Archive | October 2013

Book Review: The Warded Man (Peter V. Brett)

A book review that I had to do for Feature Writing. ‘Nough said.

Tolkien was a brilliant man but ultimately did a wonderful job of running fantasy into the ground. The author of “The Lord of the Rings”, as well as a number of other works, found outstanding fame in his writing, but became so popular that he basically defined the boundaries of fantasy. Forever will elves now be tall, fair-skinned folk with a penchant for magic, forever shall dwarves be short, stocky, and crude gents obsessed with gold. Fantasy, a genre once limited by its lack of limits, finds itself, for the most part, bound up in Tolkien’s dream world; which is why some new authors, such as Peter V. Brett, are creative breathes of fresh air.

Brett exploded into the fantasy scene with a brand-new, completely original series beginning with his first book, “The Warded Man” (or “The Painted Man” if you’re not American). The writing is a work of art; it doesn’t necessarily contain many big twists, quite the contrary, in fact, as a surprising amount of its story is predictable, but that is not where the book shines. Indeed the heart and soul of the book is not found in shocks and cheap twists, but in adroit storytelling and enthralling, deeply three-dimensional characters, each with their own specific role in events to come and own fantastical story.

The book itself falls under the theme of world-on-the-brink writing, as each night the few remaining cities and towns of the planet are assaulted by Corelings, demons which consolidate from mist to kill any human they come across. The Corelings come in many flavors, varying from the small, nimble fire demons to the massive, plodding stone demons, but they all share three things in common: a dislike for humankind, they are burned by the sun, and they can be kept at bay using wards, ancient symbols from the old world, from when humans openly fought Corelings. At one point, the humans had driven the Corelings back using battle runes, runes that could not only deflect Corelings but harm them. Humankind’s victory forced the Corelings underground for hundreds of years, and made humans cocky. The battle runes were forgotten, and the defensive runes only being found after most of humanity fell in the Corelings’ second coming. Now, most of humanity lives in one of very few great cities, their walls carved with massive defensive runes, and the rest live in small towns which must repaint the runes on their walls day after day or be killed by the ravenous Corelings. The only way for the settlements to get messages and supplies to and from the much larger series are through a group of brave men and women known as Messengers, who brave the Corelings every night by using transportable warded circles.

Like a number of well-selling modern fantasy authors, Brett broadens his literary scope and, instead of using the traditional one protagonist with a supporting cast, uses three main characters and a supporting cast. The two bonus characters make a huge difference, allowing the reader to experience the story from three very different viewpoints. Each character is dynamic and well-rounded, and, due to the long timeline of the first book, the reader actually watches the characters mature from children to adults, watching major portions of their development and seeing first-hand how their personalities change over time. Each character becomes the reader’s own child, and the excitement of seeing a chapter about your favorite character never dulls, and Brett wants you to know if a chapter is going to be about your favorite character. Brett included hand-drawn icons in the book, each representing one character, that appear beneath the chapter number and show the reader exactly who will be in the chapter. You see a hand with a ward on it? Arlen Bales, a farmer’s son, will make a return appearance. Is there a mortar and pestle? Leesha the alchemist will be a focal point.

It’s so rare for a fantasy series to make it to the big leagues without relying on Tolkien fiction, but when they do the genre as a whole is made better by it. Fantasy is meant to be fantastical, free from the limits of the imagination that so many other genres are weighed down by, and Peter V. Brett took that freedom and ran with it — all the way to the bank. “The Warded Man”, and, indeed, the other two books in the trilogy, “The Desert Spear,” and “The Daylight War,” are worth any reader’s time, whether they be new to the genre or grizzled veterans. The only way to find out if it’s for you, though, is to simply go out and read it.

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My Life, at the Present (or, Why the Chickens are Depressed)

This turned out longer than expected… It just kind of flowed once I started. As a warning, this is a glimpse into my current life which is, presently, depressing. Skip over it if you want to, I really won’t mind this time. But if you do read it… Well, it’ll help.

 

 

I am depressed, good readers.

I haven’t updated with anything for awhile, the reason being that I really haven’t been writing. Well, I’m writing now, and seeing as, I would say, most of my friends backslash people I know don’t read my blog, I may as well write it down here as a sort of public diary backslash journal thing. I probably won’t do this again for a while, and, really, I don’t know why I’m doing it now. Maybe it’ll be cathartic. Maybe not. I suppose the only way to find out is to sit down and do it.

One of my biggest issues in life is that I have a strict set of moral and ethical codes that I laid out for myself, loosely based on honor and chivalry, that dictate how I live my life. Now you may be saying, “But Chickens, my good bird, having honor and chivalry is a great thing,” to which I would reply, “Yeah, if this were the dark ages.” Nobody pays attention to honor in this day-in-age, or at least no one I know, which means that I have this mindset that no one understands. Honestly it usually isn’t that big of a deal, as it keeps me straight, but occasionally someone will insult my honor and not realize it. This is not good. Insulting my honor is one of the fastest ways to piss me right the [explicit] off, and, when I try to explain why I am pissed right the [former explicit] off, the perpetrator has a hard time understanding and credits it to me being stupid and backslash or a tightly-wired twit. This is only part of the reason why I am currently depressed.

You see, dearest reader-made-shoulder-to-cry-on, I have an incredibly very particular way of viewing the world, based around the idea of everything, and everyone, having a purpose. If that purpose isn’t met, then whatever has that purposes isn’t fulfilling its purpose and is thus rendered pointless. It is the worst thing in the world to me. What this means is that if I get a book, I read it. A book’s purpose is to be read, after all, and the idea of rendering something worthless because I didn’t feel like finishing it is… Well, it’s enough to make me cry. Quite literally, in fact. The feeling is that strong. It feels as though I’m strangling the life out of something while staring it right in the eye. This horrible, horrible feeling is only amplified when aimed at me.

What do you think, reader, who is potentially being forced to read this, would happen to someone with my viewpoint who feels like something they made isn’t serving its purpose? Allow me to explain in exquisite detail using this verbal model. Imagine, if you would, taking your hand (still with me? Good, I know this is complicated), and laying it on your arm. Now take a deep breath… And tear off a massive chunk of your arm and slam it down on a table. Do this every time someone doesn’t feel like reading what you wrote. Now imagine what happens when you lose one arm. Move on to your stomach. Your face. Your legs. When my work’s purpose isn’t being fulfilled, I feel like part of my body, a chunk of my soul, is being torn out of me. It is the most painful feeling I have ever imagined. I have been writing for nearly thirteen years, and, since many of my friends don’t like reading, many of my pieces were never read. This resulted in my fear of writing.

I’m not afraid of writing, per say, I am afraid of writing something that will never get read. Honestly, if only one person reads what I wrote then that work’s purpose is fulfilled and I am filled with a sense of euphoria. You eight subscribers? I love you all and would happily buy you a meal. Unfortunately you weren’t always here, and, due to my weird view of the world, parents and girlfriends don’t count as readers (they’re too heavily biased), meaning a ton of my work wasn’t read. Fearing that soul-rending feeling time after time caused the writer’s portion of my brain to shrivel up and hide in some dark hole in my mind. Every time I would begin writing something new, I knew, deep down, that it would never be read and simply… Stopped. I had a number of drafts written up for short stories, essays, even books, that I scrapped and never touched again (and are now gone for good due to a hard drive crash awhile back).

Allow me to expand this idea beyond writing, though. What is the purpose… Of a friend? What makes a friend a friend, rather than an acquaintance or some random dude asking for a fiver? To me, a friend is someone who you not only have fun with, but share interests with. This does not mean that you have the same interests as them; instead, it means that, even if you don’t necessarily like what the other person does, you experience it with them anyways, and be part of it. At least a little bit. It means forgetting your own preferences for awhile and living within your friend’s happiness bubble. Friends also talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Can you tell this is important yet? Taaaaaaaaaalk. Stories are told, experiences are related, opinions are shared. This does not mean that opinions are nice. Opinions differ, and that’s one of the best parts about having friends, the idea that two people with differing opinions on something can sit down and share their ideas in a friendly setting. There’s a lot more things that go into a friendship with me, but these are the two main ones. Now let me explain what is going on right now in my life.

My opinion doesn’t matter. Or, at least, that’s the impression I get from my friends. Especially recently, when I was getting more and more social, whenever I tried to share my opinion it was immediately shot down. Whether that be advice or just an opinion on an anime (shut up, Chickens, you’re being a killjoy), my opinion doesn’t matter. Relate that to the two things listed above: friendship and purpose. I sure as hell don’t feel like any of their friends right now, and my opinion is part of myself. I have a meaning. When you ignore my opinion, as a friend, you are basically calling me worthless. Remember the arm-tearing thing? This is a lot worse. It doesn’t stop there.

Many of my friends don’t like reading. That is, well, more-or-less fine but I can deal with it. It’s almost the norm in this day-in-age. I don’t like dubstep, and quite a few other things my friends like. When they talk about it, though, I [explicit] listen. I even try to engage the best that I can. However it’s not uncommon for them to completely brush-off my writing because TOO LONG DIDN’T READ, or, even better, “do I have to get up?” If you remember from my previous statement, this tears a hole in me every time. I remember, not all that long ago, breaking down into tears in my dorm thinking about this thing that I loved and worked on being considered worthless by the people I care most about. It’s caused massive emotional trauma over the years and it’s a miracle that my fists have survived the number of times I used my pillows as a makeshift punching bag against my wall. It’s also a miracle my wall has survived, for that matter.

With these two biggies, as well as a number of other issues going on right now, I have bottled-up. I am currently sitting in my room, in the dark, writing on a bright computer screen. I have only left the past few days to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, and, on one occasion, go to a previously-scheduled social even with my mother and grandmother. I have no intention of leaving my room at the present moment, and the disconnect I have with both my happy emotions and friend is massive. I’m having a hard time even smiling, which for me is kind of a big deal. My motivation has dropped and I am now more anti-social than I’ve been in a long, long time. Keep in mind that I am an introvert, an INTJ if you’re into Bryers-Miggs, so the isolation doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I feel like it should, though, and I know for a fact that if I don’t interact with more people on a more regular basis I’ll crash, if not from boredom then from separation. The glorious bit of this? I don’t even feel like trying to communicate with these people I’ve considered friends. I’ve tried before, and, as always, it’s “TOO LONG DIDN’T READ.” I hate that term. I hate it with my whole being, and they’ll never understand why. Even more so because they probably won’t read this, even though I keep asking them. Hell, I don’t even know if they’ll ask what’s wrong. Maybe [name redacted] will, seeing as he picked up on it once. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being a pansy. A wuss. But if I’m right, and I hope I’m not, then my place in my social circle is so insignificant that I may as well not even be here. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a good pick-me-up from a friend. Hell, I can scarcely remember the last time I received a compliment.

At any rate, if you read this, thanks for sticking with me. I don’t do this too often, and I probably won’t do it again for awhile. Additionally I’m not usually this goddam depressing, it’s just that I’ve had a pretty [explicit] terrible past couple of… Well, in some regards years, and I’ve never really vented on a massive scale like this. I like comedy and satire, or fantasy and epic adventures, hell I even love good essays, and that’s what I’ll try to keep this blog updated with from now on. Just occasionally, bear with me. Hell, even drop a like or a comment, I’ll eat it up and it’ll make my week. I’ll get through it eventually, I always do.