The woman on the train is doing a good job of pretending not watch him, but he’s far too used to being followed to fall for her act. Rather than let her think she’s getting the upper hand, he folds his newspaper and walks to the back of the compartment.
“Is this seat taken?” he asks, the corners of his mouth curving into a smile as her eyes find his.
Her surprise flashes only momentarily before her eyes narrow at him and her lips press into a thin line. “Be my guest,” she says with an uninterested wave of a hand.
He sits beside her and they fall into a silence as they resume their reading, or pretend to.
“I’m a detective too, you know,” he says, breaking the tension after they’ve passed through several stations. He feels her twitch beside him.
Quiet for a moment, she clears her throat and focuses her attention back to the book in her lap. “One who operates on both sides of the law as I’m aware,” she finally says and he can’t help but grin into his paper at her admission.
So in the run up to Christmas I’m doing a count-down (well, a count-up). Twelve days of books! But just like the song, I’m going to increase the number of books each day, with a theme. I’ll link the previous posts on each new one, but if you’d like to follow along I’ll also be tagging them ‘hermitknut’s bookmas’.
On the Ninth Day of Christmas… the gods are among us.
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is a great start to a great series. Irreverant and hilarious, Percy finds out that his father is Poseidon. Understandably, this kind of complicates his life. Adventures ensue. I’ve only read the first two Percy Jackson books, but I’ve got the rest - a project for the new year!
A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke follows Osa as she journeys to gain power from her goddess - to protect her village from invaders. It’s a pretty atmospheric story, with some cool elements to it, but I felt a little let down by the ending and by the way Lueddecke handles relationships (particularly familial). Enjoyable, but not exciting.
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett is one of his best (though I say that about around 80% of his books, so I may be a tad biased). Brutha is a novice who discovers his god, Om, has been stuck in the form of a small tortoise, and is not in fact currently instructing the church. Pratchett’s satire is brilliant as always, and he perfectly walks a fine line between cutting critique and a celebration of human nature.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman has been much discussed this year, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. Shadow is recruited by Odin in his efforts against the new gods - and this journey of a book is surreal, vivid, and wondrous throughout. Strange and intense, it’s one I’ve enjoyed multiple times.
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch is a detective story set in a slightly different London - gods, wizards, and vampires abound. I really loved the basis for this story, which I won’t spoil, and PC Peter Grant is a pretty good character.
The God Eaters by Jesse Hajicek is a western (sort of) with magic and gods and two men who are very much in love. It’s an odd read - it reads very much like fanfiction, and to this day I can’t quite pin down why - but an excellent one, with entertaining and believable characters and a strong plot.
Kraken by China Miéville features a giant squid that may be a god, magic and cults and magical cults, a gangster stuck in the form of a tattoo on someone’s back, and the most disturbing version of teleportation in fiction (at least, that I’ve read). Honestly, what more do you need?
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson is a battle-laden fantasy in the fine style of A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s tricky to summarise the plot more than that - lots of fights, godly intervention, interesting magic. I found it a bit heavy and complicated for my taste, but I think it might be worth rereading at some point.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor follows Lazlo Strange as he journeys to a very unfamiliar land, and a girl living in far too familiar surroundings. They meet in their dreams, as Taylor slowly reveals what happened to the gods in this place. It’s a twist, fairytale-like story with an edge of nastiness. Fascinating.
this is a psa to read a darker shade of magic because it does not get the recognition it deserves tbh
the setting is:
an alternate “red” london set in the 1800′s full of magic
our london set in the 1800′s with no magic
a dangerous white london set in the 1800′s FULL of magic
the protagonists are:
kell: one of two antari (magicians who can travel between the three londons) and a smuggler. he’s also chronically grumpy. from red london
lila bard: a true neutral thief from grey london who is terrified of commitment and the first thing she does when coming in contact with magic is make a stripper version of kell. actual pirate and probably trans (not canon though)
rhy maresh: the prince of red london and also a canonically bisexual poc. charming and laid-back. he is flirting with you.
the villains are:
athos and astrid dane: twin rulers of white london; blood thirsty and power hungry.
holland: the other antari. angry and cold; probably because he’s working for the twins
the problem is:
a piece of a dead london that kell smuggled. everyone wants it and no one should have it.
things to look forward to:
great worldbuilding for all of the londons
interesting relationships and power dynamics
no heavy handed romance but shipping fodder all over the place
ALUCARD EMERY: not in it til the next book but a charming canonically bisexual poc and a pirate privateer
a tv show (sometime in the future) with direct input from the author!!
seriously check it out! here is the authors blog, too
Drabble challenge Sherlolly. Can I have #12, 44 and 67? Thanks a million
List is here. This is the last one in my drafts, one less set of prompts to fill, huzzah!
12. “I’m pregnant.”
“Well that’s the second biggest news I’ve heard all day.”
“You’re strong, baby. You have to be.”
A Life Backwards
It was their favorite story, the one about themselves - all the hows and whys and wheres of their earliest existence (less the bit about how they were conceived - no matter how inquisitive, mature-for-their-age and intelligent the Holmes twins were, that was one story neither parent woud ever tell and one they actually had no interest in hearing). Best of all was how both Mum and Dad had their own ways of telling it, so that even though it was the same in the facts, it was endlessly changing in the details.
Especially once Dad started challenging them to ask for it in different ways and not just as a straight retelling.
“Tell it in sign language,” Hamish and Hester chorused once when they were three. “Tell it in French,” the demanded when they were four and bored. “Tell it on paper in the Dancing Men code” had been their request at five. And now, at six, it was “Tell it backward.”
Molly settled on the sofa next to her husband, holding baby Gregory and smiling, just as interested to hear this version as the twins were. He laid an arm across her shoulder, kissed Gregory’s head (cauinsg the baby’s forehead to wrinkle up and his little lips to purse, even in his sleep), and pretended to go into his mind palace to rearrange the facts.
“Your mother asked me how you both looked, since the nurse and doctor had bustled you off to drain out the mucus you’d decided to hoard in your lungs,” he began, eyes sparkling. “I, being utterly in control as always…” Here he widened his eyes in mock-innocence while wife and sprogs giggled. “…blurted out the first thing that came to mind.”
“He said you looked like a couple of turnips,” Molly supplied helpfully. It was hardly spoiling things when the story’d been told so many times.
“Nasty old wrinkly turnips,” Hamish added gleefully from where he was sprawled out on the carpet. He elbowed his sister. “She did, anyway, cause she’s ancient compared to me.”
Hester was three minutes older than he was and never misssed a chance to remind him of that. Just as he never missed a chance to prod her about being an old lady. Ah, the joys of siblinghood.
“Yup, turnips,” Sherlock replied equably. “Purple, moldy-looking turnips that had been kept in the vegetable drawer too long. But,” he added with a dramatic sigh, “your mother said we couldn’t let you cook a bit longer.”
Molly nodded. “Right, there was absolutely no putting you back, not after all the work I’d done!”
Sherlock gave her a doting look. “When she was still having a hard time ejecting you, stubborn brats that you were, I looked into her eyes, let her squeeze the sh…crap out of my hand and forever ruin my chances as a concert violinist, and for the first time ever used a ridiculously sentimental pet name for her. And do you know what I said?” He peered over at the twins questioningly.
“You’re strong, baby. You have to be,” they chorused, rolling their eyes.
“Glad you don’t do that anymore,” Hester added. “It’s silly.”
“And so it is,” Sherlock agreed. “Luckily your mother thought so too because she just giggled a bit, for the first time in fourteen hours, thirty-one minutes. Give or take a few seconds.”
He skimmed over the next (previous?) bits about arriving at hospital and calling Uncle John and Aunt Mary, zeroing in on what he knew was one of the twins’ favorite parts - when Molly had announced oh-so-calmly that she’d been in labor the entire day and night he’d been off chasing a jewel thief through the rooftops of London. “I came home after my triumphant capture of Julian ‘Jools’ Voleur to find your mother packing her overnight bag. I was so caught up in the excitement of the chase–”
“And so loopy from lack of sleep,” Molly interjected in a stage whisper.
“–that I missed the obvious signs of what was happening right in front of me,” Sherlock continued, not missing a beat. “Which meant I was doing what?”
“Seeing but not observing!” the twins responded with wide grins. They high-fived one another before settling back onto their elbows.
“Exactly.” Sherlock nodded his approval. “I was seeing but not observing. I burst into the house, coat flaring dramatically behind me, unwinding my scarf and not stumbling over Toby II as I began explaining how I’d captured the idiot when he jumped onto what he thought was a solid roof but turned out to be a very dirty skylight, thus crashing into the parlor of Sir George Westingham and landing on that very man’s very startled - and very, very angry - financial advisor. I had just got to the good bit, where I acrobatically and gracefully swooped into the room, cuffs in one hand and mobile in the other to call Uncle Greg, when your mother stopped me with her hand over my mouth.”
“Oh, weren’t you put out by that!” Molly reminisced with a giggle. “The glares your father was giving me!” To show no hard feelings, she leaned over and kissed the tip of his nose.
“And that’s when she said it,” Sherlock declared, after returning the kiss. “She has a real way with words when she wants to, your mother. ‘Well that’s the second biggest news I’ve heard all day,’ she said to me, and that’s when I stopped seeing and started observing…and dashed the three of you off to the hospital.”
Next he talked about measuring Molly’s tummy, about researching the latest trends in child-rearing strategies (useless, all of them) and finally being forced to ask Uncle John for advice (even more useless), and all the rest until there was only one thing left to tell.
The twins sat up, leaning forward with their hands on their knees in anticipation of what - sometimes, depending on their mood - was their favorite part of the whole story.
“So,” Sherlock said, clapping his hands on his lap and making as if to stand up. “That’s all the best bits, time for bed, I think.”
“No! Dad! You have to tell the part with Mum and how she told you about us!”
He tilted his head to one side in faux-confusion. “The what, the who, the where, the why, the how?”
Molly scooted over, giggling quietly as she waited for what was sure to happen next. Right on schedule the twins scrambled to their feet and rushed over to their father, clambering up onto the sofa and from there to his lap, demanding that he tell them the best part, right now, it wasn’t fair if he skipped it until finally, laughingly, he ceded the point. “Very well, then. If you insist.”
He sat with an arm around either of them, lowering his voice in a conspiratorial whisper. “Your mum and I had just admitted, for the first time out loud and in front of witnesses, that we loved one another. Other crazy things were happening at the time–” They hadn’t yet told the twins more than the bare facts of their Aunt Eurus’ existance and had no plans to disclose that truth for a few more years– “so as soon as I could I rushed over here to explain to your mum that I wasn’t trying to hurt her.”
He turned to look at Molly with such a tender expression of love in his eyes that her breath caught. He could still make her heart flutter, and make her lady-bits do something quite similar, and her return smile promised all sorts of lovely possibilities after the children were in bed. “I knew he hadn’t meant it that way,” Molly replied, just as quietly - and, had she been able to observe herself from the outside, with quite the same tender expression in her eyes. “I knew it wasn’t meant to hurt me or for an experiment or a case, once I’d had a chance to think it over.”
“And I confirmed that belief, showed her that her faith in me was justified,” Sherlock said, taking up the reverse-narrative thread once again. “I came into her flat and I apologized and I explained about how she’d been threatened and how we’d both been forced to confess such a wonderful secret under such awful circumstances. I even told her that Uncle John and Uncle Mycroft had heard the whole thing, and asked her again to forgive me.”
“And then?” Hester prompted when he fell silent, losing himself in his wife’s loving gaze.
“And then,” he concluded, “she said the most wonderful thing to me. She said…”
“I’m pregnant,” he, Molly and the twins chorused.
And their lives had never been the same from that moment on…in the best way possible.