Honor Among Thieves is a Dungeons and Dragons Movie that Remembers Fantasy is Supposed to be Fun

The worst consequence of Game of Thrones’ success is that it wrongly taught movie and TV writers and execs that fantasy should be dour. If that wasn’t your bag, or if you just got worn out on all the doom and gloom and gore masquerading as “prestige” TV, then you didn’t have a lot of options other than going back to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and the (very underrated) The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe movie from 2005 or sidestepping from fantasy to the MCU superhero movie assembly line. It is the MCU that Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves resembles more than Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. It takes joy in the telling, never misses a good joke, and balances accessibility to the masses with plentiful Easter eggs for the hardcore.

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Fourth Quarter 2022 Quarter-and-Year-in-Review

I will say this about 2022: it was a great year for everything but reading and blogging. The dominant event there was the birth of our son, but otherwise it was a very busy, very fulfilling year filled with work and family.

I didn’t even catch up on reading during the holidays, so my beginning of the year reading plans will look a lot like my end of the year reading plans. I finished my annual presidential biography on the last possible day and finally finished The Odyssey, but I still need to read the second Mistborn series (with one reread and two first reads to go), reread Lord of the Rings, restart and finally finish the Silmarillion, finish my reread of The Wheel of Time (stalled deep in the second-to-last book because I didn’t want to haul that massive hardcover across the country), read the Michael Livingstone book on The Wheel of Time, and read The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. For my Foundations project, I’m not 100% sure where I will go next beyond finishing The Federalist Papers and the new David Hackett Fischer book and reading some Aristotle (recommendations welcome).

I don’t really regret how little I read and blogged in 2022, because for the most part I was doing more important things, but I do want to figure out how to squeeze in more reading time in 2023. I am particularly irked I let Mount TBR grow by three books in 2022.

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300 and Its Sequel Rise of an Empire Reflect the Respective Virtues of Sparta and Athens

The best thing about finally watching 300: Rise of an Empire after noticing it on HBO Max was that it spurred me to rewatch 300. That sounds like damning with faint praise and it kind of is. Rise of an Empire lacks the style and verve and punch of 300. But it is a fine movie in its own right, and it is interesting to compare the two movies about two very different Greek city-states fighting two very different battles during the same invasion.

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Rings of Power Redux

I finished season one of Amazon’s The Rings of Power show adapting material from the appendices to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.[1] I also did two other things since my last post on the show that affect how I view it: I rewatched the Peter Jackson LotR movies and I read (reread) academic historian Bret Devereaux’s posts dissecting the battle of Helm’s Deep and the siege of Gondor. The rewatch raised things a bit, with the show holding up well and benefiting from the careful touches of foreshadowing that are including. Revisiting Jackson’s LotR adaptation lowered things a bit.

My final estimation stayed where my initial estimation landed. Rings of Power is good, not great. It didn’t fall off a cliff like The Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones adaptations. It isn’t remotely as atrocious as Jackson’s Hobbit . . . thing (do not attempt to defend those movies or compare them with the show, as I do not suffer fools). But nor does it rise to the heights of Jackson’s LotR movies or, especially, the source material.

Revisiting Jackson’s LotR adaptation did solidify something that had been oozing around the dark corners of my mind. The basic problem with the show is that Jackson’s movies are its urtext.

All images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
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Third Quarter 2022 Quarter-in-Review

The summer’s swelter retreats as cool fog and brisk mornings creep in.  Soon the leaves will begin to change and yards fill with skeletons.  Weekends have come to be dominated by football.  It is fall, the very best season of the year.

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Review of Against All Gods by Miles Cameron

Miles Cameron’s epic fantasy is an auto-buy for me at this point (I am still working my way around to his historical fiction and science fiction).  His Traitor Son Cycle and Masters & Mages series are two of my favorite series of this century, if not of all time.  Against All Gods is the first book in his latest epic fantasy series.  I will continue on with The Age of Bronze series, but its opening volume is the weakest yet from a Miles Cameron series.

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Recap and Review of the First Two Episodes of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Did I watch the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime (Rings of Power from here on out) on Thursday evening as soon as they dropped?  Well, I tried.  I didn’t quite finish the second episode, or even really make it quite halfway.  I can’t blame Amazon for that one so much as a schedule that has me up and moving early every morning.  I was intrigued enough to finish episode two while I ate lunch at work on Friday.  But when Jim Cornelius from Frontier Partisans asked my opinion on the show, I couldn’t muster much passion in response.  I’m just not that invested, and the first two episodes didn’t change that.

SPOILERS for the first two episodes below the fold.

Pic courtesy of Amazon Studios
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Second Quarter 2022 Quarter-in-Review

It was a hectic quarter, even if thinks have started settling down as the baby transitions from newborn baby to just baby.  The big wrench in my plans here was my wife and I both finishing leave but only having two days of childcare for the baby each week.  I haven’t figured out a sustainable, reliable posting pattern for that new reality (although by the end of the coming quarter the baby will be in childcare five days a week).

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Daughter of Redwinter is Too Generic to Get Over the Hump from Good to Great

Another week, another new series from one of my favorite new writers of the last decade.  Last week it was Brian McClellan with In the Shadow of Lightning, this week it is Ed McDonald with Daughter of Redwinter.  McDonald’s Raven’s Mark trilogy is one of my favorite fantasy series period.  Sadly, Daughter of Redwinter doesn’t begin to live up to that series, although I don’t have much in the way of actual complaints.

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Brian McClellan has done it again with In the Shadow of Lightning

Brian McClellan’s opening salvo in his latest series, In the Shadow of Lightning, didn’t immediately grab me.  The opening scenes, which take place some nine years before the events in the bulk of the novel and setup Demir’s character arc, were not as effective as, say, the scenes of revolution that open Promise of Blood.  The glass-based magic system is clever enough, I suppose, but at some point, you read about so many different magic systems—from McClellan or Brandon Sanderson or whoever—that there are diminishing returns.  And it isn’t as distinctive as the powder mage sorcery from Promise of Blood, for example.  But McClellan makes great hay out of it, and the story picks up steam as it goes.

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