Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab



Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Event: Fantasy Faction's Grim Gathering 2014 & A Fairly Tragic Hair Catastrophe


Fantasy Faction's Grim Gathering 2014

I'm sorry to say, I felt very down before this event. I was still miserable about the certainty I'd created in my mind about how foolish I must have seemed yesterday, and the more I thought about FF's grim gathering this evening the more nervous, unhappy and (di)stressed I became. Something very hurtful was said to me which in an ideal world I could brush off, but I respect that person highly so instead to broke me to pieces. I'm really sick of talking about my highly fragile emotional well being on this blog because there are SO MANY OTHER worse things happening out there, but the sad thing is, it puts a lens on how I experience events such as this, and also it's becoming more and more widely known that the thing that damage those suffering from depression the most is that nobody EVER talk about it, and so those who suffer from the depression do the same. I turned up at High Street Kensington miserable.

But man, how this event made that feeling disappear! As with Fantasy In The Court, my sister and I arrived early so we could have a good browse, and as before it took a good little while to decide what we wanted. Waterstones did this awesomely generous 20% off offer which made me feel better about buying yet more books that I may/may not/probably won't finish by Christmas. I did that Over-Thinking thing again where I was quiet for a such a while that suddenly talking to the person next to me felt like it would be weird, and then I felt disgusted at being a pathetic coward at something so simple, but clearly not enough to make me talk so... (But the people I met there were really lovely so it was alright in the end.)

The panel with the four authors - Peter V. Brett, Joe Abercrombie, Myke Cole and Mark Lawrence - was just fantas-tic (sorry. Had to do it.) The authors, having all different experiences and varying opinions were really entertaining and enlightening to listen talk together.

The topics covered really were fascinating and gave me looots of fantasy food for thought. Here are a few (I tried to be casual and not weird, taking notes in the front row, but I couldn't help it - I'd forget!);


  1. The whole grim dark thing - about whether the trend of grim and gritty fantasy realism will continue. Mr Mark and Mr Joe said not necessarily; Mr Myke and Mr Peter said... yeah, pretty much. (I am summarising HUGELY here.) Myke Cole said something along the lines of it being seen as progressive and he mentioned 'bad things happening to good people', which is nothing I've notice in almost every one of the this-decade fantasy books I've read.
  2. Whether there is such a thing as 'too dark' - the general gist from the authors was 'not really'. Many spoke about the fact that readers approach a book with varying opinions, beliefs, and experiences, and thus have their own boundary line, and that perhaps there is no such things as 'too dark' in fantasy, only where a reader expectation meets the work of fiction. There was something that Peter V. Brett said that made me laugh - about how some people say, 'You can do what you want to humans - but if you hurt an animal, I'm never reading your books again!' And it's so true! I have met people who are desensitised to human torture but animal torture? UH OH. Bad move.
  3. Another topic was best and worst feedback, which I was surprised to hear come up because in my mind it seemed like, well for a writer - a really personal question!! Which is why I'm not going to recap the responses, but it was really moving to listen to what was said.




[ and the rest will be typed up tomorrow, because sleep is calling me. ]


Fantasy writing gear :3

Grim Gathering Haul



Ashana Lian .

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Event: Fantasy In The Court 2014, & Some Numbers Sh** I Need To Talk To You About Right Now.

I'll be honest, I'm so tired I really don't want to do this. But I did promise myself and my blog that's I'd review all events I went to this year, at LEAST this year. So I'll make it a quick 'un.


A quick Update before I begin.

A Fantasy Writer's Blog has been an unholy mess. I've been coping really badly with some personal (mental) issues; going through phases of a fourteen-hour sleep one night/day, then a four-hour sleep the next, dealing with work and possible (unlikely) redundancy, sorting out university and the extra complication of whether I am well enough to go back this year, thinking about my novel and not working on it, and so on. You have a life - you get the gist. So my list of priorities has altered and this blog has won a lower spot.

I never got round to finishing the formatting for the last two book posts which is why it all looks like crap. As for replying to comments, I can only hope I'll get round to that eventually. I'm trying not to add in the stress of knowing that at least seven more posts need to be done by the next fortnight - end of August tops, and they're already half-done. Not counting reviews for books I have yet to read. So, I ask that readers bear with me, and I hope things will be straightened out soon.

Cheers. xx



Fantasy In The Court 2014

My sister and I got there an hour early and spent the WHOLE hour deciding on which books to get. It was an extremely difficult choice as those books were bestsellers for a reason. The book The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August kept falling off the shelf and half-attacking us (haha) so many times that my sister and the lady next to her started to get freaked out. As it happens, that book is about time travel. After an hour of looking at blurbs, I finally (reluctantly) wandered up to the checkout and bought my four books, which totalled £58.97. I'm going to have to grow my own fruit or something if I want to eat this month.

But still, the goldsboro staff gave us special tote bags (They gave me two cause I had hefty hardbacks) and a free book called The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero! So that put a kitty-grin on my face.

As it happens, I took this pen with me.
[Blogger's Note: I still haven't gotten over the hyper-ecstatic joy/remorse over buying eighty-five fantasy books from eBay (will do a post about that soon, no doubt it shall be called; Why I Will Not Be Buying Books For The Next Four Years), and I haven't read what I bought at LFCC yet. Now another five books have been added to the fray, and I assume I'll buy four more at the fantasy event tomorrow to support the bookshop/authors. Haha, I expect this blog will burst.]

What was a small, quiet bookstore was even smaller and jam-packed when seven o'clock came round. Most of the 'storm' of fantasy fans went outside with their glasses of wine (because of my nerves, I refrained). We just had to get our umbrella's out when it rained.

One gripe - I wish the name tags were bigger, bolder, and in capital letters. I had to put on my glasses, which I hardly ever do these days, to actually see who I was approaching and thus avoid that awkward, awkward discourse. I hadn't realised that my sister didn't have her glasses, so she was relying on me to tell her who was who. I think I did a poor job, I'm afraid, I was too busy smiling awkwardly and shifting my feet in discomfort.

I don't think I have ever been a people-person, but I knew I'd hate myself if I missed this golden opportunity to mingle with like-minds. Still, I was concerned at how many times I caught somebody's eye and realising how sombre and worried I looked, so I tried keeping a relaxed smile on my face; soon my sister told me I was 'grimacing' and said to to 'stop grimacing strangely'. I've never actually heard that word used verbally, as in, outside of books, so I felt appropriately insulted. It was quite hard to stop 'grimacing' though because I was so nervous and very out of my comfort zone.

All the authors we spoke to were lovely, really easy to talk to, with great advice to share with us. I must say - I did meet an author whose book I am struggling to read right now but she was just so lovely and I really want to keep trying! My sister said it's like the music industry, when you meet an artist and they're so nice and pretty you want to support them even though they can't sing. I cracked up laughing because it wasn't the analogy I would've gone for, but I could see how it would be true.

It was a really nice and relaxed evening, I would say. I'm unsure if it's my 'thing', but because of my condition it's hard to tell if it's really me thinking that or just the damaged self-esteem part of me that says I suck at everything, even at talking to another human being. It wasn't until I left that I realised my sister and I were pretty much the only black people there, and I'm not sure why I even noticed it because it wasn't like it mattered. Eventually we decided to go, and at that precise moment London bowed us out with a shower of rain. Typical.

Fantasy In The Court is definitely an event I would recommend because of the opportunity to really talk to the authors (and even some members of the publishing houses), which can be hard to do at a signing with like a hundred people behind you.


And that wasn't even the wonkiest picture I took. Just couldn't be arsed to set it up better.


The Haul:
In the end, my sister and I decided to buy what we wanted but not two of the same, so we could read each other's. She bought The Oversight (Charlie Fletcher) which I have wanted for ages, and also The City by Stella Gemmell, which I reeeally wanted to buy for myself because even though my review pitched it as a 3/5, there are too many exceptional aspects of the book to not get a signed copy. *sigh* And who doesn't have a signed copy? Me. (e_e)

  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August - Claire North (have also wanted this for ages)
  • The Boy With The Porcelain Blade - Den Patrick (heard nothing but praise)
  • The Shadow Throne - Django Wexler (amaaazing premise)
  • The Supernatural Enhancements - Edgar Cantero (gift :3 )
  • The Dark Blood - A.J. Smith (again, killer premise.)
Interesting fact - every book I chose starts with 'The'. (O_O)
*makes spooky fingers*  OOOOOOOOO..... 



Some Crazy, CRAZY Numbers

Case Study 1 ] Bought four signed books today at £58.97. Got that?

I bought eighty-nine (relatively older, Tor classics and whatnot) fantasy (with the odd sci-fi) books from an eBay wholesaler for £35. WIIILD.

Case Study 2 ] Here's one more. This is about shoes, Okay?

I am a size nine, which means it can generally be hard to find durable shoes if you don't know where to look. I was having some shoe trouble (shoes falling apart, letting the rain in, too tight at the toe and all that) and decided to go for a pair of lace-up ankle boots I bought from New Look to wear this evening. They were a roomy size 8, and £28. The boots I already own I can't wear because they are too tight. They are size nine. They are from Office, and worth £60, but I got them for £10 because they were window display shoes.
  • Shoes 1 - expensive, one size below normal, fit great with a liiittle pinch at the toe after a few hours.
  • Shoes 2 - cheap but WORTH a lot more, my normal size, but too tight.

I CAN'T GUYS. I CAN'T HANDLE THIS. I'm going to bed.



What's Next?

SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.

And then Grim Gathering tomorrow, which I chose over Gollancz fest. Dunno why. Seemed cooler. To read about other upcoming August Fantasy Events, click the preceding linky.



Ashana Lian .

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Convention: Hyper Japan 2014


Background

I went to Hyper Japan with my sister last year, and this year I was going with Lizard as she needed to be initiated into the awesome geekdom of HJ. She came with me to LFCC and handled it pretty well, I'd say. I just couldn't wait for the good food, cute stationary, PLUM WINE *drool*, plum tea, and hopefully delights I'd not seen last year.


Research

I didn't do much research because I didn't need to. Hyper Japan has a lovely website; it's pretty straightforward to find out what you need from it. After tickets were sorted, I thought... well I'm not cosplaying or Lolita-ing so what the hell am I gonna wear?


I wore my tLoZ shirt and on the way saw MCM magazine (issue 28) with this cover, so naturally I had to pick it up. It turned out to be a pretty boring issue though.

Queuing


The actual queueing process was smooth and efficient, but the situation around it was LAUGHABLE. Basically, like an idiot I forgot my oyster card at home so I had to go back for it... likewise Lizard's bank was pulling some shit so we were both about half an hour late, getting there at 11.30 instead of 11am like I'd wanted. BUTTT, despite how long the queue seemed to be originally, the Earls Court staff kept walking down the line telling us to move up and close the spaces. This meant we were a lot closer to the doors when they opened. We didn't walk straight in like last year, but only spent about ten minutes waiting and then we were in. Easy.

As always, Hyper Japan never ceases to be the convention that causes me the least emotional pain.





Experience Once Inside

Pretty empty when we first gone in but HECK, it filled up quick. As I'd had to rush there without breakfast, and Lizard likewise, we went straight away to get food (which later turned out to be a good call). I felt bad for all the people at stalls trying to get our attention as we frantically looked for the food stalls, because (I'm embarrassed to say) we were so hungry we didn't really give them the attention they deserved.

We did go back afterwards though. One of those stalls was SIRO-A promoting an upcoming set of performances, which I already went to see last year and it was phenomenal. It's really hard to describe exactly what sort of show it is, but I'd recommend pretty much anyone to go see it, especially those with a love of music, dance and visuals arts. It's also hilarious.

Lizard got noodles in a cute bamboo bowl from the stall I tried last year, although I don't remember them being that tasty to be honest. =s I went to the Nippon Ham group stall (or was it called Yamato catering? Not sure...) and got a Chicken Katsu Donburi with japanese sauce, which was ABSOLUTELY. DELICIOUS. I finished it feeling comfortably full and ready to take on the event!


So. How to even begin?

We navigated through all of the stalls with wonder, although as we wanted to make sure we didn't miss anywhere, we tried to do left to right in a snake-like concertina pattern and it didn't work, because the stalls were all different sizes. Some were tiny and others were huge. So we did what we could.


I got my camera out to late... but look! The back of pikachu!!

CutesyKink. SO GORGEOUS.

When we came in...

When we left. I believe this was the Sushi Awards 2014.

Rucksacks at Aoi clothing. I REALLY wanted one, but £39 was pretty much all the money I TOOK there.

I loved this.

Aoi clothing stall

GORGEOUS Aoi clothing!

PLUSHIES!


There was this stall for the Fujifilm 'Instax' camera, which was such a cool little thing AND they had one in pink! If I didn't already have mine, I would've bought it. It was ironic I saw it, because my camera seemed to be effing up for the entire event. I was really peeved that getting good pics was so hard. But then, I'm not entirely sure I've been treating my camera that well. I have dropped it a couple of times. =/


Amazing japanese plants

Satsuki Azalea plant... flowering bonsai!


There was a place you could get shaved ice (kakigōri) but the line stretched for so long that I thought 'heeeell naw.' So I went to the Showbu Restaurant stall and got a shaved ice with mango topping - refreshing and simply mouth-watering, I'm telling you. I wanted another one, which is honestly not the greediest thing I've ever said.

I feel quite awful because at one point, I realised I was going through a little 'episode' that goes hand in hand with my depression. It's basically when I begin to over-think and worry about every little action I make, everything I say, and also what other people are thinking about me, and I draw inaccurate conclusions from what I think is happening, that normally spirals down into... well you get it. So I started to lose it towards the ends, behaving erratically and doing strange things that I'm not entirely sure why I did, and at one point I almost lost my temper for no apparent reason, and I felt so appalled by the whole thing that I went quiet for ages. I was afraid to even open my mouth in case I said something stupid, and I was afraid of Lizard becoming the unwitting victim to my madness. Thankfully we soon decided to leave anyway.

By that time it was reaching 4pm. Thankfully I'd been so preoccupied that I hadn't wanted to snack on junk like usual. I realised I'd grown hungry again as that one bowl of food had been my only fuel for the day, and I sure as heck wasn't going to go home and cook because I was exhausted. So I got another bowl of food at the same stall as before, a chicken gyoza donburi this time, and that was just as delicious as the first dish. Their rice was amazing. Although I'm not entirely sure they gave me chicken because it tasted like vegetable gyoza. I'd has gyozas before at wagamama's - expensive as heck but delicious.

Remember I mentioned that getting food early turned out to be a good call? By this time, the queues for almost every food stall was massive. I washed the donburi down with plum tea from the Showbu Restaurant stall - I drank it with a shock because I forgot that plum tea wasn't actually hot tea. Then with exasperation I remembered my sister and I had done exactly the same thing last year, and I'd forgotten and done it again. Still, it was just as delicious as I remembered.


The epic Nintendo platform with huge TV and lots of consoles to play game demos

The white Zelda t-shirt on the left happened to be the one I wore to the event! What a weird coincidence. I only wore it because I didn't want to wear my black one. So grim.

What I have been waiting for possibly all my life... tLoZ merch. YES.

Staggeringly expensive Ganon figurine and poster of Link :3

There was SO MUCH Legend Of Zelda focussed stuff. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled, albeit curious. I wondered, was it for the Hyrule warriors game or was it promoting something else?


Stuff To Do

Countless.
  • clothes, stationary, beauty and art stalls
  • drawing/art workshops for charity
  • Eat Japan demonstrations
  • watch the Sushi Awards
  • try the Sake Experience
  • big TV =] (Vocaloid thing)
  • live music on the small stage
  • I think some sort of cosplay/Lolita award?
  • play demos of games at the INCREDIBLY AWESOME NINTENDO PLATFORM!
  • get your photo taken with Siroi-A!
  • write your name in hiragana/katakana/kanji on a fan at Alpha Japanese school
  • get yourself drawn in manga style by an artist
  • BUY STUFF. LOTS OF STUFF.


Cute hats and bags!

Artbox



Stalls

Hyper Japan has decidedly become That Event, the one I'll look forward to every year. I'm always oohing and ahhing over what I discover there...
  • traditional japanese food! :P (plus plum tea, plum wine and shaved ice (kakigōri))
  • authentic sweets and snacks (dorayaki, pocky, etcetera)
  • geeky t-shirts
  • figurines
  • art prints
  • japanese plants! Believe it!
  • clothes from Aoi Clothing :3 (fell in LOVE with this stall)
  • lolita wigs and accessories
  • kawaii stationery (again! same stall I saw at LFCC!)

geeky t-shirt stall... couldn't remember what it was called...

Goodies

SO MUCH GOODIES! I think just the novelty of so many of the items there tempts you to buy so many little things that you may or may not need. Because of going away and having been to other events recently, my allowance was extremely limited compared to other events. Still, I managed to pick up a good few things and trust me, I would have bought a lot more.


The left is the onion-flavour fish crackers, and it is really, really tasty, believe me. Even I was startled at how fast I finished that bag after I tentatively tried the first one.

The sweets were lovely, really soft and not the 'gummy' sort of chewy sweets. I loved the blue, purple and pink ones because they were pretty (see below) but actually they had an unusual flavour. At least you can make as guess at what the green and yellow cubes are supposed to be!


The sweets, and the pretty pink packaging of the pocky...



I was at the Japan Centre stall again this year. I got milk (or was it vanilla?) flavoured pocky, a BIG pack of strawberry, and also the plum wine I'd been hoping to try all year. Last year, my sister bought some for herself, took it home and drank it without me. (e_e) I don't drink alcohol and in all honesty I'm not sure what the alcohol content is for plum wine. But I never drink it pure anyhow because it tastes great with lots of ice and a little grape juice. Plus, I'm guessing it'll be another year until I have any sort of alcohol or fake-ohol again. So, whatever dude.



Japan Centre gave me this fan for free, I'm guessing for shopping with them, and I'm so chuffed because of the five my Mum owns (my eldest sis bought her FOUR from Cyprus =/) and the one I got at Alpha Japanese school stall last year, this is by far the best quality fan that I've come across. Even my Mum was trying to pinch it. I had to stave her off with logic, ie. "you have FIVE!!"



Artbox stall. I couldn't resist, even though I certainly don't need another pen, however cute, and I already have the same oyster card holder in blue. I just wanted another one.

So I suppose, from here on out, I am not allowed to complain about money because I am an irresponsible spender.

But tell me, could YOU resist those sweet little kawaii smiles?



That leads me to my other guilty spend.

I can't remember what stall I got the notebook from, but the pen were from Something Kawaii and yes, they do have a website. If you remember I got the light pink of this pen at LFCC. I bought two more because... because. =/ They were £2 each, so when I think about having spent £6 on three pens, despite their cuteness, I must sit in a corner and wallow in shame.



The dorayaki I bought last year was DELICIOUS, but to my alarm I realised the one I bought was not chocolate but red bean paste... while eating it. I did my best, but eventually I couldn't eat any more.


I also got this face mitt from the b-gadgets stall, because... I can't remember why. I'm not even sure if I need it. But my skin is not the greatest so I'm sure I'll need it eventually.



Aftermath

F***ing, f***ing, broke. It was funny at first. Now it's depressing.

After deciding to and enjoy LFCC and HJ without worrying about money, I've decided it would also help if I didn't keep going to every single one. So I'm going to Fantasy In The Court, Grim Gathering, and I'm going to George R.R. and Robin Hobb - but then I'm going to HAVE to put my foot down. Which means 'no' to Loncon =(

My attitude last week was like - "I'm a little bit disgruntled but I'm sure I'll survive", now it's like, "I am so gutted, this life of mine does disappoint".

I can only shrug. After all, I'm a student. Students aren't meant to have fun. Preposterous.



Click to see ALL posts about Conventions!


Ashana Lian .

I love you, happycat.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Book: The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett

This book I finished last week and never got round to writing it up after The Name Of The Wind, so I'm including it as one of July's reads.

*

The Painted Man analysis

Image: comicvine.com
Author: Peter V. Brett
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Published: 2008
Fantasy Sub-Genre: It's hard to immediately tell. The horror element clearly points to Dark Fantasy, but the extremely frequent use of magic and only three POV characters also makes me want to say High. However both Amazon and Goodreads say Epic. Soooo...

Blurb:
Sometimes there is very good reason to be afraid of the dark…

Arlen lives with his parents on their small farmstead, half a day's ride from the isolated hamlet of Tibbet's Brook. As dusk falls each evening, a mist rises from the ground promising death to any foolish enough to brave the coming darkness. For hungry demons materialize from the vapours to feed, and as the shadows lengthen, all of humanity is forced to take shelter behind magical wards and pray that their protection holds until the dawn.

But when Arlen's world is shattered by the demon plague, he realizes that it is fear, rather than the monsters, which truly cripples humanity. Only by conquering their own terror can they ever hope to defeat the demons. Now Arlen must risk leaving the safety of his wards to discover a different path, and offer humanity a last, fleeting chance of survival.


This review is not spoiler-free.



First and foremost, can I just say how much The Painted Man reminds me of the Demonata series? The horror of demons matched with the power and beauty of magic - I absolutely loved that about this. This book is a fantasy must-read. It's not one I myself would read a second time, but if you're a lover of epic fantasy then you should read this at least once. The plot is unique, engrossing, and completely unpredictable. The characters come to live and you empathise with their pain. And the ending? The ending makes you want to tear your fucking hair out.

Arlen.

Alren was a heartwarming and loveable character. At the start, it's clear he is simply ordinary and nothing special, until circumstances provoke him to be brave. After that he becomes more and more extraordinary as his courage grows. When he travelled with Ragen, who tells him that 'the great wards are lost' (p.33) and then later, when his father says ' "the stories say there were magic wards to fight with" ' but that they were lost (p.36), it's suddenly obviously what this story is all about.

When I put the book down to make a cup of tea I spotted the cover, realised the gorgeous symbols on the mesmerising front cover were wards, and thought - GAAASP Arlen becomes the Painted Man! Man, I get WAAAAY ahead of myself. The first mention of the fighting wards got me soo excited, and that was when I became well and truly addicted. I could not put this book down. My curiosity and eagerness made me consume this book in two days.

From page 36, I was as excited as HELL to reach the end of the story! The blurb made it seem as though the story was about Alren, which made me wonder how Roger and Leesha would tie in.  There was a part when the story of how humans forgot magic was told, I think that was p.44, and that was truly wonderful.

And then came that fateful scene when Arlen smudges the wards by mistake and what ensues leads to him cutting off the arm of the rock demon - and that incredible moment he realises that they can definitely be hurt, so why not destroyed entirely? That was one of my FAVOURITE bits.

Anoch Sun

When I went to fantasy Faction's Grim Gathering, I asked the four authors about how they created their civilisations and the answer Peter V. Brett gave was none less than what I suspected. The part about Anoch Sun was my absolute favourite and no description of mine will do it justice. It reminded me of Ancient Egyptian culture.

The Krasians reminded me very much of George R.R. Martin's Dothraki, being a warrior race with a hard class system, silent submissive women, and a thirst for blood. But their culture was different in a hell of a lot of ways so it kept me hooked to read about, even though to be honest I didn't always like what I was reading. But anyway, sorry, I've skipped.

Some Fantasy World Aspects

I absolutely loved the gold suns and silver moons currency system. When you read enough fantasy novels, you start to see the same old terms being used for money, but this was refreshing to me and made the actual coins sound enchanting. (Which I suppose large sums of money will be, naturally.) Also, having just read Tom Pollock's guest post on Fantasy Faction about money systems in fantasy, I'm keen to seek out new ways of presenting this in fantasy fiction.

The character Rusco I found hilarious. Another concept I really loved about this fantasy world is that messengers alway travel with a Jongleur, a practice that isn't just common but almost always guaranteed because of the demons. Unless one or the other got eaten by a demon. O_O

This book had some great names. They had a familiarity to them; Rojer/Roger, Mairy/Mary (one of my favourites), Jaik/Jake, Kally/Kelly, Arrick/Garrick, and so on. This, as I spoke about in the analysis of Stella Gemmell's The City, is one of my favourite fantasy naming techniques. I'll always prefer gently tweaking a familiar name than banging your elbow on a keyboard.

The hierarchy of the class system intriguing; the servant class, merchant class and so on, and people can marry into a class different to the one they were born into. There are huge wads of description when there needs to be, perfect for a tale such as this. Other times, description was minimal, which meant more action and that I could speed through the story - although this was a disadvantage later on in the story. As the novel went on,  I feel like it began to lose something... momentum? Hard to say. One final nitpick - the mention of the 'free cities' did make me roll my eyes just a little bit. I feel like almost every fantasy novel has a mention of this.

Leesha.

Reading Leesha's chapters was like reading some medieval high-school drama. It's definitely the weirdest thing I've ever said in a fantasy review but I assure you it's complimentary!

The townsfolk of Leesha's home are NOT the best bunch of people; that includes her awful empty-headed friends; her terrible, cruel, yet beautiful mother; her quiet and cowardly father, and the other townsfolk who'll believe literally any piece of gossip they hear. It kind of hurt to read how cruel they could be to her, actually. And it wasn't even the things they did, or said. It was their stares and judgement. Not to mention her ass of a fiance. Peter V. Brett did a great job with these characters - they were so complex. They weren't purely good or purely evil because one action but a mixture because of their beliefs.

For example, Stefny. She was the first to point the finger at Leesha's 'sin' - the false accusation of having slept with her fiance before marriage - even though it's hinted that Stefny committed the same 'sin', as her son look nothing like her husbands but curiously like some other dude. However at the end of the novel, not only I she courageous enough to face and fight the demons, but she survives. I still hate her guts, but now I respect her too.

The result it that is makes for incredibly emotive reading. When I think about it, at the start Leesha herself was quite simplistic, meek and empty-headed. But because of the vultures she's surrounded by, you're rooting for her before you know it. Then as her circumstances change, she grows and become more than capable of not only defending herself, but those in need. Sorry, I've skipped. Let's go back to thirteen year-old Leesha's narrative.

... actually, let's not.

Rojer.

The first narration of him at three years old was positively ADORABLE and I LOVED it. Having just followed on from Leesha's bit where contact with demons were limited, when the demons bit off half his hand left him maimed, it was another reminder of the constant danger these characters are in. Something as simple as an incorrectly drawn ward can cost a family their life - and in Rojer's case it does. He's the only one who survives. It's real danger, which made me really respect the story development. We know there is no miracle healing and no-one is coming back to life. They could really die. The stakes are high.

Image: petervbrett.com
After the time jump, the POV chapters felt a bit out of sync but soon balanced. I hopes the three protagonist would cross paths and also hoped that Arlen and Leesha would become an item, though I don't really know why. Probably because when Rojer was three years old, Leesha was thirteen. So with the ten-year gap, I didn't think that would be happening.

Arlen's POV grew increasingly interesting, and I wondered if Jaik would be his jongleur - when that subplot fell to pieces my eyes were wide at what was coming next. Arlen's adventures were glossed over and suddenly he was in Krasia, and that made me slightly dislike the sparse descriptions in the book, compared to the likes of Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay.

Arlen's betrayal by Jardir was absolutely awful. AWFUL. I felt SO anguished when I read that part, partly because Arlen's simple wish to give humanity a chance to fight back resulted in his life being forfeit, because of Jardir's cruel expropriation on the ground that a foreigner should not take the glory of such a find. The other reason was... I simply did not see it coming.

Rojer, I'm slightly embarrassed to say, was the least interesting of all the three narratives, excepting the discovery of the demons being manipulated and entranced by the music - another troke of genius and sheer brilliance. It's hard to get that image of Arrick as a slimeball out of my head, despite the sacrifices he made to raise Rojer. It was very saddening to see how Rojer struggled and lost his loved ones over and over. He says to Leesha, "I was meant to die a long time ago, and everyone who tries to save me ends up dead." (p.436) Heartbreaking.

Leesha. After breaking her wedding vows and becoming a herb gatherer, the whole art of herb gathering was by far one of the most captivating processes of this novel, not even surpassed by the art of wards - I thought I'd be swept away by the mysticism of warding, but actually I was quite disappointed. We do get some knowledge of specific wards and what they do, but I assume they are complex because no attempt at all is made to describe what the wards look like, although sometime we're told how they're drawn. So, yeah.

Bruna was one of my favourite characters, and was key in helping Leesha deal with the burden of being beautiful and her fear of her virginity being wrongfully given. By this point, she is about twenty or something, and she has blossomed into the sort of woman who, sadly, attracts the wrong kind of attention. After her fiance Gared turned out to be an ape, basically, she hid herself away for years until she speaks to Jizell and decided to give her virginity away while she could. For some reason she wanted to choose MARRICK (I keep calling him Michel for some reason), the absolute shitty dungheap who tried to rape her earlier, and only didn't succeed because she placed herbs in his food to stop him from getting an erection. Shortly following that, he threatens that if she reveals that fact to anyone that he'll kill her. So, WHAT THE HELL was going through her mind?

Though going back to that part, there was a very good quote there;
'I am saving him from himself, Leesha thought each time she dosed his food, for what man wished to be a rapist? But the truth was, she felt little remorse. She took no pleasure in using her skills to break his weapon, but deep down there was a cold satisfaction, as if all her female ancestors through the untold ages since the first man forced a woman to the ground were nodding in approval that she has unmanned him before he could unmaiden her.' (p. 288)

I liked it because I felt it was a concise and straightforward way to tackle her feelings about it. So, she doesn't choose Marrick because she wanted to choose somebody worthy, which was quite heartening. Then Rojer and Leesha cross paths. finally! I wasn't certain if they would become a couple (it seemed unlikely, but I wasn't too fond of Arlen anymore so I hoped they would) but I was just excited that finally, two of the three protags had met each other; when this occurs in books, usually good things happen.

But then comes the saddest, most awful bit in this novel where Leesha is raped by three men, and Rojer can do nothing but watch. He was almost killed the first time he tried to help her.  After the whole back and forth her whole life, at first almost been married off, then being coveted after, chased after, almost being raped but somehow escaping with her dignity, Deciding she will empower herself and make the choice on her own terms - all of a sudden the choice is violently taken away, and she is shamed in front of the probly one of the most humble men she has come across.

I am an analyst, as readers of this blog know, but I don't think there is anything left to gleen from this scene although I have tried and tried because it's hard to get my head around any other way. I matched tragedy up with divine intervention, concealed plotting, symbolism, anything. But, like when these events happen in the real world, I could not get any sense of righteousness at all, there was no arrival of a hero and no reason, just grief.

Shit, it really did rock me. I didn't think there was anything worse coming after Arlen's betrayal by Jardir, but if that was appalling, this was harrowing. I know I have said that the purpose of these is to analyse all aspects of fantasy where I can, but to be completely honest, rape in fantasy has a whole bunch of very sensitive ethics I do not want to go into right now, so do not be expecting it in the Fantasy Food For Thought feature below.

Finale.

By the time the Painted Man aka Arlen joins them, I feel that this is all wrong, because it wasn't my imagining of the heroes banding together, Hurrah Let's Smite The Demons. Instead following Leesha's rape, Rojer's shame at having witnessed it, and Arlen's betrayal, the three of them came together as broken people.

Even though my original hunch about Arlen and Leesha getting together proved true, it wasn't satisfying, just sorrowful. It felt wrong somehow, like they were just trying to fill a bottomless hole in their hearts, and it was uncomfortable to read. When the demon sprung at them in the mud though, I can't lie, that was hilarious.

By the time I reached the final battle, my mood was brought down to something sober and the novel had become too dark to end with the vision of hope. We're left with a burning town, half its population dead, broken characters who are still trying to fnd their way, and our protagonist Arlen, the Painted Man, essentially a troubled antihero in a world that is already rife with demons. It doesn't make my heart sing when I put the book down, it just makes me brood.

As for tiny epilogue at the end, well that just put me in a FOUL mood. "That absoluelte fucking traitor Jardir!" is what I should have thought, but I was so icily sober that I just closed the book in silence and spent the next half hour lost in thought, trying to figure out if, after that rollercoaster of a tale, the payoff was rewarding enough for me.


Image: Arlen - The Painted Man by adamreese2006 (deviantart)

The View

I have something else to say about this novel which I wasn't sure whether to share, but I don't really see what I've got to lose except for closure so here goes. I don't like talking about my depression on this particular blog, which is why I have not made a tag for it, but sometimes it is necessary. For example.

Some pretty awful things happen in this book. Clearly. But it is a book. Many people I know can easily read it, get over it, and move on. Things that are fleeting for others bear down on me with an almost unbearable pressure. I cannot help but think about all the places in the world where some of the more horrifying events in this book really do happen.

Peter V Brett said himself that he's had emails and whatnot of people who thought the book was sick and twisted because of Leesha's traumatic event - and also said that what happens to Leesha is an issue nobody wants to talk about or even acknowledge, making the victims of such an ordeal suffer in silence.
This further strengthens my belief that fantasy literature plays an important role in our lives, not only helping us deal with unpleasant real-world issues by lulling us into an consolatory dreamscape, but also from presenting those same uncomfortable topics in a diluted way that we can handle. (Some are not so diluted. But you get the point.) We get, what... eighty, a hundred years tops? That's all the time we get to snatch to experience life on an earth that's millions of years old. So wonder sometimes we are drawn to the fantasy that comfort us, where we can escape to a happier realm.

But that is extremely hard for me. I have been living in my head since I was a child - it's the reason I was drawn to fantasy in the first place. I'm always thinking, pondering, having conversations with myself, storytelling. But it means when these issues come along, they're on a loop in my mind's eye until my conscience can decide what to do with the, what do hide them behind or what I need to do. Characters in this novel experience the sort of hardships that probably wouldn't appear in our nightmares, but they'll run circles in my head all day. I see nothing but misery and fears, some witnessed, som heard of, some imagined. The view is grim and it leaves me shaken. I haven't had an 'episode' (I call them Dark Days) in weeks and weeks, but I found some of The Painted Man hard to read and for brief moments I had to put the book down to get my head together.

... that's it.
Image: goodreads.com
Also, the review where I got this image states how they liked that this book doesn't drag the reader into 'endless politcal intrigues'. I found that really interesting because I also liked that aspect while I was reading, but now I've been reminded what it was missing I do wish we could've seen a bit more...
I can't help it, politics is my thing. :3


The Verdict

*****
5 Sha's!!!

Yeah... I couldn't help it. The ending didn't leave me deep in thought, as most novels that have touched me do. Instead it touched my heart, then left me frowning, broody, and wondering if I wanted to continue in the series or read The Painted Man ever again.

It really did not take a path that I'd expected, and that's not in a good way. But despite that, when dallying between a four and a five how could I give it anything but a five? I'd been unwillingly dragged on an emotional rollercoaster, a whistle-stop tour through magic, ancient civilisations, an awesome library (always a bonus in fantasy), romance, bitchy women, an old crone, endearing protagonists, AND A SHITLOAD OF DEMONS!

The story was mag - ni - fi - cent. Impressive characters and a charmingly captivating narrative. When grief strikes, and sadly it does, too often and when you least expect - your heart truly goes out to those characters. And despite my upset, my uncertainty of being able to read this a second time, even - I rest the majority that qualm on my shoulders, and there is no denying that it was more than a pleasure to discover this tale.





Fantasy Food For Thought

Wards, runes, talismans, and other magical symbols or text.

This fantasy concept has been around for as long as I can remember fantasy. Wizards drawing symbols in the air. A book of shadows with a wiccan crest on the front. Pokemon. (Okay, not quite the same.) The idea that a mere 2D shape can have some sort of otherworldly power is a recurring theme in fantasy. In the Painted Man, careful scribbled drawn on the door of a house is all that saves that family from being slaughtered by demons.

Thing about the One Ring from Lord of the Rings, with a engraving that can only be read after casting it into the fire; or the map with Elvish script that can only be read in a certain moonlight. These symbols all have something in common and it is quite simple. They serve to either aid, or destroy.

To aid the protagonist is the most common use of these symbols, though I'm sure novels exist wherein the symbol belongs to evil, and so the protagonist must stay away at all costs of risk being tempted by power. One of my favourite symbols ever is the Triforce in The Legend of Zelda. It's so simple - literally three triangles - but that arrangement of straight lines symbolise power, wisdom and peace. Together, they give balance to the world.



The second FFfT topic is fairy tales in fantasy novels.

In The Name Of The Wind, Kvothe must dig deep into a tale cast off as a children's story to discover the truth about his parent's murderers. It is a driving force of the story - the same is true for Arlen in The Painted Man, who realising that did tale, dismissed by all, is what will save the lives of hundreds if he can discover the full truth of it.

Often in fantasy, like real life, the fantasy world will have their own fairy tales and fable stories, created or passes down with a strong moral or to stop children behaving like idiots, playing underneath an anvil or something. It's interesting when some fantasy novels emphasise that there is far more than a shred of truth to these stories than people realise, and some of the truths still exist in their current time.

In both The Name of the Wind and The Painted Man, the common folk's resistance in believing the fables is because if the good concealed within the story is true, then the bad must be also - the Chandrian/Lanre in The Name Of The Wind, and having to leave your circle of protection to fight the demons with your bare hands in The Painted Man.


Ashana Lian .

P.S. Next up... Empire Of Black And Gold!


You can also check out The Painted Man review from Fantasybookreview.co.uk!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Book: The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

As I mentioned in the Fantasy Fan Goals On Holiday post, I took four books away with me. Surprisingly, and disappointingly, I came back not having even finished one.

As my eldest sister suggested, maybe the fact that I've been reading so much lately means that 'holiday' now constitutes of the opposite. When I was abroad, all I wanted to do was sit around and take in rural and rustic Cyprus; the jagged rise and fall of the mountain peaks, the sparkling sandy beaches, the little winding villages., the monastery and the castle at the top of the mountain, etcetera, etcetera.

I got up at dawn and simply had to take a picture. But ignore 03:36 - that's London time on my camera. It was actually 05:36.


So even though I'd begun this book on the plane and read it in bits and pieces, I started again when I came back. My edition is a whopping great paperback with tiny writing and I only started a few days before Saturday - I didn't expect to finish it by then. As it happens, I was so hooked by Friday evening that I was up past midnight and I did get it finished, which I was pretty chuffed about. But as I then has a lot to say, I was too exhausted to type it up on Saturday after work. I'd been lifting books all day. Who'd have thought working in a bookshop could get you so sweaty?


Image: mine - The Name Of The Wind versus The Sentinel Mage font-wise

Image: mine - The Name Of The Wind versus A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms size-wise

But even Sunday and yesterday, all I had to do what look at my copy - littered with index markers to remember what I wanted to say (see image below) - and that was enough to put me off writing this post. To my own amazement, a week had flown by already from when the original review was due.

I am making myself do it now.

*

The Name Of The Wind analysis

Image: Ashana Lian
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: Gollancz (Orion)
Published: March 2007
Fantasy Sub-Genre: Epic

Blurb:
'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe.

You may have heard of me'

Amazon | Goodreads



A quick reminder that my analyses are not spoiler free. Otherwise it would be pretty hard to analyse, right?


The book itself isn't split into parts - which I found interesting - so this review will be pretty much one big chunk.

The book begins with a silence of three parts, which I found very interesting although I wasn't entirely sure if I 'got' it. The map at the start made no sense to me before or after the story, so it wasn't useful for me at all.

I loved the way this book is written. The style isn't jarring at all but smooth and full of little humourous quirks, without a big literary arrow going, LOOK HERE! THIS - IS - MEANT - TO - BE - A - JOKEEE. CUE LAUGHTER! Old Cob was such a stereotype, the elderly know-it-all storyteller, but I adored him. For some reason I noticed that Rothfuss used the word efficiency twice in two short paragraphs on page 4 - 'bustling efficiency', then 'predatory efficiency' It's not a big deal, but the fact that i noticed it all all made me think 'Why did he do that?'

We understand very quickly how the book gets its name, and the fable that tells of 'the Name of the Wind' was really fascinating to me. The pace is pretty swift, most likely because no time is wasted on lengthy descriptions. We're given enough to make a foundation in our heads and then, thankfully, the rest is left to our imagination and Rothfuss gets on with the plot. I really like that.

The only downfall of this is - too many fantasy concepts are introduced too quickly. Plus, it began to annoy me the way attention kept being drawn to what the characters DIDN'T do or things that didn't happen. I don't really care about that, although I suppose it made me think about all the possibilities and paths the character could have taken. Still - it irritates me a lot when the author gives us what should've been the subtext.

The dialogue is easy and natural, not filled to the brim with exposition and reader information - God, it drives me crazy when books do that - so I was engrossed pretty quickly. The chest mentioned on p.13 intrigued me. I loved Bast from the word go, and this quote on page 11; 'dark and charming, with a quick smile and cunning eyes.' He reminded me a little of my Prince of Pearls character from OOTD/ Karalan's Legacy. And this one; 'He moved with a strange delicacy and grace, as if he were close to dancing.' HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!

The Chronicler in Chapter 2 - that whole bit was amazing. I loved it. The song that the children sang was a bit obvious but I was still interested. The first scene with Kote and Chronicler was frustrating though. Not to be insulting but - it reminds me of looking back at stories I wrote at 13. To make the story more dramatic, I made a huge drama out of small things and looking back on it now, it's extremely embarrassing. It takes so long before the reader realises that Chronicler is after Kote's story, that by the time I get there I'm wondering why I'm supposed to care. The story's just started remember - I don't know Kote. I've no reason to want to know about the character, save me wanting a return on investment for having bought this book. Dude! Cut the yap and get to the juice.

Another thing I dislike is POV switched between characters in the same chapter. On page 30, one paragraph is Bast's thought, the next is Kote's. I CAN'T STAND that!! Guy Gabriel Kay did that in Tigana. It's not as though the start of each chapter states the POV character name (I'm pretty sure O_O) still, it's distracting.

May I just say: BAST O_O

The story took a huge turn for the better when Kote began telling his story in first-person. I found it bizarre that Abenthy's donkeys were called 'Alpha' and 'Beta'; clearly Greek, and yet this is a fantasy novel wherein I assume 'Greece' does not exist...? That was really weird.
Page 69; 'I could feel my mind starting to awaken.'

Really? Does anybody "feel" their mind starting to weaken? Oh sorry, awaken? I mean, either you're awake or you're not.

Still, by this point I was completely invested in this story. The entrance of Lord Halifax was as awful as it was exhilarating. The loss of his family was brilliant put forward, and I was so moved by young Kvothe. I really cared about his character now. there's an excellent quote about pain on page 123:
'First is the door of sleep. [...] a retreat from the world and all it's pain.
Second is the door of forgetting. Some wounds are too deep to heal, or too deep to heal quickly.
Third is the door of madness. [...] to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind.
Last is the door of death. [...] Nothing can hurt us after we are dead, or so we have been told.'
The part that followed was one of my FAVOURITE parts of this novel. Kvothe learns to survive in the forest and played his lute constantly until his string snap. He is clever and resourceful in using what Abenthy taught him to survive.



Ashana Lian .

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