The Non-Biased Sister Review

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It’s obvious why friends and family shouldn’t leave reviews. They over complement, they aren’t the target audience, and they’re totally subjective. I like to think this doesn’t apply to me. I’m very objective, and I don’t sugar coat my opinions, especially when I edit. I want my sister’s books to be awesome, which means sometimes I have to be cruel to be kind. Not that I make her cry or anything. If anything, she thinks I could be harsher.


 

In light of today being the start of the Kindle Countdown Deal for The Wizard’s Gambit, I’ve decided to post my totally non-biased sister review.

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Story

I’m not going to give a synopsis. If you want, it’s here on Amazon. What you want is my opinion, so here goes.

To sum it up it’s like if Hunger Games meshed with the Lord of the Rings. Representatives from every race and Kingdom battle to the death in search of a hidden item: an item that will give the champion power over all the other races. The competition is the result of a wizard’s last ditch effort to make everyone get along. However, a solution is only ever as successful as the plan–and considering he didn’t give it much thought …

I like the story, personally. It’s based around just enough fantasy tropes to be familiar, but it’s not overly predictable. You might think it is at first: a man with a mysterious background, a blacksmith, a prophesy, wizards, etc. I know what you’re thinking, a blacksmith with a mysterious past must fight to win the competition. After defeating all of his enemies he is found to be the one true king.

Trust me, it’s not that predictable. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And if you think you have it all figured out by the end of book one, just wait for book two to pull the rug out from under you.


 

Characters

There are a lot of characters in this series. Not quite as many as Game of Thrones, but pretty close. This is not a complaint of mine, as main characters and major supporting, minor supporting, and so forth seem to be clearly identified. Also, there aren’t too many POV’s. Only main and major supporting get POV’s.

Even though they derive from tropes, they are all her own creations and not borrowed from the bookshelf.

For those of you who thought Pig was a funny name, meet Mongrel. Mongrel is the main character. My sister worried he would be annoying and “too nice,” but to be honest, I think he’s dorky and fun, kind of like Chris Pratt. I’m bored of reading about dark, brooding, bad-ass anti-heroes who seek revenge and murder without emotion. This isn’t to say that Mongrel isn’t flawed. He’s not your traditional good guy either. He isn’t noble, wise, and always right. He’s a relate able good guy, the kind that wants to help and do right, but blunders and missteps along the way.

Following Mongrel on his quest are some familiar and like able characters mainly based around your typical trope fantasy quest types.

  • Elves: Instead of the noble, wise, magically gifted archer, we get a cowardly social climber who is inept at fighting and using magic.
  • Dwarf: Little Hammer is almost your standard issue dwarf: she’s stubborn, gold-hungry, elf-hating, and booze-loving. But I can’t imagine a dwarf being any other way. This is what we’ve come to love. Nuances make Little Hammer original. For once we get a woman instead of a man. The name system is interesting too. And she doesn’t carry the standard issue ax. In fact, most of the dwarves carry their own special weapons.
  • Humans: We actually get a variety of humans in this parody, not just Caucasian. The characters skin tones range from the very light to the very dark.
  • Ogres: What can I say? To summarize: Not like an onion. Not like Shrek. More like Ludo.
  • Wizards: Not so much like Gandalf, but more like Radagast or Merlin from The Quest for the Holy Something or Other. They’re in charge of keeping order, but sometimes they need to pull their heads out of their hats.

As far as my favorite character, I’d have to say it’s Margo, the apprehensive wizard in training. She’s shy and unsure, but she is certain of one thing: Mongrel is the only one who can unite the seven kingdoms. What I think I like about her (aside from the fact that she’s my secret ship) is how much I related with her when I was her age. She’s awkward and undecided about her future while the future of the world hangs in the balance. She’s just noticing boys and missing home and worried she’s made the right career choice. Who wouldn’t relate with that … except for maybe that bit about the future of the world hanging in the balance. But to be honest, I related with that part too. I was in my teens when the two towers were attacked. After that, even though the entire world seemed to be at war, I still worried about my own problems: family, college, leaving home, boyfriends. That’s how the mind of a teenager works.

Another thing that I like is that there are multiple villains. The problems aren’t caused by one person, but by at least one rep from every kingdom. Most of the leaders of the kingdoms are pretty villainous, especially Empress Eiko, Lord Lindolyn, and Walder. my favorite villain is probably Gwyndor–or Gwyn for short. He’s pretty determined to win the competition and doesn’t let anything stand in his way.


 

My Favorite Scenes

There isn’t a scene I don’t like. If there was, she would have cut it.

I think one of my favorite scenes is where Mongrel enters the city. It’s told through the viewpoint of Jared the gatekeeper.You truly get an idea about how odd Mongrel is through the eyes of this average Joe. For some reason this scene is just dripping with humor. One of my favorite lines is where he notices Mongrel is barefoot (I told you he was odd) so he decides to “bypass the customary “‘oo goes there” to confront the issue at the forefront of his mind, “Ain’t yer feet cold?”

Another favorite is where the kingdoms introduce their competitors and they all start arguing and bickering about what’s fair and who is breaking the rules. It just really shows how petty they all are and how easily situations involving everyone get out of hand.

I also like many of the battles, especially the show down between Eiko and Walder and the North tribe vs the elves where they start summoning their animals with their amulets. It’s like a pokemon battle gone awry.


 

The Humor

My sister and I have very similar taste in humor, so naturally I’m going to like the humor. Heck, I wrote some of the jokes. I’m even mentioned in the acknowledgement section of the book where she credits me for the “horrible insurance jokes” that either “saved or ruined” her story.

The humor isn’t in your face or slap stick. Most of the humor is situational or from the dialogue. The style is definitely reminiscent of Monty Python or Terry Pratchett though I would say more American and modern.

I like that the humor is often used to make a point or poke fun at a trope. For instance, we’ve all read fantasy books where it seems wizards and other magic users have incredible power, but don’t seem to utilize it to defeat the villain. Margo summarizes it well:

“The problem with wizards is that they never fully utilized their powers, at least not when it came to something important. Levitate a chair, transform an inanimate object, gift human speech to a cat–useless tricks for no purpose whatsoever! What good was magic when it couldn’t be used for something meaningful, like stopping a war, perhaps?”

One of my favorite humorous lines:

“Consider these events: the crowning of a king, the dethroning of a dark lord, and the invention of the fish taco; what do they all have in common? … All of these events occurred, by the will of destiny, with the help of a wizard.”


The Cover

The Wizards Gambit ebook cover

They say never judge a book by its cover, but come on, this cover is awesome. I’m going to take a little credit for this one. I doodled the idea on a piece of paper and gave it to my sister, who explained what she wanted to her cover designer–and BLAMO–she got an awesome cover.


 

Flaws

All books have flaws. The book’s pace might be a little slow, but to be honest, I wouldn’t call it slow. I would call it comfortable.

They say a book should start when the action starts, but you do need to understand the character and their world before it’s threatened by the conflict.

I get that readers are becoming impatient, but I’m sorry. I want some setup. I’ve read too many books where I’ve just been introduced to the main character and by paragraph two–BAM–they’re being attacked, a dog dies, or something explodes . Too much.

This was a concern of ours during the editing phase, but to be honest, I’m not sure what to cut that wouldn’t detract from the story. I’d say, like Quest, the main quest doesn’t get started until about 20-30 percent of the book, but that doesn’t mean the story isn’t moving forward. In all fairness, it does follow the traditional formula: introduce main character, show their world and what’s at stake, introduce conflict, main character refuses the call, something happens to make character follow the call, and action.


 

There you have it. My honest opinion. If it sounds like a story you’d like, now ‘s the time to order your copy. Better hurry, because the countdown has already begun. Just three days!

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Meet the King of Sass and Class

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I love meeting other Tolkien fans, but that can be a challenge in my hometown (We do, however, have a surplus of Harry Potter fans). Thank goodness for the Webosphere.

Since I started cosplaying, I’ve met so many awesome people (and other Hobbit fans). One of which, I had the privilege of interviewing recently.

I discovered the King of Sass and Class, Joshua Dart (better known as Thranduart) while browsing Thranduil cosplays on Google while I was developing my own Thranduil costume. I saw a couple of pics of him at a Starbucks and I thought to myself, here is a fan I want to get to know.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Thranduart, you must not be a fan of the Hobbit. He has a strong online presence and he’s a very enthusiastic Tolkien fan.

Without further delay, here is the interview with the Party King.

Thranduart: It’s Good to be the Elven King

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How long have you been a Tolkien fan?

Since I was about 15 years old–over half my life.

Is this your first cosplay? How long have you been cosplaying as Thranduil?

Yes, Thranduil is technically my first cosplay. I dressed as him for my first convention ever, Dragon Con 2013, and that’s where it all started.

What drew you to this particular character? Why do you think Thranduil has such a large following?

Honestly, the look. I was super impressed by the Weta team’s design for the character and I just felt like I could pull it off really well–I guess I was right!

Agreed : )

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How long did it take you to develop this costume?

About four months of on and off work in the beginning. The Starlight Robes (silver) took about two months on and off. The crown alone took thirteen to fifteen man hours.

Are you going to continue developing your costume? What additions or changes will you make now that you’ve seen BOFA?

Well I definitely want to make the armor version. And I have to re-make my crown because i sold the second version.

How far have you traveled as the Party King? How many cons or fan events have you attended in costume? Any plans for this year?

I’ve been to Dragon Con, Tampa Bay Comic Con, Mega Con (Orlando), and NYC for the Hobbit BOFA Fan Event. NYC is the farthest this costume has been so far. 

When you’re not the Party King, tell us a little about yourself when you’re not in character.

Hmm . . . hard to really put yourself into words. I’m a pretty easy going guy, but I love to read and watch movies. I ADORE going to movies. It’s probably my favorite thing.

Where did you see BOFA for the first time? Your reactions/responses to the movie.

At the NYC Fan Event. I cried like a baby afterwards. It just felt like an ending and I didn’t want it to be over. 

As a die-hard Tolkien fan, I think you’d be a reliable person to ask, what do you think (against or in defense) of some of the changes Peter Jackson has made in his adaptation.

I think you have to separate the two, honestly. Tolkien created this beautiful, fantastic world of characters and places. Peter took that to another level and made it his own. Whether or not you agree with that is a whole different story. I think the movies are spectacular in their own way, just like Tolkien’s writings. 

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Pace face!!!

You met the fabulous, handsome, and charming Lee Pace. Tell us about that. Is this the highlight of your year?

Oh, gosh, definitely. He was so kind to come out there and visit with us. He didn’t have to–what an amazing feeling when his assistant came out and told us he wanted to come out and say hi to us. Incredible. And the things he and his assistant said about my costume just made me feel like all the hard work had paid off. Best day.

I, as well as other fans, would like to see some Thranduil tutorials on YouTube. Any plans for this or expanding your presence on YouTube?

Gosh, it’s so hard to find the time, but I really want to make a makeup tutorial, as well as a bloopers reel for the music video.

Speaking of your presence on YouTube, the Lady Gaga video was perfect. Tell me about this project.

It was a labor of love, to be certain! SO much planning and hard work went into it, but I had help from amazing people. Without them, it never would have been as amazing as it was. As far as future videos, I would love to do more! We shall see!

(If you haven’t seen this, check it out now. I’m sure this was just as much fun to make as it is to watch)

You certainly feel the love as the Party King. I think some people obsess about you as much as they do over Lee Pace. Ever run into haters? How do you deal with them?

I think everyone has people that don’t care for them, no matter who they are or how “famous” they are considered. Sometimes you know that they exist, sometimes you don’t. If you are unfortunate enough to be made aware of their presence, you just have to remember that at the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is your own. I truly try to live by one of my favorite quotes, “What other people think of me is none of my business” -RuPaul

As first time cosplayers, after the convention ended, the makeup and wigs were removed (with much effort and spirit gum remover), my sister and I were at a bit of a loss. Do you ever feel this way after a convention or fan event?

Not really, honestly. I’m usually in costume for long periods, so I’m ready for it to be off. And by that point, I’ve had my fill.

Speaking of feeling at a loss, we’ve probably seen our last Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkien’s works. How do you feel now that we’ve come to the end of this journey? Do you think Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s works will live on or do you think they will be buried under future trends?

I think the movies will live forever in their own way because they are so special and mean so much to so many people. I know they will for me. Hello Extended Editions!!!

Long live Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s creations, and long live the Party King!

thgIf you’d like to connect with Thranduart, check out these links:

Facebook

Twitter

Redbubble (where you can purchase Party King memorabilia)

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