The Dispatch Hunters mini-campaign is a small ttrpg set in the world of the Wilting Blood series. The game uses an early version of a game system created by me and works using a point-buy system to create the stats. Level is an important attribute as well since it directly affects how potent a player’s Magic is.
The purpose of this series is to one, try and give the listeners a peek into the Novel’s setting of Fallende, and two, to allow the game system to be further tested and refined. The story is set in the southernmost Canton of Fallende, Purpleshine, and follows the exploits of the Blut Hunters Midas, and Mikon, as they attempt to deal with the rising threat of a bandit group, Known as the Amythest serpent. With Purpleshine already suffering greatly from the Blut Wars, the Amythest serpent could be the nail in the coffin that sends the Canton into a death spiral.
So far the campaign has been exceeding my expectations and aside from a few audio issues in the first episode (which have been corrected in the second I can confirm) the recording has been going great as well.
The show is currently available on the following platforms:
Shadowblac is the second book of the Spellslinger series and is a direct sequel to the first book, which is also named Spellslinger. I think that Shadowblck is a good sequel. It expands upon the world of the series and offers the reader a look into the lives and cultures of those who aren’t Jan’tep. It also established the immense Xenophobia of the Jan’tep as something so warped that it would even give the Fallendeans from my Wilting blood series a run for their money. The Jan’tep have no qualms about killing anyone who isn’t one of their own, and it further elaborates on the first book’s point that Kellen’s home culture is repugnant and needs to either be eradicated or rebuilt from the ground up.
The story plays around with the idea of love interests for a bit, which is a very common thing in YA, and also not a trope I’ve ever felt a strong connection to. But I do have fictional romances that I like and this book was starting to build one.
Another plus of the book is its elaboration on the mysterious Argosi and their strange culture. We meet the way of Thorns and Roses in this book and learn that one of the main characters, and Kellen’s mentor Ferius, is also called the Path of the Wild Daisy. The paths are explained as personal philosophies and identities that the Argosi take up while they hunt the world for historic events to paint.
My only real complaint about the story was the speed at which things happen and the sudden introduction and conclusions of certain plotpoints.
Spellslinger is an excellent young adult novel that does a great job in building its setting. The story follows a boy named Kellen who is a member of a tribe of people called the Jah’tep, who are a group of mages. Their culture values magic so highly that they enslave the members of their clan that can’t perform it. Kellen is dangerously close to becoming one such slave as he is almost 16 and has yet to activate one of the magical tattoos that line his forearms. Kellen’s sister on the other hand is a prodigy so powerful that she can already contend with the clan’s lords at only 13 and is expected to only grow stronger with age.
Without magic, Kellen has to rely on tricks and the advice of a wandering woman named Ferius to get him through the trials and tribulations of his repugnant culture. After making another unlikely ally in Reichis, who is a breed of intelligent squirrel/bobcat, and sparking his first band (breath). Kellen is revealed to have a horrible demonic curse known as the shadowblack. With this information in toe the three protagonists have to foil a plot to kill Kellen’s sister by a rival house and from there, decide what their fates will be.
The story is a pretty quick read but it makes you desperately hope for Kellen to succeed early on by establishing his bullies. Bullies are not an uncommon trope in YA but this book takes it to another level. Kellen is beat to a pulp constantly and is only saved by the high position of his father Ke’heops. His father is a story on its own. The man is completely loyal to the bizarre rituals and traditions of the isolationist mage culture and although he is shown to have some care for his son, he would gladly sacrifice his first child in the name of his daughter’s success. Kellen’s mother is better than his father but is also warped by the culture and would still consign her son to slavery, but would see him their house slave as opposed to a laborer. His sister is the only family member that legitimately loves him and is willing to use her overwhelming power to fight on his behalf but is still too young and naive to realize it won’t work.
Stephen King is one of the world’s most popular authors. He has lived an interesting life and has filled that life with writing since his very early years. On Writing is one of King’s many publications and differs from his others in a very notable way, it is not a novel but a memoir about his journey with writing and also his explanations and tips to aspiring writers. Whether you love or hate King, his influence and success cannot be denied and giving this book a read is a must for any aspiring author (especially if you are working in similar genres to King as who could give better information on the horror novel industry than its king, King).
The book talks about King’s life history and ties it in with his writing and writing advice. One of my favorite parts of the book was when King was describing his first experiences with writing. He was a sickly kid and as a result of that, he read a lot. Eventually, he started to rewrite the comics he was reading for some reason and when he told his mother she told him that he could do better than that and he began to try and write his own stories. King goes on to describe the first story he wrote (a children’s tale about magical animals) and later gets into his actual attempts at writing. He wrote and submitted a lot of stories to magazines and publicists. The future professional author racked up quite a collection of rejection letters, and in a detail I quite enjoyed is that he would stick the slips on an old nail until he ran out of room and had to get a bigger nail to put the slips on.
King has lived an incredibly interesting life and his rags to riches story can be seen as an inspiration to writers everywhere. The man has been hit by a car and struggled with drug addiction yet he’s still here and still writing. His actual writing tips are interesting as well.
One such tip is to not touch your first draft for six weeks after writing it and to also give the draft to another person to read during this time and to tell the reader not to tell you their opinion until they are ready. I find this tip to be very interesting and can see the reasoning behind it. I, personally, haven’t done this yet but will consider it the next time I finish a novel.
King also states that you should only take a short time off from writing in the general sense and should return to it during your six-week break but only for short stories or novellas that are unrelated to your main project. I think that this is a very telling piece of advice and helps explain the efficiency of King and the number of works he has been able to produce.
His advice regarding the second draft is pretty standard. It tells the reader to polish up the basics of the writing like grammar and spelling when needed and to also try and focus on the big picture ideal of the story and whether or not the story has a greater theme in it or not. After this, he essentially tells the aspiring writer to seek out a group of Beta Readers (which is easier said than done).
Overall I believe that the book was a very interesting read and gave a wonderful insight into the mind of Stephen King. The tips were interesting and the story of King’s life added a lot of flavor to the book and made it a good read as opposed to something dry and clinical.
The Brothers war is a novel set in the universe of the Magic the Gathering franchise, and more specifically on the plane of Dominaria. This book is the first MTG novel and is also the first jump into what we would know now as the story and lore of the game.
The story follows the lives of the brothers Urza and Mishra, who are not twins but were born on the first and last day of the year respectively. The twin’s father remarries after the death of his wife and is convinced by his new spouse to send the children off to an archaeological dig site, where they can be watched by an old friend of his. The boys thrive on the site, with both developing a love for the artifacts and machines that they are helping to unearth from the ancient Thran civilization.
Despite being brothers Urza and Mishra do not get along and the discovery of a special power stone (think battery but for magic) leads the two to fight over the discovery and ends with the stone breaking into separate pieces. Each brother gets a half and their relationship deteriorates completely.
One night Mishra gets drunk and attempts to steal Urza’s stone, but in the scuffle, the brothers accidentally kill their guardian and end up going their separate ways. Years later they meet once again and peace seems possible between the two men but fate will not allow it and their feud drags their whole continent into a massive war.
Behind the scenes, a dark creature called Gix tempts Mishra with power. Gix is a Phyrexian, a beastly creature made of flesh and metal that was once human but was subjected to ( or volunteered) to be warped into a “better” version of itself.
The book and the old lore of Magic in the general sense are very good. There is something rougher about it that lacks from the current storylines and you can feel that there was some love and care put into writing in unlike the horrific War of the Spark Novel that was released a few years back. I honestly hope that Magic looks to its past for tips on how to improve future stories.
All Tomorrows is a book about the speculative evolution of humanity by C. M. Kosemen. Speculative evolution for those who don’t know is a branch of fiction that deals with possible ways that a species could evolve in a hypothetical situation.
The book starts with humanity conquering Mars, the Martians wanting independence from Earth, and a subsequent war between the two. When the space dust settles both sides agree to never do that again and genetically engineer the human race into the Star People so that they can conqueror the galaxy. They have a great run of it and conqueror whole star systems until one day they find an odd fossil on a distant planet. In a world of copper-boned aliens, this creature had bones like ours. After examining it the Star People find it was from earth and realize that only other intelligent life could move it from one planet to another.
That life is the Qu, a race of dragonfly-like aliens that are over a billion years old and believe that all life is not only inferior to them but is also theirs to do with as they wish. They take humanity and turn us into all sorts of warped creatures.
Some humans are turned into elephant-like beasts with muscular lower lips that can be used as limbs, others are turned into pets of the Qu and are given lowered intelligence and a paradise planet. One unlucky group of humans resist the Qu and repel them twice, and as punishment, they are turned into the planet-wide living flesh carpet known as the colonials, which are made to process Qu waste and have their full sapience so they can comprehend what they have become.
The book introduces a horrifying possibility of first contact, one that is worse than the aliens simply killing us, and also shows the reader a full menagerie of gleefully warped post-humans. It is an incredible work of fiction within both the Body Horror and Speculative Evolution genres. A highlight of the book is when the post-humans evolve into intelligent beings again and recreate the galactic empire, only to be destroyed by another human offshoot called the Gravitals who have merged themselves with machines and believe themselves to be the true heirs of humanity.
The book encapsulates a beautiful feeling of victory every time you hear about one of the post-humans regaining their intelligence and keeps a sense of dread throughout the whole thing, as the reader knows that the Qu could return and start the whole process over again. The book’s timeline spans millions of years and thanks to the open-ended nature of the civilizations that it has discussed the book’s robust community can fill out the blanks themselves and has created tons of art and videos based on the story.
Despite the horrifying premise, the book ends on a positive note and tells the reader that despite the fate of humanity its end doesn’t matter because the true value of human life is found in its day-to-day activities and that people should embrace all tomorrows.
I have a story before I actually get into the book. I had to read this book for class, so reading it wasn’t a pleasure read like most of the other material on this blog will be, not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but instead of getting the book through the college, I wanted to get my own copy since I was aware of the impact and history of the book. I went to all the local stores and found nothing so I ended up spending the whole weekend listening to a ten-hour audiobook of the story.
I’m pretty sure that everyone and their mother has heard of this book and the movie that was based on it, both of them have had huge impacts on their respective markets and popuralized the idea of demonic possessions in the mainstream. Honestly, the book was one of the most disturbing and visceral pieces of media that I have ever consumed, not that this bothers me. I am no stranger to blood and gore within my own writing, Urban Monarchs has its fair share of blue splatters of blood, and Wilting Blood has the word in its damn name, but this book takes it a step farther. I really don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into specifics but some of the scenes in this book mix several elements into its horror that are disturbing enough on their own, like religion and sex.
The book likes to be as ambiguous as it can with how it depicts its possession, and uses a lot of real world examples and cases to back itself up as well as showing how well researched the author was when he was writing it. He accurately describes and show the stages of a demonic haunting (infestesation- oppression- possession as far as I am aware) which I found very interesting as someone who is interested in the paranormal. He also showed off his knowledge of demonology with his picking of the demon Pazuzu as the presumed antagonist, instead of your stock basic Baphomets, and Beelzebubs. The book is littered with hints and has excellent characterization for all of its characters, making them each interesting in their own right, and easily melding their subplots into the main story of the book.
My favorite aspect of the book has to be how it keeps you guessing about the nature of what is truly going on with the character of Reagan while also realistically depicting the decay and insanity that such a condition would cause a household should its only child turn so violently ill. The mental rot and themes of mental illness are sewn beautifully into the guts of the story.
So I’ve spent the better part of a month reading through the first entry in the Powder Mage Trilogy, A Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan. The story follows the perspectives of several different characters during the aftermath of a coup, the execution of a king, and the start of away. All this while ancient wizards try to summon God back into this reality.
Before I get into the actual review I want to throw some details about the story setting in, because it has many unique ideas, and also reuses many old ones and explaining the story and what I thought about it would be impossible without this context. So the main concept that needs to be dived into is the magic. Magic in this world manifests in three distinct ways, The Privileged, who are your run-of-the-mill wizards, and use runed gloves to conduct the ambient magic of the world. The Powder Mages who can manipulate gunpowder, and imbibe it to get stronger, essentially it’s like magic cocaine for them. Lastly is the Knaced, who are just barely magical, but their magic manifests as a single talent that they are incredibly good at ( you remember everything, you don’t sleep, etc). My personal favorite is the Knacked because they are relatively common and the random talents they provide are more useful than you’d think. Also as an author myself, I can really appreciate a mechanic like that in a setting due to the interesting ways it can be used and twisted to fit the needs of the story, or just the flavor of the world.
Now into the story itself and my thoughts on it. This is the first book in a series and as such it will inevitably raise as many questions as it answers, and will have unresolved plot threads, so I have zero complaints in terms of such things. This also applies to what was left mysterious on purpose, with one example coming to mind, and that being the other name for the Powder Mages, which is Marked. From how this is talked about in the book, the characters obviously understand what it means, but it is never explained to the reader (unless I missed something). This is interesting because it raises a lot of questions that will hopefully be resolved in later books, and the name “Marked” also implies that there is somebody doing the marking. The actual plot can be divided into three different subplots that link together in the end, with two of them being more linked than the other.
The first, and my favorite plot, revolves around the character of Adamat, an aging investigator, and the ways that he has been dragged into danger by the nature of his work and because of the volatile times he’s found himself living through. Adamant’s an excellent character and one that adds to the setting of the city of Adopest better than any other main character in the book. Next, if Field Marshal Tamas, an old Powder Mage who leads the rebellion against the king, hires Adamat, and dances around the political dumpster fire that his country has devolved into. Tamas is another interesting character due to his rank and experience, and the way treats those around him. Lastly is Tamas’s son, Taniel, who is a famed sniper and is only in his early twenties but has already seen the horrors of war and has to come to terms with how warped will he let the world make him.
Overall I enjoyed the book but reading it took longer than it normally does for me. There are a few reasons for this with one of them being that I have only recently finished the entire Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks and had also recently finished the first draft of my upcoming novel Wilting Blood: Red Revival. This left me incredibly drained by the time I acquired the Powder Mage Trilogy and I still had to process the entirety of Lightbringer and my thoughts on it. The other reason is that this is a first book, and as someone who just last year published their first book, I can with experience that they can be a little rough. Now isn’t to compare the 500+ pages of Promise of Blood to the comparatively flimsy 224 of Urban Monarchs. The two books are very different (though both include magic and guns of some kind which just occurred to me now), but I do think that they suffer from the same issues. Those issues being the ever difficult process of getting from one point to another, and the dread of many fiction writers, setting introduction. Introducing a setting, with nothing but a back cover to back you up, is mind numbingly hard and has to be done incredibly carefully. Concepts tend to fly in fast and characters faster, the cast of this book is immense and the characters sometimes only fleeting. The good news is that these are common problems and the boom succeeds in telling an exciting and interesting story despite them. Issues like these are easy to fix with a second book, as you’ve gained a lot of experience from the first, and even easier to fix if you are writing a direct sequel like the next book, The Crimson Campaign.