Tough Travels: Beginnings

Blog - Tough TravelsMy fellow bookworms and fantasy lovers, I am so pleased to announce that the Tough Travels meme is back! For those of you that haven’t heard of it before, it was a weekly meme featured over on the Fantasy Review Barn, that was inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. Now it is returning as a monthly meme over at Fantasy Faction, but otherwise it will follow the same format of spotlighting a different trope and invite other bloggers to compile their own list of examples.

Without further ado, our first topic is: BEGINNINGS.

I missed this topic first time round, so it is great to have another chance to share with you now some of my favourite beginnings:

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that means comfort.’

**********

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling

‘Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.’

**********

The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

‘When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.’

**********

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

‘The wind howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient assassin. Thunder rolled back and forth across the dark, rain-lashed hills.
The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weasel’s eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: “When shall we three meet again?”
There was a pause.
Finally another voice said, in far more ordinary tones: “Well, I can do next Tuesday.”‘

**********

Do you like these? What are your favourite beginnings of fantasy novels? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.

New Read: Faith and Moonlight: Part 2

Last year, I read and enjoyed four of Mark Gelineau’s & Joe King’s novellas from two threads of their fantasy series, Echo of the Ascended. So much so I didn’t wait long into this year to start a third thread of their epic series with Faith and Moonlight and to continue it with this: Part 2.

In the previous instalment, we were introduced to teenage orphans Roan and Kay: best friends who had travelled together to the city with hopes and dreams of entering the prestigious School of Faith, to become a legendary Razor. At the start of this instalment, passing the entry test is not the end of their trials, as they are now both thrown deep into the vigorous training regime and are tested in dangerous one-to-one combats. Through out which Roan and Kay are finding themselves growing further and further apart.

The protagonists Roan and Kay are still young, naïve and vulnerable, which gives us, the reader, the opportunity to watch them grow. It is in this second instalment where we see more clearly that these best friends are now on very different paths. Roan excels in his training and is determined to succeed, so as not to return to his brutal past. While Kay struggles with the dark, powerful magic growing within her; and fears the price she paid to get into the School of Faith may have been too high. I still definitely felt the most for Kay as Roan seems to be leaving her in his wake.

This majority of this young adult thread is set in the beautiful and serene School of Faith – a place of peace, education, power and history, with its marble buildings and lush green grass. Where there is the opportunity for fame and glory but this can come at a great cost, and in this instalment we are also introduced to the  dark, bloody fate that could await those who fail in the fighting pits. The authors, Gelineau and King, have certainly ramped up the ante with the fights, danger and power for the characters in this – I think I may have read this one even quicker than the one before!

Overall, I thought Faith and Moonlight: Part 2 continued this highly enjoyable young adult thread to this epic fantasy series very well. Sadly I have no more instalments from this series…get writing Mr Gelineau and Mr King, I want more! Good read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Echo of the Ascended novellas?

New Read: Faith and Moonlight

faith-and-moonlight

Last year, I read and enjoyed four of Mark Gelineau’s & Joe King’s novellas from two threads of their fantasy series, Echo of the Ascended. So much so I didn’t wait long into this year to continue my reading with Faith and Moonlight; the first novella in a third thread of their epic series.

Previously I have read about Elinor a brave orphan girl who rose to be the King’s Reaper; in the A Reaper of Stone thread. Also, I have read about another orphan Alys, who is a hardened survivor of the dangerous, poverty-stricken underworld of the capital city; in the Best Left in the Shadows thread. Turns out these orphans all originally knew each other and this novella takes the reader back in time to the tragic fire at their orphanage which saw them separated and scattered across the kingdom.

In Faith and Moonlight, we are introduced to teenage orphans Roan and Kay. Who have been torn from the only home and family they’ve ever known, after a terrible fire destroyed their orphanage and killed most of it’s inhabitants. Now, Roan and Kay are journeying together to the city with hopes and dreams of entering the prestige School of Faith to train to become a legendary Razor. However, on arrival they are given just one month to prove their worth by passing the entry trial of pushing past the veil and touching the magical power within. Failure will mean an end to all their dreams and the prospect of life out in the cold, dark and dangerous world alone.

Unlike the previous novellas I have read, Roan and Kay are not grown up orphans but instead they are still young, naïve and vulnerable. This gives the reader the opportunity to watch them grow and, hopefully, follow their path to success like their fellow orphans Elinor and Alys. It also cleverly gives Gelineau’s and King’s series a young adult thread. Ronan and Kay are very close to each other and have promised to face everything together. Yet on arrival they find themselves divided, as Roan excels in his training Kay desperately struggles to keep up. I really liked them both and found myself willing them on, particularly poor Kay.

Like previous threads this new one gave me a view of another area/side to the kingdom of Aedaron. First, I was taken out onto the wild Marshlands; then I was taken to the dark, seedy Lowside; while this took me to the beautiful and serene School of Faith – a place of peace, education, power and history, with its marble buildings and lush green grass, where there is the opportunity for fame and glory if Roan and Kay are allowed to stay! I enjoyed having this pleasant and safe setting however don’t get thinking this means there is nothing scary. Just outside the gates the bustling, dangerous world threatens and Kay is terrified of going back there.

Overall, I thought Faith and Moonlight was another highly enjoyable young adult thread to this epic fantasy series and I look forward to reading Faith and Moonlight 2 soon! Good read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Echo of the Ascended novellas?

New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas

wendy-darling-2

Last year, I read Wendy Darling, Volume 1: Stars by Colleen Oakes, the start of Oakes’ new, young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s ‘Neverland’, and I didn’t have to wait long to read this, Volume 2: Seas, released later the same year. I actually finished reading this at the very end of last year but I have only just got round to sharing my full thoughts on it.

In the last book, Wendy and her brothers were whisked away by the wild, magical Peter Pan through their nursery window, past the stars and on to Neverland! A fantastical land of turquoise seas, glimmering beaches, mermaids, pirates and the freedom of life as a Lost Boy. However, Wendy discovered all was not at all as it appeared which forced her to flee with her youngest brother, Michael, in tow. Only to discover, at the beginning of this book, that they have fallen straight into the clutches of the dreaded Captain Hook aboard his fearsome pirate ship, Sudden Night. Now Wendy must negotiate pirate feuds, mermaids and spies whilst also hiding from Peter, who will stop at nothing to get her back.

As a female myself, it is nice to see Oakes choosing to tell her re-imagining from the point-of-view of Wendy. A young lady, who in the first book, I found to be naïve and emotional weak – I often wanted to give her a jolly good shake – yet she was also kind and had the potential for more. I am thrilled to say Wendy did grow as a character in this second book. Although her old faults were still there she did also show more strength, intelligence and resourcefulness, especially when trying to protect her adorable little brother Michael. Whilst thankfully her other brother, the thoroughly dislikeable John, stays with Peter so we don’t have to see him much.

While I can’t always say I ‘like’ Oakes re-imagined characters, I can say they are more realistic and much better fleshed out than the originals. And, none is a better example of this than the infamous Captain Hook, who we meet for the first time in this book. I was expecting something different as Oakes has already given us a twisted, maniacal Peter, which to be fair if you were stuck as a boy forever you would probably become pretty crazy too! Yet Oakes hasn’t chosen to give us a completely good, hidden hero in Hook. Instead she has given us a well-balanced and interesting character with nuances of light and dark – who I think is my new favourite.

Previously I have read and loved another of Oakes’ series, Queen of Hearts, which is a re-imagining of Lewis Carol’s ‘Wonderland’. While I have not loved this new series quite as much as the previous these are still very enjoyable books. With the beautiful description I have come to expect from Oakes. I really could imagine the roaring seas, gleaming beaches, towering peaks, humid jungle, the intoxicating Mermaid Cove and Hook’s awe-inspiring Fallen Night with its macabre bone staircase.

Overall, Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas was another enjoyable fantasy adventure in an expanded, detailed and magical re-imagining of ‘Neverland’. I hope volume 3 of this and the Queen of Hearts series come out soon! Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other books inspired by ‘Neverland’?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Fantasy Films

Blog - Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Movie Freebie

Previously, I have shared my top ten favourite film adaptations. As well as adaptations, I grew up on a large healthy dose of 80s fantasy films, which helped to make it one of my all-time favourite genres. So here are my top ten favourite fantasy films (in alphabetical order):

~ 1 ~

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Cult classic film which follows the adventures of Conan in a fantasy, pre-history word of dark magic and savagery; based on the stories of Robert E. Howard.

~ 2 ~

Dark Crystal (1982)

A Jim Henson and Frank Oz film that, for the time, uses ground breaking animatronics to bring alive the dark world of the kind Mystics, the evil Skeksis and the lone surviving Elfling.

~ 3 ~

Excalibur (1981)

Visually impressive retelling of the legends of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table; apparently based on the 15th century Arthurian romance by Thomas Malory

~ 4 ~

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

All of the Potter films are fun, magical and colourful with wonderful, largely British, star studded casts. The Half-Blood Prince is narrowly my favourite of the eight films.

~ 5 ~

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

An absolutely classic film which used Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion animation to vividly retell the legendary adventures of the Ancient Greek hero Jason.

~ 6 ~

Labyrinth (1986)

Another Jim Henson film which uses puppets in young Sarah’s surreal quest for her baby brother, who has been taken by the Goblin King. Starring the late, great David Bowie.

~ 7 ~

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

A beautiful adaptation of C S Lewis’ classic children’s adventure in the magical land of Narnia.

~ 8 ~

The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)

Visually stunning and well-loved adaptation of J R R Tolkien’s classic, high fantasy novel, that takes us on an epic adventure across Middle Earth to destroy the one ring.

~ 9 ~

The Princess Bride (1987)

A cult classic, romantic comedy which gently pokes fun at the standard tropes of fantasy and fairy tales; adapted by William Goldman from his own novel.

~ 10 ~

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Finally, we have what is probably the best known and most successful fantasy film. An epic Technicolor musical based on L Frank Baum’s classic children’s book.

What are your favourite fantasy films? Also, please let us know and link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic.

New Read: Civil Blood

civil-blood

Earlier this year, I read and loved Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King; the 1st book in the crime noir thread to their epic fantasy series. At the beginning of October, I picked up the next book, Civil Blood, hoping it would help to pick up my reading for the R.I.P reading event.

Now that Daxton Ellis is the Justiciar of Lowside, the poor and dangerous underworld of the city, he finds his position with the streetwise Lowsider and former flame Alys switched. As Alys needs his help to clear her name, after the henchman of a powerful Lowside kingpin have been found brutally murdered and strung up for all to see, and the only eyewitness’ description of the perpetrator eerily matches Alys! So Dax and Ellis team up again to solve these bloody murders by unravelling the twisting clues to find the true culprit, but all the while they have their own agendas and secrets to keep.

In this new mystery, I continued to enjoy the love/hate, tension filled but also playful chemistry between Dax and Alys; I think it helps to lighten these darker fantasy tales. Dax and Alys originally met and dated during their time training in the academy, when they were young, naïve and idealistic. However, their relationship was abruptly ended by a heart-breaking betrayal. Now all grown up, they’ve come to believe that a true blood guy and a Lowside gal can never be. Although secretly I think Dax is still pretty idealistic, but he is also acutely aware of his station and responsibilities. Alys on the other hand has become hardened as she has learnt to survive in this dangerous underworld – a world that is still alien to Dax. I found Alys less likeable in this book.

In this crime noir thread to Gelineau’s & King’s Echo of the Ascended series, it has been interesting to see more of a different, darker and seedier side to the kingdom of Aedaron. With this and the previous book set in the dangerous, poverty-stricken underworld of the capital city rather than, in the previous books, out in the large, isolated march lands. I also love a murder mystery and this was a good one with a bloody trail; a deadly, secretive perpetrator and plenty of secrets, twists and turns. While the perpetrator is identified this almost opened up more questions and threads to follow, which I presume/hope will be picked up in the next book.

Overall, I thought Civil Blood was another quick read with an interesting mystery in a dark fantasy setting. I look forward to read more from Gelineau’s & King’s Echo of the Ascended series. Good read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other mystery for the R.I.P reading event?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI – 2/4

New Read: A Feast For Crows

a-feast-for-crows

After watching the sixth, and I think best, season of Game of Thrones to date, I was left feeling bereft! So I decided to throw myself back into George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire book series, that the TV show is based on. Next up for me to read was the fourth book: A Feast For Crows.

After some shocking deaths, Queen Cersei is desperately trying to keep her power and position through her second son, Tommen. However, his seat upon the Iron Throne is precarious, with him being only a child and the terrible rumours of his mother’s adultery and his subsequent illegitimacy. Even with a quick, advantageous marriage, to the beautiful and popular Margery Tyrell of Highgarden, they must still contend with two other strong claimants to the throne: Stannis Baratheon and Daenarys Targaryen. As well as a rebellion brewing in the South; bloody raids by the pirate Iron Lords; a deadly gang of outlaws; a militant faith movement and the coming Winter. Peace seems a distant dream for the Seven Kingdoms.

These books are peopled with a whole host of interesting characters, with each chapter focusing on a different character’s point-of-view. This book, unlike previous books in the series, focuses heavily on the characters in and surrounding the capital, Kings Landing. Which means we get to hear a lot from the point-of-view of Queen Cersei and her twin brother Jaime. Cersei is a cruel, manipulative character who will do anything for power but she also thinks she is protecting her family – I love to hate her! While Jaime started out just as bad he does at least seem to be changing and atoning for them now.

Meanwhile, a few chapters follow Brienne, the lady knight, who is on an important mission for Jaime; Sansa Stark who is hiding from the wrath of Cersei; Arya Stark who has travelled across the sea and Samwell Tarly who is making his way to the Citadel. Some very notable characters are marked by their absence though. We hear some rumours but sadly, see nothing of Jon Snow and Stannis Baratheon up on The Wall, or of Cersei’s hated brother Tyrion, or of Daenarys Targaryen across the sea in Slaver’s Bay. Jon, Tyrion and Daenarys (as well as Arya) are my favourite characters, so I really, really hope we will see more of them in the next book!

With so much action, drama and interesting characters I found it very hard to put this book down and considering the epic length, I reached the end before I knew it. Like the previous books, it is jam-packed with action, adventure, intrigue, love, war, lies, fighting, secrets, and shocks! I love Martin’s detailed and compelling writing and how he allows us to explore different cities, castles, and lands through the eyes of different characters. In particular, for the first time in this book we glimpsed the cold, brutal life on the Iron Islands and the tension growing in the hot, exotic land of Dorne. I warn you there are a lot of names, places, and events to remember in these books. However, I haven’t found it that hard to keep track, especially as there are fantastic maps and appendix to help.

A Feast For Crows is another excellent, epic fantasy adventure and drama. I can’t wait to read more and I should be able to fit another book in before the return of the TV show. Great read.

Have you read this or other books in the series? Are you watching the TV series?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI – 1/4