31 December 2010

Happy New Year from Mithril Wisdom!!

Red Sonja and Conan by effix35
Here's a quick note to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! It's T-minus 2 hours to 2011 in the UK so I'm getting a heads up for some of you (and I've missed out for others, my bad). Pretty much everything that has happened on this blog happened in 2010, so I'm hoping that next year will mean even better things (and lots more reading!). Here's a few blog resolutions I'm making for 2011; I'm hoping that if I tell you all then I'll stick to them.

  • Read a book at least every 10 days. I've been doing this since the end of November and it's working out so far.
  • Keep a regular blog posting schedule. I want to do the '3 times a week' thing, and with a book review every 10 days this shouldn't be too hard.
  • Network with other authors and publishers. Almost everything I've done has been online, so I want to 'get out there' and do some interviews and some elbow rubbing.
  • Also, I want to finish the story I started for NaNoWriMo '10, at least as a first draft.
So Happy New Year to all you Mithrilians (does that sound right? Would Mithrites sound better?). Eat, drink and be merry, for in the morrow you'll wake up with the remnants of 2010 pounding at you from the inside.

Also, a little tip-off. My first post of 2011 will be the much awaited review of Alex J. Cavanaugh's Cassastar!

26 December 2010

Merry Christmas! Indie Lit Awards Shortlist! News! and more!

First of all - A very Merry (belated) Christmas to everyone! Things were pretty nuts here for a few days so I've not had much chance to post. I hope that the jolly old fat man in red got you everything you wanted. I sure did. There are no surprised for guessing what I got:

A big 'WhooHoo!' and many thanks to my parents for getting me this. Apparently, I was the only one who was surprised by the fact that I had it. I need to give it a cool, geeky, fantasy fiction type name. Any suggestions?

Also, the shortlists for The Indie Lit Awards have been finalised. You can see the lists in full over on the page at the top of the blog (or the quick link here). Of the Speculative Fiction, I've already read through Dante's Journey and Monsters of Men. I have Kraken on my shelf, and The Passage was the first book I bought for my new Kindle. How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is proving to be more elusive, however. Don't forget to show your support over at the Indie Lit Awards site too.

Some news too. Not only was I the lucky winner of Dezmond's awesome giveaway (wordbuilding + movies = a happy Jamie) but I also found out that I have received a distinction in my Egyptology Master's Degree! And they laughed at my theories on vampirism in Ancient Egypt! I'm giving a lecture on the topic in late January and I graduate on February 1st. After that I'm going to apply for a PhD working on Ancient Egyptian Demonology.

I'm likely to be away from now until January 1st. There's a lot to catch up on in terms of commenting, and I want to rejig a few things around here. Plus, I want to get into a proper posting schedule, since things are slightly too erratic for my liking at the moment. Not to fear, I'll be back in full swing at the very beginning of 2011, with reviews, news and awesomeness in tow!

How was everyone's Christmas? Did you receive any awesome presents? All suggestions for a badass name for my Kindle would be very much appreciated too, I'm stymied at the moment.

20 December 2010

Review - The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke (Orbit)

The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke
Published by Orbit
Paperback - 640 pages
Published March 2010
Personal copy of book

The Last Stormlord is set in the land called the Quatern, a land where rainfall is carefully regulated through the magic of the stormlords. This magic is rare; there is now only a single stormlord left, and he is dying. Tension and desperation runs high throughout the Quatern, and its affects have far reaching consequences for its people. People like Shale, a young boy from the poor and forgotten Gibber plains who is forced to hide his growing magical abilities, and Terelle from the city of Scarcleft who finds herself imprisoned at every turn.

The focus of The Last Stormlord is on the world that Larke has created. All of the elements in the story revolve around the overall dryness of the Quatern, so much so that it pervades the language of the characters. The worldbuilding is where Larke really shines in this novel. The elements of xenophobia and racism that are used in the story are believable because of the deep cultural differences in the areas of the Quatern. However, the focus on the environment has led to the presence of a number of infodumps that more often than not detract from the story. In a world that is carefully and beautifully crafted, the reader is being told more than they are shown.

This also means that the characters of The Last Stormlord aren't living up to their potential, and on the whole it is difficult to connect or sympathise with any of them. Terelle continuously moves from one form of imprisonment to another; from the servant of a brothel mistress to the forced apprentice of an artisan and more. It is presented as though there is no way for her to escape any kind of imprisonment, and with that fatalistic view in mind I found it difficult to care about her choices at all. The entire story more or less bleated out, 'there is no goodness in anyone here, and even the smallest shred of virtue is so overwhelmed by the evil that pervades the world that there is no hope'. With such despair facing the reader, it is hard to sympathise with anyone in this world.

Larke's themes of political intrigue that run through the story are very well executed, although the identity of the shadowy antagonist is quickly identified by the reader. Also, the magic system is a nice adaptation of the standard 'magic user becomes exhausted the more magic they use'. Owing to the arid nature of the world, the rainlords and stormlords use their powers exclusively with water. They are able to sense the flow of water within the world and within people, and they are able to kill be removing the water from a person's body (I suppose the term would be hydrokinetic).

In short, The Last Stormlord has a beautifully crafted world that, unfortunately, is populated by characters who lack complexity and who garner no sympathy. The outcome is a story that fails to fully immerse the reader, and by the end the protagonists are in more or less the same position that they were when they started – trapped at the mercy of others with less than noble intentions. 

17 December 2010

...and then the world went white...

So I wake up this morning, ready and willing to make the 2 hour commute to work (maybe not 100% willing, but enough) when I am greeted by this:

Suffice to say, public transport had ground to a halt, so there was no way I would be able to make the commute. The few cars that attempted to brave the snow ended up abandoned or on a collision course with other cars. It became a wintery version of the opening to 28 Days Later (minus the zombies). With the prospect of work out of the question, I grabbed my camera, and made the most of the whitest winter Wales has witnessed (the alliteration was unintended, I assure you), slipping, skidding and falling all the way.

With review of The Last Stormlord, Cassastar and The Nemesis List to write, as well as reading through the shortlisted books of the Indie Lit Awards, I've a fair few things on my 'to do' list. Plus, with only a week left until Christmas (eek!) it's a race to the finish to get everything done before presents, feasting and merriment become to top priorities.

For those of you who don't know, I'm now on Twitter. You can find me on @mithrilwisdom; let me know what your Twitter tag is so I can follow you too. If Twitter's not your thing, you can catch me on Facebook.

I'm hoping to have my review of The Last Stormlord up very soon, so watch this space!
Have you guys had any snow yet? If so, did it cause as much disruption as it did where I am? Or do we just need to toughen up? Hehe.

13 December 2010

World Book Night - March 5th 2011.

I spotted an ad for this while I was in my local library looking for graphic novels to tie my over until the nominations for the Indie Lit awards had been cast (I got a hold of a Celtic graphic novel that had an edition in English and an edition in Welsh - review coming soon) and it sounds like an awesome idea.

World Book Night is, in a nutshell, the night where 2 million books are to be given away for free (you can follow them on Twitter also). I'll let the official blurb do the explaining:

World Book Night represents the most ambitious and far-reaching celebration of adult books and reading ever attempted in the UK and Ireland.
On Saturday, 5 March 2011, two days after World Book Day, with the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day, the BBC and RTE, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.
The book give-away will comprise 40,000 copies of each of the 25 carefully selected titles, to be given away by 20,000 ‘givers’, who will each distribute 48 copies of their chosen title to whomever they choose on World Book Night. The remaining books will be distributed by World Book Night itself in places that might otherwise be difficult to reach, such as prisons and hospitals.

This is an excellent opportunity for people to understand the pleasure that we get as readers. I've applied for myself to become a giver, and my chosen book is Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. As the only fantasy novel of the twenty five listed for World Book Night, I felt that there needs to be more exposure to what is still a stigmatised genre, at least in the UK. I hope that participating in World Book Night will help people to discover the joy of reading fantasy, and Northern Lights would be a great place for them to break into the genre.

If I'm successful in becoming a giver, it means that I'll be hosting a giveaway on March 5th for copies of Northern Lights (UK only, I'm afraid. Sorry to everyone over The Pond!). If anyone in the UK like the idea too, take a look at the World Book Night website and sign up as well!

I like how there's an emphasis on distributing books to places where not many people would have access to.
Where would be the strangest place to give someone a book to read?

9 December 2010

Indie Lit Awards approach!

The Independent Literary Awards are almost upon us, and it's going to be one hell of a ride to pick the best novels of 2010. For those of you who don't know, here's a quick description of what the Indie Lit Awards are:

The Independent Literary Awards are book awards given by literary bloggers. Lit bloggers write about books and literary related items. They are the fastest growing form of publicity in the literary world, though most are still independently run and do not receive compensation for their reviews or recommendations. All judges and panelists for theses awards are completely independent and do not receive compensation for reviews nor their work on the award board.
I'm one of the panelists in the Speculative Fiction category, along with Jared at Pornokitsch, Bryce from The Stamp (of Approval) and Gem of Gemzina. The panel was put together by Sarah from Bookworm Blues, who was also the panel's judge. She's sadly had to bow out, but Bryce has stepped in for her.

The nominations close on December 15th, be sure to take a look at the Indie Lit Awards' site and add your nominations to the list (so long as they were published this year). Once the shortlist is chosen, it's up to the panelists to read through each one before a winner is chosen. It's going to be a hell of a lot of fun!

What sci-fi/ fantasy books published this year do you think should be in the running to win this award?

4 December 2010

Mithril Wisdom Turns One!

This cake? Most definitely NOT a lie.
Wow, it's been a year already. A whole year since I decided to put my thoughts on this great ether we call the Internet, and what a ride it's been.

I started Mithril Wisdom while I was studying for my Master's Degree in Egyptology. I was reading a ton of academic books on Egyptian history and language, and although I enjoyed it, it tended to get tiresome reading the same material. I also had a backlog of fantasy books that I'd neglected as I focused on my studies, so I decided to start this blog as a means to keep my sanity and read something that was fun and immersive. The reviews I'd post would ensure that I didn't skim these books and that I'd read them properly, allowing myself to fully escape into these other worlds.

Now it's 12 months on, and I've had an awesome time. I've participated in blogfests, blog splashes and read a thons. I've been very kindly been given books to read and review by publishers and authors alike (that was one hell of a surprise when it happened, I can tell you!). I've also gained a lot of good friends along the way. Here's a few of the important milestones this year:

My first review - The Battle for Skull Pass by Nathan Long
My first interview - Jamie D. Stacey, author of Azarrii
The BFS awards longlist, which started the whole 'let's give this dude books to read!' phenomenon
April Fools - Terry Goodkind to guest star in Legend of the Seeker (one of my most read posts, hehe)
My first blog award
I became the fantasy reviewer for online magazine Prinkipria

Since this is a celebration, I think it's time that I started giving out my own awards. I've received a few from you good people, and now it's payback time. I give you:

The Awesome Award of Awesome Awesomeness! *cue fanfare*

I'm going to start the ball rolling and give this award out to three people who've made this blog what it is by being, well, awesome. These people are:

Alex - My first real follower and the one through whom many of you came here. My most sincere thanks go to you, Alex.
Dezmond - For giving me great movie gossip and for always taking time to read my stuff. Thank you Dez.
Arlee - If it wasn't for his A-Z blogfest, this blog would have probably stayed unknown. Thank you, Lee.

Now you guys know that you're awesome (as if you didn't already), pass this on to three people who you think deserve to be told the same thing.

Thanks to all of you for sticking with me this past year, and here's to many more!

2 December 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)


A faithful adaptation of the novel that fans of the books will enjoy, though many will watch it thinking, "nothing actually happened there!"

I went into the cinema full of excitement for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. I'm not the biggest HP fan by any means, but as the concluding part of the story I expected something big and dark. I was not disappointed on both counts, but something was lacking.

Part One of Deathly Hallows follows the same plot as the first half of the book. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are on the run from Voldemort and his Death Eaters, who have taken over the Ministry of Magic and are imposing their tyranny and racial hatred throughout the country. The trio travel the country in search of a way to destroy one of the Horcruxes - an object that contains part of Voldemort's soul. At the same time, they have to hide from Voldemort's minions who have begun a nationwide manhunt for Harry.

Radcliffe, Grint and Watson do a great job on their own without the aid of the rest of the extensive cast behind them. Since the majority of the movie is set with the trio on the run, it's just us and them for most of the time. The conflict could have been given a lot more exposure, since it fizzled out almost as soon as it had ocurred. The blossoming romance between characters was done well, though. As always, the support cast do a stellar job, especially with Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeour (doing a South Wales Valleys accent - whoo!) and Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood. That being said, all of the supporting cast spend a fleeting moment in front of the camera. The focus of the entire movie is on Harry, Ron and Hermione.

As with the previous Harry Potter movies, the sets and special effects are breathtaking. The chase scene at the beginning is excellently put together, and the character interaction with Dobby and Kreacher is simply brilliant (the level of realism in the house elves is also astounding). The quality of the effects are second to none, and there is a brief animation that explains the story behind The Deathly Hallows that is beautiful.

Pacing is a huge problem for this movie. At a running time of two and a half hours, there isn't a whole lot of conflict to keep the heart racing. Rather, there are just long scenes of 'chracter development' that don't quite get there, with brief glimpses of action at the beginning and a little at the end. Here is where splitting the book into two parts was both a good and a bad idea. Part One very much relfects the first half of the book, where there is little conflict and it kind of plods along. This means that on its own, this isn't all that interesting unless you've read the books. On the other hand, it gets all the comparitively boring stuff out the way so that Part Two can be an almost three hour epic of action and conflict. It's just a shame we have to wait a year for it and that all we had to whet our appetites was essentially a 150 minute setup.

In short, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One is an enjoyable journey, so long as you don't mind the actual 'journeying' part being the main plot point. This is very much a 'first part movie' and it will only become something better once Part Two is released. If you have any intention of watching Part Two, you need to watch this movie. On its own merits, however, it lacks any serious punch.

1 December 2010

The Hating Game Web Splash!

It's December the 1st, and there are a few very important things happening. First, it's the end of NaNoWriMo, and I offer a hearty congratulations to all of you who managed the insane task of writing 50,000 words in 30 days (I'll get it next year, I swear).  It's also the first day of Advent, and that means scoffing chocolate every day on the run up to Christmas. 

Also, today is when the Blog-o-Sphere unites to support the release of The Hating Game by author and blog buddy Talli Roland. Take a look at the info below and help get The Hating Game to the top spot on Amazon's Kindle bestsellers list. Also, be sure to repost this page on your own blog, on Facebook or on Twitter so The Hating Game makes the biggest impact it can. What are you waiting for? Go for it!


Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

[Amazon UK]     [Amazon US]

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more. Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at www.talliroland.com.


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?