Monday, June 1, 2020

Winterkeep, a return to the Graceling Realm Series


Graceling Realm Series by Kristin Cashore has always had a special place a in my heart. Its world is neither the most complex I have ever seen nor is the story the most sophisticated, yet the characters are carve a place into one's heart forever. It was a series I thought I had finished back in 2013 (three years before I began Stars Uncounted), marking it on facebook with the following post:

"I have just finished Bitterblue, third and final book of Kristin Cashore's Seven Kingdoms Trilogy.
I began this series years ago, starting with a girl named Katsa who thought she was Graced with killing, but found love, friendship, and her true Grace. I continued with a girl named Fire, a Monster from the Dells who was hated for what her father was but who, like Katsa, found love and friendship and piece with her powers. And then Bitterblue, a teen Queen of a shattered kingdom and an old friend who endured betrayal, heartache, adventure, and the true meaning of love and friendship; and the importance of learning the Truth and Healing.
Now I am done. Thank you so much for everything Bitterblue, Fire, Katsa, Po, Raffin, Bann, Giddon, Nash, Brigan, Helda, Teddy, Saf, and Hava. I love you all and will see you again someday. I promise."

Since then its name has of course changed from the Seven Kingdoms Trilogy to the Graceling Realm Series, which is just as well because I just learned that come January 19, 2021 it is to be a trilogy no longer. For on that date Kristin Cashore expands the Graceling Realm geographically as well as otherwise with her newest novel Winterkeep, the book being named for a new nation beyond the known world and presumably the Winter Sea. A book in which we will be reunited with dear Bitterblue, brave Queen and now 23-year-old friend as well as Giddon from the Council and good old Hava. And, of course, a new friend named Lovisa Cavenda. 

When I wrote the above facebook post saying that I would see my old friends again someday I meant when I eventually reread the series. Not going to be the case, apparently, and doubly so since Winterkeep will itself have a sequel. Honestly, when I finish The Wheel of Time I will have likely have to wait a whole year before reading anything new on account of the old series' refusing to end. A good problem to have, but still...

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

My father and I just finished Moon-Flash by Patricia A. McKillip

My father and I just finished Moon-Flash by Patricia A. McKillip.
Though categorized as partly sci-fi, McKillip is incapable of writing anything other than a lyrical masterpiece in which the words flow like a river off the page, though your soul, and back again. Which is not unlike the story as Kyreol's incurably curious nature leads her beyond what the people of the Riverworld, her people, had thought to be the edge of the world but is instead only the first stage of a long journey. A journey with her best friend Terje down the river and across questions to find answers that, though often shocking, leads both into the sky and a better understanding of the world, each other, and their dreams.

I have just started The Gathering Storm

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started The Gathering Storm, Volume #12 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and completed posthumously by Brandon Sanderson).
The storm is coming. Black and silver clouds gather in the north and farmers and smiths trade hammers and scythes for swords to meet it. The storm is coming. The Dragon Reborn has the Lady of Pain captive and marches to end the lord of the chaos' rule in Arad Doman. The storm is coming. The Seachan learn that in Hawkwing's homeland what they had dismissed as superstition is real, nightmares made flesh and come to kill. The storm is coming. The Forsaken gather and make plans for Tarmon Gai'don, for they drive the storm and mean break the Wheel. Yet in many ways the Wheel drives them, and Light has ever snatched victory from the maws of malice. The storm is coming.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Monday, May 25, 2020

I have just finished Knife of Dreams

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished Knife of Dreams, Volume #11 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
"When the Wolf King carries the hammer, thus are the final days known. When the Fox marries the raven, and the trumpets of battle are blown." So states the Prophecies of the Dragon and so has it come to pass, the gambler becoming the Prince of the Ravens while the Wolf at last rescues the Falcon and crushes the Aiel who betrayed themselves. So it is that as the Uncrowned King marches east as the fate of the Rose Crown is decided in favor of the daughter of Morgase while her oldest son leads the Sunburst north. The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai'don! The White Lion shall march for Tarmon Gai'don. Thus are old plots concluded, old wars won. Yet not without cost in life and limb, for the Dark One touches and rots the world
– the Pattern loosening even as it gathers all loose threads in preparation for the gathering storm.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Yawns are VERY contagious

We all know that yawns are contagious. One person yawning causes another to yawn and soon the half the room looks like they stayed up half the night. But I have reached a new level in that I now yawn when characters I am reading (or writing) about yawn. Tis funny, I suppose.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

I have just started Knife of Dreams

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started Knife of Dreams, Volume #11 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
Tis known by the Aiel Dreamwalkers that the Land of Dreams is no less real than the walking world, and by Aes Sedai Dreamers that dreams may reveal the secrets and possibilities of the Pattern yet unwoven. So it is that the True Flame of Tar Valon learns that while walking a treacherous path her most hated enemy shall save her and that the gambler has fire in his hand that, in exploding, shall cause much death. So it is that the Foretellings of the False Flame shall be tested as the fates of Rose Crown, Sunburst, and the White Tower itself are tied to the children of Morgase. So it is that the Pattern gathers all loose threads in preparation as new alliances are planted in the promised soil of Tarmon Gai'don.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Friday, May 1, 2020

I have just finished Crossroads of Twilight

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished Crossroads of Twilight, Volume #10 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
It is said that the world is quiet when twilight reigns, as the creatures the day prepare for sleep while those of the night begin to rise, and vice versa. So it is that the world pauses for breath, some unaware and all unable to avoid the damage that was undone. So it is that the boundaries between Aes Sedai and Asha'man dwindle while the Dragon Reborn prioritizes his enemies and gambler grows closer to the Daughter of the Nine Moons. So it is that Black Ajah fights for its survival even as the True Flame of Tar Valon enters her city in dire peril. So it is made clear that the White Tower and Black can never stand separate as Flame and Fang. Only together, under the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai. Yet all the while a mysterious rot claws at the world.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Does the Wheel turn slowly?

"Is Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series a slow read? It is rumored to have a glacial pace. I read George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and liked it, but I do not think I could stand anything slower."
This is a common, or at least not uncommon, concern of Fantasy readers trying to decide whether or not to dive into the Jordan's masterwork. Long series, even fourteen volume ones, faze inveterate Fantasy readers less than books with a slow pacing, so I will now address that concern more deeply.

In short, while The Wheel of a Time is hardly a fast-paced series, everything matters. No matter how small the event or character may be, the odds are strong that it/they will in some manner be relevant to the future. The butterfly effect is real here, as characters you might forget, or believed to be localized to a subplot long finished, will likely turn up again far from where you last saw them. People may compare it to GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire, arguing that GRRM's literary bloodbath is far more fast-paced, but this is an illusion. How many subplots in Ice and Fire truly matter? How many gripping intrigues developed by the High Lords playing their Game of Thrones actually ended up shaking Westeros and making a real difference to the story? The answer is very few, yet the story seems fast-paced due to GRRM's immense skill in the art of storytelling. He creates a near flawless illusion of speed that keeps the reader hooked. Which is no small feat considering that GRRM's grimdark tale has no natural endpoint. (Yes, I am aware that the Others must needs be defeated, of the prophecy of Azor Ahai and the prince/princess that was promised, and of course that someone must finally sit the Iron Throne uncontested. But the Others and the prophesy are marginalized by ruthless High Lords playing their game of thrones, and who sits the Iron Throne one year may be dead along with all their kin the next. Hardly natural endpoints for an epic Fantasy of such scale, in my mind.)
This is not the case with Robert Jordan. As Verin Sedai says in book #2, "The Pattern puts everything in its place precisely, and when we try to alter it, especially if ta'veren are involved, the weaving changes to put us back into the Pattern as we were meant to be." Meaning that, while Jordan's story may seem slower than GRRM's, every ounce of movement is real. Not an illusion, but a solid and true step forward and towards the clearly defined endpoint that is Tarmon Gai'don (the Last Battle), for the Wheel does not turn backwards anymore than time itself. Even the court intrigues, believe it or not as before the Game of Thrones was played in Westeros the Game of Houses (also called "The Great Game," translated as "Daes Dae'mar" in the Old Tongue) was played in the Westlands are every bit as devious as those GRRM spins. As Moiraine Sedai once said, "Everything is a part of the Pattern." Finally, I feel inclined the mention that the title "The Wheel of Time" is not Jordan tacitly acknowledging the series' length. Rather, it is a crucial and one of the most unique elements of the world he created: "The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.” (To see everything I have to say regarding the many rumors surrounding Jordan's work, please go to the Rumors of the Wheel page.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

My father and I just finished Taash and the Jesters by Ellen Kindt McKenzie

My father and I just finished Taash and the Jesters by Ellen Kindt McKenzie.
An absolutely magical story in a Fairytale Kingdom that consists of many of the usual tropes...except for one: tis the Jesters in Motley rather than the Knights in Shinning Armor that do the protecting and saving, which, in its way and most appropriately, stands every other trope on its head. A true hidden gem of Fantasy literature, we see the powers of evil in all their recognizable yet no less real forms, both magical and mundane, countered not by noble swords and true love's kiss, but by the cunning wit and common decency of court fools and ordinary people. Do not let the book's size deceive you. Like so many hidden gems the words seem to expand beyond the number of pages logic says should contain them. Deep, fun, and heart-stopping at times, Dad and I kept commenting on how surprised we were at how much we still had to read, and were riveted every step, leap, and jester's tumble of the way.

Absolutely stupendous work Taash, jesters Kashka and Piff, Bargah the witch, Lea, and Doro (and Nanalia). Evil may never be entirely slain, yet between the lot of you I doubt good King Aciam and Queen Ekama will need worry overmuch.

Monday, April 6, 2020

RuneScape's New Skill: Archaeology

"Dig deeper...war is coming."
Why am I still a proud player of RuneScape? Because of the game's book-worthy and more than unique story. I have posted about RuneScape in the past, such as when I completed the Myreque quest series, but this update is so very special indeed because it is an entire Skill, equal to others like Mining and Magic, yet dedicated 100% to story, to the incredibly intricate and undeniably rich history of the land of Gielinor. This past week I delved lost Zarosian fortress of Kharid-et to see how it fell at the dawn of the Third Age, then travel to Everlight to investigate the risen hope of the fallen realm of Hallowvale. I avoid the Infernal Source as I care little for Demonic Cults nor the promised power that comes from summoning them indeed I have spent half my life crushing such and similar Zamorakian things on various Quests and have not yet reached the level to ascend to the heights of Stormguard Citadel nor descend into the Warforge to see an old cave goblin friend. The lovely thing is that this fits right itnto the game because archaeology was and in a integral part of so many Quests. What mysteries lie below? What ancient powers both good and ill must we face or befriend? What puzzles lost to the ages must be solved in order to face what lies ahead or untangle a very modern mystery? Such is the glory of the game, to quote it, "RuneScape's quests are its pride and joy. No 'Kill 10 boars' here - each one is a hand-crafted slice of story." Nor am I the only one who agrees for, a full week now into the Skill, each Dig Site is as packed as it was on the day or release. Each player digging deeper.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Escapism in the Coronavirus Crisis

Sometimes I am asked where in Tolkien's Middle-earth,
or any Fantasy world for that matter, I would like live.
Naturally barring worlds of my own creation,
I think the answer would be Dol Amroth in southern Gondor.
As a rule I have always abstained from commenting on current real-world events here on Stars Uncounted unless I can relate them to Fantasy literature in some manner, so with this post I acknowledge the Coronavirus Pandemic that has quite literally shut the world down. The anxiety is real. Social-distancing requirements keep us at least six feet apart from those not in our household and many are buying enough food and medical supplies (such as masks and toilet paper) to withstand a siege; and even then all groceries must be wiped down, and we can forget about ordering take-out all together. People are fearful and with reason, the anxiety literally making some people sick (though not with COVID-19).

This is the world we live in at the moment and, housebound, we all must find a way to deal with the crisis. How do I do so? Well, a few days ago I posted this to Facebook and Twitter: "Pandemic quarantines do have one silver lining: lots of time to read." Indeed, that is why I finished Winter's Heart when I did. But this post is more than about me, it is about how this crisis illuminates the glory of the Fantastic for, in the immortal words of J.R.R. Tolkien, "Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?...If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!" And has not the Coronavirus been called (and is) the enemy? 

Menaphos, also known as the Golden City,
is a city located far south in the Kharidian Desert.
Hence I am dealing with this Pandemic by embracing that escapism that is the wondrous heart of Fantasy; by, while still taking the necessary precautions, not thinking about it and treating this near-lockdown as an atypical Spring Vacation. I cannot enjoy the world outside my window, so I dive with the greatest delight into the worlds of others and avail myself of the opportunities this crisis has so unexpectedly given. Naturally I recognize that I can only do this because of fortune's favor; because my financial situation is stable and none in my family has the virus. I recognize it, but am not going to loose sleep over guilt at my own fortune or by following news updates on the Pandemic constantly. In times like these one must exercise self-care, and there is no better method than to escape altogether and have fun.

"I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter." – J.R.R. Tolkien

“Stories of the sort I am describing…they cool us…hence the uneasiness which they arouse in those who, for whatever reason, wish to keep us wholly imprisoned in the immediate conflict. That perhaps is why people are so ready with the charge of 'escape'. I never wholly understood it until my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, "What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and hostile to, the idea of escape?" and gave the obvious answer: jailers.” – C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Tolkien Reading Day

Naturally here on Stars Uncounted we celebrate Tolkien Reading Day, an annual event launched by The Tolkien Society, the date of March 25 being chosen for the simple reason that that is when the One Ring was cast into the Cracks of Doom and Sauron fell. Traditionally one celebrates by posting a quote The Lord of the Rings:

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of The King.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

I have just started Crossroads of Twilight

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started Crossroads of Twilight, Volume #10 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
"And it shall come to pass, in the days when the Dark Hunt rides, when the right hand falters and the left hand strays, that mankind shall come to the Crossroads of Twilight, and all that is, all that was, and all that will be shall balance on the point of a sword, while the winds of the Shadow grow." So states the Prophecies of the Dragon and, as the world enters a new era, the many Thrones of the Westlands struggle against the Crystal from across the Aryth Ocean even as the fates of those and other thrones and forces hang in the balance. A balance between words and swords, between the White Tower both true and false with the Dragon Reborn, between Asha'man and Aes Sedai,
and, ultimately, between the Shadow and the Light – as is the definition of twilight.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Friday, March 20, 2020

I have just finished Winter's Heart

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished Winter's Heart, Volume #9 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
It was said that during the Age of Legends the greatest feats of the One Power were accomplished by women and men working together, Saidar and Saidin united, hence the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai. Until that unity of Power was broken by the Dark One's counterstroke that ended the Dragon and broke the world after he saved it. Now that damage is undone by men and women working together even as, far away, the Daughter of the Nine Moons is revealed and taken by the gambler per the prophesy from beyond the doorway. Even as the Red Wolf searches for his beloved Falcon, Asha'man betray their name as others confirm it. Yet the Shadow lingers, dark knives and worse hearts threatening the Daughter-Heir and even the Dragon Reborn himself. Only one thing is certain: the Time of Illusions has come to an end.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Art of Magic: the Gathering

The Temple of Serra at Epityr. Art by Christine Choi.
The illustrator Ted Nasmith once described the wonder and power of Fantasy in but a single sentence: "It opened up in me a dormant love of lost and misty times, myth and legend." Naturally, specifically, the quote refers to when his sister introduced him to The Lord of the Rings. But I have already posted on Nasmith and his renditions of Valinor and Valyria, and indeed one can see his work scattered throughout Star Uncounted. However, I am in an artistic mood and thought to myself: What is some underappreciated Fantasy art that I could post? Something well-known in its own circles but perhaps not beyond? The answer was obvious, the justly popular card game Magic: the Gathering. In fact Mtg is more than popular, it is downright world-famous, but that does not mean people know much about it. I knew about it since I was small, but only that it was thematically related somehow to Dungeons & Dragons. Yet even after seeing a few game played I did not truly appreciate what for many players include me, now   is a matter of critical importance. The art on the cards. Above you can see one of my favorites, the Temple of Serra at Epityr where the town is cradled in the lap of the of statue while the towers of temple itself can just be made out between her wings.

Quite elegant and in my mind no less worthy of wonder on an aesthetic level than Mr. Nasmith's depiction of the Argonath. Indeed, I would bet that The Pillars of the Kings directing inspired both the temple and the Memorial to Genius. But it is not just statues carved into mountainsides, oh no, for when Magic players think of the games art one of if not the first thing that comes to mind is the wondrous world of Zendikar, images of which flank this text. To be clear, gravity does exist in this world as otherwise the Elf to the left would not bother with ropes. Granted that I do not know how it works on Zendikar save that it affects everything except the floating chuck of terrain. (Those floating angular things are called hedrons, are not natural formations, and are another story.) I could include more, but posting solid walls of art is something I try to avoid, particularly when I can provide a link to a fair bit of it. Anyway, the point is that just as great Fantasy authors bring their created worlds to life in the minds of their readers, great Fantasy artists can do the same regardless of whether the world they depict comes from a book or game.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

My father and I just finished The Valley of Fear

My father and I just finished The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and with it we have completed the last of the Sherlock Holmes novels. 

Masterful in every sense of the word, it was easily his greatest mystery - plot and counterplot woven in intrigue, love, loyalty, and murder with surprise that the great Diana Wynne Jones herself could not have better. I also had a great personal moment for I actually solved the mystery before Mr. Holmes did 😊 Ironically because it involved a trick that GRRM played several times. All of which again shows that mystery and Fantasy are literary kindred.
And yet, even on the last page, Professor Moriarty left a bloody fingerprint. We may have finished the novels, but we are not yet done journeying with the consulting detective of 221B Backer Street.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Quote to start the month

A sparrowhawk
"Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky." - Ursula K. Le Guin

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Rumors of the Wheel (updated)

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Naturally I have been aware of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time for a most of my life, yet had long sworn not to read it for reasons of excessive length (even by my standards) and a glacial pace. That being the case, though, I would often browse through random volumes while in bookstores and in doing so noted Jordan's skill (for creating a world that rivals Middle-earth in scale and gaining such fame is no small thing). I viewed the series as a tragedy of Fantasy: an author who let his world swallow the story he was trying to tell at the story's expense given the glacial reputation. However, as my interest in The Wheel of Time grew I began to research it, looking at once for an excuse to read it as well as validation for my vow not to touch it. Paradoxical, I know, but such is the nature of the human mind at times. The six key rumors I found are as follows:
  1. That the first book, The Eye of the World, is a near-copy of Tolkien (as that was required to get published way back when).
  2. That Jordan really diverges and becomes his own writer story-wise in book #2, The Great Hunt.
  3. That the glacial pace does not start until book seven, A Crown of Swords, making the first half the series exemplary to the highest definition of the word.
  4. The the glacial pace was made far worse by the fact that each book took years for Jordan to write, making readers tear their hair out over getting slow book after slow book afters eons waiting.
  5. That, now that all the books of out, the rumored glacial pace is not half so bad because, rather than waiting years, readers can move straight from book to book.
  6. That the final three books written posthumously by Jordan's chosen successor, Brandon Sanderson, are masterful with the last book, A Memory of Light, being one long heart-stopping climax.
Thankfully, as I am now reading Winter's Heart (Book #9) and thus supposedly in the middle of the glacial pace, I can now answer as to the accuracy of most of these rumors. To start, The Eye of the World is not a Tolkien-imitation once one gets past the first quarter of the book. Again, back in the day everyone wanted a second LOTR so some Tolkien-imitation was required if one wanted to get published, but Jordan's story swiftly becomes a unique one in the first book and blossoms in The Great Hunt. In short, Book #1 was excellent, but afterwards is where the tale takes off in truly startling directions. As to rumors 3-5, while I can easily see how the story felt glacial when it was first coming out, reading it straight through negates that because one has not had years to forget characters' names and the many plot points both major and minor between one volume and another. A critical point, as Jordan has the depth of vision to lay gives key hints, visions of the future both large and infinitesimal, that do not come to full fruition for until several books later. That being said, I cannot deny that The Wheel of a Time is hardly a fast-paced series, but to call it glacial is wrong. In sum, I confirm rumors one, two, four, and five, deny three due to the lack of said glacial pace, and cannot speak to six because I have yet to reach those books. Meanwhile, and as the Aes Sedai say, the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day!

All right, I would be lying if I said that Valentine's Day was special holiday for me. Indeed, the last time I did anything to mark the occasion was never, because today is the first time – and I do so within the context of this Star Uncounted blog (obviously). Anyway, I will celebrate Valentine's Day by reiterating just how important love is in Fantasy. 

Perhaps most famously these days, it is the one thing that Voldemort in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series did not understand and in the end was key in ending him. Indeed, we owe Rowling a great debt for making love such a powerful theme in such a masterful tale, for as said Albus Dumbledore, "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love." Parents' love, the love between friends, between siblings, and the romantic kind that is what Valentine's Day celebrates. I prefer to acknowledge them all, though, as each is no less crucial than the other and should one be taken away it would leave the other two scarred (even if only slightly depending on the situation). 
Not that it cannot leave scarring in other ways on the characters and readers both, for as Cadvan of Lirigon from Alison Croggon's Books of Pellinor says, "To love is never wrong. It may be disastrous; it may never be possible; it may be the deepest agony. But it is never wrong." I wont get into specifics so as to avoid spoilers, but this quote is one of the truest I have ever encountered on the subject; that and one of Terry Brooks, "Love supplies a kind of strength that can withstand even death." Ironic, this quote, in the case of Voldemort seeing as death was what he had bent his soul over backwards trying to avoid but, as the great J.R.R. Tolkien notes, "To crooked eyes truth may wear a wry face." and "The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." Why all these quotes? To make the point that love ties Fantasy literature together no less than the use of magic. That is why it is the Final Lesson. Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

I have just started Winter's Heart

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started Winter's Heart, Volume #9 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
Now the true tests begins for the Light as the Game of Houses shapes the future no less than the One Power, for the Shadow spreads and the Forsaken gather under the Nae'blis even as it corrupts and is routed out behind the Shining Walls. Yet while Rand al'Thor may be up to his ears trouble, it is Perrin Aybara I grieve for,
and then there is the matter of a certain missing gambler. As stated in the Karaethon Cycle, "The Seals that hold back the night shall weaken, and in the heart of winter shall winter’s heart be born, amid the wailings of lamentation and the gnashing of teeth, for winter’s heart shall ride a black horse, and the name of it is Death."

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Friday, February 7, 2020

I have just finished The Path of Daggers

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished The Path of Daggers, Volume #8 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
So it is that the Dark One's hold is shaken by the Bowl of the Winds, yet for every victory against the Shadow new plots grow and treachery rises with winter wind. Madness seizes more of the Asha'man as the Dragon Reborn drives the Returned from the land of the Golden Bees. So it is that the true Flame of Tar Valon further confirms her rank and approaches the White Tower even as the rightful heir to the Rose Crown returns to her own city. So it is that the Wolf meets the Prophet even as the Falcon is captured. Great battles await before the smoldering slopes of Dragonmount and in the frozen lands to the south, as the pattern unfolds to a
future foretold.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

But what about the mysterious good witch?

Angela the Herbalist and her werecat
companion Solembum
When reading my Females in Fantasy page I can hear you all asking me "But what about the mysterious good witch?" The wise women, the funny and sharp-witted women of power who appear at odd moments and/or are sought after by the protagonists for aid/advice. This is a trope we all know about and Angela the Herbalist from Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle is who come to mind for me when hearing it. Similar to the wise sage, what distinguishes one from the other is these white witches (for lack of a better term) are typically portrayed as having an agenda of their own, sporadically working with or fighting alongside the protagonists less because they see the necessity of it and more because they want to for their own personal and/or mysterious reasons. I cannot say more because this class of character is more a thing of fairy tales & short stories as opposed to Fantasy literature and, besides, such white witches are near-always so different from one another that trying to wrap them up any more tightly into a category together would be like trying to wrap a cactus in silk, the needles endlessly piercing and poking through the defined parameters one is trying to set.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

My father and I just finished West by Edith Pattou

My father and I just finished West by Edith Pattou, sequel to East.
It was delight journeying with Rose again over mountain and sea, to mythic isles and the castles of trolls! Her steady courage, great love, and resourcefulness are truly awe-inspiring as she faces evils far beyond her ken and yet comes out on top, albeit not unscarred, to rescue those she loves. And this time, thankfully, we saw the body and death of a certain pale queen as well as a decidedly unfriendly troll-snake.

Farewell and lots of love to Rose and Charles, Neddy and Sib (congratulations!), Estelle, Arne and Eugenia, and all the rest of the family who inspired my wind rose.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Fire Emblem: Fates - Revelation

I have just completed Fire Emblem: Fates - Revelation, a 3DS game that is worthy of a book, so poignant was the plot and ties forged with the characters. Justice, equality, charity, and peace are the best reasons to draw steel, and this time, unlike in Birthright, I saved the lives grievously lost (including one that nearly undid me), solved most of the Vallite mysteries left hanging from before, and ended the Silent Dragon for good and all. Tis a pity really, that such a once-noble deity fell so far.

Farewell Corrin & Azura, Silas & Rinkah, Kaze & Oboro, Ryoma & Felicia, Takumi & Mozu, Elise & (cough)Odin, Saizo & Kagero, (cough)Laslow & Hana, Subaki & (cough)Selena, Leo & Sakura, Xander & Hinoka, Flora, Camila, Fuga, Jakob...and those fewer who fell. And Queens Mikoto and Arete, whose dreams came true.

"You are the ocean’s grey waves
Destined to seek
Life beyond the shore
Just out of reach

Yet the waters ever change
Flowing like time
The path is yours to climb

In the white light
A hand reaches through
A double-edged blade cuts your heart in two
Waking dreams fade away
Embrace the brand new day

Sing with me a song
Of birthrights and love
The light scatters to the sky above
Dawn breaks through the gloom
White as a bone

Lost in thoughts, all alone

You are the ocean’s grey waves
Destined to seek
Life beyond the shore
Just out of reach

Yet the waters ever change
Flowing like time
The path is yours to climb

Embrace the dark,
You call a home.
Gaze upon an empty white throne,
A legacy of lies,
A familiar disguise.

Sing with me a song
of conquests and fates
The black pillar cracks
beneath its weight.
Night breaks through the day
Hard as a stone

Lost in thoughts, all alone

The path you walk on belongs to destiny
Just let it flow
All of your joy and your pain all fall like the tide
Just let it flow

Life is not just filled with happiness
Nor sorrow
Even the thorn in your heart
In time it may become
A rose

A burdened heart,
Sinks into the ground
A veil falls away without a sound
Not day nor night, wrong nor right
For truth and peace you fight

Sing with me a song
Of silence and blood
The rain falls but
Can’t wash away the mud
Within my ancient heart dwells madness and pride
Can no one hear my cry?

You are the ocean’s grey waves"