Tag Archives: Fantasy

D’Karon

The D’Karon Apprentice
By Joseph R. Lallo
(2015)

In the months following The Battle of Verril, great strides have been made to heal the rift between the Northern Alliance and Tressor. The peace between the nations, however, is a fragile one, and the awakening of an ancient enemy threatens to spark a new conflict that could undo all that the Chosen have achieved.


Review:

I have read The Book of Deacon Trilogy (2010-2011) and Jade (2011). These I rated highly, especially Jade that I regarded as one of the best fantasy stories in recent years.

However this book has issues. But first, the good things. His writing has improved since Deacon, where there were problems with large battle scenes making sense. In this book the best aspect was the action scenes. These come across clearly and with a good sense of excitement. Secondly, despite being a long book (169,000) words it has good pacing. The story was always moving along and things happening.

Now, the problems.
First, it’s best to read this book immediately after the Deacon Trilogy. I read this three years ago and was having trouble remembering all the characters and their motivations. These could have been explained better at the start.

Then there is the magic. Is there method here, or is it just all plotonium ?

Things happen that make little sense. Where does all this energy that can destroy buildings come from and why can a supposedly human character survive all this destruction.

The story is very simple: Our heroes have to stop an evil wizard.
It’s a bit like the fighting scene where our hero takes on a dozen Ninjas, with each one coming at him (or her) separately. If they could just co-ordinate their attack he wouldn’t stand a change. And with this book there is never a sense of co-ordination. Shouldn’t someone be trying to discover the weaknesses of their opponent. Rallying the forces, defending the walls and finding secrets. Everyone seems to be reacting to events, not making thing happen. There are a lot of missed opportunities here.

It would have been better if the ‘evil one’ was dealt with in the first half of the story and the second half dealt with the unforeseen consequences.

It’s not that it’s a bad book, just a disappointment after the Deacon Trilogy and Jade.

Khalakovo

The Winds of Khalakovo
(Lays of Anuskaya #1)
by Bradley P. Beaulieu (2011)

Khalakovo

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future.

When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo.

Firstly, this is long.. how long ?
The first book of this trilogy is 180,000 words. The second is 233,000 and the third is 204,000. Second, it’s very Russian. People and places have Russian styles names. How do you pronounce them ? Who Knows ?

So it better be good……. well…….. it’s not badly written. But after 20% of the first novel I have given up. The problem is partly all those Russian names (the main protagonist has two !). Then there is the slow pace and all that talking (and no action) that goes on. The only noteworthy action I read of was a hanging. But ultimately it doesn’t grip or intrigue the reader. It’s just flat and after a while it feels like work rather than pleasure.

 

 

Warcraft: The Beginning

Warcraft
Warcraft (alternatively known as Warcraft: The Beginning)is a 2016 American fantasy film directed by Duncan Jones and written by Jones, Charles Leavitt and Chris Metzen. It is based on the Warcraft video game series and novels set in the world of Azeroth. The film stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky and Daniel Wu. The film portrays the initial encounters between the humans and the orcs and takes place in a variety of locations established in the video game series. The film was first announced in 2006 as a project partnership between Legendary Pictures and the game’s developer, Blizzard Entertainment.

It’s only got 29%  on rotten tomatoes, but it’s certainly not a bad film. Anyone looking for an old good vs evil plot will be disappointed. The Orcs are portrayed as equal to the Humans in deceit and heroism.  The CGI is outstanding, with large sweeping vistas and detailed city-scapes. The best thing about the film is the action, which has a real thump and intensity to it. The costume and art design is very faithful to the games. The story is about the Orcs leaving their land and invading the Human realm through a portal. It’s 2 hour length is well paced and the ending leaves space for a sequel. 

 

Shades of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
V. E. Schwab

Schwab
Read as part of the Sword and Laser March pick.

Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

The writing was good with an interesting premise. The problem was it just didn’t get very involving or exciting. It felt like a novella stretched out to novel length. The good were good and the evil did evil things. It takes too long to get to the central conflict, then everything is crammed into the last 20% of the book. Not bad, just average.

 

Dark Eye

The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
Game By Daedalic Entertainment (2012)

DarkEye

For centuries the kingdom of Andergast has been at odds with neighboring Nostria, but now first steps are being undertaken toward a lasting peace. But a plague of crows troubles the king, for the birds are acting with unusual aggressiveness, even attacking humans. As the belligerent creatures infiltrate even the castle itself, the king seeks a skilled bird catcher – an opportunity for young Geron to prove that the reputation for ill luck that has followed him since childhood is undeserved. However, the task will prove much more difficult than he expects, leading him on an adventure that will take him to the borders of the charted lands of Aventuria and beyond.

The best thing about the game is the graphics and game-play. The  hand-drawn artworks is good, with a dark fantasy atmosphere.

The game-play is easy, everything is done with the cursor that acts as look and use.

The problem is that the story isn’t engaging, it’s about a bird-catcher that has to rescue a kingdom from ravens. Throughout the game characters will dump large amounts of info that turns out to be not relevant to the story.

The story is very linear and a lot of the puzzles are not that obvious or logical. Without a walk-through I would not  have completed this game. Also, the central character Geron is not very sympathetic or relatable. The face does not match the voice acting.

In total it took 9 hours to complete the game (2/5)

 

Final Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)
N. K. Jemisin

5Season
Read as part of the Sword and Laser March pick.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

This book opens with a huge info-dump of a prelude. Then it starts as the main viewpoint character in present tense, second person style. Not normally a prose style I like, but the skills of the author pull it off. Soon, however this would get annoying and pull me out of the story each time it was used.

This is grim-dark fantasy and very grim. It starts with the murder of a child and doesn’t look up. The story is very slow to get started and soon becomes apparent that everything will be stretched out to make this a long fantasy book. One of the main problems I had was that the ‘magic’ employed by the characters was just out of proportion to actual human abilities, apparently people can cause earthquakes !

The lack of any wit in the characters, the slow pacing and weird magic just got boring and I gave up after getting about 25% through.

 

Witched

Dewitched: The Untold Story of the Evil Queen
Unhitched: The Untold Story of the Evil Queen #2

by E.L. Sarnoff

Sarnof

After serving time for Snow White’s attempted murder, the Evil Queen is about to get a makeover. Just not the kind she expected. Thinking she’s been sent to a luxurious spa that will enable her to regain her beauty and recapture her title, Fairest of All, Jane Yvel instead finds herself at Faraway, a rehab center that caters to Fairytalelanders addicted to evil.

The first book was purchased on a whim for about $1 at amazon. Both proved to be well written romps through the fantasy-land everyone knows from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc. In the first book, I became worried that the plot would grind to a halt as the protagonist appeared to be stuck in a rut for almost half the book. Fortunately she gets out and the story picks up and. Written in first person from the ‘evil’ side of the stories we all know from Grimm/Disney these have a very modern sensibility.

With breathless twists some satire and general silliness these are a fun read.

 

Deponia

deponia

Deponia (2012)
Rufus, ill-tempered and entirely too convinced of his own greatness, lives in the most remote sector of the garbage-covered planet Deponia. He dreams of a better life in the floating cities of wealth and beauty high above the planet surface. When a lovely young woman falls from these privileged spheres down into a neighboring trash heap, Rufus sees his chance to escort her back home. However, getting her there safe and sound will involve a wild chase across Deponia full of twists, turns and mystifying mix-ups…

Chaos on Deponia (2012)
Some time has passed since the last game, but Rufus is still attempting to escape the trash-filled Deponia to the skybound Elysium. The lovely Goal returns to the planet’s surface, and her damaged brain implant continues to spell trouble for itts inhabitants, this time in a literal split-personality kind of way that greatly impacts puzzle solutions and her relationship with Rufus as well.

Goodbly Deponia (2013)
Reaching Elysium and saving Deponia seem to be just within arm’s reach for Rufus and Goal. But Rufus’s innate talent for chaos and mayhem also seems to have reached a whole new level. And so, instead of his great triumph, a crippling setback awaits. For the first time, Rufus is ridden by self-doubt. Of course, he wouldn’t be Rufus if he let that get the best of him. To tackle this new heap of problems, however, one Rufus just isn’t enough…

 

Review:

The first game was OK, the main character, Rufus being a tolerable jerk. The great cartoon styled graphics and the other characters balanced the nature of Rufus. He seemed to be at least apparent of his own flaws.

In the second shorter game he had become repulsive and starting to get really annoying. However in the third game, he continues in the same vein, his unrelenting revolting attitude brings the tone of the game down from being a comedy, to borderline racist and offensive.

As adventure games, there is are faults in all of them. One solved puzzle does not lead naturally to a clue for the next. So when you finally stumble on the solution for a situation, there’s never a sense of progression, of having achieved – instead the game either bends the plot to have your success be a failure, or it just ticks a mystery box and then leaves you equally lost.

The game’s penultimate chapter – an absolutely enormous section – has you playing as three different characters, each in their own sprawling location, with an inventory that’s shared to ensure maximum confusion and dead-ends. Figuring out what to do next is a needle in a haystack, and so very often those needles are entirely nonsensical.  So many puzzles require you gather a bunch items without being given any clue why you’re after them .

It’s such a huge failure of adventure design.

If it wasn’t for the walk-through to get through the narrative, I would have abandoned the series after the first game.

 

Ice & Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

IceFire

My reviews of the five published books.

A Games of Thrones (1996)
The magnum opus that started the madness. Slow to start but soon becomes compelling reading.

A Clash of Kings (1998)
Still compelling and interesting

A Storm of Swords (20002)
Now the books are getting longer. This one is split into two volumes. The plot starts to thin, the number of characters increase and the pacing slows.

A Feast for Crows (2005)
While still a good read, occasional plot developments keep the reader interested. By now we have realised that the journey is more important than the destination

A Dance with Dragons (2012)
Long, tedious and dull.

Robin Hobb

 

LiveShip

The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Books in the Series:

  • Ship of Magic (1998)
  • The Mad Ship (1998)
  • Ship of Destiny (2000)

The Liveship Trader’s Trilogy  follows the lives of Bingtown Trader families and takes place in Jamaillia and the Pirate Isles, on the coast of the Six Duchies. The war in the north has interrupted the trade that is the lifeblood of Bingtown, and the Liveship Traders have fallen on hard times.

At one time, possession of a Liveship, constructed of magical wizard wood, guaranteed a Trader’s family prosperity. Only a Liveship can brave the dangers of the Rain Wild River and trade with the legendary Rain Wild Traders and their mysterious magical goods. Althea Vestrit expects her families to adhere to tradition, and pass the family Liveship on to her when it quickens at the death of her father. Instead, the Vivacia goes to her sister Keffria and her scheming Chalcedean husband Kyle. The proud Liveship becomes a transport vessel for the despised but highly profitable slave trade.

Althea, cast out on her own, resolves to make her own way in the world and somehow regain control of her family’s living ship. Her old shipmate Brashen Trell, the enigmatic woodcarver Amber and the Paragon, the notorious mad Liveship are the only allies she can rally to her cause. Pirates, a slave rebellion, migrating sea serpents and a newly hatched dragon are but a few of the obstacles she must face.

The three books span nearly 2,700 pages.

The epic and sweeping narrative carries events to a fever pitch over the excellently paced and plotted books.
This is the best Robin Hobb trilogy and the most memorable fantasy trilogy of modern times.

It’s recommended to read the Assassin trilogy first, but this can be read separately to her other trilogies.

Other Series:
The Farseer Trilogy

  • Assassin’s Apprentice (1995)
  • Royal Assassin (1996)
  • Assassin’s Quest (1997)

These books follow the life of FitzChivalry Farseer (Fitz), a trained assassin, in a kingdom called The Six Duchies as his uncle, Prince Verity attempts to wage war on the Red-Ship Raiders from The OutIslands who are attacking the shores of the kingdom by turning the people of the Six Duchies into Forged ones; a form of zombification which makes them emotionless. Meanwhile Prince Regal’s jealousy and the indulgence of his own selfish whims threatens to destroy Six Duchies.
Written in first person, this series was fascinating from the first page. The pacing is slow, but the characterisation and storytelling is always compelling. The only reason this is second to the Liveships trilogy is that is has a weaker ending.

 

The Tawny Man Trilogy

  • Fool’s Errand (2001)
  • The Golden Fool (2002)
  • Fool’s Fate (2003)

This trilogy is where the slow pacing, work building and repetitive themes catch up with Robin Hobb. By the third book, it becomes a slog to get through the story.

 

The Rain Wild Chronicles

  • Dragon Keeper (2009)
  • Dragon Haven (2010)
  • City of Dragons (2011)
  • Blood of Dragons (2013)

Yet to be read.