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Tag Archives: fantasy

The Rook – by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley.  Highly recommended!

The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley. Highly recommended!

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything.  Maybe it’s the summer, maybe I’m just lazy, I don’t know.  Either way, it’s time to exercise the keyboard for creative pursuits again.

This post is about a book called “The Rook,” by Daniel O’Malley.  It’s an urban fantasy (a genre that I’ve never sought out, besides Harry Potter, which I’m not sure counts) set pretty much in modern-day England.  A family member got it for me on Kindle, and I’m really glad they did.  This was an awesome book, and if the author writes more in this world I will definitely read it.

The book follows the story of a woman in her thirties who wakes up in a park in the rain.  She has no idea who she is, or where she is, but she’s surrounded by a pile of bodies wearing latex gloves.  So, ick, right?  Searching for clues for who she might be, she looks through her pockets.  In one of her coat pockets, she finds a letter addressed “To You.”  Reading it, the letter explains pretty much exactly the situation she finds herself in, and tells her that she’s been targeted by an unknown assassin.  It also gives her instructions for getting to safety.

In a hotel (she was also told how to get money), she ditches her filthy and soaked clothes to the hotel laundry and cleans up.  Looking in the mirror, she realizes why she got such funny looks while checking in – she’s got pretty much the worst black eyes (on both eyes!) that a person could have.

After resting, she sits down to another letter that explains to her that the body she’s in used to belong to a woman named Myfanwy Thomas, and it gives her a choice.  She can leave the past of whoever Myfanwy is behind and adopt a new and completely anonymous life (the identity of which was completely prepared by the former Myfanwy prior to whatever happened), or she can step into Myfanwy’s former life, and try to figure out who was out to get her.

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Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero

The Hero's Quest and Quest for Glory covers.

The Hero’s Quest and Quest for Glory covers.

You may have seen a post I did about Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. How did it get to be #2? Well, this post tells you how. When I first played this game, it was called “Hero’s Quest I: So You Want To Be A Hero.” At the same time, there was a board game (which I also owned) called “Hero Quest.” A trademark dispute with the makers of the board game eventually made Sierra (the publisher) change the name of the series to “Quest for Glory.” These were very different times: EGA graphics (16-colour), VGA (256-colour) at best, and these games were distributed on floppy disks. Well, Hero’s Quest came with 5.25s and 3.5s, and was eventually released on CD (wow!) so it wasn’t that archaic I guess (sarcasm!). Still, it was definitely a different time. It was a time when the term “Animated 3D Adventure Game” meant series like King’s Quest and Space Quest (which probably rivaled the Monkey Island series for comedy). 3D meant that your character could walk “behind” bushes and trees… wow! It was different enough time that a video game company was pushed around by a board game company – I doubt the board game industry has the same clout today they once had. Today, games like Assassin’s Creed III sell 3.5 million copies in the first week they’re offered, and Starcraft is a spectator sport!

No matter how it was released or what name it was called, Lori and Corey Cole did an absolutely marvelous job of inventing a classic and now borderline legendary adventure game.  When I heard that they were going to get back into game design and that it would have something to do with being a hero, I absolutely had to sink my teeth back into this original and best Quest for Glory game.

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The Hobbit, revisited

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien

Well, Peter Jackson is at it again, and I love reading Tolkien’s books, so I made my way through The Hobbit again.  I’ll probably read it one more time before the first movie hits theaters this winter, but it’s so much fun to read it again now (or, well, December, when I actually did it… I’m a bit behind in my online writing).

The Hobbit is the tale of… well, a hobbit.  Bilbo Baggins of Hobbiton, in The Shire.  A respectable hobbit (meaning, he never does anything unpredictable or too adventurous) who prides himself on the considerable size of his belly, as any good hobbit would do.  The story begins with Bilbo living a rather comfortable and normal life in his desirable hobbit hole, Bag End.  His quiet existence is interrupted by the appearance of a wizard named Gandalf, who volunteers Bilbo’s house to be the muster point for the beginning of a grand adventure to reclaim the lost treasure of a band of dwarves.  Gandalf also conspires to have Bilbo join in on the enterprise, to which Bilbo responds by huffily defending his quiet, normal, predictable life.

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Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire

Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire

Video games have gotten big.  Role playing and adventure games have gotten even bigger.  With character attributes and equipment and free world exploration with infinite side-quests and massive online communities of people playing vastly different characters in the same online worlds, it’s hard to sometimes remember the roots of today’s masterpieces.  Now hey, I’m not not complaining about where we’re at now, or yearning for a simpler time and “the way things used to be;”  I’m having a ball playing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood right now.  Some of today’s games defy reality with how good they look (take this past week’s Skyrim as an example)!  Still, back in the day, there were Sierra’s adventure games.  I loved them all, the great questing in King’s Quest, the comic space antics of Space Quest, and even the slightly ridiculous adult overtures of Leisure Suit Larry.

Look out, this hero comes ready for the fight!

One series stood out above the rest, though, as far as Sierra’s games go.  I loved the Quest for Glory series.  They were ground-breaking:  easy to get into, fun and excellent plots, character stats you could train, equipment to acquire, and a branched story line depending on what class of character (fighter, thief or magic user) you chose.  They even had day/night cycles to contend with!  The possibilities were (at the time) seemingly endless.  So imagine how happy I was when I found AGD Interactive’s remake of the classic desert adventure Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire!  In this second installment of the franchise, you re-assume the persona of the ridiculously blonde-haired anonymous hero from where he left off in Quest for Glory I, on his way to the desert city of Shapeir in search of new adventures.  I mean, the brave hero pretty much defeated everything that was bad or dangerous in Spielburg, a guy could get bored hanging out there with nothing to do!  Thankfully, some of the folks he helped out turned him on to some problems they’ve been having in their homeland, and the hero takes a magic carpet ride to see where fate will take him!

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Shadowmarch – by Tad Williams

The Shadowmarch "trilogy"

So I finally finished all these books, after writing my review for Shadowplay in January.  It was a pretty good series overall, but I don’t think it was as strong as his first big fantasy epic, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.  I found that there were a few unresolved story points, and a few repeated themes that took away from the overall story.  Like, the story and main purpose for the book could have been advanced more quickly and effectively.

Still, I really liked the overall ideas for the books; they reminded me a lot of some old Forgotten Realms stuff I read ages and ages ago.  I’m thinking in particular about the Avatar trilogy; Shadowdale, Tantras and Waterdeep.  I’ll have to re-read them to compare the way they used their “supreme beings come to earth” theme.

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Shadowplay – Book Review

Shadowplay Cover

Shadowplay, by Tad Williams

I just finished Shadowplay, by Tad Williams.  I love reading fantasy, and Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (which starts with The Dragonbone Chair) series is one of my favourites.  I was thrilled to dig into another thick  fantasy written by this author, and so far the Shadowmarch series hasn’t disappointed.

It’s also refreshing, as the last fantasy series I started in on (George R. R. Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series, beginning with A Game of Thrones) left me running on empty:  the first book really hooked me in, and by halfway through the second book, I had completely lost interest.  It was bad enough that I went to Wikipedia to read the plot summaries to the current end-point in the series to find out if something interesting would happen, and the answer seemed to be a resounding ‘no’.  The books really read to me like all the male characters did was have sex and fantasize about the excellent and evil plans they were hatching while having sex, and all the female characters did was have sex to try and advance their own agendas.  The fantasy really never jumped out at me, and the politics were just kind of ridiculous.  It really seemed like the author was obsessed with sex, and that even he got bored frequently with the characters he was writing, and so would kill them off without much warning or reason.  It did not live up to the hype.  Thank you to Tad Williams for giving me back my fantasy epic! Read more of this post