Dungeons and Dragons

I’m sure many of you know by now that I play dungeons and dragons (D&D) about once a week. It’s one of my favorite things to do; being someone else for a few hours can be empowering.

In the campaign I am in now I’m a half-elf rogue. Half-elves aren’t taken seriously in the D&D world. The description for their physical features is something like “humans know you’re not human and elves know you’re not an elf.” Rogues are shady kinds of characters who are really good at hiding and stealing, and on top of that, my character is an opiate addict. (Inspired by Jem in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series.) I thought I was playing a character who was very different than I was. Who would never make the same choices I would, cause that is some of the fun of this game. To help you think, perceive, and act differently. It’s great!

After a few weeks of playing this character, one of my friends pointed out that this was the first time I seemed to really role-play this character. He has been playing for years now, and he said that he thinks it’s because this character was an extension of me and he could see that. I wasn’t sure if I should take that as an insult or not, but he assured me that it was a good thing.

I really thought about it. I was sort of half-elf in real life. It wasn’t until I started to take myself seriously that everyone else around me did too. I lost some friendships over it, but I’m better off now. This character wasn’t taking herself seriously until last night.

We have this blood-eating sword. When it was forged, it was meant to eat souls. Whoever has it can use that power to kick some really awesome butt. The party entrusted it to one of us, and he slaughtered a village of people with it and took off. Not such a good choice on our part. But when we got it back, cause we’re that cool, I decided to take it. Mostly because the monk has taken a vow of poverty, the cleric doesn’t care for it, and the fighter can’t hold anything because of something or other. So I, the opiate addict, gets it. Our goal now is to destroy, or I should say that my goal is to destroy it. So we find an old god to tell us how to destroy it. And of course it’s an insane quest. We have to go to where it was made and it happens to be the comet flying by. But there is a catch.


The person taking it has to be a good guy, or the villain will be able to take the sword and make it into what he needs it to be to do evil stuff. But I wasn’t sure who the good guy was. Our party is not the most righteous bunch. I mean, not too long before this was happening, two party members started swinging at each other in the middle of a crowd because of testosterone, and I started taking bets. When we were trying to figure out if any of us could be that guy, it dawned on me that I was the best intentioned of us in this party of self-indulgent screw-ups. I could be the Frodo of this quest. It wasn’t until then that my character started to take herself seriously. It wasn’t because I had all this power at my fingertips or because I was the “good guy”. It was because I now had a purpose other than stealing, hiding, and getting high.

The whole point of this is that this is how I felt when I decided to become a teacher. And not just any teacher, I want to work with children like me. The ones no one takes seriously, including themselves. Not that I was getting high or any of those things. But I was just hanging out, working a service job, and had no plans at all for the future. I wasn’t thinking of anyone else.

But now, I have a purpose. I’m gonna save the world.

leDgjatdaGyPK - Dungeons and Dragons


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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.