Thursday, October 18, 2018

I just finished playing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (Erika's path)

I just finished playing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (Erika's path).
As always, it is an utter joy to play these games: a bookworthy storyline with real, fleshed out, unique and compelling characters who all unite makes for dialogue no less compelling than the tactical battles that makes Fire Emblem a standout.
In this case, having the main princess and prince characters be siblings was a nice change and, between the Renais Royals and Innes & Tana of Frelia, this game explored brother- sister relationships as no Fire Emblem games have thus far. (Naturally the themes of Dragons, friendship, and peace were the same, but they never get old).

Peace and prosperity to you, Erika, Ephram, Innes, Tana, Lady L'Arachel, Lute, Colm & Neimi, Gerik, Marisa the Crimson Flash, Joshua, Saleh, Myrrth, Duessel the Obsidian, Dozla, Rennac, Vanessa, Ewan, Comag, and Lyon the tragic.
(I will, of course, see you all again; when I follow Ephram's path).

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

My father and I just finished reading The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

My father and I just finished reading The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell.

While not possessing the skill of Jones or McKillip, Haskell has for the second time proven their equal in imagination crafting a story that at first seems simple, yet soon evolves into a great mystery and then puzzle. A puzzle which is a delight to attempt to solve. This story took the whole the cursed princess archetype to new levels: 12 Romanian princesses to be exact, and a curse that combines worn-out slippers, sleeping death, and a young herbalist's apprentice determined to conquer mystery and war one remedy at a time.  

A toast (of Alethe) to you, Reveka, and farewell! And farewell to Princesses Otilia and Lacrimora, Didina and Adina, Brother Cosmin, Mihas, Armas, Marjit, Konstantin, and Dragos.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm

"A wanderer and a cursed child. Spells and magic. And dragons, of course."
Welcome back to the world of Alagaësia!

Such delightful news indeed to announce that Christopher Paolini is returning the wondrous world of his The Inheritance Cycle, international bestseller and the first great Fantasy series I read on my own in the 6th grade (my father having read The Lord of the Rings to me the year before)! Of course, Inheritance fans have long known that we would get to return to Alagaësia – that Paolini was writing some sort of "Book Five" – but we never knew what form it would take.

Now we do: a new series no less if the Tales from Alagaësia - Volume 1 is any implication, and The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm looks like a truly wondrous book. Honestly, I would say more to express my excitement as my love for this series is second to none save The Lord of the Rings itself, yet cannot without violating my blog law of never writing spoilers! But oh, to see Eragon and Saphira again!! So here is the link, and my only grief is that I will now be able to start it once it comes out at the year's end, for I will of course still be reading Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. (Ironic, is it not? Forced away from true dragons by the Dragon Reborn.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Top 40 Fantasy Book Blogs (#36)

At Lake Cuiviénen by Ted Nasmith
"The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords." - J.R.R. Tolkien

As one can see by the badge now gracing the right column, it is my great honor and greater pleasure to announce that Stars Uncounted - Ian's Fantasy Bookshelf is now counted among the Top 40 Fantasy Book Blogs! This is an acknowledgement/award that I never expected to receive for the simple reason that I never believed this blog worthy of such; indeed, one of my family had to convince me to put my name forward and, even when I did, my hopes were not exactly high.
The lesson: that I guess I should listen to my own advice about always having faith in one's abilities so long as one puts their whole heart into it.

I must also, therefore, extend deep thanks to my friends who for years had urged me to create a Fantasy blog until I at last did so on Thursday, May 19, 2016.

So, with that out of the way, let the journey continue! To terra incognita!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

How to make your own System of Magic

Not long ago a old friend wrote to me saying, "I'm working on a myth-based fantasy book for the first time and I’m seriously struggling with building a magic system. Since you’re the master of all things fantasy - How do you usually go about it when you’re writing, or do you have any good reading recommendations for some inspiration, from your vast reading?"

Naturally this was/is an excellent question because reading about these wondrous & mystical realms is one thing, and writing one is a different matter all together. But often trying to craft your own unique system of magic can seem like the hardest part of all, so here – as I detailed to my friend is how I go about it:

The first thing you must decide is how ornate and prevalent you want yours to be. Some, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, have a restrained use of magic: You do not see Gandalf casting a lot of spells or throwing fireballs in The Lord of the Rings; when danger comes, Gandalf draws Glamdring (his sword). Yet there is still a steady presence of magic in Middle-earth, subtle yet bright, clear, and elegant.Then there are authors like Rowling, whose Harry Potter is full of flashing spells - but with carefully laid and complex rules behind and them, making the magic system work and adding realism and depth to it.
In general, the larger the role a magic system plays the more complex it is. Neither style is better, just different, as while the restrained kind is typically easier to craft, the often complex rules of the ornate system can help drive the story. The restrained kind often lends to a more epic feel, yet the ornate can be analyzed by the reader and bent in truly fascinating ways.

After you choose, the rest
i.e. the actual system of magic you are striving to create depends entirely on the world and characters you have crafted. For example, you will have to decide whether your system will conform/relate to one of The Nine Magics.

Inspirational readings I can also offer: The first five being some of the best myth-based Fantasies around, and the bottom two being the best examples or the more ornate yet unique/excellent systems of magic (beware, the two categories oft blur):
  • The Sea of Trolls trilogy by Nancy Farmer (Celtic and Norse myths) 
  • The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott (All myths, believe it or not) 
  • The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Copper (Arthurian legends) 
  • The Children of the Lamp series by P.B. Kerr (Arabian myths) 
  • In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip (Slavic myths) 
  • The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix 
  • The Vows and Honor trilogy and its companion By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey

Beyond this there is little more I can offer save one final recommendation: read the Sanderson’s First Law article, written by the acknowledged Master of Magic Systems, acclaimed Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson.