Monthly Archives: September 2016

Review: Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Reading this trilogy is like riding a roller coaster. Sabriel is just like when you reach the end of the line and climb into the car, flush with excitement. Lirael is like the slow ascent to the highest part of the coaster. Finally, Abhorsen is the swift plummet to the bottom and the slow coming to a halt, when you feel glad that it’s over, but at the same time, sad, because it’s over.

Actually, I’m not much of a roller coaster person, but I feel this comparison is apt.

cover-abhorsen-us

It is, naturally, difficult to talk about Abhorsen without spoiling its predecessors so this is going to be a short review. Lirael ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and with a lot of unanswered questions. As with the last book, Abhorsen’s story is told from multiple perspectives: mostly from Lirael, Sameth, and Nicholas’ point of view, but there are a few surprises. Once again, they are accompanied by their animal companions, the surly Mogget and the loyal (but disreputable) Disreputable Dog. The characters have come into their own and are ready to take on the world–provided they can stop the complete destruction of the world first. No pressure or anything.

I love these characters, Mogget and the Disreputable Dog are hilarious. Sam and Lirael try and try and fail and try again. There isn’t a single character I can say I definitively dislike (well, maybe the villains, because they’re assholes). After the endless teen drama of many of the YA books I’ve been reading these days, it’s refreshing to read something where the characters are a bit more subdued in comparison. It’s not that I don’t enjoy teen drama, I was a teenager once and I was convinced my life was very dramatic, but this series was a nice break. Also the book made me cry. This is the second time the series has made me cry. Stop it, Old Kingdom series, stop that right now.

The books may have been published a decade ago, but they tackle issues that are still very relevant today: grief and loss, terrorism, nationalism, immigration. I don’t feel as if Nix hits you over the head with them, but they are definitely present within the narrative. Seriously, why isn’t this series being adapted for film? They are leagues ahead of bullshit like The School for Good and Evil. Why, Hollywood? Why?

Anyways, I think my only criticism is that the second part is a bit slow to get going. What doesn’t help is that certain characters are MIA for a good chunk of the book, and their absence is definitely felt. It felt a bit like when Daemon was absent in Heir to the Shadows by Anne Bishop (personally, I found Daemon annoying, but somehow his absence didn’t make the book any better).

I can’t remember anything particularly triggery, just the usual violence and the whole idea of the Greater and Lesser Dead in general. There is a scene at the very beginning of the book depicting a bombing. Once again, there isn’t a whole lot of diversity, although the Clayr are still very much present.

Overall, this is a fitting end to the original trilogy and I can’t wait to read Clariel and Goldenhand. If you haven’t read the Old Kingdom books by now, I encourage you to pick them up. They are fantastic and I nice break from the YA books I’ve been reading lately. Seriously, these are good, go and read them!

 

Deck Review: Oracle of Mages

I make no secret of the fact that in almost every RPG I start as a spellcaster. I love mages. Warriors are kind of boring and the Rogue’s quick and dirty tactics just aren’t my style, but raining fiery death from above? Hell yes. So when I saw a few cards from the Oracle of Mages on tumblr, I knew I had to have it.

The Oracle of Mages is a 24 card deck from Nezu Sotir at DarkandNerdyTarot on etsy. All of the cards are done in an 8 bit art style reminiscent of the NES era. The deck also includes a title card, four “cheat sheet” cards with keywords, and a blank card which just shows the card backs (an 8 bit crystal ball against a purple background). The cards measure about 2.5 x 4.5 inches, cardstock is glossy, thin, and bendy.Each card has an image, a title (in large letters) and a black border.

The mages in this deck run the gamut from typical black. white, and elemental mages, to dragon and fairy mages, to quantum mages. They range in skin tone from white as a sheet to dark as the night, and there are mages that are clearly, unambiguously mages of colour. The characters are front and centre in this deck, with little to no background imagery. The cards are meant to be read intuitively, but as I said, keywords are provided if you need an idea of where to start.

I’ve been offering readings with this deck for a few days now, and so far it’s been one of the most (if not the most) popular decks ever since I started offering readings on tumblr. The characters have clear personalities, from the lightning mage who enters your life with a bang to the air mage who is always on the move. I’ve dubbed them the “mage friends” and treated them as if they are allies that assist the querent with their issues.

I do have two criticisms of this deck. One is that I wish there were more cards! The art style is so cute but there are so many more mage archetypes that didn’t make the cut, and 24 cards is a bit short of my usual ideal number of cards for an oracle deck (30 cards), that said, I would absolutely support the creator if they decided to make an expansion pack of sorts. My other issue is that some of the more negative cards (nightmare and poison mages) in the deck are dark-skinned mages, although even these cards have positive meanings, and, interestingly, the white mage is associated with blandness.

Overall, this is a fun oracle deck and if you like pixel art and mage archetypes you can’t go wrong with this deck. The shop owner (as of this writing) is currently taking a break and I don’t know if/when they’re planning on offering the deck for sale. This is one deck I would highly recommend!

On Being a Bad Polytheist

There’s been some discussion in polytheist circles about sin, piety, ritual purity, and the like. I haven’t been paying much attention because I’ve been spending a lot of time on tumblr and when I’m not on tumblr I’m probably outside, enjoying the last few weeks of hot weather before fall ruins everything.

Honestly, I find the whole debate to be kind of silly, because not only do different traditions have their own customs when it comes to preparing for prayer and ritual, some folks seem to really be pushing the whole “miasma” thing. Seriously, it’s a Hellenic thing, it will never fly in Vanatru circles, ever (or at least, not in my Vanatru circle, I can’t speak for other Vanatruar). You can argue about it and use whatever fancy academic terms you want, but it’s not my circus, not my monkeys, end of discussion.

I’m a Bad Polytheist. Sometimes I yell and swear at my deities. I eat most of the offerings I give, and the stuff I don’t eat gets thrown in the trash. I might take a bath before doing a ritual, maybe. Sin is something I did when I was a Catholic, but no longer, and I doesn’t have a place in my Vanatru, either. I have taken serious religious musings and turned them into sex jokes, or gallows humour. I’m a pop culture Pagan. I’m the irreverent, impious polytheist certain other polytheists have warned you about.

The worshipers of my deities horrified observers who complained about the “unmanly clattering of bells”. The Vanir weirded out the Aesir with their habit of incestuous marriages (not that I condone incest). Freyja taught the other deities the transgressive, likely sexual, tole-defying magic of seidr. If you can name it, chances are Loki’s done it, but after Loki, the Vanir have probably done it, and they do it so well that even other Heathens are uneasy when it comes to the Vanir. Nobody wants to talk about those weird deities from another land with a habit of marrying giants.

I have no use for a concept of piety that always has everyone dressing in their Sunday Best and acting in a perfectly proper and reverent manner all the time and honestly, judging from both the lore and personal experience, I don’t think my deities have much use for it either.