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I had borrowed Ursula Vernon's Black Dogs from P some time ago but didn't get around to reading it until I finished Grant Takes Command last night. Yeah, it's an odd transition, but as you all know, I have pretty catholic tastes in literature. Anyway, I'm sorry I waited.

This is a fantasy that starts on a decidedly down note - young Lyra is stumbling through the medieval woods, alone, badly wounded, and with nothing but her clothes and her family's honor-knife. She's fleeing from the slaughter of her family at the hand of bandits, who were aided by her half-brother, but Lyra is pitifully unequipped for flight, since she's spent most of her life reading and not learning how to survive in the woods. Fortunately for her, she crosses paths with one of the legendary dog soldiers (as in, anthropomorphic dog warrior), who takes her under his wing and eventually introduces her to a pair of lesbian elf scouts (one with a pretty nasty death wish) and a half-elven sorceror's son who's the older scout's bastard nephew. That's just the beginning of an interesting cast of characters - none of whom will remind you of anyone from Digger, Vernon's long-running webcomic about an itinerant female miner who keeps getting involved in heroic situations and dealing with gods despite her best intentions.
To say the least, this is not your normal elf and dwarf crap. None of the characters are even close to being stereotypes, there are surprising plot twists, and the damn thing is TOO SHORT!!!! Also, for some reason another artist did the interior b&w illos, which are frankly not up to the quality of Vernon's own work.
Go order the book here.
Go view her art, including the now-legendary Biting Pear of Salamanca, here.
Go gaze on The Hotness That Is Ursula Vernon.
Yeah. All that, plus serious two-fisted artistic talent. Day-yum.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
therevdrnye
Jul. 28th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
I should punish you for proper use of the word "lower-case-c catholic", as in your case it smacks of an evilly understated pun, but I'm at war with my better nature, and haven't time.

wombat_socho
Jul. 28th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
Au contraire, if I had Catholic tastes in literature I would be restricting myself to Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, Jerry Pournelle, that Tolkien fellow, and James Blish. Hmmm, pretty wide range, actually.

Wait'll I get that essay on "Political Protest as a Subset of LARPing" done. ;)
therevdrnye
Jul. 29th, 2008 09:29 am (UTC)
Re: Catholic vs. catholic...

That was my point. You *did* use "catholic" correctly, but I suspected you of perpetrating a pernicious pun.

And as regards your essay... you have *NO* idea. The European LARP community will eat your essay when published and have 3 different LARPs out on the theme within 12 months... :-).

wombat_socho
Jul. 29th, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC)
You're misunderstanding the point. It's not that LARPs are political, or have political subtext, but that many of the people who engage in political protest aren't doing so because they have any serious motives, but because they feel the need to engage in political theater and subject the rest of us to it whether we want to participate or not. I realize that LARPers generally don't involve people who aren't actually involved in the LARP, but this is one of the differences between the LARP community (as I have experienced it) and political protesters. Y'all much more polite.
therevdrnye
Jul. 29th, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC)
I have to stand by the comment... the European LARP scene is farther along in developing LARP as an art form, and as a result a lot of experimental LARPs have been done to push the boundaries of what LARP is. I'm pretty sure they'd be right at home with the idea behind your thesis, and wouldn't be surprised to hear that they've been out deliberately running LARPs which deliberately pulled outsiders into the event to blur the lines between what is LARP and what is real life. Politics, as you suggest, is an obvious point of entry into the mainstream, which would allow LARPers to involve outsiders without the outsiders being aware that there actually *is* a LARP going on, until it was over.

wombat_socho
Jul. 30th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)
Yes, but that's the Euros. Here in the States, it's not the same thing at all. LARPers are people having fun with an expansion of RPGs into acting/theater, while political protesters are allegedly being serious and allegedly trying to have an impact on politics. The argument that they're LARPing is an accusation that they aren't really serious at all.
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