The Legacy of Robb Stark.

For viewers, it has been over three years since the Red Wedding episode, “The Rains of Castamere” of Game of Thrones aired on HBO. For readers, it was the year 2000 when A Storm of Swords first came out. For me, it was 2012 that I first read the third book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. While many have poured over every page dissecting every word for theories on where the series will go my To-Be-Read pile has only gotten bigger keeping me away from rereading the series until recently.

Robb Stark, the eldest son of Eddard Stark, has been ever present in my mind as I reread the series. Mostly, in relation to what has happened to the North after book three / season three and what has happened to Jon Snow in season six. Spoilers ahead.

spoilers-not-today
Continue reading

Advertisements

Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere Beyond The Well of Ascension.

If one shouldn’t judge a book by a cover, even though that’s basically what book covers are for then one might also try to never judge an author by one book.

Where Brandon Sanderson was concerned I did exactly that. While the first two books I read by the fantasy author, Elantris, and Mistborn: The Final Empire belong with some of my favorite fantasy novels the second Mistborn novel, The Well of Ascension, left a bad taste in my mouth that has kept me away from  all Sanderson novels since 2012.

We find Vin after having defeated the Lord Ruler, who has acted as their god for a thousand years, and being reunited with the man she loves has become an angsty teenage brat in her early twenties. Elend and the remaining members of Kelsier’s crew from the first novel don’t act any better. Then there’s Zane. Oh, Zane, you are a shitstain of a villain.

This isn’t about shitting on The Well of Ascension, and believe me, I could for at least a thousand more words. The point is, the second Mistborn book left a bad taste in my mouth that stopped me from reading anymore Brandon Sanderson novels from 2012 to late 2015.

Fellow frequents readers and bibliophiles will empathize with this. Your “To Read” pile increases much faster than your “Read” pile. Therefore, you may own a book but not necessarily have read it yet. Then one of your friends starts reading one of those books you own and it awakens a fire in you. “I have a competition in me,” you might say, “I want no one else to succeed.” They can’t finish that book before you, you’ve owned that book for years! You have the first edition!

Maybe it’s more like, you want to be part of something, a story, a world, or an experience along with your friend at the same time he’s going through it. Simultaneously, this happened me to with Sanderson’s
series and the 2nd Era of Mistborn. I had one friend who long since read The Alloy of Law and was breezing through The Shadows of Self. Another had started The Way of Kings with praise all around for it.

So, despite my apprehension, I dived in. The Alloy of Law immediatly grabbed me. I had missed with the world of Scadrial. The powers of Alomancy and Feruchemy greeted me like an old friend. The book was sprinkled with hints of a history I was familiar with.

The Way of Kings beginning was a slog through muddy swamp water. The beginning is mind-bogglingly slow but when you reach the other side it’s like walking into an oncoming storm. Everything is happening, everything is connected, and nothing will be the same. I was hooked.

I ate up books from the Cosmere like I was starving. Shadows of Self, Words of Radiance, and The Bands of Mourning were all read before March 2016 even hit. I reread the first two Mistborn books and while I still hated The Well of Ascension I knew it was one bad book out of many amazing ones.

Finally, after refusing to read it back in 2012 I picked up the third Mistborn book, The Hero of Ages. You have to remember I had already read three of the books from the second Mistborn series. I knew the fates of Vin, Elend, Sazed and the rest of Kelsier’s former crew. You’d think already knowing what happen it wouldn’t hit as hard but that third book’s ending is still devastating.

All this in mind, when I finally read Sanderson’s new novella, Mistborn: Secret History I wasn’t prepared for what happened. I wasn’t prepared for the reunion with some of my favorite characters. I wasn’t prepared for this interwoven plot that is Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere. I was blown away.

Finally, I ended my journey where I began with Elantris. That was the book that made me fall in love with Sanderson’s writing that I had somehow lost struggling to hate-read through The Well of Ascension.

Maybe, though, that break from his book is what I needed. I washed the bad taste of the second Mistborn book out of my mouth and returned to his Cosmere older and with a new perspective on stories and writing. I am highly anticipating my next chance to go exploring through the Cosmere when Oathbringer, the third Stormlight Archive book comes out.

The Coziest Fantasy Novels When You’re Snowed In.

The snow is falling, it’s too early to shovel, and you’re stuck in the house. The perfect time to go to a whole other world. I mean, that’s what fantasy novels are for, right?

Maybe you’re cold, tucked under layers of clothes and blankets, and sitting around your heater. You’re in that state that comes with blizzards, halfway between wakefulness and cozy relaxation. You’re awake but if you laid down now it might be the best nap you’ve ever taken.

Perhaps you’re not in the mood for the bleakness of certain fantasy novels such as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series. Fantasy’s not known for its coziness but it has its moments.

Before it becomes darker in the later volumes, Harry Potter’s first three books The Philosopher’s Stone (or The Sorcerer’s Stone), The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban lean more towards children’s novels then the latter. Before Harry discovers the dark side of the Wizarding World and his past he gets to see the light side like a cup of warm hot chocolate.

But you’re all grown up, and you’ve already read through those enough times that you need something new. While Brandon Sandersons’s Mistborn and Stormlight Archives are much more intense, his debut novel Elantris unravels the mystery of its world more slowly. The story crecendos with the right amount of action perfect for reading with a single lamp with a blanket wraped around you.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods seems like it was written for getting snowed in. It’s a road trip across America and across the mytholigical landscape of the past. With Norse mythology involved you know they’ll be snow.

Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind can be harsh, but not intense the same way grimdark novels can be. It’s more melancholic than grim. There’s a sadness to it that you can appreciate sitting down at your kitchen table after shedding your snow boots and warm your hands back to normal temperature.

Maybe you want a bit more adventure and a lot more snark. After shovelling your driveway you can laugh at Sam Sykes’ characters constant quips. The pacing is slow, but the story never bores you. It’s part of what’s great about Sam Sykes’ style of writing, he takes in time developing his plot and letting his characters breathe like real people.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings always felt like the perfect for books to read during a snow storm.  It has that feel of a classic novel or of a story being read to you by a parent.

Then when you’re done, if you’re shivering in your home, then you can pick up A Game of Thrones and start reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should Book Readers Watch Game of Thrones’ Sixth Season?

On April 24th, for the first time since the show premiered, readers of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series will be completely in the dark about the fate of Westeros and its characters.

Martin recently announced that The Winds of Winter is not finished nor will it be in time for release before the premier of season six. As far as whether the next season will spoil the books Martin answers “Maybe. Yes and No.”

Season five saw the biggest divergence of the stories yet with the death of major characters that still live on within the books. Not only that but budgetary and time restraints has certain characters from the books completely absent from the show. So no, their stories will not be spoiled.

The bottom line is that all the most beloved characters will have their stories spoiled for readers of the series. That includes Tyrion, Jaime, and Cersei Lannister, Arya, Sansa, and Bran Stark (Maybe Rickon too?), Daenerys, her dragons, and all of Meereen. The Greyjoys, the Martells, the Boltons, the Baratheons, the Tyrells, the Night’s Watch, the Brothers Without Banners, The Wildlings, and even the Others will all have their stories spoiled. The amount of characters free of being spoiled is negligent compared to this amount.

Readers are then left with a decision, to continue or stop watching Game of Thrones. With HBO looking to renew Game of Thrones for up to eight seasons that leaves those on the fence with some math to consider. It is likely that within those three years The Winds of Winter will be released, but what of the final book in the series A Dream of Spring? That might likely not be released until after the series has ended, based on the time the sixth book has taken to release.

So are you, dear A Song of Ice and Fire readers, able to resist not only spoilers for three years as the show airs but also five years and change for the release of the next two books?

Let’s be clear, A Song of Ice and Fire has a huge audience but the show’s is even larger. It’s not simply a series you watch but a social event that you discuss. To avoid spoilers for five years plus may ostracise you socially unless you fill that void by talking about other shows, events, and sports that take up pop culture. That’s an extreme view of it, you may go about your life avoiding spoilers all the times like it’s no big deal. It’s not like Game of Thrones is always publically discussed

It’s not like Game of Thrones is always publically discussed, covered constantly by the media, or posted about across social media. It’s not as if HBO releases a string of trailers and preview for seasons that recap the previous ones while discussing upcoming ones. It’s not as if the amount of spoilers released between the time of the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser and the time of its release are any indication of the difficulty it will be avoiding spoilers.

That’s one year. One year between the teaser and the release of Episode VII. In that time, it had two localized trailers, an international trailer, a teaser, and television footage. It’s actually quite remarkable how we collectively agreed as a fandom not to spoil the movie for each other.  Can your recall Game of Thrones viewers

Can you recall Game of Thrones viewers being that kind? Were you one of those who lorded over your knowledge from the book to your friends? Did you record their reactions to the Red Wedding? Do you think they may be petty enough to get their revenge? Seeing videos of people reading books while their friends cackle in the background doesn’t sound as exciting.

Still, this may be an opportunity for the showrunners to completely diverge from the direction of the books. They may have no choice with the elimination and death of certain characters. HBO may get their wish, in the end, to have a season nine happen giving Martin more time to release the next two books. Even less likely, but not impossible, is Martin may have A Dream of Spring better planned out in his head as he envisioned the series ending after three books, then five, and now seven (and even contemplated an eighth book.)

No matter the outcome, some spoilers are inevitable. You’ll have to decide if you will remain unsullied or not from them.

 

Author Sam Sykes Tweets About Writing, Characters, and Emotions (Plus My Two Cents).

You should read Sam Sykes’ The City Stained Red, Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles Series, and Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy.

What’s So Exciting About Book Adaptations?

Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Kingkiller Chronicle” was recently optioned by Lionsgate for not just a movie, not just a TV, and not just a video game but all three. This has caused a stir amongst fans of the book all across the social media landscape while people who’ve never read the books are shrugging as they read this.

Put your favorite book in place of “The Name of the Wind” and imagine how you would feel. Are you excited? Finally, that book you fell in love with is going to be a movie, a television show, and a video game. It’s exciting news! Why though?
The readers who make up a fandom around a certain series have become savvy to how books become movies, TV shows, and video games. We’ve also seen how those adaptations can disappoint. I’ve written extensively on why our expectations for adaptations can be harmful, often expecting too much or maybe too hard to it without understand how these adaptations are made.
I don’t stand alone with the knowledge of the arduous process of making these projects nor have I entirely kept my Sword of Adaptation Criticism sheathed in regards to the last two seasons of “Game of Thrones.” The news of Patrick Rothfuss’ deal did beg the question, once my own excitement died down, why do we get so excited for news about adaptations in the first place?

The reality is: Do you have a favorite character? There’s a chance he or she may be cut from the script. Do you have a scene that cry every time you read it? Or feeling a swelling in your chest when that satisfying moment comes on the next page? It might not make it in there at all. That line from the book you quote all the time? It might be said by a completely different character because the one that originally said it was cut and now one word of it was changed so it’s just a little bit off from the original. That line though is of course everyone favorite who has seen the movie / show so you have to hear it said wrong all the time and attributed to someone completely different. Lucky you! That subplot you thought really developed the protagonist, the one that really got into his head, well there’s no time for that anymore.

These are just some of the pitfalls of adaptations. It’s not like the author can write the scripts, pick the casts (though sometimes they have a hand in that), designs the settings, costumes, and props. He or she is too busy writing their next book. Even if the author took the first crack at the screenplay there could be three others who rewrite next, and all of them have their own perspective on the series.

Just look what happened with the screenplay adaptations of the Harry Potter books. Steve Kloves may have set JK Rowling at ease when he told her Hermione was his favorite character, but he made the trio completely unbalanced by giving Hermione all of Ron’s best moments and dialog in addition to her own shining moments.

The fact is there is going to be change when it comes to the adaptation, and a lot of fans of the books are not going to like it. So why do we get excited at the prospect?
Because, and I think a lot of readers will agree, when you love a book you want others to love it too. Adaptations are the easiest gateway to that. I have many friends who decided to read “The Lord of the Rings” and “A Song of Ice and Fire” because of the Peter Jackson’s trilogy and the HBO series. As a result it has led to many great discussions and conversations about them to an English Major like myself, nothing is better than discussions about books.

Also, there is a bliss that comes when they get it right. I remember that feeling watching the pilot for “Game of Thrones” from the beginning when the gates to Castle Black opened to the end when Jaime Lannister lamented the things he does for love. Imagine that opening scene when we’re introduced to the Waystone Inn in whatever “The Kingkiller Chronicle’s” adaptation becomes is exciting. We want to see the world we imagine for so long.

The second question I asked myself after I asked why do we excited is why do we need adaptations? There’s a reason why writers need adaptations. Financially, being a novelist is chaotic. There is no steady pay but peaks and valley. If you’re a writer and you are entering that valley period an optioning deal may be what keeps you afloat. For readers, though, why isn’t the book enough? I’m speaking generally, of course, because there are definitely people out there that don’t feel the need for the adaptation and they’re self-aware enough to not indulge. If the story is still ongoing, it’s a chance to get more. If the story is over, it’s a chance for it to be revitalized for a new audience and for the reader to relive the experience.

It may not seem like it, but we want to like adaptations. Who doesn’t want new favorite movie or show? How nice is it to turn on the TV and see a story we love on it? We want more of the story and the world. That’s why it is exciting, the prospect of more of that story that make us happy.

Featured image “Wise Man’s Fear” by Marc Simonetti. 

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.

Continue reading

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?