Friday, December 31, 2021

New Year's Eve

Well, 2021 has been a busy year. I wrote a new personal record of 95 posts (my previously highest being 71 in 2020 and 2017), one of which was my first official book review; Fantasy reached new highs with the release of Amazon's The Wheel of Time TV adaption while I tried and stopped one its grimdark lows, and RuneScape & Golden Sun celebrated their 20th anniversaries. Thus as 2021 rolls away I think it only fitting to look back on this year's accomplishments.

I read for the first time:

  • The Sacred Hunt Duology by Michelle West
  • Juniper Wiles by Charles de Lint
  • House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
  • The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint
  • These Witches Don't Burn series by Isabel Sterling
  • Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore, the fourth and newest book of her Graceling Realm Series.
  • Flame by Sharon Shinn, the final novella in her book Quatrain, which returns to the land of Gillengaria and its Twelves Houses, making it a prequel of sorts to her Twelves Houses series.
  • Winterlight, book 7 in the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain
  • New Spring, prequel novel to The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

I reread:

Friday, December 17, 2021

Quote of the month

"Some people have an unconquerable love of riddles. They may have the chance of listening to plain sense, or to such wisdom that explains life; but no, they must go and work their brains over a riddle, just because they do not understand what it means." - Isak Dinesen

(This quote describes me well enough. I enjoy plain sense and value wisdom above all else save perhaps love, yet I have found that both stick better, make a deeper impression as it were, if they are found as answers to riddles.)

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

Tis no secret that I am a full-throated fan of the Fire Emblem games, for I have posted about Birthright and Revelations, Sacred Stones, Awakening, Heroes, and, most recently, Three Houses, as if they were books (and I intend to give Shadows of Valentia, Blazing and Binding Blade the same treatment). Rightly so for, as I so often state, the Fire Emblem games have storylines that are better than some books. As my college friend Renan recently said, "By the seventh game, support conversations to flesh out even the most minor characters and lengthy plots driven by fantastical political drama were simply part of the [Fire Emblem] franchise’s appeal. In a series where dying actually means losing playable characters, the fact a minor knight with no lines in the main script can get as much development as a lead is significant. In the eyes of most fans, Fire Emblem was a franchise where even minor characters had depth and story was as important as gameplay." Indeed, Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening is a hero I rank alongside Aragorn.

Yet while Awakening was for many the jumping off point of their Fire Emblem adventures, for me it was not so. For me it was, fittingly, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and its direct sequel Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem - Heroes of Light and Shadow. Why fittingly and direct? Those who have played Awakening are quite familiar with the name of Marth, the Hero-King of legend who saved the continent from darkness two thousand years prior, and ancestor of Awakening's chief protagonists Chrom, Lissa, and Lucina. You know the dragonkin Tiki whom was friends with Hero-King Marth and misses him deeply, yet awakens to help his descendants. Yet you do not know Marth or Tiki as I do, nor any who have played Shadow Dragon and New Mystery of the Emblem - Heroes of Light and Shadow, for the main protagonist of those games is none other than Marth himself, and the storyline how he became the Hero-King! Namely the War of Shadows and the subsequent and tragic War of Heroes.

That dragon in the background is Tiki
For those who love Awakening, Shadow Dragon is a must as the former is full of hidden references to the later. Ever wondered why Cherche's wyvern is named Minerva? In the C Support Conversation shared between Stahl and Sully, they speak of two of Marth's knights called Cain the Bull and Abel the Panther. Meet Tiki as a child and witness how she first met and befriended Mar-Mar (and Marth's reaction to being called that). Here is a fragment of the A Support Conversation between Lucina and Cynthia (when they are not sisters): 

Cynthia: "My mother used to tell me a story as a girl. One set in the age of the great King Marth. There were three sisters who were pegasus knights, and unrivaled in battle or beauty!"

Lucina: "It sounds like a typical enough cradle tale so far..."

Cynthia: "When faced with a great challenge, they joined three as one for their Triangle Attack! By harnessing their combined strength, they were able to slay any enemy!"

Lucina: "Any foe?" 

Cynthia: "They say even the most fearsome foe fell before the Triangle Attack! And every team attack since has been an attempt to recapture that awesome power."

I was grinning ear-to-ear when I reached this part of the conversation, because I knew who these sisters were. As, interestingly, will anyone who has played Shadows of Valentia, for they are none other than the Whitewing Sisters Palla, Catria, and Est, faithful servants and friends of Wyvern-Rider Princess Minerva of Macedon. On that note, for the sake of those interested in the timeline, the events Shadows of Valentia occur after the War of Shadows and before the War of Heroes (i.e. between Shadow Dragon and New Mystery of the Emblem - Heroes of Light and Shadow). I am seriously looking forward to learn what brought them across the ocean along with that crazy sword Falchion; I swear that blade gets around more that most people do.

Talking of which, one will appreciate the sword Falchion, and your unrestricted and double access too it in Awakening like never before in Shadow Dragon. And, among other things, learn that the Shield which Chrom and co. call the Fire Emblem actually went by a very different name in ages past. THAT is one of the reasons why I loved Awakening so much; not just because it was an amazing game in its own right, but because the characters were the decedents of cherished friends, and the world one I was quite familiar with. Well, geographically familiar with leastways seeing as none of the countries from Marth's time were still around. A pity that, as I would have loved seeing the school of magic at Khadein again but, alas, it and Kingdom of Aurelis were now part of Regna Ferox. You also meet lots of new friends, including that the formidable Pegasus Knight who eventually becomes Marth's bride and, if you manage to find the secret shops, Anna the Merchant as the she first appeared, and so many others whose names will be imprinted upon your soul. (Even learn about the man who was the great hero of legend during Marth's time; a man long forgotten by the time Lucina walks the earth). Point of order, though, it offended me that Marth's fiancée, Princess Caeda, was not mentioned seeing as she was an absolute powerhouse on the battlefield; my best Pegasus Knight by a leap and a bound even next to Palla, Catria, and Est, as well as an army-recruiter beyond all compare. I am sure people can see a bit of Lissa and Lucina in Caeda.

Moving beyond the story element now, while it may not have the graphics, marriage, or paired-unit system of Awakening and FatesShadow Dragon is the easily among the best Fire Emblem has to offer. Step into the shoes of Prince Marth of Altea and take the first steps that becomes the journey that made him the Hero-King of legend. The battles are more challenging requiring greater tactical skill than  Awakening, Fates, and Three Houses, for one does not have the benefit of paired-united or non-degrading weapons. I am by a now a Fire Emblem veteran, yet most of the battles I am most proud of winning were in Shadow Dragon and New Mystery of the Emblem - Heroes of Light and Shadow. If you want to know more, I suggest you read Renan's article (for it inspired me to write this post) and this one here.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

My father and I just finished This Coven Won't Break by Isabel Sterling

My father and I just finished This Coven Won't Break, the second and final of Isabel Sterling's These Witches Don't Burn series.

United we stand and divided we fall, as is said, and it was by these words that the Witch Clans triumphed over those who judged them monsters. Now the war is over and the Witch Hunters broken beyond possible repair, but goodness what a ride it was! A fast-paced LGBTQ Fantasy from blazing start to whirlwind finish to the point where the series could almost be called a thriller, Hannah – high school senior, Elemental Witch, and firm lesbian – and her coven put us through what might be called the most consistently intense books of our lives. But these witches don't burn, this coven won't break and, in the case of Blood witches, don't bleed either (much). Indeed, it would have taken a Blood Witch to stop my heart from trying to burst out of my chest most of the time.

Sister Goddesses guide you Hannah & Morgan, Gemma, Cal, Detective Archer, Veronica, Lady Ariana, Alice, and all the rest of coven, Council, and Clans. By the way, try to take a vacation too because if I need it after reading this then you definitely do after living it.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Fire Emblem Heroes: Book VI

About time we settled the conflict between Askr and Embla once and for all. I like how in Fire Emblem Heroes the gods have more trouble getting along than mortals do, an issue which sets would-be friends at unwillingly each other's throats and which will doubtless come into play in Book VI. Indeed, this bickering/domineering deities manipulating mortal affairs to the determent of humanity is a something of a trend in Fire Emblem games in general. As said Edelgard von Hresvelg from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, "When humanity stands strong and people reach out for each other, there's no need for gods." On that note, FE Heroes has a most intriguing pantheon.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

My opinion of Amazon's The Wheel of Time show thus far

Thus far I think Amazon's The Wheel of Time TV show is as good as could be reasonably expected given the sheer size of the book series, and my mother who has never read the books also loves it (which is important, not because she is my mother, but rather since it proves that the show can grip and create new fans who are unwilling to read a fourteen volume wall of text). I honestly do not know why book purists are so upset, because Cuendillar-level purity was never going to happen given the sheer length of the series. What is important is that they capture the spirit of the story and essence of the characters in what amounts to a new turning of the Wheel of Time, and they succeeded. Thus far.

"Ages repeat, like the spokes coming around again. Each time an Age repeats it is the same in great things, but different in smaller ones, as two huge tapestries, when seen from a distance, appear identical, but when seen close up show differences of detail." - Robert Jordan

"Carai an Caldazar! Carai an Ellisande! Al Ellisande!"

"Tai'shar Manetheren!"