A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want

As you probably know, I love lists. I love following them, checking things off them, and boy do I love finishing them. Whether it’s To Do lists at work, tasks I have to do at home, or (of course) reading lists. I had great plans for the months of May and June, mostly consisting of lots of Hugo nominations and a few new releases here or there. But what does my brain want? Well… whatever it wants, apparently.

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fables deluxe edition 02 - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
fables deluxe edition 03 - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
fables deluxe edition 04 - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
fables deluxe edition 05 - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
fables deluxe edition 06 - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
fables deluxe edition 07 - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
fables deluxe edition 08 - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
fables deluxe edition 09 - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
fables deluxe edition 10 - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
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Fables by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

For no reason I can discern, my eye fell on my bookshelf a few days ago and got stock on my Fables shelf. I’ve been reading this graphic novel series for years. It’s big! It’s finished, at least, but it’s still a looooong series and as much as I adored the first instalments, there was no way I could read them all in one go, especially since the editions I own weren’t even all published then. I had three of the deluxe volumes left (collecting three to four of the paperback volumes, which in turn collect several comic issues… yeah, it’s complicated; which is why I went for the rather expensive deluxe editions because they just collect everthing). By whim or fancy or whatever else, I picked up Volume 13 and I was BACK in that world and there were cliffhangers and twists and character deaths and there was no way for me to stop reading until I was done.

I feel a bit deflated now because finishing a series that long, leaving characters that have been in the back of my mind for many years, well, it’s a sad occasion. I was quite happy with how things turned out story-wise, but now… no more Fables. At least no more main-story Fables. I still have the Fairest spin-off series to read and a new Wolf Among Us game was announced, although we’ll probably have to wait at least another year for it to come out. But that’s something to look forward to, right?

Overall, I can recommend this series to anyone who loves comic books, fairy tales, and epic fantasy. Maybe one of these days, I’ll gather my thoughts enough to post a review of the entire series, although it will be one hell of a challenge to do that without spoilers.

Currently Reading

Again, instead of following my own plan of getting the Hugo books read before anything else, I picked up some books by gut-feeling, just because I wanted to. My track record with finishing series I’ve started is generally not great, so I am mostly happy that I’ve decided to continue some of them before I forget what the first books were all about. But it does mean I’ll have less time to get to those Hugo finalists…

farthest shore - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want

The Farthest Shore by Urusula K. LeGuin

I thought the Earthsea Cycle just wasn’t for me when I first read A Wizard of Earthsea. But then, on a re-read, I discovered new things about that book that I just couldn’t appreciate the first time around. I still didn’t love it but it was good enough for me to pick up the sequel. And that completely stole my heart! So of course, I had to continue reading. Again, the fact that the series is finished gave me the necessary push to finally catch up. I’m not as taken with this book as I was with The Tombs of Atuan but I still enjoy it a lot and I’ll probably dive straight into Tehanu once I’m finished.

city we became - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

I have yet to read a bad book by Jemisin (I doubt I ever will) but this is something else! Although very, very different from her epic fantasies, this books is just sooooo good, you guys! The city of New York comes to life but it’s too much to hold for one single person as its avatar, so every burrough gets its own avatar. Except they’re not entirely sure what to do with themselves and not each of them has all the puzzle pieces needed to fight the strange threat to their city. So they have to find each other and figure out where to go from there. There is a ton of social commentary here, there are fantastic, amazingly diverse characters, the writing is stellar, and I just can’t get enough of it. I already know this will be on my Hugo ballot for next year even though I’m only at about 60% right now.

magician - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want

Magician by Raymond E. Feist

This book (or technically the first half of this book) is the May pick for the Sword & Laser book club and while I’ve read the first half – Magician: Apprentice – many years ago, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to continue the series. But because my memory was hazy at best, I started from the beginning. I am now smack dab in the middle of the book, my re-read of the first half is done and now I only have new stuff ahead of me.
Magician has a ton of flaws but it also offers comfort in these trying times. It may not be original, but it is kind of nice to read about humans, elves, dwarves, and trolls in a medieval Europe-ish setting. There’s nothing new here, no fantasy species I have to learn about, no interesting power dynamics, no difficult politics… it’s just two boys having the adventure of their life. There’s an alien invasion, war, learning magic, and potential romance. Look, this won’t end up being a favorite and you’ll hear all my gripes in my review, but I’m enjoying it anyways.

Plan to read next

In my last post, I had a whole plan. I started only one of those planned books (the only one not currently nominated for awards or sent to me for review…). The same thing will probably happen again this time, but I will do my best to somewhat stick to it, at least.

planetfall - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
rosewater - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
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exhalation - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
deeplight - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want
in an absent dream - A Mini-Update – Where I Break All My Plans and Read What I Want

  • Emma Newman – Planetfall (series finalist)
  • Tade Thompson – Rosewater (series finalist)
  • Martha Wells – Network Effect (new release)
  • Ted Chiang – Exhalation (novella and novelette finalists)
  • Frances Hardinge – Deeplight (Lodestar finalist)
  • Seanan McGuire – In an Absent Dream (novella finalist)

Okay, I should manage reading some of those Hugo finalists in the next few weeks, right? Except, we all know I will pick up the long-awaited Murderbot novel before anything else… because who can resist Murderbot, especially now that another novel has been announced. I am so excited!
If I only read some of those planned books, I will count it as a victory. Having finished all the finalists in the Best Novel category, a large chunk of reading is done. The novellas, novelettes, and short stories are all shorter so I’m sure I can finish all of them as well. However, the Lodestars have a couple of big books that are nominated, and let’s not even talk about the Best Series shortlist.

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I hope all of you are healthy and well, wherever in the world you are! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. We’ll all get through this together! And until then, pick up a good book or two to distract yourself from this very real-life pandemic.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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