Six Years and Shifting Gears

It is hard to believe that it is six years since I started this family history blog. My first post, Help from the Grave, was dated mid-October, 2013. Since then, I have tried to post an article every two weeks (except during the summers) about my ancestors. This is post number 148.

Over these six years, I made a lot of progress with my research. I broke through several brick walls facing the Shearman family, who immigrated to North America from Waterford, Ireland (Breaking Down My Shearman Brick Wall); I tracked down the elusive Lucie Bagg, half-sister to Stanley Bagg (Lucie Bagg: Her Story); and I unraveled some of the mysteries surrounding my great-grandmother Samantha Rixon’s family (The Ancestor Who Did Not Exist). Writing the blog has helped me to focus on important questions about these people, explain my conclusions and back them up with notes and footnotes.

I knew nothing about my great-grandmother Samantha (Rixon) Forrester until a few years ago, and my research revealed that some of the family stories about her were untrue.
This research has given my husband and me a great excuse to travel to Scotland, Ireland, northern England and London. We’ve also been to Winnipeg, Toronto, rural Ontario, New York State, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. In Montreal, we have become familiar with people and places in Mile End, a neighbourhood that is far from our house but was familiar territory to my ancestors.

I have been very lucky to be a member of a family history writing group. Calling ourselves Genealogy Ensemble, nine ladies meet monthly to share our discoveries and improve our writing skills. Every few months, I simultaneously publish my stories to both Writing Up the Ancestors and to that group’s collaborative blog, www.genealogyensemble.com. Two years ago, we collected our favourite articles and published them in a book we called Beads in a Necklace: Family Stories from Genealogy Ensemble.

I’ve also become involved with a similar blogging project in the small community on the coast of Maine where I spend my summers, encouraging people to write about their own families and summer memories.

Now it is time to shift gears. The new posts will continue, but at a slightly slower pace as I am starting to pull together the articles from my blog, revise and update them where necessary, and collect them into a self-published book. Actually, two books, one for my father’s side of the family in Upper Canada and the western provinces, the other for my mother’s Montreal ancestors and their colonial New England ancestors. These two families’ stories are very different, so two separate books will make everything more manageable. Still, it will involve a lot of work.

As for Writing Up the Ancestors, in the coming year, I will focus again on my Montreal roots, especially the Bagg family. They were well known in Montreal’s 19th-century English-language community and, believe it or not, there is still a lot to learn about them.

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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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