Monthly Archives: November 2014

My Top Ten Orc Chieftains of Middle Earth

Middle Earth is full of dark and dangerous creatures and the most famous is the orc (also known as goblin in Tolkienology). There are several breeds and tribes of these nasties that often exhibit extreme rascism towards each other and other species. In order to keep these fighting machines in line, the powers of darkness find the strongest, smartest, and bravest to lead these endless hordes across the land.

Most of the orcs here are canon from Tolkien’s original works, but a few are taken from the expanded universe. If you are looking for orc cameos in non-Tolkien works, check out the top ten list of orc cameos.

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#10 Gorkil the Goblin King

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Coming it at the top of the list is the goblin king never mentioned in Tolkien’s works. He appears only in The Battle for Middle Earth II (EA Games) and rides a giant scorpion. His forces took control of the Ettenmoors in Angbar and leads the assault against the Elves and Dwarves in the North. In the alternate history of the game, he plays an important role in forming alliances with the dragons and destroying the Shire. He is a non-canonical character of Middle Earth, but his pivotal role in “what could have been” lets him squeeze into this list.

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#9 Glorfimbul

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Glorfimbul hails from Mount Gram of the Misty Mountains and led a war against the Northfarthing of the Shire in the year TA 2747. Since the rangers of the north were busy fighting so many goblins, Glorfimbul was able to reach the Shire with his entire host of goblins to pillage the peaceful hobbits. Glorfimbul’s moment of fame appears in a brief conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins as it was this particular chief that was killed by Bilbo’s ancestor Bandobras “Bullroarer” Took. According to the narrative, Bullroarer knocked Glorfimbul’s head off with a wooden club, sending it flying a hundred yards and down a rabbit hole. The war was one by the hobbits that day and the game of golf was invented.

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#8 Uglúk

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Without doubt, Uglúk is Saruman’s most trustworthy captain. After raiding the Wold and capturing Merry and Pippin, his company ran into a company of Sauron’s orcs that also wanted the halflings. Uglúk was undeterred, and continued on his journey to Isengard with his prisoners by the shortest route possible. With the Fellowship on his tail and dissenting orcs of Mordor in tow, Uglúk nearly succeeded in delivering Merry and Pippin to Saruman, but was killed by Éomer and the Rohirrim. In Peter Jackson’s film adaptation, Uglúk becomes the captain of the orcs after the death of Lurtz.

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#7 Shagrat

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Shagrat was captain of Cirith Ungol and led the patrol that found and captured the poisoned Frodo Baggins. Had it not been for Samwise’s wise choice to take the Ring from Frodo’s lifeless body, Shagrat would have discovered his master’s power and Middle Earth would have fallen to Sauron.

After searching Frodo, Shagrat and Gorbag fought over Frodo’s mithril coat, leading to Gorbag’s eventual death and the deaths of nearly every orc in Cirith Ungol. This allowed Samwise Gamgee the opportunity to enter Cirith Ungol and save Frodo. Shagrat fled with Frodo’s things, and brought them to Sauron, who then executed him.

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#6 Gorbag

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Gorbag is the shorter, yet quicker counterpart to Shagrat in Cirith Ungol. He is a Morgul Orc. He inadvertently allowed Sam to free Frodo when he fought with Shagrat over Frodo’s mithril coat. He is killed by Shagrat, who then takes the coat to Sauron. In Peter Jackson’s film portrayal, his and Shagrat’s roles are reversed and he meets his end when Sam sticks him in the back.

I like him over Shagrat partly because he is the more gruesome looking of the two captains. During the feud between orcs, Gorbag kicks one of Shagrat’s black orcs out of a window at the top of Cirith Ungol (in the film), and it is that act that wins him a place above Shagrat.

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#5 The Great Goblin

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The Great Goblin is the King of Goblin-town in the Misty Mountains. He and his subordinates preyed upon travelers and chanced upon Thorin’s company of dwarves. He was a huge and grotesque goblin and enjoyed taunting his victims. He would sometimes eat fish from the underground lake where Gollum lived. Many of his goblins died when Gandalf arrived to rescue the dwarves and he himself was stabbed to death by the wizard.

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# 4 Gothmog

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Gothmog was the Witch-King’s second in command. His species is unknown as he is only mentioned once in the books, but speculation puts him as an orc type of creature. He assumed command of the hosts of Mordor upon the death of the Witch-King. He called for the reinforcements from Osgiliath, a host of men serving the Great Eye. In the film, his role is greatly enhanced, from leading the ground troops against the men in Osgiliath to commanding the legions of Mordor in the siege of Minas Tirith. With a crippled hand, he fought Éowyn and was wounded, then killed while hunting her down.

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#3 Bolg

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Here the characters of the books and movies really begin to change. In the books, Bolg became leader of the orcs after his father Azog died in Moria. He ruled the Goblins of the Misty Mountains from his fortress in Mount Gundabad and led the forces of darkness in the Battle of Five Armies. He was crushed to death by Beorn.

In the Hobbit trilogy, Bolg is his father’s second in command and leads his father’s hunting party through Mirkwood to Lake-town, fighting the dwarves and the elves along the way. He proved himself difficult from Legolas to kill (which is an amazing accomplishment for an orc) and he is the only character to make Legolas bleed.

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#2 Lurtz

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Lurtz was the first captain of the Uruk-hai hunting party that ambushed the Fellowship in Amon Hen. He was created by Saruman to be a deadly force to be reckoned with. He is a Peter Jackson film character only. In the film, he chokes an orc to death upon his birth and is presumed the strongest and smartest of Saruman’s servants. He shoots Boromir three times with arrows, then engages in combat with Aragorn and very nearly decapitating him as well. Aragorn defeats Lurtz by stabbing him in the thigh with his dagger, then cuts his arm off, then stabs him in the stomach, an then decapitating him. To prove how unstoppable he was, he pulled Aragorn’s sword even deeper into his stomach to taunt Aragorn.

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#1 Azog the Defiler

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It was a tough choice between Azog and Lurtz, but Azog wins the number 1 spot, partly for his canonical story, and also for his non-canonical portrayal in the Peter Jackson films. First the canon. Azog was a powerful orc who assumed control of Moria and waged war against the Dwarves. He beheaded Thrór, the former King Under the Mountain, and carved his name into Thrór’s forehead. In the Battle of Azanulbizar, he killed Náin, but was then killed by Náin’s son, Dáin. His son Bolg carried on his legacy.

His life in the film version is quite different. In the films, he survives the Battle of Azanulbizar, but his arm is cut off by Thorin Oakenshield. He returns with a prosthetic hook arm and hunts Thorin’s company of dwarves. Later he is placed in command of Sauron’s forces in Dol Guldur and leads them in the Battle of Five Armies. He nearly kills Thorin and he ambushes and confronts Gandalf in Dol Guldur.

Well there you have it, my favorite orc chieftains of Middle Earth. What orc leaders did you like that aren’t on this list? Comment below if you want to share!

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Magic, Myth and Majesty 4- Sword of the Archon

The Magic, Myth & Majesty bundle is a great way for you to discover a few new authors, you know, perhaps because the latest and greatest of pottermania wasn’t quite what you expected. I’ve certainly discovered a few tales and worlds that have captured my imagination. On the upside of these book bundles, you get to experience a lot of new authors’ works. On the downside, some of the books are short or downright terrible and you don’t want to continue reading anything by that author. Shader: Sword of the Archon, by D.P. Prior isn’t one of those.

Amazon: 3.9 (49 ratings)

Barnes and Noble: 4.0 (4 ratings)

Goodreads: 3.5 (75 ratings)

Synopsis:

“Plague strikes the city of Sarum, and the dead rise from their graves.
The liche, Dr. Cadman, has discovered a long-hidden artifact and perverted its power for his own selfish ends.
But an ancient evil from beyond the stars is drawn by its use and turns hungry eyes upon the Earth.
These are the times of Unweaving, the times Deacon Shader has been prepared for since the day he was born.
A man of prayer, deeply troubled by a contradictory faith, he is also the deadliest warrior of his generation.
As events spiral out of control, and Creation itself hangs by a thread, the paradox at the heart of Shader’s life may just be the last desperate hope of all the worlds.”

Soundbite from the web

Good: “Oh, how much I love the melding of genres. To mix and match different aspects of specific literary tropes and use them to tell a truly original and captivating tale can be a wonderful thing to experience…”

Bad: “Read the first 50 pages and just gave up. It seems like the story will be moving somewhere but it was not able to hook me into reading further. Characters are started with no feeling for the individual personality to be developed. Jumps between several characters and I was unable to determine if all the characters are in the same time period.”

Ugly: “I heart to say this book was lacking in action I also have to say I really don’t care for these kind of books but for people that licked these kind of books I would get it as I could buy it I give it five stars.” (Reviewer gave it 3, not 5 stars)

What I say

The book’s plot at large revolves around forces trying to control the ancient power of Eingana (and consequently, the world). The main character is Deacon Shader, a crusader for good always balancing between the path of war and peace. He becomes the keeper of the Sword of the Archon and his destiny takes him away from his Order and to another country.

I’ll stop there with the plots. Just know that there are a lot of plots that come twisting together at the end and a lot of vivid characters. A large cast of characters can be a scary labyrinth for readers, but Prior’s characters are well written and have their own voices, making it easy to ascertain whom the current point of view is.

The entire book takes place in a crazy world where you sometimes feel like its medieval, and at other times from a post-modern dark age, and at other times the future. This world is a product between a showdown between magic and technology, with technology barely escaping alive, but leaving the world desolate. I was fascinated!

Now, if you are looking for an age appropriate book, this isn’t the best choice for children. The violence is quite graphic, there is drug use, swearing, and even a rape scene. That being said, there are some amazing lessons that stand out: the rapist looks for penitence and Deacon struggles in his path between warrior and priest. If the above mentioned doesn’t bother you, I would say, definitely check this book out. It’s only the first in a series, so Deacon’s story will keep you occupied for a while, and that’s exactly what us readers want. I will certainly come back to the series, if only to revisit the world in which the characters live.

City of Bones

I finally found the time between 11 and 1 on the morning these last few days to finish the book that was recommended to me: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments), by Cassandra Claire. The book turned out to be very different from my original judgement. I also found out last night that the book is now a movie. I guess I’ll have to check it out, see if it’s any good.

City_of_Bones

Amazon: 4.2 (3499 ratings)

Barnes and Noble: 4.5 (5581 ratings)

Goodreads: 4.1 (738,155 ratings)

Synopsis

“When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.”

Soundbite from the web:

Good: “I loved all the books. COuld have stopped at 3 for a happily ever after but am excited for book 6.
Movie was excellent. Love Magnus!” (5  star rater)

Bad: “Right from the start the grammar and presentation of the story reminded me of 9th grade fanfics and preadolescent books.
The plot was predictable.
The characters flat and in relatable.
The dialogue cheep and forced.
Characters had dramatic role changes with out the events to support the change. Events that were mentioned to the character at the beginning of the book were reiterated later as if it were new evidence. I put this book down multiple times in disgust over the overall quality. If I hadn’t bought it I wouldn’t have wasted my time.” (1 star rater)

Ugly: “I was referred to this book by a friend and Iloved it. I believe fans of Stephanie Meyers will enjoy City of Bones as well. Its got a bit of romance, a bit of mystery and a lotta action. Looking forward to continuing the adventure in book 2.” (5 star rater)

What I say

I have to start off saying that the characters aren’t like the ones found in Twilight so the rest of us are safe to read the book without getting our souls sucked out.

The book centers around Clary Fray who finds out she’s a SHadowhunter when she starts seeing people that are invisible to everyone else. Then a Ravener attacks her at her house and she is barely saved by her love-hate interest Jace. Thus begins her adventure in the magical land of New York City where demons and Forsaken and Shadowhunters roam the streets….so it’s just like New York in real life!

The bad guy turns out to be a Shadowhunter traitor named Valentine, no relation to the bunny, who wants the Mortal Cup to make a Shadowhunter army to kill all the evil creatures. Of course, drinking from the cup would likely kill a human being, so most people frown on his idea. It is up to Clary and the gang to find the Cup and defeat Valentine.

There are some parts that weren’t very necessary to the story as a whole. There was on scene where Clary goes to a dance party and her friend is turned into a rat and captured by vampires and Clary and Jace go save him. The events at the party helped propel the story a bit, helping Clary figure out who her parents were, but the whole fight with the vampires didn’t reveal anything about the characters, there weren’t any plot twists or turns, and it is just a dramatic moment for the sake of spicing up a section of the book that otherwise would have been a lot of exposition.

The book was certainly geared toward young adult audiences and I don’t see anything wrong for a teen to read the book. I enjoyed reading it, but the pace was slow at times. I cut the book some slack because it wants to get us and Clary up to speed on everything that happened. The characters could have more depth to them, but hey, so many people like the series that there are 6 books and a movie.

Have you read City of Bones? What was your favorite/ least favorite part? What underrated/unknown book should I read next?

My Top Ten Dragons of Folklore and Fantasy

Nothing in the fantasy world promises more death and terror than the dragon. Legends have painted them in many lights, from the benign to the fire-breathing menaces that we think of when the word dragon is mentioned. In stories they can be both gods and demons, guardians of untold wealth and knowledge. They vary in color and size, and some of them come back from the grave to haunt us, but the broad consensus of dragons is that they are not to be trifled with. Many people survive their reptilian neighbors by sacrificing their virgin daughters to these creatures.

Sadly, fantasy isn’t always kind to dragons. Where hundreds of trained professionals and adventurers have attempted and failed to steal the dragon’s hoard, inexperienced farm boys and apprentices will succeed. So without further ado, I’ll list off the ten dragons that I have enjoyed the most.

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#10 Hungarian Horntail

(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling)

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            At the top of my list comes the most dangerous dragon of the Harry Potter series. Remember how I said fantasy isn’t kind to dragons? The Horntail is the prime example. The Horntail is a tough lady with an equally tough attitude. Unfortunately, this poor soul was captured and sent to Hogwarts as part of the Triwizard Tournament, where he was shamed by the 14 year old main character. The dragon looks fantastic on the big screen and would have eaten Harry if it weren’t for that meddling JK Rowling. The movie was the worse depiction of this dragon’s demise, making her crash into a wooden bridge…

The Horntail makes my list because it is one of my favorites to see in action.

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#9 Toothless

(How to Train Your Dragon, Dreamworks)

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            This little bundle of joy has captured the hearts of countless fans and mine too. Toothless, a Night Fury, is first seen, or rather heard, at night, speeding through the skies and raining explosive balls of blue fire at the Vikings. As the offspring of lightning and death, Toothless forges a loving bond with a human and the two of them have many adventures.

Arguably the fastest dragon on this list, (and the cutest by far!), Toothless and his friend Hiccup (who also happens to be responsible for crippling poor Toothless) destroy Red Death, the super-sized dragon queen, in a one-on-one midair firefight, proving that size doesn’t matter.

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#8 Fafnir

(Volsunga Saga, Norse Mythology)

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            Fafnir was once the son of the dwarf king Hreidmar, but blinded by greed, he killed his father and stole the cursed gold of Anvari and the ring Andvaranaut. He was then transformed into the legendary dragon that we associate his name with. The huge beast poisoned the land around him, but was ambushed by Sigurd.

Fafnir was a legend that defined the iconic dragon and the dragon’s hoard of treasure. He may have even defined the dragon’s role in fantasy as an extremely dangerous yet rather easily defeated creature. In defense of dragons, Fafnir wasn’t born a dragon, so we can give him some leeway for his failure.

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#7 Alduin

(The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda Softworks)

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       This dragon is the self-proclaimed firstborn son of the dragon-god Akatosh of Tamriel. His very name will make you step back and rethink fighting him: World Eater. While he hasn’t eaten any worlds (to my knowledge), he does command the ability to resurrect dragons to terrorize the world.

He was a terror to Skyrim long ago, but the power of the Elder Scroll transported him through time to be dealt with by later generations. He had a cool plan as a dragon: eat people in real life, then eat them in the afterlife. Kinda sucks to be a snack twice!

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#6 Trogdor

(Dragon Email, Strongbad)

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            There are few dragons whose birthplace was on the internet. Trogdor the Burninator is King of them all! Trogdor was a man, a dragon man, a dragon with an epic metal theme song. How many dragons can boast that AND a synthesized voice? He was Strongbad’s second attempt at drawing a dragon and received his own holiday named Trogday.

With one beefy arm and constabulate V’s, Trogdor dominated the land of Peasantry and proved to the world that dragons in 2 dimensions are as scary as those of 3.

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#5 Saphira

(Inheritance Cycle, Christopher Paolini)

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The story of the blue babe of dragons was the first to make me jealous of a main character. Eragon lived out my dreams by becoming a Dragonrider and raising his own dragon from birth. Lucky? I think yes! The bond between rider and dragon would grant the rider physical and mgical abilities that he/she never before possessed.

Saphira is most notable because she becomes the hope of the return of the Dragonriders. No living human had seen a dragon, and Saphira’s bite was worse than her growl, a point she often made clear to her enemies, including rival dragons.

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#4 Hydra

(Greek Mythology)

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            What’s scarier than a dragon? A two-headed dragon,. What’s scarier than that? How about a dragon that has more heads than the vase-painters can paint? “This monster was so poisonous that she killed men with her breath and excretion. If anyone passed by when she was sleeping, he breathed her tracks and died in the greatest torment.” –Hyginus.

While not a traditional dragon of fire and flight, the Greek hydra is a terror to behold and a close enough relative to the others. Heracles discovered Hydra’s true strength when he cut off its head: two heads grew in its place. Needless to say, Hydra became exponentially more powerful with each beheading.

Hydra’s reign of terror did not stop with its death. Heracles used its extremely deadly blood on his arrows to kill many other monstrous beasts of Greek legend.

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#3 Smaug

(The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien)

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            Smaug is the iconic dragon of the western world and his actions earned him his own song. He is greedy, he is vain, and he is King under the Mountain. He single handedly burned the entire city of men and dwarves named Dale.

Smaug describes himself as such: “My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” He is the fantasy world’s epitome of dragons and he won’t be dethroned, even if he has one weak point.

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#2 Glaurung

(The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien)

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            Even though this picture is a winged dragon of the First Age, it captures the power that is Glaurung, the first dragon of Middle Earth. While only a century old, he burned the kingdoms of Ard-galen and Dorthonion. While not as famous as Smaug, he is by far the deadlier and was given command of orcs and balrogs to ravage the people of Middle Earth.

He possesses a hypnotic stare to freeze his foes and even in death his blood was a poison to his enemies. He is the Father of Dragons and destroying entire kingdoms as an adolescent earns him the number 2 spot on my list. Plus, balrogs bow to him.

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Before I list #1, here are a few favored honorable mentions.

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#1 Leviathan

(Judeo-Christian Bible)

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            The great leviathan gets number 1 and if you ask why, I’ll let Job chapter 41 explain it to you:

7 Can you fill his hide with harpoons or his head with fishing spears?

8 If you lay a hand on him, you will remember the struggle and never do it again!

9 Any hope of subduing him is false; the mere sight of him is overpowering.

10 No-one is fierce enough to rouse him…

12 I will not fail to speak of his limbs, his strength and his graceful form.

13 Who can strip off his outer coat? Who would approach him with a bridle?

14 Who dares open the doors of his mouth, ringed about with his fearsome teeth?

15 His back has rows of shields tightly sealed together;

16 Each is so close to the next that no air can pass between.

17 They are joined fast to one another; they cling together and cannot be parted.

18 His snorting throws out flashes of light; his eyes are like the rays of dawn.

19 Firebrands stream from his mouth; sparks of fire shoot out.

20 Smoke pours from his nostrils as from a boiling pot over a fire of reeds.

21 His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from his mouth.

22 Strength resides in his neck; dismay goes before him.

23 The folds of his flesh are tightly joined; they are firm and immovable.

24 His chest is hard as rock, hard as a lower millstone.

25 When he rises up, the mighty are terrified; they retreat before his thrashing.

26 The sword that reaches him has no effect, nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.

27 Iron he treats like straw and bronze like rotten wood.

28 Arrows do not make him flee, sling stones are like chaff to him.

29 A club seems to him but a piece of straw, he laughs at the rattling of the lance.

30 His undersides are jagged potsherds, leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing-sledge.

31 He makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.

32 Behind him he leaves a glistening wake; one would think the deep had white hair.

33 Nothing on earth is his equal—a creature without fear.

34 He looks down on all that are haughty; he is king over all that are proud.

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And those are the dragons that I’ve liked the most in fantasy. What dragons do you like and why? Leave a comment below for your favorite dragons! And give a shout out for Oriental dragons because I don’t know anything about them (and I’d love to find some stories about them).

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Pictures taken from (in order of appearance):

wallpapervortex.com

Harrypotter.wikia.com

Howtotrainyourdragon.com

andrekosslick.deviantart.com

elderscrolls.wikia.com

hrwiki.org

inheritance.wikia.com

turkiish.deviantart.com

lotr.wikia.com

lotr.wikia.com (rubendevela)

absoluteanime.com

wowwiki.com

freemovies.me (D-Wars)

pokemon.wikia.com

vyrilien.deviantart.com

Magic, Myth and Majesty 3 – The Dark Citadel

Last time, I reviewed what was probably my favorite book in the Magic, Myth & Majesty bundle. Today’s book is also good, but I think more of my liking for it comes from its being set more in a fantastic Middle Eastern world The Dark Citadel by Michael Wallace takes us into the magic world of the Khalifates.

Amazon: 4.1 (68 ratings)

Barnes and Noble: 3.9 (19 ratings)

Goodreads: 3.48 (181 ratings)

“A slave boy named Darik falls in with a pair of spies as the great city of Balsalom comes under siege by the armies of a dark wizard. They flee west to enlist the aid of griffin riders, an order of wizards, and a band of ascetic knights to come to the city’s defense.

Meanwhile, a young queen named Kallia leads a heroic struggle to keep both her city and body free from the dark wizard’s cruel embrace. After a treacherous attack opens Balsalom to the armies of the enemy, Kallia assembles an unlikely alliance of palace servants, barbarians, and jealous merchants to retake her city before its people are led away in chains.”

The Dark Citadel begins with a prologue that is mildly relevant in that it sets the stage for our bad guy Cragyn, who murders a royal family and usurps the throne through dam magic. The book then jumps to our main character, a boy named Darik, whose life falls apart and he is sold into slavery. As a slave, he meets our other heroes: Whelan the Swordsman and Markal the Magician.

The story follows the trials of these men as they race to warn the rest of the world of the horde of Cragyn’s soldiers that begin to swarm over the Khalifates. Darik is your usual main character: a young man with no life experience and caught up in the events through dumb luck. Unable to wield a sword or use magic, he becomes baggage for his companions

There is also another protagonist, the Khalifa Kallia. I felt that her part in the book was a bit more interesting than Darik’s. She was placed on the throne instead of her older brothers because she is smarter and not seeking power. She has to rally her people against Cragyn’s armies, which proves difficult given the political and economical opposition to her rule. She is an emotionally interesting character.

On a world building note, Michael Wallace does a fine job showing us the social and political factions that appear within this world. I certainly felt like the story was taking place in an ancient Middle Eastern world and Wallace does not bombard us with little details, but keeps the descriptions concise to keep the overall pace of the story.

According to the reviews, this book is the weakest installment in the series, but I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to find a world away from knights and damsels in distress.

For young readers: Please note that the book contains very mild sexual content. The most disturbing content would be a scene where a woman is raped and impregnated, but none of those actions happen on the pages, just implied that that is what will/does happen.

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