mythology

The Queen’s Thief series – Megan Whalen Turner

queens-thief

Time for a speedy book review!

In my opinion, this is one of the best YA fantasy series out there. I hunted down the first book in the series, The Thief, as soon as I heard the premise.

The most powerful advisor to the King of Sounis is the magus. He’s not a wizard, he’s a scholar, an aging soldier, not a thief. When he needs something stolen, he pulls a young thief from the King’s prison to do the job for him.

Gen is a thief and proud of it. When his bragging lands him behind bars he has one chance to win his freedom– journey to a neighboring kingdom with the magus, find a legendary stone called Hamiathes’s Gift and steal it.

The magus has plans for his King and his country. Gen has plans of his own.

The things that set these novels apart, for me, are:

  • The pseudo-Byzantine atmosphere of Gen’s world, and the Greek-inspired mythology. The names are evocative of a classic period: Sounis, Sophos, Ambiades, Attolia, Hamaithes, Hephestia.
  • Turner’s restrained and elegant style of writing. She uses point of view and omission very craftily, and constantly keeps the reader guessing as to characters’ true motives. I felt that she was conveying so much through the spaces, the silences, and the words that weren’t said. I enjoyed her writing a lot.
  • The characters. They say the characters make a story work, so if you’re looking for a tale with thought-out characters that will fascinate you and make you believe they really existed, in some other world, in some other time…then look no further.
  • The beautiful cover art. So pretty.

Turner writes patiently and with attention to detail. Some have complained that the first book takes a long time to get going, and if you prefer faster-paced books, you may struggle through the first half of The Thief. But I encourage you to persevere, because it’s worth it. The second  book, The Queen of Attolia, is probably the most popular book and has somewhat faster pacing.

The Queen’s Thief series creates a unique world that you can really get lost in. These books had me hopping in bed early every night, excited to find out what would happen next. The plot is both subtle and thrilling, with adventures through the wilderness, fights and capers, political intrigue, wit, inventive myths and even a bit of romance. What more could you ask for?

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Doctoring and Homer-the-poet (and general excitement about life)

Just got home and cleaned up after the easiest medical cover shift in the history of cover shifts!

I felt like I was getting away with murder. I spent the first half hour chowing down my chicken schnitzel wrap, the next two hours browsing Reddit and snoozing on the most comfortable couch in the world (which, FYI, is located in the residents’ lounge of the hospital at which I work).

Said comfy couch is ugly, brown, obese and probably very grotty from the 278 different junior doctors who have kicked back in its cushiony depths. And yet it is so soft. It’s like sleeping on a gentle, giant, fluffy turd. Can you imagine anything more wonderful?

After 5pm my pager finally started going off and I trudged upstairs to the wards to review medications, rewrite drug charts, check fluid statuses and pop in drips like a pro. I was smiling at all the nurses and spreading cheer and goodwill like Santa Claus. One thing I’ve learnt from cover shifts is not to be grumpy. It just makes for more of a pleasant shift if you make an effort to be pleasant first.

Fast forward six hours and I’m home, rinsed of the hospital grime, dressed in rather comical polka dot mint-green pyjamas and wrapped like a sausage roll in a blanket. I’m way too excited about the three work-free days I’ve got ahead of me.

I can’t wait to hop into bed and read Book 24 of the Odyssey. I thought that when I started this Greek and Roman Mythology course on Coursera, reading a Homeric epic would be a long haul. And for a few chapters here and there, it was tough. BUT O-M-G. The Odyssey is SO EPIC. EPIC TO THE MAX! I love it. I do not want to read Book 24 because it will end. But at the same time I can’t wait to read it. Argh. Excitement.

In preparation for this course I ordered a few books online and now I’ve got a small pile of classics sitting on my desk, looking really hardcore and classicsy. They’re seriously intimidating me with their academic glory. I hope I manage to get through the set readings over the next seven or so weeks. The course pushes a tough pace and it takes effort to get the week’s homework done around my real job, social riff-raff and all those TV shows I’ve just got to watch…

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Speaking of necessary TV shows, THE OFFICE (US) IS ENDING. It is acutely tragic. I have lived with this show ever since the BF introduced it to me circa three years ago. I have sobbed for Pam and Jim. I have bust a rib cacking myself at Dwight’s antics. I have bowed to Creed being possibly the awesomest supporting character ever. The finale airs May 16th and marks the end of an era; the end of a show that helped to bring cringe comedy into the mainstream. I have no doubt I will cry.

Tomorrow night, worked around our irregular schedules, is a long-awaited date night. Planned events? Butter chicken and biryani rice, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Game of Throooooones, Office. May or may not be able to fit in all events, but I will update on the highlights.

Last week, half a month after everyone else, we watched Iron Man 3. Blockbustery pow-pow and unbelievably streamlined technology and a whole army of iron men and Pepper Potts going all uber. It was a super fun movie to watch, but had an unsatisfying ending. Best bit was Ben Kingsley. Oh, and that cute kid that helped Tony Stark out.

Sign that I’m getting tired. Amputated sentences and inventing fake adjectives by adding -y to the ends of nouns. I’m off to bed with Homer.

More next time,

Grace Le Fay.

Rainbow bridges, giant hammers and frost giants / Norse mythology in fiction

I’m a bit of a sucker for superhero movies.

The other day I went to watch Thor in 3D. This movie probably doesn’t need much introduction as it has been pretty heavily publicised. Thor is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart from the Harry Potter movies) and stars Aussie Chris Hemsworth as Thor, the lovely Natalie Portman as the damsel in distress, the Hannibal-istic Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and Englishman Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

Thor is the fourth in a series of Marvel superhero films. It is preceded by Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2 and to be followed by Captain America, The Avengers and Iron Man 3.

Thor has been getting decent reviews (79% on Rotten Tomatoes) and I went in with zero expectations. I was a little apprehensive in the first fifteen minutes: the opening scenes in Asgard were majestic and all, but they felt synthetic and over-elaborate. A mile-long bridge stretching over a tumultuous ocean, that sparkles in different colours when you step on it? I could almost see the CGI oozing off the screen. Fortunately, the movie rolled along in true blockbuster fashion and before long I was totally caught up in the adventure. One mark of a successful movie, in my book, is when you don’t want it to end (even if the costumes sport enough faux gold geometric shapes to make their chests look like remote controls).

Beep.

Good points: humour thrown in at key moments (Nordic gods walking around on Earth make for excellent one-liners), the ditsy Darcy, the frost giants, and Hiddleston’s Loki. I was most interested to see how the villain would be portrayed and I wasn’t disappointed. Loki was ambiguous and subtle from the start, and didn’t make you hate him or trust him too much either way. He had a hungry, serpentine mien about him that worked brilliantly. His character was definitely the most interesting, and could have been expanded.

My brother is blonde, so of course he’s the hero. Grr.

Thor is far from a complex movie, but seeing as I have very little knowledge of Norse mythology, I kept leaning over to Victor with intelligent questions like, “So what exactly is the Bifröst?” and “So how exactly are you supposed to pronounce Mjöllnir?” Evidently, the Bifröst is a giant rainbow bridge that allows you to travel between the god-world, Asgard, and the human world, Midgard (what were these Vikings on?!). And Mjöllnir…I still don’t know how to pronounce. Victor’s extensive knowledge is gleaned from very academic sources such as Ragnarök Online. (Side note: Ragnarök actually comes from the two Old Norse words ragna, which is the genitive plural of regin, ita est ‘of the gods’…and rök which means ‘fate, end, cause, etc.’ So together: the final destiny of the gods. Thanks Wiki!)

An extraneous image, just cos it’s cool.

It was the mythology behind the movie more than anything that fascinated me—giant muscly gods with powers, the trickiest trickster of all tricksters, and the fact that the days of our week are named Odin’s Day, Thor’s Day, Frigg’s day (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday). You can find Norse mythology in plenty of books, both fiction and non-fiction. Fiction sources I’ve encountered include…

1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman – Gods survive on the prayers, thoughts, beliefs of their people…so in modern-day America, the old gods are dying out to the new supergods of Media, Technology and News. Odin’s a main character. A good gallivanting read, lots of twisted bits in true Gaiman style.

2. The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman – The Nordic gods don’t play a huge role in this but Loki does make an appearance during his bondage beneath the Earth: tied up by the entrails of his son, with a venomous snake fastened over him, dripping poison into his face. His wife holds a bowl to catch the poison, but when she goes to empty the bowl, poison hits his face and he writhes in pain, causing earthquakes. (I just reread those last few lines, and realised I sound a bit mad. I’m really not.)

3. The Wodan’s Children series by Diana L. Paxton – I’ve never read this, only heard of it.

4. And of course, the Thor comics by Marvel.

Reading this will make you cool.

Of course, there are plenty of other books out there, including translations of the Prose and Poetic Edda, and Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún. Anyway, I’m throwing names out there like I know what I’m talking about, but I really don’t. Nevertheless, 3D Thor has inspired me to take a browse through The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland…if I have time. Damn you, important exams!!!

Ta-ta,

Grace