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Review: “The Name of the Wind,” by Patrick Rothfuss

Title: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle #1
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: DAW, 2008

Somewhere, in a small village in the middle of a land burning with the fires of revolution, there is an inn. The innkeeper is a massive man, with hair red as flame, but most of the time he seems remarkably unremarkable. A relative newcomer to this tiny village, an outsider, but otherwise not worth particular notice. Except…every so often, when he forgets himself or thinks no one is watching, his eyes light with an inner fire that seems it could set the world ablaze. The name he gives his new neighbors is Kote, but he was born Kvothe, one of the Edema Ruh, and that name is spoken in whispers across the land. Kvothe the Bloodless, they say. Slayer of dragons. Musician without compare. Kingkiller. Come listen in, as Kvothe tells the long and twisting tale of his life and adventures….

Beautiful prose, an interesting world, and a complicated hero combine to make this an excellent read. It’s massive and arguably a bit rambling, but well worth the effort. Rothfuss weaves a web where even the smallest detail could have dire implications for later events, as Kvothe is recalling things with the 20/20 vision granted by hindsight and the narrative flair of his Ruh heritage. There are secrets here, and mysteries, but you’ll have to work for most of them. Some would argue that Kvothe, the young man of the main tale, is perhaps a bit too precocious for belief, but this offers an interesting contrast to the broken failure of a man he sees himself as in the frame tale. I very much look forward to continuing this series and finding out how that change was affected, even as I know that the third book is notoriously overdue…

CONTENT: Probably some R-rated language, but I honestly don’t remember any. PG-13, for sure. Definitely some violence, ranging from the fairly dark and a bit disturbing to harmless mischief. Some sexual innuendo, but nothing explicit yet. Later books? Not sure. Mild fictional drug content. There’s definitely magic and talk of demons, but it’s not occultic. The magic is part of the fabric of creation, and the demons are superstitious interpretations of monsters from the land of the Fae…which doesn’t do much to comfort those slain by them, to be sure.

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Review: “Star Wars: Heir To The Jedi” by Kevin Hearne

Title: Heir To The Jedi
Author: Kevin Hearne
Series: Star Wars (Rebooted canon, though it would fit equally well with the Legends stuff)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2015

Who’s up for more adventures in that Galaxy Far, Far Away? I know I always am! Heir To The Jedi has the honor of being the first novel in the newly rebooted canon to feature one of the “main three” characters from the films, as Tarkin was focused on that stellar baddie and A New Dawn was busy setting up the Star Wars: Rebels television series. The funny thing is, this still fits perfectly well with the older canon, which isn’t surprising since it was ordered before the cut. In fact, it was originally supposed to close out the Empire And Rebellion so-called trilogy, now a duology with the omission of this volume. The series isn’t really hurt by this though–the stories bore no relation to each other, and were a trilogy only by virtue of theme: first-person narratives, each focusing on one of the “big three” characters. As far as I’m concerned, this can “count” for both universes, both the official one overseen by the Lucasfilm Story Group and the more tumultuous “Legends” canon that came before.

The Death Star has been destroyed, but the Empire lives on. Though they’ve bloodied the Empire’s nose, the Rebel Alliance finds itself in an extremely tenuous situation, on the run and strapped for cash. The Empire has them outnumbered and outgunned in nearly every way, leaving the Alliance desperate for any advantage they can muster. So when word comes that a brilliant cryptographer under Imperial “protection” would like to defect, they have little room to refuse. Luke hasn’t had much time to train with the Force–in fact, without Ben around to train him, he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing–but he’s still one of the best pilots in the Rebellion. Alongside Nakari Kelen, newly-recruited Rebel and a crack shot with her slugthrower, Luke is dispatched to an alien world to stage a rescue under the very nose of the Empire….

There are a lot of terms I could use to describe this particular adventure, but I think the best one to pick would be “fun.” Remember the sense of unadulterated adventure you felt watching the original films for the first time? That’s what you get with this book, minus the whining Luke does through most of the first movie. That callow youth who yearned for something, anything to take him away from the sun-scorched sands of Tatooine is gone, sobered by the loss of friends both new and old. In his place stands an awkward young man just beginning to understand his place in the galaxy, conscious of his connection to the mystical Force but unsure how to proceed with learning to tap into it. No longer the boy he was, not yet the man he will become, this is Luke Skywalker at a crossroads, and anything can happen next….Or, you know, not. Because while this is all new territory, it was conceived before the reboot came down. Even leaving that aside, we know what the status quo is at the beginning of Empire. The game isn’t going to be changed by this book. But that’s okay. There are still things to be learned here. We can watch Luke take his first solo steps towards realizing his fate as a Jedi, cringe at his awkwardness with the entire field of romance, and cry with him when that romance proves doomed.* For the first time, we can really get inside Luke’s head as he narrates the entire adventure in the first-person POV. And who knew? His internal dialogue is remarkably entertaining! Bottom line, this is Star Wars at its best, as you remember it. I heartily recommend picking this one up.

As for when this happens, the closest I can nail it down is “shortly after” Star Wars IV: A New Hope. I’d say at least a couple months later, probably not more than a year. It’s pretty vague.

CONTENT: Mild profanity, mostly fictional. I don’t actually recall any whatsoever, but there’s usually a little bit. Some violence, usually not too disturbing. Some flirting, but no real sexual content.

*That’s not a spoiler–Luke is single at the beginning of Empire, so any romance set before that is doomed….

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Board Game Review: “ROFL!”

I’m not really a Twitter guy. I have one, but I rarely check it unless something out of the ordinary happens. A couple months ago, however, I was on the site posting a link to my latest review when I saw a tweet from John Kovalic pop up. (You know, the guy who does most of the art for the Munchkin games? Never played those? Go fix that!) It seems that he had designed a new party game and was looking for people to play it and write up reviews. Now, I have very few delusions of grandeur, but I figured I’d throw my hat into the ring anyway…and they sent me a copy! It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this up and posting it, mainly because you need at least three people to play, but here it is: John Kovalic’s ROFL!

The goal of the game is to get your message across in as few characters as possible. Yes, it’s a game for people who grew up texting those annoying abbreviated things like “r u hom?” that have destroyed our ability to spell properly. Since I’m a bookworm, I never allowed myself to sink to those depths, which serves as something of a disadvantage now in playing this game but is a trade I will happily make. Game play goes like this: Everyone is out for themselves, unless you manage to make a team thing work. That could be difficult though. One person shows everyone else (without looking himself) a phrase or message that they have to try and communicate with as few characters as possible. Everyone is equipped with a dry-erase board and marker with which to write, and given thirty seconds to work. At the end of the thirty seconds, the writers take turns showing the guesser their boards starting with the person with the fewest characters so that he can try and figure out the message. The messages can be movie titles, quotes, song titles and/or lyrics, common sayings, almost anything. The result is much more fun than I’m making it sound, I promise….

My wife and I both enjoyed it, as did my siblings when we played it at Christmas. My wife took it to school and had the Yearbook class she teaches play it during their party celebrating a deadline they’d met, and I’m told it was “quite a success” with the kids. Will older folks find the same enjoyment? I don’t know. Probably depends on their relationship with their cell phone and the whole texting thing. It’s really ideal for teens and up, as younger kids may have trouble with the concept or some of the references. Some of the cards are mildly ribald, such as asking you to communicate the phrase “Like A Virgin” or “Her Milkshake (Brings All The Boys To The Yard).” Not offensive, I hesitate to even use the word raunchy, but…you may find yourself having an awkward conversation if some of your players are too young.

On the whole, this is an easy game to learn, and very fun. I would recommend dispensing with the timer the first time you play, just so people can learn with less stress, but other than that it works incredibly well out of the box. The boards don’t erase perfectly, so you may need to gently wash them or something eventually, (I haven’t tried yet) and I imagine that the dry-erase pens will need replaced someday, but consumable parts in a board game are nothing new–think of the clue sheets in Clue or the slips of paper in Balderdash–my family ran out of both ages ago. You make do and carry on.

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