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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!
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.
For this weeks book review I decided to take on the second book in the Amra Thethys series, The Thief Who Spat in Luck’s Good Eye. Ol’ Mikey McClung continues where the first book left off, with a budding tale of everlasting friendship between the moral thief Amra and her trusted mage man Holgren. If you want to hear the sounds of me and the lovely Nathalie serenade your senses with a lovely podcast and recap of our adventure with Amra Thethys #2, please indulge me and click the link below. I promise you will be mildly disappointed, like when you get fries from Burger King (no free ads) and do not get a sneak onion ring
Click here to listen to the Swords and Sports podcast. Michael McClung, the author, thought our first podcast on book one was pretty good, so give that a fucking listen as well so I can quit my day job.
In book two we go bigggggg picture. Holgren needs to become immortal, since he stupidly sold his soul or something so he is def going to hell if he dies. Fortunately the Duke of Viborg has issued a decree saying anyone who brings proof of some destroyed city gets a billion dollars, mostly because there is something there that will make him immortal. Holgren and Amra pack up the ol’ gear and get to treasure hunting.
But naturally Holgren gets marked two seconds into the book, and Amra has to deal with some gods and the aforementioned Duke. She handles her shit but finds out the Shadow King is finna take over the world. She really doesn’t care but she put on a necklace that is making her head there.
I know I am rambling on but once again Mikey Mc Clungggger does a great job of fitting a million things into a concise 200 pages. He seems to be great at the short adventure books. Listen, Amra and Holgren are a great duo, they do start fucking in this book which was weird but besides that it is a worthy edition. I really lost momentum on this review. That will make more sense come Monday. Book is almost full chad, so there ya go I didn’t skip out on that.
After many moons it is finally Week 12 of the training plan. That means one thing only, it’s race week! Normally I am not one to mark the passage of time, one day largely feels like another, but the progress I have made over the last 11 weeks has been pretty cool. I mean when I started this thing it was god damn December and freezing, and while it is still cold as shit, at least it is not as bad as when I started. So at the end of this week, assuming this thing doesn’t get cancelled because of the corona virus, I will be taking on the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon. That was not one of my typically terrible jokes, I think it is a real possibility this thing gets cancelled.
This plan was designed to give myself a little more rest in between runs so that I could focus on getting quality runs in, instead of just trying to get as many miles as I could. That has certainly shifted my focus and I think this is a much more sustainable type of training. Granted the distance is a half marathon instead of the full, so I really didn’t have to stack up the miles, but I wanted to focus on actually getting faster and so far I have done that. The 10k I ran in like Week 6 was just a small glimpse of the progress I made, the half I run on Sunday will be the culmination of hard work and preparation.
Fuck that sounded corny, might as well get into last week. I mentioned on Wednesday that last week was going to be a pain in the ass and I was accurate in that assessment. The workout was 10 .25 mile intervals, and I know that every two weeks I just did one more interval than the last time, but every single god damn week it felt like that extra one was going to be the one that killed me. Running hard interval’s in 30 degree weather is a nightmare, but maybe it builds character or something. The rest of the week was light, except for the long run of 12. I took that soooooo slow, I was afraid of overdoing it a week before the race. I think 12 is a lot to run the week before running 13.1 but I have trusted Hal this long might as well trust him the rest of the way. It honestly did not go great, but I guess I ran it so there we are.
Looking at this week, it is much lighter then what I have been doing. There are 3 actual rest days, no even cross training. I think I will prob just do a light lift on Monday, but take actual rest days the other 2 times. The workout is a 30 min tempo. I am deciding not to break it up this time, I am just going to gun it for those 30 minutes and finish up the run. And after that, it is a quick 3-miler to get loose and then race day. Stay tuned for a recap of everything at some point when I get to it. Under 1:45 or die.
The Thousandfold Thought was fortunately conveyed to the reader in much less than 1,000 pages. I feel like I should be able to do a lot with the title of this book but it doesn’t seem to be flowing well. You know what did flow well? My actual spoken words recapping the book. That sentence have your attention, fortunately I can satisfy your undying curiosity with a simple link to the worlds greatest fantasy and sports fusion podcast, The Swords and Sports podcast. Give it a listen and your life will change. Whether for better or worse is really a coin flip.
Click here to finally achieve you dream of witnessing the perfect blend you never thought would work, yet shockingly does.
Shameless promotion over. Lets talk about the conclusion to the Prince of Nothing Trilogy. The more I have engaged with Mr. R. Scotty 2 Hotty Bakkers dozen work, the more I have come to appreciate just how masterful this series is. Credit to me for that nickname, not clunky or illogical at all.
The Thousandfold Thought is simply a great book and is the perfect way to end a series. My initial reaction to the first book was almost reluctance to continue the series, it seemed like a lot of clunky writing that bit off a little more then it could chew while not taking advantage of the things that made some of the parts excellent. Mainly not getting bogged down in super boring ass characters with no action. The second book was a complete shift, it seemed obvious to me that Bakker had grown significantly as a writer, the confidence he exuded in making the scope of the story significantly grander showed a level of ambition that would take a mad genius to wrap up in three books. Yet the third book built off a successful bridge gap book. I normally think those second books are the hardest, you achieve some level of success with the first book, but you have to expand the story in some way so I find authors normally go too large and lose sight of the elements the make the first book great. This did not happen with the second, in fact it is so much better crafted.
The third book in this series sees the conclusion of the holy war, which seemed really important in the second book, but now has almost become a side show to the ambitions and goals of the main characters. The confrontation promised to us in the first chapter of the series, Kellhus and Moehungus, does not disappoint. I know thats not how you spell his dad’s name but I can’t get it out of my head because it is funny to sound out. That confrontation though made the whole series so worth it. I have said many times that nothing gets me hyped like a great 1-on-1 sword fight, but I have to say a confrontation between two masters of manipulation was in its own way just as engrossing. The culmination of two separate peoples collection of power being nothing more then a bargaining chip in who will walk out of a cave alive was just such a brilliant way to end it. If they had simply just fought using the magic they had learned or their martial abilities it would not have been as potent as what actually happened. The twist with Cnauir at the end also was crazy, I had a feeling it was something like that, but it made his whole character arc make so much more sense.
The actual conclusion of the Holy War with the Men of the Tusk securing miraculous victory that unfolded exactly how Kellhus planned it, seemed almost anti-climactic compared to the other stuff. This was clearly intentional, and Bakker building up the war to seem so important only have it become a power play move was brilliant. This book is great, honestly a long and not easy read of a series but a must read for anyone who appreciates a more complicated fantasy story that subverts a lot of the simple tropes that stop good fantasy from becoming great. Just get past the first one.
We are one, yes one week away from completing the second iteration of the masterful, inspirational, emotional (half) Marathon Monday’s blog series and let me tell you I am jacked up. I am also aware that this blog is coming out on a Wednesday, which happens to not be Monday but fuck off i’ve been sorta busy.
In Week 11 there is still plenty of work to be done. I guess in a 12 week plan there is not a lot of time for de-loading because this and last week were the two heaviest weeks of the entire plan. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, I also am saying that because I already finished the running workout for this week. Trust me I did not feel that way on Monday.
Last week was rough, I mentioned in the Week 10 blog that I was going on a snowboard trip so I was going to have to do some shifting around with the runs. This always messes up the rhythm that I get in on these training plans and it results in some pretty shitty runs. So I moved the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday runs up a day, and did the Saturday run Thursday morning. If that is confusing, because it is confusing me, the picture of all the runs will clear it up. This also happened to coincide with me starting a new job, so it is safe to say I was all over the place. At least the tempo run went well, I feel confident that I have gotten significantly faster as a direct result of these workouts. So while I hate them and dread them every week, they are necessary. The long run was an 11-miler, which I ran immediately after driving for 4 hours from Whiteface back home. The snowboarding was great though it is not exactly easy on the old legs. That 11-miler was torrrrttture but I did it.
Looking ahead, well I guess at this point looking at the present, I have another heavy week. Since I am doing my long run on Saturday, I am looking at a 38 mile week, which is a lot to be running the week before a race. I feel confident that I am in good enough shape that 38 miles should be just fine. The running workout was roughhhhh though. Ten rounds of quarter mile intervals is absolute torture, and the jog parts were so fucking slow but that is in the past now. The long run is a 12-miler, which I find a little crazy because I am running a half-marathon next week, but this is what ol’ Hal Higs says to do so I trust the process. Next week is the final countdown, lets get it!