Saturday, January 28, 2023

I have finished Vorodin's Lair, Book Two of J.V. Hilliard's Warminster Series

“Crimson flags borne on horses of white, see them ride, ye children of light." – The Ballad of Eldwal

I have finished Vorodin's Lair, Book Two of J.V. Hilliard's Warminster Series.

The arrows of war are given as the realm of Warminster lurches like the Antlered Man into a conflict born of vengeance, treachery, and the blackest magic imaginable. I said in my first Official Book Review that J.V. Hilliard's mastery of Fantasy lies in taking known if rarely used elements of the genre and merging them into a by extension brilliantly unique tale. A trend that continues, this second book adding cryptids and cryptid-worshiping cults not unlike those of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, necromancy seldom seem beyond Dungeons & Dragons, and honorable, blunt, and warlike Norsemen. Thus hope remains for Warminster even as treason raises its skeletal head on all sides, for answers were found in Vorodin's Lair, Daemus Alaric succeeded in his rescue mission, and Princess Addilyn Elspeth and Sir Ritter Valkeneer ride to rally the land against the true threat, a dark alliance, from the mysterious Dragon’s Breath Mountains. May Erud's light guide them.

"The face of despair appears invincible, but in time, it always fades." – Warminster the Mage

Friday, January 20, 2023

Day of Swiftest Solving

As a school librarian, this year I have taught my students Riddle Mastery via a giant computer/TV screen positioned in the library, something I have never done before. In the past as an After-school teacher and camp counselor I always naturally had my own group/class which I directly interacted with in the manner expected of those roles, teaching riddles in that capacity. Hence, lacking a specific class as a school librarian, I had doubts regarding how effectively I could teach riddles through a computer/TV screen since the students would get the riddles and lessons by reading the screen as they passed through the library on their way to classes and whenever they came to the library.

Well... as of today those fears are officially laid to rest as in the space of twenty-four hours 9 people solved the Grandmaster, 3 the Championmaster (two of whom solved it in less than a day), and 1 made history as the first to ever solve the Adeptmaster (and in fifteen minutes no less). I have been teaching riddles for over a decade and today did not just shatter past records, it transcended them enough that I will remember this absolutely crazy day as the Day of Swiftest Solving.

Better yet, a group of students are now determined to become Master Riddle-makers. Truly an excellent day, and the best part was not the solving but the joy – the ecstatic triumph! – on the students faces when they solve these newly dubbed Sovereign-class riddles!

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Invoke the Dwarves

Dwarves. The deep mountain dwellers, bearded, gruff and undeniably proud, yet the dictionary definition of loyal and brave – willing and able to fight to the death in the protection of home, kith and kin. A people who, unlike the nature-loving Elves, pour their skill and devotion into mining and smithing, delving into the deep places of the world to wrest gems and metals free from their dark prisons in order to forge them into works of breathtaking beauty or unyielding armor. Peerless they are in the working of stone, yet share with the Elves a love of song to record the great deeds of their forebears. As in so many things Fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien's effectively created Dwarves as they are thought of today, most notably in The Hobbit yet also in the wonderful character of Gimli in The Lord of the Rings. Describing the race as a whole (in The Silmarillion): "Since they were to come in the days of the power of Melkor, AulĂ« made the dwarves strong to endure. Therefore they are stone-hard, stubborn, fast in friendship and in enmity, and they suffer toil and hunger and hurt of body more hardily than all other speaking peoples; and they live long, far beyond the span of Men, yet not forever."

Truly a great race, often employed in classical Fantasy. However, in lyrical music few can invoke them as Tolkien did in The Misty Mountains Cold and The Song of Durin. Yet at least one musical ensemble can, that being Clamavi De Profundis. So enjoy The Song of Hammerdeep!

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Two dozen

Today my Grandmaster Riddle was solved for the 24th time, by a fellow teacher no less. (This may not sound impressive, but I have told this riddle to hundreds of people – both children and adult – for over a decade as part of my strictly informal work teaching Riddle Mastery, and this monster is almost never solved even by those who can answer Master-ranked riddles.)

Monday, January 2, 2023

My father and I just finished The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty

My father and I just finished The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty, book three of her Kingdoms and Empires Series.
Good grief. This book takes the phrase "expect the unexpected" to such twisted ends that only Dad's and my experience with Diana Wynne Jones – whom Moriarty continues to channel! – lets us keep our heads above water. Wreathed in whimsicality like the others, this one tackled head-on issues such as gaslighting and fear-born bigotry, with an antagonist who provokes nothing less than sheer, unadulterated rage from the reader in a manner similar to one ex-Professor Dolores Umbridge. All of which made the climax one of the most cathartic we have ever read. One might call it Spellbinding but, since that insider joke is wearing thin, I will sum up by saying that Esther's 6th grade term at the Katherine Valley Boarding School is flooded with emotion and safest bet is to ride the tidal waves to an ending that leaves you buoyant.
I would say farewell to the Mettlestone-Staranise sisters Astrid, Esther, and Imogen save that I am quite certain we have not seen the last of either them or Bronte.