Saturday, September 9, 2017

My father and I just finished A Corner of White

My father and I just finished A Corner of White, book #1 of The Colors of Madeleine series by Jaclyn Moriarty.

How can one describe a book unlike anything one has ever read? Like this, I suppose... In a Kingdom where seasons cycle daily or weekly depending, where Colors (like the normal kind but renegade) attack or enliven people depending on where it is in the spectrum, and where Butterfly Children help crops grow if you let them out on time, dark secrets are hidden behind wondrous yet seemingly simple and grounded eccentricity.

You saw the truth, Madeleine of the World, and I hope you are willing to help the Kingdom of Cello. Elliot Baranski and a certain royal need help. Ah, the joy and danger of rescue missions!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Knights in Shinning Armor

Knights in Shinning Armor. Warriors of Light. True Heroes. Defenders of Truth and Protectors of the Innocent.

We have all heard this before. Indeed, any person with even the barest familiarity with the High Fantasy, be they readers or gamers, will be aware of these concepts. The paragon warrior who is duty and honor up to his or her boots, girded with an almost childlike virtue and an implacable resolve to rid the land of all things evil. In short, the ultimate stereotype of Chivalry, pure and ultimate good versus utter evil. 
"Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil." Think King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table.

"To be a knight is to be the shield
for the meek against the cruel."
Indeed, the stereotype is so old as to be almost cloying, with such depicted knights/warriors described as everything from naive to goody-goodies...because the world and people do not exist in such shades of absolute black and white. And many of the best Fantasy authors, such as Mercedes Lackey, make an almost brutal point of it. GRRM, though I am loathe to use his name, takes it a step further and fills his work with false knights.

I agree with this, and yet the pure core here is one of the fundamental components of the High Fantasy. Why? Because the best Warriors of Light employed by the genre have seen the darkness. They defend the weak and meek not out of any sense of chivalry but because they have seen loved ones die because they, then, had not the power to defend them. What is wrong with honor? Nothing, so long as it does not interfere to the point that one is unduly hamstrung by them past the point of sense. I just feel that the term goody-goody is too often used to describe those filled with true compassion. And I say this as one who has been called a goody-goody more than thrice.
It may seem cliché and even naive, but anyone with a strong moral compass and unrelenting inner strength can be a Hero of Light. The key is being optimistic regarding humanity and believing that a better future truly is possible. Some mistake cynicism for wisdom, yet it is, per my judgement, merely a form of sophisticated surrender.



"It doesn't matter how strong we are. We have something to defend, and that's why we fight." - Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light

Friday, September 1, 2017

"All was well"

These are one of those rare, truly historical days in Fantasy literature.
The day when the children of some very old and unutterably dear friends boarded the Hogwarts express. When, 19 years on, questions were answered, loose ends tied up, and a joyous life went on without lethal flashes of green light butting into the picture. This is the new standard for happy endings, showing their validity, and is easily one of the most treasured scenes in the entire genre.

"All was well"

Luck and joy to you, Rose Granger-Weasley and James & Albus Potter. May you live long and more peaceful lives than your sires.





Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Strictures of Riddlery

It is sad really that the art of making and answering riddles has been so diminished since the advent of modern history, or at least since collapse of the time-honored respectability granted to Bards, storytellers, and others who partake in oral traditions. 

"The riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity, and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played at it." - J.R.R. Tolkien

These days it is only those who works within the realms of Fantasy who wholly and truly appreciate the power and potency of riddles, a far cry from when Kings and Heroes placed great weight upon them.
Then again, why not? For in the Fantasy genre lives the misty mystery of the ancient past, and so we glory in the enigmatic and such puzzles as twists minds into first comprehending and then solving Gordian Knots.
As such, I have taken it upon myself to compile a list of all the best riddle quotes in the Strictures of Riddlery, and while I borrow the term from Patricia A. McKillip's The Riddle-Master trilogy, I draw the quotes from several sources both within and without Fantasy literature (for true and masterful usage of riddles is rare even within the genre).

"Good riddles do, in general, provide us with satisfactory metaphors; for metaphors imply riddles, and therefore a good riddle can furnish a good metaphor." - Aristotle

"The best answers solve more than one riddle." - Magic: the Gathering

"A riddle is a tale so familiar you no longer recognize it." - Patricia A. McKillip

"A riddle is nothing more than a trap for small minds, baited with the promise of understanding." - Magic: the Gathering

"All is a riddle, and the key to a riddle...is another riddle." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Beware the unanswered riddle." - Patricia A. McKillip

"Eyes see only what is possible. A trained mind can explore the impossible." - Magic: the Gathering

"A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer." - Karl Kraus

"The worthy shall cultivate a nimble mind to perceive the glorious wonders that await them." - Magic: the Gathering

"When caught between the riddle and its answer there is no freedom." - Patricia A. McKillip

"Beware another riddle master." - Patricia A. McKillip

It is this last one, however, that is the most important. A fact I learned from painful experience. Talking of which, being a Fantasy reader (& hopeful author) and a riddle-maker with over 200 self-made riddles to my name, I have of course crafted many of my own such sayings. However, I am withholding them for special, later, uses: namely the Fantasy books and plotlines bounces about in my head. Whoever said that writers have total control over their worlds and characters clearly did not speak from experience for, as Victor Frankenstein can testify – albeit in a more physical and dramatic fashion – instilling life in something has consequences. Anyway, for I digress, here is the to critical quote:

"The Riddle Master himself lost the key to his own riddles one day, and he found it again at the bottom of his heart." - Patricia A. McKillip

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Just started Demon's Law

There is a good argument that this book in the
reason for the phrase "do not judge a book by
its cover."
"Bard, come forth; face me."  

Just started reading Demon's Law, book #2 of the Tales of the Bard series by that master of myth named Michael Scott. (Tis a pleasure returning to this most excellent, if a tad odd, series)
The Cataclysm has come and gone and where this tale will bring Paedur the Bard I have no clue, having a story take place in the World of the Dead - meaning new and dynamic friends met will already be dead - is a new one on me.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Just finished The Elenium

Just finished The Sapphire Rose, book #3 of The Elenium by David Edding.

What is there to say upon finishing a  book series you adore a second time, save that it was pleasure to see old friends again and picking up insights you missed the first time? In this case, not much so I shall end it there

Bright roads and a happy spring to Sirs Sparhawk and Kalten of the Pandion Knights, Sir Ulath of the Genidian Knights, Sir Tynian of the Alcione Knights, Sir Bevier of the Cyrinic Knights, and Berit, Talen, Lady Sephrenia of Styricum, and the Child-Goddess Aphrael.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My father and I just finished The Castle Behind Thorns

Supposedly it is a kids' book. I reject the term. My father and I just finished The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell, an outwardly simple yet unpredictable and enchanting, it is truly unique fantasy so filled with heart and humanness it could resurrect the dead. 
And friendship. And forgiveness, for even the most broken of hearts can be mended. Mens videt astra.

"You do not forgive because the person who wronged deserves it.You misunderstand the point of forgiveness entirely. The only cage that a grudge creates is around the holder of that grudge. Forgiveness is not saying that the person who hurt you was right, or has earned it, or is allowed to hurt you again. All forgiveness means is that you will carry on without the burdens of rage and hatred.” 
- Merrie Haskell

Monday, August 7, 2017

His name is Will (or Wil)

Will Stanton (The Dark Is Rising Sequence)
Will Parry (His Dark Materials)
A common tactic utilized by Fantasy authors is to give their main protagonists common, unremarkable names – likely so that the readers will be able to more easily identify with them. 
The name Will is perhaps the best example of this, as four of Fantasy literature's most noteworthy authors employed it: Susan Cooper in her The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice, and Terry Brooks' Original Shannara Trilogy.

One can almost feel a kinship between them just by looking and, in fact, I once wrote to Philip Pullman via his website asking him the following: "Did you name Will Parry after Will Stanton from Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising Sequence? I thought you might have because your Will leaves his mother with a Mrs. Cooper at the start of The Subtle Knife." His reply was brief and pointed "In a word, no." – but, frankly, I do not believe him. Naturally Will Parry is very different from his Stanton counterpart but, given the evidence provided in my question coupled with Susan Cooper's fame and the fact that the two even look alike, I take Pullman's brevity and word choice as a way to dodge my query. 
 
Will Treaty (Ranger's Apprentice)
Wil Ohmsford (Original Shannara Trilogy)

 As to the rest, three of the four had, shall we say and to avoid spoilers, issues with magical thingamajigs, two are orphans, three have blond hair, three had complicated love lives, three had somewhat gruff and unshaven mentors, and all four experience difficult journeys.




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dovahkiin

Tis been far too long since I posted some music, which is, after all, one of the great joys in life that the High Fantasy espouses!
Now I do not play Skyrim (from the Elder Scrolls games series) nor do I know much about it. Yet I recognize good music when it graces my ears, to say nothing those deeply infused with the wonder and power and Fantasy. (It must be remembered, after all, that Fantasy games have no less story potential than Fantasy literature).

"Our hero our hero claims a warrior's heart. I tell you I tell you the Dragonborn comes..."

video

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Just started The Sapphire Rose

Just started The Sapphire Rose, book #3 of The Elenium by David Eddings.


This is the book which taught me that politics is FAR colder than steel. That, along with a solid idea of how the real-world Catholic Church functions. It must be remembered, after all, that the best Fantasies are firmly grounded in reality, for that is what gives life to all the evil gods, Child-Goddesses, and arcane cosmology coupled with blood-mad Sorcerer Kings.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Just finished The Ruby Knight

Just finished The Ruby Knight, book #2 of The Elenium by David Eddings. 

Generally speaking, one does not expect to have contend with evil divine-insects, renegade knights and churchmen, and Trolls in order to find the antidote to a rare poison. But some poisons are rarer than others and life is full of disappointments.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Heartsbane indeed

So begins season 7 of the T.V. series Game of Thrones. Doubtless you are all aware of my opinion regarding GRRM, so I shall strive to keep my rant to a minimum.

Those characters who do best in Westeros and the lands across the Narrow Sea, those who truly thrive, are employers of a sickening combination of murder, betrayal and often rape - all overlaid with a fine golden gilt of heartless cunning. 
The Starks say "Winter is coming," the Targaryens "Fire and Blood," and the old Valyrians "valar morghulis." Well, they are right, and those words will forever pursue those who put their hearts into GRRM's work. Why anybody would invest in such a realm is beyond me and thus I advise all to leave it. 
Winter is over for me – and it ended when I left Westeros.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology



"Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology – It’s been six years since Radiant Historia was released on Nintendo DS in 2011, but it’s time to return to Vainqueur and unlock the time traveling power of the White Chronicle once again in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. This beloved classic is an expanded 3DS port of the original game that will contain a great deal of added gameplay/story content, updated presentation, and new ways to experience the adventure! Coming to Nintendo 3DS in early 2018!" - Nintendo

Literally yelling with excitement!! Radiant Historia was and is one of my favorite games period, on par with Fire Emblem, Suikoden Tierkreis and, of course, Golden Sun. 

On a more serious note, though, the new art worries me. The old was perfect - both unique as well as giving an actuate impression of said characters' station and personality. This new stuff is next of kin to generic and I fear what that might mean for the game. Rosch's face frankly pains me as he looks like a sullen, spoiled and/or bitter man rather than the rough yet unfailingly kind veteran we all know him as. 

video



Still, I actually like Sonja's new look better; she was painfully thin before and, in addition, the new face conveys more of her fire. (And if that last scene in the above video hints at a romantic relationship between Stocke and Eruca I will tear the White Chronicle apart page by page in wrath.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Just started The Ruby Knight

Just started The Ruby Knight, book #2 of The Elenium by David Eddings.

Don't you just LOVE having to deal with nefarious local church and royal politics while searching for a divine sapphire while a dark lord masses armies and spies? Not fun in the flesh, probably, but on the page the humor and intrigue is stellar.

(Please note that the cover art is terrible. That scaly creature is supposed to have nine fingers and two thumbs per hand as opposed to three standard claws.)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Just finished The Diamond Throne

Just finished The Diamond Throne, book #1 of The Elenium by David Eddings.

Hello again Sir Sparhawk of the Pandion Knights & friends. Glad to see you have not lost your sharp swords and sardonic tongues since I saw you last.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Charlotte Sometimes

My father and I just finished Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer.

A delightful children's classic that all ages can love, it shows World War I through the eyes of the every other day inadvertent time-traveler Charlotte Makepeace at a boarding school 40 years before her time living the life of another. The book is short and simply, but so full of heart.


My fondest regards to Charlotte Makepeace, Clare and Emily Moby, Sara Reynolds, Elizabeth, Susannah, Bunty, and Miss Agnes Chisel Brown.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

20 years ago today Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone was published for the first time in Britain. Nobody knew it was going to be special and initially only 500 copies were printed.


20 years ago today we headed to Platform 9¾ for the first time and began our 1st term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 20 years ago today we first met Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. 
20 years ago today was, unbeknownst to all, a generation defining moment in which J.K. Rowling rekindled the fire her predecessor Tolkien began, sparking the Golden Age of Fantasy.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Elenium

Just started The Diamond Throne, book #1 of The Elenium by David Eddings.

An old favorite that had me literally howling with laughter the first time I read it, I look forward to seeing old friends again and reliving an epic adventure in which Church Knights work the magic of other gods and the real tyranny comes from human vices. 


See you in the palace tomorrow, Sir Sparhawk of the Pandion Knights.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Tower at Stony Wood

My father and I just finished The Tower at Stony Wood by Patricia A. McKillip.

Inspired by Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott, this book takes the tale to truly mythopoetic heights. A mystery woven in fine thread between several towers, we walked with valiant yet impoverished islanders desperate for freedom from their overlord, a knight journeying through a land of subtle magic and beauty, and a seal-like baker and her children seeing and weaving stories from a mirror in the tower at Stony Wood. And we met some fey sisters who know that an outwardly simple mission can weave the tangled threads of fate and chance together to restore magic and peace.

Happy days to Cyan Dag & Cria Greenwoode, King Regis Aurum of Yves & Gwynne of Skye, Thayne and Craiche Ysse, Sel and Melanthos of Stony Wood, and Idra, Sidera, and Una.

Just finished The Taste of Lightning

The three moons rise.

Just finished The Taste of Lightning by Kate Constable, sequel-companion novel of her Chanters of Tremaris trilogy. Seldom are drug lords and wars used in Fantasy, if ever, but Constable deals with it just as we deals will all else: frank and heart-filled honesty. And a climax fit to sing one's boots on fire.

Much work lies ahead, so good job thus far and good luck to you Tansy, Perrin, Skir, Evie, and Beeman (seriously). Please say hello to Calwyn for me, when/if you see her.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Downfall vs. Doom

It ironically appears that GRRM heavily based his Doom of Valyria and related events upon the Tolkien's Downfall of Númenor. 

The Downfall of Numenor
The Númenóreans were the strongest and proudest race of humans who ruled a vast overseas empire from their island home, they themselves having distinct physical features that set them apart from other humans (great height). Then, to cut a long story short, they fell from their wisdom and embarked on a deed that promised destruction. But before they fell, Amandil son of Númendil, Lord of Andúnië led his people away and so escaped the utter and complete rupturing and flooding that followed which coupled with the total annihilation of Númenor. His son Elendil would go on to found the Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor in Middle-Earth.

The Doom of Valyria
In GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire universe, Valyria was the
strongest and proudest of civilizations, ruling a vast overseas empire from their peninsula  home, they themselves having distinct physical features that set them apart from other humans (purple eyes and silver-gold hair). Exactly how and why they fell remains a mystery, but before the Doom occurred, the daughter of Lord Aenar Targaryen had visions of a cataclysm that would overcome Valyria. A foresight which came true as the Valyrian Peninsula was flooded and shattered beyond repair. Thus he fled to Westeros, where his descendant Aegon the Conqueror would unite the land under the Iron Throne.

Thus in both cases did a noble House flee the vast empire before it's destruction and would go on to be Kings and lords of humans. Of course, Númenor as well as Gondor and Arnor are vastly more noble and humane realms than Old Valyria and Westeros, but the fact still remains.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Beren and Lúthien (a new Tolkien book)

As he does with everything, Tolkien takes Romantic Fantasy to a whole other level. Indeed, the romance between Beren of the House of Bëor and Lúthien Tinúviel makes the tale of Aragorn and Arwen look tame.

"Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that came down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien." - J.R.R. Tolkien


(Tolkien often referred to his wife, Edith, as "my Luthien" for the Elf maiden in question was inspired from her)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Abibliophobia

This is a legitimate fear. (Although, I think it is the fear of running out of bookshelf space that plagues readers the most. For example, I will not run out of new books to read for another decade at least, my shelves already being packed with fresh books. The problem is that most of them are volume ones...)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My people have a saying...

It is seldom credited, but one sign of a great Fantasy author is when, tucked comfortably within their works, are invented wisdom-sayings i.e. proverbs; one could also call these little nuggets of wisdom. It is not a rule, of course, as one can easily be a master of the Fantastic without employing such things, but those who do have – at least in my experience – always been masters.

Unsurprisingly, among the first and finest examples of this is none other J.R.R. Tolkien himself. Here are some of the best examples:

"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." 
"Valour needs first strength, and then a weapon."
"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens."
"Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves." 
"Often does hatred hurt itself."

Another fine example, and one who directly uses the term proverbs and makes them a more integral part of the story than Tolkien, is Mercedes Lackey. She literally created dozens for her invented Shin'a'in (People of the Plains) and Tale'edras (Hawkbrother) cultures. Lackey's proverbs are notable in that they are reminiscent to those of Ancient Asia e.g. "Just because you feel certain an enemy is lurking behind every bush, it doesn’t follow that you are wrong" is like to "Before telling secrets on the road, look in the bushes."
Other fine examples of quotes from the wondrous world of Velgarth are as follows:

"My people have a saying..."


"Knowledge will always be the best weapon against tyrants."
"Professionals are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs."
"You cannot have a battle without getting your fur in a mess."
"If it gets caught, it deserves to be eaten."
"That was then, this is now; the moment is never the same twice."

I have also heard that C. S. Lewis created a dozen proverbs in The Horse and His Boy, a book in his The Chronicles of Narnia series. However, as I have never read The Horse and His Boy I can provide no examples.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A return to Tremaris

The three moons rise.

Just started The Taste of Lightning by Kate Constable, companion novel of her Chanters of Tremaris trilogy.
It is with great delight that I once again enter the lovely world of Tremaris, only this time following new characters. Regardless, I have been meaning to read this book for years now, and the real question has always been...will there be a connection to Calwyn & co. other than a familiar world map? Time to found out.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Just finished Court Duel

Just finished Court Duel, the second book of Sherwood Smith's The Crown & Court Duet.
So ends a fast-paced and charming adventure. What is not to love about a barefooted countess aiding in taking down a tyrant and, most importantly, bringing love and laughter to a palace full of courtiers whose minds are so full of the high strategy that they cannot see a another human beyond their livery? The overall lesson: Never let past misunderstandings impair relationships; better to overcome them before they catch up with and trip you in dangerous places.

My warmest wishes for a happy future to Meliara of Tlanth & Vindanric of Renselaeus, Branaric and Nimiar of Tlanth, Savona and Tamara, and all my other friends of Remalna. You saved the kingdom and the Hill Folk.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Neverending Story

It is less than 400 pages, yet is longer than Harry Potter. It is less than 400 pages, yet the entire Fantasy genre is captured within it.

My Father and I just finished The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.

How to describe a book that is unlike any other, that robbed us of words almost nightly? All I can say is that if The Neverending Story is the only Fantasy book one ever reads, then one can call themselves a veteran of the genre. All I can say is that Michael Ende ranks with J.R.R. Tolkien himself. All I can say is that we supped with the Golden-Eyed Commander of Wishes within the Ivory Tower and drank the Water of Life between the black and white snakes who encircle and yet are within the Glory.

All I can say is thank you to Bastian Balthazar Bux and Atreyu of the Greenskins , to Falkor the luckdragon, to the The Childlike Empress who accepts all as they are and never uses her power, to Grograman the Many Colored Death, to The Old Man of Wandering Mountain, to Hero Hynreck and Hykrion, Hysbald and Hydorn, and, last but not least, to Carl Conrad Coreander.

I beseech all to read this book, to join Bastion on his first steps. But I warn you that
“If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger--
If you have never read secretly under the bedclothes with a flashlight, because your father or mother or some other well-meaning person has switched off the lamp on the plausible ground that it was time to sleep because you had to get up so early--
If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless--
If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won't understand what Bastian did next.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

Literary kindred



I do not claim to be an avid reader of the Mystery genre – aside from a few kids' books and, more recently, the acclaimed historical murder mystery The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco – but I have always had the deepest respect for the genre. In fact, it is fair to say, I believe, that Mystery and Fantasy are in fact literary cousins (with Sci-Fi being the Fantastic's only closer relative; a sibling, presumably).

One states this because, while a Fantasy novel may employ little mystery and a Mystery even less magic, both at their best utilize strategy/tactics, good vs. evil with relatively high stakes, and intellectualism. This is not to say that the two genres are not very different in several key ways, but these shared traits prove that they are enough akin to be called cousins. Further evidence of this is provided by the fact that supernatural (i.e. magical/Fantasy) elements are not exactly unheard of within the Mystery genre, and many a Fantasy author – such as J.K. Rowling – took great pains to add elements of mystery.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." 
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle[1] 

"Caught between the riddle and its answer there is no freedom." 
- Patricia A. McKillip[2]

P.S. And if one still remains unconvinced, the two genres share yet another element: Pipes! Seems to me that the Grey Pilgrim and the detective of 221B Baker Street would get along quite famously, what with the former blowing colored smoke rings and the latter creating a (and I quote) "poisonous atmosphere" of tobacco smoke.


[1] Author of the Sherlock Holmes books (the Mystery genre's The Lord of the Rings equivalent)
[2] American author of fantasy and science fiction novels, which have been winners of the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Award, and the Mythopoeic Award. In 2008, she was a recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.