As You Wish

Inego Montoya

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden is the endearing memoir about the making of the beloved movie. I listened to the audiobook version as read by Cary Elwes with guest voices by costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, Norman Lear (producer), Rob Reiner (director), and author/screenwriter William Goldman. To put things simply, if you like the movie The Princess Bride, then you will enjoy this book. It is filled with fun stories about the making of the movie as well as anecdotes about the cast and crew. The production seemed to be a blast, though of course there were a few hiccups (and memories are often gilded with fondness).

I would recommend the audiobook specifically (I borrowed it from my local library), since it is read by Cary himself and everyone listed above chimes in to discuss their own little stories or point of view about a specific event. Cary does great voices when quoting his friends in the production (my favorites being Andre and Rob Reiner), and it is just an all-around great way to take in these stories. I learned a lot about different actors in the film, especially Andre the Giant who seemed like such a fun guy with an amazing take on life. I had no idea Robin Wright was so young while on the set (the mere age of 20), as well as Cary Elwes (who turned 24 while filming).

To show my age here, I wasn’t even alive when this movie was first released in 1987. So I don’t feel in the wrong here for not knowing much about the movie or its production. I was surprised to hear that it did not do well in theaters upon initial release. This is probably because by the time I watched it for the first time, it was already an internationally beloved film. How could it not be? With so many incredible moments and memorable lines, who wouldn’t love this quirky film? It’s…Inconceivable

Right? Well, it seems the marketing departments didn’t know quite how to tell the world about this satirical fairy tale that pokes fun while being its own kind of serious with sword fights and giants and the Pit of Despair and the rodents of unusual size. After all, it is all read from a grandfather to his grandson. How could they not adequately tell the world of a movie that doesn’t fit into any one genre or aimed at any particular demographic? Well, they struggled to say the least and the movies theatrical release suffered for it. But the world came to love it for what it was and it has become one of the best-known films on the planet. I was surprised to hear that the movie was considered impossible for the longest time in Hollywood. Either no one knew how to do it or it built a bad reputation of attempted productions that failed before they started. Rob Reiner took it up and just did it. From this book, he made it seem easy too. I’m sure much was glanced over or missed since this text takes place from primarily Cary’s point of view, but it turned out better than I think anyone could have hoped.

I must admit at this point that I have not read the book The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It remains in my to-be-read pile and I know I’ll get around to it eventually. I’ve heard people say not to bother since the movie is so good and considered better than the book. Goldman wrote the screenplay so of course I wouldn’t feel any guilt if I never got around to reading the book, but I enjoy seeing the differences between the books and the films. It is very rare for a film adaptation to be better than the book, but it does happen, and I think I’ll make my own opinion in this case.

I think anyone who has never seen the film would like this book, but of course knowing the film first makes it that much more enjoyable. I had a strong urge to watch the movie again upon finishing this book. I think I may have a deeper appreciation for the film now knowing what I have learned. I can better enjoy each character and actor performance. I can look at certain scenes differently such as the epic sword fighting scene, which takes place after the climb up the Cliffs of Insanity (actually filmed at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland where I visited last year). I know exactly which scenes were filmed after Cary broke his big toe. There is so much more I can enjoy while watching the film now. So many little tidbits of information I can revel in knowing, but of course it is just as fun to sit back and enjoy the film for the masterpiece it is. As for this book, it is a glimpse behind the curtain. A glimpse filled with so many heartwarming tales it could even compare to the film it details, but let’s not get into the chicken or the egg argument.

Happy Reading.

Do Not Be That Fan

I am going to give my honest opinions about that “controversial” ending to Game of Thrones (GoT). But before I do, let me specify that this post is not only about GoT. It is about fans and the world we live in today. I will just be using the series as an example to support my points about fan etiquette (if there is such a thing).

Let’s begin. Did I love the final season of GoT? Absolutely not. Did I hate it? No. Was I disappointed? Yes. Am I okay with the finale to the degree I can part ways with the show? Also yes. Many of you will have disagreed with probably at least three of those questions. I just want to clarify that whatever your feelings about this final season are, they are valid and you can absolutely be confident you are justified in your opinion.


If you are one of the 1.5+ million people who had the audacity to sign a petition to “Remake Game of Thrones Season 8 with competent writers,” you are the poison of this fandom and I am urging you, please, do not be that fan. I will get into why actively signing a petition for a remake is so counter-productively detrimental in a moment.

Let’s start with something obvious though, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff (referred to as D&D now apparently despite Dungeons & Dragons using it forever) are extremely competent. They made us fall in love with this show. They have been working on it since episode one. Yes, they had the source material as a guide and those training wheels fell off around season 6. Regardless, they have done a great job. We can’t deny seasons one through seven were great. The reason you may be upset now is because you like the show that much. I wish that everyone who didn’t like the final season had the same passion about real-world situations and will sign petitions that improve peoples lives, but let’s not make this political.

Don’t get me wrong here, there were several things I didn’t like and I’ve discussed them with my friends who have similar opinions. I know people who hated the final season and I know a few who loved it. Again, these are all valid reactions. My two biggest disappointments with the final season were: the Night King was killed too quickly and we didn’t get really any information about him, and Jaime Lannister’s regression.

The Night King and the White Walkers were teased as the final boss since episode one. I was really hoping they would be the final fight. The living versus the dead. Once the Night King died in episode three, I lost a lot of interest in the remaining episodes. Why? Because he was the final fight. If he won, that meant everyone lost. No way Cersei defends King’s Landing against his forces. Once he was gone, what remained was just the same old people fighting people for trivial reasons when compared to why they fought against the White Walkers. I also wanted to know so much more about the Night King. He and the White Walkers were such a mystery and I hoped some of that would be revealed before the end, but we were left in the dark. How did his magic work? Why didn’t dragon fire kill him? Perhaps we will get some answers in the books.

Jaime’s regression, or undoing of his entire character arc in my opinion, was another point of contention for me. I think him going back to Cersei to die in her arms canceled out all of his good deeds. He went from a hated character to one we could sympathize with to one we could even like. He was one of the greatest character arcs I’ve experienced. I did think for a while that he was going to end up killing Cersei as I’m sure many others did, but instead we get an ending fit for a Shakespearean tragedy (which was way too good/easy for Cersei, let’s be honest). I did find a lot of season eight echoing season one. Many people thought this meant many of the events of the series were pointless, but I think that just means these people allowed themselves to miss out on the story between episode 1 and episode 73.

Jon Snow remains my favorite character and he got shafted every way he turned for doing the right thing. His story is the most tragic here. He died doing what he knew was right. Then he came back and continued doing what he needed to. Kit Harrington’s reaction to that final episode, as seen in the documentary, was insanely emotional. He waited until the table reading to know what happened. He poured himself into the show and we got a phenomenal character from him.

I also loved Tormund. He is hilarious, but not simply straightforward and abrasive. His unrequited feelings for Brienne showed us that much. I loved the showdown between the Clegane’s. Zombie Mountain versus the Hound. It was awesome. I didn’t like some things and loved others. I could go on and talk about a lot more about the series, but I want to get back to the other point of this post. What it means to be a fan.

The toxic fans. Those who are brave enough behind their screens to scream at the open internet and demand their opinions are the only ones that matter and the world must conform to their views. I’ve seen these types of “fans” in many fandoms. Star Wars has seen a lot of them recently, but that is an almost completely different discussion. I only bring it up because a new petition started earlier this week to prevent D&D from working on a Star Wars title that they were picked to write. To these disgruntled, vocal, so-called fans, I have a few questions. What about the fans who liked the GoT ending? You can’t demand their satisfied ending be taken away because you didn’t get yours. What about the thousands of people who poured their hearts and souls into this project? Many I’m sure have been involved for a long time. And the millions of dollars invested to bring you this great, quality entertainment for nearly a full decade? You expect these things will just be overlooked so you can demand your own satisfaction? No. Yelling at the internet in a tantrum to “fix it” so you will be happy just spits in the face of all those who invested their time, blood, sweat, tears, money, and whatever personal sacrifices they made. We got a lot of great things from this series. Ramin Djawadi gave us some phenomenal music. Many actors have emerged because of the opportunity given to them with this show. Do you think you are owed a redo? Do you think acting like a child refused an extra slice of cake after eating a whole cake already will be even looked at seriously? If this show’s history proved anything, it was that it doesn’t owe you a damn thing. It thrived on breaking hearts and shocking you and we have all enjoyed moments and hated others. Let’s all agree we didn’t like the Red Wedding (at least, you didn’t if you have a heart). I personally liked Joffrey and Ramsey’s deaths because they were terrible characters. Well-acted, yes, but they characters were evil people. They deserved it. If you mourned either one of them, we probably wouldn’t get along. I’d get into the whole “let’s not treat actors like the characters they play” discussion, but I’ll have to save that for another day.

Again, if you hated the ending, I’m not saying your feelings are invalid. I’m saying you don’t need to demand the world change to meet your preference. In fact, I’m suggesting you simply talk about your disappointments with those who agree with you and then move on. Let those who loved the ending talk about what they loved about it with their friends. We don’t have to sit and fight about it and sow dissent and hatred. We can agree to disagree and find our groups who agree with us to seek solace. All things come to an end and endings can be the hardest part. This final season had a lot of hype and we waited an extra year to get it. It was also a short season with six episodes that, I believe, felt a little rushed and they could have added more. Stories end. They do not always end as expected or in a satisfactory way. If you want a different ending to this one, then read the books. I hear G.R.R. Martin already stated that his ending will be different than what we got from D&D. If you don’t like Martin’s ending, then write your own if you care that much. Nothing is stopping you. Go. Be creative. In fact, I encourage you to have fun with it and spread it into the world for others to enjoy. If you get any haters, just ignore them and revel in those who loved your creation as the resolution they also wanted. Just remember that you are now focusing on the good and not giving attention to that hate. It festers and grows with attention. It is parasitic. I am writing this post in hopes it may provide an antibody.

However you feel, just be glad you experienced the story. Focus on your favorite parts if that is what you need to do. This series changed television in a fabulous way. It showed that the world was ready for series of high-quality production. With the changes of how we view things, such as streaming services and on-demand options, it showed us that production companies are willing to invest in turning epics into film. Let me be clear, other shows have greatly encouraged this endeavor, but GoT was the most popular show on the planet for the last eight years. I can’t wait to see which series will take over next. I know Amazon is working on a Lord of the Rings show that will be a prequel to the movies. They are also working on a Wheel of Time show, a book series I am currently reading through, and I am excited about how the show will turn out. I’m sure there will be things I like and don’t like about these series as well, but I’ll discuss them with friends and let them go. HBO is still doing spin-offs of GoT for everyone who still wants more. There is more to come whatever your interests (I just happened to mention the epic fantasies).

Lastly, to really prove my point, I wanted to point out that I have published this post two weeks after the finale. Why? Because I know everyone has probably calmed down and stopped talking about GoT by now (and I don’t have to worry about having spoilers). This proves that even controversial endings are only temporary. Everyone has moved on to other shows. Those 1.5+ million have already given up and will no longer talk about it. Their hatred has been diverted and the scar they made is fading. Granted, there are still many great jokes and memes circulating about this final season, but my point is that the interest has dwindled if not disappeared entirely. We can go back to simply enjoying its memory, and maybe even going through the series again in the future.

If you have read this far, you at least are still interested and like GoT enough to admit it has impacted your life regardless of how you feel about it, and you will remain interested, as a fan, for probably the remainder of your life. Even if GoT gets lost in the sea of other stories. You are a true fan. A good one. One who appreciates all the good and bad and came through cherishing the experience for what it was. A passionate fan who can discuss the lives of fictional characters like they were the most interesting people in the world. A fan who loves the world they have been given a glimpse into. I encourage you to continue being this fan. For whatever stories grip you next.

On Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss is the author of The Kingkiller Chronicles series, which I would say, in my honest opinion, is the best epic fantasy story written in the past 20 years. I know there is a lot out there and maybe a few can refute that claim, but I have not read or heard about any of them. And I can always go back to the “well-written” aspect of my claim. These books are extremely well-written and I found myself impressed with the wordplay and structure as much as the story itself. Before I start fawning over the work, let me tell you about the man behind them.

I first discovered Pat (as many of his fans call him) about two and half years ago when I happened across a video on Twitter. I had just started a Twitter account and was kind of looking around and learning the ropes and discovering the amazing writing community on there. Ironically, I let those on Twitter pick my next post for my On Authors section and they chose Patrick Rothfuss. The video was actually promoting another book by another author who I hate to say I had forgotten until I began thinking about writing this post about Pat. I actually saw a book by this author on display and it helped me remember. Her name is Sabaa Tahir and her books are now, as they should have been, on my TBR list. Anyway, the video was Sabaa and Pat simply sitting down and having a chat and answering some questions in what is probably the most laid back and fun “interview” that I have seen by a writer (or pair of authors). I remembered hearing the name Patrick Rothfuss coming up here and there, mostly on Twitter. I watched this video and thought: Wow, this guy seems super cool. I’ll look into what he has written and check him out. 

So about six or eight months go by and I get more reminders about these books (I did follow him on Twitter after all), so I pick up the first one. It is not a small volume. I start reading it and am unsure for the first few chapters but it is setting up the world the story inhabits so I stick it out and fall right in. I literally fell hard into this book. I devoured it, and the sequel, in less than a month. All while I was working on my MFA and working full time. The first book, The Name of the Wind, was released in 2007 and clocks in at just over 250,000 words. The second, The Wise Man’s Fear, came out in 2011 and was just under 400,000. A third book is still in the works as of now but there are a few supplemental works that go along with the main story. These include A Slow Regard of Silent Things which is a novella about the beloved, innocent, and mysterious character Auri, and “The Lightning Tree” which is a short story about Bast, a scoundrel character that you like but are a bit wary about. I quickly read these two additions as well. There is nothing quite like A Slow Regard of Silent Things either. It is of course dependent upon the knowledge of at least the first book of the series, but it could possibly be read on its own. It may be a bit confusing that way though. Either way, it is endearing and…well…quite unique.

The Kingkiller Chronicles jumped way up on my list of favorite reads. Pat’s books are the first I’ve bought specifically for the purpose of giving away just to introduce friends to his work. I joined a Facebook group of fans and they all love these books probably more than me. Some have read the series dozens of times. I’ve only read through them once but will be re-reading them when the third book is announced to come out. These people love Pat and some have even seen him at expos and events and they all share their love of the story and it is just a fantastic group to be a part of even though I don’t participate much. I just love seeing all the stuff they talk about and the group keeps everyone informed about related news.


The first book recommendation I wrote was for The Name of the Wind and it was a grossly underwhelming recommendation. I updated it to slightly amend that negligence, but it will always fall short. It does have a bigger version of this picture (right) which I bought from Litographs. It is made from the entire text of the first book. All 250,000+ words. Yeah, that picture is made from the words of the book (see below). It goes pretty much floor to ceiling but it’s awesome. I had to build the frame specifically for the poster. I think I may have gotten a link to it from the Facebook group. Anyway, it is always great to find fellow fans.20180107_165630.jpg


Now, there are some people who have been criticizing Pat for how long it is taking for book three to come out. I wrote a post that will be up soon about “fan etiquette” that discusses the last season of Game of Thrones so I won’t go into my “be a good fan” speech here. Instead I will simply say that I understand their frustration but I also understand Pat’s situation. His first book became a bestseller, and rather quickly. He even talks about writing sequels in the video above with Sabaa. He is a thorough writer and I do not mind waiting for book three or anything he works on for that matter. He is incredibly talented and I have an inkling that book three will be even larger than book two. It will probably destroy its readers emotionally as well. As good stories do. Book three does have a supposed title which is The Doors of Stone. Pat says he will provide us the book when it is ready. I can’t wait but I will, patiently, as should everyone.

Pat does a lot outside of his writing as well. He streams videogames and interacts with fans and talks about the world he built. He has even done a video of pronunciations of words, names, and places in his books. These pronunciations are also included in the 10th anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind. The video is actually hosted on the Youtube page of the charity organization he is a part of called Worldbuilders. They have some awesome things that they sell to raise money for their charity (I think Pat’s streams also are often for this organization; I’m not sure since I’ve only seen tidbits). I bought a few mugs from Worldbuilders that were replicas from an important tavern in the books. It is called the Eolian. The mugs are well made. I encourage you to check this charity out since they have a lot of cool, nerdy stuff from a lot of other series, writers, and talented people. They do a lot of cool things to help make the world a better place too. Speaking of talented people, Lin-Manuel Miranda is actually working on an adaptation of The Kingkiller Chronicles for television. Rumors are that it will actually be a prequel (?) to the first book. I’m not sure about the story, but I’m sure it will be great to see this world created for the screen which is always a hard thing to do.

On to the reason I started this little series, or section, of my blog. What does Patrick Rothfuss mean to me? Well, he means quite a bit as I’m sure he means a lot to others who are fans of his work. He is not just an author who wrote a story I can lose myself in though. I don’t know him personally or know much about his personal life as I do other authors, but unlike several other authors I have been influenced or inspired by, he is alive and well and actively participating in the world. It is easier and less intrusive to learn about the life of someone after they are gone. However, I am okay not knowing personal details. Especially about people still rocking it. For me, Pat is an inspiration for my own aspirations. His mastery of storytelling is something I can aim toward. He does great things outside of his writing as I hope I can or am doing.  I hope one day I have a chance to meet him. Perhaps if I get off my butt and finish a few books I might get that chance. If not, I’ll always have his books.

The Shadow Rising

The Shadow Rising is book four of the Wheel of Time. It is the second longest in the series at roughly one thousand pages. Needless to say, it took me a bit longer to get through this one than the previous three individually. Before I go further, I do want to reiterate that below are my thoughts on this book and there will be spoilers, so if you have yet to get through this installment or have not yet started the series and wish to avoid said spoilers, turn back now. I will be talking about all the things I liked, didn’t like, and the one scene that really caught me by surprise. Seriously, you have been warned.

There is a lot to talk about so please forgive me if I jump around.

This book started off a bit slower than the others as the first several hundred pages take place in the aftermath of book three. We sit around with our characters in the Stone of Tear for awhile before they ultimately split up into groups and the adventures continue. Despite the lull in the beginning, it was still entertaining and once it gets going it gets going. I found myself somewhat eager to follow one story-line despite the switch to another but I was patient and read each page in order. One thing I did notice in the beginning was the characters seemed to have matured greatly since the previous book. I know that sounds weird since the story doesn’t progress outside of the pages and our characters haven’t done much since the last pages of book three, but each of the ta’veren seem to have matured into their roles and become aware of their abilities or obligations to the fate of the world despite still resisting it at times and not fully understanding what these obligations are. I liked this. Even though they have only been away from the Two Rivers for a year. It seems their adventures have been happening quite quickly, but fast-travel does help with that I guess.

Now, where to jump in? Let’s start with those who continue to be my favorite characters. Perrin and Loial. When I wrote about The Dragon Reborn, I had already begun this book and mentioned how Perrin and Faile were already fighting like a married couple despite meeting in the later chapters in book three. Well surprise, surprise, surprise. Going back to the quick-paced adventures, I am curious to know how long they have known each other by the time they literally tie the knot Two Rivers style. I have grown to like Faile despite her temper and her stubbornness. She tricks Loial in order to stay with Perrin (don’t mess with my boy Loial), but I’ve come to like her simply because she is resourceful, strong-willed, stubborn to a fault, knows what she wants, and truly loves our man Perrin who in turn loves her. I was even satisfied with their rushed marriage on the eve of battle. We learn a bit more about Faile which we may have already expected. She is a lady from Saldaea. Cousin to the queen in fact. We’ve had hints all along that she wasn’t merely a merchant’s daughter. I look forward to learning more about her.

Going back to Min’s viewing of Perrin from the beginning of book three, we get another development. The Tuatha’an with a sword. I was not expecting it to be Aram or anyone from the first troop we met in book one. However, I think I am liking the development of this character. I hated Aram at first. I thought he was an ignorant-through-innocence, youthful tool, but now I feel for him. He is no longer innocent, and he has taken up the sword to protect what he cares about. He has forsaken the Way of the Leaf and therefore been abandoned by his remaining family, but he has a purpose now. And that I think is a good thing. We have yet to get the hawk (supposedly a woman) and the encounter with Lanfear (unless the latter was counted in the dream in book three but they don’t interact so I am unsure).

We get some fast-travel with Perrin and company going through the Ways with Loial as the guide. Faile and her two Aiel friends, Chiad and Bain, go with Loial while Perrin and Gaul get the shaft. Not a great start, but things turn out well by the end. Hey, even Gaul and Chiad kind of become an item if I remember correctly. We don’t get a lot of Loial in this book unfortunately except that he sneaks away to block off the Ways in the Mountains of Mist for good after they discover their initial attempt did not stop the Trollocs from getting into the area. That, and how he fights like a boss despite being a pacifist at heart.

I didn’t like Lord Luc at all. I thought he was actually just an arrogant hunter of the horn, but I was surprised to find out that he was actually Slayer. He killed Trollocs and Fades but I guess he killed everything else too. But what was his purpose for being there? Who is he really? What is the Tower of Ghenjei? Is it located only in Tel’aran’rhiod where the heroes of ages exist between reincarnations? So many questions and so much more story to read through.

Perrin’s gathering of the Two Rivers folk and fight to defend the area from Trollocs was probably my favorite events in this installment. Many returning characters and the defense of the newly formed/bolstered town was fantastic. I still hate the Children of the Light and Byar and Bornhald are as hateful as ever toward Perrin. I understand they are misguided/misinformed, but I tire of the zealotry of this tiresome organization. They are just dicks. I mean, they don’t even fight in the battle against the Trollocs. Why? Because they think it is a ruse by Perrin as a darkfriend? Hell no. Get out. They should all be designated darkfriends by their own definition for not fighting Trollocs. For letting the women go fight in their stead. The personal bias that follows this crappy group is really getting on my nerves. Especially when Bornhald covered the fact that Padan Fain, now named Ordeith, killed Perrin’s family. Whitecloaks suck and there will need to be a lot of character arc to make me like any of them, but I have an inkling I may get one.

Speaking of Padan Fain, I had it wrong from the last book. I thought we last saw him with the Seanchan as they sailed back out to sea. I presumed wrong. Or maybe that was where we last saw him but I incorrectly assumed he stayed with the Seanchan when they took off. He is now in the stupid Whitecloaks under a false name that everyone in the Two Rivers sees through but Bornhald chooses to ignore. I have no idea what is happening with this guy. He went from a peddler to a hound of the Dark One to breaking free of the Dark One and committing evil on his own. Now he is claiming to be some ancient being that has lived since before the Trolloc Wars. And now he has the ability to turn Myrddraal to his cause? What is happening?

Okay, moving on before I spend this entire post on just Perrin’s story-line. Let’s go to the shorter story-line of this book: Nynaeve and Elayne. Along with Thom Merrilin and Juilin Sandar. We run into Bayle Domon and meet an old Seanchan foe Egeanin. Nynaeve fights a Forsaken because she is apparently stronger than someone who could weave the power during the Age of Legends despite minimal training, but let’s just chalk that up to Moghedien being rusty from being imprisoned for thousands of years. They get their hands on a seal of the Shayol Ghul and the despair-filled ancient object that could potentially bind/subjugate Rand. They do all this and leave another city in ruins. Okay, technically the Black Ajah led by Liandrin messed up the city that was on the verge, similar to Falme, but it seems destruction follows in Nynaeve’s footsteps. Just an observation.

Before we move onto Rand and company, I want to discuss the chapter(s) that totally took me by surprise. What–The–Hell–happened in Tar Valon? Like holy guacamole, an uprising? I somewhat had suspicions about Elaida potentially being Black Ajah, and we don’t get answers in this book, but this was out of nowhere. I’ll just have to read on to see what is going on here. What took me by surprise the most is not just the mutiny, but the fact that they stilled–stilled!–Siuan Sanche. They kind of have to be Black Ajah to instantly still her, right? And the fighting that took place? Did I read correctly that Gawyn actually helped topple the Amyrlin Seat? He made it onto my “let karma kill this guy soon” list pretty fast. His decisions were made with a little more uncertainty though than the Whitecloaks, who are just pretty much just aiding evil through their own hatred at this point, but he should have known better. Does he really help the mutiny simply because he doesn’t get answers about his sister’s whereabouts? Doesn’t seem likely or logical. I don’t recall Galad being in the aftermath however. I may get a chance to like that kid, but he was hanging out with the Whitecloaks so maybe not. Now we get to follow Siuan and Min as they continue to influence the unfolding of events despite altered positions. The mutiny does throw a lot of things into chaos for our characters since the White Tower is technically no longer a powerful ally or base of operations. I guess Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene don’t have to take the Aes Sedai oaths and can absolutely destroy some Shadowspawn/Darkfriends with the One Power later on. I’m looking forward to that.

On to Rand. After setting himself up to become King Arthur by sinking Callandor into the Stone of Tear (despite Artur Hawkwing already embodying that legendary reference), he goes off and fast-travels to the Aiel Waste just outside of Rhuidean. He gets to go inside and we get an awesome discovery that gives us a glimpse at the Age of Legends, explains the history of the Aiel, and shows the creation of the Tuatha’an. A lot of history. A lot of change through the ages as the Aiel gradually become what they are now, which reminds me of a cross between the Freman from Dune and the Gerudo from The Legend of Zelda series if the Gerudo were not all female. Or the Aiel could be considered a more badass version of the Unsullied from Game of Thrones. It doesn’t really matter with the comparisons because they are their own society in their own right. It’s just fun to compare them to other franchises I am familiar with.

Mat also goes into Rhuidean and we get a really cool homage to Norse mythology. Mat Cauthan is becoming Odin, which is only an attempt to make me like Mat. I’m slowly allowing this. Moraine also gets a turn in the forbidden city but we aren’t privy to her experience yet. Hopefully we get more from her moving forward because she has fallen into the backdrop for a bit. Egwene has also. She is learning from the Wise Ones and will probably master how to access and use the dreamworld. We will see.

Rand cuts Asmodean from the Dark One to gain a teacher. Messing up Lanfear’s plans was just a bonus. I’m ready to seen Rand learn to use the One Power. Now he has the two most powerful (probably) sa’angreal. What will he do with them? Will they sit somewhere like Callandor is sitting in the Stone of Tear until a later time? Like the Horn of Valere? I’m going to guess probably. I will see soon enough. Now that I think about it, the Horn is at risk now that the Tower is compromised. A lot is at risk with the Tower being compromised. So many things could happen. I’m getting into the thick of it and I am enjoying every second. I look forward to getting through the entire series so I can speak freely with those who have made the same journey.

That is all I can really care to talk about at the moment, which means it’s a good time to wrap this us. As always, feel free to contact me or comment to discuss this book, but please don’t spoil anything for me or any others who may be at this same point in the series. We can always talk about the other books as I get to them. See you next time for The Fires of Heaven.

On J.R.R. Tolkien

I recently watched the Tolkien biopic and it reminded me of my own enthusiasm for words. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and wished it would have covered more of his life, but my own research and reading will have to suffice. However, it did inspire me to begin a new section of this blog where I will write about authors and their significance to me. There are many authors I’ve wanted to write about and share, and I have recommended many of their books, but I have never really talked about them directly. That is all about to change. The first author I shall discuss is one who has played a significant role in my life and someone I do feel I have cheated as far as recognition on this web page. An error soon to be corrected.

John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien has influenced more than just the millions of people who read his work when it was first published. He changed storytelling forever and was a loud voice for the acceptance of fantastical stories as serious, or popular, literature. Like many others, I have been fascinated with the man since I was a boy. I first read The Hobbit when I was perhaps 9 or 10 years old. I quickly read The Lord of the Rings (LotR) shortly after. I can remember, quite vividly, the exact moment I finished the trilogy. It was summer and I was stuck in a church where my mother worked as a daycare teacher. There weren’t any kids around and I wasn’t entirely sure what obligations brought us there. I could only remember sitting in a short hallway between two classrooms as I read the final chapters of The Return of the King in an old copy that my father passed on to me which he had bought as a kid. On the top right of the cover was the printed cost of $1.25. For a mere $5 he had gotten the trilogy and its prequel. I still have the set sitting carefully on my bookshelf. Fairly worn and slightly discolored from sunlight. The cover of the last novel has a slight tear. All bearing cover images probably first drawn in the 1930’s. I will treasure these books for many reasons. One is the story they contain and the impact it had on me. Another is the fact that my father gave them to me. He has introduced me to several significant stories and I like to think I’ve come to an age and read enough to finally return the favor.

But back to the short hallway between classrooms. The walls were white-painted cinder blocks and there was a chair and a desk. I was leaning back in the chair with one foot on the desk as I read the final words. I remember sitting forward and contemplating the meaning of that ending or, rather, what it meant that there was no more of the story for me to read and what the completion of this story meant to me. It was one of the first times I’d ever had to simply sit and think after reading a book. To let the finality of it sink in and weave itself into the threads of my life experiences.

These books have influenced much of the fantasy that has been written since their publication, but Tolkien himself was influenced by much that was written well before his own time. I think it would be ignorant to say that Tolkien is the father of fantasy or that all fantasy writers must read him if they wish to be taken seriously. In fact, V.E. Schwab gives and excellent Tolkien Lecture where she proudly states that she has never read his work. She makes some excellent points about many doorways into the realms of the fantastic. Tolkien is just one of them. A large one that has ushered generations in, but, as Gimli would say, “it still only counts as one.”

My initial fascination with LotR was partly influenced by the movies directed by Peter Jackson. I remember, again vividly, attending the first movie in a tiny, three-screen theater in Marysville, Kansas. The nearest movie theater to Hanover, Kansas, where my grandparents live. I had not read the books at this time and did not know much of what was going on, but I loved it. I distinctly remember having to leave the theater to use the restroom and while waiting to enter the small restroom, I sneaked glimpses through a cracked door as I shuffled my feet at the pain of a full bladder. The scene was the infamous defense of Merry and Pippin by Boromir, and Aragorn’s showdown with the Uruk-hai captain Lurtz. I quickly learned how to control my bodily functions after that and was easily able to hold it in during the lengthy movies. Including the final installment, which I watched with my father after he came home from work and asked if we wanted to go see it that opening night and I of course said yes. His parents had come in town that evening and I felt bad leaving my grandparents home (they declined the invitation if I remember correctly) while we went off to see The Return of the King at a much bigger theater than where I’d seen the first movie. I made the mistake of drinking most of a gigantic soda during the previews but I rallied through the 3+ hours, willing myself to hold it in, as I watched the brilliance of film-making unfold with extreme detail the epic of Tolkien’s work. I can’t think of how many times I’ve seen those movies. In fact, I feel a re-watch coming again soon. The extended versions of course.

I remember these specific moments because they have become important to me as some of the first experiences I had with the magic Tolkien wrote. The movies had almost as much influence as the text itself having first been released when I was 10 years old. The brilliance, awe-inspiring magic of it left many impressions on a malleable mind. I was hooked. I had walked through a grand archway into a new world of possibilities. I wanted to create stories like these. Tolkien’s work wasn’t the first to make me want to create stories, but it was definitely an example of the type of stories I wanted to write. Of course I wanted to write about the magic and the dragons and the battles, but more than that I wanted to create stories that would impact people. Stories that would stay with them. Inspire them. It is a dream I am still chasing today, but I am much closer than I was at age 11. I have a story published after all. Somewhere out there in the world is a one-page story that someone may happen across and enjoy. I’ve also written many things. Most of which will never see the light of day, but I’ve written and continue to write. I may not have the fascination with languages that Tolkien himself had. I simply have a fascination with words and stories. If you are reading this, I imagine you do to.

Another unexpected thing that comes from a story becoming massively popular is what is known today as a fandom. There are many now and some contain toxic elements but they all originate from a love of a fictional world or the characters that inhabit it. I cannot imagine how many people have become friends because of a common interest in a book. Especially LotR. Stephen Colbert is a super nerd when it comes to Tolkien and his works. I like Stephen Colbert. Even though I probably shall never meet him (I would jump on any opportunity to do so), I know with certainty that I would have the subject of any of Tolkien’s works to fall back on as a topic of conversation should I ever mumble my way past a simple introduction before he walked off to continue his busy life. I know this about Stephen because he turned his entire set of The Colbert Show into a Hobbit hole and wore prosthetic Hobbit feet for the entire week he interviewed Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen, and others from the then soon-to-be-released Hobbit movies.

I received the Ring of Barahir, also known as Aragorn’s ring worn in the movies, as a gift when I was in high school. I’ve worn it every day since. It is a more obscure LotR item than those hanging in my office as I type this; which include a map of Middle-Earth, Gimli’s Axe & helmet, Legolas’s short swords, Aragorn’s sword (Narsil before it was broken and remade, aka Elendil’s sword), and a cardboard cutout of Ian McKellen as Gandalf from a standee I took home from when I worked at a movie theater. I am a big fan. I even visited several of the filming locations for the movies when I studied for a semester in New Zealand. I am also listening to the movie score as I am typing this. Whenever someone comments on my ring, I let them know where it is from, but when someone recognizes it, I have an instant common interest with that person and we can give each other a smile of appreciation for having similar tastes. This is an incredible thing. It often goes unnoticed how easy it is to have something in common with a complete stranger. This is just one of the things stories can do, and LotR was an extremely popular story that had an enormous fandom well before I experienced it or even knew it existed. It had shaped the lives of so many people before reaching me and it will continue to do so.

I mentioned earlier that I had cheated Tolkien regarding recognition on this blog. In my book recommendations, I never really recommended The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Instead I wrote a recommendation for a biography of the Tolkien and referenced the other titles in it because I felt like it was cheating to recommend one of my favorite books, especially a series that has been popular for over 80 years. I can’t tell you why I felt that way but I know it was stupid of me to feel that way. I should never hold back like that. (Neither should you for that matter. If you like something, don’t be afraid to let others know about it. Say “hi” to that person wearing the shirt or who has a tattoo of your favorite show or movie or book.) Let this post be a remedy for my mistake. J.R.R. Tolkien had no idea his work would take the world by storm. He never liked the attention it brought him either. I’ve read much of his work and have an entire shelf filled with volumes containing only his name. I know I can always go back and re-read LotR and enjoy it. I intend to. I’ve only read it two or three times in the last 15 years. But there are many other books I still need to read. Other worlds to discover. Other author’s works to fall in love with and expand my opportunity of having more interests that align with a greater number of people. Perhaps one day I will be able to walk outside and talk to anyone about a book we have both read.

Perhaps one day I will finish a few of my own books and have people talk about my work. Maybe they will find new friends because I created something they enjoyed enough to discuss with others. This is a dream that developed long before I knew what it was. Before I discovered Tolkien. He helped me figure out exactly what it was and helped me give shape to it. As have many other writers and creators I grew up with. I’m still learning about it today with every book I read and every story I write. It just so happened that Tolkien’s work came into my life a very important time and has remained with me since. I will never be able to tell him this like so many others who tried to when he was alive. I’m not sure if he read much of the fan mail that bombarded his living spaces. I will, however, be able to talk about him or his work with others and share in the fellowship he sparked. For this I am extremely grateful.