French Revolutions for Beginners

Has another event in European history affected the age we live in as much as the French Revolution? Hasn’t every political debate, every crisis of our time been directly shaped by blood spilled and lines drawn in the sand throughout the events that unfolded in those first months, years and decades following 1789? Left and right, republicans and traditionalists, radicals and radicals and a thousand more shades of radicals, each more extreme than the other, killing ripping each other to bloody bits, some for political expediency; others out of loyalty to egalitarian beliefs; yet others, like the members of the lower aristocracy and the bourgeois with whom the tide began, wished for more incremental reform — say, a liberal democracy! Little did they know the beast they were unleashing.

The French Revolution is a snake that eats its own tail, and this excellent introductory novel shows just how events pushed Paris ever deeper under the mud and blood of revolution. There’s plenty to enthrall and horrify — the lithany of beheadings, the crushing debt and superinflation France goes under as result of its financing America’s war for independence, the startling turn in fortunes for some of France’s best and worst.

I must sound slightly insane, proclaiming such events ‘enthralling.’ Oh, well.

As you might’ve guessed by the title, this novel covers more than just the first revolution – fixating on Napoleon’s exploits for a sizable chunk, it eventually goes past the 1850s, in fact, covering even the Paris commune in 1871.

Excellent illustrations by Tom Motley, both poignant and funny. Motley’s pen captures many of the paradoxes of different revolutionary idealogues, pierces through the hypocrisies of the time and challenges the reader to reevaluate certain events through a different angle entirely.

This is a great starting point that leaves a lot unsaid — and it’s up to you to find out which events to dig deeper about. Me, I think I’ll get better acquainted with Georges Danton, a lawyer and revolutionary plagued by scandals about the misappropriation of revolutionary funds. The Napoleonic era is also one I’m itching to start with, and there’s plenty I want to learn about the inner workings of the Paris Commune, short as that lasted. Soon, very soon!

Oh, and help yourselves to my absolutely favourite passage:

Georges Danton must’ve been a lark to be around with.

Just in case you needed a…heh…taste.

Battle for the Abyss by Ben Counter – Mini Book Review

Occasionally, you come across a fantastic Warhammer 40k novel that puts every other book in the shared universe to shame. Battle for the Abyss isn’t one of those occasions.

What it is, is a spacemarine story through and through. It fills out all the checkboxes: honour, brotherhood, sacrifice (and sacrifice, and some more sacrifice for good measure), internal conflict eventually resolved for the greater good of the Imperium.

I listened to this book for ten hours and can barely remember three character names out of the dozens within. Let’s see — Mhotep (whose name I almost turned to Mahtock, a week after finishing the book; only my notes saved me here); Admiral Lady and evil Zealot Space Marine Admiral from the Word Bearers. I’m not sure if that last name is hyphenated but it correctly corresponds to the character’s role in the book. Mhotep was actually interesting due to the fact that he’s a Son of Magnus (the Thousand Sons Space Legion eventually turns traitor through no fault of their own, which sounds like it has all the makings of a tragedy) and we don’t get anywhere near enough of those in the first ten Horus Heresy novels.

Great narration, as always – Garreth Armstrong knows how to make even a mediocre novel entertaining. And make no mistake, I was entertained – the 2.5 stars But you know, maybe I don’t have to give this novel a three-star review on Goodreads. I think, this time, two stars will do.

What else is there to say about it? The action scenes were alright, I suppose. Standard Warhammer 40k thoroughfare. But ever so derivative. Unfortunately, that’s the second book by Ben Counter that leans towards this particular judgement — one more, and I’m

And what’s up with the zealous zealots, anyway?

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon is now Available!

The latest novel by Benedict Patrick, an author I admire and consider a friend, was released yesterday! I, distracted lad that I am, messed up and didn’t post about it when I ought to have, so here’s to making amends! I recommend you grab this novel on Amazon, it’s well-worth it.

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon is an excellent novel of adventure, exploration and self-discovery. I reviewed it on booknest.eu last week but in case you want the highlights, here they are:

Benedict Patrick takes a sojourn away from the folklore-infested Yarnsworld series and pens a short, remarkably enjoyable standalone in a world as imaginative as anything I’ve come to expect from him. Add to the mix a likable lead by the name of Min, an elderly Samuel L. Jackson as her mentor, and a petty villain who will make you want to strangle him time and again, and you’ve got a memorable journey ahead of you.

[…]

The world is endlessly interesting, not just because of the dragon, introduced in a spectacular fashion early on—really, what a great reveal!—but because it’s a gateway between uncountable other worlds, each one full of possibility for adventure. And indeed, what I enjoyed most in my time with Flight of the Darkstar Dragon is how well it channels the spirit of adventure, the joy of exploration. That’s perhaps what I liked most about Min and Brightest both, the hunger to see, to experience more of the great unknown that is just a step away in the Darkstar Dimension. Benedict recently described this novel as his way of capturing the feeling of the Fantastic Four comic books, and I can’t move past that comparison – that’s something he’s managed to succeed in with passing colours. Nothing captures the hunger that drives Reed Richards and his family, or Darkstar Dragon’s main characters, better than the following quote:

How could anyone live a full life in one world, when they’ve tasted so many, and know there are endless wonders out there to sample?

Plenty is left unanswered about the nature of this dimensional gateway but that never feels like a weakness of the storytelling; rather, it’s a conscious choice of the author. With an ending such as this, there’s no limit to what Min can get up to next – and I, for one, would be all too happy to find out. My score for this novel is 4.5/5, rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads!

You might want to read this for:

·         The sense of exploration and adventure, of worlds unseen and within a hand’s reach;

·         The great mentor-mentee relationship between Min and Sam Ja—Brightest;

·         The dragon;

·         Thinking with Portals;

·         And More! Prob’ly.

Kassandra The Eagle Bearer – A Cannibal?

…Asks the newest investigative journalist of THE ATHENIAN CULTIST! The answer may shock you.

This is it, I’ve peaked with my YouTuber career…is what I’d say if I wasn’t just getting started with the bizarre, weird and damnably funny videos! Gods, I’m the worst.

Honest, this was so much fun to work on and even more fun to watch once it came together. The b-footage itself isn’t anything exceptional but I played with so many effects I’d never touched before, like typography in Adobe After Effects. I kept coming up with ideas that made me giggle throughout – I hope you’ll enjoy watching as much as I enjoyed making it.

For Your Reading Pleasure, A Pair of WebToons Comics: Lore Olympus and Urban Animal! (October 5th Edition)

Lore Olympus

Romance isn’t my genre but the myth of Hades and Persephone has always stuck with me. What Lore Olympus does is, it reimagines the gods as living in modern society, with all that entails — technology, complex relationships, hints of egalitarianism that somehow fiercely contrasts with half the panels with Zeus in them, and more. It’s a distinctly late-2010s sort of comic book, distinctly American in the way it deals with some heavy topics and that’s no criticism on my part.

The chemistry between Persephone and Hades is incredible and without a doubt the webcomic’s driving force but there’s a lot more going on. Side characters get entire issues for their stories, such as the Eros/Cupid-Psyche side plot. Further, mysteries are introduced one after the other, making the world feel multi-layered and unique in unexpected ways. Surprises abound over the 80 or so issues of this comic.

And the art? Gorgeous, it has this pastel quality to it that is nothing short of breathtaking. I even made a pinterest board with a few of my favourite panels! Check it out, if you’d like!

I love it, I do, I do, I do! And I can’t wait for more Olympian mischief, chaos and godly fun. Oh, yes, the humour is…it’s really good. The art works in tandem with every joke (and sets a fair few up all on its own) and it nails each and every bit of comedic set-up has great pay off.

Love those modern-day Olympians!

For my closing note, what astounds me most of all is, this is all the work of one single creator, Rachel Smythe. Rachel is chock-full of talent, that’s wot I think.

Urban Animal

You know what this one reminds me of? Kirkman’s Invincible and Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man. It might not be a superhero comic book but it threads similar ground – characters find themselves possessing great power and forced into doing something with it for everyone’s But it’s got the same quality of sleek, fun supporting characters and the art really reminds me of the expressive quality of Cory Walker’s illustrations.

Joe is a chimera, a champion of nature capable of transforming himself in different animals — to start with. A chimera’s abilities are pretty effin’ cool, let me tell you that. Reminds me a bit of Malazan’s D’ivers and soletaken — especially one character whose chimera ability allows him to transform into a mischief of rats.

The first season was amazing. While it tackles with a lot of familiar ground that superhero comics go through, like the young protagonist hiding his powers and flaking out on his friends and family, I thought this particular aspect of Joe’s story was handled well and the resolution came about naturally.

The second season has only recently begun but already it’s got me hooked!

Crazy revelations, cuteness, bloody murder and some serious psychological warfare on our main character all make for a great story that’s well worth the time investment. And the art is, as you’ve probably gathered by now, absolutely great. It really does remind me of Invincible but with a hint of something else there — and the colour gammut has a lot of these gorgeous amber and browns contrasted with the most stunning light blue that just spells trouble for everyone. Another one on my weekly list and it deserves to be on yours, too!

How about you? Any web comics you’re currently following with interest? Leave me a suggestion in the comments below! And if you’ve read any one of these two, tell me what you thought about them, what you loved, what didn’t quite work for you.

See you next time, Reader!

Darkest Dungeon In-Depth: The Crimson Curse DLC Isn’t Too Great

A hundred and forty hours spent playing the Darkest Dungeon, and at least half of them spent in putting out the horrors caused by the inhabitants of the Crimson Curse DLC. Great boss design, fantastic new class – the Flagellant — and beautiful character/environment art do not make up for the infuriating amount of grief that the Blood causes. Awful, awful mechanic.

But I’m done with these videos — I only have to put them all together and upload the completed version, and that’ll be the end of it. To tell you the truth, Reader, I lost some of my enthusiasm towards Darkest Dungeon — even so, I did my best not to let that show in these last few videos.

Bakemonagatari, Vol. 01 by Oh!Great – Book Review

This manga is based on the original light novels by NISIOSIN.

Alright, I’m apparently branching out into manga — first time for everything. I was looking through NetGalley a few days ago, searching for something new and intriguing and what do I come across but the first Volume of a manga adaptation to something I’m familiar with? I saw the Bakemonogatari anime years ago, and was struck by how unique its visual style was — on par only with the eeriness, the sheer bloody strangeness, of its story.

The art is praise-worthy. Oh!Great’s art consists of clear lines, which was a relief since I often struggle with the visual overload so frequently present in a lot of manga art. It properly communicates the moods of characters and their intentions. The writer-artist is enormously talented with the pencil, that’s for sure, and I am looking forward to how this looks on paper as compared to digital. The few double-spreads in this first volume showcased the kind of art I’d put in a frame on the wall, and looking at them cut in half in a .pdf file felt very wrong indeed.

Onto the bad…or at least the mildly, wildly annoying bits. There’s a fair amount of fan-service here, which works great for my sixteen-year-old self but at twenty-four comes across as gratuitous and unnecessary. Pretty art, sure, but I could do without the panty-shots and several even more over-sexualized elements included inside.

It doesn’t quite capture the quirky nature of the story as presented in the anime. It doesn’t have to – they’re two different adaptations of the same core material but this operates in a different medium entirely and it’s a good way to reacquaint myself with a franchise I never got to explore in full.

The story, alas, lacks clarity. Some will find it difficult to comprehend, which is where my familiarity came in use. I had at least some knowledge about what was going on, and I’m not entirely sure the dialogue succeeded in recapturing the eery feel of the light novel as much as it was confusing. It gets clearer about midway through.

If you like manga, if you’ve heard about the Monogatari franchise but prefer this medium to anime — I’d say, go for it! The release is in October — my personal score is 3.25 stars out of 5, or a 6.5 out of 10. It lacks that extra something to give it a score of 3.5/5; as it is, the art pushes it to a level just above the utter averageness of most 3-stars.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a review copy.

God of Gnomes by Demi Harper is Released Today!

One of my favourite debuts in recent memory is now available for purchase over at Amazon! This isn’t an affiliate link or anything, I just really like the bookand think it deserves attention.

Now, if you want to know a little bit more about it, I put my review of it up over at booknest.eu last week. For an excerpt of the full review, you need only read on below:

God of Gnomes is special. A book that isn’t afraid to play with well-known fantasy tropes but nonetheless makes them feel fresh, God of Gnomes has a whole lot of heart, a solid portion of enjoyable, well-written action and a memorable protagonist with a huge personality and a tiny gem where a body ought to be.

Demi Harper’s debut at first borrows from and then further develops ideas that (if I’m not mistaken) were first introduced in Dungeon Keeper, the dungeon building video game series originally from the late 90’s. As someone who does a fair amount of gaming, I’m familiar with the gratification this subgenre offers – even if I wasn’t aware of the Dungeon Core subgenre in litRPGs before getting this review copy. Apparently, there’s a growing body of Dungeon Core books and while I can’t speak about any of the others, God of Gnomes captures the essence and gratification of the games.

Our protagonist’s name is Corey, and she’s a God Core. A newly discovered one too, exhumed from the depths of the earth by a tiny, ugly creature in the very first chapter of the novel. What the first quarter of the book deals with is much like the tutorial level to any strategy game – Corey has no clue what role she’s fallen into, how to take on her duties as a god to these disgusting, dumb creatures she’s supposed to care for, these gnomes. Thankfully, she’s got a helpful wisp by the name of Ket to show her the ropes! The interaction between Corey and Ket is fun and funny – the wisp is continuously enthusiastic, bright and eager to offer all the information Corey could ever need, and more; the God Core meanwhile is short-tempered and even frightened by this new responsibility she’s suddenly forced into taking on.

There’s a threat inherent to any opening that relies heavily on exposition, especially when that exposition takes on the form of explanation of a character’s abilities and limitations. Like a dungeon builder’s tutorial, there’s always the threat that it’ll drag on, even become tedious. How Demi Harper avoids this is not just through the interaction between Core and wisp; nor is it only because of the disgustingly adorable gnomes that fill these pages. It’s owed in largest part to the fact that Harper introduces a number of compelling mysteries. Our protagonist is entangled in mysteries: the mystery of who, of what Corey was before she awoke in the darkness – flashes of darkness, of cruelty, of a great subterranean city – all draw a fragmentary picture that fellow fantasy nerds might enjoy theorizing on as they read. I did, and I was proved correct! Another mystery has to do with a nasty antagonist lingering in the shadows, taunting our baby Core girl in an unholier-than-thou, third-person, garbage spewing manner. These are but a handful of the different plot threads that caught my attention and imagination both.

My score for God of Gnomes is a 9/10, or a 4.5/5 on Goodreads. There were a few moments – not many, just a few, that didn’t quite hold onto my attention as well as the vast majority of the novel did, which is why I’m not giving this a full 5/5 score. Nevertheless, this is a memorable read, a great debut and another solid entry into Portal Books’ growing catalogue of LitRPG/Dungeon Core publications. I’m looking forward to seeing what the publisher comes up with next…and I’m even more excited to find out where Corey’s story goes next!