Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

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Art Post: White Knight

December 6, 2012

I mentioned November was a busy time for art commissions, so I just wanted to take a moment and share here one of the projects I had worked on since the recipient also happens to be a fellow gamer/blog buddy of mine.

Rer, whom some of you might know from multiplaying.net, first approached me with an idea of a pencils-on-art-board drawing as a gift for his girlfriend, which I was happy to accommodate. So much of the envisioned concept involved symbolism in this piece, and I must say I had some fun with the challenge of working those ideas in along with everything else requested in the detailed specifications he provided me.

White Knight

White Knight – pre-cleanup

Special thanks to Rer for giving me permission to post this; I don’t often get the go-ahead to pimp my commissioned stuff. And of course, he was also a pleasure to work with.

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Something’s Gotta Give

August 16, 2012

I feel both blessed and cursed that so many MMOs have caught my eye this year. On the one hand, I wouldn’t be playing them if I didn’t think I would enjoy myself, but on the other, my gaming schedule is already full enough as it is and my wallet is begging for mercy. Even Guild Wars 2 isn’t off the hook on this, because let’s face it — I want to support the game and there’s no better way to do it than to spend money. I know we all get excited over free-to-play, but I wouldn’t be doing it justice if I took full advantage of F2P and never spent a dime, while all my money went to subscription games.

What’s that old adage? It never rains but it pours? GW2 headstart for pre-purchasers on August 25, with the official launch on the 28thThe Secret World with its big Issue 2 update on August 28th. Huge World of Warcraft pre-expansion patch on August 28th, with Mists of Panderia rolling out on September 25th. Rift with a brand new expansion Storm Legion hitting stores later “this fall”. I think I’m set for the rest of the year. That is, if I manage to survive my head exploding at the end of August, of course.

I mean, summers always tend to be slower for gaming so it’s not exactly unexpected when things pick up again when fall rolls around, but here I thought last year was bad with its parade of single player games all coming out within a couple months of each other. This year is even worse — Fall 2012 is the Attack Of The MMOs, and online games generally require a fair bit more in terms of commitment and investment. It’s time to put my foot down, draw the line, insert whatever metaphor it takes as long as it ends up with me coming up with a viable MMO plan, one which involves:

1) No more than two subscriptions, as I have never maintained more than two concurrent MMO subs at any given time and I’m not going to start.

2) Finding a good combination of games that will “scratch all itches”, so to speak.

Here’s what I mean by the second part: TSW is a no brainer as it offers a very different environment and gameplay style, WoW has got the traditional PvE experience covered, and GW2 doesn’t require a subscription and reigns supreme when it comes to the dynamic events department. This last point does unfortunately mean Rift will have to take a backseat as its fantasy setting and features make it too similar to the games I’ll already be playing, though at this point I have to wonder if I’ll even get to its expansion before the end of the year.

The thing is, I still want to play Rift — quite badly actually, especially now that I know some really cool things like housing dimensions are coming to the game. Earlier this week I was very tempted by an offer from Trion: buy a full year of Rift, and get Storm Legion free, but it may be best to just pass on that and wait to subscribe until after the winter or after I’ve had my fill of WoW. It’s a great thing when new games come out and the existing ones I love add new content, but something’s gotta give. Right now I’m just breathing a sigh of relief that I don’t also have the Lord of the Rings Online expansion (September 5) to juggle too.

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Read Lately: A Song Of Ice And Fire

November 11, 2010

When it comes to fiction, I have a pretty eclectic taste. My interests come and go like the wind and every once in a while I’ll latch on to a new topic or genre and devour anything I can get my hands on. Lately, I appear to have been bitten by the epic fantasy bug, because I can’t seem to get enough of it. And it was this new obsession that led me to A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of novels written by George R. R. Martin.

Indeed, the first book A Game of Thrones appeared enough times on “Best Fantasy” lists to warrant my attention as I was doing my research and contemplating what to read. Recommendations from people who are more knowledgeable than me on the topic of epic fantasy also came in droves. SoIaF is definitely a great series, I gathered from all the opinions. The only thing I should be wary of, however, is that it is as of yet unfinished. That normally doesn’t faze me, so I went ahead and loaded the four existing novels into my reader.

Now that a month has passed and I’ve finished reading them all, I’m finally starting to realize why people sought to warn me about holding back from reading the series until it is complete. When I first began A Game of Thrones, I think I expected each book to be a self-contained tale in a larger, overarching story, the way I’ve seen many other authors handle their long, multi-novel projects. I quickly learned that this was not the case here. Looking back, it would be difficult if not impossible to discern a clear beginning, middle, and end to each novel, as the events from one seem to flow seamlessly into the next.

Because of this, I couldn’t stop reading. I’d originally planned to take my time with this series, spacing out the four installments between other books I had in my to-read list, but the story was so good I just had to know what happened next. So, slave to immediate gratification that I am, I ended up reading them all back-to-back. Now here I am, all caught up and hungering for more, sharing in the despair of a legion of SoIaF fans waiting impatiently for the next book to come out. But the series was worth the read though, and I was warned, so I really can’t complain that much. I also determined early on that talking about each novel by itself would not be easy, so I decided to wait until I had read all four before weighing in with my thoughts.

No danger of any spoilers here. In any case, the plot is so convoluted and involves enough key players to fill a small town that I’m not even going to attempt a real summary. Suffice to say the story is as epic as epic gets. No fewer than three main storylines unfold across a gritty world heavily inspired by Medieval history and Feudalism, each rife with tales of royal scandal, political intrigue and grisly battle scenes as principal families across the land of Westeros wage bloody war over a throne.

Make no mistake; these novels are written for adults and not for the faint of heart. Personally, that’s the way I like it. I don’t mind dark themes or a little conflict in my books, and I won’t shy away from excessive violence especially when it’s done for the sake of realism. Pick up any book about the customs and traditions of war in the Middle Ages and you will see that for all the talk of chivalry, Medieval warfare was brutal. I’ve also come across reviews from people who were turned off by the sex, but I actually thought it was pretty tame. Certainly nowhere near as explicit or gratuitous than anything I’ve ever pulled off the shelves from the romance section.

I also remember recently watching an HBO featurette for the upcoming Game of Thrones TV series (based on these novels) and seeing George R. R. Martin say that too much magic can ruin fantasy, and I have to say I wholeheartedly agree. I’m not a fan of excessive magic, and for this reason I usually prefer fantasies that are heavier on the realistic elements and decline to read anything that deals too much with wizards, elves or magic spells, etc. Admittedly, I got a little worried at the first mention of dragons, but overall I found that magic is well handled in SoIaF — just a touch, and not too much.

Possibly the  best part about these books, however, is the character development. Martin tells the story through multiple viewpoints, with each chapter switching back and forth between various characters. I found this format kept me on my toes. A few characters endeared themselves to me immediately; I found I could hardly wait to proceed with the the story so I could catch up with them again. Others I wasn’t so very fond of. Still, one thing that still amazes me is how my opinions of the characters kept constantly changing — and I mean this in a good way. One moment I would be rooting against some vile, malicious brute, and the next I’d be cheering them on. Each character has their own strengths and flaws and over time they are shaped by the events happening around them, but when they evolve it’s done naturally and more importantly, very realistically.

Which is why it’s such a shock whenever someone dies. Without a doubt, death is all over these books. Love them or hate them, it’s always a shame when it happens to a key character. Whether you perceive them as hero or villain, I felt that each character’s presence made the story that much richer. Martin can spend the better part of a novel painstakingly crafting each facet of a character’s personality in order to bring them to life in the reader’s mind, only to strike them down later on in the story, sometimes in the most horrific of ways. It’s no easier even when you see it coming. Honestly, I feel like no one is truly safe in this series, which is particularly surprising when I consider how much time and effort is invested into developing each character.

Still, there are plenty other characters to keep track of and more seem to be added with each book, and the sheer size of the ensemble cast might be a turn off for some. I don’t mind books with a lot of characters, but at some point even I had to wonder if all the characters we had to keep up with was why I felt parts of A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows (the third and fourth book, respectively) started to drag. I only hope that when the next volume A Dance with Dragons finally releases, all the complexities of the plot and relationships between characters will still be somewhat fresh in my mind. I understand it’s been quite a few years.

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Read Lately: The Way Of Kings

October 5, 2010

Note: No spoilers.

Let me just preface this by saying I don’t read a lot fantasy, and I certainly do not consider myself an enthusiast of the genre as I get through only about a handful of fantasy-themed books every year. I find my preferences gravitate towards historical fantasy, but I’ve pretty much given up on the magical, heroic, or epic sub-genres. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck choosing titles on my own, but most of what I’ve read have either made me sick or bored me to tears.

Not so with The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. In fact, I was overcome with a sense of contentment soon after I turned the last page. It’s the sort of feeling you get after finishing a satisfying read, complete with just the hint of sadness at the fact the book has finally come to an end. That’s saying something, seeing as the hardcover version of the book is a whopping 1008 pages. And this is just the first of what is planned to be a 10-novel series! Considering the author has other projects to work on, including finishing the Wheel of Time series, I’ll probably be in my early 40s by the time the last book comes out. Ah well, I’ve always known that committing myself to an epic fantasy series often means a whole lot of waiting.

The Way of Kings takes place in Roshar, a land affected by powerful weather phenomenons called Highstorms, which are pretty much hurricanes on steroids. The flora and fauna have all adapted to these conditions, resulting in bizarre creatures like heavily-shelled animals or plants that can suck themselves back into the ground when disturbed. All around the world are also these spirit-like things called spren, which are either caused by or attracted to emotions or particular circumstances. It is a fantastical setting, but one that is still very believable at the same time. Sanderson spends the time to craft an in-depth environment with his writing, and it’s clear the ideas for this world weren’t just thrown together overnight.

The book has four main characters who are all connected in some way — Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar and Adolin, though there’s a rather large cast of other background characters to get acquainted with. Kaladin is the most prominent protagonist, and his story almost feels like a comic book hero’s journey. Indeed, he reminds me of Peter Parker/Spider-man in many ways — a young man in bad times who has had to deal with the deaths of people close to him, who’s constantly struggling to save everyone around him with his big heart that cares way too much for others when it should be caring for himself. That said, at times the characters in the book can feel a bit one-dimensional, but this is made up for by some interesting plot turns and the great lead-up to the novel’s climax. Towards the end I could scarcely put the book down, when all the story groundwork that has been laid down finally comes to fruition.

I also appreciate the author for his efforts to constantly keep the reader in the characters’ heads. I felt that this aspect was a huge improvement over his Mistborn series that I couldn’t get into, even though I tried. In those novels, it got too tedious to read pages upon pages of description about the gravity-defying stunts, which would have been much more captivating if I was watching it happen on-screen in a movie or video game. But the nice thing about books — and their greatest strength — should be the way they allow you to peer inside a character’s head to see what they are feeling or experiencing. Without that emotional aspect for me, reading about the combat or action-filled scenes simply feels bland. However, I never once felt this way while reading through The Way of Kings‘ many battle scenes, and I realized it was because Sanderson has managed to keep me sufficiently in touch with the characters this time around.

And while we’re on the subject of Sanderson’s writing, I have to say I enjoy his style. He’s a good storyteller, and his writing, while not too terribly elegant, is straightforward and undisguised without being too simplistic. I mean all that as a compliment; sometimes you just want to get to the meat of the story without poring over a page multiple times to contemplate all its artsy-ness or symbolic meanings. That stuff is for another time, another book. But when all I want to do is sit back and relax to enjoy an epic fantasy with a good story, The Way of Kings delivers.