This post is coming in at a slightly later time than I’d prefer, about two weeks late at least, but I guess I can’t really “complain” when the lateness is due to my own wedding which took place exactly two weeks ago on the 5th. It has certainly been a very busy and intense time, what with being engrossed in all the marriage stuff and then even after that there’s been one thing after another. Reading time has definitely suffered greatly, which makes me a little sad considering how much I love reading, but eh, all for a good cause really.
With half the year now over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st January to 30th June. There’s been a ton of books that I’ve read in this period as usual, and I made a very strong effort to read more tie-in fiction than I usually do, so the list is most assuredly going to reflect that. Tie-in fiction is a very important part of the publishing industry I feel and it always deserves some recognition. Now if we could only get an award started that celebrated tie-in fiction and all would be alright with the world. Or so my thinking goes.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
It has been a good long while since I’ve read a Forgotten Realms novel. The last one was in December of last year, Elfshadow by Elaine Cunningham. It was a fairly good read, but I’ve definitely read better, from the works of Erin M. Evans and Paul S. Kemp and Richard Baker and all. It is definitely a setting that I love exploring and the more I read in it, the more excited I get about it. Forgotten Realms fully explores the multiverse side of things for a fantasy setting, and that is part of the charm, in addition to the utter abundance and wonder of its many different races and cultures and what not.
And in that respect, Richard Baker’s first novel in the Last Mythal Saga, Forsaken House, is really good. It presents many different facets of Elf life in the Forgotten Realms and it also presents a really fast-paced, excitable and intriguing premise paired with some really interesting characters. The only other novel of Richard’s I’ve read before this is his Condemnation, the third novel in the 6-part War of the Spider Queen multi-author extravaganza and that too was a damn fine read. It is great to see Richard’s best replicated here, and the Last Mythal Saga is definitely a tale that I want to read in full now.
With all the Grimmverse reading I’ve been doing of late, it’d be quite easy to get lost in all of it since I’m not being very systematic with it, just picking what looks good and then going from there. It doesn’t work so well when I’m reading across the timelines and all over and in-between a massive crossover event, but I am still having a lot of fun with it for the most part. And if there’s one character that I’ve really come to like, it is Robyn Locksley, the faux-Robin Hood of the Grimmverse and the story of her damnation and redemption. She’s been one of the more consistent characters for me thus far, and that is indeed one of the things that draws me to her.
The first issue of Robyn Hood: Legend was the first Robyn-centric story I read from the Grimmverse and also the one that I really liked. I’ve read the first volume (mini-series) since then, and that too was a good story, although not on the same level as Legend #1. Still, I trucked on with the series and have by now read Legend #2-4, and they’ve all three proven to be good stories about a tortured hero looking for some good in her seemingly-cursed life. It also helps that the artwork has been very consistent thus far, because a good story can only go so far if the artwork is not good, and the artwork in Robyn Hood: Legend is quite good indeed.
And so it all ends. After flip-flopping with quality and content so much in the past nine weeks, we are finally at the point where we see the ending to yet another seaosn of HBO’s runaway hit Game of Thrones, the show that has apparently made fantasy cool for television viewers, finally, if some people are to believed. It may have, at that, but the just-finished season has had plenty of problems as far as I’m concerned. Still, I’ll admit that the finale beat most of my expectations in the end and it was actually half-way decent.
The finale is titled “The Children“, which is fairly apt given that is all about the children, sons and daughters fighting against their legacies and their parents. In this entire season, a lot of resentment has been brewing up between the Lannister children and that comes to a devastating close here. Plus we see Arya’s arc end for this year and get a chance to get really excited about what’s coming up with her. Then there’s the whole thing with the aimlessly wandering Stark and Reed kids, who finally run into their mythic and cliched wizard-who-knows-it-all. Across the Narrow Sea we find that the Mother of Dragons doesn’t have control over her children after all and then Beyond The Wall see that Jon Snow just got an opportunity of a lifetime twice over.
Note: This is a review with major spoilers from the finale. You have been warned.
Quite unintentionally, I’ve started on a sort of WarCraft kick this year as far as my reading is concerned. First it was The Shattering: Prelude to the Cataclysm and then it was Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects, novels that were set in the World of WarCraft: Cataclysm expansion, and they both proved to be really good reads all the way through. They also helped me reconnect with a game that I’d long stopped playing, and the hit of nostalgia was pretty strong. and also very enjoyable. And since Christie Golden is such a good writer, the experience was better than I’d expected.
Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War is both the epilogue to World of WarCraft: Cataclysm and the prologue to the next expansion, Mists of Pandaria. In this novel, we see how the calculated brutality and savagery of Garrosh Hellscream turns Jaina Proudmoore from a pacifist to one intent on the path of vengeance. It is one of the most stunning character reversals I’ve seen in fiction for a long while, Christie handles it with aplomb. Some of the usual deficiencies of Christie’s writing are evident here, but by and large this novel was a damn good read and very emotional too.
In one more week, HBO’s smash-hit Game of Thrones will ends its fourth season. As might be expected, the new season has seen the highest viewership numbers of any of the previous seasons, by a considerable margin. As much as the show’s popularity might have increased however, the success only seems to have made some elements of the show worse, while others remain plateaued. No prizes as to what has gotten worse, if you’ve read my reviews. Thankfully, the penultimate episode of the season seems to have escaped that particular disappointing element.
Now, if only things had remained like that. Much as with Season 2′s penultimate episode Blackwater, “The Watchers on The Wall” is an episode focused on a single event: the first battle of the Wall between the armies of Mance Ryder and the Night’s Watch. Start to finish, we see the full cast of the Wall, and that is that, making this episode the one with the shortest primary cast list, for none of the other high and mighty of the show make even a cursory appearance. At first I was all for it, but as the episode dragged on, I got bored and bored, and the ending proved to be unsatisfactory.
After all the heavy reading of the previous weeks, this past week proved to be a little less intensive, but not by much. The only real difference this time was that I didn’t get to read any graphic novels or trades. And I only just managed to read all these comics anyways because things are getting hectic here with all the marriage preparations, not to mention the court marriage I had the other day (yes, officially married now!). So yeah, things are just a little bit really hectic.
The surprise hits of this week were 7th Sword #1 from IDW Publishing, Harley Quinn #6 from DC Comics, and Dejah of Mars #1 from Dynamite Entertainment. The surprise flops would be Batman #31 and The Flash #31, both from DC Comics, both of them quite disappointing in that the arcs do not make sense anymore and I’m really turned off of them. Comics that I expected to be great, such as Ms. Marvel #4 from Marvel and Thanos Annual 2014, also from Marvel, and Future’s End #4 from DC Comics, were all good, amongst others. So a nice spread of everything, as usual.
Last weekend Game of Thrones took a break since it was the Memorial Day Weekend, and thus we’ve had to wait two weeks to see the fabled fight between the Red Viper of Dorne and the Mountain in King’s Landing. The build-up has been quite immense and last episode certainly ended on a very interesting cliffhanger, although in regards to a different subplot altogether. I keep saying this, but season 4 has been very mixed so far for me, and while I kind of enjoyed this new episode as well, I certainly don’t see the trend changing any time soon.
With a title like “The Mountain and The Viper” and knowing what happened in episodes 6 and 7, you know full well what is going to happen in this episode. And the big fight between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane certainly delivers on expectations, although the ending is kind of really daft, as far as I am concerned. And elsewhere, we see ever more heartbreak as various things happen to make it clear that all these characters are just getting their asses kicked again and again. Kind of ruins the fun as far as I am concerned.
Note: Some spoilers from the various ongoing plotlines are mentioned, as is the result of the Viper-Mountain duel.