Author | alanajoli

alanajoli

New Haven based reviewer Alana Joli Abbott is the author of two novels, Into the Reach and Departure, and worked as the writer for the webcomic Cowboys and Aliens II, hosted at DrunkDuck.com. She is also a contributor to roleplaying games, including the award-winning Serenity Adventures, Chronicles of Ramlar, Steampunk Musha, and modular adventures for the Living Kingdoms of Kalamar, Xen’drik Expeditions, and Living Forgotten Realms Campaigns. She is a history columnist for Branford Patch. Her love for fantasy and science fiction has led her to many diverse pursuits, including traveling to visit ancient ruins in Turkey, Greece, Ireland, the UK, and Mexico, singing madrigals, studying stage combat, and practicing kempo karate with her husband.

Along with reviewing books for Flames Rising, Alana reviews comics and books about mythology and martial arts for School Library Journal, for which she got the chance to write the starred review for 2008 Newbery winner Good Masters, Sweet Ladies. She also reviews paranormal romance and fantasy for Publishers Weekly and has written a film review for Black Gate fantasy magazine. You can keep up with her day to day writing (unless she’s really busy) at www.virgilandbeatrice.com.


alanajoli

Red Hood’s Revenge Review

Posted on November 11, 2010 by

Jim Hines has a way of twisting fairy tales to let him get at bigger issues that lurk behind those stories. One of the biggest ideas he decided to take on is the traditional tale of Sleeping Beauty. One of the early versions of the tale says the the princess was not woken with a kiss, but either with intercourse or the pain of childbirth. If you follow Jim’s online writing at all, you know he’s worked very closely with rape survivors, and that talking about rape is important to him. It’s no surprise that he handles the issue with sophistication and a delicacy, which becomes even more relevant in Red Hood’s Revenge , a story that takes Talia back to her homeland to face her demons. The Lady of the Red Hood, also known as Roudette, is the most deadly assassin in the world, and she’s come after Talia. Her motives are unclear, especially when circumstances lead her to team up with the princess trio, but her hatred for fairies is obvious. When Talia wants to take out Zestan, a fairy the heroes suspect of being a deev — a very powerful evil fairy — Roudette gives every appearance of going along willingly, and only a shift in narrative technique allows readers to see that she’s up to something. (In the previous books, Jim stuck to a more limited third-person narrator; in Red Hood’s Revenge, the narration is broader, allowing peeks into several of the character’s perspectives.)

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alanajoli

What Book to Wear for Halloween

Posted on October 25, 2010 by

I remember thinking when the Harry Potter series was drawing to a conclusion that Halloween was changed forever. After all, who in their right mind would just be a generic witch anymore? With the wizarding world so well known via J. K. Rowling, being a regular ol’ witch would be so passé — get out those graduation robes and a scarf, and you’re officially a wizard or witch associated with his or her house from the old alma mater, Hogwarts. While working in a bookstore cafe, I wore my Gryffindor colors proudly — not because I would test out as a Gryffindor (nearly every Sorting Hat application on the Internet puts me in Hufflepuff), mind you, but because the colors were easier to find in my own wardrobe. I went with a necktie instead of a scarf, which I wore with a v-neck jumper and black pants. Close enough to a school uniform to pass, I’d say!

But to be perfectly honest, I’ve been dressing up as characters from books and movies for a long time.

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alanajoli

Angelus #3 Comic Review

Posted on October 1, 2010 by

When I last saw Danielle Baptiste, she’d just been chosen as the host of the Angelus — and rumor was that she was moving out west with friend (and potential lover), Finch. We’re now three issues in to her new story, told by Witchblade writer Marz and accompanied by Sejic’s usual amazing artwork, and a lot seems to have happened. Sabine, formerly determined to serve as host to the Angelus herself, is now Dani’s willing lieutenant. There’s a villain known so far only as the Conductor. And head of the Darkness, Jackie Estacato, has come to pay Dani his respects — however, that manages to work out.

As the issue opens, three of the Angelus warriors are in hell, stealing an artifact for Sabine (who must have her own agenda — no surprise here, as I didn’t trust her in Witchblade). They encounter another regular in the world — Tom Judge — who warns them about having two artifacts too close together and hints that a big event (probably a crossover event with all the splinter series that have started in 2010, but that may be my comics cynic talking) is coming. In one splash page, the Angelus warriors find out that their activities have not gone unnoticed — in a big (demonic) way. The posture of the Angelus warrior facing the legions of darkness is perfect — Sejic nails the image beautifully.

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alanajoli

Magdalena #1 Comic Review

Posted on September 9, 2010 by

In theory, Magdalena #1 starts a new series, but the story of Patience, the current heir to the Spear of Destiny and the bloodline of Christ, began in the Darkness series. We start here with Patience already split off from the church — in the first pages, it’s clear that the people who were once her benefactors (and bosses) are now very, very close to being her enemies. This is, of course, problematic, as the world is about to end: Satan’s son is on earth, and only the Magdalena can stop him.

The writing here is tight, and the art is good, if a bit in the standard-comic-book-style. The biggest problem with Magdalena #1 is the feel: cross Buffy the Vampire Slayer with The Da Vinci Code, and this is pretty much what you might expect. The Magdalena is effectively a demon slayer from the bloodline of Christ.

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alanajoli

Witchblade 135-136 Comic Review

Posted on September 3, 2010 by

When we last left off (back in March, embarrassingly enough), Sara Pezzini — aka, the bearer of the re-united witchblade — was facing off against cyborg assassin Aphrodite IV, who has previously tried to kill her. Twice. But being surrounded by enemy robots does a lot to make you rethink your position on being enemies, so as Witchblade 135 opens, the two team up. It’s clear that something is not right here at robots ‘r us — I mean, assassin robots should clue a person in on laws being broken — but while Aphrodite’s mission is about killing the traitor to her programmers, Sara’s determined to bring the law down hard instead. Surprisingly, the cyborg assassin agrees. But, of course, it’s not that easy — there are more robots to face, and, in the final panel, a whole lot more sexy cyborgs than anyone knew existed.

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alanajoli

Tracker 4 Comic Review

Posted on August 27, 2010 by

You may recall that I reviewed Tracker: First Look back in April. And I thought it was great, that the series would be awesome, and that I was looking forward to reading it, right? Here’s where I give my little sob story: I missed issues 1 through 3. Top Cow very kindly sent issue 4 for review… and gosh darn it, I missed a lot of awesome build up between that preview issue and now!

By the time we’ve hit issue 4, Alex O’Roarke has figured out some of his werewolf abilities. His relationship with Tory is on the outs — she’s making a last ditch attempt to bring back their romance, but he’s too dedicated to the case. Of course, now that he and serial killer Herod are viewing each other as rivals (Alex needs Herod’s blood for a cure to being a werewolf; Herod enjoys defeating — and eating, presumably — other werewolves), any time Alex isn’t with Tory, he’s putting her at risk. But the case is the most important thing for him — and it looks like that decision, that part of who he is, will cost him.

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alanajoli

Artifacts Issue 1 Comic Review

Posted on August 3, 2010 by

Here is is, folks, Artifacts #1, the first issue of the big cross-over event of the Top Cow universe, just now out at your local comic shop. And is it ever off to a bang. In several of the Top Cow series, we’ve been hearing about the 13 artifacts and how dangerous it would be to bring them all together. (Potentially, you know, the end of the world.) Some of the artifact holders are actively working toward that. Others are, of course, working against it, not wanting to be a party to Armageddon. But when Tom Judge is released from Hell bearing the Rapture, one of the 13, it begins to look like fate (or some power like it) is at work, bringing them together.

We open in New York with Sara Pezzini, the bearer of the Witchblade, fighting a minion of hell who is killing priests, looking for one in specific, the aforementioned Tom Judge.

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alanajoli

Vampire Week: A Joint Interview with Some Hot Urban Fantasists

Posted on June 24, 2010 by

When Matt first announced the idea of vampire week, I immediately knew I wanted to ask some personal questions to the folks who know vampires best – the authors who write about them and bring them to life. I sent out a short questionnaire to some of my favorite urban fantasy writers and got, unsurprisingly, some great responses. Here’s the who’s who of vampire know-how:

Dakota Cassidy, Angie Fox, Max Gladstone, Mark Henry, Nancy Holzner, Amanda Marrone, Kelly Meding, Nicole Peeler and Jeri Smith-Ready.

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alanajoli

Broken Trinity: Pandora’s Box Review

Posted on May 10, 2010 by

It’s hard to tell, at first, where Broken Trinity: Pandora’s Box starts. The cover says it’s #1 in the series. But it looks like it has back story, or is just jumping right into the middle of the action. In the opening, we learn that Gloriana has the Ember Stone, which can allow her to turn into a creature of fire, and possibly a dragon. Finn has the Glacier Stone, which can turn him into an ice giant. Gloriana wants to unite the 13 artifacts; Finn’s duty as the Glacier Stone keeper is to stop her. But what are the thirteen artifacts? One of them appears to be Pandora’s Box, which is being sought after by a cult known as the Disciples of Adam.

With a little web research, it’s revealed that three of those other 13 artifacts are the Trinity: the Witchblade, the Angelus, and the Darkness.

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alanajoli

Trinity: Blood on Sands Comic Review

Posted on April 28, 2010 by

Top Cow has several series that expand the Witchblade universe, and over the summer, they sent me a preview of a one-shot: Trinity: Blood on Sands. It depicts a 14th century tale of the battle between the Darkness and the Angelus, balanced, of course, by the bearer of the Witchblade. Written by Philip W. Smith II and featuring art by Sheldon Mitchell, Admira Wijaya, and Tom Grindberg (some of whom team with other artists for inks and colors), Trinity deepens the Witchblade mythology a little bit in twenty-five pages and three short-story like episodes. As a stand alone, however, it would do little to draw an audience into the series. Using the current mythology in which the Witchblade can be broken into two, the one-shot features a pair of siblings who share the Witchblade, one cruel and dark and the other good and loving, a trope which, when pitted against the Witchblade storyline during the time it came out, seems too simplistic.

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alanajoli

Tracker: First Look Comic Review

Posted on April 5, 2010 by

I have to say that teaser comics are just unfair. When I got a hold of Tracker: First Look (from the publisher, in pdf format) I saw that it was a convention exclusive, and that it didn’t have its own number on it, but it didn’t occur to me that this meant I’d be getting a sneak peak into something I might not be seeing more of. And man oh man, does Tracker look like it’s going to be a series to follow.

In the preview, Alex O’Roarke is discovered as the single survivor of a massacre on a bus. Found by his FBI agent partner Jezebel Kendall, Alex should be dead — he’s been shredded and has suffered far too many wounds to still be breathing.

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alanajoli

Witchblade #134 Comic Review

Posted on March 25, 2010 by

A new three-part arc is launching on Witchblade, featuring the assassin who (apparently) attacked Sara Pezzini earlier in the series: Aphrodite IV. The green-haired, probably mechanical assassin is hunting a fleeing scientist for a shadowy organization, and after a witness sees her get shot by a space ship that then disappears, Special Cases is called in to investigate. Sara and Gleason hit a lot of dead ends with their attempts to figure out either the weaponry or where their quarry may have gone until Sara recalls a mysterious contact: Argent. After a chatty phone call in which much is revealed (except for Argent’s real identity), Sara decides to go solo and investigate on some leads without calling to let Gleason know where she’s headed.

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alanajoli

The Darkness/Pitt #3 Comic Review

Posted on March 18, 2010 by

I have to say that of the tie-ins to the Witchblade universe, the title I was least excited about was The Darkness. I’m not really a fan of following around the bad guy, and it seems like Jackie Estacado’s whole job, being the Darkness incarnate and the head of a mob family, is all about being the bad guy. So I acknowledge that I wasn’t enthusiastic about picking up The Darkness/Pitt #3 when it was sent by the publisher as a pdf download.

I’m happy to say, however, that the series really deserves a chance, in large part due to the balancing act between The Darkness and Pitt, two series that have come together for this continuing crossover.

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alanajoli

Battle of the Network Zombies Review

Posted on March 11, 2010 by

You should, by now, already know about Amanda Feral.(1) The celebutante zombie star of Happy Hour of the Damned and Road Trip of the Living Dead is back in action, returning to Seattle’s night-life scene, albeit with far less cash than she started with. Like the rest of the world, Amanda’s finances are on the rocks, and the only thing that looks like it will save her(2) from the bone-breaking threats of the reapers, to whom she’s indebted, is taking a role on a reality show. Amanda’s no actress, but playing herself to the camera is something she’s perfected.

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alanajoli

Witchblade #131 Comic Review

Posted on March 9, 2010 by

Back with another overdue review of Witchblade (provided for review by the publisher in pdf format). Usually I don’t comment on the alternate covers (many of them have way too much cleavage for me to appreciate), but I have to say that Chris Bachalo’s Cover B is brilliant for this issue — it’s an almost Disnified version of Sara wearing very little Witchblade armor, but she’s just so cute that her scantily clad bod seems secondary to the hair and earrings being featured. None of the covers are particularly relevant to the content inside in this issue, so the cute factor goes a long way.

Sejic and Marz continue their excellent work in issue #131, which is really a wrap-up to the “War of the Witchblades” story line. Poor Julie’s been left out in the cold, not knowing about Sara’s secret, paranormal life.

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alanajoli

The Art of Top Cow Review

Posted on March 2, 2010 by

It makes a lot of sense for a small press like Top Cow, which has a lot of great titles on the market, to put everything together into an art book and showcase some of their best pieces. In The Art of Top Cow preview that I received from the publisher, I got to see thirty images of the more than 300 pages that will appear in the final book. Two of them, unfortunately, were nearly naked images of Sara Pezzini of Witchblade that look more like pinups than gallery images; another is a Top Cow poster that features three of the Top Cow women in all their busty glory. Hopefully those three images are not representative of a large portion of the included art (though certainly part of Top Cow’s target audience will surely appreciate them — just not my part of the market share!). In the preview, some of the pieces are really quite excellent, and I’ll highlight some of them quickly here.

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alanajoli

Witchblade #128 – 130 Comic Review

Posted on February 26, 2010 by

As you could tell from my reviews of the first half of the “War of the Witchblades” arc, back in May, I was loving them. Matt would send me a new PDF from the publisher, and I’d eagerly open it to see the next installment.

Except when I didn’t. That’s right, I completely neglected to download Witchblade #128. Rather than miss the fourth issue in the saga after the download period expired, I did what any self-respecting comics reader (and reviewer) would do — I waited for it to arrive at my friendly local comic shop (FLCS) and bought that sucker. This was a good choice, because without issue #128, the rest of the story wouldn’t have come together so well. Since they’ve been on the shelves for awhile now, I thought I’d review the rest of the “War of the Witchblades” arc, and recommend that you all keep an eye out at your local FLCS for a trade collecting these six issues.

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alanajoli

Accidentally Demonic Review

Posted on February 18, 2010 by

I discovered Dakota Cassidy through the League of Reluctant Adults, and have been following her blog for ages. She did an excellent back and forth short fiction piece with Mark Henry (Happy Hour of the Damned, Road Trip of the Living Dead, and the forthcoming Battle of the Network Zombies) that appeared on their web sites (a murder in an America’s Top Model-like environment) featuring characters from Mark’s Amanda Feral series and Dakota’s “Accidentals” series. Having fallen in love with her online writing, I put her books on hold through my library.

And I waited. And waited. And waited. And by the time the first book actually arrived through my library system (where apparently it was too popular at the home library for them to ship to me), Dakota’s fourth book, Accidentally Demonic, started appearing early on bookshelves.

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alanajoli

Grants Pass Fiction Review

Posted on January 15, 2010 by

This review is long overdue. Matt sent me Grants Pass, an awesome post-apocalyptic anthology edited by Jennifer Brozek and Amanda Pillar (more on why it’s awesome below) this past summer. It may have even been late spring. And after reading the introductions on my computer screen (which, on initial read, made chills creep up and down my spine), the anthology languished on my computer. I could not get myself sitting down in front of the screen long enough to read the carefully crafted short stories, couldn’t explore their interconnectedness while looking at them on a monitor. I printed out the whole pdf onto paper — but the formatting was a little odd, and not only was the collection heavy, the font was so large on the print out that it actually made it difficult to read. The three ring binder I put it in traveled from room to room in my house — but it didn’t open. The book languished… until I decided to try out an e-Reader. In less than a week, I’ve accomplished what it took me months to do: finished reading the whole anthology, cover to cover (as it were).

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alanajoli

Defining Genre: Not Quite Paranormal Romance

Posted on August 6, 2009 by

Last week, I talked about the paranormal romance novels that are easy to identify. So, what about paranormal novels that have lots of romance in them but don’t follow the category formula? Or what about novels that sort of follow the formula but have really deep world-building and a plot that reads more like an urban fantasy novel? Some paranormal romances read like romances with paranormal elements slapped on for fun, and others read like serious works of urban fantasy with a romance formula moving beneath the surface. Those are the cases where it’s harder to tell what you’re reading.

I struggled with Meljean Brook’s “The Guardians” series when I first read it because the world building was much deeper than paranormal romances I’d read before, and while the hero and heroine go through the usual pattern, there’s so much at stake in the series that the couple getting together doesn’t necessarily promise an HEA. The whole series also has a larger overarching plot that thickens with each episode, instead of getting closer to a resolution.

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