TV Review: The Witcher, Season 1

It’s no secret that I have a thing for the Witcher Series, so when they released the Netflix series this Christmas, it was like a special gift just for me. I’ll make it very clear for those wondering, I haven’t actually played the games. (I know, right? They’re amazing and I’m missing out. Should I ever find myself with a grundle of free time, I know what I’m doing.)

**Disclaimer** Although I’m a YA fantasy writer, the Witcher is NOT YA appropriate by any stretch of the imagination. This review does not endorse any of the Witcher media by any means for anyone under the age of 18. It’s solidly in the same sensational vein as Game of Thrones with it’s use of graphic violence, explicit content, and language.

That said, it’s a personal favorite universe of mine, so I’m going to review it anyway.

Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia

The story:

The main character, Geralt of Rivia, is a witcher, a mutant human who has been created and specially trained to kill monsters. He has faster reflexes, better vision, and faster healing than a normal man. Because he is different, people hate him and he is treated poorly. Throughout season one, we see him take jobs to deal with monster problems and learn that although he’s really tough, he’s got a good heart and is making the best with what fate has given him.

We then jump to the next storyline which follows Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, better known as Ciri, the Cintran Princess. Hers is a story of survival. Her parents were killed when she was young and she was raised by her war loving grandmother, Queen Calanthe. When Cintra is attacked by Nilfgaard, Ciri flees the city and must find a way to stay alive while Nilfgaardian soldiers hunt her.

Then, there’s the much older story of Yennefer of Vengerberg, a powerful sorceress. Throughout season one, we see her journey from unwanted little girl to her coming into the fullness of her power. Sorceresses live much longer than normal people so her story starts much further in the past than the others. In this universe, sorceresses secretly, and often not so secretly, control governments and keep the kings and queens under their thumbs.

Within each episode we follow these three characters in three different time periods. As the season moves forward, these time periods come closer and eventually connect, but until then it’s hard to keep things straight. This happened because the source material is Sapkowski’s books and the majority of season one was pulled from his two books, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which are both collections of short stories.

Politics play a huge role in the witcher universe. Everything revolves around who has power, and who wants power. The sorcerers and sorceresses fight to maintain the peace between countries, using magical means if they must. When things go wrong and people get cursed, or when wars break out and the monsters who feed on death appear, that’s where Geralt comes in. Despite his best intentions, he gets pulled into the politics of the world as those contending for thrones and power try to use him to reach their goals.

Freya Allan as Ciri

My review

I’m not sure if reading the books made watching the series easier or harder to enjoy. I’d already formed ideas about what the different characters were like and knew which ones I wanted to root for. To be fair, the series did an amazing job casting the characters. As for the chopped up timeline, I think having read the books made it harder. The jumps back and forth were far more obvious and I was constantly trying to figure out if they skipped a part I remembered or changed it for the series.

That said, it did make things less predictable and I liked that.

Let’s talk Henry Cavill for a moment, shall we? Casting him as Geralt of Rivia at first worried me because Henry is far too pretty. Part of Geralt’s charm is that he’s got all these scars, each with a compelling story behind it. While I can see the potential for the series to start adding these scars with each season, I really wanted to see Geralt’s distinct facial scar that was a big part of his character in the games.

They also made Geralt more of a jock hero and pulled back when they could have shown how his character is not only well read, but is one of the best skilled witchers when it comes to reversing curses. Maybe this will show up later, but it feels like they dumbed him down, which I don’t like.

Did I like the show? Absolutely. Was it a good show? It had it’s challenges, but in all it delivered on what it promised. The costuming, sets, dialogue, and fight choreography were all excellent.

Almost forgot to mention Dandelion! Because despite everything, Geralt really needs a friend.

Recommendations

I’ll repeat myself here, The Witcher is not for kids. If you love a fantasy story that’s more complicated and doesn’t shy back from the uglier sides of life, you’ll probably like it. All of you who loved Game of Thrones, this will scratch that itch as well, with the added benefit that there is less gratuitous violence. The characters are compelling and complicated and the different stories interesting and unpredictable.

For sensitive viewers, proceed with caution. While the violence is justified, they do not shy back from showing some pretty gnarly wounds and death. They also have a tendency to jump cut to fairly intimate scenes without warning, which is jarring at times. Geralt has a favorite swear word that he uses enough that if you don’t like it, you might not like him.

I give Netflix’s The Witcher, season one 4/5 stars


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Tabletop Gaming with Daniel Yocom

Today, I’m thrilled to bring a different flavor of entertainment here to the blog. Friend and fellow writer Daniel Yocom of Guild Master Gaming is an avid reader, community builder, and gamer. I’ve asked him to come discuss his experience with tabletop gaming and what has drawn him to it.

Gen Con Terrain board (Source: WikiCommons)

Here’s what Daniel has to say:

Why Tabletop Games

Socializing—that’s the short answer. Unless I’m involved in a really heavy strategy game, there’s a lot of socializing taking place. In other social situations it can be harder or even frowned on to talk. While playing, it’s also relatively easy to take a break from the game as an individual, or as a group. I seldom play at the level of just wanting to win. It’s about the relationships with people.

The variety of games also means there is something for every person who wants to play a game. Games, like so many other things, are divided up into types and genres. With some friends we play lighter games while with others we get into the deeper strategy games. Some prefer board games, while I have a group that has several on-going role-playing game (RPG) campaigns. There are games for small to large groups. Ones that take only a few minutes and others designed to last for hours.

The differences create mental challenges while providing entertainment. Don’t think a light game doesn’t have strategy, it does. It’s just a different style requiring players to react, think, and play differently.This also means good games can be played time after time and not be repetitive. I try something new with the next playing, just like those I game with. It gives a friendly level of competition.

Experience

I have been playing board games as long as I can remember. That’s over 50 years, and RPGs for about 40 years. I own hundreds of games, and if I combine in the group, I’m willing to bet we easily clear the thousand mark.

I have written material for games since the 1980s, which were some self-published adventures for RPGs. I left writing for some time and didn’t get back into writing about games until the new century. Then, in 2012 I started writing specifically about gaming by writing reviews and supple mental material for Guild Master Gaming and other publications and sites.

Tabletop gaming is a hobby I believe is for everyone. Even if you don’t own the game, gamers like to share their interest and their games.

Daniel Yocom

Bio

Daniel Yocom does geeky things by night because his day job won’t let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He’s written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines after extensive research. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife.

Join in the geeky fun at guildmastergaming@blogspot.comor on Google+, Facebook,and Twitter(@GuildMstrGmng).

***

Hi everyone, Jodi here! First, a big thanks for Dan for coming and sharing about his experience. If you need gaming advice, he’s your man. Another thanks to you, dear reader, for showing interest and reading today’s article.

In writing news, I’ve nearly finished writing the first half of the third book in the Stonebearer’s series as part of my NaNoWriMo 2018 project (and it’s so cool!). Once I get all the story pieces finalized for the trilogy, I’ll polish off book two and get it sent in to the publisher, hopefully within the next few months. So much squee!

As for Stonebearer’s Betrayal, I’ve received some amazing compliments from friends and family about how much they’ve enjoyed the book. My favorite is from my 10-year-old niece who was so excited when she finished it she had to text me after bedtime to tell me all about her favorite parts. This is why I write.

Want to see what all the fuss is about? You can get Stonebearer’s Betrayal for free on Kindle Unlimited. It’s also available in print and e-book at all major online book retailers.

Grateful for You

Yes, you, dear reader. I am grateful we are sharing this tiny moment of our day together. I’m grateful you chose to click the link and see what I have to say. Writers can’t exist in a vacuum, we need to know there is someone out there who is interested in what we have to say. Today, in this exact second, that person is you. 

You are the reason I create magical pieces of fiction. You are the reason I stay up at night thinking of how to untangle a difficult story line. You are the reason why I seek out interesting topics to share. If it weren’t for you, I’d probably be doing something mundane like folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen.

Here at the opening of the holiday season I find myself full of conflicting emotions. With Thanksgiving, and it’s focus on gratitude, this is the perfect time of year to reflect what I’m grateful for here at the blog – and what a year it’s been! At this time last year, I discovered my book was going to be published. I dreamed of what today would look and feel like. 

Being here, at this moment, is a culmination of years of dreaming and working. I’m excited about the possibilities the future holds, but also know how much work each of those possibilities require to make real. Everyone wants a runaway success, no one wants to think about how much effort it takes for that to happen.

Which is why I’m grateful for you, dear reader. Every click turns into a number, and while most of you will only be known as a number to me, each number is meaningful, because it means you were here. 

Thank you for being here!

***

Last weeks launch party and book signing was a success. A huge thank you to Aaron and the Printed Garden for hosting, to Jordan for bringing his amazing sword exhibit, and to my friends and family who came and supported me.

Missed the Launch? Have no fear, I’ll be signing at The Printed Garden during the Shop Local Saturday event, Nov 24th from 1-4 pm.

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In other news, I’ve been busy connecting with other blogs and podcasts. Here is what was posted this week:

Don’t forget, books make great gifts! Pick up your copy of Stonebearer’s Betrayal now and give it to your favorite fantasy reader for the holidays. 

Amazon 5-star review

Wonderfully crafted story. I really enjoyed how the story unfolded and grew as I read. The characters were well created and brought me into the story, and made me feel all the emotions a good character does. Yes, I even shed a few tears. Well done. Can’t wait for more. – Blyck

Stonebearer’s Betrayal Release Day!

This is it, the day I’ve been waiting and working for since I started this blog ages ago. I’m so excited to share this moment with you.

Stonebearer’s Betrayal is now available for purchase on all major online book retailers.

There, I said it! Squee!

Last night, my 12-year-old finished reading it. He came up to me and said the best thing he could have possibly said.

“Mom, this is amazing!”

Yes, he’s a little biased, but he also reads plenty so I value his opinion.

So, what is Stonebearer’s Betrayal about?

At the very adult age of eighteen, Katira had her life figured out. She knew her place, understood her path, and was destined to be the best healer in the northern Panthara mountains, just like her mother.

That all changes when monsters from legends step into her real life, throw her world into chaos, and threaten to destroy both her and her family. To survive, she must accept that her world is far different from what she ever imagined and she must fight to protect what she loves.

Stonebearer’s Betrayal is a fast-paced coming-of-age story fueled with action, adventure, and danger suitable for readers 12 and up. It’s the perfect holiday gift for the fantasy lover in your family.

Get yours today!

Head on over to Amazon to order your copy –

Utah Locals – There is a release party this Friday, November 16th from 7-9pm at the Printed Garden in Sandy (9445 S Union Square Suite A, Sandy, UT 84070)

I’d love to see you there!

Join me for an exclusive reading, Q&A, get a signed copy, prizes, a sword exhibit, and food! Books available for purchase on site.

Update: In January 2020, Stonebearer’s Betrayal got a huge face lift. Click the link to see it and pick up your copy today!

Movie of the Month: Guardians of the Galaxy

Over Christmas vacation we finally got around to watching the latest movie offering from the world of Marvel Comics, Guardians of the Galaxy. I know, I know, it’s been out for ages, relax already. After hearing so many good things about it I’ve been eager to sit back and put my feet up and enjoy.

And I did.

[Warning: Spoiler Alert!]

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Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord, is a space scavenger seeking his fortune and he believes he has found it when he is commissioned to find a valuable orb on the dead planet of Morag. He’s not the only one who wants it either. When he finds it first he becomes the target for the universe’s most despicable baddie, the megalomaniac Ronan, who sends his assassin Gamora to hunt the orb down. Peter has also double crossed his partner Yondo Udonta, who now will do anything to hunt him down. Lastly, bounty hunters Rocket, a genetically modified raccoon, and Groot, a sentient house plant/tree, want Peter as well but ultimately they end up joining him for a share in the money. Peter is captured by the benevolent Nova Corps on Xandar and thrown into prison where they meet Drax who has a score to settle with Ronan. Long story short, Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax end up joining forces and become the Guardians of the Galaxy. They escape the Kyln prison and try to sell the orb to the mysterious Collector, who finally tells them what it actually is. Because of the orbs immense world-destroying power, the Guardians decide that the orb must be delivered to the Nova Empire for safe keeping from Ronan. Ronan, however, has other plans, and intercepts them at Xandar in his mammoth ship the Dark Aster.

If you want to know how it turns out, you’ll have to watch it!

As for me, I loved it. It was a highly entertaining romp through the galaxy with a cast of super-likable characters.  Someone told me that it was essentially the Space Avengers, and they’re right.  Each of the Guardians match up to one of the Avengers.  Rocket is Iron man, Gamora is the Black Widow, Drax is Thor, Groot is the Hulk, and Peter Quill is Captain America.  We can even stretch it to say that Yondo Udonta is Hawkeye with his super cool psychic arrow.

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If I were to choose  favorite, it’d be Rocket.  He’s smart, he’s funny, he seems to know what’s going on long before the others, he’s even cute and furry.

***

News!

I have a book release coming up on January 31st! The book is “The Toll of Another Bell” a fantasy anthology from Xchyler Publishing.  You can pre-order a copy on Amazon today. There will also be a release party on Facebook with lots of great prizes. Check out the links for more details!

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Movie Review: Maleficent

Ok, I’m well behind the times when it comes to seeing this. That said, I’m well behind the times about seeing anything in the full priced theater, perhaps you are as well.  This weekend Maleficent came out to Redbox.

I was sceptical at first.  The original Sleeping Beauty as imagined by Disney was never my favorite and I’ve found many retold fairy tales lacking. Then again, I loved Ever After and Wicked so let it not be said that I’m overly biased.

I adored Maleficent.

Whoever they found to create and piece the story together to cast Maleficent as a misunderstood and misused magical creature was either a mad genius or made a pact with the devil to get it this good.

Maleficent-(2014)-59Not to mention Angelina Jolie. If there was ever a woman who looked so perfect that she is nearly alien, it’s her.  Wow, there are so many facets to her character that it’s hard to know where to start. [Warning, there be spoilers ahead!]

In this story, Maleficent begins as a carefree and kindhearted fairy of the Moors, a wild and wonderful place filled with all manner of magical creatures. The Moors kingdom has always had a rocky relationship with the adjoining kingdom. She meets Stefan, a peasant boy who wanders into the Moors to find treasure. The two begin a friendship that evolves into what Maleficent believes is true love.

King_Stefan_(Maleficent_Film)

Stefan (played by Sharlto Copley), as we remember from our Disney of the past, is King and father of Princess Aurora. He has to do some pretty terrible things to become so, including taking from Maleficent the one thing she holds most dear. If you want to know what that is, watch the movie – it’s really horrible. Needless to say, Maleficent is heartbroken, enraged, and willing do anything to make Stefan pay for his betrayal.

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This is where the curse and those silly fairies come in. Aurora is taken from the kingdom to be raised by these truly annoying woman who don’t have a half-a-brain to rub between them. In fact, their incompetence is so severe that it is Maleficent herself that unwittingly begins to look after and care for the child from a distance.

Diaval_Topshot

For me, this is where things get interesting. Enter Diaval played by Sam Riley, the raven Maleficent turns into all sorts of different creatures, including human, to be her spy. The writer in me wants to go into all sorts of detail on why he’s there and why his character is so effective, but I’ll spare you.  He’s awesome, and quite possibly my favorite character.

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Prince Phillip is played by Brenton Thwaites and in this movie he does pretty much nothing than provide some continuity from the original Sleeping Beauty. He’s there for the kiss – but wait, there’s a twist!

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And then, of course, we can’t forget Aurora played by Elle Fanning. As much as Sleeping Beauty is her story, she spends this entire movie being acted upon.  She gets cursed, she gets raised by the idiot fairies and indirectly by Maleficent, she meets Phillip, she pricks her finger, she falls into an endless sleep that doesn’t seem to last more than a few minutes in this movie, and she wakes up and becomes queen.

What makes the last half of the film so interesting is how Maleficent changes from kind and free-spirited to dark and brooding and then back again, and the realizations she has to make to do so. In the process of raising Aurora she discovers the one thing that she thought didn’t exist, the one thing so vital to her life that all that is good disappears when it’s gone and returns when she rediscovers it.  To find out what it is you’ll have to watch the movie.