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Alex Brown

Does American Gods Season 2 Live Up to Expectations?

After two complicated years of firings, quittings, delays, and rewrites, American Gods is back. Odin is gathering the weaker gods at the House on the Rock to convince them to join his side in a war against the New Gods—easier said than done, especially as Shadow keeps getting caught in the crossfire. I’ve now seen the first three episodes of Season 2 and while I hate to be the bearer of bad news, this early stretch of American Gods is a dull affair. This season seems to be an exercise in watching a bunch of excellent actors dealing with mediocre scripts, cheap-looking CGI, and crass misogyny. I’m disappointed, to say the least.

Here’s a (spoiler-free, in terms of plot details) review of what to expect this season, based on Episodes 1-3.

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A Triumphant Return: The True Queen by Zen Cho

After three-and-a-half long years, Zen Cho’s the Sorcerer Royal series is back! I cannot adequately explain how much I’ve missed Prunella and Zacharias and their magical Regency world, nor how excited I am to have them in my life once more. Given how lovely The Sorcerer to the Crown was, I went into The True Queen a bit trepidatious that it wouldn’t live up to its predecessor. But this is Zen Cho we’re talking about so of course my worries were unfounded.

[“She had only wished to break the curse.”]

Generational Trauma and the Art of Letting Go: Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

Generations after the Big Shake left the world in ruins, Mega City emerged from the rubble. Dominated by women, Mega City is ruled by the all-powerful Déesse from her royal enclave in the Towers, apartment buildings filled with elites and acolytes. Déesse controls the city with an endless wave of propaganda, drugs, and all-girl crews. Mega City is the exact opposite of our society: a matriarchy where men are second-class citizens who are treated like sex objects and devalued as human beings. Young girls are recruited into training camps and eventually form their own crews, marauding groups of teen girls battling each other for popularity, enforcing Déesse’s rules, and crushing dissent amongst the serfs. That is, until the Ashé Ryders, a crew long-believed disbanded, infiltrates the city.

In the midst of all this is Chief Rocka, the leader of the Las Mal Criadas crew. All sharp edges and bitter words, she is a BAMF sixteen-year-old going on thirty who rules the streets with an iron fist. In a world where girl soldiers are taught to fight first, ask questions never, Chief Rocka is queen of them all. She dreams of a life in the Towers as Déesse’s second in command, but is haunted by nightmares of her childhood spent longing for the father and sister who abandoned her and worrying over her drug addicted mother. When they’re offered a chance at the Towers by running a spy mission on the Ashé Ryders, the LMCs jump into action. But beyond the city walls lies a mystery Chief Rocka isn’t ready to face. The truth about Mega City, its glorious leader, and Chief Rocka’s own past will shake her world to its core.

[“Tonight feels different.”]

The Belles Series by Dhonielle Clayton Examines the High Cost of Beauty

When Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles came out in 2018, the young adult fiction world was set aflame with excitement and praise. Her novel was one of only four YA fantasies written by Black women that year, but it wasn’t just its rareness that attracted attention. Written with heart and heat, The Belles deserved all the love it got. Now with the highly anticipated sequel, The Everlasting Rose, Clayton has returned to the world of Orléans. You shouldn’t even need to ask if lives up to the first book; the answer is of course a resounding yes!

[“I want to know. I deserve to know.”]

Queering the Revolution: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

The island of Medio is a nation divided—geographically, politically, and socially. A wall severs the island in two, sealing off the toxic sea from a toxic society. The wall is a weapon as much as it is a barrier: The Medio ruling elite use it to enforce their power and disenfranchise everyone else. Those unlucky enough to be born on the sea-facing side risk everything to sneak across. A life spent being undocumented and tormented by bloodthirsty police on the “right” side of the wall is still better the hopelessness, starvation, and despair on the “wrong” side.

This is the world of Daniela Vargas. With forged papers, her undocumented parents got her into the Medio School for Girls. There she was trained as a Primera and waited for a wealthy family to select her as a wife for their son. In Medio, each wealthy man has two wives: a Primera who acts as a partner and uses her wisdom and stoicism to move the family up the social hierarchy, and a Segunda who offers romance and whimsy to occupy her husband’s emotions. Before graduation, Dani is blackmailed by Sota, a boy from rebel group La Voz, into spying on her fiancé. For years the government has been at war with the revolutionaries. Anyone even suspected of associating with La Voz are packed off to prison camps, but lately prisoners have been disappearing between capture and imprisonment. And Dani’s connection with her soon-to-be husband makes her perfectly placed to help the guerilla fighters—whether she wants to or not.

[“There was no going back.”]

Raw Magic, Creepy Obsessions, and a Pseudo-Sea Battle in Children of Blood and Bone, Chapters 18-30

This week, our ongoing reread of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi continues with chapters 18-30, in which Inan goes all in with his magic, Tzain discovers his inner strategist, Amari cracks under pressure, and Zélie wages a deadly sea battle in the middle of a desert.

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Series: Reading Children of Blood and Bone

A Steampunk Mystery with Real Bite: P. Djèlí Clark’s The Haunting of Tram Car 015

On the eve of one of the country’s most important votes in years, a spirit takes over a tram car. Agent Hamed Nasr has been at the ministry for a long time, too long perhaps. He’s seen just about everything. Joining him is a fresh recruit, Agent Onsi Youssef, an eager, learned young man. What starts off as a standard exorcism explodes into the unimaginable. This is no ordinary haunting, and to solve the case Hamed and Onsi will have to make some unexpected alliances in the city’s underbelly.

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History, Oppression, and Rebellion Come to a Head in Children of Blood and Bone, Chapters 1-8

Welcome to the first installment of our reread of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. This week, we’re focusing on chapters 1-8—in which Zélie gets herself into all kinds of trouble, Princess Amari commits high treason, Prince Inan learns the full scope of his father’s violence, and Tzain gets dragged into the middle of a mess he didn’t start and doesn’t want to finish.

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Series: Reading Children of Blood and Bone

Pull List: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and DIE and the Lure of Nostalgia

Looking back on something you once loved deeply is a double-edged sword. Sometimes you revisit the past and find it not nearly as hospitable and compelling as you thought, and sometimes you find fresh new ways to engage with the material.

For this month’s Pull List we’re taking a trip down memory lane with two comics that take very different approaches to nostalgia. DIE asks what it means to confront the past while Buffy the Vampire Slayer excavates all the best bits from the way back when and pairs them with contemporary sensibilities. So when I tell you to call your local comic shop ASAP to place your order, you better be pulling out your phone.

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“Raise the Wild Cry”: The Cassandra by Sharma Shields

Mildred Groves leaves her home for the first time in her life in 1944. In her early twenties, she has lived an isolated life in her small hometown where her only companions were her sharp-tongued, hypochondriac mother, her cruel and indifferent sister, and her weak-willed brother-in-law. But with the economy booming with war production and jobs ripe for the picking, she walks away from everything she knows. Really, she has no choice. A vision told her she would take a secretarial job at the newly built Hanford research facility in eastern Washington state. And so she goes.

Mildred has had visions of the future all her life, but they get more lurid and extreme at the camp. No matter who she tells or what she says, no one ever believes her, not even when they experience the very thing she predicted. Her Hanford friends are troubled by her sleepwalking, while her boss is fascinated, like a boy with a new toy. One man finds her oddness an acceptable price to pay for a potential bride, and another as an easy excuse to take what he wants without fear or consequence. As the violence of the real world begins to bleed into her visions, Mildred’s sanity collapses and she takes her frustrations out on her own body.

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Introducing the Children of Blood and Bone Reread

Children of Blood and Bone was a hit before it even made it out of edits. Tomi Adeyemi wrote the first draft in just a month. Less than a year later she sold her manuscript and earned one of the biggest advances in the history of young adult fiction. Not long after that, Fox 2000 picked up the film rights for development.

Publisher’s Weekly gave the novel a starred review, stating, “By making tangible the power that comes from embracing one’s heritage, Adeyemi conjures a story that resonates with magic both literal and figurative while condemning apathy in the face of injustice.” The Atlantic beamed with enthusiasm at the story’s Afrofuturist tendencies, noting that “reimagining oppressive pasts and envisioning far-off futures are closely linked revolutionary acts—meditations on the nature of power that can revive the creative potential of speculative fiction.”

Luckily, none of that is hype: the book really is as good as everyone says.

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Series: Reading Children of Blood and Bone

Vultures by Chuck Wendig is the Perfect End to Miriam’s Story

Everything has been building up to this. Miriam is pregnant and isn’t particularly excited about it. The man she loved is dead, murdered by someone she cared for. The woman she loves has a rapidly approaching expiration date. The feds are onto her. And the Trespasser is circling like a vulture over its prey. Miriam is beaten but not broken, but for the Trespasser it’s only a matter of time until she snaps. The Trespasser can wait; it has all the time in the world. Miriam doesn’t. Her time is quickly running out and when it finally does…

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