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Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#61
BOOK 60

Sonic the Hedgehog Encyclo-Speed-Ia: 30 Years of Sonic the Hedgehog, by Ian Flynn.

Ah, Sonic the Hedgehog, one of the many icons in the world of gaming, symbolic of the war between Nintendo and Sega. I thought this encyclopaedia would be an interesting thing to read. But would my faith be vindicated?

The Encyclo-Speed-Ia is a tribute to the years of games of Sonic the Hedgehog. From his not so humble beginnings on the Sega Genesis to his games for modern consoles, we have an exhaustive history of the Blue Blur. Not just that, but insights into the characters and enemies of each and every one of his games…

I’ve stated before that books like this are triumphs of style over substance, but this book takes it to a ridiculous conclusion. What’s more, the history portrayed here is not exhaustive as much as exhausting, and I wish something was made of Sonic’s ventures in other media like comics and cartoons. Instead, it’s actually something of a slog to get through.

The book is still well-presented, though. What’s more, there’s actually quite a few interesting tidbits here and there, including content cut from the games, and the origins of certain characters. It’s just somewhat disappointing.

While not actually bad, I don’t feel this book is a proper celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog, not the one he deserves. A shame, that…


***
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#62
BOOK 61

One Piece Baroque Works 16-17-18 by Eiichiro Oda.

Once more, I come to One Piece. But how would this continuation of the infamous manga go? Let’s find out…

Seeking a cure for Nami’s illness, Luffy has been forced to seek out a doctor on Drum Island. There, he meets the eccentric and aged Dr Kureha, and her apprentice, Tony Tony Chopper, an outcast reindeer who, thanks to a Devil Fruit, now has a more humanoid shape. But hot on their heels is Wapol, the petulant deposed king of Drum Island, a ruthless tyrant who is determined to get his way. And even if they stop Wapol, Alabasta awaits, and so too does the machinations of Crocodile, Pirate Warlord and leader of Baroque Works…

Once more, One Piece can be alienating both with its surreal imagery and its rather idiotic protagonist. Certainly, I find it hypocritical of Luffy to criticise Vivi’s plans as being too naïve when he is so stupid. And there’s a distinct lack of plot proper.

That being said, Chopper’s backstory is almost as good as Nami’s, and while it taking up a good chunk of the story here could be considered a pacing issue, it’s still so good that it doesn’t matter in my eyes. Luffy’s subsequent beatdown of Wapol is very satisfying, and we have the introduction of Luffy’s brother Ace. Not to mention Crocodile finally making a proper appearance, and he’s suitably sinister and yet canny.

Overall, this omnibus of One Piece managed to claw its way back up. Time will tell if it stays there…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#63
BOOK 62

A Certain Magical Index volume 1, by Kazuma Kamachi.

Some time ago, I read the manga adaptation of A Certain Magical Index. It didn’t really wow me. Still, I decided to give the original light novel a go, and see if that tickled my fancy…

Academy City, a marvel of the modern world. There, superpowers are commonplace, induced artificially. Touma Kamijou, however, has one of the worst powers: an ability to nullify any paranormal power, one that seems coupled with sheer bad luck. And his luck takes a turn for the bizarre when he encounters a mysterious nun known as Index, someone who is on the run from a powerful organisation. But what is the truth behind her plight?

I have to admit, this book was a bit annoying to follow. It feels like, despite having the worldbuilding needed for an ongoing series, it also feels like the series is over by the end of the book. And it’s not exactly a deep and meaningful story, having more than a few clichés, and it was hard to know who to cheer for.

Yet the story itself is still charming and entertaining. Kamijou’s ability is used well enough, and the worldbuilding is actually quite excellent, even in the small glimpses given in this volume. And there’s still a few interesting characters here and there, like Kamijou, the titular Index, and Komoe Tsukuyomi.

Overall, while I’m not convinced I will continue the series, this was a decent enough book, enough to kill some time…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#64
BOOK 63

Jujutsu Kaisen volume 1, by Gege Akutami.

One of the new manga series trending for now is Jujutsu Kaisen. Unusually for a Shounen Jump series, it’s got a strong horror bent. But how would I like it?

Yuji Itadori seems like a fairly average student, but he has immense physical strength. Rather than join sports clubs, however, he’s joined the Occult Research Club, so that he can spend more time with his terminally il grandfather. Soon after his grandfather dies, he and his fellow club members find themselves embroiled in real life supernatural phenomena, dangerous phenomena. And to resolve it, Yuji is forced to team up with Jujutsu Sorcerers Megumi Fushiguro and Satoru Gojo. But his unorthodox way of stopping the curse, by consuming the finger of the demonic Ryomen Sukuna, will set him down a dark path...

As is often the case, the first volume of a shounen manga often takes time setting up the world, with thus being a certain lack of plot. In addition, this series is actually quite horrific for a supposed shounen manga, and would turn many off. Not to mention that I feel that Nobara needs a bit more development, and Yuji, while not as stupid as some shounen protagonists, isn’t wowing me with his intelligence.

Still, for an initial volume, Jujutsu Kaisen’s first book is actually quite promising. Yuji is pretty interesting aside from his more bull-headed traits, and Satoru Gojo is a quirky enough mentor and leader character for the series. The fights are treated with surprising amounts of gravitas for the genre, as is the nature of the curse afflicting Yuji. Hell, despite the artwork being more realistic than most shounen series, it works well even when portraying comedic moments.

Overall, this was a promising first volume I didn’t expect to enjoy. Here’s hoping further volumes are as good, if not better…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#65
BOOK 64

Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy.

I have read a number of children’s fantasy books from the modern era, like the Harry Potter books, or Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl. One series I had meant to dip my toes into was Skullduggery Pleasant, a dark fantasy series surprisingly meant for younger readers. But would I enjoy it?

Stephanie Edgley has lived a relatively normal life, at least until her uncle George, a writer, dies suddenly. It’s strange enough when she gets most of his estate, but even stranger when a man attacks her, and her saviour is one of her uncle’s friends. And that’s not the only strange thing, for said friend, Skullduggery Pleasant, is a mage, a detective, and an undead skeleton man. And with his advent, Stephanie is drawn into a dark world of sorcery and secrets, where names have power, and a cruel madman has designs to bring back malevolent gods that will lay waste to all humanity…

In some ways, due in part to the fact that this was written for younger readers, it feels like not enough was given to the plot or characters. Too much is not explained, presumably to set up for future stories in the series. Other parts of the plot and the characters feel clichéd (Serpine being a somewhat stereotypical villain), and I feel at times that the story is a touch too dark for the audience.

Yet for all that, this is a cracking good yarn. Stephanie and the titular detective come across as a dark fantasy equivalent of the Doctor from Doctor Who and one of his companions (probably no coincidence, as Landy is a self-professed fan of the series). The worldbuilding is actually quite good, with a Neil Gaiman-like dark fantasy take on magic and magical society with a touch of Lovecraft and Jim Butcher.

Overall, this was an interesting start to the series. Here’s hoping the next books are as good…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#66
BOOK 65

Call of the Night volume 1, by Kotoyama.

Vampire romances have been around for ages, though the genre has experienced something of a surge in popularity, unfortunately, with Twilight. Still, I’m not wholly averse to the genre, which was why I tried another trending new manga series, Call of the Night. But how well would this go?

Ko Yamori is a high school student suffering from insomnia and a lack of friends. Walking out at night is perversely liberating. So when he encounters a strange girl called Nazuna, one who seems oddly forward with him, he doesn’t realise he’s about to have a close encounter of the supernatural kind. For Nazuna is a vampire, and to her, Ko’s blood tastes delicious. Thus begins an odd friendship between boy and girl, human and vampire…

As is often the case with series like this, the first volume doesn’t have much in the way of actual plot, just setting up the relationship. It also feels a touch slow-moving to me. And considering how young Ko is, and how old Nazuna could potentially be, the relationship also has a fairly disturbing element to it.

Yet despite the above caveats, it’s also kind of sweet, in a macabre way. Both Ko and Nazuna are actually quite interesting characters, and the slow pace often works in the story’s favour. And the story has a poignant atmosphere contrasting darkness and light.

Overall, while hobbled by a lack of plot and some disturbing implications, this is an enjoyable story. Maybe it’ll improve from here on in…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#67
BOOK 66

Skeleton Knight in Another World volume 3, by Ennki Hakari.

So, here I come to the third volume of Skeleton Knight in Another World, covering up to the end of what would be adapted for the anime. But how well would this volume go? Let’s find out…

Arc and Ariane continue their misadventures, seeking out Ariane’s enslaved people. Getting lost, ironically, turns out to be a good thing, when they meet one of Ariane’s kindred, the eccentric monster researcher Carcy, as well as heading to Lamburt, and learning of the lord’s Elf bride, one who married him consensually. But their misadventures soon lead them to the Holy Revlon Empire, where they will be on a collision course with vile beast tamer Fumba Soodu Rozombanya…

I noticed while watching the anime, but each volume, at least to date, has been a touch formulaic in many regards. In addition, this particular volume feels like multiple stories have been sewn together in some literary parody of Frankenstein’s monster. It feels like a step down from the prior volumes.

Yet for all that, it’s still fun to watch Arc, Ariane and Chiyome do their thing of stomping the vile opposition. In addition, Ariane is getting a reality check in her dislike of humans and the possibility of Human-Elf relations. Carcy is also an interesting new character, as is the lord of Lamburt Petros and his wife Toreasa.

Overall, this volume, while still an enjoyable romp, was a marked slip in quality. Maybe the next volume might be better…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#68
BOOK 67

Overlord Manga volume 2 by Satoshi Oshio and Hugin Miyama, from the light novels by Kugane Maruyama.

When I read the first volume of the Overlord manga, I had to confess to being a touch disappointed, feeling as if it was just an abridged adaptation of the first light novel. Eventually, though, I decided to give the second volume a try. But how would it fare?

In order to learn more about the new world he is in, Ainz Ooal Gown has taken Narberal Gamma to E-Rantel, as his partner to pose as an Adventurer. There, he joins with the Adventurer team known as the Swords of Darkness to escort gifted young alchemist Nfirea to Carne Village to gather medicinal herbs. Unbeknownst to them, though, the evil necromancer Khajit and his crazed enforcer Clementine are plotting to plunge E-Rantel into darkness, through an army of undead, and Nfirea is key to their plans…

Unfortunately, once more, the abridging of the story has left a little to be desired with this adaptation. Certainly, there’s some neat character moments (like hints to Ninya’s true gender, and her hatred of the nobility, to say nothing of reconciling with Ainz prior to his death) that have been left out. And it feels a touch short.

Yet for all that, I feel like the manga has found its feet with this volume. The action is good, and the art style lends itself well to the more comic elements. What’s more, the writer and the artist are willing to take risks with the source material that the anime adaptation did not, and it’s to the benefit of the manga.

Overall, this was a better volume than the first one of the Overlord manga. Here’s hoping it continues to improve…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#69
BOOK 68

Encyclopaedia Eorzea: The World of Final Fantasy XIV II, by Banri Oda et al.

When I read the first volume of the Encyclopaedia Eorzea, I had to admit to being pleasantly surprised. That work, looking into the lore, people and geography of the world of Final Fantasy XIV, was astonishingly good. But how would the second volume fare?

No one volume could provide an exhaustive look at Eorzea, its lands, people, and history. This, then, is an additional volume. Here is related the tales of other lands, far to the east, and in other dimensions, and what peoples and monsters live therein…

As noted in my previous review, those unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy franchise, never mind the fourteenth game, would be somewhat at sea here. And anyone who hasn’t read the prior volume would be even more at sea, given that the content here was stuff released later than the original volume. I also thought more could be made of the Dalmasca or Deltascape and Sigmascape stuff, given that I am a fan of the games they were inspired by.

Still, for what it’s worth, this volume still manages to keep a fairly high level of quality. It balances beautiful presentation with loads of information extremely well, cramming as much as it could into the book and still managing to have it come across well. While not as good as the previous volume, it manages to do almost as well.

While only appealing to fans, this book is a worthy follow up to the original Encyclopaedia Eorzea

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#70
BOOK 69

Overlord Manga volume 3 by Satoshi Oshio and Hugin Miyama, from the light novels by Kugane Maruyama.

So, here I am with the third volume of the Overlord manga. But how well would it do? Let’s find out…

Ainz and Narberal Gamma are confronting the masterminds behind Zurrernon, an underground organisation of necromancers. While Narberal faces off against vile necromancer Khajit, Ainz faces off against deranged assassin Clementine. Meanwhile, Shalltear, Sebas, and Solution embark on their own mission, one that will lead them into conflict with a bandit group…

I have to admit, after the elevation in quality in the previous volume, it has dropped back down again. The fights against both Clementine and Khajit feel severely abbreviated compared to the source material and the anime, especially the former. Plus, Khajit’s appearance looks a touch too comical.

Yet for all that, this is still a fairly good adaptation, adding details from the novels that weren’t included in the anime (like Khajit and Zach’s respective pasts, or Sebas worrying about Shalltear’s Blood Frenzy). Plus, it’s still fun to see Ainz and Narberal curbstomp the opposition. And there’s also an interesting appendix by the original writer that actually elaborates on the world Ainz originally played Yggdrasil in in 2138.

Overall, while a disappointing drop in quality, this manga is still a decent adaptation of the Overlord books. Here’s hoping it gets better…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#71
BOOK 70

The World’s Finest Assassin is Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat volume 1, by Rui Tsukiyo.

So, here I am reading yet another isekai series. But how would this one, about an assassin, of all people, being reincarnated fare? Let’s find out…

One last job leads to Earth’s greatest and most experienced assassin being killed by his own employers. He then meets with a goddess in the afterlife, who asks him to reincarnate in a world she watches over, with his memories and skills brought over. He would live a good life, but in exchange, he must kill the world’s chosen hero, lest they rampage after killing off the Demon Lord. Reincarnated as Lugh of the Tuatha De family, a group of aristocrats who act as assassins, he must begin learning how to wield his skills in a whole new world…

As is the norm for many of these, there’s more than a few clichés of the isekai genre, some more annoying or repulsive than others. The harem angle is, depressingly, not unexpected, and a reincarnated character falling in love with a young character is still a not-unexpected cliché. In addition, while the dark fantasy elements do sort of suit the world, there are times when some elements are gratuitous.

Still, the concept alone makes it a novel one, and one where the main character also uses his wits and pragmatism to conquer his foes. This is illustrated in the final battle of the book, when Lugh defeats ‘Kran’s Hound’ with a magic version of a weapon out of Earth’s advanced research. What’s more, Lugh manages to balance his pragmatism with a healthy moral compass, and his relationship with others is heartwarming, for the most part.

Overall, this was a good book, albeit hobbled a little by its flaws and clichés. Not a bad start to the series…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#72
BOOK 71

Overlord Manga volume 4 by Satoshi Oshio and Hugin Miyama, from the light novels by Kugane Maruyama.

Once more, I have come to the manga adaptation of Overlord. But how would this volume, adapting one of my favourite arcs, play out? Let’s see how it comes across…

Shalltear’s mission to find strong fighters to capture goes awry. Her target, the arrogant Brain Unglaus, breaks when defeated by her, and escapes her grasp. She goes berserk thanks to her Blood Frenzy, and soon ends up being ensnared by a mysterious World Item used by a mysterious group. Ainz resolves to save her, but the only way to do so is to kill her and resurrect her…no mean feat when she has been built to be a fighter who could bring an end to him…

As previously noted, there appears to be a somewhat heavy degree of abridging in this volume of the manga. One annoying part is how Ainz seems to have learned that Shalltear has fallen prey to a World Item without investigating first, and I felt more could have been done with even the one-sided fight between Brain and Shalltear. It certainly feels a touch rushed overall.

Yet despite that, this volume marks another tick upwards in quality, after going down in the previous volume. The events are portrayed well enough despite the abridged elements, and the initial stages of Ainz’s clash with Shalltear is well done too. I’m glad they actually devoted time and effort to that sequence, given that it’s one of my favourite battles in the series, showcasing Ainz when he has to make an effort to fight.

Overall, this was a good volume of this adaptation. Time will tell if it keeps that quality…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#73
BOOK 72

The Rising of the Shield Hero volume 14, by Aneko Yusagi.

So, at long last, I’m back to reading The Rising of the Shield Hero, having left off partway through the Q’ten Lo arc. But would absence make the heart grow fonder? Or would this volume falter?

Naofumi and his allies have decided to foment a revolution in Q’ten Lo, the homeland of Sadeena and Raphtalia’s parents. Using Raphtalia’s claim to the throne, they and their allies seek to overthrow those who threaten Raphtalia’s life, along with everyone Naofumi holds dear. But Sadeena may have to confront a ghost from her own past…her own sister, whom her parents had to replace her, and who holds a grudge against her…

I have to admit, this volume took some time getting to the point, being filled with stuff that didn’t quite feel relevant. Instead, it felt like filler. What’s more, the final confrontation, at least against the villains, was anticlimactic.

Still, it was good to see Raphtalia’s character arc come to a new point. The final clash between her and someone who could be her ancestor was a good one. I have mixed feelings about Sadeena’s sister Shildina, but on the whole, she seems like an interesting addition, even if she seems like a copy.

Overall, this volume of The Rising of the Shield Hero was a good one. I just hope the series continues to be good…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#74
BOOK 73

Konosuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! manga volume 1, by Masahito Watari, from the light novels by Natsume Akatsuki.

I have to admit, the original volume of the Konosuba light novels didn’t impress me, and I have refrained from going back to them. But I decided to see if the manga was worth going for. Would that be the case?

Shut-in Kazuma Sato dies in an embarrassing accident while trying to save someone’s life. He’s met by the deity Aqua, who suggests he allow himself to head to another world with any boon of his choosing, to stop the Demon King. Annoyed by her antics, he chooses her, and Kazuma and Aqua end up on this other world. Unfortunately, Aqua’s fairly useless on this world, and when Kazuma tries recruiting for a part, he gets the edgelord mage Megumin, who knows only one spell, and the masochistic crusader Darkness. Oh dear…

I have to admit, many of the same problems that plagued the original novel plague this one. The comedy is cringey, to say the least, especially to what ends Kazuma uses his Steal skill for. And then, Kazuma is annoying, as is Aqua and, to lesser degrees, Darkness and Megumin. And I don’t like the art style’s way of portraying the characters compared to the light novels and anime.

Still, the comedy does occasionally hit rather than miss. Not only that, but the art actually suits the comedy much of the time. Megumin and Darkness have moments of being enjoyable, and the story involving Wiz’s debut is rather sweet.

Overall, I don’t think this is going to get me back into Konosuba anytime soon. It was all right, once the cringey bits are stripped away, but there’s a lot of cringe…


***
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#75
BOOK 74

Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill volume 1, by Ren Eguchi.

So, here I am trying out yet another isekai series with a novel concept. But how would Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill fare? Let’s find out…

Tsuyoshi Mukohda is familiar with the tropes of isekai fiction. So when he is accidentally caught up in a summoning of three others, the salaryman discerns that their summoners are up to no good…and books it. With a skill allowing him to purchase things from Earth, Tsuyoshi wishes to have a relatively simple life in this new world. Unfortunately, between novel food from Earth and his cooking skills, he attracts attention, including from some powerful beings…

As expected, this is filled with many of the usual clichés of certain isekai books, especially of late. The unusually-used skill, the OP elements, the powerbloc using summoned heroes to their own malign ends, etc. And the plot for this initial volume is nothing to write home about, nor is the worldbuilding.

Yet for all that, there’s considerable charm for this. Mukohda is a charming and affable and gentle character, a far cry from the usual power trip fantasies given in this genre. And the comedy, for a change, is pretty spot-on for the fantasy genre, with no cringey sex comedy for a change. And the thought of winning over powerful beings with food, while not novel to fiction in general, is still relatively novel for this genre.

Overall, while not anything substantial to write home about, this book was at least a gentle and entertaining enough read. Time will tell if it changes for better or for worse…


***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#76
BOOK 75

Jujutsu Kaisen volume 2, by Gege Akutami.

I had to admit, the first volume of Jujutsu Kaisen was a welcome surprise. Shounen manga series that start as strong as it did are thin on the ground. But how would the second volume fare?

Yuji Itadori, in order to stop a vicious living curse, has been forced to allow himself to be possessed by Ryomen Sukuna once more. But in the process, Sukuna forces Yuji into a Faustian bargain he won’t remember. Declared dead to his peers thanks to Sukuna’s actions, Yuji is put into training by eccentric teacher Satoru Gojo. But there are beings who want to take on Satoru Gojo, and one of them intends to take the fight to him…

Once more, this volume shows a flaw in the shounen action-adventure genre. It’s still struggling to get to the meat of the plot, instead having a number of fights. And some elements of Yuji’s training are pretty nonsensical, even for the more trippy shounen titles.

Yet for all that, this remains an excellent series that is keeping the bar high after its first volume. Yuji is a fun character, the art style works surprisingly well with both humorous and series moments, and the horror is done well. Plus, we see the first somewhat serious fight between Satoru Gojo and a cursed being, and it’s an awesome sight to behold, showing why he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Overall, this was a good second volume to this series. Hopefully, it’ll keep the same standards…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#77
BOOK 76

The World of Borderlands, by Rick Barba.

I’m not normally a fan of first-person shooters, but the Borderlands franchise is a major exception to the rule. This FPS-RPG hybrid has a mixture of grungy science fiction and gloriously dark comedy that I like to describe as Red Dwarf meets Mad Max. But how would this book on the universe of the franchise fare?

Far into the future, the Vaults left behind by the enigmatic aliens known as Eridians caused fortune seekers and treasure hunters known as Vault Hunters to seek out Vaults, for fame, glory, or for their corporate employers. The most infamous events happened on the borderland world of Pandora, but had repercussions and influence across the cosmos. This, then, is the story of the Vaults, the Vault Hunters, and their various quests and conflicts…

I have to admit, one of my few complaints about this book is its size. For the price I paid, I expected something closer to coffee table size. Instead, I got a relatively small hardback book that seemed more apt for a novel or a manga volume. And of course, the violence and dark, heavily satirical comedy of the franchise is not for everyone.

Yet those are relatively small complaints. This book manages to balance its presentation with cramming in information that, if not quite exhaustive and glossing over a few points, nonetheless manages to be fresh even to a seasoned veteran of the games. Hell, there’s a lot of worldbuilding that wasn’t made as clear in the games, and it’s knitted together expertly. And the satire is pretty biting too, given that it’s set in a far future where corporations rule instead of normal governments.

Overall, this is a surprisingly excellent book. True, Borderlands fans are more likely to get much from it, but it’s still one of the best books of its type that I have read…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#78
So, here I am back again, and I'm starting with one of the greats of fantasy...

BOOK 77

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin.

While I have read the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire to date, I haven’t read George RR Martin’s prequel series of novellas, The Tales of Dunk and Egg. I had read a comic adaptation of the first novella, but never got into the books themselves. But now, that has changed…

Decades before the Targaryen dynasty was overthrown, years before they became known as Ser Duncan the Tall of the Kingsguard and King Aegon V, they were Dunk and Egg. One was a Hedge Knight, an itinerant knight-errant fighting in tourneys and occasionally getting employed by a lord. The other was a prince roughing it as a stable-boy, only to become Dunk’s squire. These are the tales of their misadventures across Westeros…

I have to admit, in some regards, and partly because of the format, these stories aren’t that much to write home about. Some of the characters aren’t invested in enough, and falling by the wayside, a pity given that this is set long before the main series. And the second story of the three feels a bit like the weakest in some regards.

Yet for all this, these are still good stories that add considerably more to the lore of the franchise, illuminating the twilight years of the Targaryen dynasty, as well as showing the rise of the legendary Ser Duncan the Tall. It also feels like lighter fare than its parent series, even if there’s very serious subject matter afoot. In addition, aside from Dunk and Egg themselves, we have interesting characters like Aerion and Baelor Targaryen, Lady Rohanne, and the ruthless spymaster Bloodraven.

Overall, while not quite at the same level as the best of his work, these stories still show why Martin is an acclaimed storyteller. It’s also a window into, if not a better or more idyllic time, then a still-interesting one for Westeros…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#79
BOOK 78

The Eminence in Shadow Manga volume 1, by Anri Sakano, from the light novels by Daisuke Aizawa.

Having read the first light novel volume of The Eminence in Shadow, I decided to read the manga version of this semi-satirical take on the isekai genre. But would I enjoy the adaptation? Let’s find out…

Cid Kagenou is the seemingly mediocre son of a minor noble on a fantasy world. In reality, he is the reincarnation of a delusional Japanese teenager who died while training to become a shadowy manipulator of events, an Eminence in Shadow. Saving an Elf girl from bandits and an otherwise incurable condition, he spins a tale that he is the leader of an organisation, Shadow Garden, formed to fight the Cult of Diablos, a cult dedicated to reviving the demon of fairytales. Yet while Cid believes it to be a lie, his new organisation believes it to be real…and indeed, the Cult does exist. Can Cid lead Shadow Garden when he doesn’t even know he’s fighting a real war in the darkness?

The manga adapts only the first few parts of the book, and honestly, the original book’s plot was rather secondary to the dark comedy of errors involving Cid’s delusions and the realities of the Cult of Diablos. And it shows in this manga version. A few changes made in this adaptation don’t sit right with me, either.

Still, the manga does have some benefits, clearing up a few things that were a bit harder to discern in the original novel. It also plays up the dark comedy of things, and even shows Cid’s previous life being not as…inconspicuous as he believed to be, being all muscled. And of course, it’s still a massively entertaining romp, mixing the comedy and drama well.

Overall, this was a good adaptation of the light novel. I hope the next volumes turn out the same way…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,705
2,950
#80
BOOK 79

Doctor Who: The Evil of the Daleks by Frazer Hines, with Stephen Cole and Mike Tucker.

The Evil of the Daleks was one of the last stories from the classic series of Doctor Who to be novelised, at least until the Douglas Adams stories and Eric Saward-penned Dalek stories were eventually adapted. John Peel’s novelisation stands as a high-water mark for novelisations of the series, an excellent adaptation of one of the classic series’ best stories…so I was genuinely surprised, wary, and even intrigued when I heard that Frazer Hines, with a bit of help from Stephen Cole and Mike Tucker, was going to do his own novelisation. Based partly on the 60s repeat of the story with a framing device of the Doctor showing Zoe that adventure, Frazer Hines, being the actor who played Jamie, would potentially offer a unique perspective. But would it be enough?

After their clash with the Cybermen on Space Station W3, the Doctor and Jamie find they have a stowaway, Zoe Herriot, who is eager to join them. The Doctor, in order to test her resolve and show her what to expect on their travels, shows her one of his prior adventures. To Jamie’s wariness, he chooses an adventure that nearly saw their friendship come to an end, one where the Daleks entrap the pair of them, ordering the Doctor to put Jamie through cruel experiments to discern the nature of something they believe to be their ultimate weapon, the Human Factor…

I have to admit, this novelisation doesn’t quite reach the same standard as the John Peel novelisation. I feel a few elements could have been retained from that novelisation here and there, and to some degree, this version feels a touch superfluous. And a few elements, like trying to evoke sympathy for Maxtible after his fate, falls a little flat.

Yet for all that, this is still an excellent novelisation that still stands alone and apart from the John Peel version. A few interesting elements are added and changed, and we have Jamie and Zoe’s own perspective of events in hindsight, as well as the Doctor looking back on some of his actions with regret. And this was a novelisation of one of the best classic series stories of all time and (in my opinion) the best Dalek story of the 60s, so it had an excellent base to work off.

Overall, while not quite reaching the same dizzying heights as the previous novelisation, this version of The Evil of the Daleks is a fine example. Frazer Hines should be proud of what he managed to do…

****½
 

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