Misc.

It’s My Blogoversary…

Yep, that’s right, Rinn Reads has now been going for two years! I’ve not got a giveaway to celebrate this time because I’m being super careful with my money now I’m at uni (especially since it’s orientation week and bound to be more expensive…), but I just wanted to talk about the past two years and thank some awesome people!

ron dance gif

Since I last celebrated my blogoversary I have…

  • Taken part in lots of events like Horror October, The Journey Home, Bell & Sword and Harry Potter Month.
  • Hosted my own blogger event, Sci-Fi Month, and it was really successful! It will be returning this year.
  • Met various authors: Sarah J. Maas, David Leviathan, Maureen Johnson, Malorie Blackman, Mary Beard, Laini Taylor and Lauren Owen.
  • Started lots of new features: Fantasy Friday, Museum of Literary Wonders, Prose & Pixels, Snapshots and Turning Off The TV.
  • Received some amazing review copies.
  • Been added to the blogger review copy list of several publishers, and been auto accepted by Harper Collins on Netgalley.
  • Gained more followers, much more traffic and generally felt a lot happier about the quality and content of my blog overall!
  • I also feel like I’ve connected with the book blogging community a lot more this past year. I’ve made closer blogger friends, and even got to meet some of them!

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My thanks go out to…

  • Asti, Leanne and Kelley @ Oh, the Books! – I always admired their blogs individually, but now they’ve teamed up to make one massive, amazing blog. They’ve been a source of inspiration, great friends and now my lovely Sci-Fi Month co-hosts!
  • Claire @ Bitches With Books – my fellow museum nerd, I finally got to meet Claire at YALC this July! It’s so fun to find someone who loves museums and books!
  • Paola @ A Novel Idea – my fellow Queen of Ferelden and Alistair lover! We bonded on Twitter over video games, and our love for the Dragon Age series. We then also found out we had loads of other things in common!
  • Amber @ Books of Amber – another book blogger that I got to meet at YALC, I often fangirl or talk nonsense with Amber on Twitter. I will never forget the new subtitle I once accidentally gave Spartacus when talking to her…
  • Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy – Charlene just has an absolutely gorgeous blog, with some great features, as well as an eclectic range of posts. From Jane Eyre to Star Trek, she’s got it covered.
  • Ana @ Read Me Away – another fellow blogger that I bonded with over a love of video games, Ana also interviewed me for her blog so we’ve exchange quite a few emails discussing anything and everything! I love how much we have in common.

I could list so many others – but thank you to anyone who follows, comments on or interacts with my blog in any way! It’s because of you that it’s been going strong for these two years! 🙂

Buddy Read

Bell & Sword: A Sabriel Read-along (Fantasy Casting)

Bell and Sword

Today is the last part of the Sabriel read-along hosted by The Duchesses.

This post will contain details and possibly spoilers about the events in Sabriel.

As I read more and more of the book, the events came back to me. I didn’t take many notes when re-reading the last bit, as I wanted to do something different for this last post. There was one particular description of Touchstone, something about his curly hair, that conjured up an image of Ser Loras Tyrell from A Song of Ice and Fire. This gave me the idea of sharing my fantasy casting for a film version of Sabriel – apparently there were plans to pitch the film in 2008, but nothing has really progressed since.

sabrielcasting
sabrielcasting2
sabrielcasting3

I think Tim Curry could play the smug aspect of Mogget really well, I can totally imagine a cat with his voice! Jeremy Irons would be a good Abhorsen, an authoritative figure who is also fatherly. Finn Jones, as previously mentioned, would be a pretty good Touchstone in my mind. Stephen Fry makes me think of Colonel Horyse, if only for his Blackadder days. I reckon Dane DeHaan would be a great Rogir, he was a wonderfully evil Harry Osborn in the recent The Amazing Spider-Man 2. And finally, it took me a while because I didn’t want to choose anyone really well known, but I settled for Alice Englert as Sabriel.

What do you think of my fantasy casting? Who would you choose for your ideal version of Sabriel?

Buddy Read

Bell & Sword: A Sabriel Read-along (Chapters 11 – 21)

Bell and Sword

Last week I discussed from the prologue to chapter ten of Sabriel, and now it’s time for the second read-along post! I’ll be discussing chapters eleven to twenty-one this time. Don’t forget to check out Paola’s posts!

This post will contain details and possibly spoilers about the events in Sabriel.

Well my memory was correct! Apart from the whole Touchstone being a ship thing but… yeah. That was more to do with me not being able to remember the word for figurehead, than thinking he had actually been turned into a ship! But the scenes I had remembered did appear, and as I read more of the book more and more of it came back to me. I have no idea what will be in the last third though – and according to Goodreads, last time I read this book was 2011. It’s not even been that long!

  • Gore crows are eerie. I have this memory of another, quite prominent, scene featuring gore crows, but I have a feeling it’s in fact not from Sabriel, but either Lirael or Abhorsen.
  • I love how Touchstone basically reduced Sabriel to a blushing schoolgirl. When he was still a figurehead, and completely naked, Sabriel has to *carefully* examine every inch of him as she doesn’t think he’s a real figurehead, but she’s not really sure what’s going on. WELL SHE SURE KNOWS WHAT’S GOING ON NOW, RIGHT? RIGHT??
  • wink gif

  • Mogget and Touchstone are bound by some sort of spell that stops them from talking about anything useful in detail. I CAN’T REMEMBER THE USEFUL STUFF. It’s kind of frustrating, I understand Sabriel’s pain! It makes me more and more curious.
  • There was this scene that gave me the funniest mental image:

    ‘”I remember,” replied the old man slowly. “Abhorsen came here when I was a young man… I remember that coat you’re wearing… there was a sword also…”‘
    He paused, expectantly. Sabriel stood silently, waiting for him to go on.
    “He wants to see the sword,” Touchstone said, voice flat, after the silence stretched too far.’

    Which meant I had this picture of Sabriel standing there looking like this innocent schoolgirl, big eyes and a little smile on her face as if to encourage the old man to go on, whilst Touchstone has just had enough of her crap and is basically rolling his eyes by this point. An awkward silence passes, crickets chirping in the background whilst Touchstone glares at Sabriel.

  • The bells may be the tool of the Abhorsen, but they don’t always work to Abhorsen’s best interests. They have a life of their own and there are a few occasions where Sabriel has to physically stop them from ringing. It’s pretty creepy…
  • More secrets are revealed, like the fact that Kerrigor is in fact Rogir, the prince of the Old Kingdom – who slaughtered his own mother and sisters. This was the event that Touchstone failed to prevent, just before he was turned into the figurehead – most likely by the Abhorsen.
  • The chapter ended with Sabriel and co finding her father’s frozen body – what will happen next?? I can’t even remember, but I know it’s good!

What did you make of this part of Sabriel? Have you read the book before?

Buddy Read

Bell & Sword: A Sabriel Read-along (Prologue – Chapter 10)

Bell and Sword

As previously discussed, I will be posting my thoughts on Sabriel every Saturday in March. This is not the first time I have read Sabriel, nor is it the second. In fact I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book, and it’s been one of my favourite series for over a decade (same as Paola, which makes both of us feel old). I’ve been meaning to re-read it for a while, so when Paola shared her idea I knew I had to join in. It will certainly be interesting re-reading an old favourite and trying to pick it to pieces!

This post will contain details and possibly spoilers about the events in Sabriel.

My idea was to start off by listing the events I remembered. For all my re-reading, I only really remember the first half of the book, and apparently it’s not all that clear…

Touchstone is NOT a ship, I repeat, Touchstone is NOT a ship. My bad. Regardless, he has now been forever reimagined in my mind.

Touchstone! Duh...

But I digress! Here is what I remembered from the book:
  • The story starts in a boarding school in Ancelstierre, where Sabriel is a prefect. We’re introduced to her necromancy skills when she resurrects the pet rabbit of one of the younger students.
  • A sendling (summoned spirit) appears at her school, sent by her father (the Abhorsen) because he is in trouble.
  • Sabriel journeys north, over the Wall and into the Old Kingdom, where she travels to the Abhorsen’s house.
  • There she meets Mogget, at first appearance a cat – who can talk. He is actually a powerful spirit bound to serve the Abhorsen, kept in control by the bell on his collar, which is a mini version of one of the bells the Abhorsen uses to bind the dead.
  • Sabriel must leave to go and find her father, so she takes a Paperwing (which is basically a giant paper aeroplane), but it crashes into some underground cavern, where she finds a ship. The figurehead (THANK YOU PAOLA) of the ship, in the shape of a man, turns out to be a real person – a man by the name of Touchstone. Not an actual ship.

And that is pretty much where my recollection of the story ends.

So, what did I make of the book this time round?
  • The reader is introduced to necromancy from the very beginning. The Abhorsen saves Sabriel from passing through the gates of death when she is only a baby. I thought this was a great way to open the story – we get to see the extent of the Abhorsen’s power as well as the origins of Sabriel.
  • I would totally rather live in the Old Kingdom than Ancelstierre. It may be full of scary creatures who want to eat your soul, but there’s MAGIC and HISTORY. I would prepare myself for a big adventure and PROBABLY STILL DIE BECAUSE I DON’T REMEMBER THE NAMES OF THE BELLS OFF BY HEART. But I mean, you’ve got to take risks, right?
  • This would be my reaction to every little noise.
  • The Old Kingdom has elements of the early to mid twentieth century. It sort of feels like war-time Britain to me. Sabriel attends a boarding school where ladies are taught etiquette and how to behave in a ladylike fashion. There is a threat to the country and the reinforcements seemed reminiscent of World War I and II: pillboxes, trenches and walls with barbed wire, patrols, bayonets.
  • In fact, the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre feel like an alternate Scotland and England to me, complete with Hadrian’s Wall dividing them. The shape even looks similar on the map. Plus Ancelstierre, Angleterre. I don’t know if this is canon Never mind, I looked it up and it IS an alternate history. You learn something new every day!
  • Sabriel may be smart, but she doesn’t always make good choices. This was my reaction to her going up to Cloven Crest:
  • No!

  • Mogget, despite being something dark and possibly soul-eating, is still an adorable little kitty. And suitably smug. I just want to wait until he’s being all serious and explaining things, and then distract him with a ball of string.
  • When I become Abhorsen (when, not if), I do not want any creepy, faceless sendlings helping me out, thank you very much. Nope. Just nope.
  • Chapter Ten ended with Sabriel and Mogget preparing to leave the Abhorsen’s house. The Mordicant was trying to break in by using slaves and Shadow Hands to get over the river, and our heroine was about to have her first Paperwing ride. Paperwing ALWAYS reminds me of this song by Rise Against, which is not really one I’d consider fitting for the book. But oh well.

What did you make of the first ten chapters of Sabriel? Have you read the book before?

Buddy Read

Bell & Sword: A Sabriel Read-along

Bell and Sword

“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?”

When my lovely friend Paola, one of The Duchesses and also my fellow Queen of Ferelden, told me about her plans for a Sabriel read-along in May I knew I would HAVE to join. Ever since I read the trilogy it has been one of my favourite series ever – a perfect blend of fantasy and familiarity, with a highly original concept.

From today, 10th May, until 31st May, Paola will be hosting a read-along of Sabriel by Garth Nix. The Duchesses blog will feature regularly scheduled posts, which I will also be joining in on, as well as some more spontaneous ones (in the words of Duchess Paola, expect shenanigans). Here is what she has planned:

  • May 10th: Read-Along Kickoff at The Duchesses
  • May 17th: Discussion #1 (Prologue – Chapter 10)
  • May 24th: Discussion #2 (Chapter 11 – 20)
  • May 31st: Discussion #3 (Chapter 21 – Epilogue)

I too will be posting on these days, with my thoughts on the book! It will be interesting to re-read an old favourite and take a different ‘eye’ to it.

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.

First published 30th September 1996 by Harper Collins, Sabriel is the first book in a series known as ‘Abhorsen’ or ‘The Old Kingdom’. The other books include Lirael, published 29th April 2001, Abhorsen, published 1st January 2003, and Clariel, which will be published on 14th October 2014. The series also includes a short story published for World Book Day in 2005, entitled The Creature in the Case.

Lirael by Garth Nix Abhorsen by Garth Nix Clariel by Garth Nix

Why am I joining the read-along?

I think I was possibly nine or ten years old when I first read Sabriel, and it had me in its grasp from the very beginning. An amazing heroine? Check. A talking cat? Check. A unique magic system? Check. I felt sorry for all the people who lived in Ancelstierre, who knew nothing of the Old Kingdom and believed all that could be found there was evil. WRONG! So much magic and history. Although I don’t seem to have remembered quite as much as Paola (who can tell you the names of all the bells that Sabriel uses!), I remember the feeling that the book gave me – and it has remained a firm favourite ever since. It is most definitely time for a re-read.

Are you a fan of Sabriel, or are you thinking of reading it for the first time?

If you are interested in joining, you can read more information in Paola’s original post.
Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #9: Rinn & Paola Discuss Dragon Age!

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: the Dragon Age series of video games, and I’m joined by the lovely Paola!

Yes! For this fortnight’s Fantasy Friday, I’m joined by my lovely friend Paola from A Novel Idea. This also marks the first time I’ve co-written a post with another blogger on my own blog. You may have seen the two of us flailing together on Twitter about Dragon Age. I bought the game when it first came out, but it sat unplayed on my PC for years. Then I finally decided I needed to play some of the games that were just sitting around (my ‘to play’ list is much like my ‘to read’ list…) – and Dragon Age was first on that list. I tweeted about it, Paola spotted the tweet and well… the fangirling began. Today we want to talk about why we love the series, and also why you should play it (COS IT’S AMAZING OKAY).

Rinn: Helloooooo Paola! I’m so glad you could join me for this post, it’s actually the first time I’ve hosted another blogger too! And we get to fangirl and flail about one of our favourite things. So… tell me – why do you like Dragon Age?

Paola: Hi Rinn!! I’m so thrilled to be chatting about DA with you! (Now is when I pretend like I haven’t played both games about 7,000 times each. Errrr.) Let the fangirling and flailing begin!

s
Wait, what were we doing again? Oh, right. Leading this army to probable slaughter in the jaws of the Archdemon. Okay, carry on then!

And as for why I love the series so much… BECAUSE ALISTAIR. I mean! Because of the immersive world and the ability to change it with the decisions I make! Definitely! That was my more sophisticated answer. Additional reasons:

  • Grey Wardens. Because they’re this crazy mix of tragedy and badassery and they get to say awesome things like, “JOIN US AS WE CARRY THE DUTY THAT CANNOT BE FORSWORN,” et al etc. But also because the lore behind their history and purpose in the world of Dragon Age is really fascinating. And did I mention the part where they used to ride griffons into battle?? SIGN ME UP PLEASE. I TOO WISH TO DO THESE THINGS.
  • Magic as controversy. I’m always really intrigued by the question of whether magic is a blessing or a bane. This is true of books I read, but also of games that I play — I love when magic itself is a source of conflict. In Dragon Age, magic is powerful, dangerous, and volatile. Those who are able to use it are considered all of these things, and more. Depending on where you are in the wide world of Thedas, they might be crowned as kings or kept captive in towers. I think it makes for such an interesting plot element.
  • The humor. I laugh a lot while playing Dragon Age. I especially love the banter between characters traveling with me. The games are written with sarcasm and wit, which helps to add a bit of levity to the darker themes of the series.
  • ALISTAIR. Wait, did I already mention him? Oh. Sorry, can’t help it. This man is adorable. (And awkward. But so adorable. *squishes him to death*)


“Oh, I wish. Don’t even tempt me like that, you minx. Eamon will have a heart attack.” You’re right Alistair. I am kind of a minx. Sry not sry~

Paola: What about you? Tell us what you love about Dragon Age! (Because everyone probs wants me to shut up now. Um.)

Rinn: Excellent answers! There’s something pretty damn cool about elite groups in video games, like the Grey Wardens – but only if you get to join them, of course. A mysterious force, sworn to protect – who are completely non-judgemental when it comes to picking recruits. PLUS GRIFFONS. And like you I really love certain things about the game that completely drew me into the immersive fantasy world of Thedas, like ALISTAIR AND ANDERS AND SER POUNCE-A-LOT- wait, what? I mean… the story is really good. Yeah.


It’s behiiiiiind you…

But in all seriousness, I absolutely love video games where the player makes all the big decisions – where your every action has some sort of consequence, where you can get to know these characters because their personalities and back stories are so well-built, and you actually get pretty emotional when something happens to them. Many times have I screamed at my computer whilst playing, because some enemy has gone after my beloved Alistair. Even though he was always the tank and supposed to take the hits – HOW DARE THEY TOUCH HIM??! There are not many games that make me gasp, or cry, or really laugh out loud (okay Saints Row: the Third might actually beat Dragon Age on the laughter front), but Dragon Age is definitely one of them.

As well as feeling completely in control and very invested in the story and fate of the characters, the actual plot and world built up around the player is just absolutely brilliant. So much detail and history, so many little facts that the developers have added in – and half the players probably don’t even read – that contribute towards this massive world. Plus, you know, it doesn’t help that some of the characters are pretty hot. [P: Pfffttt are they ever!]

Rinn: But, uhh… anyway… let’s talk about those characters. Who is in your dream team (or teams, rather), and why? Feel free to illustrate your answer with fanart or screenshots! ;D (you will be awarded bonus points!)

Paola: Okay, so I have a dream team for Origins and one for Dragon Age II.


Just (slow-motion) stabbing this ogre in the face. Don’t mind me.

For Origins, it’s me, Alistair (obviously [R: duh.]), Morrigan, and… THE DOG. Ahahaha. I have a pretty in depth set of commands used to control this particular setup. Basically, Alistair is programmed to shield bash the crap out of anyone who is even thinking about targeting me. If I’m surrounded by more than 2 enemies, the dog comes over with an AOE knockdown. As for Morrigan, her job is to inflict the enemy with the lowest HP with Virulent Walking Bomb (hands down one of my favorite spells ever. I can’t resist utility. And maybe also I am slightly bloodthirsty, who knows. Errrr) before subsequently killing it and thereby infecting all its friends. There are more commands, but these are the main ones for my favorite team, and it works whether I play rogue or mage.

Oh, also it’s important that I get all the cool slow-mo kills. I will do ANYTHING to get the killing blow for this exact reason. #Priorities [R: SUCH A SENSE OF SATISFACTION WHEN THAT HAPPENS!]


Okay, so maybe I only bothered to craft this potion because it makes your eyes glow. Don’t judge.

In DAII, my favorite group to play with is Hawke, Anders, Fenris, and Varric. This may be motivated in no small part by how funny the banter gets between the three guys. Last time I played DAII, I tried out Force Mage with Hawke and had way too much fun destroying people with gravity. Anders mostly does lots of healing and annoying debuffs. Fenris is for tanking and Varric is there just to be witty. LOL.


Carver doesn’t think very highly of Anders and his pro-mage propaganda.

There IS an exception to this team — if Carver is around, Fenris gets kicked out. Hahahaha. Because I LOVE CARVER FOREVER. HE IS THE BEST. I have an entire collection of Carver one-liners. Because lame. (Me, not Carver. Never Carver. The man has a secret tattoo of a mabari, for crying out loud.)

…Hahaha here is where Rinn popped into the Google doc randomly and saw that I was here:

R: HIIIIIIIII
R: THIS IS WEIRD
P: LOL
P: YES IT IS

Just so you can see how awesome we are. Ahahaha.

Paola: Your turn! Who’s on your dream team? And which character in the series so far do you think has been the most intriguing, polarizing, or misunderstood? (Or all of the above??)

Rinn: Okay, first of all can I just say your plan is incredibly tactical, which is basically the total opposite of mine. I probably don’t make quite enough use of being able to control my other party members – the only thing I make sure to always have set is that Morrigan and Anders (in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II) automatically heal anyone with less than 25% health. I’m sure that I’ve commanded Alistair to do a few things (harharhar ;D) – time to open up my game and see what I have! Oh, and here’s my dream team from Dragon Age: Origins:

Sten, Morrigan and Alistair! My babies. Yes, even grumpy Sten.
Warning: many nerdy gaming terms ahead. Apparently I had Alistair frequently using Shield Wall and Taunt, to keep the enemies away from everyone else. Sten basically went all out crazy, using AOEs whenever he was surrounded by more than two enemies, keeping himself buffed up with Berserk, and also targeting heavily armoured enemies with Sunder Armour. Morrigan is basically a pure healer – Heal or Group Heal anyone under 25% (because of the cooldowns and also quite handy to keep rotating them), Drain Life for her own health, and keep Cleansing Aura up for regeneration.

As for my Dragon Age II dream team, well let me share with you this boyband-esque shot… [P: THIS SHOT IS INCREDIBLE HAHAHA]


The usual combination of Rinn & the Babes: Anders, Varric and either Merrill or Aveline.
I actually used Merrill more than Aveline, but the two were interchangeable depending on whether I needed more magic or brute power. It actually worked quite well without a tank most of the time. And yeah, I basically didn’t command ANY of them except Anders who had to heal heal heal! I went down the sneaky Assassin/Duelist route, Anders was Vengeance/Elemental, Merrill Primal/Dalish Pariah and Varric a Specialist/Marksman. I have also used Fenris a few times but… sorry Fenris. I prefer these guys.

And as my Hawke was a Rogue, I got stuck with Bethany – booooo, Bethany! I don’t like her. Next playthrough I’ll have to go Mage for Carver. I need to see that tattoo…

I think Sten is one of the most misunderstood. He seems really hard and cold, but he locked himself in that cage as punishment for his crimes. He was going to let himself die for his previous acts so he obviously has a sense of guilt, even if it doesn’t seem that way. As my Warden got to know him, he opened up a lot more and revealed more of his past. He also started showing great respect towards her, and even started making jokes! I think that, despite appearances, he is actually very thoughtful and loyal. I mean, look at his interactions with the War Dog! His early game insults turn to playful jokes and remarks as the game progresses, not just with the Warden but other characters too (like his dialogue with Morrigan about the two of them sleeping together AHHHH).

[P: AND ALSO HE LOVES COOKIES.]

Rinn: As you already mentioned the playful chat between the party members, let’s talk about the humour in the game. What are some of your favourite funny moments?


Guys. I am Hawke and Hawke is me.

Oh geez, this is difficult because there are SO MANY funny moments in the game… here are some off the top of my head!

Wynne lecturing Alistair on the birds and the bees. SO MUCH AWKS. I think all of their interactions are hysterical, though. Alistair is about 10 trillion times more awkward than usual. And that is really saying something… hahaha.

Meeting Anders in DA2. The fact that Ser Pounce-A-Lot gets mentioned almost immediately is just… perfect. His rage at having his cat taken away from him never fails to crack me up.

ALL of the trash loot. ALL OF IT. (Why is there so much???) I actually made a list once of the most ridiculous things I’ve looted from mobs in the game. Here are some of those things, for your edification:

  • Black Bile/Clear Bile/Any Kind of Bile – Um, what? Why would I want to have bile in my backpack? For what possible reason would I want this AT ALL? And why would you be able to sell bile to a vendor for any amount, low or high??
  • Fancy Poison Ring – As opposed to a plain poison ring? I mean, seriously, I want to know if it’s possible to acquire a plainer version. While playing Sebastian’s Act 2 personal quest at the Harimann mansion, I found no less than SIX of these Fancy Poison Rings secreted in abandoned bedrooms and cellars. Just how many poison rings does one family need?? [R: Sounds perfect for the Borgia family ;D]
  • Chant of Light – Now this is just funny. Lulz.
  • Empty Stained Bottle – Another repeat offender. I find these EVERYWHERE. What are they stained with? What could I possibly use them for? I’m beginning to think Hawke participates in some sort of Kirkwall recycling program. [R: Why can I imagine Alistair instituting some sort of recycling program as one of his first decrees as king??]
  • Lucky Rabbit’s Foot – I’m noting this one not because it’s an odd piece of loot per se, but because I found it on the body of a hurlock in the Deep Roads. It amused me to no end that darkspawn would be in possession of lucky charms, although it wouldn’t be surprising for darkspawn to requisition a rabbit’s foot by force for such purposes… (poor rabbit…) But I like to think that this charm was found on some unfortunate adventurer that the hurlock killed. Maybe he never had a trinket of his own before. Maybe it was his treasure~ (There’s a story in this somewhere, guys.) [R: His precious…]
  • Tainted Dwarven Jewelry – The perfect anniversary gift: jewelry made by dwarves and slobbered on by darkspawn! Corruption 100% Guaranteed! On second thought, this might be more effective than the Fancy Poison Ring for dealing with people you don’t like…
  • Rotted Wooden Peg Leg – It would be far more entertaining if you could actually equip this. Otherwise, finding these in such high volume just makes you question life. Why have all these crude prosthetic limbs been abandoned in Kirkwall’s back alleys? How many one-legged pirates are being forced to hop from place to place because their peg legs are missing?????
  • Small Wet Pouch of Incense – One question: why is it wet???
  • Tattered Pantaloons – I just like that they’re called ‘pantaloons’.

[R: PAHAHAH I LOVE THIS. SO MUCH WONDERFUL TRASH! And I love your little stories behind them ;D]

Paola: We’ve discussed how awesome it is that your decisions have such an impact on the story in both Dragon Age games. Were there any decisions that proved to be especially difficult for you to make? Are there any choices you’ve never wavered from? (i.e. “WELL OF COURSE I AM MARRYING ALISTAIR”)

Rinn: Good question! Obviously the matrimonial decision was a very difficult one. Marry the (virtual) man of my dreams and become Queen (okay, Princess-Consort), or don’t marry him and watch him get hitched to some skank and then live out the rest of my days as a doomed Grey Warden, never able to love again *plays sad music* So yes, choosing to marry Alistair was sehr, sehr difficult. NOT. [P: LOLOLOLOLOL THIS WAS MY THOUGHT PROCESS EXACTLY OKAY]

As for the ACTUAL difficult decisions… hmm. Sometimes there were some choices I had to make that I faltered over because I sort of guessed how the party would react, and I didn’t want to lose their favour. But you never can please them all… There was one where you had to either try and save a possessed child (Connor, son of the Arl of Redcliffe), or kill him – and I chose to kill him because… er, well I don’t really know. I don’t think all of the possibilities were open to me at the time (I just took a look at all possible outcomes). It’s not a decision I wanted to make, of course. And naturally the whole party got pretty angry at it… apart from Morrigan, I think. Oh, Morrigan.

I spared the mages in the Circle of course, and sided with the elves in the forest, although I convinced them to free the werewolves – those weren’t exactly difficult decisions. Choosing which dwarf to support for the throne was quite tricky, as one seemed like a ruthless but capable ruler, and the other fairer but a bit hopeless. I went for Harrowmount in the end, who was the fair but hopeless one – and I’m still not sure if that was the right decision.

And as for the big, BIG end game decisions (there be spoilers ahead) – OFF WITH LOGHAIN’S HEAD! And Anora imprisoned, whilst I sit on my new throne, mwhahaha!

Rinn: For fear of making this post super long, and also because we’ve been writing it for about three months now (yup, seriously), I think it’s time to wrap up! Do you have any last words about the super amazing series that is Dragon Age?

Paola: Yes: PLAY IT!!!! But Alistair belongs to us. Paws off.

Rinn: If you haven’t played the series yet, then take Paola’s wise advice. You won’t regret it. And now, my dear readers, I shall leave you with this beautiful image.


There is a quest where all your stuff gets stolen and your party has to run around like this. If this doesn’t encourage you to play Dragon Age, then I don’t know what will.

Are you a fan of Dragon Age? Do you understand our fangirlish ramblings? Do you too want to get into Alistair’s pantaloons? Or are you completely and utterly mystified? Share your thoughts on the series (or our thoughts…) in the comments!

Misc.

Insta-love 101: Why Insta-Love Just Doesn’t Work

I’m taking part in Insta-Love 101 hosted by A Novel Idea – a two week long event spread over many blogs (view the schedule) to discuss this ever so common feature of fiction today! If you know me, you know I don’t like romance novels. And I scorn insta-love. But now I want to explain just why I don’t like it…

Why Insta-Love Just Doesn’t Work

Imagine you are sat in a coffee shop, having your usual cappuccino and reading a book. You take your eyes off the page for just a second, and cast your gaze across the room. Immediately, you stop and stare at this breathtaking person, who in turn is staring at you. You can instantly feel the chemistry and right there you know you want to spend the rest of your life (or at least a large part of it) with this one person. You don’t know them, their name, their interests, story, anything. That latte they’re drinking may not even be their coffee preference. But still, you feel this overwhelming desire to be with them.

If that was me, I’d be completely and utterly freaked out.

Wouldn’t you? Why do our protaganists not think this feeling is weird? Why is it more acceptable or possible in fiction? Look, I get the whole star-crossed lovers, destined to be together thing – but I don’t think you can really come to that conclusion until you actually know someone (which rules Romeo and Juliet out…).

So why doesn’t insta-love work for me in books?

It is generally always based on appearances.

vanelope
(image source)

It often tends to happen when the protagonist has seen someone for the first time, not spoken to them or had an all night in-depth conversation. Which to me just screams ‘shallow!’ and doesn’t really put the main character in a good light. Of course you can be instantly attracted to someone, physically at least, but how could you fall in love with them if you don’t know a thing about them?

You miss the soul-crushing excitement of having a possibly unrequited crush.

belle gaston
(image source)

Or is that just me?? Not knowing whether that person that you really like likes you back, feeling those butterflies every time you see them or talk to them, getting super excited when they contact you first. In most books I’ve read lately where there has been a budding romance, there’s been none of this. No big build up, just one little moment where both characters declare their feelings – and they NEVER get turned down! What is this magical world where everyone is instantly attracted to the ‘right’ person? Where’s the excitement in that? The sheer terror of your feelings being thrown back into your face? Pssh, who wants soppy perfect romance when you can have possibly unrequited love!

Characters tend to ignore everyone else in their life for their new ‘love’.

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(image source)

Okay, so you’ve known Mr. Smouldering Eyes for all of two minutes. It’s TOTALLY OKAY to now abandon and ignore everyone else in your life. Yes, I’m looking at you, Bella Swan! Just forget about those people who tried to help you ease into life at your new school. Just forget about your poor neglected dad who is trying so hard to make you feel comfortable in his home. Just throw all your cautions to the wind and go off with this guy, who on one of your first meetings looked as though the very sight of you was going to make him puke. Yeah. Good choice. *two thumbs up*

It takes time to fall in love.

disney hades
(image source)

Maybe this is more of a personal thing – but I do not believe in love at first sight. Sure, you can be really attracted to someone’s appearance when you first see them, but you don’t know the person inside. And you won’t until you spend time with them. See, Hades knows how it works. You get to know someone first – you go on dates, you chat, you share interests and passions.

From past experiences, I’m not particularly optimistic in relationships. Things happen that you don’t expect, they can be hard to maintain, you can lose interest, one person can want more than the other – they are hard. And I don’t think just loving someone is enough to keep it going, so insta-love as a device and answer for the perfect relationship seems like a bit of a laughable idea to me. And as much as I love the idea, I don’t think there is a ‘The One’ for everybody – so two people can’t be ‘destined’ to be together. It’s just a matter of finding someone attractive, both internally and externally, enjoying spending time with them, feeling yourself with them and feeling happy.

In conclusion, Insta-Love just doesn’t work because it’s not possible to love someone just like that. You need time to get to know them. Instant attraction is probably what most of our protagonists are feeling!

What are your thoughts on Insta-Love? Do you like it in books, or does it annoy you?

Misc.

The Journey Home: World Building in The Lumatere Chronicles

Today, as part of Paola and Charlene‘s celebration of Melina Marchetta’s The Lumatere Chronicles, I’ll be writing about world building in the first book, Finnikin of the Rock. I also recently reviewed the first book in the series.

I thought I would choose world building as my topic as I’m a big fan of many different fantasy series, each with their own worlds, cultures, peoples and religions. I’ve read about so many different kinds of fantasy lands, and believe that a big part of a successful fantasy novel is pulling off the world building. The author needs to create completely new concepts, yet still make them believable to the reader, and come up with new names that don’t sound ridiculous, yet sound different enough.

Skuldenore is the land in which The Lumatere Chronicles take place, split into eight different countries: Sorel, Charyn, Osteria, Sarnak, Sendecane, Belegonia, Yutland and Lumatere. Marchetta only really talks about a couple of the countries in Finnikin, and these are the impressions I got of them.

  • Yutland: a savage country, full of barbaric peoples, with a rather guttural language.
  • Belegonia: a cultured and much more civilised country, the capital has a very cosmopolitan air to it and the people seem to be highly educated.
  • Osteria: contains a mix of peoples – perhaps a common destination for refugees from Lumatere?
  • Charyn: a dry and rocky country to the east of Skuldenore.
  • Sarnak: a land to the north of Skuldenore, very poor – this is where Finnikin and Evanjalin find Froi.
  • Sorel: a very rough place, where the prison mine is located.
 

And of course, Lumatere. Lost to its people a decade or so before the beginning of Finnikin of the Rock.   The royal family are murdered, people attacked, the kingdom ruined. A curse is placed on Lumatere, trapping the people within who did not escape in time, and no-one knows what has actually happened to them. So the remaining people of Lumatere become refugees and exiles, spread out amongst the countries of Skuldenore. They are second-class citizens elsewhere, forbidden from speaking their native tongue and struggling on with life. Considering that Lumatere accepted people from all over, with no problems, it must have come as a shock to the Lumaterans.
 
Located in the centre of Skuldenore, its people vary in appearance apart from one feature – deep set eyes. The people are divided into five types, depending on where they are from within Lumatere: the mountains, river, flatlands, rocks or forest. Certain traits are also typically associated with people from the different areas, such as stubbornness. It is governed by a king or queen, and the large majority of the book is spent hunting for Balthazar, the rightful heir to the throne and believed to still be alive.

From the description of Lumatere in its hey-day, it sounds idyllic and seems to represent the ‘perfect’ kingdom: accepting of all, beautiful landscapes, bountiful harvests, a fair and good ruler, happy citizens.

“For a moment he allowed his memory to take him down a road lined with vineyards and olive trees. It was one he had travelled often with his father. Each time, he would climb the ridge overlooking the Valley of Tranquility and see the kingdom of Lumatere spread out before him. Villages of cobblestoned roads that rang with the sound of hooves, meadows lush with flowers, huts lined up along a river that snaked through the kingdom and pulsed with life… He could see his village in the Rock, his uncle’s smokehouse, where meat and fish hung from the ceiling, and the quarry where he would take Balthazar and Isaboe… And there, in the distance, the king’s palace, perched up high, overlooking their beloved people inside the kingdom walls and those outside in the Forest of Lumatere.” — page 49-50

There wasn’t a great emphasis on religion, but there is mention of two goddesses – Sagrami and Lagrami. As opposites, Sagrami appears to be a deity of darkness, worshipped by Seranonna who placed the curse upon Lumatere. Lagrami is the deity of light. The two opposite sides of the circle is a common feature in fantasy religions. It appears that the clergy of this particular religion are priests and priestesses, who live in cloisters – and that is where Finnikin and Topher find Evajalin at the beginning of the book. I did pick up one small feature of the religion – the priestesses shave off their hair on joining the cloister, and let it grow to signify their length of devotion to the goddess.

Unlike Tolkien, who built up a great back story and history for Middle-earth within his books, Marchetta tends to express Lumatere’s history through exposition. I actually really enjoyed these scenes, with various characters often explaining part of the country’s history to another, or favourite stories being retold to excited youngsters. I haven’t actually often encountered this method in fantasy writing – after all, isn’t it always said that you should show and not tell? – but with Marchetta’s wonderful prose it works. 
 
As for the culture of Skuldenore, it seems to be very varied. I did feel a little like some of the countries were a bit stereotyped – for example a dry and arid land, with savages and a guttural tongues (Yutland). Each country is very different, with various political systems and potential allies. It is not just men that hold the power – female power is also represented, there are plenty of ladies and mentions of queens. So despite being a quasi-medieval system, women can wield power and authority in Skuldenore. Slavery is also present, at least in Sarnak where Finnikin and Evajalin pick up Froi – however, it was not legal in Lumatere – evident by Finnikin’s shock – further emphasising its status as a ‘perfect’ kingdom, and making its downfall even harder to bear.

For a fantasy world, there are few mystical beings or creatures, and little use of magic. There is, of course, the curse which Seranonna places upon Lumatere, and the prophecy that speaks of its revival, but that is all in the past as regards to the story. Evajalin’s dream walking could be classed as magic, but there isn’t much in-depth discussion about it. However, since the ‘Unspeakable’ – the slaughter of the royal family and curse on Lumatere – it is possible that the people of Skuldenore have become very paranoid about magic.
 
Also, I do wonder whether Marchetta had some inspiration from Shakespeare, particularly The Merchant of Venice. As children, Finnikin, Balthazar and Lucian made a pledge, sacrificing flesh to seal it.
 

PORTIA:

Tarry a little; there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are ‘a pound of flesh’
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.

The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I

Both feature a character who may be hiding secrets, and a character called Balthazar.

Marchetta manages to pull off the fantasy world very well. It can be a struggle, making places believable, and I often find with fantasy that sometimes the names can sound down right cheesy. Many of the names in the book are altered versions of real life names, to give them a more fantastical feel, and this works well. Although there are not many descriptions of landscapes, nor a massive history bear that which is relevant to the main story, for a fantasy that is more about the characters and their personal journey than the world in which they live, Skuldenore is wonderfully built.

This post is part of The Journey Home, a celebration of the Lumatere Chronicles hosted by Bookish Whimsy and A Novel Idea.