Sunday, May 20, 2018

Art by pimpartist

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Another Dose of Shannara

Elfstones Cover.gif

The second entry of author Terry Brooks’ original Shannara trilogy takes place around two generations after its predecessor, opening with the Chosen, caretakers of the Ellcrys, a tree sealing away an ancient evil, entering the Gardens of Life where it’s located. Lauren (who is male) notices wilt on the tree, which signifies the end of the Forbidden sealing away the Demons, although his fellow chosen such as Jase are in denial about this. Meanwhile, one of the primary antagonists, the Dagda Mor, is happy Ellcrys is dying, holding the Staff of Power while joined by the Changeling, vowing to kill the Chosen.

Ander Elessedil, the second son of Eventine, King of the Elves, lives in a private residence outside the royal palace, with his elder brother Arion receiving the monarch’s attention. The youngest Elessedil son, Aine, has been dead for some time, with his daughter Amberle looking to Ander for support, causing a rift between Ander and Arion, with the girl ultimately abandoning her post as a Chosen. Lauren wishes to see the king, indicating that it has been over seven centuries since the tree last spoke, with the seed to replace it needing to be immersed in Bloodfire, though the flames’ location is unknown.

Ander believes when Lauren tells him that the Ellcrys is dying, and thus seeks Amberle, who is eventually the only one who can save the tree. Meanwhile, Wil Ohmsford lives in the tiny Gnome community of Storlock, the Village of the Healers, living long since he left Shady Vale and practicing the medicinal craft for two years. Adventure ultimately comes to him, and he leaves, with Amberle reluctant to return to her duties as a Chosen. A group of human wanderers known as the Rovers play part in the plotline, led by Cephelo, who has a daughter named Eretria.

Throughout the story, Wil questions his ability to use the titular Elfstones, meeting other characters such as Perk, who has an avian Roc named Genewen. The novel culminates in a series of epic battles towards the end, accounting for a satisfying story that isn’t quite as derivative as the Lord of the Rings series like its predecessors, although it’s certainly not perfect, and more description as to distinctive features of the main characters would have certainly been welcome. One, however, can read the first Shannara sequel as a standalone story, and it’s overall an enjoyable yarn. 

The Weapons Master's Choice by Terry Brooks 

In this short story by Terry Brooks set before the final main entry of the original Shannara trilogy, The Wishsong of Shannara, the titular Weapons Master, Garet Jax, is camped when a woman named Lyriana comes to his encampment, telling of the warlock Kronswiff who killed her people, wanting Garet to come to her home city of Tajarin. Soon after, mercenaries from Varfleet known as Het attack them, after which they set off, having a confrontation with the warlock and his cronies. The story ends satisfactorily with some twists, although some connection with the book that precedes it chronologically would have been welcome.

Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest VI

Sugiyama, as always, does an awesome job with this symphonic suite, which opens with the familiar Dragon Quest overture, and proceeds to the castle theme. Then comes a medley of town themes, followed by variations on the main overworld tracks. The sailing theme is simply beautiful, as is "Flying Bed." "Pegasus" is another solid track that can potentially bring tears to one's eyes, following which is a medley of dark castle and dungeon themes. Pretty much every track is solid, such as the subtle tower theme, which bears some resemblance to the main theme of The People's Court, and the suite ends on a high note with "Eternal Lullaby." Definitely recommend to fans of videogame music and classical music in general.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Seussical, Jr.

Was mostly nonstop music, and combines the story of both of Seuss's Horton books, being generally enjoyable.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The penultimate entry of writer J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter saga opens with the British Prime Minister awaiting a phone call from the American President, although he first gets a visit from the former Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, who informs him about the goings-on in the world of magic, with Rufus Scrimgeour being the new Minister. In the meantime, sisters Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange talk by a shack, afterward meeting Severus Snape and Wormtail, the former with whom Bella is infuriated given that Harry Potter remained at his mercy during his tutelage at Hogwarts.

The book eventually gets to Harry himself, who spends another summer with his last living relatives, the Dursleys, where he remains vigilant in case the magical Hitler Lord Voldemort’s minions are on to him. Dumbledore ultimately arrives at their home, informing Harry that his late godfather Sirius Black bequeathed him his London home, which Harry suggests would be better off remaining as headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Another inheritance is the Black house-elf Kreacher, who is reluctant to have Harry as his master, with Sirius’ cousins, among them Bellatrix, in line to possess him.

Dumbledore brings Harry on an errand to the abode of one of his former instructors, Horace Slughorn, to coax him out of retirement in the village of Budleigh Babberton, with Slughorn, despite having been a Slytherin, very much defying the House’s negative image. The Hogwarts Headmaster further invites Harry to private “lessons” once his term commences, following which is a visit to the Weasley family home, the Burrow, with patriarch Arthur Weasley promoted in his position at the Ministry of Magic, Bill to marry Fleur Delacour, and O.W.L. results revealed.

Draco Malfoy, made a servant of Voldemort thanks to an Unbreakable Vow earlier made, serves as a constant target by Harry for his alleged dark deeds, to the point where he eventually sends his house-elf friend Dobby on a mission of tailing espionage. Thanks in part to a tattered and vandalized textbook once owned by the eponymous Half-Blood Prince, Harry has a much better time in Potions class than before, with the vexed Defense Against the Dark Arts position (the reason for its supposed curse revealed some ways into the novel) opening with lessons of nonverbal spells.

Dumbledore soon commences his “lessons” with Harry, which involve the exploration of Lord Voldemort’s family heritage, Potter given the mission to extract information about Horcruxes from Professor Slughorn, although he is initially reluctant to disclose data about them. Towards the very end of the sixth entry, Harry affirms his loyalty towards Dumbledore, with the Ministry of Magic at times trying to coax him into being their poster-boy. The Room of Requirement that served as training grounds for Dumbledore’s Army returns, as does Moaning Myrtle the ghost.

An old friend of Hagrid’s passes on, apparition lessons begin, the definition of Horcruxes is revealed, Harry goes on a mission with Dumbledore to receive one of said objects, the identity of the Half-Blood Prince is revealed, and hell ultimately breaks loose at Hogwarts, culminating in a satisfying conclusion that akin to the book’s predecessors is very bittersweet. Harry continues to be a difficult student, and is hailed as “the Chosen One,” echoing other media such as the Star Wars film series, but as with preceding entries, the book is sure to satisfy long-time series fans, old and young.