Friday, August 16, 2019

Are You Game?

The Witcher, based on the novel series of The Witcher by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.
When I think of how diverse, well crafted and emotionally charged video games have become in the last decade, it's no surprise to find popular novels have found a home on this platform. Take Harry Potter, first up. There are dozens of games under this title! You can check out all the HP games here, rated from worst to best. The Lego one cracks me up.

Harry, Ron and Hermione in LEGO Harry Potter 

But a novel doesn't have to be an NYTimes bestseller to provide a jumping-off point to explore deeply complicated political ideas through computer gaming. From Ayn Rand to the Ming dynasty, here are a few games you probably didn’t realise were based on literary works.

Enslaved: Oydyssey to the West
The 16th-century Chinese story, 'Journey to the West,' was the jumping-off point for a post-apocalyptic action video game, 'Enslaved: Odyssey to the West,'  

Then there's the Slovenian novel 'Alamut' published in 1938 where we learn 'nothing is an absolute reality, all is permitted.' Players of 'Assassin's Creed' (an action-adventure stealth video game published by Ubisoft using the game engine Anvil) will recognise the spirit of that line seen throughout the franchise: 'Nothing is true, everything is permitted.'

Fan art posted in r/assassin's creed by u/Sketchy-Linez

But the odd thing I'm finding as I look at the fantasy-book-to-game model is the absence, or very little at least, of urban fantasy representation complete with kick-ass heroines. With all the popularity of shows like Supernatural, the X-Files, Buffy, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and more it just feels like there’s a lot of room for the gaming industry to explore. We know there are plenty of books out there that would be fabulous jumping-off points.

I can think of a few just looking at our Sup author's backlists!

Let me know your thoughts? Any book in mind you'd love to see turned into a game?


Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out March 2020 - The Bone Throwers. 

Also, check her urban fantasy out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel and the SFF Quantum Enchantment Series

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: Friends and Lovers, Maggie Stiefvater's "The Raven Boys"-Style


Intro: #RIFF #YOR

At six months in today (hurrah!), you're probably getting familiar with the drill: i.e. that 2019 is my Year of Romance (#YOR) on Supernatural Underground, and specifically Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF)  which is what we all read, right?! Right! (Even if not exclusively. ;-) )

I'm also alternating between older and newer works, just to mix things up a bit and also give a feeling for romance in Fantasy over time, using the Lord of the Rings (mid 1950s) as a benchmark.

And now the 'housekeeping' is over, onwards to this month's book, which is also a series but I'll be honing in on the first and second books, Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys (2012) and The Dream Thieves (Book #2, 2013.)

Maggie Stiefvater's "The Raven Boys": Friends and Lovers, Never Apart From The Others

'Friends and lovers, never apart from the others' is a misquote from the Bread song, Friends and Lovers (according to the interwebs, "ever apart..." is correct) — but the misquote is the way I've always heard it, possibly because it's so apt for when pairing-off happens among a group of friends. (Just saying!)

It's also encapsulates the sense of the relationships within Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys, particularly in the first two books, where the relationships within the group shift between friendship and romance, in a way that is reasonably realistic (imho) of teen and young/new adult experience.

The main point-of-view character, at least in the first book, is Blue, who although technically without psychic powers of her own can amplify those of others, including the power to see and guide the dead (i.e. a psychopomp.) Initially reluctant, she becomes friends with the four "Raven boys", Dansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah. All four boys are students at the nearby Aglionby Academy, which has a raven as its school crest.

Although the storyline of one (ie 'unique' or 'special)' young woman becoming part of a 'band of brothers', with no corresponding female friendships, is a little dated now, it is compensated for in The Raven Boys by Blue's very female-centric home environment, which is made up of Blue's mother, Maura, and two other female psychics.

And I did particularly enjoy the interplay of friendship and romantic relationships in this story, which as noted above, I thought reasonably realistic. The central characters are all interesting, too, and different from each other, sometimes in difficult and challenging ways, which means that the journey of the four books is really a journey of these five characters and their intersecting lives.

In fact, I would say that it overshadows the working out of the plot premise, which is to find and wake the magician Owen Glendower*, who Dansey, the leader of the Raven boys, believes traveled or translocated to the Americas from Wales. Whoever wakes him is supposed to be granted a wish, which is Dansey and the Raven boys' initial motivation for their quest.

The initial romantic attraction, although for a long time it remains a 'friendship-with-frisson' because of a concern for the dynamic and balance of the group, is between Blue and Dansey, and it is Dansey that draws Blue into the group. Yet there is also a time when the relationship between Blue and Adam skirts a potential romance.

The second book, The Dream Thieves, is centered more on Ronan and his powers, but as the book evolves his relationship with Adam evolves with it, so that by the third and fourth books (Blue Lily, Lily Blue; The Raven King) the potential and actual romantic relationships have consolidated as Ronan and Adam, Blue and Dansey.

Not that it is by any means plain sailing. Ronan is probably the wildest and most disruptive character among the group of friends, but Adam has his demons and is also a difficult personality. In fact, one of the interesting aspects of the story is that Blue, Ronan, and Adam are all loners, which makes negotiating the ties of the group but also cementing romantic relationships difficult for them.

In Blue's case, this is compounded because she believes that anyone she kisses in a romantic sense will die — a barrier to romantic relationship that is compounded by what she secretly knows of Dansey's probable future and fate. And although Dansey is the leader and the glue that holds the group — and the quest for Owen Glendower — even that role is challenged in the end...

That's all I'm going to say about the story as regards plot, but in terms of romance in fantasy, if you like a story that interweaves a number of characters and storylines together in a shifting web of friendships and romantic love that is both delicate and strong as tempered steel, then The Raven Boys may be the story for you.

And just btw, aren't those covers gorgeous?! :-)

*Note: Owen Glendower is a real historical figure from the late 14th, early 15th century British Isles, who fought a guerrilla-style war against Henry IV after he usurped the throne from Richard II. He was believed by many to be a wizard. The rebellion failed but Glendower was never captured, which doubtless added to the accounts of his powers. An American connection is not part of his legend, however, but associated with Prince Madoc in the late 12th century.

List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

March: JRR Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings Effect
April: Laini Taylor's Daughter Of Smoke and Bone – "My Enemy, My Love"
May: Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed – "Constancy Amid Tumult"
June: Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven – "When Your Ship Doesn't Sail"
July: Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell (Deverry series) – "Love At First Meeting"

Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry; she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night(The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013.Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter:@helenl0we.