Narmer And the God Beast Cover Reveal!

As I alluded to in my July Newsletter, I have worked up a short story in my ‘Egypt and Dinosaurs’ setting. It is called Narmer and the God Beast. As I so eloquently put it then:

“I even paid for a cover and everything . . . “

https://alligatorsandaneurysms.wordpress.com/2021/07/02/july-newsletter-new-fiction-master-of-secrets/

Well, that cover is here. It was created by illustrator Lee Eschliman who is absolutely fantastic. You can take a look at his other work on instagram. Lee’s artwork has been in my life since I can remember. One of his logos graced the deck of my very first skateboard (if you can believe I used to skate) and he’s influenced several of my hobbies overs the years. I was absolutely ecstatic that he was willing to craft the cover for my story. It turned out simply amazing.

Anywho, without further ado, here’s the cover for Narmer and the God Beast (and the back cover blurb to pique your interest):

Had I anything in my heart but hate for my brother and pity for myself . . .

I may have suspected I was about to meet a god.”

Broken and bleeding into the cool Nile waters – shattered by his brother’s cruelty – young Narmer pays the crocodile no heed as it enters the stream. Let it come.

But the hunter swims on, and only then does Narmer know its aim, the defenseless god-beast drinking and playing up-river.

Dinosaurs will again roam the desert sands, uniting the disparate Two Lands into one great Egypt, if Narmer can drive off the crocodile, if he can endure his brother’s malice.

If he can save this sacred creature and be saved by it . . .


So, there you have it. Narmer and the God Beast is officially announced. The launch on Amazon will take place on October 4th, but you can also preorder it now. I’m going to be doing a series of posts this month about my influences for the story and how it came together so stay tuned for those. Some stories and teasers in this world have already been posted on this blog so look for them on my fiction page.

And finally, you can just follow my progress on things and get quarterly updates and new fiction by subscribing to my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. For signing up, I’ll send you a copy of the first story I every wrote about a warlock doctor.

See you next time!

*Update 9/14 – I’ve begun posting some of the “influence” posts I mentioned before. Here’s what I’ve completed so far:

#WyrdAndWonder Day 27 – Celebrate a Portal Fantasy: Come Tumbling Down

So admittedly, I’m not really following the assignment here. For day twenty-seven of #WyrdAndWonder we’re supposed to be celebrating a Portal Fantasy.

I READ a Portal Fantasy.

But I can’t quite bring myself to celebrate it which has put me in a bit of a bind as far as prompts go. If you’re just coming into the Wayward Children Series please do not allow the review of this volume to sway you from picking it up. Also, start at the beginning with Every Heart a Doorway.

It’s genuinely a good series. I certainly enjoyed In an Absent Dream very much and every volume I’ve read before that although I missed reviewing them (maybe I’ll go back).

However, this novel just didn’t quite ring true for me. And I think there’s a couple reasons why . . .

— Careful. Spoilers abound —

Did We Need Another Trip to The Moors?

Probably not. I struggled to remember a bit just what happened in our last adventure to The Moors, but luckily it’s glossed pretty early on in the CTD (along with every other character’s backstory) so I was able to gather that at the end of Every Heart a Doorway, Jack ends up killing Jill and they return to The Moors and for these two — based on everything written about in Down Among the Sticks and Bones — this is a happy ending.

And in my humble opinion, a pretty complete ending. The next two books were about other characters, and complete (ish) in their own ways. I expected that in a similar manner we would meet new characters and then they’d get their own books, until McGuire had run out of axes to grind (I don’t actually mean this in a bad way. I love the representation and messaging in all of these books!)

But The Moors were done. They had served their purpose and quite well I think.

Only The Moors weren’t done with us apparently . . .

Ensemble Cast for a Solo Quest

Did Jack really NEED to go back to Eleanor’s School and assemble the squad? I might argue no. It’s never bad to have a group of friends help you through a tough task, but unless she’s an oracle and could see how each choice would go astray without them, or their was some sort of prescribed fate requiring that she go to them, I’m not sure why she bothered. She tries many times to get them to allow her to go on without them and they pretty much always respond with “we’ll help because that’s what heroes do“.

However, I’m not sure they really did help all that much (except maybe Christopher’s bone minions holding back The Master for a bit at the end; and Cora becoming a currency). Kade sacrifices himself but it’s immediately reneged, and Sumi seemed little more than a cheerful but heartless taskmaster. If she was hinting at (or beating a dead horse [with no skin] about) some deeper meta trope or theme (or satire) it was completely lost on me.

A Bit of a Talkie Adventure

All of the above (for me) led to a bit of a talkie time, with characters explaining the significance of situations or interjecting randomly just to have something to do in the scene. Maybe I was just having an off couple of days and this didn’t land right for me, but those were the general impressions I had.

Read?

I can’t really say no, because I have not read past this point yet so I’m not sure how important this is to the larger narrative of the series (which I do enjoy). However, if it’s immaterial to the progression of the other books (doubtful as after appearing in 3/5 books, Jack seems to be firmly in the Main Character category) then I’d say you could miss it.

But You’re Supposed to Recommend a Portal Fantasy!

Oh right. Well as I mentioned before, I’ve enjoyed the other books in this series, and In An Absent Dream gave me a lot to think about. Otherwise I’d say you couldn’t go wrong with Little Free Library by Naomi Kritzer.

Anyway, that’s all I have for this round. Has anyone read this one yet? What about the rest of the Wayward Children series? Other Seanan Mcguire? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Looking forward to chatting about this one!

Prehistoric Planet: Initial Thoughts

So I wasn’t really expecting to be writing a review right now. It’s Monday night (though this is probably posted Tuesday morning) and I’m hanging out with my fellow writers. We’re all chilling on Zoom typing quietly which, given the fact I don’t find that very weird anymore, is probably WHY it’s weird. But anyway, we’re supporting each other, and I’m supposed to be working on a short story for next quarter’s newsletter, or finishing a listicle for #WyrdAndWonder, or any of a hundred different writing projects I’ve been meaning to get done, but I’m not doing any of those things right now, because all I can think about is a little T-rex pouncing on baby turtles, or an even tinier pterosaur base jumping over the open ocean and hoping for the best.

All productivity is gone, as I can’t really think of anything else besides these delightful creatures which Apple Tv+ has managed to dig up out of the dirt, and bring to life in a way I feel has heretofore never happened in my memory.

I’m something of a dinosaur fan here on this blog, and will get pretty excited about even the dumbest depictions (I actually watched and enjoyed Velocipastor) of prehistoric life just to feel a little bit of that passion, awe and wonder (and a little fear) I felt as a kid.

But there’s no need to force it with Prehistoric Planet. Every image looks amazing, and each fact seemed more interesting and startling than the last.

I’m no paleontologist certainly, but I do enjoy reading about pre-history from time to time and I feel like I’m building up a bit of a knowledge-base about what the really ancient (obviously a technical term) world was supposedly like. But I’ll be the first to admit that it can sometimes be as difficult to dig into as actual rock.

I can understand Ceratopsians and Ceratopsids having a similar name, but what’s Ceratosaurus’ excuse? It sounds way too similar to be SO different.

Anyway, at least so far in the first episode (“Coasts”) we’re not dealing with this level of granularity which I believe would have made the show completely unwatchable. However, I wish we had a little more grounding. The opening is of a group of swimming T. Rexes — which was itself a strange image though maybe it shouldn’t have been — so I can assume we’re in the Cretaceous?

Where in time we were was essentially not explained at all, even though prehistoric geography was sprinkled in here and there. We go from recognizable continent names like North America, to lesser known names like Zealandia.

Also, the map of the Cretaceous is completely different than the map we know now. I think an opening shot of the umm . . . PREHISTORIC PLANET!! would have really helped to get us situated.

Anyway, these are probably nitpicks, and I think for a general audience, which is clearly who Apple is shooting for, I think the show is going to be more than incredible, which pretty much makes me really happy no matter what.

Anyway, those are my initial reactions to Prehistoric Planet: Episode 1 – Coasts. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series. I don’t think I’ll cover each episode as it comes out as I just don’t have the bandwidth right now, but I wanted to gush a bit about this before it breezed on by. I’ll probably do a follow up at the end when I’ve finished watching but just know my general impression is that it’s awesome, and I’m sooo looking forward to episode 2 which is supposed to be about North African dinosaurs. I’m hoping that means we’ll see some of our friends from The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt including Paralititan, and Spinosaurus!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Looking forward to talking about this one!

#WyrdAndWonder Day 20 – Celebrate a Dark Fantasy: The Sword of Destiny

And we’re back with day TWENTY of #WyrdAndWonder (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, please checkout this year’s #WyrdAndWonder Kick off post).

Wow I feel like May is going by entirely too quickly. Anyway, today’s prompt is to celebrate a Dark Fantasy.

I’ll be honest I wasn’t really sure what made something a “Dark Fantasy” as opposed to Grimdark or any of the other more brutal fantasies I’ve read recently (I’m thinking of books like Shadow of the Gods, any of the Green Bone books, and even Ring Shout).

Good reads defined Dark Fantasy, as having a few core elements such as “pronounced horror elements” (often of a supernatural nature), and “often anti-heroic or morally ambiguous protagonists”.

I immediately was reminded of the Netflix’s The Witcher, which I feel embodies all of these criteria pretty much to the T. But what about the books? I decided to read one and find out.

Start here . . . Or maybe here?

I think I may have goofed this bit up. When I looked up where to start the Witcher Saga, it seemed there were many different reading orders. The one I chose was the publishing order from Tim Hawkin’s The Witcher Books in Order – Two Ways to Read Them. Which turns out to be the order they were published in the US, which maybe isn’t the order they were published in Poland, and definitely isn’t chronological within the universe. So . . . I’ll be reading The Last Wish next, which I think will satisfy either order, and then make my decision what to do from there.

Anyway, all of that to say, the one I chose to start with was The Sword of Destiny.

Was it Dark Fantasy?

Sure. Of the criteria listed in the definition above, the anti-heroic behavior and the moral ambiguity of the protagonist seem to be the lynch pin of each of the stories in this collection. The question they each ask, is whether or not the protagonist — the famed Geralt of Rivia — is a hero or just another monster which everyone seems to believe Witchers to be.

Personally, from the stories I’ve seen in this collection, Geralt is almost at Eddard Stark levels on the morality scale. Good to a fault. But I think Sapkowski’s trick here, is that the world in which the Witcher takes place is filled with so many other morally ambiguous (and often morally bankrupt) characters that the book still reads like a Dark Fantasy. Of course Geralt always has some excuse for why his actions are neutral or self-centered, and so he believes himself to be just another monster, but I don’t think the reader ever really buys into that. Even the sad endings are kind of happy (opposite from the show in which even the happy endings leave you feeling sad).

I wouldn’t say horror is a huge focus of the book, except for the fact that when you come down to it, Witchers fight MONSTERS. Perhaps it’s the translation, but I never really felt afraid or scared in the ways I have reading pure horror books, but the text does give the monsters a sort of disgusting quality in many instances which I definitely would associate with horror so . . . perhaps it adds up there too.

Get your ink ready, we’ve managed to check off the two criteria. We’re stamping this one Dark Fantasy.

Read this one?

Oh I’d say so. There were quite a few things which caused me to roll my eyes, but it was never enough to make me put the book down, and I genuinely enjoyed most parts of it.

Probably the most distracting issues in the stories were Sapkowski’s overbearingly male gaze. In one story, we make it exactly one sentence before mentioning a mermaid’s uncovered and ample breasts. They do not stop getting mentioned in that story, and it seems like every other story has a buxom woman just waiting to heave her chest as a signal of almost any emotion.

Looking past that however, I was surprised to find quite a bit of humor within the stories, and twists on common fantasy tropes. One of my favorite images comes from Yennefer who, bound at the wrists, swings and kicks her legs to cast a spell. The magic seems to cause a good deal of havoc among her enemies, turning whole troops of people into frogs or something equally ludicrous.

I laughed quite hard at that one, but given the “dark” and serious nature of the rest of the events, I was unsure if that humor was intentional. These stories seem very aware of fantasy tropes, and make an effort to skewer them whenever possible. Could all those heaving bosoms also be satire?

I never really landed on a yes.

Despite all of this, there’s just something fun about a man who roams the kingdom slaying stuff (Geralt is very adamant that he is NOT a Knight Errant although he totally is. The very first story, Bounds of Reason, makes fun of the Knight Errant by showing them as absurd, and literally wrecking one . . . and yet).

I also really enjoyed — as has been my theme recently — the glimpses of slavic folklore and fairytales in general. One story, A Little Sacrifice, has very obvious associations with The Little Mermaid which was also interesting as I associate that story as a pretty western fairy tale. Perhaps some more research is needed.

Anyway, all of that to say, definitely give this book a read. I’m interested to see what you all pick up on that I missed.

And since we’re at the end of the post, please let me know what your thoughts and comments are. Has anyone read this book yet? The series? I’d love to hear from you!


Still here? Awesome. I’m glad you enjoyed my review of Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Sword of Destiny. I was so inspired by this book, and others like it, as well as some Russian history, fairy tales and folk traditions, that I decided to write my own short story in a similar setting. It is called Farewell to Rusalka, and I released it to newsletter subscribers back in April. However, if you’re still interested in reading it, please sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll send you a copy as a thank you.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

Top 5 Stories Featuring #WyrdAndWonder Mascots!

Welp, two days late, and probably more than a few pennies short, but I’ve (tried to) put together a list of books which feature each of the #WyrdAndWonder mascots. Here we go!

Here there be Dragons . . .

Admittedly, this should be the easiest one. Most classic fantasy is imbued with a dragon of some sort. I’ve even written about a few myself in my own fiction for #Smaugust (HYBRID probably has the most to actually do with a dragon, though RESCUE is probably my fav).

So when picking a favorite dragon story, I was honestly faced with too much choice, as opposed to not enough (the same thing that causes you to scroll through netflix for an hour but never actually pick anything even though everything looks pretty good).

But I couldn’t bring myself to recommend the classic (if wonderful) uses of the trope because anyone reading this has probably already read those works and doesn’t need my help to remember them or enjoy them (though shared reading history is kinda the point of this whole thing in some ways)

Anyway, if you haven’t already, please check out The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson. Essentially, this book takes all the myth and legend which surrounds these fabled creatures, and tries to sort the facts from the fiction. Only Dickinson doesn’t try to tear down our hopes of dragons ever being real, but instead tries to figure out how the could be real and what strange accidents of science and ecology would have to align in order for them to exist at all. It’s quite a bit of fun. Plus it has beautiful pictures!

Fiery Feathers . . .

Of course, next on our list, is the Phoenix! These fiery birds are most well known from Ancient Greek folklore and myth, although the Greek’s themselves seem to think the bird’s origin came from Ancient Egypt. Legend says that these birds live long and prosperous lives in paradise before eventually traveling to the mortal realm to perish. But do not weep at this majestic creature’s passing for it will be back with us shortly, resurrecting itself with fire and flame before returning home to paradise.

My own history with these creatures seems even harder to pin down than the origins of this fascinating myth. Probably the representation I’m most familiar with comes from Harry Potter (although which book I’m not quite sure). I’ve seen some other posts, mentioning a Phoenix sighting in R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War. While the phoenix does have a pretty critical role in that story, it’s somehow the thing I remember least about the book.

Other than that? It’s just fiery birds which are often Phoenix-like, but never the genuine article. For instance, Russian fairy tales and folklore tell of жар-птица, or The Firebird, which was used to excellent effect in Katherine Arden’s The Girl in the Tower, or the Persian Simorgh, which we see in S.A Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy.

Right now, I seem to be more interested in analogues of the Phoenix myth, but I’m sure I’ll swing around back to genuine phoenixes again soon (especially now that I know they possibly have Egyptian origin).

Fly like the wind Shadowfax . . .

Ugh. If only Gandalf’s horse had just sprouted wings right then and there . . .

Anyway, I am even less prepared to recommend books featuring Pegasus or any flying horses for that matter because, believe it or not, I don’t believe I’ve ever actually read a book with Pegasus, or a flying horse character (friend’s WIPs don’t count here until they’re published! Chop chop hahah).

I’m assuming these awesome creatures will play a big roll in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series? I have not read these yet but I seem to be finding more and more reasons to everyday. Sorry this category is kinda a bust.

(Side note, this doesn’t mean I’ve consumed zero media that’s contained a flying horse. Favs off the movie list are baby Pegasus from Disney’s Hercules, and Swift Wing from the Netflix reboot of She-Ra. Also I want to apologize for the absolute brutality wreaked on Pegasus during God of War 2. Griffins are real bastards)

From my books surcease of sorrow . . .

Crows be a dime a dozen these days in fantasy, and with their prevalence come a host of different meanings and interpretations, but Ravens . . . Ravens usually only mean one thing. Bad times ahead.

It’s no different in Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower only, this raven is so much more than an obnoxious birb squawk squawk squawking on heaven’s door (think I’m starting to mix up my references a bit). This raven is a literal god. I won’t spoil much more because I hope you’ll check this one out. I absolutely LOVED Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (and the other Ancillary books), and this foray into fantasy, while admittedly not on that level, is still one of my fav raven stories of all time. Please go check it out and lets talk in the comments. K thanks!

“We come, brother.”

Wolves are always such an interesting addition to fantasy stories because there’s so much that we take into our interpretations of them. They’re dangerous, intelligent, wild, but also seemingly tamable and loyal. Worthy of our respect. Man has had a history with wolves longer than any can remember and it seems a bond as well.

Perhaps my favorite depictions are those in which wolves are somehow partnered with humans, but not dominated by or viscous towards them. The Wolfbrothers from Wheel of Time (which I quoted above) are a great example of this.

Also, though it’s been years since I read it so my mind is a little fuzzy, I believe so are the wolves in the book An Apprentice to Elves by Elizabeth Bear. After all, looks like the first book in that series is called Companion to Wolves. I think I may have to go back and take another look at these!

We did it!

Thanks all for coming on this ride with me. What’d you think of this list? Please let me know in the comments!

Until next time!

#WyrdAndWonder Day 13 – Celebrate an Epic Fantasy: Shadow and Bone

Welcome to another glorious day in the month of May. Spring is in the air . . . #WyrdAndWonder is on the blogs . . .

And apparently I keep coming back to winter forests whenever I try to post anything. It’s only medium on purpose.

Anyway, today’s prompt is to celebrate an EPIC fantasy. I picked the first offering in Leigh Bardugo’s formidable Grishaverse, none other than Shadow and Bone!

Now, I did receive a little pushback from some of my friends regarding the “Epic-ness” of this book and whether or not I should go with something else. I believe the complaint was something about it’s close POV limiting its scope (too much to be considered epic), and that it is targeted towards a YA audience.

And I considered going with something from Brandon Sanderson, or maybe Robert Jordan. I recently read John Gwynne’s Shadow of the Gods which I believe probably fits this designation as well.

But I felt Shadow and Bone to be every bit as “epic” as these other stories, though perhaps it doesn’t quite seem to be at first.

So I made a little chart:

Epic FantasyShadow and Bone
Setting: A world other than ours.
But vaguely medieval Europe
Definitely not set on earth
— Not really medieval or Europe though (a feature not a bug!)
Magic: Fantastical elements play a major role in the story Yup! Tons of magic. Fire magic, healing magic, tailoring magic, Sun/Shadow Summoning. Just tons! Also, a whole subplot about how tech is becoming as powerful as magic
Scale: Power politics, wars death of nations, gods walking the earth The main thrust of the plot effects a few nations and kingdoms (Ravka, Fjerda, Shu Han etc).
Morality: Good guys are good bad guys are evil — The characters are not quite as black and white as most (early) epic fantasies I’ve read. There is some grey. (Another feature not a bug)
Great Evil: An enemy which is near enough Evil incarnate There’s a character called The Darkling. Again he’s not as black and white on the morality scale as some villains but . . . DARKLING!!
Methods: Victory is achieved through the efforts of a small number of characters acting against great odds In the end, despite all the kingdoms, ships, monsters, wars etc. It really comes down to Mal, Alina, and the Darkling.
[my addition] —> Length: Doorstopper page length or a ton of sequels, prequels and spin offs Shadow and Bone isn’t that long, but it’s just the first in a something-verse . . . of like 7 books. It def counts.
***(left side definitions are from High/Epic Fantasy on TV Tropes.)***

Targeted towards YA Audience?

Don’t let your hackles raise, “Epic” fantasy is NOT only written for adults. There are plenty of YA titles which fit that bill (Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia being the first of many to come to mind).

So . . . Read Shadow and Bone?

If that big list things Shadow and Bone contains within its pages wasn’t enough of a reason for you, then let my recommendation do the rest. Yes! Read Shadow and Bone. Again, awesome list up above aside, I really did fall in love with this book’s setting. I’ve mentioned in my reviews of The Bear in the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower how much I enjoy seeing elements of Russian history, religion and folklore represented in works of fiction.

It’s obvious that Bardugo searched through many historical sources (I think she includes a bibliography in the afterward) and used what she found to create a rich and intriguing world. Half the fun (for me) of reading this book was just mining it for little scraps of history and myth which I didn’t already know, or seeing the parts I recognized come to life.

Now I’ll admit, there appears to have been a bit of a controversy about when Bardugo chose to take liberties with Russian culture. So much so that Bardugo put out a statement explaining a lot of her choices. From her point of view, it seems pretty well thought out and purposeful, and from what I’ve read I don’t think many were hurt by the way she molded Ravka into its own place, reminiscent of Russia, but not the same. I’ll admit I was often confused during parts of the book when I was looking for connections and not finding them, but I don’t think it ever took away from my enjoyment of the story at all.

Just an interesting bit to know.

Anyway, has anyone read this book? This series? I’m only finished book one so no spoilers, but what did you think of Shadow and Bone! Would love to chat about this one so please leave your thoughts in the comments.

See you next time!!


Still here? Awesome. I’m glad you enjoyed my review of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. I was so inspired by this book, and others like it, as well as real Russian history, fairy tales and folk traditions, that I decided to write my own short story in a similar setting. It is called Farewell to Rusalka, and I released it to newsletter subscribers back in April. However, if you’re still interested in reading it, please sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll send you a copy as a thank you.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

Moon Knight Unwrapped: FINAL EPISODE!! (Ep.6) – Gods And Monsters

Yes, I 3D printed my own Ammit Statue . . . Probs gonna do Khonshu next lol

Ugh, I can’t believe it’s finally over. I’m not crying. Shut up! You’re crying.

Jk, jk but in all seriousness, WHAT AN EPISODE!! We’ll get to everything in a minute, but if you are now experiencing a little bit of a void in your life (or even just your Wednesday nights) please go ahead and check out my list of 9 Books You (En)need to Read Now that #MoonKnight is Over. You (hopefully) won’t be disappointed.

Many of the books on this list, I’ve reviewed on the blog, and most of the others I’ve at least read, so I had some idea of what I was doing when composing the list. I’ll assuredly fill in any reviews I’ve missed so if you’re interested in reading those before you try them yourself, well just hang around by clicking the subscribe link. I’ll eventually make it through them all.

Also, if you wanted to see my thoughts on any of the previous Moon Knight episodes, I’ve gathered them all under the Moon Knight unwrapped tag. And if you’re interested in any of the comics, please check out my Moon Knight comics tag as well.

Ok. that’s enough of that, let’s talk about Gods and Monsters!!

This episode was HUGE!!

So mostly I wrote that heading because there were so many things happened during the episode, but maybe also a little bit because there were GIANT GODS fighting in Cairo’s skyline which was totally awesome. Anyway, there was so much to love in this episode, but in order to keep this post an unreasonable length (as opposed to super unreasonable) I think I’ll just give my favorite part.

So here’s that:

Are you an Egyptian Super Hero? I am.

Love, love, loved this line. I loved this line, but also Layla’s (May Calamawy’s) entire performance this episode. Everyone gives credit to Oscar Isaac (and rightfully so) for switching between the roles of Steven and Marc at the drop of a hat, but the switching being done here between Tawaret and Layla was no less impressive. And also quite a good deal more hilarious.

Then of course, Layla’s super suit, complete with bullet proof scarab wings, was just incredible. Both Steven/Marc teaming up with Layla to fight Harrow was just . . . chef’s kiss . . .

Moon Knight Unwrapped Final Wrap Up (lol)

So it turns out I wasn’t terribly good and predicting much throughout this show. But it was fun to try.

Most recently, after Episode 5 – Asylum, I guessed that Harrow and Moon Knight would fight (but missed Layla completely), that Khonshu would be freed, and that Steven would return. None of these are really that impressive considering these were things that needed to happen in order to resolve the season (although I guess they could have thrown us for a loop and left Steven dead which would have made me cry).

Episode 4 – The Tomb, was also great, but I’m not sure how much I really guessed things or whether or not they were kind of inevitable. Seems like my Overvoid comment was more or less wrong, but we did learn something about death in the MCU which was cool. Jake DID make an appearance, but it’s unclear whether or not any of the other Gods besides Khonshu made it out alive. Assumedly the Ennead’s avatars were the ones who died fighting Harrow so they might still be alive (although they sucked so maybe that’s not great), but for anyone else who was entombed in Ushabti, it’s hard to say.

After Episode 3 – The Friendly Type, I said I didn’t really think the MCU was turned back 2,000 years, or if it had, it was only briefly and that Marvel didn’t just retcon itself again. Also, I didn’t feel that Steven/Marc was journeying through the Ancient Egyptian Underworld. He does this a bit towards the end of the series, but he does not start the series doing so and didn’t seem to be during episode 3.

After Episode 2 – Summon the Suit, I did not have much in the way of predictions, but I did enjoy trying to read hieroglyphs on the scarab and search for (coptic) translations to the jackal summoning ritual. The Ancient Egyptian parts of the soul seemed a relevant topic, but I’m not sure a clear connection was ever presented by the show.

All the way back after Episode 1 – The Goldfish Problem I thought that perhaps Hathor was Sekhmet, but this was never really proven, and ultimately probably does not matter much even if it was true. But we did eventually get a full translation of the scarab.

And now that it’s over? Well I’m hoping it isn’t over.

Oscar Isaac has been quoted as saying the show was a limited run, and maybe he really believes that, but I’m hoping that these six episodes will not be our only taste of Moon Knight. There are still so many questions to be answered, like WHAT HAS JAKE BEEN DOING THIS WHOLE TIME?

I think if we get a second season, I’m sure it will delve into that, but I hope that isn’t all that it is. I hope that we get to see more of Layla as the Scarlet Scarab, and Marc and Steven bro-ing out and saving the world. I still have a whole list of 9 things I wanted to see from Moon Knight, and many of them I still do (like more Ancient Egyptian Gods).

Hopefully we’ll get that chance.

The End is Only the Beginning

As oft quoted in The Mummy: “The end is only the beginning.” So it is with Moon Knight. Just because the show is over, doesn’t mean we can’t continue to speculate, and discuss what happened. I know there are new comics coming out soon, and I’m sure I’ll be rewatching at some point.

But for now, what were your favorite parts of the show? What would you like to see in a season 2? Let’s keep the discussion going. Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments.

Bye for now!

200th Post! And My Top 5 Forest Fantasy Recommendations #WyrdAndWonder

Wow. I can’t believe I’ve posted two hundred times already on this blog. While this feels like an important milestone, I am relatively unprepared for it. I didn’t plan anything special. No giveaways or special features. No discounts (lolz this blog is free anyway).

However, I have been participating in the month long celebration of all things Fantasy known as Wyrd and Wonder. For that, I’ve gathered a list of my Top 5 favorite Fantasy reads which are somehow related to the theme of FOREST. Anyway, here it is:

My Top 5 Forest Fantasy Books

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

This is probably the most recent thing I’ve read with a prominent forest in it (excluding Bear and the Nightingale, and The Girl in the Tower cause I’m trying not to make this whole month about those two books). I finished it for last year’s #WyrdAndWonder (2021), and wondered whether or not Emily Tesh should win the 2021 Astounding award (ultimately I said no). Even though I didn’t pick it for the award, I still thought it was an excellent read! I loved the language Tesh employed, and the mythical creatures revealed throughout the novella (primarily The Green Man, and Dryads).

Overall, I highly recommend.

The Runelords by David Farland

RIP David Wolverton (aka David Farland). I haven’t read much of Farland’s writing, but I recognized the name as an often acclaimed friend and mentor to Brandon Sanderson. I believe many in the writing community were upset to hear of his passing.

His most well known series, The Runelords, presents a pseudo-medieval world in which people can transfer attributes (like grace, or strength) through a process called endowments. Individuals with many endowments become super-human and are known as Runelords.

I only read book one of the series, but it was and interesting premise (and not hard to see the influence it had upon Sanderson) which quickly revealed itself to be quite profound. During the first book, which gives the series its name, the main character must find his way through a magical forest which is haunted by wights. I won’t give away too much about what happens, but suffice to say, this forest is the kind of forest we think of when we think about forests in a fantasy setting. Not quite the trope codifier (which I assume is Tolkien), but just a really great example of its use.

Highly recommend.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I’m sure this book will come up in a lot of posts this #WyrdAndWonder, so I won’t spend a ton of time talking about Naomi Novik’s great fairy tale inspired novel. What I enjoyed about the forest in this book was just how ALIVE it felt and how menacing.

Definitely a great read!

Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, admittedly has many different kinds of stories within its pages, and most of them (if I remember correctly) do not have much to do with a forest. However, a few stories do, and what I liked so much about their representation here, is that they are so much different than the typical wooded settings we’re used to in a western fantasy setting.

There are all kinds of forests (like say . . . a palm forest) all over the world, and we really get reminded of that throughout this book.

Plus Okorafor is just an amazing author. I really need to do a re-read of her works for the blog sometime. Anyway, definitely read this one!

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson

I’m sure nobody is surprised to see Brandon Sanderson on this list. Despite the fact that his worlds span continents, oceans, and even outer space, not a lot of forest settings immediately jumped to my mind when considering his work. However, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell is good enough to fill in any supposed lack of forestry within the Cosmere. This forest is insane.

Essentially, the forest is haunted by “cognitive shadows” (called Shades) or ghosts which will effectively kill anything they touch, therefore creating a new Shade. This forest is so dangerous to the world’s inhabitants that people living near it have developed a set of rules for traveling through them which might keep them alive. There are three:

  1. Do not kindle a flame
  2. Do not shed the blood of another
  3. Do not run during the night

I think you can probably guess what ends up happening during the story hahah. Anyway, I like this one because it’s a nice little glimpse into other parts of the Cosmere, and (IMHO) is generally not like any of the other stories we’ve read in that universe. Perhaps some might consider it a random one-off, but for me, it just makes things more interesting. If you’re a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere, I’d say this is a must read, and if not, probably still check it out anyway. It’s a lot of fun.

That’s it!

That’s the list. My top five favorite fantasy stories featuring forests in them. Also, if you haven’t already, please check out a little original piece of fiction I started for #Smaugust last year called Failmor Woods, which was written around a FOREST theme.

Now let’s see some comments. Have you read any of the stories I posted about? What were your thoughts. Any not on my list which should be? I’d love to here about them.

See you next time!

#WyrdAndWonder Day 6 – Mythic Fantasy: A Review of The Girl in the Tower

Welcome to Day Six of #WyrdAndWonder. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my 2022 Kick-Off + Top 5 Fantasy Books Since Last Wyrd and Wonder post to get caught up on this wacky-wavy-inflatable celebration of the Fantasy genre.

Also check out my #WyrdAndWonder tag to see all the previous posts I’ve done during this event (and last year’s event too!)

Now, Day Six’s prompt is to celebrate an example of Mythic Fantasy. The example I chose to review is Katherine Arden’s The Girl in the Tower, book two in the Winternight Trilogy.

As I mentioned in my post about Bear and the Nightingale I’ve been waiting for books like these forever. Arden has clearly done her homework, and manages to bring an already wonderous (if perhaps little known) mythology, and make it even more enchanting, mixing in real history with the stuff of pure fairy tale. That she is able to do so has been an incredible and fantastic ride.

But . . .

I think we may have moved back one step in The Girl in the Tower.

As any sequel should, TGitT reveals more depth in what’s familiar from the last book (Vasya, Morozko, the domovoi, Father Konstantin sorta, Sasha and The Church), and pushes further into the unknown/wonderous (other spirits and fairy tale characters, Moscovian intrigue, Tartars, new evils). But while the world of TGitT is much bigger, somehow the stakes feel smaller than they were in The Bear in the Nightingale.

I’m not quite sure how to explain this further without getting into spoiler territory, but suffice to say, despite all of the supernatural elements of this story, the central conflict seemed to be between people.

The other piece which I felt was a step back for this story was that through most of it, Vasya pretends to be a man (or a boy really).

Now, I wrote and deleted a lot of text trying to find a way to express this correctly and figure out why this well loved trope didn’t work for me in Girl in the Tower. We’ve seen this trope (called Sweet Polly Oliver) many times before, and there are many examples of it being done super well, and being incredibly powerful. Disney’s Mulan comes to mind . . . another Disney show from my youth, Motocrossed, is another excellent example . . . She’s the Man is also great (lol).

So why not Girl in the Tower?

Well, considering some of the stories I just mentioned, it seems that much of the power from this trope comes from the transformation of the main character. At the beginning of these stories, some circumstance places them in this new role, which society believes they should not occupy, and then they spend the rest of the story proving to that society that they’re doing just fine. But I believe a crucial part of the character’s transformation as they do this, is at the beginning, deep inside, they also don’t believe they can do it either. With each new trial, they prove to themselves, along with everyone else that they are just as ‘good as the boys’.

In many ways, Vasya already fought this fight in Bear in the Nightingale. She already had her confidence up, and knew her worth. When she leaves Lesnaya Zemlya and goes into the broader world it felt off for her to suddenly cover up all of that confidence by disguising herself as a boy. When she draws attention to herself by challenging men in power, or racing horses etc. we don’t really doubt that she’ll pull through because we know what a badass she is. I don’t think Vasya really doubts it either.

And so we have this woman, breaking all these gendered barriers in an extremely traditional society, but we lack most of the power behind such actions because we’ve already seen her do it once, and I never really felt that Vasya believed for a second that she would fail. Again, bigger setting, somehow lower stakes.

So . . . Recommend?

Certainly. Even though I felt we took a bit of a step backward in The Girl in the Tower, I just love this setting so much that I would probably read a hundred stories written there. I want to see every little spirit in the woods, and meet every figure from the myths.

I’m assuming that The Winter Witch is going to have Baba Yaga vibes, and so I’m definitely still excited to read the conclusion of this trilogy. I’m sure there will be a review to come.

Since this is the end of the post, let’s talk abt this one. Have you read it? Did you love it? Is there something I just completely missed? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Happy #WyrdAndWonder. See you next time!


Still here? Awesome. I’m glad you enjoyed my review of Katherine Arden’s The Girl in the Tower. I was so inspired by this book, and others like it, as well as real Russian history, fairy tales and folk traditions, that I decided to write my own short story in a similar setting. It is called Farewell to Rusalka, and I released it to newsletter subscribers back in April. However, if you’re still interested in reading it, please sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll send you a copy as thank you.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

9 Books You (En)Need to read now that #MoonKnight is Over

Oh wow. WHAT A FINALE!! I’ll of course be doing another post next Wednesday as part of my Moon Knight Unwrapped series, to unwind and unpack everything that we saw last night, but in the meantime, if you’re wondering what will fill this hole in your heart (and evenings), I’ve come up with nine comics and books you can read to fill the void. Enjoy!

Moon Knight Volume 1: Lunatic

So it may not seem very original (and pretty obvious) to start a list of books you should read after a show, with the comic that the show is based off of, but I’m still going to do it. Were you surprised to find Steven/Marc in an asylum? THIS is the comic that came from. I was a little confused in my reading of Lunatic, but if you’ve watched the show, you should be in good shape. Honestly don’t stop after Lunatic. Read Vol 2: Reincarnations, and Vol 3: Birth and Death. You won’t be disappointed.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

I know it’s not, but this feels like the Ur text when it comes to books involving split personalities. Plenty of action, plenty of swearing, plenty of just downright crazy. It even got a movie of its own though I don’t think it will come to Disney+ any time soon. It has a few good actors and actresses in it. You may have heard of them . . . Ya know . . . Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter.

In all seriousness, if you haven’t read this book, give it a read. I’m sure it was responsible for so much angsty nonsense during my adolescence, but I don’t regret it for second.

The Essential Moon Knight Volume 1. by Doug Moench

Admittedly, The Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1 did not get my best review, but I still think it’s an important read for a few reasons. First, I just like seeing the history of things, and it was worth any cringing along the way just to see how this incredible character got his start (in a werewolf comic of all places with NO mention of Egyptian Gods anywhere). I genuinely believe that if you read this, it will help you appreciate the show even more, even if it’s just a look at how far we’ve come.

The Buried Pyramid by Jane Lindskold

This book is pretty much what revitalized my love for Ancient Egypt all the way back in 2011. It’s more or less what it says on the tin. An orphan raised on the frontier, goes to Egypt with her uncle who is an archeologist. They’re to investigate and find the location of a legendary tomb. Of course they’re not the only people with this idea in mind and so now a game is afoot. I seem to remember some interactions with actual Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. I think this was the first place I learned of the goodest half-croc-half-hippo-half-lion, the devourer of souls, Ammit.

Definitely check it out.

Moon Knight Volume 1: From the Dead

This volume was by another Moon Knight writer, just before the Lemire issues I mentioned up above. It is definitely different then those issues, and also the show. In my review of Moon Knight Vol 1: From the Dead I note how amazing the art style is, and how different Moon Knight the character is. We see a lot of MK in Steven’s suit although the suits aren’t distinctive to personalities. We also see a pretty badass (I think) samurai inspired MK suit which was totally dope. Anyway, Moon Knight is much more violent than I was used to, and it was interesting to try and reconcile such violence with the mythological Ancient Egyptian god Khonsu, who Khonshu is based on. (I’ll give you a hint, it’s based off something known as The Cannibal Hymn)

Anyway, check it out and read my review for all the deets.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

This one just looks so cool. Ancient Egyptian gods waking up and having evil on the brain (I wonder where we’ve seen that recently?). Two estranged siblings coming together, bonding over adventure and the fate of the world (I assume). Plus Riordan has a pretty proven track record. You may have heard of one of his other books, The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson & the Olympians). Actually I think Red Pyramid is in the same series. Anyway, you can expect a review of this to come soon. Might as well give it a shot!

Easy Go by Michael Chrichton

This book is unlike any Michael Chrichton book I’ve ever read. Originally published as The Last Tomb (which is more on-brand for this post) under Chrichton’s pseudonym, John Lange (speaking of alternate identities), it has a similar premise to a lot of tomb raiding stories we know and love. Find the tomb get the treasure, don’t let anyone else do those things. Certainly, this book is a bit dated, feeling like an old pulp novel (which I’m not really about), but if you like these sorts of adventures, I’m sure Easy Go will be the right stop.

Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazney

This book is just bananas. Set in a future where both men and machines had grown technologically sophisticated enough that some number (283 to be precise) of entities have become immortal, and whether through technology or supernatural powers, are like unto gods. Hence we have characters named Osiris, Anubis, Horus etc. which for all intents and purposes, are the gods their names evoke.

And those are the normal parts. Next we get Temporal Fugue, which in this case is essentially time travel but with the added complexity of probability and martial arts. And from there move on to all sorts of nonsense involving complicated family relationships.

In a word, it’s a blast. Highly recommend. I just couldn’t put Creatures of Light and Darkness down.

Narmer and the God-Beast by JD Weber (shameless!)

Ok. So a bit shameless here, but I’m going to recommend this short story (which I wrote) anyway. It involves my two favorite things, Ancient Egypt and Dinosaurs. Really what’s not to love? If you’re looking for more of a pitch, it’s about a young boy, Narmer, lying bloodied in the Nile, who is about to let himself be killed by a crocodile. He soon realizes that the croc is not coming for him, but a defenseless God-Beast drinking nearby. Narmer fights the croc thereby saving the God-Beast, but he still must contend with his older brother Bahek, who’s cruelty and abuse is what put him in the river in the first place.

I won’t spoil anymore of the story, but if this has piqued your interest, please consider purchasing Narmer and the God-Beast on amazon.

We did it!

Well that’s the whole list. 9 titles to keep that spark after finishing Moon Knight. I’d love to know your thoughts on the list I’ve created. Are there any obvious ones I missed? Any not so obvious? Have you read any of these before.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

Moon Knight Unwrapped: Ep. 5 – Asylum

Only one . . . more . . . episode . . . to go . . .

I can hardly stand it. But it’s not quite time to talk about that yet. It’s time to talk about Episode 5 – Asylum.

Eeek!

Ok. Really quickly, if you If you’re interested in catching up on any of my previous posts about this show, please check out my Moon Knight Unwrapped tag. I have some posts about Moon Knight Comics too, or you can just check out my a general list of Moon Knight posts as well.

Finally, I should probably start this episode with a bit of a content warning. The episode depicts: sibling death, parental violence (physical and psychological), loss, grief, PTSD, death of a main character.

Ok. Deep breath. Here we go.

This episode was such a heavy hitter in so many respects, and there were so many choices here that I just absolutely loved.

First, let’s talk about the the . . . Ancient Egyptian-ness of this episode. Of course, as usual, Roxanne Bicker does an amazing job talking about the history behind this episode in her „Moon Knight“ – Die altägyptischen Hintergründe erklärt, Teil 9 (google translate is our friend).

The part I was probably most excited to see, was the barque of the Sun God, Ra, on which Marc/Steven are traveling through the Duat. Tawaret, a goddess of Motherhood and Childbirth, is not typically responsible for escorting souls through the afterlife, and it’s obvious from the very start that she is uncomfortable in her new role. There’s a ton of speculation that she is filling in for Ra because so many of the other Gods are imprisoned in the Ushabti, as Khonshu was at the end of Moon Knight Episode 3 – The Friendly Type.

I think this is probably true, but I have also been wondering if there isn’t a second meaning as well (there is a duality to everything in this show). Revealed in this episode, is Marc’s abuse at the hands of his mother, after his brother Randall (RoRo!) passes away. My theory is that Tawaret’s appearance — being a goddess of Motherhood — is another attempt of Marc’s mind to cope with being dead and perhaps a yearning for a positive motherly influence, only it’s influenced by Steven’s fascination with Ancient Egypt.

Of course, I hoped for/predicted the scales of Anubis back before the show was released, and I was not disappointed in their depiction within this episode. I though the porcelain hearts, seemingly made of a similar material to the canopic jars Ancient Egyptians used to store their organs for the afterlife was a really neat, and probably less gruesome way to depict this essential part of Ancient Egyptian epistemology: Judgement.

Finally, since this post is already going pretty long and there’s still the predictions and theories to go through, I’ll end by saying my final favorite shot, was of the Khonshu-like bird skeleton we see before entering the flooded cave. So much to unpack there certainly, but I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ve landed on a good explanation of what it implies. Perhaps that Khonshu has been with Steven for longer than we realized? Either as a part of his psyche, or active in his life as a god like we see later? Maybe that really was just a dead bird which Marc has projected onto the form of Khonshu and mythologized over time . . . Perhaps Khonshu isn’t real at all and Marc received super powers some other way . . . and his mind is trying to cope . . . I don’t know.

Anyway, RIP Steven (omg I think I actually cried). I hope, as they say in The Mummy that “Death is only the beginning” and that we see you again soon.

Predictions

Steven will return?

This is more or less what happens towards the end of the Lemire comics. In the final book, Moon Knight Volume 3: Birth and Death, we see much of what we saw in this episode (#5) with a flashback to the first time Marc imagines Steven (although it doesn’t have anything to do with any British archeologists, or child beating thankfully). We also see some of his time in Afghanistan, and how he meets Duchamp (Frenchie), and his origin with Bushman (VERY briefly brushed over in this episode which is probably good).

Finally we see Khonshu’s tomb and the creation of the figure Moon Knight, which we saw in this episode as well. The third story we get in that series is Spector’s return to the asylum, and his eventual fight with Khonshu. In order to return to the asylum he must find Anubis’ wife (Anpu) and ALL of his alters return to help him escape a kind of weird Ancient Egyptian inspired alien planet before he faces Khonshu “alone” (the implication being that Marc IS all of his identities and so he can call upon any of their traits and powers even without having to manifest them).

Khonshu Freed (along with other gods)

Another logical assumption we can make, is that our (my?) beloved Khonshu will be freed from his stone Ushabti this episode, and possibly so would the other gods. I think this would be amazing as it would open up so many possibilities within the MCU! Also I just want to see the Ancient Egyptian pantheon running around (you can see which gods specifically I’m excited for in 9 Things About Ancient Egypt I Hope We See In Marvel’s #MoonKnight) because that would be dope as hell.

Harrow vs Moon Knight Fight . . .

Again, not much of a prediction considering we’ve seen footage of the two fighting in trailers that we have yet to see in the show (although I suppose sometimes trailer footage doesn’t make it into the show always). However, what they’re fighting about and why is the much more interesting question. From the souls we saw falling into the Duat, it seems clear that Ammit has been freed from her ushabti and is wreaking havoc on the world above.

It seems reasonable to assume that there will be some way to imprison her again, and that Harrow will be fighting to stop that process from happening. In ancient times, Ushabti could be made of many materials, but many were created from a kind of glazed earthenware known as Egyptian Faience. In Moon Knight, it seems the figures are made from stone, and created using a ritual performed by the Ennead. Perhaps this divine group has seen the error of their ways, and led by Hathor/Sekhmet, is attempting to complete this ritual and imprison Ammit once again. Maybe they’re down a member and need a recently freed Khonshu to step in an help? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Moon Knight will return in . . .

I just can’t abide that this show will only be a one season as Oscar Isaac has claimed or that we won’t see Moon Knight again in the MCU. Right now, I have pretty little interest in the Midnight Sons theory as aside from the Netflix Daredevil show, I don’t think we’ve really had any compelling versions of these characters (Punisher, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Blade) in the MCU as of yet. In Moon Knight Essentials Vol 1 we saw MK team up with Spiderman, Hulk, and a few others which could be great (I’m always up for more Spiderman!!).

And of course there’s always this Moon Knight series/season finale tweet to read too much into.

The Wait is Almost Over

Welp, that’s all I have so far. Soooo looking forward to tonight’s episode. There’s only one more to go! I’m sure I’ll be back next week with another of these posts, but in the mean time, help me wait with a little speculation of your own. Which theories did you like the best? What didn’t I mention (probably a lot).

Please leave your thoughts in the comments. Can’t wait to catch up with everyone on this! See you next time.