Category Archives: Challenges
Author Bradley P. Beaulieu is one of my favourite writers in recent years, thanks to his 2012 debut The Winds of Khalakovo from Night Shade Publishing. It was a pretty good year for the publisher, and we got lots of great debuts at the time, not the least of which was this incredible Russian-esque fantasy from Brad, which told an epic struggle between several noble families navigating the politics of the land. It was a very refreshing read for someone like me who grew up reading the more traditional fantasy settings, and Brad’s style in particular was one of the selling points as well. I have yet to read the third and final novel in the trilogy but after having just read Brad’s latest, I certainly itch to read more of his work, so soon perhaps.
Twelve Kings In Sharakhai is the first novel in Brad’s new series, The Song of The Shattered Sands. It is a very different novel in almost all sorts of ways, and that distinction certainly helps in the enjoyment of the book, though that is by no means the only thing. The setting is far grander this time, I think, for it deals with the past having an effect on the present and what that can mean to the future. The sins of old come to bite back, and it is up to a young girl named Çedamihn to challenge the authority of the Twelve Kings and have her vengeance on those who have wronged her and her family.
Towards the end of last year, Jean Johnson brought her Theirs Not To Reason Why military space opera series to a close in a grand fashion with Damnation, the fifth and final novel in the series. In this series, she introduced an amazingly detailed setting where our hero was a psychic soldier who takes on the entire known galaxy and reshapes it to battle a menace that no one else could even fathom. It was a fantastic series and by the time I was done reading it, I wanted to read more. But the series was done, and all that was left was the promise from Jean that this year we would go back in time to the First Salik War, the interstellar conflict that put Earth on the big stage and which ultimately segued into the events of Theirs Not To Reason Why.
The hero of The Terrans is a former regional politician named Jacaranda MacKenzie who is selected to be the political ambassador of humanity’s first deep foray into the rest of the galaxy, as the United Planets Space Force launches a massive first contact project on the back of several precognitive visions experienced by numerous powerful psychics. Yep, psychics affirming a first contact mission. We know from Jean’s previous series that this setting is populated by numerous psychics of various abilities, and that is something that she does a great job of in this new series, introducing us to many of the pros and cons of such people, especially within the context of a first contact mission.
Stjepan Sejic released his BDSM-centric OGN Sunstone Volume 1 a few months ago and it was pretty much a hit. Having seen some success with the material on his DeviantArt page, he went a bit further and put it out through Top Cow/Image to a much wider audience. And I have to say that the story really changed my mind about the value of the story contained therein. Sunstone isn’t a pornographic comic by any means. Sure, it has a few racy scenes, but they deserve to be looked at through the context of the story in entirety, which is about two young women coming to terms with their wilder side and maturing into a healthy relationship.
This is where Stjepan picks up in the recently-released Sunstone Volume 2, which takes the story of Ally and Lisa even further. In the previous arc, we met with them as they discovered each other, experimented sexually, opened up about their past and present, and settled down into their budding relationship. Now, we see matters progress further as Lisa is exposed to the wider world of BDSM through Ally’s friends, and she learns some of the more tragic aspects of her history as well. Once again, the story and art are both superb here, and I think that Stjepan does a great job yet again of presenting the material in a way that neither offends the reader, nor belittles the subject.
As I have said before, my “25 Series To Read In 201x” reading challenge is meant to allow me to touch base with trilogies (and longer series) that are out in publication currently and have proven to be big successes while also going back to read some classics, especially a few favourites that I have not revisited in the longest time. For this year’s challenge, one of the series that found its way to my list is the Empire trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts, a trilogy that stands as one of the best fantasy series I’ve read to date, for far too many reasons. And going back to it last month proved to be a blast.
The Empire trilogy is set on the world of Kelewan in the Empire of Tsuranuanni. In his Riftwar Saga trilogy, Raymond introduced us to the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan which became locked in a grand war across time and space. In this particular trilogy with Janny, he tells us of the events happening on the other side of the conflict, as the Riftwar novels mostly focus on Midkemia. The books focus on young Mara of the Acoma, the last scion of her family as she struggles to rebuild her family’s fortunes and carves out her own political identity in a world of strict social mores and ruthlessly cunning rivals.
A new year means a new reading challenge of the “25 Series I Want To Read” variety. You can find a list of authors and series (the original post for the challenge that is) over here. In the past two years that I’ve been doing this, I kinda-sorta completed the challenge in 2013, and I definitely completed it last year. It is a really fun challenge to do, and allows me to pick and choose from a wide variety of genre greats and genre debuts (relatively speaking), which is one of the many reasons that I do it all. Plus, as a consequence, it also exposes me to a wider variety of fiction out there and gets me to connect with it all on a very different level, even series that I’ve read before becoming a blogger.
One of the first books I’ve read this year is the first Planeswalker novel for the Magic the Gathering setting from Wizards of the Coast, Agents of Artifice. This is pretty much an intro novel to the setting, and it definitely has a lot of typical Ari Marmell flavour, which I’ve experienced before in his Widdershins novels from Pyr Books, as well as his Darksiders novel from Del Rey. Following the Planeswalkers Jace Beleren and Liliana Vess, this novel explores the wonderful plane of Ravnica and is a fairly good read, though not without its flaws.
Garrosh Hellscream is perhaps one of World of WarCraft‘s most contentious characters. Introduced as part of a quest line that eventually saw the Orcs of Outland reuniting with their brothers and sisters on Azeroth, he is the son of Grom Hellscream, he who first partook of the Pit-Lord Mannoroth’s blood and paved the way for the curse of his race. And yet, he is also the son of Grom Hellscream, he who avenged his people on Mannoroth by slaying the demon. Garrosh has been torn between two extremes since we first saw him and in recent years, as he took on the mantle of Warchief from Thrall, he has slid further and further into his own games and illusions, leading to one of the most momentous moments in World of WarCraft history.
For towards the end of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, players were witness and participants to a raid on Orgrimmar itself, whether they were from the Horde or the Alliance, in a bit to stop Garrosh in another of his apocalyptic schemes. The insane Warchief was defeated and would have died at Thrall’s hand but for the intervention of none other than King Varian Wrynn. And now, in Mists of Pandaria: War Crimes, we are all witness to Garrosh’s trial, an unprecedented event that draws in all the leaders of Azeroth’s various races to Pandaria. Christie Golden recaps much of her previous WarCraft work in this novel, and goes to show that Garrosh is a far more complex than anyone believed him to be, and that contradictions are in his very nature. Needless to say, this was a most fascinating read.
Last year I did a small roundup over at The Founding Fields with fellow reviewer Bane of Kings which contained a list of the best new comics to have come out in 2013. It was a rather small list with only 10 entries each from the two of us, reflecting our reading for the year and the consequent small pool to pick from. But in 2014, I greatly expanded my weekly reading, and so for the round-up of the best new comics to have come out in 2014, whether as mini-series or ongoings, I have decided to go much bigger.
There were a ton of new comics to come out last year and many of them started off well enough but unfortunately well by wayside since subsequent issues were nowhere near as good. That however, is a call to make on any new comic and you have to have a wait-and-see attitude for the most part. For this embiggened round-up, I have some mini-series here and some ongoing titles. Some have had multiple issues come out in 2014, while some have had less than three.
Irrespective of that, these are all the most promising new series of 2014, and I think that they are all well worth the read in 2015.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
Erotic Fiction isn’t really my deal. I’ve never dabbled in it outside of some really lame urban fantasy romance novels, and it is not a genre that interests me at all. But Stjepan Sejic, yes, I’m a huge fan of the artist. I got into his work through Artifacts for Top Cow and that quickly spiraled into an obsession with his work on Witchblade with all those gorgeous covers of his most of all, and then this year into full-blown fan-gasming with his original series Death Vigil from Image Comics, the fifth issue of which I put up as my top comic of 2014 just last week.
When I heard that Stjepan was putting out another OGN, Sunstone, a BDSM erotica that dealt with the lives of two young women, I was initially hesitant. I love Stjepan’s work, but erotica, not my cup of tea at all. But I decided to give the book a try anyway, to see what kind of a story and characters Stjepan had cooked up. Sunstone has seemingly been a huge hit for him on his DeviantArt page, one of the many reasons why it has eventually gotten a print release, and having read it, I think I can see why. Stjepan deals with the subject matter in a very natural way that puts you at your ease and is never discomfiting. The characters are superb, the story is superb, the art is absolutely gorgeous.
In 2012 we saw the relaunch of the He-Man comics franchise under DC, with a limited series that was also supported by several digital one-shots, most of which have since then been collected into trades. While the relaunch got off to a rough start at first, it quickly picked up steam, leading to DC giving the franchise an ongoing series in mid-2013, a series that culminated a few weeks ago in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #19, though not before we got a new series that took the series forward, He-Man: The Eternity War.
This collection should actually be titled as Volume 2, but DC’s numbering counts the limited-series as volume 1 and volume 2 contains the various origin one-shots that have come out in the last couple years. So everything follows on from there, with Volume 3 containing the first six issues of the ongoing series. In this trade version, collecting issues #7 through #12 of writer Dan Abnett’s run on the title, we find out what happens to our heroes in the wake of the revelations about Despara really being Princess Adora of Eternia, and the fact that with the Sorceress’ death previously, Eternia needs a new guardian. This is where King Randor hits upon the idea of journeying to one of Eternia’s deepest and most mystical realms, and we get a great story about the heroes facing up to some really weird and fantastical challenges.
Note: The trade collection will be released in March this year.
A few days ago I did my best of 2014 list for the comics I read in the second half of 2014. And back in July of 2014, I did the first “best comics of 2014” post. The reason I mention that is because of the changes I’ve made for this list. While previously I used to do it so that I put up my top 6 comics, in July’14 I did a top 12 on account of the increased number of comics I was reading at the time. And that same holds true for this list as well since I’ve gone up on the number yet again, and this list has the top 20 and then 20 honourable mentions.
More comics, yay!
So, with the books of the second half of 2014 already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite monthly comics of the same period. The next post will be a list of the top graphic novels I read in all of 2014.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
Doing one of these posts often takes a lot out of me because of all the linking and checking and verification and formatting and everything, but lists like this also help me crystalize my year in reading, so I value them quite highly. Thankfully, I’m able to get this list out in time and most of the books on the list have already been reviewed as well, so that’s something too.
With the year 2014 now done and over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st July to December 31st. I didn’t read as many books this time as I wanted to, primarily because I got married in the first week of July itself, and things have changed a fair bit. But life remains exciting and interesting in equal measure, and my reading also happens to match that rather closely, so I’ll take that in full indeed!
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!