You may know him as the guy with that excellent Rand al’Thor cosplay, but his name is Paul Bielaczyc and he is a JordanCon staple. I got a chance to talk to Paul about JordanCon, being toastmaster, and his love of The Wheel of Time. Ebony: First things, first: When did you start reading Wheel of Time? Paul: I first picked it up my senior year of high school, and stopped reading at what I like to refer to as "The Hump." I feel like most people read a few chapters of a new book to see if they are hooked, and for Wheel of Time, that magical point is the end of Chapter 4. I know I got to that point, put the book down, and then life happened. And I know that speaking to many readers who tried reading the series, they got to the same point (I now tell people to go back and cross "The Hump"). I picked it up again the summer after my freshman year of college after seeing a display at the student bookstore for the release of The Path of Daggers. Another student pointed out how excited he was to read the next book in the series, and he encouraged me to pick it back up. So summer of 1999 is when I devoured the first 7 books of The Wheel of Time. By the way, quitting at Chapter 4 stinks. Chapter 5 is nuts!! And the story doesn't really let up at all after that. (Editor note: I actually did the same thing) Ebony: What made you decide to cosplay as our favorite moody Ta'veren? Paul: In Grad school I thought it would be cool to dress up as Rand al'Thor for Halloween. Not a single person knew who I was. Many years later, I was apprenticing with an artist out in Kirby, WY, population 57. A young lady who modeled for the artist asked to see my art, which lead to showing off pictures of my costumes. When I clicked on the folder for that Halloween, the young lady was shocked. She looked up at me and said, "I know you! You're Rand al'Thor." I didn't follow. She then pulled up Google Images, and when she searched for "Rand al'Thor," there I was, 6 out of the first 10 images on Google Search. She told me that The Wheel of Time was her favorite book series, and when she did a book report earlier that year, she used photos of me in her report. A few years after that, I was working at my Artist table at Dragon*Con, when a young man walked by dressed as an Aiel. When I complimented his awesome WoT cosplay, he turned to me, bowed deeply, and said, "Thank you, Car'a'carn." There I am, not in costume, but simply dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. I looked at him confused. To which he replied, "Your cosplay of Rand al'Thor is all over the internet. When I read the books, I picture you whenever Rand is brought up. You *are* The Dragon Reborn." And that was the moment. I had to be the Lord Dragon. And funny enough, many more years after that, when signing my copy of Memory of Light, a certain author by the name of Brandon Sanderson asked me, "I make this out to Rand, right?" E: Do you do any other character cosplay? P: Within The Wheel of Time, the only other cosplay that I have done is a Trolloc. Well, I also did a Grayman in year 3, and Moridin/"Just Rand" a few years ago, but nothing as impressive as the Trolloc. Outside of that, the list is pretty insane. Ash Williams from Army of Darkness, Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 4, Waldo, Link from all the Zeldas, a realistic Ice King from Adventure Time, CLU from Tron Legacy, Ander Elessedil from MTV's The Chronicles of Shannara, and probably a bunch of throw-away costumes that I wore once. E: When did you first attend JordanCon? P: My first JordanCon was year 2. (2009) E: Aside from being the resident Lord Dragon, what other roles do you play at JordanCon? P: My first year I was a simple sheepherder... I mean vendor. I then played some music on Saturday night, and I become the resident DJ for the Saturday Dance Party. I am also a Co-Director for the Art Show with April Moore, and the Dealer's Hall Director as well. Phew. E: Did you get to have any say in the theme for JordanCon 2019 or did Jennifer Liang (JordanCon Director) and Aubree Pham (JordanCon 2018’s Toastmaster) just tell you what to do? P: I did not. I was just as excited as everyone else when they announced it during Closing Ceremonies. I'm sure that once the theme was settled on Shai'Con for 2019, those in charge figured that since I have been embracing The Dark Lord Dragon for the past 2 years, that it would be a good fit. And all I can say is, "Indeed." E: What was your reaction to being asked to be Toastmaster for JordanCon 2019? P: JordanCon has become family to me, and I wouldn't be a licensed Wheel of Time artist without JordanCon or Ta'veren Tees. So when they ask for my help, I'm usually ready to assist. And I'm pretty extroverted (if you didn't know). The best moment though was while I already agreed to be Toastmaster when the announcement was made at Closing Ceremonies in 2018, I didn't know the theme. When they announced that, well, my darker side was very, very pleased. Oh crap, I guess that's another character cosplay I forgot to mention. But everyone will see that costume in 2019. E: What can we expect from you as toastmaster? P: Having someone bleep me constantly with the word "hot dog?" Thankfully Patrick Minze is really good at that. I'm kidding. (Editor’s note: He is not kidding) I am hoping to have a few fun surprises for Opening Ceremonies, and otherwise be entertaining while informative. There is a happy balance of making sure that actual information is conveyed to the attendees (how Art Show or Charity bidding works, Weapons policy, etc.) while still making it fun and memorable. I am asking people to come up with fun, twisted versions of their favorite characters, similar to my Dark Lord Dragon, to embrace the theme. Portal Stones exist in the series, and definitely are the windows to alternate universes. I really want to see how crazy and fun people can make their favorite characters this year. This year's theme, crossed with the idea of the Portal Stones, really allows for level of creativity and originality that I don't think we've seen in the first 10 years. So obviously, as The Lord of Chaos and The Shai'aman, one can expect a little breaking of the Wheel and Pattern. That goes without saying really. And next year is also the culmination of the Black Ajah mystery that has been going on now for 3 years. As a participant myself, I have no idea what is going on, other than to say that I'm sorry if actively encouraging people to be Darkest Timeline versions of themselves throws off the balance of the game. But there definitely will be specialized badge ribbons for anyone that joins Team Shadow for 2019 (we can celebrate the Light in 2020). E: What is your favorite JordanCon memory? P: Man, that is a hard question to answer. I think one of my favorite moments was the year when TWoTcast were the Toastmasters. Chip Moore and I came up with an idea for Opening Ceremonies a few weeks before the convention, and so spent multiple nights in my driveway working in the dark. But we thought recreating the climax to Lord of Chaos would be too much fun to pass up. We built a man-sized chest out of insulation foam, and then carefully cut it apart, and pieced it together using just toothpicks. Chip (and a team of Red Ajah) dragged the over-sized chest out from backstage. And then, on cue, I burst out of the chest in full Rand Al'Thor get-up. Of course, the speech I gave during the Costume Contest when I was dressed as "Just Rand" was really poignant and much more serious than most people expected from me. But then on the flip-side, the entire Rand on the Run Facebook Adventure. So many memories. E: What do you do for actual money? What is your "day job"? P: So my day job is pretty unusual, or at least, was more unusual back when we started in 2002. Nowadays kids make a living posting the pictures to the Instagrams, so I guess our business isn't all that strange with how popular Cosplay has become. So my brother, sister, and I co-own Aradani Studios, which is known all over the world primarily for making prosthetic elf ears which are hand-painted to match your skintone. We do a variety of other prosthetics, horns, noses, and masks, but elf ears are what we are known for. My brother and I are both fantasy artists as well, my brother working in oils, acrylics, and digital painting, and I work primarily in charcoal, graphite, and pastel. We have both won awards across the country over our 16+ years in this career, and in 2006 I won the prestigious Chesley Award for my piece, Nightmare. And of course I am one of the 6 current licensed Wheel of Time artists. Thankfully, everywhere we sell our ears, we sell our artwork. But when someone asks how I pay my mortgage every month, it is definitely because of those ears. Thanks to Paul for joining me. I am sure you can tell JordanCon will never be the same once Dark Lord Rand al’Thor is done with it. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. JordanCon tickets are currently $50 for the full three days. The price goes up to $55 January 1, 2019. Check out JordanCon’s website for more information.
If you are part of the Facebook Wheel of Time Community, you may have run into Drew McCaffrey. He has been an active part of the online community and is an excellent resource for anyone that needs information about the Wheel of Time series. But Drew is more than just a Wheel of Time fan, he is also an up and coming author. He recently began writing for TOR.com, and I had a chance to sit down with him to discuss this new opportunity. Ebony: How did you get involved in writing for Tor.com? Drew: One of my friends, Alice Arneson, has been writing the Brandon Sanderson Cosmere re-reads on Tor.com. She encouraged me to submit a proposal this fall, when Tor announced they were looking for new voices covering different books. I was thrilled when they said they were interested! E: What is your official title with Tor.com? D:I don't think I have one...maybe "contributing writer"? E: What topics will you be writing about? D: I'm starting with a big article about 10 of the best completed series in science fiction and fantasy. Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson fans will undoubtedly enjoy it (and maybe find a couple new series to check out)! E: How often do you expect to post articles? D: For now, it will depend on how often I propose ideas and Tor approves them. I don't have a regularly scheduled column or re-read or anything. E: What will your first article be on Tor.com be about and when will it be posted? D: My first will be that completed series article. It should be going up in the next week or so! E: How did feel after submitting your first article to Tor.com? D: I was incredibly excited and nervous. Tor.com is one of the biggest emerging platforms in SFF, with an outstanding track record in publishing revolutionary short fiction, novellas, and literary essays. I'm blown away by how many of their stories have been nominated for, and even won, major SFF awards. E: Aside from writing for Tor.com do you any other sort of writing? D: I do sports writing, covering the New York Rangers for bluelinestation.com. I also write lots of original fiction, ranging from short stories to novels, and I wrote a fair amount of book reviews for dcafwriting.com, although I haven't had the time to keep my site current. E: How does writing from Tor.com differ from other writing you have done? D: Writing for Tor.com has me much more cognizant of audience. Writing a book review or an opinion piece for dcafwriting is low-stress, because there isn't much of an active comment section and the general audience is relatively small. Tor.com is a big-time site, and articles there regularly see 100+ comments. E: Are there any topics you hope to be able to write about for Tor.com? D: I have at least one article about Matthew Stover's Acts of Caine series on my plate, and I hope to explore that series more. I'd love to talk about Glen Cook's Black Company, The Gap Cycle by Stephen R. Donaldson, and David Farland's Runelords series, too. E: What do you think/hope you will gain from your experience with Tor.com? D: I think this will give me a great chance to bring some lesser-known series to a wider audience, but more importantly, it will give me a chance to see what that wider audience loves. How many amazing series are out there that I haven't heard of or read yet? Interacting with the Tor.com audience will assuredly open my eyes to things that haven't crossed my path yet. E:Are there any other writing endeavors in your future? D: My Blue Line Station writing is an ongoing job, but my big focus for the future is getting a novel published. I'm writing my fourth novel right now, and I've gotten to the point where I'm confident enough in my stories and my writing that I'm querying literary agents. Well, we will certainly keep an eye out for Drew’s upcoming novel. Until then check out his TOR.com articles: The 10 Best Completed SF and Fantasy Series (According to Me) Matthew Stover’s Heroes Die is a Grimdark Cult Classic
As reported earlier today, Amazon Studios has greenlit the first season of a Wheel of Time TV show. From The Hollywood Reporter: Backstory in Brief The story of getting the book series adapted for the screen has been long and tumultuous. A full history of the franchise's adaptation journey is beyond the scope of this article, but the short version is that the rights to the series were originally optioned by NBC in 2000, then held briefly by an independent group called Forsaken Films. In 2004 the option passed from Forsaken to Red Eagle Entertainment, who held the rights until they worked out a deal with Radar Pictures and Sony Pictures, who eventually made the deal with Amazon. During the Red Eagle years, multiple valiant efforts were made to adapt first book in the series, The Eye of the World, into a stand-along film, but those projects never took off. In order to prevent their option from expiring, Red Eagle infamously created the heavily-panned "Winter Dragon" short "pilot" that ultimately led to a lawsuit and counter lawsuit between themselves and Robert Jordan's estate. The lawsuits were settled out of court. Rafe Judkins and current situation In 2017, Rafe Judkins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) was hired to be the lead writer and showrunner for the WoT TV show. He's since led a team of writers to begin developing scripts. Last month Rafe hosted a Twitter Q&A where he talked, amongst other things, about the tone and focus that fans can expect to see. The Amazon deal is exciting because it comes in the wake of news that another big fantasy project, Conan the Barbarian, had been put on hold. This tells us that the studio has a lot of confidence in the WoT project, which seems to be ahead of schedule compared to the heavily-discussed Lord of the Rings prequel series that Amazon reportedly paid $250 million to acquire the rights to. With today's announcement, Amazon has approved the creation of a single season. We don't know how many episodes that will include, but given today's trends, it's likely to be anywhere from 8-13 episodes. Rafe Judkins has indicated that this first season will focus primarily on the events found in The Eye of the World, but viewers should be prepared for anything. And while the specifics of the plot won't be revealed until the show airs, the clues we've had so far hint at larger roles for the primary female characters (Egwene, Nynaeve, and Moiraine) along with an emphasis on the positive feminist aspects found in the books. The WoT book series was first published in 1990, and at the time, Jordan received heavy praise for his forward-thinking portrayal of heroic women. Time and evolved thinking has softened those views somewhat, but it's clearly Rafe's plan to once more put Wheel of Time at the forefront of the discussion. Multiple news outlets emphasize this point. From Variety: It's unlikely that Moiraine will be the primary main character in the TV show. Some fans have speculated that the show will be an adaptation of the WoT prequel novel, New Spring, but we know that's not the case. If anything, it's more likely we'll see glimpses of the events from that book interwoven to help expand Moiraine's character. The focus of the series, both in the books and the TV show, will be centered on the Two Rivers characters. As always, as we learn more about the series, we'll lost more here.
A new announcement from Amazon Studios list The Wheel of Time as one of the shows they’ve ordered for Amazon Prime. An interesting spin on the story, which does feature strong, female characters. You can read the whole article from Variety.
Dragonmount's co-leader, and JordanCon founder, Jenn Liang, and her husband Jimmy Liang, will be next year's Fan Guests of Honor at Kansas City's ConQuesT. From the ConQuesT site: ConQuesT takes place every Memorial Day weekend, at the end of May (May 24-26, 2019). The year's theme is "mad science and experimental wizardry." Tickets are on sale now for the early bird price of $30. On November 1, that price will increase.
That’s right, twenty years ago, today, Jason Denzel started up the website Dragonmount. For those unfamiliar with its humble beginnings, Jason wanted a place to converse with other Wheel of Time fans, as well as have a hosting site for his "Dragonmount" animated fan-film he was working on. It’s evolved greatly from its origins, and here are screen shots of Dragonmount’s main page for the past twenty years! 1998: 1999: 2000: 2001: 2002: 2003: 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: 2011: 2012: 2013: 2014: 2015: 2016: 2017: And 2018: Happy birthday, Dragonmount! And congratulations, Jason, for making this a site we all love and enjoy. We've all been through a lot together, and you've lead us to a great milestone. There’s only more to come!
Rafe Judkins, the showrunner for the potential Wheel of Time TV show, answered an assortment of fan questions on Twitter this morning. You can find the entire thread here. Overall Show Status "In development." Amazon Studios is the network currently developing the show. The production studio is Sony Pictures Television, working with Radar Pictures. There has been no official announcement about the show being green-lit yet. This means that while a lot of people are working on developing ideas and screenplays, until a public announcement happens, we do not know if a pilot or full season have been ordered. During the twitter Q&A, Rafe was unable to answer any questions related to the project's overall status, or potential timeframe. Highlights from the Q&A The plan is to adapt the entire Wheel of Time TV series. Each episode is designed to be an hour long. Rafe Judkins: "I want [the tone of the show] to feel adult but accessible." The first season will largely focus on events from The Eye of the World. But do not expect a straight-forward and literal adaptation that strictly conforms to the way the books tell the story. Rafe Judkins: "... malleable by season and book." Rafe has a special place in his heart for Bela. Casting has not begun, but is expected to happen worldwide, under the supervision of a yet-to-be-hired casting director. Efforts will be made to ensure a diverse cast is selected. Gender representation is important to the series, and to the producers. Rafe Judkins: "I think that gender is such a key theme of the books, and discussing gender without a full representation of LGBTQ+ people would be a disservice to that discussion. Rest assured, their will be pillow friends out the wazoo." Rafe and his team are passionate fans, utilizing as much information about the series as possible fro every source, including all published books, the WoT Companion, fan sites, and Team Jordan directly. Rafe Judkins: "We have freedom to do what we want, but what I want is to stay true to the books" Rafe Judkins: "I really want to stay true to the books in creating a world that feels way more diverse than what we're used to seeing in our fantasy tv shows" Interestingly, the "Rand and his 3 women plot" might change. Logain may have an expanded, larger role in the TV show. So far, Nynaeve has been the most challenging character to write. Rafe and his team are generally trying to avoid merging characters. Rafe is especially excited about the opening chapters in the Weswood, the Aiel Waste plot line, and Dumai's Wells. We will keep you updated as progress on the show evolves. Be sure to follow Rafe's Twitter and Instagram accounts, and while you're at it, check out our twitter feed and Facebook page.
At the beginning of the month, Rafe Judkins—showrunner for The Wheel of Time television series—began to give us hints on Twitter about his involvement and progress with script writing and other behind-the-scenes details. This quickly morphed into #WoTWednesday (it had started out in July as #WoTMonday). Each Wednesday, Judkins has been posting small snippets for us to drool over. Here’s a quick recap of August’s posts: August 8th: “So I thought for #WoTWednesday this week I’d post something that gives you a little insight into how I broke down the books (without giving away too much), so I decided to open to a random page in the EoTW (Brit edition! My original was too beat up) and take a picture.” The page opened to was 19 (of the British, Orbit edition) where Rand and Tam arrive in Emond’s Field and Rand dwells on the meaning of Bel Tine and the coming of spring. Judkin’s inscriptions—as far as I can tell—read “Fun description” when Rand talks about the first lambs of spring, the festivities that will be held, the arrival of the first peddlers, and the possibility of fireworks. Also, Judkins scrawled the words “Tale of Manetheran” when Rand details the history of Bran al’Vere’s inn—and the fact some of the walls are older than the whole village. August 15th: For this post, Judkins switched to Instagram since he shared a more personal (and longer than Twitter allows) story about his connection to Wheel of Time and being exposed to other cultures. “For #WoTWednesday this week, since I’m in Fiji where 30% of the population is Hindu (and the 10 dollar coin is actually a mandala of the Kalachakra or “Wheel of Time”) I thought I’d talk a little about the philosophy of the books and what I want to bring out in the series. One of my favorite things about the books is how they embrace eastern religions and philosophies and put them into an epic fantasy context in a way we haven’t yet seen in tv or film. I plan to lean heavily into the concept of reincarnation in the books and have spent a lot of time talking to people who believe in reincarnation to get a feel for how that affects not only your philosophy of the world, but also the every day way you live your life. I’d love to hear, too, about some of your favorite moments from the books that deal with reincarnation or being spun out again by the wheel of time (mine is Birgitte Silverbow’s return?). Obviously, yin and yang and balance and duality are important eastern philosophical concepts from the books that I want to bring out in series, but we will save discussions on that for a future trip to China ;)” August 22nd: “For #wotwednesday this week, I’ll do something scandalous and give you an actual snippet from the first script of one of those iconic scenes that simply must exist. Introducing THREE key characters ;)” Judkins then attached an image of the script with some details before the character’s dialogue. “EXT. THE WESTWOOD – DAY We’re higher in the mountains, spring’s touch hasn’t reached here yet. Trees are bare, patches of snow dot the ground. An OLD CART filled with SMALL WOOD BARRELS and BALES OF WOOL makes its way through the wood, pulled by a shaggy BROWN MARE. TWO MEN walk on either side of her, father and son. This is TAM AL’THOR, 50’s, an aging shepherd with the watchful eye of a warrior. Thick chest and broad face, there’s a masculine solidness to him, as though a flood could wash around him without uprooting his feet.” And finally, from today, August 29th: “Hey! Sorry (especially to non-US folks) for the lateness on this. But this #WoTWednesday I thought I’d give another script grab — this time about casting. Actual casting is a long way off, but this at least gives you an idea of how we are thinking about it in a general sense.” Along with this text, Judkins attached a part of the script detailing the direction of some characteristics of the Randland residents, stating: “[A QUICK NOTE: race in the world of Wheel of Time is much less defined than in our world. As much as possible, our cast should look like America will in a few hundred years – a beautiful mix of white, brown, black and everything in between]” There’s little we can glean off of these, other than a steadfast knowledge that our beloved series is in good hands. To have a fan at the reigns relieves many of my anxieties about an on-screen adaptation. And even though these are small morsels, it’s consistent and done so lovingly, that it rids me of all the other anxieties. Yes, it will be a while before we have a tangible product. But we know it’s in the works, and it’s getting there. As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Judkins is taking those first few steps and we will arrive home eventually.
Our friends at Grim Oak Press announced today that their upcoming short story anthology, Unfettered III, will contain an unreleased deleted chapter from A Memory of Light, the final book in The Wheel of Time series. The chapter will follow Perrin as he makes his way through the Ways. There's about 20,000 words of content, which is about the length of two or three hefty WoT-sized chapters. The content was written by Brandon Sanderson during his process of creating AMOL. It was deleted by Harriet as part of the editorial process, but will now be released with everyone's blessing. Although fun to read, Brandon informs us that these scenes are not considered canon. The original Unfettered anthology, released in 2013, contained "River of Souls", a series of short scenes featuring Bao the Wyld as he attempted to discover the location of a legendary sa'angreal. In addition to featuring a Wheel of Time story, Unfettered III will also feature an original short story from Dragonmount founder Jason Denzel. Here's how Jason described the story: "The Stone Golem of Qual’Jom” is about a lonely, blind creature made entirely of stone who was brought to life by a sorcerer in order to be his assistant. When the master leaves his cavernous lair to go on a long journey, the golem is charged with defending the dwelling from invaders. But during his master’s extended absence, the golem begins to question his nature, and the nature of the world around him. Touching on themes of loneliness and non-duality, and filled with action, “Stone Golem” is my earliest, and one of my most beloved, written stories." Unfettered III will be released in hardcover and ebook formats on March 19, 2019. It will feature stories from 27 fantasy authors taking place in an abundance of beloved fantasy worlds including the Dune universe. There are 250 early Advance copies available, as well as signed copies, which will contain signatures from all contributing authors, including Brandon Sanderson and Jason Denzel. Finally, proceeds from sales of this anthology will go to a good cause. They will be used to help provide health insurance for science fiction and fantasy writers who need such assistance. We hope you'll join us in checking out these amazing stories. For more information, including links to pre-order the book, visit the Grim Oak Press website. Read Brandon Sanderson's announcement on his website.
Since the news of a potential Wheel of Time television series was released in April of 2016, right after JordonCon 8, we’ve all been waiting for news of the show’s progress. Last year, again, around JordanCon 9, we learned the rights had landed with Sony Pictures, and that Rafe Judkins was the lead writer and executive producer of the project. And earlier this year, in January, we had the first tweet from Judkins in relation to a possible Wheel of Time script. Considering we’ve waited two years just for those snippets, it seems almost like overload when we’ve seen several tweets from Jadkins over the past two months teasing Wheel of Time fans with pictures of assumedly-complete scripts for the first two episodes. At first, Jadkins began his tweets with #WheelofTimeMonday and shared a bit of his process that way. However, this quickly morphed to #WoTWednesday (which does have a better ring to it). In his latest tweet, sent out only a few days ago, Jadkins gave Mat fans something to look forward to: “And I give you — the second and last #WheelofTimeMonday. Because as everyone has so obviously pointed out — #WoTWednesday is 1000x better. I warned you I’m bad at social media. Also, Wheel of Time fans should rejoice because AK Shuman writes Mat like she was born to it.” Though “bad at social media” we hope Jadkins will give us regular updates. After so long with only tidbits to tide us over, I know the Wheel of Time community will love more news. You can see Jadkin’s other tweets and commentary at Bleeding Cool, the Wertzone, the Daily Trolloc, and IGN.
Earlier this week, Jason Denzel, Dragonmount’s found and webmaster, hosted an Ask Me Anything panel on Reddit.com . The questions ranged all over the board, but there were a few about The Wheel of Time. And, of course, everyone offered congratulations and praise for Mystic Dragon, released July 17, 2018 from Tor. Naturally, people had questions about where the inspiration for the Mystic series came from. You can read the questions and answers in their entirety, here.
Today is the release day for Mystic Dragon, the second novel in Jason Denzel’s Mystic series. This captivating story is a great addition to the series, expanding the scope of the plotlines, the characters, and the world. Though I work with Jason as a part of Dragonmount, it's also amazing to see the author side of him. It can be difficult to judge a friend's work of art, but I strive to point out the positives and the negatives as they appeal to me. These are my honest thoughts on a well-constructed novel, one I enjoyed immensely! Slight spoilers will follow. Synopsis: The first book, Mystic, showed Pomella AnDone, a commoner, summoned by the High Mystic of Moth to trial for an apprenticeship. Though Pomella shows strength and courage and cunning, she’s not selected to be the High Mystic’s apprentice. Instead, she is chosen by Grandmaster Faywong, a man retired from the position of High Mystic of Moth, and becomes his apprentice. Mystic Dragon picks up the story seven years after the events of Mystic. Now, Pomella is a full Mystic, using her training, and her reputation as a commoner, to stop a slaver named Shadefox. Shadefox has been taking the Unclaimed people of Moth and selling them on the Continent. Her mission is cut short, however, by the celestial event known as Crow Tallin--which takes place once every sixty years. Pomella is needed on Moth to help control the fay as Treorel, the Mystic Star, momentarily links the human world and Fayun. However, Shevia, another Mystic, shows signs of going against the traditions of Crow Tallin. Shevia has been given visions of the future and her intentions for the event counter greatly to what Pomella is instructed to do. The two women must make some sort of agreement, or it will be a full-out war between them. And Shevia’s powers are much greater than anything Pomella has ever seen. Pros: From start to finish, this story was enthralling. While the first novel focused on Moth culture, the world is expanded greatly in Mystic Dragon. We see many of the other cultures of the world which solidifies it in the reader’s mind. The countries on the Continent are very different from Moth, and they offer a contrast to Pomella’s upbringing. Though the story takes place seven years later, those years aren’t lost. Through flashback scenes, we get to see exactly what happened to Sim and Shevia during that time. These scenes were among my favorite in the book because of how poignant the emotional reactions were. Much darker than Mystic, this novel dwells on loss and pain, sadness and suffering, loneliness and abuse. These times where the characters are at their lowest makes them shine so much brighter when we see them try their hardest to overcome what’s kept them suppressed. As the time of Crow Tallin approached, I was constantly guessing the direction the book would take. It was completely unpredictable. There were so many ways the events could have played out, so many choices the characters could have made. One surprise after another kept me in suspense until the very last page. And Pomella. I love her as a character. Though she’s been a Mystic for nearly seven years, she’s never forgotten her commoner heritage. Though powerful, she never lets that get in the way of her helping people. She could live a life of luxury, but she insists on being among the commoners. Her character has stayed true despite being so highly elevated. She struggles through this book, she grows, and her future is still uncertain. Cons: The deaths. I won’t give away who (or how many) die, but some of them devastated me. Not to say these deaths were for shock value. They had a purpose. I hope the third novel will ease the pain at these losses, though. Conclusion: This story was engrossing. It was difficult to put down because I wanted to see how the events unfolded. The pace kept the actions going, pulling me along with it, even late into the night. The themes of loss and survival resonated strongly with me. I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the series, as so many questions were left unanswered at the end of Mystic Dragon. Rating: 5 out of 5 You can purchase Mystic Dragon from Dragonmount’s DRM-free eBook store. To find out more about Jason Denzel and the series you can visit his website, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter. (Though Jason Denzel is the webmaster and founder of Dragonmount, my review is unbiased and honest.