Reading Log: Shadowmarch

The four book covers for each novel in the series: Shadowmarch, Shadowplay, Shadowrise, Shadowheart.
Image Source:

So, today I’m going to talk about a series of books, both as one series and individually. The series is Shadowmarch by Tad Williams, one of my favorite authors. A quick bit of background: I’ve been a fan of Tad Williams work every since I discovered his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy in high school. I’ve told this story before on the blog, but I first found about Tad Williams after purchasing The Dragonbone Chair from a bookstore in Atlanta, GA in the (now disused and mostly abandoned, but then thriving) Underground Mall area. The back wall in this bookstore was pure rock, hewn from the ground, and so, even though I don’t always read every Tad Williams novel, I’m still interested when I hear he has a new novel.


I really like Tad Williams’ novels when he writes Epic (or what used to be known as High) Fantasy. Tad’s world building is impressive. I’ve tried to read his Sci-Fi series and his non-epic works (The Otherland books and The War of the Flowers), but none of his non-epic works ever capture me in the same way as his fantasy novels. Basically, Shadowmarch is the story of a war between the humans and the fae, but for reasons that are very hard to decipher–at least initially. While I won’t give a plot synopsis here, I will say that even though I bought everyone of the Shadowmarch novels, I’ve only read them once before, right after their initial publication. That’s unusual for me, as I only buy books (or keep books) that I truly love. I think it is because, after establishing all the major characters and relationships in the first book, they go there separate ways in the subsequent volumes, only to return together in the 4th volume (as a group).

Book 1: Shadowmarch

As mentioned above, this book sets up the world, character, plot, and relationships of the various humans on one side and the fae on the other. It gives us our two main protagonists of the book, Princess Briony and her brother Prince Barrick, and then sets into motion a war that is initiated by the faeries. These are not your traditional fae and are formidable opponents. This is probably my favorite book in the series in that it establishes the most things in the novel. While not small, we get a LOT of world building, characterization, and plot development in this novel.

Book 2: Shadowplay

I remember not particularly caring for this one when I originally read it, and upon rereading it, I think I know why. While it focuses on all the major characters, at the time, I thought the Princess Briony was, by far, the most interesting character, and the places where she wasn’t “on the screen” really dragged. Also, while I don’t hate Prince Barrick, he isn’t a particularly likable character in this chapter of the story (unlike Chapter 1, where he had Briony to balance him out and neutralize some of his rough edges), and since we spend so much time in his POV, or in the Guard Captain Vansen’s POV (who is with him), that we get to see/interact with Barick a LOT, which makes the whole book seem to slow down. I appreciate it more now than I did at the time, but originally, it was really hard to get through Barrick’s sections.

Book 3: Shadowrise

This is where I remember the series really coming into its own when I first read it, and even upon rereading, I still think this. I think the answer is two-fold: 1) we finally start getting some answers in the form of clues, revelations, and hints about the story. While a lot is in mythology, the answers given are like pieces of a puzzle and the more we’re given in this volume, the clearer the overall narrative becomes, and 2) Prince Barrick finally becomes likable. While far from perfect, you can see why he has been such a “jerk” in the past and his demeanor gets heavily tempered in this book. While Briony’s “journey” stops (she no longer advances the plot as she had before), she gets some fairly heavy characterization in the form of serious court “intrigue” that is deadly serious.

Book 4: Shadowheart

This probably my 2nd favorite book in the series. Firstly, because Tad Williams “sticks the landing” with this series. So many authors that I’ve read (and even admire) have books whose endings just fall apart from me. However, this book manages to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion (for me). I do wish the final battle had been a little more involved (I think the “obstruction” sub-plot to keep one of the side characters from enacting his final plan to help take out the ultimate enemy went on too long and could have been shortened), but the battle that was depicted was epic enough and, at 727 pages, the book was already long (having originally been planned as a trilogy, but having to be changed to a 4 book series due to the original size of the third volume), so I can understand that the climatic battle might have been shorter than I might have liked. Also, both Barrick and Briony get to shine in their respective roles. While there is an annoying romantic “triangle” that Briony is involved in, I can say without spoilers that it doesn’t get in the way too much, and adds a bit of depth to Briony’s character–in other words, the author has Briony dwell on it for a paragraph or two, sometimes interweaving through a section, but she’s never on the subject for too long (in my opinion). We finally get answers to our questions and the full tapestry is revealed and I think it is a successful end to the series. I’m glad I bought it, but wish I’d reread it sooner. It is a great series and would make a great story to adapt into live action (series or movie) one of these days.

Are you listening, Hollywood?


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Reading Log: Frankenstein and The Hunger Games

A journal with a stylized pen drawn banner with the words "Reading Log" on the left side and pen drawn books with titles written on the spine.
Image Source:

So, I liked the way the blog post came together for my Writing Log post a couple of weeks back, so I think I”ll expand it so that I cover 4 or 5 different elements of my life in a “log” format and publish them (potentially) on Fridays–the day when I find it hardest to get blog posts done and out. I’m thinking it will follow writing, reading, video games, and some other fourth thing (not sure what that will be at the moment). Still, I really like the format, so look out for these on Fridays.

Now on to the log!


This is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I started it once before as I wanted to read it before watching Kenneth Branaugh’s movie adaptation of it. As I think I may have mentioned before on the blog at some point, I never got past the introduction/prologue of the tale and never watched the movie. However, my mentor professor, who is teaching a sci-fi literature course this semester, made it the beginning literary work to examine, so I read it along with the class and I enjoyed it. What I took most from it was how changed it is from the Boris Karloff movie. Now, I’ve not seen that one either, so one of these days, I really need to just go on a Frankenstein binge-fest, but I think I like the book’s quiet menace and contemplation on what it means to be different and hated. One could almost make a parallel between Frankenstein’s monster and racism based on the fact that the prejudice comes from the way the monster looks, not (initially) the way he acts. There is also something to be said about the nature vs nurture debate, in that things that happen later in the book are a direct result of how the creature was (not) nurtured rather than an product of its creation (birth). There is a lot to unpack in this novel, and one of the reasons that it is still such a classic even today. It makes me wonder why Branagh’s interpretation was so roundly disliked since it seemed to move back towards the book and be a much more faithful interpretation than than the Karloff story.

The Hunger Games

Like The Expanse, this is a book that I read at first and did NOT enjoy. While I liked the concept, I didn’t like (at the time) the way the characters were presented. It has been quite a few years since it first came out, and I think I read it–if not at the height of its popularity–quite close to it and I believe that it was probably “overhyped” in my mind and that helped to predispose me against it. I gave it 3 stars (out of 5) on Goodreads.

Rereading it, I’m able to appreciate it more. and I feel that it is a better book than I originally gave it credit for all those years ago. Another thing that I think helped is that understanding that I’m NOT the target audience for this book. No, I’m not talking about gender here or even YA, but rather, I’m not interested in the slightest in “Reality TV,” and that’s almost a requirement here. You have to be interested in the inside/outside machinations of that type of entertainment structure to really get into this book. In the intervening years, the “Battle Royal” subgenre has become a thing in video games, and while I’m not really big into that type of game, it is a reference point/touch point through which I can get into the story now–a book version of the “battle royal” genre.

I also liked the “Rue” subplot better this time around and the reaction to it really had the “weight” that I think it was supposed to have. As an African American, I may have been a bit miffed at the time at the outcry against Rue’s casting for the movie (and there was an outcry–I remember the news stories), and probably held that against the book–even though Rue is written in the book as a dark-skinned character. However, now that this controversy has faded, I was able to read the interaction as the author intended and found that it was a really captivating moment. Enough that I actually want to watch the movie. I even went back to Goodreads and gave it 4 stars (out 5).


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Finished Traveller RPG! Mini-Review

Traveller RPG Book Cover – Picture of Spaceship with a planet and stars on a black background. Image Source:


Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 17 (+5 past two weeks)
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)

Goal = 5 Pages a week.  Working on Rough Draft for the next 5 pages on Fridays/Over the Weekend.
Actual = 3/5 Pages done last week. I wanted to do more, but I had a 5000 word paper due by midnight Sunday, 22 July 2018, so I simply didn’t have enough time to really work on it as I would have liked.  Still, I did manage to write fairly consistently, even if it isn’t reflected here as I wrote other things (for a school setting).

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: FINISHED!
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Here is a summary from Amazon: “In this hip, accessible primer to the music, literature, and art of Afrofuturism, author Ytasha Womack introduces readers to the burgeoning community of artists creating Afrofuturist works, the innovators from the past, and the wide range of subjects they explore. From the sci-fi literature of Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, and N. K. Jemisin to the musical cosmos of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and the Black Eyed Peas’, to the visual and multimedia artists inspired by African Dogon myths and Egyptian deities, the book’s topics range from the “alien” experience of blacks in America to the “wake up” cry that peppers sci-fi literature, sermons, and activism. With a twofold aim to entertain and enlighten, Afrofuturists strive to break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.”
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Stepping Away from It

Sorry for not writing. Unfortunately, I still had an outstanding project due on July 22 and I spent much of the week trying to make sure that I was ready for it (I wasn’t, but that’s a blog post for another time). Regardless, it put a damper on my writing endeavors. I still wrote creatively (for the most part), but didn’t really have enough time left to pull together a blog post. Still trying to do these posts ahead of time, but some weeks that’s not an option, so it is sometimes difficult to get blog posts updated in a timely manner.

In a Galaxy Far Away

On Friday, as I was lucky enough to finish the Traveller RPG that I’ve been reading for most of the month. It was the book that I read after finishing Oathbringer.  The tagline for the book is Science Fiction Adventure in the Far Future. I enjoyed the book and believe that it would make a good game for those who are interested in playing either a Space Opera or Hard Science Fiction campaigns.

Space the Final Frontier

One of the things that I like about this game/system is the fact that it allows for one to play a generic Sci-Fi campaign or to tailor make a campaign to match any one of a number universes. There is an “imperium” that could be tailored for a Star Wars like rebels vs empire-like war. However, the best use of the game would be to create a campaign that is much more like an adventure game in space. Elite, Elite Dangerous, or even a “Space Cowboy” world like Firefly would be the best use of this system if one truly wanted to adapt the system to a specific universe.

For my money, I’d probably try to work and to create my own campaign for this rule set, using the “history” and “setting” to try to create something new and fresh.

Overall Grade: B


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Finished Rereading Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time #13) by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Tower of Midnight (Wheel of Time #13) Book Cover.  Image Source: GoodReads

Word Count

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 2428 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I didn’t manage any new words on any of my major projects–I didn’t even manage a blog post.  I realize this is where I’m sabotaging my writing, so I’m redoubling my efforts to write at least 250-500 words each day on at least one of these projects.  

Currently Reading

  • For Fun: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novella)
  • For School: Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
  • For Research/Personal Development: Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Finally Finished

So, this past week, I finally finished rereading Towers of Midnight, the 13th book in The Wheel of Time Fantasy series.  This series was started by Robert Jordan in the early 1990s, but he sadly passed away.  Brandon Sanderson was asked to complete the series based on the notes left behind by RJ after his death.  I can’t remember if I’ve done a formal review of the books based on fact that I’ve already read them, but I won’t do a full one here, just a shorter one that tells why I like the book.

Secondary Characters

If the previous book’s focus is mostly on Rand (the main protagonist of the series), then this book focuses more on the two side characters who also act as protagonists, Perrin and Matt.  RJ & BS do the time-honored tradition of splitting up the characters and having them go their separate ways.  This book checks in on the pair and offer resolution to their separate storylines so that they might be unencumbered by dangling plot-lines for the final epic battle that RJ & BS are setting up for in Book 14 (the final volume).  In this case, the book works, although even though we spend quite a bit of time in both characters’ heads, it still feel like this one is more about Perrin than Matt.  I think that it may be because the author may identify more with Perrin than Matt, but whatever the case, this is what makes it feel slightly unbalanced to me.

Not Sure at First

When Brandon Sanderson first took over the reins of the series, I was hesitant to read the final books because I wasn’t sure how they would turn out.  I actually delayed reading them until all three were out because 1) I hadn’t read anything by BS yet, so I didn’t know what his writing style was like and 2) because of the mixed reviews on Amazon.  Some praised his characterization and said it matched the “spirit” of RJ’s original books, while some were disappointed in the way the books were characterized.  For me, The Wheel of Time was always more about the characters than the world (at least, in the later WoT books).  Jordan had a dense style, and while that was sometimes helpful to “world-building”,  it was also sometimes off-putting and (dare I say it, a little dry and boring).  It was his characters and traits that really stood out, from one character’s tagging on her braid when she was angry to one character also being an absolute flirt while claiming he knew nothing of the opposite sex, Jordan’s ability to create characters was amazing.  After I read Sanderson’s A Way of Kings, Book 1 of his Stormlight Archives series, I had enough confidence that he would treat Jordan’s characters right and so I dived in and I’m glad I did.


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What’s On My Bookshelf: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (Signed Copy)

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson Book Cover (A Knight in Armor), Image Source: (Click for more info)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 113
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1084 
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12 (+1)

Summer Reading

So, I bought Brandon Sanderson’s novel Oathbringer (Stormlight Archives Book 3) for my birthday to read as a reward for finishing the Spring Semester.  This semester was so challenging that I was actually tempted (and actually tried) to read Oathbringer before the semester was over.  However, there is a prequel novella called Edgedancer that BS suggested reading before diving in Book 3 proper.  Luckily, MTSU’s Library had a copy and I’ve started reading it in preparation for book 3 in the series.  Today, I wanted to have a quick look at another book on my bookshelf, The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archives Book 1), which I was fortunate enough to have signed by Brandon Sanderson when he came to LibertyCon here is Chattanooga several years back.

The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson’s work is one of the few of the “New Generation” of fantasy writers that I like.  Even though George R. R. Martin has been around since the 80’s, his Game of Thrones series kicked off a resurgence of the GrimDark genre.  To be clear, GrimDark has always been around–Stephen R. Donaldson, a few of Piers Anthony’s early Sci-Fi works–not his YA or Fantasy, per se, and Dave Duncan–are just a few writers that immediately spring to mind whose works that I’ve read (and disliked) because of the GrimDark elements  Most writers of Sanderson’s generation are (of course) seeing the popularity (and dollar signs) of GoT and are  trying to emulate his success with their own versions.  Sanderson, however, tells a very different tale–one that, while having its own grim elements, eschews GrimDark for a more hopeful and elegant premise.  The hero is flawed, but not in a “antihero” sort of way, but more in that he keeps trying to protect, but it all seems to come to naught and he is so very tired of not succeeding.  In an era of “Me Too” GoT clones, this was very refreshing.  The world was very well built and I like the way Sanderson plots (he thinks up big, “set-piece” moments and then writes to those moments).  The ending has a bit of twist and ultimately it was the hero and the ending that sold me on the story.

Life Before Death

So, the above heading is the “creed” of one of the forgotten orders of (this world’s) “knights” in the book and is what Brandon Sanderson inscribed on my copy of the book when he came for LibertyCon..  He was very nice and must say that I enjoyed meeting him.  I was, surprisingly, tongue-tied but mentioned that that I was a librarian when I asked him to sign my A.R.C. (Advanced Reader’s Copy) version of the book that I had been given by another librarian a year (or two) earlier.  He was very respectful and said that he enjoyed meeting librarians and the the A.R.C. was fairly rare in that there weren’t many printed and signed my copy.  It is still a treasured addition to my collection even all these years later.  I can only hope that, if ever I reach my goal of being a published speculative fiction novelist, that I am as gracious and nice as Brandon Sanderson was during that event.

Anyway, that’s all for today.  If you’re in to Fantasy in any way, I would highly recommend checking out this series, starting with The Way of Kings.  It is an awesome start to an awesome series by an awesome author!

Here’s hoping you have a good week! 🙂


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Leave It To Chance: Monster Madness and Other Stories


Leave It To Chance: Monster Madness and Other Stories is the third book (Vol. 3) to the Leave It To Chance  series (yes, I know I’m out of order, but Vol. 2 was longer than I had time to read this week with grading and all) that I reviewed last week.  While I like this volume, I don’t like it quite as much as I liked Volume 1.  It tries to do something fairly unique, but the story (as presented) doesn’t quite work as well as it should.

Monster Madness takes the idea of what would happen in “movie monsters” came to life in the “real world” of Devil’s Echo (the city where the Chance stories take place).  However, it seems to focus more on Chance’s interaction with a “mysterious” character named “Lightfoot” than it does with her actually trying to solve a crime.  In fact, her dragon is knocked out for most of the story, and she is relegated to the sidelines while her father does most of the sleuthing/fighting the bad guys.  It doesn’t help that while Lightfoot is intended as a “possible” love interest in that Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys way of dropping similar characters of the opposite sex together and watching the sparks fly as their similar ways cause conflict (and interest), Lightfoot is drawn in such an unappealing manner that I (for one) was actively routing against Chance having anything to do with him.

I think Monster Madness (and the other story, which has heart, but still isn’t as good as the first volume’s story).  I think that while this was a good volume, Chance’s strengths are when she’s the center of the action, doing the sleuthing, rather than as a standby character who merely interacts when the action comes to her.


Leave It To Chance

Leave It To Chance “Shaman’s Rain” Book Cover, Image Source:

Leave It To Chance is a young adult graphic novel that I really, really like.  I wanted to take a moment to highlight this great (& short) graphic novel series.  I just finished rereading the first volume this week (I’m trying to read all my graphic novels as a way to remind myself of the graphic novel format since I’ve been away for so long).

Leave It To Chance was published in the early 2000s (2002) and it was written in the height of the GrrlPower movement (James Robinson’s Forward is dated 3.25.97 and this is in the height of the movement, but as the hardcover collection wasn’t published until 2002 which, by then, was the tail-end of the movement).  The protagonist is Chance, a young girl who is the daughter of Falconer, a mage of eminence and importance in the city of Devil’s Echo.  She is “protected” from the magical intrigue and derring-do by her father, but she is of age to take up training to become the next in the line of Falconers who are sworn to protect the city.  Her father refuses to train her simply because of her gender (noting that this “burden” of training is passed from male heir to male heir).  Chance decides that this is horribly unfair and seeks to rectify this (& gets into adventures on her own).

Leave It To Chance Concept/Model Art, Image Source:

James Robinson and Paul Smith collaborated on the story and art.  This is actually my first (and I think, my only) examples of their work, but I really enjoyed the story when I first read it at the Public Library–so much so, that I bought a copy for my personal collection.  I like Chance’s character–they made her very much like a Nancy Drew detective and set the world in a Neo-Noir setting (grim, dark alleyways merged with aircars).  Chance also has a “Jubilee”-vibe to her and dresses similarly (who in turn, has bit of the Frank Miller’s female Robin from the Dark Knight look) as well.  You can almost see a direct progression from Miller’s female Robin to Jubilee from the X-Men, to Chance.  I own all three books in the series (will be doing reviews of the other two as well), but as a pure story, I think this first volume, “Shaman’s Rain” holds up the best storywise.

Chance Falconer Image, Image Source:

I think too, that the setting of Devil’s Echo was very well used.  It definitely precedes the entire Urban Fantasy craze that authors like Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, and Kim Harrison (to name a few) helped popularize in the mid-to-late 2000s & early 2010s.  I personally love the fact that Chance has her own (mini-)dragon–as it recalls to mind Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsinger books of the 1980s.  This one is a great series for both Young Adult Readers (& younger children), but has enough complexity, character development, and setting that will at least keep older readers from being completely bored with it, even if it doesn’t completely captivate them.


Finished–The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams (Book Review)

The Heart of What Was Lost_Amazon

I finished The Heart of What Was Lost (THoWWL) by Tad Williams over the weekend.  I’m going to give a short review today and I’ll probably paste and cut this review on to (which also reposts my blog, so if you’re seeing this blog there, you might get a “double post”) and

Final Grade: B+ (or 4 stars out of 5)

Having read the Memory, Sorrow, Thorn Trilogy late in high school and early freshman and sophomore years in college, I always hoped Tad Williams would return to the world of Osten Ard and tell more stories in this world.  However, after George Lucas’s Prequel trilogy and seeing the mess made by sequels of my other favorite stories (for instance, the original Karate Kid sequels, Alien 3 and up, Terminator 3 and up, and Jurassic Park 2 and up), I slowly soured on the idea.  So, when Tad announced he was returning to Osten Ard, I was filled with both excitement and trepidation.

THoWWL is a short book, by Tad Williams standards, but it contained a story that seems to function in two ways: a coda for the original series and a prologue for the new series.  It functions as a coda as it picks up directly after the events of To Green Angel Tower and tells what happened to Isgrimmnur and his warriors.  At first, I didn’t think I would like the (I think) new characters of Endri and Porto as their banter seemed forced, but as the story went along and their complications grew, I warmed to the pair.  The same is true for the Norns, Viyeki and Yaarike, in that it took the complications of the plot for me to truly like them as characters.  The first third of the book, I didn’t like so much, but after the introduction of the Norn General, that is when I feel the book hit its stride and the relationships between all of the main players really coalesced into a strong narrative.  I can say truly that by the end, I was totally invested in the outcome of the Endri/Porto and Viyeki/Yaarike storylines.

While the action isn’t necessarily on the same scale as in the main MST books, I feel that the action that is there is great and more than appropriate to help change the characters in meaningful ways.  A cousin who has also read the book remarked that she saw this much like a World War 2 narrative following a “band of brothers,” and I can definitely see echoes of this in the storyline.  It is a shorter, more compact, and more empathetic look at the nature of war than most fantasy novels give us and I, for one, am grateful that the characters took center stage over the action.

Having finished this first book, I can say that I’m excited that Osten Ard is back and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Witchwood Crown.

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