Blogs & Reviews

Knightly Blog | August 27, 2018 (The Girl Across the Street)

Before you scroll down to the story, I wanted to just say a few general things about this.

This was my first contest entry. It didn’t place at the end of the contest, but I still see it as a wild success in my life. I wrote it in less than four hours after finding the contest. I posted it up and didn’t touch the story for a week. I came back cleaned up a little bit of the grammar and used the feedback I received to put a touch more effort in establishing the setting. I’m very proud of how quickly I was able to write this.

Something I do want to make mention of is that this is the first story I wrote that didn’t have the characters risking life and limb. It is the first time for me that I wrote about regular people. No fantasy or sci-fi nonsense on my part.

I do look at it with fondness. It takes me back to happier times. Makes me think I should write something like this again.

Word Count: 1991

Jim savoured the last of his coffee as Adam skimmed through the most recent addition to the story. Adam was the idea guy for this work of fiction while Jim had made the ideas into something. It was even Adam’s idea to go to their favourite café for supper while they reviewed their story. Adam had invited a friend to come and give them some feedback on their project. They now sat waiting at one of the bigger tables the small café had by the window.

“Jim, how do you do it?” asked Adam as he put the short manuscript down.

“Mmm.” Jim lowered the cup of coffee from his mouth. “What am I doing?”

“How do you make such interesting characters?” clarified Adam.

“Ah yes, well…” the thought went through Jim’s mind a few times as he tried to explain his process. He glanced out the window at the busy street to think when the idea came to him. “Let me show you how. See that girl over there?”

Adam turned to look out the window of the café. He snickered and shook his head. “Your weakness for blondes is showing again,” he teased thinking this was better than he had hoped.

“You’re hilarious,” answered Jim, shifting his attention from his first subject to a new one with the map in her hand. “Now,” he paused to evaluate the lady that stood across the street, “pick seven words to describe her.”

Adam signed; he knew where this was going, but he played along. He just hoped she didn’t see them looking at her. “Confident, capable… adventurous, strong, maybe athletic, it’s a bit hard to tell with the map in the way…ah, curious, and… cute. I can’t think of anything else.”

Adam looked back to see Jim scribbling his writing into a new notebook, right on the first page. Jim finished and looked back up at Adam.

“Alright,” Jim began, “let’s start with cute.”

Adam was a bit surprised, and it showed on his face. He had expected that one to get discarded.

“There are a few things that could influence her being cute: natural beauty, she’s trying to get someone’s attention, or she just enjoys looking pretty.” Jim was starting to get excited as the gears began turning in his brain. “And these things can mix together for variety’s sake, but they all influence tiny pieces of her personality. Just for this instance, I’m going to say that she likes looking good, but she maintains a look developed for her by a friend.”

Jim continued, not even looking back out the window, “This helps feed into her confidence, but her confidence isn’t based on her looks… that’s important to point out.”

Adam’s phone buzzed. He read the text and quickly sent out his reply. “Sorry, continue.”

Jim scanned his list, “Jumping over to… capable. I would say that this is the spring that her confidence comes from. Now as for her area of expertise,” He looked back across the street to see her insert some earbuds before picking up a magazine off the stand. “She plays guitar in her off time and… teaches music lessons,” returning his attention to the friend in front of him, “I’m going to say she’s on holiday here for the first time, and she is strangely by herself.”

“That’s adventurous,” Adam commented with a smirk.

“And curious,” responded Jim looking back at his list. “Oh, and we can throw athletic under both reasoning for ‘cute’ and ‘capable’, and let’s give her soccer as a sport.”

“What’s left then?”

“Strong,” answered the writer as he rapidly put pen to paper. “She’s got a strong conviction and doesn’t like to compromise if she can get her way. Both a strength and weakness.”

“Interesting,” Adam said as he sent off another text.

In a moment, Jim had a character sketch written up, and with a nod to his handy work, he handed it to his test audience. In a second after handing it off, Jim knew how to explain his process.

“It’s all about finding some key character traits and reverse engineering them to flesh out the personality,” he said confidently. “From here I just have to put the character into a situation, and figure out how they’ll react to whatever it is.”

The bell above the door rang as Adam sat back and started his appraisal of the flash fiction in front of him. “It’s rough as usual, lots of spelling errors, but it’s not bad. Though you are completely off about her in a lot of respects.”

Jim’s shoulders tensed up instinctively. “What?”

“Hey, Hannah,” greeted Adam as the blonde sat down in the chair she pulled to the table. “What do you think of this description of you? And never mind the spelling.”

“Well, let’s see,” she said as she took the notebook from Adam.

Jim could feel the heat rising in his face. He shot a brief, fiery look at his best friend. Of course, it would be his best friend to set him up like this.

Hannah smiled as she looked up from the notebook, “I’m flattered, but I thought you knew me better than this, Adam.”

Adam took the notebook back from her small hands. “Well, you see,” Adam explained, “Jim here was giving me an example of how he comes up with his characters, and he spotted you and used you as an example before I could introduce you two.”

“I’m so sorry,” Jim said under his breath while hiding his face with his hands. He just felt red.

“That’s why I asked you to wait where you were,” Adam smiled sliding the notebook across the table. “I was cherishing the moment.”

“I’m so sorry,” repeated Jim this time loud enough to be heard. He grabbed the notebook and returned it to the inside pocket of his jacket.

“It’s alright,” Hannah assured him, “Adam told me you were a good writer.”

“I wish Adam had told me something about you.”

“Hey,” Adam replied with his hands up at the accusation, “I said ‘I had another writing friend you should meet,’ and you said ‘bring here to our next coffee meeting,’ remember?”

“I would like a little more warning.”

“Old habits die hard,” smiled Adam innocently.

Jim recomposed himself, praying he wasn’t beet red. “So, you’re a writer?”

“Yeah,” answered Hannah, “I started a couple of months ago. You?”

“I’ve been writing on and off for a few years…”

“He’s been writing since we were twelve,” interrupted Adam, “don’t be modest.”

Jim could feel the colour rising again. “Yes, well, ah, Hannah, was it?” She nodded, and he continued, “Ah, what do you write?”

“Hmm, sort of Lord-of-the-Ring type stories,” she shrugged a little before giggling a little. “I’m not sure how to describe it without spoiling anything.”

“That’s okay,” Jim found himself saying, “I don’t know how to describe my fiction beyond high-fantasy either.”

The owner of the café came to the table at that moment to Jim’s relief. “Hello, are you ready to order?”

“Three cappuccinos, please,” Adam answered for everybody, “and three Italian beef sandwiches as well. If that’s alright?”

“Sure,” said Jim.

“Sounds good,” chimed Hannah.

“Ya, that’ll be it,” Adam said turning back to their mutual friend.

“Good, good,” said the owner before shaking Adam’s hand, “good to see you.” He then took Jim’s hand, “How’s the book?”

Jim answered without hesitation though he felt the heat under his collar, “We’re going over the first completed draft today, Sunny.”

“Wonderful,” answered Sunny before moving to Hannah’s hand. “And your name is?”

“Hannah.”

“Hannah,” confirmed Sunny with a nod and a smile from her. “I hope you enjoy your time here.”

“Thank you; I will.”

As Sunny left the table, Adam and Jim called out their thanks as well for his service. Hannah turned to face Jim. “A book?”

“Just a short one,” answered Jim pushing the manuscript across the table to her, “I’ve been working on it for a year, or two, with Adam’s input.”

She started thumbing through the pages of the loose document. “You wrote this,” she said stopping at the seventh chapter titled “The Eye of the Storm”.

“Yes,” Jim responded to the clearly rhetorical statement, “Adam’s going to be doing a few drawings once it’s done being revised and edited.”

After she had gone through a couple of pages, she looked back at Jim. “So, you’re planning to publish it?”

“Yes.”

“You didn’t tell me any of this,” said Hannah turning to Adam. “You made it out like you guys were just hashing out ideas.”

“Ya,” responded Adam. “I hash, he writes. And he writes faster than I can hash.”

“Are you trying to say you didn’t know where we were?” asked Jim with obvious suspicion in his voice.

“I didn’t want to intimidate her with our incredible work ethic.”

Hannah laughed. “You have a work ethic.”

Jim snickered a bit at the statement; clearly, she knew Adam.

“I’m just full of surprises,” he backed up his statement by pulling out his own sketchpad and opened it up to an earlier version of the book cover when the title was Warriors. It was the first time Jim had seen it. As he and Hannah stared at the detailed artwork, Adam started flipping the pages every few seconds. “All of these are concepts I’ve done for practice leading up to this point.”

“Whoa, I was just expecting a meeting of the minds,” said Hannah as he continued turning pages. “Instead I’ve stumbled onto a project going to the printers.”

“Excellent,” stated Adam as he stood up and closed the sketchbook, “I’ve surprised both of you twice in one day. I’m out. Peace!”

The two remaining table members sat and watched him race to the men’s room. An awkward half-second passed before either one spoke. When the silence was finally broken with the only thing that Jim could think of.

“Did I, by chance, get anything right?” She blinked at him, and he clarified, “About the character sketch I did of you across the street.”

“Oh yes, well,” she answered, “I am actually here on vacation, that was about all you got right.”

“I see,” he shifted in his chair. “So, where are you from?”

*                    *                              *                              *                    *

The sun had gone down, the full moon was out, and the street lights were on. Adam had said goodbye and pedalled off on his bike. Jim had insisted on walking Hannah to her bus stop and making sure she got to her aunt’s place safely. As the two of them walked down the street a block or so away from her aunt’s house, Jim pointed out a house with the front lights on.

“That’s where my grandpa used to live.”

“It’s a small world after all,” answered Hannah as they continued their pace. Jim didn’t even slow down. “Where does he live now?”

After a pause of consideration, Jim replied, “He lives much closer to home now. Near my place.”

“Oh.”

They continued in silence till they got to Hannah to the door of her aunt’s.

“Well, here you are,” said Jim as Hannah went up the few steps.

“Yes,” said Hannah standing in front of the door. “Thank you for the wonderful evening.”

“Maybe we’ll do it again sometime?”

“Well, you got my number,” replied Hannah with a smile, “maybe Saturday.”

“Maybe.”

“Have a safe trip home.”

“Thanks,” answered Jim as he started stepping backwards, “good night.”

With one more round of goodbyes, Hannah went in, and Jim turned to walk himself home. As he went back, he came to a stop in front of his grandpa’s old home. Now owned by people he didn’t know, lingering was not an option, but he would be quick.

“I think you would have liked her, Grandpa. Have a peaceful sleep, okay.”

Jim continued home. On Saturday, he and Hannah went out for the first time.

Knightly Blog | August 24, 2018

It has been too long since I last wrote and even longer since I last posted anything. A handful of you may ask what I’ve been doing with myself to keep me away from the keyboard. Well, the short and uninteresting answer is that I’ve been working a couple of twelve-hour shifts in the months. I’m done with that now and look forward to getting back to normal. As I get back to normal I’m going to work in more time for writing and reading; I’ve fallen horribly behind in both.

I’ve been looking at a lot of free writing contests and coming up with stories for them. The competition is fierce and I personally hold little hope myself of placing (much less winning). So to keep me motivated for these exercises in writing I’m going to start posting those stories to this site when the judging date has passed. At the very least it will give people a chance to read my previously non-public stories. It’s not going to be a regular thing with any kind of schedule, but we’ll see how the next year goes.

I’m going to add a little more structure to the blog as well going forward. Mainly I’m going to be talking about what I’m writing and reading. I want to figure out how to open up more about what I’m writing and have written. I should mention that when I say “I’m going to talk about what I’m reading” I don’t mean reviews I mean first impressions and analysis. Reviews will continue to happen separately from the blog.

I believe that is all I’ve got to say for now. So I’ll be back Monday with my next blog post.

Knightly Blog | June 15, 2018

There goes another day for the history book, and what an uneventfully day it was. Well, not entirely uneventful. I called home and talked to my family for a little while. It felt so good to talk and listen to family again. My nephew of eighteen months got a hold of the phone. We had an engaging conversation before he handed the phone off to his mother and went looking for his “papa”. I find it adorable that both my niece and nephew call there grandpa “papa” and reserve “dada” for their dads.

Everyone is doing well, though I am missing out on some pretty good cake by working out of town this month. Black forest cake is fantastic but homemade is always better when it comes to my family. I think I just miss homemade meals in general at this point. The hotel room I’m in only has a small fridge and microwave, so cooking for myself is just not an option. And while I’m sure that some clever individual can prepare an excellent dinner under those circumstances, I just don’t get off the job site with the drive to even attempt it.

I’ve even started planning a meal to make when I get home. I’ll have to elaborate more on that once I’ve got the menu finalised.

I’ve got a lot of writing to do yet for a few different projects and far too much reading to get done.

Knightly Blog | June 11, 2018

Well, it has been too long since I last wrote a blog post. Let’s see… I guess it’s going to be another post about nothing in particular.

I just finished my first week working out of town. I’m not back home yet, however… ah, what am I saying. I’ve spent just as much time lost in thought as I have actually working; it’s pretty mindless work anyway. Some days are better than others and I think they’re getting better. Long days, long nights. There’s not much to say really.

For this trip, I downloaded a free game called Blade of Conquest. It’s been fun but I’ve had to drop the difficulty to easy until I’ve figured the game out.

Knightly Blog: April 13, 2018

So I’m back with another exercise in writing about nothing for as long as I can keep my attention on my keyboard. I think I’m just going to write for half an hour, maybe I come upon something interesting in this time of musing.

The shadows are growing longer in my room as I type this. I’ve got one of those lamps that you can set to slowly dim until it turns off, like a sunset. It also can simulate a sunrise in the morning as an alarm. I like it, not as much as a pair of candles but I’m a bit old-fashioned when it comes to setting a warm, quiet mood.

I’m a bit old-fashioned in a bunch of ways, but I find that everyone is a little old-fashioned in some way you just have to talk to them long enough. However, these days I find myself being a bit more introspective and day-dreaming than actively engaging with others around me. Maybe that’s part of the reason that I’m having a hard time thinking of stuff to write for this blog. I not sure what I can say that people might find interesting. That said, just cause I might not find it interesting doesn’t mean someone else won’t find it interesting.

It’s such a first world problem: not knowing what to write for a blog. But I suppose that having a small problem with a solution is better than not have a problem at all.

Knightly Blog: April 11, 2018

And it’s that time of year again; NHL playoffs have begun.

I expect the Penguins to take the Eastern Conference. They’re still on top of their game. Maybe they’ll lose to the Capitals, but I doubt it. Good luck to all the teams in the east though I think it is a bit of a long shot for them.

The Western Conference, on the other hand, looks much more interesting to me. The Predators are making another run on the cup. The Jets are in with a first game win, and I would love to watch them go all the way. Sharks eating Ducks is always fun to watch! And the Golden Knights have made the playoffs in their first year in the league and are going against the Kings. I would also love to see the Knights go to the finals, and if they have to face the Jets to get there, then I can’t lose even one of them has to. However, I think the Knights have a better chance against the Penguins than the Jets.

Knightly Blog: April 9, 2018

I’m going to try to write something rambly and short since I need to get in the habit of blogging and I don’t want to stay up too late tonight. So that is your fair warning that this is most likely going to be a waste of time for all parties involved in the writing, reading, and archiving of this blog post. Also, I’m curious how long I can write without saying anything.

Would anyone even read a post about nothing? I guess it doesn’t matter too much right now; it’s not like I’m aiming to write Shakespeare at the moment. Just seeing how long my thoughts flow until I think of something witty to say.

I should start writing these posts after I get back from work so that I’ve got time to come up with something interesting. Regardless, I don’t think I’ll spend much more time going on about nothing. I’m starting to think again, and thinking is bad for sleeping. I do find that I spend more time day-dreaming, think about nothing and everything all the while staring off at nothing in particular. But I should leave it there for now.

Knightly Blog: April 4, 2018

I’ve had this site for a couple of years now, and at long last everything is finally ready! Two books are up for sale, and a list of reviews are available to read. A little bit of everything that I want on this site. And I also finally, finally got a look that I like.

The background image was the hardest to get right. I couldn’t find a stock photo that I liked and fit well on all pages. So I took my own picture, did some basic playing around in Photoshop, and got something I wanted.

Things are starting to look up. I think the hardest thing is going to be maintaining this blog and keeping it interesting.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me in getting to this point.

Review of The Kishi

The Kishi is a fantastic fantasy story to read. It is very refreshing with its African inspired setting, and the mythical kishi is a very different creature to anything I have seen before. As a stand-alone story, it works well on its own and is an excellent first entry in the more extensive world for the larger series that it is apart of. Tales From Esowon looks like it will be a very unique series moving forward if the world building in this book is any indication.

Now, I think it is important to acknowledge two put offs that people could have in the story before I continue further. The violence in this book is a bloody affair. The fights are well described, and the carnage isn’t left to the imagination. And a sex scene about midway through the book that I found gratuitous. I personally found that the detail was unnecessary and if skipped, nothing important is lost. The importance of the scene is in its consequences, not the actual sex. (I probably should expand my thoughts on sex and violence in a dedicated post for clarities sake.)

The plot is very character driven. The internal conflict of Amana, the main character, lines up well with the external conflict. As well as naturally setting up the villains as character foils for Amana before they come to blows. The actions and abilities of the characters truly impact the world, and the villains’ power to specifically undermined that really makes them pose a threat to the world.

While the villains are interesting and the timing of their part in the story relevant to Amana’s development, I do find that the elimination of the most compelling villain first and the death of the least developed character last to be underwhelming. It works thematically concerning Amana’s journey but does make it feel like there are two third acts.

I’m not going to lie it is a bit difficult to talk about the principal characters without revealing too much of the story, and I pride myself on giving non-spoiler book reviews. I haven’t really seen an online book review that doesn’t spoil the story in favour of providing some analysis. However, here a non-spoiler review would paint the characters with too broad a brush. So what I’m going to say is that no character is wasted in their role in the story, and each character has an appropriate number of layers to themselves in relation to their importance to the story.

Review of Dragon Knight

Disclosure: I am related to the author of this novel, and thus may be biased in favour of this story. I also have some nostalgia for this book in more ways than one. If you think that after this statement that I can give a fair review then continue to read, if not please read and judge my work.


Corsender (a.k.a. Cor) is a magical red dragon who has a problem; he’s bored. So he sets out to become a knight with his princess, Espreta, as his cultural guide to the human world. When word reaches Cor that there is a dragon’s bane killing his brethren, he makes it his knightly quest to put an end to the villainous knight. Complications arise as other knights join the party, baby dragons imprint on Cor, and everyone involved gets a romance path as well as have their names reduced to three letters. And to help add to the confusion of remembering names and nicknames, we also have Espreta, dubbed Esp, shares a name with another side character named Espreta who later gets called Preta and has the same nickname as Cor’s mother, Esperanza.

I’m not going to lie this is not the greatest thing to be self-published. The characters are pretty two-dimensional, the villain, Jeareth, is a non-threat to Cor, and… actually, the biggest problems I have are with the Cor-Jeareth dynamic. Cor is built up to be nigh unbeatable while transformed as a human and straight up invisible against anything a human can throw at him. And Jeareth is proven to be inferior to Cor in both categories of brawn and brains. Lex Luthor is a great villain because he can challenge Superman; Jeareth just cannot contend with Corsender. Yes, he tries to use hostages to his advantage, but each time he does, it’s as useful as grabbing a snake by the tail. Cor either says “new rules”, or the hostage actively undermines Jeareth’s advantage. As it turns out villains are a detriment to their story if they don’t pose a challenge to the hero in some meaningful way. Jeareth’s presence acts as a speed bump rather than a blockade to Cor’s ultimate objective.

In the end, things get tied up too easily and quickly. It doesn’t help that the story hasn’t been paced well enough up to this point for a proper conclusion to unfold in a timely manner. It is odd sometimes you get a couple of excellent chapters and then other times you get a few chapters just exist to throw exposition at you, and all of this is nestled in the bulk of the rest of the story that is more half-baked and not quite so fleshed out.

I still have a soft spot for this novel, but looking at it more objectively I can’t say that it’s good.

Review of The Guardians of Ga’hoole Book One: The Capture

This is the first book the series of Guardians of Ga’hoole, and by the end, it shows. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s start at the beginning.

Soren is a young barn owl from the forest kingdom of Tyto. He’s only been alive for a few weeks in the tender care of his parents when he falls out of the nest and is snatched by the owls of St. Aegolius, what can only be described as an owl cult with eyes on conquering the other owl kingdoms. Along with an elf owl named Gylfie, Soren makes his attempt to escape and reunite with his parents, Kludd his older brother, and Eglantine his younger sister. On their journey, they meet Twilight, a great grey, and a burrowing owl named Digger; they even find Soren’s family’s nest-maid snake, Mrs Plithiver (Mrs P for short). Together the decision is made to find the Great Tree of Ga’hoole and get help from the Guardians that legends speak of.

It’s an okay enough plot that is, unfortunately, left unresolved by the end. The primary focus on escaping and then the forming of the team is fine enough, and the strings that have been left untied allow for future instalments to weave seamlessly into the story. It doesn’t feel wrong for the book to end where it does; there’s a good enough sense of resolution that your not going to be lying awake at night wondering what will happen next and enough left open that you don’t have to worry about how the next one will fit in either.

The main characters, Soren and Gylfie, are under-owls from the start; both were too young to learn how to fly when they were taken. And them being young, inexperienced owls looking for a way out is the cream of the story. Gylfie is the clever brains of the two coming up with most of the plans to learn more about their situation in order to escape. Soren is the heart of the duo; displaying glimpses of leadership and the ability to inspire others. The narrative mostly focuses on him, so we also get to see more of his doubts than Gylfie, but that does serve more to build on him as the heart of the team.

When it comes to discussing side characters in this story we have two pronounced divisions: secondary and tertiary characters. You can argue that most stories have this, but here I say it is more noticeable than a lot of stories I have covered so far. The secondary characters I would say are Twilight, Digger, and Mrs P because they are the ones being carried most prominently forward with our main characters Soren and Gylfie. Mrs P and Digger are pretty standard for the roles they occupy while I found Twilight an absolute delight. He’s the loyal, boisterous type that I love who will claw and sing his way to victory and celebrate the loudest afterwards.

There are a few good tertiary characters as well that I enjoyed, but Grimble stands out as one of the best characters of the book for me. I like the complexity of his character; he understands that he is assisting evil, but initially, sees it as the only way to keep his family safe and later does it solely out of grudging duty till the opportunity to betray his oppressors presents itself. He is the tragic hero of his story and an inspiration to our young main characters and myself.

There’s a certain charm to the story; it’s made for kids but not at the expense of children. It’s a well-done concept that doesn’t sacrifice good storytelling just cause the audience isn’t targeted at adults. The ideal audience for this book is certainly kids age 8 to 12, but I’m in my mid-twenties, and I enjoyed myself enough.

Review of The Ocean of Secrets

The Ocean of Secrets, now I’m going to preface this review with the statement that I particularly wanted to like this, I really did. I’ve probably read this more times than I usually do when I decide to review something. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I can see a good story just below the surface and out of reach. I not here to review the story I wish I got, I here to review the story I actually got. Without further delay on with the review.


Nina and her adopted sister, Lia, decide to have a day at the beach, and despite the weather warnings, the two girls go out on their uncle’s boat. The weather does prove to be dangerous, and Lia is lost at sea. However, fortune smiles on Lia and she is picked up by a magical ship with just two crew members, Moria and Albert. With no way to get back, Lia joins them as they continue hiding from the floating Kingdom of Lyronaz. But they can’t hide forever.

Now, as awesome of a summary as that is the actual execution leaves something to be desired. The pacing to start is just a little too quick for me to get an idea of who Lia and Nina are. This is the only part that Nina is in so I can let that slide, but Lia is the main character, and this really should have been the time to get to know who she is before she gets pulled out of her life. This does make character growth difficult to find for her by the time you reach the end. And this may just be me, but I think the beginning is a better-told story than the rest of the actual story.

The artwork is very nice, and most of the time following a situation is easy enough, but sometimes it is hard to follow; like panels or pages are missing which doesn’t help the pacing. A couple of times the words go right into the spine making it hard to read at all. It can be done without ripping the book in half, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Occasionally a phrase pops up that reminds you that English isn’t the first language of the author, but it’s not too distracting.

The real problems with the story start showing up when Lia is rescued by Moria. The problems are not because of Moria and Albert bring Lia into their magical world, but more of the result of trying to present too much too fast. This results in a metric tonne of information being dumped on the reader; nearly the whole of chapter 2 is just an exposition dump with very, very little character being introduced for Moria and Albert.

Chapter 3 starts by remedy the lack of characterization for Moria and Albert; giving they something a little more to their characters. But another problem becomes far more pronounced; the lack of a sense of time. Things start happening and move on far too quickly. On one page for example, in one panel they start doing something that would take a good bit of time and the next they’re done.

The rest of the story more or less just coasts on what chapter 3 built for it, and the story ends with a nice little bow and room for a sequel. Not really improving on any of its previous problems, and not introducing any new problems or bringing other problems to the forefront.

Review of Star Wars: The Rise of the Empire

Alright, it is time for a mega super review of Star Wars: The Rise of the Empire. We have three short stories (Mercy Mission, Bottleneck, and The Levers of Power) and two novels (Tarkin and A New Dawn) making up this Star Wars collection. I’ve already covered the novels, so I’ll address them again briefly at the end. This review has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here.

Starting with the short stories:

#1. Mercy Mission

This story acts as a nice little prologue/flashback for Hera that I would recommend reading either before you read A New Dawn or after the first chapter of A New Dawn. It’s heart pumping and ties nicely in between Lords of the Sith and A New Dawn.

Hera is a co-pilot on the freighter Eclipse making a smuggling run to get medical supplies to her home planet of Ryloth which is under the heel of Moff Mors after the misadventure that was the plot of Lords of the Sith. There’s some real suspense as your reading this; the stakes are simple but high. The characters have natural motivations to grasp, and yet a couple of them feel like there is a bit more below the surface. It is an excellent addition that kept my undivided attention.

#2. Bottleneck

Bottleneck is just about the best story to go in between Tarkin and A New Dawn. It is placed in between the two novels both physically in the book and chronologically. The principle characters are Tarkin and Vidian performing an inspection of the production facilities of Gilvaanen, facilities that produce stormtrooper armour. It’s a tale of corporate espionage and rebel scheming that Tarkin and Vidian are tasked with sniffing out. The atmosphere is much calmer than Mercy Mission, and with it being placed right after Tarkin I think it is a good tone shift to prepare you for the feel of A New Dawn.

The characters here are solid well defined, and each one is memorable. Thanks in large part to the much smaller cast. One thing that gets me though, and this is starting to seem like a running pattern, is that alien species are not adequately described. If you asked me what the Ithorian looked like, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what basic shape they have compared to a human.

#3. The Levers of Power

This story revolves around Rae Sloane during the battle of Endor. Sloane was the captain of the Star Destroyer in A New Dawn under Vidian, and here she has gotten to the rank of admiral. The whole story takes place on the bridge of the Star Destroyer she commands, with the focus on her reactions to the progression of the battle. If you’ve seen Star Wars: Return of the Jedi then you know how that goes, and see the response solely from one continuous perspective.

Personally, I think this story is fine but out of place in this collection of stories. Yes, Sloane has been featured in Bottleneck, and yes, she had a prominent role in A New Dawn. However, this story takes place over a decade after the events of A New Dawn and aside from a couple of common elements has nothing to do with the rest of the collection.
#4. Tarkin

I gave my thoughts on this first novel a little while ago, so I think I’m going to link that review here. Fear not though I shall give a brief version of my thoughts here as well.

Tarkin is a good story where the title character is absolutely brilliant. Tarkin certainly has the presence to carry his own story; everyone else feels like a side character even Darth Vader. Couple that with a pair of intriguing stories woven together expertly, and you have a very solid story centred around a villain you are simultaneously rooting for and against.
#5. A New Dawn

Similarly, I’ve also done a previous review for A New Dawn and will be giving my quick thought on this novel.

If you couldn’t tell from comments in previous sections, I particularly like this story and love it when the short stories tie into it. Kannan has a fantastic arc, Vidian is cruelly efficient with a reason you can almost understand, and some of the side characters are simple but enjoyable. If you were to take away the Star Wars aesthetic, I think you would still find an excellent story.

Overall, I believe that this is a worthwhile collection to pick up; particularly if you haven’t already gotten Tarkin and/or A New Dawn. The short stories are nice, but I think I would need maybe another pair of good stories before I would recommend it solely for the short stories. I think that this is certainly worth having if you’re a Star Wars fan but only if you don’t already have both Tarkin and A New Dawn. If you’re not a Star Wars fan then first I would have to find out specifically what it is you don’t like before making my recommendation, but in general, I would say go to your local library and read either Tarkin or A New Dawn and if you like either one of those then I would say get this, if not save your money.

Review of Star Wars: Tarkin

Governor Tarkin sees the Galatic Empire as a machine that needs more centralised oversight. As insurgents perform hit and run attacks against the Empire, Emperor Palpatine orders Tarkin and his apprentice, Darth Vader, to investigate and put a stop to the rebel attacks. It’s a story full of twists and turns, and if you’re familiar with Star Wars, then you know that this is a story told from the perspective of the classic villains of Star Wars: A New Hope. In addition to the main plot, we also get to see important moments in Tarkin’s life that made him into the man that he is. We see his early life that gave him his outlook on life, parts of his early military career, his first meeting with the future Emperor Palpatine, etc. This really is a book about Tarkin, and it is glorious. A proper story for a classic villain; not at all a disappointment.

Tarkin as the main character is a brilliant character because as you learn more about him the more, you understand him, and in understanding him, you are almost convinced by him. He has a very pragmatic outlook on life, and his life is built on maximising his ability to the best utility he can have. Unfortunately, this focus on Tarkin doesn’t come with a compliment of equally interesting support characters. The support characters are good—Vader has a few good moments—but they don’t have the same presence on the page as Tarkin.

The antagonists of the story are a group of rebels that would normally be the protagonists of another Star Wars story. Most of the rebel crew is the usual crew you might expect, but their leader, Captain Teller, has a great moment with Tarkin at the end that I won’t spoil. Teller stands as a fine foil for Tarkin at that moment and serves as a good comparison between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.

I’m not sure how to go on in this review without spoiling anything, so I’ll just say that if you enjoyed Star Wars: Darth Plagueis then you’ll enjoy this just fine. As for me, this was a fantastic read, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading a real villain centred book. Star Wars: Tarkin isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the best books in the new canon that I have read so far.

Review of Brody’s Ghost (Collected Edition)

This has been on the back burner for a while, but I’m getting to it now. And this is going to be a running theme in my reviews for the next two months. Now, this is a collection of all six books in the series, four bonus short comics, and concept art.

Now, this is a collection of all six books in the series, four bonus short comics, and concept art. I’m the kind of guy who loves seeing the creative process so the concept art is a feature that I love. The addition of the bonus comics I thought enhanced the overall experience, but I understand why they weren’t included since they are not necessary for the overall story. The rest of the review will be on the main six books that make up the majority of the collection.

Starting with a brief, non-spoiler plot summary: Brody is a down on his luck kind of guy who has his life turned on its head when Talia, a ghost, phases into his world. He’s a ghostseer, capable of interacting with ghosts and exactly what Talia needs. She is a ghost on the hunt for a murderer and she needs someone to do the physical work.

This is a simple, solid story. It’s more of a thriller than a mystery, but I think that allows the story to focus more on its small cast of characters. It gets intense at the end of each book, and when the series as a whole reaches its climax it feels like a movie and the final resolution at the end is paced very well.

Brody and Talia are a pair of solid main characters. Brody changes from a lethargic jerk to a determined vigilante who you certainly could classify as a superhero, and Talia constantly has protective layers peeled back revealing more of her character. Brody is a good example of a character that changes throughout the story, while Talia is a good example of a character that changes through revelation in the story. Their dynamic together is stellar. Because of their different personalities and motivations, humour and conflict feels natural between them when it happens, but you also still understand why they work together.

There are some good side characters that help move the plot forward, but there are just three that contribute to the whole story. We have Gabriel, Brody’s best friend and one of the few straight cops left in the city, he supplies humour and needed help in the investigation for Brody. Kagemura is a samurai ghost that Talia finds to help Brody unlock his ghostseer powers and train him for the task at hand. Kagemura has his moments that make me smile and he’s used very utilitarianly for the sake of needed explanations. The third character I want to touch on is Nicole. She is Brody’s ex-girlfriend and a motivating factor in his life. I don’t want to go to much into detail with her, but she is very plot relevant. Personally, I don’t think she is featured quite enough for the important role she holds.

Antagonistic forces in the series provide three levels of conflict: physical, emotional, and moral. The L47s, for example, are a gang that assault Brody early in the story and serve as a test later in the story for Brody to show his physical improvement. It’s also fun to see them get beat down from their high tower. Nicole also has a boyfriend, Landon, that makes life hard for Brody and because of his interference almost ends the investigation early for Brody. And then we have the Penny Murderer; the villain that is always alluded to in the background and Talia’s only focus. The Penny Murderer’s lack of presence and the threat of him entering the picture drives some of the best tension in the story.

If it hasn’t been obvious at this point, I really enjoyed this collection. The characters are dynamic and fun to read. Some are similar then maybe I would like considering the depth the main characters have and the importance they hold in the story. The end is heart pumping, but a couple of elements feel like loose threads blowing in the wind. By the time I had read from cover to cover I was thoroughly entertained.

Review of Star Wars: Rogue One

Ah Star Wars, we meet again. Last time I was reviewing a novel now you’re in the form of a movie. I won’t lie I was a little nervous going in; the trailers were good, but trailer quality isn’t a sign of quality. I’m looking at you Attack of the Clones.

I got to see this a few times in theatres and am basing this review off my memory of that experience. I will say right from the start that I was certainly the target audience for this movie, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have problems with it.

Now for those who don’t know the plot is a simple one; the rebels steal the plans for the Death Star, and this shows the days leading to that mission. And it is honestly a fun time, once the mission starts. The beginning and middle aren’t bad, but they feel like they’ve been cut down a lot to save on time. Mainly because there are a lot of characters that all seem to have interesting back stories, and they’re suppose to be a close-knit team, but we don’t get a sense of why that is. We pinball from planet to planet at the beginning, getting a few good moments and some exposition about different characters, but nothing makes these characters quite as memorable as other Star Wars characters. Aside from K-2SO and Director Orson Krennic of course, but K-2SO is just a funny droid, and Krennic isn’t fighting as much for scene presence when he’s on with most of the other characters.

There are three main villains in this film: Krennic is the main antagonist for most of the movie with Grand Moff Tarkin acting as an antagonist to him and Darth Vader stealing a couple of brief scenes. Krennic is almost sympathetic, and I found myself wanting to root for him when he was butting heads with Tarkin. Vader was there for fan service I have to admit, but it was good fan service.

Going off of that, there is actually a lot of fan service and easter eggs to find for Star Wars fans.

The look of the film is also a magnificent visual of what the Original Trilogy (OT) would have looked like if they were made today. The style of the old blended with new technology works incredibly well. I feel here I should make mention that a couple of characters have been recreated with CGI, and some people have said that it was bad and distracting, but I thought it was one of the best CGI effects I have ever seen.

This film isn’t the best Star Wars movie to come out, I’d say it isn’t close to that, but it certainly isn’t the worst by a long shot. If you love Star Wars, you’ll enjoy this, if your not a fan I’d say this is fine as long as you see or have seen at least Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope.