The Adventure Zone Graphic Novel
Is there anything better in life than free books? My roommate is a fan of the podcast, bought the graphic novel, and ended up giving it to me for...I don’t know. Friendship? Fun? A poor attempt at bribing me to do the dishes? One of the three.
I found this graphic novel hilarious for two reasons. The first is that I myself will be publishing a graphic novel series loosely based on my own family’s Dungeons & Dragons adventures (see, Sovadron), so seeing someone else take that very same premise in a completely different direction is just good fun.
The second reason this book is so funny is because it is legitimately funny. I admit, the modern tone and swearing coming from characters in a medieval-ish setting threw me off a few times. And several of the jokes and at least one scene would not make sense to someone who is unfamiliar with roleplaying games. Especially the first battle, where Magnus hesitates for five whole minutes and debates with the DM on how exactly to kill the goblin. In the real world, of course, Magnus would be dead. But for D&D players, we are all intimately familiar with pausing the game while we try to figure out the best way to commit murder.
Pacing-wise, the story starts a bit slow. The characters had to find their footing and get properly motivated to go on an actual quest. But once it picks up, it's lightning quick.
A related note on tone: while about 75% of the story is funny, every now and then it takes an unexpectedly dark turn. There are several characters who die (for good reasons as well as stupid ones), and we’re dealing with Merle’s fucked-up family, including his very straight-laced cousin. If they were aiming for something like Cable from Deadpool 2, they missed by about a mile, namely because Cable at least lets Deadpool play off of him while the funnier Adventure Zone characters don’t really manage it.
But that’s honestly my only complaint about the story: exclusive humor with occasional sharp turns into grimdark territory. The plot is cohesive and gripping: there’s a large mystery that all falls neatly into place in the end (on a cliffhanger, of course, because they want us to buy volume two in 2019). While we know very little about the three main characters’ backstory, we are still very invested in them not getting stabbed, mutilated, or set on fire. The whole thing is just an excellent homage to Dungeons and Dragons and all of its fans.
I read this book in two large settings. It’s one of those reads where once you finish the last page, the only viable response is “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH!”
Anyway, it was great. There is a love triangle (groan), but it’s handled very well and is actually relevant and useful to the plot. Mare is the “standard” YA protagonist, in that she’s a poor girl from an oppressed class thrown into the deep end of the privileged class and has to balance her compassion with her desire to bring justice and the ultimate bloodbath that it will cause. It's thinly-veiled racism in a fantasy world and good social commentary on our real world.
While there is racism (bloodism?), there is surprisingly no sexism. Not even in the subtext. The main character (Mare) is a girl, as is the leader of the Scarlet Guard. The men--Reds and Silvers--treat the women as their equals. And the fighters are all co-ed! There's a scene where Mare is learning to use her gift with the Silvers in the training room, and ends up fighting Cal's fiancee, who's basically Magneto with an unhealthy obsession with knives.
You could argue that Aveyard, who's obviously trying to do a social commentary on oppression with her book, fails to talk about intersectionality, the overlap of social identities and all the privileges and oppressions associated therein. And to a certain extent, she does. At least in Red Queen, racism and classism are interchangeable (when in truth, they are not) and the LGBTQ+ community isn't present at all.
But in terms of women being able to fight, rule, and be otherwise kickass without being questioned at every turn, it's a nice breath of fresh air.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is the grayness--the moral ambiguity--of the characters. The love triangle Mare finds herself in is, of course, between the two prince brothers: Cal and Maven. Maven is like Mare, believing that there needs to be change now, that radical action is needed to bring equality between Reds and Silvers. On the other hand, Cal ultimately agrees that while the injustice done to Reds cannot stand, he takes a more moderate approach. He points out that the other countries would likely punish them for bringing equality and that moving too fast will bring far more violence and chaos than they’re prepared to handle.
And then there are characters like Maven's mom, the queen, who's just an all-out bitch.
The pace is breakneck speed. I mentioned earlier that I read this in two settings, and that's just because I couldn't put it down. It's not like the slow burn of Lord of the Rings where you can casually pick it up, read a few pages, put it back down to return to cooking dinner, and then pick it up again while you're baking cookies. No, Red Queen is the kind of story where you don't want anything else going on around you. If you pick this up while you're cooking or baking, your food is going to burn and probably take a large chunk of the kitchen with it.
The book is first person POV, told entirely through Mare's eyes. Which means we learn everything about the world of the Silvers right along with her. As such, most of the book is dedicated to exposition. It’s kind of like Harry Potter: book one is an introduction, the end of which includes the gauntlet being thrown and the Big Bad Guy being revealed. The biggest difference between Red Queen and Harry Potter is that while Rowling kind of eased us into the character deaths and injustices, Aveyard cracks out the angst right away, while still leaving us with a hopeful ending.
The next books are Glass Sword, Cruel Crown, King’s Cage, and finally War Storm. So, if you’ll excuse me, I now have to raid a bookstore.
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Chapter One of Sovadron will be released on November 16th, 2018!
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.
The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.
With the seventh and final book of the Throne of Glass series (Kingdom of Ash) coming out this month, I thought I’d take the opportunity to review books one through six, plus the prequel anthology The Assassin’s Blade.
I hesitated to get started on Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, simply because the descriptive blurb of the first book makes it obvious that there’s a love triangle involved (it says something along the lines of Two men love her, the whole world fears her, and only she can save them all). That triangle gets resolved very quickly and maturely, thank God. And while I do have several complaints about Maas’s overuse of romantic subplots that I talked about in my Luna Station Quarterly article last month, overall this is an excellent series.
When talking about this series to friends, I tend to describe it as “the YA version of Game of Thrones, without the incest.” There’s a mile-long list of characters in a carefully crafted epic fantasy world facing an apocalyptic threat few people are ready to believe is real. The main character at the center of it all--Celaena--is an intriguing protagonist. She’s in many ways a reluctant hero. Despite her natural tendency to help and protect the innocent, she’s spent the last decade of her life as an assassin and has been running from her larger destiny. She’s arrogant, spoiled, a bookworm, self-hating, terrified, and charismatic.
She’s probably my second-favorite character, right behind Manon. We don’t meet that lovely badass or her coven--The Thirteen--until book three. Technically, they’re bad guys, being allied with the evil king. Manon is part of a clan called the Ironteeth witches, and those women are vicious. And they ride wyverns. Because why not? Manon and Celaena’s meeting is as explosive as you’d expect for two powerful women who balance hidden hearts with bloodthirsty tendencies and are on opposite sides of a war.
Maas has the character development down pat, but her true strength lies in total mind-fucks. Starting in book two and picking up in intensity, Maas regularly gives jaw-dropping plot-twists at least once a book, and they get crazy starting in book four. Sometimes it’s something Celaena does, as she becomes a master of setting up elaborate plans without telling anyone until the last minute. Sometimes it’s a big reveal as to a major character’s backstory. Sometimes it’s the real answer to the mystery that supposedly got solved four chapters ago. I can no longer read these books in public because I start swearing out loud when one of these twists comes out.
If you like fantasy mysteries with diverse characters and way too many romantic subplots, then this is the series for you. Fair warning: you should probably buy all the books at once, and you’re going to want to read them in this order:
Books 1-3 (Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire)
The prequel anthology The Assassin’s Blade
Books 4-6 (Queen of Shadows, Empire of Storms, and Tower of Dawn)
On April 30th, I started a crowdfund campaign for my upcoming graphic novel Sovadron. It's already written and edited; I just need to hire the illustrator, John Hawkins. It'll cost at least $10K to illustrate the entire thing, and so far we have enough for maybe one chapter.
We're halfway through the campaign, which ends on May 31st. To commemorate, I'm releasing a new perk! Originally, if you donated enough to receive a poster illustrated and signed by John Hawkins, you had to choose one: either Shakairra in the Field (right) or Sovadron Plays with Fire (left).
But now, when you donate $125 or more, you get BOTH, as well as a signed physical copy of the graphic novel, sneak peaks into its creation, and a minor character named after you in book two.
Can't afford to drop over a hundred bucks? Don't sweat it. There are a bunch of other perks to choose from: a free electronic copy of Sovadron, copies of some of my other works, sneak peaks, and more.
If you want Sovadron to become a reality, I need more than just well wishes and Facebook likes! Donate today and get a mountain of perks.
Lt. Shakairra Romazi isn’t sure who will kill her first: the enemy’s soldiers, or her own.
Her money is on the latter.
After barely surviving their country’s last war, Shakairra and her soldiers are pulled into another. Goblins have been kidnapping citizens and selling them into slavery. But when a foreign noble arrives to investigate the death of his sister, Shakairra learns that the greater threat is within her own ranks.
As the body count climbs and her allies diminish, Shakairra must place her trust--never in abundant supply--into four strangers to save her country. But they soon realize this conflict is greater than that. And before this is over, even the blood of gods will be spilled.
Dawn of War is the first book of an epic fantasy graphic novel series. If you like cover-to-cover action, diverse characters, and sword & sorcery with a twist, you’ll love the first installment of Christina “DZA” Marie’s new series.
Support Dawn of War to start the adventure today!
The Crowdfund Campaign for the Graphic Novel Sovadron is Up and Running!
Godshaper introduces a vast world where there's a god for every person and a person for every god...though for Ennay, unfortunately exceptions may apply. People like him are Godshapers, godless social pariahs with the ability to mold and shape the gods of others. Paired with Bud, an off-kilter but affectionate god without a human, the two travel from town to town looking for shelter, a hot meal, and the next paying rock 'n' roll gig.
I got Godshaper on a limb, pre-ordering it because I liked the concept and I actually had a bit of spare cash to treat myself. And I loved it! The first thing that blew me away was the artwork. It's just so dizzyingly colorful and beautiful. Take a look:
The second thing that caught my attention were the two main characters: Ennay and Bud. Bud is the adorable, hat-loving god with no human. By rights, he shouldn't exist. He's one of the big mysteries of the story that some of the other characters are trying to solve. One of those characters...is not Ennay. He's very much the reluctant hero. Being a homeless pariah, he just wants everyone to leave him alone, and he'll leave them alone. Unless it's a concert, then he loves the positive attention. He's one of those characters who pretends he doesn't care about anyone or anything except him and his. But he gets dragged into doing the right thing by the other characters.
The one complaint that I have about this story is all the unanswered questions. We never find out why Bud is human-less, or where the gods came from, or why they all showed up when all of the power and electricity in the world suddenly stopped. This kind of open ending is obviously done on purpose. Ennay flat-out states that he and Bud just don't care. They're going to just keep doing their own thing and be happy. Everyone else can suck it.
I guess that bothered me because such an attitude goes against natural human curiosity. We're hard-wired to keep poking the bear until it either tells us what's going on, or (more likely) mauls us to pieces.
But that's more of a difference of theme and style than what I, personally, am used to. Open ending or not, this is still a very good story. It has humor, it has darkness, and it has some really great, really diverse characters.
Sovadron: Dawn of War, will be published in November of 2018 as a graphic novel. But first, I have to hire an illustrator to actually draw the darn thing. I've chosen the fabulous John Hawkins (who created that BAMF poster with the dragons).
To hire him, I will be running a crowdfund campaign on IndieGoGo, April 30th - May 31st. Our goal? $10,000.
80% - 90% of that will go to John so he can work his magic.
5% of that goes to IndieGoGo (they get a cut of all campaigns).
The rest goes to marketing and any other unexpected expenses that crop up.
Want to donate? Sign up for the mailing list on the pre-launch page here! You'll be the first to know when the campaign goes live.
Can't wait? You can also visit my Patreon webpage here and become a patron.
Either way, you will get access to exclusive content and sneak peaks as the graphic novel develops.
Thank you for your support!
Sovadron is a fantasy graphic novel series that I and illustrator John Hawkins are creating. Publishing date is set for November 2018.
“When a world that shuns you cries for help, do you answer, or let it die?
When the ancient goddess Sovadron begins to stir from her sleep, the gods look to the mortals of the world of Eoroe for help. A small group of fugitives, outcasts, and shamed soldiers with nothing left to lose is formed. But will this be enough to save the world that hates them for the very things that make them great?”
To make this series a reality and raise funds, there will be a crowdfund campaign on IndieGoGo from April 30th through May 31st.
You might recall that we had a small campaign back in January to raise $700 for initial marketing costs. In May, we'll be raising $10,000 to pay for the illustrator and other expenses.
That’s a lot of zeroes.
The pre-launch page is here. Sign up and be the first to know when the campaign starts!
Can’t wait? You can also support me on Patreon here. The Patreon webpage is also where I’ll share character sketches, sneak peaks, and giveaways.
You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information.
Science fiction and fantasy will probably always be my favorite genres. They’re just...awesome. And I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you agree with me at least on some level.
But like all amazing things, it has its flaws. The books and movies of these genres have been dominated by men for ages. Though we are getting there, slowly but surely, women authors (who don’t write romance) are often brushed aside and ignored. And that, well, that pisses me off.
So here is a list of my personal top five women authors of the sci-fi and fantasy genres.
Note: I am not putting J.K. Rowling on this list. Even though she’s incredible and awesome and our queen, everyone already knows about her.
I’ve only read and reviewed one of Okorafor’s novels, Lagoon, and I need more. She is an incredibly insightful and gifted novelist. Her work tackles complicated social issues and explores the deepest corners of humanity.
Writer of the Nemesis series, Daniels writes young adult novels that are hilarious and sobering. Her story centers around a young transgender superhero named Danny, who has to deal with all the joys of transphobia, misogyny, and domestic abuse on top of saving the world. Twice!
I have reviewed both of Fortune’s novels of her Spectre War series on this site: Nova and Archangel. Both are gripping sci-fi mysteries that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. It’s supposed to be a five-book series, and I cannot wait for the next installment!
LGBTQ+ Romeo and Juliet with killer mermaids! Warner’s Ice Massacre is probably the bloodiest YA novel I’ve ever read. (Granted, I haven’t read Hunter Games, and I hear that’s pushing the limit of how much gore parents will let their teenagers deal with.) Ice Massacre is intense, sad, but also kind of hopeful. You can also check out my interview with Warner here.
Bennis’ The Guns Above is in my top five all-time favorite sci-fi novels for a variety of reasons. It tackles sexism in the military with humor and wit. Being a military sci-fi book, it also has plenty of action and explosions to go with the tense plot. Like Warner, Bennis has also been interviewed on this site. You can check it out here.
You can get access to exclusive content such as sneak peaks, inside looks, and videos on my Patreon webpage! Click here to join this special community of super-fans.
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!