Sentimental Sundays: Beatrice and Virgil

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7176578Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. Read by unknown date.

A powerful Holocaust love story, with the main characters a donkey named Beatrice and a Howler Monkey named Virgil.

The main character is a man named Henry who wrote one book successfully and failed when he attempted to write another. When a fan sends him a piece of a play they were working on and pleads for help, Henry is compelled to seek them out and aid in whatever way he can.

Turns out the fan is a taxidermist, and the play is about Beatrice and Virgil. Henry befriends the taxidermist, and gets much more than he bargained for.

The scenes in the taxidermist shop were a little drawn out, as there were a lot of animals in that store and they had to be examined in explicit detail, but it was still wonderfully detailed and written.

There is not much else to say except I cannot stress enough how powerful and moving this book is, especially when Beatrice is taken captive and tortured, or the end when everything comes together and all you can really say is “oh my god”. Loved it.

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A Beginning and an End

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2729396Something interesting I haven’t really mentioned before, but Mags has been getting a lot of monologues.  Whenever the focus shifts to him, its all first party rather than third party narration.  It’s good in that we get to see Mag’s inner conflict and how close he is to win or lose, but it is a bit disconcerting.  Unless you look at it from the perspective of perhaps Mags is the one telling us of Cale’s story.

BUT!

Hoary. Shit. This, the last book in the Twilight War saga….well it blew my mind really.

First and foremost, the obvious happens.  Cale and Riven defeat the heretical first First of Mask Kesson Rel with the help of the Shadovar prince Rivalen.  Most of Sembia is lost however, as the shadow storm drained or mutilated all life it came across, and what survived was given over to the Shadowvar to rule to save it from being destroyed outright should the newly divine Cale, Riven, and Rivalen destroy it in battle. See Kesson Rel stole a piece of Mask’s divinity and to get it back the three have to kill him and each take a piece of it into themselves so they can all survive his death. This of course if only possible because Magadon lost his mind to the Mythallar known as the Source. coming along with Sakkors, an ancient Netheril flying citadel.

Mask dies at the end, and we learn his real name for the first time, as well as the fact that Shar is essentially his mother.  She took on an avatar and gave birth to him much like Mystra did with her Chosen.  This opens up the path to a new Lord of Theives, which I think is going to be Riven as he’s still semi divine and Cale is killed by Mephistopholes.  Though Riven does rend the devil limb from limb and there are strong hings that not is all as it seems with Cale’s death and it’s suspected that he has a son out there somewhere.

Lots of feels at the end here too.  This is the last trilogy before the Year of Blue Fire and the Spellplague that changed so much of the world I love.  (I have to wonder if and how exactly this ties into Shar’s plan to kill Mystra ten years after the main events of this book take place) The epilogue also touches on the next trilogy, Abolithic Sovereignty.  In the end Magadon tells us how he lives one hundred years after the events of this book and how he ‘comes to the shoreline of the Abolithic Sovereignty’.

5649385Blue fire sears the face of Faerûn, leaving the twisted and mutilated dead in its wake. But a rare few escape death–and suffer some mystical mutation. Raidon Kane is one of those who survives, the wake of blue fire burning the sigil of the amulet he wears into his chest and binding him with all the power and responsibility it entails. With everyone he knows and cares about dead, Raidon must find within himself the strength to lead the fight against the rise of an elder evil the likes of which would be the end of mortal kind.

 

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Shadow Storm…Literally

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1143641Second in the Twilight War trilogy, and first apperance of Shar’s shadow war, which is really just ripping a hole in the fabric of…everything…and sucking it all away.

Cale and Riven don’t get a lot accomplished here.  They physically rescued their mind mage companion Magadon at the end of Shadowbred, only for the three of them to be drawn into the frozen hell realm of Cania where Magadon’s father Mephistopheles is lord. Cale brokers a deal with daddy dearest to get the trio out in one piece, only to have the devil disembowel his son and devour half his soul to ensure Cale keeps his side of the bargain.

Yummy.

So with one promise to Mask, one to Mephistopheles, and yet another to Magadon, the three return to the Plane of Shadow to try and make good on some of their debts.

Meanwhile war rages in Sembia and Tamlim Uskevren, head of the Uskevren household, underachiever and al around disappointing son, steps over the edge into worshiping Shar in a desperate bid for power.

The only forward progress made here in terms of plot is by a mad Sharran priestess who at the very end of the book fulfills her dark mistress’ orders and tears a hole between the worlds of Shadow and Toril, allowing an army of creatures to swarm through and slaughter a town of innocents.  Otherwise most of the forward progress here is character development.  Magadon faces his demonic nature and fights losing the other half of his soul to his father, a priest of Lathander questions his god and his faith, and Cale and Riven come closer to learning and understanding their god’s purpose more and more.

So after having learned my lesson last time, we’re going to march straight on the Twilight War trilogy with the last of the series Shadow Realm next.

2729396One of the Forgotten Realms world’s most compelling villains–the Archwizards of Shade–have come down from their flying city with their sights set on the merchant realm of Sembia. They come in the guise of allies, but have invasion and empire as their ultimate aim.

The fate of Sembia may be sealed, but Erevis Cale still has a shocking destiny that will end in his destruction–if he’s lucky.

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Sentimental Sundays: Secret Daughter

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6905012Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda read  by April 30th 2010

This is a wonderfully written and beautifully imagined tale of mothers and daughters.

It follows the life of three women: one who gave up her daughter to have a better life, one who could not have children of her own and took in an orphan from India, and the child that the two of them share.

None of these women meet in the book, but the book follows their three stories and we can see how much of an impact each has on the other despite that fact.

We are given a colorful glimpse into the life of city bred and rural India, the good and the bad. You’ll be shocked and fascinated in turns by this book. It’s a heart wrenching story, but a wonderful must read.

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Forget the Sword of Damocles

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8869599Lesson learned here.  I’m at the point of the Realms history where it does not pay to skip ahead.  I decided to break from the Twilight War trilogy because I never really like to rip through an entire trilogy at once so I decided to give Sword of the Gods a try.  Little did I realize it would jump ahead in the world timeline over 100 years!  And since this takes place after the Spellplague it was a bit disconcerting.

Anyways, I got some mixed feelings about this one.  The story was pretty good, but I couldn’t connect completely with some of the characters.

The main character Damascus is a deva, an angel who has willingly taken on mortal form, usually to serve the gods, sometimes to experience mortal life, Damascus is one of the former.  Named the Sword of the Gods (see what they did there?) Damascus serves as an assassin for the gods of all alignments, pantheons, and even worlds it seems.

Continuously reincarnated if he is killed, albeit wihout memories, we catch up on the latest of his incarnation as he searches for his lost self.  And in the process foils a demon plot to resurrect its brethren under the guise of a primordial cult called the Elder Eye with the whole thing orchestrated by a Rakshasa who has been hunting and killing Damascus throughout his incarnation.

So yeah, the story is interesting.  But there are a few issues: The Rakashasa.  Apparently this one has horns which in my mind would make him hellspawn or something with the blood of fiends in him.  The Rakshasas I usually have heard of don’t have horns, so where did the horns here come from?  Demascus:  He doesn’t act like most devas I have come across.  He’s really laid back and not very uptight, proper or formal.  I know he doesn’t have his memory in the beginning so he doesn’t know who or what he is, but I think that is something that would be inbred into a deva since they did start their lives out as angels.  And he’s really a bit of a wimp when push comes to shove.  The people he picks up along the way react with more cool and aplomb when kidnapped by a demon and facing death by being eaten alive by insects.  He freaks out and almost breaks out into tears.  Questions:  lots of unanswered questions here was well, and unless you have or like reading e books you’re S.O.L as book 2, Spinner of Lies is only on that format.  So if you want to know what else happens, break out the reading glassed and be ready to squint at an electronic screen to get it done.

Ah well. I’ll just keep to the timeline from here on out.  So now it’s back to the Twilight War trilogy with Shadowstorm next.

1143641The invasion of the arch-wizards is on!

The archwizards of Shade Enclave have come out of the desert with a message of peace, and an act of war. Split by petty disputes and causeless feuds, the merchant realm of Sembia is wide open for invasion, and with no shortage of Sembians more than happy to sell out to the Shadovar, can only one man–even if that man is Erevis Cale–do anything to stop it?

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Sentient Shadows

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470068Another Erevis Cale trilogy, albeit this focuses on events after Cale’s transformation into a Shade.

But we’re introduced to all the old case.  Erevis, Riven, Madagon, and debn poor wee Jak, although his appearance is brief, postmortem, and a bit misleading as there was a hint he would come back.  Too bad, I was kinda hoping he wasn’t’ gone for good.

Taking place a year or so after the events of the Erevis Cale trilogy, Erevis is living in Sembia with Vera, Riven is living on the island guarding the temple that Cyric stole from Mask, and Magadon is traveling the Realms, trting to shake the influence that the Source still has on his mind.  Before he’s kidnapped by the Shadovar to awaken the ancient Mythallar which they were able to rip from the brain of the kraken it was embedded in.

The City of Shade and the Shadovar are largely in the service of the dark goddess Shar, and here on her behalf we see them taking the first steps to enact Shar’s plan upon the world: wipe out life as Faerun knows it. And how is she going to do it?  Start the Shadow War…and Shar and Mask are both deities of Shadow….

Now, Cale swore at the end of Dawn of Night the he would turn his back on his patron god for causing the death of his best friend.  But after a late night sending from the mind mage, Cale sets off to have his friend, leaving his woman Vera behind and eventually turning once again to Mask.  Finally, Cale accepts his role as the First of Mask’s Chosen Five.

And thanks to come cryptic remarks from Mask, Cale knows that the fate of the Realms is also tied into Magadon’s fate.

Going to take a break from the Shadow War for a sec and read a little stand alone, Sword of the Gods by Paul S Kemp is next.

8869599What you don’t know will kill you…
Demascus awakens surrounded by corpses, at a shrine littered with traces of demonic rituals, with no memory of his past. But the Firestorm Cabal remembers him–and the demon who leads them seems to have a personal vendetta against him. Dodging knives, uncovering clues left by his past life, and dueling demons, Demascus must figure out who he is, what battles he is fighting, and who is hunting him before one of them catches up with him.

 

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Sentimental Sundays: Promise of the Witch King

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13854Promise of the Witch King by R.A. Salvatore read by April 29th 2010

So! The second installment of that curious adventuring duo Jarlaxle Baenre and Artemis Entreri.

I rather enjoyed this book, but I can see where fans of the assassin would hold this book in contempt.

This story is all about defeating the relics of a lich that was destroyed roughly a decade before the events of this book take place. Jarlaxle is his surprising self, knowing everything and having a trick up his sleeve for everyone. Artemis however, we see a change coming over him. He’s not as quick to kill in this book as he has been in the past. We can see him softening in some aspects, and I am curious to see where this takes him.

We’re also introduced to the Citadel of Assassins here, and presumably they’ll feature prominently in the last segment of their story. I like to think they’ll take it over, but who knows?

Very well paced, I ripped through the book in no time and loved every minute of it! Never once had to skip ahead to better parts which I have found myself doing with the new Realms books of late. A must for Salvatore fans as well as fans of this dynamic duo.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day all!

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