Saturday, February 28, 2015

Jonas Reviews Skylanders(Part 2)

Check out all the new additions to Jonas's increasingly massive Skylanders collection!


Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Review - Revisit Review 1: Mistborn

I've decided to spend some time this year reading back through some of my favorite fantasy books, mostly Brandon Sanderson's(yeah, I'm a Sanderson fanboy), and post brief "revisit reviews" of them.  I'm starting with the Mistborn Trilogy, so this first review is of my favorite fantasy book of all time, Mistborn: The Final Empire. 

Revisit Review 1

Mistborn: The Final Empire
by Brandon Sanderson

Though I refer to Mistborn as my favorite fantasy novel(well, favorite novel), I've only read through it once before now.  It just had that much of an impact on me.  While Sanderson has often spoke of how the idea for this first entry in the trilogy stemmed from his love of caper films such as Ocean's Eleven, Mistborn goes far beyond the simple caper concept of its back-cover blurb.

Really, everything about this book defies convention.  The Final Empire is a land which was once threatened by a great evil called the Deepness.  A hero was prophesized to arise and defeat the evil, and thereby save the world.  The problem was, he failed.  Now the Final Empire is ruled by the Lord Ruler, a ruthless and immortal god-like man, and those outside the nobility(the skaa) are persecuted, used as little more than slaves.  Both the skaa and the nobility are under constant watch of the Lord Ruler's obligators, and even worse, his inquisitors, seemingly immortal men characterized by giant metal spikes driven through their eye sockets.  The sun burns read.  The nights are shrouded in mysterious and dangerous mists.  The skies rain ash.  Plants are brown.  Much of the world suffers under the persecution of the Lord Ruler.

Mistborn introduces the concept of allomancy, a form of magic implemented through ingested metals. Yes, it sounds weird, and I was a little put off by the concept until I experienced the first major scene in which it is explicitly being used.  Overall, allomancy is as interesting and exciting as it is complex, and allows for incredible action scenes that never fail to amaze. By ingesting and then "burning" certain metals, an allomancer may enhance their senses, push or pull on metals(which can involve simple attacks with metal projectiles, or even flying through the air), grow stronger, among many other abilities.  Most allomancers are restricted to the ability to burn only one type of metal.  Certain allomancers, however, can burn all the metals, and are known as mistborn.

Sanderson is well known for his magic systems, and Mistborn is a prime example of how creative he can be with these.  Many scenes involving allomancy in this book will have you wanting to see it put to the screen, whether in movie, television, or video game format(at least two of these have been optioned - we'll see if anything ever comes of it).

This first book introduces us to a man named Kelsier, and chronicles his quest to incite a skaa rebellion, and take down the Lord Ruler in the process.  Kelsier is a mistborn, known as the "Survivor" after escaping from the a slavish life in the Lord Ruler's mines.  Kelsier aims to carry out his plan with a specialized team of allomancers, hence the whole caper concept.  In the beginning of the story, he locates a young female thief, a mistborn unaware of her powers,named Vin.  Raised in skaa slums, Vin has no friends or family, and joins Kelsier's crew readily for the promise of knowledge about her newfound powers.  However, she soon finds friendship she never knew existed among her new comrades, and learns of the value of sacrificing for the sake of love.  Vin is essentially the primary protagonist of this trilogy, and watching her grow throughout this book is a sheer pleasure.

There are many other major characters throughout the book, each with a distinct and believable personality, both lovable and detestable at times.  You know, like real people.  From Ham, a warrior-type who loves to talk philosophy, to Breeze, the self-important smart-ass who never hesitates to set his ego aside for his friends, each character avoids falling into your typical fantasy tropes.  

Honestly, I have no problems with this book.  Seriously.  None.  

I don't want to go too deep into the plot; to do so would take away from the joy of experiencing the amazing story, numerous plot twists, and incredible world building contained within this volume.  I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, even if only a passing interest in the genre. 


Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Review: Prison Planet of the Mah Lahkt

Friday Review:
Forging of a Knight
Prison Planet of the Mah Lahkt

Hugo Negron has treated us with an exhilarating end to a major story arc in this third volume of Forging of a Knight.  In this epic volume, Qualton, the titular knight of the series,  and a band of the world's greatest heroes(well, one world at least . . .), set out to prevent Shaz of Those That Stand in Shadow from obtaining the power of a greater evil after a warning from an unlikely ally(ish).  The mission takes them to an entirely different world, and pits them against the greatest trials and tribulations they have ever faced.

Negron continues to write some of the most exciting fantasy action scenes I've seen from any author, brilliantly composed with the tendency to suck you into the action like a triple A blockbuster movie.  The returning characters(Qualton, Jesepha, Cassandra, Aurelus, and a couple others) are well written and for the most part gain even more depth in this volume.  These are definitely the characters we've grown to know over the previous books, showing no hints of becoming watered down or reduced to nothing more than simple plot devices as some authors allow their characters to do over the course of epic series.

The general story lacks the depth of the preceding volume(Rise of the Slavekeepers), but I think the reason is simply because this is what the previous two books was building towards.  There's a couple surprises thrown in here and there, but for the most part the book is straight forward, at times reading like an epic fantasy road movie(hmm . . . that makes two movie comparisons now).

The world is, as always, brilliantly detailed and developed, the strange, wondrous, and ofttimes dangerous prison planet of the Mah Lahkt vivid and breathtaking.  I'm fairly certain Hugo Negron's imagination has no boundaries, the lands and the creatures who inhabit them endlessly creative.

Although this book easily deserves the five stars I've rated it, I do have a few small quibbles.  Looking at the primary hero, Qualton, and the primary villain, Shaz, I feel that the story presents as an almost too perfect display of good versus evil.  Shaz has absolutely no redeeming qualities.  Yes, he's evil. Yes, he's kind of insane.  But it would be nice if he had a little more depth . . . a gray area, if you will.  The same goes with Qualton being a little too good.  I in no way feel that he should be written as an antihero(as seems to be the current trend with fantasy protagonists), but it would be nice to see him swayed towards the darker side a little more, to see his values and honor truly put to the test.  I'd love to read a scene and be surprised by what actions he takes to reach an end.

Other than that, I was slightly disappointed that Glaive was relegated to a single scene early on in the story.  To the best of my understanding, the next book will bring him back to the forefront, his tiny part in this book serving to set up his story in it, but he's such a great character that I sorely missed him in this adventure.  Oh, well, new characters Tarkanus and Finbar offer plenty of comic relief!

Overall, this is a more-than-worthy end to a major story arc, and it leaves several interesting threads that I am eager to follow into future volumes.  If you haven't read any of the books in this series, you need to start from book 1, and I urge any fans of swords and sorcery fantasy to do just that.  For those following this series, you don't want to miss out on this action-packed adventure.


Be sure to check out Hugo V. Negron at:


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Jonas Reviews - The Book With No Pictures

First of all, if you have a small child or grandchild, you should buy them B.J. Novak's The Book With No Pictures.  Second, if you need an actual reason, Jonas's "review" will give you a hilarious two-ish minute long one.


- If there is nothing more magical than a child's laughter, then watching this video is like following a white rabbit through a wardrobe to take classes at Hogwarts in Middle Earth.

- If there is nothing sweeter than a child's laughter, this video may give you diabetes.

- If there is nothing more contagious than a child's laughter, then prepare to be infected.

- And, if laughter is the best medicine, then I'm pretty sure that reading The Book With No Pictures may have given Jonas superpowers.  I'll keep you updated.