Opinion & Featured Articles

Just Delivered: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms George R.R. Martin

Alright, this is not a review because I am yet to read the book.

If you are into Game of Thrones, this is something you should not skip (just making an educated guess). The book is a prequel to The Songs of Ice and Fire series and is a collection of the following three novellas:

1) The Hedge Knight
2) The Sworn Sword
3) The Mystery Knight

Just the thought that the Targaryens still hold the Iron Throne gives me goosebumps.

The illustrations by Gary Gianni are top notch.

Just got this book from Amazon, and this post is basically a shameless show-off of my excitement 🙂

If you have already read the book, do share your thoughts on it.

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Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book review: Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer

brood of the witch queen sax rohmer

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Brood of the Witch Queen is one of the creepiest and scariest books of Sax Rohmer — the creator of the fiendish Fu Manchu and Sumuru. Originally serialized in a British Magazine, this intriguing Egyptian tale of ancient curse and black magic takes you from London to Cairo involving a great adventure.

The Story

Set in London in the early 1900s, this is a tale of ancient sorcery with vampires and crawly bugs. Dr. Richard and Robert Cairn fights against diabolical powers and a dark figure called Anthony Ferarra. And the odds turn terrible when Ferarra’s ancient ancestor — a Polish/Jewish witch that placed a curse on her husband’s family — casts her evil shadow.

The Style

Rohmer’s novel reflects his passion for dramatic prose and abrupt ending. Also, the characterization seems a bit wooden. Nonetheless, Brood of the Witch Queen holds a lot of value in terms of pulp entertainment. This fast moving novel is full of adventure and creepy scenes. The plot, though predictable, will not disappoint you. Though the book is about a century old, it does not seem much dated.

Not a perfect story, pretty much over the top, but Brood of the Witch Queen is pure escapist fun.

Similar Books:

Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley

Rating ***

Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer ebook Download

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19706

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Opinion & Featured Articles

Top 5 Fantasy Worlds to Visit

 

fantasy

Note: Back again from a disturbed slumber. Hope you are still there.
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You always wanted to be there. You always dreamed of being there. You’d leave all you’ve got just to be there, once and for all.

If you were offered a one way trip to the spectacular, fantastic places you discovered in the books, where would you go? Would you be a wizard, a warrior, an Emperor or a damsel in distress?

Here are a few options in no particular order:

cimmeria

Conan’s Cimmeria

“It was so long ago and far away …
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.”

Robert E. Howard:

For an eternal savage longing to wield his sword, the sinister continent of Cimmeria is the place to be. Thanks to Tolkien and his faithful sidekicks, 20th century had had its share of fruity elves and Rivendellesque places. If you are a peerless warrior or a real badass, you want to wake up in the frozen wastes of war-like Cimmeria.

westeros

Westeros

You can hate it or may love it but the blood soaked, treacherous land of Westeros cannot be kept out of the equation. Accusations are GRR Martin just re-imagined Britain roughly around the time of the War of the Roses. He simply studied a period of history and ripped it off. Well, he did it damn good. Westeros is certainly more alive and believable than a lot others of its kind. If you are a strategic statesman born in the wrong age, plan a time travel to Westeros for a game of thrones. You win or you die.

barsoom

Barsoom

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom could be in the list simply because of the number of rip offs it inspired. Right from Lin Carter to Michael Moorcock, Barsoom has inspired a generation of writers as deeply as it has affected the imagination of the readers. The ridiculously unbelievable yet immensely entertaining and evocative world building is just irresistible. So what if I am worthless in this world? My future lies in a world away.

narnia

Narnia

Lewis’ Narnia is widely considered by critics as one of the most consistent and internally sound example of world building. It does seem to have its own philosophy and preaching, but Lewis somehow makes it easy for the readers to escape to Narnia with a kind of homely magic that we do not commonly find in the Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter. And of course, the landscape of Narnia comforts you with an optimism that is rare in the real world. Let the peaceful among us find shelter in Lewis’ magical realm.

lord of the rings

Middle-earth

Let them say you walked with the giants and dwelt in the Middle-earth. Tolkien’s Middle-earth has stood the onslaught of a number accusations including but not limited to being cold, barren and boring, and written in wooden language. Nonetheless, it has transcended over others to become a piece of art. The rich and detailed world building is simply awe inspiring. Anyone who doesn’t like it is clearly an Orc.

So what’s your favorite fictional world? And what role would you like to play there?
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Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book Review: Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

: Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock
Michael Moorcock is a self-professed Tolkien separatist. In his essay Epic Pooh, he accuses The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other works of glorifying war, preaching “cowardly self-protection,” avoiding the subject of death, and forcing a happy ending upon the reader (as summed up by Wikipedia).

“I met Tolkien on his home ground in Oxford. I really don’t have much to say, except I was a little embarrassed, having written to Tolkien to tell him I was collecting all his books and then discovering I didn’t like them very much.”

Also, he proudly confessed “I think of myself as a bad writer with big ideas, but I’d rather be that than a big writer with bad ideas”

In this light, it became a desperate necessity for me to read Elric of Melnibone (the first book in Moorcock’s epic fantasy series) and check out what exactly was he trying to prove.

In my humble opinion, Moorcock has been true to his word. He is indeed “… a bad writer with big ideas…”

The story

Elric is an albino emperor of a race of dragon lords. Even with his sorceries, he seems a weakling and his cousin Yyrkoon attempts to usurp power from him. The attempt fails and the villain is imprisoned, but he escapes from prison and flees to a distant land and abducts Elric’s beloved — Cymoril. To reach him and rescue his love, Elric needs to seek help from the manipulative chaos lords, use sorceries, travel to the netherworld and most importantly, requires a ship that can travel over land and sea. What happens next?

What’s good

The underdeveloped yet innovative concepts: A mirror that can steal memories, a ship that can travel over land and sea, and swords that can exert their own will deserve mention. The gods, including the chaos lord, are intriguing.

The story is descent enough and it is certainly not a LoTR clone. It could have reached epic proportions in more mature hands. Elric of Melnibone is a fairly fast and action packed tale. The author has enough sense to wrap up the story in 200 pages.

What’s not so good

The writing is juvenile at best. The dialogues are a joke. The characters are one dimensional and underdeveloped. The world building is highly flawed. The plot lacks depth.

The protagonist is weak (that was deliberate though) and unlikable. The villain seems weaker and not up to the job. The female lead is rather boring.

Too simplistic to be iconic

Perhaps it is. Compared to G.RR Matrin and Tolkien, Elric seems to be Kindergarten stuff. However, the first book isn’t the entire series. I am going to read the next books in the series and also The History of the Runestaff. It is widely regarded that Moorcock’s later writings have more subtlety, better prose and improved insights. It is undeniable that he influenced a generation of writers and that must be for a reason.

To sum up, Elric, unlike The Hobbit or LoTR, is not a work of art. Tolkiens’s philological scholarship, his deep knowledge of mythology, and his world-building skills are virtually non-existent in Moorcock’s saga and it doesn’t look like the later books would match up to Tolkien’s high standards. However, a reader of the genre cannot afford to miss the Elric series simply because of its cult status and atypical approach. It least Moorcock dared to step out of Tolkien’s long shadow and that in itself is an achievement.

: Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

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Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book Review: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Harry potter book review

Belated happy new year to my blogger friends! Finally managed to sneak out again from the miserable real world to the blogosphere. It had been a great year and hope you had a great one too. For me, the year moved at a break neck speed and The Book Haven was left stranded while its captain was a stranger in a strange land.

The major bookish achievement this year was to finish the Harry Potter Series (yeah, the movies too). Alright, it’s not retro and doesn’t belong to this blog. Also, I admit I was hopelessly prejudiced against the Potter boy and Rowling before taking up Philosopher’s Stone reluctantly. It was one of my friends who argued that it was a rubbish attitude to make fun of something without reading it. I couldn’t answer and decided to make a point by reading the book.

So I finished reading the first book. And had to eat my own words.

Blimey! Why on earth I kept pushing it away for so long? The Philosopher’s Stone was as original as Tolkien’s LoTR. Of course, it lacked the depth of a classic and was not a work of art created by a professor of Anglo-Saxon, but there’s no denying that it was way ahead of most books in the genre.

Movie: 3.5 / 5 (pretty descent stuff)

Chamber of Secrets is possibly the best book in the series in terms of plot. Basilisk and Tom Riddle’s diary were freaking awesome. And who could forget the flying car over Muggle London? God, the series was getting better and better.

Movie: 4/ 5 (Quite quite good)

The Prisoner of Azkaban felt like a letdown though. Sirius Black and Lupin were great characters; the dementors were creepy, but overall the plot seemed weak.

Movie: 2.5/ 5 (Meh! Cool special effects though)

With The Goblet of Fire, Rowling was back in form. The Triwizard tournament was outright genius. I believe, it was from this novel that the series started to take a dark turn. The book had a really eerie beginning and introduced Nagini, Voldemort’s infernal pet.

Movie: 3/ 5 (Not bad)

The Order of the Phoenix had some outstanding moments. Battle of the Ministry is perhaps the best thing about it. Bellatrix murdered Sirius Black – dang, that was a shock (thought he and James were both better than Bellatrix).

I believe it is virtually impossible to invent a character more annoying that Dolores Umbridge. Cool job by Rowling! However, the plot seemed loose and without purpose. Rowling seemed to describe the daily life at Hogwarts without any intention of going further and things fell in line again only towards the end.

Movie: 3/ 5 (Nothing very special here)

Sectumsempra! Aren’t you bleeding yet from the curse invented by the Half-blood price? Fantastic plot, great speed, dark magic, perilous missions, shocking betrayals, and tragic end. Wow!  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince deserves to be one of your favourite novels in the series. If not for anything else, you can remember it simply because of the ghastly concept of Horcrux.

Movie: 3.5/ 5 (Lives up to the expectations)

The epic conclusion. The Deathly Hollows is my favourite book in the series. This one is truly tragic in tone from the beginning till the end. Incredible action, unforeseen twists, meticulously crafted characters and dialogues make the concluding episode an unforgettable journey. The battle of Hogwarts is nothing short of epic. What a finish. Avada Kedavra!

Movie – The Deathly Hollows Part I: 4/ 5 (Great job)

Movie – The Deathly Hollows Part 2: 4.5/ 5 (Best in the series)

I would rate Harry Potter series at par with Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. It’s not The Lord of the Rings or The Game of Thrones but then it doesn’t need to be. Harry Potter is best the way it is.

The movies could have been better. They were cartoonish to begin with and gradually improved but none of them were like The Two Towers. What a pity!

What do you think of the Harry Potter series?
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Cover of the Week

Vintage Cover Art: Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne

Vintage Cover Art: Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne

Many scholars translated the works of Jules Verne into English, but the single most prolific effort came from I.O. Evans. His translations, known as Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne, comprised of sixty eight volumes and were highly successful commercially. It can be argued that modern annotated translations of Verne are more scholarly, but the Herculean effort of Evans is truly admirable.

Fitzroy Editions published by Ace had some great cover art. Here are a few samples:

Vintage Cover Art: Fitzroy Edition of Jules VerneVintage Cover Art: Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne

Vintage Cover Art: Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne

Vintage Cover Art: Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne

Vintage Cover Art: Fitzroy Edition of Jules VerneVintage Cover Art: Fitzroy Edition of Jules Verne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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