Crossing a Street in Spring

If you and I are Facebook friends you’ve seen my album of Boston in Spring pics. The last I lived in the Boston area I hated it. I mean *HATED* it. I looked for things to hate…and there are plenty (potholes that can swallow cars, rude people, the grayness, the crumbling infrastructure, the very fact that it was not California and never would be…wait, that last one was more about me, wasn’t it?)

Like I said I tried to find things to hate and then felt justified in falling deeper and deeper in hatred with Boston. This time I decided to make it a do over. (Did I mention that I had do-overs in….wait for it…California???!!!! already). And now California is my Shangri-la, my city on the hill…where I hope to live forever and ever in Jawahara heaven! Oh well, on to Operation Boston Love.

So Tuesday dawned bright and blue and wonderful and off I went to meet a new friend. She lives in town, on Beacon Hill no less, two blocks from Boston Common. We had a great meal at a lovely Italian place called Fig. Right across from us were quaint, cost the earth little shops on Charles Street, a specialty food store (DeLuca’s I think), and lovely little bistros and ice cream shops.

Then we walked back to her place….for some freshly brewed Nespresso. I had the Ristretto. It was lovely. Ok, yes, you don’t share my passion for the Nespresso…but we bonded something fierce. She’s European, she loves Nespresso and has the coolest penthouse pad. And did I mention the Nespresso?

I walked back to my cart that was parked under Boston Common. I walked through the Public Gardens. And I was struck by how just…well beautiful it was. The grass was not really green yet but it was getting there. Even though my backyard still has snow out in the ‘burbs, the gardens were devoid of any white stuff. People were walking dogs (one woman had 6), the bronze ducks (inspired by Make Way for the Ducklings) were decked out in the finest, gaudiest Mardi Gras beads, couples lazed on park benches, and everything gleamed in the way they in the first nice days of Spring.

IMG 1316 - Crossing a Street in Spring

And I felt alive. And happy.

There was Washington’s statue, the general and horse frozen mid-stride. There was other statues. The lagoon was drained of water and a few geese and ducks had gathered near a mud-hole in the center of it, cackling loudly. The world was coming alive, climbing out of our long winter.

I crossed the street and entered Boston Common. This is where Bostonians of old grazed their cattle and sometimes got together for bit of family fun and togethernesss…to watch public executions. You know…fun times! Now it’s peaceful, verdant….full of joggers and walkers and tiny fashionistas with their tiny dogs dressed in pink winter-wear: both dog and owners. The tall buildings around us gleamed in the strong sunlight, the dome of the State House glistened. Then I heard a jingling bell, yes, the tourist trams were running. No duck tours yet but it’s still early.

IMG 1323 - Crossing a Street in Spring

It was wonderful and I tried not to believe that there was rain forecast for Wednesday. How could that be? Just look at this bright, beautiful day. How could there be rain tomorrow.

I paid my parking ticket. $22! Yes, 20 fucking 2 dollars!!! I guess there will be rain tomorrow. And there was. Tons, buckets of rain! Arrrghhh!

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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.

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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.

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