Friday, August 28, 2015

Path of the Planeswalker

I don't know how I feel about Path of the Planeswalker. I absolutely loved the art from the majority of the book (apologies to the artists - I ran out of room and couldn't tag you all). It honestly reminded me of when I read the Halo Graphic Novel. Awesome artwork, but rather hard to follow stories. Unlike the Halo Graphic Novel, the stories seemed to tie into one another (or at least some of them did). The main arcs involved Chandra and Jace hunting a scroll for different reasons, and Liliana Vess with this weird veil. Over and over again, I felt like these stories would have been better in prose form - while the art was awesome, the stories all felt like they needed more explanation.

So like the Halo Graphic Novel, I ended up giving this book a 2/5 on Goodreads, making me glad I never did go buy Path of the Planeswalker Volume 2.

The Book of Three

Back when I was in school, I had to read The Black Cauldron. I don't remember it very well, but I do remember liking it a lot. I liked it enough that I bought the first book, too. I was planning on getting the other ones and reading all five, but it's seven years later and I never did get them. So I figured I might as well read The Book of Three now (especially since it's a shorter book and I'm on a quest to read 50 List books this year).

Unfortunately, The Book of Three was nowhere near as good as The Black Cauldron. I found Taran to be super annoying throughout at least two-thirds of the book, which made it super hard for me to read. So what should have taken me maybe two or three days to read ended up taking double that.

The Book of Three is the first of Taran's adventures. Taran dreams of adventure and being a hero. When Hen Wen the Oracular Pig runs off, Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper, heads off after her. In his quest to bring her home, he encounters all of his friends for the first time, notably Prince Gwidion, Gurgi, Eilonwy, the bard Fflewddur Fflam, and Doli. All the while, Taran complains about everyone (especially Gurgi and Eilonwy, both of whom are extremely helpful) and makes multiple bad decisions that almost repeatedly get the group of them killed (Gwidion isn't with them at this point - they believe he perished in Spiral Castle, which is where Taran met Eilonwy and the bard. Taran actually blamed Eilonwy for his death at one point because she rescued Fflam instead of Gwidion, but it was Taran who insisted she rescue the man in the other cell because he assumed it had to be Gwidion).

I understand that The Book of Three was all about Taran having his first adventure and growing up a bit because of it (and he actually did mature a bit by the end). But honestly, if I had read The Book of Three before The Black Cauldron, I would never have picked up the second book. As it stands, The Book of Three turned me off of the Chronicles of Prydain.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Elric of Melnibone

I've had Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone for at least ten years now. An old friend recommended it and I put off reading it. It sounded intriguing enough, but I wasn't sure it was the sort of thing I would like (not being familiar with that friend's taste in books). But I figured it was past time I actually read the thing.

Elric is an albino who also happens to be the Emperor of Melnibone. But he is no typical Emperor; Elric tends to be introspective and concerned with morality, which is foreign to the Melnibonean way. His cousin, Yyrkoon, makes this clear; Yyrkoon believes that he is the emperor Melnibone needs, not Elric.

When Melnibone is attacked by barbarians, Elric rallies his troops to the defense. All goes well until Yyrkoon betrays his cousin, sending Elric to his death at the bottom of the ocean. But Elric is not without friends, even at the bottom of the sea; the elemental King Straasha saves Elric. Returning to (and beating Yyrkoon to) the Ruby Throne, Elric declares Yyrkoon a traitor to the throne. Of course, Yyrkoon refuses to let that be the end of it: he escapes using sorcery, kidnapping his sister, Cymoril, (who happens to be Elric's lover) in the process. Elric is forced to chase Yyrkoon to the ends of the earth and even into another world in order to save his love.

As I said, Elric of Melnibone is an intriguing story. Unfortunately I found it to be a bit dated in both writing style and plot. The two men were fighting for a large chunk of the book not only for power but for Cymoril as well (Yyrkoon said a few times that once Elric was dead, Cymoril would be his). The writing is rather sparse, and none of the characters seem to have much character at all. Which is rather unfortunate because Elric himself is quite interesting. How often do you see a fantasy hero who needs to take magical drugs daily to function? (Of course, even this is taken away from him when he gets his rune sword at the end of the book). While I was left with some questions at the end of the book (like where did the other rune sword go?), I'm not really interested enough to look for the next book in Moorcock's Elric Saga.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Faeries of Dreamdark: Silksinger

I absolutely loved the first book in Laini Taylor's Faeries of Dreamdark series (Blackbringer).  I loved it so much that I bought a copy of the second book, Silksinger, right away.

I waited too long to read Silksinger.

I read Blackbringer over two years ago.  Way too much time has passed, and I barely remember the story now (besides that it was awesome!)  So it was rather tough to get back into the series.

But that was ok.  By the time I was halfway through Silksinger, I was once again in love with Dreamdark.

Silksinger is the story of several faeries.  Once again, Magpie Windwitch is here with her family of feathers (crows) and her friend Talon.  They're hunting for the remaining Djinn, to awaken them and return them to Dreamdark.  Talon, a scamperer (he has wings that are too small to fly with), has knit himself a pair of feathered wings.  Together, he and Magpie find the Ithuriel, before going in search of the Azazel.

A continent away, Whisper's family is attacked by a swarm of devils.  Both of her grandparents die fighting them off, leaving Whisper alone to protect the Azazel.  Whisper is the last of the Silksingers, a faerie clan long thought to be dead.  Their voices allow them to manipulate the Tapestry; they were famed for their flying carpets, which haven't been seen by others in millenia.

Whisper manages to make her way to an outpost, where she stows away on a caravan heading to Nazneen.  There she meets Hirik, a lad with big dreams and even bigger secrets.  Hirik longs to find the Azazel, to become the Djinn's champion (especially now that the Djinn are awakening and Magpie has become one of their champions already).  But he is a Mothmage, a clan also believed to be dead.  As legend goes, the great warrior clan sat idly by while the last dragon, Fade, was destroyed.  The Silksingers, who were not warriors, bravely flew to Fade's side on their carpets, only to be slaughtered along with the dragon.  The Mothmages were exiled and presumed dead in the aftermath of that battle.  But in truth, they are not dead.  And neither were they the cowards everyone believed them to be: the Mothmages were ensorcelled by a ruby left there by their greatest enemy.

I will admit, Silksinger was somewhat predictable, particularly concerning Whisper and Hirik.  But it was still a fantastic read.  I am sad to know there are currently no more Dreamdark novels written.  But hopefully Taylor will get back to the series (especially since Silksinger ends on a bit of a cliffhanger - I need to know more!!!!)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Halo: Blood Line

I don't have a whole lot to say about Halo: Blood Line.  I've had this graphic novel for several years now (I think I got it around the same time I got Helljumper and Uprising).  Blood Line is the story about Spartan Team Black, a team of Spartan-IIs I've never heard of before. They're sent on a covert operation to kill some Covenant when their ship crash lands on a moon.  At the same time, a Covenant ship also crash lands.  Both sides are attacked by an unknown enemy, which captures members of both teams.  So the survivors (both Covenant and Human) band together to rescue their comrades.

Blood Line is also the story of family.  Team Black has become its own family through its history of growing up together and working together.  On the other side, a pair of Elites are brothers.  The strongest one, Ship Master Thon, has always looked after and protected his much weaker brother, Reff.  Blood Line is about what both kinds of families will do for each other (and also what family means in both contexts).

Finally, Blood Line is the story of how Iona, the AI of UNSC ship Long Time Coming ended up part of Spartan Team Black.

It's a little hard to follow all of the action, but overall Halo: Blood Line is an excellent read.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Phule's Company

A friend at last year's 4th Street Fantasy suggested I give Robert Asprin's Phule's Company a try. This spring I found it at a local used bookstore. It sounded really funny, so I decided to give it a try after finishing both the Bone: Handbook and Rose.
Phule's Company is about multimillionaire Willard Phule, the heir to Phule-Proof Munitions. Phule joined the Space Legion, where he was going to be thrown into jail for accidentally attacking a peace ceremony. But because of who he is, the Legion decides to put Phule in charge of an Omega Company. An Omega Company is a company where the Legion sends all of its misfits. Basically the plan is to give Phule command of an impossible group of people, with the hope they will drive him to quit the Legion.  But Phule has other plans. It's his intention to take the company and turn them into an effective fighting force. 
Besides, he's got experience doing this sort of thing with businesses. How hard can it be?
Phule's Company was pretty hilarious all the way through. The antics of Phule's Legionnaires (and even Phule himself) were pretty great. Phule was a very unorthodox commander, which worked wonders for bringing his bunch of misfits together (and even seeing them through to a tie against the regular army's crack troop squadron).
One thing I wasn't fond of was the book's blurb though. It set me up to expect something much bigger than what the book actually delivers. The blurb says Phule's Company is mankind's last hope. But I'm not really sure why. I mean, the final encounter was against a bunch of peaceful aliens. No one was in any danger at all (especially not all of mankind). It's possible that statement refers to something later in the series (which may or may not have been alluded to), but that's about it.
So that was Phule's Company. I enjoyed it, but the end was kind of a let down. For that reason, I'm not sure if I'm going to look for the other books in the series.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bone: Rose

I'm not going to lie: Bone: Rose was my least favourite book in the Bone series.

Rose is a story about Gran'ma Ben's past.  Before she was
Gran'ma Ben, she was Princess Rose Harvestar.  I was super excited to read about Gran'ma Ben's past, because she's a hilariously awesome character in the main Bone saga.  

But this is a story set before Gran'ma Ben was hilariously awesome.  Here she is a somewhat naive princess.  Her and her sister are sent early to complete their test to become Dream Masters (although Briar, her older sister, has a blind dreaming eye, and so wonders why she's being sent).  

In a dream, Rose frees a small river dragon from a river.  The next day she finds the same dragon, who is in reality much bigger.  After fighting, the dragon leaves to go and terrorize the nearby village.

In the middle of all this, Briar, who in fact has a strong dreaming eye (she's been hiding it from everyone for years) is working to free the Lord of Locusts and unleash nightmares on all the world once again.

Okay, I admit, I'm not entirely sure if that's what the Lord of Locusts was planning on doing.  But that's what happened when he originally took over the dragon queen Mim.  Plus it sounds cool.

I hope I made the story sound exciting.  Unfortunately, I found it to be a rather bland read and I'm not entirely sure why. But the artwork of Charles Vess is gorgeous, and that's why I gave this book 3/5 stars instead of 2 on Goodreads.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bone Handbook

When I bought the Bone Handbook, I honestly thought it was another graphic novel like Tall Tales or Rose. So imagine my surprise when I picked it up off my shelf about an hour ago and realized it was a guide book to the whole Bone world?

Along with having some info on the characters and the world, this guide book also has little trivia tidbits and interviews with both Jeff Smith and Bone colourist Steve Hamaker. 

The Bone Handbook was a super quick read and a great refresher of all things Bone. I'm a bit worried it spoiled the Rose graphic novel for me (although the main Bone story may have done that already), but other than that possibility, I was glad to read it! (Especially since it's been almost four years since I read the main story and only vaguely remember most of it!)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Howl's Moving Castle

A friend at 4th Street Fantasy recommended Diana Wynne Jones this year.  So when my brother and I were coming home and found Howl's Moving Castle, I decided I had to get it.  I saw the movie years ago and remember liking it.  But other than remembering that the castle was much smaller on the inside than it was on the outside, I don't remember anything else about the story.

Howl's Moving Castle is the story of Sophie.  Sophie is the eldest of three daughters, which everyone knows means she is destined to fail at everything.  Sophie gets cursed by the Witch of the Waste, who turns her into an old woman.  And so Sophie sets out on an adventure in the hopes of getting the curse reversed.

Her adventure takes her straight to Howl's Moving Castle, which has been seen from her village moving around in the hills.  Sophie strikes a bargain with Calcifer, the fire demon who moves the castle.  If she can figure out how to break Calcifer's bargain with Howl, Calcifer will remove the curse that is on Sophie.

Howl's Moving Castle was a super cute story.  I am so glad I read it, and I really am looking forward to reading more of Jones' books (...especially since Goodreads tells me there are more stories in this series!)