24 December 2009

A Very Merry Christmas from Mithril Wisdom

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Happy dragon in the snow
Image source: Miriam E Lewis
I just want to wish everyone (at this point, everyone probably consists of 2 people, but hey, it's the spirit of the thing :P) a very merry Christmas and an awesome New Year. I've got to finish reading Terry Pratchett's Hogfather before tomorrow (another 100 pages to go) so once Christmas comes I can start on any new books that I get. Fingers crossed Santa is kind to me :)


I wanted to make up a funky Christmas/fantasy graphic for this post, but I've got no artistic skill whatsoever. So instead, here's a Christmas card made by Miriam E Lewis.


Hope you all have a great Christmas, and I'll see you in 2010 for more Wisdom :D

21 December 2009

The Sorceror's Apprentice 2010 Trailer

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The Sorcerer's Apprentice movie poster
Another trailer for you, this one is Disney's live action re-imagining of their 1940 classic Fantasia, itself based on an 18th century poem by Goethe. The film is directed by Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean, Prince of Persia) and stars Nicholas Cage as the sorcerer.

I'm not really sure if there's anything beyond the title that links this movie to either the older Disney animation or the original poem (there's a 1 second shot at the 2:14 mark that looks like the original setting with the mops and buckets, but that's about it). Nicholas Cage is a strange choice for the old sorcerer given his past few movies haven't been all that great (though his outings with Disney in National Treasure were pretty good given given the audience that they were aimed for) but it looks like it could be an enjoyable film.
The effects are pretty solid and remind me of Inkheart and to a lesser extent Stardust. Though the movie seems to be built on a pretty shaky premise, it looks like it'll be a fairly popular Disney film once it goes to DVD.

18 December 2009

Clash of the Titans 2010 Trailer

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Clash of the Titans movie poster
A new trailer has been released for the new Clash of the Titans movie, and I have to say it looks pretty damn epic. It's got a lot to live up to, since the 1981 original is now considered a classic. The film stars Sam Worthington of Avatar and Terminator Salvation fame as Perseus, and Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as Zeuss and Hades (that divine lineup alone is reason enough to want to watch the film).

The trailer has had some mixed reviews, the negative ones mainly seem to focus on the choice of music for the trailer (can't see why, it's badass, even if it isn't 'epic classical' as you'd expect to see in a film about Ancient Greece). The effects look absolutely awesome, and the acting talent seems to be top quality. I for one can't wait for this one to be released.

16 December 2009

Dark Blood Falling by Karla J. M. Brading [book review]

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Dark Blood Falling by Karla J.M. Brading
Self-published
Paperback - 224 pages
Published November 2009
Personal copy. 

This is the first new release that I'll be reviewing, and hopefully it'll be the first of many :) Dark Blood Falling is the third installment of The Meridion Blood Trilogy by Karla J. M. Brading (self published).

The story follows Faith, a seemingly normal girl with an extraordinary secret: her father is an angel, and she can spontaneously summon wings. Her secrets are well kept until her 18th birthday, when the Archangel Gabriel names her as the Peace Bringer, and marks her back with a tattoo of the Holy Cross. Faith must now keep her mission a secret while at the same time maintaining her normal life, but there is a darkness forming that threatens to overcome the entire city, a darkness that is closer to Faith's heart than she would ever believe...

Hot on the heels of the success of the movie adaptation of New Moon, Dark Blood Falling follows a similar approach to the Twilight Saga in that it conveys the angst of adolescence and young adulthood but couples it with the supernatural. Brading's characters are solid and you feel a connection to their awkwardness, their anger and their sorrow. They're very real characters thrown into a very real and horrific set of circumstances.

That being said, I felt that the story could have benefited from being longer and given more time to develop the characters, in particular Seth's character. Not wanting to give too much away, I think that his inner struggle could have lasted longer before the payoff (and the twist that came as little surprise) was revealed. This could also be said for the novel's conclusion, which seems to end very abruptly and is succeeded by a rather long epilogue.

The city of Meridion is vast and is well written to give the atmosphere of a city that is constantly overrun with problems, many of them supernatural. The city also seems to be shaped by the superstitions of the people who live there, a nice addition to make the world more immersive. The inclusion of "Rose's Diary" at the end of the novel is a great example of Brading's expansive world and how the key players interact with one another.

Although the vampiric side of things isn't dealt with as much in this novel as it was in Destiny in Blood and Blood of Angels, they are well represented and are true to form (this is a marked difference to other titles in this genre, the vampires in the Meridion Blood Trilogy are predators through and through, none of this sparkling nonsense that we see in the Twilight Saga). A nice touch that features in all three novels is that a vampire's eyes flash silver when angry of hungry.

It would have been good to have included more of a back story to the previous two novels, as I think that newcomers to the series may get a little confused if they start on this novel without any prior knowledge. It would also serve as a nice refresher course for those who have read the first two installments.

In conclusion, Dark Blood Falling would be a great addition to the increasingly popular genre of 'paranormal romance'  for young adults, especially the people who enjoyed the Twilight Saga but wished for something with a more mature theme.

12 December 2009

Death Match by Matt Forbeck [book review]

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Blood Bowl: Death Match by Matt Forbeck
Published by Black Library
Paperback - 416 pages
Published April 2006
Personal copy of book

 Yes, I realise that this is the second Black Library book in a row that I've reviewed, but I've got a big back log of stuff to read from last Christmas and so this is what you're getting :P

Death Match is part of the Black Library's selection of novels about Blood Bowl, the Warhammer equivalent of American football (or just plain ol' football for those of you who are reading this from across the pond). It's written by Matt Forbeck, and it is the third in a trilogy of Blood Bowl novels, the first two being Blood Bowl and Dead Ball.

Death Match focuses on famed Blood Bowl team the Bad Bay Hackers and its central character, thrower Dunk Hoffman. As well as playing through the deadly matches in order to win tournaments, Dunk must also confront figures from his disturbing past, uncovering betrayal, murder and sacrifice. This culminates in an epic battle between good vs. evil in a duel for the fate of the world, all played out on the field of Blood Bowl.

As a Blood Bowl novel, Death Match is quite humourous in the way that it deals with the world in which it is set, giving you the same high spirited feel that you would get playing the game (which is extremely tongue in cheek, almost a parody of the genres that it encompasses). The stadiums in the novel have a tannoy system and TV link ups; reporters have video cameras and DVD players (all with appropriate fantasy explanations for how and why it works).

One drawback that I feel that it has is that it takes the American Football parody aspect a little too far. E.g. the Hackers' team captain is called Rhett Cavre (an obvious play on Brett Favre, quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings). Such close comparisons with real personalities detract from the fantastic elements of the game and the novel itself, although I suppose if you're a fan of American football anyway you may enjoy this comparison (or if you're an ignorant Brit like myself you probably won't notice :P).

The darker back story is a good contrast to the lighthearted action on the pitch. Dunk's history and relationships with his father and brother are rife with betrayal and disaster, and it makes you sympathize with him as he has to deal with all his problems, both on and off the field. The addition of small snippets of detail from his past mean that you learn of the events that drove him to Blood Bowl gradually, leaving you wanting more after each chapter.

Forbeck writes a solid group of central characters with each one having their own flaws to add to the plot and to further add to Dunk's problems. Of particular note are Dunk's on/off girlfriend Spinne and the team coach, Pegleg.

Possibly because I haven't read the first two books in the series (an odd habit of mine when it comes to Warhammer novels...) I found the payoff at the end slightly overdone and rushed. It seems that things escalate to a very high level of 'ohcraptitude' (that's an official Mithril Wisdom term, feel free to spread it around) very quickly, but then resolve themselves with great speed. This may also be because of the injection of humour into what was meant to have been a climactic and dramatic scene.

In conclusion, Death Match is a good, funny read for existing fans of Warhammer and Blood bowl alike. Maybe you should give it a miss if you're not familiar with either, as it requires you to already be familiar with the Warhammer World in order to understand a lot of the humour. It would also be helpful to read the first two novels as a run up to this one, but it still stands on its own as a very good read.

4 December 2009

Battle for Skull Pass by Nathan Long [book review]

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Battle for Skull Pass by Nathan Long
Published by Black Library
Paperback - 128 pages
Published May 2009
Personal copy of book

As my first review, I thought it would be best to start off small, and what better way to start then with a novelette. Battle for Skull Pass by Nathan Long is part of the fantasy fiction encompassed by the Warhammer World and published by Black Library.

The story is closely linked to the Warhammer boxed game of the same name, and serves as a back story to that particular scenario (referred to as ‘fluff’ by the war gaming community). The story revolves around a small force of dwarfs who must protect their mountain stronghold from an army of blood thirsty goblins, led by an ambitious and deceitful would be warlord.
Despite these limitations and the relatively small size of the book (120 pages), the narrative progresses at a steady pace and ensures that each scene is necessary in the overall story. There are no filler chapters, everything that happens serves to develop the plot, so the reader’s interest is piqued at all times.

The back story given to the dwarf side of the battle sets the tone as one of desperate defiance, and sets them firmly as the protagonists in this confrontation. It also serves to justify the battle as a whole i.e. you actually believe that there is a point to the battle that will inevitably occur, which is something that many novels fail to achieve.

The story mostly follows the actions of a single dwarf named Skarri, which is good since he is by far the most interesting character. His constant shortcomings and inadequacies drive the story forward without seeming artificial. He strives to regain his lost honour throughout and you feel for him as he fails time and again.

There are some downsides to this novelette. The animosity between the goblins, a vital characteristic both in the game and in the supporting fiction, seems unbalanced; in some places it is overdone to the point of being comical, and in others it’s not really touched upon. Rather than portraying the disruption of order and potential chaos that it is, the infighting between the night goblins and their forest kin comes off as too light hearted given the tone of the rest of the story.

On the subject of comedy, there are one or two scenes within the story that either could have been executed better or shouldn’t have been added since they seem quite silly and comical (one scene in particular involves a troll leaping out at the dwarfs from hiding in a “Boo!” kind of way). Although it leads to the very good duel between the slayer and the troll, I feel the build up to this confrontation could have been handled differently.

The duel between troll and slayer was characteristic of most of the action sequences of the novel. What is really effective in this story is the suspension before the punch hits. The battle scenes, short though they are, are strong and not at all gratuitous. The battle styles and tactics of each race are well handled and the reader is left with an appetite for more of the same.

In conclusion, Battle for Skull Pass is a good, quick read and an excellent complement to the game itself. Frequent readers of the Black Library’s publications may feel that it lacks the substance of its meatier contemporaries, but newcomers to the series will enjoy this as a good introduction.

Welcome!

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Welcome to Mithril Wisdom! This blog will soon be full of news and reviews for fantasy fiction, movies, television, video games, music and much more! Baby steps though, it's going to take a little while for me to get a stack of reviews ready and to customise the look of the blog, but in the mean time, yay!

Speak to you all soon!

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