Background image courtesy of Suju.

Happy belated Valentine’s Day! How did everyone celebrate? Do you go all out with dinner, flowers, and chocolates or just sit at home and blow it off? I know, it’s not for everyone. I’ve never been much of a Valentine’s Day fan, myself, thinking all those school exchanges silly and meaningless. Although when we were younger our mom would make Valentine’s cards for my brothers and I, which were always cute and fun ─ but the best part was without a doubt the chocolate involved. In past years the teens from our church would host a party for the couples, having things like a dessert contest and playing The Newlywed Game. That was always a riot!

Recently I was thinking about some of the couples that I’ve written in my own stories, and that got me thinking about some of the other couples I’ve come across in my reading. So here I want to share with you four of my top favorites (because otherwise we might be here awhile). The best romances, in my (*ahem* humble, of course) opinion, are the ones that aren’t advertised. The ones that are more subplots and subtle over the course of the story, with their good moments and their bad as the characters deal with the world and their circumstances in it.

Which means there probably won’t be any Danielle Steele or Mary Higgins Clark in my future. Just sayin’.

That aside, I will confess that sometimes I do like a little bit of love ─ if it’s done well. After all, humans are creatures designed and made for relationships, and a lonely soul is not an happy or healthy one. The bonds of good old fashioned brotherhood and familial ties usually gets high marks from me, but since it’s Valentie’s Day I’m going to focus today on couples.


Howl and Sophie

Whether you’re a fan of the book or movie, Howl’s Moving Castle has one of the more interesting love stories I’ve come across. I love both the mediums, the book and the movie (I can hear you gasping in shock, by the way), and while the storylines are quite different, both of them are great fun, magical, and heartwarming.

Howl and Sophie first meet on a May Day celebration, but neither knew who the other was, and by the next time they meet, Sophie has been turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. She flees from home and takes refuge in the unlikeliest of places: Howl’s castle, where she meets and makes a deal with the fire demon Calcifer.

At first they don’t really like each other. Sophie has preconceptions of Howl as an awful wizard who eats young girls, finding him immaturish, selfish, and whimsical. Howl doesn’t seem to like Sophie because she’s klutzy and keeps messing things up. They argue and fight quite a bit, but as the adventure unfolds and the more time Sophie spends around him, she comes to realize he’s not so bad after all.

Sophie did not care to think how Howl might react if Fanny woke him by stabbing him with her parasol. “No, no!” she said. “Howl has been very kind to me.” And this was true, Sophie realized. Howl showed his kindness rather strangely, but, considering all Sophie had done to annoy him, he had been very good to her indeed.

Howl’s Moving Castle

By the end we realize that Howl has been working on breaking the spell on Sophie, all the while Sophie has been working with Calcifer to break the spell that was on the demon and Howl. The life Sophie had wanted, one that ‘had a bit more interest than simply trimming hats’, had found her, made her more courageous, and made her an even match for the wacky wizard. Her ‘old age’ gave her some perspective, where she wouldn’t take any of Howl’s nonsense, and when such forces collide sparks are bound to fly. But instead of the usual gushy declarations of love that come out of realized feelings, it happened more like:

“I think we ought to live happily ever after . . . it should be hair-raising,” added Howl.

“And you’ll exploit me,” Sophie said.

“And then you’ll cut up all my suits to teach me,” said Howl.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Now doesn’t that make your heart just go pitter-pat? Or laugh. It made me chuckle.


Hurin and Morwen

I just recently learned of these two in the book The Children of Húrin by J. R. R. Tolkein and his son, Christopher Tolkein. (This story also introduced me to another favorite archer to add to my list, Beleg Strongbow).

Húrin and Morwen (also called Eledhwen) are the parents of Túrin and Niënor, of which the story is largely about, but I was struck by this husband and wife, for the love and trust they shared was strong and lasted through decades of Húrin’s captivity at the hands of Morgoth.

 ‘But I say: Do not wait! I shall return to you as I may, but do not wait! Go south as swiftly as you can  ─ if I live I shall follow, and I shall find you, though I have to search through all of Beleriand.’

─ Húrin, The Children of Húrin

Húrin is a bright and enthusiastic man, both fierce and fearless, and yet compassionate. Morwen is more dour and stern, for the people of her birth and childhood ─ the  House of Bëor ─ had fallen and she bore always that sorrow. She is a proud woman, but also courageous, and in her Húrin confides his thoughts, hopes, confidences, and misgivings. And even though he told her to run were the battle to go awry, her love for him and the desperate hope she carried that he would return overcomes the cool shell of her demeanor.

And her heart still cheated her with hope unadmitted; her inmost thought foreboded that Húrin was not dead, and she listened for his footfall in the sleepless watches of the night, or would wake thinking that she had heard in the courtyard the neigh of Arroch his horse.

─ Of Morwen, The Children of Húrin

Such devotion to one another paints a beautiful picture of what I’ve always believed marriage should look like, and even after so many long and hard years of separation and tribulation they are not strangers when again they meet. I’ll not lie to you, it brought the water to my eyes.

 ‘Eledhwen! Eledhwen!’ Húrin cried; and she rose and stumbled forward, and he caught her in his arms.

‘You come at last,’ she said. “I have waited too long.’

‘It was a dark road. I have come as I could,’ he answered.

The Children of Húrin


Sergil and Lyla

Since this is a list of my personal favorites, I have to add Sergil and Lyla from my own books. While there are many couples to chose from (Tym’Othy and Bertha, Jonquil and Iris, and Kurou and Lan Fen just to name a few), but when I think about it, the relationship between Sergil and Lyla is my absolute favorite, and perhaps because of its subtlety. It’s never mentioned in narrative that they love each other, and not once throughout the story do either of them say “I love you”, but I believe the message is clearly stated through their actions.

Not much is revealed about their history together, only that they’ve known each other for a long time, since it was to Lyla that Sergil went after he found the infant Jonquil and deserted the army. Their friendship has lasted long and through some hard times, but the situation of their lives ─ Sergil’s in particular ─ never really allowed for it to become much more than that.

  “All right then!” Aunt Lyla clapped her hands together happily, but then her face fell. “I suppose you’re all about ready to leave?”

“We are,” Sergil answered.

“All right. Well, I’ve got a few things that I hope will help you on the way.” Out of her apron pocket she pulled a pair of well worn, brown leather gloves. “You left these here a while ago,” she said to Sergil, her cheeks turning pink.

There was a meaningful look passed between the two of them, and Sergil accepted the gloves with a slight, satisfied smile. “Thank you, Lyla.”

A Journey Begins

In days of olde, the throwing down of a gauntlet (or slapping across the face with one) was the issuing of a challenge. Someday I would love to expand on the histories of these characters, but that may be a long time coming, so I’m sharing this ‘backstage’ insight with you all now so you can share in the awesomeness. Not many of you may know this, but Lyla wasn’t always the sweet and peaceable lady she is today. Once upon a time she was a fiery maiden, a no-nonsense country girl that Sergil fell in love with on sight. He was enlisted at the time and traveling, but they met here and again over the years, getting to know each other bit by bit. Then one day decades later he challenged her to marry him, throwing down his gloves. It took a while, but she accepted his challenge, expressed by the returning of his gloves.

Unfortunately, fate and destiny got in the way and it was a long time before they saw each other again ─ and for the last time, too. SPOILERS for all of you who haven’t read the saga yet, but the once upon a time of Sergil and Lyla doesn’t get an happily ever after. That may be another reason why it is my favorite, it’s a tragic story, but perhaps beautiful all the more because of it.


Eugenides and Attolia

Here’s another complicated pair for you. Eugenides, often called Gen, is the royal thief of the kingdom of Eddis. Attolia, birth name Irene, is the queen of the kingdom of Attolia. (Note: the rulers of their respective countries bear the names of their countries ─ the queen of Attolia is referred to as Attolia, the queen of Eddis is known as Eddis, and the king of Sounis is called Sounis ─ the first time I read The Thief I was confused, so now you know so you won’t be confused).

Attolia is a strong ruler; stern, harsh, and merciless. Eugenides is a thief; snarky, clever, and sneaky. How could two such contrasting personalities ever fall in love? Childhood crushes, political unrest, and the inner workings of the human heart.

Eugenides first fell in love with Attolia as a boy when he saw her dancing in the palace garden from his hiding place in an orange tree, but years passed and life happened. Attolia became the ruler of her country, and in order to maintain her control of the throne from the barons she had to become stone cold and brutal. That also applied to her treatment of Eugenides every time she caught him infiltrating her palace (which he did often, but only got caught a few times). Every time she sent him home, he went seriously injured and sick. One time she cut off his hand.

That would make most people shy off, wouldn’t it? But no. Eugenides certainly does bear some fear of the queen, but he’s spirited, frustratingly witty, and on a mission. Not to mention called by the gods. The precedent is to save the three kingdoms on this coast from an invasion of the Medes, forcing a political marriage between the kingdoms of Eddis and Attolia, but underneath it lies a budding romance, struggling to bloom. Eugenides appeals to the loneliness and affections stowed deep inside Attolia’s heart. It takes a while, but his persistence and devotion to her, the things he goes through for her sake and the kingdom, slowly draws her conflicted and convoluted emotions to loving him.

“I have been living with your grief and your rage and your pain ever since. I don’t think- I don’t think I had felt anything for a long time before that, but those emotions at least are familiar to me. Love I am not familiar with. I didn’t recognize that feeling until I thought I had lost you in Ephrata. And when I thought I was losing you a second time, I realized I would give up anything to keep you . . .”

The Queen of Attolia

Ahh, the tugging heartstrings of fragile young people, like delicate flowers that need careful handling. . . . You really need to read the story to truly appreciate the subtleties that go into these two, and it’s totally worth it. Really. These books are some of the absolute best fantasy I’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience.


That’s only four of them, but we could be here all day with others (like Sig and Izumi Curtis from Fullmetal Alchemist, Aragorn and Arwen from The Lord of the Rings, or Hoban and Zoe Washburne of the sci-fi space western Firefly).

Did I mention any of your own favorites? If so, which ones? Do you have any other favorite fantasy couples? I’d love to hear about them!

Reynwood’s Reviews: The Children of Húrin

Title: The Children of Húrin

Author: J. R. R. Tolkein, edited by Christopher Tolkein

My Rating: 5 of 5


The Children of Húrin is the first complete book by J.R.R.Tolkien since the 1977 publication of The Silmarillion. Six thousand years before the One Ring is destroyed, Middle-earth lies under the shadow of the Dark Lord Morgoth. The greatest warriors among elves and men have perished, and all is in darkness and despair. But a deadly new leader rises, Túrin, son of Húrin, and with his grim band of outlaws begins to turn the tide in the war for Middle-earth — awaiting the day he confronts his destiny and the deadly curse laid upon him.


My Thoughts:

Oh, boy. I think that’s an accurate place to start. If you love a good tragedy, this is the book for you.

The Children of Húrin is a part of the History of Middle-Earth, taking place long, long, long before the events of The Lord of the Rings as part of the world’s lore. This tale chronicles the life of Túrin son of Húrin, the one man who had dared to defy and scorn  the Dark Lord Morgoth. (Familiar with the ‘Balrog of Morgoth’ from the trilogy? Yeah. It’s that Morgoth. The guy so bad that Sauron was his lackey back in those days).

Morgoth’s hatred for Húrin extended to his children, Túrin and Niënor, in a curse of doom, which was to follow them until the end of their days. Túrin suffered hardship and woe over and over again, dogged by the shadow cast upon him by the Enemy. His life was overshadowed by a dark doom since childhood, when his father was taken captive by Morgoth, his country forfeit to the Dark Lord and his minions, and himself sent away from kith and kin alone to escape thralldom. Yet even so he was determined to overcome the evil curse and master his own destiny. The strength of his will and his honor endeared him to many people, but even so he never stayed long in any one place ere something bad would happen that drove him away. Often enough it was his own temper that got the better of him, prompting him to do less-than-noble deeds, but he and Niënor both were deceived and manipulated by the evil dragon Glaurung, too; lied to and spited in an ever descending spiral of malice.

This tale marks Túrin’s efforts to master his destiny, but in so doing ends up succumbing to it; the epitome of ‘you can’t escape fate’. In that regard I say this is very much a tragedy, that despite his efforts, his desires, and his mighty deeds, Túrin yet fell, hated and grief stricken ─ but not altogether friendless and unmourned.

This is a sad story, but a good one; definitely worth reading. The world that Tolkein creates is vast, filled with beauty and sorrow alike, for what was and is now lost. The characters are vivid and diverse in personality, the narrative is easy to read, and the heart of the story is compelling. I am reminded of what makes Tolkein and his stories so great, and I am grateful to his son for his efforts in bringing to us what his father could not.

Favorite Fantasy Authors: J. R. R. Tolkein

Happy Saturday! This is most everyone’s favorite day of the week, no? (My personal favorite for years, though, has been Thursday, but to each their own). With the coming of February winter has entered its toughest stage here in Upstate, but that just means Spring is that much closer. Despite what many of us tend to believe at about this time, WINTER WILL NOT LAST FOREVER. We don’t live under the White Witch’s rule here. We get Christmas and we get SPRING.

But what do we do in the meantime, while the cold bears its fangs and the snow drifts and plow trucks pass by more often than a three year old at an open candy bar?

Read books, of course! Winter’s downtime is the perfect opportunity to catch up on all that summer reading you said you were going to do but never got to. But with so many great titles and authors out there, from which do you chose?

Well, when all else fails, eeny-meeny-miny-moe is my preferred weapon of choice for those tough decisions. But if you’re a lover of super-epic fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkein is a classic and one of the best places to start. It’s said that Tolkein’s work with The Lord of the Rings revolutionized the genre of high fantasy in his day. His writing bears a kind of poetic quality, transporting the reader to places fantastic and people extraordinary, whose deeds of courage and valor have touched us mere mortals for decades.

Now, for those of us who don’t know (or can’t for the life of us remember from one moment to the next), the J. R. R. of Tolkein’s name stands for John Ronald Reuel ─ a right and fitting mouthful of a name. As it happens, the ‘Reuel Tolkein’ pattern repeats itself quite often in the family for generations. And since I love names, I think that’s just swell.

Throughout Tolkein’s life, even from childhood, his experiences have fueled the inspirations for many of his stories (stating once again that everything around us writers is ore for the forge of storysmithing. So watch out! You might end up in someone’s novel someday). In reading a bit of a biography of him, I learned that Bag End, where Bilbo and Frodo live in the Shire, was actually the name of his aunt’s farm. Scenes from hiking the countryside, places he stayed while learning and teaching at colleges, and even his beloved wife, Edith, had a part to play in Tolkein’s tales.

But while The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillian are all the major works for which J. R. R. Tolkein is known for, he wrote far more, penning many tales of the Middle-earth legendarium as well as poetry, short stories, and translations (such as Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight).

Born in South Africa in the January of 1892, J. R. R. Tolkein grew up the eldest of two sons. He learned to read and write at an early age, even learning the rudiments of Latin, and his love of languages carried through his entire life, even to constructing a few of his own later on.

Tolkein met the love of his life, Edith, at the age of sixteen and married her in the March of 1916. By that time he was a second lieutenant of the British Army in WWI. At one point he lived in Staffordshire while he recovered from illness, and it was at this time that he began working on The Book of Lost Tales, kicking it off with The Fall of Gondolin.

After being demobilized he left the army in 1920 and worked at the Oxford English Dictionary, then later became the youngest professor at the University of Leeds. A few years later he returned to Oxford as Professor of Anglo-Saxon. It was around this time that he wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

Then in 1945 he became the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, retaining that post until his retirement. By 1948 he completed The Lord of the Rings, and once the trilogy was published the world of high-fantasy (and the world in general) would never be the same.

As one can imagine, Tolkein became very popular. His friend and fellow Inkling, C. S. Lewis, even nominated him for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His popularity became so great, in fact, that he had to take his phone number out of the public directory and eventually moved himself and his wife, Edith, to a seaside resort.

Edith died in 1971 and on her gravestone he had the name Lúthien engraved, which is a character in his Middle-earth legend of Beren and Lúthien. When Tolkein died in 1973, the name Beren was added to his name on their gravestone.

So J. R. R. Tolkein wasn’t only a creative genius, he was also a romantic, and his passions saturate his work. That’s what makes a story last through the ages: the heart behind the words and the love for the craft of telling stories. Tolkein’s life and work certainly displays that, and if you haven’t read any of his tales, there’s no time like the present!

Of course The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is a wonderful place to start ─ I have read and loved them all, as well as The Children of Húrin ─ but there are so many others to chose from (and there, my friend, I cannot help you. Eeny-meeny-miny-moe, or close your eyes and point). Here’s a (very) brief list of some other tales you could dive into:

 


Have you read any of Tolkein’s books? Which ones were your favorite, any suggestions? Share in the comments!

New Favorite for the Dining Table

Hey everyone! We’re already entering into the last week of January! Raise your hand if you feel this month’s just flown by. (We were always told that time moves faster as you get older, but who knew those old people could be right? The wisdom of our Elders knows no bounds). All the more reason to savour each day as it comes and to live in the moment, to be present. Which is hard for me because I often go off daydreaming and fantasizing.

On the other hand, fantasizing is what a writer does, no? Daydreaming, imagining, wondering . . . it’s all part of the job and it’s wonderful.

But writing isn’t the only thing I do (although there are times that I wish it were!) The kitchen and its culinary magic, the artful-science of cooking and baking, holds another almost-if-not-equal place in my heart. So today I’m going to share with you a new recipe that I’ve just tried: Crock Pot Honey-Glazed Chicken. You can find the original recipe here (Chef Savvy is an awesome website filled with simple and easy recipes. There’s no excuse not to cook with stuff like this). The following recipe is how I made it.

Crock Pot Honey-Glazed Chicken

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (I had a combination of white and dark meat. White meat is ‘lighter’, but dark meat is the jucier of the two)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey (raw and local, right from the farm! I never liked honey until I tried this stuff. So good.)
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar (the original recipe calls for rice wine vinegar, but alas, the regular rice vinegar was all I had on hand. In the end, it doesn’t really matter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (a little is all you need because baby is that stuff STRONG)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 4+ cloves of garlic (as a rule, I always add more garlic. I made half of the original recipe, because it was only two people for dinner, but did not cut the garlic in half. If this is supposed to be honey-garlic, by Jove will there be garlic. And why not? It’s awesome in so many ways)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Sesame seeds, for serving

Instructions:

  • Place chicken in the crock of a slow cooker.
  • Mix together the soy sauce, honey, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, and garlic. Pour over chicken and mix to coat. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through (I cooked it on high for approximately 1 1/2 hours, because I was pressed for time, but the original recipe says to cook on low for 2-3 hours, depending on the size of your chicken).
  • Whisk together cornstarch and about 3 tablespoons of sauce from the cooker until smooth, then return to the crock and cook until thickened. Garnish with sesame seeds (I have black seeds but white ones will work just as well) and serve.

I served mine with fried rice (another recipe I got off the site, although tweaked to fit the ingredients I had on hand). This chicken was super delicious, a little sweet, a little savoury, and a whole lot of YES. This was a double score and will most certainly be making it onto the table again.

Why don’t you give it a try and tell me what you think? Or why not share one of your own new favorites? I’d love to hear about it! New recipes are so much fun to try.

Archers of Knack and Note

When you think of fantasy weapons, what’s the first image that comes to mind? Swords, right? Fantasy and swords go together like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, sunshine and bike rides- okay, we could go on for a while there. Anywho, swords and those who wield them have been the archetype of fantasy since the beginning of the universe ─ the known and unknown. Who can forget the timeless classics like King Arthur and Excalibur, or Aragorn and Anduril. The sword is the backbone of weaponry in both our history and our favorite fantasies, no question the weapon of choice for any fan, but what about all the other weapons out there? What about the axes and hammers and polearms?

The bow and arrow?

Swords and their wielders are cool, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll venture to say that I’ve always found myself drawn more toward archers and their bows. A long range weapon by design, a skilled archer with the right bow can shoot an arrow over 300 yards ─ that’s about two and a half American football fields. How awesome is that? I know that our modern firearms can hit targets miles away, but have you considered that bows are the reason we have firearms?

In history, the English and Welsh were renowned for their archery ─ longbows in particular ─ during the many wars that took place. It was an effective tactical move to have ranks of archers take down the first lines of the enemy before they came in range for the cavalry and infantry. They were the first line of defense. (If you see him, he probably wasn’t aiming at you. Medieval snipers, anyone?)

But archery, unlike swordsmanship, isn’t confined to the act of warmaking. With such tools a person could hunt for their food, and who isn’t familiar with ye olde shoot-a-zip-line-over-the-deep-expanse-in-order-to-escape? The versatility and sheer awesomeness of these weapons has captured my fascination, and not one person has taken that stance and drawn that string without me getting excited. (Here’s my nerd membership card).

So, we all have our beloved sword bearing fiction heroes, but what about the bowmen? Here’s a handful of my own near and dears.


Nock and Bolt – The Twin Bowmen of Yewland

Aiden could now see two other Glimpses seated on a great log beyond Mallik. They were smaller than most of the other Glimpses, though still greater in size than Aiden. Each had long, straight sandy brown hair drawn back tightly. Each wore a circlet of silver like a thin crown above his uncannily arched brows and restless blue eyes. And though they appeared youthful, their stature was proud and manly. Seated side by side, tuned just slightly, the two Glimpses looked like mirror images.

The Door Within

When I first read about these two years and years ago I fell in love instantly. Elvenesque and remarkably skilled, these identical twins share a close bond not only with each other, but also with their brothers-in-arms in the service of king Eliam of Alleble. Accused of being ‘impetuous upstarts’, Nock and Bolt are cheerful and cheeky, but are devoted to their craft of archery and claim it as the height of excellence in battle.

“With our bows,” the twins protested in stereo, “you need not scrap in the first place. The enemy falls dead ere you draw close enough to be struck.”

The Door Within

Hard to argue with that logic, no?

These two and their story within the larger plot of the trilogy wrenches me every time I read it.


Legolas – Prince of the Wood-elves

He was tall as a young tree, lithe, immensely strong, able swiftly to draw a great war-bow and shoot down a Nazgul, endowed with the tremendous vitality of Elvish bodies, so hard and resistant to hurt that he went only in light shoes over rock or through snow, the most tireless of the Fellowship.

The Lord of the Rings

Believe it or not, Nock and Bolt and the Door Within trilogy were in my life before The Lord of the Rings. I wasn’t reading such epic books back in those days (I’m behind on those childhood experiences. I never read the Narnia books until I was a teenager). The movies frightened me, so I didn’t watch them until later. Orlando Bloom in fantasy getup aside, I had a new-to-epic-fantasy adoration for elves, and Legolas was just so awesome! He was a fearless warrior who could hit anything, shooting arrows fast as thought ─ not to mention being able to walk on top of snow! Given a new longbow from Galadriel, Elven queen of Lothlorien, he could bring down a fell beast in the dark with a single shot.

Tell me you’re not impressed.

Still, I didn’t read the books until a couple years later, and that was my loss, because they really are good books. The story is a powerful one. Legolas fought hard for the people of Middle-earth against Sauron’s armies, was loyal to Aragorn and Frodo, valiant in daring-do, and developed a deep and lasting friendship with Gimli (one of the absolute best friendships in the history of ever).

“Never thought I’d die fighting side by side with an Elf,” [said Gimli.]

“What about side by side with a friend?” [replied Legolas.]

“Aye. I could do that.”

The Lord of the Rings

(Yes, I know that’s from the movies, but it’s such a wonderful exchange.)


Bran – King Raven

 

Set in 12th century Wales, this was the first tale of Robin Hood that I ever read (I have yet to get my hands on an original copy). The story of Bran ap Brychan, Prince of Elfael, is one full of frustration, tragedy, and sorrow, but also survival and hope. Bran grew up learning to wield a bow alongside his father’s warband. But then tragedy strikes when the Normans come and he must flee for his life into the wild greenwood.

Through Bran’s struggles to survive and the fight to regain his homeland I came across this one part that I love, where Bran is living in a forest cave with an old druid and recovering from an injury. This is a turning point in his life, and through that process he crafts his own bow:

Bran examined the length of ash once more. He held it up and looked down its length. Here and there it bent slightly out of true [but] not so badly that it could not be worked . . . Bran set to work, tentatively at first, but with growing confidence as his hands remembered their craft.

The King Raven trilogy

This bow, shaped with care by his own hands, is a symbol of his own re-making into Rhi Bran y Hud. It’s with this bow that the legend takes hold, and with this bow that he fights and eventually leads his people back home.

 . . . and then he was caught up in the tremendous sea wave of acclamation that rose up from the long-suffering folk of Elfael, whose joy at seeing their king triumphant could not be contained.

The King Raven trilogy


Teryn – First Warrior to the Heir of Tigress

One woman strode forward confidently, hands on her hips with an haughty look in her amber eyes, and bent slightly at the waist to look at them. . . .”Now, my prisoners, there are a couple of things I’ll be wanting yeh to know ere we release yeh. Yeh are over two hundred marks in the air ─ that means if yeh jump or fall yeh have a good chance of dying before yeh splatter into jelly on the ground. Secondly, yeh’re outnumbered ─ pretty sadly, I’d say, and neither of yeh have a prayer against Fordon to overpower any of us.”

The Journey Taken

I have to be honest. When I think over my favorite archers I can’t not include Teryn from my own The Journey Taken saga. First introduced in volume 3, she was so much fun to write, with her cocky attitude and brash tongue. She may have been the cause of a lot of headaches for the company, but there was one virtue about her that could not be denied: her skill with the bow. It’s the weapon her people live and breathe by. Her bow is the sign of her identity and her status as First Warrior to the heir of Tigress, leader of her clan. Hers is a longbow, thick and straight with a heavy draw weight, allowing her arrows to fly far and hard with pinpoint accuracy.

Her biggest pride is that she never misses, but what she needs to learn is that there are some problems in the world that can’t be solved by turning it into a pin cushion.

“In yehr dreams, yeh overgrown toad cac!” Teryn shouted, stringing an arrow before she had even finished speaking. “I’ll turn yeh into a pin cushion first!”

The Journey Taken


Yaedon – The Gadreian Woodsman

Last one, and again, one of my own. I would love to read more books with archers in them, but sadly, I haven’t come across very many (so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!)

This guy is from my new writing project: Falconsbane, so this is also a little ‘sneak peak’ into what you’re in for with the next adventure from the Writing Corner. The following quote is a rough first draft (so let’s not judge too harshly, shall we?)

Roscha’s heart began to beat faster the closer he came, but before he could open his mouth and announce his approach, the peculiarly dressed man with hair longer than his own turned his head and caught sight of him. The man turned full and beamed a bright and welcoming smile, raising his hand in the air. “Greetings, fellow traveler!” he called, and beckoned Roscha over. He didn’t have any armor, either, but the quiver slung across his shoulder spoke to his position as an archer. “The name’s Yaedon, by the way,” the bowman offered. “Yaedon un Hebron-Surah kibur Gadrei.” He proffered a hand in greeting.

Falconsbane

But for however peaceable he may seem, he is absolutely deadly with his bow in hand. During the war he was issued one by the Archery Corps, but he preferred to use the hunting bow he had been raised with, its hand rest worn smooth with use, its shaft well cared for. His early training in stalking prey to feed his family earned him some pretty hard core but sorely underrated skills, too ─ because how many of us can sit perfectly still with a bee or some other bug flying in our ear and crawling all over our faces?


So, how about you? Do you have any favorite fantasy archers, did I mention any of yours already! Share in the comments! If you have any suggestions for stories with awesome archers in them, I would love to hear about them, so please share!

 

Reynwood’s Reviews: The War of Souls Trilogy

28509Title: The War of Souls Trilogy

Authors: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

My rating: 3 out of 5


The people of Krynn have known war in past ages. Some are still alive who remember the triumph of good at the conclusion of the War of the Lance. Still more remember the devastation of the Chaos War, which ended the Fourth Age of the world.

But now a new war is about to begin, more terrible than any have known. This war is one for the very heart and soul of the world itself.

The War of Souls.


My Thoughts:

Wow. I had to take a moment and a deep breath after this one. This trilogy took me (I’m a little embarrassed to admit) several months to finish. Each volume is so big it could break a foot if you dropped it. This is a very intricate story with many threads woven to make a fine mesh tapestry.

I have been interested in the universe of DragonLance for a long time, and my very first venture into the world of Krynn was the Suncatcher Trilogy by Jeff Sampson (which I’m thinking of reading again, because Sindri). I fell in love with the race of kender, which are kind of like hobbits, but not really.

Then I brought this War of Souls Trilogy into my collection and decided to give it a whirl. My first impression after diving into the first volume was that I would have benefitted exponentially from reading its predecessor series first, as there are many people, places, and events mentioned and alluded to that bear some significance. Albeit the authors did a fair job adding enough detail to give a novice (such as I am) some understanding to keep me from being totally lost, but in the future I would advise starting at the very beginning, because that’s a very good place to start. I jumped into an ocean with this DragonLance stuff, because while there are numerous (and I mean numerous) series and trilogies encompassing individual stories, they’re all strung up along the timeline of this world of Krynn, which opens with Dragons of Autumn Twilight, first in the Chronicles Trilogy by Weis and Hickman.

So, before you dive into the War of Souls, be smarter than yours truly and start in the beginning instead of somewhere in the middle.

Now, that said, I have to admit I have some mixed feelings about this story. Overall in the grand scheme of things I enjoyed it, but it was the ending that sold it to me. I love me a good ending (I’m not saying anything more about that, because a spoiled ending is the worst). I had some trouble getting there, though, because it took so very long. We follow a bucket load of people scattered across the continent dealing with the myriad of happenings, and to be honest, I really only cared about Tasselhoff’s happenings (poor, poor, loveable Tas. I’d read Dragons of Autumn Twilight just for him). I favored Gerard’s bits, too, but those two were my only real favorites.

The overarching theme of this One God seriously creeped me out in the beginning, when I couldn’t decide if it was a good or bad thing. The details were so conflicting (which is good storytelling, leaving the reader in the same shoes as the characters as they try to figure out what to think of it). I’m going to spoil that for you and say that it is most certainly a bad thing. There wouldn’t be much of a story if it had turned out to be a good one.

Such is life.

Anywho, the diversity of the characters and their varying personalities gives a wide perspective of what’s going on, what it means to the world as a whole, and how it affects/will affect the individuals in it. One thing is for certain, not a single person will be the same. Trials can stretch and grow or shatter and destroy. Tas learned about fear and true bravery, Odila found her way through the mire of a troubled heart, Gilthas fought through the pain and responsibility of kingship to lead an exiled people. Mina succumbed to darkness.

Mina is a curiosity for me. Duly mysterious in the beginning, we learned very little about her throughout the story. Outside of her unswerving faith in her One God, she has almost no personality. Her initial impression is one of a capable leader and miracle worker filled with kindness and compassion for everyone, including her enemies, so long as they recognize the One God whom she serves. Then come to find out towards the end that this ‘innocent’ youth isn’t as kindhearted as we’ve been led to believe. I know that stress and pain can alter a person, but I would think that such a compassionate person would hesitate a little more before doing what she did, might waver a little in the face of the dark truth. But maybe it was all a farce to begin with. An act. Devotion to her god turned this inquisitive girl into a devout pawn and then a bitter and vengeful creature. It would be interesting to see what happens with this new bane in the followup series, The Dark Disciple.

Story aside, I thought the narrative had good points and not so good points. It was wonderfully descriptive, painting vivid pictures, but there were times when I thought this exposition or that one wasn’t entirely necessary for the development of the plot. I also found a boatload of typos, but it’s not like that ruined the experience for me. The pace was moderate for the most part, kind of slow at times (which is one of the reasons it took me so long to finish, I rarely felt the insufferable need to read more at the soonest opportunity). But it got better in the last three or four hundred pages, keeping me up too late.

All in all I’d say it was a good addition to the DragonLance world, certainly enough to convince me to go back and read from the first.

Sayonara to ’17 and What’s Coming

Hello everyone! Happy New Year! How was your Christmas? Merry? Bright? We were a little scattered over here in the Writing Corner and beyond, what with all that’s been going on this past year, but we pulled off another great holiday with the family nonetheless. The Lord’s blessings abound in all types of life’s weather.

Taking a moment to look back at the past year, I can remember feeling that 2017 was going to be a big year in my family ─ and boy did it turn out to be true! Here’s a bullet point list of some of what’s gone down:

  • The final volume of The Journey Taken was published, completing a seven volume, five year project
  • My younger brother got married, giving me my first-ever, super cool sister
  • In fact, I ended up attending a whopping 5 weddings this past year, with a life total of (I’m thinkin’) 6. So it’s a record, I dare say. I think it’s wonderful and exciting to have been witness to the beginning of so many new lives.
  • The farm’s greenhouse finally got covered
  • My older brother brought us a cat (poor thing was orphaned). This may seem small to most people, even undesirable by some, but this writer has been wanting a cat for years, and this wee, furry spaz has brought us a lot of laughter. He is also very warm when he decides to sit on your lap while you’re trying to write. His name is Chestyr.
  • We fixed up and sold (almost there!) the house we’ve been renting out
  • I’ve developed a fancy for making earrings ─ the whimsical sort, not fashion. I’ve never been very fashionable.

Quite a doozey, yeah? And that’s not even everything. But now the old year has come to a close and a new one has opened ─ it’s like turning to the first page of a brand new book you’ve never read before! The possibilities are endless. Here’s a few things that I am looking forward to:

  • More weddings! Oh, how the young ones have grown . . .
  • Plying my culinary craft at the farm stand (gotta start small, right? For those of you nearby, keep a lookout for magical munchies come spring)
  • Riding a thousand miles on my dual-sport hybrid bicycle of beautifulness (this’ll be the summer . . . this’ll be the summer . . .)
  • Getting that blasted license
  • Working on my new story. Last November I participated in NaNoWriMo, kicking off the start of a whole new writing project that I’m calling Falconsbane (many thanks to everyone who voted and helped me out). I won’t say an awful lot here, but I’ll tell you that it’s not a part of the TJT universe. Don’t be alarmed, I’m not anywhere near done with Jasinda and its peoples, but this time I felt like branching off to a new location and building something from scratch again. It’s about a young man by the name of Roscha who goes from a fairly anonymous existence to discover a bigger destiny than he ever could have imagined. There, that’s all I’m going to say about it now. You can read the synopsis here and check out the Pinterest board dedicated to it here. I’m super excited about it and pumped to share the journey with you all, so stay tuned!

Now how about you all?

Take a moment to look back over 2017, what things ─ big or small ─ happened? Have you grown, changed because of it?

What sorts of things are you looking forward to this year? Don’t be shy to share in the comments!