Magic Binds, by Ilona Andrews, Reviewed by Rachel Bakke

Magic Binds

Ilona Andrews 

Ace Books 

September 2016

ISBN: 978-0425270691

336 pages

Reviewed by RACHEL BAKKE 

In 2007, Ilona Andrews introduced readers to Kate Daniels, who stomped through Post Shift Atlanta with a sword in her hand and vengeance in her heart, ready to slice and dice bad people into much less dangerous pieces. Fast forward to 2016, there are 9 novels in the main series, 12 novels, novellas, and short stories branching off, and Kate is still as compelling, complex, and confident as ever.

In Andrews’ latest novel, Magic Binds, Kate gets to deal with one of the most relatable and at the same time most far out struggle to date, marriage. In a world permeated with both magic and technology, a wedding is not just a wedding- especially if it is on one of the most magical nights of the year. Never mind the fact that the father of the bride is determined to stop it and Kate is struggling with magic that is beyond her control.

What is so great about Kate Daniels that readers have been enthralled for nine novels?

She loses. All the time. She does not win every battle. She does not find every clue. Sometimes she is too late to do anything but clean up the mess and she certainly does not come out unscathed. Her actions have real consequences for her and everything around her- which is something we see a lot in this novel, with the help of the Witch Oracle.

Another thing that makes this series so amazing is Andrews’ world building. Kate’s world is overflowing with magical forces from all regions and religions, from Arabic djinn to Russian volhvs and everything in between. There is history surrounding the city and its new Post-Shift features, places where the magic runs so deep it never goes away even during tech. It is certainly not the idyllic world, there is still racism and sexism- and now speciesism- but now people have to be a lot more careful because someone can pull magic just as easily as pulling a weapon. It is such an incredibly cool place to explore while you read.

Over the series, Kate’s sharp edges have rounded out some. A former mercenary who is used to lone wolfing it now has to become diplomatic- a skill she never really had to have before. She has allies she can call on, and those allies have forces to lend to her battles. Hundreds of mercenaries, shapeshifters, police officers, mages, and vampires willing to charge forth into battle with her. A woman who was terrified of what her power could do to a child suddenly decides that children would not be so bad. Maybe it is all just part of Kate “wising up”, but it is good to see that not all of her changes. She is still witty and sarcastic. She still tries to solve everything on her own and does not always know when to ask for help. In this book, Kate really has to take the time to re-evaluate who she is and who she wants to become.

The major villain of the novel is the father of the bride, Roland, and this is the novel where he really gets to become a fully fleshed character. Roland and Kate had been estranged for most of Kate’s life- in fact, she had been raised to kill him because he is an evil wizard that killed her mother. Now that Roland is truly in the picture, we get to see more than just the shadowy figure of the evil wizard who is literally millennia old. He is an ancient tyrant who believes he can make the world a beautiful place if only people just did what he told them. Unfortunately, they do not so he has them killed in horrifying and agonizing ways. Every villain thinks they are the hero of their own story, and Roland is no different,

“If only I would just go along with your blatant disregard for your own word, none of it would happen. You’ll pretend it’s really my fault. It’s yours, Father. Your own sister chose to die rather than live in the world you wanted to create” (36).

Roland has this habit of doing whatever he wants. People are either too afraid or too weak to do anything about it, but the few who resist are slaughtered indiscriminately. Except for his daughter. He really just wants Kate to come rule at his side until she too will inevitably betray him and he has to kill her. Just like all of his children before her.

For all of the amazing magic and fantastical elements, there are real life issues at play. A father does everything he can to stop his daughter’s wedding. A woman comes into a great deal of power and fights not to be utterly corrupted by it. Ilona Andrews does amazing work with this series, and this is probably one of the most real to life ones yet.

Meet the blogger:
RACHEL BAKKE is recent Hamline University graduate with a degree in creative writing. She can usually be found on a theatre set armed with a drill, writing, or playing some kind of table top game.

The Boiling Point: Critical Contemporary Albums on Blackness, by McKinley Johnson

The Boiling Point: Critical Contemporary Albums on Blackness, by McKinley Johnson

Race is a subject that bring with it many negative emotions, making it hard to talk about, and some people avoid it all together. But some musical artists think of this as an entry point to the conversation, jump past or sometimes right into the middle of those historical wounds to give us language to understand the institution of race and its effects on the people that are being hurt by it

1.) To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

While this may be the most dated album on the list, it is the hardest hitting sound, the message is there from the second the album starts. Nestled deep in the track list is “The blacker the berry.” This rap describes in no uncertain terms exactly the effects and feelings about race relations that are personal to Lamar, giving us a snapshot of the anger and frustration that have built up in this society. While some have deemed the album inaccessible to certain audiences, I say it is a cornerstone for the dialogue of race.

2.) We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest.

Released recently after a sixteen year hiatus. Its first track, “Space Program,” details the mentality of and the frustration around gentrification, framing it with outer space imagery that calls out the fact that blacks are not wanted among those that will go to space, much like we’re not wanted in whatever neighborhood is considered the new bastion of civilization. You need only look at Brooklyn to see what I mean.

3.) 4 Your Eyez Only by J. Cole.

This album is a story from beginning to end, a letter from father to daughter about the life he lived and pulls back on a lot of the preconceived notions that haunt young black men when it comes to the lifestyle, reasons and causes that put us in the roles of drug dealers and gangstas. What it does best though is allow you to see beyond the glitz and glamor of those life choices to the prices paid for living in that system and the heartbreak it can cause, a daughter left fatherless and a friend of his she never met relaying the tale of his life, it’s tragic but it opens a window.

4.) Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper.

The source of #BlackBoyJoy is the other side of the coin, expressing an utter joy in living that in a way that only black people could, expressed from the first second of “No Problem” with an upbeat tune and a choir in the background you’re transported to a party, the emotion is infectious throughout and spontaneous smiles and dancing are just the beginning of the symptoms from listening to this album.

Hopefully seeing these albums will get you to listen to not only what I’ve already provided, but to the whole albums. If you can also step out to find more albums to get in on the discussion, please do.

Meet the blogger:
McKINLEY JOHNSON (assistant editor, poetry) is a Hamline student with plans to teach overseas and dreams of becoming a writer the likes of Bao Phi and such, but for now he’ll settle for making his deadlines. 

Blogging Past the Block: Jump Start Creative Writing with a Blog Post, By Justin Delzer

Blogging Past the Block: Jump Start Creative Writing with a Blog Post, By Justin Delzer

You’re a student who has been in multiple writing classes before. You’ve written a few stories that impressed your teachers, your friends, your parents. That red A-plus written on the top corner of your Magnum Opus still smiles at you when you collect the milk for your Cheerios in the morning. You’re no newbie to writing, this is true.

But now you’re in college, and you’re staring at a blank page. The professor in your Introduction to Creative Writing class wants a blog entry to post on the class discussion board by Monday morning. The blue neon clock on your dresser is piercing your weary eyes at midnight on Sunday. What in the world are you going to blog about?  And what is a blog, anyway?

The blog appeared in the late 1990s as a shortened form of the weblog, consisting of online content similar to an essay, but which started a conversation. The World Wide Web swarmed with content evolved into a global commentary. Blogs contained content ranging from pizza toppings, to historical sites, types of sponges and even sandpaper. As life became faster and social media integrated further into society, blogs taught the world to communicate with fewer and fewer symbols. Twitter showed us that stories could be written in 140 characters. As a society, we learned how to say more with less.

Desperate for topics, you pull up the Google and perform a search on blogs. But your search is random. One result leads to a real estate blog covering changes in a Chicago neighborhood.  Another result gives you ten thousand entries covering various types of cheese. The third leads you to a webpage about defeating aquatic monsters on Metroid Prime. You toss your fourth can of Mountain Dew into the recycling, but its sugary contents fail to keep you awake.

Blog posts can be about anything. Think about things that interest you. Maybe you’re the only student in your dorm who’s finished the latest Fallout game. Write about that. You volunteered for your old elementary school? Fantastic, write about that. Before returning to school, you served two tours in the Navy? Thank you for your service. Write about anything that’s declassified. If it’s a subject that interests you, write about it – the more obscure and the more off-kilter, the better. The best part about blogging is that there are millions of people on the web these days, and odds are at least two people in the world might be interested in any given subject that you choose.  

Once you have your topic in mind, think of how that subject affects you. Have you engaged in this subject with others, or is it more of an individual activity? Does it have the potential to start a conversation among its patrons? Even if you’re stuck wondering whether or not these questions can be answered, remember that it’s a public record. Anything you say online may be there forever. Be prepared to stand by your words. If you’re passionate about your subject, and can defend your words with honest conviction, you’ll be surprised at what kind of conversations can result.  

Go write that blog about what it was like the first time you used Elmer’s Paste in second grade. Write about that day you fell down the stairs and broke your leg. Write about a time that you ordered other than your usual at your favorite restaurant. If it’s a topic that gets people talking, you might discover a different angle to your subject that has challenged your own views and interpretations. You might even decide to expand your understanding of the subject, or even related subjects you‘ve never researched before. Not only will your professor be happy, but in a few years you just might be writing a dissertation that leads you to that six figure job, pitching your ability to creatively attack a solution, all because of how you decided to look into the origin of a subject as innocuous as cottage cheese.

Above all, don’t be afraid to pick a subject that challenges you. At the end of the day, blogging is just freestyle writing that starts a conversation among peers.  

Time to write that paper.  What will you blog about today?

Meet the blogger:
J.D. DELZER is a published author with two novels of adventure fantasy. He is also a recent graduate of Hamline University with a BFA in Creative Writing. You can often find him either in front of a computer writing or with a Nintendo controller in his hands. His three greatest inspirations are nature, novels, and his cat. 

Poetry From Metal, by Corva León

Poetry From Metal, by Corva León

When I sit down to draft a poem, it is almost always in silence, headphones in to dampen the noise of whatever coffee shop I am in. Which is funny because I get so much inspiration from listening to music— especially metal. I listen to metal any time I am able, constantly absorbing the atmospheres of the different albums and sub-genres I enjoy, and think about them when writing. I always try to remember that art forms of different kinds will always blend into each other— Chance the Rapper references the poetic form of “couplets” in his song “Blessings (Reprise)”, and Opeth’s lyrics on Blackwater Park (2001) read like poetry. With this blending of art forms in mind, here is a list of three albums I listened to in 2016 that inspired a lot of my writing.

The important thing is to listen to the lyrics as just another instrument— whenever I listen to music with noticeable vocals while writing the motifs and words in the lyrics end up in my poetry, which a lot of the time is okay, but I feel too influenced by the actual lyrics of the songs. With metal, the vocals become another instrument and melt in with the rest of the music. I listen to metal before writing, or whenever I need inspiration, for the atmosphere that the music brings. To me, one of the most important things about poetry is it’s an emotional snapshot of a moment, and the albums I listen to are emotional atmospheres that I can go in and out of and use in my writing.

  1. Chthe’ilist’s 2016 release Le Dernier Crépuscle from Profound Lore Records

One of my favorite albums this year, and my first foray into atmospheric death metal. Whenever I listen to it while taking a break from writing I feel drawn into a wet cave, the slow trickle of water echoing into the depths of the earth.

  1.  Immortal’s 1993 release Pure Holocaust on Osmose Productions

Although the band is no longer together, this is a hallmark of Immortal’s style of black metal: a blizzard of drums and guitar riffs punctuated by Abbath’s screeched vocals. True to the contemporary rendering of the word “holocaust”, destruction on a mass scale especially caused by fire or nuclear war, Pure Holocaust never lets up an onslaught of high tempo songs. I will listen to this album on warmer days when I end up writing about winter, as it always takes me back to the middle of January nights.

  1.  Oathbreaker’s 2016 release Rheia on the label Deathwish Inc.

Every fall I take the time to walk a lot, and I listened to this album consistently throughout. It has shoegaze elements I was really surprised in a metal album and threw me back to high school when I wrote and drew to Elliott Smith’s posthumous album From a Basement on a Hill and Low’s I Could Live in Hope. The shoegaze combined with the really hollow soundala black metal— felt super fall to me, which ended up in some really introspective poetry and exploring the connection between my body and the season I was walking through— the changes, the colors, the transition from fall to winter.

Meet the blogger:
Corva León is a poet and visual artist living in Saint Paul with their cat, Roman. 

Houses of the Holy, by Caitlin Skaalrud, Reviewed by Anna Krenz

Houses of the Holy

Caitlyn Skaalrud


October 2015

ISBN 194125005X (ISBN13: 9781941250051)

180 pages

Reviewed by ANNA KRANZ 

Caitlin Skaalrud’s graphic novel, Houses of the Holy, is a wild, surreal ride into its unnamed protagonist’s mind, full of vivid, dark imagery and poetic, lyrical prose.  The concept is simple on the outside: an exploration of a woman’s life in as few words, but important ones, as possible.  None of the characters in the novel are ever named, but there are a few clear characters to note: the protagonist who goes on this journey, a woman in a bride’s dress who makes several appearances in the beginning and end, a young girl.  

There are several ways to interpret this novel.  Everything is an abstract, dream-like object, the novel’s picture giving off a dark, macabre vibe from the tree topped with dismembered donkey heads to the forest filled with hung up photos of intimate situations surrounding the protagonist as she walks through. There is a lot for the reader to digest meaning from.  The images get progressively darker and darker, and then for a brief moment the white space envelops the page and things become brighter again before the heroine undergoes a final descent into the dark pits of her psyche.  The changing colors help show the shift in the narrative’s tone.  

Overall, the images and prose create a powerful experience.  In the early pages, the heroine explores a series of rooms. Alongside the heroine, the reader explores subjects of abuse and hurt and love. Houses of the Holy explores themes of relationships, shown through images of the heroine and another woman, especially a troubled one shown through some of the lines of prose, “I thought you had loved me.  You had fooled me.  As you shook, I screamed liar, liar, liar.  You backed away laughing, happy to go.  Could you hear me then?  Was that my voice, calling you back?  Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart, please,” (Skaalrud 100-111) The prose is eloquent and, aside from a couple of grammatical errors, helps confuse and entice the reader further.  On occasion, the meaning may get lost in the surreal beauty of the images, but what makes it great is that there is no one interpretation of what the heroine encounters.

Despite the lack of dialogue and direct character interaction, a clear character arc of acceptance can be seen.  The images she uses help portray the breaking that has incurred in the heroine’s heart and mind.  Images of death and life fill the pages from cover to back. It’s a very visceral journey, slightly unhinged from reality.  

Meet the blogger:
ANNA KRENZ is a fiction writer and occasionally a poet, hailing from Wisconsin. She is a recent graduate of Hamline University with bachelor’s degrees in both creative writing and English. She loves writing in any genre, although fantasy and horror are her two loves. Besides cats, of course.

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