September 4, 2017

Book: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:05 pm

imageThis is such a classic in fantasy fiction that Patrick Rothfuss is talked about in the same reverential tones as George RR Martin, the author of the superb and more famous series The Game of Thrones, which in reality is the series called The Song of Fire and Ice. (That series of books, The Game of Thrones, A Feast For Crows, A Storm of Swords, A Clash of Kings and A Dance With Dragons have all been reviewed here before)

This is also the first book in the series King Killer Chronicles.

The similarity does not end there. After making such a success of the story, both authors seem to find no time to complete their stories. After the fifth book, George RR Martin has not written any more of the series, though he published a separate story that happened 100 years earlier in the same fantasy land as the Hedge Knight. Similarly, after two superb books, Patrick has also stayed silent, now for a few years. What gives?


This is the first book. The story ends abruptly. If this is how the second volume ends, I can understand the readers’ frustrations in having to wait for the third installment that never seems to come.


The story has a beautiful start and pulls you in right away. A man seems just  to be waiting to die. No, he is not ill but he simply seems to have lived all he wants and wants to spend the rest of his life in quiet solitude. An inn where some stories are traded (that of blue fires on lamps denoting the arrival of the evil force for instance. )  A childhood friend meets a eyeless mouthless giant spider with razor legs called Scrael , kills it and brings to the inn. It is really good when you realize that Kote, the laconic bartender who watches everything impassively and seems totally a bystander is more than he seems when he is startled to see a Scrael displayed on the table. The style is infectious.


He goes out and saves the Chronicler from an attack of those deadly scraels but is persuaded by the latter to tell his own story to be chronicled against his own wishes. The Chronicler realizes that this unassuming bar owner Kote is really Kvothe of legendary fame. Bast is his assistant.


The Chronicler comes in to write Kvothe’s story. He describes his childhood with an acrobat and actor parents, his joining up with Ben who is a real alchemist. His lessons are fascinating where he learns how to bind two objects together and almost gets killed trying to bind the wind. Also the Chronicler turns out to be an arcaenist who knows the Name of Iron and traps Bast into revealing his true supernatural self. Fabulous.


The story continues to the point where Ben separates from them, having found a wife at one of the stops and at the next stop around, Kvothe goes to play in the woods, only to return and find his entire family and the show group all slaughtered in their camping site.


Then follows his struggles to survive as a homeless orphan, his struggles to find the next meal and his constant beatings in the hands of others… Very nicely narrated. The style pulls you in and totally mesmerizes you – yes, in the Game of Thrones style, even if the story is not so elaborate.


He then cleans up and decides to join the army. His transformation at the inn and also how he gets decent clothes etc are funny.


His interview at the University and admissions are told well. How he takes revenge on the arrogant Professor Master Hemme when the professor tries to humiliate him in front of the entire class makes gripping reading. He gets whipped for his trouble and makes an enemy of the Master.


Almost immediately in the Arcanum he makes an enemy of the rightful hair of a noble Lord, Ambrose, and gets himself banned from the library for life. He goes after a crazy teacher to learn the name of the wind but when the teacher asks him to jump, he does, breaking his ribs and is refused to be taken as a student  due to stupidity.


He duels other students and establishes a reputation in sympathy and binding. How he earns his pipes despite sabotage in the bar is fabulously told. This is a good story.


He goes, plays his lute in an elite club and wins his pipes, and money and also meets Deanna, whom he thinks of as his future wife. And cannot find her again.


Meanwhile, upset that Ambrose is sabotaging his future by campaigning among the nobles against him (and thereby denying him a patron) he and a friend compose the wildly popular ‘Jackass Jackass’ that makes fun of Ambrose without naming him. He gets kicked out of his inn and does not find another until he reaches an inn owner who is not afraid of Ambrose.


A fire in the lab is seemingly caused by Kvothe but he is a hero for saving Fela.


He meets Deanna again. And ditches her in the next event since he has an accident while dealing with dangerous chemicals. He then has Fela wrap a cloak and Deanna sees and misunderstands and disappears. Meanwhile, Ambrose sends hoodlums to kill Kvothe, where he narrowly escapes. When he hears that Chandrians have wreaked havoc on Trebean, he borrows more money from Devi for a horse and reaches there.


He hears of a survivor and goes to see that person and finds that it is Deanna. They go exploring and discover a pigherder who gives them vital information that the marriage was destroyed probably to keep an accidental find from being discovered or even spoken about. They also meet a vegetarian dragon or a draccus.


They realize that the draccus is addicted to a drug made from a resin. They discover the resin stash and also realize that now that the draccus is deprived of it, it will go mad and start destroying whole villages. They plan to kill it – one that is more or less made of iron and virtually apparently indestructible by most means.


The scene where that plan seems to fail and the draccus goes towards the city where there is a bonfire for the harvest festival and what Kvothe has to do to manage the situation is exhilerating.


The final interlude where a demonic man gets in and causes havoc is well told. And the ending is good too. All in all, a great book and if you liked The Song of Fire and Ice, you will love this one too.


8/ 10

– – Krishna


July 16, 2017

Book: The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:52 pm

imageWritten later than when the whole series was finished as an e book, the story is supposed to come between Volumes 4 & 5. This happens after Wizard And Glass in the story sequence. That book and some earlier books have been reviewed here before. 

Let me tell you right upfront. This is actually a collection of stories masquerading as a story in the series. Let me also tell you something else. This is one of the best if not the best books in the series!

Jake, Oye, Susannah, Eddie and Roland, following the path of the Beam and meet Bix, who agrees to take them on his raft along the river partway. They find that there is a starkburst (storm) brewing and take shelter. How to pass time? They tell stories to each other. So this is, rather like a couple of stories set in the Tower World. In addition, these are told as stories within stories, so that you come back to the outer story when the inner story is complete.

The first one is about Roland himself, after his mother’s death. He cares for Cort who is an invalid and is berated by Roland’s father for that.

He sends him to Debaria, where a supposed skin-man, who is a shape changer, is terrorizing the city. He gives as Roland’s companion Jamie DeCurrie. Both he and the coach attendant on his way warn them of Serenity, where young women pretty and deadly as the Sirens of  Homer’s Iliad reside. But he finds the Everxxx very cordial and she even knows his mom, Roland discovers.


He then travels to Debaria and meets the sheriff there, an old colleague of his dad, Steven Deschain. He learns that the skin changer, who, in the form of a massive bear, massacres a whole family has a tattoo on his leg in his human form, by a boy who survived by hiding in the stable.


The gunslinger, on the request of the surviving boy Bill, starts a story. This is a story (Roland and co) telling a story of himself, telling an imaginary story…


The new story called Wind through the Keyhole is about Tim, his mother Nell and father Big Ross (Jack Ross, really). Big Ross is killed by a dragon in the Ironwood forest, leaving Nell and Tim destitute, unable to pay taxes. Nell’s childhood friend Bern Kells who loved her and lost her to Ross without rancour, offers to take her in and marry her.


Kells turns out to be abusive, evil. He makes Tim work in the saw mill factory.  When Kell vacates his own home to move in with Nell and Tim, he brings a trunk that is always kept locked.


When the Covenant man comes for taxes, he quakes and gives away Nell’s money as taxes. They lost everything and Kells continually abuses both Tim and Nell and leaves. The Covenant man, before going away, gives Tim a magic key and asks Tim to meet him in the Ironwood Forest if he dares. After a particularly brutal beating by Kell of Nell and when he is gone on his drinking binges (which makes him even more violent), Tim opens the trunk and discovers his father’s chain and the lucky coin. The dragon fire should have singed it. Why has it not?


He decides to find out and goes to the Covenant Man, who shows Tim that Kell had murdered his father and even shows him the body under a stream. (With nice twists like flesh eating bugs in another part of the water and a very scary pooky – which is a large snake – waiting to sink its fangs into anyone who dares come that way). And to add to the intrigue, Nell tells Tim (earlier) that the Covenant Man has never aged in all the time she saw him.


When Tim discovers that Kell has come back, discovered the trunk open (Tim cannot lock it as the magic dies when the key is used once), he flows into a rage and brutalizes Nell who, in a trauma to her head, has lost the sight and is near death. He flies to her assistance but not before receiving his father’s special Axe from the Covenant Man. Tim’s teacher Widow Smack, who is always veiled due to disfigurement and is a close friend of Nell, warns Tim against Covenant Man and begs Tim not to believe in that man’s lies.  When he refuses to turn back from what he set out to do, she gives him a gun for his own protection.


There is a Tinkerbell like glowing sighe (“fairy”) who is in the employ of the Covenant Man. She leads him into the Ironwood Forest this time. She is evil and lands him on the head of a sleeping dragon. Tim manages to jump off but only to a small island and the dragon faces him, preparing to fry him. He also realizes that he was always in danger of being eaten by flesh eating fish which always followed him.


When he recognizes the treachery and is faced with certain death by carrion eating strange fish, he uses the gun and gains the admiration of the swamp people. What follows is fabulous. He is looking for Maerlyn and greatest wizard, who was in the court of Arthur Eld (sound familiar?) and instead meets a life threatening situation again – a castle whose doors are locked and the key and a keycard tied to the neck of a tiger, pacing in a cage and looking very hungry. In addition, the starkblast (a freezing storm that suddenly comes and kills everything in sight) approaches.


How he manages from there is a pure delightful narration until the very end of the story. Then the story focuses back to the skin changer. How they identify him and how they kill him is told wonderfully as well. All in all, a very satisfying book.



– – Krishna


June 11, 2017

Book: The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:08 am

imageA light hearted adventure in the tone of the Shannara series (We have reviewed The Sword of Shannara and The Elfstones of Shannra here before). Also, this book is very British in its outlook as the ones in the Shannara series, with people calling each other “old chap” and things. I thought in the beginning that it may be a bit childish but it grows on you. I remember having the same experience with those two books as well!  Towards the end, you even take a liking to the book as you did of those books as well.


This is the Pyrdain series and this is the first volume in the series. It talks about the coming of age of a young man called Taran, who is thrust into the midst of adventure when he least expected it.


Taran begs Coll to teach him how to make swords and also swordfight instead of making horseshoes as  there are no horses any more in their world. Their monkeying is stopped by Dalben, the wizard of the place.


Dalben tells of the land of the dead, Annuvin, ruled by Arawn, who has stolen mankind’s gold and jewellery for his own evil purpose. The Son of Don foiled him from becoming King. Now an evil and mysterious warlord called the Horned King – because he wears a crown of antlers –  has risen, threatening the peace that has been kept for eons.


Dalben wants them to stay far from all such troubles but when the animals start acting weird, he wants to get Hen Wen, the pig,  in safe custody, so that the Horned King, who is after Hen Wen cannot get it. Once the Horned King lays his hands on Hen Wen, the evil wins. (Yes, they explain why later, and the reason, when you learn of it later,  is logical if a bit lame).


The Book of Three is a chronicle of secrets being updated by Dalben is protected by a spell from being opened, as Taran finds to his discomfort and burning fingers. The book hardly figures further in the story, despite the whole story being titled after it. Strange, is it not?


Hen Wen runs away and Taran runs into the forest chasing a pig and is almost killed by the Horned King, only to be saved by a scraggy man who turns out to be Lord Gwydion. The Lord  informs him that the pig, Hen Wen, is the most important thing to defeat the Horned King and his evil master Arawn. Gwydion is on the horse Melyngyar and they go in search of Hen Wen.


The creature Gurgi whom they meet in their search for Hen Wen reminds you initially of Dobby of the Potter series but turns out to be a very different kind of character as the story proceeds. (Incidentally, this book was written way back in 1964 so Dobby was NOT the inspiration for this character! )


The gwaythaints, the winged spies of the evil enemy, reminds you of the winged messengers in the first book of the Sword of Shannara.


Taran and Gwydion get captured by the minions of Arawn and taken to Achren the impossibly beautiful but evil lady. Taran is stopped from being fooled by her by Gwydion, and Taran is knocked unconscious by a whip handle and wakes up in a prison cell. Alone.


He is rescued by a chatty little girl Eilonwy, who knows all the underground tunnels. She tells him that Gwydion and the horse Melyngyar are also rescued but Taran falls into a collapsed hole in the tunnel. Incidentally Eilonwy is a very delightful character that you grow to like from the very beginning, though she seems to be wisecracking through serious troubles.


The two find another way out.  But on reaching the outside, Taran finds that instead of Gwydion, the girl has rescued a bard called (No, I am not kidding) Fflewddur Fflam. They discover that he was indeed a king but likes a bard’s wandering life more. Gurgi joins them and they set out for a quest after looking ineffectually for Gwydion in a castle that seems to have collapsed when they were out. There are some cute touches like the harp strings breaking every time Fflewddur tells a lie. (Rather like Pinocchio with his nose)


They go in search of Hen Wen, assuming this is what Gwydion would have wanted. They are chased by the Cauldron Born, the undead minions of the witch. They escape and get lost and finally meet the famous wizard Medwyn.


He heals the wounded Gurgi and when they resume their journey, Taran leads them to captivity again, almost immediately. they get sucked under a pond and reach the kingdom of dwarfs of King Eiddileg. He comes across as a grouch but is really a softie (Yes, another British staple for characters) and sends them on their way with food, horses, a guide called Doli, and Hen Wen, who Gurgi discovers is with King Eiddileg.


On the way they meet the Horned King himself and when all seems to be lost, are saved miraculously by Gwydion whom they thought was dead.


The story ends on a positive and romantic note. A pleasant read. But really a fairytale story, lightweight. So, I give it a 5/10


–  – Krishna

August 6, 2016

Book: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:41 pm

imageThis is the fourth  book in the Dark Tower series.


This continues the story of the Black Tower or the Gunslinger series. The earlier books are The Gulslinger and  The Drawing of the Three, which have been reviewed here earlier and The Wastelands.


The story continues where the previous book left off, and starts with a riddling contest between Blaine the evil train and the quartet of travellers (Roland, Eddie, Susanne and Jake) plus Oy. They seem to be losing badly as Blaine’s memory banks seem invincible. In between they are treated to a desolate view outside (Blaine can make the carriage they are sitting in transparent) with the weird animals and even weirder natural wonders – a huge waterfall. Blaine recharges himself on the Beam’s force fields. When everything almost seems lost, Eddie comes into his own and flummoxes Blaine in a spectacular fashion.


They move on and find USA destroyed by a contagious superflu that has wiped out the entire population. Walk on in a lonely path and hear “thinnies”, which contain a warble that can drive your mind insane unless you stuff the old Roland world’s bullets in your ears.


Roland tells his past story which starts with Susan Delgado being betrothed to an old rich man who will lift her family out of poverty and she is checked out for ‘purity’ by an old evil witch. On the way back she meets Roland, who is young and introduces himself with a false name of Will Dearborn.


She falls hopelessly in love with him and the witch sees it in a crystal ball.


In the meanwhile Roland, Cuthbert and Alain stop the town bullies with coffins tattooed on their arms and win the enmity and suspicion of the whole town. An underdog finds that one of them is really the son of a gunslinger.


Susan has been promised to Mayor Thorin as his gilly in return for money, land, and riches for her family. Falling in love with Roland was not supposed to be part of the plan. She helps him discover massive hoard of oil to be given to the enemies of his land.


They succumb to temptation and do the beast with two backs and they cannot seem to stop. In the meanwhile, the thugs with the coffin tattoo get very suspicious about them and are surprised at their facility with weaponry.


The witch tries to spoil their plot and send a note through Seemus to Cordelia but Cuthbert intercepts him. He and Roland come to blows before Roland realizes his error.


They plan to blow up the oil tanks and lead the entire village into the thinny and they learn of the Wizard’s pink crystal ball with the witch, buried under her bed.


But Jonas catches the boys unawares, and Susan and Seemie, a dull witted but loyal friend of the boys, plan to rescue them, realizing that they may die in the attempt. They get the boys out killing Dave the deputy and the fat Sheriff Avery who were guiding them and then blow up the oil rigs as planned.


The boys ambush the party of Jonas and get them all, and unhurt too. But Susan is captured, with Jonas warned by the witch Rhea through the Pink Ball (which is one of the Wizard’s rainbow crystals) as to where she is. Sheemie was out relieving himself but doggedly follows Reynolds and Susan to the Mayor’s house and seems to find help in Olive Thorin, the Mayor’s long suffering wife. But they are captured. While Roland kills Jonas, recovers the ball and destroys all the party by leading them into the thinny, Rhea gets Susan and kills her.


When an unconscious Roland is taken back to Gilead, Rhea uses her magic to have Roland kill his own mother. This stuff is better than the previous story of the four people so far.

At the end they revert back to their world where Roland tells the story and there is a piece where he goes back and finishes the ending. All in all, a very good read.



– – Krishna


Movie : Captain America – Civil War (2016)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:27 pm

imageAs you would expect in a superhero movie, this features a serum that turns people into super-soldiers. The evil man, the Winter Soldier, has possession of it and the world is, again, in serious danger of destruction and needs Captain America desperately – as in every episode of this series.

The difference about this movie is that even though it is titled Captain America, this is really an Avengers movie. Almost every Avenger shows up. Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, you name them, they are here. Even Ant Man and Spider Man show up (Thank God, the Spider Man is not played by Tobey McGuire!). Should it not be then called Avengers: Civil War? Especially when the Civil War is amongst them mainly?

The true villain is now Crossbones, an evil Hydra agent who managed to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D earlier but was exposed by Captain America and expelled.

When Crossbones goes to get a deadly virus he is attacked by the Avenger team and each one does his or her thing. There are very tightly choreographed, fascinating stunt scenes which have almost become de rigor in these action movies these days. For instance, Captain America being saved by Wanda (Scarlet Witch) by containing the explosion triggered almost in front of Captain America’s  face by Crossbones is one such action scene.


There is also some humour, which is also a usual feature – Spider Man being treated as the baby of the group, for instance. Cute. If anything, Iron Man is less dominating in this movie than he normally is. The General who arrives says that they should not fight anymore because they cause destruction wherever they go. They are now under government control. Half the Avengers (including, chiefly, Iron Man) agree and the other half (including Captain America) are disgusted. Typical of the bumbling government, in the Marvel view.


Then there is the King of the fictional African country Wakanda who gets assassinated by the evil men and his son becomes a kind of superhero himself! It is so easy to do so in this fictional world. The chase scenes of the superheroes and the brainwashed Winter Soldier who sides with the evil side are amazing. The chases, the jumps, the man commandeering a motorcycle, Black Panther (the prince mentioned above as a superhero with a superhero name to match) jumping on fast moving cars one from the other to catch him – nicely done. Difficult to describe but let me tell you that this is good action if you are into action movies.


Lots of typical Avenger moments that are so popular today. Nothing drastically new but still enjoyable as a movie.


Nice. 6 / 10

–  – Krishna

June 26, 2016

Movie: X Men : Apocalypse (2016)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:12 am

imageAll your favourite characters are here. Except one of the most famous, the Wolverine.  Also you get to know how the young Xavier whom we met in the previous XMen movie as a young man, becomes bald and crippled.


You also meet some new characters (Angel, for instance) that is nice. But otherwise it is the gsame XMen kind of movie.


The story starts with ancient times in – where else? – Egypt. The supervillain this time is Apocalypse himself, with the Four Horsemen in toe. He is trying to move his essence into a younger body so that he may live on, but a people’s revolt stops it midstream and buries him under rubble, frozen forever until he is disturbed again. Which on cue, happens in our times (OK in the 1980s) due to an earthquake.


Meanwhile, Magneto is quietly working in a factory, as an ordinary man, trying to make a living with a wife and a daughter, hiding his identity. When he saves a man from certain death, he has to do so by revealing his power over machinery and is castigated for it and his daughter calls birds to attack the officers who came to arrest the father. One soldier accidentally kills the wife and daughter and Magneto kills them all with a chain that was hanging on his daughter’s neck.


Meanwhile, Angel, a mutant with wings is challenging to combat others and a fellow mutant called NightCrawler, who can move anywhere like smoke, who is caged inside an electrified cage (so not being able to escape out). When things look very bad for NightCrawler, Mystique (the famed Jennifer Lawrence) saves him, burning Angel’s wings in the process.


We meet Scott Summers whose eyes can burn anything until in Xavier’s school, they give him glasses to protect others and also enable him to see.


The Apocalypse tries to rally all the mutants against the XMen. With some (Magneto and others) on his side and XMen split into law abiding (Ironman)  and law defying groups, there is plenty of potential for turning XMen against XMen until all ends well.


The thrills are there. The story is too comic-book-like to narrate in detail. If you liked the previous one, you will enjoy this one too.

–  –  Krishna

February 15, 2016

Movie : Star Wars Episode VII : The Force Awakens (2015)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies, Movies — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 5:51 pm

imageWell, this movie created so much expectations and was such a success that anything I say about this, if the least bit uncomplimentary may seem like blasphemy.  But I write my views and therefore will say what I felt when I saw the movie. The movie is not bad, but there are bits there that make no sense. Read on.


** Warning: There are mild spoilers in this review so if you would rather not know about some central points, please do not read further **


First the good stuff. I love the way how the main protagonist is a woman, and the main lead (more of that later) seems to be the real successor to the Jedi world but it is revealed at the end that the girl, Rey, is the “real” Jedi.  What a difference from the original series (especially the first three, confusingly named IV, V and VI because of chronology) where Princess Leah is just decoration and all the work is done by Luke and Hans Solo!  In the next three movies our Natalie Portman at least tries to do some of the work, but even she is no match for Rey. Nice.


And then everybody is talking about the lead, Finn (derived from his original number FN2187) is not a white boy as expected. Also it is doubly nice that he is a stromtrouper with a conscience. Good twists all, and very gratifying.

Another thing is the new robot they have introduced, BB88 whose cuteness factor is right up there with that of Olaf of Frozen.

And to tally up the ‘good’ side of the movie, they have been true to the spirit of the series, with the evil side rising from the ashes of the destruction of the Empire. This time, they call it First Order. Plus there is that trademark of Star Wars, where in the background or in a pub, there are tons of random alien characters moving or talking who have no central connection to the theme or the story of the movie.

So, why the warning about uncomplimentary things? There are some things that rankle. First of all, I’d go ahead and say that they have not been optimal about the cast. This was my problem in the first movie all those years ago where Luke and, to an extent, Lia, did not impress. Here Rey and Finn could have been cast better.  I admit that my criteria is simply what I imagined them to talk and emote like, and not any objective criteria, but it still does not seem somehow right. Given that this is the series, this is going to continue in the next episodes. The chief villain, Kylo Ren, also fails to impress, stood up against the likes of Darth Vader or Anakin Skywalker of the earlier movies, and definitely falls short compared to the Obi Wan Kanobi of the previous series as well.


And tell me why Kylo Ren is wearing a mask? His face is not disfigured, he has no reason that is explained why he needs it, and halfway through the movie, he seems to discard it. Yes, I know that he is a fan of the original Darth Vader, but come on: that is not enough reason to wear a mask all the time.


And the twist is that he is the son of Hans Solo and Leah. Well, this has been done, many time in the same series. It may have been impressive for many of you, but evoked a ‘ho hum’ response from me.


If it were not for the BB88 and a couple of redeeming features (including Hans Solo in a cameo) this movie would have been a bit more unimpressive.


Weighing both the good and the bad, I would say this deserves a 6/10

– – Krishna

September 12, 2015

Book: The Hedge Knight by George RR Martin

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:16 pm


** Republished now as The Knights of the Seven Kingdoms **

Can our George RR Martin write a small book? Can he bring himself to stop in the 200 to 300 page range? In this book he proves that he can!

We have reviewed all the Game of Thrones books earlier. They are all, of course, much larger books.

This story also is tied to the same world, and so would be a double treat for fans of the Game of Throne kingdoms.

This is an excellent book. Despite its shortness of length, it has all the familiar thrill of the narration and tension as in the larger series and is a treat to read.

The story in this book happens a hundred or so years before the Game of Thrones events.

Dunk, a hedge knight (who is a mercenary or knight for hire) buries an old man, who was a mentor and a father to him. Dunk is just fifteen at that time. He stays in an inn. Then goes to a tournament for knights.

Egg, the boy who he met at the stable, forces himself as his squire. Dunk does not want a squire, much less a seemingly bumbling idiot like Egg, but cannot forcefully say ‘No’ so he decides to go along.

Dunk goes to the tourney to register – which is what he had set out to do in the first place –  and buys armor with the sale of the horse that the older knight who died had left him. He bumbles into the King’s Hand himself, Aegon Targaryen, who admits him into the competition.

The first day, Dunk watches the tourney with famous knights clashing: the Lannisters, the Targaryens, the Tyrells, the Baratheons are all there. Yes, ancestors of the characters we have grown to know and love in the longer series.

Egg is visiting a puppet show and one  of the Targaryen princes tortures the puppet girl. Dunk goes to the rescue and for attacking a Prince, he gets jailed. They want a combat where Seven Knights on Dunk’s side fight seven knights on the Targaryen side. Seven knights for Dunk? He seems doomed.

He seems to collect knights with Egg’s help and everyone is rooting for Dunk, who remembers the vow of every knight to protect the weak. Even a Targaryen prince joins his side! Not any prince but the Hand of the King himself, all out of the principle that what he did is right. Dunk is speechless in amazement.

The combat, which is the climax of the book, is exhilarating, every bit as good as the Game of Thrones series.  I am not going to give away the story as there are several twists at the end, and saying anything here more would spoil it for the readers.

The end is fantastic and makes you wish the book was longer. I definitely would recommend this for anyone interested in a fantasy tale, not just fans of The Game of Thrones.


–  – Krishna

August 28, 2015

Book: The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:43 pm

imageThis is the second book in the Shannara trilogy. We have already reviewed the first book The Sword of Shannara earlier. Now we turn to the second book in the series.

The interesting thing is that it is not a continuation of the first story where it left off, which seems to be the case for many books. (The most well known of these aret the Lord of the Rings series by Tolkien or the Game of Thrones series by George R R Martin).

The second story in this book stands alone and takes place many years after the time when the first story takes place. There is Allanon in this movie as a central figure but one or two of the others are either mentioned in passing or are related to some of the central protagonists in this story but are much older in this book, living peacefully.

Most are new characters, though. Let us look into the story.


The Chosen are the keepers of Ellcrys, the wonderous tree in the Gardens. Lauren, the youngest and the most conscientious of them all notices a wilt. There is a girl Amberle, for the first time selected as one of the Chosen.  But we learn quickly that she left, preferring not to be the Chosen, which angers everyone.

The tree is dying and can no longer hold Forbigging, the force field that holds Dagda Mor, the demon lord and other evil demons prisoners for eons. Dagda More is angry and feels the power of hatred sweeping through his veins. He takes a gamble and succeeds in coming out to the world, bringing with him the Changeling and Reaper, two of his evil cohorts with special powers of their own.

Ander Elessedil is a prince and younger brother of the crown prince Arion. Arion is the preferred son of the father in all things and is considered to be properly royal. Ander is confronted by Lauren, one of the Chosen and takes him to the King. Arion is away on a campaign. Lauren announces that Elcrys is dying and the King goes into a pensive mood.

Ander and Lauren try to find how to take the seed of the Elcrys and take it to Safehold, where it all originated. to regenerate it. This is the only way to keep the Force intact and the evil imprisoned in the prison created by the good folks with the help of Elcrys.

Ander discovers that the Chosen have all been murdered.

Allanan (from the first book) appears to give counsel to the King that the only remaining Chosen is Amberle, who, we are reminded again,  refused to live the life of the Chosen and disgraced the royal family and went into self imposed exile.

Allanon goes to consult the Druid library to find the location of Safehold. But he walks right into a trap set by Dagda Mor and the Furies. Manages to escape.

Allanan goes to Wil Ohmsford, the grandson of the Ohmsford of the earlier series, for help. Wil decides to go, against the advice of his uncle Flick, who was a young man in the earlier adventure The Sword of Shannara. They travel to where Amberle is hidden and Allanon asks her to return as the only person who can save the world. When she reluctantly agrees, they are pursued by demon-wolves with catlike bodies and women’s faces with sharp fangs for teeth.

Allanon disappears and having lost Allanon, Wil is too late to use the stones but is saved by a legendary King. He then leaves for the Elcrys with Amberle but has his horse, Artaq stolen by the Rovers (they are bandits of a sort). He tracks them down and travels with them. The Rover chief takes him in but is suspicious of him. His daughter Eretria falls for Will and wants him to take her when he leaves. When a demon attacks the group, Wil stands up to it with his Elfstones. They have to flee, pursued by wolf creatures and scarier flying dragonlike things with evil riders and meet with Allanon in a safe place. He takes them to Alborion, her birthplace. An elven council is called and she is allowed to go before Elcrys. She gets the seed from Elcrys but is closely followed by the demons including Dagda Mor.

When the demons waylay her and kill many of the Elven guards they escape only to lose more men to the swamp monster that they run into. This has all the weird monsters of the first book, the drama with people being upset with Allanon and everything. Nice.

They have further adventures of the same sort, for instance involving a giant bird owned by a group of ‘flying elves’.

The story escalates slowly. For instance, the Elves try to stop the Demons pouring out of the broken Wall. They foil them and return only to find that there is a larger army that is coming for them. All seems lost. They hold off desperately.

Amberle and Wil are ambushed in the village but are saved by Eritrea. When Eritrea asks him to take her with him, Wil refuses. Then he finds that  his gems are stolen. Leaving Amberle at the edge of the Hollows, he returns only to find Eritrea saving him once again and Cephalo dead.


There are stick figures (wooden men) who capture Amberle. There is a  witch Melllenroch who converts  Wil and Eritrea into wooden figures and jails Wil,  Eritrea and Amberle.

You get the idea. An old fashioned fairy tale/ fantasy story but it works with interesting characters in it and an easy narration style and a plot running smoothly throughout the story.

The ends of the evil ones are very satisfying.

For instance, Reaper finds the three of them in their weakest moment and in a desperate battle to survive, Wil overcomes it in spite of almost being killed.

They return but almost too late. Allanon is weakened beyond words in his final battle with Dagda Mor, whom he just managed to slay. The demons overpowered all defenses of Arborlon and the Elves faced great loss. Even the intrepid force of Rock Trolls and Stree Jans are decimated.

How Elcrys gets restored has a very nice twist, and the last few battles are exhileratingly good. An excellent story, and I rate it as being better than the first book in the series in its plot and narration. .

It deserves a 7/10

– – Krishna

August 10, 2015

Book: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:39 pm

imageThis is the second book in the  Dark Tower Series. The first one, The Gunslinger, was a disaster of a book. This book cannot be any more different. Stephen King wrote it a few years later and seems to have pulled himself up by the bootstraps to do a credible job.

The story continues where the first one left off.

Roland Deschain – the gunslinger -faces a lobster like creature that seems to be eating him body part by body part. He manages to kill it but not before losing two of his fingers and being infected. Moves on. He then meets a door while exhausted and near death. Turns out to be a portal to the Prisoner, the first of the Three that he will “draw”. He steps in and becomes Eddie Dean. Eddie, brother of Harry, is a junkie trying to quit the cocaine habit.

This book feels more like the King we know, the descriptions pithy, absorbing and the whole thing makes sense from an experience point of view for the reader. The description of the door, the fact that it seems to be two dimensional and yet show the entire earth from a distance initially before zooming in for a view from the eyes of the Prisoner, is absorbing and good writing. It is almost as if King remembered why he was writing this, and got involved.

He gets into the Prisoner, but can take over whenever he likes but the eye colour changes from the original brown to deep blue. A stewardess Jane Dorning is suspicious. He knows that he can take a sandwich back to the dying Roland! He seems to be not able to take things from his other world into the world on the plane.

The already good story now gets better. He ropes in Eddie, the prisoner to the world with the drugs just before he was to disembark and get arrested (from a bathroom). Thus Eddie is saved. Meets Balthazar who is quite a character. They check out (Eddie is “drawn” for good into the other world, literally in a blaze of gunfire and with Henry dead in the process). Then Eddie recovers from his addiction the hard way and the gunslinger is saved by the miracle antibiotics from our world brought by Eddie. Aspirin among them, which Roland always pronounces as Astin.

They then enter the body of Odetta, a rich, black kelptomaniac. She is a cripple, having  lost her legs in an accident – someone pushed her into the path of an oncoming train. The time is the sixties, when racial discrimination was high in the US. She also turns out to be a person with dual personality disorder. She joins them, Detta and Odetta in one body, Detta the screaming, vulgur, uneducated, barely controllable thing and Odetta, refined, polished, pretty and endearing – both in one body, alternately taking over the crippled body.

When Eddie gives her unwittingly a loaded gun against Roland’s advice and when Roland has to go and get The Pusher, he seems to have doomed both of the men to die at the hands of the deranged Detta. In a nice twist, the Pusher is the guy who threw a brick at Odetta that almost killed her and, many years later, pushed her in the path of an oncoming train that crippled her.

He gets into the mind of Mort, the Pusher, and steals a lot of Winchester bullets. He goes to a drugstore and gets the drugs he needs. There is a brilliant shoot out scene and he suddenly understands that he is not drawing Mort but will go back alone. What did he draw as the third person? Read the book to find out. Very beautifully told story.

A world different from the first book. This one gets a 7/10

– – Krishna

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