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Fantasy The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time – Episode One “Leavetaking”

I suppose it was inevitable to be drawn to The Wheel of Time. Not because of the many comparisons to Game of Thrones but rather because I am always game for another fantasy book series to make it onto TV. I only wish that there was more fantasy coming to TV – especially from typically marginalized authors.

Another reason why I was looking forward to this show is because the trailer showed a world full of colour. I was lamenting to my husband the other day about how shows rely on the mood to be grey and dark in order to convey something more serious. This was one of my big issues with the Green Knight. I couldn’t see what was happening on the screen because it was too dark. But look at this trailer! You can see things happening.

But enough of that, now let talk about episode one of the Wheel of Time – “Leavetaking”.

First episodes are always tricky because there is so much to introduce. The Wheel of Time is no exception. In some ways, it is even more of a challenge because you have to introduce so much background info into a short time period. How do you get the balance right between exposition and moving the story forward?

We are first introduced to the Aes Sedai and Moiraine and the underlying conflict through their view. The Dragon has been reborn. The Dragon tore the world apart before and any male who can touch the One Power is at risk of descending into madness. Naturally, as a result, only women are trusted to touch the one power. From the beginning, you can already tell that Moiraine will be doing the heavy lifting of explaining the significance of what’s happening. It is a challenging part to act and I have to give credit to Rosamund Pike on her performance.

As with most fantasy shows, it is a big ask to introduce the world, characters, parts of the plot etc. My husband, who has not read the books, was still left confused by how fast things were moving. I do wonder if this is why they released the first 3 episodes together – to give people more of a chance to understand the world. 🤔

The first half of the episode felt slow and very exposition heavy and that is to be expected. The attack kept us on edge and I appreciated seeing the contrast between the grace of the Aes Sedai channelling the One Power versus the brutality of the Trollocs. It was quite the introduction to understanding how magic works in this world.

In contrast to the first half of the episode, the aftermath of the battle felt completely rushed. It felt like there was no pause to understand what just happened. We got a brief, “okay it’s time to go NOW because they’ll attack again” with very little explanation why. At the same time, it did help create a sense of urgency for why the characters need to leave. It just fell a little flat.

All in all, it was a solid episode and you can tell that the production has been set to a high standard. It always takes me a couple episodes to get into a new show but I am excited to see the next episode and eventually the rest of the season.

Categories
Book Reviews

Book Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is one of those books that come at the right time in one’s life. At this moment, I feel like I am on a bridge hovering between before pandemic times and after pandemic times. Due to all of the restrictions, our world has shrunk these last two years. At the same time, we always find there is more to discover.

The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; it’s Kindness infinite.

Piranesi, Susanna Clarke

Our house kept us safe these past two years. Our house provided a space for us to live. And admittedly, we hadn’t been in one house last year. There was a period where we were between places. But our house was also what connected us and held us together. So the house is more than a physical space.

But what about the book? It is quite a lovely read. The main character, Piranesi, is a kind soul and it is heartwarming to see how much he cares for the House and the inhabitants in it. That includes the dead, alive and statues. They are all part of the House and all deserve to share in it’s kindness.

What makes this book an enjoyable read is it’s prose. You can tell that Clarke crafted this story with as much love and attention Piranesi gives to the House. I don’t want to go too much into the plot or details because I do believe that this is a tale that is best uncovered without spoilers. Just like Piranesi walks from room to room without knowing what comes next. Or even what came before.

I admit after finishing the book I went back and looked up the prints and drawings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and I do recommend others do the same. I can almost image myself walking through the great house with endless halls.

Categories
A Song of Ice and Fire

House of the Dragon – Trailer thoughts

The winds have shifted and the first look at HBO’s latest foray into Westeros has dropped.

So what are my thoughts? After such a long time being away from anything to do with A Song of Ice and Fire, it is refreshing to have something new to look forward too.

My first thought is that 200 years is not really that long ago with it comes to monarchies? If we look at the British that would have been 8 monarchs ago. For the Targaryens, there were roughly 13 in the 200 years from Viserys I. There were 14 if you include Daenerys. And in the previous 100 years of the Targaryen reign? Just 4. So this

I don’t know where I am going with this by pointing it out, other than perhaps mentioning the fact that the events from the Dance of the Dragons sets off a turbulent time for the Targaryen Dynasty. One that was filled with political intrigue and a succession crisis.

The political intrigue and character development was the strength behind the Game of Thrones tv series. It was something that was lost by the end of the show. While the trailer for House of the Dragon hasn’t given us much to speculate on, it has given me a tentative hope that maybe it will return to that beginning.

Categories
Book Reviews

Book Review: Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

When it comes to the Skill, the more you use it the more it pulls you in. The same can be said for reading anything by Robin Hobb and the Realm of the Elderlings. At least, that is what I felt after finishing the third book in the Farseer Trilogy.

If you are just stumbling on this post, I have also written reviews for Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin.

I admit this book was quite lengthy and at time challenging to read because the pace was slow. In some ways though the slow pace complemented the situation that Fitz was facing as he traveled alone towards the mountains. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but sometimes there are moments where everything seems to slow down before a decision gets made or a lot of things start to change very quickly. Fitz’s journey towards Tradeford felt just like that.

Even while he was at Trade you could tell that this wouldn’t be the point of Fitz’s story. It happened too fast in some ways. It also didn’t feel like the ending because while at Tradeford, when he was on the precipice of making his own choice – a choice was made for him. Well, it was put into him so that he had to follow it to the ends of the world it seemed.

Come to me

Fitz had always struggled with the fact that everyone around him makes decisions about him without even asking what he wants. This book is no exception. When he ends up in the mountain kingdom and the old political schemes pick up again and without thinking about the impact it has on him. His life is sworn to the Farseer line, he doesn’t get a say after all. It makes him bitter and want to throw it all aside. Except the words still scratch at his mind.

Come to me.

So he keeps going. By the end of the book he realizes that no one is ever truly free to make their own choices. Everything he does has an impact somewhere. To make a choice is to accept the consequences that brings. To make a choice is to accept the pain it brings. All of it is part of life. And he doesn’t have to do it alone anymore. He has a pack. Honestly seeing his relationship with Nighteyes and the Fool strengthen is one of the greatest joys in this book. By the end of the book Fitz has finally discovered what it means to have true friends. He also has realized that sometimes, it is best to let go of the past.

Previous reviews for the Farseer Trilogy:

Categories
Book Reviews

Book Review: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

Royal Assassin is the second book in the Farseer Trilogy.

Read my review for Book One, Assassin’s Apprentice.

Again, it is the life that Robin Hobb give her characters that shines through. Fitz the bastard. Fitz the assassin. Fitz the fool. Fitz the boy-not-yet-man. It is a lonely life to hold so many identities. It is lonelier still to come of age without knowing who you are and the pain of doing so shows in every choice Fitz makes.

It is at times a frustrating read because you are left wondering why is he doing that?! And you ride along as Fitz has to face consequences of his own making. And still, you get frustrated because at times it feels like the answer is so close- and yet Fitz can’t see it. At the end of it though, this is a story about Fitz.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t any surprises for the readers. Robin Hobb has left some things for us to tease out and wonder how we could miss things. But what truly carries you through the book is her writing and how real the people of Buckkeep feel. They are each as fallible as the next and the decisions they make pay hefty consequences.

Especially when it comes to Fitz. You can tell he is angry when he comes back to Buckkeep. Angry at his perceived frailty. Angry at the situation orchestrated by Regal. Angry with the world as most young men often are.

He is also lonely and it is a lonely one that he created for himself. He can’t bring himself to trust anyone fully and he becomes ensnared in a web of his secrets. He asks for everyone again and again to trust him and yet… he can’t extend that trust back. Especially when others need it most from him. The result is he that becomes a victim to a tragedy of his own making.

I admit I am curious now about Book three. Will he see it that way? Or will he continue to be angry at the world and continue pushing people away? But how far can you push people before they are gone for good?

Admittedly, I don’t have much of a summary this time. I suppose I ended up with a lot to think about. That alone says enough about what you will feel after reading this book. Normally when it comes to coming of age books the main character ends up becoming more secure and finding themself. By the end of Royal Assassin, I find that Fitz is not quite there yet.

We’ll have to see what Book Three, Assassin’s Quest, brings.

Other reviews for the Farseer Trilogy:

Categories
Book Reviews Fantasy

Book Review: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Book One of the Farseer Trilogy.

Years ago I fell in love with The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. Recently, it occurred to me that I was doing myself a disservice by not reading the rest of her work. So I am turning back to the beginning and reading the Farseer Trilogy.

Assassin’s Apprentice is the first book in the trilogy and begins with Fitz being handed off to Verity’s household at 6 years old. Under the care of the stable hand Burrich, Fitz travels to Buckkeep, the seat of the Farseer family. While there Fitz grows from a stubborn and insolent child in a young boy in desperate need of guidance and friends. Eventually, he find himself under the tutelage of the court assassin and learns more about the heritage his blood allows- bastard or not.

I’ll keep the summary short because mostly I think it is a story the reader should enjoy for themselves. This story is a character study following a young boy who is struggling to find his place in a world that continuously reminds him he deserves none. I admit that sometimes I struggle with stories that begin when a main character is so young. And I struggled with the slower pace of this book at the beginning.

At the same time I appreciated it when I finished the book because it was only through understanding the loneliness of Fitz’s childhood that you understand his need to belong and find his place. Just like with The Liveship Traders, it is the way the characters are written where Hobb’s writing truly shines. They have a complexity that make them leap from the pages. When they misstep or make a stupid choice (and they do) you are frustrated but also understanding because those choices make sense based on who they are – maddening as it may be.

This book also took some patience since we only saw things from Fitz’s point of view. From being a child and then a young boy, it meant that there were plenty of questions that went unanswered. Like Chade, I want to know more about the Skill and how it is applied. What is happening on the Red Ships? I’m sure it will all be answered is time. Until then, I look forward to reading more about Fitz’s story in Book Two – Royal Assassin.

Other reviews for the Farseer Trilogy:

Categories
Women's Corner

Form, lace, embellishment and you

Take me to the album

We live in a world where we are punished for being women. We live in a world where we are punished for claiming our place. We live in a world where we are punished for embracing our feminine side. We live in a world where we are punished for wanting to tell our story.

We are called witches and bitches. We are told we are abrasive, shrill, pushy, catty, airheads and just too damn emotional.

Why? Because we live in a world that doesn’t want to accept you.

This is about you. Celebrating all that it means to be a woman. Taking the traditional female form and using it to become our best selves. We know that there is power in being a woman. We want to let the world know we’re a force to be reckoned with.

Form

Form is to let the world know that we are here and we will be seen and heard.

Lace

Lace is traditionally seen as delicate and frail because the world does not want to see the thousands of tiny knots that go into creating a thing of beauty. Just like you beautiful person have been shaped by your experiences.

Embellishment

Embroidery and embellishment speaks for us when our words are not heard. The world may try to silence our stories but we will make them see.

We won’t fade away. We won’t disappear. We will stand here and have our say.

Take me to the album

Categories
A Song of Ice and Fire

This is no fairytale: Family, Duty, Honor and a heart torn in three

The Night King and his demise is not the main plot of this story. This is a story about imperfect people navigating an imperfect world and facing the consequences of their actions. If there is a knight in shining armor, it is not who we expect. If the Big Bad Guy is defeated it isn’t done through an honorable fight. If a lost bird makes her way back home, it won’t be the same anymore. The innocence of wishing for a fairytale story to happen is long lost.

This entire season we expected Jon Snow to be the one to kill the Night King. After all, he did all the work of learning about him, being marked by him, finding soldiers and weapons to fight his army. His life since going beyond the wall has been tied to bringing down the Night King. It would make sense that he be the one to face him head on and be the one to defeat him. If that was his story. But his story isn’t that kind of story.

Family

“You don’t know what you’re asking, Jon. The Night’s Watch is a sworn brotherhood. We have no families. None of us will ever father sons. Our wife is duty. Our mistress is honor.” – Benjen

“A bastard can have honor too,” Jon said. “I am ready to swear your oath.”

Jon I, AGoT

From the beginning we are introduced to Jon Snow the Bastard. He is not a part of the Stark family by name and is always cast aside. He knows this but still yearns to be a part of a family. Finding a place where he can belong. He decides to join the Night’s Watch in hopes to find, if not a family, at least a brotherhood.

Now, he’s found out that who he thought was his family isn’t because in reality he is Aegon Targaryen, heir to the Iron Throne. But is that true? Because is your family those who raised you or those who are your blood?

Duty

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

The Night’s Watch oath

It is in the Night’s Watch that he is takes his oath and receives his duty to be protector of the realm. He quickly learns that the definition of “Duty” is not so clear cut and begins to struggle with indecision. This internal struggle is something that does not translate on screen well at all. He is constantly torn between wanting to do something to protect his “family” in Winterfell as he hears news about them from the south and also wanting to protect the wildlings, the crows, the infirm and moonboy for all I know. The problem with this is you end up protecting nobody and shirking your duty. So he gets stabbed. But wait! He comes back and we get Duty 2.0: Stop Winter from coming.

And here is where D&D could have prevented this frustration we have now. They expected us to know and remember that Jon came back from the dead with the seemingly sole purpose of killing the Night’s King. Which most of us did. But what we missed out on in those brooding stares and looks is that internal struggle with wanting to have it all but will end up with nothing in return.

And what does “having it all” look like to Jon?

Honor

Jon wants honor. He is a bastard and a bastard has no honor. Or so he thought he was up until Sam announced he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. But do you have honor then if no one knows about it? Now Jon will have to wrestle with the questions that come along with knowing that he is the true heir. Does he take that from Dany our tragic hero? Or would it be more honorable to let her have what she’s been fighting for this entire series?

There was a scene in the last episode where Jon was faced with a choice. A choice to save Sam, his friend, brother and one of the few people who have stuck by him this whole time or to go and kill the Night King. He chose the Night King and was subsequently denied his chance to get to him by Viserion. Does this speak for his choices in the future?

Jon’s story

At this point it’s an open book to see what he’ll decide. He has choices now to make. Things he has been avoiding since the beginning of the series. He’ll have to make sacrifices because if he reaches again for everything then he will fail.

Will he go down the path of the tragic hero and turn his back on the Starks, his family, and go after the Iron Throne? If he does this then chances are he’ll be blocked by Daenerys and lose everything again.

Will he take up his sworn duty to the Night’s Watch and continue to guard the Seven Kingdoms?

Will he be able to make the honorable choice now that he knows what’s at stake?

Categories
That mom life...

Introducing Solids – How do we eat again?

So my life has been a bit hectic and most of my free time has been spent doing way to much research into learning how to eat.

A handy guide to weaning

Everyone has an opinion on how to introduce food to your baby and there is a book, blog, vlog, buy this cheat guide for everything nowadays. But in the end I found the NHS Start4Life guide most helpful. I personally like to have nice and pretty charts to reference so I made one up for myself to stick to the fridge. Enjoy! 😊

Is your baby ready to be weaned?

From the NHS they say the following signs appear when your baby is ready. Usually this happens around 6 months of age. 👇

  1. Stay in a sitting position, holding their head steady
  2. Coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at their food, pick it up and put it in their mouth
  3. Swallow food (rather than spit it back out)

Categories
A Song of Ice and Fire

Science Behind the Magic: Valyrian Steel

This was the second part in my posts looking at the magic in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The first part about the Others’ Ice swords can be found here.

What is Valyrian Steel?

When it comes to Valyrian steel I am sure there are some long lost spells and other forms of magic still lost which renders it nigh impossible to forge new Valyrian swords but even old Valyrians had to figure this all out. They didn’t wake up just knowing how to forge dragonsteel. They had to start somewhere. To figure that out we have to take all that we know about creatures and objects that share similar properties.

GRRM has discounted theories about Valyrian steel being natively from a magical source such a dragon bone. He has also quite clearly stated that the magic comes from the forging techniques.

Question: A brief question about Valyrian steel – is it the metal that makes the sword so special (provenance, age, etc), or is it the forging (spells, techniques)

GRRM: Forging techniques and spells, actually. There is magic involved in the making of Valyrian steel.

So Valyrian steel take a normal source (iron) and imbues it with special forging techniques and magic to make it something more. For that reason I think that a normal blacksmiths forge will not be good enough to forge it.

Connection between dragonglass, dragonsteel & dragons

Valyria is famous for is their dragonlords and their connection to dragons. Most theories about the crafting of Valyrian steel suspect that dragons are involved which is why it is no longer possible to forge them. No dragons = no swords. Simple right? The problem with this is that it doesn’t explain why obsidian also kills the Others. What could both valyrian steel and obsidian have in common that could fight the Others?

In an older interview with GRRM he talks more about obsidian being referred to as “dragon glass” and he hints that there is a reason behind it.  

Shaw: Is there a certain reason why they named obsidian “dragonglass” or why you did that?

Martin: Yes, there is a reason.

Shaw: Are dragons somehow the mortal enemy of the Others?

Martin: There are a lot of legends, and you’ll be hearing more about them in the future books, but a lot of stuff about Others and about dragons maybe isn’t completely understood by the people of the present. Obsidian is of course volcanic glass; it’s formed by immense heat and pressure down in the earth. The dragons themselves are creatures of intense heat.

Shaw: I wasn’t sure if you had added something to obsidian for the fantasy.

Martin: I’ve given it magical characteristics that of course real obsidian doesn’t necessarily have. After all, we live in a world that has no magic. My world does have magic, so it’s a little bit different.

So here he makes the connection between Dragons and Obsidian and how they both are connected with intense heat. How does Valyrian steel fit in?

“The armor of the Others is proof against most ordinary blades, if the tales can be believed,” said Sam, “and their own swords are so cold they shatter steel. Fire will dismay them, though, and they are vulnerable to obsidian.” He remembered the one he had faced in the haunted forest, and how it had seemed to melt away when he stabbed it with the dragonglass dagger Jon had made for him. “I found one account of the Long Night that spoke of the last hero slaying Others with a blade of dragonsteel. Supposedly they could not stand against it.”

“Dragonsteel?” Jon frowned. “Valyrian steel?” (AFFC Samwell I)

I do not think it is a coincidence that dragon glass and dragon steel are both associated with Dragons which are “creatures of intense heat.” Why can’t this mean that dragons created both? Or they are from the same source?

When Sam is shown the burning glass candle in the Citadel he first asks what feeds the flame however Marwyn is quick to ask “what feeds a dragon’s fire?” implying that the two are connected.

“What feeds the flame?” asked Sam.

“What feeds a dragon’s fire?” Marwyn seated himself upon a stool. “All Valyrian sorcery was rooted in blood or fire.” (AFFC Samwell V)

Where dragonsteel is made

Dragons, dragon steel and dragon glass candles all have ties to Valyria and Valyrian sorcery. One of the returning themes of the text is that every action has a price. It would make sense for this to apply to magic as well. So what did the Valyrians do and what was the price they paid? Well quite simply they learned how to manipulate blood and fire, the blood and fire found in the earth. The area around the Valyrian Freehold is volcanic which conveniently is a natural source of obsidian. According to the SSM Dragons are also a creature from this environment so it makes sense they go hand in hand. Valyrian steel is known as dragon steel not because it is forged from dragon blood or dragon bones but because it also is forged in the same environment that dragons and dragonglass comes from. Volcanoes.

To really oversimplify the process forging steel requires taking iron, removing its impurities and then adding in carbon. To remove the impurities the iron has to be heated to well… a really hot temperature. There is a theory out there that since dragon glass is frozen fire it could be the fire hot enough to make Valyrian steel. If that isn’t it, well you are in a volcano and it don’t get much hotter anywhere on Earth. If that is part of the process the next challenge is keeping that temperature consistently hot enough to complete the process. In which case a volcano would be a great place to be. Now the traditional method for adding carbon back into the purified iron is using charcoal. However you can use gases or plasmas such as carbon dioxide or methane. Volcanoes it turns out expel a lot of CO2. (Tinfoil theory: so do dragons and thats why the weather is weird.)

If Valyrian steel needs to be first forged in a Volcano we now have the case that the 3 objects which have a chance of fighting the Others comes from the heart of the earth. But what about the price that the Valyrians paid?

They paid that price with the Doom of Valyria.

tl;dr Valyrian steel swords are forged in Volcanoes because that is the natural environment for dragons and dragonglass.