Saturday, March 23, 2019

Soundtrack Secret - "The Last March of the Ents"

We all know and agree that The Last March of the Ents scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers movie is epic in every sense of the word. Yet there is a secret in the soundtrack, for that is not mere chanting we hear but words in Sindarin, the tongue of the Grey Elves.

Rithannen I geven
Thangen I harn~
Na fennas I daur
Ol dั‹are ristannen
Eryn echuiannen
I ngelaidh dagrar
Ristar thynd, cัŠa tawar
Dambedir enyd I ganed
Si linna I waew trin ylf
Iso I dur I chuiyl
I ngelaidh dagrar

Words which, translate to:

Earth shakes, stone breaks, 
The forest is at your door. 
The dark sleep is broken, 
The woods have awoken, 
The trees have gone to war. 
Roots rend, wood bends, 
The Ents have answered the call. 
Through branches now the wind sings. 
Feel the power of living things. 
The trees have gone to war.

However much Peter Jackson botched The Hobbit movies, he did not miss a trick in The Lord of the Rings were it really mattered.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

I have just started The Shadow Rising

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started The Shadow Rising, Volume #4 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
Visions of disaster loom over Tar Valon as unanswered questions linger and fester, the Forsaken remain at large, and the Dragon Reborn rises. Long has the world dreaded and longed for the return of the Dragon. Long have the Aes Sedai been divided as to how to deal with him. Now the choices that shall shatter oaths and forge destinies must be made.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

I have just finished The Dragon Reborn

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished The Dragon Reborn, Volume #3 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
The Stone of Tear has fallen to the People of the Dragon and the Sword That Cannot Be Touched rests firmly in the hands of He Who Comes With The Dawn, Rand al'Thor the Dragon Reborn. Meanwhile, the wolf rescued the Falcon from the hedgehog in the World of Dreams as the Horn-blower put his famous luck to the test, all against the Forsaken, Dark sisters, and the Lord of the Grave. As Moiraine Aes Sedai says, prophesies are fulfilled as they meant to be, not as we think they should be; and the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.

"And it was written that no hand but his should wield the Sword held in the Stone, but he did draw it out, like fire in his hand, and his glory did burn the world. Thus did it begin. Thus do we sing his Rebirth. Thus do we sing the beginning." - from Do'in Toldara te, Songs of the Last Age.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Tolkien biopic trailer

The trailer of the upcoming Tolkien biopic. (I would say more, except that the trailer truly speaks for itself and, as the mage Ogion of Re Albi from Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle once said,  “To hear, one must be silent.”)

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Sir Philip Pullman vs. Lyra Silvertongue

The Book of Dust was like a myth, like a fabled mist-shrouded castle one endlessly walks towards yet never reaches nor even sees clearly. For over a decade nearly all we heard was that Sir Philip Pullman was "working on it," this message updated/rephrased every few years or so. We heard that he hoped for it to come out in 2016, yet the year passed without a word. Then, in 2017 after over a decade of agonized waiting, we learned that The Book of Dust would be not one book but three that that the first volume, La Belle Sauvage, would be coming out that year.
We all exploded with joy. Both when we heard the news and doubly so when we finally got our hands on the book that had been the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. (And did we ever find rain.)

Now The Secret Commonwealth, volume two of The Book of Dust series is get to come out October 3rd of this year.

Why all the solemnity as opposed to excitement? Because...
I NEVER thought I would EVER even THINK about saying this, but I am not sure that I will be able to read this. Not sure that I will be able to continue with The Book of Dust ๐Ÿ˜ญ

Frankly, I cannot picture Lyra as ANY kind of cynic. Remember, that we did NOT, actually, leave her at the end of The Amber Spyglass but rather in the mini-sequel Lyra's Oxford – which took place two years later. How could five years have changed her so much? Yes, I know and recall full well how His Dark Materials ended and have visited the wooden bench at the back of the Oxford Botanic Garden. But I also recall Lyra's Oxford and how it ended. How we saw that Lyra had grown into a mature young woman who was still the Lyra Silvertongue we love. Older yes, matured as I said, clearly grown-up from the wild girl we knew and tempered by the heartbreak she endured, yet she was nobody who Pan of all entities would call a pessimist.Hence my belief that it is Pullman, rather than Lyra, who changed ๐Ÿ™ That Pullman gradually lost touch with her because I do not see how five years could have so changed the young woman we left at the end of the appropriately named Lyra's Oxford.
Recall how when La Belle Sauvage came out Sir Philip Pullman said that the collective Book of Dust series could be called "His Darker Materials" and that, as an author, "I’ve got older and perhaps more cynical, closer to despair...It is a darker book, I don’t deny that, but that’s the story that came to me and wanted to be told.” Recall how I thought that La Belle Sauvage made little contextual sense seeing as the political/general situation was nowhere near that bad in The Golden Compass. If it was then Lyra would have been kidnapped or killed years ago while running wild around Oxford. 
Indeed, the impression was not that the world was falling apart, nor was Lord Asriel a wanted man to the same degree. Recall that he was able to walk into and out of Oxford in The Golden Compass without the same life-threatening hassle as in La Belle Sauvage.
Recall how I previously posted about an article which revealed that, tragically, the great Philip Pullman is descending into a very dark, cynical, place and I, for one, have always viewed cynicism as merely a more sophisticated form of surrender; for cynics still fight for what they believe in – but they no longer truly believe. And how that selfsame article noted that "Pullman is famously an atheist, although he explores myth, legend and magic in all his writing and will do so particularly in the next book [of Dust], which sees Lyra losing her sense of magic as an adult and will be called The Secret Commonwealth."

"I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone,"
says Philip Pullman. "I’m just trying to stop
myself going mad."
Hence I believe that, grievously, Sir Philip Pullman is dragging Lyra Silvertongue down with him ๐Ÿ˜” As a writer of an as-yet unpublished yet complete Fantasy series – while I am not fool enough to compare myself or work with Pullman – I do know what it means to truly create a living world with heartfelt characters. I learned during my writing that the mind of an author is linked with those of their characters and the world they live, but also that that link can be broken. Broken or warped if the mind of an author changes. As stated above, Pullman himself said "I’ve got older and perhaps more cynical, closer to despair...It is a darker book, I don’t deny that, but that’s the story that came to me and wanted to be told.” Now look that the link (here it is again) that I provided above and read the extract from The Secret Commonwealth. Add that with the also aforesaid plot-line inconsistencies of La Belle Sauvage with His Dark Materials, and I see an author whose mind is in a very different place from where it was when he wrote Lyra's Oxford. I see that, over the over ten years it has taken him to finally produce The Book of Dust, his mind has fundamentally changed from the man who wrote Lyra into existence. He, by his own words, is "perhaps more cynical, closer to despair" and hence The Book of Dust reflects that altered state of mind; reflects and projects it onto Lyra, thus resulting in a distorted reflection of her.

"Lyra just came to me entire and complete, I didn’t consciously make her up with a list of attributes. But I had been a teacher for about 12 years working with children of her age and there were lots of Lyras - in every classroom in the country there is a Lyra or two. Or three. She’s a very ordinary child and that’s the point about her. If she’s unusual it’s in her capacity to feel affection, which she does very readily and very warmly." – Philip Pullman  

THIS is the Philip Pullman who wrote His Dark Materials
and Lyra the Beloved. THIS is a man whom I think would look
upon his older self with concern.
I know all this may sound dramatic, but Lyra has a very special place my heart. She was the first and only book character whose sacrifice tormented my dreams for days literately. I could not even look at the books for years without feeling a deep stab of grief. And I say all this with confidence because, as any passionate reader knows, the bond, the link, between the minds of reader and book-character is no less great and heartfelt that that between character and author. Like the author, we laugh and cheer and cry with them, knowing then as friends so close that they may as well be extended family. (On that note, if by small chance that I am proved wrong by
The Secret Commonwealth then I will gladly and indeed with the greatest joy eat my words.)
Finally, for all those who read this and want to throw that tired retort "We all get more cynical as we get older" line at me, then permit me to quickly nip that dark and thorny rose in the bud:

"For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more--remembering my own sins and follies; and realize that men's hearts are not often as bad as their acts, and very seldom as bad as their words." - J.R.R. Tolkien

"Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us." - Stephen Colbert

"A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future." - Sydney J. Harris

"Cynicism isn't smarter, it's only safer. There's nothing fluffy about optimism." - Jewel Kitcher

"The greater part of the truth is always hidden, in regions out of the reach of cynicism." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, March 1, 2019

My father and I just started Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

My father and I just started Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman, sequel-companion novel of her Seraphina Series.

Hartman is one of those masters who brings out the all the humanity in her characters from page #1, be they good or evil or a mix you feel instantly that they are alive as the protagonists seize your heart and pull you along for the ride. Or road, I suppose, in this case.
The first two books were a stunning fantasy that put racial tensions and religion on center-stage alongside love, self-acceptance, and the roots and results of hatred. A masterwork as unique as it is stunning, well written, and unpredictable.

Seraphina may have saved the world already and Tess may not be an ityasaari, but I have no doubt that whatever roads we walk with Tess will be as memorable as they are masterful and deeply meaningful.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

My father and I just finished Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip

My father and I just finished Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip.

Sequel to Winter Rose, the book, while naturally superb, is markedly unlike any McKillip book we have read, as not only is it clearly set in our world but, astonishingly, is it not written in the mytho-poetic style that characterizes all of McKillip's work. Indeed, we did not believe that was possible for her to write a Fantasy book in a different style. That said, though, even if it was not recognizably a McKillip book in writing and setting, it certainly was in depth of plot and story: A wonderful, down-to-earth tale of Fae heritage and weaving magic and fear born from what happened to Rois and Corbet Lynn.

Congratulations for bridging the gap between forest and Lynn Hall, Sylvia, Iris, Tyler, Judith, Owen & Rue, Dorian & Leith. Love is truly the most powerful weapon against traditional fear.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tolkien biopic

First a film about Ursula K. Le Guin and now a biographical drama film about none other than J.R.R. Tolkien. Plus BBC and HBO are co-producing and dramatizing Pullman's His Dark Materials, Amazon is making a TV adaptation of Jordan's The Wheel of Time along with some form TV series set in Middle-earth that will explore new storylines that precede the events depicted in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. Tis certainly a good year for Fantasy literature on the big screen and, on that note, here is the man to whom we ultimately owe it all:

Luck the filmmakers who seek to tell the tale of the Master. Tolkien was more than great writer, he was a great man in every respect.
A man whose relatives were shocked when he elected not to immediately volunteer for the British Army, and who later recalled that "in those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage." But he did join, later writing that "Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my wife was like a death."

"One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead." - J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin

Just got back from seeing the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin at Somerville Theatre.
I was amazing. Inspiring.

As I have said in the past, Le Guin was a titan, a wall breaker, in Fantasy, writing about Schools of Magic and facing our own inner demons long before anyone else. And I owe her my own book series no less than I owe Tolkien.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Fantasy Book Tiers

We all have our favorite books and it is no secret that mine is J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, yet what happens when one finds a book that is clearly in the same league even is it is not one's favorite? Take J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, for example: it is very different from LOTR yet is still similar in many ways and, while Rowling did not found the modern Fantasy genre as Tolkien did, Harry Potter was an undeniable literary classic that inspired another whole generation of readers and began the Golden Age of Fantasy. All of which is why I call Rowling the the Heir of Tolkien.

That being the case, though, what do I do? Do I call Harry Potter my second favorite book? I could, given my above praise of her, but would it really be true. Sure I love Harry, Ron, and Hermione, yet, emotionally, I am no less attached and invested in the tales of Lyra Silvertongue and Will Parry, Eragon and Sapphira, Sabriel and Lirael, and Will Treaty & Halt; from the His Dark Materials trilogy by Sir Philip Pullman, The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix, and The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan. I love those books (and several others) just as much as Harry Potter, yet at the same time recognize that they are not quite in the same league as Tolkien and Rowling. Close to, but not quite.

Thus, in reaction to this, my Dad and I gradually created what we call Fantasy Book Tiers to measure both a Fantasy author's skill as well as story. Below I will try to articulate what each tier means along with adding a few authors Dad and I agree belong in that rank, but it is difficult to do as authors of the same tier often write quite dissimilar books.

1st Tier: Those Fantasy Masters who break beyond the ordinary conventions of the genre, possessing a unique skill and writing style that regularly shocks and delights even veterans of the Fantastic. (Tolkien ranks as the highest of this Tier for obvious quality reasons as well as the fact that none of the rest would have existed without him.)
Authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones, J.K. Rowling, Patricia A. McKillip, and The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.

2nd Tier: Books such as I mentioned above, acknowledged classics possessing both story and characters you love, but are not quite in the same league (or tier) as those such as Tolkien, Jones, and Rowling. However, like the Top Tiers, these are crossover books that can be enjoyed and young and old alike.
Examples: The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix, and The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan, The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud, The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Copper, The Noble Warriors by William Nicholson, and His Dark Materials trilogy by Sir Philip Pullman.

3rd Tier: Good page-turning books that leave you genuinely caring about the characters and awaiting sequels, yet are not what you would recommend to a friend trying to get into Fantasy. Average one might call them, though I think that term a tad harsh.
Examples: The Children of the Lamp series by P.B. Kerr, The Annals of Drakis by Tracy Hickman, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, and The Echorium Sequence by Katherine Roberts.

Here ends the tiers, as Dad and I use the term "4th Tier" to describe books we deem unworthy of our time. (After all, why read a lesser book when you could be searching for undiscovered better ones or re-reading classics?) More to the point, these rankings are not ironclad for the simple reason that every book is different and may be of varying quality even if they rest in the same tier. Dad and I, for example, describe The Dark is Rising and His Dark Materials as "upper 2nd Tier" as we judge them as good as it is possible to get without being Top Tier. Furthermore, Dad and I have been debating whether The Children of the Lamp is "upper 3rd Tier" or "lower 2nd Tier" for years. Hence these Fantasy Book Tiers are merely approximate categories we created to sort our favorite books into a more organized literary canon

Monday, February 4, 2019

Profanity in Fantasy

It is amazing when one finds a truly insightful statement in the YouTube comments section (and no, this is not sarcasm):

"Swearing is lazy. It shows a lack of vocabulary and imagination when conversing with others. That's why it's all the more impressive when someone threatens or insults someone without using any curse words. Real thought goes into what is said."

I post this because it captures with perfect eloquence and clarity why I loathe swear-words, never using them in life and avoiding then when possibly in Fantasy. (Yes, I know I read A Song of Ice and Fire and that it was/is stiff with profanity, but recall that I was once GRRM's most avid of fans, calling him the American Tolkien, and judged his work just masterful enough to tolerate the language.)

Indeed, growing up reading Fantasy and having parents who raise one to genuinely despise profanity and other forms of crude language is a blessing. Why? Because you learn to speak elegantly and use archaic words with deft precision.

Also, in place of such base and/or simplistic words, one learns to be creative. I say "silence" and, in place of swear-words, oaths like "Thank the flame", "Gods and sacred Goddesses", "Darkspawn", "Freya's tears", "By all the gods above and below the Earth", "Bones, Body, and Blood", "Fire and Hemlock". Oaths which, I think, prove the validity of the above quote.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

I have just started The Dragon Reborn

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

There is a certain cafe that my family loves, my parents going there since before I was born and we still go there now; the effect being that my sister and I truly grew up eating breakfast at this place. A place that is a bookstore as well as cafe, and I remember well a conversation I had with my Dad there in which he was trying to convince his very young son who then did not like reading at all to let him read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien aloud to him.
That is one memory, but another is seeing The Wheel of Time on the shelves year after year, namely the third book of the series whose title and cover imprinted itself on my mind.

A book I have just started: The Dragon Reborn, volume #3 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
The Dragon is reborn and the Last Battle comes, chaos grows as wars sprout like roses, false Dragons still linger, and white-cloaked foes both loyal to the Dark and Light rise. Long has the world dreaded the return of the Dragon, long has prophesy promised his return. Now he must navigate that world.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I have just finished The Great Hunt

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished The Great Hunt, book #2 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
Always the rumor said that it was in this book that Jordan broke from Tolkien story-wise and truly proves that his saga is unlike any other. I now name that rumor true, for I have NEVER read a Fantasy like this great epic. The armies that Artur Hawkwing sent return with chains, the Black Ajah rears its head for the first time in two millennium, the Horn of Valere sounds and the grave barred not the return of heroes to ride under the Dragon's banner. "Once the heron to set his path, twice the heron to name him true."
Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.