Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Marked and Horsemen of the Apocalypse

I gave up on Marked, the first House of Night book.  Good heavens, it was terrible.  Towards the end of the second disc (of eight) it started skipping a bit, but really that was more the excuse than actually the reason.  How in the world can anyone like reading a book with a protagonist who's completely helpless, hapless, passive, has no confidence--and therefore doesn't do anything--and who is bratty, whiny and unrelentingly negative and insulting all the time to boot?

On top of that, the book itself was actually offensive.  The "fake Christian" religion was consistently portrayed as a sham and oppressive and stupid.  It's members, if they were women, were portrayed as brainwashed and hapless (and fat, curiously), if men, they were authoritarian, controlling, and were described as "beady-eyed pedophiles."  Anyone rural was portrayed incredibly insultingly--beer-drenched and ignorant if boys or men, helpless little puppy dogs if women, anxious for any sign of affection.  The only sympathetic adult characters were hippy Cherokee grandma, and the pagan high priestess of Nyx.  Although I didn't really get into it yet, other reviews complain about the detailed and time-consuming details of the Nyxian religious ceremonies described in the book.

In other words, it was everything I hate about "romantic fantasy" that I've read in the past; wildly unsympathetic and unlikable protagonist, wildly feminist, wildly pagan, and insulting of American culture, men, and Christianity--often gratuitously, even.  Major, major let-down.

Meanwhile, I have another "YA urban fantasy" book on CD from the library.  Given my bad luck lately with skipping CDs, I've brought it in the house and am going to clean the surfaces of all the discs with Windex and a soft cloth before I even start.  Also, I've got The Seal of Karga Kul, which I haven't been reading particularly fastish and I didn't start right away when I got either (I got it before getting Mark of Nerath, but since they were published in the opposite order, I was worried that I needed to read them in order.  Vain worry--turns out there's little to no relationship between them.)  It's due at the library in two days, so I need to make some major progress--I've got about 80 pages left to read and a busy evening tonight.

Meanwhile, I've also just finished the Paizo Campaign Setting book Book of the Damned, vol. 3: Horsemen of the Apocalypse which details the "daemons" in the Golarion setting.  Demons and devils are relatively well established in D&D and its derivative games (probably because they were in the original Monster Manual but their "neutral evil" equivalents have always struggled to find a place and the same kind of iconic-ness.  Perhaps that was inevitable when the were unfortunately named "daemons" in Monster Manual 2 where they first debuted.  What exactly is the difference between a demon and a daemon anyway?  That's a bit like talking about the difference between gray and grey, or color and colour.  Absurd. Not that making a big divide between demons and devils wasn't already overly "splittist" as it was.

In the 2e days, there was an attempt to give the daemons their own identity.  While demons became tanar'ri and devils became baatezu, the daemons became yugoloths.  In the 3e era, while demons and devils regained their original name, the yugoloths did not (nor their place in supplements) ensuring their continued second class status.

Green Ronin's The Book of Fiends decided to redo the daemons envisioned as belonging to one of seven circles, each one associated with one of the seven deadly sins.  Paizo took their lead and came up with another classic Christian interpretation (although a different one) making the daemons nihilistic fiends, focused on the upcoming apocalypse, hating mortality and wanting nothing more than to completely wipe it out.  Their leaders--the equivalents of the archdevils or demon lords--are the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  The only thing retained is that Charon, the Greek ferryman of the dead and one of the original D&D "daemons" is retained as one of the horsemen, combined here with the Grim Reaper in aspect.

I liked that idea.  In fact, I liked the idea so much that I'm likely going to revise my DARK•HERITAGE pantheon to more overtly include some Lovecraftian entities and the four horsemen myself.  I'm not going to use the Paizo version (Paizo has a Horseman of pestilence, which--while traditional in contemporary depictions, frequently, is actually not one of the horsemen at all.  I guess modern writers borrowing the concept find war and conquest too similar to each other or something.)  Other than that, it follows a relatively familiar format by this point--it talks about daemons, their semi-mythical origins, some of their past history, their hierarchy, their goals it has a prestige class for daemon-worshipers (although the book also has a hard time explaining why these exist, given that the daemons hate mortals so much) and a number of monster entry for more daemons.  I didn't find many of them to be particularly inspired.  In fact, in general, I found the book to be fairly serviceable, but not inspiring.  Maybe that's the problem with continually putting the "daemons" off until last of the major fiendish "races" but they always seem to come across as also-rans by the time they get out there.  Although I do have to give the book credit for causing me to rethink my cosmology in an effort to include the Four Horsemen in one form or another.  It was at least sufficiently evocative to accomplish that.

I also just got another Paizo book, The Dragon Empires Gazetteer which I'll be reading soon as well.  However, these Paizo books are slim enough that I may not end up putting it on my "What I'm Reading" list just because it'll be over and done with so quickly.

Next up on posting, I made a goal to have two campaign setting posts per week, and I haven't done one yet, and probably won't get to it today.  That gives me a relatively short time to crank two out!  Luckily, I already know pretty much exactly what I want to do.  And as for my FRPG series, although I've already done enough to meet my "quota" I might have another of those lurking and ready to burst out before the week is over too.

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