[Manga Monday] The Meanest Man in the East (One Piece #11) ★★★★✬

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Meanest Man in the East
Series: One Piece #11
Arc: East Blue Part 11
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 188
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(1_186)

“Darts”

“Happiness”

“Going Down”

“The Other Villain”

“Spin, Pinwheel”

“The Meanest Man in the East”

“Kitetsu III”

“Dark Clouds”

“Luffy Died”

Arlong and Luffy exchange blows until Arlong impatiently picks up his large sword. Tearing through Arlong Park, he chases Luffy into the cartography room where Nami spent years drawing maps for the fish-men. When he sees blood stains on her pen, Luffy decides that he must destroy the room. He breaks the blade of Arlong’s sword, and crushes the fish-man and his park into the ground. Overjoyed at their regained freedom, the island’s inhabitants celebrate for three days and nights. Johnny and Yosaku take their leave and with Nami on board and the Straw Hat Pirates set sail for the next port – Lougetown, where Gold Roger (the king of the pirates) was born and executed. News of Luffy’s victory over Arlong and the first bounty placed on his head by the World Government reaches the ears of Navy captain Smoker; Zoro meets sergeant-major Tashigi (Smoker’s second-in-command) and Luffy visits the execution site, seeing his former opponents Buggy and Alvida.

My Thoughts:

This was an emotionally satisfying volume. Luffy beating the snot out of Arlong and destroying him and everything he had created was fantastic. And it wasn’t all man-serious either. The manga-ka once again balanced humor with the grisly fighting in a perfect dance. The following just made me laugh out loud because it displays Luffy’s happy go-lucky attitude even in the midst of a fight for his life:

Once Luffy and Co hit the town where Roger Gold (the King of the Pirates) was born and executed, things start to move along. Luffy has a 30million berry reward on his head now (for perspective, Arlong only had a 20million reward), Alvida and Buggy the Clown make their reappearance and attack him and Zorro finds out one of his swords is a legendary one worth millions of berries. We also see the next Marine Captain on tap and he appears to be a real tough guy. So Luffy is going to have it wicked tough from both the Pirate and the Marine side of things.

The volume ends with the crew running back to the ship while the marines and other pirates are chasing them. Next volume should be fun 😀

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters ☆☆☆☆✬

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters
Series: Kaiju Rising #1
Editor: Tim Marquitz
Rating: ½ of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy Short Story Collection
Pages: 444
Words: 161.5K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Foreword – Jeremy Robinson

Big Ben and the End of the Pier Show – James Lovegrove

The Conversion – David Annandale

Day of the Demigods – Peter Stenson

The Lighthouse Keeper of Kurohaka Island – Kane Gilmour

Occupied – Natania Barron

One Last Round – Nathan Black

The Serpent’s Heart – Howard Andrew Jones

Monstruo – Mike MacLean

The Behemoth – Jonathan Wood

The Greatest Hunger – Jaym Gates

Heartland – Shane Berryhill

Devil’s Cap Brawl – Edward M. Erdelac

Shaktarra – Sean Sherman

Of the Earth, of the Sky, of the Sea – Patrick M. Tracy and Paul Genesse

The Flight of the Red Monsters – Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Operation Starfish – Peter Rawlik

With Bright Shining Faces – J.C. Koch

The Banner of the Bent Cross – Peter Clines

Fall of Babylon – James Maxey

Dead Man’s Bones – Josh Reynolds

Stormrise – Erin Hoffman

Big Dog – Timothy W. Long

The Great Sea Beast – Larry Correia

Animikii vs. Mishipeshu – C.L. Werner

The Turn of the Card – James Swallow

About the Authors/Artists

Acknowledgments

My Thoughts:

I picked up this collection on the strength of Correia’s name being prominent on the cover I saw. Unfortunately, for me, it was a story he had included in his first Target Rich Environment collection, so I had already read it.

Josh Reynold’s story was about the Royal Occultist, so that was a nice little visit and reinforced my decision to read more in that universe should Reynold ever be able to release more.

Sadly, those 2 were really the only bright spots. Most of the other stories were either Cli-Fi, Angst-ridden or so full of hatred for Humanity that I had to wonder why the authors hadn’t killed themselves in protest of being human. So this was definitely on the path to 2stars. Some of the stories had Buddhist monks, Japanese nuns, Islamic warriors and one and all, they respected the environment, respected women and were paragons of virtue, which I have to admit, didn’t even fly across my radar in any way.

Then I read stories like “Conversion” and “Fall of Babylon” and this completely entered into Blasphemy territory. They didn’t make me angry or upset, I just sighed and shook my head. It was evident that the authors despised Christianity, not just didn’t believe it and that showed through like a drop of blood on a white canvas.

So between the religious hypocrisy and the blasphemy, this is getting the rare ½ star. Last time that happened was with Torchship Captain. Not good company to be in.

As I was writing this review, I realized that the editor’s name sounded familiar. If I had paid more attention and realized Tim Marquitz was involved with this project, I never would have touched this with a 10foot pole. Certainly explains the blasphemy and religious hypocrisy.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) ★★★★★

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Title: Mistborn: The Final Empire
Series: Mistborn #1
Authors: Brandon Sanderson
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Pages: 574
Words: 214K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Three years prior to the start of the novel, a half-skaa thief named Kelsier discovered that he was Mistborn and escapes the Pits of Hathsin, a brutal prison camp of the Lord Ruler. He returned to Luthadel, the capital city of the Final Empire, where he rounded up his old thieving crew for a new job: to overthrow the Final Empire by stealing its treasury and collapsing its economy.

At the beginning of the novel, Vin, a wary and abused street urchin, is recruited by Kelsier’s crew after Kelsier is notified by his brother, Marsh, that she is a Mistborn. Vin is trained by Kelsier’s crew to develop her Allomantic powers, which include burning pewter to strengthen the body, burning tin to enhance the senses, and burning steel and iron to gain a limited form of telekinesis over metal. She is also given the duty of spying on the nobility by attending opulent balls in Luthadel (the capital and center of the final empire), where she poses as Valette Renoux, niece to Lord Renoux, a nobleman working with Kelsier’s crew. During these balls, she meets and falls in love with Elend Venture, heir to House Venture, the most powerful of the Luthadel noble houses. Elend flouts the rules of nobility culture and secretly plans to build a better society with his noble friends when they ascend to their respective house titles.

Kelsier hopes to conquer the city by destabilizing it with a house war between the nobility and then invading with a skaa army. Once in control, he hopes to overthrow the Final Empire by stealing the Lord Ruler’s hoard of atium, a precious metal which is the cornerstone of the Final Empire’s economy. The crew succeeds in starting a house war by assassinating several powerful nobles and recruiting about seven thousand soldiers to join their cause. However, about three quarters of the soldiers are slaughtered when they foolishly attack an unimportant Final Empire garrison with the hopes of divine protection from Kelsier, who has spread rumors of his “supernatural” powers. The remaining soldiers are smuggled into Luthadel by Kelsier, who intends to continue the plan. Unfortunately, Marsh is discovered and seemingly killed, and Lord Renoux and his estate are seized and he is brought to be executed by the Canton of Inquisition, the police arm of the Final Empire. This Canton is made up of Steel Inquisitors, seemingly indestructible Allomancers with steel spikes driven through their eyes. Though Kelsier’s crew manage to free most of Renoux’s group and kill an Inquisitor, Kelsier is killed by the Lord Ruler himself in a dramatic confrontation in Luthadel’s city square. Though these events appear to leave Kelsier’s plan in shambles, it is revealed that his real plan was to become a martyred symbol of hope for Luthadel’s superstitious skaa population. The skaa population reacts to his death by rising up and overthrowing the city with the help of Kelsier’s army.

Before his death, Kelsier had attempted to unlock the potential of the “Eleventh Metal” that he had acquired, which was rumored to be the Lord Ruler’s weakness. He was unable to do so before his death, and left it to Vin to finish the job. With the Eleventh Metal, Vin goes to the imperial palace to kill the Lord Ruler. She is captured by the Canton of Inquisition and left in a cell to be tortured, but Sazed, her faithful servant, comes to her rescue. Using a magical discipline called Feruchemy, he helps Vin escape and recover her possessions. Marsh is revealed to be alive, having actually been made into a Steel Inquisitor; he betrays his fellow Inquisitors and slays them. Vin fights the Lord Ruler, who is revealed to be both an incredibly powerful Allomancer and a Feruchemist, the combination of which grants him incredible healing powers and eternal youth. Vin is almost destroyed by the Lord Ruler, but with hints from the Eleventh Metal and the unexpected magical aid of the mists, she manages to separate the Lord Ruler from his Feruchemical bracelets that provide him with constant youth, causing him to age rapidly. Vin uses a spear to kill the Lord Ruler, who with his last words ominously warns her of a great doom. The Final Empire collapses, though Elend is able to avoid total societal collapse by uniting Luthadel under a new system of democratic government.

My Thoughts:

Recently I’ve been talking with other people about whether fantasy has gotten worse (in whatever form you claim is “worse”) or if there’s just more drek or if authors are pandering to the idiots or whatnot. I do think we can all agree it has gotten bigger, literally. If it ain’t a 10 volume epic of phat tomes, then the publishers will tell you to publish it yourself. Anyway, I have found myself despising the path that Brandon Sanderson has started going down. He’s writing multiple Young Adult books, comics and starting new series while ignoring older series. He’s also taken to putting his name on a cover and “co-authoring” books, which as we all know, usually means the other person did all the work and the big name is to sell the book. You might detect a hint of bitterness. If so, you are correct. When I was in my 20’s, and him too, he wrote what I wanted to read. As I’ve gotten older, his output hasn’t changed but is still geared towards a younger audience. What I wasn’t sure about was whether my memories of raving about his early works were because they were actually good, or because they hit the spot for me.

So this re-read of the original Mistborn trilogy is a test to see if Sanderson was a good author or if his recent “decline” was just in my head. Sadly, this was pure awesome sauce and made me excited to read fantasy. I say sadly because it means Sanderson has pandered to the Crowd and stopped writing good stuff.

This is not a perfect book, despite my rating and love for it. This is early Sanderson and while nothing sticks out like a broken branch, it is not completely polished. It “felt” like an early work. The chosen words didn’t flow perfectly, they didn’t have the many shades of meaning possible. It was never bad or ever wrong, it just wasn’t as good as I’ve seen him write in later books. But really, I don’t expect a highschool athlete to perform at the same level as an Olympic Champion. But once they’ve reached that level, I expect them to stay there. And while early Sanderson was great, once he got beyond that there’s just no going back.

Now, with that naysaying, this was just as good as I remember. I was excited to crack open my kindle each evening and read some more. I was even more excited when I got to the end of the book and to remember that I had TWO MORE BOOKS to read. You know something is good when you get excited about the books to come.

So to end, I had a fantastic time reading this, my faith in old Sanderson was restored and Fantasy HAS changed in the last 15 years and not for the better.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] Ok, Let’s Stand Up! (One Piece #10) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Ok, Let’s Stand Up!
Series: One Piece #10
Arc: East Blue Part 10
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 192
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(1_186)

“OK, Let’s Stand Up!”

“Luffy in Black”

“Zombie”

“Three Swords vs. Six”

“Heroism vs. Fish-Man Cruelty”

“It’s All Over!!”

“Die!!!”

“Trade-off”

“What Can You Do?”

The Straw Hats charge into Arlong Park. Luffy takes out the fish-men’s pet sea monster and most of the crew, but his feet become stuck in the ground. Arlong uses the opportunity to dig out the ground containing Luffy’s feet and throw it into the sea. Zoro, struggling with a severe injury received from Mihawk and armed with only one sword, fights the six-sword-wielding Hatchan and Sanji uses karate on the fish-men with swordfish-man Kuroobi. Genzo and Nojiko try to save Luffy from drowning, and further inland Usopp duels with the long-mouthed fish-man Choo. All of Arlong’s crew are defeated except for Arlong himself. With Zoro’s last bit of strength, he buys Sanji enough time to dive under and remove the rock from his captain’s feet. When he is free, Luffy takes Zoro’s place and his final fight with Arlong begins.

My Thoughts:

This was a solid shonen volume, with fights galore. Even Usopp grows some stones and takes on a fishman and wins (kind of). Luffy’s curse of not being able to swim or deal with water plays a major part in the fights and I hope this gives the crew something to chew on in regards to future fights. Luffy needs to wear water wings or something, hahahaha.

The other thing I noticed is that the little standalone pictures between chapters has moved on. In the previous volume Buggy the Clown (from volume 2) finally assembled his full body and got his pirate crew together. Now we seem to be following the 2 boys who joined the navy to become marines. So far, all they do is chores and scrub the ship. I find it interesting how Oda gets to tell another completely separate story, one panel at a time, and not only that he does it, but that he does it well. It does make me wonder if Buggy the Clown is going to make a comeback into the story at some point. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Complete Hok the Mighty ★★✬☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Complete Hok the Mighty
Series: ———-
Authors: Manly Wade Wellman
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 265
Words: 99K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Novels

The Day of the Conquerors, Thrilling Wonder Stories, January 1940

Short Fiction

Battle in the Dawn, Amazing Stories, January 1939

Hok Goes to Atlantis, Amazing Stories, December 1939

Hok Draws the Bow, Amazing Stories, May 1940

Hok and the Gift of Heaven, Amazing Stories, March 1941

Hok Visits the Land of Legends, Fantastic Adventures, April 1942

The Love of Oloana, Pulse Pounding Adventure Stories #1, December 1986

Untitled Hok Fragment, Echoes of Valor II, August 1989

My Thoughts:

This review is Dedicated to Mrs Muggrage, because she’s the only person I know who is really interested in Neanderthals. And this book has a lot of them in it. That being said, Mrs M, I wouldn’t recommend this book to you at all.

The short and dirty is that this is a book of fictional pre-history and Hok the Mighty is a cromagnon man who does All the Things, Invents all the Things and Thinks All the Things. He invents the kiss, is the indirect cause of Atlantis being destroyed, invents the bow and arrow and fights pteradactyls while defending a tribe of Piltdown people. He also unites several tribes and drives out a tribe of Neanderthals who spend the rest of the book trying to take their area back.

So, the Piltdown tribe. If you didn’t know, the Piltdown Man was supposed to be evidence of the missing link (which have to exist if you think evolution is true) only it turned out to be a massive fraud and only survived scrutiny as long as it did because its adherents wanted it to be true. So having a story about a tribe of them just made me laugh my head off. Poor Wellman. Don’t believe everything scyenzetists tell you, you fool. They are people too and as such, just as scheming, corruptible and capable of lying as you are.

The neanderthals were presented much like how Crichton presented them in Eaters of the Dead, ie, brutish subhumans that were an evolutionary dead end branch on humanity’s tree. Bestial and degraded with just enough cunning to be dangerous. And that is why I don’t recommend this book to Mrs M. She can tell you all about how that portrayal is simply dead wrong on so many levels and from what I gather, evidence is pointing more and more to neanderthals being fully human and the differences no different than the differences between me and some guy from Africa.

So-so adventures that weren’t bad but didn’t age well because of the advance of knowledge. I would REALLY like to find the Silver John books by Wellman but as I noted in The Last Mammoth, they simply aren’t available at prices I can justify. Maybe some day when I’m rich I’ll track them down. But for now, I’m stuck with Hok the Mighty (and the Mighty Eyeroll of Bookstooge).

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] Tears (One Piece #9) ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Tears
Series: One Piece #9
Arc: East Blue Part 9
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 207
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(1_186)

“Proper Living”

“Monsters of the Grand Line”

“Business”

“Of Maps and Fish-Men”

“Sleep”

“The First Step Toward a Dream”

“Belle-Mère”

“To Live”

“A Thief is a Thief”

“Tears”

To save the life of the villager Genzo, Usopp angers Arlong by shooting at him. Zoro (freed by Nami and told to run away while he still can) defeats Arlong’s low-ranking crews at Arlong Park and meets gullible octopus fish-man Hatchan, who brings him to Nami’s hometown. Usopp is captured and brought to Arlong Park, where Nami is accused of hiring Zoro to kill Arlong. To increase the crew’s mistrust and save Usopp’s life, she apparently kills him and kicks his body into the sea. Luffy and Sanji arrive; although they want to help, Nami turns them away. In a flashback, Arlong’s crew arrives and extorts protection money from the island’s inhabitants. Nami and Nojiko’s foster mother, Bellemere, who cannot pay for all three of them, gives up her life to save her daughters. Nami joins Arlong’s crew as their cartographer, and they agree on a price for which she can buy her village back. In the present Arlong breaks the agreement, and Nami accepts Luffy’s help.

My Thoughts:

This had ALL THE FEELZ, just as the manga-ka intended. A huge part of the book is Nami’s backstory and the revelations about her past, her interactions with her adopted mom and adopted sister, how the village was everything to her but most of all, how she became the completely self-reliant woman we have seen so far. It was pretty good stuff but it setup the scene perfectly for when she asks for Luffy’s help. Below is that one page scene.

I think part of why it is so moving to me is that it reveals someone beyond the end of their rope. Nami has been betrayed by Arlong the pirate in a way she never saw coming and realizes she’s in perpetual slavery to him and her plan to buy the village is an impossible hope. So she’s lost all hope but she realizes there IS somebody who can help her. And she reaches out to ask for that help, revealing all her own weaknesses and inability to deal with the situation. It is a moment of complete vulnerability. That type of thing always gets me.

On the flipside of the emotional coin is Arlong the fishman pirate. Ohhhh, he’s bad. He’s the kind of badguy you just want to see turned into clam chowder. He’s the kind of badguy who is so tough that you EXPECT him to be a badguy and he fulfills those expectations 100%. He goes on about the superiority of the fishman race and how humans only deserve to be enslaved, etc. It’s really uncomfortable stuff. So the book ending with Luffy getting ready to do battle with him is splendiferous!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] I Won’t Die (One Piece #8) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: I Won’t Die
Series: One Piece #8
Arc: East Blue Part 8
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 192
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(1_186)

“I Won’t Die”

“The Mighty Battle Spear”

“Prepared”

“The Chewed-up Spear”

“The Soup

“The Fourth Person”

“Arlong Park”

“The Great Adventure of Usopp the Man”

“Lords of All Creation”

While the cooks (ordered by Sanji) tend to the poisoned Gin, Luffy charges at Krieg. Although the commodore uses his many weapons to severely injure him, Luffy wins; with his debt repaid, he is free to go. However, Sanji still refuses to join Luffy’s crew. Only after an attempt by the cooks to convince him he is unwanted does he finally agree. Nami is welcomed back to Arlong Park, the base of Arlong’s pirates (a crew consisting, aside from Nami, only of fish-men – beings who are half fish and half human. Zoro and Usopp learn separately that Nami is one of Arlong’s officers – Usopp from Nami’s adoptive sister Nojiko, and Zoro from Nami when he is captured and dragged into Arlong Park.

My Thoughts:

Luffy ends up beating Krieg and getting Sanji as part of his crew. Of course, it’s immediately revealed that Nami double crossed them and sailed off to another pirate crew run by a guy named Arlong, who is part fish and his entire pirate crew is part fish part human. Making them very powerful. They run a protection scam on about 20 villages and have visions of becoming even bigger.

With Zoro captured by Arlong, Nami revealed as one of Arlong’s crew and Usopp hiding out in on of the tribute villages, you know Luffy’s going to follow them and there’s going to be a big fight, just like this one. Part of me is already rolling my eyes and the other part of me is hoping the story gets better than that.

I do suspect I’m going to have to be patient and let Oda tell the story at his own pace and in his own way though.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] The Crap-Geezer (One Piece #7) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Crap-Geezer
Series: One Piece #7
Arc: East Blue Part 7
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(1_186)

“Pearl”

“Jungle Blood”

“I Refuse”

“If You Have a Dream”

“Crap-Geezer”

“Sanji’s Debt”

“Resolution”

“The Demon”

“MH5”

Luffy and the cooks defend the restaurant until Gin takes the one-legged head chef Zeff hostage, hoping to resolve the situation without Sanji’s death. Fearing for Zeff’s life, Sanji stops fighting but does not surrender the ship to the pirates. In a flashback, a young Sanji and Zeff (a renowned pirate) are shipwrecked. Zeff gives Sanji a small bundle of food and sends him to the other side of the island to keep watch, while Zeff keeps a much larger bundle for himself. Weeks later, a famished Sanji returns to take the pirate’s food only to discover that the bundle contains nothing but gold and that Zeff has devoured his own leg. In the present, Gin realizes that he cannot save Sanji’s life because he is hell-bent on protecting Zeff’s restaurant. Instead, Gin decides to kill Sanji with his own hands. When the time comes, he cannot do it and begs Krieg to leave the restaurant alone. Outraged at Gin’s disobedience, Krieg uses poison gas against his right-hand man.

My Thoughts:

Another thoroughly enjoyable romp with Luffy and Co. This volume mainly focuses on Sanji, the cook on the Floating Restaurant ship who Luffy wants as his own cook. We get his backstory about how he came to know Zeff the Pirate Cook and why he’s so loyal to him despite fighting with him all the time.

And despite Dracule beating the snot out of the pirates previously, Don Kreig and Crew show Luffy just why they were the scourge of East Blue. Luffy talks big and does his best to take Kreig down but each time Kreig prevents his attempts. You know Luffy is going to eventually win but it is impossible to figure out HOW he’s going to win.

The volume ends on a sappy note with one of the pirates giving up his gas mask to save Sanji’s life because Sanji gave him food when he was starving. Thankfully that wasn’t dwelt on very much, or my eyes might have rolled out of my head.

In the previous volume, and then this one, the little pictures between chapters were following Buggy the Clown and his Pirate Crew from the second volume. They are actually telling a mini-story, one picture at a time instead of just being funny pictures of Luffy & Co. Whether this mini-story will ever tie into the main story I don’t know, but I do like what Oda is trying to accomplish here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Memory of Light (The Wheel of Time #14) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A Memory of Light
Series: The Wheel of Time #14
Author: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 883
Words: 355K



Synopsis:

From Tarvalon.net

Note, this summary is neither in chapter order nor strictly chronological. Instead, it follows the individual plot threads insofar as that is feasible.

At the Black Tower, Androl and Pevara have realized that Taim is forcibly turning men to the Shadow and decide to try and work together. They practice linking but Androl doesn’t release the link quickly enough and Pevara panics and bonds him when he does. He retaliates by bonding her. They learn that Welyn has been turned and he claims that Logain and Taim have patched up their differences and are working together. They realize that Logain must have been captured and Androl decides to free him. They invite one of the turned men, Dobser, to come and talk and ambush him knocking him unconscious and tying him up with air. When he wakes, Emarin interrogates him, apologising for what Androl did and telling Dobser that he only followed Logain for his own safety as he didn’t want to reveal his true identity. Dobser assumes him to be a high lord of Tear and tells him where Logain is located. They go to rescue Logain, but Evin is caught and gives the plan away and they are captured. Taim tries again to turn Logain, but fails and also tries with Emarin, but fails with him as well. He manages to turn Toveine and Evin who urge Logain to stop fighting. Androl uses his knowledge of Evin, that his madness has made him extremely suspicious, to make him turn against Abors who he attacks, but the struggle is brief and Taim’s men come out victorious. Hessalam arrives and criticizes Taim, who tells her he has the Seals. They decide to leave and he orders Androl and the others killed. He weaves balefire at Androl.

Perrin and Gaul enter Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, to better combat Slayer. They go to the Black Tower, as Perrin suspects there is another dreamspike He sees Lanfear there, who explains to him something of how it works enabling him to remove it. With the dreamspike removed, Androl is able to weave a small gateway and the balefire Taim aimed at him passes through it. Canler and other loyal Asha’man break in and the two groups begin to fight. Androl opens a gateway in front of Taim’s men, with the exit behind them, and weaves meant for him and his allies instead kill many of them. Taim, Hessalam and the others flee.

At the Field of Merrilor, Rand tells the assembled leaders that he will have three conditions for agreeing to fight in the Last Battle. The first is that the nations sign a peace agreement, the Dragon’s Peace, to last a hundred years, the second is that he be given the Seals to break and finally that he have complete control of all the armies. It is not going well until Moiraine arrives and repeats parts of the Prophecies of the Dragon that show Rand is right. He agrees not to break the Seals himself as long as Egwene agrees to break them when the time is right. The rulers agree to his demands and Aviendha asks him to include the Aiel. He says he trusts them to do what is right, but she insists and he changes the treaty to include them as peacekeepers between the nations. Moiraine also makes him realise he cannot have command of the armies while he fights the Dark One and he names Elayne to the role. When the time comes to give Egwene the Seals, he discovers they are fakes and the real ones have been stolen.

Mat goes to Ebou Dar to see Tuon and saves her from a gray man. Rand visits and manages to persuade Tuon to abide by the treaty. She and Egwene also have a meeting, that threatens to descend into conflict until Mat steps in and forces them to come to an agreement. She accepts that as the Sea Folk have not accepted her in any way, and Tremalking does not have a Sea Folk ruler, their rule there is illegitimate and the Sea Folk must be left to rule themselves They decide that the women who have been collared will not be freed, but that in future, the Seanchan can send emissaries to the other Westlands, asking women who can channel to come and be damane. She agrees that the Seanchan forces will fight in the Last Battle

They decide to fight the Last Battle on four fronts, with one of the Great Captains planning the battle for each of them but with Elayne in overall command. Bryne will lead in southern Kandor, Agelmar at Tarwin’s Gap, Bashere in Caemlyn and Rodel will defend Shayol Ghul, while Rand fights the Dark One. Graendal uses compulsion on them however, to cause them to make mistakes and many men are killed. Rand enters the Pit of Doom and starts to fight Moridin. Demandred arrives from Shara, with a huge army including hundreds of channelers who take on the combined Aes Sedai forces. He has Sakarnen, a sa’angreal and a full circle of seventy two, but his effectiveness is limited as he obsesses about Lews Therin.

Baldhere and Lan realize that Agelmar is making mistakes that leave their army completely exposed, and they lose most of their army. Tam realizes that Bashere has left their army heavily exposed and Elayne realizes he has been under compulsion. Logain and the Asha’man arrive and manage to save Elayne’s army by opening a gateway into Dragonmount and letting the lava block the path of the advancing Trollocs. Rodel realizes that he is being made to give bad orders and fights against it. Perrin sends Elyas to stop him, and Elyas is able to get there before the compulsion overcomes Rodel. When Mat arrives in Kandor, he realizes that Bryne is making mistakes that are positioning the forces of the Light to be wiped out. He sends Min to tell Egwene that Bryne must be a Darkfriend, but she just assumes Mat doesn’t understand what is happening and laughs at the idea. She begins to reconsider if she really does trust him and when she hears that Bashere turned against Elayne, she begins to question some of his decisions and he is removed from command. Egwene realizes that because of Mat’s medallion, he is the only one who can be trusted and he takes over control, moving to one location, the Field of Merrilor. They move all the forces apart from the ones protecting Shayol Ghul and wait for the Shadowspawn armies to arrive.

Faile waits in Tar Valon to take the Horn of Valere to Mat. Berisha prepares to open a gateway, but a bubble of evil hits and it the group ends up in the Blight, Berisha having being stabbed with a dagger. Harnan and Vanin open the chest containing the Horn and flee when confronted by Faile. The group make their way through the Blight until they come to a supply dump near the Town. They enter it, disguised as Darkfriends, but are given away by Aravine. An Aes Sedai arrives and opens a gateway, which they go through. Olver stabs the Aes Sedai and in the confusion, Harnan and Vanin free other captives. Faile kills Aravine to take back the Horn and gives it to Olver, asking him to try and get it to Mat.

The battle continues for days, with the forces of the Light outnumbered, but Mat managing to keep them alive. Demandred continues obsesses over Lews Therin and kills Gawyn in single combat and severely injures Galad. Taim is defeated by Egwene wielding Vora’s Sa’angreal and is given sakarnen by Demandred. He uses it to weave balefire and with the Sharans, kills half of the Aes Sedai. Egwene discovers a counter to balefire and with this she defeats and kills him, drawing too much of the Power and sacrificing herself, taking out most of the Ayyad as she does. Demandred is killed by Lan and the forces of the Shadow lose their cohesion. Olver blows the Horn of Valere and the Heroes come to fight. Mat fakes a fight with Tuon and the Seanchan withdraw, encouraging the forces of the Shadow to attack for what they expect to be a final victory, but they stretch themselves too thin and are obliterated when the Seanchan return.

Rand fights Moridin at the Pit of Doom before engaging with the Dark One and being shown a range of possible worlds after the Dark One wins. He rejects them all. Moridin grabs Callandor and realizes it is a sa’angreal for the True Power. Nynaeve and Moiraine use its flaw to take control of what he is holding and link with Rand, who melds the three powers together, as Logain breaks the seals to reforge the Dark One’s prison.

Perrin kills Slayer. A weave of compulsion backfires on Graendal, leaving her dedicated to Aviendha. Moghedien is collared by the Seanchan and Lanfear is killed by Perrin to stop her killing Nynaeve and preventing Rand from reforging the prison. Mat kills Padan Fain. Rand swaps bodies with Moridin and fakes his own death. He leaves, unable to channel but with an ability to alter reality by simply willing a pipe to be lit.

My Thoughts:

Well, the journey is done. Sanderson wraps up the Wheel of Time, something long time fans were not sure was actually going to happen. And in all honesty, he did a good job of it too.

My only gripe is that Sanderson brings his social justice attitude to the front several times and makes a point of pointing out which ash’aman are homosexual. It added nothing to the story and looking back, this was about the time I began diverging from Sanderson in his other works.

That aside, I was quite happy with how this went. The battle, one looooooong one really, was fantastically written and once one of the main characters turned out to be mindwarped by the Dark One and then another main character dies, well, it was obvious nobody was safe from destruction and death.

Lan’s final sword fight was the epitome of epic and characterized him to a tee. I’m not sure about Rand, since he now appears to be able to control reality at will. Will he live forever? If so, what do the dreams of Rhuedin now mean to the Wise Ones?

Jordan, and thus Sanderson by proxy, left a LOT of questions unanswered and areas unexplored. I don’t know if he was really planning on writing more in this universe, but it sure seems so. If he wasn’t, then he was just a jerk for creating questions for the readers without any possible answers.

Overall, while I am glad I re-read this, I don’t ever plan on doing that again. I saw too many of Jordan’s weaknesses as a writer on display and way too many instances of his wife’s bad decisions as his editor. I obviously have mixed feelings about this series but I don’t unreservedly recommend it nor universally condemn it. I won’t be reading it for a third time though.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] The Oath (One Piece #6) ★★★★☆

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Title: The Oath
Series: One Piece #6
Arc: East Blue Part 6
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(1_186)

Chapter List:

“Before the Storm”

“An Uninvited Guest”

“The Don’s Offer”

“Steer Clear”

“Storm”

“A Parting of Ways”

“Zoro Overboard”

“The Oath”

“Mackerel Head”

Luffy is a kitchen assistant and waiter until the torn-up flagship of Pirate Commodore Don Krieg lays anchor next to the floating restaurant and a half-starved Krieg, leaning on Gin, staggers inside. He begs for food, which Sanji provides without hesitation. When Krieg’s strength is restored he reverts to his normal self, demanding ownership of the restaurant and food for his 100 men. Nami leaves with the Merry Go, and Mihawk arrives. The master swordsman followed Krieg from the Grand Line, where he had wiped out his entire fleet. Zoro challenges him to a duel and, despite his best efforts, is defeated. After the fight, Usopp, Johnny, and Yosaku take Zoro aboard the bounty hunters’ boat and set sail to follow Nami. Luffy is left behind to pay his debt to the restaurant by defeating Krieg and his men.

My Thoughts:

For whatever reason, this felt like a more “serious” volume than the previous ones. I think that comes down to the fact that we realize just how “under-powered” everyone that Luffy and Co have met so far are in comparison to the people they are going to meet on the Grand Line. We meet Mihawk Dracule, the world’s greatest swordsman and my goodness, he is a veritable god of ability. He destroys a whole fleet of ships with just a sword for goodness sake.

We also get an explanation for why this arc is called East Blue. The world is divided by the Red Line and the Grand Line and various sections get called their designation. So Luffy and Co are in the East Blue quadrant, which Mihawk assures them is the easiest quadrant to live in. Zoro faces off against Mihawk and is so easily defeated that it is stunning. Mainly because we’ve seen how Zoro just rolls over anyone he’s come up against so far. It’s classic shonen but I hope that Oda can do better and tell a good story along with the shonen components. Once a series goes strictly shonen, it tends to become rather dull and uninteresting. I’ve experienced that with two other series, Hunter X Hunter and Reborn!.

Overall, I am glad to see something a little more serious from Oda, as it shows he has a deeper understanding of writing and has the ooomph to pull it off. Silly and Zany are good but it does need to be leavened and this volume felt just right in that regards.

Rating: 4 out of 5.