Sunday, December 30, 2012

Scent of Magic by Maria V Snyder and A Weird Musical

As this is the end of the year, I thought I'd review a couple of things, and then leave the slate clean for 2013.
I should note that this is my 341st post on this blog, and that 2012 was a pretty good year for blogging and books.
I've read two series by Maria V Snyder, the "Poison Study" series, which was my introduction to her fine prose and marvelous characters, and her "Glass" series, which included an interesting take on weather from the author, who was once a meteorologist.
The "Healer" series, which began with "Touch of Power" takes a completely different direction than her previous works, which were so inventive and exciting that I was certain that the author would run out of fascinating female protagonists to develop for her readers.
Happily, I was wrong.
Avry is the last healer in a world where plague has ravaged the population. Healers discovered early on that if they attempted to heal plague victims, they'd sicken and die themselves, but once they revealed that they were helpless to heal victims, they became targets of an angry, grieving population of survivors who blamed the plague on them. She is called upon to heal the leader of one of the realms in her world, but as he has the plague, she's not going to heal him willingly, until she meets Kerrick, the prince of one of the other kingdoms. At first, he is so intent on hunting her down and forcing her to heal King Ryne that Kerrick fails to notice how special Avry really is, as a person, not just a healer.  Kerrick travels with a band of misfits who work their way into Avry's heart, and eventually, she works her way into Kerrick's heart as well. She realizes that King Tohon, who is basically a psychopath and a meglomaniac, will only be stopped on his quest to dominate the fifteen kingdoms if King Ryne is restored to health. So she heals him, only to discover that the Peace and Death Lilys that dot the landscape of the kingdoms can restore her to health from the brink of death, as long as she gets the magic touch from Kerrick's forest magic.
In the second book in the series, "Scent of Magic" Avry has escaped Tohon and his grisly army of dead men and creatures, and now that everyone thinks she is dead, she needs to find a way to infiltrate the armies preparing for war and repair the estrangement with her sister Noelle, who is her last living relative. Kerrick has to help Ryne and his army prepare for Tohon's onslaught, and Avry has to figure out how to use the toxins of the Death Lilys to stop the army of zombies.
As usual, Snyder's prose is clean, clear and beautifully wrought, aiding a refreshingly zippy plot that moves the characters to the finale at an exhilarating, breathless pace. I literally couldn't put the book down because I had to know what happened next, and after that, and then again after that. Each time I told myself "Just one more page" and I'd end up 50 pages later still not able to put the book down for any length of time. My only qualm with the book is that we didn't get much "face time" with Kerrick and Avry, whose love is like a silky ribbon running through the warp and weft of the book's pages. Fortunately, we do get closer to the end of some of the "bad" characters, though for spoilers sake I will not mention who they are.
I can hardly wait until the next installment arrives, and in the meantime, I highly recommend that fantasy/romance and readers who love a smart, fierce female protagonist and a hottie male protagonist hike down to their local bookstore and grab a copy of "Touch of Power" and "Scent of Magic" and get their read on!
I also watched a movie tonight called "Score: A Hockey Musical" starring Olivia Newton John and a host of Canadian actors whom I've seen in other films and TV shows.
Though it sounds like a total cheese-fest, there was actually some merit to this musical, though the testosterone level and gross-out factor was higher for this musical than any I've seen since "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
There are certain requirements for a musical to be up to standard, IMHO, as there has to be some comedy at least somewhere in the musical to lighten the mood a bit, there has to be great songs, or a few that are hum-able, and there has to be actors who can sing/dance/act and generally seem sincere in making the material of the play come to life. They have to be good enough that you'd be willing to spend 2 hours in their company, listening to whatever message they have to impart, in song and dance. The theme of the musical can be completely absurd, as it was in this one, but if the cast can't get you to suspend your disbelief and buy what they're selling, they, and their producers, are screwed.
The "Score" cast were sincere, they could, for the most part, sing, they had some very comedic moments/songs that made me laugh out loud, and they had songs that were hum-able and the dance numbers were cheesy enough to be fun, but not so cheesy as to be repugnant. It actually made the idea of a pacifist playing hockey against the wishes of his politically correct, ultra-green nerd parents seem like a legitimate, believable plot. Olivia Newton John, who hasn't aged well, still manages to belt out a few tunes with her seemingly tone-deaf grubby-professor husband. The young boy who plays the protagonist is amazing, and adapts to each new situation with enthusiasm and verve. Since it's a strange subject matter and there is a teenage love triangle involved, I wouldn't let kids under the age of 13 watch it, but still, it makes for a fun distraction from whatever ails you during the winter doldrums, before celebrating the new year.
See you in 2013!

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