Book Reviews

The Sword of Kaigen Wrap-up: Samurais and SPFBO’s

Damn I have to say that my own continued negligence of this blog has caused me to miss some golden opportunities to flex my own knowledge. As a notoriously successful gambler (yeaaaaaaa right) I would have bet the house on M.L. Wang’s The Sword of Kaigen taking home the illustrious SPFBO award. In fact I am pretty sure I said exactly that on the greatest fantasy and sports podcast of all time, the Swords and Sports podcast. What’s crazy is that it was the only book at the time I had read on the finalists list. Some things just check off so many boxes you know they are going to be successful. Want to find out my deep thoughts on it? Or more embarrassingly listen to me mispronounce M.L. Wang’s name for an hour (once again Miracle I am sorry). I also butcher about 20 different names as well. It’s a god damn riot so listen up.

Click here for the cure to mesothelioma. Whatever that is. Unless you are dumb that is a link to the podcast. I feel like for some reason I need to make that clear.

The Sword of Kaigen is essentially a two part story. The first half of the book is a kind of coming-of-age tale of Mamorou. Mamorou is the son of Takeru Matsuda, the head of the island of Kaigen in some dictatorship. He is trying to learn how to use his magical abilities, create a whispering blade, and live up to his families reputation. Throughout this he slowly learns things about the government and the world as a whole that shatters his previously held beliefs. He struggles with this obviously, and his struggle actually awakens something in his mom, Misaki. She was formally a university student and accomplished fighter/vigilante with a very well-rounded education. She does not buy what the government is selling. Through marrying Takeru though, she has lost a significant portion of her identity as she has assumed the traditional backwards gender role of the village and her husband has done his best to stifle her personality. The the Rangenese come and there is this fucking awesome battle that kills everyone, including Mamorou.

The second half of the book is kinda Kafka Metamorphisis like. Meaning that without Mamorou every seems to be doing much better. Misaki and dickhead Takeru learn how to actually fucking communicate which leads to them growing as a couple. Through rebuilding the village they both grow as people and start to rebel against the government, who are trying to cover up the battle. Then a robot blows up.

This book is chad to the max. Read it, it’s fucking excellent. Listen to the podcast, it’s fucking mediocre. Bonus I will include some of the podcast outline. Thats how you lure emmmm in. I think.

Three things I like

  1. The sword names. I am a sucker for the names of swords some of the best names in this book are Takenagi, the Bamboo Cutter, 

Yukinos sword: Takenagi, the Bamboo cutter

Takeru:  Kyougetsu; The Moon SPire 

Uncle Takashi’s Nagimaru, Namimaru

Misaki: “This is Shadow’s Daughter.” Siradenyaa

Mamorou: Mamoriken,” he nodded to the sword, “the Protector.”

  1. The bloodline techniques. This is a thing I am learning plays a big role in asain martial arts, I am sure there is a long history of bloodline techniques throughout real history. But bloodline techniques were also featured in Kuangs “The Poppy War” and since these are the only two asain fantasy books I read, I assume this is a real thing. Here are some:

Lazou Linghun a fonyaka bloodline technique, wherein the fighter vacuums the air from their victim’s body through the mouth, collapsing their lungs, meaning ‘Soul Pull’ in Rangagua.

Sasayaiba: Whispering blade which is obviously the the Matsuda bloodline technique. The master Matsuda formed his weapon by compressing several billion water molecules to a thin blade through sheer force of nyama, creating ice as hard as metal and an edge the width of a single molecule. Mamoru always managed to catch other things up in his water—some iron particles, some dirt, some salt, some air bubbles—that weakened his ice and caused it to shatter under pressure.

Blood Needle a jijaka bloodline technique unique to the Tsusano family, wherein the practicioner takes control of a small amount of the blood inside their victim’s body and freezes it in the shape of needle, which is used to strike pressure points or pierce vital organs, called ‘Chihari’ in Shirojima Dialect. This can be used to create blood puppettry which leads to complete control

  1. The magic users. They are described as theonites and it seems like there are three types
  1. Jijakalu: theonites with the ability they manipulate water/ice, some abilities include creating ice spears to launch of fight with, freezing and unfreezing your feet to stabilize you which can be used to climb building, and doing the fucking laundrey which is the best use of power ever
  2. Fonyakalu: theonites with the ability to control air, can be used to create some fucking crazy ass tornado
  3. Tajaka: a theonite with the ability to control fire. Mad fucking useful to boil water. Make ramen in two seconds.
    1. littigi.” “A what?” “A type of sub-theonite,” Misaki explained as she came to stand over the man. “They look like powerless adyns but they have the ability to manipulate light to create illusions. I knew a few in Carytha.” But what the Hell was one of them doing here?

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The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow’s Gate Wrap-up: Knock, knocks this book rocks

I can proudly say that might be one of the greatest/worst subtitle’s in the history of book reviews. I am proud to stand on that line between genius and idiot. The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow’s Gate Wrap-up by Michael McClung is the third book in the Amra Thetys series and it feeds off a lot of the great elements that made the first book the inaugural winner of the #SPFBO. It is also more importantly the topic of the greatest fantasy and sports, not fantasy sports, podcast in the entire ecosystem. The episode also has:

-The Thief that Knocked on Sorrow’s Gate by Michael McClung w/ Guest Nathalie

-Messing up the summary

-Widening our vocab

-YA books turned Adult

-GRRM blog post

-Update on sports

-Social Media: @swordsandsports (Twitter/Instagram)

http://www.swordsandsports.blog

Intrigued? The episode link is HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow’s Gate brings ol’ lovable thief with a conscious Amra back into her element. By that I mean running around a city trying to solve a mystery while the world falls the fuck apart around her. Essentially the book goes like this. A UPS like dude delivers Amra a head in a box, cue the dick-in-a-box jokes. The head is from some dude who used to beat her. Thinking her old protector/mentor/ex-crush Theiner sent it from Bellarius, she decided to head there and see whats really good.

When she gets there shit pops off. The wharf explodes when she arrives and she winds up taking an orphan named Keel into her crew. She eventually finds out the city is going to blow up in 3 days unless she stops the archmage, who is holding Kalara’s knife, which is one of the 8 aspects of the goddess Kalara. She is not a nice goddess.

Amra gets caught up in some shenanigans like finding out her uncle is there, that she has magical powers, that someone needs her to steal a giant chair that has the souls of thousands of people trapped in it. Eventually she saves the day by hitting a mage with the ol’ one shot ya dead. Solid ending, we even get treated to a Holgren POV chapter at the end.

I am going to be honest, I meant to post this blog on Friday but never finished it. I am just realizing that now so this is the end. Is it Chad, eh I will say right down the middle. Listen to the podcast, or don’t I mean you got options in life.

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The Last Wish Wrap-up: The Witcher hour

Hello my good friends. Are you stuck at home? Of course you are. Well aren’t you lucky because I have just the thing for you! Lets treat this like taking yourself out for a fancy dinner, dare I say, a five star dinner. You are balling out today, so of course you are going to get an appetizer. The appetizer is this here blog. Well what’s the main course, a question that I am sure is on the tip of your tongue. It is the Swords and Sports podcast.

Click here to get that gooooooood audio food.

That was unequivocally the worst paragraph that I have ever written. It was so bad that I actually gave up on this blog for two days without finishing it. Well thats the point I am at creatively in this quarantine. Thank the stars for my man fucking Geralt of Rivia for providing me with 4ish days of entertainment. At least the book version, the show version’s entertainment lasts forever. The Last Wish is a collection of six short stories divided into 5 or so chapters, with the first chapter in each story devoted to where Geralt is in the present time.

The short stories are similar to the episodes of the show, I think there is only one story that doesn’t have it’s own episode. But even though I knew the endings and most of the details I still found the stories to be fascinating. The world of The Witcher is extensive and well-detailed and that is one of the highlights of the book. All the creatures are believable and the way they interact as intelligent creatures makes for some fun back-and-forths with our star of the show.

And make no mistake about it, you should never start a sentence with ‘and’. And now to my real point, the star of the show makes this go from an average book to a great book. Geralt’s overall cynicism, observational humor, grumpiness, and code of morals makes for a fascinating character that I just wanted more off. It also helps that he is basically a superhuman genetically engineered to fight monsters. Figured I should mention that as this blog has clearly shown that I have a thing for people who can kill people/things. Geralt in the course of six stories murders a two different kinds of vampires, like 15 people, fights a genie (kinda) and fucks a few good ol’ lasses. He does all these things with the enthusiasm of Hilary Clinton. Fucking hilarious.

It seems like in this book review I actually didn’t spoil any major plot points. Mainly because the stories only loosely connect. Wow a blog that started off horribly ended with a spark of something clever. Go me.

O yea, so obviously chad it’s not even funny. Listen to the podcast please so I can quit my day job.

Book Reviews

They Mostly Come Out at Night Wrap-up: Knick-knack paddy wack

The bizarre subtitle makes much more sense if you have read the book, which involves having a special aptitude for something that they call knacks. Now that that is cleared up and I repeated the word ‘that’ because I am not clever enough to structure a sentence differently to avoid repetition I would like to at least mention the book this wrap-up is supposed to cover. Last weeks book, and of course the greatest fantasy podcast of all time, covered They Mostly Come Out at Night by Patrick Benedict, which is book 1 of the Yarnsworld series. The way this book is marketed, they call it like a folktaleish horror story. I tend to disagree, if you would like to hear the only opinion that holds any weight, give the episode a listen. Patrick Benedict approved it, or at least pretended to listen to it, so you should at least pretend to listen, at the very least download it, and if you are a true gentleman (or lady) and scholar you should subscribe, like, rate and download the whole catalog.

So click here for a podcast endorsed by the author himself, the proof is in the pudding.

Let’s get into it. Lonan is a kind of outcast villager in a quaint forest village. Quaint in the sense that every night everyone needs to lock themselves in a cellar so they don’t get murdered by monsters that come out every night. Lonan lives with Mother Ogema and some kind of braindead dude, because his mom doesn’t want him as she and the village blame him for leaving cellar doors open leading to the death of his dad and his friend Branwen’s dad or something. So he goes about his day gathering herbs for mother ogema, secretely wishing for Branwen, his old friend and the woman who he loves. One night he starts dreaming about Adahey, the son of the Magpie King, the mythological esque ruler of Corvae who protects the villagers from the monsters through superhuman feats.

Here the narrative starts to follow three directions: Lonan kind of navigating his life in the village and his conflict with Jarleth, Adahey and his friend Maedoc fighting against the wolf monsters, and some fairy tales that serve as the backstory of Yarnsworld and key us in to details that will become relevant to the main storyline, they follow the trickster Artemis as he rails against the rule of the Magpie king. Eventually Lonan eats the magic flower and fights that dickhead Maedoc who yeeted Adahey off of a castle and took his place as the king. But I also have a breakdown of all the fairy tales, which I would be honored to share with you.

1. This dude artemis tricks a farmer and fucks his three daughters, one of them is 16 so that’s bad

2. A giant squirrel thinks everyone is making fun of him because of his bushy tail so he eats the sun

3. Artemis pretending to be the Magpie King tricks Alfrond pretending to be the Mouse King for a bottle of water

4. The Magpie King pulls a “White girls” and turns himself well white to marry and fuck the owl princess, she gets mad when she finds out he is black and kicks him out. He tries again. Then he just simply says he likes her and she becomes his

5. Artemis is running from the Magpie King, who he robbed, he gets chased by a giant spider, the spider eventually gets too tired and gives up, so he kills all of its eggs so that people call him a legend

6. The Magpie King gets bit by the head serpent, is poisoned and when he heals is super hungry, he sees blueberry pies and an old woman tricks him into doing housework for them. Eventually he punishes her to bake a pie everyday

7. Refugees come into the magpie kings domain, he says if the woman leader passes a test of strength of trust and of love they can stay. First she climbs a cliff, second she walks blindfolded through a path of poisoned thorns. Third she sacrifices herself by exile so all can stay. Artemis I guess is there

8. Artemis is still running. Sees the pale ladies house, 3rd time he comes upon it much later he enters. Strikes bargain with her that magpie king must get flower from her, one day the Corvae line will not have a Magpie King, someone else will be it

9. Magpie King finds Artemis, Artemis collapses in the snow and is happy because he got his revenge, kind of. He has a vision of lonan and maedoc

10. Lonan visits Mother Ogema he has started to go mad with the power and poison of the magpie king. He is hunting maedocs kids but is losing his grip on things

Honestly most of that was notes I had taken for the podcast, so this was low effort. Or if I want to spin it, which you know I do, lets call that an inside look at the mind behind the greatest fantasy podcast of all time. Was this book chad? Middle of the pack really, Lonan starts out as a super bitch but winds up being a psycho Magpie King dude which is fucking sweet. So middle of the pack.

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Swarm and Steel Wrap-up: Swarmed with work, the blog has suffered

The subtitle says it all. No I am not dead, but this blog almost was. Everyone reacts to shit differently and for some reason I have been struggling to get these book reviews up. I will tell you what has not struggled, the greatest fantasy podcast this side of the ocean. Either ocean and either side it matters naught, for the Swords and Sports podcast is like an n-95 mask in an ICU, it keeps you alive. The only podcast (this is insanely untrue) where the author of the book cosigns the quality of it through the only validation a young creative like myself needs; a tweet. Need proof, well I got you my guy. Last weeks podcast was on Swarm and Steel by the grimgod Michael R. Fletcher, want to know what he thinks?

Yes the FletchGod himself says it, so listen to people with much more talent then me and click here for a link to everlasting happiness.

Dude that was a promo worthy of a the Macho Man Randy Savage himself. Or it was insanely douchy, either way lets get the fuck into the book.

Swarm and Steel is a certified Grimdark banger. We return to the Manifest Delusions world with a brand new tale of blood, Billie Ellish level depression and insecurity and some dark humor. The simple way to explain the Manifest Delusions novels are that they are a mix of the self deprecated psyche of a Dystozesky novel, the twisted violence of American Psycho, and add a bunch of swords and magic. There ya go fucking nailed it. Or I didn’t I don’t know man I don’t have a fucking degree in comparative literature. In summation I am either a genious or an idiot. The Swords and Sports blog lets you choose your own adventure.

The summary kind of goes a little bit like this. Zerfal, the former head of the Tauschaung religion, wakes up with no memory and is rotting. After a failed assassination attempt from an old lover, she decides that she wants revenge on her sister, Holle, for a perceived betrayal. The betrayel is that she is trying to steal control of the Tauschuang, a religion they both created, from her. Zerfal tries to stab Holle with BluteBlut, a sword that contains Swarm, the hell that Holle hallucinated into existence. Think of it kind of like Dragnipur from the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

So on her quest for revenge, she realizes that as a rotting sack of bones she is limited in what she can do. She meets Jateko, a dessert dude who has started to eat people, believing that everyone he eats makes him stronger. And it does, he gets fucking swollllllllll and starts to kill everyone and eat them. Eventually they meet up with Holle, who is having her own problems dealing with her hallucination, Pharisäer. She has slowly been taking control of the religion from Holle while Holle kind of just panics in her bedroom.

This fucking fire ass book ends with a confrontation where Jateko eats 15 million people over the course of 10 years after killing himself with BluteBlut so that he could go to Swarm and free everyone. By eating them, in case that somehow wasn’t clear.

This is chad to the max, without even a shadow of a doubt. Fletcher is that guy, ride the wave, its not like you don’t have the time. Was that a good review? Prob not but I needed to get something out there. Shoutout to me.

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The Goblin Emperor Wrap-up: Insecurity and exploding blimps

Now that is a god damn subtitle. Here we have another book stop along my epic journey to read 52 fantasy books in 52 weeks, while creating 52 podcasts on them. It also happens that I am writing 52 book review blogs but that just makes the tagline way too clunky. If you are interested in the greatest fantasy book/sports hybrid podcast that is about a 90/10 blend boy are you in luck. I have for you a link to the Swords and Sports podcast. This week I have a guest, Viviana, and we break down all the minute intricacies of the lovely Katherine Addisons writing. Just kidding we go through a bunch of stuff we liked and made us laugh. We do fantasy news, we talk about not talking about sports, and other stuff. Give it a listen unless you hate children. Now you have too

Click here to have unicorns come back to life and replace automobiles, hence saving the planet from reduced carbon emissions. It really is just a link to the podcast.

The Goblin Emperor is in all ways a fantastic read. But if sword fights, final charges, and bloodshed are the things that get you off, this might not be the read for you. If you like the inner workings of an insecure teen who deffffff would listen to Billie Ellish try and run an Elven kingdom despite pushback from every single facet of a congested, clogged, inefficient government then this is perfect.

Maia is a little half-bred weirdo whose dad and older brothers get murked in a blimp accident, essentially making him the only one left to rule the kingdom. But since Maia has only talked to like 10 people in the last 15 years, he is super insecure and not at all equipped to handle running this giant elven conglomerate. Fortunately he has a dude named Csvet who basically does everything so the kingdom doesn’t collapse. At two points people try and steal his throne in very half-hearted or half-brained attempts. There are also some terrorists who are starting to build momentum through an ideology that basically says they are tired of getting fucked over.

If that didn’t sell you, Maia is obsessed with building a bridge and trying to fuck an opera singer. He does one and not the other. That is called not spoiling things. I am getting better at this clearly.

Overall I know I didn’t hard sell this thing, but I don’t need too. It won or was nominated for all the awards that mean my review doesn’t mean shit. And guess what, it deserved all the awards, the writing is fantastic, the plot is different from the standard hero reluctantly saves the world/kingdom/friends/self by learning to overcome their insecurity and utilize magic/brains/brawn trope that is a lot of fantasy. There is not a lot of action, but in this case that is a strong point. World building is fantastic, dialogue is great, Maia is the perfect amount of bitch and brains. Not a chad book by any means but that is certainly not the books intent. Read it, listen to my fucking podcast or I will give myself Corona, and have a lovely weekend!!!!!

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St. Pat’s Half Marathon Race Review: The last race in America

Date: Saturday, March 14th, 2020

Distance: 13.1 Miles

Location: Rockaway Park, New York

Time: 1:41:06

Presented by RockapulcoRun

HELLLLLLO I know everyone was waiting with bated breath for how I was going to handle the cancellation of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon and I am here to tell you I handled it real well. When I found out Tuesday that the race was no longer happening, I quickly scrambled to find another race. Lo and behold there was another race! RockapulcoRun happened to be putting on a St. Pattys day half that saturday, and it was still going to happen so I quickly signed up. Crises averted.

When the race coordinator was explaining the course to the runners, someone shouted out something like “Thanks for hosting the last race of America.” I would love to take credit for that as I take pride in my big crowd shoutout jokes, but in good faith I can not.

There were certainly some last minute concerns with this. First, it was Saturday instead of Sunday, meaning I had to cut out the final two mile run out. Prob not an important run anyway. Second, it was about an hour drive from me. Despite some closures I got there relatively easily. There were a lot of people there that had done what I did, so it’s good that RockapulcoRun was still putting on the event, I think there were maybe 200 people there?

As for the race itself, no real fancy packet pickup, simply a stand at the race start where they were safely handing out the race stuff.

As for the gear, let me tell you I was taken for a loop on this one. I have gotten a bunch of different swag, mostly shitty t-shirts (this race included), but never ever have I received a loaf of Irish soda bread. Let me tell you it was fantastic. There also was a medal and a solid looking bib, take a look for yourself.

Okay it is race talk time. Funny enough, this course was the first half marathon course I had ever run. I think in 2017 I did a different RockapulcaRun half marathon, so I already knew what I was in for. Two loops of 6.5ish miles, all flat course and a view of a very grey boardwalk. In terms of sights to see, not my favorite course though running along a boardwalk isn’t to bad. A little windy.

I had a goal for this race, well not exactly this one but whatever. I wanted to run it in 1:45:00 and had followed the Hal Higdon Intermediate something training plan to try and hit that goal. Let me tell you, based on my time, I destroyed that goal. It was fuckkkkking painful though, for real I almost debated dropping out at the half way mark as I was exhausted and felt I had nothing left. The only reason I kept running was I realized that I had smoked the first half of the race and even if I had a poor second half I would crush my previous PR of 1:49:10.

This feeling of death happened for a few reasons. I came out the gate wayyyy to hot and this almost cost me the race. A 7 minute mile was not the way I was supposed to start this race. I tried to maintain a 7:30 pace and for a while I was doing alright, but I started to fluctuate around 5th mile and kept a 7:40 to 8:00 pace. I took a gel at like mile 5, and every couple miles I had a little more of it. I also took water at mile 7 and mile 10. This pace truly pushed me to the limit, I had been training intensely to be able to run faster miles, but I think that maintaining that speed for a full 13 miles was something that I am going to need to work on. I am not going to say I felt undertrained, because obviously I did a great job on beating my goal, but I think that my race strategy is really shit and it is costing me precious minutes. I make it much more difficult on my self because of my inability to set a good pace from the beginning. Whatever, I am fucking jacked up that I was able to beat my goal by that much. I already can’t wait to get started on another one.