Oathbringer, the third novel in Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive, is now available! Check out Brandon's website to see the locations of the book tour. Hopefully there's one by you. If not, you can purchase Oathbringer from Dragonmount’s DRM-free eBook store!
This month’s “Fantasy Review” is for Brandon Sanderson’s YA novel The Dark Talent, the fifth in the Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians series. Slight spoilers follow. Synopsis: Alcatraz saved Mokia, but in doing so, broke his Talent and those belonging to nearby Smedrys. Now he must try to stop his father with his wits alone. With Grandpa Smedry, Kaz, Draulin, Cousin Dif, and Shasta, Alcatraz sets off for the Highbrary, the root of the Librarian’s power in the world. But Biblioden, the original Librarian, isn’t as dead as history says. The evil mastermind needs Alcatraz’s bloodline—which means he needs Alcatraz’s blood. Pros: When I first learned Brandon Sanderson was going to finish The Wheel of Time series, like most fans, I ran out and found some of his books to read. I read Elantis first, then the Mistborn series, and after that I read Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians. When I had the opportunity to have dinner with Brandon as a Storm Leader at the release of The Gathering Storm book tour in Scottsdale, Arizona, I gushed over the Alcatraz book. So unlike his other novels, but still so amazing! This is a long way to say I have been waiting for this “final” book for a very long time! With that in mind, this addition had all the same silly antics of the earlier books—a huge draw for me. Alcatraz as the narrator is hilarious and such a delight to read. Plus, the more serious plot line of trying to stop his father from giving every person a Smedry Talent makes it engaging and keeps up a fast pace. There’s a lot of emotion here. Alcatraz’s narration deepens as certain truths are discovered about himself, his family, and his ideals of the world. Despite the comical nature of the whole series, there are some incredibly deep thoughts in these books. Cons: The ending was not very satisfying. I hate to say that—and I do believe that the feeling of being unresolved is exactly what Alcatraz wanted—but I did hope we’d get more answers out of this volume. Brandon has revealed that there is still another in the series (if you don’t mind spoilers, you can see more details in his post here), but I’m not a big fan of cliffhanger endings. Still, the prospect of seeing more to come gives me hope and I will wait patiently for the next release. Conclusion: This whole series is worth a read. It’s an amazing hybrid of fantasy, sci-fi, and humor. As it’s geared toward children, some of the humor can be lowbrow, but much of it is clever, and likely to go over the intended audience’s heads. Despite the lackluster and abrupt ending of this book, I will sing the praises of this series to anyone who will listen. It is one of my favorites of Brandon's works—behind The Wheel of Time and Legion. Rating: 4 out of 5 You can purchase this book, and the others in the series, at Dragonmount's DRM-free eBook store!
Some exciting new (and favorite) products from Ta'veren Tees! Happy Halloween, WoT Fans! We're excited to announce the release of a monstrously cool new product just in time for All Hallow's Eve: the Trolloc Cup, on sale now at TaverenTees.com/trolloccup! This cup is microwave and dishwasher safe, holds approximately 16 oz, and is hand carved - no two mugs will ever be exactly alike. Check out the product page for more information. All of our mugs are handcrafted by Sean Robinson, an independent artist from North Carolina who takes great pride in creating these mugs for fans of “The Wheel of Time,” as he is a fan of the series himself. So far, Sean has created mugs featuring the icons of the Ta’veren, the White Flame, and the Dragon’s Fang. All mugs are approved by Team Jordan and can be can be found at www.TaverenTees.com/featured. And, if you are shopping for the holidays, remember all mugs take 7-14 business days to ship and the last shipments for Christmas orders will go out no later than December 15, so get your orders in early!
Hello again! I'm back to report the goings on at Dragonmount. Currently I'm enjoying "fall" in California. My air conditioner is on. The Wolfkin are hosting an event exploring the use of herbs in cooking and health, and even offering a "Herbal Tea Reading." You can explore your "guilty pleasures" in Shayol Ghul. The White Tower and Warders have been attending the Fair, exploring Middle Earth, and are having fun with Halloween and Samhain. The Black Tower has been reviewing "The Way of Kings" and "Tainted Minds." The Band of the Red Hand are conversing about "bands" they have heard and a great fall topic: "Cider." The Aiel are exploring "Rereads vs New Reads." Last month, I mentioned a group in the White Tower and Warders are participating in rereading The Wheel of Time. I get stuck in some places; not many, but a few. To get myself unstuck, I move from the characters to the setting. I imagine what the setting must look like. I'm currently imagining Rhuidean. There are all sorts of buildings, many unfinished. The center is filled with objects of the Power. A fog permeates the city. Nothing like I've ever even considered, prior to Robert Jordan. Robert Jordan's world is a very vast one. I'm convinced he was a genius, to create The Wheel of Time. While reading, I am transported to his world and often wish I could enter there. I think that is the epitome of being a fantasy author, to take your readers where you want them to go. See you next month.
Studio Ghibli is currently in the middle of a film festival, showing one of their classic anime movies each month. This Studio Ghibli Fest is occurring at select theaters all around the country. So far, they’ve shown My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and this month’s addition will be Spirited Away. Spirited Away is one of my favorite anime films—and one of my favorite movies too. I love the themes of bravery, perseverance, and the ability to see one’s soul instead of their physical body. It’s a wonderful tale, and has so many beautiful characters. The growth of Chihiro as the movie progresses is phenomenal. She starts out so sheltered and winds up confident and capable. And Haku is my favorite male within the Ghibli universe. He’s amazing! Plus the fact that he’s a dragon makes him the best in my book! In preparation for seeing the movie on the big screen, I wanted to try to craft a Haku scarf. I followed this tutorial, which was pretty easy. Materials needed: About 1/2 yard of white fleece About ¼ yard of blue fleece Fleece scraps in yellow, black, pink, gray, and brown Iron on fabric adhesive Optional: stuffing Cut out the pieces This is the hard and boring part, but oh so necessary. I put on music, or an audiobook, which helps keep my mind occupied during the arduous task. Sew the head I loved that this part was done first. It let me see Haku’s adorable face which really motivated me to finish the project. You can sew the eyes and nose on, but I used an iron on fabric adhesive. Much quicker and gives it a nicer appearance. Sew the body This part got kind of tricky. I had to sew the back ridges into the body like a sandwich. Plus it’s so long, it felt like I was sewing forever. Sew the tail This was also tricky to sew because of the points and ridges. But since it was small, it wasn’t a big issue. Stitch them together I hate sewing by hand. I’m terrible at it, and I can’t hide the thread the way the tutorials show me. I’ve never gotten the hang of it. So, my stitches are visible and clumsy, but I got a Haku in the end! Stuff it? The original tutorial made a scarf. But as soon as I was finished, I thought it was such a wasted opportunity. Why have a scarf when you could have a ginormous Haku plushie? So I used a ton of polyfil and stuffed my dragon. This was the hardest part, getting the stuffing all the way up his body. It probably took me thirty to forty minutes. I was using every device I had to get the fluff up his butt. In the end, it was worth it! The finished Haku is beautiful and so cuddly! I can’t wait to wear my Chihiro casual cosplay outfit, wear Haku around my neck, and see this movie on the 30th of October. For next time, I might make something to accompany me to the showing of Howl’s Moving Castle. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!
I was excited to get to speak to J. Scott Coatsworth about his newly released sci-fi novel, The Stark Divide. The book was enjoyable, and I was eager to delve further into what its author had to say. You can read my review of The Stark Divide here. Slight spoilers will follow. Q: The cast of the series is quite diverse, in terms of age, gender, nationality, and sexual orientation. I like that it suggests a uniform front in the future, people willing to work together regardless of their background or lifestyle. Was that a theme you wanted to emphasis? Hmmm, that’s a great question. I’m a fan of golden age sci fi, when things were a little simpler. And while I sometimes like things dark and complicated, sometimes I’m in the mood for Star Trek. I was a Superman fan as a kid - I loved that he was true and strong and good, and for that reason I absolutely HATED Batman vs. Superman. We’r going through such a dark period now that I want to believe, have to believe that at some point, some of us will find a way again to pull together for the common good. So yeah, I guess that does come out in the book. Q: The story also spans the course of 30 years. How difficult was it to storyboard or brainstorm the steps for the evolution of Forever? Can you tell us how far into the future the series will reach? The Stark Divide is actually the second book in the series. The first one was written more than twenty years ago, and was never published. In the current timeline, it would take place a few hundred years after this part of the story. I sent it off around 1995 to ten big publishers - it took a year, but the last rejection came in, and I pretty much gave up writing for almost twenty years. When I came back to writing in 2014, I decided to go back in time and figure out how the world came to be. It started with a novella that eventually became Seedling, the first part of the novel. I’m writing another sci fi series - Skythane - that’s told in a more traditional one story format, so doing The Stark Divide in a three-story epic format has actually been a lot of fun. Each story can stand alone, but they share characters, and allow me to telegraph the story over a long period of time. It’s exciting to see how things shift each time, as a decade or two passes. The current trilogy will cover a hundred years, give or take. But I hope to eventually take it all the way across the stars, to mankind’s new home - maybe 300-400 years in all. Q: Did you find it difficult with these jumps in the timeline? Or was it easy to let the reader conclude the natural steps between without it being shown in the text? I think in most cases it should be easy for readers to fill in the gaps. It’s like getting to fast forward and see if the couple you liked really makes it, or if the world comes through the latest challenges and goes on to grow into something new. It’s one of my favorite things about the story. Q: I love the undertone of religious epiphany throughout the piece. First in Hammond’s realization that AI may have souls, and then in the coincidental episodes that lead to Ana’s metamorphosis. Is this important to the plotline of the story arc, or just a detail of the characters? It’s something I didn’t really plan at first. Initially I was going to have the Church be a villain in the first part of the story, but then it took a turn. One of my best friends is a very religious Catholic, but she’s also one of the most progressive people I know. I’m more on the atheist side, but when I asked her for some help on the confirmation process for the story, it made me think. It’s so easy for me as a gay man to make a villain out of organized religion. Not too much later, my husband decided he wanted to go back to church for the first time in more than twenty-five years - a reaction to the growing strife and negativity we are all living through today. I went with him out of solidarity, and we found a progressive church nearby. These two events made me reconsider religion, and realize that it had a place in any future that would spring forward from our present. So I decided to weave religion into the story, and it’s been a fascinating thing to work with. On a side note, the series title, “Liminal Sky,” came out of a sermon Pastor Matt gave in which he used the word liminal to talk about the people on the edges of society. It was the first time I’d ever heard it, and so I looked it up: Liminal 1. relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. 2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. It seemed perfect for the time when everything changes. Q: On that same note, Lex seems to be able to anticipate what may happen. Within your world, is Lex a deity? Or is it more the processing of a supercomputer to analyze logical outcomes? Hmmm, I’d never thought of it that way. Lex is not a deity, though there’s that famous quote from Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And I do play more with the themes of religion and heaven in book two, “The Rising Tide,” which I just finished. Q: Andy’s inherited “dipping” seems to be something similar to magic. With this genetic code being passed onto the next generation, will more and more of humanity be able to bend the world around them? Um, yes… and… kinda? There will be a lot more of it in book two, along with reaching and pushing. :P But by the end, things will shift again. That’s all I can say. Q: The ending is bittersweet. Was it depressing to write, thinking of how easily the world could be decimated? Or is there more a focus on the hope that life will always find a way? A little of both? I gotta say, part of me is ready to blow things up and start with a clean slate. We’ve gone so far down some dark roads that I’m not sure there’s a way back. On the other hand, the Obama years showed me what was possible when good people strive for big things, and I still hold out hope that things will change. Or yeah, that life (and mankind) will find a way. You can purchase The Stark Divide in paperback or ebook here. To learn more about J. Scott Coatsworth, check out his website!
I’m excited that this month’s Fantasy Review is J. Scott Coatsworth’s The Stark Divide, the first in the Liminal Sky series. I was able to get an early copy of this stunning sci-fi tale! Synopsis: In the year 2135 AD, the human race is struggling. To combat the devastation on Earth, a new world is being created. An AI will be merged with a seedling, a ship that will grow from an asteroid and eventually become an inhabitable world. Due to an unforeseen accident, the seedling’s planting doesn’t go according to plan. The three crewmembers do what they must to ensure the new world starts to form. In 2145 AD, the new world, known as Forever, is growing. The first workers are terraforming the land, planting compatible seeds, building sustainable homes. But, Lex, the AI who runs Forever, hasn’t forgiven those who caused the accident so many years ago. When given the chance to meet her maker, Lex shows that though she has been manufactured, she is still capable of very human emotions. Hopefully, forgiveness is one of them. By the year 2165 AD, Earth has reached its boiling point. War, famine, changes in weather. Refugees try everything to flee the dying world and make their way to Forever. But the new world is not so safe as everyone seems to think. Humanity still walks its surface, which means their base nature of greed, envy, and corruption will never be left behind. Pros: This story is very epic in scope, spanning over a thirty year period. You get to see the birth of the seedling, its adolescence, and finally its capabilities of being a host and home for humanity. One enjoyable aspect is viewing the technology as it grows, understanding the process taken to ensure the survival of the human race. It’s a well thought out and logical system. The idea of the self-aware AI is given a different spin in this story. They are seen as if they are a new species, ones with souls and worth. I loved the evolution of Lex as she grew and began to gasp her place within the universe, and her purpose for being brought to life. The details of Forever were intricate. It was easy to picture the terrain and landscape of the asteroid, and so interesting to imagine the aspects that made it unique, like the plants glowing with an ethereal light, powered by the lifeforce of Lex. The concept was exciting. Cons: While each of the three segments of the story were engaging on their own, I wished they could have been more drawn out. The first chuck about the birth of the seedling was my favorite, with a sense of intrigue and suspense. Spending more time with the buildup and the release would have been great. And I wish the rest of the story could have held up that same tension. Conclusion: This story is a great introduction to the series, establishing the measures needed to allow life to survive after Earth. Now that the basics of the world and the people’s plight have been laid out, I hope the next in the series will set a breakneck pace of the evolution of the citizens as they learn to live away from their native homeworld. I’m more interested on the species as a whole, than any focus on one particular human. Rating: 4/5 The Stark Divide will be released on October 10th, and is available to purchase from the publisher in paperback or as an eBook,or from Amazon.
Welcome everyone to the lastest issue of the monthly Roundup! Currently, there are members participating in a re-read of The Wheel of Time. Really, I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I am. Fortunately, I've found the ability to stay in the present with each chapter, rather than "foretelling" each character's ending thread in the Pattern. There are difficulties that pop up, reading a complex arc of a character as they gradually transform into a different person, due to the developments of the story. The need for paying close attention to the words becomes necessary. At times, I put the books down and integrate what I've just read. I'm aware that there are those that have re-read the entire series multiple times. Why re-read The Wheel of Time? Is it because we wish to mentally "inhabit" the created world of Robert Jordan? Is it because this world is so far reaching and developed? Do we enjoy searching for the "foreshadowing" which Robert Jordan so magnificently integrates into each book? Is it the layers upon layers of stories/hints that can be easily missed? Do we see through the eyes of different characters with each re-read? As I re-read, I ponder these questions. I love the detail with which Robert Jordan created both his world and his characters. There was such depth; I didn't think I could take it all in with one read. I was astounded that in many aspects of this world, women dominate, not only with abilities but in other areas as well. The first read, my focus was centered on the White Tower and Aes Sedai. Reading along now, I'm more centered on Mat, Perrin, and the Aiel, along with some of the other characters and how they evolve. In conclusion, I've found The Wheel of Time is re-discovered with each reading. There never will be a time like the first, but don't let that hinder you from picking up the books again. New discoveries await you.
Today, September 19, 2017 marks 19 years of Dragonmount being online. Every year, Jenn and I debate what the exact launch day was, but she’s adamant that Sept 19 is the correct one. I believe her, because, well, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last 19 years is that I should listen to what Jenn says. So today it is. So what’s happening with DM these days? Well, judging from the slow-moving news on the front page, not a whole lot. But don’t let that fool you. We’re currently working on a major website upgrade: everything from the forums to the news page to the ebook store will be modernized and polished. Yes, that also means we’ll finally have a mobile-friendly version of the site because it’s 2017 now, and not, say, 1998. While the books are complete, I still adamantly maintain that the Wheel of Time franchise is alive and thriving. Not only is JordanCon getting bigger every year, but there are still millions of fans out there who love this saga, and those numbers will only continue to grow as the books are passed onto new readers. Sony’s upcoming TV show will breathe new life into the series, and with it will come a flood of new friends to our community. Administering DM for the past 19 years has been a remarkable experience in my life. Not only did it lead me to this wonderful community of fans, but it helped me launch my own writing career. There’s so much that needs to be said, but I’m going to save it for next year. We have some big events planned for our 20th anniversary. Not only will we have a fresh-looking website, but we’re planning to have at least one, but maybe two real-life parties that you can attend. We’re still trying to figure it all out, but if all goes well, we’ll have a party at JordanCon in Atlanta this coming April (Jenn runs the convention and I’m this year’s Author Guest of Honor), and possibly a second event in California near where I live. Details to come, but please, keep us in mind for next year. This week also marks the 10 year anniversary of Robert Jordan’s passing. He died on September 16th, 2007. I’ve always found it interesting that the calendar dates of DM’s birth and RJ’s death are so close. Time is a wheel, right? Endings and beginnings, round and round they go. Brandon Sanderson wrote a lovely tribute on the anniversary of RJ’s passing. I’m glad he did because he’s the right person to do that. But I was silent on the day for a few reasons. I wanted to sort my thoughts. To illustrate, let me tell you a story. That morning, Saturday, I went hiking in Point Reyes, just north of San Francisco with my girlfriend and some of her co-workers. On the drive up there, we listened to the ending of the Winter’s Heart audiobook, because that’s currently where she is in her first read-through of the books. When we finished, she gave me all her theories and asked a million questions about what had just happened. We talked about everything from resurrected Forsaken to the differences between saidin and saidar for nearly an hour. Later at the hike, during a casual get-to-know-you conversation, I learned another member of our group had just started reading The Eye of the World for the first time. She loved what she’d read so far and was excited to see where the series would go. This young lady and her boyfriend were huge fans of Brandon’s books, so she’d recently decided to give Robert Jordan a try. These conversations underscored to me just how loved these books are. I can’t think of a better legacy for Robert Jordan’s writing career. On the anniversary of his passing, I found myself having two completely unrelated conversations about his books. My hunch is that in another 10 years (or another 20!), people will still be discussing and debating it. Later that day, after my hike, I called Wilson, RJ’s cousin/brother. Wilson was, as many of you know, the liaison between RJ’s family and our community of fans during those hard days 10 years ago. He was the one who called me that day and said, “We lost him, Jason.” He was the one who invited me to Charleston where I met the family and attended the funeral. I called him because it was the anniversary of the death of his cousin, whom he called a brother. I called him because while fans remember Robert Jordan, Wilson and the rest of the family were remembering their loved one, Jim. The world lost more than just a fabulous writer that day. It lost a great guy who liked to fish and sing Elvis songs. I heard him sing Elivis once. But once again, I’ll save some of that story for next year. Because as awesome as it is to be online for 19 years, 20 is the milestone we’re going to celebrate like crazy. See you then. Thanks for sticking around. Jason Denzel (aka the skinny, beardless kid with hair in that photo)
This edition of “Fantasy Review” may be a bit unorthodox. I wanted to cover Renewal, the new anthology released by Queer Sci-Fi and Mischief Corner Books. The two team up once a year to host a flash fiction contest (300 words or less). Of all the submissions, only 110 were selected for publication. And of those chosen, three placement awards were given out, a judge’s choice for each of the five judges, and twenty-five honorable mentions. Since discussing all 110 entries would be nearly impossible, I narrowed my focus to the winners and judge’s choice recipients. A brief synopsis: First Place Winner “Mating Season” by Steve Fuson A tale of resignation and then realization. A young female repulsed by the opposite sex is given a son, and through this bond sees how precious a treasure a child is. Second Place Winner “In a Bind” by SR Jones Out in space, solutions get creative. A human pilot creates an unorthodox playpen for a bunch of alien eggs. Third Place Winner “Urban Renewal” by Siri Paulson Changing things, for better or worse. Sikander's home is scheduled for a renewal. Unbeknown to him, it's also a renewal of his life. Judge’s Choice Recipients: “Bluebonnets” by Emily Horner A futuristic Johnny Appleseed. In a post-apocalyptic world, a woman seeks the blue wildflowers her girlfriend always spoke of. Though love may be lost, the seeds planted along the way still bloom. “ARC” by ER Zhang The line at the DMV is always long. In the distant future, an alien shapeshifter needs to renew its visa. Unfortunately, to do so it needs a new ARC card. After hours of waiting and dozens of papers, revealing its true form may be its salvation. “The Wrong Daughter” by Robyn Walker The black sheep of the family. In a world where the "bad" children are left in the borderlands, Mary's daughter Annabelle is just shy of that point. But when Annabelle comes carrying tales about her sister, Alice, Mary wonders who the bad one really is. “Love Rituals” by Elsa M León A lovesick witch seeks a demon. After unsuccessfully trying to summon a demon with a spell, a witch's crocodile familiar pokes fun at its mistress's unlikely crush. “The Dust” by A.M. Soto The Earth is dry. Meg’s childhood memory of snow and rain are awoken when she spots a cloud in the sky. My take: Of these eight stories, I enjoyed “The Wrong Daughter” the most. Featured in the anthology’s science fiction section, I’d compare it to a horror tale as well. It’s got just a bit of that hair-tingling terror that made me wish the story was longer. The character development of Annabelle is expertly done in the allotted length. For suburb settings, “Love Rituals” was amazing. The witch and her crocodile familiar live in the bayou, and the crocodile’s words elicit that soft, southern dialect to echo in your head. The familiar itself is quite a hook; I’d be fascinated to read more fantasy stories set in such locations. “Bluebonnets,” while post-apocalyptic, was still a beautiful romance. It spoke of hope even though the world was falling apart around her, and lasting emotions despite the fact the love had diminished. And “ARC” was familiar in its anecdote (the common runaround seen at the DMV), but still so great to see from an alien’s perspective. A nice comical break and another story I wanted to read more of. The anthology is an amazing collection of works, ranging from sci-fi and fantasy to paranormal and horror. There’s something in here for everyone, and since it takes only a minute to read each story, you’ll keep going and going. On a side note, my own addition, “Springtime Fae,” was awarded an honorable mention! The Renewal anthology is available now in print and eBook formats.
Earlier this year, the classic anime Sailor Moon had a theatrical rerelease of the first film Sailor Moon R: The Promise of a Rose. Sailor Moon was my favorite anime when I was growing up, and I would wake up at 5:30am on weekdays to catch the episodes playing on the WB before school. When I found out the movie was going to be shown on the big screen, I knew I had to see it with my friend Jessica. And I never like to go to these sorts of events empty handed. I looked high and low for my original Moon Rod, but I seem to have lost it at some point over the years. That left making one. I will preface this with the admission that I was rushed on this project and only used items on hand—I couldn’t justify spending extra money on making a Sailor Moon themed wand. Sometimes being an adult sucks. So, with that said, this was not my best work. I wish I had a few more days and a few more dollars. But, it still turned out good enough to tag along to the show. For materials I used aluminum foil, a metal rod for holding down tents, clay, and paint. First, I wrapped aluminum foil around the metal rod to make the handle. After that, I crafted a crescent moon for the top, and a ball for the Silver Imperium Crystal. I attached them all together. Then I covered the handle with pink clay. I used yellow for the crescent until I ran out and then had to add white. I covered the ball with white. I cooked the whole thing according to the directions. Once it cooled (I did all this in one afternoon, the day before the show), I painted each section. I went over the handle with a glossy pink, the yellow to cover up the white spots on the crescent, and the crystal a metallic silver with black lines to symbolize it’s many sides. For finishing touches, I hot glued the band around the bottom of the crescent and the handle. I painted them white. My Sailor Moon cosplay outfit completed the look. Another moviegoer was in a Sailor Moon inspired kimono and looked gorgeous! If they rerelease anymore, I’ll have to make a Princess Serenity outfit. Or I can make that just because. Thanks for reading! Next time, I want to show you a super cute Haku plushie I made for the Studio Ghibli Fest—October’s featured film will be Spirited Away!