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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Kaladesh Previews Week 3

The second week (third week for Kaladesh because of PAX) of spoilers usually has very little exciting stuff to reveal. Most of the good stuff comes out in the first week, often on the first 2-3 days themselves, and then it is all mostly some promising rares and uncommons, maybe a spicy mythic or two. The first big wave of spoilers for Kaladesh certainly proved to be very interesting, and it is clear that there are some really powerful cards in store for us when the set releases next week.

The beginning of the final week of Kaladesh brought us the most surprising news of the year: the Masterpiece series and the Kaladesh Inventions. A range of 30 premium foil versions of artifacts from across Magic‘s history, it seems that these are the new norm for sets moving forward. And not only that, but we got tons of exciting cards that are sure to shake up not only Standard, but also make a splash in Modern and Legacy! So let’s see what’s all in store for us as the Kaladesh preview season ends.

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Ravnica: City of Guilds by Cory J. Herndon (Book Review)

My first substantial introduction to the world of Magic the Gathering was through the comics written by Matt Forbeck for IDW Publishing. They introduced me to the planeswalker thief Dack Fayden through some really fun adventures across the Multiverse. Since then, I’ve taken up the game itself, and now I play fairly regularly and follow tournament coverage as well. Naturally, my interests would also lead me to other Magic fiction, specifically the novels, and I’ve read a few of them in the last couple of years, the most recent being Cory J. Herndon’s Ravnica: City of Guilds.

The first of the Ravnica Cycle trilogy, this novel follows a lieutenant of the League of Wojek, Agrus Kos, as he undertakes a murder investigation that draws him into a conspiracy that will shake up the entire world of Ravnica. As a fan of the setting, I really appreciated Herndon’s detailed descriptions of Ravnica and its many citizens, which really helped to bring the world alive in my mind. I’m not familiar with any of the characters here, but that’s the thing about Ravnica: City of Guilds, you don’t have to know anything about Magic the Gathering to enjoy it, though that does help.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Kaladesh Previews Week 2

Wizards of the Coast kicked off their previews for the upcoming set Kaladesh in great style at the PAX West convention, bringing us some fantastic new planeswalkers, new mechanics, and some really fantastic new cards that are sure to shake up the Standard format, and beyond. Against the backdrop of the Magic World Championship 2016, which was won by seasoned grinder Brian Braun-Duin (congrats, Brian!), the previews presentations were amazingly well-choreographed and it was certainly a unique experience as far as I’m concerned.

The second week of previews didn’t disappoint either, I must say. Not only did we get one more Planeswalker, we also got the planeswalkers for the Planeswalker Intro Packs, which have replaced the regular Intro Packs of old, and we saw some great new powerful cards that reintroduced characters who have been missing for some time. The world of Kaladesh looks as vibrant as the first round of previews suggested, if not better, and I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on some of these cards. So let’s get to it then!

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Kaladesh at PAX

Ever since about the end of May, it has been a rollercoaster few months. It is as if the spoiler season hasn’t really ended. First it was the spoilers for Eternal Masters. Then soon after that it was time for spoilers for Conspiracy: Take The Crown. And then, just a few days ago, it was time for Kaladesh, the upcoming set for the game, releasing by the end of the month. Taking place at the PAX convention over the weekend, we got a ton of spoilers for the new set, which is all set to shake up the Standard format, and even more.

Kaladesh is going to mark a very significant point in the history of the game since it will be the first set to bring us players firmly into the new era of two-set blocks which started with the Battle For Zendikar block last year, and progressed with the Shadows Over Innistrad block this year. Whether it be the planeswalker Saheeli Rai or vehicles or the new Energy resource, Kaladesh is chock-full of awesome cards and awesome mechanics and I can’t wait to get my hands on these cards and get on with some spell-slinging with friends. Read the rest of this entry

News: Shotguns & Sorcery RPG!

Back in 2012, it was sort of a Matt Forbeck year for me, given how many of his novels, and even comics, I read that year. Matt quickly became one of my favourite authors, and even a writing inspiration given how much of a workload he took on that year in terms of novel-writing, and the end results as well. And over the two and a half years since I read his Vampires/Titanic mash-up novel from Angry Robot, Carpathia, he has also become a good friend. There has never been a work of his that I didn’t like, and his Shotguns & Sorcery trilogy last year was among my favourite reads of the year.

The setting itself was something that he had created almost a decade before as d20 RPG and licensed it out to a publisher. Then came the novels for his bonkers-crazy-but-successful 12-for-12 project, and now finally we come to the big news he revealed earlier this week: that he struck a deal with Outland Entertainment to publish enhanced eBooks of the trilogy and also work out a new and improved RPG for the setting as well. It is amazing news because I love the trilogy itself and have wanted to read more about and in the setting since.I for one am really excited about this and I hope I get a chance to try this out on release!

Here’s the link to Matt’s original post, and below is the press release for the news.

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Best of 2014 Part 1a: Novels

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!

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Magician by Raymond E. Feist (Book Review)

Raymond E. Feist’s Magician remains, to this day, one of the finest examples of traditional epic fantasy that I’ve read. When I started out reading epic fantasy/space opera back in freshman year of high school, it was one of the very first books I read, soon after J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and soon after Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance Chronicles. That was a really great time for me, because I was discovering so many great books one after the other, and there was something about the adventures of Pug and Tomas and their friends that really drew me in to this world that Feist had created.

Magician is primarily the tale of two boyhood friends’ rise to power from extremely humble beginnings, one the son of kitchen servants to a frontier (but politically powerful) Duke, and the other an orphan with none to claim him. Tomas and Pug experience some really extraordinary adventures in their rise to power and together they become embroiled in some really amazing and epic events that date back to thousands of years in their world’s past. Full of exciting action, interesting characters, a really epic plot and a truly wonderful setting, Magician is a must-read massive novel as far as I’m concerned.

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Wolf of Sigmar by C. L. Werner (Book Review)

So ends another Time of Legends trilogy. C. L. Werner’s Black Plague is part of the second wave of trilogies that are part of the overall Time of Legends brand, trilogies that tell the tales of some of the greatest events in the Warhammer Fantasy Battles lore, such as the Fall of the Elves in Gav Thorpe’s The Sundering or the rise of Sigmar in Graham McNeill’s Legends of Sigmar. With his first two books in this trilogy, Herr Werner did something that hadn’t quite been there in other Warhammer novels, fantasy with a strong and intense political edge. This is what I loved best about the first novel Dead Winter and with the second novel Blighted Empire.

In the final novel, released a short while ago, Herr Werner took things further and he really established Black Plague as one of the finest trilogies in Warhammer. The action is superb. The characterisation is superb. The handling of all the different characters and the betrayals and alliances is superb. I honestly could not have asked for more on that front. Wolf of Sigmar went in some unexpected directions and since I’m not all that conversant with Warhammer lore, it proved to be a very satisfying read indeed.

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The Hobbit (An Unexpected Journey): The Adventure Begins

I first read The Hobbit back in ninth grade. In many reviews and editorials over the years I’ve said that that was a time when I was really beginning to explore the science fiction and fantasy genres. And that was a time when I was reading the works of some of the biggest names in either, authors like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, J. R. R. Tolkien, Raymond E. Feist, Ursula K. Le Guin, and many others. So suffice to say that (almost) 13 years on, I’ve had a long relationship with the Middle Earth setting. I’ve read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion. And whenever I’ve read either of them, or re-read them, its always been a joy.

A little over a year ago, following the incredible success of his The Lord of The Rings adaptations, Peter Jackson released his long-awaited The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first in a new trilogy that is based on The Hobbit but not as faithful an adaptation as his previous trilogy. First two movies, and then three, he has said that he would be including materials from various appendices and what not to pad out the entire trilogy, and this is a move that I welcomed. When I saw the movie in 2012, I was extremely impressed with it. It had a few flaws, but the overall effect was just as grand as I remembered from the novel.

Note: The review may contain spoilers.

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12 Days of Best SFF Characters of 2013: Day #1

For this new seasonal list (another one!!), for the best SFF characters I’ve read this year, my first pick is the duo of Gotrek & Felix from Josh Reynolds’ Road of Skulls, a part of the Gotrek & Felix series, a mainstay for the Warhammer Fantasy setting from Black Library (Games Workshop).

Hit the break to see why I picked these two characters.

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Epic Fantasy: A Personal Definition

Over at her blog, Helen Lowe has had an interesting discussion taking place of late on the topic of what makes epic fantasy what it is. Its been quite an informative discussion to say the least (more). The descriptions and definitions that people attach to this seemingly simple 2-word phrase have provided a lot of new perspectives, many of which I have never considered before.

And that made me think about how I define “epic fantasy”. What are the components of it? What are the essentials? Like with any other discussion about the definition of genre categories, there are no easy answers here either and that has a lot to do with personal biases and preferences. I’ve seen a lot of books come out in the last few years that have been hailed as epic fantasy but that I wouldn’t necessarily classify as such, since for me there are some basic requirements for a book to be hailed with that genre label.

Which is what this post is about.

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