Thursday, October 28, 2021

Official Book Review: Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon by Eve Cabanel

Tis no secret I have a special fondness for stories out of Faerie; in fact, I am currently researching Slavic mythology and am beginning with fairy tales. But, as I detail in my page about Faerie, very few Fantasy authors truly sojourn into Faerie proper since capturing that fairy-tale/fable quality/world and atmosphere is difficult at best. The twins keys, I think, are beginning with the understanding that your story – however grand – is just one small segment of an incomprehensibly vast land, and of giving the reader a sense of that vastness. Indeed, this is why I have an unyielding respect for all authors who truly enter Faerie.

"Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold...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. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveler who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost." - J.R.R. Tolkien

But not all authors aim for grand tales, Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees, The Golden Key by George Macdonald, and Instructions by Neil Gaiman being perfect examples. Of these I think the third, Gaiman's Instructions, captures Faerie best – yet it only a picture book! A short picture book which can be read to and loved by very little kids; a fact I know seeing as I sent copies to my cousins' children. But they can be and absolutely are loved by adults too.

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” - C.S. Lewis

Which is why when Eve Cabanel contacted me requesting that I read and write a book review for her picture book Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon I could not refuse. Yes, you heard right; this is my first ever Official Book Review written on Stars Uncounted. I have always held Faerie to be roughly divided into sections: the lighter childlike area full of mystery and wonder tempered with real danger and grief, the regions seemingly governed by capricious forces with a cruel sense of ironic humor where humans are far more likely to encounter danger than not, and the places between. Tolkien calls it the Perilous Realm for a reason. And Eli and the mystery of the Hallowshine dragon by Eve Cabanel takes place in that first, lighter area, in the enchanted forest of Cucuruzzu where dwells a moon elf named Eli and her humanoid rabbit friend Luna.

But something is happening, for now each night strange crystals litter the forest floor the touch of which changes one into hard rock candy – and Luna's baby Doudou is so transformed! Thus begins a 24-hour journey in which Eli and Luna race against time to seek out the legendary and terrifying Hallowshine dragon, a great beast whose power alone can save little Doudou. But this is Faerie, and even natives to the enchanted forest must follow the rules and face the dangers, from a unicorn's riddle to a malevolent merfolk and, finally the Hallowshine Dragon itself. A journey which solves the mystery of the crystals and teaches Eli not only what it means to be courageous for a friend's sake, but something about herself as well; indeed, I was left most intrigued about her moon elf nature. All told, this is a lovely little tale out of Faerie that fits all my qualifications as, while I do not pretend to compare Eve Cabanel to Neil Gaiman, she has successfully invoked the the vastness of the Perilous Realm.

(P.S. If you, dear reader, are an author/publisher and reading this review makes you want to ask me for a review too then PLEASE read my Contact Me? page.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Wheel of Time - Official Trailer

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Wheel Of Time – Moiraine’s Quest

"Yet one shall be born to face the Shadow,
born once more as he was born before,
and shall be born again, time without end.
The Dragon shall be Reborn,
and there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth at his rebirth.
In sackcloth and ashes shall he clothe the people,
and he shall break the world again by his coming,
tearing apart all ties that bind.
Like the unfettered dawn shall he blind us, and burn us,
yet shall the Dragon Reborn confront the Shadow at the Last Battle,
and his blood shall give us the Light.
Let tears flow, O ye people of the world.
Weep for your salvation."

Commentaries on the Karaethon Cycle, Sereine dar Shamelle Motara, Counsel-Sister to Comaelle, High Queen of Jaramide, circa 325 AB, the Third Age.

"It was about a woman with a secret, a hope for the future. A woman who had hunted the truth before others could."

Sunday, October 17, 2021

A strange coincidence

Curious. The Wheel of Time TV series premiers the same day that the next Magic: the Gathering set, Innistrad: Crimson Vow, comes out: November 19th, 2021. The Shadow is truly rising.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Bladorthin and Trotter

I have spoken of the Power of Names in Fantasy but seldom about their creation, about how authors agonize in finding the perfect name for their characters. Ursula K. Le Guin, for example, would spend days if necessary to come up with a proper name, saying that without the name she cannot know the character. J.R.R. Tolkien was not quite the same to my knowledge, but in his many drafts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings his characters and their names took on many forms. For example, when writing The Hobbit in the early 1930s Thorin Oakenshield's original name was Gandalf. So what was Gandalf's original name? Bladorthin! Small surprise he changed that one. Then, in the earliest unpublished versions of The Lord of the Rings, the character who became Aragorn was a Hobbit named Trotter. One can actually read some of those drafts in The History of Middle-earth (a 12 volume series of books compiled and edited by Christopher Tolkien), and seeing Trotter interact with Legolas and Gimli is fascinating. But the name Trotter lived on by evolving into the name Strider.

So where did Tolkien get his names? Depends. The name Gandalf along with the rest of the names of Thorin & Company (save Balin) were taken from the "Catalogue of Dwarves"  section of the Völuspá. The Old Norse name Gandalfr incorporates the words gandr meaning "wand", "staff", "magic" and álfr ("elf"). Which shows that, for all that Tolkien is justly renowned for creating his own languages, he was not above using real-world ones since in Middle-earth itself Gandalf means in the tongue of the Northmen "Elf-of-the-wand" or more literary "Wand-elf". Why? Because in the early days of his wanderings Gandalf was taken for a very old Elf due to his immortality and deep friendship with them, and the name stuck.

"Many are my names in many countries. Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkûn to the Dwarves, Olórin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incánus, in the North Gandalf; to the East I go not." - Gandalf

Beyond that, Norse mythology notes a Gandalf Alfgeirsson who was a legendary king from eastern Norway and rival of Halfdan the Black. Gandalf is also the name of a Norse sea-king in Henrik Ibsen's second play, The Burial Mound, and "Gandolf" is a character in William Morris' 1896 fantasy novel The Well at the World's End, along with the horse "Silverfax". Hmmm... Silverfax. Now why does that sound familiar and why am I thinking of Shadowfax, Gandalf's noble steed, friend, and chief of the Mearas horses? Jokes aside, it brings up the interesting point that Morris' book deeply influenced Tolkien. Interesting because these days we talk chiefly about how J.R.R. Tolkien founded modern Fantasy literature and not what books and other tales inspired him.

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Wheel Of Time – The Winespring Inn

Tai'shar Manetheren! I just wish I knew the word for "excited beyond belief" in the Old Tongue.


Monday, October 4, 2021

My father and I just finished The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint

My father and I just finished The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint. 

Ever does de Lint delves in the Mysteries of Otherworld and the human heart, and this book fits that soul to totem-animal, showing what happens when a girl's trauma and rage are tied to the fate of something both more and less than human as well as her cousin's life. As per the old ways, one must die to be reborn just as spring follows winter – for life goes on and deserves to be lived to the fullest.

Good journeys to you, Ash and Nina. May the manitou, and Bones and Cassie, guide you well.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Here Be Dragons - Part 3: Other species of Dragons

Where Dragons came from and their use in Fantasy. Almost finished, for now we at last reach other subspecies of Dragons, species most typically found in gaming.

Frost/Ice Dragon: One of my favorites, Frost Dragons are of ice where typical Fantasy and Europeans Dragons are of fire. Wreathed in and white as frost, Ice Dragons live in intensely cold regions and can arguably be called winged blizzards for they breathe ice instead of fire and are thus frigid to the touch. Interesting, I can actually point to works literature that utilizes the Frost Dragon: Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath by Patricia A. McKillip, and Tad William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Why are they my favorite? Purely personal taste, for I find them to be absolutely beautiful and coldly elegant. Fascinating too, since being of ice renders in many ways the opposite of the traditional image of the Dragon. I have loved them ever since I first read Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons in elementary school.

Forest/Swamp Dragon: One generally do not think of Dragons being at home in the wooded or wet areas, but what are human rules to a Dragon's tenacity? These Dragons vary, but are invariably more reptilian, resembling lizards and crocodiles more than aught else. With scales typically green or black, or dark green, for camouflage, or having a bark-like hide instead of scales, Swamp/Forest Dragons breath neither fire nor ice but, rather, poison that comes out as a toxic gas. One could say they are the evolutionary apex of a venomous snake. Some people classify Forest and Swamp Dragons as separate species altogether and, in a way, they are, but not there are not enough differences to warrant dividing them here.

Cosmic/Astral Dragon: These Dragons will really make you see stars, literally. Enigmatic as a rule, Astral Dragons are closely bound to the cosmos and glitter with the light of far off stars, their scales being all the colors of the night sky and the typical nebula - i.e. a ever-shifting shifting mix of blue, black, purple. Invariably highly intelligent to the point where humans rank as near-universal simpletons, they are the stuff of myths, hazy legend, and are chiefly concerned with high matters beyond human knowledge or comprehension. What do they breathe? Usually starry light made corporeal that looks benign yet is no less and often far more deadly that regular dragonfire.

Dark/Chaos Dragon: These are the Dragons who may be summed up by one word: evil. They take many forms and I am sure some question why I chose to merge Dark and Chaos Dragons into one sub-species as, technically speaking, Dark Dragons are merely evil Dragons of any species that deal in dark magic whereas Chaos Dragons are in effect the opposite of Cosmic/Astral Dragons, crazed beings of pure chaotic energy. I blend them because each serve the same function in stories: the evil Dragon whom the heroes need to slay or cripple. Unlike other species of Dragon they view humans with active, typically genocidal, scorn and their power draws foul and power-hungry minds to serve them. What do they breathe? Depends, but a Chaos Dragon generally breathes dark 'fire' that takes more than mere water to quench.


And that is just about it, though naturally there is much more. As I said in the beginning, if any creatures captures the majesty and mystery, glory and wonder, beauty and power of Fantasy literature it is the mighty Dragon. We all know what a Dragon is and instinctively react to the word, but there is so much more. I have seen Dragons that breathe lightening, light, and shadow. I have seen the above species blended, and have not even included Sea Dragons since I classify them as belonging more to the Sea Monster category. Nor have I mentioned wyrms, wyverns, metallic Dragons, Dragonborn, Dragonkin, or any other offshoot Dragon-like races found in Dungeons & Dragons, other games, and the rare book. What do you think I am, a Fantasy encyclopedia writer? If I tried to cover everything I would need a whole new website dedicated exclusively to Dragons. Ever heard of Dragon Ogres? They are from Warhammer and combine ogres with Dragons in the same way centaurs do humans and horses

However, if you are interested in learning more then I highly recommend reading the aforementioned Dragonology book or, even better, the Fantasy series' I listed, for when one immerses oneself in the Fantastic then, eventually, one will become a master of Dragon-lore. Do I know everything there is to know about Dragons? Hardly, though I admit that it is the rare author (or game) who can come up with new twists that I am unfamiliar with. The point being that do not for a moment believe that reading this page makes one proficient in Dragon-lore for, as said Ursula K. Le Guin "it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them," which in this context means that the only way to truly know Dragons is to dive headlong into Fantasy, meeting them as unforgettable characters on the printed page and the gaming screen. For truly there is no sight more wondrous, more awesome in the old sense of the word (i.e. awe-inspiring), than a Dragon in flight.

"People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within." - Ursula K. Le Guin