31 Jan 2012

Avent by James Treadwell [book reivew]

Advent by James Treadwell
Advent by James Treadwell
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
ARC - 4439 pages
Published February 2012
Review copy received from publisher
It's not often that I think to myself, "What in the hell is going on?" and mean it in a good way, but that is the case with Advent. What starts out as a fairly standard fantasy scenario ('special' young boy, creepy old house filled with strange people, a connection to a powerful ancient wizard) explodes with a whole host of new and even stranger ideas. Treadwell takes inspiration from a number of different sources, from Goethe's Faust and the Arthurian legend, to more ancient and primal folklore in order to populate his world of newly found magic, nestled in the seemingly uneventful woods of Cornwall. His imagination has complete freedom, and this shows in the wonderful oddities that feature in this story, plucked from legend and given a new lease of life.

Gavin's journey from self-conscious, haunted teenager to accepting his role as the hero and his steadfast refusal to give up despite the odds was well executed and flowed well with the plot. Think less 'coming-of-age' and more 'coming-of-awesome'. Gav comes to terms with the strangeness around him quite well, in contrast with Horace, who always seems to be hurtling towards the wrong place at the wrong time. His transformation from the bitter rival to the reluctant hero sets us up nicely for a second helping of Treadwell's unique mind.

Advent was a bit of a slow burner for me. The first half of the book plods along at a slow but steady pace, then it suddenly runs along at the speed of an oncoming avalanche. Though the sudden change of pace was initially jarring, it did well in showing the sudden shift in the mechanics of the world as magic was re-established. My only issue with the sudden change in pace is that many characters never really got their moment to shine; often disappearing for large chunks of the book and reappearing just in time for the climax. I'd liked to have seen a little more on these characters and how their fates intertwined with Gav's own.

Advent is an excellent novel with a brilliantly odd world that is soaked in legend and history. It's the kind of story that makes you want to know more about the little nooks and crannies that are near you, and what supernatural secrets they contain within.

23 Jan 2012

The top 4 dragons in fantasy

Since this year marks the start of the Year of the Dragon, it is a perfect time to take a look at one of fantasy's most popular and feared creatures; used in literature, cinema, video games and more. Here is a rundown of my favourite dragons:

The Gringott's dragon from Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsBooks
Hungarian Horntail, Welsh Green, Swedish Short-Snout, Chinese Fireball
from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling 

What I admire most about Rowling's dragons is that they are animals first and foremost. There is no real intelligence beyond that of a predator. They can't speak, and they do not hoard gold. They are every bit as dangerous as a wild animal, and rightly so. Extra kudos for creating variations in dragon species that weren't traditional (fire dragon, ice dragon etc.)

Toothless the Night Fury from How to Train Your Dragon
Toothless the Night Fury
from How to Train your Dragon

Look at that face. How adorable is that? The guys who made How to Train your Dragon combined a fire breathing monstrosity with a LOLcat and created quite possibly the cutest fantasy creature ever.

Alduin from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Video Games
Alduin the World Eater
from The Elder Scrolles V: Skyrim 

Possibly one of the most terrifying dragons you can have the misfortune of meeting. Alduin is the son of Akatosh, the dragon god of time, and is responsible for resurrecting all dragons in Skyrim. Whenever you see or hear in, there is only one option - run. Run, and keep running. Run and hope he doesn't find you.

The Red Dragon, the national symbol of Wales
Y Ddraig Coch
National symbol of Wales

Come on,  you didn't think I'd talk about dragons without mentioning this beauty? As one of the only countries in the world that has a dragon as a national symbol, Wales is quite unique. The dragon was said to be the battle standard of King Arthur (though it's more likely to have been a standard for one of the Roman legions that settled in Wales)

Why are dragons so popular in cultures all over the world? What's your favourite dragon?

17 Jan 2012

RPGs just became a whole lot more interesting


Tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons and Talisman have had to compete with their modern, digital counterparts - the MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online - for some time now, and to some it spelled the beginning of the end for our traditional RPGs. Now it's time for us to fight back.

ePawn Arena is a large, flat screen that connects to a smartphone, tablet or computer, and allows you to combine physical and digital objects that interact with one another. The result is the ability to play a dungeon-crawler type game by moving physical objects around the game board and have them interact with the digital interface. This is pretty exciting technology, and it has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Take a look at the video below (note: the typeface of the numbers and the skull motif look an awful lot like Warhammer 40K. Can anyone confirm this?). The ePawn Arena should be available at the end of this year.
What kind of applications does this technology have for us fantasy fans?

15 Jan 2012

Miscreation by Stefan Jakubowski [book review]

Written by Stefan Jakubowski
Published by Zygmuns Stanley
Paperback - 390 pages
Published July 2008
Personal copy of book
The strength in Jakubowski's humour is in his characters. As a fantasy-comedy, comparisons to Pratchett's Discworld series are to be expected. However, whereas Pratchett utilises satire to offload the funny, Jakubowski has created instantly funny and likeable characters. From the battle-shy idiot chieftain Musca to the deluded yet loyal shepherd Bootes, the inhabitants of the world of Apomas all have a funny spark to them. It is through these characters that Jakubowski pokes fun at both fantasy and science-fiction with a sense of eccentricity that has tones of Douglas Adams within.

The juxtaposition of the protagonists (Musca's band of adventurers) and antagonists (Serpens' small group of intergalactic demons) is done well, as is the contrast between the hapless hero and the malicious (soon to be) Master of the Universe. Again, Jakubowski has injected real personality into the characters, especially the slow-witted ogre Ophiuchus, who's sporadic drone of "Breathe." whenever his master flies off the handle is chuckle-worthy.

The focus on the humour seems to be at the detriment of the overall plot, however. Rather than a strong, cohesive narrative, the novel seems more a string of comical scenarios that have been pieced together. Whilst this doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the novel, it sometimes feels like there is too much going on as the reader is hurled between point A and point X and back again. To compare it to a TV show, it has the feel of a sketch show as opposed to a sit-com: still enjoyable, but sometimes lacking a fullness.

Miscreation is an enjoyable romp through what would otherwise be standard fantasy territory were it not for Jakubowski's unique style of humour. Fun and sometimes frantic, Miscreation tickles the funny bones but sometimes gets a bit lost along the way.

1 Jan 2012

2012 - the year of blogging!


Hello again, everyone! I hope you all had an excellent Christmas and New Year. Now all the holiday jazz is over, it's time to get stuck into sticking with our resolutions. One of mine is to get a little more serious with Mithril Wisdom, and so with that in mind I've gone for a blog redesign and reshuffle to make it a bit more sleek looking. There are still some things that need tweaking, but feel free to take a look around. Also, I've finally got my own URL for the blog! You can now go to www.mithrilwisdom.com and you'll end up here. Whoo-hoo!

To kick off 2012, here's a list of things that I'll be looking at and reviewing in the near future (all Christmas presents).


The Way of Kings (Part One) by Brandon Sanderson

Miscreation by Stefan Jakubowski


LEGO: Heroica
Castle Fortaan
Draida Bay

(You can combine these sets together so I'll do a single big Heroica review).


Under the Grey Banner by Dragonland

It feels great to be back and blogging again. Here's hoping that 2012 will be the year of taking things a little more seriously and making this blog even better!

[Image source]

What was your favourite gift this Christmas?