Book Review: Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Rating:  ★★★1/2

I’m a little depressed after finishing this.  I just realized I have to wait at least another year for a new Uhtred book.  Also – I think the tone of these books is getting darker.

In Sword of Kings, Uhtred is called upon for help from Edward’s queen, Eadigfu.  She believes Aethelhem and her step-son Aelfweard are plotting against her and her children.  She sends for Uhtred, seeking his protection against their mutual enemies.  And Uhtred, feeling restless, and also suspicious of a plot against him, against his better judgement and the advice of friends, comes to rescue her.  At which point, of course, things go terribly, horribly wrong.

Edward dies, leaving Mercia and East Anglia to Aethelstan, his true heir, and Wessex to Aelfweard, the recognized heir.  There’s also the matter of the oath Uhtred has sworn to kill Aethelhelm, and others.  (I mean really, is there any oath he hasn’t sworn at this point?)

We say goodbye to a couple old friends.  I was a little upset by the way those character deaths were handled, which seemed almost thoughtless.  It happens off page toward the end, and while Uhtred seems upset by one, he admits that he was relieved about the other, and it bothered me quite a bit.

He’s often painted as a sort of Knight in Shining Chain Mail (he literally saves like 13 orphans in London from misery in this book), and to have that line thrown in so carelessly toward the end felt like a disservice to his character.  I didn’t feel like it reflected who he really was or his past actions.  It’s hard to really say what it was without spoilers, but it wasn’t a good way to end.

Anyway- I did like some of the new characters (Beneditta).  And Finan received a lot of spotlight here, and his friendship with Uhtred is one of my favorite things about the Saxon Stories.  The battle scene at the end was fantastic.

Overall – well worth reading if you are a fellow Uhtred fan.  My hangups with this one were more personal than anything else.  Thank you to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for the eARC for review.

Sword of Kings releases on November 26, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.

Book Review: War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell

WotW_BC

Rating:  ★★★★

I realize I’ve been talking about this series a lot lately (I’m sorry!) but it’s only because I’m so excited for the next book, Sword of Kings, due out in November.  I had put off reading this one, scared it was finally going to be over, but with another book scheduled for release it felt like it was finally time to put my fears aside.

I read a handful of other reviews on GoodReads when I finished, and multiple times I saw this series accused of being formulaic, and perhaps it is, but I’m not one to mind formulaic when the formula works.  What I love about these books is the characters.  This late in the game I do find myself missing some of the older characters, Alfred, Brida, Ragnar… and Aethelflaed, but aside from being Uhtred’s story, this is really the story about the making of England, and in a story that epic the characters will inevitably change.

Uhtred is in his 60s for this book.  He’s more cautious, superstitious, he’s less impulsive, less confident, anger doesn’t control him the way it used to.  I found myself missing some of his other qualities as a younger man, but his wit is still fully intact and there were several parts of this book that made me laugh out loud.

I found myself tripped up again and again by the names.  Specifically the Aethelhelms, Older and Younger, (or was it the Aethelweards? seriously I can’t remember).  Then there seems to be a whole slew of other Aethel-somethings..  sigh.  I remember Svein of the White Horse and Ubbe Lothbrok, and the Ivars and Haesten and Odda… I can’t remember where the heck the Aethelhelms came in.

Anyway- this book actually felt less formulaic than the previous 10.  I think it had a lot to do with Uhtred’s character development, but also, this is the weakest he has ever been physically.  His victory in this book never feels guaranteed.  There are no last minute, evil genius save-the-day plans (like bee-bombs, although there is a hysterical smiting).  A looming dread blankets the whole book, from beginning to end.

The other elements of a Saxon Story are all there: the fun action scenes, the witty comebacks, the general disdain towards Christianity from Uhtred.  Most of all – the laughs.  It’s what generally what keeps me coming back, so I’ll end this review with a little pagan humor:

“You’ve got dirt on your forehead,” I said, “so has he,” I pointed to the other priest.
“Because it’s Good Friday, lord.  The day our Lord died.”
“Is that why they call it good?”

War of the Wolf can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Outside My Comfort Zone

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is books I enjoyed outside my comfort zone, but I covered that here not too long ago.  Instead I put together a list of ten books on my TBR outside my comfort zone.  They all fall into the realm of non-fiction, since it’s probably the furthest outside my comfort zone I can go.

The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs by Tristan Gooley

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley – I added this and meant to read it last year for the Pop Sugar Challenge.  I never got around to this particular book but would still like to read it.

Bunk by Kevin Young

Bunk: The True Story of Hoaxes, Hucksters, Humbug, Plagiarists, Forgeries and Phonies by Kevin Young – Another one I added for a forgotten prompt on Pop Sugar.  It sounds like an interesting discussion of the connection between power, fake news and race.

The Last Good Heist by Tim White

The Last Good Heist by Tim White, Randall Richard and Wayne Worcester – A true crime book about a heist in which thieves stole from a secret bank utilized by La Cosa Nostra.  I added this because I actually own it (through a purchase my mother made on her Kindle).  It seems to have some ties to my very tiny state of Rhode Island and sounds interesting.

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King – If people have only read one book by Stephen King, it always seems to be this one.  I’m not even sure it counts as outside my comfort zone.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen – I grew up listening to The Boss.  His music always makes me really nostalgic, and I’d love to read more about him.  Also- thanks to my mother, I already sort of own it.  (Also – I’m dying to see that new movie, Blinded by the Light with the probably awesome sound track.  Has anyone seen it?)

The Lie by William Dameron

The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing & Coming Out by William Dameron – I got to see William Dameron speak earlier in the year about his path to publishing, and would love to read his book also.  Again- I own it… just need to read it…

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris – It’s Neil Patrick Harris!  It’s gotta be funny right?  Or at least interesting?

The Vikings by Robert Ferguson

The Vikings: A History by Robert Ferguson – I’m really getting tired of reminding myself how many books I own and haven’t read.  I love history, but I especially love all things Vikings.

A Brief History of the Vikings by Jonathan Clements

A Brief History of the Vikings: The Last Pagans or the First Modern Europeans? by Jonathan Clements – See Above.

Always I am Caesar by W. Jeffrey Tatum

Always I am Caesar by W. Jeffrey Tatum – Julius Caesar is probably one of the most interesting historical figures, to me.  Tyrant, dictator, genius.  Love, loss, betrayal… Just so much real life drama there.  I own this one too (for years… sigh).

And that’s all 10!  Which books are outside your comfort zone?

I’m Just Not That Into This… More Wildly Unpopular Opinions

A few weeks ago for Top Ten Tuesday, the topic was: Unpopular Bookish Opinions, in which I outed myself as the only human being on the planet who really just doesn’t care about Harry Potter, and has no desire to read it.  Harry Potter isn’t the only thing I find myself on the other side of the fence on.  I’m feeling a little nihilistic today so I figured I’d give round two a go and talk about other things people love (or dislike) that I just sort of don’t (or do).

Before you get out your pitchforks (just kidding, you guys are great!) just know that I don’t fault anyone for loving or hating the things below.  People like what they like and thats what makes the world a beautiful and diverse place.

MARVEL UNIVERSE

With the recent release of Avengers: Endgame (I had to google the name of this movie because that’s how little I actually care) I’ve read a lot of posts/opinions/tweets talking about what fantastic cinematic accomplishments the Marvel movies are.

And listen- maybe that’s true.  But I’ve tried to watch quite a few of these (Thor, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc. etc. and on and on) and despite being told I don’t need to watch all 87 movies to understand them, when watching them, I feel like I just don’t get it, like it’s a bunch of strung together inside jokes that I wasn’t privy to.

Deadpool Joke Gif

Thor anything should be a home run for me right?  I love Vikings, I love Norse mythology… Except it turns out when you make Thor an alien from another world who’s interested in saving the Earth for some reason beyond my ken (love? was that why he cares?) my eyes glaze over and I tune out.  I tried to watch it the other day actually.  I think I lasted 30 seconds.  And Thor is played by a Hemsworth for crying out loud:

thor-pictures-17

It shouldn’t have been that difficult to make me pay attention.  It was the same for Guardians of the Galaxy.  I thought to myself, I can do this, I love Chris Pratt!  Then the movie opened with a fight scene I didn’t understand and our intrepid heroes fled the galaxy and camped out somewhere and Pratt was rattling on about his missing father who was also David Hasselhoff, and I just stopped, asked myself WTF is going on here?  And promptly shut it off.  *Shrugs*  Side note: Mr. Pratt- please go back to making dinosaur movies. I enjoyed those a lot more.

Chriss Pratt Jurassic World

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed a few of them.  Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds was amazing (I don’t think it’s a huge cinematic accomplishment, I don’t feel compelled to re-watch it ever) but it was a lot of fun.  Black Panther was a huge cinematic accomplishment, both for it’s portrayal of women and for having almost an entirely black cast, but something about even that amazing movie left me mildly unsatisfied (probably the ending- I was rooting for Killmonger all the way).

Killmonger Black Panther

ON THE OTHER HAND…

Prepare yourselves for blasphemy: I love Batman.  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Batman universe is a lot more recognizable to me than anything that shows up in a Marvel movie.  I’ve seen most of the movies, watched a good portion of the cartoons, and most importantly, played a lot of the video games.  Also, Batman as a superhero feels less… far fetched to me than most other superheroes.  He’s a guy who wants to bring justice to Gotham and his superpower is money.  He wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider, he didn’t suffer accidental gamma ray exposure, he just makes more sense to me.

Batman.jpg

The villains too, often don’t have some otherworldly, freak accident reason for their powers.  Joker goes loony after traumatic events, Two Face loses his shit when some jerk throws acid in his face, the Riddler… well, he’s just obsessed and uber competitive.  My point is, most of the characters in Batman are frighteningly human.  Plus, Batman’s got the Batmobile, which kicks the shit out of Hulk smash and Thor’s hammer and Spiderwebs.  #SorryNotSorry

Batmobile

So while admittedly, many of the movies sort of suck, *side eyes Ben Affleck* a lot of the characters are generally more compelling.  Also, can we talk about how fucking excited I am for a Joaquin Phoenix portrayal of the Joker?  (Prays to the Hollywood gods: please don’t let this suck.)

Joker Gif Joaquin Phoenix

SHOES

Here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t want to know about me: I hate shoes and I think they’re overrated.  If the world would let me, I’d go barefoot everywhere I could.  Since I can’t do that, I’ll settle for the next best thing: flip-flops.  I live in New England and wear them every day it’s not snowing.  It is my dream that one day someone will invent actual carpet-plant so I can get out of bed every morning and feel the grass on my toes.

BILLIE EILISH, LADY GAGA AND THE REST OF THEM

I have nothing against Billie Eilish or Lady Gaga, and I’m not picking on them.  They’re doing their own things, and you have to respect that.  I think they’re extremely talented and have gorgeous voices.  I watch the music video Bad Guy at least once a day because I love how crazy, off-the-wall Billie Eilish is, and I love the song itself.

Duh Billie Eilish

But I tried listening to some of her other music and honestly?  It was putting me to sleep.  She recently did a concert in our area that received a lot of attention, so I was inevitably disappointed when a lot of her music didn’t line up with what I was hoping for.  As for Lady Gaga- it’s really easy for me to randomly start chanting/singing RA RA RA-RA-RA.. but most of her music just doesn’t really speak to me.  I’m not even sure I like Bad Romance, it’s just super catchy.

GAME OF THRONES

Guys.  I’ve tried.  Really.  I binge watched four seasons once in an effort to join the office gossip every Monday.  I read the first book and found it to be a solid four star read.  What’s most infuriating about my inability to appreciate it, is that I don’t even know why I don’t appreciate it.  It has everything I love.  Powerful female characters.  A full cast of morally grey characters.  Smart, scheming, plotting characters.  Direwolves…

Ghost Direwolf Gif

Sometimes I think maybe the scope is too big for my tiny brain.  Sometimes I think Martin, and the show, worked so hard to be unpredictable it became predictable.  Other times I think it’s that I couldn’t find a character that survived all eight seasons that I wanted to root for.  Dany annoyed me and I found the mother of dragons nonsense really bizarre.  Jon Snow was too sickly sweet.  Arya would have been great but I found her storyline (up until the last season where I hear she kicks ass) really boring.  Cersei goes beyond morally grey into just plain evil…  which probably makes her the most interesting of the four, but ugh… I. Give. Up.

Cersei Gif

I think a lot of it comes back to the fact that Game of Thrones is more about political machinations and than it is about action.  Remember that first big battle that was supposed to happen?  Remember how we were following Tyrion throughout?  Then something happens and he gets knocked out and we get a fade to black scene and Tyrion wakes up and it’s all over?  It felt really fucking lazy to me and I was super annoyed with it.  And that’s not the only time the battle scenes fade to black outside of a few one on one fight scenes like The Mountain vs The Viper (which by the way, is one of those super predictable while trying to be unpredictable moments I’m referring to).

The Viper vs The Mountain Game of Thrones

I’m sure History Channel’s Vikings doesn’t have half the budget of Game of Thrones, probably not even a fourth.  But they still manage to pull off awesome battle scenes at least every three episodes.  Sure it’s just people with axes and swords running around in a field, but they’re exciting, well done, and keep me engaged in the show.  Furthermore, since they’re willing to kill off main characters without making a point of it, the show is significantly less predictable.  Further-further-more, the characters themselves are unpredictable.  I mean, we all knew Rollo was not a nice guy, but who really saw his story arc coming?  Not this girl.  I’m still salty about it.

Vikings Battle Gif

AMERICAN CARS

Cars should all look this cool.

1970 Dodge Challenger

Also, cars should only come in one color.  Black.

But seriously- it’s not that I care about “made in America” or GDP growth… (although that’s nice) I just like the style of most American cars better.  Sure they’re less reliable than Toyota and Honda, they’re more expensive to fix, they’re generally gas guzzlers, but damn do I feel cool driving around in my convertible mustang.  Also I love my Jeep.  You can have it when you pry it out of my cold dead fingers.

DISNEY MOVIES

Are usually super dark, depressing, and morbid.  I don’t think they’re the end all be all of kids movies.  I’m confused about the need for another Toy Story.  Frozen was just okay (though the soundtrack was awesome).  Moana is the exception, not the rule.

Beauty and the Beast Meme

I DISLIKE CATS; PUGGLES AND COCKAPOOS ARE MUTTS

Oh gosh I’m going to catch a lot of hate for this one, I can feel it.  First we’ll tackle the cats.  I am not a cat person (if it makes you feel better, you can blame it on my allergies, which certainly have done nothing to endear them to me).  I find them really annoying (stop rubbing on my legs okay? it’s weird), I don’t trust them because even when they like you they bite you, and they all look like they are secretly plotting your death.

The Dark Lord

Okay, The Dark Lord is an extreme example.  But when a cat makes eye contact I usually want to duck and run.  I like watching funny cat videos as much as the next person… but I want the cats to stay in my computer screen.  I do not want them near me.

Puggles, Cockapoos, Labradoodles… these aren’t designer dog “breeds”.  They’re mutts.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  And honestly?  Mutts make the best dogs anyway.  They’re healthier because their inbred genes have had a chance to self-correct, they’re unique, and they can bring you just as much happiness as any other dog.

IMG_0810

Meet Mickey.  He’s a Pugwawa.  Just kidding.  He’s a mutt.  Go ahead, tell me he’s not adorable.

BOSTON RED SOX

I loathe baseball season.  I live in Rhode Island.  For those of you who don’t know, we’re the unfortunate bastard cousin of Massachusetts, and we are also not an island.

What that means is, every baseball season, I have to listen to baseball stats and Red Sox disappointments or Red Sox gloating, and I just don’t care.  I wish they’d stayed cursed.  There, I said it.

ON THE OTHER HAND…

I’m a totally unapologetic Patriots fan, and football season is way too short.  I hope Brady never retires.

Patriots Superbowl Meme

FACEBOOK

Here it is.  The ultimate unpopular opinion.  I hate Facebook.  I have a profile… I don’t use it.  If I’m invited to a party via Facebook, I’ll *probably* get an email notifying me I was invited, to which I will look at the invitation, promptly delete the email, and move on with my life.  I don’t want to go to that party that badly, and if the host/hostess can’t be bothered to send me a text message to invite me, they clearly don’t want me there that badly.

I also don’t want to see all the memes and posts where people bemoan their existence or say things like ‘just put your faith in God’ or whatever other nonsense that pops into their head.  I don’t need a running garbage dump of their inner most thoughts.  They’re not as clever/funny/original/unfortunate as they think they are.  And listen- that’s not personal.  I’m not any of those things either.  That’s why I don’t use it (side note, maybe I just need better friends?). Also… Facebook is spying on you.  Have you seen that movie the Circle?  Just saying.

The Circle Gif

So go ahead, acid rain all over my unpopular opinion parade.  I can take it. But also, tell me some of your unpopular opinions so I can feel not so alone.

Top Ten Tuesday: Movies I Wish Were Actually Books

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Hello friends.  I don’t want to call it a reading slump- but life has been so busy I’m definitely on a little bit of a reading hiatus (I’m sorry!).  Trust me- I’d rather be reading.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is Page To Screen freebie, and I’m going to do it in reverse, because most of you could probably guess which books I want turned into movies.

Prison Break

Prison Break: I loved this show when it aired.  I’m a sucker for characters who are geniuses, and Michael definitely fits that bill.  I’m not entirely sure it would work well in a novel, but I’d give it a shot.

The Departed

The Departed: I love anything that comes out of, or is set in, Boston.  Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg are two of those things, and anytime they get to act with their full, glorious, Boston accents, I’m pretty happy.  Also- this movie will fuck with you.  Dirty cops, good cops, gangsters… nothing is what it seems.  If someone could turn this into a thriller style book and nail it, I’d read the shit out of it.

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams:  This is like the ultimate American movie, baseball, corn farming, and Iowa.  It spawned some of my favorite movie lines: “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa!” and has enough emotion and mystery that I think it could make a wonderful book.

Pitch Black

Pitch Black:  Laugh all you want, but I love this movie.  In case you haven’t seen it, Vin Diesel plays a convicted serial killer.  When the interstellar bounty hunters who arrested him crash land on a planet full of blood thirsty monsters, he becomes their only hope for survival.  If someone could please turn this into a Crichton style horror/sci-fi thriller, I’m going to read it.  I don’t think it even has to be that good.

Justified: This is probably one of my favorite TV shows of all time, and I’ve never actually watched the last season (I couldn’t watch knowing it would be over, it was just so unfair).  Raylan Gibbons is a US Marshall, returned to his hometown to put the smackdown on a bunch of old timey crime families.  Boyd is perhaps one of the greatest shades of gray characters ever written- and I’d read a novel just about him (but including Raylan would also be A-OK).

The Last of Us

The Last of Us: If you aren’t a gamer, then I’m sad for you, because I think The Last of Us has one of the greatest gaming narratives ever written.  It’s tragic, emotional and thrilling.  For 10-13 hours you play as Joel or Ellie.  When you get to the end, you’re punched dead in the face with the realization that Joel is not a good guy, and also, he is  terribly human.  I thought about that ending for days afterwards, and all these years later, with TLOU2 on the way, I’m still not sure how I feel about it… Which is why I think it would make a great book.

Arthur Morgan Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption:  I love Arthur Morgan, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a book about John Marston either.  I’ve added Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West to my TBR this year, but I’m reasonably sure it won’t be the same.

300.gif

300: Before you get all righteous on me and tell me that this is based on a graphic novel- hold your horses, I know that.  I also know that the visuals were carried out exceptionally well, so it’s hard to imagine this being translated into a strictly novel format and working, but I don’t care, I want it anyway.  Someone could make it good.  I have faith.

Lagertha Vikings

Vikings: I feel like I haven’t mentioned this show in a couple months.. so here it goes again.  I want a Vikings novel told from Lagertha’s POV.  I want a woman warrior who claws her way out of the trenches and shows up every man that ever tried to take advantage of her.  It’s okay if it has romance- but I’d really rather it didn’t have a HEA or get all mushy.  I do not want Sky in the Deep (which IMO, tried too hard and came up way short).  Lagertha’s story is not a happy one- and that’s what made it so compelling.

Gladiator

Gladiator: Guess who else didn’t have a happy ending?  Poor Maximus.  Someone write a book on this guy.  Side note- can anyone recommend something similar?

That’s it!  I think.  If you have any good books to recommend that reminded you of some of these movies/shows/games, I’d love to hear them!  What’s in your T10T post for the week?

Book Review: Beowulf as translated by Seamus Heaney

Just a quick review today for a very quick read.  I’m ashamed to say this is the first time I’ve ever read Beowulf, Vikings fanatic that I am.  I am happy to say, I was not disappointed.

Beowulf Seamus Heaney

Rating:  ★★★★

Book description: This is the story of a famous Swede named Beowulf and his many amazing feats of heroism.

I read the Heaney translation because I see it recommended everywhere, and also because I have heard that it was the most accessible.  I have too much on my plate right now to spend a lot of time agonizing over the meaning of words, so I went with Heaney.  Sometime in the future I do think I’d like to check out the Tolkien translation and see how that pans out.

I am happy to report, it’s as readable as everyone says.  I didn’t have to puzzle much over words.  There were a few sections I had to re-read, just to be certain I had the gist of it, but nothing too time consuming.  It never hindered my enjoyment of the book.

The first thing I noticed was the presence of a very Christian God.  I don’t know why I didn’t expect this.  The likelihood that this was translated by a priest somewhere in time is very high, and even if it wasn’t a priest it still would have been someone of the Christian faith seeing as how the Norse didn’t have a system of written language outside of runes.  Though I’m certain some of them may eventually have learned, they likely would have been Christian too by then.

Yet the text still maintains many of it’s original Norse mythologies.  We see some references of giants and elves and omens.  It was a painful reminder about how many histories have been over or rewritten throughout time.  That’s just my guess though.   The Norse people did convert in the end so I suppose it’s equally as possible that the story was retold by one of their own.

I don’t know if one of my favorite authors or series was ever influenced by Beowulf, even if it was just the language, but my heart overflowed with joy to hear talk of the sword-Danes, spear-Danes and shield-Danes, along with gold givers and ring givers.  I was taken aback by just how much Beowulf probably has influenced in all the years to come.  I would very much like to re-read The Lord of the Rings and see what new meaning I can take away from it.

There are a lot of things about the text that are wholly unbelievable.  Early on, Beowulf claims to have swam in the water for five days straight while wearing mail and swords.  I just don’t believe this is possible for even the most in shape dude on the planet.  I think you’d have to be Superman or something.  So even though it was kind of silly, I still appreciated it as a way of having pride in one’s culture.

**WARNING: Here there be spoilers.***

I only deducted a star because the ending felt very disjointed to me.  Perhaps I misunderstood, but it seemed like we flashed forward to what life would be like without Beowulf and then flashed back to Beowulf lying dead on the beach.  Being that it’s in verse, the only real transition we get is one of Heanus’s “chapter” headings.  So it was very jarring.  In a novel, I think it would have been fine if these had been projected as a vision or something from Beowulf’s own mind.

***End Spoilers***

This is a must read for fantasy fans and history lovers alike.  It’s about the length of a novella/novelette so it can be read in just a day and is worth the time investment.

Next week I’ll be reading The Mere Wife, a modern suburban retelling of Beowulf and I can’t wait to start!

Beowulf can be purchased on Amazon here and found on GoodReads here.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Heroes

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Hello!  I apologize I’ve been on hiatus.  October and November are super busy months for me at work and December hasn’t been looking up either.  A couple weeks to go and hopefully I can get back to reading and blogging regularly.

Today’s TTT was a freebie.  I’ve already listed my top ten favorite villains, so I wanted to go the opposite route and talk about my favorite heroes.  We’ll venture into four forms of media today: Books, TV, Video Games and movies, so I’ll apologize in advance for not making this post completely bookish.

TJC_JW

10. Apollo in The Just City by Jo Walton (review here) – The Just City is a book that I feel like doesn’t get talked about enough.  It’s incredibly relevant, beautifully told, thought provoking, and entertaining.  Apollo is a favorite, not only because of the transformation he goes through, but because of his complexity. He’s thoughtful and loving, but also sometimes driven by rage, and clearly very flawed.  (You see a lot of that in book two: The Philosopher Kings.)

Gladiator

9. Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator – Gladiator is one of my favorite movies of all time (and that’s saying a lot because it’s largely a tragedy which I find incredibly depressing). He’s a reluctant hero, driven largely by love for his family.  When he is first asked to help make Rome a Republic again he declines, wanting instead to return to his home.  He embodies just about every quality you could ask for in a hero, and despite not really trying or even being in a position to do so, he succeeds in his goals.

DarkFever

8.  Jericho Barrons in the Darkfever series by Karen Marie Moning – Jericho is arguably one of the least heroic characters on this list.  I wouldn’t say he undergoes a major transformation throughout the books, but as we come to know more about him and better understand him, it’s hard not to be sympathetic.  Also- the man is damn entertaining to read.

Uncharted

7. Nathan Drake in Uncharted – You’ll notice a large part of my list is comprised of video game characters.  Aside from television- you’ll spend more hours with game characters than you ever will with book or film characters.  Furthermore, being that you control them, it’s really, really hard not to become attached.  Nathan Drake first appeared in Uncharted in 2007.  He’s a charming, fast talking, scrappy adventurer.  He seems to have a knack for getting himself into trouble. When the last game released in 2016, I was literally sobbing my eyes out at his ending, both because it was perfect for him and because I knew it was the last game he’d star in.  (In case you’re curious about Nathan Drake: I just stumbled across a 15 minute short film that nailed everything I love about him.  You can find it here.  Also- where is the full length film and why is that not a thing already?)

TB_SdC

6.  Falcio val Mond in The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell (review here) – This is another series I feel like doesn’t get enough recognition.  These books are so much fun.  Reading this was a lot like playing Dragon Age.  The banter between the characters is perfect.  Falcio himself is honorable and loyal to a fault.  He’s self deprecating, freely admits he’s not the best swordsman of the Greatcoats, and frequently sings himself out of life and death situations.  He cares a lot for his friends and it shows.

Geralt

5. Geralt of Rivia of The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski (as well as the video games, review for The Last Wish here) – My love for Geralt, admittedly, comes primarily through the game The Witcher 3.  He’s truly unique in that he’s a mutant, and the wider world he lives in actually doesn’t like him or want him around.  Witchers are viewed as a necessary evil (they take contracts to kill monsters, something their mutant abilities make them much more equipped to do).  He’s basically a snarky, mutant, sword wielding ballerina.  What’s not to love? (Side note: Henry Cavill being cast as Geralt in the upcoming Netflix series is a crime.)

Arthur_Morgan

4. Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2 – Arthur would probably be a better fit for my villains and antiheroes list, and truthfully, him being a hero is entirely dependent on how you play (I played the honorable outlaw so we’re going with it). There were a lot of things I felt RDR2 didn’t get right (mostly the gameplay) but Arthur’s narrative is not one of them.  He’s loyal, he cares deeply for the people around him, and he’s willing to suck  venom out of a complete stranger’s leg.  I haven’t even finished the game yet because I’m not sure I’m emotionally equipped to watch that ending. Rockstar, if you’re reading this, I NEED an alternate ending DLC.

Ezio

3.  Ezio Auditore da Firenze of the Assassin’s Creed franchise – I find it really odd that Ubisoft made a character so compelling for three games and literally no more in all EIGHT other games.  (Admittedly, Bayek came pretty close.)  What I love about his story, is that we get to see the full arc, from the time he comes of age to his death.  Like many of the heroes on my list, on the surface, he seems like a carefree, easy going kind of guy, but as his story and arc progress, it becomes clear that he cares a lot about the fate and the troubles of his people.  (Fun fact: the real protagonist of the first few AC games, Desmond Miles, is voiced by the same actor who voices Nathan Drake! Thank you Nolan North.)

Uhtred

2. Uhtred, son of Uhtred of The Last Kingdom/Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – This series has also been turned into a TV Show for Netflix, and Alexander Dreymon (above) does a pretty good job as Uhtred- but ultimately, he’s no Uhtred.  I don’t think it’s Dreymon’s fault, I think the show producers are cutting WAY TOO MUCH of the book’s plot lines for TV Uhtred to live up to book Uhtred.  He is compelling because his greatest downfall is his pride.  I mean, he has lots of reasons to be proud, he’s pretty much unstoppable, but it makes people hate him.  Even though they need him.  He’s a little like Geralt in that way- a necessary evil.

Ragnar Lothbrok

1. Ragnar Lothbrok of Vikings – Ragnar is far away my favorite fictional character of all time.  It’s due in large part to Travis Fimmel, who played this character brilliantly.  In the show, Ragnar is a master strategist.  He’s often ten steps ahead of his enemies (remember season 2 with King Horic? and how he conquered Paris?).  But sometimes he is curiously naive.  He admits he wasn’t the greatest father, and that he wasn’t the greatest king.  Watching him triumph and then unravel slowly over the course of the show were the greatest four seasons of television I’ve ever seen.  All the actors on the show do a phenomenal job, but it definitely lost a little of it’s spark without Ragnar around to break up the tension.

Looking at this list I was really sad not to have any women on it.  I can’t tell if this is mostly due to my personal tastes as a reader/watcher/player, or if modern media is really just lacking that many well written heroines. There are a lot of heroines I can think of that are well done and that I adore, but many of them play supporting roles to the heroes (Lagertha in Vikings, Aethelflaed and Hild in The Last Kingdom, Ciri and Yen in The Witcher, Simmea in The Just City, and Valiana val Mond of the Greatcoats.)  Writers, if you’re reading this- give me a female version of Uhtred or Ragnar (think genius warrior with fatal flaws and a sense of humor.) Readers – if that heroine is already out there- please let me know!