Steel Is The Answer for Abercrombie’s Last Shattered Sea Novel.

Joe Abercrombie goes in swords and axes swinging in his third volume of the Shattered Sea series of Young Adult novels. War looms over Father Yarvi, Thorn Bathu, and Gettland through the eyes of three new point-of-view characters for a novel that is closest in tone to The First Law trilogy.  Only detraction is the non-stop action and abrupt ending leaves Half A War with less room for moments of character development but otherwise satisfying conclusion. Read more for spoilers.

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Can A Well-Made Sequel Improve The Original?

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how bewildered I was over Joe Abercrombie’s “Half the World” being such an improvement over the first book in the Shattered Sea series, “Half A King”. Now that the third book in the series has been released I decided to reread “Half A King” and see if my opinion has changed.

It has. I don’t have Patrick Rothfuss’s hype for the book clouding my opinion anymore nor does the predictability of the plot bother me because obviously having read it before I already know what happen. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel that way anymore because it was overhyped and the plot was predictable. However, there are details that I missed the first time around that made Yarvi’s fate at the end seem less disappointing and more foreshadowed. His meeting with Mother Gundring at the end set up the continuing conflict for the rest of the series and I felt like I completely missed it the first time.

My point is, “Half The World” changed my opinion of “Half A King.” That usually doesn’t happen with sequels from my experience. Sequels tend to be less than or equal to the original. A poor sequel can make an opinion of the first stronger. A poor sequel can run the enjoyment of the first. What if, though, you disliked the original but loved the sequel as the case with myself and the Shattered Sea series.

What if “Prometheus 2” fixes everything about the first one? What if “Alice Through The Looking Glass” takes the taste of disappointment of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” out of our mouths? What if another Indiana Jones could make “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” worth watching? Most movies don’t get that chance and for good reason. Making a movie requires a lot of money, therefore, to invest it into a sequel to an underperforming movie would be a bad investment. Then again, not all poorly received movies do badly at the box office nor is a poor opinion of anything completely objective.

With video games, it’s more than the story you have to think about. The gameplay can completely change from one game to another. “Mass Effect 2” continues the story of the first “Mass Effect”, but the gameplay so much improved it makes playing the first one difficult to endure. “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” and “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” takes place in the same universe and the share the same history but the stories are self-contained and the gameplay is radically different enough they could have no connection whatsoever. “Borderlands 2” takes the concept of the first and blows it up twice as large to great success.

Back to books, should the first book of a series be judged on its own or as part of the whole? Yes and no. For me at least it’s a case by case basis. The disappointing epilogue of “Harry Potter The Deathly Hallows” doesn’t change my enjoyment of the rest of the books in the series but “The Well of Ascension”, the second book in the “Mistborn” series managed to ruin the first book and the third for me. Though I still enjoy it, “A Feast for Crows” is slow compared to three previous books in “A Song of Ice and Fire” but it doesn’t take anything away from them. “The Lord of the Rings” completely changes the importance of BIlbo’s journey in “The Hobbit”, but it doesn’t suddenly become any less a children’s novel.  Before it was revealed that Go Set A Watchman was revealed to be a first draft never supposed to be published I had decided to never read it knowing it would ruin Atticus Finch for me based on the news that he was now an elderly racist. Don’t even get me started how “The Silmarillion” both changes and doesn’t change “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” at the same time.

So a sequel can change the perception of the original. It can improve it and worsen it. The question comes down to like it did with “Half the World”, whether you should give the sequel to an original you were not fond of a chance? Books, movies, video games, television shows can all cost money to consume one way or another. You may not have the money or you may have too busy a life to risk the chance. Keep in mind though what you may be missing out on. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s worth risking your time and money.

 

Questions Remaining About Harry Potter Pre-Nineteen Years Later.

On September 1st, 2017, Harry Potter will send his second son Albus Severus Potter to his first year at Hogwarts as detailed in the epilogue of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling. In Summer of 2015 I finished my second read through of all seven books.  Unlike some of my friends who are two to three years younger than me, I was just a little too old to be sucked into the Harry Potter craze. I saw “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” in theaters plus the following two movies, but they had no lasting impact.

It wasn’t until a box set of all the hardcover editions was rereleased in 2007-2008 that I decided to read them. Simply put, for someone who often reads fantasy the Harry Potter series is a palette cleanser, a refresher, or a desert to the often bleakness of most fantasy. They’re children’s novels though the latter three could likely  be now labelled Young Adult, that you can read in one sitting and generally leave feeling happy and positive about the world.

That epilogue though that jumps nineteen years later leaves a lot of questions. Not about their kids, which is the essential problem with it, because I didn’t read about their kids for seven books, therefore I have no real interest in them going to Hogwarts. This should have been a second epilogue after one I’m proposing now that answers some if not all of these questions that Rowling has not answered post-series.

  1. What happened immediatly after Voldemort’s death?
    • What did they do with Voldemort’s body?
    • When did students return to school to finish that year at Hogwarts after the battle?
    • How did they deal with the remaining Death Eaters?
    • How soon did the news get out of Voldemort’s defeat?
    • After Kingsley Shacklebot was named Minister for Magic, what were the imediate changes to ministry?
    • How did Andromeda Tonks react to the news her own sister had killed the parents of her grandson? or that Molly Weasley killed her sister?
    • Did Neville Longbottom get the praise he deserved for killing Nagini and retrieving the Sword of Godric Gryffindor?
  2. What happened shortly after Voldemort’s defeat?
    • How did Molly Weasley react to Harry and Ron’s news that they would not be returning to Hogwarts?
    • Did Harry tell anyone else what he discovered about Snape and when?
    • When did Harry and Ginny official begin their relationship again?
    • Knowing the Malfoys were acquitted after Voldemort’s fall due to switching sides at the end what was the details of their trial?
      • Did Harry speak on their behalf?
    • Where did Harry end up living after the Second Wizard War? Grimmauld Place? The Burrow? Godric’s Hollow?
    • Unlike Harry and Ron, Hermine returns to Hogwarts for her seventh year. What was that like?
    • Did Ginny become Quidditch captain for Gryffindor after Harry and Ron were gone?
    • Who became the first Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in the first year after Voldemort’s jinx on the job has been lifted?
    • What was Molly and Arthur Weasley’s reactions to Hermione and Ron’s relationship?
    • What role did Harry play in Teddy Lupin’s life as a baby?
    • When did Professor McGonagall officially became Headmistress of Hogwarts?
    • How did Hogwarts change post Battle of Hogwarts?
  3. What happened in those nineteen years? (1998-2017)
    1. What was Auror training like for Harry and Ron?
    2. What were Harry and Ron’s first assignment as Aurors?
    3. What made Ron quit being an Auror to manage the joke shop with his brother?
      • Was it because he never wanted to be an Auror but was following his best friend?
      • If they became Aurors shortly after the final book, then Ron would still be very young. Did he realize being an Auror wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life?
      • Did he feel obligated to help his brother?
      • Was the joke shop failing without Fred?
      • Who were Harry’s co-workers in the Auror department besides Neville Longbottom and Ron Weasley who both left the department?
        • Any characters we know?  I bet Rowling has a whole new cast of characters in her head.
      • When did Arthur Weasley retire?
      • After years of the Weasleys taking him in and giving him Christmas gifts what wonderful gifts did Harry give them the first time he was earning money of his own as an Auror?
      • What rights did Hermione earn for elves, goblins, and other magical creatures?
      • How did Minister Shacklebot, Hermione, Ron, and Harry revolutionize the Ministry for Magic?
      • If Harry didn’t end up living there, what happened to Grimmauld Place?
      • Did Harry ever actually go into his parent’s former home in Godric’s Hollow?
      • When did Luna begin doubting the beliefs of her father?
        • Speaking of Luna, besides marrying Rolf Scamander what kind of career did Luna have?
      • Who got married first, Harry and Ginny or Ron and Hermione?
      • Did Harry see Teddy Lupin off in his first year of Hogwarts?
      • Were these times completly without any dark wizards?
        • Or dark arts practicers that aurors like Harry and Ron had to track down or duel?
          • Is that possibly why Ron quit being an Auror?
      • What happened to Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas?

The audiobook versions done by Stephen Fry are floating around on my desktop, so I’m sure when I give those a listen I’ll have more questions. Right now, I’m left wondering what having this many questions left over means. Does this mean the ending is unsatisfying or is Rowling’s world fleshed out so well it leaves you wanting more? Will these question ever be answered, and do they need to be?

 

Changing the Dark Tower V: The Final Book and Modred: All Hype, No Substance.

When those doors open to the Dark Tower at the end of Stephen King’s final volume the journey for Roland and his Ka-Tet will come to an end. The journey, however, is not without its hiccups and so here are some suggested changes for the “The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower.”

My posts on “The Wolves of the Calla” and “The Song of Susannah” focused more on criticism rather than changing those volumes. Most of the changes of “The Wolves of the Calla” are the result of changes in earlier novels, like introducing Father Don Callahan in an earlier book. With “The Song of Susannah” the changes suggested were cutting and pasting bits from “Wolves of the Calla” for the beginning, and the beginning of this final novel for the end. This would give the sixth book a more coherent story from beginning to end. Now let’s talk about the beginning of this novel. Obviously, there will be spoilers.

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When the Audience is Bored of A-Listers, The B-Listers Will Inherit the Superhero Movies.

For an indeterminate amount of time, comic book fans have been ranking their heroes (and villains) like celebrities with  “A” through “D” rating.

In DC Comics Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have always been A-List heroes. However, characters like Green Lantern, The Flash, and Aquaman have fluctuated, falling to B-Listers in the 90’s, then rising again to A-listers in the mid-oughts.

Marvel is a bit stranger. In the early oughts, Brian Michael Bendis disassembled the Avengers for a good reason. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America struggled as B-Listers in the late 90’s. Thor had been killed off, Iron Man was turned into an alcoholic and then a teengager  and Captain American in general seemed directionless. The rest of the Avengers just didn’t have the popularity of their other franches.  Marvel spent years building the Avengers back up to A-List characters, and thanks the  X-Men and Spider-Man being licensed to other film companies they had no choice but to build a movie universe on the back of the Avengers.

If they had owned the licenses for those two powerhouse franchises, Iron Man would not have been the first cinematic universe film under their own film company. They took a character, Iron Man, which the mainstream audience did not know and turned him into one of the biggest characters they currently have. They did it again with Guardians of the Galaxy, which people knew even less than Iron Man. Likewise, 2003’s Daredevil was an embarassment as far as movies go but Marvel took the franchise and turned it into the most watched and highest rated show on Netflix.

By regaining, rebooting, and revitalizing the Spider-Man franchise they’re also pushing back the inevitable. Marvel knows this, that’s why movies like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel were merely pushed back rather than replaced by Spider-Man movies. Then, with the rest of the Defenders series on Netflix they’ll turn Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist into characters people know essentially raising their ranks from B and C-Listers into A-Listers. They took a character like The Vision and made him the most standout character of Avengers: Age of Ultron. They took a character like Ant-Man and made a entertaining and successful movie about him, which some people found laughable when announced.

On DC’s side it is a bit more worrisome, as far as movies go. Thanks to the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Warner Bros. believes the grim and gritty approach is the way to go as far as their own cinematic universe goes as evidenced by their dark approach to Superman in Man of Steel, the trailer for Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad. This may work at first, but the novelty of it will end quickly. What makes The Flash television series so refreshing is how far away from the Batman tone it is. It’s optimistic, funny, light hearted, and colorful. No dreary colors, no over serious faces, and 90% less angst.

The novelty of Suicide Squad, and Batman v. Superman has a problem. If it wasn’t for Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman the appeal of these movies is what they’re doing differently with Ben Affleck’s version of Batman, and Jared Leto’s version of the Joker. This’ll only last so long. They need movies with different tones with different characters. If they try to Batmanify characters like Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman (which is what it looks like they’re doing anyway) people will become fatigued. Marvel realizes an Iron Man movie should not have the same tone as a Captain America movie, but does Warner Bros. realize that?

The B-Listers will eventually inherit the Marvel movies but if Warner Bros. relies too much on the success of Batman to see what is unique about their other characters they’ll be doomed to fail before they even begin.

Changing the Dark Tower Pt. III: Wolves of the Calla

Finally through the boring fire that is book three of The Dark Tower by Stephen King we leave Wizard and Glass behind to return to the main story of the series with the Wolves of the Calla and The Song of Susannah. Though not the best in the series the Wolves of the Calla is definitely the best of the later books in the series while The Song of Susannah leaves you wondering whether it is wholly necessary or wishing there was more.

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What to Read While Waiting for The Winds of Winter.

Supposedly, George R.R. Martin has finally finished the sixth installment of A Song of Ice and Fire titled The Winds of Winter, according to one of the directors from Game of Thrones. Until it comes from the source this is enitrely speculation. Luckily, there are a lot of books out there for you to read while you wait. Fantasy has not sat back waiting around while Martin works on the book in MSDos, continuing to publish books on par with his ambitious series.

Some of these recommendations are simlar to A Song of Ice and Fire, some only share the same Fantas genre, and lastly is a list of those recommended by others but whose qulaity can be corroborated. By the time you finish this list, maybe the real release date will be announced. Maybe even the book will be released by the time you’re done.

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself

Before They Are Hanged.

The Last Argument of Kings.

First Law World by Joe Abercrombie

Best Served Cold

The Heroes

Red Country*

Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind

The Wise Man’s Fear

The Slow Regard of Silents Things (An in between novel.)

Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Red Seas Under Red Skies

The Republic of Thieves

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Apprentice

Royal Assassin*

Assassin’s Quest*

Crescent Moon Kingdoms by Saladin Ahmed

The Throne of the Crescent Moon

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim

Kill the Dead

Aloha from Hell

Devil Said Bang*

Kill City Blues*

The Getaway Gods*

Novels by Neil Gaiman

Good Omens (written with Terry Pratchett

Neverwhere

Stardust

American Gods

Anansi Boys

The Graveyard Book

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Books by China Miéville (There are others but I can’t recommend them.)

The City & The City

Kraken

Embassytown

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisen

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Broken Kingdoms

The Kingdom of Gods

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (Though I did not like books two and three.)

The Final Empire

The Well of Ascension

The Hero of Ages

Shattered Sea by Joe Abercrombie

Half A King

Half the World

Half A War

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium

The Hobbit

The Lord of the Rings

The Silmarillion

The Dark Tower by Stepehen King

The Gunslinger

The Drawing of the Three

The Waste Lands

Wizard and Glass (The worst in the series.)

The Wolves of the Calla

The Song of Sussanah

The Dark Tower

Other Books

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

 

Books Recommended by Others / Series I Haven’t Read Yet

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings

Words of Radiance

The Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Fool’s Errand

The Golden Fool

Fool Fate

The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy

Fool’s Assassin

Fool’s Quest (coming in August 2015)

Assassin’s Fate (forthcoming 2016)

Other Books

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

*Haven’t read yet but didn’t want to cause confusion by breaking up the series.