are those in Shadowhunter society who will hold the son responsible for the sins of the father, and that Valentine has sinned indeed. Valentine’s favourite story is Milton’s Paradise Lost, and he sympathizes with Lucifer–the influence on Valentine as a character is clear. The worst thing about Valentine is his total belief that he is right. That the ends justify the means. And that there are certain groups which, simply by being what they are born to be, deserve to die, and anyone who gets in the way on purpose or by accident is nothing more than collateral damage.

Hm, this sounds familiar. From about a dozen instances in history. And current events.

Clary and Jace’s epic, tortured romance continues–their love is too strong to deny, even though they are brother and sister and can never be together. Normally all this teenage angst would annoy me a bit, but they both handle it so badly that I have to sympathize with them. Jace can be an arrogant jerk, and frequently is. He pushes Clary away and is rude to everyone, especially anyone in authority, but he does feel so helpless. He loves Clary and knows that it is wrong. He loves Valentine, the father who raised him and taught him, even though he knows that Valentine is a monster. Clary knows that she should love Simon–he’s been her best friend for forever, her constant loyal companion, and he loves her so much, but Jace…Everybody screws up. How they handle it is where the story happens.

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She jumped a little, spilling some of the wine. “Jace. I didn’t hear you come in.”

He didn’t move. “Do you remember that song you used to sing to Isabelle and Alec—when they were little and afraid of the dark—to get them to fall asleep?”

Maryse appeared taken aback. “What are you talking about?”

“I used to hear you through the walls,” he said. “Alec’s bedroom was next to mine then.”

She said nothing.

“It was in French,” Jace said. “The song.”

“I don’t know why you’d remember something like that.” She looked at him as if he’d accused her of something.

“You never sang to me.”

There was a barely perceptible pause. Then, “Oh, you,” she said. “You were never afraid of the dark.”

“What kind of ten-year-old is never afraid of the dark?”

Her eyebrows went up. “Sit down, Jonathan,” she said. “Now.”

He went, just slowly enough to annoy her, across the room, and threw himself into one of the wing-back chairs beside the desk. “I’d rather you didn’t call me Jonathan.”

“Why not? It’s your name.” She looked at him consideringly. “How long have you known?”

“Known what?”

“Don’t be stupid. You know exactly what I’m asking you.” She turned her glass in her fingers.

“How long have you known that Valentine is your father?”

Jace considered and discarded several responses. Usually he could get his way with Maryse by making her laugh. He was one of the only people in the world who could make her laugh.

“About as long as you have.”

Maryse shook her head slowly. “I don’t believe that.”

Jace sat up straight. His hands were in fists where they rested on the chair arms. He could see a slight tremor in his fingers, wondered if he’d ever had it before. He didn’t think so. His hands had always been as steady as his heartbeat. “You don’t believe me?”

He heard the incredulity in his own voice and winced inwardly. Of course she didn’t believe him. That had been obvious from the moment she had arrived home.

“It doesn’t make sense, Jace. How could you not know who your own father is?”

“He told me he was Michael Wayland. We lived in the Wayland country house—”

“A nice touch,” said Maryse, “that. And your name? What’s your real name?”

“You know my real name.”

“Jonathan Christopher. I knew that was Valentine’s son’s name. I knew Michael had a son named Jonathan too. It’s a common enough Shadowhunter name—I never thought it was strange they shared it, and as for Michael’s boy’s middle name, I never inquired. But now I can’t help wondering. What was Michael Wayland’s son’s real middle name? How long had Valentine been planning what he was going to do? How long did he know he was going to murder Jonathan Wayland—?” She broke off, her eyes fixed on Jace. “You never looked like Michael, you know,”

she said. “But sometimes children don’t look like their parents. I didn’t think about it before. But now I can see Valentine in you. The way you’re looking at me. That defiance. You don’t care what I say, do you?”

But he did care. All he was good at was making sure she couldn’t see it. “Would it make a difference if I did?”

She set the glass down on the table beside her. It was empty. “And you answer questions with questions to throw me off, just like Valentine always did. Maybe I should have known.”

“Maybe nothing. I’m still exactly the same person I’ve been for the past seven years. Nothing’s changed about me. If I didn’t remind you of Valentine before, I don’t see why I would now.”

Her glance moved over him and away as if she couldn’t bear to look directly at him. “Surely when we talked about Michael, you must have known we couldn’t possibly have meant your father. The things we said about him could never have applied to Valentine.”

“You said he was a good man.” Anger twisted inside him. “A brave Shadowhunter. A loving father. I thought that seemed accurate enough.”

“What about photographs? You must have seen photographs of Michael Wayland and realized he wasn’t the man you called your father.” She bit her lip. “Help me out here, Jace.”

“All the photographs were destroyed in the Uprising. That’s what you told me. Now I wonder if it wasn’t because Valentine had them all burned so nobody would know who was in the Circle.

I never had a photograph of my father,” Jace said, and wondered if he sounded as bitter as he felt.

Maryse put a hand to her temple and massaged it as if her head were aching. “I can’t believe this,” she said, as if to herself. “It’s insane.”

“So don’t believe it. Believe me,” Jace said, and felt the tremor in his hands increase.

She dropped her hand. “Don’t you think I want to?” she demanded, and for a moment he heard the echo in her voice of the Maryse who’d come into his bedroom at night when he was ten years old and staring dry-eyed at the ceiling, thinking of his father—and she’d sat by the bed with him until he’d fallen asleep just before dawn.

“I didn’t know,” Jace said again. “And when he asked me to come with him back to Idris, I said no. I’m still here. Doesn’t that count for anything?”

She turned to look back at the decanter, as if considering another drink, then seemed to discard the idea. “I wish it did,” she said. “But there are so many reasons your father might want you to remain at the Institute. Where Valentine is concerned, I can’t afford to trust anyone his influence has touched.”

“His influence touched you,” Jace said, and instantly regretted it at the look that flashed across her face.

“And I repudiated him,” said Maryse. “Have you? Couldyou?” Her blue eyes were the same color as Alec’s, but Alec had never looked at him like this. “Tell me you hate him, Jace. Tell me you hate that man and everything he stands for.”

A moment passed, and another, and Jace, looking down, saw that his hands were so tightly fisted that the knuckles stood out white and hard like the bones in a fish’s spine. “I can’t say that.”

Maryse sucked in her breath. ” Why not?”

“Why can’t you say that you trust me? I’ve lived with you almost half my life. Surely you must know me better than that?”

“You sound so honest, Jonathan. You always have, even when you were a little boy trying to pin the blame for something you’d done wrong on Isabelle or Alec. I’ve only ever met one person who could sound as persuasive as you.”

Jace tasted copper in his mouth. “You mean my father.”

“There were only ever two kinds of people in the world for Valentine,” she said. “Those who were for the Circle and those who were against it. The latter were enemies, and the former were weapons in his arsenal. I saw him try to turn each of his friends, even his own wife, into a weapon for the Cause—and you want me to believe he wouldn’t have done the same with his own son?”

She shook her head. “I knew him better than that.” For the first time, Maryse looked at him with more sadness than anger. “You are an arrow shot directly into the heart of the Clave, Jace. You are Valentine’s arrow. Whether you know it or not.”

*******************************************************************************************

“Clary, I’m telling you he made his own decisions. What you’re blaming yourself for is being what you are. And that’s no one’s fault and nothing you can change. You told him the truth and he made up his own mind what he wanted to do about that. Everyone has choices to make; no one has the right to take those choices away from us. Not even out of love.”

“But that’s just it,” Clary said. “When you love someone, you don’t have a choice.” She thought of the way her heart had contracted when Isabelle had called to tell her Jace was missing.

She’d left the house without a moment’s thought or hesitation. “Love takes your choices away.”

“It’s a lot better than the alternative.”

Today I Read…The Kane Chronicles

Today I read the Kane Chronicles, The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire, and The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. the red pyramid

[Is this thing on? C’mon, you two, move over and let me talk—you had your turns.]

Sadie and Carter Kane don’t have much in common. After the death of their mother, Sadie was raised in England by their grandparents while Carter was raised by their father, the globe-trotting Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane. One Christmas Eve on their biannual visitation day (all that their grandparents will allow), Dr. Kane takes his children to Cleopatra’s Needle and tells them it’s where their mother died, but not in an accident as they had always been told. Suddenly they are attacked in the British Museum by a man on fire who puts their father in a sarcophagus and makes it sink into the floor. Now they’re going to New York in a flying boat with their uncle Amos (who they barely remember) Sadie’s cat Muffin (who’s actually the Egyptian goddess Bast), and their father’s workbag—the one that contains all of his magician’s tools. Sadie and Carter must learn magic, gather together new allies, and fight against the evil god Set and his wicked magician followers, and bring the gods back to the world.

the throne of fireI like Rick Riordan’s work. He makes mythology very clear and relevant to the modern age, by showing how both mortals and gods need to adapt to the times as well as what the stories used to be. It makes the old stories incomplete, by showing how they are ongoing. I also really like that he ventured away from the standard Greek/Roman gods to the Egyptian ones. While they have similarities and connections, it is a very different culture with different stories. Almost everyone uses the Olympians, including Riordan in his Percy Jackson series, but it’s always nice when an author looks at other pantheons. I also like the point he makes about family. The Kane siblings are biracial—their mother was white and their father was black, and Sadie favours their mother while Carter looks like their father. It’s not an important part of the book about magic and gods and fighting evil, but it irritates both of them when people assume that they aren’t family because they don’t look alike, and it’s a good point to make for readers—sometimes other people are dumb and don’t understand, but it doesn’t mean your family isn’t your family.

The format of alternating between Sadie and Carter’s points of view works well. It gives the reader both perspectives, and builds up the suspense when one narrator ends on a cliff hanger and then the other narrator takes over and goes back or in another direction to explain their separate adventures. It’s fairly obvious that’s what Riordan is doing, but it is a young adult novel so the reader may not be as familiar with the technique, and as I said it works.

Rick Riordan tells a solid adventure story with lively characters and makes learning ancient mythology interesting while changing it appropriately to suit the needs of the story.

the serpent's shadow

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WARNING

The following is a transcript of a digital recording. In certain places, the audio quality was poor, so some words and phrases represent the author’s best guesses. Where possible, illustrations of important symbols mentioned in the recording have been added. Background noises such as scuffling, hitting, and cursing by the two speakers have not been transcribed. The author makes no claims for the authenticity of the recording. It seems impossible that the two young narrators are telling the truth, but you, the reader, must decide for yourself.

C A R T E R

1. A Death at the Needle

WE ONLY HAVE A FEW HOURS, so listen carefully.

If you’re hearing this story, you’re already in danger. Sadie and I might be your only chance.

Go to the school. Find the locker. I won’t tell you which school or which locker, because if you’re the right person, you’ll find it. The combination is 13/32/33. By the time you finish listening, you’ll know what those numbers mean.

Just remember the story we’re about to tell you isn’t complete yet. How it ends will depend on you.

The most important thing: when you open the package and find what’s inside, don’t keep it longer than a week. Sure, it’ll be tempting. I mean, it will grant you almost unlimited power. But if you possess it too long, it will consume you. Learn its secrets quickly and pass it on. Hide it for the next person, the way Sadie and I did for you. Then be prepared for your life to get very interesting.

Okay, Sadie is telling me to stop stalling and get on with the story. Fine. I guess it started in London, the night our dad blew up the British Museum.

*********************************************************

Amos took a deep breath. “Julius was attempting to summon a god. Unfortunately, it worked.”

It was kind of hard to take Amos seriously, talking about summoning gods while he spread butter on a bagel. “Any god in particular?” I asked casually. “Or did he just order a generic god?”

Sadie kicked me under the table. She was scowling, as if she actually believed what Amos was saying.

Amos took a bite of bagel. “There are many Egyptian gods, Carter. But your dad was after one in particular.” He looked at me meaningfully.

“Osiris,” I remembered. “When Dad was standing in front of the Rosetta Stone, he said, ‘Osiris, come.’ But Osiris is a legend. He’s make-believe.”

“I wish that were true.” Amos stared across the East River at the Manhattan skyline, gleaming in the morning sun. “The Ancient Egyptians were not fools, Carter. They built the pyramids. They created the first great nation state. Their civilization lasted thousands of years.”

“Yeah,” I said. “And now they’re gone.”

Amos shook his head. “A legacy that powerful does not disappear. Next to the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans were babies. Our modern nations like Great Britain and America? Blinks of an eye. The very oldest root of civilization, at least of Western civilization, is Egypt. Look at the pyramid on the dollar bill. Look at the Washington Monument—the world’s largest Egyptian obelisk. Egypt is still very much alive. And so, unfortunately, are her gods.”

“Come on,” I argued. “I mean…even if I believe there’s a real thing called magic. Believing in ancient gods is totally different. You’re joking, right?” But as I said it, I thought about the fiery guy in the museum, the way his face had shifted between human and animal. And the statue of Thoth—how its eyes had followed me.

“Carter,” Amos said, “the Egyptians would not have been stupid enough to believe in imaginary gods. The beings they described in their myths are very, very real. In the old days, the priests of Egypt would call upon these gods to channel their power and perform great feats. That is the origin of what we now cal magic. Like many things, magic was first invented by the Egyptians. Each temple had a branch of magicians called the House of Life. Their magicians were famed throughout the ancient world.”

“And you’re an Egyptian magician.”

Amos nodded. “So was your father. You saw it for yourself last night.”

I hesitated. It was hard to deny my dad had done some weird stuff at the museum—some stuff that looked like magic. “But he’s an archaeologist,” I said stubbornly.

“That’s his cover story. You’ll remember that he specialized in translating ancient spells, which are very difficult to understand unless you work magic yourself. Our family, the Kane family, has been part of the House of Life almost since the beginning. And your mother’s family is almost as ancient.”

“The Fausts?” I tried to imagine Grandma and Grandpa Faust doing magic, but unless watching rugby on TV and burning cookies was magical, I couldn’t see it.

“They had not practiced magic for many generations,” Amos admitted. “Not until your mother came along. But yes, a very ancient bloodline.”

Sadie shook her head in disbelief. “So now Mum was magic, too. Are you joking?”

“No jokes,” Amos promised. “The two of you…you combine the blood of two ancient families, both of which have a long, complicated history with the gods. You are the most powerful Kane children to be born in many centuries.”

I tried to let that sink in. At the moment, I didn’t feel powerful. I felt queasy. “You’re telling me our parents secretly worshipped animal-headed gods?” I asked.

“Not worshipped,” Amos corrected. “By the end of the ancient times, Egyptians had learned that their gods were not to be worshipped. They are powerful beings, primeval forces, but they are not divine in the sense one might think of God. They are created entities, like mortals, only much more powerful. We can respect them, fear them, use their power, or even fight them to keep them under control—”

“Fight gods?” Sadie interrupted.

“Constantly,” Amos assured her. “But we don’t worship them. Thoth taught us that.”

I looked at Sadie for help. The old guy had to be crazy. But Sadie was looking like she believed every word.

“So…” I said. “Why did Dad break the Rosetta Stone?”

“Oh, I’m sure he didn’t mean to break it,” Amos said. “That would’ve horrified him. In fact, I imagine my brethren in London have repaired the damage by now. The curators will soon check their vaults and discover that the Rosetta Stone miraculously survived the explosion.”

“But it was blown into a million pieces!” I said. “How could they repair it?”

Amos picked up a saucer and threw it onto the stone floor. The saucer shattered instantly. “That was to destroy,” Amos said. “I could’ve done it by magic—ha-di—but it’s simpler just to smash it. And now…” Amos held out his hand. “Join. Hi-nehm.” A blue hieroglyphic symbol burned in the air above his palm.

The pieces of the saucer flew into his hand and reassembled like a puzzle, even the smallest bits of dust gluing themselves into place. Amos put the perfect saucer back on the table.

“Some trick,” I managed. I tried to sound calm about it, but I was thinking of all the odd things that had happened to my dad and me over the years, like those gunmen in the Cairo hotel who’d ended up hanging by their feet from a chandelier. Was it possible my dad had made that happen with some kind of spell?

Amos poured milk in the saucer, and put it on the floor. Muffin came padding over. “At any rate, your father would never intentionally damage a relic. He simply didn’t realize how much power the Rosetta Stone contained. You see, as Egypt faded, its magic collected and concentrated into its remaining relics. Most of these, of course, are still in Egypt. But you can find some in almost every major museum. A magician can use these artifacts as focal points to work more powerful spells.”

“I don’t get it,” I said.

Amos spread his hands. “I’m sorry, Carter. It takes years of study to understand magic, and I’m trying to explain it to you in a single morning. The important thing is, for the past six years your father has been looking for a way to summon Osiris, and last night he thought he had found the right artifact to do it.”

“Wait, why did he want Osiris?”

Sadie gave me a troubled look. “Carter, Osiris was the lord of the dead. Dad was talking about making things right. He was talking about Mum.”

Suddenly the morning seemed colder. The fire pit sputtered in the wind coming off the river.

“He wanted to bring Mom back from the dead?” I said. “But that’s crazy!”

Amos hesitated. “It would’ve been dangerous. Inadvisable. Foolish. But not crazy. Your father is a powerful magician. If, in fact, that is what he was after, he might have accomplished it, using the power of Osiris.”

I stared at Sadie. “You’re actually buying this?”

“You saw the magic at the museum. The fiery bloke. Dad summoned something from the stone.”

“Yeah,” I said, thinking of my dream. “But that wasn’t Osiris, was it?”

“No,” Amos said. “Your father got more than he bargained for. He did release the spirit of Osiris. In fact, I think he successfully joined with the god—”

“Joined with?”

Amos held up his hand. “Another long conversation. For now, let’s just say he drew the power of Osiris into himself. But he never got the chance to use it because, according to what Sadie has told me, it appears that Julius released five gods from the Rosetta Stone. Five gods who were all trapped together.”

I glanced at Sadie. “You told him everything?”

“He’s going to help us, Carter.”

I wasn’t quite ready to trust this guy, even if he was our uncle, but I decided I didn’t have much choice.

“Okay, yeah,” I said. “The fiery guy said something like ‘You released all five.’ What did he mean?”

Amos sipped his coffee. The faraway look on his face reminded me of my dad. “I don’t want to scare you.”

“Too late.”

“The gods of Egypt are very dangerous. For the last two thousand years or so, we magicians have spent much of our time binding and banishing them whenever they appear. In fact, our most important law, issued by Chief Lector Iskandar in Roman times, forbids unleashing the gods or using their power. Your father broke that law once before.”

Sadie’s face paled. “Does this have something to do with Mum’s death? Cleopatra’s Needle in London?”

“It has everything to do with that, Sadie. Your parents…well, they thought they were doing something good. They took a terrible risk, and it cost your mother her life. Your father took the blame. He was exiled, I suppose you would say. Banished. He was forced to move around constantly because the House monitored his activities. They feared he would continue his…research. As indeed he did.”

I thought about the times Dad would look over his shoulder as he copied some ancient inscriptions, or wake me up at three or four in the morning and insist it was time to change hotels, or warn me not to look in his workbag or copy certain pictures from old temple walls—as if our lives depended on it.

“Is that why you never came round?” Sadie asked Amos. “Because Dad was banished?”

“The House forbade me to see him. I loved Julius. It hurt me to stay away from my brother, and from you children. But I could not see you—until last night, when I simply had no choice but to try to help. Julius has been obsessed with finding Osiris for years. He was consumed with grief because of what happened to your mother. When I learned that Julius was about to break the law again, to try to set things right, I had to stop him. A second offense would’ve meant a death sentence. Unfortunately, I failed. I should’ve known he was too stubborn.”

Today I Read…City of Bones

Today I read City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, the first book in the best-selling The Mortal Instruments series.

city of bonesClary Fray and her best friend Simon are out for a night of fun when she sees two boys following a couple—but Simon can’t see them. When Clary tries to intervene to stop the two boys and the girl from killing the other cute boy, they tell her he is a demon. Claws, black blood, body disappearing—whatever is going on, it isn’t normal.

The next day, Clary gets a call from her mother telling her to stay away from home, which ends with the sound of screaming and things breaking. When she gets home she finds her mother missing and a Ravener demon in her apartment, which promptly tries to kill her. The demon-killing trio—Jace, Isabelle and Alec—find her tell her that they are Shadowhunters—descendants from an angel whose sworn duty is to kill demons and Downworlders who make trouble—vampires, werewolves, warlocks, fairies. Most mundanes can’t see any of them, but Clary can. But there are bigger problems than the fact that Clary’s mother has disappeared after lying to her for her whole life or arrogant, rude, beautiful boys named Jace who won’t leave her alone. The Downworlders are whispering that Valentine is back—a rogue Shadowhunter who tried start a war and break the Covenant that lets Shadowhunters and Downworlders live in (relative) peace. Except that Valentine is supposed to be dead.

I’ve heard that The Mortal Instruments series is supposed to be the next big YA series, now that Harry Potter and Twilight are over, although The Hunger Games is still going strong. The first movie, starring Lily Collins as Clary, is due out this year. There is one particular issue that I’ll be interested to see how they handle in the movie—it is revealed in the first book that Clary and Jace are actually brother and sister, and the children of Valentine. This obviously complicates their burgeoning epic romance, and adds considerably to the angst quotient. It’s like if Han Solo was Princess Leia’s brother and the son of Darth Vader instead of Luke Skywalker, but Han was still the love interest. It can’t be omitted, because it’s a fairly important plot point that continues through several of the books—I’ll discuss it further in those reviews. Incest tends to be a fairly serious taboo in modern culture.

The story is very much a soap opera with monsters, with secrets from the past being revealed, complicated relationships, and long-running feuds between the various groups. Clare’s strength is how individual each character is—even the ones who don’t get much direct time in the spotlight still have very distinct personalities, and eventually they all get their time to shine. Loyal Luke, flamboyant Magnus, overlooked Simon, perfect Isabelle, hiding Alec, arrogant Jace, determined Clary, manipulative Hodge, evil Valentine…but each is so much more than just one simple adjective, no matter what they initially appear to be.

I won’t call this an instant favourite (at least not mine), but it is addictive to see what happens next, with a good balance of relationship drama, mysteries from the past being revealed, and action.

***********************************************************

“Of course I can see you,” Clary said. “I’m not blind, you know.”

“Oh, but you are,” said Jace, bending to pick up his knife. “You just don’t know it.” He straightened up. “You’d better get out of here, if you know what’s good for you.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Clary said. “If I do, you’ll kill him.” She pointed at the boy with the blue hair.

“That’s true,” admitted Jace, twirling the knife between his fingers. “What do you care if I kill him or not?”

“Be-because—,” Clary spluttered. “You can’t just go around killing people.”

“You’re right,” said Jace. “You can’t go around killing people.” He pointed at the boy with blue hair, whose eyes were slitted. Clary wondered if he’d fainted. “That’s not a person, little girl. It may look like a person and talk like a person and maybe even bleed like a person. But it’s a monster.”

************************************************************

“I told you before, my name is not little girl,” she said through her teeth. “It’s Clary.”

“I know,” he said. “Pretty name. Like the herb, clary sage. In the old days people thought eating the seeds would let you see the Fair Folk. Did you know that?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You don’t know much, do you?” he said. There was a lazy contempt in his gold eyes. “You seem to be a mundane like any other mundane, yet you can see me. It’s a conundrum.”

“What’s a mundane?”

“Someone of the human world. Someone like you.”

“But you’re human,” Clary said.

“I am,” he said. “But I’m not like you.” There was no defensiveness in his tone. He sounded like he didn’t care if she believed him or not.

“You think you’re better. That’s why you were laughing at us.”

“I was laughing at you because declarations of love amuse me, especially when unrequited,” he said. “And because your Simon is one of the most mundane mundanes I’ve ever encountered. And because Hodge thought you might be dangerous, but if you are, you certainly don’t know it.”

“I’m dangerous?” Clary echoed in astonishment. “I saw you kill someone last night. I saw you drive a knife up under his ribs, and—” And I saw him slash at you with fingers like razor blades. I saw you cut and bleeding, and now you look as if nothing ever touched you.

“I may be a killer,” Jace said, “but I know what I am. Can you say the same?”

*************************************************************

Hodge jerked upright, so abruptly that Hugo, who had been resting comfortably on his shoulder, launched himself into the air with an irritable caw. “Valentine?”

“Yes,” Clary said. “I heard the same name in Pandemonium from the boy—I mean, the demon—”

“It’s a name we all know,” Hodge said shortly. His voice was steady, but she could see a slight tremble in his hands. Hugo, back on his shoulder, ruffed his feathers uneasily.

“A demon?”

“No. Valentine is— was—a Shadowhunter.”

“A Shadowhunter? Why do you say was?”

“Because he’s dead,” said Hodge flatly. “He’s been dead for fifteen years.”

Clary sank back against the couch cushions. Her head was throbbing. Maybe she should have gone for that tea after all.

“Could it be someone else? Someone with the same name?”

Hodge’s laugh was a humorless bark. “No. But it could have been someone using his name to send a message.” He stood up and paced to his desk, hands locked behind his back. “And this would be the time to do it.”

“Why now?”

“Because of the Accords.”

“The peace negotiations? Jace mentioned those. Peace with who?”

“Downworlders,” Hodge murmured. He looked down at Clary. His mouth was a tight line. “Forgive me,” he said. “This must be confusing for you.”

“You think?”

He leaned against the desk, stroking Hugo’s feathers absently. “Downworlders are those who share the Shadow World with us. We have always lived in an uneasy peace with them.”

“Like vampires, werewolves, and…”

“The Fair Folk,” Hodge said. “Faeries. And Lilith’s children, being half-demon, are warlocks.”

“So what are you Shadowhunters?”

“We are sometimes called the Nephilim,” said Hodge. “In the Bible they were the offspring of humans and angels. The legend of the origin of Shadowhunters is that they were created more than a thousand years ago, when humans were being overrun by demon invasions from other worlds. A warlock summoned the Angel Raziel, who mixed some of his own blood with the blood of men in a cup, and gave it to those men to drink. Those who drank the Angel’s blood became Shadowhunters, as did their children and their children’s children. The cup thereafter was known as the Mortal Cup. Though the legend may not be fact, what is true is that through the years, when Shadowhunter ranks were depleted, it was always possible to create more Shadowhunters using the Cup.”

“Was always possible?”

“The Cup is gone,” said Hodge. “Destroyed by Valentine, just before he died. He set a great fire and burned himself to death along with his family, his wife, and his child. Scorched the land black. No one will build there still. They say the land is cursed.”

“Is it?”

“Possibly. The Clave hands down curses on occasion as punishment for breaking the Law. Valentine broke the greatest Law of all—he took up arms against his fellow Shadowhunters and slew them. He and his group, the Circle, killed dozens of their brethren along with hundreds of Downworlders during the last Accords. They were only barely defeated.”

“Why would he want to turn on other Shadowhunters?”

“He didn’t approve of the Accords. He despised Downworlders and felt that they should be slaughtered, wholesale, to keep this world pure for human beings. Though the Downworlders are not demons, not invaders, he felt they were demonic in nature, and that that was enough. The Clave did not agree—they felt the assistance of Downworlders was necessary if we were ever to drive off demonkind for good. And who could argue, really, that the Fair Folk do not belong in this world, when they have been here longer than we have?”

“Did the Accords get signed?”

“Yes, they were signed. When the Downworlders saw the Clave turn on Valentine and his Circle in their defense, they realized Shadowhunters were not their enemies. Ironically, with his insurrection Valentine made the Accords possible.” Hodge sat down in the chair again. “I apologize, this must be a dull history lesson for you. That was Valentine. A firebrand, a visionary, a man of great personal charm and conviction. And a killer. Now someone is invoking his name …”