31 January 2012

Avent by James Treadwell [book reivew]

11 comments:
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.

30 January 2012

Sign up to the A to Z Blogging Challenge!

32 comments:
 Don't forget to enter my giveaway for Advent by James Treadwell! Giveaway ends February 2nd, so enter now!
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Some blogging events are so monumental that they need to be heralded and lauded until everyone on the Internet knows of its existence. The A to Z Blogging Challenge is just such an event. Its purpose is simple - blog every day (except Sundays) from April 1st to April 30th, with each day corresponding with a letter of the alphabet.

It's the kind of thing that's easy to do and yet difficult to master. Many bloggers attempt to tackle a particular overall topic or have an underlying theme to their posts. This is where the challenge lies. It's a great opportunity to meet other bloggers from all walks of life. It's an amazing event and one that I highly recommend that everyone participate.

Not convinced yet? I've done the A-Z Challenge for the past two years, and I owe a lot to it for what it's done for the blog in terms of readership. I've made a lot of good friends along the way, so I can't sing its praises enough.

Just pop your link on the Bloghop below and sign yourself up for the blogging event of the year!

Who's participating this year? Do you have a theme in mind already?

23 January 2012

The top 4 dragons in fantasy

44 comments:
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.)


21 January 2012

ZFF - I got eaten

9 comments:
It's been a crazy few days - I had a friend's wedding to go to yesterday, and I've another friend's engagement bash this weekend (all in different cities) so my Zombie Fitness Fridays post is a little late this week - I guess that means I got eaten!

Fitness has been pretty much non-existent this week besides walking everywhere (I don't drive; it's the good old Shoelace Express for me). I have a thing where I need to start the week on a good, productive note else I do nothing all week.

So, plan for next week:

# Do an evening jog (roughly 20 mins) every day I'm not in the gym.
# Hit the gym twice (three times ideally) and work on cardio and upper body strength.
# Have another session at Cardiff Castle Garrison's training to improve my combat skills.

Comment of the week this time goes to Talli Roland on last week's topic, "What survival skill could you teach to others?",

"Um... how to guzzle wine? Get us AND the zombies drunk, and I'd bet humans would whoop their butts." (that could actually work. It'd certainly level the playing field a little. Though I don't want to be the first to offer a zombie a beer).

How do you stay motivated with fitness?


17 January 2012

RPGs just became a whole lot more interesting

24 comments:

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?
  


16 January 2012

Discworld hits the theatre! Also giveaways!

41 comments:
Advent by James Treadwell
I've been given a hardback copy of Advent by James Treadwell by publisher Hodder & Stoughton. There are separate giveaways for UK and US readers, so take a look at the details of the giveaway! UPDATE: The giveaway has now ended.

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The most awesome thing I've come across this year was the announcement of a live production of Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment not 5 minutes away from where I live. The show is run by Cardiff theatre group Act One Productions and looks to be an amazing show.

Expect a review next month once I've taken a look see. In the meantime, here are some photos of the group in rehearsals. I've not yet read that far into the Discworld series, so it will be interesting to see the show without having read the book first.

If anyone lives near enough to go to the show, you get get tickets/info at The Gate, Cardiff.

What fantasy book would you most like to see made into a live stage show/musical?




15 January 2012

Miscreation by Stefan Jakubowski [book review]

9 comments:
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.


13 January 2012

Zombie Fitness Friday - Educating the Masses

16 comments:
Last night I had a training session with Cardiff Castle Garrison, where we practiced spear attack, defence and counter-attack. It was great fun, but insanely tiring (something to do with lunging with 9 feet of wood and metal). It made me realise that my stamina has taken a bit of a battering over the holidays, so that will be my #1 focus for the time being. My grip isn't that good either, so if anyone has any tips on improving that then please let me know.

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I was looking at a post over at post-acocalyptic survival blog In Case of Survival, where they were discussing putting survival advice in nursery rhymes to educate children right from the start. This got me thinking that education is just as important as being faster than the things trying to eat you.

When the apocalypse hits, how many of us are going to know how to survive? I mean, really? With our sheltered, modern lives, opening a can of baked beans can be a nightmare if we don't have the right do-hickey that does the job for us. How long do we expect to survive with little to no power, water or heating?

With that in mind, designating schools/learning centres within your survival groups is key. Much like Druids were the centres of learning in Celtic tribes, in order to survive you need to get smart, quickly. People need to learn basic survival skills; scavenging for food, making a fire, sleeping downwind, hunting wild animals etc. If your idea of making basic medicine is repeatedly tapping the A button (as in most video game RPGs) then you're going to be one of the first to die.

Comment of the week goes to Alex J. Cavanaugh for last week's topic, "Where do you consider the safest place to be during a zombie outbreak?",

"The safest place? The moon!" (very true, Alex. But there are other nasties up there, like Space Nazis)

What survival skill would you like to learn most? What could you teach to others?

11 January 2012

Feast of Fiction - Teaching us how to cook our favourite fantasy meals

15 comments:
One thing I like to do when not buried nose-deep in a fantasy book is try my hand at cooking something more complex than "open box, throw in oven, wait until hot", and I've been steadily getting better at cooking over the past few months. Now, I've found something that combines my love of fantasy with cooking into one glorious Elven-made mixing bowl.

Feast of Fiction is the brainchild of Jimmy Wong, brother of Internet celebrity Freddie Wong. Each week he takes a dish from the realms of fantasy, science fiction and video games and recreates them in real life as close to their original intended recipe.

It's pretty new, so there are only three episodes so far. However, it's a brilliant idea that should please us fantasy nuts as well as the culinary-inclined readers. Let me know if you decide to try any of the recipes (the Minecraft cake looks insanely tasty!)

Episode 1: Sunlight Souffle (taken from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)



Episode 2: Butterbeer (taken from the Harry Potter series)



Episode 3: Minecraft cake (taken from Minecraft)



What fantasy/sci-fi/video game recipe would you like to make or eat in real life?

9 January 2012

Book trailer and excerpt - The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

10 comments:
This popped up on my Twitter feed this morning and I had to share. In a similar vein to Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, this debut novel deals with a shadow-sector of the UK government that deals with the supernatural. The Rook seems to take a more tongue-in-cheek approach, but also includes a fair amount of suspense.


“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” 
So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.
She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Checquy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.
In her quest to uncover which member of the Checquy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

A trailer has also been released for the book (see below). I like the demonic receptionist, the supernatural needs a switchboard. Also, you can read the first four chapters of The Rook for free. The Rook is set to be published by HarperCollins Voyager (Australia) and Little Brown (US, thanks Fantasy Nibbles!) in February 2012.



6 January 2012

Zombie Fitness Fridays - Goals

17 comments:
Zombie Fitness Fridays is back for 2012! Even though I'm going to be joining the Cardiff Castle Garrison for Medieval battle training, I think I could still use a little training with surviving against the undead.

I have a few goals in mind for this year that will put me in good stead for running from and confronting my zombie adversaries, and a few areas that I will be focusing in my training:

~ Last year, I was too hung up over shedding pounds, which was wrong. This is Zombie Fitness Fridays, not Zombie Fatness Fridays. Physical fitness and health is the #1 goal.

~  I've finally watched Zombieland (and it was ace) and so I'm sticking to Rule #1: Cardio. I'll be hitting the treadmill and the cross-trainer for the majority of my training. I need to be able to outrun any zombies that want me as a snack, up to speeds of 28 Days Later zombies.

~ Upper body strength. Eventually I'm going to have to go toe-to-toe with a few shufflers, so I'm going to be working on my strength and doing some resistance training on my shoulders and back (enough to swing a blunt object with enough force to take down a zombie in one hit). The combat training I will get will be a good complement to this, and I'll also be able to convert some of my bulk into muscle.

~ Stamina. I need to be able to walk/jog/run for long distances, covering ground between camps and when food is scarce. Some cross-country type training (likely on the treadmill) will be useful here. I'll use my endurance level to test my fitness improvement.

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You see that graphic up on the top left? Nice, isn't it? There have been a few people who have asked about Zombie Fitness Fridays, so everyone is welcome to join in and unite against the undead. Rules are simple - post on a Friday (not every Friday, but on Fridays) with your fitness progress and how it's helping you to survive the undead onslaught. Use the graphic to show your support, and let me know if you want to join in!

This initial week has seen a single gym session (treadmill and X-trainer for cardio, abdominal and biceps for strength) plus 2 nights of jogging to build up endurance. Let's hope the New Year means a good year for not getting eaten!

Where do you consider the safest place to be during a zombie outbreak?

4 January 2012

Goals and resolutions - Insecure Writer's Support Group

22 comments:
As the first Insecure Writer's Support Group post of 2012, I felt that it would be fitting to talk about writing goals and resolutions.

Quite a few of you have decided to set yourselves writing goals this year, and that is truly admirable. However, if you're anything like me, goals and resolutions only last about 3 weeks before either laziness or procrastination rears its ugly head and all that hard work and good intention goes out the window.

With that in mind, here are a few things I've learned when setting writing goals:


#1. Be Realistic: Setting yourself a challenging goal is one thing, but make sure that it can actually be achieved. Saying something like "I'm going to write 4 books this year" when you've never written a first draft before is pushing it a little too far. Stick with what you know you can achieve.

#2. Small goals are king: Even if you have an achievable and realistic goal, it looks a little daunting standing tall on December 31st, glaring at you from the end of the year. Make your goal more manageable by splitting it into smaller goals, or create milestones for yourself that you need to accomplish by certain times of the year. For example,

"In 2012, I am going to write the first draft of my novel"
 Can become
"I will write the outline by March, I will have 50,000 words written by July, and I will finish it by December"

With smaller goals on the near horizon, it makes things far easier to work towards.

#3. Give yourself time to write: I've seen quite a few people who have set themselves writing goals because they have lacked time to write in the past. In order for you to achieve these goals, it helps to give yourself dedicated 'writing time' every day. That way, you know that you always have time to write, and little by little your goal will get closer to completion. Even half an hour a day is better than not writing at all, which causes a snowball effect and before you know it it's November and you've only written 200 words.

#4. Know that you are not alone: If the IWSG is anything to go by, you have the support if dozens, if not hundreds, of like-minded people who are trying to achieve similar things. We are here for you. So if you are struggling to achieve your writing goals, or you need advice, or even just a pep talk, don't give up. Come to us. It's what friends are for!

What are your writing goals for 2012? How will you go about achieving them?



Be sure to check out some of the other participants below, and if you're tweeting about it, use the hashtag  #IWSG to let others know.

2 January 2012

Read the free prologue for Seven Princes by John R. Fultz

9 comments:
In preparation for the upcoming release of Seven Princes by John R. Fultz, Orbit Books has released the prologue for the new series for free. It's a bloody, action-filled chapter that sets a dark and violent tone for the rest of the novel. If necromancy, bloodshed and tyranny float your boat, then take a read.

Seven Princes by John R. Fultz
Published by Orbit
Published - Jan 2012

An ancient necromancer slaughters the king and his court in front of the unbelieving eyes of crown prince D’zan. From that moment, his life is consumed by one thought – to regain his throne. Others will join him, some will oppose him.
In a world where men and giants fight side by side against ancient monsters and new powers, only one thing is sure – war is coming. Blood will run and princes will clash.
Seven princes. Seven destinies.
All will be legend.

[Read the prologue to Seven Prince at Orbit Books]



Seven Princes looks to be an explosive new series. I'll be keeping my eye on this one.

What books are you looking forward to reading this year?

1 January 2012

2012 - the year of blogging!

27 comments:

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).

 Books:

The Way of Kings (Part One) by Brandon Sanderson

Miscreation by Stefan Jakubowski

 Games:

LEGO: Heroica
Castle Fortaan
Draida Bay


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


Music:

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?

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