A Belated Anniversary

I’ve been so caught up in all that’s going on in my life I completely forgot about the seventh anniversary of this blog. Usually I like to do a reflection post the day of, but I guess this year it’s going to have to be a few days late.

When in doubt, post a TSW screenshot.Since this kind of snuck up on me, I haven’t had the chance to think much about what to say.

I suppose the biggest change to come out of the last year — at least as far as topics relevant to this blog go — is the fact that I’ve returned to writing fiction regularly with the goal of finally finishing the Soulcleaver books.

That has been, perhaps unsurprisingly, a bit of a rocky road. Things have not progressed as quickly as I might have liked. But they are progressing at least.

As of this month, I’ve finally finished my first draft of book three, currently titled The Bloodforged Host. This was probably the most difficult book I’ve ever written, and I’m very glad to finally be moving past it.

Of course now there’s book four to deal with (and eventually book five), but I’m hoping that will be a bit easier. Those later books will have more action. And Dragons.

I do think I might take a short break before starting on book four — I need time to collect my thoughts anyway — but I’m going to try not to waste too much time. I really want to see this series finished.

Seesha Avallen, Elven RunnerAnother noteworthy change over the past twelve months is that I’ve been spending less time on video games and more on offline gaming, like Dungeons and Dragons.

Unfortunately the campaign I blogged about a few weeks back has fallen through due to our DM being too busy, but one of the players from that campaign has now stepped in as dungeon master for a new campaign.

In the new campaign, I’m playing as a Tiefling monk who is also taking the occasional level in bard. I was inspired by the Brazilian martial art of capoeira, which was created by slaves and disguised as a dance. Being Tieflings are something of an underclass in D&D lore, it made sense to me that they might develop a similar fighting style so they could learn to protect themselves without arousing suspicion.

I’m enjoying the character so far, but I will admit I miss my Elven paladin. That was pretty much my perfect RPG character. Angsty Elf girl with a bow and support magic. All of the yes.

I don’t ever want to reach the point where I give up on video games — I’m loving Vampyr at the moment — but I do think it’s been good to get out more and spend less time staring at screens.

Embracing a citizen in Dontnod's dark fantasy RPG VampyrThat’s also part of why I’ve spent less time blogging. I want to spend more time out in the world and less in cyberspace.

And that’s about the limit of my sleep-deprived brain can come up with as far as reflections on the past year, I’m afraid. I want to once again thank my readers for their support. May there be many more years of bloggery ahead of us.

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Review: The Dragon Prophecy: Blade of Empire

It’s been a long time since the first book of Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s Dragon Prophecy trilogy was released. So long, in fact, that I had started to think the series had been cancelled for some reason. Imagine my surprise and delight, then, to find book two staring in me in the face as I perused the shelves at Indigo.

Cover art for The Dragon Prophecy, book two: Blade of Empire by Mercedes Lackey and James MalloryIt wasn’t entirely easy to get back into the story. After so long, I had forgotten a lot, and between the bloated cast, a relative lack of physical description, and the infamously over-complicated names given to Elves in this universe, it was hard to remember who was who.

That said, there is improvement in many of the key areas where book one faltered. While the issue of unwieldy names hasn’t entirely gone away, concessions have been made. For instance, much of the book focuses on a character named Runacarendalur Caerthalien, but mercifully, this is abbreviated to the nickname “Runacar” for most of the book. As well, a number of non-Elven characters are introduced, and they all have names that are far more manageable.

The pacing’s a bit better this time, as well. It’s still a bit of a slow burn, but not unpleasantly so, and it builds to a breathtaking climax.

Picking up in the immediate aftermath of book one, Blade of Empire sees Vieliessar struggling to plan her next move after attaining the High King’s crown at the cost of destroying Elven civilization as she knew it. Meanwhile, her embittered rival Runacar forges an unlikely alliance with the so-called “Beastlings,” the other races of the Light who have long been hunted by the Elves.

And in the depths of Obsidian Mountain, the Endarkened marshal their forces, for the time of the Red Harvest has come at last.

In case it wasn’t already clear, I enjoyed Blade of Empire a lot more than Crown of Vengeance.

Partly I think it’s a matter of timing. Lately I’ve grown a bit frustrated with the direction of the fantasy genre. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places, but these days it seems like the focus is more and more on low fantasy stories focused on backstabbing and political intrigue more than magic and wonder.

Blade of Empire isn’t like that. This is the high fantasy of all high fantasy. Not only are there no humans at all in this story, but a good chunk of the cast isn’t even humanoid. It’s a story that overflows with colour and imagination, unashamed of its wildly fantastical nature.

This is what I read fantasy for.

But also, it’s just a quality story. Not without flaws, as we’ve already discussed, but with great strengths to balance them out.

Something that the Dragon Prophecy series has been very good at even from the outset is presenting the mythic feeling that fantasy books often shoot for, but rarely achieve. This is a no-holds-barred story of the death of one world and the birth of something new — not unlike Genesis of Shannara — and it’s an incredibly powerful experience.

There is a common school of thought that holds that prequels are an inherently flawed form of story-telling, but I think this series is a great example of a story that would not have nearly so much power if the reader didn’t know what was coming.

There’s a sense of creeping horror running through these books as you watch the armies of the Light tear each other apart, leaving themselves all but defenseless, even as the Endarkened are preparing for the war to end creation. You want to scream at the characters to stop, to unite in preparation for the true threat, but you can only watch on helplessly as they race toward oblivion.

In the end, you’re left reflecting on just how futile, how senseless, war truly is.

Overall rating: 8/10 Book one took a lot of patience, but I think I can now safely say this series is worth it.