Classic Remarks: I arrive fashionably late to Pages Unbound’s party

Greetings, greetings, hello and hope all’s well! I’ve arrived at last. So kind of you to wait! Got turned ‘round on the way over, but found my way at last. It has been awhile, hasn’t it?

Hope there’s still room for me in the literary blogosphere! I do miss this place. Rather…rather terribly, in fact. Some wonderful people used to knock on my metaphorical door every-so-often to see what I had to say, to converse a bit on topics we loved. Books, mostly, and sometimes movies, and other things. Always about stories, though, and their importance in our lives. I still do that quite a bit outside of blogging, but I’d like to tap into this community again. Many of you excellent hobb—I mean, many of you excellent people have continued blogging, and grown at it, and become even more wonderful and accomplished than you were when I first met you. Congratulations! Keep at it!

We’ll see what happens with The Warden’s Walk going forward. You might notice I have an actual, real book review up! And of a book that’s only a decade old! Well to be frank, I don’t know what my next review will be of, or when it will be, but I’m going to try to find ways to post more regularly. And that’s why I’ve arrived late (fashionably, I hope) to Pages Unbound’s party.

Since July, my prolific long-time blogfriends at Pages Unbound have been hosting a weekly meme of their own creation called Classic Remarks. Every Friday they ask a question about the “canon” of classic literature and invite other bloggers to join them in discussing it. Fantastic idea, if I do say so (You do.).

I’m joining in, late as I am. But with a few tweaks to the rules, because it’s my blog and I can post how I want! Right. That’ll silence the critics. (Voice inside head: You’re not popular enough to have critics.) Shh! Right. Where was I? Oh yes. See, I simply haven’t read many of the books their topics address.

So where I know the book, I will answer intelligently, truthfully, and hopefully eloquently. Where I don’t know the book, I’ll fudge it. Neither of the three qualities I strive for in the former case should be expected in the latter. If they do appear, cry “Hallelujah!” for the mercy of God and take a swig of your favorite beverage.

First up: Is Jane Eyre‘s Rochester an attractive and brooding love interest, or dangerously manipulative?

I’ve never read Jane Eyre or seen an adaptation. Huzzah!

fudge

 

Book Review: Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson

High entertainment for lovers of fantasy. Especially if you’re the kind who likes to play as a rogue or mage-thief in RPGs.

Mistborn
a.k.a. Mistborn: The Final Empire
Series: Functions as a standalone, but is followed by The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages. This Mistborn Original Trilogy is itself followed by another series in the same universe, called the Wax and Wayne Series.
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 643
Published: 2006, Tor Books
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Teenaged thief Vin falls in with a crew of rogues, and learns that she, like their dashing leader Kelsier, is a Mistborn, a person born with a rare ability to magically manipulate metals (Say that 5x fast!). Using a variety of magical and criminal skills, the crew plans a rebellion against the Lord Ruler, a tyrant of immense and mysterious power who has ruled for a thousand years and just might be immortal.
Reason for Beginning: Accolades online gave the impression that it was a fresh, creative twist on high fantasy. Plus, I liked the title and cover art.
Reason for Finishing: Excellent, page-turning writing. Plot and characters both kept me invested, while the pacing kept me up late reading many nights.
Story Re-readability: Moderate. I’m more immediately interested in pursuing the next book in the series, and perhaps other titles by Sanderson. It has enough depth to reward at least a second reread, and the Thrilling Adventure and Intrique quotients should be high enough to counteract any restlessness from knowing the story’s conclusion in advance.
Prose Style: Sanderson’s style is approachable and direct, keeping the story focused and the characters lively. He successfully engages with some fairly serious themes without getting ponderous or preachy. In prose, there is a definite preference for directness, sometimes at the expense of beauty of phrase, but that seems the right side to err on for this story.

Recommendation: High entertainment for lovers of fantasy. Especially if you’re the kind who likes to play as a rogue or mage-thief in RPGs.

Key Thoughts

Billowing cloaks. Misty streets. Shadowy figures watching from rooftop perches, working to protect an intimidated populace from evil, corrupt forces. Whispered plans in secret hideouts. Unraveling conspiracies rooted in ancient legends. Warm banter between comrades who have mischief in their eyes, noble intentions in their hearts. A bit of magic. Romance, dancing and more magic.

I’ve always loved these imaginative elements, especially running together in the same story. This very blog is named for one of my earliest characters, the elusive, noble Twilight’s Warden, whose stories have had all of them in some form or another. Reading Mistborn is almost like experiencing my childhood daydreams sifted through someone else’s mind. The base elements of my own daydreams are here, but the forms they take are new and exciting to me. I think you’ll enjoy them too.

The hook of Mistborn is the new magic system Sanderson developed, called Allomancy. Characters who are born with this power can manipulate metals in specific ways. They ingest metals in powder form and use their power to “burn” the metal reserves in their stomach. For example, burning iron and focusing on a metal object Pulls it towards you, while burning steel Pushes it away. But Push against something heavier than your own body, say a metal door, and you will be the one Pushed back! It’s a tight, exciting system, with clear rules to define the powers and their limitations, while still allowing room for creative results and surprising, but logical, discoveries.

If Allomancy is the hook to set the book apart, the beating heart is still the characters and their fun, heartfelt interactions. The world they live in, the Final Empire, may be a depressing place, full of ash and haze, and drained of vivid colors, but Kelsier and his crew of rogues laugh, banter, and dream big in spite of it all. One of Sanderson’s themes is that of friendship and trust, a lesson that our heroine Vin struggles to learn. As an orphan of the slave class, raised on the streets as a thief, she’s been taught her whole life not to trust anyone, not even the criminals who take her in and work with her. It’s a shock when she realizes that Kelsier is actually friends with his “Merry Men”; they genuinely like and trust each other, and want to include her in what passes for a family. To Sanderson’s credit, he doesn’t gloss over this by making it an easy transition for Vin. A teenager who has only known betrayal, disappointment, and selfishness from those supposed to be close to her isn’t easily going to learn how to trust. She struggles with it the entire book. It’s an affecting, compassionate portrayal, and I was glad that as she began to put these new virtues into practice, she also was able to teach Kelsier and his friends a thing or two. Nobody’s perfect, everyone can learn something from each other.

Mistborn manages the deft trick of being an action-packed, character-focused epic. It takes great joy in some classic fantasy tropes, while carefully overturning others. The magic is integral to the setting and story, and provides avenues for the characters to learn more about themselves. While it doesn’t strive for the sort of high poetry or mythopoeia that much other high fantasy does, it presents a compelling story in an entertaining, substantial package, without any real flaws to speak of. It also has a number of twists and secrets that I haven’t even hinted at here, but that worked very well for me. I enjoyed it a lot, and I think most readers will too.

Beren and Lúthien, a centenary publication — John Garth

In a wood filled with a cloud of white flowers, a soldier walked in the spring of 1917 with his wife, and she sang and danced for him. To that battle-worn lieutenant, J R R Tolkien, Edith’s dance was an unforgettable glimpse of unearthly joy in the midst of sorrow and horror. It inspired the story he saw […]

via Beren and Lúthien, a centenary publication — John Garth

A new Tolkien book is always exciting! Granted, this sounds like it might not have any new material that isn’t already published in other books. But still, the story of Beren and Luthien is one of my absolute favorites, and I welcome the chance to read even many variations of it in its own book, accompanied by the lovely art of Alan Lee.

Also, as a little heads-up for you guys, I’m preparing another book review of a more recent (well, no more than 10 years old…) fantasy novel, so look out for that in the next week or so. Happy reading!

Listen to the Almost an Inkling webinar live!

Greetings and well-met! Mythgard Institute’s “Almost an Inkling” flash fiction contest is finally at an end.  The submission and voting links for Week 6 “Speculation and Subcreation” are still open, although I’m not sure if they are intended to be. The Weeks 5 and 6 winners are to be announced TODAY at a live webinar session at 4pm Eastern Time. Follow this link and click the big Register button next to the Halloween Extravaganza.

Currently on the webinar the Tolkien Professor, Dr. Corey Olsen, is touring Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings Online and explaining Middle-Earth lore using in-game locations. It’s actually pretty interesting!

When the LOTRO section finishes, the flash fiction contest winners will be announced, and any winners attending the webinar will have the chance to read their submissions publicly. I have a simple haiku for my Week 5 submission and a more mythical story for Week 6’s “Speculation and Subcreation” theme. If you want to know what my story is, pop over to the voting link now to read (and maybe vote) for it!

Short Film: “Darklight” (2015)

One of the most important reasons I love fantasy fiction is the way it makes me look at things in the real world with new eyes. Reading of the beauty of Lothlórien in The Lord of the Rings only enhances my admiration for the redwood forests of California or the wet woodlands of Scotland. The chilling, dramatic tales of the Wild Hunt throughout various cultures makes me listen more closely to the variety of sounds in awesome storms.

Yet a work does not have to be fantasy in order to accomplish this. Darklight simply shows us some modern mountain bikers riding through landscapes in the Pacific Northwest and Utah at night, illuminated by bright colored lights. In doing just this, with no narrative or dialogue, only the visuals and carefully chosen music, it creates something potent and beautiful. These forests and deserts will be familiar to many, but shot and lit in this way they look alien and magical. But they are our Earth, God’s creation.

Enjoy.


DARKLIGHT – 4K Full Film by Sweetgrass Productions from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

“Mud” – a short story

“He saw only new wonders: rolling plains leading to a purple sea, flocks of four and six-winged birds singing above white sands, and a city of painted mollusk shells full of tiny blue people.”

My story “Mud,” which earned a kind honorable mention from Sørina Higgins as she announced the Week 1 winners of Mythguard Institute’s “Almost an Inkling” flash fiction contest. The prompt was to write a story about portals to another world in a maximum of 333 words. It is posted here for your enjoyment.


Mud

“They call you Mud?”

“Yeah.”

The tiny blue king frowned at the pajamaed boy whose reclining body covered the dry hill. “Who does?”

“People at school.” He shrugged, giant shoulders sending loose dirt and curls of dust down the hillside.

The wind zipped by in a peevish way, annoyed that the ground was still barren. The king ignored this. “Friend,” he said, firmly, reassuring. The boy rolled over, looked at him sadly. “I too am tired of my world.”

Mud was confused. He saw only new wonders: rolling plains leading to a purple sea, flocks of four and six-winged birds singing above white sands, and a city of painted mollusk shells full of tiny blue people. “Why? It looks so much nicer than mine.”

The king waved his scepter over parched hills and plains. “Drought. I miss the soughing of scarletgrass in the westward wind. The bubbling fountains. Sweet lemonade. My city will soon die without fresh water. If we could only fill our reservoir….well, we could make it, then.”

“Wait!” Mud’s excited cry echoed over the plains; the king covered his ears.

Then it happened, in reverse of the way it had happened a few hours earlier. Mud motioned like he was throwing something from off his head….and vanished.

♦♦♦

            Back in his bed, Mud threw off the blanket and ran to the kitchen. Soon he sat in his bed again with a large glass of water between his knees, several more within reach. The blanket went up over his head….

♦♦♦

            The reservoir gurgled and overflowed, filling aqueducts and pipes leading to the city. Water from other glasses wetted the plains and hills.

“Smell that sweetness, O our hero-friend?” laughed the king.

“What is it?”

“Petrichor. New water on thirsty ground. And your new name here, to be followed by many glorious titles.”

Petrichor smiled. In the painted mollusk-shell city the tiny blue people cheered his new name, and all about him were new shoots of scarletgrass, a-whispering in the wind.

THE END

Am I almost an Inkling?

Mythguard Institute asks for your original flash fiction!

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Two weeks ago Mythguard Institute launched a flash fiction contest open to all comers that will last six weeks in total (ending on Halloween). Sorina Higgins, lecturer and Charles Williams blogger, seems to the main representative for it. In Week 1 they asked us to write a maximum of 333 words about a portal to another world, and the results were some fantastically imaginative, original fiction. As stories are submitted, they are posted online, and anyone can vote on their favorites. After voting closes, two winners are chosen: one by the popular vote and another by the judges. Additionally, runners-up are counted, and the prizes involve publication and the opportunity to read one’s story(-ies) at a webinar. Exciting stuff!

A friend of mine and fellow blogger (I’m not sure if they want to be named to the public yet) was chosen as runner-up by the judges, and I must say it was a cracking good tale. My own story got an honorable mention by the same judges, which suggests I did at least something right. I’ve tried again for last week, Week 2, on a topic about hunting dragons.

Voting is still open for Week 2, so why don’t you all head over to the link here, read some fun stories, and cast votes for the ones you like best? You don’t have to read them all, if it seems too daunting (there are 48, after all!), but they’re all short and sweet. Have fun reading!