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All reviews - Movies (2) - Books (183) - Music (7) - Games (6)

More captivating than the first volume.

Posted : 10 years, 5 months ago on 28 June 2007 02:49 (A review of The Lady of the Sorrows (The Bitterbynde Trilogy))

This is the second book in the Bitterbynde trilogy (after The Ill-Made Mute and before The Battle of Evernight).

Now that the old carlin Maeve One-Eye has healed Imrhien, restored her beauty and her voice, but not her memory, the young woman can travel to the royal city of Caermelor in order to deliver to the King-Emperor the secret message of the treasure found at Waterstairs. She goes there disguised as Rohain Tarrenys, Lady of the Sorrows, the distant islands or Severnesse. Alas, the King-Emperor is not at court but has gone to battle against the army of unseelie beings who have declared war on humankind. She has no choice but to wait, try and find clues about her past, and look for the mysterious Dainnan warrior Thorn whom she's fallen for.

But for Imrhien it's hard to blend in, with the constant threat of the courtiers seeing through her disguise if she doesn't learn their manners fast. Luckily, she soon makes friends with her maid Viviana, who starts to teach her slingua (a made-up court-language).

Seeing that the King-Emperor is not coming back any time soon, she decides to make for Isse Tower, where she used to be known as the Ill-Made Mute, to meet those among whom she used to live and gather information on her former life. There she makes an astounding discovery, but her happiness is short-lived. Indeed, after an attack by the unseelie hordes, she comes to understand she might actually be the target of Huon the Hunter and his Wild Hunt.

Even though I found that the heroin's name changed too often, I liked this middle-volume better than the previous one. For one part it is not as over-written, but its pace is also faster. The plot is more captivating, with a romantic first half and intriguing, albeit predictable ending chapters, in which the story shifts to another place and time when the legendary Faêran still roamed the land of Erith.


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Hard to rate...

Posted : 10 years, 6 months ago on 20 May 2007 05:38 (A review of The Ill-Made Mute (The Bitterbynde Trilogy))

The Ill-Made Mute is the first book in the Bitterbynde trilogy (before The Lady of Sorrows and The Battle of Evernight).

The story starts on the lower floors of Isse Tower, the huge, black relay fortress of the Stormriders and their winged steeds. Down in the servants' quarters, an ugly, deformed and mute foundling is raised by an old crone.

Hearing terrifying stories about the evil creatures that dwell in the outside world, but constantly bullied not only by the lordly inhabitants of the upper levels but even by the other menials, the child one day scales the walls of the tower and escapes aboard a Windship.

Soon the flying vessel is attacked by pirates though, and crashes in the forest. The youth is rescued by and Ertishman called Sianadh, taught hand-speak and given a name: "Imrhien". Together they start a journey through the woods, and face the attacks of numerous monsters, one looking for treasure, the other for a wise woman who could heal those disfiguring scars.

This book is actually hard to rate... Cecilia Dart-Thorton's style is elaborate, alas sometimes to such an extent as to be difficult to read. Her use of clever words, mostly for the purpose of lovely alliterations, is somewhat hindering (at least for an non-native English speaker like me).

Same thing about the plot... The first chapters in Isse Tower have descriptions that can really make your head spin from vertigo. Then the story seems to stall: the companions meet so many wights, often grostesque or simply annoying, in the forest, they barely make any progress (those familiar with the Final Fantasy game franchise probably know what I mean). Thankfully, the story eventually picks up again in the last chapters, when Imrhien and Sianadh's nephew, Diarmid, meet a Dainnan warrior, Thorn. Now I'm eager to go on with the next book!


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Plink!

Posted : 10 years, 9 months ago on 18 March 2007 04:21 (A review of Thud!: A Discworld Novel)

Thud! is the 30th Discworld novel and is a novel of the Watch.

As Koom Valley Day approaches (commemorating a huge battle between the Trolls and the Dwarves), and a Dwarf is found dead in one of the mines underneath Ankh-Morpork, unrest is brewing among the denizens.

Fearing the next reenactment will happen in the streets of his city, Commander Sam Vimes and his constables investigate. He'll discover the customs and rites of the Dwarf community, and its secret society, giving the book a touch of Da Vinci Code.

Every day at 6 o'clock (sharp!) though, he has to go back home and read "Where's My Cow?" to his baby son. With all the right noises.

Once more, Pratchett manages to sew modern social concerns (here, cultural and racial differences, and tolerence) into a funny and witty fantasy. I wouldn't say it was one of my favourite, but it was good and made me chuckle a few times. I particularly enjoyed the Gooseberry's apparitions (Vimes's palm agenda), and the female characters (Sally, Angua, Tawneee) in general.


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Rather boring and tedious.

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 15 February 2007 02:20 (A review of Ancient Echoes)

Ancient Echoes tells the story of Jack Chatwin, an Englishman from Exburgh.

Jack has been having strange recurring dream-like visions, during which his body shimmers, since his teens, a phenomenon that fascinates his friend Angela. They later marry and have a daughter, Nathalie.

In his visions, Jack dreams of a parallel world where two hunters, a woman and a man, are running from a deathly danger. When these ask Jack for help, Greyface threatening to harm Nathalie, Jack decides to enter a computer-monitored trance, under the supervison of Angela and her ex boy-friend Steve.

Although Ancient Echoes isn't part of the series, it is nonetheless very similar in style and theme to the latest Mythago books. That is, except for a couple of passages in the middle, where Jack spends time with a prehistoric tribe and gets to meet one or two interesting characters, rather boring and tedious as a whole.


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Great world building, but disappointing

Posted : 11 years ago on 7 December 2006 06:50 (A review of The Bone Forest (Mythago Wood #3))

The Bone Forest is a collection of eight short stories by Robert Holdstock, the first and eponymous one of which is a Mythago Wood narrative from the point of view of George Huxley, about how he came to involve his sons Steven and Christian.

The six next (Thorn, The Shapechanger, The Boy Who Jumped the Rapids, Time of the Tree, Magic Man, and Scarrowfell), although not sharing the same settings, are very similar in style and atmosphere.

The last one (The Time Beyond Age) tells of a scientific experiment where two children are artificially grown old in a disease-proof environment.

As a whole, I like the way Robert Holdstock builds enchanting worlds for us to explore, but I'm always disappointed by the abrupt, sometimes far-fetched endings.


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A diversity of interesting characters.

Posted : 11 years ago on 7 December 2006 06:50 (A review of Gate of Ivory)

Gate of Ivory goes back in time in the Mythago Wood sequence to tell us the story of Christian Huxley.

Steven's brother, who has never recovered from his mother's suicide after an terrible attack by a band of Mythago warriors when he was only a small boy, is now a grown man and goes exploring into the Wood. There he joins the Long Person, a makeshift group of forgotten figures from past legends, among which Guiwenneth, with whom he'll deeply fall in love. After living with them for a while, he learns that they're here to help the warrior Kylhuk's Legion in his quests, and soon Christian discovers he has a role to play too.

What I enjoyed in this fifth volume is the diversity of interesting characters and their stories. It was also great to read Christian's side of the story. Indeed in this tome he appears as a much less barbaric and more humane person than in the first one.


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Epic!

Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 4 October 2006 10:05 (A review of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)

The Two Towers is the second part of Peter Jackson's trilogy based on JRR Tolkien's epic fantasy masterpiece, the Lord of the Rings.

The Fellowship of the Ring has just been broken and our heroes are now all heading in different directions, all following their own paths. Merry and Pippin have just been captured by a horde of Saruman's foul Huruk-Haï who, following the sorcerer's orders, are taking them to his tower of Isengard, and Aragorn the Heir of Gondor, Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf are running to their rescue across the plains of Rohan, land of the Rohirim horsemasters. Taking the advantage of a clash between the orcs and a band of Rohirim, the hobbits manage to escape into Fangorn, the old forest, home of the legendary Ents. There they'll meet an old acquaintance.

Meanwhile Frodo, the Ring-bearer, and his friend Sam are on their way to Mordor. It won't be long until they become lost, nor before they realize they're not alone. Gollum, the filthy creature who once possessed the One Ring, has been following them all along. They capture him, but soon Frodon takes pity and decides to release him in exchange for Gollum's word that he'll guide them to Mordor.

Once again, Peter Jackson managed to bring to screen the enchanting spirit of JRR Tolkien's complex novels. I personally liked Gollum's character a lot, as well as admired the creature's beautiful computer graphics animation. And the Battle of Helm's Deep, the terrible final conflagration between Théoden's people and Saruman's army of ten thousand orcs, is just as formidable. I'll have to read these books again!


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Not disappointing in any way!

Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 4 October 2006 10:05 (A review of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

The Fellowship of the Ring is the first part of Peter Jackson's trilogy based on the Lord of the Rings, THE classic epic novel by JRR Tolkien, considered father of the fantasy genre.

The film tells the story of Frodo Baggins, a young hobbit, or half-sized human with hairy feet, who lives in the Shire, in Middle-Earth. Frodo's uncle Bilbo, on his one-hundred-and-eleventh birthday, leaves everything to his nephew, among which a ring that has the power to make its bearer invisible. The ring turns out to be The One Ring of Power, forged by the evil Lord Sauron. The mythological and historical background is well summarized at the beginning of the film, and we learn that Sauron was defeated long ago and the ring somewhat lost and found several times before falling into Bilbo's hands. However at the same time, in the land of Mordor, Sauron is stirring again and wants his Ring, source of the power he needs to dominate all the people of Middle-Earth. And so he sends forth nine Nazgûl, to find the Ring. Frodo has but one solution: he has to destroy the ring by casting it into the very fire in which it was forged, in Mount Doom. He sets off with some companions, on a perilous quest to the heart of Mordor.

It must have been hard to squeeze over one thousand pages into three three-hour-long films, but I think Peter Jackson managed to cut at the right places, and since I have read the books, I was able to fill in. Even though it might sometimes be a little bit confusing to people who are new to the story, the fast fighting scenes, the terrifying Nazgûl and evil orcs that contrast with the stunning, breathtaking beauty of the scenery and the great special effects, all this backed up by a wonderful cast, make the Fellowship of the Ring definitely worth seeing by anyone. Personally, I most enjoyed the visual rendering of Sauron's blurry dark world Frodo falls into when he puts on the ring.

These must have been among the most awaited films in history, and even though no film will ever be as majestic and magical as a masterpiece of such scope, I think Peter Jackson really managed to capture its enchanting, wonderful spirit and to pay a superb homage to JJR Tolkien's genius. It made me want to read the books again, and I hope it will make everyone want to read them as well.


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Such a letdown.

Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 4 October 2006 10:03 (A review of Myst V: End of Ages)

This is almost insulting. I'm outraged.

I've been a fan of the Myst series since Riven, always eager to immerse in the stunning, utterly beautiful sceneries, and there to push switches and pull levers, to tackle the mind-boggling puzzles that would lead me to more dream-like places.

And I was a bit disappointed when Uru came out, with its real-time, third-person interface, because it wasn't exactly was I was expecting, graphically. But then, it was advertised as a side-quest, so I didn't mind too much, especially when Myst IV: Revelation came out with its good ol' QuickTime VR and video-overlaid characters.

So when I heard that Myst V: End of Ages was coming out, and that it'd be the last episode, I really expected the series to end with a flourish. Admittedly, I was slightly surprised by the rather short, one-year gap since the previous instalment, but I trustfully put it down to technical progress.

Well I was wrong.

Visually, Myst V: End of Ages is closer to Uru. Again they traded the QuickTime VR for a first-person navigation that allows you to look around as you walk from point to point. As you might deduce, this real-time rendering implies models with a lower polygon count, and lightmaps. What is gained in movement fluidity (which, by the way, is not required to solve puzzles  la Myst) is lost in image quality, putting the whole trademark atmosphere in jeopardy.

Same story for the characters you meet throughout the game, who are now CG with a video mapped on their face. It's ugly. The Motion Capture hasn't been corrected, or not enough, and the characters' feet are either sliding or entering the ground. They also tried to impress us with cloth movements, but with such a low polygon count you can often see it go through the characters' legs. Really, what were they thinking?

As for the puzzles, even though a couple of them were a bit tricky (but mostly because the symbol I drew on the tablet wasn't quite accurate), they were for the most part repetitive and unchallenging. Proof is, I finished the game in one day.

This is such a letdown.


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Bake me live...

Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 4 October 2006 10:01 (A review of Make Believe)

I've been a big Weezer fan since the beginning, and looking back upon the Green Album and Maladroit now, I have to admit they were disappointing, when you know the musical depth these guys are capable of.

And therefore their fifth album, Make Believe, was much anticipated, both with a good measure of dread and a little chink of hope...

I'm just back from the shop, listening to it for the second time, and if you could see my face right now, you could tell whether the album is good or not... but well, you can't so I'm going to tell you: I'm beaming!

I'm so glad, even relieved, that the guys are back on track. Rivers's voice (you know, this voice that can make you cry) is back, and although the melodies are great, maybe they don't compare to the Blue Album and Pinkerton in terms of genius, but the songs do have what I was so craving for: emotion, power, and layers (very important, that). You can listen to a song ten times and still discover another a hidden riff at the eleventh.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to drown into the music and enjoy...


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