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Tansy Rayner Roberts

The Cheysuli Reread, Book 2: The Song of Homana

Tansy Rayner Roberts is rereading The Cheysuli Chronicles, an epic fantasy series and family saga by Jennifer Roberson which combines war, magic and prophecy with domestic politics, romance and issues to do with cultural appropriation and colonialism.

Another concise, fast-paced read which manages to pack several volumes worth of Epic Fantasy Plot into a single volume—but this one, quite startlingly, is told in 1st person instead of 3rd, as well as having a different protagonist to Book 1. (Oh, fantasy series made up of single narratively satisfying volumes, where did you go?) This time it’s Carillon, Alix’s cousin and the dispossessed Mujhar of Homana, who takes centre stage.

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The Cheysuli Reread, Book 1: Shapechangers

One thing that struck me, rereading Shapechangers for the first time in more than a decade, is how fast it is. It’s rare to find fantasy fiction in volumes less than 120K these days, let along in a book as slender as this first Chronicle of the Cheysuli. But oh, the pace! It rattles along at an extraordinary rate, even if it does require a few conveniently placed conversations about the current political situation to get the reader up to speed. By Chapter 4, we’ve been introduced to the main players, caught up on most of the relevant backstory, and are full steam ahead into our adventure.

I would love to see more modern fantasy follow this structure.

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Introducing The Cheysuli Reread

Jennifer Roberson is one of the writers who shaped the way I look at and think about epic fantasy. Her Chronicles of the Cheysuli books had a powerful effect on me because it was the first time I read fantasy that felt like social and family history as much as a history of politics and war.

Roberson is one of the authors I think of as the Sword and Sorceress collective, because she had many stories published in the DAW Books series edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley that were published across the 80s and 90s. I found that these books were great for finding new authors to read, as it was a good bet that if they wrote at least one story for S&S, they cared enough about female characters to put plenty of them in their novels, too. Regular contributors to these anthologies included Diana L Paxon, Charles De Lint, Deborah Wheeler, Mercedes Lackey, and Laurell K Hamilton—Roberson had stories in each of the first 6 volumes of Sword and Sorceress, some of which introduced characters and situations she would use in her novels.

The Cheysuli Chronicles consist of eight books (published between 1984 and 1992) covering seven generations and more than a century of history of a kingdom called Homana, at a time of great transition. In the first book, Shapechangers, the once-great Cheysuli are a magical race who are persecuted and hunted, barely surviving as a community; over the course of the books that follow, they rise to great power thanks to a series of political choices and marriages.

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Daredevil Can’t Hear Ninjas (or His Own Terrible Life Choices)

This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 11 (“.380”) and Episode 12 (“The Dark at The End of the Tunnel”) and is extremely spoilery. Find more Daredevil episode recaps here.

THE STORY SO FAR: Thanks to a grand collaboration involving the Punisher’s violent shooting sprees, Matt’s stalky superpowers, Foggy’s legal know-how, and Karen’s newly-embraced investigative reporting skills, the gang have uncovered a massive conspiracy surrounding the District Attorney’s office and a drug lord called the Blacksmith, not to mention a completely different centuries-old immortality conspiracy involving Matt’s old backstabby mentor Stick, Matt’s homicidal assassin ex-girlfriend Elektra, and a whole lot of ninjas belonging to a group called the Hand.

These are special ninjas, by the way, who can keep their heartbeat silent and thus Daredevil can only hear them by the swishing of their swords. You’d think if this was an important premise of the show then they would have done some sound editing so those of us mere mortals watching couldn’t actually hear their feet running around the place. But okay, willing suspension, magical silent ninjas.

Shhh: ninjas.

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Prisoner: Cell Block Daredevil

This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 9 (Seven Minutes in Heaven) and Episode 10 (The Man in the Box) and is extremely spoilery for those episodes. Find more Daredevil episode recaps here.

THE STORY SO FAR: Matt Murdock has wrecked his love life, his closest friendships, the most important trial his law firm has even taken on, his law firm, and now his world is infested with ninjas. So many ninjas. Seriously, his life makes Jessica Jones look like a well-adjusted member of society. Pretty much the only positive thing he has achieved this season was getting the Punisher arrested. At least he has that to keep him warm at nights…

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The People Vs. Matt Murdock

This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 7 (“Semper Fidelis”) and Episode 8 (“Guilty as Sin”) and is extremely spoilery for those episodes. Find more Daredevil episode recaps here.

THE STORY SO FAR: The Punisher shot up a bunch of criminals; Daredevil got him captured and arrested, then volunteered to be his defense lawyer (he wears many hats) in the trial of the century. Foggy wants to bring down the corrupt District Attorney, Karen wants to help the Punisher find some kind of justice, and Matt’s destructive ex-girlfriend Elektra has turned up, and we don’t know she’s a super ninja assassin, but she totally seems to have the skill-set of a super ninja assassin.

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Dating With Daredevil

This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 5 (“Kinbaku”) and Episode 6 (“Regrets Only”) and is extremely spoilery for those episodes. Find more Daredevil episode recaps here.

THE STORY SO FAR: Thanks to Daredevil (who gave the credit to the NYPD), the murderous vigilante the Punisher has finally been arrested after his violent rampage against three of the city’s organised crime communities. Matt and Karen are close to getting their act together romantically, but because Matt Murdock is not allowed to be happy even for ten minutes, the dangerous and mysterious Elektra has dropped back into his life…

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Daredevil + Punisher = Vigilante Bros

This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 3 (“New York’s Finest”) and Episode 4 (“Penny and Dime”) and is extremely spoilery for those episodes. Find more Daredevil episode recaps here.

THE STORY SO FAR: Matt Murdock already had enough on his plate protecting the citizens of Hell’s Kitchen from run-of-the-mill bad guys when a gun-toting vigilante showed up, this one considerably more morally grey than Daredevil: the Punisher, who’s been systematically taking out the higher-ups of various organized crime rings. The Punisher got the drop on Murdock in their first fight, essentially giving him a concussion and messing with his super-senses. Round 2 didn’t go so well either…

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Daredevil is Not Bulletproof

This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 1 (“Bang!”) and Episode 2 (“Dogs to a Gun Fight”) and is extremely spoilery for those episodes. Find more Daredevil coverage here.

THE STORY SO FAR: Remember this guy? Matt Murdock is trying to save everybody—by day a lawyer who helps the impoverished, vulnerable people of Hell’s Kitchen, and by night a costumed vigilante who does exactly the same thing, only with more punching. Also, he’s blind, but his other senses are so acute that he’s not really blind. Except he’s still totally blind.

In Season 1 of Netflix’s Daredevil, Matt saved his part of the city from the murderous, violent property developer and mobster Wilson Fisk. The trouble with cities is, they don’t stay saved.

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Jessica Jones is Uniquely Qualified

Hot off her Alias reread, Tansy Rayner Roberts reviews Netflix’s Jessica Jones. In this post: “AKA Take a Bloody Number” and“AKA Smile.” Spoilers for season 1.

Episode 12 AKA Take a Bloody Number

Written By: Hilly Hicks Jr
Directed By: Billy Gierhart

Luke and Jessica run from the police after his bar blew up—correction, after Luke blew up his bar at Kilgrave’s behest. Jessica is suspicious about whether Kilgrave has left any other orders in his head, and keeps him under observation until the requisite twelve hours is past.

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Patsy’s Gonna Save You, Jessica Jones

Hot off her Alias reread, Tansy Rayner Roberts reviews Netflix’s Jessica Jones. In this post: “AKA I’ve Got the Blues” Spoilers for season 1.

Episode 11: AKA I’ve Got The Blues

Written By: Scott Reynolds & Liz Friedman
Directed By: Uta Briesewitz

Here’s a thing about Liz Friedman: many years ago, there was a Hercules: the Legendary Journeys episode set in the present day, in which the regular and recurring cast played the directors and writers of the show. This means that whenever I see Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman credited on anything, I imagine that they are really Salmoneus and Joxer; likewise, Liz Friedman is and always will be, in my head canon, a particularly homicidal Callisto in a business suit and a Hope Van Dyne wig.

Ahem. Also, she writes good stuff. I’m always excited to see Liz Friedman’s byline.

This episode revolves around the friendship between Trish Walker and Jessica Jones, from its origins to the present day. In particular, the theme of the girls saving each other, failing to save each other and promising not to save each other.

[They’re always gonna save each other.]

Jessica Jones Takes Control…

Hot off her Alias reread, Tansy Rayner Roberts reviews Netflix’s Jessica Jones. In this post: “AKA Sin Bin” and “AKA 1,000 Cuts.” Spoilers for season 1.

Episode 9 AKA Sin Bin

Written By: Jamie King & Dana Baratta
Directed By: John Dahl

This is the closest thing we get to a bottle episode! In a reversal of last week, Kilgrave is now Jessica’s prisoner in the hermetically sealed room that Simpson’s old special ops department had lying around unused. Kilgrave awakes to a nightmare scenario—his cell is ankle deep in water, there’s a live wire rigged up to a big red button that Jessica can press to electrocute him any time she likes, and the video of his childhood trauma as a lab rat is being projected against the wall.

Oh, and his powers don’t work via microphone. Jessica can even choose whether or not she wants to listen to what he has to say.

[Jessica thinks she has Kilgrave exactly where she wants him…]

Jessica Jones Wants You To Do The Hero Thing

Hot off her Alias reread, Tansy Rayner Roberts reviews Netflix’s Jessica Jones. In this post: “AKA Top Shelf Perverts” and “AKA WWJD.” Spoilers for season 1.

Episode 7: AKA Top Shelf Perverts

Written By: Jenna Reback & Micah Shrift
Directed By: Simon Cellan Jones

Not content with invading her childhood home, Kilgrave spends some personal time in Jessica’s apartment office, spraying his territory by peeing in her toilet.

Enter Ruben the soppy neighbour boy from upstairs, who blurts out to the stranger in the lovely suit that he has brought banana bread for Jessica “because he loves her.” Aw, Ruben, no.

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Jessica Jones is Her Own Worst Enemy

Hot off her Alias reread, Tansy Rayner Roberts reviews Netflix’s Jessica Jones. In this post: “Episode 6—AKA You’re a Winner.” Spoilers for season 1.

AKA You’re A Winner!

Written By: Edward Ricourt
Directed By: Stephen Surjik

Malcolm is now in recovery from drug addiction, and he’s being a model patient. He’s attending group therapy far more often than Jessica, and after some soul searching he is all aboard the Anti-Kilgrave Committee with an unprecedented amount of enthusiasm.

[“I preferred your brain on drugs.”]