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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 Thousandfold Thought Wrap-up: Sometimes a thousand thoughts are too many

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.

Obviously chad.

Book Reviews

The True Bastards Wrap-up: A ride on the hog side

That is an egregious offense to the subtitle gods but in some odd way I am proud of it. Coming in hot with another review is the next book in a series that is slowly creeping its way to the upper echelons of my heart. The True Bastards by Jonathan French is the second book of The Lot Lands series. It takes what made the first book such an interesting and fun read and improves upon it. The plot is much more expansive and original. Don’t just take my written word for it though, also listen to me verbally jerk the book off on another edition of the greatest fantasy, nay, the greatest literary podcast of all time: The Swords and Sports podcast featuring yours truly.

Click the link below to be transported to a magical place owned by a fruit (not a gay joke simply an apple joke) and have all your audio fantasies come true.

Click here to start your trans-formative journey

Now that is how you sell a fucking podcast. Where do I begin with this review. I already know this is going to be a clusterfuck but whatever. Jackal is no longer the POV character, instead we get our main homie Fetching. She is attempting to lead The True Bastards in the wake off having the Kiln destroyed by old sludgey but of course life ain’t that fucking easy. First she needs to contend with her own version of black lung, which is essentially that she is coughing up sludge like a frat boy throws up beer the morning after a sick rager. The town of Winsome has zero, nada, zilch food and motherfuckers are hungry. So she has to find out why none of the food is getting there. Turns out a pack of super hyenas controlled by a giant orc shaman are causing terror throughout The Lot Lands. Some frails have started setting up shop in an abandoned lot but none of the other hoofs no what to do. Hispertha is getting real mouthy in their quest to expand the empire. Basically she is going through a Lot. Get it, its because the series is called The Lot Lands. Let me end this monster paragraph.

That is quite the predicament to find oneself in. Fortunately for the lovely half-elf, half-orc super hybrid there is one simple answer. Violence. As the famous Jedi Mind Tricks song Violence begets Violence taught me, it’s that Violence begets Violence so that means madness ensues. We are talking hoof on hoof war, hoof on Tine war, hoof and hoof on magic orc shaman and hyena war, and all types of fun.

This fucking book is awesome. I love, love, love the use of all kinds of mythical races and that they can mix creating all different species that have to make their way in the world. I love that they ride hogs and shoot crossbows like they are a fucking motorcycle gang. I love the interplay between the clashing cultures and factions along The Lot Lands. The world Frenchy Lotana builds is absolutely brilliant. The characters are hilarious, believable and have realistic arcs. The curse words are great. The use of the word “cock” is without equal. Basically read this series if you like fun.

This book is literally the definition of chad. Easiest rating ever.

Book Reviews

The Warrior Prophet Wrap-Up: Kellhus or die

With such a grim title it pains me to have to pair it with an exciting announcement. Due to the love of hearing the sound of my own voice I finally was able to scrape up enough equipment, technical know-how and free labor from a trapped significant other to put together an accompanying podcast. Media moguls start from somewhere and this was the logical next step.

Click below to listen to me grace your earbuds with the silky, sultry sounds of the greatest fantasy podcast out there. I promise it is not a virus!

https://swordsandsports.podbean.com

Did that have anything to do with The Warrior Prophet? Of course, as the book was the main subject of Episode 2 of the Swords and Sports podcast! So like that shit, listen to it, subscribe and please send any feedback to either the @swordsandsports accounts on Instagram or Twitter or email me directly at swordsandsports@gmail.com

While it pains me to have to cringeily ask for all that stuff I really am looking for feedback or trolls so don’t hold back.

The Warrior Prophet picks up directly where the last book left off, with the Holy War about to begin. Instead of all that setup my man R Scotty 2 hotty Bakers dozen gets right into the war and all it’s majesty. The best parts of this book are the emphasis on detail for both the political and military maneuverings of the Holy War. It really gave such an excellent feel for strategy and what being a part of it was like. Such a well done book I finally can see what the hype was all about. This is a significant improvement over the last book, which seemed to really become a slog in the middle of it. We get a lot less of the Emperor in this one, which automatically makes it better because his story line was pretty boring.

The Holy War and the Men of the Tusk are certainly not boring though. Achamian goes from a kind of whiny wack-ass spy in the first book to a drunkard philosopher in the beginning, to a warrior magician by the end and that transformation is really satisfying to watch because he was a fucking snooze for a long time. His obsession with Kellhus and his anointing of him as the Prophet were his main highlights in this, along with having a magical puppet that sliced the throat of a cat. His love for Esement despite her taking hella loads all the time is quite annoying but he redeems himself when he finally decides to start baking fools.

The best characters are by far Kellhus, and a step below that, Cnauir. Cnauir was one of the better characters in the first book, even though I am firmly against the barbarian with a brain trope. His ascension to the top of the Men of the Tusk command structure and subsequent fuck-up of aforementioned command was a great plot line to follow. His internal struggle to constantly battle the top minds in the book, Conphas and Kellhus, was one of the better psychological battles. He is one dude who has no chill. Also ritual scarring is fucked up I am way too pretty for that shit.

But all roads eventually lead to our title character: Kellhus. This guy is a fucking awesome dude. He is the definition of 2013 Drake’s chart topping song “Started from the Bottom.” I originally put 2017 but when I looked it up I realized that holy fuck I am getting old. Moving on. Kellhus begins this book as a sort of sideshow to Cnauir but through careful maneuvering, manipulating, and fucking people up becomes a separate entity that develops a cult-like following and becomes the face of the franchise by the end. Some of the stories of his training are awesome, like he went into a room with his old teacher where all these people are on stretchers with their faces stuck in various expressions. Kellhus has to identify the expressions and what creates them. Sickly and dope.

He also does shit like properly predict the outcome of a battle, finds water in a desert (I wrote dessert at first, HAHA words), acquires not one but two girlfriends which while I think is a terrible idea it does belay a certain cool factor, and eventually leads a group of fanatics seizing control of the holy war. On top of being an incredible swordsman that single handily holds the command position on the battlefield while everyone else ran, he is just a real swell guy. His lack of morals and emotions is a plus as well.

Did that tell you anything about the plot? Nope but once again if you listen to the podcast you will get wayyyyyy more recap then you ever could have imagined. O yea this book is chad to the max.

Book Reviews

The Grey Bastards Wrap-up: Half-orcs create full fun

Crushed that subtitle.

In order to begin this bright and glorious new year on the right note I decided the first blog of the year should be this magnificent review of The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. French Lottana as he is known in certain circles has crafted one of the more (or less?) ambitious worlds that features your standard Tolkein fantasy characters and gives them a Son’s of Anarchy twist. I am sure you are asking how that works and my answer for you is it just does. I am realizing the Lottana joke doesn’t work until you know that the series he is writing is titled The Lot Lands. You can proceed to admire my cleverness now.

I have never watched Son’s of Anarchy, I only mention it because Frenchy does in the beginning of the book, so for the sake of making sense that is the last I will mention it.

This book absolutely excels in the world building, I found it the perfect mix of familiar and engrossing. Jonathan follows the kind of industry standard of fantasy species, he has elves, orcs and humans all of which have some beef. There are centaurs and weird gnome like things too but in terms of main species you got your three right there. What makes this story interesting is the idea of half-breeds, kind of like when Saruman creates the Uruk-hai but in this case you can breed elves and humans with orcs. This creates half-orcs, who as to be expected are smaller then regular orcs but bigger then humans. A big part of the book is that all these half-orcs are products of orcs raping humans or elves, since it doesn’t seem like the other two species ever try and pick up any female orcs. This essentially leads to an entire group of half-orc bastards. Due to the title of this book, can you guess what color they are?

The half-orcs, like many bastards, are unwanted by their unloving fathers and not exactly beloved by the human or elf societies, so they are kind of relegated to living in this barren like land that is a buffer between orc land and human land. Of course orcs living in the barrens is it’s own kind of trope but whatever it works and it is fun. They organize the barrens into different lots which are controlled by various half-orc clans ruled by a clan master.

I feel like Jonathan had so much potential with this story, he creates an awesome world, his characters are well-developed, the history of the inter-species relationships and conflicts are great, and the dialogue is good enough. The only failing is the kind of repetitive plot and sort of predictable ending, but even that to me was quickly overshadowed by the world he creates. I mean it isn’t the most original concept to prevent an orc incursion but here we are. He has a fun writing style and keeps the action moving, which is important because a story like this would start to suffer if it got bogged down in inter-clan politics and other meaningless trifles. He gives just enough backstory to flesh out the world and keep us engaged. Also they all ride supped up warthogs like they are horses and shoot crossbows like they are pistols, which is pretty fucking sick.

All in all a very enjoyable read and an excellent way to kick off 2020. Gotta rate this book as a Chad book. Anything that starts off with a naked half-orc female in a whorehouse fresh off a night of enjoying the house wares shooting a human with a crossbow is headed in the Chad direction. Barely coherent, run-on sentences all year baby.

Book Reviews

The Darkness that Comes Before Wrap-up: A prophetic title

A series that always, always, always pops up on any list of top fantasy, whether it is epic, political, dark, or grimdark, is The Prince of Nothing series by R. Scott Bakker. This series never appears on the top of any of those lists, it is more like a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope series, meaning that you need enough players/books to fill up a roster so there ya go. From what I understand there is a rapid fanbase for this series, as I am sure there are people who think Kentavious is ready to take a leap or is the perfect guy to take your team to the next level, but those people are dumb. But like his name is fucking Kentavious. I actually came back to this paragraph after finishing this blog just to say that.

Now that is not to say The Darkness That Comes Before is a trash book, it had a lot of positives and got significantly better towards the end, hence the subtitle referring to the prophetic title of the book. The prologue was a little dense, but I got real hyped thinking I was about to read something great. The book is supposed to be about this holy war that mirrors some visions this sect of wizards have about a time of some earlier apocalyptic war and how we are about to have another apocalypse, but what it really is about is this one dude named Anasûrimbor Kellhus.

Lets make no mistake, the books success and allllll my enjoyment of it is entirely based on Anasûrimbor Kellhus. He is a fucking awesome character, my guess is if you don’t like him you hate this book. The book starts off with his kind of origin story, he has some dream about his dad and leaves this kind of monastery that raised him to be some super warrior/monk/psychologist. I am positive you have 897 characters in your head that already fit this description so I will do my best to explain why he is so awesome. His superness doesn’t come from having great fighting skills (which he does have), or some magical powers (which he doesn’t have), but rather from his ability to understand and manipulate the human psyche.

From the beginning he does things like observe the muscles in the mouth twitching to ascertain whether someone is being truthful, or links something someone said to some trauma that happened in their past to predict future behavior. The monkness part comes from his crew that preach the “Logos” which essentially means take the shortest path to success. He uses his abilities to manipulate a woman into loving him, an intelligent barbarian into joining him, and an entire noble class into accepting him as a prophet. As an aside, I really am tired of the intelligent, thoughtful barbarian character, but this version of it isn’t terrible.

All of this sounds very trope-y but in this case Bakker succeeds mightily. There are a lot of other story lines, the main two follow this guy Drusas Achamian, a wizard that belongs to a school known as The Mandate and the second the Emperor with his nephew Conphas. The magic dudes all belong to different schools, The Mandate is the school that has visions of the last Holy War which of course are being played out again. Conphas is some genius commandeer who is also a master politician. Both these things pale in comparison to Kellhus.

It is hard to imagine that a book which really has pretty lame action, a predictable story line, and a run-of-the-mill plot can be enjoyable, but Bakker’s special skill is creating these incredible characters. It is the depth and the creativeness of the characters that really leave you wanting more. I was dying to get more of Kellhus because I just found him to be such a fun read. His journey across the various stages of the holy war were must read, the other parts, especially the beggining shit with Achamian were pretty standard and actually leaned on boring, but if you could put up with that stuff the gold comes towards the end. It seemed like at some point Bakker knew he had something special with Kellhus and rode him to success.

Did this review tell you anything about the book? I don’t know, it was kind of just some ramblings. It is legitimately a good book, nothing special. I didn’t know this until I literally just added the cover into the blog, but my guy Steve Erikson endorsed it with that quote on the front. If that gets you to buy it then the marketing team has done their job well, if not then these fantasy book review blogs are prob not for you. I rate this as neither virgin nor chad, which seems like a very virgin thing to do. Thems the breaks when you are in the blogging game. Gotta keep yourself honest.

R Scott Bakker is an alllllll time fantasy author name. Easily top five no cap. Shout out to me for finally understanding basic photo editing and making a somewhat readable rating chart.

Book Reviews

Port of Shadows Wrap-up

I have fallen very behind once again on reviewing the books I have been reading and almost forgot all about this one. Which would have been a shame because I am a huge fan of both Glen Cook and his masterpiece series The Black Company. Widely considered by every blog and fantasy book site to be the father of the Grimdark sub-genre, Port of Shadows is a worthy edition to the series. Despite what stupid ass reviewers think. People just love to hate.

To be fair I thought Cook was dead so it’s good to see that is not true. Congrats on being alive bro.

On Goodreads they have this book listed as Book #1.5 which I guess puts it between books 1 and 4. It is not exactly clear to me the timeline of the book, but than again the timelines for any of the books are not exactly linear. Honestly the beauty of these books is that they just go from spot to spot with absolutely no time explaining things. From the first time the company fights a werewolf thing in the opening chapter of book one I was hooked so I might be a little skewed in all things Black Company. Actually I just looked it up (despite my commitment to no research) and this book takes place between The Black Company and Shadows Linger.

This book has not been well received. The reasons for this seem to fall into two categories, the first is that it has a lot of contradictions that don’t mesh well with the rest of the lore and history of the series. The second is that there is a plot device that Cook uses involving the characters losing their memories of the events taking place in the book, which conveniently allows this book to fit in between books 1 and 2 without ever being mentioned in any of the later books. Sure that is not the most original concept nor is it great to have conflicting lore but as I mentioned the beauty of these books are that they are super confusing and the details are murky. The individual story itself is a ton of fun and fits in well with the style of the series.

Port of Shadows has two separate story lines. The first is a flashback to the time of the Dominator, where we follow a necromancer who has an obsession with trying to bring back dead girls to I guess replace his dead daughter. This story line is cool as hell, the girl he revives happens to be a Senjak sister that got raped by a bunch by the Dominator’s guards and disposed off. Here is where the details conflict, we have no idea who the sister is supposed to be but whatever. The Howler and another Senjak sister, probably either The Lady or Soulcatcher (all time villain btw) attempt to rescue the sister and the Senjak girl gets captured. The necromancer bolts with the two girls and creates a kind of fortress in the world and of course bangs the dead girl eventually, starting a breeding farm of Senjak clones.

The other story line follows the Black Company who are in service to The Lady and are posted in the city/town of something I honestly can’t remember. Their goal is to root out the rebel group called the Resurrectionists who are trying to, you know, resurrect the Dominator. They capture a sorceress known as Tides Elba, who looks remarkably like the Lady. As they continue to root out rebels they keep finding more girls that look like Tides Elba, now known as the Taken Mischievous Rain. The people in these books have the coolest names. Eventually this leads to an underwhelming confrontation at the fortress from the other story line, and we find out that the girls have been breed in order to open up the Port of Shadows, which is supposed to bring back the Dominator.

I hate writing summaries of books as you can kind of tell, because I would much rather talk about things I liked and disliked. It just is hard to talk about things without at least summarizing the book somewhat. I thouroughly enjoyed the creativity of Cook in this book. Sick rhyme. Like the necromancer thing was so engrossing, just the obsession of this creepy old diddler experimenting and essentially creating a self-sustaining castle through his cloning was interessting and made a lot of sense in terms of the overall plot. You could kind of tell from the beggining that eventually the clones the Black Company kept finding were this revived girl, but that seemed intentional. The way the Black Company is organized and their relationship with the Taken is always a fun read. Mischievous Rain was equal parts awesome and a sympathetic character. It is such a cool concept that The Lady transforms these people, who may or may not have opposed her, into her minions. Also One Eye is the best.

Read this if you like The Black Company. Don’t complain about it. Also I finally figured out a simple way to rate books. Books are only going to be rated on the widely academically accepted Virgin/Chad scale. If you want an absolutely hilarious Reddit post on this read below.

Book Reviews

Deadhouse Landing Wrap-up: Path to Ascended Fantasy

About a month ago I mentioned that I went on a little reading spree and finished a few books that had been sitting on the virtual end table. One of those books was Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont. To set the stage a little bit, Deadhouse Landing is a novel of the Malazan Empire, which for anyone familiar the the Malazan world means its place in the grand scheme of things is very confusing. It is book 2 of The Path to Ascendancy, hence the clever ass subtitle of this blog. The Path to Ascendancy is a prequel trilogy to the events of both Esslemont’s and Erickson’s respective Malazan series’.

It is always a really weird experience when it comes to the Malazan Empire books. Erickson and Esslemont have very different story telling styles. Esslemont is much more direct. His stories are linear, his characters are obvious, he does not spend time wading in internal dialogue. Not a knock on Esslemont, it is just a writing style that is much more ordinary. Erickson is all over the place, most of his novels, especially the later ones, spend significant time wading in moral philosophy and internal dialogue. The writing can be heavy at times and several pages can go by before the character is done thinking.

Esslemont’s books are the much quicker read, and this book was no exception. Prequels are tough, the first book in the series was Dancers Lament and I have to admit I got kind of bored about halfway through it and put it down for the better part of like two years. This I read in two days, which says a lot about how much fun I had reading it. I couldn’t put this book down.

The plot boils down to Wu, later Kellenvad, and Dancers take over of Malaz Island, which later turns into the Malazan Empire as well as their struggle to enter the Deadhouse. I say prequels are tough for the obvious stuff. We already have an idea of who these characters are in our heads, so any diversion from that and I instantly get angry. The biggest thing for me is that with a prequel you already now the outcome, so it is especially important to make the journey fun. When you can’t rely on the wow factor or the big reveal you have to make the action entertaining. That is kind of what stalled me out in book one. Like we know all these characters live so the stakes are instantly lowered.

Another thing that really bothers me is when new elements of magic, or people, or creatures or plot line are inserted into a prequel in order to spice things up. Then when you re-read or think about the original series it is through the lens of “this is stupid because it doesn’t have this new thing” or the story doesn’t make sense anymore with the new parameters set. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the biggest culprit of this ever. Esslemont does not do this, so another point in his favor

Wu is just such a great character. Kellenvad is really a huge behind-the-scenes guy in the Malazan Empire series that to see his origin and to get more of direct interaction with him was not only well done but wildly entertaining. There are points where shit he did or said made me actually laugh, which is saying a lot. I mean he is the clear highlight of the entire trilogy. Spoiler alert the next review is book 3.

Dassem is just the best, his whole greatest fighter in the world thing gets me every time. The best scene in this book is this pointless one-on-one fight he has with a grade A hater and he just whips him. Lifestealer for life.

This book is great. Anyone who is a fan of the series I am not telling you anything new and you probably have already read it. If you haven’t stop wasting time reading The Dark Tower and support good fantasy.

Final Notes: This was very rantish. Next one will talk more about the actual book. I don’t know how else to get people to believe in Malazan. Also these covers are dope.

Book Reviews

The Dark Defiles Wrap-up: Defiling expectations of good fantasy

Ehh not my best title. Then again I am exhausted with writing about this series. I finished this book on the way to Colombia and the time spent reading this book was worse than anything I experienced on the entire vacation. Though I did have a great vacation so I guess the bar for that wasn’t very low. Either way l have finished the series meaning fortunately this is the last blog I will ever write about it.

I want to take a look at some of the positives first, since it is much easier to just blast the shit out of this final catastrophy. There are some better parts, at one point we get introduced to this charctar Sharkmaster Wyr, who was some famous pirate guy. He is imprisioned on this ship in the harbor where he is supposed to be living out the remander of his days. Both interesting and well done. The backstory on this dude is badass. To me this like one chapter of a minor character who winds up having no real impact on the plot was the best part of the book. What this tells me is that while I’ve spent way more time than what is healthy bashing this Richard K. Morgan guy, he defienitly has the talent to be a good writer.

The problem is his story stinks. He relies on magic/sci-fi technology to kind of clean up these situations the characters get in, and it all feels meaningless in regards to the story. The characters themselves are very stereotypical. I get the vibe he goes for but to me the plot kind of falls apart because the situations the characters find themselves in are just not well done.

A big part of the book that gets a lot of praise is the fact that the main character Ringil is gay. He subverts your typical gay character in a fantasy book stereotype by being this grizly, hardened veteran who men rally to and are willing to follow into anything. This is great, and I fully support the idea of having a character like Ringil. The problem is the Ringil we get is boring and unimaginative. His being gay seems to be used to mask the fact that the character isn’t very fleshed out. And there also is a noticeable drop off of graphic sex scenes throughout the series. The first book was chock full of them, by the last book I am not ever sure if anyone has sex. Just seems like what could have been fascinating and progressive is instead a tool to boost lazy writing.

This third book has a plot that is alllllll over the place. The end of the second book they plan on going on this journey to an island to find a dead former wizard king of the humans before the Dwenda resurrect him to take over the world. Within 100 pages instead we have a completely different book. The plot ambles on, Egar Dragonbane gets killed by a . . . you guessed it, Dragon. Archeth finds herself through the challenges placed on her and becomes the next viable option for the throne. Ringil gets his revenge and when he finally meets the great bad wizard king, easily deals with him in 3 pages. We have been hearing about this guy since book one, he’s gone in 3 pages. Reminded me of the death of the Night King in GoT. Super underwhelming.

There are some cool characters and parts though. Hjel is an awesome dude, his backstory about wishing to be this great warrior and like becoming a musician was entertaining. Jhiral the actual emperor was fun. But these people played such unimportant roles that they became irrelevant. I believe if he made these characters have their own POV, maybe we would have got somewhere.

Rant over. Series over. Moving on.

Impostor's Workshop

The Impostors’ Workshop

I was listening to The James Altucher Show yesterday (yea I’m a big brain guy) and he had this guy Eric Weinstein on. I promise this has a point to it. Eric Weinstein was talking about confidence, something that every self-help book and therapist and successful business guy/gal talks about. You always get the standard stuff like you need to believe in yourself, just do it even if you are scared, or whatever other bullshit they think you want to hear. But Weinstein kind of skipped over that kind of useless crap and brought up this impostor idea to things, a kind of fake-it-till you make it philosophy I particularly connected too.

The idea is basically that if you look at an area that you would like to do something in, whether it is creative, academic, physical, spiritual or whatever else you can think of, and you are hesitant to try or pursue it because you don’t think you have the proper schooling, training, skills, confidence, talent, personality, body, etc. so what.

Yea my instant reaction to hearing that introduction is probably what you are thinking, how does that address the real issue, which is that I am literally paralyzed by fear because I know I am a fake. Well, Weinstein says embrace that. I’m paraphrasing a little but he said something along the lines of “So what if you are an impostor. Instead of trying to fight it, say to yourself, what if I am an impostor. Maybe my faking it is better then someone’s earnest attempt.”

Now to the point. The area I always have felt like an impostor in is creative writing. It doesn’t matter what I have done, there is always a sense of missing a crucial piece of schooling or training or whatever that makes anything I write suck. I even have had articles I have written published in actual books and websites from real publishing companies (humble brag, though they are medical, geography and media articles, which considering I have no formal education in any of those areas kind of goes with this theme) so there has been real feedback from real people that I am at the very least capable of writing coherent things, albeit non-fiction stuff..

But creative stuff is different, you really are putting yourself out there. Even in creating this blog I have this feeling of being an impostor. I admire the kind of people who can just do something and put it out there without fear. Every time I post something I think to myself how shitty it is. I even know that nobody reads any of this stuff or if they do I have no idea who I am but I can’t shake the feeling that I am going to be exposed as like a fraud. I read blogs all the time and think to myself that I can write better then that, yet I hesitate to ever actually write anything, and if I do I still get nervous putting it out there. So for the sake of embracing my inner impostor, here is some creative writing I had done years ago and occasionally revise. I am going to use this blog to self-edit and put out new versions of this every once in a while. That is the longest intro to doing something ever.

The Duel

He woke with a start, his eyes snapping open, head swiveling to take in the scenery quickly. His head was throbbing, that was no surprise. He was soaking wet, depending on what happened last night, that also was not surprising. As his vision cleared he saw his two people standing over him, one holding an empty bucket. Well that solved one mystery. Not trusting his voice, he groggily sat up and awaited the answer to the next mystery.

“Shes dead” Jacques said.

That certainly explained why the two men broke into his room and woke him. He attempted to get out of bed and stumbled to the ground, which proved particularly painful due to his lack of clothing and the direction he fell. The two moved to help, but he waved them off.

He slowly got to his feet and felt a small sense of pride, not many men would be able to stand when it felt like their head weighed a hundred pounds. Sometimes it’s the little things.

“so what do we do” Jacques asked after accepting his silence as an answer.

Still not trusting his voice he slowly walked to the table and sat. His treasure laid strewn across the table. He took the knife and began to chop the white, rocky powder into lines. After a few moments of doing his best imitation of a line cook, he was satisfied with their length and texture. Not for the first time, he reflected on society’s lack of recognition of the artistry this took. He proceeded to pick up the gold cylinder lying next to the pile and brought one end to the first line, the other end to his nose.

He inhaled deeply till nothing remained of the powder.

Instant awareness. Pure bliss. Power.

He was invulnerable.

Finally trusting his voice he simply stated “He dies then”

“Do you really…”

“Where is the sword” he interjected. He panicked for a moment, frantically looking around the room. But he knew where the sword was and went to retrieve it. Today, after countless nights contemplating, was the day he finally unsheathed the blade. He picked up the blade gingerly, caressing the handle like it was a lover’s flesh. To him it was.

“Today you finally get your wish” he whispered to the blade. He could see the confusion on his men’s eyes out of his peripherals, even when holding his heart’s desire there was not much he missed. They thought he was crazy. He was willing to accept that.

Months in a self-imposed prison, doing nothing but inhaling the white gold and drinking whatever they brought up from the bar, refusing to speak to anyone in person but Jacques, and spending your time talking to a sword might not be the behavior of a sane person.

It did not matter. For today the blade would see the light, and it would feast on blood.

“Just wait a little longer” he reassured the blade.

“Sir are you alright” the other one, Wilth asked. Wilth always spoke to him respectfully, even though he hadn’t spoken back to him in months. The man did what he was told. And was well paid for it.

He did not have time for questions, he picked his clothes off of the ground. His breeches had several holes in them and his shirt was missing a sleeve. It did not matter. He shuffled some of the powder into a satin pouch, tying the knot and placing it with the straw gingerly into his pocket. He placed the longsword on his back and exited the room, brushing by the two men on his way out.

He walked down the hall, his stride was confident, gone was the drug induced haze. As he made his exit, the innkeeper called “Blaser, you gon pay for the room or yer out.”  Blaser, yes that was what he was calling himself. He did not respond, continuing out the door into the afternoon sun.

Its time to kill. He still wasn’t sure whether it was the sword or his own imagination, but either way somebody was speaking to him inside his head. “Soon soon” he consoled the blade. He worked his way along the paved road, the neat two story adobe buildings lining the sides in perfect symmetry. His feet were taking him to the courtyard, which made sense considering that was where Bakmon would be. He walked in the middle of the road, his look was enough to make carts redirect themselves and foot traffic to find another way around.

Hawkers cut their pitch short as he walked by nervously waiting until he past. He pulled the pouch out, opening it just enough to dip the straw in. He inhaled until it felt as if he couldn’t breathe.

Awareness, bliss, power.

As he approached the courtyard it was obvious word had spread. Street toughs, well-armed with spiked maces, stood with expressions meant to hide their fear. He walked past, and as he did they fell in behind his 3 man entourage.

The courtyard was emptied, rare for this time of day. Though the reason for that was obvious, Bakmon himself was standing in the middle, sharpening his gigantic battle axe, surrounded by a gang of armored soldiers.

“So you are alive, well lets settle this the easy way” the orc said. Most men would have been intimidated by a 7 foot orc in malshon armor, but Blaser wasn’t most men.

He ignored the statement, walking towards Bakmon, not breaking eye contact. Bakmon looked away at his soldiers, “Make way you good for nothing fucks”. As if to reiterate his point he took the nearest soldier and tossed him a good 10 feet away. The soldiers quickly shuffled after that.

Blaser made his way towards the middle and stopped when he was two paces away from the orc. Bakmon was surprisingly well-groomed for an orc, his orange hair was pulled back in a bun, and he had a clean shave, which served to make his green skin shine brighter. Blaser continued to stare at him until Bakmon broke the silence.

“Here are their heads, I did not authorize this.” He pulled two heads from a sack lying by his feet and tossed them. A quick glance showed that one was a Subasi troll, the other some Igolo or Samkrit human.

“It does not matter they are your soldiers”

“I guess it doesn’t, just thought you would like to see them dead before you join them”.

The orc certainly didn’t lack confidence.  The soldiers backed up, giving the two warriors plenty of space. Blaser took the pouch out again, and after another inhalation, placed it back in his pocket.

Awareness, focus, strength.

He pulled the sword out and stared. The frozen flame, legendary sword of Licarious, given to him for safekeeping to never to be unsheathed, gleamed in the sun. He forgot where he was for a second as he stared lovingly at the sword. Its clear blade drank the sunlight, the red substance the crystal incased was darker then blood. The pommel was pure malshon, the grip well worn. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever laid his eyes on.

 Kill, must kill. Licarious had warned him, the blade demanded its price. Vaguely he remembered Licarious telling him to hide the blade and never hold it, for the blade could consume you. Blaser didn’t believe him at first, a sword was a mere object. But now he knew, this was more then a blade.

 He could see it in Balkmans face, the orc was scared, he hadn’t believed the rumors. His posture changed, he went from towering over Blaser to backing up defensively, giant battle-axe in a guard position. Without the sword this would have been a close fight, in Blaser’s condition he was as likely to pass out as to strike through the orc’s armor, but with the sword everything changed.

Despite the extraordinary difference in size and Blaser’s obvious lack of armor, he held no fear. Fear was something Blaser had never learned, even before the powder and the sword. He pulled his head back and laughed, the laugh of a madman. When Blaser was done he looked at Balkman, and saw a dead orc. The sword was silent. For now.