The Books of Magic – Gaiman’s Graphic Sorcery

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Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic lives up to its name. Combining Gaiman’s distinct charm with illustrations by John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, and Paul Johnson, Magic stands as a narrative wonder among the pantheon of amazing graphic novels. In fact, published in 1993, it may have built the foundation on which some of the medium’s best work stands.

I encountered The Books of Magic after a lengthy discussion with a friend about the Harry Potter series during which he called out certain similarities between the stories. I usually wouldn’t mention this in my review, but it seems this is a common question among Potterheads looking to dive into Gaiman’s graphic novel. Perhaps significantly, The Books of Magic predates the first Harry Potter book by about five years, and there are a few notable similarities. Tim Hunter, the graphic novel’s protagonist, has dark hair and glasses. Early on, he’s given an owl by an older magician. Both of these facts become apparent right from the start, but the parallels pretty much end there.

Following a quick and mysterious intro that establishes Timothy’s potential to be an immensely powerful wizard, he’s whisked into a crazy adventure by four magicians who all wear trench coats. He explores the past, the present, the future, and Fairyland, each time with a separate mage companion. The entire plot is staged as a sort of “magical preview,” and when he’s through with the journey, Tim must decide whether he wants to pursue magic further. Boiled down to its bare bones, the story is essentially Timothy watching a trailer for a fascinating, real-life movie, then must decide whether to watch the feature film.

The plot, paired with brilliant illustrative work and Todd Klein’s diverse lettering, make The Books of Magic a feast for the eyes and mind. Tim’s journeys through time and reality are beautifully imaginative, and they leap off the page with the help of Gaiman’s typical (but still somehow unbelievable) panache. The past, present, and future as they relate to magic are fascinating “locales” worthy of the pages-long explorations they receive. Fairyland, though, plays the starring role. An amalgamation of countless worlds including Hell, the dream world (inhabited by Gaiman’s Sandman, who makes a cameo), and many others, Fairyland and its whimsical reality-bending branches shine through in text and drawing alike, culminating in a downright gorgeous romp through Gaiman’s fantasy-genius imagination.

The story and setting are bolstered by a quirky cast of characters, many of whom have appeared in other DC series. In the visual medium, the lack of physical space for text places much of the characterization burden on the artist, and each illustrator in The Books of Magic showcases talents that well surpassed even my highest expectations. They treat every illustration with such care that I often found myself lingering on the artwork for minutes at a time, absorbing the detail admiring the artistic skill on display.

The Books of Magic builds to an explosive and, I have to say it—magical—ending that mostly pays off. Tim’s journey comes to a meaningful and sensible conclusion, but it does lean heavily on a loophole that felt either cheap or unearned—I honestly can’t decide between the two. Still, it did little to detract from the fantastic story that preceded it. In some ways, the story feels like a prequel to a much longer saga, and that’s partly true. While Gaiman’s novel stands alone, it did continue under new penmanship years later. I left The Books of Magic so enamored that I bought the continuation, and I can’t wait to dive in.

Rating: The Books of Magic – 8.5/10
-Cole

All You Need Is Love – 25 Perfect Love Quotes In Fantasy

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Fantasy art by Sergey Lesiuk, Ukraine.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Fantasy books are not usually considered the best places to look for love. With the constant sword fights, dragons, and grim dark plot lines there is often not a lot of room for love. However, there are still tons of instances of beautiful affection to be found if you know where to look. To celebrate the holiday of love I have compiled a list of 25 of my favorite quotes from fantasy that express love to use on your significant other (or to acquire one). All of them are guaranteed to cause hearts to explode with affection and increase the happiness of all involved. I hope it brings a little bit of love to each and everyone of you, and have a wonderful day.

  • “Love is not about conquest. The truth is a man can only find true love when he surrenders to it. When he opens his heart to the partner of his soul and says: “Here it is! The very essence of me! It is yours to nurture or destroy.” -David Gemmell, Lord of the Silver Bow
  • “You are the harbor of my soul’s journeying.” -Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana
  • “Quit being so hard on yourself. We are what we are; we love what we love. We don’t need to justify it to anyone… not even to ourselves.” -Scott Lynch, The Republic of Thieves
  • “At first glance, the key and the lock it fits may seem very different. Different in shape, different in function, different in design. The man who looks at them without knowledge of their true nature might think them opposites, for one is meant to open, and the other to keep closed. Yet, upon closer examination he might see that without one, the other becomes useless. The wise man then sees that both lock and key were created for the same purpose.” -Brandon Sanderson, The Well of Ascension
  • “In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.” -Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear
  • “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
  • “And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many.” ―J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
  • “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” -Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  • “You have made a place in my heart where I thought there was no room for anything else. You have made flowers grow where I cultivated dust and stones.” -Robert Jordan, Shadow Rising
  • “Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all of the time, made new.” -Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven
  • “There is a primal reassurance in being touched, in knowing that someone else, someone close to you, wants to be touching you. There is a bone-deep security that goes with the brush of a human hand, a silent, reflex-level affirmation that someone is near, that someone cares.” -Jim Butcher, White Night
  • “It was well for him, with his chivalry and mysticism, to make the grand renunciation. But it takes two to make love, or to make a quarrel. She was not an insensate piece of property to be taken up or laid down at his convenience. You could not give up a human heart as you could give up drinking. The drink was yours, and you could give it up: but your lover’s soul was not you own: it was not at your disposal; you had a duty towards it.” – T.H. White, The Once and Future King
  • “She did not think it was love. She did not think it was love when she felt a curious ache and anxiety when he was not there; she did not think it was love as she felt relief wash over her when she received a note from him; she did not think it was love when she sometimes wondered what their lives would be like after five, ten, fifteen years together. The idea of love never crossed her mind.”  -Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs
  • “Love is not a whim. Love is not a flower that fades with a few fleeting years. Love is a choice wedded to action, my husband, and I choose you, and I will choose you every day for the rest of my life.” -Brent Weeks, The Blinding Knife
  • “A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores.” -Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant
  • “I guess each of us, at some time, finds one person with whom we are compelled towards absolute honesty, one person whose good opinion of us becomes a substitute for the broader opinion of the world. And that opinion becomes more important than all our sneaky, sleazy schemes of greed, lust, self-aggrandizement, whatever we are up to while lying the world into believing we are just plain nice folks.” -Glen Cook, Shadow Games
  • “Love is like recognition. It’s the moment when you catch sight of someone and you think There is someone I have business with in this life. There is someone I was born to know.” Daniel Abraham, Rogues
  • “All of us are lonely at some point or another, no matter how many people surround us. And then, we meet someone who seems to understand. She smiles, and for a moment the loneliness disappears.” -Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni
  • “I have known you since the world was born. Everything you are is what you should be. Everything you should be is what you are. I know all of you, and there is nothing in you I do not love.” -Matthew Woodring Stover, Caine’s Law
  • “He’d told me the world could be the most lovely place you could imagine, so long as your imagination was fueled by love.” -Sebastien de Castell, Knight’s Shadow
  • “The heart is neither given nor stolen. The heart surrenders.” -Steven Erikson, House of Chains
  • “How can you regret never having found true love? That’s like saying you regret not being born a genius. People don’t have control over such things. It either happens or it doesn’t. It’s a gift – a present that most never get. It’s more like a miracle, really, when you think of it. I mean, first you have to find that person, and then you have to get to know them to realize just what they mean to you – that right there is ridiculously difficult. Then… then that person has to feel the same way about you. It’s like searching for a specific snowflake, and even if you manage to find it, that’s not good enough. You still have to find its matching pair. What are the odds?” -Michael J. Sullivan, Heir of Novron
  • “He wondered how it could have taken him so long to realize he cared for her, and he told her so, and she called him an idiot, and he declared that it was the finest thing that ever a man had been called.” -Neil Gaiman, Stardust
  • “Well,” she said, “I should think it would do every man good to have a wife who isn’t as in awe of him as everyone else is. Somebody has to keep you humble.” – Brandon Sanderson, Warbreaker

The Masters Of Prose

When talking about the most talented authors, I hear a lot of fans say it comes down to who has the best prose. While I completely disagree that it is the end-all of importance when judging someone’s books, it is none the less an extremely important aspect of every book. Prose is the vessel in which you tell a story, and requests for recommendations of masterful prose have come pouring in. One of the culprits of this surge in prose love is the talented Patrick Rothfuss, a master wordsmith and one of the current kings of the fantasy world. I get daily requests for authors on par with this giant, so I have decided to make a list of the authors I have read that are prose masters and why. So without further delay, in no particular order, let us begin:

cover_ukPatrick Rothfuss – Let’s start with Rothfuss himself as a introduction. Patrick Rothfuss is almost as much a poet as author, and the fact that his character is also poetically inclined only enhances this fact. Rothfuss’s prose feels both beautiful and accessible, which is what makes it such a powerhouse. He describes scenes in vivid detail, but only focuses on the important and does not waste time on the frivolous. With his honed writing and clever direction Rothfuss piques your curiosity and then paints your imagination without a single word wasted. The combination of both beauty and clarity is what makes him so good.

14497Neil Gaiman – Gaiman’s writing always reminds me of Grimm’s Fairy Tales; serious and dark subjects surrounded in whimsy and mystery. There are few authors with prose as imaginative and fun as Neil with his fanciful descriptions and mysterious and silly conversations. Yet these words still pack a punch, with layers of meaning and philosophy built into every single paragraph. Every single time you reread a work of Gaiman’s you will find some new meaning you didn’t see before and find the words more captivating than you remember. He is a thoughtful writer who has induced endless conversations about the complex meanings of stories.

51tpik8k2btlScott Lynch – Lynch has the one of strongest voices I have ever read. When you read any of his books you become the characters he creates, and live their lives. His books are both hilarious and alive. I don’t have a favorite part of any of his novels because if you were to open to any single page and start reading you would find yourself smiling and laughing. His books read like your best friend making you laugh after a rough break up and continue to bring me comfort whenever I need them. His prose will make its way to your heart and warm it with his lovable rogues and perfect humor. I have only found one or two books even close to as dripping with humor as Lynch’s work.

th_b_bennett_cityofstairs_ukRobert Bennett – I have only read one of Bennett’s books, City of Stairs, but it was enough. Bennett has displayed a talent for action, description, and imagination in his prose. His prose has both vivid detail, and an edge of humor, that makes scenes and descriptions both clear, beautiful, and memorable. In addition, in the creation of his original creatures and places he demonstrates a clear talent in helping the reader see his own imagination with clarity and understanding. His outrageous descriptives, dark humor, and use of the present tense in City of Stairs made me feel like I was reading something one of a kind.

61-whhujivl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Joe Abercrombie – Next we have the king of combat and the Escher of the fantasy world, Joe Abercrombie. I think that many in the fantasy world would agree that Abercrombie is one of the, if not the, most clever writers in the genre. There is so much going on in his prose that multiple people can read it, discuss it after, and wonder if they read the same story. Abercrombie’s prose feels like reality instead of a story, and does wonders bringing his tales to life. In addition, there are only a few authors who can write combat prose as well as Abercrombie. Many books feel like people just waving swords, but with Abercrombie you can feelevery sword blow, run every footstep, and take every breathe alongside the warriors in every battle.

828352Terry Pratchett – The world lost a giant when Terry Pratchett passed away last year. I honestly do not feel like I am a good enough writer to describe the power of Terry Pratchett’s prose, so instead for once I am going to refer you to the words of someone else on this list, Scott Lynch, as he describes what it was like to wake up in a world without Terry Pratchett (Warning – It will make you cry).

leguin01Ursula K. Le Guin – Le Guin’s prose is very, very powerful. She writes the kind of novels that make you feel bad about the way you live your life, and cause you to vow to give more to charity. Her prose uses tone and flow masterfully to manipulate your emotions and makes her messages incredibly heavy hitting. She is one of the few authors I have read to move me with just short stories like this one (only four pages long). Her work hits you like a truck full of bricks and is a great choice for someone looking for moving prose.

60211Gene Wolfe – Gene Wolfe writes the most dense, elusive prose I have probably ever read. His works are not on the same continent as “easy reads”. However, while his work requires a huge investment of time and patience, even the smallest snippet of his prose is enjoyable and oversaturated with meaning. You can read a book like Shadow of the Torturer 30 times and still find that each chunk of prose has new secrets that you did not find before. People are still writing books about the depth of his prose 30 years after it was published, so if you are looking for someone who meticulously chooses each word in a sentence/page/chapter/book he is always worth a read.

104089Guy Gavriel Kay – Kay writes mostly standalones, and his release times are infrequent. However, the long waits are always worth it as Kay’s prose will make you feel like you are living in another world or era. Kay is the most transportive writer I have ever read. He spends years studying the cultures and places he writes about so that he can get the details just right. His prose, without fail, takes you on journeys and fully immerses you in the characters lives until they feel like your own. His writing style is also incredibly poetic but also not too dense. This combination creates passages that are deeply moving but don’t require hours of thought to decipher their meaning. If you want to go on a journey, give any of his books a shot.

fellowship-of-the-ringJ. R. R. Tolkien – Tolkien. I feel like I really don’t need to justify why Tolkien is on this list, as Lord of the Rings is accepted as literature by a lot of people. However, I will say this – The Lord of the Rings is the kind of book that everyone wants to say they read, but doesn’t want to actually read. Its combination of popularity and dense prose encourage lots of people to skim through them in order to simple claim they have read it. This is a huge shame, because the prose (and everything) in Lord of the Rings is incredible. Tolkien’s prose is poetically descriptive, deeply laden with metaphors and symbolism, grand and inspiring in scope, and often times surprisingly funny and light hearted all at the same time. There is a reason he will forever be considered one of the all time fantasy masters, if you haven’t take some time and read through his books some time.

Rogues – A Few Gems But Mostly Filler

roguesBefore I start this, let me say that I do not often read anthologies so I may not be the best judge. With that out of the way, let’s talk about Rogues, the anthology being advertised under George R. R. Martin’s banner. The title of the post should give you a fairly succinct summary of my thoughts. There are some really good stories in Rogues but they are surrounded in some places by mediocrity and in others by disappointment. There are too many stories to talk about all of them, so I am going to talk about a few of the key pieces that might make the collection worth purchasing, and a few that left a bad taste in my mouth. There is, however, an individual scoring list at the end of this post for those of you who need to know about every story.

Let’s start with Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie. There is not a more “Joe Abercrombie” story on the face of the planet than this one. This short story follows a package that will be the salvation of anyone who can hold onto it. The story follows the package as it makes its way from person to person, each trying to save their lives to little avail. I love Joe Abercrombie, but it has been awhile since I read some of his work and I had forgotten how truly incredible he is at writing people. This story is roughly 40 pages long and has something like 15 characters. Given about 3 pages each, Abercrombie brings every single one of these characters to life and makes you care about them, it is uncanny. This story made me want to start The First Law all over again and reaffirmed my love of him as an author.

Then we have A Year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch, which can be found for free here. Where do I even start with this. My first thought when I finished this short story was: I would be ok if Scott never wrote another Gentleman Bastards book and just started a new series on this story. If you haven’t read the Gentleman Bastards (which begins with The Lies of Locke Lamora), stop reading this post and go do it. It is easily in my top 5 series of all time, and might possible be #1. This is why it is no small thing for me to make such a claim of this short. The story follows a group of retired thieves in a whimsical and violently magical world. These thieves have purchased immunity for their past crimes on the condition they never steal again. Unfortunately for our band of criminals, events force them out of retirement for one last job and getting caught will result in a fate worse than death. The new world that Scott builds in just a few pages is one I want to visit badly. His writing continues to be the most funny I have ever read, and his author’s voice charms me better than any rogue could. If you couldn’t read the story for free elsewhere, I would say it was worth getting Rogues just for this.

Next up we have How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman. If you scroll down you will see I only gave this story a 4 out of 5, and might wonder why I would choose it as a key selling point for the book? Gaiman’s short story takes place in the world of his novel Neverwhere, a novel I can’t stand. I found it boring, slow, and unejoyable, so I was ready to burn this short to the ground when I saw the setting. Instead, now I am wondering if maybe I was just in a really bad mood when I read Neverwhere. Gaiman’s short really embodies the essence of being a rogue, with his protagonist the Marquis. The story follows our dapper mysterious gentleman in his quest to get his incredible coat back after a mishap. Using a series of favors and negotiations, the Marquis attempts to barter his way back to his coat while also displaying the full powers of a true rogue. It was a great story that got me into the spirit of the anthology’s theme, and is definitely worth finding if you can.

Finally we have The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss. I wanted to hate this story. I am selfishly mad at Patrick Rothfuss (as many of us are) due to the fact that he hasn’t finished The Kingkiller series yet. As I began this short story about Bast in the same world, I was ready to cast him down and shout “he got lucky, this was terrible” to ease my bitter sad heart. Which is why it was really awkward when someone asked me why I was crying while I was reading it and I replied “because it is so damn good”. The Lightning Tree is a short story about Bast, a character in the Kingkiller Chronicles series. For those who are familiar with the series (so I assume all of you), it takes place in the present at the inn. The story follows Bast on a typical day as he goes to town and sits at the lightning tree. Bast spends the day trading secrets and favors for other secrets and favors with the children of the town. The story was incredible, I will say nothing else. Patrick Rothfuss is unbelievably talented and every day he doesn’t give me more to read makes me sad. The story does not further the plot of the original trilogy at all, but is definitely worth your time.

These four stories, and a few other fairly strong ones, made the anthology feel like a wonderful purchase while reading them. Unfortunately, there are about 14 other stories that felt like nothing special, including a few true duds. While not terrible, I wanted to make note of two personal disappointments starting with The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham. Daniel Abraham is one of my all time favorite authors due to his tendency to tell stories off the beaten path. He is my paragon of new and fresh ideas, which made his rather bland and uninteresting story, about a young rogue in love, disappointing for me. It was well written and well done, but it felt like something I had seen over and over throughout the anthology.

Then there was GRRM himself, who is certainly being used as the selling point of the collection. His story was the final one out of the group and I found it terribly disappointing, which I guess isn’t surprising given how much hype he has these days. It is a 30 page story about one of the targaryens and their life outside the events of Game of Thrones. I am increasingly starting to think that Martin does not know how to escape his masterpiece and write anything else. With only 30 pages, he provides some nice descriptives but not much else, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth as I closed out of the anthology.

At the end of the day, you are paying a hefty price for 4 gems, a few good reads, and a whole lot of filler. My overall average score of the stories came to a solid 3 out of 5, which isn’t terrible. In fact it is above average. However, given how many authors I love are in the lineup it is lower than I hoped for a group of works. I would recommend skipping on this one and trying to find the four aforementioned stories from other (legal) means.

  1. “Tough Times All Over” by Joe Abercrombie – 4.5/5
  2. “What Do You Do?” by Gillian Flynn – 2.5/5
  3. “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes – 4/5
  4. “Bent Twig” by Joe R. Lansdale – 1/5
  5. “Tawny Petticoats” by Michael Swanwick – 3.5/5
  6. “Provenance” by David Ball – 3/5
  7. “The Roaring Twenties” by Carrie Vaughn – 2/5
  8. “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch – 6/5
  9. “Bad Brass” by Bradley Denton – 2/5
  10. “Heavy Metal” by Cherie Priest – 3.5/5
  11. “The Meaning of Love” by Daniel Abraham – 3.5/5
  12. “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell – 2.5/5
  13. “Ill Seen in Tyre” by Steven Saylor – 2/5
  14. “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix – 3.5/5
  15. “Diamonds From Tequila” by Walter Jon Williams – 1/5
  16. “The Caravan to Nowhere” by Phyllis Eisenstein – 2/5
  17. “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” by Lisa Tuttle – 3/5
  18. “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back” by Neil Gaiman – 4/5
  19. “Now Showing” by Connie Willis – 2.5/5
  20. “The Lightning Tree” by Patrick Rothfuss – 6/5
  21. “The Rogue Prince, or, the King’s Brother” by George R. R. Martin – 3/5

Overall Rating: 6/10