Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 has been a pretty good year for fantasy reading

I decided today to do a tally of all the fantasy books I've read this year and I'm sitting at 11 right now. That's not bad, considering that I've read 24 books this year so far and that's a significant increase over what I read last year. Here's the list:

Stardust - Neil Gaiman
Storm Front - Jim Butcher
A Darker Shade of Magic - V.E. Schwab
Arrows of the Queen - Mercedes Lackey
He Drank, and Saw the Spider - Alex Bledsoe
Magician: Apprentice - Raymond E. Feist
Magician: Master - Raymond E. Feist
Silverthorn - Raymond E. Feist
A Darkness at Sethanon - Raymond E. Feist
Arrow's Flight - Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Fall - Mercedes Lackey

I'm pretty happy with this list. I know that some of them aren't considered "top shelf" in quality and that there are other books and series out there that run circles around them, but I love every one of these books. Stardust is probably my favorite of the lot. I didn't think I would like the Arrows books because the main character starts out as a timid thirteen year old girl, but I was wrong.

I don't know if I'll be reading any more this year. I'm in a bit of a slump, which sucks because I wanted to read Emperor of Thorns. Well, there's always next year.

Friday, October 21, 2016

And two more books fall

When we last left our hero, he had just finished reading Silverthorn. But what happened after that? Some say he was assailed by a group of kobolds and bugbears. Others say he was eaten by grues, while still others claim that he was last seen riding into the sunset on the back of an owlbear.

And none of these are correct. The last one would have been pretty friggin' awesome, though. No, after finishing Silverthorn, I took a short respite from fantasy and read two sci-fi novels: Ender's Game (actually a re-read) and Parable of the Sower. I returned after that and dived straight into A Darkness at Sethanon and Arrow's Flight.

A Darkness at Sethanon is the fourth in the Riftwar Cycle and the final in the Riftwar Saga. The plot focuses on the story arc began in Silverthorn with the rise of Murmandamus, a moredhel warleader of a massive Brotherhood of the Dark Path army and probably a greater threat to the Kingdom than even the Tsurani were in the first two books, and the extra-dimensional threat of The Enemy, which we also learn the origin of. Actually, I'd imagine most people figured out what The Enemy is before this book; I had at least an inkling of it in Magician: Master.

I would say that A Darkness might be better than Silverthorn. It had a lot more action and the fortress-city of Armengar and its siege was honestly one of the coolest things I've ever read in a fantasy book. I'll write up a separate post for A Darkness later on because it deserves its own post.

I got an itch while reading A Darkness in Sethanon. An itch that only Arrow's Flight, the second book in the Heralds of Valdemar series could scratch. I had been planning to read it at some point, but the itch didn't make itself known until about two weeks ago.

It was so, so worth it. The Valdemar series is quickly becoming one of my favorite and I will read the books until I cannot stand them anymore. Whereas Arrows of the Queen dealt with Talia being chosen as a Herald and her life at the Collegium with all of it's hardships, perils, and adventure, Arrow's Flight focuses on her internship. She spends a year and a half riding a circuit through the Northern sector of the Kingdom of Valdemar, learning to do what a Herald does and all of the ups and downs that come with the job.

This book was honestly heartbreaking and I'm not going to lie, I got teary-eyed a few times because of all of the torment Talia goes through. There's also a lot of great moments that made me laugh and generally it was a short, but worthwhile read. Like A Darkness, I'll be writing a stand alone post for Arrow's Flight...once I finish the one I started on Arrows of the Queen. So in about 20-30 years.

So what am I reading now? Well, funny thing is that I had planned on taking another short break so that I could focus on Flag in Exile (Honor Harrington #5) and start to go through the literal shit ton of books I bought at a library book sale and Barnes & Noble recently (more on those later). That's what I had planned. My brain had other ideas and I'm not reading, among other things, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. My reading habits are both random and vexing.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Another Riftwar book bites the dust (spoilers)

Boy howdy, am I ever on a roll! I kept forgetting to post about it, but I started Silverthorn almost immediately after finishing Magician: Master and finished it just the other day.

A poisoned bolt has struck down the Princess Anita on the day of her wedding to the Prince Arutha of Krondor.

To save his beloved, Arutha sets out in search of the mystic herb called Silverthorn that grows only in the dark and forbidding Northlands, home to the moredhel, the deadly Dark Elves.

Accompanied by a mercenary, a minstrel, and a clever young thief, he will confront an ancient evil and do battle with the dark powers that threaten the enchanted realm of Midkemia.
So how was it? Better than what I had been lead to believe. I actually owned a copy at one point, but got rid of it because I had read some posts on the blogosphere about how it wasn't worth reading and I was easily swayed. I regret that now because Silverthorn was pretty good.

Some thoughts:

Jimmy the Hand is one of the best characters in the entire series, 'nuff said.

I liked how Arutha's quest for the eponymous Silverthorn didn't start until like sometime after page 100. Up until then, the story focuses on him, Jimmy the Hand, and the others trying to flush out the conspiracy against Arutha before his wedding to Anita. The build up towards the assassination attempt and Arutha's quest was exciting and intense and added a lot of emotional weight to what happens to Anita.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Moving on from Magician: Master

I finished Magician: Master on Wednesday and I'm still surprised by how fast I blew through it. While four days isn't a speed record for me, I'm still happy. What's more impressive is how much of the book I read in a relatively short amount of time: 324 pages in the span of about 24 hours, give or take. 125 on Tuesday and 199 on Wednesday.

As for the re-read, it was about as good as the one for Magician: Apprentice. Like I said in the previous post, there were plot details that I'd forgotten or had rearranged in my memory so the end result was that I got the same amount of enjoyment out of Master as I did the first time around. I basically forgot about damn near every character in the Kelewan plot line along with the plot itself!

The all too brief exploration of Tsurani and their culture is definitely one of my favorite parts of the book. Their culture is so different from the standard "European Middle Ages" setting of The Kingdom of the Isles and I'm honestly impressed that Feist somehow combined aspects of different real world cultures - Feudal Japan, China during the Sung Dynasty, pre-Columbian Aztecs, and even the Zulu - into a cohesive entity. That's some nice worldbuilding there.

If you want, you can read what I had to say about Magician: Master the first time I read it.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Finished my re-read of Magician: Apprentice last night (spoilers)

And I can honestly say that I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. I think the re-read benefited greatly from the four years since I read Apprentice the first time. I had forgotten large chunks of the plot and certain events got switched around in my memory. Like, I thought that Pug's capture had happened at the very end, but it doesn't. Instead, he ceases to be the main POV character for the rest of the book and the POV switches over to Tomas, Arutha, Carline, Martin, and briefly a Tsurani. I think this was a very clever way of ensuring that readers would continue reading the entire book back when it was just Magician. It actually becomes an even better hook after the book was split into Apprentice and Master because you're almost compelled as the reader to immediately pick up Master just to see what's become of Pug. The ploy is still effective after a re-read because I'm just about to jump into the next book today!

But yeah, Magician: Master ought to be as good as I remember it. One of the things I'm looking forward to is revisiting Kelawan and the Tsurani culture. Feist says he mixed together elements of Feudal Japan, Sung Dynasty era China, Zulu, and Aztec cultures and it's a major difference from Midkemia, which is the typical European fantasy setting. It's a nice change up and I'm planning on reading the Empire Trilogy (set entirely on Kelawan) later this year, after I finish with the Riftwar Saga.

I'll probably post some of my favorite bits from Magician: Apprentice later today.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Re-visiting Midkemia

So for whatever reason I decided to do a re-read of Raymond E. Feist's Magician: Apprentice, the first (half) book in the Riftwar Saga. I originally read it and it's sequel (second half), Magician: Master back in 2012 and boy, did I ever need a refresher. Like, I'm reading Apprentice and there are just huge, huge chunks of the plot that I simply forgot. I remember important events, but not what happens between them.

An oddity about Magician: Apprentice is that it's only the first part of a book. Both it and Magician: Master are actually a single book call simply Magician, but when it was published in the U.S., it was split into two parts for whatever reason. I'm guessing it was due to size and printing big ass doorstoppers back in the day wasn't optimal. If that's the reason, then it shows how far both book making and the fantasy genre has come because the two halves combined would probably total less than a thousand pages, or one Wheel of Time book. Easily less than a Sanderson. Easily.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Queen in the North

She certainly would be now that a certain fan theory was confirmed on Game of Thrones.

(spoiler, probably still)

There was a fan theory that Jon Snow wasn't Ned Stark's bastard, but the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and the season six finale confirmed it. Currently, only Bran Stark knows this and Jon has apparently been "crowned" King in the North as the last known and eldest son of Ned. Of course, if his true parentage gets out, then it could lead to questions of who the true ruler of the North is. Sansa has the stronger claim as Ned's daughter and is considered (at least according to the GoT wiki) to be Lady of Winterfell. Jon does have a claim through his mother, but Sansa's is stronger as the daughter as and sister of the last two Stark Lords of Winterfell, respectively.

Of course, the question is whether or not the Northern Houses would accept a woman as Queen? House Mormont has been lead by two women so far and Lyanna Mormont seems to be widely respected by the other Houses, so it's entirely possible.

As for Jon, having the blood of Rhaegar gives him a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than his aunt, Dany. On the other hand, he's still a bastard and she isn't. He was legitimized by the Houses of the North when he was crowned King of the North, so it stands to reason that the same could very well happen there.

(Pic via HeroPress)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Belgariad by K-HUD

Credit: K-HUD.
I need to finish reading the series. Might have to start with a re-read of Pawn of Prophecy.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Now this is how Red Sonja should look

Credit: Michael C. Hayes.
I've made no secret about my strong dislike of Red Sonja's chain mail bikini. I understand why people like it and I'll readily admit that it can be an awfully satisfying look to the eyes, but it's also just awful and impractical. That's why I like depictions of the She-Devil in actual, practical, common sense armor because while it might not be as sexy as the bikini, as like she doesn't have to worry about disembowelment because her stomach is unprotected or the risk of losing a breast to an errant sword or ax strike.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Finished: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

(via Macmillan)

Kell is one of the last Travelers-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes, connected by one magical city.
There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad king-George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered-and where Kell was raised alongside Rhys Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London-a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.
A Darker Shade of Magic is something I took a chance on and ended up enjoying a lot. I'd seen it time and again on the shelf of the library's SF/Fantasy section, but didn't think it looked like the sort of fantasy I normally read. But you know, YOLO and all that, so I took the dive and I did not regret it even once. I fell in love with Kell and Lila and Rhys. I developed a solid, burning hatred of the Astrid and Athos. I dreamed of how amazing it it would be to travel to Red London and shuddered at the thought of going to White London.

I would easily, easily give this book a 10/10.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Just a head's up: Google's giving away an extra two gigabytes of storage if you do a security checkup on your Google account

Google did this last year and it's a ridiculously easy way of adding extra space if you use Drive, Picasa, or Photos. Basically, all you need to do is go to your account, scroll down to Security Checkup and click on Get Started. Once you finish the checkup (which takes all of a few seconds), the 2 gigs are added automatically.

https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2015/02/take-security-checkup-on-safer-internet.html

http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-get-2gb-free-on-google-drive/

On a related note, I just checked to see how much space I have now and I'm currently using all of 118 megabytes (or 0.61%) out of 19 gigabytes. Clearly, I needed the extra space.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Finished: Storm Front (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher and what to read next

When we last left our hero, he had just begun the task of reading The Magicians, but somehow he ended up re-reading Storm Front instead. What happened?!

Honestly, I just could not get into it. I could read the words and turn the page and read the words and so on and so forth, but I was seriously lacking any interest to. I didn't want to get stalled in my reading right at the beginning of the year, so I switched over to finishing my re-read of Storm Front. I'm going to try and come back around to The Magicians later this year and see if I want to read it then, otherwise I'm not going to worry about it.

Anyways, Storm Front was as good as I remembered it being when I first read it like seven or so years ago. I can't believe it's even been that long. I had started the re-read late last year, then got distracted by other books. I was already like a 139 pages into Storm Front, so I decided to finish it off, which took only about a day and a half. What can I say? I like The Dresden Files. I plan on reading the others again over the course of the year, except for maybe Summer Knight because it's still pretty fresh in my memories.

After finishing Storm Front, I decided to switch over to military science fiction and I'm in the homestretch to finish the second of the pair, Fortune's Pawn. After that, I'm sliding back over to fantasy. I'm not sure what to read, but I have some choices:

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn also by Sanderson
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
The Magic of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I get the feeling that there will be people screaming for me to read the last one.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

And that's how you troll a troll

Credit: Stepan Alekseev.
I get the feeling that there are a lot of DMs and players who will look at this picture and go "Yeah, that's happened before."

Monday, January 11, 2016

I would certainly hate to meet her in a dungeon!

Credit: Spacefriend-T.

Because there is no doubt that she would kick my ass up one corridor and down the other. I really like the choice of a war pickaxe, since you don't see those used in fantasy fiction much at all. No idea how prevalent they are in gaming.

Credit: Spacefriend-T.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Stardust's finished, time for The Magicians

Well, I wrapped up reading Neil Gaiman's Stardust yesterday. I had planned on finishing it on Monday, but real life sank that battleship. Stardust was really a great book and I would highly recommend it. Like I mentioned in a previous post, Stardust was written in a pre-Tolkien style of fantasy and has a fairy tale feel to it. There's no mega-quest or big bad, but there's plenty of enchantment and interesting characters. I'll write a separate post about it later, but I give it two thumbs up.

Moving on, I've already started to dig into Lev Grossman's The Magicians. One of the reasons why I picked it is because Syfy's adaptation is set to premiere later this month and I want to read the book before it airs. The other reasons are that I've had the book for years and I've heard nothing but praise for it. Might as well give it a whirl.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Well, so much for Shannara

I had planned on starting 2016 off by reading The Sword of Shannara, but had to ditch that plan about a week ago because the book is starting to fall apart; the perils of paperback library books. Seeing as how several of the pages decided to divorce themselves from the binding, I just have to wait until I can get my own copy before I can resume following the adventures of Shea and Flick. So what am I reading now?

I bought this something like ten years ago and never read it until now, aside from one abortive attempt when I first bought it, but that was like five years before I finally became a fantasy addict.
Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.
If the premise of the book sounds familiar, it was turned into a movie back in 2007 starring Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Good movie.

It's pretty excellent so far. Gaiman wrote Stardust in the vein of pre-Tolkien fantasy, like Lord Dunsany's "King of Elfland's Daughter" and such, so there's no like epic, high, or grimdark elements which is actually a nice change of pace after what I read last year

One of the reasons I picked Stardust besides having it for ten years, is because it clocks in at only 248 pages. I have at least fourteen more books to read before year's end, so starting off with a fairly short book that I can finish quickly will hopefully help motivate me to keep going. After I finish Stardust, I'm going read Lev Grossman's The Magicians. After that, maybe a break from fantasy to read either scifi or just plain fiction. My overall strategy is to focus on books that are less than 500 pages (preferably in the high 300 to low 400 range) in order to clear them out of the way before tackling the door stoppers. The latter's going to be a bitch for sure because I have both Jordan and Sanderson AND Martin in the pile. Yeah.

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