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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Epic Fantasy Review: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent Read. Right now for me, it’s a 5.

In the Black Prism, Weeks betters what he did with Night Angel.

The Prism offers a wealth of fantastic worldbuilding, good characters, action, war strategy, political intrigue, and plot twists to keep one coming back for more.

The magic system is well laid out. Simply put, a percentage of the populace known as Drafters have the ability to harness colors through light in a skill called Chromaturgy. This basically takes a force of will and belief to create Luxin which then can be used for everything from buildings to machines to weapons to fireballs. There are other subtleties. Let’s say I enjoyed it very much.

The characterization is good. The characters feel real and are engaging. You can sympathize with some and others you want to kick in the butt. At times, one of them can get annoying with his personality traits, and well almost a second personality. They more than served the story, the plot, the politics and scope of the world.

As usual from Weeks, when the action gets going, it gets going. The clash of Drafters reminds me of the Secret Wars comic books, as they do incredible things. Of course there are touches of mundane fighting, but when you have the magic embedded in this world, that takes a back seat.

The end was well worth the ride, adding another twist in a book chock full of them. Some people might carry on about tropes or cliches, but for me, it’s all about how they’re presented. After all, there’s just about nothing that can be done that is completely original. This is why I base my reviews of my enjoyment, rather than technical merits.

That is to say, I enjoyed this book immensely. Well done, Mr.Weeks.

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Ashes and Blood: Book 2 Aegis of the Gods

Here is the prologue to Book 2, Ashes and Blood.

Prelude to Ascension

They arrived at the gathering within the featureless chamber as they always did. A portal slit the air from left to right, turned sideways, and opened into the shape of an eye. Wreathed in oily smoke, many-faceted eyes reflecting the torchlight, tentacles blacker than midnight, the creatures stepped through one after the other. Armor of chitin and ebon steel glistened, and their wriggling minions appeared as if from nothing.

There were nine of them in all, each at least twenty feet in height. Nine netherlings.

Despite the fact that dreams had no physical effect on reality, she still shied away from them. But being in a dream had no bearing on the miasma emanating from the netherlings. Death, decay, the perfume of fresh blooms, wet earth after new rain, the northern chill, the burning heat of the lava-filled chasms in the Broken Lands. The odors and sensations were all too real, each one overriding the other for scant moments.

Faces shrouded in light and shadow, their forms insubstantial, people by the thousands took a step back. Rulers, nobles, merchants, teachers, philosophers, historians, soldiers, even the poor were represented within the crowd. She could not discern their expressions, but the gasps and whimpers told their own story. Each person wore their sect’s colors.

White, Shadow, and Gray.

She almost spit on the blackness below her where there should have been a floor. Those in gray were supposedly spies among the Gray Council, but the thought and worse yet the sight of the color brought on a loathing she found difficult to contain. She calmed herself with the knowledge that nothing the Gray could do would stop the ascension.

“The first is almost to the boy.” The netherling’s voice was as blank as her surroundings.

“The era draws nigh.”

“The gods die, the world remade, new gods ascend.”

As often as she’d attended these gatherings, she still found the singularity of their voices disconcerting.

“You have all done well to guide the world as needed for this to come to fruition.”

A murmur rippled through the crowd. The netherlings’ heads turned toward the disturbance. Space cleared around a male, his clothing one of shadow. He stepped forward.

“You bring news, young one?”

She sucked in a breath. Only another netherling would dare approach as this man did. She frowned. They hid themselves even among the common people?

“Yes, masters. I have discovered a place between the worlds where Prima lives. It is beyond what we may have anticipated.”

“Nothing is outside our calculations, young one.”

For the first time, she noticed a definite scoffing tone to the answer.

“Those who oppose already know of its existence,” the man said, “One of their own has been within its borders.”

“Yes. We are aware. However, the one we chose unleashed Prima into the world. The guardians will be drawn to it as they are to him. Kill the first before he secures the boy. When the others reveal themselves to the boy’s calling or to Prima, do the same. He must not learn to use his gift.”

“Yes, masters.” The man bowed from the waist.

“The same goes for all of you. The young one has served his purpose. Kill him and his mentors.”

Licking her lips with anticipation, she awoke from her dream to the glowing walls within the Iluminus.

 

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Notes from the Founders

From the notes of Jenoah Amelie – First of the Exalted

Prelude to War

I must make these notes before the voices call to me again. Of late, I cannot tell which of the essences they are. Is it light or heat? Or gods forbid, the shade? Does the earth beneath my feet speak to me? Is the very air around me whispering in my head? Or the water I drink? Maybe, it is not the essences within the elements of Mater at all. Maybe, it is all my imagination.

What they promise is so overwhelming. Twice, I have almost given in to their call. Is this what the others experienced when the madness took them? I must defend our actions while I am still capable of coherent thought.

Some would argue that the formation of the Pathfinders was a desperate act, that the men and women who make up their ranks are nothing more than murderers. Some would say we think of ourselves as gods for doing as we did. What were we supposed to do? Sit back and watch the world burn? Again? Did not the war between the gods and the Eztezian Guardians destroy enough of the world?

We, all Matii, are appointed with protecting and saving the people of Denestia first. The same mandate the gods gave to the Eztezians when they created them. When we use Mater—the very essences and elements that drive our world—to destroy, we are betraying the sanctity of our forefathers, and blaspheming against Ilumni himself. We realized the fear of insanity and eventual death when wielding Mater is not enough to deter those who crave power. A more definitive action needed to be taken.

The formation of the Tribunal has worked well for a time. However, the volatile change in Mater has brought about a rift with our brother and sisters. We once held all the descendants of the Eztezians who form the Matii we know today: the Ashishin, the Alzari, the Namazzi, the Svenzar, the Skadwaz, the Desorin, the Rendorta, and the Toscali, under our roof. They each had a position and title of honor here from which they could govern.

But they have not agreed with the need for harmony. Thus, they have broken away and ventured off to form their own kingdoms, the majority of them across the sea in Ostania. We fear nothing good will come of this.

Already the separation and those dedicated to individual gods and religions are beginning to show. Wars have been declared. Crusades for one religion or another have sprouted. We, the Ashishin, must a find a way to sever ourselves from this strife.

 

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Fantasy Glossary for Aegis of the Gods

So after resisting for a while and being told by some that they understood most things about my world, I gave in to some who didn’t. I want each reader to grasp the majority of how my world works, and though I’ve worked hard to not info dump and to show my world and how the magic works, some might find certain things hard to grasp. I am partially to blame for this because I do drop quite a bit of the world’s names early in the story and more often than not, the explanation comes in the subsequent chapters. Does every book need a glossary? No. But I have now agreed with some of my readers, that some parts of my world is so involving, and that I use much of that within my world early enough in the book, that a glossary would only help rather than hinder. With no further ado, and thank you again, readers and fans. Here’s the glossary so far for the Aegis of the Gods series. It has been included in the newest edition of the book as of last night.

If there’s something you would like to see added. Please drop a comment. I’ll see what I can do.

GLOSSARY

Alzari – Matii who wield mostly the Forms, strongest in earth essences and metal. Ancestors of the Setian.

Amuni – One of the gods of Streams, specifically, shade. Brother of Ilumni.

Ashishin – Matii who serve the Tribunal and often represent the god Ilumni and the Streams, specifically light and heat. Most of the Granadian peoples are descendants of the Ashishin. They often bear the title of Shin or High Shin.

Astoca – A kingdom within south central Ostania. Their people, the Astocans, are cousins to the Cardians. (See Namazzi)

Bana – A kingdom in eastern Ostania. Their people are the Banai and worship Humelen and the Forms.

Bastions of Light – Towers along the Vallum of Light and located at strategic points within Granadia that can be used to send warning of an impending attack to the Tribunal.

Cardia – A kingdom far south in Ostania. Their people, the Cardians, are related to the Astocans. (See Namazzi)

construct – A sentient entity created from essences.

Dagodin – A Matus who cannot Forge but can wield items imbued with Mater called divya.

Darkwraith – A type of shadeling created by merging the sela essences, spirit, and shade of a Matus.

dartan – A massive beast of burden, bigger than any horse. It has 6 legs, hardened skin, and a shell into which it can withdraw its legs. It also has a long snake-like neck and is a meat eater. Originally created during the Luminance Wars.

Deathbringer – A type of Matii used by the Felani and others, said to be already crazed Matii. Only the Felani know how they’re controlled.

Denestia – The world where this story takes place, said to have been the crowning achievement of the god Ilumni who defeated his brother Amuni for its possession.

Devout – A priest who serves Ilumni and goes on pilgrimages to do the Tribunal’s bidding, often preaching the word of Streamean worship and its virtues.

divya – An item imbued with Mater.

Dosteri – A race originating in Everland who later inhabited Granadia.

Elements of Mater – The completed essences that make up the Flows, the Forms, and the Streams. (See Mater)

Erastonia – A kingdom in Everland.

Erastonian – Powerful warriors from Everland, specifically from a place called Erastonia. They possess some of the strongest Matii within the known world. Their main task is defending the Great Divide and killing any shadelings that happen to escape from the prisons contained with the Divide.

Essences – The individual strands of power that make up the elements of Mater.

Everland – The northernmost continent in Denestia.

Exalted – Mythical leaders of the Tribunal.

Eztezian – The Eztezians were the descendants of the gods. Great warriors and the most powerful Matii to grace Denestia. They were tasked with protecting Denestia from the shade and from itself. Driven mad by their overuse of Mater however, they almost destroyed the world. They created the Great Divide, which brought about the shade’s defeat. Then they turned on the gods, sealing them in the Nether to prevent future wars and the creation of more creatures like the shadelings.

Felan – A kingdom is western Ostania. Their people are known as the Felani.

Flowic – The religions named after the elements of Flows and its gods.

Flows – The combination of two essences—primarily water and air that make up liquids known as the Flows. There are other variations that involve other essences. E.g Water and cold to form ice. Heat, air, and something flammable to create fire.

Forger – A Matus who can Forge essences of Mater

Forging – See Materforging

Formist – The religion named after the elements of Forms and its gods.

Forms – The combination of three essences—earth, metal, and wood, that make up solids known as the Forms. There are other variations of solids that can be enhanced by using other essences, as well as other essences not in this umbrella that can be used to form solids. (See example in Streams.)

Gerde – Stoneform beasts with eight-legs that bear similarities to crabs, but were the size of ponies.

Granadia – The Western continent of Denestia. Have been at conflict with most of Ostania for millenia.

Harna – A kingdom in northern Ostania. Followers of Formist religion. Descendants of the Sven.

Humelen – One of the Gods of Forms, specifically earth.

Hydae – A world formed by Amuni when he lost to his brother Ilumni.

Ilumni – One of the gods of Streams, specifically, light. Brother of Amuni.

Imbuer – A Matus who can imbue properties of essences into an item to create divya.

kinai – A special plant that draws on essences, used in many healing formulas and potent drinks. Said to enhance the user’s strength, stamina, and agility.

Luminance War – An ancient war when shadelings escaped the Great Divide and swept across Ostania.

Mater – Mater is the core elemental power which exists within everything. It makes up the three elements the gods represent and their individual essences. Mater drives all worlds. The three elements are the solids of the Forms, the liquids of the Flows, and the energy of the Streams. Those are further broken down into separate essences. For instance, earth, wood and metal are a part of the Forms. Heat, cold, light and shade are a part of the Streams. Water and air are a part of the Flows. Finally, there’s sela essence, a combination of life and death which sits outside the three elements and is required for anything to live or die. (See Streams, Flows, Forms.)

Materialize – Ability to Forge a portal between two places for travel.

Materforging – The act of wielding the essences or elements of Mater.

Matersense – The ability to open up one’s mind to be able to sense or see nearby essences within the elements of Mater.

Matus – One who can sense Mater (Plural – Matii) Not every Matus can manipulate or Forge Mater. What essence a Matus is strongest in is often determined by bloodline. However, one can train to become adept in other essences. It is difficult and takes powerful Matii to wield essences from two separate elements simultaneously. It is considered to only be an ability of the netherlings or gods to wield all essences within all three elements at the same time.

Mystera – Schools built throughout Granadia for the purpose of teaching and recruiting Matii.

Namazzi – Matii who wield mostly the Flows, ancestors of the Cardians and Astocans.

Netherling – Primordial beings from the Nether, said to have been the ones to bestow their power on the Eztezians in order to save the world. This act was part of their revenge against the gods for their experiments.

Ostania – The Eastern continent of Denestia. Have been at conflict with most of Ostania for millenia.

Pathfinder – Powerful Matii, trained by the Tribunal, who have passed the ultimate tests of control over their emotions, which ensure they will not succumb to the temptations of the power the essences promise. They are used to hunt Matii who break the laws governing the use of Forging or those who go insane. They often accompany Ashishin to protect the Ashishin from attackers and from themselves.

Raijin – An elite assassin corps within the Tribunal.

Sanctums of Shelter – Similar to the Bastions of Light but more powerful and arrayed along the mountains in Northern Granadia to protect from any direct incursion by the shade through the Great Divide.

Scorpio – A massive crossbow–type weapon that fires large metal projectiles.

Senjin – A sport played with a leather ball, featuring 14 combatants, 7 per side, on a field spilt into 6 parts, with two halves. The team to score three times first, wins.

Seti – A kingdom in north western Ostania. Their people the Setian are descendants of the Alzari. (See Alzari)

Shadelings – Creatures created in the God Wars, primarily by the god Amuni, and his followers by experimenting with netherlings and the essence of shade. The effects of the couplings can be seen within some of the strange beasts within Denestia.

Shin – The respectful title given to Ashishin Matii.

Shunyata – A place within each person where they can separate and control their emotions. Also the place where sela essence is stored within any living being. Also known as the Eye.

Streamean – The religion named after the elements of Streams and its gods.

Streams – The combination of four essences—light, heat, cold, and shade that make up energy. The energy can be used in the forming of the other elements e.g cold is needed to form ice which is part of the Forms and part of the Flows.

Sven – The earth elemental peoples that inhabit the Nevermore Mountains in north eastern Ostania. Descendants of the Svenzar.

Svenzar – Form elementals that reside in mountainous areas. Their power resides in earth, metal, and wood.

The Aegis – Said to be a power or a person who would help either protect the gods or defend against their resurgence.

The Chronicles – Said to be sacred tomes written by the Eztezians themselves and their descendants, dictating the past and the future of the world.

The Disciplines – A set of rules and pointers on how to govern and lead soldiers.

The Eye – See Shunyata.

The Great Divide – A massive rift in the land created by the Eztezians to defeat the shadelings. It runs from north to south across central Everland, and is guarded by the Erastonians.

The Iluminus – Named after the god Ilumni, it is the central city, learning hub and home of the Tribunal and its Matii.

The Nether – A realm between the worlds thought to be the origination of Mater, the gods, and netherlings.

The Stone – The great hidden city where the Svenzar and Sven live in northern Ostania.

The Unvanquished – Stefan Dorn’s elite troops in Ostania.

Travelshaft – Tunnels developed by the Svenzar using the Forms, where time is slowed and speed increased to allow travel between large distances in a small amount of time. Said to somehow be constructed between the Planes of Existence.

Tribunal – The founding society of Ashishin among the Matii. They determined what was needed for the Matii as a whole to function in their proper roles as protectors and mediators. Eventually, the different Matii split apart due to conflicts in ideals, philosophies and religions. The Tribunal rules in Granadia. They left Ostania where most of the other Matii fled, to fend for themselves.

Vallum of Light – A massive wall imbued with Mater and erected by Eztezians within the Tribunal to separate Ostania from Granadia.

Warping – A Forging by powerful Matii, using the sela essences of something recently killed, to twist the essences in a specific area, thus rendering them unusable for a period of time.

Wraithwolf – A type of shadeling using a combination of wolf or other canine type beast, as well as the sela of a person, and essences of shade.

Zar – The respectful title given to Alzari Matii.

 

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