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text SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-30 16:42
Bloodsong Trilogy by Asa Drake (aka C. Dean Andersson)

I’ve always been an avid reader; a quiet moment to me means a chance to get a chapter or two in.  Back in the 80s while I was in the Marine Corps we had lots of down time on weekends, and thankfully a lot of Marines were into AD&D, so there was that.  Heck- once we even brought our books with us on a week-long field deployment so we could finish a module featuring a vampire named Strahd von Zarovich.  Good times.

 

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I always wonder how much this one would be worth without all my notes marking it up...[/caption]

 

One slow Saturday I went to the PX to find something to read.  I’m a longtime fantasy fan (who isn’t these days, but I’m old so I can stake my claim!) who loves a good hack-n-slash featuring a female protagonist.  Back in the 80s that type of novel was in woefully short supply.  That day I came across two titles that seemed to fit the bill: The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon (also a former Marine- Semper Fi!) & Werebeasts of Hel by Asa Drake (aka C. Dean Andersson- a former Airman, but I won’t hold that against him).

 

Now, as much as I tried to like Moon’s book, I couldn’t.  The titular character was female practically in name only- she was asexual to the point of almost becoming her defining trait and the story plodded along like a broke down mule in knee deep mud.  Even back then I understood the issues with female leads in SF/F and making her a fully-fleshed person with loves, hates, needs & desires would’ve been tricky at best, but it didn’t even seem like there was an effort made there.

 

Then I read Werebeasts of Hel.  

 

Even though it was the third book of the trilogy, there was enough backstory involved so it wasn’t hard to follow.  Most importantly, I was now dying to read the first two.

Built from Norse mythology & history and billed as the “Heavy Metal of Fantasy” by Publisher’s Weekly, all three books even featured cover art by Boris Vallejo!  In the 80s that was pretty much the Seal of Approval!

 

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Starting with Warrior Witch of Hel, the story arc centers upon a woman named Freyadis whose village was raided by the evil sorcerer, King Nidhug, who served Hel, Goddess of Death.   With her husband and infant son killed & her daughter Guthrun taken captive, Freyadis was subjected to various abuses, bound to a tree and left to die, her infant son’s corpse tied to her breast.  Never passing up an opportunity, Hel offered Freyadis a chance to return as an undead Hel warrior if she would pray to her as she died. 

 

Nidhug, of course, has betrayed Hel by stealing a relic of her power called the War Skull for his own ends.  After enduring even more of Nidhug’s depravities- including in gladiatorial combat- and finding her daughter in Helheim, Freyadis- now known as Bloodsong from her arena fights- is tasked by Hel to recover the War Skull and bring Nidhug down in exchange for freedom.  Must’ve been a Tuesday.

 

Along the way Bloodsong finds allies like Huld- an elf-blooded witch in service to Freya, Jalna- a slave unfortunate enough to catch Nidhug’s attention & Tyrulf- the warrior in Nidhug’s army who’s attracted to Jalna.  Bloodsong also has a very nasty surprise waiting for her when she reaches Nidhug’s fortress.

 

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The second book, Death Riders of Hel, picks up a few years later: Guthrun is discovered to be a witch and studies with Huld while Bloodsong and her friends have forged a life in the aftermath.  A new threat arises from Thokk- a Hel-witch determined to both finish what Nidhug started and convert Guthrun to the dark side.  Thanks to her mistress, Thokk has a way of striking at Bloodsong where it’ll hurt her the most.  Bloodsong forms an alliance with a tribe of shapeshifting berserkers and is willing to pay any price to save Guthrun from becoming a Hel-witch.  But will the lure of darkness be too great for Gudrun to overcome, especially when being lured by a familiar presence?

 

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Werebeasts of Hel takes place years later, but unfolds much the same way.  Years of peace after defeating Hel, life goes on, friends & lovers… then, BOOM!  Third time’s the charm, eh?  An old adversary returns to lead Hel's armies- one who knows Bloodsong's weaknesses and she's hard pressed to stand against him alone.  This time Odin himself provides a little divine assistance and Bloodsong has to forge an alliance with an altogether new breed of creatures to help stop Hel from conquering them all.

 

The best thing about these books is they are what they are.  Nothing fancy or elaborate- it's all straightforward, fast-paced, in-your-face adventure: here's the situation, now let's do something about it!  It’s a gloriously grim & gory Nordic hack-n-slash with good doses of horror and a few splashes of romance tossed in for variety.  This is a bleak, icy world teetering on the edge of apocalypse.  Death lurks around every turn, defeat is all but certain, friends are lost, sacrifices appear pointless and at times it takes all the heroes have just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

 

It’s fucking great!!!  My copies of these are lovingly well-worn for good reason.  I’m glad I found ebook copies to help save them even more wear and tear.

 

Now I’ll admit the omnibus edition doesn’t thrill me at all.  Though the alterations fleshed a lot of things out it was also watered down and a lot of things were added that just flat out confused me.  But it’ll probably do for you if you haven’t read the originals.  If you can find the originals or individual ebooks, get ‘em!  You won’t be sorry!

 

4.5/5 stars

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review 2018-10-30 11:38
The Chicken's Head Rose: "Soul of the Fire" by Terry Goodkind
Soul of the Fire (Sword of Truth, Book 5) - Terry Goodkind


(Original Review, 2002) 


"Hissing, hackles lifting, the chicken's head rose. Kahlan pulled back. Its claws digging into stiff dead flesh, the chicken slowly turned to face her. It cocked its head, making its comb flop, its wattles sway. "Shoo," Kahlan heard herself whisper. There wasn't enough light, and besides, the side of its beak was covered with gore, so she couldn't tell if it had the dark spot, But she didn't need to see it. "Dear spirits, help me," she prayed under her breath. The bird let out a slow chicken cackle. It sounded like a chicken, but in her heart she knew it wasn't. In that instant, she completely understood the concept of a chicken that was not a chicken. This looked like a chicken, like most of the Mud People's chickens. But this was no chicken. This was evil manifest."


In "Soul of the Fire" by Terry Goodkind.


Goodkind is responsible for the worst thing ever written by a human being; the now legendary evil chicken scene (quote above).

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-10-28 12:00
A must have for scholars, researches, and WWI enthusiasts.
The Great War Illustrated 1918 - William Langford,Jack Holroyd

Thanks to Alex, Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a Hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Despite my interest in the topic, and although I have read some books and watched some movies on WWI, I am not very knowledgeable about it, and I am more familiar with WWII, which feels (and is) much closer. I recently read and reviewed, another one of the books published by Pen & Sword, which explored a historical topic through pictures from the period, and I found it a great way of learning about the era by bringing it to life.

When I saw this book, the last in a collection of five volumes, one per each year of WWI, I was curious. Although I had seen pictures from WWI, they were mostly of soldiers, who had posed in uniform for their families, or political figures, and when I think about war photography, I think of WWII, the Spanish Civil War and later conflicts. This particular volume contains over a thousand photographs, including some in colour, maps, and drawings, of the various campaigns of 1918. The authors explain that some of the images are well-known (I was only familiar with some of the politicians, well-known figures, like T. E. Lawrence and Wilfred Owen, and some of the royals), but they had never been presented as a full collection or in an organised manner. The images are numbered and people interested can obtain copies from the image library in the Taylor Library Archive, and that makes this book a great reference for scholars and other people looking for visual documentation from the period.

The volume is divided into eight chapters: 1) Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids – Naval War, 2) The German Spring Offensives –The Kaiserschlacht, 3) Salonika, Mesopotamia, Palestine, 4) The Italian Front, 5) Battles of the Aisne and the Marne Rivers, 6) Americans at Cantigny, Château-Thierry, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, 7) Battle of Amiens – The Hindenburg Line – Advance to Victory, 8) Some Consequences of this Global War. Although the big protagonists of the book are the photographs, the text guides us through the campaigns, including also the original captions from newspapers, the citations for the medals they received, and some observations that help us understand the sequence and the consequences of the events.

Although I knew that in WWI there had been a lot of destruction (of lives, animals, and buildings) because of the use of weapons unknown until then, the impact of seeing pictures of towns and cities completely destroyed, of mustard gas attacks, tanks, planes, aerial pictures, dead soldiers and civilians, and famine is overwhelming. And the stories… From inspiring bravery to incredible cruelty (or perhaps it was just a strong sense of duty, but what would make a commander launch an attack two minutes before the armistice was due, resulting in thousands of dead men on both sides is beyond my comprehension).  As I read some of the captions of the pictures and the stories behind some of the photographs, I could imagine many books and movies inspired by such events and individuals (and I am sure there are quite a few, but not as many as there should be).

I marked pages containing stories I found particularly touching, inspiring, or almost incredible, too many to mention, but I have randomly chosen a few of them to share as a sample.

The caption to a picture of plenty of smiling men brandishing their knives in page 222 explains that they are Italian soldiers of the elite Arditi Corps ‘the Caimans of the Piave’. ‘They numbered around eighty and were trained to remain in the powerful currents of the Piave for hours. Carrying only a Sardinian knife –the resolza – and two hand grenades, they acted in a communication role between the west and east banks of the Piave.’

There is a picture on page 260 of a worker with the Y.M.C.A. serving drinks to American soldiers on in the front line, and it says that one centre at a railway site served more than 200000 cups of cocoa to soldiers each month.

The book also remembers civilians who died, like those working at the National Shell Filling Factory in Chilwell that was destroyed on the 1st of July 2018, with 134 civilians dead and 250 injured.

There are stories that are the stuff of movies, like that of The Lost Battalion, the 77th Infantry Division, cut off by the Germans for five days, who were eventually relieved, but had by then lost half of the men.

Or the one of Corporal Alvin C. York ‘–later sergeant – at the place where he systematically began picking off twenty of the enemy with rifle and pistol. As an elder in a Tennessee mountain church at the beginning of the war, he was a conscientious objector, but then changed his mind to become the most efficient of killers.’ (405) He took the machine gun nest, four officers, 128 men, and several guns.

There are amazing feats by men of all nations and horrific devastation as well. The last chapter serves as a reminder of the heavy price imposed on the losing side and the consequences derived from it. The peace would be sadly short-lived, as we all know, and some of the issues of sovereignty that seemed to have been solved then would resurface once more a few years later.

In sum, this is a book for people interested in WWI (the whole collection is) at a personal level, invaluable for researchers, as it provides a good reference to a large body of archival images, and it is packed with bite-sized information that will provide inspiration to many writers and scholars. Another great addition to Pen & Sword military catalogue and one that I thoroughly recommend.

 

 

 

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text 2018-09-27 08:57
刀劍神域ol遊戲正在向西方轉移,這個遊戲太好玩了!

刀劍神域ol最初由Reki Kawahara創建,插圖由abec提供。這個系列講述了一個名叫Kirito的男孩,他和成千上萬的遊戲玩家被困在一個名為刀劍神域ol的虛擬現實視頻遊戲中。遊戲玩家必須團結起來才能擊敗遊戲的最終關卡才能逃脫,但是Kirito和他的公會都知道他們的監獄背後有比他們最初被告知的更多。
當Kirito與Eugeo結盟時,他繼續尋找一種退出這個世界的方法。與此同時,他還記得內心深處的某種記憶。他還記得小時候和Eugeo在山上賽跑......一開始他不應該擁有的記憶......在這段記憶中,他看到的不是Eugeo,一個年輕的金發女孩。她叫愛麗絲。這是一個絕不能忘記的名字......“
Bandai Namco在東京電玩展期間為刀劍神域ol遊戲系列舉辦了五週年慶典活動,當然還有一些公告要做。其中一個問題涉及將遊戲帶到Switch,這是以刀劍神域online豪華版的形式發生的:空心實現和完整版的刀劍神域ol:Fatal Bullet。
但是,不要擔心必須導入。Bandai Namco的美國分公司迅速跟進確認這些Switch端口將進入西部。您可以在下面的周年紀念預告片中參加慶祝活動。
Bandai Namco還確認了刀劍神域online的西部發布計劃:Fatal Bullet的下一次擴張,Nexus的Dissonance。 刀劍神域online即將捲土重來,如果他們願意,粉絲們可以更好地了解更多。為即將到來的服務區推出的全新預告片已經上線。

如果你對刀劍神域ol頁遊足夠多的熱情,就趕緊來開始你的表演吧,這裡是遊戲網址,直接點進去就可以開始玩哦,肯定會有所驚喜的:https://pc.sao .okgame.me/

刀劍神域online

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review 2018-09-26 17:37
Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan
Theft of Swords - Michael J. Sullivan,Tim Gerard Reynolds

This epic fantasy includes a little breaking and entering, plenty of snarky insults, political intrigue, magical beasts, and a chaotic neutral maimed mage. For me, the tale started off fun but not particularly special. It wasn’t until about a quarter of the way through the book that the tale grabbed me. Royce and Hadrian are a lot of fun. They’ve known each other for years and each is well into their adult years. This was a nice break from all those epic fantasy adventures that feature teen/young adults bumbling through their first adventures.

Royce was my favorite because we have the same dark sense of humor and have to sometimes be talked into doing the right thing. Hadrian is an enthusiastic believer in honor and all things good. It’s a very good thing these two have each other to balance things out. Each has a history veiled in questions and half truths. I look forward to Book 2 revealing more on this note.

The one weakness to this tale is the ladies. It’s not all bad, but for the most part they are comforters and romantic interests and need to be rescued. Arista shows promise with her wit and ability to grasp politics. Also young Thrace has a shining moment at the end of the novel. The ladies aren’t the worst I’ve seen in epic fantasy but I did want just a bit more from them.

There’s a big fat mystery with the elves. Ancient conflict and truces are eluded to and I expect that will become a big deal later in this series. There are a few elvish slaves in some areas of the human realms, but no elves roam free… or if they do, they can pass for human. The maimed mage Esra provides most of what we know about the elves. He’s ancient and was imprisoned for perhaps 900 years (if I recall correctly). Esra is a big enigma. I don’t know what he wants and he might not know either. He has to keep his head down as he’s still a wanted criminal.

Then there’s Myron. I adored this character because of his wide eyed wonder of the bigger world. He grew up in a monastery and had never been off the grounds. He had seen a few horse but never rode one and he’s never seen a woman. As he gets swept up into the adventure, he provides several chuckles. I too wish there were blue horses.

By the end, I had fallen in love with the main characters. I really look forward to adventuring further with Royce and Hadrian. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Tim Gerard Reynolds gave a great performance for this book. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were believable. He sounded like he had a lot of fun narrating this story too. I did notice a few short repeats but there were no other technical issues with the recording. I loved his voice for Myron (always full of wonder), his skeptical voice for Royce, and his honorable voice for Hadrian. 4.75/5 stars.

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