Age of Myth Book Review

Age of Myth

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire, #1)

Age of Myth

by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first time reading any of Michael J. Sullivan’s books. I tried this book, Age of Myth, and while it is passable, it fits generic fantasy. I actually have very little to say about it. The premise was slightly intriguing, although nothing too original. Humans rebel against the faster, smarter, deadlier, long lived elves. They consider the elves gods, until someone proves they aren’t.

But even with this premise there were issues. The magic, at least in this book, seems way too powerful. I don’t know what the limits are, as they command the weather, reroute a river, and other things like light fires, all without seeming to have limitations. And the elves do very little to maintain their stature as gods, especially when one is killed and they go around trumpeting that fact. Sure, they take revenge, but by doing that, they confirm to the humans they are mortal. At no time in the book am I in awe of the elves, except maybe in the first few paragraphs.

The characters are fine, but not too memorable. Persephone was probably the most interesting, and possible Suri, but seemed to follow primitive human/noble savage tropes. The plot went predictably. Even the red herring was obvious as such. The races had no depth with the standard humans, elves, and dwarves. But worse, the author threw in giants and goblins, each with one minor character representing them, serving almost no purpose. I don’t know if they’ll come up again later, but the goblin was there to try and fail to counter magic, and the giant was there to…I don’t know why. 

I’ve started reading Theft of Swords and it at least seems a little more interesting, if still in the same generic world. I don’t know if I’ll read any sequels to Age of Myth.

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Beauty and the Beast Review

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast – The New One

So I finally went to see Beauty and the Beast, despite some reluctance. I was having a hard time with Hermione, a know-it-all girl I saw growing up into a know-it-all woman, as Belle. Although the effect wasn’t as bad as I feared, I never quite got over that.  I was also having a hard time getting over the fact that Disney was telling the exact same story as the animated feature, instead of taking a deeper look at the source material like they did with The Jungle Book. Aside from a few forgettable song additions and a more robust backstory, this is almost scene for scene the same movie, just brought to “life” (even though half the movie is still animated, just with computer graphics). 

Still, I liked the original enough to give this one a try. For the most part, I liked this. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but it does a good job. But remaking a classic animation invites comparisons and I’m going to do just that.

Criticisms of the Original

If you’ve seen any film theory videos on the original Beauty and the Beast, you’ll find two main criticisms, both of which are nitpicky, in my opinion.

The first criticism is that Belle is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. That is where a kidnapped person identifies and sides with their captor. This new film doesn’t really address that issue, although Hermione did in interviews. But Belle voluntarily became a prisoner to free her father. The Beast didn’t kidnap her. And he eventually makes an effort to court her and treat her as a guest. So I don’t think this one holds.

This film directly addresses the second criticism, the muddled timeline. In the original, the Beast will remain cursed if he doesn’t find true love before his 21st birthday. Lumiere, in the song “Be Our Guest,” tells Belle that they have been rusting for 10 years now. So that implies the Beast received his curse when he was 11 years old. This would make his refusal of the enchantress more understandable, as he was just a bratty boy. But the original also had a painting of him as an adult human, so the curse couldn’t have taken place in his boyhood. In the end, it doesn’t make much sense either way.

This new one makes clear the enchantress cursed him as an adult. It also avoids any mention of a time span. Another thing this version does is mention how the nearby villagers forgot about the castle and its inhabitants. 

New Problems

While this new version of Beauty and the Beast addresses those issues, it introduces a few new ones. The biggest one, in my opinion, is a book that lets the two of them travel outside the castle. If the magic mirror wasn’t enough, the Beast has this new magic power. But its use is confusing.

Belle travels to her home in Paris. Spoiler alert: her mom is dead. She died from the plague. Belle goes to a home that appears recently abandoned, as there are still drawings of her as a baby there. So did she travel in time? The film also makes clear it is real, not just in their minds, as Belle takes a rose pen thing from the home and later shows it to her father. But in the flashback, Belle’s mother, sick with the plague, kisses it. So does Belle contract the plague as well? And if she can travel in time, could she save her mother? This device just adds new complications.

Technical issues

It is pretty clear they live in France (there is a song about people saying Bonjour). But Hermione has an English accent, while Obi Wan Kenobi hams up his French accent. It doesn’t make sense.

Speaking of Obi Wan Kenobi, who plays Lumiere, he steals the show, but I still think I prefer the original one. The singing worked better and I liked his animation better in the original Beauty and the Beast. Gandalf, playing Cogsworth, just sounds like an old man, not as fun as the original. The Hobbit’s Bard did a great job as manly man Gaston. And Olaf added depth to LeFou, while keeping the gay character controversy low key.

There were a few issues with the Beast. Although usually good, there were a few times the animation wasn’t smooth. And he looked more like a satyr than the buffalo hulk monster in the original Beauty and the Beast. His bad manners make no sense, since he was a prince before. And he tells Gaston in the end that he is no beast, while Belle calls him Beast just a moment later. 

One technical issue I saw was the scene transitions. Some scenes feel rushed. It is as if the director is saying, “You already saw this in the original and know what they’re thinking, so let’s just cut to the chase.” It was a bit jarring. The scenes didn’t flow into each other as well. Their falling in love scenes especially suffered from that, although I did enjoy seeing Hermione clocked in the face with a giant snowball. 

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast, but I don’t think it tops the original animated version, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. This one won’t get that. The original flowed better, the servants fit in an animated world better, and Belle didn’t annoy me like Hermione occasionally did. But it was nice to see things imagined realistically. 

 

The Classification of Dragons

Dragons

Dragons are the most interesting animal that never existed. No other mythological creature has had such far reach across cultures and centuries nor so much lore behind it. They’re even mentioned in the Bible, albeit as a symbolic representation. 

But despite being so universal, they are also diverse. Although many cultures have dragons in their mythology, their designs vary widely, and some of that might have to do with translation issues. They are often lizard- or snake-like, can often fly, sport spines and horns, and have magical attacks like breathing fire. Many don’t follow these patterns, though. Even so, most dragons of legend fit into one of several categories. 

Dragons

Gold Dragon
The most common classification. People also know them as western dragons, because they mirror the designs in medieval Europe. They have four legs (some can stand up on the hind ones, others walk on all fours), a pair of bat wings for flying, and can breathe fire. Scales cover their bodies, like lizards. 

Summary: 4 legs, 2 wings

Wyvern

Smaug dragonThis is where things get controversial. Almost every recent film featuring dragons has what would more technically be called the wyvern design, or at least the updated version of wyverns. Originally, wyverns were smaller, didn’t breathe fire, and had a poisonous spine on their tails, like scorpions. Design-wise, their biggest difference was that they had no forearms, only two hind legs and two wings, which they used to walk on when grounded. Now, think back to every major dragon depicted in film in the last decade or two. Harry Potter dragons, Reign of Fire dragons, and Smaug in The Hobbit (despite Tolkien himself drawing him with four legs), plus the dragons in Game of Thrones and Skyrim, they all followed this design, even though people called them dragons. The only exception I can think of is How to Train Your Dragon, an animated film.

There are a few reasons for this. One is a sense of realism: excepting insects, there are no hexapods (animals with six limbs) that we know of. Bats, birds, and even pterodactyls all follow this design of the forearms being wings. Here is another reason. 

Personally, I dislike this trend. They seem less intelligent and more animalistic this way, in my opinion, and less true to their source material. Plus, it creates confusion, especially in the cinematic Lord of the Rings universe: if Smaug the dragon has only two legs, then what were the creatures the Naz’gul rode in the original trilogy? Smaller dragons? The wyverns might be more realistic, but come on, they’re dragons. The number of legs isn’t going to change the fact that they’re too big to fly, or even exist, and they wouldn’t be able to breathe fire. It seems silly to worry about them being hexapods without addressing that issue. 

Summary: 2 legs, 2 wings

Wyrms

Kirin DragonI’m going to lump several types of dragons in this category. This includes eastern dragons, associated with China and nearby areas. They are either serpentine with no legs or long with two to four legs. They don’t have wings, but can often fly using magic. These dragons are such a part of their cultures that they’re the only mythological beings in the Chinese zodiac. They are often more benevolent than the fire breathing dragons of the west.

Summary: 0-4 legs, no wings

Drakes

Drake DragonsNot so common, these are flightless dragons with four legs. They can stand upright or on all fours

Summary: 4 legs, 0 wings

 

There are some other versions and classifications, but there’s no need to go more specific. Some differences between dragons include what type of breath they have, whether they have scales or feathers, what colors they are, and many other things. 

Famous Dragons

Just for fun, here are some famous dragons to grace myth, book, and screen.

Smaug

Smaug

Smaug is the most famous dragon in LotR, although not the biggest. He is the enemy in The Hobbit who treasures his hoard of gold and dies from a well placed arrow by a character who comes out of nowhere. In the movies, Bard has a little more characterization and pulls a reverse William Tell, shooting a dragon using the head of his son. He is a dragon in the book, wyvern in the movies.

Jörmungandr

This dragon became famous for growing so big it wrapped around the world and bit its tail. When it lets go, Ragnarok will begin. Sounds like a wyrm.

Bowser

He has spikes, breathes fire, and kidnaps princesses, so he’s a dragon. Or a turtle. No, dragon sounds cooler. I’d classify him as a drake.

Mushu

The most famous Disney dragon, he’s also one of the smallest. But he’s got enough attitude to make up for it. He is a wyrm.

Slifer the Sky Dragon

Yu-Gi-Oh’s first Egyptian God, this dragon is of indeterminate length. Probably a wyrm.

Dragonite

Of the original Pokemon, this one is the only one classified as a dragon, even though Charizard looks quite similar. Western Dragon.

Science

And if you want to see more on the science of dragons, look at this video.

Runaway Wife Romance Part 4

runaway wife romance

If you missed them, here are Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 of this short story romance.

Countryside and Docks: Devrim

I still didn’t know what to think. My romance had ended before it began, and my wife disappeared without a trace. Although I had harbored worries that her family had taken her from me, their attitudes convinced me they shared my ignorance of her disappearance. 
“What if bandits took her into the wilderness?” Jennifer’s mother wailed into my shoulder. “We may never find her broken body!”
I patted her back awkwardly. A week after the wedding, we still stayed at the estate as our base of operations. I would hate to continue renting, but Franklin Fronth was a Lord and had seemingly unlimited resources. Which made his refusal to pay the dowry all the more infuriating. Of the family, only he might have had the motivation to take her away, but it seemed a trivial reason to do so. In fact, I’m sure he suspects me of foul play, so that I could have the dowry and then marry the mistress I’m sure he’s heard about. 
The sun shone down on us. The darkness inside the building was just too oppressing. 
“Devrim!” someone yelled out from across the yard, so I looked up. I saw Rene Fronth, Jennifer’s brother. He dressed with a feathered cap and colorful short cape, which made my own clothing seem drab in comparison. He beckoned me over, so I disengaged from his mother and ran over.
“Any word?” I asked when I reached him.
“No, no news. But I was talking to a friend and he mentioned that he had some goods imported from Felaronia coming in today and it got me thinking. What if, for whatever possible reason, she took a ship to Felaronia? I asked what day that ship would have gone to Octgard and he told me it was the day after the wedding. It’s not a real lead, but I think it is worth investigating, as we don’t have anything else to go on.”
I almost laughed out loud. Why in the world would shy Jennifer run off to Felaronia? It made no sense. Rene was looking in all the wrong places. I was about to reject his offer, but thought that it might instill resentment. In truth, I had nothing better to do and didn’t want his mother clinging to me. “Should we go down to the docks?” I asked, humoring him. 
Rene gave a nervous smile, unsure whether I approved or not. Let him guess.
We made our way over to the docks, a trip that took some time while winding our way through crowded, stinking streets. That’s why I hated Capital Mith. The ever present sun shining in my window of the carriage burned my skin in spite of the flimsy curtain I used to block it. My eye began to twitch and my mouth felt dry.
I didn’t feel like talking much during the ride. My thoughts wandered to Jennifer. Would I ever see her again? Was someone holding her captive? Was she waiting for me to come rescue her? What if she had been defiled? Then what would I do? So many scenarios floated through my mind, but none of them allowed the possibility that she was out of my reach forever.
I put on my hat when we stepped out of the carriage and onto the docks. Boats of all sizes filled the coast. I didn’t come from a coastal city, so I admit I didn’t know the difference between any of them, but Rene seemed to know where to go, so I followed him. The waves made a constant swooshing sound so annoying that I had to keep from shouting out in frustration.
He chose a large ship, random in my mind, and walked up the planks onto the ship. I followed him up but nearly toppled over when the ship shifted. Even on the deck, I felt a little dizzy. In the corner of my eye, I saw some people sniggering, but when I faced them, they looked away innocently. 
Rene found the captain, a wrinkled man who looked tired of life, and then started talking. I stayed back, observing. “Captain James, I have a few questions for you.”
“If you’re mad at me for taking away your wife, girlfriend, or sister, that’s not my problem. These women are adults and can make their own decisions. Several come back on their own accord.”
Never mind my first analysis. This man was just tired of answering the same question over and over again, always on the defensive. “Come, Rene, this is a waste of time.” I placed my hand on his shoulder, but he shrugged it off and continued talking to the captain.
“We just want to know if someone was on your most recent trip to Felaronia.”
“I don’t take names. Just coins. Easier for everyone that way.”
Rene looked flustered so I spoke up. “Jennifer Fronth. She’s tall, blond.” I wracked my mind for other descriptions of her, but failed to come up with anything. 
“She might have come with her friend, Mia, who’s shorter, darker hair, plump,” Rene added.
Captain James stood in a thoughtful pose, unfocused eyes looking back in time. “Yes, I think I might remember the pair. Didn’t talk too much with the other guests. Just kept to themselves.”
Because she was shy? But no, this couldn’t be them. Jennifer would never leave me to go to Felaronia, would she? 
“It must be them! Jenny’s safe!” Rene told me excitedly. He turned to the captain. “You did get there without any casualties, right?”
The captain rolled his eyes. “Of course, young lordling. So if you don’t mind, I have some work to get done.”
“I’m staying here,” I announced. 
“What?” both men asked me.
“Take me to Felaronia. I must find her and bring her back. I’ll wait here until the ship sets sail.”
“Are you sure?” Rene asked. “If she went to Felaronia, it was of her own will, and she won’t want to come back.”
“No, that can’t be it. Why would she flee from me if she doesn’t even know me? She wouldn’t reject a romance that hasn’t even started. Something else must be going on.” I wiped sweat from my forehead. The sun was turning my face red. 
The captain grinned. “Well, I would advise against this, but I can’t wait to see your face when you get back on my ship.”
I sneered. Who was he to judge me? I took out my purse and grabbed a few coins. “Just get me to Felaronia.”
Rene looked at me. “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes!” I snapped, because I knew I would get my romance back. He shook his head and started walking away.
The next day I set sail.

Runaway Wife Romance Part 3

runaway wife romance
If you missed them, here are Part 1 and Part 2 of this short story romance.

Felaronia: Jennifer

“We’re here!” I yelled behind Mia’s back. She actually jumped a few inches into the air, threatening to tumble off the starboard side of our elegant ship. The sails whipped back and forth so that, combined with the waves, muted all sound. I was proud of myself for managing that to overcome that and still scare Mia.
“Jenny!” she whined. “I can see we’re here.”
“Well, let’s go!”
Felaronia’s port town of Octgard greeted us with colorful banners flapping to the screaming wind. The wetlands made it hard to create a permanent settlement along this part of the coast, so most of Felaronia was inland along the River Nesco. But Octgard held out strong and looked beautiful to me right now. Wooden buildings with a variety of designs, colors, and textures were visible from the docks where we had landed. One in particular caught my eye, a tower that gently curved from wide to narrow as it went up, reminding me a little of a woman’s form. Surrounding buildings didn’t compete with it, but accented its beauty like it had all been planned out beforehand. Nothing like the haphazard stone walls back home.
We got off the ship, filing onto the wooden roads of the docks. I felt a little uneasy, as the ground didn’t wobble as much as I had gotten used to in the last few days. It seemed there were two groups, divided almost by gender. The first were the merchants, mostly men who came on business and knew what they wanted, wasting no time as they went toward the city. The second group consisted of women like us, the immigrants, fleeing the effects of misogyny, false romance, and general injustice. We didn’t know where to go and still marveled at the sight of the mythical city. Sure, there were female merchants and male immigrants, but they were minorities. 
As the most noble among our group, I felt it my responsibility to lead them to the shore. So I told them to follow me and mimicked the merchants even as I followed them. Mia caught up to me, looking worried. At first, few wanted to venture out, but the submission that had been beaten into them for so long won out and they lined up behind me. We marched to shore, leaving the vessel of our deliverance behind as we faced our new lives. 
A trio of older women greeted us at the end of the docks. One wore her black hair in a bun, another let her long curly hair loose, and another had her gray hair cut short. All three wore robes, black, purple, and white. They folded their arms with amused looks on their faces. 
The one with the short hair spoke first. “Welcome to Felaronia. My name is Saphira. This is a place where you find what was lacking in your homelands: value and respect. But to obtain that, you must be willing to work hard for the good of everyone. This is not for the weak, lazy, or spoiled.” Did she cast her eyes on me? “We don’t enslave the men like they enslaved us. They are, however, subservient to us out of necessity. There are those whose ambitions would overthrow our society. If you find any, report them to us and they will be escorted to a country more to their liking.”
The one in purple spoke next. “I am Ynette. We realize that many of you are coming from situations of abuse and at the risk of your own lives. Because of this, you will all be assigned a mentor to help you gradually understand our culture, our laws, and our jobs. Any questions you have, you can ask her.
“If you want to pursue a career, but don’t have the skill, we can set you on the path of education. Also, do not despair because of lack of money. You will live first in the commons houses until your mentor transitions you to a full citizen. Like Saphira said, there is little tolerance for women who will not work.” Again, the look at me. Did they think I was just some foolish damsel? “Some of you might have even had easier lives in your homeland. But hard work will allow you to feel like part of our community. Come along and we’ll give you a tour of your new home.”
Mia clapped. “Isn’t this exciting?”
My mood had dropped a bit, but I still mustered up enthusiasm. I would prove these women wrong. Wiping the hair from my face, blown there by the wind, I nodded. 
This had to be better than a forced romance or marriage, after all.
 

Fire Emblem: Awakening Review

Fire Emblem

 My First Fire Emblem

After years of wondering who the heck Marth was in Super Smash Bros, I finally decided to buy a Fire Emblem game. (Kind of. I gave my wife four 3DS game options for my birthday: Fire Emblem Awakening, Fire Emblem Fates, Super Mario 3D Land, and A Link Between Worlds. She gave me Awakening.) I know, it’s been out for a long time, but I haven’t had a 3DS, ahem, 2DS, that long. I have finally beat the game,  so I have the right to play as Robin and Lucina on Smash Bros.

While Final Fantasy Tactics had more, well, tactics, I liked this game for the relationship aspect. I liked it when characters married and had kids. In fact, that’s what I spent most of my time doing. From my female Robin and Chrom hooking up to create the most powerful royal family ever to Sumia and Fredrick, Miriel and Kellum, Nowi and Lonqu, Henry and Cordelia, and other interesting couples, I had more fun shipping characters than fighting with them.

Gameplay and Story

Fire Emblem
My female Robin Character

The story was not anything special but had some interesting time travel elements. Due to the option to have perma-death (a masochistic option at best, due to how easily a character can die), most of the characterization for the large cast only comes through the optional character conversations and sidequests. Having the future generation take part is interesting but there isn’t much point to recruiting them, storywise. And to grind them all to an acceptable level takes plenty of time. Probably too much time, honestly. The options for replayability are there, but for now, I don’t really want to take the time to go through the game again. I do admit curiosity as to how things would change, though. 

If you have a 3DS, this is a good game, but don’t expect Final Fantasy levels of story telling. There’s also a Free to Play mobile game out there with a lot of returning characters. I haven’t tried it out yet, but maybe someday.

Runaway Wife Romance Part 2

runaway wife romance

Wedding-Devrim

Read part 1 here

“Jennifer, you ready for me?” I asked as I pushed open the doors to the honeymoon chamber. Let the romance begin.
I had waited for this moment ever since the betrothal became official. She was a beautiful girl, with long blonde hair, a round face, big eyes, and a great figure. While other men might see her height as off-putting, not me. Our eyes could meet straight on, although for some reason she decided high heels at our wedding, elevating her above me. She might have intimidated me if not for her shyness. Avoiding our kiss in public? Fear of talking to me? How cute. I couldn’t wait to explore her mind and her body, having her open up to me and me only. We would create a true romance.
“Jennifer?” I asked again, stepping into the room. A servant had lit the fireplace and the air smelled of flowers, incense, and a little ash. The flames, even from the other side of the room, washed over me with waves of warmth. The bed was across from the fire with a canopy of transparent red drapery and silky white sheets. A side room had a bath filled with bubbling water. The view from the window pointed away from the ugly capital and toward the forested mountains, where the sun crested the peaks. Even the rugs on the floor made me want to fling off my boots and let them tickle my toes.
I imagined my bride hiding in a corner, thinking herself not pretty enough, but the look on her face changing when she saw me marveling at her. I was truly lucky to have her as mine. Well, lucky and willing to take advantage of the major debt the Fronths owed my deceased father.
Now, where was she? I walked over to the bed but didn’t see anyone on it. She wasn’t on the other side, either. Under? I took a peek, feeling silly. No, not there. No one in the bathroom, either. I went to the window, but she wasn’t on the balcony. I didn’t know where else she could be.
“Is she still getting ready?” I asked myself. How long could that take? She left the dinner an hour ago.
Starting to get worried, I left the room and started looking through others, throwing open doors and shouting her name. I even found a few people in compromising positions, affected by the wine. But I didn’t care. I was the one who was supposed to be in a compromising position right now.
Should I worry? Should I be angry? I didn’t know what to think. Going back to the banquet hall, I found her father, Franklin Fronth Sr. Sitting down at the empty table with him, I asked, “Where is your daughter?”
“She’s not with you?” the older man asked. “She must be with her maid.”
“Well, help me find her!” I said, raising my voice. When people started looking at us, I lowered it again. What would they think of me if they knew I lost my wife on our first day of marriage? “Can you get some people to look for her? I don’t know where else to look. But keep it discreet.”
Try as I might, the news ended up leaking as search party after the search party was formed. If Jennifer was in the estate, she hid as well as a ghost. And unless she was violently abducted, of which there was no evidence, it became clear she had abandoned me completely.
I slept alone on the silky bed meant for two.
 

Runaway Wife Romance

runaway wife romance

Romance Book in Sage Eyes

Runaway wife romance

Not too long ago, I had the idea for a romance within the Sage Eyes universe. It will be a short story, but I feel like it could be fun to write, to keep up the creativity. I will be publishing it incrementally through this blog and Wattpad, and maybe give it away as an eBook once it’s completed, so come back and check for updates.

It is Jenny’s wedding day, but she doesn’t know the man she will marry. So on her wedding day, when she realizes she doesn’t want to live that kind of life, she decides to run away to Felaronia, a nation where the women are in control. 

Devrim, her newlywed husband, finds out about this and chooses to take back his wife himself. But his plan might not be as simple as he assumes. 

You can also check out other short stories here.

Runaway Wife Part 1

“Jennifer Fronth, Do you take Devrim Longstin as your husband and promise to remain faithful to him as long as you both live?”
I looked down at my husband-to-be, his unruly auburn hair just asking for me to lick my thumb and press it down. If I actually knew this man, I might have done just that, but this was the first time I had seen him up close. Even here, in the judgment hall, the lighting didn’t do anyone justice. How did I look to him?
My eyes flicked over to father, standing behind the judge with a grave smile on his face. How could he stand there, selling me short by giving me away to this young baron? As lord of House Filmore, he could have bargained me away to just about any bachelor in the realm. So why did he settle for this no-name? 
Mother at least wore some emotion on her face. Her red eyes spoke of tears of knowing this would be the last time we saw each other for possibly years. She knew what I would go through, although she married up, unlike me. 
My brothers Franklin and Rene didn’t even pay attention to my predicament, making eyes with girls in the audience. Older than me, they were still immature fools. But father wouldn’t compromise their status with low marriages. No, that punishment he reserved for his only daughter. 
In fact, they were eligible candidates for Princess Tiffany Blade, not that she seemed in any hurry to marry. But whoever she did marry would become heir to the kingdom. One of my brothers could become king, while I was being demoted to baroness. 
“Ahem,” Judge Corvin said, his eyes boring into me. I sighed. I would satisfy my father. If I tried to run now, he probably had a cohort of servants ready to drag me back and force me to say yes.
Feeling a pit in my stomach, I said, “I do.”  
Devrim gave a wry smile. What did that even mean? What thoughts, if any, swirled around in the head of this man I was tied to for the rest of my life? 
“You may now kiss the bride,” the judge said, scribbling something in that book of his. This was not how I pictured my wedding. 
Devrim took a step closer and angled his head upward, coming in for contact, his eyes closing. I turned my head away at the last moment so his wet lips got my cheek. His eyes flew open and he backed away, cheeks turning red. Father shook his head and sighed. He did that a lot around me. 
People in the audience looked around at each other, no one wanting to acknowledge what they saw. One by one, people started clapping, but it sounded more like the pitter patter of rain than the boom of thunder.
I molded my face into a passionless smile and waved to the crowd. My handmaid Mia, sitting on the front row, caught my eye and gave me a knowing look. At least she would be going with me to my new home. 
When together, people thought us the odd pair. A friendship of contrasts. Mia kept her dark hair short, cut just below the ears, while I had flowing golden locks. She a little plump, me a little skinny. She was short, I was tall. Taller than my groom, actually, and accented by the fact that I wore high heels. It’s not my fault no one told me he was half dwarf.
The wedding took place in the capital, neutral ground between our two territories, if you will. My father had rented an estate just outside of the city limits for the wedding party and then for Devrim and me to stay a few days before the move. We rode in a carriage to the estate, me staring out the window at the city passing me by. 
The celebration passed by without incident. My father provided a modest feast to acknowledge the first marriage of his children. Devrim chatted with him more than me. Maybe my refusal to hold his hand gave him the impression I didn’t want to talk. 
I dreaded having it end, since I would end up alone with him, giving my body to a man I had barely met. I got more nervous as time passed and at one point started drinking liberally of the wine provided.
Mia had to place a hand on my shoulder to get me to stop. Without words, I placed the glass down on the table. 
“We should get you changed before your big night, Jenny,” she said with forced enthusiasm, eying my white gown. 
I just slumped down.
“Come on,” Mia said, tugging me up. With a sigh, I stumbled up. All my training as a lady, how to walk in heels, how to hold myself with poise, how to breathe wearing a corset, it had all abandoned me with the wine. 
She took me to a room lined with velvet and sat me in front of a mirror after easing me out of my dress. Mother had given it to me years ago. I had loved it then, taking it out of my closet and admiring it, dreaming of the day I would be able to wear it. Well, that day had come and now I just wanted to scrub it off of me like dirt in a bath. 
I didn’t even notice the tears until Mia wiped my face. “Oh, it’s not that bad. You’ll be fine. And if worse comes to worse, you could always run off to Felaronia.” She chuckled.
My eyes snapped open. Maybe if I weren’t drunk I wouldn’t have taken the idea seriously. I shouldn’t have, just like Mia didn’t. But in that moment, fleeing to a land controlled by women seemed like my only hope. Still, I wasn’t so far gone that I gave Mia reason to suspect my inner machinations. Yet.
“You’ve been listening to the rumors,” I said. “What have you heard about him? You know, the juicy details.”
“Oh, you don’t want to know all the bad stuff. I’m sure he’s a great guy.”
“Tell me!” My hands flailed at her face.
Mia stepped back, unscathed but afraid. “The only bad thing I’ve heard is that he has a mistress. And if you think about it, that might not be so bad. If you’re not in the mood, he can always–”
“Let him keep his mistress,” I crowed. Now was time to reveal my master plan, the one I had been cooking up for all of two minutes in my head. “We’re going to Felaronia!”
“What?” Mia shrieked. “Are you crazy?”
“I have all my belongings packed. I have enough money to get me there. You were going to move with me, so we’re just changing the destination.”
“But the wedding, and your family, and…” Mia sputtered off. “You should have done this before getting married, you know.”
“Well, you should have suggested it before. Besides, does it count if it’s not consummated?”
Mia made a face. “I…I’m not even sure I want to know.”
I took her hand and forced her to look me in the eye. “Enough with the men controlling us. We’re going to make our own destiny.”
We both ended up giggling, holding back screams. Mia moved her eyes from one side to another. “Let’s do it!” she whispered mischievously. 
And so we grabbed our bags, hauled ourselves outside, and hailed a carriage to the docks of Capital Mith, just as the sun was beginning to set on this chapter of my life.
Tomorrow would begin a new one. 
 

Where are all the good fantasy films?

Fantasy films

A Dearth of Films

Quick! Choose your favorite fantasy film. Or films.

It was Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, right? Both?

Let’s be honest. There’s not much more than these two franchises that have graced the silver screen when it comes to representing fantasy. At least traditional fantasy.

So let’s define fantasy for this article’s purposes. When I talk about fantasy, I’m not talking about Pixar where toys and cars come alive and rats can control people by pulling on hair. Nor am I talking about fairy tales where true love’s kiss cures all ailments (or doesn’t), although this is closer. I’m not talking about dystopian futures where kids kill each other for entertainment. Nor am I talking about space operas about space knights and space wizards that are supposedly classified as science fiction but have nothing based in science at all. And I’m not talking about people with superpowers who fight crime and other people with superpowers. No, if you count those, then fantasy in films is making more money than all the rest of the genres combined.

Which is why it’s so baffling that Hollywood doesn’t do more of the traditional fantasies, and that when they do, they mess them up. Lord of the Rings was a huge success, both commercially and critically. But while there’s a wealth of book and video game material to choose from, Hollywood has shied away from what you traditionally think of in fantasy, with magic and dragons and swords.

TV has had some moderate success, with Game of Thrones topping it, as well as shows like The Magicians, Supernatural, Once Upon a Time (although this is more fairy tale), and The Shannara Chronicles. If you look into animation, you can find Avatar: The Last Airbender and several anime series. Perhaps the longer format is better for telling the epic stories of fantasy, instead of cramming a large book into one movie (each of the Lord of the Rings) or one small book into several movies (The Hobbit). But putting something on television, unless it’s network television, limits the audience. How many people have HBO? Nickelodeon? SyFy? Yes, you can buy discs on DVD, who buys DVDs nowadays?

There have been attempts at establishing other franchises, but many have fizzled out. Narnia, Percy Jackson, Warcraft (probably), Alice in Wonderland, etc.

So what’s in the making, or what has been done?

Notable series

Game of Thrones has already surpassed the timeline of the books and is doing quite well. It is the poster child of fantasy fiction on TV. But that means we won’t see any movies.

The Magicians also seems to do pretty well for a SyFy show. But this anti-Narnia/Harry Potter is almost parody, not real fantasy, so I don’t know if it counts.

The Shannara Chronicles is a series on MTV, entering the second season. I actually watched it on Netflix, but like its source material, I found it pretty shallow. 

So where are series like The Wheel of Time? Well, that might be coming to TV. Eventually. Maybe? There was an announcement nearly a year ago, but it didn’t give any details. So I’m kind of skeptical on that. And even if it does happen, would it be any good? Would it have the same budget as Game of Thrones, or would it be more like Shannara Chronicles? That is a big issue for TV shows delving into sci fi and fantasy.

http://geekandsundry.com/the-wheel-of-time-is-officially-coming-to-television/

What about The Sword of Truth series? Well, that was made into a TV show called Legend of the Seeker. Most accounts say it’s not very good.

What about Brandon Sanderson’s books? Well, there’s hope for this. He recently had his Cosmere Universe movie rights sold to DMG. So all his books in the Cosmere could become films. But there are a few issues that concern me. First, would they fit into two and a half hours? Second, who’s DMG? Would they actually be able to pull it off? We’ll have to see.

http://www.tor.com/2016/10/27/brandon-sandersons-cosmere-universe-movie-rights-sold-to-dmg-entertainment/

Finally, King Aurthur, which tends to be more psuedohistorical and not magical in film, is getting another movie this summer. Will it be fantasy? More importantly, will it be good? Who knows?

Video Games

Video games are notorious for failing to translate to films. Just watch Super Mario Bros. Fantasy outings share the same fate. Here a a couple of examples:

Final Fantasy created a movie called The Spirits Within, completely CGI. While advanced for its time, the characters entered the uncanny valley and the plot revolved around some mumbo jumbo philosophy, so it bombed. Other films, like FF7 Advent Children and FFXV Kingsglaive were pure fan service. 

Warcraft became a movie, but wasn’t very successful here in the USA. We’ll see if there’s a sequel. 

Conclusion

So in the end, if you look hard enough, you can find some fantasy fare outside of books and video games, of different levels of quality. And there is hope for the horizon, but they aren’t necessarily good. Still, I believe Hollywood as a whole is missing out on fulfilling audience desires of escapism, and nothing does it better than fantasy. What books or stories would you like to see on film or TV?

Biology of Orcs

Orcs

Have you seen the Warcraft movie? Me neither. I don’t even play World of Warcraft. But I did play Warcraft 2 and 3. And the series as a whole has been concerned mostly about the conflict between humans and orcs. But what are orcs? In this series, they’re green. In Tolkien, they’re different. The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy had them as black. The Hobbit trilogy had them as white, even with the same director. Other series have borrowed from the concept of orcs and have their own versions. So let’s try to define orcs, inasmuch as possible. 

Origin of Orcs

Orcs were created by Tolkien as an alternative name to goblins. They share linguistic roots with the word Ogre. Orcus was latin for the underworld and then came to mean demon. So while Tolkien created what we know as orcs, they have been floating around in our mythology for a long time, just under different names. Some works even have them at the side of smaller goblins and larger ogres and trolls. But Tolkien unwittingly solidified them into their own separate race, since the Uruk’hai did not appear like the goblins of Myth.

Role of Traditional Orcs

In the majority of traditional works using orcs or other creatures of a similar vein, they fulfill the trope of Dark Lord’s armies. Basically, they are the faceless, evil, stupid, or all three. And while they might be physically intimidating, their only real strength is in numbers. If not threatening, then they are at least comic relief.. They are nothing more than an obstacle. And not even the main obstacle. They are the underlings of the true antagonist, like Sauron. They have no culture, no morals, no worth.

These orcs are that way so that the protagonists can have enemies they can kill without remorse. If Gimli and Legolas had to kill humans instead of orcs, they wouldn’t be boasting about how many they killed. Seeing your enemy as human makes them appear less like your enemy. That is why leaders go to such lengths to portray enemies as subhuman, as ‘Others.’ And attempts to make your own army more frightening by deemphasizing their humanity just backfires. See Stormtroopers, the orcs of a galaxy far, far away.

With these orcs, the hero is shown as awesome for defeating them, without the moral stains of spilling blood. Because orc blood is green goo. It’s not a sin to slay them.

Role of Revisionist Orcs

Modern revisionist orcs have taken on a different tone. Where in the first few Warcraft games, they resembled Tolkien orcs in purpose, by Warcraft 3 they were given culture and turned into another trope: the noble savage. They are a mishmash of different tribal cultures, not less intelligent than humans but not as advanced technologically as the humans they fight against. The conflict is more a conflict of cultures than good versus evil, and they are sometimes even portrayed as more righteous than humans, especially when it comes to ecological concerns. They are more connected to the earth. In essence, they are more green than humans, in every sense of the word. 

As a side note, I’ve never liked the Noble Savage trope. It always seemed too patronizing and simplified. Native Americans, for example, were just as complex as the Europeans that invaded their lands, having both good and bad things about them. They may have respected the earth a bit more, but that would have probably changed if they had discovered metal forging on their own. They were humans, just like everyone else.

Biology of Orcs

Generally portrayed as humanity’s enemy, they may be humanized or monsturized, but they are not human. Or are they? That depends.

First of all, are orcs mammals? Most accounts point to the answer being yes. We generally don’t see them laying eggs. They often have hair. When there are females, they are shown with breasts. Seems like mammals to me.

The only thing against them being mammals is the color of their skin, when it is green (which probably only exists because people painted their Warhammer orc models green to distinguish them from other armies). That makes them look more reptilian, since there is no mammal we know of that has green skin or hair. But everything else points to them being mammals. See the video below as to why it’s hard to have green skin as a mammal, but not necessarily impossible:

Aside from their coloring, the biggest difference between orcs and humans are their faces. Orcs generally have upturned noses and sometimes tusks. What does that remind you of? Pigs. Warthogs. The Welsh word for pig is Orc. Orc rhymes with pork. The thing that seems to unite all versions is this: they’re pig men (as if men weren’t already pigs). Just like it’s hard to create something completely original, so people have just been combining animals and humans to create their monsters, orcs are basically human pig hybrids. Pigs are disgusting. Orcs are meant to be disgusting, so you don’t feel sympathy for them.

So orcs don’t appear to be human, but some sort of distant cousin to them, not only because they are portrayed as a hybrid, but because they can often interbreed with humans. Any two species that can interbreed can’t be too far apart. Maybe they are green neanderthals.

Super Powered

The Warcraft orcs are bigger than humans, wielding massive weapons. It’s interesting that they are built so blocky (because of the original overhead view on the computer screen) as they would need to be more blocky to survive at that size. Even at 7 feet tall, with their bulk, they would weigh several hundred pounds, looking more like gorillas than humans. Could something that big survive? Maybe. They would have to eat a lot to sustain that weight, which would be hard as carnivores. But it would make them a lot more powerful than a human. So powerful any fight between them would be unfair. Yet for some reason the human hero always wins.

Future

So were do they go from here? Will they no longer be used as much, because audiences no longer want such simple enemies? Will the noble orcs be replaced by human noble savages? Is there a new branch of storytelling for them to follow, something different than what came before? Will they ever get a chance to be taken seriously, as a real threat to humanity in and of themselves, and not guided by a dark lord? I think that if they do continue on, it will be in a reinvented form that rejects the two mentioned above. Maybe they will be truly alien instead of pig men. There’s the potential for more, or the potential for them to disappear. Only time will tell.

More info about Orc tropes