Thursday, June 23, 2016

Groupreads: Hour of the Dragon AND First Law

The Sword & Sorcery Group on Goodreads will be discussing the only REH Conan novel, "The Hour of the Dragon" AND Joe Abercrombie's First Law series.  Please join us.

July Aug 2016 Groupreads:

Banner Credits:
Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes, Coverart by Raymond Swanland 2013 

The Hour of the Dragon by Robert E. Howard; Cover art by Ken Kelly 1977

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie The Hour of the Dragon by Robert E. Howard

Monday, June 20, 2016

Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish is a must read

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)
Update ~2020, this review had been posted on Amazon and has garnered ~490 helpful votes since Netflix released the Witcher TV series in 2019, sending new readers toward the books.

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish is a must read for sword-and-sorcery aficionados.
• The Last Wish and most of the series were published in the 1990’s
• They spawned from Poland, not the United States of United Kingdom
• Inspired the Witcher game series a decade later (2007-ongoing)
• More to come, the author and series continue

Andrzej Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia is a “Witcher,” a superhuman trained to defeat monsters. After hundreds of years killing creatures, there are fewer threats and witchers. Actually there is less hunting monsters than Geralt sleuthing mysterious altercations. Sapkowski’s stories have conflicts that are not lone-Witcher-in-the-wild vs. monster conflict; they are more humans/vs strange forces in which Geralt referees (and usually kills). His investigative methods are a bit rougher than Sherlock Holmes. Each story was as if Conan was dumped into the Grimm's Fairy tales. But all is not grim. Lots of humor present is reminiscent of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series. Humans tend to persecute or shun the weird witchers; sustaining future witchers is addressed as the seeds of an apprenticeship are sown.

Geralt has dialogue with antagonists often. Lengthy interrogation stand offs are common. This approach allows for funny banter, philosophizing, and entertaining information-dumps. This makes for a fast, entertaining read. Sapkowski stands out as a leading non-English writer. No map, table of contents (TOC), or glossary were featured in the paperback translation. I provide the TOC below. The structure reveals the over-arching narrative of “the Voice of Reason” which attempts to connect all the others. This works pretty well, but is not always smooth. This was designed as an introduction to the series. I was impressed enough to order the Sword of Destiny when I was only half way through. It is not until the third book does a dedicated novel emerge. The series and the games continue to this day with books 7 and 8 awaiting English translation (as of 2016).

The Last Wish Table of Contents
1- Voice of Reason #1
2- The Witcher
3 - Voice of Reason #2
4- A Grain of Truth
5- Voice of Reason #3
6-The Lesser Evil
7-Voice of Reason #4
8-A Question of Price
9-Voice of Reason #5
10-The Edge of The World
11- Voice of Reason #6
12- The Last Wish
11- Voice of Reason #7

Andrzej Sapkowski Blood of Elves saga:
1. The Last Wish; Short Stories 1992 , translated from Polish to English 2007 when the first Witcher Video Game was released
2. Sword of Destiny Short Stories 1992 translated 2015
3. Blood of Elves 1994 Novel translated 2014
4. The Time of Contempt 1995 Novel translated 2015
5. Baptism of Fire 1996 Novel translated 2016
6. The Tower of Swallows 1997  Novel translated 2016
7. Lady of the Lake (1999…Novel being translated for a 2017 release in US)
8. Season of Storms (Sezon burz) Novel written 2013, set between the short stories in the first book in the series, The Last Wish. English edition TBD

2007 Witcher PC
2011 Witcher 2 (Assassins of Kings) PC, Xbox, Mac OS
2015 Witcher 3 (Wild Hunt), PC, PS4, Xbox

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Fall of Undal - Sisowath's Mythdark delivers enjoyable cataclysm

The Fall of UndalThe Fall of Undal by Katrina Sisowath
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

(See also Doom-S.E. review and Sisowath Interview).

Sisowath’s Mythdark: The Fall of Undal is the second half of a duology (its initial half being The Doom of Undal). For obvious reason, readers should read Doom prior reading Fall. As many epic fantasy novels, there are many characters. In “Doom,” four characters emerged as our primary guides, three of which are sisters (Rhea, Hathor, and Sobekh) and the last is a male from a different royal family (Cronous). Sisowath’s ancient Kings and Queens (Dragon Court) have dragon blood within their veins, but their alien nature is suppressed as they rule over humans. Their curse/blessing manifests in various abilities which have associated temples to nurture/worship. “Fall” is all about the war between [Rhea and Cronous] versus [Hathor and Sobekh], and alien natures are unleashed in grim warfare. This dark fiction is mashup of mythical characters, cataclysms, and global war from a variety of ancient texts and rites.

The milieu is very rich and the Dragon Court family full of intrigue—a testament to the author’s study of history and world building. The style is mostly narrative, which is fitting for a myth-based story. That said, the complex story would have been more engaging with more “showing” versus “telling” (less narrative, more demonstrating). The author has indicated on Goodreads that lengthening her books is what motivated this duology to exist (i.e. stretched from one book); actually, “Fall” itself could easily have been developed into several books on its own accord. I hope Sisowath continues the trend, perhaps focusing on a subset of the epic and highlighting a single character’s perspective; something like that would make this rich world even more accessible.

Dragon Court and Anunnaki Deities: Katrina Sisowath’s Dragon Court series fictionalizes the plight of the royal Anunnaki. Note, the Anunnaki were actual ancient Mesopotamian deities of the Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, and Babylonian cultures. Katrina Sisowath regularly publishes on Ancient_Origins.Net and drew upon her expertise to construct a deep, believable world including: (a) blood-letting rituals of mystery cults, (b) alchemy-based magic, poisons and drugs, and (c) grand architecture expected of ancient times. The world is very immersive and believable. Alien references are relegated to subtle steampunk details; on the continuum of sci-fi to fantasy, this leans heavily toward epic-historical-fantasy.

Katrina Sisowath’s Dragon Court series is definitely recommended for epic fantasy readers who enjoy mythology.
1: Serpent Priestess of the Annunaki
2a: The Doom of Undal
2b: The Fall of Undal
…more to come…

Serpent Priestess of the Annunaki (Dragon Court Book 1) by Katrina Sisowath The Doom of Undal (Dragon Court #2) by Katrina Sisowath The Fall of Undal by Katrina Sisowath

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