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!

The September Mini-Reviews! Jack Reacher x 2, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Thousand Thorns

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher’s a drug that I can’t stop using. I first got addicted to the gruff ex-MP (military police, not member of Parliament) at the age of 15, with the thirteenth novel penned by Lee Child, Gone Tomorrow – what a wild ride that was! I revisited him about two years ago, listening to the very first novel written by Child on audiobook — . I’ve listened to two others over the last ten days or so, and I’m close to finishing a third. Here’s what I thought about the ones I listened to completion.

Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)

High-tension opening that immediately got me invested into reading further. Reacher comes in, guns blazing, and finds himself in one of the most tense, life-threatening situations he’s ever been in. Before long, Jack’s at the beck and call of a drug dealer, forced to play a dangerous game to survive.

I didn’t just like this one, I loved it. Jack is at his best when he’s cornered and working multiple angles, with a clock ticking down and spelling trouble for him; and the fact is, this is one of those first-person Reacher novels, which I love to death. Child does wonderful work whenever he shares in Reacher’s headspace completely – the prose, short, concise and brutal; the way Jack thinks, assaulting any and every problem without pause, dealing with his enemies with deadly efficiency.

With a cast of compelling side characters and several looming antagonists, as well as a series of flashback sequences, Persuader is a fantastic read for newcomers and veteran readers of Child’s alike. Jeff Harding’s narration embodies the essence of the character perfectly, and he does fantastic job with the remainder of the cast, too. My score for this is a 5/5.

Without Fail (Jack Reacher #6)

I listened to this one after completing Persuader. The blurb caught my eye:

Skilled, cautious, and anonymous, Jack Reacher is perfect for the job: to assassinate the vice president of the United States. Theoretically, of course. A female Secret Service agent wants Reacher to find the holes in her system, and fast – because a covert group already has the vice president in their sights. They’ve planned well. There’s just one thing they didn’t plan on: Reacher.

And boy, is that a bad miscalculation. This one is a bit of a slow-burner, going more in-depth into Reacher’s relationship with his deceased brother Joe, Joe’s ex-girlfriend who is now in charge of the Vice-President’s security detail…Joe’s very capable Secret Service girlfriend M. Froelich, capable of finding Reacher in a single day, despite the fact he lives completely off the grid.

I loved this one in part because Reacher teamed up with an old Army buddy of his, a former Master Sergeant by the name of Neagley who is as tough as Reacher; hell, she makes him look like he’s in his tightie whities, time to time.

My only issue is that the climax towards the end of the book felt a little bit too lucky. Of course, Child set up a great explanation but it still felt a little more of a stretch than I’m used to. That said, Without Fail packs one hell of an emotional punch two-thirds the way in, and I can’t stay mad at Lee Child even if the last 15 minutes were a bit less mindblowing than I’d originally hoped. My score for this Reacher goodness is 4.5/5.

The Thousand Thorns by Suzannah Rowntree (A Fairy Tale Retold #5)

This one, I was surprised by. I purchased it as a part of the recent Asian-inspired Fantasy Sale. Took me a while to get used to the setting, the way the characters addressed one another but about 15-20% in, I was all in. Fun characterisation, a somewhat predictable plot twist (though no lesser for it), good action scenes, this is a great retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

A few things struck me about it: this is most definitely a great introduction to Chinese military epics, the genre known as wuxia. I’ve heard more and more of it of late, but until this, I hadn’t been properly introduced. I think it’s a good way to go about acquainting yourself with wuxia, on account of the familiar fairy-tale elements with the unique genre twist. Certainly, this is a love letter by someone who enjoys Chinese epics and knows them well enough to create an amalgamation that bleeds with respect towards its inspirations.

Iron Maiden was a really fun character to read about — I would read a whole novel with her as the lead, if I had the opportunity. Good antagonists, whose interactions between one another were filled with tension. Clouded Sky was a very flawed protagonist, crippled by self-doubt and loss, very much unwilling to go awaken some princess-y sort resting in a mountain.

Most of the twists and turns along the story (save one) were predictable – my suspicions as to the identities of both villains came true without any surprise. My biggest criticism here is, the revelations felt somewhat choreographed. Loved the play on the novella’s title, though (you guys who’ve read this know wot I mean!).

I found this an enjoyable enough read to add more of Suzannah Rowntree’s works to my To-Read list; my score for The Thousand Thorns is a very respectable 3.5 (scored up to 4 on Goodreads)! I’m really looking forward to finding out what else Rowntree has in store for her readers!

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

First time I’ve picked up something by Roald Dahl – this was a charming little children’s story which has ultimately been overshadowed by the brilliant movie by Wes Anderson. There’s just not that much here – the audiobook is a little over an hour long, and it consists of our fantastic mister, this fox fellow, being hunted by three farmers. The more they try to dig the foxes out, the deeper the foxes dig themselves in. Repeat ad nauseum. Some fantastic narration by Chris O’Dowd — made the experience more entertaining than it would’ve otherwise been.

My score? A very average 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Articles Worth Reading: 09 September – 16 September

I’ve read a fair amount of words on the Internet this past week, and thought to myself, ‘Hey, I know, I better share them with the rest of you, too!’ So without further ado, here they are:

Why Angry Librarians Are Going to War With Publishers Over E-Books

Hint: It’s because big publishers, in this case Macmillian, are working hard on shafting them over:

In July, Macmillan announced that come November, the company will only allow libraries to purchase a single copy of its new titles for the first eight weeks of their release—and that’s one copy whether it’s the New York Public Library or a small-town operation that’s barely moved on from its card catalog. This has sparked an appropriately quiet revolt. Librarians and their allies quickly denounced the decision when it came down, and now the American Library Association is escalating the protest by enlisting the public to stand with libraries by signing an online petition with a populist call against such restrictive practices. (The association announced the petition Wednesday at Digital Book World, an industry conference in Nashville, Tennessee.) What’s unclear is whether the association can get the public to understand a byzantine-seeming dispute over electronic files and the right to download them.

In a July memo addressed to Macmillan authors, illustrators, and agents, the company’s CEO John Sargent cited the “growing fears that library lending was cannibalizing sales” as a reason for embargoing libraries from purchasing more than one copy of new books during their first eight weeks on sale. “It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free,” he claimed.

I cannot begin to describe how much I loathe this short-sighted, bottom line, profits first-inspired way of thinking. Libraries are a pillar of free education and an immensely important source of “equitable access to information for everybody”, in the words of Alan Inouye, the senior director for public policy and government relations at the ALA. How this plays out, I cannot say — but I’m happy to spread the word for something that seems intended to hurt libraries’ standing with library-goers.

Grimdark Magazine’s Review of “Wraith Knight” by C. T. Phipps

This one sounds like a fun read:

Wraith Knight, by C.T. Phipps, asks a Tolkien-inspired what-if: After Sauron fell, what would an out-of-work Nazgul do with the rest of its eternal lifespan? In this book, readers follow Jacob Riverson, an undead warrior in similar straits coping with his recent emancipation and newfound free will after the downfall of his own dark lord, the King Below.

I know C. T. Phipps from booknest.eu, where he’s a fellow reviewer — but I have yet to read one of his works. This one might just persuade me to carve out a few hours and give Charles’ writing chops a chance!

Members of TheWriteReads Did a Blog Tour of “A Different Time”

I was part of it, but my review is one of dozens upon dozens of excellent reviews that present very different takes from my own! A personal favourite of mine is the review posted by “An Angry Old Man Reviews Books”. His short, concise reviews always force a chuckle out of me.

Rob J. Hayes reviewed “The Sword of Kaigen”

…And he came to some of the same conclusions that I did!

We’ll start this review proper with a little comparison. The Sword of Kaigen is Avatar the Last Airbender meets Robin Hobb. Sounds a bit strange on the surface, but it really does fit. The world ML Wang has created is a place where there are nations around the world each with their own affinity for an element, and their own powers to control those elements. Delving a bit deeper, certain families within each nation have specific and powerful bloodline powers. As an example, the Matsuda family are water theonites and their bloodline ability is the power to create a whispering blade; a blade of ice that can cut through anything. For those of you who like a bit of anime, you can likely already see a few similarities to a certain ninja story.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you owe it to yourself to read this standalone. Almost everyone I know has unreservedly loved The Sword of Kaigen, and for good reason. Give it a shot, you won’t regret it!

Thanks for joining me this week! I loved reading all of these, and I hope you will, too!

Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray – Book Review (Excerpt)

Welcome back, Reader! Today’s review is of one of 2019’s best Star Wars novels, Master and Apprentice. The full review you can find over at booknest.eu.

The Cover is courtesy of the ridiculously talented Alice X. Zhang

At last, the one question that has been bugging me since I was 9 years old receives an answer! The question? Why the heck does Obi-Wan Kenobi hate flying so much? Now I know, and if you read this book, you will too!

Master and Apprentice deconstructs first and foremost the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, portrayed by Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson in what was the best part of The Phantom Menace. The novel’s opening sees this relationship burdened with issues because of what both master and padawan consider to be   The myriad differences between Kenobi and Jinn have made Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship difficult ever since its beginning. Qui-Gon is among the most unorthodox knights in the Jedi Order, all too happy to break procedure if it will bring him closer to his goals; he is, though the word has never been used in Master and Apprentice, a radical, willing to cross borders other Jedi knights wouldn’t even come near – which makes the fact that he gets offered a spot to the Jedi Council at the very beginning of the novel all the more interesting a hook.

Obi-Wan, meanwhile, is very firm on following the rules at this point in his training. He has his own set of problems – feeling like he is a bad apprentice, unable to live up to what is required of him is but one of them. The fact that he has difficulty finding peace in the Force during combat, his battle meditation easy to shatter, is another. What is evident early on is that both he and Qui-Gonn blame their own shortcomings but never one another. That’s a very Jedi thing to do, but it also speaks to how much they care about each other.

A lot of great elements collide to create a politically-charged, morally complex story that has a lot going for it – great leads, interesting worldbuilding that both adds new elements to the cannon and reintroduces certain old ones for the first time after ye grand old Disney Legacy purge. I’m impressed with Claudia Gray and will be reading her ‘Bloodlines’ at some future point, no doubt about it now. My score for Master and Apprentice is a 4.5/5; I thought this was a tremendous read, as fun as Thrawn: Treason (reviewed here) in its own way.

Oh, and lest I forget about it, Jonathan Davis is as spectacular as ever in the narrator’s booth. His Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are eerily true to the originals, and he breathes a lot of life into  Even his young Christopher Lee captures the essence of the character, even if he’s not on the level of Corey Burton, who voices Dooku on both Clone Wars animated series, and almost does the late, great Lee justice. As usual, the sound effects are also present – lightsabers, blaster fire, engines and plenty of mileage from those godly John Williams soundtracks. Del Rey doesn’t cut corners when it comes to the production budget of their Star Wars audiobooks, and us audiophiles are all the better for it.

One last name demands attention: The ridiculously talented Alice X. Zhang is to blame for the wonderful cover. Having looked her up only recently, I can already tell that I love her style so very much.

A Different Time by Michael K. Hill – Book Review (Blog Tour Edition!)

I enjoyed this piece of time-displaced romance.

Keith falls in love with Lindsey, a girl thirty years in the past. It all begins when he picks up a VHS cassette at a flea market, while looking to expand his X-Men collection (which, by the way, definitely made him initially likable — true X-Men nerdhood is something to bond over!). The cassette is the video diary of a girl Keith’s age at the time of recording, back in 1989; what shocks Keith is that, as soon as he speaks aloud, the girl hears him…and responds. So begins this short back-and-forth through time, as Lindsey and Keith fall in love within the span of…15-30-45 minutes.

Lindsey is the star of the book — her dialogue in particular, had something special about it, a spark, something that would glisten under the sun. She’s a creative in a nasty situation, living with a mother who doesn’t understand her and a creep for a stepfather, far away from the Hawaiian home she’s known for most of her life, lost and terribly alone. But she’s well-read, and a talented artist – reading and drawing are two activities that are a haven from the trouble of the real world.

Keith’s behaviour is somewhat more troubling — this sudden connection with Lindsey has some pretty adverse effects on him as the novel goes on. He borders on the obsessive a little bit too much for my liking; don’t get me wrong, I had a good time hitching a ride in his noggin’. He’s a likable guy, he’s a nice kid, but he’s even more lost than Lindsey.

The prose is crisp, clear and serviceable. It could’ve benefitted from a few extra descriptions, I thought; there was an element of bareness to it that would’ve been well-served by Michael K. Hill adding a few lines here and there. That might be preference, though; ultimately, Hill offers an acceptable replica of our world as a backdrop to the story he chose to tell. The cover is lovely, too!

It didn’t surprise me, however — most of the small twists were foreshadowed without subtlety and and I wasn’t surprised to come across most of the ‘revelations’ by book’s end. Maybe there didn’t need to be — this is a romance, after all. But I’d have liked some little surprise to have gone past me.

My score? 6.5/10. 3 stars on Goodreads – I enjoyed it. But it lacked an extra little something to get it to the 3.5 I’d need to give it that half star extra and round it up to 4/5 on ye olde Goodreads site.

My recommendation? If you like an nonstandard love story that’s cute and has some interesting, well-realised ideas, this is something you might want to look at. It’s a very simple book, and I mean that in the best sense – clarity, straightforward plot, a pair of characters it’s easy to root for — these make for a quick, pleasant read.