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Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1980 Review)

Dungeons & Dragons

A review of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons from Ares: The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy Simulation. The core rulebooks of AD&D were published between 1977 and 1979, and this review was published July 1980. 

The timeline is important here, as Ares was founded and published by Simulations Publications, Inc. - which was also a producer of tactical and strategic boardgames... and role playing games like Dragonquest, coincidentally published later in 1980 (and obliquely mentioned in the final paragraph). Teaser ads for the core rulebooks of Dragonquest appear, coincidentally, in this very issue of Ares. The review of AD&D is certainly not unfair, but the context should also be taken into account.

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Review Round-up: The SPFBO Finalists (Part 2)

I've reviewed four of this year's #SPFBO finalists already - you can find those here, as well as my (slightly whiny) approach to scoring. The best way to keep up with all the reviews is through this page, where organiser-and-author Mark Lawrence keeps track of the scores and reviews.

This set includes assassins and demons and all sort of fantastic goodies, so let's get stuck in.

51PgaT9Q0sL._SY346_Assassin's Charge by Claire Frank

A throwback! Huzzah! Assassin's Charge is easily one of the most readable of the finalists - a zippy, accessible fantasy that's quick to pick up and easy to read. Rhisia Sen is one of the classic fantasy tropes: the badass assassin. We're introduced to her in all of her badass glory: she plots a job, does some remarkable gymnastics, flings awesome gear about and, steely-eyed, gets the job done. Then she returns home to her mansion, gets pampered, has sex with gritty boy-toys, and is generally, you know, badass.

Except even Rhisia's badassery has its limits. Her handler gives her the job of a lifetime - an incredible payout that will allow her to retire in total luxury. She travels out to a village in the middle of nowhere, ready to do her assassination thing, but... the job is a kid (child, not goat). Rhisia's heart might be badass, but it still beats. In an unprecedented act of unprofessional behaviour, she calls the job off.

Unfortunately, the job has other ideas. It turns out that Rhisia's handler - backed by the Emperor himself - has betrayed her. And Rhisia now has a price on her head. With her (still-breathing) victim in tow, and a sexy smuggler to help, Rhisia sets out to solve the mystery, turn the tables and, of course, save her skin.

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Review Round-up: The SPFBO Finalists (Approach & Part 1)

51Q4ahBJtTLAfter months of tension and excitement and a lot of reading, we're now in the final round of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. 

Ten bloggers read 30 self-published books each. Every blog selected one book for the final. Now, all ten bloggers are reading all ten books in pursuit of FANTASY EXCELLENCE (or, at the very least, a winner). We're each moving at our own pace, so the best way to keep up is through this page, where organiser-and-author Mark Lawrence keeps track of the scores and reviews.

You can find links to reviews of my initial 30 here.

So... I hate doing ratings for books. Genuinely. For long-term readers of this blog (hi mom!), you'll know that we haven't scored a book since 2010. In fact, in one of the few blatantly self-serving acts of revisionism I've ever committed, in 2011ish, I went through and deleted all the scores from previous reviews. I really don't like rating books.

However, I completely understand the need for some sort of judging system for the SPFBO, which features ten multiclass blogger/judges with very, very different tastes and scoring standards. So, I've embraced the chaos, and used numbers. Basically, this is a disclaimer that my numbers are just my numbers and OH GOD NEVER AGAIN. Also, please remember that the way judging works means I'm reviewing ten books that I didn't 'pre-select', so, naturally, they're not all going to be to my personal taste.

So, all caveats said and done, let's hand out the first batch of arbitrary numbers! 

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Adam Kranz on "Fantasy needs more parasites"

(C) Christopher Taylor-DaviesIn 1998, Spanish neurologist Juan Gomez-Alonso caused a flurry of bad science journalism by speculating in an academic journal that vampirism originated as a fictional extrapolation of human rabies. The traits were all there. Hypersensitivity to strong stimuli, like bright lights, garlic, and mirrors. Insomnia. Hypersexuality. A tendency to bite, potentially killing their victims or passing on the condition. Furthermore, the peak of vampire fascination in Europe came soon after a well-documented epidemic of rabies in Hungary.

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Readers of Gor: Outlaw of Gor

Outlaw of Gor

In which Silvia Moreno-Garcia of Ka-Na-Da and Molly Tanzer of Ko-Lo-Ra-Do discuss Silvia's re-read and Molly's first read of the first four of John Norman's famous (notorious?) Gor series.

Silvia: Tal, Molly Tanzer of Ko-Lo-Ra-Do. Well, when last we saw our hero Tarl Cabot (what kind of name is that? I still can’t say his damn name) he had returned to Earth. But not for long! Soon he’s back in the world of Gor, where men are manly men and women are very pretty but like not threatening, like you totally could ask that chick out and she’d give you her phone number instead the number of a local deli shop. It’s obvious something has gone terribly wrong in Gor and now Tarl is a, gasp, Outlaw of Gor!

Okay, so I think part of the problem with this book on a technical level is that the first person point of view is just super annoying. Tarl is supposed to be writing all this shit down and it’s like for fuck’s sake, I’m bored. I’m so bored. Write funner, or something. Bad narrator.  

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DGLA: Criteria and Intro!

David Gemmell Legend Award - Axes

We're (almost) up and running! As is tradition, I want to set out my list of Special Judging Criteria for this year's reading.

(For newcomers: I read and review the DGLA finalists every year. Here are 2015, 2014,2013, 2012.)

For 2016, after much deliberation, I'm not going to tackle all the finalists. I'll be sticking to the Morningstar titles:

I'll add links as they appear.

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Gail Carriger on "The Traveling Writer: A Tip Sheet"

Gail Carriger - Imprudence

I started attending conventions as a fangirl long before I was a professional writer. I knew what to expect and when I got my first Guest of Honor invitation I was over the moon. I still get a little thrill at the very idea that someone wants me to attend a convention... as a guest!

But it's not the same thing. Whether heading out on a book tour or invited as a guest to a small local sci-fi convention, attending programming at a larger conference, or visiting one of those monster book festivals or comicons there are some things I think a professional writer should always keep in mind. 

So here, for your amusement (and perhaps education) are my highly subjective... Tips for the Traveling Writer

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#SPFBO - First Round Wrap-up

Spfbo banner4

Well, the first round is complete!

Over the course of... some period of time... I checked out 30 self-published fantasy books for #SPFBO, reading the first 3 chapters of each. 

Based on that (results and mini-reviews here), I earmarked six for detailed perusal:

The links all go to the complete reviews. If you're just joining now (hi!), there's some template action going on, as I evaluated all six against some wibbly criteria. 

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Phil Tucker's The Path of Flames (2016)

Path of FlamesThe Path of Flames knows how to start with a bang. Or in this case, a cavalry charge.

Thousands of knights, the finest in the land, are pelting madly up a hill. For added excitement, they're preceded by a wave of half-tame ogrish monsters, their shock troops. The defenders, dark wizards amongst them, rain black fire down on their attackers. The attacking line breaks, and the battle dissolves into chaos and slaughter.

Caught in the middle? Asho, a humble squire, who, over the course of a few (very) busy pages suddenly finds himself back-to-back with some of the most decorated knights in the realm. His heroism in the first few chapters brings him unexpected rewards - and exposes him to dangerous secrets.

Asho's is merely one point of view in this cinderblock-sized epic. He returns from the front to Kyferin Castle, to serve the widow of his fallen lord. Iskra's relationship with her belligerent (and now deceased) husband was always strained, but ruling the Castle and its lands is a hefty challenge. The other, rapacious lords are circling, and with the war in the background, Iskra is left with nowhere to turn for help.

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