Impressive worldbuilding from Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed.

Here’s a book recommended to me by Keri, a longtime fellow book buyer who also recommended to me three of my favorite modern day fantasy books that I just read this past week. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed.

As someone whose main interest is medievalism and fantasy I’m so used to that being the background for worldbuilding in epic fantasy books. So when I read this I was surprised to find it based on Arab and Middle Eastern culture which now seems so obvious as a rich source for worldbuilding that I am surprised it isn’t done more. Maybe it has and I’ve just not yet discovered those books.

The worldbuilding is where this book shines. The magic system is diverse, from the brief glimpse we get of it requires both vocal and written incantations. The types of monsters called ghuls which are raised from different elements including sand, water and skin ghuls. What stands out the most is the main city of Dhamsawaat brought to life by block names, class of people, merchants, factions and of course the royal palace of the Khalif which contains the titled Throne of the Crescent Moon.

The main characters, Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, Raseed bas Raseed, Zamia, Dawoud and Litaz all get points of views which really brings them to life as we get the inner workings of their struggle switching without delaying the action. Each one has both an inner and outer struggle you get to know and understand while also developing the relationships between the characters by letting us know what they think of one another. I think of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire with each point-of-view chapter having a cap off at the end of each chapter. What Ahmed does is switches point of view from one chapter to the next in the middle of action. Just as an example Adoulla could be fighting a ghul with Raseed and be cornered and outnumbered then immediately the next chapter we get Raseed’s point of view as he tries to save his mentor.

The themes that come out in the book that I thoroughly enjoyed because of the switching point of views is the dynamics of age and youth, piety and apathy, experience and naievity. Adoulla, Dawoud and Litaz are much older having had their adventures together for many years. Their reaction to society is less rigid, more open minded as they’ve seen much of the world. Adoulla is very much a cynical old man wishing to retire viewing the established ruling power as incompetent if not corrupt. Zamia and Raseed both have a very rigid view of the world with very little experience of other cultures and ideas. Raseed because of the religious order and Zamia because of her tribe follow a strict set of rules that has been taught to them without questioning if those rules may be wrong or right in a given situation.

Where the novel is weak is in it’s plot development. The middle section after the setup of the conflict takes so long to gather the allies, uncover the secrets of their enemy and develop the plan only for the climax to be over in a blink of an eye. It never gets slow, only because by the time you’ve read the middle section you’re enthralled by the characters. You want to know more about them even when the plot isn’t advancing. The other weak part is the villain himself who we learn almost nothing about except for his name. Then when we finally meet him he barely speaks and is defeated in the blink of an eye after one of the characters finds his inner strength to overcome his self-doubt caused by the villain’s magic. His second in command does all the dirty work and gets the most development through exposition.

Does that seem harsh? I’m not sure but I would still recommend this book despite the little bit of shortcomings. I’m looking forward to the second novel The Thousand and One and how he’ll bring his main cast of characters back together.

A Feast for Dragons

ALL LEATHER MUST BE BOILED: A proposed A Feast for Crows/A Dance with Dragons merged reading order, with explanation (and Dorne Reveal variant) [UPDATED x8]

Credit goes to /u/ReadythePies for posting this in r/asoiaf. When George R.R. Martin wrote A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons it was one manuscript. Instead of splitting it into parts one and two he decided to split by point-of-view characters in certain locations on the suggestion of author Daniel Abraham. A Feast for Crows had all the characters South of Westeros and the Iron Island and A Dance with Dragons contained all the characters from the North and in the general Meereen area.

This link however suggests how you can read them together to form one cohesive novel as originally intended. I think when I eventually reread those two books this is how I will do it.

Nerdist Book Club: THE SILMARILLION

Nerdist Book Club: THE SILMARILLION « Nerdist.

Over on Nerdist.com Amy Ratcliffe is starting a book club. The first book she’s selected is J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Silmarillion which I read right before returning to college in 2012.

It starts off slow but by the end I really loved it and contains the most intense stories J.R.R. Tolkien has ever written.

The Silmarillion was intended to be the three-volume Translations from the Elvish Bilbo wrote in Rivendell and later left to Frodo. Christopher Tolkien later said he regretted not making this apparent in the published copy of the book.

The Problem with Tyrion and Tysha and probably Moon Boy for all I know. (Book 3, Season 4 spoilers)

I’ve written extensively about the adaptations of books into television and films defending change in adaptations, analyzing the process of adapting, and trying to shy people away from the purists idea of adaptations.

This doesn’t mean that all changes made in adaptations should just be accepted. Take the season four finale of Game of Thrones. In one episode they have a change that is both welcome and one that leaves me scratching my head.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

In the episode Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne come across Arya and Gregor “The Hound” Clegane. Words are exchange, misunderstandings are bound and soon swords are unsheathed in what starts out as a straightforward sword fight but soon turns into an out and out brawl. Did this happen in the book? No. Does it matter? Not really, because this is still television and people do expect a bit of action once and a while. Besides that, it is a welcome change to The Hound’s end that quite frankly underwhelming in the book. The only thing that leaves me curious is where Brienne’s journey takes her now that she has found and lost Arya Stark especially with a certain character not being introduced in the finale.

Honestly, as the show get closer and closer to overtaking the books all fans of the book should be prepared for the story to diverge strongly. I, for one, am quite interested as then I get surprises I didn’t expect as a book reader.

That final scene though, with Tyrion, Jaime, Shae and Tywin is some serious changes that honestly leave Tyrion’s motivations not making any sense to me. If you’re only a show watcher then it makes sense, good for you. To those who read A Storm of Swords the change they make with the end of Tyrion’s arc in this season seems out of the blue. It is one thing to change a plot point. It is another to use a plot point straight out of the book but take away a character’s motivation. It is poor writing on the showrunner’s part.

What’s the big deal? show-watchers ask. Let me break down for you. Don’t read this next sentence if you ever plan on reading the books.

In the show, Jaime frees Tyrion because they’re brothers and Jaime doesn’t want his brother to die. Jaime tells Tyrion there is a galley waiting for him thanks to Varys and they hug out, say goodbyes and Jaime leaves. Tyrion then, instead of going to the galley makes his way to the Tower of the Hand where he finds Shae in Tywin’s bed, calling for “her lion” and saying Tywin’s name. Tyrion murders her then grabs a crossbow and bolt on his way to find his father. When he finds him on the privy he confronts his father about why he sentenced his own son to death even though he knows Tyrion didn’t do it. Tywin of course lies and says he wasn’t going to let it happen, says they’ll talk it out back in his chambers. Tyrion doesn’t want to go there. He confesses he killed Shae, who Tywin calls a whore one too many times, tell Tyrion he is no son of his, and then saying whore one more dies at Tyrion’s hands.

Just a couple question about that. Why didn’t Tyrion go to the galley? Why is he asking Tywin questions he already knew the answer to? Did he blow up in that trial giving his grandiose speech after Shae’s betrayal only to forget all about what they’ve done to him? Did he forget that Tywin wanted to take him out to the water and let him drown? That he would never be granted Casterly Rock? Just all of that, poof, out of his mind as he confronts Tywin.

In the book, Jaime holds Varys by swordpoint making him free Tyrion, granted Varys probably didn’t much motivation to do this as he has his own agenda. When Tyrion asks why, Jaime tells Tyrion he owes Tyrion one because, as he reveals, that first wife that was a whore Jaime hired for Tyrion to lose his virginity to. The one that Tywin forced him to watch his guards rape her and giving her silver for and Tyrion last for him to give gold to because he’s a Lannister. The one that Tyrion tells the story to Shae and Bronn to in season one. Yeah, all of that was a lie Tywin made up because he didn’t want Tyrion married to a lowborn woman. Here is where Tyrion reveals Cersei’s infidelity, saying “She’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know” then lies about killing Jaime’s son, Joffrey. Any good ties between Jaime and Tyrion die here and when Varys slyly reveals a passage to the Tower of the Hand in a Oh no, please don’t go there, snicker snicker fashion Tyrion begins his ascent. He finds Shae and kills her, just like in the show but now his motivation for confronting Tywin makes sense. Tyrion wants to know what happened to Tysha, where did she go, not Shae. When he asks Tywin he simply respond Where whores go… before getting a bolt right in the privates.

By changing this in the show, Jaime and Tyrion are still buddy buddy so what is Tyrion’s motivation going forward? What is he going to do? Jaime and Cersei are still on good terms so where their arcs go is going to seem really weak. She’s crazy with grief for Tywin? She hated him in the finale for trying to get her to marry Loras Tyrell. Is Jaime still going to leave to take back the Riverlands even though his lover is struggling in King’s Landing?

So many great lines from the book, throw away for much weaker dialogue. No mention of Tywin Lannister shitting gold, only for his body to stink of shit thanks to Tyrion’s crossbow bolt. That irony, gone, for what? Where whores go won’t linger in Tyrion’s mind as he hopes to find where his former wife was.

I’m sorry, I really do love this show. I don’t mind changes they’ve made except for this one because before it’s always been changes for cutting for time, eliminating characters they couldn’t afford to keep and what becomes essential for adaptations. From my perception, this seems like the showrunners believing they could do the scene better and in my opinion not only did they utterly fail but screwed up the story for future episodes. I’m still going to watch and I’m sure they’ll make it make sense but this has been the largest disappointment in the show I have had since the cutting of Rhaegar from season two.

My Rocky Relationship with Audiobooks.

Oh god somebody listen!

Reader can’t get into audiobooks

I’ve written previously how I listen to a lot of podcasts. Well, one of the advertisements often given on a podcast these days is an offer for a free audiobook from audible.com when you sign up with a special site or promo code. The problem is I just cannot get into audiobooks. I don’t want to say it’s the readers fault but the reader definitely has something to do with it.

Take the A Song of Ice and Fire audiobooks by George R.R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice. He does a unique voice for every character and I do not enjoy a single one of them. When I mentioned this to my brother-in-law he said it was the influence of the show. I gave this some thought and I realized when I read an Eddard Stark chapter I don’t hear Sean Bean as his voice or Peter Dinklage when I read a Tyrion Lannister chapter. Still, Roy Dotrice’s narration for the characters doesn’t match either. I am not criticising his performance at all. From what I can tell it’s superb, but not for me.

You would think it might just for that series because of the varying voices Dotrice uses and the characters being younger than they are on the show. Nope.

Same thing happened to me for many of my favorite series. I’ve tried listening to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Dark Tower by Stephen King and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. All of them read really well by different actors and voice actors but I end up just turning it off.

There are some that have fallen into the yeah, that’s okay but still doesn’t retain my interest which include the fully casted versions of American Gods and World War Z along with The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ll probably keep trying to give them a chance.

There are two that I have enjoyed and they are both read by the author. Maybe that’s the key? I really don’t know. While I’ve heard nothing but praise for the version read by Stephen Fry, the audiobook version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams read by the author is the only one I’ve read all the way through. His comedic delivery, his cadence and that charming British accent matched the reader in my mind with the reader of the audio.

Another one I’ve enjoyed is American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson, also read by the author.  What is different about Ferguson’s book, which I highly recommend, is that I only listened to it and never actually read it. Perhaps that’s the key? Maybe I should search out audiobooks of books that I’m slightly interested in or heard great praise about but have no intention of reading (coughTheHungerGamescough). It is definitely something about.

I constantly hear about how great audiobooks are. For those who commute in their car audiobooks are so great. For professional authors who travel a lot audiobooks are a lifesaver. For people living in L.A. who are stuck in traffic for ridiculous amount of time, audiobooks are the only ways left to read. It’s one of those forms of media I keep giving a chance but always going back to reading rather than listening to them. I’ll just have to keep trying.

What Game of Thrones has been missing, but may add in Season 5.

Some less non-clickbait news from the A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones front is new casting for season five which you can see here. This link is for book readers only. If you have read books four and five feel free to click on that link.

More New Game Of Thrones Season 5 Characters Reveal A Major Twist.

Now, I don’t know what your spoiler threshold is. You may find just the name of a character a spoiler, you may not. I am going to discuss one casting that pertains to the whole point of my blog post. I’m not going to discuss the plot at all but only one casting. If you find that to be a spoiler than don’t go past the image.

 

A Spoiler of Ice and Fire

Spoiler warning.

Continue reading

If you want The Winds of Winter to come out, stop reading about it.

In the news this week on many different pop culture websites is an interview with George R.R. Martin’s editor, Anne Groell speaking about an eighth A Song of Ice and Fire book sprinkled in between words like might, maybe, could be. I’m not going to link it because that would be the opposite of the point I’m trying to get across. This isn’t just a message to you, whoever is reading this waiting for The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring to come out but for me also. If you want it to come out before driving yourself insane you have to stop reading about it.

These news sites like IGN, Salon, TheMarySue, Nerdist, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly and the like are all creating click bait that offer no real news about when the sixth book will come out. If you’re browsing whatever site you see news on, maybe a social network, maybe the site itself, and you see anything that isn’t “The official release date for The Winds of Winter is _____” then do not click it. It’s not going to bring the book out any faster. None of these for the recent interview have been consistent. with their reporting of the interview. Some have reported she definitely said eight books, without a source. Some have reported he has only 168 pages written, ignoring the part that in order to get paid he had to hand in some pages back in February of 2013 (A year ago).

I've been writing with a sausage the whole time, no wonder it takes so long!

This news site will dangle any tidbit in front of you in order to get you to click.

This could mean anything without context. Maybe that was the file he had on hand. You could use some context clues to figure this out. Groell says he’s very secretive about the plot in the book. She knows some secrets but she doesn’t know how it ends. Maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t what a file with his secrets going around.

All I am saying, and I know this from experience, is stop reading about new about George R.R. Martin and when the books will come out. Don’t click on the links that show up on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter or any site. Just ignore it. There are millions of good books out there you can read in the meantime. Reading about when the next book is going to come out is just going to drive you crazy. It won’t make the book come out any faster. In fact, I’m going to say it’ll make the wait feel even longer.

 

In Praise of The Hobbit Illustrated by Jemima Catlin.

Recently, I purchased a new edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit illustrated by Jemima Catlin thinking hey, this might be a great version to read to my nephew in the future or my kids if I decide to have any. I was taken aback when my copy arrived in the mail on Saturday.

20140602-214638-78398108.jpg

The Illustrated Hobbit

 

You can’t discern it from the photo but this edition is heavy. Not heavy like a big leather bound version of The Lord of the Rings but more like a children’s book that would endure the abuse of being carried around by a child.

To claim our long forgotten goldddddddd.

The cover is flecked with gold bit that shine in the light.

Not just in the title but in the tree Bilbo is leaning and and the animals on the right is bits of gold that really makes the cover stand out. The outside of the cover feels like felt, soft like a stuffed animal.

The Green Door of Bag End.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Each chapter begins with an illustration like this. I must admit this is one of my favorite illustrations of the green door of Bag End.

"Who spilled ale on the map, who was it? huh?"

Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you.

Larger illustrations like this are sprinkled throughout the chapters. What I enjoy about, and this is no way a jab at Peter Jackson or Alan Lee (who a lot of Peter Jackson’s designs and looks are based on) but I am glad all the characters don’t just look like imitations of the movie versions.

Take that, words!

Considering The Hobbit, or There and Back Again as Bilbo names it, is actually written about Bilbo some people believe the stone giants were in fact made up by him.

Then in pages like this, with the battle of the stone giants, it spreads over the pages as if the words of the book are in the story itself. This similarly happens in the scene with Gandalf lighting the pinecones and throwing them at the wargs.

Beorn to be wild.

So soon they were all seated at Beorn’s table, and the hall had not seen such a gathering for many a year.

Then full page illustrations like this are done for big moments in the books like say, meeting a sleeping dragon. I’m not going to spoil that here as it is a nice surprise when you see it.

This isn’t a review of The Hobbit. I mean, the text is exactly the same as it is in any other volume of The Hobbit, except maybe The Annotated Hobbit. Where this volume stand out is the illustrations. If I were a teacher, this would be the volume I’d read to my kids to introduce them to the world of Middle-Earth and fantasy fiction. If I were a parent of a young reader this would be the volume I’d give them for Christmas or their birthday.

The binding is quality material, beautiful yet durable. The illustrations are beautiful yet still approachable for children and the story is of course a brilliant faerie (in the traditional sense of the realm of the fays) tale.

Somes gems from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

I think it was Neil Gaiman who recommended it on his blog years ago, but I was going through my wishlist on Amazon when I came across this book.

1811dictionaryofthevulguartongueoll

A used copy wasn’t very much. Not the 1.95 that appears on the cover but something like 3 or 4 dollar. I started browsing through early this morning and decided to share some gems with you. Warning, some of them are indeed, as the title says, vulgar but in a strange archaic way. Some of them are still kind of gross.

Apple Dumplin Shop – a woman’s bosom

Banbury story of a cock and a bull – a round about, nonsensical story.

Barrel Fever – he died of barrel fever; he killed himself drinking.

Cackling Farts – Eggs.

Covey – A collection of whores. What a fine covey here is, if the devil would but throw his net!

Death’s head upon a mop stick – A poor miserable, emaciated fellow.

Dicked in the nob – Silly. Crazed.

Eternity Box – Coffin.

To Flash the Hash – To vomit.

Frenchified – Infected with the venereal disease. (Even in the 18th Century France was the butt of jokes.)

Gap Stopper – A whoremaster. (So many of these words are about prostitution in some way. I haven’t even touch the precipice of how many words there are about whores.

Hobberdehoy – Half a man and a half a boy; a lad between both.

Jerrycummumble – To shake, towzle, or tumble about.

Indorser – A sodomite.

King’s Pictures – Coin, money.

Laced Mutton – A prostitute. (That one is especially vulgar.)

Line of the Old Author – A dram of brandy.

Member Mug – A chamber pot.

Nimgimmer – A physician or surgeon, particularly those who cured venereal disease.

Occupy – To occupy a woman; to have carnal knowledge of her.

I think that’s enough. Going through this now I am getting a theme of 18th century England slang. It involved a lot of words for having sex, prostitutes, brothels and venereal disease. I mean what I posted here was just me going in alphabetical order randomly picking words by placing my finger on the page, and I still got words along the sex with prostitutes and spread of diseases theme.  Maybe P – Z is just filled with words about how happy they are in 18th Century England, but I doubt it.