Book Recommendation: The Time of The Dark

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Some time ago, I wrote about an appreciation thread on reddit; it was about author Barbara Hambly and her many works, which include but are not limited to vampiric noir, dark fantasy, world-jumping fun with wizards and much more!

The Time of the Dark was the first amongst these recommendations, and the favourite of the thread’s author. Now that I’ve read it,I can certainly see why.

The novel, which tells us the tale of an ancient foe, long dormant but recently awakened, is a lot darker than its cover might have you think, at first. It’s a wonderful cover, by the way — a wizard wearing his rugged robe and sitting amidst an all too normal 20-century kitchen. I love the spilled chips, the empty can of beer and just about everything in that cover; if posters were sold of the drawing alone, I would be hanging it left and right.

You have to appreciate a wizard drinking beer from a can for the first time, is all I’m saying.

There is humor in this book, even though its themes, if you think about them, are downright terrifying, and could traumatize without too much difficulty. Let’s unpack, shall we?

The Dark are horrifying antagonists; they are not individuals as humans are; rather, they have something akin to a hive mind, allowing them to transfer information instantaneously. They have no form–the Dark are like globs of darkness, capable of changing their form at will, growing from five to twenty five feet nearly as quickly as one could blink. The Dark come at night, but they come; their numbers are enough to overrun any city.

But not the Keeps. The Keeps, these ancient constructs of magic and technology of a by-gone age, allowed humanity to survive the Dark’s last incursion, over three thousand years ago. Now, they will have to aid The Realm’s stragglers and survivors, as these attempt to traverse the road’s dangers, and the attacks by the Dark, all to find safe haven.

Amidst all this, we follow the stories of Ingold Inglorion-the elder wizard on the cover, and a wizard who will remind you of the best traditions in the fantasy genre; and that of his two friends from our Earth, Rudy and Gil. Rudy is a biker and an artist; Gil is a woman after my own heart, a medievalist historian with a very cold streak, and a colder heart, still.

These three main characters of ours are absolute gemstones, and they’re not the only ones. The entire cast of support characters are written in a superb way, as is the rest of the book. Descriptions can be both beautiful and haunting, and my pulse quickened as I read through tense moments that absorbed with such impressive ease as to leave me impressed.

Few books have had one character dominate every scene they’re in as Ingold does it. He might often remind you of Gandalf, as he did to me, but at those times, he’s more of a self-aware Gandalf than anything else. Indeed, lines such as the one below speak of self-awareness that is entertaining and feels like Hambly poking innocent fun at fantasy clichés that we’re all too familiar with.

“She barely hid a smile. “That’s a wizard’s answer if I ever heard one.” “Meaning that mages deal in double talk?” His grin was impish. “That’s one of our two occupational hazards.” “And what’s the other one?” He laughed. “A deplorable tendency to meddle.”

You see what I mean?

The Time of the Dark is another book that is well worth your time; I promise!

You might have some difficulty getting a hold of a physical copy, but the trilogy went digital some time ago and if the next two books are anything like this at all…they’ll be well-worth the read.

What’re you waiting for?!

For me to finish? Alright, alright! I’ll see you next week!

To my regular readers…Sorry for the tread-bare content during the last week; I had a birthday, and then had to travel. At one point, I was awake for about…36 weeks, with two short naps on a plane and bus to make up for it. Content should run more smoothly from here on out, thank you for your patience!

 

Non-Friday Wrap-Up: Before the Storm, Hearthstone animated short and Books! 21/08-27/08/2017

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a coming-of-age tragedy, writes RPS’s Adam Smith in a conversation with Before the Storm’s lead writer, Zack Garriss.

“The experience of writing feature films or TV episodes requires thinking about the most interesting obstacle or the best line of dialogue or the best piece of choreography for any given situation. We have to ask ourselves not what the best option is but what the two most interesting versions of any given scene might be, and how they’ll impact on our larger themes and plot. It’s incredibly satisfying but it requires a lot of patience.”

Hearthstone released an animated short that’s like something come out from Disney-Pixar’s happy, happy marriage. It’s absolutely beautiful, and WORTH YOUR TIME. It also made me want a 3D Hearthstone game, with cards taking form like in YU-GI-OH and doing actual battle with other cards! I’ve always wanted such a game, come to think of it, made by an AAA developer!

I’ve been super busy this week, and the next two will be even worse, but in my free time, I’ve enjoyed The Time of the Dark, by Barbara Hambly. Expect a recommendation of that not too far away from now.

I’ve also began reading Zen and the Art of Writing by writer extraordinaire, Ray Bradbury. It’s a damn inspiration, I’ll tell you that.

I’m sorry if content’s a bit less…much-ish during the next couple of weeks. Exams have me twisting my panties in a bunch; oh, the horror!

 

 

 

Fantasy Quote of the Day, 28/08/2017

Today’s quote is all about the past!

We all have our pasts. I suspect we keep them nebulous not because we are hiding from our yesterdays but because we think we will cut more romantic figures if we roll our eyes and dispense delicate hints about beautiful women forever beyond our reaches. Those men whose stories I have uprooted are running from the law, not a tragic love affair.

–Glen Cook, The Black Company

Saturday Night Gaming: Total War: Warhammer– Twenty hours of Dwarfing around

“Here’s to dwarves that go swimming with little hairy women!!!”
-Gimli

This quote has informed my entire way of thinking when it comes to dwarves. Its merits are obvious, and its conclusions–grand.

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The dwarves in Creative Assembly’s Warhammer game don’t go heavy enough on the “swimming with lady-dwarfs” bit, but they do quite nicely in other aspects. In my 209 turns’ worth of in-game time, I:

  • murdered a ludicrous amount of orks with hammers, axes, pickaxes, grenades, crossbows, siege weapons, and gyrocopters. As a result of that, I basically committed genocide against anything Greenskin, be it ork, goblin, or any other squeaky, violent what-have-you; and you know what? I’m not even sorry.
  • I turned my attention to the Vampire Lords. They’d been giving my fellow dwarven allies a fair bit of trouble; as High King of all the Dawwi, I do not take light of such violence. What was supposed to follow is a little trick I like to refer to as ‘GIVE ‘EM THE AXE!’ maxresdefault1
  • Which is what I would’ve done, had not the forces of Chaos come spewing forth from the hellish North; after that, it was one battle after another; bloody, scary battles, those. Dwarves have a problem with cavalry and monsters, being the sturdy tiny people that they are; Chaos is all cavalry and monsters and very nasty anti-infantry.
  • Many a short lad perished in those darkest of days; but all the free races united against the common threat. The Empire, led by Karl Franz, was in dire need of aid; Nuln, Franz’s new capital lay besieged by the powers of Norsca and Chaos, alike. His armies, having suffered a defeat at Altdorf during the sacking of  Altdorf–the former capital–were but a shadow of the Empire’s might.
  • We little people had much to say about that. GIVE EM THE AXE, we cried in unison; and so we gave ’em the axe. They got the axe. They got it good.
  • After that, it was back to business; we got those stinkin’ vampires turned to dust and all, and we liked ’em better that way. Used the dust for nutrition of Castle Drakenhoff and Castle Templehoff. Tip for everyone? Undead really don’t do well against gyrocopter bombardments. Not even a tiny bit, turns out.
  • With humanity profoundly weakened, we wee lads settled into ruins of human cities, turning those into–you guessed it–dwarven settlements. And so it was, that dwarves inherited the Old World.
  • Archon the Everchosen died off-screen, killed by one of the two dwarven factions the High King did not confederate with. Bit anti-climatic; but that’s what dwarven life is like.

What you want to do, if ever you find yourself shoulder to shoulder with dwarves is–use your sturdiest, most well armoured dwarves to contain the enemy’s front lines; then, flank them with your fighters. Things’ll end up wonderfully. I made the mistake of using too many crossbow/riffler units for most of the game, and suffered a bit too many casualties, especially in the late game.  Once that happened, however, I got some fresh new reinforcements and all was wonderful!

I also ended the game with 250000 gold, and way too much turn-based income. I played on Hard but it was too easy. Dwarves are, as you’d expect, a defensive faction that excels in lengthy combat and in slowing down enemies. You should try them, if you’re into grand strategy…or swimming with hairy little women.

P.S. I wanted to make screenshots, but kept forgetting to. I’m absolutely dreadful, I know. Words alone don’t do the game justice; its battles are a sight for sore eyes…especially once you turn the UI off and just enjoy the sight of dwarves hammering orks to death.

All that bloody gore, too!

Fantasy Quote of the Day, 26/08/2017

I love dragons; who doesn’t?! They’re often seen as the pinnacle of fantasy creatures; mighty, cold and deadly intelligent, dragons can be both the noblest and most sly of beings.

Steven Erikson’s dragons are complex creatures. They are rarely seen, but their presence is felt throughout the many books. Today’s quote describes a dragon from Erikson’s Deadhouse Gates, the second book in the series. It’s a chilling description that dwarfs the dragons shown before.

The dragon came low to the earth. It defied every image of a draconian being Kulp had ever seen. Not Rake, not Osric. Hugely boned, with skin like dry shark hide, its wing-span dwarfed even that of the Son of Darkness – who has within him the blood of the draconian goddess – and the wings had nothing of the smooth, curving grace; the bones were multi-jointed in a crazed pattern, like that of a crushed bat wing, each knobbed joint prominent beneath taut, cracked skin. The dragon’s head was as wide as it was long, like a viper’s, the eyes high on its skull. There was no ridged forehead, instead the skull sloped back to a basal serration almost buried in neck and jaw muscles.

A dragon roughly cast, a creature exhaling an aura of primordial antiquity. And, Kulp realized with a breathless start as his senses devoured all that the creature projected, it was undead.

The fact that this dragon is greater in size even than Anomander Rake chills me to the bone.

I might by a bit of a fanboy where the Son of Darkness is concerned; such an awesome character, that one.

 

Fantasy Quote of the Day 25/08/2017

This one is from the Black Company–the very first novel in the series, in fact. You can find reasons to read it here.

It’s a pretty lengthy quote; beware!

The legate said, “Welcome to the service of the Lady, physician.” His voice was distracting. IT did not fit expectations, ever. This time it was musical, lilting, the voice, of a younger woman putting something over on wiser heads.

The Lady? Where had I encountered that word used that way, emphasized as though it was the title of a goddess? A dark legend out of olden times . . .

A howl of outrage, pain, and despair filled the ship. Startled, I broke ranks and went to the lip of the air well.

The forvalaka was in a big iron cage at the foot of the mast. In the shadows it seemed to change subtly as it prowled, testing every bar. One moment it was an athletic woman of about thirty, but seconds later it had assumed the aspect of a black leopard on its hind legs, clawing the imprisoning iron. I recalled the legate saying he might have a use for the monster.

The legate, the terror called Soulcatcher in old tales, a devil worse than any dozen forvalaka, laughed madly. His crewmen cringed. A great joke, enlisting the Black Company in the service of evil. A great city taken and tittle villains suborned. A truly cosmic jest.

The Captain settled beside me. “Tell me, Croaker.”

So I told him about the Domination, and the Dominator and his Lady. Their rule had spanned an empire of evil unrivalled in Hell, I told him about the Ten Who Were Taken (of whom Soulcatchet was one), ten great wizards, near-demigods in their power, who had been overcome by the Dominator and compelled into his service. I told him about the White Rose, the lady general who had brought the Domination down, but whose power had been insufficient to destroy the Dominator, his Lady, and the Ten. She had interred the lot in a charm-bound barrow somewhere north of the sea.

 

Book Recommendation: The Gunslinger

I saw “The Dark Tower” movie today, and it left me with…mixed feelings. Matthew Mchonaghy makes every scene he’s in so much fun, but the adaptation makes everything so much…less. The ideas shown within the movie are a fraction of what The Dark Tower is about.

But this is about the book, not the movie.

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

Thus begins the first of King’s excellent fantasy series.

It’s a difficult book to get through; or at least the original version was. Made up of five short stories published in a magazine, it’s the shortest of a series of seven (there’s a prequel, too, but I don’t add that one to the main seven.)

The Gunslinger got a revised edition in 2003. It’s good, I hear, and I’m going to read it soon. I could go on and on about the book’s contents, how it’s a slow burner until you get to the very end, and how it sucks you in for several books after that. I could, but I won’t!

Instead, I’ll just say this: The ending of The Gunslinger contains one of the most mind-blowing sections within a novel I have read to date.

“The man in black smiled. “Shall we tell the truth then, you and I? No more lies?”

I thought we had been.”

But the man in black persisted as if Roland hadn’t spoken. “Shall there be truth between us, as two men? Not as friends, but as equals? There is an offer you will get rarely, Roland. Only equals speak the truth, that’s my thought on’t. Friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of regard. How tiresome!”

The Man in Black has to be one of my favourite characters of King’s. He manages to be clever, insightful and predominantly evil. He is a perfect antithesis to Roland. That last part of the novel–it’s a shiver-inducing conversation between these two men, the culmination to the entire 200-something page book.

“Yet suppose further. Suppose that all worlds, all universes, met at a single nexus, a single pylon, a Tower. And within it, a stairway, perhaps rising to the Godhead itself. Would you dare climb to the top, gunslinger? Could it be that somewhere above all of endless reality, there exists a room?…’

You dare not.’

And in the gunslinger’s mind, those words echoed: You dare not.”

Brrrrr. I’m shivering like a pubescent boy falling down a time vortex.

Those shiver a lot, for the record.

At any rate, it’s been a long day, and I think I’ll punch out for this particular blog post. See you again next time!

 

The Unintentionally Helpful Villain, Volume #12: Social Upheaval

Diary Entry #0190

Mine powers of tracking have proven useless in the quest to discover where Amara, mine treacherous, body-snatching former wife, has ran off to. I will not give up, however. She cannot hide for long.

Diary Entry #0191

I came across an apple merchant today. Apples, he told me, blessed by the gauntleted hand of the Dark Lord himself!

I did freeze in my spot as these words left the human’s lips. What fortuitous happenstance that this man should cross mine exact path!

Not nearly as fortuitous was the trader’s ability to answer mine benign questions; why, I had plucked merely one of his eyes out with my claws when he did succumb to the terrible finality of death.

I hope my Librarians are working on ways to deal with that entire ‘death’ debacle before too long.

The poor apple merchant did scream two words before his last breath did get expunged from his body. “Golden…! Superb…!” or something of the sort. Curious man, that one.

His apples are spectacular, however. I have now taken his cart, and will pretend to be a vendor of apple-ish delights!

Diary Entry #0193

I came across a small town today. The tracks of the merchant led me here, and so it was my hope that I would find mine wife doing whatever it is that body-snatching wives do when they’re not busy being dreadful.

A big deal for me, this; first small town I walked into, since being cursed within this wretched body. First one I didn’t rip apart with mine wererabbit teeth. Ah, but how I wished to!

Upon mine entry into the market, I was immediately attacked–but not by peasants with forks, as I have come to expect from small towns. Nay, I was instead assaulted by men whose sensibilities had been offended. They decried mine advances upon the ‘honorable business of trade and free market that only good, King-kissed men have any business doing,’ and then proceeded to explain how mine presence would be much better appreciated in the ‘werehouse.’

Unnerving was their knowledge of my nature as shapeshifting wererabbit, and so I demanded they tell me if the ‘Dark Lord’ had left word to deter me from mine quest. I do not believe any of them heard me; so loud was their constant prattling. I did not much care to listen any further, and so I took my cart and left.

Later did I find an inn; I have heard of these places, of course, through mine many worldly affairs. Did not expect so much ogling to be taking place inside. Questioning the men as to the dangers that excessive staring might bring upon their bloodshot eyes was reason for laughter alone. None would explain to me! Thoughts of ripping their spines until they could laugh no longer came quickly upon me, but I persevered; for I did not wish to announce mine arrival.

A maid-like girl then took me away, and so she explained to me things. Such oppressive things did she tell me, that I was filled with fervor and so, before the night was done, I… led a revolt and so slaughtered every ogling fool in town.

It was only later that I discovered A Horrible Truth.