The last time I read The Wheel of Time was in anticipation of A Memory of Light. The culmination of the series was a big deal for me. I discovered The Wheel of Time shortly after The Shadow Rising (book 4) was released, which means I waited over twenty years for the series to finish. I was a kid when I started reading it and a man when the series concluded. In the interim I lost two immediate family members, graduated from high school, college, grad school, and law school, got my first job, got my first real job, got my first promotion, changed careers twice, lived in four states. The Wheel of Time was a constant through all of that. It may be the only reason I read fantasy today—for the better part of a decade I would not have read any fantasy but for a new Wheel of Time book every two or three years. It was the excitement that the book would be finished that turned me back toward fantasy permanently.
As a kid, I reread the books obsessively, rereading each at least once in anticipation of the next book. Later I would read the newly published book once and leave it at that. Once I even *gas* went months after publication before buying the newest book. A hectic life since A Memory of Light kept me from a full reread. I got married, became a father, changed careers again, and lived in two more states. Oh, and started two blogs. My desire to write reread posts here was part of the delay. Rereading four million words and writing about them is a much bigger commitment.
As you can probably guess from the title of this post and the lack of month-in-review posts from the last two months, I decided to switch from a month-in-review to a quarter-in-review. I am posting so seldom across both blogs these days that doing these posts every month hardly seemed worth it (although now I wind up with a very long list of books acquired and read).
The resumption of the academic year has introduced the usual chaos, although I am starting to get into a new rhythm at my new university. We are pretty well settled in our new house at this point and doing better at keeping a certain amount of forward momentum. We are working on getting an entire wing of the house redone before the end of the year (paying for someone else to do everything this time), and I have been doing almost as much work over at my mom’s house as here. I don’t want to let my health fall by the wayside as life grows hectic again, but at least the work around the houses involves a certain amount of physical exertion. And I did make it out on the water a total of seven times this summer, including five times in my new kayak.
Necessary Evil is one of those final books in a trilogy (the alternative history fantasy Milkweed Triptych) that is impossible to talk about without badly, badly spoiling the prior two books. So if you haven’t read Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War—go! Now! (Or at least read my reviews of the two first.) Tregillis provides quite a bit of exposition and explanation of prior events (perhaps too much, although I found myself a bit lost at times), but it’s no replacement for the first two books in the trilogy. You really need to read them to properly appreciate Necessary Evil.
Last week I broke down the first trailer for Amazon’s adaptation of The Wheel of Time. This week I break down the season by episode. We know that the season will be eight episodes and the episode titles for six of the eight episodes (you can find an episode list with writers, directors, and air dates at Dragonmount.com). We know from showrunner Rafe Judkins that season one will cover most but not all of book one and include some material from book two. I think we can infer quite a bit from the first trailer. There is a lot of wild speculation below, but I tried to keep it true to both what we already know and the storytelling demands of the medium.
The Coldest War is book 2 in alternate history series The Milkweed Triptych, and the sequel to Bitter Seeds. If you’ve come here to decide whether to read Bitter Seeds—do it!—I’ll still be here when you get back. If you’ve come here to decide whether The Coldest War builds on the potential of Bitter Seeds, then my recommendation remains unqualified. Bitter Seeds is the type of book that relies on its sequel to reach its full potential; The Coldest War explains the mysteries that left Bitter Seeds incomplete. The two biggest differences between Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War is that the latter is quite as bleak, and we never see inside the heads of the Soviets. Spoilers for Bitter Seeds (and minor spoilers for The Coldest War) abound ahead.
It’s happening! With all the pandemic-related delays, the arrival of Amazon’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series seems sudden. We have a release date—and it is in a little over two months! The first three episodes drop on November 19, with the remaining episodes dropping one at a time and the season coming to a close on Christmas Eve (with a weekly drop, expect weekly recap and reaction posts here). Word is that season one will adapt book one, but with material from both New Spring and book two pulled in. And surely much will be left on the cutting room floor, with a fat novel adapted into just eight episodes.
Here is the trailer, and it is a thing of beauty. For all that it is labeled as a teaser trailer, it clocks in at over two minutes.
My analysis of the trailer with screenshots (and book spoilers) is below the jump.
British sorcerers versus German supermen in an alternate history WWII: what’s not to love? Actually, the premise left me nonplussed initially. Sorcerers v. supermen seems a little like grist for post-role-playing discussions turned story premise for nothing more than the rule of cool. I remain leery of alternate history as a sub-genre, and I’m far more interested in WWI than WWII, to the extent I even care about modern history at all. Absent getting my grubby, little hands on an ARC of The Coldest War (book 2 in Tregillis’ Milkweed Triptych), I probably never would have read Bitter Seeds. And that would have been a crying shame, because Tregillis has crafted an incredible story.
Troy Denning was one of the primary game designer for Dungeons & Dragons’ Dark Sun setting, so it is no surprise he got tapped to pen the first Dark Sun novel, The Verdant Passage. Dark Sun is one of D&D’s more vivid settings—with arresting artwork by Brom—and it bears scant resemblance with its sun-blasted landscape, bizarre monsters, psionics, and environment-destroying magic to the watered-down Tolkien pastiches of Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms. But it does fit squarely with D&D’s roots.
Tolkien was my real gateway into fantasy. But like a lot of kids in the 80s and 90s, a huge part of my fantasy reading was devoted to D&D tie-in novels. Outside of the Dragonlance Chronicles, R.A. Salvatore was the king of the tie-in novel, and he created what has to be THE marquee D&D tie-in character, Drizzt Do’Urden. Drizzt spawned a small publishing empire of his own. I was never a Drizzt fanboy, but I read a bunch of the earlier Drizzt books and even non-D&D fantasy by Salvatore like The Sword of Bedwyr. The Drizzt stories somehow soldiered on without my $8, and The Legend of Drizzt superseries is at 37 books, I think, with this latest entry. So parachuting in with book #37 is a bit of a leap but not completely crazy, and I have fond memories of the early books (especially The Crystal Shard), so when offered an ARC of Starlight Enclave I gladly said yes.
Can writers today still produce stuff with the verve and the flavor—the outright joy—of the pulp and pulpy tales of yesteryear? The Lost Empire of Sol is evidence they can. A collection of otherwise unconnected tales set in a far-future, solar system spanning shared world, The Lost Empire of Sol owes much to the Leigh Brackett’s sword and planet yarns, but also to the dying earth of Jack Vance.
A year and a half into the pandemic, only one thing could convince the world that normalcy was set to return: an MCU movie in the theaters. The MCU is back with a solo Black Widow movie, several months and also several years late. I’m not a huge MCU fan, although my interest has grown over the years. I decided to take advantage of a Disney+ subscription, the long delay, and Black Widow’s arrival to watch all 24 movies. I approached them in timeline, not release, order, so I started with Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain Marvel. I watched all of them for this project except Far From Home, since what I saw in the theater wasn’t worthy of spending money to rewatch (although I spent money to watch the even worse Hulk solo movie). A handful of the movies were first watches, not rewatches: Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, and Ant-Man and the Wasp. Some of the movies I have watched several times (and recently). Others it has been awhile (13 years for The Incredible Hulk).
A preview of where I come down on the MCU: I ranked the Captain America trilogy ahead of the Iron Man and Thor trilogies, on average, and the average rankings put Phase Three ahead of Phase Two, and Phase Two ahead of Phase One.
(Links to my original reviews are included where I wrote them, but I ignored them while ranking the movies. I found my views on rewatch frequently different than my initial impression in the theater, and I wasn’t trying to keep the ratings comparable across MCU movies when I set them.)
My ranking of the twenty-four MCU movies, from worst to first, after the jump: