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Entries in fantasy (5)

Tuesday
Jun072016

The White Mage Omnibus

The White Mage Saga is never going to be my favorite series and it's probably not going to be the first book I recommend to anyone, but then I'm a bit old for the series and not it's target audiance. Still it is a good, solid well told story and I have every intention of reading the next books in the series whether that means listening to audio books or for those that don't yet have them reading them with my own eyes.

 

I got the first three of the books of this series on audible as the White Mage Omnibus. About thirty hours of good storytelling for one credit. It is well read and in the style I prefer with small adjustments on characters inflections but without someone actually doing voices.

 

Once you get down to the story it seems a bit familiar because it is. The story is of a fifteen year old girl who discovers she has magic and has to go to a school for mages to learn to use her magic. She is of course the chosen one who must unite the magical and non magical world and of course fight a great evil.

 

While this sounds like Harry Potter specifically and every young adult fiction story in the last fifteen years it has its own personality. It also avoids many of the pitfalls of this type of story. It starts by not making the fifteen year old girl in the story seem stupid, flighty or boy crazy. She has important things to do and while she wants to have friends and has to deal with them that isn't the center of the story.

 

Another thing that help with this is that the time that passes in the story is considerably compacted compared to something like Harry Potter. Each of the books takes place over about three months rather than a year. This gives the characters less time to adjust to everything and because the threat is always imminent there is far fewer lulls. I am also fond of it addressing some of the issues with having a world of magic hidden from the average human. This isn't just the way it is or even a good thing, it's the result of things that have happened and something that needs to be dealt with.

 

There are a few things that I didn't love about the stories though many of them are nitpicks or personal preference. From time to time it would go on tangents that while important followed characters that you knew little or nothing about but would become important later. This isn't ideal though it is understandable and doesn't happen much.

 The White Mage Omnibus: Books 1-3 Audiobook

Another of the minor nitpicks was that the books end on cliffhangers. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I understand the thought process that you want to make people excited to read the next book, but in my opinion a novel, even a novel in a series, should feel like a complete section of the story. Have your cliffhangers between chapters and feel free to have threads between books that need to be resolved. The problem is that in most cases the cliffhangers in most books feel contrived and aren't even really suspenseful. You're not going to have the next book start with your main character dead. The world isn't going to be blown up in a nuclear Armageddon three books into your seven book series.

 

Those minor issues, as well as a couple of characters that I never really connected to were very minor though and in general I would say that if you're looking for another young adult fantasy series to read that this is a good choice and a far better choice than many books that are far better known. So ignore the teenage vampire books, turn away from the half gods and read about the last Oracle.  

Tuesday
Nov172015

Buffy: Once More With Feeling. Best TV Episode Ever.

I don’t watch reruns much. If there is a TV show I really love I might watch it every ten years but even then I tend to skip a lot of episodes. It’s largely the same with movies. I don’t believe I’ve ever watched a movie more than ten times and there are very few I’ve watched more than twice. That begins to explain why I think that Buffy: Once More with Feeling is, at least for me, the best episode of TV ever written. The first time I saw it I watched it straight through three times and I’ve watched it many times since. The fact that it’s a musical helps of course because it is far easier to have in the background. But catchy music isn’t what makes this the best episode it’s that it’s a music episode that not only isn’t a throwaway but is one of the most central episodes on the series.


First, the music is great. There is a variety of tunes and it is catchy. But just like all the best musicals it’s more than just that. The songs reveal what is going on in the characters minds and at times mean different things to different characters. And in the case of this episode it forces them to confront all of their problems. And that leads into the second reason it’s such a great episode.


This episode has more character development and discusses more important issues than most seasons on other shows. Among the things that the characters in this episode are going through is fear of commitment, guilt, difficulty in moving on, drugs and depression. And that’s just off the top of my head. 


I won’t touch on all of those, but I will say that Buffy does the best job of discussing depression of anything I have ever seen. And whether you have clinical depression or just are feeling down it’s great to see a character that is a hero that is doing the same. (some spoilers ahead). In this case Buffy is depressed because she was in heaven and brought back to life. She is going through the motions of life, but isn’t feeling any of them. And this episode is the most important part of this arc of the character because it is the episode where Buffy finally tells her friends the truth. 


Finally it deals with one of the most annoying things on TV. No one telling anyone anything. This is perhaps the most common way that plots are dragged out in modern TV as each of the characters hides things from the others. This episode removes that crutch and makes the rest of the season better because they actually have to deal with what happened.


I understand why so many other episodes of TV are often higher on lists than this one. Series finales often feel more important because they are final and it’s easy to assume that the musical episode of a TV show just can’t be all that important. But in the hands of a master this episode moves from laughter to tears, deals with important personal issues for every major character and still fits in several excellent songs. 

Monday
Jun012015

What are the Whitewalkers in Game of Thrones?

I recently got thinking about the Whitewalkers from Game of Thrones again for some reason  and I wanted to consider what they are and why they are now appearing. Of course most of this is speculation but we know a few things that might hint at the bigger picture.
The first thing we know is that they are in some way necromancers. For those of you not well versed in fantasy a necromancer is a wizard who controls the dead. The most common way they do this is raising bodies from the grave and uses them as soldiers. But there is a subcategory of necromancer that seems to fit the whitewalkers better and that is a lich. A lich is a powerful necromancer who effectively kills himself and rises as an undead creature to gain immortality and power. This explains why the whitewalkers look dead themselves. The cold aspect of them is sperate from this but cold, darkness and death are often connected so it’s not a stretch.
The other thing that I think we can deduce is that they are enemies of the valyarians or the dragons. This is because the two things we know can hurt them are both connected to Valyria and dragons. Dragonglass and Valyrian steel. This seems too big of a coincidence to be simple chance. But beyond that there is a third reason to believe that they have some connection valyria which is the timing of their return.
According to everything we know the Whitewalkers have been dormant or gone for thousands of years. That suggests they have returned at this time for a reason. The biggest change we know of that has happened is the destruction of house Targaryan. This has happened a while ago in the books, but if you consider the way that things work in this world it makes a bit more sense.
In the game of thrones world seasons are far longer. Summer in the game of thrones can last for seven years and winter potentially even longer. So assuming that the Whitewalkers are strongest in the winter then it might take them a bit of time to gain their strength. If Roberts Rebellion happened about 16 to 14 years before the beginning of the books. Perhaps a bit longer in the TV series since the children tend to be a bit older. But since winter is on its way we can assume there was probably only one winter between the rebellion and the coming winter. Assuming the whitewalkers used the first winter to gather power this would be the first real chance they had to attack since the rebellion and the destruction of the last people they were really afraid of. This timing is why I think it might actually be the Targaryans rather than the dragons, though both are connected. 
This is where I get into a bit wilder theory. People generally think of the whitewalkers as a different race, or a race at all. I suspect it may be something a bit different. First because we seem more than one of the riders people tend to assume they are the same, but there are some suggestions that there is a head whitewalker and that he is the only one who can create other whitewalkers. To me this seems to fit the personality of the whitewalkers more because while they act differently than the zombies they really don’t show all that much more independent thought.
So what does this lead me to. That perhaps the whitewalkers really are a singular enemy. A lich with the power to raise armies of the dead. Beyond this I suspect he might be from Old Valyria. I think it’s even possible that this character might be connected in some way to the Doom of Valyria, though it seems likely not entirely directly since the destruction of Valyria seems to be different than the way the whitewalkers work. That said, we do know that much of the magic of Old Valyria was lost which would make those who still knew that magic far more powerful in comparison afterward. It also leads to a potential point at which we could compare the current game of thrones with houses  fighting for the throne of Westeros to the battle between the houses of Old Valarya which would also be a sort of game of thrones but on a far different scale and giving the last member or members of house Targaryan a true enemy to fight. Also who doesn’t want to see dragons fighting the whitewalkers at some point. 

I recently got thinking about the Whitewalkers from Game of Thrones again for some reason  and I wanted to consider what they are and why they are now appearing. Of course most of this is speculation but we know a few things that might hint at the bigger picture.
The first thing we know is that they are in some way necromancers. For those of you not well versed in fantasy a necromancer is a wizard who controls the dead. The most common way they do this is raising bodies from the grave and uses them as soldiers. But there is a subcategory of necromancer that seems to fit the whitewalkers better and that is a lich. A lich is a powerful necromancer who effectively kills himself and rises as an undead creature to gain immortality and power. This explains why the whitewalkers look dead themselves. The cold aspect of them is sperate from this but cold, darkness and death are often connected so it’s not a stretch.
The other thing that I think we can deduce is that they are enemies of the valyarians or the dragons. This is because the two things we know can hurt them are both connected to Valyria and dragons. Dragonglass and Valyrian steel. This seems too big of a coincidence to be simple chance. But beyond that there is a third reason to believe that they have some connection valyria which is the timing of their return.
According to everything we know the Whitewalkers have been dormant or gone for thousands of years. That suggests they have returned at this time for a reason. The biggest change we know of that has happened is the destruction of house Targaryan. This has happened a while ago in the books, but if you consider the way that things work in this world it makes a bit more sense.
In the game of thrones world seasons are far longer. Summer in the game of thrones can last for seven years and winter potentially even longer. So assuming that the Whitewalkers are strongest in the winter then it might take them a bit of time to gain their strength. If Roberts Rebellion happened about 16 to 14 years before the beginning of the books. Perhaps a bit longer in the TV series since the children tend to be a bit older. But since winter is on its way we can assume there was probably only one winter between the rebellion and the coming winter. Assuming the whitewalkers used the first winter to gather power this would be the first real chance they had to attack since the rebellion and the destruction of the last people they were really afraid of. This timing is why I think it might actually be the Targaryans rather than the dragons, though both are connected. 
This is where I get into a bit wilder theory. People generally think of the whitewalkers as a different race, or a race at all. I suspect it may be something a bit different. First because we seem more than one of the riders people tend to assume they are the same, but there are some suggestions that there is a head whitewalker and that he is the only one who can create other whitewalkers. To me this seems to fit the personality of the whitewalkers more because while they act differently than the zombies they really don’t show all that much more independent thought. 
So what does this lead me to. That perhaps the whitewalkers really are a singular enemy. A lich with the power to raise armies of the dead. Beyond this I suspect he might be from Old Valyria. I think it’s even possible that this character might be connected in some way to the Doom of Valyria, though it seems likely not entirely directly since the destruction of Valyria seems to be different than the way the whitewalkers work. That said, we do know that much of the magic of Old Valyria was lost which would make those who still knew that magic far more powerful in comparison afterward. It also leads to a potential point at which we could compare the current game of thrones with houses  fighting for the throne of Westeros to the battle between the houses of Old Valarya which would also be a sort of game of thrones but on a far different scale and giving the last member or members of house Targaryan a true enemy to fight. Also who doesn’t want to see dragons fighting the whitewalkers at some point. 

Friday
Apr052013

Middlemen: Born of Earth, By Elton Gahr, Get the Free Ebook

While I do enjoy blogging and writing articles my first love in writing is fiction and I am always working on short stories and novels. I have been less diligent about actually making any of them available, until now. I am going to be putting up things on Amazon, and probably other websites eventually as I have them done to my satisfaction.

To that end I have put up the novel Middlemen: Born of Earth on Amazon. And between the 6th and the 10th of this month I will be putting out the free ebook in hopes that more people will see it and try it out. So please, if you have any interest download it, and if you do read it put up a review. It helps out independent writers a lot more than you might think.

As for the book itself, it is an epic fantasy story set in a world where mortal humans have just been created. Largely innocent of the world, they discover that they are at the center of a war between the Highmen and the Lowmen. The dependents of those who fought in the spirit wars. 

With only 12 Middlemen aren't big enough to defend themselves so they attempt to find allies with both the bureaucratic and xenophobic Highmen and the violent and dangerous Lowmen. This leads them deep into the politics and philosophies of both races as they try to convince a hostile world that they have a place in it.

I am happy with this story and glad to give away the free ebook, so I hope that all of you will give it a try and enjoy reading the ebook as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

Keep an eye out for more free ebooks in the future as I finish editing more of the stories.


Tuesday
Jun022009

Review of the Ethshar Series of books, by Lawrence Watt-Evans

I like epic fantasy as much as anyone. Still read Lord of The Rings every few years, love the Wheel of Time Series and many others, but sometimes I want to read fantasy that isn't about someone changing the entire world, but also isn't silly. Perhaps it's just me but often this type of fantasy is harder to find than epic fantasy. Everything in the fantasy section is either massive doorstop epic fantasy, modern fantasy or diskworld.

Recently I discovered a series of books that fit the bill though. These are the Ethshar Series of books. The most recent is The Vondish Ambasitor  which I havnt' got to yet but I've read all the others.

Each book is a stand alone story about a single character and the most important point of these books is that they are fun. The characters do things that are important, but they aren't prophisied heroes or the world's greatest anything. Instead they are men and women who are on an adventure that is big to them.

There is a world here that you discover more about in every book, interesting magic, smart writing and enough humor to make you laugh but not so that it becomes the entire focus of the books.

They can be read in any order, usually don't take to long and are at their heart just a lot of fun. So, if you like fantasy but don't always have the eneregy for the complexities of epic fantasies then consider picking up the Ethshar series of books, a series that deserves more attention than it has been getting.

If you want to know more check out Lawrence Watt-Even's homepage. Here he discusses his books(including other interesting series), and sometimes puts out new work.