Pendragon Book Series Review

The Pendragon Series is my favorite book series of all time, probably because it’s one of the first book series I’ve read at a time where I thought reading was for nerds and other types of total losers. In 8th grade The Merchant of Death, the first of the Pendragon series, jumped off the shelf and immediately caught my eye. I thought the cover was interesting and so I read the back to see what it was about. It intrigued me so I figured I would read the first couple of chapters to see if it was worth reading and I was immediately hooked. A friend of mine had rented another copy from the library and also fell in love with it. However there was only one copy for the rest of the books in the series and so we raced each other to read it first. And at the end of the final page of the entire series, I found a new love of reading.

Some readers like this reviewer will take issue with some of the simple storytelling found in the first book. With a well defined hero and bad guy, but that is only if one looks at the first book by itself. When in reality the first book is just a fragment of a much larger story, which should go without saying, but some people treat it as such. This particular reviewer talks about how black and white the heroes are as well as how the narrative pushes forward. And while I kind of agree with somethings, like how there were times things could have been explained to the main character, I do disagree on a lot of points made.

I don’t even know what I can say to do justice to my feelings for it. I can’t quantify the impact it, and the other nine books, have had on me since then. It’s an absolute masterpiece of character development and complex plotting. It shows the good guys losing to the bad guys. It shows kids growing up to become adults in a believable way, as brought to my attention by this reviewer. It shows that everyone, even the best protagonist and evilest villain, is composed of shades of gray. Even five years after the release of the final installment in the series, it still stands as one of the best things I’ve ever read. And, as you know, I read a lot of things.

The characters are so lovable and I found myself easily getting attached to them. The relationships made between them are wonderful and the action and suspense just leave you wanting more. The plot is well thought out and the writing style is awesome. The concept of the series may not be the most original but the execution definately is.
The first book starts out slow but once you keep reading you will get hooked and STAY hooked and pretty much devour each book one after another!

I was nervous to reread this. My fifth-grade self had different standards and tastes than I do now. I know more about what makes good writing and good storytelling. What if Pendragon no longer met this standard?

Yes, I did find issues with The Merchant of Death that I didn’t in fifth grade. The narration is awkward and simplistic at times. Action sequences still take place in block paragraphs. A few slang terms slip out that sound odd coming from a 14-year-old. The beginning is cliche and overused–normal suburban kid gets whisked off on some grand adventure and is chosen to save everyone.

It’s not perfect. But who am I kidding? I love it. I had so much fun rereading this. I forgot how completely inept Bobby is at the very beginning. I forgot Loor’s incredible sass. The implied Press/Osa ship. Don’t tell me that’s not a thing.

So many things I didn’t forget just made me incredibly happy upon rereading them. The twistiness of a certain reveal (reread=look for foreshadowing!). The fabulousness of Osa. Mark Dimond’s endearing awkwardness. Courtney Chetwynde, a somewhat “masculine” female character whose personality runs far deeper than just “can beat boys at sports”.

Like I mentioned before, Bobby Pendragon starts out as a useless protagonist. For much of the book, every time he tries to help, he messes up. Big time. Let’s face it–if many of us were pulled out of our normal lives into this type of adventure, we’d probably mess everything up, too. And yet, Bobby just keeps going. He keeps trying. It’s believable, it’s real, and it’s also a lot of fun. More than anything else, that was my reaction to this book: it’s just a ridiculous amount of fun to reread.

I would also agree with this reviewer who points out that there are still a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the end of the book about how these “Travelers were created”, and mostly more about the history of the world that had been created. It feels like this is just a snapshot of a long ongoing war. And I believe this is backed by the fact the the author released a few prequel novels that I will admit I have not had the chance to read. So this negative, pet peeve of mine may have already been addressed, but for right now from my perspective, it has not.

It’s worth noting that I have the advantage of knowing how the series progresses from here. Without this, I would be far less excited about The Merchant of Death itself. I know how much more complex it gets, though. I’ve read through the next nine books of character development and writing improvement. I’ve gone with Bobby and the others as they change and mature. More than anything else, though, I have the ability to see the series as a whole and appreciate the immense planning that must have gone into it. Everything builds on everything else, and all foundations are laid early on, setting the series up for increasingly bigger, better things. It just gets cooler from here. Darker, yes, but also more awesome. I’m excited to reread the rest of the series.

 

Works Cited

Andrew. Lindsey. Nakia. “Bobby Pendragon From Zero to Hero.” YaReviews.com.

Mitrovich, Matt. “Book Review: The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale.” AmazingStoriesMag.com, published 8 Mar. 2016.

The Ranger’s Apprentice Review

I started reading this series based on reviews, as I do many of my readings. While the focus of the series revolves primarily on the teenage characters, I found there is ample adult activity included to keep my interest and the author provides a good balance of youthful and more mature perceptions. The teen characters gain experience and maturity as the plot moves them through situations in the adult world.

With good plotting and character development, this series on the surface is a very good read with ongoing tales that keep you turning pages. But in the process the author has also provided us – youth and adult readers – with good lessons learned that are all folded smoothly into the story.

One reviewer states that one of her favorite things is the dialogue and the humor sprinkled throughout. It brings the characters alive and makes them more than fleshed out stereotypes. It makes the characters relatable to the reader and I remember times where I would have to set the book down because I was smiling so hard.

It is an interesting world the author has created, with the teen characters and readers learning of different skills and cultures, how friendships can evolve even against prior enemies, and even insights into battles and battle strategy. We watch the characters struggle and overcome adversity as individuals and in the bigger picture of their world as there is conflict between kingdoms, etc.

This imaginary world has big warriors with swords and lances on war horses, and less obvious heroes where the little guy or the girl provides critical skills to save the day, and those skills may be mental or physical. The reader learns to value and respect what each individual contributes positively to the situation regardless of age, size, gender, rank, etc. Conversely, individuals of any age, size, gender, rank, etc, might be the problem to overcome … or the culture of a kingdom might be seen with pros and cons.

The plot twists and turns with action coupled with teen and adult character introspection as the situations evolve. I like that the youth reader will also read the adult point of view. It also allows the adult reader to see a teen point of view. And with the young Ranger’s Apprentice a key character, I enjoyed reading that the mountain pony should be highly valued for that role, just as the big war horses are valued for their own role … just like individual people have various skills and abilities to contribute. Fundamental to the Ranger’s Apprentice’s situation is the ongoing reminder that training and practice is neccessary to develop and maintain skills, and there is always more to learn.

The Ranger’s Apprentice series has 10 books. Each book flows into the next as a subsequent chapter in time, while moving on to another challenging situation for the characters to address in their world during the next book. So I was deftly lured into reading the next book, and the next, and the next. This is a tale that is constantly evolving and it was fun to see change in myself as these books were coming out. I remember the first time I ever heard the story and the feelings I had when I was reading it for the first time are still with me as I read it for the 10th. It is a book that has captivated me with setting, characters, and story, which is something few novels are able to pull off.

According to the New York Times, a film adaptation is supposed to be in the works but there has been no word since the announcement back in May 2016. I would be excited to see a movie release and as I read through the books I picked out actors for my favorite characters. At this point I don’t care who plays what as long as I get to see a kickass movie based on a series I love.

Red Queen Review

I read Red Queen on a whim this past summer as the cover of the book interested me. As I do with all books that I buy I looked it up on Amazon to see if it was worth the purchase and as soon as I dived in, I realized it absolutely was. As I sit here today, trying to wrap my mind around its sheer awesomeness and put together a somewhat coherent review, I get ridiculously excited all over again, just thinking about the plot, the complex world-building, the insane plot twists and just how visually stunning and breathtakingly magnificent the whole story was.

The one at the center of it all is Mare Barrow. Mare lives in a world divided by the color of blood, in which the Silver-blooded Royals hold all the power (both literally and metaphorically speaking) and the Red-bloods are nothing more than poor, lowly servants. The Silvers have supernatural powers, the Reds do not. At least that’s how it’s always been and what the Silvers want everyone to believe. When Mare discovers she has an ability of her own, her entire world gets flipped upside down. She finds herself thrown in the middle of intrigue-fueled Silver court, forced to play the role of a long lost Silver princess and betrothed to Silver King’s son. With the Scarlet Guard, a rebellious group, becoming more and more established she finds herself in the middle of a Civil War. Where the fate of the entire kingdom depends on the choices she’ll make. And one bad decision can lead to a massacre.

Red Queen is a fast paced, breathless kind of read. A true edge-of-your-seat story. Intrigue filled, action packed, twisty and highly dramatic, it’s a real page turner. Impossible to put down. I really loved the world Aveyard, the author created. It was dark and dangerous, but also oddly beautiful and enchanting. It’s a world where old clashes with new. We have a Royal court with richly decorated interiors, stunning gowns, sumptuous bedrooms and deadly dungeons, but we also have modern technology, electricity and gadgets. It’s a curious and completely fascinating mix that makes for a fantastic background to the intensely gripping plot line.

And the plot is phenomenal. The conflict, the intrigue, the secrets and betrayals and all the heart pounding emotions is all there. The writing is top shelf quality, very atmospheric and engaging. There are many twists, painful decisions to make, and some downright heartbreaking plot developments. It’s all well thought out and devised with surgical precision.

One reviewer points out that the beginning seems to drag as the author really fleshes out the world being created in an almost too vivid way. She says that it took a while to power through the descriptions of the Red village Mare is from and the big change Mare sees when she first arrives in the Silver city. I would agree that at times the description does get a little tedious, but in the end it’s not too bad and as long as you can get through it, the story benefits because of it.

The same reviewer also points out a romance issue that none of the characters really bond, but just feel an attraction and to this I would have to disagree. I felt as though in these characters the bond was there in small ways reflecting real life. In the story Mare doesn’t know why she’s attracted to the people she is and she feels even bigger conflict because they are the Silver princes. What plays out is a very interesting person vs self conflict that is exciting to unravel.

The characters might seem stereotypical and one-dimensional to begin with, but as the story progresses and as we get deeper into the sticky swamp of politics, social injustice, power-struggle and multi-layered deception, we begin to see just how complex they really are. People lie and manipulate, back-stab and use others to achieve their goals. It’s hard to tell who to trust, who tells the truth and who plays a dangerous game. Almost everyone wears a mask and before you know it, it’s too late.

The language throughout the novel is poetic in a great way. There are passages or at times letters that are encountered that are said in a incredible, powerful, and emotional way. I truly felt like I was feeling the same things the characters were at times. This book made it so easy to jump into this whole new world and have a deep understanding of what is going on.

Don’t believe me? Read this teacher’s review here where she goes into a bit more detail than I do, and praises it all the way!

I know that I’m not the only one that feels this way. Red Queen has interested many people including some very talented artists who use their art to demonstrate they’re intrigue. You can find 14 beautiful examples here.

In the end I’ll break it down simply.

Pros:

  • Interesting conflict
  • Beautiful world
  • Unpredictable plot twists
  • Great chemistry between characters
  • Interesting characters
  • 100% page turner

Cons:

  • Sometimes too much detail
  • Some scenes are a little dry

A movie is in the works and is being directed by Elizabeth Banks. I’m interested in seeing it now that I have read the books, but I’m a little worried about how the end product will come out. I have high hopes but I don’t want to set too high of expectations.

 

Works Cited:

Ishee Molly. “Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard Book Review” Blogspot.com, Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

RedQueenDaily. “Red As The Dawn” Tumblr.com, 13 April. 2016. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

TeacherofYA. “Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard (Review)” WordPress.com, 11 October 2016. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

TeamEpicReads. “14 Gorgeous Pieces of Red Queen Fan Art” EpicReads.com, 22 Feb. 20156. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

TeamEpicReads. “Updates on the Red Queen Movie!!” EpicReads.com, 8 June 2016. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

Dark Souls for the Soul

Dark Souls for the Soul

Every once in a while a game will come along that changes everything. This can come in many different forms, including mechanics, ideas, or, as is the case for Dark Souls, they can create an entire genreDark Souls is a special game that has gained popularity ever since it came out. The game was a cult hit among the few who dared to play this game that many consider to be the hardest they ever played. Since then the series has seen two more main entries and a new spiritual successor called Bloodborne. The most recent game, Dark Souls 3, saw 61% more sales in its first week than Dark Souls 2. But to me it was always something more.

It took me three tries to beat the game, but ever since I saw the credits roll for the first time, I realized the masterpiece I had just played. The first two times I quit before finishing 10% of the game and for the third I used a guide to help me through. I never realized how much this game would affect my life. Before playing all the way through I was suffering from depression. It seemed like everything was falling apart. I had a lot of free time as my girlfriend and I had split, I quit my job, and school was over. So that’s when I decided to give this punishing game another chance. I played all the way to the finish and realized I had no idea what the fuck was going on other than some small things I picked up on the way.

ezgif-1-59efeacc32.gif

I looked up the game on Google and saw all these people talking about things that I never realized. I went to read some of the lore they were coming up with as well as watching videos that others have posted on their findings of the game. This game is nothing but tragedy. I went in depth on all the lore I could find and then decided to play the game again. At the end, I cried. I started noticing what others noticed all along, and the feeling of triumph washed over me. It’s silly but I felt like I could take on anything. I started having discussions with people and included myself in groups where I found friends that share my same feeling. I started being social again. I started feeling less and less hopeless.

I’m not the only one who has benefitted from Dark Souls. In fact YouTuber VaatiVidya, is now using the Dark Souls game and lore to create videos. That is one of his primary sources of income. This man is literally making a living because of Dark Souls. Sometimes things come into your life that you don’t think much about until you realize it changes your life. For this case it was an incredibly difficult video game that taught me that no matter what happens, I come back stronger. Even though that’s kind of a cliche thing I should have learned a long time ago.

 

 

Works Cited

https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/nioh-suggests-that-dark-souls-actually-invented-a-new-genre

http://nerdist.com/dark-souls-3-is-breaking-all-sorts-of-sales-records/

https://www.patreon.com/vaatividya

http://www.pcgamer.com/how-one-youtuber-turned-dark-souls-lore-into-a-living/